How can employers build an international workforce? Check these tips from a global recruitment expert

How Can You Build an International Workforce? Tips for Success

In the past, many employers dismissed the idea of building an international workforce. Those who could attract local talent considered it unnecessary. Others didn’t have the resources to support remote teams. No more. Why? The market for talent is vastly different today than when the pandemic began three years ago.

Welcome to a New World of Work

Even if you’ve only glanced at business news recently, you’ve seen the signs. Several rapidly changing trends are rewriting work-related behaviors, norms, and expectations in significant ways.

Employees are working from home in unprecedented numbers. And they’re quitting their jobs at higher rates, despite inflation and other economic warning signs. In fact, people are more mobile than ever, as they uproot themselves on a dime to work remotely from states or countries they find more attractive.

What’s more, these trends aren’t limited to a few isolated professional groups or locations. Now, you can see evidence of these changes in every corner of the world. So, what’s the key takeaway from all of this upheaval? In my opinion, it all points in one direction — to the rise of a truly international workforce.

Why Choose an International Workforce?

According to government statistics, roughly 75% of global purchasing power lies outside the United States. And across that global landscape, an international workforce has sprung up, filled with talented, driven people who are eager for employment.

Fortunately, many crucial technologies are now available to help employers find and hire an international workforce. For example, these tools are designed to assist with everything from identifying the right candidates and onboarding new hires to ensuring that payroll complies with regulations in an employee’s home country.

Employers with a modern, cloud-based HR technology ecosystem can integrate these tools into their existing tech stack with relatively little disruption. But whatever applications you choose should be based on a holistic talent strategy. In other words, you’ll want to develop a plan that considers all the issues and benefits associated with international expansion.

But for many organizations, the reasons for going global are compelling. Competition for qualified talent remains intense. And now that flexible work models are becoming a standard, the reasons for U.S. companies to go global are clear. It has never been easier to attract and retain the talent you need by expanding your geographical footprint. But employers who want to succeed should focus on these key steps…

How to Hire a Truly International Workforce

1. Uplevel Your Talent Acquisition Efforts

Many employers continue to act as if their sourcing efforts are still limited to a specific geography. But that’s no longer the case. Today’s qualified talent pool is global. So, if you make the most of this competitive opportunity, in no time you can expand your applicant pool.

The U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on exceptional workers with specialized knowledge and experience. Not even close. By limiting yourself to domestic workers, you also limit your company’s potential.

Obviously, a major advantage of global hiring is the ability to quickly fill high-priority roles. But there are other valuable benefits, as well.

For instance, if diversity is important to your organization, an international workforce opens the door to fresh perspectives. Embracing people with various points of view brings the kinds of insights that help businesses grow and thrive. In fact, diverse teams are 1.8 times more likely to be prepared for change and 1.7 times more likely to lead market innovation, according to Deloitte.

This also sends a powerful message to potential hires and customers about your commitment to diversity and inclusion. For example, having an internationally diverse workforce is a strong selling point for 67% of candidates looking for a new job.

2. Find Local Partners You Trust

Thus far, we’ve discussed one type of remote hiring — accepting applications for remote roles from people around the world. But there’s another type of remote hiring with massive implications. It’s when companies want to rapidly enter a new geographic market.

In the past, businesses breaking into a new country like Thailand might have acquired a Thai company to absorb its workforce. This can be slow, time-consuming, and costly. And it may even be a cultural mismatch.

Now, this process is no longer necessary. Today, through remote recruiting, businesses can simply hire the remote workers they need in Thailand, and work with them to implement a rollout in that country.

This raises a related question: How can you trust a remotely-hired partner to build your business in another part of the world? Ultimately, the answer is the same as it would be for a domestic candidate.

This means you’ll want to complete the same type of due diligence. Ask for references. Conduct multiple rounds of interviews. If possible, begin with a probationary trial period, so you can clarify each candidate’s skills and culture fit. Although hiring an international partner might seem like a bigger decision than hiring a domestic candidate, the same basic rules apply.

3. Leverage New Technology to Drive Global Growth

Certainly, global hiring isn’t simple. Setting up operations in a new work environment — with its own distinct customs and employment laws — requires specialized knowledge that isn’t readily available in most organizations.

What are the local laws around hiring and firing? What kinds of expectations do employees bring to their day-to-day work lives? What are the labor laws? How are things like cross-border compliance monitored? These are essential questions when hiring globally, and it’s imperative that businesses build their knowledge base so answers are available when they inevitably arise.

Fortunately, in recent years, many technology solutions have emerged to help businesses deal with issues like these. AI-powered platforms can readily streamline the process, integrating team members from across the globe while staying on top of compliance. In fact, platforms like these can transform the entire process, allowing companies to quickly expand into new markets and establish a local presence anywhere in the world.

Final Thoughts

At this point, the barriers to forming a truly international workforce are almost purely psychological. There is no shortage of skilled workers across the globe who are eager to make an impact at U.S.-based companies. And there is no shortage of technology-based solutions that can make it as easy to hire those workers as it is to hire someone down the street.

What corporate America does need is a psychological shift. Employers need to be willing to think beyond borders, get creative with hiring, and tap into the power that an international workforce can offer. The rewards are clear and abundant. All we need is the will.

Are you ready to lead your business through uncertain times? Check this #WorkTrends podcast for insights from tech CEO and Founder Ronni Zehavi as he talks with host Meghan M. Biro

Are You Ready to Lead Through Uncertainty?

Sponsored by HiBob

As 2023 begins, the world of work is bracing for a rough ride. For more than a year, inflation has gripped the economy. Previously unstoppable tech companies are reeling from recent layoffs. And other industries are tightening their belts, as a recession now seems unavoidable. What will it take to lead through uncertainty?

Strategies that helped organizations thrive under different circumstances are no longer relevant. But during lean times, how can you preserve what’s valuable and unique about your organization? This question is top-of-mind for leaders everywhere. So let’s get advice from someone who understands the factors driving today’s business climate:

Meet Our Guest:  Ronni Zehavi

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Ronni Zehavi, Co-Founder and CEO of modern HR platform provider, HiBob. After more than 25 years of experience in launching and leading successful technology companies, Ronni knows first-hand how to guide organizations through volatile, uncertain circumstances. Now he’s sharing his unique perspective and expertise to help others lead through uncertainty.

Managing Multiple Unknowns

Welcome, Ronni. Let’s dive right in. How can organizations navigate through uncertain times?

It’s a bit like driving a car. In 2021, driving fast may have been easier because the road was clear. But today it’s bumpy and cloudy. No one knows when it will end, so you need to slow down.

2023 is going to be challenging. First, read the map and then adjust your plan. How long is your runway? Do you have enough cash? Do you have enough funds to weather the coming storm?

Then look realistically at the environment. A slowdown will have an impact on your customers as well as your organization. Will you be able to generate the revenues you expect?

The Long Game

The economy will eventually bounce back. How can we prepare for that now?

It starts with your people. Invest in them. Make sure you can retain all of them. Or, if not all of them, focus on your most important people. Because you’ll want them to be with you when the tailwind comes.

And more than anything else, think positive. What goes down comes back up. So optimism is critical.

How to lead through uncertainty

JOIN US ON TWITTER!

What About Layoffs?

Is there a right way to reduce headcount? How can leaders avoid damaging their company culture?

Layoffs are only one option in a CEO’s toolbox when adjusting to a difficult environment. First, you may decide to slow down hiring. If a slow down isn’t enough, then you may need to freeze hiring or freeze salary increases, or both. And if needed, the next option could be salary cuts or layoffs. One or both.

But it is important to think about the people who stay as well as those who are laid off. Retention can be affected when those who remain are expected to do the job of two people or even more.

Communication and transparency are critical to preserve your culture.

Can Flexible Work Help?

Do you think economic changes will influence where we work? 

I don’t think so. I think hybrid work is here to stay. Flexibility was a nice-to-have perk a few years ago. But the pandemic proved that organizations can deal with it.

The ultimate combination is two or three days at the office or two or three days remote. It offers flexibility, but it keeps engagement and collaboration among people.

How to Support Hybrid Work

I like the idea of finding a balance between onsite and remote work. But how can leaders accomplish this? 

It’s a journey. It will take time until we get there as a standard. But flexibility is all about what we call internally, The Three T’s:  Trust. Transparency. Teamwork.

If your organization follows these values, it will help you create a flexible work culture.

 


For more insights from Ronni about how to lead through uncertainty, listen to this full podcast episode. And be sure to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

In addition, we invite you to join our live Twitter chat about this topic on Wednesday, January 25th at 1:30pmET/10:30amPT. Follow @TalentCulture for questions and be sure to add the #WorkTrends hashtag to your tweets, so others in the community can easily find your comments and interact with you!

Also, to continue this conversation on social media anytime, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

How can employers improve employee retention from day one? Check these tips for onboarding new hires

Onboarding New Hires? Try These Tips to Boost Retention

In today’s challenging talent environment, retaining employees is a must. That’s why so many organizations consider onboarding new hires a top priority. When people feel genuinely welcomed at work from day one, retention increases dramatically.

If you could suggest one way to achieve better long-term results when onboarding new hires, what would you recommend? Recently, we asked business leaders to share their answers to this question. Their collective tips read like a playbook of best practices:

  • Assign an Onboarding Buddy
  • Challenge New Team Members to Take Initiative
  • Make Newcomers Feel at Home
  • Assess Each New Hire’s Personality and Work Style
  • Help New Employees Feel Connected With Others
  • Provide Extensive Product Training
  • Emphasize Company Mission and Values

To learn more about these ideas, read the responses below…

7 Ways to Drive Retention When Onboarding New Hires

1. Assign an Onboarding Buddy

Effective onboarding helps make new members of your workforce feel like they’re an integral part of the organization. It drives employee engagement and reduces time to proficiency. But it can be a tedious process to manage.

Assigning an “onboarding buddy” to every new team member is one way to ensure success. When facing an unfamiliar environment, many people hesitate to ask questions or communicate about their needs. Access to a dedicated resource can help people feel at ease, knowing someone is available to offer advice and answer questions when they arise.

This kind of support leads to multiple benefits — it provides helpful cultural context, improves productivity and elevates work satisfaction.

When our organization started a buddy system, we conducted surveys to evaluate the program’s impact. Results were impressive. After the first week on the job, people with buddies were 32% happier with their onboarding experience than those without buddies. And when we followed-up 90 days later, 42% of employees with buddies were more efficient in their roles than others.

Conclusion: These early relationships help people feel safer stepping into their roles. This encourages engagement and significantly improves talent retention at our company.

Jody Ordioni, Chief Brand Officer, Brandemix

2. Challenge New Team Members to Take Initiative

Although it’s essential to introduce new employees to key tasks, routines and procedures during the onboarding process, it’s also important to avoid too much hand-holding. You need to determine if people can be resourceful and work independently, rather than encouraging them to become overly dependent on guidance from others.

Of course, you can always be there to help as a manager. But the goal is to help people feel self-empowered and help them gain confidence and competence as quickly as possible.

Nick Shackelford, Managing Partner, Structured Agency

3. Make Newcomers Feel at Home

Many employers make the mistake of expecting new hires to adopt company culture by giving them all the instructions they need to fit right in. But bringing out the best in someone starts with recognizing their strengths and helping them see how those strengths can serve organizational goals.

Give employees time to familiarize themselves with your organization’s goals. And give them space to use trial and error when developing their own work strategies and tactics. This opens the door for people to bring new, authentic ideas to the table. It also shows you believe in their abilities, you’ve hired them based on their potential, and you’re willing to let them grow.

Zachary Weiner, CEO & Founder, Finance Hire

4. Assess Each New Hire’s Personality and Work Style

When onboarding new hires, one critical step is to assess their personality and work style. Every employee approaches tasks and communication differently, so it’s helpful to learn the best methods to guide each individual and provide feedback.

If you focus on this during the onboarding process, then you give every new hire the best opportunity to develop a lasting connection with you, your team and your organization.

Raegan Johnson, Office Manager, Argon Agency

5. Help New People Feel Connected With Others

A lack of connection is the strongest predictor of attrition among new hires. Research shows that employees who lose 2-3 peers within the first few months on the job are at least 2 times more likely to resign than others. Other data shows that resignations are significantly higher among new employees who are regularly late to work or absent, compared with those who are punctual.

Team support, connection and stability are the biggest retention drivers for new hires. This is why frequent interaction with managers, peers and skip-level managers is crucial.

Initially, managers should set the tone by scheduling frequent one-on-one meetings. Then gradually reduce the pace over time. Also, right from the start, encourage team members to welcome new employees and be available to support them on an ongoing basis.

Vahed Qazvinian, Co-Founder & CTO, Praisidio

6. Provide Extensive Product Training

A company’s products and services are its center of gravity. So, the sooner new hires are acquainted with these offerings, the sooner they can be successful in their roles. This is where extensive product training helps.

Knowledgeable team members are obviously beneficial for employers. But individuals benefit, as well. Knowing every nook and cranny of an organization’s products gives newcomers more clarity, confidence and excitement about what they’re doing each day. It also builds a stronger connection between new hires and your company, your customers and your mission.

Monika Dmochowska, Talent Acquisition Leader, Tidio

7. Emphasize Company Mission and Values

As someone who has been a new hire and has also hired staff members, I don’t think employers spend enough time focusing on mission and values. Leaders might mention the overall mission, but too often they give little attention to how a new hire’s role helps the organization fulfill its mission.

At our company, we spend time familiarizing people with our values and how these values set a foundation that makes it possible for our mission to thrive. Each person knows their job description, as well as how their role moves the company forward. This helps create a deeper connection and improves engagement.

Tamara Dias, Director of Culture and Client Partnerships, Perfeqta

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These employee onboarding ideas were submitted via Terkel, a knowledge platform that shares community-driven content based on expert insights. To see questions and get published, sign up at terkel.io.

What are the top corporate fitness trends for 2023? Learn from an industry insider in this article

Which Corporate Fitness Trends Will Shape 2023?

Content Impact Award - TalentCulture 2022As a corporate fitness professional, one of my favorite activities at the end of each year is to set aside time to look back at what has unfolded over the past 12 months. It helps to review what has worked for our clients (as well as what didn’t work so well). An open-minded, reflective analysis is always a good way to put things into perspective before considering new possibilities and mapping a game plan for the New Year.

As part of this process, I’m constantly tracking what’s happening with corporate fitness trends. So much has changed over the past few years, thanks to the pandemic and the increase in remote work, it’s important to keep ahead of what no longer seems as relevant or useful and what is gaining traction. And in looking toward the year ahead, all the signals indicate that much more change is still to come! 

So, fasten your seatbelts and let’s look at how employers can prepare for the future. Based on trends I’ve been following, along with my direct experience with our teams and our clients in recent months, here are 3 emerging priorities that are likely to define corporate fitness in 2023:

1. More Personalized Training

Get ready for a big surge in employee demand for more personalized services — things like personal training and small group training. Multiple factors are driving this corporate fitness trend. For example:

Early in 2022, as people slowly started to emerge from a more sedentary pandemic lifestyle, I started hearing that employees were looking for help to get back on track with their fitness and wellness goals. Not surprisingly, during the Covid years, many people developed some unhealthy habits — especially in terms of diet and fitness. The isolation of working and living at home full-time didn’t help, either.

Many people are now looking to break out of that cycle and are longing for a stronger sense of community. So, prepare to see an upswing in more intimate training environments that give employees broader support and guidance, along with opportunities to connect with others and share their journey through community experiences.

Also, my clients confirm that employees are interested in wellness goals that involve more than physical workouts, alone. People want to get back in shape, but they also realize the importance of focusing on things like sleep, nutrition and stress management. And this means they’re increasingly interested in a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing. These objectives are often easier to achieve with programs that include individualized coaching.

Digital tracking tools can also be helpful in supporting people in their wellness objectives. Already, more than 20% of Americans are using wearables that provide convenient access to personalized health and fitness data. Many people want to use this data more effectively to develop tailored workouts and lifestyle management programs that will help increase their training efficiency, improve their daily habits and elevate their health outcomes.

2. More “Hybrid” Fitness Program Memberships

Another thing I’m starting to hear often from our clients is that their employees are looking for a seamless, connected fitness experience that aligns with their busy lifestyles. They want to workout where they want, when they want.

This is where “hybrid memberships” come in. These relatively new programs provide employees with a combination of corporate fitness center access and virtual fitness classes, along with partnerships with local yoga, boxing and Pilates studios. 

With these hybrid memberships, employees can workout at their corporate gym, at home or on the road when they’re traveling—all with the convenience of one membership rather than having to cobble it all together themselves. It’s the best of all worlds. And it’s bigger than just a brick-and-mortar fitness center—it’s a program.

Here’s one example: Kevin is a financial services professional in Indiana who comes into the office three days a week. During those visits, he goes to the on-site fitness center to lift weights. Typically, he talks with several fellow employees while he works out. It’s a great social experience. On the other two weekdays he works from home. On those days, he works out with a virtual fitness class through an app that’s connected to his fitness center and the same staff he knows and trusts. Over the weekend, he takes a spin class at a local studio that contracts with his company through the hybrid health program. Again, this hybrid program lets Kevin work out where he wants, when he wants. It’s all built into his schedule!

Inclusive hybrid memberships like these give employees the convenience, choice and variety they’re asking for. Plus, it provides access to the kind of connectedness and community people need with engagement that is hard to find elsewhere.

3. More Active Time Outdoors

We’re also hearing loud-and-clear from clients and employees that they want to get outside and move! A recent survey from the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry and McKinsey & Company, asked employees this key question:

“In which sports/physical activity categories do you expect to see a lasting increase in participation vs. pre-COVID-19?”

Of the 12 categories listed as potential responses, 84% of survey participants picked “outdoor activity” as their first choice. 

Obviously, survey results like these underscore just how massive the pandemic’s impact was on corporate wellness programs. Over the past year, some companies started to experiment with fitness activities and events designed to get employees outdoors. Now it appears that this trend is catching on and may be here to stay.

For instance, one of our clients — a leading insurance company — has invested in a mobile open-air fitness trailer from BeaverFit. This makes it possible for employees to participate in healthy outdoor activities on a daily basis. Combined with programming delivered by on-site fitness professionals, this open air program is flourishing. And workforce wellbeing is improving as a result of employee participation in regular activities with physical and mental health benefits.

Final Notes on the Future of Corporate Fitness

These three corporate fitness trends are only a few of the emerging ideas we can look forward to seeing in 2023, as the space continues to evolve. With more personalized programming, more flexible options, access to innovative digital tools and a broader range of creative fitness locations, employee wellness is poised to make an even stronger comeback in the coming year. I look forward to seeing other innovative trends emerge that we aren’t even thinking about yet!

How can employers keep employees onboard and engaged during uncertain times? Meghan M. Biro says flexibility is the key. Learn more...

Flexibility: Key to Employee Retention in 2023

As 2022 comes to a close, several work trends are clearly visible on the horizon. Here’s one employers can’t afford to ignore — an alarming number of employees are still leaving their jobs. For all the talk about “the Great Resignation” being behind us, turnover continues to shape the world of work. And it doesn’t seem to be fading.

What’s the culprit here? In my opinion, too many employers continue to discount the need for flexibility in all its forms. Not sure if this should be a priority for you? Then consider some big-picture statistics:

  • recent Workhuman survey focused on workforce behavior and sentiment estimates that 36% of employees plan to leave their jobs in 2023.
  • Gartner predicts that steep 20% turnover rates will continue for the foreseeable future, with as many as 65% of employees still reevaluating their career paths.

These findings are hard to ignore. But rather than drilling down on disengaged workers and why they’re looking for greener pastures, I’d like to flip the script. Instead, let’s talk about people who want to remain in place. What can we learn from them?

Why Some People Stay

What is keeping people onboard? No doubt, some are hunkering down in reaction to growing economic uncertainty. But despite recent layoff news, many organizations are still hiring qualified talent. So why aren’t more people jumping ship?

Here’s why I think flexibility is the key. It is one of the most important factors keeping satisfied people connected with their employers and committed to doing their best work. In fact, as a motivational force, flexibility is second only to salary — ranking even higher than a positive work culture.

That’s powerful stuff. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. Let’s look closer.

Making a Business Case for Flexibility

If you’re mapping your HR goals for 2023, keep this caveat in mind: From a business perspective, flexibility may be losing some of its sheen. Organizations are facing the prospect of another year trying to juggle remote and hybrid workforce models. And after years of struggling to get it right, some companies may not be willing to invest as much time and effort to make it work.

Other business factors are causing leaders to push for a return to the office. After all, money talks. And the cost of office space doesn’t drop by 50% if only half of your workforce is filling the space. Also, we hear more executives emphasizing what suffers when people work from a distance — social bonds, career growth, collaboration and innovation.

But if you’re contemplating a full-scale return to office, perhaps you should think twice. Here’s why. I’m reminded of a 2021 #WorkTrends podcast conversation about flexibility with work-life expert and business consultant, Suzanne Brown.

Did Suzanne know something the rest of us weren’t ready to take seriously when she said this?

“People will stick around now. But as soon as the economy starts to strengthen, if you haven’t already built flexibility into your culture, you’ll start to lose people quickly.”

Circumstances may have shifted since that discussion, but Suzanne’s advice still holds true.

Flexibility Isn’t Just Skin Deep

When the conversation turned to imagining what flexible work could look like on the other side of the pandemic, I recall Suzanne saying:

Flexibility is more than just taking an afternoon off once in a while. Flexibility is how you treat employees in the long-term.

So true. The pandemic underscored what employers already knew (but may not have been willing to fully support at that time). But the fact remains, people want and deserve flexibility, even when the pandemic isn’t a concern.

With this in mind, what can employers do to build flexibility into their organization’s DNA? The challenge is to match the right conditions to choices that make sense for your workforce. Flexibility is both an informal and a formal state of work. And every organization is unique.

The possibilities are diverse: job sharing, split-shifts, permanent remote work, four-day work weeks, cross-functional talent mobility programs, project-based talent sharing, freelancing pools, part-time arrangements and more.

But the trick is to offer a mix of options that are relevant and meaningful for your people, while also supporting your organization’s values, culture and goals. If you’re serious about finding the best choices, you’ll involve your people in defining the options and being accountable for their success.

Clarifying the Rules

Flexibility deserves to be more than a random whim or a moving target. Employees and employers alike need to agree on guidelines. Indeed, your team’s ability to perform well in any combination of flexible roles demands a workable game plan.

Because employees see flexibility as the sign of a great work culture, it’s important to get their buy-in. Begin with a renewed reality check. Take the time now to ask employees and managers what kind of flexible options they believe would work best, going forward. (Anonymous surveys and feedback tools are terrific at helping you manage this process and interpret findings.)

Keep in mind that individual circumstances, career objectives and personal preferences change over time. What works for someone today may no longer fit in a year or two. People don’t want to be trapped in a work structure that no longer serves them. What will your process be for people who want to rethink their choices and modify their work model?

Here’s the clincher for employers. You need to demonstrate respect for people’s wishes. Respect and recognition are intimately connected with employee satisfaction, productivity and commitment.

That means leaders must be willing to do more than listen. It’s essential to take appropriate action in response to input. And it’s even more important to repeat this process, over and over again. When you demonstrate an ongoing commitment to building your flexible agenda around collaborative conversations, how can employees resist?

We’ll see what happens soon enough. The pandemic no longer has a grip on our every move, but the Great Resignation is still happening. No one knows for sure what will unfold next. But whatever challenges lie ahead, you can’t go wrong by staying in touch, staying open and staying flexible.

It could just be what convinces more of your people to stay.

Is quiet quitting a symptom of poor mental health? What can employers do to help? Learn more from workplace wellness expert Vittoria Lecomte, Founder of Sesh

Is Quiet Quitting a Symptom of Poor Mental Health?

One workplace buzzword many people are eager to leave behind is “quiet quitting.” The phrase dominated headlines this year, especially when a Gallup poll revealed that at least half of U.S. workers are disengaged.

Although this term is quickly running its course, the underlying problem remains. In fact, work engagement continues to slide, indicating a growing disconnect between employees and employers. No doubt, the quiet quitting phenomenon is a symptom of ongoing workplace upheaval. But I suspect it also reflects the need for better mental health support at work.

What Research Says About Workforce Wellbeing

Even as post-pandemic work engagement is dropping, countless studies reveal that depression and anxiety are on the rise. And the uptick in layoffs and economic uncertainty creates even more stress. Let’s look closer.

Nearly three-quarters of employees (72% ) say they’re concerned about finances – up from 65% last year – according to a recent report from financial wellness solution provider, Brightplan. And PWC research indicates that declining financial health impacts employee mental health and work productivity. Specifically, PWC found that 69% of employees who are financially stressed are less likely to feel valued at work – and therefore, they are becoming less engaged. 

Depression and anxiety are also leading reasons why people take time off from work. In fact, employers lose an estimated 12 billion workdays annually as a result of employee depression and anxiety. According to The World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization, this costs the global economy nearly $1 trillion a year. Both organizations acknowledge the need for concrete action to address workplace mental health.

How Can Employers Respond?

Some employers may ignore these disturbing trends. But others are taking action by creating an environment where workers feel more valued and supported.

For example, if you notice that “quiet quitting” is spreading among your ranks, it’s likely that these employees  feel under-appreciated. By offering professionally managed support groups as a benefit, you can send a much-needed message that tells people, “We see you, we care about your wellbeing, and you are valued here.”

This kind of benefit extends assistance to people who might hesitate to pursue individual therapy — which has historically been costly and difficult to access. And the pandemic has only made it worse. For example, at the height of the Covid outbreak, the U.S. average wait time to see a therapist ranged from 29-66 days.

The Benefits of Group Support

Multiple studies underscore how support group participation leads to improved employee mental health and job performance. In fact, our own research found that when employees attended group sessions, 50% became more productive and 100% experienced improved attitude and outlook.

Why are these results so striking? When employees have access to a clinically-backed support group program, their social connectedness and mood tend to improve. This, in turn, alleviates depression and anxiety. And group support not only helps reduce anxiety and stress. It can also play a central role in preventive care strategies designed to avoid employee burnout.

Why Group Support Helps

Depression and anxiety can fuel feelings of isolation and loneliness – two key reasons why people seek group support in their personal lives. Providing a safe space where employees discuss meaningful issues and concerns can increase their positive feelings about work and improve overall job satisfaction.

Because group support encourages dialogue among people with different perspectives, it can help participants build trust, empathy and openness that carries over into the workplace. However, it’s important not to require colleagues to join the same group. Also, it’s important to respect participants’ privacy by preserving their anonymity.

While the benefits of peer counseling are well known, new studies demonstrate how digital group support can extend mental health services access to more diverse populations. For example, some people have limited mobility or are located in rural communities where trained mental health providers aren’t unavailable.

Video-based group support is an excellent alternative, because it is affordable and accessible online from nearly anywhere on any digital device. This encourages connections and therapeutic conversations without requiring participants to wait for weeks or travel long distances.

Tips to Improve Group Support

When offering this kind of mental health benefit to your employees, keep this advice in mind:

1. Emphasize Voluntary Participation

Everyone comes to the table with a unique background and point of view. This is why the group model can be a particularly powerful tool. So, although encouraging individuals to take advantage of this benefit can be helpful, avoid pressuring anyone or threatening them with repercussions. The goal is to destigmatize mental health and make pathways to wellbeing more accessible and affordable.

2. Prepare to Overcome Fears

Group support is a highly misunderstood term. Too often, people associate group settings only with treatment centers. In the workplace, many people who need support fear they’ll be perceived as “weak” and their careers will be damaged if they join a group. For anyone concerned about this, you can share positive use case data demonstrating how helpful and healing group support can be. Employers can leverage this information as a reference tool and assure concerned employees that their identity will be protected.

3. Insist on Anonymity

Video-based group support should provide access to online sessions on any day and time that works best for each member, while also protecting their identity. Solutions like Sesh, which is 100% HIPAA-compliant, let every user select a pseudonym. Individual data is never shared, and employees are notified when anyone within the same organization registers for their group.

My Perspective

I discovered the value of group sessions while in treatment for an eating disorder. Being part of a group was the catalyst that catapulted my recovery to the next level. This experience led me to launch Sesh

Typically, therapist-led support is difficult to access, difficult to pay for and designed for monolithic audiences. That’s why I’m committed to extending therapist-led group support to people from all communities, circumstances and identities.

With an affordable, accessible group support experience through their employer, people can finally receive the high-quality mental health support they need and deserve. This helps individuals cope with challenging personal issues, while helping businesses create a more harmonious, productive workplace. And in the process, it may also silence quiet quitting. That is my hope.

How to Improve Employee Experience with HR Tech

5 Ways to Improve Employee Experience With HR Tech

Sponsored by: Neocase

Did you know more than 160 million people are employed in the U.S.? Unfortunately, however, rising turnover is eroding workforce retention. In fact, 48% of hiring managers say turnover is higher this year – up from 44% in 2021. And the cost of replacing those people isn’t cheap. No wonder employers want to build a positive work culture that attracts and retains top talent. That’s why many are turning to HR technology to improve employee experience.

But here’s the catch: In recent years, the HR tech landscape has been bursting at the seams. This means choosing the best solution for your organization’s needs can be overwhelming. To overcome this obstacle, think first about how you want to improve employee experience, and work from those objectives to define your selection criteria.

HR Technology 101

To provide some context, let’s start with a brief overview of core HR systems. In most HR technology stacks you’ll find at least one of these systems as a foundation for all other people platforms, tools and applications:

1. HRIS Human Resource Information Systems

HRIS was developed to help organizations track and store employee data and records for essential administrative needs. As the HR function grew more complex, HRIS platforms added modules to support talent acquisition processes and recruitment operations, as well as employee information management and maintenance. 

2. HRMS – Human Resource Management Systems

Over time, HR became more deeply integrated with other functions, so HR tracking software had to meet these expanded business requirements. Now, HRMS/HRIS systems are used interchangeably to support operations such as payroll, time tracking and compliance management. 

3. HCM – Human Capital Management Systems

HCM supports a more expansive set of HR operations, including employee performance analysis, compensation planning and projection, workforce development and more.HCM covers all HR functions with a comprehensive solution that can be customized to support the entire employee lifecycle.

Why Employee Experience Matters

A strong employee experience is essential to attract top talent and keep people engaged with your work culture. As Gartner says, “Employee experience is the way employees internalize and interpret the interactions they have with their organization, as well as the context that underlies those interactions.”

But as many organizations have discovered, an exceptional employee experience isn’t easy to develop and maintain. In fact, according to Gartner, “Only 13% of employees are fully satisfied with their experience.

What’s at stake? A negative employee experience leads to low morale, poor work performance, and other issues that directly affect organizational culture and business results. On the other hand, a positive employee experience helps lift morale, productivity, efficiency, and work quality.

How HR Tech Can Improve Employee Experience

Clearly, creating the best employee experience possible leads to significant business benefits. So, to achieve the highest potential impact, consider these five priorities:

1. Automate Tasks and Streamline Workflows

Is anything worse than monotony? It is just as painful for your HR team as it is for others in your organization. Many manual HR tasks are excellent candidates for automation. Focus first on business processes that will free your HR team from tedious, time-consuming, redundant paperwork, and email communications.

Start by developing an employee journey map to better understand your current processes. Then look for bottlenecks, gaps, and disconnects. These issues are opportunities to streamline processes or speed response times.

Organizations often begin by mapping onboarding or offboarding processes. This ensures that an employee’s first and last impressions will align with company values and the employer brand.

2. Gather Employee Feedback

A silent employee can be a dangerous or at-risk employee – even if they don’t realize it. Many workers hesitate to speak up for a variety of reasons. Some fear punishment if they express negative opinions, while others think their input won’t be heard or appreciated.

If an employee doesn’t have a chance to share feedback or ideas, they could feel undervalued and unimportant. You can remedy this with HR technology specifically intended to improve communication.

Consider feedback tools that encourage employees to make their voices heard. Monthly surveys, quarterly outreach messages, and other kinds of digital communication can help build stronger connections and spark more useful conversations.

But that’s just the beginning. Once you receive input, you need to respond or implement changes. Otherwise, people could become more frustrated if you solicit input but don’t seem willing to act upon it.

3. Provide Self-Service Portals

One of the best ways HR technology improves employee experience is through self-service applications. Many platforms can help organizations build and deploy custom tools that help employees serve themselves at their convenience.

One of the best-known examples is a benefits portal. Many employers offer secure web-based destinations with all the information and tools people need to research, select and manage their particular benefits. This frees employees from having to manage the constant back-and-forth of emails or phone calls just to get basic benefits information or answer common questions.

This kind of solution increases efficiency, while giving employees more control. At the same time, portal analytics can help your HR team understand employee preferences and identify content and functionality that can better them.

4. Offer Anywhere, Anytime Access

Unfortunately, many employees feel totally disconnected from HR. Some need guidance and oversight, but HR teams and managers are stretched too thin to engage.

Integrated real-time HR communication tools can help you and your management team focus less on paperwork and more on people. Think of it as the digital equivalent of an office with an open door!

The benefits of integrated communications extend to employees, as well. This leads to a more closely-knit workplace culture that operates more efficiently and is better aligned with business priorities.

5. Design Intuitive Workflows

Demand for better, faster response started with customer service. But it has quickly spread to internal organizational functions, as well.

When we ask HR a question, we want the answer now. We also want to find answers ourselves, ideally with no more than one or two taps on a smartphone.

This aspect of HR technology requires decision-makers to put themselves in an employee’s shoes for a reality check. How easy is it to perform a task you want to accomplish? For example, if you’re a full-time manager using a self-service benefits portal, how intuitive is the path to information you need at the moment you need it? How much information do you have to dig through to find a useful answer?

This aspect of HR technology is central to the employee experience. Why? Because, if employees struggle to use a digital tool, they will also struggle to adopt that tool and succeed with it.

Final Thoughts

HR technology can play an important role when you want to improve employee experience. Whether you’re implementing a self-service portal to support job applicants, deploying an employee feedback tool or expanding business process automation to improve HR response times, your efforts can positively influence talent acquisition and retention. These 5 priorities can help your team focus on solutions that will make a strong impact.

Video in Employee Benefits Education 12-5-22

How to Level Up Employee Benefits Education With Video

As employee engagement continues to drift downward, organizations everywhere are looking for more efficient, effective ways to connect and communicate with their workforce. This is especially true for employee benefits education, where access to clear, complete and timely information is critical.

What better way to help employees understand their benefits than with video? In this article, we’ll explore why video is such an effective form of outreach, along with five ways you can use it to improve benefits education.

Why is Video Ideal for This Purpose?

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. But what about video? In the business world, its popularity as a communication tool has skyrocketed over the past decade. And the pandemic only added fuel to the fire by forcing employers to shift toward video for internal communications.

Now, many organizations recognize just how powerful video can be in employee education. Why?

  • When people see and hear information within the context of a video, they’re more likely to understand and remember the message.
  • Video tutorials and walkthroughs are a great way to break down complex topics into manageable, memorable “bites.”
  • Video content is also highly shareable, so employees can easily pass information along and discuss it with others.

5 Ways to Enhance Benefits Education With Video

1. Offer Benefits Portal Tutorials and Walkthroughs

To ensure employees know how to navigate your benefits portal, it’s important to provide proper instruction. But with video, it’s no longer necessary to bombard people with lengthy written documentation.

Instead, brief tutorials are a great way to give employees a guided tour of your benefits site. Even a few quick, easy-to-follow videos can make all the difference in introducing employees to the portal so they become more comfortable conducting research and serving themselves.

2. Create Enrollment Screencasts

Enrolling in benefits can be daunting, especially when people are unfamiliar with the process. Rather than sending out lengthy written instructions or expecting employees to figure it out independently, you can use screencasting to walk them through the entire process, step-by-step. This helps people understand the open enrollment process, so they don’t become confused or frustrated by complexity.

Offering useful screencasts requires thoughtful upfront planning and production. But in the long run, it can save your benefits administrators significant time, by reducing the volume of routine questions and issues they must resolve.

3. Focus on Key Topics of Interest

Instructional videos are a terrific option if you want to provide more in-depth information about particular benefits topics. These videos can cover anything from an overview of your company’s health insurance plans, to guidance on how to use key portal features.

This is also a smart way to address common concerns or misconceptions employees may have about selecting or managing their benefits. By providing clear, concise information in a compelling visual format, you can help employees better understand every aspect of their benefits and how to use them.

4. Conduct Virtual Benefits Fairs

If your company offers a variety of benefits, staging a virtual benefits fair can be a useful way to consolidate information into a highly accessible “all-in-one” live online experience. Plus, you can record the sessions and make them available on-demand so employees can attend at their convenience.

Your programming could involve a series of short videos covering each benefit category. These sessions could be followed by an interactive Q&A session, where employees can ask questions of an expert at your company or from a related benefits vendor. This gives participants access to the information they need to make better-informed decisions.

5. Produce Video Testimonials

One of the most compelling ways to engage employees in benefits education is to illustrate how others are using these benefits. And what better way to do this than with video testimonials that let members of your workforce tell their story in their own words?

Featured employees can talk about why and how they selected specific benefits to improve their health, save for financial goals, or improve their quality of life. This not only helps others feel comfortable about their benefits decisions, even as it reinforces your organization’s commitment to workforce wellbeing.

Video Engagement Best Practices

Now that we’ve explored ways to use video to engage your employees in benefits education, let’s look at some best practices to keep in mind when creating any video content:

  • Be sure to put the audience’s interests first. What are their needs? What information do they want to see? How much time are they likely to invest in consuming this content? What should their next move be?
  • Strive to keep your videos short and to the point. Employees are busy and often can’t devote time or attention to long-form content.
  • Always test videos before you launch and promote them. Make sure they work correctly from end-to-end, and that employees can understand the concepts you’re trying to communicate. This will ensure a positive, productive enrollment experience for employees and support your broader organizational goals.
  • Don’t forget the marketing outreach needed to make employees aware of any education resources. Unseen video has little value, so be sure you invest in communication that will lead people to your educational content.

Closing Notes

Helping employees understand their benefits is crucial for employers and human resources departments. If you haven’t considered using video to communicate this information, you’re missing an opportunity to present complex benefits information in a way that is meaningful, quick and easy for employees to access. And in the long run, this self-service content can save your HR team significant time and money.

Why is humor at work such a powerful force for building a healthy organizational culture? Learn from a comedian-turned-consultant on this WorkTrends podcast

The Serious Value of Humor at Work

I’m a fan of fun work environments. So of course, I’m also a fan of humor at work.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should all pretend to be stand-up comedians. And I’m not talking about snide remarks, disrespectful jokes, or pranks at someone else’s expense. Work is serious business. But does it really need to be so very, deeply serious all the time? I don’t think so.

A touch of humor is a natural way to engage people and lighten the mood. For instance, who doesn’t enjoy taking a moment to bond with a colleague over a funny meme?

In my opinion, sharing a chuckle or a smile with someone keeps us connected at a very human level. And fortunately, I don’t have to look far to find an expert who agrees with me! So join me for this #WorkTrends podcast episode, as I take a look closer at the special power of humor at work:

Meet Our Guest:  David Horning

Today, I’m comparing notes with David Horning, a professional comedian who took the leap from making people laugh on stage to becoming a business consultant. Now he helps others learn how to use positive psychology, communication skills, and humor to manage difficult work situations and enhance organizational culture.

Humor vs. Comedy

First, let’s talk about the word humor. What is it exactly and how is it different from comedy?

Well, humor and creativity are similar in many ways. Humor is a pattern disruptor.

Basically, it is an internal process that lets us be okay with holding two competing thoughts at the same time. Humor allows us to connect those dots in new ways. It connects different ideas. And it also connects similar ideas in new ways.

So basically it disrupts preconditioned thought patterns and introduces new possibilities. Think of it as the crack in the door that allows us to see beyond a circumstance, a challenge, adversity, or even trauma of some sort.

Why Workplace Humor Matters

Do you think humor is playing a more important role in work culture?

Oh definitely. It’s catching on, and with good reason.

Studies show that CEOs prefer employees with a sense of humor. In fact, if you display your sense of humor at work, you’re perceived as being more intelligent, more likable, and CEOs think you’re doing a better job.

Not only that, but employees prefer bosses who don’t take themselves so seriously.

What If You’re Not Funny?

Some people just don’t have a funny bone in their body. What do you tell them when it comes to humor as a vital skill?

Actually, you don’t have to be funny. That’s the great thing about incorporating humor into the workplace. You can appreciate it in others.

Celebrate people who are bringing sunshine into the office – people who are surrounded by laughter – your more creative thinkers.

You can be the most analytical person in the world, but anybody can develop an appreciation for humor, for laughter, for comedy. We all have that capability. All you really need is to give yourself permission to think outside of the box, to think beyond the strict labels we tend to give things.

How Leaders Can Support a Culture of Humor at Work

What advice do you have for a manager who’s unsure about supporting humor at work? 

First, if you’re nervous about it, don’t overwhelm yourself. But keep in mind that when humor is used in the workplace, it should be consistent with your organization’s values.

For example, if respect is one of your values and a joke you’re about to tell isn’t respectful, pump the brakes. Using those shared values as your baseline is a great place to start.

 


For more excellent advice from David about how to tap into the power of humor at work, listen to this full episode. Also, be sure to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And to continue this conversation on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Remote work leadership - What Matters Now? See what our Founder, Meghan M. Biro says as she reflects on how far we've come since the 2020 Covid quarantine

Photo: Kevin Bhagat

Remote Work Leadership: What Matters Now

In 2020, our most popular blog post discussed how leaders could move forward when Covid abruptly forced many of us to work from home. I remember writing that piece, wondering which remote work leadership practices would make the biggest impact during those uncertain, turbulent, anxiety-filled days.

At that time, it was impossible to fathom what was happening, let alone how to respond. There were no experts, benchmarks, or guidebooks to point the way forward. I couldn’t predict the future any better than anyone else. Still, my message seemed to strike a chord with our community.

Fortunately, necessity is the mother of invention. And resourceful leaders persevered, relying on trial and error to navigate through those early quarantine days.

Covid CliffsNotes

Nearly three years later, we’ve all learned more about remote work than anyone could have imagined. In fact, we’ve adapted so well that many people want to keep working remotelyat least partially.

With this in mind, I decided to revisit my “early Covid” advice to see how much of it still holds true. So here’s a fresh look at 4 key points that seem just as relevant today as we continue to define new ways of working:

Remote Work Leadership Lessons From Covid

1. Be Tactful (Always a Wise Choice)

Exceptional times call for exceptional tact. I noted it then and it’s still unequivocally true. Times may not be as exceptional as they were in March 2020, but we now know that what we once considered “normal” will never return. In fact, the sudden and scary pivot to remote work turned out to be much more effective than we thought.

What changed for the worse? Among other things, stress continues to rise, inflation has risen to record levels, the economy has suffered, and employees have been resigning in droves. In this unstable environment, everyone benefits from tactful, considerate guidance.

In 2020, I encouraged leaders to give people a break when minor mishaps occur, like being late to a meeting. It seems people are now better at coping with small annoyances. (How often have you said in online meetings, “You’re on mute…” without reaching a breaking point?)

However, stress is real. It continues to mount, as mental health issues increasingly challenge many members of the workforce. My advice going forward? Remember to pair diplomacy with a healthy dose of empathy.

2. Provide Plenty of Training (But Wait, There’s More)

Training is critical. The more training we provide, the more confident and capable remote and hybrid work teams will be. Strong leaders are strong learners. And they believe in coaching and developing others. Remote work leaders that invested to help their teams learn, adjust, and grow are now operating at an advantage.

We didn’t know how well people would embrace distributed work practices and tools. But leaders with faith in their team’s ability to adapt now have another advantage: optimism and support that spread throughout their organizations. It’s easy now to see the value of doubling down on learning. But in those bleak early days, this kind of commitment was truly visionary.

The lesson here? Whatever challenges you face, make sure your people have the knowledge and skills they need to come up to speed with a minimum of friction. The sooner they can work effectively, the sooner they’ll become engaged.

But this isn’t just about ensuring that people complete a course. Smart remote work leadership combines skill development training with nudges, status checks, resources, roadmaps, measurable goals, social performance support, and open recognition.

That’s the win. Why? Because no one learns well in a vacuum.

3. Seek Frequent Feedback (Never Enough)

No doubt about it, regular input and reality checks are vital. In 2020, I was concerned that distance could widen the gap between a leader’s view of work culture and an employee’s reality. Physical proximity makes it relatively easy to close that gap, but remote work requires intentional communication.

I suggested reaching out formally to ask employees about their experience and learn what kind of resources they need to feel comfortable, supported, and productive.

Did leaders actually send feedback requests and surveys to their remote teams? Perhaps some did. But then, we became obsessed with isolation and disconnection. Soon, employee engagement took a hit and leaders started watching some of their best employees walk out the virtual door as The Great Resignation gained steam.  

What went wrong? Perhaps remote work leadership didn’t act fast enough. More likely, these managers have become just as exhausted as employees — but they’ve been overlooked. The truth is, no one is immune. In fact, recent U.S. and U.K. research found that 98% of HR practitioners and leaders are burnt out! 

4. Stay Connected (More Than Ever)

This leads to a final lesson — remote work leadership means staying connected with managers, employees, and teams. Full disclosure:  The TalentCulture crew has worked remotely since Day One. Our vision is a virtual “super team,” leveraging digital tools and processes to manage business functions and grow a thriving digital community.

I’ve always admired other leaders who take it upon themselves to reach out and be present via multiple channels. And the power of that approach became apparent throughout the worst of the pandemic.

We saw remote work leaders who stayed involved, engaged, and accessible, giving their teams a sense of alignment and empowerment. I’ve taken notes and found that their toolkits include quick video chats, daily messages, virtual town halls, and short/sweet messages.

Leaders who adhere to an open-door policy — even in virtual settings — are even more important now. Why? This behavior fosters a culture of inclusion and belonging. If you want to bring your workforce together (and trust me, you do), you’ll focus on this lesson. The more digital touchpoints you develop, the more likely you’ll reach everyone in a way that resonates, and the more “present” you’ll be for them.

Leadership Takes Heart (and Strong Nerves)

A final note:  We’re not yet on the other side of the pandemic, but we’ve learned a lot. And we know the world of work will never be the same.

I’m reminded of how far we’ve come when I recall my 2020 comment:

Peace of mind is as hard to come by as n95 masks.”

Thank goodness we aren’t dealing with a mask shortage anymore! Nevertheless, we still see high levels of stress, anxiety, and disengagement at work. And this is likely to continue for a long time to come.

Here’s where great management qualities count. Empathetic, engaged, resourceful, in-touch remote work leadership makes all the difference. It says your organization truly cares about supporting employees while getting the job done. And that’s essential, because the buck always stops at the corner office — whether it’s at corporate headquarters or at your dining room table.

Is people science the fix for broken employee engagement? Learn more in this #WorkTrends podcast with people science expert, Kevin Campbell of Qualtrics

People Science: A Fix for Broken Employee Engagement?

For years, organizations have invested heavily in programs designed to improve employee engagement and work performance. But despite good intentions, too many of these endeavors have fallen short. Now, some are turning to people science and coaching as a solution. Is this the answer?

What exactly is people science? How does it work hand-in-hand with coaching to drive better outcomes? And what should HR and business leaders do to implement a successful strategy?

I invite you to join me as I discuss this topic in-depth with an expert in people science on this #WorkTrends podcast episode.

Meet Our Guest:  Kevin Campbell

Today, I’m excited to welcome Kevin Campbell, a people scientist and executive strengths coach who specializes in leveraging workforce analytics with the art of leadership to help organizations strengthen work teams and improve their employee experience. Over the years, Kevin has worked with some of the most prestigious firms in workforce strategy, including Culture Amp, Deloitte, Gallup, and now Qualtrics.

Essential People Science Skills

Being an employee experience scientist sounds exciting, Kevin. But what exactly do you do?

To be effective, it requires expertise in multiple disciplines. Think of a Venn diagram with three intersecting circles.

One is people analytics, another is organizational psychology, and the other is applied practice. An employee experience scientist sits in the intersection of those three areas.

Understanding Employee Engagement

As a people scientist, what does the term “employee engagement” mean to you?

It’s important to talk about what it is not, as well as what it is.

It’s not a survey. Often, we lose sight of the fact that engagement is actually an emotional and psychological state. A survey is just a tool that helps us measure that state.

Engagement really starts with emotional commitment. I emphasize the emotional aspect because it’s about the desire to stay with an organization and help fulfill its objectives — not because you’re obligated or you feel forced to do it, but because you want to.

Pinpointing Engagement Issues

What is the most critical challenge you’re seeing right now?

Most organizations overemphasize understanding and underemphasize improvement in action.

For example, according to 2021 data, nearly 90% of companies measure engagement or have some type of employee feedback program, but only 7% of employees say their company acts on feedback in a highly effective way.

We haven’t updated that research yet, but I’m guessing it probably hasn’t improved much.

Bridging The Gap

How can employers address this problem? 

It’s important to recognize that the engagement survey or data isn’t the end. It’s really just the beginning.

To improve, you’ll want to translate results into actions that can have outsized impact on the your company culture. And the key is to use simple coaching skills.

 


For more great advice from Kevin about the art and science behind how to develop and sustain a great employee experience, listen to this full episode.

Also, be sure to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And to continue this conversation on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

How can employers give employees the recognition they deserve? Check these 7 employee appreciation ideas people love

7 Employee Appreciation Ideas People Love

Content Impact Award - TalentCulture 2022

Employee appreciation is naturally top-of-mind for employers during the holiday season. But employees actually prefer recognition throughout the year. In fact, according to a HubSpot survey, 39% of employees don’t feel appreciated, and nearly 7 in 10 think better recognition would boost their performance.

So, what can you do to help your workforce feel more deeply appreciated?

Some organizations rely on standard, old-school methods like plaques. But a more personalized approach is far more effective. A thoughtful token of appreciation is worth much more than its monetary value, alone. It tells people they matter. And that kind of message lasts long after it is received.

Here are some meaningful ways to show your team members just how grateful you are for their contributions.

7 Ways to Elevate Employee Appreciation

1. Give Hard Workers a Break

When you recognize employees for an extraordinary effort on a project or success in achieving an important business goal, don’t just say thank you. Reward them with some well-deserved time off.

In going above and beyond, employees often put in extra hours working on weekends, at night, or in the wee hours of the morning. Along the way, they’re likely to lose precious sleep or family time. By letting them redeem some of that time you can help them relax and recharge after an intense work effort. Even one day away can make an impact.

Providing time off is easy. And if you toss in a bonus gift card or cash for these employees to spend on activities they enjoy, that break is likely to be especially memorable.

2. Spotlight Your Stars on Social Media

Want people on your team to feel like stars? Showcase top performers on social media for the world to see. Share photos or video clips of them on your organization’s accounts and express your gratitude for their unique contributions in an uplifting caption.

Invite your leaders and others to congratulate featured individuals in the comment section. Your “stars” will love the attention as it spreads across social media for others to see. These interactions also increase visibility for your business in all the right ways.

This kind of public recognition is personalized, community-minded, and compelling. Above all, it can boost an employee’s pride, confidence, and morale in ways that private recognition can’t touch. 

3. Create Customized Rewards

Are you thinking of giving top performers a framed certificate, a trophy, or maybe a cash reward? Instead, why not appeal to their particular interests? How do they spend their free time? What hobbies or passion projects matter most to them?

For example, do you have fitness freaks on your team? Reward them with a gym membership, a network pass, or a subsidy.

Maybe some of your people are into group activities. Why not share experiential rewards with them? For instance, you could arrange an outing at a local bowling, bocce, or Topgolf venue.

Or for those who love outdoor adventures like hiking, fly fishing, or river rafting, you could go all out and book a fun vacation package like this: White Water Rafting Montana.

Imagine how thrilled people will be with rewards that fit their interests. Whatever your budget, this is a highly effective way to keep employees motivated and reinforce your relationship with them.

4. Treat Your Team to a Tasty Meal

Everyone loves to eat. And there are endless ways to show employee appreciation with the gift of free food. You could send each employee a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Or to celebrate as a team, why not organize a surprise lunch out?

If your people work remotely, you can arrange to have a meal delivered to everyone’s door at the same time on the same day. Contact a restaurant each employee loves and order their favorite menu item. Or send a gift card to everyone in advance. This is an easy, cost-effective way to bring people together for a casual meetup. And don’t forget to send a heartfelt thank you note to each recipient, as icing on the cake.

5. Celebrate Everyday Efforts

To build and sustain a thriving workforce, look for ways to celebrate individuals and teams on a frequent basis. Ask for your workforce to be your eyes and ears to nominate people who deserve recognition for everyday accomplishments, little wins, and hard work, as well as big achievements. And encourage everyone in your organization to celebrate others, as well.

Genuine, ongoing praise is a powerful employee feedback tactic that drives engagement and job satisfaction. It also models the kind of spirit you want to see at the core of your culture.

Also, don’t forget opportunities to celebrate birthdays and other personal milestones. Let your employees know these aren’t just “checklist” items, but heartfelt gestures. You’ll see them smiling more often and sharing appreciation with peers.

6. Highlight Employee Excellence in Internal Newsletters

Internal newsletters and intranets are great for informational updates, but they’re just as powerful for employee appreciation. It pays to think creatively about how you can acknowledge your best performers through these channels.

You could dedicate a regular column in one of these vehicles to highlight stories about the hard work and accomplishments of top performers. These stories are an excellent way to boost morale and inspire top talent to remain engaged and keep aiming high.

7. Make The Most of Anniversaries

Some organizations treat anniversaries as just another day. But wouldn’t it be great to work for a company that celebrates every year of your employment as an important milestone?

The average employee turnover rate remains 20% higher than pre-pandemic levels. In this tough talent market, why would any employer let an anniversary go to waste?

Each year matters in the life of an employee. Whether they’re new to your organization or they’ve been on board for a long time, every member of your team deserves a celebration dedicated to their service. This kind of recognition can take many forms. But whatever you do, be sure to sincerely acknowledge people for their loyalty and their role in helping your organization advance its mission.

Final Thoughts

Great companies embrace employee appreciation as a crucial way to boost motivation, minimize turnover, and set their organization apart from competitors. Appreciating employees doesn’t need to be difficult, but it should be timely, sincere, and relevant.

Even if your budget is limited, there are endless ways to acknowledge people while reinforcing your organization’s goals, values, and culture. Why not think outside the box and show your appreciation in a truly unique way? All it takes is your commitment, consistency, and some thoughtful planning.

What caregiving benefits do modern employers provide? 6 business leaders share their answers

Which Caregiving Benefits Do Modern Employers Provide?

What benefits are top-of-mind for organizations that want to attract and retain great talent in today’s challenging talent market? Many are finding it pays to step outside the standard benefits box with creative options that meet diverse employee needs. For example, caregiving benefits are gaining strong momentum.

To learn more about this, we asked business and HR leaders to describe one caregiving option they believe is essential in supporting employees as they move through various life stages — from family planning and fertility to childcare and eldercare. Their recommendations cover a spectrum of solutions:

  • Childcare Benefits
  • Tuition Assistance
  • Sabbatical Leave
  • Unlimited PTO
  • Nutritional Support
  • Family Medical Leave

To learn more about why these options are so helpful, read the responses below…

6 Caregiving Benefits for the Modern Workforce

1. Childcare Support

One “do-everything” benefit can’t cover all the complexities involved with each stage in life. To ensure higher utilization and satisfaction, focus on stages with the most impact on employees and find the best option for each stage.

Certainly, fertility and family planning are good benefits to consider. However, childcare has the biggest impact on employee retention and productivity.

Childcare costs are soaring. In fact, in most states, the average annual cost of childcare is more expensive than college. This expense means many working couples are considering whether they can even afford to have kids, or if one parent must resign from work to care for their children at home.

Childcare also has a direct impact on employee attendance. On average, parents who must respond to childcare needs miss 9-14 days of work each year. And more than 65% leave work early or arrive late because they lack access to care. This is nearly 3x more productivity lost than from employees who are managing healthcare issues.

Kevin Ehlinger, VP Product Marketing, TOOTRiS

2. Tuition Assistance

Higher education and vocational training open up a wide range of opportunities for employees. They equip workers with the skills and knowledge to pursue additional career options and improve job mobility.

Tuition assistance makes education more accessible, empowering workers and their families to plan for their future. Offering tuition assistance as a benefit helps attract high-quality candidates and helps them hone their skills while helping employers retain top talent. In addition,  government education assistance programs in the U.S. let employers deduct sizable reimbursements for employee tuition contributions.

Ben Travis, Founder, HR Chief

3. Sabbatical Leave 

Although sabbatical leave was traditionally offered only in academic settings, it has started to gain strong traction over the past few years in the private sector, in response to a rise in employee burnout and the Great Resignation.

Private employers are looking for generous perks to attract new employees, keep them engaged, and help them maintain a healthy work-life balance. Sabbatical leave is the perfect benefit to check those boxes. 

In short, sabbatical leave is the option to step away from work for an extended period (usually 6 to 12 months) for any purpose whatsoever. This is a perfect way to accommodate employees at every stage in the employee lifecycle, from cradle to grave.

Individuals can take a sabbatical to de-stress and get pregnant, care for a new child, fight an illness, spend time with a dying loved one, or just travel the world. It is a flexible, practical benefit that allows for a range of uses. Whether paid, partially paid, or totally unpaid, any employee will appreciate the flexibility that sabbatical leave offers.

John Ross, CEO, Test Prep Insight

4. Unlimited PTO

As a business, we are committed to helping our employees maintain a work-life balance. We’re also committed to creating an environment that supports our employees’ personal goals and lets them prioritize their families. One way we do this is through a generous personal time off (PTO) policy.

We offer unlimited vacation time as well as unlimited sick time. We encourage employees to take time off for both personal and family goals, as well as when they need to care for ailing family members.

In addition, we provide resources for employees so they can continue working from home and/or work on a flexible schedule while they are taking time away.

Luciano Colos, CEO, PitchGrade

5. Nutritional Support 

One aspect of healthcare that spans the entire lifecycle is nutrition. So one benefit worth considering is coverage for prescribed nutritional supplements — not just prescription drugs. Other ways to support nutritional needs during different life stages is by providing access to educational information and expert talks about nutrition.

Optimum nutrition at each phase in the lifecycle promotes more robust immune systems and higher energy levels. That means it helps keep your workforce and their families healthier. So ultimately, these benefits ensure better performance at work and fewer illness-related absences. 

Ruth Novales, Marketing Director, Fortis Medical Billing Professionals

6. Family Medical Leave

Family medical leave is one benefit every employer should consider to help employees address the full lifecycle, from fertility to family planning to elder care.

Family medical leave helps protect an employee’s job for up to 12 weeks if they become ill or they need to care for a family member. A supervisor cannot fire an employee when they rely on this benefit for a legitimate reason, so it can provide a helpful safety net if the need arises.

Lindsey Hight, HR Professional, Sporting Smiles

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These caregiving benefits ideas were submitted via Terkel. Terkel is a knowledge platform that shares community-driven content based on expert insights. To see questions and get published, sign up at terkel.io.

Why Great Leaders Express Gratitude at Work

Why Great Leaders Express Gratitude at Work

As social beings, many of our relationships are based on reciprocity. At work, we’re often involved in transactional behavior, where we expect to receive at least as much value as we give. But our deepest relationships are usually driven by higher motives like gratitude. A thankful mindset benefits our relationships with others, even if we don’t expect anything in return. That’s why it’s so important for leaders to express gratitude at work.

Research shows that people who practice workplace gratitude help foster more compassion and consideration among their colleagues. For example, the University of Central Florida recently conducted a study among employees from various professions, asking them to journal about work gratitude for 10 days.

This simple act led participants to demonstrate more respect, politeness, and self-discipline. And this is only one of many studies underscoring the power of thankfulness. Bottom line ⁠— if you want to improve your company culture, it’s wise to focus on gratitude.

How Workplace Gratitude Works

Practicing gratitude at work is easy. It’s about recognizing good things that happen throughout the course of a given day. You can focus on an employee’s notable achievement, a coworker’s warm response to a challenging customer, or the arrival of a new coffee machine in the break room. The possibilities are endless.

Here are three types of work gratitude that directly influence employee experience:

1. Episodic Gratitude

This is tied to specific positive events you’ve encountered. For instance, you may be offered a new assignment you’ve been eyeing for a while. Or colleagues may jump in to help you meet a tight deadline. Or your employer gives you time off to deal with a serious illness in your family.

There is a strong correlation between expressions of gratitude in specific situations and positive organizational behavior. In other words, by practicing episodic gratitude over time, you can form a healthy habit that benefits you and your colleagues, alike. And ultimately, it can elevate your company culture as well.

2. Persistent Gratitude

When you consistently tend to feel thankful in a particular context, that is persistent gratitude. People with persistent gratitude are more likely to notice the good in other people’s actions and be thankful for them.

For instance, say your colleague fixes some basic errors in a document you’ve drafted so you don’t have to spend more time revising it. Some people may expect this as a normal part of a colleague’s job. But if you embrace persistent gratitude, you’ll be thankful for that effort to improve your document.

So, why is persistent gratitude important at work? When people feel good about what they do for a living, it leads to better overall well-being. Persistent gratitude leads to positive work-related emotions like enthusiasm and happiness. It also helps form stronger relationships, which in turn can strengthen your organizational culture.

3. Collective Gratitude

This is a feeling of thankfulness that stretches across an organization. It means you have a culture where people openly appreciate each other. With collective gratitude, employees feel free to express gratitude to colleagues, superiors, and clients.

A work environment where you’re appreciated and your efforts are celebrated sounds like a dream. As mentioned previously, persistent gratitude nurtures happiness and stronger relationships, so imagine what this ethic can accomplish when organizations fully embrace it. That’s why highly effective leaders foster a sense of collective gratitude.

Building a Culture of Gratitude

How can you help employees feel valued, recognized, and appreciated at work? Here are some proven ways you can encourage more gratitude throughout your organization:

  • Respect employees and colleagues by consistently seeking their input and listening to their ideas.
  • Take time to celebrate individual and team successes.
  • Believe that even a simple verbal or written “thank you” can go a long way.
  • Tell people exactly how they make a difference to you and others, so they believe your comments are genuine.
  • Don’t hold back. Share positive feedback whenever you see an opportunity.
  • Ask people how you can help them grow or rise to a new work challenge.
  • Be available to help when others are struggling through difficult times.
  • Hold periodic recognition ceremonies where employees nominate colleagues for awards like custom trophies, personalized keepsakes, or other customized items that strike a meaningful chord.
  • Publicly thank those who’ve helped you at work so people will be encouraged to offer assistance to others, as well.
  • Reward your team with fun group events that can also strengthen bonds. For example, you could host informal offsite trips, game nights, picnics, happy hours, and team lunches.

The Many Benefits of Gratitude at Work

When you express gratitude as a natural habit, you’ll begin to notice that it improves your attitude about work. And eventually, that genuine sense of gratitude will spread to others around you and benefit your culture in multiple ways. For example, in organizations where gratitude is a priority you’ll find:

  • Less job stress and more satisfaction
  • Better coworker relationships and friendships
  • A happier, more collaborative atmosphere
  • Heightened morale
  • Better employee self-esteem, mental health, and confidence
  • More energy and enthusiasm
  • And even improved physical health

A spirit of genuine appreciation can fill work environments with positivity. And when employees feel good about their work experience, a better customer experience and increased sales are likely to follow. It’s an all-around win-win.

Final Thoughts

Leaders typically don’t express gratitude as often as employees wish they would. But if you’re a leader, it’s your responsibility to keep your workforce engaged, connected, and optimistic. Consistently acknowledging others can showcase your professionalism, improve your business relationships, help you stand out as a true team player, and lift your workplace culture.

It may not cost anything to be outwardly appreciative, but developing a habit of thankfulness can make a massive difference. You have nothing to lose. So why not give it a try?

Empathy works in leadership. Hello, Elon Musk, are you listening?

Leadership Done Right: Yes Elon, Empathy Works

Some conversations stay with me. It could be something about the subject, the wisdom of the person I’m talking to, or the timeliness of the discussion. And sometimes, a random event triggers my recall. Case in point: The world recently watched a sad spectacle, as half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees lost their jobs when new owner Elon Musk stepped into his CEO role and promptly went on a firing spree. Apparently, he hadn’t received the memo from other successful executives that empathy works as a leadership style.

Twitter is obviously grappling with numerous business issues. But it’s stunning to think this company’s future depends on a singular person in a position of great power who simply decided to slice the workforce in half. And that was only his first week on the job.

Why Empathy Works

This behavior reminds me of a #WorkTrends podcast discussion I had with Gary DePaul, a brilliant leadership consultant, researcher, and author. We spoke in June 2021 — more than a year into the pandemic — when everyone was grappling with workplace challenges. The Great Resignation was gaining steam, and leaders were scrambling to redefine work life and organizational culture in ways that would keep talent onboard.

Over the course of our conversation, Gary explained what makes leaders effective in the long run. Among the qualities that give leaders staying power is (you guessed it) empathy. Seems like the opposite of Elon Musk’s approach, doesn’t it?

Whatever you think of his business acumen, Elon has never been an empathetic leader. It doesn’t seem to be one of his goals, to put it mildly.

This posture is already damaging his relationships with employees. And it doesn’t seem to be garnering trust among Twitter’s business partners, either.

Days into this acquisition, major advertisers like GM decided to put their Twitter budgets on hold and marketing strategists began advising clients to spend elsewhere. It seems Elon’s lack of empathy is already costing him dearly.

Empathy Works Because it Builds Common Ground

Will an empathy void ultimately matter to the success of this $44 billion deal? It probably depends on your view of the people/profits equation.

In our podcast interview, Gary made it clear where he stands, and I’m inclined to agree. Empathy is absolutely crucial for leadership. It’s also a necessary through-line for every organizational tier. Whatever your title, you won’t win the hearts, minds, or cooperation of your team members unless you make a genuine effort to connect with them on a human level.

Gary said that openly acknowledging your weaknesses as well as your strengths is a powerful way to break the ice. It doesn’t need to be complicated. For instance, at your next Zoom meeting, when you ask everyone to introduce themselves by sharing a bit of personal information, don’t skip yourself.

Empathy Also Builds Alignment

Self-awareness leads to humility, which in turn, leads to empathy. When you honor others’ right to be at the table, you can expect a better response from them. That’s the reason why empathy works.

Think about it. When you make an effort to connect with others, pay attention to them, and factor their input into your decisions, others will be drawn toward you.

But when your actions make it clear that your business revolves around you, why would your team sign-up for that? When you send a message that says you make decisions in a unilateral, top-down way, you inhibit the free exchange of ideas where engagement and innovation thrive.

No wonder we see phenomena like “quiet quitting” eroding modern work cultures. When people feel like it’s not worth the effort to work hard or go the extra mile, why should employers expect that kind of commitment?

The Elon Musk Twitter story still needs to unfold. But I think we’re already learning some valuable lessons. I believe Gary DePaul would agree.

Authority is best served with warmth. In other words, leaders should be willing to admit they’re going to make mistakes. They should also be willing to admit they’re on a learning curve — particularly when they’ve just taken over a company.

Anyone in charge of a team can and should work on their leadership style and recognize the importance of communicating with different types of people on their terms. (Hint: Maybe email isn’t the best way to deliver life-altering news.)

A Key Takeaway from Gary DePaul

Studying leadership is Gary DePaul’s career passion. When we spoke, his latest book was What the Heck Is Leadership and Why Should I Care?  It speaks to these core questions:

  • What does it really mean to lead?
  • What does this job really require?

Gary’s bottom line:  Leadership is a continuous, ongoing vocation. So if you’re heading into the corner office (metaphorically or not), don’t assume you’ve arrived. You’re just getting started.

 


EDITOR’S NOTE:

For more insights on leadership and other work-related topics, explore our #WorkTrends podcast archives. You’ll find a treasure trove of great guests and ideas.

Also, be sure to subscribe to Meghan M. Biro’s LinkedIn newsletter,  The Buzz On Work, her personal take on what’s happening at the intersection of people, tech, HR, and work culture.

Key Design Decisions for 360 Feedback Success

Key Design Decisions for 360 Feedback Success

Many managers and HR practitioners are familiar with 360 feedback as a leadership development practice. However, no two 360 feedback experiences look alike.

That is actually a good thing. Most successful 360 feedback drives behavior change both for individual leaders and their employers because the process is tailored to the organization’s unique culture as well as the intended purpose of the exercise.

On the other hand, this need for customization means practitioners face an overwhelming number of decisions when designing a new 360 feedback assessment. For example:

  • Who should participate?
  • How many survey questions should we include?
  • Who should receive the report?
  • What kind of follow-up support should we offer?
  • Who should choose the raters?
  • What role should HR play in the process?

Fortunately, some 360 feedback implementation practices have become ubiquitous. That means some guesswork, research and debate aren’t necessary. For example, below are five must-haves for strong engagement and outcomes.

Five Design Factors for 360 Feedback:

1) Which groups should participate in ratings?

Anyone who has observed a leader’s on-the-job behavior can provide useful rating input. This could include the leader who is being assessed, as well as a combination of direct supervisors, secondary managers, peers, direct reports, customers, board of directors representatives, donors and even skip reports.

In some situations, it is helpful to include other groups to meet specific requirements. For example, if a leader is actively involved with strategic partners or other third-party groups, their voices could add useful context. 

While there is flexibility to customize the participant mix, 360 feedback assessments typically include these four core rater groups as a baseline:  self, peers, direct reports, and direct managers. In fact, according to soon-to-be-released research from our firm, 88% of organizations include these four core groups.

2) Who will select and approve raters?

Among 360 feedback experts, there is some debate about the best way to choose raters. Should assessment recipients choose their participants? Those who favor this approach say it ensures a sense of ownership and buy-in. Others say a third party (a manager or HR representative) should choose raters. This ensures that feedback is well-balanced and avoids a “friends and family” bias.

Most 360 feedback process owners agree leaders should choose their own raters to build trust and establish assessment process buy-in. On the other hand, 70% of organizations tell us they review and approve final rater lists.

We agree that manager involvement is a wise practice, and a leader’s direct manager should approve the final list. Over the last 20 years, we’ve found that this is the most common approach. And according to our new benchmarking analysis, 48% of companies continue to use this method.

3) How will we score surveys and generate reports?

As with many HR processes, technology has also transformed 360 feedback implementation practices. Now, most HR practitioners rely heavily on online tools so they can collect, organize, analyze and share useful feedback faster and easier.

In 2009, spreadsheets and even paper surveys were still popular ways to collect and report 360 feedback data. Today, those methods are all but obsolete. In fact, 91% of organizations now use a web-based reporting tool to manage surveys and generate reports.

Many practitioners are also choosing to outsource this task to specialized service providers. In fact, our recent research shows that 80% of employers rely on an external vendor or consultant to handle this aspect of the process. 

4) How can we assure rater anonymity? 

To encourage honest responses, employers must ensure that feedback sources remain anonymous. Therefore, it’s not surprising that 81% of employers tell us rater anonymity is essential to the success of their 360 feedback endeavors.

A common way to ensure anonymity is by requiring a minimum number of survey responses for any group specified in the report. For example, peer scores are displayed separately only if at least 3 peers respond. If fewer peers respond, then that data is included only in overall average ratings.

Most often, organizations require a minimum of three raters in a category. In fact, 83% of companies use this three-rater threshold rule. Very few skip this requirement altogether (3% require no minimum responses). And on the other end of the spectrum, very few require more than three responses.

5) How will we help leaders translate the report into action?

For best results, talent management experts agree that personal follow-up is essential. To optimize ROI, employers should avoid the “desk drop” follow-up, where leaders receive a 360 feedback report, but no direct support to discuss results, implications, or next steps.

Follow-up can include any number of supportive actions, such as:  Adding development suggestions to the report, offering action planning guidance, providing individualized 1-on-1 coaching, assigning in-person or online workshops, referring leaders to specialized resource libraries, and more.

The most common step is also what talent management professionals feel is most critical for 360 assessment success:  Provide a one-on-one meeting with a trained 360 feedback coach who can facilitate action planning based on the results.

Historically, these sessions were conducted in person. However, in recent years, video meetings have become the dominant format. Also, reliance upon external coaches (rather than in-house staff) has become more popular.

Fortunately, 88% of organizations say they provide debrief sessions and one-on-one coaching, so feedback recipients can interpret insights and chart a relevant path forward.

Final Thoughts

Good leaders thrive on feedback. But for 360 feedback assessments to be effective, it’s important for leaders to understand the results and commit to improvement.

This means employers must take care to design and implement a valid, well-informed process from end to end. By addressing key design elements at the outset and by investing in ongoing leadership guidance, organizations can dramatically increase the likelihood of success.

 


EDITOR’S NOTE:
Want to learn more about the decisions talent managers make when designing and implementing 360 feedback assessments? Replay this recorded webinar, where the 3D Group unveils findings from its latest benchmarking study,
Current Practices in 360 Feedback, 7th Edition. This analysis includes 20 years of data from more than 600 companies.

Childcare Benefits: A Reckoning for Working Families

Childcare Benefits: A Reckoning for Working Families

It’s not a stretch to say COVID changed everything—including the way working families think about childcare benefits. Before the pandemic, parents struggled with childcare challenges, of course. But the day-to-day realities grew much worse when the pandemic struck.

After the initial shock of schools and childcare centers shutting down, families were left to figure out how to work from home while parenting. Instead of being at school or daycare, children spent the day side-by-side with their parents. In fact, from February 2020-February 2021, the lack of childcare pushed 2.3 million women out of the labor force. And a very long time passed before these women could return to work (if they have returned at all).

While people in some jobs continued to work on-site throughout the pandemic, many workers had to adapt to the new remote work world. This is where many employees still find themselves today, either working remotely or in some form of hybrid schedule—splitting time between home and office.

Today, childcare conditions have improved slightly, but still are far from ideal. Fortunately for some working families, employers are sponsoring more childcare benefits for those who need this kind of support.

Remote and Hybrid Employees Still Need Childcare Assistance

The benefits of remote work are well documented. However, one drawback is often overlooked. I’m talking about the misconception that people don’t need childcare assistance when they’re working remotely. This notion became prevalent early in the pandemic, and unfortunately, employers still haven’t moved on from this line of thinking.

Picture a typical working mother in a remote or hybrid management role.

Compared to her in-office peers, she doesn’t have fewer deadlines, less ambitious KPIs, or a smaller staff to manage. Nor does she have extra hands to hold her baby while attending Zoom meetings or responding to email messages. There are no extra hours in the day when she can feed or play with a toddler.

The workday is still the workday—even when people perform those tasks at home, surrounded by family distractions and obligations, rather than in an office cubicle.

Families With School-Aged Kids Face Unique Challenges

Contrary to what some believe, childcare needs do not stop once kids start kindergarten. I’m a mother, myself, so take it from me! Parents of 5-year-olds are still in the thick of their childcare journey.

Historically, preschool programs (as well as before-school and after-school care) served as a safety net to support a large, productive workforce. But COVID, chronic underfunding, and budget cuts have left these programs with limited capacity, fewer teachers, and reduced hours. The safety net is frayed, at best.

And now, working parents have the added burden of anxiety about COVID risks.

Previously, when children were mildly ill, they still attended school. These days, we know better. Emergency and backup care are must-haves for working parents who are unable to stay home with a sick child.

Even when parents take precautions, they still face the risk of a COVID outbreak at school that can suddenly change the course of a day, a week, or a month—depending on mandated quarantine periods. This is a lot for working families to handle, which is why employee childcare benefits matter so much.

Throughout the pandemic, working parents have been balancing the risks of depriving their children of social interaction or exposing them to a potentially deadly disease. Some families decide to choose individual or small-group professional care, such as a nanny or nanny-sharing arrangement. But this increases overall childcare costs and isn’t affordable enough for some.

The Trouble With Workplace Childcare Centers

Some employers have tried to help working families fill this gap by investing in on-site childcare centers. While an admirable idea and a substantial financial commitment, these large centers fall short for many employees.

These facilities no longer meet many childcare needs, and simply do not work for remote and hybrid workers. For example, how many working parents would want to commute to headquarters for their kids when they may otherwise be working from home? Working families prefer caregivers who are located close to home—which should be good news for employers who don’t want to dedicate massive budgets to build and maintain large childcare centers.

Childcare Benefits Are Key to Employee Retention

No matter which childcare option families choose, it comes at a price. And it’s hard for people to keep in perspective just how unaffordable it has become.

The national average childcare cost has risen to more than $10,000 per year, per child. That’s incredibly steep. How many working families do you know with two or three kids who also have an extra $20,000-$30,000 lying around?

The increasing cost of childcare forces parents (and mothers, in particular) to make a very difficult choice: Stay employed or quit to care full-time for their children. This has pushed record numbers of women out of the workforce.

The reality facing families is stark and alarming:

Current and prospective employees value family care benefits more than ever. This means employer-sponsored childcare benefits should play a key role in retention and recruitment strategies.

Final Thoughts

COVID drastically changed employment and childcare. The status quo is no longer sufficient, for both employees and employers. Forward-thinking business and HR leaders are rising to the challenge and supporting working families with employee childcare benefits that make a significant difference in people’s lives. This is a step in the right direction.

Employee Caregivers Are Quitting How Employers Can Help?

Employee Caregivers Are Quitting. Here’s How to Keep Them

These days, we’re flooded with headlines about The Great Resignation, The Big Quit, and The Great Reshuffle. It’s not surprising. The desire for career advancement and better work/life balance are powerful reasons why people are resigning in record numbers. But these aren’t the only motives. Actually, a growing number of people are quitting so they can take care of loved ones. If your organization can’t afford to lose these employee caregivers, this advice can help you keep them on board.

Factors Driving This Trend

We’re seeing more employee caregivers, partially because the pandemic put older people at risk and disrupted existing family care arrangements. But also, it is the result of broader population shifts and the rising cost of long-term care. Let’s look at how this could play out over the next 15-20 years…

1) Our Population is Changing

Historically, if you mapped our population by age, the chart would look like a pyramid. In the past, many more young people were at the base. As they became adults, they helped support a smaller number of older people at the top. Today, that pyramid is inverted, with a larger elderly population and an increasingly smaller base of young people at the bottom who struggle to support the elderly. This is happening because:

  • Boomers are aging
  • Younger generations are producing fewer children
  • Medical advances are extending life expectancies

This inverted pyramid means that by 2040, the elderly will depend more heavily on the working population than those under 18. Put differently, in less than 20 years, more of your employee caregivers will be supporting elderly loved ones, rather than their own children. Or potentially, they could be caring for both at the same time.

That’s already the case for many employee caregivers. In fact, more than half of middle-aged Americans are currently “sandwiched” between generations.

2) Caregiving Costs Are Rising

Because care is expensive to provide, not everyone will be able to hire professionals to look after aging family members. Instead, they’ll need to provide care themselves at home. According to a recent AARP survey, there are 48 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. and 80% of these caregivers are providing care to an adult family member or friend.

This means organizations will increasingly have employees who are juggling job performance with the burden of being a caregiver—along with all the time, energy, and emotional commitment that caregiving requires. While they may manage caregiving by missing time at work, it could also be as serious as leaving the workforce altogether.

For example, consider these statistics:

How to Support Employee Caregivers

What are forward-thinking HR leaders doing to help employee caregivers? Our recent conversations focus on three key action areas:

1) Provide Financial Solutions

One of the most important ways to support employees is by helping them plan for their own long-term care. While younger employees may not see the need, education and planning now will offer them more care options in the future if they’re injured or become ill.

When you create financial programming, be sure it includes discussions about the role of:

  • Medicare and Medicaid – Some people see government programs such as care options. However, they typically don’t cover long-term care (Medicare) and access involves significant drawbacks and limitations (Medicaid).
  • Retirement savings/401k – Similarly, using 401(k) and retirement savings to pay for care is possible, but this also comes with drawbacks. These investments are best reserved for funding life expenses during retirement and are not recommended for use during working years.
  • Standalone long-term care insurance – This coverage may be offered at work or purchased through an independent insurance provider. It can be a viable solution that can help cover some costs of long-term care.
  • Hybrid life insurance with long-term care benefits – This lets people purchase life insurance coverage that includes the ability to advance part of a death benefit for care needs. Many products on the market focus care benefits on professional care such as a nursing home or home health aide, but new products in this category cover family caregiving, as well.

2) Promote Your Employee Assistance Programs

Another way to support your workforce is through an employee assistance program (EAP). The right program can help employees navigate the challenges they face as caregivers. Whether it’s offering care planning tools and strategies or access to tools to help people manage complex aspects of care, be sure to consider a wide range of resources. For instance, you could include:

  • Care planning services
  • Care needs assessments
  • Help in finding and evaluating care
  • Life insurance claims support
  • Long-term care claims support
  • Home care placement assistance
  • Legal support for wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents
  • In-home loneliness solutions
  • Home modification services
  • Relocation support

Finally, it’s important to share details about your EAP program, and re-communicate the program’s features and benefits on a regular basis. Pairing this with enrollment or re-enrollment of your financial support solutions is a great way to protect your employees.

3) Pay Attention to Caregiving Legislation

Many state governments are taking notice of the need for care—the growing number of people who need a solution, the lack of affordable care, and the expected future drain on state Medicaid funds. A growing number of states are enacting legislation to address these care issues.

For example, in 2021, Washington became the first state to pass this kind of legislation. The Washington Cares Act provides long-term care financial support for state residents. The program is funded by a payroll tax. Employees with qualifying long-term care coverage could opt out of the program (and the associated tax).

Although this legislation may provide a rough blueprint, each state’s approach is likely to be different. To prepare their organizations and their employees for the future, employers should begin tracking legislative activity.

Start Planning

It’s hard to know precisely what’s in store for employers as more Boomers leave the workplace and younger employees step in to care for aging loved ones. But thus far, it’s clear that employee caregivers will need support and solutions as they navigate an increasingly challenging eldercare crisis.

HR leaders can be an essential part of the solution, but it’s important to start planning now. Workplace programs and policies need to evolve, with active involvement from employers and their employees. Start by educating your workforce about the need to plan for long-term care–whether caring for an elderly parent or planning ahead to manage their own care should they need it. Working together with employees to address their needs will help them understand your commitment to them, and encourage them to stay.

How can organizations measure the digital employee experience? Find out on this #WorkTrends podcast episode

How Do You Measure the Digital Employee Experience?

Sponsored by:  Ivanti

We don’t need a crystal ball to see that the future of work will be more connected, more digital and more flexible. The pandemic brought us a preview of this more adaptable world of work—and many of us want more. But what’s the next step? How can organizations make “anywhere” work a sustainable daily reality?

Smart employers are already digging deep to pave the way forward. But how will they know when their transformation process is working? How will they see results? This is why it’s vital to measure the digital employee experience, early and often.

Organizations that get this right will attract and retain the best talent. So I invite you to learn more about it with me on this #WorkTrends podcast episode.

Meet Our Guest:  Dennis Kozak

Today, I’m speaking with Dennis Kozak, COO of Ivanti, a leading information technology software provider that is on a mission to make the everywhere workplace possible for all of us. Because Dennis has a front-row seat at the table where key digital work decisions are made every day, he is an excellent source of insight for HR and business leaders.

Why Measure the Digital Employee Experience?

Welcome, Dennis! Tell us, why should we connect the dots between employee satisfaction and digital experience?

Typically, HR is very focused on measuring employee engagement, while IT is very focused on providing infrastructure and security. But very seldom do we actually marry those to focus on how IT improves or hinders an employee’s experience.

Timing Is Everything

Tell us about how to measure the digital employee experience. What does this look like?

Well, this is something people don’t think about much until they have a problem.

Your team’s digital environment may work well—until an employee gets a new laptop or a new mobile device and they try to reconnect to the company ecosystem. They’re either successful or they’re not.

So through automation you can always be checking all of the measurement points to ensure that you’re providing a consistent level of service.

Always Be Measuring

Why is it so important to continuously measure the employee digital experience?

IT is continuously changing. There are always new applications, new tools, new devices, new forms of data in an organization. So the environment is never static. And because it’s always changing, you have to continually measure.

If people don’t feel productive and IT becomes a barrier, then clearly job satisfaction will suffer and people will be more likely to leave. Turnover is difficult, not only for an employee, but for an employer, as well. We can help avoid that.

Where IT Can Add Value

How can the IT team work with HR to ensure everyone has access to the tools they need to do their jobs, no matter where they are?

Our research says 26% of employees have considered quitting their jobs because they lack suitable technology. And 42% of employees have spent their own personal money to buy technology so they can work more effectively.

In other words, people don’t necessarily want to wait for their company to help. But these statistics indicate where both functions can improve.

Start by including IT at the table when designing your employee engagement survey. IT and HR rarely work together beyond onboarding and de-provisioning. But IT can show that the innovation and intuitiveness they bring in enabling digital work can be a deciding factor in employee productivity, satisfaction and retention.

 


For more insights from Dennis, listen to this full episode. Also, read the article he recently contributed to our blog: “Digital Employee Experience: Do You Measure What Matters?

In addition, be sure to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And to continue this conversation on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

What is skillability - and why is it so important for future-minded organizations?

Skillability: Will It Solve the Talent Crunch?

The current talent market poses numerous challenges for leaders and employees, alike. Perhaps the most disruptive force redefining the post-pandemic business landscape is persistently high employee turnover. This Great Reshuffle” demonstrates just how quickly teams can change—even beyond the pandemic shift to remote work.

A New Business Necessity: Skillability

This fluid employment environment brings good news and bad. Employees are welcoming it as an opportunity to advance their careers. But among employers, it has given rise to the practice of talent poaching. Global companies are proactively pursuing candidates from all over the world, culling the best talent away from other, smaller businesses.

And on top of this highly competitive talent market, employers are now struggling with the effects of inflation. As the cost of living continues to increase, so do demands for higher wages. And candidates are willing to hold out when employers don’t meet their salary expectations. These dynamics can make it tough to fill openings, even for high-paying, highly-skilled roles.

At the same time, employees face a volatile economic landscape that is sending conflicting messages about how to weigh the stability of an existing job against other attractive options. Today’s sky-high inflation hasn’t done employees any favors, either. Even though individuals have more bargaining power, inflation quickly eats into any wage increases gained from a job switch. As a result, economics plays a much more active role in career choices these days.

But despite all of these issues, both employers and employees can rely on one shared secret weapon. It’s something I call skillability.

The Power of Skillability

A skill is an individual’s capacity to perform a job task or function, based on existing knowledge, ability and competence. Skillability, in contrast, is an individual’s capacity to develop proficiency in an unfamiliar skill.

The faster and more efficiently someone can develop a skill, the better. So, skillability can be measured by determining the time an employee needs to develop new skills, along with the investment needed to build those skills.

Training, alone, is not enough to improve skillability. It also requires a supportive, learning-forward work environment. Together, they can nurture professional growth and create a win-win for individuals and their employers.

It’s essential for leaders to develop key workforce skills internally. This gives them new ways to support employees in their current roles, while helping them prepare for future growth within the organization. At the same time, by proactively encouraging team skillability, leaders can uncover new growth opportunities for themselves.

For example, consider technology advancements. While new technologies may promise greater operational efficiency and profitability, they also require specific skills that existing employees may lack. Employees with a high level of skillability can help companies hedge against the uncertainty of changing technology by being adaptable and agile in the face of change.

Building Skillability Within Your Organization

Skillability may sound like a trait, but the ability to develop new skills can actually be learned. It’s all in your approach to training, development, and talent acquisition. Here are just a few ideas to help your organization move forward with this strategy:

1) Consider Candidates Who May Not Fit the Mold

Candidates who lack one or more “required” proficiencies can bring a background or experience that enables them to quickly pick up new skills, duties, and responsibilities. Don’t screen out these individuals.

This approach offers several advantages. First, it opens your organization to new, often untapped talent pools. Also, it encourages the development of existing internal talent, which can drive retention and avoid the consequences of unwanted turnover.

Think about it. If you hire new employees for skillability and their desire to learn, you’re not just investing in their future, but in your organization’s future competitiveness, as well.

2) Build Achievable Benchmarks Into Training

Benchmarking is nothing new. Business leaders use it to determine the highest standards of performance. However, it can also be used for training and onboarding. Benchmarks and timelines can spur self-driven learning over a defined period.

Industrial technology provider, Emerson, relies on a powerful version of this model. It instills lifelong learning “DNA” in new employees to ensure that they will be skillable throughout their employee journey. This kind of approach indicates early on whether employees are likely to grow continually and take on new challenges as they arise. It also encourages the most enterprising employees to quickly distinguish themselves and demonstrate their skillability.

3) Break Employees Out of Their Comfort Zones

Sometimes, the most effective way to cultivate skillability is to nudge employees toward learning opportunities that push their existing boundaries and routines. This strategy is inspired by the fact that people learn more effectively when they’re somewhat uncomfortable as they explore new ways of thinking and doing things. 

Effective learning disrupts the status quo, so to speak. And overcoming these challenges has a way of encouraging people to continue pursuing learning opportunities for themselves. This means you’ll want to put employees in new situations that force them to challenge their thinking, expand their knowledge, test their abilities, and ignite their desire to grow and evolve in their careers. 

4) Establish a Supportive Environment

The climate you establish for new and existing employees is paramount to skillability’s success. It’s important to create a setting where fear is seen as an invitation to grow, rather than a signal to hold back.

Often, leaders inadvertently discourage growth in others because they fear negative consequences or they’re anxious about their own ability to grow. This can intimidate others and put a damper on skillability. One way to avoid this is for senior leaders to consistently and openly encourage all team members to develop skillability, and for the organization to reward people at all levels who step up to the challenge.

Final Thoughts

Employers can become so invested in hiring for a specific skill set that they fail to consider a candidate’s skillability. When you hire people, you’re already planning to involve them in training. So, why not broaden your talent options to include those with a stronger likelihood to learn much-needed skills in the future?

Even if you look within your ranks for employees with motivation and a commitment to continuous learning, you’re likely to find viable job candidates you might not have otherwise considered. It may only take a gentle push in the right direction and an environment that gives them the support they need to grow and succeed.

Job Design: Is it time to rethink your approach? Learn more in this article...

Job Design: Is It Time to Rethink Your Approach?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last article in a 4-part series sponsored by Unit4. The series outlines a new approach to talent strategy for people-centric organizations. This final post looks at why and how employers should rethink job design.


 

As we close this series about how employers can reinvent their talent strategy for the future of work, we turn our attention to one of the most important ways to attract and engage the people your organization needs to succeed. Namely, we’re looking at why this is the right time to revisit your approach to job design.

For most of the past 100 years, employers have used the same techniques to scope job vacancies, write job descriptions, and hire employees to fill roles. But these classic job design methods aren’t particularly efficient or effective.

In fact, only about 50% of interviewed candidates who receive a job offer actually become employees. Plus, the talent acquisition process, itself, is expensive. This means the perceived cost of a “bad hire” is so steep that decision-makers often become paralyzed. And that inaction forces organizations to offset costs by relying too heavily on long tenure.

It’s not an ideal solution by any measure. But focusing on the 4th talent strategy pillar can help you address these issues. How? Read on…

Reworking Job Design: Where to Start

Employers can no longer afford to ignore the need to address ever-changing talent rosters. Average employee tenure is decreasing, even as demand for future-ready skills is increasing. This means leaders must fundamentally rethink the way they structure jobs.

Here’s a good starting point: Design new roles based on the assumption that whomever your hire will stay onboard for 2-4 years. Then work backward from there.

In this game plan, onboarding and robust initial training are especially important, so you can ensure faster time-to-value from new hires. In addition, jobs designed with shorter tenure in mind will benefit from being supported by onboarding and “bedding in” processes that are much more tightly controlled.

This means that skills mapping, employee learning, and professional development will need to become a more prominent part of the HR function, along with talent pipeline development. It also means that the skills you expect to develop in employees should become central to the benefits you offer candidates.

Reframe Benefits for Shorter Job Cycles

In addition to packaging skills as benefits, you’ll need to reorient benefits so they’re compatible with shorter terms of service. Rewards for time-in-role or time with the company are relics that don’t make sense in today’s workplace. They need to be replaced.

For better results, focus on performance-based incentives for contributions to specific projects and programs with more clearly defined targets and expectations.

What Does This Look Like? An Example

One way to illustrate this new approach to job design is through the rise of the contractor. This increasingly popular option is a way to tap into skilled talent on a temporary basis. It helps employers find and deploy people more quickly, while simultaneously reducing operational overhead and risk.

At the same time, contractors benefit from more options in today’s predominantly hybrid working environment. They also benefit from a faster learning curve that comes from working on a more diverse portfolio of projects over time.

Reliance on contractors has increased dramatically—but not at the same rate in every region. For example, in the U.K., contractor usage has grown by about a third since the 2008 financial crash. By comparison, in the U.S., it has surged by the same proportion since only 2020.

Nevertheless, the shift to a contingent workforce shows no sign of diminishing. And many organizations still struggle to find permanent employees in today’s tight labor market. So the advantages of hiring contractors make project-oriented hiring a highly attractive option.

Repackaging Jobs to Attract Top Talent

In your job descriptions, do you still use this kind of phrase?

“The successful candidate must be willing to…”

If so, prepare to leave that kind of thinking behind. Instead, think in terms of asking this question:

“How do you want to work for us?”

In other words, you’ll need to let new hires determine some of the terms of their engagement with you. This makes sense because it encourages deeper ownership of the role’s success. Besides, if you’re designing jobs around shorter “tours of duty” with specific goals and objectives, why not configure these positions so they can be performed on a contract or project basis?

This model offers multiple benefits:

  • You can more accurately assess jobs and redefine them so they deliver the most value to your organization.
  • You’ll be better prepared to tap into a much larger talent pool. (After all, the huge increase in today’s contractors is coming from somewhere. That “somewhere” is the rapidly growing segment of the working population currently seeking greater flexibility in how they market and sell their skills.)

Where to Find Help

This blog series may be over, but your job restructuring journey is just beginning. For an in-depth view of our insights into this and other future-minded strategies for people-centered organizations, download our white paper:

Rebuilding Talent Strategy: Finding and Retaining People in a Changing World.

Also, as you consider technologies needed as the backbone of a reimagined talent strategy, we invite you to take a closer look at our ERP and HCM suite of solutions. These advanced platforms can provide the advantage your business needs to stay at the forefront in the future of work.

For example, you’ll be better equipped to:

  • Audit and map workforce skills
  • Target and deliver timely, relevant learning and development programs
  • Take the pulse of workforce engagement
  • Increase pay equity and transparency
  • Provide people with seamless connections to colleagues and resources in hybrid work settings.

In combination, these capabilities can help you build sustainable business value, going forward. To learn more about how Unit4 solutions can make a difference for your organization, book a demo here.

 


Related Reading

For other articles in this series, check the following links:

Part 1:  Reimagine Talent Strategy: Make Development a Core Part of Your Business

Part 2:  Commit to Careers

Part 3:  Engage in the Employee

 

social background checks

How Social Background Checks Preserve Work Culture

Sponsored by: Fama.io

Every employer wants to provide a safe, supportive environment where people can do their best work. That’s a key reason why social background checks have become so popular. But many organizations don’t talk openly about how they make this happen.

I get it. This can be tricky to manage. But workforce wellbeing and your brand reputation are on the line. So, it’s wise to include a strong social media screening solution in your HR toolkit.

What kind of services are leading the way? And what should you consider when seeking a provider you can trust? Join me as I explore these questions on the latest #WorkTrends podcast episode.

 

Meet Our Guest:  Ben Mones

Today, I’m speaking with Ben Mones, Founder and CEO of Fama.io, the world’s largest provider of social background checks, and a leader in applying artificial intelligence technology in workforce screening services. As an expert in this process, Ben is an excellent source of advice for HR practitioners and business leaders.

Linking Culture With Social Background Checks

Ben, welcome! Let’s dive right in. How do you see social background checks tying into the employee experience?

Too often, employers don’t talk about background screening because they think it’s a “dirty” job at the front of the candidate funnel or during the onboarding process.

But that’s not what we do. We look at publicly available online records to detect behavioral patterns associated with intolerance or harassment. We look at things that, if left unchecked, could find their way into a company culture and create some damage.

Remote Work Raises the Stakes

Many of us work virtually now, so the stakes are higher. I mean, how are we getting to know people?

Agree. We often meet our coworkers by friending them on Facebook, following them on Twitter, or exchanging DMs on Instagram. So, if we’re interacting in these digital spaces, the importance of digital identity naturally follows.

Digital Screening Adoption Rate

How many companies are screening candidates or employees?

CareerBuilder and SHRM say 70% of employers perform some sort of social media or online profile check before bringing people on board. For example, they may be Googling someone before hiring them.

Risks of Social Background Checks

Compliance is a big concern with this process. What are the risks?

I think the risks of doing it yourself scare people away.

For example, you could be exposed to things you shouldn’t see. If a recruiter does this internally, they’ll see a person’s gender, ethnicity, pregnancy. You’ll see all these protected classes.

EEO says you can’t unring that bell. You can’t unsee that information. So because bias naturally occurs within all of us, you consider these sorts of things in your hiring process.

Avoiding Compliance Pitfalls

How can employers deal with these risks?

Managing the process through a third party helps squash those risks because you can configure the solution to filter only for job-relevant information.

This means you’re blind to all the protected class information you’d see if you were conducting social background checks on your own.

Key Screening Factors

What core behaviors do you look for in social screening? 

Here’s what we don’t do. We don’t do a yes/no recommendation on a person. Instead, think of flags for things like intolerance, threats, harassment, violence, crime and drugs.

 


For more advice from Ben, listen to the full podcast. And for detailed information about how your organization can benefit from social background screening, visit the Fama.io website, where you’ll find benchmarking reports and other resources for employers.

Also, be sure to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And to continue this conversation on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

performance evaluations

How to Motivate People With Better Performance Evaluations

When someone says it’s time for performance evaluations, what happens? You can almost hear a collective groan ripple across an organization. Reactions run the gamut, from indifference to full-on dread. 

It’s not just the idea of a performance review that makes people so uneasy—it’s also how the process is handled. Although employees tend to agree that performance evaluations are beneficial, too often, the way employers conduct and use reviews leaves a lot to be desired. 

We’d like to dig deeper into why performance evaluations stir up so many less-than-positive reactions. But first, let’s look briefly at how they became a standard business practice…

A Short History of Performance Evaluations

Appraisals were first developed during World War I. Back then, they had little to do with helping people improve and move forward in their careers. Instead, military leaders used appraisals to determine which personnel had the skills to qualify for a promotion when openings became available. They also used appraisals to identify and dismiss underperformers, so they could protect their ranks from harm or inefficiency.

The practice of workplace performance evaluations didn’t gain a firm foothold until the 1960s. But since then, reviews evolved in two sometimes conflicting directions. One rationale focuses on assessing current talent. The other emphasizes talent development for the future. However, as employee reviews have become more widespread, so have their scope and complexity. No wonder this topic makes so many people groan.

Why Employee Reviews Are Often Loathed

Today, many executives, managers, and employees agree that the traditional performance review system is no longer practical or effective. This is primarily because reviews are usually conducted on an annual basis.

Experts agree that an annual review cycle isn’t frequent enough to change behavior. Instead, managers should ideally offer feedback or guidance soon after an issue arises, not months after the fact.

Also, with a year’s worth of activity to evaluate, an appraisal can become an intense, high-pressure process, charged with the fear of being reprimanded or fired. In addition, an annual cadence tends to put an organization’s interests first, while undervaluing the employee experience.

Even so, most companies haven’t figured out how to replace or adapt that traditional review process with something better. How can we redesign performance evaluations to more closely meet the needs of employees, managers, and the organization? Let’s start by clarifying those needs.

The Benefits of a Better Review Process

For employers, a strong review process helps people apply their skills and experience to support organizational objectives. Clearer priorities, fewer mistakes, improved performance, and a more united team all contribute to a more profitable and sustainable business.

For managers and other leaders, a strong review process is efficient and effective. It provides timely direction, re-energizes people who have been disengaged, and makes the whole team more eager to deliver high-quality results.

For employees, a strong review process provides a clear picture of their current skills and proficiencies, while offering useful guidance on how to improve. It makes people feel more connected with their role in the organization and more supported in their specific work goals.

What’s at Stake

By relying on these various interests as a blueprint for improving the review process, organizations can achieve measurable gains. For example, a more productive, supportive form of evaluation can be a highly motivating process. Ideally, it creates an opportunity for meaningful dialogue that builds people up, rather than tearing them down. That can make all the difference for organizations that recognize the business value of employee retention.

On the other hand, choosing not to invest in an effective evaluation process brings significant downside risks. For example, people tend to become disenchanted and disengaged when they’re expected to work without constructive feedback, clear goals, or meaningful career paths.

In fact, one survey indicates that 85 percent of employees would consider quitting if they felt they received an unfair performance review. Imagine the impact if that happened in your organization!

Designing Better Reviews

The key to designing effective performance reviews is to recognize that this is a process, not an event. So many of our negative impressions of performance evaluations come from worrying about a single, looming “judgment day” when we wonder if we’ll be praised, criticized, or perhaps even fired.

For a better experience all around, try these approaches:

1) Start with a Different Mindset

The point of a performance review is to measure performance. However, evaluations don’t need to be limited to numbers and volume metrics.

This is an opportunity to think holistically about an employee’s overall connection with their team, and with your company’s culture and values. It’s also a chance to consider qualitative factors that affect an individual’s mental and social well-being.

2) Co-Create the Review

Gone are the days of top-down leadership and authoritarian work atmospheres. A performance evaluation should be a two-way experience.

It’s helpful for managers to work with employees upfront to co-create the goals that will frame their performance evaluation. Goals that align with key business objectives will serve the organization’s interests while giving an employee a sense of autonomy, purpose, and direction.

3) Increase Evaluation Frequency

You may think fewer evaluations are better. But a once-a-year trial builds unnecessary pressure. Distributing all of that annual review energy across more frequent cycles is a much smarter option.

In fact, according to Gallup, employees who receive daily feedback from managers are three times more likely to be engaged than those on an annual review schedule. To encourage professional growth, consider adding monthly progress checks or weekly one-on-one meetings, focused on development.

4) Lead with Recognition

Motivating employees is not always complicated, and we don’t always need expensive perks to do it. Simply acknowledging someone’s work and effort can go a long way to making them feel engaged and connected to their goals.

A whopping 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt recognized. Let that insight inform your review structure. By leading with acknowledgment—communicating first and foremost what an individual has done successfully—you lay a foundation of trust and validation that can lead to further dialogue.

5) Communicate Changes Clearly

Many performance evaluations focus on a salary increase or a title promotion. But even long-awaited good news needs to be delivered in a way that’s clear and motivating.

For example, with a salary change, what new responsibilities are expected? What new objectives come with this role? Use these shifts in position as an opportunity to have an open conversation about career growth and planning for future skills development and upward mobility.

Final Thoughts

It’s no secret—performance evaluations are a challenge to manage. And improving your existing methods may seem like a thankless task. But many employers are discovering that it’s well worth taking the time and effort to ensure that your process is truly effective.

Any investment you make to improve feedback and communication has the potential to strengthen the sense of connection people feel with their job, their team, and your organization. Ultimately, those kinds of benefits can lead to a significant impact on your ability to retain talent, enhance work quality and improve your bottom line.

 


Matt Romond is an HR business partner at Jotform. He’s passionate about collaborating with teams to help them do their best work. Outside of work, Matt loves spending time with his family and adventuring in the mountains.

Alexis Russell is the U.S. HR business partner at Jotform. Based in San Francisco, she is the point of contact for all things HR and recruitment at Jotform.

make change

Want to Make Change Stick? Rethink Work Meetings

Change. For better or worse, it’s a constant in today’s workplace. And in an uncertain future, it will remain a strategic priority for organizational success. But encouraging people to change is also one of the biggest challenges leaders face.

How can we leverage internal communications to make change initiatives work? Could we find the answer in something as simple as everyday meetings? Join me as I explore this question in depth on the latest #WorkTrends podcast episode.

 

Meet Our Guest:  Lindsey Caplan

Today, I’m excited to speak with Lindsey Caplan, organizational psychologist, communication strategist and founder of The Gathering Effect. By blending her experience in education, entertainment and business, Lindsey offers practical tools to help drive lasting workplace change. Here are highlights from our conversation:

Keyword: Gathering

Welcome, Lindsey! I’m looking forward to talking with you about how organizations can drive more lasting change today. Let’s start with the concept of “gathering.” Tell us, what does this term mean to you?

I define gathering as bringing people together to match a message with a moment for a specific effect. Those of us in HR are very familiar with gatherings. They’re happening all the time, whether they’re virtual or in-person or hybrid.

They come in many forms: town halls, all-hands meetings, off-sites, retreats, conferences, classes, and new hire orientations. These are all tools we can use to communicate about change and help employees do things differently.

Connecting People with Change

Why do gatherings play such a central role in the change process?

Just like a hammer, we can use gatherings for different purposes. There are four different effects that gatherings can produce, depending on the choices we make. The key is to start with the effect you want, rather than the content you want to share.

Know Your Objective

So you’re saying we should begin at the end? Interesting…

That approach may feel a little different, but it really is a significant strategic difference that determines how gatherings can make change stick. So I teach people to diagnose and define the effect they want to achieve, and then adjust their gatherings to align with the effect they want.

What Matters When We Gather

What should we consider as we plan gatherings designed to drive lasting change?

We need to look at multiple factors. Do we know the needs of people that will attend? Do we know what they care about? What’s at stake for them? Often, as leaders, we probably know. But maybe we don’t have a sense of what employees really care about.

How Culture Fits In

You say gatherings are “culture on display.” I think that’s so powerful, Lindsey. But can you explain what you mean by that?

Especially in a remote or hybrid environment, logging into a company-wide meeting, town hall or training class is rare. Right? These are high stakes moments. Often they’re important points in an employee’s journey when everyone is  together. People are listening. They’re paying attention to what leaders say and how they’re saying it. So these are excellent moments to reinforce and build your culture.

What’s Ahead

As we look ahead to the post-pandemic era, what do you see next for work gatherings, communication, and change?

I hope the pandemic workplace has given us awareness about the opportunity to do better. And I think it has revealed what we’re really gathering for—which is not information, it’s connection.

Brilliant! Yes, it’s about becoming more human, collectively. It’s about simplifying. And it’s about being mindful of what’s at stake when we make choices about when, where, how, and why we show up and communicate with others.

 


I love Lindsey’s perspective and her practical how-to advice, don’t you? I hope you’ll find this #WorkTrends episode useful as you plan change-related communications in your organization. It’s always here as a resource if you want to replay it again in the future.

In addition, you can learn more about how to leverage gatherings to drive lasting change by visiting Lindsey’s website, TheGatheringEffect.com.

For more advice from other world-of-work experts, don’t forget to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Also, to continue this conversation anytime on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

How can employers foster friendships in new remote workplace?

Fostering Friendships In the New Remote Workplace

Friendships are an essential aspect of work life. But friendships among remote employees aren’t the same as relationships among people who spend time together in an office.

In office environments, extroverts usually do the heavy lifting needed to encourage social bonding. But now, team members often work from different locations. Getting remote team members to feel comfortable just talking with one another is hard enough—let alone convincing them to interact socially the way friends do. Nevertheless, the effort can pay off in multiple ways.

What can employers do? One of the best ways to strengthen relationships in the new hybrid work environment is to plan regular opportunities for informal interaction during the business day. Any company can benefit from encouraging stronger relationships among employees, whether people are located onsite, offsite, or both.

Building Remote Social Ties: My Story

As the Founder and CEO of a high-growth company, I’ve experienced the benefits of making space for social events, first-hand. During the pandemic, I started hosting virtual office hours as a forum for anyone to drop by and ask questions about business goals or discuss ideas. Initially, most of the folks who participated were managers with whom I worked directly.

Then I hosted a team escape room game and a margarita mixology class. That changed everything. I saw an increase in the number of new employees who felt comfortable attending. As particiption surged, I could tell this was a good move. Now, people from all over the organization join our group conversations and bring valuable insights to my attention. 

But of course, all relationship-building opportunities are not equal. Some simple guidelines help. For example, at Elevent, we’ve found that participation is highest when a social event has a specific start and end time during the work day. This means employees aren’t forced to sacrifice family time so they can bond with co-workers.

Also, you’ll want to identify these events clearly as social. Don’t just vaguely schedule a “hang-out” session or a happy hour. Instead, plan a specific activity. Invite people to build a desktop garden or sample some unique ice cream flavors. Create interest with a focal point that brings people together around a shared common experience.

Why Work Relationships Matter

Gallup research says work friendships are a key employee engagement indicator. But this metric is sometimes overlooked when measuring productivity because it is often accompanied by hard-to-quantify levels of employee happiness and work satisfaction.

Stronger friendships can also lead to better communication, which improves business effectiveness and innovation. This helps organizations identify and resolve issues that could otherwise erode employee trust and retention.

Surveys continue to indicate that positive social environments help anchor individuals during times of internal or external stress. Friendships help provide paths for ongoing growth, even during difficult challenges. They also offer the support people need to come forward when they experience problems, so they can resolve issues and learn to perform more efficiently and effectively.

Friendship as a Productivity Metric

After an extensive multi-factor analysis, Gallup has developed a tool that diagnoses workplace health based on employee responses to 12 simple statements. Statement 10 is: “I have a best friend at work.” That’s because strong friendships are associated with a deeper work effort. So, how does Gallup interpret these results?

Specifically, when 20% or more of an organization’s employees agree with this statement, workplace engagement is considered “good.” That’s the current level of U.S. engagement. But Gallup estimates that when employers move this ratio to 60%, they can significantly improve results across several business parameters:

  • 36% fewer safety incidents
  • 7% more engaged customers
  • 12% higher profit

Furthermore, when friendships are strong, employees are less likely to seek other job opportunities and more likely to feel comfortable taking innovative risks.

So essentially, friendships help people enjoy working, which means they dedicate more creative time and energy to their work. They also mention problems when they happen so employers can resolve issues quickly, rather than waiting to react to unwanted resignations.

Bottom line: an open-door policy makes sense. You’ll find plenty of advice telling leaders to seek input from employees and reward people who speak up. But communication won’t improve if your policy isn’t backed by a culture of trust.

On the other hand, if you encourage stronger social connections across your teams, you can create the kind of “speaking up and speaking out” environment that is likely to make a real business impact.

Real-World Views: Workplace Social Bonds

With scheduled meetings centered almost entirely on work, organic interactions usually suffer. And with online meetings, screen fatigue is always a factor. So it’s important to treat employee attention as a finite resource. Start by assuring employees that both are important, and provide a framework for people to engage in both. Here’s how several companies view this need:

Ally Financial

One notable example is Ally Financial. Shortly after COVID-19 changed the way many of us work, Ally changed its employee support model to a remote-first approach. This meant Ally had to consider multiple employee needs that didn’t exist before March 2020.

The company made a commitment to demonstrate care for employees holistically. To increase wellbeing and social connection, Ally launched new services, experiential modules and group challenges geared toward physical, mental and financial fitness.

Virtual fitness and meditation classes can easily become group activities that prioritize social fun. This means simple events like comedy shows, group trivia games, and “Family Feud”-style team battles can become useful tools to improve workforce friendships and happiness.

Deloitte

Another well-known company focused on the communal aspects of the employee experience is Deloitte.

The company’s analysts looked deeply at how the pandemic tested the limits of employer-employee relationships, concluding that the future of work is likely to feel more like a team than a family. However, Deloitte cautions that if organizations move dramatically toward impersonal work models, employees may feel replaceable. If they sense this kind of threat, they could react by competing with colleagues, rather than working together toward common goals.

This is why Deloitte underscores the need for sustainable strategies. For example, one way to demonstrate this kind of commitment is to host ongoing virtual events. By dedicating time to a bi-weekly or monthly cadence, employers can ensure that employees have the time and support they need to cultivate stronger relationships.

Final Thoughts

Companies that treat virtual social events as an integral aspect of workforce engagement and retention are fostering essential social bonds—regardless of where employees are located. When people feel welcomed, comfortable and supported while spending time together in casual activities, they can develop friendships that ultimately improve individual productivity and happiness, as well as organizational profit.