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 can your organization use OKR methods to improve performance? Learn from OKR expert Matt Roberts

Using OKR Methods To Lift Business Performance

As 2022 draws to a close, most organizations are deeply involved in planning, budgeting and forecasting for the coming year. To complete this rigorous process, leaders often invest significant time, attention and energy for weeks or even months. Yet research says more than 90% of those strategies will never be executed. How can you develop an operational plan you’ll actually use?

Today’s uncertain economic environment is prompting leaders to seek out more flexible, reliable planning tools. But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. For decades, some organizations have relied on highly effective, affordable practices and tools based on Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).

Understanding OKRs

The OKR framework is favored by fast-growing tech giants like Google, LinkedIn, and Spotify, as well as start-ups that hope to follow in their footsteps.

OKRs are a way of setting strategic goals, first at the company level. Then departments, teams and individuals align their goals with the organization in a systematic way. But this framework is much more than a simple goal format. It comes with multiple step-by-step execution best practices.

For example, consider the “check-in” step, which is usually conducted on a weekly basis. This lightweight update process keeps everyone on your team focused, informed and on-track throughout an OKR cycle. Regular check-ins also help leaders avoid becoming consumed in reactive firefighting, which is often why strategies never see daylight.

Specialized software can help make steps like check-ins faster and easier to manage. For example, with OKR tools like ZOKRI, the check-in process takes only minutes to complete.

Unlocking The Full Benefits of OKR

OKR Snakes and Ladders - Best Practices and Mistakes to AvoidThe OKR process seems simple enough. However, making the most of OKRs requires nuance. Understanding how to navigate these nuances can help you quickly move from an OKR novice to a highly skilled OKR-driven organization.

Some important nuances are outlined below and are illustrated in this OKR “Snakes and Ladders” infographic:

7 OKR Ladders (Top Tips)

To help you succeed at OKRs, here are 7 top tips from organizations that have relied on them for years to drive performance and growth:

  • Use OKR as a focal point for debating issues and opportunities that, if solved, can move the needle. You could also consider them a blueprint for team “therapy” that creates engagement and excitement.
  • Identify meaningful, measurable outcomes (“key results”) to be sure you define success effectively. Discourage vanity metrics and “to-do list” outcomes.
  • Use KPIs to measure business-as-usual performance. Reserve OKRs for more valuable performance metrics, focused on strategic initiatives.
  • Establish aspirational goals selectively to improve focus and unlock innovative ways of thinking. OKRs let you set stretch goals without creating unnecessary stress among stakeholders.
  • Keep in mind that OKRs do not have to follow your organization chart. For example, they can be used effectively with cross-functional team initiatives.
  • Use operational processes built into OKRs to ensure that information is flowing as needed and your organization develops an executional rhythm.
  • Leverage retrospectives at the end of OKR cycles by creating positive shared learning experiences that inform future plans.

7 OKR Snakes (Pitfalls)

Perhaps the greatest strength of the OKR framework is its popularity. The biggest obstacles and mistakes have already been solved many times before, so common issues like these are easy to spot and avoid:

  • Sometimes, executive teams are not prepared to lead by example. Instead, they expect others to set and update goals, but they don’t manage their own. You don’t want to be one of these leaders.
  • Goals assigned to you aren’t as effective as goals you help create. To unlock stronger performance gains, get more people involved in the process. Discover together what needs improvement and support others in achieving their goals.
  • Similarly, avoid developing team OKRs in a silo. Team OKRs are much more powerful when they’re the product of cross-team discussions.
  • Too many team or individual OKRs dilute your focus. Instead, set fewer goals, each with high potential business impact.
  • Don’t treat OKR steps as optional actions. Without mandatory check-ins, you lose a single point-of-truth and people stop taking reports and updates seriously.
  • When the risks and consequences of not achieving OKRs are perceived as high you might be tempted to low-ball, but that can undermine the process. Grading OKRs and retrospectives helps you avoid this issue.
  • Setting and forgetting OKRs opens the door for business-as-usual firefighting to take over your agenda. Clearly, this jeopardizes overall performance outcomes. It’s important to commit to the OKR cycle and not skip updates or OKR meetings.

Summary

OKR is a proven goal setting framework. It can help you structure, share and execute organizational strategy, while making it easy for individuals and teams to support those goals.

Businesses that rely on OKRs typically are high-performers with traditional organization charts and cross-functional teams. But as everyone works toward aligned goals, people are more likely to identify and solve problems. And they learn from each other faster than those without OKRs.

Adopting OKRs is more than adopting a new goal format. It means you’re embracing a new way of talking about challenges and opportunities, and tracking progress towards goals and learning from experience. The know-how and tools to implement OKRs are within reach – even for organizations with a limited budget and management resources.

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.

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.

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.

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.

drive employee engagement

10 Ways to Drive Employee Engagement With Team Problem-Solving

Are you looking for proven ways to drive employee engagement? Many organizations find that collaboration is a highly effective strategy. For instance, consider these 10 team-centered methods recommended by business leaders:

  1. Use the SCRUM Framework for Project Management
  2. Involve Action Focus Groups to Improve Employee Engagement
  3. Empower Employees to Take Ownership of Work Issues
  4. Give Employees a Voice in Problem Solving
  5. Create a Strength-Based Team Culture Using Assessment Tools
  6. Leverage Diversity and Mastermind for Problem-Solving
  7. Take a Bottom-up Approach
  8. Use OKRs to Drive Teamwork and Engagement
  9. Engage Employees in Weekly Virtual Team-Building Activities
  10. Personalize Engagement Drivers to Employee Groups

Why are these engagement ideas so powerful? Learn more from the descriptions below…

1) Use the SCRUM Framework for Project Management

The SCRUM framework encourages team members to work together to solve problems and complete tasks. This helps foster a sense of teamwork and engagement. It also gives team members a say in a project’s direction and execution, so they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility. Plus, each phase of the project is transparent to everyone on the team, so everyone on the team remains aware, focused and motivated.

Omer Usanmaz, CEO of Qooper Mentoring & Learning Software

2) Involve “Action Focus Groups” to Improve Employee Engagement

We conducted an engagement survey with results that identified six individual areas for improvement. Instead of using managers to do this, we asked for employee volunteers to create a response to the challenges identified in the survey. Each Action Focus Group (AFG) included 10 members who met 3-5 times to identify and recommend a solution for the company to implement. Then, each AFG presented its improvement plan to the senior leadership team, which in turn, provided feedback. After each group adjusted its plan, we implemented the final recommendations.

With this AFG approach, employees became actively involved in solving key problems. In addition, this process gave participants an opportunity to build connections outside their primary business areas.

Deborah Norris, Senior HR Manager at Amentum

3) Empower Employees to Take Ownership of Work Issues

We drive employee engagement with team problem-solving by encouraging employees to identify and solve problems affecting their work. We have found that employees are happier, more engaged and more productive when they can take ownership of issues that impact their work. 

We achieve this by providing space for employees to voice their concerns about issues and encouraging teams to come together and solve problems (sometimes with incentives), instead of relying only on managers or supervisors. 

Debee Gold, Owner & Clinical Director of Gold Counseling & Wellness

4) Give Employees a Voice in Problem Solving

Too many organizations identify problems, and then leadership dictates solutions in a vacuum. But at 104 West, we recently held an all-company meeting, where administration and staff broke out into groups, identified roadblocks to growth, proposed solutions, and then came together to share thoughts. Now, we’re implementing plans based on those ideas, and every person in the organization has a role in thisa role they helped determine.

This process helped us drive employee engagement at all levels, empowering people to be solution-seekers and showcase their problem-solving and leadership abilities.

Joan Wyly, Vice President of 104 Degrees West Partners

5) Create a Strength-Based Team Culture Using Assessment Tools

Using assessment tools like Gallup StrengthsFinder, team members can understand how to create a more strength-based approach to teamwork and problem-solving. Additionally, regular “skip level” sessions allow for bottom-up feedback that helps build a more robust work culture. Also, personalized recognition leads to a more positive employee experience.

Together, these practices can produce a psychologically safe environment where teams thrive.

Rapti Khurana, VP of Talent Engagement & Development at the National Football League

6) Leverage Diversity and Mastermind for Problem Solving

When problems need to be solved, team members tend to find a solution by relying on their individual experience and determination. That can lead to excessive time scratching heads and spinning wheels, without making much progress. However, when people come together to leverage the power of cognitive diversity, an equally diverse array of potential solutions becomes more readily available.

A mastermind-style problem-solving conversation brings together members of disparate teams that are traditionally siloed. Coming together in this way to work toward a common goal can positively impact everything from engagement and retention to trust and productivity!

Erich Kurschat, Owner of Harmony Insights LLC

7) Take a Bottom-up Approach

I’m a big proponent of the bottom-up approach to team problem-solving, based on the teachings of Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa. We involve our front-line employees in group problem-solving, as well as our managers. Front-line employees are given the authority to act autonomously within specific guidelines.

This approach is practical because those closest to a problem often know the most about it and are in the best position to devise solution strategies. Empowering workers at all levels of our organization to participate in problem-solving drives employee engagement.

Dean Kaplan, President of The Kaplan Group

8) Use OKRs to Drive Teamwork and Engagement

For our team at Compt, goal setting and management have been driving forces in employee engagement and group problem-solving. We set objectives and key results (OKRs) as a company, and each department has its own OKRs that support overall company goals. In addition, each employee’s personal goals are tied to that employee’s department goals.

We host monthly company-wide “retro” meetings to share how each team is performing in a measured and data-driven way. Everything we do is quantified, which promotes accountability and cross-department teamwork to achieve overarching goals. This ensures that we are all constantly moving in the same direction toward the same outcomes. And because each individual’s actions impact the company’s success, we feel compelled to be more engaged and create a workplace that benefits us all.

Amy Spurling, CEO, and Founder of Compt

9) Engage Employees in Weekly Virtual Team-Building Activities

One way we combat engagement issues is through weekly virtual team-building activities. Each session is planned and hosted via Zoom by a different group of employees. This way, our workforce enjoys programming variety, while each group has a vested interest in the success of the activity they host. For example, activities have ranged from virtual quiz nights to elaborate online escape room challenges.

These team-building activities have been a resounding success. They’ve provided employees with memorable shared experiences and have helped build bonds between colleagues, ultimately leading to increased workplace collaboration.

Clare Jones, Marketing Manager at OfficeSpaceAU

10) Personalize Engagement Drivers to Employee Groups

The best employee engagement strategy is to ride the drivers. Each organization, of course, will have different drivers. For example, meaningful work, career growth, empowerment, belonging, recognition, leadership, and fulfilling work relationships. 

Choose a segment of your employee population. Then implement a strategic theme strategy across your drivers that is personalized to the group but high-profile enough that successes will be seen and heard throughout the organization. Ride the drivers, measure, rinse and repeat.

Marcus Holmes, HR Operations General Manager at City of Detroit

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These ideas on how to drive employee engagement 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.

performance

To Boost Retention – Review for Projects, Not Performance

If you’re ramping up for Q4 in your workplace, you may be anticipating a slew of quarterly performance reviews. It’s your manager’s last chance of the year to address recent performance issues, map out a plan for improvement, and set a goal for what’s next year.  

But if you’re concerned with retention, you may want to reconsider. Performance reviews, depending on how they’re done, may not have the right tone to fit the turbulent world of work we’re in right now. They may not support your engagement and retention challenges. Employees are jumpy — and while feedback is always a good idea, it may all be in the delivery and the framework.  

What works instead? Take a project-based approach — in which feedback and reviews are based on specific projects rather than overall performance over time. It avoids focusing on trickier metrics like behavior and “commitment” and provides a picture of a given situation and a given challenge. And it creates a clear boundary between life and work at a time when many of our workforces are seeing those lines blur. The day-to-day of a given job may be filled with ebbs and flows that didn’t exist when performance review criteria was designed. Particularly in categories like “attitude,” “willingness,” or “energy.” But a project is a project: you get it done.

Projects and Teams are Already on the Rise

The world of work is already shifting to projects as an increment of production instead of focusing simply on time. A project-based approach to the workplace is already a reality for a growing number of organizations. Of course, there are industries that traditionally lend themselves to project-based cadences of work. Industries such as marketing, advertising and content, engineering, legal firms, consultancies, and other service providers. But even high-service industries can shift to projects — framing work into initiatives, special efforts, campaigns, and quotas.

Taking this approach can bring your people together as a team. And we’re seeing the rise of teams — Deloitte’s research on the power of high-performance teams to catalyze organizational growth is pretty compelling. We divide into teams to better structure communications channels within digital workplaces, to forge accountability, to better manage, and to create a unit we can rely on. Projects and teams go hand in hand: a team executes on a project, essentially — and may interact with other teams, but they have a specific role, specific tasks. That actually frees up a manager to track a whole lot more in terms of individual input and contributions, responsiveness, creativity, and the ability to work in a group — and as reflected in the outcome of the project they were a part of.

Anchored to Specific Targets

The uneasy truth may be that many organizations wonder if performance reviews are working, but don’t have an alternative. But this is the era of transformation — like it or not, we transformed where and when and how we work out of necessity. It’s a reality right now that employees are stressed — and a bit jumpy if you look at the Great Resignation. 

So consider the fact that just 14% of employees agree their performance review inspires them to improve, according to Gallup research. Further, traditional performance reviews and approaches to feedback can take a psychological toll —  actually making performance worse about one-third of the time, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. No one wants to unintentionally build more resentment instead of more engagement, best intentions aside.  

I’ve seen plenty of well-designed performance reviews that stay brilliantly on specifics. But one of the common objections employees have to performance reviews is that the criteria can feel vague; in that gray area may live bias, unfairness, arbitrariness, etc. Going granular may alleviate that: you’re looking at clear tasks delineated within the arc of a project: beginning, middle, completion. There’s closure. A sense of accomplishment. Finishing something feels good — and deserves credit. It may offer a tactful cantilever to other issues that need to be addressed. And there’s no question that each individual’s contribution to that project — and their own experience being a part of it— offer countless opportunities for feedback, for clarification, and for recognition. 

Reflecting What’s Happening Now

Is taking a project-based approach to reviews feasible for most organizations? It could be more feasible than you think. It fits the changes the world of work is already undergoing, and: factors many organizations are already experiencing:

  • An increase in bringing in gig workers, SMEs, and consultants that either complement existing skills among our salaried workforces or expand them as necessary — and therefore redefining the essence of a team.
  • A shift from depending on the overall cohesion of a physical workplace to a remote and hybrid one, where people don’t come together organically but over the work they do.
  • A new emphasis on flexible scheduling and more work/life integration — seeing the job as a series of projects rather than a monolithic block of time no matter what happens.
  • A need to integrate faster into operations and get employees aligned before that 3-6 month period when many consider leaving: A recent survey of some 2,000 U.S. employees found that more than half (52%) were already on the hunt for a new position after being in their present one for less than 3 months. 
  • A workforce in which teams, no matter their composition, can autonomously and independently execute, and a well-managed or self-managed team is becoming the essential engine of production (more than individual output) and a key part of the organizational chart.

A Resilient Framework

Recently the Harvard Business Review pointed to the resiliency of a project framework: instead of focusing on process and controls, it focuses on how to deliver the elements with the greatest value. It’s not a leap to see how that approach could also remove bias (such as recency) and gray areas from the equation, making the effort more about purpose, intent, strategy, goals, execution, and lessons learned. In terms of HR and talent management, that kind of shift immediately opens the door for feedback and self-reflection on the part of its participants and makes self-observation part of growth. In essence, it democratizes the review process by making it more clear.

Depending on the size and nature of your organization, performance reviews may be a critical factor in your talent management strategy. But adding project-focused reviews to the mix adds a concrete benefit. A tangible means to gauge people’s efforts to achieve real results, in real-time.  

It’s also a smaller-scale way to build larger-scale results: as we know, growth happens in increments and iterations, not whole-cloth. No question, it’s easier to drive alignment and achieve collaboration across a team focused on a project. So take that sense of accomplishment, focus on it and celebrate it, and then do that over again. In terms of employee engagement, that can create a truly strong foundation — and more reason for them to stay.