How can global distributed teams wok together more effectively? Tips from business leaders

7 Ways to Support Distributed Teams in the Future of Work

Early in 2020, without warning, the pandemic made distributed teams a standard way of working for organizations all over the globe. Now, many employees have grown to prefer working remotely for at least part of every week. But despite the popularity of virtual workgroupsand evidence that they can be effectiveemployers are still trying to address related issues.

Are you among the employers looking for better ways to support distributed teams on an ongoing basis? What challenges are you facing, and how are you resolving them? Recently, when we asked business leaders these questions, they focused on seven key problems and ideas to resolve them:

  1. Coordinate Asynchronous Schedules
  2. Develop a Consistent Employee Experience
  3. Deal With Cultural Distinctions
  4. Address Issues Before They Become Systemic
  5. Offer Viable Child Care Options
  6. Avoid Information Silos
  7. Build Deep Connections and Loyalty

For details, check their answers below…

1. Coordinate Asynchronous Schedules

Distributed teams often operate hand in hand with flexible hours and asynchronous schedules. Even if you mandate specific working hours, different time zones can make it difficult for coworkers to connect at the same time. As a result, scheduling meetings and coordinating real-time collaboration can be frustrating and time-consuming.

One solution is to establish standard “overlap hours” when teammates are expected to be available online. This way, teams can easily plan to meet within established blocks of time without delays or unnecessary back-and-forth email activity. The rest of each day’s calendar is open, so individuals can structure their schedules independently.

Tasia Duske, CEO, MuseumHack

2. Develop a Consistent Employee Experience

When employees aren’t based in the same location, engagement and interaction can differ dramatically. With members of distributed teams operating in different locations and time zones, delivering a cohesive, consistent employee experience will no doubt continue to be a major challenge.

There is no easy fix for this. All the more reason why it’s worthwhile to create robust internal communications designed to connect and inform remote employees throughout your organization. It pays to invest in a mechanism that helps everyone in the company participate in intentional check-ins and feedback. And be sure to equip and encourage managers, so they will continuously evangelize your culture and norms.

Sentari Minor, Head of Strategy, evolvedMD

3. Deal With Cultural Distinctions

In a global workforce, employees may come from vastly different cultural backgrounds. This means you should anticipate that distributed team members will bring different communication styles, behavioral patterns, work ethics and ideals to the table. This naturally will influence how well team members understand each other and collaborate to reach a specific goal.

Leaders in global organizations must transcend these cultural barriers to manage distributed teams effectively. Start by encouraging multicultural understanding by delivering awareness training for management and employees. For example, focus on empowering people to identify preconceptions and handle unconscious bias. Also, help them learn how cultural differences can actually foster meaningful communication, collaboration, and creative problem-solving.

David Bitton, Co-Founder, DoorLoop

4. Address Issues Before They Become Systemic

Leaders will have to grapple with identifying and correcting issues before they become norms. With distributed teams, leaders will have a tougher time assessing employee sentiment towards one other, the company, and their roles. If any sources of friction or conflict are left unchecked, they can eventually take root, resulting in lower employee satisfaction and higher turnover.

One solution is for leaders to create a culture where everyone feels empowered to speak up about any problems or concerns that may arise with coworkers or managers. This can help prevent problems by giving people the freedom to come together quickly and solve problems before they get out of hand.

Lisa Richards, CEO, The Candida Diet

5. Offer Viable Child Care Options

Whether parents work in-office or from home, child care can be a continuous work-life struggle. Employee attention and productivity are easily compromised when quality care isn’t available or children are underfoot in a home office environment.

In the past, on-site child care or partnerships with daycare facilities made sense when employees worked at central office locations. But those solutions won’t work for distributed teams or employees with non-standard schedules. The best solution is to provide benefits from a company that provides child care on-demand. This gives parents options that fit their specific needs, no matter where they live or work. It’s one benefit that clearly benefits everyone—children, parents, and employers.

Kevin Ehlinger, VP Product Marketing, Tootris

6. Avoid Information Silos

Information silos are prevalent in distributed workplaces. They inhibit the free flow of data, communication, and essential insights. Silos may arise from proximity, reduced permissions, or even a lack of knowledge about where specific data is stored. Regardless, the presence of silos is a productivity nightmare.

Lost or mishandled data can pose a considerable threat to distributed teams. Therefore, leaders must take the proper steps to promote transparency, accessibility, and collaboration between departments. The solution is to invest in your organization’s file infrastructure. This can be achieved through the use of cloud data solutions that back up and store data remotely in the cloud.

This, in turn, makes data available on-demand wherever workers may be, so they can retrieve what they need from whatever device they may be using. This streamlines data access and improves productivity while keeping confidential information as safe and secure as possible.

Max Wesman, Founder, GoodHire

7. Build Deep Connections and Loyalty

Distributed work has one downside that can undermine team cohesion and organizational loyalty. Human beings build emotional bonds largely through social interaction. In-person, those connections easily develop because the environment lends itself to unexpected interactions and casual conversations. We “meet” briefly at the Keurig machine or in an elevator, while also making small talk.

In the absence of that unplanned, low-stakes social activity, emotional bonds don’t grow as deep. So, employee connections tend to be more transactional and less emotional—with colleagues, managers and the organization overall.

Without strong emotional bonds, distributed teams can suffer from low cohesion and loyalty. Virtual team members may be less likely to notice a colleague in need. It may also be easier to lure them away. To combat this, create as many opportunities as possible for employees to meet informally and get to know each other—even if it’s online. Encourage small talk before meetings. Support random, agenda-free phone meetings. Nurture friendships!

Amie Devero, President, Beyond Better Strategy and Coaching

 

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These ideas on how distributed teams can work together more effectively 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.

How can employers help remote teams connect through new "watercooler" activities? Get ideas on our blog

How Can Remote Teams Build “Watercooler” Connections?

There’s no doubt about it anymore—the workplace has shifted fundamentally. Now, according to Pew Research, almost 60% of employees are working from home at least most of the time. That compares with only 23% before the Covid pandemic struck. And although this shift to remote teams has translated into mostly happier, more productive employees, it has taken a toll on healthy,  connected work cultures.

The same Pew survey says 60% of employees feel less connected with their coworkers while working at home. That’s not great news for a number of reasons, notably, for workplace culture and its impact on team collaboration, retention and recruiting. To put a finer point on it, over the last two years, the workplace watercooler has vanished.

For sure, making a “best friend at work” has become difficult in a remote-first workplace. Forging informal bonds that lead to creating those “best friends at work” is increasingly tough when we’re stuck on Zoom calls all day and lack the human connection that was so familiar to anyone who worked in offices or other central locations prior to 2020.

HR leaders are acutely aware of this situation. They know they need to find creative ways to bring employees together in simple yet meaningful experiences. But that’s very hard to do when nearly everyone seems to be online. We’re seeing the same challenges among our clients. So today, I want to talk about a few ideas for how you could potentially use wellness programming to replace the physical watercooler and start to build a remote-forward culture that will help attract and retain top talent.

3 Ideas to Help Remote Teams Feel Connected

1. Create wellness challenges and friendly competitions

One way to break down the virtual barriers among employees is to get them excited about competing in friendly ways. There are endless possibilities, but here’s one that works for our clients.

You could offer relatively easy-to-host fitness challenges like Spring Madness, where employees form teams and earn points for completing group challenges with activities that support brain health, nutrition, and physical fitness. This can get the blood pumping, while also drawing employees closer so they can create and reinforce those connections many are craving.

How can something this simple enhance employee wellbeing? Consider the feedback we’ve received from Eddie, an employee at one of our client companies. Eddie has come to really value the fitness challenges he participates in. They’ve given him a chance to network with people across his geographically distributed company.

“I’ve made tons of friends at work through these fitness challenges,” Eddie says. In fact, he’s been on fitness challenge teams with his manager and several other coworkers. Many colleagues he’s met through these challenges have provided him with career advice, as well.

“The amount of networking I’ve been able to do has been truly remarkable. It’s amazing how many people you can meet while sharing the goal of creating a healthier lifestyle.”

2. Facilitate virtual wellness coffee talks and meet-ups

I think one of the biggest benefits of the watercooler we all miss most is just the opportunity to chat briefly about little things that aren’t work-related. Taking a few moments to exchange thoughts about what’s going on in the world or in our daily lives helps us feel connected with other people.

That just doesn’t happen anymore. But we’ve found that hosting virtual wellness coffee talks and meet-ups gives employees an opportunity to get together casually and talk about something other than work.

These meet-ups are facilitated by one of our program managers in a way that makes them very conversational and non-threatening. Some topics we’ve focused on include mindfulness, sleep, social wellbeing, and more. This is a lightweight, low-risk, low-resource way to get employees more actively engaged with one another.

3. Encourage employees to join recreation leagues and clubs

Just because people may not be interested in commuting to a central location for a full day of work doesn’t mean they don’t want to get together. A local softball or kickball league organized by your organization could get employees coming together to move, catch up and have some fun as a group.

Also, don’t underestimate the power these kinds of recreation leagues can have on overall team building and work culture. Playing a sport together can have an incredibly powerful effect on your employees’ motivation, as well as their ability to bond as a team and work as a cohesive unit.

These team-building experiences can translate directly into happier, more productive employees pretty quickly. Ultimately, it can improve their sense of wellbeing and overall appreciation of their employee experience—no matter where they may be working from day to day.

Final Thoughts

Don’t these ideas sound relatively simple and doable? None of them require a huge resource lift. And they all have the potential to help you start creating that remote-friendly culture so many companies are trying to build right now.

It’s not just a fun way to take a break and replace classic watercooler conversations. It’s actually a way to develop trust, communication, and human connection that we all find indispensable in our work lives. Who knows? It may also become a differentiator that plays a key role in the future of your organization’s talent attraction and retention strategy.

business value

We Surveyed 100+ HR Leaders on Driving Business Value in 2022

Sponsored by: ThoughtExchange

For several months, we’ve been sharing insights from our partner ThoughtExchange. They’ve done some fascinating research on Gen Z employees, employee experience, boosting retention, and driving business value. They’re an essential tool for leaders across departments and industries looking to align and engage their workforces.

We finally got the opportunity to use ThoughtExchange to consult our network of HR and Talent professionals, and you shared some great insights with us and each other. 

We asked:

As HR and Talent professionals, what areas are you focusing on at your organization to increase retention and drive business value?

With anonymity, anti-bias technology, and automatic translation capabilities, ThoughtExchange makes it easy to gather diverse perspectives and have equitable discussions.

What We Heard

Using ThoughtExchange’s tools, we analyzed the thoughts you shared to identify important themes and actionable insights. It’s an efficient way to hear from large groups of diverse people, particularly in a remote setting.

First, we looked at the Summary—an AI-generated snapshot of the top-rated ideas:

Onboarding and orientation – new hires should be set up for success from the start. Effective employee retention improves the productivity and performance of a company. Personal and professional mental health – a toxic work culture can really hurt productivity and business value. Pay equity. Personal wellbeing – avoid burnout.

Overall, you’re recognizing that business value is heavily impacted by employee experience, and you’re focusing on providing a healthy, productive workplace. 

Ideas That Rise To The Top

Next, we looked at the highest-rated answers. ThoughtExchange’s Thoughts tool shows each thought’s rating, and also how ratings change by role. These were the top-rated thoughts for each of the different roles:

Talent Acquisition: Leadership Development. Leaders need to role model behaviors to scale change.”

Recruitment: Employees’ aspirations for career development. These days I noticed fresh graduates and junior employees are switching their careers for any salary variation. Career development enables employees to be competent and get expertise for their future career.” 

Training & Development: Performance appreciation and reward. By acknowledging good work done, it drives up their productivity.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Personal and Professional Mental Health. A toxic work culture can really hurt productivity and business value.”

HR Leadership: Employee wellbeing. This helps the employees stay fit mentally, emotionally, and socially.”

What was particularly interesting is that, of the top thoughts for the entire group, none of the top thoughts by role were included. 

  • (4.2*) “Focus employer branding efforts on values and vision. Ensure you can articulate clearly how your company is making the world a better place. People in a group desire belonging. These factors serve as unifying tools and help employees feel that the work they do is not ‘just work.’”
  • (4.0*) “Onboarding and orientation. New hires should be set up for success from the start. Your onboarding process should focus on employee guide to thrive and culture.”
  • (4.0*) “Skills, skills, skills! We want to attract skilled talent, but we need to keep investing in their skills, so people want to stay and grow with us! Caring about the future viability of your workforce means business sustainability. Plus, it’s good for employees, too. Everybody wins.”

The variation in how thoughts are ranked demonstrates how ThoughtExchange can identify team or departmental priorities, but also surface common ground.

Where You Disagreed

It wasn’t all common ground. ThoughtExchange’s Differences tool shows the rating patterns for different groups and finds the polarizing ideas.

In our Exchange, compensation and pay equity was an area of contention. Group A (in blue), mainly HR Leadership, assigned high ratings (in the 4* range) to these thoughts:

Group B (in green), consisting mainly of Recruitment, Training & Development, and Talent Acquisition folks, gave ratings averaging 2*. This may indicate a difference in priorities between HR Leadership and those responsible for hiring and upskilling employees.

The Differences tool doesn’t stop there. It also finds thoughts that Group A and Group B both rated highly. Both groups agreed that employee wellbeing and engagement are top priorities. Holding space for both sides of an issue is vital, but identifying where those two sides agree helps build a strategy everyone supports.

Areas Of Focus

To understand the discussion’s general themes, we used the Theme tool to categorize thoughts into Culture, Performance, and Strategy. 

Thought Exchange Themes

Deeper analysis shows which issues are the most pressing for our community, and identifies actions to improve retention and drive business value.

Areas to Action:

  • Company Culture: clarify organizational values, define employer brand, and consult employees on improving their work experience. 
  • Skills Development: provide employees with skills, career, and leadership development opportunities.
  • Performance Appreciation: improve morale and productivity by rewarding high-performing employees.

What You Told Us

You’re invested in improving and streamlining every stage of the employee lifecycle. You value organizational culture and recognize the importance of robust onboarding and career development. You care deeply for the wellbeing of your employees and want to foster a more supportive workplace.

For us, this Exchange showed how valuable an inclusive, unbiased discussion platform is for identifying team and organizational priorities. 

We can see how ThoughtExchange brings immense value to different kinds of leaders looking to innovate tactics, align on strategy, improve business efficiency, and engage employees.

Want to see how ThoughtExchange can give you mission-critical insights to make better decisions and transform your discussions? Talk to one of ThoughtExchange’s Talent & HR experts today.

Diversity

6 Ways Leadership Teams Can Fuel Workplace Diversity and Inclusion

If your diversity strategy relies on presentations and workshops, it’s probably not working as it should. In addition to diversity programs showing minimal improvement in terms of racial composition in the workforce, some leaders have failed to take the proper steps to prioritize this issue.

About $8 billion a year is spent on diversity training in the United States. This is a significant number, that looms large when considering the lack of progress. Numbers suggest that demonstrations of microaggressions—packaged into 3-5 minute clips and presented every 6 months—aren’t working. If you want success with your DE&I strategies, you must take responsibility for the actions that can fuel results.

Why Leadership Should Invest in Building a More Inclusive Culture

To attract good talent, start with building trust. Be directly involved in DE&I efforts. Your diversity strategy will be more successful with the involvement and influence of your leadership team.

It’s no coincidence that McDonald’s set competitive annual diversity goals for 2025 that are directly tied to the compensation of executive vice presidents. You have to believe that failing to invest time and energy in improving organizational DE&I negatively, can affect your company’s performance. Putting it simply—the solution starts with your visible commitment to developing diversity-related KPIs for other leaders and managers.

The benefits of an inclusive workforce include increasing employee retention, recruiting through brand awareness and possibly customer acquisition. You should own these efforts, not solely because it’s the right thing to do, but because it is also what is best for your business.

To start, evaluate your company’s diversity strategy and its results. In addition, talk with leaders about ways they can help make the strategy more successful. 

Let’s explore 6 ways leaders can fuel workplace diversity and inclusion.

1. Sponsor a diversity and inclusion-related initiative.

Choose a DE&I issue that you are passionate about or a professional skill that you may possess. Is there a skill that is missing within the company? Are there enough support programs? Are there skill-share opportunities? You have the power to create programs to fill gaps. Sponsoring Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), is one great way for senior leaders to connect with their employees. 

2. Offer support to underrepresented employees.

Support both sponsorship and mentorship programs; noting that sponsorship will include help with elements such as career vision & visibility. These programs help create genuine connections between employees and leadership, helping to build better, trusting relationships. Set up consistent skip-level meetings with underrepresented employees, or ask your managers to introduce you to high performers who may be able to help.

3. Join executive forums that embrace diversity.

One of the best things you can do as a leader is expand your network to include underrepresented executives. Joining communities that champion underrepresented employees will help you gain a broader perspective. Some useful forums are Chief, him for her, Hitec, and MLT

4. Discuss progress of diversity-related initiatives at all-hands meetings.

Prioritizing diversity and inclusion in your company-wide all-hands or strategic discussions, is a simple way to include these plans within company KPIs. Clearly communicating progress on your diversity strategy should be on the agenda.

5. Participate in diversity and inclusion training.

Attend diversity training with other employees, not just other leaders. Encourage your executive team to take part in training with their direct reports. Leaders will have an opportunity to increase psychological safety, and learn more about how individual employees feel about the culture.

6. Hold VPs and Directors accountable for building diverse teams.

The sphere of influence within an organization starts with leadership. If your organization wants to champion diversity, your leadership team should reflect that. Hold yourself, and your direct reports accountable for building a diverse team by setting aspirational targets. Similar to how the McDonald’s executive team tied diversity goals to compensation, determine what will motivate your peers and direct reports to take diversity seriously.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the solution is to create safe and productive work environments that keep employees motivated and candidates eager to join your organization. Start with these 6 steps and build momentum.

Employee Happiness

8 Ways to Foster Employee Happiness

When it comes to the workplace, happiness is key. Studies have shown that happy employees are more productive and efficient. That’s why employers need to do what they can to create a positive work environment. But what does employee happiness mean, exactly?

Here are a few tips for contributing to employee happiness in the workplace.

What Happiness at Work Means to Employees and Employers

Employees may feel satisfied with their job, have a positive work-life balance, or feel like they are part of a supportive team.

It may mean increased productivity, lower absenteeism, or reduced turnover for employers. Regardless of the definition, work happiness is essential for employees and employers.

Studies have proven that happy employees are more engaged and productive. They are also more likely to stay with their company and less likely to take sick days.

Happy employers, however, tend to have lower health care costs and higher profits. They also tend to be more successful in attracting and retaining top talent.

8 Ways to Foster Employee Happiness in the Workplace

You, as the employer, can do a few things to create a happy work environment.

1. Learn More About Your Employees

Getting to know your employees personally can go a long way in making them feel valued. Take the time to learn about their interests, family, and hobbies. Doing so will not only make them feel appreciated, but it will also help you better understand their needs and how to support them.

2. Make Time for Fun

Making time for fun is just as important as working hard. It can be as simple as hosting a happy hour each week or planning activities to build teamwork. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that your employees will enjoy and look forward to.

3. Make Sure Employees Feel Heard

Employees who feel their voices are heard are more likely to be engaged and motivated at work. After all, feeling like you’re a part of the team and that your opinion matters is important to job satisfaction.

Some things you can do to ensure your employees feel heard:

  • Encourage open communication by creating an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up.
  • Make it a point to listen to your employees and take their suggestions and feedback seriously.
  • Let employees know their input is valued and that you’re working to create a happy workplace for everyone.

4. Encourage Work-Life Balance

A healthy work-life balance is essential for employee happiness and productivity. Employees who feel like they have a good work-life balance are more likely to be engaged in their work and less likely to experience burnout.

An example of this is employees being able to take advantage of flex time and set their hours.

5. Celebrate Employee Accomplishments

Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and employees are no exception. When employees feel their hard work is being recognized, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated.

One way to show appreciation for your team members is by giving verbal praise when an employee does a good job. You can do this in a one-on-one conversation, during a team meeting, or even in an email.

Another way to show appreciation is by giving tangible rewards, such as gift cards, paid time off, or tickets to a show or event.

6. Salary Increase

An employee is happiest when they get a salary increase. A raise indicates that they are doing a good job and gives them a financial incentive to continue performing at a high level.

A salary increase can also help attract and retain top talent. If your employees feel they are paid fairly, they are less likely to look for other opportunities. As a result, a salary increase can be a valuable tool for promoting employee happiness in the workplace.

7. Create a Career Pathway

Employees who feel stuck in a dead-end job are less likely to be happy at work. On the other hand, employees who feel they have a clear career path are more likely to be engaged and motivated.

One way to create a career pathway for your employees is by providing opportunities for professional development. Professional development can include anything from paid training courses to tuition reimbursement for advanced degrees.

You can also create a mentorship program that pairs more experienced employees with newer employees. Mentorship programs can help newer employees feel like they have someone to look up to and learn from. It can also help more experienced employees stay engaged in their work.

8. Offer More Benefits

Apart from a salary increase, there are other ways to contribute to employee happiness by offering more benefits.

For example, you could provide a flexible work schedule, telecommuting options, or on-site child care. These benefits can go a long way in promoting employee happiness and retention.

Moreover, you could also offer other benefits, such as health insurance, a retirement savings plan, or paid time off. These benefits may seem like a small perk, but they can make a big difference to employees.

Benefits of a Happy Workplace

  • Productivity – When employees are happy, they are more productive.
  • Retention – Attracting and retaining top talent is essential for any organization, and a happy workplace can help.
  • Engagement – Engaged employees are more likely to go above and beyond for their organization.
  • Better customer service – If your employees are happy, they will be more likely to provide better customer service.
  • Improved bottom line – A happy workplace can enhance your organization’s bottom line.

The Takeaway

Employee happiness is essential to the success of any organization. You can do a few key things as an employer to help contribute to employee happiness in the workplace.

It is vital to make sure employees feel heard. Encourage open communication and allow employees to provide feedback. It is also essential to encourage work-life balance.

Make sure employees have the opportunity to take breaks and use their vacation time. Celebrate employee accomplishments and give them growth opportunities.

Finally, offer competitive salaries and benefits. By taking these steps, you can create a happy and productive workplace.

Engage

6 Ways to Engage With Your Employees and Prevent Attrition

One of the important factors involved in running a business is finding and retaining good employees. Yet, employees choosing to leave a job due to a lack of connection and engagement has increased.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in March 2022. Known as the “Great Resignation,” this trend has caught the attention of CEOs, upper-level management, and HR professionals. So why are these workers leaving, and what can you do as a business owner to improve retention?

Let’s explore how you can improve employee engagement within your organization and hold onto the valuable members of your team.  

How to Improve Employee Engagement

The key to success is to motivate and engage your team. A team that is passionate about their work and empowered to make strategic choices will achieve greater success.

If you have noticed the level of engagement in your organization has dropped, don’t be alarmed. While the current situation is less than ideal, there are steps you can take to improve upon it. 

Below are six ways you can effectively re-engage your team.

1. Leverage Your Team’s Strengths and Passions

When considering the roles performed by your team members, pay attention to their strengths and areas of interest. For example, employees who are truly passionate about their work are more dedicated and happier to return to the workplace every day.

This alignment is also a great way to reduce stress levels among team members. While some members may thrive when faced with the demands of high-profile or VIP clients, others may be better suited for work behind the scenes. 

Identifying the strengths of each team member will not only create a happier, more engaged work environment but will also improve productivity. Support this by backing your employees with the necessary budget to complete their projects. This allowance will provide more interest and variety in the workplace by preventing them from feeling stuck on any one task for an extended time.  

2. Trust the Decision-Making Abilities of Your Team

When you empower your employees to make their own decisions throughout the workday, you demonstrate you value their work and abilities. Building trust is an important step in creating a workplace where your team can thrive. It builds confidence and encourages each team member to work to their full potential.

Rather than outlining strict operating procedures with no room for personalization, allow your employees to make their best judgment in situations that don’t fit inside the box. Eliminate potential barriers, such as access to funding or tools when needed. You may discover more effective ways to solve problems by equipping staff to tap into their unique skillsets.    

3. Regularly Check-In with Your Team

A way to show employees they are an important part of the team is to show them their opinions matter. Take the time to check in with team members regularly. This check-in includes offering clear feedback and opportunities for improvement, opening the door for them to communicate their concerns and ideas.

Employees want direction. Many companies still use the traditional annual review, but this isn’t frequent enough to help your team improve. Instead, try offering a brief weekly update to each team member. Take this time to highlight ways they have performed skillfully and to identify actionable ways they can improve.

4. Allow for Open Communication Both Ways

This improved level of communication also needs to go in both directions. First, make it easy for your team to provide their feedback, including any concerns they may have and ideas for the future. You can encourage this by implementing an open-door policy within the workplace, offering time for your employees to speak up during their weekly check-in, or providing the opportunity for anonymous feedback with employee satisfaction surveys.

Make sure you are following through on the information that you are given. Advocate for their ideas. If they continually offer their feedback and nothing changes, it will only create frustration. The goal is for your team to feel heard and appreciated, which means considering their suggestions.  

5. Offer Training and Learning Opportunities

Another way you can help your team grow and improve in their career goals is to offer skill development and ongoing education opportunities. By supporting your team in advancing their career, you will show them that the company is invested in their future. This continued investment of time and resources fosters an environment of dedication and loyalty.

Knowledge and education come in many forms, including:

  • Formal education (College and University)
  • Mentorship/Coaching
  • Certifications
  • On-the-Job skills training
  • Virtual learning opportunities  

When many industries are experiencing skill shortages, investing in your team is a way to benefit both your company and all who work for it. 

6. Show Employees You Care About Their Health

In recent years, there has been a growing focus on mental health in all areas of our lives. This renewed focus includes the workplace. Not only will access to better mental health support help to boost work performance and satisfaction, but it will also help to improve the lives of your team outside of work. 

There are many ways you can make the mental health of your team a priority.  This focus ranges from providing better mental health care in your company’s health benefit plan to allowing for more flexible work hours, paid time off, and “mental health days.” 

Prioritizing mental health is more than just providing care for mental illness. It also means encouraging a healthy work/life balance and providing opportunities to relieve workplace stress.

Improve Employee Engagement by Creating an Employee-Centric Work Environment

By creating a work environment focused on empowering and supporting your team, you open the door for your employees to perform to their full potential. It encourages trust, increases productivity, and boosts employee retention. Build a culture that leverages your team’s strengths, trusts their decision-making abilities, encourages communication, and supports the health of all employees. Taking these steps will inspire a healthy, balanced workplace for all. 

Gamification

How Gamification Can Build Inclusive High-Performing Teams

A productive team is essential if we want to have any success at work. Engaged teams lead to successful endeavors, while a dysfunctional team may force us back to the drawing board, cause layoffs, and high turnover. Unfortunately, building a good team isn’t easy, and the hybrid/remote work culture can make communication and engagement even more difficult. 

At the same time, entry-level to executive employees are wondering how they can better connect with others at work. Gallup shows that $1 trillion is lost due to voluntary turnover. This illustrates that there are still too many employees who are disengaged and unfulfilled at work. The majority say their organizations could have done more to keep them.

Our Guest: Lauren Fitzpatrick Shanks

Lauren Shanks is an entrepreneur, award-winning engineer, tech leader, mother of two, founder and CEO of KeepWOL, and much more. She is the first black woman to graduate from the University of Kansas’ Aerospace Engineering Department, a recipient of the Women in Technology Rising Star Award, and more fabulous accomplishments. 

So, what is gamification, and how important is it for companies to gamify their training and engagement initiatives? Lauren explains: 

So the importance is high, but it’s also important to understand what it all means and make sure that we use the terminology in the right way. With gamification and simulation in games, there’s a continuum. They cross over, but there are still bits of nuances. With gamification, we can think about it as game elements and mechanics of things from games being added to situations that weren’t meant to be a game.

Boost Morale, Gauge Productivity and Development

As humans, we want to win. Some people are not competitive, but they still don’t want to lose or fail. Games hack the human brain and tap into its reward center. Games typically require quick thinking that can disarm individuals and get more into a competitive mindset. It is important to be mindful before implementing gamification, but the possibilities are big:

We’ve worked with teams of all different complexities. That’s what’s really amazing about games and gamification because they can be used to bring people from different generations and different cultures together. We’ve all played games before in our life. We all have that innate desire to not fail. So we’ve worked with matrix-based teams, C suite teams, and multidisciplinary teams. Teams of all makes and molds are utilizing KeepWOL’s game suite to develop exceptional teams.

Future of Gamification

Gamification is not exactly new, but it certainly holds potential for workplaces in the future. Lauren shares a story from the KeepWOL team’s recent booth at the world’s largest conference for talent development:

…on our banner, we had the words, game-centric, and play. People were flocking to our booth because their companies had sent them there on a mission of how do you incorporate some of these new trends, these new things that are going on. Gamification is not new. But it takes a little more time to get things into the enterprise space. And so they’re coming to us, they’re flocking. And they’re like, how do we incorporate this into our talent development initiatives? And just for the future of work, if we’re thinking about this, KeepWOL, we’re using games to bridge that gap between learning and doing.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful and inspirational. To learn more about Lauren Fitzpatrick Shanks and game-centric talent development, please visit https://www.keepwol.com.

Subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Be sure to follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on LinkedIn and Facebook, too, for more great conversations!

Fair

6 Ways Employee Recognition can be Established in a Fair Climate

Sponsored by: Cristaux International

Kids are known for complaining when things aren’t fair. Although professional adults may not be as obvious as children, they do the same thing. Perhaps people worry about fairness because it is crucial to happiness. Any organization can find great success and growth by developing a fair recognition climate, but where does one start?

Fairness incorporates objectivity and human emotions. It’s a tricky balance to hack, but the tips below are meant to help leaders set up fair and effective recognition programs. With a clear strategy and positive culture, a company can grow from the inside out.

Why is Fairness Important to Recognition? 

Fairness helps cut bias and gives employee recognition credibility. By practicing fairness, more team members are inspired to take part in programs and opportunities. This buy-in is essential for including all employees and growing your whole team. Whether developing in-person or remote employee recognition, it’s important to make it accessible and encouraging for everyone. 

A fair recognition climate is a determining factor in establishing and strengthening corporate wellness in your company. It has many benefits considered by itself and from an overall corporate perspective.

 

Fair Recognition Programs

Overall benefits of corporate wellness (©Cristaux.com)

 

6 Ways to Establish a Fair Recognition Climate

There are countless ways to build a fair recognition climate. It largely depends on resourcefulness, planning, and inclusivity. When creating new initiatives, consider the team’s goals and the company’s capabilities. With creativity and collaboration, any organization can develop recognition programs within its means. Fairness is essential to effective recognition. It’s important to use the following tips and to see what works best for your team.

1. Use Employee Data

Choosing award recipients is often the most difficult part of recognition programs. To show fairness, use employee data and talent analytics to guide the decision-making process. Additionally, consider developing programs that are entirely objective. For instance, a years-of-service program celebrates employee anniversaries. This recognition is ideal because it can be achieved by all employees and allows leaders to remain objective.

It’s important to keep track of different data sets including employee start dates, reviews, and quotas. Different information can inspire diverse programs like sales recognition and customer service awards.

2. Allow Everyone to Achieve

Recognition must be a level playing field. From veteran staff members to new employees, everyone must be able to be recognized for a program to be fair. Imagine that an organization is putting together an annual awards program for its employees. Some staff members may not qualify for a specific category, so they must be considered for other awards. For example, new hires can be recognized as emerging leaders. Managers can be honored within their departments.

3. Recognize Consistently

Making recognition a routine for one’s company helps develop positive traditions. Consistency is key to building fair recognition. By sticking to a schedule, everyone shares the same expectations. Also, regularity encourages more people to achieve. Team members learn the routines, see others being celebrated, want that for themselves, and work harder.

Therefore, employee-of-the-month programs are so popular. They capture the importance of consistency and create a structure for employee recognition.

4. Show Appreciation

While recognition honors achievements, appreciation is often unprompted by behavior or actions. Instead, it may look like a catered lunch for a holiday. Small moments like these include staff members who may be struggling to go above and beyond. Also, it shows unconditional support and helps foster a culture of gratitude. Taking time to give genuine thanks goes a long way.

5. Celebrate Diverse Accomplishments

Supporting diversity in the workplace is crucial for growing modern businesses. This way, team members have many ways to succeed within their organization. For instance, consider honoring different departments or soft skills like teamwork and time management.

Consider recognizing personal milestones in addition to professional ones. By doing this, leaders show appreciation for the complex individuals they work with. Examples of what to celebrate include completed education outside of work and growing one’s family.

6. Recognize in Different Ways

Some employees prefer public recognition, while others opt for something more private. Get to know your team by talking with them or sharing a survey for them to complete. Consider asking how they would like to be recognized and what gifts they would like to receive. This way you can be more effective by personalizing your recognition efforts for each person. 

Fairness Makes Recognition Fruitful

The best recognition programs are fair, enjoyable, and inspiring. However, they look different for each unique organization. Like Rome, recognition programs are not built in a day. Take your time to develop what works best for you and your people and see the benefits pour in.

The Empathetic Workplace

An Empathetic Workplace – 4 Practical Tips

As a business leader, you want to keep employees engaged at work and encourage company loyalty. How does the empathetic workplace blend in with those goals? How can you create a culture that makes people care about their jobs? The key is making empathy your central focus by starting with a top-down approach.

When leadership makes employees feel respected and valued, they provide a space where employees can bring their whole selves to work. In turn, their teams are happier and more motivated. Employers who want to facilitate a compassionate company culture need to improve communication, boost transparency, listen to employees, and include more stakeholders in the decision-making process.

The Importance of Empathy

Traditional work methods got flipped upside down at the start of the pandemic, creating additional stress in people’s work and personal lives. Research conducted by Qualtrics found that 42% of employees experienced a decline in mental health after the start of COVID-19. This stress caused a decrease in work performance, with 20% of people saying it took longer to finish tasks and 12% saying they struggled to juggle workplace responsibilities.

Creating an empathetic workplace can help ease some of the stress employees are feeling. Recent research from Catalyst shows how empathy can improve workplace performance. The survey found that 76% of people with highly empathetic leaders reported feeling more engaged at work, while less than a third of those surveyed with less empathetic leadership reported engagement. So what does this mean for you? If you want your employees to do their best work, creating an empathetic workplace isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.

How to Create an Empathetic Workplace

Empathy has the power to transform your workplace. However, it takes more than one initiative to make empathy the cornerstone of your company culture. Here are four things you can do to continuously foster compassion and create a company culture grounded in empathy:

 

1. Implement an Open-Door Policy

Opening communication lines across the company is a great way to show employees that they’re in an environment that values empathy. When appropriately implemented, an open-door policy can improve communication across all levels of an organization and establish trust among employees. Rather than keeping workplace issues to themselves, employees with this policy will feel more comfortable discussing problems with managers. This allows managers to address concerns before they become major stressors.

For an open-door policy to be successful, you need to encourage upward communication. If this is a new concept for your workforce, you may need to prompt workers to provide senior leadership feedback. One way to get the ball rolling is by asking employees for feedback in annual surveys and addressing the survey results in a companywide meeting.

 

2. Be Vulnerable

To effectively lead a team through a crisis, transparent communication is key. Yet very few leaders keep employees in the loop. In a recent survey conducted by Leadership IQ, only 20% of employees said their leaders always openly share ongoing company challenges. When employees are left in the dark, anxiety and fear can develop, causing them to consider looking for new career opportunities. On the other hand, when leaders openly share company challenges, employees are 10 times more likely to recommend them as great employers.

So how can senior managers and CEOs practice vulnerable leadership? You could try discussing challenges you or the company are facing and victories you’re incredibly proud of. By opening up to your team, you make it easier for them to open up to you.

 

3. Listen More Than You Speak

To be empathetic, you need to become a better listener. This means keeping an open mind, recognizing how your employees are feeling, and trying to understand their perspectives. While you don’t have to agree with everything said, ensuring your team feels heard can make a world of difference. In fact, employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more empowered to do their best work.

Try to listen more than you talk. Your goal should be to avoid interrupting employees while they speak. Paraphrase what was said after they’re done to show that you are listening. Although you may disagree with what was said, it’s still important to validate the other person’s perspective and let them know you understand where they’re coming from.

 

4. Talk With Your Team Before Making Decisions

As the world returns to normal, you may be wondering what your work environment should look like. Some employees may be eager to return to the office, while others enjoy working from home. Before creating a return-to-office plan, talk with your team about their preferences.

Employees will have their own unique qualities that dictate which type of working environment suits them best. As an empathetic leader, it’s important to keep each individual’s unique characteristics in mind while creating a plan that works for them. The world of work has been permanently altered, and there’s no longer a one-size-fits-all strategy that works for everyone.

If you want employees to care about their jobs, you need to care about them. By creating an emphatic work environment, you can create a space where employees feel safe bringing their whole selves to work.

The Everywhere Workplace

The Everywhere Workplace – Prioritizing Employee Experience

Working remotely is something that many of us have experienced during the pandemic. If you look at your social media feeds, you will notice multiple surveys asking people what types of work arrangements they prefer. COVID-19 has changed the way we view work and the workplace. Now with so many people working remotely, we’re taking a closer look at the benefits and the challenges of The Everywhere Workplace.

Our Guest: Melissa Puls

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Melissa Puls, Senior Vice President, and CMO at Ivanti. She brings decades of experience with a strong track record of fueling growth through customer-centric approaches and integrated marketing strategies.  

Ivanti’s Everywhere Workplace survey reveals insights into the remote workforce. The Report was written using Ivanti expertise, independent third-party research, and global future of work experts to showcase the workplace evolution and how the pandemic has shaped the way organizations need to think about their workforce.

More than half of employees surveyed report working more hours outside of the office since going remote. Despite working more, they’re actually happier. Melissa states:

“The data says that only 13% of employees would like to permanently get back to an office. This was from the report we did around the Everywhere Workplace. We did just a survey with our own employees and found 1% of Ivanti’s employees say they want to go back to the office full time and 71% of employees would choose to work from anywhere over being promoted.”

The Power of Choice

Flexible work arrangements offer numerous benefits to both employers and employees including boosted productivity, improved morale, and competitive talent acquisition and retention strategies. Melissa:

“Employees are in control of their work environment, which I think is a really positive thing for us, as a community globally. The option of flexibility in the workforce has become an influential factor when employees are making a decision whether to stay with a company or not.”

 Melissa also states:

“The remote work has improved employees’ sentiments and increased productivity, but there were some concerns. We heard that 51% said the lack of interaction with their colleagues and in-person connections was a concern. Additionally, 28% said they’re not able to collaborate and communicate as effectively.”

The Future of Work

What will the Future of Work look like? This is a question we ask ourselves all the time. It’s hard to predict based on the massive amounts of change that have happened just in the last 24 months. Melissa confirms:

“I think companies have to change their fundamental mindset and methodology on talent. That includes not only the flexibility of the environment that they work in but also the technologies that we use to enable employee experience. Having technology that supports and secures all the environments an employee wants to work in will no longer be a differentiating factor, but the norm.”

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. To learn more about The Future of Work and the 2022 Everywhere Workplace Survey, download the report.

Subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Be sure to follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on LinkedIn and Facebook, too, for more great conversations!

The Urgency Epidemic: Prioritization & Productivity

The Urgency Epidemic – Prioritization & Productivity

When was the last time you were placed in a situation at work where the sense of urgency to complete a project was overwhelming due to unreasonable timing and expectations? Yesterday? The day before that? This scenario is way too common in today’s workplace. In this episode, we will be discussing a common phenomenon that businesses across all industries are struggling with currently — the urgency epidemic.

Our Guest:  Brandon Smith

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Brandon Smith, an expert in leadership communication and a curer of workplace dysfunction. Brandon is a sought-after executive coach, TEDx speaker, author, and award-winning business school instructor. He has been featured in the Wall Street CNN, and many other publications for his expertise. His book, The Hot Sauce Principle: How to Live and Lead in a World Where Everything Is Urgent All of the Time, helps readers master urgency, so they can more effectively lead others.

The most precious resource in the work world today isn’t money, it’s time. When everything at work is “always urgent all the time,” it can create, in Brandon’s words “a Petri dish for anxiety.” If employees and managers aren’t careful, it can lead to a decline in the overall efficiency and quality of work over time. Due to the continued disruption of the pandemic and current inflation, time management has become even more of a critical challenge for companies and organizations of all types. 

As Brandon states:

“So overall, if I had to put my stake in the ground and say, ‘What’s my purpose in life?’ It is to eliminate all workplace dysfunction everywhere forever. That’s my purpose. So I’m gainfully employed with plenty of job security. The reason why I wrote this book was because this was one of those many flavors of workplace dysfunction that everyone I was talking to was feeling. It didn’t matter if they were working. They were just dealing with this sense of hot sauce being poured on everything. Hot sauce is the analogy I use for urgency. And so I wanted to try and write a book that would be at least somewhat of a help, somewhat of a cure for that particular dysfunction.”.

When Does a Sense of Urgency Become A Problem?

Most managers use urgency as a motivator. Teams can collectively and quickly align toward a common goal in order to reach a business benchmark within a short timeline. But if urgency becomes the daily standard, this can lead to an environment of workplace chaos. This can result in serious missteps or worse. Brandon states:

A little bit of urgency is a good thing, we need urgency. Urgency motivates us. So urgency can motivate us just like hot sauce. A little bit of urgency, a little bit of hot sauce gives focus, gives flavor, creates priority. It’s a good thing. But just like hot sauce, if there’s too much urgency, I mean if everything that comes out of the kitchen is doused in hot sauce, the appetizer and the salad and the entree and the brownie, we’re going to be curled up in a ball wanting relief. We won’t taste anything. So a little bit of it using the right doses and the right times is a really healthy thing for us. It keeps us moving forward. But too much does the exact opposite effect, overwhelms us, confuses us, and that can lead to burnout.”

The Urgency Trap

What worked in the past for companies and organizations may no longer apply when it comes to keeping teams motivated and effective. Cultivating a sense of urgency as a motivational tool is something most managers and team leaders have been taught they are supposed to do. As Brandon states:

“Leaders are taught really early on, yeah, if we need people to change, we’ve got to start with urgency. And there is so many organizations right now needing to go through transformations, whether it’s technology transformations or whatever it happens to be. And so what leaders are doing is running around making everything urgent and then patting themselves on their back, going back to their office, closing the door, and saying, ‘I did a great job today.’ And all they did was just create confusion and chaos because they didn’t prioritize the urgency. They just said, ‘It’s all urgent right now, go.”

Escaping the Urgency

So how do managers and business leaders prioritize projects so that everything isn’t urgent all the time? Brandon explains:

Limit what you can make urgent at a time. My recommendation is no more than five. The best teams, the best departments, the best organizations are executing off of three to five priorities. So use urgency on those things. Use hot sauce on those things, but let everything else just be relief from the heat.”

As companies and organizations are pushed to evolve in order to move forward, how will work itself change, and more importantly, how will that affect the way we prioritize projects for a more productive and focused work culture? Brandon gives us his forecast:

“The future of work is going to be a really exciting time. When I look at my crystal ball, I see it’s going to be an exciting time and place where more of our personal lives are going to be factored into the equation. There’s going to be more flexibility and I’m sure this is nothing different than what you’ve been hearing before from others. But I will say that there’s going to be a lot more burden on us to set and keep our boundaries because there’s going to be no clear breaks between work and home life.”

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. To learn more about improving time and project management at work, contact Brandon Smith on LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Be sure to follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on LinkedIn and Facebook, too, for more great conversations!

Security and Experience

Balancing Security with Employee Experience

Over the past 24 months, IT teams have been burdened with many unprecedented challenges. Most notably, a rising number of security concerns. But enhancing security shouldn’t come at the expense of efficiency or employee experience.

Our Guest: Denis O’Shea

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Denis O’Shea, founder of Mobile Mentor; a company that has helped millions of people unlock the full potential of their technology.

When we hear the word “security,” we think of things like passwords and data encryption. But there is more to it. It’s also about creating a work culture where employees feel safe and protected in addition to ensuring that systems and data are secure. Technical security is critical, but so is work culture and morale.

​​How do we balance the need for security with the need for employee welfare, productivity, and satisfaction? We invited Denis to help us think through this question. Denis explains:

“It is something we can aspire to. It has not been easy in the past because employers often had to make compromises and either put security first or put the employee experience first. But now the technology is mature enough that we can actually be secure and still have a great experience without compromising one or the other.”

Where Security and Experience Collide

People are used to being able to communicate in real-time on any device. This means being able to respond to company emails from a mobile device from any location, at any time of the day or night. As a result, companies sometimes compromise security in order to improve the employee experience and aid in communication. Denis  further explains:

“The one that is probably most common is the use of personally owned devices. So we see this very common in healthcare, education, even in government nowadays, where employees are using personal laptops, personal iPads, certainly personal smartphones. Initially, that presented a huge security challenge to the organization. How can data possibly be secure on the device owned by an employee?”

However, with advances in technology and security, it’s less of a risk to allow employees to work on a personal device. Denis:

“Nowadays companies can actually secure the data and still allow the employee to use their personal phone or tablet or laptop. So we’ve come a long way, and of course what that enables people to do is to work from home, use personal devices, access their company’s resources, be productive, and have a great experience using the technology they choose to use rather than technology that’s kind of forced upon them by their IT department.”

BYOD – Bring Your Own Disaster?

The term BYOD should mean “Bring Your Own Device”. There are circumstances where companies have to allow employees to use their personal devices – smartphones, laptops, tablets.  For example, the recent global chip shortage made it difficult for companies to procure phones and laptops.  But what happens when those devices aren’t set up properly? Denis:

“Then you can have a disaster. Instead of BYOD, bring your own device, we call it bring your own disaster. And they end up in a situation where company information, such as healthcare records, student records, and financial information is on an unmanaged laptop or an unmanaged tablet.”

Add personal downloads of unapproved apps to the mix. Denis further explains:

“And now they’re using an unmanaged app on an unmanaged device to do their work. And so their data is effectively out in the wild, the company data is out in the wild.”

The Balancing Act

There is a balance between security and experience. Companies need security, but they also need to provide the best employee experience possible. Denis:

“Companies should listen to their remote employees and involve them in the decision-making process around technology and process. If they [companies] get it wrong, remote workers are the first to break the rules and find workarounds. If you ask those remote workers for feedback on the next generation of tools, technology, or processes that will empower them,  they will give that feedback.”

There is also a balance between security, employee privacy, and how it’s communicated. If employees feel as if their personal privacy will be compromised by added device security measures, this will have a negative impact on the employee experience. And let’s face it, the younger generation of workers brings an uncompromising set of priorities to the table making it even more challenging to find the sweet spot for employee experience. 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. To learn more about mobile security, contact Denis O’Shea on LinkedIn. Get the 2022 Endpoint Ecosystem study and learn how people are actually using devices in high-risk and highly regulated industries. The Endpoint Ecosystem

Subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Be sure to follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on LinkedIn and Facebook, too, for more great conversations!

Building a Courageous Work Culture: Why it Matters

Sometimes, the biggest threat to an organization isn’t the most visible one. Emotions drive behavior, not logic. One of the most potent emotions is fear. As a result, one of the most significant challenges and responsibilities of leaders – at every level – is combatting fear and fostering courage. In themselves, in others, and across their entire organization.

 

 

Our Guest:  Karin Hurt, CEO, Let’s Grow Leaders

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders; a training firm focused on human-centered leadership development. They help leaders resolve workplace ambiguity to drive innovation, productivity, and revenue without burning out employees. 

Mental health and wellness in the workplace has been a trending topic for several months. Psychological Safety sits at the core –  defined as “the belief that one can speak up without the risk of punishment or humiliation.” 

After working with both leaders and supervisory level employees at the same companies, it became clear to Karin that there was a lack of Psychological Safety in the workplace. As a result, Let’s Grow Leaders partnered with the University of North Colorado for a research study to understand when employees were holding back ideas, what kind of ideas they were holding back, and what was preventing them from speaking up.

When asked more about what inspired the study on Psychological Safety and innovation, Karin had this to say:

“We were working with leaders across a variety of industries all around the world, and we were having conversations at the senior-most levels of these organizations. And we were hearing things like, Why don’t more people share their ideas? Why don’t people speak up? And then we would be doing training at the supervisor level of these same organizations. And we would hear things like, No one wants my ideas. Nothing ever happens anyway so why bother? And we thought, are you working for the same company?”

Why Employees Don’t Speak Up?

It’s important that leaders are trained to be exceptional listeners. It’s also important for leaders to create an environment of trust. Why do employees hold back? Karin further explains:

“When we dug underneath and found out why they were holding back these ideas, 50% said nothing will ever happen anyway. 49% said they weren’t regularly asked for their ideas. 67% said my manager operates around the notion of this is the way we’ve always done it. 40% said they lacked the confidence to share. And this one was really the most surprising. 56% said they don’t share ideas because they’re afraid they won’t get the credit.”

Steps to Building a Courageous Culture

An employee’s lack of confidence can stem from many experiences and roles. The result – trust and confidence barriers. As a leader, steps can be taken to break through these barriers:

“So it starts with navigating the narrative. And that is really getting very clear about how you feel about speaking up at work. And then, it’s creating clarity that you really do want people’s ideas. Third, cultivate curiosity, which is where you proactively go out and ask people for their ideas.

It’s not enough to ask. Karin further explains:

“So we talk about responding with gratitude, thanking people for their ideas, information, telling them what’s going to happen next or not happen next and why.”

Building an infrastructure of courage starts from the top down. Don’t just change the narrative; live it. 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. To learn more about building a courageous culture at work, contact Karin Hurt on LinkedIn.

Why Workplace Trust and Transparency Matters

Why Trust and Transparency Matter in the Workplace

Many business experts champion trust in the workplace. They include the likes of Stephen Covey and my dear friend, David Horsager. (His 8 Pillars of Trust and his many excellent books should be required reading.) However, what is perhaps less well known is the neuroscience of trust. As a species, we’ve developed an array of neurochemical survival mechanisms. Employers often ignore these mechanisms, and as a result, miss the opportunity to build trust and transparency in the workplace. 

The Neuroscience of Mistrust

Let’s start with the opposite of trust. It is the “fight or flight” response we experience when faced with a perceived threat. These “threats” elevate the hormone cortisol, which narrows our focus to deal only with the immediate. The threat could be actual, imminent, physical, or merely a harsh interruption in our day. The problem is, our bodies can’t easily tell the difference.

Of course, cortisol has other important functions. Cortisol controls blood sugar levels, memory formation, and blood pressure. At normal levels, it keeps us engaged with the day’s activities. When elevated, cortisol puts us on “alert status” and makes trust a low priority.

Trust and the Willingness to Take Risks

In my book, The Velocity Mindset, I discussed how cortisol can prevent leadership teams from identifying and achieving objectives. Additionally, I highlighted the role another hormone, oxytocin, plays in velocity (speed with direction and alignment).

Trust in the workplace—and its neurochemical roots—are key drivers for business success. Compelling research by Dr. Paul Zak and others champions the well-established science around oxytocin and trust. According to one study, oxytocin “affects an individual’s willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions.” Additionally, researchers have found that oxytocin “enhances an individual’s propensity to trust a stranger when that person exhibits non-threatening signals.”

Obviously, creating artificial trust in the workplace via oxytocin injections would be a short-sighted and ethical nightmare. Nevertheless, there must be practical ways to promote trust knowing that our biology.

Fortunately, trust in the workplace can be accomplished with common-sense approaches, as Horsager and others have shown. An Oxford study summarizes the key drivers and human resource practices that develop trust. These include mutual respect, open communication, and fairness, especially in appraisals of work. The study also identifies factors which decrease trust, such as a lack of transparency in decision-making.

The Risk of Betrayal in the Workplace

Trust is the gold standard. It is the glue that makes alignment and velocity possible. The benefits of increased trust in the workplace are enormous. Over the long term, it increases individual employee productivity and engagement. To paraphrase Zak, it improves collaboration and cultivates a happier, more productive workforce. On the other hand, the consequences of breaking that trust are far worse than not having it in the first place.

Studies have shown that a betrayal of trust, whether familial, cultural, or institutional, creates high levels of long-term stress, including the release of cortisol. If such responses become ingrained in an employee’s experience and memory, the chances of returning to a state of unqualified trust are slim. Consequently, employees might resist a manager or HR professional’s efforts to right a wrong or be transparent after a breach of trust. 

Though a proactive HR team may be capable of rebuilding this trust, the effort is complicated by the very neurochemicals that make us human.

Transparency: The Path To Velocity

It is not easy to win trust and transparency in the workplace. As a result, people are taking a risk when asked to make decisions that may not benefit them. The deciding factor is often how comfortable they are with those asking the question. Transparency, trustworthiness, empathy, and understanding are not just words. They are requirements for every HR professional and executive who aspires to true leadership. 

Today, it is impossible to take a “my way or the highway” approach to business. We need everyone’s buy-in to remain focused on tasks that support a purpose. Trust and transparency in the workplace, like everything else that enables leadership, begins with an understanding of what makes us human. And most importantly, it requires a willingness to work hard to gain that trust. 

On-Camera Performances

Lights, Cameras, Action: The Tragedy of Meeting Drama

Think like a scientist: Do a test. Record your next video meeting of three or more people. Afterward, transcribe the recording. Then, with a printed copy of the transcript in hand, watch the recording. As you do, add notes to the transcript of who said each line. And—this is essential—note the non-verbal cues you observe. You will then have something very much like a screenplay.

Review that screenplay. See how each person (including you) assumes their roles and acts them out. Observe how people strive to comply with the social rules and rituals of in-person meetings plastered onto virtual work. Detect their attempts to adhere to scripts assigned long ago by those who write the rules:  leaders. Perceive how they strive to appear credible, confident, capable, reliable, trustworthy, engaged. Note how the outcome of their efforts falls short because they are visually boxed into tiny video frames and mostly on mute. You will begin to feel a little sad because what you observe is a tragedy unfolding.

Non-Credible On-Camera Performances

Inarguably, video meetings can be exhausting, as demonstrated by a Stanford labs study. Cognitive overload, eye fatigue, and lack of physical mobility erode workers’ energies. The good news: Employers can address these ubiquitous strains through adjustments in technology and scheduling. 

However, there is a far more challenging issue for Human Resources professionals. How do you ensure that organizational norms for virtual meetings promote employees’ abilities to perform credibly, confidently, capably, and reliably? Participants in my 2021 study poignantly raised this issue. They expressed how, despite tremendous investments of personal energy, their on-camera performances fail to meet expectations.

Consider this example:

“As an executive and salesperson, I am often ‘On Stage’ presenting some idea or explaining a product. That takes more energy via Zoom because the audience is not as engaged or interactive. In person, there is more give-and-take, even from a large audience. With Zoom, the interactions decrease in logarithmic proportion to the size of the audience. After four or five people get in a Zoom room, it gets really QUIET…. exactly the opposite of an in-person meeting. That silence is hard for me, and I feel I have to make up for it by ‘performing’ or ‘wearing a mask.’” 

Performing in such a way is risky business because people are highly sensitive to others’ facial expressions. Audiences easily perceive inauthentic on-camera performances. In turn, such inauthenticity erodes the psychological safety necessary for high performance virtual and hybrid work.

Uncertainty, Dread, and Drama

As actors on-screen, virtual workers are today’s improvisational actors. Such is congruent with Goffman’s 1959 theory of dramaturgy. Before the pandemic, workers came together in a well-known playscript entitled The Team Meeting. There, they knew how others expected the action would take place. They were familiar with expectations of their roles and the scripts they were to follow to create a pleasing performance. 

Now, they perform amid high uncertainty for far longer hours, in a far greater number of meetings, without the benefit of appropriate norms. As demonstrated in my study, they hunger for interaction with their fellow performers to co-create a compelling on-camera performance. However, their co-actors often feel “dread being on ‘display’ and looking and reacting perfect” and compelled to “act interested and focused the entire time.” Their interaction “doesn’t mimic in-person interactions, in which people look away from time to time.” And “the expectation of focusing on the screen 100 percent, which is not normal in regular human interaction” is untenable.

On-Camera Performances Must Be Heard and Believed

Like professional improv artists, those who perform in video meetings also need audience feedback. Verbal cues and body language indicate the effectiveness of their performance and can encourage them to believe that, yes, you are credible. But those giving on-camera performances in work video meetings don’t get enough feedback indicating that they are heard and believed due to thumbnail images, muted microphones, and some cameras being off altogether. According to my research, at best, they may get, “blink, blink, stare.”

Because they cannot hear listening noises or see heads nodding, they cannot discern whether what they say is received as intended or what the audience is thinking or feeling in response. As a study participant says, “Videos make it hard to read energy, and that is frustrating for me. I also feel drained because I can’t read body language or tell who is really engaged.” Uncertainty about their impression on their audience, whether they are giving a successful on-camera performance, presents a challenge to their context-specific identity. Am I credible? Am I valued? Do I belong here

Old Norms, New Culture, and Belonging

On the pre-COVID in-person meeting stage, there were (often) unwritten directions. These included tacit understandings about how to facilitate a meeting, what was permissible to say, when and how to speak up, and when to remain quiet. These directions were formed by what the dominant members of the group believed. Adhering to these prevailing group norms could help people create an impression consistent with their goals. They value me. I told them what they wanted to hear. That impression could help solidify their belonging as a competent social actor in those settings. But when someone in a nondominant subgroup spoke up, those in the dominant group were likely to give overly critical feedback based on stereotyped categorizations. The dominant group thereby thwarted the nondominant contributor’s goal of making an impression as a competent performer.

Now, Covid-19, massive global social unrest, and growing intolerance of racism in the U.S. workplace upend dominant group norms. The roles and scripts for leaders and other attendees in video meetings are less clear. Cultural uncertainty abounds. Workers are less willing to painstakingly comply with social norms to fulfill their role requirements and meet their context’s shifting political and social expectations. They now choose whether to sustain or challenge power relations.

As they make these choices, norms continue to evolve. How are leaders and other attendees to perform their roles together, collectively? Workers’ sense of belonging is at stake, as are their energies. As some feel that the power and control status they previously enjoyed in meetings is threatened, they may feel ungrounded. As others with less power (i.e., representatives of nondominant groups) attempt to contribute, they must typically work harder

Belonging and Inclusive Virtual Practices

Virtual workers who contributed to my 2021 research suggested practices human resources staff members and other leaders should adopt. These simple practices help promote greater inclusion and help relieve the unsustainable social-performance anxiety workers across the organizational hierarchy experience. They make video meetings more beneficial for the casts of millions who show up daily to do their best. They, thereby, enable organizations to reap greater rewards from diverse knowledge and talent. Here is what virtual workers say their leaders should do.

1. Invite those who are off camera to speak.

My research shows leaders make many negative assumptions about workers who are off camera: They are hiding, overly multi-tasking, not listening, disengaged. However, off-camera attendees say, “Some people seem to assume that if your camera is not on, you don’t care. It’s actually physically exhausting to stare at the screen meeting after meeting.” They say, “Visuals distract me from meaning/content, so having to look at the camera and people means I’m not getting as much content/meaning, so I turn my camera off.” They are “waiting to be called on.” So, ask them to chime in instead of assuming they are disengaged. I regularly do this and have not once found an attendee unresponsive. Indeed, the contributions they make are well-considered and solution-focused, perhaps because they are spending their energies thinking rather than acting. 

2. Tie the camera-use rule to the meeting purpose.

If camera use is necessary to achieve the intended meeting outcome, say so. If you can achieve the outcome without seeing faces, make on-camera performances optional. That way, those who enjoy seeing faces can see others who wish to display themselves, and those who find videos to be cognitively exhausting can be off camera. For this to work, you must adopt practice number one. Otherwise, you will thwart inclusion: Employees who have cameras on will become the de facto “in” group, and those who are off camera will be the “out” group.

3. Be a good “director.”

When filming, directors famously say “action,” “cut,” and “retake.” But before filming starts, rehearsals happen during which directors give guidance. They convey how the story is to unfold and how the actors must support one another when performing. A good meeting director gives that sort of guidance upfront, in an agenda. A good agenda provides the actors with the storyline:  Who will speak about what, when, and why. Provide an agenda in advance so that your actors can prepare. Include the names of those who will lead each “act” by discussing their topic. Give the estimated time they’ll do that so that they can prepare their lines. Above all, tell everyone the purpose of the meeting in advance, so they’ll know why the meeting and their performance in it matters.

Tackle Turnover: Spend a Little, Save a Lot

Tackle Turnover: Spend a Little, Save a Lot

Your employees are your most valuable asset. If nothing else, the past two years have surely taught us that. How did organizations survive? Was it their inventory, their machinery, their equity? Those resources may have had something to do with staying afloat, but without the employees to sell, manage, and operate those assets, the business landscape would look very different today.

Knowing this, it’s not surprising the Great Resignation is top of mind. In August alone more than 4.3 million workers quit their jobs. That’s nearly 3% of the U.S. workforce leaving their jobs in search of something better – in a single month. There’s no better time to spend a little to tackle turnover, and save a lot in the long run. 

Spending a Lot on Turnover

Research conducted by Gallup in 2019 found the cost of replacing an employee ranges from one-half to 2x their annual salary. In an average year – even a good year – voluntary turnover costs U.S. businesses about one trillion dollars. 

Now take into account the massive turnover we’ve seen this year, plus the increasing labor shortage industries are facing. Recruiting is no longer business as usual, and the cost of turnover will show that. Organizations looking to stay competitive will need to utilize signing bonuses, agencies, and headhunters to recruit top talent, and it will be pricey. 

All of these costs to fill a position that ideally wouldn’t have been vacated in the first place – and there’s still a risk that the new hire you just spent thousands of dollars onboarding will leave, too! 

While this may sound bleak, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, Gallup also found that 52% of employees who left their role voluntarily said their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from quitting. This “something” that could reduce your organization’s turnover by half is really quite simple.

Tackle Turnover by Reassessing Employee Value

Reducing turnover may sound daunting – after all, each employee quits for their own specific reasons. Do organizations need to have a unique strategy for each employee at risk of leaving? Luckily, that isn’t the case. Whatever the reason for leaving is – benefits, work-life flexibility, workplace safety, career development, or something else – chances are the overarching theme is the same: how valued an employee feels. 

I’ll say it again: your employees are your greatest, most valuable assets, yet based on 2021’s turnover rates, it doesn’t appear organizations are treating them as such. Now more than ever organizations must lift, connect, and engage their humans before it’s too late. Employee recognition does just that.  

A robust employee recognition program allows employees to be recognized and to recognize each other for the invaluable work they do each day. It builds a community grounded in an organization’s core values, strengthening the bottom line. When employees feel seen, appreciated, and connected to their colleagues and organization, they stay longer. 

Spend a Little, Save a Lot

How much does your company spend on turnover in a year? How much will your company spend on turnover this year, when resignation rates are at an all-time high? Even without knowing the exact number, it’s probably too much. 

Instead, consider putting a fraction of that cost, say 1% of your payroll, into building a robust, collaborative, values-based employee recognition program and watch the ROI flood in. Workhuman® research has proven recognition works again and again. 

Across industries, employees who give and receive recognition are 2.6x less likely to leave their position. Employees recognized 7 to 10 times annually (that’s less than one recognition moment a month) see 2x lower turnover than those who go unrecognized. New hires recognized in the first year leave the organization 3x less than their unrecognized counterparts. 

The Impact of Recognition

Investing in a recognition program not only reduces turnover and increases engagement, but it also leads to happier customers. A Gallup report found engaged employees are not only more productive but also report 10% higher customer satisfaction metrics than disengaged employees. Workhuman’s data backs this up. Employees who are recognized monthly with monetary value are 4x as likely to receive compliments and be recognized by customers for exceptional service. Even further, the data shows a strong recognition culture yields customers who actually spend more

The power of recognition impacts organizations in all industries, not just customer facing ones. A Workhuman study found that five manufacturing plants with the strongest recognition culture reported 82% lower recordable injuries than the plants with the lowest recognition reach. Strong recognition cultures also reported an average lost time incident rate that is 65% lower than plants with low levels of recognition.

The impact goes far beyond the individual recipient. Just seeing coworkers receive awards for safety-related moments encourages others to prioritize safety as well. Employees who feel safe in their environment and are appreciated for following safety protocols are more productive. It almost makes them and feel more valued and connected to their work. 

Spending Smart

There is no avoiding the inevitable, and employers now have a choice to make. The choice is simple. Do nothing and continue to fund the endless turnover cycle, or build a culture where the turnover cycle can’t persist. Strategic employee recognition increases the bottom line through engagement and connection. Spending a little will transform your organization into one where employees want to stay. What are you waiting for? 

5 Ways Leaders Can Create a Successful Work Environment

impact awardWhat is a great “place” to work today? With many abandoning the office tower or business park cubicle office, we’re increasingly emerging from an era of great workplaces to the new territory of worker-centricity. While some thought the great place to work was about amenities (commuter buses, reduced or free food, and onsite everything), we’ve known something else all along–supportive leadership in the work environment is key. 

Executives in great organizations believe that every employee benefits from outstanding leadership. Engagement is dependent on leadership, as Gallup’s research consistently reports that nearly 70% of employee engagement is within a manager’s control. Managers who prosper in today’s hybrid work environment will boost engagement with the five core leadership practices.

1. Building and sustaining trust.

The core of the coming modern enterprise is an authentic leader’s ability to gain and establish trust. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed declining confidence in social institutions and organizational leaders worldwide. The world’s two largest economies, China and the U.S., showed significant decreases in the trust of both politicians and corporate executives. Employees who trust their leaders demonstrate greater satisfaction, loyalty, and involvement, all antidotes to undesirable talent drain and loss.

Trust fuels the teamwork and progress that leads to innovation, a key determinant of long-term growth and survival. Managers erode trust when they are not honest and truthful, and trust is difficult to regain. Trust erosions lead to decreases in integrity, and we don’t fully engage with those we don’t trust. Successful leaders engage and enroll people in goal-driven missions that spark collaboration leading to improved teamwork and productivity. 

2. Leading from values.

When was the last time you considered what your team or company holds in high regard? Typically, we keep our values in the highest regard and build reward and consequence systems that reflect leaders’ values. Engineers and scientists, for example, are recognized for their accomplishments with honorific titles or other expressions of acknowledgment. At the same time, sales and marketing professionals might reap great expense-paid prizes. The more selective the set of values, the more they shape performance.

Values help people connect to organizations and the world in ways more significant than individual accomplishment and effort. For example, if a startup values frugality, people will likely be encouraged to monitor capital and resource consumption. When a manager recognizes effort routinely, the manager demonstrates care and will actively bolster employee satisfaction and engagement. Values guide the decisions we make and the actions we take. Leaders gain faster results and build better relationships by consistently articulating and aligning colleagues to shared values.

3. Creating communities.

While there is truth in the observation that culture eats strategy, growth businesses are now shifting to community thinking within the work environment. A community invites deeper levels of belonging and commitment, while culture implies one-way approaches. While leaders will never underestimate the influence of culture on work processes — or how things get done — they will invest in creating communities where the practices of improvement and resilience thrive. 

Communities, not cultures, pay attention to wellbeing, commitment, innovation, and revenue. As they do, expenses and problems decrease along with skepticism and stress.

Managers and leaders who succeed facilitate employee involvement in decision-making and product and service delivery. Managers expand their capacities for including and involving others and encourage broad knowledge and skill sharing. When managers lead the way in strengthening the bonds, performance vitality and output increase. Employees improve their connections among their colleagues and partnerships between leaders and their teams thrive. 

4. Growing transition readiness.

Most people can let go of the past and successfully embrace a new order or a different future. However, the time between a specific history and an unpredictable future creates and powers uncertainty. In the face of not knowing, we fill in the gaps to reduce the psychological tension that arises with an unknown future. The remedy to not-knowing is to equip a generation of leaders with the knowledge and skill to navigate uncertainty successfully.

A manager successful at helping others through transitions possesses self-awareness and openness to change and growth through learning and development. These managers refuse to see opportunities and people as problems but rather as contributors. When work is perceived more like an invitation than a requirement, an organization’s esprit de corps positively changes.  Improvements measured by meaningful metrics rise.

5. Maintaining a Customer-First Work Environment

When employees can connect their experience and employment to a paying customer or stakeholder, the commitment to excellence thrives. People want to do their best to deliver a quality product or service to those they feel connected to. Customers and new markets are eternal sources of inspiration when we successfully recruit and involve employees in a customer-first mission. A team’s connection to a customer contributes to the motivation for peak performance. When we care, we act in a customer-first way.

Managers and leaders improve organizational energy by harnessing a customer-first spirit across the enterprise with both customers and employees. When colleagues treat each other as customers, it translates to appealing work environments. A standard of care and excellence replaces indifference created by the isolation many experience in today’s hybrid workplace.

To reawaken work and succeed in the new world of work, we must put these five practices into place to boost engagement. Leadership growth in these action areas contains the kernel of power to transform careers, lives, organizations, and the communities we serve. Begin the journey to building teams and communities on the path to personal and organizational prosperity.

 

ERG lead compensation

ERG Lead Compensation: What to Consider When Getting Started

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are developed for many reasons and almost always contribute robustly to company culture. They form to support a specific demographic of employees and provide a safe space for the group. It is ironic that it is often those of the same demographic that spend countless unpaid hours leading these groups. Although ERGs contribute dramatically to organizational culture, company leaders are not always developing these groups in a way that allows them to grow and flourish.

No matter how or why we create ERGs, they build a sense of belonging for groups of employees who are likely currently marginalized or have been in the past. The purpose of an ERG is to provide resources, build community, and serve as a point of connection for these groups. This helps create sustainable and supportive environments that allow employees to grow. When structured effectively, ERGs drive inclusion and contribute to higher retention and productivity rates, benefiting the entire company.

The Latest on ERG Lead Compensation

ERGs can be found in 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Successful ERGs are not possible without dedicated leadership. ERG lead compensation is currently a hot topic. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Autodesk recently shared publicly that they are compensating leads but provided little details into how they are structuring their approach. According to The Rise Journey’s 2021 State of the ERG Report, there is an increase in organizations across the board that are considering ERG lead compensation. It is clear that the majority of organizations do not compensate in any form. This means that there is work to be done to keep the momentum going to ensure that unpaid labor is avoided.

Acting as an ERG lead means extra work and responsibilities in addition to one’s day-to-day role. It can also demonstrate the organization’s commitment to not only the lead’s career success but the success of the overall group.

It is important to keep in mind that every organization is unique and requires an individualized program structure. Here are some things to consider when making a business case for ERG lead compensation at your organization.

1. What is the best form of compensation? (Hint: Cash is king.)

The compensation conversation does not just revolve around if an organization compensates, but how it compensates. While all forms of compensation show that an organization values this work, ultimately, cash is king. The majority of employees taking on ERG work are underrepresented in the workplace, and therefore historically underpaid for their 9-to-5 role. By compensating leads in monetary form, the organization is not only showing commitment to the work but showing commitment to breaking cycles of pay inequity. Monetary options range from hourly wage, stipends, bonuses, and spot bonuses. Whatever the rate is, paying leads will show your organization as a leader in this space for recognizing this work. If a company cannot or will not pay, be sure to propose as close to an equivalent form of compensation as possible.

 

*Image from The Rise Journey’s 2021 State of The ERG Report

2. How do you determine the compensation amount?

When deciphering the most equitable pay decisions for your leads, there is no right answer on how much to compensate. You should always start by conducting an internal survey to get an idea of the current work distribution. Then, build out a guide to support how much work is appropriate and expected.

Rather than expecting to have exacting rationale behind how much, instead focus on the impact that each ERG expects. Work with the leaders to focus on the work, its impact, and relevant metrics to track progress and outcomes. Each ERG can operate differently, but it doesn’t mean one has a “better” impact than another. Be sure to:

  • Set up a review process to evaluate how the ERG leads are doing.
  • Have a regular (often annual) discussion around whether the compensation amount is appropriate.
  • Clearly outline goals and expectations of ERG leads.

The graph shows some back-of-the-envelope math. Compensating at minimum for five hours a week, $15/hour with a quarterly payout plan is somewhere to start. This pay rate (which is not a living wage) is the lowest hourly rate that should be paid for the work.

*Image from The Rise Journey’s 2021 State of The ERG Report

3. What should you clarify when building ERG lead structure and budget?

ERG budgets should not be inclusive of ERG lead compensation. The first thing you need to ensure is that “ERG Lead Compensation” is a separate line item in a company’s budget, meaning that during the upcoming budget planning cycle, this number can change or increase based on success.

Clarity is key. To support an effective business case for ERG lead compensation, start by revisiting your criteria for all ERG roles. Some questions to address include:

  • Do employees need tenure to take on a lead role?
  • What is the process of electing someone to an ERG lead position?
  • What is the duration of each position’s term?
  • Can the individual be on a Performance Improvement Plan and act as an ERG lead? Make sure to clarify what steps you take if they are not hitting work-related goals or are not clearly demonstrating organizational values.
  • How does an ERG lead use or request budget? What is the difference between the two? (i.e. over a certain dollar threshold approval is needed vs. a lead being able to make the decision on their own)?
  • Will they need to use technology as part of their role (project management tools, ERG software, intranet, internal blog, etc.)?
  • What do they need to communicate to their DEI/HR lead or executive sponsor?
  • Can an ERG leadership role lead to other leadership roles? How?

Conclusion

Do your research, know your organization, and utilize your resources. Your employees will notice and your company culture will be better for it. The future of work is now and it is about time for unpaid labor to remain in the past. For more insight on implementing effective ERG lead compensation practices, read The Rise Journey’s full report: State of the ERG 2021.

 

gratitude

Stop Overthinking a Culture of Gratitude. Show It Instead!

As we enter the season of gratitude, I have contemplated the importance of employers, managers, and leaders expressing thanks to their hardworking team members. We have collectively weathered a storm, and we’re not in the clear yet. No matter what the industry, things have been challenging. But how should we show our gratitude? What is authentic? What works?

With “The Great Resignation” and “The Great Discontent” affecting our organizations, retention is top-of-mind. Here is my gentle reminder: a little gratitude goes a long way in keeping employees happy and feeling valued.

Why gratitude is great

Gratitude in the workplace is often underrated. While some leaders are quick with a “thank you,” others are still under the impression that thanks are given with a paycheck. Research clearly illustrates that the right amount of gratitude can drastically impact the productivity, positivity, morale, employee retention, and success of a business.

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, is at the heart of understanding gratitude. In his 2010 essay, Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, reveals why gratitude is good for our bodies, our minds, and our relationships.

“[Gratitude] has two components. First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts, and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life,” Robert says. “The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

Gratitude is transcendent.

The act of gratitude clearly transcends any one part of our lives. It’s holistic in nature. Those who are grateful at home are likely to be grateful at work. But people aren’t inherently grateful or not. Like many things, it can be–and I would argue should be– practiced.

My thoughts have landed here: stop overthinking a culture of gratitude. Show it instead! It sure seems silly as a line item on an executive agenda: “Express thanks to employees.” Instead, be naturally grateful for the employees who have stuck through trying times. Show them gratitude–and not just one night at the fancy holiday party. Say “thank you.” Drop a note. Make eye contact and actively show appreciation for a job well done.

A recent Gallup analysis found that “48 percent of America’s working population is actively job searching or watching for opportunities. Businesses are facing a staggeringly high quit rate–3.6 million Americans resigned in May alone–and a record-high number of unfilled positions. And Gallup discovered that workers in all job categories, from customer-facing service roles to highly professional positions, are actively or passively job hunting at roughly the same rate.”

It is no secret that keeping employees happy is the name of the game right now. Retention has always been a hot topic among leaders, but it’s never been more important to engage employees and entice them to stay through authentic actions.

Get back to basics.

Say things like: Thank you! We appreciate you. We are glad you’re here. You offer great value to our team. Nice job on that project. Sound too easy or trite? It’s not.

Ask questions like: How would you like to be recognized? What makes a happy, productive workplace? A misstep is often to assume you know what resonates with people. Don’t be afraid to ask: take surveys or have open conversations about what feels good to hear or experience.

Ask people about their experiences alone and in groups. Also, find out how people are feeling. Are they scared? Tired? Upbeat? Hopeful? What general trends come to light from truly ASKING?

Create an environment that fosters gratitude.

According to HBR’s piece, “Building a Better Workplace Starts with Saying ‘Thanks’”: “Make time and space for gratitude. Many employees may feel ambivalent about expressing gratitude or appreciation publicly, so don’t force it. Instead, managers should make (physical or virtual) space and time for gratitude. For example, managers can create an appreciation wall or a dedicated Slack channel for employees to recognize others and give kudos. Managers might also start meetings with gratitude ‘check-ins,’ during which team members can express one thing they’re thankful for. When employees pin notes to the wall or participate in check-ins, they create social proof that encourages their ambivalent colleagues to do the same.”

Stop thinking about gratitude as an “initiative.”

Gratitude in the workplace doesn’t have to be expensive or overwrought with logistics. There are many ways to show appreciation and employee recognition that aren’t overtaxing or unrealistic.

Our friends at gThankYou publish an ongoing blog related to employee appreciation, recognition, and gratitude. One post that spoke to me was “The Magic of On-the-Spot Recognition.” It outlines many reasons to simply show gratitude “in the moment”–and it is simple, appreciated and, frankly, expected by younger generations.

“A culture of gratitude begins with a genuine heart and true feelings of thanks for those who make your business work every day,” shares Liz King, co-founder and CMO of gThankYou. “We have committed to sharing free resources to help leaders incorporate appreciation, recognition and thanks into the workplace all year long. It’s a wise business decision that also feels great.”

Other considerations for maintaining a culture of gratitude

Define happiness.

As with all goal-setting, the clearer the picture, the more likely you will succeed. Take the time to understand what happiness means in your organization, industry, and area of the world. This alone can put a damper on the “Great Resignation” or “Great Discontent.” Picture a happy workplace: what does it really look like?

Understand how to align the organization’s foundational purpose with daily actions.

This piggybacks on defining happiness. There should also be a deep-rooted connection between what the organization stands for and how it treats employees. What is this company all about? If it is focused on providing goods or services to better their customers or the world, are we treating employees just as well (or better)? If we thank our customers and partners, shouldn’t we extend the same courtesy to our employees?

The bottom line

Organizations, specifically leaders, MUST set an example of gratitude. We encourage you to not only take the time to say, “thank you” regularly but build tangible, effective ways to keep a gratitude culture thriving.

How do you foster a culture of gratitude? I’d love to hear your ideas–and so would your peers! Please feel free to contact me at ctrivella@talentculture.com.

 

respectful workplace culture

Best Practices, Legal Requirements, and Respectful Workplace Culture

In the modern workplace, a respectful workplace culture isn’t just a cherry on top of a job role. If the work culture isn’t healthy and respectful, it could mean organizations lose their best employees and lose out on the best candidates. People don’t just want a respectful workplace culture, they EXPECT it. It’s a necessity for a high-performing workplace.

The issue, however, is that many organizations don’t realize the importance of creating and maintaining a positive culture. They also don’t understand the strong role leaders play in making that culture a reality. By empowering leaders to facilitate respect in the workplace, organizations can improve productivity and employee experience, and also protect businesses from legal issues and allegations.

Our Guest: Labor, employment, and human-rights lawyer Marli Rusen

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Marli Rusen: labor, employment, and human-rights lawyer, mediator, arbitrator, author, speaker, and organizational consultant. Using her knowledge of workplace dynamics and law, Marli helps organizations create productive and healthy work environments. She reviews, analyzes, and helps resolve serious workplace issues, like misconduct allegations, employee disclosure, mental health discussions, etc.

Because of her extensive experience over the last 25 years, I wanted to get her take on how legal and societal expectations around respectful workplace culture have changed over time. According to Marli, in the last five years, a respectful culture has become a must-have at any workplace.

“Respectful workplace culture and conduct used to be an afterthought or a ‘nice-to-have,’ but has now turned into an expectation on the part of employees. And it’s now a legal requirement on the part of the courts,” Marli says. “It’s a core expectation in the employment world, and leaders should take notice of this.”

Why should they take notice? Marli says there are several reasons. 1) If an organization doesn’t take respectful conduct seriously, high-performing employees will look elsewhere. 2) If an employee sees that leaders are taking part in or tolerating misconduct, they may take legal action against them. And 3) organizations are putting themselves at risk in the “court of public opinion,” because employees can take them to task on social media. Leaders are key in preventing catastrophes and keeping employees happy.

“Leaders have a greater responsibility in maintaining a respectful workplace culture because they have greater authority. They have the power and therefore have the responsibility to exercise that to build and sustain a respectful workplace,” Marli says.

Walk The Talk: How Leaders Can Maintain a Respectful Workplace Culture

So what can leaders do to make sure they’re holding up their end of the bargain for employees? How can they best utilize their power for the good of the organization? According to Marli, they need to consider the three M’s of leadership.

“The first M is MODEL. Leaders need to model respect. Walk the talk. Show how they expect people on their teams to behave. The second M is MONITOR. Leaders need to get out there and engage and interact with employees to make sure they’re treating each other well,” Marli says. “And finally, the third M is MITIGATE. Leaders are the face of organizations, so they have to mitigate risks for other leaders. If they see something amiss at an organization, they need to speak up and help others.” 

As companies add policies to ensure a respectful workplace, they have to be careful that once the policies are written, there are plans to take action in the face of a violation. There can’t be a culture of avoidance at work, otherwise, there is no point in creating policies at all.

“In some workplace cultures, there’s a fear of holding people accountable because doing so will seem disrespectful. There is a belief that they need to make people feel good and not give critical feedback,” Marli says. “But once there’s been an objective review and allegations are confirmed, there’s an obligation to take action. Organizations must demonstrate through measured consequences that they take these issues seriously.” 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about creating and sustaining a respectful workplace culture by reaching out to Marli Rusen on LinkedIn.

toxic people

Improve Workplace Culture with a Powerful Strategy: Bystander Training

Do we need to worry about toxic workplace culture now, in the midst of an exhaustingly protracted pandemic that’s badly straining employers and employees? It’s a question a lot of HR practitioners are asking themselves: What do we prioritize right now? Do we continue with the triage of focusing on security, safety, and trying to maintain things like vaccination policies, masking policies, digital virtual work cultures, and all the workarounds that have now become part of the new way we work? Is a toxic workplace culture still an issue, right now?

Yes. It’s always an issue. Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are more critical than ever. And unfortunately, the pandemic has increased some tensions and bad behavior. Racism (and other isms) have been rearing their heads in life and in work. But recently I came across a powerful new strategy that may change how we’re addressing bad behavior in the workplace. It’s called bystander training, and it trains employees to recognize, bear witness, and speak up. It shifts the focus from reactive to proactive and may help managers and D&I departments to intervene when they can’t have eyes on the ground in 90 places at once.

By the Numbers

How rampant is discrimination? A recent Glassdoor survey revealed that bias-related behaviors shape the workplace experience for too many. The survey of over 1,100 employees found that 61 percent have either witnessed or experienced workplace discrimination based on age, race, gender, or LGBTQIA+ identity. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Ageism: 45 percent
  • Racism: 42 percent
  • Gender discriminaton: 42 percent
  • LBGTQIA+ discrimination: 33 percent

That discrimination takes on many forms of bullying and microaggressions. (Microaggressions are those relentless, daily behaviors that may seem subtle, but can have a crushing effect). An estimated 48.6 million Americans have been victims of workplace bullying. A McKinsey study of women in the workplace found that nearly two-thirds reported experiencing racist and sexist microaggressions as a workplace reality. Couple that with the increasing stress of working during a pandemic (such as juggling work and childcare or risking safety to keep a job), and we really need to do better.

Helping the Cause

Many organizations are trying to do just that. Glassdoor also found that hiring for roles addressing corporate diversity and inclusion increased 30 percent from 2018-2019, for instance. But hiring programs aren’t enough—that aforementioned need to actually see, witness, and address requires that others participate, particularly in larger organizations. And it can’t just be a few whistleblowers or far too many occasions will be missed and far too many bad behaviors unchecked. Certainly, training bystanders is a solid approach, if done right. And it does seem that this bystander training is being done right, for a number of reasons.

1. Bystander training helps create a culture of witness and accountability. 

Bystander training encourages employees to speak up and support others’ speaking up. That can help combat the “bystander effect”—a socio-psychological observation that people are less likely to step in during a crisis if others are present. By creating a shared culture of witness and accountability, employees may not feel like the odd person out. Rather they feel empowered by those around them to take a stand, so long as everyone’s received that training. (This is yet another reason why improving workplace culture is significant.)

2. Bystander training is a proactive approach.  

Taking a reactive approach to harassment isn’t always effective. It can feel disingenuous when a new policy comes on the heels of a news story, and that can erode employee buy-in and trust. It can also seem to lack the proper scaffolding: employees may wonder if there are really any tangible actions to take after that two-hour presentation concludes. As far as its impact on culture, it doesn’t shape culture so much as mirror it. If your work culture doesn’t have a specific stance on workplace harassment, you need to create one ASAP. Strategies like bystander training go a lot farther to intentionally clarify your culture and values. You’re coaching employees on what discrimination and bullying look like so they can identify what they’re seeing, and at the same time, driving home the point that those behaviors won’t be tolerated in your workplace.

3. Bystander training offers individuals options for taking action. 

Not everyone has the same instinct to intervene immediately, and that sometimes inhibits them from acting at all. Bystander training lays out the options on how to respond and addresses these factors. If an employee witnesses a racist comment, they may want to quietly tell their manager or supervisor instead of intervening. In some cases, stepping in may have an adverse effect. The point is that they know the parameters of acceptable and unacceptable, and don’t have to question their own judgment. They also know there are a number of ways to stop harassment, not just in the moment, but in a powerful, systemic way.

We often bring social blind spots into the workplace and that’s where they become an issue, standing in the way of true inclusiveness, diversity, and a sense of belonging. But when the intentional focus comes into play, one employee’s “I was just joking” is seen as another employee’s serious discomfort. The old excuses (and I’m thinking of some legendary toxic workplaces here) are seen as gaslighting and harmful smoke screens. You can’t fix it if you don’t agree it’s broken.

Bystander training creates that framework for understanding, if not agreement. It provides a forum for discussing red flags that we didn’t have the tools to address before. And in doing so, it provides another powerful strategy for improving the culture of working. This could also mean you don’t lose another terrific employee in the long run. Because instead of being harassed, they were actually heard. In a people-centered workplace culture, that’s the new bottom line.

meaningful partnership at work

A New Paradigm: How to Encourage Meaningful Partnership at Work

Let’s face it: Many team members feel unsupported by their leaders, and it’s the single biggest reason why people quit their jobs. It also turns out that many leaders feel similarly unsupported by their team. This creates a two-way street of frustration between leaders and teams. Unaddressed, these poor relationships can lead to serious workplace problems.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

It altered not only the way in which we work but strained many of the relationships we have with coworkers. It revealed a growing hunger among leaders and teams for a deeper connection and a more mutually accountable and rewarding partnership.

No doubt, we all seek healthy and effective relationships at work. But as we know, few of our key work partnerships are exceptional, and frankly, most are mediocre or even poor. So, how do we create, maintain and continuously improve our key partnerships, especially the one between leaders and teams?

Use these steps to improve meaningful partnerships in the workplace.

1. Embrace a new mindset.

Leaders and team members must embrace a new mindset of meaningful partnership. It refers to an elevated state of the “4 Cs:” cohesion, connection, coordination, and collaboration. It’s a level of partnership that goes above and beyond, that has impact, that’s mutually successful and rewarding, and is a two-way street of care, support, and accountability.

2. Infuse foundational elements for partnership to flourish.

Leaders and teams must recognize that meaningful partnership requires strong levels of Empathy, Respect, Trust, Alignment, and Partnership. This is the ERTAP model which research has found to be the foundation of meaningful workplace relationships. It suggests that these five elements are in many ways sequential, mutually reinforcing, and when combined in synergy, create the necessary conditions for meaningful partnership at work to flourish.

3. Develop a workplace covenant.

Leaders and teams need to create and routinely use workplace covenants. In brief, a workplace covenant is an honor-bound set of commitments, which have obligatory weight, to one’s work partner. It begins with the exchange of obligations and expectations, with the focus being on: “What can I do for you, so that you’ll feel supported and can be successful?”

This exchange of behaviors and attitudes between the leader and the team is discussed, compared, refined, and documented, resulting in the development of signed workplace covenants. It should be noted that there’s no religious connotation here, but instead simply the establishment of vital behavioral promises that both partners agree to hold themselves to as a matter of personal and professional integrity. They also agree to assess themselves on the covenants and receive feedback on them.

Leaders and teams then regularly review these workplace covenants informally and formally, share them with new team members, discuss them during one-on-ones, and use them as a basis for managing and continuously improving how they work together, so that both the leader and team continue to feel supported and can be successful.

So what are the benefits of meaningful partnership?

A meaningful partnership at work is a “vaccine” that prevents the ills of dissatisfaction, disengagement, despair, and departure (the Dreaded 4 Ds) that occur all too often in today’s workplaces. Meaningful partnership at work is what today’s younger workers seek but aren’t always able to articulate. They will say that they search for significance at work and collaborations that are authentic and mutually rewarding. But it begs the question: How do you create that work environment? Meaningful partnership, ERTAP, and workplace covenants are the concepts and tools to provide that answer.

Finally, for those organizations seeking to promote a positive culture, meaningful partnership offers a compelling vision. It’s a place where employees often encourage and praise. It is where managers go above and beyond to support their staff. It’s where constructive feedback is exchanged without anxiety or fear. And where everyone is doing their best to ensure the success of others. It may seem idealistic, but actually, it’s quite achievable when both leaders and teams embrace a new paradigm of collaboration—one of meaningful partnership.

 

This piece was co-written by Timothy M. Franz Ph.D., organizational psychologist, professor of psychology, and interim Chair at St. John Fisher College, and Seth R. Silver Ed.D., the principal of Silver Consulting, Inc. and former professor of Human Resource Development at St. John Fisher College.

employee recognition

5 Quick Ways to Make Employee Recognition Fun

Thanks and praise for a job well done feel good. But recognition happens far less often than it should in our work environments. And employees have noticed.

Reward Gateway found that 85 percent of employees think managers and leaders should spot good work and give praise in the moment, and 81 percent of employees think this should happen on a continuous, year-round basis. Additionally, this study also found that 70 percent of employees say motivation and morale would improve if managers simply started saying “thank you” more. Yet Gallup reports that 65 percent of employees hadn’t received any form of recognition for good work within the past year.

When asked what leaders could do to improve employee engagement, 58 percent of respondents in a Psychometrics study replied, “Give recognition and praise.” And in another survey by Socialcast, 69 percent of employees said they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated. Clearly, recognition matters.

Employee recognition is a company’s most valuable currency

Employees typically value praise more than other tangible forms of reward, including cash. According to Officevibe, 83 percent of surveyed employees said it’s better to give someone praise than a gift.

Employees want to appreciate each other as well—and when they do, it boosts a company’s bottom line. With this in mind, peer-to-peer recognition is a powerful force. Notably, it’s nearly 36 percent more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only recognition, according to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Globoforce.

Five quick ways to make recognition fun

Employee recognition doesn’t have to take the form of simple praise and thank you’s. Here are some simple creative ideas anyone can do—including you!

  • Give someone who’s deserving a standing ovation.
  • Ring a bell or gong to celebrate a big sale or major achievement.
  • Highlight photos of hardworking employees in company PowerPoint presentations.
  • Create a project scrapbook for your team with pictures and stories of good work.
  • After meeting a goal or initiative, have executives make breakfast for the team.

The bottom line

What gets recognized gets repeated. Often, this idea is referred to by many as, “the greatest management principle in the world.” By recognizing good work, you encourage more of it.

You don’t need a budget to start. In fact, the most powerful forms of employee recognition tend to cost little, if any, money. A word of thanks in person, a written note, or an email can go a long way.

Employee recognition is contagious. It doesn’t just feel good to receive recognition. It also feels good to give it, so take the time to do so and pass it on!

 

Mario Tamayo, a principal with Tamayo Group Inc., and Bob Nelson, president of Nelson Motivation Inc. co-authored this piece. They also co-authored Work Made Fun Gets Done! Easy Ways to Boost Energy, Morale, and Results, available wherever books are sold.

work culture

Work Culture Lessons Learned from the Space Shuttle Columbia

Leadership plays a significant role in work culture and organizational strategy. Yet many who are in charge seem unprepared for the responsibility. Seventy-six percent of employees agree that management sets the tone for workplace culture. But 40 percent say that managers fail to engage them in honest conversations, 36 percent say that their managers don’t know how to lead a team, and 58 percent cite their managers for their reasons for leaving their jobs, according to SHRM’s 2019 Culture Report.

Moreover, businesses lost nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars over the last five years due to employee turnover triggered by poor work culture and bad managers. With these stats in mind, if organizations want to stay afloat, they can’t wait on making improvements to work culture and organizational structure.

Our Guest: Dr. Phillip Meade

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Dr. Phillip Meade, co-owner and COO of Gallaher Edge, a management consulting firm that applies the science of human behavior to create highly effective cultures. Dr. Meade has led teams and organizations for 25 years, serving at various levels of management. Following the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, where the shuttle broke up as it returned to Earth, killing seven astronauts, Dr. Meade developed a plan for the organizational and cultural changes necessary for return to flight and create leadership behaviors to drive sustainable change.

In the case of the Space Shuttle Columbia, I wanted to know: What work culture influences played a part in the accident, and what was done afterward to pivot to a more functional organizational structure?

“Part of the issue was overconfidence. We thought that we were safe after we got up into orbit. Also, many felt that we couldn’t raise questions or talk about problems,” Dr. Meade says. “We had, for so long, this deep ingrained ethos that failure is not an option. And there were a lot of people in key leadership positions that believed that there was no way to fix the problem on orbit, even if we discovered it. And so, there was a resistance to even look and see if there was a problem.”

When he was asked to lead the work culture change, he noticed that many were highly dedicated individuals who wanted to be at work. It was then that he realized the difference between an effective organizational culture, and what’s merely a good organizational culture where people are happy, or enjoy working there.

“A truly effective organizational culture also drives the strategy of an organization. In the case of NASA, that means driving organizational safety and leads to high organizational effectiveness. So, that was one of the big keys to solving and changing the organizational culture.”

Changing Organizational Structure: Key Takeaways

So, when it comes to changing organizational structure, one of the key takeaways, according to Dr. Meade, is that organizational work culture is an emergent property of a complex adaptive organizational system. This means that it’s a combination of beliefs and behaviors of employees within an organization.

“While leaders are responsible for the organizational culture, it still lives between the ears of the employees. This is why we say that we use the science of human behavior to really work on and affect organizational culture because that’s where it lives,” Dr. Meade says. “It starts with the self, with the individual and it starts from the inside out. And so, I think that that’s one of the main keys about working with organizational culture.”

Another key takeaway, says Dr. Meade, is that the culture must align with an organization’s business strategy. It isn’t just about creating the happiest place on Earth to work. Sure, it’s great if you can achieve such a feat, and high employee engagement has been shown to increase productivity. However…

“If you’re increasing productivity towards goals that don’t align with your strategy then, there’s no point to it,” says Dr. Meade. “You want to make sure that the organizational culture you’re creating drives business results and aligns with your organizational strategy.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about organizational strategy and the Space Shuttle Columbia accident by reaching out to Dr. Phillip Meade on LinkedIn. You can also find Dr. Phillip Meade’s book titled “The Missing Links: Launching a High Performing Company Culture” here. 

learning organization

The 5 Essential Traits of a Learning Organization

In a rapidly evolving digital world, human resources are the biggest asset for any organization. Thus, creating a culture of learning is essential to tap into the true potential of your employees and stoke their growth.

A “learning organization,” conceptualized by Peter Senge, empowers individuals to pursue their interests, nurtures innovation and creativity, and focuses on the vision of transformation. In other words, it is synonymous with freedom and collaborative thinking.

In short, by prioritizing the contributions of your employees, you can drive personal growth and manage workplace performance. More importantly, you can instill confidence in employees that their ideas are valued.

Find out more about the five essential traits of a learning organization and see how you can bring them into action.

A flat organizational structure

The process of cultivating a culture of learning starts with the symbolic erosion of a hierarchy.

Markedly, a hierarchical structure creates a fear of making mistakes, a habit of seeking permission, and a reluctance to pitch new ideas.

Unlike an organizational setup in traditional organizations, a learning organization works on collaboration and open communication. To nurture a level of interdependence, they naturally adopt a more horizontal organizational structure.

For example, transparency, autonomy, and confidence are some of the most foundational qualities required to build an organizational structure powered by change.

Plan of action

Here are some actionable ways for you to flatten the hierarchy in your organization:

  • An open-door policy of communication
  • A be-your-own-boss approach
  • Cross-functional meetings and remote training

Innovative problem-solving approach

Innovation and change are the only ways organizations can sustain themselves in the future.

Not only does a learning organization imbibe innovation and enable its employees to ideate with autonomy, but it also encourages you to think beyond the mainstream. From senior executives to interns, everybody ideates at the same level and are free to contribute with their out-of-box ideas for solving problems.

According to Peter Senge, a learning organization should challenge the assumptions and usual behaviors to learn, innovate, and change.

Plan of action

Implement these practices to promote innovative thinking in your team:

  • Conduct engaging brainstorming sessions
  • Encourage distraction-free deep work
  • Promote learning through blogs and training material
  • Focus on empathizing with the employees

Collaborative rather than a competitive learning environment

On the whole, a learning organization focuses on imparting knowledge in a collaborative environment.

Individuals work in a group to brainstorm to combine their diverse skills and expertise. Such differing opinions and ideas can create an enriching learning experience. Moreover, this collaborative knowledge-sharing framework builds trust and confidence among the employees to contribute more freely.

As a matter of fact, a peer learning approach also empowers the team to succeed and fail together and eliminates any rigid perceptions of the members.

Plan of action

Here are some ways you can cultivate greater collaboration in your team:

  • Hold open-for-all meetings and discussions
  • Implement and include knowledge sharing strategies in the day-to-day work culture
  • Use creative collaboration tools like Miro
  • Encourage cross-functional communication

People-oriented leadership

A lot rests on the kind of leadership present in an organization. Namely, a learning organization thrives on forward-thinking leadership.

More than any employee, the CXOs, managers, and top-level executives must show commitment to their people. These leaders also carry the force of change by giving the team a direction to move forward. Therefore, their approach towards their employees is important.

Furthermore, from identifying challenges to discussing the company’s shared vision, the top leadership is responsible for fostering a learning culture and motivating employees to follow suit.

Plan of action

Promote people-oriented leadership in your organization through these methods:

  • Interact with everyone on a more personal basis
  • Build relationships through consistent communication
  • Publish thoughts on key matters for your team

Mutually accepted vision

The fifth most essential trait of a learning organization is the vision it is striving to achieve.

A learning organization works with a collective identity and a shared vision. This vision can be either the management’s strategically planned goals or the employees’ shared objectives. In addition, it has to reflect the company culture and act as a guiding principle for the team.

Notably, the key differentiator between a traditional company’s vision and that of a learning organization is that the latter does not believe in putting the vision on the website or the office wall. In effect, a learning organization works toward and iterates on its vision as the company grows.

Plan of action

You can build a mutually accepted vision by encouraging employees to:

  • Share what matters to them
  • Visualize their future for the company

Conclusion

Creating a meaningful culture of learning is a crucial driver of business growth. Basically, as a learning organization, you can offer freethinking and team learning avenues—empowering your employees to maximize their potential.

In summary, a learning organization allows individuals to pursue their creativity and make mistakes without the fear of consequences. Because of this, in an increasingly competitive market, inculcating these values in your employees is bound to secure good results for your business goals.

Encourage communication and knowledge sharing. Also, shift the focus from your profits to your people–and witness the transformation of your organization.