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. 

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.

social injustice

HR’s New Responsibility: Addressing Social Injustice

The last year and a half has been a reckoning for workplaces; companies addressed the paradigm-shattering COVID-19 crisis, while also addressing issues of social injustice inside and outside the office.

Now that many companies are getting ready to welcome their employees back to the office, more employees are putting pressure on companies for better treatment. Or they’re simply walking away from their jobs in search of companies that share their values.

Human resources departments across the United States have been busy, to say the least!

So, is HR expected to manage payroll, benefits, recruiting… and address social injustice in current events, too?

The answer is yes. Here’s why.

Millennials expect to bring their whole selves to work.

Millennials, who are set to comprise up to 75 percent of the total U.S. workforce by 2025, fundamentally define diversity and inclusion differently than their older counterparts. They don’t believe in the well-intentioned but misguided “colorblindness” approach of yore.

Deloitte’s report, The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion: The Millennial Influence, “found that in defining diversity, millennials move well beyond the integration of demographic differences. They more commonly cite diversity as the blending of unique perspectives within a team, known as cognitive diversity.”

Millennials strongly believe that their unique perspectives cannot be separated from their success. In other words, they refuse to check their identities at the door because they believe that identities bring value to business outcomes.

And if current events threaten that sense of identity, these employees expect organizations to understand the cognitive load of social injustice.

“Businesses that don’t expand their notions of diversity and inclusion will increasingly lose their millennials and certainly won’t retain Generation Z … who are even less focused on traditional diversity than their older brothers and sisters and are even more engaged in socially collaborative platforms,” according to the Deloitte report.

Mental wellness impacts employee engagement.

When Millennials and Gen-Z bring their whole selves to work, this also includes their mental wellness. Morra Aarons-Mele said it succinctly in Harvard Business Review: “As we recognize neurological and emotional diversity in all of its forms, workplace cultures need to make room for the wide range of emotions we experience.”

Bonusly, an employee engagement software, also found this to be true in their survey of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, employees are much more stressed about work and at work than in years previous. But as it turns out, Bonusly also found that “highly engaged employees are 3.2 times more likely to be on a team that encourages open discussion of anxiety and stress at work than actively disengaged employees.”

So when incidents like the murder of George Floyd, the Atlanta spa shootings, or the January 6 Capitol riot occur, the best thing you can do for your employees is to acknowledge what’s going on. Let them know that you see and hear their concerns.

Be cognizant that current events impact your employees’ mental wellness. Also, recognize that you, as an HR professional, have the ability to thoughtfully address your team in a way that helps them feel valued and purposeful.

Crafting your employee experience and building purpose

We talk often about making sure employees feel valued as a crucial part of their employee experience. Recognize millennials and Gen Z for their diversity of experiences because that is what they need to feel appreciated. This requires a tailored approach from HR.

Consider this. HR is the department responsible for crafting and supporting the entire employee experience. So that responsibility extends to supporting employees’ well-being in times of social unrest.

Also, this is an opportunity to foster inclusion and a sense of purpose.

“Employees now want more from their employer than a paycheck. They want a sense of pride and fulfillment from their work, a purpose, and importantly a company whose values match their own,” said Jeanne Meister in her Forbes piece.

The subject of continued social injustice can be complex for companies to address. But it’s your responsibility as an HR professional to facilitate those conversations productively.

Do the work to understand your employees’ unique perspectives. Be aware of what can impact their well-being. This creates an inclusive and equitable environment for all workers.

You might have some difficult conversations, but it’ll pay off in time. After all, 83 percent of millennials are actively engaged when they believe the organization fosters an inclusive culture. And world events impact employees greatly. Addressing those issues is the compassionate, empathetic thing to do.

remote culture

Freshen Up Remote Culture for Work and Play [Podcast]

Eighty percent of employees say they want to work from home at least part-time. And three in four consider remote work the “new normal.” In an attempt to stay competitive, organizations everywhere are offering totally remote and hybrid work options to current and potential employees.

While it’s great that companies are accommodating employee needs, a new issue is arising: How do we maintain a remote culture that keeps employees engaged, even from afar?

Our Guest: Creative Entrepreneur Jeremy Parker

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I chatted with Jeremy Parker. He’s an entrepreneur who was named to Crain’s Class of 2020 NY 40 under 40 list. Jeremy formed the Creative Promotional Product Division under MV Sport. He also helped start Vowch Commonwealth and is currently co-founder and CEO of Swag.com, a swag distribution company that supports a healthy remote culture.

Jeremy understands that who you work with is just as important as what you’re working on, especially in the case of startups. According to Jeremy, a great remote culture starts with the recruiting process and finding the right people for what your business needs right now.

“When onboarding new hires, it’s important to find the right culture fit, especially for startups. Different employees are required for different stages of a business life cycle,” Jeremy says. 

And of course, he adds, before offering someone a role, you have to consider the candidate as a person, and determine if they will be truly happy at the company and empowered by the work.

“I think the most important thing across the board is making sure the people you hire really care about what they’re doing. That they’re willing to work hard. They need to feel passionate about the work and feel ownership over it,” Jeremy says.

Bring Remote Workers Together with Pocket Offices and Swag

Once the right remote employees are hired, how do you make them feel connected even when they’re far away? One strategy: Offer them swag.

“If you see somebody wearing a shirt representing your favorite sports team or college, you have an instant connection. It’s the same thing within a company,” Jeremy says. “If you’re wearing the same things, it brings people together around a shared purpose and mission.” 

Also, getting creative with events for remote workers is crucial. While employees may be located all over the world, it’s still possible to offer in-person opportunities for bonding.

“Instead of having one central hub and making employees drive two hours each way, find little pocket offices in different locations. So even if remote employees can’t meet everybody at the company in person, people can get out of the house and collaborate with others,” Jeremy says. “Everyone’s feeling isolated (especially with COVID). So whatever you can do to bring people together and create unity is important.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about fostering employee connections in a remote culture by reaching out to Jeremy Parker on LinkedIn.

post-pandemic work styles

How to Navigate the Uncharted Waters of Post-Pandemic Work Styles

As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “A smooth sea never produced a skilled sailor,” and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. As regulations lift and many employees are immersed in the waters of remote work, many business leaders are sorting through what a flexible workplace will look like in the future.

With an increased appetite for workplace flexibility and a new kind of employer/employee reciprocity on the rise, there may never be a time when 100 percent of an employee base is back in the office. To strike the right balance, organizations will require tailored approaches and deeper discussions. They need to ensure employees are empowered to deliver excellent customer experiences while honoring their trust. By working to accommodate employee post-pandemic work styles, employers won’t just be helping their businesses but also the people who keep them running.

Work Style Over Space

Cultivating a work environment—and culture—that meets specific post-pandemic work styles will greatly serve employers.

Since March of last year, we’ve invited employees into our homes (digitally), and they have invited us into theirs. We’ve met their spouses, children, and dogs and cats alike. We’ve become accustomed to their more relaxed dress code, their mementos, their home décor. The working environment has gotten tremendously casual and intimate.

In light of this, this reorientation will require an even higher level of mutual trust between employer and employee. The employer should set high expectations, giving autonomy to employees, and hold them accountable for performance. They shouldn’t try to manage how, when, and where they work. In exchange, employees can experience a greater acceptance of work/life integration. As some re-enter the office space with an eye toward personal and familial obligations, this will be beneficial. It will also be valuable to others who remain in home offices, continuing to mesh their lives with the work they love.

How to Accommodate Post-Pandemic Work Styles

For any organization, it won’t be possible to duplicate company culture as it once was. Instead, to adapt and advance, culture must evolve, while keeping the organization’s core values intact.

Here are a few things leaders can do to navigate the workplace of the future while keeping employees’ post-pandemic work styles at top of mind.

Ensure Employees Co-Create the New Norm

It’s imperative to understand employees’ needs and hopes for this new world of work. You can achieve this through active listening via focus groups, ongoing employee pulse surveys, employee advisory groups, and honest discussions between managers and direct reports. Maintain the non-negotiables of culture and let go of any leave-behind elements of culture that can disappear. After gathering employee insights, leaders can co-create an envisioned future. One where the employee is involved in the development, understanding, and communication of that future so they can adopt, advocate for, and believe in it.

Hold Tight to Core Values

Regardless of work location, a company’s core values must hold steadfast. From hiring employees to making important business decisions, leaders should remain true to their core values and use them as guideposts.

Focus on the Mission

Mission-driven organizations are more important than ever. They keep people connected and engaged when not seeing each other every day. It’s crucial to instill companywide messages that employees are more than a “workforce.” Rather, they’re a community of like-minded individuals who equally share in the company’s mission.

Operate from a Place of Compassion

Empathy is key.  It’s vital to take employees’ physical and mental wellness into consideration. Many still struggle with mental health issues due to the effects of quarantine. Consider this when interacting with employees and making plans for their work future.

Create Ways to Communicate and Connect

Many employees experience office FOMO (fear of missing out). To combat this, position the office as a social gathering place for collaboration, mentoring, development, community-building, and more. In lieu of the historical face-to-face time, design other ways for employees to communicate and connect. Some examples of this are weekly social meetings, all-hands-on-deck brainstorms, fitness and cooking challenges, or virtual meditation breaks.

The work world will never be the same. Still, with high levels of trust, communication, and vulnerability, companies can work with employees to cultivate and accomodate post-pandemic work styles.

payroll and hr

The 3 Pillars of Hybrid Workplaces [Podcast]

It’s irrefutable: Hybrid workplaces are in, and inflexible employers are out.

The data is astounding. In some studies, 80 to 90 percent of employees report wanting to stay remote after the pandemic. And 84 percent of working parents with children under 18 find that the benefits of hybrid workplaces outweigh the cons.

We know now that overall job satisfaction is tied to flexible working models. And we’ve seen that many people are jumping off the “talent cliff” in search of greener pastures that offer full- or partially-remote work options.

The future of hybrid workplaces is now, especially as we all transition back to in-office roles. When it comes to developing a strong hybrid work culture, there’s no time to waste if employers want to stay competitive and prioritize employee satisfaction.

Our Guest: Rhiannon Staples, B2B Marketing Leader and CMO at Hibob

On the latest episode of #WorkTrends, I talked with Rhiannon Staples. She is a global marketing leader who has been architecting expert business strategies and leading start-up teams for over 15 years. Before taking on her current role as Hibob CMO, she was the Global VP of Marketing at NICE Actimize and Global Head of Brand Marketing at Sisense. She’s an expert in brand-to-market strategy, lead generation, and account-based marketing programs. She also specializes in spearheading global growth for companies.

Rhiannon had some great advice for harnessing hybrid work for global growth and business strategy. She said that there are three pillars of hybrid work that companies need to consider in order to design a successful hybrid work model.

“The first is productivity, the second is communication, and the third is culture and connection,” Rhiannon says. 

For the first pillar of productivity, employers need to show workers their willingness to be flexible. This will give employees the feeling that employers are dedicated to their success. For the second pillar, they need to adopt an inclusive business model that prioritizes employee communication–whether employees are working remotely or in person. Finally, employers need to empower their HR leaders to create a culture of connection with employees. They need to offer tools and resources that can make the employee experience better.

Leaders also need to approach hybrid work with the point of view that there may be different rules than with traditional remote work.

“Hybrid work is less about letting employees go remote as it is about the work model, type of employment, hours worked, and work location,” Rhiannon says. “So first and foremost, know that ‘hybrid’ is not ‘remote.’ It’s something new that we need to tackle.”

The Benefits of Hybrid Workplaces

I asked Rhiannon how important it is that companies take hybrid work models seriously. Her answer? VERY. Notably, only 13 percent of people said they wanted to go back to the office full-time, five days a week, according to a Hibob study.

“I don’t want to create an impression that employees don’t want to be in the office. Because that’s not the case at all. Basically, our data has shown that employees and managers aspire to have a flexible work environment,” Rhiannon says. “Companies that are bringing employees back full-stop, in-office, five days a week … they’re going to feel the backlash of this. Employees will leave for companies that are offering greater flexibility.”

Data shows that hybrid work is beneficial for everyone, including underrepresented populations. These groups include those with disabilities or those who are neurodivergent. Also, women across the world have greatly benefited from hybrid remote work options, particularly those caring for children or elders.

“We’ve proven over the course of the past year that those companies that have offered flexibility to working mothers have seen great success with that population,” says Rhiannon. “Women having access to flexible work hours and having the option to work from home will open the door for many women to get back to work.”

Embracing a hybrid work model can help organizations retain employees. Also, it can encourage a more diverse workforce. If you ask me, there’s really no downside.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Hibob. You can learn more useful information on adapting to a hybrid work style by connecting with Rhiannon Staples on LinkedIn.

For more information on this topic, read more here.

 

workplace 3.0

Image by Adnan Ahmad Ali

Workplace 3.0: Say Goodbye to The Lines Between “Work” and “Life”

Welcome to Workplace 3.0…

How our workspaces have transitioned! There was a time not so long ago when most of us led dual lives – the personal and the professional. In many cases, we built our professional life to support our personal life; one that encapsulated everything but work – our family, our relationships, and our self.

The physical workspace, of course, was where our official work got done. We lived our personal life outside of that office building; to a large extent, it centered around our home. There was a fine territorial line between the two – and only the closest of our colleagues crossed over. For the majority, interaction with colleagues happened either in the meeting rooms that dotted our hallways. Occasionally, that interaction occurred during after-hour happy hours in neighborhood pubs.

The Pandemic Blurred Many Lines

One challenging year changed all of that.

In 2020, as the pandemic engulfed us from Canberra to Chicago, we were forced to move indoors. To keep the wheels of our economies moving and to maintain livelihoods, we turned to technology. And in many ways, technology rescued us. Video conferencing, while already around for over a couple of decades, got the kind of boost a start-up founder can only dream of – when they have time to dream. Buoyed by a freemium model that hooked both individuals and corporates alike, one of the beneficiaries was Zoom, which saw a whopping 326% increase in revenue.

This single most transformational piece of technology ensured that communication flowed seamlessly, even when we weren’t in the office. Between managers and team members. Between suppliers and buyers. And between clients and organizations. Zoom kept the communications line open between anyone and everyone who needed to interact. Constrained by the lack of personal connection that benefits from physical proximity, this was the next best thing. Everyone lapped it up. No doubt, this contributes to the observation that “Time spent in meetings has more than doubled globally” as presented in March 2021 in the Work Trends research by Microsoft.

Video Conferencing Destroyed Those Lines

Unconsciously, perhaps, video conferencing also enabled another dimension of communication. It didn’t blur the lines between the workplace and home. Zoom obliterated those lines.

Suddenly, we welcomed our colleagues, customers, stakeholders and others in the work ecosystem right into our homes. And depending on how much real estate you possessed, they entered your living room, study, garage or even, your bedroom! Now, your office colleagues were privy to your preferred color schemes, taste in furniture, and whether you had one or two rescue dogs for company.

Given this transition happened suddenly, and self (or business) preservation was the primary objective at the time, most of us didn’t put too much thought into the invitation (or was it an invasion?) of our personal lives. We did what we had to do at that moment. We went along with the flow. Now, although we may not be able to reverse that powerful flow, it is interesting to take a look at the long-term implications of the fusion of our professional and personal lives – and the potential impact of Workplace 3.0.

Acceptance of yet another “new normal”

Clichéd as it may be, the fact is that humanity can quickly get accustomed to new ways of working. After working in small offices in smaller buildings early in their careers, people of a certain age graduated to Workplace 2.0 in open-spaced campuses modeled after the large factories of the Industrial Age. We accepted traveling on the Tube to reach these work centers. We accepted long hours away from home to do our work.

Similarly, we’ll embrace this newest change as well. Many of us already have. After all, your colleagues have already been visitors to your home – albeit virtually. So the line between professional and personal has already been crossed. That cat people see jumping on your desk during a Zoom meeting is already out of the bag!

“Reclaiming my line”

Along the way, most Video Meeting platforms added functionality that inserted virtual backgrounds or allowed you to blur your natural background (“Let the laundry lie on the bed, Steve!”). Clunky initially, this feature has now been juiced up by artificial intelligence (AI). For some, this feature allows us to draw a curtain between professional and personal; it enables the creation of a virtual personal space even during professional meetings.

A bonus of this AI-driven virtual reality: Depending on what one is trying to convey, you can choose to be on a beach in the Bahamas in one meeting and amidst the stars the next. (Note: the rescue dogs would prefer a run on the beach.)

More transparency at work

Our makeshift workspaces, differentiated from our personal spaces even though they physically occupy the same space, silently encouraged one aspect of Workplace 2.0: We are to bring only our professional selves to work. The rest of us must stay outside the office doors – or at least outside camera range. Such an environment, quite naturally, encourages workers to live dual lives. We wear a sports jacket on the top and gym shorts on the bottom. In Workplace 2.0, irrespective of what was ailing us, we should put up a smiling face and pretend all is well at work. Now, with the camera now peeping right into our comfort zone, the trend is to be more transparent. To live and display ourselves –  as we are.

Of course, this new level of transparency comes with the hope that our colleagues, bosses and customers will accept us as we are – including the small children who sneak into the room during meetings.

A greater understanding of others

The true benefit of any shift in workplace modalities, and the introduction of any technology that helps us thrive in Workplace 3.0, is becoming more humane – even as we work. By enabling people to connect and relate when social distancing has been the need of the hour, one could say Zoom and similar platforms have done their part. Video conferencing has brought us closer together, even when safety protocols forced us apart. But, there is more.

As we see a young mother breastfeed her young one, even as she reviews the quarterly numbers, we see the human element in action. As we see a not-ready-for-primetime spouse enter the room only to realize the camera is on, we open our minds and hearts to others in a way that we’ve never done before. When we create mini work zones in different parts of our house, to ensure our partner and kids can also work efficiently, we take ‘sharing’ – physical and emotional – to another level. And throughout all the challenges, we gain a greater understanding of ourselves, and each other.

Workplace 3.0: Work, Changed Forever

In essence, one must acknowledge that the way and where we work has changed forever. In Workplace 3.0, we can hope that the blurring of the lines between our personal spaces and our workspaces will continue to bring us closer – to make us more human. And that humanity will foster further collaboration and co-operation at work – that we will be more accepting of each other, which will encourage more diversity at work.

And when all this happens, it will be the single most positive outcome of an otherwise extremely painful pandemic.

I, for one, welcome the lack of lines in Workplace 3.0. And I will be watching how this plays out.

 

post-pandemic pet care

Image by Eva Blanco

Post-Pandemic Pet Care: What a Return to the Office Means for Our Pets

Returning to work soon? Ready for post-pandemic pet care? It’s time to take a look at your pet’s upcoming new normal…

The coronavirus pandemic left few areas of our lives untouched. Before March 2020, it was no big deal to head to work in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, or go out to lunch with work friends. These days, some of us only leave our homes to buy groceries or walk the dog.

It’s unclear when the pandemic will end or how the new normal will look and feel. But one thing is certain: many of us have turned to pets to help us cope. From Canada to India, demand for adoption or animal fostering has risen, especially for dogs. Between March 2020 and September 2020, foster pets in U.S. homes went up by 8%.

But as the world slowly re-opens, we’re faced with a reality we once took for granted: leaving our pets alone at home. There is no doubt: Our relationship with our pets will change – again.

Here’s what returning to the office means for our pets, what responsible pet owners can do to help their pets adjust, and how pet perks might become a new essential workplace benefit.

The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet

For many of us, our pet is our best friend. During the time of lockdown and COVID-19, when many of us were cut off from in-person interaction with our loved ones, our pets became – and still are – more important than ever.

A study of 6,000 people in lockdown in Britain, 90% of whom had at least one pet, found there are links between a person’s mental health and the emotional bond they form with their pet. Measures of the human-animal bond were stronger among those with lower mental health scores as a baseline. The strength of the bond – and the benefits derived from it – do not differ among the types of pets.

People have strong bonds with their animals, lockdown or not. But during shelter-in-place orders, those bonds help us pull through.

How Pets Help Us Cope During COVID-19

During shelter-in-place orders and months of lockdown, pets offer much-needed levity and solace. They counteract the two most significant pandemic pain points:

  1. The isolation brought on by social distancing.
  2. Worry and anxiety brought on by health fears.

Pets provide unconditional love and companionship, but they also prompt us to participate in everyday life beyond our own needs. They force us into a routine – while it would be easy to stay in bed all day if you live alone, you have to get up to feed your dog or cat. We prioritize their wellbeing and happiness, and the care given benefits us humans in the process.

Dogs get the most attention, and for good reason – they relieve stress, prod us out of our shells, and make us feel more friendly and trusting. Cats also provide much-needed resilience – one study found that cat owners were calmest during stressful tasks and made the fewest errors when their cat was present. Cats may get some grief for being more aloof than dogs, but by the same token, they offer a constant presence that can make our burdens and worries seem superfluous.

The Stress of COVID-19 for Pets

That said, while the pandemic has brought us closer to our pets, it’s also brought a lot of stress – on pets as well as humans.

On the one hand, pets love being able to spend every day with us. On the other hand, the pandemic turned their worlds upside down. Pets thrive on routine, and having their human home every day is a dramatic shift in that routine. All pets react differently, but the general shift represents a significant challenge for our four-legged friends.

Chances are, you’ve noticed the shift. Pets are needier than usual, constantly underfoot, constantly nosing us to pet them, or (in the case of dogs) barking incessantly to go outside. Once we upend their routines, pets have no clue what to expect, and so they look for our attention to relieve their own anxiety.

How to Manage Separation Anxiety When Returning to Work

The good news? Pets have had a year to get used to the new normal.

The bad news? Pets will have their routines upended all over again as re-opening picks up speed. The adjustment will be even worse for animals adopted during quarantine, who have no concept of what pre-pandemic life was like.

Here are a few ways to ease the adjustment as you prepare to go back to work.

Create a Routine

Pets thrive on a routine in much the same way kids do. The difference is that you can’t sit your dog down and explain to them that lockdown is lifting. You can’t rationalize the need to go back to work.

Instead, you have to ease them gradually into the new routine.

Think about what your routine will look like when you return to work. Then, implement the same schedule with your pet as you prepare to go back to work. That doesn’t mean you have to leave them alone for eight hours a day, but gradually easing them into the same mealtimes, playtimes, and bedtime each day will help them understand the new normal.

Practice Being Alone

A vital component of this process is to help your pet practice being alone.

This won’t be your favorite part of the process. But it’s the only way your pet will acclimate to being alone – and the idea that when you leave, you’re always going to come back. Start small. Even a trip to the grocery store for an hour is an excellent place to start. So, at least as you make this transition to post-pandemic pet care, view errands as an opportunity for pets to practice being away from you.

When you’re not around, make sure your pet has a safe haven. This is a spot in the room where your pet is most comfortable. Keep in mind that this spot may have changed in the course of the pandemic. A dog that adjusted to spending all day in the office with you, for example, will likely want to stay there while you’re gone.

Make Your Return Special

Pets – especially dogs – tend to celebrate the return of their humans. And not just because they now get to go outside or enjoy a meal. Take a few extra minutes with your pet. Let them know you’re as happy to see them as they are you. Your inbox and your cell phone will wait.

The extra time you give your pets once you’re home from work tells your pet you will return safely home each day. It also shows them that the bond established during the pandemic is real. Sure,  you are no longer spending all day with them. But they’ll understand that you need them as much as they need you.

Navigating the New World of Work and Post-Pandemic Pet Care

Navigating the world of work has been challenging – and not just for humans. We didn’t know how we’d adjust to lockdowns, and we made it work. We can do the same once the COVID crisis is finally behind us – with a little help from our pets, of course.

In anticipation of a return to the office, start planning your post-pandemic pet care plan today.

hot-button social issues

How to Discuss Hot-Button Social Issues in the Workplace

Only a generation ago, many employers skirted hot-button social issues. Their reasoning? Keep matters related to touchy subjects like politics and widespread social justice concerns at home. (Or at least the parking garage.)

While this tactic may have kept offices quieter then, workers now tend to be far more vocal. Thanks to real-time access to social media and global news while in the office, they freely share their thoughts on all topics, including the toughest ones of all. Discrimination. Race. Equality. Ageism. It’s all fair game. And each can lead to a conversation that starts simmering below the surface, affecting a company’s cultural fabric.

As an HR leader, you want to help your company deal successfully with difficult conversations. You also want to foster an environment where employees can talk about challenging topics with frankness and compassion. But where do you start? How do you encourage healthy dialogue that doesn’t cause some team members to shut down—or get heated up?

The answer is to take a multi-pronged approach, leaning into techniques that have worked for other people in your position.

Use Data to Support Future Programming

As leaders, if you want to know how your workers feel about racial and social injustice (R&SI), go to the source. Pathways at Work, a mental and behavioral health services provider,  surveyed their employees. They found that 96% were at least moderately concerned about R&SI issues.

How concerned is your workforce? Knowing this valuable information can help a company move forward with developing a comprehensive program designed to alleviate employees’ mental stress regarding R&SI, producing positive, measurable results.

One of the keys to your success is using your HR team’s data-driven process. Instead of working on a gut instinct, collect statistical evidence before proceeding. This objective process can help create the right solutions to meet your goals of a less stressed workforce.

You can’t assume to know how your employees feel about any hot-button matter. That’s why you must go to them and gauge their collective mindset. Otherwise, you might forge ahead with training or talks that aren’t relevant to your coworkers or have a false sense of urgency.

Thoughtfully Bring in Outside Assistance

Many people have set themselves up as consultants for companies that want to tackle complex topics. Before hiring anyone to lead dialogues or give lectures, get familiar with their abilities and techniques. Remember: Some teachers connect best with middle schoolers and others with college students. Consultants are no different. The consultant perfect for the company down the street won’t necessarily work for yours. Plus, some consultants have thin resumes.

If you decide you want an objective third party to lead tough conversations, do some digging. Ideally, you want to find consultants with a wealth of knowledge in the field, as well as mediation skills. Remember: The consultant will talk about serious issues that could lead to heated debates, outbursts, or emotional breakdowns. Although debate can be productive, your consultant needs to understand how to handle participants’ reactions.

A capable consultant will provide a proposal before moving forward. That proposal will give you a more robust understanding of the consultant’s capabilities, expertise, expected timelines, and objectives. You should also check out references, just as you would for a new hire. In fact, you can use your natural recruitment acumen and aspects of your in-house hiring process to pick the right outsider to help your insiders feel supported and respected.

Develop Policies and Statements Around Hot-Button Social Issues

During the summer of 2020, protests broke out across America in support of social justice for people of color. Some brands said nothing in response. Others, including large corporations like McDonald’s, made their positions undeniably clear. They stood out among other businesses that showed support; however, their response did not hold to a specific call to action. According to a letter from CEO Chris Kempczinski, the company would hold town hall meetings to hear from employees. Although including staff in suggestions for inclusion is a step in the right direction, did they really enough for such a big corporation? From one of the world’s largest employers, and one of the biggest hot-button social issues of our generation, is that a big enough call to action?

Your role in opening your office to hot-button issues can’t be a “one and done” project. In other words, you have to be willing to make changes depending on the outcomes. For instance, what if you discover through workshops that a high percentage of team members feel unsafe? You must accept the obligation to take action and reduce the tension in your teams.

Of course, you’ll need support from your organization’s upper levels of leadership to establish updated protocols that stick. Without executive support, hot-button policies tend to become “in name only” documents – employees can perceive them as shallow and unenforceable. Work hard to find champions at the top of the corporate ladder. That way, you’ll have a better chance of forming a work culture that’s beneficial for all, not just a few.

Dealing with complex social issues can be tough for any group. Exhibit patience as you navigate your workers toward a place where everyone feels appreciated. Fixing broken systems and outdated behaviors doesn’t happen within a few weeks – or even months. But in time and with attention, you’ll shape a work team unafraid to look hot-button topics in the eye.

 

Image by Joel Muniz

The Nonprofit Mindset: How This New Outlook Helps Business Leaders

With people talking about a post-pandemic restart to the economy, your business might be looking to bring in a fresh new outlook. If you’ve so far struggled to find this fresh direction in 2021, you might want to consider taking a page out of the nonprofit handbook – starting with the nonprofit mindset.

We’re not talking about changing your business model, of course. Instead, consider giving your business a unique edge in your market and make the most of limited resources by thinking like a nonprofit.

How do nonprofits do that? What measures, systems, and presentation elements are immediately transferable to for-profit enterprises? Here’s how you can think like a nonprofit to ensure your business benefits from a fresh outlook.

What Do Nonprofits Do Well?

First, let’s take a look at what nonprofits do exceptionally well.

You might think nonprofits remained focused on their mission 100% of the time. And building an operation around a force for good is undoubtedly inspiring and commendable. But many nonprofits are more than that; they’re well-oiled machines doing innovative work with a percentage of the resources’ blue chip’ organizations are able to leverage.

Most notably, nonprofits excel in:

  • Offering staff unique opportunities in the workplace
  • Developing enjoyable office and on-site working environments
  • Reacting quickly and creatively to new stories (great comms departments)
  • Diversifying their funding and revenue streams

Pick up just one of these traits by looking at nonprofit operations, and your business will gain a significant edge over your competitors.

(This Donorbox article is an excellent bit of extended reading on the signs of a successful nonprofit.)

Developing Connections and Earning Trust

Nonprofit Mindset: World Help

Image: Vet Comp & Pen

While a nonprofit user base might look a little different from your typical e-commerce store or Instagram influencer’s audience, there are many transferable methods and approaches that can help form a nonprofit mindset. Taking note of how each organization uniquely addresses its audience could inspire your next campaign or website update.

Nonprofits don’t just treat their user bases as customers but stakeholders in a mission. If their customers buy second-hand items, for example, they’re buying into that mission. If they need assistance on a personal level, they’re buying into a solution that provides them with the help they need. That greater sense of togetherness helps instill trust, as does content built around it. In other words, making people (or animals or the environment) the focus of your content (instead of your products and profit motive) is a great way to earn those users’ trust and strengthen bonds with them.

While veteran compensation consultancy Vet Comp & Pen isn’t a nonprofit, it does incorporate a nonprofit mindset in its content. Looking at their website, you quickly notice the presence of previous users/customers and their feedback. This doesn’t just reinforce the legitimacy of the company and their work, but it also strengthens the connection between them and the wider veteran audience.

It’s not enough to say you’re different; you have to prove it. And the best way to do that is by incorporating impactful testimonials into your messaging.

It’s much harder to earn the audience’s trust as a for-profit business; we’re not arguing otherwise. However, the techniques nonprofits use are hardly revolutionary. Putting typical users at the front of their web design and branding, integrating themselves into online communities, and giving them decision-making powers are all easily adoptable methods that make a huge difference.

Three lessons:

  • Make mission-focused content
  • Make your team a prominent part of your website
  • Encourage feedback from positive experiences

Creating a More Organic Social Media Presence

Nonprofit Mindset World Help

Image: World Help Instagram

You might not be much of a Tweeter or Instagrammer yourself, but you probably understand how important social media is to running a modern business. However, not everyone gets it right.

Social media is an essential tool for nonprofits. It provides an inexpensive way of getting their message and mission noticed by the right audience. For-profit enterprises should emulate this strategy to diversify their digital output without adding extraordinary costs.

Social media can feel forced, so aim for a more organic presence and growth pattern. Rather than bombard your suspected target market with ads, aim for a more natural approach and let your brand speak for itself. Look at World Help and Choose Love and how they’ve put the people they aim to help at the front and center of their Instagram output. This approach makes the content feel less like advertising and draws people in with a story.

Aim for a multi-pronged social media presence. Don’t just focus on regular posts. Use Instagram and Facebook stories, for example, to react to topical issues and events. Give your audience incentives to share content (and be willing to associate yourself with other brands by sharing their content). And use live streaming as a way of connecting directly with influential members of your online community.

Yes, these are all social media basics – but the best nonprofits are getting it right every day. With a nonprofit mindset, so will your organization.

Three lessons:

  • Don’t make yourself or your business the story
  • React to topical events on social media
  • Live stream for immediate feedback

Learning to Do More with Less

Everyone knows most nonprofits lack the spending power of major brands and corporations. People also understand nonprofits doing more with less is crucial for their operation.

This is an important lesson for every small-time startup and garage side hustle out there. You might not have the funding – but drive, solid messaging, and creative thinking can get you pretty far. Even the way these organizations structure their workdays makes an impact.

Of course, the aims of a nonprofit can help it earn media coverage and praise that a for-profit business of the same size couldn’t necessarily win. However, this should signal every small business owner that getting involved in social causes and trying to make a difference works. It is not just a way to feel good about your business; it’s a way of making an impact on a bigger stage.

Investing in charity, championing social causes, and involving your team in community projects is a great way to gain free advertising and profile building for your business. After all, doing more with less is about making sure people are taking notice of you. You could follow the thought leadership route or put all your extra cash into funding good causes. Either way will earn you unique coverage in new and old media you can turn into leads.

Of course, always remember that the idea that social media has leveled the playing field is unfounded, as a significant budget will always help brands rise to the top. However, creative use of media on a low budget can help you get noticed by people who prefer content with care applied with precision.

Nonprofits are also known for making the most of potentially outdated forms of marketing, such as print content and fundraising emails. Sign up for a couple yourself and analyze how subtle copy and well-placed CTAs help them earn donations.

Three lessons:

  • Content doesn’t always require a huge budget
  • Audiences react to interventions on social issues
  • Giving back can help you earn media opportunities

The NonProfit Mindset: Making it Work for Your Business

Nonprofit organizations excel in creating a passionate community around their work and telling insightful stories. And they do all of that on very tight budgets.

Take a deep dive into their content output. Look at how they interact with audiences through social media and email. Emulate how they structure their teams and incorporate real-world customers and stakeholders in their outreach. Gain all this insight.

Then make the nonprofit mindset work for your organization in 2021.