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6 Trends Hammering Today’s Workplace (And How Employee Surveys Help)

Today’s workplace trends continue to cause a dramatic shift for organizations, employees, customers, and suppliers. Paraphrasing the cliché, “The only real known is that change is a constant.” That’s why constant awareness of what’s going on — and adjusting appropriately — is critical.

We may not be certain of what lies ahead, but we know that six workplace trends mark the early 2020s. And we know we’d better be all over them now in preparation for what’s to come.

Agility

Three-quarters of 2,500 surveyed business leaders rank agility as a top-three priority.

Employees have their ears to the ground through their own networks, contacts with customers, experiences with processes, procedures, and management. What are they seeing and hearing? What gaps in expectations exist? Where are the opportunities for improvement?

Being able to spot patterns and shifts quickly gives leaders the agility to change tack better than less nimble competitors. And a workforce invited to share insights regularly augments the ability to act with agility.

Enabling Remote Work

Remote work stats are as trendy these days as witty memes. Studies indicate 52% of global employees work remotely once a week, and 68% do so at least once per month. Work from Home (WFM) models are relatively new. There’s the physical environment — ensuring people have the tools and resources. And there’s the mental side — specifically, providing support and resources that can help with stress, anxiety, and isolation.

We often get caught up in ensuring everyone has access to the ‘same’ or ‘equal’ opportunities. However, diverse employee populations have different experiences and different needs. While the glass ceiling impedes women and members of minorities, ‘virtual’ walls have now been added into the mix, threatening the progress of current and aspiring employees.

Are remote workers being enabled in a way that works for them — and you? The only way to know is to ask.

Prioritizing Mental Health in the Workplace

Remote workers exposed to the stress of isolation, and on-site employees faced with potential virus exposure, are projected to trigger behavioral health conditions of pandemic proportions. Exhausted, anxious, and often sleep-deprived, many people show up at work — virtually or in-person — despite mental or physical ailments. For many organizations, the result is immense productivity losses and increasing risks.

Today, employers are facing a potential mental health crisis. They need a window into employees’ hearts and minds, especially those absent from the physical work world. At the same time, it’s vital to recognize specific employee populations need more support in dealing with their personal life circumstances than others. For instance, anxiety and depression figures reported in December 2020 are higher for Latinx (46.3%) and Black respondents (48%) than the overall 42.4%average.

How do we know who needs what support? And whether it’s effective?

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

Employees have become more outspoken about the discriminatory treatment they’ve observed or experienced in the workplace. Creating a safe environment for people to speak up and feel like they belong is a hot topic among executive leaders.

Employees are your compass when navigating matters of DEI. Their insights point a way forward and help keep your organization informed and on track. But change has never been as fast and as furious — nor as forcefully dominant — as it is today. And employee sentiment is far from immune to this tide of transformation.

Reaching an intended DEI destination depends on continuously checking coordinates — the voice of employees — and making adjustments as the winds change.

Frequent Surveys

Frequently monitoring the pulse of employees is helping more leaders make the right kinds of decisions across issues like agility, mental health, DEI, and more. Here at WorkTango, more than half of the organizations we support that weren’t already offering pulse surveys or using the active listening model have started to shift how they collect input from employees. Those companies now see higher participation than ever, with many receiving upward of 85% to 90% response rates. Why? When surveys are contextually relevant to an employee’s experience, they want to give feedback.

The themes associated with frequent pulsing can be around anything – whatever’s important in the moment. It’s an ongoing process to gather and understand sentiments around all the moving parts of your organization.

The bottom line: Pulsing is a diagnostics tool that gives leaders something they can focus on—and ignites a shift from measurement to action.

Heightened Accountability

Regularly checking in to get employee feedback gives leaders a quick snapshot of whether the actions they’ve taken are working. We then inextricably link accountability with these quantitative and qualitative insights.

With more frequent measurement, leaders tend to listen more. They take steps, actively review progress, make tweaks, and cycle through the process — fine-tuning as they go. The data collected and shared puts the onus on functional leaders and hiring managers. Because seeing their survey score — how they’re trending and their own personal management results (and knowing that data is public to the executive team) — creates built-in accountability.

The thread that links these six trends?

Actively listening to the voice of employees and using scientifically validated data to guide meaningful actions.

Centralized Survey Structures in Today’s Workplace

A centralized survey tool helps your organization measure and adapt to the needs of your human capital throughout the employee lifecycle.  Whether your approach is to gather employee engagement insights annually or to run more frequent pulse surveys, a single survey platform is where the real power of data can be found.

Plus, whether giving feedback or for reporting, it’s easier for employees to use and get comfortable with one platform. So when choosing a survey tool, look for a single platform that eliminates the need for multiple vendors and the time involved to learn and support various platforms.

We’ve been going through more disruptive shifts in the last 15 months than we have in the past 15 years. To paraphrase Charles Darwin this time: “It’s not the strongest or most intelligent that survive, but the ones most responsive to change.”

For organizations, that responsiveness comes from listening to employees frequently and attentively. Using a centralized survey platform to obtain real-time insights into workplace issues that matter now — or point to potential trends and taking pre-emptive action to keep a step ahead — helps make active listening a critical element of your company culture.

 

Want to know more about WorkTango? Listen to our own Cyndy Trivella’s thoughts on this 2021 TalentCulture HR Tech Award winner:

Photo by Phive

Reality Check: 5 Business Myths Completely Busted by 2020

The year 2020 has been a watershed year. Or, as I would prefer to say (if allowed to coin a new term) – a ‘tearshed’ year. The breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted economies, businesses, and individuals at an unprecedented level. This crazy year has also completely busted many long-standing business myths.

Research conducted by the Centre for Risk Studies at the University of Cambridge took a look at the impact of the coronavirus on the global economy. The consensus projection: A loss of $26.8 trillion, or 5.3%, of global GDP in the coming five years. To make this data point more relatable, however, one needs to review it from the perspective of jobs. And this is where the numbers hit home harder. According to an ILO (International Labour Organisation) study, about 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy (nearly half of the global workforce) risk having their livelihoods destroyed. Even for the sharpest minds amongst us, to fathom the humanitarian implications of such displacement would be challenging.

Then, it is no surprise that leaders – ranging from Heads of State to religious figureheads to business leaders – have scrambled. They’ve called on all their intellectual, technological, and financial resources to rewire how we operate. What has emerged during this radical transformation? Some of society’s well-ingrained business myths have been turned on their head. Not surprisingly, given that our business and personal lives are so intertwined, these changes are being experienced across both work and life dimensions.

So, which business myths have we busted this past year?

Business Myth No. 1: The Bottomline Rules

The pressure that comes with the quarterly results cycle has kept CXOs on edge for far too long, forcing them to watch every dollar. While social causes have been the focus of many CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs over the years, the pandemic encouraged many to truly understand that in the interest of long-term sustainability, adding value to their entire eco-system was the raison d’être.

In a heartwarming move, the United States was ground zero for the ‘Together Without Hunger‘ initiative by the bakery-café fast-casual restaurant chain, Panera Bread. In association with Feeding America,  the goal is to feed half a million children and families during the US lockdown. Like many others, this organization stepped up to support the community, showing that capitalism has a heart, and not all business myths have a home in today’s corporate world.

Business Myth No. 2: Scale is King

Ever since humanity started congregating around communities and building the structure of modern-day nation-states, we have grown to believe that there is safety in numbers. The explosion of social networks with the ‘follower count’ metric fuelling the growth has further solidified this belief, at least, until now.

With the exponential spread of the coronavirus, we’ve learned that social distancing and limiting contact with others can save lives. Cocooned in their own homes, with additional time available to themselves, many have realized that it is not quantity but the quality of our relationships that is paramount. Similarly, we’re redesigning our workplaces to ensure the right balance of physical and virtual contact. Worldwide, organizations emphasize that our safety lies in our ability to be agile, not our ability to scale.

Business Myth No. 3: Size Does Matter

Maybe fifty square centimeters of cloth has become a critical weapon. A small mask now protects millions of people worldwide. Leading healthcare bodies, including the WHO (World Health Organization) – whose guidelines unequivocally mention that “Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives” – strongly advise wearing a mask.

Now as ubiquitous as the mobile phone, the mask has become an extension of our beings. (Not to mention a new addition to our daily wardrobe.) Until we welcome a vaccine, a small mask has emerged as our biggest and best defense tool. In effect, the mask has proven that size doesn’t matter. It is what role one plays that does.

Business Myth No. 4: The World is Flat

Through his 2005 bestseller book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, Pulitzer prize-winning American political commentator and author Thomas Friedman introduces us to the concept of the “flat world.” In this world, boundaries had melted, and trade flowed (almost) freely.

Today, as the world reels under the pandemic’s ravaging impact, global supply chains have been hit hard. During the middle of India’s lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Atmanirbhar’ (‘Self-reliance’ in Hindi) campaign. The initiative includes built-in incentives for Indian industry to enhance local production and reduce dependency on imports. Given the calls for protectionism in countries as diverse as the United States, Japan, and many in the EU (European Union), it is clear the world is fast developing an undulating (and perhaps self-serving) character.

Business Myth No. 5: Remote Means Distanced

As the pandemic took hold, people isolated themselves as a precautionary measure. Many leveraged video-conferencing platforms to maintain contact with their elderly parents and their social circle. Similarly, workers transitioned into a ‘work-from-anywhere’ mode to keep the engines of the economy running. Soon, they began to increasingly rely on the same platforms to remain connected to their colleagues.

If anything, humankind has realized that remote connecting can help meet much of the objectives of in-person meetings. This realization has lead us to far-reaching benefits such as a reduced carbon footprint. Bill Gates, known for being a visionary apart from his philanthropy, has already predicted that in the post-COVID-19 era, 50% of business travel will disappear.

Yes, over the past year, the changing world has completely shattered these five myths. Of course, even more will come to light as we segue into 2021.

For people who have seen their entire world changed in the span of a few months, the implications are immense. However, the dexterity with which we have accepted change shows that – like battle-hardened soldiers – we will continue to push forward against all odds. No doubt there will be scars, but they will be symbols of a victorious campaign.

 

Bali

6 Reasons to Do Away With the Nine-to-Five Workday

Is the nine-to-five workday still feasible? For some companies and some people, sure.

But at an accelerated pace, COVID-19 has altered how, where and when we work. It has also proven why the end of the nine-to-five workday may work better for companies and their employees in our climate — and beyond.

Here are six reasons your company should consider doing away with 9 to 5:

There’s Flexibility Like Never Before

Many organizations had no choice but to shift a remote workforce. That in itself shows the power of agility. Since then, employers have become more aware of the mounting responsibilities (and uncertainties) that working from home amid a pandemic brings. And therefore, they have become more accommodating of changing work schedules. They get it. They must accommodate the needs of their employees’ as well as their families.

There’s Productivity Like Never Before

According to a Citrix study, in April 2020 more than half of all countries worldwide said their productivity levels were the same or higher. That number includes more than two-thirds of the U.S. (69 percent). Employees are working more frequently in the morning and evening hours, as well as weekends — well outside the 9 to 5 bubble.

There’s Autonomy Like Never Before

We’ve all enjoying working without a manager ‘seeing’ our every move. This doesn’t mean you work less. It does not mean you put in less effort.

But it does mean you can take charge in how you operate when working from home. It means you can do so without feeling like someone is watching or micromanaging. And underscores you can have agency — and still be productive. This autonomy helps build better working relationships between managers and employees. Most importantly, it builds trust.

There’s Technology Like Never Before

We are using emojis as shorthand communications tools. We’re learning how to communicate virtually through Zoom. Seemingly each day, we’re exploring different tech and communication channels. In real-time, we’re building a remote culture while learning new skills.

And with each passing day, we’re only getting better at it.

There’s Empathy Like Never Before

According to Microsoft, 62% surveyed for its latest Work Trend Index Report said they now feel more empathetic toward their colleagues. The key factor: They now have a better view of life at home via video calls.

From the natural interruptions of WFH to the issues of internet connectivity or bandwidth, we are working together differently. We’re getting to know each other even better. Because we’re human, we’re even bring fun into the workday. Children and pets interrupt video calls. We take calls in our pajamas. And colorful filters and a picture in the video frame are common occurrences in Zoom meetings.

There’s Perspective Like Never Before

The nine-to-five workday isn’t everything anymore. Why? Because there’s more to just staying stuck inside an office. There’s a new freedom in thinking about how we want to approach work where work-life balance is possible. Sharper focus. Less commute/travel time. More exercise. Family time.

Life — not just work.

Maybe the Nine-to-Five Workday is Done

And likely, there will continue to be a blend of remote with on-site work. After all, for many members of the workforce the nine-to-five workday just won’t cut it anymore.

That’s more than a good HR strategy. It’s a great plan for our next normal. And a better life.

 

 

Photo: Joshua Coleman

Going Agile: Beyond the Buzz

“Agile” has been a buzzword thrown around Silicon Valley, startup conferences, town halls and HR department meetings for years now. Additionally, in the past several weeks we’ve heard “agile” again in large volume as companies rapidly try to adjust to remote work and the new realities we’re all living in due to COVID-19. While it’s true that adopting an agile mindset may be more valuable to companies than ever, it’s much more than successfully managing a quick transition from in-office to work from home. 

Though the idea originated way back in 2001, there still is not a widespread understanding about what agility really is, and how it can benefit organizations of all sizes — especially now. From addressing internal dysfunction to helping a business overcome competitive challenges, to coping in a world filled with VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity), embracing agility can give businesses the edge they’re looking for, ultimately transforming the way they work. 

For the transformation to be successful, however, agile has to be more than a buzzword. If it’s just showing up in memos, on Slack channels and PowerPoints or mentioned in passing at meetings, you are doing it wrong. To go from just saying or writing agile to actually being agile, you need to know where to start and what to watch out for. 

Here are four of the most common barriers experienced when trying to implement the agile mindset, and how to overcome them to become a truly adaptive organization — and thrive in these uncertain times:

If Agile Is the Answer, What’s the Question?

In my work as a Scrum Alliance Certified Agile Coach and Certified LeSS Trainer, I occasionally come across teams that want to be agile just so they can say that they are agile. I call this “agile for agile’s sake,” and it’s a big warning sign. Too often teams haven’t sharpened their focus enough before attempting to embrace adaptive practices. This can lead to confusion, frustration, and ironically, the opposite of agility. Another large warning sign is if you see heavy slide decks and best practices books popping up all over about how you’re going to become agile. They often mean that DDT (Deck Driven Transformations) is underway, as it is usually instituted by a large consultancy. When employees are still tasked to work through the controlled process of long development and feedback cycles for a project, then they are using up their valued time and resources, and a growth in documents contradicts what agile is all about!

Instead, figure out what agile will fix for your organization. It’s imperative to understand your own organization’s priorities – to know the why behind implementing agile – if you want your transformation to succeed. Otherwise, you’re just using a new buzzword, without any true meaning behind it.

Agile is an OS, Not an App

Another common pitfall I see are teams looking to jump on the “agile bandwagon” and expect it to be a quick and easy process. These are organizations looking to put a check mark next to “agile” and cross it off on its to-do list. We often see organizations “buying, unwrapping and installing” a popular, commercially available heavy framework or producing an internal over-engineered operating model that resembles a traditional model, spiced up with agile buzzwords.

But that’s not how it works. It’s not an app that you can simply download, install and be up and running on within moments. Agile is an Operating System – it will impact how everything is done (remember, the goal is transformation), and it can take some getting used to. 

Setting realistic expectations about what the agile framework is and is not, and how long it will take to transform into an adaptive organization is extremely important. Without this mindset, team members’ commitment to the transformation may wane, undercutting everyone’s efforts to evolve, as full, company-wide buy-in is necessary for success. 

Swim a Lake, Don’t Boil the Ocean

Another problem I’ve seen when working with companies looking to embrace agile is starting off too broad and shallow – looking to overhaul everything at once. Instead, I recommend focusing narrowly but going deep in specific areas, and then expanding, for example, like in Large Scale Scrum, where the idea is to descale an organization, in order to scale agility. The bigger the organization, the more important this is. 

To do this, identify a product or function where impact can be felt in real terms quickly. This is your best bet about where to start. Oftentimes, HR is a great department to include in an agile transformation. This is because HR policies are incredibly important, as it involves changing the way employees are treated.

It is interesting, however although maybe not surprising, lean companies are having a less painful experience adjusting to the unprecedented conditions we’re currently in, because being lean helps with adaptive-ness (agility), and it is based on the degree of organizational “descaling.”

Urgency as the Catalyst to Change 

Finally, in my experience, there needs to be a sense of urgency for an agile model to really take hold and thrive within an organization. The team must know and feel that something is fundamentally broken, and that embracing new practices and methods is essential to survival. Without the understanding that something must be fixed, the likelihood of a successful transformation is significantly lower. This is because those without a sense of urgency are resistant to change.

This is true from the top to the bottom of an organization. Without buy-in from the entire team, creating real change, real transformation is impossible. When it comes to senior leaders, getting them engaged and invested can make all the difference. 

Contrary to how you may have heard the word “agile” used previously, it’s not about cutting costs. That has never been the primary goal of being an agile company. Agile is about moving beyond the buzzword to become more adaptive and nimbler. This allows a company to transform the way it works fundamentally, innovate quickly and ultimately become more competitive. This ability to adapt and innovate has never been more important than it is today, where the entire fabric of work is changing with unprecedented unemployment and entire industries turned upside down by the pandemic. The businesses that can adapt fast will have an edge on those that are moving slowly: ultimately, the faster you can adapt, the more economically feasible your business is in our rapidly changing world.

The Resiliency of Wishing Them Well

“Spirits turned bitter by the poison of envy
Always angry and dissatisfied
Even the lost ones, the frightened and mean ones
Even the ones with a devil inside

Thank your stars you’re not that way
Turn your back and walk away
Don’t even pause and ask them why
Turn around and say goodbye

All that you can do is wish them well…”

Neil Peart, “Wish Them Well”

Here there be haters. It’s unavoidable. It’s inevitable. It’s sadly undeniable when it happens, because it will. You may love what you do, and love many with which you do it, and where you do it, but at some point there be haters, especially when you’re succeeding.

And even when you’re not.

There are those who, for whatever reason, don’t want you or your peers and colleagues to make any mojovational magic. Maybe they’re bitter about their own failures, down on their luck because they’re out of work or in between gigs. Maybe they were laid off, fired, or quit for some entrepreneurial endeavor that went to nowheresville. Maybe they feel screwed by someone else and want to pay it forward. Maybe their personal life has hit the proverbial crapper, the stink of it permeating every other pore in the world around them.

Most of us have been there, am I right? I know I have. Not proud at all of past reactionary backlashes and cynical rehashes.

But on any given day, we do need to be challenged – we’re our own worst enemy when it comes to self-assessment and judgement. Our bright ideas, our hopeful business models, all things world of work need to be poked and prodded and vetted for reliability, validity, viability, agility and resiliency. That’s why we have VC’s, critics, analysts, therapists, board members, consultants, friends and family.

And there’s a big difference between challengers and haters, the former being of the more resilient stock.

Wait, there’s that word again — resiliency. Before this week I’ve been so fixated on the “engagement” factor and many other business buzz words that not once had I considered the “r” word. Until I came across the work of Michael H. Ballard.

A man who had a head injury at age six that caused him to struggle in the classroom.

A man who was robbed by a motorcycle gang at 19.

A man who battled a serious chronic illness for 12 years.

A man had a seven-year battle with two bouts of cancer and an emergency midnight surgery to save his life.

A man who now talks of resiliency and how workplace cultures can create more productive and safer environments. The fact that resiliency can be learned; that it’s a process, a belief system and a skill set; that it’s a top-down, bottom-up and side-to-side cultural process for every organization.

Because without resiliency, the ability to bounce back from life’s everyday obstacles and overwhelming adversities would be a daunting task. I’m sure he’s not the only coach and mentor talking about it, but he is the first one I’ve come across of late.

We carry a lifetime of experiences with us like excess weight around our hearts we can never quite shed, a weight that restricts our breath at the most inopportune times.

My weight included an abusive alcoholic birth father and an abusive crazy first step-father, the epitome of the broken, angry and selfish male. Thankfully I had a loving mother and second step-father I ended up calling Dad (God rest both their souls), and I learned to overcome that internal gravity at home and at work and become a loving, resilient husband, father, friend, colleague, manager and life leader who leads with levity and an open heart. Most of the time.

But who cares, right? What a bunch of softy self-serving hooey, right? What if you didn’t have similar traumatic experiences? What if you’re just friggin’ trying to make a living and find some semblance of a career you can call home, not to mention someone to maybe share it with? Not everyone has such a struggle, but everyone can and should learn to be resilient because everyone does usually fail to succeed at some point.

It’s unavoidable. It’s inevitable. It’s sadly undeniable when it happens, because it will.

Here there be haters, and no matter how much you want to hate back, you should learn to:

  • Detach. Practicing detachment from the things and people we can’t control at all is key, but that doesn’t mean without empathy. Having empathy is the very essence of self-awareness and being human, which doesn’t mean you feel sorry. You forgive, but you don’t feel sorry for – because you’ve been there on some level and know what comes around goes around.
  • And walk away. Not everyone in your life and your “world of work” will be as resilient — i.e., the “haters.” Wish them well, work around and walk away. This doesn’t mean you’re giving up without a fight. Think of haters like bears sneaking into your campsite. They’re hungry and angry and frustrated and have only one thing on their minds – eat and satiate. Now. Everything else is inconsequential.

And that’s why you don’t feed the bears. Walk away and wish them well. That’s living a life of resiliency.

I’ve got your back.

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc