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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.

 

How to Make Virtual Meetings Immersive Without Video

For many of us, virtual meetings have become the lifeblood of remote working communication. COVID-19 has made face-to-face meetings the exception rather than the rule. But the recent surge of digital collaboration tools has made remote teamwork much easier to manage. 

However, the global switch from physical to digital has pushed us into new networking territory– complete with its own footprint of pros and cons. 

Virtual meetings make us more productive and efficient employees. But too much time on a shared screen can also contribute to anxiety, emotional exhaustion, and fatigue. 

In fact, 49% of employees report feeling a high degree of exhaustion after video calls. This state of exhaustion is dubbed “Zoom Fatigue,” and it’s affecting a large percentage of the working population. 

So, how can remote teams continue to collaborate productively without causing a backlog of exhaustion? 

Well, we can start by conducting virtual meetings without video. It might not work for every team, but trying new methods of virtual collaboration is key to finding one that works for yours. 

Video Versus Audio-Based Virtual Meetings

For most people, virtual meetings are somewhat synonymous with a video presence. And there’s a good reason why—video calls are the closest we can get to person-to-person communication. Seeing the faces and expressions of colleagues helps us to understand them better. And this contributes to more effective communication. 

However, at a time where stress and anxiety levels are reaching an all-time peak, shifting how we communicate is essential to resisting burnout. If switching the camera off allows us to feel more at ease, it may be in our best interest to do so.

That being said, both video and audio-based virtual meetings arrive with their own list of pros and cons. 

So, what are they? Let’s look at video first. 

Pros And Cons of Video-Based Virtual Meetings 

Video-based meetings are the standard expectation for digital collaboration in 2022. They enable us to view the expressions and mannerisms of colleagues, promoting trust and empathy. 90% of employees feel they can get their point across more clearly via video, and 35% say it makes them feel more included. 

The caveat with video-based virtual meetings is the toll it takes on mental and emotional health. Being on call throughout the day is exhausting, and it has a negative impact on productivity. 63% of employees say that they now attend more meetings over webcam than they did pre-pandemic. 

Self-identified introverts in particular struggle with this. 2-3 hours of their day is now funneled into forced social interaction. Even for extroverts, the pressure to perform socially can become immensely taxing over time. This, in turn, can contribute to burnout, which is not healthy for personal or professional growth. 

Pros And Cons of Audio-Based Virtual Meetings

In 2021, only a handful of virtual meetings were being conducted on an audio-only basis. This is partially due to the wide availability of high-functioning video collaboration tools. Notably, it’s buffered by the impressive productivity statistics that video boasts. 

However, audio-based virtual meetings could be the (not so) silent hero of remote working communication. Not only are the apps cheaper and more accessible for those without high-quality webcams, but they also liberate workers from the anxiety of social interaction. 

Reduced eye contact, decreased cognitive load, and lack of viewing one’s own face makes audio-based collaboration much easier to process. Cutting down on the visual sensory element can allow us to focus better and preserve more energy for productivity. 

Bearing all that in mind, the reality is that audio-based virtual meetings are less familiar to us than their video alternative. For that reason, knowing how to conduct one in a way that is still immersive and productive can be a challenge. 

How To Conduct Productive and Effective Audio Meetings

Despite the benefits that come with audio meetings, conducting them in an efficient way requires a different set of tactics than their video counterpart. Because there are no visual aids, whoever is conducting the audio meeting needs to put emphasis on vocal communication. 

Being clear, concise, and continuously open about meeting progression is paramount to running a successful audio-based virtual meeting. Here are some more helpful tips:

1. Eliminate distractions. 

Because there will be no visual element for team members to focus on, all other distractions must be eliminated. If you’re trying to conduct an audio meeting in a loud or chaotic environment, extracting information from it will be very difficult for listeners. 

Aim to conduct your meeting from a quiet and undisturbed room, and encourage your team members to do the same. 

2. Have an agenda. 

It can be easy to lose track of where you’re going in a meeting without a proper agenda. Creating a list of key points to focus on will help both you and your listeners concentrate better. Make sure to have a clear objective for the meeting so that others can follow you towards it. 

Adding this type of structure to your audio-based virtual meeting will encourage focus and motivation from beginning to end. 

3. Track and summarize progress. 

If you’re tackling a particularly complex topic, regularly reflecting on what’s said is crucial. It will help attendees to better grasp what you are saying. Breaking down the meeting into distinct sections will encourage comprehension and provide others with an easy way to track the flow of conversation.

You want those partaking in the meeting to maintain a constant grasp of what you are saying, and tracking progress is one way to do that. 

4. Set a time limit (and stick to it). 

Nobody likes a never-ending virtual meeting. In fact, sessions that last longer than the stipulated time frame are considered by many to be the worst quality a meeting can have. Let’s avoid that. 

Holding attendees captive for longer than they bargained for will only cause them to lose interest. Setting a time limit beforehand and sticking to it displays respect for the attendee’s time. Additionally, it makes the whole process less stressful for everyone. 

5. Don’t stray off topic.

While we’re discussing respect for attendee’s time, remember not to waste theirs by talking about unrelated topics. The energetic bandwidth for virtual meetings is strained enough. But rambling on about irrelevant matters will only make it worse. 

When conducting a meeting without video, staying on topic will allow attendees to remain immersed in what you are saying. 

6. Invest in a quality microphone. 

Because your voice will be the sole form of communication, it needs to be heard loud and clear. Think of it like a branded logo. It needs to make an impact and people need to immediately take note of your message. Investing in a good quality microphone will allow others to understand what you are saying without question. Plus, it will help to avoid miscommunications. 

There are plenty of affordable microphones designed for this exact purpose. Owning one will only add value to your future meetings—both audio-based or otherwise. 

7. Allow time for questions.   

It’s always a good idea to leave space towards the end of a virtual meeting for questions. It prevents misunderstandings and provides attendees with the space to voice their queries one at a time. Without a designated time for questions, a meeting can quickly turn chaotic. 

Chaos is the last thing you want for an audio-based virtual meeting. Structure and orderliness are where purely vocal meetings thrive. 

8. Stay professional. 

Casual meetings have their time and place, but professionalism is important when it comes to mandatory group meetings. Chances are the people attending your meeting are already battling fatigue. So, keeping things straightforward is in everyone’s best interest. 

Staying professional, calm, and to the point is the best way to conduct an immersive and engaging audio-based virtual meeting. 

Is Audio Conferencing the Way Forward? 

The answer to this question greatly depends on the nature of your team. Clearly, there are pros and cons to both video and audio-based virtual meetings. The best one for your team is largely dependent on their personal and professional needs. 

For example, the success rates of joint video conferences are much higher for large teams of people. Audio, on the other hand, has proven very effective for small groups. This is due to the fact that audio-only meetings can become chaotic when too many people (and voices) are present. 

Furthermore, audio-based virtual meetings have proven to be less exhaustive for remote employees. And they can contribute to better mental health. Having the option to unplug from video communication helps us feel less anxious and more in control of our workdays. 

Ultimately, it is important to remember that each remote team comprises unique individuals that require different things for productivity. 

Summary

Since 2020, virtual meeting platforms and workplace collaboration tools have received a huge increase in attention. They’ve changed the way we work and the way we communicate in so many ways. Right now, many research projects are being conducted on the nature of their effects on our mental, emotional, social, and motivational health. 

Remote working culture is here to stay. The platforms that sustain it must adapt to meet our personal and professional needs. 

Nobody should have to commit to a culture that depletes their energetic resources—even for the sake of productivity. Burnout is a real threat to the working population of today, and any methods for lightening the load should not be taken lightly.

Adrien Olichon

[#WorkTrends] The Inspiring Power of AI-Driven Collaboration

How can AI-driven collaboration help extend our company culture to the remote workplace?

You don’t want to miss a single episode of #WorkTrends…  subscribe to the podcast now!

At TalentCulture, we have always been a remote workplace. So lately, I’ve found it really interesting to work with companies that are experiencing this for the first time. It’s been fun, and inspiring, watching them pivot so quickly — and to see them function so well within the digital workspace we already knew so well.

For these and so many others, the many actions and interactions that happen within organizations have shifted to remote. Communication, meetings, feedback, managing, planning — all now happen virtually. It’s been really exciting to see work teams make the transition and thrive, especially in the HR space. In the last few months, I’ve often felt the urge to virtually pat HR teams on the back as they realize they can, in fact, run HR remotely. As they do, they’re not just learning a new way to operate.

They are learning that Artificial Intelligence, or AI, plays a huge role in how they manage, monitor, measure, and lead their efforts.

Our Guest: Guibert Englebienne of Globant

That is why I invited Guibert Englebienne, the Chief Technology Officer & Co-founder of Globant, on this week’s edition of #WorkTrends. I wanted to talk about how AI-driven collaboration enables us to manage our work and engage our people in entirely different ways. And how the best forms of AI enable us to work together efficiently and creatively from anywhere in the world. 

I first asked him what makes today’s workplace so different from past versions. His response quickly left me impressed with Guibert’s passion for his work, and for helping HR teams: “Technology has accelerated the world we live in today. That fast-paced competition has made companies focus on delighting consumers. Now it’s time to delight employees as well.”

“The pandemic forced us to digitally transform the world overnight. Organizations suddenly found themselves in a broadly remote working environment. That creates a lot of challenges,” Guibert added. “It was natural, at some point, to start asking, ‘Is our team okay?’ and maybe even ‘Is it there?’ When we were at the office, we could see each other’s eyes. We could see if someone was okay. And very suddenly, that all went away.”

The Power of AI-Driven Collaboration

As we’ve talked about many times within the TalentCulture community, the human connection isn’t all that went away. We also lost our connection to our company cultures. Guibert agreed, “We knew we needed to continue hiring and growing without the ability to live and breathe our culture. So, we at Globant set out to digitalize our culture.”

As Guibert admitted, this was a real challenge. “Soon, though, using AI-driven collaboration, we realized we had created a social operating system that allowed for a more human organization. One in which we each connect to more people. We get to know them better. And at the same time we create a lot of collective intelligence for the organization, which allows us to be more adaptable.”

A Human-Centered Operating System

Guibert went on to tell us exactly how Globant created this human-centered operating system. He also shared how AI plays a major role in creating a culture that inspires while also helping decide exactly what kind of organizational culture we want to build. The conversation, while it left my head spinning a bit, made me realize just how far we’ve come since the pandemic started and just how far we can still go. You don’t want to miss a minute of this episode of #WorkTrends!

We’re not done talking about AI-Driven collaboration yet, though. Please join us next Wednesday, October 7th at 1:30pm for a special #WorkTrends Twitter chat. During what is sure to be an inspiring conversation, Guibert and the Globant team will help us answer these questions:

Q1: Why do organizations struggle with team collaboration?

Q2: How can AI-driven tools help boost creativity?

Q3: How can leaders use AI-driven tools to boost company culture?

I’ll see you there!

 

Find Guibert Englebienne on Linkedin and Twitter.

 

This podcast was sponsored by Globant.

 

Editor’s note: #WorkTrends podcasts and also our Twitter chats have evolved to better meet your needs! For details, check the new FAQ page. And to see upcoming event topics and guests, check the calendar listing on the #WorkTrends Podcast page.

 

Photo: Christina @ wocintechchat.com

WFH Employees: How to Keep Them Safe

In some countries, as lockdown measures continue to ease, businesses are opening and employees are heading back to work. But some of us are still working from home — a policy that has become the ‘new normal‘ and may continue for millions of people, even in the wake of the pandemic.

Companies need to make sure their employees still feel safe and connected at home to avoid WFH burnout. Here are some effective ways to make physical and mental safety and employee well-being a top priority:

Let’s dive in!

1. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

When it comes to working remotely or working from home, communication is key. According to a Buffer survey, 20% of remote workers struggle with communication.

Providing several communication channels can enable the company and employees to stay in touch. An HR manager can run conference calls (both video or audio) to help bring teams together and keep them aligned on projects. One-on-one calls are more personal and can give employees a way to reveal any struggles or concerns.

Not only does communicating make employees feel safe and connected, but it also helps them feel valued — even when they can’t draw on the support of an office or workplace environment.

2. Adjust Company Policies

With the pandemic still raging, we’re not quite at “business as usual” yet. So, it’s crucial to adjust or revise company policies and continuity plans to better protect your employees and meet their needs. Flexibility is key: more than two-thirds of employees say at a loss of flexibility would convince them to find another job. WFH security guidelines can ensure that employees can use their own devices without worrying about their data getting leaked or hacked.

As you anticipate your business demands, use workforce management software to unlock your workforce’s potential and keep employees from feeling overwhelmed. Adjust your policies regarding benefits, pay, sick leave, and paid time off to fit the circumstances.

3. Provide Team Building Activities

Since working from home isn’t the easiest task for some employees, it’s important to help them manage stress levels and feel connected to each other. One effective approach is to strengthen teamwork at the same time with team building activities, such as icebreaker or informal video conference calls. Consider movie nights, or get-togethers to just talk about life.

 Such activities can help employees not only decompress, but build their sense of personal connection and trust. 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very crucial” to strengthen employees’ work relationships and overall efficiency.

4. Promote Fair Workplace Practices

Make sure your WFH policy aligns with the company’s principles and maintains fair treatment for all employees. 54% of employees rank fair treatment as the second most valuable employer attribute, a strong factor in a decision to stay or leave.

Double-check that all employees have equal access to the company’s services, such as the devices they need to work remotely, such as laptops, internet connection, and cybersecurity. And extend sick or paid leave policies to employees even when they’re working from home. 

5. Reward and Recognize Employees

When remote employees feel valued and safe, they are free to be productive, and get their projects done effectively and efficiently. They may be working remotely, but they feel appreciated and acknowledged. Over 79% of employees who feel under-appreciated consider quitting their job — and this is going to extend to employees working from home as well. 

Build employee engagement with rewards and recognition — even just a note recognizing their efforts can go a long way.  

Whether your employees work from home occasionally or exclusively, it’s always important to make them feel safe. Support them, engage them, and you’ll see the results.

Photo: Waldemar Brandt

#WorkTrends: Mapping the Future of Workforce Skills

We’re learning that the term social distancing may not be precisely right — physical distancing is more like it. Socially, we’re finding all sorts of ways of staying close. The same is true with the term “soft skills.”

As this week’s #WorkTrends guest and workforce expert Angela Maiers noted, “You could call them power skills more than anything. These are the power competencies that allow you to succeed, your team to succeed, your company to succeed — in a crisis or not.”

An edupreneur, author, and founder of the global nonprofit Choose2Matter, Angela Maiers had a frank discussion with Meghan M. Biro on why these skills are so important. Angela talked about how these skills have to be developed habitually, but can and should be identified, supported, and refined. Key among them, she noted, is being self-aware — in the context of everyone you work with. “You have to understand how you not only fit in, but how you advance as a team,” and recognize “other people’s diverse competencies.” 

People need the tools, development, and time to fully cultivate their life kit of essential “people” and human skills, she noted. But given the current time we’re all working in — where we’ve had to jump into remote competencies faster than you can type in a meeting ID, what if we don’t have the luxury of time? We may have to problem-solve to tackle very different challenges in the near future, Meghan pointed out — if the nature of the evolving crisis happening today is any indication. 

We all need to be able to handle VUCA, Angela said — “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.” That goes double for today and tomorrow’s leaders. “When you look at a leader that provides a place of not just security… but there’s a calmness around them, there’s hopefulness, there’s resourcefulness around them — those are the leaders that stand out.” Meghan noted that this particular mindset was likely going to be in high demand.  

So can we learn this? Meghan asked. And do we all learn it the same way? “One of the points causing confusion is that we think of skills as masterable segments, but they’re far more than that,” Angela said. “Building a habit is different than mastering a skill. You don’t get a percentile grade.” And since everyone has different competencies, their learning curves are also different — likely more easily addressed by modern learning platforms that can meet the needs of each learner.

We all need to be channeling VUCA now, Meghan noted. And we need to remember that at the core, these “power skills” are really human skills. We’re going to need them all to adapt to the workplace of the future, she said. Life skills are the new power tools.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are soft skills necessary skills in the workplace? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can help organizations better develop soft skills in their workforce? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders help their organizations focus on essential soft skills for the future? #WorkTrends

Find Angela Maiers on Linkedin and Twitter

The Results of a Remote Work Experiment

Remote work has always been a heavily debated topic, especially among HR professionals, who frequently face challenges that relate to employee productivity and development. There’s pressure to figure out how employees can achieve peak performance, and how managers can enable productivity.

At Bynder, we’re always looking for ways to spark creativity and enhance productivity, and this past summer was no different. For the second year in a row we held a global Remote Week, where we closed all of our offices and encouraged employees to work from anywhere. Bynder launched its first Remote Week for two reasons:

  • To encourage employees to actually use their benefits, and not be afraid that management will look down on them for doing so. Benefits like unlimited vacation time and the ability to work from home look great on paper, but there’s a hesitancy (especially in the U.S.) around actually using them.
  • To test the power of our tech stack, and learn more about how collaboration within Bynder works and what we can do to make working remotely an even better experience.

Bynder is a global company, with more than 350 employees spread across seven global offices. From Amsterdam to Boston to San Mateo, our company is connected around the clock. Working remotely has always been a part of our culture, but for the most part, our employees tend to work out of our offices. Nearly 60 percent of our employees reported that working remotely was not a part of their regular schedule.

After a successful first edition of Remote Week, we knew it was something we should try again, while taking into consideration the lessons we learned. For example, our employees missed having spaces to meet, so this year we partnered with WeWork to offer a place they could go to meet with co-workers.

This year our employees worked from all over the place. One employee said Remote Week allowed him to rediscover Amsterdam, as he was always in search of new spots to work from. Another felt it was the perfect opportunity to schedule visits and meetings at clients’ offices.

After running a company-wide experiment and survey, a few key takeaways emerged. The reality is there’s never a great time to be out of the office, especially at a fast-growing company. But that doesn’t mean employees should feel chained to their desks. Some people work best when surrounded by lively co-workers, while others prefer a quieter space. Embracing remote work is more than just telling your employees to work from home. There needs to be a structure in place for them to do so, and employees should feel encouraged to utilize the benefits that are offered to them.

Employees Felt Happier and More Productive

Seventy percent of our employees said they felt happy and relaxed when working from home during Remote Week, and nearly 40 percent said they felt more productive and focused. Those who felt more productive cited the quiet of their home and the flexibility to get things done as major benefits. For some, the office is great for collaborative tasks but too noisy or distracting for work that requires more focus.

This is one reason why workplace flexibility is so important — it’s about acknowledging that not everyone works the same way, and about finding solutions to help maximize everyone’s productivity. Sometimes you need to take a walk to ignite that creative spark and get your best work done.

Commuting Causes Stress and Wasted Time

An overwhelming number of our employees felt one of the best benefits of working remotely was that they were able to save time and money by not commuting. To many, the daily commute is an anchor on their work day, causing stress that hinders productivity — when really it should be a time to mentally prepare or debrief from the day. Our employees felt that when they didn’t have to commute, they saved hours that could be spent catching up on work, enjoying a personal hobby or being with family and friends.

Communication Is Key

As one of our employees put it, “Communicate. Overcommunicate. People can choose what they take away, and it’s better they have too much information than not enough.”

A sizeable number of our employees felt the key to building trust with team members was to communicate and be readily available. This is where the tech tools we’ve implemented at Bynder come in handy. When we asked our employees what tools they found useful to communicate, 88.5 percent cited Zoom, Google Hangouts and Slack. These are all tools that Bynder provides employees for daily use, which demonstrates how important it is to invest in tools that enable effective communication. Our employees also felt daily virtual meetups and regular check-ins were essential, and served as an alternative for the invaluable face time that usually occurs in the office every day.

A Number of Employees Missed Their Co-Workers

A good number of employees stressed the value of face-to-face communication, and felt that no tools can fully replace actually being in a room with someone. A number of employees said they missed seeing their co-workers, and felt that it was useful to be in the same room as someone when working through technical issues or brainstorming ideas. In fact, during Remote Week, 54 percent of Bynder employees actually met with colleagues in person, and 11.5 percent met with clients.

Anticipating Employee Needs Is Important

A full week of working remotely isn’t for everyone. In fact, some of our employees didn’t like working remotely. But that’s the point of offering flexible benefits — it’s all about anticipating the needs of employees and recognizing that what works for one person won’t always work for another.

Our developers are an example: One of the things they missed the most was dual monitors that were available to them in the office, but not at home. On the other hand, our sales and marketing teams had a much easier time adapting to remote work.

Ultimately, some employees thrive in an office environment, while others prefer the peace and quiet of their home to get certain tasks done. With 53 percent of Bynder employees never working remotely on a regular schedule, Remote Week either upended their workflow and pushed them out of their comfort zone, or allowed them to evaluate the way they work.

The reason we asked our employees how they felt about Remote Week is to make sure that we always strive to be better. Implementing change starts from the top, so it’s important that our leadership is as prepared as possible. While we offer all of our employees the ability to work from home, we know there needs to be a structure in place, and that’s something we’re prioritizing here at Bynder.

As we build out our remote-work policies, we’re making sure that they go beyond every individual feeling prepared. We’re going to make sure that our teams, as a whole, have what they need at their disposal. From our developers to our marketing department to our sales team, we will take different needs into consideration as we work to build out a more robust remote-work policy.

How to Move People Past an ‘Us Versus Them’ Mindset at Work

The “us versus them” mindset is alive and well in organizations of all sizes, both domestic and global. Often, this type of mindset and bias results from command-and-control leadership and legacy business models, according to the recently-published 2017 Gallup Global Workforce Study (opt-in required). Among other findings, the study reinforces that only one in three U.S. workers are engaged, interactive and collaborative in the workplace.

Why is that?

One of the root causes of employee disengagement is an “us versus them” mindset. This mindset is a subtly pervasive form of workplace bias, preventing diversity and inclusion. Not only that — this mindset holds us back from achieving peak productivity and profitability.

Over time, an “us versus them” mindset becomes ingrained as a cultural norm. Dualism is fostered instead of dialogue. But It doesn’t have to continue to be that way. By breaking down big, hairy issues into bite-sized, feasible projects, collaborative and profitable dialogues are started across the workplace. As more and more small teams create remarkable client outcomes, the rest of the workforce will want to follow suit.

If you want to move past the “us versus them” mindset, start a dialogue about the profitability of collaboration.

Yes, profitability. When you talk profitability, you have a business discussion, not just a human resources conversation. You position HR as a profit center instead of a cost center. Have the profitable collaboration conversation across the organization, not just in departmental silos.

We need enlightened HR professionals who want to lead by acting locally. But where to start? Let’s explore where to find cases of the “us versus them” mindset in your organization.

Two Classic Cases of ‘Us Versus Them’

Dueling Departments

The first scenario turns people from different departments and professional disciplines into adversaries.

All you have to do is attend your next meeting, look and listen. Sales and marketing may be at odds with engineering and operations folks, and that is the way things always seem to go. For starters, employees speak two different professional languages. Also, historically, they are not motivated to learn how to speak — and think — like their colleagues across the table.

Alternatively, the legal or finance departments show up late in the project because, historically, they are excluded from conversations “until they need to be brought in.” You know what happens next. Projects are stalled or derailed, based on a behavioral precedent that has morphed into accepted business process.

These “but we’ve always done things this way” scenarios play out in countless meetings during the course of every week. As a result, non-collaborative, unprofitable “us versus them” biases are perpetuated. Why not address the bias, collaborate and move beyond that mindset?

Knowledge Workers Versus the Rest of the Workforce

Often, an “us versus them” mindset leads to resentment of the educational “haves” by the “have nots / couldn’t affords.” And often, less-educated colleagues and workers performing rote tasks don’t have opportunities to learn and develop in order to become part of the teams working on more complex tasks. However, manual workers may be just as capable of complex problem-solving as their more-educated counterparts, given the right tools. Typically, these workforce “Cinderellas” get stuck right where they are, eventually becoming entrenched in a biased, rote workforce mindset.

On the other hand, knowledge workers often have zero interaction with workers on the assembly line or loading dock, for example. Yet, rote workers often become beta test end-users of new systems, processes and apps created by their erudite colleagues. As a result, there is very little comprehensive appreciation and knowledge of what workflow theory actually looks like in practice. Often, these processes fall short of what was anticipated.

Think about how much you could improve the outcomes if knowledge workers collaborated with those end-user line workers, sharing feedback about product and process improvement. How often does that cross-training scenario happen in your organization? It’s not that hard to accomplish.

Bring People Together

Consider what would happen if you brought together a new cast of collaborators on behalf of creating enduring client outcomes. Either they’d quickly jettison old habits and mindsets, or the project would be derailed. As a result, project goals and outcomes would take precedence over ingrained habits. Colleagues would have no choice but to start connecting the dots differently, collaboratively and more creatively.

Eventually, everyone would work outside of their “normal” behavioral comfort zones. Consequently, team members would more readily leave their bias and baggage outside the door and view the project as a professional development opportunity. Once one project is a success, the team would have new expectations about how much they should collaborate.

Want to know how to overcome “us versus them” bias? Allow teams to experience what productive and profitable collaboration feels like. Let your own organization’s engagement scorecard showcase how two-thirds of employees are engaged, for starters. Why continue to settle for anything less?

Don’t be a Joyless Leader

I remember a time in college when I returned home to visit my mom, and she told me about a troubling sight she had just seen. A school bus had stopped at a light beside her, and the faces of sullen and despondent teenagers filled every visible window.

Her voice was soaked in sadness as she explained, “They’re kids, on a Friday afternoon, going home for a long weekend. This is supposed to be an exciting and optimistic time in their lives. They shouldn’t look like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

We lived in an affluent town, and although teen angst can run deep and shouldn’t be trivialized, I doubt few on that bus had many unmet wants.

My mom recalled the joy she had felt as a young woman, enthusiastic to learn what each tomorrow held in store for her. She hinted that bringing a surplus of exuberance into adulthood is helpful because it gets harder and harder to retain or recapture that joy after prolonged exposure to the random blows life inevitably sends your way.

When you see the sad, slack, bovine expressions of listless figures through a window, or perhaps in your bathroom mirror, you’re not looking at purposeful people motivated by an exciting and worthwhile goal. You see disillusionment, worry, and fear which are horrible expressions to have painted across anyone’s face. Discouragement and demoralization do not suddenly appear. They are signs of erosion, put there by constant exposure to negative elements which rob people of their faith and ingenuity, and insidiously stifles early talent with ridicule, disdain, or worse, indifference.

Some of the teens who carried those gloomy expressions my mom saw, may have recaptured the joy and enthusiasm she spoke of, but many, dare I guess most, have not. Today, they are your doctors, bankers, teachers, professors, police officers, city planners, elected officials, cubicle dwellers and leaders influencing others, for better or worse.

People who are disillusioned, discouraged and chronically disappointed with where they are in life make lousy leaders. They can systematically erode the optimistic possibilities held by others. Sadly, with their influence they are, through ignorance more than intent, creating a new generation of lousy leaders. That cycle must stop.

I believe happiness and purposefulness come about by the active pursuit of a worthy goal, therefore if you want to be happy you should never be without a great goal.

I believe most people know what they want to contribute to society, but lack the confidence and support to pursue their dreams.

I believe great listeners create great leaders, artists, and entrepreneurs; and when you learn to listen, particularly to yourself, epiphanies become common.

I believe accountability raises both your game and your aim. You achieve more when you are held accountable for your decisions and your actions.

I believe good leadership can eradicate despondency from the faces and hearts of the disillusioned and dissipate its corrosive effect on the world at large.

Imagine if every woman, man, and child you know had at least one great goal that they were actively working toward every day? The buzz of energy produced from such productivity, collaboration, and purposefulness would do more than illuminate cities; it would illuminate minds long shrouded in a fog of doubt. It would raise hope, lift spirits, and propel those with a success mindset ever forward. To solve what others thought unsolvable. To achieve what all but a few thought unattainable. To refuse the deferment of dreams long-held, or thoughts long held silent. To try, to fail, to try again, without stigma or scorn.

It is possible.

We may not ever live in a world without conflict, but we cannot call it living if it’s in a world without goals. The best we could do then is exist, and merely existing is not good enough for me, and I doubt it is for you.

What’s your next great goal? Will you pursue it with joy?

This article was first published on Karl Bimshas Consulting.

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Employee Advocacy = Engaged Employees

A great work environment with happy employees is the start for creating sincere and enduring employee advocates. When people experience a wonderful culture in action and believe in the reputation of their company, they become your most effective spokespeople.

Why Does it Matter?

There is a lot of research out there that supports the direct correlation between employee satisfaction and its impact on customer satisfaction.  When employees are engaged advocates, they will go the extra mile for the customer, seeking out alternate and better ways to deliver service that amazes and delights. These employees don’t mind spending extra time with a customer to ensure their complete satisfaction, has been met, and are more likely to set achievable expectations for customer service delivery and timing.

Additionally, employee advocacy humanizes your brand. It puts a face to the brick and mortar of your business and allows people outside the company to better identify with your people-driven mission. It’s like word-of-mouth advertising… a very powerful weapon in the war for customer satisfaction and their dollars.

What’s in it for Employees?

Empowerment allows employees to become stakeholders by having them take part in decision-making processes. This empowerment enables them to take responsibility for their role and manage their behaviors and outcomes.  A culture of trust allows people to do their job, autonomously. Employees want to create their own successes, and with that find greater satisfaction in themselves and with the culture around them.

Feedback is a powerful tool in the workplace. It enables people to see how they contribute to the bigger picture of the organization. It’s important for each employee to see how her specific role impacts the organization. Show employees, directly, how their work is improving customer retention, profitability, or the metric that is most closely related to their position. This will motivate them in their jobs, in attainable goals, and increase their engagement.

Skills and knowledge training provides the growth and expansion employees need to keep improving and advancing in their careers. Challenge them to find learning opportunities that can be applied to their jobs and allow them to put this new-found knowledge to work. The empowerment and satisfaction they can reap from this experience will encourage them to look forward to future learnings to continue growing their skills and knowledge.

Collaboration across an organization opens the door to team spirit and engages people at a more root level because they believe every employee is approachable for conversation. Being able to collaborate on projects with colleagues will increase employee engagement, and make the projects more satisfying and effective allowing employees to ideate, give peers feedback and bring solutions to the forefront. In other words, to take ownership.

Why You Need Advocates

Employees who are advocates for their organization cast a wider net not only inside the organization but externally, as well. They reach a larger audience and position themselves as the voice of the organization. They will increase your brand engagement with potential new customers and employees, which from a monetary value, can save companies dollars in advertising and marketing promotions. As engaged employees, advocates are tremendous agents and defenders of your company’s reputation, again positioning themselves as a voice for their employer. Further, research has shown that employee advocates can increase the stock value of organizations by over two and a half times versus organizations that do not support employee advocacy and engagement.

Creating Advocacy

Focus on your culture to understand how employees view the company. To truly understand how successful an advocacy program will work, you first need to understand what people are thinking. If you guess you may guess wrong and that could produce a myriad of consequences. Leadership needs to have the courage to ask, “What do you like and dislike about working here?” This information is gold to the wise employer. With this in hand, set out to better understand what your employees are seeing and that may even include how they view the leadership within the organization. Be prepared to leave your ego at the door, as the feedback may be a wake-up call for management, but if the goal is to create a better workplace, recognition of what works and what is failing miserably must be addressed.

Communication is key here. Employees are inspired by leadership that is open and authentic with communications. Strong leadership that has a clear idea of the company’s direction will be viewed much more favorably than a waffling leader that is out of touch with the company’s mission. When communications flow back and forth between leadership and the employee population, the likelihood of misunderstandings and mistakes lessens.

Measure the results. Whenever possible, track the metrics that will gauge the outcomes of employee advocacy. For example, if increased customer retention is the goal, design a program to determine what a successful outcome will be. Communicate this goal to your employees, then provide them with the resources and opportunities to explore and expand on their knowledge and skills in support of the goal. By tracking the data, you can adjust how you communicate and incentivize your employee advocacy initiatives for future goals.

Trust and Opportunity

Organizations need to believe in their employees and want to help them to promote the organization, but first they need to give them good reasons. Pressuring them rather than encouraging them will not work. Advocacy needs to flow naturally for it to be believable. Leadership can, however, empower employees with knowledge and tools to promote the benefits. With a minimal amount of direction, companies can offer opportunities for employees to exercise their bragging rights in a public, social way. I know of companies that had business cards printed for each employee so if that person was interacting in a social setting and felt the opportunity was right, they could hand their business card to potential new customers and even use it as a referral card for job seekers.

Of course, having a set of “Do’s and Don’ts” is helpful so employees understand what would fall outside the parameters of advocacy. No organization can tolerate proprietary information being shared with people outside the company, so establishing parameters that address items such as this, is important.

The Dividends

Essentially, the value of having employees who act as brand advocates offers a value next to priceless. What better way to market your organization, espouse the features of your products and spread the word in a social manner that is much less expensive than traditional marketing and advertising.

To me, employee advocacy is when employees look forward to pitching the benefits of their organization and do it because they’re excited and energized, not because they’re specifically prompted by management. What sets these advocates apart from other employees is they’re engaged with their employer and find their workplace environment a satisfying atmosphere where communication and opportunity to grow and collaborate occur with consistency.

And most importantly, organizations need to give employees a reason to advocate for the company. An engaged employee advocate is the best bet you have for increasing customer satisfaction, and to experience business prosperity in an organic manner that is natural and unprompted. And the best aspect is, it’s one of the best methods for retaining valuable talent and attracting more of the same.

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HR Needs Collaboration More Than Ever

This post has been brought to you in partnership with Microsoft Teams.

At the core of every great organization is one important asset—people. More than any other resource a company holds, it is the talent, passion, and diversity of a company that dictates whether the organization achieves greatness or finds itself stuck in mediocrity.

To find the best talent, companies need to be savvier, faster, and more connected than ever before. Even though there may still be a pool of people seeking work, the best candidates rarely job hunt anymore. When you are great at what you do, the best opportunities usually find you.

To compete in a global economy, it’s more important than ever for HR departments to find—and win—he best talent. Meanwhile, there are a great many forces putting pressure on HR departments to be more tech savvy in order to recruit and retain that talent. Two of the biggest forces at play are remote work and social networks. Note, I say “social networks” and not “social media”—I’ll explain that more in a minute. Both of these factors can help—or hinder—HR directors, depending on how well they understand them.

Remember, great talent is often sought after and recruited away from the competition, so HR directors should focus heavily on retention. It costs less to keep a good employee than to find and onboard a new one. Various studies put the cost of replacing an employee at anywhere from 20 percent up to two times that employee’s annual salary.

For companies looking to keep the awesome talent they spent their valuable resources recruiting, they must create a strong collaborative culture and a role that is worth staying for. For instance, 42 percent of millennialsnow the largest demographic in the workforce—say they want weekly feedback. Providing such one-on-one insight, along with mentoring opportunities and focusing on a team mentality are ideal ways to create a collaborative culture in which they will thrive.

It’s also significant to note that 45 percent of millennials surveyed who are willing to leave a job said they would think about other opportunities if their current position didn’t provide a desirable career path. Couple this thought process with the generation’s ability to blend work and life in a functional way, and you have a workforce on the go that seeks stimulation and positive reinforcement. It’s one comprised of highly creative individuals who want to work with their peers, but not necessarily in the same room. The best way to provide that kind of environment? Good collaboration tools.

Collaboration Versus Good Collaboration

While collaboration technologies allow companies to communicate inside their four walls, by and large, most organizations haven’t really tapped into true collaboration. Sending messages to people across your building isn’t really collaboration. It’s just one channel of communication. When I think of collaboration, I think about a set of tools that allows people to connect seamlessly with anyone on the planet, from anywhere they are—with an internet connection, of course. It’s about the ability to share data and files, to be live on video, and to join a call via mobile device and then switch to desktop when you get back to the office. Furthermore, it is about persistent connection and asynchronous communication—meaning we connect with who we want, when we want, where we want, on any device we want. This is evident in leading UC platforms like Microsoft Teams where companies are connected ubiquitously by a vast landscape of communication tools, all connected to and compatible with the Microsoft Office 365 productivity suite. This means no switching between apps, and no compatibility issues with the software you likely use most often in a business environment. Microsoft Teams offers an enterprise-wide, functional, and practical way for employees to work all on one platform, no matter where they are or what device they’re using to access the tools.

Good collaboration sounds selfish, because it enables people the mobility and freedom to meet their own needs and connect in ways most comfortable for them. But really, it’s the most selfless method of engagement, as it offers flexibility, productivity, and innovation at rates old communication methods could never possibly achieve. And this is precisely why the HR department needs collaboration tools more than ever before. HR needs to move fast, deal with diverse work environments, and utilize the tools at their disposal not just for recruitment, but retention as well. Let’s talk a bit more about why HR Tech needs seamless collaboration and how today’s technology tools like Microsoft Teams can help.

Three Reasons HR Tech Needs Collaboration

  1. Remote and Flex Work: Companies are now hiring the best talent from all over the world. Just because someone can’t come into the office doesn’t mean they can’t work as productively as those who do. It is critical that the HR department offers a collaborative environment for all employees and candidates. From day one it should be easy to speak to recruiters, hiring managers, and those influencing the hiring decision.Millennials who have been using smartphones throughout their adult lives expect technology and collaboration in the workplace. In fact, in one survey, 41 percent of millennial workers said they would rather communicate electronically than face to face or via voice calls. Microsoft Teams makes it easy to share resumes and other documents on the popular Office 365 Word platform, make notations on those documents, and share them with a group. By providing this early proof of a collaborative workplace, HR can give candidates confidence in the company’s use of technology. And it will enable those in charge of hiring to engage the candidate strategically. It’s a win-win.
  2. Social Networking: I spoke earlier about the need for companies to move fast. Today we often find the talent we are looking for right within our social networks. However, the shift from interest to conversation can be slow. “Let’s set up a call,” sounds like the typical process. But what about instantaneous action? Or even back channeling contact info to other decision makers in the chain? By collaborating through Microsoft Teams, you can invite someone into Microsoft Teams, begin chatting individually or within a group that includes the candidate and decision makers in your organization, and even jump on a voice or video call using Skype for Business through in seconds.

This process is not about social media—the channel by which information is often spread—but really about expedience within the social network. It’s the ability to grab an interested candidate, and to quickly chat with other decision makers, in order to move things forward faster than the competition can.

  1. Employee Retention: I can’t stress enough the importance of retention. The best talent will always have options, and they will be pursued by companies who seek to work with the best. Keeping your best talent must be a priority. Collaboration tools aid retention, because they help create happy workers by offering flexibility and fostering innovation in the workplace. In fact, 93 percent of millennials said that up-to-date technology is one of the most important aspects of a workplace; 77 percent said “sub-optimal application performance” affected their productivity. Having an enterprise-wide tool that operates on any device with internet access and encourages communication, teamwork, and innovation can help create a collaborative culture within your organization. And that can make the difference between retaining a great employee or watching them get poached by the competition.HR should lead the discussion when it comes to deciding on the tools used within a company to keep employees, management, and customers closely connected no matter what their geographical limitations may be. Tools like Microsoft Teams, which makes it easy to chat, have face-to-face calls, and share documents and ideas, enable and encourage better, faster, more seamless collaboration.

As we head into the future, no matter how advanced technology becomes, a company’s ability to survive and thrive will come down to the talent that they recruit, hire, and retain. With trends like remote work, flex work, and social networking impacting the future of work and the HR Tech space, the companies embracing end-to-end collaboration solutions will be in the strongest position to find and keep the talent that sets them apart from the competition.

Ready to Get Started?
If you are an Office 365 User and you are interested in learning more about how to get started with Microsoft Teams, Microsoft offered this nice simple tutorial.

This article has been brought to you in part by Microsoft Teams. The opinions belong to the author. For more info check out the launch insights from Microsoft

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8 Ways HR Teams Can Use Tech to Encourage Productivity

Human resource professionals play a crucial role in a business’s success. From designing effective training programs and ensuring a fair hiring process to strategic roles, quality HR is a key aspect of a smooth-running business.

One of the most important roles of an HR professional in 2017 is implementation of new technology within an existing organization and structure. Specifically, in addition to using technology to improve the role of HR itself, HR can incorporate technology to encourage companywide productivity.

Here are eight ways HR teams can use tech to encourage productivity in business.

  1. Streamlined Recruiting Process

Recruiting software can help streamline the hiring process for a business.

From one portal, HR can sort and accept applications, post job ads, manage prospective hires and communicate with upper management on prospective hires. This can save enormous time, compared to tracking hundreds of job applications manually. There are a wide variety of recruiting software options, catered to both small and big businesses alike.

  1. Easier Payroll Processing

Without technology, payroll processing can seem like a nightmare. A single mistake could cost the company significantly. Perhaps more than any HR aspect, technology and software is essential for more efficient and accurate payroll processing.

In addition to making human mathematical errors obsolete, an online payroll service can keep track of deductions, paid time off, paychecks and various aspects of payroll. It also makes filing taxes at the end of each year much easier, since all information is available digitally and is easily sortable.

  1. More Honest Feedback

Company culture is a big part of its success, with research showing that a positive culture boosts performance. A big part of striving toward a great company culture, as well as maintaining it, is transparency and honesty regarding any issues. Employees who are concerned about sharing feedback in fear of repercussions may be holding back vital information that can improve the company.

As a result, HR can use technology to allow for anonymous feedback from employees. Software like TINYpulse enables HR to gather anonymous feedback to gauge employee happiness, while using actionable data to help build a healthy culture. It’s a great tool for fostering a positive company culture, which is a huge part of a successful HR team.

  1. Easier Collaboration

HR departments that incorporate content management software and informatively acquaint employees with it can attain more streamlined collaborative practices.

Content management software allows most employees, or certain selected employees, to gauge the status of a project or task. They can see precisely where they are in regard to the project and what tasks they have left to complete. This can save on time and back-and-forth emails of clarification.

  1. Increased Access to Meaningful Data

With certain tech, HR professionals can give other employees access to meaningful or informative data that can make them better at their jobs. In fact, 80 percent of all data in any organization is unstructured, which is a wasted opportunity for informational efficiency.

Technology like Sapho enables HR to provide access to a variety of data, while still keeping access secure so only those permitted can see it.

  1. Less-Cluttered Employee Onboarding

New employees are obligated to fill out a variety of papers, such as W-4 and I-9 forms. This can create clutter, especially if there’s a wave of new employees.

To increase productivity of HR and new employees alike, using employee onboarding software can help the workers complete paperwork before their first day in the office. This way, they can focus on being welcomed and training on the first day instead of doing annoying paperwork.

  1. Automated Time and Labor Management

There’s no need for traditional clocking in with today’s software. HR can implement automated time and labor management software to make attendance more efficient, while also making it essentially impossible for someone else to check in for an absent co-worker.

The same software can be used to adjust schedules on the fly, preventing scheduling and time mishaps, which improves productivity in the process.

  1. Benefits Management

Full-time employees have a number of benefits that both they and HR must keep track of. Technology can aid in educating employees on their benefits, especially in regard to cumbersome processes like enrollment periods and carrier systems.

Benefits administration software helps both the employee and HR ensure all paperwork for certain benefits are filed, while also informing and educating on what these benefits provide.

These are eight areas that can be streamlined and made more productive by a savvy HR team that recognizes the vast potential and benefits of tech.

Which would you implement first?

 

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Give Employees The Gift Of Well-being

Undoubtedly, a sense of well-being is one of the precious joys of living. It’s foundational to who we are and what we do. This important underpinning sets us up for success… or failure.

As a business owner, I appreciate the well-being of my employees and understand the value of helping them stay mentally focused, for many reasons, including how well-being affects attitude which in turn affects productivity. There are a variety of ways which companies can contribute to employee well-being.

Pet-friendly Environment

I am a proponent of animal rights so with that, acknowledge the value of my pets and having them with me at work. The benefit of a pet-friendly workplace is becoming recognized by many companies, because the advantages outweigh the cons. According to researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business, it was discovered that pets in the workplace actually create a buffer between stressful situations, boost employee morale and increase productivity. Further, in a separate study conducted by Central Michigan University, researchers found that when dogs were present at team meetings, people expressed a greater desire to collaborate and were motivated to find reasons to trust in their fellow collaborators. These are just two studies, there are many more that corroborate these findings.

Note, it’s also important to be sensitive to employees who have health issues or sensitivities to animals, so be cognizant of their needs before implementing a program of this nature.

Flex Hours and Remote Work

Acknowledging that your employees have a full life that includes activities outside of work is a reality smart companies recognize. For example, many people have personal obligations that may conflict with a work schedule of 8am to 5pm, but with some adjustments can still work a full day with different start and stop times.

Flex hours also accommodate individuals who may have special needs. It opens the door to people who may not otherwise have opportunity to be productive, contributing employees. As stated by Denise Tsukayama, Equal Opportunity Officer/ADA Coordinator for the City and County of Honolulu, “While flexwork / telework may be an effective reasonable accommodation for some employees with disabilities, more importantly these accommodations can broaden our efforts in fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce.”

Additionally, not everyone is a “morning person” and with that may have different high productivity times of day. Undoubtedly, all companies want maximum output from their employees, so understanding that all people have a different productivity cadence can save companies millions of dollars a year by simply adjusting employee work hours to coordinate with their high-producing hours.

Some jobs and projects are very focus intensive and with that may be more costly or timely for an organization. Having your employees full attention and focus riveted at these times, can be critical to the success and ultimately to the bottom line of the company.

Work-day Breaks

Workday breaks can offer your employees a short respite to regroup and refocus their energy. Workplace specialists (i.e., ergonomic specialists and organizational psychologists) believe there is a benefit to taking a short break prior to starting a long and complex project. The break gives people a chance to mentally close the work just finished and begin a new project with a clean slate. In terms of productivity, this is a way to jump start a new effort without having a prior work project still looming in the back of the employee’s mind.

Going out to lunch is an extended work-day break with its own set of benefits. In addition to offering a change of venue, this is a great time for a vigorous workout, a leisurely walk, or even a chance to run personal errands. Lunch breaks outside of work, allow people to decompress, listen to music, chat with a fellow walker, or interact with people outside of their place of employment. Companies can help make lunch breaks extra fun by incentivising employees with rewards for their dedication to maintaining a religious schedule of exercise and other activities.

Volunteer Days 

Allowing employees the opportunity to be contributors outside their organization is a wonderful way to encourage charitable service and giving back to a community that supports their employment. Volunteering empowers people to refocus on those less fortunate than themselves, perhaps, and allows them to take great pride in their efforts. It’s immensely gratifying to give back and knowing one’s company supports this outreach speaks fathoms about the organization. It can, also, help people to forge stronger bonds with their employer by representing their organization within the community and to work alongside leadership that may not have happened within the confines of the business walls.

These are a few examples; there are many ways companies can show their human side and understanding. It’s just a matter of making the commitment to support your employees and recognize they are your greatest asset and biggest business relationship. And as with any relationship that is for the long-haul, you will reap what you sow.

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Social Software: Will Leaders Decide To Adapt?

The key to collaboration is communication: we need to be able to talk to each other to get stuff done. And it’s a compelling facet of the global, hyper-networked, social and mobile new world of work that we are nevertheless in dire need of better ways of communicating with each other.

That’s what makes the emergence of social software such a remarkable and powerful gift — with profound implications for fostering innovation, driving collaboration and deepening engagement. It’s fast and scopey, enabling everything from messaging to team-mailing to live chats to file sharing to all of the usual. Yet as far as user adoption does, the workplace is proving slow on the draw. That’s particularly apparent in HR.

We are not so much at a crossroads as we are at crossed wires. A range of vendors are launching new, powerful products, and the market is growing. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, productivity improves by an estimated 20-25% in organizations that have connected employees. So how do we overcome the “you can lead a horse to water” challenge facing social software?

To facilitate user adoption, social software has to truly enhance and deepen collaboration and engagement. It has to look, feel, and act useful: 

Integrated

Social software has to be more than an addition. It has to be a total solution. It’s an understandable workforce complaint that shiny new platforms may just decentralize communication, requiring the management of increasing layers of inter-office email / outside email, internet / company server, and so on. We want to get things done, not stymied by choices or fractured functionality. To be an asset, social software needs to truly integrate (and not complete) with all of the above.

Really Social

Social software needs to be better: quicker, faster, smarter, more usable than the existing norms. Your social network should have lots of tools for engagement and collaboration, including social profiles, individual and group and community chat and focum capabilities, blogs, wikis, and all the bells and whistles of a bona fide social network. Otherwise, it will be eschewed for those social networks that are already well established (such as the one that has nearly 1.4 billion active users and counting).

One common obstacle to user adoption is feeling like the tech is unable to accomplish any more of the heavy lifting than what we already have. But if social software is not only truly integrated but can also leverage its unique position to generate meaningful intelligence, there’s the added value. That additional layer of perceptive analytics makes adoption a no-brainer, and offers a competitive advantage as well.

Embraced By Leadership

What will enable social software to make the smoothest entry into the atmosphere is its source. This shift must be initiated and mandated by leadership: it should be presented as a clear driver of organizational change, not a byproduct of it. Communication is part and parcel of workplace culture: social software should feel like anything but a trial run. Given the option, we all revert to the norm when we’re under pressure. If leadership makes social software the new normal, the workplace will follow.

The sweet spot lies in not doing away with what we’re used to, just improving upon it. In this age of relentless innovation, the status quo lasts about a minute, and depending on the demographics, that can be trigger a certain level of discomfort. Yet one thing that truly drives employee engagement is a shared sense of discovery — and growth. Given that, social software may truly be our game changer.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

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How HR Can Recruit for IT Departments of the Future

I’ve written a lot about Millennials and the massive impact they are having on the future of work. The largest generation in today’s workforce, they are the generation perfectly matched to ride the wave of digital technology and mobility that came of age more or less at the same time they did, and they’ve helped turn traditional business practices on its ear.

One of the areas in which these two “change makers” are having the biggest impact when it comes to the future of business is in IT. IT departments, and the professionals that staff them follow old school stereotypes no longer. Gone are the days of IT being a mysterious “NASA’esque” area of your organization that most of your employees never entered, let alone collaborated with.

Today’s up and coming IT professionals consider themselves partnered with their peers in the enterprise, and are eager (and able) to participate in strategy planning and long-term corporate goal setting. They tend to work closer than ever these days with both sales and marketing teams, and understand—and make sure their teams know—how what they’re working on in the “backend” will impact what’s happening in the front end. The result? Excited, engaged teams, increased productivity, better products, happier customers and clients, and reduced turnover.

Hiring for IT Departments of the Future

Millennials are driving a majority of this change. These “digital natives” were practically born with a smartphone in their hands, and they live and breathe mobile devices, apps, and software. They are also the cohort who demand connection and collaboration in their work environments. That will not sit idly by and take orders from superiors, instead, they want to know the “why” behind tasks, projects, and business initiatives.

As an HR professional or anyone tasked with IT hiring, you need to be on top of these changing expectations when it comes to recruiting for the future of IT.

Seek out potential recruits who, though skilled in the technical areas as they should be, also score high when it comes to soft skills—things like excellent communication, negotiation, and interpersonal skills. Sharon Florentine, who writes for CIO.com, recently shared a quote from Kevin King, founder and CEO of the management consulting and assessment firm, Transformation Point. King says that there’s a direct relationship between soft skills and workers’ effectiveness, which translates to better overall business results.

“A higher degree of soft-skills competency brings improved effectiveness and improved organizational results, and that in turn drives greater employee engagement and retention… When people work more efficiently and effectively together, that means their organizations see better results and they’re more likely to stay,” says King. He adds, “You can have the best technology and processes in the world, but if your people aren’t able to communicate about them, if they aren’t effectively demonstrating teamwork, critical thinking and emotional intelligence, it doesn’t help your business succeed.”

What CIOs Need to Change

According to a recent Gartner study, the 2016 Gartner CIO Agenda Report, “talent has now been recognized globally as the single biggest issue standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives.” Where are the most significant talent gaps? Big data, analytics, information management, and knowledge/acumen. The worst part of this revelation? These are many of the same talent gaps CIOs cited four years ago!

Gartner goes on to explore a little of what today’s CIO’s and other IT professionals can do to start bridging those gaps. The key here is to think about talent as a platform— and be innovative. When you’re thinking about staffing, don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and try new ways of sourcing talent—like these:

  • Recruiting/rotating staff from outside IT
  • Working more closely with universities on internships, co-designed courses, etc.
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Considering customers, citizens, vendors, and partners as extensions (and digital accelerators) of the talent platform

Today’s CIOs, in many cases, are already seen as a corporation’s digital and/or innovation leaders. And most of those tech leaders also feel their power and influence is increasing as they become more cross-functional and collaborative across the enterprise. The successful IT departments of the future will maintain a focus on new technology, new software, and hardware, and the ‘hottest’ new skills. To build an IT department at this level, IT staffers will be required to be just as cross-functional, collaborative, and engaged as their CIOs are learning to be.

Empathetic, “big picture” thinkers, who are comfortable moving between the confines of the IT department to a client meeting to customer service or the corporate boardroom, are the types of IT professionals you will need to seek out when hiring and/or staffing for the IT departments of the future.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you seen such an evolution in your organization’s IT department? Do you find yourself collaborating and teaming up on projects more often these days with IT teams? Or are you seeing pushback from IT teams who aren’t ready (or able) to adapt to this new way of enterprise business? I would love to hear what you think.

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A version of this post was first published on Converge.xyz

Six Spaces Required for Effective Collaboration

What makes collaboration work? The first thought probably centers on the workplace design. Many articles have been written and offices showcased on how space can help facilitate conversations and give people the flexibility to solve problems together.

The second thought may be around culture. After all, collaboration is about people working together, and the intangibles of how individuals are incented and supported matter. The right culture raises attentiveness to what matters most and how to achieve what matters most. Collaborative efforts bring it all together.

Designing the right space for effective collaboration is needed but our view of space design needs to grow. Space in several forms all need design attention so collaboration can flourish. Champion-level collaboration produces meaningful results, and we need to significantly change our space design thoughts and actions.

Lets focus on the six spaces required for effective collaboration.

1 – Physical space. There is little doubt that well-designed space can bring people together in effective ways, and there are different types of space to design. Planning Design Research divides physical collaborative space into three types: Formal, Informal, and Remote. Each need to be thought through to find ways for individuals to work productively and collaborate effectively.

Collaborative Design Tips:

  • Arrange places to think and work. Create points of intersection in which individuals can talk and exchange ideas. Establish work spaces for people to work together, solve problems, and pursue ideas.
  • Questions to test: Can individuals work together without being disturbed? Can individuals work seamlessly, less time dealing with logistics and more time interacting? Can individuals find a location to think and work uninterrupted?

2 – Aspiration space. One of the keys to effective collaboration is clear purpose. The first level of purpose is the goal or mission of the initiative achieved or problem solved. The second level is what do different stakeholders hope to gain from tackling this project. Clarity on the aspirations of the project and the people involved lessens the process friction. More to the point, clarity of aspirations melts the politics of self-centeredness.

Collaborative Design Tips:

  • Communicate with clarity the purpose of the work to be done. Help others visualize what the change will look like when completed. Ask others what they want to gain from the work and position them to realize this experience.
  • Questions to test: Can colleagues excite their team members with the same sense of purpose? Are team members gaining their desired experience?

3 – Pursuit space. Effective collaboration enables pursuit. Pursuit is an important mix of freedom to act and honesty to accept the results. In the middle of this mix is a strong sense of responsibility to act and accountability for actions taken. The pursuit space can be messy, meaning there are times of uncertainty, mistakes, and success. Trust cleans up this space where statements of “Trust me” and “I trust you” set the right, authentic tone.

Pursuit Design Tips:

  • Develop a project or initiative charter and communicate the mission, responsibility, and accountability checks. Be specific – define who will be doing what.
  • Questions to test: How often do others swoop in to “take over” and then leave? How many meetings are required to communicate status and results (e.g., once per week or three times and three different people per week)?

4 – Think space. Collaboration contains a mix of characters yet each collaborator needs time and space to think. All talk produces mediocrity. Think time produces breakthroughs.

Some think collaboration is all about brainstorming. Get in a room with a lot of people and gain everyone’s best ideas. However, what studies have found is the opposite. More original ideas are generated when they are not interacting with others.

Think Design Tips:

  • Carve out time each day to just think. Block time on your calendar to unplug, read, consider, and evaluate. Protect this time.
  • Question to test: Does your think time remain unfettered and un-interrupted each day?

5 – Heart space. “You can’t fake passion,” says Barbara Corcoran. The reason is you have to believe in the organization, team, people, and mission being pursued. Collaboration will not succeed with a group of passionate people. Collaboration will succeed if the heart of the people engaged feel at ease in where they work and who they work with. Feeling at ease in not about comfort zones; it is about confident zones.

When respect reigns, our hearts believe we can succeed. When trust is embedded, our hearts believe we have the capability to solve challenges. Where clarity of mission and responsibility shine, our hearts put our passion to work. This is what makes up a healthy heart place for collaborating partners.

Heart Design Tips:

  • Engage in the critical conversations to ensure clarity of roles, expectations, responsibilities, and accountability.
  • Questions to test: Does the team leader spend more time engaging with the executives than with the team members? Is there a spark in the eyes of the people doing the work or is there dread and frustration?

6 – Technology space. Technology plays a role in collaboration. Technology enables. Technology extends our reach. Technology enables us to pursue in more productive ways. In collaboration, technology should not crowd any of our other four spaces. Just the opposite. Technology should reduce the clutter and support.

Technology Design Tips:

  • Identify the tools required to get the work done quickly and productively. Procure them and use them actively.
  • Questions to test: How much time is spent making things work versus working to make things happen? Are the tools closing the gaps to get the work done together?

Collaboration takes a mix of diverse and complementary spaces. All need to be designed appropriately for effective collaboration. Collaboration cannot thrive on physical space alone.

Why Expanded Space is Vital for Collaboration

Collaboration is a mix of being active and very engaged. When this alignment occurs, true collaboration is natural. The reason is all involved are at the Champion level. Some may call this full engagement, but I call Champion Collaborators.

Scaling to Champion Level Collaboration chart

Source: Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders, 2015.

These five levels help guide leaders and team members to consider where they stand in terms of new project and initiatives. The question arises: What level are you participating at for a given initiative?

Level 1 Ignorant: No awareness of people or issue

Level 2 – Familiar: Passing knowledge of person or issue

Level 3 Comprehensive: Base knowledge of person or issue

Level 4 – Interactive: Conversational and on-topic; mutual interest leads to involvement in supporting a resolution to the issue or situation

Level 5 Champion: Deeply engaged with others in solving issue, resolving a situation, or pursuing a cause; close identification with issue, situation, or cause

As a team scales this curve, the individuals become more than familiar with the issue or initiative at hand. They move beyond being just conversational. What happens is they understand the true purpose behind what needs to be done. Simply stated, the team gets it and they are inspired by the work. Their heart is fully into the work and collaboration escalates to meaningful levels.

This is the leader’s challenge: Design the space to collaborate at the Champion level. Each and every space needs to be designed well. Champion level collaboration is what makes work flow and real results happen.

Millennials: Space to Collaborate and Lead

Designing a more complete space for collaboration is vital because there is also a generational shift underway. Millennials want space that is flexible and open to collaboration. Walled in offices are out and lounge areas are in. With Millennials being the largest part of the workforce now, companies are working to design more unique spaces to embrace the newest generation in the workplace and provide an environment to promote collaborative working relationships.

Much more than this, Millennials want leadership that delivers more than just conducive physical space. A recent Deloitte survey highlighted what the next generation expects from their leaders. Millennials expect the following leadership traits:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Being inspirational
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Vision
  • Passion and enthusiasm
  • Decisiveness

These traits require more expansive space designs.

David Borrelli, Salesforce.com’s AVP of Commercial Sales for Canada, states it well:

“…if you’re a company that wants to attract the next generation of talent — read: millennials — you better have a corporate culture that knows how to be collaborative.”

Collaboration can be designed so people collide and exchange ideas and insights. However, office design alone cannot create the space for Champion-level collaboration. Other spaces need to be designed to empower problem-solving and the next generation of leaders.

Maybe this is a Millennial mindset yet we know it is much more than this. Collaboration calls us to a new way of working together across generations.

Collaboration is ready for a redesign. Champion collaboration produces greater engagement and results. Millennials are ready to shift to work that embraces all areas of collaboration, bringing together physical, aspiration, pursuit, thinking, heart, and technology spaces. When all these spaces align for collaborative work, just imagine what can be achieved!

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#WorkTrends Recap: Spouses Working Together

There are so many entrepreneurs who have built businesses from the ground up — alongside their partners — but not many talk about the intersection of work and personal lives.

During this week’s #WorkTrends show, Maria Orozova and Scott Thomas addressed how husband-and-wife entrepreneurs can work cohesively and collaboratively in the business world. They will share their first-hand experiences of working together as partner agency owners.

Here are a few key points Maria and Scott shared:

  • Knowing how your partner works is key to success
  • Boundaries are important – leave work at work and leave home at home
  • Opening the lines of communication for all matters will make working with a spouse more harmonious

Missed the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here.

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT). In two weeks, on July 13, host Meghan M. Biro will be joined by Josh Allan Dykstra to discuss how to ignite the fire and motivate a team.

The TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following the #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members; or check out our Google+ community. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

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#WorkTrends Preview: Spouses Working Together

There are so many entrepreneurs who have built businesses from the ground up — alongside their partners — but not many talk about the intersection of work and personal lives.

During this #WorkTrends show, Maria Orozova and Scott Thomas will address how husband-and-wife entrepreneurs can work cohesively and collaboratively in the business world. They will share their first-hand experiences of working together as partner agency owners.

Join us as we discuss how to:

  • Step forward in your businesses and be confident in forging your own paths
  • Break the norm by taking non-traditional approaches to partnerships
  • Build a foundation to feel comfortable when working alongside your partner

We will also review other useful tips you can use every day to make working with a spouse more harmonious.

Spouses Working Together

#WorkTrends Logo Design

Tune in to our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, June 29 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT

Join TalentCulture #WorkTrends Host Meghan M. Biro and guests Maria Orozova and Scott Thomas as they discuss how spouses can balance working together.

#WorkTrends on Twitter — Wednesday, June 29 — 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 am PT

Immediately following the podcast, the team invites the TalentCulture community over to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1. How can you assess beforehand if you will work well with your partner? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q2. What are the pros and cons of working with your partner? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q3. How can people define boundaries between their personal and professional lives? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. We invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community, LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ community. Feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!

Subscribe to our podcast on BlogTalkRadio, Stitcher or iTunes:

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Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date!

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5 Leadership Secrets Of Collaboration Success

To see what happens when people don’t work together, look no further than Washington, D.C. Instead of pooling their talents for a common goal and the common good, Congress is mired in gridlock, recrimination and petty squabbles. And nothing is getting done.

Sound like your workplace? I hope not, because if your company is as dysfunctional as D.C., Chapter 11 can’t be far behind.

The fact is there is nothing more important to leadership and organizational success than collaboration. It exponentially increases the odds of amazing things happening. But it can be tough to achieve. Bringing people together and then igniting and nurturing a collaborative effort is a key test of leadership and workplace culture

Technology provides amazing tools to make this happen. It is nothing short of a game-changing community-builder. As Nick Kellet, the smart and savvy co-founder of Listly, says, “2013 is all about being worthy together.” I cannot agree more. Curating social experiences, sharing and learning from each other is important and … it’s fun.

Here Are 5 Ways To Make Smart Collaboration Happen:

1) Build An Online Infrastructure For Social Learning And Networking. A framework for sharing puts everyone on the same page and allows people to get to know each other in new and exciting ways. When a vibrant online community is created, wonderful, insightful, spontaneous connections are made. We’ve all been there: someone posts something so cool, inspiring, elucidating that all you can say is “Wow”.  Social networks are a powerful collaborative tool, open for business 24/7. They build trust and brand in ways not available to leaders until recently.

2) Set Limits. Collaboration is not about being best friends. It’s about bringing your best self to the table and understanding that the chemistry will be great at times, not so great at others. Respect everyone’s personal digital space. Go slow at first, especially with any personal questions. Some people love to let it all hang out online, others like to keep their private life private. Honor everyone’s limits. Yes, it’s wonderful when new connections develop, and they will, but if someone is more shy and wants to limit the discussion to the task at hand, that’s his or her right. Always focus on the work first and you can’t go wrong.

3) Get It Off Your Chest. Nothing undermines collaboration more insidiously than festering resentment. If something is bugging you, let the appropriate people know. If you feel dissed, deal with it quickly and honesty. The more this kind of healthy exchange happens, the easier it becomes. The fact is when disagreements are dealt with openly, they usually disappear pretty quickly. In fact, an honest disagreement can build trust, and the aggrieved parties often end up with more respect for each other. Have a framework in place for making this happen in the workplace. And remember, if someone wears a scent you hate, has an annoying habit of smacking his lips or littering her posts with emoticons (does anyone still do that?), suck it up. Other people’s personal idiosyncrasies are not legitimate work gripes.

4) Ignite Inspiration. I was once at a morning meeting with a famous business leader. He showed up at nine in the morning carrying an oddly-shaped beer can. He set it on the table and said with real passion, “I love the shape of this can.” He explained he had been picking up a cup of coffee when he spied the can, and it thrilled him with its beauty. It wasn’t a design meeting per se, but he got us all focused on the fact that inspiration is all around us everyday. Encourage people to bring in their personal beer cans, to share them in the workplace and in your social enterprise. Passion and engagement are contagious, they make us feel alive and inspired. And they often come out of left field. Create a culture of sharing that allows this to happen.

5) Be Yourself. This is my mantra. And it’s the mantra of every smart and successful person I know. Why? Because we see what happens when people aren’t themselves. Sustained, collaborative success can’t be faked, it comes from being true to yourself. If you have weakness in one element of your project, or are intimidated by another part, just say it. Pretending you know more than you do is a sure prescription for messing up. Collaboration depends on you bringing your best self to the effort every day in every way. In my experience, when people are true to themselves, amazing things happen.

There are few experiences in life more exhilarating than being part of a successful collaboration. Being part of creating something larger than our individual self touches our souls, connects us to people, and brings a bone-deep sense of career satisfaction and strong workplace culture. You can do it, you can be it, you can have it.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 07/28/2013

photo credit: number 5 via photopin (license)

Smart Leaders And The Power Of Collaboration

Collaboration is the keystone of leadership success. Don’t believe me?  Google “sequestration” anyone?

These days we are seeing infantile exercises in acting out. Driven by rigid ideology, inflated egos, and a desire for revenge that put party above country, potentially serious damage was self-inflicted on our economy by a stubborn few. This is not a political rant as much as it is a leadership call to action.

This is what leadership failure looks. And it happened because some people don’t know how to – or refuse to — collaborate.

There’s a silver lining: we have an object lesson in how not to run our enterprises and careers. And the imperative to collaborate as leaders has never been made clearer.

Collaboration isn’t about being best friends, or even necessarily liking everyone you’re working with. It is about putting all and any baggage aside, bringing your best self to the table, and focusing on the common goal.

Still not quite sold on the need to collaborate? List the five products or services that you feel most passionate about, that you just couldn’t live without. The iPhone? Downton Abbey? Pinterest? Kit-Kat bars? Twitter?

Got your list?

Every single thing on that list was the product of a successful team collaboration.

Sure, there may have been some half-crazy genius like Steve Jobs who supplied the leadership inspiration, but inspiration without collaboration is just a lot of great ideas that evaporate into the ether.

Some of us are wary of collaboration because we feel threatened by it. Will I get credit for my contribution? And who wants to be one of many, just a cog in the wheel? We want to be stars, unique, fabulous. This narcissistic mindset is endemic in our culture these days, fed by media (and reality TV). Now that we can all document our daily lives for hundreds, if not thousands, to see, our egos risk becoming inflated, not based on any accomplishments but simply because we’re stars on our own Facebook page. A dangerous threat to your business and career if you are unwilling to work with others in a productive way.

Get over it.

Make a list of five living people you greatly admire (include at least two businesspeople and your mom if you need to. Smiles).

Got your list?

Every person on that list got where they are through collaboration.

They’re smart enough to know they need help to make their dreams a reality, to build to success and on success.

Collaboration isn’t about giving up your individuality. Quite the opposite: it’s about realizing your potential. It’s about bringing your many gifts to the table and sharing them in pursuit of a common goal. It’s about bringing your ideas, your passion, your mind, heart, and soul to your leadership and culture.

What it isn’t about is an inflated ego, a thin skin, a closed mind. In today’s roiling, racing, collaborative, diverse, and thrilling global business economy, these are nothing less than career, leadership, and workplace culture killers.

I hope I’ve convinced you that collaboration is imperative to success. If you want to see what the failure to collaborate looks like, look at Washington. If you want to see what the potential for collaborative success looks like, look in the mirror. It starts with you.

Who are your five people?

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com.

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Managing By Influence: How To Lead In The New Workforce

Influence is everywhere: we’re in the midst of an election displaying the best and worst. Have at it, talented people, enjoy the show. Meanwhile, from where I’m sitting, it’s a game-changing year in talent management, too. What we’ve been speculating about isn’t in future tense anymore. It’s now. So let’s talk about telling people what to do.

If you winced at that phrase, I agree with you. Effective management, particularly in the realm of talent, is no longer about the ability to directly convey an order and have it spread and waterfall from Point A to Departments B through Z. And there are four key reasons why you can’t expect to wear a crown and be taken seriously in 2016:

  • The workscape is flat.
  • The work culture wants to be real.
  • Globalism isn’t just global, it’s intrinsic.
  • Big Data is much bigger than we are.

Flat As A Universe

Look at the workscape: We’re in the era of flat. Our preference for a work culture that values transparency, authenticity, and emotional leadership refutes our faith in top-down parroting — whether it’s directives or party line. It’s not enough to tell the VPs and let them quarterback down through the ranks. For one thing, there aren’t the same kind of ranks (refer to point #1).

Further, intrinsic to the nature of a flatter organization is not only its own need for transparency (need-to-know is the enemy of creative collaboration), but something else: sovereignty. As teams consolidate towards the pursuit of their own goals, they realize that to function successfully as a micro-organization, they best act independently, supporting their own priorities.

So how do we know it’s working? With analytics that can measure globally and flexibly, you don’t want a central motor that only wants to gauge itself. Moreover, the flatter the field, the harder it is to see it all. So analytics are best aimed circumferentially. And given the 24/7, we need a 360º view in real time, and there’s simply too much available data to ignore.

The Paradox

Decentralized, separately matrixed, each team setting its own functionality and priorities, the flatter structure creates a new paradox. It requires more communication, and more clarity, not less — just of a far more persuasive ilk. So how do you convince everyone to share the mission, and work in support of each other as well as the whole? How do you better align separate teams and their priorities with organizational mission?

You can’t do it by selling — which, as was recently and very aptly pointed out, negates authenticity. While it was discussed in terms of sales, the field of talent involves similar marketing strategies, from employer brand to social. So stats like “98 percent of sales reps with more than five thousand LinkedIn contacts will achieve quota” (Sales Benchmark Index) are more than telling.

What the new and most vital skill every manager in this environment needs is influence. It’s not about persuading, it’s about engaging. It’s not about isolated efforts, it’s about more collaboration than ever before. It’s closely tied to the rise of social, and given that social is the new normal, it’s also the new normal. Present-casting: check. It matters more than ever before, and it’s going to keep mattering.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 2/1/2016

4 Ways To Cure Meeting Nausea

In terms of talent management, the term “meeting” may be the antidote to all the things we’re trying to improve. I’m talking about engagement, retention, productivity, ownership, collaboration. Is there even one of us who hasn’t been reduced to a state of what a waste of my time in at least one meeting in the past month? An MIT study on meetings found that we hold some 11 million meetings during one typical workday in the U.S. alone. And the next time you’re doing that surreptitious under-the-desk Googling on your smartphone, search for the annual “time wasted at work” survey. In 2014, 24% of respondents said that they felt like they wasted time in too many meetings and conference calls. And we’re all sick of it.

From a talent perspective, the problem is that meetings are doubly terrible when they’re bad. Not only are they a waste of the company’s time, they’re a waste of the employee’s time, and they have a pernicious way of up-ending our sense of shared mission into a sense of shared suffering. Witness the ritual great escape: we’re all sitting there, silently acknowledging our tacit acceptance of the utter lack of productiveness of the hour (or three) when, finally, the facilitator says, Great, so I think we’re done here. Suddenly, everyone in the room lights up. Ergo, stampede.

We have more tools and toys at our fingertips than ever to fix this, but how do we choose a meeting format for this new era that drives engagement and supports mission and transparency? Take a look at these tips:

Make it agile. Whatever platform you’re shopping for, make sure it enables flexibility. If using a mobile or shared network, the design should be informal and friendly in terms of tone, but not saccharine. It should allow for straying from the agenda when necessary — for creative brainstorming, or quick fact-finding or pulse-taking, but still have a way to re-anchor back into the schedule and punchlist. There is nothing more antithetical to spontaneous creativity than the phrase, “we’ll get back to that.”

Make the friendlies count. We’re become a bit brusque in this day and age: we’re used to rushing into conference rooms or chat rooms, hopping from bullet point to bullet point, dispensing with niceties. Particularly in the culture of the new workplace, where we’re working in text-time with lightning fast responses, there’s little time for small talk. But that’s a facet that alienates, not engages: you’re just waiting for your turn to offer your piece, and then when it’s over, you tune back out. Let’s borrow some etiquette from China, where they spend time making small talk deliberately, shifting into business gradually, and only when everyone has gotten the chance to smile and say something trivial.

Prevent collaborative dissonance. The key here: the bigger the symphony, the longer the coda. Make sure there is a substantial wrap-up component in the meeting that reinforces everything that’s been discussed and all strategies and directions. It’s too easy to walk away from a meeting, virtual or not, in which we don’t have a clear sense of tasking and purview. Also, everyone who contributed should be acknowledged so everyone feels ownership. That’s key to maintaining the spirit of collaborative engagement created in the meeting — and channeling it into productive, innovative follow-through.

Make the space safe. Physical space or virtual space, the same conditions apply. This one has enormous ramifications as well: if attendees are sitting on their hands rather than bringing up an issue, it’s not really a meeting. This is a matter of psychology, not technology, but it’s critical — or can be. It also speaks to transparency and the expectations that millennials and the coming younger generations have of their employer. And let’s face it: nothing says, “faking it” more than shutting down dissent or tricky questions in a meeting.

Meetings are certainly the canary in the coalmine: in an authentically transparent company, they reflect everything about that company, including its message and mission. So let’s make them count and we’ll all feel much better.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 10/30/15.

5 Powerful Career Drivers For The Future of Work

Have you come up with any worthy New Years’ resolutions yet? Are they already broken? If not, or if so, relax and stay positive. It’s never too late to make a few career-focused resolutions. I’ll be bold and propose that 2016 be the year to resolve to take charge of your career, your destiny and your life story. If it sounds like a real stretch, it is. I’m encouraging everyone to take action. Take heart, though – like all resolutions it’s a process, a combination of problem identification, ideas/ideation, search for solutions, and actions. Resolutions aren’t absolutely binding, so it’s not a mental trap; it’s an opportunity to allow yourself to consider what’s been holding you back, what you’re really interested in doing/being, and how to move in the right direction.

Why is this important? Why now? Because the world of work is changing, and changing fast. If you want to have a career, not just a job, you’ll need to be prepared to change as well. We’re not talking who-moved-my-cheese here: we’re talking being the maker of cheese. It’s a weird analogy, maybe, but it gets at the central challenge we all face as we work to stay ahead in our careers in times of rapid innovation and change.

When I began my career, the most important things were mastery (education and experience), talent, work ethic, character, intelligence and flexibility. Today it’s different and it’s exciting and it’s challenging and it’s never going to be the same. Those factors are still critical, but they’ve been disrupted by the forces of social connectedness, communication, and collaboration.

Here are five ways to innovate in your career – think of this as part 1 for formulating career resolutions to put you back in control of your most passionate destiny. Why wait?

1) Become a social connector of people, ideas and intent. People who are connectors have immense power in their social networks. They’re the glue. Connectors are the new Oracles (Delphi-style, not Redwood Shores style), the passionate influencers who create trends, create links and create awesome relationships.  Becoming a connector is the best way to manage the forces of connectedness in our hyperconnected world. Live the brand.

2) Master effective communications. Even connectors aren’t necessarily good communicators. Among the skills you’ll need are empathy, self-awareness, curiosity, patience, the ability to really listen, and care. Superb communicators often say the least; they draw out others and create an environment (aka Culture) which allows the exchange of ideas and lots of them if necessary. And don’t forget to apply your skills via social media, which can be tricky indeed – we’ve all sent emails we regretted or posted something awkward or too personal on social sites. Live the brand.

3) Collaborate. It sounds odd but collaboration skills are a competitive differentiator. We’re used to thinking people who are fierce competitors have the advantage; my take is collaborators now have the edge. Being a collaborator doesn’t mean you opt out of being competitive; it means you understand the limits of competition. It can be hard to be intensely competitive while being productive in most organizations. Live the brand.

4) Create and manage your personal brand. I know a lot of people who’ve resisted this step, or found themselves blocked somehow. Don’t wait any longer. People with brands (as others have pointed out) simplify what they represent; they weed out the irrelevant bits of their lives or skill sets and focus in on a few key, career-value-based attributes. Some people would even argue that brand now trumps intelligence, experience and talent, which is a scary thought for some people I’ve talked to about careers. Live the brand.

5) Curate everything. Relationships, acquaintances, work product, books, tech tools, clothes, skills; anything that touches your work life or career space. Be a relentless editor of your skills and experiences. Curation is an expression of good judgment, not evidence of controlling behavior. Curating the right career experiences will help you push forward in your career without compromising yourself. Live the brand.

I will be digging deeper into connectedness, communication and collaboration in the next few months. If you’ve thought about what they mean to you, and how they’ll help you innovate and create career resolutions, please let me know. It’s a journey everyone in this globally connected world is on right now. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com 1/6/2013

Photo Credit: Celine Walker via Compfight cc

#TChat Recap: How To Look People In The Eye Digitally

Building and sustaining authentic relationships IRL are not always easy, and it could be even more challenging to do it online. It has never been easier to connect with people by a simple click on the “add” button, but how do we foster and strengthen the relationships?

This week’s #TChat guest: Ted Rubin, a leading Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist, and Acting CMO of Brand Innovators, shared his insight on how to build strong relationships online and how to look people in the eye digitally.

Many of us learned how to connect properly with people at a very young age. We learned how important eye contact, strong handshakes, and listening skills were. Paying attention online, where acceptable response time is shorter and content is populating on your Twitter stream in a millisecond is hard, but it can be done.

Relationships are a two-way street and to maintain them we need a genuine interest in the person on the other side of the screen. Simple gestures such as tailored comments, questions about shared interests, birthday wishes, and thoughtful advice goes a long way. To call people by their first name and learn something about them while reaching out consistently will make a difference.

When we listen and really hear people, only then can we figure out how we can serve them in the best way possible. This is key advice for organizations, brands and professionals working on growing community, land new business or connecting with customers.

At the end of the day, we are all humans that want to be understood and connected with like-minded people.

Did You Miss The Podcast Show? Listen On BlogTalkRadio, iTunes or Stitcher:

See What The #TChat Community Said About How To Look People In The Eye Digitally:

 

What’s Up Next? #TChat Returns Wednesday, April 22nd, with a NEW time:

#TChat Radio Kicks Off at 1pm ET / 10am PT — Our weekly radio show runs 30 minutes. Usually, our social community joins us on Twitter as well. Next week’s topic: How To Turn Horrible Bosses Into Happier Relationships.

#TChat Twitter Kicks Off at 1:30pm ET / 10:30am PT — Our halfway point begins with our highly engaging Twitter discussion. We take a social inside look at our weekly topic. Everyone is welcome to share their social insights #TChat.

Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date!

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics through our weekly email newsletter. Signing up is just a click away!

Passive-Recruiting

photo credit: Bucket Listly

#TChat Recap: Adopting Social Software For Workforce Collaboration

There is no question about it – social software enables workforce collaboration and communication. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates productivity improves by 20-25% in organizations with connected employees, and the potential for revenue amounts to $1.3 trillion per year.

So why is it so hard to get adoption traction for internal social media and internal communication? How can enterprises today resume responsibility for communication happening among employees and even encourage it?

This week’s #TChat guests: Shel Holtz, Principal of Holtz Communication + Technology and a prolific blogger and co-host of the first and longest-running communications podcast shared his insight on the adoption of social software for workforce collaboration and communication

Email has proven to be very hard to move away from as an internal communication method, and is often the only communication tool that organizations use. So what happens when employees are not given tools that provide value and can work alongside with email? They find external collaboration tools on their own.

With a lack of better options, email do provide stability in a fast-paced world where tech is constantly changing.

Organizations will need someone to be in charge of the message mission control. It is vital to be looking at the company culture and then initiate leadership mandate to initiate change. When leaders empower their employees to use social software and inform them about benefits such as an increase in efficiency, collaboration, and productivity, only then will we see the true benefits of social software.

Some enterprises are concerned with controlling the message, especially in highly regulated industries.

What would happen if instead of fearing the message, leaders would rethink the communication in their organizations based on mobility? It could encourage brand ambassadors to emerge, working collaboratively towards a common goal and strengthening the Oh-So-Important company culture.

See What The #TChat Community Said About Social Software For Workforce Collaboration:

What’s Up Next? #TChat Returns Wednesday, April 15th!

#TChat Radio Kicks Off at 7pm ET / 4pm PT — Our weekly radio show runs 30 minutes. Usually, our social community joins us on Twitter as well. Next week’s topic: Looking People in the Eye Digitally with Ted Rubin

#TChat Twitter Kicks Off at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT — Our halfway point begins with our highly engaging Twitter discussion. We take a social inside look at our weekly topic. Everyone is welcome to share their social insights #TChat.

Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date!

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics through our weekly email newsletter. Signing up is just a click away!

Passive-Recruiting

photo credit: by timothy muza

Innovate Today To Build A Vision For The Future

In addition to leading an organization, I’m a consumer and stakeholder in other brands. Like many people, I recognize what companies appeal to the broader masses and which have a dismal reputation for poorly manufactured products or are laden with bad publicity due to a barrage of public outcry.  So as a consumer, I will size up an organization not only for what they do with and for their consumers, but also how a company innovates today looking towards the future. A philosophy I have adopted within my own organization.

Innovation, along with customer service delivery, is dynamic and differentiates your business from another. Differentiation isn’t just knowing the competition in your space, it’s bigger than that. It’s knowing your business model and your customers’ business inside and out, and further how you outwardly value those who matter most. Many companies don’t understand their value proposition. This means they cannot deliver on their promises, whether that’s to their customers, employees, or even their business partners.

Companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Zappos are good examples of companies that understand differentiation and innovation. Information flows in and out of these organizations in a truth-well-told manner and they’ve become recognized for this. Ultimately it’s put them into a different class of company. One factor that is recurrent in these three organizations is that the CEOs have set a vision and outwardly live this vision every day. They’ve not passed the buck, they’ve retained control and took responsibility for steering the ship.

Good companies conduct sound business outside of silos with a few exceptions such as Pharmaceuticals which is government sanctioned and overly laden with patents. Doing good business doesn’t mean giving away the farm or disclosing all your secrets to the World, but it does show the World that information flows to and from your organization and gives the impression that you and your company are approachable to do business. Approachability shows transparency and vision, both can be used to set your business apart from the competition.

There are a ton of articles that discuss vision and innovation and the direct affect they have on the solvency and on-going existence of organizations. There is no one look or feel of innovation. It comes in many shapes and forms and works well when used wisely and liberally. Stagnation and lack of innovation will likely lead to the demise of organizations that refuse to heed the warnings.

So what are you doing to differentiate your organization in a market that’s over-saturated with an abundance of product offerings and services? This is a question that every smart CEO and business owner needs to be asking themselves. A good place to start is knowing your mission and vision. This goes beyond your brand, it is knowing your business plan and vision are on course and your short and long-term goals are attainable and being met. And, critically, understanding that plans must flex and evolve when needed. It, also, means your employees are provided a transparent view of the business mission and objectives and are supporting that vision because they’ve been provided the right tools to do their job and have the information they need.

Business is like a chain. One fractured link will impact the links around it and eventually the entire chain breaks. When you take care of all the links and recognize the intrinsic value each holds, it’s easier to see the bigger picture and that includes what the future can potentially look like for your company.  Locking in the company vision today will help create the business you want in the future.