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Are You Cultivating a “Culture-Add” Talent Strategy?

In recent years, I’ve been encouraged by a groundswell of employers that are choosing to embrace “culture-add” people practices. In fact, several months ago, I wrote about it in a Sage Masterclass article.

Because this concept is central to the future of work, I’ve continued to ponder, read and discuss culture-add issues with others. Now I’m convinced this topic deserves much more than just one blog post. So let’s explore it further here. I hope this underscores the need for a shift to a culture-add recruitment and retention mindset. But more importantly, I hope it inspires constructive change.

What Does “Culture-Add” Mean?

The term “culture-add” speaks to a paradigm shift beyond traditional “culture-fit” talent strategies. On the surface, the culture-fit approach seems appealing. However, it ultimately leads to one-dimensional groups, teams, and organizations. And history tells us homogeneity can have dangerous consequences:  blind spots, groupthink, and poor decision-making.

In contrast, a “culture-add” approach actively seeks people with diverse perspectives that enhance teams and organizations. As we learn more about the significant benefits of a diverse workforce, culture-add hiring is emerging as an important way to strive for differences that make a positive impact.

As I noted in my previous article:

Most of us know that employees who align with a company’s values and fit into the culture generally have higher job satisfaction, improved job performance, and frankly, stick around longer. However, we are resting on our laurels if we use this as our rationale for continuing to use the culture-fit model.”

Embracing Organizational Change

We all know humans tend to resist change. In fact, the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” was suitable for a long time. It still holds some merit, so let’s not dismiss it completely. Tried-and-true processes can potentially save us from all kinds of turmoil — emotional, logistical, financial, and more.

However, if we want to innovate and grow, we must also be able to adapt. No doubt, changing an organization’s cultural fabric can be daunting. But it is necessary for long-term viability.

As Stephanie Burns says in a 2021 Forbes column, Why Evolving Your Business Right Now Is Critical:

Anyone who has wanted to cling to how things were will be in for a surprise this year, as COVID-19 entirely shifted the original paradigm. However, it’s also presented an opportunity for businesses and individuals to evolve into new ways of being.

COVID hasn’t just turned the world on its head, it’s accelerated trends that were already happening, such as the shift to remote work and the collective desire for more convenience…

Still, some founders don’t want much change. This could be due to fear of the unknown or fear that leaving their old business model, which had worked so well for so long, could be catastrophic. However, we’re reaching a critical impasse where businesses that don’t evolve may very well fade out of the picture. Evolution is a natural part of all of our lives, and our businesses are no exception.”

Leaders would be wise to heed this important advice, even if it seems overwhelming. It’s time to change. Our work cultures are constantly shifting. We, too, should remain prepared to embrace new ideas, processes, and people who can make us better.

Culture-add hiring can support this process by inviting more diverse minds and voices to the table as we dream up fresh ideas and orchestrate change. This reminds me of a related term — new blood. We need new blood to thrive.

Connecting Culture-Add and Diversity

This conversation leads us directly to the benefits of diversity. There’s an excellent article on the NeuroLeadership Institute blog, Your Brain at Work: Why Diverse Teams Outperform Homogeneous Teams. The entire piece is worth reading, but here’s a noteworthy excerpt:

Diverse teams are particularly good at exposing and correcting faulty thinking, generating fresh and novel ideas, and accounting for a wider array of variables in planning.

Part of the reason this happens is due to what scientists call cognitive elaboration — the process of sharing, challenging, and expanding our thinking. In essence, diverse teams compel each other to think more deeply about their reasoning and interrogate the facts more objectively.

They share counterfactuals as they go, they don’t take things for granted, and there is minimal ‘social loafing’ — or just accepting things at face value. In short, diverse teams tend to come to better conclusions because those conclusions have been road-tested more thoroughly.”

The science of diversity in teams is truly fascinating. It tells us that recruiting and hiring leaders can help by feeding teams with talented people who can accentuate the benefits of diversity.

Of course, diversity and inclusion don’t end with hiring. The next step is fostering a workplace that makes a wide variety of people feel valued. This is not an easy task. However, it is essential. So let’s look closer at what to consider…

Tips For Building a Culture-Add Mentality

1. Actively weave a sense of belonging into your workforce

As you build a more diverse organization through culture-add hiring, don’t be surprised if cliques and segmentation develop based on geographical, cultural, and other distinctions. That’s natural! But challenge your people to also learn and share what they have in common with others. Allow space for these common interests and goals to surface.

The Why Diverse Teams Outperform Homogeneous Teams article offers a compelling reason to make this a priority:

The benefits of diversity aren’t likely to accrue if we simply put together a team of diverse individuals and assign them a task. The environment in which they’re working should be inclusive — one in which all members feel valued and as if they have a voice.

In that inclusive environment, the benefits of diversity are far more likely to materialize. If not, employees will leave the organization, or worse, stay but not contribute. Diversity without inclusion only creates a revolving door of talent.”

Vigorously work on building a sense of belonging so people of different ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles feel celebrated for their differences. After all, you’ve brought them in to add to your culture, so allow them to shine.

2. Prepare to fully retrain your recruiting and hiring staff

This tip could stand alone as an article, white paper, or college thesis. But to be brief, let’s use an example to illustrate how deeply culture-add hiring upends the traditional approach:

Previously, when Bob hired someone at XYZ insurance company, he considered a candidate like Stan an excellent fit. That’s because Stan lived in a similar neighborhood, was married to a well-liked woman, and had kids who were high achievers. If Stan also golfed on the weekends and enjoyed a steak dinner, even better! He’d fit right into XYZ Insurance and would have a fulfilling career.

As mentioned previously, this model once made a lot of sense. Cultural similarities and a genuine “he’s one of us” mentality created a comfortable atmosphere where longevity was often the result. Unfortunately, homogeneous organizations were also the result.

Today’s businesses face new challenges that require a different approach. Your talent acquisition team can start by taking the initiative to reassess the criteria they use to find people (where, how). Then you can reframe the recruitment conversation from end to end.

Instead of looking for people to fit a standard outdated profile, allow questions and conversations to emphasize and embrace differences in candidates. What can they add versus how do they fit?

Begin by asking yourself and others in your organization to talk openly about how hiring is being handled, and what kind of outcomes this approach is creating — for better or worse.

If a culture-fit model still drives your talent decisions, don’t be ashamed to admit it. But if that’s the case, you’ll want to start making changes soon. Because I assure you, your competitors are already moving toward culture-add for the win.

Key Design Decisions for 360 Feedback Success

Many managers and HR practitioners are familiar with 360 feedback as a leadership development practice. However, no two 360 feedback experiences look alike.

That is actually a good thing. Most successful 360 feedback drives behavior change both for individual leaders and their employers because the process is tailored to the organization’s unique culture as well as the intended purpose of the exercise.

On the other hand, this need for customization means practitioners face an overwhelming number of decisions when designing a new 360 feedback assessment. For example:

  • Who should participate?
  • How many survey questions should we include?
  • Who should receive the report?
  • What kind of follow-up support should we offer?
  • Who should choose the raters?
  • What role should HR play in the process?

Fortunately, some 360 feedback implementation practices have become ubiquitous. That means some guesswork, research and debate aren’t necessary. For example, below are five must-haves for strong engagement and outcomes.

Five Design Factors for 360 Feedback:

1) Which groups should participate in ratings?

Anyone who has observed a leader’s on-the-job behavior can provide useful rating input. This could include the leader who is being assessed, as well as a combination of direct supervisors, secondary managers, peers, direct reports, customers, board of directors representatives, donors and even skip reports.

In some situations, it is helpful to include other groups to meet specific requirements. For example, if a leader is actively involved with strategic partners or other third-party groups, their voices could add useful context. 

While there is flexibility to customize the participant mix, 360 feedback assessments typically include these four core rater groups as a baseline:  self, peers, direct reports, and direct managers. In fact, according to soon-to-be-released research from our firm, 88% of organizations include these four core groups.

2) Who will select and approve raters?

Among 360 feedback experts, there is some debate about the best way to choose raters. Should assessment recipients choose their participants? Those who favor this approach say it ensures a sense of ownership and buy-in. Others say a third party (a manager or HR representative) should choose raters. This ensures that feedback is well-balanced and avoids a “friends and family” bias.

Most 360 feedback process owners agree leaders should choose their own raters to build trust and establish assessment process buy-in. On the other hand, 70% of organizations tell us they review and approve final rater lists.

We agree that manager involvement is a wise practice, and a leader’s direct manager should approve the final list. Over the last 20 years, we’ve found that this is the most common approach. And according to our new benchmarking analysis, 48% of companies continue to use this method.

3) How will we score surveys and generate reports?

As with many HR processes, technology has also transformed 360 feedback implementation practices. Now, most HR practitioners rely heavily on online tools so they can collect, organize, analyze and share useful feedback faster and easier.

In 2009, spreadsheets and even paper surveys were still popular ways to collect and report 360 feedback data. Today, those methods are all but obsolete. In fact, 91% of organizations now use a web-based reporting tool to manage surveys and generate reports.

Many practitioners are also choosing to outsource this task to specialized service providers. In fact, our recent research shows that 80% of employers rely on an external vendor or consultant to handle this aspect of the process. 

4) How can we assure rater anonymity? 

To encourage honest responses, employers must ensure that feedback sources remain anonymous. Therefore, it’s not surprising that 81% of employers tell us rater anonymity is essential to the success of their 360 feedback endeavors.

A common way to ensure anonymity is by requiring a minimum number of survey responses for any group specified in the report. For example, peer scores are displayed separately only if at least 3 peers respond. If fewer peers respond, then that data is included only in overall average ratings.

Most often, organizations require a minimum of three raters in a category. In fact, 83% of companies use this three-rater threshold rule. Very few skip this requirement altogether (3% require no minimum responses). And on the other end of the spectrum, very few require more than three responses.

5) How will we help leaders translate the report into action?

For best results, talent management experts agree that personal follow-up is essential. To optimize ROI, employers should avoid the “desk drop” follow-up, where leaders receive a 360 feedback report, but no direct support to discuss results, implications, or next steps.

Follow-up can include any number of supportive actions, such as:  Adding development suggestions to the report, offering action planning guidance, providing individualized 1-on-1 coaching, assigning in-person or online workshops, referring leaders to specialized resource libraries, and more.

The most common step is also what talent management professionals feel is most critical for 360 assessment success:  Provide a one-on-one meeting with a trained 360 feedback coach who can facilitate action planning based on the results.

Historically, these sessions were conducted in person. However, in recent years, video meetings have become the dominant format. Also, reliance upon external coaches (rather than in-house staff) has become more popular.

Fortunately, 88% of organizations say they provide debrief sessions and one-on-one coaching, so feedback recipients can interpret insights and chart a relevant path forward.

Final Thoughts

Good leaders thrive on feedback. But for 360 feedback assessments to be effective, it’s important for leaders to understand the results and commit to improvement.

This means employers must take care to design and implement a valid, well-informed process from end to end. By addressing key design elements at the outset and by investing in ongoing leadership guidance, organizations can dramatically increase the likelihood of success.

 


EDITOR’S NOTE:
Want to learn more about the decisions talent managers make when designing and implementing 360 feedback assessments? Replay this recorded webinar, where the 3D Group unveils findings from its latest benchmarking study,
Current Practices in 360 Feedback, 7th Edition. This analysis includes 20 years of data from more than 600 companies.

How Social Background Checks Preserve Work Culture

Sponsored by: Fama.io

Every employer wants to provide a safe, supportive environment where people can do their best work. That’s a key reason why social background checks have become so popular. But many organizations don’t talk openly about how they make this happen.

I get it. This can be tricky to manage. But workforce wellbeing and your brand reputation are on the line. So, it’s wise to include a strong social media screening solution in your HR toolkit.

What kind of services are leading the way? And what should you consider when seeking a provider you can trust? Join me as I explore these questions on the latest #WorkTrends podcast episode.

 

Meet Our Guest:  Ben Mones

Today, I’m speaking with Ben Mones, Founder and CEO of Fama.io, the world’s largest provider of social background checks, and a leader in applying artificial intelligence technology in workforce screening services. As an expert in this process, Ben is an excellent source of advice for HR practitioners and business leaders.

Linking Culture With Social Background Checks

Ben, welcome! Let’s dive right in. How do you see social background checks tying into the employee experience?

Too often, employers don’t talk about background screening because they think it’s a “dirty” job at the front of the candidate funnel or during the onboarding process.

But that’s not what we do. We look at publicly available online records to detect behavioral patterns associated with intolerance or harassment. We look at things that, if left unchecked, could find their way into a company culture and create some damage.

Remote Work Raises the Stakes

Many of us work virtually now, so the stakes are higher. I mean, how are we getting to know people?

Agree. We often meet our coworkers by friending them on Facebook, following them on Twitter, or exchanging DMs on Instagram. So, if we’re interacting in these digital spaces, the importance of digital identity naturally follows.

Digital Screening Adoption Rate

How many companies are screening candidates or employees?

CareerBuilder and SHRM say 70% of employers perform some sort of social media or online profile check before bringing people on board. For example, they may be Googling someone before hiring them.

Risks of Social Background Checks

Compliance is a big concern with this process. What are the risks?

I think the risks of doing it yourself scare people away.

For example, you could be exposed to things you shouldn’t see. If a recruiter does this internally, they’ll see a person’s gender, ethnicity, pregnancy. You’ll see all these protected classes.

EEO says you can’t unring that bell. You can’t unsee that information. So because bias naturally occurs within all of us, you consider these sorts of things in your hiring process.

Avoiding Compliance Pitfalls

How can employers deal with these risks?

Managing the process through a third party helps squash those risks because you can configure the solution to filter only for job-relevant information.

This means you’re blind to all the protected class information you’d see if you were conducting social background checks on your own.

Key Screening Factors

What core behaviors do you look for in social screening? 

Here’s what we don’t do. We don’t do a yes/no recommendation on a person. Instead, think of flags for things like intolerance, threats, harassment, violence, crime and drugs.

 


For more advice from Ben, listen to the full podcast. And for detailed information about how your organization can benefit from social background screening, visit the Fama.io website, where you’ll find benchmarking reports and other resources for employers.

Also, be sure to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And to continue this conversation on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Want to Make Change Stick? Rethink Work Meetings

Change. For better or worse, it’s a constant in today’s workplace. And in an uncertain future, it will remain a strategic priority for organizational success. But encouraging people to change is also one of the biggest challenges leaders face.

How can we leverage internal communications to make change initiatives work? Could we find the answer in something as simple as everyday meetings? Join me as I explore this question in depth on the latest #WorkTrends podcast episode.

 

Meet Our Guest:  Lindsey Caplan

Today, I’m excited to speak with Lindsey Caplan, organizational psychologist, communication strategist and founder of The Gathering Effect. By blending her experience in education, entertainment and business, Lindsey offers practical tools to help drive lasting workplace change. Here are highlights from our conversation:

Keyword: Gathering

Welcome, Lindsey! I’m looking forward to talking with you about how organizations can drive more lasting change today. Let’s start with the concept of “gathering.” Tell us, what does this term mean to you?

I define gathering as bringing people together to match a message with a moment for a specific effect. Those of us in HR are very familiar with gatherings. They’re happening all the time, whether they’re virtual or in-person or hybrid.

They come in many forms: town halls, all-hands meetings, off-sites, retreats, conferences, classes, and new hire orientations. These are all tools we can use to communicate about change and help employees do things differently.

Connecting People with Change

Why do gatherings play such a central role in the change process?

Just like a hammer, we can use gatherings for different purposes. There are four different effects that gatherings can produce, depending on the choices we make. The key is to start with the effect you want, rather than the content you want to share.

Know Your Objective

So you’re saying we should begin at the end? Interesting…

That approach may feel a little different, but it really is a significant strategic difference that determines how gatherings can make change stick. So I teach people to diagnose and define the effect they want to achieve, and then adjust their gatherings to align with the effect they want.

What Matters When We Gather

What should we consider as we plan gatherings designed to drive lasting change?

We need to look at multiple factors. Do we know the needs of people that will attend? Do we know what they care about? What’s at stake for them? Often, as leaders, we probably know. But maybe we don’t have a sense of what employees really care about.

How Culture Fits In

You say gatherings are “culture on display.” I think that’s so powerful, Lindsey. But can you explain what you mean by that?

Especially in a remote or hybrid environment, logging into a company-wide meeting, town hall or training class is rare. Right? These are high stakes moments. Often they’re important points in an employee’s journey when everyone is  together. People are listening. They’re paying attention to what leaders say and how they’re saying it. So these are excellent moments to reinforce and build your culture.

What’s Ahead

As we look ahead to the post-pandemic era, what do you see next for work gatherings, communication, and change?

I hope the pandemic workplace has given us awareness about the opportunity to do better. And I think it has revealed what we’re really gathering for—which is not information, it’s connection.

Brilliant! Yes, it’s about becoming more human, collectively. It’s about simplifying. And it’s about being mindful of what’s at stake when we make choices about when, where, how, and why we show up and communicate with others.

 


I love Lindsey’s perspective and her practical how-to advice, don’t you? I hope you’ll find this #WorkTrends episode useful as you plan change-related communications in your organization. It’s always here as a resource if you want to replay it again in the future.

In addition, you can learn more about how to leverage gatherings to drive lasting change by visiting Lindsey’s website, TheGatheringEffect.com.

For more advice from other world-of-work experts, don’t forget to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Also, to continue this conversation anytime on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

How Can Remote Teams Build “Watercooler” Connections?

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

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

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

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

3 Ideas to Help Remote Teams Feel Connected

1. Create wellness challenges and friendly competitions

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

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

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

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

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

2. Facilitate virtual wellness coffee talks and meet-ups

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

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

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

3. Encourage employees to join recreation leagues and clubs

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Great Hires Are Better Than Frequent Fires: How Smart Recruiting Helps

Sponsored by: RocketReach

Hiring teams know just how hard it is to find candidates who hit the mark with both soft skills and technical skills.  Ideally, a new hire brings the majority of the hard skills required to do the job well. But soft skills are equally important, if not more important, depending on your company’s philosophy. In combination, hard and soft skills allow for a highly productive team and culturally rich environment.  So, how do you identify these powerhouse candidates? This is when smart recruiting tactics can make a strategic impact.

Why? Finding and placing high-performing candidates should be every HR professional’s primary goal. But if recruiting focuses more on an individual’s experience than their ability to enhance your culture or have the right attitude to learn, that hire could likely be a mismatch long term. How can you avoid this? To illustrate, let’s look closer at how we approach hiring at RocketReach

Smart Recruiting: Why Prioritize Soft Skills?

Of course, every job depends on a core technical or business skill set. However, we over-index on culture and behavioral skills because a candidate’s character matters, here. Well, not just here, but in all successful, people-first organizations.

A candidate with great skills requires less on-the-job training. But someone who’s a great cultural fit often possesses untrainable qualities that embody an organization’s values and vision. So it’s wise to get a read on each candidate’s potential to adapt to your culture and perform well with the team. 

What exactly is at stake? Well, according to a new SHRM report, over the past five years, 20% of Americans left a job because the company culture was bad. In fact, the cost of this turnover is estimated at more than $223 billion.

Here are several more findings to consider: 56% of Americans now say they feel less-than-fulfilled at work, while 26% say they dread going to work each day. In today’s talent market, finding an ideal candidate may not be easy. But hiring a strong candidate who also fits your company culture is arguably just as important (if not more so!) as hiring someone just because they have the desired level of experience.

How Smart Recruiting Leads to a Stronger Culture

Clearly, it’s important to build and sustain a people-first company culture. But how can smart recruiting help determine if a candidate is (or isn’t) a good “fit”?

1. Understand Your Work Culture

When considering your company’s culture, don’t just analyze intangible items like general employee vibes. Also include your leadership structure, core mission and vision, office environment, feedback and performance review processes, as well as overall interpersonal communication styles. These and other factors contribute to the relationships within your team and how the company is investing in its people. They also influence employee retention and how others perceive your organization.

Harvard Business Review agrees that a carefully crafted positive company culture helps develop workforce well-being. At this point, we all know how important culture is for working professionals. Every employee touchpoint, from onboarding to offboarding, influences how your organization’s culture affects your employees. As a result, people rank workplace well-being higher in importance than monetary compensation or material benefits. So, culture deserves to be top-of-mind with each new hire. 

2. Identify Characteristics That Map to Your Culture

Once you’ve clarified your company culture, let’s assume you want to sustain it. Using your analysis, you can identify the characteristics of current employees who are thriving. You can also compare and contrast those characteristics with previous employees who are better suited to a different culture. 

On the other hand, if you’d like to improve your culture, you can start identifying candidates whose soft skills align with your desired organizational direction.

For example, say your workforce is fully remote. This means collaboration is probably more challenging than in a traditional office environment. You may want to focus on candidates who demonstrate that they’re self-starters with a strong sense of resourcefulness, self-efficacy, and proactive ownership

Or, if your company’s mission and values emphasize diversity and inclusion, you may want to focus on candidates who are open-minded, adaptable, and have a curious approach to problem-solving. Try targeting candidates who seem resistant to change and more accepting of those with different backgrounds and ideas.

Of course, the idea of cultural alignment isn’t new. For example, a popular 2005 personnel study that is still cited today concluded that when employee characteristics align with company culture, their job satisfaction and performance are also stronger.

3. Interview With Alignment In Mind

After you understand the qualities a candidate needs to be successful in a given role, it’s time for interviews. Along with questions that evaluate hard skills, what are some questions you should ask to determine a candidate’s soft skills?

  1. What about our organization made you want to apply for this position?
    Pay attention to the enthusiasm and focus of each candidate’s answers. Did your benefits seem particularly attractive? Was it your company brand or careers page? Or was it the job description, itself? Do the candidate’s personal values align with your company’s? Each answer is a clue about the individual’s perspective, motivations and interests. This can determine how closely a candidate’s values align with your team’s and how you can sell them on these things down the line if they are a great fit
  2. What does your ideal next role look like?
    This can tell a recruiter tons about the type of environment in which a candidate will thrive. Do they envision working independently or in a group? What main responsibilities does this person want to own and enjoy most? Are they hoping to grow in mentorship or people management?? This can show you if your current team and environment fit the candidate’s needs.
  3. If one of your colleagues disagreed with you in front of a group during a board meeting or a meeting with leadership, how would you handle this?
    Sharing a hypothetical question about a challenging situation and asking for a suggested solution can reveal someone’s ability to listen and collaborate, think critically, and have the right attitude under pressure.
  4. Tell me about a time when you felt an employer’s culture didn’t suit your needs. Why do you believe it wasn’t the right fit for you?
    Sometimes a direct approach is the best approach. Pay careful attention to see what the answer reveals about the potential fit with your current culture (or the culture you’re working to achieve).

There are a million ways to ask interview questions that focus on soft skills and culture. But whatever questions you choose, make sure you tailor each to your company values and needs.

Hiring managers will understand the characteristics that align with an open position and the overall company culture. This frees you to get creative and keep interviews candid and human. The less “cookie cutter” your questions, the better they will serve your talent strategy in the long run. More importantly, ensure that your interview teams are trained to over-index on culture and company values – that way everyone is looking through a people-first lens. So whether you’re conducting a pre-screening interview, or you’re in a final-round group interview, put your culture front-and-center. 

8 Ways to Foster Employee Happiness

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

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

What Happiness at Work Means to Employees and Employers

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

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

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

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

8 Ways to Foster Employee Happiness in the Workplace

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

1. Learn More About Your Employees

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

2. Make Time for Fun

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

3. Make Sure Employees Feel Heard

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

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

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

4. Encourage Work-Life Balance

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

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

5. Celebrate Employee Accomplishments

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

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

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

6. Salary Increase

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

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

7. Create a Career Pathway

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

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

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

8. Offer More Benefits

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

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

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

Benefits of a Happy Workplace

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

Why Empathy is the New Brand of Leadership

Sponsored by: Dell Technologies

When it comes to the people who work for your company, is there anything more important than understanding them and their needs? For leaders, this means seeing things from their perspective. We call this Empathetic Leadership. 

Empathetic leaders can create a space where employees feel heard, valued, and understood – and when employees feel like this, guess what happens? They’re more engaged and productive at work, making them more committed to their work and your organization. 

A recent Dell Technologies Study found that creating an empathetic culture helps companies succeed in today’s do-anything-from-anywhere economy. Leaders need to put people front and center and equip them with the right technology to innovate.

Our Guest: Jennifer Saavedra

On our latest #WorkTrends Podcast, I spoke with Jennifer Saavedra, Chief Human Resources Officer at Dell Technologies. She leads the company’s Global Human Resources and Facilities through the dynamic lens of culture and, most importantly, people. She has a doctorate in Industrial and Organizational Behavior from Tulane University. Jennifer has also served on the executive boards for many of Dell Technologies’ employee resource groups and is currently the executive sponsor for the Black Networking Alliance. 

Her work helps us understand the psychology of human behavior so that individuals and organizations alike can be their best. 

Jennifer says the last two years have redefined work:

One of the things at Dell Technologies that we’re really focused on is defining work as an outcome, not as a specific time and place. We know that employees value freedom and flexibility, and it’s really about helping everybody make an impact.” She says, “not every individual has the same way they work or the same needs. And we have a history of doing this. At Dell, we’ve been doing this for over ten years.

Flexibility is Key

Everybody wants to know what the “new normal” will look like. After two years of the global pandemic, Jennifer says Dell polled their team members on the company’s practice of hybrid work. A notable 86% of their team members said they feel Dell is leading the way. The current world of work is an opportunity to make things more inclusive.

It’s a great equalizer. We have learned a lot about how to be inclusive and make things more accessible to people. And keeping an eye on the partnership between human resources, the business needs, our team members, facilities, and IT, I think these are things that give us a lot of hope and a lot of promise.

What the Data Says

Success is a goal shared by all, from employees to executive leadership. Employees need their companies to be there and support them. While the future of work develops and takes form, it needs to be understood that agility will play a key factor. As new ideas and possibilities for work come to light, they should be carefully considered. An astounding 91% of Dell’s team members reported that they could easily adapt to the work preferences of others, whether it’s timezone, means of communication, or other.

As other companies are thinking about building their strategy, it’s really important to look at the business needs. How does the work need to get done, and how can you consider personal choice? I think you need to assess roles. Some roles need to be done in certain locations or co-located. Once you know that, you can then support your team members by understanding what works best for them.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful and inspirational. Learn more about leadership and putting people front and center with Dell’s Breakthrough Study.

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

6 Ways to Engage With Your Employees and Prevent Attrition

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

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

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

How to Improve Employee Engagement

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

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

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

1. Leverage Your Team’s Strengths and Passions

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

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

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

2. Trust the Decision-Making Abilities of Your Team

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

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

3. Regularly Check-In with Your Team

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

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

4. Allow for Open Communication Both Ways

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

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

5. Offer Training and Learning Opportunities

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

Knowledge and education come in many forms, including:

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

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

6. Show Employees You Care About Their Health

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

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

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

Improve Employee Engagement by Creating an Employee-Centric Work Environment

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

How Gamification Can Build Inclusive High-Performing Teams

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

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

Our Guest: Lauren Fitzpatrick Shanks

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

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

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

Boost Morale, Gauge Productivity and Development

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

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

Future of Gamification

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

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

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

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

Work Sucks, But It’s Our Fault

Burnout and dissatisfaction at work are nothing new. In fact, a recent Gallup study found that more than one-half of American workers feel disengaged at their jobs. Too often we look at work as a necessary evil. We have to do it to pay the bills, but it’s not really something we’re passionate about. 

Meanwhile, business owners and leaders are left scratching their heads wondering why their employees are unhappy and unengaged. The business suffers as a result. So what’s the solution? How can businesses create a culture that engages and motivates employees where productivity and creativity actually thrive?

Our Guest: Dr. Tiffany Slater

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Dr. Tiffany Slater, CEO and Senior Human Resources Consultant for HR TailorMade. Dr. Slater believes that the people you work with are the single most important element to building a thriving future for your business. Happy people make the world a better place.

What does it mean that people suck and why should we blame ourselves? Dr. Slater explains:

I know that sounds crazy as an HR person for me to say that but you have to say the whole thing together.  People suck and it’s our fault. As leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure that our team has everything that they need to be successful. And when they’re not successful the first thing we have to do is look at ourselves and ask if we did all that we could to make sure that they were successful. So that’s why people suck because a lot of times we don’t do our part.

Employee Performance

There are so many factors that play into a person’s ability to perform at their best. So how can business owners or leaders identify those factors and ensure that people are performing at the highest levels? Dr. Slater:

Make sure the work environment is conducive to being successful as a team member. I think the most important thing is that we create an environment that people actually love. The days are gone when people are just happy to come to work for a paycheck. People want to like what they do and where they do it.

Dr. Slater adds:

Make sure that people understand what value they add to the organization. Making it very clear what an individual’s role is in the overall success of the organization motivates people to want to work at their highest level.

Hiring People Who Don’t Suck and Firing People Who do

Hiring the right people can be challenging, time-consuming, and expensive. Equally as challenging is knowing when to fire someone vs investing the time to discover ways to help them perform at a higher level. So how do we hire people who don’t suck? Dr. Slater:

We hire people that don’t suck by making sure that we ask the right questions up front, and making sure that upon their onboarding we have a plan already designed to support their success.

And when do we fire people who do? Dr. Slater adds:

We shouldn’t just fire people that suck. So obviously there will be times when it’s necessary but that should not be our first response. We should always look to discover what we can do to help that individual to perform at a higher level. And if we’ve done that once or twice then we should start considering if it’s the right fit and if they truly just suck.

Joy in the Workplace

Bringing joy into the workplace leads to better business results and higher employee performance. Dr. Slater explains.

If you will create a joyful work experience for your team they want to stay. They want to work in your organization. Additionally, they want to help the organization to be successful because they understand that the organization’s success is also their success. So creating joyful work experiences is truly the key to a successful business. And I would be willing to bet that it is the key to making the world a better place because happy people make the world a better place.

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. To learn more about Dr. Tiffany Slater and HR TailorMade, please visit https://www.hrtailormade.com/.

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

An Empathetic Workplace – 4 Practical Tips

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

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

The Importance of Empathy

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

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

How to Create an Empathetic Workplace

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

 

1. Implement an Open-Door Policy

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

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

 

2. Be Vulnerable

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

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

 

3. Listen More Than You Speak

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

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

 

4. Talk With Your Team Before Making Decisions

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

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

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

Why Trust and Transparency Matter in the Workplace

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

The Neuroscience of Mistrust

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

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

Trust and the Willingness to Take Risks

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

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

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

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

The Risk of Betrayal in the Workplace

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

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

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

Transparency: The Path To Velocity

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

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

Business Needs vs. Employee Needs: Finding the Happy Medium

It’s been a hard year and a half, and as the pandemic continues to fluctuate, illness and lockdowns have taken their toll. The effects extend into the workplace, too, as companies struggle to find a happy medium between employee needs and business needs.

During this time, employees reevaluated what a workplace means to them and how job satisfaction plays into their overall happiness. Many employees found that they’re happier when they don’t have to commute, dress up, or stick to prescribed business hours. Others are ready to get back to the workplace where there are fewer distractions and more in-person collaboration.

Many businesses, on the other hand, are eager to get back to an in-office model without Zoom meetings. Managers want to communicate quickly with employees at their desks, instead of via chat. It’s understandable but short-sighted for employers to try to get back to a pre-pandemic way of operating. As the health implications of COVID-19 can’t be undone, neither can the effects it’s having on the workplace, which is why the need to find a happy medium is important.

These changes create a need for HR teams to adapt to the realities of these changes. Therefore, it’s time for businesses to adapt their return-to-office plans to ensure that they are employee-centered. Now more than ever, balancing employee needs against the needs of the business is imperative.

Listening to Employees

Work-from-home employees are not shy about their preferences and pain points around remote work. Coworkers commonly talk amongst themselves about how much they like not having to dress in full business attire or commute. They also expressed frustrations around digital communications and how, since they’re online, the workday can stretch beyond regular hours.

Before putting forth a return-to-office plan, businesses must listen to what employees truly want. To avoid turnover, some employers plan to skip a return-to-office life altogether, especially since a lack of remote work options is a deal-breaker for many employees and may send them searching for a job elsewhere. Many employees have already made that step, citing lack of remote work options as the main reason for seeking other opportunities. Notably, according to a survey by ResumeBuilder, 15% of workers are planning to leave their jobs before December.

What is the best way to find out what employees need to be happy in their current positions? Ask them. Hold a company-wide meeting to discuss what they like about working remotely, what can be improved, their thoughts on returning to full-time office work, and any questions they may have.

HR teams should leverage anonymous channels like digital surveys to make sure every voice is heard. These tools are perfect for individuals who are not comfortable speaking up in a large group, or for those who worry that their opinions will reflect poorly on them. 

Company leaders should also trust employees. They know how they work best, as well as the ways working from home affects their work-life balance. HR teams know happy employees are more engaged, produce better work, and stay in their positions longer, creating positive business outcomes.

Balancing Employee Needs With Business Needs

While keeping employee needs top of mind is essential, HR professionals must also evaluate how best to serve the company. If remote work begins to negatively impact employee and company performance, that can’t be ignored. Conversely, if an organization consistently meets KPIs, is growing, and employees are engaged, there’s no need to return to the office five days a week.

Instead of assuming performances and company operations will improve in an office setting, HR teams should strive to find balance. There’s no need for extremes. Companies don’t need to decide to keep operations fully remote or shift them entirely back to the office.

Over the course of the pandemic, it’s become clear what job functions need to be performed in person versus remote. Some team members can complete all of their job functions from home, while others have duties that require in-person work.

Companies should try to strike a balance and meet their employees in the middle. Offer a schedule that accommodates working from home alongside in-person work. For example, some organizations can easily let employees work from home three days a week, while requesting in-person attendance for meetings.

Companies can also strike a balance by easing the dress code to make going into the office feel more comfortable. Additionally, they can find cost savings by allowing employees to work from home. Businesses should evaluate whether they can stagger when different staff members come in. By doing so, they can use a smaller office space, saving on rental costs and utilities, among other expenses. At the same time, employees will appreciate the flexibility of being able to choose to work from home on a regular basis.

Looking to the Future

Before implementing a return-to-office plan, HR teams must equally weigh the needs of the business against those of their employees. Therefore, it may be tempting to develop this kind of plan quickly. However, HR teams must take time to listen to employees and measure their needs alongside business goals. This will create a happier and more effective workplace for everyone.

Women in the Workplace: How to Retain Female Talent

Millions of Americans have left the workforce due to the ongoing public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation has particularly impacted female employees who had to become the primary caretakers of their children when schools and daycares closed. As a result, many women had to leave their jobs, and companies lost some of their most outstanding employees. Now companies need to spend time deciding how they can better accommodate, empower, and retain female talent with children.

I am a life coach, helping ambitious working moms become their best selves every day. Part of this is educating companies on how to better support women in the workplace, especially those with children. Using valuable insights from my clients and my own experience as a working mom, I’ve put together five suggestions for companies on how to retain female talent, both pre and postpartum.

Find Out How You Can Support Women in the Workplace

Administering a survey is one of the best ways to determine your company’s ability to hire and retain working moms. Ask open-ended questions so you can find out more about the challenges female employees face and which are the most important. If possible, allow them to give their opinion anonymously to share their feelings without worrying about retribution.

Revamp Your Company Policies & Benefits 

Once you’ve reviewed the survey, you’ll better understand the company policies and benefits that need revamping. For example, do the majority of female employees want paternity leave or extended maternity leave? Or perhaps they would prefer a more flexible work schedule? The company can also assess its employee performance evaluations, possibly changing from time-oriented to task-oriented. 

Whether female talent want to feel more involved during meetings or expectant moms require a designated parking spot, companies should accommodate the needs of women in the workplace. Listening to your female employees, and implementing change, can make it easier to retain talented pre and postpartum female employees. In doing so, you’ll not only improve your business, but women in the workplace are more likely to feel heard and acknowledged.

Start a Mentorship Program 

A study published by McKinsey, titled ‘Women in the Workplace 2020’, reveals that women may face significant roadblocks without the right mentorship and sponsorship opportunities. For example, a sponsor can amplify the voice of lower-level female talent, while a mentor can help guide women towards their career goals.

An official company mentor program is an excellent way for you to capitalize on your most fantastic resource, your employees. It also demonstrates the company’s commitment to nurturing talent and providing employees the opportunity to learn from a trusted advisor. Retaining female talent is far more likely for those companies who actively invest in their professional development. Women in these types of workplaces are also likely to be more loyal and productive. This further increases female employee retention rates.

Create an Employee Reward and Recognition Program

Every employee wants their manager to acknowledge their hard work. This recognition is especially true for pre and postpartum female employees who may quit their jobs due to feeling unappreciated, dismissed, or victim to gender inequality in the workplace. If possible, create a monthly reward and recognition program for outstanding employees. This straightforward strategy will foster a positive work culture and inspire employees to improve their work ethic. Working moms will also enjoy the positive reinforcement, especially those working from home who still want their efforts acknowledged outside the office.

Close the Wage Gap Between Your Employees

The pay gap between male and female talent is a long-standing issue of gender inequality in the workplace. It impacts female employees across all socioeconomic and racial groups in almost every industry. Companies should advocate for women in the workplace by closing the wage gap. After all, there’s a higher chance of female talent remaining loyal if they receive equal pay for equal work.

Make it Easier for Working Moms to Progress in Their Career

Are your pre and postpartum female workers anxious about potentially losing their job? Do the women in your workplace fear they’ll miss out on a promotion because of maternity leave? A top tip for supporting female workers is developing tools and creating opportunities that will allow them to advance their careers like their male counterparts. One way to do this is to focus on results, not on time spent; a great way to support a working mom’s need for flexibility. By creating opportunities for women, you can also tackle gender inequality in the workplace, encouraging female leadership and retaining your female employees in the process. 

There’s no doubt in my mind that moms are some of the hardest workers on the planet. With the right strategies and support, you can create a supportive environment for pre and postpartum women. In doing so, your company can encourage women in the workplace to thrive at all stages of life.

 

5 Ways Leaders Can Create a Successful Work Environment

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

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

1. Building and sustaining trust.

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

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

2. Leading from values.

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

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

3. Creating communities.

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

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

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

4. Growing transition readiness.

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

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

5. Maintaining a Customer-First Work Environment

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

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

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

 

ERG Lead Compensation: What to Consider When Getting Started

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

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

The Latest on ERG Lead Compensation

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

2. How do you determine the compensation amount?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

 

Stop Overthinking a Culture of Gratitude. Show It Instead!

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

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

Why gratitude is great

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

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

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

Gratitude is transcendent.

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

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

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

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

Get back to basics.

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

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

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

Create an environment that fosters gratitude.

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

Stop thinking about gratitude as an “initiative.”

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

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

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

Other considerations for maintaining a culture of gratitude

Define happiness.

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

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

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

The bottom line

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

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

 

The State of the Frontline Work Experience in 2021 [Podcast]

Frontline workers have had a difficult time over the last couple of years, to say the least. Many haven’t had the option to explore hybrid or remote work options due to the on-site nature of their roles. They have had to work in concerning situations, interacting with the public during the global pandemic. This caused many to quit their jobs in high numbers, never looking back.

In order for organizations to retain talent, they need to recognize the unique struggle of frontline employees. They need to make a targeted effort to change the state of frontline work as we know it. By doing things like increasing communication efforts, prioritizing learning and development opportunities, and decreasing stress and burnout, businesses can make the frontline work experience more rewarding–and increase the chances that employees will be happy and stick around.

Our Guest: JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect at Axonify

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with JD Dillon, an author and speaker with two decades of experience in frontline training and enablement. JD has worked in operations and talent development with dynamic organizations ranging from Disney to Kaplan to AMC. In his role as Axonify’s Chief Learning Architect, JD applies his passion for helping frontline employees around the world do their best work every day.

According to a 2021 report by Axonify, 50 percent of employees said they’re ready to leave their frontline jobs. As the Great Resignation and Great Reprioritization continue to affect the working world, I wanted to get JD’s take on how to specifically hire and retain frontline workers. What are the main reasons they want to leave their jobs?

“The biggest reason frontline workers are leaving is they’re burned out,” JD says. “The second motivator is lack of appreciation, especially from management. Number three is lack of interest in daily work. The number four reason is compensation. And five is being overloaded–particularly with the stresses of the past year with the pandemic.”

While much of the coverage around work focuses on hybrid work situations, the fact is that frontline workers never had the chance to work from home. So that conversation isn’t relevant to them. JD explains that there needs to be more focus on the nature of frontline work and how to make the experience of those employees more equitable.

“People are leaving because of the nature of the work itself. Frontline workers have been out there every day clocking in because they need to keep the shelves stocked, execute deliveries, work with people, etc.,” JD explains. “Unfortunately, there’s just not a lot of focus put on the larger picture of what it means to work in a frontline role.”

Making the Frontline Work Experience More Equitable

To make the frontline work experience more equitable, JD says, organizations need to start by focusing on communication. They need to get to know what their employees need and make sure they don’t feel isolated or unheard. This will not only help with creating stronger bonds between employees and management but can let leaders know what career development opportunities employees are interested in. Communication can also help mitigate the number one issue of burnout–a problem that must be remedied from the top.

“Burnout isn’t a personal problem. It’s an organizational issue. And it comes down to that kind of prolonged job stress that really pushes people to disconnect based on a level of exhaustion,” JD says. “It occurs when the job experience isn’t well-crafted and people aren’t taken care of.”

A significant way to create a well-crafted job experience is to focus on learning and development. According to JD, organizations should embed the learning experience into work, introducing reskilling and upskilling to the frontline work experience. This helps engage employees’ minds and adds meaning to their roles–two things that people are seeking (and often demanding).

“If you want to be able to compete and become a standout workplace culture, you have to understand that people aren’t settling for a mediocre work experience anymore. They’re not looking for a job that offers ‘just enough,’ whether they’re a corporate employee or frontline worker,” JD says. “Leaders need to be asking: How many people are building skills that are also going to build strength within the organization? How many employees are excelling and growing?”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends sponsored by Axonify. You can learn more about the state of the frontline work experience by reaching out to JD Dillon on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

Best Practices, Legal Requirements, and Respectful Workplace Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improve Workplace Culture with a Powerful Strategy: Bystander Training

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

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

By the Numbers

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

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

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

Helping the Cause

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

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

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

2. Bystander training is a proactive approach.  

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

3. Bystander training offers individuals options for taking action. 

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

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

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

Career Development, 2021 Style: Learning How to Learn

Think back to your first day of work with your first major employer.

You probably arrived early on your first day, ID card ready, and experienced a week full of inductions, walk-throughs, and hand-shaking introductions.

Now imagine if your first day took place in April 2020.

Your first day would probably be spent in your bedroom, opening a laptop and trying to figure out how to log on to Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace.

In a similar fashion, your mentors were also coming to terms with new technologies, new processes, and the dramatic events unfolding all around them.

It’s almost as if they were experiencing their first day in a new job, too.

The extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted everybody.

But most notably, it had a profound effect on the career development of younger generations and those entering the workforce for the first time.

Focus on Young Workers

Grappling with personal concerns and anxieties during a global health crisis is one thing, yet young workers also had to cope with:

  • Organizational learning taking a back seat, with leaders focusing on surviving the crisis rather than integrating new workers or transferring skills
  • Lack of authentic relationships; communicating with and meeting coworkers and mentors took place virtually, without the benefit of in-person interactions
  • Absorbing a diluted, online version of company culture, without the benefit of informal coffee, lunch, or hallway chats
  • Learning to work with new platforms and systems without in-person support
  • Working from challenging environments–such as shared housing or in a multigenerational household

By concentrating on learning and career development, business leaders can help workforce entrants find their place within organizations and focus on building their skills for the future.

Organizational Learning

Why is organizational learning important for career development?

An organization that empowers people to learn will drive personal growth, job satisfaction, and loyalty. In turn, this leads to greater performance and in-house skills.

Indeed, at a time when employees are choosing to quit their jobs rather than go back to the office, organizations must find more effective ways to find and retain talent.

(Let’s not forget, this also comes at the time of a global health crisis, the worst recession since the Great Depression, and a dire skills shortage.)

That’s why it’s crucial to invest in learning and development in your organization, but this doesn’t just refer to hard skills.

The Need for Soft Skills in 2021

Organizational learning comes in many different forms. Developing soft skills is arguably the top priority during this unprecedented moment in history.

But, the soft skills required now are markedly different from those of just five years ago.

The World Economic Forum’s top skills for 2020 places complex problem-solving at the top of the list, followed by critical thinking and creativity.

In 2015, the top three included skills related to in-person interaction, such as coordinating with others and people management.

“Employers overwhelmingly agree that young employees need soft skills, such as communication, creative problem-solving and entrepreneurial thinking,” according to the World Economic Forum.

Positively, all of these skills can be learned. The key difference is that in-person learning has, for the most part, been replaced by distance learning.

This may be new for many workers, particularly those working remotely for the first time.

That’s where the process of re-learning comes in, or “learning how to learn.”

Learning How to Learn

In 2018, Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, explained how to become better at learning, tackle skills gaps, and enable career development.

“A growing body of research is making it clear that learners are made, not born … In short, we can all get better at getting better,” Boser says.

Boser outlined three key behaviors to help workers focus on learning:

  1. Organize your goals: First, set achievable goals and plan each stage. This strategized approach will help to strengthen the commitment to tasks while minimizing feelings of self-doubt. “By setting targets, people can manage their feelings more easily and achieve progress with their learning.”
  2. Think about thinking: Also known as metacognition, “thinking about thinking” is the process of being more inspective. How do you know what you know? Could you explain it to a friend? Do you need more practice or clearer goals? Push yourself to really think about what you’re learning.
  3. Reflect on your learning: Have you ever noticed that when you step away from a problem, you achieve greater clarity? This process of reflection and focused deliberation is crucial for understanding. This cognitive quiet, says Boser, also helps explain why it’s so difficult to gain skills when we’re stressed or angry or lonely: “… for us to gain any sort of understanding, there needs to be some state of mental ease.”

Learning Starts Now

Young workers are the next generation of leaders in your workforce.

The sooner you can integrate them into your organization through a process of organizational learning and career development, the sooner they will become embedded in your culture and a part of your company’s future.

Consider the benefit of providing a virtual office membership to your remote employees and leveraging coworking options for future in-person collaboration. Investing in the well-being of your employees is investing in your company.

While nobody could have predicted the health crisis or its legacy, a positive outcome is that we can turn it into a process of constructive learning and equip young workers with a unique and invaluable set of skills for the future.

Are You a “Woke Leader” in the Workplace?

Corporate reputation doesn’t just lie flat in the PR department. Every company needs to “sing from the same songbook,” from advertising to employee ethics and everywhere in between. What does that mean? Say what you mean and do what you say. Align all practices with the company’s mission and moral compass (or find one?). Not easy.

A recent piece in MIT Sloan Management Review states, “the universal mandate for corporations to engage on social issues is real. It’s no longer OK for corporations to have a single, siloed corporate social responsibility officer.”

It continues to say that three things are crucial to make sure social justice initiatives stick. They include:

  1. A workforce united behind a cohesive vision
  2. An executive who either commits to the workforce’s vision or has a strong one of their own
  3. An organizational value system that is built to implement and sustain that change

Without all three, the article concludes, efforts “may be internally stymied.”

What is “woke?”

“Woke” is a term I am still learning to grasp. So I looked up a variety of sources to help understand how to use it properly. It is by no means new. But it seems as though it has become more prevalent in dialogue within the last year or so.

I liked this explanation in Psychology Today: “Many people, especially the youth, have a heightened awareness of our troubled past and, understandably, seek to correct our collective wrongs. This is where the term ‘woke’ comes into play. It is defined as, ‘aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).’ Given that we have a long history of racial and social injustices, it seems like being ‘woke’ to such problems is a very good thing. How can we address such problems without first being aware of them? Movements such as Black Lives Matter, at their heart, are about correcting racism and injustices that have long been ignored or swept under the rug. We need to wake up.”

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, The Price of Woke Politics, caught my eye about corporate America getting called out for hypocrisy. Are they just pretending to be “woke” to be hip and popular, but not ethically following through?

Walk the Talk

I certainly want to see leaders push the envelope in social justice. To shake things up in the name of fairness. Change requires those who have power, influence, and money to set an example. But be sure to walk the talk.

A recent advertising campaign was launched by Consumers’ Research, a conservative nonprofit, which targets Nike, Coca-Cola, and American Airlines. (With an ad buy of up to $13 million, so not just a grassroots effort.) Consumers’ Research states that it hopes to warn companies to put consumers before woke politics. Let’s pause there. Frankly, they don’t like left-leaning corporate moves and are quick to highlight double standards by their own definition.

The article states that “each ad treats the companies like a political candidate would an opponent.”

The ad should touch on the company’s reputation and contrast “high-minded social-justice rhetoric with its other behavior.”

It’s a fine line with organizations like Consumers’ Research. They tend to be the nemeses of organizations because they watch like a hawk and nitpick everything. This runs rampant with companies working to be sustainable but aren’t there yet—and get called out for it. Sometimes leaders and their PR, HR, advertising, and other decision-makers find themselves in a lose-lose situation with watchdog groups. But they do have a place.

I personally prefer a more journalistic approach, but my specific point remains the same. Get woke, stay woke, and make REAL societal change. Here was an interesting list I found (from 2019) of some of the top woke campaigns or decisions made by large companies.

Corporate Social Justice

If we switch terms to Corporate Social Justice, there is a treasure trove of research on which companies are getting it right or wrong–at least by someone’s standards. The NBA has received a lot of praise, while Netflix and AT&T have been called out. And there are many organizations in between that are learning lessons on how to bring CSJ to life without sacrificing too many customers, employees, partners, etc. (Which isn’t an easy task.)

In We’re Entering the Age of Corporate Social Justice in the Harvard Business Journal, author Lily Zheng writes, “Consumers and employees are now looking for more than Corporate Social Responsibility—they’re looking for what I call Corporate Social Justice … Corporate Social Justice is a reframing of CSR that centers the focus of any initiative or program on the measurable, lived experiences of groups harmed and disadvantaged by society. CSR is a self-regulated framework that has no legal or social obligation for corporations to actually create a positive impact for the groups they purport to help. Corporate Social Justice is a framework regulated by the trust between a company and its employees, customers, shareholders, and the broader community it touches, with the goal of explicitly doing good by all of them.”

Useful Social Justice Tips

The article outlines a few tips to help leaders grasp this shift in thinking (getting woke?). It also explains how not to fall prey to the hypocrisy that will inevitably be identified (more like called out/shamed).

“When picking a goal or vision, don’t just go with a goal that your CEO likes. Vanity projects aren’t enough,” Zheng says. “Instead, develop a thoughtful and intentional process that brings together representatives from your various stakeholder groups to determine which issues lie at the intersection of your company’s mission and the unmet needs of its stakeholders.”

“Thoughtfully situate your company within the broader ecosystem surrounding that goal … Most companies play a role in creating and maintaining inequities through their supply chains, hiring strategies, and the customer bases they serve—or don’t serve.”

Zheng recommends that companies “build robust and representative working groups that connect the company with its stakeholders. Also, they should “explore the impact of the company’s actions on various stakeholders.” Then, use that “knowledge to proactively inform how the company acts on and reacts to society.”

“Ensure that all members are compensated for their participation and can opt-out at any time. Done right, these working groups can inform your company’s strategic priorities, help leaders make tough decisions in the public eye, and allow them to respond to pressing current events in ways that resonate with your stakeholders.”

And here she echoes what I am saying: “Take a stance. Corporate Social Justice is not a feel-good approach that allows everyone to be heard, and by nature, it won’t result in initiatives that will make everyone happy.”

Conclusion

Lastly, be sure to “regularly evaluate progress. To build accountability into the process, goals and metrics should be set by working groups and translated by senior leaders into directives for the entire company. While companies have no legal obligation to meet these metrics, their relationships with stakeholders—especially their employees and external communities—are regulated by trust.”

What conversations are you having at work about this exact topic? Is your leadership “woke?” And are they taking a stand for social justice and injustice? Also, are they taking a stance that isn’t simply for good PR and to drive sales? Have you learned some tough lessons along the way? I’d love to hear your examples! Email me at ctrivella@talentculture.com.

 

A New Paradigm: How to Encourage Meaningful Partnership at Work

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

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

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

Use these steps to improve meaningful partnerships in the workplace.

1. Embrace a new mindset.

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

2. Infuse foundational elements for partnership to flourish.

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

3. Develop a workplace covenant.

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

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

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

So what are the benefits of meaningful partnership?

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

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

 

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

5 Quick Ways to Make Employee Recognition Fun

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

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

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

Employee recognition is a company’s most valuable currency

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

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

Five quick ways to make recognition fun

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

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

The bottom line

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

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

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

 

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