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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.

Work Culture Lessons Learned from the Space Shuttle Columbia

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

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

Our Guest: Dr. Phillip Meade

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

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

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

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

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

Changing Organizational Structure: Key Takeaways

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

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

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

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

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

How to Keep Talent Engaged: 3 Useful Practices from Aviation

With up to 200,000 commercial flights a day, aviation must do many things right. From airport operations and internet booking systems to something much more valuable: superb performance in the cockpit of every single plane, every single flight.

How do they keep talent engaged so they can fly impeccably? What can we learn from aviation that applies to businesses? Here are three valuable practices.

1. Provide the right response to errors.

One of the great killers of engagement in organizations is what happens when there’s an error. Of course, no one wants an incident in aviation. And it’s vital to treat every single one very seriously. But what’s surprising is that the discussions do not involve questions that suggest a personal attack or blame, like, “Who did it?” and “Whose fault is it?”

Instead, aviation professionals take a fact-based, neutral, non-rushed approach. The main question asked is: “What was it in the system that allowed this to happen?” Yes, someone may have made a mistake. But is that the result of improper or insufficient training? Or poorly designed procedures? Or some equipment that did not work as expected in that context?

The goal is for the organization to keep talent engaged by encouraging them to learn and improve. To make sure that everyone becomes better because of that incident. That people involved are more committed to doing their best, rather than discouraged or made angry. Just Culture is what this is called in aviation.

Companies are sometimes very far from this approach and there’s a lot that can be done to improve things. While pointing to “the guilty” and making sure they get reprimanded might seem like some sort of relief for the stress they’ve caused us, we all know it’s not the right path to take.

2. Ensure real-time feedback.

Pilots always know where they stand in terms of performance in their roles. This keeps them alert and motivated to learn and to perform at their best.

Twice a year they spend time in flight simulators. The first four hours of the visit are to practice situations they might face in reality: engine failure, hydraulics failure, emergency landing, smoke in the cabin, and so on. The second four hours are an examination. An experienced captain watches their every move in each scenario: their attitude, the way they communicate, their knowledge and airmanship. In the end, they get a detailed debriefing, and only if things went very well do they get to continue to fly planes. Six months later, they’re back in the simulators again to train and be examined.

In between simulators, they get feedback every day. Their activity in the cockpit can be checked or re-checked anytime because they’re in plain sight, thanks to cabin voice recorders (CVRs).

What can companies learn here? To set up an even bigger “big brother” to record all people’s moves? No. It is the supervisor’s role to notice what’s going on and to give people feedback right away. Not to be too busy with their own operational activities or wait for a superficial form to fill out now and then. Companies need to make sure that supervisors consider it important to give feedback to their people. And that everyone in the organization feels safe both to speak to others and to receive feedback from others.

In this dynamic world, we all need to know now where we stand. If we want to keep talent engaged, we must not rely on old data or on assumptions about where we are and how we’re doing.

3. Build team spirit.

In the past, airline captains used to be regarded as some larger-than-life figures, not to be argued with, whatever decisions they made. You only spoke when asked to speak. You didn’t challenge their experience or perception of things.

There are countless stories of small incidents or tragic accidents that happened because captains–mere mortals, after all–did not work together with the rest of the crew, did not consider their recommendations, did not have the right situational awareness, and ultimately made a bad call because of it.

Aviation cannot afford such a leadership style and such a culture. Because of this, since 1981, airlines have implemented what is known as Crew Resource Management. It is probably the closest thing there is to the concept of team spirit. It supports working together in a structured and clear way.

Many companies say things like, “We need to work as ONE company” and “create synergies” and “break the silos.” All good intentions are there… but the structures aren’t built to make all this happen. Organizations need to ask themselves: Are procedures written with this “ONE” goal in mind? Are the systems facilitating this vision?

Conclusion

One thing to admire about aviation is the thoroughness of every approach. Nothing is just a slogan. There are clear expectations for every role, with hardly any grey areas. The system is built in such a way that all available resources are used in the most effective way.

How does this keep talent engaged? By communicating the message that everyone counts. Not just the captain–but the co-pilot, the flight attendants, the tower, and the staff on the ground.

In aviation, efforts to build and maintain engagement go deep into how everything is organized. They go beyond the shiny surface activities, which may sound fun, but don’t last very long. How is your company doing on this spectrum?

Managing Employee Uncertainty to Help Them Thrive [Podcast]

Employee uncertainty is bad for business. When people don’t feel their work situations are stable, they get anxiety, depression, and have a tendency to catastrophize. They also become disengaged with their work. Because of this, productivity wanes, and so does financial success. Gallup estimates that 22 million employees are disengaged, resulting in $350 billion lost each year due to absences, illness, and other unhappiness-related issues.

It’s up to leadership and HR professionals to manage employee uncertainty before things get out of control, especially in these unprecedented times spurred by the pandemic. It is up to managers to get ahead of uncertainty and find ways to communicate with employees, reassure them, and have structures in place to manage uncertainty should it arise.

Our Guest: Sandy Scholes, Chief People Officer at Flipp Corporation

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Sandy Scholes, chief people officer at Flipp Corporation. She has over two decades of diverse HR experience, having held several executive HR leadership roles at organizations like Entertainment One, Becton, Dickinson, GlaxoSmithKline, and CARA. Sandy has long sustained a passion for working with people and focuses on growth empowerment. She aims to help create work cultures of learning at organizations and provides strategies to manage employee uncertainty during times of organizational change.

Because employee uncertainty is especially prevalent thanks to the pandemic, I was eager to get her insight into how to work with such uncertainties. I wanted to know: What can organizations do to combat this? The first thing is to equip leaders and managers with the ability to spot uncertainty in the first place.

“It starts with all of your leaders and coaches. You need to pull people in a room and equip leaders and managers with the right kind of skills to try to notice that. You have to double your communication,” Sandy says. “At Flipp, we’ve asked all of our leaders to be deliberate and spend one-on-one time checking in on employees to see how they’re doing.”

The second thing to realize is that everyone reacts differently to uncertainty, and will need different accommodations. What one employee needs to feel more secure may be wildly different than another.

“You can’t treat everyone the same. For example, at Flipp, for parents, we’re trying to manage uncertainty by providing more flexibility. How do we create a schedule where they don’t feel overwhelmed?” Sandy says. “Managers and coaches need to understand that they have to provide this level of flexibility so that people can work differently now.” 

Don’t just survive. Thrive.

Of course, managing uncertainty isn’t enough. Once you help people get to a baseline of comfort, you want to make sure they’re able to get to the next level. Employees don’t just want to survive; they want to thrive.

“Make sure employees have a growth and development plan. You have to sit down with them monthly, even if they’re remote. Talk about career aspirations. Because if they don’t feel like they’re going to develop, then they’re going to feel stagnant,” Sandy says.

And engagement will suffer. With the surge of the “Great Resignation,” this isn’t a risk you can take. Offer employees options to grow. Give them stipends to allow for creativity and learning–even if it doesn’t directly correlate to work.

“If employees want to take music lessons or guitar or they want to sign up for a wine course, they can take some of that money and spend it on a personal thing. It’s all about feeding your soul,” Sandy says. “Stay invested, grow people, help challenge them, and make sure they’re learning and they feel like they’re making a difference.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about managing employee uncertainty by reaching out to Sandy Scholes on LinkedIn.

Create a Culture of Cybersecurity: Teach Employees to ‘Catch a Phish’

In 2020, 74 percent of U.S. organizations said they succumbed to a phishing attack. As today’s news cycle fills with ransomware headlines and remote connectivity continues​, it’s increasingly essential for companies to implement action plans for cybersecurity awareness. Phishing can get both people and businesses into all sorts of deep water.

The word “phishing” is commonly used as an umbrella term for a variety of attacks, though the overarching category that phishing falls into is called social engineering. Social engineers prey on human nature with the intent to manipulate a person to take a specific action. Phishing refers to the most common type of social engineering: fraudulent emails sent to many people.

The idea is to cast a wide net with simple bait—fake communication that often impersonates an individual or brand. Phishing works because it taps some of the most basic human traits (curiosity, carelessness, fear of missing out), and scammers know how to use those traits to their advantage. They hook you with an email, text message, phone call, or social media message. Then, they lure you in with a malicious link or attachment and then make the catch–: stolen login credentials or a compromised system.

Many companies attempt to create a culture of cybersecurity and phishing awareness by using scare tactics. These can make employees annoyed at your IT team—or worse, resentful. They may even feel so anxious about phishing that they won’t click on any link or attachment—even important ones. At the end of the day, negative emotions won’t help you build an effective culture of cybersecurity awareness. HR departments should make it their goal to nurture a blame-free, empowering security culture where all employees feel they are contributing to a shared goal.

Create a culture of cybersecurity.

In a well-functioning culture of cybersecurity, employees understand their roles in protecting your company’s data and IT resources. They are active participants in ongoing security conversations. Also, they have the tools they need to maintain good security habits without impeding their work. A blame-free culture doesn’t mean a lack of accountability. Instead of using a punitive model, however, find other ways that motivate employees to follow policies and strong security habits. For example:

  • Don’t instill fear in employees with threats of termination for repeatedly falling for simulated phishing.
  • Do implement a buddy system that appoints a peer to be a team or department’s cybersecurity expert.
  • Don’t require employees to reuse or write down their passwords.
  • Do provide appropriate resources and tools, such as password managers, so employees can use and manage strong passwords.

A recent Dashlane and Harris Poll survey found that 79 percent of employees take at least some personal responsibility for their company’s overall security. Employees want to be part of the solution, and companies need to show them how they can do that.

Implement a cybersecurity education, training, and awareness program.

Phishing trends sound unsettling—but by educating and training your employees, you will empower them with the knowledge to avoid taking the bait. A successful cybersecurity education, training, and awareness program should answer why security matters to your company. It should communicate to employees why they should care about security. Additionally, it should explain how cybercriminals target and attack businesses and what actions employees can take in the course of their day to enhance security.

Conduct simulated phishing campaigns.

To help employees recognize phishing and risky actions through first-hand experiences, use a “show, don’t tell” approach with simulated phishing tests. Phishers may not always have perfect spelling, but they shine at psychology and human behavior. And they’re meticulous researchers. By conducting regular mock phishing campaigns, you can turn employees from a weak link in company security to points of strength.

In addition to serving as practice for employees, the phishing tests measure how many people open the emails, click on the links and attachments, and complete the final action (such as entering their login credentials). You can use these metrics to track the effectiveness of your program over time and identify areas that need additional education and awareness.

Boost phishing defenses with additional tools and processes.

Education and awareness are empowering, but you still need to provide tools and implement strategies that support and promote secure practices. Train employees on how to identify and report suspected security incidents and threats, including phishing attacks. Consider creating a special email or channel for employees to reach out to.

Specifically, businesses must also train employees to recognize phishing attempts and social engineering. In addition, they need to adopt a password manager and multi-factor authentication to improve digital hygiene and security. Cybersecurity is as much about people as it is about technology. Businesses need to educate their entire workforce and provide them with tools they will actually use. Doing so makes their lives easier, both at work and at home. Some quick tips for catching a phish include:

  • Check the subject line of an email for a sense of urgency, scare tactics, or an enticing offer.
  • Ensure the email address matches the sender’s name and/or company.
  • Before clicking, look out for poor spelling and grammar, or unusual/awkward use of language.
  • Don’t be fooled by personalization because scammers can also learn your personal details.
  • Adopt technologies like endpoint security, password managers, and email security.

Many businesses are improving their security technologies and processes to make it harder for phishers to hook their employees. But phishers will continue to find novel, unexpected ways to lure people with social engineering. Your best defense is planning for the unexpected and empowering employees with current knowledge, appropriate tools, and ongoing awareness. Companies can only achieve a culture of cybersecurity if everyone is engaged. Cybersecurity is not something only IT and tech-savvy employees can care about. HR departments need to remember that promoting positive cybersecurity awareness will lead to a culture of security––not scare tactics.

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

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

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

Work Style Over Space

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

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

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

How to Accommodate Post-Pandemic Work Styles

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

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

Ensure Employees Co-Create the New Norm

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

Hold Tight to Core Values

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

Focus on the Mission

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

Operate from a Place of Compassion

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

Create Ways to Communicate and Connect

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

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

How to Build Employment Value with Better Benefits [Podcast]

Salary isn’t everything. As a matter of fact, eighty percent of employees say that they’d choose additional benefits over a raise. Sixty percent say that benefits are a huge deciding factor in whether candidates take a job at all. And HR professionals report that the benefits are what’s leveraged most often to retain top talent.

To put it another way: Employees are vocal about the swaying power of offering better benefits. And employers will want to listen.

With this in mind, to stay competitive, organizations need to know how to tailor benefits to both the employees they have and the candidates they want to attract.

Our Guest: Alexa Baggio, Employee Experience Expert 

On the latest episode of #WorkTrends, I had the pleasure of speaking with employee experience expert Alexa Baggio. She’s devoted to creating immersive experiences and encouraging thought-provoking interactions between employers and employees–with the aim of improving upon “traditional” HR practices.

For example, Alexa founded The PERKS Conventions (PERKS) to make employee-focused services easier to discover, access, and afford. Currently, PERKS has expanded to six cities across the U.S. and is the largest employee experience expo on Earth. This past year, PERKS also created Showcase™, an innovative virtual benefits fair platform that empowers employers to host live info sessions, eliminate hours of work wrangling vendors, and improve employee experience communications all year round.

With so many employees reporting that better benefits are extremely valuable to them, I asked Alexa how employers can use benefits to build and enhance their employee value proposition. Her answer? Offer personalized benefits to suit specific employees.

“You’ve got four generations in the workforce. Some people care about fertility. Others care about loans,” Alexa says. “Some people also care about debt. How are you going to make everybody happy? You personalize.” 

Employee “Experience” vs. Employee “Lifestyle”

So how do you personalize benefits to optimize for a better employee experience? Basically, says Alexa: You choose the lifestyle benefits that suit the employees you hired. In other words, don’t just get a foosball table as a perk because the rumor is that foosball is cool.

“Everybody heard that [foosball] was trendy, so they did it,” Alexa says. “That may be the right culture for the 75-person sales team with an average age of 23 in your office, but what if your culture isn’t that? What if you have a bunch of engineers, or researchers, or lab technicians?” 

After figuring out what core benefits fit the employee population, employers need to understand that perks offered also are a reflection of company culture. For example, if your organization values health and wellness, that needs to be articulated in the benefits. Communicate this by offering a gym membership or nutrition program.

“As an employer, you have to decide: What are the cultural benefits you want to signal? Is it fitness? Wellness? Timeliness? Cost reduction? Financial education? Community giving?” Alexa says. “Give people the experience to get in there, and to explore, and show that you’ve got great systems set up to be a person that works there.”

Basically, to stay competitive as an employer, get to know the people you hire. Learn what’s important to them and offer better benefits to reflect that. It could increase the longevity of your hires and foster the company culture you desire.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by PERKS. You can learn more about how to optimize benefits for employee experience and lifestyle by connecting with our guest, Alexa Baggio, on LinkedIn.

The 3 Pillars of Hybrid Workplaces [Podcast]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Hybrid Workplaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on this topic, read more here.

 

Image by Fotogestoeber

How to Communicate Organizational Change to Dispersed Teams

You are a remote employee and a member of a dispersed team. And this is how your employer chooses to communicate organizational change while working from home…

“Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. 

And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.”

Leaves you bewildered and angry, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what the employees of Yahoo! felt when they received this from the then HR head, Jackie Reses, in 2013. 

This is a classic example of poor organizational change communication. 

Call it the fear of the unknown or the resistance to move out of comfort zones; the truth is almost no one likes change. As a leader, the first thing you should focus on is having a proper change management communication strategy.

The right communication tactics will help you get and keep your team onboard while reducing resistance and easing the transition.

Let’s take a look at how you can effectively communicate organizational change to your remote employees.

Create a Communication Plan

project communication plan

Don’t make the leadership mistake of reducing organizational change communication to a one-page memo or a 30-minute Zoom call.

There’s more to it than just making your employees aware of the change. It also involves selling them the idea and getting them invested in the initiative.

The first step is to develop a communication plan (see the example to the right) that addresses:

  • What is the key message?
  • Where will the communication come from?
  • Which channels will you use to communicate?
  • How will you deal with resistance or objections?
  • What is the frequency of communication?

Creating a communication plan ensures stakeholder alignment and helps you approach this crucial process in a more structured way.

Define the Vision

Implementing company-wide change is never easy and it gets all the more challenging when dealing with a distributed workforce. To be successful, you need to effectively communicate the change vision and the outcome it will have.

The idea is to motivate your employees, get their buy-in, and help them understand the reason behind the change.

Business and management consultant John Kotter has an interesting piece of advice for creating a powerful vision for change. 

He says, “A great change vision is something that is easy for people to understand. It can be written usually in a half-page, communicated in 60 seconds, is both intellectually solid but has emotional appeal, and it’s something that can be understood by the broad range of people that are ultimately going to have to change.”

Answer the WIIFM Question

Be it customer, employee, or stakeholder communication, it helps to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and answer the What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) question. 

The same logic applies while communicating organizational change. To get consensus and support, explain how the change will benefit your employees. 

Don’t resort to buzzwords and generic statements such as “This is for the betterment of the company” and the like. Make it meaningful. Tell your employee how the change is better for them and the company.

What if you don’t have immediate tangible benefits to offer, you ask? Be transparent about it but assure them that you’re looking into it. Your employees will be skeptical, but you would rather be honest with them than keep them in the dark.

Use Visual Aids

Organizational change happens over time. It demands constant communication, reiterations, and check-ins. 

Instead of conducting a one-off virtual town hall and forgetting about it, use visual communication to support organizational change.

Not only do visual aids help you communicate complex information, but they also make it more memorable. Employees don’t have to struggle to locate (or remember) the information when leaders and communicators present useful visual aids. 

Here are some visuals you can create to make the internal communication ‘stick’:

  • Describe a change in the organizational hierarchy with a pyramid chart
  • Procedural checklist for the change managers 
  • Roadmap or timeline to chalk out the change plan
  • Strategy infographic to introduce the new strategy to employees
  • Posters and job aids to reiterate the change initiative

And here’s an infographic used by the U.S. Government’s National Institutes of Health. It addresses frequently asked questions and shares information in a visually appealing way:

infographic example

Source

Make Way for Two-way Communication

It’s important to acknowledge that, more often than not, your employees will be anxious, confused, and worried about the change. This is why you must make way for dialogue and address their concerns to ease the tension. 

As you’re working remotely, you can host regular video conference “office hours” calls, Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions, and encourage managers to schedule one-on-ones with their team members. It’s a crucial time, and your employees need to feel heard.

Microsoft did this incredibly well when CEO Satya Nadella took charge in 2014. They hosted a two-way conversation between all the employees and C-suite executives on Yammer, their team chat tool. In this monthly communication, a portion of the meeting was devoted to Q&As where employees would ask questions to the senior leaders.

Taking this critical communication step helped build a commitment to the new company culture — and helped the leadership team instill trust with employees.

How to Communicate Organizational Change: The Takeaway

Change is inevitable, but a lot depends on how you communicate that change. 

These five tactics will help you communicate organizational change to your remote employees while reducing friction and keeping them invested in the initiative. 

 

Image by Adnan Ahmad Ali

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

Welcome to Workplace 3.0…

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

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

The Pandemic Blurred Many Lines

One challenging year changed all of that.

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

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

Video Conferencing Destroyed Those Lines

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

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

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

Acceptance of yet another “new normal”

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

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

“Reclaiming my line”

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

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

More transparency at work

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

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

A greater understanding of others

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

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

Workplace 3.0: Work, Changed Forever

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

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

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

 

Image by Siri Wannapat

5 Ways to Incorporate Employee Recognition into the Flow of Work

While countless aspects of daily work have changed over the past year, one thing remains the same across most organizations: Employees value recognition. In fact, now more than ever, employees want their efforts to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. And with the job market heating up, if employee recognition isn’t consistently present, your top talent will go elsewhere.

Nearly 6 in 10 employees (58%) rank culture – including employee recognition – ahead of salary when it comes to what they want from a company.

So the stakes are higher than ever when it comes to recognition and retaining top talent. For companies hoping to thrive as hiring returns to normal, recognition must be a part of every leader’s responsibilities. And it must be incorporated into the flow of work to keep it top of mind and authentic. Yet, according to a recent survey across CXOs and HR leaders, only 36% see recognition as a top priority for 2021.

Employee Recognition: The Difficult Work Lies Ahead

Even for those leaders who acknowledge the need for incorporating recognition into the flow of work, the difficult work lies ahead.

For starters, know that recognition feels more natural and is more successful when leadership fosters a culture built on connection. When it comes to applying connection to recognition, repetition certainly helps. Today’s recognition technology empowers leaders to determine how each employee prefers their shoutouts and communication. For example, a recent study found that 54% of employees prefer a verbal thank-you, while 31% prefer a written note. Only 7% prefer celebration and gifts. As any successful leader knows that recognition is not one-size-fits-all, and it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it initiative.

Putting authentic recognition in the flow of your organization’s work can feel daunting. But leaders must make this a priority and set it as a part of their daily intentions. Let’s discuss five ways to incorporate recognition.

1. Acknowledge specifics

Anyone can hand out a generic “great job.” Such blanket statements feel insincere. Instead, focus on the specific contributions individual employees are making to create heartfelt praise. This will require more involved leadership and higher emotional intelligence than simply offering impersonal, inauthentic gestures of appreciation.

2. Embrace social recognition

Like it or not, social media is a big part of our lives. With remote work so prevalent now, we rely on online communities and interact via digital communication tools most of the time. Incorporating recognition into all of your employee communication tools, including social channels, ensures recognition is timely, visible, and in the flow of work.

3. Schedule virtual events

Team lunches, scheduled times to touch base, and other virtual events deliver two benefits:

  • They allow you to stay connected with your employees.
  • They provide a natural forum for recognition and communication.

Because remote work can leave employees feeling isolated, it’s important to schedule these virtual touchpoints to ensure a sense of community and connection. You can also let employees select the themes of the virtual events or choose activities (e.g., a virtual painting class or a yoga class) as a part of their recognition. That way, employees feel engaged and rewarded.

4. Make it meaningful

Let’s face it: Some daily tasks feel tedious and thankless. Put meaning in “the little things” — show the impact an employee has, even if they don’t see it themselves. One way to do this is to tie recognition of the smaller tasks to values, mission, or even larger themes within your organization. This lets employees see how their success maps to something greater. This is especially important now because being dispersed often distorts the bigger picture or impedes an employee’s visibility to larger goals.

5. Incorporate variety

Just as you incorporate variety into your messaging, variety is essential when it comes to message delivery. Think outside the box: handwritten notes, a customized gift, a video message, or a delivery of their favorite treat. If every attempt at providing recognition looks the same, employees will undoubtedly start to feel the message is increasingly less special.

The Connection Between Recognition and Results

Providing recognition is not the final step. It’s important to measure your recognition results to ensure program ROI. By infusing analytics into the process – tracking and measuring your recognition strategy’s effectiveness – you can determine which areas might benefit from optimization or where something isn’t working. You need to make sure what you’re doing is having the desired effect. You’ll also want to ensure that your company is getting the most from your recognition investment. Analytics will also help ensure that your programs are positively impacting the behaviors you want to target.

Data and analytics can provide the necessary feedback and a road map to ensure your organization stays on track now and in the future. Keeping an eye on the road ahead not only includes measuring ROI but also retaining your top talent. Ultimately, employee recognition provides the validation, appreciation, and culture to drive retention.

So, don’t let recognition be just a passing thought or a tool that sits on a shelf. Incorporate it daily for your workforce to feel genuinely valued. After all, we endured in 2020. So who doesn’t deserve a shoutout for the tenacity and resilience they’ve shown?

 

Image by Eva Blanco

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet

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

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

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

How Pets Help Us Cope During COVID-19

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

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

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

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

The Stress of COVID-19 for Pets

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

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

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

How to Manage Separation Anxiety When Returning to Work

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

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

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

Create a Routine

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

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

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

Practice Being Alone

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

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

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

Make Your Return Special

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

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

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

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

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

How to Discuss Hot-Button Social Issues in the Workplace

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

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

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

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

Use Data to Support Future Programming

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

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

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

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

Thoughtfully Bring in Outside Assistance

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

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

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

Develop Policies and Statements Around Hot-Button Social Issues

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

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

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

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

 

Image by Vladim Kluchnik

Attract the Best: Help Gen Z Workers Thrive in the New Workplace Normal

According to CNBC Make It, “Millennials and Gen Z currently account for slightly over a third of the workforce.” In the next decade, they expect that figure “to shoot up to 58 percent, making the youthful generations the most dominant in the workplace.” So how can employers help Gen Z workers thrive?

Members of Generation Z are the youngest group in the current workforce. Many Gen Z workers’ first work experience abruptly ended or was postponed altogether when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. To reboot their careers, they’ll lean on companies that feature modern recruitment techniques, flexible work, and opportunities for advancement.

As an employer, you will have to plan how you can best create an inviting and welcoming work environment for Gen Z employees. You’ll also need to think about how you can prepare them for thriving through future uncertainties. To help get these thought processes started, here are four ways businesses can help Gen Z workers thrive in the new workplace normal.

Four Ways Businesses Can Help Gen Z Thrive

Gen Z workers are changing the way companies recruit, retain, manage, and develop their employees. The next generation of workers fosters an entirely different set of values, needs, and priorities than their millennial, Gen Y, or baby boomer cohorts. These include high demand for flexibility, a modern benefits package, and a desire for independent work models, among other values.

To help Gen Z workers thrive in the new workplace normal, here are four things you can do right now:

Implement advanced technology.

Generation Z grew up with technology a part of their everyday lives. The way they connect, communicate, and navigate this world depends on their efficient use of the best technology offered. An employer that provides high-quality technology to Gen Z aids their comfortability, productivity, and enthusiasm for their job duties.

However, it’s best to implement advanced technology while still prioritizing the impact of face-to-face collaboration with other workers. Inc. states that “More than 90 percent of Generation Z prefer to have a human element to their teams, either working solely with innovative co-workers or co-workers and new technologies.”

With the Gen Z workforce priding themselves on being highly tech-savvy, you must meet their technology expectations throughout your company:

  • Productivity tools like Google Suite and Trello
  • Collaboration tools like Slack and Asana
  • Business software like Quickbooks and Hubspot
  • New computer monitors and/or portable laptops for remote workers
  • Tablets and updated cell phones
  • Updated shipping stations
  • New and efficient manufacturing equipment

Create flexible work schedules and job descriptions.

Gen Z workers support companies that see the value in flexible work schedules and adaptable job descriptions. When employers don’t confine this young generation of workers to an office, traditional 9-5 schedule, or monotonous job descriptions, their productivity soars.

Companies scattered around the world were experimenting with fully remote work and hybrid schedules before the COVID-19 pandemic. Statewide stay-at-home orders issued across the country fast-tracked a full implementation, and business owners were pleasantly surprised in terms of engagement, work quality, and profitability.

Avoid workplace burnout, absenteeism, and presenteeism by offering the option to work from anywhere in some capacity. Go a step further and provide potential workers the opportunity of freelance, contract, or part-time work should it fit their needs better. You’ll soon see a return on investment in the form of productivity and cost efficiencies.

Understand their values.

When the company they work for understands what they value, Gen Z workers thrive in the new workplace normal. Trust, pay, and culture are currently some of the essential values of Gen Z workers:

  • Trust matters because it drives the workforce and company forward
  • Pay because they value financial wellness
  • And culture because they appreciate a positive, supportive work environment

You should also build a diverse and inclusive workforce to retain Gen Z workers. They value working with people of all ages, genders, cultural backgrounds, economic statuses, and so forth. After all, every aspect of diversity brings a unique element to the team. They’re also attracted to companies actively improving social and environmental challenges like:

Speak with each of your employees. Find out what’s most important to them. Then restructure job descriptions based on said values to attract more top talent, drive performance, and enhance innovation.

Offer intentional career development.

With a rapidly changing workforce, it’s now considered a requirement to enable workers’ development personally and professionally. While baby boomers put the ball in their company’s court as far as professional development, Gen Z workers feel responsible for their growth and advancement.

They’re enthusiastic about advancing their skill set and receiving feedback that challenges and elevates them. Sixty percent of Generation Z-ers want weekly, if not daily, check-ins from their manager. They want to work for companies that also understand that skills require constant nurturing. And Gen Z migrates toward employers that deliberately focus on effective talent development. So ensure you’re offering employees various training opportunities – in-person and virtually. And give them the option of mentorship, guided self-education, formal training by a company leader, and an occasional direct connection to founders and executives

Are You Ready to Help Gen Z Workers Thrive?

The youngest generation is taking over the workforce at a rapid rate. Want to attract the best of them? Want to help Gen Z workers thrive in our new workplace normal? Offer talent development opportunities, understand their unique values, create flexible work schedules and duties, and implement advanced technology throughout your business.

Image by Joel Muniz

The Nonprofit Mindset: How This New Outlook Helps Business Leaders

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

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

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

What Do Nonprofits Do Well?

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

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

Most notably, nonprofits excel in:

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

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

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

Developing Connections and Earning Trust

Nonprofit Mindset: World Help

Image: Vet Comp & Pen

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

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

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

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

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

Three lessons:

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

Creating a More Organic Social Media Presence

Nonprofit Mindset World Help

Image: World Help Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

Three lessons:

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

Learning to Do More with Less

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three lessons:

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

The NonProfit Mindset: Making it Work for Your Business

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

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

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

 

Image by Elena Abrazhevich

Stop Promoting Workplace Failure and Accepting Mediocrity [Podcast]

In the world of work, we tend to be tolerant — perhaps overly tolerant — of failure. Of course, no business sets out to fail. And yet, we often find ourselves surrounded by workplace failure — often initiated by new leaders who seem to try not to fail rather than preparing for success. Even worse, as work teams and entire organizations, we too often accept the resulting mediocrity as normal.

So when do we stop promoting people only to watch them fail? How do we move work teams past normalized mediocrity?

Our Guest: Claire Chandler, Leadership Effectiveness Expert

This week on the #WorkTrends podcast, Claire Chandler, President and Founder of Talent Boost, joins us to answer my questions about why we accept mediocrity from our leaders and teams — and why companies tend to promote high-performers only to watch them fail.

Claire explained companies tend to promote individuals based on past performance rather than future potential. “Companies certainly don’t strive for failure. But organizations tend to make the assumption that a leader in a new role is going to figure it out. And without a lot of hand-holding, a lot of support, or training or onboarding. It’s as if we’re saying, ‘They’re A-players. They’ve done some great things in the past. They’ll figure it out.’ And unfortunately, the statistics don’t bear that out.” Soon, Claire intimated, a mediocre performance level becomes the norm.

“And mediocrity can turn into failure very, very quickly.”

The Root Cause of Workplace Failure: Lack of Preparedness

“McKinsey says, based on all the research and all the interviews they’ve done, that 75% of leaders cite a lack of preparedness as the number one cause of workplace and leadership failure,” Claire told us. “And it’s not ‘did they mentally prepare’ or ‘do they have the right resume,’” she added. Instead, it’s more about the preparedness that comes from leaders asking: “What will it take to succeed in this specific new role?”

Claire went on to tell us how organizations can intentionally prepare their top performers for success in new leadership roles, the importance of gaining clarity on the company mission and how a leader helps achieve that mission, and so much more. Listen to the entire episode. As you do, take a close look at your team and organization. Then ask yourself:

Does your company promote high performers then enable them to fail as leaders? Do they, and the people who work for them, start to accept mediocrity as normal?

If the answer might be yes, connect with Claire on LinkedIn or visit her website.

 

Image by Etaearth

Business Reinvention: Disruption and Chaos a Natural Process [Podcast]

Disruption is constant; by definition, it drives in business reinvention — and never more than it has over the past year. And yet, some companies and people have thrived within all the chaos. In this episode of #WorkTrends, we’re discussing exactly how some organizations and their leaders have taken unforeseen chaos and turned it into a benefit they can leverage.

This is about more than “turning lemons into lemonade.” This is about competitive advantage.

Our Guest: Dr. Nadya Zhexembayeva, the “Reinvention Queen”

On our latest episode of the #WorkTrends podcast, Dr. Nadya a renowned consultant, 4-time TEDx talker and 3-time author — joined us to provide insights on how the best organizations embrace chaos as they reinvent themselves. Her latest book, The Chief Reinvention Officer Handbook: How to Thrive in Chaos, is available now.

Dr. Nadya explained why disruption, chaos, and crisis certainly constants in almost every business over the past 12 months — were actually a good thing. I then asked how business leaders can get more comfortable with chaos. Her answer helps us understand why we must look at change differently:

“In general, we don’t mind change. If you think about when a healthy baby is born, we love change. And you don’t need to offer that baby a bonus to start walking. They start walking because they like trying new things. But we educate our kids out of the love of change very early because we adults want to live in a stable world. Stories and proverbs tell us that change is bad, stability is good, and we should hold on to things that we have.” Dr. Nadya summed up this portion of our conversation succinctly when she said:

“We are not born averse to change. But we are educated to associate change with a threat.”

Business Reinvention: The Best Kind of Change

Dr. Nadya went on to say that for leaders and organizations to embrace change, we must forget what we think we know. “The solution is to start unlearning some of this learned behavior,” she said. “We must help our teams unlearn that behavior as well. Just launching that discussion will send the team in the right direction.”

From there, Dr. Nadya said, we must redefine “reinvention.”

“We are in an era where we must reinvent every two or three years or less to survive. Reinvention can no longer be a project; it’s a process a cycle of renewal. Just like nature reinvents on a regular basis. You don’t see a tree standing in the fall and saying, ‘I’m not going to let go of the leaves I worked so hard to produce. I’m not going to let go of this process. I worked so hard to put this process together,” she said. Then she added:

“Nature invents and reinvents in a cyclical fashion, and today’s businesses must do the same.”

If you know me, you know I thrive on change. Still, this conversation helped put the willingness to embrace change in a different light. Be sure to listen in and then help your team or organization embrace business reinvention. 

To learn more about Dr. Nadya’s work, connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

Image by Aaron Amat

Leadership in Divisive Times: Dealing with Colleagues in Denial

When was the last time a colleague said something so ridiculous that it made your jaw drop? A four-year study by LeadershipIQ.com found that employers and boards fired 23 percent of CEOs for denying reality, meaning refusing to recognize negative facts about his or her organization’s performance. Additionally, our recent challenge of mostly politically-driven alternative facts and dealing with colleagues in denial can get overwhelming.

We typically respond to people denying reality by confronting them with the facts and arguments. But research suggests that’s precisely the wrong thing to do.

Research on confirmation bias shows that we tend to look for and interpret information in ways that conform to our beliefs. There is an emotional investment in continuing to believe what you want to believe. Furthermore, studies on a phenomenon called the backfire effect shows when presented with facts that cause us to feel bad about our self-worth or worldview, we may sometimes even develop a stronger attachment to the incorrect belief.

Our Mental Blindspots

These mental blindspots are two of over 100 dangerous judgment errors that result from how our brains are wired, what scholars in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics call cognitive biases. We make these mistakes not only in work but also in other life areas. For example, in our shopping choices, as revealed by a series of studies.

Fortunately, recent research in these fields shows how you can use pragmatic strategies to address these dangerous judgment errors, whether in your professional life, relationships, or other life areas. You need to evaluate where cognitive biases are hurting you and others in your team and organization. Then, you can use structured decision-making methods to make “good enough” daily decisions quickly, more thorough ones for moderately important choices, and an in-depth one for truly major decisions.

Such techniques will also help you implement your decisions well and formulate truly effective long-term strategic plans. In addition, you can develop mental habits and skills to notice cognitive biases and prevent yourself from slipping into them.

A Better Way to Deal with “The Ostrich Effect”

In today’s divisive world, there are two distinct types of denial: personal and professional. How we deal with those in denial on non-business matters is a personal choice. So, for this post, we’ll focus on the professional aspect of denial, or “The Ostrich Effect.” Keep in mind that these same concepts apply to professional and personal relationships and all forms of denial.

So how do you deal with colleagues suffering from the professional form of denial?

Rather than arguing, it is much more effective to use a research-based and easy-to-remember strategy I developed called EGRIP. This acronym stands for Emotions, Goals, Rapport, Information, and Positive Reinforcement.

For instance, consider Mike’s case, a new product development team lead in a rapidly-growing tech start-up. He set an ambitious goal for a product launch, and as more and more bugs kept creeping up, he refused to move the date. People tried to talk to him, but he hunkered down and kept insisting that the product would launch on time and work well. I was doing coaching for the company’s founder, and he asked me to talk to Mike and see what’s going on. During my first conversation with Mike, I explained the EGRIP concept:

E – Connect with their emotions

In the workplace and out, when someone denies clear facts they qualify as one of your colleagues in denial. So you can safely assume that their emotions are leading them away from reality. While gut reactions can be helpful, they can also lead us astray. What works better is to focus on understanding their emotions and to determine what emotional blocks might cause them to stick their heads into the sand of reality.

In my conversations with Mike, I discovered that he tied his self-worth and sense of success to “sticking to his guns.” He associated strong leadership with consistency, so he was afraid of appearing weak in his new role as the team lead. He believed team members were trying to undermine him by getting him to shift the schedule and admit he failed to deliver. This false association of leadership with consistency and fear of appearing weak is a frequent problem for new leaders.

G – Establish shared goals

Then, you must establish shared goals, which is crucial for effective knowledge sharing. I spoke with Mike about how we both shared the goal of having him succeed as a company leader. Likewise, we both shared the goal of having the new product be profitable.

R – Build rapport

Next, build a rapport by establishing trust. Use empathetic listening to echo their emotions and show you understand how they feel. I spoke to Mike about how it must hard to be worried about the loyalty of one’s team members and also discussed what he thinks makes someone a strong leader.

I – Provide information

At this point, start providing new information that might prove a bit challenging — but won’t touch the actual pain point.

I described to Mike how research suggests one of the most important signs of being a strong leader is the ability to change your mind based on new evidence. Along the way, I provided examples such as Alan Mulally saving Ford Motor Company through repeated changes. If I had begun with this information, Mike might have perceived it as threatening. However, by slipping it in naturally as part of a broader conversation — after cultivating rapport built on shared goals — Mike accepted the information calmly.

P – Provide positive reinforcement

Then, after the person changes their perspective, provide them with positive reinforcement, a research-based tactic of shifting someone’s emotions. The more positive emotions the person associates with the ability to accept counter-intuitive facts as an invaluable skill, the less likely anyone will need to have the same conversation with them in the future.

Dealing with Colleagues in Denial: A Different Approach

With Mike, I discussed where he could best exhibit these characteristics. Specifically, we talked about how to show those who might try to undermine him what a strong leader he is — and at the same time make the new product as profitable as possible. I directed the conversation toward how he can show strength by delaying the launch of the new product. Eventually, he agreed, and I praised his ability to show strength and leadership by shifting his perspective. From that point on, his team knew Mike based his views on objective data and evidence.

Next time you’re dealing with colleagues in denial, I wish you good luck. Remember that you can use EGRIP not simply in professional settings but all situations. Keep EGRIP in mind whenever you want to steer others away from false beliefs that cause them to deny reality.

 

Image by Paula Photo

Women in the Workplace: The Continuing Struggle [#WorkTrends]

Women in the workforce have always faced a lack of upward mobility, unequal pay, and suppression of our talent in the workplace. Now, let’s add the pull to leave the workforce to serve as a full-time caretaker. Or the need to balance work-from-home responsibilities with distance learning, elder care, and so much more.

How do women finally break down these barriers old and new and be seen as equal contributors in the workplace?

Our Guest: Kate Bischoff, Employment Attorney and HR Professional

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, Kate Bischoff joins us to discuss the continuing struggle of women in the workplace. An employment attorney and human resources professional who works closely with executive and HR teams to improve their workplaces, Kate is highly qualified to talk about the most significant hurdles women face at work today. And the number one obstacle, according to Kate?

“COVID. In the last nine months, we’ve seen so many women leave the workforce. We’re back to 1988 levels of women in the workplace. This pandemic has been a crisis upon a crisis upon a crisis. And we have lost women to such a dramatic degree.”

Yes, folks, the “Shecession” is real.

Women in the Workplace: Bringing Them Back

I asked Kate her views on bringing women back into the workforce, perhaps once pandemic-caused pressures are further behind us. “The first step,” Kate said after noting women have recently had to leave their jobs and careers to take care of family, “Is to eliminate things that hamper women when they’re looking for jobs. For example, eliminate the idea that a gap in your employment is a bad thing… like you must be a bad employee.”

Another necessary step, Kate says, is a pay audit, where a company uses existing data to determine any discrepancies in how they pay people and why. Using Salesforce as an example of a transparent company, Kate said that when employers take on this critical task, they are saying to not just women, but everyone:

“We want to make sure we are compensating you for the value you bring — and we’re also making sure everyone sees that we value you appropriately.”

During our conversation, Kate shared many other insights into this continuing struggle. So grab that next cup of coffee, set aside fifteen minutes, and listen in. You’ll be glad you did!

To learn more about Kate’s work, look for her on LinkedIn and at tHRive Law & Consulting.

Image by Harold Guevara

What is Unconscious Bias? (And How Do You Defeat It?)

How do you defeat unconscious bias? First, you need to know what it is.

Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) refers to unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping based on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, age, etc. It differs from cognitive bias, a predictable pattern of mental errors resulting in us misperceiving reality. These are two separate and distinct concepts despite cognitive biases sometimes leading to discriminatory thinking and feeling patterns.

Cognitive biases are common across humankind and relate to the particular wiring of our brains. In contrast, unconscious bias refers to perceptions between different groups and are specific to the society in which we live. For example, I bet you don’t care or even think about whether someone is a noble or a commoner. Yet, that distinction was fundamentally important a few centuries ago across Europe. Another example – geographic instead of across time: Most US-based people don’t have strong feelings about Sunni vs. Shiite Muslims. Yet, this distinction is significant in many parts of the world.

Unconscious Bias and Prejudice

In my speeches, I often discuss that black Americans suffer from police harassment and violence at a much higher rate than white people. In response, some participants (usually white) occasionally defend the police by claiming that black people are more violent and likely to break the law than whites. They thus attribute police harassment to black people’s internal characteristics (implying they deserve the treatment), not to the external context of police behavior.

In reality – as I point out in my response to these folks – research shows that black people are harassed and harmed by police at a much higher rate for the same kind of activity. A white person walking by a cop, for example, is statistically much less likely to be stopped and frisked than a black one. At the other end of things, a white person resisting arrest is much less likely to be violently beaten than a black person. In other words, statistics show that, at least to a large extent, the higher rate of harassment and violence against black Americans by police is due to police officers’ prejudice.

However, I am careful to clarify that this discrimination is not necessarily intentional. Sometimes, it is deliberate, with white police officers consciously believing that black Americans deserve much more scrutiny than whites. At other times, the discriminatory behavior results from unconscious, implicit thought processes that the police officer would not consciously endorse.

Not Limited to One Race

Interestingly, research shows that many black police officers have an unconscious prejudice against other black people. Specifically, they perceive them in a more negative light than white people when evaluating potential suspects. This unconscious bias carried by many – not all – black police officers helps show that such prejudices come – at least to a significant extent – from internal cultures. They germinate within police departments, rather than pre-existing racist attitudes before someone joins a police department.

The Need to Address Internal Cultures

We often perpetuate such cultures by internal norms (such as poorly-written job descriptions), policies, and training procedures. So any police department wishing to address unconscious bias needs to address internal culture first and foremost, rather than attributing racism to individual officers. In other words, it is not enough to say it’s a few bad apples in a barrel of overall good ones. Instead, we must recognize that implicit bias is a systemic issue. Therefore, we must first fix the structure and joints of the barrel.

The crucial thing to highlight is that there is no shame or blame in implicit bias. After all, that bias, is not stemming from any fault in the individual. This no-shame approach decreases the fight, freeze, or flight defensive response among reluctant audiences. Just as important, it helps them hear and accept the issue.

With these additional statistics and discussion of implicit bias, we consider the issue generally settled. Still, from their subsequent behavior, it’s clear that some of these audience members don’t immediately internalize this evidence. It’s much more comforting for them to feel that police officers are right and anyone targeted by police deserves it. In turn, they are reluctant to accept the need to focus more efforts on protecting black Americans from police violence.

The issue of unconscious bias doesn’t match their intuitions, and thus they reject this concept. This, despite extensive and strong evidence for its pervasive role in policing. It takes a series of subsequent follow-up conversations and interventions to move the needle. A single training is rarely sufficient, both in my experience and according to research.

Defeating Unconscious Bias

This example of how to fight unconscious bias illustrates broader patterns you need to follow to address unconscious bias and make the best people decisions. After all, when we simply follow our intuitions, our gut reactions lead us to make poor judgment choices.

  1. Instead, you need to start by learning about the kind of problems that result from unconscious bias yourself, so that you know what you’re trying to address.
  2. Then, you must stress that there should be no shame or guilt in acknowledging our instincts.
  3. Next, openly discuss the dangers of following their intuitions to build up an emotional investment into changing behaviors.
  4. Lastly, convey the right mental habits that will help them make the best choices.

Remember, one-time training will not defeat unconscious bias. This effort takes a long-term commitment and constant discipline. Get started today.

 

Image by Airdone

[#WorkTrends] EQ: The Key to Leading High Performing Cultures in Uncertain Times

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, has been a regular topic in the workplace for some time now. And yet, in these uncertain times and while more of us must work independently conversations around EQ have gained momentum.

So what does EQ mean in terms of today’s workplaces? How are employers taking a fresh look at emotional intelligence while adjusting to new forces in the workplace? Let’s discuss!

Our Guest: Jamelle Lindo, EQ and Leadership Coach

On this episode of #WorkTrends, Jamelle Lindo — an emotional intelligence leadership coach — joins us to discuss EQ’s impact on today’s workforce.  Jamelle has published several thought leadership pieces on Forbes, where he resides as a member of the Forbes Coaches Council. So I couldn’t wait to get our conversation started. First, I asked Jamelle to help us define today’s version of EQ: 

“Simply put, emotional intelligence is about being smart about our emotions,” Jamelle said. He then added: “And not just your emotions, but also the emotions of other people. The reason why that’s important, especially today because this is an extremely emotional time.”

“We are in a pandemic, but we still have to show up for our families, for our businesses, for our clients.”

To help us frame EQ for the workplace, Jamelle filled in some blanks: “The interesting thing about emotional intelligence? Most people think it’s one skill. The reality is, EQ is actually an umbrella term that refers to many skills that tie into our emotionality; things like empathy, assertiveness, self-confidence, and stress resilience.”

EQ’s Role in Today’s Ever-Changing Workplace

I asked Jamelle how today’s best leaders leverage emotional intelligence to support their teams in these trying times. Jamell’s answer helped put everything in perspective: 

“The most important thing that a leader can do is walk the talk; they must develop their own EQ. That starts with self-awareness, which is the gateway skill that leads to everything else, including empathy. You cultivate self-awareness by developing an ability to stop, pause, and reflect on what you’re experiencing.” After saying this sounds easy, but that most leaders struggle in this area, Jamelle gave us a startling statistic: 

“Although most of us identify as being self-aware, only 10 to 15% of us actually are.”

To learn more about how EQ plays helps your organization achieve its mission — especially in the remote work era we’re in now– be sure to listen to my entire conversation with Jamelle!

Find Jamelle on LinkedIn and learn more about his work at JamelleLindo.com.

Editor’s note: We’ve given our #WorkTrends Podcast page (and also our FAQ page) a fresh, new look. Please tell us your thoughts?

 

Image by Inner Vision Pro

[#WorkTrends] The End of Jobs and The Rise of On-Demand Workers

Driven by the desire for more work-life flexibility, more and more of us now consider gig work our full-time jobs. In fact, just before the pandemic hit, the workplace saw a 43 percent increase in on-demand workers. And gig workers now comprise 1 Trillion dollars of the total U.S. freelancing income.

But what does this mean for the future of work — especially in post-pandemic years to come? How will workers and companies react to accelerating change in the workplace?

Our Guest: Jeff Wald, Founder of Work Market

Jeff Wald is the Founder of Work Market, an enterprise software platform that enables companies to manage freelancers. He is also the author of The End of Jobs: The Rise of On-Demand Workers and Agile Corporations. Jeff is known as a student of the workforce and forecaster on what the future will hold for employees and employers, so I couldn’t wait to dive into this future of work conversation!

After discussing the increasing role of tech in the future of work, including Jeff’s summation that history shows technology does not take away jobs, we discussed:

  • How the lessons learned from the past three industrial revolutions help us better understand today and tomorrow’s labor market
  • How we ensure fairness for workers by setting clear rules for companies (which includes Jeff’s thoughts on the $15 per hour minimum wage)
  • The surprising inspiration for Jeff’s The End of Jobs: The Rise of On-Demand Workers and Agile Corporations
  • How the pandemic has impacted the world of work, including the biggest surprise of the COVID-19 crisis
  • The key takeaways from the book — and how they apply to on-demand workers, people working remotely, and also employers

I’m sure you’ll enjoy listening to Jeff’s take on the future of work. Be sure to listen to this entire episode of #WorkTrends!

 

Find Jeff on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Editor’s note: We’ve given our #WorkTrends Podcast page (and also our FAQ page too) a fresh, new look. Please tell us your thoughts?