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How to Help Employees Step Up to Lateral Moves

When you think about your future within your organization, what do you envision? Do you anticipate moving up through the ranks into a managerial or executive position? Or if you’re a specialist, do you look forward to taking on successive roles with increased responsibility? What about lateral moves? Do they even cross your mind?

In my opinion, lateral moves get a bad rap. Naturally, when people consider how to advance their career within a company, they think first about promotions. Lateral moves tend to be discounted because they don’t signify a “step up.” But that’s an overly simplistic way to look at career paths.

Here’s the truth: Some people aren’t cut out to manage others. Some don’t dream of running a department or a business. This doesn’t mean they aren’t talented employees. Nor does it mean they should be stifled professionally.

On the contrary. The best way to support these employees is through opportunities to move across the organization, rather than encouraging them to take a step “up.” When strong employees move sideways, you can fill their vacated roles with other internal talent, recruit new hires or look into business process outsourcing services.

Why Lateral Moves Make Sense

There are multiple reasons to transform your corporate “ladder” into a “lattice” that supports lateral moves. For instance, with this approach you can expect to:

1. Invigorate Professional Development

When you recognize that talented employees aren’t suited for managerial roles, it’s important to find other ways to encourage continued growth. Carefully chosen lateral moves can further develop employee strengths, expand their skill sets, and help them contribute more fully to your organization’s goals.

2. Improve Workforce Engagement

One of the most critical reasons to support lateral moves is the fact that it boosts engagement. When people are encouraged to use their skills more fully, they feel more connected with their work. For example, imagine a promising member of the finance team shows interest in marketing.

A transfer to the marketing group can mean this employee will work harder and be happier. This is beneficial for the employee, personally and professionally. And improved productivity improves the company’s bottom line, as well.

3. Promote Cross-Functional Collaboration

Lateral moves can also improve communication between departments. Better communication can improve collaboration and remove cross-functional barriers that may have slowed innovation in the past. Plus, when employees share knowledge and expertise gained from other teams, that fresh perspective can help their new teams find better solutions to business challenges.

4. Increase Employee Retention

By enabling people to explore different roles through lateral moves, you create new reasons to keep top talent onboard. Ideally, all team members can find attractive opportunities in departments that align with their professional interests and goals. In the near-term, job satisfaction should increase. While over time, you can expect to see retention increase as costly turnover decreases.

2 Ways to Support Lateral Moves

Did you recently realize one of your team members would be happier or more effective working in a different department? There are a few ways you can prepare them for a smooth transition. For example:

1. Develop a Transition-Specific Training Plan

When employees first joined your company, a training plan probably answered their questions and helped them get accustomed to their role. Although a lateral mover is no longer new to the company, a team-specific training plan could help them step into their new responsibilities more quickly and easily.

A transitioning employee may feel intimidated by the possibility of working with a new team or other changes on the horizon. Partner with the other team’s leader to ensure a warm welcome. Share your insights about the employee with this leader, and encourage them to discuss the new team’s habits and cadence of work.

The sooner an individual understands the lay of the land in a new internal role, the sooner they can contribute and help move the team’s agenda forward. By developing strong training and actively taking a part in the move, you can help transitioning employees reach their potential as soon as possible.

2. Keep Your Door Open

You may have initially been surprised or hurt to hear that a team member would prefer to work in a different department. However, it’s best to support their lateral move. Often, an employee’s desire to transfer isn’t a negative reflection on their current manager’s performance. It may just mean they want to learn more about another part of the business or their career goals are leading them in a different direction.

So keep the door open. In the near term, this employee will need your support as well as the support of their new manager. Major career transitions often come with growing pains. Even if an employee has been with the company for several years, they may not understand much about their new role or the team dynamic. Reassuring this individual that you are available to answer any questions will ease their professional transition.

Final Thoughts

When helping employees with their careers, it’s important to assist those who are strong candidates for lateral moves, as well as those who are moving upward. This is a great opportunity to show employees you care about their professional development and trajectory, even if they aren’t aiming toward a traditional managerial position.

When conducting performance evaluations, think about which employees are well-positioned for this kind of transition. Talk with them about their interests and goals. And if they want to pursue a lateral move, follow these tips to support them.

Is Quiet Quitting a Symptom of Poor Mental Health?

One workplace buzzword many people are eager to leave behind is “quiet quitting.” The phrase dominated headlines this year, especially when a Gallup poll revealed that at least half of U.S. workers are disengaged.

Although this term is quickly running its course, the underlying problem remains. In fact, work engagement continues to slide, indicating a growing disconnect between employees and employers. No doubt, the quiet quitting phenomenon is a symptom of ongoing workplace upheaval. But I suspect it also reflects the need for better mental health support at work.

What Research Says About Workforce Wellbeing

Even as post-pandemic work engagement is dropping, countless studies reveal that depression and anxiety are on the rise. And the uptick in layoffs and economic uncertainty creates even more stress. Let’s look closer.

Nearly three-quarters of employees (72% ) say they’re concerned about finances – up from 65% last year – according to a recent report from financial wellness solution provider, Brightplan. And PWC research indicates that declining financial health impacts employee mental health and work productivity. Specifically, PWC found that 69% of employees who are financially stressed are less likely to feel valued at work – and therefore, they are becoming less engaged. 

Depression and anxiety are also leading reasons why people take time off from work. In fact, employers lose an estimated 12 billion workdays annually as a result of employee depression and anxiety. According to The World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization, this costs the global economy nearly $1 trillion a year. Both organizations acknowledge the need for concrete action to address workplace mental health.

How Can Employers Respond?

Some employers may ignore these disturbing trends. But others are taking action by creating an environment where workers feel more valued and supported.

For example, if you notice that “quiet quitting” is spreading among your ranks, it’s likely that these employees  feel under-appreciated. By offering professionally managed support groups as a benefit, you can send a much-needed message that tells people, “We see you, we care about your wellbeing, and you are valued here.”

This kind of benefit extends assistance to people who might hesitate to pursue individual therapy — which has historically been costly and difficult to access. And the pandemic has only made it worse. For example, at the height of the Covid outbreak, the U.S. average wait time to see a therapist ranged from 29-66 days.

The Benefits of Group Support

Multiple studies underscore how support group participation leads to improved employee mental health and job performance. In fact, our own research found that when employees attended group sessions, 50% became more productive and 100% experienced improved attitude and outlook.

Why are these results so striking? When employees have access to a clinically-backed support group program, their social connectedness and mood tend to improve. This, in turn, alleviates depression and anxiety. And group support not only helps reduce anxiety and stress. It can also play a central role in preventive care strategies designed to avoid employee burnout.

Why Group Support Helps

Depression and anxiety can fuel feelings of isolation and loneliness – two key reasons why people seek group support in their personal lives. Providing a safe space where employees discuss meaningful issues and concerns can increase their positive feelings about work and improve overall job satisfaction.

Because group support encourages dialogue among people with different perspectives, it can help participants build trust, empathy and openness that carries over into the workplace. However, it’s important not to require colleagues to join the same group. Also, it’s important to respect participants’ privacy by preserving their anonymity.

While the benefits of peer counseling are well known, new studies demonstrate how digital group support can extend mental health services access to more diverse populations. For example, some people have limited mobility or are located in rural communities where trained mental health providers aren’t unavailable.

Video-based group support is an excellent alternative, because it is affordable and accessible online from nearly anywhere on any digital device. This encourages connections and therapeutic conversations without requiring participants to wait for weeks or travel long distances.

Tips to Improve Group Support

When offering this kind of mental health benefit to your employees, keep this advice in mind:

1. Emphasize Voluntary Participation

Everyone comes to the table with a unique background and point of view. This is why the group model can be a particularly powerful tool. So, although encouraging individuals to take advantage of this benefit can be helpful, avoid pressuring anyone or threatening them with repercussions. The goal is to destigmatize mental health and make pathways to wellbeing more accessible and affordable.

2. Prepare to Overcome Fears

Group support is a highly misunderstood term. Too often, people associate group settings only with treatment centers. In the workplace, many people who need support fear they’ll be perceived as “weak” and their careers will be damaged if they join a group. For anyone concerned about this, you can share positive use case data demonstrating how helpful and healing group support can be. Employers can leverage this information as a reference tool and assure concerned employees that their identity will be protected.

3. Insist on Anonymity

Video-based group support should provide access to online sessions on any day and time that works best for each member, while also protecting their identity. Solutions like Sesh, which is 100% HIPAA-compliant, let every user select a pseudonym. Individual data is never shared, and employees are notified when anyone within the same organization registers for their group.

My Perspective

I discovered the value of group sessions while in treatment for an eating disorder. Being part of a group was the catalyst that catapulted my recovery to the next level. This experience led me to launch Sesh

Typically, therapist-led support is difficult to access, difficult to pay for and designed for monolithic audiences. That’s why I’m committed to extending therapist-led group support to people from all communities, circumstances and identities.

With an affordable, accessible group support experience through their employer, people can finally receive the high-quality mental health support they need and deserve. This helps individuals cope with challenging personal issues, while helping businesses create a more harmonious, productive workplace. And in the process, it may also silence quiet quitting. That is my hope.

5 Ways to Improve Employee Experience With HR Tech

Sponsored by: Neocase

Did you know more than 160 million people are employed in the U.S.? Unfortunately, however, rising turnover is eroding workforce retention. In fact, 48% of hiring managers say turnover is higher this year – up from 44% in 2021. And the cost of replacing those people isn’t cheap. No wonder employers want to build a positive work culture that attracts and retains top talent. That’s why many are turning to HR technology to improve employee experience.

But here’s the catch: In recent years, the HR tech landscape has been bursting at the seams. This means choosing the best solution for your organization’s needs can be overwhelming. To overcome this obstacle, think first about how you want to improve employee experience, and work from those objectives to define your selection criteria.

HR Technology 101

To provide some context, let’s start with a brief overview of core HR systems. In most HR technology stacks you’ll find at least one of these systems as a foundation for all other people platforms, tools and applications:

1. HRIS Human Resource Information Systems

HRIS was developed to help organizations track and store employee data and records for essential administrative needs. As the HR function grew more complex, HRIS platforms added modules to support talent acquisition processes and recruitment operations, as well as employee information management and maintenance. 

2. HRMS – Human Resource Management Systems

Over time, HR became more deeply integrated with other functions, so HR tracking software had to meet these expanded business requirements. Now, HRMS/HRIS systems are used interchangeably to support operations such as payroll, time tracking and compliance management. 

3. HCM – Human Capital Management Systems

HCM supports a more expansive set of HR operations, including employee performance analysis, compensation planning and projection, workforce development and more.HCM covers all HR functions with a comprehensive solution that can be customized to support the entire employee lifecycle.

Why Employee Experience Matters

A strong employee experience is essential to attract top talent and keep people engaged with your work culture. As Gartner says, “Employee experience is the way employees internalize and interpret the interactions they have with their organization, as well as the context that underlies those interactions.”

But as many organizations have discovered, an exceptional employee experience isn’t easy to develop and maintain. In fact, according to Gartner, “Only 13% of employees are fully satisfied with their experience.

What’s at stake? A negative employee experience leads to low morale, poor work performance, and other issues that directly affect organizational culture and business results. On the other hand, a positive employee experience helps lift morale, productivity, efficiency, and work quality.

How HR Tech Can Improve Employee Experience

Clearly, creating the best employee experience possible leads to significant business benefits. So, to achieve the highest potential impact, consider these five priorities:

1. Automate Tasks and Streamline Workflows

Is anything worse than monotony? It is just as painful for your HR team as it is for others in your organization. Many manual HR tasks are excellent candidates for automation. Focus first on business processes that will free your HR team from tedious, time-consuming, redundant paperwork, and email communications.

Start by developing an employee journey map to better understand your current processes. Then look for bottlenecks, gaps, and disconnects. These issues are opportunities to streamline processes or speed response times.

Organizations often begin by mapping onboarding or offboarding processes. This ensures that an employee’s first and last impressions will align with company values and the employer brand.

2. Gather Employee Feedback

A silent employee can be a dangerous or at-risk employee – even if they don’t realize it. Many workers hesitate to speak up for a variety of reasons. Some fear punishment if they express negative opinions, while others think their input won’t be heard or appreciated.

If an employee doesn’t have a chance to share feedback or ideas, they could feel undervalued and unimportant. You can remedy this with HR technology specifically intended to improve communication.

Consider feedback tools that encourage employees to make their voices heard. Monthly surveys, quarterly outreach messages, and other kinds of digital communication can help build stronger connections and spark more useful conversations.

But that’s just the beginning. Once you receive input, you need to respond or implement changes. Otherwise, people could become more frustrated if you solicit input but don’t seem willing to act upon it.

3. Provide Self-Service Portals

One of the best ways HR technology improves employee experience is through self-service applications. Many platforms can help organizations build and deploy custom tools that help employees serve themselves at their convenience.

One of the best-known examples is a benefits portal. Many employers offer secure web-based destinations with all the information and tools people need to research, select and manage their particular benefits. This frees employees from having to manage the constant back-and-forth of emails or phone calls just to get basic benefits information or answer common questions.

This kind of solution increases efficiency, while giving employees more control. At the same time, portal analytics can help your HR team understand employee preferences and identify content and functionality that can better them.

4. Offer Anywhere, Anytime Access

Unfortunately, many employees feel totally disconnected from HR. Some need guidance and oversight, but HR teams and managers are stretched too thin to engage.

Integrated real-time HR communication tools can help you and your management team focus less on paperwork and more on people. Think of it as the digital equivalent of an office with an open door!

The benefits of integrated communications extend to employees, as well. This leads to a more closely-knit workplace culture that operates more efficiently and is better aligned with business priorities.

5. Design Intuitive Workflows

Demand for better, faster response started with customer service. But it has quickly spread to internal organizational functions, as well.

When we ask HR a question, we want the answer now. We also want to find answers ourselves, ideally with no more than one or two taps on a smartphone.

This aspect of HR technology requires decision-makers to put themselves in an employee’s shoes for a reality check. How easy is it to perform a task you want to accomplish? For example, if you’re a full-time manager using a self-service benefits portal, how intuitive is the path to information you need at the moment you need it? How much information do you have to dig through to find a useful answer?

This aspect of HR technology is central to the employee experience. Why? Because, if employees struggle to use a digital tool, they will also struggle to adopt that tool and succeed with it.

Final Thoughts

HR technology can play an important role when you want to improve employee experience. Whether you’re implementing a self-service portal to support job applicants, deploying an employee feedback tool or expanding business process automation to improve HR response times, your efforts can positively influence talent acquisition and retention. These 5 priorities can help your team focus on solutions that will make a strong impact.

How to Level Up Employee Benefits Education With Video

As employee engagement continues to drift downward, organizations everywhere are looking for more efficient, effective ways to connect and communicate with their workforce. This is especially true for employee benefits education, where access to clear, complete and timely information is critical.

What better way to help employees understand their benefits than with video? In this article, we’ll explore why video is such an effective form of outreach, along with five ways you can use it to improve benefits education.

Why is Video Ideal for This Purpose?

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. But what about video? In the business world, its popularity as a communication tool has skyrocketed over the past decade. And the pandemic only added fuel to the fire by forcing employers to shift toward video for internal communications.

Now, many organizations recognize just how powerful video can be in employee education. Why?

  • When people see and hear information within the context of a video, they’re more likely to understand and remember the message.
  • Video tutorials and walkthroughs are a great way to break down complex topics into manageable, memorable “bites.”
  • Video content is also highly shareable, so employees can easily pass information along and discuss it with others.

5 Ways to Enhance Benefits Education With Video

1. Offer Benefits Portal Tutorials and Walkthroughs

To ensure employees know how to navigate your benefits portal, it’s important to provide proper instruction. But with video, it’s no longer necessary to bombard people with lengthy written documentation.

Instead, brief tutorials are a great way to give employees a guided tour of your benefits site. Even a few quick, easy-to-follow videos can make all the difference in introducing employees to the portal so they become more comfortable conducting research and serving themselves.

2. Create Enrollment Screencasts

Enrolling in benefits can be daunting, especially when people are unfamiliar with the process. Rather than sending out lengthy written instructions or expecting employees to figure it out independently, you can use screencasting to walk them through the entire process, step-by-step. This helps people understand the open enrollment process, so they don’t become confused or frustrated by complexity.

Offering useful screencasts requires thoughtful upfront planning and production. But in the long run, it can save your benefits administrators significant time, by reducing the volume of routine questions and issues they must resolve.

3. Focus on Key Topics of Interest

Instructional videos are a terrific option if you want to provide more in-depth information about particular benefits topics. These videos can cover anything from an overview of your company’s health insurance plans, to guidance on how to use key portal features.

This is also a smart way to address common concerns or misconceptions employees may have about selecting or managing their benefits. By providing clear, concise information in a compelling visual format, you can help employees better understand every aspect of their benefits and how to use them.

4. Conduct Virtual Benefits Fairs

If your company offers a variety of benefits, staging a virtual benefits fair can be a useful way to consolidate information into a highly accessible “all-in-one” live online experience. Plus, you can record the sessions and make them available on-demand so employees can attend at their convenience.

Your programming could involve a series of short videos covering each benefit category. These sessions could be followed by an interactive Q&A session, where employees can ask questions of an expert at your company or from a related benefits vendor. This gives participants access to the information they need to make better-informed decisions.

5. Produce Video Testimonials

One of the most compelling ways to engage employees in benefits education is to illustrate how others are using these benefits. And what better way to do this than with video testimonials that let members of your workforce tell their story in their own words?

Featured employees can talk about why and how they selected specific benefits to improve their health, save for financial goals, or improve their quality of life. This not only helps others feel comfortable about their benefits decisions, even as it reinforces your organization’s commitment to workforce wellbeing.

Video Engagement Best Practices

Now that we’ve explored ways to use video to engage your employees in benefits education, let’s look at some best practices to keep in mind when creating any video content:

  • Be sure to put the audience’s interests first. What are their needs? What information do they want to see? How much time are they likely to invest in consuming this content? What should their next move be?
  • Strive to keep your videos short and to the point. Employees are busy and often can’t devote time or attention to long-form content.
  • Always test videos before you launch and promote them. Make sure they work correctly from end-to-end, and that employees can understand the concepts you’re trying to communicate. This will ensure a positive, productive enrollment experience for employees and support your broader organizational goals.
  • Don’t forget the marketing outreach needed to make employees aware of any education resources. Unseen video has little value, so be sure you invest in communication that will lead people to your educational content.

Closing Notes

Helping employees understand their benefits is crucial for employers and human resources departments. If you haven’t considered using video to communicate this information, you’re missing an opportunity to present complex benefits information in a way that is meaningful, quick and easy for employees to access. And in the long run, this self-service content can save your HR team significant time and money.

The Serious Value of Humor at Work

I’m a fan of fun work environments. So of course, I’m also a fan of humor at work.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should all pretend to be stand-up comedians. And I’m not talking about snide remarks, disrespectful jokes, or pranks at someone else’s expense. Work is serious business. But does it really need to be so very, deeply serious all the time? I don’t think so.

A touch of humor is a natural way to engage people and lighten the mood. For instance, who doesn’t enjoy taking a moment to bond with a colleague over a funny meme?

In my opinion, sharing a chuckle or a smile with someone keeps us connected at a very human level. And fortunately, I don’t have to look far to find an expert who agrees with me! So join me for this #WorkTrends podcast episode, as I take a look closer at the special power of humor at work:

Meet Our Guest:  David Horning

Today, I’m comparing notes with David Horning, a professional comedian who took the leap from making people laugh on stage to becoming a business consultant. Now he helps others learn how to use positive psychology, communication skills, and humor to manage difficult work situations and enhance organizational culture.

Humor vs. Comedy

First, let’s talk about the word humor. What is it exactly and how is it different from comedy?

Well, humor and creativity are similar in many ways. Humor is a pattern disruptor.

Basically, it is an internal process that lets us be okay with holding two competing thoughts at the same time. Humor allows us to connect those dots in new ways. It connects different ideas. And it also connects similar ideas in new ways.

So basically it disrupts preconditioned thought patterns and introduces new possibilities. Think of it as the crack in the door that allows us to see beyond a circumstance, a challenge, adversity, or even trauma of some sort.

Why Workplace Humor Matters

Do you think humor is playing a more important role in work culture?

Oh definitely. It’s catching on, and with good reason.

Studies show that CEOs prefer employees with a sense of humor. In fact, if you display your sense of humor at work, you’re perceived as being more intelligent, more likable, and CEOs think you’re doing a better job.

Not only that, but employees prefer bosses who don’t take themselves so seriously.

What If You’re Not Funny?

Some people just don’t have a funny bone in their body. What do you tell them when it comes to humor as a vital skill?

Actually, you don’t have to be funny. That’s the great thing about incorporating humor into the workplace. You can appreciate it in others.

Celebrate people who are bringing sunshine into the office – people who are surrounded by laughter – your more creative thinkers.

You can be the most analytical person in the world, but anybody can develop an appreciation for humor, for laughter, for comedy. We all have that capability. All you really need is to give yourself permission to think outside of the box, to think beyond the strict labels we tend to give things.

How Leaders Can Support a Culture of Humor at Work

What advice do you have for a manager who’s unsure about supporting humor at work? 

First, if you’re nervous about it, don’t overwhelm yourself. But keep in mind that when humor is used in the workplace, it should be consistent with your organization’s values.

For example, if respect is one of your values and a joke you’re about to tell isn’t respectful, pump the brakes. Using those shared values as your baseline is a great place to start.

 


For more excellent advice from David about how to tap into the power of humor at work, listen to this full episode. Also, be sure to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And to continue this conversation on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Photo: Kevin Bhagat

Remote Work Leadership: What Matters Now

In 2020, our most popular blog post discussed how leaders could move forward when Covid abruptly forced many of us to work from home. I remember writing that piece, wondering which remote work leadership practices would make the biggest impact during those uncertain, turbulent, anxiety-filled days.

At that time, it was impossible to fathom what was happening, let alone how to respond. There were no experts, benchmarks, or guidebooks to point the way forward. I couldn’t predict the future any better than anyone else. Still, my message seemed to strike a chord with our community.

Fortunately, necessity is the mother of invention. And resourceful leaders persevered, relying on trial and error to navigate through those early quarantine days.

Covid CliffsNotes

Nearly three years later, we’ve all learned more about remote work than anyone could have imagined. In fact, we’ve adapted so well that many people want to keep working remotelyat least partially.

With this in mind, I decided to revisit my “early Covid” advice to see how much of it still holds true. So here’s a fresh look at 4 key points that seem just as relevant today as we continue to define new ways of working:

Remote Work Leadership Lessons From Covid

1. Be Tactful (Always a Wise Choice)

Exceptional times call for exceptional tact. I noted it then and it’s still unequivocally true. Times may not be as exceptional as they were in March 2020, but we now know that what we once considered “normal” will never return. In fact, the sudden and scary pivot to remote work turned out to be much more effective than we thought.

What changed for the worse? Among other things, stress continues to rise, inflation has risen to record levels, the economy has suffered, and employees have been resigning in droves. In this unstable environment, everyone benefits from tactful, considerate guidance.

In 2020, I encouraged leaders to give people a break when minor mishaps occur, like being late to a meeting. It seems people are now better at coping with small annoyances. (How often have you said in online meetings, “You’re on mute…” without reaching a breaking point?)

However, stress is real. It continues to mount, as mental health issues increasingly challenge many members of the workforce. My advice going forward? Remember to pair diplomacy with a healthy dose of empathy.

2. Provide Plenty of Training (But Wait, There’s More)

Training is critical. The more training we provide, the more confident and capable remote and hybrid work teams will be. Strong leaders are strong learners. And they believe in coaching and developing others. Remote work leaders that invested to help their teams learn, adjust, and grow are now operating at an advantage.

We didn’t know how well people would embrace distributed work practices and tools. But leaders with faith in their team’s ability to adapt now have another advantage: optimism and support that spread throughout their organizations. It’s easy now to see the value of doubling down on learning. But in those bleak early days, this kind of commitment was truly visionary.

The lesson here? Whatever challenges you face, make sure your people have the knowledge and skills they need to come up to speed with a minimum of friction. The sooner they can work effectively, the sooner they’ll become engaged.

But this isn’t just about ensuring that people complete a course. Smart remote work leadership combines skill development training with nudges, status checks, resources, roadmaps, measurable goals, social performance support, and open recognition.

That’s the win. Why? Because no one learns well in a vacuum.

3. Seek Frequent Feedback (Never Enough)

No doubt about it, regular input and reality checks are vital. In 2020, I was concerned that distance could widen the gap between a leader’s view of work culture and an employee’s reality. Physical proximity makes it relatively easy to close that gap, but remote work requires intentional communication.

I suggested reaching out formally to ask employees about their experience and learn what kind of resources they need to feel comfortable, supported, and productive.

Did leaders actually send feedback requests and surveys to their remote teams? Perhaps some did. But then, we became obsessed with isolation and disconnection. Soon, employee engagement took a hit and leaders started watching some of their best employees walk out the virtual door as The Great Resignation gained steam.  

What went wrong? Perhaps remote work leadership didn’t act fast enough. More likely, these managers have become just as exhausted as employees — but they’ve been overlooked. The truth is, no one is immune. In fact, recent U.S. and U.K. research found that 98% of HR practitioners and leaders are burnt out! 

4. Stay Connected (More Than Ever)

This leads to a final lesson — remote work leadership means staying connected with managers, employees, and teams. Full disclosure:  The TalentCulture crew has worked remotely since Day One. Our vision is a virtual “super team,” leveraging digital tools and processes to manage business functions and grow a thriving digital community.

I’ve always admired other leaders who take it upon themselves to reach out and be present via multiple channels. And the power of that approach became apparent throughout the worst of the pandemic.

We saw remote work leaders who stayed involved, engaged, and accessible, giving their teams a sense of alignment and empowerment. I’ve taken notes and found that their toolkits include quick video chats, daily messages, virtual town halls, and short/sweet messages.

Leaders who adhere to an open-door policy — even in virtual settings — are even more important now. Why? This behavior fosters a culture of inclusion and belonging. If you want to bring your workforce together (and trust me, you do), you’ll focus on this lesson. The more digital touchpoints you develop, the more likely you’ll reach everyone in a way that resonates, and the more “present” you’ll be for them.

Leadership Takes Heart (and Strong Nerves)

A final note:  We’re not yet on the other side of the pandemic, but we’ve learned a lot. And we know the world of work will never be the same.

I’m reminded of how far we’ve come when I recall my 2020 comment:

Peace of mind is as hard to come by as n95 masks.”

Thank goodness we aren’t dealing with a mask shortage anymore! Nevertheless, we still see high levels of stress, anxiety, and disengagement at work. And this is likely to continue for a long time to come.

Here’s where great management qualities count. Empathetic, engaged, resourceful, in-touch remote work leadership makes all the difference. It says your organization truly cares about supporting employees while getting the job done. And that’s essential, because the buck always stops at the corner office — whether it’s at corporate headquarters or at your dining room table.

People Science: A Fix for Broken Employee Engagement?

For years, organizations have invested heavily in programs designed to improve employee engagement and work performance. But despite good intentions, too many of these endeavors have fallen short. Now, some are turning to people science and coaching as a solution. Is this the answer?

What exactly is people science? How does it work hand-in-hand with coaching to drive better outcomes? And what should HR and business leaders do to implement a successful strategy?

I invite you to join me as I discuss this topic in-depth with an expert in people science on this #WorkTrends podcast episode.

Meet Our Guest:  Kevin Campbell

Today, I’m excited to welcome Kevin Campbell, a people scientist and executive strengths coach who specializes in leveraging workforce analytics with the art of leadership to help organizations strengthen work teams and improve their employee experience. Over the years, Kevin has worked with some of the most prestigious firms in workforce strategy, including Culture Amp, Deloitte, Gallup, and now Qualtrics.

Essential People Science Skills

Being an employee experience scientist sounds exciting, Kevin. But what exactly do you do?

To be effective, it requires expertise in multiple disciplines. Think of a Venn diagram with three intersecting circles.

One is people analytics, another is organizational psychology, and the other is applied practice. An employee experience scientist sits in the intersection of those three areas.

Understanding Employee Engagement

As a people scientist, what does the term “employee engagement” mean to you?

It’s important to talk about what it is not, as well as what it is.

It’s not a survey. Often, we lose sight of the fact that engagement is actually an emotional and psychological state. A survey is just a tool that helps us measure that state.

Engagement really starts with emotional commitment. I emphasize the emotional aspect because it’s about the desire to stay with an organization and help fulfill its objectives — not because you’re obligated or you feel forced to do it, but because you want to.

Pinpointing Engagement Issues

What is the most critical challenge you’re seeing right now?

Most organizations overemphasize understanding and underemphasize improvement in action.

For example, according to 2021 data, nearly 90% of companies measure engagement or have some type of employee feedback program, but only 7% of employees say their company acts on feedback in a highly effective way.

We haven’t updated that research yet, but I’m guessing it probably hasn’t improved much.

Bridging The Gap

How can employers address this problem? 

It’s important to recognize that the engagement survey or data isn’t the end. It’s really just the beginning.

To improve, you’ll want to translate results into actions that can have outsized impact on the your company culture. And the key is to use simple coaching skills.

 


For more great advice from Kevin about the art and science behind how to develop and sustain a great employee experience, listen to this full episode.

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

Job Design: Is It Time to Rethink Your Approach?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last article in a 4-part series sponsored by Unit4. The series outlines a new approach to talent strategy for people-centric organizations. This final post looks at why and how employers should rethink job design.


 

As we close this series about how employers can reinvent their talent strategy for the future of work, we turn our attention to one of the most important ways to attract and engage the people your organization needs to succeed. Namely, we’re looking at why this is the right time to revisit your approach to job design.

For most of the past 100 years, employers have used the same techniques to scope job vacancies, write job descriptions, and hire employees to fill roles. But these classic job design methods aren’t particularly efficient or effective.

In fact, only about 50% of interviewed candidates who receive a job offer actually become employees. Plus, the talent acquisition process, itself, is expensive. This means the perceived cost of a “bad hire” is so steep that decision-makers often become paralyzed. And that inaction forces organizations to offset costs by relying too heavily on long tenure.

It’s not an ideal solution by any measure. But focusing on the 4th talent strategy pillar can help you address these issues. How? Read on…

Reworking Job Design: Where to Start

Employers can no longer afford to ignore the need to address ever-changing talent rosters. Average employee tenure is decreasing, even as demand for future-ready skills is increasing. This means leaders must fundamentally rethink the way they structure jobs.

Here’s a good starting point: Design new roles based on the assumption that whomever your hire will stay onboard for 2-4 years. Then work backward from there.

In this game plan, onboarding and robust initial training are especially important, so you can ensure faster time-to-value from new hires. In addition, jobs designed with shorter tenure in mind will benefit from being supported by onboarding and “bedding in” processes that are much more tightly controlled.

This means that skills mapping, employee learning, and professional development will need to become a more prominent part of the HR function, along with talent pipeline development. It also means that the skills you expect to develop in employees should become central to the benefits you offer candidates.

Reframe Benefits for Shorter Job Cycles

In addition to packaging skills as benefits, you’ll need to reorient benefits so they’re compatible with shorter terms of service. Rewards for time-in-role or time with the company are relics that don’t make sense in today’s workplace. They need to be replaced.

For better results, focus on performance-based incentives for contributions to specific projects and programs with more clearly defined targets and expectations.

What Does This Look Like? An Example

One way to illustrate this new approach to job design is through the rise of the contractor. This increasingly popular option is a way to tap into skilled talent on a temporary basis. It helps employers find and deploy people more quickly, while simultaneously reducing operational overhead and risk.

At the same time, contractors benefit from more options in today’s predominantly hybrid working environment. They also benefit from a faster learning curve that comes from working on a more diverse portfolio of projects over time.

Reliance on contractors has increased dramatically—but not at the same rate in every region. For example, in the U.K., contractor usage has grown by about a third since the 2008 financial crash. By comparison, in the U.S., it has surged by the same proportion since only 2020.

Nevertheless, the shift to a contingent workforce shows no sign of diminishing. And many organizations still struggle to find permanent employees in today’s tight labor market. So the advantages of hiring contractors make project-oriented hiring a highly attractive option.

Repackaging Jobs to Attract Top Talent

In your job descriptions, do you still use this kind of phrase?

“The successful candidate must be willing to…”

If so, prepare to leave that kind of thinking behind. Instead, think in terms of asking this question:

“How do you want to work for us?”

In other words, you’ll need to let new hires determine some of the terms of their engagement with you. This makes sense because it encourages deeper ownership of the role’s success. Besides, if you’re designing jobs around shorter “tours of duty” with specific goals and objectives, why not configure these positions so they can be performed on a contract or project basis?

This model offers multiple benefits:

  • You can more accurately assess jobs and redefine them so they deliver the most value to your organization.
  • You’ll be better prepared to tap into a much larger talent pool. (After all, the huge increase in today’s contractors is coming from somewhere. That “somewhere” is the rapidly growing segment of the working population currently seeking greater flexibility in how they market and sell their skills.)

Where to Find Help

This blog series may be over, but your job restructuring journey is just beginning. For an in-depth view of our insights into this and other future-minded strategies for people-centered organizations, download our white paper:

Rebuilding Talent Strategy: Finding and Retaining People in a Changing World.

Also, as you consider technologies needed as the backbone of a reimagined talent strategy, we invite you to take a closer look at our ERP and HCM suite of solutions. These advanced platforms can provide the advantage your business needs to stay at the forefront in the future of work.

For example, you’ll be better equipped to:

  • Audit and map workforce skills
  • Target and deliver timely, relevant learning and development programs
  • Take the pulse of workforce engagement
  • Increase pay equity and transparency
  • Provide people with seamless connections to colleagues and resources in hybrid work settings.

In combination, these capabilities can help you build sustainable business value, going forward. To learn more about how Unit4 solutions can make a difference for your organization, book a demo here.

 


Related Reading

For other articles in this series, check the following links:

Part 1:  Reimagine Talent Strategy: Make Development a Core Part of Your Business

Part 2:  Commit to Careers

Part 3:  Engage in the Employee

 

How to Motivate People With Better Performance Evaluations

When someone says it’s time for performance evaluations, what happens? You can almost hear a collective groan ripple across an organization. Reactions run the gamut, from indifference to full-on dread. 

It’s not just the idea of a performance review that makes people so uneasy—it’s also how the process is handled. Although employees tend to agree that performance evaluations are beneficial, too often, the way employers conduct and use reviews leaves a lot to be desired. 

We’d like to dig deeper into why performance evaluations stir up so many less-than-positive reactions. But first, let’s look briefly at how they became a standard business practice…

A Short History of Performance Evaluations

Appraisals were first developed during World War I. Back then, they had little to do with helping people improve and move forward in their careers. Instead, military leaders used appraisals to determine which personnel had the skills to qualify for a promotion when openings became available. They also used appraisals to identify and dismiss underperformers, so they could protect their ranks from harm or inefficiency.

The practice of workplace performance evaluations didn’t gain a firm foothold until the 1960s. But since then, reviews evolved in two sometimes conflicting directions. One rationale focuses on assessing current talent. The other emphasizes talent development for the future. However, as employee reviews have become more widespread, so have their scope and complexity. No wonder this topic makes so many people groan.

Why Employee Reviews Are Often Loathed

Today, many executives, managers, and employees agree that the traditional performance review system is no longer practical or effective. This is primarily because reviews are usually conducted on an annual basis.

Experts agree that an annual review cycle isn’t frequent enough to change behavior. Instead, managers should ideally offer feedback or guidance soon after an issue arises, not months after the fact.

Also, with a year’s worth of activity to evaluate, an appraisal can become an intense, high-pressure process, charged with the fear of being reprimanded or fired. In addition, an annual cadence tends to put an organization’s interests first, while undervaluing the employee experience.

Even so, most companies haven’t figured out how to replace or adapt that traditional review process with something better. How can we redesign performance evaluations to more closely meet the needs of employees, managers, and the organization? Let’s start by clarifying those needs.

The Benefits of a Better Review Process

For employers, a strong review process helps people apply their skills and experience to support organizational objectives. Clearer priorities, fewer mistakes, improved performance, and a more united team all contribute to a more profitable and sustainable business.

For managers and other leaders, a strong review process is efficient and effective. It provides timely direction, re-energizes people who have been disengaged, and makes the whole team more eager to deliver high-quality results.

For employees, a strong review process provides a clear picture of their current skills and proficiencies, while offering useful guidance on how to improve. It makes people feel more connected with their role in the organization and more supported in their specific work goals.

What’s at Stake

By relying on these various interests as a blueprint for improving the review process, organizations can achieve measurable gains. For example, a more productive, supportive form of evaluation can be a highly motivating process. Ideally, it creates an opportunity for meaningful dialogue that builds people up, rather than tearing them down. That can make all the difference for organizations that recognize the business value of employee retention.

On the other hand, choosing not to invest in an effective evaluation process brings significant downside risks. For example, people tend to become disenchanted and disengaged when they’re expected to work without constructive feedback, clear goals, or meaningful career paths.

In fact, one survey indicates that 85 percent of employees would consider quitting if they felt they received an unfair performance review. Imagine the impact if that happened in your organization!

Designing Better Reviews

The key to designing effective performance reviews is to recognize that this is a process, not an event. So many of our negative impressions of performance evaluations come from worrying about a single, looming “judgment day” when we wonder if we’ll be praised, criticized, or perhaps even fired.

For a better experience all around, try these approaches:

1) Start with a Different Mindset

The point of a performance review is to measure performance. However, evaluations don’t need to be limited to numbers and volume metrics.

This is an opportunity to think holistically about an employee’s overall connection with their team, and with your company’s culture and values. It’s also a chance to consider qualitative factors that affect an individual’s mental and social well-being.

2) Co-Create the Review

Gone are the days of top-down leadership and authoritarian work atmospheres. A performance evaluation should be a two-way experience.

It’s helpful for managers to work with employees upfront to co-create the goals that will frame their performance evaluation. Goals that align with key business objectives will serve the organization’s interests while giving an employee a sense of autonomy, purpose, and direction.

3) Increase Evaluation Frequency

You may think fewer evaluations are better. But a once-a-year trial builds unnecessary pressure. Distributing all of that annual review energy across more frequent cycles is a much smarter option.

In fact, according to Gallup, employees who receive daily feedback from managers are three times more likely to be engaged than those on an annual review schedule. To encourage professional growth, consider adding monthly progress checks or weekly one-on-one meetings, focused on development.

4) Lead with Recognition

Motivating employees is not always complicated, and we don’t always need expensive perks to do it. Simply acknowledging someone’s work and effort can go a long way to making them feel engaged and connected to their goals.

A whopping 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt recognized. Let that insight inform your review structure. By leading with acknowledgment—communicating first and foremost what an individual has done successfully—you lay a foundation of trust and validation that can lead to further dialogue.

5) Communicate Changes Clearly

Many performance evaluations focus on a salary increase or a title promotion. But even long-awaited good news needs to be delivered in a way that’s clear and motivating.

For example, with a salary change, what new responsibilities are expected? What new objectives come with this role? Use these shifts in position as an opportunity to have an open conversation about career growth and planning for future skills development and upward mobility.

Final Thoughts

It’s no secret—performance evaluations are a challenge to manage. And improving your existing methods may seem like a thankless task. But many employers are discovering that it’s well worth taking the time and effort to ensure that your process is truly effective.

Any investment you make to improve feedback and communication has the potential to strengthen the sense of connection people feel with their job, their team, and your organization. Ultimately, those kinds of benefits can lead to a significant impact on your ability to retain talent, enhance work quality and improve your bottom line.

 


Matt Romond is an HR business partner at Jotform. He’s passionate about collaborating with teams to help them do their best work. Outside of work, Matt loves spending time with his family and adventuring in the mountains.

Alexis Russell is the U.S. HR business partner at Jotform. Based in San Francisco, she is the point of contact for all things HR and recruitment at Jotform.

Fostering Friendships In the New Remote Workplace

Friendships are an essential aspect of work life. But friendships among remote employees aren’t the same as relationships among people who spend time together in an office.

In office environments, extroverts usually do the heavy lifting needed to encourage social bonding. But now, team members often work from different locations. Getting remote team members to feel comfortable just talking with one another is hard enough—let alone convincing them to interact socially the way friends do. Nevertheless, the effort can pay off in multiple ways.

What can employers do? One of the best ways to strengthen relationships in the new hybrid work environment is to plan regular opportunities for informal interaction during the business day. Any company can benefit from encouraging stronger relationships among employees, whether people are located onsite, offsite, or both.

Building Remote Social Ties: My Story

As the Founder and CEO of a high-growth company, I’ve experienced the benefits of making space for social events, first-hand. During the pandemic, I started hosting virtual office hours as a forum for anyone to drop by and ask questions about business goals or discuss ideas. Initially, most of the folks who participated were managers with whom I worked directly.

Then I hosted a team escape room game and a margarita mixology class. That changed everything. I saw an increase in the number of new employees who felt comfortable attending. As particiption surged, I could tell this was a good move. Now, people from all over the organization join our group conversations and bring valuable insights to my attention. 

But of course, all relationship-building opportunities are not equal. Some simple guidelines help. For example, at Elevent, we’ve found that participation is highest when a social event has a specific start and end time during the work day. This means employees aren’t forced to sacrifice family time so they can bond with co-workers.

Also, you’ll want to identify these events clearly as social. Don’t just vaguely schedule a “hang-out” session or a happy hour. Instead, plan a specific activity. Invite people to build a desktop garden or sample some unique ice cream flavors. Create interest with a focal point that brings people together around a shared common experience.

Why Work Relationships Matter

Gallup research says work friendships are a key employee engagement indicator. But this metric is sometimes overlooked when measuring productivity because it is often accompanied by hard-to-quantify levels of employee happiness and work satisfaction.

Stronger friendships can also lead to better communication, which improves business effectiveness and innovation. This helps organizations identify and resolve issues that could otherwise erode employee trust and retention.

Surveys continue to indicate that positive social environments help anchor individuals during times of internal or external stress. Friendships help provide paths for ongoing growth, even during difficult challenges. They also offer the support people need to come forward when they experience problems, so they can resolve issues and learn to perform more efficiently and effectively.

Friendship as a Productivity Metric

After an extensive multi-factor analysis, Gallup has developed a tool that diagnoses workplace health based on employee responses to 12 simple statements. Statement 10 is: “I have a best friend at work.” That’s because strong friendships are associated with a deeper work effort. So, how does Gallup interpret these results?

Specifically, when 20% or more of an organization’s employees agree with this statement, workplace engagement is considered “good.” That’s the current level of U.S. engagement. But Gallup estimates that when employers move this ratio to 60%, they can significantly improve results across several business parameters:

  • 36% fewer safety incidents
  • 7% more engaged customers
  • 12% higher profit

Furthermore, when friendships are strong, employees are less likely to seek other job opportunities and more likely to feel comfortable taking innovative risks.

So essentially, friendships help people enjoy working, which means they dedicate more creative time and energy to their work. They also mention problems when they happen so employers can resolve issues quickly, rather than waiting to react to unwanted resignations.

Bottom line: an open-door policy makes sense. You’ll find plenty of advice telling leaders to seek input from employees and reward people who speak up. But communication won’t improve if your policy isn’t backed by a culture of trust.

On the other hand, if you encourage stronger social connections across your teams, you can create the kind of “speaking up and speaking out” environment that is likely to make a real business impact.

Real-World Views: Workplace Social Bonds

With scheduled meetings centered almost entirely on work, organic interactions usually suffer. And with online meetings, screen fatigue is always a factor. So it’s important to treat employee attention as a finite resource. Start by assuring employees that both are important, and provide a framework for people to engage in both. Here’s how several companies view this need:

Ally Financial

One notable example is Ally Financial. Shortly after COVID-19 changed the way many of us work, Ally changed its employee support model to a remote-first approach. This meant Ally had to consider multiple employee needs that didn’t exist before March 2020.

The company made a commitment to demonstrate care for employees holistically. To increase wellbeing and social connection, Ally launched new services, experiential modules and group challenges geared toward physical, mental and financial fitness.

Virtual fitness and meditation classes can easily become group activities that prioritize social fun. This means simple events like comedy shows, group trivia games, and “Family Feud”-style team battles can become useful tools to improve workforce friendships and happiness.

Deloitte

Another well-known company focused on the communal aspects of the employee experience is Deloitte.

The company’s analysts looked deeply at how the pandemic tested the limits of employer-employee relationships, concluding that the future of work is likely to feel more like a team than a family. However, Deloitte cautions that if organizations move dramatically toward impersonal work models, employees may feel replaceable. If they sense this kind of threat, they could react by competing with colleagues, rather than working together toward common goals.

This is why Deloitte underscores the need for sustainable strategies. For example, one way to demonstrate this kind of commitment is to host ongoing virtual events. By dedicating time to a bi-weekly or monthly cadence, employers can ensure that employees have the time and support they need to cultivate stronger relationships.

Final Thoughts

Companies that treat virtual social events as an integral aspect of workforce engagement and retention are fostering essential social bonds—regardless of where employees are located. When people feel welcomed, comfortable and supported while spending time together in casual activities, they can develop friendships that ultimately improve individual productivity and happiness, as well as organizational profit.

Digital Employee Experience: Do You Measure What Matters?

impact awardSponsored by: Ivanti

You’ve heard the adage “measure twice, cut once.” It’s good advice from the sewing world. The idea is to encourage people who want to achieve an excellent outcome to be precise and cautious before they act. If we’re supposed to be that conscientious about measuring a piece of fabric for a sewing project, why would we be cavalier about measuring something as critical as the digital employee experience?

Nevertheless, that’s what countless IT and business leaders around the world are doing by default. They’re implementing employee engagement programs based on what sounds right or feels right. They’re not relying on data-driven intelligence to make decisions about these programs. And they don’t know in advance if these programs will actually produce the outcomes they want.

Here’s the truth: If you don’t carefully measure and re-measure your digital employee experience, people will cut themselves right out of your organization. Even if you’ve been using classic employee experience measurement tools—such as an annual survey—that’s no longer enough. Today’s organizations require more complete insights focused on the digital employee experience.

Why Is This Digital Shift So Vital?

The remote and hybrid work landscape (what we call the “Everywhere Workplace”) has forever transformed work life and organizational culture. Now, a vibrant work experience is no longer about departmental happy hours, unlimited free soda, pizza Fridays, or a ping pong table in the employee lounge.

Instead, it’s about what happens in the flow of work. It’s about communicating and collaborating through tools that are smarter, easier, and more effective. It’s about seamless accessibility, usability, security, connectivity, and the ability to do your job without navigating frustrating obstacles or jumping through endless hoops.

Of course, HR teams still focus on employee experience. But now, IT professionals are just as deeply focused on this, as well. Why? The traditional employee engagement survey—once conducted and managed by your HR department—isn’t designed to capture the nuances and critical insights associated with hybrid work environments. If you want to gain useful intelligence, you’ll want to get IT specialists involved—and the sooner the better.

It’s no longer enough to assume people have what they need to be connected, productive and comfortable as they navigate the Everywhere Workplace. You need to know where the connections are working (or not). That means you need to measure what’s happening. Not just once, but over and over again.

After all, if you don’t know where you stand, it is impossible to move forward. Both HR and IT leaders need real, meaningful, actionable insights into the digital employee experience as a process. It deserves a commitment to continuous improvement. And that means you need to understand where it stands now, and how it is evolving over time.

Criteria For a Digital Employee Experience Survey

What should you include in a digital employee experience survey? To glean useful insights, you’ll need to go far beyond limited indicators like post-ticket surveys. To measure and improve the digital employee experience, you’ll need a holistic picture. For instance, consider the value of knowing answers to questions like these:

  • How are people accessing information?
  • What do they think about that process?
  • How many steps must they move through to accomplish these tasks?
  • How often do they run into trouble?
  • How much time do they spend trying to securely access information, tools, and resources they need to do their jobs well?
  • Do they even have access to the right information, tools, and resources?
  • Are they able to connect and engage with colleagues?
  • How effective are these communication channels, in their view?

Post-ticket surveys don’t capture any of these things. And yet, these factors can make or break a digital employee experience. They can spell the difference between an employee who is highly productive, happy, loyal, and engaged—versus one who is forced to waste time on logistics and is likely to be frustrated. Perhaps even frustrated enough to leave.

How to Measure Digital Employee Experience

If you think this isn’t an issue for most employers, consider this statistic:

30% of IT leaders currently have no process or metrics in place to evaluate the digital employee experience. And among the 70% who do, few have established the kind of robust metrics and evaluation strategy today’s Everywhere Workplace demands.

Clearly, the stakes are high. Many organizations assume that measuring digital employee experience in a holistic way is expensive, overwhelming, and resource-intensive. Sometimes it is. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What’s the secret? Automation.

By automating digital employee experience measurement, leaders can laser-focus on KPIs that matter most to the organization, without bandwidth and expertise from HR or IT—and without badgering employees for manual reports.

In other words, you can automate the collection and reporting of data about issues that commonly impact productivity, especially issues that traditional reports don’t easily track. For example, automation can help you monitor, quantify and evaluate slow devices, outages in network connectivity, where and when apps crash, and other problems that are difficult to capture accurately in a survey.

Of course, it’s important to gauge employee-generated insights as well. But automated, granular, data-based insights can round out the picture with a comprehensive view of what’s happening with digital workflows and how they impact engagement and productivity. Plus, with automated data collection and reporting, continuing to measure key factors over time is much easier. That’s essential to understanding your organization’s progress and how it maps to employee feedback.

Final Thoughts

“Measure twice, cut once” works well for sewing. But it’s not the answer for a modern enterprise that embraces the Everywhere Workplace. Instead, think about measuring once, and then measuring again and again. That’s how you can gain valuable insight into experience indicators and trends that will help you develop and sustain a happy, loyal, engaged, productive workforce.

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s the current state of digital employee experience in organizations around the world? Find out now >> Download the 2022 Ivanti Digital Employee Experience Report.

How Can Remote Teams Build “Watercooler” Connections?

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

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

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

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

3 Ideas to Help Remote Teams Feel Connected

1. Create wellness challenges and friendly competitions

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

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

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

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

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

2. Facilitate virtual wellness coffee talks and meet-ups

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

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

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

3. Encourage employees to join recreation leagues and clubs

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

10 Ways to Drive Employee Engagement With Team Problem-Solving

Are you looking for proven ways to drive employee engagement? Many organizations find that collaboration is a highly effective strategy. For instance, consider these 10 team-centered methods recommended by business leaders:

  1. Use the SCRUM Framework for Project Management
  2. Involve Action Focus Groups to Improve Employee Engagement
  3. Empower Employees to Take Ownership of Work Issues
  4. Give Employees a Voice in Problem Solving
  5. Create a Strength-Based Team Culture Using Assessment Tools
  6. Leverage Diversity and Mastermind for Problem-Solving
  7. Take a Bottom-up Approach
  8. Use OKRs to Drive Teamwork and Engagement
  9. Engage Employees in Weekly Virtual Team-Building Activities
  10. Personalize Engagement Drivers to Employee Groups

Why are these engagement ideas so powerful? Learn more from the descriptions below…

1) Use the SCRUM Framework for Project Management

The SCRUM framework encourages team members to work together to solve problems and complete tasks. This helps foster a sense of teamwork and engagement. It also gives team members a say in a project’s direction and execution, so they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility. Plus, each phase of the project is transparent to everyone on the team, so everyone on the team remains aware, focused and motivated.

Omer Usanmaz, CEO of Qooper Mentoring & Learning Software

2) Involve “Action Focus Groups” to Improve Employee Engagement

We conducted an engagement survey with results that identified six individual areas for improvement. Instead of using managers to do this, we asked for employee volunteers to create a response to the challenges identified in the survey. Each Action Focus Group (AFG) included 10 members who met 3-5 times to identify and recommend a solution for the company to implement. Then, each AFG presented its improvement plan to the senior leadership team, which in turn, provided feedback. After each group adjusted its plan, we implemented the final recommendations.

With this AFG approach, employees became actively involved in solving key problems. In addition, this process gave participants an opportunity to build connections outside their primary business areas.

Deborah Norris, Senior HR Manager at Amentum

3) Empower Employees to Take Ownership of Work Issues

We drive employee engagement with team problem-solving by encouraging employees to identify and solve problems affecting their work. We have found that employees are happier, more engaged and more productive when they can take ownership of issues that impact their work. 

We achieve this by providing space for employees to voice their concerns about issues and encouraging teams to come together and solve problems (sometimes with incentives), instead of relying only on managers or supervisors. 

Debee Gold, Owner & Clinical Director of Gold Counseling & Wellness

4) Give Employees a Voice in Problem Solving

Too many organizations identify problems, and then leadership dictates solutions in a vacuum. But at 104 West, we recently held an all-company meeting, where administration and staff broke out into groups, identified roadblocks to growth, proposed solutions, and then came together to share thoughts. Now, we’re implementing plans based on those ideas, and every person in the organization has a role in thisa role they helped determine.

This process helped us drive employee engagement at all levels, empowering people to be solution-seekers and showcase their problem-solving and leadership abilities.

Joan Wyly, Vice President of 104 Degrees West Partners

5) Create a Strength-Based Team Culture Using Assessment Tools

Using assessment tools like Gallup StrengthsFinder, team members can understand how to create a more strength-based approach to teamwork and problem-solving. Additionally, regular “skip level” sessions allow for bottom-up feedback that helps build a more robust work culture. Also, personalized recognition leads to a more positive employee experience.

Together, these practices can produce a psychologically safe environment where teams thrive.

Rapti Khurana, VP of Talent Engagement & Development at the National Football League

6) Leverage Diversity and Mastermind for Problem Solving

When problems need to be solved, team members tend to find a solution by relying on their individual experience and determination. That can lead to excessive time scratching heads and spinning wheels, without making much progress. However, when people come together to leverage the power of cognitive diversity, an equally diverse array of potential solutions becomes more readily available.

A mastermind-style problem-solving conversation brings together members of disparate teams that are traditionally siloed. Coming together in this way to work toward a common goal can positively impact everything from engagement and retention to trust and productivity!

Erich Kurschat, Owner of Harmony Insights LLC

7) Take a Bottom-up Approach

I’m a big proponent of the bottom-up approach to team problem-solving, based on the teachings of Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa. We involve our front-line employees in group problem-solving, as well as our managers. Front-line employees are given the authority to act autonomously within specific guidelines.

This approach is practical because those closest to a problem often know the most about it and are in the best position to devise solution strategies. Empowering workers at all levels of our organization to participate in problem-solving drives employee engagement.

Dean Kaplan, President of The Kaplan Group

8) Use OKRs to Drive Teamwork and Engagement

For our team at Compt, goal setting and management have been driving forces in employee engagement and group problem-solving. We set objectives and key results (OKRs) as a company, and each department has its own OKRs that support overall company goals. In addition, each employee’s personal goals are tied to that employee’s department goals.

We host monthly company-wide “retro” meetings to share how each team is performing in a measured and data-driven way. Everything we do is quantified, which promotes accountability and cross-department teamwork to achieve overarching goals. This ensures that we are all constantly moving in the same direction toward the same outcomes. And because each individual’s actions impact the company’s success, we feel compelled to be more engaged and create a workplace that benefits us all.

Amy Spurling, CEO, and Founder of Compt

9) Engage Employees in Weekly Virtual Team-Building Activities

One way we combat engagement issues is through weekly virtual team-building activities. Each session is planned and hosted via Zoom by a different group of employees. This way, our workforce enjoys programming variety, while each group has a vested interest in the success of the activity they host. For example, activities have ranged from virtual quiz nights to elaborate online escape room challenges.

These team-building activities have been a resounding success. They’ve provided employees with memorable shared experiences and have helped build bonds between colleagues, ultimately leading to increased workplace collaboration.

Clare Jones, Marketing Manager at OfficeSpaceAU

10) Personalize Engagement Drivers to Employee Groups

The best employee engagement strategy is to ride the drivers. Each organization, of course, will have different drivers. For example, meaningful work, career growth, empowerment, belonging, recognition, leadership, and fulfilling work relationships. 

Choose a segment of your employee population. Then implement a strategic theme strategy across your drivers that is personalized to the group but high-profile enough that successes will be seen and heard throughout the organization. Ride the drivers, measure, rinse and repeat.

Marcus Holmes, HR Operations General Manager at City of Detroit

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These ideas on how to drive employee engagement were submitted via Terkel. Terkel is a knowledge platform that shares community-driven content based on expert insights. To see questions and get published, sign up at terkel.io.

Why Employee Engagement is Upside Down

impact award
Leaders and managers frequently refer to the famous Albert Einstein quote when something in their organizations isn’t working after repeated efforts. I wonder what Einstein would say about employee engagement?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

For two decades, the benchmark of benchmarks for employee engagement is Gallup, a world-class research organization. In the past 10 years, the percentage of engaged employees in Gallup’s research has fluctuated. From a low of 30% to a high of 36%.

Much ado was made about the uptick in engagement over the past decade before the pandemic reversed the direction of the numbers.

I’m pretty sure Einstein would agree with my old boss at Cisco. Former CEO John Chambers, who famously described missed expectations at Cisco as:

I never get hard work confused with results.

Moving up just six percentage points over a decade. From such a low number to begin with, is indeed a lot of “hard work” and little enduring results.

The Decline of Engaged Employees

The most recent 2022 Gallup numbers show the percent of employees engaged is down.  U.S. companies are down 32%. It was 30% in 2002 and 2012.

I’m not sure how many billions of dollars were spent on employee engagement measurement and programs during this time, but it is clear from this data it was not a productive investment.

The inertia reflected in the engagement data reflects what I’ve heard over the past three years talking to hundreds of HR leaders about what works and what doesn’t in employee engagement.

Most of the feedback is best paraphrased as:

We are not learning anything new from our employee engagement data.

Competition vs Collaboration

I’ve been lucky to work with hundreds of companies and their leadership teams. Especially after I wrote The Collaboration Imperative, which shared the best practices used at Cisco in its transition from a culture based on internal competition to one based on internal collaboration.

From these listening sessions, I’ve come to believe that certain ideas exist in organizational thinking in the absence of hard evidence. I don’t know how these ideas got started. I just know the ideas are entrenched.

For example – the way leaders and managers think about employee engagement today. It reminds me of the way organizations think about career planning. That it is the responsibility of the employee, despite overwhelming evidence indicating a different reality.

If it is true that employees are responsible for their own careers, why is “my manager” the most cited reason when an employee leaves a company?

Employee Engagement is Upside Down

I want to eat my own dog food by starting with evidence. I’ve spent the pandemic sponsoring a large, real-world research study on what makes an employee want to stay at a company. I wanted to know what it would take to get an employee to recommend where they work.

Our primary research and the large collection of company data captured in the second phase of our research confirm we’ve been measuring the wrong things in employee engagement.

In fact, employee engagement is upside down, according to our research.

Instead of measuring how engaged employees are, we should be measuring how engaged leaders and managers are.

In statistical terms, our evidence-based model demonstrated a strong, positive linear relationship between the degree to which leaders and managers engage employees and the willingness of employees to recommend where they work. In other words, the more engaged leaders and managers are in creating organizational culture with their teams, the greater the likelihood of an employee recommending the employer. Our research conclusions have a 95% confidence interval.

The Impact Leaders Have on Employee Engagement

Just like career planning. It’s time to embrace the fact that leaders and managers are the reasons why people fall in love with a company and its culture — or not. Leaders create the global cultural values of an organization; managers implement those values locally.

Company values are based on human behavior, not a poster on the wall. Values-based behaviors start with role-modeling them as leaders and managers. How can we expect employees to be engaged if their management team isn’t?

If we’re going to innovate in how we think about employee engagement, I want to call upon Einstein again for help.

Einstein was famous for thought experiments.

Here’s one. Management guru Peter Drucker said you can only manage what you measure. What if leaders and managers were accountable for engagement?

What would happen to employee engagement?

8 Ways to Foster Employee Happiness

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

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

What Happiness at Work Means to Employees and Employers

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

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

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

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

8 Ways to Foster Employee Happiness in the Workplace

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

1. Learn More About Your Employees

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

2. Make Time for Fun

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

3. Make Sure Employees Feel Heard

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

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

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

4. Encourage Work-Life Balance

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

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

5. Celebrate Employee Accomplishments

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

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

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

6. Salary Increase

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

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

7. Create a Career Pathway

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

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

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

8. Offer More Benefits

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

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

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

Benefits of a Happy Workplace

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

4 Steps to Hit the Mark for Open Enrollment

Is the benefits information you have to tell employees important before and during Open Enrollment? You bet! Easily understood? Not always. 

According to the latest MetLife employee benefits trends, close to 90% of employers believe their benefits are clear and easy to understand. Yet only 65% of employees (only 56% Gen Z) agree. 

Uncomplicating the complicated is not an easy task, but it’s well worth the effort. Employees who better understand their benefits are ones who better appreciate the benefits they have. 

Let’s look at 4 steps to help supercharge your Open Enrollment communications strategy.

Step 1: Know Your Audience

For HR, this means not just thinking about employees. Think like employees. Heck, you are an employee.

When Open Enrollment season hits, chances are you’ll be making some decisions about your benefits. Just like all the other employees. What (and who) are you thinking about when you’re comparing options? Your family? Your health? The costs? The coverage? Yep…just like all the other employees.

If you can hold on to that “employee to employee” connection when you’re communicating to them about benefits, you’re more likely to create understandable, compelling communications. Make your messages relatable and relevant, with a hint of emotion.

Relatable – We’re all people. We can empathize with each other. Remember this when you communicate to employees. Make an emotional connection. That’s how you get employees to engage.

What does that mean? For example, many employees have families they love, and so do you. And you all want the best benefits you can get for them. Relay that feeling.

Relevant – Present information from the employees’ points of view, not the company’s. Avoid touting your company’s awesomeness (“We’ve added a great new dental plan”). Talk more about why it matters to them (“You have more dentists to choose from in the new plan”). Instead of saying, “We have a new enrollment system,” say, “You can enroll faster and easier with our new enrollment system.”

Keep the message conversational, too. If you were talking to a colleague, how would you get your message across? Probably not in a verbose, run-on sentence with oodles of detail. 

Step 2: Plan Bite-Size Information

If you’re sending a firehose flow of information two weeks prior to Open Enrollment, employees will not absorb everything you’re telling them. Try starting communications about six to eight weeks prior to your OE start date, especially if you’re making major changes

Strive for a slow drip campaign that feeds bite-size bits of information. A sample campaign for a late October enrollment may look like this…

Late August

  • Teaser/kick-off announcements
  • Watch for what’s to come messaging
  • Training webinar for leaders and HR partners

September

  • Weekly or bi-weekly communications with chunks of information
  • Home mailer with highlights and a few important details
  • Portal/website or interactive guide with a deeper dive into info, tools, and resources

Mid-October

  • Meetings, webinars, and benefits sessions
  • Displays for enrollment to-do’s and timing
  • Weekly reminders to enroll (first day, one week left, last day)

To get the word out, a wide variety of channels is best. But when it comes to education, a Colonial Life Employee Enrollment Survey (via Unum) shows how employees rank their three top choices: benefits portal or website, in-person counseling session, or printed materials.

Step 3: Stay on Point!

When you start crafting your Open Enrollment communications this year, remember that employees:

  • Check their phones 150 times a day
  • Check email 30 times an hour
  • And are still trying to do their jobs

Competition for their attention is fierce. How do you break through the distractions, buzzing and beeping all around them? 

Diligently.

You must spend time considering the message you’re putting out there. Is it going to drive the results you’re hoping for? The key is to build messaging super-focused on achieving that objective. Avoid filling headspace or airwaves with any other content — stick to information employees need to know to make the decision at hand.

Also, our brains don’t want to work hard at processing information. Keep content easy-to-read and scannable. 

  • Short sentences (14 words or less)
  • Short paragraphs (3 sentences or less) 
  • Eighth-grade reading level
  • “Chunked-out” content with subheads (bite-size)
  • Lots of “you” and “your” and less “we”
  • Human language — no acronyms and other benefit geek speak

Don’t be afraid to use phrases and incomplete sentences. No, really. (See what we did there?) It goes against everything you learned in grammar class but write like you talk. Employees will trust it more, as they read it like a conversation.

One last trick — after you’ve created your first draft, cut the amount of text in half. Get rid of any sentences that are repetitive or words that don’t help employees understand your message.

It may be interesting, amusing, or truly relevant, but if it’s not essential, it’s just brain clutter.

Step 4: Don’t Bury the Bad News

They may not like bad news — but they’ll like it even less when they find it hidden among other news. Employees are adults. They can adapt to change if you’re upfront, honest, and help them through it.

Rip off the band-aid. Give them the “why” of the situation through consistent and continuous communications.

  • Tell the same story, the same way, and tell it often
  • Provide a specific date when they’ll know more
  • Be honest and open (or transparent if you speak HR)

Are rates increasing? Probably because the company’s costs keep increasing. Explain that to employees. “U.S. health care costs are expected to rise 10-15 percent this year, but we’re keeping your increase lower, at only 6 percent.”

It’s Time to Change Things Up

HR professionals tend to be criticized for overexplaining and using confusing terms that make benefits hard to understand. We know why that happens, and we get it. 

Put in the work now so you can achieve effective, results-generating communications. Communications that have higher employee engagement. But put yourself in employee shoes when you communicate. Wait…you’re wearing employee shoes.

8 Learning and Talent Development Topics for Better Employee Retention

impact awardInvestment in learning and talent development is an essential ingredient of every company’s engagement and retention plans. What is one crucial topic to include in employee L&D that will lead to better employee engagement and retention?

To help you create an effective L&D program, we asked L&D professionals and business leaders this question for their best insights. From including interviewer training to developing individual talents, there are several essential topics that may help you deliver a robust employee L&D for better engagement and retention.

Here are 8 must-have topics for better employee retention:

  1. Interviewer Training
  2. Communication and its Impact on Business
  3. Feedback Delivery
  4. Celebrating Achievement
  5. Leadership Development
  6. Build Emotional Intelligence Skills
  7. Goal Setting and Performance Feedback
  8. Develop Individual Talents

Interviewer Training

A must-have learning opportunity for all employees is interviewer training. By focusing on a task and responsibility that most employees engage in throughout their careers, you simultaneously give your employees the skills to contribute to building a more successful company with the right talent. Additionally, you give them skills to carry with them wherever they go next. Interviewer training empowers everyone to become a brand ambassador. It also encourages a truly inclusive and diverse workplace and gives all employees a chance to be better.

Ubaldo Ciminieri, Co-Founder and CMO of interviewIA

Communication and its Impact on Business

Studies show that collaboration drives workplace performance. Learning the value of communication and how it impacts the business should be a priority for all employees to understand. Beginning with the “why” communication is crucial to show how it can affect and change the culture by building trust across the leadership team and staff.

In creating a high-performing, high-functioning organization, there needs to be collaboration on all levels. This means we need to communicate and over-communicate. Things change when people you work with understand what you are trying to do, the why, and how it affects them. The outcome is a high-performing team where work gets done with highly engaged staff, and the company exceeds expectations on all levels.

Denise Moxam, VP of HR and Engagement at Production Solutions

Feedback Delivery

There are countless learning topics that can positively impact employee engagement and retention. One of the areas that I believe to be crucial is feedback. To be able to skillfully provide regular, accurate, and timely feedback can improve performance, increase trust, and build relationships. All of which have a direct impact on both retention and engagement. Of course, the results are dependent upon individuals’ competency in this area. While some people may have the inherent ability to deliver feedback the right way, at the right time most of us need training and practice.

Greg Forte, Senior Director of L&D at Precision Medicine Group

Celebrating Achievement

Celebrating is a powerful skill that all leaders need to have in their toolkits to confidently & effectively lead now. When you celebrate a teammate, you are demonstrating that you see them, care about them, and value their contributions and how they show up in the world.

Celebrating is a skill, and it needs to be included in your L&D strategy. When you have leaders who properly and consistently celebrate their employees, you will see motivation, trust, connection, belonging, engagement, and retention skyrocket! Throw that confetti, leaders!

Leah Roe, Leadership Coach & Founder of The Perk

Leadership Development

While it’s not typically part of the category of employee learning, building a healthy leadership practice at all levels of the organization may be the strongest driver of employee retention and engagement. Employees need the opportunity to grow and thrive in their careers. This will rarely happen without leaders who recognize and encourage their development.

We know that most learning happens on the job and in conversation with others who already know the job. A learning function that equips front-line, mid-level, and senior leaders with the mindset, skill set, and tool set to effectively grow their employees will have an exponential impact on employee engagement and retention (not to mention business results).

Leaders who simply see employees as a means to the end of profitability, customer service, or meeting their operational metrics miss the key ingredient to meeting these business goals. They will see their employees walk away to another opportunity where they can grow.

Dave Adcox, Director, Learning & Organizational Development at Whitley Penn

Build Emotional Intelligence

By building emotional intelligence skills in our leaders and our teams, we support their ability to create an environment where employees are engaged and want to stay. Through our learning and development efforts, we can help our employees understand and manage their emotions, navigate relationships, and build trust. Additionally, we can help them show empathy, reduce stress, communicate better, and inspire others. In doing so, we create a place where our employees thrive and our business grows.

Mary Tettenhorst, Sr. Vice President, L&D of General Electric Credit Union

Goal Setting and Performance Feedback

Since studies show engagement often hinges on an employee’s first 90 days, providing new hires a supportive onboarding experience that includes context on company objectives, culture, and communication standards is critical. Supplementing this with assistance on goal setting will help level-set expectations and facilitate a growth path for the employee.

Always, make sure that your managers are equipped with the knowledge to articulate performance expectations, deliver feedback and coaching, and provide development opportunities for the employee along the way.

Glenn Smith, L&D Manager at Nextbite

Develop Individual Talents

The single most important L&D topic has to be how to effectively develop your people. Unlike a capital investment that has a fixed ROI, investing in human capital has almost unlimited ROI. Not only are you increasing the capacity and competence of your team to create value, development telegraphs that you believe in your people enough to invest in them. When people feel like valuable members of a winning team, they will provide higher levels of engagement and discretionary effort. Development creates a virtuous cycle that benefits both the organization and its people.

Thane Bellomo, Director of Talent Management and Organizational Development of MI Windows and Doors

6 Ways to Engage With Your Employees and Prevent Attrition

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

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

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

How to Improve Employee Engagement

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

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

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

1. Leverage Your Team’s Strengths and Passions

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

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

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

2. Trust the Decision-Making Abilities of Your Team

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

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

3. Regularly Check-In with Your Team

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

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

4. Allow for Open Communication Both Ways

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

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

5. Offer Training and Learning Opportunities

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

Knowledge and education come in many forms, including:

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

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

6. Show Employees You Care About Their Health

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

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

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

Improve Employee Engagement by Creating an Employee-Centric Work Environment

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

Understanding the Great Resignation to Define the Future of Work

The Great Resignation. The Big Quit. The Lie-Flat economy. The Great Reshuffle. The Great Rift. Whatever you want to call it, the way human beings engage with the workplace has changed – permanently. The beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic inadvertently set workplace change in motion in unimaginable ways and at an unfathomable pace. 

As the COVID-19 Pandemic continued to wreak havoc on life as we knew it, in a May 2021 Bloomberg interview, Anthony Klotz, a Professor at Texas A&M University, coined the phrase the Great Resignation. He used the phrase to describe what he believed to be an inevitable workforce “re-think” about how and why we work. Professor Klotz may have inadvertently set in motion the “pandemic” within the pandemic. Or as Arran Stewart, co-founder of Job.com, noted in a recent article, “the largest shift of human capital in our lifetime.”  

The Turnover Tidal Wave

Hundreds of articles followed that describe the different perspectives and even introduced unique names for a tidal wave of turnover, quits, resignations, and retirements throughout 2021. The articles cite reasons that range from a basic desire to establish a more manageable work/life balance to seeking out a more flexible/hybrid workday structure that can support remote work.  Whatever the reason, they all circle back to a fundamental shift, largely ignored, that has occurred in our mental models related to work. Sometimes, we get stuck.

What Do We Do Now?  

The pre-pandemic workplace was generally filled with employees who physically attended work on a regular basis. Employees completed a daily commute, interacted with colleagues, attended meetings in a conference room, stuck their heads around a cubicle corner to ask a question – all generally face to face. That was, generally, how work got done. The COVID-19 Global Pandemic brought that routine to a grinding halt.  

All of a sudden, workplaces around the globe were forced to very quickly pivot away from the face-to-face workplace to a completely virtual environment. Enter the “virtual” meeting.  Whether it was Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, Skype, or another software platform, the virtual meeting was the game changer. Suddenly, employees began to recognize that while fundamentally different, the work was still getting done.  

For some, the work was not only getting done but sometimes the work was getting done faster and maybe even better and more efficiently. For others, the work was getting done but came at an exhausting cost. The challenge of perceived 24/7 availability coupled with virtual school and limited childcare was too much. The boundary between the workday and personal time became blurred. The blurry line is not sustainable and does not seem to be going away. A breach that influences our mental model drastically changed our worldview—and directly impacted the human perspective.  

Redefine the Mental Model

The global pandemic impacted individuals, families, employees, and human beings in general … in very different ways. People are emerging from the last two years with the need to redefine the mental model; redefine the collective response of millions of unique individuals to a series of unforeseen events that changed our fundamental behaviors, perceptions, and attitudes toward the workplace forever. This response is the driving force for the change in our mental model. The Great Resignation is the result.  

There are thousands of articles, blog posts, and even new books that discuss the Great Resignation. Many of them provide anecdotal evidence that offers explicit support for the type of shift referred to and the corresponding result. From the individual in the corporate wellness industry who recognized an opportunity to begin her own consulting firm, to the federal government employee who decided to bake cheesecake for a living, to the denim executive who decided her voice was more important than a large paycheck, to the parent who decided the sacrifice of family was not worth the commute, to the twenty-something RN who will now be a travel nurse for a few years to pay off student loan debt—the examples of purposeful change to perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors are long and getting longer.  

The common theme is a need for the development of organizational acceptance that is meaningful, creative, current, and proactive.  

How Should Organizations Meet the Charge?  

  • Flexibility is key. Embrace hybrid models to meet the dynamic needs of the evolving workforce. It is time to eliminate the outdated office model.  Promote the evolving workday and move forward. 
  • Integrate meaningful strategy. Consider it as a building block for developing a dynamic and sustainable culture. Reward independence, highlight the risk-taker, ask inconvenient questions, and promote the self-starter mentality.
  • Innovate through creativity. Implement time and space within the workday for creative work on ideas or projects that go beyond the scope of the normal daily work tasks. Organizations like Google and Atlassian embrace innovation by encouraging employees to spend time thinking creatively.
  • Burnout is real. Encourage workplace policy makers to define preemptive mechanisms that include proactive identification of transitional objects to provide support.  These tangible and/or intangible objects can be as simple as random accolades from leadership or as complex as the integration of a new organization-wide wellness program.  
  • We hear you.  There is a loud and resounding message in the Great Resignation: Employees want things different. Openly acknowledge the sentiment and develop measurable action items.  

Conclusion

The bottom line is that we have changed. People have changed. The workplace has changed. The United States has changed. The world has changed. Everything has changed. The Great Resignation is much more than an economic trend.  It is a movement; a movement that has made many of us feel stuck—and has permanently shifted our workplace mental model.  

5 Effective Talent Management Strategies

A talent management strategy is a blueprint for optimizing and broadening employee performance within a company. It allows a company to map out a plan to improve and revamp the organization’s most valuable asset – its people. The goal is to boost the company’s talent pool efficiency and retain and attract talented employees.

However, the concept of talent management is constantly evolving as time and technology change the nature of work itself, making it challenging to build and sustain a strong talent pipeline. Consequently, it has created the need for a new paradigm associated with talent management.

Businesses must adapt to changing demographics and work preferences, establish new capabilities, and rejuvenate their organizations. All this while simultaneously investing in new technology, globalizing their operations, and competing with new rivals.

Now more than ever, companies should use talent management strategies to achieve their goals and remain competitive in today’s fast-paced business environment. With this post as your road map, you can establish an integrated approach to managing all areas of your organization’s recruitment and development processes.

Below are 5 effective talent management strategies you should try.

1. Set Clear Objectives

As a manager, it’s your job to ensure that the company’s goals and objectives are in sync with the goals of your workforce. First, employees must understand their responsibilities and the company’s expectations. Then, through efficient communication and teamwork, they can focus on the company’s primary objectives.

With defined goals in mind, your team will become more involved in their work, commit to meeting milestones and achieve higher performance. Furthermore, it increases the efficiency and effectiveness with which your company can carry out business strategies and deliver outcomes significantly.

5 Effective Talent Management Strategies

For instance, when hiring new talent, you should set clear expectations by drawing out a detailed job description that includes the abilities and tasks required to fill that position. In addition, you should also keep in touch with new hires regularly to establish what is expected of them.

2. Offer Training Opportunities

Quality training programs should be a priority for companies to provide employees with opportunities for career advancement. If you haven’t incorporated training into your talent management strategy, you might want to think about developing a training program tailored to your employees’ unique line of work. Investing in your staff’s professional growth can be accomplished in one of two ways: by sponsoring them to participate in an outside training program or organizing an internal training program.

Most companies have shifted to online training programs, allowing employees to learn at their own speed and time. They produce and distribute interactive learning content using training tools.  Notable training tools could include micro-learning platforms, video training software, learning management systems (LMS), etc.

The other approach involves developing a training curriculum specifically for use inside the company. You can accomplish this by providing mentorship programs with access to resources and training sessions. Coaching your employees will ultimately help them learn more, improving their overall performance.

3. Conduct Performance Evaluations

As a manager, you must evaluate your team’s performance. Reviewing your employee’s performance allows you to offer constructive criticism. If an employee has been doing their job duties to a high standard, you should seize the chance to acknowledge and reward them.

Many companies have switched from annual performance assessments to conducting them more frequently as a part of their talent management strategies. They use key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate past and current performances and readjust to meet their goals. Monitoring (KPIs) also enables you to gain insights into prospective knowledge gaps, identify current shortcomings, and fix them. This will help you acquire executive support and the opportunity to modify the process when necessary.

5 Effective Talent Management Strategies

For example, if your company aims to improve its search engine performance, you need to track and measure your SEO campaigns’ return on investment (ROI). If the efforts do not bear any fruit, you should resort to other tactics to drive the desired outcomes. Alternatively, you can hire an SEO company that will improve your online visibility and traffic and boost your website’s bottom-line metrics, like leads, sales, and revenue.

4. Focus on Employee Experience

A company’s talent management strategy should include a holistic employee experience with ample growth opportunities. Therefore, it’s essential to figure out how your employees can best contribute to the company’s long-term goals and overcome specific challenges. However, this may vary depending on the company’s work culture, working hours, and employee benefits. 

5 Effective Talent Management Strategies

If such situations arise, you’ll have to determine if you need to hire more people or if you need to implement a new benefits scheme for your current employees. It will also require you to establish a strong corporate culture that encourages your employees and fosters a sense of community. Doing so will provide them with a workable framework in which they can grow and develop.

5. Adopt a Flexible Attitude

Workplaces nowadays are unpredictable due to rapid technological advancements, global market changes, and political shifts. Therefore, if your organization undergoes a significant change of one kind or another, it’s more important that you are flexible and responsive to sudden change.

You can effectively deal with unanticipated challenges or tasks by adjusting to change quickly and calmly. To sum up, a manager adapting to change means to: 

  • Adapt to the face of ever-changing external challenges for your company.
  • Adjust your management style in response to changing circumstances.
  • Accept changes as positive.
  • Revise strategies as necessary.
  • Take into account other people’s concerns during a transition phase.

Flexibility has become an increasingly valuable skill in today’s highly competitive setting, where unpredictability and change are often constant. However, flexibility isn’t just about reacting to situations when they arise. It also requires significant adjustments to how you think, conduct your work, and act.

Conclusion

Companies must develop strategic talent management strategies to help them retain their best employers for longer. This requires setting clear objectives,  offering training opportunities, conducting performance evaluations, focusing on employee experience, and adopting a flexible attitude. Using these talent management strategies effectively will keep your employees happy and motivated.

 

Better Pay Isn’t Always the Key to Retaining Talent

Is your organization feeling the effects of the ‘great resignation?’ If not, you are one of the lucky few. Official figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that resignations have been abnormally high through 2021. By the end of August, over 10 million open jobs were left unfilled. In a normal year, average turnover rates are typically under 20%, but in recent research from the Achievers Workforce Institute, over half of survey respondents said they would be looking for a new job in 2021. Retaining talent has become a major issue for many organizations. 

The aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic are one cause of today’s great resignation. Some people had the time to reflect on their jobs and they began to wonder if they would rather do something else with their lives. Others hunkered down, put their careers on hold, and waited for the storm to pass. Now the economy is restarting, organizations are hiring, and employees can and will move on. The new normal of remote working also makes it easier and safer for individuals to look for new job opportunities. It has never been easier for organizations to attract and recruit talent more quickly and efficiently. Hiring senior talent without meeting them in person used to be unheard of. Now it’s entirely normal. The new challenges in retaining top talent calls for organizations to think outside of the box and find new ways to keep their employees happy.

Better Pay Isn’t Always the Only–or the Best–Way 

So how can organizations retain talent during the great resignation? One simple solution would be to pay them more, but this doesn’t always work. Apart from those in lower-paying jobs who may need more money just to keep going, the actual amount that companies pay people is less important than whether it’s more or less than what they think they are worth.  In practice, that means: are you paying them more or less than other people doing the same job in your organization or elsewhere? 

If your competitors have deeper pockets than you, this strategy won’t work. And if employees start comparing salaries within your organization, you risk demotivating people and starting a wage war. The end result? Paying more money to less motivated, less engaged employees. 

Reward Employees the Right Way

We all tend to motivate and reward other people in the way that we would like to be motivated and rewarded. If money motivates us, that’s what we offer. If we appreciate autonomy and space, we might try that. The problem is: not everyone is the same.

A better approach is to try and understand your employees as individuals who are motivated by different things and have different personality preferences. This is where tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment can be really useful, both in helping us to recognize how we are different from other people and in understanding what would work for everybody. Once we understand that, we can apply a more tailored approach to rewarding our employees and improve retention. 

Adapt Feedback and Motivational Styles Using “Thinking-Feeling” 

“Thinking-Feeling”, one aspect of the MBTI framework, deals with how we prefer to make decisions. People with a “Thinking” preference prefer to make decisions based on objective logic. Alternatively, those with a “Feeling” preference tend to consider how their decisions affect people and whether the decision lines up with their values. They prefer the decision that feels right rather than the logically correct choice. Understanding how employees arrive at the important decisions in their lives is invaluable in determining employee retention strategy. 

Tailor Recognition and Feedback to Employee Preference

“Thinking-Feeling” influences many aspects of our lives, including how we prefer to receive recognition or appreciation. People with a “Thinking” preference like to be recognized for their competence and expertise. They want to know when they’re doing a good job or going above and beyond the norm. Having this feedback at the end of a project or when a task is completed is important for them. If they are given appreciation on an ongoing basis, such as before the result of their work is clear, it may irritate and demotivate them. 

In contrast, those with a “Feeling” preference like to be appreciated for their efforts. They like to be recognized for their personal contribution, for making a difference (to people, to society, to the world), and for helping others. They generally like a degree of feedback and appreciation throughout a project, not just at the end. 

A “Feeling” employee working for a “Thinking” manager may wonder why they are not getting any feedback during a task. This might cause them to worry and become demotivated. Conversely, a “Thinking” employee working for a “Feeling” manager may dislike praise for their efforts before things are finished. Consequently, they may doubt their manager’s competence, lose respect for them, or wonder if there is an ulterior motive. Once a manager understands how their reports have different needs, they can modify their behavior in a way that helps to keep engagement and motivation high. 

Match Management Style to Employee Personality Preferences 

The other aspects of personality are important in keeping people motivated, too. For example, MBTI theory suggests that people with my INTP personality type want a manager who gives them autonomy. INTPs prefer to do their work their own way without much supervision or detailed schedules. They need a manager who recognizes and rewards them for their expertise and competence and treats them in a consistent way. They value leadership who is open to new ideas and gives them the space to explore new possibilities. 

This may or may not be a manager’s natural style, but knowing about personality types and the MBTI framework will help them to modify their approach to get the best from their employees and keep them motivated. 

Of course, recognizing and adapting to the individuality of employees through their personality type is not the only way to retain talent during the great resignation, but it is an excellent place to start. 

5 Ways Leaders Can Create a Successful Work Environment

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

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

1. Building and sustaining trust.

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

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

2. Leading from values.

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

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

3. Creating communities.

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

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

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

4. Growing transition readiness.

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

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

5. Maintaining a Customer-First Work Environment

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

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

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

 

Future Workplace Mindset: People, Technology, and Business Intersection

As we all know, flexibility is the lifeblood of HR, especially when it comes to adopting new technologies for attracting candidates. While many are resistant to change in the working world, a willingness to adapt to whatever comes strengthens both HR and business strategies. By understanding that nothing will stay the same, and thus adopting a future workplace mindset, organizations can accept change and also thrive in it.

As technology becomes more important for keeping employees happy and productive, it’s crucial that businesses understand tech’s role in business success. And more importantly, act on this understanding.

Our Guest: Michel Visser, Unit4’s VP of People Success and Enablement

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Michel Visser, Unit4’s VP of People Success and Enablement. In 2018, he joined Unit4 with the aim of attracting the best global talent. He has over a decade of experience in HR, holding various senior leadership roles. Michel teaches HR at the VU University Amsterdam and has been instrumental in developing creative and innovative strategies for attracting candidates, strengthening employee development, and generating strong engagement strategies.

I wanted to know: how does a company develop a workplace mindset for building a global identity that supports its brand and culture? According to Michel, it’s all about communicating company values. Values not only determine how a business operates, but how people interact with each other. Making values apparent allows candidates to know upfront whether they’re a good match for your organization. Sharing values throughout an organization also takes the transactional aspect out of work, and has everyone working towards a common goal. It helps employees feel like they’re doing something more than just getting a paycheck every week.

“It is absolutely critical to communicate organizational values to candidates because, without clear values, employee experience becomes transactional,” says Michel. “If you make your business’s values very clear, then you give candidates a chance to relate to your mission. You can use values as an instrument to attract and retain talent.”

And HR is fundamental in crafting these values.

“HR is now front and center when it comes to being visible and showing how employees actually deliver value to the business. It’s HR who starts formulating answers to questions like what does the business stand for? What do we value?” Michel says.

Technology’s Role in Communicating Values

Technology can play a big role in communicating values. It’s HR’s responsibility to strengthen the workplace mindset that it’s good to adapt and harness tech to keep employees engaged. And it’s vital to continuously monitor and measure that engagement.

“How do you keep track of employee engagement? If you find a proper tool to do that, how do you start acting on the insights you’ve gathered?” Michel says. “In many cases, you can’t just stop by a coffee maker and ask employees how they feel anymore. You need technology to gauge this.” 

Once tech is adopted, it’s crucial that HR plans to make sure employees engage with the tech. They also need to dive into workforce planning and understand that a two-year workforce plan makes more sense than a five- or 10-year plan. Organizations need to look at the length of time that employees stick around in the modern workforce and adjust to that. They also need to understand what skill sets employees need to thrive, how to create more engagement, and how to stay true to the values that are communicated. In other words, companies can’t just be “all talk.” Businesses have to deliver on promises if they want happy people.

“Everybody will tell you on their website that they put people first. But at the end of the day, you have to deliver and make sure people feel that the company values are true. Every HR professional should focus on putting values into place,” Michel says.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Unit4. You can learn more about workplace mindset and adopting new technologies by connecting with Michel on LinkedIn. Also, you can learn about how people management and technology can combine to give organizations a competitive advantage by downloading this Unit4 whitepaper.

 

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.

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?