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Remote Human Resources Strategies for 2021 (And Beyond)

2020 was a year of job losses and significant changes for human resources and hiring teams. While the pandemic will eventually come to an end, many of the changes we’ve seen will stick around — perhaps permanently. So maybe it is time to take a look at your remote human resources strategies?

One of the biggest changes was the swift and complete adoption of remote work. Many businesses that had been resistant to this growing trend faced no choice starting last March. This mandatory, multi-month pilot program has been eye-opening in many positive ways.

Because of this, we can expect remote work — and remote HR — to be a long-term shift. What are some strategies you can use to excel? Here are some ideas.

Excel at Remote Hiring

The first step is to become comfortable with the technology needed for remote hiring. This includes fine-tuning automated resume review software so that you get the applicants you really want. You can also take advantage of pre-interview questionnaires and email references to qualify your candidates further.

When you’re ready for an interview, it’s time for video! Because you can see the candidate and read their body language, video-based interviews are better than telephone options. This technology, which enables you to see how the candidate prepares and reacts in a higher-pressure situation, can help you ensure a better cultural fit along with hiring for the right skills.

As you incorporate video interviews in your hiring process, find ways to keep the process streamlined and give personal attention to top candidates to win them away from competitors. For example, keep the interview short, impactful, and positive.

Embrace the Positive Impact of Remote Work

Many companies have determined that remote work is more cost-effective and sustainable than they imagined. There are fewer late employees, more flexibility, and increased employee satisfaction.

There are also cost-savings for companies. Maintaining fewer desks can mean smaller office spaces and less overhead. Remote work can also lead to increased productivity and a focus on results over time-in-office.

Most of all, remote work allows for increased diversity. People who have health issues and struggle to commute to work daily no longer feel excluded from the talent pool. The fact that people are working from home means they can create the accommodations they need to be successful and overall have a better work environment.

Focus on Employee Engagement

One of the biggest challenges of remote work is keeping employees engaged. While many people enjoy not having to drive to work, others miss the camaraderie of being in an office. Regardless of which side of this fence your employees stand, HR and management must figure out how to actively engage staff.

Start by encouraging each manager to find out what their teams actually want and need. Too often, team-building goes wrong because managers base the effort on someone else’s idea about what matters. In every instance, the team should guide the engagement process.

Leaders should also meet regularly with individual employees. These one-on-one meetings often help minimize any concerns about being forgotten or overlooked for promotions.

There are also virtual team building games you can leverage if they are a fit for your teams and company culture. Many people enjoy the break provided by a virtual scavenger hunt or digital board game – or any chance to do something fun. Do you and your employees a favor, though: Make sure the activities chosen don’t come across as corny or forced.

Support Career Development

As your dispersed team continues to function off-site, be sure to emphasize career training and development to your employees.

The remote work era an excellent opportunity to take advantage of technology and computer-based training. Because companies can tailor these efforts to each individual’s pace and preferences, many companies were already using these methods before the pandemic. Many more companies now offer employees online access to personal and professional growth opportunities such as learning programs provided by LinkedIn or SkillSoft.

Of course, leaders need to be aware of — and support — their individual team members’ career goals. When people believe their career goals are understood and supported, they are far more likely to be engaged and productive.

Balance In-Office and Remote Teams

Many companies are already managing a combination of in-office and remote workers. One way to make sure this works well is to treat everyone – regardless of their work location – fairly. For example, decision-makers shouldn’t prefer in-office workers for promotions or projects. Similarly, remote employees shouldn’t be the only people given flexibility.

Your leadership team must decide how they will recognize and reward the efforts of all team members. And the leaders themselves must serve as advocates for those people doing good work from home.

Of course, companies can adapt recognition and rewards programs to serve blended workforces well. Moving toward a focus on results rather than time-at-desk, for example, can be a great way to make promotions and raises equitable. When you balance your teams, you give everyone an equal opportunity to excel.

Remote Human Resources: Are You Ready for 2021?

Many leaders and companies continue to struggle with the adjustment to a remote work or blended environment – so you are not alone. One at a time, leverage these remote human resources strategies — and make your adjustment to a long-term remote-based or blended workforce better for your company, and better for your employees.

Here’s to a successful 2021 — and beyond!

 

Clovercity

One More Look Back: #WorkTrends Top 5 Podcasts of 2020

While 2020 was a rough year for many people and businesses, there were opportunities for growth. Sometimes, all we had to do was listen… to the top 5 #WorkTrends podcasts of 2020, for example.

For many years, #WorkTrends has served as a place of learning within the world of work. 2020 was no exception, as we featured many of the top minds — and many of the best companies and products — that serve the talent community.

As you look ahead to 2021, we invite you to listen to the #WorkTrends conversations that resonated most during 2020…

5) Leading Through Uncertainty

The moment we all started realizing just how impactful the COVID-19 pandemic would be, Doug Butler of Reward Gateway joined host Meghan M. Biro to discuss how leaders can bring teams together and keep them working collaboratively — even when working remotely. In our fifth-most-popular podcast of 2020, you’ll hear solid advice that’s just as applicable today as it was in June when we recorded this episode, starting with how to encourage open, honest, clear communication.

4) The Human Impact of Data Literacy

The next most popular episode of 2020 featured Jordan Morrow, then Global Head of Data Literacy at Qlik. Jordan offered tremendous insight into why we’re not using data the way we could — or should. In this episode, Jordan shared the findings of a Qlik/Accenture report on the human impact of data literacy — and why globally we miss countless opportunities because we don’t better train our employees to use data.

3) The Empathy Gap

In the third most downloaded podcast of last year, Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, joined Meghan to discuss potential workplace disasters. Dr. Tsipursky is a noted consultant, cognitive neuroscientist, and expert on behavioral economics. And during his appearance on #WorkTrends, he noted that the workplace suffers from an epidemic of disengagement. Specifically, he points to one glaring disaster within company culture: a lack of empathy. Listen in!

2) The Myth of Employee Engagement

In our second-most popular post of 2020, Mark S. Babbitt, CEO of WorqIQ joined us to talk about why our approach to employee engagement has been all wrong and still is off-base today. In this episode, Mark noted that our view of this critical workplace topic hasn’t helped us move the needle one bit — engagement levels remain the same as they were in the 1990s. More importantly, he and Meghan talked about how to overcome the impasse.

1) Assessing Digital Skills for Hiring Now

Our top post of 2020 features Sean O’Brien, Senior VP of Education at SAS, who joined us to discuss how remote work — the most dramatic shift in the workplace for 2020 — has moved from a luxury to a necessity for everyday survival. Sean noted that remote working — with its technical, practical, and cultural challenges — also shifted the hiring process further into the digital sphere. Listen to this episode to learn about how digital tools are helping organizations hire effectively in this new environment!

As we look across these #WorkTrends episodes as well as our top five blog posts of 2020, we see clear proof that last year wasn’t all bad. In fact, opportunities for individual and organizational growth exist, even in the strangest of times. We invite you to take a few minutes to enjoy these insightful conversations. And, of course, join us for even more insights in the year ahead. Our goal: to make 2021 the best year yet in the world of work!

As always, thank you for listening to #WorkTrends — and for being an essential part of the TalentCulture community!

 

Photo by Viesinsh

Conquer the Skills Gap: How to Quickly Upgrade Your Reskilling Strategy

The pandemic has only accelerated our ever-growing skills gap. However, there’s a silver lining to the chaos we’ve experienced this year. People have proved to be remarkably resilient. People are still the best resources to take on the disruption and close the skills gap. This is especially true when you consider the volatility of the external talent pool.

Yes, technology is outpacing human skills. Simultaneously, educational systems struggle to keep up with the urgency of new skills needed. Higher education is both too slow and too costly for reskilling to be effective in the near term. That said, if history has taught us anything, it’s that technology adoption may cause short-term labor displacement – but in the long run.

To effectively reskill in this rapidly changing environment, organizations must harness their greatest resource for skills potential by looking internally. The challenge then becomes how companies approach a reskilling strategy. We often see a top-down process, where leaders throw content or training at employees and expect them to get to work. This approach to talent development has never been effective. Even worse, it will undoubtedly fail when applied to the unique circumstances employees face today.

Instead, talent leaders need to design a holistic people development strategy. One that utilizes integrated technology to find the delicate balance between fulfilling the needs of their employees personally while giving them the tools to be successful at an organizational level. Only then will employees truly be enabled to reskill effectively and execute the business strategy.

Anticipate Skills Needs

In a recent study, McKinsey states that 87% of companies say they are experiencing a skills gap – or will in the next few years. Of those respondents, only a few have an understanding of how to prepare for the skills they’ll need most in the future.

As we can tell from this data point, companies are well aware of the looming skills gap issue. But they are lost at sea when it comes to understanding what to do about it. From that same study, 3 in 10 respondents say at least one-quarter of their organization’s roles are at risk of disruption in the next five years by these trends.

If you don’t know how to meet the skills needed, your first reaction will be to look outside the organization. But that’s a concern when you consider the cost of hiring. According to a  SHRM article, research suggests that a new hire can cost as much as 50% to 60% of an employee’s annual salary, with total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90% to 200% of annual salary. Further, finding new talent that fits into your culture is a feat in itself. Efficiency is what matters most now. So what companies need to do is rally around upskilling their current employees.

Leaders must tap into their own network to understand industry trends. They must decipher the needs required now (or those that will be soon) to develop their staff. To gain insight into the skills employees currently have and the skills required to do their job, start with a skills gap analysis. From there, providing performance management technology and tools that integrate to support holistic employee development is key.

Integrate Effectively

Companies are working hard to accommodate dispersed employees by keeping them connected and collaborating. Rather than adding an assortment of tools that don’t talk to each other, organizations must create a comprehensive strategy that includes mentoring, engagement, learning, and performance.

Mentoring

Most companies have created or adopted some kind of mentorship program to improve job satisfaction, provide personal and professional development, and retain their top employees. However, most of these mentorship programs have become stale and bureaucratic. As many organizations have learned, these programs aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Access to coaching and mentorship should be a continuous process and suited to an employee’s personal needs.

Engagement

The pandemic shook up our work-life balance, and the flexible work environment took its toll on engagement. Finding a tool that provides constant communication to employees and leadership is critical — especially for those working remotely. Continuous engagement shouldn’t mean micromanaging, however. Instead, support the employee’s personal needs and provide them with a positive work experience.

Learning

After leaders have identified all essential skills, leaders can provide the resources and content that cater to individual needs. An integrated Learning Module System (LMS) can equip employees with a database of information that promotes a culture of knowledge and learning.

Performance

In a survey, Forrester reports 74% of firms say they want to be “data-driven,” but only 29% are successful at connecting analytics to action. For an organization and its leaders to see the big picture, performance management technology must have detailed analytics. After all, reskilling efforts wouldn’t be relevant if you couldn’t track back to the original development strategy. Only then can you ensure each individual has made progress.

Technology shouldn’t be a hindrance to employees wanting to upskill. By consolidating tools, you’re saving time from going back and forth between systems, simplifying the work for managers, and allowing quicker decision-making.

Assess and Invest in Your People

Not everyone is facing the same challenges right now, but managers are responsible for providing the tools and resources for each employee that enable them to be efficient and productive. Moreover, LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report shows that 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn.

Closing the skills gap is an unmistakable need right now. Clearing the obstacles for employees to fill those gaps is an action that leaders must take. Finding the right fit with an integrated performance management solution can enable employees to reskill effectively and efficiently.

James Haworth

5 Steps to Making Compensation Transparency Work for Your Company

What is compensation transparency? And how does it help your company thrive now, and in the future?

Systemic racial injustice, social unrest and the pandemic have left business leaders in nearly every industry scrambling. Many struggle to find ways to cultivate an equitable and inclusive workplace. At the same time, recent protests have prompted organizations to reassess their purpose. Many have taken a powerful stand for what they believe in. Others have begun cultivating a culture where everyone has equal opportunity to fulfill their dreams.

Against this backdrop, employers are under heightened scrutiny from employees, customers, investors and communities. Now more than ever, they are expected to take bold action and create radical change within their organizations.

And radical change often starts with transparency.

For instance, research from PayScale discovered that the gender wage gap closed completely with increased transparency for 73% of industries and organizations. This means companies must commit to doing what’s right over what’s easy. It also means taking a hard look at their compensation structures to make salary transparency a top priority.

Yet equal pay is far from a set-it-and-forget-it policy. It requires diligent, intentional and consistent analysis. Also required: Iteration and measurement to ensure compliance with late-breaking employee expectations and legal regulations.

As an HR leader, consider these five steps to ensure that transparency remains at the center of your compensation strategy.

Identify Existing Pay Gaps and Disparities

Your company can relatively quickly eliminate pay inequities. Start by performing an audit to include analyzing salary structures and reviewing job descriptions to ensure they accurately reflect the requirements and demands of the position. Then examine and document various circumstances that may justify pay differentials.

For example, you may be able to support pay differences when employees meet the preferred qualifications for a position. Or when they’ve assumed additional responsibility or when their performance is superior.  Ultimately, the cost of identifying and correcting pay inequities will likely be outweighed by the benefits. Those benefits include increased employee morale, retention of a dynamic and diverse workforce, and much more.

Determine an Appropriate Level of Transparency

The next step is to assess your company’s level of comfort with pay transparency. For instance, publishing pay ranges for each position may be a great first start. If your company already has some transparency in place, you might be ready to make the leap to complete transparency. This involves publishing the compensation of individual employees (instead of ranges) externally, internally or both.

Whole Foods and Buffer, for example, have fully embraced the power of pay transparency by disclosing exactly how much everyone in the company makes – from the intern to the CEO. Yes, this strategy can be fraught with fear and overwhelming for many. When implemented correctly, though, the pros far outweigh the cons.

Transparency typically results in greater trust among the team, increased accountability for pay equity, and a rise in job applications from diverse applicants. Complete transparency, however, isn’t for every company. So, it’s critical to evaluate what level is appropriate for your employees, brand and business objectives.

Clarify Compensation Potential by Embracing New Technologies

Equal opportunity is timeless, but equal pay technologies are not.

To address the need for greater transparency, many companies, including Codacy, Buffer and Gitlab, have created salary calculators prospective candidates can use to determine what they’d make if they were brought onboard the organization. These calculations typically include the base salary for a specific role coupled with the minimum job requirements (as they relate to career advancement and market realities).

Other companies have invested in innovative technologies and cloud-based software to automate, simplify and streamline the equal pay process. By clearly explaining pay and pay practices—such as the relationship between pay and experience, performance, qualifications, and other data—you can build trust between employees and thereby bolster loyalty and engagement.

Encourage Feedback from Employees

In today’s unpredictable economic climate, employees may fear they’re expendable. Their focus and performance may deteriorate as a result. You can set your employees’ minds at ease by encouraging feedback regarding business objectives. Implementing pulse surveys and organizing town halls to gather input on pay equity and transparency best practices is also beneficial.

The key: Open communication that helps business leaders better understand what employees feel and experience while encouraging a diverse flow of ideas.

Coach How to Successfully Navigate Compensation Conversations

Perhaps most importantly, it’s imperative to coach managers on the art of compassionate communication as it relates to compensation – from new hires to the most senior team members.

For example, if the initial compensation is misaligned for a new hire, that inequity will perpetuate over time and tenure with a company. Additionally, if salaries are broadcasted publicly, employees may ask why they’re not making as much as someone else in a similar position. So, as part of these conversations, managers should set clear expectations and articulate the criteria for performance and pay progressions. That way, every employee understands the steps necessary to earn an increase in pay.

Ultimately, employers that change the framework for compensation conversations—and empower their teams with the direction needed to advance—are most likely to succeed.

At the end of the day, companies that create equitable workplaces retain employees who feel respected, valued, inspired, and encouraged to reach their full potential. When executed successfully, compensation transparency increases organizational diversity, productivity and profitability.

At the same time, open and equitable pay helps turn employees into brand ambassadors who deliver unparalleled performance.

Johan Godinez

The Owner’s Mindset: How Open Book Leadership Empowers Employees

For employees, what is an owner’s mindset? And how does open book leadership give employees total responsibility over their jobs?

The shockwaves reverberating through our economy as a result of the pandemic aren’t expected to subside anytime soon. The skyrocketing numbers of those laid off, and the businesses shuttering their doors or at grave risk of doing so, has rocked the very foundation of our great entrepreneurial nation.

The long-term impact of all this turmoil creates uncertainty everywhere. From our local neighborhoods and downtowns, to state and federal agencies., to nearly every workplace, no one is immune. As a result, many business leaders are looking for a way to recover by rethinking their businesses and finding new, innovative practices.

Now is our opportunity to rethink how to best manage staff and take maximum advantage of their collective talent. In today’s tumultuous times, it’s both unfair and unwise to leave employees benched on the sidelines worried about whether their jobs are safe. 

We need to change the game by embracing open book leadership. 

The Case for Open Book Leadership

Many tensions exist in business today that could easily be resolved through transparency and financial education. Business owners who have been skeptical about open book leadership – the sharing confidential business information with their employees. Those leaders, however, fail to see that sharing the financial picture of the company – good or bad – doesn’t scare people off. In fact, it eliminates misperceptions and provides an enormous opportunity to get people on board with fixing problems.

To get to better decisions, company leaders need to treat their people like owners. So they can understand the company’s full potential, they need to guide them through the financials. So they can grasp the challenges ahead, they must give them the information needed to let them come up with solutions. Most important, open book leadership gives staff a stake in the outcome. 

The more we teach staff about our company’s financial health, the smarter and more conservative they become with the company’s money. Because they begin to think of it as their money. 

Opening the Books: Our Story

When it comes to financial literacy, we have a huge knowledge gap in our country. In our corporation, we’ve spent more than 40 years closing that gap. Every associate in our corporation is taught how to speak the language of business. We call this open-book leadership system “The Great Game of Business.”

Our end goal has always been to build a business around people who think and act like owners. At every turn, they are taught the tools needed to take control of their destinies. At every opportunity, they are empowered to develop plans that create and protect their jobs and help grow the company.

Within our company, transparency and financial literacy builds a foundation of trust for each of us to stand on going forward. That trust eliminates a fear people many people have: That they can’t understand the business numbers. By conquering that fear, we give our associates the information they need, in a way that makes sense to them, so they can make the best decisions. 

Teach and share the numbers with everyone in the company, and three things happen: 

  1. As a leader, you inspire trust and confidence 
  2. People engage in creating their vision of the future
  3. The entire organization unites around shared goals

Developing a New Language 

Changing the game – by teaching people the game of business – works. Throughout the world, we’ve seen it happen in thousands of companies. Each has created a better future for themselves, their associates, and their communities. 

Our Great Game All-stars, for example, represent 29 companies across 22 industries. Through the pandemic, when lay-offs became commonplace, leadership and employees have worked together to save 3,385 jobs to date. And over the past two years, the average annual profit growth for these companies was 125 percent – or 6-times greater than their industry benchmarks.

Taking The Leap to Open Book Leadership

We understand: Taking that first step might require a giant leap of faith — and a lot of hard work. Just like we’ve seen the undeniable value of adding STEM courses to school curriculums, however; we need to increase financial literacy in the workplace. Our academic institutions, despite several chances to add this human value to their learning models won’t do it. So we businesses leaders must become the teachers. 

Teaching financial literacy requires the same immersive approach that schools take when teaching students a foreign language. We need to speak it all day, every day. And we do that until the words and phrases become routine — and the language becomes commonplace across the entire company. That language crosses departments. It helps us work together. It highlights where we make a difference to each other – something we need now more than ever.

Building a Better Quality of Life 

Teaching people the language of business results in much more than financial success. 

Empowered, informed associates make recommendations that fix real problems. Because they have a say in the company’s direction, they work harder and smarter. Finally, a transparent open book management system gives them the ability to understand what they need to lead a secure and fulfilling life

Opening up the rules of business – providing everyone the information on which to act – may not solve every problem your company faces. But giving staff the insider information formerly reserved for owners alone empowers everyone to take responsibility for their jobs. By understanding the big picture, they gain a sense of pride and ownership. They know their work, and their decisions, make a difference.

Take the leap. Incorporate open book leadership – “The Great Game of Business” – in your operations. Your employees will feel trusted and empowered. Which makes your suddenly transparent business that much stronger – and more ready to take on any challenge ahead.

 

WeWe

The Power of Grateful Workplaces and Engaged Employees

What sets grateful workplaces apart from others? What impact do those environments have on employee engagement?

Especially now — while most of us are still working remotely — leaders need to ask themselves a question: Why are happy and engaged employees worth their weight in gold?

And then they need to go discover more gold.

If you’re a business owner, look around your company. If you’re in a leadership role within a corporation, look around your department. Are you using a critical eye to evaluate what’s going on behind the scenes with your employees? Know what is happening when they are not on a Zoom call? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to use your relationship skills and develop deeper, meaningful conversations. The kind of discussions that matter to them. And, ultimately, to the organization.

The Value of Appreciation

It’s amazing to see how showing appreciation and expressing gratitude affects people. With just two little words like “thank you” and “well done” we can make a real difference. In a report conducted by TINYpulse, 30,000 people were queried to uncover what makes for an engaged, happy workplace. The findings revealed that 70 percent of people rated their workplace as fun due to the appreciation and subsequent recognition. Yes, the validation received from leadership and peers made the work fun. Perks such as ping pong tables and free beer Fridays? Not so much.

Showing gratitude gives employees the support and recognition they want. It provides the encouragement to go above and beyond. In essence, appreciation and gratitude inspire people. Validation motivates them to be engaged and interested.

They Tell One Person, Who Tells Two People…

Even when times are good, developing a cadre of brand ambassadors is a great idea for any company. This is especially true for companies looking to extend their brand externally and reinforce it internally. Now, in times of turmoil, helping employees feel appreciated and included greatly increases the likelihood they’ll get involved. It also inspires them to more often go beyond the call of duty. Employees who feel valued also show a greater aptitude for collaboration. They are far more likely to spread the word of their great feelings about the organization. And they’re more likely to feel the work they do directly contributes to positive outcomes. 

It’s important to have positive communications like these run up, down, and sideways along the chain. This practice helps reinforce a workplace where open communications are part of the culture and practiced by everyone — even when we’re not all sitting in the same building.

And Then There’s the Downside

When employees do not feel appreciated nor included, feelings of disinterest in their employer may develop. Depending on the level and length of disengagement, the lack of appreciation often leads them to speak publicly in negative tones. That negativity, regrettably, easily spreads to any customers with whom disengaged employees may come into contact. These negative interactions can directly affect customer purchases, retention, and recommendations on company review sites such as Glassdoor.

Further, brands always need to be mindful of the speed at which information, especially bad news, travels. When an employee is frustrated enough to vent online, social media is not an employer’s best friend.

Grateful Workplaces: It’s Good Business

Organizations that promote cultures of positivity, camaraderie, collaboration, feedback, and good communications prosper. In fact, research by Gallup identified the nine business metrics most affected by high employee engagement. The top three factors that advance an organization’s brand image and fiscal health: Customer ratings, productivity and profitability.

On the less-positive side, a study published in the Harvard Business Review details a Gallup Poll survey that show disengaged workers had:

  • 37 percent higher absenteeism
  • 49 percent more accidents
  • 60 percent more errors and defects

These data points are strong indicators of disengaged employees. Even worse, perhaps: Unmotivated employees who don’t find satisfaction in their work. Nor do they have a positive outlook of their company. In a research project conducted by doctors at the University of California and University of Florida, participants who focused on the positive aspects of their life were tested against a comparison group who focused on feelings of irritation and dissatisfaction. As makes sense, the test group considered more positive were much happier, optimistic and more likely to demonstrate healthier habits. These feelings are not exclusive to one’s time away from work. In fact, they spill over into people’s work lives every day, affecting productivity and results.

With so many people working away from the office, organizations must give their employees reasons to be brand ambassadors. Perhaps even more important in today’s workplace? They must deliberate create grateful workplaces. Which means serving as positive role models by demonstrating appreciation and a high level of engagement themselves. 

 Want highly engaged employees? Harness the power of gratitude.

 

A version of this post originally appeared on HR Exchange Network.

 

Photo: Vlada Parkovich

4 Proven Ways to Improve Recruiting and Remote Hiring

To say COVID-19 has changed the recruiting and remote hiring would be an understatement. For a start, it’s likely you’re relying more heavily on the expertise of the rest of your HR team, your recruiter, or business leaders while navigating the interview and remote onboarding process. To help you improve the remote hiring process, we’ve put together our top four tips for interviewing virtually, including how to answer some tough questions from candidates.

1. Decide on the Remote Hiring Process 

Before you do anything else, decide on the steps involved in the remote hiring process. Make sure everyone understands the types of interviews and stages the candidates will have to go through. This also allows an opportunity to offer candidates an outline of what to expect. This will be an unfamiliar situation for most, so planning and preparation are key. For example: The free version of Zoom limits meetings to 40 minutes. So, ensure everyone understands the rigid time frame.

If you’re using an agency to help you? Be sure to allow for scheduled follow-up calls with the agency. This will help to keep the process you’ve decided on to move more efficiently.

2. Produce an Information Pack for Candidates 

A great employer branding tool, an information pack can be prepared by and sent to the candidates before the interview/s. The pack can include: 

  • Background information about the company
  • What they should expect from each stage of the interview process 
  • What you’re looking for in an ideal candidate 
  • The technology and login details required (for example: Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc.)
  • Point of contact details throughout the interview process 

Sending this information to the candidate will help them have a great candidate experience. It will also allay some of their anxiety while enabling them to prepare to the best of their ability.

3. Encourage Managers to Use a Scorecard

A job interview in person is hard enough. Throw in video technology, and the degree of difficulty increases. When it comes to video interviews, keep your job as simple as possible. That way, you can focus more on making a fair assessment of each candidate. One way to do this: Produce a scorecard unique to the position the candidates are interviewing for. By isolating the top skills or qualities and giving them each a score out of 5, 10 or 20 (depending on the weighting of each), it allows you to quantify where a candidate sits. The scorecard can also help eliminate unconscious biases. After all, managers will only score in relation to the candidates’ demonstrated skills.

4. Prepare for Tough Questions from Candidates 

During the remote hiring process, chances are there will be questions you and the hiring manager may not know how to answer. So prepare ahead of time for some of the most common candidate questions. Below are a few of these questions with tips on how to prepare for them. 

What’s the workplace culture like? 

As the majority of candidates going through the remote interview process won’t have been to your offices, you should explain what it’s like for a newcomer. Things to mention include virtual social activities, daily/weekly catch-ups and the technology you use to keep your staff connected. 

Once hired, what should I expect from the onboarding process? 

The minute details are not helpful here. Instead, provide a high-level overview of the virtual onboarding process. Mention any hardware that would be sent to the new starter’s home and give an outline of the first week of induction/training sessions. It may also be worth mentioning if your workplace organizes a work buddy for new starters and who would be responsible for leading the onboarding process, whether it’s someone from the HR team or the new starter’s line manager. 

How well is the company working remotely?

This question is a good opportunity to mention any wins or challenges the company has faced. Assure the interviewee a remote onboarding process exists. You can also mention how regularly the company meets online and the other ways everyone keeps in touch – whether by Slack, Zoom, emails or phone calls. 

What has your company learned from the transition to working from home? 

Similar to the above, think about any learning curves the company has faced while working from home, whether they have had to do with systems, communication or staff surveys. A candidate may also want to know if the company now recognizes the value in working from home if this wasn’t already in place.  

What types of measures are you looking at to return to the office safely?

While you’re probably still figuring out the details of the policy that will allow a safe return to the office, you should be able to mention the aspects you’re considering. These could include staggered start times, transport options, an increase in remote working or providing PPE. 

Tell me about your flexible working policies?

The answer to this question is likely something all candidates will want to know. If you aren’t already aware, talk to management to find out the company’s thoughts. In some cases, work practices aren’t affected or will not be reduced. In that case, then simply explain why the company has taken this stance. 

The remote hiring process is new for many of us. Which makes this is a great time to learn new hiring methods. Put these tips to work, and hire the best candidates!

Andrew Neel

Employee Burnout: How Leaders Can Help Right Now

I want you to look around at your employees — in person where possible, and on that Zoom call. Then, I want you to think about how they’re doing. 9 times out of 10, they’re at least a little burned out. One of the areas we’ve been focusing on a lot here at TalentCulture is employee wellness. What that means right now is we’re looking at an entire workforce that seems, well, exhausted. Employee burnout is on the rise. And chances are, dear reader, that may not be a surprise to you at all.

There are certainly many external factors playing a role in the growing wave of burned out employees. Those range from a scary economy to social turmoil. And from political upheavals to a terrifying health crisis. There are domestic factors: The disruptions and worries of parenting and caregiving through the pandemic. In addition, there are more pressures facing business and the workplace now than we’ve never seen before. Recently, Eagle Hill Consulting ran a survey of U.S employees. They discovered 45 percent reported suffering from burnout, whether they are essential workers or remote. 25 percent linked their stress to COVID-19 — and that was in April, when we were just weeks in.

By July, a study by FlexJobs and Mental Health America reported that 75% of employees were dealing with burnout at work.

For employees, it’s VUCA time. So what should leaders do?

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and take care of our people. And that doesn’t take grand gestures. We don’t need to invest in new software or major changes. There are simple strategies you can execute right now. Simple. But they may mean a lot:

Commit to Mental Health

The Eagle Hill study shows employees could use more help:

  • 36 percent feel their company is not taking action to combat employee burnout
  • A mere 20 percent feel they’re getting the mental and physical wellness resources they need

And in a July 2020 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53 percent of the adults surveyed reported that coronavirus-related stress and worries were eroding their mental health — up from 32 percent in March. 

A few months ago, I had a great conversation with a start up about how they’re supporting employees through COVID-19. Being young and lean, they had to optimize their offerings without rebuilding their entire benefits program. So they looked at their mental health benefits and made a tweak or two. It’s no secret that stress, anxiety and depression can wreak havoc on an employee’s ability to focus and work. So they provided remote employees access to professional counseling through tele-therapy. In short order, among all the benefits available to employees, tele-therapy became one the most utilized and popular programs.

Bringing the need for therapy out into the open took the taboo and the stigma away — at a time when many people need mental health support the most.

Improve What Already Exists

There’s an interesting pushback going on regarding flexibility and remote working. Some employers are still singing the “when we reopen” song. They are using it as a rationale for just letting their workforce get by. Again, I know a lot of companies are feeling the pandemic pinch. They may not have the spend for their wishlist of new HR technology right now. But the reality is we may ever get everyone back to the office — at least not in the same pre-pandemic way. After all, remote working and flexible schedules are enabling people to handle one of the hardest periods of time (barring wars, of course) this country has ever faced.

Given the importance of employee engagement, staving off burnout, and increasing performance and productivity why wouldn’t you maximize the best aspects of working remotely?

Perhaps you can’t invest in a new platform right now because the business environment has thrown off your plans. That’s a reality for many. People are already functioning and working remotely and have been for months. S0 chances are you don’t need more technology to get your people to work together better.

Focus on Weak Spots

So focus on those pesky weak spots. What’s causing friction? Where is trust the weakest? Around deliverables? Around hierarchies? Maybe around teams?

Have you crafted and shared a set of policies and expectations around how your people are supposed to work remotely? If not, do it now. Do some in-house remote training on best practices and etiquette. Be proactive about the problem of sexual harassment or bias showing up in virtual interactions. Write a set of simple policies around parenting and caregiving emergencies. 

Just as important, engineer some lightness into the workdays — because, in general, those days have gotten very long. Allot time for informal get-togethers and casual conversations. Find ways for employees to have a little fun. A giving challenge or a gratitude drive, for example. Or a meet-the-kids (or the pets) event.

Working remotely can’t all be about work all the time. Now that work has come home, let some of home come to work.

Ask People What They Need

Pandemic aside, employee burnout was alive and well in countless work cultures already — and the pandemic just compounded the problem. Blame hyper-tight production cycles, toxic levels of competition among coworkers and teams, and managers too spread thin to spend any time helping teams. The fact is a whole host of other subpar conditions existed before the pandemic hit. What I mean is this: Fundamentally, most organizations want to be great places to work. But things happen. Then came COVID-19, and that’s been a whole new level of “happen.”

The silver lining here is that now there’s no excuse for reaching out to employees to make sure they’re all right. Whether that’s a pulse survey, an informal check-in via text, or even a phone call — reach out. Burnout is often triggered when employees are completely tapped out — mentally, physically, emotionally — and feel like they’re not getting any acknowledgement or support. Extended periods of high stress, overly tight deadlines, disruptive shifts in the workflow — all can lead to the mounting frustration that can result in burnout.

The Best Way to Avoid Employee Burnout

The most important thing you can do to help your workforce avoid burnout? Find out how they are and where they are really struggling. It may be hard to do this individually and in confidence. So instead, solicit anonymous feedback and share the results in a way that doesn’t expose anyone, or anything. Further, share it with a transparent commitment to make things better. Then actually do it.  

None of these three strategies need fancy bells and whistles to get off the ground. All they really require is a heartfelt reality check. One that helps deals with the here and now. One that acknowledges that work during a pandemic — remote or not — is exposing our vulnerabilities as well as our strengths. 

A video conference hosted by the Wharton School of Business and U Penn focused on the prospect of getting back to “normal” whether for corporate and knowledge workers or for frontline and essential workers. Given everything, they determined that we’re not going to get there until November 2021. That’s more than a year away. So don’t be the employer remembered for overloading your people when life was already hard enough.

Don’t shelve employee wellness until all this is over. Work to improve your conditions for the present. Prevent the employee burnout happening now.

Bram Naus

A Proven Strategy for Performance Management: 360º Feedback

2020 is changing the way we work, without question. As the nature of the workplace transforms, performance management faces new challenges. We’ve seen many workforces undergo a rapid shift to remote. A Gartner survey of 229 HR leaders in April 2020 revealed that 81% of their employees had shifted to working remotely. The study noted that even post-pandemic, remote work will not only continue, but increase. At the same time, workforces with employees deemed “essential” face additional pressure and stress. That stress includes how to stay safe, let alone engaged. The onus is on managers to keep up. 

The fundamentals of effective, modern performance management haven’t changed: to build and maintain engagement, alignment, and growth. Feedback is critical in this process, as we know. One challenge now is how to measure performance and gather data as well as provide feedback in real time. Another challenge: Finding a system that connects the whole workforce and collects data over the long term. 

Empowered by a digital platform, 360º feedback is a proven way to meet these challenges. 360º should be part of your overall talent management strategy, whether your future plans include an on-site, remote, or blended workforce. To optimize its potential, here are three critical strategies:

Cover All Four Corners

The best way to get an accurate picture of how any individual is doing? Make sure you’re getting feedback from all four corners of the workforce. That includes the manager, peers, any direct reports, and others in the organization. 

Feedback on leaders should hew to this principle as well. It can be tough to get a clear picture of a leader’s effectiveness for a number of reasons. A digitally powered feedback program with built-in anonymity and uniform survey questions will certainly help overcome any reluctance to ‘speak freely’ about a leader. Asking for feedback on leaders as part of a customary cycle of feedback also helps. Rather than an exception to the rule, this makes it part of a normal process. And since leaders themselves can have difficulty with self-assessment, this reduces any undue stress.

Ask the Right Questions

If you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t get constructive or relevant feedback. Establish the key questions you need to ask. Tailor those questions to your industry, your market, and the nature of your own company. Make sure they are tied into the objectives of the process, as well as the nature of the role they’re meant to survey. 

There are two goals to keep in mind here, as well. First, ensure feedback can drive more self-understanding and better growth for the employee, and help managers provide an unvarnished but fair review that focuses on strengths as well as weaknesses. Second, design questions that engage participants to answer them. Don’t overload a survey with too many questions, or ask multiple questions on the same topics. It’s also a better practice to combine open-ended questions with multiple choice and rating questions. That way, participants can weigh in using their own words.

Provide Manager Training

Build in training and coaching for managers on how to best implement 360º Feedback so the process is set for success. That means getting clear on consistent terminology and guidelines. As Primalogik’s new ebook, Essential Performance Management Solutions for Today’s HR, points out, “T​o allow for fair comparisons of employees’ contributions, reviewers need to be using the same guidelines.” Guide managers on how to establish the right criteria and work with their employees to set individual as well as organizational objectives. Managers should also explain the process and its purpose. Specifically, they should clarify what employees should expect, and send periodic reminders and prompts over the feedback platform.   

Managers should also plan to conduct plenty of follow-up. That follow-up should include a one-on-one discussion with employees to review feedback. A plan for improving performance in any areas of concern should also be included. Beyond that, managers may also want to conduct regular, frequent check-ins with employees to make sure they’re on track and comfortable. A recent Workhuman study showed that regular check-ins are key drivers of engagement: 85% of the workers surveyed reported higher levels of engagement with weekly check-ins. Making growth an ongoing conversation may greatly improve the outcome: it’s easier to improve in small steps than all at once, and real-time feedback — coming from multiple directions — has a clarity to it that’s far more engaging. 

360º Feedback is Performance Management

360º Feedback is most effective when it’s part of an overall employer commitment to employee growth and development, and when it’s designed to show strengths and growth for everyone. When an organization is transparent about wanting to be the best it can be, and gives the workforce the means to participate fully, there’s a clear alignment. Employees feel a part of the process, not the recipients of it.

We’re all learning how to be better at using data and fully engage and communicate in the digital workplace. Digital feedback platforms keep us connected, providing a clear picture of performance grounded with multiple sources of feedback and data. It’s a powerful way to update performance management, and drive manager as well as team success.

 

This post is sponsored by Primalogik.

 

Photo: Anika Huizinga

How to Stay Productive During the COVID-19 Crisis

Remote work isn’t new. In fact, working from home been on the rise since 2010. But this new decade brought with it COVID-19, triggering a complete paradigm shift for remote work, school and life — worldwide. As a result, how we communicate, learn, teach, and conduct business has changed. And staying productive has become a challenge all it’s own.

Back in April, FlexJobs reported more than half of all Americans were working from home. Since then, 65% said their productivity increasedIn June, Stanford reported that 42% of the U.S. labor force was working from home full-time, signaling a return to the office for many. But in July, COVID-19 cases soared by more than a million globally. More than half of all states in the U.S. that reopened (or planned to), closed in an effort to curb the virus. Given this ever-evolving context and data, we soon knew it would be a tough summer. 

How Do We Stay Productive?

Now that we roll into the fall, families and students grapple with how to return not just to school, but to some sense of normalcy. At the same time, organizations struggle with re-entry to the workplace. While Twitter says they’ll begin reintegrating employees into their offices soon, major companies like Amazon have decided to remain remote until the end of 2020. Google and Facebook have announce their employees will work remotely until mid-2021. 

So amid this ongoing crisis and uncertainty, how exactly do we keep stay productive? In the workplace, how can we find the balance between completely safe and fully engaged?

For many leaders, these seven strategies now serve as a roadmap that helps teams stay productive during the COVID-19 pandemic…

1. Focus on Priorities

Location shouldn’t matter as long as the work gets done, especially now. Employees should think about what work needs to get done, in what order, and how they should tackle that work. Managers, on the other hand, should think about the work that must be produced today while keeping an eye on what’s on the horizon. Combined, this strategy helps set realistic priorities while reducing stress and burnout.

2. Boost Communication

For a remote workforce to be successful, strong communication is key. So managers must integrate communications technology like Slack, Trello, Basecamp, and Zoom. By leveraging these tools effectively and in a balanced manner (no Zoom calls at 6:15am!), managers can easily check-in with employees – perhaps even more often than they did when sharing an office. The win-win: this boost in communication builds even stronger working relationships across the organization.

3. Adopt New Approaches

As the world of work changes, managers must change their approach. True, we’re no longer in the same office. But that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to build mutually-beneficial, one-on-one relationships. One example is making remote work feel more human. Other approaches range from more informal meetings (just to connect), to co-created checklists and to-do lists (to build autonomy). Bottom line: The same rigid approaches to work we used to rely on may not work well now.

4. Set Clear Expectations

Clearly stating expectations and setting common goals is more important now than ever. Just as vital: A clear of understanding of how work will be measured. This will help ensure everyone understands what productivity looks like. At this time, being autocratic may not be the right answer. So welcome input and questions. After all, when managers encourage curiosity it naturally empowers each of us to do good work.

5. Offer Respectful Radical Candor

Managers and leaders must lead by example. So, no more excuses to others — or ourselves — as to why we can’t get work done. To excel, we must be honest about why we can’t be efficient during these times. Let’s accept responsibility and ditch the lies to hack productivity. Let’s consistently offer respectful radical candor. We can then co-create solutions to the challenges we face. By working together, we can overcome whatever keeps us from being productive.

6. Use Stress to Your Advantage

Not all stress is bad stress. Some stressors actually motivate us to better maintain our focus, stimulating a better work performance with goals and deadlines at the forefront. Of course, sometimes stress becomes too overwhelming. When that happens, take a deep breath. Refocus on the highest priorities. Where possible, reset expectations. By focusing on an employees strengths rather than what feels like a weakness during stressful moments, managers can help reduce the bad kinds of stress. And use the good for good.

7. Employ Empathy

Remote work has always meant a flexible work location, work schedule and dress code. But now, empathy plays a role in flexibility. Today, many of us must think about the pressures of working from home. We must integrate family responsibilities, distance or hybrid learning for children, and other life commitments. Showing empathy, and specifically knowing what each of us might be going through during the COVID-19 crisis, helps maintain – and even improves – our work culture.

Leverage these seven strategies. Help team members and leaders stay productive. Enable a positive company culture. Do it well, and you’ll help everyone feel more at ease during a complex time.

Alphacolor

The Power of a Purposeful Hashtag: #WorkTrends

If we’ve learned anything over the past decade, it is the power of a hashtag…

#WorkTrends has been on quite an adventure. Over the past 10 years, TalentCulture’s signature podcast has introduced us to great minds in the HR space. We’ve produced over 700 episodes — packed with insights, future-casting and anticipated trends.

We’ve had an incredible range of guests on #WorkTrends, from CEOs to technologists to practitioners, psychologists, data mavens and more. They’ve given us unparalleled perspectives and wisdom on so many subjects — leadership, recruiting, management, recognition, strategizing, coping, thriving. How, where, when, and even why we work is ever-expanding — and we’re proud to say our savvy guests predicted every pivot, and every moment. 

In our episodes and in our Twitter chats, we’ve heard some groundbreakers I’ll never forget. Listing the many names would take pages and pages, so to all our guests so far I’ll just say this: Thank you for gracing the #WorkTrends stage with your presence and your brilliance. 

And now it’s time to expand these amazing discussions… it is time to release them into the world.

The Power of Change

Even before the massive changes of 2020, TalentCulture was planning our own set of changes: a new website, an expanded community, and a new way to bring #WorkTrends to our growing audience. We recognized that in today’s business world, we’re connecting across digital space more than ever before. And we realized there isn’t a better time than now to broaden our discussions. 

So we’re inviting everyone to join the #WorkTrends conversation beyond Twitter — and across more social media channels. We’re taking #WorkTrends to LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and beyond. Of course, you’ll find the same dynamic conversations about key work topics and all the issues that matter. Instead of exclusively through a weekly Twitter chat, though, #WorkTrends will be an ongoing discussion.

We believe the world of work is limitless: it’s a wellspring of energy and engagement. And to honor that, we’re opening the gates. 

The Power of a Purposeful Hashtag

#WorkTrends is now a legacy hashtag. It’s become a classic that represents all the best minds and conversations. We’re excited to watch it grow wings — and move across time zones, borders, and barriers. So please join us. It’s going to be another wonderful adventure!

Be sure to tune into our weekly #WorkTrends podcasts and recaps. And to learn even more about how we’re growing the podcast, check out our WorkTrends FAQ page.

As always, thanks so much for tuning in and being a member of this amazing community. You #inspire me — every day!  

Photo: Danielle MacInnes

10 Tips to Stabilize Employee Experience During the Pandemic

In an outlook where the future looks bleak, only true leaders guide their team through the storm and come out stronger on the other side. And only the best leaders will focus on employee experience during that storm.

That leader needs to be you.

During an unprecedented crisis such as COVID-19, your leadership becomes even more valuable. With so much uncertainty, your employees will look to you now more than ever for stability.

How Can You Maintain a Positive Employee Experience?

Here’s how you can provide stability for employees while keeping your business operating at maximum efficiency…

1. Foster Transparent Communications

During times of crisis, transparency becomes essential. If your employees think your business is in trouble, they’ll feel anxious.

As the person in charge, you need to keep everyone in the loop. That means sending regular updates about how the business is doing, what problems you’re running into, what you’re doing to deal with them, and more.

2. Keep Communications Positive and Hopeful

Since employees will be expecting to hear from you often, make sure any communications you send out don’t make your employees feel anxious any further.

For example, if you have daily or weekly meetings, start them off by talking about successes within the company. After all, recognizing your employees’ efforts becomes even more important during times of turbulence. And those people and teams recognized will certainly appreciate being recognized, a key aspect in improving overall employee experience.

3. Offer Ways for Your Employees to Relieve Stress

Since the lines between the office and home have become blurred, it can be a smart move to provide your team with ways to relieve stress such as:

  • Providing your employees with additional time off and breaks if needed.
  • Setting up team virtual game nights or remote “after-office” clubs. (That said, make sure to be considerate of parents and others who may not have the same flexibility with evening get-togethers.)
  • Encouraging your team to talk to each other about how they’re handling all the changes. Make it easier to share how colleagues in similar positions are managing — what’s working, what’s not.

Happy employees tend to be better at their jobs. Helping your team relieve stress shows them you care, and it can foster in-office ties.

4. Adjust Your Internal Processes to the “New Normal”

Nothing is the same as it was months ago, so the internal processes that help you deliver products/services and accomplish tasks also need to adapt to the new normal.

For example, now might not be the best time for performance reviews as few people may be thriving during the pandemic.

5. Be Empathetic and Patient with Your Team

The pandemic and near-global quarantines have had a massive impact on most people’s mental health. One of the key reasons is that a lot of employees don’t know if they’ll have a job in a month or two.

On top of being transparent about how things are going within the business, you also need to be patient with your team. Few people are performing at 100% now, so empathy is key.

Don’t simply assume you have empathy. Chat with three to five trusted people for their honest feedback and ask if they perceive a sincere effort to accommodate the team.

6. Ramp Up Employee Feedback

Although you may know your industry inside and out, your team probably has insights that you might not have considered.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, encourage everyone who works for you to come forward with any feedback they might have. The best way to do that is to provide multiple channels for inbound feedback.

7. Set Up New Channels for Inbound Feedback

Some examples of the types of channels you can set up to encourage employee feedback include:

By providing multiple channels, you increase the chance employees will share concerns and also information about protocol violations.

8. Promote New Safety Protocols

If part of your team isn’t working remotely, then it’s your job to enforce security protocols.

That means giving your team all the information they need to perform their job safely without adding to their stress levels.

So don’t make it sterile and forgettable. Promote your safety protocols in a fun way that’s “on-brand” and will click with your employees.

9. Help Your Team Recalibrate Expectations

Although it’s your job to ensure that employees don’t feel anxious, you also need to be forthcoming about what the pandemic might mean for the employee experience now and in the future.

Some companies are putting off raises others are cutting hours, and more. Being transparent about what the business is going through will help your team keep their expectations in line.

Your team will have the confidence to adjust if they see a transparent management that is doing everything to keep the ship afloat. And that confidence will become a huge element in their employee experience.

10. Recognize the Small Things

Now more than ever, your employees need to know that you recognize the work and effort they’re putting in.

Without people showing up to work every day (even if it’s from their living room) your company wouldn’t survive. By fostering an environment where hard work is recognized and praised, you can help your team weather the storm.

Your Leadership Can Make the Biggest Difference

No industry is coming out of the pandemic unscathed. So how good your footing is after everything is said and done will depend on the level of stability instilled into your employee experience during these times.

By fostering transparency, encouraging employee engagement, and by being more empathetic, you can ensure that your team knows you’re on their side.

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

Promoting Diversity and Maintaining an Inclusive Culture

As the spotlight has brightened on racism. In response to recent miscarriages of justice, the emphasis on identifying racism within other aspects of life has also grown. As business leaders, it is vital to stand with the advocacy for change. Although oftentimes difficult, encouraging honest discussions around diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is crucial. 

For many, this conversation is not new. Dated ideologies and racist operations have influenced hiring practices regularly. Those out-of-date paradigms have also permitted a single race and gender to employ higher positions for decades. According to Fortune, high-ranking officials within 16 of the Fortune 500 companies are 80% men, and 72% of those men are white. In order to break this flawed mold and implement diversity, much work has to be done by industry leaders. 

The Advantages of Promoting Diversity and Inclusivity

Fostering a diverse and inclusive organization has many benefits such as increased profit, impressive talent acquisition, as well as the strengthening of employee bonds. Yes, conversations surrounding diversity and inclusivity can be difficult. However, this is the opportune time for leaders to disrupt archaic norms. And it is the perfect time to implement hiring practices that seek out brilliant talent from every background. 

So, what can business owners and leaders do to promote diversity and maintain an inclusive culture? With these advantages below, leaders across any industry can recognize the essential nature of workplace diversity. 

Financial Gain 

From a business standpoint, racial diversity in the workplace isn’t merely a perk. In fact, diversity is a necessity for competitiveness in corporate America. Not only do inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time, but many consumers actively seek out organizations with diverse decision-makers. Additionally, these brands can also build stronger audience connections. 

Further, it is no secret that marketing a business can be difficult. However, inclusive marketing can be a different beast altogether. Within marketing, there is a heavy lack of cultural intelligence from brands, and this void can result in minimized profits as some audiences won’t purchase from you due to a lack of acknowledgment. Campaigns without cultural intelligence run the risk of coming off as tone-deaf or insensitive. They perhaps then result in public outcry, concluding in a company apology with a promise to “do better.” 

By investing in employees with different perspectives, lived experiences, and understandings of diverse markets, you can promote your business from several unique standpoints and gain a competitive edge. This allows a separation from competitors, and perhaps engagement from consumers outside of initial target audiences. Subsequently, you can net greater profits, while exhibiting your care for people of different races, genders, ages, sexualities, and identities. 

Expanded Talent Pool 

 For most leaders in the highly competitive business world, acquiring the best talent is priority. Exclusively employing talent of a particular ethnicity, age, or gender minimizes the talent pool you can choose from. With that said, having an organization run by one race or gender can only reflect narrow perspectives. That scenario, perhaps inadvertently, also demonstrates to the public that you don’t recognize a necessity for diverse opinions.

Hiring with cultural diversity in mind — which encapsulates race, culture, age, religion, sexuality, and gender identity — expands your talent pool. This expansion permits your organization to solely focus on what candidates can bring to the table such as: skill sets, experience, and creativity. By eradicating those subconsciously biased candidate limitations, you can prioritize and encourage mind-expansion and exploration for your company. This can equate to bigger, brighter innovations that may not have been otherwise explored. This eradication also improves your brand’s attractiveness and invites new consumers. 

As your organization flourishes due to new minds with intersectional inputs, your brand has the opportunity to convey a modern attractiveness that invites more talent acquisition, fortuitous business opportunities and more financially prosperous avenues. 

Better Engagement and Satisfaction 

As one can probably imagine, being a “token” person of color in the workplace isn’t fun. When employees work amongst others who look like them or share lived experiences, a workplace confidence is bred, thus inspiring collaboration, innovation and creativity to take place. 

Employees need their ideas, opinions and perspectives to matter. Likewise, employees want to work for a company that entrusts people like them who also actively advocate for positive change. When employees feel respected and valued, especially if they may have endured ridicule in the past, aspects of work like productivity, engagement, and overall satisfaction within the workplace is improved. 

This is vital because boosts in company morale and workplace culture only benefit your organization. Happy employees equate to enhanced production, which equates to higher brand attractiveness and in turn, increased company profits. 

Maintaining an Understanding Organization and Prioritizing Inclusion

In efforts to promote diversity within your organization, below are a few strategies to help start off the process of consistently seeking to be more understanding and inclusive.

Take an Honest Internal Look

How do you assess the current state of diversity within your organization? Analyze how many people of color you currently employ, as well as previously hired and sought out for recruitment. This can provide insight on the level of (or lack of) diversity. This data can also show any discriminatory biases that occur within your company, unknowingly or otherwise. 

Consistently Educate Yourself and Your Staff

There are many misconceptions around what discrimination looks like. So it is important to outline what words and behaviors are unacceptable at work. Teach your staff about micro-aggressions and what discrimination may look like to people of various, intersecting backgrounds. In addition to this, be sure to emphasize the impacts of discrimination, big or small, and stress a no-tolerance policy. 

Promote an Open Dialogue

In efforts to grasp difficult topics, learn from each other and get to know each other on a personal level. Encourage employees to unpack biases and/or racist tendencies. Emphasize how harmful it is to act on those beliefs. During these discussions, tread lightly. After all, you don’t want to offend employees, Nor do you want to force someone to discuss personal adversity.  

As industry leaders, this is your chance to spearhead positive change by implementing workplace diversity and inclusivity. It is important to note that no one has all the “right” answers respective to ending discrimination in the workplace. No one can tell you exactly how to eradicate biases. Nonetheless, these issues are serious. And organizations must diligently protect those at risk of enduring injustices.

Overall, focus on harmonizing the workplace by creating a safe and welcoming environment for everyone — irrespective of race, gender, age, sexuality, disability, identity, and/or religion.

Photo: Pixabay

5 Ways COVID-19 Will Continue to Change HR

Many companies and job titles will go through drastic changes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The HR sector and the people working in it will undoubtedly experience some of them. Here are five things people can anticipate regarding HR after COVID-19 — as well as during it:

1. Companies Will Show Employee Appreciation Differently

Even while people love working from home, many find it difficult to get through their days without the fist bumps, handshakes and pats on the back that often accompanied their most productive, successful days in offices. These changes mean HR departments may need to find alternative ways to thank employees for their hard work. 

Hani Goldstein is the co-founder and CEO of Snappy Gifts, a company specializing in employee recognition products. She noted, “Working from home can be an isolating and disorienting experience for most of today’s workforce who are used to seeing their peers every day at the office.”

It’s also more challenging for employees to strike that all-important work-life balance. “Hours that were once dedicated to fun activities have been replaced with more work and increased responsibilities,” Goldstein explained. These things mean employers need to show their gratitude differently. Whether that means having team appreciation parties over virtual platforms or sending workers online gift cards, HR representatives must figure out safe, effective ways to express thanks. 

2. Remote Hiring and Recruitment Practices Will Gain Momentum

Some analysts predicted remote methods would change hiring and recruitment methods long before COVID-19 impacted the world. They were right to some extent, especially as HR professionals realized doing things remotely cut out potential hassles like travel arrangements. Remote platforms let companies extend their hiring and recruitment reach instead of only looking for candidates in the immediate area. 

HR after COVID-19 will likely prominently feature remote platforms and approaches. Suppose a human resources professional or recruitment expert can gauge a person’s candidacy for a role via a teleconferencing platform. That method saves time compared to bringing a person into the office. 

Some remote interviews are for work-at-home jobs. However, if a person gets hired for a position at a physical location, companies may require that the new hire tests negative for the novel coronavirus before arriving. 

3. Contracts Will Include COVID-19-Related Specifications More Often

As professionals navigate this new normal and ponder what it means for the future of HR, they should consider how the pandemic might impact their employment contracts. For example, a company might remove a line that guarantees the worker a certain number of hours per week to work, especially if the industry will experience the effects of the pandemic for the foreseeable future. 

One emerging trend — especially seen in the construction sector — concerns the addition of force majeure clauses related to the pandemic in contracts. Those cover the natural and unavoidable disasters preventing a party from fulfilling a contract’s terms. However, it is not sufficient for that entity to claim it was inconvenient to meet the contract’s terms. Courts look at several variables, including whether the conditions made working impossible.

Contracts may also state that workers must report their COVID-19 risk or agree to get screened. Drug screenings are already commonplace, and the same could become true for coronavirus tests. Legal experts and HR representatives are still working out the specifics of contracts in light of the global health crisis. However, people should expect to see some noticeable changes in contractual language soon. 

4. HR Representatives May Need to Reserve More Time for Training

The pandemic forced workplaces to adjust rapidly to new procedures to keep people safe. Cleaning happens more thoroughly and frequently, and many companies reduce or eliminate the time employees spend in close quarters. Customer-facing businesses also must adopt new procedures for keeping guests safe. 

Human resources professionals regularly schedule training sessions. However, they may need to do that more often or for larger workforce segments due to COVID-19. Some businesses invested in robots to help workers or wearable gadgets to ensure that people stay far enough apart while on the job. It could take a while for some workers to adjust to those things, although dedicated training efforts could help. 

If all or most of a workforce shifts to remote working, HR representatives may deem it necessary to plan training sessions that spell out safe practices online and give people tips for staying productive. Many employees now have to work in ways they hadn’t imagined. HR professionals cannot remove all the obstacles, but taking the time to educate the workers about what’s new could relieve the stresses they feel. 

5. Businesses Will Adjust Their Time-Off Policies According to Government Guidance

The need to isolate confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases poses challenges for HR professionals who may already face workplace shortages for other reasons. However, following government guidance on that matter remains crucial. Workplace leaders must also stay abreast of recent changes.

For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated the guidance about workers caring for themselves at home after symptom onset. The most recent recommendation is that people can come back to work if at least 10 days pass since symptoms began and they stay fever-free for at least 24 hours after their body temperatures initially return to normal without medication. Their non-fever symptoms must also improve. 

The CDC previously set the fever-resolution component of that three-prong test at 72 hours, so the change represents a significant reduction. These specifics mean companies may begin implementing time-off periods that people can use specifically for reasons connected to the virus. Doing that keeps people safer by minimizing the likelihood that they feel tempted to work while feeling unwell. 

The Evolving Future of HR

No one knows the pandemic’s time frame, so it’s impossible to say for sure how things will change. However, the five things mentioned here are solid predictions, especially since some workplaces have already adopted the changes.

Photo: Mariya Pampova

#WorkTrends: Hiring Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants (VA) offer young brands the flexibility to focus on other areas of the business.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode.

From multitasking between meetings and meal prep to the issues of internet and noise levels, many of us are still trying to adjust to this new normal. But we don’t have to do it alone. Big and small companies are hiring helpers to come to the rescue. These virtual assistants (VAs) and freelancers can take on the tasks that give employees a break and keep the business going.  

Nathan Hirsch, co-founder of Outsource School, came to #WorkTrends to talk about this new trend. For entrepreneurs and leaders he’s got one rule of thumb: bring in help before you’re in dire straits early. “When you can’t walk away from your business for a week, a moment — that’s usually a good indication that you need to hire followers” — as he calls VAs.

The same approach applies as with bringing in any outside help: make sure everyone is on the same page and onboard well. Outsource School uses an onboarding process called SICC: Schedule, Issues, Communication and Culture. VAs also receive standard operating procedures for their first week at work and are tasked with not just reading them, but asking questions. A quiz determines whether they need more training or not — and at that point, if the fit isn’t right, each party may decide to part ways. “That’s how you protect your time, protect your investment and build trust,” he noted. 

For managers, Nathan advises “making sure you set those communication channels up front” to get the process aligned — whether that includes emails, Slack, WhatsApp, Viber or all of them. Then coach VAs on which to use when. For VAs, asking for support when needed is critical. And I predict that we’re going to see more VAs coming onboard now and into the future, so this is an option I’d take seriously. 

We covered a lot of ground in this discussion, so I encourage you to have a listen for yourself. Got feedback? Feel free to weigh in on Twitter or on LinkedIn. (And make sure to add the #WorkTrends℠ hashtag so others in the TalentCulture community can follow along.)

Find Nathan Hirsh on Linkedin and Twitter

(Editor’s note: This month, we’re announcing upcoming changes to #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats. To learn about these changes as they unfold, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.)

Photo: Christina @ wocintechchat.com

WFH Employees: How to Keep Them Safe

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

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

Let’s dive in!

1. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

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

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

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

2. Adjust Company Policies

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

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

3. Provide Team Building Activities

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

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

4. Promote Fair Workplace Practices

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

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

5. Reward and Recognize Employees

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

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

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

Photo: You X Ventures

Don’t Sacrifice Talent To Survive a Crisis

Nobody needs to tell you that we’re in hard times. A pandemic is sweeping the nation, a trail of personal and economic devastation behind it, and frightening uncertainty ahead. Businesses are struggling to figure out the best path to survival. For many leaders, the impulse is, understandably, to lessen their organizations’ financial load with layoffs.

The good news is that eventually, through the efforts of courageous health care workers and our technology, we will defeat the virus, and life and work will return to a version of normal. And many economists predict that when this happens, our mothballed world economy will snap back to life, unleashing a wave of pent-up demand.

Will your company survive and be ready for this?

After all, consider what happened post 9/11. After the attacks, the world economy reeled, oil prices surged, and the stock markets plunged as the world braced for war in the Middle East. Many companies, fearful about the future, indulged in a layoff binge, slashing their workforce without thought to who their top talent was, or what current and future skills the organization might need to remain viable and recover with the economy.

But then the economy quickly rebounded, and the downturn turned out to be what economists call a “V-shaped recession.” The sharp decline in GDP was followed by an almost equally sharp increase in business activity. At this point, companies found that the talent they let go was desperately needed. They scrambled, and the result was a massive hiring binge to fill the gap that they themselves created.

The fact is that fundamentally, there was nothing significantly wrong with the underlying economics on September 11th, 2001. The economic downturn was not caused by normal business cycle considerations, the firing binge was followed by a scramble to replenish a depleted workforce.

Today, the pandemic is cutting a swath through what otherwise had been a robust economy, so the mistakes of 9/11 are a cautionary tale.

If you are among the business leaders queuing up the pink slips in reaction to this unprecedented crisis, I urge you to stop, take a breath, and think your next steps through — lest you sacrifice valuable employees in your rush for short-term relief.

While I understand some companies are in crisis and don’t have the luxury of time to pause for analysis, most do have the wherewithal, and I would argue, a duty to their workforce and, if public, their shareholders to proceed with wisdom and caution.

So instead of rushing to throw off what might feel like human ballast, consult with your HR executives to put together a strategic workplace plan, or crisis plan, by performing a three-dimensional review of your current workforce, considering more than headcount and cost. Instead of responding in panic only to the here and now, look ahead, 6 to 18 months in the future, and decide:

  • What skills your people have today and what your organization will need
  • How to ensure you have an adequate supply of these skills and where to deploy them
  • Your succession plan for key leaders

Upon sober reflection of these needs, you probably will find that you can keep most of your workforce in place, and you will be ready to make clear decisions based on your data and forecasts. Additionally, doing a strategic workforce crisis plan will set you up for the future by seeing how you can maximize the productivity of the workforce you have. From this plan you will be in position to drive higher performance and workforce engagement, creating what I call “PEIP capability,” where PEIP = People Engagement, Innovation and Performance.

PEIP is a strategic capability that not only creates higher performance, it creates a more engaged workplace, which naturally leads to greater productivity. Who doesn’t want to work in an organization that wants to optimize employees and work with their skills and their career aspirations? A workplace that tries to align people to what they do best? An engaged workplace is a fun place to work, but it is also a competitive advantage. Some of the highest performing companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Accenture, IBM, and SAP, have implemented PEIP strategies to create competitive advantage, and this is reflected in their people engagement scores as well as share-price performance.

PEIP can also help future-proof your organization. New smart technologies and AI perme.ating the workplace create another opportunity for the workforce and the organization to align the right people with the right skills to harness new technology. This creates a “turbo-charging” effect, driving more engagement, innovation, and productivity, as well as return on investment on IT spend.   

We are at the fork in the road — once again. It’s a scary time, but rife with opportunity for companies that respond with foresight. We can do as we have done for decades before and continue the hire/fire binge, or we can step back and be more strategic and thoughtful in addressing the current crisis, while at the same time positioning our businesses to thrive in the future — whatever it brings.

Photo: Drew Beamer

New Research Indicates Desire for Recognition, Feedback

In the past several months, many companies have modified their performance programs. From streamlining their review processes to running more frequent pulse surveys, organizations around the world are seeking to make changes that will ultimately boost employee performance and productivity.

Our company, Reflektive, sought to measure these changes with a performance management survey. In June we reached out to 445 HR professionals and business leaders, and 622 employees, to understand the current state of their performance programs. We compared these results to a similar survey we ran in 2018. Our 2020 Performance Management Benchmark Report uncovered meaningful performance management trends over the past two years, as well as insights into the current state of work.

Formal Processes of Performance Management Consistent Since 2018

A surprising observation was that the formal processes of performance management have not changed significantly over the last two years. Nearly half of reviews are run annually or less frequently. Forty-six percent of respondents use descriptive performance ratings, such as “meets expectations.” 

People Analytics Present Big Opportunity

The survey also found that only 50% of HR and business leaders are using people analytics to predict performance and turnover. What’s interesting is that most leaders believe that people analytics has become more important, however they’re still not utilizing this technology to inform strategic people decisions. This gap can really impact workforce planning, as organizations struggle to fill needs when employees depart.

Employees Desire More Communication and Transparency from Companies

The employee survey results revealed that workers seek more communication to stay informed and engaged at work. Nearly half of respondents desire more consistent communication from leadership, and 37% said more consistent communication was needed from colleagues. 

In a similar vein, we found that employees sought more transparency from their employers. Only 19% of employees believed that their organization was transparent about upward mobility. Twenty-one percent said their company was communicative about salary freezes, and the same percentage said that their org was transparent about potential pay cuts. Employees are cognizant of the pandemic’s economic toll, and would like their companies to be honest with them about the business impact.

Employees Seek More Feedback and Coaching for their Growth

Another interesting insight we uncovered was that employees want more from their performance programs. Specifically, they’re looking for increased coaching, dialogue and recognition from their managers. Since 2018, there’s been a 3.2X increase in the percentage of employees that desire recognition. We also observed a nearly 90% increase in the percentage of employees that desire formal feedback conversations monthly or more frequently.

A performance bright spot was the manager-employee relationship. Over 80% of employees surveyed said that they are having 1:1s with their managers. Additionally, 80% said that these meetings were productive. This data was really uplifting to me, since driving alignment and communication can be tricky when everyone is working remotely.

However, we did identify a major communication gap: only 20% of employees reported that they receive weekly feedback. So it appears that managers and employees are talking regularly about ongoing work and projects, but employees still aren’t receiving the coaching that they desire. This represents a huge opportunity for managers — they can benefit from training on how to ask important questions, and how to provide valuable feedback on a more regular basis. Performance management technology — including feedback prompts and 1:1 tools — can help drive productive coaching conversations too.

Getting Feedback Remains Challenging for Employees

One interesting discrepancy between leaders and employees was sentiment around initiating feedback conversations. Only 14% of HR professionals and business leaders felt that employees weren’t empowered to initiate feedback conversations. However, 30% of employees — or over 2X the percentage of leaders — felt that they weren’t empowered to request feedback. This discrepancy indicates that HR teams and leaders are overestimating employee comfort with feedback processes. Employee training on giving and receiving feedback, and an easy-to-use feedback tool, can help fill this gap.

Executives and Employees Remain Optimistic for the Future

While sentiment and outlooks are continuously evolving in 2020, both executives and employees remain optimistic about the future. Specifically, executives anticipate more investment in technology (35% of respondents) and more efforts to boost engagement and retain employees (29% of respondents). 

Employees anticipate that six months from now, it will be business as usual (34% of respondents). Additionally, 26% expect to have learned new skills, and 25% believe they’ll feel proud of their accomplishments. Despite the many headwinds that they’re facing, employees feel that they will come out of 2020 stronger and more prepared for the future.

As employees, HR teams, and executives navigate the ever-changing environment, agility and resilience will be crucial. The ability to work productively in different environments, and collaborate cross-functionally, will be highly valued. Companies that maintain engaged and productive workforces will be the success stories of 2020.

This post is sponsored by Reflektive.

Photo: Christina @ wocintechchat.com

The Power of Check-Ins: 7 Proven Strategies

A large component of any work culture is how managers assess and review employee performance and chart progress. Given the remote and hybrid nature of so many workplaces today, the approach is evolving — from top-down, unilateral, formal reviews to more dynamic and continual conversations. We’re seeing an increasing need for transparency and authenticity, and for recognizing how important it is for managers to reach out to employees — not just around a series of tasks accomplished, but around overall contributions to the organization and their own sense of goals and performance. Check-ins enable managers and employees to do just that. They create a framework of interaction and communication through a continuous cycle, and are proving far more effective than traditional reviews. They’re becoming a hallmark of modern talent management, and for good reason. 

Done well, check-ins build a dynamic relationship between manager and employee that increases engagement, enhances employee experience, and organically aligns employee and employer goals. But they need to be conducted not as check-ups, but as two-way interactions focused on trust as well as growth. 

The Value of Trust

For those already doing them right, check-ins with employees are focused on growth, albeit in small doses. It’s not hard to connect a cadence of conversations that include feedback, advice and dialogue to the development of our employees after all. But trust is just as key: all successful relationships are built on trust, especially in today’s workplace. It’s human nature to reject feedback and advice from someone we don’t trust, and that extends readily into the workplace. Without trust, the check-in process would fail before it started.

As with any other HR strategy there are best practices for conducting check-ins, whether from home or the office. Recently I sat down with TalentCulture’s Meghan M. Biro to level-set on seven critical factors that can standardize your check-in strategy — without diminishing either responsiveness or flexibility:   

Approach: Check-ins are not about a top-down, unilateral approach. While the role of managers has always entailed authority and supervision, when it comes to check-ins, managers need to scale back that dynamic. 

Replace the reflex to be assertive with a focus on the employee. Truly understand what makes them tick; this means listening to their thoughts, opinions and concerns and acting on them. Research by the Harvard Business Review shows that the more you listen to employees, the better they think you are at giving feedback, and so the more likely they are to trust what you say. 

Purpose: Check-ins embody a shift in purpose. They depart from the static occasion of traditional reviews to setting up a highly effective and ongoing dynamic geared to building trust and fostering growth. 

Dave Ulrich articulated the shift in his book, Victory Through Organization: “The foundational assumption is that feedback is not a leader’s side-responsibility; it is the leader’s primary work.” Instead of thinking of a check-in as an isolated moment or a mini-performance review, consider it a touchpoint on the employee lifecycle; an interaction that’s part of an ongoing conversation. 

Frequency: Establish a cadence of check-ins that adapts to the circumstance, the context, and the nature of your work culture. Pre-COVID, our advice was to conduct check-ins around every 4 to 6 weeks. But these are uncertain times — and they call for increased communication that’s aligned and consistent with the organizational message, culture and values. The bottom line is that you can’t overcommunicate. 

Your check-ins can take various forms, from a regular update focused on clarification and feedback; to a more comprehensive appraisal of performance (emphasizing personal development and employee contribution); to a marker of key events, such as onboarding, a promotion, a secondment, or even the shift to remote. But don’t do away with ad-hoc check-ins either. Employees and managers should be able to simply initiate a check-in regardless of whether it’s on the calendar. 

Approachability: Both parties should remain open and responsive within the context of a check-in. But that hinges on successfully building that foundation of trust: trust must be in place first in order for both parties to commit effectively. For managers, that means creating a sense of trust in the first place. Two simple ways to build trust: first, make it clear that either the manager or the employee is free to request a check-in at any time, for any reason — whether a formal discussion or a quick catch up. Second, whatever is covered, make it a conversation, in which you combine a review of tasks with questions about overall state of mind, and give the employee plenty of room to answer. Listening to your team members reinforces the fact that check-ins are not an exercise in powerplay, but on the contrary, a forum for two adults to meet on equal terms. 

In my discussion with Meghan, she pointed out the value of flattening the expected hierarchy: “For employees who may be used to taking a passive role in their own professional development, check-ins change the game. Instead of receiving advice and feedback, they get to play a lead role in assessing and guiding their own development.” This means it’s incumbent upon employees to not just discuss how the work is going, but also focus on the direction they want to be heading in, and the skills they need to get there.This dynamic empowers employees, strengthening their performance and loyalty. 

Addressing the whole person: The manager needs to continually remind themselves that the check-in is not just about the job at hand. It’s not about a singular project. It needs to happen with an eye on the bigger picture, and the employee as a whole person, particularly right now. As well as addressing an employee’s performance and contributions, use the check-in time to reinforce a sense of social connection and foster the essential relationships we all need and depend on to work. 

Go beyond this, addressing any safety concerns the employee may have, which are so common as we navigate the minefield of COVID-19. Discuss the future in terms of a trajectory, not a fixed point, including what kinds of skills and behaviors need to be developed and supported. And use deeper questions to address aspects of wellness and health. Employers have a duty of care, and the more we all experience the integration of work and life, the more check-ins can play a helpful role.

Language: This is not just a matter of tone; it’s also a matter of clarity. Managers in particular need to focus on how to clarify and improve their language during check-ins, and be accountable for what you say as well as how to say it. What’s come to the fore during the shift to remote as well as the increased pressure on essential workers is that we need interactions that convey a clear perception of what is expected and how we are performing. 

That should seem a simple matter, but the nature of remote and hybrid working is that we’re communicating across multiple channels that may not deliver the same way as face to face. As Meghan pointed out, “Tone and language are more important than ever, and they’re harder to get right when we’re working virtually.” Managers should purposefully practice conducting check-ins until they’re comfortable enough that the action becomes a habit. 

Measuring the change: Effective check-ins offer two dimensions of measurable  impact over time. There’s the personal impact, or developmental path, and a business impact, or performance/contribution. Managers and leaders have a duty to effectively enable the workforce to achieve a high-high combination, in which both aspects see growth:

We’re been witnessing a sea change in how we work for a while. We’ve seen a shift to teams as the essential unit of operations, as opposed to individuals collected under a supervisor. We’ve seen a new emphasis on democratizing data. Further, there’s been a marked increase in the ability to work remotely. All have raised the bar on what constitutes a great work culture. The situation we find ourselves in now has put the onus on better communication overall, including how we provide feedback to employees, and even whether or not “providing” is the right term. We’re seeing the fruits of allowing both parties to be actively involved in feedback and reviews, and we’re seeing the benefits of grounding these conversations in trust and framing them as a continuing cycle rather than a rare event. 

Check-ins are a powerfully effective tool for inviting employees to own their own growth and contribution in your organization. They provide a means to build and maintain better manager-employee relationships, align around shared goals, and turn the workplace into a high-performing, engaged community.

This post is sponsored by MHR International.

Photo: Tumisu

Recruit Top Talent With Tuition Assistance Programs

What do Apple, Disney, Verizon, Google, and Starbucks have in common? They’re all multi-billion dollar companies, and they all offer tuition reimbursement to their employees. And they’re showing that a company benefits by paying fees for their employees’ education. Tuition assistance is a win for both employers and employees.

A Growing Trend in Employee Benefits

Tuition assistance programs are a type of employee benefits in which the employer pays for a predetermined amount of continuing education costs for their employees. Assistance may come in the form of reimbursements for tuition, fees, and books.

Some employers may opt to cover the full cost associated with the education, while others may choose to pay a portion. Some might pay upfront; others per course/semester.

To protect themselves from employees taking advantage of the program and leaving the company, employers take various measures, such as requiring the beneficiaries of the program to remain in the company for a specified time — or be required to reimburse the company for part of the fees paid on their behalf.

The Benefit for Companies

As skilled talent becomes harder to find, many companies are looking to grow from within. As of 2018, 85% of US employers surveyed were offering tuition assistance to some or all employees, according to a study by WorldatWork. Here’s what companies gain:

1. Reduced Tax Burden

Companies with tuition assistance policies for their employees can benefit from tax breaks. That’s because money spent on paying employee education expenses is tax-deductible if it meets the IRS requirements.

Under section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code, an employer can deduct up to $5,250 per year for each employee that qualifies and participates in the employer’s education assistance plan.

With the US government facilitating the implementation and adoption of tuition assistance programs, there is no reason for an organization not to take advantage of this opportunity.   

2. Free Part-time Work (Depending on a Company’s Tuition Assistance Policy)

Besides the tax break, companies can also get free part-time work and increased brand awareness by offering tuition reimbursement.

For example, Finnegan, a Washington-based law firm that specializes in intellectual property law has an attractive reimbursement program that covers 100% of employee’s tuition fees.

To qualify for the program, staffers must work as “student associates” while they attend law school. This program is a win-win for all; the company gets part-time work from the student and the student gets free tuition. What’s not to like, especially if you’re going to a top law school like Harvard on someone else’s dime.

According to BLS, lawyers make $122,960 on average but can expect to pay anywhere from $12,000 to $70,000 for the LLM (Master of Law) program. But with a tuition reimbursement program, like the one for Finnegan, the cost can be reduced to nil.

3. Help Businesses Attract Top Talent

It’s no secret that every company wants to attract, recruit, and retain top talents.

To achieve this, many companies offer attractive benefits and perks. Some will opt for vacation days, others gym membership, and a few will stick to industry-standard salaries.

But when you look at the various generational cohorts in the workplace (Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z), you may come to realize that you’re not giving your employees what they actually want. For instance, millennials comprise a majority of the American workforce.

That means for a business to have the people it needs, it may need to fish from the millennials pond. And to attract and retain millennials, you’ll want to give them what motivates them most. And that is, you guessed right: tuition reimbursement.

Don’t take our word for it. In a recent Gallup’s survey on ‘The State of the American Workforce,’ 45% of millennials said they would change their current jobs for one that offers tuition reimbursement. By comparison, 24% of baby boomers and Gen Xers said they won’t change jobs on the basis of tuition reimbursement alone.

4. Helps Employers Reduce Turnover

Offering tuition assistance helps to reduce employee turnover and the associated costs.

And there is no better example to bring this point home than the case of Cigna, which was published by the Lumina Foundation.

From 2012 to 2014, Cigna Corporation invested millions of dollars in tuition assistance through its Education Reimbursement Program (ERP). By the end of 2014, ERP resulted in a staggering 129% increase in ROI as a result of the avoided talent management and recruitment costs.

When a company invests in its employees’ development and success, the employees feel obliged to reciprocate by helping the company grow. In a nutshell, a tuition reimbursement program fosters a sense of loyalty between the employee and the employer.

Wrapping Up

Tuition assistance provides an effective way for employers to nurture their employees’ skills through continuing education programs. 

But as businesses and schools around the world cancel physical meetings in response to COVID-19, in-class learning is emerging as one of the hardest-hit activities. However, businesses can’t afford to put capability building on hold. 

To foster employee development in the midst of COVID-19, employers can encourage their employees to do remote learning by offering tuition reimbursement programs. With remote learning, completions can be done from any location, and what better time than now when employees can’t do their normal jobs?

Photo: Anete Lūsiņa

Five Takeaways During COVID-19 As a Working-Mom-CEO


I’m the founder and CEO of a 40+ person HR consulting business. My husband is a preschool teacher, and I have two kids — one going into her sophomore year of high school and my son who’s leaving for college soon. With offices and schools still closed, we’re doing all we can to navigate the uncertainty and make the most of our time together. 

Keeping Kids Engaged

My daughter recently learned that her high school is going completely virtual. When her school moved online in March, she loved day one, and was exhausted by day two. Then my husband and son’s schools both closed. Suddenly our family of four was all working from home. We’re fortunate that we have plenty of space. When I’m upstairs my daughter takes over the living room. Sometimes we trade for a change of scenery.

My son’s school struggled to organize online classes, and he ended up with little to do from the time COVID-19 hit until he graduated in June. Friends made up for the lack of a formal graduation by hosting a socially distant ceremony in their backyard. With no school work, we found chores to keep him busy and got him volunteering at our neighborhood food bank. 

Feeding a family of four — all of their meals from home has been a new experience since we used to leave the house at different times, and grab lunch at work or school. I’m keeping lots of healthy food and snacks in the pantry. We’re also cooking together more. Yesterday I made granola bars, while my daughter experimented with funfetti cake pops. Teenagers may disagree, but I’ve enjoyed slowing down and spending more time together.

Self-Care Helps Manage Uncertainty

In order to be there for your family, you’ve got to take care of yourself. Think about the instructions you get when you fly: put on your oxygen mask first, before helping others. I started 2020 with a new year’s resolution to do morning meditation and have experimented with affirmations too. Some mornings, I take a brisk walk to clear my head. 

A big part of my business is leadership development. When the pandemic hit, I had no idea if or when people would invest in training. Would this part of the business fail? Obviously no one was going to join a live workshop anytime soon. Fortunately, virtual workshops quickly became the norm. My worst case scenario did not come true. Nonetheless, periods of worry and uncertainty combined with constant change are exhausting. 

Routines keep us grounded, and no routines are more basic than eating, sleeping, and exercise. My number of steps dropped when I stopped commuting so now I’m intentionally walking once or twice a day. I’ve also given myself permission to be more flexible and less productive than usual. You can’t expect as much from yourself or others while the world is in turmoil, so give everyone some grace.  

Gratitude Makes You Feel Better

There’s research that gratitude can actually change your brain over time. Practicing gratitude makes us more appreciative of what we have. Start small by making a list of things you’re grateful for each night before bed. Or have each family member share what one thing they’re thankful for when you sit down for dinner. It can be as simple as fresh air, a new puppy, or your health. There are many ways to practice gratitude

My colleague from Milan and his wife were quarantined in different Italian cities during lockdown. All non-essential businesses were shut down, and there was no social life whatsoever. I commiserated with how hard that must be. He responded by saying that his grandfather had a much more difficult life during the war, so he never feels unlucky. What an amazing example of gratitude.  

Wait! I’m Still a CEO

With my family continuously readjusting to new routines, I’ve had to think creatively about what my team clients need right now. They’re looking for guidance on remote work and virtual meetings, clear communications, and tips to stay connected and engaged. People are also grappling with how to engage in anti-racist work following the killing of George Floyd. Leaders want to be empathetic while struggling to manage their own anxiety. Working parents need strategies to function while keeping kids safe and occupied. 

As a leader, I know it’s important to stay resilient and provide my team a sense of safety. We’re talking more often, checking in with each other. We’re inviting our kids and pets to online meetings, and hosting a Zoom celebration in place of our summer picnic. 

Perspective Taking

I’m staying focused on how I can help myself, my family, my team, clients, and community stay strong and get through this. I’m grateful that my loved ones are healthy and my company has so far weathered the storm. I’m encouraged because everyday I see people taking care of those in need ranging from small businesses to kids who won’t have meals while schools are closed. I know eventually this will pass and I think about how it’s going to make us stronger, more flexible, and more appreciative.

Photo: Aleks Marinkovic

#WorkTrends: Aligning Around Performance Management: New Findings

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

How, where, and when we work may have changed, but there still needs to be a way to manage performance. But do employees want that right now? Amid the uncertainty, the answer is yes. Employees are yearning for continuous feedback, according to a 2020 performance management benchmark report by Reflektive, which surveyed over 1,000 HR practitioners, business leaders, and employees. And the feedback process is bolstering the relationship between managers and employers. 

I invited Jennifer Toton, Chief Marketing Officer at Reflektive to #WorkTrends to shed light on this benchmark study and dig into some of the trends it reveals. But as Jennifer pointed out, what was surprising was what didn’t change. The formal process of performance management and the number of reviews are still intact, but the way we give and receive feedback has really evolved. “We saw a 90% increase in employees who want more formal feedback conversations on a monthly or more frequent basis.”  

Also compelling, to me, is that even in these times, employees have retained a sense of optimism. Many believe that six months from the time of the survey, business will remain as usual. A quarter believed they would learn more skills. Another quarter said they would feel proud of the work they accomplished, and about a fifth said that they will feel more productive. “Our employees are resilient and they’re adapting to the change,” added Jennifer. 

Much is up to the managers, though. They must be transparent in their communication, said Jennifer, particularly around salary freezes and pay cuts, as honesty feeds trust. In addition, 80% of employees said they were having regular meetings with their managers, and that they found the format was not only positive, but productive. 

We covered a lot of ground in this discussion, so I encourage you to have a listen for yourself. Got feedback? Feel free to weigh in on Twitter or on LinkedIn. (And make sure to add the #WorkTrends hashtag so others in the TalentCulture community can follow along.)

 Twitter Chat Questions
Q1: Why do organizations struggle with performance management? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can help improve performance management? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders refocus performance management for better results?  #WorkTrends

Find Jennifer Toton on Linkedin and Twitter

This podcast is sponsored by Reflektive.

(Editor’s note: This month, we’re announcing upcoming changes to #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats. To learn about these changes as they unfold, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.)

Photo: Bill Oxford

5 Ways To Foster Belonging At Work

What’s the worst thing an employee can say on any given day? How about, “I don’t belong here?” The schism that takes place when an employee doesn’t feel connected with the work culture can have wide-ranging impacts across engagement, performance, team dynamics and the bottom line. Companies need to ensure they cultivate a workplace where employees feel a sense of belonging, whether that workplace is in-office or remote. As much as we talk about the power of employee experience and the dynamics of employee engagement, we first have to address the primary need to belong. That sense of true connection is the foundation for how we feel about work — and indeed, how we work.

I’ve been having some really insightful conversations with Iain Moffat, Chief Global Officer of MHR International, about belonging. It feels right for the times we’re in right now. Some employees have been rapidly sprung out of the tangible community of the workplace and are now working from home. And some workforces are still in the physical workplace, but under increasing pressure as we continue to endure the pandemic and its fallout. But building a sense of belonging isn’t just a fix for now. It’s a powerful talent strategy that has long-term outcomes.

Iain and I agreed that building a sense of belonging needs to be part of any serious endeavor to build an exceptional work culture. We also both noted that while some organizations are surprised by how comfortable employees are working from home, it may be, ironically, because they’re home. So how can businesses provide employees with that same sense of being in the right place?

First, five key points on belonging and businesses:

  • Given the push-pull of working from home or working through the turbulence and challenges of COVID-19, belonging bolsters our realization that we’re in it together, no matter where we are. It’s been linked to improved retention and a far more successful employer brand. Employees who feel like they belong tend to invite others to experience that as well. 
  • We all need to feel like we belong — and when we do, there’s a marked increase in our engagement, overall happiness and health. In that sense, belonging is a benefit that should be part of the employer’s offering to employees: working with us, you will feel like you belong, and we will be intentional about that. 
  • In our consumer-driven society, belonging is more than just a feel-good. It’s a strong driver of brand alignment. When we feel comfortable with a brand, we tend to stay with it. We feel like it speaks to our values, our sensibilities. That loyalty easily translates into the workplace context: employees want to stay with their employer because they believe in the brand and are comfortable with its values and purpose. 
  • Belonging isn’t just a social component. It should be seen as a business strategy that considers and addresses the real needs of your employees in terms of safety, career growth, feeling a part of a work community, and balancing work and life.
  • A culture of belonging doesn’t aim to homogenize everyone into a shared identity, but rather fosters diversity and inclusion as a way of improving and enhancing a shared culture. There’s a big difference. You don’t need to steamroll over differences to find the common ground, particularly in the workplace.

Marshmallows, Spaghetti, and Teamwork   

That said, what does a culture of belonging look like? Iain provided a telling example of the complex dynamics of belonging in action: the marshmallow challenge, originally created by Peter Skillman — and the subject of a great TED Talk by Tom Wujec. In this collaborative training exercise, teams of four have a fixed amount of time to build a tower out of spaghetti and tape that can support a marshmallow. The team with the highest tower wins.

“What’s interesting about the challenge is the pattern of consistently high-performing and low-performing teams,” when you compare kindergarteners and business school graduates, he said. What I found interesting as well is that in general, the five-year-olds outdid the business school grads. 

The children walked into the challenge with no training or preconceived notion of how to work together. So they just did — “in short bursts of collaborative effort, prototyping to find the best solution,” as Iain described. “They have no pre-fixed view of how they should act in the group and no hierarchy. Instead, they just focused on how to solve the problem.” They worked inclusively, unconcerned with status or protocols. 

 But the business school grads got hung up on who would be in charge, wasting valuable time jockeying for position. “They acted in a way they think they should behave given their lengthy investment in an advanced education,” Iain said. “They focused on trying to come up with a single solution rather than collaborating, prototyping, trying and doing. They were held back by a set of assumptions of how they should behave.” Often they ran out of time, or built a tower that collapsed.

We’re not building spaghetti towers, to be sure. But we do tend to walk into work with a sense of hierarchy and how we’re supposed to behave. If, instead, we’re free to abandon our certain assumptions on status and protocols and just work together, we forge a new kind of teamwork that’s far more productive. A team in a culture of belonging can simply focus on the task and the output, and is comfortable enough to be open to each others’ ideas and relish the collaborative process. The overarching attitude is: “Let’s try it, if it doesn’t work, let’s try something else.” Without anyone in charge, there’s no agenda besides tackling the problem. Instead of being driven by ego, the team is driven by the energy of working together. Instead of feeling pressure to arrive at a perfect solution, the team has the freedom and confidence to prototype until they get it. 

Two factors changed the outcome for the business school grads, Iain said: “First, when someone with facilitation skills joined the business school graduates, they often performed better, as the group was organized around the task.” Second, “If the group received feedback on their performance, and had the time to reflect and then perform the task again, they outperformed by several hundred percent.” 

We have a remarkable opportunity right now to foster a sense of belonging within our workplaces. So many of us have taken the veneer off: we’re meeting from kitchens, we’re video conferencing with children in the background; we’re seeing each others’ lives. We’re seeing how important it is to protect employees working on the front lines or out in public, and how to include their perspectives in how we better safeguard our workforce. 

The climate of working during a pandemic has removed so many of the assumptions we bring into the workplace, and replaced them with a basic understanding that on a fundamental level we are people, working together. When you can build on that understanding by meeting one of our most fundamental needs — to feel that sense of belonging – it drives peace of mind, focus, productivity, collaboration and performance. In so doing, it fosters everyone’s success — that of the business, and that of its workforce. If you want to see how cohesive and collaborative your work culture really is, break out the spaghetti and the marshmallows. Then build on that until those towers are as high as they can be.

This post is sponsored by MHR International.

Photo: Jose Mizrahi

#WorkTrends: Building Trust In Uncertain Times

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

It’s safe to say uncertainty is universal these days. But how do we get past it and stay engaged in our work? Remember the T-word: trust. So I invited Iain Moffat, Chief Global Officer of MHR International, to #WorkTrends to share his best practices for building workplace trust during these uncertain times.

Iain said we need to be better listeners to be better communicators. And organizations really need to step up their game on this, and “address and communicate aspects around safety, the relationship, and the connected aspects of work,” he added. I wanted to know what else companies can do to enable their employees to trust them and feel trusted. 

Iain’s answer: make a conscious effort. Managers must regularly communicate, actively listen, and continue to work through the kinks of being remote and virtual. You only learn by doing, so start now. Treat trust as a collaboration. 

Here’s another straightforward way to build trust between managers and employees:  invest time in really checking in. Don’t just run a checkup. Regular check-ins can help employees stay motivated. Plus, it’s an opportunity to tackle deeper questions about where your organization is heading and how that employee fits into it all. Creating this sense of belonging can even lead to better employee performance. And besides, it makes everyone feel better.

We covered a lot of ground in this discussion, so I encourage you to have a listen for yourself. Got feedback? Feel free to weigh in on Twitter or on LinkedIn. (And make sure to add the #WorkTrends hashtag so others in the TalentCulture community can follow along.)

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do organizations struggle with building trust? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can boost trust and a sense of belonging remotely? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders overcome uncertainty and promote a sense of trust? #WorkTrends

Find Iain Moffat on Linkedin and Twitter

This podcast is sponsored by MHR International.

(Editor’s note: In August we’ll be announcing upcoming changes to #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats. To learn about these changes as they unfold, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.)