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6 Ways Employee Recognition can be Established in a Fair Climate

Sponsored by: Cristaux International

Kids are known for complaining when things aren’t fair. Although professional adults may not be as obvious as children, they do the same thing. Perhaps people worry about fairness because it is crucial to happiness. Any organization can find great success and growth by developing a fair recognition climate, but where does one start?

Fairness incorporates objectivity and human emotions. It’s a tricky balance to hack, but the tips below are meant to help leaders set up fair and effective recognition programs. With a clear strategy and positive culture, a company can grow from the inside out.

Why is Fairness Important to Recognition? 

Fairness helps cut bias and gives employee recognition credibility. By practicing fairness, more team members are inspired to take part in programs and opportunities. This buy-in is essential for including all employees and growing your whole team. Whether developing in-person or remote employee recognition, it’s important to make it accessible and encouraging for everyone. 

A fair recognition climate is a determining factor in establishing and strengthening corporate wellness in your company. It has many benefits considered by itself and from an overall corporate perspective.

 

Fair Recognition Programs

Overall benefits of corporate wellness (©Cristaux.com)

 

6 Ways to Establish a Fair Recognition Climate

There are countless ways to build a fair recognition climate. It largely depends on resourcefulness, planning, and inclusivity. When creating new initiatives, consider the team’s goals and the company’s capabilities. With creativity and collaboration, any organization can develop recognition programs within its means. Fairness is essential to effective recognition. It’s important to use the following tips and to see what works best for your team.

1. Use Employee Data

Choosing award recipients is often the most difficult part of recognition programs. To show fairness, use employee data and talent analytics to guide the decision-making process. Additionally, consider developing programs that are entirely objective. For instance, a years-of-service program celebrates employee anniversaries. This recognition is ideal because it can be achieved by all employees and allows leaders to remain objective.

It’s important to keep track of different data sets including employee start dates, reviews, and quotas. Different information can inspire diverse programs like sales recognition and customer service awards.

2. Allow Everyone to Achieve

Recognition must be a level playing field. From veteran staff members to new employees, everyone must be able to be recognized for a program to be fair. Imagine that an organization is putting together an annual awards program for its employees. Some staff members may not qualify for a specific category, so they must be considered for other awards. For example, new hires can be recognized as emerging leaders. Managers can be honored within their departments.

3. Recognize Consistently

Making recognition a routine for one’s company helps develop positive traditions. Consistency is key to building fair recognition. By sticking to a schedule, everyone shares the same expectations. Also, regularity encourages more people to achieve. Team members learn the routines, see others being celebrated, want that for themselves, and work harder.

Therefore, employee-of-the-month programs are so popular. They capture the importance of consistency and create a structure for employee recognition.

4. Show Appreciation

While recognition honors achievements, appreciation is often unprompted by behavior or actions. Instead, it may look like a catered lunch for a holiday. Small moments like these include staff members who may be struggling to go above and beyond. Also, it shows unconditional support and helps foster a culture of gratitude. Taking time to give genuine thanks goes a long way.

5. Celebrate Diverse Accomplishments

Supporting diversity in the workplace is crucial for growing modern businesses. This way, team members have many ways to succeed within their organization. For instance, consider honoring different departments or soft skills like teamwork and time management.

Consider recognizing personal milestones in addition to professional ones. By doing this, leaders show appreciation for the complex individuals they work with. Examples of what to celebrate include completed education outside of work and growing one’s family.

6. Recognize in Different Ways

Some employees prefer public recognition, while others opt for something more private. Get to know your team by talking with them or sharing a survey for them to complete. Consider asking how they would like to be recognized and what gifts they would like to receive. This way you can be more effective by personalizing your recognition efforts for each person. 

Fairness Makes Recognition Fruitful

The best recognition programs are fair, enjoyable, and inspiring. However, they look different for each unique organization. Like Rome, recognition programs are not built in a day. Take your time to develop what works best for you and your people and see the benefits pour in.

How and Why to Honor Mental Health Awareness Month at Work

Mental Health Awareness Month is here again. For leadership, it’s a critical opportunity to reassess how your organization supports the mental health of your workforce, and plot out a more effective course to do more.

Why do more? Mental health has never been more important. The pandemic not only brought the issue to the forefront but also exacerbated it. In a post we published last fall, the author called today’s mental health challenges a “bittersweet lesson.” I love that term (and his post is definitely worth a read if you haven’t already). Covid-19 and its impacts have forced leaders to look at mental health not just as a factor in performance, but in retention as well, and by extension, the whole enterprise. We’ve also seen how a whole range of factors — being minority, lgbtq+, having an existing mental health condition, or being in a difficult work situation can turn a minor issue into a major one.

So I’d say there’s some real urgency here. But one of the blind spots I’m finding among leaders isn’t a commitment to do more. It’s a commitment to understanding how mental health is interwoven throughout the world of work right now.

Connect the Great Resignation and Mental Health

Let’s acknowledge that most leaders don’t have the time or the bandwidth to play connect the dots on their own — another reason why occasions like this can be so useful. But even among top-notch HR teams and benefits experts, certain problems tend to get siloed in order to get solved. Triage is not a holistic approach, but mental health is.

Take one enormous — and nearly universal — a challenge facing workplaces: the Great Resignation. Some 47.8 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in 2021. This unprecedented wave of quits hit many sectors. It’s certainly still happening. And it has everything to do with mental health.

Attrition and Unhappiness

There are those who argue that the real reason for this surge of voluntary departures is opportunity, not discomfort; ambition, not unhappiness. They point to the hot jobs market as an irresistible chance to try the “grass is greener” approach, despite all that their employers have done for them. They note that younger generations have a different mindset when it comes to how long to stay in a given job. The urge to career climb may drive some to great heights — and you should celebrate that — but it doesn’t account for what’s happened with nearly 50 million people.

There’s plenty of tangible evidence that when employees aren’t happy, they try to find a place to be happier. It could be employees not feeling valued and workplaces being too toxic to thrive in. (For more on toxic workplaces and how to identify and then fix them, we published a great post that still holds true.) So while it may be easier to point your finger at a workforce getting too big for its britches, I don’t recommend it. While you do, you’re likely still losing employees.

Job Dissatisfaction Goes Deeper Than we Like to Admit

So why do people really leave? A recent Pew Research survey of more than 6,600 employed U.S. adults found that the top reasons cited for leaving one’s jobs in 2021 are all related to mental well-being in some form. These include low pay (63%), lack of opportunities for advancement (63%), and feeling disrespected at work (57%). Nearly half of the Pew survey respondents cited childcare issues (48%). Others said they were frustrated by a lack of flexibility (45%). A hefty portion of respondents (43%) cited the need for better benefits, including health benefits and paid time off.

Conditions of employment? Perhaps. But all of these are factors known to play a well-established role in either promoting or detracting from emotional and psychological well-being. Concurrently we’ve seen a rise in conditions such as anxiety and depression: from pre-pandemic to January 2021, reported symptoms of anxiety or depression among U.S. adults jumped from 11% to 41%. 

What Mental Health Really Means

This isn’t a judgment, it’s an observation: While organizations tend to know what they are required to do in terms of regulations, they don’t necessarily know how to best improve mental health in the workplace. There are clear rules spelled out by the ADA, FMLA, and other legislation that help maintain clear guardrails about workplace culture, clinical support, pre-existing conditions, benefits policies, and more. But it may be easier to focus on staying within legal compliance for the organization’s sake than drilling into why these actions are so important in terms of the workforce’s sake.

I’m also finding that most leaders — particularly in the C-Suite but also high-level HR execs and managers — have their hearts in the right place. But we all need more guidance on where mental health begins and ends in the workplace. Bottom line: these days, given the blurred lines between work and life, I don’t know that it ends at all. But it does help to know what mental health stands for: an umbrella term for hundreds of conditions, clinical or not, that comprise emotional, psychological and social well-being.

Ensuring a healthier, productive workforce starts with understanding who you have,” one of our contributing authors wrote recently. I’d concur — though it’s also important to understand the nature of your workplace, virtual, hybrid, on-premises, flexible, shifts, supervised or not. And you need to understand the overall culture of your organization — not just your projected employer brand — and how that plays a role in mental health. I’ll give you one example: Organizations that made “innovate!” a key imperative in their work culture are unwittingly (or not) putting employees under an undue level of stress, and may be increasing their own workplace attrition rates. An MIT research team found that the pressure to innovate is actually one of the primary drivers of attrition.

Factoring in the Costs of Unhappiness

In mid-2021 the Great Resignation caused at least a 1.1% rise in the rate of inflation, according to the Chicago Fed; and it’s certainly having an impact on the global economy, the supply chain, and the bottom line.

We also know that the cost of replacing employees who leave can run as high as $1500 per hourly worker, and note that the figure was calculated pre-pandemic — the costs could be even higher now. SHRM also estimated that for every salaried employee we lose, it can cost the employer 6 – 9 months of that employee’s salary to find a replacement. That, too, was a pre-pandemic metric. From that perspective, there’s a business case to be made for making sure your organization is doing all it can to support your workforce’s mental health.

Get on the Bus: 10 Actions to Celebrate Mental Health Month

To honor Mental Health Month, use the time to assess all the factors that contribute to and detract from emotional, psychological, and mental well-being in your workplace. Then, commit to making meaningful improvements. This isn’t a time for performative gestures, it’s a time to take actions that count. So here’s a quick list of possible strategies:

1. Invite full participation.

Enlist the whole organization so that anyone that’s interested can participate (inviting participation is itself a form of promoting mental health).

2. Make the month different.

Treat the month as an occasion. Consider making some radical changes for May to see if they have an impact on mental health in the workplace. For instance: make a month-long policy allowing for a half day personal break once a week, no questions asked. Try a no-contact after work policy, so people can decompress and work doesn’t come home with them. Bring in meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and exercise instructors for virtual or in-house classes. Provide access to on-demand webinars and courses about self-care, mental health, and staying balanced. Bring in SMEs to talk about mental health issues. When the month is over, ask your teams what they enjoyed, and what they would want to continue.

3. Assess your mental health benefits.

Have a summit with your benefits teams and providers to see what can be added to your mental health offerings. For instance, could you offer telehealth with therapists? What about childcare/caregiver support? How hard would it be to build more mental health support for your existing program?

4. Evaluate DEI in your work culture.

Discrimination, bias, and feeling isolated for one’s identity can take an enormous toll on individual mental health. Look at how DEI is working in your culture. You may want to reach out to those who may be feeling isolated or disadvantaged to get their take. Make a safe space for women, minorities, LGBTQ+, and others who may feel disenfranchised to speak their minds.

5. Check on the impacts of your workplace conditions.

Are your employees feeling a sense of connection if you’ve shifted to remote or hybrid working? If not, look for ways to increase it, and build community no matter where people are. What safety policies have you instated to make your workforce feel less at risk if they have come back to the office? If you’re all on multiple messaging and communication platforms, is there a way to scale back and free up some mental space?

6. Take the workforce’s pulse.

Survey all your employees on their state of mind. Make sure it’s clear that this is confidential, but invite and make room for candid input — not just pre-set answers.

7. Check in with your managers.

Reach out to your managers about their own mindsets, as well as the state of things on their teams. Your managers remain a direct line to your employees. Their mental health will certainly have an impact on the people who report to them.  

8. Evaluate your recognition and rewards programs.

Recognition and rewards are the most tangible proof that employees are valued and supported by the workplace. Don’t underestimate their power to boost self-esteem and a sense of belonging.   

9. Bring in leadership for a workplace roundtable.

Having a Q&A with leaders on issues of mental health is a great way to get leaders involved. Topics might include mental health awareness, emotional well-being, workplace stress, and mental health benefits questions. 

10. Track the results for the month.

Track data on your efforts the same as you would any other: mental health has its own metrics. Participation, survey results, questions asked in a Q&A, how managers rank key issues, and much more should all be shared, and used to take further actions to improve your mental health support system in the workplace. Bonus points if you conduct an open debriefing, where not only do you share the data, you invite your workforce to weigh in on their own experiences over the month.

Conclusion

Use Mental Health Month for a reckoning — but don’t stop there. Every time we talk about mental health on our #WorkTrends podcast (for just two great examples, head here and here), the conversation feels like it wants to continue. So keep it going. Steering the organizational ship is inherently complex, and decisions need to be made with context, clarity, and humanity. But they also have to be made with compassion, commitment, respect, and hope.

Mentoring and the Employee Connection

Podcast Sponsored by: Together

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, experts believe that high levels of loneliness and disengagement at work caused by the pandemic could be addressed by mentoring. Additionally, surveys have shown that more than 90% of professionals who work with first-generation college students through mentoring and career development programs believe their experience as a mentor has helped them become better leaders or managers at work.

Our Guest: Matt Reeves

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Matt Reeves, CEO of Together, a software platform focused on enabling companies to run best-in-class internal mentorship programs. Together Software helps organizations run internal mentorship programs that intelligently match every employee with the best person for them to learn from. We asked Matt to tell us what a mentorship program is. He explains:

A mentorship program within an organization is where you’re pairing two colleagues together, usually a more junior employee who’s the mentee with a more senior employee who’s the mentor, for career development and career guidance. Typically, these employees meet on a particular cadence like once a month over a year or even more.

Mentorship programs are becoming more and more in demand by employees who crave a better employee experience and career guidance. In addition, mentorship programs can help companies with employee retention, which helps drive bottom-line results. But, programs are evolving as the workforce changes. Matt:

We’ve seen companies breaking the mold and experimenting with different types of mentorship programs with the common thread being helping their employees learn from their colleagues through conversations.

The Flavors of Mentorship

There are different types of mentorship approaches. Some are more traditional, and some are more out of the box. The best match for a company depends on the needs of the employees.

The traditional approach is a one-on-one program. You have a more senior mentor mentoring a more junior mentee for a specific period. Certainly, peer programs are very common, as well as reverse programs where you have a less senior employee who’s perhaps more experienced in a particular topic mentoring a more senior employee. And then where we see many organizations have a lot of success in breaking the mold is on the duration piece of the program and adding flexibility for the participants.

Benefits for the Mentor and Mentee

Both mentor and mentee have different reasons for wanting to participate in a mentorship program. Matt explains:

I think most people understand why a mentee would want to participate – to learn, develop and progress in their career. I think they want to participate on the mentor side because they are more senior. When you’re more senior in an organization, you are expected to be a people developer and culture carrier.

This is also something participants can bring to performance reviews and use in conversations around promotion and compensation as part of a company’s overall performance assessment of their employees.

Technology and the Mentorship Experience 

Our final question to Matt – we asked him his thoughts on using technology to keep mentors and mentees connected. He answered:

From an administrative standpoint, it significantly reduces the workload. From the employee standpoint, there is a much-improved employee experience. For example, a manual program can take time to match mentor and mentee. Not a great experience if you’re paired with someone who has left the organization. Something easily avoidable if you’re using technology.

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. For tips and ideas on what a mentorship program could look like for your organization, go to togetherplatform.com.

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

10 Ideas To Make Mental Health Support More Accessible For Employees

What are some ideas to make mental health support more accessible to employees? This question was posed to a group of talented professionals for their insights. From offering mental health holidays to flex work schedules, here’s what they had to say.

Offer Mental Health Days

Mental health Days are meant to be used when you have too much on your mind or when are feeling high levels of stress and anxiety. We can’t pre-plan how we will feel, so it’s important to allow employees to take unplanned days off.  Moreover, it is a great way to track the mental health of your employees. If someone is taking too many “mental health days” then you can reach out and support them! It’s easy to apply and simple, yet so few companies do it!

Annie Chopra, She TheQueen

Take Time to Communicate Benefits

In our brand new research on mental health, we found that employers rated themselves a “C” while the workforce rated employer support for mental health as an “F.” When you get into the data, you see that while companies are trying to make changes, these changes aren’t always felt by the workforce. We have to spend as much time communicating the changes and benefits we offer as we do actually selecting those benefits if we want to see real impact.

Ben Eubanks, Lighthouse Research & Advisory

Provide Health Coaching Sessions

Working with a qualified health & wellness coach has the potential to make a big difference in employees’ work and personal lives.  A health coach is NOT a licensed mental health practitioner. A good health coach IS a trained empathetic listener and motivator who works with people in groups or one-on-one. They help to create and work toward solutions to increase the enjoyment of life and work. 

Employers can offer coaching services onsite or remotely, in groups or individually.  The National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) certifies coaches who have completed specialized coaching training, demonstrated coaching skills, have experience working with clients, and passed a rigorous exam.

Ronel Kelmen, Attainable Transformation

Include Inspiring and Regenerating PTO Perks

We all understand that employees need sufficient high-quality PTO experiences in order to stay sharp, satisfied, and healthy at work. But what really makes PTO beneficial for our mental health is when that time is also inspiring. 

For example, we offer our employees three fully paid 24-hour days per year to participate in volunteer activities. Not only do these experiences give our team the chance to step outside their work and breathe, but while doing so they’re also engaging in work that can reignite and reshape their worldviews.

Tina Hawk, GoodHire

Promote a Work-Life Balance

Make sure your employees are taking time away from work on a regular basis. This means encouraging regularly scheduled vacations and not rewarding a burning the midnight oil mentality. You may get short-term results, but this type of schedule will often lead to burnout and far less productivity and motivation. 

A great leader challenges their employees to regularly rest, recharge, and connect with their loved ones. When employees feel valued, they will be much more motivated.

Mark Daoust, Quiet Light

Host Mental Health Fairs

One out-of-the-box way to make mental health more accessible to workers is to hold a mental health fair. These events function like traditional health fairs yet focus on psychological health. Booths can give out information on practices like stress management and avoiding burnout. Additionally, you can do activities like meditation and mindfulness worksheets. Beyond providing at-risk employees with resources, you can also use these fairs as a way to educate the workforce at large about mental health and help professionals to be better allies to psychologically vulnerable peers.

Carly Hill, Virtual Holiday Party

Encourage the Use of Wellness Apps

Employers can provide free resources and access to mental health apps. It can be a way for everyone in your company to get the mental health help they need, especially to prevent burnout amongst your employees. Using an app might feel less intimidating when seeking professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist.

You might not be there to visually recognize when an employee is overworking themselves. But with certain apps, they can get reminders to take breaks and maintain healthy habits during their working hours.

Scott Lieberman, Touchdown Money

Foster a “Life Happens” Culture

A healthy company culture understands that even the highest performing employees will face unideal circumstances that may take them away from work. A culture of ‘life happens’ understands that company needs shouldn’t supersede employee needs but ebb and flow. As we navigate turbulent times as a nation, we’ve all faced the universal truth that life happens, and sometimes things are out of our control.

Amrita Saigal, Kudos

Allow Flexible Work Schedules 

A remote or hybrid work schedule creates more flexibility for employees to take care of their physical and mental health how they see fit. Workers want freedom – time to spend with loved ones, take care of themselves, and travel – promoting one’s mental health on their terms. Allow the space and flexibility for your employees to take care of their mental health at their discretion.

Breanne Millette, BISOULOVELY

Train Leaders to Create Inclusive Environments 

Smaller businesses can make mental health more accessible to employees by equipping leaders with the tools and resources to have open, honest conversations and by creating a safe space for employees to speak openly without fear of judgment. 

Creating inclusive environments for conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia can go a long way in making sure everyone feels supported at work. By educating people about and accepting neurodiversity, you can create an inclusive and supportive workplace where everyone can thrive.

Dan Gissane, Huxo Creative

       

An Empathetic Workplace – 4 Practical Tips

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

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

The Importance of Empathy

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

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

How to Create an Empathetic Workplace

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

 

1. Implement an Open-Door Policy

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

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

 

2. Be Vulnerable

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

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

 

3. Listen More Than You Speak

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

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

 

4. Talk With Your Team Before Making Decisions

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

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

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

The Everywhere Workplace – Prioritizing Employee Experience

Working remotely is something that many of us have experienced during the pandemic. If you look at your social media feeds, you will notice multiple surveys asking people what types of work arrangements they prefer. COVID-19 has changed the way we view work and the workplace. Now with so many people working remotely, we’re taking a closer look at the benefits and the challenges of The Everywhere Workplace.

Our Guest: Melissa Puls

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Melissa Puls, Senior Vice President, and CMO at Ivanti. She brings decades of experience with a strong track record of fueling growth through customer-centric approaches and integrated marketing strategies.  

Ivanti’s Everywhere Workplace survey reveals insights into the remote workforce. The Report was written using Ivanti expertise, independent third-party research, and global future of work experts to showcase the workplace evolution and how the pandemic has shaped the way organizations need to think about their workforce.

More than half of employees surveyed report working more hours outside of the office since going remote. Despite working more, they’re actually happier. Melissa states:

“The data says that only 13% of employees would like to permanently get back to an office. This was from the report we did around the Everywhere Workplace. We did just a survey with our own employees and found 1% of Ivanti’s employees say they want to go back to the office full time and 71% of employees would choose to work from anywhere over being promoted.”

The Power of Choice

Flexible work arrangements offer numerous benefits to both employers and employees including boosted productivity, improved morale, and competitive talent acquisition and retention strategies. Melissa:

“Employees are in control of their work environment, which I think is a really positive thing for us, as a community globally. The option of flexibility in the workforce has become an influential factor when employees are making a decision whether to stay with a company or not.”

 Melissa also states:

“The remote work has improved employees’ sentiments and increased productivity, but there were some concerns. We heard that 51% said the lack of interaction with their colleagues and in-person connections was a concern. Additionally, 28% said they’re not able to collaborate and communicate as effectively.”

The Future of Work

What will the Future of Work look like? This is a question we ask ourselves all the time. It’s hard to predict based on the massive amounts of change that have happened just in the last 24 months. Melissa confirms:

“I think companies have to change their fundamental mindset and methodology on talent. That includes not only the flexibility of the environment that they work in but also the technologies that we use to enable employee experience. Having technology that supports and secures all the environments an employee wants to work in will no longer be a differentiating factor, but the norm.”

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. To learn more about The Future of Work and the 2022 Everywhere Workplace Survey, download the report.

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

Ways to Help Veteran Employees Thrive

Sponsored: Orion Talent

I am a staunch advocate of veteran hiring. It is a smart business decision with a positive impact on everything from profitability to innovation to competitiveness. Not only are you hiring men and women with state-of-the-art technical skills and proven leadership skills far beyond that of their civilian peers, but you are also accessing resilient soft skills. Combined, these skills will help shape the future of your company.

While many of you are already on board with hiring veterans, I know retaining veterans is an entirely different animal. In a recent conversation with Meghan Biro, we talked about how many companies don’t transition service members to civilian roles very well. According to SHRM, the average annual employee turnover rate is around 19% making it a formidable hurdle for talent acquisition leaders. When we consider veteran employees, the percentage jumps to nearly 50% leaving their first post-military position within a year.

Much of this turnover can be attributed to a lack of support. Or, an undefined career path, feeling uninspired, or skills misalignment. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Luckily, these issues can all be addressed through a well-planned veteran onboarding and retention plan.

Help Military Veterans Thrive with These Five Strategies

1. Mentorships 

Mentorship is an excellent way to provide your new veteran employees with a connection to another veteran. They can serve as a resource, guide, and advocate in their new role. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs offers a wealth of information on retaining veterans, including information on setting up a successful mentorship program. 

Listed among the benefits of veteran mentoring are an increase in morale, and productivity. In addition, retention, better adaptation to workplace culture, better career development, and promotion of diversity. These voluntary relationships are also a great way to transfer institutional and cultural knowledge.

Technology powerhouse Siemens has been successfully executing its veteran mentorship program for years. Orion Talent has worked with Siemens to hire nearly 2,500 veterans since 2010, and among their veteran retention best practices is a military peer mentorship program. Mike Brown, Global Head of Talent Acquisition of Siemens, explained their program.  “When other military come in now, they get paired up. And I think that really helps with their transition.” 

2. Employee Resource Groups

Similar to the retention benefits of mentoring veterans, creating Employee Resource Groups or Veteran Affinity Groups also offers increased employee engagement and job satisfaction. The VA calls these voluntary groups a “critical element to retention advocated by study respondents”  in their Veterans Employment Toolkit. ERG programs can also include career development, advocacy, community service, and social activities. Make sure to give your veteran employees the time and space to participate in these groups, especially as they onboard.

An additional benefit of veteran ERGs is that they help build your company’s reputation in a job market where candidates, veteran or civilian, are seeking purpose-driven work. They also increase workplace agility as your org chart is flattened in an ERG. Collaboration and innovation often follow!

3. Career Pathing

When I speak with men and women transitioning into the civilian world, their desire for a clear career path stands out. Their military career progression was clearly laid out, with defined goals and requirements. In civilian terms, you can think of this as career pathing. When you hire a veteran for a Junior Electrical Engineer position, you could lay out a plan with steps and milestones to reach Senior Electrical Engineer and then Project Manager, for example. 

Laying out these career paths pays dividends in terms of engagement and retention. Employers also experience higher performance and productivity rates. This Mercer study shows that 78% of employees would stay with their current employer if they were given a clear career path. 

4. Upskilling

Offering continuous development and ongoing education to your veteran employees is a powerful retention tool.  

Not only are you illustrating your investment in their success by providing these programs but you are reaping the rewards. Aside from increased retention, benefits of upskilling include increased employee satisfaction, less need to hire train new employees, and becoming more competitive in your industry.

“Our experience shows that when veterans receive tailored preparation for future roles, it leads to a better fit, a better transition, and ultimately better retention,” explains Laura Schmiegel, SVP, Strategic Partnerships at Orion Talent. “This helps companies save time and money in employee turnover, and it means they get to keep some of their best talent.”

As Meghan discussed in her recent article on veteran hiring, workforce partnerships can play an important part in upskilling. Strategic workforce partnerships like the Department of Defense Skillbridge program allow you to recruit veterans and gain access to their existing expertise while upskilling and reskilling them at the same time. 

5. DEI Initiatives

The veteran population represents a 43% diverse workforce and should be an integral part of a company’s DEI initiative. As with any other group in your initiative, you will want to consider how to prevent bias towards your veteran employees. Unfortunately, some old biases may linger, and your DEI strategy is the place to nip that in the bud. 

This HR Exchange article by LaKisha Brooks explains, “These judgments are often harmful to diversity initiatives because they limit our ability to see people as individuals with unique talents to contribute. For example, bias against veterans includes assuming they have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Bias can also include mental health problems just because of their military background, assuming they have a particular personality type, such as being rigid or stern…It’s essential to put assumptions aside and ask meaningful questions to learn the truth instead.”

These five veteran retention strategies will help highlight to the veterans at your company that yours is a workplace that sees them for the unique individuals they are with valuable skills worthy of investment. But, you don’t have to take on all five at once. Choose one, and make it amazing! Then move on to the next retention strategy. Your veteran employees will be proud to call your company home.

 

Mid-Career Employees and Their Impact on The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation has not hit the world of work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rates of resignation are highest among mid-career employees. Many of these workers are leaving their jobs and fields to pursue a new career path offering better job security or greater flexibility.

Mid-career workers are attractive to companies because of their skills and life experience. Skills like leadership, problem-solving, and multitasking transfer well to new roles and often give seasoned hires an advantage over younger workers.

It’s almost as if the entry-level openings don’t exist anymore: Thirty-five percent of “entry-level” openings require years of job experience. That’s higher in skill-heavy industries like tech, with 43% of college graduates leaving school without a job lined up. This will affect us for years to come.

We must tackle the dual-pronged issue of investing in these entry-level employees while also retaining our mid-level workers. Younger, less experienced hires need a chance to enter the workforce and get learning, and mid-level employees need to feel valued and cared for within their current roles.

Growing Your Retention Rates

Company leaders need to recognize that both mid-career and entry-level employees have essential roles to play in the success of their business. If they can nurture both experience levels, they can retain and onboard successfully and simultaneously.

To start, leaders need to acknowledge the hurdles that mid-career employees face. Forty-five percent of caregivers said they had considered leaving the workforce because of personal demands on their time, while 34% said they had “lost critical skills” in the past year.

To combat this life stress, mid-career employees need flexibility and understanding. Companies must develop permanent, sustainable methods of retaining talent via flexibility, including remote work, in-office childcare, and flex time. These employees also need the opportunity to gain skills (or grow existing skills) in an accessible, low-cost way.

Helping Employees Grow Their Skills

 Eighty-nine percent of employees are willing to reskill, but too few get the chance. Providing opportunities to learn new skills and develop professionally shows the company is invested in growth. Give employees of all levels some opportunities to skill up, and they will show their worth.

Teaching your employees will lead to better engagement — 2.9 times higher engagement than employees who don’t see opportunities to learn and grow. Upskilling opportunities are also a win for your company. It allows you to move existing employees into roles that are often difficult and costly to fill.

Be a Mentor

Mentorship programs have positive effects on both mentor and mentee, so even mid-career employees who aren’t interested in upskilling can still benefit. Taking a junior employee under their wing creates a sense of loyalty among mentors, boosting retention rates. A program could increase mentees’ communication skills, community engagement, goal-setting, and a sense of purpose — even if the mentee isn’t an entry-level worker.

Furthermore, mentorship is currently underutilized. That means companies adopting mentorship programs will stand out among competitors. As a result, you’ll gain another layer of protection against poaching while also making your business stand out from the crowd.

Companies don’t need a gimmick to make it through the Great Resignation; they need to evolve alongside our changing world. Changes to how we work and train workers are necessary to make it through this event. Utilizing a mentorship program will gain more engaged employees and gain better career outcomes.

The Urgency Epidemic – Prioritization & Productivity

When was the last time you were placed in a situation at work where the sense of urgency to complete a project was overwhelming due to unreasonable timing and expectations? Yesterday? The day before that? This scenario is way too common in today’s workplace. In this episode, we will be discussing a common phenomenon that businesses across all industries are struggling with currently — the urgency epidemic.

Our Guest:  Brandon Smith

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Brandon Smith, an expert in leadership communication and a curer of workplace dysfunction. Brandon is a sought-after executive coach, TEDx speaker, author, and award-winning business school instructor. He has been featured in the Wall Street CNN, and many other publications for his expertise. His book, The Hot Sauce Principle: How to Live and Lead in a World Where Everything Is Urgent All of the Time, helps readers master urgency, so they can more effectively lead others.

The most precious resource in the work world today isn’t money, it’s time. When everything at work is “always urgent all the time,” it can create, in Brandon’s words “a Petri dish for anxiety.” If employees and managers aren’t careful, it can lead to a decline in the overall efficiency and quality of work over time. Due to the continued disruption of the pandemic and current inflation, time management has become even more of a critical challenge for companies and organizations of all types. 

As Brandon states:

“So overall, if I had to put my stake in the ground and say, ‘What’s my purpose in life?’ It is to eliminate all workplace dysfunction everywhere forever. That’s my purpose. So I’m gainfully employed with plenty of job security. The reason why I wrote this book was because this was one of those many flavors of workplace dysfunction that everyone I was talking to was feeling. It didn’t matter if they were working. They were just dealing with this sense of hot sauce being poured on everything. Hot sauce is the analogy I use for urgency. And so I wanted to try and write a book that would be at least somewhat of a help, somewhat of a cure for that particular dysfunction.”.

When Does a Sense of Urgency Become A Problem?

Most managers use urgency as a motivator. Teams can collectively and quickly align toward a common goal in order to reach a business benchmark within a short timeline. But if urgency becomes the daily standard, this can lead to an environment of workplace chaos. This can result in serious missteps or worse. Brandon states:

A little bit of urgency is a good thing, we need urgency. Urgency motivates us. So urgency can motivate us just like hot sauce. A little bit of urgency, a little bit of hot sauce gives focus, gives flavor, creates priority. It’s a good thing. But just like hot sauce, if there’s too much urgency, I mean if everything that comes out of the kitchen is doused in hot sauce, the appetizer and the salad and the entree and the brownie, we’re going to be curled up in a ball wanting relief. We won’t taste anything. So a little bit of it using the right doses and the right times is a really healthy thing for us. It keeps us moving forward. But too much does the exact opposite effect, overwhelms us, confuses us, and that can lead to burnout.”

The Urgency Trap

What worked in the past for companies and organizations may no longer apply when it comes to keeping teams motivated and effective. Cultivating a sense of urgency as a motivational tool is something most managers and team leaders have been taught they are supposed to do. As Brandon states:

“Leaders are taught really early on, yeah, if we need people to change, we’ve got to start with urgency. And there is so many organizations right now needing to go through transformations, whether it’s technology transformations or whatever it happens to be. And so what leaders are doing is running around making everything urgent and then patting themselves on their back, going back to their office, closing the door, and saying, ‘I did a great job today.’ And all they did was just create confusion and chaos because they didn’t prioritize the urgency. They just said, ‘It’s all urgent right now, go.”

Escaping the Urgency

So how do managers and business leaders prioritize projects so that everything isn’t urgent all the time? Brandon explains:

Limit what you can make urgent at a time. My recommendation is no more than five. The best teams, the best departments, the best organizations are executing off of three to five priorities. So use urgency on those things. Use hot sauce on those things, but let everything else just be relief from the heat.”

As companies and organizations are pushed to evolve in order to move forward, how will work itself change, and more importantly, how will that affect the way we prioritize projects for a more productive and focused work culture? Brandon gives us his forecast:

“The future of work is going to be a really exciting time. When I look at my crystal ball, I see it’s going to be an exciting time and place where more of our personal lives are going to be factored into the equation. There’s going to be more flexibility and I’m sure this is nothing different than what you’ve been hearing before from others. But I will say that there’s going to be a lot more burden on us to set and keep our boundaries because there’s going to be no clear breaks between work and home life.”

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. To learn more about improving time and project management at work, contact Brandon Smith on LinkedIn.

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

Digital Health Coaching as a Modern Employee Benefit

Whether working onsite in the healthcare, construction, service, and hospitality industries throughout the pandemic, the stresses of the past two years have taken their toll. Employees are tired. Employee Burnout is being experienced at an extremely high rate. 

More than four in 10 workers surveyed by global staffing firm Robert Half said they are more burned out on the job today compared to one year ago. That’s a 10% jump from a similar poll in 2020. In addition, nearly half of workers surveyed, some 49%, who are experiencing increased fatigue, blame this on heavier workloads. 

As the pandemic lingers, digital health coaching is on the rise. This modern employee benefit is proving to be a critical lifeline for employees now and in the future.

New Work Models Increase Employee Burnout and Health Issues

Open-ended remote and hybrid work has exacerbated employee burnout — a syndrome outlined by the World Health Organization resulting from chronic workplace stress characterized by decreased work efficiency, exhaustion, energy depletion, and negative and cynical feelings related to a job. 

These feelings are further compounded by increased substance use, sleep issues, and chronic health issues due to the current climate. All of which have a negative impact on safety, absenteeism, and productivity. To make matters worse, remote and hybrid workers aren’t always getting the support they need to cope.

Employers Turn to Digital Health Coaching to Support Workers

Employees need to feel supported while maintaining a sense of privacy. Unfortunately, people struggling with substance abuse disorder and mental health issues are often conditioned to remain silent — to suffer alone. Especially now, workers may even view their struggles as a temporary result of the pandemic rather than an undiagnosed problem. The issues are real, however. 

Between August 2020 and February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of anxiety or depression increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, and the rate of those reporting unmet mental health care needs increased from 9.2% to 11.7%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the pervasiveness of unfulfilled mental health care in America, companies can fill the void to provide employees with guided intervention — supporting employees and helping them make lasting change. Companies can accomplish these goals by adopting robust substance use health insurance and policies, improving workplace culture, educating employees to promote drug-free workplaces, and providing employees with supportive and confidential services in a digital health coaching program.

Digital Health Coaching Meets Employees Where They Are

The root of a healthy company is a healthy workforce. Yet, many employer-backed health and wellness programs struggle to attract, engage, and produce tangible outcomes for employees. In addition, traditional programs are plagued with a one-size-fits-all approach to personal struggles. Personalizing care is critical for employers who want to build a pathway that helps individual employees build a strong foundation and momentum to overcome their struggles. 

With the help of a digital health coaching program, blending cognitive-behavioral training with video-based educational modules and a vast library of impactful content, every employee can obtain support and help when they need it. In addition, by creating personalized experiences and providing targeted content that appeals to different learning styles, such programs can effectively engage employees — raising the likelihood employees complete the program and achieve positive outcomes with staying power. 

Engaging Health Coaching Programs Benefit Workers and Employers

For employers questioning whether adding a digital health coaching program to their employee benefits is worth the cost, the answer is a resounding yes — yes, it is worth it. 

Some 80% of the total costs for treating chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer, asthma, and more stem from risks and unhealthy behaviors worsened by the pandemic. These include poor stress management and standard of care, insufficient sleep, excessive alcohol, drug use and smoking, poor diet, and a lack of physical activity and health screenings. As a result, costs to both workers and employers come in the form of additional healthcare spend and productivity loss. 

Data suggest the benefits of adopting a digital health coaching program, which helps reduce lifestyle risks and unhealthy behaviors, can result in significant savings for employers and employees alike. 

Depression, for example, the second-leading cause of “years lived with disability” worldwide, is steadily linked with greater economic burden and reduced work productivity, and this was pre-pandemic. It’s also estimated to cost employers nearly $20,000 per 100 employees each year in lost productivity and additional healthcare costs. Then there’s obesity. A chronic condition gradually rising, obesity increased from 30.5% to 42.4% from 1999–2000 through 2017–2018. Obesity alone can cost employers $100,000 – $550,000 each year per 100 employees in disability, workers’ compensation, absenteeism, and presenteeism.

Enhanced Digital Health Coaching

Enhanced digital health coaching serves to lower these costs. Employees who improve their general health and complete their treatment protocols to address risky behaviors, mental and chronic health issues are less likely to require expensive interventions later, saving them and their employers in the long run. 

Employers must act as employees continue to deal with pandemic burnout, increased stresses, substance use, and other risky behaviors. In doing so, they’ll help employees address the issues they may be silently struggling with, allowing them to make lasting change and improve the health of their workplaces.

Coaching Young Talent Through Remote Work Challenges

We all know that hiring young talent can bring a lot of positives to any organization. Younger workers are digital natives, they tend to have a great deal of energy, and their perspectives frequently provide a thoughtful counterpoint to “the way we’ve always done things.”

However, the cliche of younger workers being perfectly OK with staying glued to a screen all day long is unhelpful. This stereotype can unconsciously lull HR professionals into neglecting to address the downsides of too much time spent online. And this problem has become increasingly prominent in our new all-remote or hybrid workforce setting. After all, how are we supposed to interact with remote workers if they’re not connected to a screen of some sort?

The long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health will doubtless fill research papers for decades to come. We know for sure that the pandemic was particularly difficult to handle for college students who had only begun to move out into the world. Many were sent off-campus, often back to their childhood homes. Countless international students were suddenly sent back to their country of origin. The net effect was a deep sense of disorientation.

Pandemic restrictions are lifting worldwide. HR professionals need to remain sensitive to the more pronounced feelings of fear, isolation, and confusion that young talent are bringing to the workforce. When hiring recent grads for remote positions, the burden rests solidly with employers to ensure these younger workers do not get lost in the shuffle.

The Ups and Downs

The benefits of remote work scarcely need to be enumerated. During the pandemic, many of us found it beneficial to stay at home. The environment was relaxing, both physically and mentally. Stress levels went down. Knocking out projects while wearing sweats served as a calming influence.

However, remote work has some downsides. The single biggest loss, of course, is that of community and real-life relationships.

Offices are and perhaps always will be where professional types meet, greet, and bond. Good things happen when colleagues bump into each other in the hallways and breakroom. Things that don’t happen on a video conference call.

WFH status can leave young talent with a nagging “last to know” sensation.

This sense of isolation can be especially pronounced for workers attached to companies where most colleagues are working in-office. As a result, remote workers are often left off essential communications. Unfortunately, though unintentional, this is an all-too-common reality. Every remote employee has at least one story of logging into a video conference only to learn it was canceled, but nobody bothered to tell them.

Long-Term Effects of Remote Work on Young Talent

HR professionals must recognize that those who choose to work remotely may be at a significant disadvantage. For example, a remote worker might push themself to the breaking point to meet an important deadline, but would anyone notice? This is a serious downside that could carry with it implications for future raises, promotions, and perceived value.

The other obvious issue for remote young talent is the lack of easy access to more seasoned employees. Remote work lessen’s any ability to lean over to ask a quick question. When the remote worker isn’t well connected, simple questions may go unasked. As a result, coworkers can categorize employees as “a face on my laptop.” 

Turning the Tables

Like every other challenge, the key to young talent overcoming the downsides of remote work is to adopt simple counter-strategies and stick with them. Here are two to consider.

1. Push your remote workers and yourself outside comfort zones

Not everyone is an extrovert. Research from The Myers-Briggs Company reveals that nearly six out of every ten people prefer introversion to extroversion. Despite this, introverts owe it to themselves to adopt an “I’m getting out of my comfort zone” attitude when working remotely. Accept that everyone will need to push through initial reluctance. 

Katelyn Watson is the chief marketing officer at Nurx, a remote-first company that provides consumers with healthcare options delivered virtually. To ensure that no one gets “lost in the mix” at Nurx, Watson pays attention to everyone’s contributions during meetings and gatherings.

“As a leader of a global, 100% remote workforce, I want everyone to feel comfortable joining into discussions,” Watson explains. “ I empower team members to speak their thoughts when collaborating and always invite them for feedback, even when there is an awkward silence. No one should feel they have to be quiet or can’t veer from popular opinion. I stress that the more ideas we gather, the stronger our marketing will be. At Nurx, all marketing team members get an equal platform regardless of title or tenure.”

2. Embrace mentorship on both sides of the videoconference screen

Mentorship is a great way for HR professionals and remote workers to sharpen their relationship skills. Having one trustworthy person to talk to when a question arises can smooth out the bumps we invariably experience whenever we try something new. In many office settings, remote or hybrid work is new, so both parties should expect to not manage it well at first.

Do mentorships make that much of an impact? Serenity Gibbons, unit lead for the NAACP in Northern California, says they do. “A good mentor can help you achieve more in less time,” she notes. “ Plus, your mentor can serve as your cheerleader and maybe even advocate. For example, when a job is about to open, your mentor may recommend you or smooth the way for a different interoffice transition.”

Set up regular mentorship meetings. Have an agenda for each meeting to stay on track. Your agenda might include talking through some concerns you’re having. Or reviewing how you’ve applied your mentor’s suggestions since your last conversation. In time, you’ll have forged a solid bond with your mentor, even if you’ve never met face to face.

Balancing Security with Employee Experience

Over the past 24 months, IT teams have been burdened with many unprecedented challenges. Most notably, a rising number of security concerns. But enhancing security shouldn’t come at the expense of efficiency or employee experience.

Our Guest: Denis O’Shea

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Denis O’Shea, founder of Mobile Mentor; a company that has helped millions of people unlock the full potential of their technology.

When we hear the word “security,” we think of things like passwords and data encryption. But there is more to it. It’s also about creating a work culture where employees feel safe and protected in addition to ensuring that systems and data are secure. Technical security is critical, but so is work culture and morale.

​​How do we balance the need for security with the need for employee welfare, productivity, and satisfaction? We invited Denis to help us think through this question. Denis explains:

“It is something we can aspire to. It has not been easy in the past because employers often had to make compromises and either put security first or put the employee experience first. But now the technology is mature enough that we can actually be secure and still have a great experience without compromising one or the other.”

Where Security and Experience Collide

People are used to being able to communicate in real-time on any device. This means being able to respond to company emails from a mobile device from any location, at any time of the day or night. As a result, companies sometimes compromise security in order to improve the employee experience and aid in communication. Denis  further explains:

“The one that is probably most common is the use of personally owned devices. So we see this very common in healthcare, education, even in government nowadays, where employees are using personal laptops, personal iPads, certainly personal smartphones. Initially, that presented a huge security challenge to the organization. How can data possibly be secure on the device owned by an employee?”

However, with advances in technology and security, it’s less of a risk to allow employees to work on a personal device. Denis:

“Nowadays companies can actually secure the data and still allow the employee to use their personal phone or tablet or laptop. So we’ve come a long way, and of course what that enables people to do is to work from home, use personal devices, access their company’s resources, be productive, and have a great experience using the technology they choose to use rather than technology that’s kind of forced upon them by their IT department.”

BYOD – Bring Your Own Disaster?

The term BYOD should mean “Bring Your Own Device”. There are circumstances where companies have to allow employees to use their personal devices – smartphones, laptops, tablets.  For example, the recent global chip shortage made it difficult for companies to procure phones and laptops.  But what happens when those devices aren’t set up properly? Denis:

“Then you can have a disaster. Instead of BYOD, bring your own device, we call it bring your own disaster. And they end up in a situation where company information, such as healthcare records, student records, and financial information is on an unmanaged laptop or an unmanaged tablet.”

Add personal downloads of unapproved apps to the mix. Denis further explains:

“And now they’re using an unmanaged app on an unmanaged device to do their work. And so their data is effectively out in the wild, the company data is out in the wild.”

The Balancing Act

There is a balance between security and experience. Companies need security, but they also need to provide the best employee experience possible. Denis:

“Companies should listen to their remote employees and involve them in the decision-making process around technology and process. If they [companies] get it wrong, remote workers are the first to break the rules and find workarounds. If you ask those remote workers for feedback on the next generation of tools, technology, or processes that will empower them,  they will give that feedback.”

There is also a balance between security, employee privacy, and how it’s communicated. If employees feel as if their personal privacy will be compromised by added device security measures, this will have a negative impact on the employee experience. And let’s face it, the younger generation of workers brings an uncompromising set of priorities to the table making it even more challenging to find the sweet spot for employee experience. 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. To learn more about mobile security, contact Denis O’Shea on LinkedIn. 

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

The Great Resignation – When Employees Woke Up

2021 turned out to be a year that introduced many new terms into the common vocabulary. One of the most popular terms – The Great Resignation.

  • Pandemic
  • Hybrid Work
  • Non-Fungible Token – and many more 

For the human resource professional, none turned out to be as life-changing as “The Great Resignation”, at least, on the professional front. 

Sure, for HR teams, the pandemic caused a lot of strife. Re-engineering of processes that support the hire to retire Lifecycle of employees, was the need of the hour. Supporting colleagues as the threatening environment led to mental health issues, was equally, if not more, important. Amidst all of this, however, what ended up taking precedence was hiring. Fueled by the aforementioned wave of resignations that corporates witnessed. But, why did The Great Resignation happen? 

Let’s try and understand this by recounting the sequence of events that occurred starting in early 2021.

The Great Resignation – Why?

When the pandemic initially started digging in deeply across the world leading to lockdowns (or curfews or variations, thereof), the expectation was that hiring would stall. That companies facing a business impact would control operational costs by laying off or redeploying their staff. Unsure about the way the economy would play out, most organizations tended to err on the side of caution. Consumers were, after all, expected to become conservative and cautious in their approach.

What happened, however, was quite unexpected. For the most part, consumers changed their behavior while making their purchases. The growing e-commerce world became the gateway to personal happiness in a much bigger way. Unable to visit farmer’s markets and malls, shoppers filled up their e-carts. Clicking away on their screens, keeping the economy going. Restricted from dining at their favorite hangouts, people ordered in, making full use of services like UberEats.

Unexpected Revenue Shifts

Other than in industries like travel and hospitality, executives in most other sectors were pleasantly surprised to see that the dive in revenues and profits was not as sharp as expected. In many cases including technology and healthcare, there was a rise! 

As swiftly as the revenue graphs had sloped downwards, they turned upwards and started reaching new highs! Further waves of the pandemic led to additional learning over the course of the following months. This experiential learning enabled policymakers to change their approach when it came to managing their economies.

At the start of the pandemic, many governments across the world had locked down their entire nations. In more recent times, the preferred approach has been to try and create containment zones whenever there seems to be a fresh outbreak of the virus. This new mechanism of fighting the spread of this disease is extremely beneficial for the world of business. It prevents a complete stop of the production cycle.

So, what has been the benefit of this new reality for our workforce?

The Destruction of Boundaries

For the first time ever in many industries, “human capital” is truly free from the shackles of the physical office space. The past twenty-odd months have shown us that work can continue seamlessly even when carried out remotely. All it needs to keep these running smoothly is an evolution in work practices.

Even in organizations that are in the manufacturing or product space, there are enough roles that can be played off-premises. An additional benefit is the “remote interview”. Candidates can be interviewed virtually (literally and figuratively) at the drop of a hat. No more juggling personal schedules or taking a leave of absence from the current job. Just thirty minutes sculpted out during the day.

The Rise of Digital

A huge reason for the world being able to come out largely unscathed (relative to what was anticipated at the start) is the fact that technology has advanced to a level where the element of distance has been negated. Exploding technologies have been brought into mainstream facilities like video conferencing, showcasing tech-enabled shifts in the way business work is now conducted.

The digital landscape also propelled learning across walls. Aspirational professionals, ranging from fresh graduates to experienced C-suite executives, used this opportunity to pick up new skills and dig deeper into chosen fields of work.

The Availability of Choice

One of the major (positive) side-effects of the pandemic has been the self-awareness that many have gained. This self-realization has encouraged many to decide the operating rules for themselves. From flexibility in terms of work location to flexibility in terms of work hours, workers are looking at customizing the kind of work commitments they make, much like the way they choose to personalize their Subway® sandwich. The talent-hungry corporate world had chosen to play ball – creating work models that suit varied types of individuals. With a shift from ‘pay-for-time’ to ‘pay-for-output’, employees balance their work and personal life, in a more controlled way, putting themselves in the driver’s seat.

Conclusion

In essence, 2021 can be clearly proclaimed to be the year when workers woke up and The Great Resignation started. Truth is that not all may have awakened out of choice. Some amongst us might have been jolted awake by the rude interruption of the dreaded virus, as they found themselves retrenched or having had to leave their work to take care of an ailing family member. But, the end result is the same. It seems, as we get further into 2022, that professionals are indeed awake and about enjoying their days in the sun! What a time to be working!

 

Why Trust and Transparency Matter in the Workplace

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

The Neuroscience of Mistrust

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

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

Trust and the Willingness to Take Risks

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

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

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

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

The Risk of Betrayal in the Workplace

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

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

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

Transparency: The Path To Velocity

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

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

Lights, Cameras, Action: The Tragedy of Meeting Drama

Think like a scientist: Do a test. Record your next video meeting of three or more people. Afterward, transcribe the recording. Then, with a printed copy of the transcript in hand, watch the recording. As you do, add notes to the transcript of who said each line. And—this is essential—note the non-verbal cues you observe. You will then have something very much like a screenplay.

Review that screenplay. See how each person (including you) assumes their roles and acts them out. Observe how people strive to comply with the social rules and rituals of in-person meetings plastered onto virtual work. Detect their attempts to adhere to scripts assigned long ago by those who write the rules:  leaders. Perceive how they strive to appear credible, confident, capable, reliable, trustworthy, engaged. Note how the outcome of their efforts falls short because they are visually boxed into tiny video frames and mostly on mute. You will begin to feel a little sad because what you observe is a tragedy unfolding.

Non-Credible On-Camera Performances

Inarguably, video meetings can be exhausting, as demonstrated by a Stanford labs study. Cognitive overload, eye fatigue, and lack of physical mobility erode workers’ energies. The good news: Employers can address these ubiquitous strains through adjustments in technology and scheduling. 

However, there is a far more challenging issue for Human Resources professionals. How do you ensure that organizational norms for virtual meetings promote employees’ abilities to perform credibly, confidently, capably, and reliably? Participants in my 2021 study poignantly raised this issue. They expressed how, despite tremendous investments of personal energy, their on-camera performances fail to meet expectations.

Consider this example:

“As an executive and salesperson, I am often ‘On Stage’ presenting some idea or explaining a product. That takes more energy via Zoom because the audience is not as engaged or interactive. In person, there is more give-and-take, even from a large audience. With Zoom, the interactions decrease in logarithmic proportion to the size of the audience. After four or five people get in a Zoom room, it gets really QUIET…. exactly the opposite of an in-person meeting. That silence is hard for me, and I feel I have to make up for it by ‘performing’ or ‘wearing a mask.’” 

Performing in such a way is risky business because people are highly sensitive to others’ facial expressions. Audiences easily perceive inauthentic on-camera performances. In turn, such inauthenticity erodes the psychological safety necessary for high performance virtual and hybrid work.

Uncertainty, Dread, and Drama

As actors on-screen, virtual workers are today’s improvisational actors. Such is congruent with Goffman’s 1959 theory of dramaturgy. Before the pandemic, workers came together in a well-known playscript entitled The Team Meeting. There, they knew how others expected the action would take place. They were familiar with expectations of their roles and the scripts they were to follow to create a pleasing performance. 

Now, they perform amid high uncertainty for far longer hours, in a far greater number of meetings, without the benefit of appropriate norms. As demonstrated in my study, they hunger for interaction with their fellow performers to co-create a compelling on-camera performance. However, their co-actors often feel “dread being on ‘display’ and looking and reacting perfect” and compelled to “act interested and focused the entire time.” Their interaction “doesn’t mimic in-person interactions, in which people look away from time to time.” And “the expectation of focusing on the screen 100 percent, which is not normal in regular human interaction” is untenable.

On-Camera Performances Must Be Heard and Believed

Like professional improv artists, those who perform in video meetings also need audience feedback. Verbal cues and body language indicate the effectiveness of their performance and can encourage them to believe that, yes, you are credible. But those giving on-camera performances in work video meetings don’t get enough feedback indicating that they are heard and believed due to thumbnail images, muted microphones, and some cameras being off altogether. According to my research, at best, they may get, “blink, blink, stare.”

Because they cannot hear listening noises or see heads nodding, they cannot discern whether what they say is received as intended or what the audience is thinking or feeling in response. As a study participant says, “Videos make it hard to read energy, and that is frustrating for me. I also feel drained because I can’t read body language or tell who is really engaged.” Uncertainty about their impression on their audience, whether they are giving a successful on-camera performance, presents a challenge to their context-specific identity. Am I credible? Am I valued? Do I belong here

Old Norms, New Culture, and Belonging

On the pre-COVID in-person meeting stage, there were (often) unwritten directions. These included tacit understandings about how to facilitate a meeting, what was permissible to say, when and how to speak up, and when to remain quiet. These directions were formed by what the dominant members of the group believed. Adhering to these prevailing group norms could help people create an impression consistent with their goals. They value me. I told them what they wanted to hear. That impression could help solidify their belonging as a competent social actor in those settings. But when someone in a nondominant subgroup spoke up, those in the dominant group were likely to give overly critical feedback based on stereotyped categorizations. The dominant group thereby thwarted the nondominant contributor’s goal of making an impression as a competent performer.

Now, Covid-19, massive global social unrest, and growing intolerance of racism in the U.S. workplace upend dominant group norms. The roles and scripts for leaders and other attendees in video meetings are less clear. Cultural uncertainty abounds. Workers are less willing to painstakingly comply with social norms to fulfill their role requirements and meet their context’s shifting political and social expectations. They now choose whether to sustain or challenge power relations.

As they make these choices, norms continue to evolve. How are leaders and other attendees to perform their roles together, collectively? Workers’ sense of belonging is at stake, as are their energies. As some feel that the power and control status they previously enjoyed in meetings is threatened, they may feel ungrounded. As others with less power (i.e., representatives of nondominant groups) attempt to contribute, they must typically work harder

Belonging and Inclusive Virtual Practices

Virtual workers who contributed to my 2021 research suggested practices human resources staff members and other leaders should adopt. These simple practices help promote greater inclusion and help relieve the unsustainable social-performance anxiety workers across the organizational hierarchy experience. They make video meetings more beneficial for the casts of millions who show up daily to do their best. They, thereby, enable organizations to reap greater rewards from diverse knowledge and talent. Here is what virtual workers say their leaders should do.

1. Invite those who are off camera to speak.

My research shows leaders make many negative assumptions about workers who are off camera: They are hiding, overly multi-tasking, not listening, disengaged. However, off-camera attendees say, “Some people seem to assume that if your camera is not on, you don’t care. It’s actually physically exhausting to stare at the screen meeting after meeting.” They say, “Visuals distract me from meaning/content, so having to look at the camera and people means I’m not getting as much content/meaning, so I turn my camera off.” They are “waiting to be called on.” So, ask them to chime in instead of assuming they are disengaged. I regularly do this and have not once found an attendee unresponsive. Indeed, the contributions they make are well-considered and solution-focused, perhaps because they are spending their energies thinking rather than acting. 

2. Tie the camera-use rule to the meeting purpose.

If camera use is necessary to achieve the intended meeting outcome, say so. If you can achieve the outcome without seeing faces, make on-camera performances optional. That way, those who enjoy seeing faces can see others who wish to display themselves, and those who find videos to be cognitively exhausting can be off camera. For this to work, you must adopt practice number one. Otherwise, you will thwart inclusion: Employees who have cameras on will become the de facto “in” group, and those who are off camera will be the “out” group.

3. Be a good “director.”

When filming, directors famously say “action,” “cut,” and “retake.” But before filming starts, rehearsals happen during which directors give guidance. They convey how the story is to unfold and how the actors must support one another when performing. A good meeting director gives that sort of guidance upfront, in an agenda. A good agenda provides the actors with the storyline:  Who will speak about what, when, and why. Provide an agenda in advance so that your actors can prepare. Include the names of those who will lead each “act” by discussing their topic. Give the estimated time they’ll do that so that they can prepare their lines. Above all, tell everyone the purpose of the meeting in advance, so they’ll know why the meeting and their performance in it matters.

Better Pay Isn’t Always the Key to Retaining Talent

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

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

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

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

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

Reward Employees the Right Way

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

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

Adapt Feedback and Motivational Styles Using “Thinking-Feeling” 

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

Tailor Recognition and Feedback to Employee Preference

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

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

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

Match Management Style to Employee Personality Preferences 

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

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

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

Business Needs vs. Employee Needs: Finding the Happy Medium

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

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

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

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

Listening to Employees

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

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

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

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

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

Balancing Employee Needs With Business Needs

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

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

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

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

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

Looking to the Future

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

Setting Your Team Up for Hybrid Work Success

Today’s employees have strong feelings about hybrid work–positive ones that is. According to Microsoft’s 2021 work trend index, 73% of respondents across over 30,000 people in 31 countries desire more remote work options. 

But managers aren’t so rosy on the subject. Why are today’s leaders having such a hard time adapting? Lack of planning might be the culprit. According to McKinsey, 68% of Oregon organizations have no detailed plan in place for hybrid work.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The point of the hybrid work model is to satisfy employee’s desires for flexibility, manager’s desires for streamlined office management, and everyone’s desire to stay safe. Managers must meet these new challenges head on by crafting a detailed hybrid work plan that reduces their stress while setting their employees up for success.

Our Guest: Reid Hiatt, Tactic

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Reid Hiatt, CEO of Tactic, an innovative hybrid workplace solution bridging the gap between remote and office work. Reid has worked closely with a number of proactive companies ranging from small startups to global enterprises. Therefore, Reid has a unique perspective on how companies can create meaningful and effective workplaces in a hybrid work environment.

When asked how to keep teams productive in a new hybrid model, Ried had this to say:

“The key to making (them) productive is providing transparency into what’s going on at the office,” Reid says. “So that before making that commute…they understand what type of experience they’re going to get when they go there.”

Managing Employee Schedules Effectively in a Hybrid Work Model

For managers, the hybrid work model introduces new challenges, such as handling their employee’s in-office schedules. Reid stresses the importance of creating processes to address these challenges, and says there are new tools to help them do it:

It’s been really interesting over the past several months just to see how much innovation has happened in this area…making hybrid work not just possible, but the best way to work for most companies long term. This is a huge reason why we built Tactic.”

Reid explains that tools like Tactic take the guesswork out of the process. Ultimately, it gives people complete control over their hybrid office space experience. It also empowers companies to set capacity limits at the office and manage collaborative projects.

“I think there’s going to be continued innovation in this area, and it’s going to make the transition even more seamless in connecting people in a remote friendly work environment,” Reid says.

Bringing Employees Back Safely into the Hybrid Workplace

The pandemic is far from over, and as a result, companies are now tasked with balancing their need for occasional in-office collaboration with the burden of keeping their employees safe while doing it.

“Most of the companies that we work with typically will rely on local or federal governments to define what safe looks like,” Reid says. “OSHA is a huge resource for a lot of the companies that we work with in trying to identify how we can get people back into the office safely.”

Reid adds that a company must first understand the local or federal guidelines. Then, they can use any number of tools to outline what safety looks like for their organization.

The Future of the Workplace

Technology has always led the charge in the evolution of the workplace. Reid believes that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg:

“We’re already seeing it now with all of the video conferencing technology that’s continuing to be improved. I think that’s going to evolve very rapidly into virtual reality. I’ve had the opportunity to kind of play around a little bit with some of these virtual workplaces. And it’s honestly—really cool.”

I hope you enjoyed this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Tactic. To learn more about creating a successful hybrid work environment, contact Reid Hiatt on LinkedIn

5 Ways Leaders Can Create a Successful Work Environment

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

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

1. Building and sustaining trust.

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

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

2. Leading from values.

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

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

3. Creating communities.

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

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

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

4. Growing transition readiness.

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

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

5. Maintaining a Customer-First Work Environment

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

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

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

 

How to Make Virtual Meetings Immersive Without Video

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Versus Audio-Based Virtual Meetings

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

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

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

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

Pros And Cons of Video-Based Virtual Meetings 

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

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

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

Pros And Cons of Audio-Based Virtual Meetings

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

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

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

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

How To Conduct Productive and Effective Audio Meetings

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

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

1. Eliminate distractions. 

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

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

2. Have an agenda. 

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

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

3. Track and summarize progress. 

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

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

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

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

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

5. Don’t stray off topic.

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

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

6. Invest in a quality microphone. 

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

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

7. Allow time for questions.   

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

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

8. Stay professional. 

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

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

Is Audio Conferencing the Way Forward? 

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

Digital Upskilling to Close the Generation Gap

The enterprise and the workplace are increasingly influenced by technology and technology-driven processes. With digital upskilling becoming an increasing priority, this often comes with a new level of competency and a shift in demand on the skills required to fulfill the needs of a job.

This is particularly true in the insurance industry, where we are seeing a confluence of events. Such as accelerated digital transformation, rapidly-changing customer demands, and the migration to hybrid work models.

This has a direct effect on talent and the workforce.

As a result, many companies are increasing their investments in digital upskilling and reskilling their employees to prepare staff to capitalize on this golden market opportunity.

Building a Digital-Ready Workforce

With new digital tools, connected technologies, and better access to real time data, there is a balance between tried and true insurance methods. This includes new ways of analyzing information and insuring risk. Using new digital tools eliminates or automates repetitive tasks to free up talent to analyze and interpret client needs.

Reskilling, upskilling, and training employees is crucial for companies to build digital-ready workforces to carry their businesses into the future. This will lead to industry modernization and inspire teams to develop solutions that meet evolving customer needs.

Adopting Unique Learning Methods

According to Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends Insurance Industry Outlook, insurance companies are 1.5 times more likely than other industries to develop skills related to innovation and adapting existing products. Additionally, insurers look to drive digital innovation and enhance the user experience to meet evolving customer needs.

This is great news for both current and budding insurance professionals. It is also a warning signal for carriers that are not investing the right time and resources in their talent.

New technology integral to the insurance industry presents an exciting ground for recent graduates. This is also true for employees from other fields looking to make a career transition. To take advantage of this opportunity, both employers and employees must take on a proactive learning mindset.

But appealing to everyone and their preferred way of receiving tools and technology training is a huge undertaking. When it comes to learning and development, teams have to think how to engage generations in the workforce today. While older generations are used to classroom learning, Gen Z and Millennials prefer YouTube videos or snippets of learning available. Companywide training programs incorporate different learning combinations, such as lecture, demo, and hands-on lab exercises.

Training to Suit All Ages

Incorporating the following steps, insurance industry leaders can train different generations across the tools required for learning and technology.

  • Determine the organization’s digital workforce goals: Identify the benefits leaders can expect from their digital upskilling investments and the steps that will be critical to the team’s success.
  • Connecting with the whole organization: Reskilling is not an individual project. Make sure training is available to staff across all levels and incorporate different learning styles to stay in tune with how everyone learns.
  • Provide recognition: Learning additional skills on top of an existing workload is not something that should be taken lightly. Rewarding staff for upskilling will help with employee morale, retention, and engagement.
  • Measuring success: Employees must embrace continuous learning so that reskilling does not fade. To mitigate this possibility, a digital workforce strategy must extend beyond learning and development to influence culture and ways of working.

Finding out which skills are missing across your organization and within specific teams will help you create a stronger workforce.

Embrace the Diversity of Different Generations

Having a range of ages on your staff adds value to the organization. As the age of retirement rises, companies need to explore adopting more inclusive policies to accommodate an older workforce.

Younger employees are more accustomed to rapidly developing technology and adapting to the changes it drives. Similarly, more mature employees have knowledge from the duration of their experience that can guide decision-making.

Creating an environment where all generations can learn from one another allows for mutually beneficial mentoring opportunities. When you have multiple generations in the workforce, those with more years of experience can advise younger employees on career development. Additionally, cross-generational mentoring will allow more junior employees to educate mature workers due to their familiarity with current trends and technology.

When it comes to reskilling and upskilling, it is not only about the generations already in the workforce, but companies also need to provide tools for those reentering the workforce. Reentering the workforce includes re-training of both technology and basic workplace skills.

Digital Upskilling is Here to Stay

As technologies evolve, the need for digitally skilled talent is not just for the short term. Insurers must foster a culture of innovation to develop skilled professionals internally – a culture that attracts them from the outside and helps retain them for the long haul.

One thing is certain: the insurance industry will continue to digitize to meet productivity goals and provide customers with an engaging experience. If companies can proactively address digital upskilling; customers, employees and the overall organization all benefit.

Re-designing Employee Experience Around Well-Being

Amid the unique shockwaves sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, HR tech has found itself at a turning point. Mostly, two major trends have brought on this critical phase in HR technology today. Tangible assets such as human-made codes and patents represent 90 percent of the value of the S&P 500 companies. This has increased the strategic position of Human Resources within companies for the past years now. The smaller trend sprung from the COVID-19 pandemic with 70 percent of employees stating they want hybrid work options to stay in place. The need to offer an online employee experience has given way to major investments in HR technology. Companies heavily count on these investments to support the growing demand in office vs. work-at-home experiences.

With digital taking over, a new approach is emerging in terms of Employee Experience (EX). EX today is transformative in the sense of bringing about sustained cultural change. This purposeful change will empower people to be at their best and foster overall health and well-being. Therefore, as companies are adapting to the new realities of the post-pandemic realm, re-imagining work and well-being experience becomes critical. We need to re-architect well-being experience to bring out human strengths such as creativity, connectivity, and innovation to the fore.

The impact of remote and hybrid work on employee experience

Professionals expect the new working models to stay even in a post-pandemic world. Among many others, Josh Bersin, the president of Bersin & Associates, believes that the future of work is remote. Microsoft researchers point out that “work will likely be a fluid mix of in-person and remote collaboration.” We are yet to see whether the downsides of remote working at scale will come to outweigh the positives. Yet, the tech-enabled wellness solutions will certainly be the lifeblood of the HR Tech market to support employee well-being.

Eighty-nine percent of employees in a February 2021 global Harvard Business Review study said that their work-life was getting worse. More statistics from the same study: 85 percent said that their well-being declined and 56 percent said that their job demands increased. Many people are reporting a range of mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout. More, 94 percent of workers in the U.S. and the U.K. feel stress at work, while more than 50 percent experience sleep loss. Within such a climate, people are looking for more balance and a life with lower levels of conflict and stress. This necessitates that holistic well-being programs be embedded into employee experience management. With this in mind, by adopting holistic employee well-being programs, organizations make a commitment to helping people lead more fulfilling lives.

Key features of a thriving employee well-being program

There is no “one-size-fits-all” well-being solution because every culture and individual is unique. However, the basis of every good wellness program is behavior change. So, what should organizations look for in well-being tech and projects developed by corporate well-being vendors? Further, how is it possible to redesign well-being into the work itself? There are many practices that organizations can take part in to create an impressive well-being experience. For example:

  • Utilizing solutions designed to provide usability, mobility, and accessibility
  • Using gamification to motivate and engage employees to create positive behavioral change
  • Taking a proactive approach to wellness that inspires action through challenges, micro-content, and smooth integration with wearable technology
  • Harnessing the power of friendly competition to build healthy habits, as collective efforts greatly help well-being behaviors “stick”
  • Asking the employees what their well-being needs today are, and empowering them to take their own unique well-being journey
  • Investing in multiple dimensions of well-being.

Strong cooperation between leadership and HR for holistic employee well-being

The dominant view is that HR is the primary responsible party for well-being within an organization. However, it is up to the contributions of the whole organization to promote a culture of well-being. Such collective efforts will create more engaged employees through a transformative employee experience. Richa Gupta reminds us that paying attention to the types of employees you have on staff is key to ensuring a healthier and engaged workforce. In this sense, organizations must commit to well-being programs as a business priority. Leaders should lead by example by creating awareness in areas including mental health, diversity and inclusion, and hybrid work challenges.

In a pandemic-stricken landscape, we find ourselves in a moment of reflection. Thus, ensuring employees remain safe and well-cared-for is vital to deliver a great employee experience. With this in mind, organizations that acknowledge this fact will navigate hard times and emerge stronger in the future. During COVID-19, we have witnessed that fragmented well-being programs fall short of addressing new circumstances. When treated as band-aids for short-term concerns, they cannot provide a whole-of-life experience. It is essential to implement a holistic well-being program integrated into the fabric of organizational culture.

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

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

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

Our Guest: JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect at Axonify

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

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

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

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

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

Making the Frontline Work Experience More Equitable

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

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

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

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

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

Improve Workplace Culture with a Powerful Strategy: Bystander Training

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

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

By the Numbers

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

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

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

Helping the Cause

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

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

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

2. Bystander training is a proactive approach.  

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

3. Bystander training offers individuals options for taking action. 

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

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

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

A New Paradigm: How to Encourage Meaningful Partnership at Work

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

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

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

Use these steps to improve meaningful partnerships in the workplace.

1. Embrace a new mindset.

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

2. Infuse foundational elements for partnership to flourish.

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

3. Develop a workplace covenant.

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

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

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

So what are the benefits of meaningful partnership?

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

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

 

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