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7 Employee Appreciation Ideas People Love

Employee appreciation is naturally top-of-mind for employers during the holiday season. But employees actually prefer recognition throughout the year. In fact, according to a HubSpot survey, 39% of employees don’t feel appreciated, and nearly 7 in 10 think better recognition would boost their performance.

So, what can you do to help your workforce feel more deeply appreciated?

Some organizations rely on standard, old-school methods like plaques. But a more personalized approach is far more effective. A thoughtful token of appreciation is worth much more than its monetary value, alone. It tells people they matter. And that kind of message lasts long after it is received.

Here are some meaningful ways to show your team members just how grateful you are for their contributions.

7 Ways to Elevate Employee Appreciation

1. Give Hard Workers a Break

When you recognize employees for an extraordinary effort on a project or success in achieving an important business goal, don’t just say thank you. Reward them with some well-deserved time off.

In going above and beyond, employees often put in extra hours working on weekends, at night, or in the wee hours of the morning. Along the way, they’re likely to lose precious sleep or family time. By letting them redeem some of that time you can help them relax and recharge after an intense work effort. Even one day away can make an impact.

Providing time off is easy. And if you toss in a bonus gift card or cash for these employees to spend on activities they enjoy, that break is likely to be especially memorable.

2. Spotlight Your Stars on Social Media

Want people on your team to feel like stars? Showcase top performers on social media for the world to see. Share photos or video clips of them on your organization’s accounts and express your gratitude for their unique contributions in an uplifting caption.

Invite your leaders and others to congratulate featured individuals in the comment section. Your “stars” will love the attention as it spreads across social media for others to see. These interactions also increase visibility for your business in all the right ways.

This kind of public recognition is personalized, community-minded, and compelling. Above all, it can boost an employee’s pride, confidence, and morale in ways that private recognition can’t touch. 

3. Create Customized Rewards

Are you thinking of giving top performers a framed certificate, a trophy, or maybe a cash reward? Instead, why not appeal to their particular interests? How do they spend their free time? What hobbies or passion projects matter most to them?

For example, do you have fitness freaks on your team? Reward them with a gym membership, a network pass, or a subsidy.

Maybe some of your people are into group activities. Why not share experiential rewards with them? For instance, you could arrange an outing at a local bowling, bocce, or Topgolf venue.

Or for those who love outdoor adventures like hiking, fly fishing, or river rafting, you could go all out and book a fun vacation package like this: White Water Rafting Montana.

Imagine how thrilled people will be with rewards that fit their interests. Whatever your budget, this is a highly effective way to keep employees motivated and reinforce your relationship with them.

4. Treat Your Team to a Tasty Meal

Everyone loves to eat. And there are endless ways to show employee appreciation with the gift of free food. You could send each employee a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Or to celebrate as a team, why not organize a surprise lunch out?

If your people work remotely, you can arrange to have a meal delivered to everyone’s door at the same time on the same day. Contact a restaurant each employee loves and order their favorite menu item. Or send a gift card to everyone in advance. This is an easy, cost-effective way to bring people together for a casual meetup. And don’t forget to send a heartfelt thank you note to each recipient, as icing on the cake.

5. Celebrate Everyday Efforts

To build and sustain a thriving workforce, look for ways to celebrate individuals and teams on a frequent basis. Ask for your workforce to be your eyes and ears to nominate people who deserve recognition for everyday accomplishments, little wins, and hard work, as well as big achievements. And encourage everyone in your organization to celebrate others, as well.

Genuine, ongoing praise is a powerful employee feedback tactic that drives engagement and job satisfaction. It also models the kind of spirit you want to see at the core of your culture.

Also, don’t forget opportunities to celebrate birthdays and other personal milestones. Let your employees know these aren’t just “checklist” items, but heartfelt gestures. You’ll see them smiling more often and sharing appreciation with peers.

6. Highlight Employee Excellence in Internal Newsletters

Internal newsletters and intranets are great for informational updates, but they’re just as powerful for employee appreciation. It pays to think creatively about how you can acknowledge your best performers through these channels.

You could dedicate a regular column in one of these vehicles to highlight stories about the hard work and accomplishments of top performers. These stories are an excellent way to boost morale and inspire top talent to remain engaged and keep aiming high.

7. Make The Most of Anniversaries

Some organizations treat anniversaries as just another day. But wouldn’t it be great to work for a company that celebrates every year of your employment as an important milestone?

The average employee turnover rate remains 20% higher than pre-pandemic levels. In this tough talent market, why would any employer let an anniversary go to waste?

Each year matters in the life of an employee. Whether they’re new to your organization or they’ve been on board for a long time, every member of your team deserves a celebration dedicated to their service. This kind of recognition can take many forms. But whatever you do, be sure to sincerely acknowledge people for their loyalty and their role in helping your organization advance its mission.

Final Thoughts

Great companies embrace employee appreciation as a crucial way to boost motivation, minimize turnover, and set their organization apart from competitors. Appreciating employees doesn’t need to be difficult, but it should be timely, sincere, and relevant.

Even if your budget is limited, there are endless ways to acknowledge people while reinforcing your organization’s goals, values, and culture. Why not think outside the box and show your appreciation in a truly unique way? All it takes is your commitment, consistency, and some thoughtful planning.

How Do You Measure the Digital Employee Experience?

Sponsored by:  Ivanti

We don’t need a crystal ball to see that the future of work will be more connected, more digital and more flexible. The pandemic brought us a preview of this more adaptable world of work—and many of us want more. But what’s the next step? How can organizations make “anywhere” work a sustainable daily reality?

Smart employers are already digging deep to pave the way forward. But how will they know when their transformation process is working? How will they see results? This is why it’s vital to measure the digital employee experience, early and often.

Organizations that get this right will attract and retain the best talent. So I invite you to learn more about it with me on this #WorkTrends podcast episode.

Meet Our Guest:  Dennis Kozak

Today, I’m speaking with Dennis Kozak, COO of Ivanti, a leading information technology software provider that is on a mission to make the everywhere workplace possible for all of us. Because Dennis has a front-row seat at the table where key digital work decisions are made every day, he is an excellent source of insight for HR and business leaders.

Why Measure the Digital Employee Experience?

Welcome, Dennis! Tell us, why should we connect the dots between employee satisfaction and digital experience?

Typically, HR is very focused on measuring employee engagement, while IT is very focused on providing infrastructure and security. But very seldom do we actually marry those to focus on how IT improves or hinders an employee’s experience.

Timing Is Everything

Tell us about how to measure the digital employee experience. What does this look like?

Well, this is something people don’t think about much until they have a problem.

Your team’s digital environment may work well—until an employee gets a new laptop or a new mobile device and they try to reconnect to the company ecosystem. They’re either successful or they’re not.

So through automation you can always be checking all of the measurement points to ensure that you’re providing a consistent level of service.

Always Be Measuring

Why is it so important to continuously measure the employee digital experience?

IT is continuously changing. There are always new applications, new tools, new devices, new forms of data in an organization. So the environment is never static. And because it’s always changing, you have to continually measure.

If people don’t feel productive and IT becomes a barrier, then clearly job satisfaction will suffer and people will be more likely to leave. Turnover is difficult, not only for an employee, but for an employer, as well. We can help avoid that.

Where IT Can Add Value

How can the IT team work with HR to ensure everyone has access to the tools they need to do their jobs, no matter where they are?

Our research says 26% of employees have considered quitting their jobs because they lack suitable technology. And 42% of employees have spent their own personal money to buy technology so they can work more effectively.

In other words, people don’t necessarily want to wait for their company to help. But these statistics indicate where both functions can improve.

Start by including IT at the table when designing your employee engagement survey. IT and HR rarely work together beyond onboarding and de-provisioning. But IT can show that the innovation and intuitiveness they bring in enabling digital work can be a deciding factor in employee productivity, satisfaction and retention.

 


For more insights from Dennis, listen to this full episode. Also, read the article he recently contributed to our blog: “Digital Employee Experience: Do You Measure What Matters?

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

Is Your Training Content Ready for a Hybrid Workforce?

When it comes to training today’s hybrid workforce, traditional content formats fizzle. Their limitations in flexibility with UI, design, integrations, and analytics can cause learning and development (L&D) initiatives to fall short of expected goals. Improving worker skills in a hybrid setting depends on rethinking the document status quo. To drive experiential learning, adopt interactive training content technology.

It’s a Hybrid World

The future of the workforce is hybrid.

A hybrid workforce is a blended workforce where some work in the office full time, some people are remote full time, and others are in the office part-time and home part-time. As society begins to open up after the pandemic, hybrid workforces have become the norm. For instance, over half of the workforce intends to be in the office 10 days or less a month, according to a Webex study, while Upwork estimates that 26 percent of workers will be working remotely through 2021. Furthermore, they estimate that 22 percent of the entire workforce will work remotely by 2025. That’s roughly 36.2 million people.

So what does this mean for L&D professionals? That complexity will increase the difficulty of running traditional training programs. L&D professionals need to think outside the 2D box to engage and energize hybrid learning. Employees need interactive, engaging, and consistent learning experiences.

L&D professionals need tools that are easy to use to create training content that’s experiential and easily shared among remote workers. They will need to lose the 2D approach and adopt a multimedia approach, including video, polls, and the ability to choose their own personalized learning journey within the training materials.

While it’s important for employees to have an immersive and engaging experience, it is equally important for L&D professionals to easily manage, create, and distribute training materials. It’s especially important for them to be able to make necessary adjustments as time goes on.

How to Drive Experiential Learning in a Hybrid World

What is experiential learning? Experiential learning describes the ideal process of learning and invites you to understand yourself as a learner. It also empowers you to take charge of your own learning and development.

The experiential learning process supports performance improvement, learning, and development. According to David A. Kolb at The Institute for Experiential Learning, “There are two goals in the experiential learning process. One is to learn the specifics of a particular subject, and the other is to learn about one’s own learning process.”

This can’t be done in an engaging way with old training materials—not in today’s hybrid world. You need to have content that’s flexible and powerful enough to fill gaps and support experiential learning opportunities more effectively. Also, The content is important before, during, and after the overall learning experience.

Interactive content is the best solution for experiential learning. It can support multiple media types (e.g., audio, video, etc.). Additionally, it can be customized with polls, quizzes, or other ways to take action and put the new knowledge into practice.

With people at home, at work, or both, training needs to be more self-driven. In other words, interactivity enables self-driven experiences, increasing overall engagement with materials and more freedom for users to learn in the way that best suits them.

You need more powerful digital content platforms to help even the playing field for dispersed workforces. This will help organizations create better digital-first learning experiences.

The Work World Has Gone Hybrid and Your Content Needs to Evolve to Suit It

The shift to hybrid learning is in full swing. Because of this, L&D professionals are in the process of looking at their old training content systems and finding new ways to maintain productivity and meet future goals. The challenge is to deliver consistent development and training materials for hybrid workforces and make learning experiential for dispersed teams. For success, the learning experience must be built to reach participants through as many senses as possible. With this in mind, improving worker skills and capabilities within hybrid workforces depends on rethinking the document status quo. It also means adopting interactive content technology to drive experiential learning.

Photo: Berkeley Communications

The Contact Center Evolution Will be Remote

The pandemic has thrown nearly every industry into a state of rapid-fire transformation, and that includes contact centers. Chances are, nearly everyone reading this has reached a contact center and talked to an agent; during the pandemic, agents have become a direct and human — and welcome — point of contact. And if you’re an employee at a contact center, you’re likely experiencing a whole different way of working right now, on the virtual front lines, in some cases, and I have to say this directly: thank you for being there.  

Nearly overnight, as we launched into lockdown and work-from-home orders, the on-site call center had to be replaced by remote locations with agents and managers working from their homes. Given the high-touch, fast-moving, highly managed nature of call center work, would such a shift be successful? Given the traditional model of a call center workspace, would it work for agents to operate from home? 

According to a new report by Calabrio in collaboration with Ravel Research, the answer to both questions is yes. The just-released study surveyed contact center managers from a broad range of industries, in both the U.S and U.K., to find out what major changes the pandemic has caused for contact centers. Among the factors investigated: how the pandemic has created changing customer expectations, how it changes the dynamic of employee management, how viable remote working is for contact centers, and how business intelligence plays a role in customer-centricity, innovation and operations. 

Such are the issues we all need to focus on as we collectively make the leap from the way we used to work to the way we work now — and beyond. And the study found that overall, the shift to remote working has been good — it’s had a positive impact on engagement, performance and results among agents, as managers note. What’s so compelling to me is that this new, transformed landscape wasn’t hard to navigate at all. In fact, it’s made the job easier and the experience better for call center agents and managers in no less than five key areas:

 1. Remote Improves Performance and Satisfaction

It’s worth noting that pre-pandemic, some contact centers already had a remote component: 36% of contact centers had at least half of their employees working remotely. But with the onset of the pandemic, that number soared, with 89% of contact centers having at least 50% of their employees working remotely. While the shift was triggered by necessity, there has been a groundswell of approval on the part of agents. Necessity triggered the shift, but once agents settle into their remote roles, what’s clear is that many see it as an advantage. Call center managers believe 72% of agents are happy working remotely. 

As far as the positive impact on productivity, again, the numbers are in remote’s favor: 73% of managers surveyed express satisfaction with the productivity of employees now working remotely, and 85% are satisfied with employee productivity on account of flexible hours. Moreover, this is not just a passing fad: the adjustment is expected to stick. Citing remote’s benefits for employee satisfaction, service flexibility, and overall employee performance, 72% of managers say a remote environment is likely to continue in the long-term. It’s a clear sign that to many in this workforce, the changes were not only welcome, they may have been overdue. That’s a relief considering that across the country, reopening plans aren’t exactly going as, well, planned. We may have to shutter those back-to-the-workplace goals in favor of maintaining remote arrangements for everyone’s safety. The good news is that in terms of contact centers, that should not have a negative impact on how well agents are doing, or how they feel about their jobs.

2. An Emphasis on New Skills 

For countless employees, shifting to remote (as well as to flexible schedules) has also shifted the emphasis to new skills; the same is true for contact center agents. Managers in the study report that 49% of their employees are better at self-management, 42% have improved their problem-solving abilities, and 42% are better at both technology set-up and security awareness. 

Being a contact center agent has always required excellent soft skills — ask an agent what he or she thinks and I’d bet the answer is that these are hard-won, carefully developed, and endlessly practiced; they’re not really “soft” at all. But now add these three critical skills to the toolbox of abilities — soft or not — that call center agents need, such as clear communication, empathy, patience, attention to detail, and the ability to maintain a positive attitude, and you have the new paradigm for recruiting. It’s not just about being able to ‘give good phone,’ as they used to say, but now also about being able to stay on track no matter where an agent is working from. And again, this reflects the overall trend in remote working: we’re all learning how to balance, integrate, and think on our feet in a new context. The difference is that we don’t always have a customer on the other line, with urgency, possibly stress, and an increased need for our empathy, responsiveness and great service. 

 3. Evolved Training and Coaching

The Calabrio/Ravel survey also reveals that while training and coaching have been able to continue without too much interruption, there will be a greater need to develop new methods and leverage the shift to a virtual workspace. As their top three training resources, managers name video calls and web conferencing (53%); live online training classes (44%); and recorded online training classes (35%). More than half of managers anticipate that moving forward, they will inevitably be able to do less in-person, one-on-one training. 

From a talent development perspective, this is an immense possibility — to harness the remote environment to bring new modes of training and coaching to contact center hires. Virtual Reality could provide new hires with an experiential and impactful way to learn. Digital resources, such as mock scenarios that reflect larger social and behavioral changes, and other “walk in their shoes” approaches may help to mitigate concerns such as unconscious bias or help raise the threshold in terms of patience. By carefully crafting these to begin with, employees have a holistic but modern tool at their disposal. Another option: on-demand and self-service modules, speaking to people’s need for greater flexibility.  

4. Quality Evaluations and Predictive Analytics

Working in a vacuum is a common lament for remote employees. But there are certainly ways to counteract that sense of isolation — and an opportunity to increase feedback and coaching with digital tools. To improve brand impact and with a sense of increased customer urgency (a byproduct of life during a pandemic), managers have ramped up evaluations. According to the study: 1 in 3 contact centers have increased the number of quality evaluations of customer interactions. And while it’s true that evaluations can be a thorn in a manager’s side if done entirely manually, in this case managers are getting smart, leveraging digital tools to ease the heavier load. 44% of managers are using predictive analytics and/or automated quality monitoring. These tools are boosting their effectiveness when it comes to agent coaching, speeding up the process and promoting responsiveness in real time. Being able to spot key trends for the full 100% of interactions means that manual evaluations can be far more targeted. And managers are freed from the traditional reliance of “walking the floor” in favor of a smoother and more fluid agent development process.  

Is this the wave of the future? Managers’ responses on this may be an indication: only 30% think quality evaluations will be the same as they were before and 27% believe they will be doing more evaluations. Yet clearly, some are more forward-thinking than others: 20% believe they will be seeing more automated quality monitoring, and 19% say they will be using more analytics. What this speaks to, from my perspective, is that these tools are on the horizon for some, and already in use for others. And instead of seeing tools like automation or predictive analytics as a norm, managers may see it as a stopgap, envisioning a point when things get “back to normal,” and they can go back to how they conducted evaluations before. That may indicate a gap in perception: these are the same managers who believe remote contact centers will continue into the future; and sentiment around predictive analytics and automation will likely grow. We’ll see how this plays out.

5. New Technologies Offer New Opportunities

The new technologies coming to contact centers are having a profound impact on employee as well as manager experience, and offering new opportunities for support as well as growth. The old adage: If you build it, they will come, applies to a call center — and as we’ve seen as we pivot to remote, instead of agents and managers coming to a physical workspace, now remote innovations are coming to them. The survey asked its respondents: How have your contact center’s investments changed in the following areas, because of the pandemic? Not surprisingly, the biggest investments are in remote working solutions (65%); video conferencing tools (62%); and then, expanded channels for customer communication (52%). All are helping to modernize the manager and agent experience. And it may or may not be a kind of workplace irony to have a human call agent aided by a chatbot or virtual assistance, but these are not as high on the list. 

What is markedly on the rise is business intelligence (BI). A full 90% of respondents say they are maintaining or increasing their investment in BI solutions. And contact managers expect a higher demand for contact analytics to come from every department. We’re going to see call centers increasingly rely on data and more accurate reporting to better assess performance and set strategy — yet another sign that digital tools are leading the evolution. For a remote workforce, BI knits together people, interactions and operations in real time, allowing for a far greater sense of the big picture, elevated flexibility when it comes to key questions asked, and an increased sense of connection between individual effort and overall results.

None of these developments are going to take the place of human connection, however. The rationale behind grabbing the brass ring of better and better technologies is as a means to improve the interactions between agents and customers — by enabling agents to better do their job, from training to maintaining their performance. That includes the interactive dashboards being used by some call centers to provide agents with real-time data on how they’re doing. Designed to answer the questions an individual agent might ask, these provide a graphic as well as numeric scoreboard they can continue to monitor to track their own improvements. 

Self-accountability and a sense of personal stake in excellence may turn out to be our best asset of all. For agents and managers in call centers, these traits are clearly driving the evolution as much as any external forces — and pointing to an overall growth in workplace culture we may not have expected, but as the Calabrio/Ravel survey shows, it’s happening right now.

To find out more, download the study.

This post is sponsored by Calabrio.

Snacks Make All the Difference: Why Free Food is a Great Workplace Perk

When it comes to boosting employee morale, finding small ways to make the day a bit more pleasant, fun, and less stressful can go a long way. That’s why office perks are a big deal at today’s top companies—and among the most appetizing are boatloads of free snacks.

Don’t worry—you don’t need to hire a celebrity chef and create gourmet meals on-site. However, stocking a bountiful snack pantry, setting up a coffee bar, or having free lunch Fridays just might feed your employees’ workplace devotion, and end up offering a pretty healthy return on your investment. According to a Glassdoor survey, younger workers aged 18-34 (89 percent) and 35-44 (84 percent) said they actually prefer benefits or perks to pay raises. And of the perks listed, 19 percent mentioned free lunch.

When you consider that only 22 percent of offices provide free snacks and beverages, it’s an easy and fairly low-cost way to stand out from your competitors.

Take a look at a few of the benefits of keeping your staff well-fed to decide if it’s time to get in on the office snacking trend:

Snacks make people happy. Even in companies that have extremely or very satisfied employees, a survey by grocery delivery service Peapod found that the happiness factor goes up when free food is involved-jumping from 56 percent in companies with bare cupboards, to 67 percent at workplaces that supply snacks. Think about organizations that are known for their great employer brands (like Dropbox, Apple, and Google), and you’ll see that fabulous food is a staple of the employee perks menu.

Your staff may be more productive. It’s hard to dispute the fact that hunger tends to creep up throughout the day, especially around 3:00 in a hectic office setting. So, ask yourself-isn’t it better if your employees walk into the kitchen or lounge for a cupful of popcorn or to make a cappuccino, than if they step out and end up taking an extended work break? Why do you think tech start-ups are notorious for having so many perks on-site-it’s to limit the need for their employees to leave the premises. By encouraging people to remain in the building, you’ll limit those 15-minute coffee runs that turn into 45 minutes, or those 30-minute lunches that turn into two hours.

Healthy food can improve moods and keep people energized. You can’t argue with nutritional science. By offering an array of healthy energy-boosting foods, it will help prevent your workers from crashing or fizzling out. Sure, it’s nice to have cupcakes or pizza luncheons from time to time, but for daily offerings, stick with snacks that will invigorate your workers. The American Heart Association actually has a Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage Toolkit that offers smart snack and lunch suggestions for employers to offer. Among the most important tips are to provide clean, cool water, always, and offer healthy treats, like a “Build Your Own Trail Mix” bar, complete with dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and whole grain cereal or granola.

If you’re looking for an easy and affordable way to increase employee satisfaction, consider serving up some free snacks. A giant jar of pretzels or a few bunches of bananas might seem insignificant, but that small gesture can help show your workers that you appreciate them.

This article was first published on Huffington Post.

Cultivate a Thriving Workforce, No Matter Where Your Team Works

What does it take for people to thrive at work? What can companies do to ensure their employees feel energized and empowered to contribute at work and maximize their productivity?

There’s no single silver bullet, but companies that score high in employee satisfaction and don’t have team members jumping ship tend to have many characteristics in common. These companies focus on inclusion, and help share insight into the value-add various departments bring to the table. They are committed to professional development and encourage staff to learn new skills that can help advance their careers. They organize mentorship programs for their senior and junior staffers, and they celebrate diversity.

These initiatives, while important, will likely get an overhaul in coming years as telecommuting becomes more normative. In fact, by 2022, 60 percent of today’s employees are expected to work remotely.

We know cultivating a thriving workforce is key to collaboration, success, and your bottom line. The following strategies, proven for building winning teams, can help you maximize production and engagement wherever your employees are based.

Embracing a Remote Workforce. While news of IBM calling back their remote workforce to the office made headlines, working remotely is gaining in popularity. Research indicates work-from-home jobs are a viable career path with increasingly more managerial and C-level positions turning into location-independent roles.

It behooves companies to give more thought to the tools and strategies they can use to help in-house and remote workers collaborate to achieve shared goals. This can include dashboards everyone on a team or in a company can view in real-time, as well as weekly check-in calls for teams, no matter their location. Incorporating expectations around collaboration in performance reviews will also send a message that working well together as a team is critical to getting ahead at your company.

Setting Plans for People Development . As routine tasks continue to be automated, it’s important to encourage your workers to identify and develop tomorrow’s in-demand skill sets. These can include design thinking, predictive analytics, and collaboration skills, such as inclusive and digital leadership capabilities. Increase retention, while also adding value to your bottom line, by providing in-house training to help employees develop the skills they will need to drive your company forward in the future. “Even such things as collaborative projects and blogs can help employees learn and gain new skills,” says Sam Liu, a consultant with Mercer.

Motivating Employees Through Opportunity, Meaning & Benefits. Help employees—particularly those working remotely—to fully understand how the company operates and the ins and outs of their roles. Explaining in detail to a new sales manager how the sales team generates leads, makes calls, and closes sales can go a long way and is worth the time investment. This “can mean the difference between a powerful and motivated sales team adding to the bottom line; or a floundering, confused sales department working ineffectively, wasting precious time and losing prime opportunities for new business,” explains business strategist Howard Lewinter on his blog, “Talk Business with Howard.”

Role of Recruiting in Cultivating Office Culture. When hiring, be as transparent about your company values and the corporate culture as possible–starting with job listings, during interviews, and for the onboarding process. In fact, you may even conduct the entire interview process without meeting the candidate face to face if they’ll be working remotely. That process has worked for seven of his recent hires, says Sten Tamkivi, the co-founder and CEO of Teleport, a company that helps workers choose which city in which to live and work.

Tamkivi stresses the importance of incorporating tasks into the interview process that potential hires can do remotely. “We ask people to set deadlines and then deliver what they promised by then—often this reliability and transparency is even more important than the contents of the trial work delivered in a short time,” he says.

Many of the same tactics that have been working for decades to increase employee engagement—such as professional development opportunities, being transparent about the office culture, and creating mentorship programs—will continue to be important. However, as the remote workforce gains more ground, these initiatives will need to shift as companies will use technology to ensure that employees exchange ideas freely and bridge the physical distance that may divide them. Succeeding in these efforts will boost morale—and your company’s bottom line.

Photo Credit: sabanabibi Flickr via Compfight cc

3 Ways To Gain Employee Engagement in Technology Adoption

Today, organizations of all sizes are experiencing a digital transformation. Irrespective of the industry or sector, the majority of businesses are implementing technology to better serve their customers and drive more revenue. During the transition, it is very common to hear these companies gripe –“We’ve spent an obscene amount of money on that tool, but people are still not using it.” According to an MIT Sloan study, most organizations consider adoption of new technologies to be at the top of their lists for future success. However, most of their employees find the process “complex and slow”. Why does this happen?

Employee engagement is paramount to drive tech adoption

When deploying a technology, businesses often forget employees are the ones who perform and deliver value; technology merely helps them do that better. When you implement technology without considering if it’s actually going to make the user’s job easier, they won’t have the incentive to use it. When you frame technology through the context of your employees, you can achieve the kind of engagement you need to drive high returns on your tech investments.

When employees aren’t fully involved with management’s tech initiatives, money and time get wasted. This is one of the main reasons why, despite having enterprise-issued technology at the workplace, employees turn to non-approved apps or tools. Staff are familiar with and comfortable using these platforms, and hence perform tasks more efficiently. That said, this also puts your organization’s security and privacy at risk. How do you find the perfect happy medium?

Choose technology with care

No matter what technology you’re planning to purchase for your organization, frame it through the interests of those who will use it daily. Don’t get swayed by functionality alone; consider the end user. Also, technology that requires a massive learning curve are almost always rejected by employees. Therefore, get your team to do multiple trials, listen to their feedback, and then spend your money on the best tech tool for their needs. This will ensure its adoption across all levels of your organization.

Spread awareness

According to 2013 US Mobile Enterprise Risk Survey, 38 percent of workers in U.S. companies are not aware of BYOD (“Bring You Own Device”) policies existing in their organization. The lack of knowledge about the potential dangers causes employees using their own devices or cloud-based applications to risk the security of the organization. To help combat this “Shadow IT” show your employees the positive sides of using your enterprise technology and explain how it can help them work productively without inviting any risks for the organization.            

Show, dont tell

While putting forth your argument for a new technology, you need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Prove that the technology actually works. According to experts, a better approach is to build a team of tech champions and loyal adopters by convincing a handful of employees to try the new technology for an initial period. Once they experience the benefits, they’ll not only promote the new tool among their co-workers but they’ll also help others acclimatize to it.

If we want our employees to buy into our tech initiatives, we need to be more steadfast in helping them understand why we are investing in them. Incentivizing your teams to embrace your tech adoption strategy is a great way to engage employees. Engagement is critical to achieve buy in from all levels of the organization.

This post was brought to you by IBM for MSPs and opinions are my own.

This article was first published on Converge.xyz

Image: Image Attribution

The Sharp Drop-Off in Worker Happiness and What You Can do About it

Worker happiness has fallen every year for the last 25 years–in good economic times and bad. Today, over half of American workers effectively hate their jobs. Once the economy picks up, that could mean a mass exodus from your ranks, unless you take action now.

A friend of mine resigned his long-time bank management job this week to take early retirement. I learned about it on Facebook.

As I began reading his announcement, I fully expected it to be an animated recounting of all the new hobbies he planned to pursue and exotic trips he intended to take. But it quickly became clear that this was no ordinary farewell note. He was truly upset about ending his career prematurely and wanted everyone close to him to understand why.

It was painful to discover that my former colleague had grown profoundly disheartened by the way his organization’s leadership had been treating him. With over two decades of service behind him, he called it quits simply because he couldn’t take it anymore.

“I felt like no one cared about me as a person there, and finally decided to extricate myself from the grind. I know many of you feel the same way now in your jobs…trapped and unappreciated.”

There was a sense of relief in his words, as if I was reading about someone who had been imprisoned, found an escape route, and wanted to show others the way to freedom.

“You may not be able to retire quite yet like me, but please do yourself a favor and look for something more satisfying. It might take a while (it took me eight months once I made the decision), but it’s been so worth it. If you’re old like me, then think about early retirement. If you’re young, look for a more satisfying, fulfilling career path. Don’t let these companies drain off your sense of worth, pride, health, energy, honesty and ethics. Are you listening [XYZ Bank]*? Of course you’re not.”

I share his words as another illustration that our common approach to workplace leadership is failing. And experts have been trying to tell us this for years.

New York’s Conference Board, a century-old research firm, began studying employee satisfaction and engagement 25 years ago. Their work shows that worker happiness has fallen every year since–in good economic times and bad. Today, over half of American workers effectively hate their jobs.

But it’s the past four years that have brought employee discontent to new and highly charged levels.

“People were already unhappy, but the recession years have made things much worse,” says John Gibbons, formerly of the Conference Board and now Vice President of Research and Development at the Institute For Corporate Productivity. “Whether we realize it or not, workers have been under constant duress. Because of scarce resources, few opportunities for development and promotions–not to mention the fact that people often have been required to do the work of more than one person–a lot of our workforce is burnt out. Employees across the country feel overworked, under-rewarded and greatly unappreciated.”

The recession has been hard on managers too, no doubt. Delivering great customer service, and achieving KPIs and revenue goals all have been a tremendous challenge during this extended period of limited means.

But it’s clear that many leaders have lost sight of what matters most to people at work. Appreciation. Support. Recognition. Respect. And when people feel disillusioned and virtually convinced things have to be better somewhere else, they do what my friend did. They quit.

According to the U.S. Labor Department, 2.1 million people resigned their jobs in February, the most in any month since the start of the Great Recession.

Dating back to mid-2011, numerous studies have reported that at least one-third of the American workforce planned to jump ship in 2012. Since very little action has yet to be taken on that threat, however, those predictions have come to be seen only as “Chicken Little exaggerations.” Business leaders, therefore, have grown less concerned.

But the government’s new “Job Opening And Labor Turnover Survey,” (JOLTS), holds the reminder why more employees haven’t (yet) departed. Jobs have remained scarce; 12.7 million people remain unemployed in the U.S. today, while only 3.5 million job openings exist. That translates into nearly four people chasing every one job–not including already employed workers seeking greener, and more respectful, pastures.

Simply because 2.1 million people were able to find new jobs, February’s mass exodus may prove to be the watershed moment when turnover becomes the problem it was predicted to be.

However, there still may be time for managers to re-recruit their employees before they leave. This won’t be easy and it will most definitely require a significant change in leadership practices. Here are three things leaders should learn quickly and never forget:

  1. What makes people happiest in their jobs is all profoundly personal.“Do I work for an organization whose mission and methods I respect?” “Does my boss authentically advocate for me?” “Is the work I do meaningful?” “Am I afforded sufficient variety in my day?” “Do I feel valued and appreciated for all the work that I do?”

We know that all these matter more to people than their compensation–and workers generally don’t quit jobs when these basic needs are met. According to a worldwide Towers Watson study, the single highest driver of employee engagement is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their well-being. Today, only 40% of workers believe that.

  1. People only thrive when they feel recognized and appreciated.In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Why Appreciation Matters So Much,” Tony Schwartz reminds us that all employees need to be praised, honored, and routinely acknowledged for their efforts and achievements. Consequently, leaders must allow themselves to manage more from their hearts.

Our brains are great at building strategies, managing capital, and analyzing data. But it’s the heart that connects us as human beings, and its what’s greatly lacking in American leadership today. This is what now must change.

  1. Your employees will stay if you tell them directly you need them, care about them, and sincerely plan to support them.Any time someone quits a job for a reason other than money, they’re leaving in hope that things will be better somewhere else. So, everyone who works for you must be made to feel that they matter. Plan one-on-one meetings and re-discover the dreams each person has at work. Tell people directly how valuable they are to you. To be successful, all your future behavior must demonstrate to your employees that their best career move is to remain working for you.

Being human and treating one another with dignity and respect is something the heart already knows to do. Leaders would all do well to follow it.

*His former employer, one of the U.S.’s largest financial institutions.

A version of this was first posted on fastcompany.com

New Data on Impact of Office Design and Décor

We’ve known about the importance of work environments for some time now. In a 2003 survey by Management Today, 97 percent of respondents said they regard their workplace as a symbol of whether or not they are valued by their employer. While this shouldn’t come as a surprise, there’s a disheartening new layer to the story. According to data we compiled from a recent survey of 1,000 Americans who work in traditional office environments (no freelancers, retailers or astronauts), many employers fail to create inspiring, uplifting work environments.

Office decor infographics

In many cases, employers aren’t taking care of basic elements that most people associate with a pleasant, welcoming, modern workplace. One in three people report there are no plants at their offices and one in four say there is no art. Those are special accents, you say—reserved only for the privileged businesses that can afford them? Consider this: 45 percent of the people we surveyed have little to no natural light in their environment and 46 percent say the design and décor in their workplace lends it no personality whatsoever.

Light, according to our survey, is the most significant factor that shapes an office environment and the feelings of the workers in that environment. And it’s not just about feelings either—yes, people who report having “a lot” of natural light in their workplace are more likely to say they feel comfortable and uplifted in that environment, but they’re also 35 percent more likely to say their environment increases productivity. It doesn’t end there. A study by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois found people exposed to more light at work had longer, healthier sleep schedules.

Furniture is another key element that affects a person’s experience of their work environment, both in terms of comfort and aesthetics. For the most part, American workers are happy with their office furniture. Seventy-nine percent are satisfied with its appearance and 82 percent are satisfied with its comfort. But when it’s not right, it’s really not right—the people who reported their furniture situation is “bad” were three times more likely to feel their environment hurts productivity and two times more likely to consider it depressing. As it stands now, just one in four people say they would be proud to show their office environment to friends and family. It’s doesn’t have to be that way! If you’re one of the seventy-five percent who aren’t proud, show our data to your boss, share a link on social, spread the word to let people know that designing an inspired workplace isn’t just a good thing to do, it’s the right thing to do for the health of a business.

This post was first published on Pots Planters and more.

Photo Credit: marksley Flickr via Compfight cc

Who Let the Dogs In? The Benefits of Allowing Pets in the Workplace

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HR directors at many companies today won’t put you in the doghouse for bringing your pet to work—in fact, it’s encouraged. As far as nonfinancial employee perks go, you might even call it the cat’s meow.

Why? When employees bring their pets to work, it enables a better work-life balance—something that’s a key selling point to attract top talent in today’s market. It’s also been shown that this low-cost benefit can improve work performance, boost employee happiness, and aid in the long-term retention of star employees.

Let’s explore some of the benefits businesses have experienced when they made room for their employees’ four-footed BFFs.

1. Increased employee happiness. Pet owners know how it feels to return home from work to find their dog greeting them with a wagging tail. What if you could capture those feelings of love and acceptance when you arrived at the office? A pet-friendly workplace does just that.

Studies show gazing into your pet’s eyes releases oxytocin—the same feel-good hormone that helps new mothers bond with their babies. So, employees who want to boost their mood can spend a few minutes with their pet and return to their tasks relaxed, refreshed, and feeling better.

2. A better work culture. Oxytocin also increases trust and altruism—two highly desirable traits in a successful workplace—so having pets around can positively impact your work culture.

Additionally, in a survey of 200 human resource professionals and 1,000 employees, 70 percent said they believe pets improve working conditions. Specifically, allowing pets in the office can foster communication, openness, and teamwork.

3. A low-cost (or even zero cost) solution to increase employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention. Some HR directors will invest thousands of dollars a year in training, corporate retreats, or free snacks in the break room to keep employees engaged and onboard. But allowing employees to bring their dogs and cats to work could have the same positive effect as these other pricey perks, but with little to no cost. In fact, 53 percent of employees who worked in pet-free environments said they’d be more likely to stay if they could bring their pets to work.

4. A better work-life balance. From flex time to telecommuting, HR directors today look for ways to help employees achieve a better work-life balance. Dog owners especially may feel guilty about leaving their pet home alone for eight or more hours each day, and they often struggle to fit in walks or playtime with their pets when they do return home.

5. An effective recruiting tactic. HR directors reported that 65 percent of job candidates ask about pet policies during their interview, which implies that a pet-friendly workplace can be a potent recruiting tool.

Showcase your pet-friendly policy by posting pics or videos of your employees and their pets on your social media channels. You can even organize a lunchtime outing to the dog park with your staff and capture the antics on video to help spread the word. After all, if there’s one form of social media content that’s proven to go viral often, it’s funny pet videos.

6. A positive environment. With all these benefits, it’s no surprise that people view pet-friendly offices in a positive light. In fact, 70 percent of HR managers and employees polled say pets have an overall positive effect on a workplace.

Why Don’t More People Bring Their Dogs to Work?

Surprisingly, though, less than half of employees take advantage of their company’s pet-friendly policies. That number is slightly higher for the HR directors who make the policies; 75 percent of HR directors reported bringing their own pets to work on a weekly basis.

HR directors should make sure employees understand the policy for pets in the office and its advantages to encourage a higher adoption rate and reap even greater rewards from this popular perk.

Photo Credit: ASHLANDJET Flickr via Compfight cc

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This Slaphappy World of Work

“A tired mind become a shape-shifter
Everybody need a mood lifter
Everybody need reverse polarity
Everybody got mixed feelings
About the function and the form
Everybody got to deviate from the norm…”

— Rush, “Vital Signs”

On my flight to the third annual Candidate Experience Awards and the first-ever Candidate Experience Symposium, I fell asleep.

And I sort of daydreamed…

It was the year 2030. A new world of work startup called SlapHappy had developed a dramatic new biometric nanotechnology, taking sentiment analysis, work/life integration and employee engagement to an unprecedented place.

The early adopters were few, and while the rest of the world cried out how unethical it and downright crazy it was, the results were astounding. Two extremely powerful computers, the sizes of poppy seeds, were injected into the new employees and contractors of each participating company. Of course, if the interested candidates refused to be injected, then they would be rejected and not hired.

One tiny computer was injected into the frontal lobes and the other into the bloodstream. Billions of cellular and synaptic transactions were measured every minute while highly sophisticated algorithms analyzed the data and generated continuous feedback on how the individuals were feeling about work.

But it didn’t stop there – the data stream was 24/7, ensuring that every second of every day was aggregated and analyzed – to see how the individuals felt about anything and everything.

The caveat was in the what. Meaning, the technology didn’t “mind read,” so there was no way to know specifically what each person was thinking, or if they were seriously ill, but it did give individuals valuable “wellness” information as to how their daily life affected their overall health and mental wellbeing, especially at work.

And for the companies (and even some government entities) participating, well, they could use this data combined with many other skills and competency assessments and qualitative surveys as a litmus test to whether or not they had the right people in the right place at the right time.

In fact, that was part of their tagline: SlapHappy with the Right Transparency in the Right Place at the Right Time.

The complete reports generated with this technology dramatically changed the way companies and employees alike treated each other and developed themselves (and lived their lives), but the core visualization of over “health” included only three simple emoticons:

  • Smiley Face
  • Frowny Face
  • Zombie Face

These emoticons appeared for the participants anywhere they went via their virtual laptops, mobile devices and wearable technology (glasses, watches, etc.). Yes, they were easy to share with the world as well, and many of them were. Participants always new how they felt; their companies always knew how they felt. All parties developed a greater parity with business outcomes (and rewards) because of this intimate real-time feedback.

Companies using SlapHappy also had to agree to appear in their 24/7 SlapHappy Index for all the world to see where they stood at any given time, including attrition rates, innovation rates, revenue rates and more.

Were they a happy place to work? An unhappy place? A place where only the dead walked the hallways?

I awoke from my daydream thinking, “Holy crap.”

Is this the future of ultimate engagement and the ROI of workplace transparency? Will this be how we live, thrive or perish?

No one knows. Yet. But as Kim Peters, CEO of Great Rated!, a company that gives job seekers the inside scoop on companies and their cultures so they can find their best fit, told us on the TalentCulture #TChat Show, companies that want to be the employer of choice, that want to be one of the great places to work for, they need to be willing to take that leap of faith to see just exactly how their own employees feel about working for them and how that in turn affects their recruitment efforts. And the workforce in its entirety must share in that elevating and sometimes debilitating risk.

But when they do, the results can be dramatic:

  • Independent financial analysts regularly study the financial performance of “100 Best” companies. Analysis shows publicly traded 100 Best Companies consistently outperform major stock indices by a factor of 2.
  • Scripps Health, a Great Place to Work® client, faced operating losses, high turnover, and labor shortages. Leaders turned their focus to building a great workplace. In the time since, they drastically improved their financial performance, turnover rates, and employee morale, increasing annual profits by over 1200%.
  • Best Companies typically experience as much as 65% less voluntary turnover than their competitors, saving money in employee recruitment and training.

So, in order to empower this slaphappy world of work, you’ve got to:

  1. Enable X-Ray Vision. If you’re of a certain age, you may remember reading comic books and seeing advertisements for X-ray vision glasses, giving you the ability to see through, well, anything. That fantasy of old is a reality today for employers, employees and candidates alike, with social media and world of work review sites giving anyone the ability to “see through” company walls as much as they can see into candidates’ backgrounds. You want the right people in the right place at the right time, so give them the X-ray vision and help them self-select.
  2. But Kill the CGI. Special effects today are mesmerizing. You can create creatures and landscapes with high-definition clarity that look so real you can sometimes no longer tell the difference. We can literally control the weather of any moment in time (or out of time) with computers, servers and lots of smart code. But in real life, the breakdown to attract and keep talent occurs because we continuously market and sell each other blue sky, when all the while the true storm clouds brew and burst at a moment’s notice, grounding trust’s feeble flight. Both employers and employees take note: we will never be able to control the weather. Ever.

Love it or leave it, how we feel about what we do and where we do it is only going to proliferate further online, deviating thankfully from the norm and shining bright spots upon the world of work.

Hey, I’ll show you my emoticon if you show me yours.

photo credit: Dru! via photopin cc

Employee Engagement: Say It Like You Mean It #TChat Recap

(Editor’s Note: Looking for details of this week’s #TChat Events? See the Storify slideshow and resource links at the end of this post.)

Dearest Employee:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I give you a fair wage. I give you competitive benefits. I give you a safe workspace. I give you freedom to work at home, and innovative tools to communicate. I give you beer bashes and company events. I give you a professional title. I give you a team, a staff, a department. I give you the work you love.

But it’s just not enough, is it? It’s never enough. You just keeping taking, and taking, and taking.

What else can I do? What’s that? Oh, I see. It’s not you, it’s me — is that it?

Talk Is Cheap

Even the most gracious, modest employers can develop this kind of benevolent hubris. But competition for top talent is continuing to heat up, and people are losing interest in luke-warm relationships with their employers. Combine that with the fact that the world of work is getting more stressful for us all — from CEO to freelancer — with blurred lines between professional and personal life.

So, what more will it take to win employee hearts and minds? Workforce wellness pioneer, Virgin Pulse, has advice, based on results of a new U.S. employee survey. And that’s what the TalentCulture community discussed yesterday at #TChat Events with our guests Chris Boyce, CEO at Virgin Pulse, and Kevin Herman, Director of Worksite Wellness at The Horton Group.

Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

Here’s the good news: Less than 2% of respondents say they hate their company and want out. Even better, 75% say they either “love” their company because it’s a great place to work, or they feel “pretty good” about it. At first blush, that looks like a win for employers. But here’s the rub — only 25% of respondents say they feel love in return.

This gap signals a major opportunity for companies to develop stronger relationships with their troops. But how? The same survey asked employees to rank what they wish mattered more to their employers:

 44% my financial well-being
  40% my career development
  39% my work/life balance
  35% my emotional health (e.g. reducing stress)
  29% my overall well-being and quality of life.

You can see where this is going. Other recent research echoes these sentiments. We want a better life overall — and that doesn’t mean just more pay and health coverage. We want employers to invest in us as complete humans.

Two Ways To Connect

Yesterday’s #TChat conversation reinforced this understanding. The TalentCulture community got right to the heart of what motivates people in the workplace:

1) Aim Deeper: Surface perks like nap rooms, chair massages, and ice cream socials are nice, but there are more meaningful, practical options. People respond to things like flexibility to manage their schedule. They need to take care of business and family without compromising either — whether they work in a corporate office, at home, or both. They don’t want to feel guilty or take a financial hit when they’re tending to a family member’s health, or their own.

2) Aim Wider: People want to feel better about themselves while loving the work they do. They respond to programs and resources that improve their overall health and well-being — not just health club reimbursements, but onsite gyms and stress management support, healthy cafeteria options, even financial planning assistance. If they’re being asked to contribute “the total package” to their job, they want to know their employer has a similar commitment to therm.

So, Workforce Cupid, how do I love thee? Let me count the healthy ways. Happy Valentine’s Day.

#TChat Week-In-Review: Love Your Employees, They’ll Love You Back

ChrisB

See Chris Boyce discuss wellness and healthcare costs

SAT 2/8:
#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in a post featuring a brief video with Chris Boyce. See the #TChat Preview: “Does Your Workforce Feel the Love?

SUN 2/9:
Forbes.com Post:
In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, discussed how heartfelt leadership can drive better business results. Read “Let Love Inspire Your Leadership.

RELATED POSTS:
Job Hunting? Look For Employers That Care About Your Future” — by Chris Boyce
Leaders: Is Your ‘Work’ Self the Real Deal? — by Ted Coine
Workplace Wellness: The Story Starts With Healthy Culture” — by Chris Boyce

WED 2/12:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show replay

#TChat Radio: Our hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talked with Chris Boyce and Kevin Herman about why and how employers should demonstrate their commitment to workforce well-being. Listen to the #TChat Radio replay now…

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin, Chris and Kevin guests moved over to the #TChat Twitter stream, for an open all-hands conversation with the entire TalentCulture community. This dynamic discussion focused on 5 key questions about employee engagement issues and opportunities in today’s business environment.

See highlights from the Twitter stream the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: Does Your Workforce Feel The Love?

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Chris Boyce and Kevin Herman for sharing your perspectives on the importance of driving employee engagement through wellness programs that serve the “whole” person. Your passion and perspectives are invaluable!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about employee engagement strategies? We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week at #TChat Events, we’ll look at how employers can be more effective at finding and hiring top talent. Our guests are Chris Mursau VP at Topgrading, and Jean Lynn, VP of HR at Home Instead Senior Care. Look for more details this weekend, and save the date: Wednesday, February 19!

Meanwhile, the TalentCulture conversation continues daily on #TChat Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our NEW Google+ community. So join us anytime on your favorite social channels.

We’ll see you on the stream!

(Editor’s Note: CONGRATS to Paul Thoresen — winner of the recent Pebble smartwatch giveaway from Dice! And thanks to all the #TChat contributors who shared tech recruiting ideas and questions with Dice and #FutureofTech.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

The Business Wisdom of Recognition #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for a full review of this week’s events and resources? See “Recognition: Meaning and Motivation: #TChat Recap.”)

If you could pick your dream employer, where would you work?

Patagonia? Facebook? Google? It’s no mystery why so many people find these companies attractive — employee satisfaction is off the charts. Great organizations offer members of their workforce many reasons to love their jobs. And studies show it’s a worthwhile investment. High employee engagement is directly tied to tangible business benefits — improved productivity, increased retention and higher profits.

Recognition: Secret Sauce?

Perhaps the most vital factor in the engagement equation is recognition. But recognizing employees is apparently easier said than done. Can we learn from best practices? It seems like a great place to start. That’s why we’re focusing on “Recognition Done Right” this week at TalentCulture #TChat forums. Leading the way are two experts on employee recognition:

#TChat Sneak Peek Videos

Max briefly joined me for a G+ Hangout to outline the role of recognition in today’s workplace:

And then Stan offered a glimpse of why and how recognition is so important:

#TChat Events: Recognizing How to Recognize

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show

This aspect of employee engagement has such tremendous potential. So why do organizations and leaders often seem to struggle to get recognition right? How important should this be on a leader’s list of priorities? What are your thoughts, as professionals who focus on the “human” side of business?

Let’s talk about it and learn from one another!

#TChat Radio — Tuesday, May 21 at 7:30pmET / 4:30pmPT — Stan and Max join our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman for a 30-minute deep dive into issues and opportunities surrounding recognition and organizational culture.

#TChat Twitter — Wednesday, May 22 at 7:00pmET / 4:00pmPT — Calling all #TChatters to join us on Twitter, as Stan and Max return to drive an open online crowdsourcing conversation. Check out the questions and weigh in with the crowd!

Q1:  How important is employee recognition as it relates to performance?

Q2:  How often should companies recognize employee achievement, and why?

Q3:  How can recognition be tied to the overall values of an organization?

Q4:  What are creative ways you’ve seen business leaders leverage recognition?

Q5:  How can technology improve employee recognition and engagement?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Employer Brands: Big-Company Ideas for The Rest of Us

Recently on a trip to Seattle, I had an opportunity to visit Amazon.com headquarters — one of the many remarkable corporate campuses located in that region. I’d never explored a “corporate campus” before. But I’ve always been extremely eager to get a first-hand experience after reading many articles about the concept. This was my shot.

Needless to say, I was impressed! But it isn’t just the size of this sprawling facility that blew me away. I was also struck by the branding that is present throughout the environment. It made me think about the whole “employer branding” thing.

Branding From the Inside Out

I know HR practitioners struggle to implement a strong public brand that will attract and recruit top-notch external candidates. It’s one of HR’s primary functions in today’s world of work. But what about the internal brand? It’s also vital to retain talent that is already onboard. What are we doing to keep existing employees engaged and loyal to our organizations? Competitive compensation isn’t the only way to stop an employee from walking.

You may not be an enormous company like Amazon, Google, or LinkedIn. You may not have deep pockets for internal branding initiatives. But you certainly can be inspired by the way the “big boys” cultivate their brands, their work environments, and their corporate cultures. What’s more, you can leverage and adapt some of those heavy-hitter concepts to fit your organization’s circumstances.

Four Key Questions

1) What’s the vibe in your workspace? When I think about world-class employer campuses, one of the most notable characteristics is that many workspace options are available. Yes, I said OPTIONS. Their offices are not set up with jail-like cubicle rows, and an occasional office or conference room here or there. They have open spaces, co-working options, lounge areas, and unique personalities. Perhaps you don’t have the space or budget to create luxurious common areas, but there are plenty of ways to create an open environment that seems welcoming and non-restrictive.

2) Are you committed to internal recruitment marketing? While riding in one of Amazon’s elevators, I noticed a vibrant poster promoting a department that is recruiting Software Engineers. One side of the poster showed a man sitting at a computer with the saying, “This is what it looks like to work on my team.” The other side showed an imaginative, creative, fun scene surrounding the man at the computer with the saying, “This is what it FEELS like to work on my team.” Below that, removable tags featured contact information for the team manager. I absolutely love that. Amazon is huge, so internal communications like that can make it easy to recruit for internal candidates who wouldn’t otherwise know about your team. Makes sense for a company that large, right? Here’s the kicker — even  in small organizations, employees say that they aren’t aware of other jobs or openings. This can be a huge issue, especially since many employees leave their company because they feel like they have no internal mobility options. That situation might not be true — their perception may simply come from lack of information.

3) Are you too scared to adapt? I understand the phrase, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” And that phrase is perfectly reasonable. If your company is functioning fine, there is no reason to fix it. But what about offering more options? Compensation isn’t the only thing that can retain your employees. Sometimes other options can be the deciding factor: telecommuting; flex work; tuition reimbursement; on-going training; co-working; employee engagement initiatives, and so on. Your competitors are coming out with really cool options to retain their employees. Don’t let them beat you out because you were too scared to adapt to the changing world of work.

4) Is it a place of hierarchy or community? There most definitely needs to be order within an organization, but top down communication doesn’t really work as well as it did in the past.  Employees want their voices to be heard — they want to make suggestions, they want to contribute, and they want to build relationships. I have worked in an organization where the president and directors are extremely open to two-way communication. They make it very easy to initiate a conversation — even to the point where interns aren’t scared to make suggestions or casually chat with one of the company’s leaders. It has created a strong sense of community — which has helped position the company as a progressive work environment.

Your employer brand isn’t just about convincing external candidates that your organization is a great place to work. It’s also about making sure your current employees love working there — so much so that no other company or job offer seems more attractive.

(To read Ashley’s original post, visit The Social HR Connection blog.)

Work-Life Balance? It's Just "Life" #TChat Recap

 Sometimes we find zen. A moment of harmonic convergence in our lives when all things family, friends, co-workers, employers, work and life become one.

Sometimes. Work-life balance. [sigh] Wait, who are we kidding, right?

We don’t time zone travel with a head cold on a flurry of work trips for balance. We don’t wake up every 1-2 hours for to soothe the savage 8-month-old baby “beast” for balance.

That’s me and my family at any rate this past few weeks. But, we wouldn’t give it up for all the zen in China because the intrinsic rewards outweigh the work-life imbalance — enjoying what we do and loving our family. In fact, it’s not even really about balance or imbalance — it’s the highly integrated work-life world that we ride for joy (and that runs us down in fear).

And if I’m your employer, I’m going to do everything I can to foster the emotional connectivity and encourage the internal motivational drive, as well as moving the motivation needle externally with “rewards” when appropriate. But I want you to work hard, I want results, I’m going to focus on pay-for-performance and if your position allows, I’m going to let you do it as you see fit (when, where and how). I will be empathic and trust you, but I will not be a pushover.

And if I’m your employee, I’m going to demand flexibility in exchange for regular, quality output whenever, wherever and however I’m doing it. I want to take time off when I need it, regardless of the reason, and I don’t want to be questioned. I want your empathy and your trust and I will reciprocate. I want to to be pushed and pulled and challenged to learn as long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing in the context of what you’re doing.

And as China Gorman suggested and I concurred: “It’s just life.”

Cali Williams Yost and Leanne Chase, two of our insightful #TChat-ers, have some innovative ideas about work-life flexibility: Find a way to like what you do and keep doing it, over and over again. The mindful workplace presence of frenetic zen will take care of the rest.

If you missed Monster Thinking’s pre-cap, you can read it here: Desperately Seeking Balance: Reconciling Work and Life. And here were the questions from last night:

  1. Who’s ultimately responsible for managing work-life balance: the employer or the employee?
  2. What are the benefits/drawbacks of being salaried/exempt vs. hourly/non-exempt? Which would you prefer?
  3. How does company culture effect work-life balance?
  4. What role does technology and social media play in the work-life mix? Is connectivity a blessing or a curse?
  5. What are some things employers and managers can do to improve work-life balance?
  6. How important is work life balance to top talent when assessing new opportunities?
  7. What are some of the most effective or creative “perks” your company offers for work-life balance? Which do you wish they’d offer?

Also last night, we gave away two tickets to the Care.com Care@Work event, Focus Forward to @DrJanice and @leanneclc – Congratulations!

With a dash of worklife flexibility luck @MeghanMBiro may even make an appearance in New York City!

See you next week. We are already looking forward to it. Thanks very much for joining us.

Superstar Leadership: Workplace Damage Control

I’ve written lately about various aspects of workplace culture…People are always the number one consideration in my opinion. This topic always directly relates to recruitment and employee retention. It’s inescapable. It’s part of your workplace DNA. Performing a workplace culture audit of a prospective employer and how to nurture company culture, both as a manager and as an employee are so key.  Let’s keep tackling the dark side – repairing a damaged corporate culture.

Every workplace culture/organization (and employee) has good and bad days. Culture takes little hits on the bad days, but a string of bad days or months can turn into permanent damage. Unfortunately as those days and months grind on it can become easy to miss the signs of damage. A stressed management team may be focused on keeping the company afloat; a stressed manager with personal issues or job challenges may turn a deaf ear to rumblings of dissatisfaction.

In the first example, if management fails to communicate its trials, distrust will flower and thrive. In the latter example, also, a failure to communicate, compounded by a lack of responsibility on the part of the manager, creates a breach between employer and employee. Into that breach will creep distrust and its close cousin, unwillingness to believe anything management says. This is not good and should be stopped in it’s tracks.

Communication and trust are the underpinnings of healthy workplace culture. Other culture markers – a shared sense of mission, shared goals, respect – are rooted in trust and communication.

When trust goes, so also goes culture, that valuable mix of the personality of the workplace and its brand and the collective experience of what it means to work in the organization.

A simple measure of damage to a company’s culture is employee turnover. One local small company I know has had 95 percent turnover in the past three years. Yep, almost 100 percent. This happens.

The managers’ reaction? A tone-deaf range of comments, from ‘It was time for those people to move on’ to ‘We’re glad they didn’t go to competitors’; even the suggestion that the massive turnover is a ‘sign of growth on the part of employees fostered by the unique culture at X Company.’

Once you’ve pulled your jaw off the floor, let me assure you this example is real. Not surprisingly, this particular workplace culture is in dire need of repair. The company’s survivors are hardened and sour and new recruits into the organization are often bewildered and leaderless.

Here’s the basic prescription I would suggest to the executives if asked and from there I would refer them to my list of colleagues who specialize in this specific arena of employee retention and engagement (although this culture is so damaged they haven’t sought advice):

First, assess what’s really happened:

  • Make a list of those who left and when. Review notes from their exit interviews and look for repetition of words and themes. These repetitions are the top-level clues to what is wrong with the organization.
  • Correlate reasons given for leaving. I predict there will be very few ‘uniques’ in this group.
  • Cross-reference the above data with time of year as well as acquisition (or loss) of business.
  • Review every email sent to the company announcing a defection and look for patterns describing the person’s reason for leaving.

Now you have a lexicon of words, a vocabulary of loss of culture and cohesion. The next step is to assess what remains. This step is best taken with the help of a third party, a neutral coach or consultant.

Survey the remaining employees and any new employees on basic measures of job satisfaction:

  • Is compensation competitive? Benefits?
  • Is training adequate?
  • Is the work challenging and rewarding?
  • Do employees have a reasonable level of autonomy and responsibility?
  • How are initiative and excellence rewarded?
  • Is the physical work environment adequate? Are tools and systems in place that improve productivity and reduce drudge work?
  • Do employees feel comfortable talking to managers? If not, why?
  • Do employees feel that management tells the truth?
  • How frequent and relevant are communications?
  • Is feedback used to improve the work environment? Is it ignored?
  • Would you recruit a friend?

Now it’s time to step back and look at what employees and line managers said.

At this point, it’s imperative to commit to, and communicate, intent to change.

  • Communicate results of the survey.
  • Take ownership for the issues, and do not try to deflect responsibility.
  • If something can’t be changed or fixed say why.
  • Create a change action plan with dates, asking employees to help prioritize change items.
  • Implement the change action plan, honoring dates and milestones.
  • Communicate at every step.
  • Re-survey in three months and again in six months, and communicate the results.

Then tackle the hardest part:

  • Assign team leaders and give them responsibility and power to enact change. Support them (or they may fail.)
  • Meet with team leaders regularly and listen to them. Don’t talk over them or challenge what you hear, listen.

Without thoughtful intervention, a broken workplace culture with disheartened people can’t really be repaired. This is often the sad truth. Retention and recruiting will fail too. Employees will continue to head for the exits, and customers may even follow.

Take a look here to read about three companies using workplace culture for retention. This is a very useful case study for all to absorb.

What steps would you take to rescue a damaged corporate culture?

IMAGE via Flickr

5 Important Workplace Factors: Recruiting & Retaining Today’s Young Professionals

The young professionals you will be trying to attract to your organization today are members of Generation Y, also known as Millennials or The Internet Generation. Technology was a part of their childhood and still plays a huge role in their everyday lives. They don’t have many boundaries between work and life, are tech-savvy and innovative, and in high-demand.

Opportunity

Generation Y expects several types of opportunities in their professional career. Number one, they are looking for a chance to grow and excel in a company – somewhere that will give them opportunity for promotions and other perks if they perform well and choose to stay there long enough.

They also are looking for opportunities to be challenged. Millennials aren’t looking for “just a job” or to “go through the motions” everyday – they want a job that will utilize their expertise and education in new, challenging and exciting ways.

Finally, Millennials want opportunity for personal and professional growth. This can be through challenging projects, collaborative tasks, conferences, etc. This generation is easily bored, and you need to be able to retain them through offering these types of opportunity.

Flexibility

Gen Y expects flexibility in their work hours, schedule and work environment. Many Millennials want to telecommute or work remotely at their ideal jobs. Although they expect flexible hours and schedule, this generation is more plugged in than any other –meaning they will likely work after their “scheduled” hours and have less boundaries between life and work.

Technology

Since they’ve grown up with the latest gadgets, Millennials expect them in the workplace, as well. They’re used to constant connectivity, and if your workplace doesn’t offer that, they’ll likely look elsewhere.

Culture

In order to recruit today’s young professionals, you need to have a great corporate culture that will intrigue them. Think: socially responsible, innovative and great people to work around. Millennials tend to work for companies that they believe in and share in their mission.

Mentorship

Members of Generation Y want to learn something if they work for you. That’s why providing a mentor for each new young professional is vital to keeping him or her at your organization longer. Not only can a mentor aid in skill development, but also they become a personal connection that the employee trusts in your workplace.

With more than 80 million members of this generation, you’ll need to understand them in order to attract and retain them at your company. For more information on Generation Y in the workplace, download an infographic loaded with statistics here.