How to Prevent (or Defeat) WFH Burnout and Zoom Fatigue

When the COVID pandemic swept through the country last year, companies rapidly transitioned employees to remote working. However, this shift led to growing challenges, including WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue. As we transition from pandemic to post-pandemic life, many companies are adopting hybrid models, where some workers come into the office part-time only while others remain fully remote. That model means our burnout and fatigue issues will remain relevant for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, organizations treat these issues as simply day-to-day challenges. They fail to recognize their systematic, long-term nature; they don’t address them strategically. At heart, these problems stem from organizations transposing their “office culture” norms of interaction to working from home. Over time, we’ve learned that just doesn’t work well. We now know: Virtual communication, collaboration, and relationships function very differently than they do when we share a workspace.

To survive and thrive in the post-COVID world and within hybrid working environments, organizations must make a strategic shift. Specifically, they need to focus on best practices for those employees working from home–part-time and full-time.

Defeating WFH Burnout and Zoom Fatigue: A Strategic Approach

Take these steps to establish effective work-from-home best practices for the long term:

Gather information from employees

Talk to employees about their virtual work challenges. Not enough time to connect with everyone? Try conducting surveys, do focus groups, or organize one-on-one interviews with key personnel. Be sure to collect quantitative and qualitative data on the virtual work issues in your organization.

Develop metrics and determine a baseline

Structure surveys so that you can use the quantitative results to establish clear metrics on challenges to prevent WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue. Do follow-up interviews to gather qualitative data. Prior to beginning the interventions listed next, use both forms of data to develop a baseline.

Educate your employees about needs-deprivations

Human nature dictates that we don’t recognize a large component of what we perceive as WFH burnout. We don’t recognize the deprivation of our basic human needs; specifically, our connection to each other. So early intervention involves educating employees on this topic.

Cultivate a sense of meaning among employees

Withing the virtual workplace, help employees intentionally develop a sense of meaning. That includes using an evaluative tool to establish a baseline of purpose. Use self-reflective activities on identity as tied to one’s work. The goal: To connect work to something bigger than yourself.

Create mutual connections using native virtual formats

We want to connect. But compared to in-person meetings, our emotions just don’t process little squares during a video conference as truly connecting. The mismatch between expectations and reality leads to drain and dissatisfaction. So focus on creating human connection and a sense of trust, perhaps by replacing bonding opportunities from an in-office culture with innovative virtual bonding activities.

Provide remote-specific professional development

Intentionally focus on employee and team development highly relevant to virtual or blended work teams. Effective communication, collaboration, and remote relationship building are just a few of the development areas the best organizations will target in hybrid working environments.

Initiate formal virtual mentorship relationships

Ask your senior staff to actively mentor junior team members in business areas and ask junior staff to mentor senior staff in other areas, like tech. This approach to bonding, in addition to the guidance it provides, also helps address the lack of social connection in virtual workplaces.

Establish times for informal digital co-working

Ask each employee to spend an hour or more per day coworking digitally with their colleagues. Create a sense of presence by joining a videoconference call without an agenda. Turn your speakers on but microphones off (unless you want to ask a question or make a comment or simply chat, of course). Next, simply work on your own tasks.

Digital coworking replicates the positive aspects of being in shared cubicle spaces with your team members, even while doing your own work. Benefits include mutual bonding through chatting and collaboration, being able to ask and answer quick clarifying questions, and being able to provide guidance and informal mentorship.

Fund effective remote work environments

Since the pandemic began, many companies have identified inequalities within remote working environments. For example, some employees have high-speed internet and quiet workspaces at home, while others do not. Address any inequity by investing in the work environments of remote employees.

Reduce unnecessary meetings

Zoom fatigue is real. So don’t schedule meetings unless you need to make a decision or get clarification on something that requires synchronous discussion. And make the best possible use of time when a meeting is required by staying focused on the task at hand.

Conduct weekly check-ins

The most effective leaders check in with employees regularly. Not just to determine progress being made on work-related tasks, but to also determine the team members’ well-being. So check-ins don’t add to Zoom fatigue, keep check-ins to weekly 15-30 minute video conferences.

Support work/life boundaries

Too many leaders expect employees to work after hours, then refuse employee requests for flexibility. Some employees, scared for their jobs, voluntarily take on too much work. To reduce burnout, leaders must reinforce boundaries. Whenever possible, they must also encourage and welcome flexible working schedules.

Take things step by step

Start with education about basic needs. Next, use the data from your conversations and internal surveys to pursue the actions that seem to make the most sense. Resist the temptation to fix everything at once by focusing on the issues that seem to have the highest sense of urgency.

A Change in Mindset

To prevent or defeat WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue, reframe your company culture and policies.

As you initiate this strategic shift, be sure to consistently support your employees. If you do this, your partnership with them will enable your organization to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic world.

Workplace Safety: How To Survive Working at Jurassic World

Most businesses have one aspect or another that could lead to employees being injured, maimed or killed. Nurse attendants must move heavy loads, zoo attendants brave cages filled with lions, medical laboratory assistants handle dangerous chemicals, and construction zones are filled with potential hazards. Despite the hazardous conditions, many business and employees fail to take the proper precautions.

The Jurassic Park franchise is the quintessential example of a company who insufficiently planned for the safety of their employees. The Jurassic theme parks, islands, and businesses don’t have a good employee safety track record. The original movie, Jurassic Park, opens with the mauling of an employee. As the movie commences, the parks power fails, the dinosaurs escape, and one by one, the unprepared employees are hunted down by ruthless velociraptors and a ravenous tyrannosaurus Rex. By the end of the movie, only seven of the eighteen employees escape with their lives.

Twenty-two years after the original movie, the geniuses at InGen are at it again. Jurassic World, is around the corner, bigger, better, and with a genetically modified T-Rex (The Indominus Rex). What could go wrong? The fact that the trailer opens with a mother telling her child, “Remember, if something chases you, Run,” does not give me much hope for the park attendants making it through the inevitable escape of the dinosaurs alive.

Their imaginary loss of life and limb is our gain. Let’s take a moment to explore what you and your company should do to ensure you go home each day with your life, limbs, and only minor injuries.

How To Survive Working at Jurassic World

Step 1: Ensure Workplace Safety Protocols Are In Place

Disaster plans are important to prevent damage to monetary assets, raw materials, and personnel. Every company should have disaster preparedness plans to ensure they will be able to stay one step ahead of any potential danger to their company and their employees. The number of safeguards put into place should be dependent on how many dangerous situations you, as an employee, happen to be placed into.

As the disaster plan is put into place, ensure that it is does not sacrifice employee safety to protect the company’s monetary assets or raw materials. InGen owner, John Hammond, led his company and employees to disaster when he refused to purchase the appropriate heavy artillery to deal with any dinosaurs when they escaped their pens. Better, he decided, to protect the million dollar dinosaur than his replaceable employees.

When Jurassic World was opened, InGen learned from some of their mistakes. In order to protect their dinosaurs, their staff, and their visitors, they created over 150 emergency protocols and safeguards” to deal with all of the potential dangers the carnivorous dinosaurs could create.

Over 150 safety protocols. That is the dream of any employee that works in a hazardous field. 150 safety protocols means that the managers spent thousands of hours brainstorming potential problems and developing solutions to deal with those problems.

Step 2: Reevaluate Workplace Safety Protocols Constantly

Safety is not stagnant. Every change in the company, business, or work flow presents new hazards. Jurassic World has a very sophisticated disaster plan, but disaster strikes the path when they engineered the I-Rex without truly understanding the danger the dinosaur posed. Really, it shouldn’t be that surprising when a dinosaur with the size of the T-Rex and the intelligence of a Velociraptor figured out how to climb out of its pen.

Workplace safety is dependent on the constant reevaluation of how new additions to the business and workflow effect the safety plan. As an employee, you should pay attention to if your managers are updating the safety protocols when they should. If they aren’t, bring the problem to management. If they refuse to update the plan, you might want to find a safer place to work.

Step 3: Stress Risk Management

Disaster plans are worthless if you or your co-workers cannot push past the fear and stress that the experience creates. The lawyer from Jurassic Park, for example, decided in his panic that a bathroom made of feeble wood was an ideal place to hide from a T-Rex. Even Dr. Grant, the main character, faired a little better. He kept his cool and discovered that T-Rex can’t see objects that don’t move.

Businesses can deal with equipping co-workers to deal with stress by ensuring that most of the workers hired for high stress positions have a high emotional intelligence (EI). People with a high EI are able to “understand and manage [their] emotions” more effectively. This means that when faced with a T-Rex attack, a fire, a chemical spill, or an injured colleague, they are more likely to keep their cool than their colleagues with a lower EI.

Ohio University Master of Business Administration professor Chris Moberg, who specializes in disaster preparedness, presents another strategy to ensure employees can put aside their panic long enough to keep to the disaster plan. In “Improving Supply Chain Disaster Preparedness” he suggests that management teams should “simulate disaster scenarios.” Repeated exposure to simulated scenario allows all personnel to “develop the critical decision-making and team skills needed to perform effectively during disasters.” At the end of the training period, the individual would be able to keep their cool during the disaster long enough to stick with the plan and get everyone out of the dangerous scenario safely.

Every company faces potential disaster. A Jurassic theme has a higher chance of a high employee mortality and injury disaster. This makes the Jurassic franchise a good case study to determine where problems that put employees into dangerous situations occur, how the disaster plans fail, and how individuals can ensure their own lives are not put into while carrying out their duties. With proper preparation, employees can ensure that they can effectively navigate most of the dangerous situations their work can throw at them. One last word of advice: Remember, if management doesn’t take their disaster planning seriously, run before it’s too late.

Photo Credit: Big Stock Images

Telecommuting? Danger, Will Robinson!

Technology has rapidly developed In the last twenty years.In the early days of the computer, people spent their work days battling dinosaur hardware while bitterly wishing the technology would catch up with the scientific wonders seen in the 1965 television series, Lost in Space.

By the time I eagerly watched Friends star, Matt LeBlanc, star in the 1998 movie remake of Lost in Space, software developers like PlaceWare and Starlight Networks released software that allowed organizations to host online conferences with live chat. The digital age was in its infancy.

Years passed. Technology continued to develop. As the technology developed, companies incorporated the free email services, free and paid conferences software, and free chat software to streamline their communication channels.

As the communication software was incorporated, companies began to offer employees the ability to work from home (telecommuting) as an additional perk.

Today, according to USC’s infographic How the Digital Age Shaped Communication Management, about 24% of American workers have been given the luxury of working at least some of their hours from home every week.

The Perks of Telecommuting

The ability to telecommute has many perks. The biggest, as far as I see, is the ability to remove the daily commute from your life. 

According to Pepperdine University’s infographic The Daily Commute in Your Rearview Mirror, every year the average commuter spends $1,129 on gas. Do you know how many copies of Lost in Space I could buy for 1,129 dollars? 225. On Blu-Ray! In all seriousness, the ability to eliminate the daily commute would allow me to utilize those funds to repay my student loans or create a nest-egg for the future.

Telecommuting also saves a significant amount of time. The average commuter spends around 25 minutes each day traveling. My own commute is closer to an hour every day. That’s 4 hours a week, 16 hours a month, or 192 hours every year that I spend traveling to and from work.

The Dangers of Telecommuting

I spend what amounts to 8 days traveling to and from work. Despite that fact, every time I hypothetically consider telecommuting, I get an image of the robot from the television version of Lost In Space waving his arms around while saying, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger.”

Here’s some bad news. Telecommuting is not for everyone. Why? Not everyone has the personality or the work ethic to telecommute efficiently. Here are some types of people who should refrain from telecommuting:

Introverts who have limited out of work social interaction. In college, I could go days without speaking at all. These days I’m a tad more social, but I still spend large chunks of my three-day weekend not interacting with other people. Introverts may recharge during periods of silence, but they’re happiness is still dependent on social interaction. And employee productivity, according to Ohio University,  is closely linked to happiness. Introverts should either telecomute part-time, plan how they will receive their social interaction, or sign-up for a traditional on-site workday.

Individuals who have a hard time staying on task. Telecommuting requires a lot more self-control than the traditional 9-5. As a 9-5er, I experience one ten second to twenty minute urge to take the day off. Telecommuters, away from the watchful eyes of management, can experience the urge to flake on their work duties at every moment of the day to watch a rerun of Star Trek.

If you were one of those individuals who skipped class in school or decided not to do your homework, you might want to become a 9-5er. While at work, you can retain your job and work on developing good work habits. If you do decide to telecomute, it helps to establish a designated work area at home. While in that area, you work. While out of it, you play.

Technology has granted more individuals the luxury to telecommute. The ability to work from home, allows individuals to save money and time. Not have one has the habits and the personality to claim those perks. One day, we 9-5ers who can’t telecommute will have the skills, the self-control and the social life to incorporate telecommuting into our lives. Until then, we’ll just have to watch how other individuals telecommute. Like the technology explored in Lost in Space, one day we’ll catch up.

Image Credit: 

Trust But Verify In Hiring

During dealings with the Soviet Union, former President Ronald Reagan coined the term, “Trust, but verify.” It is not too difficult to decipher the meaning of this phrase and apply the concept to your company’s human resources best practices.

A large part of an organization’s human resources function involves the onboarding of new personnel. Would it be surprising to know that in many cases the determination to hire someone happens within five minutes of meeting them? What happens when a charming applicant gives all the right answers? Besides having a successful interview, one very important part of the recruitment process is background and reference checking. Reference checking is vital to verify a candidate’s background and can be an important step in insuring positive turnover rates. The cost of a bad hire is often overlooked but it can negatively impact your company’s bottom line by wasting valuable time and resources. Combined with proper interviewing techniques, reference checking can help you to verify that a candidate’s abilities are a match to the skills that are needed to successfully perform in a specific position in your organization.

Reference checking involves personally contacting former employers (with the candidate’s approval). Advise the former employer whom you are contacting of your purpose for the call or email. Be sure to identify yourself and your company and inform them that you are seriously considering the candidate for employment, and that you would like to ask a few questions in relation to the candidate’s experience and qualifications. It is also a good idea to give a brief description of the role you are considering the candidate as the person you are contacting may be able to use that information to provide specific feedback relating to the role.

Here are a few questions you may consider asking:

  • What were the job functions of the position the candidate held with your company?
  • Based on the job duties we are offering this candidate, do you personally believe that this candidate can successfully perform this job?
  • What management style did this candidate best respond to?
  • Did the candidate excel in a team environment, or work better alone?
  • Was the candidate dependable? Attendance record? Punctuality?
  • What areas do you think the candidate can improve on?
  • What are the candidate’s three strongest work qualities?
  • Would you re-hire the candidate? Why or why not?

Taking these simple steps to verify a candidate’s good character and qualifications can make a huge difference in your decision about whether or not to ultimately hire him or her. Though we all like to trust that each candidate’s self-proclaimed qualifications and achievements are accurate, it is always a wise idea to verify information, as ultimately this candidate will be involved in essential functions of your business when they become an employee. By staying well prepared and keeping in mind common interview mistakes, as well as having all the information you can gather during a reference check, you will be able to rest assured knowing you are making the right hiring decision for your organization.

About the Author: Michele O’Donnell leads MMC’s team of HR consultants. Her experience spans the broad scope of labor law, regulatory compliance and HR best practices, drawn from her rich experience as director of HR for several firms throughout her career.

photo credit: asteegabo via photopin cc

Photo: Quinsey Sablan

Employee Well-Being In The Workplace

The concept of “employee well-being” is not a new one, but it has seen a resurgence in interest with the challenges in the world in the last few years, and employee well-being has been making its way to the top of company consciousness. This interest has many companies scrambling to develop a plan.

There are many definitions of well-being and employee well-being. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) — Europe’s largest professional institute for people management and development, with over 135,000 members across 120 countries — define it as: “Creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organization.” The CIPD believes “that employee well-being at work initiatives need to balance the needs of the employee with those of the organization.”

Many smaller organizations would like to ensure their employees have a great sense of well-being when it comes to the workplace, but are hesitant to research or go forward with health and wellness plans as they are perceived to be costly. It is important to remember that a person’s overall well-being includes all aspects of life, not just the workplace. This article will address things any size employer can do at little or no cost to reap the benefits of employee well-being, such as increased customer satisfaction, increased sense of company loyalty and higher productivity.

There are a plethora of items that may seem inconsequential to some; however, they go a long way in employees’ minds and contribute to a feeling of safety, security and health. A few ideas are listed below:

  • Providing paid time off. This allows employees time to recharge their batteries & relax and/or care for themselves or a family member who may be ill, such as a sick child. UPDATE: As of July 2015, a new California bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown requires almost all public- and private-sector employers to give almost all workers in California at least three paid sick days per year.
  • Providing a comfortable area for breaks and lunches, so employees get a brief respite from the day’s work and stresses.
  • Equip the break / lunch room(s) with small appliances such as a toaster oven, microwave, water fountain, etc.
  • Small incentive programs like a special parking space for the employee of the month.
  • Spread the work around as to not overwhelm any employee. Chances are the high performers already have more than they can handle.
  • Encourage healthy living – offer healthy snacks such as fruits & vegetables and water & juice, instead of the usual fare in snack machines.
  • Research offering information on health-related employee benefits such as dental or vision. Many times the money employees pay in premiums can be taken from their paychecks pre-tax.
  • Be sensitive to employees who may be ill and assist them as much as possible with any options that may be available to them such as a leave of absence.

As mentioned before, the list above consists of items that all employers can do to show their employees that the organization is looking out for their health and well-being. There are firms that specialize in developing health and wellness plans for organizations, which are definitely worth researching if the budget allows.

The Great Rated! Interview: EY’s Larry Nash On The Transparency Trend

When Larry Nash looks into his crystal ball about the future of the workplace, one thing is clear to him: workplace transparency itself. Larry, Americas Director of Experienced and Executive Recruiting at professional services giant EY, is confident that job seekers and the public will have more visibility into what it’s like to work at organizations. “Transparency will only grow as technology evolves and different social media platforms continue to grow and expand,” he says. “We’re just always increasingly connected.”

Nash and EY aren’t waiting for this interconnected, transparent future to arrive. They are embracing it now, showcasing their culture through their own website and taking advantage of sites, including Great Rated!, to show the world what EY is all about. Revealing EY’s essence to job candidates is central to Larry’s work—in the 12 months ending in June 2014, he oversaw the recruitment for nearly 6,000 experienced positions in the U.S. alone. And that number represents a more than 37 percent increase from the previous year. We recently talked with Larry about topics including the workplace transparency trend, its link to employer brand and EY’s overall mission of “Building a Better Working World.”

Ed Frauenheim: What’s the importance of company transparency in recruiting these days?

Larry Nash: At EY, we have a very simple principle—our employer brand—which is whenever you join, however long you stay, the exceptional EY experience lasts a lifetime. Being transparent is critical to our brand. Individuals looking to start their career, or change their career, want to know what working at EY is really like and what’s in it for them if they decide to join the organization. Ultimately, we know what candidates want and we know what we want.

We also know that any relationship, be it personal or professional, is built on openness and trust. That’s why we provide potential candidates with an authentic and transparent view into the organization. Then they can evaluate the potential of an EY career and determine whether EY is the right choice for them.

Ed: What is the connection between transparency and employer brand at EY?

Larry: We have a great story to tell about our brand and culture. We’re on many best-places-to-work lists, including those compiled by FORTUNE, Diversity Inc., Working Mother, and Universum, to name a few. These are organizations and publications saying that EY is a great place. So we’re confident that we can offer a lot to people and that’s why we are transparent about the specifics, too.

Ed: How does your employment brand tie into EY’s broader purpose of “Building a Better Working World”? It seems the overall company brand should make your job as a recruiter easier.

Larry: This purpose of building a better working world relates to our people, our communities, and the investing public—given how they rely on what we’re doing for our clients—and on and on. We’re completely focused on building a better working world in these different ways.

Ed: Some experts say transparency about the workplace is smart because it helps you efficiently find people that are right for your organization. Do you agree?

Larry: Yes. Our interview process—whether you’re coming from campus, have experience, or are an executive at another organization— is a two-way dialog. There are a number of interviews that take place, so candidates can get to see what we’re like, and what we can offer to fulfill their aspirations. And then we have a dialog to understand what they offer and what they’re interested in. Hopefully, over the course of the interviews, we see a match. And part of that match is a feeling that they’re coming to a culture that can enable them to achieve their goals.

It goes back to building a relationship. If we want candidates to work here, they should know what it’s like. We’re proud of what it’s like here. So, we’re comfortable sharing the culture, and what we can offer and what we can’t offer. If that is a fit for people, that’s great. And if people don’t think we can give them what they want, that’s fine as well. We want people to feel like they can have a meaningful career here, whether they stay three years, five years or the rest of their career.

(About the Author: Ed Frauenheim is editor at workplace research site Great Rated!™, where he produces content and reviews companies.)

Photograph by Jonathan Gayman(About Larry Nash: Larry Nash is Americas Director of Experienced and Executive Recruiting at professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young). Larry is a member of EY’s Americas Recruiting Leadership team and is responsible for the strategic execution of experienced and executive recruiting efforts for the Americas. Previously, Larry served as EY’s Americas Director for Recruiting and Mobility.)

photo credit: marcomagrini via photopin cc

Exempt Or Non-Exempt Employees: Does It Really Matter?

Proper employee classification can have a significant impact on an organization. The penalties for non-compliance can put a large dent into the growth and long-term stability of your business. On the federal level, penalties can include back wages, fines, interest and liquidated damages. In addition, employers with incorrectly classified workers may also be subject to penalties imposed by the state(s) in which their business operates.

The Department of Labor is responsible for the administration of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, record-keeping, and youth employment standards. Shown below are three recent settlements obtained by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the DOL. These settlements may seem small, but it is important to note they are for local companies. Penalties are not limited to small companies; larger corporations such as Walmart have amassed penalties in the millions for various wage-and-hour infractions over time.

  • Structural Systems Inc.: $17,154 for nonpayment of travel time and also misclassification of workers as exempt resulting in unpaid overtime.
  • Rice Precision Manufacturing: $92,727 in back wages and liquidated damages for failure to pay overtime.
  • Downtown Hilton Head Inc.: $23,155 for three restaurants found to have overtime and record-keeping violations.

Employment Classification 101

The FLSA defines specific criteria for each type of employment classification. Both classification categories are governed by a set of requirements every business owner should be familiar with. We’ll start with the most basic definition of each classification as follows:

  • Exempt:  Workers exempt from the overtime and minimum wage provisions of the FLSA.
  • Non-Exempt: Workers subject to all FLSA provisions, including the payment of overtime.

There are a number of exempt classifications; the most common include the Professional, Executive and Administrative exemptions. For the purposes of this article we will focus on the Administrative Exemption. To qualify for the administrative employee exemption, all of the following tests must be met:

  • The employee must be compensated on a salary or fee basis (as defined in the regulations) at a rate not less than $455 per week;
  • The employee’s primary duty must be the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers; and
  • The employee’s primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.

The third bullet point above mentions “the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance” and this is where many employers run into trouble with the exempt designation for a position. The DOL has issued guidance on this which in part reads:

Discretion and Independent Judgment: implies that the employee has authority to make an independent choice, free from immediate direction or supervision. Factors to consider include, but are not limited to, whether the employee:

  • has authority to formulate, affect, interpret, or implement management policies or operating practices
  • carries out major assignments in conducting the operations of the business;
  • performs work that affects business operations to a substantial degree;
  • has authority to commit the employer in matters that have significant financial impact;

Matters of Significance: refers to the level of importance or consequence of the work performed.  An employee does not exercise discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance merely because the employer will experience financial losses if the employee fails to perform the job properly. Similarly, an employee who operates very expensive equipment does not exercise discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance merely because improper performance of the employee’s duties may cause serious financial loss to the employer.

It is important to remember that all of the tests mentioned above must be met in order for a position to be properly classified as exempt. If all tests are not met, the position must be classified as non-exempt and all FLSA requirements must be observed. Please see for all federal exemption requirements.

It is imperative to know if the state(s) your business operates in have their own requirements/tests to determine exempt-vs.-non-exempt status. For example: California has a much higher minimum salary required for exemption, currently $33,280 annually; the federal requirement is $455 per week, which on an annual basis is $23,660. You may have positions that meet the federal requirements but do not meet the state requirements.

photo credit: via photopin cc

#TChat Recap: The HR Whine & Dine Networking Movement

The HR Whine & Dine Networking Movement

By now, most of us have had a small taste at what networking events have to offer. Networking usually involves a formal setting, with hardly enough time or real opportunities to speak with other professionals on a personal level. The chance to meet and connect with other professionals is exciting, but the opportunity to get to know them is hardly ever available. This week’s guests: Keith Bogen, HR pro and chief networking officer of Whine & Dine Networking; Ed Han, wordsmith with a passion for networking and helping people put their professional best foot forward, especially on LinkedIn, joined our Community to share their understanding of what’s missing in HR.

Sometimes, HR is tasked with creating processes that lose focus of what really matters, which is its talent. HR can sometimes take a systematic approach that ultimately devalues people and potential relationships. Our guest Ed shares his opinion:

Is that really the case with HR? Does it really prioritize processes and results over people? HR is responsible for funneling great talent in the door and building organizational culture. Smart organizations align their HR departments with their strategic business plans. They recognize their HR departments for what they are and what they can be. We must not forget this, but:

If HR wants to work its way into the discussion then it needs to carve its own space out. HR needs to be seen as a powerful building tool that can build a lively culture. Of course, this is easier said than done, so we must:

People are real and they bring your organization to life. But people can’t do this on their own. People need support. They need others they can trust and connect with, because:

In the end, it’s all about community. It matters, and people look for opportunities to connect with each other. HR needs to be a department of connections and community. The better we are socially connected then the stronger support we have. Community builds sharing of knowledge and information. People don’t just want to connect with each other. They want to get to know each other.

Want To See The #TChat Replay?


Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

Thanks again to our guests: Keith Bogen, HR pro and chief networking officer of Whine & Dine Networking; Ed Han, wordsmith with a passion for networking and helping people put their professional best foot forward, especially on LinkedIn.

#TChat Events: Surviving A Bad Workplace Culture

TChatRadio_logo_020813 #TChat Radio — Are you plugged in to #TChat radio? Did you know you can listen live to ANY of our shows ANY time? Now you know. Click the box to head on over to our channel or listen to People, Performance and Building Legendary Teams.

Note To Bloggers: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about trends on the engagement experience?

We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we may feature it! If you recap #TChat make sure to let us know so we can find you!

Contributor CTA

Save The Date: Wednesday, September 3rd!

Join us next week, as we talk about People, Performance and Building Legendary Teams during #TChat Events. 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!

photo credit: via photopin cc

Forgive Yourself a Prayer, But Never Surrender to Bad Culture

“You can surrender
Without a prayer
But never really pray
Pray without surrender

You can fight
Fight without ever winning
But never ever win
Win without a fight…” –Neil Peart, “Resist”

The final shame of not asking nearly overshadowed my extreme physical pain, but not quite. No, the visceral memory of my hands buried deep between my tense thighs pulled close to my crotch while I’ll leaned in as close to the crafts table as possible, has never been purged from memory.

It was 1972 and I was seven years old.

The first day of Bible school. Church friends recommended that my sister and I attend, that it would be fun, that we’d make cool crafts, learn about Jesus and other New and Old Testament folk, make new friends, and get out of the house for a spell.

Day one started simply enough: we got picked up in the morning, were driven to the boonies some 30 minutes outside of town, and then dropped off at Bible school with the church friends’ kids. I wasn’t very social being an introverted child, and my younger sister was just scared and stuck close to me.

The camp culture itself seemed cordial and warm at first, but then turned a little hardcore fire and brimstone, the counselors and teachers reminding us over and over again that, although Jesus loved us just the way we were, we shouldn’t question God’s plan for us, or any authority, and how sin of any size could send us straight to hell.

Happy days, however my bigger problem occurred late in the day. We were cutting and gluing felt pieces to construction paper to tell our favorite Bible story, mine at the time being about Adam and Eve, fascinated by the fact they were naked, and God, at least initially, was okay with that, which made me happy.

Unfortunately I had to pee.

Really, really bad. But our crafts instructor, a large women with big hair, wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a yellow dress that reminded me of cat vomit, was in the middle of telling another story while we worked. The urge to pee didn’t come on suddenly, but I did let the pressure build up until it went well beyond the “holding back” threshold.

Yes, I had to pee badly, but I wouldn’t ask to go. The fear of interrupting and questioning the instructor, of being ridiculed publicly because I needed to do something for me that would disrupt the rest of the class, kept me fused to the hard bench under my butt. My sister saw my discomfort, poked at me and whispered, “Kevin, go.”

I just sat there, defeated, no one else to turn to other than my sister urging me to take action, ultimately consumed by my throbbing bladder, praying to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost to end Bible school right then and there so I could go to the bathroom.

And go I did.

All over the bench and down my legs, my pants drenched with a growing dark wet spot emanating out from my crotch that couldn’t be missed, and wasn’t, the shame horrifying beyond that evening and decades later.

In fact, over 40 years later I’ve taken that lesson to heart repeatedly as a greater metaphor of life and work experience; that company culture and cultural fit has a huge impact on our day-to-day happiness, or lack thereof, and how we respond to that culture doubles down on that happiness, or – hell, you get the picture.

Being able to identify when a culture is turning bad, and what we can do about it, are obviously critical skills for managing our career happiness. If we don’t react and respond accordingly, we can and do bust a gut (and burst a bladder).

How many times do we push ourselves beyond the “holding back” threshold until the pain is excruciating? For some of us, too many to count until we affect change.

Culture originates with leadership values and the core business mission, and then emanates outward with what people inside an organization do with all of that, and eventually with what meaning is attached to all those continuously evolving behaviors.

When the accepted collective behaviors lead to conflict and strife, we’ve got a bad culture on our hands. Lots of things can create a bad culture, and a good one, but all of them can be summed up (and oversimplified) by four questions that are repeatedly asked in these happiness surveys I started taking via (heard about on a recent NPR TED Radio Hour podcast):

Are you doing something you want to do?

Are you doing something you have to do?

Are you interacting with others right now?

If so, how positive are you feeling? Not so, or extremely?

Well? And if not, why? Especially when at work, wherever and whatever that may be.

This is why mentors are so important.

I’m fortunate to have had and have many in my life, as well as reciprocating. Whether from formal mentoring programs fresh from college graduation or throughout your lifetime in professional organizations and certified associations, or continuous informal mentoring from family and friends, peers and colleagues, and managers and executive leadership, all of which can, and hopefully do, extend beyond whatever current incarnation we’re in.

When we discussed this on the TalentCulture #TChat Show – learning how to identify a bad company culture, understanding factors relevant to your decision to stay or leave, and knowing what to take out of the situation before you leave, including keeping those mentors close to you regardless – were all gladly embraced by the #TChat community, as vital as the air we breathe (and the periodic need to relieve).

Because what my personal mentors of late have reminded me of includes:

  1. When you have to pee, pee. Not pray. I don’t mean to disparage anyone’s religion or spirituality, but you can’t just hope and pray things will get better without doing anything about it. You may feel hopeless in a crappy workplace culture, maybe like a frightened child in the presence of heavy-handed leadership, but you certainly have some things under your control – and that includes getting up and going to the bathroom when you “need a break.” Holding it in beyond the threshold when you feel you’re trapped (and scared) only damages you and those around you, and if when you wet yourself at work, trust me, that shit stays with you a long, long time.
  2. And when you have to fight, fight. Not surrender. You really do; fight for what you want to do instead of only putting up with what you have to do. Passive acceptance of “where you’re at” is not the path to happiness, kids. Fighting for what you want, either as a leader or individual contributor, as long as you develop and deliver, is the critical key to self-fulfillment and ultimate success, although not always equated by compensation (but hey, who’s counting, right?). Make a little mojo magic, always, and for God’s sake, don’t put up with a crappy culture long-term. Opportunities may ebb and flow, but hear your mentors’ voices when they tell you they’re here, or over there.

These are the keys to surviving the bad culture, and staying happy, whether that’s in a 100K-person global enterprise, or your own little company of one (hey, it happens to even the most successful solopreneurs and consultants). And sometimes you just have to leave.

It’s easy to state the obvious at this point, but mercy me, forgive yourself a prayer every now and again, but never, ever surrender without a fight.


photo credit: thejuniorpartner via photopin cc

#TChat Recap: Surviving A Bad Workplace Culture

Surviving A Bad Workplace Culture

Tonight, the World of Work was reminded on #TChat that employee disengagement is an organizational issue that is cultivated when bad leadership is there to nurture it, and a bad workplace culture only survives when there’s no means to put an end to it. Uprooting bad workplace culture happens when organizational collaboration happens from top-to-bottom, and emphasis on communication is placed at the very top. This week’s guests: Anuj Shah, Co-Founder of Traba; and Michael Flynn, Head of Marketing at Traba, shared with our Community the spoil of riches that communication brings to workplace collaboration. They know that if bad workplace culture isn’t squashed sooner rather than later it can cause an entire organizational structure to collapse on itself.

To understand what bad workplace culture is and how to survive it, you have to know what the symptoms are:

And who better than employees to notify their organization that the bad workplace culture symptoms they’re feeling exist because leadership is unreceptive, uncompromising, and unqualified to embrace total organizational collaboration. Michael Flynn knows and understands that to survive a bad workplace culture leadership needs to:

And it has to come naturally from leadership so that it trickles down to employees and they start believing in turning the bad company culture around. Give employees the opportunities they crave to find purpose and meaning in their work. Give them the power to cultivate company culture because:

Leadership needs to understand that employees are the source of their fruition. When cared for and harvested well, they bear: creativity, innovation, and passion. Turning bad company culture around starts with them. When your company culture has ripened, you’ll be able to see it because:

Facing a bad company culture is a formidable challenge that many organizations are wallowing in versus working to inspire the entire organization to come together as a whole to battle what’s plaguing them. Surviving a bad company culture isn’t about looking the other way and walking away from it. Turning company culture around happens through teamwork, from top-to-bottom in the organization there needs to be collaboration, and communication has to be leading the charge.

Want To See The #TChat Replay?

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

Thanks again to our guests: Anuj Shah, Co-Founder of Traba; and Michael Flynn, Head of Marketing at Traba. Traba mentors know how companies choose candidates and walk you through the best way to tell your story for landing interviews and jobs.

#TChat Events: Surviving A Bad Workplace Culture

TChatRadio_logo_020813 #TChat Radio — Are you plugged in to #TChat radio? Did you know you can listen live to ANY of our shows ANY time? Now you know. Click the box to head on over to our channel or listen to Surviving A Bad Workplace Culture.

Note To Bloggers: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about trends on the engagement experience?

We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we may feature it! If you recap #TChat make sure to let us know so we can find you!

Contributor CTA

Save The Date: Wednesday, August 27th!

Join us next week, as we talk about The HR Whine & Dine Networking Movement during #TChat Events. 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!


photo credit: Andrew Morrell Photography via photopin cc

The Great Rated!™ Interview: Kim Peters on Employer Brand

The CEO of Great Rated! talks about the central role of employee surveys in employer brands, how Great Rated! works, and about the growing importance of employer brands in the era of the “naked” corporation.

Ed Frauenheim: What is an employer brand?

Kim Peters: Quite simply, it is how people feel about working at an organization. You already have an employer brand, even if you’ve done nothing about it.

Some people think that you can create a brand in the market that is independent of what your actual employees think – but that isn’t true. Social media has made the internal workings of any company very transparent – we are in an age of “naked” corporations. So it’s critical you understand the true brand you have in your current employees’ eyes and work with that to compete for new talent and retain existing top talent. In many instances, your employer brand will even help you with your consumer brand — Zappos is a classic example.

EF: What does it take to manage an employer brand in the era of the naked corporation—of growing transparency into companies?

KP: Today, most people turn to the Internet when they’re going to research a major purchase or investment or decision. People are doing their research, essentially. And so employer brand is no different. People’s experiences from a product perspective or workplace culture perspective are being talked about online. Typically people share the extremes—the highs and the lows. So if you’re doing any kind of research into a company at all, you’re going to find that type of information.

Organizations may be tempted to counter negative opinions on the Internet with positive content on their careers page or advertorial placed elsewhere. But distorting your brand in a positive direction is risky in an ever-more transparent world. You don’t want to be in a position where you are telling your workforce and prospective new hires that your brand offers one thing, while employees are telling the world that it offers something else. You won’t be credible and new hires won’t be a good fit.The best approach is to be honest about what your employer brand is, even if you are working to improve it.

EF: How can companies understand what their actual employer brand is?

KP: If you’ve never done any employer branding work before, the best place to start is by surveying your employees about a variety of topics that reflect workplace culture. It’s not something you can guess at. And certainly one individual or a small group of individuals is not going to give you a holistic picture. You have do a representative, anonymous survey of your whole employee population.

EF: How does Great Rated!’s approach to presenting and publishing an employer brand work?

KP: We start by asking the employees in an organization a set of questions about their workplace using the Great Place to Work® Trust Index©. This is an employee survey that measures the extent to which a company is a great workplace, focusing predominantly on workplace trust, and is a very strong research tool to assess companies’ overall workplace culture. (This is the tool we’ve used for over 15 years to select the companies that appear on FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For® list.)

We anonymously survey a statistically relevant random sample of employees. We take those results and write a review of the company that accurately reflects what employees say are the best attributes of working for their organization.

Companies also provide us with details about many of their best programs and benefits, so that if employees say they really appreciate their workplace flexibility, for example, we can explain their telecommuting or compressed workweek programs. We include pictures, infographics and employee quotes that really round the review out.

And because the reviews are written by workplace culture experts (Great Rated! is part of Great Place to Work®–authors of the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® list), people can trust that they truly reflect what the employees tell us.

EF: Where is employer brand heading?

KP: Employer brand is becoming more and more important, simply because companies need the best talent they can attract in order to achieve their goals. That’s going to be harder and harder to do. We know that because we look at the changing demographics. Hiring is increasingly competitive. And so companies look to employer branding to help candidates choose.

This trend to transparency, this thirst for knowledge, this desire to live a life where you feel like you’re making a positive contribution and that you’re working in a positive working environment—all of these things are coming together today. And they mean that companies are going to simply have to be focused on their employer brands and creating great workplace experiences. It’s just essential. And it’s fundamental that people want to understand what workplaces are like before they join them. It’s just part of the same movement.

(About the Author: Ed Frauenheim is editor at workplace research site Great Rated!™, where he produces content and reviews companies.)

Kim-Peters(About Kim Peters: Kim Peters is CEO of Great Rated!™, at Great Place to Work®, where she is focused on helping job seekers understand companies’ workplace cultures and find their best fit. Kim has over 15 years’ leadership experience in the online recruitment industry, and has launched and led a number of successful businesses including, Canada’s leading job board, where she was founder and President,  and Canwest Mediaworks where she served as Vice President Online Classifieds. Kim most recently was CEO of, a Canadian job search engine combining reviews and job listings.)

Career Advice: The Best Defense Is A Good Offense

There can be few things more disheartening than having someone completely steal your idea and try to find success off the back of your hard work. Imagine if you’d released a popular app that had had thousands of downloads and a ton of positive feedback; only to find that several imitators had proceeded to release carbon copies of what you’d made and begun damaging your sales and stealing your customers. They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, but in reality it tends to be far less flattering and much more frustrating.

The question is then, what do you do about these imitators and how do you ensure that they don’t steal all of your thunder? Should you tackle them head on, or should you be more subtle about it?

The Best Defense

The best defense here is definitely a good offense. That doesn’t mean you want to attack your copycats though, rather it means you want to move forward with your project in an ‘aggressive’ manner so as to effectively bulldoze your opponents. Just think about how many Angry Birds imitators there are out there: do you care about any of them? No: because Angry Birds was the first and the best and as such it got all of the attention. This is the way you need to be with your project: rather than worrying about protecting yourself legally or chasing down every last attempted copy, you should just focus on making your project the best and being the first to market.

Ideas Aren’t Everything

In fact when you think about it, the magic of Angry Birds wasn’t really in the idea at all, so much as it was down to the execution. It was the charm of Angry Birds and the physics that made it a hit, and this is the case with many creations. People can steal your idea, but they can’t steal your personality and your fingerprints which should be all over your creations and often that is far more valuable than the idea itself.

As tech-investor-and-author Tim Ferriss put it to the Huffington Post:

“Ideas are worth nothing, they’re not a dime a dozen, they’re just nothing. All the good founders I know – even the bad founders – can come up with ideas all day long. It doesn’t mean anything. You have to execute.”

Don’t Become the Bad Guy

Generally where we’re going with this then is to say: don’t fret if someone tries to muscle in on your territory. In fact it’s fairly normal for people to ‘borrow’ your ideas, just as Microsoft has borrowed from Apple and SEGA has borrowed from Nintendo. A little competition – even if it feels like an affront – will only lead to a better marketplace for your customers and more progress in your industry.

And if you take too aggressive a stance you can end up becoming the bad guy: just like ‘King’ did when they ridiculously copyrighted the term ‘Candy’ for use in computer games and merchandise.

Sure it’s annoying when someone tries to steal your intellectual property, but eventually it’s all but inevitable. Don’t waste your energy fighting them, instead focus on taking your own products to the next level. You’ve innovated once, you can do it again!

(About the Author: Greg Fisher, founder of Berkeley Sourcing Group, has a strong manufacturing and engineering background, and is proficient in Mandarin. After graduating from UC Berkeley with an engineering degree, Mr. Fisher worked in the medical device, hard drive storage, ice cream, and professional tools industries in various management, manufacturing, and quality control capacities.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

Do you have great content you want to share with us? Become a TalentCulture contributor!

Photo Credit: Michal Bednarek via bigstock

Stand Out From Competitors With Benefits Like These

Recruitment is a constant battle for HR. It’s a persistently nagging requirement, it never goes away. Just as soon as you think you’ve got enough stellar team members on board, someone else hands in their notice and you’re back to square one.

Locating talent takes a lot of time. It’s expensive, and excruciatingly difficult to get right. And even when you’ve spent time, money and resources finding the perfect fit – how do you get that person to stay?

Half the battle is retention.

As an HR and benefits professional, you know the key is making your business an attractive place to work. You want to be an employer of choice, and you understand that offering a comprehensive benefits package is important. But how do you stand out from the crowd when you’ve got a limited budget to play with?

The solution is making it relevant, and to do that you need to know your workforce inside out. In order to hook the best talent, you need to understand which benefits matter to your people, on a human and personal level.

Sometimes this requires a little thinking outside the box. If you’ve got a very young workforce, you need to excite them. If you’ve got employees with low income, your focus needs to be on stretching their salary further. It’s not always about money either – sometimes the simplest gestures, like flexible working – so that parents can pick their children up from school, can make your people feel most valued.

If you are going to spend money then you need a benefit that impacts everyone, in order to generate maximum return. You need to offer something that’s measurable, so you can map ROI and prove it’s working. And you need to go above and beyond your bread and butter benefits if you want anyone to take notice.

The truth is, you might not need to invest much money to get an engaged workforce. Success in terms of benefits strategy is getting your employees to draw a higher value from the benefits you offer than it costs you as an employer to provide. Salary is the most expensive way to reward staff, so you want to offer lots of additional exciting benefits as part of a well-rounded total compensation package.

In some cases, educational benefits can have a bigger impact on cementing an employee’s longevity at your company. In the first place you need to make sure you communicate your existing benefits expertly so that your employees are well informed about what’s available to them. Building on that, your employees will love you if you provide useful educational advice such as health or financial wellness initiatives.

By demonstrating that you care about employee wellbeing you may spark their reciprocal buy-in to the business. As a result you’ll decrease turnover, and in turn, impact your bottom line.

(About the Author: The ability to work for a fast growing employee benefits and engagement company called Reward Gateway is never boring. I saw this company grow from 70 employees to 190 in just one year. With brands like IBM, Yahoo, McDonalds and much more under our belt we can say for sure that we are the heavy weight champion in our industry. My position in the company is SMM (Social Media Marketer) which means my priority is to grow our social presence and eventually bring more happy clients that will learn how to engage their employees and see their business grow as a result of the happy employees.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

Do you have great content you want to share with us? Become a TalentCulture contributor!

Photo Credit: nickwheeleroz via Compfight cc

3 Reasons That Corporate Training Is Booming

Bersin by Deloitte recently released their 2014 Corporate Learning Factbook, and revealed that corporate training is in huge demand right now, and it is only expected to climb. The research showed a steady growth rate from 10% in 2011, 12% in 2012 and 15% in 2014.

As an LMS provider, this is great news, but it’s even better news for the organizations jumping on the training bandwagon. Because training is considered one of the most discretionary spends in business, the significant return of training is a very strong indicator that the economy and business are in a positive state. Here are the three reasons that corporate training in the US has become a $70 Billion industry.

No Money, No Training

When belts tighten, training is among the first things to go. That being said, when the economy makes the upward swing, a strong emphasis on training becomes immediate. In 2008 and 2009, at the height of the US economic recession, we saw corporate training spending dip down to -11%. By 2011, spending had increased by 21%. Bersin said:

“This is among the most discretionary of all corporate spending areas, so it is an excellent bellweather for business confidence.”

So what happened during that 21% drop in training spend? While the entire skill gap or talent shortage (whatever you want to call it) can’t be fully attributed to this significant dip in training, it certainly didn’t help matters.

The Skill Gap Is Significant

The study also took a look at just how real the skill gap is in today’s US workforce. The research revealed that over 70% of organizations cite “capability gaps” as one of their top five challenges.

For instance, a recent report from the Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education revealed that employment in professional, scientific and tech services is projected to grow by 29% by 2020. It is also projected that of the two million new jobs this increase will produce, the majority of the will have be filled with talent from outside of the US. CEO of Goodwill Industries, Jim Gibbons said:

“Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. Closing the skills gap will take a concerted effort and commitment to retraining and educating our workforce. We can only close the gap by comprehensively investing in workers of all ages — from students to seniors.”

Employers Prefer Internal Hires/Promotions

A recent survey of 400 employers, conducted by the College for America revealed a strong preference for the learning and development of existing employees into management roles rather than hiring new employees. Employers want to be able to promote from within, but the lack of appropriate skills in their workforce doesn’t allow for it. So leaders are embracing the importance of training. Internal promotions save on sourcing, recruiting and hiring costs, which can add up quite quickly. Training has its own associated costs, but they tend to yield a very high return on investment, as training is also linked to increased productivity, engagement and retention.

The corporate training boom is not only a symbol of a current positive economic state, it is also a catalyst for a strong economy to come. As training is welcomed back into the corporate world it brings with it a lot of solutions to our current workforce problems, like employee engagement lows, high turnover rates, poor customer care and the significant skill gap. Training is one of the most important and effective investments that leaders can make to drive success that will last.

(About the Author: Sean Pomeroy, CEO of Visibility Software, has worked in the Human Resources industry since he graduated from Radford University with a Bachelors in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. After working in HR as a generalist for a government contracting company, he moved to the HR Technology arena and began assisting companies in the selection and implementation of HR software.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

Do you have great content you want to share with us? Become a TalentCulture contributor!

photo credit: FutUndBeidl via photopin cc

Employee Engagement And Your Pie Hole

Leaders everywhere are jumping on board with the employee engagement movement. They have different tactics, go-to blogs and conferences to help them with this mission that is supposed to increase productivity, slash turnover rates and build that stellar employer brand that employers need working for them more than ever.

A lot of employers are trying the latest in employee engagement surveys, rewards programs and competitive compensation practices…and then they open their open their big, fat pie hole and ruin it all. Put simply, a program or initiative isn’t going to cut it where employee engagement is concerned; it takes a cultural overhaul that starts with a genuine dialogue.

There are several ways that your mouth can completely wipe out any real work that the organization has accomplished in the name of employee engagement.


If your neck is now bobbing to the musical stylings of Aretha Franklin, my job is done here, but read on anyhow. I don’t know one person for whom respect is not important, especially in the workplace. We’re on the very basic level of common sense here, yet respectful dialogue seems to escape many of us. Take a stab at genuine, respectful dialogue.

Listen carefully when your coworkers speak. Allow them to fully flesh out their statement or idea, while remaining quiet. This does not mean that you can use your yap-shut time to formulate your debate; listen.

Remember that your face isn’t some invisible thing on the front of your head. We can say just as much with facial expressions and body language as we can with words.

When it’s your turn in the discussion, concentrate on non-combative, open language. Communication expert, Scott McDowell suggests, instead of saying, “no” or “but”, try “yes, and…” Starting the sentence off with aggressive language puts others on the defense automatically, stifling any chance at a productive conversation.

Everyone has a fake-o-meter; we can all tell when someone is “dealing” with us, or being disingenuous. How is it that we so quickly forget that when we’re the offenders? Say what you mean, but say it in a way that is aimed at showing respect and achieving something.

Honesty and constructive criticism are not synonymous. Ah, the co-worker who believes that their outright rude remarks are seen as “honesty”; that’s not what it is. It’s no wonder that the people who say something like, “I’m sorry, I’m just a very honest person.” are the ones you secretly hope will lose a finger in the paper shredder.

Building Blocks

Workplace leadership expert, Megan M. Biro outlines some words and phrases that she believe should be at the foundation of a vocabulary that inspires employee engagement:

  • Please
  • Thank You
  • Do you have a moment?
  • I understand.
  • Well done.

Simple, effective building blocks for workplace communication that also fosters engagement. Each conversation, or interaction is an opportunity to build engagement, or knock it down. It’s up totally up to each of us which direction we wish to take our own communications.

While the bottom line, productivity and talent attraction and retention might be at the core of this employee engagement movement, I think we can all agree that there is something to be said for simply having a better environment to go to work in. If for no other reason than improving the culture that you spend 40-50 hours per week in, try to reflect daily on how your words and attitude affect those around you. The workplace is a very cyclical environment, what you put in, is what you will get back.

(About the Author: Melissa, a marketing professional with over a decade of leadership, has led marketing teams in companies ranging from travel to fundraising to small business apps, always multiplying results with her contagious ambition. And while the pressure of being the marketing mastermind would be more than enough for most pros, Melissa is also VP of Talent Management of Herd Wisdom.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

Do you have great content you want to share with us? Become a TalentCulture contributor!

photo credit: Sakurako Kitsa via photopin cc

Close The Skills Gap By Attracting The Best And Brightest Talent

Written By: Tracey Arnish, Senior Vice President, Talent at SAP

The economy is improving, and changes in social norms have raised the stakes in recruitment. At the same time, there doesn’t appear to be enough people with the right complex skills entering the job market. How do you recruit the best and the brightest when there are five generations in the workforce? How do you reach them at all?According to a recent LinkedIn study, approximately 25% employed people are actively looking for their next role. However, a staggering 60% can be swayed to talk to a recruiter or their personal network about new job opportunity. And with the idea of a “job for life” long forgotten, talent is more willing to move than ever before.Recruiters are vying for the attention of a limited talent pool. But as we see from this LinkedIn survey, it’s not because people are not looking. In today’s competitive talent market, recruiters are tasked with finding talent that possess complex skills needed to guarantee future business success. And sometimes, these skills are so unique that it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

3 Ways To Find A Candidate For That Hard-to-Fill Position

With 7 billion people inhabiting our planet, how do you find that one person that can help raise your brand to superstar status? Here are three strategies for attracting the best and brightest talent our world has to offer.

1.  Target potential candidates before there’s a new job opening

Data is everywhere. So why should data scientists and analysts have all the fun? Data mining for recruiters can be as simple as a Google search, a trip to Facebook or Twitter, and a visit to key blog sites. However, if you really want to take advantage of all that data, you need tools that can help you pull it all together, analyze it, and uncover critical insights. With some of today’s recruitment analytics tools, recruiters can pinpoint strategic geographies—even specific neighborhoods, college campuses, or competitor office buildings—to attract top talent. You can even find out which social media channels your potential talent pool uses to connect with the      outside world.

But analytics doesn’t just show you where your potential candidates are, it maximizes time and ROI by telling you which candidates are worth your time and effort to develop a relationship. Predictive analytics can match ideal candidates to open (and future) positions and when the time is right to actively recruit the potential candidate.

2. Go where your future talent lives, works, socializes, and plays

Gathering place. Confessional. Neighborhood. Community. Whatever you call it, social networks have created a place where people all over the world are testing new ideas, flaunting their successes, and looking for support to learn when they fail.

Social media is where others can live vicariously through our personal experiences. In addition to recruiting activities such as job fairs and college campus visits, actively listening, watching, and engaging with future job candidates on social media platforms is a great way for recruiters to get to know them. By putting their ear close to the proverbial social-media ground, recruiters can find out who’s out there. What do they want from work? What do they value? Are they happy with their current employer and why?

In addition to performing primary and secondary research on potential candidates, social media provides an opportunity for recruiters to draw an audience for their employer brand story.

3. Treat recruiting like marketing—everyone loves a good story

The power of how you tell a story can inspire and excite. Does your employer brand story resonate with the best candidates? Good employer brand storytelling fosters a personalized connection and uses peer-to-peer experiences to show authenticity and generate trust. And the best people to tell that story are not recruiters or marketers—it’s your employees in every area of the business. They are the ones who can tell candid stories that give a realistic view of life at your company. By weaving those stories together into the employer brand, you encourage the right people to apply because they value the perspective of their potential peers and like what they hear.

You think you found the “one”? You’re not done!

Just because you found the “one” and convinced this person to work for your company, it doesn’t mean your job is done. Rather, it’s only the beginning. Hiring managers must consistently re-recruit their employees to keep them engaged and loyal.

Here’s some tips on how to get started:

1. Connect employees’ work with their individual values.

No matter the generation, all employees want to feel valued. They want to perform duties that have meaning and have an impact on the overall company. Find out what each employee values—even down to the social causes that are close to their heart.

2. Create opportunities for consistent, 360-degree feedback.

Another thing people always appreciate is feedback—and not just during annual performance reviews. This dialogue should take place weekly and provide actionable items, such as signing up for corporate learning, setting up a meeting with another colleague, or asking for the opportunity to take part in a meaningful project to gain leadership skills, make a greater impact in the company and world, or spice up daily life at work.

3. Help employees picture themselves moving through the ranks.

If employees see a future with their current employer, they are more likely to resist the temptation of a recruiter’s call. Look for internal talent when filling open positions. If your talent doesn’t have that one unique, critical skill set, see if it’s possible to help an employee develop that skill through corporate learning before you reach out to your list of potential candidates outside the company.

Above all, no recruiting strategy is complete without the right leadership—and that is especially true for re-recruiting plans. When there’s a management team that understands the value of developing a competitive workforce, you’ll have the time, money, resources,
and support to convince hiring managers that re-recruiting your employees is just as important as recruiting new ones.

Tracey(About the Author: Tracey Arnish was appointed Senior Vice President, Talent in March 2013. In this role Tracey is responsible for SAP’s End to end Talent strategy ensuring that SAP continues to live the philosophy that “Everyone is a Talent”, and that each individual is fully enabled to grow a meaningful career at SAP. Under Tracey’s leadership Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards and Talent Management and Development, are responsible for the design of leading solutions in support of a compelling career experience for each and every one of SAP’s 65,000 talents globally, and ensuring that SAP has the talent it needs now and for the future. With over 15 years of progressive Human Resources experience, Tracey has worked in both the private and public sector with organizations. Passionate about building an organization that attracts and retains the best talent, Tracey brings focus to developing a culture that enables the achievement of the strategic business plans and supports colleagues in achieving their career best with an employer of choice. A mentor and coach to others Tracey is passionate about supporting talent and helping others realize their full potential.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

Do you have great content you want to share with us? Become a TalentCulture contributor!

Photo Credit: balmung (王韋証) via Compfight cc

4 Must-Read Hiring Tips For Newbie Bosses

Congratulations! You’ve already rounded a few hurdles of starting a business — you’ve made the decision it’s something you’re motivated to do and you’ve set the wheels in motion to make it happen. The type of business you’re starting will determine the type of employee you need and their skill set — even whether you need one or more.

If you’re in a position where you’ve been operating solo for a while, but you need help with the day-to-day operations, you might seek someone with similar skills to your own, but who can be your right-hand as the business grows. Alternately, you might be well-equipped to run the venture, but you need someone with a set of expertise you don’t have so you can broaden your offerings.

Either way, hiring your first — or any — employee has legal, personal and professional considerations to bear in mind.

Finding the perfect candidate

All of the above doesn’t matter until you can find the perfect hire. As an entrepreneur, you may not have a robust LinkedIn following you can advertise to, and your industry contacts could be limited. You might be leery of someone who’s quick to jump on the startup wagon; lots of people are looking for job security and like the comfort of an established business.

Start by mining your network. Put it out there that you’re looking, and have a specific and thorough job description ready. While you don’t want to poach an employee from someone in your network, you can use your network as a source for referrals.

Attending industry conferences or trade shows can also be a great way to find an employee. Use your personal social media network. You never know when a friend of a friend could be looking for a job and can be a great fit.

Share your vision

If this is your first hire, your company’s “culture” might be undetermined. But you should have an idea whether you want someone who will come to work in yoga pants or who will be more business casual. You also must be confident the employee is someone you trust in a client-facing capacity. Especially for small businesses, each person is a face of the company.

Even if you’ve hired someone to do back-end work, the reality is that if you need her in a pinch to interface with a client or the public, you should be confident she’ll represent your brand the way you want to be represented.

Try to ask questions that get to the heart of your candidate’s core philosophies. Ideally, you want someone who will complement your style, help you to grow as a businessperson and not butt heads. It’s not necessarily someone who will blindly follow you over a cliff, but who will add perspective to your growing business.

Dig deep

Entrepreneur gives a piece of advice that might run contrary to what you’ve heard before: Don’t trust your instincts. Trusting your gut is great in some circumstances, but conduct due diligence in hiring. If you wouldn’t buy a house with a handshake, don’t hire an employee with one, either.

Although you might get a great vibe from a candidate, do as thorough a background check as you can. You might be tempted to save a few bucks and search online for criminal records, verification of education and other background essentials, but the Internet is full of manufactured or doctored documents.

If your employee acts in a way that harms someone, you can be liable for those acts. Criminal records and other records can be fakes, though, and so can background check companies. The three trusted background checking companies are Sterling Global Background ChecksIntellicorpand Kroll. Like the “big three” credit reporting agencies, these companies are established and reputable.

Know the regulations in your industry. For example, if you’re operating a child care center, an employee likely needs to undergo additional background checks. If your employee will be driving certain classes of vehicles, other regulations need to be followed. These vary state to state, so know how to properly screen your employees based on the job description.

Certain questions are off-limits in an interview, but remain mindful of verifying your candidate’s immigration status. The U.S. Department of Labor has a wealth of resources to help you navigate the nitty-gritty of hiring.

You might need a few tries to get it right

Just like you’ve been hired for a job only to discover a few months later it wasn’t what you expected, you might hire someone who’s not the right fit. It happens. If you’re planning to sign an employment contract, make sure you can terminate the employee at-will any time. You can’t fire someone for discriminatory reasons, or for reasons that violate public policy (e.g., the filing of a worker’s compensation claim).

Hopefully, if it’s not a good fit, both you and the employee will recognize that, and it’ll make the transition smoother. If you do make a poor hiring choice, reflect on what went wrong, what you could have asked during an interview process that would have helped uncover what was problematic, and what you should have looked for but didn’t.

As an entrepreneur, you’re bound to make mistakes, but use them as opportunities for growth so that you can do better next time.

(About the Author: Noble McIntyre is the founding partner and owner of a personal injury law firm, McIntyre Law based in Oklahoma City. He’s dedicated to making his community better through his partnership with Lawyers Against Hunger.) Originally posted here.

(Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

Do you have great content you want to share with us? Become a TalentCulture contributor!  

photo credit: via photopin cc

Workplace Wellness: The Story Starts With Healthy Culture

(Editor’s Note: Chris Boyce is one of our featured guests at #TChat Events Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014. Join us to discuss employee engagement issues! See details in the preview post: “Does Your Workforce Feel the Love?“)

Written by Chris Boyce, CEO, Virgin Pulse

Headlines are a funny thing. They often do a terrible job of telling a story. Earlier this year, the RAND Corporation published what headlines described as a sobering report on the state of workplace wellness.

At first glance, these initiatives appeared to be falling far short of the mark. But (as is so often the case) headlines only tell a tiny slice of the story. To find the truth, we must look beneath the surface.

Wellness 1.0: A Flawed Model

It’s correct that the traditional concept of wellness is broken. Employers have been overly prescriptive with wellness strategies — relying far too heavily on specific programs, health risk assessments (HRAs) and biometric screenings. These tactics typically produce short-term gains, but they lose on long-term impact. This “Wellness 1.0” approach clearly has failed.

The Power Of Wellness 2.0

Traditional wellness has struggled because it overlooks a critical issue — telling employees how to act is not the same thing as empowering employees to make their own healthy behavioral choices, and supporting them along the way. In short, for workforce wellness to gain a meaningful foothold and make a lasting impact, culture must come first.

How can companies accomplish this mission? In theory, it’s simple. But in reality, it can be a challenge. Developing a culture-first mentality means focusing on employees’ Total Quality of Life — including physical, mental, social, emotional, and financial health. It’s not just about convincing them to join a weight loss program or complete an annual HRA. It’s about connecting with them in ways that put lifestyle changes within easy reach, and encouraging them support one another through the process of transformation.

Creating a culture geared toward Total Quality of Life requires solutions that are engaging, social and fun, so employees naturally weave them into daily activity. It means moving beyond traditional wellness boundaries by connecting participants with a highly available online platform. It means providing “anytime” access to smart tools and resources that comfortably fit into an employee’s world — making it simple, interactive and rewarding to choose healthier options on a continuous basis.

Success Factors: Walking The Walk

Virgin Pulse Total Quality of Life Employee Engagement whitepaper cover

Download the related Pulse Paper now

Every Total Quality of Life strategy should incorporate healthy goals as foundational elements. For example, it’s essential to encourage nutritious eating habits and regular physical activity. But it’s also important for employers to demonstrate commitment to those goals by offering things like healthy cafeteria options and access to onsite workout facilities, so employees can easily integrate these choices into their daily routine.

Other elements can take Total Quality of Life even further. For example, classes that help employees establish and manage a 401k, or learn smart retirement savings strategies demonstrate an even deeper commitment to workforce well-being. The result? The more employers invest in employees’ personal and professional growth, the more committed, engaged and productive those employees will be. In short, a holistic approach is a wise investment in future business performance.

Measurable Improvement: It’s A Matter Of Time

Of course, cultural shifts take time. But they’re far more effective if employees believe you care about them — not just as “human resources,” but as whole humans. Employer commitment is key. Once employees move forward with wellness objectives, and begin to reach early milestones, they’ll start feeling better about themselves. Soon, personal achievements like weight loss or community volunteer involvement begin translating into direct payoffs at work. You’ll see more passion, creativity, and focus on the job. And when you reinforce these positive outcomes, it will lead to even more ambitious objectives.

Rewriting The Wellness Story

What headlines you should expect for Wellness 2.0? This next-generation approach to wellness, focused on Total Quality of Life, is helping companies shift their approach to a culture of continuous engagement. So keep looking for stories of individual and business transformation, fueled by more productive, loyal employees. Those stories are real, and ready to be told.

(Editor’s Note: Looking for more details about how to engage and support your workforce? Download the latest Virgin Pulse Paper, “Total Quality of Life: A Roadmap for Employee Engagement” by TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro.)

Chris-Boyce_color_web2(About the Author: Chris Boyce is CEO of Virgin Pulse. He is an accomplished technology entrepreneur who brings more than 15 years of consumer loyalty, enterprise and consumer software experience to Virgin Pulse. Leveraging Virgin’s philosophy that business should be a force for good, Chris’ leadership has been instrumental in guiding Virgin Pulse’s development of market-leading, technology-based products and services that help employers improve workforce health, boost employee engagement, and enhance corporate culture. Chris has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

The Social Workplace: Nowhere To Hide #TChat Recap

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”
–Dalai Lama

Excellent point. But the Dalai Lama’s quote begs a key question: In the social workplace, how much transparency is too much? Moreover, what does “privacy” really mean today, for employees as well as employers?

Obviously, there are no simple answers. And best practices only continue to shift, as social tools and conventions evolve. However, this issue affects everyone in the world of work. So that’s why TalentCulture invited a social-media-savvy HR attorney to help our community explore these issues at this week’s #TChat forums. We were thrilled to welcome Mary Wright, former General Counsel at employment litigation firm Ogletree Deakins, and founding Editor of HR Gazette, a daily online newspaper for HR professionals and employment lawyers. (For event highlights, see the links and Storify slideshow at the end of this post.)

Social Disclosure: Less Is More. Or Is It?

Ubiquitous social media channels. Smartphones with cameras. (Does anyone remember “old school” film cartridges anymore?) Circles of “friends” we’ve never even met face-to-face. It seems like nothing is truly private anymore. Most of us share photos, post comments and tell the world whatever pops into our minds throughout the day. But how does all that activity expose us professionally in unwanted ways? And what are the implications for the organizations we represent?

Here’s the kicker question: In an open social environment, how can companies encourage employees to serve as brand ambassadors, while ensuring that those same individuals use appropriate discretion?

Knowledge Is Power

As many #TChat participants noted this week, the answers start at the top. Senior executives must lead by example and encourage others to follow. Treating employees with candor and respect means that candor and respect will likely be returned. Communicating company objectives and priorities helps employees feel valued and empowered. And clarifying social policies provides a framework that makes it easier for employees to comply. Sharing more information with employees doesn’t need to put employers at risk. Instead, it can create a spirit of collaboration and strengthen employee engagement.

At the same time, employers should respect employee privacy. Again, leading by example is key. Managers should avoid gossip around the office and outside of work. This sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? And yet, I’ve overheard managers openly discussing an employee’s personal hardships, including private medical information. When managers breach that kind of trust, it leaves a memorable impression for everyone involved.

Amplify This? Think Before You Go Social

These days, social media adds another dimension. Employers can no longer afford to operate without documented social media policies. But what should the guiding principle be? Here’s a simple idea from Dave Ryan:

And what is an employee’s responsibility when interpreting social policies? Jen Olney offered sound advice:

Or perhaps for some of us, that sequence should be Stop. Think. Stop some more…and more…and more…then send.

In other words, before posting a comment or photo, consider for a moment who may see that information. How might they perceive it — for better or worse? Ask yourself, “Would I want my grandmother or daughter to see what I am about to make public?” Remember, once you post it, you won’t have control over where it may be seen, or how it will be interpreted. So perhaps the very best policy is for each of us to take responsibility for ourselves, and err on the side of caution.

To see more about this week’s conversation, see the resource links and Storify highlights slideshow below. And if you have ideas, feel free to share a comment, or post in the #TChat stream. This is just the start of an ongoing dialogue — so please weigh-in anytime!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Workplace Privacy vs. Transparency

SAT 9/21:

Mary Wright

Watch the Hangout with Mary Wright now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald framed the topic in a post that features a brief G+ Hangout video with our guest, Mary Wright. Read the Preview:
“TMI: A Fresh Take On Privacy By An HR Lawyer.”

SUN 9/22: Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro outlined 5 issues for business leaders to consider about transparency in today’s social world. Read: “Private Workplace Lives In a Public Social Age.”

MON 9/23:

Related Article: Entrepreneur David Hassell talked about why and how trust is the most precious currency for any new venture. Read: “Want to Build a Business? Lead With Trust.”

TUE 9/24: Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro shared compelling leadership lessons learened from a cultural clash at a software company in transition. Read: “5 Social Skills Business Leaders Must Master.”

WED 9/25:


Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with Mary Wright about legal issues and implications surrounding privacy in the workplace — from multiple perspectives: employers, employees and job candidates. Listen to the radio show recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, hundreds of community members gathered with Mary on the #TChat Twitter stream for an expanded discussion about this topic. For highlights from the event, see the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Transparency vs. Privacy In The Workplace

[javascript src=”//”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Mary Wright for adding your insights to this week’s discussion. Your legal and HR expertise added depth and perspective to a topic that increasingly affects us all.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about information sharing in the new era of social business? We’d love to hear 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, we tackle another “world of work” hot topic — The Dark Side of Workplace Effectiveness — along with two of the HR community’s best-known social commentators: John Sumser, editor-in-chief of HRExaminer; and William Tincup, CEO of HR consultancy Tincup & Co. So save the date (October 2) for another rockin #TChat double-header.

In the meantime, we’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Pixabay

Recognition Done Right: 9 Points of Light

(Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled to share this excerpt from the book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish – Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Drive Engagement and Reinforce Culture” by Stan Phelps. For more information about Stan and his “Goldfish” series of business management books, see the end of this post.)

On the 9 INCH journey to the heart of your employees, the 4th INCH involves RECOGNITION.

“You matter. These two words can change your mood, change your mind, and have the power to change lives and the world if we understand and leverage them in the right way.”  –Angela Maiers, TED Talk, June 2011

Recognition fuels a sense of worth and belonging in individuals. No rocket science here. As humans we crave acceptance. Dale Carnegie spoke of the importance of recognition nearly 80 years ago, in his landmark guidebook, “How to Win Friends and Influence People:”

“Be lavish in your praise and hearty in your approbation. A drop of honey gathers more bees than a gallon of vinegar.”

Recognition Resonates

In a recent survey, 35% of workers and 30% of chief financial officers said frequent recognition of accomplishments is the most effective non-monetary reward. Thanking people for their hard work and commitment is key to making them feel appreciated.

Shifting a Mindset

Most managers take an, “if, then” approach to recognition. Positive psychology expert, Shawn Achor believes this paradigm needs to change, “…from thinking that encouragement and recognition should be used as rewards for high performance as opposed to thinking that encouragement and recognition are drivers of high performance.”

9 Examples: Recognition Done Right

Let’s look at 9 companies who give a little extra when it comes to employee recognition:

Kudos and Shout-Outs

Every week The Nerdery agency compiles a video of shout-outs, with employees publicly praising their fellow nerds for going above-and-beyond. Five shout-out recipients are chosen for free lunches the following week. The weekly shout-out video is played for all at the Friday afternoon Bottlecap Talk, where the agency celebrates the successful launch of a recent project with a show-and-tell demo led by the rockstar developers who made it happen.

Custom Awards

Rackspace created a special award for employees who are fanatical about serving customers. It’s simply called The Jacket. It signifies fanaticism and hence is a straightjacket. Only one employee wins the jacket at a time.

Decision Lens awards top-performing salespeople with custom-made action figures designed to resemble the employee.  According to Co-Founder John Saaty:

“It’s a humorous way to acknowledge the great efforts of our sales team, and something that’s more memorable than the usual plaque or something like that.”

Executives at Zappos pick a monthly “hero” and award them with a parade, covered parking spot for a month, a $150 Zappos gift card, and a cape.

Immediate Recognition

American Express has a Prize Patrol. A group of four or five leaders get together and surprise their coworkers with flowers or a gift in front of their colleagues to celebrate their accomplishments.

Take Note: The Best Things In Life Are Free

A recent study confirmed that the cost of recognition awards has only minimal impact on employee perception of appreciation. 57% reported that the most meaningful recognition is free. Just look at some of these quotes to judge the impact:

Former CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, Doug Conant, is a big proponent of the power of handwritten notes. In Doug’s words,

what's your green goldfish cover“Look for opportunities to celebrate. My executive assistants and I would spend a good 30 to 60 minutes a day scanning my mail and our internal website looking for news of people who have made a difference at Campbell’s. Get out your pen. Believe it or not, I have sent roughly 30,000 handwritten notes to employees over the last decade, from maintenance people to senior executives. I let them know that I am personally paying attention and celebrating their accomplishments. (I send handwritten notes too because well over half of our associates don’t use a computer). I also jump on any opportunities to write to people who partner with our company any time I meet with them. It’s the least you can do for people who do things to help your company and industry. On the face of it, writing handwritten notes may seem like a waste of time. But in my experience, they build goodwill and lead to higher productivity.”

Long before he became CEO of iProspect, back as an analyst at Bain Capital and KPMG, Robert J. Murray had an idea on how you should run a services business.

“One thing that always surprised me in prior work experiences is when your assets walk out the door each day, why aren’t companies doing more to value the people doing the business?”

Mr. Murray thinks he’s found the answer to that, and many of his employees agree. His formula:  hire competitive people, promote early and often, and give constant feedback — including  notes of encouragement he calls “iProps.”

Recognizing Milestones

The tenure program at Sweetgreen called Shades of Green has blown up into a competition and become a status symbol among employees. Every teammate gets a free shirt — the longer you’re with Sweetgreen, the darker your shirt. Who knew a free t-shirt could help shape company culture? After you’ve been with Sweetgreen for a year, you also get a pair of green high-top Converse sneakers. At two years, you get a t-shirt and a neon green iPod Nano Touch. After three years, you get a lime-green Sweetgreen bike.

The diamond program Brady, Chapman, Holland encourages generosity in daily work life. When a BCH employee does something exceptionally well for a client, a fellow employee or the community, an acrylic diamond is tossed in a jar. When the jar is full, they celebrate by playing a game or going to a sports bar.

Do these ideas inspire you to think creatively about recognition in your organization? How could recognition be more meaningful where you work?

stan phelps headshot with ruler(Author Profile: Stan Phelps is the Founder of 9 INCH Marketing, an organization that inspires leaders to think differently about business — challenging them to value customer experience as a competitive differentiator and the importance of employee engagement in building a strong corporate culture. Stan helps brands explore new opportunities, showing them how to be more successful in tomorrow’s changing world, and working with clients to create experiences that are memorable, meaningful and on-brand. Driven by client objectives and inspired by bold vision, Stan and his team get results through programs that win big. Visit to learn more about his books “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” (employee engagement insights) and “What’s Your Purple Goldfish?” (customer engagement insights).


Painful Formalities of Informal Onboarding: #TChat Preview

We’re big fans of social media and all things social here at TalentCulture World of Work. We’re also fairly informal as a social community, most comfortable with relaxed interchanges and a bit put off by super-formal processes at times.

But I’ve noticed something interesting of late in the social world — the very informality of social media is creating a new formality in the workplace, one that’s actually harder to monitor and manage than conventional interchanges happening in the workplace. How can this be? A good deal of this happens in employee orientation or onboarding, so we decided it would be a great #TChat topic. On the one hand we have loads of research showing people learn best in informal settings. On the other hand, we have companies still pushing process and culture through the employee handbook (although there are some great handbooks out there — tip of the hat to Valve.)

One weird paradox is that social media at once eliminates much of the formality and much of the human touch. And informality isn’t necessarily what the new hire craves; he or she may just want real, live, approachable human beings to deal with. I’m talking about the face-to-face, in-person, in-real-life (IRL) touch.

In real life, a formal setting doesn’t need informality to provide a real, live, approachable human. All the interactive technology and informality that comes with it lacks the human touch. And then, all of a sudden, it feels like all the things we mistakenly correlate necessarily with formalities — clinical, lacking in warmth, thin, superficial. UGH. People hire people – right?

What to do? As leaders how can we shove a handbook at someone and expect the person will pick up the company’s nuanced workplace culture? And who’s responsible for making sure new hires are brought into the workplace culture fold, anyway? Please don’t tell us you’re relying solely on social media, either. As HR turns to more automation, are we at risk of losing the opportunity to acclimate new hires in a systematic, repeatable and personally-meaningful way? I’m worried to be honest. I guess it’s time we talk it through to find some peace.

So many questions, so little time — here are this week’s questions for your consideration:

Q1: Data shows that informal learning is the best way to know, so why do we throw the “employee handbook” at folks?

Q2: How do we embed the behind-the-scenes, impromptu workplace cultural experiences into the onboarding process?

Q3: Who’s responsible for cultural acclimation, training & retention at & beyond formal & informal onboarding & why?

Q4: When does formal onboarding make the most sense & why?

Q5: Much of the hiring administrative processes can be automated today, but how can HR tech promote informal onboarding?

If you are interested in or responsible for leadership, workplace culture, employee onboarding and best practices, we hope you’ll join us at #TChat World of Work on Wednesday night, Aug. 22, from 7-8pm ET (6-7pm CT, 4-5pm PT, or wherever you are) as we explore the balance between “social” workplace onboarding and more formal, classroom-style employee orientation.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk, industrial and organizational psychologist, as well as workplace strategist (@MRGottschalk / The Office Blend), will be our guest moderator. We’ll assess the formalities and informalities of employee onboarding and new-hire orientation and discuss the merits of informal social learning vs. formalized orientation processes. I look forward to chatting with you soon.

Image Credits: UnWelcome Mat via Freaking Craft

Battle Foods Employee Handbook Cover, by John Trainor

Chief Culture Officer, Onboarding & Beyond: #TChat Preview

At recent HR and leadership conferences and chats with colleagues, I’ve been hearing a lot about an emerging trend: Companies are hiring Chief Culture Officers. No, the CCO is not always interchangeable with the Vice President of Human Resources. It’s not as simple as it seems.

The CCO is on the leading edge of employee engagement. He’s in charge of onboarding, and beyond. And I mean, beyond. She might be part of the VP of HR’s peer group, or she might be in the C-Suite. It’s pretty fluid right now, and our TalentCulture community will discuss the Chief Culture Officer’s many permutations during this week’s #TChat.

Some leaders believe changing the nature of a company’s culture requires a revolution, a movement. Some believe (as do I) that culture springs from trust and communication. And others think it takes an ecosystem of management, business partners and executive leadership. Still others believe line managers and rank-and-file employees should have a say. What isn’t in debate is the need, now that the job market seems to be at a tipping point, for a dose of company culture-building. A giant dose of workplace and people happy!

Who is the Chief Culture Officer? Is it you, or does it require someone of a different temperament? To whom should the CCO report? Should the VP of HR report to the CCO? So many angles, and we only have an hour to discuss them. Here are this week’s questions:

Q1: What is a Chief Culture Officer? Do they exist? If so, what is their role & why?

Q2: How should the CCO facilitate and maintain employee connections, communications & collaborations from day 1?

Q3: Cultural ecosystems of biz = employees, contractors, vendors, service providers, alumni, new applicants. T or F?

Q4: Who should the CCO report to & why? Who should report to them?

Q5: What social HR technologies should the CCO implement to their cultural ecosystems & why?

If you feel the need for a little culture in the workplace, please join us at #TChat Twitter Wednesday night, Aug. 15, from 7-8pm ET (6-7pm CT, 4-5pm PT, or wherever you are), to talk about the emerging role of the CCO.

Matt Monge (@MattMonge, will be our guest moderator. Joining him will be yours truly (@MeghanMBiro) and Kevin W. Grossman (@KevinWGrossman), as well as Sean Charles (@SocialMediaSean), Salima Nathoo (@SocialSalima) and Brent Skinner (@BrentSkinner). We look look forward to looking at trust, culture, ecosystems and executive reporting structures with you, this week. It’s a controversial topic, so bring your opinions and be ready back them up with examples and facts.

See you there!

Image credit: Trust, by vagawi

An Open Letter to Someone Taking an Employment Assessment

Written by Daniel Crosby

Dear Job Seeker,

Hi there, it’s me, the organizational psychologist with whom you’ll be spending the next few hours. I know that you’re nervous and that I’m all that stands between you and this next gig, but I’d like to give you a few pointers to help make this process less painful for both of us. A few things to consider:

Don’t Make Shrink Jokes – I get it, my job is goofy. I also get that the stereotypes about beards and tweed are there for a reason. But, making a shrink joke with a psychologist is about as original as making a Men in Black joke to a guy named Will Smith. I promise you’re not as clever as you think.

Try to Relax – You’re understandably nervous and I’m going to do everything in my power to be disarming so that you can be your best. Nervous people tend to clam up and over manage impressions (cough, Mitt Romney, cough), which makes them hard to connect with. I promise we’ll develop better rapport if you chill out a little.

Be Honest – It’s natural for you to want to put your best foot forward, but it’s going to be harder to snow me than it was that 22 year-old generalist that first interviewed you. There is a real human tendency to want a complete picture of those with whom we interact. If you withhold information, I’m going to fill in the blanks myself and the inferences I draw may not be accurate or positive. Save us both the guesswork and be yourself – you’re your most likable when you’re your most forthright.

Don’t Game the Assessments – Odds are, I’ll be asking you to complete some personality profiles as well as some cognitive testing. The cog tests are hard to game and pretty much impossible to study for – take a deep breath, work quickly and do your best. The personality profiles on the other hand are a little easier to game. Please know that these assessments come with “social desirability scales” and that if you try and make yourself look like a superhuman, I’m likely to dig a little deeper in the interview. What’s more, you really don’t know what we’re looking for. Every personality trait has strengths and weaknesses, so please don’t try and manufacture someone that you’re not. After all, the real you may be just who we’re looking for – warts and all.

I’m really looking forward to meeting you and I’ll enjoy the next few hours we’ll have to talk about your personal and professional preferences. Your would-be employer would not have gone to the time and expense to arrange this meeting for us if they were not serious about you. Knowing that, be your funny, quirky, talented self and come get this job.



Dr. Daniel Crosby

BIO: Educated at Brigham Young and Emory Universities, Dr. Daniel Crosby is President of IncBlot Organizational Psychology, a consultancy whose vision is to “flood the Earth skills for living and leading.” IncBlot’s clients include NASA, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, RS Funds, Guardian Life Insurance, and Grant Thornton.

Dr. Crosby has been featured in the Huffington Post, Registered Rep, Risk Management Magazine and regularly contributes thought leadership for Monster, CareerBuilder and Glassdoor. You can follow Daniel on Twitter @incblot, like the IncBlot FB page here ( or visit their website at

5 Simple, Affordable Ways to Retain Workplace Talent

Offer professional development opportunities

Professional development doesn’t have to be time-consuming—or expensive. There are many inexpensive or free resources available today to continue the learning process for talented employees. Follow industry blogs, read magazines and whitepapers, and check out the latest books in the field for opportunities to share with your current employees. Be on the lookout for webinars, teleseminars, Twitter chats, and conferences that they may be interested in attending—and determine how your company can help make that happen.

Think about how you can provide a better work-life balance

Telecommuting, virtual meeting and flexible time off policies are all highly desired qualities in a workplace. Many top performers are constantly striving to maintain an ideal work-life balance because they are innately hard workers. Examine your internal policies to see if you can make this balancing act easier for your employees.

Provide a variety of projects to keep the work interesting and meaningful

No one wants to work at a job for the rest of their life where they do the same thing every day. Employees want to feel that their work is making a difference to the organization and its audiences. Talented employees crave challenging tasks that can add to their skills and growth as a professional. Cross-training and team projects are a great way to provide additional opportunities.

Look into tuition reimbursement initiatives

If an employee yearns to go back to school to complete another degree or certification, determine how the organization can help them make that happen by helping out with costs.

Provide quality feedback in a timely manner

Instead of waiting for an annual or semi-annual performance review, give your employees feedback about their tasks as soon as possible after completion. Feedback is an important piece of workplace satisfaction—even if it’s a simple “Great work!” e-mail or note.

Looking for more ways to retain top performing employees? Susan M. Heathfield in an article on outlines the following 10 ten ways to retain great employees:

  • Management thinkers agree that a satisfied employee knows clearly what is expected from him every day at work.
  • The quality of the supervision an employee receives is critical to employee retention.
  • The ability of the employee to speak his or her mind freely within the organization is another key factor in employee retention.
  • Talent and skill utilization is another environmental factor your key employees seek in your workplace.
  • The perception of fairness and equitable treatment is important in employee retention.
  • The easiest to solve, and the ones most affecting employee retention, are tools, time and training.
  • Your best employees, those employees you want to retain, seek frequent opportunities to learn and grow in their careers, knowledge and skill.
  • A common place complaint or lament I hear during an exit interview is that the employee never felt senior managers knew he existed.
  • No matter the circumstances, never, never, ever threaten an employee’s job or income.
  • Your staff members must feel rewarded, recognized and appreciated.

Does your company have any unusual or non-traditional tactics for retaining talent? I’d love to hear them!