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What's Your Culture Tattoo? #TChat Recap

This Friday is tattoo day at work. Seriously. Tattoo day.

Everyone in our team is encouraged to display meaningful “appropriate” tattoos and the stories behind them. Any form is acceptable — permanent body art, decals, even hand-drawn creations. (Want to join the fun from a distance? Keep an eye on my Twitter stream for some inspired ink.)

The Art of Business Culture

Sure, this sounds a little hokey, like “Hawaiian shirt day.” But that’s the charm. It’s a simple, lighthearted way for us to interact, learn about one another, and gel as a team. What could be wrong with that?

The fact is — today’s crazy-busy world of work assaults us with constant change. It forces us to adapt, and adapt, and adapt again. But in rolling with all the changes, we can easily lose touch with people who are in the trenches with us. Injecting a little camaraderie into the day-to-day flow helps us create, reinforce and enhance our culture. For a company that has absorbed multiple acquisitions in the past two years, that can be a tough sell. But we’re making the case for continuous cultural connections, from the top down and the inside out.

And yes, as I said, along with the fun comes learning. We’re learning in general, and individually from one another. When fun is purposeful and persistent, it actually sticks.

According to Bersin by Deloitte 2014 workforce predictions:

“The traditional definition of a ‘highly engaged’ employee is one who delivers discretionary effort. What leads someone to deliver ‘discretionary effort?’ Our research shows it takes a working environment that is friendly, flexible, fulfilling and purposeful.”

Change Agents and Purposeful Symbols

This week’s #TChat Events guest, Fortune 500 executive leadership advisor, columnist, and author, Mike Myatt, would agree. On #TChat Radio, he noted that the most vibrant, valuable business cultures are built by design. They’re “very purposed and intentioned — creating a place where people actually want to come.”

(Editor’s Note: See full #TChat Event highlights and resource links at the end of this post.)

So, ask yourself these questions:

• How purposeful is your company culture? Even if you lead an organization of one, what are your intentions? Knowing that commitment to culture is integral to business success, are you clear with your employees (and yourself) that you’re here to stay and play? Don’t let your culture slip away through unintentional behavior. Choose to make it stick.

• What’s the shape of your cultural tattoo? I’m not an ink kind of person, but I don’t disparage those who are. In fact, throughout history, great leaders have bound tribes together with powerful visual symbols. In today’s organizations we may think of them as brands, but why shouldn’t meaningful symbols bind work tribes, as well? They do fulfill a primal need for identification and belonging. Does your employer brand accomplish that mission?

Hey — if you show me your tat, I’ll show you mine. On purpose.

For more insights on this topic, check out the highlights and resource links below from this week’s #TChat conversation. Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas and opinions! Your contributions helped bring the concept of “culture makeovers” to life!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Leading a Culture Makeover

SUN 1/5:

MikeMyatt (2)

Watch the #TChat sneak peek hangout now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in a post featuring a variety of related blog posts, and a “sneak peek” hangout video with guest, Mike Myatt, author of the new book, “Hacking Leadership.” Read the Preview now: “New Year, New Company Culture?

MON 1/6:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro suggested multiple ideas for leaders who need to drive cultural change. Read “5 Ways to Recognize Your Talent Culture.

WED 1/8:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen now to the #TChat Radio replay

#TChat Radio: Host Meghan M. Biro, spoke with Mike Myatt about the role that leaders play in transforming organizational cultures — focusing on several real-world examples. Listen to the #TChat Radio replay…

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan and Mike joined the TalentCulture community on the #TChat Twitter stream, as Nancy Rubin moderated a dynamic open conversation, centered on 5 related questions. See highlights in the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: New Year, New Company Culture?

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/new-year-new-company-culture.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Mike Myatt for sharing your perspectives on how to drive meaningful organizational change. We value your time, your thoughtful ideas and your expertise!

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

WHAT’S AHEAD: Our month of forward-thinking #TChat Events continues on Wednesday, January 15, when @appendTo CEO, Mike Hostetler, helps us take a closer look at remote workplaces — specifically, what makes virtual models work. More details to follow.

Meanwhile, the TalentCulture conversation continues daily on the #TChat Twitter stream, our LinkedIn discussion group. and elsewhere on social media. So join us anytime — don’t be shy.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

What’s Your Culture Tattoo? #TChat Recap

This Friday is tattoo day at work. Seriously. Tattoo day.

Everyone in our team is encouraged to display meaningful “appropriate” tattoos and the stories behind them. Any form is acceptable — permanent body art, decals, even hand-drawn creations. (Want to join the fun from a distance? Keep an eye on my Twitter stream for some inspired ink.)

The Art of Business Culture

Sure, this sounds a little hokey, like “Hawaiian shirt day.” But that’s the charm. It’s a simple, lighthearted way for us to interact, learn about one another, and gel as a team. What could be wrong with that?

The fact is — today’s crazy-busy world of work assaults us with constant change. It forces us to adapt, and adapt, and adapt again. But in rolling with all the changes, we can easily lose touch with people who are in the trenches with us. Injecting a little camaraderie into the day-to-day flow helps us create, reinforce and enhance our culture. For a company that has absorbed multiple acquisitions in the past two years, that can be a tough sell. But we’re making the case for continuous cultural connections, from the top down and the inside out.

And yes, as I said, along with the fun comes learning. We’re learning in general, and individually from one another. When fun is purposeful and persistent, it actually sticks.

According to Bersin by Deloitte 2014 workforce predictions:

“The traditional definition of a ‘highly engaged’ employee is one who delivers discretionary effort. What leads someone to deliver ‘discretionary effort?’ Our research shows it takes a working environment that is friendly, flexible, fulfilling and purposeful.”

Change Agents and Purposeful Symbols

This week’s #TChat Events guest, Fortune 500 executive leadership advisor, columnist, and author, Mike Myatt, would agree. On #TChat Radio, he noted that the most vibrant, valuable business cultures are built by design. They’re “very purposed and intentioned — creating a place where people actually want to come.”

(Editor’s Note: See full #TChat Event highlights and resource links at the end of this post.)

So, ask yourself these questions:

• How purposeful is your company culture? Even if you lead an organization of one, what are your intentions? Knowing that commitment to culture is integral to business success, are you clear with your employees (and yourself) that you’re here to stay and play? Don’t let your culture slip away through unintentional behavior. Choose to make it stick.

• What’s the shape of your cultural tattoo? I’m not an ink kind of person, but I don’t disparage those who are. In fact, throughout history, great leaders have bound tribes together with powerful visual symbols. In today’s organizations we may think of them as brands, but why shouldn’t meaningful symbols bind work tribes, as well? They do fulfill a primal need for identification and belonging. Does your employer brand accomplish that mission?

Hey — if you show me your tat, I’ll show you mine. On purpose.

For more insights on this topic, check out the highlights and resource links below from this week’s #TChat conversation. Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas and opinions! Your contributions helped bring the concept of “culture makeovers” to life!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Leading a Culture Makeover

SUN 1/5:

MikeMyatt (2)

Watch the #TChat sneak peek hangout now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in a post featuring a variety of related blog posts, and a “sneak peek” hangout video with guest, Mike Myatt, author of the new book, “Hacking Leadership.” Read the Preview now: “New Year, New Company Culture?

MON 1/6:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro suggested multiple ideas for leaders who need to drive cultural change. Read “5 Ways to Recognize Your Talent Culture.

WED 1/8:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen now to the #TChat Radio replay

#TChat Radio: Host Meghan M. Biro, spoke with Mike Myatt about the role that leaders play in transforming organizational cultures — focusing on several real-world examples. Listen to the #TChat Radio replay…

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan and Mike joined the TalentCulture community on the #TChat Twitter stream, as Nancy Rubin moderated a dynamic open conversation, centered on 5 related questions. See highlights in the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: New Year, New Company Culture?

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/new-year-new-company-culture.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Mike Myatt for sharing your perspectives on how to drive meaningful organizational change. We value your time, your thoughtful ideas and your expertise!

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

WHAT’S AHEAD: Our month of forward-thinking #TChat Events continues on Wednesday, January 15, when @appendTo CEO, Mike Hostetler, helps us take a closer look at remote workplaces — specifically, what makes virtual models work. More details to follow.

Meanwhile, the TalentCulture conversation continues daily on the #TChat Twitter stream, our LinkedIn discussion group. and elsewhere on social media. So join us anytime — don’t be shy.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Generation X at Bat #TChat Recap

Do you ever wish you could instantly capture expert advice or opinions from across the World of Work?

Here’s an easy solution: Just ask a quick question on Twitter about generational differences in today’s workplace. Even better, ask that question during a #TChat event. I guarantee that, within moments, you’ll be drinking from a fire hose of thoughtful, passionate, articulate responses!

That’s exactly what we experienced on the #TChat stream last night with special guest, Mark Babbitt. As founder + CEO of YouTern, an organization that helps young professionals grow through high-impact information, mentorships and internships, Mark has developed strong opinions about the silent strength that Generation X brings to the workforce.

Do You Mind If I Talk About Your Age?

We were curious if the TalentCulture community agrees with Mark’s perspective. And we wondered how important generational similarities and differences are in shaping tomorrow’s organizations.

The conversation exposed what at first blush, might seem like opposing viewpoints. For example, on one hand, many participants emphasized the benefits of celebrating diversity:

“It’s not one-size-fits-all.” …and… “Let’s value the differences.” …and as Tom Bolt suggested…

Meanwhile, other participants emphasized the importance of focusing on similarities:

“Empower people; stop focusing on generations.” …and… “There are inspired, innovative, connected people in every generation.” …and as Kelly Blokdijk noted…

Of course, upon reflection, these perspectives are really two sides of the same coin. Both hold truths that can propel organizations forward.

But key questions remain — HOW BEST can we bring together both ends of this spectrum to create more effective organizational cultures? And how prepared is our next wave of leaders to accomplish that mission? Whenever human behavior is involved, there are many roads to the same destination. Some paths have many more detours and roadblocks. Organizations need smart navigators. Meanwhile, the business world continues to grow more complex and challenging. That’s why we’ll need extraordinary leaders in the future — regardless of their generation.

What’s Age Got To Do With It?

In the meantime, we look to one another for guidance. It’s actually phenomenal how much information has been created and shared about generations in the workplace. And yet organizations still struggle with how to “make it work.”

Just for fun, consider this quick, unscientific peek at the magnitude of commentary available online:

GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS:
“Millennials” work = 39,000,000
“Boomers” work = 37,000,000
“Generation X” work = 3,260,000

You’d think there are enough nuggets of wisdom in there to help us understand and resolve these issues. But ideas, alone, aren’t the answer. Action is also required.

I wonder what “old-school” sage, the late Peter Drucker, would have said about this, if he had joined #TChat Twitter last night? Perhaps only this:

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

After all, no matter how old or young we are, that’s really the only path to progress.

So let’s keep the ideas flowing. Let’s keep the lines of communication open. Let’s share what works, and toss out what doesn’t. But most of all, let’s encourage one another to be bold and try “something new.” Let’s keep trying, and learning, and growing, and evolving. Let’s look forward to creating that “new” future together!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Gen X — Leading From The Middle

MarkB

Watch the Hangout now

SAT 10/12:

#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald framed this week’s topic in a post that featured a brief G+ Hangout video with guest Mark Babbitt. Read the Preview: “Gen X: Leading From The Middle.”

SUN 10/13:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro suggested how leaders can overcome generational differences. Read: “5 Ways Leaders Bridge the Generational Divide.”

TUE 10/15:

Related Post: Dan Newman, author of “The Millennial CEO,” examined the source of effective leadership. Read: “Anatomy of a Leader: Not Just Skin Deep.”

WED 10/16:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the radio show now

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with special guest, Mark Babbitt, about the unique challenges and opportunities that Generation X faces in today’s world of work. Listen to the radio recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Mark, Meghan and Kevin joined the entire community on the #TChat Twitter stream for an open conversation about 5 related questions. For highlights, check the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Gen X: Leading From The Middle

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-gen-x-leading-from-the-middle.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Mark Babbitt for adding your voice to this week’s discussion. Your insights about Gen X have helped challenge our assumptions and expand our understanding.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about the multi-generational workforce? We’d love to share 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 important “world of work” topic. So save the date (October 23) for another rockin #TChat double header. And keep an eye out for details in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues! So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and your thoughts are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Gen X: Leading From The Middle #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for a complete overview of the week’s #TChat highlights and resource links? Read the #TChat Recap: “Generation X At Bat.”)

I just discovered that I’m exceptional! Or to be more accurate, I’m unconventional.

I’m a member of Gen X — and according to those who analyze age-related attributes, I should feel disadvantaged and overlooked in the workplace. Fortunately, I’ve had an interesting and rewarding career path, so perhaps I just got lucky. Or perhaps the assumptions aren’t as universal as we think.

But that raises some related questions — Just how “real” is the generational divide at work? And what do those differences mean, as Baby Boomers begin to retire, and a new wave of leaders steps up to drive the world of work?

Last week at #TChat Twitter, our community collectively agreed that the office is no place for age discrimination. However, for better or worse, each generation brings a unique set of shared experiences to the workplace. Are Baby Boomers and Millennials stealing attention from those of us who are “in the middle”? If so, what kind of impact will that have on the future of work?

This week, we’re addressing those questions head-on. We want to give Gen X the attention it deserves. And we’ve invited an ideal expert to lead the discussion:

Mark Babbitt, Founder + CEO of YouTern, an organization that helps young talent develop professionally through high-impact mentors, internships and information.

I spoke with Mark briefly in a joint G+ Hangout, where he set the stage for this week’s topic:

No matter what generation you represent, we want to hear your thoughts about how organizations can prepare tomorrow’s leaders for success. So please join us, and bring your ideas and opinions!

#TChat Events: Gen X — Leading From The Middle

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio — Wed, Oct 16 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Mark Babbitt about the unique challenges and opportunities that Generation X faces in today’s world of work. Follow the action LIVE online, and dial-in with your feedback and questions!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Oct 16 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll move this discussion to the #TChat Twitter stream for an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Anyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these questions:

Q1: Gen X is “forgotten” in today’s workforce — myth or reality?
Q2: How can Gen Xers elevate their visibility and value at work?
Q3: Why is it smart for employers to empower all generations?
Q4: How can today’s leaders develop tomorrow’s decision makers?
Q5: What could technology do to remove generational barriers?

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

We’ll see you on the stream!

Want To Build A Business? Lead With Trust

If you could define business success, what would it look like to you? Would you focus on market share? Growth rate? Revenue? Profitability? Or something else?

At young companies, conversations tend to revolve around how to raise seed funding, where to invest capital, and how to compensate key contributors. Often, it seems that our perception of business success (or failure) largely revolves around money.

While it is true that a well-run company requires appropriate funding and sound financial management, I would argue that there is something even more vital to the sustained growth of any venture. It’s not something you can buy or sell — nor does it come prepackaged on a shelf.

I’m talking about trust.

Broken Trust: Good Examples Of Bad Behavior

From the Enron debacle to the Madoff scandal, stories of insider trading and fraud have captured headlines far too frequently. Our nation is losing faith in corporate leaders, and there’s a growing demand for corporate accountability and transparency.

The only way to turn this around is for those at the top to take responsibility and lead by example. We must create open, transparent cultures that promote accountability, integrity and honesty.

The truth of the matter is that employees need to know what’s going on in order to feel connected with their work and perform at their highest level. Staff concerns about the stability and the health of the company are a distraction that can erode trust, inhibit productivity and have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Creating an environment of trust goes far beyond releasing quarterly reports. It requires a daily commitment to transparency that’s infused into all aspects of business operations, and reaches all levels of the organizational chart. Most importantly, it requires team coaching and open communication across all functions, with management that listens and responds to constructive criticism.

Trust Is The Cornerstone Of Culture

Leadership legend, Stephen M. R. Covey said:

“High trust is a dividend; when it goes up you’ll find that everything happens faster and cost goes down. It’s that predictable.”

Although trust can take a long time to build, once we have achieved a state of trust, we often take it for granted. But the fact of the matter is that trust is at the core of the daily work activities that collectively make up company culture. As Deborah Mills-Scofield explains in the Harvard Business Review:

“Trust trumps everything. And everything flows from trust — learning, credibility, accountability, a sense of purpose and a mission that makes ‘work’ bigger than oneself.”

When it comes to trust, the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. For example, many startups have created cultures based around staff perks like a ‘no vacation policy’ vacation policy, providing employees with top-of-the line equipment, offering flexible hours, and letting staff work from home. While benefits like these may attract and retain top talent, there’s also a higher mission. Companies that offer these unique self-directed work options are sending employees a message that says, ‘I trust you, and I trust your judgment in using these privileges.”

Earlier this year, HubSpot released its long-awaited Culture Code – a presentation that summarizes the organization’s nine core beliefs. The document is remarkable because it emphasizes that trust is at the center of Hubspot’s organization. Rather than creating binders full of company policies, HubSpot has created a simple three-word policy for nearly everything: use. good. judgment. From social media activity, to travel expenses, to sick days, HubSpot understands that a healthy company starts with trust.

The Trust/Time Ratio

Of course, trust is a two-way street. Not only is it essential for employees to trust management, but leaders must trust their teams, and feel confident in their ability to move the company forward.

As Stephen M.R. Covey explains in his book, The Speed of Trust, trust is the great liberator of time and resources. It’s also an essential condition for growth. He notes that “when trust goes up, speed will also go up and cost will go down,” and that “when trust goes down, speed will go down and costs will go up.” Therefore, he concludes that the speed at which you can grow a business is directly proportionate to the time that you invest in creating trusting relationships.

Leading By Letting Go

One of the most important lessons I learned as a CEO was the importance of trusting your team. As the leader of any organization, large or small, your primary job is to communicate the vision; give your people the information, tools and resources to move toward it; and then get out of the way. This frees your staff to be as productive as possible, while allowing you to focus on your responsibility to drive the company forward, strategically.

The truth is plain and simple: if you’re a leader who wants to grow a company, you must have faith in your staff to get the job done – without you hovering around their desks. It is impossible to innovate while being bogged down in the daily minutia of your company. Trust allows you to remove yourself from the details and create necessary space to focus on long-term growth.

Trust is a natural human instinct, yet we tend to over-complicate it when we try to apply it to the business world. The best way to create a culture of trust is to begin by being open and honest with ourselves and those around us. By committing to being transparent in all our interactions, we will gradually create a culture of trust around us. And as trust grows, we should expect to see business results follow.

How do create and sustain trust within your organization? What results do you see?

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more...)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Employee Engagement: Why Is Gender (Still) A Factor?

Written by Elyssa Thome

Fact: Men are more likely to be engaged in the workplace than women.

Does that surprise you? If so, you may want to take a closer look at recent research by Human Capital Institute and Acheivers. The survey was designed to find out more about the factors that correspond with high employee engagement. And the results indicate that today’s most engaged employees are males, age 50 or older, who hold senior-level positions, and have been with an organization for at least 15 years.

Implications For Women

What explains these results? There is no single answer that applies to all companies. Also, employee engagement varies from person to person, for multiple reasons. However, for any of us to engage in our work, we must feel a sense of control over the workload, and believe that our efforts have a direct impact on the company mission.

Not surprisingly, the higher we climb within the workforce, the more likely we’ll experience those key factors of control and meaningful contribution. And employees who have been in the workforce longer and have risen in the ranks to executive levels tend to be males who are 50 or older. The truth is, despite huge progress in gender equality among college graduation rates and even in the level of entry-level jobs, women are still absent from top leadership at most companies.

What To Do?

I work with powerful, fierce, dedicated women every day. They may not be top executives (yet), but they are valuable contributors, and they have tremendous potential. Imagine the impact on business performance if employees like these were more invested in making their company better.

As the U.S. Census Bureau points out, there’s a long way to go before we reach a truly equitable workplace. But we won’t arrive at that goal unless we continue to work toward progress. For example, we can rethink business practices that may erode engagement among women employees. Here are three options:

1) Support Flexible Schedules

While it may not elevate more women to the corner office, schedule flexibility does offer employees of both genders a sense of control that translates to higher engagement. Building in options to work from home or to arrange flexible hours provides a level of personal freedom and responsibility that leads to increased productivity and deeper investment in the company.

2) Promote From Within, When Possible

Don’t overlook existing talent when filling open positions. There is nothing quite as demoralizing as having an unproven manager hired over you, when you’re confident that you can be effective in that role. Investing in the development of current employees and giving them the opportunity to demonstrate return on that investment allows for individual and company growth.

3) Advocate For One Another

More opportunities for female advancement are unlikely to arise unless women proactively champion the concept. My friends and colleagues point to female mentors that provided support, confidence and guidance that led them to high-potential roles. As Sheryl Sandberg points out in her provocative book, Lean In, women have a harder time talking about their own successes, but easily promote the work of others. Use that trait for a greater good. Open the door for employees to recognize one another, and listen carefully.

Addressing women in the workplace more effectively can have a huge pay-off. You’ll likely stop losing top female talent to issues you were overlooking. Also, with a more diverse workforce, your company can expect to be more effective at driving creativity and innovation. Ensure that your organization isn’t unintentionally limiting voices. It all starts with an environment where everyone believes there’s an equal opportunity to contribute.

For more information on what makes an engaged employee, download the full report here.

ElyssaThome-blog(About the Author: Elyssa Thome is a copywriter at Achievers. She has developed expertise in numerous topics, and currently focuses on the human resource space — specifically how to create Employee Success. She has worked with and for powerful, talented, inspiring women, and she hopes to be one herself someday.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Keep the Engagement Lights on in Rolling Economic Blackout

While the global economy continues its rolling blackout – and who knows what will happen this week with the US at AA+ – we keep talking by candlelight about employee retention, employee engagement and all workplace things touchy-feely as if they’re inspirational anecdotes of an alternate universe we should all be living in.

There are some exceptions of course, but we usually don’t live in that electrified looking glass.

For example, are you employees doing a lot more with a lot less? Are they burned out? Do they tell you they are? Are they looking for a way out? Are you recognizing all their hard work? Are they struggling to keep their families afloat?

And what about you and your business? Is your management not sleeping at night? Are sales flat and revenues in the tank? Are you burned out? Are you investing your own savings and/or playing credit card roulette to make payroll every month and just to keep your own family afloat?

Whether you’re a consultant, a business owner, executive management, or HR and people management professionals in larger companies, hopefully you’re tuned in to your people and are aware of their stress as well as your own, and are trying to do something to alleviate it. You may not be hiring right now, but you’re probably doing everything you can to keep what you have and who you have until the power grids are fully firing.

Listen, I’m sure you’ve seen enough survey research recently to make you pass out from the stressed out and unhappy workers you manage everyday. But here’s another one:

According to a recent study referenced in an HR Executive article, the University of Zaragosa in Spain found that two key factors — workplace stress (mainly monotony and feeling overburdened) and a perceived lack of recognition — are the prime factors in employee burnout.

Regardless of the type of burnout, however, the result is emotional exhaustion, cynicism and a lack of productivity, the researchers concluded.

You and the rest of your management team may not think about these things, or even care much right now as you try to stay afloat, but the reality is you should care a little if staying in business with top talent means anything to you. It’s comes from the top down, and if you’re struggling to keep your business relevant and viable, as well as your very professional existence, then you’ll practice what you should be preaching with the smart meters on.

Here are some suggestions you should consider from the experts in the article:

  • Encourage authentic communication that fosters a sense of belonging between employee and employer.
  • Periodically take the pulse of your employees to identify their specific areas of concern and link employee opinion to outcomes such as productivity and retention.
  • Ensure your employees that their opinions make a difference, and mean it. Practice what you should be preaching.
  • Offer effective training, either within or outside of the company, to enable advancement opportunities and give employees a sense that it’s possible change their environments.
  • Create “influence teams” who can look at ways to improve employee situations, including offering a paid month, 3-month, or 6-month sabbatical for long-term employees.

This list can go on and on. One final sentiment from the experts (and from me for what it’s worth): listen to your employees (as well as yourself), appreciate them, recognize and share in their successes (and yours as a business), reward their hard work (and your own), and never underestimate the power of touchy-feely, whether in full wattage or by candlelight.

It’s only when you’ve lived the rolling business blackouts and survived the economic changes in and around you and your people, can you truly know the difference between what’s real and what’s a sweet employee engagement bedtime story.

Hey, we’re just trying to keep the lights on here.