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Workforce Engagement is Sinking. How Can You Turn the Tide?

Have you noticed that workforce engagement and motivation are slipping? You’re not the only one. In April, Gallup confirmed that U.S. workforce engagement declined from a high of 36% in 2020 to 34% in 2021.

2022 hasn’t been any better. This year, only 32% of full-time and part-time employees told Gallup they’re engaged, while 17% say they are actively disengaged.

What’s happening here? Why is work engagement declining? And what can you do to prevent burnout and unnecessary resignations on your team?

Why Is Engagement In a Slump?

Every business is different. However, there are some common trends we can point to as we search for underlying reasons for decreased engagement.

Burnout, high turnover, and poor communication are among the most prevalent causes. And these problems only get worse when good employees stop caring. That’s because new team members tend to look to high-achieving colleagues for advice, motivation, and guidance.

Let’s look closer at each of these factors:

1. Burnout

While burnout can be linked to chronic hustle culture, return-to-office concerns also are playing a role. After many people were forced to work from home in 2020, they’ve grown accustomed to choosing where and when they work. Now, when called back to the office, many want to hold on to remote or hybrid work models and flexible schedules. Who can blame them?

When employees feel they’re losing a sense of choice over their work, or they recognize an imbalance in work/life responsibilities, they’re more likely to disengage or “quiet quit.” No wonder this phenomenon has been gaining traction during the past year.

2. Turnover

All this dissatisfaction naturally leads to higher employee turnover, which (no surprise) also influences engagement.

On one hand, welcoming a new coworker or manager can be exciting. However, the learning curve that comes with getting a new team member up to speed can create a work imbalance for veteran employees, even if it’s just for a short time.

This imbalance can create feelings of resentment, especially when engagement is already suffering for other reasons. As a result, more people could decide to leave. And if you don’t pay close attention, this can spiral into a very costly vicious cycle.

3. Poor Communication

When organizations try to accommodate hybrid, remote, or flexible work, it can be hard to communicate effectively. Virtual meetings provide more flexibility and enable a sense of work-life balance that many employees now prefer.

But if instant messaging or online video calls are your team’s only form of communication, this isn’t a sustainable way to work. If you don’t use these tools wisely, it puts effective collaboration and productivity at risk. For strong results, you need a plan.

How to Lift Workforce Engagement

Current engagement numbers don’t look good, but that doesn’t mean HR and business managers are powerless. Some U.S. companies have been able to increase workforce engagement despite difficult circumstances. Here are four solutions that can help you improve:

1. Create a Game Plan for Remote or Hybrid Work

Not all companies are able to offer remote, hybrid, or flexible scheduling opportunities. If yours does, then make sure you develop and execute a supportive strategy, so everyone in these roles can succeed.

As previously mentioned, flexible work opportunities are likely to create confusion among employees if work processes and expectations aren’t communicated clearly or executed thoughtfully. Core workplace principles like accessibility, transparency, and inclusion are especially important.

Talk with your managers and colleagues to get their input about remote work practices they recommend for your organization. For example, you may find that using apps like Slack, Teams, or Monday to conduct brief daily online meetings will add a layer of accountability.

2. Encourage Employees to Take Time Off

42% of U.S. employees say they haven’t taken a vacation in the past year. That’s a huge percentage. Working too long without a break will only make stress and burnout worse.

Encourage your staff to take their allotted PTO by creating a culture that supports taking time to rest and recharge. If you are on the leadership team, set an example. Take your time off and try not to respond to work messages outside of working hours.

3. Invest in the Right Tools

Another important way to prevent burnout is by investing in the right tools for your staff. Note that this isn’t just about technology. It may mean you’ll need to purchase new software or update existing technology. But it can also mean outsourcing specific activities to a specialized services provider.

Start by identifying the bottlenecks in your team’s workflows. Then consider any solutions that can reduce or remove redundant or unnecessary tasks. Think in terms of cost-effective ways to automate and streamline work activities.

4. Strive to be Approachable and Transparent

In a healthy workplace culture, communication moves freely to and from all corners of the organization. It’s not just about a top-down flow, but bottom-up, and side-to-side as well.

If employees aren’t comfortable voicing their opinions, feelings, and suggestions, they’re more likely to burn out. To lift engagement, commit to creating an open work environment that welcomes feedback and ideas at all levels.

This is less about formal initiatives and more about consistent behavior among leaders and managers. It’s about showing up every day, listening, and being responsive.

Final Thoughts

Many factors are contributing to the recent decline in workforce engagement. Although the solution may seem complex and out of reach, try some of these recommendations. I think you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes in the way employees view your company and their work.

More often than not, people want to do their jobs. But when little things like lack of information, inefficient technology, mundane tasks, lack of support, and strict schedules pile up, it’s only a matter of time before people start to disengage.

Be the boss that steps in and reignites the passion that got your employees to apply in the first place. If you keep at it, engagement is sure to follow.

Photo: Kevin Bhagat

Remote Work Leadership: What Matters Now

In 2020, our most popular blog post discussed how leaders could move forward when Covid abruptly forced many of us to work from home. I remember writing that piece, wondering which remote work leadership practices would make the biggest impact during those uncertain, turbulent, anxiety-filled days.

At that time, it was impossible to fathom what was happening, let alone how to respond. There were no experts, benchmarks, or guidebooks to point the way forward. I couldn’t predict the future any better than anyone else. Still, my message seemed to strike a chord with our community.

Fortunately, necessity is the mother of invention. And resourceful leaders persevered, relying on trial and error to navigate through those early quarantine days.

Covid CliffsNotes

Nearly three years later, we’ve all learned more about remote work than anyone could have imagined. In fact, we’ve adapted so well that many people want to keep working remotelyat least partially.

With this in mind, I decided to revisit my “early Covid” advice to see how much of it still holds true. So here’s a fresh look at 4 key points that seem just as relevant today as we continue to define new ways of working:

Remote Work Leadership Lessons From Covid

1. Be Tactful (Always a Wise Choice)

Exceptional times call for exceptional tact. I noted it then and it’s still unequivocally true. Times may not be as exceptional as they were in March 2020, but we now know that what we once considered “normal” will never return. In fact, the sudden and scary pivot to remote work turned out to be much more effective than we thought.

What changed for the worse? Among other things, stress continues to rise, inflation has risen to record levels, the economy has suffered, and employees have been resigning in droves. In this unstable environment, everyone benefits from tactful, considerate guidance.

In 2020, I encouraged leaders to give people a break when minor mishaps occur, like being late to a meeting. It seems people are now better at coping with small annoyances. (How often have you said in online meetings, “You’re on mute…” without reaching a breaking point?)

However, stress is real. It continues to mount, as mental health issues increasingly challenge many members of the workforce. My advice going forward? Remember to pair diplomacy with a healthy dose of empathy.

2. Provide Plenty of Training (But Wait, There’s More)

Training is critical. The more training we provide, the more confident and capable remote and hybrid work teams will be. Strong leaders are strong learners. And they believe in coaching and developing others. Remote work leaders that invested to help their teams learn, adjust, and grow are now operating at an advantage.

We didn’t know how well people would embrace distributed work practices and tools. But leaders with faith in their team’s ability to adapt now have another advantage: optimism and support that spread throughout their organizations. It’s easy now to see the value of doubling down on learning. But in those bleak early days, this kind of commitment was truly visionary.

The lesson here? Whatever challenges you face, make sure your people have the knowledge and skills they need to come up to speed with a minimum of friction. The sooner they can work effectively, the sooner they’ll become engaged.

But this isn’t just about ensuring that people complete a course. Smart remote work leadership combines skill development training with nudges, status checks, resources, roadmaps, measurable goals, social performance support, and open recognition.

That’s the win. Why? Because no one learns well in a vacuum.

3. Seek Frequent Feedback (Never Enough)

No doubt about it, regular input and reality checks are vital. In 2020, I was concerned that distance could widen the gap between a leader’s view of work culture and an employee’s reality. Physical proximity makes it relatively easy to close that gap, but remote work requires intentional communication.

I suggested reaching out formally to ask employees about their experience and learn what kind of resources they need to feel comfortable, supported, and productive.

Did leaders actually send feedback requests and surveys to their remote teams? Perhaps some did. But then, we became obsessed with isolation and disconnection. Soon, employee engagement took a hit and leaders started watching some of their best employees walk out the virtual door as The Great Resignation gained steam.  

What went wrong? Perhaps remote work leadership didn’t act fast enough. More likely, these managers have become just as exhausted as employees — but they’ve been overlooked. The truth is, no one is immune. In fact, recent U.S. and U.K. research found that 98% of HR practitioners and leaders are burnt out! 

4. Stay Connected (More Than Ever)

This leads to a final lesson — remote work leadership means staying connected with managers, employees, and teams. Full disclosure:  The TalentCulture crew has worked remotely since Day One. Our vision is a virtual “super team,” leveraging digital tools and processes to manage business functions and grow a thriving digital community.

I’ve always admired other leaders who take it upon themselves to reach out and be present via multiple channels. And the power of that approach became apparent throughout the worst of the pandemic.

We saw remote work leaders who stayed involved, engaged, and accessible, giving their teams a sense of alignment and empowerment. I’ve taken notes and found that their toolkits include quick video chats, daily messages, virtual town halls, and short/sweet messages.

Leaders who adhere to an open-door policy — even in virtual settings — are even more important now. Why? This behavior fosters a culture of inclusion and belonging. If you want to bring your workforce together (and trust me, you do), you’ll focus on this lesson. The more digital touchpoints you develop, the more likely you’ll reach everyone in a way that resonates, and the more “present” you’ll be for them.

Leadership Takes Heart (and Strong Nerves)

A final note:  We’re not yet on the other side of the pandemic, but we’ve learned a lot. And we know the world of work will never be the same.

I’m reminded of how far we’ve come when I recall my 2020 comment:

Peace of mind is as hard to come by as n95 masks.”

Thank goodness we aren’t dealing with a mask shortage anymore! Nevertheless, we still see high levels of stress, anxiety, and disengagement at work. And this is likely to continue for a long time to come.

Here’s where great management qualities count. Empathetic, engaged, resourceful, in-touch remote work leadership makes all the difference. It says your organization truly cares about supporting employees while getting the job done. And that’s essential, because the buck always stops at the corner office — whether it’s at corporate headquarters or at your dining room table.

Transforming Talent Decisions With Ethical AI

Sponsored by Reejig

Countless HR tools, applications, and platforms now rely on artificial intelligence in some form. Users may not even notice that AI is operating in the background — but it can fundamentally change the way we work, think, and make talent decisions.

This raises several big questions. What should we really expect from AI? And is this kind of innovation moving us in the right direction?

For example, what role should AI play in skills-related talent acquisition and workforce mobility practices? With stellar talent in short supply these days, this topic has never been more important for employers to consider. So join me as I look closer at key issues surrounding ethical AI in HR tech on this #WorkTrends podcast episode.

Meet Our Guest:  Jonathan Reyes

Today, I’m excited to talk with Jonathan Reyes, a talent advisor and futurist who has been helping technology and banking industry companies navigate hypergrowth for nearly two decades. Now, as VP of North America for Reejig, he’s on a mission to build a world with zero wasted human potential.

Defining “Zero Waste” in Humans

Jonathan, I love the phrase “zero wasted potential.” What exactly does Reejig mean by this?

We envision a world where every person has access to meaningful work — no matter their background or circumstance. In this world, employers can tap into the right skills for the right roles, whenever needed. And at the same time, society can reap the benefits of access to diverse ideas through fair and equitable work opportunity.

The concept of sustainability is emerging in every industry. Now, sustainable human capital is becoming part of that conversation, and this is our way of expressing it.

So, with zero wasted potential, decisions aren’t based on a zero-sum game. When employers make human capital choices, individuals or society shouldn’t suffer. Instead, by focusing on talent mobility through upskilling and reskilling, we can create a new currency of work.

Workforce Intelligence Makes a Difference

Why do you feel workforce intelligence is essential for employers as they make talent decisions?

Organizations have so much human capital data. With all the workforce intelligence available, there’s no reason to hire and fire talent en masse — and then rehire many of the same individuals just months later.

Obviously, that’s an emotional and human experience for employees. But also, organizations are spending unnecessary money to find people and let them go, only to invest again in rehiring them.

Focusing instead on internal mobility is far more cost-effective.

Where Ethical AI Fits In

Many companies are unsure about AI in talent acquisition and management. What’s your take on this?

There are no universally accepted standards for ethical AI. This means vendors across industries can say technology is “ethical” based on self-assessment, without input from legal, ethical, or global experts.

But we’ve developed the world’s first independently audited, ethical talent AI. In fact, the World Economic Forum has recognized us for setting a benchmark in ethical AI.

The Impact on Internal Mobility

How do businesses benefit from shifting to a zero-wasted potential talent strategy? 

When companies manage internal mobility well, they extend employee tenure by 2x. And we know that people who stay and continue growing and developing are much more engaged.

This can create a significant downstream benefit. It’s one of the biggest reasons to invest in this kind of talent management capability.

 


For more great advice from Jonathan about why and how organizations are leveraging AI to make better talent decisions, listen to this full episode. Also, be sure to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And to continue this conversation on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Employee Caregivers Are Quitting. Here’s How to Keep Them

These days, we’re flooded with headlines about The Great Resignation, The Big Quit, and The Great Reshuffle. It’s not surprising. The desire for career advancement and better work/life balance are powerful reasons why people are resigning in record numbers. But these aren’t the only motives. Actually, a growing number of people are quitting so they can take care of loved ones. If your organization can’t afford to lose these employee caregivers, this advice can help you keep them on board.

Factors Driving This Trend

We’re seeing more employee caregivers, partially because the pandemic put older people at risk and disrupted existing family care arrangements. But also, it is the result of broader population shifts and the rising cost of long-term care. Let’s look at how this could play out over the next 15-20 years…

1) Our Population is Changing

Historically, if you mapped our population by age, the chart would look like a pyramid. In the past, many more young people were at the base. As they became adults, they helped support a smaller number of older people at the top. Today, that pyramid is inverted, with a larger elderly population and an increasingly smaller base of young people at the bottom who struggle to support the elderly. This is happening because:

  • Boomers are aging
  • Younger generations are producing fewer children
  • Medical advances are extending life expectancies

This inverted pyramid means that by 2040, the elderly will depend more heavily on the working population than those under 18. Put differently, in less than 20 years, more of your employee caregivers will be supporting elderly loved ones, rather than their own children. Or potentially, they could be caring for both at the same time.

That’s already the case for many employee caregivers. In fact, more than half of middle-aged Americans are currently “sandwiched” between generations.

2) Caregiving Costs Are Rising

Because care is expensive to provide, not everyone will be able to hire professionals to look after aging family members. Instead, they’ll need to provide care themselves at home. According to a recent AARP survey, there are 48 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. and 80% of these caregivers are providing care to an adult family member or friend.

This means organizations will increasingly have employees who are juggling job performance with the burden of being a caregiver—along with all the time, energy, and emotional commitment that caregiving requires. While they may manage caregiving by missing time at work, it could also be as serious as leaving the workforce altogether.

For example, consider these statistics:

How to Support Employee Caregivers

What are forward-thinking HR leaders doing to help employee caregivers? Our recent conversations focus on three key action areas:

1) Provide Financial Solutions

One of the most important ways to support employees is by helping them plan for their own long-term care. While younger employees may not see the need, education and planning now will offer them more care options in the future if they’re injured or become ill.

When you create financial programming, be sure it includes discussions about the role of:

  • Medicare and Medicaid – Some people see government programs such as care options. However, they typically don’t cover long-term care (Medicare) and access involves significant drawbacks and limitations (Medicaid).
  • Retirement savings/401k – Similarly, using 401(k) and retirement savings to pay for care is possible, but this also comes with drawbacks. These investments are best reserved for funding life expenses during retirement and are not recommended for use during working years.
  • Standalone long-term care insurance – This coverage may be offered at work or purchased through an independent insurance provider. It can be a viable solution that can help cover some costs of long-term care.
  • Hybrid life insurance with long-term care benefits – This lets people purchase life insurance coverage that includes the ability to advance part of a death benefit for care needs. Many products on the market focus care benefits on professional care such as a nursing home or home health aide, but new products in this category cover family caregiving, as well.

2) Promote Your Employee Assistance Programs

Another way to support your workforce is through an employee assistance program (EAP). The right program can help employees navigate the challenges they face as caregivers. Whether it’s offering care planning tools and strategies or access to tools to help people manage complex aspects of care, be sure to consider a wide range of resources. For instance, you could include:

  • Care planning services
  • Care needs assessments
  • Help in finding and evaluating care
  • Life insurance claims support
  • Long-term care claims support
  • Home care placement assistance
  • Legal support for wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents
  • In-home loneliness solutions
  • Home modification services
  • Relocation support

Finally, it’s important to share details about your EAP program, and re-communicate the program’s features and benefits on a regular basis. Pairing this with enrollment or re-enrollment of your financial support solutions is a great way to protect your employees.

3) Pay Attention to Caregiving Legislation

Many state governments are taking notice of the need for care—the growing number of people who need a solution, the lack of affordable care, and the expected future drain on state Medicaid funds. A growing number of states are enacting legislation to address these care issues.

For example, in 2021, Washington became the first state to pass this kind of legislation. The Washington Cares Act provides long-term care financial support for state residents. The program is funded by a payroll tax. Employees with qualifying long-term care coverage could opt out of the program (and the associated tax).

Although this legislation may provide a rough blueprint, each state’s approach is likely to be different. To prepare their organizations and their employees for the future, employers should begin tracking legislative activity.

Start Planning

It’s hard to know precisely what’s in store for employers as more Boomers leave the workplace and younger employees step in to care for aging loved ones. But thus far, it’s clear that employee caregivers will need support and solutions as they navigate an increasingly challenging eldercare crisis.

HR leaders can be an essential part of the solution, but it’s important to start planning now. Workplace programs and policies need to evolve, with active involvement from employers and their employees. Start by educating your workforce about the need to plan for long-term care–whether caring for an elderly parent or planning ahead to manage their own care should they need it. Working together with employees to address their needs will help them understand your commitment to them, and encourage them to stay.

Job Design: Is It Time to Rethink Your Approach?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last article in a 4-part series sponsored by Unit4. The series outlines a new approach to talent strategy for people-centric organizations. This final post looks at why and how employers should rethink job design.


 

As we close this series about how employers can reinvent their talent strategy for the future of work, we turn our attention to one of the most important ways to attract and engage the people your organization needs to succeed. Namely, we’re looking at why this is the right time to revisit your approach to job design.

For most of the past 100 years, employers have used the same techniques to scope job vacancies, write job descriptions, and hire employees to fill roles. But these classic job design methods aren’t particularly efficient or effective.

In fact, only about 50% of interviewed candidates who receive a job offer actually become employees. Plus, the talent acquisition process, itself, is expensive. This means the perceived cost of a “bad hire” is so steep that decision-makers often become paralyzed. And that inaction forces organizations to offset costs by relying too heavily on long tenure.

It’s not an ideal solution by any measure. But focusing on the 4th talent strategy pillar can help you address these issues. How? Read on…

Reworking Job Design: Where to Start

Employers can no longer afford to ignore the need to address ever-changing talent rosters. Average employee tenure is decreasing, even as demand for future-ready skills is increasing. This means leaders must fundamentally rethink the way they structure jobs.

Here’s a good starting point: Design new roles based on the assumption that whomever your hire will stay onboard for 2-4 years. Then work backward from there.

In this game plan, onboarding and robust initial training are especially important, so you can ensure faster time-to-value from new hires. In addition, jobs designed with shorter tenure in mind will benefit from being supported by onboarding and “bedding in” processes that are much more tightly controlled.

This means that skills mapping, employee learning, and professional development will need to become a more prominent part of the HR function, along with talent pipeline development. It also means that the skills you expect to develop in employees should become central to the benefits you offer candidates.

Reframe Benefits for Shorter Job Cycles

In addition to packaging skills as benefits, you’ll need to reorient benefits so they’re compatible with shorter terms of service. Rewards for time-in-role or time with the company are relics that don’t make sense in today’s workplace. They need to be replaced.

For better results, focus on performance-based incentives for contributions to specific projects and programs with more clearly defined targets and expectations.

What Does This Look Like? An Example

One way to illustrate this new approach to job design is through the rise of the contractor. This increasingly popular option is a way to tap into skilled talent on a temporary basis. It helps employers find and deploy people more quickly, while simultaneously reducing operational overhead and risk.

At the same time, contractors benefit from more options in today’s predominantly hybrid working environment. They also benefit from a faster learning curve that comes from working on a more diverse portfolio of projects over time.

Reliance on contractors has increased dramatically—but not at the same rate in every region. For example, in the U.K., contractor usage has grown by about a third since the 2008 financial crash. By comparison, in the U.S., it has surged by the same proportion since only 2020.

Nevertheless, the shift to a contingent workforce shows no sign of diminishing. And many organizations still struggle to find permanent employees in today’s tight labor market. So the advantages of hiring contractors make project-oriented hiring a highly attractive option.

Repackaging Jobs to Attract Top Talent

In your job descriptions, do you still use this kind of phrase?

“The successful candidate must be willing to…”

If so, prepare to leave that kind of thinking behind. Instead, think in terms of asking this question:

“How do you want to work for us?”

In other words, you’ll need to let new hires determine some of the terms of their engagement with you. This makes sense because it encourages deeper ownership of the role’s success. Besides, if you’re designing jobs around shorter “tours of duty” with specific goals and objectives, why not configure these positions so they can be performed on a contract or project basis?

This model offers multiple benefits:

  • You can more accurately assess jobs and redefine them so they deliver the most value to your organization.
  • You’ll be better prepared to tap into a much larger talent pool. (After all, the huge increase in today’s contractors is coming from somewhere. That “somewhere” is the rapidly growing segment of the working population currently seeking greater flexibility in how they market and sell their skills.)

Where to Find Help

This blog series may be over, but your job restructuring journey is just beginning. For an in-depth view of our insights into this and other future-minded strategies for people-centered organizations, download our white paper:

Rebuilding Talent Strategy: Finding and Retaining People in a Changing World.

Also, as you consider technologies needed as the backbone of a reimagined talent strategy, we invite you to take a closer look at our ERP and HCM suite of solutions. These advanced platforms can provide the advantage your business needs to stay at the forefront in the future of work.

For example, you’ll be better equipped to:

  • Audit and map workforce skills
  • Target and deliver timely, relevant learning and development programs
  • Take the pulse of workforce engagement
  • Increase pay equity and transparency
  • Provide people with seamless connections to colleagues and resources in hybrid work settings.

In combination, these capabilities can help you build sustainable business value, going forward. To learn more about how Unit4 solutions can make a difference for your organization, book a demo here.

 


Related Reading

For other articles in this series, check the following links:

Part 1:  Reimagine Talent Strategy: Make Development a Core Part of Your Business

Part 2:  Commit to Careers

Part 3:  Engage in the Employee

 

Digital Employee Experience: Do You Measure What Matters?

impact awardSponsored by: Ivanti

You’ve heard the adage “measure twice, cut once.” It’s good advice from the sewing world. The idea is to encourage people who want to achieve an excellent outcome to be precise and cautious before they act. If we’re supposed to be that conscientious about measuring a piece of fabric for a sewing project, why would we be cavalier about measuring something as critical as the digital employee experience?

Nevertheless, that’s what countless IT and business leaders around the world are doing by default. They’re implementing employee engagement programs based on what sounds right or feels right. They’re not relying on data-driven intelligence to make decisions about these programs. And they don’t know in advance if these programs will actually produce the outcomes they want.

Here’s the truth: If you don’t carefully measure and re-measure your digital employee experience, people will cut themselves right out of your organization. Even if you’ve been using classic employee experience measurement tools—such as an annual survey—that’s no longer enough. Today’s organizations require more complete insights focused on the digital employee experience.

Why Is This Digital Shift So Vital?

The remote and hybrid work landscape (what we call the “Everywhere Workplace”) has forever transformed work life and organizational culture. Now, a vibrant work experience is no longer about departmental happy hours, unlimited free soda, pizza Fridays, or a ping pong table in the employee lounge.

Instead, it’s about what happens in the flow of work. It’s about communicating and collaborating through tools that are smarter, easier, and more effective. It’s about seamless accessibility, usability, security, connectivity, and the ability to do your job without navigating frustrating obstacles or jumping through endless hoops.

Of course, HR teams still focus on employee experience. But now, IT professionals are just as deeply focused on this, as well. Why? The traditional employee engagement survey—once conducted and managed by your HR department—isn’t designed to capture the nuances and critical insights associated with hybrid work environments. If you want to gain useful intelligence, you’ll want to get IT specialists involved—and the sooner the better.

It’s no longer enough to assume people have what they need to be connected, productive and comfortable as they navigate the Everywhere Workplace. You need to know where the connections are working (or not). That means you need to measure what’s happening. Not just once, but over and over again.

After all, if you don’t know where you stand, it is impossible to move forward. Both HR and IT leaders need real, meaningful, actionable insights into the digital employee experience as a process. It deserves a commitment to continuous improvement. And that means you need to understand where it stands now, and how it is evolving over time.

Criteria For a Digital Employee Experience Survey

What should you include in a digital employee experience survey? To glean useful insights, you’ll need to go far beyond limited indicators like post-ticket surveys. To measure and improve the digital employee experience, you’ll need a holistic picture. For instance, consider the value of knowing answers to questions like these:

  • How are people accessing information?
  • What do they think about that process?
  • How many steps must they move through to accomplish these tasks?
  • How often do they run into trouble?
  • How much time do they spend trying to securely access information, tools, and resources they need to do their jobs well?
  • Do they even have access to the right information, tools, and resources?
  • Are they able to connect and engage with colleagues?
  • How effective are these communication channels, in their view?

Post-ticket surveys don’t capture any of these things. And yet, these factors can make or break a digital employee experience. They can spell the difference between an employee who is highly productive, happy, loyal, and engaged—versus one who is forced to waste time on logistics and is likely to be frustrated. Perhaps even frustrated enough to leave.

How to Measure Digital Employee Experience

If you think this isn’t an issue for most employers, consider this statistic:

30% of IT leaders currently have no process or metrics in place to evaluate the digital employee experience. And among the 70% who do, few have established the kind of robust metrics and evaluation strategy today’s Everywhere Workplace demands.

Clearly, the stakes are high. Many organizations assume that measuring digital employee experience in a holistic way is expensive, overwhelming, and resource-intensive. Sometimes it is. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What’s the secret? Automation.

By automating digital employee experience measurement, leaders can laser-focus on KPIs that matter most to the organization, without bandwidth and expertise from HR or IT—and without badgering employees for manual reports.

In other words, you can automate the collection and reporting of data about issues that commonly impact productivity, especially issues that traditional reports don’t easily track. For example, automation can help you monitor, quantify and evaluate slow devices, outages in network connectivity, where and when apps crash, and other problems that are difficult to capture accurately in a survey.

Of course, it’s important to gauge employee-generated insights as well. But automated, granular, data-based insights can round out the picture with a comprehensive view of what’s happening with digital workflows and how they impact engagement and productivity. Plus, with automated data collection and reporting, continuing to measure key factors over time is much easier. That’s essential to understanding your organization’s progress and how it maps to employee feedback.

Final Thoughts

“Measure twice, cut once” works well for sewing. But it’s not the answer for a modern enterprise that embraces the Everywhere Workplace. Instead, think about measuring once, and then measuring again and again. That’s how you can gain valuable insight into experience indicators and trends that will help you develop and sustain a happy, loyal, engaged, productive workforce.

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s the current state of digital employee experience in organizations around the world? Find out now >> Download the 2022 Ivanti Digital Employee Experience Report.

7 Ways to Support Distributed Teams in the Future of Work

Early in 2020, without warning, the pandemic made distributed teams a standard way of working for organizations all over the globe. Now, many employees have grown to prefer working remotely for at least part of every week. But despite the popularity of virtual workgroupsand evidence that they can be effectiveemployers are still trying to address related issues.

Are you among the employers looking for better ways to support distributed teams on an ongoing basis? What challenges are you facing, and how are you resolving them? Recently, when we asked business leaders these questions, they focused on seven key problems and ideas to resolve them:

  1. Coordinate Asynchronous Schedules
  2. Develop a Consistent Employee Experience
  3. Deal With Cultural Distinctions
  4. Address Issues Before They Become Systemic
  5. Offer Viable Child Care Options
  6. Avoid Information Silos
  7. Build Deep Connections and Loyalty

For details, check their answers below…

1. Coordinate Asynchronous Schedules

Distributed teams often operate hand in hand with flexible hours and asynchronous schedules. Even if you mandate specific working hours, different time zones can make it difficult for coworkers to connect at the same time. As a result, scheduling meetings and coordinating real-time collaboration can be frustrating and time-consuming.

One solution is to establish standard “overlap hours” when teammates are expected to be available online. This way, teams can easily plan to meet within established blocks of time without delays or unnecessary back-and-forth email activity. The rest of each day’s calendar is open, so individuals can structure their schedules independently.

Tasia Duske, CEO, MuseumHack

2. Develop a Consistent Employee Experience

When employees aren’t based in the same location, engagement and interaction can differ dramatically. With members of distributed teams operating in different locations and time zones, delivering a cohesive, consistent employee experience will no doubt continue to be a major challenge.

There is no easy fix for this. All the more reason why it’s worthwhile to create robust internal communications designed to connect and inform remote employees throughout your organization. It pays to invest in a mechanism that helps everyone in the company participate in intentional check-ins and feedback. And be sure to equip and encourage managers, so they will continuously evangelize your culture and norms.

Sentari Minor, Head of Strategy, evolvedMD

3. Deal With Cultural Distinctions

In a global workforce, employees may come from vastly different cultural backgrounds. This means you should anticipate that distributed team members will bring different communication styles, behavioral patterns, work ethics and ideals to the table. This naturally will influence how well team members understand each other and collaborate to reach a specific goal.

Leaders in global organizations must transcend these cultural barriers to manage distributed teams effectively. Start by encouraging multicultural understanding by delivering awareness training for management and employees. For example, focus on empowering people to identify preconceptions and handle unconscious bias. Also, help them learn how cultural differences can actually foster meaningful communication, collaboration, and creative problem-solving.

David Bitton, Co-Founder, DoorLoop

4. Address Issues Before They Become Systemic

Leaders will have to grapple with identifying and correcting issues before they become norms. With distributed teams, leaders will have a tougher time assessing employee sentiment towards one other, the company, and their roles. If any sources of friction or conflict are left unchecked, they can eventually take root, resulting in lower employee satisfaction and higher turnover.

One solution is for leaders to create a culture where everyone feels empowered to speak up about any problems or concerns that may arise with coworkers or managers. This can help prevent problems by giving people the freedom to come together quickly and solve problems before they get out of hand.

Lisa Richards, CEO, The Candida Diet

5. Offer Viable Child Care Options

Whether parents work in-office or from home, child care can be a continuous work-life struggle. Employee attention and productivity are easily compromised when quality care isn’t available or children are underfoot in a home office environment.

In the past, on-site child care or partnerships with daycare facilities made sense when employees worked at central office locations. But those solutions won’t work for distributed teams or employees with non-standard schedules. The best solution is to provide benefits from a company that provides child care on-demand. This gives parents options that fit their specific needs, no matter where they live or work. It’s one benefit that clearly benefits everyone—children, parents, and employers.

Kevin Ehlinger, VP Product Marketing, Tootris

6. Avoid Information Silos

Information silos are prevalent in distributed workplaces. They inhibit the free flow of data, communication, and essential insights. Silos may arise from proximity, reduced permissions, or even a lack of knowledge about where specific data is stored. Regardless, the presence of silos is a productivity nightmare.

Lost or mishandled data can pose a considerable threat to distributed teams. Therefore, leaders must take the proper steps to promote transparency, accessibility, and collaboration between departments. The solution is to invest in your organization’s file infrastructure. This can be achieved through the use of cloud data solutions that back up and store data remotely in the cloud.

This, in turn, makes data available on-demand wherever workers may be, so they can retrieve what they need from whatever device they may be using. This streamlines data access and improves productivity while keeping confidential information as safe and secure as possible.

Max Wesman, Founder, GoodHire

7. Build Deep Connections and Loyalty

Distributed work has one downside that can undermine team cohesion and organizational loyalty. Human beings build emotional bonds largely through social interaction. In-person, those connections easily develop because the environment lends itself to unexpected interactions and casual conversations. We “meet” briefly at the Keurig machine or in an elevator, while also making small talk.

In the absence of that unplanned, low-stakes social activity, emotional bonds don’t grow as deep. So, employee connections tend to be more transactional and less emotional—with colleagues, managers and the organization overall.

Without strong emotional bonds, distributed teams can suffer from low cohesion and loyalty. Virtual team members may be less likely to notice a colleague in need. It may also be easier to lure them away. To combat this, create as many opportunities as possible for employees to meet informally and get to know each other—even if it’s online. Encourage small talk before meetings. Support random, agenda-free phone meetings. Nurture friendships!

Amie Devero, President, Beyond Better Strategy and Coaching

 

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These ideas on how distributed teams can work together more effectively were submitted via Terkel. Terkel is a knowledge platform that shares community-driven content based on expert insights. To see questions and get published, sign up at terkel.io.

Planning for Caregiving – How Employers Can Help

We must plan for caregiving instead of waiting for the medical crisis. Lack of planning is sadly the typical scenario for the vast majority of working families with aging relatives. Too many barriers exist when it comes to planning for caregiving. Such barriers include lack of knowledge, time, and procrastination. Ultimately, lack of preparation inevitably results in premature exit from the workforce. This is a costly scenario for the employee as well as the employer.

As part of a comprehensive benefits plan, employers can help educate future caregiver employees as to how to initiate the conversation and set up planning. Such a setup may vastly change the landscape around employees’ ability to remain in the workplace as they take on a caregiving role. The point of this article, therefore, is a wake-up call to the employer as well as the future caregiver employee.

Preparation for Caregiving

It is wonderful to think that people today have a good chance of living well beyond their 70s. However, with rising age comes increasing disabilities (1), and thus, the need for supportive care. In my profession as an eldercare consultant, I have come to realize that the vast majority of people take on caregiving responsibilities with little or no preparation; this is indeed the typical scenario for caregivers (2).

Unfortunately, it is human nature to wait till the last moment before we take action, especially with issues that are difficult to solve. In the caregiving world, people often do not learn about the many resources and services available until after the medical crisis occurs. Why do we procrastinate when it comes to planning for caregiving? There are many reasons: lack of time in our busy working lives, lack of knowledge, lack of confidence, and stressful family dynamics. However, lack of preparation around caregiving can lead to wide-ranging negative outcomes for the caregiver (3\4).

Planning for the Future of Caregiving

We plan our financial future; so why don’t we plan for caregiving? This should be a no-brainer, as lack of preparation can have a negative impact on so many aspects of our lives including deteriorating mental and physical health, loss of social connections, and reduced or lost income. For example, caregivers are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, irritability, hopelessness, and depression, as well as have coexisting substance abuse or dependence, and chronic disease (5/6). Furthermore, studies have shown that caregivers (age 50+) who leave the workforce to care for a parent lose, on average, nearly $304,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetime, and are at increased risk of living in poverty in their own old age (7).

Programmatic Solutions in the Workplace

The rationale for why we should plan for caregiving is clear. Yet, we don’t. I would argue that much of the fault lies in that structurally our society is not set up to support proactive caregiving. A key area where programmatic solutions could be developed exists within the workplace. The workplace employs many people who fall into the sandwich generation; that is, those sandwiched between children and aging parents. Even though many mid-size to larger companies provide eldercare services as part of their Employment Assistance Programs (EAPs), these do not promote proactive planning for caregiving.

EAPs cater to the employee who is in crisis mode. Instead, workplaces should do more to promote proactive planning for caregiving when the employee is not under duress. This could be done through educational ‘lunch and learns’ provided to employees where they may gain knowledge about warning signs of when it is time to step in, learn ways to initiate the conversation, and how to find resources in their community. Educating the sandwich generation workforce is a win-win scenario for the employee as well as the employer by diminishing disruption in the workplace because employees will be much more prepared for caregiving. 

Final Thoughts

The workplace captures a huge audience of future caregivers. This is a vital consideration as we are facing a looming shortage of caregivers as the large baby boomer cohort ages (8). We must start to implement structural changes within our society that can support caregiving in the same way that daycare was implemented to support working mothers! The programmatic solutions described in this article are relatively inexpensive and empower the family to make decisions that may better meet the wishes and needs of the care recipient. Ultimately, by planning for caregiving we may better promote the autonomy and the dignity of our loved ones.

1 Aubrecht, K., Kelly, C. & Rice, C. (2020). The aging-disability nexus. University of British Columbia Press.
2 Alvariza, A., Häger-Tibell, L., Holm, M. et al. Increasing preparedness for caregiving and death in family caregivers of patients with severe illness who are cared for at home – study protocol for a web-based intervention. BMC Palliat Care 19, 33 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12904-020-0530-6
3 Sung S Park, PhD, Caregivers’ Mental Health and Somatic Symptoms During COVID-19, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 76, Issue 4, April 2021, Pages e235 – e240, https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbaa121
4 Broxson J, Feliciano L. Understanding the Impacts of Caregiver Stress. Prof Case Manag. 2020 Jul/Aug;25(4):213-219. doi: 10.1097/NCM.0000000000000414. PMID: 32453176.
5  Chang, H. Y., Chiou, C. J., & Chen, N. S. (2010). Impact of mental health and caregiver burden on family caregivers’ physical health. Archives of gerontology and geriatrics50(3), 267–271. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2009.04.006
6 Lena Sandin Wranker, Sölve Elmståhl & Fagerström Cecilia (2021) The Health of Older Family Caregivers – A 6-Year Follow-up, Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 64:2, 190-207, DOI: 10.1080/01634372.2020.1843098
7 Feinberg, L & Choula, R. (2012): Understanding the impact of caregiving on work. (AARP Fact Sheet).
8.Feinberg, L.F. & Spillman, B.C. (2019). Shifts in family caregiving – and a growing care gap: Implications for long term services and supports financial reform. Generations: J Am Society on Aging, 43, 1, 73-77.

Minimize Worry and Maximize Employee Financial Health

Sponsored by: Nationwide

With 2022 shaping up to be much more economically challenging for many people, more so than in 2021, folks are doing what they can to get by. A recent study performed by Nationwide said that a whopping 90% of consumers are concerned about inflation and their financial health. Do you blame them? 

Some employees are even starting to reduce their 401(k) plan contributions. The economic downturn has employees feeling worried and insecure – rightfully so.

Another study I just read shows that 70% of employees believe they need help from employers to achieve long-term financial security. Employers and employees may not realize all the tools available to help promote financial wellness and help to alleviate worry and insecurity.

Let’s look at some ways organizations and individuals can ease their worries about retirement plans and lifelong financial health.

Are you ready to help your employees thrive?

Our Guest: Amelia Dunlap

On our latest #WorkTrends Podcast, I spoke to Amelia Dunlap, Vice President of Retirement Solutions Marketing at Nationwide. Her focus is on solving the complex challenges of the financial services industry. She leads retirement solutions and marketing and is responsible for connecting with participants to plan for and live in retirement. She says:

Many people may not realize the full scope of what Nationwide does and that they offer much more than just home and auto insurance.

The Big Picture

We need to focus beyond the here and now. While many people know they have to save as much as possible for retirement, they are often unsure of what retirement will look like when it comes. About one in five people are delaying their retirement date because they feel insecure about how much income they will need to live on comfortably.

Amelia shares some solutions from Nationwide, such as in-plan guarantees, a way to put money into an investment that guarantees retirement income. A recent macrotrend related to pensions should be of some concern:

Rewind decades ago, a lot of companies had pensions for those of us in the corporate or private sector. That provided you, as an employee, with a paycheck in retirement. Well, throughout the past number of years, pensions have started to reduce. That ownership of preparing for your retirement and living in retirement has transitioned from a company providing it to an individual’s responsibility. That’s what a 401(k) is.

The Future of Retirement

 Economic security is of great concern for everybody, whether nearing retirement or just entering the workforce. There may be legislation from Capitol Hill that could help here, but in the nearer term, there are options and ways to educate younger generations. 

We in the industry often say, “If only everyone knew that your retirement plan is the best option for saving that you’re going to have.” It gives you the most access to investments. It’s the lowest cost. If you have a retirement plan, you should absolutely be taking advantage of it. We in the industry know that. Unfortunately, I don’t know if that is always effectively communicated to employers and ultimately to employees.

Educating younger workers on the benefits of investing earlier in their careers can make a huge difference. 

Lessons Learned

The turbulence in the last year has been a wake-up call for many people who had previously been in a stretch where things had been just ticking along well for a number of years. So what have we learned? 

This really underscores the need for employees to understand that adversity is going to happen and that you need to be thinking about your financial wellness plans long term. Putting your money in your retirement plan, continuing to save, and diversifying your investments are all good keywords you hear. Right now is a really unique time for employers because they’ve got the attention of their employees.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful and inspirational. To learn more about employer-sponsored retirement programs and the changes needed to help secure employee financial wellness, visit Nationwide.

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

How the Era of Hybrid Work Impacts Employee Travel, Spending, and the Workplace Experience

Sponsored by: SAP Concur

The next chapter of the future of work – hybrid work—is underway as businesses return to the physical office in some capacity while honoring employee flexibility to work from home. Hybrid work is new territory, and there’s more to consider than desk assignments. 

With employees working from different locations on any given day, there’s a need to reconsider the processes and policies that govern day-to-day work. Especially when it comes to employee spending. 

Here’s what is important to know about employee spend – through travel and expenses – in the era of hybrid work, and how it impacts the workplace experience.

Work From Anywhere Business Trips

Business travel took new shapes during the pandemic. While many organizations paused formal travel programs, some employees took personal trips with a business component. For example, the “work from vacation home” trend. Workers took advantage of remote work settings by taking trips with long stays. All they needed was Wi-Fi and a charging station, and they could work from Hawaii for a month. 

The flexibility to mix work and personal trips is likely to stick and become an expected aspect of workplace benefits. A recent SAP Concur survey of 1,000 U.S. business travelers found that nearly half of business travelers perceive “bleisure” travel – taking personal time off while on a business trip – as a standard workplace benefit. 

The hybrid workplace is likely to travel as well. Business travelers say that common workspaces during a business trip have included a café or coffee shop (70%), lobby (64%), waiting room (57%), and poolside (31%). Employees are now used to working from the couch or their bed. It makes sense that they’re more accustomed to non-traditional workspaces during business trips as well. Now, they’ll appreciate the flexibility to choose alternative lodging accommodations or casual business meeting spaces. 

As a side note, more than a third of business travelers (39%) have reported working from a restroom. But we’re not anticipating the start of porcelain cafes. 

Bumps in Hybrid Spend Processes

The hybrid work environment calls for adapted spend management processes. Not only are employees spending on new expense categories, like home office equipment, but the associated processes used to manage spending have typically relied on workers being in the office. Now, they’re conducting business from waiting rooms or restrooms, and without proper infrastructures, errors are likely to occur. 

An SAP Concur survey of 100 U.S. finance managers and 1,000 U.S. business travelers found that nearly all finance managers (98%) have seen an increase in non-compliant expenses during the past year. Though most (53%) believe those expenses stem from unclear policies, employees admit to being a bit more mischievous. Nearly two-thirds of business travelers admit to intentionally trying to get reimbursed for personal expenses. In fact, nearly all (89%) have submitted at least one travel expense in the past year that might have violated their company’s travel policies. On average, $3,397 of questionable expenses.

What could be motivating employees to skirt policies? In the past year, 86% of business travelers have reported that their company has been delayed in reimbursing their business expenses at least once. Nearly all agree this impacts their personal finances. Many people have been challenged by rising costs from inflation. As a result, late expense reimbursements that create added stress for workers are an issue.  

The Digital Office

One aspect of work provides consistency: the digital office. No matter where employees are, they’re plugged into digital infrastructures that enable them to do their best work. Travel and expense management solutions should fit within this framework and enable workers to make purchases, on the go, simply. 

Learn how to support and adapt to the future of travel and expense management in our eBook.

6 Ways to Engage With Your Employees and Prevent Attrition

One of the important factors involved in running a business is finding and retaining good employees. Yet, employees choosing to leave a job due to a lack of connection and engagement has increased.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in March 2022. Known as the “Great Resignation,” this trend has caught the attention of CEOs, upper-level management, and HR professionals. So why are these workers leaving, and what can you do as a business owner to improve retention?

Let’s explore how you can improve employee engagement within your organization and hold onto the valuable members of your team.  

How to Improve Employee Engagement

The key to success is to motivate and engage your team. A team that is passionate about their work and empowered to make strategic choices will achieve greater success.

If you have noticed the level of engagement in your organization has dropped, don’t be alarmed. While the current situation is less than ideal, there are steps you can take to improve upon it. 

Below are six ways you can effectively re-engage your team.

1. Leverage Your Team’s Strengths and Passions

When considering the roles performed by your team members, pay attention to their strengths and areas of interest. For example, employees who are truly passionate about their work are more dedicated and happier to return to the workplace every day.

This alignment is also a great way to reduce stress levels among team members. While some members may thrive when faced with the demands of high-profile or VIP clients, others may be better suited for work behind the scenes. 

Identifying the strengths of each team member will not only create a happier, more engaged work environment but will also improve productivity. Support this by backing your employees with the necessary budget to complete their projects. This allowance will provide more interest and variety in the workplace by preventing them from feeling stuck on any one task for an extended time.  

2. Trust the Decision-Making Abilities of Your Team

When you empower your employees to make their own decisions throughout the workday, you demonstrate you value their work and abilities. Building trust is an important step in creating a workplace where your team can thrive. It builds confidence and encourages each team member to work to their full potential.

Rather than outlining strict operating procedures with no room for personalization, allow your employees to make their best judgment in situations that don’t fit inside the box. Eliminate potential barriers, such as access to funding or tools when needed. You may discover more effective ways to solve problems by equipping staff to tap into their unique skillsets.    

3. Regularly Check-In with Your Team

A way to show employees they are an important part of the team is to show them their opinions matter. Take the time to check in with team members regularly. This check-in includes offering clear feedback and opportunities for improvement, opening the door for them to communicate their concerns and ideas.

Employees want direction. Many companies still use the traditional annual review, but this isn’t frequent enough to help your team improve. Instead, try offering a brief weekly update to each team member. Take this time to highlight ways they have performed skillfully and to identify actionable ways they can improve.

4. Allow for Open Communication Both Ways

This improved level of communication also needs to go in both directions. First, make it easy for your team to provide their feedback, including any concerns they may have and ideas for the future. You can encourage this by implementing an open-door policy within the workplace, offering time for your employees to speak up during their weekly check-in, or providing the opportunity for anonymous feedback with employee satisfaction surveys.

Make sure you are following through on the information that you are given. Advocate for their ideas. If they continually offer their feedback and nothing changes, it will only create frustration. The goal is for your team to feel heard and appreciated, which means considering their suggestions.  

5. Offer Training and Learning Opportunities

Another way you can help your team grow and improve in their career goals is to offer skill development and ongoing education opportunities. By supporting your team in advancing their career, you will show them that the company is invested in their future. This continued investment of time and resources fosters an environment of dedication and loyalty.

Knowledge and education come in many forms, including:

  • Formal education (College and University)
  • Mentorship/Coaching
  • Certifications
  • On-the-Job skills training
  • Virtual learning opportunities  

When many industries are experiencing skill shortages, investing in your team is a way to benefit both your company and all who work for it. 

6. Show Employees You Care About Their Health

In recent years, there has been a growing focus on mental health in all areas of our lives. This renewed focus includes the workplace. Not only will access to better mental health support help to boost work performance and satisfaction, but it will also help to improve the lives of your team outside of work. 

There are many ways you can make the mental health of your team a priority.  This focus ranges from providing better mental health care in your company’s health benefit plan to allowing for more flexible work hours, paid time off, and “mental health days.” 

Prioritizing mental health is more than just providing care for mental illness. It also means encouraging a healthy work/life balance and providing opportunities to relieve workplace stress.

Improve Employee Engagement by Creating an Employee-Centric Work Environment

By creating a work environment focused on empowering and supporting your team, you open the door for your employees to perform to their full potential. It encourages trust, increases productivity, and boosts employee retention. Build a culture that leverages your team’s strengths, trusts their decision-making abilities, encourages communication, and supports the health of all employees. Taking these steps will inspire a healthy, balanced workplace for all. 

Understanding the Great Resignation to Define the Future of Work

The Great Resignation. The Big Quit. The Lie-Flat economy. The Great Reshuffle. The Great Rift. Whatever you want to call it, the way human beings engage with the workplace has changed – permanently. The beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic inadvertently set workplace change in motion in unimaginable ways and at an unfathomable pace. 

As the COVID-19 Pandemic continued to wreak havoc on life as we knew it, in a May 2021 Bloomberg interview, Anthony Klotz, a Professor at Texas A&M University, coined the phrase the Great Resignation. He used the phrase to describe what he believed to be an inevitable workforce “re-think” about how and why we work. Professor Klotz may have inadvertently set in motion the “pandemic” within the pandemic. Or as Arran Stewart, co-founder of Job.com, noted in a recent article, “the largest shift of human capital in our lifetime.”  

The Turnover Tidal Wave

Hundreds of articles followed that describe the different perspectives and even introduced unique names for a tidal wave of turnover, quits, resignations, and retirements throughout 2021. The articles cite reasons that range from a basic desire to establish a more manageable work/life balance to seeking out a more flexible/hybrid workday structure that can support remote work.  Whatever the reason, they all circle back to a fundamental shift, largely ignored, that has occurred in our mental models related to work. Sometimes, we get stuck.

What Do We Do Now?  

The pre-pandemic workplace was generally filled with employees who physically attended work on a regular basis. Employees completed a daily commute, interacted with colleagues, attended meetings in a conference room, stuck their heads around a cubicle corner to ask a question – all generally face to face. That was, generally, how work got done. The COVID-19 Global Pandemic brought that routine to a grinding halt.  

All of a sudden, workplaces around the globe were forced to very quickly pivot away from the face-to-face workplace to a completely virtual environment. Enter the “virtual” meeting.  Whether it was Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, Skype, or another software platform, the virtual meeting was the game changer. Suddenly, employees began to recognize that while fundamentally different, the work was still getting done.  

For some, the work was not only getting done but sometimes the work was getting done faster and maybe even better and more efficiently. For others, the work was getting done but came at an exhausting cost. The challenge of perceived 24/7 availability coupled with virtual school and limited childcare was too much. The boundary between the workday and personal time became blurred. The blurry line is not sustainable and does not seem to be going away. A breach that influences our mental model drastically changed our worldview—and directly impacted the human perspective.  

Redefine the Mental Model

The global pandemic impacted individuals, families, employees, and human beings in general … in very different ways. People are emerging from the last two years with the need to redefine the mental model; redefine the collective response of millions of unique individuals to a series of unforeseen events that changed our fundamental behaviors, perceptions, and attitudes toward the workplace forever. This response is the driving force for the change in our mental model. The Great Resignation is the result.  

There are thousands of articles, blog posts, and even new books that discuss the Great Resignation. Many of them provide anecdotal evidence that offers explicit support for the type of shift referred to and the corresponding result. From the individual in the corporate wellness industry who recognized an opportunity to begin her own consulting firm, to the federal government employee who decided to bake cheesecake for a living, to the denim executive who decided her voice was more important than a large paycheck, to the parent who decided the sacrifice of family was not worth the commute, to the twenty-something RN who will now be a travel nurse for a few years to pay off student loan debt—the examples of purposeful change to perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors are long and getting longer.  

The common theme is a need for the development of organizational acceptance that is meaningful, creative, current, and proactive.  

How Should Organizations Meet the Charge?  

  • Flexibility is key. Embrace hybrid models to meet the dynamic needs of the evolving workforce. It is time to eliminate the outdated office model.  Promote the evolving workday and move forward. 
  • Integrate meaningful strategy. Consider it as a building block for developing a dynamic and sustainable culture. Reward independence, highlight the risk-taker, ask inconvenient questions, and promote the self-starter mentality.
  • Innovate through creativity. Implement time and space within the workday for creative work on ideas or projects that go beyond the scope of the normal daily work tasks. Organizations like Google and Atlassian embrace innovation by encouraging employees to spend time thinking creatively.
  • Burnout is real. Encourage workplace policy makers to define preemptive mechanisms that include proactive identification of transitional objects to provide support.  These tangible and/or intangible objects can be as simple as random accolades from leadership or as complex as the integration of a new organization-wide wellness program.  
  • We hear you.  There is a loud and resounding message in the Great Resignation: Employees want things different. Openly acknowledge the sentiment and develop measurable action items.  

Conclusion

The bottom line is that we have changed. People have changed. The workplace has changed. The United States has changed. The world has changed. Everything has changed. The Great Resignation is much more than an economic trend.  It is a movement; a movement that has made many of us feel stuck—and has permanently shifted our workplace mental model.  

Meeting the Needs of a Changing Workforce

Graduation season is here, and many recent or soon-to-be graduates are about to enter the workforce. In fact, it is estimated that companies plan to hire 26 percent more new graduates from the class of 2022 compared to the year before. Meeting the needs of this new workforce is key to successful talent acquisition and retention. 

The world is different than it was three graduation seasons ago. Businesses have needed to adjust the way they approach the hiring process to build strong teams. For these organizations to attract and retain the top talent within the job market, a different mindset and approach are required.

The future of work is now, and it is reliant upon driving change through technology, different ways of working, fresh perspectives, and diverse voices.

The Demand for Flexibility

Flexibility is an unwavering demand of the new generation of workers. In a world that relishes instant communication and expects full transparency, job candidates are more aware of the vast number of organizations that meet their employees where they are. So what does this mean for companies that are looking to hire and retain candidates who are overwhelmed with options? It means that flexibility is a must – not a “nice to have.”

Flexibility means allowing employees to build a schedule that best fits their needs. Many organizations are adapting accordingly as they recognize this level of flexibility is something they must offer their current and future employees. In fact, 81 percent of executives are changing their workplace policies to offer greater flexibility. This is a standard expectation of our new normal. A failure to keep up with these demands means limiting your talent pool and losing even the most loyal of employees.

Flexibility also means empowering employees to choose where they work. Organizations that promote a “work from anywhere” mindset prove that they truly foster an environment of flexibility and a consistent employee experience regardless of where one is seated. Companies have quickly acknowledged that the “work from anywhere” mindset vastly widens their potential candidate pool. These organizations can focus on recruiting candidates with different skillsets or backgrounds that can positively impact the business.

The companies that will win in the top talent competition are those that realize it is not where one works, but rather it is the breadth and quality of the work produced that is critical in allowing their organization to scale to the next level.

Defining Your Purpose and Aligning With Candidates

As Gen Z gains more stake in the workforce, purpose-driven practices will continue to take hold at the forefront and become the foundation of business. This shift has been bubbling under the surface for a few years, but now it sits firmly at the core of candidate requirements.

Organizations that choose to look intrinsically and identify the true purpose behind their work will find that like-minded talent turns their way. Purpose comes in many forms and can be realized in a variety of ways. There is no doubt that the new generation of candidates will not work for a company that does not have a defined and pursued purpose in place. The questions that all organizations must ask themselves are: What is the purpose of what you do? Who will you positively impact? How can you build a workplace that drives this purpose every single day?

The Impact of Technology

The Insurance industry exists largely to serve and support individuals, families, and organizations across the globe in times of need. This institution is comprised of companies that face challenges of how to bring a fresh and modern approach to help drive their purposes. Due to the length of its establishment, it would not come as a surprise if many candidates, particularly new graduates, saw the insurance industry as old school and have not considered it for their future careers. However, the reality is that there is a multitude of career advancement opportunities as technology such as software-as-a-solution, artificial intelligence, and machine learning continue to mature and become a staple within the industry. Insurance is a perfect fit for the new generation of workers who are inherently creative problem-solvers and who also wish to deepen their technology skillsets.

The companies that truly live out their defined purpose and offer the skills and training programs that employees desire will be the ones that gain the talent pool’s attention and thus deliver the innovative solutions that will be disruptive within their industry.

Cultivating Diverse Talent is the Path Forward

The changing workforce is shedding a bright light on the notable differences in how the varying generations approach their line of work. However, one similarity all generations in the workforce share is that employees only feel satisfied within their careers when they are comfortable enough to show up as their true selves and follow and express their passions and beliefs. Organizations that allow individuals and groups to be heard and empowered will win the competition for great talent. Without a doubt, upholding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) practices are at the forefront of these efforts.

Companies that promote their DE&I efforts create a culture where employees feel respected, connected, and proud. These organizations that choose to take a stance are more favorable to the new generation of candidates, many of whom will not work for companies that do not have DE&I programs in place. For organizations with customer-facing roles, an increased level of pride from employees leads to an increased level of engagement. Therefore, allowing them to better serve their customers and build stronger relationships with critical stakeholders.

Diversity Fosters Innovation

Organizations with diverse leaders and employees innovate at a faster rate. Diverse thinking and perspectives fuel creative ideas. It also fuels development cycles for new solutions, allowing companies to gain and sustain a competitive advantage by getting to market faster and focusing on the long-term value for their customers. This will in turn drive better business outcomes. 

Recently, our organization held a Diversity Summit to reflect on and discuss the future goals of DE&I in the workplace. It was a transformational three days, and the Summit is the type of event every organization should host more of. The group’s time together was filled with impactful moments that were educational, inspiring, and motivating to our employees. Both on a professional and personal level. 

DE&I initiatives should be incorporated into every part of the business and is not merely a three-day event. Leaders need to make a conscious effort to inspire employees and drive company culture by “walking the walk.” Candidates are not impressed by companies with executive-level and corporate “buy-in”. They are drawn to companies with true executive-level and corporate “believe-in”. An organization’s DE&I stance must stem top-down, and it cannot just be a focus within the HR part of the organization, or it will fall flat.

Every employee at every level within a corporate environment owns the company culture. Every candidate in the talent pool has a vested interest in being a part of an open culture that promotes belonging. 

A Few Final Thoughts

A company’s most valuable asset is its people. 

Companies must regularly reevaluate their hiring and internal processes. These processes are only successful when companies foster programs that empower their employees both professionally and personally and allow them to pursue their passion and purpose.

The companies that do this are the ones that will attract and retain candidates of the highest caliber.

7 Tips For A Successful Remote Hiring Process

Gone are those days when people used to travel to their workplaces. According to a Pew Research report, about one-fifth of workers having the flexibility to work from home are doing so. 

With the onset of the pandemic, global employment methods and the work culture changed forever. By December 2020, 71% of the working population were working remotely. Yet, even as the pandemic threat subsided, many professionals chose to work from home. In November 2021, a report by Gallup showed that 45% of full-timers were still working remotely, either part-time or full-time. 

This sudden paradigm shift to remote work has affected the work culture of almost all organizations worldwide. Today, recruits and even legacy employees demand a flexible hybrid working model. This pushes companies to rethink their business model to incorporate the shifting dynamics of a remote workforce. Companies must design a cohesive culture in a digital environment, and the change should begin right from the recruitment process. 

This article will address the importance of remote hiring in the modern industry and offer actionable solutions to its complexities. 

Why is Remote Hiring Important?

We’ve just emerged from a global pandemic that forced people everywhere to stay confined within the four walls of their homes. In 2020, as governments imposed lockdowns across countries, most organizations chose to operate remotely – this sudden transition was anything but smooth. Although challenging, corporations could stay afloat by adopting radical remote hiring and working strategies. This is when the reliance on digital collaboration tools like Zoom, Google Meet, Slack, etc., skyrocketed massively. 

Soon, companies realized that remote hiring offers numerous advantages, especially for global employment. With the possibility of remote work on cards, most corporations can now hire international employees. 

As the modern workspace is no longer limited by geographical location and borders, organizations can tap into a broader global talent pool. This is a win-win situation for businesses and job seekers. Since companies can source talent from anywhere globally, they can save money on employee relocation costs and forego the hassle of arranging for work permits and visas. On the other hand, skilled and qualified people can apply for their desired roles in top companies without being restricted by geographical boundaries. 

As remote work became the norm, many corporations realized that retaining talent is now relatively easier. With employees working from the comfort of their homes, they can maintain a better work-life balance and be more agile and productive. Remote or hybrid working has had a direct impact on the well-being of employees, with a recent Forbes report claiming that it boosts employee happiness by as much as 20%. 

Thus remote hiring is pivotal for international hiring since it helps build a diverse team comprising skilled and qualified people who are satisfied with their job. 

Guidelines for a Remote Hiring Process

Although companies can source talent internationally now, there remains a shortage of skilled workers, particularly in specialized areas. In addition, upwork reports that around 78% of HR managers consider that skills will become more niche in the ensuing decade. Consequently, about 91% of managers have already resorted to more agile hiring strategies. 

Cultivating a work culture that is both diverse and inclusive starts with remote recruiting. Businesses must adopt an open mindset and implement innovative hiring approaches to build a competent remote team. 

While there’s no shortcut to hiring best-suited candidates virtually, employers can follow these guidelines while remotely hiring employees. 

1. Invest in Remote Hiring Pre-Work

In collaboration with the Harvard Business School, a recent study by Accenture revealed that a significant portion of qualified employees is deterred by online job portfolios put up by employers. 

Hence, employers must switch up their job promotion tactics. For instance, they can create attractive job descriptions highlighting a specific role’s key skills and responsibilities. Hiring managers can also accurately describe their company’s remote policy to maintain transparency across job platforms. They should also include any logistical requirements, such as expected timezones or the frequency of monthly office visits. 

It’s crucial to create tailormade job ads for different platforms. Pasting the same hiring advertisement for all job profiles will mean you risk the chance of losing out on a potential talented applicant.

2. Importance of Video Interviewing 

Today, freelancers and full-time employees feel more comfortable with remote employment. Hence, employers can no longer ignore the importance of video interviewing for remote hiring. Usually, employers/recruiters cannot meet the remote applicants face-to-face, and thus, they have to evaluate a candidate’s skills through video interviews. 

However, video conferencing comes with its challenges. For instance, there can be audio-video glitches or internet disturbance during the interview. Employers can easily overcome these issues by creating a solid interview setup for remote hiring, including a reliable internet connection, double-checking the tech before logging in, etc. Also, it helps to have a Plan B ready if there’s any glitch during a video interview. 

Tip: Be punctual and present in the chatroom when the applicant enters. Slowly ease into the interview process through casual chatting. 

3. Be Transparent 

Recruiting international talent can be a tricky process. However, being transparent about your company’s mission and your expectations from the employees is a commendable start to the employer-employee relationship. This will help you lead by example and gain your employees’ trust. 

4. Prioritize Collaborative Hiring

Fostering teamwork is a pivotal addition to your company’s work culture. Ensure to involve all the relevant teams while hiring employees remotely. It allows your employees to get involved in the core operations and makes them feel valued. 

Collaborative hiring also allows you to acquire valuable input from different team members, making the whole hiring process more comprehensive. Ensure that your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can facilitate team collaboration and accommodate multiple users. 

5. Integrate Technical Skills Assessment 

All employers must evaluate applicants’ hard skills, especially for highly competitive niche roles. For instance, recruiters may assign projects or coding problems to assess a candidate’s real-world skills for tech roles like data scientist or web developer. 

Project-based assessments are a foolproof way to test a candidate’s competency and skills. For example, a 2021 HackerEarth developer survey states that nearly 40% of working developers prefer to sit for video interviews that provide remote editing tools. 

6. Provide Details Pre-Interview

When recruiters fail to offer detailed information about a role, most candidates are unprepared for the interviews. This makes the entire interviewing process futile. 

You can avoid this by providing applicants with all relevant details related to the job during the pre-interview stage. Also, putting up details online will ensure a level playing field for all candidates. Another great idea is to conduct career fairs before the scheduled interview to help candidates comprehend what you expect from them. 

7. Hire People with Remote Work Experience

This might sound odd, but remote working isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. With minimal to no supervision, remote workers are autonomous – they are their own boss. Unfortunately, this may lead to sluggish outputs and missed deadlines. Founder of Baremetrics, Josh Pigford, explains it aptly, “….. It’s a skill set. You have to know how to work remotely.” 

Thus, hiring people with some remote work experience might make an employer’s responsibility of supervising and managing employees easier in the long run. 

To Conclude

Employers must meticulously plan their remote hiring process to fit the needs of the modern remote workforce that operates across borders. From advertising job vacancies to onboarding remote employees – every step of the hiring process must be well-thought-out. 

We hope these tips help align your remote hiring strategies with your company goals.

Why Skilling Investments Directly Correlate to an Organization’s Bottom Line

Sponsored by: Cornerstone

Learning is the most important thing we do at work. 

I know that’s a bold statement. I’m sure you’re already trying to think of things you do at work that are more important than learning. But the truth is that learning is the foundation of how we grow and perform. 

Think about the learning opportunities at your organization. Are there company-sponsored places you can go to learn? Or do you simply rely on Google and YouTube? 

The reality is that many organizations rely on employees to find their own learning and development opportunities. So, what’s the problem with this? 

The problem is that this lack of prioritization for development opportunities at work won’t get us through the current talent and skilling shortages many industries are facing or help us grow into the future of work. 

These aren’t problems that will go away on their own, either. In fact, the current skilling and talent shortages are keeping business leaders up at night. According to a recently published Cornerstone People Research Lab survey, 48% of all employers placed skills and talent shortages within their top three concerns over the next three years. 

This urgency from business leaders is further evidenced in PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey, where 74% of CEOs reported being concerned about the availability of key skills. 

Cornerstone’s survey also found that while ‘laggard’ and ‘average’ organizations show a consistent employer-employee confidence gap in skills development, high-performance organizations are ahead of the game. 

Let’s explore how high-performance organizations approach skills development and why it works.  

High-Performance Organizations as a Model for Success

High-performance organizations put their money where their mouth is. For example, when asked when they would prioritize skills investments for their company, 72% of respondents reported that prioritization was expected to occur within the next year or had already begun. Meanwhile, 68% of lagging organizations plan to invest in skills development within three to five years. 

According to our research, high-performance organizations aren’t just investing in one or two learning and skill development areas either. Nearly all high-performance organizations are prioritizing learning and development technology, learning content, formal education or university learning, mentoring and coaching programs, and on-the-job skills training.  

Meanwhile, only 34% of lagging organizations prioritize formal education, and 52% invest in mentoring and coaching programs. There’s more than a 30-point gap between high-performance organizations and laggards. 

High-performance organizations are also increasingly adopting an internal talent marketplace mindset. They are using skills data and skills development programs to promote internal mobility. Ninety-seven percent of high-performance organizations agreed that the role of talent development is to improve employee growth. Employees also agree – 82% of employees at high-performance organizations reported feeling that their company had insight into the gaps between current skills and those needed in the future. 

Developing internal talent is the number one way high-performance organizations plan to fill skills gaps. Meanwhile, lagging organizations plan to hire externally to fill those gaps over the next three years. 

Up-Leveling Your Skilling Strategy 

So, where do you start in up-leveling your skilling strategy? 

First, take inventory of the skills currently available in your organization. Then, predict what skills are most important to the future success of your organization. Once you understand what skills gaps exist, you can chart a plan to help close them. 

To do this, AI-based skills assessment and pathing technology can help identify those gaps between existing and future skills and make intelligent job and career recommendations based on skills.  

Once you connect skills development to career growth, employees can more easily chart their desired career path by seeing an integrated view of the skills needed and how it translates to internal mobility. 

This kind of growth investment isn’t just good for your people – it’s good for business. According to a 2021 Gallup survey in partnership with Amazon, skills training is one of the top perks younger workers look for in a new job. Further, 61% of respondents also said that upskilling opportunities are important for staying at their job.  Seventy-one percent agreed that job training and development increased their job satisfaction. More satisfaction leads to better retention. Better retention means better success and outcomes for a business.

The takeaway is simple. When organizations adopt an internal skills marketplace and an internal-first hiring mindset, employees stay engaged and happy, and your business increases its chances of successfully navigating the future.

New HR Processes to Meet Workforce Expectations

The Great Resignation was a very real and present concern for HR professionals in 2021. In December alone, 4.3 million workers left their jobs. As the labor pool shrunk and companies faced skill shortages, there was a palpable power shift among employees. Workers knew they were in demand and could ask for more: more flexibility, more money, and more perks. Average hourly earnings have increased 4.8% year over year as a result.

Companies were already faced with competition for talent before the pandemic. This threw HR professionals in even more of a tailspin when they had to find new ways to meet these workforce expectations while developing work-from-anywhere policies practically overnight.

Although the labor force participation rate shows signs of bouncing back in the coming years — in fact, employment is estimated to increase from 153.5 million to 165.4 million by 2030 — HR must come up with innovative ways to attract and retain talented employees if they want to keep up. That means changing their HR processes to meet workforce expectations.

Meeting Workforce Expectations With New HR Processes

With a tight talent pool, HR professionals have to get creative, embrace new technologies, and find fresh ways of attracting and retaining talented employees. To do this, HR teams should stay open-minded to more progressive employment arrangements. This could include using contract, contingent, and gig work. In some instances, they should even consider employing robots, automating HR processes, and reskilling employees. 

As workers’ expectations change regarding work flexibility and other norms, the onus is on HR leaders to update the following HR processes:

1. Productivity Measurement

Gone are the days when measuring employee productivity meant simply looking at an employee’s time card or hours worked. In a work-from-anywhere environment, managers must shift their mindset to managing employees based on results rather than on time spent sitting at a desk.

It’s up to HR to teach managers how to measure and monitor employee productivity without physically seeing them in their chairs. To accomplish this, HR must clearly define job descriptions. Additionally, managers must communicate expectations. Most importantly, HR should encourage managers to let employees have the autonomy they need to do their jobs while still providing coaching on timelines, issues, and opportunities.

2. Pay Practices

Employees want not only the flexibility to work remotely, but also more flexibility as to when they work. Although 70% of executives want to return to the workplace, only 40% of workers do. Organizations that have embraced a remote environment to meet workforce expectations are now faced with the “work from anywhere” problem. Sure, it’s wonderful that employees can live anywhere in the country — or even the world. But, most HR teams are not set up for payroll, benefits, compliance, or taxes everywhere to support this. This can be a major roadblock when it comes to attracting and retaining talented employees.

In addition, HR leaders have to get ahead of questions from employees about cost-of-living adjustments for cities with higher costs of living. What is your philosophy and compensation structure? Does it allow you to attract talent across all markets nationwide? For example, consider tech companies based in San Jose, which is a tech industry hotspot. Should employees get paid more because that’s a high-cost-of-living area? Or not because they have the option to move? These questions can get quite philosophical and are up to your HR team and other company leaders to decide.

3. Onboarding Solutions

For new employees, the “computer setup” checkbox for onboarding has evolved over the years. Just a few decades ago, someone from IT came to connect the new employee’s system and set up their email at their desk. Now, it’s a UPS package delivery. Then, a two-hour phone call where IT instructs the employee on how to set up and configure settings for their workgroup. The employee needs to learn the ins and outs of how to use the collaboration tools and where to find the information needed for the job.

In addition, new employees might never even meet their HR representative in person to complete paperwork. These situations open up a need for remote onboarding tools. Tools that offer e-signature capabilities and advanced cybersecurity to prevent private information from being breached. They also require a solution for remote I-9s. (Current USCIS guidelines still require a person to provide HR with original ID documents to show proof of eligibility to work in the U.S.) Above all, you should determine how to integrate current tech tools with these new tools to make onboarding remote workers smoother for all involved.

4. Career Growth Opportunities for Employees

Even before the pandemic hit, employees looked for development and growth opportunities in their roles — particularly Millennials, who are known to leave jobs that lack such opportunities. HR can encourage employees to stay with the company longer by offering new forms of recognition and benefits, like upskilling.

Now, more than ever, employees want to know what competencies they need to learn to grow in the organization. They also want to know how these skills will benefit them in their future careers. To meet this need, work with managers to understand the competencies required for each role. Outline a clear path from one position to the next on the hierarchy.

Workforce Expectations for the Future

Meeting changing workforce expectations to mitigate the labor shortage requires updated HR processes that follow new trends in HR practices. Although this HR transformation process can seem overwhelming, the benefits will pay dividends in attracting and retaining talented employees — and securing your company’s future growth.

     

Forecasting the Future of Work

Podcast Sponsored by: QuantumWork Advisory

According to McKinsey, the pandemic has accelerated existing trends in remote work, e-commerce, and automation. As a result, up to 25% more workers than previously estimated could potentially need to switch occupations. Both employees and leaders are being driven to upskill. A recent study from the Sloan Management Review found that only 7% of respondents were led by digitally competent teams. So what does the future of work hold? How can we ensure that we’re prepared for it?

Our Guest: Mark Condon

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Mark Condon, managing partner and founder of QuantumWork Advisory. He is a pioneer in the talent and workforce sector with over 20 years of global experience with both startups and multinationals.

There are maturity traits found in good digital leadership. Mark explains:

Leaders need to engage and protect their organization. When developing new business models, those need to be protected from the broader business. Another is the culture of inquisitiveness and trust, but you have to balance it with rigor. You want your organization to be curious, to have an exploration culture, and one where no one gets fired for experimenting, but you also need the discipline behind that.

Young Leaders in the Digital Age

Companies are balancing the use of technology implemented and used by people. So when we talk about young leaders, what are they facing when it comes to leading in the digital age? Mark:

It’s confusing out there. There are so many great technologies that appear to be wonderful in their own right. But there’s a problem in that digital transformation is really about technology. The technology in a lab looks wonderful, but we have to use it in our businesses. And our businesses are full of people, policies, and processes, which may not help the technology work. So how to make the tech work in practice is a people-centric issue.

Mark also explains:

People used to choose technology on the basis of functionality, but without it being a great user experience, it’s kind of a waste of time. People need to be able to want to use that technology and it has to be easy to use.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – The Role of Technology

Technology plays a significant role in DEI and talent acquisition and retention strategies. Mark confirms:

This is a huge topic. Around 2020, about $50 billion was going to be spent on the DEI tech vendor space and would grow to around $110 billion by 2024. This is a massive investment.

Technology has its advantages and disadvantages. 

AI is a great enabler of matching, but it also can have a dark side in that if it’s not fed the right data, it can actually make the bias worse. So the problem with AI is it can make things a lot more efficient, but it also can magnify the problem.

The Gig Economy

With the rise of the gig economy, remote work, and flexible work arrangements, the future of work has taken a fork in the road. So where are we going with all this? Mark explains:

A lot of people suffered burnout through COVID, and this is continuing. The burnout rate has been quite damaging for people. People have had enough. I think they’re asking themselves, “Why am I working so hard.” I think a few people are getting off the merry-go-round, not to say all, but I think some are, certainly.

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. To learn more about QuantumWork Advisory and digital transformation in the field of talent and workforce strategy and delivery, please visit https://www.quantum.work/advisory.

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

Hiring Bias – Create a Fairer Hiring Process

Bias can be a powerful factor in the recruitment process. In 2019, researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley, began secretly auditing some of the top companies for implicit bias in the hiring processes. Their results showed a significant bias against resumes that included candidate names likely to be associated with Black applicants. In other words, even at top-tier employers, bias appeared to be repeatedly popping up in the hiring process.

This may surprise some people who believe that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Act wiped out bias in hiring. After all, it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against potential employees based on gender, race, religion, age, national origin, or disability. Nevertheless, bias in hiring is still an issue.

The Root of Bias in Hiring and Recruitment

When it comes to recruiting, bias is the brain’s subconscious way of labeling a candidate as a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” according to the recruiter’s subjective feelings about a candidate’s observable characteristics. This means that the recruiter can be biased toward or against a candidate (for example, a male recruiter preferring a male candidate), which can lead to unfair assessments. Given this understanding, it’s clear that bias can show up in almost every step of the hiring process.

Consider a recruiter reviewing dozens of applications for a job opening. The recruiter can show bias when judging candidates. Anything from gender and personal pronouns to alma maters and home addresses can spark common hiring biases. Many recruiters aren’t even aware they’re being biased because many of these judgments happen subconsciously.

Even after the resume review stage, hiring teams can again display bias during interviews. A number of studies over the years, including some from Princeton and New York University, have concluded that it takes less than a minute to form a first impression of someone. That first impression could be based on an unfair preconceived notion — related to anything from previous personal experience to common stereotypes.

For instance, a recruiter may expect candidates to be energetic and cheerful during the initial screening. Under those circumstances, a more thoughtful, serious, or reserved applicant could be removed from consideration before getting a chance to warm up to the discussion. While this immediate impression may have some truth to it, the candidate may need time to truly show what they have to offer, which may be far more beneficial to the organization in the long run.

The good news is that it’s possible to mitigate the effects bias can have on the hiring process. And it all starts with having conversations to acknowledge, understand, and address this issue.

Common Types of Hiring Bias

According to ThriveMap

  1. Affinity bias
  2. Confirmation bias
  3. Halo effect
  4. Horn effect
  5. Illusory correlation
  6. Beauty bias
  7. Conformity bias
  8. Contrast bias
  9. Non-verbal
  10. First impression

Reducing Implicit Bias in the Hiring Process

In my years in the recruitment industry, I’ve encountered some excellent, reliable ways to temper bias. Below are a few recommendations.

1. Implement an applicant tracking system.

An applicant tracking system, or ATS, is a centralized platform used to streamline recruitment and consolidate candidates. A robust ATS can collect, analyze, and review hiring and recruitment data objectively, and can provide an overview of all touchpoints and data collected along the candidate’s journey. At any time, a recruiter can retrieve key information about an applicant from the system.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest benefits of an applicant tracking system is the ability to reduce bias. Certainly, recruiters can tailor candidate searches by inputting keywords such as “developer” or “Harvard.” Nevertheless, an ATS has the potential to be more impartial than most humans.

Another advantage of an automated applicant tracking system is time savings. An ATS can match up candidates with remarkable speed. At the same time, most applicant tracking systems are customizable and can integrate with other platforms such as marketing tools.

2. Remove identifiers.

Applicant tracking systems remove a lot of unconscious bias from recruiting. But, they can’t conduct interviews for you. Instead, get creative in implementing different methods to decrease the chance of discrimination before and during interviews.

One method I learned that proved successful was to scrub identifiers (such as applicant name, education, address, gender, and related fields) from every resume. As a result, your hiring committee can compare candidates on the basis of their experience — nothing else.

For example, in a previous role, I was tasked with building out the DevOps team. I presented candidates of diverse ethnicities and genders, but the hiring manager kept rejecting them no matter how technically adept they were. When I brought up the high rate of rejection, the hiring manager explained that they were only interested in bringing on male applicants of a certain ethnicity.

Though that explanation was genuinely upsetting, I suggested the method of removing identifiers from applications, and we agreed to try it. From that point forward, I presented only candidates’ qualifications, and the acceptance rate went from near zero to over 95%.

3. Involve a hiring panel.

It’s common in recruiting to conduct a final panel-style interview. This is the opportunity for the candidate to meet their potential teammates and vice versa. Someone on the call may have reservations or be impressed just based on their initial perception of the candidate. Rather than letting this bias influence the interview, let the candidate’s qualifications and cultural fit come into play.

One way to mitigate bias with panel members is to ask them to listen in on calls with candidates rather than join by video. Just listening helps panelists focus on the substance of candidates’ answers rather than their appearance.

Final Thoughts

Everyone has biases, whether they realize it or not. Rather than allowing those biases to unfairly affect the hiring process, set up guardrails to guide the process toward more equitable outcomes. You’ll end up making more appropriate hiring decisions and, ideally, improving the candidate and employee experience.

An Empathetic Workplace – 4 Practical Tips

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

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

The Importance of Empathy

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

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

How to Create an Empathetic Workplace

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

 

1. Implement an Open-Door Policy

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

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

 

2. Be Vulnerable

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

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

 

3. Listen More Than You Speak

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

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

 

4. Talk With Your Team Before Making Decisions

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

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

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

The Everywhere Workplace – Prioritizing Employee Experience

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

Our Guest: Melissa Puls

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

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

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

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

The Power of Choice

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

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

 Melissa also states:

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

The Future of Work

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

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

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

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

Boost Your Talent Attraction Strategy

There are several job vacancies advertised each day. The question is how many of them manage to attract prospective candidates. Many recruiters struggle to locate and hire qualified candidates. The job market is full of talent, but wrong moves can cost you the right candidate.

Below are some helpful recruitment strategies for attracting the best talent.

Boost by Adding Clarity

In most cases, the job seekers are looking for clarity in the job posting. Clarity around company history, job profile, pay scale, and career opportunities. The savvy recruiters give job seekers a clear picture of what to expect. Communicating job necessities clearly and how someone will benefit from them is important. There are several ways of crafting job posts that can stand out. Note the company culture mentioning how the employees can enjoy the work-life balance while being in the company and the different perks they are entitled to. 

You may be wondering if outsourcing your recruitment is the right move for you. It can give both parties involved in this process an opportunity to do what they do best, and help provide more time for focusing on tasks that really matter, like hiring new employees. You can also take help from PEO services for recruitment. 

Boost with Campus Recruitment

Colleges are full of dynamic and young talent that will show a great deal of enthusiasm in their work. Partner with colleges and universities to get in touch with their placement cells. Campus recruitment is a terrific way of finding students and new graduates. other ways to get in front of students and graduates:

  • Campus newsletters
  • Seminars and workshops to showcase company and career opportunities
  • Invite students to take a tour of your organization
  • Sponsor student cultural events and festivals
  • Provide internship programs

Boost by Adding Flexibility

Employees are often looking for organizations where the pressures of work will not affect their personal lives. A modern-day organization offers many benefits to its employees including a better work-life balance. Provide some extra perks such as a remote or hybrid work model, extra company holidays, or an open office environment.

Several companies have friendly sports events for keeping their employees entertained. It is crucial to have a sense of freedom and rejuvenation in the workplace. Try to get away from the usual working standards.

Leverage Competitions

According to the reports, digital media has gradually become the leading source for finding employment. You can arrange online talent search programs for experts and students to participate in to showcase their skills. For example, Loreal Cosmetics conducts a marketing competition for students called Brandstorm where they are allowed to act as managers throughout the competition. These kinds of competitions allow job seekers to know the organization better and recognize its brand.

Social Media Recruitment

HR teams have to be sufficiently active on social media networks for attracting the best available talent. Develop a reputation and a good connection by using social media. There are specialists available that can guide you in the art of using social media as your mainstream device for promoting yourself as a top recruiter. 

Conclusion

Companies need to flaunt their job requirements in a way that will appear like irresistible opportunities for the top talent.  Think of it as a well-organized marketing campaign. You are selling the brand. If done right, you will find the right talent for your organization quickly and easily.

Ways to Help Veteran Employees Thrive

Sponsored: Orion Talent

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

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

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

Help Military Veterans Thrive with These Five Strategies

1. Mentorships 

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

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

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

2. Employee Resource Groups

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

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

3. Career Pathing

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

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

4. Upskilling

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

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

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

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

5. DEI Initiatives

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

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

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

 

The Urgency Epidemic – Prioritization & Productivity

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

Our Guest:  Brandon Smith

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

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

As Brandon states:

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

When Does a Sense of Urgency Become A Problem?

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

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

The Urgency Trap

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

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

Escaping the Urgency

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coaching Young Talent Through Remote Work Challenges

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

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

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

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

The Ups and Downs

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

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

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

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

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

Long-Term Effects of Remote Work on Young Talent

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

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

Turning the Tables

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

1. Push your remote workers and yourself outside comfort zones

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

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

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

2. Embrace mentorship on both sides of the videoconference screen

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

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

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

Balancing Security with Employee Experience

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

Our Guest: Denis O’Shea

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

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

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

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

Where Security and Experience Collide

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

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

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

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

BYOD – Bring Your Own Disaster?

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

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

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

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

The Balancing Act

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. To learn more about mobile security, contact Denis O’Shea on LinkedIn. Get the 2022 Endpoint Ecosystem study and learn how people are actually using devices in high-risk and highly regulated industries. The Endpoint Ecosystem

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