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The Benefits of Earned Wage Access for Employees

Sponsored by: ADP

Financial stress is a real employee concern these days. Prices are higher across the board – gas, food, housing. There is also a looming recession on the horizon. So how can employers help alleviate some of this stress?

As the modern workplace continues to evolve, so should the ways employees get paid. Many employers are now offering employees the option to access their wages at much-needed times through Earned Wage Access (EWA) vs. having access to their pay only at the designated pay cycle. This benefit offers employees much-needed financial flexibility and peace of mind. For employers, it can improve employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity by helping employees redirect their mental focus on work rather than financial stresses.

So, it’s really a win-win for both employees and employers. 

Our Guest:  Michelle Young

On this latest episode of #WorkTrends, I spoke with Michelle Young, Vice President of Operations for ADP’s Employee Financial Solutions Group. Michelle is an innovation expert and a trusted advisor to corporate executives in orchestrating business and fiscal strategies with B2B and B2C models.

Let’s talk about financial wellness. A very hot topic right now. Looking at this through the lens of ADP, how do you define financial wellness in the workplace? Michelle:

That’s a great question and very on point right now. When we at ADP think about financial wellness, we immediately go to the source of pay. That’s where we can promote confidence. We can help our employers offer their employees flexible pay methods that are beyond standard pay cycles. Like earned wage access, which, if you haven’t heard, is a very hot topic right now. It really helps to align unexpected expenses with income.

Reducing Employee Financial Stress

Employees can avoid spending money on overdraft fees, late fees, or even payday loans with earned wage access. And that further increases their ability to save and reduce financial stress. 

Sometimes, when unforeseen expenses don’t align with income, such as a medical bill or a home repair, it can make any employee, even financially responsible ones, feel helpless. And that often directly impacts their performance in the workplace.

What is Earned Wage Access?

What can employers offer employees around earned waged access? Or, EWA for short. Let’s talk more about what EWA actually is and how it works.

Promoting financial wellness ties to our EWA story. So EWA earned wage access is a valuable financial wellness benefit that allows employees to access a portion of their income that they’ve already earned. As opposed to waiting until the next pay cycle.

How Are Employees Using Earned Wage Access?

Employees use their earned wages in various ways, varying by demographic and age segment. 

Employees ages 18 to 24 tend to use it to reduce the stress of not having enough cash until payday. Maybe to buy groceries, pay off a loan, or even rent. As we move up, the 25 to 44-year-olds typically use it for family-related expenses or to pay bills. The 45 to 64-year-olds are also using EWA for emergency-related expenses or paying bills and use it for an emergency medical expense, which typically impacts the Gen Xers and the Boomers with more frequency.

ADP Research Key Takeaways

There were a lot of really juicy findings in the ADP Earned Wage Access Research Study done in December 2021 to January 2021 timeframe, What are some key takeaways? 

There is broad interest in EWA from workers in every age group, every education level. Seventy-six percent of workers across all age groups say it’s important for their employer to offer it. And 82% of employers that don’t offer it are interested in actually offering it. Additionally, 59% of millennials would give priority to a job with an employer that offers earned wage access. And 75% say that the availability of VWA would, in fact, influence their acceptance of a job offer.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful, I know I did. To learn more about the EWA metrics, download ADP’s latest white paper: “Earned Wage Access: Tapping into the Potential of Flexible Pay for Today’s World of Work”

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

10 Ways to Drive Employee Engagement With Team Problem-Solving

Are you looking for proven ways to drive employee engagement? Many organizations find that collaboration is a highly effective strategy. For instance, consider these 10 team-centered methods recommended by business leaders:

  1. Use the SCRUM Framework for Project Management
  2. Involve Action Focus Groups to Improve Employee Engagement
  3. Empower Employees to Take Ownership of Work Issues
  4. Give Employees a Voice in Problem Solving
  5. Create a Strength-Based Team Culture Using Assessment Tools
  6. Leverage Diversity and Mastermind for Problem-Solving
  7. Take a Bottom-up Approach
  8. Use OKRs to Drive Teamwork and Engagement
  9. Engage Employees in Weekly Virtual Team-Building Activities
  10. Personalize Engagement Drivers to Employee Groups

Why are these engagement ideas so powerful? Learn more from the descriptions below…

1) Use the SCRUM Framework for Project Management

The SCRUM framework encourages team members to work together to solve problems and complete tasks. This helps foster a sense of teamwork and engagement. It also gives team members a say in a project’s direction and execution, so they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility. Plus, each phase of the project is transparent to everyone on the team, so everyone on the team remains aware, focused and motivated.

Omer Usanmaz, CEO of Qooper Mentoring & Learning Software

2) Involve “Action Focus Groups” to Improve Employee Engagement

We conducted an engagement survey with results that identified six individual areas for improvement. Instead of using managers to do this, we asked for employee volunteers to create a response to the challenges identified in the survey. Each Action Focus Group (AFG) included 10 members, which met 3-5 times to identify and recommend a solution for the company to implement. Then each AFG presented its improvement plan to the senior leadership team, which in turn, provided feedback. After each AFG adjusted its plan, we implemented the final recommendations.

With this AFG approach, employees became actively involved in solving key problems. In addition, this process gave participants an opportunity to build connections outside their primary business areas.

Deborah Norris, Senior HR Manager at Amentum

3) Empower Employees to Take Ownership of Work Issues

We drive employee engagement with team problem-solving by encouraging employees to identify and solve problems affecting their work. We have found that employees are happier, more engaged and more productive when they can take ownership of issues that impact their work. 

We achieve this by providing space for employees to voice their concerns about issues and encouraging teams to come together and solve problems (sometimes with incentives), instead of relying only on managers or supervisors. 

Debee Gold, Owner & Clinical Director of Gold Counseling & Wellness

4) Give Employees a Voice in Problem Solving

Too many organizations identify problems, and then leadership dictates solutions in a vacuum. At 104 West, we recently held an all-company meeting, where administration and staff broke out into groups, identified roadblocks to growth, proposed solutions, and then came together to share thoughts. We are now implementing plans based on those ideas, and every person in the organization has a role in thisa role they helped determine.

This process helped us drive employee engagement at all levels, empowering people to be solution seekers and showcase their problem-solving and leadership abilities.

Joan Wyly, Vice President of 104 Degrees West Partners

5) Create a Strength-Based Team Culture Using Assessment Tools

Using assessment tools like Gallup StrengthsFinder, team members can understand how to create a more strength-based approach to teamwork and problem-solving. Additionally, regular “skip level” sessions allow for bottom-up feedback that helps build a more robust work culture. Also, personalized recognition leads to a more positive employee experience.

Together, these practices can produce a psychologically safe environment where teams thrive.

Rapti Khurana, VP of Talent Engagement & Development at the National Football League

6) Leverage Diversity and Mastermind for Problem Solving

When problems need to be solved, team members tend to find a solution by relying on their individual experience and determination. That can lead to excessive time scratching heads and spinning wheels, without making much progress. However, when people come together to leverage the power of cognitive diversity, an equally diverse array of potential solutions becomes more readily available.

A mastermind-style problem-solving conversation brings together members of disparate teams that are traditionally siloed. Coming together in this way to work toward a common goal can positively impact everything from engagement and retention to trust and productivity!

Erich Kurschat, Owner of Harmony Insights LLC

7) Take a Bottom-up Approach

I’m a big proponent of the bottom-up approach to team problem-solving, based on the teachings of Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa. We involve our front-line employees in group problem-solving, as well as our managers. Front-line employees are given the authority to act autonomously within specific guidelines.

This approach is practical because those closest to a problem often know the most about it and are in the best position to devise solution strategies. Empowering workers at all levels of our organization to participate in problem-solving drives employee engagement.

Dean Kaplan, President of The Kaplan Group

8) Use OKRs to Drive Teamwork and Engagement

For our team at Compt, goal setting and management have been driving forces in employee engagement and group problem-solving. We set objectives and key results (OKRs) as a company, and each department has its own OKRs that support overall company goals. In addition, each employee’s personal goals are tied to that employee’s department goals.

We host monthly company-wide “retro” meetings to share how each team is performing in a measured and data-driven way. Everything we do is quantified, which promotes accountability and cross-department teamwork to achieve overarching goals. This ensures that we are all constantly moving in the same direction toward the same outcomes. And because each individual’s actions impact the company’s success, we feel compelled to be more engaged and create a workplace that benefits us all.

Amy Spurling, CEO, and Founder of Compt

9) Engage Employees in Weekly Virtual Team-Building Activities

One way we combat engagement issues is through weekly virtual team-building activities. Each session is planned and hosted via Zoom by a different group of employees. This way, our workforce enjoys programming variety, while each group has a vested interest in the success of the activity they host. For example, activities have ranged from virtual quiz nights to elaborate online escape room challenges.

These team-building activities have been a resounding success. They’ve provided employees with memorable shared experiences and have helped build bonds between colleagues, ultimately leading to increased workplace collaboration.

Clare Jones, Marketing Manager at OfficeSpaceAU

10) Personalize Engagement Drivers to Employee Groups

The best employee engagement strategy is to ride the drivers. Each organization, of course, will have different drivers. For example, meaningful work, career growth, empowerment, belonging, recognition, leadership and fulfilling work relationships. 

Choose a segment of your employee population. Then implement a strategic theme strategy across your drivers that are personalized to the group but high-profile enough that successes will be seen and heard throughout the organization. Ride the drivers, measure, rinse and repeat.

Marcus Holmes, HR Operations General Manager at City of Detroit

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These ideas on how to drive employee engagement 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.

We Surveyed 100+ HR Leaders on Driving Business Value in 2022

Sponsored by: ThoughtExchange

For several months, we’ve been sharing insights from our partner ThoughtExchange. They’ve done some fascinating research on Gen Z employees, employee experience, boosting retention, and driving business value. They’re an essential tool for leaders across departments and industries looking to align and engage their workforces.

We finally got the opportunity to use ThoughtExchange to consult our network of HR and Talent professionals, and you shared some great insights with us and each other. 

We asked:

As HR and Talent professionals, what areas are you focusing on at your organization to increase retention and drive business value?

With anonymity, anti-bias technology, and automatic translation capabilities, ThoughtExchange makes it easy to gather diverse perspectives and have equitable discussions.

What We Heard

Using ThoughtExchange’s tools, we analyzed the thoughts you shared to identify important themes and actionable insights. It’s an efficient way to hear from large groups of diverse people, particularly in a remote setting.

First, we looked at the Summary—an AI-generated snapshot of the top-rated ideas:

Onboarding and orientation – new hires should be set up for success from the start. Effective employee retention improves the productivity and performance of a company. Personal and professional mental health – a toxic work culture can really hurt productivity and business value. Pay equity. Personal wellbeing – avoid burnout.

Overall, you’re recognizing that business value is heavily impacted by employee experience, and you’re focusing on providing a healthy, productive workplace. 

Ideas That Rise To The Top

Next, we looked at the highest-rated answers. ThoughtExchange’s Thoughts tool shows each thought’s rating, and also how ratings change by role. These were the top-rated thoughts for each of the different roles:

Talent Acquisition: Leadership Development. Leaders need to role model behaviors to scale change.”

Recruitment: Employees’ aspirations for career development. These days I noticed fresh graduates and junior employees are switching their careers for any salary variation. Career development enables employees to be competent and get expertise for their future career.” 

Training & Development: Performance appreciation and reward. By acknowledging good work done, it drives up their productivity.”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Personal and Professional Mental Health. A toxic work culture can really hurt productivity and business value.”

HR Leadership: Employee wellbeing. This helps the employees stay fit mentally, emotionally, and socially.”

What was particularly interesting is that, of the top thoughts for the entire group, none of the top thoughts by role were included. 

  • (4.2*) “Focus employer branding efforts on values and vision. Ensure you can articulate clearly how your company is making the world a better place. People in a group desire belonging. These factors serve as unifying tools and help employees feel that the work they do is not ‘just work.’”
  • (4.0*) “Onboarding and orientation. New hires should be set up for success from the start. Your onboarding process should focus on employee guide to thrive and culture.”
  • (4.0*) “Skills, skills, skills! We want to attract skilled talent, but we need to keep investing in their skills, so people want to stay and grow with us! Caring about the future viability of your workforce means business sustainability. Plus, it’s good for employees, too. Everybody wins.”

The variation in how thoughts are ranked demonstrates how ThoughtExchange can identify team or departmental priorities, but also surface common ground.

Where You Disagreed

It wasn’t all common ground. ThoughtExchange’s Differences tool shows the rating patterns for different groups and finds the polarizing ideas.

In our Exchange, compensation and pay equity was an area of contention. Group A (in blue), mainly HR Leadership, assigned high ratings (in the 4* range) to these thoughts:

Group B (in green), consisting mainly of Recruitment, Training & Development, and Talent Acquisition folks, gave ratings averaging 2*. This may indicate a difference in priorities between HR Leadership and those responsible for hiring and upskilling employees.

The Differences tool doesn’t stop there. It also finds thoughts that Group A and Group B both rated highly. Both groups agreed that employee wellbeing and engagement are top priorities. Holding space for both sides of an issue is vital, but identifying where those two sides agree helps build a strategy everyone supports.

Areas Of Focus

To understand the discussion’s general themes, we used the Theme tool to categorize thoughts into Culture, Performance, and Strategy. 

Thought Exchange Themes

Deeper analysis shows which issues are the most pressing for our community, and identifies actions to improve retention and drive business value.

Areas to Action:

  • Company Culture: clarify organizational values, define employer brand, and consult employees on improving their work experience. 
  • Skills Development: provide employees with skills, career, and leadership development opportunities.
  • Performance Appreciation: improve morale and productivity by rewarding high-performing employees.

What You Told Us

You’re invested in improving and streamlining every stage of the employee lifecycle. You value organizational culture and recognize the importance of robust onboarding and career development. You care deeply for the wellbeing of your employees and want to foster a more supportive workplace.

For us, this Exchange showed how valuable an inclusive, unbiased discussion platform is for identifying team and organizational priorities. 

We can see how ThoughtExchange brings immense value to different kinds of leaders looking to innovate tactics, align on strategy, improve business efficiency, and engage employees.

Want to see how ThoughtExchange can give you mission-critical insights to make better decisions and transform your discussions? Talk to one of ThoughtExchange’s Talent & HR experts today.

To Boost Retention – Review for Projects, Not Performance

If you’re ramping up for Q4 in your workplace, you may be anticipating a slew of quarterly performance reviews. It’s your manager’s last chance of the year to address recent performance issues, map out a plan for improvement, and set a goal for what’s next year.  

But if you’re concerned with retention, you may want to reconsider. Performance reviews, depending on how they’re done, may not have the right tone to fit the turbulent world of work we’re in right now. They may not support your engagement and retention challenges. Employees are jumpy — and while feedback is always a good idea, it may all be in the delivery and the framework.  

What works instead? Take a project-based approach — in which feedback and reviews are based on specific projects rather than overall performance over time. It avoids focusing on trickier metrics like behavior and “commitment” and provides a picture of a given situation and a given challenge. And it creates a clear boundary between life and work at a time when many of our workforces are seeing those lines blur. The day-to-day of a given job may be filled with ebbs and flows that didn’t exist when performance review criteria was designed. Particularly in categories like “attitude,” “willingness,” or “energy.” But a project is a project: you get it done.

Projects and Teams are Already on the Rise

The world of work is already shifting to projects as an increment of production instead of focusing simply on time. A project-based approach to the workplace is already a reality for a growing number of organizations. Of course, there are industries that traditionally lend themselves to project-based cadences of work. Industries such as marketing, advertising and content, engineering, legal firms, consultancies, and other service providers. But even high-service industries can shift to projects — framing work into initiatives, special efforts, campaigns, and quotas.

Taking this approach can bring your people together as a team. And we’re seeing the rise of teams — Deloitte’s research on the power of high-performance teams to catalyze organizational growth is pretty compelling. We divide into teams to better structure communications channels within digital workplaces, to forge accountability, to better manage, and to create a unit we can rely on. Projects and teams go hand in hand: a team executes on a project, essentially — and may interact with other teams, but they have a specific role, specific tasks. That actually frees up a manager to track a whole lot more in terms of individual input and contributions, responsiveness, creativity, and the ability to work in a group — and as reflected in the outcome of the project they were a part of.

Anchored to Specific Targets

The uneasy truth may be that many organizations wonder if performance reviews are working, but don’t have an alternative. But this is the era of transformation — like it or not, we transformed where and when and how we work out of necessity. It’s a reality right now that employees are stressed — and a bit jumpy if you look at the Great Resignation. 

So consider the fact that just 14% of employees agree their performance review inspires them to improve, according to Gallup research. Further, traditional performance reviews and approaches to feedback can take a psychological toll —  actually making performance worse about one-third of the time, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. No one wants to unintentionally build more resentment instead of more engagement, best intentions aside.  

I’ve seen plenty of well-designed performance reviews that stay brilliantly on specifics. But one of the common objections employees have to performance reviews is that the criteria can feel vague; in that gray area may live bias, unfairness, arbitrariness, etc. Going granular may alleviate that: you’re looking at clear tasks delineated within the arc of a project: beginning, middle, completion. There’s closure. A sense of accomplishment. Finishing something feels good — and deserves credit. It may offer a tactful cantilever to other issues that need to be addressed. And there’s no question that each individual’s contribution to that project — and their own experience being a part of it— offer countless opportunities for feedback, for clarification, and for recognition. 

Reflecting What’s Happening Now

Is taking a project-based approach to reviews feasible for most organizations? It could be more feasible than you think. It fits the changes the world of work is already undergoing, and: factors many organizations are already experiencing:

  • An increase in bringing in gig workers, SMEs, and consultants that either complement existing skills among our salaried workforces or expand them as necessary — and therefore redefining the essence of a team.
  • A shift from depending on the overall cohesion of a physical workplace to a remote and hybrid one, where people don’t come together organically but over the work they do.
  • A new emphasis on flexible scheduling and more work/life integration — seeing the job as a series of projects rather than a monolithic block of time no matter what happens.
  • A need to integrate faster into operations and get employees aligned before that 3-6 month period when many consider leaving: A recent survey of some 2,000 U.S. employees found that more than half (52%) were already on the hunt for a new position after being in their present one for less than 3 months. 
  • A workforce in which teams, no matter their composition, can autonomously and independently execute, and a well-managed or self-managed team is becoming the essential engine of production (more than individual output) and a key part of the organizational chart.

A Resilient Framework

Recently the Harvard Business Review pointed to the resiliency of a project framework: instead of focusing on process and controls, it focuses on how to deliver the elements with the greatest value. It’s not a leap to see how that approach could also remove bias (such as recency) and gray areas from the equation, making the effort more about purpose, intent, strategy, goals, execution, and lessons learned. In terms of HR and talent management, that kind of shift immediately opens the door for feedback and self-reflection on the part of its participants and makes self-observation part of growth. In essence, it democratizes the review process by making it more clear.

Depending on the size and nature of your organization, performance reviews may be a critical factor in your talent management strategy. But adding project-focused reviews to the mix adds a concrete benefit. A tangible means to gauge people’s efforts to achieve real results, in real-time.  

It’s also a smaller-scale way to build larger-scale results: as we know, growth happens in increments and iterations, not whole-cloth. No question, it’s easier to drive alignment and achieve collaboration across a team focused on a project. So take that sense of accomplishment, focus on it and celebrate it, and then do that over again. In terms of employee engagement, that can create a truly strong foundation — and more reason for them to stay.

Traditional Hiring Practices Are Inefficient for Hiring Leaders

There hasn’t been a time in recent history when the development and application of smart hiring practices has been more important. Companies are struggling to hire the best and the brightest while facing a unique set of challenges. We’ll explore if we are meeting this inflection point effectively — and what companies can do to improve their response.

Our Guest: Lou Adler

On the last Worktrends Podcast, I spoke with Lou Adler. We discussed hiring practices and how businesses can take it to the next level.

‎Lou Adler is a well-known hiring expert, who turned the recruitment industry on its head through his performance-based recruiting model. With over 40 years in the recruiting industry, Lou’s company, the Adler Group has trained over 40,000 hiring managers and placed 1500 executives for many of the fastest-growing companies.

He is a top LinkedIn influencer and author, known for The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired and the Amazon top 10 best seller Hire With Your Head, Using Performance-Based Hiring to Build Great Teams, translated into multiple languages.

Hiring Decisions: Are We Making Progress?

You contend that hiring results haven’t improved much in the past 25 years. What is the basis for this claim after tens of billions have been spent on new HR tech?

Well, the biggest claim is… I look at the Gallup satisfaction report, which comes out monthly and it hovers around 30 to 33% of people who are actually satisfied with their jobs. And that number hasn’t changed in 25 years since they started taking it.

So as far as I’m concerned, things have not only not gotten better, they have gotten worse. And I contend, I know the reasons why, but that’s least sufficient proof to say, “Hey, maybe we do have a problem.”

The Great Resignation & Job Satisfaction

Let’s talk about the great resignation. In all of the implications, what are you seeing here? And do you have suggestions for companies, recruiters, and job seekers around this?

To me, and it goes back to the underlying problem of why people are dissatisfied and it really comes down to the point that people take jobs and they don’t really know what the work is. And they don’t know what the style of the manager is, they don’t know the quality of the team, and they’re not a hundred percent sure of what the expectations are.

The satisfaction is driven by the work itself, the people, the company, the manager, the projects, the impact they’re making, and people give that to a shrift. They focus too much on the start date, not enough on the actual work they’re doing.

So to me, that’s the underlying problem of dissatisfaction. And it’s gotten worse because people are now trying to hire faster for more money. So now you have the great resignation, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The Solution: Recruiters Need to Understand the Roles

Recruiting, with no understanding of the role, won’t help us recruit and retain the contributors. It’s time to change the mindset about how we approach discussions with candidates. Quick hiring, without deep consideration of the roles, is fueling negative outcomes. 

I have the knowledge that I believe is correct, but I think you have HR leaders and companies that have a strategy designed, “Hey, let’s fill jobs as fast as we can.”

And yet I believe the process of making that decision, “Should I hire this candidate?” And from the candidate’s perspective, “Should I take this job?” That is a much more detailed, thorough evaluation. That’s an investment on the company’s standpoint in hiring this person and an investment on the candidate, “Hey, should I invest my time in this company?”

And I don’t think the tools that both sides use to make that decision are evaluated properly. I think people have competency models. They’ve got behavioral interviewing. I think that’s a band-aid solution, and I don’t think they’ve really addressed the core problem.

The Solution: Take the Time to Define the Work

There are steps to improving hiring. However, more time on the front end of the process is necessary. This requires a close look at critical performance objectives — and incorporating these into a method, a “scorecard”, that can direct the entire recruiting process.

If you want to implement performance-based hiring, you have to only do two things. Number one is you don’t take a requisition filled with skills, experience and competencies. Instead, you take a requisition that lists the five or six key performance objectives the person taking that job needs to do over the course of the year to be considered successful.

We call that a win-win hiring outcome. Meaning the candidate says, “I’m so glad I had this job over the year and I’m enjoying this work.” And hiring manager says, “I’m so glad I hired that person.” So, defining the work is that core thing.

The other bookend is, don’t accept or don’t hire anybody unless they meet the standards on a tool. We call it the Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard, which determines the 10 best predictors of on the job success. If you just put those two bookends in, don’t hire anybody who doesn’t meet these performance requirements and define those performance requirements up front, you’ll figure out what you’ve got to do in the middle to get there.

In Summary: When Hiring, Emphasize Key Performance Indicators & Consistently Apply That Strategy

Overall, we cannot hope to improve hiring decisions without taking the time to understand the specifics of the role. The ensuing process should not be a race to hire, but a race to capture the important aspects of the role and communicate this effectively to candidates.

The issue to get to that though, requires a lot more work. It’s not just, “Will you take this offer at this point in time?” I have to understand the job, I have to understand the environment, the candidate has to understand, “Is this the right career move? Is it work that I’m intrinsically motivated to do? Can I work with this team? And can I work with a manager’s style?”

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful. I know that I found the discussion fascinating.

Subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Also, for more great conversations, be sure to follow #WorkTrends on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram!

Want to Fuel Agility? Understand Employee Skills

Sponsored by: Empath

In today’s world of work— agility matters — and how we enable our own employees to meet our company goals, is vital. This isn’t possible without a mechanism to understand the held skill & experiences among our own contributors. In today’s world, seeking talent externally could be considered an outdated and ineffective response to fulfilling talent needs. 

The future of work demands that we explore the weaknesses of this strategy.

Our Guest: Carlos Gutierrez

On the latest Worktrends podcast, I spoke with Carlos Gutierrez, the co-founder, and CEO of Empath, a SaaS technology platform that uses machine learning to transform the way talent is managed and grown internally. Previously, he served as chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategic advisory firm. Carlos spent nearly 30 years with Kellogg, a global manufacturer of well-known food brands.

Let’s open the conversation about the relationship between agility and skills. First, there is no doubt that organizations need to embrace agility. However, if a foundational strategy isn’t in place to respond to rapidly changing internal and external environments, achieving agility will remain elusive.

Agility Requires a Different Mindset

The thing about agility is that it’s sort of the opposite of the way companies used to run where you develop a plan and you stick to the plan. Agile, an agile methodology or agility, is just the opposite. You don’t stick to a plan because you know that your environment will be changing very rapidly. And what we can do is change departments, change teams, move around, redeploy people and do that very quickly if you have a skills inventory of all your employees. So you can do an agile methodology even quicker than it would if you weren’t able to measure skills.

Powering Agility & Upskilling

As the saying goes: Information is power. To manage & deploy the skills to carry out vital initiatives, organizations must know what skills are actually present and those that are missing:

…So you need to have the information of the employee skills, proficiency levels, and the skills required to go to other jobs. And that’s where you get the gap that you need to fill, the upskilling gap. And we do that for every employee in a company.

A Solution: An AI-Powered Internal Skill Library

Capturing existing skills within your organization is critical. People evolve much more quickly than their resumes — and so do the roles they hold. A more sensitive, dynamic mechanism to capture this is required. Applying cutting-edge technology simply makes sense. Moreover, companies that fail to take people skills into consideration when projecting future business needs will inevitably fall short. 

Companies can create more accurate plans if they understand the skills they seek could already exist internally.

…What we tell companies and what companies have found who use skills, who have accurate skills inventories, that the person they’re looking for is already inside the company. They just don’t know it because they don’t have visibility into, say, 20,000 people.

The Wave of the Future: Machine Learning to Establish Skills

Resumes simply aren’t enough to help organizations understand skills and become agile. The language is much more complex than we realize. We need to be less subjective and listen with more powerful tools.

…I hear sometimes about, well, are you going to have machine learning and AI determine the skills of a person or infer? I can assure you that we will be more accurate in companies in this business than the subjectivity of human nature. So our algorithm, our machine learning algorithm captures signals…The machine can infer what the skills are. It’s actually a very complex technology, but you will never notice it. It’s like picking up a phone and calling, you don’t know what’s behind the call.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful. I know that I found the discussion fascinating.

Subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Also, for more great conversations, be sure to follow #WorkTrends on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram!

Why Employee Engagement is Upside Down

Leaders and managers frequently refer to the famous Albert Einstein quote when something in their organizations isn’t working after repeated efforts. I wonder what Einstein would say about employee engagement?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

For two decades, the benchmark of benchmarks for employee engagement is Gallup, a world-class research organization. In the past 10 years, the percentage of engaged employees in Gallup’s research has fluctuated. From a low of 30% to a high of 36%.

Much ado was made about the uptick in engagement over the past decade before the pandemic reversed the direction of the numbers.

I’m pretty sure Einstein would agree with my old boss at Cisco. Former CEO John Chambers, who famously described missed expectations at Cisco as:

I never get hard work confused with results.

Moving up just six percentage points over a decade. From such a low number to begin with, is indeed a lot of “hard work” and little enduring results.

The Decline of Engaged Employees

The most recent 2022 Gallup numbers show the percent of employees engaged is down.  U.S. companies are down 32%. It was 30% in 2002 and 2012.

I’m not sure how many billions of dollars were spent on employee engagement measurement and programs during this time, but it is clear from this data it was not a productive investment.

The inertia reflected in the engagement data reflects what I’ve heard over the past three years talking to hundreds of HR leaders about what works and what doesn’t in employee engagement.

Most of the feedback is best paraphrased as:

We are not learning anything new from our employee engagement data.

Competition vs Collaboration

I’ve been lucky to work with hundreds of companies and their leadership teams. Especially after I wrote The Collaboration Imperative, which shared the best practices used at Cisco in its transition from a culture based on internal competition to one based on internal collaboration.

From these listening sessions, I’ve come to believe that certain ideas exist in organizational thinking in the absence of hard evidence. I don’t know how these ideas got started. I just know the ideas are entrenched.

For example – the way leaders and managers think about employee engagement today. It reminds me of the way organizations think about career planning. That it is the responsibility of the employee, despite overwhelming evidence indicating a different reality.

If it is true that employees are responsible for their own careers, why is “my manager” the most cited reason when an employee leaves a company?

Employee Engagement is Upside Down

I want to eat my own dog food by starting with evidence. I’ve spent the pandemic sponsoring a large, real-world research study on what makes an employee want to stay at a company. I wanted to know what it would take to get an employee to recommend where they work.

Our primary research and the large collection of company data captured in the second phase of our research confirm we’ve been measuring the wrong things in employee engagement.

In fact, employee engagement is upside down, according to our research.

Instead of measuring how engaged employees are, we should be measuring how engaged leaders and managers are.

In statistical terms, our evidence-based model demonstrated a strong, positive linear relationship between the degree to which leaders and managers engage employees and the willingness of employees to recommend where they work. In other words, the more engaged leaders and managers are in creating organizational culture with their teams, the greater the likelihood of an employee recommending the employer. Our research conclusions have a 95% confidence interval.

The Impact Leaders Have on Employee Engagement

Just like career planning. It’s time to embrace the fact that leaders and managers are the reasons why people fall in love with a company and its culture — or not. Leaders create the global cultural values of an organization; managers implement those values locally.

Company values are based on human behavior, not a poster on the wall. Values-based behaviors start with role-modeling them as leaders and managers. How can we expect employees to be engaged if their management team isn’t?

If we’re going to innovate in how we think about employee engagement, I want to call upon Einstein again for help.

Einstein was famous for thought experiments.

Here’s one. Management guru Peter Drucker said you can only manage what you measure. What if leaders and managers were accountable for engagement?

What would happen to employee engagement?

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.

Recruiting Challenges for Fast Growing Startups and How to Overcome Them

Sponsored by: RocketReach

Recruiting challenges face every organization — one that is particularly daunting for smaller companies and fast-growing startups. As agility is often a make-or-break for these organizations, sourcing high-quality candidates quickly is vital.  

Yet, connecting with the right candidates with the right skill sets, at the right time is often elusive.  

Recruiters have the very difficult task of finding these candidates, while simultaneously verifying that they possess the right skills to fulfill the role and its responsibilities. Ensuring this is often key to an organization’s ability to grow, develop and scale. 

A less than “good fit” hire — can disrupt workflow, damage an organization’s work culture, and waste valuable resources.

Our Guest:  Julia Kimmel

On this latest episode of #WorkTrends, I spoke with Julia Kimmel from RocketReach. For her entire career, Julia has embraced the fast-paced and multi-faceted environment of the startup world. Managing people and processes and helping companies and teams grow across organizations. Since last year, she has overseen the growth of RocketReach from 15 people to over 100. And sorry, no, she’s not related to Jimmy Kimmel. 

Let’s talk about recruiting work-from-home talent for fast-growing startups, the challenges, and how to overcome them.

Startups need to work hard to avoid costly mistakes. Julia:

…it’s hard for startups to plan far in advance. Things change constantly. And if you asked anyone planning to scale a startup and asked them what you could plan for even a year in advance, it’s tough to make those types of decisions. Often I think one of the things that startups have a tough time with is that there isn’t a great hiring strategy, and a lot of startups hire way too quickly.

Overcoming Recruitment Challenges

It’s no mystery why sourcing top talent is an obstacle for many businesses. There is a ton of competition, and getting to know a candidate is a skill of its own. In job interviews, you want candidates who are passionate about curiosity, creative problem solving, and communication. But the true key to finding talented people? Putting in the work.

I think ultimately no one wants to hear it, but it really comes down to sourcing. It’s how you initially get strategic about where you’re looking for people. What are the cues that are constantly going off for the recruiting team to go after certain areas of the market or certain industries? Certain companies are an easy one, but I think you really need to fine-tune and get your team into a place where they feel empowered about sourcing.

Startups vs. Large Companies

There are obvious perks of working for a large, established brand. Many people are drawn to work for large companies because they feel more secure regarding hiring freezes or layoffs. While working at a big brand has its perks, startups can offer more autonomy and hands-on experience.

…one of the things that really stands out to me is that startups really can dig into more and actually market a little bit more – at large companies, you typically work on a very small piece of a project, and your work sometimes goes unnoticed. It’s unclear if what you’re doing is really making a difference, and many people at those companies are doing exactly the same role as you. I think small companies need to sell how much ownership and impact people get to have on the business.

The Future of Startups and Talent

From an HR perspective, will startups and young companies gain a hiring advantage over large companies in the next decade?

Large companies come with a lot of policies, protocols, and regulations. The world is changing, and people want to have more flexibility. I think startups will be popular because there is just a ton of flexibility. If the startup is running the right way, you get to structure your schedule, your day, and your work in a way that makes sense for you. There’s a lot more autonomy, and people are looking for ways to grow, learn, and be challenged. A smaller company can provide this easier than a large company.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful. To learn more about recruiting based on data, visit https://rocketreach.co/

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!

8 Ways to Foster Employee Happiness

When it comes to the workplace, happiness is key. Studies have shown that happy employees are more productive and efficient. That’s why employers need to do what they can to create a positive work environment. But what does employee happiness mean, exactly?

Here are a few tips for contributing to employee happiness in the workplace.

What Happiness at Work Means to Employees and Employers

Employees may feel satisfied with their job, have a positive work-life balance, or feel like they are part of a supportive team.

It may mean increased productivity, lower absenteeism, or reduced turnover for employers. Regardless of the definition, work happiness is essential for employees and employers.

Studies have proven that happy employees are more engaged and productive. They are also more likely to stay with their company and less likely to take sick days.

Happy employers, however, tend to have lower health care costs and higher profits. They also tend to be more successful in attracting and retaining top talent.

8 Ways to Foster Employee Happiness in the Workplace

You, as the employer, can do a few things to create a happy work environment.

1. Learn More About Your Employees

Getting to know your employees personally can go a long way in making them feel valued. Take the time to learn about their interests, family, and hobbies. Doing so will not only make them feel appreciated, but it will also help you better understand their needs and how to support them.

2. Make Time for Fun

Making time for fun is just as important as working hard. It can be as simple as hosting a happy hour each week or planning activities to build teamwork. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that your employees will enjoy and look forward to.

3. Make Sure Employees Feel Heard

Employees who feel their voices are heard are more likely to be engaged and motivated at work. After all, feeling like you’re a part of the team and that your opinion matters is important to job satisfaction.

Some things you can do to ensure your employees feel heard:

  • Encourage open communication by creating an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up.
  • Make it a point to listen to your employees and take their suggestions and feedback seriously.
  • Let employees know their input is valued and that you’re working to create a happy workplace for everyone.

4. Encourage Work-Life Balance

A healthy work-life balance is essential for employee happiness and productivity. Employees who feel like they have a good work-life balance are more likely to be engaged in their work and less likely to experience burnout.

An example of this is employees being able to take advantage of flex time and set their hours.

5. Celebrate Employee Accomplishments

Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and employees are no exception. When employees feel their hard work is being recognized, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated.

One way to show appreciation for your team members is by giving verbal praise when an employee does a good job. You can do this in a one-on-one conversation, during a team meeting, or even in an email.

Another way to show appreciation is by giving tangible rewards, such as gift cards, paid time off, or tickets to a show or event.

6. Salary Increase

An employee is happiest when they get a salary increase. A raise indicates that they are doing a good job and gives them a financial incentive to continue performing at a high level.

A salary increase can also help attract and retain top talent. If your employees feel they are paid fairly, they are less likely to look for other opportunities. As a result, a salary increase can be a valuable tool for promoting employee happiness in the workplace.

7. Create a Career Pathway

Employees who feel stuck in a dead-end job are less likely to be happy at work. On the other hand, employees who feel they have a clear career path are more likely to be engaged and motivated.

One way to create a career pathway for your employees is by providing opportunities for professional development. Professional development can include anything from paid training courses to tuition reimbursement for advanced degrees.

You can also create a mentorship program that pairs more experienced employees with newer employees. Mentorship programs can help newer employees feel like they have someone to look up to and learn from. It can also help more experienced employees stay engaged in their work.

8. Offer More Benefits

Apart from a salary increase, there are other ways to contribute to employee happiness by offering more benefits.

For example, you could provide a flexible work schedule, telecommuting options, or on-site child care. These benefits can go a long way in promoting employee happiness and retention.

Moreover, you could also offer other benefits, such as health insurance, a retirement savings plan, or paid time off. These benefits may seem like a small perk, but they can make a big difference to employees.

Benefits of a Happy Workplace

  • Productivity – When employees are happy, they are more productive.
  • Retention – Attracting and retaining top talent is essential for any organization, and a happy workplace can help.
  • Engagement – Engaged employees are more likely to go above and beyond for their organization.
  • Better customer service – If your employees are happy, they will be more likely to provide better customer service.
  • Improved bottom line – A happy workplace can enhance your organization’s bottom line.

The Takeaway

Employee happiness is essential to the success of any organization. You can do a few key things as an employer to help contribute to employee happiness in the workplace.

It is vital to make sure employees feel heard. Encourage open communication and allow employees to provide feedback. It is also essential to encourage work-life balance.

Make sure employees have the opportunity to take breaks and use their vacation time. Celebrate employee accomplishments and give them growth opportunities.

Finally, offer competitive salaries and benefits. By taking these steps, you can create a happy and productive workplace.

4 Steps to Hit the Mark for Open Enrollment

Is the benefits information you have to tell employees important before and during Open Enrollment? You bet! Easily understood? Not always. 

According to the latest MetLife employee benefits trends, close to 90% of employers believe their benefits are clear and easy to understand. Yet only 65% of employees (only 56% Gen Z) agree. 

Uncomplicating the complicated is not an easy task, but it’s well worth the effort. Employees who better understand their benefits are ones who better appreciate the benefits they have. 

Let’s look at 4 steps to help supercharge your Open Enrollment communications strategy.

Step 1: Know Your Audience

For HR, this means not just thinking about employees. Think like employees. Heck, you are an employee.

When Open Enrollment season hits, chances are you’ll be making some decisions about your benefits. Just like all the other employees. What (and who) are you thinking about when you’re comparing options? Your family? Your health? The costs? The coverage? Yep…just like all the other employees.

If you can hold on to that “employee to employee” connection when you’re communicating to them about benefits, you’re more likely to create understandable, compelling communications. Make your messages relatable and relevant, with a hint of emotion.

Relatable – We’re all people. We can empathize with each other. Remember this when you communicate to employees. Make an emotional connection. That’s how you get employees to engage.

What does that mean? For example, many employees have families they love, and so do you. And you all want the best benefits you can get for them. Relay that feeling.

Relevant – Present information from the employees’ points of view, not the company’s. Avoid touting your company’s awesomeness (“We’ve added a great new dental plan”). Talk more about why it matters to them (“You have more dentists to choose from in the new plan”). Instead of saying, “We have a new enrollment system,” say, “You can enroll faster and easier with our new enrollment system.”

Keep the message conversational, too. If you were talking to a colleague, how would you get your message across? Probably not in a verbose, run-on sentence with oodles of detail. 

Step 2: Plan Bite-Size Information

If you’re sending a firehose flow of information two weeks prior to Open Enrollment, employees will not absorb everything you’re telling them. Try starting communications about six to eight weeks prior to your OE start date, especially if you’re making major changes

Strive for a slow drip campaign that feeds bite-size bits of information. A sample campaign for a late October enrollment may look like this…

Late August

  • Teaser/kick-off announcements
  • Watch for what’s to come messaging
  • Training webinar for leaders and HR partners

September

  • Weekly or bi-weekly communications with chunks of information
  • Home mailer with highlights and a few important details
  • Portal/website or interactive guide with a deeper dive into info, tools, and resources

Mid-October

  • Meetings, webinars, and benefits sessions
  • Displays for enrollment to-do’s and timing
  • Weekly reminders to enroll (first day, one week left, last day)

To get the word out, a wide variety of channels is best. But when it comes to education, a Colonial Life Employee Enrollment Survey (via Unum) shows how employees rank their three top choices: benefits portal or website, in-person counseling session, or printed materials.

Step 3: Stay on Point!

When you start crafting your Open Enrollment communications this year, remember that employees:

  • Check their phones 150 times a day
  • Check email 30 times an hour
  • And are still trying to do their jobs

Competition for their attention is fierce. How do you break through the distractions, buzzing and beeping all around them? 

Diligently.

You must spend time considering the message you’re putting out there. Is it going to drive the results you’re hoping for? The key is to build messaging super-focused on achieving that objective. Avoid filling headspace or airwaves with any other content — stick to information employees need to know to make the decision at hand.

Also, our brains don’t want to work hard at processing information. Keep content easy-to-read and scannable. 

  • Short sentences (14 words or less)
  • Short paragraphs (3 sentences or less) 
  • Eighth-grade reading level
  • “Chunked-out” content with subheads (bite-size)
  • Lots of “you” and “your” and less “we”
  • Human language — no acronyms and other benefit geek speak

Don’t be afraid to use phrases and incomplete sentences. No, really. (See what we did there?) It goes against everything you learned in grammar class but write like you talk. Employees will trust it more, as they read it like a conversation.

One last trick — after you’ve created your first draft, cut the amount of text in half. Get rid of any sentences that are repetitive or words that don’t help employees understand your message.

It may be interesting, amusing, or truly relevant, but if it’s not essential, it’s just brain clutter.

Step 4: Don’t Bury the Bad News

They may not like bad news — but they’ll like it even less when they find it hidden among other news. Employees are adults. They can adapt to change if you’re upfront, honest, and help them through it.

Rip off the band-aid. Give them the “why” of the situation through consistent and continuous communications.

  • Tell the same story, the same way, and tell it often
  • Provide a specific date when they’ll know more
  • Be honest and open (or transparent if you speak HR)

Are rates increasing? Probably because the company’s costs keep increasing. Explain that to employees. “U.S. health care costs are expected to rise 10-15 percent this year, but we’re keeping your increase lower, at only 6 percent.”

It’s Time to Change Things Up

HR professionals tend to be criticized for overexplaining and using confusing terms that make benefits hard to understand. We know why that happens, and we get it. 

Put in the work now so you can achieve effective, results-generating communications. Communications that have higher employee engagement. But put yourself in employee shoes when you communicate. Wait…you’re wearing employee shoes.

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!

By the Numbers: Employee Burnout, Workplace Discrimination, and the Great Resignation

Sometimes research emerges that sets a new high-water mark on a troubling trend — and it’s well worth paying attention to. That’s the case with the recent Work and Well-Being Survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) of 1,501 U.S. adult workers. Conducted in 2021, it remains extremely relevant to where we are now. 

The survey reveals a strong connection between stress, burnout, workplace discrimination, and the Great Resignation. If that sounds like a topic you should know more about, we heartily agree. We also think that the fact that the research was conducted outside an HR-centric organization actually makes it all the more valuable for those of us in HR — particularly leadership.

The Bottom Line of Burnout

Here’s the bottom line: employee burnout is undeniably high. It’s clearly a major factor in the Great Resignation. It’s also affecting employees unequally: discrimination is a thru-line there. We took a closer look at some of the survey’s most telling statistics to see how we’re doing. As you look for strategies to stave off employee departures and reduce workplace-related stress, these are numbers (and issues) you need to keep in mind.

Burnout is at an All-Time High, Regardless of Profession

  • 79% of employees across all professions reported work-related stress. 
  • Nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy at work. 
  • 36% reported cognitive weariness.
  • 32% reported emotional exhaustion
  • 44% reported physical fatigue — a 38% increase since 2019.

Burnout is a Key Factor in the Great Resignation

There’s a clear association between day-to-day workplace stress and the likelihood they will look for a new job somewhere else, and soon:

  • 71% reported feeling typically stressed out or tense during their workday.
  • Only 20% reported they didn’t feel that way.
  • Those who report feeling tense or stressed out during the workday are over 3X more likely to seek employment somewhere else in the next year.

Workplace Discrimination

It’s not only stressful, but employees are also sick and tired of it — and it’s making them seek employment elsewhere:

  • 68% of those who say they have experienced or witnessed discrimination in their current workplace plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 
  • Only 33% of those who say they did not experience or witness discrimination in their current workplace plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 

The Breakdown is Telling

Black and Hispanic:

  • 31% of Black and Hispanic employees say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year. 
  • 20% of White employees say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year. 
  • 58% of Hispanic and 57% of Black employees plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 
  • 37% of White employees plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 

LGBTQ+:

  • 32% of LGBTQ+ employees say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year.
  • 23% of non- LGBTQ+ employees say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year.
  • 56% of LGBTQ+ employees plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 
  • 43% of non-LGBTQ+ employees plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 

People with Disabilities:

  • 47% of people with disabilities say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year.
  • 19% of people without a disability say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year.
  • 63% of people with disabilities plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 
  • 41% of people without a disability plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 

Women and Burnout

What’s not in here: how women are faring. Women’s experience with workplace burnout is its own topic, and we’ll be covering it. There are also plenty of other factors contributing to the soaring rates of workplace stress, from overwork to not enough paid leave, to low compensation to being left out of decision-making. Look for our coverage of those as well in the coming months. (In the meantime, please read here for more on the connection between employee responses to the pandemic and workplace stress — an uneasy and ongoing relationship. And for an interesting take on overcoming burnout pre-pandemic, check out this great #WorkTrends podcast we did with a public schools counselor turned go-to executive coach. — her wisdom still holds true.)

Final Thoughts

The numbers we’ve included here paint a clear picture — and as we look for a special sauce that will slow down voluntary quits, it’s time to get back to basics. The importance of an inclusive workplace where everyone feels like they belong is inarguable — and the APA’s stats should prompt a serious re-think. Once again, kudos to them for doing such a well-considered, diligent deep dive into this important workplace topic. 

Why Empathy is the New Brand of Leadership

Sponsored by: Dell Technologies

When it comes to the people who work for your company, is there anything more important than understanding them and their needs? For leaders, this means seeing things from their perspective. We call this Empathetic Leadership. 

Empathetic leaders can create a space where employees feel heard, valued, and understood – and when employees feel like this, guess what happens? They’re more engaged and productive at work, making them more committed to their work and your organization. 

A recent Dell Technologies Study found that creating an empathetic culture helps companies succeed in today’s do-anything-from-anywhere economy. Leaders need to put people front and center and equip them with the right technology to innovate.

Our Guest: Jennifer Saavedra

On our latest #WorkTrends Podcast, I spoke with Jennifer Saavedra, Chief Human Resources Officer at Dell Technologies. She leads the company’s Global Human Resources and Facilities through the dynamic lens of culture and, most importantly, people. She has a doctorate in Industrial and Organizational Behavior from Tulane University. Jennifer has also served on the executive boards for many of Dell Technologies’ employee resource groups and is currently the executive sponsor for the Black Networking Alliance. 

Her work helps us understand the psychology of human behavior so that individuals and organizations alike can be their best. 

Jennifer says the last two years have redefined work:

One of the things at Dell Technologies that we’re really focused on is defining work as an outcome, not as a specific time and place. We know that employees value freedom and flexibility, and it’s really about helping everybody make an impact.” She says, “not every individual has the same way they work or the same needs. And we have a history of doing this. At Dell, we’ve been doing this for over ten years.

Flexibility is Key

Everybody wants to know what the “new normal” will look like. After two years of the global pandemic, Jennifer says Dell polled their team members on the company’s practice of hybrid work. A notable 86% of their team members said they feel Dell is leading the way. The current world of work is an opportunity to make things more inclusive.

It’s a great equalizer. We have learned a lot about how to be inclusive and make things more accessible to people. And keeping an eye on the partnership between human resources, the business needs, our team members, facilities, and IT, I think these are things that give us a lot of hope and a lot of promise.

What the Data Says

Success is a goal shared by all, from employees to executive leadership. Employees need their companies to be there and support them. While the future of work develops and takes form, it needs to be understood that agility will play a key factor. As new ideas and possibilities for work come to light, they should be carefully considered. An astounding 91% of Dell’s team members reported that they could easily adapt to the work preferences of others, whether it’s timezone, means of communication, or other.

As other companies are thinking about building their strategy, it’s really important to look at the business needs. How does the work need to get done, and how can you consider personal choice? I think you need to assess roles. Some roles need to be done in certain locations or co-located. Once you know that, you can then support your team members by understanding what works best for them.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful and inspirational. Learn more about leadership and putting people front and center with Dell’s Breakthrough Study.

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!

8 Learning and Talent Development Topics for Better Employee Retention

Investment in learning and talent development is an essential ingredient of every company’s engagement and retention plans. What is one crucial topic to include in employee L&D that will lead to better employee engagement and retention?

To help you create an effective L&D program, we asked L&D professionals and business leaders this question for their best insights. From including interviewer training to developing individual talents, there are several essential topics that may help you deliver a robust employee L&D for better engagement and retention.

Here are 8 must-have topics for better employee retention:

  1. Interviewer Training
  2. Communication and its Impact on Business
  3. Feedback Delivery
  4. Celebrating Achievement
  5. Leadership Development
  6. Build Emotional Intelligence Skills
  7. Goal Setting and Performance Feedback
  8. Develop Individual Talents

Interviewer Training

A must-have learning opportunity for all employees is interviewer training. By focusing on a task and responsibility that most employees engage in throughout their careers, you simultaneously give your employees the skills to contribute to building a more successful company with the right talent. Additionally, you give them skills to carry with them wherever they go next. Interviewer training empowers everyone to become a brand ambassador. It also encourages a truly inclusive and diverse workplace and gives all employees a chance to be better.

Ubaldo Ciminieri, Co-Founder and CMO of interviewIA

Communication and its Impact on Business

Studies show that collaboration drives workplace performance. Learning the value of communication and how it impacts the business should be a priority for all employees to understand. Beginning with the “why” communication is crucial to show how it can affect and change the culture by building trust across the leadership team and staff.

In creating a high-performing, high-functioning organization, there needs to be collaboration on all levels. This means we need to communicate and over-communicate. Things change when people you work with understand what you are trying to do, the why, and how it affects them. The outcome is a high-performing team where work gets done with highly engaged staff, and the company exceeds expectations on all levels.

Denise Moxam, VP of HR and Engagement at Production Solutions

Feedback Delivery

There are countless learning topics that can positively impact employee engagement and retention. One of the areas that I believe to be crucial is feedback. To be able to skillfully provide regular, accurate, and timely feedback can improve performance, increase trust, and build relationships. All of which have a direct impact on both retention and engagement. Of course, the results are dependent upon individuals’ competency in this area. While some people may have the inherent ability to deliver feedback the right way, at the right time most of us need training and practice.

Greg Forte, Senior Director of L&D at Precision Medicine Group

Celebrating Achievement

Celebrating is a powerful skill that all leaders need to have in their toolkits to confidently & effectively lead now. When you celebrate a teammate, you are demonstrating that you see them, care about them, and value their contributions and how they show up in the world.

Celebrating is a skill, and it needs to be included in your L&D strategy. When you have leaders who properly and consistently celebrate their employees, you will see motivation, trust, connection, belonging, engagement, and retention skyrocket! Throw that confetti, leaders!

Leah Roe, Leadership Coach & Founder of The Perk

Leadership Development

While it’s not typically part of the category of employee learning, building a healthy leadership practice at all levels of the organization may be the strongest driver of employee retention and engagement. Employees need the opportunity to grow and thrive in their careers. This will rarely happen without leaders who recognize and encourage their development.

We know that most learning happens on the job and in conversation with others who already know the job. A learning function that equips front-line, mid-level, and senior leaders with the mindset, skill set, and tool set to effectively grow their employees will have an exponential impact on employee engagement and retention (not to mention business results).

Leaders who simply see employees as a means to the end of profitability, customer service, or meeting their operational metrics miss the key ingredient to meeting these business goals. They will see their employees walk away to another opportunity where they can grow.

Dave Adcox, Director, Learning & Organizational Development at Whitley Penn

Build Emotional Intelligence

By building emotional intelligence skills in our leaders and our teams, we support their ability to create an environment where employees are engaged and want to stay. Through our learning and development efforts, we can help our employees understand and manage their emotions, navigate relationships, and build trust. Additionally, we can help them show empathy, reduce stress, communicate better, and inspire others. In doing so, we create a place where our employees thrive and our business grows.

Mary Tettenhorst, Sr. Vice President, L&D of General Electric Credit Union

Goal Setting and Performance Feedback

Since studies show engagement often hinges on an employee’s first 90 days, providing new hires a supportive onboarding experience that includes context on company objectives, culture, and communication standards is critical. Supplementing this with assistance on goal setting will help level-set expectations and facilitate a growth path for the employee.

Always, make sure that your managers are equipped with the knowledge to articulate performance expectations, deliver feedback and coaching, and provide development opportunities for the employee along the way.

Glenn Smith, L&D Manager at Nextbite

Develop Individual Talents

The single most important L&D topic has to be how to effectively develop your people. Unlike a capital investment that has a fixed ROI, investing in human capital has almost unlimited ROI. Not only are you increasing the capacity and competence of your team to create value, development telegraphs that you believe in your people enough to invest in them. When people feel like valuable members of a winning team, they will provide higher levels of engagement and discretionary effort. Development creates a virtuous cycle that benefits both the organization and its people.

Thane Bellomo, Director of Talent Management and Organizational Development of MI Windows and Doors

5 Strategies for Defining Your Employer Brand

Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors in the world. Just ensure it doesn’t become how people describe your employer brand.

Today’s job candidates and workers are often compelled to stay with one company versus another because of the company’s purpose and value. In other words, companies need a strong, direct, authentic employer brand that keeps employees from quitting and joining the Great Resignation. In most cases, a vanilla employee experience won’t cut it anymore.

A Modern Employer Brand

Instead of a basic, old-school employer brand, you need one that’s modern. You need a brand that reflects what your organization stands for and what talent can expect, even if it turns some applicants away.

Companies with substantive employer branding often embrace not being a good fit for everyone. Their employee value proposition statements illustrate their workplace’s true “give and get” nature. With this model, when a team member is willing to “give” in one area, they can expect to “get” something in return. It’s a reciprocal relationship that’s offered up plainly and unabashedly.

If this sounds unusual, it’s because only now are organizations strategically revising and advertising their employer brands more deeply. As employees become more critical of their work environments, many leave their longstanding positions to find companies that align with their values and goals. Especially in the ever-changing workforce, it’s important to learn from others’ mistakes so your company prospers rather than plummets.

Communicate a Meaningful Change

Even massive employer branding face-lifts, like Facebook’s rebranding to Meta, are not enough. Such a change can be perceived as surface-level and doesn’t create or communicate any meaningful change. And because in recent years, candidates have begun conducting employer brand research and digging deeper, transparency and authentic connection are key. Candidates and employees want sincerity. Candidates want to know what your company stands for to decide if it aligns with their passions and purpose. In other words, they want you to lay everything on the table as part of your employer branding.

Where, then, do you start? Below are five employer brand research tactics that will help you define and establish a genuinely distinct employer brand that reflects not only where your company is today but also where it will be tomorrow.

1. Assign a range of leaders to an employer branding committee.

As with any initiative, your employer branding efforts require commitment. An employer branding committee will help construct your employer brand from the ground up and serve as a strategic resource moving ahead.

To get the most out of your committee, including team members from across departments and verticals such as talent acquisition, marketing, diversity and inclusion, and sales will ensure that you aren’t overlooking any key issues as you flesh out what your employer brand means.

2. Host an employer branding kickoff meeting.

After inviting critical players to the table, hold a workshop to allow everyone to get on the same page regarding your employer branding goals. Hold this workshop in person, online, or both. After all, quality employer branding should be geographically agnostic.

During the event, review your employer branding elements. Try to get a handle on how all departments and groups see your organization. Are there disconnects, such as between your mission statement and the experience of workers as measured by employee insights like exit interviews? These are the areas to start cementing your preferred employer brand.

3. Conduct interviews with members of your leadership team.

A huge reason for misalignments between the employer brand you want and the employer brand you have is that leaders’ aspirations don’t always match up to your employer branding expectations.

As part of your conversations, find out what your company leaders demand and admire about their employees. Attempt to get a sense of what working for them looks like so you can revise your employer brand accordingly. Remember that you want your employer brand to be transparent when presenting your organizational work life.

4. Complete focus groups with a cross-section of employees.

Now that you’ve heard from the people steering the ship do a little research to learn more about the daily experiences of employees. Hold about a half-dozen two-hour sessions with up to 10 workers in each session. Use these focus group sessions to find out why the employees chose your organization and what motivates them most — and least. Try to understand the “give and get” exchanges happening. Don’t be surprised if you realize that your employer brand is more complicated than you might have thought.

5. Gauge the market’s view on your employer brand.

At this point, you should start to have a fleshed-out idea of your employer brand. How does it match up to your competition? Ideally, you want your employer brand to gain attention because it’s compelling or engaging. Therefore, spend time investigating the employer brands of your talent competitors.

Check out Glassdoor ratings, social media posts, and other markers of general brand sentiment. Be sure to check out job descriptions, too. Everything you learn can be folded back into maturing and solidifying your employer brand.

Final Words

Years ago, employer branding seemed easy: Pop a ping-pong table in the breakroom, offer beer on tap, and you were done. In 2022, high performers are looking for something deeper and more substantial out of their employee experiences. They’re looking for companies with employer brands that are straightforward and real and that offer workers a chance to be a part of a company they know they can trust and believe in. Developing a research strategy and research infrastructure for employer branding enables you to be that for them.

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.  

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.

The Human Aspect of HR Communications Strategies

If you’re in HR, no matter your role, you have complex messages to communicate to employees. You also likely have a hard time getting them to pay attention. This frustration is always in the top three for HR — you’ve told them multiple times, but they’re not doing what they need to.

But why? Partly, it’s because of who’s telling them…HR. 

Employees tend to see HR as a corporate function, with company goals in mind. A recent Gartner Human Resources survey shows that only 41% of employees think senior leadership has their best interest in mind.

The good news? The fix is (metaphorically) staring you in the face.

HR Communications Channels – People Vs Marketing

Your best channels are staring you in the face. When you think about multi-channel communications, it’s probably a mix of email, monitor screens, home mailers, posters, etc. What you may be forgetting is a more personal way to reach employees. 

The Gartner study points out that employees are more likely to trust messages coming from people they know…and see — their peers and managers. It seems employers are starting to agree, at least in theory and expectations.

77% Say It’s Effective – Only 31% Actually Do It

According to Gallagher’s 2022 State of the Sector, 77% of those surveyed said employee advocates (peers) are an effective way to communicate with employees. Yet only 31% use employee advocates for HR communications. This is an untapped HR resource.

In that same Gallagher study, 81% of companies report having an increased expectation of managers when it comes to communications. And, for the first time in the study’s 14 years, a top-three priority for employers is enhancing manager communications skills. 

If peers are an effective way to get the word out, and managers are bearing the load of yet more expectations, there’s an opportunity here to build your human communication channel. 

First, Find Your People

Most managers are, by default, part of your human channel due to their job description. But employee advocates can be hand-picked. Whether it’s by department, division, or location, managers and local HR folks generally know the popular employees with positive attitudes. Ask them who would be a confident, trusted, and enthusiastic messenger. 

Make it a personal invitation, not a mere email. Build up the importance of this new role by explaining why you’ve chosen them. “We’ve heard good things about you, and we know others trust you. So, we’d like to entrust you as an HR representative.”

To Make It Effective, Make It Easy to Help

Employees are busy — whether they’re managers, programmers, drivers, or accountants. For most, helping HR get messages out isn’t at the top of their to-do list on any day. But, if you make it easy, it won’t fall to the bottom either. 

To make your human communication channel effective, you’ll need to do more than send an email with talking points and attached flyers. Like any assignment, it’s easier to accomplish when there’s an organized plan with easy-to-follow instructions. 

For Routine, Predictable HR Communications

Quarterly tool kits are easier than unexpected emails. Kick-off each quarter with a 30-minute manager/advocate call. Give them the gist of each month’s topic and make sure the two groups are working together, not duplicating effort. After each call, send (or post) the quarterly materials in three separate packets, one for each month — these could be printed or digital materials. 

In each packet include:

  • Talking points and an FAQ on the topic.
  • Flyer, poster, email text, monitor screen, etc. 
  • Detailed schedule showing when and how to use each piece (talking points in huddles, posters in break/bathrooms, etc.). 

For Ad Hoc “This Just Came up” HR Communications 

Be sure your managers and advocates are plugged into a “message cascade.” This is especially important when you need to communicate change. Cascading starts with messaging for senior executives that are then tailored as it flows down the chain to regional, local, and team managers, and eventually to advocates and employees. You can read more and download a template here.

If you’re depending on people to help you get the word out, they need to know you’ll help them when there are questions or concerns. Commit to having answers (or at least get in touch) within one or two business days.

A Rewarding Experience — Show Your Gratitude

There are many ways to thank managers and advocates for being the trusted voice of HR, from plaques and certificates of appreciation to gift cards or an extra vacation day. The simple act of a handwritten note is an easy, inexpensive, and authentic way to say thank you. 

Employees aren’t ignoring HR communications because they don’t care what you have to say. They’re expecting a complicated message that takes time, so they plan to review it later. Then it gets later…and later.  If you can put your message in the hands of someone they know, see, and trust, they’ll take the time.

The Critical Intersection Between DEI and Mental Health

Pandemic-related mental health is undoubtedly top-of-mind. In addition, there tends to be an uptick in dialog about mental health this time of year because May is Mental Health Month. Yet here’s what I’m thinking a lot about recently that extends all year long: the critical intersection between mental health and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

While both topics have grown exponentially in discussions among leaders, they have often grown in tandem. However, it’s important to tie the two together. It’s a junction where belonging, health, happiness, and productivity live. But the key is to understand how they intersect and what that means to leaders who want to foster a positive workplace.

The State of Mental Health

The research and stats continue to illustrate that COVID has propelled us into a mental health crisis. In a report by Mental Health America and Surgo Foundation, “The COVID Mental Health Crisis in America’s Most Vulnerable Communities: An Analysis of the US Cities Most Impacted by COVID-19, Poor Mental Health, and Lack of Mental Health Access”, the researchers hit on an important societal issue. A community and workforce’s access to mental health services – especially for underserved populations – is a DEI issue. Period.

“Mental health benefits: A key component of DEI,” a 2021 article in BenefitsPRO, connects the dots by stating that if an organization is going to be committed to DEI, then mental health benefits must be part of the picture. So, ask yourself, are accessible, impactful mental health benefits part of your organization? And even if you say yes, there is still work to do. And it’s interesting to look back a year later and see what mental health needs were unmet before, during the height of the pandemic, and today.

Create Paths to Help

What has become abundantly clear is that organizational management – and HR leaders, especially – must include mental health benefits, resources, and services with a special lens on underserved and high-risk populations. We expect government entities to pave the way, but every company should also take proactive steps to provide its own inclusive, healthy community. (The article was published under different titles to appeal to various HR professionals, including the aptly named DEI That Ignores Mental Health Is Doomed in HRAdvisor.)

The piece states, “Mental ill-health is often a symptom of lackluster DEI within companies, and specifically among minority demographics… Regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, a majority felt that they had experienced barriers to inclusion. McKinsey’s research supports the argument that certain demographics are more likely to feel less included. Among those groups are entry-level employees, women, and ethnic or racial minorities.”

“When someone’s race, identity, and sense of who they are, are repeatedly questioned and used against them, their mental health is affected. When those kinds of questions and attacks happen within the workplace, the individual and the company suffer.”

Foster DEI to Support Mental Well-Being

Let this remind us that the conversation isn’t simply about COVID-related mental health, although that’s the world we live in at this minute. DEI leaders need to ensure that the workplace always fosters inclusivity to support mental well-being proactively.

Other problems that can impact mental health and a feeling of safety at work for marginalized populations include lack of representation/misrepresentation, microaggressions, unconscious bias, and other stressors that can be hard to see. A solid DEI approach ensures that (1) leaders are trained to watch for these issues and (2) employees have access to resources to manage or mitigate these concerns.

According to Forbes, “Managers can be the ‘first responders to address mental health in a crisis. Training, educating, and empowering managers to lead on both mental health and inclusion – and how the two intersect – can speed up needed support to employees from diverse backgrounds. Managers may be in the best position to handle these sensitive issues with individual employees, helping to answer questions, address concerns, and direct people to the best available resources.”

First, Find Your People

The CDC published data about racial inequities that continue to plague our health care system. “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought social and racial injustice and inequity to the forefront of public health. It has highlighted that health equity is still not a reality as COVID-19 has unequally affected many racial and ethnic minority groups, putting them more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.”

That information doesn’t require much of a leap to the gap between underrepresented populations and mental health resources. The right DEI strategy should incorporate holistic, proactive approaches to address mental health needs, especially for groups that have never received or considered support.

The Connection Between Mental Health and DEI

So how do we draw this line between mental health and DEI? What’s interesting is that it’s truly about perspective. Reaching rural, LGBTQ, ethnic, religious minorities, youth, and other groups can be challenging. But it can also be extremely fulfilling, allowing a culture of inclusion and a celebration of differences to shape an organization.

You would be well-served to take an audit of your DEI strategy. Where does it address mental health? Is it proactive? Is it realistic? Are there proper communications plans to inform employees about resources?

These questions may reveal what’s next – and I beg you to take more than a quick look. See what’s working and what’s not to take a macro and micro look at how to improve. HOW are WE making mental health a priority for ALL of our people? How can we start at the top and make it actionable throughout the organization?

Tech Innovation Can Help Close the Gap

During the last few years, one noteworthy stride has been an increased capacity by the medical community to interact with patients online. Zoom therapy wasn’t much of a “thing” a few years ago. But improved technologies and a growing savviness for online medical appointments can drastically improve our reach into underserved populations.

A fascinating interview in Forbes addresses the ripe market for a tech disruption in mental health. This points to a promising future for organizations invested in closing the gap between mental health and all kinds of populations. The article covers the importance of how connecting underserved people with the technology they need to stay up-to-date is essential.

Some interesting tech innovations in this area include, “explicit measurement-based care efforts integrated within virtual behavioral health solutions, expansion into other modalities of care such as coaching, and continued consolidation in the space.”

“Additionally, many vendors are expanding their treatment modalities from just teletherapy with a mental health professional to things like virtual coaching. Finally, tons of funding is going into condition-specific startups, including those focused on substance use care, autism, etc.”

Opportunity is Knocking

This topic offers hope. There is a real struggle right now as the fog of uncertainty has not lifted, and mental health aftereffects reverberate like aftershocks. It’s discouraging to know there are underserved populations and people who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. It’s not an easy task to look at the gaps in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. But we can make positive changes here. Armed with the correct information and a willingness to ask hard questions, organizations can use DEI initiatives to make actual societal change.

How and Why to Honor Mental Health Awareness Month at Work

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

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

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

Connect the Great Resignation and Mental Health

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

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

Attrition and Unhappiness

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

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

Job Dissatisfaction Goes Deeper Than we Like to Admit

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

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

What Mental Health Really Means

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

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

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

Factoring in the Costs of Unhappiness

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

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

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

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

1. Invite full participation.

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

2. Make the month different.

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

3. Assess your mental health benefits.

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

4. Evaluate DEI in your work culture.

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

5. Check on the impacts of your workplace conditions.

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

6. Take the workforce’s pulse.

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

7. Check in with your managers.

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

8. Evaluate your recognition and rewards programs.

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

9. Bring in leadership for a workplace roundtable.

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

10. Track the results for the month.

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

Conclusion

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

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!