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Attract and Retain Employees with Earned Wage Access (EWA)

Sponsored by: ADP

Employers are looking for new ways to stand out in terms of employee perks and benefits. One solution: earned wage access (EWA). This is a powerful tool when it comes to meeting today’s employee needs. It’s also got proven advantages when it comes to attracting talent and landing great hires right now.

As a problem solver, EWA covers a lot of ground at a time when anything less than a true game-changer won’t work. Combine a 3.5% unemployment rate, more than half a million jobs added in July 2022, the continuing Great Realignment, and troubling inflation, and you’ve got a perfect storm facing employers. Talent strategy right now is a double-edged sword. You can’t just recruit, and you can’t just retain. You need to do both to stay competitive as an organization. That means successfully addressing employee as well as recruitment pain points.

Employees Coming Up Short

From a workforce perspective, financial anxieties are weighing heavier than ever for countless employees. A recent PwC financial wellness survey of more than 3,000 employees across several industries found that just 42% felt their compensation was keeping up with the rising cost of living expenses in 2022 — down from 52% in 2021. Further, 56% of all employees are stressed about their finances.

What that means in practical terms is that for most, access to pay can make a key difference. Research by ADP  on earned wage access benefits in today’s world of work found that 69% of employees are likely to request their wages early at least once within the next year. Requesting wages early is prevalent for a clear majority of Gen Z and Millennial employees. But, this is also true for nearly half of older employees as well:

  • Gen Z (18-24) 74%
  • Millennials (25-44) 86%
  • Baby Boomers (45-64) 48%

Here’s the question: What happens if an organization doesn’t have a system in place to grant such a request? In terms of well-being, it will add to the financial stress already affecting employees — and that can have all sorts of consequences. The PwC study’s respondents said financial stress took a severe to major toll on their mental health (34%), sleep (33%), self-esteem (30%), physical health (23%), and relationships at home (21%). Additionally, 18% said financial stress interfered with their ability to be productive at work. 15% said it directly affected their ability to go to work at all.

Employee Stress = Organizational Stress

It’s not hard to connect the dots between financial stress and organizational stress. An organization that lacks a policy and/or system for early wage access could be conducting a not-so-subtle form of self-sabotage even in terms of operational success. In terms of employer reputation, it’s even clearer. Employees want to work for an organization that clearly cares about their well-being — including their financial well-being.

The PwC survey found that 76% of financially stressed employees are likely to look elsewhere for an employer who cares, versus 38% who aren’t financially stressed. To put it bluntly, financially stressed employees are twice as likely to search for a better employer. By inference, then, if you’ve got a skittish, stressed-out workforce and no means to ease their financial stress, you’re twice as likely to lose talent to someone who has the means in place. And what about landing new hires in the first place? ADP research found that over 90% of employers (all with more than 1,000 employees) who offer EWA find that it improves their employees’ sense of financial security and helps with both talent attraction and retention.

EWA as a Solution: Best Practices

Earned wage access is both a digital innovation and a well-being booster — and its time has come. It fits into the framework of modern employee expectations in a range of ways. It pragmatically demonstrates that the employer values employee needs, and it solves a very human conundrum with a practical digital tool. Additionally, it breaks the mold of traditional talent management for a more innovative, flexible approach. But like any innovation, there are strategies that will leverage its full potential and strategies that won’t.

Here are four important best practices when it comes to incorporating EWA into your organization:

  1. Consider EWA from a business standpoint: A well-designed, modern EWA program offers an inarguable business advantage. Recent ADP research on earned wage access benefits surveyed 500 companies with more than 150 employees and found that 95% believe that employee financial wellness impacts their company. Suppose EWA is provided as a system that offers a simple, self-driven, well-documented means to access pay early. In that case, it can offset a myriad of problems, from employee-manager friction to accounting snafus to attrition.
  1. Integrate EWA into existing compensation and payroll processes: Rather than a bolt-on solution that’s isolated in terms of data, record-keeping, and information systems, EWA should be interconnected with the processes already in place. Ad-hoc doesn’t have to mean anarchy. EWA is best when it keeps pay administration both simple and cost-effective. Offering employees flexibility and choice that doesn’t complicate the process. Employees should be able to access their wages without disrupting the integrity of the payroll cycle.
  1. Provide employees and managers with the features that count: For employees, that could mean easy enrollment, a straightforward, anytime, mobile-friendly platform, fast access to pay, clear visibility into pay balances, and electronic pay.
  1. Don’t be shy about informing your workforce: Companies that offer EWA are staying on the leading edge of digital transformation. They’re also demonstrating an evolved approach to compensation. But competitive pay doesn’t just mean the highest salary in a given role in a given industry. It means a flexible, responsive compensation program that eases minds. As far as retention, that’s going to have a big impact:  93% of employers believe that offering EWA helps boost employee retention. But unless you broadcast the policy, employees and new hires won’t know it. Given all the pressures we’re under, it’s not a time to be quiet about modernizing your employee perks.

Empathy as an Organizational Benefit

With more employees than ever living paycheck to paycheck, earned wage access enables your employees to avoid the friction (and stress) around having to ask a manager for an advance on pay or take out a high-interest loan to tackle an unexpected financial burden. It also takes managers out of the hot seat by providing a built-in, integrated process.   

No question: digital innovations are pushing the envelope on how we work, evolving traditional structures like workspace and compensation into more people-centric approaches and offering new solutions to a range of challenges. But rising to the occasion and leveraging these new tools is up to the organization. A digital EWA platform offers a means to address a very human need. It’s a clear example of empathetic people management — and it could be the competitive edge in terms of talent.

To learn more about EWA, ADP is hosting a webinar on “Offering Earned Wage Access: Strategic & Compliance Considerations”, Thursday, September 8, 2022, 2p Eastern. Register Here!

The Digital Workplace – What’s Ahead

The pandemic has affected the way we live and work and accelerated our transition to the digital world. In 2020, 30% of employees were working remotely, and 60% had the opportunity to combine remote and office work. Companies had to rethink their development strategies and create digital workplaces (DW) so that employees could work safely from home. Two years later, with vaccines helping to restrain the pandemic and offices reopening, organizations have to reimagine their digital environment to keep the office and remote workers connected.

So what is happening with the digital workplace in 2022 and how can managers adapt to the new realities?

The Concept of a Digital Workplace

This term has been around for over 10 years since DWG founder Paul Miller coined it. The businessman explained it as the virtual digital equivalent of a physical workplace.

It is also regarded as a business ecosystem of technologies and cloud solutions that:

  • Eliminates communication barriers between departments.
  • Provides remote secure access to corporate data.
  • Allows you to work remotely with documentation and easily share files.
  • Helps to communicate with colleagues who connect from different locations.

To build and use a digital workplace, you need a whole range of tools:

  • Business applications
  • Communication platforms
  • Personnel management software
  • Software for sharing documentation 
  • Cloud storage tools
  • Content management systems
  • Productivity tools and other technologies

Various programs and applications create the digital workplace infrastructure.

The concept of a digital workplace

Source: scnsoft.com

The digital workplace creates a virtual hub. Employees complete tasks, no matter where they are or what devices they are using. Expanding the boundaries of offices happens due to cloud platforms. They allow specialists to connect to their workplaces over the network.

Why Do You Need a Digital Workplace?

The digital workplace has become not so much a necessity, but a steppingstone for business development. The popularity of smartphones and the introduction of AI and digital tools have prepared people for a new format of work. There have appeared new categories of applications for communication between employees of distributed teams. The transition to the gig economy has made it possible for businesses to hire specialists from any location in the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated these trends. Consequently, businesses have had to scale up their digital workplaces at short notice. Some firms managed to reduce the transition from a couple of years to just weeks. The digital workplace has helped to keep businesses afloat amid isolation and social distancing. In a unified digital workplace infrastructure employees were able to quickly resolve important issues. They could:

  • Coordinate and store documents. Before lockdowns and quarantines, employees had to personally come to their colleagues to approve and sign documents. During remote work, organizations switched to online coordination via email, instant messenger, or through special software like Power Automate.
  • Schedule meetings. A unified digital workspace allows you to view the schedule of colleagues (vacation, business trips), coordinate the schedule for booking meeting rooms, and plan joint video meetings.
  • Manage corporate data. Software solutions provide synchronization of data and files used remotely by several employees. Platforms ensure that every worker has up-to-date information that they can access at any time and from any device.
  • Work on a flexible schedule. Fixed work hours are becoming obsolete. For enterprises, it is not the place and time of work that matter, but quality and efficiency. In the digital workplace, employees have 24/7 access to corporate tools and data.
  • Find the necessary information. Often corporate data and files are stored in different systems: in the cloud, or on a server. Employees have to spend minutes/hours searching for the right document. There are no search problems in the digital workplace. Separate tools like DokoniFind help them to find files of any format from different sources.

As a result, 44% of employees began to work faster, while maintaining an optimal work-life balance. According to Statista, business leaders plan to keep at least 10% of their employees “in a remote location”. This is not surprising, because businessmen see the economic benefits of this format of work. According to the survey, 72% of US managers plan to invest in virtual collaboration tools to support hybrid workflow.

What Organizations Achieved in 2020-2021

The pandemic has forced companies to either build digital workplaces from scratch or upgrade the old ones to carry out the transition to remote work. And in 2020-2021, organizations performed a large-scale transformation of jobs. They:

  • Implemented a model of work “from anywhere”. Many enterprises did not have a ready plan for how to go remote. But they quickly found point solutions on how to support hybrid workflow.
  • Moved to the cloud. When the majority of employees needed to go remote, organizations had to migrate to the cloud. Specialists could not access corporate data if the data center was in the office. The cloud guarantees that employees will work smoothly: the server will not fail, and the data will not be lost.
  • Expanded options for using virtual desktops (VDI). While individual contractors used VDI before the pandemic, more organizations paid attention to this service during the quarantine. Companies considered it the best option for quickly launching a remote work format. At the same time, an employer retains control over data and devices.
  • Implemented tools for video conferencing. Video calls via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Cisco Webex platforms replaced traditional meetings. The culture of video communication has spread everywhere.
  • Used collaboration platforms. Firms found ways to connect remote workers without sacrificing productivity or quality of work. Communication tools Trello, Slack, and Smartsheets have become an integral part of the digital workplace.

In 2020, companies implemented temporary solutions and created “drafts” of the digital workplace. By 2021, organizations had improved the format of remote work and selected the best technologies and tools. By 2022, enterprises had faced new challenges: how to improve and automate well-defined processes, taking into account the fact that employees are returning to the office.

What organizations achieved in 2020-2021

Source: axians.com

The Digital Workplace in 2022 

Over the past two years, people have become accustomed to the digital format, so many of us perceive returning to offices as leaving our comfort zone. According to a survey by the employer platform GoodHire, 68% of employees prefer to work remotely. Gartner found that companies risk losing up to 40% of their talent if they return to a traditional physical office. Therefore, 2022 is in search of a balance between remote and classical ways of working.

1. Organizations are Introducing Hybrid Work Models

In 2020-2021, organizations were creating digital workplaces so that employees could continue to work safely during the pandemic. In 2022, managers are trying to support DW so that employees can opt for a hybrid work schedule, combining work from home and the office.

Gartner researchers advise rescheduling work for a hybrid model, taking into account the following points. It is important to:

  • Give employees more freedom and flexibility so that they can maintain a balance between work and leisure
  • Offer specialists several schedules, taking into account their preferences
  • Manage employees based on empathy

Digital workplaces support hybrid workflows through conference room booking tools, meeting platforms, or collaboration apps.

2. Companies Launch Employee Development Programs

The pandemic has taken many organizations aback as employees were not technically prepared for digital workplaces. Firms had to quickly train specialists so that they could continue to work remotely. Therefore, in 2022, companies are helping their employees to remain flexible and adapt to changing market conditions. The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation notes that 13% of Americans do not have the digital skills needed for the 21st century. 18% of people have limited skills. Therefore, organizations need to improve the skills of employees according to corporate programs.

3. Businesses are Strengthening their Cybersecurity Strategies

A centralized digital workplace makes it easier for employees to work but leaves the organization vulnerable to cyber threats. DW has many access points that hackers can use to steal corporate data. Remote tracking of devices is difficult, and remote workers are less protected from phishing and social engineering attacks. Therefore, organizations are strengthening cybersecurity strategies by improving such features as encryption, two-factor authentication, access control, and AI-assisted threat detection.

4. Managers are Looking for Ways to Increase the Engagement of Remote Workers

When, with the onset of the pandemic, employees switched to a remote format, they began to lose contact with their colleagues and felt disconnected from the organization. Despite all the benefits of the digital workplace, the advantages are leveled if the employee’s interest falls. Therefore, in 2022, managers are looking for options on how to strengthen healthy relationships with remote workers. And this is important because an engaged specialist will not quit and work 21% more productively. The digital workplace should be organized in such a way that people communicate seamlessly with colleagues using different services.

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, in an interview with Recode, noted that by 2025, about 70% of employees will work remotely for at least five days a month. Therefore, the introduction and development of DW become not a tactical, but a strategic decision. Market Research Engine predicts the digital workspace market will reach $39.60 billion with a CAGR of 30%.

Conclusion

In 2020, we witnessed the historic transition from traditional work culture to a digital workplace. It has brought mobility to the lives of employees, helping them to maintain a comfortable work-life balance. For organizations, this means more productive employees who are free to adjust their schedules. Businesses should continue to invest in the digital workplace because it is an important part of any business development strategy.

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!

Unification of HR Systems – Set Up for Success

Podcast Sponsored by: Tydy

Considering a new HR system for your company? Finding the right HR system has become a critical piece to a successful, thriving business. In order to support a company’s talent strategy, there are several distinct types of HR systems available. It might seem difficult to select which one is best for your organization. This is a critical choice because HR systems that contribute to a good employee experience are 1.3 times more likely to perform better. And, who doesn’t want their business to perform well? 

Our Guest: Kiran Menon

In this episode of the #WorkTrends podcast, we unpack the important topic of HR systems with Kiran Menon, the CEO, and co-founder of Tydy. Tydy is an employee experience solution that connects, unites, and automates HR processes and technologies. During his 17 years of experience in consulting and sales, he has worked across multiple locations, leading teams in Europe, the US, and Asia. Kiran states:

“Tydy actually started from an onboarding perspective. What we are doing is we really went out there and reimagined onboarding and redefined what onboarding meant for large enterprises. Our focus is on employers with about 5,000 plus employees. Tydy moved them from cumbersome weeklong processes to quick, simple, and verified onboarding in seconds.”

How Has Technology Impacted the Way HR is Managed?

In the last two years, companies have faced an increased need for better software and improved processes throughout the digital space. With many work teams working remotely from a variety of places, there has been a surge of software options to optimize and manage complex HR procedures across businesses. Kiran explains:

“There’s been a huge proliferation of multiple apps in the workplace. Suddenly post-April 2020 companies globally scoured everywhere to look for different types of applications that could digitize processes and deliver a digital-first experience. What’s really happened is there’s been a sudden influx of too many apps and too many systems. This overcomplicates the process. Technology has impacted HR pretty massively, but also, it’s brought about a lot of concerns, issues, and frustrations.”

HR Systems and Onboarding

One of the most crucial functions of an HR system is the onboarding process. The importance of this process going smoothly directly correlates not only to a company’s success but also to its financial health. Kiran states:

“We work with companies where day one of an individual joining and getting started is billing day, right? This means that the moment the person starts, you actually want them to get onto the floor and start becoming productive. That’s billing hours in whatever that industry may be. Now, if your onboarding system does not enable them to do that, you are actually losing revenue when your assets like your laptops are not ready until day five, or day 10 in some cases.”

With all the benefits of a unifying HR system, are there any drawbacks? Kiran explains some of the challenges:

“One of the biggest questions from an ownership perspective is when you’re thinking about onboarding, who owns asset allocation. Is it HR? And until you understand the plan that ticks off all these boxes, it becomes very tough to think about unification. 

Managing HR in the Future

With all of these quick shifts regarding HR systems, will there be any more major changes in the way that HR is managed in the future? Kiran gives us his prediction:

“You still have about a good decade to two decades of innovation in front of you. We haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how data could be used. Or, how you could potentially automate verification systems, or automate even career mapping from a data perspective. So I think there’s a lot more that needs to be uncovered and developed from a future perspective.”

I hope you’ve found this recent episode of #WorkTrends helpful when considering an HR system to elevate your company’s onboarding and overall organization. To learn more, contact Kiran Menon on LinkedIn.

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

Looking to Build a Strong HR Department From Scratch? Follow These 6 Steps

Building an in-house human resources department for your business, or a company where people can outsource their HR needs to you? The initial steps can be overwhelming. The best way to build a solid HR foundation is to create policies, standard operating procedures, and risk mitigation plans. Implementing policies that align with your workplace culture will improve overall employee experience and mitigate operational and reputational risk. Here are some important components to keep in mind to build the foundation for a strong HR department–from scratch. 

1. Organizational Design

Organizational design is the backbone of the company. It facilitates efficiency by eliminating double work and smooths out bumpy processes and procedures that may be in place. That’s because it delivers the proper information to the right employees at the right time. While this is a relatively new element in human resource departments, organizational design has been around for decades. A tried and true method is the McKinsey 7-S Framework created in the 1970s. You use it to see whether different parts of your organization are operating harmoniously together and find ways to improve. The structure is split into seven key components, and at the center of the framework is the company’s shared values. These components comprise of the following:

  • Strategy (your business plan)
  • Structure (how your business is organized)
  • Systems (daily activities)
  • Shared values (mission statement and goals)
  • Style (the leadership)
  • Staff (the culture and the capabilities of the staff)
  • Skills (what the organization is actually capable of)

2. Employee Compensation and Benefits

Workers search for companies that focus on well-being, meaning the best talent is looking for the best compensation and benefits. According to a recent study, 32 percent of businesses with 10 or fewer employees are now offering benefits packages. Your business should also have something to offer. Principally, the larger your business grows, the more comprehensive your compensation and benefits package will need to become. In-house HR departments should know what employees want so that they can attract and retain talent

3. Onboarding/Recruiting Procedures

Proper onboarding is important because it can cost 90 to 200 percent of an employee’s annual salary to replace them. Effective onboarding will reduce the chance of quick employee turnover while potentially increasing retention. Listen to what your employees want and give them a full idea of what their job will entail. In a BambooHR survey, of the employees who left within six months, 26 percent didn’t believe it met their expectations.

4. Occupational Health and Safety Program

According to a study published in 2018, 1,027 Canadians die a year due to work-related accidents. That’s about three people a day. Therefore, you should adhere to the Occupational Health and Safety Act set by your province and the Canada Labour Code. All employers in Canada are required to follow these by law.

5. Training and Development

When it comes to recruitment, you want to have a good training and development program implemented within your business. An IMB study showed that 35 percent of millennials felt compelled to work at a company with optimal training programs. In fact, it’s one of the top reasons they are likely to sign on with a business. Plus, 52 percent of millennials are drawn to companies that give them the opportunity to advance in the workplace. Furthermore, employees that don’t receive the training they need are 12 times more likely to quit their job. 

That’s not all. A recent study found that businesses with thorough training programs had more than twice the income per employee than those without them. The American Society of Training and Development also found that those who spend $1,500 on training generated 24 percent more profit than those who spent less. This is evidence that skimping on training affects your bottom line and hurts you financially in the long run. 

6. Internal vs. External HR Teams

There are many pros to having an in-house HR department. Specifically, it is a lot easier to cultivate a positive culture, resolve problems, and adjust practices to enable organic development. The cons of having an internal HR team are that it can be expensive. Additionally, it can be hard to find the right specialist or team that aligns with your company values.

A pro of having an external HR team is that specialist companies have in-depth knowledge and skills in specialized areas. These may include legal compliance, coaching and development, and benchmarking. It also gives companies the time to focus on their business rather than human resources and employee compliance issues. 

The cons of outsourcing your HR team are that it can feel impersonal and disconnected from the company’s culture. This department outside the company can be an issue as you are giving up control of select processes. You also won’t be able to keep track of daily startup operations and related HR concerns. What is best for your company will depend on your own set of challenges and the resources you can access.

It’s a good idea to plan and have realistic HR goals that align with your company values. As your team grows, your business needs will require some tweaking. Having a plan in place from the outset will make this process a lot simpler and allow for organic development.

Women in the Workplace: How to Retain Female Talent

Millions of Americans have left the workforce due to the ongoing public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation has particularly impacted female employees who had to become the primary caretakers of their children when schools and daycares closed. As a result, many women had to leave their jobs, and companies lost some of their most outstanding employees. Now companies need to spend time deciding how they can better accommodate, empower, and retain female talent with children.

I am a life coach, helping ambitious working moms become their best selves every day. Part of this is educating companies on how to better support women in the workplace, especially those with children. Using valuable insights from my clients and my own experience as a working mom, I’ve put together five suggestions for companies on how to retain female talent, both pre and postpartum.

Find Out How You Can Support Women in the Workplace

Administering a survey is one of the best ways to determine your company’s ability to hire and retain working moms. Ask open-ended questions so you can find out more about the challenges female employees face and which are the most important. If possible, allow them to give their opinion anonymously to share their feelings without worrying about retribution.

Revamp Your Company Policies & Benefits 

Once you’ve reviewed the survey, you’ll better understand the company policies and benefits that need revamping. For example, do the majority of female employees want paternity leave or extended maternity leave? Or perhaps they would prefer a more flexible work schedule? The company can also assess its employee performance evaluations, possibly changing from time-oriented to task-oriented. 

Whether female talent want to feel more involved during meetings or expectant moms require a designated parking spot, companies should accommodate the needs of women in the workplace. Listening to your female employees, and implementing change, can make it easier to retain talented pre and postpartum female employees. In doing so, you’ll not only improve your business, but women in the workplace are more likely to feel heard and acknowledged.

Start a Mentorship Program 

A study published by McKinsey, titled ‘Women in the Workplace 2020’, reveals that women may face significant roadblocks without the right mentorship and sponsorship opportunities. For example, a sponsor can amplify the voice of lower-level female talent, while a mentor can help guide women towards their career goals.

An official company mentor program is an excellent way for you to capitalize on your most fantastic resource, your employees. It also demonstrates the company’s commitment to nurturing talent and providing employees the opportunity to learn from a trusted advisor. Retaining female talent is far more likely for those companies who actively invest in their professional development. Women in these types of workplaces are also likely to be more loyal and productive. This further increases female employee retention rates.

Create an Employee Reward and Recognition Program

Every employee wants their manager to acknowledge their hard work. This recognition is especially true for pre and postpartum female employees who may quit their jobs due to feeling unappreciated, dismissed, or victim to gender inequality in the workplace. If possible, create a monthly reward and recognition program for outstanding employees. This straightforward strategy will foster a positive work culture and inspire employees to improve their work ethic. Working moms will also enjoy the positive reinforcement, especially those working from home who still want their efforts acknowledged outside the office.

Close the Wage Gap Between Your Employees

The pay gap between male and female talent is a long-standing issue of gender inequality in the workplace. It impacts female employees across all socioeconomic and racial groups in almost every industry. Companies should advocate for women in the workplace by closing the wage gap. After all, there’s a higher chance of female talent remaining loyal if they receive equal pay for equal work.

Make it Easier for Working Moms to Progress in Their Career

Are your pre and postpartum female workers anxious about potentially losing their job? Do the women in your workplace fear they’ll miss out on a promotion because of maternity leave? A top tip for supporting female workers is developing tools and creating opportunities that will allow them to advance their careers like their male counterparts. One way to do this is to focus on results, not on time spent; a great way to support a working mom’s need for flexibility. By creating opportunities for women, you can also tackle gender inequality in the workplace, encouraging female leadership and retaining your female employees in the process. 

There’s no doubt in my mind that moms are some of the hardest workers on the planet. With the right strategies and support, you can create a supportive environment for pre and postpartum women. In doing so, your company can encourage women in the workplace to thrive at all stages of life.

 

Setting Your Team Up for Hybrid Work Success

Today’s employees have strong feelings about hybrid work–positive ones that is. According to Microsoft’s 2021 work trend index, 73% of respondents across over 30,000 people in 31 countries desire more remote work options. 

But managers aren’t so rosy on the subject. Why are today’s leaders having such a hard time adapting? Lack of planning might be the culprit. According to McKinsey, 68% of Oregon organizations have no detailed plan in place for hybrid work.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The point of the hybrid work model is to satisfy employee’s desires for flexibility, manager’s desires for streamlined office management, and everyone’s desire to stay safe. Managers must meet these new challenges head on by crafting a detailed hybrid work plan that reduces their stress while setting their employees up for success.

Our Guest: Reid Hiatt, Tactic

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Reid Hiatt, CEO of Tactic, an innovative hybrid workplace solution bridging the gap between remote and office work. Reid has worked closely with a number of proactive companies ranging from small startups to global enterprises. Therefore, Reid has a unique perspective on how companies can create meaningful and effective workplaces in a hybrid work environment.

When asked how to keep teams productive in a new hybrid model, Ried had this to say:

“The key to making (them) productive is providing transparency into what’s going on at the office,” Reid says. “So that before making that commute…they understand what type of experience they’re going to get when they go there.”

Managing Employee Schedules Effectively in a Hybrid Work Model

For managers, the hybrid work model introduces new challenges, such as handling their employee’s in-office schedules. Reid stresses the importance of creating processes to address these challenges, and says there are new tools to help them do it:

It’s been really interesting over the past several months just to see how much innovation has happened in this area…making hybrid work not just possible, but the best way to work for most companies long term. This is a huge reason why we built Tactic.”

Reid explains that tools like Tactic take the guesswork out of the process. Ultimately, it gives people complete control over their hybrid office space experience. It also empowers companies to set capacity limits at the office and manage collaborative projects.

“I think there’s going to be continued innovation in this area, and it’s going to make the transition even more seamless in connecting people in a remote friendly work environment,” Reid says.

Bringing Employees Back Safely into the Hybrid Workplace

The pandemic is far from over, and as a result, companies are now tasked with balancing their need for occasional in-office collaboration with the burden of keeping their employees safe while doing it.

“Most of the companies that we work with typically will rely on local or federal governments to define what safe looks like,” Reid says. “OSHA is a huge resource for a lot of the companies that we work with in trying to identify how we can get people back into the office safely.”

Reid adds that a company must first understand the local or federal guidelines. Then, they can use any number of tools to outline what safety looks like for their organization.

The Future of the Workplace

Technology has always led the charge in the evolution of the workplace. Reid believes that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg:

“We’re already seeing it now with all of the video conferencing technology that’s continuing to be improved. I think that’s going to evolve very rapidly into virtual reality. I’ve had the opportunity to kind of play around a little bit with some of these virtual workplaces. And it’s honestly—really cool.”

I hope you enjoyed this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Tactic. To learn more about creating a successful hybrid work environment, contact Reid Hiatt on LinkedIn

How to Make Virtual Meetings Immersive Without Video

For many of us, virtual meetings have become the lifeblood of remote working communication. COVID-19 has made face-to-face meetings the exception rather than the rule. But the recent surge of digital collaboration tools has made remote teamwork much easier to manage. 

However, the global switch from physical to digital has pushed us into new networking territory– complete with its own footprint of pros and cons. 

Virtual meetings make us more productive and efficient employees. But too much time on a shared screen can also contribute to anxiety, emotional exhaustion, and fatigue. 

In fact, 49% of employees report feeling a high degree of exhaustion after video calls. This state of exhaustion is dubbed “Zoom Fatigue,” and it’s affecting a large percentage of the working population. 

So, how can remote teams continue to collaborate productively without causing a backlog of exhaustion? 

Well, we can start by conducting virtual meetings without video. It might not work for every team, but trying new methods of virtual collaboration is key to finding one that works for yours. 

Video Versus Audio-Based Virtual Meetings

For most people, virtual meetings are somewhat synonymous with a video presence. And there’s a good reason why—video calls are the closest we can get to person-to-person communication. Seeing the faces and expressions of colleagues helps us to understand them better. And this contributes to more effective communication. 

However, at a time where stress and anxiety levels are reaching an all-time peak, shifting how we communicate is essential to resisting burnout. If switching the camera off allows us to feel more at ease, it may be in our best interest to do so.

That being said, both video and audio-based virtual meetings arrive with their own list of pros and cons. 

So, what are they? Let’s look at video first. 

Pros And Cons of Video-Based Virtual Meetings 

Video-based meetings are the standard expectation for digital collaboration in 2022. They enable us to view the expressions and mannerisms of colleagues, promoting trust and empathy. 90% of employees feel they can get their point across more clearly via video, and 35% say it makes them feel more included. 

The caveat with video-based virtual meetings is the toll it takes on mental and emotional health. Being on call throughout the day is exhausting, and it has a negative impact on productivity. 63% of employees say that they now attend more meetings over webcam than they did pre-pandemic. 

Self-identified introverts in particular struggle with this. 2-3 hours of their day is now funneled into forced social interaction. Even for extroverts, the pressure to perform socially can become immensely taxing over time. This, in turn, can contribute to burnout, which is not healthy for personal or professional growth. 

Pros And Cons of Audio-Based Virtual Meetings

In 2021, only a handful of virtual meetings were being conducted on an audio-only basis. This is partially due to the wide availability of high-functioning video collaboration tools. Notably, it’s buffered by the impressive productivity statistics that video boasts. 

However, audio-based virtual meetings could be the (not so) silent hero of remote working communication. Not only are the apps cheaper and more accessible for those without high-quality webcams, but they also liberate workers from the anxiety of social interaction. 

Reduced eye contact, decreased cognitive load, and lack of viewing one’s own face makes audio-based collaboration much easier to process. Cutting down on the visual sensory element can allow us to focus better and preserve more energy for productivity. 

Bearing all that in mind, the reality is that audio-based virtual meetings are less familiar to us than their video alternative. For that reason, knowing how to conduct one in a way that is still immersive and productive can be a challenge. 

How To Conduct Productive and Effective Audio Meetings

Despite the benefits that come with audio meetings, conducting them in an efficient way requires a different set of tactics than their video counterpart. Because there are no visual aids, whoever is conducting the audio meeting needs to put emphasis on vocal communication. 

Being clear, concise, and continuously open about meeting progression is paramount to running a successful audio-based virtual meeting. Here are some more helpful tips:

1. Eliminate distractions. 

Because there will be no visual element for team members to focus on, all other distractions must be eliminated. If you’re trying to conduct an audio meeting in a loud or chaotic environment, extracting information from it will be very difficult for listeners. 

Aim to conduct your meeting from a quiet and undisturbed room, and encourage your team members to do the same. 

2. Have an agenda. 

It can be easy to lose track of where you’re going in a meeting without a proper agenda. Creating a list of key points to focus on will help both you and your listeners concentrate better. Make sure to have a clear objective for the meeting so that others can follow you towards it. 

Adding this type of structure to your audio-based virtual meeting will encourage focus and motivation from beginning to end. 

3. Track and summarize progress. 

If you’re tackling a particularly complex topic, regularly reflecting on what’s said is crucial. It will help attendees to better grasp what you are saying. Breaking down the meeting into distinct sections will encourage comprehension and provide others with an easy way to track the flow of conversation.

You want those partaking in the meeting to maintain a constant grasp of what you are saying, and tracking progress is one way to do that. 

4. Set a time limit (and stick to it). 

Nobody likes a never-ending virtual meeting. In fact, sessions that last longer than the stipulated time frame are considered by many to be the worst quality a meeting can have. Let’s avoid that. 

Holding attendees captive for longer than they bargained for will only cause them to lose interest. Setting a time limit beforehand and sticking to it displays respect for the attendee’s time. Additionally, it makes the whole process less stressful for everyone. 

5. Don’t stray off topic.

While we’re discussing respect for attendee’s time, remember not to waste theirs by talking about unrelated topics. The energetic bandwidth for virtual meetings is strained enough. But rambling on about irrelevant matters will only make it worse. 

When conducting a meeting without video, staying on topic will allow attendees to remain immersed in what you are saying. 

6. Invest in a quality microphone. 

Because your voice will be the sole form of communication, it needs to be heard loud and clear. Think of it like a branded logo. It needs to make an impact and people need to immediately take note of your message. Investing in a good quality microphone will allow others to understand what you are saying without question. Plus, it will help to avoid miscommunications. 

There are plenty of affordable microphones designed for this exact purpose. Owning one will only add value to your future meetings—both audio-based or otherwise. 

7. Allow time for questions.   

It’s always a good idea to leave space towards the end of a virtual meeting for questions. It prevents misunderstandings and provides attendees with the space to voice their queries one at a time. Without a designated time for questions, a meeting can quickly turn chaotic. 

Chaos is the last thing you want for an audio-based virtual meeting. Structure and orderliness are where purely vocal meetings thrive. 

8. Stay professional. 

Casual meetings have their time and place, but professionalism is important when it comes to mandatory group meetings. Chances are the people attending your meeting are already battling fatigue. So, keeping things straightforward is in everyone’s best interest. 

Staying professional, calm, and to the point is the best way to conduct an immersive and engaging audio-based virtual meeting. 

Is Audio Conferencing the Way Forward? 

The answer to this question greatly depends on the nature of your team. Clearly, there are pros and cons to both video and audio-based virtual meetings. The best one for your team is largely dependent on their personal and professional needs. 

For example, the success rates of joint video conferences are much higher for large teams of people. Audio, on the other hand, has proven very effective for small groups. This is due to the fact that audio-only meetings can become chaotic when too many people (and voices) are present. 

Furthermore, audio-based virtual meetings have proven to be less exhaustive for remote employees. And they can contribute to better mental health. Having the option to unplug from video communication helps us feel less anxious and more in control of our workdays. 

Ultimately, it is important to remember that each remote team comprises unique individuals that require different things for productivity. 

Summary

Since 2020, virtual meeting platforms and workplace collaboration tools have received a huge increase in attention. They’ve changed the way we work and the way we communicate in so many ways. Right now, many research projects are being conducted on the nature of their effects on our mental, emotional, social, and motivational health. 

Remote working culture is here to stay. The platforms that sustain it must adapt to meet our personal and professional needs. 

Nobody should have to commit to a culture that depletes their energetic resources—even for the sake of productivity. Burnout is a real threat to the working population of today, and any methods for lightening the load should not be taken lightly.

Digital Upskilling to Close the Generation Gap

The enterprise and the workplace are increasingly influenced by technology and technology-driven processes. With digital upskilling becoming an increasing priority, this often comes with a new level of competency and a shift in demand on the skills required to fulfill the needs of a job.

This is particularly true in the insurance industry, where we are seeing a confluence of events. Such as accelerated digital transformation, rapidly-changing customer demands, and the migration to hybrid work models.

This has a direct effect on talent and the workforce.

As a result, many companies are increasing their investments in digital upskilling and reskilling their employees to prepare staff to capitalize on this golden market opportunity.

Building a Digital-Ready Workforce

With new digital tools, connected technologies, and better access to real time data, there is a balance between tried and true insurance methods. This includes new ways of analyzing information and insuring risk. Using new digital tools eliminates or automates repetitive tasks to free up talent to analyze and interpret client needs.

Reskilling, upskilling, and training employees is crucial for companies to build digital-ready workforces to carry their businesses into the future. This will lead to industry modernization and inspire teams to develop solutions that meet evolving customer needs.

Adopting Unique Learning Methods

According to Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends Insurance Industry Outlook, insurance companies are 1.5 times more likely than other industries to develop skills related to innovation and adapting existing products. Additionally, insurers look to drive digital innovation and enhance the user experience to meet evolving customer needs.

This is great news for both current and budding insurance professionals. It is also a warning signal for carriers that are not investing the right time and resources in their talent.

New technology integral to the insurance industry presents an exciting ground for recent graduates. This is also true for employees from other fields looking to make a career transition. To take advantage of this opportunity, both employers and employees must take on a proactive learning mindset.

But appealing to everyone and their preferred way of receiving tools and technology training is a huge undertaking. When it comes to learning and development, teams have to think how to engage generations in the workforce today. While older generations are used to classroom learning, Gen Z and Millennials prefer YouTube videos or snippets of learning available. Companywide training programs incorporate different learning combinations, such as lecture, demo, and hands-on lab exercises.

Training to Suit All Ages

Incorporating the following steps, insurance industry leaders can train different generations across the tools required for learning and technology.

  • Determine the organization’s digital workforce goals: Identify the benefits leaders can expect from their digital upskilling investments and the steps that will be critical to the team’s success.
  • Connecting with the whole organization: Reskilling is not an individual project. Make sure training is available to staff across all levels and incorporate different learning styles to stay in tune with how everyone learns.
  • Provide recognition: Learning additional skills on top of an existing workload is not something that should be taken lightly. Rewarding staff for upskilling will help with employee morale, retention, and engagement.
  • Measuring success: Employees must embrace continuous learning so that reskilling does not fade. To mitigate this possibility, a digital workforce strategy must extend beyond learning and development to influence culture and ways of working.

Finding out which skills are missing across your organization and within specific teams will help you create a stronger workforce.

Embrace the Diversity of Different Generations

Having a range of ages on your staff adds value to the organization. As the age of retirement rises, companies need to explore adopting more inclusive policies to accommodate an older workforce.

Younger employees are more accustomed to rapidly developing technology and adapting to the changes it drives. Similarly, more mature employees have knowledge from the duration of their experience that can guide decision-making.

Creating an environment where all generations can learn from one another allows for mutually beneficial mentoring opportunities. When you have multiple generations in the workforce, those with more years of experience can advise younger employees on career development. Additionally, cross-generational mentoring will allow more junior employees to educate mature workers due to their familiarity with current trends and technology.

When it comes to reskilling and upskilling, it is not only about the generations already in the workforce, but companies also need to provide tools for those reentering the workforce. Reentering the workforce includes re-training of both technology and basic workplace skills.

Digital Upskilling is Here to Stay

As technologies evolve, the need for digitally skilled talent is not just for the short term. Insurers must foster a culture of innovation to develop skilled professionals internally – a culture that attracts them from the outside and helps retain them for the long haul.

One thing is certain: the insurance industry will continue to digitize to meet productivity goals and provide customers with an engaging experience. If companies can proactively address digital upskilling; customers, employees and the overall organization all benefit.

Image by Fiskes

Building Company Culture: Embrace Failure to Sustain Performance

It’s safe to say that 2020 put company cultures to the test. Strong cultures came out of it stronger; weak cultures struggled to survive. But what is the makeup of a company culture that can endure such massive shifts in the market? What’s the secret sauce to building company culture?

Flexibility? Sure. Support? Yes. Innovation? Absolutely. But these attributes are outcomes of something more important: being unafraid of — and sometimes even encouraging — failure.

In other words, the best work often comes with some risk, yet the tolerance for risk seems to be something the business world opposes. If that weren’t true, golden parachutes wouldn’t be so common.

When there is no risk of failure, then failing is simply the result of incompetence.

Encouraging failure doesn’t mean setting people up to fall short. Instead, it means allowing people to do more — to push themselves — despite a potentially negative outcome. It’s about being unafraid to challenge employees and trusting them to bring their best. Because when new problems present themselves, all you have is your people.

Business leaders who realized that and responded by giving their workforce room to grow — and support along the way — are the ones that were able to reinvent the way they deliver value when the world suddenly changed. By allowing room for failure, they enabled more room for growth.

Unfortunately, many companies tend to be scared to let their people shine. They’re afraid of failure. When this happens, companies miss out on game-changing outcomes — like innovation.

Embrace New Ideas

Last year, Sherwin-Williams lost big when they fired an employee after he brought new ideas to the table on how the company could engage with younger audiences. Tony Piloseno was a college student, and Sherwin-Williams associate, with 1.2 million followers on TikTok.

His feed consisted of videos showcasing his excitement and passion for mixing paint. After gaining a large following quickly, Tony began signposting his account internally to illustrate what the brand could do on social media by marketing to younger crowds.

It seemed like an obvious opportunity for the company to grow its presence with an underserved demographic. But when Tony formally pitched the idea to corporate marketing, he was put under investigation by corporate personnel — accused of stealing paint and making the videos on company time.

Sherwin-Williams headquarters shut Tony down, despite having support from his immediate supervisor. Not only did the corporate marketing team dismiss Tony’s ideas, but they also schemed to get him terminated. Rather than taking a chance, the company sent a signal to the organization that great marketing ideas can’t come from employees outside of the marketing department.

While Tony’s story is a little extraordinary, employees everywhere have had very similar experiences, albeit perhaps on a smaller scale. Too often, organizations and leaders put employees in boxes. They discourage them from bringing unexpected skills or new ideas forward. Because the culture won’t give them room to try — they potentially fail.

So, how do you build a culture that embraces failure?

Do it Strategically

At the end of the day, leaders must ensure that individual productivity progresses the company toward strategic objectives. Allowing room for growth in an intelligent way means giving employees the space and tools to grow in the right areas. The good news? We don’t need to complicate this process.

This is where technology can play a significant role when building company culture.

Employers can achieve strategic alignment with employees through modern performance management tools. These tools make it easy to create challenging goals personalized to employee skill sets. And they help push the needle forward for overall company objectives. The key is to set goals that allow employees the opportunity to stretch themselves, either by sharpening existing skills or developing new ones.

Using a digital platform gives the entire organization insight into the goals set for individuals, how individual goals track with team or department goals, and how departmental goals align with company goals. Therefore, when an employee has a great idea, it’s being applied to tasks that complement overall business needs. Put simply, aligning goals to company strategy enables employees to execute the mutually beneficial vision.

Being comfortable with a little bit of risk — while leveraging technology to help employees to grow with the needs of the organization — gives workforces the ability to improve and perform at the highest level.

Building Company Culture: Fail Fast, Grow Fast

When put under pressure, any company’s ability to pivot determines overall success. Sure, new strategies can be scary. But aligning employee goals with business goals — and cultivating a culture that enables employees to try new things and rewarding risk-taking by not penalizing failures — helps companies find innovation in unexpected places.

Leveraging technology to support goal setting company-wide creates a path for sustainable growth. It also ensures that progress toward the execution of company strategy — even when small failures do occur. In the end, embracing failure is the possible route when building company culture.

Or rebuilding, as many companies will do over the next several months and years.

 

Photo by ThisisEngineering

How Talent Development Makes a Positive Impact on Your Business

The success of any business is not just reliant upon the efforts of leadership. To truly thrive, companies need skilled and committed employees. This certainly means that human resources and management need to apply resources to discovering and attracting the best possible talent. But their attention shouldn’t stop once onboarding is complete. Those efforts must include deliberate talent development. 

Talent development is the process through which companies continue to invest in their employees beyond base salary payments and benefits. As one recent study shows, a company culture that nurtures employees directly impacts the bottom line. Not least of which regards the costs of turnover: that 94% of employees would stay with a company if it were willing to invest in their learning and development. 

Let’s explore some areas an effective talent development process directly impacts, and methods you can use to capitalize on them.  

Performance

Talent development is not only the key to retaining employees; it can also be instrumental in improving performance. This doesn’t just mean that your attention to their growth results in greater productivity — although that certainly occurs by acquiring new skills and understanding of productivity techniques. However, when your employees see you’re making efforts to support their growth, they tend to be more engaged with the efficient operation of the business. 

As a result, performance should be a guiding element of your talent development program. This begins with a commitment to meaningful performance reviews. We don’t mean a simple analysis of how the employee has functioned that year. Instead, there need to be discussions in which the aim is to guide employee growth. Direct the dialogue, not toward areas of failure, but identifying training opportunities. Don’t just dictate your needs; work with them to discover what they would like to learn, too. Discuss opportunities for promotion, and how you can plot a road map together that can get them there. These conversations strengthen relationships and naturally lead to more opportunities for talent development. 

Performance targeted talent development is also not necessarily an individual act. It also presents opportunities for employees to work together to create a positive working environment, resulting in improved overall performance. Encourage departments to learn what motivates them as a team and as individuals. Understand how to adjust the workplace and its practices to be more mutually beneficial. Provide them with responsibility here, approaching it as a project with requisite planning and analysis. Not only will they feel more connected to the business, but they also gain in-demand project management skills. 

Innovation

One of the main errors a business can make is becoming stagnant. In the digital age, the world frequently changes. That often means that to retain the competitive edge, we must innovate. Talent development can introduce employees to new skills and new ways of thinking about the challenges they face – and overcoming them. As such, it is an essential element in building a sustainable culture of innovation within your company.

So, how do you approach the talent development process with innovation in mind?

Company Insight

Provide them with opportunities to better understand the company; what it’s good at, and the not so good. This can include shadowing leadership, attending meetings, and being encouraged to ask questions (and being given honest answers). This helps the growth of new corporate operations skills and incentivizes deeper engagement within the company. 

Diversity

Innovation requires access to multiple perspectives and experiences. Studies show that companies that prioritize diversity tend to perform better than their more monocultural competitors. So your talent development program must commit to nurturing diversity. Undoubtedly, part of this approach is ensuring a range of voices has opportunities to work with you. However, it’s also about encouraging those in the program to value diverse perspectives and adjust their own viewpoints accordingly. 

Curiosity 

Helping employees follow their curiosity, both within and outside of the business, is a cornerstone of talent development. Give employees opportunities to train with other departments and company time to work on personal projects. Add coaching to ensure employees feel guided and supported. By giving them space to explore and experiment, and encourage them even when they fail, you provide the tools necessary to contribute to innovation — and the confidence to experiment.

Loyalty

One of the greatest assets for any business is loyalty. Employees who feel connected to and supported by their company are more likely to stick with them in the long run. Loyalty isn’t about simple retention, though; it also means a dedication to the company’s ideals and becoming leaders who embody them. Employee development helps to both guide this process and reinforces the reasons why they should maintain their commitment. So your talent development program must begin at onboarding. 

Use the tools of the process to set expectations. For instance, in your employee handbook, make it clear there is a commitment to engaging in talent development, and why it is essential. Outline the support methods — mentoring, coaching, reviews — and how this affects the potential for progression. By emphasizing your company cares about them and their growth early, it immediately plants the seed that there are incentives to mutual commitment. 

This same attention has to be consistent throughout their time with the company. Not in an overbearing, micromanaging sense. Instead, talent development must be about the company and the employee working together to ensure the growth of each. Make continued efforts to understand what they need, and they will be more likely to do the same for your company. 

What’s Your Approach to Talent Development?

Talent development goes further than talent management. It demonstrates a commitment to helping employees grow in directions that they are also keen to explore. 

Design your program to empower workers to improve their performance, become innovative thinkers and loyal contributors. Though this often takes a significant investment of time and capital, the long-term returns are culturally and economically significant. 

 

Photo: Ricardo Resende

Is Diversity Baked Into Your Hiring Process?

A few years ago, we were asked to help a market leader that was intent on changing its culture to be more creative and innovative. (Sound familiar?) The company was spending a million dollars on messaging and elaborate company meetings to help “get the word out” and create excitement for this new, transformative initiative.

But even as its leaders spoke eloquently about the need for change — even hiring a guru to guide their efforts — few process changes were made, and they were hesitant to reconsider the kind of people they hired. They talked of needing people who were “cultural fits” even as they held meetings in which they touted the need for cultural change and disruption.

Why traditional hiring practices backfire

The company’s hiring practices were similar to those we see in most organizations, perhaps even your own. After candidates were identified, an internal team of “high performers,” along with HR representatives, reviewed the applicants’ résumés to ensure they had the requisite experience. Unfortunately, this meant most applicant experiences were similar. The unintended result? A candidate pool with little experiential diversity.

But it didn’t end there. After “qualified” candidates interviewed with the hiring teams, they were ranked by the group. If any members of the hiring team had a concern about a person, those concerns were noted. Strong objections by a couple of group members, as a practical matter, were enough to give a candidate the boot.

Predictably, the least objectionable candidate — who typically looked, acted, and thought like other members of the group — became the team’s preferred choice.

If we want change, we need to expect challenges

When we asked the hiring team how the hiring process supported a culture of innovation, team members told us that their hiring criteria included experience in helping organizations change.

Pushing back, we asked the team to consider which types of people would contribute different and creative ideas. What employee characteristics would help the organization change? For instance, had they valued people who were:

  • Diverse in race, ethnicity, and background?
  • Rarely satisfied with the status quo?
  • Impatient and not always willing to take “no” for an answer without significant debate?
  • Disruptive, at times disagreeable, and willing to question authority?
  • Not easily managed?
  • At times, slow and hesitant to make decisions based on what was done last year? (Creativity takes time.)
  • Unwilling to go along just to get along?

 Their response neatly framed their hiring challenges:

“Why would we hire someone who is hard to manage, never satisfied, and always questioning what we do? We’re pretty good here, you know. If we hired people who we knew would consistently challenge what we learned yesterday, we’d never get anything done.”

We say we want change, but do we?

Yes, we say we want to change. We say we want creativity. We say we need diversity, but do we honestly believe it?

The truth is, even if we’re committed to recruiting more diverse teams, we’re often painfully unaware of how our hiring processes give preference to people who are more like us. As a result, we often allow the long-term effects of our biases, knowingly or unknowingly, to be hidden in our collective consciousness, in our culture. Over time, groups that cling to such processes tend to become more homogeneous, not less.

Even when we manage to hire authentically diverse teams — composed of different backgrounds, races, genders, ages, perspectives, and beliefs — we expect everyone to come together in a fabled “kumbaya” moment.

True diversity begins with intention

Recruiting a more diverse and successful team begins with intention. The kind of intention that’s required is more than a desire or wish. It’s a conscious, mindful choice based on a belief that diversity is critical to the team’s success. It requires that we create processes that are built for diversity. Our preference for people who look and think and act like us is strong and can only be overcome with a structured commitment to embrace people who often make us uncomfortable.

So, where should we start? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Start early. It’s easier to become diverse before biases have become ingrained in our hiring practices.
  2. Be clear on the type of people you hope to hire. Do they share your values? Are they competent? Good thinkers? Willing to change? Ready to speak truth to power? Confident? Good leaders? Having clarity is a necessary first step to building a successful hiring process.
  3. Recruit blindly. Superficial aspects of a person’s bio often outweigh an applicant’s talent or potential. The fix? Implement a blind submissions process — stripping away names, ages, and gender. Create a process in which people cannot “see” the applicants when initially judging their competence.
  4. Put more diversity, of all types, on your hiring team. The research on this is clear: a diverse hiring team will recruit more diverse members.
  5. Expand your personal and professional networks. Our personal preferences are affected by our experiences. For example, research shows that fathers with daughters are more likely to hire women. Having more experience with an unrepresented group makes their inclusion more likely.
  6. Confront bias when you see it. When we tolerate bias, we teach that it’s acceptable.

Learning to appreciate our differences — and to embrace diversity — is what ultimately fuels an organization’s competitive advantage. Only when people challenge us to think and act differently can we create the remarkable. So, let’s get to it.

Photo: Hans Peter Gauster

#WorkTrends: Outsourcing HR: Why and How

The global health crisis and its economic repercussions have pushed companies to innovate in new ways — and that includes HR. Meghan M. Biro and Paychex’s Tom Hammond used this episode of #WorkTrends as an opportunity to look at the best strategies for talent management, such as outsourcing. Tom is Paychex’s VP of Corporate Strategy and Management, and he’s on the front lines as far as helping organizations navigate the new business landscape. 

As Tom pointed out, HR professionals are in a unique position “at the epicenter of this crisis,” and they’re getting a whole range of timely questions around workplace legislation, from local to state and national levels. Making sense of the challenging (and quick) decisions that need to be made and keeping up with compliance and regulations now can take a lot of bandwidth, Meghan noted — so it makes sense for HR departments to look for help rather than go it alone. Partnering with Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions not only streamlines the process, it takes the worry out.  

Whatever the scenario, HR experts can help mitigate the gray area — and both Meghan and Tom see a different relationship happening between companies and outside service providers. It’s not a handoff, but an ongoing, one-on-one conversation dedicated to finding the solutions “that drive what matters,” as Tom said. While each company needs something different, what everyone needs is real guidance, not just a generic recommendation. 

Meghan added that this new paradigm embraces outside expertise, service and technology — and that’s going to push us forward during this global transformation. Like every other facet of working now, it’s a fast pivot — and not exactly anticipated. But outsourcing ensures that companies can land on their feet, and better manage and support their people. And that may help everyone be far more ready for what happens next.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrendsTwitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: How can HR help struggling remote workers adjust and be productive? #WorkTrends
Q2: How can outsourcing HR functions effectively help organizations? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help shape sound HR strategies during a pandemic? #WorkTrends

Find Tom Hammond on Twitter

This post is sponsored by Paychex.

#WorkTrends: Harnessing Technology to Lead, Innovate, and Win

For all our best intentions and aspirations to better harness tech, we’re not always following through. A recent report by Ceridian found that while companies are adopting tech to take actions that will ensure long-term success, half of those surveyed say they struggle with “rapid tech development.” In some cases, the questions simple simply what to use and how to use it. And a successful model and a roadmap can certainly help. 

Our guest on #WorkTrends this week is definitely a man with a plan: Patrick Antrim, the Founder and CEO of Multifamily Leadership, LLC, is a former ballplayer for the NY Yankees who switched careers and brought the team’s invaluable wisdom with him. He’s passionate about giving businesses both the means and approach to win using technology as an integral part of the overall strategy.  We discussed the unprecedented disruptions and change happening in business today, and how leaders can deploy technology to engage employees and customers, and build a culture of innovation and feedback that gets you to the front of the pack. 

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you never miss an episode. 

[04:48] The consumers that are buying and interacting with our business, they’re expecting things at such a fast pace.
05:33] What’s important about the Airbnb model is that it’s the seamless experience, all from an app.
[08:24] the Yankees do a great job of understanding how to build a culture, how to build a legacy, how to keep that legacy
[19:45] if you’re asking for innovation in your business you really need people to take risks

The Future of Work Really is Right Now

Patrick Antrim, the CEO of multifamilyleadership.com, happens to be a good friend of our community, and I’m thrilled to have him back. Organizations now are trying to figure out how to take the leap with technology to meet new employee and customer expectations. Gen Z coming into the workplace means some 61 million new hires who are used to functioning via digital tools and mobile. Organizations who aren’t up on tech are justifiably nervous about attracting and engaging them. It’s no longer a question of when the workplace transforms. It’s now. So how can companies “futureproof” themselves?

Disruptions to One Industry Spread to Others

The multifamily rental industry has undergone incredible upheaval due to Airbnb. The Airbnb model provides a seamless experience, all in one single app. It’s also one of the world’s largest hoteliers, but it doesn’t own any real estate, as Patrick pointed out. “The business model that people are operating in is fundamentally changing,” he said. Another profound disruption: Uber, which has turned the taxi industry upside down. “What’s important about that process is the customer expectation of how things are going to talk to each other,” Patrick notes — from strangers making transactions to payment, underwriting and access. “It’s really the seamless process that customers of tomorrow appreciate — a technology that makes life easier for them,” Patrick said. But many industries are innovating and changing processes to meet this new reality head on. They’re not waiting for their own industry version of Airbnb to innovate now.

An iPhone Approach to Onboarding and HR Processes

People expect a seamless experience — and outside of your business they usually have one. Consider the iPhone, Patrick said: “We buy an iPhone, we open the box, and it works — we don’t need to have a webinar on it. We don’t need to have somebody to meet with us to talk to us about how it works.” That same intuitive approach should influence how companies refine their onboarding and HR processes, particularly as the next generation come into legacy organizations and face legacy processes. Having to log into 15 different applications, let alone download a PDF form, sign it, scan it and email it back is cumbersome, and can create damaging friction and disengagement.

Leading by Audio Text

But improving employee experience via tech doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. Patrick listed simple but  effective tools, including one he uses constantly — audio texts. As he explained, “If you can just hold the record button down and say, hey, here’s a great idea I had, and I’d love for you to be involved in helping us make this thing happen. What are your thoughts?” Then, he continued, send a text with an audio attachment. “It’s great because it’s not a voicemail. You don’t have to log in,” he added. Another strategy that’s simply a matter of common sense: if you’re not great at technology, bring in a company that is, and has already spent the time and energy finding the right approach so you don’t have to. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to reinvent your employee and customer experience, in other words. It’s all at our fingertips right now.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode:

Patick Antrim on Linkedin and Twitter
Patrick Antrim’s organization, Multifamily Leadership

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

The Role of Artificial Intelligence in the Hiring Process

As artificial intelligence evolves, we’re going to increasingly rely on it for boosting the hiring process. In Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, author Max Tegmark asserts that the “rise of AI has the potential to transform our future more than any other technology.” So it is, as we already see in hiring. AI is already saving HR teams time and money while attracting the best candidates in these key ways:

Solving the Sourcing Process

A recent study found that 46 percent of companies struggle with finding and attracting the right candidates for their open positions. AI programs can search online resumes and social profiles to find the best candidates for each job based on specific traits. They can also relay personalized messages to promising candidates and do it in scale — something human recruiters could not do alone. 

AI is being taught to overcome human biases during sourcing and screening. The key is teaching the program on data that presents as gender-neutral and training it to ignore other identifying information that might trigger biased decisions. An organization may end up with a pool of applicants far more diverse than if the HR team itself had sourced them.

Enhancing Employee Experience

Once your AI program sources and contacts candidates, AI can lead them through the recruiting funnel quickly and efficiently, ensuring the candidate experience goes smoothly.  Recruiter chatbots can provide real-time answers to candidate questions, offer quick feedback and suggest next steps. They can provide links to promising job descriptions, clarify company hours and location, and schedule interviews. 

Having a good experience during this phrase is a big deal, as is borne out in a study by CareerBuilder: 58 percent of candidates are likely to have a negative opinion of a company if they never get a response to their job application.67 percent are likely to have a favorable view of the company if they get frequent updates after they applied. Instead of dead air, a chatbot fills the space — and furthers the process.

Screening Boosts

AI-powered conversational tools can also give the screening process a boost. Since these tools are always learning, they’re ideal for when going back for a second look at candidates who applied in the past. AI tools can store essential data on all applicants, saving time and effort when you’re ready to reach out to them again. Companies that use AI tools have reduced their cost per screening by 75 percent.

Using technology to screen talent also saves time and effort for candidates. When CVS Health began using the Virtual Job Tryout assessment, it was looking for an automated screening tool to shortlist candidates quickly. The company processes over one million applicants per year: saving time on the hiring process is critical to the recruiting team. 

By offering job simulation inside hiring platforms, CVS enabled  candidates to virtually try out some of the tasks in a potential position. Depending on their performance, they might be invited  go proceed to the next step in the recruiting process. Or they might decide the position wasn’t a good fit, saving themselves and the company time. CVS Health found this tool screened out half a million applicants right away, saving 40 years of hiring manager time.  The tool also brought a measurable improvement in performance, training, new hire retention, and operational outcomes.

Assistance with Interviewing

AI in HR provides a simple way not only to reach out to possible candidates, but also screen, rank, and shortlist their resumes based on the traits most relevant to your company. Then, once you have a list of people you’d like to interview, the chatbot can act as the scheduler.

Certain AI tools can also help you conduct a later-stage virtual interview before inviting a candidate to come in person. Conducting a video interview with preset questions, you can run an AI program to analyze candidates’ facial expressions, tone of voice, mannerisms, and word choice. 

This technology will make it more likely you’ll end up with new employees who fit your company culture, which is why major brands like Google, Facebook, and Apple have been using this technology for years. And now even more companies use it, including Capital One, Allstate, ThredUp, Hilton, and AT&T. 

Onboarding

AI is also improving onboarding procedures — by, for instance, automating repetitive or tedious tasks like conducting background checks, putting together documents about benefits, and creating offer letter templates. AI can also help organize, print, and deliver all onboarding paperwork. 

The same can be said of training documents — another time-consuming step when the HR team has to do it manually. Instead, AI-powered tools can ensure all new employees receive copies of the paperwork that spells out company policies and log-in information.They can track when documents have been read, prompt an electronic signature, and schedule meetings to go over the information further when necessary. 

And all can happen 24/7 from anywhere, which means employees can start training or getting answers to their questions any time and from any device. It also allows the HR department to focus on tasks that cannot be automated or done outside of business hours. 

Why Use AI in HR?

From sourcing and screening candidates to interviewing and onboarding, AI is undeniably changing HR’s capabilities. A report from Deloitte in 2017 notes that 38 percent of survey respondents believed AI would be widely used at their company within three to five years. In 2018, that number rose to 42 percent,. It’s still climbing.  

72 percent of executives believe AI will offer significant business advantages in the coming years, while a LinkedIn study found that 76 percent of hiring managers believe AI will be at least somewhat important in the future. As Eric Sydell, EVP of Innovation at Modern Hire, summed it up, “AI is a perfect way to recruit the best talent that will excel at your company, as it uses huge volumes of data to predict outcomes better than any person can. Not only does AI save HR departments time, but it also gives candidates some insight into whether they even want the job.” 

 

 

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Need to Ramp Up Innovation? Hire a Diverse Workforce

Do you need to ramp up company innovation? Need to boost ingenuity? According to research, the solution is simple: Hire a diverse workforce.

In a study, researchers at North Carolina State’s Poole College of Management considered this question: Do companies that foster diversity perform better in developing innovative products and services? Based on data from the 3,000 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S., the answer was clear: “The short answer is that they do,” says Richard Warr, co-author of a paper on the study. “The take-home message here is that a business which relies on innovation will benefit significantly from supporting diversity within its organization. It’s really that simple.”

The N.C. State study isn’t alone in its findings. A few years back the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), a global talent think tank, published a national survey on Innovation, Diversity, and Market Growth. CTI found that when leaders embody diversity — and an organization’s culture embraces diversity — a “speak-up culture” emerges that harnesses point-of-pain insights to meet the needs of underserved demographics. And it’s this culture that exerts a measurable impact on the bottom line.

Innovation’s Key: Embracing 2D Diversity

CTI examined the importance of two-dimensional (2D) diversity, shorthand for inherent and acquired diversity. Inherent diversity is what you’re born with, including your gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation and religious background. Acquired diversity refers to the awareness or skills you’ve acquired due to life experience, as well as the “experiential intelligence” that broadens your understanding, such as cultural fluency, generational savvy, gender empathy, social media skills and language skills.

But here’s the really interesting part: CTI’s research discovered that when leaders combine acquired and inherent diversity within their teams, their companies reap clear market gains. Promoting 2D diversity was found to create a 70% greater likelihood of capturing a new market, and a 45% greater likelihood of improving market share.

Why 2D Diversity Is Effective

Why does this work so well? Because leaders who possess inherent or acquired diversity are far more likely to see the potential benefit of ideas presented by non-majority team members, and they champion these ideas into implementation.

By contrast, when leaders lack either type of diversity, they tend not to value ideas they don’t “see a need for” — typically ideas presented by women, people of color, LGBTs and millennials. Leaders without acquired diversity are often unreceptive to innovation that doesn’t resonate with their own cultural experiences.

More positively, companies that promote robust employee diversity and inclusion initiatives, and whose leaders possess either inherent or acquired diversity or both, will nurture a work environment in which:

  • Everyone feels empowered to speak up, and everyone gets heard.
  • Team members feel empowered to make decisions.
  • It’s safe for all team members to propose unique ideas.
  • Leaders accept advice and implement the feedback they receive.
  • Leaders offer actionable feedback to their teams.
  • Leaders share credit with team members for their teams’ successes.

It’s easy to see how creating an environment where inclusive behaviors are the norm makes it 75% more likely that employees would have their marketable ideas implemented, as CTI discovered.

The ROI of D&I

A diverse workforce brings unique perspectives, observations, insights and skills, all of which ultimately affect a company’s bottom line.

In the report Global Diversity Primer, four Cisco senior executives compiled data proving the business case for diversity and inclusion. Their number crunching reveals that D&I investments pay off in a variety of areas, including problem solving, innovation, productivity, customer loyalty and financial growth. For example:

  • Of 28 teams studied, diverse teams solved complex tasks better, revealing a higher level of creativity compared with homogeneous teams.
  • Companies that practice inclusion by tapping the knowledge and experiences of diverse employees meet their product revenue targets 46% more often, and their product launch dates 47% more often, compared with similar companies.
  • Hiring employees who match the diversity of consumers pays off in customer loyalty. For example, the 2008 spending power of the LGBT community in the U.S. was estimated at $712 billion — and an estimated 78% of that community, along with their friends and relatives, would switch their brand loyalty to companies known as LGBT-friendly.
  • Diversity leads to bottom-line gains: In research conducted on 506 U.S. businesses, each 1% increase in gender diversity led to a 3% increase in sales revenue. Meanwhile, European companies with gender diversity at the management level saw a 17% higher performance rate in their stock compared with companies that lacked such diversity.

A New Approach to Diversity and Inclusion

Reaping these benefits, however, isn’t a plug-and-play exercise. True diversity and inclusion requires a whole new approach, a broader and richer mindset to see the inherent value in normalizing the presence of all kinds of people within your organization.

To attain diversity means to develop a workforce with representatives from many different groups, including race, gender, age, sexual orientation, abilities and cultural background.

Lip-Service Approach: A company hires one or two people of color (or based on other aspects of diversity) and makes a formal announcement to tout that “diversity” has been achieved.

Beyond-Lip-Service Approach: The company takes a critical look at business imperatives and hires stellar diverse talent to meet business needs. These diverse hires are welcomed based on their merit and unique contributions, and they’re seen as key to the organization’s success. For example, the company might hire qualified Hispanic American advertising professionals to design a multimillion-dollar campaign for Product X aimed at communities of color.

To attain inclusion means making it possible for individuals of different groups to succeed by creating a workplace that values who they are and what they offer. An inclusive workplace provides opportunities for all individuals to develop to their full potential.

Lip-Service Approach: An official “Everyone is welcomed here!” corporate declaration is sent out when, unofficially, everyone knows the way to get ahead is to conform with the standards created by the dominant paradigm of corporate life. In other words, the company operates under a “get in where you fit in” philosophy.

Beyond-Lip-Service Approach: The company develops an onboarding practice that connects new hires immediately with mentors, support and resources to allow for their successful integration into the corporate culture and to set them up for success. There are ongoing and routine check-ins so leaders can take the pulse of the employees’ experience throughout their first 18 months on the job. And there are dedicated talent-management opportunities for diverse populations, including succession planning, with widely communicated goals and benchmarks.

Is your company ready to move to this new mindset? What steps can you take today to make diversity and inclusion a priority?

#WorkTrends: Iterate! How HR Can Get Agile

At the beginning of his career, Ed Muzio was getting frustrated in a meeting that was going nowhere. Though Muzio kept his mouth shut, a friend of his noticed how disgruntled he was. After the meeting, Muzio’s friend told him that he had an obligation to speak up — because if he didn’t, he had no one to blame but himself.

That advice stuck with Muzio and has guided him as he has worked to bring behavioral science to the workplace. Now, Muzio has collected his ideas into the book, “Iterate: Run a Fast, Flexible Focused Management Team.” During our conversation, we broke down the components needed for organizations to become more nimble and agile in today’s constantly changing markets, and the role that HR can play in doing so.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

The Need to Empower Management

Muzio believes that organizations are not nimble enough to react to change, and they need to embrace iteration. “We know it’s the way that complex systems solve problems,” he says. “We need the same level of sophistication in our human organizations.”

This doesn’t mean that all change is massive and large-scale. Often, projects or processes need small course corrections to keep things on track. This is where management comes in. Muzio describes management as an organization’s “feedback system.” However, truly embracing management’s role requires management to be empowered in ways that many organizations have not done.

Muzio says it’s management’s role to evaluate goals and decide what resources to reallocate, should things go off-course. Because managers touch all aspects of an organization — from the C-suite to the interns — they are best positioned to make the course corrections an iterative philosophy requires. “It’s an important purpose that only management can perform,” Muzio explains.

Knock Down the Silos

Muzio believes that one of the key barriers preventing organizations from becoming more nimble is their emphasis on siloing operations. Too often, he says, organizations leave managers to their own devices, each responsible for a separate stage of a process. “If I’m at the top and managing a set of disparate individuals who are managing an even more set of even more disparate individuals, does that lead to innovation?” Muzio asks.

Organizations can emphasize innovation, though, by creating a model where teams are more united and communicate more. He calls this concept “upward-looking success,” and emphasizes that teams should be held more accountable collectively — and not just for meeting individual goals. This encourages different teams to communicate more and breaks down the silos that traditional business organization has created. Because of this cross-communication, implementing the small course corrections organizations need becomes much easier, keeping companies better positioned to meet their goals.

What Can HR Do?

While all of the above advice can easily be applied to an HR department or business, HR departments also have an important role in helping their organizations become more agile.

First is to use data to use data to model your insights and requests. Muzio uses a staffing ramp as an example. As you try to meet your hiring targets, use your data to show how well you are meeting your organization’s forecast. Be up front about whether or not you can hit your target, and also be proactive in giving rationale for changing your target.

Second is to function as an organization’s eyes and ears — and ensure that an organization is focused on its present and future, not on reliving its past. To explain this, Muzio brings things full circle, to a futile, unproductive meeting. Make sure the meeting is focused on the present and future status of the company, not on what has happened before. If you notice things going haywire, Muzio says, nudge the meeting — or whatever it is — in the right direction.

But make sure you bring actionable suggestions to the table yourself. “You can start to say, ‘There are tools we can use to spend less airtime talking and more airtime decision-making about the future,’” Muzio says.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Which Comes First, the Culture or the Practices? The Chicken-and-Egg Problem in HR Tech

In the innovation and HR tech field, one of the common concerns we hear from people is that their culture might not be ready for new practices, processes or tools.

They say their employees simply wouldn’t be ready for the kind of transparency and personal responsibility that are central for virtually all modern collaboration platforms. This might include platforms for employee engagement, idea management or internal communication.

They often continue by saying that unless a culture shift happens prior to introducing these tools or related practices, they would be very likely to fail.

On the other hand, there are also people who see these practices, processes and tools as a way to actually create that change.

Let’s examine both sides of the argument. What does it take to shape culture and successfully introduce change to an organization?

Where Does Culture Come From?

To think about where culture comes from, we must first define what we mean by culture — which isn’t easy since there are probably as many definitions as there are leaders out there, none of which are perfect.

However, my favorite approach is to define culture as the collective way things are done in an organization, especially when the boss isn’t around.

There are a number of factors to consider:

  • The larger purpose and mission of the organization.
  • The collective values of the organization.
  • The personal values of each employee.
  • The formal processes and tools used by the organization.
  • The informal ways of working within the organization.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these factors.

Which Comes First, the Culture or the Practices? The Chicken-and-Egg Problem in HR Tech

The Purpose and Mission

Since there’s such a shortage of talent in most industries, talented employees can choose who they work for. This is especially the case for the most respected and influential people in each organization.

More often than not, these influential employees haven’t chosen the organization they work for based purely on factors such as benefits and compensation, as Daniel Pink argues in his book “Drive.” They often work for the organization because they believe in what it’s trying to achieve. Since others in the organization look up to these influential team members, they often follow suit and seek to help the organization achieve its mission, which has a big influence on how people behave.

The Collective Values of the Organization

Most organizations have core values that represent what they believe in. However, the values the organization has chosen and communicates to the outside world might not really reflect how it actually behaves.

A great example of this is the story of Enron. “Respect” and “integrity” were two of its core values, and it had a 65-page ethics manual elaborating how the company was supposed to behave.

Which Comes First, the Culture or the Practices? The Chicken-and-Egg Problem in HR Tech

However, the people in the organization, starting from the very top, chose not to act according to those values. They acted not based on respect and integrity, but on greed. Employees thus saw that kind of behavior as the way to succeed in the company and replicated it, which eventually led to Enron’s downfall.

So the collective values of your organization matter a lot, and they’re not just words. When your words and actions are at odds, it’s your actions that people will believe in and replicate.

The Personal Values of Employees

Just like the collective values of the organization, the personal values of employees affect behavior. These values can, and often do, also influence other employees.

Over time these individual values shape the larger collective values of the organization, which makes it crucial to choose employees with values that match your desired culture.

As Workday CEO Aneel Bhusri said in a recent episode of the Masters of Scale podcast, having a good fit between candidates’ personal values and your desired culture should always be a key factor in hiring decisions.

The Formal Processes of the Organization

The formal tools, practices and processes used by the organization also have a huge impact on the culture.

If you want your culture to be collaborative but most work and decisions happen individually, it’s quite unlikely that collaboration will thrive. It’s thus crucial that the tools, practices and processes that employees use daily are in line with the culture you want to create.

So if you’re looking to shape your culture to be more innovative, it makes sense to implement practices that encourage employees to innovate, be it via an idea-management process or a practice like Google’s “20 percent time.”

The Informal Ways of Working

If you have a problem with the office printer, the first thing you do probably isn’t to create a support ticket for your IT help desk. Instead you ask Alice for help since she’s the expert on that stuff.

And if it’s too difficult to get approval for new initiatives, the odds are that either you’ll become passive or you’ll find a way to implement the initiative even without permission.

All organizations have thousands of informal ways of working that have gradually become a part of the organization. These informal practices play a huge role in shaping the culture.

How Do You Shape Culture?

If those five factors define culture, how do you shape it?

It’s simple, really. You change those five factors to the direction you want to move and gradually people will adapt to the new norm, which results in the culture changing.

However, “simple” doesn’t necessarily mean “easy.”

Changes in your processes can have unintended consequences. It’s notoriously challenging to change people’s habits and ways of working. Your employees might not embrace the new values until they see management do so. They might even dislike the new values or mission and decide to leave.

There are plenty of practical challenges on actually making cultural change happen. The real question is “Where should we start?”

Which Comes First, the Chicken or the Egg?

Getting back to our original question, there are two basic approaches we can take to driving cultural change:

  • Start from the purpose and values.
  • Start from the processes, tools and ways of working.

Let’s look at each of them separately.

Which Comes First, the Culture or the Practices? The Chicken-and-Egg Problem in HR Tech

The Values-Driven Approach

Proponents of the values-driven approach call for clarifying the purpose of the organization and using that to identify core values that are critical for success.

We’ve heard plenty of talk about the importance of purpose and shared values for motivation and for organizational culture, and we’ve seen research to support these findings, such as the Two-Factor Theory.

The Action-Driven Approach

The other side of the argument is that values and a mission alone rarely result in anything concrete, even if people believe in them, unless they’re rooted in how the organization actually works.

Thus, the more vocal proponents of this approach say that changing an organization happens by collectively building new habits to replace the old ones, and that the important thing is to just get started.

Putting It All Together

The bottom line is that the argument between these schools of thought is somewhat artificial and academic. Yes, it’s hard, if not impossible, to act the right way before you have a purpose and a set of reinforcing values. And yes, you’ll never make change happen at large scale with just a purpose and a couple of values. But in real life you need both. You have to think about them together and you have to implement them together.

Just as with strategy and execution, values and actions are fundamentally linked. If the sides aren’t aligned or one side is lacking, failure is usually inevitable.

Of course, cultural change usually doesn’t — and shouldn’t! — mean that you need a 180-degree reversal of everything the organization stands for. It’s simply about making small adjustments to guide you toward achieving your mission.

So the next time you implement a new HR tech solution, ask yourself whether the tool is going to help you in your mission, and whether your culture should be changed to better accommodate the new tool achieve that purpose — and if so, how you plan to achieve that.

Innovation and Technology: The Irreplaceable Human Factor

Innovation is more than just a buzzword today — it’s everything. If organizations aren’t considered innovative, they’re deemed also-rans.

The problem with this mindset? Innovation is often equated with the newest forms of technology, as if innovation can’t happen without a huge assist from tech.

Here’s our reality: Innovation can — and must — occur without being driven by technology. Humans must continue to come up with big, new ideas while in the shower, on the backs of napkins, and, most importantly, with each other in one-on-one, human-to-human conversations.

It’s this low-tech innovation that creates some of our best ideas. Yes, technology almost always becomes the backbone of these new concepts. But the innovation didn’t start there. It started with an epiphany on the drive home, in a meeting when an “aha” moment spontaneously occurred and in moments of quiet reflection.

Because ultimately, technology is all about the “what” and the “how” — and not the question of “why.”

Focus on the Why

The “why” is what drives us.

Our “why” gives us purpose, motivation and even hope. Our “why” helps us stay focused on what matters. It enables us to overcome barriers to success. It inspires us to work hard, to pivot when necessary and to finish.

It seems like the more technology we have available, the more corners we want to cut. Building something faster, taller and bigger seems more important than starting with a solid “why” foundation. As a result, we seem less willing to work hard. Far too often along the way, we forget our “why.”

Technology can dramatically improve what we do and how we do it. But it can’t touch our “why” — which is a purely human driver of action.

Is Technology Always a Good Business Partner?

Sure, we can use artificial intelligence to help us make evidence-based decisions — and we should. As we become a more virtual workforce, we should take full advantage of communication tools like Slack and Zoom. Software as a Service and the cloud make it easier than ever to collaborate with people all over the world.

But if we don’t maintain the right “why,” the technology doesn’t help. Look, for example, at what applicant tracking systems did for the candidate experience. Sure, they made the lives of employers and recruiters easier. But that “easier” often came at the expense of employers’ brands. While certainly innovative in concept, was ATS great technology? Was it the right kind of “why”? Or, despite the best intentions, did ATS cross into the technological dark side?

Humans and Technology

I am a recovering Silicon Valley engineer who, in 1984, had a first-of-its-kind IBM PCjr on my desk. A few years later, I bought a Macintosh before most people had even heard of Apple. I proudly owned one of the first (and biggest, I admit) cell phones ever made by Motorola, and was thrilled with my suction-cup-mounted Magellan GPS. Having worked in a virtual capacity since 1999, I have embraced new digital, networking and communication innovation and technology at every turn. I’m not exactly a Luddite.

So I know that humans will and must leverage technology. I understand that “humans and technology” is quite literally an “and” statement, not an “or” statement.

And yet, I know technology isn’t always the answer. Hundreds of startups and Fortune 500 companies have taken on employee engagement — yet 30 years and billions of dollars later we haven’t improved employee engagement one bit. We’ve designed the best chatbots available, but customers can easily leave those automated conversations unfulfilled. We’ve had a relentless focus on company culture for the past decade, with many technology platforms designed to help us monitor and improve both culture and climate in the workplace — yet the vast majority of employees still rate their corporate culture as poor.

Technology Can’t Replace Innate Human Characteristics

In each of the scenarios above, it isn’t that the technology was poorly designed or executed. And it isn’t that people weren’t grateful for the assist from technology. It’s that they missed what matters most. Leaders and managers who care enough to genuinely engage with employees — not just when prompted to by an app. Fellow human beings who want to build human-to-human relationships, no matter how momentary, strong enough to make customers happy. And CXOs and team members who set out to build and invest in company culture where people feel valued and have a sense of belonging.

It is these simple human characteristics — caring, relationship-building and deliberate top-down attention to what matters most — that make our organizations “innovative.”

Because no matter how much we rely on technology to get the job done, it’s just along for the ride (unless we’re talking autonomous cars). Technology serves us well as the delivery mechanism. But it isn’t the difference-maker.

People provide that spark of innovation. We are the irreplaceable human factor.

Both Failure and Innovation Push Companies Forward

Today, technology evolves at lightning speed. Computers, phones, apps, and software programs, just to name a few are improving constantly. New innovations are introduced almost daily; the grunt work behind the innovation process is rarely seen. While success is ingenuity that is quickly rewarded, the role of failure is often overlooked. In reality though, failure plays a vital and irreplaceable role in rapid innovation.

The Role of Failure

It may seem counterintuitive, but repeated failures often lead to success. Baba Shiv, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business whose research focuses on innovation in the workplace, states “If you’re trying to solve a problem there are potentially hundreds of possible pathways to take, but only a few are going to lead to the appropriate solution. And the only way to discover that is to try and fail and try again.” Innovation occurs when one learns what works from learning what does not work. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs fear failure. In turn, they are averse to taking risks, shying away from what could be potential innovation. Even though the concept of learning from one’s mistakes is an old and known one, accepting failure within the workplace is something management constantly struggles with. Probably because the money and time – on part of the employee as well as the employer – cannot be easily quantified in terms of returns from failed attempts. However, according to Patrick Gray, author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology, “For innovation to become embedded in your organizational culture, not only must you learn to fail, but learn to do so early and often.”

Celebrating Failure

One way to inculcate a culture of accepting failure, and thereby promoting innovation is celebrating failure – much like success is celebrated. In an article by Victor Assad, Managing Partner at InnovationOne, Assad writes that certain organization are moving away from ratings, “rack and stack,” (forced ranking of employees) and the once-a-year-performance-review-here-is your-rating-and-pay-raise discussion—and all the destructive competition and hallway grumbling these practices engender. Instead, they are moving towards a continued performance feedback and subsequent recognition system, that doesn’t depend on ratings. If your innovation team is rapidly prototyping and failing, and if their failures are generating a trail of learning for the next innovation, then yes, reward them,” states Assad. It is this failure that leads to an understanding of what works and what doesn’t, ultimately turning what works into the next product or service model. Shiv corroborates this thought, stating that not only should significant successes be celebrated, but smaller ones alongside their failures should be rewarded. After all, breakthrough successes generally happen “after, or in tandem with, incremental ones.” Unfortunately, many leaders today still fear failure. A focus on exploration is hard to justify when companies need to keep their stocks up and pay their dividends. Yet, it is important to keep in mind that without embracing rapid failure and investing efforts into innovation, a competing company is bound to innovate first. As Shiv states, “If you don’t invest in exploration, someone else will, and then you’ll just be licensing or acquiring their know-how.”

Thriving in this sort of environment of rapid failure requires a different skillset from that of the traditional “rack and track” workplace. Thus, management should consider if team members are in the right roles during their failure analysis. Often, they will find that come employees are simply not cut out for innovation-oriented projects, contrary to the goals of a company that is being pushed forward by innovation itself. It is then integral to look for employees who not only survive, but also thrive in an environment of uncertainty; who see failure as an enabler to push technological and innovative borders.

Failure Analysis

Management needs to encourage fast failure, while simultaneously making sure that it doesn’t incur organizational retribution. Trusting a team’s judgement is integral to this, alongside the acceptance that they may sometimes make the wrong choice. Gray lays out a basic analysis process that allows employees to review what worked and what didn’t. As soon as an effort has failed, an objective investigation must take place. This investigation should consider which factors were misjudged, if incorrect resources were assigned, or technologies used that did not fulfill the task. All team members including junior staff that have insight to everyday activities that contributed to the failed effort should be included in this analysis. At all times is key to “regard the failure and its analysis as efforts to move forward, rather than efforts to assign blame or fight old battles.” For example, if an employee was unable to perform a certain task, a new role could be given to that employee, or a structure could be changed to ensure his future success. Ultimately, the failure should be used to learn how to improve and move forward, rather than assign unwarranted blame.

While it can sometimes be a scary thought, failure is what pushes innovation. Humans are naturally predisposed to learn from failure, and it is this learning that encourages the creation of new developments. Companies that don’t allow for failure will never keep up with those that are constantly innovating and exploring. Surely management will hit more dead ends than breakthrough innovations, but quickly assessing and reviewing failed efforts will lead to a cycle of innovation, which will push a company forward in today’s world of technological dynamism.

Photo Credit: jancamilleri Flickr via Compfight cc

This article was first published on FOW Media.

Want to Build a Culture of Innovation? Start with Experimentation

We talk a lot about needing a culture of innovation to thrive amidst digital transformation, but we should take that conversation a step back. A culture of innovation cannot exist without a culture of experimentation. If you want your organization to make the most of digital transformation, your success is going to hinge on your ability to determine what works best for your company.

Modern business is far more competitive and data-reliant than it was in the past, and that means a misstep can set your business back tremendously if a project doesn’t pan out as expected. Testing is crucial to avoid failures and to uncover any hidden potential a project may have. As you move your company toward a digital transformation, testing not only needs to be part of the process—it also needs to be a tenet of your company culture.

Innovation Depends on Experimentation

Someone might come up with a potentially fantastic idea only to have it fall flat in the implementation phase. This can happen due to technical failures, unaccounted contingencies, or unknown variables that only rear their heads once a project has reached a critical point. Even the most innovative idea won’t have legs to stand on without adequate testing. As more companies embrace digital transformation and start making moves to take their organizations into the future, the changes grow more drastic and far-reaching. It is imperative to test new ideas thoroughly before making them part of daily operations. When you work toward building a company culture of experimentation, you naturally encourage innovation.

Building a process for testing is just one part of creating a company culture of experimentation. If you truly want to encourage experimentation, you need to bolster it on an individual basis. Digital transformation is challenging modern companies to rethink their business strategies, project management processes, workforce silos, and departmental structures. Part of digital transformation also needs to be employee-focused at the individual level so that brainstorming, risk-taking, and experimentation become part of every process in your company.

Competition Drives Innovation

Most people know that risk is a large part of business. Some companies shy away from experimentation because of the fear of failure, but the risk of not taking action is similarly destructive. Taking the time to develop a comprehensive testing environment is one of the best ways to encourage risk-taking without the looming shadow of business-crushing failure. When you encourage your workforce to brainstorm new ideas and new ways of doing things, you’ll find that staying competitive and flexible is much easier in the constantly shifting business landscape.

A big part of creating a culture of experimentation is teaching your teams how to celebrate failure. Not every idea will play out as intended, and as long as it only affects a testing environment, that failure becomes teachable data. Pouncing on every new development or offering from your competitors isn’t a good method for encouraging new ideas. If you’re just copying other companies’ ideas, this type of reactionary thinking doesn’t push your company forward.

Taking risks doesn’t seem as daunting when you develop a testing environment and make experimentation part of the everyday routine. Encouraging collaboration, brainstorming, and contributing new ideas at every level of your organization is going to make challenges from competitors feel more like games than obstacles. When your workforce knows that you not only approve of experimentation, but you also encourage it—this will naturally drive your employees to challenge themselves and their old ways of thinking.

Create a New Culture from the Top Down

Getting buy-in from upper management is often one of the most challenging tasks when it comes to getting a new idea off the ground. Some companies’ leadership may be unwilling or hesitant to embrace change, but it’s important for the C-suite to encourage a culture of experimentation and lead by example. Testing is critical to driving motivation. It’s much easier to get buy-in when you roll out a new development in a testing environment, when the risk is minimal.

A thorough testing process can put executives at ease when you propose a new idea, and successful results will naturally lead to more buy-in and approval. A testing environment shouldn’t solely be a tool for placating hesitant executives—it should also be a means of encouraging input and collaboration across every level of the organization. The C-suite should support it, since it will help create a culture of innovation and digital transformation.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

The Role of Failure in Rapid Innovation
Company Culture: The Magic Ingredient You’ve Been Missing
Does Business Agility Depend on Company Culture?

This article was first published on Forbes. 

 

TECHIE-NOLOGY

Imagine this World for a moment. Computers no longer exist. Mobile technology is a fantasy we desire, but it’s not obtainable because it only exists in science fiction movies. Medical equipment like MRIs that can detect cancer in its early stages, and the da Vinci robotic device that reduces human surgical error are only ideas on a piece of paper. The very thought is unsettling, isn’t it? We are a society so enveloped in, and by technology, that the very thought of losing these items is unconscionable. Simply, we are technology dependent with adapted lifestyles to incorporate technology into our lives without hesitation or resistance. As the demand for more and better technology increases every day, so does the demand for those individuals who long to create the next generation of technological advancements. Enter the enthusiastic technical guru also known as a nerd.

Understanding the Misunderstood

Techies are assumed to be nerds or geeks, but that’s a fictitious negative stereotype cooked up by Hollywood in an attempt to sell movies and gain sponsors for television advertising. They don’t necessarily wear pocket protectors in their shirt. Not all are introverts who prefer the company of a motherboard or programming code to the company of co-workers, though being introverted is not a societal deficit… another group stigmatized without warrant. Techies conceptualize and create at the intersection of various strengths like mathematical ability, engineering know-how, mechanical aptitude, and the curiosity of a cat. All are commendable traits. Further, they possess the inquisitive nature necessary to continue exploration for the next, best thing, or at the very least, improve functionality of the current technology.

Why Don’t We “Get” Them?

They help the World to better collaborate, communicate and be productive, but as a group, they often fall under hard times in regards to their reputation. I find it ironic that as a society so dependent on the conceptualizations and creations of these individuals, we unfairly brand them with labels perceived through our own insecurities, perhaps.

As a result, this labeling created a group of people called closet geeks. These people fear being discovered and negatively labeled by the world-at-large, in part because, they are misunderstood. Some may feel they lack strength in numbers and may not want to step out of the shadows of their comfort zone lest to be branded. Others don’t want their creative juices to be commented on only because they “get this stuff” because they are geeks or nerds. Makes me wonder if there is a bit of geek-envy going on. Could there be people who desire the unbridled creativity of the techie brain, but wish to avoid the burden of negative labeling? I guess there are people who will not step up to admit it, but given the on-going demand for what the prodigies of the label have to offer, I will say, yes there are. Really, who doesn’t want to invent or create the next best thing?

Blazing Trails

People like Steve Jobs helped to assuage some of this stigma, as does the new generation of technological entrepreneurs that are cropping up in startling numbers. Also, the overall need and demand for the next, best technological advancement touching any facet of life whether that be in a business capacity or something that affects us personally has helped some people move past the nerd labeling. But we’re not quite there yet. Societal stereotypes and gaining buy-in to these erroneous perceptions is much easier than expunging these beliefs. As with any group underserved, some techies have risen from the ashes of being stigmatized to stand united and take pride in having their geek on.

Others have serendipitously come upon discoveries in ways that were not intended, but that didn’t keep society from labeling them. Take the microwave oven for example. Its humble beginnings started when someone standing too close to a machine emitting microwaves noticed that his chocolate bar had melted in his pants pocket. Point in case, not all technological advancements came about due to a specific intention to invent. Sometimes techies stumble upon advancements that can be every bit as exciting as intentionally working towards the goal.

So I challenge everyone reading this post to think about the last time you said, “Wouldn’t be great if X, Y and Z could do this?” Or, “I wish we had an X, Y and Z because I could get my work done so much faster.” You’ve said this, haven’t you? Of course you have. News flash… we all have. Does this make us geeks? Well, that’s a self-discovery you’ll need to determine on your own. In the meantime, keep enjoying the fruits of labor from our techie friends, and remember; a world without techies is like a day without sunshine.

Photo Credit: sirromneruall Flickr via Compfight cc

5 Ways to Earn Trust: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Are you looking for that leadership silver bullet that will propel you past the competition? You can take public speaking courses and enroll in an MBA program or you can attempt the single easiest feat for which an individual can strive, trustworthiness.

Leadership is built on one core concept—trust. Without it, you can forgo every other attribute espoused by management experts. Confidence without trust is an egomaniac. Charisma without trust is a charlatan. And vision without trust is a hypocrite. This was supported by a meta-analysis study from leading trust researcher and Georgetown University professor Daniel McAllister.

Published in the Academy of Management Journal, McAllister concluded that leaders viewed as trustworthy generate a culture where team members:

  • display greater innovation, agility, and responsiveness to changing conditions;
  • take risks because they believe they will not be taken advantage of;
  • do not expend needless time, effort, and resources on self preservation; and
  • go above and beyond to exhibit higher performing customer service, brand loyalty, and problem solving.

This leads to a competitive advantage through significantly higher commitment, satisfaction, retention, and performance. Similarly, research from the Ken Blanchard Companies found a strong correlation between trust and the behaviors associated with highly productive employees—discretionary effort, willingness to endorse the organization, performance, and a desire to be a “good organizational citizen.”

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”—Stephen Covey

Before you get insulted that I’m explaining something as elementary as the benefits of trust, have you heard of the Edelman Trust Barometer? The ETB has surveyed tens of thousands of people across dozens of countries about their level of trust in business, media, government, and nongovernmental organizations. In its 17th year, this is the first time the study found a decline in trust across all four institutions in all 28 countries surveyed.

For leaders, one of the more disturbing findings of the ETB is the shocking lack of confidence in leadership—63% of participants said corporate CEOs are either not at all or somewhat credible. That means only 37% maintained the credibility of CEOs, a 12-point drop from last year, and this is consistent around the world. CEOs are more trusted than government leaders (29%), but that’s setting a pretty low bar. Plus, with this “trust void,” only 52% said they trust business to do what is right.

So if trust is important and society is not feeling it, what can we do? Good news: you can (re)build trust. Here are five techniques to consider:

  1. Recognition, Recognition, Recognition. To increases trust between leaders and employees, nothing does it faster than acknowledging their achievements. It indicates you are paying attention and reinforces positive behaviors.
  2. Show Compassion. Did I say recognition is the fasted way to build trust? It won’t mean anything if you don’t already have a foundation of respect. Just try influencing someone who doesn’t respect you; see how engaged they are in your ideas. Treat your team like real-life people—listen to their ideas, care about their feelings, and empathize with their concerns.
  3. Keep to Your Word. You can’t build trust without following through on promises. Your team needs to believe that what you say is sincere, so follow through on commitments.
  4. Don’t Hide Your Humanity. Being human means showing your imperfections. Your ability to discuss your mistakes and share what you have learned from it makes you more relatable. No one is concerned with transparency for the good stuff; they need you to fess up to faults, so show your vulnerable side.
  5. Smile. If you don’t want to do something substantive to build your trust and would prefer a gimmick, consider a recent study published in Psychological Science where convicted murders with trustworthy faces received more lenient sentences then their peers with untrustworthy faces. The key, it seems, is that a gentle smile increases how trustworthy others perceive you. Keep in mind, that it needs to be gentle—too big can be seen as duplicitous or insincere, while too small may be seen as sarcastic or leering.

“I doubt that we can ever successfully impose values or attitudes or behaviors on our children certainly not by threat, guilt, or punishment. But I do believe they can be induced through relationships where parents and children are growing together. Such relationships are, I believe, build on trust, example, talk, and caring.”—Fred Rogers

We live in untrustworthy times, but that does not mean we have to lead in an untrustworthy manner. Generate a culture where honesty, transparency, and truth are the basis of your organization. This must start at the top of the organizational hierarchy with you. The team will trust you once you establish that you trust the team. It may take time, but as Seth Godin says, “Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.”

TalentCulture Corner Office Talks Marketing, Branding And Innovation With Brian Carter

In this Corner Office article, Cyndy Trivella, Events Manager with TalentCulture, spoke with Brian Carter, Founder and CEO of The Carter Group and Co-author of the best-selling book The Cowbell Principle. Brian is one of the most innovative people in business, and a marketing and branding genius. He went from a state of unemployment to building one of the biggest and most successful non-traditional agencies in the social marketing space.

Cyndy and Brian talked about the struggles people face with marketing, managing their brands, the challenges of business ownership, and value of innovating responsibly. In line with our series, this article will highlight the perspective and experience of someone who has made the move to the “corner office.”

Cyndy: Brian, I can understand why you easily engage with people. You always have a thoughtful way of explaining things and I know our readership will appreciate your comments. So let’s begin with you. What are the top challenges you face in your current role?

Brian: We’re currently facing growth challenges in my consultancy, the Brian Carter Group. We’re hiring and streamlining our back-office, CRM, accounting and client onboarding processes. And because we don’t want to use the typical agency model, we emphasize only having experts doing our clients’ work. So we grow personnel slowly, which means a lot of work for each of our experts. This means morale, communication and efficiency are critical to our clients’ success and to ours. I work directly on our communication systems and make sure we stick to processes that will keep us efficient.

Cyndy: I applaud you for breaking the mold on the stereotypical agency model and it sounds like a lot of high-quality work is being produced because of it.

So in full transparency, the thing that brought you to my attention, well over a year ago, was your book, The Cowbell Principle. You and your co-author, Garrison Wynn, take an interesting approach to offering career advice in the book using the cowbell to help people recognize their unique gifts, their personal brand and how to capitalize on them to find success and happiness. So tell me why is finding and sharing our personal cowbell so difficult?

Brian: A cowbell is a passion, talent or skill that you enjoy and so do others. To start, a lot of people don’t develop their skills, or don’t know what their talent is, or don’t pursue their talent. And sometimes they have emotional hang-ups about the thing they love or pursuing what they love.

Conversely, there are people who believe they should pursue what they love no matter what effect it has on others— that’s not a cowbell either. It has to be something that is valuable to others.

Honestly, a lot of people want to do “good-enough” work and go home and watch Netflix. I feel that temptation, too. Finding or developing a cowbell requires a desire for greatness and a rejection of mediocrity. If you’re not driven by something, or toward something, you won’t excel and you won’t stand out.

Cyndy: What you’ve just said is very impactful, especially about not understanding our skills, strengths and gifts. No doubt, some people struggle with brand identity and marketing their attributes. What’s odd is, I see this same problem affecting companies and in many ways they suffer with the same issues. So why do companies struggle with marketing their brand?

Brian: First off, a lot of companies don’t have a brand, or at least not an exceptional, interesting, developed one. And just because you created a logo doesn’t mean you have a brand. There are a lot of crappy logos out there.

Branding is about identity. Who are you? Who is your company? How are you unique? Just as with the cowbell question, a lot of people don’t have an answer to the uniqueness question. They aren’t doing anything unique.

It takes work to find that thing. Exploration. A commitment to a difficult search within.

And once you find it, the guts to stick to that brand. Not wanting to be all things to all people. Being willing to turn some people off in order to turn others on. That’s scary, it really is. But leaders need to have that kind of courage. And when you don’t have courage, you don’t have a great brand.

Once you have that brand, marketing it is easy — if you know what it is, you should be able to convey it in video and blog posts and other media. If you can’t, you may not really know what your brand is yet.

These days, it’s a good idea to let customer feedback influence how your brand develops. When you see what Facebook posts they like and don’t like, which ones they share or don’t share that tells you which parts of your brand resonate with customers and which ones don’t. If you want your brand to move customers to take action, you need to pay attention to how they respond to it.

Cyndy: Great advice to people and companies, alike. Without a unique value proposition, it’s impossible to distinguish one person or company from another. So I have a last question. If innovation keeps companies relevant and timely, why do some companies and employees believe business should continue as “we’ve always done it that way?”

Brian: You should never innovate just because something is new. The innovation has to be better than the old way, and the benefits of adopting the innovation have to outweigh the costs of changing.

Every time you change how things are done in your company, you create inefficiencies, even if they’re temporary. And you may find that some of your employees just can’t adjust. They might quit or you might have to let them go, which is costly. And further, there’s a cost to replacing them.

So it’s important to ask if the innovation is worth it. Is it going to last? Who is going to have trouble adapting to it? How big of a problem will that be?

It’s always hard to get people to change, and there are smart ways to get them to adapt, so you’ll never be able to avoid the grumbling and inefficiencies that come with change, but make sure the change is worth it before you implement it.

Cyndy: Change, even when for the better, can be scary for many people. Weighing the pros and cons makes a lot of sense when considering the benefits and consequences of innovating.

Brian, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you for your time and insights.

Brian: I appreciate it and enjoyed the conversation. Thank you.

Photo Credit: vervocity via Compfight cc

5 Steps To Unleash The Power Of Your People

Let’s be honest. A lot of people are unhappy at their jobs. They feel unfulfilled, unappreciated, stifled and just plain bored. And their performance reflects it.

Many of us have been there at some point in our work lives: crummy boss, lame culture (think logo mugs and posters riddled with “upbeat” clichés), and defeated colleagues who could pass for zombies in a pinch. Everybody loses in a situation like this: the organization limps along, and incredible amounts of employee potential are wasted.

But there are ways to banish zombieland and turn your company into a hive of happy employees bringing their best self to work everyday. The key is to unleash people’s inner intrapreneurship. This is the part of us that bubbles with ideas to improve (or create new) products, services, processes, and policies within the company we work for. Entrepreneurs, of course, create their own companies. The successful ones burn with passion, drive, and vision. Intrapreneurs bring that same energy to their current workplaces. With amazing results.

Here are 5 steps to creating a Workplace that buzzes with energy, creativity, passion, and happy intrapreneurs:

1) Get The Message Out. Leaders must start by stating it, plainly and simply: “We honor, welcome, even crave, your ideas, your creativity, your talents, your passions. Look around the company. If you have any ideas for improvement, or even whole new products or processes, let us know. The door is always open.” Find a thousand ways large and small to reinforce their intrapreneurial mindset. Solicit ideas – from everyone in the organization (sometimes amazing innovations come from unexpected places) – using social media, contests, recognition, etc.

2) Put Tools In Place To Turn Ideas Into Action. It’s no good to get lots of maybe-great ideas, and then just have them sit there. It’s all about action. You must have a mechanism in place (and this means allocating resources) that allows your intrapreneurs to model, prototype and test their ideas. Otherwise, your credibility is damaged and, more importantly, you’ll never know if the idea is good, great, or not viable. Never ever belittle or dismiss an idea out of hand. Give it a respectful hearing even if you feel it’s not viable.

3) Be Honest About The Challenges. Let everyone know where you need help, or where there is room for improvement. When that part-time assistant hears that there’s a bottleneck in inter-organizational communication (and that you welcome ideas for solving it), she may well go home, brew up a pot of coffee, and, using her front-line experience, come up with a brilliant idea for breaking the bottleneck. So stoke the fires of intrapreneurship by asking for help, framing your challenges as fascinating puzzles that ignite the imagination.

4) Offer Education And Career Enrichment. The more engaged in work and in life your people are, the more their intrapreneurial impulses will be encouraged and nurtured. When we engage in activities and learning that feed our passions, we bring that passion to work with us. So pay for courses, classes, and activities that spark curiosity, build confidence, and may well lead to ideas and innovations that will boost performance and profits.

5) Think Happy. I know, that sounds like one of the clichés I mocked earlier, but hear me out. I’m not talking about mindless happiness, smiley emoticons (it’s really time for those things to go the way of the Edsel), and forced cheer. I’m talking about the bone-deep sense of satisfaction that we all get when we’re working on projects that engage our talents, heart and soul. I’m talking about earned happiness. If you want to see what it looks like, check out any successful entrepreneur. Every single person in your organization should know that kind of happiness is within reach. When you see people who can’t wait to get to work in the morning, you’ll know you’ve created intrapreneurs who will radiate a highly contagious fulfillment and happiness. It’s a beautiful thing.

Talent is a terrible thing to waste. Most companies are using only a fraction of their employees’ potential. Intrapreneurship is all about unlocking and unleashing those vast reservoirs of talent in service of your organization. It won’t happen overnight, but if you get started today you’ll see an almost immediate boost in morale and energy. And before too long, one of your intrapreneurs may come up with an innovation that will transform your company. This is exciting stuff. Let’s get going.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes 08/25/2013

 

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