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Why Employees Need Leaders to Lead by Example

We bought mental health tools, but has everyone bought in? Many companies understand the importance of promoting mental health in the workplace. As a result, they have enacted programs and policies designed to put the well-being of their employees first. A recent MetLife survey found that at least 68% of respondents working at companies with more than 100 employees report having a wide range of programs designed to prevent mental health problems. 

To make the most significant impact, a sharper focus on support should become a key aspect of a company’s culture. But cultural values, and the effectiveness of any company initiative, can only be established with buy-in from all parts of the company – management especially. So now more than ever, employers seeking to improve employee mental health must first improve their understanding and involvement in mental health initiatives. 

This article will discuss the role managers play in employee well-being and how to lead by example. First, we’ll look at how employers can impact employees, both positively and negatively. Then we’ll examine how employers can maximize their positive impact as they lead by example.

Understand the Role Managers can Have on Employee Well-being

While most managers aim to support their employees, they may not be aware of how their managerial style can affect mental health. A 2020 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, & Health found that in workforces where leaders and managers whose “quality of leadership” has higher levels of traits perceived as fair, empowering, and supportive, employees have a lower risk of reporting mental distress. Similarly, teams that embody these same traits show a more “protective, prospective effect on employee mental health.” 

On the other hand, passive leadership predicts higher levels of role ambiguity, conflict, and overload – all of which lead to psychological work fatigue and have been shown to influence overall mental health negatively. 

Without a doubt, managers play a huge and direct role in the mental well-being of their employees. However, managers also play a more indirect role. The example they set for employees may increase – or inadvertently decrease – how likely they are to engage with mental health resources and initiatives. Employers that show little buy-in to health initiatives may unwittingly diminish the perceived importance of these programs, thereby limiting employee participation. The stigmas associated with mental health mean that many employees may not be initially willing to bring mental health conversations into their workplace. They may require the encouragement of their managers before they can do so. 

Support Your Employees and Lead by Example

HR professionals are acutely aware of leadership’s important role in bolstering workplace wellbeing. According to Unmind’s 2022 Mental Health Trends Report, 76% of HR professionals believe senior leadership needs to boost their well-being IQ. To drive real, long-lasting change, workplace leaders must work on supporting the policies they seek to implement. You can accomplish this by being seen modeling healthy behaviors, creating open channels of communication, and continuing to learn.

Model Healthy Behaviors

Modeling healthy behaviors can be one of the most effective ways to show your employees your commitment to mental health. Unfortunately, according to a recent MetLife survey, only 1 in 3 employees believed that their organizational leaders lead by example when it comes to mental health. This included sharing their difficulty with stress, burnout, depression, and other mental health problems. While it can be difficult to talk about personal mental health challenges, doing so is one of the best ways employers can continue to destigmatize mental wellbeing. 

Modeling healthy behaviors such as those described above, in conjunction with others such as establishing breaks, encouraging time off, and creating divisions between home and work can underscore leadership’s commitment to inclusivity and communication. Most importantly, doing so may give employees the push they need to open up about their issues, thereby allowing managers to help them or guide them to the resources they need. 

Create and Maintain Channels of Communication with Employees

Opening up about personal mental health is only one part of the solution. Managers must also strive to create and maintain open communication channels with their employees. This will help them feel comfortable sharing and ultimately resolving their challenges.

Encouraging discussion and openness is a critical component of supporting employees. But unfortunately, not everyone feels comfortable or has had a positive experience opening up.  A recent survey by Mind Share Partners found that less than 40% of employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work to other colleagues, their managers, and HR. Furthermore, only about half of the respondents (49%) described their experience as positive.

Managers must assure their employees that opening up about mental health will be met with support and care.. Letting them know that leadership is an ally in combating – rather than a contributing factor – to workplace stressors. The Mind Share report also found that employees who did feel supported by their employers were twice as likely to talk about their mental health at work. In addition, employees reported higher job satisfaction and were more likely to stay with their company. 

Keep Learning

Unfortunately, the ongoing shifts in workplace dynamics suggest that mental health in the workplace will only continue to garner importance. Despite this, most managers lack formal training on mental health issues, which means that even though employers might be willing to help and support employees, they may be unable to do so. 

Formal training sessions and making mental health support resources available to all levels of leadership will help employers deal with employee mental health more effectively. Training and support will also tell employees that their issues will be taken seriously.

In leading by example, employers are taking on a more dynamic and effective role in supporting employee wellbeing. While it may not always be easy, doing so is the best way to drive real change and create an open, healthy workplace where employees can thrive. 

Mentoring and the Employee Connection

Podcast Sponsored by: Together

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, experts believe that high levels of loneliness and disengagement at work caused by the pandemic could be addressed by mentoring. Additionally, surveys have shown that more than 90% of professionals who work with first-generation college students through mentoring and career development programs believe their experience as a mentor has helped them become better leaders or managers at work.

Our Guest: Matt Reeves

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Matt Reeves, CEO of Together, a software platform focused on enabling companies to run best-in-class internal mentorship programs. Together Software helps organizations run internal mentorship programs that intelligently match every employee with the best person for them to learn from. We asked Matt to tell us what a mentorship program is. He explains:

A mentorship program within an organization is where you’re pairing two colleagues together, usually a more junior employee who’s the mentee with a more senior employee who’s the mentor, for career development and career guidance. Typically, these employees meet on a particular cadence like once a month over a year or even more.

Mentorship programs are becoming more and more in demand by employees who crave a better employee experience and career guidance. In addition, mentorship programs can help companies with employee retention, which helps drive bottom-line results. But, programs are evolving as the workforce changes. Matt:

We’ve seen companies breaking the mold and experimenting with different types of mentorship programs with the common thread being helping their employees learn from their colleagues through conversations.

The Flavors of Mentorship

There are different types of mentorship approaches. Some are more traditional, and some are more out of the box. The best match for a company depends on the needs of the employees.

The traditional approach is a one-on-one program. You have a more senior mentor mentoring a more junior mentee for a specific period. Certainly, peer programs are very common, as well as reverse programs where you have a less senior employee who’s perhaps more experienced in a particular topic mentoring a more senior employee. And then where we see many organizations have a lot of success in breaking the mold is on the duration piece of the program and adding flexibility for the participants.

Benefits for the Mentor and Mentee

Both mentor and mentee have different reasons for wanting to participate in a mentorship program. Matt explains:

I think most people understand why a mentee would want to participate – to learn, develop and progress in their career. I think they want to participate on the mentor side because they are more senior. When you’re more senior in an organization, you are expected to be a people developer and culture carrier.

This is also something participants can bring to performance reviews and use in conversations around promotion and compensation as part of a company’s overall performance assessment of their employees.

Technology and the Mentorship Experience 

Our final question to Matt – we asked him his thoughts on using technology to keep mentors and mentees connected. He answered:

From an administrative standpoint, it significantly reduces the workload. From the employee standpoint, there is a much-improved employee experience. For example, a manual program can take time to match mentor and mentee. Not a great experience if you’re paired with someone who has left the organization. Something easily avoidable if you’re using technology.

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. For tips and ideas on what a mentorship program could look like for your organization, go to togetherplatform.com.

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!

The Urgency Epidemic – Prioritization & Productivity

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

Our Guest:  Brandon Smith

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

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

As Brandon states:

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

When Does a Sense of Urgency Become A Problem?

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

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

The Urgency Trap

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

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

Escaping the Urgency

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Trust and Transparency Matter in the Workplace

Many business experts champion trust in the workplace. They include the likes of Stephen Covey and my dear friend, David Horsager. (His 8 Pillars of Trust and his many excellent books should be required reading.) However, what is perhaps less well known is the neuroscience of trust. As a species, we’ve developed an array of neurochemical survival mechanisms. Employers often ignore these mechanisms, and as a result, miss the opportunity to build trust and transparency in the workplace. 

The Neuroscience of Mistrust

Let’s start with the opposite of trust. It is the “fight or flight” response we experience when faced with a perceived threat. These “threats” elevate the hormone cortisol, which narrows our focus to deal only with the immediate. The threat could be actual, imminent, physical, or merely a harsh interruption in our day. The problem is, our bodies can’t easily tell the difference.

Of course, cortisol has other important functions. Cortisol controls blood sugar levels, memory formation, and blood pressure. At normal levels, it keeps us engaged with the day’s activities. When elevated, cortisol puts us on “alert status” and makes trust a low priority.

Trust and the Willingness to Take Risks

In my book, The Velocity Mindset, I discussed how cortisol can prevent leadership teams from identifying and achieving objectives. Additionally, I highlighted the role another hormone, oxytocin, plays in velocity (speed with direction and alignment).

Trust in the workplace—and its neurochemical roots—are key drivers for business success. Compelling research by Dr. Paul Zak and others champions the well-established science around oxytocin and trust. According to one study, oxytocin “affects an individual’s willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions.” Additionally, researchers have found that oxytocin “enhances an individual’s propensity to trust a stranger when that person exhibits non-threatening signals.”

Obviously, creating artificial trust in the workplace via oxytocin injections would be a short-sighted and ethical nightmare. Nevertheless, there must be practical ways to promote trust knowing that our biology.

Fortunately, trust in the workplace can be accomplished with common-sense approaches, as Horsager and others have shown. An Oxford study summarizes the key drivers and human resource practices that develop trust. These include mutual respect, open communication, and fairness, especially in appraisals of work. The study also identifies factors which decrease trust, such as a lack of transparency in decision-making.

The Risk of Betrayal in the Workplace

Trust is the gold standard. It is the glue that makes alignment and velocity possible. The benefits of increased trust in the workplace are enormous. Over the long term, it increases individual employee productivity and engagement. To paraphrase Zak, it improves collaboration and cultivates a happier, more productive workforce. On the other hand, the consequences of breaking that trust are far worse than not having it in the first place.

Studies have shown that a betrayal of trust, whether familial, cultural, or institutional, creates high levels of long-term stress, including the release of cortisol. If such responses become ingrained in an employee’s experience and memory, the chances of returning to a state of unqualified trust are slim. Consequently, employees might resist a manager or HR professional’s efforts to right a wrong or be transparent after a breach of trust. 

Though a proactive HR team may be capable of rebuilding this trust, the effort is complicated by the very neurochemicals that make us human.

Transparency: The Path To Velocity

It is not easy to win trust and transparency in the workplace. As a result, people are taking a risk when asked to make decisions that may not benefit them. The deciding factor is often how comfortable they are with those asking the question. Transparency, trustworthiness, empathy, and understanding are not just words. They are requirements for every HR professional and executive who aspires to true leadership. 

Today, it is impossible to take a “my way or the highway” approach to business. We need everyone’s buy-in to remain focused on tasks that support a purpose. Trust and transparency in the workplace, like everything else that enables leadership, begins with an understanding of what makes us human. And most importantly, it requires a willingness to work hard to gain that trust. 

How To Find Your Leadership DNA

What is your leadership DNA? It is your authentic self. The concept of authentic leadership is often bantered about. In my experience of working with leaders from the best of the best global companies, the most impactful definition is being the leader you were designed to be. How do you do that? Find your leadership DNA.

There is no one characteristic of a great leader. There are actually millions. The best characteristics for you are already hard-wired in you.  You just need to identify, build and leverage your strengths, passions and experiences to be that kind of leader you were designed to be.

Why is being an authentic leader so powerful?

People gravitate to authentic leaders. However, so many people want to copy an admired leader. This is unlikely to work for you for your brain is not hard-wired for this style. It may, in fact, focus you on your weaknesses. 

It takes great effort to fix a weakness. Instead, take that effort and focus it on further developing your strengths. Leverage the way your brain is hard-wired.

We are uniquely created. Each of us possesses a unique set of gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses, emotions and passions. Whether it is handed down to us though our parent’s genes, taught to us as we are raised from childhood to adults, or bestowed upon us from a higher power; we are who we are. There is a reason why we act, think and feel the way we do. Who we are is hard-wired into our brains.

In “A User’s Guide to the Brain,” Dr. John Ratey writes: 

“The brain is not a neatly organized system. It is often compared to an overgrown jungle of 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons…The neurons form an interconnected tangle with 100 trillion, constantly changing, connections. The connections guide our bodies and behaviors, even as every thought and action we take physically, modifies their patterns. Our neurons are constantly competing to make connections and these connections are what make us who we are.”

If you want to be average, focus on fixing your weaknesses.

When I was a child, I was poor in math. My parents did what most Asian parents would do: they got me a math tutor. Every night with my tutor I went through hell. After three months of working hard, night after night of feeling stupid, I was able to take my math skills from poor up to… slightly above poor. 

Then I got into the business world. The end of the year performance appraisal surfaced that I was weak in my analytical planning. So, week after week, month after month I worked on it. I was able to get my analytical skills up to average.  

What am I becoming? Average.

Now, there is nothing wrong with average. If you want to be average, this is a good approach. However, many of us want to be exceptional at something. If you want to be distinctive, an authentic leader, you need to identify your strengths and leverage them by focusing on developing them even further. If your organization provides a training budget for you, sign up for training courses to enhance your strengths. 

McKinsey’s study on centered leadership shows: 

“Of all the dimensions of centered leadership, meaning has a significant impact on satisfaction with both work and life; indeed, its contribution to general life satisfaction is five times more powerful than that of any other dimension.”

Leverage not only your strengths, but also your passions. These combined with your experiences are a powerful combination. 

How to find your leadership DNA?

1. Identify your strengths and passions.

There are many tools out there that can help you find them. Here are a few to check out:

2. Drill down for specificity.

Whatever tool you use, it’s important to drill down to more specifically determine the who, what, where and when for each. This brings more clarity and breaks things down into bite-size, actionable pieces.

3. Take action, now!

In his book “Smartcuts”, Shane Snow writes about the power of the “Big Mo” (momentum). Momentum is key! 

Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile has found that the answer is simply progress. A sense of forward motion. Regardless of how small. Amabile found that minor victories at work were nearly as psychologically powerful as major breakthroughs. And momentum isn’t just a powerful ingredient of success. It’s also a powerful predictor of success.

Small steps add up! Use the power of compounding. One step forward brings you joy, especially if that step allows you to work on the things you are good at or love doing. One step forward gives you a sense of accomplishment and a positive feeling that you are getting closer to your goal of authenticity.

Get on the path of being an authentic leader, more of who you already are by taking action now, and moving down that path.

5 Ways Leaders Can Create a Successful Work Environment

impact awardWhat is a great “place” to work today? With many abandoning the office tower or business park cubicle office, we’re increasingly emerging from an era of great workplaces to the new territory of worker-centricity. While some thought the great place to work was about amenities (commuter buses, reduced or free food, and onsite everything), we’ve known something else all along–supportive leadership in the work environment is key. 

Executives in great organizations believe that every employee benefits from outstanding leadership. Engagement is dependent on leadership, as Gallup’s research consistently reports that nearly 70% of employee engagement is within a manager’s control. Managers who prosper in today’s hybrid work environment will boost engagement with the five core leadership practices.

1. Building and sustaining trust.

The core of the coming modern enterprise is an authentic leader’s ability to gain and establish trust. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed declining confidence in social institutions and organizational leaders worldwide. The world’s two largest economies, China and the U.S., showed significant decreases in the trust of both politicians and corporate executives. Employees who trust their leaders demonstrate greater satisfaction, loyalty, and involvement, all antidotes to undesirable talent drain and loss.

Trust fuels the teamwork and progress that leads to innovation, a key determinant of long-term growth and survival. Managers erode trust when they are not honest and truthful, and trust is difficult to regain. Trust erosions lead to decreases in integrity, and we don’t fully engage with those we don’t trust. Successful leaders engage and enroll people in goal-driven missions that spark collaboration leading to improved teamwork and productivity. 

2. Leading from values.

When was the last time you considered what your team or company holds in high regard? Typically, we keep our values in the highest regard and build reward and consequence systems that reflect leaders’ values. Engineers and scientists, for example, are recognized for their accomplishments with honorific titles or other expressions of acknowledgment. At the same time, sales and marketing professionals might reap great expense-paid prizes. The more selective the set of values, the more they shape performance.

Values help people connect to organizations and the world in ways more significant than individual accomplishment and effort. For example, if a startup values frugality, people will likely be encouraged to monitor capital and resource consumption. When a manager recognizes effort routinely, the manager demonstrates care and will actively bolster employee satisfaction and engagement. Values guide the decisions we make and the actions we take. Leaders gain faster results and build better relationships by consistently articulating and aligning colleagues to shared values.

3. Creating communities.

While there is truth in the observation that culture eats strategy, growth businesses are now shifting to community thinking within the work environment. A community invites deeper levels of belonging and commitment, while culture implies one-way approaches. While leaders will never underestimate the influence of culture on work processes — or how things get done — they will invest in creating communities where the practices of improvement and resilience thrive. 

Communities, not cultures, pay attention to wellbeing, commitment, innovation, and revenue. As they do, expenses and problems decrease along with skepticism and stress.

Managers and leaders who succeed facilitate employee involvement in decision-making and product and service delivery. Managers expand their capacities for including and involving others and encourage broad knowledge and skill sharing. When managers lead the way in strengthening the bonds, performance vitality and output increase. Employees improve their connections among their colleagues and partnerships between leaders and their teams thrive. 

4. Growing transition readiness.

Most people can let go of the past and successfully embrace a new order or a different future. However, the time between a specific history and an unpredictable future creates and powers uncertainty. In the face of not knowing, we fill in the gaps to reduce the psychological tension that arises with an unknown future. The remedy to not-knowing is to equip a generation of leaders with the knowledge and skill to navigate uncertainty successfully.

A manager successful at helping others through transitions possesses self-awareness and openness to change and growth through learning and development. These managers refuse to see opportunities and people as problems but rather as contributors. When work is perceived more like an invitation than a requirement, an organization’s esprit de corps positively changes.  Improvements measured by meaningful metrics rise.

5. Maintaining a Customer-First Work Environment

When employees can connect their experience and employment to a paying customer or stakeholder, the commitment to excellence thrives. People want to do their best to deliver a quality product or service to those they feel connected to. Customers and new markets are eternal sources of inspiration when we successfully recruit and involve employees in a customer-first mission. A team’s connection to a customer contributes to the motivation for peak performance. When we care, we act in a customer-first way.

Managers and leaders improve organizational energy by harnessing a customer-first spirit across the enterprise with both customers and employees. When colleagues treat each other as customers, it translates to appealing work environments. A standard of care and excellence replaces indifference created by the isolation many experience in today’s hybrid workplace.

To reawaken work and succeed in the new world of work, we must put these five practices into place to boost engagement. Leadership growth in these action areas contains the kernel of power to transform careers, lives, organizations, and the communities we serve. Begin the journey to building teams and communities on the path to personal and organizational prosperity.

 

Re-designing Employee Experience Around Well-Being

Amid the unique shockwaves sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, HR tech has found itself at a turning point. Mostly, two major trends have brought on this critical phase in HR technology today. Tangible assets such as human-made codes and patents represent 90 percent of the value of the S&P 500 companies. This has increased the strategic position of Human Resources within companies for the past years now. The smaller trend sprung from the COVID-19 pandemic with 70 percent of employees stating they want hybrid work options to stay in place. The need to offer an online employee experience has given way to major investments in HR technology. Companies heavily count on these investments to support the growing demand in office vs. work-at-home experiences.

With digital taking over, a new approach is emerging in terms of Employee Experience (EX). EX today is transformative in the sense of bringing about sustained cultural change. This purposeful change will empower people to be at their best and foster overall health and well-being. Therefore, as companies are adapting to the new realities of the post-pandemic realm, re-imagining work and well-being experience becomes critical. We need to re-architect well-being experience to bring out human strengths such as creativity, connectivity, and innovation to the fore.

The impact of remote and hybrid work on employee experience

Professionals expect the new working models to stay even in a post-pandemic world. Among many others, Josh Bersin, the president of Bersin & Associates, believes that the future of work is remote. Microsoft researchers point out that “work will likely be a fluid mix of in-person and remote collaboration.” We are yet to see whether the downsides of remote working at scale will come to outweigh the positives. Yet, the tech-enabled wellness solutions will certainly be the lifeblood of the HR Tech market to support employee well-being.

Eighty-nine percent of employees in a February 2021 global Harvard Business Review study said that their work-life was getting worse. More statistics from the same study: 85 percent said that their well-being declined and 56 percent said that their job demands increased. Many people are reporting a range of mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout. More, 94 percent of workers in the U.S. and the U.K. feel stress at work, while more than 50 percent experience sleep loss. Within such a climate, people are looking for more balance and a life with lower levels of conflict and stress. This necessitates that holistic well-being programs be embedded into employee experience management. With this in mind, by adopting holistic employee well-being programs, organizations make a commitment to helping people lead more fulfilling lives.

Key features of a thriving employee well-being program

There is no “one-size-fits-all” well-being solution because every culture and individual is unique. However, the basis of every good wellness program is behavior change. So, what should organizations look for in well-being tech and projects developed by corporate well-being vendors? Further, how is it possible to redesign well-being into the work itself? There are many practices that organizations can take part in to create an impressive well-being experience. For example:

  • Utilizing solutions designed to provide usability, mobility, and accessibility
  • Using gamification to motivate and engage employees to create positive behavioral change
  • Taking a proactive approach to wellness that inspires action through challenges, micro-content, and smooth integration with wearable technology
  • Harnessing the power of friendly competition to build healthy habits, as collective efforts greatly help well-being behaviors “stick”
  • Asking the employees what their well-being needs today are, and empowering them to take their own unique well-being journey
  • Investing in multiple dimensions of well-being.

Strong cooperation between leadership and HR for holistic employee well-being

The dominant view is that HR is the primary responsible party for well-being within an organization. However, it is up to the contributions of the whole organization to promote a culture of well-being. Such collective efforts will create more engaged employees through a transformative employee experience. Richa Gupta reminds us that paying attention to the types of employees you have on staff is key to ensuring a healthier and engaged workforce. In this sense, organizations must commit to well-being programs as a business priority. Leaders should lead by example by creating awareness in areas including mental health, diversity and inclusion, and hybrid work challenges.

In a pandemic-stricken landscape, we find ourselves in a moment of reflection. Thus, ensuring employees remain safe and well-cared-for is vital to deliver a great employee experience. With this in mind, organizations that acknowledge this fact will navigate hard times and emerge stronger in the future. During COVID-19, we have witnessed that fragmented well-being programs fall short of addressing new circumstances. When treated as band-aids for short-term concerns, they cannot provide a whole-of-life experience. It is essential to implement a holistic well-being program integrated into the fabric of organizational culture.

How to Attract Female Candidates for Leadership Roles

Women hold more than half of American jobs. Yet, they make up just 27 percent of executive and senior-level management in S&P 500 companies. Meanwhile, a mere 8.1 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female chief executives. This widespread lack of female leadership indicates a major gender gap in corporate America.

However, if employers were to invest in their female employees and intentionally attract female candidates for leadership roles, they could close this gap and benefit their bottom line in the process.

Generally, women foster a highly productive work environment, improve brand reputation, promote diversity and inclusion, and increase profitability in the long term. Thus, if you want a competitive edge and better returns, you must get women interested in open leadership positions. Here are a few ways human resource professionals and talent acquisitions can do just that.

Offer Professional Development Plans

Women are just as likely as men to have an interest in promotions and leadership opportunities. However, few ever express their interest because they feel like they must achieve perfection before applying for management positions. Companies should stress the importance of ongoing learning to discourage these beliefs.

By offering professional development plans and advertising them to potential candidates, you can attract women looking to grow into leadership positions. Moreover, you can encourage current employees to engage in these programs so you can recruit from within and retain top female talent.

Design a Mentorship Program

Women have lost a total of 5.4 million jobs since the start of the pandemic—one million more job losses than men. Now, many of these women are struggling to re-enter the workforce. To do so, they’ll need guidance and constructive feedback, and mentors offer precisely that.

In addition to reintegrating women into the workforce, a robust mentorship program can also increase pay grades. One in four employees who participates in a mentorship program receives a salary-grade change compared to only five percent of workers who don’t participate.

Thus, designing a comprehensive program may be key to attracting women leaders and turning them into mentors, too, so they can grow their leadership skills even more.

Recruit From Within

If you managed to retain your female workforce through the pandemic, consider recruiting from within. Odds are good you already have a few viable candidates, especially if they’re engaging in professional development and mentorship programs. Since they’re already familiar with the company, promoting these women will ensure an easy transition to new leadership. They’ll also require less training, which can certainly benefit your bottom line, as they can fulfill their responsibilities much sooner than an outside hire.

Provide Women-Centered Health Care

Despite an ever-narrowing pay gap, women still earn less and receive less health coverage than their male counterparts. Cost-sharing also remains higher for employees in predominately female companies, particularly for family coverage. Since women often assume caretaking roles and have little time to prioritize their own health, companies could stand to offer more affordable coverage.

Offering women-centered health care is another excellent way to exceed expectations and attract more female candidates than your competitors. Provide maternity coverage and pre- and post-natal services and know how to advertise these benefits in job postings. Even if the leadership position pays less than they’d like, many women would be hard-pressed to pass up an opportunity to get free or discounted coverage.

Cover Child Care Expenses

Due to a shocking lack of affordable child care options, many mothers must choose between having a career and raising kids. Others have had no choice but to reduce their work hours to take care of their kids. Of course, this work-life “balance” doesn’t leave much time for career growth or leadership development.

Thus, if companies want to attract more female candidates for leadership positions, they should offer free or reduced-cost child care. Currently, just three in 10 employers offer access to such services, so there’s certainly room for improvement.

Support Flexible Schedules

Nearly half of women have become much less or somewhat less likely to reenter the physical workplace compared to September of 2020. Ultimately, their decision to stay home comes down to a lack of flexibility. As more companies return to in-person work arrangements, women and mothers, in particular, continue to look for employers that offer remote and hybrid positions.

You can meet—and exceed—their expectations by embracing flexible schedules and promising remote or semi-remote positions to those in leadership. Strong paid and unpaid leave plans may also convince busy moms and women caretakers to apply for management roles. Communicate these benefits in job listings and interviews to attract top talent and effectively grow your candidate pool.

Advertise Strategically

Positioning your job listings and advertisements for maximum exposure is key to attracting potential candidates, so where should you post them? Put your company in front of the right eyes by placing them anywhere high-achieving women are looking for jobs.

For instance, many employers like to advertise in colleges for women, especially those with graduate programs. Virtual job boards like The Mom Project and PowerToFly are excellent options as well because they cater to a wide array of women, many of whom could fill open C-suite positions at your company. Tap into local resources like women-led nonprofits and women-centered organizations. There, you’ll find passionate and determined leaders that’ll make great additions to your management team.

Give Back to the Community

Gender aside, employees enjoying working for companies that share their core values. However, partnering with brands that give back to the community is especially important to women. That’s because 10 percent more women than men give money to charities. Plus, females tend to make more contributions as their income rises.

Thus, employers can attract female candidates and revitalize their community by creating a charitable company culture. Create initiatives that support locals and give employees a sense of meaning. Make your efforts public so that more female candidates see your company reflecting their values and giving back.

Letting Women Take the Lead

Keeping women in the workforce is imperative because it creates a more inclusive workplace and a stronger economy for everyone. However, companies that wish to create an effective acquisition campaign must let women take the lead. They know better than anyone what females want and need in a job. So, it’s only natural that they provide advice, feedback, and guidance throughout the hiring and onboarding process.

Look within your existing team to identify women who value diversity and inclusion. Let them take the lead to recruit new candidates, design a mentorship program, and gather professional development resources. By the time you’ve added a few more faces to your team, every woman will feel more empowered, knowledgeable, and influential, which will only yield more female leaders in the future.

Brushing Up on Your Leadership Skills for the Post-Pandemic Workplace

The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is finally starting to come to an end. Because of this, many companies are re-opening their brick-and-mortar offices. Employees who wish to return to the old ways have an opportunity to do so, but many businesses are allowing for remote work to continue as well.

As they return to the office, employees will have to get used to face-to-face communication again. They’ll also have to polish up their leadership skills and prepare for some challenges.

How COVID Changed the Workplace

Working remotely is challenging for jobs of all kinds, but COVID hit the project management field especially hard. Fortunately, technology evolved in response. Tools like cloud organization and virtual leadership meetings allowed for an easier transition to the remote space. Still, most project managers look forward to getting back into the office ASAP.

Refreshing in-person social and leadership skills while continuing to use the remote communication abilities honed during COVID isn’t easy. However, with many companies setting up hybrid workspaces in the post-pandemic world, it’s necessary. Here are a few tips to help you succeed in the new normal.

Stay Digital

With the flexibility offered by remote work, it’s no surprise that many employees want to keep working from home. Companies that do not offer this benefit after the pandemic are expected to experience employee retention issues.

As a project manager, you should continue prioritizing your digital communication skills even if your current job is fully in-person again. Start using programs like Asana or Monday so you can enable your team to be more accessible and flexible. You will also gain the benefit of polishing that digital communications resume for whatever may be next.

Learn With Your Team

Teaching is one thing, but being able to learn with your team is key. You will not only help increase the team’s knowledge, but you’ll also build rapport in a low-pressure setting. Team members can also practice their leadership skills this way.

During COVID, digital learning capabilities improved immensely. If you’re in a hybrid workspace now or in the future, learning with your team is very easy thanks to screen sharing and programs like Skype or Zoom.

Practice Positive Psychology

Unfortunately, almost everyone has had an unmotivated boss at some point in their career. Unmotivated leaders make it very difficult for anyone else on the team to stay focused and productive.

You probably don’t need anyone to tell you to avoid that kind of leadership. However, if you happen to start losing some luster for your position, practicing positive psychology will help you find more meaning in your work.

The good news? Being enthusiastic and motivated resonates with teams just as much as being unmotivated does.

Both your personal and work life can benefit from practicing positive psychology. Plus, when one area of your life improves, the other tends to as well.

It’s very natural for our lives to become mundane over time. We often lose our feelings of accomplishment and enthusiasm. With positive psychology, rewarding yourself can make the mundane seem fun again.

Employees generally produce better work when they know they’ll be rewarded. Small goals can mean greater rewards, which will ultimately equate to more driven and productive workers. Pairing learning with positive psychology is a great idea, too!

Overall, adding this mindset practice to your daily life can pay dividends in the near and distant future.

Promote Diversity and Inclusion

One of the biggest goals of modern HR and leadership training is addressing social injustice, which continues to persist in various forms. It’s important to focus on these issues in developing your leadership skills as well.

In addition to the ethics of promoting diversity and inclusion, companies can improve their bottom line. Organizations that prioritize an inclusive and welcoming environment have happier employees and better retention.

Reflect on Your Quarantine Experience

What did you learn during quarantine? Ask yourself some questions so you can learn more about yourself. Here are some ideas:

  • What did I miss the most in quarantine?
  • How did my communication style change?
  • What did I like most about my response to the pandemic?
  • What didn’t I like about myself during quarantine?

Asking questions like these can help you pinpoint what you need to improve. Improving yourself makes your life better and makes it much easier to help others evolve.

Some of the things you learn about yourself may help you become a better leader. These reflection exercises can be shared with your team to help them find positives in the pandemic, which will put them in a better mindset to perform.

All of these tips are important, but on a grand scale, being open to improvement is the best trait you can have as a leader and motivator. Allow yourself to learn new leadership skills every day and listen to your team!

Stop Overthinking a Culture of Gratitude. Show It Instead!

As we enter the season of gratitude, I have contemplated the importance of employers, managers, and leaders expressing thanks to their hardworking team members. We have collectively weathered a storm, and we’re not in the clear yet. No matter what the industry, things have been challenging. But how should we show our gratitude? What is authentic? What works?

With “The Great Resignation” and “The Great Discontent” affecting our organizations, retention is top-of-mind. Here is my gentle reminder: a little gratitude goes a long way in keeping employees happy and feeling valued.

Why gratitude is great

Gratitude in the workplace is often underrated. While some leaders are quick with a “thank you,” others are still under the impression that thanks are given with a paycheck. Research clearly illustrates that the right amount of gratitude can drastically impact the productivity, positivity, morale, employee retention, and success of a business.

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, is at the heart of understanding gratitude. In his 2010 essay, Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, reveals why gratitude is good for our bodies, our minds, and our relationships.

“[Gratitude] has two components. First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts, and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life,” Robert says. “The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

Gratitude is transcendent.

The act of gratitude clearly transcends any one part of our lives. It’s holistic in nature. Those who are grateful at home are likely to be grateful at work. But people aren’t inherently grateful or not. Like many things, it can be–and I would argue should be– practiced.

My thoughts have landed here: stop overthinking a culture of gratitude. Show it instead! It sure seems silly as a line item on an executive agenda: “Express thanks to employees.” Instead, be naturally grateful for the employees who have stuck through trying times. Show them gratitude–and not just one night at the fancy holiday party. Say “thank you.” Drop a note. Make eye contact and actively show appreciation for a job well done.

A recent Gallup analysis found that “48 percent of America’s working population is actively job searching or watching for opportunities. Businesses are facing a staggeringly high quit rate–3.6 million Americans resigned in May alone–and a record-high number of unfilled positions. And Gallup discovered that workers in all job categories, from customer-facing service roles to highly professional positions, are actively or passively job hunting at roughly the same rate.”

It is no secret that keeping employees happy is the name of the game right now. Retention has always been a hot topic among leaders, but it’s never been more important to engage employees and entice them to stay through authentic actions.

Get back to basics.

Say things like: Thank you! We appreciate you. We are glad you’re here. You offer great value to our team. Nice job on that project. Sound too easy or trite? It’s not.

Ask questions like: How would you like to be recognized? What makes a happy, productive workplace? A misstep is often to assume you know what resonates with people. Don’t be afraid to ask: take surveys or have open conversations about what feels good to hear or experience.

Ask people about their experiences alone and in groups. Also, find out how people are feeling. Are they scared? Tired? Upbeat? Hopeful? What general trends come to light from truly ASKING?

Create an environment that fosters gratitude.

According to HBR’s piece, “Building a Better Workplace Starts with Saying ‘Thanks’”: “Make time and space for gratitude. Many employees may feel ambivalent about expressing gratitude or appreciation publicly, so don’t force it. Instead, managers should make (physical or virtual) space and time for gratitude. For example, managers can create an appreciation wall or a dedicated Slack channel for employees to recognize others and give kudos. Managers might also start meetings with gratitude ‘check-ins,’ during which team members can express one thing they’re thankful for. When employees pin notes to the wall or participate in check-ins, they create social proof that encourages their ambivalent colleagues to do the same.”

Stop thinking about gratitude as an “initiative.”

Gratitude in the workplace doesn’t have to be expensive or overwrought with logistics. There are many ways to show appreciation and employee recognition that aren’t overtaxing or unrealistic.

Our friends at gThankYou publish an ongoing blog related to employee appreciation, recognition, and gratitude. One post that spoke to me was “The Magic of On-the-Spot Recognition.” It outlines many reasons to simply show gratitude “in the moment”–and it is simple, appreciated and, frankly, expected by younger generations.

“A culture of gratitude begins with a genuine heart and true feelings of thanks for those who make your business work every day,” shares Liz King, co-founder and CMO of gThankYou. “We have committed to sharing free resources to help leaders incorporate appreciation, recognition and thanks into the workplace all year long. It’s a wise business decision that also feels great.”

Other considerations for maintaining a culture of gratitude

Define happiness.

As with all goal-setting, the clearer the picture, the more likely you will succeed. Take the time to understand what happiness means in your organization, industry, and area of the world. This alone can put a damper on the “Great Resignation” or “Great Discontent.” Picture a happy workplace: what does it really look like?

Understand how to align the organization’s foundational purpose with daily actions.

This piggybacks on defining happiness. There should also be a deep-rooted connection between what the organization stands for and how it treats employees. What is this company all about? If it is focused on providing goods or services to better their customers or the world, are we treating employees just as well (or better)? If we thank our customers and partners, shouldn’t we extend the same courtesy to our employees?

The bottom line

Organizations, specifically leaders, MUST set an example of gratitude. We encourage you to not only take the time to say, “thank you” regularly but build tangible, effective ways to keep a gratitude culture thriving.

How do you foster a culture of gratitude? I’d love to hear your ideas–and so would your peers! Please feel free to contact me at ctrivella@talentculture.com.

 

Career Development, 2021 Style: Learning How to Learn

Think back to your first day of work with your first major employer.

You probably arrived early on your first day, ID card ready, and experienced a week full of inductions, walk-throughs, and hand-shaking introductions.

Now imagine if your first day took place in April 2020.

Your first day would probably be spent in your bedroom, opening a laptop and trying to figure out how to log on to Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace.

In a similar fashion, your mentors were also coming to terms with new technologies, new processes, and the dramatic events unfolding all around them.

It’s almost as if they were experiencing their first day in a new job, too.

The extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted everybody.

But most notably, it had a profound effect on the career development of younger generations and those entering the workforce for the first time.

Focus on Young Workers

Grappling with personal concerns and anxieties during a global health crisis is one thing, yet young workers also had to cope with:

  • Organizational learning taking a back seat, with leaders focusing on surviving the crisis rather than integrating new workers or transferring skills
  • Lack of authentic relationships; communicating with and meeting coworkers and mentors took place virtually, without the benefit of in-person interactions
  • Absorbing a diluted, online version of company culture, without the benefit of informal coffee, lunch, or hallway chats
  • Learning to work with new platforms and systems without in-person support
  • Working from challenging environments–such as shared housing or in a multigenerational household

By concentrating on learning and career development, business leaders can help workforce entrants find their place within organizations and focus on building their skills for the future.

Organizational Learning

Why is organizational learning important for career development?

An organization that empowers people to learn will drive personal growth, job satisfaction, and loyalty. In turn, this leads to greater performance and in-house skills.

Indeed, at a time when employees are choosing to quit their jobs rather than go back to the office, organizations must find more effective ways to find and retain talent.

(Let’s not forget, this also comes at the time of a global health crisis, the worst recession since the Great Depression, and a dire skills shortage.)

That’s why it’s crucial to invest in learning and development in your organization, but this doesn’t just refer to hard skills.

The Need for Soft Skills in 2021

Organizational learning comes in many different forms. Developing soft skills is arguably the top priority during this unprecedented moment in history.

But, the soft skills required now are markedly different from those of just five years ago.

The World Economic Forum’s top skills for 2020 places complex problem-solving at the top of the list, followed by critical thinking and creativity.

In 2015, the top three included skills related to in-person interaction, such as coordinating with others and people management.

“Employers overwhelmingly agree that young employees need soft skills, such as communication, creative problem-solving and entrepreneurial thinking,” according to the World Economic Forum.

Positively, all of these skills can be learned. The key difference is that in-person learning has, for the most part, been replaced by distance learning.

This may be new for many workers, particularly those working remotely for the first time.

That’s where the process of re-learning comes in, or “learning how to learn.”

Learning How to Learn

In 2018, Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, explained how to become better at learning, tackle skills gaps, and enable career development.

“A growing body of research is making it clear that learners are made, not born … In short, we can all get better at getting better,” Boser says.

Boser outlined three key behaviors to help workers focus on learning:

  1. Organize your goals: First, set achievable goals and plan each stage. This strategized approach will help to strengthen the commitment to tasks while minimizing feelings of self-doubt. “By setting targets, people can manage their feelings more easily and achieve progress with their learning.”
  2. Think about thinking: Also known as metacognition, “thinking about thinking” is the process of being more inspective. How do you know what you know? Could you explain it to a friend? Do you need more practice or clearer goals? Push yourself to really think about what you’re learning.
  3. Reflect on your learning: Have you ever noticed that when you step away from a problem, you achieve greater clarity? This process of reflection and focused deliberation is crucial for understanding. This cognitive quiet, says Boser, also helps explain why it’s so difficult to gain skills when we’re stressed or angry or lonely: “… for us to gain any sort of understanding, there needs to be some state of mental ease.”

Learning Starts Now

Young workers are the next generation of leaders in your workforce.

The sooner you can integrate them into your organization through a process of organizational learning and career development, the sooner they will become embedded in your culture and a part of your company’s future.

Consider the benefit of providing a virtual office membership to your remote employees and leveraging coworking options for future in-person collaboration. Investing in the well-being of your employees is investing in your company.

While nobody could have predicted the health crisis or its legacy, a positive outcome is that we can turn it into a process of constructive learning and equip young workers with a unique and invaluable set of skills for the future.

A New Paradigm: How to Encourage Meaningful Partnership at Work

Let’s face it: Many team members feel unsupported by their leaders, and it’s the single biggest reason why people quit their jobs. It also turns out that many leaders feel similarly unsupported by their team. This creates a two-way street of frustration between leaders and teams. Unaddressed, these poor relationships can lead to serious workplace problems.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

It altered not only the way in which we work but strained many of the relationships we have with coworkers. It revealed a growing hunger among leaders and teams for a deeper connection and a more mutually accountable and rewarding partnership.

No doubt, we all seek healthy and effective relationships at work. But as we know, few of our key work partnerships are exceptional, and frankly, most are mediocre or even poor. So, how do we create, maintain and continuously improve our key partnerships, especially the one between leaders and teams?

Use these steps to improve meaningful partnerships in the workplace.

1. Embrace a new mindset.

Leaders and team members must embrace a new mindset of meaningful partnership. It refers to an elevated state of the “4 Cs:” cohesion, connection, coordination, and collaboration. It’s a level of partnership that goes above and beyond, that has impact, that’s mutually successful and rewarding, and is a two-way street of care, support, and accountability.

2. Infuse foundational elements for partnership to flourish.

Leaders and teams must recognize that meaningful partnership requires strong levels of Empathy, Respect, Trust, Alignment, and Partnership. This is the ERTAP model which research has found to be the foundation of meaningful workplace relationships. It suggests that these five elements are in many ways sequential, mutually reinforcing, and when combined in synergy, create the necessary conditions for meaningful partnership at work to flourish.

3. Develop a workplace covenant.

Leaders and teams need to create and routinely use workplace covenants. In brief, a workplace covenant is an honor-bound set of commitments, which have obligatory weight, to one’s work partner. It begins with the exchange of obligations and expectations, with the focus being on: “What can I do for you, so that you’ll feel supported and can be successful?”

This exchange of behaviors and attitudes between the leader and the team is discussed, compared, refined, and documented, resulting in the development of signed workplace covenants. It should be noted that there’s no religious connotation here, but instead simply the establishment of vital behavioral promises that both partners agree to hold themselves to as a matter of personal and professional integrity. They also agree to assess themselves on the covenants and receive feedback on them.

Leaders and teams then regularly review these workplace covenants informally and formally, share them with new team members, discuss them during one-on-ones, and use them as a basis for managing and continuously improving how they work together, so that both the leader and team continue to feel supported and can be successful.

So what are the benefits of meaningful partnership?

A meaningful partnership at work is a “vaccine” that prevents the ills of dissatisfaction, disengagement, despair, and departure (the Dreaded 4 Ds) that occur all too often in today’s workplaces. Meaningful partnership at work is what today’s younger workers seek but aren’t always able to articulate. They will say that they search for significance at work and collaborations that are authentic and mutually rewarding. But it begs the question: How do you create that work environment? Meaningful partnership, ERTAP, and workplace covenants are the concepts and tools to provide that answer.

Finally, for those organizations seeking to promote a positive culture, meaningful partnership offers a compelling vision. It’s a place where employees often encourage and praise. It is where managers go above and beyond to support their staff. It’s where constructive feedback is exchanged without anxiety or fear. And where everyone is doing their best to ensure the success of others. It may seem idealistic, but actually, it’s quite achievable when both leaders and teams embrace a new paradigm of collaboration—one of meaningful partnership.

 

This piece was co-written by Timothy M. Franz Ph.D., organizational psychologist, professor of psychology, and interim Chair at St. John Fisher College, and Seth R. Silver Ed.D., the principal of Silver Consulting, Inc. and former professor of Human Resource Development at St. John Fisher College.

How to Stop the Great Resignation with Employee Recognition [Podcast]

The “Great Resignation” has organizations everywhere in strategy mode. They’re brainstorming ways to keep employees happy and in turn, keep them on board.

So what’s making people want to quit their jobs en masse? The main cause is burnout. A recent Microsoft survey indicates that one in five people don’t feel like their employers care about burnout or work-life balance. Also, 54 percent are overworked and nearly 40 percent are out-right exhausted. With these kinds of stats, it’s easy to see why people would look elsewhere.

Fortunately, there is something employers can start implementing today that can help increase retention: employee recognition.

Our Guest: Morgan Chaney, Senior Director of Marketing at Blueboard

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Morgan Chaney, Senior Director of Marketing at Blueboard, the world’s leading experiential employee rewards and recognition platform. Morgan is an employee recognition thought leader and a seasoned professional speaker. She hosts Blueboard’s monthly webinars and presents regularly at industry conferences and professional meetups, including HR Transform, HR Southwest, HR Redefined, DisruptHR Regional Events, Culture Con Madison, and the CalHR Conference.

Because employee recognition can be so effective for retention efforts, I was excited to tap into her expertise. According to Morgan, the first step in successful retention is to touch base with teams to see if people are feeling appreciated.

“Organizations need to touch base with their teams and check in on how they’re feeling,” Morgan says. “That’s how they’ll be able to pivot and stay afloat.”

Prior to the pandemic, seventy-five percent of employees didn’t feel valued. Now that we’re all interacting in different locations through screens, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to understand an employee’s mindset. That’s why it’s important to make a point to focus on these perspectives. Once you gauge whether employees feel valued, it’s time to add an employee recognition program or uplevel the one already in place.

 “Analyze your current program to see if it is well-utilized. Are managers trained and comfortable to give feedback and recognition in the first place? Is there clarity around how to participate in recognition?” Morgan says. “So those are things that employers can absolutely look at and ask themselves.”

The Importance of Managers in Employee Recognition

So how do you optimize these programs to ensure effectiveness? First and foremost, you need to make sure the mechanics for feedback and appreciation are solid. Managers need to feel comfortable with feedback and understand what is appropriate.

“Managers are a huge reason why people leave companies. If they don’t connect with their manager, if they don’t feel like they’re seen and valued from that first touchpoint, things can go really wrong and people might choose to go elsewhere,” Morgan says. 

Further, properly empowered managers can deliver positive feedback and can get creative with employee recognition.  They don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. With this in mind, organizations can have leaders offer customized options and perks, which will likely be more effective.

“Choice is huge. To toot the horn for Blueboard a little bit, we do experiential rewards. And what that means is that instead of giving someone a cash bonus or a gift card, we curate a really beautiful menu of global experiences that they can choose from. So what that can look like in fruition is maybe chasing the northern lights on a trip to Alaska with your loved ones and checking that off your bucket list,” Morgan says. “Make a point to really lift up your top performers, because those are the ones that you really don’t want to leave, the ones that are going to be really hard to replace … recognize them for their values”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Blueboard. You can learn more about employee recognition by reaching out to Morgan Chaney on LinkedIn. You can also learn more about retaining top talent by checking out this  Blueboard ebook: Retaining Top Talent is Your Top Priority.

Want Employee Engagement? Then Get Ready to LOL!

Employee engagement is a powerful dynamic and, even though it may seem as if this subject has been over-hyped in recent years, it hasn’t. Research shows that engaged employees have less turnover, take fewer sick days, and perform better. The mission is accomplished, and the bottom line improves. So why wouldn’t we want that?

The problem has been that many companies build their employee engagement strategy on mass-produced mandatory fun. Think about it. How many times do we see leaders excitedly introduce employee contests or monthly gimmicks with the intent of bringing people together? Supervisors hope it will boost productivity. Staff roll their eyes and attend because they must. Are these approaches beneficial? It depends.

Ask yourself this question: after the party is over and the free donuts are gone, what has changed? Do your workers still seem detached and on autopilot? The answer is usually yes.

Tapping into true engagement

Engagement is much more than forced participation. It’s about getting to the core of what makes human beings tick. Ever notice that when a group of people are together and connecting at a heart and soul level there is a comfort infused with energy and passion? When we become human together, laugh together, care about each other and allow bonding to occur, we tap into true engagement.

The good news is we can have it all. Engagement, productivity, all of it! If done properly, your employees will feel inspired, and you will hit those performance targets you’ve been longing for. How? Tap into your “funny bone” and have the confidence to laugh at yourself and create a culture of joy. Send the message that it’s okay to have fun at work. Then watch the energy and passion grow.

The benefits of the “funny bone”

Take for example Lizet O’Campo, Political Director of People for the American Way. She was an instant internet sensation because, through a series of technical glitches during a Zoom meeting, she accidentally turned herself into a potato. She struggled during the meeting to fix the problem all the while appearing on screen to her staff as a confused and serious potato. Lizet finally gave in and conducted the rest of her meeting as, well, a potato. Her staff was delighted and admired her sense of humility and self-deprecation.

Laughter has the added benefit of improving health. A landmark study by researchers at Loma Linda and Stanford University found that watching episodes of Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello improved cortisol levels, which help the body fight infection. And laughter is a full-body workout that burns calories and flexes any number of muscles.

But one doesn’t have to be a potato leader or watch old shows on Hulu to create the space for humor and the engagement benefits that follow. By embracing a few key tenets, you can easily provide a safe space where humor is appropriate, not offensive, and engagement reigns.

1. Self-check thyself.

Leaders who desire employee engagement are obliged to walk the talk. To do this, they must look inward, recognize their own human needs, and discover what brings them joy. Then they are better able to create a space where employees can also find happiness. They inspire and build a loyal band of employees who will follow in their footsteps. Be the spark that ignites the joy. This is not something you can fake. Employees know it when you’re simply along for the ride.

2. Be courageous.

It’s not easy to change. We tend to rely on our comfort levels. Courage today is about letting go, taking a chance, and being real. Be confident and proud of your strengths but don’t be afraid to poke a little fun at your discomfort with numbers or your tendency to be a little too serious. It unleashes the human being inside.

3. Embrace humility.

Humble people are much more fun to hang out with. Modesty has the innate power to level the playing field. When we work for an unassuming leader, we feel like we can bring our whole self to work. When leaders know they’re not perfect, they allow others to be imperfect. We feel safe and accepted. As a result, we’re more creative, more inquisitive, and more productive.

4. Strengthen social awareness.

This is nothing more than the simple act of noticing, but it’s something with which we all struggle. Looming deadlines and work pressures cause us to quickly stray into the prescribed, where we depend on formalities and not on what matters most. Take the time to pick up on social cues and get to know your employees as people, not simply resources who happen to be human.

Companies with engaged employees are workplaces of passion, fun, and family. Their leaders take the time to recognize their peoples’ human needs and they tap into the joy that laughter creates. The workforce these leaders nurture is one where the staff gives their discretionary time and energy. They see their managers as approachable, kind, and normal. They care about the organization’s success because their leaders care about them.

So, if you want employee engagement, let down your guard and LOL.

 

This post was co-authored by Patrick Malone, who also co-authored with Zina their new book: Leading with Love and Laughter: Letting Go and Getting Real at Work.

Next Move, Best Move: Making a Career Transition You’ll Love [Podcast]

A career is more than just making money. It directly impacts your quality of life, reflects your values, and can affect overall life satisfaction.

If you find yourself wanting to make a career transition, while it may be a difficult task, it’s totally achievable–especially when we cultivate communities of support. By learning to appreciate the value of networking, a career transition could be much smoother than you think.

Our Guest: Career and Leadership Expert Kimberly B. Cummings

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Kimberly B. Cummings, a career and leadership expert who helps women and people of color navigate the workplace, earn more money, and become industry leaders. Her leadership development company, Manifest Yourself, LLC, provides organizations with tailor-made solutions to hire, develop, engage, and retain women and people of color. She has spoken at SXSW, Warner Media, Princeton University, Salesforce, and Thurgood Marshall, and her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, MONEY Magazine, Business Insider, Fox 5, CNBC, and more.

Kimberly understands that a career transition can come in many forms, whether that’s moving from one industry to another or simply changing your title. But no matter what transition is occurring, the first step is to generate a positive mindset so as not to hold yourself back.

Many times if you’re feeling stuck in a role, that mindset is a reflection of you not understanding what the possibilities are for yourself. And not believing that you’re able to get to that next level in your career,” Kimberly says. “It’s easy to feel stuck when you literally have no idea what it is that you like, that you want, that you’re good at, or what that would even look like in the workplace every single day.”

One strategy to pull yourself out of that mindset is to focus on your good qualities and skills, then set goals for the future.

“We need to ask: What are our strengths? What would happen if we built a career and a brand based upon what our strengths are?” Kimberly says. “What do you want to be known for?”

Network and Be Realistic 

Once you’ve determined the career transition you want to make and the strengths you want to highlight, the best course of action is to continuously share that path and your goals with the world of work. Develop relationships that recognize your value and help promote you, and make sure those connections are varied and wide-ranging.

“You need peers, so people who help you day-to-day in your job,” Kimberly says. “These are the people you’re collaborating with. And I always say, you need internal and external connections. You don’t want to just build your network in your current company.”

Once the networking has reaped its benefits and you find yourself in a job interview to make that transition, it’s important to be realistic about what you have to offer and how you could appear valuable to potential employers.

“Ask yourself, are you qualified for the job you want? What transferable skills could you use to help you make your next move? And think about the stories you can tell that could connect you to that job more deeply. What have you done that will help you navigate that opportunity better?” Kimberly says. “When you’re interviewing and really convincing an employer that you are prepared for that job, it’s really all about storytelling. Putting yourself in the shoes of someone who would be able to navigate that workplace environment.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about networking for a career transition by reaching out to Kimberly B. Cummings on LinkedIn.

How to Unlock The Full Potential of 360-Degree Feedback

With the increased need for upskilling employees, research shows that alignment between managers and employees is essential for igniting employee development. Most importantly, 360-degree-feedback, when paired with the right learning tools, enables organizations to significantly improve their talent development planning process at the individual, team, and organization levels. Moreover, these tools uniquely enable leadership teams to identify specific behavioral patterns and skill trends needed for success and some habits that may need redirection. After all, these patterns in leadership behavior accelerate business performance on an ongoing basis and are crucial for combating disruption, inspiring teams, and serving customers.

What Can We Learn from Multi-rater Data? How Do We Unlock its Potential?

The tool itself has not changed much, but the process and profound insights that can be architected to inform talent development strategies have changed. For instance, knowing ahead of time which questions to ask participants and how to act on the data allows leaders to use the tool more intentionally. As a matter of fact, Peggy Parskey, co-author of Learning Analytics: Using Talent Data to Improve Business Outcomes says that valuable answers can be obtained from 360 data when you ask the following questions:

  1. Is organizational competency changing? Is it getting stronger or weaker?
  2. What is the growth of different employee cohorts? Are employees growing their capabilities? By how much?
  3. What level of talent is the organization losing? How does that compare to the new hires?
  4. Does the data uncover high-potential employees? Does it help us with succession planning?
  5. How does training (e.g. onboarding, skill development) affect ratings? Does it close the competency gap?

360-degree feedback

Holistic 360 Process (Source: Explorance)

To obtain maximum benefits, we recommend these five best practices for implementing a 360 feedback process (see diagram above):

Set a clear purpose aligned with the organizational direction

360-degree feedback assessments work best when the purpose directly serves the goal of the business. For example, they are most valuable when used for development planning. However, administrators should invest extra thought when adding performance appraisal aspects to the process, as it may taint the data and the process with user bias.

Use the feedback process as a continuous development tool

It’s important to realize that 360 isn’t an ad hoc tool. It’s the process of understanding expectations, identifying key players, and tailoring the information into meaningful data upfront on an ongoing basis. In the long run, this ensures a cycle where everyone remains on target for continued development, including regular reviews and alignment on multiple levels.

Leverage automation and integration

Ensure data integration into talent reviews, succession planning, and leadership development needs. In essence, the new and improved 360-degree assessment tools that contain text analytics and machine learning ensure the data is collected and analyzed in a timely, user-friendly manner. Ultimately, this significantly improves objectivity and accelerates deployment times.

Develop a holistic strategy

By and large, the 360-degree assessment creates a shift from a siloed approach to one that seeks unified consistency across similar roles in the organization. On the whole, 360-degree assessments are useful when seen as a data source to illuminate strengths and offer individualized advice for leaders. Generally speaking, at an organizational level, 360 data can inform an overall leadership development strategy to nurture leadership strengths.

Integrate ongoing coaching support

All in all, a 360-degree process that encompasses action planning will help ensure concrete paths for addressing gaps. Additionally, it will help to build on strengths through ongoing coaching and support, which is crucial for sustained development. Thus, this approach also prevents employee demoralization as they step through the process.

How Can We Make 360-Degree Feedback Assessments a Success?

From the start, leadership support is essential to the ongoing journey. In short, they must develop a clearly defined purpose that is agile enough to adapt to business needs. Also, they need to enable targeted improvement initiatives that allow tracking results over time.

With this in mind, the 360-degree assessment platform needs to be integrated with the existing HR ecosystem. Additionally, it needs to be backed by scientifically proven methodology and coaching capabilities. This will enable identifying behavioral strengths mapped through competencies. This is imperative now when organizations want confirmation that their investments will make a positive difference in business results and instill confidence in their employees moving forward.

In summary, the table below further summarizes the differences between today’s successful 360-degree approach versus the past use of 360-degree assessments:

360-Degree Feedback
Past Approach Today’s Approach
Focus on individual performance A clear purpose to develop defined competencies aligned with organizational and individual goals
A one-off measurement tool Continuous employee development
Complex and time-consuming process Automation and integration
Inconsistencies, user bias, and skewed data Objectivity and holistic strategy
Lack of action in response to data Coaching approach

Moving forward, organizations that will benefit the most from 360-degree assessments are those that genuinely want to boost leadership team and employee development. These organizations strive to have a clear picture of the competencies needed to achieve business success. They are committed to developing their workforce (build vs. “buy”). Just as important, they are willing to invest time, energy, and resources into the process and its sustainment.

Basically, when leaders and managers allow 360-degree assessments to help them understand the individual strengths of their people and have clear plans for the future, they successfully navigate the various challenges thrown at them. Likewise, they’ll soon benefit from the newest rise of 360-degree feedback tools.

A note on the authors:

This piece was co-written by Ben Wigert, Director of Research and Strategy, Workplace Management at Gallup, and Jennifer Balcom, Director of Consulting at Explorance.

The 3 Primary Ways Your Company Can Benefit from a Fractional CFO

Business owners often look at the basic numbers to know how they’re doing. How are sales? What are our operating expenses? How much money did we make last month? But they don’t use these numbers as a tool to grow sales, improve profitability, strategically plan for the future, and grow the bottom line. That is the key role of the CFO. But what happens when company management recognizes the need for a CFO, but cannot afford to hire someone in that role on a full-time basis? This is where a fractional CFO can be a lifesaver. Smaller companies that have a limited budget can get the same utility from a part-time CFO but at a significantly lower cost than hiring one as a full-time employee.

There are three primary ways that a CFO helps guide companies in their day-to-day operations:

  • Cash Flow Management: How much money will the business have tomorrow?
  • Profitability Improvement: Understanding and reducing costs
  • Financial Statement Visibility: Information that allows the organization to make changes

As a CFO with over 25 years of experience, I’ve seen the gamut of problems that organizations can face. Here are a few real-life stories of how using a fractional CFO for company operation problems resulted in success. None of these clients could afford to hire a full-time CFO, so they elected to hire one that worked for them on a part-time basis.

Cash Flow Management

The problem: An owner called Tuesday afternoon and said that he needed some help and asked if I could start work the next day. I arrived at his plant Wednesday morning and he ushered me into his office and closed the door. He breathed a visible sigh of relief and said, “I’m so happy that you’re here. I really need a CFO. Your first job is to figure out how we’re going to cover payroll on Friday.”

The solution: With the help of a fractional CFO, the company was able to put a halt to any further expenditures and found cash available through AR collections and deposits from customers for new orders placed with the company. Payroll was covered and a cash-flow forecast was put in place to manage the cash used in the company going forward. This ended the cash crunch, panicked deadlines, and managing the use of money going forward.

Profitability Improvement

The problem: A printing company was in its second generation and the son of the founder was now in charge. He struggled to maintain the profitability his father had achieved. The company had just lost $125,000 in his third year of leadership when he called for help.

The solution: A weekly profitability analysis was created for each completed production run. This uncovered a 35 percent variance from the production estimate to the actual production costs. The staff didn’t understand their costing structure and how standard costs were calculated. Looking at each job, the direct causes of the problems were identified, from slow press run times to set-up issues, to “third shift” inefficiency. Identifying those issues to plant operations prompted changes in quoting and production, increasing accuracy and eliminating production problems and waste. This reduced variances to less than five percent, improving profitability in the next 12 months to $410,000.

Financial Statement Visibility

The problem: An Internet retailer was having significant growth of 50 percent annually, but their financial statements showed huge swings from great profitability in one month to huge losses in the next. The owners knew that they had money in the bank but didn’t know if they were profitable.

The solution: The company was producing financial statements on a cash basis, not an accrual basis. This means that they were looking at how money flowed through the bank, not the profitability of what they sold. So, if they didn’t spend any money (pay their bills), they showed a large profit. If they paid all their bills, they lost money. Revenues and matching costs should be reported in the same period. Changing their reporting approach identified that the company wasn’t profitable. After some research, it was discovered that their pricing algorithm was wrong. Fixing the pricing model changed the profitability of the company and allowed them to continue their significant growth–profitably.

Fractional CFOs and the Bottom Line

Companies need someone who is strategic instead of tactical. They need someone who focuses on how to affect the bottom line, not to just report it. It doesn’t matter if the company is doing $2 million in sales or $2 billion. But not every company, no matter how much they need that advice, can afford to pay $250,000-$350,000 a year for a C-suite executive totally dedicated to finance. Many middle-market companies have steered clear of hiring full-time general counsels, chief marketing officers, or VPs of sales or HR in favor of hiring skilled executive staff on a fractional basis.

If companies don’t need a graphic artist full time, they hire an outsourced designer. For the same reason, they don’t have a full C-Suite of executives in every discipline. They can hire them on a fractional, part-time basis to provide the knowledge and business experience they need when they need it. Business leaders make decisions in many disciplines, and finance is one that gets left out more often than not.

It’s important for every business leader to know what the numbers are telling them. That way, they have the information that they need to change operations to drive profitability. That’s the key to success and growth for any company, which is why many organizations should consider hiring a fractional CFO.

How to Navigate the Uncharted Waters of Post-Pandemic Work Styles

As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “A smooth sea never produced a skilled sailor,” and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. As regulations lift and many employees are immersed in the waters of remote work, many business leaders are sorting through what a flexible workplace will look like in the future.

With an increased appetite for workplace flexibility and a new kind of employer/employee reciprocity on the rise, there may never be a time when 100 percent of an employee base is back in the office. To strike the right balance, organizations will require tailored approaches and deeper discussions. They need to ensure employees are empowered to deliver excellent customer experiences while honoring their trust. By working to accommodate employee post-pandemic work styles, employers won’t just be helping their businesses but also the people who keep them running.

Work Style Over Space

Cultivating a work environment—and culture—that meets specific post-pandemic work styles will greatly serve employers.

Since March of last year, we’ve invited employees into our homes (digitally), and they have invited us into theirs. We’ve met their spouses, children, and dogs and cats alike. We’ve become accustomed to their more relaxed dress code, their mementos, their home décor. The working environment has gotten tremendously casual and intimate.

In light of this, this reorientation will require an even higher level of mutual trust between employer and employee. The employer should set high expectations, giving autonomy to employees, and hold them accountable for performance. They shouldn’t try to manage how, when, and where they work. In exchange, employees can experience a greater acceptance of work/life integration. As some re-enter the office space with an eye toward personal and familial obligations, this will be beneficial. It will also be valuable to others who remain in home offices, continuing to mesh their lives with the work they love.

How to Accommodate Post-Pandemic Work Styles

For any organization, it won’t be possible to duplicate company culture as it once was. Instead, to adapt and advance, culture must evolve, while keeping the organization’s core values intact.

Here are a few things leaders can do to navigate the workplace of the future while keeping employees’ post-pandemic work styles at top of mind.

Ensure Employees Co-Create the New Norm

It’s imperative to understand employees’ needs and hopes for this new world of work. You can achieve this through active listening via focus groups, ongoing employee pulse surveys, employee advisory groups, and honest discussions between managers and direct reports. Maintain the non-negotiables of culture and let go of any leave-behind elements of culture that can disappear. After gathering employee insights, leaders can co-create an envisioned future. One where the employee is involved in the development, understanding, and communication of that future so they can adopt, advocate for, and believe in it.

Hold Tight to Core Values

Regardless of work location, a company’s core values must hold steadfast. From hiring employees to making important business decisions, leaders should remain true to their core values and use them as guideposts.

Focus on the Mission

Mission-driven organizations are more important than ever. They keep people connected and engaged when not seeing each other every day. It’s crucial to instill companywide messages that employees are more than a “workforce.” Rather, they’re a community of like-minded individuals who equally share in the company’s mission.

Operate from a Place of Compassion

Empathy is key.  It’s vital to take employees’ physical and mental wellness into consideration. Many still struggle with mental health issues due to the effects of quarantine. Consider this when interacting with employees and making plans for their work future.

Create Ways to Communicate and Connect

Many employees experience office FOMO (fear of missing out). To combat this, position the office as a social gathering place for collaboration, mentoring, development, community-building, and more. In lieu of the historical face-to-face time, design other ways for employees to communicate and connect. Some examples of this are weekly social meetings, all-hands-on-deck brainstorms, fitness and cooking challenges, or virtual meditation breaks.

The work world will never be the same. Still, with high levels of trust, communication, and vulnerability, companies can work with employees to cultivate and accomodate post-pandemic work styles.

Turning Mistakes into a Business Model [Podcast]

Most of us want to have a perfect business model out of the gate, but that’s a pie-in-the-sky attitude. As much as we all want to avoid mistakes in business, they’re pretty much inevitable. Everybody makes them, and many try to hide those mistakes because they’re worried they’ll be judged for them.

But what a lot of people don’t realize is that in business, there are often happy accidents that lead to a successful business model. In fact, one could argue that mistakes are the lifeblood of a strong business. And those who are willing to admit to their mistakes and pivot are the ones who can turn a blunder into a boon.

Our Guest: Executive Talent Acquisition Expert George McGehrin

On the #WorkTrends podcast, I got to chat with George McGehrin, a man who managed to turn a mistake into a national executive search/recruiting firm–one that has been successful for two decades. For years, people asked George for job search and recruiting assistance, and he said he couldn’t help. Then one day, he decided to try. Suddenly, there was a seven-figure business involving recruiting, coaching, and more. Since then, he has been widely featured on podcasts including Money Matters, Moving Up, and The Entrepreneur’s MBA.

I had to know: How can a mistake like that turn into a great business model? The secret to success, George says, is listening.

“You have to be open to listening to what people are asking you over and over, what their needs are,” George says. “The fifth time someone asks you for something, go ahead and say, ‘Yeah. This is what we charge.’ And you’ll be surprised at what comes of it.”

George says that in order to have a good business model, you have to be financially prepared for anything–even COVID-19. He says that business is a cyclical experience, so any business owner should expect to go through ups and downs.

“A lot of times it comes down to money. Do you have enough to withstand challenges?” George says. “If you’re a business owner, you can’t spend every dollar you make. Or if you work for somebody and you only have one source of income, you need to make sure that you allocate your money properly for a rainy day.”

To Succeed: Test, Fail, and Try Again

Once you’ve turned a mistake into a great business, there are ways to make sure your business model is successful. So what are the key actions to take?

First off: Test everything.

“If you’re going to send one email out to somebody or to a group of people, maybe send out two emails with different language,” George says. You should always be willing to adapt and try new things to get better results. 

Secondly, don’t be afraid to fail–and keep going.

“At the end of the day, the more times that you fail, you’re a little closer to winning, right?” George says. “First timers, when they’re starting a business, they say, ‘Oh, it didn’t work. I reached out to 30 people and no one got back to me.’ They need to expect to hear a lot of nos and keep going.”

And finally, while you should be willing to hear nos from potential customers or clients, you also should be ready to say no to opportunities. You shouldn’t expect to do everything by yourself as a business owner, but rather, give tasks to your employees and trust them to come through.

You have to know what your strong points are. People who do well focus on one or two things that they’re really good at. And they delegate everything else,” George says.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about how to push through challenges to create a successful business model by connecting with George McGehrin on LinkedIn.

How to Build Employment Value with Better Benefits [Podcast]

Salary isn’t everything. As a matter of fact, eighty percent of employees say that they’d choose additional benefits over a raise. Sixty percent say that benefits are a huge deciding factor in whether candidates take a job at all. And HR professionals report that the benefits are what’s leveraged most often to retain top talent.

To put it another way: Employees are vocal about the swaying power of offering better benefits. And employers will want to listen.

With this in mind, to stay competitive, organizations need to know how to tailor benefits to both the employees they have and the candidates they want to attract.

Our Guest: Alexa Baggio, Employee Experience Expert 

On the latest episode of #WorkTrends, I had the pleasure of speaking with employee experience expert Alexa Baggio. She’s devoted to creating immersive experiences and encouraging thought-provoking interactions between employers and employees–with the aim of improving upon “traditional” HR practices.

For example, Alexa founded The PERKS Conventions (PERKS) to make employee-focused services easier to discover, access, and afford. Currently, PERKS has expanded to six cities across the U.S. and is the largest employee experience expo on Earth. This past year, PERKS also created Showcase™, an innovative virtual benefits fair platform that empowers employers to host live info sessions, eliminate hours of work wrangling vendors, and improve employee experience communications all year round.

With so many employees reporting that better benefits are extremely valuable to them, I asked Alexa how employers can use benefits to build and enhance their employee value proposition. Her answer? Offer personalized benefits to suit specific employees.

“You’ve got four generations in the workforce. Some people care about fertility. Others care about loans,” Alexa says. “Some people also care about debt. How are you going to make everybody happy? You personalize.” 

Employee “Experience” vs. Employee “Lifestyle”

So how do you personalize benefits to optimize for a better employee experience? Basically, says Alexa: You choose the lifestyle benefits that suit the employees you hired. In other words, don’t just get a foosball table as a perk because the rumor is that foosball is cool.

“Everybody heard that [foosball] was trendy, so they did it,” Alexa says. “That may be the right culture for the 75-person sales team with an average age of 23 in your office, but what if your culture isn’t that? What if you have a bunch of engineers, or researchers, or lab technicians?” 

After figuring out what core benefits fit the employee population, employers need to understand that perks offered also are a reflection of company culture. For example, if your organization values health and wellness, that needs to be articulated in the benefits. Communicate this by offering a gym membership or nutrition program.

“As an employer, you have to decide: What are the cultural benefits you want to signal? Is it fitness? Wellness? Timeliness? Cost reduction? Financial education? Community giving?” Alexa says. “Give people the experience to get in there, and to explore, and show that you’ve got great systems set up to be a person that works there.”

Basically, to stay competitive as an employer, get to know the people you hire. Learn what’s important to them and offer better benefits to reflect that. It could increase the longevity of your hires and foster the company culture you desire.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by PERKS. You can learn more about how to optimize benefits for employee experience and lifestyle by connecting with our guest, Alexa Baggio, on LinkedIn.

The 3 Pillars of Hybrid Workplaces [Podcast]

It’s irrefutable: Hybrid workplaces are in, and inflexible employers are out.

The data is astounding. In some studies, 80 to 90 percent of employees report wanting to stay remote after the pandemic. And 84 percent of working parents with children under 18 find that the benefits of hybrid workplaces outweigh the cons.

We know now that overall job satisfaction is tied to flexible working models. And we’ve seen that many people are jumping off the “talent cliff” in search of greener pastures that offer full- or partially-remote work options.

The future of hybrid workplaces is now, especially as we all transition back to in-office roles. When it comes to developing a strong hybrid work culture, there’s no time to waste if employers want to stay competitive and prioritize employee satisfaction.

Our Guest: Rhiannon Staples, B2B Marketing Leader and CMO at Hibob

On the latest episode of #WorkTrends, I talked with Rhiannon Staples. She is a global marketing leader who has been architecting expert business strategies and leading start-up teams for over 15 years. Before taking on her current role as Hibob CMO, she was the Global VP of Marketing at NICE Actimize and Global Head of Brand Marketing at Sisense. She’s an expert in brand-to-market strategy, lead generation, and account-based marketing programs. She also specializes in spearheading global growth for companies.

Rhiannon had some great advice for harnessing hybrid work for global growth and business strategy. She said that there are three pillars of hybrid work that companies need to consider in order to design a successful hybrid work model.

“The first is productivity, the second is communication, and the third is culture and connection,” Rhiannon says. 

For the first pillar of productivity, employers need to show workers their willingness to be flexible. This will give employees the feeling that employers are dedicated to their success. For the second pillar, they need to adopt an inclusive business model that prioritizes employee communication–whether employees are working remotely or in person. Finally, employers need to empower their HR leaders to create a culture of connection with employees. They need to offer tools and resources that can make the employee experience better.

Leaders also need to approach hybrid work with the point of view that there may be different rules than with traditional remote work.

“Hybrid work is less about letting employees go remote as it is about the work model, type of employment, hours worked, and work location,” Rhiannon says. “So first and foremost, know that ‘hybrid’ is not ‘remote.’ It’s something new that we need to tackle.”

The Benefits of Hybrid Workplaces

I asked Rhiannon how important it is that companies take hybrid work models seriously. Her answer? VERY. Notably, only 13 percent of people said they wanted to go back to the office full-time, five days a week, according to a Hibob study.

“I don’t want to create an impression that employees don’t want to be in the office. Because that’s not the case at all. Basically, our data has shown that employees and managers aspire to have a flexible work environment,” Rhiannon says. “Companies that are bringing employees back full-stop, in-office, five days a week … they’re going to feel the backlash of this. Employees will leave for companies that are offering greater flexibility.”

Data shows that hybrid work is beneficial for everyone, including underrepresented populations. These groups include those with disabilities or those who are neurodivergent. Also, women across the world have greatly benefited from hybrid remote work options, particularly those caring for children or elders.

“We’ve proven over the course of the past year that those companies that have offered flexibility to working mothers have seen great success with that population,” says Rhiannon. “Women having access to flexible work hours and having the option to work from home will open the door for many women to get back to work.”

Embracing a hybrid work model can help organizations retain employees. Also, it can encourage a more diverse workforce. If you ask me, there’s really no downside.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Hibob. You can learn more useful information on adapting to a hybrid work style by connecting with Rhiannon Staples on LinkedIn.

For more information on this topic, read more here.

 

Lessons in Leadership Style: Empathy Works [Podcast]

While in a position of power in an organization, it can be difficult to gauge how effective a person’s leadership style may be. Oftentimes employees are nervous to address issues with their supervisors, especially if they think their managers won’t listen to their perspectives.

While there isn’t one right way to lead, more and more research reveals that leaders who practice empathy have better relationships with their teams

A person who can adapt their communication and leadership style to meet the needs of different individuals are liked more and seen as friendlier. This type of leader knows that there isn’t just one way to do things. They can change how they manage their employees based on context and situation. They welcome meaningful feedback and apply it effectively.

Our Guest: Gary DePaul, Ph.D., HR and Leadership Expert

 

The special guest on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends is entrepreneur, author, researcher, and performance consultant Gary DePaul, Ph. D. Books he’s written include Nine Practices of 21st Century Leadership, The Most Effective and Responsible Clinical Training Techniques in Medicine, and his most recent work, What the Heck Is Leadership and Why Should I Care?

When talking with Gary about effective leadership style, he said one of the major things to avoid as a leader is fake collaboration. This happens when a boss creates the illusion of collaborating with their team–but in reality, they’re not listening to others, making all the decisions themselves, and having a one-way conversation. 

Real collaboration, Gary says, can only occur when a supervisor listens and guides their team based on the exchange of ideas. There is no hidden ego or agenda on the boss’s part.

“If we’re going to have real collaboration, you have it so that one person is leading, and everyone else’s role is to inquire. The boss should consider: What is this person saying? Why is it important? Am I understanding it right?” Gary says. “That’s what real collaboration is. When you have that synergy, when you’re focused on what the other person is saying, and you sincerely are listening, using empathy.”

Empathy is Crucial (Whether You’re a Boss or Not)

 

A great way to make your team feel comfortable sharing ideas, Gary says, is to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Admitting to things you can improve on shows self-awareness. Also, it shows your team that you’re empathetic to any concerns they may have regarding your present leadership style.

For example, Gary says, “If you’re new to being a supervisor, acknowledge it. Recognize you’re going to make mistakes and ask for feedback, informally. Say, ‘How am I doing? I know I’m new at this. What can I do to do this better?’ Do things like thank people and acknowledge them for what they do. And then hold people accountable with the team and hold yourself accountable for what your team does.”

Of course, leaders aren’t the only ones who can benefit from practicing empathy. The best way to get good results at work, whether you’re a CEO or hourly employee,  is to outright ask people for feedback and provide it to others voluntarily. As an employee, you can improve relationships and overall output at work by taking the initiative to interact.

“If you’re not a leader, but you want to connect with your teammates, simply ask your peers how they’re doing!” Gary says. “Check in with them, especially if you’re working in a virtual, remote environment. And give your boss upward feedback!”

Developing a leadership style that works can be difficult. But if you’re empathetic and open to your employees, you’re setting everyone up to improve not just their work output, but their human experience at work!

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more useful information on how to develop an empathetic leadership style by connecting with our guest, Gary DePaul, on LinkedIn.

Image by Andrea Piacquadio

The Languishing Issue: Help Employees Move from Stuck to Strong [Podcast]

Ever get that blah feeling? That surge of listlessness you can’t explain? The thing that keeps you in bed watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer until 8:13 am when you have a work Zoom meeting at 8:15? Well, that blah feeling is called languishing, and it’s what some are calling the dominant feeling of 2021.

Languishing is a newly discovered mental health state that encompasses a sensation characterized by apathy, dissatisfaction, and loss of interest in most things. And it can dramatically affect your success at work.

With 85 percent of employees reporting that they’d take a $5,000 pay cut to feel happier at work, and with so many employees leaving companies at a rapid rate–employers and employees both need to take languishing seriously.

Our Guest: Maya Garza, VP of Solution Consulting and Behavioral Science at BetterUp

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends I was excited to talk to Maya Garza, vice president of solution consulting and behavioral science at BetterUp, about the languishing phenomenon. Maya leads the team of behavioral scientists who serve as executive advisors to our partners. With over 15 years of experience working with Fortune 500 organizations to implement human-capital solutions, she’s an expert at maximizing human potential.

I asked Maya what she thinks the most overlooked employee issue is to date. Unequivocally, she said, it’s mental health and well-being. And that is due in part to a widespread misunderstanding of mental health issues.

This lack of understanding can hurt the company, Maya explained, because BetterUp research shows that 55 percent of employees are languishing.

“Those who are languishing experience heightened stress and physical and mental exhaustion,” Maya said. “Employees at work might feel overwhelmed, down on themselves, or uninspired … They might even put off what used to be a challenging or an exciting task. That turns into a snowball effect that then leads to stress and burnout and lack of innovation.”

How can everyone deal with the experience of languishing?

The first step to managing the experience is to admit that you’re languishing. 

“Simply asking yourself where you are mentally is actually a helpful diagnostic tool. And next you might want to think about, well, gosh, how do I get myself out of that?”

Maya suggests celebrating small wins and reminding yourself what you’re grateful for. Research shows that these practices help improve mental health. Of course, Maya says, it will take more than individual employee actions to help with organization-wide mental health issues.

“Moving yourself from stuck or languishing to truly flourishing is really hard to do. You don’t solve it by one walk or one talk with yourself. You really do need systemic intervention. And I think this is where HR can really be that thought partner for managers and for leaders,” Maya says.

“What it really comes down to is: Is the leadership at your organization being intentional? Are they really deeply thinking about aligning their words and their actions? So remember, we are humans first, we are employees second … Change is accelerated from the bottom up and we need to invest in the potential for every employee to really be at their best.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends sponsored by BetterUp. I think we could all benefit from imagining what our teams can do if they’re feeling their best, and how we can make that so. You can learn more about this topic by connecting with our guest, Maya Garza, on LinkedIn.

Image by Austin Distel

Avoid the Workplace Talent Cliff [Podcast]

The talent cliff is a phenomenon where businesses lose employees at a rapid rate. It isn’t a new problem, but it regularly appears in times of crisis, such as the 2008 stock market crash, and of course, the 2020-2021 pandemic. Because of the present WFH lifestyle, people are reconsidering their options, keeping their eyes open for new and better career opportunities.

Meaning the talent cliff is a constant threat to business success, especially right now.

Many organizations are in a position to suffer losses of key people who fill critical roles aligned with the organization’s overall business strategy. Finding and filling these roles quickly is essential but not always possible, especially when it’s a job candidate’s market. That’s why it’s important to stay ahead of the game and focus on preventing employees from leaving, rather than scrambling to hire talent later.

Our Guest: Jennifer Thornton, Talent Strategy and Leadership Expert 

 

The special guest on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends is Jennifer Thornton, a sought-after business strategist who has clocked over two decades as an HR professional. She takes an unconventional approach to building workforce development solutions for companies, and her impressive expertise in talent strategy and leadership helped drive the rapid growth of her consulting firm, 304 Coaching.

I asked Jennifer why some businesses wind up staring over the edge of the talent cliff, while others don’t. And the heart of the matter is: Businesses who don’t value employee satisfaction will likely suffer the most.

“When a business starts to take off, they start throwing all their resources into increasing their revenue, opening up new markets,” Jennifer explains. “But what they don’t say at the same time is: What do we need to do for our talent to ensure that they can keep up the pace with our growth?”

“After a company continues to grow, the leaders usually get super directive, and the good people don’t want to work for someone highly directive. So they leave. Then the people you’re left with are the, ‘Yes sir,’ ‘Yes ma’am’ kind of folks. And they’re not telling you the truth. And then all of a sudden the productivity–it just goes straight down–off the cliff!”

How Can Businesses Avoid the Dreaded Talent Cliff?

I asked Jennifer about what leaders can do to avoid the talent cliff, or at least curb more employee losses. She explained that leaders need to provide psychological safety. They need to give employees space to honestly express ideas, and leaders need to be prepared to respond in a supportive manner.

“Psychological safety allows people in the workplace to be honest, to be truthful, to fully embrace who they are without judgment, which creates productivity and innovation,” Jennifer says. “When you open up the conversation, people feel valued … They feel like it’s safe to bring ideas to you because you don’t just shut them down.”

“I would encourage your listeners to think: How do you think about opening up that conversation so there is psychological safety and so that the business can move forward with the truth?”

The talent cliff is a threat to all businesses. But if you prioritize team needs, it will help you to retain valuable employees and amplify overall business growth.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. And I hope it communicates that the key to a successful business strategy is valuing the people who are helping you to achieve it. You can learn more about this topic by connecting with our guest, Jennifer Thornton, on LinkedIn.

7 Unexpected Places to Find Your Next C-Suite Hire

Filling C-suite vacancies as soon as possible typically involves contacting executive search firms and posting to niche job sites. While standard recruitment tactics can certainly be effective, these methods may be narrowing the talent pool for your next C-Suite hire more than you realize.

Getting creative with your recruitment process will fill your C-suite with diverse, forward-thinking, and highly qualified professionals. Here are some unexpected places to look as you start your search for your next C-suite hire.

1. Passive Candidates

Job sites focus on candidates who are actively searching for a position. But what about the candidates who are more in stealth mode? Or aren’t looking at all? Passive recruitment involves reaching out to professionals who might not be on the job hunt yet but would be stellar choices for your C-suite. To identify and pursue the passive candidate, talk with your current leadership team, peers, and colleagues. Also, consider referral incentives to executives with helpful connections.

Keep in mind that since passive candidates aren’t jonesing to leave their current jobs, your company may need to offer extra incentives. This is especially true if the prospective executive would need to relocate. So you can exceed their expectations, work to gain insights into the candidate’s current position. What do they value most? What would entice them to make a move?

2. Outsourced Talent

Your business might benefit from outsourcing an executive’s job altogether. While this may be a non-traditional route, it could help you get the most out of available talent.

What exactly does outsourcing your C-suite look like? As an example, look at outsourced CMO Hawke Media. In this model, a marketing agency replaces the function of a CMO by creating a strategy and directing marketing campaigns. Your company saves on the recruitment process, and the outsourced team picks up where your CMO, CIO, or CFO left off.

3. Internal Promotions

When it comes to C-suite talent acquisition, external recruitment is often the name of the game. However, it’s worth looking at your internal talent pool as well. Consider which of your SVPs or VPs could show promise as a C-level employee. You might discretely recruit internal select members of your current leadership team or open up applications to whoever wants to apply.

Companies that extend their internal promotion pipeline straight to the top will likely see a positive and impactful culture shift. After all, employees tend to work harder and stay at a company longer when they see apparent growth paths. Higher retention rates, in turn, are essential for continuity, stability, and long-term company growth.

4. Former Employees

Every company has former employees that, in hindsight, wish would have never left. And with the right incentives, they just might come back. This applies at the executive level as well. If your company lost a high-level leader to another organization—especially a competitor—it might be worth your while to recruit them again. Just make sure you approach them ethically and transparently.

If a former executive left your company on favorable terms, consider reaching out. Yes, you’ll need to make sure they don’t have a non-compete agreement with their current employer. But if that’s not an obstacle, arrange a meeting to learn about their career goals and present your intentions. Some former executives might surprise you with how open they are to a new opportunity with their old company.

5. Industry Conferences

Conferences provide valuable networking and educational opportunities for professionals at all levels. And while most conferences are happening virtually these days, an upcoming event might still be the perfect place to recruit your next C-suite hire.

It can be helpful to do your research and create a shortlist of likely individuals ahead of time. Browse the conference website for notable names and look into the speakers before you leave. Plan your virtual itinerary around connecting with potential hires and follow up promptly. You might just make a connection that completes your company’s C-suite.

6. Blogs and Podcasts

Your company wants true thought leaders in its C-suite. With so many communication tools available, chances are these professionals are demonstrating their thought leadership by creating unique content and through personal branding. Industry blogs and podcasts are thus another recruitment source to consider when searching for your next C-suite hire.

You may already have some industry podcasts, blogs, and social media accounts you consume daily. When you listen to podcast episodes, take in a blog post, or connect with leaders online, pay close attention. Are there any individuals whose unique perspectives would benefit your company? If yes, don’t hesitate to reach out.

7. International Firms

Companies that only recruit domestically could be missing out on diverse talent and distinctive viewpoints. If you have the means, consider expanding your C-suite search internationally. This approach can be especially applicable to fully remote teams.

Top talent from another country will bring their own cultural work practices and knowledge base to the table, adding to your organization’s push for diversity. Plus, your business will open up a range of international opportunities that might not otherwise exist. Just be sure that your HR department is prepared for the logistics of hiring on a global scale.

Finding your next C-suite hire is often far more complicated than filling your typical vacancy. Recruitment and hiring often need to happen covertly, which takes job site advertisements and LinkedIn connections off the table. So, to find the sharpest minds for your executive team, get creative.

You’ll soon find the next member of your leadership team.