Want to Engage Future Leaders? Empower Them

Leaders, do workforce engagement issues keep you up at night? If not, here’s a powerful wake-up call from Gallup. Last year, the global employee engagement rate was only 23%. Although that’s the highest level since Gallup started tracking global data in 2009, it means 77% of the workforce still misses the mark. Plus, it falls far short of the 72% benchmark seen in best-practice organizations. So, how can your company move in the right direction? Empower people — especially younger team members.

Empower employees - Gallup global employee engagement trends as of 2023


Engage? Or Empower?

Employers recognize just how vital engagement is for workforce well-being and satisfaction, as well as overall business productivity and profitability. As a result, the desire to improve engagement has spawned an endless number of programs, initiatives, and tools to help keep employees interested and engaged in their work. Yet still, strong engagement remains elusive.

Why? Sometimes, the best solution is not about adding more layers to an already complex leadership strategy. Instead, it’s about understanding and adapting to changing workplace trends. This is precisely what’s needed now.

Today’s work dynamics require leaders to understand, appreciate, and adapt to the interests and motivations of an increasingly younger workforce. Those who master this subtle art of purposeful empowerment are more successful at inspiring their staff with a new sense of focus, connection, and commitment.

What Do Next-Generation Engaged Workers Look Like?

As the president of a leadership development consulting firm, I often speak with managers about the most difficult challenges they face. Recently, their answers involve a common complaint. “Kids today!” But what exactly do comments like this mean? When we dig deeper, a more specific profile emerges:

  • Employees from younger generations seem uncertain, yet confident.
  • They continuously demand more, even when myriad choices are available.
  • They introduce new ways to communicate, and are fluent with digital technologies that are typically beyond the grasp of senior team members.

These generational differences may cause frustration and friction. But in truth, every generation can point to differences in others that create difficulties. Instead, we need to challenge our own mindset and operate on positive assumptions rather than negative ones.

This means that no matter what younger employees bring to the workplace and how they shape the work culture, leaders play a vital role in helping them evolve into more engaged, committed individuals and teams. You can’t change the characteristics of people who are entering the workforce, but you can adapt to their reality and meet their development needs. And in the process, you can make your workplace more inclusive and resilient.

To Empower Employees, Where Should You Start?

When adapting to Gen Z and Millennial needs, it’s wise to emphasize working styles. For example, to feel comfortable and focused at work, younger people expect employers to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to their wellbeing. This may include flexible schedules, remote or hybrid work options, shorter workweeks, the ability to take extended mental health breaks, and other creative benefits and work choices.

Support for mental, emotional, and financial health is the new bread and butter of Millennial and Gen Z work experience. And if you resist these needs, you risk losing the best and brightest young talent.

Younger members of the workforce know many possible career paths are available to them. They don’t need to commit to any particular company for the long haul. Now, these individuals are more open to participating in the gig economy and going solo as professional practitioners and entrepreneurs.

Their work/life expectations are also more than a wish list or a passing phase. Here’s why: After years of pandemic disruption, intense remote work environments, and economic challenges, 46% of Gen Zers and 45% of Millennials are feeling burned out. As they see it, their demands are not whims — they’re about physical and mental survival.

How Can Leaders Empower Employees in a Meaningful Way?

Millennials and Gen Z are predicted to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025. So, if you don’t learn how to empower and engage them now, you’ll soon be outnumbered. To start creating a work environment where younger team members can thrive, try these three strategies:

1. Consider What’s Driving Various Demands

First and foremost, seek to understand the logic behind requests from younger employees. For example, a Gen Zer may prefer remote work because they live in a smaller, cheaper town so they can make ends meet and avoid an expensive commute. Or a Millennial could seek schedule flexibility so they can pursue a side job to improve their financial stability.

There are often serious, valid reasons behind younger workers’ expectations. Recognizing these underlying drivers can help you respond effectively and build a work environment where every employee can thrive.

2. Give Younger Employees a Seat at the Table

One of the most damaging assumptions you can make as a leader is to assume you’re always the most intelligent person in the room. If you let go of this notion, evolution and innovation will immediately become easier, more people will feel included and involved, and ultimately, your business will become more successful.

Invite other voices to join the conversation. Acknowledge the importance of their input, and accept the value of their perspectives. As a result, you can expect a more loyal, committed workforce. In fact, Deloitte research indicates that when younger employees feel empowered to share their ideas and influence in decision-making, 66% stay with their employer for at least 5 years, compared to only 24% who do not feel empowered.

3. Don’t Just Delegate — Empower

Many leaders stop short of empowering employees merely by taking tasks off their own plates and delegating them along with explicit instructions. But if you move from delegating tasks to actually elevating employees and giving them power, they will take ownership and accountability for projects. And ultimately, they’ll be more engaged.

The key is trust and a willingness to let go of control.

As leaders, we’ve been conditioned to jump in with ideas, answers, and solutions — but when we do, we take that opportunity away from others. Whether your team comes to you with an idea, a problem, or a recommendation, take the time to really listen to what they say and why it’s important. And when you ask questions, ask with an intent to understand, not to solve.

It’s Time to Empower the Future

As leaders, we all must recognize and embrace the fact that the world is changing, and organizations are changing, too. This is an opportunity to grow in new, interesting, productive, and profitable ways.

Younger generations are here. They are looking to us to help them transform the way we work. So, don’t dig in your heels or bury your head in the sand. Instead, consider the possibilities and leverage this new source of talent that, with our support, can build a brighter future.

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.

HR’s New Responsibility: Addressing Social Injustice

The last year and a half has been a reckoning for workplaces; companies addressed the paradigm-shattering COVID-19 crisis, while also addressing issues of social injustice inside and outside the office.

Now that many companies are getting ready to welcome their employees back to the office, more employees are putting pressure on companies for better treatment. Or they’re simply walking away from their jobs in search of companies that share their values.

Human resources departments across the United States have been busy, to say the least!

So, is HR expected to manage payroll, benefits, recruiting… and address social injustice in current events, too?

The answer is yes. Here’s why.

Millennials expect to bring their whole selves to work.

Millennials, who are set to comprise up to 75 percent of the total U.S. workforce by 2025, fundamentally define diversity and inclusion differently than their older counterparts. They don’t believe in the well-intentioned but misguided “colorblindness” approach of yore.

Deloitte’s report, The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion: The Millennial Influence, “found that in defining diversity, millennials move well beyond the integration of demographic differences. They more commonly cite diversity as the blending of unique perspectives within a team, known as cognitive diversity.”

Millennials strongly believe that their unique perspectives cannot be separated from their success. In other words, they refuse to check their identities at the door because they believe that identities bring value to business outcomes.

And if current events threaten that sense of identity, these employees expect organizations to understand the cognitive load of social injustice.

“Businesses that don’t expand their notions of diversity and inclusion will increasingly lose their millennials and certainly won’t retain Generation Z … who are even less focused on traditional diversity than their older brothers and sisters and are even more engaged in socially collaborative platforms,” according to the Deloitte report.

Mental wellness impacts employee engagement.

When Millennials and Gen-Z bring their whole selves to work, this also includes their mental wellness. Morra Aarons-Mele said it succinctly in Harvard Business Review: “As we recognize neurological and emotional diversity in all of its forms, workplace cultures need to make room for the wide range of emotions we experience.”

Bonusly, an employee engagement software, also found this to be true in their survey of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, employees are much more stressed about work and at work than in years previous. But as it turns out, Bonusly also found that “highly engaged employees are 3.2 times more likely to be on a team that encourages open discussion of anxiety and stress at work than actively disengaged employees.”

So when incidents like the murder of George Floyd, the Atlanta spa shootings, or the January 6 Capitol riot occur, the best thing you can do for your employees is to acknowledge what’s going on. Let them know that you see and hear their concerns.

Be cognizant that current events impact your employees’ mental wellness. Also, recognize that you, as an HR professional, have the ability to thoughtfully address your team in a way that helps them feel valued and purposeful.

Crafting your employee experience and building purpose

We talk often about making sure employees feel valued as a crucial part of their employee experience. Recognize millennials and Gen Z for their diversity of experiences because that is what they need to feel appreciated. This requires a tailored approach from HR.

Consider this. HR is the department responsible for crafting and supporting the entire employee experience. So that responsibility extends to supporting employees’ well-being in times of social unrest.

Also, this is an opportunity to foster inclusion and a sense of purpose.

“Employees now want more from their employer than a paycheck. They want a sense of pride and fulfillment from their work, a purpose, and importantly a company whose values match their own,” said Jeanne Meister in her Forbes piece.

The subject of continued social injustice can be complex for companies to address. But it’s your responsibility as an HR professional to facilitate those conversations productively.

Do the work to understand your employees’ unique perspectives. Be aware of what can impact their well-being. This creates an inclusive and equitable environment for all workers.

You might have some difficult conversations, but it’ll pay off in time. After all, 83 percent of millennials are actively engaged when they believe the organization fosters an inclusive culture. And world events impact employees greatly. Addressing those issues is the compassionate, empathetic thing to do.

Photo: Tumisu

Recruit Top Talent With Tuition Assistance Programs

What do Apple, Disney, Verizon, Google, and Starbucks have in common? They’re all multi-billion dollar companies, and they all offer tuition reimbursement to their employees. And they’re showing that a company benefits by paying fees for their employees’ education. Tuition assistance is a win for both employers and employees.

A Growing Trend in Employee Benefits

Tuition assistance programs are a type of employee benefits in which the employer pays for a predetermined amount of continuing education costs for their employees. Assistance may come in the form of reimbursements for tuition, fees, and books.

Some employers may opt to cover the full cost associated with the education, while others may choose to pay a portion. Some might pay upfront; others per course/semester.

To protect themselves from employees taking advantage of the program and leaving the company, employers take various measures, such as requiring the beneficiaries of the program to remain in the company for a specified time — or be required to reimburse the company for part of the fees paid on their behalf.

The Benefit for Companies

As skilled talent becomes harder to find, many companies are looking to grow from within. As of 2018, 85% of US employers surveyed were offering tuition assistance to some or all employees, according to a study by WorldatWork. Here’s what companies gain:

1. Reduced Tax Burden

Companies with tuition assistance policies for their employees can benefit from tax breaks. That’s because money spent on paying employee education expenses is tax-deductible if it meets the IRS requirements.

Under section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code, an employer can deduct up to $5,250 per year for each employee that qualifies and participates in the employer’s education assistance plan.

With the US government facilitating the implementation and adoption of tuition assistance programs, there is no reason for an organization not to take advantage of this opportunity.   

2. Free Part-time Work (Depending on a Company’s Tuition Assistance Policy)

Besides the tax break, companies can also get free part-time work and increased brand awareness by offering tuition reimbursement.

For example, Finnegan, a Washington-based law firm that specializes in intellectual property law has an attractive reimbursement program that covers 100% of employee’s tuition fees.

To qualify for the program, staffers must work as “student associates” while they attend law school. This program is a win-win for all; the company gets part-time work from the student and the student gets free tuition. What’s not to like, especially if you’re going to a top law school like Harvard on someone else’s dime.

According to BLS, lawyers make $122,960 on average but can expect to pay anywhere from $12,000 to $70,000 for the LLM (Master of Law) program. But with a tuition reimbursement program, like the one for Finnegan, the cost can be reduced to nil.

3. Help Businesses Attract Top Talent

It’s no secret that every company wants to attract, recruit, and retain top talents.

To achieve this, many companies offer attractive benefits and perks. Some will opt for vacation days, others gym membership, and a few will stick to industry-standard salaries.

But when you look at the various generational cohorts in the workplace (Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z), you may come to realize that you’re not giving your employees what they actually want. For instance, millennials comprise a majority of the American workforce.

That means for a business to have the people it needs, it may need to fish from the millennials pond. And to attract and retain millennials, you’ll want to give them what motivates them most. And that is, you guessed right: tuition reimbursement.

Don’t take our word for it. In a recent Gallup’s survey on ‘The State of the American Workforce,’ 45% of millennials said they would change their current jobs for one that offers tuition reimbursement. By comparison, 24% of baby boomers and Gen Xers said they won’t change jobs on the basis of tuition reimbursement alone.

4. Helps Employers Reduce Turnover

Offering tuition assistance helps to reduce employee turnover and the associated costs.

And there is no better example to bring this point home than the case of Cigna, which was published by the Lumina Foundation.

From 2012 to 2014, Cigna Corporation invested millions of dollars in tuition assistance through its Education Reimbursement Program (ERP). By the end of 2014, ERP resulted in a staggering 129% increase in ROI as a result of the avoided talent management and recruitment costs.

When a company invests in its employees’ development and success, the employees feel obliged to reciprocate by helping the company grow. In a nutshell, a tuition reimbursement program fosters a sense of loyalty between the employee and the employer.

Wrapping Up

Tuition assistance provides an effective way for employers to nurture their employees’ skills through continuing education programs. 

But as businesses and schools around the world cancel physical meetings in response to COVID-19, in-class learning is emerging as one of the hardest-hit activities. However, businesses can’t afford to put capability building on hold. 

To foster employee development in the midst of COVID-19, employers can encourage their employees to do remote learning by offering tuition reimbursement programs. With remote learning, completions can be done from any location, and what better time than now when employees can’t do their normal jobs?

Photo: Markus Winkler

Speaking Emoji: The New Language of Working

Emojis are both a language and a technology. Cultivate’s recent study into just how we use them shows how creatively we’ve adapted to this hybrid form of communication. In just over 20 years, emojis have evolved from the province of teens to an accepted part of business conversation. Influenced heavily by the presence of Gen Z and millennials, emojis have become a standard way to communicate — faster, more effective, and also, enabling us to communicate with more empathy

After 6 months of studying communications over Slack at four enterprise companies — including a total of 83,055 messages that used 101,134 emojis, Cultivate found some interesting trends. 30% of messages used Thumbs Up, while 27% used Mask Face

Emoji usage also differs by company: each has their own visual vocabulary based on company culture. And each generation has their preferences. Baby boomers enjoy receiving business texts with emojis, but only in the right context. Gen X appreciates informal channels like Facebook that can still be written professionally. Clearly, the majority of Gen Y (millennials) are obsessed with emojis and quick, digital-first communications like IMs or DMs. And Gen Z loves video formats, apps and mobile-only approaches with filters and emojis. 

In terms of how we use emojis, 16.3% of ad hoc requests were most typically answered with Thumbs Up, 1.31% with Okay Hand and 1.29% with Coffee.  14.64% of responses to completing tasks were followed by the highest-ranking Thumbs Up emoji and 1.13% were followed by the lowest-ranking Prayer Hands emoji 1.13%. 

The study also found that managers speak their own language: the top five emojis used by managers were different from the top five used by employees. The top emojis used by managers include Thumbs Up (in 4.63% of messages), Clapping (in 1.80%), Party Popper (0.88%), Smiley Face (0.53%), and Heart Eyes (0.39%). The top used team member emojis were Check Mark (in 1.83% of messages), Heart (1.35%), Laughing Crying (1.23%), Eyes (0.64%), and Heavy Plus Sign (0.54%).

Moreover, Cultivate found that managers and employees each tend to stick to the same emojis. As a language, emojis create a sense of connection — no matter the age or rank. And they add a personal touch along with a business personality that sets the tone for the work culture. 

Emojis also offer context to a message by bridging understanding with a reaction/emotion, especially for women, as recent research done by psychologists at Southwestern University found women tend to use twice as many emojis as compared to men. They use more emojis in particular to communicate and express emotions to family, friends and colleagues. Of course it depends on who we’re emoji-ing: you may not want to throw a line of crazy faces to your manager in an email. Then again, it might garner a Thumbs Up.

Photo: Erik Mclean

After COVID-19: Improving Your Employee Wellness Program

The impacts of COVID-19 and the measures governments and organizations are taking to contain it right now are unprecedented. The hourly breaking news headlines of outbreaks and cancellations have our heads spinning. They have also kept the wellness of our families, friends, and co-workers top of mind. Companies like Google led the way in implementing work-from-home policies to keep their employees safe; now remote work is mandatory as part of stay-home, stay-safe policies.

Organizations should certainly follow CDC guidelines to keep their employees safe and prevent the virus from spreading. It’s imperative that companies stay cognizant of the risks the virus brings. We must also heed the short-term precautions that need to occur to keep employees healthy. But after this health crisis passes, think about how your company can keep employees healthy into the future.

Millennials — now the largest generation in the American workforce, and Gen Z are health-conscious employees who are choosing to work at companies that care about their well-being. That’s not going to change after the COVID-19 crisis is over; it will only intensify. These generations are more open and aware of mental and physical health: too many watched their parents sacrifice personal time, missing end-of-year recitals and Friday-night games due to job commitments.

Young professionals are willing to work hard, of course. But they want their employers to understand that there’s life outside of the 9-to-5 grind. They prefer to exchange their energy, education, and expertise for modern benefits — including company-based wellness programs. Organizations have taken notice, but many executives question which wellness program initiatives will offer the strongest return on investment.

Here are six possibilities that can have far-reaching positive effects.

1. On- and Off-Site Fitness Accessibility

Once we’re done with stay-at-home and social-distancing measures, everyone is going to need to move. Younger generations know that the couch potato lifestyle isn’t a winning choice. Businesses that offer on-site wellness centers or access to personal trainers or group fitness classes illustrate to young workers that they see them as people, not numbers.

If on-site facilities aren’t possible? Consider partnering with a local fitness center. Perhaps offer free or reduced-cost memberships for your employees. Or you can secure a corporate rate for ClassPass. That way, employees can choose the location and activity, such as spin class, yoga, boxing, and more. If you do end up partnering with a gym? Make sure it operates outside of traditional business hours. Otherwise, employees probably won’t take advantage of this corporate wellness program benefit.

And for a no-cost option, create a company walking club and set a day and time during the week for folks to participate.

2. Wellness Challenges

Most young workers are accustomed to socializing with coworkers , and wellness challenges allow them to collectively march toward a common goal. What’s more, according to a study of the Blue Zones, which are the world’s healthiest regions, feeling like you belong to a community is critical to long-term health.  We’re seeing that play out right now in an explosion of online exercise classes and social media challenges. A return to normal will mean a return to community wellness. 

Create wellness challenges around healthy living — for instance, ask participants to record how many ounces of water they drink each day or clock the miles that their walking group racks up in a week.

Make sure to publicize progress and give a shout-out to winners on your internal landing page, intranet, or other private communication channels. As you drum up excitement, you’ll see more people join in for upcoming challenges. Take it a step further and highlight employees who participate in 5Ks, marathons, triathlons, and other challenges in your monthly newsletter.

3. Flexible Hours

There are countless predictions about how we’ll return to work, and many posit that remote and flexible working will become the norm. Flextime should be considered part of a company’s wellness program. Research confirms that employees who are empowered to balance their personal and professional expectations are more productive, less stressed, and have a greater sense of well-being.

 Before you roll out flexible work options, however, sit down with your leadership team to develop an intentional strategy. This will ensure you address any questions or concerns beforehand. Together, you can construct clear guardrails around the initiative, including defining the boundaries of flextime for employees. If you’re still unsure about flexible hours, test it with a small group of employees first. This way, you’ll have time to work out any kinks before rolling it out on a company-wide level.

4. Healthy Snacks

Everyone needs to eat, and free snacks and drinks are a great benefit that employees can see and enjoy immediately. Perhaps that’s why 32% of companies already offer this benefit, according to a report by SHRM. The wrong foods, however, can lead to a workforce that’s prone to energy crashes and food comas.

Skip the soda and chips and, instead, provide treats that taste great but don’t include added sugars, saturated fats, or excessive sodium. Consider having fresh fruit, vegetables, and an assortment of nuts delivered to the office weekly and placed in the lunchroom. Offering free healthy food also dovetails nicely with other elements of your wellness program — like gym memberships or personal training.

5. In-Office Preventive Health Screenings

Too many people put their personal health on the back burner so they can juggle busy work schedules and family obligations. A 2019 poll found that nearly 40% of American adults weren’t planning on getting a flu shot, and a national survey of 1,200 adults found that 45% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 did not have a primary care physician — an alarming issue when it comes to getting care during a health crisis. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. To streamline preventive measures that may be covered by your corporate health insurance, invite medical professionals into the office once or twice a year to give flu shots and perform biometric screenings. Not only will doing so make life easier for employees, but it will also reduce the likelihood of employees getting the flu — which will save you a lot in illness-related lost productivity costs.

6. Mindfulness Meetings

Teaching your team members meditation techniques — such as how to breathe deeply and clear their heads — can have widespread corporate wellness program benefits. Practicing mindfulness can help workers lower anxiety and remain more present. One study even discovered a connection between meditation and how willing people are to help others. 

If you’re unsure where to start, check out YouTube, where you’ll find hundreds of beginner tutorials and walk-throughs. After some simple research, you can reasonably self-direct mindfulness workshops. Or you can have a brown bag meeting and bring in a yoga instructor to teach people about breathing techniques and meditation. Additionally, there are numerous meditation apps on the market, including Calm and Headspace.

The popularity of wellness programs continues to rise among companies of all sizes — probably because more employees expect their employers to respect and care about their well-being. Of course you are doing everything right now to keep employees safe. But once this crisis is over, commit to offering long-term solutions to help your people stay healthy.

Photo: Nick Kane

#WorkTrends: How to Make Your Work Culture Rock

What does a person do when the pressure is on them? That’s what NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo asked in his daily press conference on March 26. The same could be asked of our organizations. In her #WorkTrends conversation with workplace culture expert Jim Knight, Meghan M. Biro started by thanking everyone working today — particularly those of you in HR and management who are doing your best to keep your people safe. This is a transformation no one asked for — a sudden and mandatory shift to remote, to flexible schedules, to sitting in kitchens, to navigating new platforms and software, and to trying to virtually and digitally maintain the values of a workplace. What enables that to happen is culture.

Jim built his career as part of the Hard Rock International brand, creating award-winning training programs to catalyze learning and growth. He’s also the author of the bestselling Culture That Rocks: How to Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture

As he and Meghan started jamming on the concept of culture, it was clear they agree that culture is anything but a logo or a color scheme. “It’s always going to be about the people that are currently working in the business at that moment….at the core it starts with each individual with their own unique behaviors, and then when you put them together, if you’ve got similar values and shared experiences, that’s when the culture becomes more robust.”

Meghan pointed out that it’s often a challenge for organizations to find out who their rock stars are — and noted that we often know who the innovators and key players are “in our gut,” aside from the data. Jim added that often, the great ones may be flying right under the radar. Finding them is a matter of looking for those great qualities even before they walk in, and then giving them a culture that brings those to the fore, that celebrates those behaviors.“ Then you can keep them because frankly, they’re a bit in love. And part of that culture has to be wanting to help the world, support the greater good — and be larger than your product or service, both agreed. In other words, your culture has to rock — and that’s when you’ll see people lean into the pressure, take on the challenges, and truly lead.

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

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do many organizations struggle with creating a great work culture?  #WorkTrends
Q2: What internal and external strategies can improve work cultures? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help organizations improve their work culture? #WorkTrends

Find Jim Knight on Linkedin and Twitter

Trending in 2020: The (Somewhat) New Workplace

What does your workplace look like in 2020?

The workplace starting off this new decade is a whole different animal than the workplace was in 2010. The entire definition of the workplace and the nature of work has changed.  So have the expectations of employees.

Here’s what you and your team need to know about what 2020 means for your office: 

The Death of the Office… Kind Of

It’s official: the office is dead. The office your parents knew, that is.

2020 will build on a trend that’s been on the rise in 2018 and 2019. More employees rely on technology to do their jobs and keep up with their teams. This means that more employees know they can do their jobs from anywhere–and they’re not afraid to ask the boss for that benefit.

According to the Society for Human Resources Management, 69% of organizations allow their employees to work from home at least some of the time, and 27% of organizations allowed full-time remote work arrangements.

Technology is not the only driver behind this shift. Millennials, who have more debt than any generation in history, are increasingly leaving prohibitively expensive cities in favor of the suburbs where they can get more space for less (and the ability to work remotely is a major commuting benefit).

Plus, the highest-paying, most advanced jobs are concentrated in a small handful of expensive cities where the cost of living can chase out much of the talent pool. Remote work allows companies to stay competitive by broadening their talent base and attracting talent that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Somebody’s Watching You

Technology is behind the workplace monitoring trend. But this isn’t 1984, and Big Brother isn’t the one watching you — that would be your boss.

A survey by Gartner found that 22% of organizations worldwide are using employee movement data, 17% are monitoring workplace computer usage data, and 16% are using Microsoft Outlook or calendar-related data. An additional Gartner survey of 239 organizations found that 50% are now using non-traditional monitoring methods, such as analyzing employee emails and social media posts, gathering biometric data, examining who’s meeting with whom, and scrutinizing how employees use the workplace.

Based on this survey, Gartner predicts that 80% of companies will be using non-traditional methods in 2020.

That data is being used to make decisions about running the workplace. More than a quarter of employers have fired employees for misusing email, and nearly a third of employers have fired employees for misusing the Internet at work. On the other hand, workplace surveillance can benefit customers — take, for instance, hospital sensors that detect nurse hand-washing practices.

Employee Activism

But workplace surveillance isn’t holding employees back from pursuing what matters to them, even if it means speaking up against their own employer.

Half of all millennial employees have spoken out about employer actions about a controversial societal issue. The same Bloomberg study found that younger employees are more likely to be activists, though millennials are the biggest activist generation.

The past year has seen countless examples of employee activism, instigated by a sensational (and divisive) political climate. Hundreds of Wayfair employees walked out after learning that the company sold furniture to a Texas detention center for migrant children.

A Workplace That Stands for Something

This feeds into the millennial need to work for a purpose, not just money or a career.

A CNBC survey found that 69% of employees want to work for a company with clearly-stated values, and 35% stated that the most critical factor in their workplace happiness was the feeling that their work is meaningful. And these days, employees are willing to trade money for a purpose, with 9 in 10 employees stating that they would take a pay cut if it meant they could do meaningful work.

In fact, when employees were asked to rank what matters most to them in their work, money was a distant second to workplace purpose.

The Changing Definition of Benefits

That said, employees (especially millennials) won’t turn their nose up at decent benefits.

Millennials are the job-hopping generation, with half of all millennials (compared to 60% of all non-millennials), stating that they plan to be working at a different company than their current one by next year. In short, millennials don’t see a long-term future with their companies, and the jobs they take don’t tend to last more than a few years.

But for the few years that you do have your employees, they want that time to be worth their while. Younger workers are pushing back against the idea of work as a constant obsession. More of them demand increasing flexibility and benefits that reflect it, such as more paid leave after having a baby, the ability to work remotely, or allowances for breaks during the day.

The End of the Corporate Ladder

In addition, younger workers no longer think of the corporate ladder the same way their parents do. If anything, the corporate ladder doesn’t exist.

After all, why take the corporate ladder when you could take the elevator?

Younger workers are highly motivated and eager to make an impact, and they don’t want to wait for their turn. They want to move at their own pace. This means that more young workers are starting their own companies or working on their own projects rather than viewing the corporate ladder as an aspiration.

They also don’t see the value in trying to scale the wrong wall. Millennials are willing to be workaholics, but they’ve learned their lesson from the Baby Boomers–they won’t be workaholics unless success is guaranteed.

Also, young workers who grew up in the Great Recession aren’t afraid to scrap and start over, as they’re all too aware that a stable income and a good job are more fragile than they seem. Instead of putting all their eggs in one basket, they’re willing to keep trying until they find the right fit, and they’re more willing to work parallel jobs at the same time.

Take Charge of Workplace Trends for 2020

The workplace trends of 2020 will change the way your office operates —and that can be to your office’s benefit if you’re prepared to take advantage of it. Keep these trends in mind to ensure that your workplace can attract (and keep) the best talent on the market.

Photo by Proxyclick from Unsplash.


What Every Leader Needs to Know About Retaining Millennials

By 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the global workforce. While it’s tough to assign broad characteristics to an entire generation, millennials are generally known to be technically savvy and focused on growth, looking for new opportunities and frequent feedback. So it’s no surprise that traditional management styles fall flat for millennials.

For employers, updating management practices isn’t just a nice thing to do — it’s absolutely necessary in order to develop and retain the next generation of leaders. Here are three important factors that employers should consider in order to retain millennial talent.

Rethink Feedback

Based on a global Korn Ferry survey of over 1,000 executives, 44 percent said millennial employees require a lot more feedback than workers of other generations, with only 10 percent reporting that they need about the same feedback as others.

It’s easy to view “requires more feedback” as a negative trait. However, it’s not that millennials need more time and effort put into their feedback — they just want it delivered differently, in real time. Feedback can be as simple as a manager taking 30 seconds after a meeting to tell a millennial what they did well and what they can work on. Millennials do not see the benefit of an annual performance evaluation where they walk nervously into a supervisor’s office and receive a ton of information all at once. In fact, says Aon Hewitt Senior Consultant Kelly Johnson, the annual review model is often less efficient than ongoing, more informal feedback that employees can implement immediately.

Make Learning and Development a Priority

Millennials place a high value on learning and development because they grew up in a rapidly changing digital landscape. They understand that everyone must accelerate their learning to remain competitive. An important thing for organizations to keep in mind is that horizontal moves can be as attractive to millennials as vertical ones. “There is no reason to look at development as constant promotion,” says Johnson. “Mobility programs — being able to switch roles within the same organization — allow for the growth experiences that millennials want.”

In other words, development is no longer enough. Redevelopment is key. In Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Study, only 50 percent of employers surveyed say their organization has a redevelopment mindset. But in the tech industry, known for attracting millennials, 64 percent of employers cite a strong focus on continual redevelopment.

Build a Culture of Flexible Work

Previous generations wanted work-life balance. For millennials, it might be more accurate to call it work-life integration. Allison Griffiths, principal and leader of workforce rewards at Mercer Canada, stresses that millennials want to “make work work” by making their work fit into the rest of their lives. Still, half of millennials surveyed by Mercer feel that working part-time or remotely would negatively affect their promotion prospects.

Clearly there remains a disconnect between existing company culture and what millennials want from work. Managers can fill the gap by encouraging individual work habits that lead to the highest productivity, whether that means working inside the office or remotely.

Image courtesy of #WOCinTech chat


Employee Loyalty Is Not Dead

“Loyalty means leaving when you are no longer motivated,” writes Lee Caraher in her new book The Boomerang Principle. At the heart of Caraher’s quote is the new meaning of employee loyalty. It reflects a significant mindset shift for those of us who believed that loyalty was a one-way commitment. That one-way commitment centered on an employees’ gratitude toward their employer. This now outdated mindset went something like this: “You, employer, hired and trusted in me to do a good job; In return, I’ll work hard for you.” As such, the term “company man” took root and became a badge of honor.

Now in the 21st century, millennial bias has undermined our ability to understand the new nature of commitment for all employees. Without learning from all generations in the workplace, we rely on mental shortcuts that lead to unfair comparisons and shortsighted conclusions. The result is that managers and employees create barriers to understanding one another. Ultimately the business and its customers suffer. And the nature of the contract between employer and employee continues to deliver unrealistic expectations that are frustrating.

What Is Employee Loyalty Today? 

Caraher’s quote reveals the nature of loyalty today. This new view isn’t held solely by millennials, however; it’s a human perspective, fitting to all ages. This new loyalty has three elements to it.

First, we need to see employment as a two-way street. Certainly, there must be a commitment to the company’s growth. Each employee contributes to that growth based on his or her role and skills. Additionally, the organization makes a commitment to develop each employee while they are with the company. Leaders can demonstrate this commitment in simple ways:

  • Learning what sort of problems employees want to solve and helping them make a difference
  • Syncing business needs with individual development plans based on employees’ goals, values, and strengths
  • Sending employees to workshops, industry events
  • Pairing employees with mentors
  • Being available to coach employees

Next, the new employee loyalty isn’t determined by tenure. Instead, it’s based on the quality of that two-way relationship. What’s more, it’s not bound by employment. Caraher insightfully writes that when someone is “no longer engaged, productive, or happy” at work, “the most loyal act an employee can do is leave . . .”

From this perspective, employees take to heart the quality of their contribution and their satisfaction in delivering results. There’s both deep respect and a sense of ownership for results. When these wane, a loyal employee believes her work is done and it is time to move on. This is no different than a senior manager concluding that it’s time to leave because she has done what she was hired to do.

The new loyalty is not bound by employment. When employees have a positive experience working for you, they become advocates of your company even after they leave. They refer friends to apply for open positions. They speak positively about you online using social media and sites like Glassdoor. This is the greatest compliment you can get.

Finally, the ultimate reciprocal act of loyalty from an employer is the re-hiring employees who have left. Returning to Caraher’s book, she calls this strategic practice The Boomerang Principle. The principle is simple: Employees who leave and want to come back often develop new skills from different experiences. They also return with fresh perspectives that can be mutually beneficial.

Loyalty has evolved. It is earned by leaders and organizations who create an environment conducive to learning and progress. It is earned by employees who actively apply and grow their talents. Both are stewards of the resources entrusted to them. Ultimately, this new loyalty is earned when there are mutual admiration and respect.

This post was originally published in Inc.

5 Ways to Build a Better Corporate Culture and Engage Employees

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” as the saying goes. Employees today want to feel part of something bigger than themselves and their jobs. Millennials are motivated by more than salary – they want to ensure their needs and values are consistent with the larger workplace culture.

A recent survey found 95% of candidates believe culture trumps compensation. And organizations with a thriving culture are reaping the benefits: they attract the best talent, have the lowest turnover, and are more profitable long term.

We live in the age of the empowered employee – so maximizing engagement is mission critical. But before you consider ways to improve the employee experience, you first need to understand the trends that are driving up the importance of workplace culture.

Culture is complex, and it’s about more than “things”

Perks like espresso machines, ping-pong tables, and annual off-site getaways only support your culture after it’s firmly established. True culture can’t be bought, and it’s formed over the long term. It connects people with purpose and is evident in your company’s:

  • Values
  • Beliefs
  • Underlying assumptions
  • Attitude and behaviors

Culture connects people with purpose and is ingrained in the work environment – it’s that feeling you get when you visit a company.

Culture matters to the bottom line

If employees are engaged in your workplace culture and feel like they belong, they work harder and smarter. They have a measurable effect on critical business results. They stay in their jobs longer, and that saves your organization money. The numbers tell the story:

And on top of all this, employee engagement drives:

  • Innovation of products and services
  • Quality of products and services
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Cost/efficiency
  • Revenue growth

Now let’s look at ways you can strengthen your culture and boost employee engagement.

Five tips for improving the employee experience

Companies with highly engaged employees address the employee experience holistically. They don’t just consider the work environment, but also the tools and technologies that enable people’s productivity, learning, and sense of belonging. To build a better culture, look at the end-to-end employee experience.

  1. Start engagement from day one

From the time you post a job, let your culture shine. Open the doors to candidates by highlighting your brand and help prospective employees ‘get’ your culture.

During the interview process, review your communication style, vision, and values. Once someone’s accepted an offer, offer early access to your onboarding program. Get them excited to join the team, provide them with crucial information for their new role, and introduce them to their colleagues.

  1. Get serious about onboarding

Research shows that 69% of employees are more likely to stay with the company for at least three years after a positive onboarding experience. A structured onboarding strategy differentiates your company from those with informal welcome programs while highlighting your culture.

The best onboarding experiences are integrated into your digital workplace because today’s employees have no interest in sitting in a classroom with a stack of brochures. It’s a make-or-break moment that has a direct effect on employee engagement and retention. So don’t skimp.  

  1. Offer a consumer-like digital experience

The new rules of the digital workplace demand that employers offer employees apps and tools that they use in their personal lives. BYO device and apps are the norm, and employees want to receive corporate communication on their preferred channels. They also want to collaborate across any divide –departments, locations, or areas of expertise – with ease and efficiency.

  1. Create inclusive and authentic conversations

Empowered employees expect to have a voice in the workplace. Research shows that companies that simply seek regular employee feedback have 14.9% lower turnover rates than those that don’t.

Keep the lines of communication open at all levels of your organization, and establish a culture of trust. Ensure that senior leadership has digital visibility – a presence on forums, on blogs, and on social channels. Dedicate a digital space for recognizing employee contributions and achievements. These efforts to cultivate transparency have a major impact on engagement. 

  1. Be clear on employee value

Don’t make your employees guess about what you want and expect from them. Define an employee value proposition that represents the employee profile that fits best, culturally, with your organization. Then make sure it’s communicated throughout your digital workplace.

Choosing the right digital workplace solution

The right digital workplace solution makes all this possible. Look for digital workplace solutions designed to solve HR challenges, but also the broader spectrum of challenges related to communication, collaboration, knowledge sharing and employee engagement. Create a social space to welcome new employees and reduce the time it takes to get them up to speed. Use forums to open lines of communication and encourage new hires to ask questions freely, get answers fast, and remove roadblocks. Put a human face on the leadership team using blogs and bios, so employees can get to know their leaders, their vision, and see them in action.  The companies that get this right stand above the rest.

About Igloo Software

Igloo is a leading provider of digital workplace solutions, helping companies build inspiring digital destinations for a more productive and engaged workforce. Offering a suite of modern features and solutions for today’s evolving workplace, Igloo partners with customers to address challenges related to communication, collaboration, knowledge management, and employee engagement. For more information, please visit

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Refuse Generational Labels; You’ll Lead Better

Scroll through your social media feed, and it’s highly likely you’ll see a post that bashes Millennials and the generation of kids today. Usually, there’s a picture of a string of teenagers looking at their phones or taking selfies with dire warnings of the coming apocalypse written underneath. Or perhaps you’ve seen the guilt-inducing, “share if you agree” tirade that includes a grainy vintage photo and words extolling how you came from a generation that used to play in the dirt with rusty nails, and you turned out okay.

Whether you are a part of the Lost Generation, The Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, or Generation Z, is virtually meaningless for effective leaders. These labels are for broad spectrum marketing purposes, akin to arbitrarily naming storms. The World Meteorological Organization follows stringent criteria when naming hurricanes. Not so for winter storms, which The Weather Channel took upon itself to start naming in 2012 to help boost ratings. Conceivably, it helps communicate warnings, but fundamentally, it’s designed to improve marketing and hype. Yes, names can help with recall later, but if you say, “The Blizzard of ‘78” you already have more information than “Winter Storm Maya.”

Unless you are writing policy for millions of people, you shouldn’t be overly concerned about generational labels. Just like with the plethora of behavior assessments, if you learn someone is a High-D, a parrot, a dolphin, or any other noun, it’s simply a quick shorthand you can use to try to understand a segment of your work group. But tread lightly, because tools are only useful if the person knows how to use them. People like to fit in, to be part of a tribe, but few enjoy labels. Besides, it starts to feel arbitrary and unimportant. I anecdotally asked several people what generation they belonged to. They didn’t know and had to look it up. As a general rule, resist labeling, it starts to feel a little Hesther Pryn-ish.

We like to think each generation is unique, and they are, but it’s less for which Batman or James Bond they grew up with, or what national or man-made disaster they lived through, and more about which values they fit into.

Because I’m a consultant, I view the world through a quadrant matrix. There are social or personal means versus social or personal ends. Means are the methods you use, and ends are the desired goal. Social can be thought of as the whole (society), and personal is (you) or your very small group. Social Means, tend to be concerned with the moral responsibility of the whole, while Personal Means, tend to be more concerned with individual rights. Likewise, there are Social Ends (Greatest good for the greatest number) and Personal Ends (greatest good for me.) If you break the model down to it’s simplest form, it could be four sets of values.

  1. Everybody looking out for everybody else for the greater good,
  2. Individuals looking out for themselves for the greater good;
  3. Individuals looking out for themselves for their good,
  4. Everybody looking out for individual ends.

You could plug various generations into that matrix, but that would only be a snapshot, and depending on other factors, e.g. social, economic, geographic, could be potentially misleading. Generational labels, or labels of any kind, only provide a headline. To be an effective leader you need to dig into the story. That’s why I believe it’s more useful to look at the needs, wants, challenges and values we all share at different stages in life. Some examples:

–    In our late teens, we are starting to get better at balancing our emotions, but we are often detached and opinionated.

–    In our early 20s we think we are awesome and the world is terrible; by our late 20s we still think we’re awesome, but we now think the world is what it is, and we try to figure out how we can best get along with it. We have a general ambivalence in matters of love and money. We also test our beliefs and begin to shed the ones that no longer ring true for us.

–    The early 30s is a turning point. Those beliefs we discarded may cause conflict with our parents and other elders. Who we were is different from who we are. New things become important, and there is an urgency to “do something big” before 40.

–    In our 40s we engage in self-assessment, and we have a renewed determination to “make it” by acquiring material things and “own it” by reclaiming a sense of agency. It is about power. It’s no longer about fitting into the world. It’s about creating our version of the world and contributing to it.

–    By our late 40s, we are wondering. “is this enough?” or “Is that it?” Health-wise we often alternate between feeling like hell, and never feeling better.

–    In our 50s things and thinking shifts, and we return to any of the unfinished business of our 30s. We go on new adventures and develop a compelling, “it’s my turn” attitude.

–    In our 60s we are filled with memories, we have a long view of circumstances and a renewed sense of urgency, and in our 70s and beyond, we have a great, if not always positive, perspective on life, are reflective and, health permitting, frequently have fun and sheer delight in the unfolding of new things.

There’s no denying technology, also plays a role in defining generations; think radio, film, television, the internet. But we all share the same approximate general needs, wants, and challenges are various points in our life regardless of the enabling tools around us.

As a leader, you should be willing to test your assumptions about those who work with you. When you demonstrate curiosity and a willingness to challenge your assumptions you build empathy. Empathy, gratitude and the ability to teach are crucial skills for all leaders. It transcends generational thinking and puts greater focus on individuals. Letting them know that they matter. Spend less time budgeting for cultural perks to satisfy your team and more time exploring the strengths of those who are willing to help you achieve your vision, regardless of generation.

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Millennials: Helping the “Workaholic” Generation

We live in a world that is constantly in “on” mode. Smart phones, computers, emails, and phone calls; even after you clock off from work, it’s so easy to forget to actually “check out.”

This is especially true for the millennial generation. Despite common misconceptions, millennials appear to be more workaholics rather than lazy youngsters. Their relationship with technology often means they are constantly checking work emails after they’ve clocked off, or first thing when they wake up in the morning.

This raises a new question: is the lack of work-life balance a healthy transition? Could millennials’ work ethic be hurting themselves? In order to mitigate this imbalance, there are a couple of ways that Human Resources (and company leaders) can adjust the unequal lifestyle habits of millennials without taking away from their autonomy.

Why They Can’t Stop Working

There are a couple of theories as to why millennials are always working. Some say it is due to their upbringing, where children were constantly working on a schedule: soccer practice, piano practice, school, dinner, and sleep.

However, others think it is due to their delay in building a family. In fact, many millennials are still living with their parents well into their late 20s. This is at no fault of their own, as the economy is thrusting young workers into lower paying jobs than what their parents had when they first started. Not to mention the insurmountable student debt much of them carry after leaving college; it’s a wonder that millennials are able to make money at all.

But due to this delay in leaving their parents’ homes, millennials find they have more time on their hands to work. Plus, they are not going out and buying homes or starting their own families, which might otherwise limit the amount of time they would like to spend in the office.

Thus, millennials find themselves in this vortex: a lack of financial freedom, more personal freedom due to a lack of dependents, and technology that allows us instant access to emails, work servers, and messages from clients or coworkers. So, it comes as no surprise that they never quite “clock out” at the end of the day.

Health Concerns

It is widely known that burnout at work can be damaging to both employee’s personal health and the health of a business. Burnout normally results in overexposure to stress and lack of personal time.

Yet there is a rising concern among health educators that the younger generations, from millennials to current teens, are experiencing far more stress and anxiety than their parents.

“This April marks the 24th anniversary of Stress Awareness Month,” says Christine Carter, in a post for “…It’s no secret that the millennial age group, in particular, reports higher stress levels than any other generation and they appear to be having a difficult time coping with it,” she states.

Carter attributes an increase in millennial stress levels to increased responsibilities in the workplace, major purchasing decisions, issues with marriage, and parenting, or planning to parent. “According to the American Psychological Association, millennials rely on more sedentary stress management techniques than other generations. Given their fluency and comfort with technology, it’s not surprising that millennials are turning to less active solutions such as gadgets to cope with stress.”

This creates a unique dilemma for the “workaholic” generation: turning to technology to help manage stress and overexposure to stress and tech at work. Over time, burnout is sure to create problems for businesses and millennial employees. For the employees, this increased exposure to stress can lead to serious health issues down the road: everything from neurological issues like cluster headaches, GERD and other intestinal illnesses, to heart conditions. For businesses, this might cause increased sick days and lack of engagement, as well as turnover, all of which contribute to a huge loss in profits.

If you see this behavior pop up at work — where employees are admitting to checking emails constantly or staying late, and burnout is starting to affect your team — how can you create a healthier culture for them? How can managers and HR leaders make a positive adjustment to the lives of their workers?

What Can HR Leaders Do?

Although every company has different aspirations for success and company culture, there are some real tried-and-true ways that company leaders can build up healthy environments for their employees. One such way is to promote the 3Ps: play, purpose, and potential.

Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management suggests the 3Ps as a best practice method for building up company culture. Employees, especially millennials, want to work for companies that promote fun and creativity (play); that prove they are making a positive impact on the company, community, and world (purpose); and that keep them feeling motivated for achieving better standards and positions (potential). Pepperdine University also suggests providing employee activities — such as yoga, company outings, or educational lessons — to help promote healthy lifestyles and to help employees realize that the business is invested in their overall wellbeing.

Providing an environment for activities or relaxing work spaces is an easy way to subtly de-stress your millennial employees. Experts also suggest increasing autonomy for employees. This can be done through flexible work schedules and flexible or abundant vacation times. Millennials are already pioneering the flexible work schedule, so allowing them the freedom to work when they want to, and for as long as they would like, can cultivate an excellent work ethic and a positive work-life balance.

However, not every business will have the freedom to choose flexibility. In those cases, show your employees through example. Leave on time to prevent employees from feeling like they need to work late, or create special days that promise your employees a bit of a more relaxed atmosphere. One list suggests such days as “No Meeting Monday” or “Late Start Friday.” However, cultivating this culture takes more than just creating suggestions; it also requires accountability. Through example, you can show your employees that you will hold yourself accountable, and you will be able to more thoroughly hold your employees accountable too.

Millennials may be a new challenge for business leaders, and they are certainly challenging their limits, but creating a culture that meets their needs isn’t impossible. In fact, their blend of work-life balance could simply be a new form of workplace culture: making your work into a fun environment that enhances your life.

Through accountability practices, as well as a new twist on office activities, you could create a business that not only works for millennials, but for every generation that precedes them or follows them. A healthier work-life balance is in your hands.

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Leadership: Adapting to Today’s Harsh Realities

The world in which we live is going through fundamental shifts – simultaneous changes that are literally turning everything, as we know it, on its head. Leaders of today and tomorrow are challenged with addressing these aspects to drive the business forward.

From the influence of technology, to a struggling world economy veiled in high unemployment, protectionism and a depleting middle class, most of us are at odds with these concurrent shifts in events that are disrupting our livelihoods and expectations of career paths.

We must overcome our fear of fundamental shifts and learn how to adapt to the new reality. One could not have fathomed the news of robots and computers displacing highly skilled workers in the near term. But that is today’s harsh reality.

Large corporations simply are not ready. While consumer behavior and expectations continue to evolve, the businesses have not kept pace. Companies have experienced a deterioration of control, despite knowing the eventual need for upheaving the precious infrastructure of the organization.

In the next decade, leadership will take many sharp turns in the journey.  These current trends will challenge organizational leadership.

  • Globalization has opened the borders and has given rise to emerging markets with an evolving middle class. Pressure from global competition is quickly elevating more nimble companies to the forefront while those within the Fortune 500, mired in traditional practices and legacy structures are falling to the wayside: Blockbuster, Borders, Eastman Kodak, among others. More companies are or will be integrating automation capabilities to streamline process, improve productivity and increase speed and accuracy in communication within the organization and to all customer touch points.

For leaders, the need to adapt to market speed will be tantamount to managing the real-time complexities of the market pulse, customer tendencies, competitive pressures and brand position.

  • The Rise of the Millennials gives credence to a generation who has, by far, experienced a mercurial existence compared to their older counterparts. With their natural affinity to tech adoption, plus their unpredictable job prospects, this future generation of leaders will influence the way corporations function, how the workplace is governed and how business practices are developed.

Tomorrow’s leaders will shake the foundation of today’s business with a zeal to drive significant revision in response to the expectation of continuous market disorder. The complacency, which is common among many of today’s leaders, will cease to exist.

  • Data will be more pervasive than ever and artificial intelligence and machine learning science will be interwoven into all areas of the organization to capture meaningful insights that will improve decision-making capabilities.

Leadership will be challenged when they are confronted with the opportunity to share their datasets with partners, vendors and even competitors to create an open source environment that will yield an improved contextual understanding of markets and customers, but will also allow for a much different market dynamic.

  • The Gig Economy will become more pronounced as companies begin to flatten their structures to make way for increased efficiency across the organization. And while many of these processes will be automated, the demand for acute skills across many verticals will create a more defined need for specific outputs on a task basis or as Google terms, “work-for-hire as the new normal”.

For leaders, they will be tasked with creating a black book of contingency or flexible workers but will be challenged to retain top talent under these conditions.

  • Growing Economic Uncertainty will also expose a workforce population caught in the grips of technological change, and are left unprepared to evolve with the demands of the time. The groundswell towards Universal Basic Income will make it necessary to give a boost to an economy in uncertain times. On the other end of the spectrum, the impetus of technology which gives strength to efficiencies, will make many things more affordable, which should help keep the economic wheel turning.

This is, by far, a significant hurdle that will consume business as they battle the elements that will attempt to hinder performance.

I have hesitated to mention Climate Change, This, in itself, will have its catastrophic impacts in the next 30 years. Government, research and corporate investments will prioritize spending to mitigate its effects but as we’ve seen thus far, unless various governments are willing to recognize its eventual impacts, let alone its existence, the efforts of the changing business landscape becomes a moot point.  

Leadership in the coming decade will be unlike what we’ve witnessed in the last 30 years. The simultaneous shifts in economy, technology, consumption, employment, environment and politics necessitate a mindset that not only seeks to sustain organizations, but also push for a fervent, more social-conscious mentality.


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Coaching: The Secret to Retaining Top Talent

Figuring out how to retain the best employees remains a top priority for every business owner. This shouldn’t be a surprise: according to a study by the Center for American Progress, the typical cost of turnover is 21 percent of an employee’s annual salary.

Retention has become even more of a hot-button issue as Americans’ attitudes toward changing jobs begin to shift. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that workers born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48, staying at each job for around 4.4 years. But a startling trend has emerged among millennials – the oft-maligned generation born roughly between 1980 and 1995. Ninety-one percent of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years, and according to a 2016 study by LinkedIn, the average number of companies that Americans work for in the five years after graduating college has nearly doubled over the past 20 years.

In many ways, millennials are a generation at odds with traditional corporate culture. Millennials expect transparency in the workplace — they want to be a part of the decision-making process and are comfortable with the idea of dashing off an email or Slack message directly to the CEO. This is just one of the qualities that can lead to a significant expectation gap between managers and employees. As highly skilled as they may be, millennial employees sometimes don’t meet the standards older managers come to expect in terms of communication and general business practices.

The expectation gap goes both ways, however. Nearly 90 percent of millennials say professional development opportunities are critical when evaluating a job. Essentially, millennials are telling their employers, “If we don’t pass muster, give us the tools to get better.” Employers who fail to provide the support their employees need will soon find themselves on the losing end of the job-hopping trend.

When it comes to bridging the expectation gap, personal business coaching has proven to be an invaluable tool for both managers and their subordinates. Individual coaching in a variety of business practices can help workers substantially increase their productivity, resulting in an ROI of nearly seven times the initial investment. Unlike consulting — which focuses on remedying an immediate problem — coaching helps professionals develop and refine skills that will allow them to confront future challenges more effectively using a clear, level-headed approach.

Allowing employees to take charge of their own professional development with a self-directed approach can further cement the benefits of business coaching. With self-directed learning, the students (in this case, the employees receiving coaching) remain in the driver’s seat. They can learn at their own pace with a coach they’ve personally selected. Since they are responsible for evaluating their own efforts, the focus remains on the process of learning itself, rather than external assessments.

Giving employees control over their own professional development can be tremendously empowering, and this ties into one of the most valuable outcomes of individual business coaching. Beyond helping employees learn new skills, coaching helps improve self-confidence and morale; eighty percent of professionals who received coaching reported an improvement in their self-esteem, and 63 percent saw a positive change in their overall wellness. This makes sense, after all — especially when it comes to millennial employees. When you give people the tools they need to do their jobs better, it follows that they will be happier and more confident at work.

Establishing a company-wide coaching program serves as a vote of confidence in employees. Everyone wants to feel valued — not just millennials — and there’s no better way to demonstrate that than by investing in their professional future. In this case, independent coaching offers a flexibility that traditional management styles (or internal HR departments) simply can’t provide. When a company partners with a platform like Ace-up, employees can find and engage directly with coaches who meet their precise needs, putting the power to grow and improve in their hands.

Forget beer pong Fridays or foosball tables in the office — individualized business coaching gives employees the skills and confidence that make them want to stay with the company. It’s a critical business priority not just for retention, but also for the productivity and growth of the company.

As the old business joke goes: a CFO asks his CEO, “What happens if we invest in our employees and then they leave us?”

The CEO responds, “What happens if we don’t — and they stay?”

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Is Job Hopping Inevitable?

As long time readers know, I tend to be pretty opinionated.  Recently, I’ve gotten sucked into a conversation thread on LinkedIn about job hopping.  It’s semi interesting–much of it is people rationalizing why they move from job to job to job.

Much of the job hopping phenomenon has been attributed, incorrectly I think, to millennial.  “That’s the way they are, we just have to accept it.”

First, job hopping isn’t primarily limited to millennials, I see people in every age group doing it.

Second, I think it’s unacceptable to resign ourselves to thinking of this as the future of the workplace.  Leaders that do are probably not doing their jobs.

Let’s look at the business impact of job hopping.  The true business costs aren’t just the recruiting and onboarding costs for replacing people.  The true business costs is $100’s of thousands to millions in lost productivity (individual, managerial, organizational) and lost opportunity.

While the argument can be extended to any role. I’ll focus on sales.  We all see the data that in complex B2B sales organizations, the average onboarding time is 10 months.  In our experience, we see onboarding times that are sometimes longer than a year.  Remember this is the time to get people up to a “run rate” of full productivity.  During this time, there are huge opportunity costs, whether it is territory that’s not covered, inexperienced people losing deals that might have otherwise been won.  For a discussion of this, look at my article, The High Cost Of A Salesperson.

Now add another data point.  Average sales tenure in the job with the same company is 22 months.

Think about what this means.  We’ve spent 10 months getting them ramped up to be productive, then they leave 12 months later.  Unless we are recovering the expected productivity of the full 22 months, in those 12 months, this is a huge money losing practice!

Stated differently, in months 11-22, they have to be significantly over performing for us to break even on them.

But we already know the answer to this.  Huge numbers of sales people are not achieving their goals and companies aren’t meeting their numbers.

There’s more that one can look at in assessing the business impact of job hopping, but I’ll stop here.  By it self, this simple business analysis of accepting job hopping as inevitable shows an absolutely unacceptable picture.

If we want to do something to improve business results, we have to focus on retaining our people.  We have to rid ourselves of the belief that job hopping is inevitable.

How do we start to address this issue?

Again, there’s a lot of research that tell us the reasons and gives us clues for what we have to do about it.

People, of all ages, voluntarily leave jobs for a variety of reasons, including:

A bad direct manager.

They see no opportunities for learning, growth, and development both professionally and personally.

They don’t feel that management values or cares for them as human beings.

Consequently, they don’t feel their ideas are valued or listened to.

People want to contribute to the company and have that opportunity to contribute.

They want to be part of something that’s exciting and growing.

They want to work for an organization that contributes to society or the world, in some way.

They want to work with people who trust them and who they can trust.

They want to feel a value part of something, not just a commodity that can be replaced.

There are a lot more, but I’ll stop here.

There’s no inherent reason companies can’t do these things–in fact the great one’s do, but of course they don’t have a job hopping problem.  But if you are reading between the lines, you are starting to see the root of the problem may be a leadership issue.

There’s another layer to this problem, and this may be more specific to millennial.  They all grew up in the late 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s.  During that time, companies were downsizing/rightsizing/restructuring, they saw their parents being laid off.  They saw their parents and jobs being commoditized, hired when demand is up, laid off when demand is down.

They saw parents who were loyal to their companies, often wanting to work for one or a very small number of companies over a career being abandoned by those companies.

Where prior generations saw loyalty to a company as a virtue, their children saw the companies not being loyal to their parents.  As a consequence, loyalty to an employer is not part of their value system.

Frankly, company leadership has, for the most part, earned this lack of loyalty.

I’m not naive.  There are business ups and downs, there are cycles that are unpredictable.  This is not new, it’s always been a part of business and companies have to right size.  But good companies recognize this and try to keep these to a minimum.

Others, view people like commodities.  When we need more inventory, we get more, when demand is down, we get rid of inventory.  They treat people the same way.

On top of this, organizations get sloppy at people management.  It’s tough managing performance issues.  It takes time and commitment on the part of everyone.  Rather than managing these issues, too many managers take the cowardly way out, simply laying off people because it’s easier than doing the right thing.

People aren’t dumb, they get this, they see how they are being treated, so they start looking out for themselves–which has further devastating consequences to overall company performance.  They keep looking for better opportunities–which they should.

Which gets us to where we are today.  Where everyone believes job hopping is simply the new workplace dynamic.

The root problem is a leadership problem and until top management recognizes this and starts truly valuing its people, the situation won’t change.  Until top leaders understand the devastating business consequences of this and decide (or have their boards decide) to take action, the situation won’t change.

The good news is there are lot of companies and inspire management teams that get this.  They are both the top performing companies in their segment, they are at the top of the most admired lists, and they are the companies that have no talent attracting and retaining top performers.

Job hopping is not inevitable.  It’s devastating for companies, and I believe, from an individual point of view, it’s probably not the best way to build a career.

Am I missing something?

For a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

A version of this was first posted on Partners in Excellence blog.

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Millennials: Are Gen Y Women An Untapped Market?

Today, Millennials (individuals born after 1980) are a highly targeted advertising market. It’s not hard to see why brands are vying for attention from this generation. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 18-to-34 year old Americans represent nearly 23.5 percent of the population, making them the largest demographic in the U.S.

However, many brands pursuing this new generation of consumers often forget one simple truth: Not all millennials are male. Yet, much of today’s messaging tends to be “bro-based” or male centric, leaving out a diverse, demanding, and potentially lucrative market segment: The Millennial women. You don’t think so? Think of all the “Be a Manly Man” Doctor Pepper 10 commercials or Old Spice’s latest “Smell like a Man” campaign. These are just a couple of what seems like a barrage of marketing messages with male undertones (and female heroine) that are directed at the general Millennial crowd.  And don’t even get me *started* on the Carl Jr.’s ads!

Before you start thinking I’m here to discuss gender bias in today’s marketing and advertising world – I’m not. My point is that Millennial women, despite being financially strong, independent, and wielding more power than ever in terms of purchase decisions, are not being targeted by brands and marketers.

It is a common practice for brands to target women only for women-centric products. Generally, brands aren’t focused on engaging female consumers. A recent study on Millennial women’s relationship with brands reveals today’s female consumers demand significantly high levels of engagement from brands. Are they getting it? No. This is where brands are ignoring billions of dollars in potential revenue opportunities. How should brands and marketers influence this untapped cohort? How do they connect with the Gen Y woman?

Understand that “Millennial” is not a single group

The biggest mistake marketers make is treating “Millennials” as a single group. Women from diverse age-groups may fall under the category of Millennials. From high-schoolers to women hitting their mid-30s, all of these women belong to the Millennial class. Naturally, they need to be marketed to in different ways.

Inspire the Millennial woman

As a whole, Millennials like to associate themselves with difference-making brands, causes, and trends. The Millennial woman wants to be inspired by the brands she chooses. She seeks engagement with positive brand images that resonate with her, and make her feel good about supporting them. Hollow marketing messages don’t work with her; brands that want to attract the attention of the millennial woman need to layer their campaigns with inspirational messages.

She appreciates brands that make her the “hero.” So make her the hero.

According to a recent finding, 67 percent of women “appreciate brands that make [them] the hero vs. themselves [the brand] the hero.” When it comes to engaging Millennial women, brands that talk about themselves won’t cut it.

Focus on crushing stereotypes

Women are increasingly entering spaces traditionally considered to be the “man’s world.” More women are earning graduate degrees, making their way to top corporate roles, owning businesses, and are the bread winners for their families. Brands need to break the mold and portray women in these new roles. For instance, paper towel ads often show mothers with children; however, a woman who spills coffee on her dress rushing on her morning commute or in a boardroom meeting also needs paper towels, doesn’t she? Enough with the stereotypes, advertisers.

With well-paid jobs, more spending power, and better lifestyles, women are an emerging financial force. Brands that leverage this group are sure to compete more profitably in the near future.

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This post was first published on Forbes. 

#WorkTrends Recap: Millennial Attraction Factors

There are more millennials among today’s applicants than any other generation, and they’ll be 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. On this week’s #WorkTrends show, we were joined by CEO of The Muse, Kathryn Minshew, who shared insights on what attracts millennial talent.

Kathryn discussed the challenges all businesses face in finding what resonates with millennials. She helped the audience set aside common misconceptions and shared what to focus on in order to engage the Digital Generation.

Here are a few key points Kathryn shared:

  • Millennials are looking for the 3 Ps for their future business. People, Purpose, and Path. They want to know about the people they will work with, what their value will be to the company, and what growth opportunities they will have within the organization.
  • Instead of just telling prospective employees about your company’s greatness, give the megaphone to your employees and have the employees explain what they love and why.
  • Potential employees need to demonstrate that they’ve done their homework on the company and come prepared to describe what they bring to the table and why they would love to work there.

Missed the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here:

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT). Next week, on Oct 19, best-selling author and speaker Michelle Tillis Lederman will join host Meghan M. Biro to discuss “The 11 Laws of Likability.”

The TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following the #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members, or check out our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

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#WorkTrends Preview: Millennial Attraction Factors

There are more millennials among today’s applicants than any other generation, and they’ll be 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. On this week’s show, we’ll talk about what attracts millennial talent. The challenge all businesses face is finding that sweet spot between the myths and the truth — and what resonates with millennials may surprise you. Time to set aside those misconceptions and focus on the must-haves: an optimized mobile portal, social media-linked application processes, and an authentic employer brand to pull it all together. That’s what it takes for this Digital Generation to engage, apply, interview and ultimately, perform.

Host Meghan M. Biro will be joined by special guest Kathryn Minshew, CEO and Founder of The Muse, a career platform used by 50+ million people to advance in their careers.

Be sure to tune in to get an expert view of what’s millennials what to see from companies, where to find top talent and much more! Millennials are the future of business so this live podcast and Twitter chat should not be missed!

Millennial Attraction Factors

#WorkTrends Logo Design

Tune in to our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, Oct 12 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT

Join TalentCulture #WorkTrends Host Meghan M. Biro and guest Kathryn Minshew as they discuss how to recruit top millennial talent.

#WorkTrends on Twitter — Wednesday, Oct 12 — 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 am PT

Immediately following the podcast, the team invites the TalentCulture community over to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: What misconceptions do companies have about new talent?  #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q2: How can millennials showcase their talent to prospective companies? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q3: What actions should companies take to highlight their value proposition to new talent? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. We invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ community. Share your questions, ideas and opinions with our awesome community any time. See you there!

Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date!


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How HR Can Recruit for IT Departments of the Future

I’ve written a lot about Millennials and the massive impact they are having on the future of work. The largest generation in today’s workforce, they are the generation perfectly matched to ride the wave of digital technology and mobility that came of age more or less at the same time they did, and they’ve helped turn traditional business practices on its ear.

One of the areas in which these two “change makers” are having the biggest impact when it comes to the future of business is in IT. IT departments, and the professionals that staff them follow old school stereotypes no longer. Gone are the days of IT being a mysterious “NASA’esque” area of your organization that most of your employees never entered, let alone collaborated with.

Today’s up and coming IT professionals consider themselves partnered with their peers in the enterprise, and are eager (and able) to participate in strategy planning and long-term corporate goal setting. They tend to work closer than ever these days with both sales and marketing teams, and understand—and make sure their teams know—how what they’re working on in the “backend” will impact what’s happening in the front end. The result? Excited, engaged teams, increased productivity, better products, happier customers and clients, and reduced turnover.

Hiring for IT Departments of the Future

Millennials are driving a majority of this change. These “digital natives” were practically born with a smartphone in their hands, and they live and breathe mobile devices, apps, and software. They are also the cohort who demand connection and collaboration in their work environments. That will not sit idly by and take orders from superiors, instead, they want to know the “why” behind tasks, projects, and business initiatives.

As an HR professional or anyone tasked with IT hiring, you need to be on top of these changing expectations when it comes to recruiting for the future of IT.

Seek out potential recruits who, though skilled in the technical areas as they should be, also score high when it comes to soft skills—things like excellent communication, negotiation, and interpersonal skills. Sharon Florentine, who writes for, recently shared a quote from Kevin King, founder and CEO of the management consulting and assessment firm, Transformation Point. King says that there’s a direct relationship between soft skills and workers’ effectiveness, which translates to better overall business results.

“A higher degree of soft-skills competency brings improved effectiveness and improved organizational results, and that in turn drives greater employee engagement and retention… When people work more efficiently and effectively together, that means their organizations see better results and they’re more likely to stay,” says King. He adds, “You can have the best technology and processes in the world, but if your people aren’t able to communicate about them, if they aren’t effectively demonstrating teamwork, critical thinking and emotional intelligence, it doesn’t help your business succeed.”

What CIOs Need to Change

According to a recent Gartner study, the 2016 Gartner CIO Agenda Report, “talent has now been recognized globally as the single biggest issue standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives.” Where are the most significant talent gaps? Big data, analytics, information management, and knowledge/acumen. The worst part of this revelation? These are many of the same talent gaps CIOs cited four years ago!

Gartner goes on to explore a little of what today’s CIO’s and other IT professionals can do to start bridging those gaps. The key here is to think about talent as a platform— and be innovative. When you’re thinking about staffing, don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and try new ways of sourcing talent—like these:

  • Recruiting/rotating staff from outside IT
  • Working more closely with universities on internships, co-designed courses, etc.
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Considering customers, citizens, vendors, and partners as extensions (and digital accelerators) of the talent platform

Today’s CIOs, in many cases, are already seen as a corporation’s digital and/or innovation leaders. And most of those tech leaders also feel their power and influence is increasing as they become more cross-functional and collaborative across the enterprise. The successful IT departments of the future will maintain a focus on new technology, new software, and hardware, and the ‘hottest’ new skills. To build an IT department at this level, IT staffers will be required to be just as cross-functional, collaborative, and engaged as their CIOs are learning to be.

Empathetic, “big picture” thinkers, who are comfortable moving between the confines of the IT department to a client meeting to customer service or the corporate boardroom, are the types of IT professionals you will need to seek out when hiring and/or staffing for the IT departments of the future.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you seen such an evolution in your organization’s IT department? Do you find yourself collaborating and teaming up on projects more often these days with IT teams? Or are you seeing pushback from IT teams who aren’t ready (or able) to adapt to this new way of enterprise business? I would love to hear what you think.

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A version of this post was first published on

Is Work-Life Balance Dead? Depends on Which Generation You Ask.

Is striking a balance between work and life a priority for you?  You are not alone. 45 percent of employees said they don’t have enough time for personal activities according to results from a Workplace Trends Survey. Health professionals are reporting that people are working themselves to death. In direct contradiction is a multitude of research stating work-life balance is dead and nothing more than a myth.

So who should we believe?

It appears we are all in the right church but the wrong pew. Your seat assignment (and Kool-Aid of choice) is determined by your generation.


This generation has been ready to “86” the entire conversation of work-life balance the moment Millennials got duped with its creation.  This “me” generation spent their entire careers concentrating solely on building just that…their careers. Remember why you wore that key around your neck, Gen X? It wasn’t because Mommy was striking a healthy balance between the office and home. She was burning the midnight oil to be considered only half as equal as her male counterpart. Think about what influenced Boomers – Suburbia, Vietnam, Human Rights Movements, Wade v Roe, etc. Boomers have been incredible influencers which they obtained through allowing their careers to become their life.

If you want to keep your Boomers engaged, allow them to work as many hours as they want, set up mentorship programs and let them complain about work-life balance.

Gen X

This generation is the poster-child of work-life balance. Gen X is the skeptical, middle child with abandonment issues (thank you, Boomers). Gen X wants nothing more than to be home by six for dinner, evaluate every study abroad program Sally just had to enroll in, and above all, continue to enable, what they term, “little monsters” at work— Millennials. Xers grew up fending for themselves and knew early on that if they wanted anything in life, they had to go out and get it on their own. Influencers were The Brady Bunch, (Oh no! Mom and Dad in the same bed together?) the energy crisis and the divorce rate tripling for the first time. Xers know how risky putting all their eggs in the career basket can be and ensure that they do not repeat the same mistakes their parents did.

Retain Xers through Flex scheduling, telecommuting, maternal/paternal leave and give them adequate time off.


As a Millennial, I come with many labels such as entitled, lack soft skills, naïve, love Bernie Sanders, and enlarged thumbs, which I do see in many of my peers. However, one box I refuse to get thrown is work-life balance.

We HATE work-life balance!  Here’s a test to prove my point – as a Boomer or Xer, think about how often you talk about work to your family. Do you go home every day telling your spouse about a co-worker, project or upcoming promotion? Do you ask a family member for advice on how to handle minor issues at the office? The majority of Xers answer “never.” In contrast, Millennials see no difference between work and life and regularly discuss all aspect of their work with their families. All efforts in both are interwoven in a greater purpose, mission or passion. Ever wonder why we text and email you at all hours of the night? Frustrated with us always asking “why?” Do you think obtaining all those advanced degrees was solely due to the Recession? For many of us, work-life balance is dead because there is no need to strike a balance. It is all one big mission.

Keep us engaged through allowing us to work after hours emailing and researching from home. Show us how we can make an impact and then lead the initiative.

Creating successful engagement initiatives in our organizations is no easy feat. Because we have diverse workforces, we cannot take a canned approach to work-life balance or any other program. Let your teams waive their generational flags with honor while understanding their differences.

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The Paradox of Diversity and Inclusion

Almost every organization has a firm understanding of how important diversity is. There is an abundance of research out there that confirms more diversity results in success. Forty-nine percent of executives surveyed by Forbes Insights strongly agree that a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation. With the rise of millennials in the workplace, many organizations have achieved diversity organically. The average human being has turned on the news over the last decade any maybe even has a moral compass that tells them diversity is simply a fairness issue that should be the norm.

I find myself wondering, if everyone knows what diversity is, and why it’s so important, why are white men much more likely to hold leadership positions than women or minorities?

It appears HR’s approach to diversity suffers from the tunnel vision that started with a misunderstanding of what diversity is.

I consulted with an HR pro once who would put a post-it on any applications from minority candidates that read, “Hire a minority,” when passing those off to a hiring manager. When I was first made aware of this practice, I thought to myself, “This has to be limited to this one organization?” After all, who else could believe it’s okay to hire someone solely based on race? Did I read that article on the Supreme Court ruling on racial quotas correctly? It turns out, this practice is all too common throughout organizations, schools, governments, etc.

To truly achieve a diverse workforce that is also inclusive, we must re-examine what diversity is and educate our teams on inclusion.

Real diversity is accomplished through teams that are comprised of multiple generations, cultures, genders, ethnic groups, races, personalities, cognitive styles, length of tenures, organizational functions, parental status, military status, educations, and backgrounds. When building our teams, if we concentrate solely on one characteristic, we alienate groups of society. Much like the HR pro from above was alienating anyone that did not fall within a particular minority. When re-structuring the organization, we must ensure that our teams are as eclectic as possible.

Like many initiatives, there are only as good as the tools you provide to utilize them. Diversity is no different nor is it only HR’s problem or responsibility. Once you have teams where everyone does not think, look and act alike, they are set up for failure if they do not have the knowledge and skill to work together cohesively. This is the most important aspect of diversity and will sabotage your efforts if not setup correctly.

Here are only a five top inclusion initiatives:

  • Ensure your Baby Boomers, Xers and Millennials know what motivates each other and how to communicate.
  • Show your high Ds that their personality type is not superior to others.
  • Create initiatives that enable ethnic groups to see the values of different points of view.
  • Encourage your tenured employees to engage in reverse mentoring of new hires.
  • Invest as much as possible in each team member’s professional development.

If we truly want to make progress and ensure everyone has an equal opportunity, we have to stop thinking about diversity in a vacuum. We owe it to ourselves, our organizations, the HR field and most of all, to society.


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Five Ways Leaders Bridge the Generational Divide

We’re in the middle of a historic evolutionary leap driven by digital innovation and software technology.  And it’s created a generational divide that holds both promise and peril for leaders, managers and HR departments. This is a large fail for those of us in the trenches fighting this ongoing employee engagement crisis.

If you’ve ever watched a teenager (or younger!) on her laptop, mobile, or even iPhone, you know what I mean. She’s texting, Tweeting, Facebooking, taking a selfie, doing her homework and watching Katy Perry’s new video on her iPhone — all at the same time. Without breaking a sweat. Her brain synapses are firing in whole new ways. It’s some crazy combination of scary, exhilarating, baffling, and fascinating. These emerging generations are living a world that didn’t exist a decade ago – a global digital nervous system that operates in real time. And it’s the only world they’ve ever known.

For Gen Xers (large portion are leaders) and Boomers (many leaders here too), this new world can be (especially at first) daunting territory. It can be intimidating and overwhelming.

What it can’t be is ignored.

Those of us in HR and Leadership roles have seen too many walls go up between the different generations. There’s mistrust and unease all around. The Millennials consider the Boomers a bunch of old fogeys. The Xers feel caught between. Boomers can be condescending and closed-minded. And who suffers most because of this generational dysfunction? The organization! Performance and profits. For leaders the challenge is clear: get everyone on the same page/screen.

Here Are Five Ways To Break Down The Generational Walls In Your Workplace Culture:

1) Foster Communication. Get people together, informally, to talk about the new digital reality and what it means to the individual. Xers especially can feel inadequate about their lack of social-media skills. The more dialogue the better. And it’s good for (sometimes smug and hipper-than-thou) Millennials to be exposed to other generations. Just because someone isn’t a computer whiz doesn’t mean they’re not an amazing talent.

2) Demystify. The sheer volume and variety in the digital world can be overwhelming. Offer classes and training to Xers and Boomers. Pair them up with Millennial mentors. Many people are shy about admitting their lack of digital skills; once they’re taught the basics, they find they love it. The goal here is build a basic comfort level across the organization.

3) Be Flexible With Digital-Skill Levels. Some very talented people have no interest in spending endless hours on the computer. Sing their praises! Yes, they need the basic skills to connect them to the organizational nervous system and optimize their performance, but beyond that they can be Luddites. It’s SO important for HR and Leaders to understand that every talented person is different. There’s massive societal pressure these days to conform, to be plugged in online all the time. A lot of amazing people would rather spend their free time on other pursuits.

4) Create A Baseline. This is a site that unites. Something user-friendly that everyone can be a part of. This provides a foundation across the organization; it engages and inspires people. It literally puts everyone on the same page.

5) Be True To Your Culture. As with all business lessons, one size fits no one. You want to tailor your generational bridge-building to suit the specific needs of your enterprise. For some companies, the need is more urgent than others. Take an inventory of where things stand and develop your plan accordingly.

The future is here. Techno and digital tools rule. The rules in the World of Work are changing big time. All true. But optimal results depend of getting everyone comfortable, communicating, and working from the same baseline. Because the possibilities and opportunities are so vast in this new reality, the challenge is an exciting one.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes

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#WorkTrends Recap: Data Drives Millennial Hiring

Recruitment data’s importance is continuing to grow for strategic workforce planning, specifically when considering the growing number of young workers joining the labor pool. With millennials becoming the majority of today’s applicants, and expected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, it’s clear that businesses need to attract young talent to survive.

Susan Vitale, Chief Marketing Officer of iCIMS joined the #WorkTrends show this week to discuss how to use hiring data insights to design an excellent candidate experience, the key to recruiting millennials.

Here are a few key points Susan shared:

  • There is a major disconnect between millennial’s expectations and reality of the job market
  • Millennials expect to be courted and gravitate to companies who match the expectation
  • The candidate experience is a good indication of company culture

You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here.

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Missed this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT). Next Wednesday, June 15, we will be joined by Elissa O’Brien, Vice President of SHRM Membership, and Alex Alonso, Senior Vice President of Knowledge Development for SHRM to discuss the importance of networking and relationship-building.

The TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following the #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members; or check out our Google+ community. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

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