To Boost Retention – Review for Projects, Not Performance

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

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

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

Projects and Teams are Already on the Rise

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

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

Anchored to Specific Targets

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

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

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

Reflecting What’s Happening Now

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

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

A Resilient Framework

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

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

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

6 Ways Employee Recognition can be Established in a Fair Climate

Sponsored by: Cristaux International

Kids are known for complaining when things aren’t fair. Although professional adults may not be as obvious as children, they do the same thing. Perhaps people worry about fairness because it is crucial to happiness. Any organization can find great success and growth by developing a fair recognition climate, but where does one start?

Fairness incorporates objectivity and human emotions. It’s a tricky balance to hack, but the tips below are meant to help leaders set up fair and effective recognition programs. With a clear strategy and positive culture, a company can grow from the inside out.

Why is Fairness Important to Recognition? 

Fairness helps cut bias and gives employee recognition credibility. By practicing fairness, more team members are inspired to take part in programs and opportunities. This buy-in is essential for including all employees and growing your whole team. Whether developing in-person or remote employee recognition, it’s important to make it accessible and encouraging for everyone. 

A fair recognition climate is a determining factor in establishing and strengthening corporate wellness in your company. It has many benefits considered by itself and from an overall corporate perspective.


Fair Recognition Programs

Overall benefits of corporate wellness (©


6 Ways to Establish a Fair Recognition Climate

There are countless ways to build a fair recognition climate. It largely depends on resourcefulness, planning, and inclusivity. When creating new initiatives, consider the team’s goals and the company’s capabilities. With creativity and collaboration, any organization can develop recognition programs within its means. Fairness is essential to effective recognition. It’s important to use the following tips and to see what works best for your team.

1. Use Employee Data

Choosing award recipients is often the most difficult part of recognition programs. To show fairness, use employee data and talent analytics to guide the decision-making process. Additionally, consider developing programs that are entirely objective. For instance, a years-of-service program celebrates employee anniversaries. This recognition is ideal because it can be achieved by all employees and allows leaders to remain objective.

It’s important to keep track of different data sets including employee start dates, reviews, and quotas. Different information can inspire diverse programs like sales recognition and customer service awards.

2. Allow Everyone to Achieve

Recognition must be a level playing field. From veteran staff members to new employees, everyone must be able to be recognized for a program to be fair. Imagine that an organization is putting together an annual awards program for its employees. Some staff members may not qualify for a specific category, so they must be considered for other awards. For example, new hires can be recognized as emerging leaders. Managers can be honored within their departments.

3. Recognize Consistently

Making recognition a routine for one’s company helps develop positive traditions. Consistency is key to building fair recognition. By sticking to a schedule, everyone shares the same expectations. Also, regularity encourages more people to achieve. Team members learn the routines, see others being celebrated, want that for themselves, and work harder.

Therefore, employee-of-the-month programs are so popular. They capture the importance of consistency and create a structure for employee recognition.

4. Show Appreciation

While recognition honors achievements, appreciation is often unprompted by behavior or actions. Instead, it may look like a catered lunch for a holiday. Small moments like these include staff members who may be struggling to go above and beyond. Also, it shows unconditional support and helps foster a culture of gratitude. Taking time to give genuine thanks goes a long way.

5. Celebrate Diverse Accomplishments

Supporting diversity in the workplace is crucial for growing modern businesses. This way, team members have many ways to succeed within their organization. For instance, consider honoring different departments or soft skills like teamwork and time management.

Consider recognizing personal milestones in addition to professional ones. By doing this, leaders show appreciation for the complex individuals they work with. Examples of what to celebrate include completed education outside of work and growing one’s family.

6. Recognize in Different Ways

Some employees prefer public recognition, while others opt for something more private. Get to know your team by talking with them or sharing a survey for them to complete. Consider asking how they would like to be recognized and what gifts they would like to receive. This way you can be more effective by personalizing your recognition efforts for each person. 

Fairness Makes Recognition Fruitful

The best recognition programs are fair, enjoyable, and inspiring. However, they look different for each unique organization. Like Rome, recognition programs are not built in a day. Take your time to develop what works best for you and your people and see the benefits pour in.

How To Find Your Leadership DNA

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

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

Why is being an authentic leader so powerful?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What am I becoming? Average.

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

McKinsey’s study on centered leadership shows: 

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

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

How to find your leadership DNA?

1. Identify your strengths and passions.

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

2. Drill down for specificity.

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

3. Take action, now!

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

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

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

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

Image by Airdone

[#WorkTrends] EQ: The Key to Leading High Performing Cultures in Uncertain Times

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, has been a regular topic in the workplace for some time now. And yet, in these uncertain times and while more of us must work independently conversations around EQ have gained momentum.

So what does EQ mean in terms of today’s workplaces? How are employers taking a fresh look at emotional intelligence while adjusting to new forces in the workplace? Let’s discuss!

Our Guest: Jamelle Lindo, EQ and Leadership Coach

On this episode of #WorkTrends, Jamelle Lindo — an emotional intelligence leadership coach — joins us to discuss EQ’s impact on today’s workforce.  Jamelle has published several thought leadership pieces on Forbes, where he resides as a member of the Forbes Coaches Council. So I couldn’t wait to get our conversation started. First, I asked Jamelle to help us define today’s version of EQ: 

“Simply put, emotional intelligence is about being smart about our emotions,” Jamelle said. He then added: “And not just your emotions, but also the emotions of other people. The reason why that’s important, especially today because this is an extremely emotional time.”

“We are in a pandemic, but we still have to show up for our families, for our businesses, for our clients.”

To help us frame EQ for the workplace, Jamelle filled in some blanks: “The interesting thing about emotional intelligence? Most people think it’s one skill. The reality is, EQ is actually an umbrella term that refers to many skills that tie into our emotionality; things like empathy, assertiveness, self-confidence, and stress resilience.”

EQ’s Role in Today’s Ever-Changing Workplace

I asked Jamelle how today’s best leaders leverage emotional intelligence to support their teams in these trying times. Jamell’s answer helped put everything in perspective: 

“The most important thing that a leader can do is walk the talk; they must develop their own EQ. That starts with self-awareness, which is the gateway skill that leads to everything else, including empathy. You cultivate self-awareness by developing an ability to stop, pause, and reflect on what you’re experiencing.” After saying this sounds easy, but that most leaders struggle in this area, Jamelle gave us a startling statistic: 

“Although most of us identify as being self-aware, only 10 to 15% of us actually are.”

To learn more about how EQ plays helps your organization achieve its mission — especially in the remote work era we’re in now– be sure to listen to my entire conversation with Jamelle!

Find Jamelle on LinkedIn and learn more about his work at

Editor’s note: We’ve given our #WorkTrends Podcast page (and also our FAQ page) a fresh, new look. Please tell us your thoughts?


Photo by ThisisEngineering

How Talent Development Makes a Positive Impact on Your Business

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Company Insight

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


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


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


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

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

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

What’s Your Approach to Talent Development?

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

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


Photo: Berkeley Communications

The Contact Center Evolution Will be Remote

The pandemic has thrown nearly every industry into a state of rapid-fire transformation, and that includes contact centers. Chances are, nearly everyone reading this has reached a contact center and talked to an agent; during the pandemic, agents have become a direct and human — and welcome — point of contact. And if you’re an employee at a contact center, you’re likely experiencing a whole different way of working right now, on the virtual front lines, in some cases, and I have to say this directly: thank you for being there.  

Nearly overnight, as we launched into lockdown and work-from-home orders, the on-site call center had to be replaced by remote locations with agents and managers working from their homes. Given the high-touch, fast-moving, highly managed nature of call center work, would such a shift be successful? Given the traditional model of a call center workspace, would it work for agents to operate from home? 

According to a new report by Calabrio in collaboration with Ravel Research, the answer to both questions is yes. The just-released study surveyed contact center managers from a broad range of industries, in both the U.S and U.K., to find out what major changes the pandemic has caused for contact centers. Among the factors investigated: how the pandemic has created changing customer expectations, how it changes the dynamic of employee management, how viable remote working is for contact centers, and how business intelligence plays a role in customer-centricity, innovation and operations. 

Such are the issues we all need to focus on as we collectively make the leap from the way we used to work to the way we work now — and beyond. And the study found that overall, the shift to remote working has been good — it’s had a positive impact on engagement, performance and results among agents, as managers note. What’s so compelling to me is that this new, transformed landscape wasn’t hard to navigate at all. In fact, it’s made the job easier and the experience better for call center agents and managers in no less than five key areas:

 1. Remote Improves Performance and Satisfaction

It’s worth noting that pre-pandemic, some contact centers already had a remote component: 36% of contact centers had at least half of their employees working remotely. But with the onset of the pandemic, that number soared, with 89% of contact centers having at least 50% of their employees working remotely. While the shift was triggered by necessity, there has been a groundswell of approval on the part of agents. Necessity triggered the shift, but once agents settle into their remote roles, what’s clear is that many see it as an advantage. Call center managers believe 72% of agents are happy working remotely. 

As far as the positive impact on productivity, again, the numbers are in remote’s favor: 73% of managers surveyed express satisfaction with the productivity of employees now working remotely, and 85% are satisfied with employee productivity on account of flexible hours. Moreover, this is not just a passing fad: the adjustment is expected to stick. Citing remote’s benefits for employee satisfaction, service flexibility, and overall employee performance, 72% of managers say a remote environment is likely to continue in the long-term. It’s a clear sign that to many in this workforce, the changes were not only welcome, they may have been overdue. That’s a relief considering that across the country, reopening plans aren’t exactly going as, well, planned. We may have to shutter those back-to-the-workplace goals in favor of maintaining remote arrangements for everyone’s safety. The good news is that in terms of contact centers, that should not have a negative impact on how well agents are doing, or how they feel about their jobs.

2. An Emphasis on New Skills 

For countless employees, shifting to remote (as well as to flexible schedules) has also shifted the emphasis to new skills; the same is true for contact center agents. Managers in the study report that 49% of their employees are better at self-management, 42% have improved their problem-solving abilities, and 42% are better at both technology set-up and security awareness. 

Being a contact center agent has always required excellent soft skills — ask an agent what he or she thinks and I’d bet the answer is that these are hard-won, carefully developed, and endlessly practiced; they’re not really “soft” at all. But now add these three critical skills to the toolbox of abilities — soft or not — that call center agents need, such as clear communication, empathy, patience, attention to detail, and the ability to maintain a positive attitude, and you have the new paradigm for recruiting. It’s not just about being able to ‘give good phone,’ as they used to say, but now also about being able to stay on track no matter where an agent is working from. And again, this reflects the overall trend in remote working: we’re all learning how to balance, integrate, and think on our feet in a new context. The difference is that we don’t always have a customer on the other line, with urgency, possibly stress, and an increased need for our empathy, responsiveness and great service. 

 3. Evolved Training and Coaching

The Calabrio/Ravel survey also reveals that while training and coaching have been able to continue without too much interruption, there will be a greater need to develop new methods and leverage the shift to a virtual workspace. As their top three training resources, managers name video calls and web conferencing (53%); live online training classes (44%); and recorded online training classes (35%). More than half of managers anticipate that moving forward, they will inevitably be able to do less in-person, one-on-one training. 

From a talent development perspective, this is an immense possibility — to harness the remote environment to bring new modes of training and coaching to contact center hires. Virtual Reality could provide new hires with an experiential and impactful way to learn. Digital resources, such as mock scenarios that reflect larger social and behavioral changes, and other “walk in their shoes” approaches may help to mitigate concerns such as unconscious bias or help raise the threshold in terms of patience. By carefully crafting these to begin with, employees have a holistic but modern tool at their disposal. Another option: on-demand and self-service modules, speaking to people’s need for greater flexibility.  

4. Quality Evaluations and Predictive Analytics

Working in a vacuum is a common lament for remote employees. But there are certainly ways to counteract that sense of isolation — and an opportunity to increase feedback and coaching with digital tools. To improve brand impact and with a sense of increased customer urgency (a byproduct of life during a pandemic), managers have ramped up evaluations. According to the study: 1 in 3 contact centers have increased the number of quality evaluations of customer interactions. And while it’s true that evaluations can be a thorn in a manager’s side if done entirely manually, in this case managers are getting smart, leveraging digital tools to ease the heavier load. 44% of managers are using predictive analytics and/or automated quality monitoring. These tools are boosting their effectiveness when it comes to agent coaching, speeding up the process and promoting responsiveness in real time. Being able to spot key trends for the full 100% of interactions means that manual evaluations can be far more targeted. And managers are freed from the traditional reliance of “walking the floor” in favor of a smoother and more fluid agent development process.  

Is this the wave of the future? Managers’ responses on this may be an indication: only 30% think quality evaluations will be the same as they were before and 27% believe they will be doing more evaluations. Yet clearly, some are more forward-thinking than others: 20% believe they will be seeing more automated quality monitoring, and 19% say they will be using more analytics. What this speaks to, from my perspective, is that these tools are on the horizon for some, and already in use for others. And instead of seeing tools like automation or predictive analytics as a norm, managers may see it as a stopgap, envisioning a point when things get “back to normal,” and they can go back to how they conducted evaluations before. That may indicate a gap in perception: these are the same managers who believe remote contact centers will continue into the future; and sentiment around predictive analytics and automation will likely grow. We’ll see how this plays out.

5. New Technologies Offer New Opportunities

The new technologies coming to contact centers are having a profound impact on employee as well as manager experience, and offering new opportunities for support as well as growth. The old adage: If you build it, they will come, applies to a call center — and as we’ve seen as we pivot to remote, instead of agents and managers coming to a physical workspace, now remote innovations are coming to them. The survey asked its respondents: How have your contact center’s investments changed in the following areas, because of the pandemic? Not surprisingly, the biggest investments are in remote working solutions (65%); video conferencing tools (62%); and then, expanded channels for customer communication (52%). All are helping to modernize the manager and agent experience. And it may or may not be a kind of workplace irony to have a human call agent aided by a chatbot or virtual assistance, but these are not as high on the list. 

What is markedly on the rise is business intelligence (BI). A full 90% of respondents say they are maintaining or increasing their investment in BI solutions. And contact managers expect a higher demand for contact analytics to come from every department. We’re going to see call centers increasingly rely on data and more accurate reporting to better assess performance and set strategy — yet another sign that digital tools are leading the evolution. For a remote workforce, BI knits together people, interactions and operations in real time, allowing for a far greater sense of the big picture, elevated flexibility when it comes to key questions asked, and an increased sense of connection between individual effort and overall results.

None of these developments are going to take the place of human connection, however. The rationale behind grabbing the brass ring of better and better technologies is as a means to improve the interactions between agents and customers — by enabling agents to better do their job, from training to maintaining their performance. That includes the interactive dashboards being used by some call centers to provide agents with real-time data on how they’re doing. Designed to answer the questions an individual agent might ask, these provide a graphic as well as numeric scoreboard they can continue to monitor to track their own improvements. 

Self-accountability and a sense of personal stake in excellence may turn out to be our best asset of all. For agents and managers in call centers, these traits are clearly driving the evolution as much as any external forces — and pointing to an overall growth in workplace culture we may not have expected, but as the Calabrio/Ravel survey shows, it’s happening right now.

To find out more, download the study.

This post is sponsored by Calabrio.

Your Open Floor Plan Office Space Is Negatively Affecting Your Team

Open floor plans are synonymous with hip, disruptive startups. Unfortunately, they can also be terrible for morale and productivity.

When we tried to make an open office work, we soon realized our employees were more irritated and distracted than before. We used our experience from that experiment to build an office space that worked for everyone without sticking them into a cubicle farm. 

Open-Office Failures in the Wild

 The BBC recently ran a story about the pitfalls of open offices, specifically at a company called Wildbit. 

Per the BBC, while 70 percent of U.S. businesses have moved to a variation of the open office, those companies struggle compared to their competitors. “Free-range” employees are more likely to get sick, be less productive, and be less happy than their closed-off counterparts.

Chris Nagele, founder of Wildbit, thought moving his entire work from home team into an open office would facilitate collaboration. Instead, it became an unavoidable distraction and made everyone — Nagele included — grouchy. Three years later, Wildbit moved to a new office and gave each employee a door to shut out the noise. 

Tips to Build a Better Office

If you don’t want to force everyone into cubicles, but also don’t want to see your workforce suffer in an open environment like they are bound to do, heed these three warnings.

1. When Everyone Can See Everyone Else – They Can Also Distract

Five people in a common space isn’t a problem. As that number climbs, however, people begin to chat more and work less — even when they want to be working.

In our open floor plan office, whenever a group gathered to collaborate, they attracted the attention of anyone within earshot. By 2 p.m. on Friday, anyone who didn’t book a conference room might as well have been working in a bar at happy hour.

Even passive interruptions can interfere with work. Per the Wall Street Journal, frequently interrupted employees report higher exhaustion rates and more physical ailments than those who are sheltered from the peanut gallery and can concentrate alone in peace.

The best solution for unchecked distractions is a personal escape. Whether it’s an office, a breakout room, a cubicle, or simply a desk, all employees need access to some kind of personal space where they can escape the crowd and get things done.

2. Negative Vibes Spread Quickly

Bad attitudes spread faster than positive ones. One experiment found that planting a negative teammate in undergraduate business groups dropped their performance by more than 30 percent compared to their peers.

Rather than try to combat human nature, build systems that account for this challenge. Each person’s space should have a maximum of a dozen other people within sight or earshot. The most cramped spaces can be made manageable by dividers, partitions, and false barriers.

Even a bead curtain with a picture of a peace sign is better than nothing. By physically marking barriers, you can limit exposure to negative attitudes and address the issue before it spreads to the whole office. 

3. Cultural Misunderstandings Increase

Multiple new hires unfamiliar with company culture don’t function well in open offices. Without guidance, your new hires could get a warped perception of how your team solves problems together.

For instance, we have a couple employees who work well together, but could appear to be in a heated argument to someone unfamiliar with their banter. A new employee who witnesses that kind of interaction without proper context might assume aggression is the way of life in an otherwise relaxed office. 

Avoid misunderstandings by creating rules to respect privacy. Set up a system of sticky-note alerts to limit interruptions or give everyone a flag to raise when chat isn’t welcome. 

People crave other people. Don’t fight it, but structure your office to facilitate productivity more than distraction. By following these tips and giving everything a time and place, you can keep your team on track without locking them in cells to do it.

Photo Credit: mindshareworld Flickr via Compfight cc

#WorkTrends Recap: Ignite Your Inspiration & Make Work Exciting Again

Everyone hits a wall at some point in their career, don’t they? Is that true for you? If you’ve ever thought “I may never find my inspiration again,” today’s chat recap is for you.

Scott Mautz, CEO of Profound Performance and author of two books, including his newest, Find the Fire, says 70% of us have “lost that lovin’ feeling at work.”

It’s tempting, when you feel uninspired, to blame that lack of inspiration on something external. Here’s the awe-inspiring reframe Scott shared with us today: You own the responsibility for reinspiring yourself at work.

Scott noted that it’s important to differentiate inspiration from motivation. Motivation, it turns out, is the pragmatic consequence of inspiration. Inspiration comes first.

We discussed the three conditions of inspiration: that it is evoked, it comes from within, and we can be compelled to act on it. We had a great discussion of how those three things play out.

As the podcast neared its end, we discussed a critical element of inspiration– what do we do when we need to inspire ourselves? It’s the question we are asking ourselves that is often mistaken, Scott said. We need to ask a different question and explore how we lost our inspiration in the first place.

We also learned the nine inspiration drains. It was a little tough to think about such negatives but the beauty of the discussion is the reminder that for each negative, there is a counterbalancing positive.

Scott reminded us of the three ways to fail: quit, don’t improve, and never try.

After today, one thing I am positive we won’t fail at is finding inspiration. We now know the way!

Here are a few key points Scott shared:

  • 70% of people report having “lost that lovin’ feeling at work”
  • You own the responsibility for re-inspiring yourself
  • Motivation is the pragmatic consequence of inspiration
  • Our fear of failure shuts down the part of our brain most responsible for risk-taking
  • Inspiration is the holy grail of enthusiasm

Did you miss 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).

Remember, the TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following our #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members. 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.

Photo Credit: abdullahbinabbas94 Flickr via Compfight cc

#WorkTrends Preview: Ignite Your Inspiration & Make Work Exciting Again

Everyone has rough patches at work. The kind where you sort of have that “today doesn’t feel that great” kind of vibe, but you can still shake it off and do a great job.

But what happens when the rough patches deepen and you can’t pull yourself into the now?

You’re not alone in feeling what Scott Mautz calls, “The Great Drain,” which 70 percent of us experience.  As Scott says, “… waiting around for inspiration is folly, especially if you’re hoping for it from your boss. 55 percent of employees cite the ability to inspire as the single most important leadership attribute they want from their boss, but only 11 percent say their current manager is inspiring.”

While Scott was at Procter & Gamble, he developed an effective, motivational approach to management. I am excited for him to share that with us on #WorkTrends.

In this #WorkTrends chat, we will talk about how you can get inspired again (and inspire those around you).

Join #WorkTrends host Meghan R. Biro and guest Scott Mautz, CEO of Profound Performance and author of two books, including his newest, Find the Fire, on Wednesday, November 8, 2017, at 1 pm ET as they discuss how you can get inspired again (and inspire those around you).

Ignite Your Inspiration & Make Work Exciting Again

#WorkTrends Preview: Ignite Your Inspiration & Make Work Exciting AgainJoin Meghan and Scott on our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 1 pm ET | 10 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: Why is inspiration so important in work and life? #WorkTrends (Tweet This Question

Q2: What characteristics identify inspiration?   #WorkTrends (Tweet This Question

Q3: How do we reignite our inspiration when it fades? #WorkTrends (Tweet This Question

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

Photo Credit: Amazing Aperture Photography Flickr via Compfight cc

5 Ways to Earn Trust: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change Agents: Know Thy Audience

Change agents and their ideas are the life force of organizations.

Innovation of all kinds is essential for organizations to grow and thrive; in fact, organizations that can more easily respond to new facts and conditions have a great advantage. In their book Super-Flexibility for Knowledge Enterprises, UC Berkeley’s Dr. Homa Bahrami and Carnegie Mellon’s Dr. Stuart Evans tell us that super flexible organizations are the most successful. These organizations have strong “circulatory systems” that foster idea flow, and they execute more dynamically. “Targeted experiments, openness to new data, fact-based assessment, and swift revisions” enable them to succeed while organizations that resist, ignore or are slower to respond to new ideas and conditions fail.

While organizations thrive on change, not all employees do — communication is key.

People don’t embrace change at the same pace (and some never will). How you communicate new ideas plays a huge role in how well they’re received and how quickly they’re adopted. If you’re a change agent and innovator, it’s tempting to think that conveying your enthusiasm and excitement will accelerate others’ acceptance — turns out, that won’t work most of the time.

What’s compelling to innovators and change agents isn’t compelling to more pragmatic and conservative people; innovators are often in the small minority. Effectively communicating the need or reason to change is an important skill and a big factor in innovation velocity.

Understand why and when someone would change to better communicate why they should change.

To communicate with greater impact, focus on your audience as much as your idea. Tune in to where your audience is coming from before you try to persuade them where you want them to go — their starting point is as important as your destination.

Use these 5 questions to prepare and communicate your vision for change:

1. How does your audience react to change?
What excites change agents and visionaries rarely motivates conservatives and skeptics. Knowing what motivates your audience helps you make your message relevant to them.

Geoffrey Moore and Roger Everett brilliantly characterized the “adoption curve” to illustrate different responses to new ideas and the pace of their adoption. As an innovator, you are the exception rather than the norm. You generate ideas, see few risks and are excited by advancement. Pragmatics, on the other hand, are more analytical; they manage risk and are motivated by solving problems. Conservatives are more cautious, don’t like risks and are motivated by certainty. Skeptics reject or doubt most things, highlight risks and are difficult to motivate.

2. What’s their professional focus?
The concerns of senior executives and front-line practitioners are rarely the same, so map the scope and level of detail to your audience’s professional focus. Executives tend to watch metrics and focus on performance outcomes and results. Directors typically focus on process and are concerned with its reliability and predictability, while managers look at actions and focus on execution and priorities. Practitioners look at the details of their job and care about the steps and quality of the work. Talking to executives about detailed actions and sub-steps isn’t persuasive, and neither is talking to practitioners about metrics without the detail that applies to them.

3. Are they a captive audience?
If the audience reports to you, they’re watching what you do to decide how they feel about what you say. Make sure you’re modeling and demonstrating the behavior you’re asking for from them. Because they won’t all adopt at the same pace as you, persistence and consistency over time are required — an innovator mistake is to give up before slower adopters ever had time to change.

4. What’s in it for them?
Tune your message to people’s personal motivators and professional perspectives to increase momentum and engagement. Create “what’s in it for you” slides or talking points designed for each audience so individuals can quickly understand why change is good for them — from their perspective of course. Sometimes four separate conversations with stakeholders can save four weeks of resistance from poorly-crafted general communications.

Check out this companion infographic and handy table to help you frame your audience and talking points to your audience’s perspective.

5. How will you operationalize and achieve your vision or goals?
Ideas are easy, but execution is hard. Even when you convince people to change, driving the actions needed to realize the full vision requires sustained communications, coordination, management discipline, results focus and follow through. The credibility of your future ideas and strategies rests heavily on how past ideas panned out in execution, so make sure you have an execution framework that is as well thought as your idea. Apps like Workboard help leaders keep goals, priorities, people and actions aligned on outcomes across locations and divisions.

The ability to imagine and envision change is a talent crucial to company success. When you frame what’s good about your idea or vision in terms that make it most relevant to your audience, you’ll gain support much faster and your impact over a year or a career will be much greater. Now go change your world!

Help Managers Be More Effective Leaders

There is a tremendous engagement and execution gap in companies today. According toGallup, only 13% of employees are actively engaged in their work ; 60% of employees don’t understand their organization’s goals and priorities and just 10% of executives sustainably achieve those goals according to Bain & Company’s Chris Zook. In fact, disengaged employees may actively undermine the value created and customers acquired by their more engaged peers – whom they far outnumber.

Experts at Gallup and Harvard Business Review agree that the cause of the problem and its $500 billion annual cost is managers at all levels and how they spend their time. In fact, Harvard Business Review article “Blue Ocean Leadership” posits that the bulk of that time is consumed by low-impact tasks like getting facts and preparing and reviewing status reports. This leaves little time for leadership activities that drive positive engagement and performance, such as setting strategy, communicating goals, empowering teams to execute, coaching and creating learning environments.

To compound matters, frontline managers receive the least training of all roles and are least prepared to be great at the job of managing and leading, according to McKinsey — yet that’s whom employees engage with the most. Middle managers have the highest potential impact on the bottom line according to Wharton, but may lack the authority to execute for impact (and are an easy target of blame from both above and below).

Business has gotten far more complex and teams more global, but the tools for communicating and linking goals, actions, status and feedback haven’t improved in 20 years. PowerPoint dashboards hand created week after week with progress against goals, dozens of versions of Excel spreadsheets with the list of deliverables, SharePoint and Connections sites with the documents detached from the status of the deliverable and abandoned comments, infinite emails that only 30% of the team takes time to file neatly away and status meetings and read outs are still the time-sucking methods of communicating goals, actions, status and feedback for most managers.

It’s no wonder managers have little capacity left to engage their teams or lead to their full potential! And of course no one upline is letting them off the accountability hook and few high performing managers believe they can achieve their career goals without measuring team goals and execution progress. My own experience as a highly motivated senior manager at IBM, an organization with over 400,000 people globally, is days are very long if you try to cover essential management tasks, vital leadership activities and maintain or build expertise in a domain. Something has got to give if we are to increase leadership capacity and it isn’t the 24-hour day.

To improve engagement and execution, managers need an efficiency breakthrough before they can increase their leadership capacity. Blaming the execution gap on managers or suggesting it’s as simple as using their time wisely isn’t helpful – they need the means to create more time and capacity. Here are four elements of higher effectiveness and efficiency:

1. Make communicating goals and priorities a priority: Your time is well spent communicating goals, objectives and priorities to the team. They can’t achieve them if they don’t know what they are; repetition of goals pays off when they encounter a lot of data, noise and distraction every day.

2. Be clear and specific on the work to achieve goals: Doubt about ownership and the actions needed to achieve goals wastes a ton of time. Make sure everyone knows what’s required to achieve your goals, hand offs within the team are smooth, ownership is clear and people feel accountable for execution.

3. Be hyper-efficient in getting status from your team: Track a consistent list of the actions needed for goal achievement and current status to ensure people don’t waste time on immaterial work and you have transparency on the progress of important work. Avoid reconstituting the actions list or status framework each week – it makes facts harder to get or trust. Set an interval to check status rather than doing it haphazardly throughout the day.

4. Give immediate and real feedback to the team: Be consistent in giving feedback to all your team members (not just the super stars). Link the feedback to actions and goals for the biggest impact. Both positive and negative feedback are essential to engaging your team and achieving your execution goals – so don’t short change this part of the management job.

The Psychologies Behind Motivation

Rewarding and recognizing employees doesn’t just feel good – it motivates the behaviors that you want to encourage. Of course, motivation comes from within just as much as it’s influenced by external factors. It’s hard-wired in the brain, reinforced through childhood, influenced by employers, and toyed with in games.

The intricacies of any psychology are almost always overwhelming at a glance, but organizing the science into several focused, graspable concepts helps to turn jargon into actionable information. With some basic understanding of how the brain processes appreciation and implements positive motivational behavior, we can tweak our everyday conduct in a way that increases productivity within the home or workplace.

Synthesizing Motivation

Our journey begins in the brain’s most important reward channel: the mesolimbic dopamine system. This system lights up the brain’s memory centers to gather information for future use about a rewarding experience and also tells you to repeat those behaviors that prompt rewards.

Want a quick fix for motivation? Set many small goals instead of a few large ones – this way you’ll trigger dopamine more often and can ride the tubular chemical wave.

Your Childhood

The fixed mindset says that your qualities are unchanging, even over time. These are the people who constantly need to prove themselves with tasks that showcase how smart they are and who avoid any areas where they may fail. (After all, the thought process is this: if you have an innate ability, you shouldn’t have to exert effort.) Setbacks for these people are more likely to discourage them from ever trying again.

“In the fixed mindset it’s not enough just to succeed. It’s not enough just to look smart and talented. You have to be pretty much flawless. And you have to be flawless right away.”

What if you’re not flawless? The growth mindset is much more forgiving.

In this mindset,  intellectual ability is something you can develop through practice. Without worrying about how smart they seem to others, people with this mentality willingly take on challenges to hone their skills.

Employee Appreciation

Mindset is also developed during childhood by family, friends, and educators in a way you might not imagine: praise.

Studies show that praising students for their intelligence drives them towards a fixed mindset whereas praise for effort drives them into the growth mindset. Students are then told that they can choose from two tasks: either challenging or easy. Not surprisingly, those praised for intelligence opt for the easy task that won’t hurt their pride and those praised for effort prefer to take on the more challenging task because it provides a learning opportunity. As soon as the fixed mindset students start to struggle, they lose both their self-confidence and enjoyment of the task at hand. They still do poorly when the problems are made easier. Meanwhile, the students with a growth mindset perform well despite setbacks.

Best Practices For Motivating Your Employees

Knowing the ins and outs of motivation is one thing, but making this knowledge actionable is another. Below are some best practices for keeping your employees motivated in the workplace through recognition and rewards.


  • The most important strategy when rewarding and recognizing employees is making sure that the behavior being honored is in line with specific company values and goals. Give employees concrete feedback on what they did right. In other words, give process-oriented praise.

Employee Involvement

  • Peer-to-peer recognition can be more effective than what can be seen as politically-motivated top-down recognition. Plus, making other people feel good makes you feel good.

Keep It Simple

  • Make recognition a breeze so that people are encouraged to recognize others often.


  • If B.F. Skinner has taught us anything, it’s to reinforce desired behavior immediately so the reward is intimately linked to the action that led to it. To establish a behavior, reward employees every time they perform an action for the first handful of instances. To maintain it, continue rewarding employees but only once every 5 to 7 instances.


  • Sincere praise is more likely to “stick” with employees and personalizing reinforcement is key because it imbues the reward with meaning to the employee. Furthermore, the size of the reward should be relative to the importance of the behavior.


  • Reward employees for showing initiative and inventiveness. Companies succeed when they stay ahead of the curve, and it’s the employees that drive innovation. Plus, rewards of this type get right at the heart of the autonomy, mastery, and purpose trifecta.

A paycheck is not a sufficient method for recognizing employees — it’s actually required of employers by law. Go above and beyond your requirements as an employer and try implementing these tips and practices to keep your employees committed to producing great work and contributing to a healthy, positive workplace environment.

5 Steps to Stellar Year-End Reviews

It’s mid-year review time and if you’re like many people, you haven’t thought about goals in 5.5 months. Not a great moment for manager or team member, but it’s a common one. Mid-year reviews are a painful reminder of how far apart work and goals can drift and how little traditional performance management helps people perform at their best. Just 7% of employees understand their goals and what they need to do to achieve them. The disconnect creates a lot of anxiety: “How could that have happened?” “Why wasn’t I just more disciplined?” and “How will I make up the lost time?”

Then when you do look at the goals, frustration: “This has nothing to do with what our team has been focused on the last 3 months.” “Why didn’t we revise these when we changed strategy?” “How can I possible be measured on these things when they don’t matter anymore?!” and “What’s the point of this whole process — it’s so far removed from our real work.”

While it’s tempting to forget the goals, that thought is quickly followed by a reminder message from HR that you need to go through the motions by end of the month. Then there is the self-realization that it’s more fulfilling to aspire to something larger and that your performance and compensation are fundamentally intertwined.

The performance process doesn’t support great performance.

We live in an always-on world, but the typical approach to goals is “mostly off”. Chances are your company’s performance approach provides you little value and plays little or no role in how you manage. According to Deloitte, only 8% of companies believe their process is high value. Process and people fail when:

  • Your business changes faster than your goals.
  • Operational or business goals are divorced from individual goals and you focus on the former at the expense of the latter.
  • Your corporate performance system is for goal data entry — enter once, forget promptly.
  • You’re not as effective as you could be centering your week and your team on goal achievement so the day to day rush overwhelms bigger intentions.
  • You don’t have goals and no metrics for success exist.

Don’t leave your performance to chance (or somebody else)

Don’t leave your performance to chance (or somebody else).

Instead of setting and forgetting goals or relying on out-dated process, take control of your own career trajectory and support your team’s. Use a continuous performance process that includes setting smart objectives and empowering you and your team to achieve them. These five steps will help you be more successful and get more recognition:

1. Recognize the power of goals.
Goals are a pre-requisite to success. A goal is how you define what you’re striving for and what success looks like. They are powerful drivers of personal growth, which accelerate success over time. Think of it this way: You and your goals must be present to win. In fact, people with goals out-earn people without them by more than 10x over 10 years according to a Harvard study.

2. Understand the ROI of demonstrating achievement.
In addition to greater focus on achievement, people with goals earn more because they define then demonstrate success. It’s impossible to achieve a goal you’ve forgotten and difficult to win a debate about what “success” is after the fact. Make it easy for your boss to advocate for you by providing continuous performance facts about progress on agreed-upon goals. Facts make a huge difference in employee ranking and the pay and promotion pipeline – but very few managers are really disciplined about cataloguing them for their direct reports.

3. Design goals into your work week.
Change your process – not the company’s — to make goals a true part of your work and week. Goal-driven teams use Workboard to take ownership of their performance. Workboard supplements HR systems used to centrally manage company-wide goal setting with a “local” app to enable goal achievement. It brings business and individual goals together with tools to manage real-time priorities, actions and tasks on Web and mobile. Goals and work are always connected, wherever you or your team are.

4. Refresh goals when they’re stale.
If a goal is no longer worth pursuing, change it! It’s a huge disservice to you, your team and the company to be assessed against an irrelevant goal. You can only refresh goals when you realize there’s a gap; they need to be integrated into your weekly work to see when execution priorities and goals are misaligned then determine whether the goal or execution needs to change. By resetting and re-communicating goals upline and downline when change is necessary, you get the motivational and professional benefits.

5. Measure success more frequently.
There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of achievement, so set metrics and milestones in smaller increments to enjoy that satisfaction more often. If you’re a manager, driving toward goals will become habit much more quickly when they’re present in your work and you’re getting frequent satisfaction from progress. It’s just as powerful to recognize your team member’s progress and achievements every week – it’s a natural propellant. 83% of employees say recognition is more rewarding than cash!

You don’t go to work to fail, so get serious about success.

Define goals, objectives and metrics for success then bring them into focus in the work you do every week. You’ll enjoy more success, satisfaction and alignment, and you’ll enjoy the year-end review moment even more.

Want more info on setting inspiring goals and leading your team to great achievement? Check out this video and companion infographic.



Tips For Increasing Productivity In The Workplace

We’ve all been there. It’s Monday, your weekend was much too short, and you’re getting paid to just sit at a desk, doing little to no real work.

With the birth of the Next Great Distraction seeming to crop up on the Internet every other day, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be the productive employee you and your boss expect you to be.

Being more productive at work is not only good for your career, it will make you feel accomplished and fulfilled on your commute home.

Use these 7 productivity tips when you’re feeling slow at work to make you happier, healthier, and, in the end, more successful.

1: Exercise

The two best ways to increase your energy are through physical exercise and the proper diet. Everyone knows this, but until you’ve ingrained healthy habits, it’s much easier to continue being a sedentary junk food eater – especially while at work. The most popular alternative to 8 hours of sitting is, of course, the standing desk.

The good news is you don’t have to break the bank or take up much space to implement this work-friendly tool thanks to such manufacturers as Techni Mobili. Even bike desks can come in small, inexpensive packages. By engaging with these simple technologies, you give yourself the gifts of increased mental and physical energy.

2: Healthy Snacking

To further boost your stamina, keep only brain-power foods on hand and snack on them throughout the day, thereby stabilizing your blood glucose levels. Walnuts have been shown to increase inferential reasoning, blueberries improve short term memory, and the turmeric in curry helps to create new brain cells.

In order to increase your productivity on the job, you can intentionally set yourself up for success by instituting limits on idleness and food and, of course, by rewarding yourself for making good choices.

3: Acknowledge Employees & Coworkers

There is a simple reason for taking time out of your day to acknowledge the good work of the people you work with: putting energy into being negative drains you and those around you; positive energy generates more positive energy.

By generating an optimism epidemic, you create happy, efficient employees who are motivated to create output that prolongs the reward loop. Be realistic with your expectations, communicate them to your workforce, and reap the benefits of a happy workplace.

4: Harness the Power of Collaborative Office Spaces

Whether in a traditional office or a coworking space, people who form into teams give themselves a boost by generating a larger opportunity set and accomplishing more as a group than anyone can individually.

Creating a collaborative environment through the use of open office space not only solidifies an employee’s sense of being an integral part of the team, but research has shown that a moderate level of ambient noise can keep you alert as well. Plus, chatter and information-sharing is necessary for the generation of innovative ideas that will keep your business at the forefront of your industry.

5: Organized Fun

Friendly competition can play a large role in collaboration and productivity. Here’s how: the release of endorphins is essential to stress relief; at its heart, play is a team-building activity; a stimulated mind is more creative and poised for improved memory.

What is most important is that a playful environment comes from the top-down; the best leaders recognize that they set the tone for the work environment and it just so happens that games provide relief from mundanity.

6. Form Good Work Habits

If you haven’t done so yet, Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, is a great read for anyone who wants to understand how to make good habits last and bad habits die off.

It all begins with the neurologically-driven habit loop: a cue triggers a routine and, if the brain likes the ensuing reward, the same cue will trigger the same routine time and time again. If you want to become addicted to habit building, there’s an app based on Duhigg’s principles – and if you play with the app too much, you can always hire someone to slap you out of that routine.

7. Take a Nap

We have all experienced the post-lunch lull – when a full stomach brings on the burning desire to trade in your desk for a nice, warm bed. Whether your belly is satiated or you just didn’t get enough sleep last night, it’s time for a 30-minute nap. Sleeping for 10 to 30 minutes during the day is just enough time to enter the peacefulness of Stage 2 sleep without delving into grogginess-inducing Stage 3 REM sleep.

Stage 2 sleep is where memory consolidation happens so, when you wake up from your nap, you not only have increased productivity, creativity, and cognitive function, but improved memory, as well. One caveat, though: taking a nap too late in the day will throw off your circadian rhythm, so it’s best to snooze in the late morning or early afternoon.

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Rewarding Diversity Instead Of Productivity

According to a study by Forbes, workplace diversity is a key driver of innovation and a critical component to success. But, what does diversity in the workplace mean? Employees can be diverse because of their race or gender, but they can also differ in what characteristics they bring to your team. Celebrate those differences and you’ll avoid groupthink catastrophes, and your workplace will thrive.

All businesses are made up of diverse personalities that constitute a larger, corporate identity. In order to create and maintain a healthy workplace atmosphere, employees should be recognized for their positive influence on your company’s culture. Yes, even the weird guy showing you pictures of his Persian cat is bringing something to the table.

Here are some team member archetypes who might be shaping your company’s culture:

Top Communicators

Find the people who are known for clarity, consistency, and thoroughness. Maybe they send the most in-depth and thoughtful responses to emails. Maybe they’re the people who are always called upon to be team spokesperson. Whatever the metric, let these employees know their value.

Top Listeners

Equally as important as communication, every company needs people who actively listen. These are the collaborators we rely on to show genuine interest in new ideas, to absorb workplace tension and to remember what was last said in a meeting.

Problem Solvers

No system is one-size-fits-all. People who drive the company forward are those who see an opportunity for improvement and run with it. Whether editing a co-worker’s report or overhauling information systems, these employees are up for the challenge.

Early Adopters

Early adopters champion progress and their enthusiasm makes others want to get in on the ground floor. Early adopters know the latest tool that can help your team succeed, or the next social network your company should be marketing on. They are essential to widespread forward momentum. Their passion for all that’s new quickly snowballs throughout your organization so that everyone wants to be on board.


These employees are the patron saints of workplace wisdom. Not only do they have explanatory superpowers, they are your most patient and knowledgeable assets. They are sought out by employees on their first day of the job, those on their thousandth day, and those who just need a moment’s guidance.

Creative Thinkers

If you want to drive innovation, inspiration, and entertainment, these are the people to seek out. Your creative thinkers, more than anyone, need affirmation from superiors to let them know that their awesome ideas aren’t just awesome in their own heads. Keep in mind that, aside from recognition, these people require a certain level of freedom to do what they do best. You made the box, now let them think outside of it.

Every employee wants affirmation. Hot dog vendors, janitors, python programmers, content strategists — all want to be heard, understood, and reassured of their actions while at work. In business, we tend to recognize employees and co-workers for what they do, but the best companies recognize employees for who they are.  Managers who are savvy make it personal with a handwritten note. Hell, even give the creepy cat guy a custom paperweight etched with your favorite thing about him. (Hint…. it’s not his cat.)

Set time aside every week to acknowledge your key players. A workplace is like an ecosystem in that each employee contributes differently to the office — recognizing their diverse personalities will help reinforce a positive balance and facilitate employee happiness.


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Hiring Graduates: The Challenges

With 30% of companies expecting to hire more graduates in 2015 than in previous years, UK organisations have expressed concerns about sourcing graduates that have sufficient people skills. New research from Hay Group reveals that as many as 80% of HR Directors feel that recruiting graduates with sufficient people skills is a challenge. Are companies who are taking on new graduates just causing themselves more headaches, or are graduates worth investing in?

As you might expect, employers and graduates take a different view on the situation. Statistics show that 90% of HR Directors believe that employees who have good people skills have a greater commercial impact, and 83% disclosed that graduates who didn’t have the necessary emotional and social skills would not become high performers. Countering this, 69% of graduates said that soft skills ‘get in the way of getting the job done’ and believed that they would succeed in their job role irrespective of this.

Are Technical Skills More Important Than People Skills In The Workplace?

Any HR Director worth their salt will say that first and foremost applicants need to have the right technical capabilities in order to succeed, but people skills shouldn’t be overlooked.

While 76% of HR Directors were concerned that graduates were not prepared for the workplace, David Smith, a Consultant at Hay Group, commented that graduates have the potential to develop soft skills on the job. He said: “It’s now down to organisations to recruit and develop graduates in the right way, so they appreciate the role these ‘softer’ skills play in their own development and the value they offer to the business.”

But this may also suggest that what the current stock of HR Directors and what new graduates consider to be people skills could be quite different. While graduates may have the right approach when dealing with other graduates, they need time to settle into the company culture and to pick up on the people skills that are expected of them by seasoned employees.

Are Graduates Worth The Investment?

It costs businesses between £500-£1000 to take on a new graduate. It seems that businesses are doing their best to provide training in order to boost people skills. 91% of HR professionals believe that their organisation has adequate training and 83% say that their managers dedicate more time to developing people skills than technical skills.

How Long Does It Fake for Graduates To Reach Proficiency In People Skills?

There’s no fast track here. The majority of businesses expect it will take between six months to two years for graduates to gain the people skills needed to perform effectively for the business.

Looking to the future, HR aren’t all that confident in graduates either. 77% are concerned for the future leadership of their organisation based on the soft skills of their current graduate employees. Yet perhaps graduates mark a new direction for businesses and will have a greater impact than HR Directors give them credit for.

Graduates Are The Future

By 2020, we can expect that millennials will make up 50% of the workforce and many of them will be recent graduates. Organisations need to put strategies in place to make the best of the skills that each individual in their workplace has, whether they are a seasoned employee or a new graduate. Successful companies know the value of their whole team.


Innovate Today To Build A Vision For The Future

In addition to leading an organization, I’m a consumer and stakeholder in other brands. Like many people, I recognize what companies appeal to the broader masses and which have a dismal reputation for poorly manufactured products or are laden with bad publicity due to a barrage of public outcry.  So as a consumer, I will size up an organization not only for what they do with and for their consumers, but also how a company innovates today looking towards the future. A philosophy I have adopted within my own organization.

Innovation, along with customer service delivery, is dynamic and differentiates your business from another. Differentiation isn’t just knowing the competition in your space, it’s bigger than that. It’s knowing your business model and your customers’ business inside and out, and further how you outwardly value those who matter most. Many companies don’t understand their value proposition. This means they cannot deliver on their promises, whether that’s to their customers, employees, or even their business partners.

Companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Zappos are good examples of companies that understand differentiation and innovation. Information flows in and out of these organizations in a truth-well-told manner and they’ve become recognized for this. Ultimately it’s put them into a different class of company. One factor that is recurrent in these three organizations is that the CEOs have set a vision and outwardly live this vision every day. They’ve not passed the buck, they’ve retained control and took responsibility for steering the ship.

Good companies conduct sound business outside of silos with a few exceptions such as Pharmaceuticals which is government sanctioned and overly laden with patents. Doing good business doesn’t mean giving away the farm or disclosing all your secrets to the World, but it does show the World that information flows to and from your organization and gives the impression that you and your company are approachable to do business. Approachability shows transparency and vision, both can be used to set your business apart from the competition.

There are a ton of articles that discuss vision and innovation and the direct affect they have on the solvency and on-going existence of organizations. There is no one look or feel of innovation. It comes in many shapes and forms and works well when used wisely and liberally. Stagnation and lack of innovation will likely lead to the demise of organizations that refuse to heed the warnings.

So what are you doing to differentiate your organization in a market that’s over-saturated with an abundance of product offerings and services? This is a question that every smart CEO and business owner needs to be asking themselves. A good place to start is knowing your mission and vision. This goes beyond your brand, it is knowing your business plan and vision are on course and your short and long-term goals are attainable and being met. And, critically, understanding that plans must flex and evolve when needed. It, also, means your employees are provided a transparent view of the business mission and objectives and are supporting that vision because they’ve been provided the right tools to do their job and have the information they need.

Business is like a chain. One fractured link will impact the links around it and eventually the entire chain breaks. When you take care of all the links and recognize the intrinsic value each holds, it’s easier to see the bigger picture and that includes what the future can potentially look like for your company.  Locking in the company vision today will help create the business you want in the future.


How To Cure A Sick Company Culture

Performance wanes. Employee engagement falls and morale sinks.

These are tell-tale signs that your culture is sick and needs attention. So how do you go about fixing it?

First, three housekeeping questions:

1. What is “culture”? Culture describes an organization’s working environment. How people behave. What they talk about. How they interact with and treat one another. The values they respect and hold sacred.

2. What is the purpose of culture? It enables the achievement of goals. It is a tactic, if you will, that facilitates healthy and effective execution of a company’s strategy because it engages every employee in its purpose. Culture is the engine of accomplishment. A finely tuned engine delivers high performance; a poorly tuned one is hit and miss.

3. What is the “right” culture? There is no shrink-wrapped version of culture that applies to every organization. You must create the unique one that works for you. There may be elements in common with other firms, but you discover this after the fact. Culture should never be copied; it should be created.

Cultural change requires an intervention; you can’t expect it to change without an imposition. The challenge is to move from “this is the way things are around here” to “this is the way things must look if we are to survive and thrive.”

Here are five steps that will create the culture that is right for you:

1. Start with building your strategic context. Culture is guided by the strategic game plan of your organization — “what you want to be when you grow up.” It’s an expression of what the inside of your organization must “look like” in order to successfully execute. Early in my career we had to shift from being a monopoly telecom business to a nimble customer-focused competitor; we needed to create a different culture to take us there. The journey began with creating a new strategic vision that would allow us to successfully compete in a world we had not previously experienced.

2. Develop the values you require every team member to align with. Successful execution begs that everyone is on the same page in terms of how to do their job. A value is a common-held belief, without which your strategy is impaired. Technology businesses require risk-taking, creativity and innovation to be successful; if employees don’t act in a way that delivers these values, dysfunction sets in and progress is eluded.

3. Define the behaviors that are required to exhibit each values. For each value develop more granularity to move away from an aspiration to something that is concrete and more understandable. For example, if “spirited teamwork” is one of your values, define in more specific terms what is meant by the value. What behaviors would you expect to see exhibited when spirited teamwork is alive and well in the organization. This is a critical step. Values need to be translated so that every employee has a direct line of sight that connects what they do every day to the values expected.

4. Assess the inside. Evaluate each employee in your organization to determine his or her “value fit.” Some will transition immediately to your new values; others can be convinced to adopt them and others will refuse. The point is you need to get everyone onboard fast; time is not your friend. Exit who you believe are the “non-adopters”; they will infect their colleagues if they stay and prevent progress.

5. Build your values into your reward and recognition programs. Make the expression of values matter by holding people accountable. Reward awesome “spirited teamwork” in front of employee groups. Publicize your “value heroes” so others know what is expected. Ultimately, include values as part of your variable compensation program, in which the consistent heroes are financially rewarded. If you have a 360-degree feedback program, include values as an important part of individual assessment.

The culture that is right for you is much more than an aspiration. If you don’t follow through with the specific executional elements necessary to give it “life,” it will remain a dream.

And nothing will change.

About the Author: Roy Osing is a former executive vice-president and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.

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Why You Should Reserve An Hour A Month For This…

Communication between leaders and their workforce is a hallmark of a successful organization. Poorly executed communication strategies can lead to lost productivity, distrust, and a disengaged workforce. But a commitment to strong and consistent communication can help employees perform to their highest potential; feel more connected to the company, and assist managers to identify talented individuals.  Regular meetings also allow leadership to track the overall performance of the workforce, and can contribute to long-term strategic planning efforts.

Is Your Current Meeting Plan Enough?

One of the most critical functions of a leader is to cultivate workforce talent.  This can only be achieved through personalized interaction.  Leaders are often committed to weekly group meetings where the team discusses broad goals, achievements, and roadblocks. But many managers don’t spend one-on-one time with their reports until there is a problem. Monthly meetings can provide employees with consistent, actionable feedback to help keep them on track and feel engaged and appreciated in their jobs.

All leaders should spend time with each of their reports at least once per month. These meetings should offer time to give (and receive) feedback, and help employees become more successful in their positions.  All leaders and managers, from the top down, need to make this time a priority. When implemented properly, everyone in the organization will have a monthly meeting with his own supervisor once per month – nobody is left out of the process.

Equal Time For All Employees

There may not seem as though there is enough time in a month to meet with each employee, but scheduling a consistent block of time each month shows that leadership is committed to the professional growth of their employees.  It also ensures an equitable environment, where all employees receive the same amount of attention from managers.  Often times, highly productive workers get lost in the shuffle because managers focus their attention on less productive or problematic employees. This process helps put everyone on equal footing.

Meeting times should be pre-scheduled and should not be fluid. Commit to the meetings and show they are a priority by not shifting them around at the last minute. Start the first month by blocking off one hour per employee. As you move through the process and create a rhythm for monthly meetings, subsequent interactions will take less time.

Getting Into a Rhythm

Monthly meetings should be about the employee, not you, the manager. Start the meeting off by discussing the successes the employee has enjoyed since your last one-on-one time. Find out whether or not that employee has the tools he or she needs in order to accomplish her goals. If tools and resources are needed, commit to putting them in place before the next meeting.

Share observations that you’ve made over the last month. Discuss what the employee is doing well, and where you see opportunities for improvement and growth. Ask what you can do, as a manager, to help make those things happen. From there, set a specific goal for the next meeting based upon everything you’ve discussed. And finally, ask the employee for feedback. What can you improve upon as a leader to help that employee, and the rest of the team, achieve their goals?

Quarterly Workforce Management Plans

Not only will monthly meetings help employees stay focused on their individual goals and development, but they contribute to the future planning efforts of the organization. During quarterly strategic sessions, department heads should devote time to workforce reviews. These reviews should track overall employee performance and engagement, identify and track the progress of key individuals, and should include succession planning.  This will help the company align its future plans with the needs of the workforce. Leaders will be able to see how strategic changes may impact their employees, and how to head off potential challenges.

Regular meetings increase engagement and have a positive effect on productivity. When open and consistent communication exists between leadership and the workforce, positive outcomes will follow.

(About the Author: Beth Armknecht Miller is CEO of Executive Velocity, a talent and leadership development advisory firm. Beth is also a Vistage Chair. She is a graduate of Babson College and Harvard Business School’s OPM program. Beth is certified in Myers Briggs, Hogan, and Business DNA and is a Certified Managerial Coach. Her expertise has made her a sought-after speaker, and she has been featured in numerous industry blogs and publications. Beth’s latest book on executive leadership, “Are You Talent Obsessed? Unlocking the secrets to a workplace team of raving high performers” was released in 2014. Read Beth’s blog at

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

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Working From a Distance: Is 24/7 A Good Thing?

Technology has given us the ability to stay connected 24/7 which is a blessing and also a curse. One of the downsides is that the lines between work and down time have become increasingly blurred. Many companies feel that employees should be available nights, weekends and even on vacation. Some provide employees with smartphones with the understanding that they will be accessible whenever they are needed.

Not all employees object to this. The majority of respondents to a recent Gallup Poll said that being able to work remotely after hours was a good thing. With 42 percent saying that being able to stay in touch with the office during down time was a “strongly positive” development and 37 percent saying it was only “somewhat positive.” However, only about a third of respondents said that they “frequently” connected with work after hours.

Whether they object or not employees who spend more hours working remotely outside of normal working hours are more likely to experience stress. Despite this, for most of us being connected to our job almost constantly is the norm.

Still there are a few leaders speaking out again the current 24/7 work cycle. Earlier this year, Arianna Huffington spoke passionately at the Wisdom 2.0 Conference about the need to step back. She talked about waking up in a pool of blood after cutting her eye and breaking her cheekbone when she collapsed from exhaustion in 2007. At the Huffington Post, she established a policy of disconnecting from the office where employees are not expected to answer email after hours or over the weekend.

Some European countries have made radical changes. The German labor ministry voted in guidelines which prevent ministry staff from being “penalized” for failing to respond after hours. Some German companies, including Volkswagen, BMW and Puma, restrict after hours email. VW even stops forwarding emails to staff shortly after the work day has ended.

In France, employers’ federations and unions signed a “legally binding agreement” that requires employees to disconnect from the office after working hours. This agreement affects the French offices of some non-French companies including Google, Facebook, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Meanwhile, in Sweden the city council in Gothenburg voted to try out a six-hour workday with full-pay for its staff.

Are these changes a preview of what’s to come in the US? It doesn’t seem likely. Does this mean that employers should be forbidden from contacting employees after hours? In our culture of staying connected 24/7 that doesn’t seem likely either. But there should be some room for compromise.

Is it urgent every time our smartphone bleeps or buzzes? Probably not.

(About the Author: Annette Richmond, MA is a writer, optimist, media enthusiast and executive editor of Having changed careers several times, including working as a career coach, she has a unique perspective on career management. When starting over a decade ago, her goal was to provide a one-stop online career resource.

In addition to being a writer, speaker and consultant, Richmond contributes career-related articles to various other sites including ForbesWoman. She holds a BA in English from Sacred Heart University and a MA in Applied Psychology from Fairfield University. She resides in Rowayton, CT, with her husband, Eric, and their four-legged kids.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

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Ditching Your ATS? You’re Not Alone

Having been in the HR tech business for a number of years, I have spoken with countless HR and recruiting experts about their technology moves. As applicant tracking systems have grown in popularity over the last several years, larger companies are looking for new, more effective software and smaller companies are looking to make their first ATS decisions. Regardless of which group you fall into, there are a few things you should consider when shopping around.

Software Advice used the information that they gathered about past clients’ issues with their ATS and their reasons for switching, to create their 2013 ATS BuyerView report. Let’s look at the top three reasons that today’s software buyers are in the market for a new ATS:

1) Need More Robust Software

The applicant tracking software of less than a decade ago won’t have some features that have become pretty standard, and totally necessary in today’s recruiting climate. As other forms of HR and recruiting tech have advanced, each other type has to keep up. For instance, LinkedIn’s “Click to apply with LinkedIn” button has become wildly popular with applicants and recruiters alike, yet this option is not available with some of the older software.

Furthermore, social sharing and the ability to post listings on job boards directly from the secure platform is a relatively new function that only more current software will have. Many companies with free or outdated software are also finding that they need cloud-based software to keep up with the competition.

2. Current System Too Complex

Seeing this at #2 on the list isn’t surprising at all. I actually run into this a lot. A company is sold on a vendor that offers it all…except for user-friendliness, support or training. The most robust, all-inclusive and up-to-date software is going to be useless if no one can, or will use it. Recruitment expert Randall Birkwood said:

“You will find vendors will offer a number of bells and whistles, which may be confusing.  Ultimately, what is most important is whether it is easy to set up, intuitive, and requires minimal maintenance.”

3. Improve Efficiency/Effectiveness

This is sort of a broad category, but I have some solid hunches on what these users were unhappy with, given my experience in the industry.

Searching and Matching

An ATS that easily imports, parses and organizes all of the data you can shoot at it is great, but the user has to be able to access that data effortlessly. Poor search functionality can render an ATS useless.

Internal Candidate Portals and Referral Portals

HR is tired of being the middleman. Internal movement and career development is crucial to engagement and retention. Allow internal candidates to easily view and apply for listings. Additionally, your ATS should have a portal for employees to make referrals. These portals will provide all information that the candidates and referrers need, while decreasing the burden on HR and recruiting resources.


Metrics are vital to the continued success of any recruitment team, and they aren’t easy to gather without the right tools. Companies are looking for reporting tools that effortlessly gather information on important metrics like time-to-fill, source of hire and diversity. RecruiterLoop provides more information on important recruiting metrics.


Many companies quickly realized the burden on their IT team after purchasing their non-cloud-based software. The cloud is where it’s at now. With cloud-based options, your vendor is tasked with maintaining and updating the system, instead of using your own resources.

While there is plenty more to picking out the right software for your company’s unique needs, I think it’s important to hear from software buyers who have already spent the money and found the issues. That way, you don’t have to do it!

It is also important for software buyers to ask questions about updates and upgrades before deciding to make any purchases. These might come with hidden costs, but they might be simple changes that your vendor can make for you. One last piece of advice: Don’t buy until it’s right!

(About the Author: Raj Sheth is the CEO and co-founder of Recruiterbox, an online recruitment software and applicant tracking system designed especially for growing companies. Prior to Recruiterbox, Sheth founded two other web start-ups — a classifieds portal and an ecommerce site. He graduated from Babson College and spent the first three years of his career as a financial analyst with EMC Corporation in Boston.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

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6 Ways To Build A Better Team

Every company wants increasing employee engagement. Engaged employees are good at communicating and putting forth extra effort to fulfill expectations. I’ve recently seen articles about student athletes becoming great employees. Therefore, having an athletic mentality can help grow employee engagement. You may not want flag football in your office hallway or field hockey in the foyer. Still, it’s worth translating athlete mentality to worker mentality in your workplace.

Athlete / Worker Mentality 1: Communication

Success in any sport depends on communication. Same is true of business. Communication between the coach and the player is critical in the game’s final minutes when victory is on the line. To execute the play perfectly, team members must talk, listen to and understand one another. The same applies at the workplace: communication matters, in every direction.

Coach To Worker Mentality: Practice the skill of collaborative conversation. Then provide opportunities for your people to learn the skill as well.

Athlete Mentality - Jim LarrisonAthlete / Worker Mentality 2: Achievement

Rarely does the team that does not want to win, win. Desire to achieve is the fire in the athlete’s belly. Running an extra mile at practice, taking another 50 free throws, swinging at 25 more baseballs feed that fire. Ignite and fuel that same fire in employees and they will engage in striving to accomplish. An individual who wants quality in her work brings quality to her work. An employee who seeks improved performance calls out actions and resources to better skills.

Coach to Worker Mentality: Support and celebrate accomplishment. Make clear to the entire team what individuals/teams are working to accomplish. Publicize progress as it happens. Hype the publicity as achievement gets closer.

Athlete / Worker Mentality 3: Loyalty

A familiar sports phrase is “no I in ‘team'”. It’s putting ego aside for team success. Notable are athletes who utilize their skills and talents for the team. They put stardom lower on the priority list than victory. Loyalty to the company shows itself in full-fledged engagement employees. This leads to success that is greater than the sum of each individual’s efforts.

Coach to Worker Mentality: Encourage frequent, pragmatic discussion of loyalty. Examples: WIIFM related to work assignments, personal relevance of company values, individuals’ comfort with corporate culture. Verbalizing causes of and reasons for loyalty keeps loyalty in front of mind.

Athlete / Worker Mentality 4: Resilience

The team loses. Players learn from mistakes. Successful team moves on, preparing to win the next contest. Power to bounce back is essential to success. Resilience in the face of business setbacks is key to successful employee engagement, too. Consider how many events can knock someone off track, if not for a loop. Imagine the shortstop who’s bumbled a hot grounder or the halfback who’s fumbled a handoff. Each has to shake it off before next pitch or next play. Same with workers: shake it off, bounce back, get ready for the next play.

Coach to Worker Mentality: Learning from mistakes builds resilience. Make discussion of error and/or failure a regular behavior. Ensure this discussion emphasizes what can be learned, rather than finger pointing and blame shoveling.

Athlete / Worker Mentality 5: Confidence

Confidence boosts resilience. An athlete’s can-do belief spurs the “try again; do it better; on to victory” commitment. Confidence in ability and dedication stimulates confidence in the team. And confidence in the team increases self-confidence. A pitcher believes she will throw a strike. She also believes that if it’s hit, one of her teammates will make the out. That seamless confidence between individual and team produces wins. At work, too.

Coach to Worker Mentality: Demonstrate your trust and confidence in workers. Recognize their success and link to future possibilities. Encourage creative ideas and procedures.

Athlete / Worker Mentality 6: Awareness

Every player on a football team, a softball team, a basketball team – on any team – has specific expectations to fulfill. They are aware of these expectations. The more explicit their awareness, the better. Victory tells them they’ve performed as expected. Loss tells them the opposite. Workers need the same clear awareness of what managers, supervisors expect of them. The more clearly they know these expectations, the more likely they are to engage in fulfilling them.

Coach to Worker Mentality: When giving an assignment to new hire or veteran, be explicit in what’s expected. Ask for validation that expectations are heard and understood. As assignment progresses, verify expectations with the worker, especially if the expectations are tweaked.

Those coaching suggestions are normal behaviors a good manager possesses. It pays to keep them in mind. It pays more to put them in action. It pays to have your worker’s mentality similar to the athlete’s mentality.

Play on!

(About the Author:  As an Employee Engagement and Performance Improvement expert, Tim Wright, has worked with businesses and national associations of all sizes. His company, Wright Results, offers proven strategies and techniques to help businesses increase employee engagement, improve personnel performance and build a strong business culture by focusing on performance management from the C.O.R.E. For more information, visit or connect with Tim here:

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

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4 Fundamentals To Elevate Employee Engagement

Did you know that when an employee leaves their job, 67% of the time it’s not the job, it’s the boss?  Of course you know the importance of keeping your best employees from becoming someone else’s top talent, but exactly how do you do that?  Here are four ways to build trust and earn their loyalty.

1.  Face Time Matters.

Personal contact is important as it creates an emotional connection with the organization.  Whether you have an onsite or a remote workforce, make sure you regularly connect with them.  It’s more than offering an “open door policy” – get out of your office and walk around.  Pick up the phone and talk to your team. Connect with your team members in the way they want to be contacted.  Some people prefer text, others email, while others still like to talk face-to-face. Personal contact matters. Take a hint from the television show “Undercover Boss” and put yourself in your employees’ shoes.  Understand what they deal with on a daily basis and they will be much more willing to give their job their personal best.

2.  Express Appreciation.

Catch your employees doing things right. What gets recognized gets repeated, so let them know specifically what they are doing well. It seems that organizations are spending a ton of money on “stuff” – providing employees with copious catalogs from which they can choose any number of rewards.  Although a nice gesture, it’s not the prize that creates an emotional connection. It’s the sincere verbal expression or handwritten note in appreciation for a job well done that is treasured. A woman in one of my programs recently shared that thank you notes she wrote to her staff members two years ago are still pinned on their bulletin boards.  Writing it down makes a difference.  Handwritten notes are tangible evidence that employees can refer back to whenever they need a lift.

3. Ask Questions.

Are you afraid to ask your employees what they want because you fear their “unreasonable demands?” Oftentimes what you’ll find is that it doesn’t take a lot to keep your team happy.  Once their basic needs are met, little tweaks make a big difference.  Check out this article for some great ideas. Asking for your staff’s suggestions and ideas can give you a perspective that you may not have considered. Inviting your staff members to share their opinion means a lot, acting on their suggestions seals the deal.

4. Welcome Complaints.

Marshall Fields said, “Those who buy, support me. Those who come to flatter, please me. Those who complain teach me how I may please others so they will buy. The only ones that hurt me are those who are displeased but do not complain. They refuse me permission to correct my errors and thus improve my service.” This quote is just as applicable to employees as it is to customers.  The office grapevine is not going away, however you can circumvent its negative consequences by making it safe for employees to express their opinions.  When you know what is really going on within your organization, you can take the steps necessary to correct what needs to be fixed and not suffer long-term negative effects. Remember – if you’re asking the question, be willing to be open to the answer, no matter what it is.

Using these four simple strategies not only increase employee engagement, loyalty, and retention, they lead to the big 3 “P’s” – productivity, passion, and profits.  The best part?  These ideas are not going to cost you an arm and a leg to implement.

(About the Author: Employee Engagement Expert and Motivational Speaker, Lisa Ryan works with organizations to help them keep their top talent and best customers from becoming someone else’s. She achieves this through personalized employee engagement and customer retention keynotes, workshops and seminars. She is the author of six books, and is featured in two films including the award-winning, “The Keeper of the Keys” with Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul. For more information, please connect with Lisa at her website: or email her at

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Employee Issues Increase HR Tech Demand [Infographic]

The past few #TChat shows have really dug deep into the concept and issues surrounding employee engagement. Every week we’ve asked what employee engagement truly means, and we’ve looked into numerous practices that can increase engagement and retain our talent. However, it’s time to dig a bit deeper into why employees aren’t being fully engaged.

Employee engagement is a complex concept, and many factors contribute to whether employees are disengaged or not. Employee relation issues like social media abuse and bullying are on the rise, and as these employee issues increase so does the need for HR tech like workplace investigation software to tackle these problems efficiently and effectively. HR Acuity compiled this infographic to demonstrate the need for employee relations management technology. Discover employee issues that have concerned organizations, like yours, over the past year and gain a new perspective that will benefit your risk management practices.


(About the Author: Deborah J. Muller is the CEO of HR Acuity, a technology firm specializing in human resources applications like the HR Acuity On Demand family of applications. Muller brings more than 25 years of human resources and investigation experience to both the consulting practice and software development sides of the company.)

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

Do you have great content you want to share with us? Become a TalentCulture contributor!