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The Everywhere Workplace – Prioritizing Employee Experience

Working remotely is something that many of us have experienced during the pandemic. If you look at your social media feeds, you will notice multiple surveys asking people what types of work arrangements they prefer. COVID-19 has changed the way we view work and the workplace. Now with so many people working remotely, we’re taking a closer look at the benefits and the challenges of The Everywhere Workplace.

Our Guest: Melissa Puls

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Melissa Puls, Senior Vice President, and CMO at Ivanti. She brings decades of experience with a strong track record of fueling growth through customer-centric approaches and integrated marketing strategies.  

Ivanti’s Everywhere Workplace survey reveals insights into the remote workforce. The Report was written using Ivanti expertise, independent third-party research, and global future of work experts to showcase the workplace evolution and how the pandemic has shaped the way organizations need to think about their workforce.

More than half of employees surveyed report working more hours outside of the office since going remote. Despite working more, they’re actually happier. Melissa states:

“The data says that only 13% of employees would like to permanently get back to an office. This was from the report we did around the Everywhere Workplace. We did just a survey with our own employees and found 1% of Ivanti’s employees say they want to go back to the office full time and 71% of employees would choose to work from anywhere over being promoted.”

The Power of Choice

Flexible work arrangements offer numerous benefits to both employers and employees including boosted productivity, improved morale, and competitive talent acquisition and retention strategies. Melissa:

“Employees are in control of their work environment, which I think is a really positive thing for us, as a community globally. The option of flexibility in the workforce has become an influential factor when employees are making a decision whether to stay with a company or not.”

 Melissa also states:

“The remote work has improved employees’ sentiments and increased productivity, but there were some concerns. We heard that 51% said the lack of interaction with their colleagues and in-person connections was a concern. Additionally, 28% said they’re not able to collaborate and communicate as effectively.”

The Future of Work

What will the Future of Work look like? This is a question we ask ourselves all the time. It’s hard to predict based on the massive amounts of change that have happened just in the last 24 months. Melissa confirms:

“I think companies have to change their fundamental mindset and methodology on talent. That includes not only the flexibility of the environment that they work in but also the technologies that we use to enable employee experience. Having technology that supports and secures all the environments an employee wants to work in will no longer be a differentiating factor, but the norm.”

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. To learn more about The Future of Work and the 2022 Everywhere Workplace Survey, download the report.

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

Coaching Young Talent Through Remote Work Challenges

We all know that hiring young talent can bring a lot of positives to any organization. Younger workers are digital natives, they tend to have a great deal of energy, and their perspectives frequently provide a thoughtful counterpoint to “the way we’ve always done things.”

However, the cliche of younger workers being perfectly OK with staying glued to a screen all day long is unhelpful. This stereotype can unconsciously lull HR professionals into neglecting to address the downsides of too much time spent online. And this problem has become increasingly prominent in our new all-remote or hybrid workforce setting. After all, how are we supposed to interact with remote workers if they’re not connected to a screen of some sort?

The long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health will doubtless fill research papers for decades to come. We know for sure that the pandemic was particularly difficult to handle for college students who had only begun to move out into the world. Many were sent off-campus, often back to their childhood homes. Countless international students were suddenly sent back to their country of origin. The net effect was a deep sense of disorientation.

Pandemic restrictions are lifting worldwide. HR professionals need to remain sensitive to the more pronounced feelings of fear, isolation, and confusion that young talent are bringing to the workforce. When hiring recent grads for remote positions, the burden rests solidly with employers to ensure these younger workers do not get lost in the shuffle.

The Ups and Downs

The benefits of remote work scarcely need to be enumerated. During the pandemic, many of us found it beneficial to stay at home. The environment was relaxing, both physically and mentally. Stress levels went down. Knocking out projects while wearing sweats served as a calming influence.

However, remote work has some downsides. The single biggest loss, of course, is that of community and real-life relationships.

Offices are and perhaps always will be where professional types meet, greet, and bond. Good things happen when colleagues bump into each other in the hallways and breakroom. Things that don’t happen on a video conference call.

WFH status can leave young talent with a nagging “last to know” sensation.

This sense of isolation can be especially pronounced for workers attached to companies where most colleagues are working in-office. As a result, remote workers are often left off essential communications. Unfortunately, though unintentional, this is an all-too-common reality. Every remote employee has at least one story of logging into a video conference only to learn it was canceled, but nobody bothered to tell them.

Long-Term Effects of Remote Work on Young Talent

HR professionals must recognize that those who choose to work remotely may be at a significant disadvantage. For example, a remote worker might push themself to the breaking point to meet an important deadline, but would anyone notice? This is a serious downside that could carry with it implications for future raises, promotions, and perceived value.

The other obvious issue for remote young talent is the lack of easy access to more seasoned employees. Remote work lessen’s any ability to lean over to ask a quick question. When the remote worker isn’t well connected, simple questions may go unasked. As a result, coworkers can categorize employees as “a face on my laptop.” 

Turning the Tables

Like every other challenge, the key to young talent overcoming the downsides of remote work is to adopt simple counter-strategies and stick with them. Here are two to consider.

1. Push your remote workers and yourself outside comfort zones

Not everyone is an extrovert. Research from The Myers-Briggs Company reveals that nearly six out of every ten people prefer introversion to extroversion. Despite this, introverts owe it to themselves to adopt an “I’m getting out of my comfort zone” attitude when working remotely. Accept that everyone will need to push through initial reluctance. 

Katelyn Watson is the chief marketing officer at Nurx, a remote-first company that provides consumers with healthcare options delivered virtually. To ensure that no one gets “lost in the mix” at Nurx, Watson pays attention to everyone’s contributions during meetings and gatherings.

“As a leader of a global, 100% remote workforce, I want everyone to feel comfortable joining into discussions,” Watson explains. “ I empower team members to speak their thoughts when collaborating and always invite them for feedback, even when there is an awkward silence. No one should feel they have to be quiet or can’t veer from popular opinion. I stress that the more ideas we gather, the stronger our marketing will be. At Nurx, all marketing team members get an equal platform regardless of title or tenure.”

2. Embrace mentorship on both sides of the videoconference screen

Mentorship is a great way for HR professionals and remote workers to sharpen their relationship skills. Having one trustworthy person to talk to when a question arises can smooth out the bumps we invariably experience whenever we try something new. In many office settings, remote or hybrid work is new, so both parties should expect to not manage it well at first.

Do mentorships make that much of an impact? Serenity Gibbons, unit lead for the NAACP in Northern California, says they do. “A good mentor can help you achieve more in less time,” she notes. “ Plus, your mentor can serve as your cheerleader and maybe even advocate. For example, when a job is about to open, your mentor may recommend you or smooth the way for a different interoffice transition.”

Set up regular mentorship meetings. Have an agenda for each meeting to stay on track. Your agenda might include talking through some concerns you’re having. Or reviewing how you’ve applied your mentor’s suggestions since your last conversation. In time, you’ll have forged a solid bond with your mentor, even if you’ve never met face to face.

Balancing Security with Employee Experience

Over the past 24 months, IT teams have been burdened with many unprecedented challenges. Most notably, a rising number of security concerns. But enhancing security shouldn’t come at the expense of efficiency or employee experience.

Our Guest: Denis O’Shea

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Denis O’Shea, founder of Mobile Mentor; a company that has helped millions of people unlock the full potential of their technology.

When we hear the word “security,” we think of things like passwords and data encryption. But there is more to it. It’s also about creating a work culture where employees feel safe and protected in addition to ensuring that systems and data are secure. Technical security is critical, but so is work culture and morale.

​​How do we balance the need for security with the need for employee welfare, productivity, and satisfaction? We invited Denis to help us think through this question. Denis explains:

“It is something we can aspire to. It has not been easy in the past because employers often had to make compromises and either put security first or put the employee experience first. But now the technology is mature enough that we can actually be secure and still have a great experience without compromising one or the other.”

Where Security and Experience Collide

People are used to being able to communicate in real-time on any device. This means being able to respond to company emails from a mobile device from any location, at any time of the day or night. As a result, companies sometimes compromise security in order to improve the employee experience and aid in communication. Denis  further explains:

“The one that is probably most common is the use of personally owned devices. So we see this very common in healthcare, education, even in government nowadays, where employees are using personal laptops, personal iPads, certainly personal smartphones. Initially, that presented a huge security challenge to the organization. How can data possibly be secure on the device owned by an employee?”

However, with advances in technology and security, it’s less of a risk to allow employees to work on a personal device. Denis:

“Nowadays companies can actually secure the data and still allow the employee to use their personal phone or tablet or laptop. So we’ve come a long way, and of course what that enables people to do is to work from home, use personal devices, access their company’s resources, be productive, and have a great experience using the technology they choose to use rather than technology that’s kind of forced upon them by their IT department.”

BYOD – Bring Your Own Disaster?

The term BYOD should mean “Bring Your Own Device”. There are circumstances where companies have to allow employees to use their personal devices – smartphones, laptops, tablets.  For example, the recent global chip shortage made it difficult for companies to procure phones and laptops.  But what happens when those devices aren’t set up properly? Denis:

“Then you can have a disaster. Instead of BYOD, bring your own device, we call it bring your own disaster. And they end up in a situation where company information, such as healthcare records, student records, and financial information is on an unmanaged laptop or an unmanaged tablet.”

Add personal downloads of unapproved apps to the mix. Denis further explains:

“And now they’re using an unmanaged app on an unmanaged device to do their work. And so their data is effectively out in the wild, the company data is out in the wild.”

The Balancing Act

There is a balance between security and experience. Companies need security, but they also need to provide the best employee experience possible. Denis:

“Companies should listen to their remote employees and involve them in the decision-making process around technology and process. If they [companies] get it wrong, remote workers are the first to break the rules and find workarounds. If you ask those remote workers for feedback on the next generation of tools, technology, or processes that will empower them,  they will give that feedback.”

There is also a balance between security, employee privacy, and how it’s communicated. If employees feel as if their personal privacy will be compromised by added device security measures, this will have a negative impact on the employee experience. And let’s face it, the younger generation of workers brings an uncompromising set of priorities to the table making it even more challenging to find the sweet spot for employee experience. 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. To learn more about mobile security, contact Denis O’Shea on LinkedIn. 

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

How Remote Work Helps SMEs Reach Global Expansion

Developing an international footprint is no longer a task reserved for large companies with sizable financial lungs. While it certainly helps to have stable revenue streams and available cash flow for growth, global mobility is now in the reach of small companies with international growth aspirations.

The latest developments in remote work and digital technology on a global scale are acting as a growth enabler for companies with small headcounts but big international aspirations. Yet, few SMEs (small and medium enterprises) have a fully-fledged global mobility program with dedicated resources.

How can SMEs go about acquiring the necessary global HR expertise and a thorough understanding of the legal requirements inherent to global mobility without breaking the bank? What ways can they meet employee expectations on an individual level with minimal management? What is the right level of support on the ground to capitalize on the globalized practice of remote work?

Here’s how remote work helps SMEs reach global expansion–and it starts with a good global mobility policy.

1.  Draft a Nimble Global Mobility Policy

Since many professionals and companies have become accustomed to remote work, SMEs can now capitalize on a global remote workforce as a viable alternative to traditional employee assignments abroad. Companies must keep compliance in check when looking to hire anyone, anywhere, based on the specific market’s labor laws and changing regulations around remote work. Although hiring local talent remotely in the location of interest may bypass immigration issues, there are still tax liabilities as well as compliant payroll and benefits to consider. Any SME’s effective growth strategy should include a compliant, strong global mobility policy that encompasses:

  • Standardizing and structuring compensation approaches;
  • Providing adequate on-site support to employees (compliant contracts, payroll, and benefits);
  • Establishing a tax policy clarifying the assignee’s role and responsibilities relating to expatriate tax, personal tax, and company compliance.

2. Reap the Savings of Flexible Working

Today, with remote work, SMEs can capitalize on skilled talent working in cost-effective locations. Additionally, they can reintroduce flexible working as a talent retention perk. For instance, perhaps assignees returning to their home country on either business or home leave can extend their reunification periods with their families while working remotely to deliver on their commitments in the host country.

3. Keep Employee Experience Front and Center

Remote work has raised the stakes on how companies traditionally conceptualized employee wellbeing. For the past two decades, the common approach to managing mobility revolved around segmenting assignments by either duration or purpose. Today, employee expectations have evolved at an unprecedented fast pace around work-life balance and mental health, making solid and hands-on employee support a centerpiece of global mobility management.

This adds to the complexity for SME leaders accustomed to segmentation. Segmentation may fall short in connecting with the aspirations of employees. However, community, purpose, and job satisfaction will play a more prominent role going forward. Giving employees a voice and echoing their preferences and concerns is an important element of meeting employees’ aspirations.

A global mobility policy should integrate remote work elements to include a wide array of options for employees to choose from, from the classic expat-lite or local-plus policies to the emerging virtual assignments.

4. Look for Valuable Partnerships

For SMEs  looking to operationalize its global workforce aspirations, the seemingly infinite global talent pool may seem daunting. Building up a global mobility management team with remote work elements can be both time intensive and resource consuming. SMEs that further delay their international growth plans could miss their opportunity. This is especially true considering the increasingly competitive landscape and that remote work has leveled the playing field. To mitigate administrative complexities, SMEs can access the burgeoning Employer of Record. They can tap into this industry to find strategic partnerships that can help streamline and materialize their international footprint aspirations.

Setting Your Team Up for Hybrid Work Success

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

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

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

Our Guest: Reid Hiatt, Tactic

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

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

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

Managing Employee Schedules Effectively in a Hybrid Work Model

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

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

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

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

Bringing Employees Back Safely into the Hybrid Workplace

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

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

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

The Future of the Workplace

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

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

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

Creating a Successful Telecommuting Policy Post-Pandemic

A survey from Pew Research Center found that the vast majority of remote staffers think working from home is somewhat or very easy. In that study, four out of five respondents said they have no problem fulfilling their job requirements from home, and nearly as many said they feel comfortable with their workspaces. In short, they don’t mind working away from the office—at least part of the time.

Many employers see the advantages of telecommuting, like saving on office space and seeing an increase in worker satisfaction. Despite this awareness, many struggle to put a telecommuting policy into action. According to CNBC, companies with teleworkers are scrambling to build their cultures in this new way of working while figuring out how to keep people engaged when they’re not physically around each other.

One thing is clear: Telework isn’t going anywhere. It has increased by 173 percent since 2005, and it has exploded because of the pandemic. As a result, employers must craft new (or update previous) telecommuting policies.

Designing a Telecommuting Plan

Telecommuting can’t successfully exist without a clearly defined policy in place. This is true whether you’re allowing employees to work from home, work remotely, or embrace a hybrid work model that merges the two.

What’s the difference? Working from home means working from a residence, whereas remote work happens wherever a worker might be—in a car, a coffee shop, or the reception room of a doctor’s office.

Unless you specifically expect employees to only work out of their homes, you’ll want your telecommuting policy to cover all the bases. It should take into account every possible working scenario.

For example, you may have some remote or work-from-home employees who occasionally come into the office. When they do, they’ll need a place to work and maybe even permission to be on-site for the day. Therefore, it’s key to take a holistic approach to your telecommuting policy.

Here are a few other guidelines to follow when crafting your telecommuting plan:

1. Be specific about things you’d take for granted with office workers.

There’s a big difference between managing someone who clocks in at the office five days a week and someone who logs on from somewhere else. You can see the former; you have to trust that the latter is doing what they say they are.

However, you can still effectively oversee your reports by mapping out expectations. Are telecommuters free to make their own schedules? Or do you expect them to be available during specific business hours? Figure out how to monitor this process in a way that doesn’t seem heavy-handed without leaving you short-staffed.

You should also explain the protocol for telecommuting employees to “leave” their desks for extended periods. Should they block off their “unavailable” times on their calendars? Check in with supervisors? Talk with current teleworkers to see what would feel normal for them while eliminating any confusion for the team. Providing detailed and comprehensive expectations will ensure everyone knows how to operate under the hybrid work model.

2. Ensure employees have the proper equipment.

Never assume that your telecommuters have the necessary equipment at home. Talk to them about what technology they have and what they still need. Some organizations allow employees to buy devices or furnishings; other companies purchase the same setup for everyone who will be working from home or remotely.

You can’t expect employees to use their personal laptops or printers for work assignments, either. This would put your company’s data at risk. Talk with your IT manager about the safest ways to enable telecommuting while still protecting your company information. Relay any liability information to telecommuters to make sure they understand their responsibilities in being smart stewards of company information.

3. Construct a communication plan.

Employees working outside the office can find themselves out of the loop, which can lead to bad feelings, miscommunication, and customer problems. Your role is to foster transparency across your organization—regardless of where your workers might be.

One method of communicating with everyone is through a centralized platform, such as Slack. Just note that it shouldn’t be your only way to keep people apprised of what’s happening.

Add communication workflows and suggestions into your telecommuting policy. This step will give team leaders examples to follow so they don’t inadvertently alienate remote employees.

4. Set up a system to gather continuous feedback.

Your telecommuting policy should include ways for employees to talk about their experiences. Don’t wait to send out a survey once a year. Offer workers a feedback system so they can voice any telecommuting concerns—or brilliant solutions.

As you receive incoming suggestions and notifications, take them seriously. Listen to what’s happening on the ground and remain flexible. Your company’s willingness to make changes will show employees that you value their opinions and understand that this is a process rather than a destination.

Stay alert for any signs that your telecommuters might be struggling with their physical or mental health. It’s tough to notice that someone is having trouble dealing with change when they aren’t in the office.

How people work has changed tremendously over the past two years. If your internal policies haven’t caught up, it’s time that they evolve. Open a document and start planning. It’s never too late to create a streamlined and successful telecommuting policy.

The Future Workplace and How to Prepare

I’m often asked to give my predictions for what the new year will bring to the future workplace. We’ve seen changes we never imagined, from the shift to remote and blended workforces to flexible scheduling—not as a perk but a necessity.  We observed just how critical mental health and family benefits are to our employees. We’ve watched millions leave our workplaces as part of the Great Resignation. And they’re still leaving. Our workforces are shrinking.

Looking back on the past two years, I didn’t know what would trigger the shift to an employee-centric dynamic. But I was sure it would happen. I wish it didn’t take an unprecedented pandemic to push the envelope. But it necessitated changes in HR and leadership that we were already talking about.

Workplace Revelations

Thanks to the pandemic, employers see how critical it is to treat their employees as people. They know that they need to recognize that employees have lives and stresses outside the office. And also, that they have needs well beyond having the right equipment and processes to get their work done.

A prolonged health, economic, and social crisis has sent the walls between work and life tumbling down. Employers who don’t support that reality are going to find themselves on the receiving end of an exodus in the future workplace. An August 2021 jobseeker survey found that 55 percent of American employees plan to search for a new job in 2022.

How can you ready your workplace for the changes already happening?

First, acknowledge they’re happening and they’re not going to stop. This is not a course correction or a passing trend. This is a new reality. Second, address the basic needs employees have—the fundamentals that make their work and lives easier. In some cases, we can follow the examples of front-running organizations. They may not be perfect but are nevertheless the ones innovating solutions to better support their workforce. In other cases, you’ll likely be on your own: no two organizations are alike any more than any two people are. The good news is that we can all learn from each other.

Family Support

One of the hardest parts of managing work and life in the pandemic has been somehow navigating caregiving and domestic responsibilities. The pressures of childcare forced a whole cohort—women—to make a terrible decision between jobs and children. Women are the ones leading the Great Resignation. A Lean In/ McKinsey report found that one in three women contemplated changing or leaving their jobs in the past year, up from one in four women in 2020. Forty-two percent of women and 35 percent of men say they are burned out, up from 32 percent of women and 28 percent of men last year. Women are bearing the brunt, the numbers show.

But solutions need to accommodate everyone and need to meet evolving definitions of what family means in the future workplace. This leads me to Amazon (remember I said they may not be perfect?). Amazon’s Family Flex program offers working parents a whole new level of flexibility—customizing schedules, swapping shifts, as well as care and financial resources—to make working easier. Adoptive parents—too often, left out of family support networks—are included here.

Remote Work

If you can offer remote work, should you? The answer is yes. If you can continue to provide remote work options for your teams, do so. And don’t just offer it to employees, offer it to managers as well. According to a recent study of tech professionals by Guru and Loom, both managers and employees have spent nearly two-thirds of their weekly work schedule working from home—64.4 percent of employees, and 66.4 percent of managers. A full 91.6 percent were satisfied with their working environment; 32.5 percent said they experienced a better work/life balance when working from home or in a hybrid setup.

Remote work is sometimes still seen as a perk or a trend—as if people will “sober up” and want to go back to the office. But remote work is a big part of the future workplace. Of course, this only holds true for industries where remote working is feasible. But even there I’ve been privy to discussions where the question isn’t how to enable more remote work, but when to transition people back—as if we’ve all been on some kind of diet or part of a social experiment. 4.3 million people quitting in August and then 4.4 million in September isn’t a fluke. Employees want to feel better about taking themselves to work every day. Becker Friedman Institute for Economics’ survey on some 30,000 employees found that nearly half of employees could work from home, with employers enabling them to do so an average of two days a week. Depending on your industry, if you can provide remote, you should, or you may lose out to a competitor who does.

Job Security

By April of 2020, more than 30 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits (the highest increase in claims ever recorded). Furloughs, staffing changes, shrinkage, and temporary layoffs left many employees feeling betrayed (and furious).

But some companies took it upon themselves to retain employees any way they could. Inc’s list of top workplaces includes organizations like Autoscribe, who committed to keep all their employees through the pandemic. Likely the move took some extreme budget maneuvering. But the result is a sense of trust that’s going to be priceless in the years to come. When you’re presenting yourself as an employer, how you address the issue of job security is going to be a big deal to skittish talent. Be transparent, dispense with the platitudes, and if you have to, reassess your values and your culture when it comes to supporting employee retention.

Ninety-four percent of enterprises and 93 percent of SMBs reported plans to expand their job opportunities in the coming year. But keeping pace with hiring goals for the future workplace isn’t about numbers. It’s about meeting the needs of people coming to work for you. Every organization has its own culture, structure, and technology. Use these to create the kinds of programs that set you apart. Find ways to provide learning opportunities that extend well beyond the parameters of job skills. Or offer trackable development journeys established between managers and their teams. Other options include financial solutions like student loan benefits or committed DEI initiatives, including leadership development opportunities, mobility, and more.

Key Takeaways

This is a perfect time to do some soul-searching within your organization. Work may have changed for good these past two years—and that may be a good thing. My advice: embrace it. Don’t just ask your employees to bring their best selves to the workplace. Bring your best workplace to your employees. That’s the best way to set up your recruiters and talent acquisition teams for success.

Re-designing Employee Experience Around Well-Being

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

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

The impact of remote and hybrid work on employee experience

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

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

Key features of a thriving employee well-being program

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

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

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

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

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

How to Attract Female Candidates for Leadership Roles

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

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

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

Offer Professional Development Plans

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

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

Design a Mentorship Program

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

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

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

Recruit From Within

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

Provide Women-Centered Health Care

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

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

Cover Child Care Expenses

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

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

Support Flexible Schedules

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

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

Advertise Strategically

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

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

Give Back to the Community

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

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

Letting Women Take the Lead

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

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

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

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

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

How COVID Changed the Workplace

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

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

Stay Digital

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

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

Learn With Your Team

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

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

Practice Positive Psychology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Promote Diversity and Inclusion

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

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

Reflect on Your Quarantine Experience

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

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

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

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

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

10 Ways to Reward Remote Employees And Why You Should Do It

How we reward employees is changing. New work cultures have seen a shift in the number of employees who prefer working from home compared to working in a company office. As a result, HR teams are rethinking the perk and reward systems that have traditionally benefited employees in an office environment.

Interestingly, a study by Harvard Business Review revealed that nearly two-thirds of staff are motivated to stay at their job with the presence of a motivational program for employees, and are 87 percent less likely to resign. Motivation is a powerful tool that can keep employees engaged.

Rewards and recognition for remote employees must not be overlooked, as they can transform remote culture. It’s more crucial than ever to keep employees who work from home motivated. These employees have to be self-driven and proactive on a daily basis.

With more distractions than ever and the absence of a manager looking over their shoulder, finding ways to reward remote employees is a good way to combat low productivity.

What are remote rewards?

A remote reward is a perk, benefit, or gift given to a team member that is sent and/or received digitally.

Employees who consider themselves remote workers or part of a hybrid working model may not be physically present in an office. This makes rewarding an employee in person challenging.

Remote rewards, therefore, need to be flexible as a person might be working anywhere, anytime, and in any place. Businesses should adopt recognition into their natural flow of work to ensure rewards are part of their culture.

Traditionally, you might reward an employee by giving them praise in person, buying them a gift and giving it to them during a team meeting, or even letting them work from home for the day. These rewards, while still impactful, do not work well when an employee works remotely.

Why should you reward employees?

You might be wondering if employee rewards are worth investing in? The short answer is yes.

According to Reward Gateway, 90 percent of HR workers agreed that an effective recognition and reward program helps drive business results. The return on investment (ROI) makes it worth doing.

10 ways to reward remote employees

Creating a digital business culture remotely is all part of the changing HR world, and remote rewards are just a small part of digital transformation. Try these 10 ways to reward your remote employees as part of your next strategy meeting.

1. Send a physical gift via post.

Starting with the most obvious, you could send an employee a physical gift to their home address. Food and alcohol are among the most popular ideas, but gifts are easy to get wrong. It’s always good to find out from close colleagues about personal preferences and tastes.

Another important consideration is that digital nomads and remote workers might not always be in one place. If they are moving around a lot, posting gifts might be tricky.

2. Offer a software upgrade.

Software is somewhat overlooked when it comes to perks and rewards. Although most companies will provide teams with the software they need, what about the software that is considered “nice to have”?

Premium features and additional tools can help improve an employee’s day-to-day workflow and be a nice reward with lots of upsides.

3. E-vouchers, gift cards, and subscriptions

E-vouchers, gift cards, and subscriptions are an easy way to say thanks to someone digitally. Amazon is a great choice when it comes to gift vouchers, as there is such a broad selection of items an employee can buy.

If your team members know the employee well, they might have a more personal suggestion. Below are some other ideas that are popular among teams:

  • Netflix subscription
  • Starbucks gift card
  • Apple Arcade subscription
  • Google Play gift card
  • Shopping or restaurant vouchers

4. Workspace upgrades

A remote employee will spend most of their day in their workspace environment. Rewarding an employee with a workspace upgrade could be a win-win situation.

You can help members of your team maximize their productivity while also rewarding them for great work.

Typical home workspace upgrades might include:

  • A second monitor
  • Improved hardware (new laptop, computer, mobile, or tablet device)
  • An adjustable standing desk
  • Hardware accessories (headphones, webcam, wireless charging devices)
  • A comfortable computer chair
  • Creative/ fun desk items such as a desk treadmill

Ultimately, it’s best to ask what could be improved about an employee’s current setup and customize it to each individual.

5. A message of appreciation (get creative)

Videos, GIFs, or a simple email are also great ways to reward someone for their efforts. A nod to their achievements and a message of gratitude is too often underrated.

6. Health perks

A gym membership, spa day, personal trainer, or online fitness class are all great health perks that might be a great reward to some employees, particularly those who enjoy regular exercise and fitness regimens. Employee well-being is important, so health rewards are always a good idea.

7. Payroll bonus

Let’s face it. Everybody loves a bonus in the bank account at the end of the quarter. There is certainly nothing wrong with an unexpected, generous payout to show your employees that they are appreciated.

8. Days off, half days, and early finishes

Who doesn’t love a day off or a half-day on Friday? Employees who have worked hard and stood out amongst their peers will appreciate a moment to recharge their batteries. Even an early finish for the week could help.

9. Kudos on LinkedIn

A free and easy way to show appreciation might be to send a thank you via LinkedIn. This is a relatively new feature on LinkedIn for 2021.

Using LinkedIn Kudos is a fun and simple way to share your appreciation with team members in the LinkedIn community. Celebrate every success–big and small–directly on LinkedIn. This also has great brand awareness benefits as you are publicly acknowledging people’s hard work and efforts. Kudos to you.

10. Learning and personal development

Reward remote employees with opportunities for self-improvement; it can be great for teams. It’s a nice way to show you care for someone’s personal development and future by supporting them to upskill and better themselves.

Examples of learning and personal development rewards might include:

  • Online courses such as Udemy
  • An online coach
  • Courses and certifications
  • 1:1 mentorship programs

Using Modern Technology to Create Better Workplaces [Podcast: Part 2]

Organizations are heeding the call to transform their work culture in the new remote-first world. They are taking immediate action to better serve employees, and finding ways to maintain a sense of community while working hybrid or remote. To no surprise, embracing modern technology solutions is often the first big step to staying connected.

With that being said, when it comes to maintaining a healthy workplace balance, there is still a disconnect between managers and employees. According to McKinsey, more than three quarters of C-suite executives expect employees to return to the office for the majority of their work week. Yet, most employees prefer to work from home for the majority of their work week. Embracing new technology can offer an alternative, hybrid work balance that suits both employers and employees alike. 

Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on Workplace Technology Innovation

On the latest episode of the #WorkTrends podcast, we welcome returning guests, Citrix’s Christian Reilly and Maribel Lopez to discuss modern technology in the workplace.

When asked how organizations could best adopt digital transformation to keep up with the changes in work culture, Christian highlights that the succession of digital transformation in the workplace is dependent on a company’s lifespan and modernity:

“When you’re thinking about hybrid or full-time remote work, it becomes extremely cumbersome to pretend that the technology platform you use inside an office is the same as what you would use outside an office.” 

Making the move to cloud services and software as a service (SaaS), and digital workplaces are all strategies to ramp up IT modernization. Christian shares a new discovery of Citrix research, “The Era of Hyper Innovation,” and discusses the knock-on effects modern technology can have on employees.

“93% believe that increased digital collaboration has led to more diverse voices from across the organization being heard and a greater range of ideas for innovation actually being surfaced.”

Accessible and Individualized Technology will Empower Employees

In this new era of work, many organizations have quickly embraced change. Others are a bit slower to act. According to Christian and Maribel: If your organization isn’t agile, your competitors will eat your lunch. Fortunately, Maribel believes that technology can provide a powerful opportunity to level the playing field among organizations of all sizes.

“Every organization on the planet has access to amazing technology at a fairly affordable price,” says Maribel. “If you’re willing to adopt technology, then it becomes more about your product, your servicing, and your ability to understand customer needs.”

We’re also seeing greater democratization via technology. Maribel says today’s employees enter the workplace with fewer constraints. At one point in time, employees relied on their expert colleagues to help them do their job (such as typing pools – for those old enough to remember them). Now, technology empowers employees to do this themselves.

“Now every individual is empowered to take control of how they work and they have the tools to do so,” Maribel comments. “We have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us to use technology for good.”

I hope you enjoyed this 2-part discussion on #WorkTrends, sponsored by Citrix. To learn more about using modern technology in the workplace, contact  Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on LinkedIn.

And, in case you missed it, check out Part One of this podcast here.

Using Modern Technology to Create Better Workplaces [Podcast]

The workplace is becoming more diverse as organizations offer remote and hybrid work options and build a global workforce. With these big changes comes a call for a change in work culture. Employers need to ask themselves how they can create an inclusive, productive, and social atmosphere without the convenience of an in-office environment. The answer to this conundrum? Embracing modern technology.

By staying agile and open to the technological tools available, organizations can not only increase communication and collaboration across teams but promote a healthy and inclusive workplace for everyone, no matter where they are in the world.

Our Guests: Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly, Workplace Technology Innovation Experts

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with workplace technology innovation experts Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly. Maribel founded Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that researches artificial intelligence, mobile, and hybrid work transformation. Maribel is also the author of John Wiley & Sons book Right-Time Experiences, a contributor to Forbes, and host of the podcast Reimagine Hybrid Work. Christian Reilly serves as VP of technology strategy at Citrix. He leads the organization’s long-term strategic technology decisions across the business and ecosystem. He is also a global keynote speaker and is widely recognized as a technology industry thought leader.

On the podcast, I asked them to share advice on how to help hybrid and remote employees feel more connected at work. The trick to achieving this, Maribel says, is using modern technology to remove communication boundaries.

“On a technology level, people need to be able to seamlessly communicate,” Maribel says. “They have to be able to connect with everybody in the organization and figure out who those people are. Basically, boundary-less communication and collaboration are key.”

Also, Maribel adds, organizations need to understand that if there’s an issue with communication, it may not be an employee’s fault. This is especially true if the tools are counter-intuitive. If organizations want to get employees excited to adopt modern technology, they need to make the tech user-friendly.

“When organizations make workplace tools more intuitive and easy to use, employees see value in them,” Maribel says. “If tech makes their jobs easier, they’re much more willing to embrace it. The biggest mistake organizations make is to hang on to legacy tools that aren’t modern.”

Getting Creative with Modern Technology Adoption

When it comes to employee adoption of technology, it’s different strokes for different folks. Some organizations are going to thrive with simple modern technology adoption, while others may thrive with something more complex.

“If we make modern technology simpler to use, then, of course, we’re going to see adoption rates increase. However, that’s not always the case,” Christian says. “For example, one organization used gamification, where employees tried to win badges for using the tech. I think there’s a fun element to that.”

When designing these systems, creativity in thinking around DEI should be a priority. Organizations must keep in mind the cultural sensitivities of employees from different backgrounds and locations, especially as the workforce becomes global thanks to remote work. Organizations can really shine here by thinking outside the box with how they show employees they care and want them included. Technology can help organizations adjust to individual working styles by offering translation transcription services, recorded meetings, and more.

“Not everybody is a native English speaker. When we think about different teams in different parts of an organization, giving them the opportunity to watch video recordings rather than be present at a live meeting allows them to work at their own speed,” Christian says. “This technology is simple to implement, but very impactful because organizations are recognizing cultural differences and that people thrive at work differently.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Citrix. You can learn more about using modern technology to create better workplaces by reaching out to Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on LinkedIn. Also, this podcast is part one of a two-part series, with the next episode coming December 3rd, 2021. So stay tuned!

 

3 Ways to Practice Empathetic Leadership with a Virtual Team

Toxic leadership is the main reason why employees leave their jobs. In order to become truly exceptional, those in charge must practice empathetic leadership.

Empathy is the ability to feel what another person is feeling. It is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes in a big and meaningful way. It is to experience their emotions.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Empathy is absolutely critical to emotional intelligence. But it involves more than just being able to recognize the emotional states of others. It also involves your responses to people based on this information. It’s important to put your emotional intelligence (EQ) to work, at work, in the form of practicing empathy.

Why empathy is important

We live in an era filled with information. Thus, without emotions and the ability to sense, understand, and respond to these emotions, any level of understanding and connection is impossible. In today’s business world, we have tools and methods for the efficient exchange of information, but these leave out a massive amount of what makes people human.

Research has shown that empathy is essential at work, and when it comes to remote work, the critical need for developing both emotional intelligence–and expressing it in the form of empathy–is imperative to its success. Plenty of studies show that when a workplace is capable of empathy, it increases happiness, productivity, and retention.

In fact, a telling brain-imaging study found that when employees recalled a boss that had been unkind or un-empathic, they showed increased activation in areas of the brain associated with avoidance and negative emotion. The opposite was true when they recalled an empathic boss. We know what often follows avoidance… increasing levels of disengagement, poorer communication, ineffective collaboration–and a high likelihood of resignation.

Practicing empathetic leadership can be further complicated when teams become virtual and hybrid–where on any given day some of your team members may or may not be in the office. Removing the crucial in-person interaction experienced in our traditional office environments just means we have to find different ways to more effectively lead our teams–ways that no longer rely on those small, casual, and by-chance episodes of social interaction. Rather, we must become much more deliberate in the practice of empathetic leadership.

How to be a more empathetic leader

1. See the whole person

As a leader of remote employees or distributed teams, it’s important to set an example. In any team, remote or not, it is crucial to be mindful and considerate of your colleagues as whole people. While this may sound simple, humans often are not great at considering things outside our immediate range of experience. Here’s what you can do to foster this in your team:

Actions:

  • Create regular virtual opportunities for your team to meet, both formally and informally, and encourage them to share more about themselves, their families, and personal interests. As a team, create and nurture an environment where it is encouraged to express a more personal side of yourself. More social communication of this kind is related to higher levels of trust in remote teams.
  • Demonstrate that you have listened and that you care by asking questions because you want to learn more. In addition to asking the other person questions, ask yourself questions like, “How would I feel or what would I do in this situation?
  • Use technology to infuse empathy into communication. One of the unfortunate downsides of online communication is that empathy often goes missing in these digital interactions, and digital tools are not the best for expressing human emotions. So if you and your distributed team can’t see each other in person and simply can’t wait on those organic interactions, technology based on psychometrics can fast-track the process and make digital more human again. There are plug-ins available that can help your team better understand how to work with one another so that collaboration is more meaningful and effective.

2. Assume positive intent

Remote work and the endless flood of information and online communication can easily lead to misunderstandings, turning what was supposed to be fast and easy communication into a source of frustration. Assuming negative intentions where there are none will soon crush a team’s dynamic. Developing your empathy skills will help you escape these negative emotions and work towards better collaboration.

Actions:

  • Work closely with your team or direct reports to get a good idea of their day-to-day experiences. By understanding how their workflows operate, you will get a good understanding of what may cause frustration.
  • Listen more. Encourage open communication between yourself and your remote team and its members, and focus on listening to what your employees are saying–not just waiting to speak. To be empathetic, you have to key in on what the other person is saying, both nonverbally and verbally. Emotions can be seen and heard. You can pick up on feelings based on what the other person says and how they say it, including their tone. Take this example shared by Founder & CEO of Gravity Payments, Dan Price. He recounts a life-changing interaction shared between him and one of his employees. And he says his biggest lesson was to listen to his employees.
  • Identify and challenge your biases. We are all biased. People tend to approach situations with preconceived notions. It helps people feel prepared for situations. It helps people to feel in control and more comfortable. But preconceived notions, assumptions, or biases make it difficult to listen fully. Work on identifying them and challenging these biases to improve empathy and become more inclusive of different perspectives.

3. Develop a safe space.

The highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety. It is the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.

Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off—just the types of behavior that lead to breakthroughs or innovations. So how can you increase psychological safety on your own team?

Actions:

  • Approach conflict as a collaborator, not an adversary. When conflicts come up, avoid triggering a fight-or-flight reaction by asking, “How could we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?” Speak human-to-human, but anticipate reactions. Plan countermoves and adopt a learning mindset where you’re truly curious to hear the other person’s point of view.
  • Ask for feedback to illuminate your own blind spots. Open up for suggestions and ideas from your team and take time to reflect on them. If you create this sense of psychological safety on your own team starting now, you can expect to see higher levels of engagement, increased motivation to tackle difficult problems, more learning and development opportunities, and better performance.
  • Commit to developing a psychologically safe culture. Discuss shared “team rules” openly. Create a supportive environment and make a good example of yourself. Talk about challenges and tough issues that you are facing.

Conclusion

In the end, one of the easiest ways to practice empathetic leadership is to offer your support and tangible help. Sometimes, it is not enough to say, “I’m sorry to hear this.” Instead, say, “I’d like to help.” Or, “How can I support you?” Or, “What can I take off your plate?” Show that you’re willing to take time to do something for someone else. This demonstrates empathetic leadership.

Empathy in the workplace allows employees to better understand each other. When employees understand each other, they can better work together, and teams can be effective and productive. Leaders have the ability to empathize, and by empathizing they inspire others to be caring, and that trickles down. The result: healthier, more inclusive cultures and more productive teams.

To learn more about how you can fast track the improvement of emotional intelligence across your organization and build more engaged, higher-performing teams, visit www.eqeverywhere.com.

 

The Future of Work: 6 Post-COVID HR Trends to Look Out For

The first time COVID-19 made its appearance, a lot of uncertainty, fear, and doubt ruled many people’s lives. Since all of it was new, absolutely no one knew exactly what to do.

Nearly two years have passed, and we have gathered all the information and forces available to fight against it. The good news is that we have done it effectively to a great extent, and the current recovery situation is looking optimistic.

However, there is no guarantee that we are ever going “back to normal” since what is “normal” has been completely redefined.

From now on, HR professionals will need to adjust to the new normal. Here are some post-COVID HR trends to be prepared for.

1. A bigger focus on remote work

If there is one thing that the pandemic changed for most employees, it’s remote work. With all the video-conferencing calls via Zoom and Skype, the business world is steadily making its way to normalizing remote working.

While reports show that remote working was already becoming popular before COVID, especially amongst the self-employed, it sped up its pace.

The Pew Research Center reports that prior to the pandemic, about 20 percent of Americans were working remotely. Right now, this number has gone up to 71 percent. And out of that percentage, 54 percent want to continue working remotely.

That said, we expect to see working practices becoming more flexible in time.

Some businesses may even need to invest in more permanent communication tools or services. These should help them keep in touch with their employees and be able to support them.

2. Embracing technology

Technology is always at the forefront of change and will play a significant role in post-COVID HR trends.

When it comes to recruiting new talent, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and blockchain technology will bring more changes in HR. With the possibility of streamlining the hiring process and improving the quality of the hires, the possibilities are endless.

But that’s not all that technology can do. Recruiting tech-savvy candidates that come with digital and transferable skills is more beneficial. This can help create a modern and ever-changing working environment that is adaptable and ready to face any potential challenge.

If you a looking for a winning HR tool, check out the TalentCulture 2021, HR Tech winners here.

3. Prioritizing employee well-being

More and more companies are putting their employees first.

Not only that, but they are also showing a willingness to address any health and safety issues. The trend of adopting a more people-centric company culture as opposed to business-centric is a positive turn of events. Now employers are being more understanding, aware, and flexible in ensuring the well-being of employees.

One way organizations can do this is by providing employees with better rewards and incentives. Time off or holistic benefit offerings can address both their mental and physical concerns.

Many famous companies are leading the way, showing others how it’s done. During the season of reduced demand, Microsoft continued paying their hourly workers who were offering their support. While Starbucks started offering more mental health benefits and therapy sessions to all its U.S.-based employees and family members starting in April 2020.

4. Rethinking current business practices

HR managers need to adapt to changing times, and to do so, they need to do a thorough re-assessment of company policies and practices. They need to look into what worked and didn’t work for employees during the crisis.

While some industries were lucky enough to survive the pandemic, some had cut down staff, or worse, close down.

Deloitte’s Workforce strategies for post-COVID-19 recovery workbook offers a helping hand to all managers who are rethinking their business practices. The workbook focuses on three key pillars: 1) respond, 2) recover, and 3) thrive. Considering every aspect of the business that needs to change, this guide can help organizations succeed.

5. Changing learning and training methods

When it comes to post-COVID HR trends, moving away from face-to-face learning and making use of e-learning resources is likely to be especially valuable.

Online learning has proven to be an effective and reliable method of providing training. In fact, it has been a lifesaver during the difficult coronavirus days. Given that e-learning is inexpensive and more efficient, more businesses will choose to invest in it and replace old training practices.

Webinars, virtual classrooms, online courses, video training, and mobile learning are trending. Many tools that can offer this type of training like LMSs (learning management systems), onboarding tools, and course platforms can improve employee training programs.

6. Relying on data to make decisions

When the financial situation of a business is unsteady, the need to forecast workforce requirements and reduce costs becomes paramount.

In order for HR managers to make well-informed decisions that will help sustain a business, they need to focus on data analytics.

Data analytics will provide the most reliable source of information, helping organizations successfully recruit candidates, as well as measure and monitor employee performance, engagement, and productivity.

A Look Into the Future

All these post-COVID HR trends pave the way for a new direction for the HR industry. New HR practices will soon replace the old, and companies will adopt the ones that will help them grow.

Pay attention to employees’ well-being, exploit all the tools available to you, and make data-driven decisions. Help your company survive through these troubled times and thrive in the future.

GDPR and the Future of Remote Work: What HR Needs to Know

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one of the most comprehensive and impactful cybersecurity laws today. While this EU regulation passed in 2018, companies today would benefit from reevaluating their compliance. As remote work becomes the norm, the GDPR and HR’s relationship is back in the spotlight.

Many companies may be complacent about the GDPR, assuming all their operations and partners are already compliant. However, Amazon’s recent $887 million non-compliance fine highlights how these assumptions may be inaccurate. In the move to a more remote-friendly work environment, businesses have also introduced new risks and considerations.

Three years after the GDPR’s passing, compliance is perhaps more important today than ever. Here’s what HR professionals should know while preparing for the future of remote work.

The GDPR is becoming increasingly relevant.

Amazon’s record-breaking fine demonstrates how crucial GDPR compliance is, even for non-EU companies. These regulations carry fines of up to €20 million per violation, enough to put a smaller business in financial ruin. Additionally, many companies that once fell outside of GDPR jurisdiction may now find themselves in it.

Digital adoption leaped five years in eight weeks amid the initial COVID-19 outbreak. Consequently, more businesses are collecting more data than ever before. It’s highly likely that U.S. companies now collect or store data in the EU, putting them under the GDPR.

Since businesses are embracing digital transformation so rapidly, HR departments may not have had time to catch up. Regulatory compliance has likely lagged behind the shift to new technologies and processes. As a result, companies that were GDPR compliant last year may not be any longer.

Perhaps the most impactful of these shifts is the one to remote work. A late-2020 survey of 1,200 global companies revealed that 72 percent of their workforce now works remotely. Furthermore, most companies plan on expanding their remote workforce this year, raising concerns for the GDPR and HR.

Remote work introduces new data security concerns.

The relationship between the GDPR and HR becomes more complicated with a remote workforce. Some rules become more challenging to enforce. For example, companies must notify authorities no later than 72 hours after a breach, but remote communication can be inefficient. Understanding what happened and informing all potentially affected employees may take longer.

Similarly, ensuring employees follow the proper device and network security steps can be challenging with remote workers. One survey found that 76 percent of remote workers have accessed work files with non-protected devices. When employees are on their own, using personal devices on home networks, ensuring compliance is far from straightforward.

Remote work means companies, including their HR departments, are more reliant on digital communication than ever. Consequently, they’re at greater risk of non-compliance from hackers, user error, or non-compliant third-party services.

Since HR is often responsible for companies’ regulatory compliance, they bear much of the responsibility for the GDPR. Additionally, HR departments handle some of a business’s most sensitive data, like employees’ personally identifiable information (PII). Managing that data in a digital, remote environment makes it more susceptible to a breach.

What can HR do to ensure GDPR compliance?

In light of these growing concerns, HR professionals must become familiar with the GDPR. As they shift to remote work environments, they should reassess the steps they take towards compliance.

Remote monitoring software can help reduce security-jeopardizing user errors, but HR should balance this protection with privacy. The GDPR allows monitoring, but only in some contexts, requiring businesses to have legitimate reasons, among other considerations. Generally speaking, it’s best to use as minimally intrusive measures as possible and be transparent with workers about it.

If companies change what employee data they collect or how they use it, HR should inform workers. Worker consent and their right to be informed are crucial aspects of both the GDPR and HR’s responsibility. Similarly, HR should ensure any process or technology changes uphold employees’ right to delete their personal data.

Hiring a data protection officer is one of the most helpful changes a company can make. The GDPR requires this in some organizations, but even those that don’t need one should consider it. By creating such a position, HR can have a go-to contact for questions about cybersecurity regulatory compliance.

Cybersecurity is a crucial part of HR today.

Cybersecurity might not typically be something people expect of HR, but the two fields are inseparable today. HR plays a critical role in protecting employee data and meeting relevant regulations. As such, HR professionals must prepare for how the shift to remote work will impact their GDPR compliance.

As cyber threats rise and remote work introduces new risks, the GDPR must become a point of focus again. HR teams should work with IT departments and management to reassess and adjust their GDPR compliance. Failure to do so can result in massive fines and the infringement of employee rights.

Hybrid Work: Transform Your Workplace with Security and Collaboration

The future of work is hybrid–with over 50 percent of people saying they’d prefer to work from home at least three days per week. But many workplaces don’t have the tools in place to make the transition to this new working style.

To implement hybrid work successfully, organizations need streamlined communication and security for safe collaboration and inclusive communication. By selecting the right tech tools and organizational strategies, hybrid work can be a boon for productivity, employee engagement, and even DEI.

Our Guest: Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s Executive VP and General Manager of Security and Collaboration

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Jeetu Patel, Executive VP and General Manager of Security and Collaboration at Cisco. He leads business strategy and development and also owns P&L responsibility for this multibillion-dollar portfolio. Utilizing his product design and development expertise and innate market understanding, he creates high-growth Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses. His team creates and designs meaningfully differentiated products that diverge in the way they’re conceived, built, priced, packaged, and sold.

To successfully achieve these things, Jeetu stays open-minded and flexible, especially when it comes to hybrid work. In order to ensure that experiences are great for employees, he says organizations need to understand that people typically work better in a “mixed-mode.”

“The future of work will be hybrid. Sometimes people will work from the office, other times, from home. In this ‘mixed-mode’ reality, it is going to be harder than when everyone worked in the office. And the reason for that is there’s more of an opportunity for people to feel left out,” Jeetu says.

To prevent feelings of exclusion, organizations must implement tech solutions for collaboration. At Cisco, they provide various options for remote workers to participate in company goings-on. For instance, they allow people to engage in asynchronous communication, sending stand-alone video messages to contribute ideas. They also use things like Webex and Thrive to make sure everyone is up to date on what’s happening.

“You’ve gotta have the right tools and technology to collaborate in a frictionless manner,” Jeetu says. “You need world-class connectivity and delightful software experiences that can allow you to collaborate, be secure, and not have to worry about someone hacking into your system.”

How Hybrid Work Can Strengthen DEI Efforts

Part of creating a frictionless hybrid work system is focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Jeetu explains that DEI should be prioritized in hybrid work scenarios because it’s the right thing to do.

“No one should feel left out because of their race, gender, ethnicity, geography, language preference, or personality type,” Jeetu says. “Those things shouldn’t make people feel like they don’t have the opportunity to participate.” 

Hybrid work empowers organizations to focus on DEI because it gives global access to talent. Opportunity is unevenly distributed all over the planet, explains Jeetu, while human potential is not. So hybrid work can help make positive changes in the workforce regarding issues of equality.

“Hybrid work allows people of all types to feel that they have a level playing field,” Jeetu says. “People shouldn’t have to feel like they have to choose between where they want to live and having access to a career opportunity. They should be able to do both.” 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Cisco. You can learn more about integrating hybrid work into your organization by connecting with Jeetu Patel on LinkedIn.

Also, on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, from 1:30-2:00 pm ET, don’t miss our #WorkTrends Twitter chat with Cisco (@Cisco).

During this live chat, our global “world of work” community will discuss how companies can develop an intelligent workplace, how collaboration tools empower the hybrid work model, and more. Be sure to follow @TalentCulture on Twitter for all the questions and add #WorkTrends to your tweets so others can see your opinions and ideas!

How to Design the Ideal WFH Office

WFH offices have become popular these days thanks to the pandemic. The daily 9 to 5 commutes and rush hours have now been replaced with WFH environments, as statistics show. If you’ve also made the move to remote working, here’s a quick look at how you can design the idea WFH office environment in your home.

Make sure it is a permanent space.

The ideal WFH office cannot be a makeshift affair. Propping a laptop on your legs while working from bed can be satisfactory in the beginning. But, this will be a problem if you have to work from home on a daily basis. In such a scenario, you will need a definite long-term office where you will be able to work in peace. Since it is your place, it would be nice to fill it with everything that you need. This way you will work both more effectively and efficiently.

The ergonomics of your home office

Alluding to the laptop-on-bed example earlier, any unnatural angle of the body can have really adverse consequences. You won’t notice your posture in the first few days. However, soon enough you can end up with back and neck aches. This is why it is vital to work in a good place. Design a workplace that is optimal for your body and back support. After all, your typical on-site office workstation is comfortable and safe to work in. So, why should this one be any different?

Imagine you are writing about the role of chatbots in education and suddenly your back starts hurting. That will not only stop your writing, but it will also bother you in your personal life as well. It is crucial to find the right chair as well as a desktop combination set-up.

Let there be (natural) light!

Studies over the years have shown that having windows that allow the ingress of natural light is healthy. Unlike artificial lights, we can process natural light a lot better. Actually, our bodies work best in natural light. So open the windows of your home office and let all that natural sunlight increase your productivity.

Take breaks in nature.

Research shows that nature calms us. It normalizes our sleep schedule, helps clear our minds, regulates stress levels, and more. If you have a home office with beautiful views of nature, you will have a better chance of feeling calm, collected, and even more creative.

Select the perfect colors.

A home office should be a bright and colorful place instead of being a dull and dreary environment. Vibrant colors inspire a person to give his or her best shot. For example, the color blue can spark your creativity.

Find a quiet place.

Make sure your home office is a quiet place. If peace and quiet are necessary for your work you should consider building home additions for your office. Such a place is your very own dedicated workspace. When you are at work, you feel motivated to work. Similarly, you can work just that efficiently from your home office. In other words, it will become a place that you associate exclusively with your work.

Conclusion

When designing your WFH office, consider incorporating fresh air, natural light, vibrant colors, and a good chair/desk combo. It could greatly affect your productivity and overall happiness at work.

 

How Coworking Spaces Are Changing The Future Of Work

There is a lot of buzz in the business world about coworking spaces because of their quick rise to fame. The first official coworking space was opened in 2005, and now an estimated 35.000 are spread worldwide. These spaces are widely popular for their unique designs that usually consist of wide-open office plans accompanied by various other rooms where people from different work fields can work and relax.

With COVID infection rates getting lower as vaccination rates get higher, people are gathering and working together again freely. Statistics show that in 2021 the number of people occupying coworking spaces in the United States is close to a million.

The future of work seems uncertain because of the many changes brought into the workplace due to the pandemic. However, one thing we can predict is that coworking spaces will play a big part in the future of work, as these spaces can offer a lot of benefits to employees everywhere.

The Opportunity to Connect With Others

There’s a saying: “Experience is the best teacher.” While this can be true, learning from the experience of others can be equally fruitful. Our ability as humans to connect with others and collaborate with them is a big reason for our success as a species.

According to a study, for workers to bond, they must interact in a place that offers them the opportunity to be in close proximity to each other regardless of the differences in career fields. Coworking spaces provide their members with such proximity through areas specifically designed for socializing. Imagine a lounge area where professionals from different fields can sit, drink coffee, and discuss their latest projects with one another. The atmosphere enables members to connect with each other without having to organize special events for networking.

Therefore, coworking spaces represent the future of work because, in addition to the basic business infrastructure, they offer their members the opportunity for social interaction, work collaboration, and networking. Workers in coworking spaces can connect with other professionals, businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. Through this connection, they trade information with each other, as well as create relationships with mutual benefits where everyone learns from the mistakes and successes of others.

Productivity

Another reason why coworking spaces are shaping the future of work is their effect on the workers’ productivity. According to research by the companies Deskmag and Deskwanted, 74 percent of their employees were more productive in coworking spaces.

Office employees spend a lot of time inside the building they work in, and numerous studies have demonstrated that environment plays a big role in determining work performance and productivity.

The average coworking space is designed with the members’ comfort in mind. The organizers of the space pay close attention to the seating, lighting, temperature, air quality, and noise conditions. This ensures that their members have what they need to feel motivated and work.

Creativity

Creativity in the workplace is essential for problem-solving, being more open-minded, and adding unique perspectives. Coworking spaces offer these things and boost workers’ creativity.

For one thing, coworking spaces provide a stimulating atmosphere through unique room designs, colors, and natural light. Inside some of these rooms, there are whiteboards and markers, which make them perfect spots for brainstorming. The diverse community that can frequent these spaces also contributes to creativity through sharing different ideas and knowledge.

Greater Flexibility

Coworking spaces offer their members great flexibility in regards to place and time. According to a study, the flexibility given to workers in regards to the choice of workspace and schedule is very important for well-being.

To begin, employees are offered flexibility through the design of the space. Workers have access to different working stations depending on what they need. They can work by themselves in private areas with other people around in the open offices. They can hold meetings in their designated rooms, as well as relax and socialize in the special lounges.

Also, these spaces offer flexibility for people’s schedules. Generally, workers can set their own hours and work when they feel most motivated.

Success

Last but not least, coworking spaces help individuals and businesses succeed. From the beginning, they ensure that workers have everything they need—including office supplies, space, and flexibility. When members join coworking spaces, they do not need to worry about creating a proper physical working environment. They can focus all their energy on doing their jobs, as the rest is provided to them.

Coworking spaces have a lot of potential to be part of the future of work. Through these spaces, freelancers, employees, and business owners are promoting collaboration by working together, sharing knowledge, and supporting one another. The many benefits coworking spaces provide have rightfully earned them a place in the future of work.

Is It Fair that Corporations Pay Remote Workers Less?

I recently read a story that gave me pause. And then I looked around and unearthed more. Remote employees may have their salaries cut simply because of where they work. Hmmm.

After all we have learned about remote working from the pandemic, I hope that organizations are inspired by the findings. Many leaders who have trust issues and fear around a remote workforce were forced to try something new. And, overall, remote working took off!

However, a new trend may be arising with corporate giants like Google, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn that seems ridiculous. They are finding ways to pay remote workers LESS than those who come into the office.

Thought leader Jill Christensen states: “Every organization must decide how they will manage post-pandemic salaries. Will you pay the same regardless of where employees live or cut pay based on the employee’s geographic location? Only you know what’s right for your firm, but I advise that you think long and hard about the true cost of slashing pay. You may end up losing much more than what you save in payroll dollars. Employees may disengage, costing you productivity, retention, quality defects, creativity, sick days, and customer satisfaction. Is it really worth it?”

According to The Remote Work Pay Cut Class War, “Reuters reported that one employee, working from a county outside of Seattle, would see a 10% pay cut if they chose to work remotely, and someone would get a cut as high as 25% if they lived in Lake Tahoe. Specifically, those who choose to work remotely but live near the office wouldn’t see a pay cut, despite not going into the office.”

Is it fair?

With the excuse of “cost of living,” this decision will be justifiable to many. However, is this truly fair to pay remote workers less? The article explains: “This may make sense for a local business selling to locals, but it doesn’t make sense if someone is doing work on the computer – and it doesn’t make sense when you’re deciding to pay someone less money to do exactly the same work.”

Is this move all part of a bigger picture about deeming some employees worth more than others arbitrarily? We all know that it’s more expensive in San Francisco than in Houston. But when it’s the SAME job, does it matter?

“If you pay people working remotely the same amount of money as they’d make in the Bay, you likely can’t justify the lower salaries you likely pay in Detroit, or Chapel Hill, or Pittsburgh,” added Zitron.

In the world of work, we have taken giant strides toward fairness, flexibility, and freedom. This seems like a giant step backward. Do you deserve more pay just for parking in the lot at the expensive headquarters? (It’s argued in the comments of Zitron’s article that companies like Google have sunk so much money into their campuses that they are seeking justification for filling them up again.)

The new class

It’s also being defined as creating a new class system–defining team members as “in the office” or “remote.”

“They are deliberately creating a class system within their companies, both in the division of who is and who is not in the office and who makes the most money and one has to wonder if elder Googler Urs Hölzle will take a 25%+ pay cut now that he lives in New Zealand,” adds author Ed Zitron.

The back-and-forth rationale of this topic can be quite thought-provoking. However, it still just doesn’t seem fair to me. And what about the sustainable nature of non-commuting? Saving gas, energy, and precious time are often hailed as “wins.”

Suddenly those are forgotten benefits because someone decided they want bodies in seats again. Hmmm.

We are not past pay inequality.

Pay inequality has long been a hot topic. Very recent research indicates that it still needs to be top of mind. I obviously can’t address pay inequality all in one go, but it’s important to look at the big picture.

According to the Pew Research Center, “In 2020, women earned 84% of what men earned, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers. Based on this estimate, it would take an extra 42 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2020.”

An article posted by SHRM states, “PayScale analyzed differences in earnings between white men and men of color using data from a sample of 1.8 million employees surveyed between January 2017 and February 2019.”

“On average, black men earned 87 cents for every dollar a white man earned. Hispanic workers had the next largest gap, earning 91 cents for every dollar earned by white men. On the other side of the earnings spectrum, Asian men typically earned $1.15 for every dollar earned by a white male worker.”

“Cost of living”

I found a very informational piece by NoHQ on how to pay remote workers, which explained some critical economic factors that play a role in remote workers being paid less. One was Compensating Differentials.

“’Compensating differentials’ is a term in labor economics that refers to the relation of wage rates and the tolerance of undesirable conditions of a job. For example, some countries or cities are naturally more desirable (or undesirable) than others–due to weather conditions, real estate prices, local culture and diversity, and infrastructure.

“The likeability of an area will impact a worker’s pay tolerance to live there. When it comes to remote working, compensating differentials may have less influence on wage rates, as remote workers can move wherever they like. Exceptions apply when remote workers can only move within a certain geographical zone in order to work remotely.”

They also pointed out that while it may be cost-effective to adjust salaries, it could appear discriminatory and unjust. This can result in poor employee morale and weaker loyalty–something to watch out for!

Key takeaways

It’s a significant challenge to measure the “cost of living.” Yes, there are governmental and research resources, but it’s very personal and ever-changing. Have you seen the real estate spikes in places like the Denver metro and Miami? I wonder if everyone there is getting a pay raise. Hmmm.

I genuinely hope enormous, powerful companies set the right precedent. They should pay remote workers equally because other companies will use them as an example. It is inevitable.

 

Retaining Employees During the ‘Great Resignation’

According to the U.S. Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary released in June 2021, approximately four million people quit their jobs in April. What are these people looking for? Many are rethinking what work means and are in search of greater work-life balance and flexibility. They’re taking stock of how they’re valued by companies and the ways they spend their time. This massive exodus of people leaving jobs is now known as “The Great Resignation.” It reflects not just numbers, but a broader change in the ways people take ownership of their careers.

Whether this is a temporary trend or a paradigm shift, executives and HR leaders need to assess the attractiveness of their businesses to the workforce. They need to determine if their policies and cultures will enhance employee retention or will spur employees to stampede for the door seeking greener pastures.

Recognizing employee preferences

Due to the pandemic, millions of workers have experienced remote work for an extended period. Despite its challenges, they have grown used to the increased flexibility, work-life balance, time, and savings it affords. In recent research from Prudential, the Pulse of the American Worker Survey finds that 42 percent of current remote workers say they will look for another job if their employer discontinues work-from-home as an option.

HR teams and managers need to recognize the evolving employee preferences that remote work has inspired. They should adjust their strategies accordingly if their business plans call for a return to the office. Leaders also need to evaluate the expectations placed on remote workers to avoid falling victim to the “Great Resignation.” While job expectations depend on the employee’s position, in most cases, employees shouldn’t have to respond to emails or messages outside of established work hours. Clear communication from management about remote work expectations streamlines the parameters and efficiencies of remote and hybrid work models. It also helps avoid misunderstandings and reduces frustrations or friction that might lead to resignations or poor performance.

Business and HR leaders need to determine whether utilizing a hybrid model is a better strategy than an “all-or-nothing” approach. The former incorporates the employee’s desire for flexibility with the need for in-office interaction and collaboration. The Prudential survey notes that 68 percent of surveyed workers (working remote and in-office) feel the hybrid workplace model is optimal. Large companies like Cisco are taking notice, recently announcing plans to implement a long-term hybrid work model. The flexibility of the hybrid model satisfies different work styles and job functions. For example, it gives a product manager in-person access to the design and sales teams while an accountant has the option to work most days from a quiet home office.

How the right culture attracts and retains talent

Businesses that stand out over the long term are those that have established employee-centric cultures. The pandemic has put an enormous financial and mental strain on the workforce. So as part of the “Great Resignation,” many workers are flocking towards firms built on strong cultures of fairness and empathy.

Returning to an office may be a shock to many workers that spent the last 18 months at home. It necessitates a shift in their schedules and adds worries about exposure to infection. Organizations mandating a return to in-office arrangements have a tough road ahead. It will be difficult to convince their workforces that they are factoring in employees’ health and lives outside the workplace. To ease employees back into it, businesses can start by adding flexible scheduling. This is valuable even for in-office workers and was becoming more common even before the pandemic. For example, if someone needs to care for a sick child, their employer can allow them to work from home without penalty. Companies can also revisit their vacation policies to retain workers, promoting more generous time-off packages to help employees recharge.

Redefining productivity

Another cultural shift companies are grappling with is whether to move towards a more productivity-centric model. Organizations are realizing that productivity is not simply about the hours workers spend at their computers or workstations.

While hard work remains essential and merits accolades and compensation, businesses need to make productivity and task completion the metric. Many workers complete tasks in the time they’re given, whether it’s 45 minutes or a full day. Afterward, they sometimes worry if they’ve finished the assignment too fast or too slow. This contributes to a sense of complacency, doubt, and even fear. Instead, organizations should aim for a positive, task-oriented culture where employees receive positive feedback based on contributions and ingenuity.

Many of the most attractive companies offer top-tier benefits packages to promote physical and mental health. They drive positive workplace connections, not through constant Zoom meetings, but through recognition, and open communication. To avoid the “Great Resignation,” managers and HR professionals need to reaffirm that they value their employees. Also, they need to remember that their opinions and suggestions carry weight and can produce impactful change.

Firms can implement innovative practices such as “demo days.” These allow employees to showcase their work in informal settings and openly discuss challenges in their roles. Employee surveys and executive mentorship are also effective. These efforts provide employees with an actionable sounding board, combined with senior-level guidance. This lowers the chances that management will make decisions based on their own assumptions instead of actual data, feedback, and interactions with employees.

Navigating a business through the “Great Resignation” requires patience and understanding of employee needs. Organizations need to create employee-focused cultures built on open discussion and empathy. They should also offer attractive benefits and time-off packages, emphasize quality over quantity, and promote creativity and productivity over drudgery.

The Near Future of Work: What’s Next for the Office?

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic first upended work and life, business owners, HR leaders, and workers are continuing to adjust to an ever-evolving situation.

Now, as offices reopen and vaccinated workers are brought back into a centralized workplace, the big question is:

What can we expect from the near future of work?

Is it “back to normal?”

Some organizations, such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, are steadfastly going back to their pre-2020 normal.

Other companies are bringing employees back to the office on a part-time basis, while some are going full-time remote. One example is Quora, which announced early during the pandemic that it was switching to a remote-first culture for good.

What’s the best way forward?

The clear answer is that it depends on the individual company. More importantly, it depends on the individuals within your company.

Think about it this way:

We have lived alongside coronavirus for more than 18 months. Employees have been expected to upend their daily routines and find a way to work from home productively while adapting to the terrifying enormity of the health crisis.

It took a great deal of coping, adjusting, and compromising.

As a result, our perception of “normal” has shifted. And the expectations and needs of workers have changed, too.

Unsurprisingly, many people aren’t happy to go “back to normal.”

“The great resignation”

One study found that nearly three in 10 employees (29 percent) would quit their jobs if they were told they were no longer allowed to work remotely.

That’s why the current situation is being dubbed “the great resignation” or “the resignation boom.

Even now, amid continuing uncertainty, people are willing to leave their place of employment in favor of greater flexibility.

Ignoring employees’ needs will only risk demotivating staff, eroding company culture, and increasing turnover.

Is WFH here to stay?

Although working from home is far from perfect, it’s impossible to ignore the benefits of remote work.

Trusting employees to work remotely is empowering.

This leads to motivation, loyalty, and productivity. In fact, studies show that people who worked from home during the pandemic maintained, or exceeded, productivity levels.

The real question is, do your people actually want to work from home?

One study found that 89 percent of people want to work from home at least some of the time after the crisis ends.

However, the same research found that it is actually flexibility that most workers are interested in, not a wholesale rejection of the traditional office model.

Only a relatively small proportion of workers–one in four–would switch to a completely remote work model if they could.

Remember that these are general studies. What happens in your company depends on your own research.

As noted in a recent TalentCulture blog by HR specialist Cheryl Halverson: “It’s imperative to understand employees’ needs and hopes for this new world of work. You can achieve this through active listening via focus groups, ongoing employee pulse surveys, employee advisory groups, and honest discussions between managers and direct reports.”

Armed with these insights, Halverson recommends using them to co-create “an envisioned future.”

This is a future where employees are involved in the development, understanding, and communication of that future so they can adopt, advocate for, and believe in it.

Moving forward, flexibly

For those companies that choose a flexible future, this can manifest itself in various ways.

Hybrid work

Considered the best of both worlds, a hybrid model combines two or three days each week working from home with the rest of the time in the office. This provides plenty of in-person collaboration with the benefits of a reduced commute and home-based flexibility. Some studies show that the sweet spot is two days of remote work each week.

Hub and spoke

Rather than bringing workers back to a central office, employers can utilize coworking spaces or other branch offices to provide a workplace that’s near their employees’ homes. By decentralizing, workers can still enjoy a reduced commute but are free from any home-based distractions.

Full-time remote work

Some companies have shifted to a full-time remote work policy. It’s an extreme move, but after more than a year of working from home, these employers have had plenty of time to fine-tune their strategy.

Alternative options

Some companies that continue to work remotely may want to keep a central office, mainly as a collaboration hub for team meetings or simply to “keep up appearances.”

However, retaining an office lease for the primary reason of keeping a physical presence is an expensive option.

As an alternative, some companies are now switching to a virtual office solution.

A virtual office provides companies with a head office address, a place to receive mail, and access to on-site meeting rooms and private offices when required.

However, the cost is considerably lower because the company doesn’t rent physical office space full-time. Instead, they only rent the address.

When physical space is required, it’s available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

This way, companies can keep an active presence in a specific location without the cost of maintaining a physical office.

The virtual office model has been around for decades, but in response to the pandemic, the popularity of virtual office centers has grown considerably.

The near future of work

Going forward, we can expect to see a medley of workplace models and trends.

Rather than a dominating trend, the future of work is a sliding scale.

At one end is the full-time corporate office, at the other is home-based remote work, and somewhere in the middle is the hybrid work option: the happy medium.

Various strategies accompany this sliding scale, including the use of virtual offices and on-demand meeting room rentals.

What’s absolutely clear is that, following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the future of work is being influenced by those who really matter: your people.

You have the opportunity to co-create a new, positive culture and a stronger future for your company.

What comes next depends on your individual organization and the individuals you employ within your organization. Finally, the choice is where it belongs: in the hands of the people.

 

This post is sponsored by Alliance Virtual.

Trends That Define the Post-Pandemic Workforce [Podcast]

The pandemic taught us a lot about ourselves. Like how many of us don’t need to go into an office to be productive. That flexibility and benefits are more valuable to employees than a pay raise. How talent management doesn’t actually have to happen in person, but that HR can bridge the remote work management gap with technology.

While it can be difficult to predict what else we’ll learn in a post-pandemic world, facts like these require businesses to adjust and grow right now. As we watch a new work landscape unfold before our eyes, HR professionals are readying themselves to traverse it as best they can. They’re tracking post-pandemic workforce trends and supporting their organizations as they navigate changes and prepare for the future.

Our Guest: HR Analyst and Content Expert Brian Westfall

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Brian Westfall, principal HR analyst at Capterra. He covers the latest trends in HR and recruiting software, supporting Capterra’s mission to help business clients find the right software for them. He is a thought-leader in his field, and his research has been published in Forbes, SHRM, TechRepublic, and TIME.

What have we ultimately learned from the pandemic? For one, Brian says, we’ve learned that work doesn’t have to look like it always has: wake up, get ready, drive to the office, come back home. Remote work can get the job done too–sometimes even better than in-office.

“This past year, a lot of businesses were thrown into the deep end with remote work. And I think they realized the water’s not so bad,” Brian says. “I think we’re going to look back at the pandemic as one of those moments where we reassessed all those sacred cows of talent management. Employees don’t have to be in the office to work effectively.”

With the understanding that employees can be productive while remote, there’s also been a surge in HR tech for managing remote workers–and recruiting them. In fact, HR technology has been a driving force in DEI efforts over the last year.

“When HR leaders were asked what they were doing to make their organizations more diverse and inclusive, DNI software tools came in as the second most cited program or initiative they were going to incorporate–only behind hiring quotas,” Brain says. “Organizations now have access to job description tools to remove biased language. They have candidate assessment tools that offer blind hiring modes. Tech is extremely useful for bringing in diverse candidates to create a more inclusive workforce.” 

Burnout and Skills Development: The Focus of Post-Pandemic Workplaces

Of course, while the pandemic showed that we can optimize tech and increase productivity, it didn’t eliminate other issues, like burnout.

“Seventy-seven percent of small business employees in the U.S. experienced at least some burnout last year. For those aged 18 to 25, that number jumps to 92 percent,” Brian says. “Worse, only seven percent of employees reached out to their manager or HR to let them know they were experiencing burnout. Because of this, I think we’ll see companies being more proactive about mental health resources.” 

While productivity among some employees increased while working from home during the pandemic, that doesn’t mean their skills increased too. In fact, according to Brian, 49 percent of small business employees have not developed any new skills during COVID. Fortunately, there are easy ways to implement development programs and manage these issues in a post-pandemic workforce.

“Workers are behind in skill development. And as roles get more complex, businesses are going to hunker down on skills development programs,” Brian says. “Because of tech, it has never been easier for businesses to set up formalized, complex learning and development programs. The tools are there. The content is there. I think it’s only going to make more sense over time.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about post-pandemic workforce trends and HR future predictions by connecting with Brian Westfall on LinkedIn.

Freshen Up Remote Culture for Work and Play [Podcast]

Eighty percent of employees say they want to work from home at least part-time. And three in four consider remote work the “new normal.” In an attempt to stay competitive, organizations everywhere are offering totally remote and hybrid work options to current and potential employees.

While it’s great that companies are accommodating employee needs, a new issue is arising: How do we maintain a remote culture that keeps employees engaged, even from afar?

Our Guest: Creative Entrepreneur Jeremy Parker

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I chatted with Jeremy Parker. He’s an entrepreneur who was named to Crain’s Class of 2020 NY 40 under 40 list. Jeremy formed the Creative Promotional Product Division under MV Sport. He also helped start Vowch Commonwealth and is currently co-founder and CEO of Swag.com, a swag distribution company that supports a healthy remote culture.

Jeremy understands that who you work with is just as important as what you’re working on, especially in the case of startups. According to Jeremy, a great remote culture starts with the recruiting process and finding the right people for what your business needs right now.

“When onboarding new hires, it’s important to find the right culture fit, especially for startups. Different employees are required for different stages of a business life cycle,” Jeremy says. 

And of course, he adds, before offering someone a role, you have to consider the candidate as a person, and determine if they will be truly happy at the company and empowered by the work.

“I think the most important thing across the board is making sure the people you hire really care about what they’re doing. That they’re willing to work hard. They need to feel passionate about the work and feel ownership over it,” Jeremy says.

Bring Remote Workers Together with Pocket Offices and Swag

Once the right remote employees are hired, how do you make them feel connected even when they’re far away? One strategy: Offer them swag.

“If you see somebody wearing a shirt representing your favorite sports team or college, you have an instant connection. It’s the same thing within a company,” Jeremy says. “If you’re wearing the same things, it brings people together around a shared purpose and mission.” 

Also, getting creative with events for remote workers is crucial. While employees may be located all over the world, it’s still possible to offer in-person opportunities for bonding.

“Instead of having one central hub and making employees drive two hours each way, find little pocket offices in different locations. So even if remote employees can’t meet everybody at the company in person, people can get out of the house and collaborate with others,” Jeremy says. “Everyone’s feeling isolated (especially with COVID). So whatever you can do to bring people together and create unity is important.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about fostering employee connections in a remote culture by reaching out to Jeremy Parker on LinkedIn.

6 Ways to Help Employees Feel Valued

Nurturing employees’ sense of value is important for running a successful business, especially in 2021. With the ongoing shift to remote work, professional responsibilities are just a click away. The proliferation of job networking platforms is introducing professionals to dozens of new opportunities on a daily basis. Because of this, your employees are likely assessing how they feel about their current roles and keeping an eye open for greener pastures.

As a result, it is critical to ensure that employees feel valued in order to guarantee their commitment to your company. An American Psychological Association study found that 93 percent of professionals were more likely to perform their very best if they felt valued by their employer, versus a mere 33 percent who were motivated to do their best for their own intrinsic reasons. The same study also found that employees who felt valued were also much more likely to recommend their company to a friend and were far less likely to seek new employment opportunities.

Clearly, nurturing your employees’ sense of value should be a top priority for your company. If you are looking for ways to set this initiative in motion within your organization, consider the following six ideas for how to make employees feel valued.

Create Innovative Compensation Packages

There is no denying that salary and wages are correlated to employee value. Simply put, if you pay an employee more, he or she will feel better about their job. This explains why, after a challenging year in 2020 due to the pandemic, most U.S. companies are doing everything in their power to reinstate bonuses and implement raises. Studies show the average salary likely will increase by 2.8 percent in 2021.

However, the modern professional is motivated by far more than money. The traditional nine-to-five office environment is quickly fading, and so are the traditional ways in which professionals live, love, relax, and consume. This creates the opportunity for companies to create unique benefits packages that will appeal to a contemporary workforce. While staples such as health insurance and retirement contributions are still important, Perkbox found that 66 percent of modern employees view customized benefits as a personal investment that would increase their loyalty to the company. Some innovative benefits ideas that are sure to help employees feel recognized and valued include:

  • Flexible schedules and leave policies
  • Paid childcare
  • Gym memberships, counseling sessions, and other perks to help improve employee well-being
  • Subscriptions to popular online services and entertainment platforms

Modernize the Workspace

By investing in top-notch facilities, you are telling employees that they are worthy of working in the best environment possible. Forbes magazine reports that 87 percent of professionals would like their employers to offer healthier workplace benefits. Some effective ways to do this include offering on-site workout and meditation spaces. You can also provide open and inviting work areas that optimize the benefits of natural sunlight. Living walls that incorporate elements of nature and sustainability into the work environment are good as well.

Keep Remote Workers Engaged

While there are many benefits to remote work, there’s one drawback. Remote workers have a tendency to feel isolated from their peers. Studies show that some 20 percent of employees feel isolated when working from home, which can cause them to experience marginal feelings of value about their role within the company.

Therefore, it is critical to find ways to keep your remote workers engaged. Frequently build company- or department-wide video calls into the work schedule. This reminds remote professionals that they are an important part of the team. Make use of the power of social media, as millennials are increasingly motivated by social media recognition. Studies reveal that 82 percent of modern professionals feel that social media has the ability to improve their work relationships, making it simple to strengthen commitment to the company through a quick post, like, or comment.

Provide a Foundation for Growth

Professionals will question their value to the company if they feel trapped in a dead-end job. Yet, 68 percent of employees feel like their company doesn’t care about their career advancement. Therefore, provide the framework for employees to learn new skills and communicate how these skills are valuable to the industry. Discuss roles within the organization that you could see them attaining in the future. Encourage them to attend networking events where they can establish meaningful connections to advance their careers.

Challenge Employees

It may seem like people shy away from work that is too hard, but employees are actually happier in roles that they perceive as challenging. Some creative ways to challenge employees include:

  • Implement job rotations, where employees are working on new projects with regularity.
  • Include employees when creating job descriptions, and make them feel like a part of the hiring process for similar or subordinate jobs.
  • Offer incentives for professionals who are able to attain specific goals.

Don’t Shy Away From Critical Feedback

Although it is intuitive to think that critical feedback may be perceived negatively by employees, Harvard Business Review actually found that 57 percent of professionals preferred corrective feedback over praise. Employees want to see that you care about their improvement and advancement within a role. Taking the time to offer constructive feedback on their performance demonstrates that you view them as valuable assets.

The Best Ways to Help Employees Feel Valued

Employees are more likely to give their best efforts and less likely to defect when they feel valued by their employer. Both are relevant factors to a company’s bottom line. By intentionally implementing the six aforementioned ideas, you can take significant steps toward helping your employees feel valued.