Posts

Photo: Bethany Legg

Why You Should Recruit Introverts — and How

In this extrovert-biased world of ours, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Many job candidates aren’t making it past the hiring process to get the jobs they’re qualified for. The reality is that if introverts don’t interview in a bubbly, enthusiastic manner, they likely won’t make it to the next round. And if they don’t share their accomplishments with confidence and bravado, they’re likely to be overlooked for positions in which they would thrive. 

The costs to our organizations of this lost talent are staggering to consider. 

Yet, emerging evidence shows that the tide is turning. In a 2019 Workplace Survey of some 240 introverts, a promising 38% of respondents said their organizations demonstrated a willingness to hire and promote introverts. And as general awareness of introversion increases, it may become less of an exclusionary factor. 

Hiring a diverse workforce is just the first step. Companies must also do the work to create places where people of all temperaments feel included and experience a sense of belonging. When introverts can see many different pathways to success and opportunities to thrive, it’s more likely that they’ll stay in an organization and do their best work. 

Consider How Introversion Impacts The Job

In the hiring process, weigh whether personality actually makes a difference for the position. 

Susan Schmitt, group vice president and head of human resources at Applied Materials, says, “The main thing that matters on temperament: Is there any element of this person’s temperament, nature or behavior that will impair them in this particular role or a future role?” 

In essence, how might their temperament work for or against them in that particular role? Susan gave the example of a new hire that appeared to have low energy during the interview process. “She was somewhat slow in her responses, thoughtful and reflective, which led some interviewers to think she may not be right for the role. But her skills, knowledge, experience and education were super strong, and her capacity for complexity and conceptual capability were outstanding.” The team hired her. 

“This hire became a success story, and she ended up becoming a vice president. Had she been dinged for her low-affect personality in that first interview, think of the lost contributions,” remarked Susan. 

To ensure that people with introverted personality types are included and embraced within your organization, make certain that introversion is a key dimension of diversity within your larger talent management strategy. This would establish that an introverted candidate who didn’t come across as the kind of person an interviewer would “like to have a beer with” wouldn’t get shot down for that reason. After all, not every position requires a candidate to be great at after-work socializing, right? Furthermore, if everyone inside an organization knows the introvert-inclusive criteria for hiring and promotion, then they can build a stronger introvert-friendly culture throughout. 

Through hiring greater numbers of introverts and embracing all personality types in our organizations, we may one day reach a critical mass of introverts who are recognized, respected and heard for their wise and understated input.

How Can You Attract Great Introvert Talent?

Here are some ways to ensure that you cast the widest net and seriously consider introverts in all hiring decisions. 

  1. Give them a sense of what it’s like. How do potential recruits view your company? Ryan Jenkins, Millennial and Gen Z expert, says that companies need to manage their YouTube channels and make sure they offer people the experience of seeing what it is like to work for your company. Introverts, who like to research and spend time in reflection, will be looking to social media channels to figure out if they have a connection to your brand. You may never even see those potential introverted hires if you have a sparse online presence. 
  1. Create an introvert-friendly interview process. Integrate these three strategies: first, prep the room. Avoid blazing lights and noisy areas. Consider chair placement; sitting too close together can be off-putting for introverts who value personal space. If it’s a group interview, seat the candidate at the middle of the table rather than at its head, so the candidate feels less scrutinized and can make eye contact with everyone. 

Next, schedule adequate time. If you schedule yourself too tightly between interviews, you may feel pressured and impatient if the person doesn’t respond quickly enough, especially if you are an extrovert. Introverted candidates are likely to pause before answering questions, and you want to provide them with the time they need to fully express themselves. 

And finally, attend to energy levels. One hiring manager said that she noticed her more introverted candidates were “not the same people at the end of the day. They deflated without a chance for breaks with back-to-back interviews.” To avoid overwhelming the candidate, only put people on the interviewing schedules who are essential to the process. Consider breaking a packed interview schedule into two days. 

  1. Check your bias at the door. If you’re more extroverted, beware of projecting your bias about introverts onto the candidate by wishing they showed more emotion or visible energy. If you’re an introvert, you’re more likely comfortable with a slower pace and pauses, and the possible self-effacing manner of an introverted interviewee. Check yourself for confirmation bias — that is, the tendency to seek answers that support your case and point of view while minimizing other important responses. Diversify your pool of candidates by being open to everyone. 
  1. Employ paraphrasing. Reflecting back what you heard gives candidates a chance to modify or validate what they said. It also offers a needed pause for introverts so they can process what’s being said in a reflective way. Both introverts and extroverts will appreciate the chance to clarify their thoughts and round out their responses.
  1. Use AI tools (with caution). Using artificial intelligence screening is receiving more attention as one solution to reducing the costs of hiring and to promote more diversity. AI can allow you to cast a wider net and includes those with introverted temperaments who might not be considered in the initial screening process. Digital interviews record verbal and nonverbal cues of candidates and analyze them against position criteria. But many experts suggest using a slower approach rather than a full-scale adoption of these tools at this stage, as they can bear unintentional biases. 

To capture introvert talent, think beyond hiring (and promoting) for personality. It starts with checking your own temperament bias and valuing introverts in your talent management process. 

 

Photo: Kevin Butz

Encouraging Civility Among Remote Employees: 7 Strategies

These continue to be uncertain times, creating unfamiliar territory. In such conditions, it’s even more important for the company, leaders and managers, and individual employees, to focus on civility with each other and with customers. In essence, civility is being courteous, treating others with respect — being thoughtful of others, and being aware of how your actions (and those of other people) might affect someone. We are all fraying at the edges. Courtesy and respect go a long way. 

Fewer Social Cues

Working remotely, we have fewer social cues to provide feedback about whether we’re being respectful and courteous. It’s harder to determine if someone’s having a bad day, or bad hour, unless they tell us, but we can’t stop by their area to check in. Yet those multiple, tiny in-person interactions help us get a sense of people and their moods, and give us a way to maintain a sense of connection. 

Moreover, unless their homelife is onscreen, we can only know what’s going on for them — what their mental load is like — if they tell us. So leaders and managers need to encourage discussions about what civility means during this pandemic, and ask what’s going on in people’s lives. Make a point of not only asking, but also responding to what they say appropriately, saying something like, “I’m so sorry to hear about what’s happening. I appreciate your sharing that with me. What can I do to help?” 

7 Effective Strategies

It pays to take a few extra steps to make sure communications with colleagues and customers are respectful and civil, particularly in this environment. Healthy relationships are the gel that holds us together, instead of breaking us apart. It’s the stuff that makes the difference in our daily outlook and the level of motivation. These seven  strategies will help:

Small Talk is Big. Encourage employees, especially those running meetings, to make sure there are check-ins and some personal conversation prior to leaping right into talking/writing about work. Managers and leaders should ask about employees’ self-care and share about their own. Let employees recognize each other as people. It’s the same thing when talking to customers. That said, not everyone may want to partake, and individuals should respect that.

Take a Breath. Help employees develop greater tolerance and patience. For instance, if an employee bristles at something a coworker has said, done, or written, the employee can be encouraged to take a diaphragmatic breath — on an inhale, let their belly expand with air, hold briefly, and then slowly exhale. This is an easy skill for most employees to learn, and will actually will fake out the person’s brain to make him or her feel relaxed. 

Be as Clear as You Can. Keep in mind that during the pandemic, it’s harder for most people to maintain the same level of focus as they could before. Try to be as clear as you can be so there’s less opportunity for miscommunication and misunderstanding.

When in Doubt, Ask. It’s easy to assume we know what someone means, and when we’re multi-tasking or distracted, we may be more likely to infer incorrectly. Don’t make assumptions about what someone meant. Help promote a culture in which it’s appreciated when a colleague asks for clarification. Asking instead of assuming will save time, energy, and heartache.

When Using Video Communication. Those “leading” a meeting should use agendas, distributed in advance, to make sure what needs to get discussed is actually discussed. Take extra time to consider who and who doesn’t need to attend a given meeting. Maybe a meeting needs to be more inclusive? Maybe it needs a smaller working group? Given the isolation of working at home, the criteria for inclusion may need to change. Additionally, reconsider how meetings are structured and run: How much of the meeting should be simply to connect with each other? The person running the meeting should set expectations for participation at the beginning. Try to set up the meeting for full participation so each person knows why they’re there and how they can contribute. That said, decide how much time should be spent with small talk. There should be at least some, unless you are all in frequent contact with each other during the day. 

When Using Text-based Communication. People can make mistakes and read unintended emotions into words. At least with video calls, participants get non-verbal cues to help understand what other people’s words mean. Not so with text-based communication. Also, words can be vague. Even when a person thinks they are being clear with his or her writing, it may not necessarily be so.

Photo: Tetiana SHYSHKINA

Leaders: Ditch the Lies, Hack Productivity

Leadership has its own battles with productivity, as longtime TalentCulture friend and leadership expert Gregg Lederman says. He recently dove into why some leaders struggle to bring their people together and get things done. There are three lies that leaders tend to use on themselves — as well as each other — and we thought they bore repeating as we close out productivity month. As Gregg says, if we’re not honest with ourselves, we’ll never be effective with anyone else. So, leaders, take heed:  

Lie #1: Being productive is about being busy. 

Look, when everything seems urgent and important, everything seems equal in importance, which we locally know is not the case. But when we tell ourselves this lie, we let ourselves think that just because we are active and busy, it means we’re being productive. I call B.S. on this: “First, I am busy, so I’m being productive.” What we’re really doing is behaving as if the squeaky wheel needs to get the grease, when in reality sometimes the most important things are not so obvious, especially when we’re distracting ourselves with “busy work.” In this case, we end up avoiding or missing what we should be focusing on. 

Lie #2: Don’t start the job until you know it’s going to be right.

The second B.S. lie we tell ourselves is: “I need to DO everything right.” Sometimes this lie is disguised as, “I can’t get started until I’m confident I can get the job done right.” In these instances, we tend to fear failure. But what is failure? To me, it doesn’t really exist until I stop trying. 

Lie #3: You can have a personal life later.

Here’s the third B.S. lie we tell ourselves: “I’ll make up for the lost time later.” We especially tell ourselves this lie when it comes to spending time with family and friends. This lie is the one I bet most haunts leaders later in their careers. 

How to Undo the B.S.

Gregg explains that once you recognize the B.S., you can use these three ways to detach from excuses, be truly productive, and create results:

1. First, make a success list. Keep in mind success comes from doing the right thing, not doing everything right. So a success list is different than your day-to-day to-do list. 

Your success list consists of the most important areas of focus. To create a success list, begin by determining your 80-20. Where 80 percent of your success will be determined by the 20 percent of the stuff that you invest your time doing. So in addition to your to-do list, make a success list of the most important activities you need to make sure you are achieving them. 

2. Block off time to get the most important stuff done. The key to a success list is not doing more, it’s doing more of the right things. Those are the things that are in your 20 percent (of the most important activity) that’s going to drive 80 percent of your success. So take the time to block the time on your calendar. Use it strategically to advance the most important things that are on your success — in the months, weeks, years to come.

3. Accept that not all things are going to get done. It’s true. There’s only so much time in the day, so know that no matter how much your try, there will always be stuff left undone, at the end of the day, week, month, the year. So, be kind to yourself and get comfortable that in some cases, you just won’t get it all done.

That’s it, says Gregg. It’s really that simple. Ditch the lies you tell yourself (we all do) and you’ll get somewhere. Given the complexities of work these days, we approve.

Photo: Fletcher Pride

To Boost Productivity, Hack the Stress Curve

A lot has been said about stress in the workplace over the years, and for good reason. Stress takes a serious toll on employees, both in terms of physical and mental health. It’s largely known as a productivity killer — but is that the whole story? Or is there another side to stress that is equally important, but rarely discussed in relation to performance and motivation?

The fact is, stress isn’t black and white. It’s neither good nor bad. Too much stress is, of course, detrimental to well–being and productivity, but the right amount can be used as a motivational tool to get more done. It can even be used as an engagement tool, thereby improving levels of turnover. But how can that be the case? Why do we need an optimal level of stress to ignite our desire to perform, and what can be done to keep that balance just right?

The Problem with Stress

Before moving on to the lesser-discussed benefits of stress, it’s first important to establish the problem with stress. Excessive stress can impact our bodies, mood and behavior. When exposed to prolonged stress, someone might experience headaches, fatigue, muscle tension or even chest pain. It can also result in angry outbursts, social withdrawal or drug and alcohol misuse, not to mention restlessness, burnout, anger and depression. Left unchecked, stress can contribute to long-term health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

What’s more, stress can cause real issues for businesses. When an employee feels overwhelmed and unable to cope, organizations might experience an increase in absenteeism. They might also see a higher rate of voluntary turnover. So while the downsides of stress can’t be overlooked, we should also understand that, to a degree, stress can actually be beneficial in a working environment.

Can Stress Be Good for Productivity?

Studies into stress as a productivity tool aren’t new. In fact, they date back more than a century. As an example, we can look to the Yerkes-Dodson curve, a theory established in 1908. Understanding this curve can make a huge difference to your performance management measures and procedures, as well as our understanding of employee motivation.

The Yerkes-Dodson curve suggests that we need stress for motivational energy. The study found that low levels of stress result in poor performance. With no stress to spur them on, people generally don’t have the motivation to get their work done, resulting in laziness, complacency or avoidance. The study also found that as stress increases, performance also rises — to a point. Once stress levels are too high, performance drops. People stop focusing; they become overwhelmed; and avoidance behaviours kick in again.

Researchers have found that stress can improve our memory, make us more flexible and help us prioritize tasks and deadlines. In fact, small amounts of stress can even help our immune system. The problem is, when it comes to the stress curve, everyone is different. Some of us don’t need much stress to get motivated, while others need a lot. Some of us crumble when confronted with too much stress, while others thrive. So a manager’s job is to provide “good” stressors while keeping an eye out for signs of too much stress.

How to Stimulate ‘Good’ Stress

So how can managers provide employees with “good stress” without overwhelming them? There are ways of spurring employees on, and they all require a degree of collaboration, communication and trust.

  • Set stretching goals — When goals are too achievable, it’s easy to become complacent. Stretching goals force employees to sit up and pay attention. In fact, some companies believe that more daring goals create the most exciting work environments, as well as being the “building blocks for remarkable achievements.” Goals need to be stretching enough to interest employees, or to develop them and their skills. The balance lies in ensuring goals are realistic. Giving an employee an unrealistic goal will only serve to frustrate them.
  • Deadlines are important — Ensure goals and projects have a firm deadline. This will -introduce an element of urgency that many require to get a job done. 
  • Give more responsibility — New responsibilities and requirements are always a little scary. Even if an employee thinks they’re ready to take the next step in their career, a brand new, unfamiliar task will always be slightly stressful. But it’s the good kind of stressful, and with the right coaching and support, employees learn to navigate new responsibilities, thriving in the long run.
  • Don’t micromanage, but be present and observe — Observation, to some degree, is important in this area. Obviously, micromanagement is never a good idea, but observation to an extent might provide the right amount of stress. According to the Hawthorne Effect, employees experience improved performance when they are being watched. Rather than taking this stance too seriously, you might consider cloud-based, goal-tracking software.

How to Avoid Too Much Workplace Stress

When stress levels begin to elevate within your organization, it’s necessary to dial back the pressure. To avoid too much workplace stress, we recommend the following:

Give employees more control over their work — Autonomy is important. When an employee is overly stressed, it will help for them to regain an element of control. Find out how the employee’s role and responsibilities can be adapted to better suit them and their needs. This might involve adapting how they work (for example, it might be possible to let them work remotely part-time) or what they do at work. Consider revisiting your goal-setting process to make it more collaborative. Put your employee in the driver’s seat and allow them ownership over their goals and objectives.

Allow employees to work to their strengths — It’s great to work on our weaknesses, but constantly doing so can be stressful and overwhelming for some people. Instead, allow employees to pinpoint their strengths and work with them. Your employee might have a strength that could be a real asset to your organization. Once established, a degree of stress can then be reasserted, and employees will likely feel all the more motivated to grow and succeed.

Encourage employees to take breaks to clear their heads — How many of your employees eat at their desks? Do people take regularly scheduled breaks? Are they worried about taking days off? Your employees are human and they need time away from work to recuperate. To avoid complete burnout, employees need to know that breaks are not only accepted within your organization, but encouraged and required.

As with many things in life, when it comes to stress at work, it’s all about balance. The right amount can motivate and engage employees, while too much will prove to be damaging to overall health and productivity. Your employees are individuals and their needs will vary from person to person. Managers need to get to know their team, know what they are capable of, know when to coach and know when to dial things back. Doing so will ultimately boost employee happiness and improve company culture.

Photo: ThisisEngineering RAEng

Hiring Tech Talent? Tap this Overlooked Pipeline

Over the past decade, and even more so in our current economic state, more areas of life have become increasingly digitized. That evolution has certainly affected hiring practices. Applicant training systems, for instance, can collect, sort, and rank thousands of résumés, automatically surfacing top candidates for any given role. Chatbots can engage, source, and screen candidates based on a set of predetermined metrics like skills and education.

But with all of these advancements in recruiting and hiring, one thing has remained relatively stagnant: credential requirements. Most companies still require candidates to have a college degree. But in industries like technology, where the way people learn new skills is rapidly evolving, that requirement is creating a barrier.

Traditional hiring practices simply can’t keep up with the tech industry’s increasing talent needs. Sure, some aspiring tech workers are still taking the conventional education-to-job pathway by obtaining computer science degrees. But fewer than 60,000 computer science graduates enter the market each year, and that’s a tiny talent pool for companies to compete over.

Still, many qualified, talented technologists who took different routes to learn their skills are screened out of the hiring process due to companies’ outdated hiring criteria. Employers would do themselves a favor by opening up their minds and candidate criteria to other options.

Alternative Talent Pipelines

On top of producing a low supply of workers for a field with high demand for talent, many traditional colleges and universities are often hamstrung in evolving their curriculums. They just can’t do it fast enough to keep up with the evolving skills employers are looking for. It’s simply not feasible to change course curriculum as quickly as computer programming languages change.

Take JavaScript, for example. It’s become an extremely popular language for web development over the past couple of years. To secure a job in the field, you need to know not only JavaScript, but also frameworks like Angular or React. Yet these frameworks are changing almost every year, putting colleges and universities with inflexible curriculums at a huge disadvantage. It often takes more than a year to get the approvals necessary to change the curriculum.

Other tech training programs, however, like online courses or in-person boot camps, can more quickly pivot their curriculum to match changes in industry trends, equipping students with the right skills to meet employer needs. For this reason, alternative skilling programs can also produce talent much quicker than two- or four-year degree programs.

Alternative skilling programs have the flexibility to accelerate curriculum and churn out qualified programmers in mere months. They give students the basic skills they need to jump into a tech role. Then, employees are expected to learn on the job — a huge advantage to any company looking to shape unique skill sets, especially when 87% of IT executives are struggling to find skilled technology professionals today.

On top of developing relevant skills from a more agile learning environment more quickly, many alternative training graduates possess additional capabilities that can benefit employers. Here are a few:

Broader Life Experience

Graduates from nontraditional backgrounds often bring unmatched life experience into their new careers. Alternative coding students often enter programs with a breadth of different backgrounds — both vocational and educational. In fact, many already have college degrees in nontechnical fields and have enrolled in tech training programs to explore a career change.

Whereas two- or four-year college graduates likely just left home to go to college and then went straight into job searching, nontraditional students have had different life experiences that grant them additional perspectives and soft skills to bring to the table.

For example, a single mother who graduates from a coding boot camp is likely to be an excellent multitasker, as she’s raised her child while coordinating her education on her own. Or a former restaurant manager who joined an alternative training program to explore an interest in tech is likely to have strong leadership and managerial skills that a recent college grad may not possess.

Built-in Tenacity

Graduates from an alternative training program have already proven themselves by finishing the course. Many alternative training programs remove barriers such as high tuition costs. This means that the training becomes accessible to a wider pool of tech-interested people. It also means anyone who joins a program can drop out with fewer financial consequences than they could in a two- or four-year degree program — resulting in individuals who’ve demonstrated immense drive and hard work.

That presents a built-in vetting process. People who successfully complete free or low-cost training programs prove their grit and tenacity — especially considering that many are taking care of children or working full-time on the side. These kinds of traits are important in tech job candidates.

Many of these learners are also career-changers. They left one career to pursue a true interest in technology, which means they’ve demonstrated drive simply by taking the risk to enter a new career field.

Industry-Relevant Skills

Graduates from nontraditional learning pathways are often equipped with specific, industry-relevant skills. Because alternative training programs tend to be more nimble when it comes to curriculum, they can easily adapt to teach the specific skills employers are looking for. Many programs even ask companies what skills they’re in need of — both current and future — to ensure students learn the proper ones.

For example, our organization recently switched the core language taught in our flagship LC101 course, moving from Python to JavaScript after assessing the skills needed by our hiring partners. We’re also able to train a cohort of students specifically for a company experiencing difficulty hiring those hard-to-find skill sets. Given that 33% of companies report problems in finding qualified candidates to fill open tech positions, alternative training programs may be the answer for sourcing talent.

Of course, college graduates with relevant skills should always be a part of the eligible hiring pool. But with the demand for entry-level talent being so much greater than what traditional pathways are producing, it’s time for hiring managers to diversify their recruitment strategies to give other talented technologists a shot. They’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by the talent and promise candidates from a variety of education and experience backgrounds can bring to their businesses.

#WorkTrends: Innovating a Culture of Wellness

COVID-19 has radically changed our conception of wellness and what it really means. It’s also created a new imperative for employers —  to integrate wellness into their work culture. In fact, wellness shouldn’t be an add-on. To meet the needs and wants of employees it needs to pretty much define your work culture.

Meghan M. Biro invited Arthur Matuszewski, the VP of Talent at Better.com to this week’s #WorkTrends to talk about what that means. Better is all of five years old, and a disruptor in the mortgage industry, certainly not known for its innovative culture. But this young company connects its own growth to its employees’ growth and wellbeing, Matuszewski noted.

“Our job is to set up the environment so people can continue that journey of improvement,” he said. Solving the age-old question of how to help people work better means giving them opportunities with the tools they need to do just that, he explained, so “they feel like the athletes managers expect them to be.”

That can be a challenge for even a well-established organization right now, Meghan noted, but it starts with a fundamental belief: that great employees bring incredible value — and should be treated as such. Arthur concurred, adding that Better has high expectations and makes sure they’re clear. He makes sure employees understand that they need to show up, be present and see this as “one shot and one opportunity.” In exchange, they’re working in a culture packed with wellness offerings: some surprising, many innovative,  including therapy, virtual childcare, yoga classes, and remote magic sessions — a huge hit, said Arthur.

And another intentional part of wellness at Better is clarity, as in managers who are forthcoming with plans and solicit (not just give) feedback, Arthur said, because that’s what “ties the culture of wellness together.” Meghan added that driving essentially, wellness and growth go hand in hand. And ultimately, that’s going to be a huge factor when it comes to employees being able to really deliver on customer success.

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

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are some organizations struggling with employee wellness programs? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can effectively improve employee wellness? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to innovate better employee wellness programs now? #WorkTrends

 

Photo: Franceso Gallorotti

Motivating Your Remote Workforce: Best Practices

Before any of us had even heard of the coronavirus, the remote workforce was already expanding. In fact, according to Global Workplace Analytics, it’s been growing about 10 percent every year for the past decade. But with our current situation, more and more of us are being pushed into remote work faster than ever. In fact, a recent Gartner survey found that 74 percent of CFOs anticipate taking previously on-site employees fully remote in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Remote work has long been a point of contention. For those who haven’t had the option, it sounds almost too good to be true. Meanwhile, those who do work remotely are quick to point out that there’s a big difference between a day in a home office and a day off. Turns out there are valid points on both sides. Remote workers do enjoy perks like increased flexibility and time saved by not commuting. However, research has found that remote employees work an average of 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts. That adds up to three additional weeks of work per year! While remote work can increase productivity, it often leads to consistently long hours, which can have an adverse effect on mental health. That’s just one reason why managing a remote workforce can be a challenge. You need to inspire and motivate your team to do more than just their best work; you need to motivate remote employees to take care of themselves too.

Burnout is real. Even before this crisis, 29 percent of remote employees said they struggle with work-life balance, and 31 percent said they have needed to take a day off for their mental health. To really manage, motivate, and protect your most important asset — your people — consider these four suggestions.

Communicate Frequently and With Purpose

Working remotely, employees often feel disconnected. If they don’t receive information from leadership, they turn to other sources, formal and informal, and that can cause confusion and even panic. It’s important to ensure that the entire organization — onsite, on the road, or at home — understands the priorities of the business and exactly where they fit in. Creating a clear roadmap helps employees understand the ultimate goal of their work, making them more productive and reassured that their efforts contribute toward a positive outcome. Gartner Research highlights this as one of the most important parts of a remote work strategy.

That said, good communication goes both ways. Successful companies have leaders who embrace a culture of collaboration and continuous learning; one where listening means giving consideration and adjusting to the thoughts of subordinates, peers, supervisors, and across departments. When employees across an organization agree that there is something to be learned from everyone in the room (even if it’s a virtual room), you can surface more diverse perspectives, foster more effective communications, and achieve greater goals.

Establish a Routine

For my team at Skillsoft, one of the ways we’ve managed to stay connected is by making standup meetings and check-ins part of our daily rhythm. This gives teams more opportunities to communicate and has been key to providing a sense of normalcy even in these not-so-normal times.

Furthermore, Harvard Business Review emphasizes how important it is for weekly routines to include more than just tactical work. Make sure you also prioritize rituals that focus on social connections, whether it’s a virtual welcome lunch for new hires or a Friday afternoon snack break. This will help you maintain the cadence and culture of your organization.

Of course, it’s key for managers to be available to their teams for emergencies. But, they should also address the need for rest, lunch breaks, and “shutting down” for the day. Clearly communicating this across your team will help level-set and establish a routine that’s more holistic, including work time and downtime. These natural breaks will keep days from fading into one another, a complaint we’ve heard a lot of in recent weeks.

Be There for Each Other

It’s so easy to feel alone right now. Being entirely remote can add stress, regardless of a person’s role or level in the organization. Leaders can often feel that the fate of the company rests solely on their shoulders, but they need community just as much as everyone else. We all need mentors. We all need people who can give us a “reality check” and help us rationalize.

This kind of culture can’t be fostered overnight, but it’s crucial for businesses to begin to build a supportive, collaborative environment as remote work becomes more common. In fact, Forrester Research highlights culture as one of the most important elements of a successful work from home strategy. Employees that feel they can bring their whole selves to work, who feel that they are on a team that supports and represents them, are more likely to feel motivated and get more enjoyment out of difficult tasks, according to research from Stanford psychological scientists Priyanka B. Carr and Gregory M. Walton.

Pay attention to — and course correct — any challenges that arise. For example, according to research from A. Joshi and R.S. Gajendran, virtual communication can sometimes discourage team members from speaking up. But, when you establish your work environment as a place for open collaboration, this hesitation tends to fade. Strong virtual teams are built on a foundation of trust. Start from a place of shared humanity and send your team a message of solidarity: we’re all in this together. When employees feel a sense of comradery and belonging, the impact can be incredible.

Stay Positive

We’re living — and working — through a time of uncertainty. But it’s important to stay optimistic and supportive in all your interactions. Think about some of the silver linings. Personally, I’m thankful for the extra time spent with my family. Working from home has given us opportunities we otherwise wouldn’t have had: catching up over lunch, doing morning workouts, and spending evenings cooking together.

Working from home also offers workers and managers alike an incredible chance to broaden our horizons and push ourselves toward new goals. Companies that tap into the power of learning will see increased engagement going forward. Motivate employees to embrace this time; make learning core to your company’s culture. When employees are given the resources to engage with information they truly care about, they will develop competencies and confidence that can be applied throughout their experience – both on the job and in their lives.

Businesses that adhere to these four simple tenets of leadership will quickly realize that it really comes down to one basic principle: be human. During this time, the best thing we can do is demonstrate empathy, compassion, and concern for each other. Embracing genuine understanding and positivity is the best course in times of uncertainty. You’ll reap the benefits and so will your team.

This post is sponsored by Skillsoft.

Photo: Hans Peter Gauster

#WorkTrends: Outsourcing HR: Why and How

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter Chat Questions

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

Find Tom Hammond on Twitter

This post is sponsored by Paychex.

Photo: Christina Morillo

Keep Your Workforce Informed With Electronic Solutions

In any workplace, health and safety has to be top of mind. Complying with workplace laws takes a lot more effort when your workers are remote and are teams dispersed — as is happening in so many organizations. And right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, employee safety in any working environment is an ongoing concern for leaders and managers — and employers need to not only navigate new laws, but inform their people as well.

The key lies in electronic solutions that provide clear guidelines and information to every employee, no matter where they are. Managing compliance means being clear on your own responsibilities as an employer, and being able to get the answers you need about what’s happening right now — so you’re up to date, and there are no surprises.

To get clear on the best practices for keeping your workforce informed, I spoke to Ashley Kaplan, Esq., Senior Employment Law Attorney for ComplyRight, a leading provider of human resource solutions and employment compliance products. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

  1. Ashley, what brought you to ComplyRight, and can you talk about what you handle?

I joined ComplyRight in 2000, after practicing labor and employment law for several years with a national law firm. My experience includes representing businesses of all sizes and industries, in matters ranging from general HR counseling and risk management, to defending discrimination lawsuits and class-action FLSA litigation. At ComplyRight, my responsibilities have evolved quite a bit, but I am primarily responsible for managing employment law compliance and overseeing the teams responsible for researching and developing HR compliance solutions and labor law posting services for U.S. businesses.   

  1. Let’s talk about electronic posting. What is mandatory for employers to post, no matter where their employees are working? So many employers are dealing with remote workforces now: are remote workplaces exempt from any mandatory postings?

Depending on your state, employers are required to post up to 22 postings for federal and state compliance. Additional postings may be required depending on city and county employment laws, which has been a growing trend over the past few years. Plus, there are specific posting requirements for government contractors and employers in certain industries, so it can be a lot to manage. 

As far as remote employees go, there is no exemption from these requirements. The Department of Labor provides guidance on this, and recommends that employers provide posters in an “alternative format” for any employee who does not regularly visit a business location where posters are displayed. According to the DOL, “visiting regularly” means at least three to four times a month and electronic postings are an acceptable alternative format.

With so many employees working remotely at the moment, and given that employment laws are changing rapidly during this emergency, employers really need to consider providing electronic postings in addition to maintaining physical postings at business locations that are still operational.

  1. What’s the biggest question you get asked about maintaining compliance right now?

When it comes to posting compliance, a lot of employers want to know if they can simply provide all of the postings electronically instead of displaying physical posters in the workplace.

The general rule is that the posters still have to be posted in all physical facilities where employees report to work. Electronic postings are a solution for remote workers who do not have regular access to the postings at your physical facilities, but not a substitute for the physical posters for onsite workers.   

  1. Can you explain the Families First Coronavirus Response Act? Are smaller companies exempt from mandatory posting requirements?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is a temporary federal law that is effective from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.  This law is very broad and encompasses many aspects of the federal response to COVID-19.

The biggest impact on small businesses is the requirement to provide paid leave to employees who cannot work due to various reasons related to the pandemic. Generally speaking, this paid leave requirement applies to all private employers with fewer than 500 employees, and most public employers. These employers will receive tax credits to offset the cost of the mandatory paid leave.

The law also includes a new mandatory posting requirement for all affected employers.

The qualifying reasons for paid leave cover many different scenarios, and the mandatory pay rates vary depending on the circumstances.

In some cases, affected employees qualify for up to two weeks (or 80 hours) of leave at their regular pay rate. That’s if they cannot work because they are under mandatory quarantine based on a government order (federal, state or local) or quarantined on the advice of a healthcare provider. The full pay rate also applies to employees who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis.

In other cases, affected employees qualify for up to two weeks (or 80 hours) of leave at two-thirds of their regular pay rate. This rate applies to employees who cannot work because they must care for another individual who is under mandatory quarantine based on a government order, or on the advice of a healthcare provider. It also applies in cases where the individual is experiencing any other substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The third category of affected employees includes those who are having to care for a child, or children, due to school closings or because their usual caretakers are unavailable due to COVID-19. All employees affected in this way are entitled to the same two weeks, or 80 hours, of paid leave at two-thirds of their regular rate. In addition, those who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days prior to requesting leave are eligible for another ten weeks of paid leave. Again, this would be at two-thirds of their regular pay rate.

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or childcare unavailability — if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business. However, they are not exempt from the new mandatory FFCRA posting requirement.

The posting requirement can be satisfied in this case by mailing or emailing the FFCRA poster to employees, or posting it on an employee website. The notice also must be distributed to all new hires.  

  1. So many companies have had to quickly redistribute their teams and shift employees to working from home — and have had very little time to prepare. How can employees ensure their electronic and posted information is consistent and up to date in all locations?

Given all the time and know-how required to stay on top of posting requirements and updates, coupled with the potential fines and penalties for non-compliance, I think it makes sense for a business of any size to outsource this aspect of compliance.

Choose a reputable partner that offers sound electronic solutions for your remote workers, such as an intranet link you can post on your employee website, or a service that pushes out all required postings and updates directly to your employees via email. It’s important to choose a partner backed by a seasoned legal team that researches and updates all of the posting images in real time as the laws change, and that covers all city/county requirements, industry variations, and foreign language postings.  That’s especially true now, as employee leave laws are getting more complex and are an area of high litigation.

  1. I think a lot of employers are asking very basic questions about paid leave — particularly in terms of sick leave and family leave during COVID-19. I’m thinking of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, but what other pieces of new legislation do companies need to be aware of?

In addition to the federal FFCRA, other legislation is being passed by state and local governments to protect employees during this crisis. Many states, cities and counties have passed new laws (and many more are pending) expanding paid sick leave rights, caregiver leave, unemployment insurance benefits, and other provisions to provide relief to workers and their families.

Though not on the topic of paid leave, there is also the newly enacted CARES Act, a federal law that provides financial incentives to businesses who retain their employees, and boosts unemployment insurance significantly for employees who are laid off or furloughed as a result of the pandemic. The goal of this law is to incent employers to retain their employees during the crisis, and also provide a safety net for workers who do lose significant income.

  1. Can you clarify the mandatory employee information employers need to add to their postings according to the most recent legislation? For instance, are employers responsible for requiring their employees to observe social distancing?

There are some new posting requirements on the state and local level addressing social distancing, including a new poster for Arkansas employers and businesses in San Jose County, California. We are expecting more of these in the coming days. We have also seen new state and local postings informing employees of their expanded sick leave rights, emergency paid leave provisions, and unemployment insurance benefits.  

  1. How can employers ensure compliance with labor law posting requirements in general during the COVID-19 epidemic, as more and more employees are working from home? What about for new hires?

Ideally, you should look for a service that provides all of the required federal, state, city and county posters for all of your physical locations where employees report to work. Posting laws apply even if you only have one or two employees at a worksite. Choose a service that includes automatic poster updates whenever the laws change, since these posters change frequently throughout the year. (Last year our legal team tracked almost 200 mandatory changes nationwide.)

Supplement your physical postings with an electronic solution for your remote workers. Posting obligations are the same for new hires as all your other employees, but there are additional federal, state and local requirements for prospective employees during the application process. Ask your poster provider for information about posting services for online applicants where you can simply place a link to the current posters on your applicant web page or in online job postings.        

  1. What if an employee appears to be ill? What are the obligations and responsibilities of employers with regards to requiring disclosure or exiting the workplace?  

You can, and should, ask the employee to leave your premises and seek medical attention, including getting tested for COVID-19. The CDC states that employees who exhibit symptoms of influenza-like illness at work during a pandemic should leave the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has confirmed that it is permissible to send an employee home if the symptoms are akin to the COVID-19 coronavirus or the flu.

Without revealing the employee’s name, communicate to other employees who have worked closely with the employee that a coworker exhibited symptoms that led you to believe a positive diagnosis is possible. And if the employee does test positive for the virus, you should notify and send home any others who may be affected, as well as close off the affected areas for proper cleaning and disinfection.  

  1. What best practices do you recommend for companies who now have temporarily remote workers? Should they create a remote workplace practices policy?

Absolutely. It is important to set out the expectations, rules and responsibilities in a written policy. Whether you are creating a temporary, emergency remote work policy or a more general telecommuting policy for a longer term, your policy should address: expected work hours and availability, equipment and security issues, safety, timekeeping practices for nonexempt employees, PTO and absences, and any adjustments to performance goals and expectations. Your policy should also address how employees are selected for work-at-home arrangements, and should indicate that management reserves the right to change or end the arrangement at any time based on business needs. 

Take the Mystery Out of Compliance

To effectively meet year-round compliance needs, the best strategy is to rely on experts. This is certainly not an arena for speculation, especially now. As Ashley Kaplan points out, with so many ongoing and new federal, state and regional requirements, employers need clear guidance that keeps them up to date — as well as all the postings they need. Two recommendations: consult the Poster Guard® Electronic Service for Remote Workers for the latest posting requirements and tools for electronic postings. And the Intranet Licensing Service enables companies to add a custom link to their own corporate intranet or employee portal. The key for employees is simple navigation and ease of use. The key for employers: knowing that your postings are up to date, whether they’re physical postings or electronic, and are completely accessible to your employees.  

To learn more about how to maintain workplace compliance with online and on-site posters and compliance, visit PosterGuard.com.  

This post is sponsored by Poster Guard from HRdirect.

Lindsay Henwood

U-Haul’s Nicotine-Free Policy: Fostering Wellness, or Cutting Costs?

If a company eliminates applicants because of an unhealthy behavior, are they fostering workplace wellness, or cutting healthcare costs? Are they promoting a culture of healthy employees, or discriminating against potential candidates? Or is it somewhere in between?

With U-Haul’s new smoke-free policy, workplaces across the country have to ask themselves where the policy falls.

U-Haul’s New Policy

On December 30th, U-Haul International announced that beginning February 1, 2020, it would implement a nicotine-free policy in 21 states without protections for smokers’ rights. As of February 1, it will become one of the first major companies to decline applicants who are nicotine users.

The policies will be enacted in:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington

According to the company, applicants in these 21 states can expect to see the anti-nicotine policy on their job applications. They will be questioned about their nicotine use and may be required to undergo nicotine testing in certain states before they can be deemed hirable.

The policy also covers e-cigarettes and vaping products. Any current U-Haul employees who are nicotine users will be grandfathered into the policy, offering nicotine cessation programs to assist them.

The goal of the policy, nominally, is to further U-Haul’s goal of promoting one of the healthiest corporate cultures in the United States and Canada.

Policy Implications By the Numbers

In Arizona alone, where U-Haul is headquartered, the implications of the policy are significant.

U-Haul employs 30,000 workers in the United States and Canada. In Arizona, it is one of the state’s largest employers, with a workforce of more than 4,000. It is also legal in Arizona to discriminate against nicotine users in the hiring process.

That might be good news for people exposed to nicotine, but not for applicants who use nicotine.

As of 2017, 15.6% of adults in Arizona smoked cigarettes, while 5.3% of adults used e-cigarettes and 2.8% used smokeless tobacco. Out of a population of roughly 7.1 million, that’s over 1.1 million adults who smoke cigarettes, 376,300 who use e-cigarettes, and 198,800 who use smokeless tobacco.

All of whom would no longer be eligible for employment with U-Haul — which is, again, one of the largest employers in the entire state of Arizona.

The Public Health Implications of Smoking

Of course, the public health implications of smoking and nicotine use are nothing to sneeze at. Nicotine is known to be a dangerous and highly addictive chemical, and it is by no means the only chemical associated with smoking. Cigarettes contain more than 5,000 chemicals, hundreds of them harmful to human health, including:

  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Cadmium (a metal used to make batteries)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Tar

Smoking has been linked to 90% of lung cancer cases. Almost one-third of coronary heart disease deaths are the result of secondhand smoke. 

Nicotine itself is known to increase blood pressure, narrow the arteries, and contribute to hardening arterial walls, which in turn can lead to heart attacks.

It is, in short, one of the main preventable causes of death in the United States.

The risks are also high for anyone around secondhand smoke: people exposed to it are 25% to 30% more likely to develop heart disease.

Public Health, or Lower Healthcare?

U-Haul posits the policy as part of a shift toward corporate health and wellness, asserting that the shift toward a healthier workforce is an investment in the wellbeing of their team members. The policy, according to U-Haul, will help reinforce a wellness program that encourages workers to focus on four areas: health, fitness, nutrition, and mindset.

However, the company also noted that the policy was part of a continued effort to decrease healthcare costs.

Are There Cost Benefits? 

Workplace wellness is an industry with $8 billion in annual revenue in the United States. Almost half of all employers with at least 50 employees offer a workplace wellness program. Of those that don’t have a program, half have said they plan to introduce one.

The popular story among corporations and researchers is that these efforts reduce healthcare costs for employers. A 2010 review by a Harvard economist stated that wellness programs return $3 in healthcare savings and $3 in reduced healthcare costs for every $1 invested.

But is that actually the case?

Research by the RAND Corporation, including data from 600,000 employees from seven employers and 10 years of data from a Fortune 100 employer, found that wellness programs have little, if any, immediate impact on employer healthcare costs.

Generally, wellness programs have two components: lifestyle management (which focuses on employees with health risks such as obesity or smoking), and disease management (which focuses on employees who already have a chronic disease). Together, the two programs generate $30 in savings per member per month. But 87% of those savings came from disease management, even though only 13% of employees participate in disease management — compared to 87% participation in lifestyle management.

One might make the case that disease management can result from diseases caused by smoking, but U-Haul’s policy targets lifestyle issues and prevents nicotine users from being hired in the first place, thereby precluding their ability to participate in disease management programs.

In short, it’s hard to say whether U-Haul’s policy can save the company healthcare dollars in the long run.

Loopholes in the Policy That Penalize Workers

But what we can say is that the policy penalizes nicotine users, including those who are trying not to use nicotine.

The program as presented makes no exceptions for nicotine users who are trying to quit smoking. And while nicotine users can remain smoke-free, 30% of them do so with the aid of some kind of nicotine product.

What about quitting with nicotine-free products? That’s not as easy as it sounds. The FDA has only approved two nicotine cessation products that don’t contain nicotine: Chantix and Zyban.

And yes, nicotine replacement products and medicines do show up in nicotine screenings. Nor does the policy seem to differentiate between smokers and those with nicotine in their system due to secondhand smoke, or between cigarettes and nicotine products with a lower risk to bystanders, like smokeless tobacco.

Balancing Wellness and Fairness

Is the policy good for worker health? From the perspective of removing harmful substances from the workplace, yes.

Is the policy fair for workers? From the perspective of smokers and people with smokers around them, not so much.

That U-Haul’s policy lacks any differentiation implies that the company’s stance is a moral one more than a health one. Given that the healthcare cost benefits to the employer seem unclear, it begs the question: How much employers can force their own policy views to restrict the lives of their own employees?

It’s not a bad idea to discourage unhealthy habits per se. The issue is doing it in a productive and nondiscriminatory way. U-Haul’s broad policy is a bit unclear in that regard, so we’ll have to watch how this plays out.

Photo: Jakob Owens

#WorkTrends: The Empathy Gap

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, joined host Meghan M. Biro for the January 17, 2020 #WorkTrends podcast. The topic:  Disasters of the workplace kind.

Dr. Tsipursky is a consultant, cognitive neuroscientist and expert on behavioral economics. Noting that we’re still suffering from an epidemic of disengagement, he pointed to one glaring omission in workplace culture: empathy. Empathy is critical to a successful workforce, Meghan agreed — while noting that disengagement is absolutely a disaster in the workplace.

Gleb’s take on the lack of empathy is that it stems from something deep-seated in all of us: cognitive bias.

“The empathy gap is one of the biggest cognitive biases out there and one of the worst causes of employee disengagement,” he said, noting that research shows that 80% to 90% of our decisions are determined by our emotions. “But if you look at HR material, if you look at internal communication, it’s very rational, very logical.”

Meghan concurred. “Why are HR leaders not able to deal with employee emotions in an effective way? Where’s this disconnect?” she asked.

Gleb said that two disconnects are at work:
First, the false perception that work doesn’t involve emotions and the workplace isn’t a place for feelings. And second, there’s general discomfort among many of us in dealing with emotions.

“There’s no ’emotional unit,'” He explained. “Even though emotions are incredibly important, HR professionals aren’t comfortable with things they can’t quantify.”

Gleb recounted some examples he’s encountered as a consultant where focusing on emotions makes a key difference in performance as well as engagement. “Even engineers have emotions,” he joked. But it’s a good point. There’s a lot we can all do to improve how we deal with the “feeling” side of work life. Ultimately, that’s how we’ll all get more work done.  

Listen to the full conversation. And don’t forget to subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast, so you don’t miss an episode!

Key takeaway: [05:16] Even though emotions are incredibly important, HR professionals aren’t comfortable with things they can’t quantify.

Find Gleb Tsipursky on Linkedin and Twitter

 

4 Ways to Develop Employees Who Don’t Want to Be Managers

Not everyone wants to become a manager, nor is everyone cut out to be one. When a CareerBuilder survey found that only a third of American workers aspire to management roles, it debunked a standing assumption about our desire for advancement. Further, only 7% were aiming for C-suite leadership roles. Even when an employee is promoted based on individual success, that doesn’t necessarily translate into that worker being a great manager. 

There’s a lot to be said for making those opportunities and requirements available, but sometimes an employee would prefer pursuing a role as a specialist to securing one in leadership. 

Career pathing allows employees to indicate their desired role and inform their managers of their career goals. After understanding a desired role, a skill gap analysis is provided to the employee and development options are presented to the employee as an action plan to close the gap. 

4 Ways to Continue Growth for a Specialist

Career pathing allows the employer and employee to work together to create a personalized plan for progressing skills and development. When workers can focus on reaching a desired role, employee engagement drastically improves. Most employees highly value employer-provided learning opportunities that show which skills need to be improved and provide development options to develop those skills.

By aligning top performers with their desired specialist roles, employers will benefit by keeping that talent in their organization. An American Express report found that 61% of millennials find the prospect of a C-Suite position appealing, compared to 46% of Gen Xers. On the other hand, 35% of millennials who plan to leave their job in the next two years cited lack of advancement as their reason for leaving, according to the 2019 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey.

Here are four strategies to develop employees who don’t wish to be managers:

  1. Identify nontraditional career paths. 

The proverbial corporate ladder — where employees only go up or down — is a relic of the past organizational mindset. Some employees get more benefit from departmental career shifts.

For example, it might not be immediately obvious how someone in marketing might thrive in operations. But the company might find that an employee has transferable skills, and the shift to a new department might energize the worker and benefit the company.

It’s OK to get creative with top talent. Few people want to stay in the same role for years with no new opportunities. Be open to how one skill set might apply to other roles so the employee always has options.

  1. Make career development an open conversation. 

Speaking of options, make sure they’re widely known within the company. Many employees miss advancement opportunities just because they were unaware of the necessary information. That smothers employee engagement and keeps employers from moving essential talent into open roles.

In your company, be open about what opportunities are available and how employees can create opportunities for themselves. On-site learning experiences might include mentoring, trainings, seminars, or job rotations. Pay for employees to get outside training that they can share with the company as a whole — this can include lectures, e-learning, or college courses. Make it obvious that your company promotes employee growth, and employees will be more likely to take advantage of it.

  1. Recognize employee wins. 

According to a ten-year global study by OCTanner, 79% of people quit their jobs because they do not feel appreciated at their current companies.

People want to be recognized for their hard work and achievements. In fact, nothing inspires people more than applause for their accomplishments, not even raises or promotions. 

 Make a big deal out of wins, growth, and successes. Plan parties, hang up plaques — whatever works for your culture.

  1. Allow employees to challenge themselves. 

It’s easy to fall into a rhythm of expecting employees to do the same thing day in and day out. After all, it’s working so well!

Except it’s not. Talented employees want challenges. They want to test their skills, learn new ones, and even, in the right environment, fail. Give them new projects, open up new trainings, and ask them what they would like to do next. 

With two-thirds of the workforce happy to stay out of management, it’s up to companies to keep figuring out ways to keep them growing and happy. Career pathing with your employees will help everyone see opportunities that will ultimately be a boon for employees and employers.

Photo by Marius Ciocirlan on Unsplash

6 Employee Wellness Trends for 2020

We’re wrapping up 2019. It’s time to start planning for the New Year, and that means taking a close look at the issues around workforce wellness. Concepts of wellness, particularly employee wellness, are evolving, and in 2020 we’ll see a lot of organizations working to meet their employees’ needs better. Pay attention to these six employee wellness trends for 2020. I predict we will be hearing a lot about them.

The Concept of Wellness is Changing

The current multi-generational workforce is guiding the conversations around health and wellness in the workplace. Both Millennials and Generation Zs expect employers to invest in their health and wellbeing. According to research just published by ClassPass, “Seventy-five percent of professionals surveyed believe it is their employer’s responsibility to contribute to their health and wellbeing, ideally in part by providing wellness benefits to employees.”

But there’s a disparity between how employers and employees view access to health and wellness benefits. According to a study published by Aetna, 70% of employers believe they provide reasonable access to health and wellness benefits, while only 23% of employees agree. Additionally, the study found that 82% of workers across the globe are concerned that mental health issues could impact their ability to work. But only 25% of employees feel their organizations provide enough support for mental health conditions.

I’ve been writing in the HR space for years about the importance of a healthy workforce — and that means revising health and wellness programs to better meet new workforce realities. Let’s take a closer look at what some of these are:

1. Holistic benefits: Holistic benefits plans will become more readily available. Holistic benefits plans are constructed to address all aspects of care, including mind and body components. Managing mental health conditions such as stress and depression will be increasingly commonplace, extending, in some plans, to assistance with financial stressors such as college loan payments.

More companies will approach health insurance and employee benefits with an eye toward investing in both benefits and people. Those who take this direction will be focusing on the impact this has on metrics, including employee retention, productivity, workforce attraction, and company culture. “High-value options and technologies are increasingly defining and shaping holistic employee benefit programs,” according to Workforce.com.

Employees want health and wellness benefits options that fit their needs and lives, and statistics bear that out. In MetLife’s 2019 Employee Benefit Trends Study, 55% of those surveyed said they would be more interested in working for a company offering holistic benefits. Fifty-three percent of respondents said they would be more loyal to a company providing those benefits, while 52% stated they believed they would be more successful in both work and life with access to holistic benefits. Generation Z and Millennial employees rated holistic benefits as slightly more important (57% versus 52%) in their responses.

2. Equal benefits for alternative families and identities: Ensuring that alternative families have access to equal benefits will be a significant shift moving into 2020. Examples of this may include people who are caring for extended family members or elderly parents, have blended families, or are part of an LGBTQ+ community. We will see organizations begin to explore the feasibility of expanding family leave policies to provide new parents of both sexes access to flex-time policies.

3. A focus on mental health and stress reduction benefits: Stress harms overall mental health and employee engagement, so we’ll see more organizations build stress-reduction activities into their employee wellness programming. Many companies are already offering on-site, face-to-face wellness coaching, mindfulness courses, and individual therapy.

As the ClassPass survey findings illustrate, people believe their employers should contribute to their health and wellbeing. Eighty-eight percent of the survey’s respondents stated they would be more likely to recommend an employer who supports their wellbeing efforts.

4. Adventure and social good programs: Companies are adding programs like these to their employee wellness programs, which allow employees to give back by volunteering time and services. Salesforce has a fantastic program, offering its “citizen philanthropists” seven days of paid Volunteer Time Off, among other social good options. This type of initiative appeals to younger workers, and we’ll see an increase in the implementation of adventure and social good programming.

5. Expanding financial wellness programs for all employees: Going beyond the lunchtime seminars and offering in-house financial counseling and programs targeted to individual employees’ needs. Most firms will have employees ranging in age from those just entering the workforce to a cohort facing retirement. Financial wellness program possibilities are endless, from payday loans using alternative “currencies” like hours or vacation time, tuition reimbursement and student loan pay-down assistance, to credit counselors and financial concierge services. Financial stress takes a massive toll on productivity in the workplace. Savvy employers understand that whatever costs they incur expanding financial wellness programs, they will reap back two-fold.

6. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict evolving employee needs and benefits investments better: AI is already creating more personalized experiences for employees. Its use is allowing companies to leverage data to tweak and adjust their wellness programs, resulting in a better user experience based on the employees’ preferences and wellness goals, as well as reduced overall corporate costs through fine-tuning. You’ll see more of this in the coming year. Watch for AI that monitors the use of emojis in internal messaging systems such as Slack, allowing organizations to gauge employee satisfaction and handle issues before they get out of hand.

Evaluating Your Own Workplace Wellness Culture

Employers need to keep pace with these changes. I’d suggest we commit to conducting a yearly review of our workplace wellness cultures. Annual reviews are essential to help organizations stay abreast of changing technology, societal conditions, and worker satisfaction levels. Your review should factor in metrics like productivity and employee engagement. Afterward, plan to adjust your programs in response to the results. You might even try experimenting with corporate culture shifts such as flex-time or remote-work options — which are certainly related to wellness, as more of us are starting to find out.

Here’s looking at a healthy and happy 2020. Cheers!

Dell and the Strategic Power of Global Mobility Management

It’s more important than ever that companies are able to move people around the world efficiently to match skills to business needs and to build dynamic leadership pipelines — but global workforce mobility represents a huge logistical challenge for even the largest and most agile companies.

In a recent discussion with Dell, I got a glimpse into how the tech giant is harnessing technology to solve a range of key business challenges, including talent development. The talk was a fact-finding mission for our upcoming webinar hosted by Topia, a leader in global mobility management software.

Dell is really at the forefront of the challenge of getting the right people to the right places the right way. Here’s a look at how it’s making it happen.

Dell’s Transformation

For Dell, the importance of meeting the needs of a global workforce is both crystal clear and enormous.

The company’s 2016 acquisition of EMC for a record $67 billion has transformed the legacy company into a multinational technology corporation, creating a truly unique set of workforce challenges. Dell has evolved into Dell Technologies, which includes Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal, RSA, Secureworks, VMware and Virtustream and which employs more than 135,000 people. As a large and dynamic organization, Dell is always adding to its teams.

As an organization, it is also committed to bringing all of its talent under one umbrella and unifying its many locations under one business culture. But Dell has realized it can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to global mobility.

First, the company needs to be able to provide a great deal of flexibility to answer the needs of different subsidiaries. It also has to effectively address the needs of an incredibly diverse and distributed employee population, all with their own requirements when it comes to relocation. Finally, the company needs to stay up to speed on changing regulations in all of its locations to ensure compliance.

Global mobility management is Dell’s solution for all three of these challenges.

Making Global Mobility Work

Some of the key requirements of a large-scale global mobility management system are streamlining and making processes more efficient, taking the administrative weight off the shoulders of managers and being able to provide all the data needed to make the best decisions — in the present, in real time, and also in the future.

Fortunately, there are powerful tools that can enable these goals for any organization of any size. In my discussion with Dell, I learned that the ideal mobility software platform should:

  • Automate workflows.
  • Provide dimensional reporting.
  • Provide accurate assignment management.
  • Manage a budget.
  • Forecast future needs and costs.
  • Assist with regulatory compliance.

For employees, successful mobility management software should provide support, services, access, information, flexibility and freedom — specifically the freedom to do some of the work on their own time.

That means 24/7 support; saveable, changeable, interactive task lists; plenty of quality information and guidance; resources to answer questions; and solutions that relate to their life needs as well as work needs.

Mobility Is Talent Retention

What I find so striking about the global mobility challenge is that even though Dell is a massive corporation with immense resources, it sought the services of an outside provider. It knew this was a huge nut to crack and that it wanted its global mobility management to be as evolved and advanced as possible.

Why is this so important? As business has become more global, effective and efficient, worker mobility has become a key selling point in attracting and retaining talent. Dell positions itself as a global organization with opportunities all over the world, and if it’s not providing the best global mobility management it can, the company’s brand could take a hit. So it’s critical to get it right.

I’m looking forward to our webinar conversation about the strategic power of global mobility management, and a look at how Dell used it to solve key business challenges. I’ll be talking to Robin Clowes, head of mobility at Dell, on Jan. 24. So stay tuned. I hope you’ll join us!

 

This post is sponsored by Topia. To learn more from Topia on the talent mobility disconnect, please visit http://www.topia.com/talent-mobility-disconnect.

Talent Management Is Dead; Long Live Employee Experience

Human resources is having a moment.

OK, let’s be honest. HR has been having a moment for a while now. Not a good moment, per se, but not a bad one either. It’s undergoing some pretty big changes. It’s no longer busy only pushing papers and filing promotions; it’s also being asked to do more work. Bigger work.

Talent Management Is Dead

The war for talent created an atmosphere of competition. It’s no longer enough to simply staff your organization. Talented people know their value and want a bigger buy-in. They don’t just want a job — they want to be sought after. They want a place to grow and learn. They want work-life balance. They want to be a part of something bigger than their job title.

And who could blame them?

So as the story goes, staffing became recruiting, recruiting became talent acquisition and talent acquisition became talent management. And everyone became obsessed with engagement. For better or worse, the power has shifted. It’s no longer candidates scrambling to get jobs, but organizations pulling out all the stops to keep their top performers and to recruit the “pink unicorns.”

Deloitte research has found that these days “companies are increasingly judged as social enterprises — entities whose mission should combine revenue growth and profit making with the need to respect and support their environment and stakeholder networks.”

Organizations know people don’t want to be managed, much less referred to as “talent.” It’s also clear they don’t want to be treated as “capital.” But what are people looking for? In a word: More. Talented people are now looking to join a company, not just take a job. They’re interested in more than money and perks; they want the chance to do meaningful work, to become their best and be a part of something.

They are looking for an experience.

Experiences Are Better Than Things

The “experience economy” is the shift from an economy based on consuming services or owning things to an economy powered by investment in experiences. The argument is that businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself — “the experience” — becomes the product.

This shift first took place in the marketplace with millenials. Ticketing company Eventbrite’s nationwide research indicates that “three out of four millennials would rather spend their money on an experience than buy something desirable.” And millennials now make up one-third of the U.S. population.

Experiences Aren’t Just a Marketplace Trend

The new wave of sought-after talent isn’t only interested in buying experiences; they want experiences in their places of work too. For companies this means bringing the same thoughtful attention to the employee journey that’s given to the customer journey. It means designing meaning at every level and touchpoint of life at work.

“Millennials today have completely different expectations. They are OK with less perks. … You treat them well, they stay. You don’t treat them well and pay them well, they will wave you goodbye,“ says Jim Viaz, assistant manager of human resources at the global food and beverage company Mondelēz International.

With the stakes so high, it begs certain questions: What does treating people well look like? How do we build moments of meaning into the employee lifecycle? How do we create communities of authenticity and transparency? And what’s standing in the way of all of this?

Employee Experience Isn’t Easy, But It Is Simple

These are big questions for anyone, let alone a department that has seen so many changes that most of the time it’s just trying to keep up. But the answers to these questions are also surprisingly simple.

Katrina Kibben, founder and CEO of Three Ears Media, breaks it down nicely: “Better managers equals better experience. Better work, better pay transparency, better talent. It all adds up. Somewhere along the way we got it all wrong, thinking we could buy pingpong tables and make an experience.”

“Managers” implies “leadership,” and leadership exists across an organization. That is to say, creating an experience isn’t an HR program. It’s not some magic trick you can perform that will transform an organization into a place where people want to be. And it’s not about values on a wall either. It’s about leaders modeling the behaviors they want to see and creating a culture and a community people want to call home.

“Culture doesn’t come from HR,” says Sarah Morgan, an HR professional and founder of the blog The Buzz on HR. “Culture comes from leadership at all levels. No matter the size of the organization, HR programming cannot overcome leadership that isn’t committed to positive contributions, fairness and development.”

Are Companies Willing to Go the Distance?

Employee experience isn’t rocket science.

Janine Truitt, chief innovations officer for Talent Think Innovations, says it could be a simple fix if companies “paid closer attention to the needs of their employees instead of force-feeding culture, values and environments that aren’t conducive to the success of all people.”

In other words, things change when organizations put their money where their mouth is, when they trade in pingpong tables and kombucha for honesty and transparency, when they choose to acknowledge that HR has more than a branding or PR problem, when they come to see that HR doesn’t have a problem at all.

HR has an opportunity.

As Truitt says, “We must seek to understand the pitfalls and barriers that exist for various groups of people and actively create an assimilation process — an experience — that makes employees of all kinds feel included, valued and empowered to come as they are.”

Come as you are. What could be a more inspiring battle cry?

Long live employee experience.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in December 2015, and substantially updated in September 2018.

The Secret to Retaining Tech Talent: Give Them Ways to Grow

If you want to keep that tech talent you invested so much time, energy and resources recruiting and hiring on, put yourself in their shoes. Work is about far more than coding: as employees rise in tech, they may be called upon to make presentations, participate in a conference, lead a team, articulate a complicated process to newbies, troubleshoot with peers — you name it. And employees are hungry to expand their skills. Companies that overlook this reality stand to lose that talent they worked so hard to find. That’s going to impact not just your present, but your future: those stand-out new hires already marked as candidates for succession may look elsewhere for opportunities.

To say this is not an ideal time to be bleeding talent in the tech sector is beyond an understatement. According to a recent survey by the job site Indeed, 86% of hiring managers say it’s challenging to find and hire tech talent. The average tenure in a job in 2016 was 4.2 years according to the BLS. But the average tenure in the tech industry is far lower, according to SHRM — only three years.

The reasons are numerous — including the nature of working in tech itself. Tech talent is by nature hungry to learn — whether or not you’re providing the opportunity, learning is part of their DNA. Many tech companies focus far more on apps and tools than on social and language interaction. But if you had the chance to ask a tech employee, most would readily convey a need to improve their soft skills as well — which is evidenced by the rising popularity of soft skills courses for tech talent offered by giants such as Harvard Extension.

The overall economy and work climate also play a key role:

  • Recent economic shake-ups left many people realizing they need to keep a Plan B in their professional pocket.
  • A thrilling but endless disruption of new innovations and new start-ups are constantly clamoring for tech talent — including your employees. Today, the pace of development and rollouts is generally rapid fire, and the people who work in this climate are used to training and ramping up fast.
  • It’s intensely easy in this digital, mobile and social environment to look for greener grass on the other side.
  • Increased globalization means different cultures, a variety of social behaviors and a range of different languages. To unify a multinational, multigenerational team takes far more than just hiring them.

Millennial Culture

Millennials have a core sense of healthy self-worth, and tend to see themselves as consumers of employers and jobs they can pick and choose from. But according to research by Deloitte, they’re also looking for an employer that offers more stability than ever before. And in terms of any career, you have to grow to remain in the same place. So if they’re in a job that doesn’t provide the chance to grow, they’re going to look for one that does. 18-35 year-olds stayed in a job for an average of 1.6 years last year — a trend noted by Lingo Live in their new report on the importance of upskilling for tech employees. Millennials are not only hungry to learn, they’re hungry to land in a place they can.

Align Learning With Working

The bottom line for today’s talent, and today’s digital culture a well, is that they are constantly experiencing new things: new apps, new social media pages, new forms of communication, new emojis, new policies and procedures, new bus routes, new challenges. This is the case at work as well as in life. Add the unique circumstances of any individual — such a software engineer for whom English is a second language or taking a job has meant living in a new country.

Every time our attention shifts to a new task or a new environment, we are thrust into a learning capacity once again. If you don’t provide your people with multidimensional learning and development opportunities, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to find the education and upskilling they need to grow. It just means their learning needs will not align with working for your company.

Instead, create that alignment — and then leverage it to drive engagement and ambition as your employees learn and grow within the context of their employer. Consider the soft skills you may want to offer:

Language skills and proficiency: According to the “Real Benefits” report by Lingo Live, language skills are overlooked by employers but highly valued by employees. In fact, a full 70% of engineers they surveyed believe their language skills play a key role in career advancement in their industry. Especially for tech talent that has been sponsored on a work visa, the challenge of communicating, writing, reading, and even interacting in English can be daunting. It’s a challenge easily remedied with a range of web-based, easily accessed language courses and practice.

Leadership skills: From team management to cultural customs and social etiquette, we expect a lot of our managers and leaders. In fact, the Education Advisory Board pinpointed a need to developed five key soft skills for tech talent, all of which are critical for a successful career trajectory. Rising up through the ranks usually means taking on more responsibility and overseeing employees. Among these key skills STEM fields are facing an increased demand for: creativity, teamwork/collaboration and building effective relationships. All can also be bridged into language development and cultural training, enabling tech talent to gain confidence that they can, indeed, become leaders.

Upskilling your talent is a tangible way to demonstrate that you value your employees not just as present-tense labor, but as future assets to your organization. But the benefits go far beyond the doors of your company and right into recruiting. Your employees will convey your brand whether or not you intend them to, but if they are growing and able to learn and develop within the aegis of your organization, they will let others know — and that makes you an employer people want to work for. For any organization trying to establish itself above the fray in this era of transparency, and be able to truly attract, hire, engage and retain the best tech talent, being able to provide soft skills training is an undeniable plus.

This article is sponsored by Lingo Live. Views are my own.

Photo Credit: Compu-Net Systems, LLC Flickr via Compfight cc

 

A Seat at The Table

I started my career in HR over 17 years ago, and the questions I heard most often at all the HR conferences were “Why don’t I have a seat at the executive table?” and “How can I get the executives to take me seriously?” Well, we’re 17 years on, and in spite of all the best intentions, I still hear these two questions repeatedly. What are we doing wrong?

  1. Stop asking “what can I do for you?”Asking “what do you need me to do?” would be like a CFO asking “What financial information would you like me to report?” Ask the business what they are trying to do, and be the expert who translates their business goals into actionable human capital strategies. Would a CEO think about making a major shift in strategy without consulting the CFO to talk about the financial implications or the COO to talk about operational challenges? By showing the C-Suite that you understand their goals and can help them reach them through human capital, your CEO will be calling you to talk about the people implications of their strategies.
  2. Stop speaking HR-speak.The main focus of your business leaders is on meeting enterprise wide strategies and goals, not on the challenges of finding, developing and retaining quality talent. In your next meeting with the C-Suite, think about how you can make your words relevant to their issues. Increased revenue, decreased cost, and higher productivity are much more compelling to an executive than time to fill or number of training courses taken. In his article From HR to the C-Suite: Speaking the same language, Mike Psenka states, “Your first task is to ensure you are conversant in the lingua franca of the C-suite: money… When HR professionals can demonstrate how their operations improve the bottom line, they are able to form stronger connections with the C level executives and continue to enhance the value of the HR department to the entire company.”
  3. Don’t make yourself a victim.A common response I hear to not being at the executive table is “they never invite me to their meetings.” A sure way to keep yourself out of the executive conference room is to wait for them to invite you. Add strategic value by modeling the behaviors in 1 and 2 above (and make sure they know you have), and they won’t be able to think about having their meetings without you.

The chair is already pulled up to the executive table at your company today. If you’re not standing behind it or not even in the room, make sure you’re not exhibiting any of these success-blocking behaviors; you’ll be amazed how quickly you get to sit down.

A version of this post was first published on Black Box Consulting.

Photo Credit: Robert V. Faust II Flickr via Compfight cc

Managing Your Talent and Business Alignment

Good business leaders recognize the value in a good hire, but often times don’t appreciate that one key individual can add to or deter from a company’s overall business plan. Consider a new Chief Technology Officer versus a sales executive within the same company. Most people would immediately acknowledge the CTO’s position as being the most pivotal and in large respect, it is a critical position and one that should be occupied by someone who can elevate the company’s technical advancements. So let’s consider the sales executive’s role.

The sales executive’s role is probably one of many like it within the organization, but sales executives often times serve as the face of the company and represent the organization externally in different capacities, not all of which are sales. These individuals may be members of a local organization where they provide volunteer time and may even sit on the board of another organization. This is a very visible representation and one where the sales executive is speaking on behalf of the organization in a business capacity. Given this, would you consider this role less important than the CTO’s? Maybe or maybe not, but each position yields a different ROI, so there needs to be a different approach in regards to specific talent management practices and how they impact the company’s overall business.

Everyone is a Contributor

One thing is for certain, hiring new employees and training existing ones should be aligned closely to the business imperatives of the organization. As businesses grow, expand their services, establish a footprint in other areas around the Globe, or simply tweak their existing products and offerings because of upgrades or enhancements, due consideration of the employee population should be included in the mix of your business strategy. A hard look at your current business and what your projections for company growth and expansion of products and services will look like in five years and beyond will impact the people you hire and train today.

Understanding the impact of each division, department, team and individual should not be a siloed evaluation. All parts and pieces are links in a chain that make up your company’s foundation. When one is weak, the strength of the other links becomes compromised. It may not be apparent immediately, but over time you may experience problems in customer service, low production numbers, disconnects with prospects, high employee turnover, all of which can lead to downturns in revenue or profits. When this occurs, a prompt investigation into all aspects of your business, including who and how talent is sourced and brought into your company should be considered, as this may be where the root of the problems are based.

Being on the Same Page

There are times when leadership can be so focused on particular outcomes of their business that they fail to acknowledge other important factors, such as what recruiting tactics are used to source and qualify people to advance and align with the organization.

One overlooked item is assuming that the recruiting team is informed and up-to-date on company goals and any subsequent changes to the short-term and long-term business imperatives. Are the job descriptions indicative of what skills and experiences are needed to build the foundation for the future? Do the hiring managers understand what they need to evaluate when considering people to fit the current role and how the candidates’ skills will impact the future of the role? Is everyone aware of the company’s direction and where the company needs to be in five years? Ten years? Do they know what the success profiles are for each position? These are all questions that must be answered before they can fully execute in accordance with the company’s plans.

Employee training is another area that can be out of sync with a company’s business imperatives. Even talented contributors need training, if for no other reason, than to be kept up-to-speed with the implementation of new technologies, policies, products and services. By offering training, employers stand a much better chance to retain desirable employees, as well as determining who is open to learning and embracing the company’s evolution. Keep in mind, training is an investment into your most precious asset… your employees.

Ultimately, communication is going to drive much of what your employees know or don’t know about the company’s short- and long-term business objectives. Leadership needs to decide what kind of info will be shared, with whom and why, as well as present that info so it’s understood by all people receiving the message and resonates with each person’s level of understanding. The obvious conclusion is to assume the mission, vision and company’s values are well understood by all and are unwavering, so when making adjustments to the business plan, this understanding helps drive the point home and makes adoption of the plan easier.

Reducing Risks and Other Factors

Talent management is more than having a succession plan. It’s understanding the value each position offers and capitalizing on that value in the present with eyes towards the future. Also, external factors such as demand, the market cost to fill certain positions, the economy, geography, Visas, etc. will also impact the alignment of your talent and company-wide business strategy. Items to consider include, but are not limited to:

  • Your current employee pool… what new skills do they need and how can you get them to the skills level your business needs with a shorter time-to-productivity
  • Bringing new talent into your company… do the job descriptions fit the current need with skills to build towards the future
  • Anticipating issues with hiring the right people for the jobs your organization will need to sustain your future business
  • Ensuring everyone on the leadership team is onboard with understanding how the present and future of the business hinges on the alignment of talent to the business plan

There are many answers you need to uncover to truly understand the importance of how talent acquisition and your business strategy should be closely aligned; the list above is only a starting point. Keep in mind, the goal should always be to reduce risks and manage the factors within your control and it begins with a shared vision.

Photo Credit: Web_Service Flickr via Compfight cc

4 Tools To Help You Attract Talent to Your Company

While the job search has almost gone global thanks to the Internet, it’s getting harder and harder to find qualified enthusiastic employees. Manpower’s 2016 Talent Shortage Survey found that 40 percent of global employers are not able to find the right talent for jobs that need to be done.

What’s the answer? Making sure that the right talent is naturally flowing into your company is the first step to take. Here are four tools to help you do that:

  1. Serpstat: Boost your Google rankings for relevant terms

According to Unbridled Talent, 30 percent of all Google searches, about 300 million per month, are employment related. Google is the most popular job search tool among job seekers. If your company “Hiring” page ranks high for related job seeking terms, you are guaranteed to constantly receive resumes from interested candidates.

Serpstat is a keyword research and competitor intelligence tool that helps you discover relevant keywords and identify those you may be able to rank high for. Look for lower competition numbers: These are the keywords you stand a chance to rank on page of Google search results.

Serpstat

  1. Twchat: Launch a branded hashtag

Launching a branded hashtag is an effective way to turn social media noise into a meaningful brand asset. A hashtag will let you stream your company updates allowing future job candidates to monitor your job openings and career opportunities.

Twchat is a great way to claim and brand your company hashtag. You can set up a regular Twitter chat to discuss your company culture and vision  (like Zappos did back in 2008) or you can set up a stream to archive tweets mentioning your hashtag.

Tweetchat

A few tips for you to come up with a great hashtag:

  • Keep it short: Tweets are only 140 characters long, you want people to to be able to say a lot when they use your hashtag
  • If you are into local business, try and incorporate your location name into the hashtag. Check other local businesses to avoid any terms that may confuse your business with another local one. Use sites like Yelp and DirJournal for that
  • Always Google your hashtag and check Urban Dictionary to make sure your term is not branded by someone else or that there’s some wicked slang connotation
  1. Drumup: Get your current employees on board

Most of your employees are already on social media, most of them are discussing their workplace with their friends. It is a wise idea to turn this activity into something useful and beneficial for your brand.

Employee advocacy is a sadly often ignored marketing and talent recruiting channel that opens up lots of opportunities. According to Inc., using employee advocacy results in five times more traffic and 25 percent more leads. On the hiring perspective, employee referrals have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate – only 7 percent of applicants are via employees but this accounts for 40 percent of all new hire hires (Source: Jobvite)

Drumup employee advocacy program offers tools for your team members to share and re-share brand updates. Use Drumup Leaderboard feature to setup monthly contests awarding most active or creative employees sharing updates about the company.

Don’t forget to encourage your employees to use your brand hashtag whenever they share their workplace experience.

  1. Cyfe: Monitor your progress

Finally, making it a process means creating a system around it. Cyfe is a multi-purpose business dashboard allowing you to monitor lots of things and metrics within one page. You can use Twitter search widget to monitor your branded hashtag. You can import spreadsheets to keep keyword ideas handy. You can use a custom widget to import anything else though native APIs.

Cyfe

Turning your company into the talent magnet takes time and effort and having the right tools handy is the key. Are there any tools we are missing? Let us know!

Photo Credit: thebiblioholic Flickr via Compfight cc

Business Talent Management During Disasters

Snow storms have made their first sweep across the United States. Winter is here. And as we waited for the chill and the snow, many regions of the United States were rampaged by floods, hurricanes, and forest fires.

Natural disasters are surprise attacks that managers and business owners must pro-actively prepare to endure. Natural disasters are business killers. According to Can Your Organization Survive a Natural Disaster?, “25% of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster.” It’s a depressing and unsurprising fact.

Natural disasters can cause:

  • supply chains to slow or halt.
  • the temporary closure of the company.
  • employee (talent) injury and death.
  • employee absenteeism.
  • the inability to meet client contracts and potential loss of clients.
  • a decrease in the number of customers.
  • damage to a business’s premises and equipment.
  • regulatory fines

Each potential fallout of natural disaster can be an expense that the company cannot afford. It’s vital that companies invest in creating disaster plans to counteract the economic fallout of an unexpected natural disaster.

How in-depth should the plan be? It really depends on how likely you are to experience a natural disaster. Locations prone to disasters should invest more time and money into protecting their business from natural disasters. Keep in mind: every dollar utilized for disaster prep can prevent seven dollars of economic loss down the road.

Below are a few simple ways that managers can help their company prevent economic loss down the road:

Employee Work Policies During Natural Disasters

It’s a good idea to have a general sense of whether employees will be expected to work directly before, during, and in the aftermath of a potentially dangerous weather event. Forcing employees to weather the storm to commute to and from work can be dangerous. It could lead to injuries or fatalities that could cost the employee and company long-term.

Here are a few talent management strategies and policies to enact during a disaster.

Create employee evacuation (time-off work) policies. You might consider creating a case-by-case evacuation approval policy. Even if there is not a state-wide mandatory evacuation, individuals might live in particularly dangerous locations. A written policy will ensure that employees who need to leave the area have that ability without fearing job loss.

Create a more lax ‘bad weather’ late policy. If you expect employees to work, you might consider not enforcing super strict attendance policies. Yes, employees should know to wake up earlier during bad weather to arrive at work on time, but it’s often hard to tell how much longer the commute will be until you’re on the road.

You need to ask yourself what’s better: employees arriving at work safely ten to twenty minutes late or employees arriving on time if they aren’t derailed by an accident due to risky driving.

Specialized employee safety policies. Weather, unfortunately, can slow down employee output. This is especially true for jobs that are conducted outside. Employees rushing through jobs and slipping off of slippery roofs (for example) will could cost the company more in the long run.

How can unsafe work policies hurt your business? Employee injuries could cause your workers comp insurance to be racked up, employees to be on light duty for weeks, and open the company to a potential employee lawsuits. Managers, HR, and employees should work together to create a reasonable and safe ‘bad weather’ productivity policy.

Implement an emergency remote work policy. If the job can be completed from the home, you might consider test driving a remote work policy. You could allow employees to work from home directly before, during, and after the natural disaster.

Not sure if it’s a safe bet? Don’t quite trust your employees to be productive? Currently three million Americans have the ability to work from home. That number is projected to increase by 63% over the next five years, especially as more millennials enter and change the workplace.

Companies wouldn’t be gradually introducing a remote policy if they couldn’t ensure that employees were productive. If you do it right, short-term  remote work can help the company prevent productivity loss due to absenteeism and employee injury.

You should, if you implement the policy, lay out:

  • who is eligible.
  • when the work must take place.
  • how many hours can be worked.
  • how they will and how often they must communicate with management.
  • how the company will ensure productivity standards are met.

Natural disasters, if not properly prepared for, can be catastrophic to small and medium sized businesses. Due to the threat of extreme weather events, managers and business owners should create disaster prep workplace policies. Even if small businesses cannot afford a complicated disaster prep plan, they can begin by creating disaster preparation policies that can help them ensure employee safety and productivity long-term.

Photo Credit: Disk Doctors Dallas Flickr via Compfight cc

New Year – New Employees: Energize Your Recruitment Marketing Strategy in 2017

As we prepare for the upcoming year, talent management may be the last thing on your mind. We still have many Sunday night football games, post-turkey naps, holiday treats, and family traditions to look forward to. On the other hand, we all have performance goals to meet, budgets to create, and strategies to strategize before 2017 arrives. Who has time for recruitment marketing and talent management, right?

But the reality is recruitment marketing and talent management are two things that companies should never stop focusing on. Talent is the foundation that your strategies and performance goals rely on. Talent is the key to innovation and growth. Talent equals success. Without the right talent, how will your company create, innovate, and grow profitable and thriving businesses?

Recognizing that recruitment marketing is an important part of your organization’s overall strategy and using data-driven initiatives and fresh thinking can help you build a solid pipeline of talented leads that could implement positive change—and that spells good things for your business.

Equally as important as using data as part of your recruitment and talent management operations is understanding that when it comes to a job search, candidates are like consumers. They research prospective employers the same way they research products. Their candidate journeys might involve as many as 12 touch points with your employer brand and the content that exists about your company on the web. That includes visiting your corporate website and blog, your LinkedIn company page, and the LinkedIn profiles of your key executives and folks with whom they are interviewing. That might also include following your company on Twitter, watching the videos on your corporate YouTube channel, and reading those all important Glassdoor reviews.

Smart companies and recruiting teams learn how to form relationships with candidates from the point of attraction and in a wide variety of different channels, and not later on, from the point of application. By doing this, you can influence a prospective candidate’s decision to take their next career step with your organization.

It all starts with you—recruiter and HR pro as change agents. New ideas about talent management don’t intimidate you; they motivate and inspire you to take a step back and look at the strategy behind recruitment. If you want to be a part of turning the recruitment marketing process upside down, you’re not alone. Want a deeper dive on this topic?

CNN Commentator Mel Robbins, Applied Futurist Tom Cheesewright, and SmashFly CEO Mike Hennessy are ready to lead the discussion of change management. To hear from these experts and learn more about the latest in recruitment marketing join this live stream and join the conversation starting November 2. Join Now.  This exciting event will feature stories and tips from key employer branding industry leaders including GE, PwC, Great Clips, Thermo Fisher, and more. We hope you’ll join us!

Join the online version of the Transform Event for free, you can listen to great content from Nov 2-4. Join Now.

 

 

Photo Credit: NeovoraBrasil Flickr via Compfight cc

This post is sponsored by TalentCulture client, Smashfly

Zen And The Art Of Talent Management

Bells and whistles and corner offices aside, talent management is dedicated to one basic question, right? Who’s next? From tending the pipeline right through issues of succession, we are tasked with populating a world whose needs never end. May get stormy, may get depressed, but talent needs work and work needs talent.

Downturns lead to upturns, fortunately: the BLS reported that job opportunities increased to 5.4 million this April, with a substantial rise in openings concentrated in professional and business services. The number of hires and separations (quits, layoffs and discharges) stayed nearly the same as the month before: hires were at 5 million; turnover was 4.9 million.

Parse and massage stats like this all you want (e.g. STEM jobs; entry-level; fast-tracks, geography), but anyway you shuffle it, that’s a huge deck of talent to manage. Takes a steady head and, lately, a whole lot of tech.

Given the radical transformation of tools and data available and the new imperatives posed by a global and multigenerational workforce, we also know that HR is taking on a far greater role than just staffing up. With disruption has now come a profound change: Talent is now understood as a huge value issue: most business leaders see people as the key investment for long-term growth. So the next question isn’t a who. It’s a what.

What’s next?

With all those remarkable HR tech innovations we get to feel like kids in a candy store.  All these sweet tools to facilitate onboarding, drive and track employee engagement, conduct assessments, even improve workplace culture and allow for employee movement. And: analytics, metrics; reflective and predictive. A mega-bounty of software and choices; soaring well above the $15 billion mark as an industry.

But. Here’s the what’s next part. We’re still in that candy store, picking from disparate bins, just paying attention to the basics. HR research and advisory firm Bersin by Deloitte reported that a 86% of organizations in 2013 were still focused primarily on basic (reactive) reporting.

Now what we need is protein. As in: a singular centralized, capable platform that can run the whole family of functions, so instead of reacting we’re proacting; instead of managing we’re able to lead.

So how is this going to work and what does it look like? Two essential predictions:

  1. Micro And Macro

To handle the cloud requires smarter aggregating and maintenance of talent data. The first wave of cloud-based data brought a sudden, sheer volume that triggered a kind of panic of functional diversification. Now we have multiple systems for managing data, from individual performance to larger institutional and organizational trends. It’s micro monitoring and macro future casting. But it needs to all be unified into one agile, responsive, enormous (yes) function.

  1. Three Dimensional

The past, present and future play equally in smart analytics. Instead of one data stream for depicting past trajections, another tool for investigating the present and still another for predicting future needs, they all need to work in tandem. Managing talent supply now requires that we leverage a full spectrum of data: all three dimensions, but in real time — not in the aggregate.

Notice I haven’t mentioned social, but that’s because by now, it’s a given; the way we use it is going to have an incredible impact on organizational success in the future. But I will say that it’s the changing culture of talent management that is leading us into a singular, open approach to how we answer that perennial question. Faced with a marvelous toolbox, we now need that the one single tool that can do it all.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

Big, Bad Data: How Talent Analytics Will Make It Work In HR

Here’s a mind-blowing fact to spark up the late-summer doldrums: research from IBM shows that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. I find this fascinating.

Which means that companies have access to an unprecedented amount of information: insights, intelligence, trends, future-casting. In terms of HR, it’s a gold mine of Big Data.

This past spring, I welcomed the ‘Industry Trends in Human Resources Technology and Service Delivery Survey,’ conducted by the Information Services Group, a leading technology insights, market intelligence and advisory services company. It’s a useful study, particularly for leaders and talent managers, offering a clear glimpse of what companies investing in HR tech expect to gain from their investment.

Not surprisingly, there are three key benefits companies expect to realize from investments in HR tech:

  • Improved user and candidate experience
  • Access to ongoing innovation and best practices to support the business
  • Speed of implementation to increase the value of technology to the organization.

It’s worth noting that driving the need for an improved user interface, access, and speed is the nature of the new talent surging into the workforce: people for whom technology is nearly as much a given as air. We grew up with technology, are completely comfortable with it, and not only expect it to be available, we assume it will be available, as well as easy to use and responsive to all their situations, with mobile and social components.

According to the ISG study, companies want HR tech to offer strategic alignment with their business. I view this as more about enabling flexibility in talent management, recruiting and retention — all of which are increasing in importance as Boomers retire, taking with them their deep base of knowledge and experience. And companies are looking more for the analytics end of the benefit spectrum. No surprise here that the delivery model will be through cloud-based SaaS solutions.

Companies also want:

  • Data security
  • Data privacy
  • Integration with existing systems, both HR and general IT
  • Customizability —to align with internal systems and processes.

They also want their HR technology to be:

Cloud-based. According to the ISG report, more than 50% of survey respondents have implemented or are implementing cloud-based SaaS systems. It’s easy, it’s more cost-effective than on-premise software, and it’s where the exciting innovation is happening. 

Mobile/social. That’s a given. Any HCM tool must have a good mobile user experience, from well-designed mobile forms and ease of access to a secure interface.

They want it to have a simple, intuitive user interface – another given. Whether accessed via desktop or mobile, the solution must offer a single, unified, simple-to-use interface.

They want it to offer social collaboration tools, which is particularly key for the influx of millenials coming into the workplace, who expect to be able to collaborate via social channels. HR is no exception here. While challenging from a security and data protection angle, it’s a must.

But the final requirement the study reported is, in my mind, the most important: Analytics and reporting. Management needs reporting to know their investment is paying off, and they also need robust analytics to keep ahead of trends within the workforce.

It’s not just a question of Big Data’s accessibility, or of sophisticated metrics, such as the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that reveal the critical factors for success and measure progress made towards strategic goals. For organizations to realize the promise of Big Data, they must be able to cut through the noise, and access the right analytics that will transform their companies for the better.

Given what companies are after, as shown in the ISG study, I predict that more and more companies are going to be recognizing the benefits of using integrated analytics for their talent management and workforce planning processes. Talent Analytics creates a powerful, invaluable amalgam of data and metrics; it can identify the meaningful patterns within that data and metrics and, for whatever challenges and opportunities an organization faces, it will best inform the decision makers on the right tactics and strategies to move forward. It will take talent analytics to synthesize Big Data and metrics to make the key strategic management decisions in HR. Put another way, it’s not just the numbers, it’s how they’re crunched.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

7 Hottest Trends In HR Technology

Technology has been dominating the HR and Talent Management space for the past decade – with more “real serious widespread adoption” happening in the past year. Has its application plateaued? Is HR finally taking a more active role in driving user adoption? Are there more exciting developments on the way that help to recruit, retain and engage your talent? Where do things stand and where are they going? These are definitely exciting times.

Here’s My Take On The Top 7 Trends in HR Technology:

1) There Will Be A Move From Quantity To Quality. We’ve been deluged with technological advances, and many Leaders and HR departments have embraced some, or if very innovative, many of them. Only to later find out (after spending money and resources) that some are a terrible match for their organizations. I see much more selectivity in the year ahead. Instead of asking, “Is this amazing technology?”, the question will become, “Is this technology a good match for us?”

2) The Number Of So-Called Breakthrough HR Technologies Will Diminish.We’re now in the second decade of the computer revolution, which has indeed changed the way we live and work. But even something as epic as the computer reaches its limits. What we’re seeing now is a welcome emphasis on refinements of the core technologies. Beware of vendors who try and dazzle you with hype, or are selling wildly complicated products. Look for smart (and often simple) technologies that are user-friendly and deliver targeted results.

3) It’s All About Implementation. Smart people are shutting out all the clutter and asking themselves: “Is this technology going to be easy to implement and will be my employees actually adopt?” Ignore all the bells and whistles, the shiny toys and pretty graphics. In the end it’s about usage, smart data and building stronger teams. Will this product be worth the effort and expense? Deconstruct the technology down its core deliverables. The rest is just a waste of time.

4) Analytics Is The Special Sauce. Software analytics, single stack software and any tool that enables relevant data to be collected and shared between departments with ease and consistency is basically good. It allows everyone to be on the same page, speaking the same language. It’s a fantastic leadership and HR tool. We can see what’s happening – the good, the weird, the amazing and the stuff that makes us ask better questions — across the organization and respond quickly. We are now seeking numbers to back up what we say. We have the tools – let’s use them.

5) Social Media And Continuous Learning Continues To Grow In Significance. Social media is one area that has lived up to its hype. It’s an amazing talent management, branding and employee engagement tool. For example – by creating a 3-dimensional profile of an applicant (Google the person’s name-Wink), talent simply leaps out. Peoples quirks, interesting detours, offbeat skills all come to life as we learn more about people’s personalities and “real lives”. As do certain negatives like rigid ideology, or a tendency to be snarky or combative. Within an organization, social media, social learning and big data are an unparalleled communication and cohesion tool if understood and utilized correctly.

6) Real Time Talent Management Matters. Tools that allow continuous monitoring of performance are better for everyone. A formal employee review every six months is fast becoming obsolete. What is far more important is software that enables us to stay on top of things in real time. Problems are nipped in the bud and the good stuff like recognition, gamification and rewards are in place to offer more productive employee relationships that can be nurtured. No more playing catch-up. Real time monitoring gives HR and Leaders more power to do more good and weed out the people who are not a good fit. 

7) Mobile, Mobile, Mobile. There’s a new generation of talent coming up that views desktops as a relic from the past. The world is growing evermore global and mobile and HR has to be, too. To reach the right talent, you need to be mobile-friendly in design and ease of usage. HR should always go where the talent is – and these days it’s on mobile.

It’s going to be an exciting, if at times overwhelming, week, year. I’d love to know what you think of my list. We live in fascinating times for HR and Leadership and the conference is always interesting. Have a blast. Let’s keep learning and innovating together.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com.

photo credit: Brain Health via photopin (license)

Improve the Candidate “Shopping” Experience

I’ve written before about my passion for the candidate experience…quite a bit, actually. As a board member for the Talent Board, you’ve hopefully witnessed my advocacy for candidates; Of course I also offer kudos to employers who are taking strides toward improving the journey from stranger to employee.

However, let’s take it up a level and talk about the overarching strategic level of the candidate experience. Yes, it’s about thank-you notes and avoiding miscommunication, but it’s so much more. The entire process begins long before anyone opts into communication from you or applies for a position.

When shopping for a new dishwasher, people read online reviews, walk the aisles of Home Depot, Google different brands, ask friends on Facebook, and have at-home discussions with anyone else whom shares dish duty. And this is an appliance. What about when they are making a career change? Let’s assume their priorities are straight and care more about their job, personal brand and impact on the world than a dishwasher’s decibel levels.

So what does that mean? As candidates become increasingly more like consumers, they shop around, scour websites – employers and sites like Glassdoor.com – vet opportunities, compare and ask meaningful questions. Research shows that candidates use approximately 12-18 sources of information before they apply.

So employers, heed my warning: BE READY. Don’t assume that you can throw together an attractive job ad and it will suffice. Candidates already know about the organization and have (very) likely done major research.

The term Recruitment Marketing comes into play here. When people are looking for a new position, they need compelling language everywhere they turn. Don’t shut the door on quality talent by lacking the right kind of messaging on your website; be sure to include clear employer brand language, employee stories, job-specific explanations, helpful career resources and more. And be sure to do the same on all social media profiles and across all other available platforms.

Data from SmashFly states that 74% of candidates drop off of the apply process. For one reason or another these consumers – uh, candidates – weren’t sold yet on your employer brand, weren’t engaged by the application process or weren’t ready to apply yet. Can’t you just hear them say, “Moving on….”?

So, think through your recruitment marketing strategy with a strategic lens to decide if candidates will even be interested in making the candidate journey with you.

Run these three tests:

Is it Helpful?

Put yourself in the shoes of the candidate. You want someone to help you understand the opportunity. Don’t be cryptic or hard to find. Use informative language when explaining your EVP (Employee Value Proposition); make frequently asked questions easy to answer on their own. Don’t lose people because they think you don’t care enough to help.

Is it Inviting?

Are you front-and-center, inviting people to learn more about you as an employer? Do you seem open and welcoming to queries about your workplace culture, job path opportunities or other burning questions? Don’t appear like that dark haunted house on the hill. Be so lit up that you’re transparent. And transparency is a whole different story.

Is It Engaging?

Are you offering ways to invite potential and current candidates to engage with the organization? Are there forums, videos, Q&A sessions, or open dialogue with team members? Do you have a cool newsletter that outlines the day-in-the-life of an employee in your organization? Is there another way for potential candidates to show interest and learn more without applying immediately, like joining a talent network?

Last fall, SmashFly researched and evaluated every 2015 Fortune 500 organization’s career site for 13 recruitment marketing practices. Of those companies, SmashFly found that 57% used employee stories on their career sites through either text or video. This practice should continue to grow, and employee stories should be used to engage and nurture potential candidates in social media and in your talent network.  People listen to people over brands, which is why employee stories speak so much more to candidates!

Is your social media presence one that makes people want to engage with you and be part of the family? Don’t get sucked back into that archaic one-way communication where you simply spit out messages. Everything goes both directions these days. Open up those channels, engage and learn from what you are hearing along the way.

Lastly, because I am a tech geek, I highly recommend capitalizing on the technology that can improve your entire methodology. Recruitment Marketing Platforms like SmashFly track the candidate experience in every recruiting touch point and effort, from before employers know the candidate to after they opt-in to receive additional communication or apply for a job. Let data do some of the work! This way you can see what’s working, what’s not, where people are dropping off and how to mitigate just that. It’s always better to track and measure the candidate experience than simple guess, which is where technology like a Recruitment Marketing Platform can really offer insight and facilitate change.

Whether you personally like shopping or not, that’s what people (e.g., candidates!) are doing every day. Be the place people want to visit – and buy from.

This post is sponsored by SmashFly. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For more content like this, follow SmashFly on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and SlideShare.

Photo Credit: cornerstoneindia via Compfight cc