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Digital Employee Experience: Do You Measure What Matters?

Sponsored by: Ivanti

You’ve heard the adage “measure twice, cut once.” It’s good advice from the sewing world. The idea is to encourage people who want to achieve an excellent outcome to be precise and cautious before they act. If we’re supposed to be that conscientious about measuring a piece of fabric for a sewing project, why would we be cavalier about measuring something as critical as the digital employee experience?

Nevertheless, that’s what countless IT and business leaders around the world are doing by default. They’re implementing employee engagement programs based on what sounds right or feels right. They’re not relying on data-driven intelligence to make decisions about these programs. And they don’t know in advance if these programs will actually produce the outcomes they want.

Here’s the truth: If you don’t carefully measure and re-measure your digital employee experience, people will cut themselves right out of your organization. Even if you’ve been using classic employee experience measurement tools—such as an annual survey—that’s no longer enough. Today’s organizations require more complete insights focused on the digital employee experience.

Why Is This Digital Shift So Vital?

The remote and hybrid work landscape (what we call the “Everywhere Workplace”) has forever transformed work life and organizational culture. Now, a vibrant work experience is no longer about departmental happy hours, unlimited free soda, pizza Fridays, or a ping pong table in the employee lounge.

Instead, it’s about what happens in the flow of work. It’s about communicating and collaborating through tools that are smarter, easier, and more effective. It’s about seamless accessibility, usability, security, connectivity, and the ability to do your job without navigating frustrating obstacles or jumping through endless hoops.

Of course, HR teams still focus on employee experience. But now, IT professionals are just as deeply focused on this, as well. Why? The traditional employee engagement survey—once conducted and managed by your HR department—isn’t designed to capture the nuances and critical insights associated with hybrid work environments. If you want to gain useful intelligence, you’ll want to get IT specialists involved—and the sooner the better.

It’s no longer enough to assume people have what they need to be connected, productive and comfortable as they navigate the Everywhere Workplace. You need to know where the connections are working (or not). That means you need to measure what’s happening. Not just once, but over and over again.

After all, if you don’t know where you stand, it is impossible to move forward. Both HR and IT leaders need real, meaningful, actionable insights into the digital employee experience as a process. It deserves a commitment to continuous improvement. And that means you need to understand where it stands now, and how it is evolving over time.

Criteria For a Digital Employee Experience Survey

What should you include in a digital employee experience survey? To glean useful insights, you’ll need to go far beyond limited indicators like post-ticket surveys. To measure and improve the digital employee experience, you’ll need a holistic picture. For instance, consider the value of knowing answers to questions like these:

  • How are people accessing information?
  • What do they think about that process?
  • How many steps must they move through to accomplish these tasks?
  • How often do they run into trouble?
  • How much time do they spend trying to securely access information, tools, and resources they need to do their jobs well?
  • Do they even have access to the right information, tools, and resources?
  • Are they able to connect and engage with colleagues?
  • How effective are these communication channels, in their view?

Post-ticket surveys don’t capture any of these things. And yet, these factors can make or break a digital employee experience. They can spell the difference between an employee who is highly productive, happy, loyal, and engaged—versus one who is forced to waste time on logistics and is likely to be frustrated. Perhaps even frustrated enough to leave.

How to Measure Digital Employee Experience

If you think this isn’t an issue for most employers, consider this statistic:

30% of IT leaders currently have no process or metrics in place to evaluate the digital employee experience. And among the 70% who do, few have established the kind of robust metrics and evaluation strategy today’s Everywhere Workplace demands.

Clearly, the stakes are high. Many organizations assume that measuring digital employee experience in a holistic way is expensive, overwhelming, and resource-intensive. Sometimes it is. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What’s the secret? Automation.

By automating digital employee experience measurement, leaders can laser-focus on KPIs that matter most to the organization, without bandwidth and expertise from HR or IT—and without badgering employees for manual reports.

In other words, you can automate the collection and reporting of data about issues that commonly impact productivity, especially issues that traditional reports don’t easily track. For example, automation can help you monitor, quantify and evaluate slow devices, outages in network connectivity, where and when apps crash, and other problems that are difficult to capture accurately in a survey.

Of course, it’s important to gauge employee-generated insights as well. But automated, granular, data-based insights can round out the picture with a comprehensive view of what’s happening with digital workflows and how they impact engagement and productivity. Plus, with automated data collection and reporting, continuing to measure key factors over time is much easier. That’s essential to understanding your organization’s progress and how it maps to employee feedback.

Final Thoughts

“Measure twice, cut once” works well for sewing. But it’s not the answer for a modern enterprise that embraces the Everywhere Workplace. Instead, think about measuring once, and then measuring again and again. That’s how you can gain valuable insight into experience indicators and trends that will help you develop and sustain a happy, loyal, engaged, productive workforce.

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s the current state of digital employee experience in organizations around the world? Find out now >> Download the 2022 Ivanti Digital Employee Experience Report.

Work Culture Lessons Learned from the Space Shuttle Columbia

Leadership plays a significant role in work culture and organizational strategy. Yet many who are in charge seem unprepared for the responsibility. Seventy-six percent of employees agree that management sets the tone for workplace culture. But 40 percent say that managers fail to engage them in honest conversations, 36 percent say that their managers don’t know how to lead a team, and 58 percent cite their managers for their reasons for leaving their jobs, according to SHRM’s 2019 Culture Report.

Moreover, businesses lost nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars over the last five years due to employee turnover triggered by poor work culture and bad managers. With these stats in mind, if organizations want to stay afloat, they can’t wait on making improvements to work culture and organizational structure.

Our Guest: Dr. Phillip Meade

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Dr. Phillip Meade, co-owner and COO of Gallaher Edge, a management consulting firm that applies the science of human behavior to create highly effective cultures. Dr. Meade has led teams and organizations for 25 years, serving at various levels of management. Following the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, where the shuttle broke up as it returned to Earth, killing seven astronauts, Dr. Meade developed a plan for the organizational and cultural changes necessary for return to flight and create leadership behaviors to drive sustainable change.

In the case of the Space Shuttle Columbia, I wanted to know: What work culture influences played a part in the accident, and what was done afterward to pivot to a more functional organizational structure?

“Part of the issue was overconfidence. We thought that we were safe after we got up into orbit. Also, many felt that we couldn’t raise questions or talk about problems,” Dr. Meade says. “We had, for so long, this deep ingrained ethos that failure is not an option. And there were a lot of people in key leadership positions that believed that there was no way to fix the problem on orbit, even if we discovered it. And so, there was a resistance to even look and see if there was a problem.”

When he was asked to lead the work culture change, he noticed that many were highly dedicated individuals who wanted to be at work. It was then that he realized the difference between an effective organizational culture, and what’s merely a good organizational culture where people are happy, or enjoy working there.

“A truly effective organizational culture also drives the strategy of an organization. In the case of NASA, that means driving organizational safety and leads to high organizational effectiveness. So, that was one of the big keys to solving and changing the organizational culture.”

Changing Organizational Structure: Key Takeaways

So, when it comes to changing organizational structure, one of the key takeaways, according to Dr. Meade, is that organizational work culture is an emergent property of a complex adaptive organizational system. This means that it’s a combination of beliefs and behaviors of employees within an organization.

“While leaders are responsible for the organizational culture, it still lives between the ears of the employees. This is why we say that we use the science of human behavior to really work on and affect organizational culture because that’s where it lives,” Dr. Meade says. “It starts with the self, with the individual and it starts from the inside out. And so, I think that that’s one of the main keys about working with organizational culture.”

Another key takeaway, says Dr. Meade, is that the culture must align with an organization’s business strategy. It isn’t just about creating the happiest place on Earth to work. Sure, it’s great if you can achieve such a feat, and high employee engagement has been shown to increase productivity. However…

“If you’re increasing productivity towards goals that don’t align with your strategy then, there’s no point to it,” says Dr. Meade. “You want to make sure that the organizational culture you’re creating drives business results and aligns with your organizational strategy.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about organizational strategy and the Space Shuttle Columbia accident by reaching out to Dr. Phillip Meade on LinkedIn. You can also find Dr. Phillip Meade’s book titled “The Missing Links: Launching a High Performing Company Culture” here. 

Image by Siri Wannapat

5 Ways to Incorporate Employee Recognition into the Flow of Work

While countless aspects of daily work have changed over the past year, one thing remains the same across most organizations: Employees value recognition. In fact, now more than ever, employees want their efforts to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. And with the job market heating up, if employee recognition isn’t consistently present, your top talent will go elsewhere.

Nearly 6 in 10 employees (58%) rank culture – including employee recognition – ahead of salary when it comes to what they want from a company.

So the stakes are higher than ever when it comes to recognition and retaining top talent. For companies hoping to thrive as hiring returns to normal, recognition must be a part of every leader’s responsibilities. And it must be incorporated into the flow of work to keep it top of mind and authentic. Yet, according to a recent survey across CXOs and HR leaders, only 36% see recognition as a top priority for 2021.

Employee Recognition: The Difficult Work Lies Ahead

Even for those leaders who acknowledge the need for incorporating recognition into the flow of work, the difficult work lies ahead.

For starters, know that recognition feels more natural and is more successful when leadership fosters a culture built on connection. When it comes to applying connection to recognition, repetition certainly helps. Today’s recognition technology empowers leaders to determine how each employee prefers their shoutouts and communication. For example, a recent study found that 54% of employees prefer a verbal thank-you, while 31% prefer a written note. Only 7% prefer celebration and gifts. As any successful leader knows that recognition is not one-size-fits-all, and it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it initiative.

Putting authentic recognition in the flow of your organization’s work can feel daunting. But leaders must make this a priority and set it as a part of their daily intentions. Let’s discuss five ways to incorporate recognition.

1. Acknowledge specifics

Anyone can hand out a generic “great job.” Such blanket statements feel insincere. Instead, focus on the specific contributions individual employees are making to create heartfelt praise. This will require more involved leadership and higher emotional intelligence than simply offering impersonal, inauthentic gestures of appreciation.

2. Embrace social recognition

Like it or not, social media is a big part of our lives. With remote work so prevalent now, we rely on online communities and interact via digital communication tools most of the time. Incorporating recognition into all of your employee communication tools, including social channels, ensures recognition is timely, visible, and in the flow of work.

3. Schedule virtual events

Team lunches, scheduled times to touch base, and other virtual events deliver two benefits:

  • They allow you to stay connected with your employees.
  • They provide a natural forum for recognition and communication.

Because remote work can leave employees feeling isolated, it’s important to schedule these virtual touchpoints to ensure a sense of community and connection. You can also let employees select the themes of the virtual events or choose activities (e.g., a virtual painting class or a yoga class) as a part of their recognition. That way, employees feel engaged and rewarded.

4. Make it meaningful

Let’s face it: Some daily tasks feel tedious and thankless. Put meaning in “the little things” — show the impact an employee has, even if they don’t see it themselves. One way to do this is to tie recognition of the smaller tasks to values, mission, or even larger themes within your organization. This lets employees see how their success maps to something greater. This is especially important now because being dispersed often distorts the bigger picture or impedes an employee’s visibility to larger goals.

5. Incorporate variety

Just as you incorporate variety into your messaging, variety is essential when it comes to message delivery. Think outside the box: handwritten notes, a customized gift, a video message, or a delivery of their favorite treat. If every attempt at providing recognition looks the same, employees will undoubtedly start to feel the message is increasingly less special.

The Connection Between Recognition and Results

Providing recognition is not the final step. It’s important to measure your recognition results to ensure program ROI. By infusing analytics into the process – tracking and measuring your recognition strategy’s effectiveness – you can determine which areas might benefit from optimization or where something isn’t working. You need to make sure what you’re doing is having the desired effect. You’ll also want to ensure that your company is getting the most from your recognition investment. Analytics will also help ensure that your programs are positively impacting the behaviors you want to target.

Data and analytics can provide the necessary feedback and a road map to ensure your organization stays on track now and in the future. Keeping an eye on the road ahead not only includes measuring ROI but also retaining your top talent. Ultimately, employee recognition provides the validation, appreciation, and culture to drive retention.

So, don’t let recognition be just a passing thought or a tool that sits on a shelf. Incorporate it daily for your workforce to feel genuinely valued. After all, we endured in 2020. So who doesn’t deserve a shoutout for the tenacity and resilience they’ve shown?

 

Photo by Yurolaitsalbert

How to Provide Constructive Feedback That Improves Performance

For previous generations of workers, employer feedback too often consisted of some variation of “Don’t screw up!” But in today’s workforce, employees need and want a lot more detail. They seek constructive feedback that helps them correct their weaknesses and further prepares them for long-term professional growth.

However, not all feedback is created equal. There are significant differences between destructive and constructive feedback, but they aren’t as apparent as you might think. Some managers believe constructive feedback means sugar-coating while destructive feedback means blunt rudeness — neither of which is correct. It’s difficult to say why this misconception persists, but HR teams need to reframe that line of thinking.

Constructive Feedback and Performance

When you know how to provide useful feedback to employees, you create the conditions for higher engagement, satisfaction levels, and performance. Destructive feedback has the opposite effect; according to one TriNet study, destructive performance reviews cause 1 in 4 Millennials to call in sick — or look for a new job.

Traditionally, consistent feedback occurs when employees and employers meet for annual performance reviews. During those reviews, the two sides discuss everything from the employee’s performance throughout the year to raises, promotions, or even demotions or termination. The employer would then wait another year before giving the employee additional feedback, and the majority of those meetings would focus on critical evaluation.

Today, more routine and consistent feedback loops have become the norm. Employers maintain open lines of communication and set clear expectations for feedback. They also encourage employees to provide feedback freely and confidently, with some managers holding monthly meetings designed specifically for this purpose.

But these measures alone aren’t enough if employees don’t receive constructive feedback from managers throughout the process. A recent Gallup poll found that only 26% of workers strongly agree that manager feedback on employee performance positively impacts future outcomes.

Useless feedback is as bad as destructive feedback, and it can be demoralizing. This takes a toll on the team and the company, causing employees to lose motivation or leave. Constructive feedback builds up employees instead of bringing them down, and it helps them identify performance gaps in a positive way that doesn’t cause them to feel personally attacked.

Feedback is essential, but it matters how you provide and facilitate that feedback.

HR leaders can use the following tips when coaching management on how to give feedback to employees constructively. The goal: To help them grow and become even greater assets to the organization:

1. Put Feedback on the Schedule

Leaders should not isolate opportunities for feedback, and they shouldn’t blindside employees when those opportunities do come. Some employers offer feedback sessions monthly; others hold them every week. By creating a consistent feedback schedule, you can ensure your team understands and is prepared to meet timelines and expectations.

For example, at the end of 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg livestreamed a one-on-one with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. During the stream, Sandberg revealed that weekly feedback sessions were essential when she began working at Facebook in 2008. Since then, the two C-suite leaders start and end each week with a one-on-one.

2. Uncomplicate the Process

In most businesses, things happen much more rapidly than they did generations ago. This has been especially true over the past ten months or so. Having frequent, regularly scheduled constructive feedback sessions gives managers and employees the chance to get on the same page, even as things change. However, more frequent feedback can also become more complex, and employers will do well to keep the process simple.

HR teams might lend managers a hand by creating a simple online form that employees can use to quickly and easily submit answers. Much like a customer satisfaction survey, completing it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Then, managers can generate a report based on those form answers to share and discuss during the next feedback meeting.

3. Find the Right Cadence

After setting an initial feedback schedule and simplifying the process, HR teams might look at each employee’s desire for feedback to determine individual cadences. Managers in every industry have strayed from the once-a-year performance review model; employees have responded positively to the increased feedback, but not everyone needs to meet every week.

When employees feel micromanaged because evaluations come too frequently, that feedback loses its usefulness. Everyone might agree on weekly feedback sessions at first. But you might consider shifting to biweekly or monthly check-ins if they start to feel like a burden. Work with your team to find the most productive cadence, and be agile enough to change things up.

The distinction between destructive and constructive feedback is in the results. Knowing how to provide effective feedback to employees consistently helps ensure that it’s helpful, engaging, and empowering.

With these tips, HR leaders can help managers draw that distinction more clearly while guiding employees in their growth — and improving their performance.

 

Photo by Genitchka

Are Your Employees OK? Creating Sustainable COVID-19 Remote Work Policies

Are your remote work policies sustainable? Is your company culture still viable? Are your employees really ok?

Over the past few months, many experts (hundreds!) have written articles about COVID-19 workplace policies—especially the work-from-home versus onsite work dilemma we face now and in the future. I should know. I’ve written a couple myself! Yet, in all of the debates about the benefits and detriments of working from home versus in the office, I question whether there has been enough focus on the long-term effects on staff. I also wonder about the long-term impact on company culture.

New Thinking for A New Time

So how, in this chaotic response to the coronavirus pandemic of moving employees offsite—ensuring they are connected properly to work from home—do we ensure the side effects of remote work don’t cause long-term damage to your staff and your long-term strategic plans?

Here are some thoughts on what to look out for:

1. Culture

Culture (defining, creating, sustaining) has been one of the top business issues for the last 20 years. Tech companies spent big bucks trying to positively influence their corporate cultures (ping pong tables, beer taps, etc.). They tried to build a culture that would help entice employees’ top echelon when talent was tight. Today, though, COVID-19 is the immediate buzz kill for cultures across the spectrum. All the money and time built into an organization’s culture now has limited value.

When I started out of college at a Tier-one consulting firm, I loved going to work. I also enjoyed the evenings as people I worked with would socialize after work. It was great. If COVID-19 had broken out then, a major reason I appreciated the firm would be gone (as it is for millions of people now). I’d be working in isolation and not interacting (or socializing) with my peers. I can’t predict that I would like the firm. In fact, A friend recently told me her daughter loved work at her company in Silicon Valley. COVID-19 hit, though, and she went remote. She quickly realized she hated the work, but she loved the company’s culture and people. Soon after this epiphany, she left to look for another job.

As a result of COVID-19, the existing culture of an organization may have become dismantled. Companies have to work differently if their employees are going to be working remotely. Today, to have any relevance, we must rethink and rework the employer brand and focus that drives high-end talent to a company.

2. Loyalty

The most powerful talent retention strategy is the loyalty or commitment your employees have to your organization or its mission.

How have you addressed your employee retention strategy in light of your remote working policy and COVID impacts? There are so many different surveys related to the top 10 reasons top employees stay with their employer. But there are consistent themes. The most obvious? “Salary and compensation” is never number one. In fact, the highest “salary” appeared in a recent review of top 10 lists was fourth!

The consistent reasons employees stayed included:

  • Culture
  • Liking the people they work with
  • Good bosses
  • Enjoying the challenge(s)
  • Learning new things

In many Top 10 lists, these reasons come before pay. Yet in a COVID-19 world (and potentially post-COVID-19 for companies that remain remote), most of those reasons either go away or become harder to make relevant. Culture is more difficult to develop; working with people becomes less pertinent when dealing with them exclusively over Zoom or MS Teams. Learning new things also becomes more difficult when you are not in the office. After all, you have less exposure to what’s going on throughout the company; it is harder to get on new exciting projects. Invariably, once those top three to five reasons become less applicable, their salary climbs closer to the top of the list. When that happens, pay is often – and sometimes easily – improved by job-hopping.

3. Mental Health

Working from home can be a dream come true—or a nightmare. It depends on who you are, what type of work you do, and your company. But let’s keep it on an individual level.

Let’s start with the personality of the employee, specifically extroverts versus introverts. The saying goes that extroverts gain their energy from being with people and introverts exhaust their energy from being with people. COVID-19 may seem to be a dream for introverts (and a corresponding nightmare for extroverts), but it goes deeper. Many studies (yes… science!) point to an innate human need for social connection. I am an introvert, but an “extrovert wannabe” (my life’s tag line). This is hard for me. Before COVID-19, I may have had a week of meetings and evenings filled with networking events. If I have more than two evening networking events, I can guarantee that I will be canceling anything over that amount. Now? I’m craving even one networking event!

Even as an introvert, I find that there is only so much TV I can watch before I feel my brain cells begin to disintegrate! And I am lucky; I am at home with a partner (though eight months into isolation, I would guess he may not be feeling as fortunate) so I get some social interaction. People who are isolated and are in their homes 24/7, however, can be at risk.

Think about it: what do they do to punish someone in prison? They put them in isolation.

Mental Health: Avoiding Isolation Prison

This may not be the best thing for some employees. And in the short-term, the situation isn’t going to get any better: Those company holiday parties and outings have all but disappeared. Have you thought about ways to help your employees feel more engaged?

Here are some ideas to implement today:

  • Reach out and check on them
  • Send small gifts or have an online game night
  • Do you offer an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to your employees? If so, reacquaint yourself with its offerings (making your staff aware it exists could be more important now than ever).
  • Can you positively influence their off-hours time? (We bought our staff access to Master Class as a way to keep them mentally stimulated with things other than work.)

Working where you live eliminates that daily connection many of us took for granted. Yes, some of your employees may thrive within this new environment. But understand that many may not.

What are you doing for those individuals?

4. Physical Health Issues

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, people were able to work out (gym, outdoors, etc.) more frequently. Unfortunately, working out from home is not for everybody.

The term “couch potato” often brings up the image of those sitting in front of the TV on the weekend. For many, that image is now our reality – seven days a week. And we’re working longer hours (thus the excitement of companies seeming an increase in productivity) while sitting in front of the computer! Physical activity studies recommend walking 10,000 steps a day. Most of us are lucky if we get past 1,000! Less physical activity leads to more physical problems, which leads to more money spent on health care (on top of the obvious costs associated with COVID-19).

It may not seem to be a problem now. But long term, inactivity is bound to be an issue.

Your employees must take some time for their physical health each day. Something as simple as standing up at the top of the hour and stretching can help. Standing desks have also shown significant benefits. Whatever message you can convey to your employees to move around a little each day, step outside on their front porch or in their back yard. And if they have stairs at home—encourage them to walk up and down a few extra times during the workday.

Remote Work Policies: Prepare for the Future

Today, many companies are touting increased productivity due to remote work policies. But when something looks too good to be true, it often is.

Companies need to be looking at the long-term effects of remote working on their employees, their company culture, and their differentiators in the marketplace. After all, short-term gains (like increased productivity) don’t always turn into long-term strategies.

If people are working harder at home, has your company assessed its sustainability? Once life returns to normal (and it will), how many people will be willing to work the same hours while watching reruns of “Friends”? Most importantly, what issues will we need to anticipate, given the strain the pandemic has caused on your employees’ mental and physical health?

Create sustainable remote work policies now.

Better to look at ways to address the not-so-great aspects of working from home, and your COVId-19 induced remote work policies, now — pay now or pay later!

 

Photo by Damedeeso

How to Empower Employees Around the Holidays — And Why You Should

When the holiday season hits, businesses and workplaces can sometimes get especially busy. Even worse, with all the craziness of the season they can fall into a holiday slump. But even if the holidays have thrown people off, you can still empower employees to be balanced and productive. And, in the long run, it’s better for everyone if you do.

So how do you maintain your business’s health and employee consistency? You empower everyone in your workplace to make the schedule changes and project decisions required to reach their end-of-year goals. This empowerment can be a tremendous motivating factor. It also makes everyone feel more fulfilled, helping your workplace genuinely thrive.

Here are a few ways you can make empowerment happen, and a few reasons why you should.

More Freedom

One of the best ways to encourage your employees to be productive and get things done is to offer more freedom with their schedules and hours. Though this may seem like it will let employees slack, it can actually empower them to get more done and fit work in where they can. Additionally, allowing more leeway around remote working can have the same effect.

Self-Determining Performance Goals

Another great way to empower employees to achieve more around the holiday season is by allowing them to set their own performance goals so they can manage their expectations according to their capabilities.

This autonomy allows more leadership opportunities in your workplace, as employees can encourage each other and self-motivate. This way, people can move at their own pace and perhaps achieve even more than you may have anticipated.

Team Meetings and Connection

Some of the best devices to motivate people and empower them as a team offer connection. Meetings, mixers, and team-related activities can bring people together and remind them of the communal spirit your workplace fosters. It doesn’t even have to be all business — some fun perks can go a long way, as satisfied employees tend to work the best.

Regardless of what you put together, remind people they’re a part of a team, and focus on your collective goals — not just individual objectives. In addition to establishing a focus on purpose, this approach enables a motivated workforce.

Recharging

Another excellent reason for why and how to allow some leeway and freedom during the holidays is enabling your employees to recharge and find some balance between their work and personal lives. You may wonder how encouraging employees to take time for themselves results in better outcomes.

The answer is quite simple. When employees have time to recharge, they produce higher-quality work, and they do it more efficiently. They can re-energize themselves, which means they come back with a better work ethic than someone who feels burnt out.

Consistency

Another reason to empower employees is that it helps maintain consistency — both within their work schedules and for your workplace as a whole. While some workplaces get into a holiday slump and then have to ramp up again in the new year, you can remain consistent. This means no slump over the holidays. And, just as critical, there’s no need for a correcting crackdown in January.

Your end-of-year bottom line?

Encourage your employees to find balance and take control of their goals and workplace performance. You’ll see better results during the holidays – and beyond. And by doing so, you’ll create a healthy, consistent work environment full of individuals motivated to get the job done.

 

Photo by Milkos

4 Effective Ways to Execute 2021 Employee Training

There is no doubt employee training boosts motivation and reduces turnover. But did you know that training also provides employees greater direction, purpose, and peace of mind?

According to a recent report, 94 percent of employees say they would stay with a company longer if their employer invested in their learning. The report also found that heavy learners are 47 percent more likely to find purpose in their job. They’re more likely to know the direction of their career. And they’re 47 percent less likely to feel stressed at work.

Ongoing employee education should be a top priority for every organization. Unfortunately, the abrupt shift to remote work sparked by the pandemic forced many companies to push training to the back burner. As companies reexamine their 2021 budgets, many HR and training professionals seek smarter ways to invest in and execute employee training in 2021.

Here are four tips for getting the very best training for your employees — even if you have a smaller budget:

1. Ask Managers and Employees to Help Identify Gaps in Knowledge

According to a recent McKinsey memo, CFOs budgeting for 2021 should be looking to unlock more profound value from every investment. That includes employee training. Of course, for some companies, maintaining certifications will require training. In other cases, you may be completely clueless about the gaps in employees’ knowledge.

To ensure you’re investing wisely, talk to department managers and employees about what type of training would be most beneficial. Their knowledge and support will be helpful if you have to make a case for the investment. Plus, employees are likely to get more out of training they’ve already identified as needed.

2. Invest in Private Group Training

The pandemic may have disrupted your training in 2020, but that doesn’t mean 2021 should be a lost year. You can set up private group training either on-site or virtually, depending on current COVID-19 restrictions and your organization’s comfort level. Private group training gives you ultimate flexibility on scheduling, and the instructors come to you.

Private group training is an excellent investment, in part because you can tailor training to your company and employees’ needs. For example, IT training solution provider IBEX offers a customized curriculum to ensure the training aligns with your organization’s goals. They also incorporate your internal processes and terminology into the curriculum. Plus, educating an entire team or department is more cost-effective than training individuals.

3. Set-up Video “Lunch and Learns”

Executing employee training isn’t just about giving your team the technical skills they need to level up. It’s also about igniting their curiosity and creating a culture of growth. Of course, this idea gets a little nebulous when your team is remote. After all, where does that spirit of inquiry live when your employees are working from home?

One way to keep this growth mindset during a lockdown? Coordinate virtual “lunch and learns.” You’ve probably heard of TED Talks, but now you can get customized video recommendations based on your interests with TED Recommends. Pick a new video every week, and then discuss it as a team via Zoom. Not only will this help spark curiosity and innovation, but it will also give your team some much-needed social interaction.

4. Book Virtual Conferences Early

As COVID-19 cases surged, many organizers canceled major 2020 conferences. It’s unclear if big festivals such as South by Southwest will have physical events in 2021, but many are planning online events. While digital experiences don’t bring all the excitement of in-person events, there are certain advantages to booking online conferences.

First, many conferences are making their panels and keynotes available on-demand. This approach allows for greater flexibility and means your team can be sure not to miss the most relevant sessions. Second, these virtual events enable HR and training professionals to score tickets for a fraction of the typical cost. Tickets to SXSW usually cost upwards of $1,700, for example. But early-bird tickets for the virtual event are going for just $149. Plus, your company won’t have to foot the bill for plane tickets and hotel rooms.

Now more than ever, the future is uncertain; no one has any idea how 2021 will look.

The one thing we do know? Ongoing employee education provides enrichment that boosts job satisfaction and morale. Training is also an investment in your human capital that pays dividends for years. So as you look ahead to 2021, pay extra attention to how you will execute employee training for your company.

Photo by Taylor Deas-Melesh

Employee Mental Health Needs: Everyone Loses with A Reactive Approach

It’s now starkly obvious that the coronavirus pandemic has changed so many aspects of our lives — not the least of which is the mental health of our employees. Rates of anxiety, stress, and depression are all up. The good news is that many companies have responded by increasing investments in their existing well-being programs.

A recent survey of 256 companies by the nonprofit National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions found that 53% now provide special emotional and mental health programs for their employees.

Some of these programs have garnered media attention:

  • Starbucks began providing access to 20 free counseling or coaching sessions, which can also be accessed by family members, at no cost.
  • Unilever launched a 14-day mental well-being resilience program for its employees.
  • Professional services firm EY now offers live daily workouts online to help reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Goldman Sachs now gives employees an extra ten days of family leave annually to take care of personal needs.

Missing the Mental Well-being Mark

Offered by four very employee-empathetic brands, those types of initiatives are valuable — as far as they go. But here’s the unfortunate reality: Most of today’s mental well-being solutions:

  • Have no underpinning in clinical psychology
  • Often focus solely on treatment
  • Fail to be proactive or treat the whole employee

In other words, the common wisdom around employee mental well-being is both backward and ineffective. In the end, these programs are band-aids. They don’t help sustain and nourish every employee’s total well-being — including their mental health. These programs also fail to help build your company culture and employer brand.

Why don’t they work?  Because they don’t empower employees to proactively identify and prevent mental distress and ill health. You see, it’s not enough to give employees the kinds of tools and programs that will support and potentially help them mend when the going gets tough, and their mental health suffers. You need to get ahead of the game.

Mental Health Needs: The Bigger Picture

Step back and consider this: Everyone has mental health all the time. Everyone, every day, is somewhere on the spectrum of mental health wellness.

Yet, our current mental health programs are nearly exclusively treatment-based. They’re designed and built to support the 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. who annually experience some form of mental health illness. Workplace mental health programs are no different.

The mental health of those 1 in 5 shouldn’t be the only ones considered during a pandemic — or at any other time.

After all, you don’t expect your employees to wait until their teeth are rotten to start brushing or getting regular cleanings, do you? To avoid developing severe problems down the road, they brush every day (you hope!). You also hope they see the dentist at least now and then.

It’s time to start treating your employees’ mental health the same as their dental health — proactively, holistically, and with tools and wisdom from trained professionals.

The Best Approach to Mental Health Needs

To fully support mental health, you, of course, first need an approach that mitigates the stress and anxiety we see today. But, going forward, you also need a proactive approach to supporting well-being. (By the way, only 6% of workers use the employee assistance programs provided to them, so there’s not much help there.)

Next, you must realize that employee health isn’t one-dimensional, and successful well-being programs can’t be one-size-fits-all. The answer is a whole-person, whole-organization approach that:

  • Applies preventive mental health strategies that affect change in any individual’s psychological, physical, and social well-being (the three spheres of the human condition)
  • Is individualized for each employee

The Wrong Approach to Mental Well-Being

Let’s face it: Perks like a limited number of coaching sessions, more flexible work schedules, and mindfulness apps can be helpful. But they assume your employees know precisely what they need at any given moment. They also believe employees understand where they are on their mental health journey.

Lastly, it’s essential to understand that most of today’s mental well-being solutions didn’t start from a clinically proven mindset. This means they don’t address the whole person — psychological, physical, social (maybe you’ve heard this as “mind, body, heart,” or similar). Neither do they address the seven aspects of daily life that nourish and support mental well-being:

  1. Happiness
  2. Sleep
  3. Coping
  4. Calmness
  5. Health
  6. Connection
  7. Fulfillment

You can take significant steps to prevent mental unwellness by nourishing those seven aspects of daily life. You’ll also improve your company culture and improve your employer brand. After all, employee mental health is out in front of everyone today.

Today’s Mental Health Reality

Compared to the start of the pandemic, a recent Qualtrics and SAP study of over 2,700 employees across more than ten industries found:

  • 75% feel more socially isolated
  • 67% report higher stress
  • 57% have greater anxiety
  • 53% feel more emotionally exhausted

The effects of 2020 will undoubtedly continue to impact the mental health of your employees. It’s cold comfort to note that the pandemic has opened employers’ eyes to what has been silently occurring below the surface for a long time: Their employees’ mental health, just like their physical health, is always in need of support. It can’t be ignored, and it certainly shouldn’t be. Unless, of course, you want to see the financial impacts of a workforce that’s left entirely to its own devices and is wholly unsupported.

Seek out a proactive, preventive, and clinically based mental health platform that addresses the whole employee. Don’t settle for one that can’t ensure the health and well-being of the whole person and your whole organization.

You can improve employee mental health. Start now by focusing on ways to help employees be healthier, more resilient, and more productive for whatever the uncertain future brings. 

 

Luis Tosta

Here’s Why Today’s Leaders Should Choose “And” Thinking

To the detriment of talent development and work cultures everywhere, we most often employ “either/or” thinking. Let’s talk about why today’s leaders should more often choose “and” thinking….

So many important aspects of human capital are nuanced and interrelated, yet seemingly polar opposites. For instance, recognizing the individual performer or recognizing team efforts. Showing respect for each person or showing respect based on performance and rewarding managerial-style performance or rewarding leaders.

Some organizations state only half of these pairs as desired values, hence the “or” between them. This is a mistake because when we see these values framed as either/or choices, we miss the synergy from leveraging the best from both sides. We cause harm from overfocusing on one value to the neglect of the other. After all, many values are interdependent, and ideas we think might be opposites are both highly desirable. The misleading part about this is that they need to live in tension with one another over time.  These pairings can be called paradoxes, wicked problems, or polarities that require “and thinking.”

“And” Thinking Versus “Or” Thinking

Both inside and outside of work, complexities exist that require us to think about these tensions between seemingly opposing pairs, rather than choosing A over B. For instance, one critical thinking point for leaders is the push-pull between continuity and transformation.

Those business leaders often find themselves executing complex change initiatives that enable their companies to compete better. At the same time,  they must create and maintain consistent foundational cultures employees can lean into – no matter what. All too often, when the message is only why complex changes are necessary, without acknowledging what has been going well (and what needs to remain in place), even the best plans blow up.

Everything done “the old way” is now wrong. Right?

This pervasive contradiction lowers morale and confuses, thereby sabotaging the energy and focus needed to implement the change.

Centralized Versus Decentralized Coordination

One of the biggest derailers for employees is the pendulum swing between centralized coordination and decentralized coordination. Organizations are frequently in a seesaw around this polarity. It’s as if one is better than the other, so they over-focus on one at the expense of the other.

For instance, a new chief executive officer is instituted and says: “We’ve lost the entrepreneurial nature of this organization, and we must decentralize and give control to each of the business units.” Because centralization and decentralization are interrelated, people complain there is no coordination and little ability to share services effectively. That causes the next CEO to say: “We have to centralize; everything is all over the map. Nobody knows who’s on first.” After finally getting used to the new structure, it whipsaws back to some version of the old one. With the average tenure of CEOs being three-and-a-half years, organizations must simultaneously focus on centralization and decentralization.

The Solution: Mapping Versus Gapping

One way around this conundrum is to institute a mapping process…

 

polarity map

 

Instead of executing a gap analysis, which is how most people approach change, we think about the upside and downside of their preferred value or pole in the polarity equation. We then do the same for the countervailing pole.  Then, as the diagram illustrates, we outline action steps for gaining the upsides from each pole. We also design strategies for avoiding the downsides of each if we over-focus on one pole to neglect the other.

That is “and” thinking.

Once we get the tension right between the different energetic poles, my clients find themselves comfortably resting in a virtuous cycle. They begin to get the best of both options, no matter how opposite those options seem. For many leaders, this comes as such a relief. Because those leaders, rather than focusing on the power of both – the “and” – tend to over-focus on one side of the equation. They then find themselves in a vicious and contentious cycle that isn’t good for them, their fellow leaders, or their teams.

Harness the power of both poles. Expand your thinking to “and.” You’ll soon create a virtuous cycle that will enable your organization to thrive, freeing your teams to unify under healthy “and” tensions versus the opposing camps that can form from “or” decisions.

 

Photo by Chris Montgomery

How to Create an Emotionally Comfortable Remote Working Environment

How can companies create a remote working environment that is both productive and emotionally comfortable?

With offices forced to close for long periods due to COVID-19, many people have adapted well to remote working. They have found working from home offers benefits from more flexible working hours to fewer distractions. However, working solo can also make employees feel more isolated; they may struggle to separate work and home life. This can leave workers less motivated and affect their overall wellbeing.

Read on to discover four ways to create an emotionally comfortable remote working environment that supports your team while helping keep them focused.

Establish Boundaries Between Work and Home

Remote working often means more flexibility in working hours and no time spent commuting to and from the office. However, it can also make it harder to establish boundaries between work and home life. Employees might be tempted to work longer hours to maintain their productivity. Or they might feel like they need to be available at all hours of the day so can’t switch off.

It’s important to help remote workers establish a clear boundary between their working day and free time. Otherwise, their mental well-being may suffer. At the very least, their stress levels will likely increase.

Outline the hours, or at least the number of hours, staff should work. Even if an employee is flexible with their actual working hours, encourage them to not work beyond a certain time in the evening so they have a proper break.

Also, suggest ways in which they can keep work and home separate. For example: Setting up a dedicated office space away from where they would relax in the evening. Or switching off the computer at the end of the day and over weekends. And suggest they not check emails before their agreed-upon work-day begins or after it ends. Finally, share useful information about staying motivated when working from home like this post from the Productivityist blog.

And, of course, encourage people to take their annual leave. Even if they don’t have any holiday plans or the pandemic continues to make travel difficult, it’s important to take time off. And it’s crucial that every team member feels they deserve a break.

Ensure a Productive Home Office Setup

Even though we’re several months into the pandemic, not everyone has a perfectly productive space at home for remote working. But it’s important to do everything you can to set them up with a productive-as-possible workspace. Treat their home space the same way as you would getting someone set up in your office building. After all, space and equipment impact their ability to focus well enough to do their job well.

When possible, provide W-2 employees with all the equipment and furniture they need. From a technology perspective, provide a laptop, screen, keyboard, headphones, cell phone, and any job-specific equipment. Also, ensure they have a proper desk and an ergonomic good chair. To identify and resolve any issues, share a workstation evaluation checklist like this one from OSHA with all remote employees. Also helpful, StarTech has some useful guides sharing tips for ensuring fast internet connections, reducing eye strain, and creating a comfortable set up. Once an analysis is done, you can then send employees any extra equipment they might need such as audio cables, adaptors, wireless devices, and laptop stands.

Set Clear Expectations

When you’re working in an office, it’s fairly easy to have a quick five-minute catch-up conversation or ask questions about your work. You can spontaneously talk through projects and assignments. While face-to-face, it seems easier to provide a detailed handover of work.

To create an emotionally comfortable remote work environment, leaders and peers must ensure everyone is on the same page at all times. They must feel confident about what they are doing and who to talk to if they’ve got questions. Just as important, they need to know how to talk to people and when.

To generate this feeling of confidence, companies need to set up the right systems and procedures. It must be clear what someone is expected to do, specific tasks they need to complete, and how long it should take. Ensure you are effectively managing projects — provide clear, detailed briefs for work that covers everything they need to know and when it’s due. In all cases, expectations around deadlines must be properly set.

You can create a document management system by following the steps in this post from The Balance. The key: Keep documents stored in one easily accessible place, and establish a procedure for creating, organizing, and sharing documents or projects.

Maintain Regular Communication

Another important part of creating an emotionally comfortable remote working environment is keeping in regular contact with everyone. Your goal: To stop people from feeling isolated or alone. Remote workers can struggle to feel like they are still part of a team. Isolation can cause a loss of motivation, which may lead to a less engaged employee.

Use daily meetings to catch up on work progress. Arrange regular video call drop-in sessions where your team can talk about non-work related things and catch up. Also, add an extra five minutes at the start of scheduled meetings for everyone to chat a bit.

Every month or so, arrange a well-being check-in with individuals to see how they’re doing and to give them a chance to discuss any challenges. Regular staff surveys are also a useful way to connect and check-in with employees. You can use this survey template from SurveyMonkey to determine how your team is coping and the steps necessary to improve their remote working environments.

Create and Maintain a Comfortable Remote Work Environment

Overall, creating an emotionally comfortable remote working environment relies on maintaining contact between everyone in the business. It also means checking in to see how people are doing.

To successfully make it through the COVID pandemic, it’s important to make people feel like they are still part of a team, even when working alone.

 

Charles Deluvio

Disability Etiquette: Be Considerate, Be Inclusive, Take Action

As we close out the month of October, there’s been no shortage of topics to focus on in the workplace. But October has also been National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). So, for many in the workplace, this month has been all about raising consciousness and improving conditions for American workers with disabilities — and speaking out about disability etiquette.

Frankly, this is something we should all focus more on — year-round.

Given that we’ve been operating since March within the context of a pandemic, it’s even more important to understand the challenges employees with disabilities face. Also important: What leaders and managers can do to help overcome those challenges.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers provide job applicants and employees with disabilities “reasonable accommodations” that enable them to enjoy equal employment opportunities. But accommodation is not just about access — it’s also about empathy and consideration. This is especially true since disabilities may include a whole range of impairments that aren’t immediately obvious. In fact, in many situations we may not realize the extent of existing conditions. So, it is wise to not make assumptions or place individuals in stereotype buckets.

Here are some pointers for improving disability etiquette in your workplace — remote, blended, or on-site:

Mobility Impairments

It’s important not to assume the extent of mobility based on the use or lack of assistive devices, such as walking assistants or wheelchairs. After all, it’s highly possible a mobility-impaired employee may not use them. They still may need accommodations, however; for instance, they may be unable to walk long distances or stand for long periods of time.

To accommodate these needs: If you’re a remote workplace, schedule video meetings with extra time for people to get situated. If onsite, provide accessible parking and ADA-compliant accessibility. Two other simple ways to help: Clearing pathways and making sure most everything is reachable from a wheelchair. Also, ask what is in the way and what can’t be reached, then act on the answers. Particularly during social distancing, but also in general, don’t touch canes or reach out to “help” move a wheelchair or other assistive device without permission. And certainly don’t push a wheelchair or move a cane or walker to the side to “get it out of the way.”

Disability etiquette bonus: When in a conversation with someone in a wheelchair, kneel or sit down so you’re at eye level when talking.

Vision Impairments

In the physical workplace, post braille signage on the walls and doors and ensure any signage and posters are available in an alternate forms. Keep corridors and pathways clear of obstructions and make the routes of travel clear and straightforward. And make sure all new vision-impaired employees are given a detailed tour of the workplace.

Any workplace, remote or not, should provide assistive technology for in-place systems and technologies as well as any kind of new training or communication methods. Examples include scanners or magnifiers, digital recorders and dictation devices, screen reading software, refreshable braille displays, and braille embossers. Of course, depending on the individual’s preference, distributed written materials should be available in braille, large print or audio. Again, ask then act. And it should go without saying, but service animals and must be allowed in any office.

Disability etiquette bonus: Don’t pet guide dogs without permission.

Hearing Impairments

There’s an incredible range of assistive technologies for the deaf and hard of hearing. Employers must ensure their workplaces accommodate them, and the people who use them. For an employee with a hearing issue, even something as seemingly straightforward as a video meeting can become an epic frustration. So consider an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter as well as CART (communication access real-time translation). Real-time captioning is also an option.

Accommodation, for some, may be as simple as making sure those in the meeting are situated in the best possible position to read lips. Speakers can also help in this area; encourage them not to turn away and to not put their hands in front of their mouths.

Disability etiquette bonus: Please, when talking to the hearing impaired, don’t shout to be heard. And, unless asked, resist temptation to repeat yourself.

Speech Impairments

Imagine being in a Zoom meeting and dealing with aphasia or a stutter. I was recently in a video conference where an employee was clearly struggling. At times, she needed more time to carefully articulate her points. Unfortunately, the climate of the virtual room was anything but patient.

You can help in these situations by facilitating an accommodating environment. Deliberately give each contributor room to think, and time to breathe. And if you’re not clear on what someone just said, don’t gloss over it: you may be missing a critical point. Instead, ask them to repeat it, and give them the time to do so. And please be patient enough to allow them to complete their own sentences.

Disability etiquette bonus: For some, it may simply be easier to communicate in writing — a Slack channel, for instance. Provide that opportunity before each meeting, then make sure everyone has access.

Disability Etiquette for Other Impairments

There are other impairments to consider: Respiratory impairments and chemical sensitivities (which traditional office cleaning products can wreak havoc on), for example. Cognitive and psychological impairments are becoming more prevalent; each carries its own burden and challenge for the individual.

No matter the type or severity of the impairment, it’s up to the employer to provide access and opportunity. Most important, each employer and leader must provide the previously mentioned reasonable accommodation. They must also provide understanding, education, and awareness among those in your workforce. To that end, consider including issues of access and interactions in your next employee engagement survey.

For employees with disabilities, October is only one month out of a lifetime. We’ve come so far this year, and this is one more way we can evolve. A truly inclusive workplace that accommodates and welcomes everyone leads to far greater productivity. Data also shows inclusivity boosts employee morale and brings teams together in ways that supercharge creativity and innovation.

Welcoming everyone, regardless of apparent and not-so-obvious impairments, is good for everyone. And that’s good for business.

 

 

SevenStorm

[#WorkTrends] Company Culture: The High Cost of Misalignment

Among remote work teams, how common is misalignment with company culture? And what is the cost?

All over the United States, cases of COVID-10 are once again spiking. We’re setting records again — and not the good kind. Daily, it seems, we see and hear grim reminders that this pandemic maintains a firm grip on our country, and our psyche.

For many of us, returning to the office about the same time as kids returned to school seemed possible. Not any more. And for many companies — especially those that have enabled a loose operating system around remote working, it’s time to tighten up. Of course, we all did what had to be done to keep our employees, customers, and vendors safe. But long-term social distancing comes with a cost. And often that cost comes in the form of misalignment to company culture.

So now, 8+ months into the pandemic, it is time to revisit our core values and purpose. Just as important, now is the time to once again encourage our employees to factor those core values into our daily work habits and to refocus on our purpose.

Our Guest: Natalie Baumgartner, PhD Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers

This week on #WorkTrends, I welcomed Natalie Baumgartner, Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers, to talk about the challenge of aligning today’s remote workforces to company cultures. Our timing couldn’t be better: Based on their recent survey of over 1,100 people around the world, Achievers’ Workforce Institute just published its 2020 Culture Report.

As Natalie said at the beginning of this episode, the survey asked respondents about culture alignment — both before and during the COVID-19 crisis. Specifically, Achievers sought to measure the extent to which an organization understands its values — and then aligns everything the company does to those values. Also included were questions related to engagement, recognition, and the voice of the employee. The answers to those questions, according to Natalie, were revealing.

“We found culture alignment dropped significantly during COVID-19. In addition, organizations found themselves less able to align decision making to company values. That’s not really a surprise, though. After all, there was no forewarning. We didn’t understand the massive impact this pandemic would have on business. So organizations have been in crisis-management mode.”

After telling Natalie I also wasn’t surprised, I shared that to me, and perhaps to many of our listeners, hearing this provides just a little bit of comfort. It helps to know nobody’s alone in this; we really are in this together. There’s also comfort knowing we can work toward a solution, together. Natalie agreed, and injected a distinct sense of urgency:

“It’s true, and now we can step back and see everything organizations have had to manage around the world, and in short order. But we also know there’s a very strong correlation between culture alignment and employee engagement. And when we see this dip in culture alignment, we know it is going to negatively impact employee engagement, and very soon.”

Company Culture Misalignment: Communication as Part of The Solution

After so clearly stating the challenge, Natalie began to talk about the solution: “The good news is there are simple ways to foster and maintain culture alignment. We’re not talking about massive overhaul initiatives, which are impossible and unpalatable while still in the midst of a pandemic.”

I asked if clear communication, which can have such a key role to play in terms of alignment, is a major factor in realigning company culture. Natalie responded: “What’s most important, regardless of the type of culture you have, is clarifying and communicating what your values are. Make it simple. Focus on four to six values, then make sure those values are clear to everyone. If you do nothing else in terms of culture alignment, that is most important.” Natalie added:

“You must say, ‘This is who we are. This is how we want to do business.’”

Natalie and I went on to discuss many other communication-based solutions to misalignment of culture, including CEO-led virtual town hall meetings and open recognition of a job well done. Of the latter, Natalie says, “Recognition is, objectively, the single, most powerful driver of engagement.” I couldn’t agree more!

I invite you to take in this inspiring and timely interview with Natalie. Grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the listen!

#WorkTrends Twitter Chat: Wednesday, November 4th

I also invite you to help us extend this conversation on Wednesday, November 4th at 1:30 pm Eastern. Natalie will be there to further discuss company culture, engagement, and inspiring remote work teams. She’ll also help provide answers to these questions:

  • Q1: Why do organizations struggle with communicating core values? #WorkTrends
  • Q2: What strategies can help boost alignment? #WorkTrends
  • Q3: How can leaders boost alignment? #WorkTrends

Natalie and I will see you there!

 

Find Natalie on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

This podcast was sponsored by Achievers.

 

Editor’s note: Have you checked out our new FAQ page and #WorkTrends Podcast pages? Please do, then let us know how we’re doing!

 

Nataliya Vaitkevich

More Employees Want Remote Work, But Do Yours (and Why)?

In a recent remote work survey of some 1,200 office workers, PwC found that in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic 77% would like to work from home at least two days per week. Most (83%) want to work from home at least one day per week. That’s a lot of employees wanting to get out of the office and onto their computers from home.

Months after the pandemic hit, teams are still adapting to this new remote-first world—it’s the latest organizational buzzword. But let’s hold the phone just a second. What might this desire to get out of the in-house work environment really mean?

The question isn’t whether your people will be able to work remotely over the long-term. We have the communications and collaboration technology to make it happen. The real question is whether your company can survive a sustained remote environment.

Business leaders need to begin this evaluation of remote vs. in-house work by asking themselves a really difficult question:

Why don’t your people want to come back in and work together?

Work Has Changed — People Haven’t

The thing is, people haven’t changed one bit. We’re still made of the same stuff… no one has suddenly developed a whole new set of emotions. Nope, still just the basic ones. And don’t kid yourself, emotions still drive much of what we do (and what your team does). Of course, some employees are struggling to meet the needs of children and other family members at home creating the need to work out of their homes. Others are experiencing for the first time a workspace without the commute and expensive wardrobe. And let’s not forget the very real, legitimate concerns about safety and exposure to Coronavirus.

The transition to remote work may well prove the most profitable and successful choice for some. But if you don’t have the company culture to support that shift, going remote as a knee-jerk reaction to this trend could be a massive mistake.

In fact, remote work can introduce a whole new host of problems for your people. Harvard Business Review researchers identify social isolation, distractions at home, interpersonal challenges, and reduced access to managerial support as among the top challenges of remote work.

Without the underlying culture to solve the initial set of in-office concerns for your team, how on earth are you going to combat remote work issues like that?

What we need to be doing now as leaders is asking our employees what they want.

Remote Work: What Does Your Team Need?

It’s going to be different for your team than it is for mine, and you’re going to find a whole host of diverse issues and concerns across your organization.

Company culture isn’t just a concept at the executive level—it’s the heart and soul of your company, from bottom to top and everywhere in between. People need to know that they can make a difference regardless of their job title. After all, the culture IS the people; it’s theirs. They comprise company culture. Leaders don’t dictate the culture, but rather are responsible for keeping it going strong.

You can’t just ask what your team needs and then fail to act, though. Leaders must follow through. You must be willing to listen—really listen—and act on those suggestions that are in the best interests of your company, customers, and employees.

Since you’ve asked for the truth, be prepared to hear that you and your policies may be part of the problem. That can definitely smart, but that’s just the nature of the beast. Hearing only what’s great doesn’t change anything. In fact, this kind of honest, clear feedback is part of the process of learning how you need to show up for your employees.

Ask them, and they’ll tell you if the environment has been made safe for open feedback. Hearing directly from your people what would make their work better gives you a free and concise direction on what to tackle. There is a huge bonus to this as well; when you make their needs a priority (and they trust that it’s important), they’ll show up for you in the most surprising ways.

Ask the Right Questions

If you haven’t been receptive and open in the past, you may need to work a bit harder at gaining employees’ trust. Enable employees to give their feedback anonymously. Don’t ask questions that simply confirm what it is you already think you should do; ask open-ended questions and give your people space and time to respond freely.

Ask your employees:

  • Why do you want to work remotely instead of the office?
  • Why do you want to keep coming in and not work remote?
  • What challenges do you feel are preventing you from doing your best work?
  • Which supports would make your life easier?
  • What do you feel is missing from your at-home work environment?
  • What do you feel is missing from your in-office work environment?
  • How can leadership do better?

You don’t need to run out and implement every idea that surfaces. Instead, be willing to evaluate each employee’s needs and have an open conversation about which supports you can put in place and which you cannot. Don’t make change just for the sake of change—make the right change based on that clarity about what you’re doing and why.  And then, do it all again down the road. You have to stay in touch with what’s going on, and it can change quickly.

Assume the Best of Intentions

Assume your employees have the best of intentions in sharing feedback. Don’t presume there is negative sentiment driving their input, even where a negative experience may have been shared. Show kindness and appreciation for their input by discussing it openly and sharing feedback back to the team. Stay connected, stay curious, and never lose the sense of fun and love that brought all of these people together in the first place.

The right change may be a transition to flexible hours or some variation of a remote work environment. But you might just as easily find that the solution for your people involves in-office supports you hadn’t considered, activities and programs that energize the team, incentives that help them celebrate one another’s successes or some combination of all three.

Industry trends are one thing, but the way forward comes from within. It comes from your people. They will love you even more if you’re willing to listen and make a change for them.

Now that’s magic.

 

Startup Photos

How Global HR Leaders Are Navigating the Post Pandemic Workplace

In the past six months, we’ve seen the rise of what I can best describe as ‘emergency culture’. Employees are in a constant state of high alert. “Solving the unsolvable is the new normal,” says Flóra Bondici, chief people officer at Trax Retail, a global provider of computer vision solutions. So what happens when HR leaders need to transition from this “now normal” to the post pandemic workplace?

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world economy, putting some 3.9 billion people, or half of the world’s population, in lockdown or under stay-at-home orders for months. In April, the International Labour Organization forecasted that workplace disruptions would wipe out 6.7% of working hours globally by the second quarter. That’s the equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs. HR departments across the globe sprang into action in response to the crisis to ensure the safety of workers. Everyone did what needed to be done.

The road to recovery, however, is paved with a whole new set of challenges. Here are three key themes surrounding recovery strategies, as seen by global Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs).

Employee Wellbeing: Buzzword or the Next Big Thing?

Earlier this year, millions of people found themselves confined to their homes day after day. Ramping up remote work plans, however, turned out to be only one of the many steps organizations had to take to keep employees safe. 

“We held dozens of workshops on the challenges of remote work and made sure to invite people from different departments to each of them. We talked about work and home life and actively encouraged them to share ideas and learn from each other,” remembers Györgyi Tóth, HR Director at Deloitte Hungary. The reception was overwhelmingly positive. “For our colleagues the feeling that they’re not left alone with their hardships was the biggest takeaway from these discussions.”

Helping Employees Overcome Stress

Thanks to the advent of the digital economy and ‘always on’ work schedules, helping employees overcome stress and improve health behaviors had been a top priority in the CHRO agenda for years. And if there’s one thing the coronavirus crisis has highlighted is that it’s here to stay.   

“We also launched a ‘remote nursery’ for working parents. With the help of nursery school teachers, we set up a Facebook group. Within that group, colleagues  find and share educational videos, useful links and playful learning activities for kids of all ages,” Tóth explains. She adds that HR professionals must be vigilant in looking out for employees who are struggling with anxiety, stress and burnout while in isolation. But they should not be the only ones to do so. 

“It’s very important colleagues watch out for each other. If you see that a co-worker is having a hard time adjusting, and you have the means to help out, just do it!”

Should I Stay or Should I Go: Rethinking the Way we Work

In most countries, COVID-19 measures have been slowly lifted over the past few months. So what now? After all, the reentry struggle is real. This is especially true when it comes to safely redeploying employees, in and outside of the HR department. 

Some of the areas of greatest concern include work schedules, seating arrangements, meeting spaces and event and visitor policies. Even elevator, break room, and restroom usage cause concern. Each of these issues need to be explored as part of organizations’ reintegration strategies. Not to mention who, among the staff, wants to get back to work in the first place.

Employees Come First

Trax Retail’s policy is simple: Employees come first. 

“Our only principle is to be flexible, supportive and understanding. When people face unexpected situations, you must find ways to support them in unexpected ways. We’ve helped a colleague return to their home country for the birth of their first child, had home-cooked meals delivered to single working moms, you name it. Thankfully, we’ve been able to handle just about any ‘now normal’ scenario that’s come our way. Our people find comfort in knowing that we care,” explains Bondici. 

At technology solutions provider Continental, leaders first looked to the company’s Chinese branch for good practices. Then other branches started to chime in. “We’ve selected a best practice for each aspect of employee management. We’ve also made sure to collect employee feedback from all locations and respond to their concerns,” says Sarah Frachet, head of country HR at the company’s Hungarian subsidiary.

“Make it safe and keep it voluntary. These are the two cornerstones of our reentry efforts,” explains Tóth. An organization-wide survey has shown that one-third of Deloitte employees would be perfectly happy to continue working from home. On the other end of the spectrum, one-third would welcome the opportunity to return to the office, while the remaining one-third remain cautious. 

“We’ve decided to take a hybrid approach and let employees decide for themselves where they want to work.”

The Future is Now: What’s Next for HR?

In many organizations, the HR department has moved on from administration to strategy. In the post pandemic workplace, there were no other viable alternatives. Ultra-competitive job markets, evolving business models and a combination of rapid technology innovation and shifting employee expectations left them no choice but to evolve. Never have CHROs had to deliver so much so fast. 

But what role will HR play in our brave new post-pandemic workplace? And the world in general?

The answer, experts agree, is twofold. Human resources will definitely continue its rise as managements’ trusted ally in shaping the way enterprises create value through talent. At the same time, they must offer support on an operational level – now more than ever. With no clear coronavirus treatment or vaccine in sight and a second wave just around the corner, CHROs must work out strategies for taking extra health and safety measures, maintaining workplace morale and, if it comes to it, overseeing layoffs.

But from a much better position than in February and March, when the pandemic started to hit businesses hardest.

Moving on From a State of Panic

“By now, organizations have moved on from a state of panic to stepping up to the challenge and making the new normal work,” points out IseeQ CEO Tamás Püski. The same goes for hiring practices, too. More and more recruiters have embraced Zoom interviews and remote onboarding, not to mention the unexpected opportunities the corona crisis has brought about in talent acquisition. “There’s been a growing regional demand for local talent for months. Several companies in Western Europe who had to let go of people during the first wave, or were in the process of building new teams, are now looking to tap into CEE’s talent base.”

The Post Pandemic Workplace: Resilience in the Face of Uncertainty

In the post pandemic workplace, the most important strategic objective for any business is to build resilience in the face of unparalleled uncertainty.

Meaning that HR executives must find ways to prepare their organizations not for the next crisis – but for any crisis. And to do so, they must start thinking differently about who they hire – and why. 

“My parents would always tell me that a good education is a stepping stone to a good career. This is not exactly the case anymore,” says Frachet. Instead of looking at what a person can do during a job interview, recruiters increasingly focus on finding out what they can and are willing to learn to do. 

“Make sure you have the right people in the right places. Then make sure they never stop growing.”

Frachet adds: “Moving forward, growth is what HR must be all about.”

 

Pixabay

The Typical Work Week: Always On, Always Meeting

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. So goes the saying. For American professionals, however, the work week — and work itself — tends to be all-consuming. We tend to be running from meeting to meeting. So why not make those meetings more productive?

The United States, as a nation, has become synonymous with a culture of overworking.

According to the ILO, Americans work 260 more hours per year than British workers and 499 more hours per year than French workers. That is almost 10 extra hours each work week. And while at least 134 countries have laws in place to limit the number of working hours each week, the United States has no such laws.

This coincides with the findings of Doodle’s Q2 2020 State of Meetings report. The report was based on analysis of more than 30 million meetings booked worldwide during Q2 2020. The findings: There is no time in the workday when Americans are less likely to have meetings. The one exception: At noon when there was a slight dip to 9 percent (from 10 percent at 11 a.m.). But then, the percentage of meetings jumped up to 13% just one hour later at 1 p.m. This shows a clear pattern: Americans are ‘always on and always meeting.’

The Typical Work Week: No Productivity Flow

Making themselves available (and accepting meeting request after request) non-stop throughout the workday might seem like they’re being collaborative and open to feedback. But in reality, it’s interrupting their productivity ‘flow.’ Over-scheduling their workdays with too many meetings could also impact their ability to get work done, cause delays in larger projects, and affect their individual performance.

Interestingly, just a little more than 7% of American meetings in Q2 2020 took place between the evening hours of 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. While this might seem surprising to some, I believe this may actually contribute to the country’s overworking culture. Here’s why.

Because Americans are scheduling so many meetings during the actual workday (between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.), they are likely using their evening time to catch up on work they couldn’t finish due to the excessive number of meetings booked during the workday. Essentially, they’re making up for ‘lost time’ by completing work outside of business hours. That leads them right back to being overworked, stressed and burned out. And worse yet, this meeting overload can be a major drain on employees’ energy and lead to exhaustion, stress and burnout. That’s certainly not what anyone wants or needs right now.

The Pandemics’ Impact on Scheduled Meetings

The pandemic certainly has also had a huge impact on how American employees are meeting with their teams, colleagues and customers. For one, time management has become much more difficult and complicated than before the pandemic. Employees are juggling working from home, while managing their families, taking care of their children and making sure their children are also getting an education. So the distractions have quadrupled from what they were for employees who worked in office environments before COVID-19.

This has led to a massive spike in the number of virtual meetings over the last few months. For example, virtual group meetings jumped up 109% compared to the previous quarter. Meanwhile virtual one-to-one meetings grew by 136% in Q2 2020, compared to the previous quarter. When you look at both of these statistics, one thing comes to the top of my mind: Zoom fatigue.

Having to be present with the video on — let alone engaging and dynamic in online meetings, is a lot to ask of employees right now. And it’s incredibly draining and exhausting, both mentally and physically.

Meetings Don’t Have to Be 60 Minutes

It’s even more draining when people choose one hour as the default duration of every meeting. People choose one hour as their default meeting duration for a few reasons. For instance, they may not want to rush participants through the meeting. If a meeting is larger in size and includes both internal and external stakeholders, they might want to give everyone involved ample time and opportunity to share their ideas and provide feedback. And then there’s the simpler reason — they want to safeguard against a shorter meeting running too long and cutting into other meetings scheduled after.

But as Doodle’s Q2 2020 State of Meetings report reveals, shorter is better. In fact, the most popular meeting duration in Q2 2020 was 30 minutes (36%), followed by 15 minutes (31%). One-hour meetings came in third place. Limiting the length of meetings to 30 minutes or less can be vital in fending off Zoom fatigue. It can help keep the discussion more focused, prevent participants from veering off-track and result in better outcomes.

Let’s face it — no one likes sitting in a long meeting that’s poorly organized, lacks a clear focus and results in confusion. Those meetings are the worst and usually require having to set up more meetings to get clarity and direction that should have been provided during the original meeting. That’s more time wasted and less productivity for you. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Keep Meetings Productive

To ensure your meetings each work week are as focused, productive and worthwhile as possible, I have a few recommendations. First, don’t invite everyone to meetings. It’s ok to be selective. Only those people who will directly contribute and make an impact are essential. Inviting people just to make them feel included is a common problem and it hinders the focus and effectiveness of meetings. Second, don’t use one hour as your default meeting duration. If you can, keep meetings shorter (no longer than 30 minutes).

Now beyond that, give people sufficient notice ahead of booking meetings. If possible, aim for 5 days’ notice, at minimum. Try to avoid scheduling last-minute meetings with less than 24 hours’ notice. That isn’t respectful of other people’s time, their workload, and their priorities.

More importantly, don’t set the meeting and forget it. As the organizer, take ownership and hold yourself accountable for the success of your meetings. Do the prep work and make sure participants have also been briefed on the overall goals, key discussion points and expectations. This will provide structure to the meeting and prevent the meeting from going off-track.

Finally, since the work week is packed with meetings anyway, make better use of time during meetings. If critical information (background, perspectives, data) is needed ahead of a meeting, then ask these questions before the meeting takes place. And if you don’t get those responses before the meeting? Chances are that the meeting will be unproductive, go off-track and be a waste of everyone’s time. And if you can include those critical pre-meeting questions in the meeting invite itself? That’s even better. And means less waste of everyone’s time.

 

 

Avonne Stalling

How to Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis: One Path Toward Change 

The COVID-19 crisis continues to have a significant impact on business, communities, families and also, most importantly, people. Sadly, as of September 29th, the world has lost over one million of its citizens to this pandemic.

The 1 million number is hard to imagine; it breaks one’s heart to comprehend. 

As the Chief People Officer of Unit4, a global enterprise software company based in Europe, people who have been impacted by this disease touch me, and my entire team. Be it by contracting the virus, losing someone to it, or suffering the repercussions of a protracted lockdown with no end in sight.

As HR leaders go, my story isn’t unique. Like me, you live it every day. Perhaps it’s playing out in different ways based on your location, industry or company size. But no one is immune; this pandemic has touched everyone. You have many of the same conversations I do with company leaders, team managers, new hires and also customers. You most likely talk often about what you’re doing to help the company and our employees navigate this unpredictable situation. In our case, we’re a 40-year-old company going through our own “people experience” transformation while the COVID-19 crisis is happening.

Business Must Go On

Yep, it’s a lot. Again, I’m sure those of you reading this piece are facing similar challenges. And yet, business must go on. Change is rampant. And every step of the way, down what seems to be an unknown path, HR is playing a central role.

I’ve taken pen to paper many times over the past 8 month on the topic of finding opportunities through crisis and how organizations, like yours, can plan for “return to work.” One thing has become evident — while transformation was central to our 2020 plan, COVID has served as an accelerant. This virus pressure tested our resolve. It has forced us to rethink how our original plans would come together. All in an environment where “return to work” remains unpredictable, often on a daily basis.

While this byline could easily become a book (and may be one day), here are the five initiatives having the greatest impact in driving our “people experience” transformation while helping us navigate our COVID journey.

1. The Workspace Experience Evolution

As a company with a long history of global expansion, much of it through acquisition, our real estate footprint is vast. It often lacks consistency or purpose. Still, those offices were the place to meet, work and to leave at the end of the day — a very utilitarian approach. Each office served its purpose, but not elegantly. 

Realizing “the office concept” would undergo massive transformation, we began having conversations with employees and colleagues at other companies. We started seeing the art of what was possible. In the end, we found our philosophy around the workspace — its’ design, mission and intent — could help to further define and then evolve the Unit4 culture. 

People First Culture

Our company embraces a “people first” culture with values strongly tied making an impact, being genuine and open, and choosing curiosity. In the new workspace, we saw an opportunity to bring those values to life through design. Collaboration areas, whiteboard walls on which to ideate, calm spaces to do “deep thinking,” and seating areas that are familiar, warm and inviting. While we’re in the early design phase, our employees are already starting to rethink what a “day in the life at Unit4” might be. They are considering how their work, relationships, and team contributions may change for the better.

2. The Decisive Leader During the COVID-19 Crisis

For any major change management initiative to stay on track and take effect, the need for leaders to act decisively and swiftly is critical. Leaders must commit to the plan. But when it comes to making organization-related decisions, we often see those same leaders hitting the brakes. Equivocation is the enemy of progress. And it can lead to doubt, within the organization, as to the validity of the plan and its intended results. With the pandemic, this has become even more important. 

HR Plays a Central Role

As HR leaders, we’re responsible for people’s well-being. As business partners, we help leaders make key decisions that drive action. Those decisions impact how people get their work done, receive timely guidance around expectations, and where they can get assistance on health and safety-related issues. This is a core element in helping steer the organization through our current sea of uncertainty. My team and I have prioritized helping our leaders manage through change, advancing decisions in a timely fashion, and driving to quick resolution through tools like status-based dashboards and leadership updates.

Given our unique role, HR will play a central role in moving the organization forward while navigating the COVID-19 crisis.

3. I’ve Got the Power! 

Once a dance club hit by the artist Snap! back in the 1990’s, this phrase is also something we tell our people time and again:

“You’re in control of your work-life balance, career, and wellbeing. Whether you feel safe in returning to the workplace, regardless of local rules, is your decision.”

That’s been a difficult concept for many to take to heart. And in some cases, what we’ve said hasn’t translated into action. Especially when local managers have said, “No, you don’t have the power.” This became a real challenge. After all, we must first ensure employees understand and are able to leverage the programs and policies put in place. Most importantly, we must ensure support of compassionate policy when no one is coming to a central office and oversight is virtual.

Training is Key

Training was key, of course. So was creating an environment with open lines of communication. A high priority: We had to help to reestablish trust where it was weak. Today, it’s something we continue to work on. For example: For people confined to a home office, programs like Fit4U, mental health workshops, and meditation sessions have become much-appreciated, and much-needed, outlets.

We also offered ways for our employees to escalate issues when they came up. Given the nature of the pandemic, people felt personally and professionally vulnerable. So our role in creating lifelines and wellness outlets helped our people find pockets of normalcy in a world that was anything but normal.

4. Employee Experience and Customer Experience: The Ties that Bind

In Blake Morgan’s Forbes article, “The Un-Ignorable Link Between Employee Experience and Customer Experience,” she emphasizes those companies with 60% more engaged employees lead in customer service. And as J.W. Marriott rightly states, “Take care of the associates and they’ll take care of your customers.” 

At Unit4, my team and I have focused on creating a commercial mindset within our own organization. That way, we can be better partners — especially to the go-to-market teams we support. As stewards of Unit4’s employee engagement program, we’ve worked closely with our Customer Experience teams to help them navigate the challenges our customers are facing during the COVID-19 crisis.

Managers Must Be Trained

Implementing training programs focused on soft skills have already had an impact. To identify issues that could have downstream impact with customers, we must ensure managers are also trained. Finally, leveraging our own in-house platform to conduct weekly pulse surveys has provided us valuable insight. We know how employees are feeling and understand their frustrations. This helps us identify ‘hot spots’ that require immediate action by the teams and their leadership.

Most importantly, these frequent touchpoints help us maintain a good experience for our employees, which benefits customer engagement and satisfaction.

5. Swatting Away the “It’s Always Been Done this Way” Gnat

You’ve seen it play out in your organizations. You onboard a group of new hires. They’re eager to make a big impact. They are ready to innovative new ways of solving problems and supporting new initiatives. A few months later, you run into one of them at a Town Hall. She looks tired and beaten down. You take her aside to ask how it’s going. Sadly, you hear a similar refrain: “Well, the project is going okay, but I’m told by many people across the company that it can’t be done because we tried it two years ago. It requires so much change to what we do today that it’s simply not worth it. And, well, from their perspective of too many, the current approach works well enough.” 

You comfort her. You tell her to keep pushing. But you know this is a problem across the organization. 

Old Way Not Always the Best Way

The “it’s always been done this way” attitude causes stagnation and also disengagement. Ultimately, your top players leave. They take their energy and passion elsewhere. To keep your transformation initiatives going and ensure key projects don’t run out of gas during the COVID-19 crisis, that gnat needs to be swatted down for good. HR can play a key role in coaching managers and checking in with individual contributors. We can sit in on project team meetings to understand the mood. In real-time, we can flag old habits. And we can help where remediation is required. Projects are successful because of the team. But when the team is thrown into the “old ways” vortex, there is little chance of success.

There Was No Playbook

Of course, no one had the COVID-19 Crisis Playbook to quickly flip open to help solve many of the challenges faced. We’re all writing that book, in real-time, one word and one challenge at a time. So, there’s so much more I could share. 

For now, let me say: We have an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start again. Reshape how workspace experience can help build and nurture your culture. Drive change by helping leaders make those important decisions and drive them to conclusion. Give people the power to decide and the opportunity to thrive. And to coach managers while supporting them through this process. 

Ultimately, the people own a company’s customer experience. And valued customers are on the receiving end of disengaged employees. So, once and for all, let’s swat away the “it’s always been done this way” gnat. After all, our customers, investors, and our people deserve it. And they want to see our businesses evolve, grow and flourish. 

As HR leaders, we are in a unique position to help see our organizations through the COVID-19 crisis. My team and I are ready. Are you?

 

Editor’s Note: Lisa Dodman shared additional thoughts on how to navigate the COVID-19 crisis and more at Unit4’s recent virtual event, Experience4U. The event sessions are available free on-demand here.

This post is sponsored by Unit4.

 

WeWe

The Power of Grateful Workplaces and Engaged Employees

What sets grateful workplaces apart from others? What impact do those environments have on employee engagement?

Especially now — while most of us are still working remotely — leaders need to ask themselves a question: Why are happy and engaged employees worth their weight in gold?

And then they need to go discover more gold.

If you’re a business owner, look around your company. If you’re in a leadership role within a corporation, look around your department. Are you using a critical eye to evaluate what’s going on behind the scenes with your employees? Know what is happening when they are not on a Zoom call? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to use your relationship skills and develop deeper, meaningful conversations. The kind of discussions that matter to them. And, ultimately, to the organization.

The Value of Appreciation

It’s amazing to see how showing appreciation and expressing gratitude affects people. With just two little words like “thank you” and “well done” we can make a real difference. In a report conducted by TINYpulse, 30,000 people were queried to uncover what makes for an engaged, happy workplace. The findings revealed that 70 percent of people rated their workplace as fun due to the appreciation and subsequent recognition. Yes, the validation received from leadership and peers made the work fun. Perks such as ping pong tables and free beer Fridays? Not so much.

Showing gratitude gives employees the support and recognition they want. It provides the encouragement to go above and beyond. In essence, appreciation and gratitude inspire people. Validation motivates them to be engaged and interested.

They Tell One Person, Who Tells Two People…

Even when times are good, developing a cadre of brand ambassadors is a great idea for any company. This is especially true for companies looking to extend their brand externally and reinforce it internally. Now, in times of turmoil, helping employees feel appreciated and included greatly increases the likelihood they’ll get involved. It also inspires them to more often go beyond the call of duty. Employees who feel valued also show a greater aptitude for collaboration. They are far more likely to spread the word of their great feelings about the organization. And they’re more likely to feel the work they do directly contributes to positive outcomes. 

It’s important to have positive communications like these run up, down, and sideways along the chain. This practice helps reinforce a workplace where open communications are part of the culture and practiced by everyone — even when we’re not all sitting in the same building.

And Then There’s the Downside

When employees do not feel appreciated nor included, feelings of disinterest in their employer may develop. Depending on the level and length of disengagement, the lack of appreciation often leads them to speak publicly in negative tones. That negativity, regrettably, easily spreads to any customers with whom disengaged employees may come into contact. These negative interactions can directly affect customer purchases, retention, and recommendations on company review sites such as Glassdoor.

Further, brands always need to be mindful of the speed at which information, especially bad news, travels. When an employee is frustrated enough to vent online, social media is not an employer’s best friend.

Grateful Workplaces: It’s Good Business

Organizations that promote cultures of positivity, camaraderie, collaboration, feedback, and good communications prosper. In fact, research by Gallup identified the nine business metrics most affected by high employee engagement. The top three factors that advance an organization’s brand image and fiscal health: Customer ratings, productivity and profitability.

On the less-positive side, a study published in the Harvard Business Review details a Gallup Poll survey that show disengaged workers had:

  • 37 percent higher absenteeism
  • 49 percent more accidents
  • 60 percent more errors and defects

These data points are strong indicators of disengaged employees. Even worse, perhaps: Unmotivated employees who don’t find satisfaction in their work. Nor do they have a positive outlook of their company. In a research project conducted by doctors at the University of California and University of Florida, participants who focused on the positive aspects of their life were tested against a comparison group who focused on feelings of irritation and dissatisfaction. As makes sense, the test group considered more positive were much happier, optimistic and more likely to demonstrate healthier habits. These feelings are not exclusive to one’s time away from work. In fact, they spill over into people’s work lives every day, affecting productivity and results.

With so many people working away from the office, organizations must give their employees reasons to be brand ambassadors. Perhaps even more important in today’s workplace? They must deliberate create grateful workplaces. Which means serving as positive role models by demonstrating appreciation and a high level of engagement themselves. 

 Want highly engaged employees? Harness the power of gratitude.

 

A version of this post originally appeared on HR Exchange Network.

 

Photo: Vlada Parkovich

4 Proven Ways to Improve Recruiting and Remote Hiring

To say COVID-19 has changed the recruiting and remote hiring would be an understatement. For a start, it’s likely you’re relying more heavily on the expertise of the rest of your HR team, your recruiter, or business leaders while navigating the interview and remote onboarding process. To help you improve the remote hiring process, we’ve put together our top four tips for interviewing virtually, including how to answer some tough questions from candidates.

1. Decide on the Remote Hiring Process 

Before you do anything else, decide on the steps involved in the remote hiring process. Make sure everyone understands the types of interviews and stages the candidates will have to go through. This also allows an opportunity to offer candidates an outline of what to expect. This will be an unfamiliar situation for most, so planning and preparation are key. For example: The free version of Zoom limits meetings to 40 minutes. So, ensure everyone understands the rigid time frame.

If you’re using an agency to help you? Be sure to allow for scheduled follow-up calls with the agency. This will help to keep the process you’ve decided on to move more efficiently.

2. Produce an Information Pack for Candidates 

A great employer branding tool, an information pack can be prepared by and sent to the candidates before the interview/s. The pack can include: 

  • Background information about the company
  • What they should expect from each stage of the interview process 
  • What you’re looking for in an ideal candidate 
  • The technology and login details required (for example: Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc.)
  • Point of contact details throughout the interview process 

Sending this information to the candidate will help them have a great candidate experience. It will also allay some of their anxiety while enabling them to prepare to the best of their ability.

3. Encourage Managers to Use a Scorecard

A job interview in person is hard enough. Throw in video technology, and the degree of difficulty increases. When it comes to video interviews, keep your job as simple as possible. That way, you can focus more on making a fair assessment of each candidate. One way to do this: Produce a scorecard unique to the position the candidates are interviewing for. By isolating the top skills or qualities and giving them each a score out of 5, 10 or 20 (depending on the weighting of each), it allows you to quantify where a candidate sits. The scorecard can also help eliminate unconscious biases. After all, managers will only score in relation to the candidates’ demonstrated skills.

4. Prepare for Tough Questions from Candidates 

During the remote hiring process, chances are there will be questions you and the hiring manager may not know how to answer. So prepare ahead of time for some of the most common candidate questions. Below are a few of these questions with tips on how to prepare for them. 

What’s the workplace culture like? 

As the majority of candidates going through the remote interview process won’t have been to your offices, you should explain what it’s like for a newcomer. Things to mention include virtual social activities, daily/weekly catch-ups and the technology you use to keep your staff connected. 

Once hired, what should I expect from the onboarding process? 

The minute details are not helpful here. Instead, provide a high-level overview of the virtual onboarding process. Mention any hardware that would be sent to the new starter’s home and give an outline of the first week of induction/training sessions. It may also be worth mentioning if your workplace organizes a work buddy for new starters and who would be responsible for leading the onboarding process, whether it’s someone from the HR team or the new starter’s line manager. 

How well is the company working remotely?

This question is a good opportunity to mention any wins or challenges the company has faced. Assure the interviewee a remote onboarding process exists. You can also mention how regularly the company meets online and the other ways everyone keeps in touch – whether by Slack, Zoom, emails or phone calls. 

What has your company learned from the transition to working from home? 

Similar to the above, think about any learning curves the company has faced while working from home, whether they have had to do with systems, communication or staff surveys. A candidate may also want to know if the company now recognizes the value in working from home if this wasn’t already in place.  

What types of measures are you looking at to return to the office safely?

While you’re probably still figuring out the details of the policy that will allow a safe return to the office, you should be able to mention the aspects you’re considering. These could include staggered start times, transport options, an increase in remote working or providing PPE. 

Tell me about your flexible working policies?

The answer to this question is likely something all candidates will want to know. If you aren’t already aware, talk to management to find out the company’s thoughts. In some cases, work practices aren’t affected or will not be reduced. In that case, then simply explain why the company has taken this stance. 

The remote hiring process is new for many of us. Which makes this is a great time to learn new hiring methods. Put these tips to work, and hire the best candidates!

Bali

6 Reasons to Do Away With the Nine-to-Five Workday

Is the nine-to-five workday still feasible? For some companies and some people, sure.

But at an accelerated pace, COVID-19 has altered how, where and when we work. It has also proven why the end of the nine-to-five workday may work better for companies and their employees in our climate — and beyond.

Here are six reasons your company should consider doing away with 9 to 5:

There’s Flexibility Like Never Before

Many organizations had no choice but to shift a remote workforce. That in itself shows the power of agility. Since then, employers have become more aware of the mounting responsibilities (and uncertainties) that working from home amid a pandemic brings. And therefore, they have become more accommodating of changing work schedules. They get it. They must accommodate the needs of their employees’ as well as their families.

There’s Productivity Like Never Before

According to a Citrix study, in April 2020 more than half of all countries worldwide said their productivity levels were the same or higher. That number includes more than two-thirds of the U.S. (69 percent). Employees are working more frequently in the morning and evening hours, as well as weekends — well outside the 9 to 5 bubble.

There’s Autonomy Like Never Before

We’ve all enjoying working without a manager ‘seeing’ our every move. This doesn’t mean you work less. It does not mean you put in less effort.

But it does mean you can take charge in how you operate when working from home. It means you can do so without feeling like someone is watching or micromanaging. And underscores you can have agency — and still be productive. This autonomy helps build better working relationships between managers and employees. Most importantly, it builds trust.

There’s Technology Like Never Before

We are using emojis as shorthand communications tools. We’re learning how to communicate virtually through Zoom. Seemingly each day, we’re exploring different tech and communication channels. In real-time, we’re building a remote culture while learning new skills.

And with each passing day, we’re only getting better at it.

There’s Empathy Like Never Before

According to Microsoft, 62% surveyed for its latest Work Trend Index Report said they now feel more empathetic toward their colleagues. The key factor: They now have a better view of life at home via video calls.

From the natural interruptions of WFH to the issues of internet connectivity or bandwidth, we are working together differently. We’re getting to know each other even better. Because we’re human, we’re even bring fun into the workday. Children and pets interrupt video calls. We take calls in our pajamas. And colorful filters and a picture in the video frame are common occurrences in Zoom meetings.

There’s Perspective Like Never Before

The nine-to-five workday isn’t everything anymore. Why? Because there’s more to just staying stuck inside an office. There’s a new freedom in thinking about how we want to approach work where work-life balance is possible. Sharper focus. Less commute/travel time. More exercise. Family time.

Life — not just work.

Maybe the Nine-to-Five Workday is Done

And likely, there will continue to be a blend of remote with on-site work. After all, for many members of the workforce the nine-to-five workday just won’t cut it anymore.

That’s more than a good HR strategy. It’s a great plan for our next normal. And a better life.

 

 

Andrea Piacquadio

[#WorkTrends] Job Description Complexities: The Problems and Solutions

Love it or hate it, the job description is a fact of business life…

The problem with many job descriptions? Too often, they are written to benefit the hiring company and not the person looking for a job. They also lack the essential information a job seeker needs to assess a company’s workplace culture and leadership style. Information such as “a day in the life” is rarely provided, nor is enough information about the position and team or department. Worse yet, many contain hidden bias. Plus, let’s face it, most job descriptions are boring. 

Is that how we want potential employees to perceive our brand? Self-serving? Biased? Boring?

Poorly written job descriptions have a consistently negative impact on our organizations. They filter out good people and a more-diverse set of applicants. At the same time, they increase the risk of applications from unqualified candidates. Even worse, they become a root cause of poor job interviews andworse yetbad hires. 

You don’t want to miss a single episode of #WorkTrends…  subscribe to the podcast now!

But there are practical ways to humanize job descriptions. We can make them more reader-friendly and more focused on the job seeker. As employers, we can be seen as more approachable — more human. 

Our Guest on #WorkTrends: Mark Herschberg

I invited Mark Herschberg — entrepreneur and author of the upcoming book, The Career Toolkit, Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You to join me on #WorkTrends this week. We talked about how thoughtful companies are improving their job descriptions by writing them betterbetter for the employer brand, and to better attract and engage interested, qualified job talent. 

Right away, Mark let me know I wasn’t alone with my frustration with how job descriptions are written, and how poorly they represent the hiring company: “The biggest problem is that most job descriptions look interchangeable. If you take any two, three, five, six job descriptions from different companies they all read the same,” Mark said. He went on to tell us this templated, generic approach does not serve the job seeker well. He then added: “This gets even more complicated when you start to think about what’s not in a job description — the human elements. “We leave out leadership or communication abilities. We don’t talk about the need to build relationships and have a strong network. Or even how important it is within the culture to have a sense of humor.”

The Job Description and Company Culture

We also talked about an issue near and dear to my heart: Company culture — and how employers can best describe their culture not just in a job description but during onboarding. “Culture is really important, but not the culture most people think of. When HR typically talks about culture, they talk about stated corporate values, things such as putting the customer first. But on a day to day basis, what work culture means to most people is how they interact with others. And that really comes down to communication.” Mark is right. And job descriptions are our first opportunity to communicate with a candidate, so must include that vital information. 

Mark added: “Those water-cooler interactions or hallway conversations may have been a hallmark of your company’s communication before. But in today’s remote work world, they might not be taking place. So a job description should be explicit about how the company functions during normal times and how it functions today during the pandemic.”

Mark and I went on to talk more about how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted hiring and onboarding, how a job description should serve as a sales and marketing tool versus just a hiring tool, and so much more. 

Enjoy the entire podcast. Then go start a discussion within your company about how you can help job descriptions become not just better hiring tools, but better representations of your company culture and brand!

 

Find Mark on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Photo: Andrik Langfield

4 Proven Techniques to Increase Employee Productivity

The main goal of any company, of course, is to be successful. And the level of employee productivity is one of the crucial factors that makes or breaks the success of a company.

Employee productivity represents the amount of work employees complete in a given time period. An employee who completes more tasks in less time is considered to be more productive. This higher productivity has a number of tangible benefits to a business, including:

  • Making it more profitable
  • Helping it grow
  • Helping it stay competitive on the market

Here are four great techniques you can use to increase employee productivity in your team:

Employee Productivity: The Kanban Approach

Kanban is a time management technique meant to help you track progress on your work, and keep an eye on tasks that are nearing their deadlines.

The practice originated in the 1940s at Toyota and represented a shift in production. Kanban (or lean manufacturing, as it was called back then), allowed Toyota to produce according to customer demands, as fast as possible. As opposed to producing vehicles to push them out on the market.

This practice would influence the creation of Kanban 70 years later. In 2007, David Anderson and Darren Davis developed the same idea of streamlining workflow and increasing productivity. They noticed that the scope of work is easier to visualize once it was presented on a whiteboard.

KISS: Whiteboard and Post-it Notes

  • The whiteboard represents your project
  • The Post-it notes represent your tasks
  • You divide the whiteboard into four columns:
  1. “Backlog” column | For all the tasks that you need to work on.
  2. “To-do” column | For the tasks with a specific deadline.
  3. “Doing” column | Tasks you are currently working on
  4. “Done” column | Tasks you have finished.

Define the task deadlines, assign each task to an employee, and have them move their tasks across columns, in accordance with the progress status of the task (“To-do,” “Doing,” or “Done”).

The approach with the whiteboard and Post-it notes is just an illustrative example. Alternatively, you can use Kanban-based software to track your project progress.

In any case, ensure your Kanban board is available to your employees at any time. This way, everyone will be able to see at a glance:

  • The progress status of each task
  • Who is working on what
  • Whether a task is nearing its deadline, indicating it should be a priority

By knowing all this, you’ll make work more organized, structured, and easy to track, directly increasing employee productivity as a result.

Time Blocking

Time blocking is a time management approach which mandates that all tasks have a predefined time frame and calendar slot during which employees will work on them.

Although its origins are said to exist as far back as calendars themselves, the earliest known user is said to be Benjamin Franklin. He used to take note of everything he did during the day, hour by hour. Blocking off times for chores, rest, relaxation and deep work. One could say he was the modern employer of the time blocking technique.

And today, hundreds of years later, it has proven to be a great technique to increase employee productivity levels on all types of tasks.

To implement time blocking, instruct your employees to:

  • List all their tasks, in order of priority.
  • Allocate a certain amount of time to each task. For example:
    1. First Task: 15 minutes
    2. Second Task: 45 minutes
    3. Third Task 3: 1 hour
  • Slot each task in a calendar. For example:
    1. First Task: 8 a.m. – 8:15 a.m.
    2. Second Task: 8:15 a.m. – 9 a.m.
    3. Third Task: 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.
  • Work on the tasks in the order you blocked time for them. Don’t spend more time on a task than what you blocked. As soon as the time block for Task 1 is up, move on to Task 2. Continue in the same manner until the end of the list.

The principle of this productivity-increasing technique is simple: all employees who make feasible time blocking schedules, and then stick to them, will be able to finish their tasks as planned and maintain full control over their time as a result.

The Eisenhower Matrix: Identify Priority Tasks

Productivity is not just about working fast, but also about ensuring enough time is spent on the right tasks — i.e., your priority tasks. One of the best approaches that can help you with that is the Eisenhower Matrix.

Its originator is Dwight D. Eisenhower himself. He was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in WW2, the first Supreme Commander of NATO, and went on to become the 34th president of the United States. With his life of warfare and politics, Eisenhower was required to make tough choices under immense pressure. Countless sources credit him for creating a method that aims to achieve exactly that — to see your priorities and make informed, yet quick decisions.

And decades later, the Eisenhower Matrix expanded to become a time management technique that also helps businesses organize tasks in a way that lets employees easily recognize priorities.

To implement it, take 10 minutes each morning to go through the project tasks for that day.

They can be, for example:

  • Writing a marketing strategy for the new project
  • Preparing reports for the big client update meeting
  • Solving the most immediate bugs from the day before
  • Going through customer support analytics for the past quartal

Four Quadrants

Then, sort them into four quadrants, based on whether they are important and/or urgent:

  • First Quadrant (important: Yes, urgent: Yes) | The tasks you should work on first.
  • Second Quadrant (important: Yes, urgent: No) | The tasks you should work on when done with the tasks from Quadrant 1.
  • Third Quadrant (important: No, urgent: Yes) | The tasks you should delegate to someone else.
  • Fourth Quadrant (important: No, urgent: No) | The tasks you should most likely eliminate.

The Eisenhower Matrix is meant to help your teams focus on the day’s most important and urgent tasks. At the same time, it also helps them recognize which tasks they could delegate or eliminate, thus freeing even more time for their priority tasks.

And after the collective meeting, you can always instruct the teams to apply the Eisenhower Matrix to their own tasks for the day.

Streamline Meetings

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, as much as 71% of senior managers find meetings to be inefficient and unproductive.

And yet, an infographic by AskCody shows that the average office employee from the US still spends over five hours on meetings. They also spend over four hours each week preparing for those meetings. Switching focus between different work wastes time and effort. Of course, this negatively impacts productivity. Which leaves employees feeling scatterbrained and drained.

To ensure this time is better spent, streamline meetings: 

  1. Create precise meeting agendas | Straightforward agendas will help you stay on topic, and hold shorter, better structured, and thus more productive meetings.
  2. Announce meetings at least a couple of hours in advance | This way, you’ll give your employees enough time to think about what they want to say or ask in advance, saving them the time they’d need to do so at the actual meetings.
  3. Limit meeting time to 30 minutes at maximum | Forbes even suggests implementing a 30-minute challenge that involves prioritizing topics better and selecting attendees more carefully in order to keep meetings from lasting more than 30 minutes.

Structure your meetings. Organize, schedule and track your tasks. Then watch your employee productivity soar.

Cottonbro

#WorkTrends: The Power of Workplace Gratitude with Liz King

How do we best show workplace gratitude? How do we help employees and coworkers feel valued and appreciated?

There’s no doubt: In 2020, the world seems pretty serious. All around me here in Oregon, and up and down the west coast, we’re dealing with unprecedented firestorms. A series of tropical storms seems ready to hit the southeastern US. And we’re all still grappling with a pandemic that has dramatically changed the workplace. With all this going on, many of us seek solace. We covet a moment of relaxation. And for the many of us working solo at home, we crave human connection.

You don’t want to miss a single episode of #WorkTrends… subscribe to the podcast now!

So there’s no better time to be deliberately human. To reach out to a friend to say hello. Or, perhaps to make an employee or coworker smile by just saying thank you. But how do we show gratitude in a meaningful way while we’re socially distancing?

Liz King on Workplace Gratitude

To answer that question, and because I truly believe sharing gratitude with employees and peers may be the special sauce of workplace culture and engagement, I asked Liz King, CMO of gThankYou, to join me on this week’s #WorkTrends podcast. We talked about the real science behind gratitude, and how it can transform any workplace — whether co-located, remote, or both. Of course, the holidays are coming. So we also took a look at great ideas on how to use gratitude to make everyone smile, even if we can’t be together.

In the first few moments with Liz, I confirmed how important it is to create a culture of workplace gratitude. “Because of what we’re seeing as a result of the pandemic — increased worker stress, loneliness, anxiety, the pressure of juggling family and work commitments — it is so important employers are there to help employees take on these new world challenges through sincere gestures of kindness and appreciation,” Liz said. She emphasized that while one-time expressions of gratitude are meaningful, consistency is important. “Building a culture of gratitude needs to come from the top down. Ultimately, it must be part of the fabric of a workplace culture. You just can’t say a one and done thank you and think you’ve done enough.”

Appreciation is Personal

When talking about that human connection, Liz shared another great piece of advice: “We are so short on personal engagement right now. If you can, pick up the phone. Check in on your employees. People need to know they’re valued and not alone.” Liz smartly added: “Don’t forget a heartfelt, personal thank you note always makes somebody’s day.”

Since Liz and gThankYou are experts at showing gratitude to employees and coworkers, I couldn’t let Liz get away without about the best way to show sincere gratitude nowand for the upcoming holidays: “To help show appreciation year-round, we have a day-to-day employee celebration calendar full of actionable appreciation and engagement ideas. Of course, we started our business in 2007 based on the tradition of giving a turkey to employees for Thanksgiving. We then started creating certificates of gratitude for practical employee and customer food gifts. Not just a Thanksgiving turkey, but a Christmas ham and  fruit and vegetables, ice cream, and groceries anytime.”

Walking the Thankful Talk

During our conversation, it became clear Liz, her husband Rick, and their entire team walk the thankful talk: “We are incredibly grateful to work with companies who care about appreciating employees. It is such a joy to get them on the phone! They’re excited to order again, every year. And they talk about why showing gratitude is so important to them — just as it is to us.”

I’m grateful gThankYou sponsored this meaningful episode of #WorkTrends℠. I really appreciate their simple, flexible approach to helping brands show they care about their employees. I can’t thank them enough.

Be sure to listen in… then go say thank you to someone making a difference in your life!

And please join us on Wednesday, September 23rd at 1:30pm ET with a special Twitter chat featuring Liz King. Here are the questions we’ll be asking:

Q1: Why do organizations struggle with expressing gratitude? #WorkTrends

Q2: What strategies can promote a culture of gratitude? #WorkTrends

Q3: How can leaders show gratitude over the holidays?  #WorkTrends

 

Find Liz on Linkedin and Twitter. Also check out gThankYou on LinkedIn.

 

Editor’s note: #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats are changing to better meet your needs! For details, check the new FAQ page. And to see upcoming event topics and guests, check the calendar listing on the #WorkTrends Podcast page.

 

Edward Jenner

#WorkTrends: Transforming the Healthcare Benefits Experience

Now more than ever, employers feel a mandate to take good care of their people. And that responsibility is bigger than how best to empower a remote workforce. It is more complex than deciding the right time to bring them back on-site. Today, how we enable our employees to take care of themselves, and their loved ones, is a front and center issue.

You don’t want to miss a single episode of #WorkTrends… subscribe to the podcast now!

Are we providing the wellness benefits our employees need? Do they have access to the right providers? Is preventative care and testing available? How are employees making the decision on what plan to pick — and who is helping them make those decisions? And what kind of experience do we want our employees to have while choosing the right health plan, and providers, for them?

Healthcare Benefits: A Timely Conversation

This period just before open enrollment is not a great time for employees to be left without answers to these questions. So for this episode of @WorkTrends, I invited Justin Holland, CEO and Founder of Healthjoy, to shed some much-needed light on healthcare benefits.

In speaking with Justin, I learned how much healthcare has changed over the last few decades. I also discovered just how important it is to properly educate and enable employees before asking them to choose health benefits. “It’s really easy to run through an open enrollment presentation and forget about the impact of the decisions being made,” Justin said. “So our goal is to give employees the tools and framework they need to make the right decisions for them.”

Justin also confirmed how I have felt about open enrollment: That having a day or two to make major decisions just isn’t enough. “Open enrollment is obviously a very important time to educate employees on benefits. But there’s 364 other days a year they’re utilizing those benefits,” Justin said. “Our vision is that healthcare education be available at the right place at the right time. Because when a kid is sick at 2:00am and you’re going to the ER, chances are slim you’re going to remember what was said in that open enrollment meeting six months ago.”

Healthcare Education and Empowerment

Justin added: “Healthcare education and empowerment needs to be relevant during those touchpoints. At that moment, we’re all accountable — employee and employer, provider and platform — for the health and wellness of the family.”

During our conversation, Justin and I also talked about the rising cost of healthcare. We discussed how employers can provide healthcare benefits to freelancers and independent contractors. And we touched on how healthcare might look after the COVID-19 crisis is behind us. The timing of our conversation couldn’t be better. After all, chances are good your company is about to start an open enrollment period, or is considering a change to employee benefits for 2021. So please listen in!

Healthjoy sponsored this episode of #WorkTrends℠. And I’m so glad they did. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from our 20 minutes or so together. I did!

 

Find Justin on Linkedin and Twitter.

 

Editor’s note: Have you heard about how #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats are changing to better meet your needs? For details check the new FAQ page. Also, to see upcoming event topics and guests, check the new calendar listing on the #WorkTrends Podcast page.

 

Alphacolor

The Power of a Purposeful Hashtag: #WorkTrends

If we’ve learned anything over the past decade, it is the power of a hashtag…

#WorkTrends has been on quite an adventure. Over the past 10 years, TalentCulture’s signature podcast has introduced us to great minds in the HR space. We’ve produced over 700 episodes — packed with insights, future-casting and anticipated trends.

We’ve had an incredible range of guests on #WorkTrends, from CEOs to technologists to practitioners, psychologists, data mavens and more. They’ve given us unparalleled perspectives and wisdom on so many subjects — leadership, recruiting, management, recognition, strategizing, coping, thriving. How, where, when, and even why we work is ever-expanding — and we’re proud to say our savvy guests predicted every pivot, and every moment. 

In our episodes and in our Twitter chats, we’ve heard some groundbreakers I’ll never forget. Listing the many names would take pages and pages, so to all our guests so far I’ll just say this: Thank you for gracing the #WorkTrends stage with your presence and your brilliance. 

And now it’s time to expand these amazing discussions… it is time to release them into the world.

The Power of Change

Even before the massive changes of 2020, TalentCulture was planning our own set of changes: a new website, an expanded community, and a new way to bring #WorkTrends to our growing audience. We recognized that in today’s business world, we’re connecting across digital space more than ever before. And we realized there isn’t a better time than now to broaden our discussions. 

So we’re inviting everyone to join the #WorkTrends conversation beyond Twitter — and across more social media channels. We’re taking #WorkTrends to LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and beyond. Of course, you’ll find the same dynamic conversations about key work topics and all the issues that matter. Instead of exclusively through a weekly Twitter chat, though, #WorkTrends will be an ongoing discussion.

We believe the world of work is limitless: it’s a wellspring of energy and engagement. And to honor that, we’re opening the gates. 

The Power of a Purposeful Hashtag

#WorkTrends is now a legacy hashtag. It’s become a classic that represents all the best minds and conversations. We’re excited to watch it grow wings — and move across time zones, borders, and barriers. So please join us. It’s going to be another wonderful adventure!

Be sure to tune into our weekly #WorkTrends podcasts and recaps. And to learn even more about how we’re growing the podcast, check out our WorkTrends FAQ page.

As always, thanks so much for tuning in and being a member of this amazing community. You #inspire me — every day!  

Photo: Danielle MacInnes

10 Tips to Stabilize Employee Experience During the Pandemic

In an outlook where the future looks bleak, only true leaders guide their team through the storm and come out stronger on the other side. And only the best leaders will focus on employee experience during that storm.

That leader needs to be you.

During an unprecedented crisis such as COVID-19, your leadership becomes even more valuable. With so much uncertainty, your employees will look to you now more than ever for stability.

How Can You Maintain a Positive Employee Experience?

Here’s how you can provide stability for employees while keeping your business operating at maximum efficiency…

1. Foster Transparent Communications

During times of crisis, transparency becomes essential. If your employees think your business is in trouble, they’ll feel anxious.

As the person in charge, you need to keep everyone in the loop. That means sending regular updates about how the business is doing, what problems you’re running into, what you’re doing to deal with them, and more.

2. Keep Communications Positive and Hopeful

Since employees will be expecting to hear from you often, make sure any communications you send out don’t make your employees feel anxious any further.

For example, if you have daily or weekly meetings, start them off by talking about successes within the company. After all, recognizing your employees’ efforts becomes even more important during times of turbulence. And those people and teams recognized will certainly appreciate being recognized, a key aspect in improving overall employee experience.

3. Offer Ways for Your Employees to Relieve Stress

Since the lines between the office and home have become blurred, it can be a smart move to provide your team with ways to relieve stress such as:

  • Providing your employees with additional time off and breaks if needed.
  • Setting up team virtual game nights or remote “after-office” clubs. (That said, make sure to be considerate of parents and others who may not have the same flexibility with evening get-togethers.)
  • Encouraging your team to talk to each other about how they’re handling all the changes. Make it easier to share how colleagues in similar positions are managing — what’s working, what’s not.

Happy employees tend to be better at their jobs. Helping your team relieve stress shows them you care, and it can foster in-office ties.

4. Adjust Your Internal Processes to the “New Normal”

Nothing is the same as it was months ago, so the internal processes that help you deliver products/services and accomplish tasks also need to adapt to the new normal.

For example, now might not be the best time for performance reviews as few people may be thriving during the pandemic.

5. Be Empathetic and Patient with Your Team

The pandemic and near-global quarantines have had a massive impact on most people’s mental health. One of the key reasons is that a lot of employees don’t know if they’ll have a job in a month or two.

On top of being transparent about how things are going within the business, you also need to be patient with your team. Few people are performing at 100% now, so empathy is key.

Don’t simply assume you have empathy. Chat with three to five trusted people for their honest feedback and ask if they perceive a sincere effort to accommodate the team.

6. Ramp Up Employee Feedback

Although you may know your industry inside and out, your team probably has insights that you might not have considered.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, encourage everyone who works for you to come forward with any feedback they might have. The best way to do that is to provide multiple channels for inbound feedback.

7. Set Up New Channels for Inbound Feedback

Some examples of the types of channels you can set up to encourage employee feedback include:

By providing multiple channels, you increase the chance employees will share concerns and also information about protocol violations.

8. Promote New Safety Protocols

If part of your team isn’t working remotely, then it’s your job to enforce security protocols.

That means giving your team all the information they need to perform their job safely without adding to their stress levels.

So don’t make it sterile and forgettable. Promote your safety protocols in a fun way that’s “on-brand” and will click with your employees.

9. Help Your Team Recalibrate Expectations

Although it’s your job to ensure that employees don’t feel anxious, you also need to be forthcoming about what the pandemic might mean for the employee experience now and in the future.

Some companies are putting off raises others are cutting hours, and more. Being transparent about what the business is going through will help your team keep their expectations in line.

Your team will have the confidence to adjust if they see a transparent management that is doing everything to keep the ship afloat. And that confidence will become a huge element in their employee experience.

10. Recognize the Small Things

Now more than ever, your employees need to know that you recognize the work and effort they’re putting in.

Without people showing up to work every day (even if it’s from their living room) your company wouldn’t survive. By fostering an environment where hard work is recognized and praised, you can help your team weather the storm.

Your Leadership Can Make the Biggest Difference

No industry is coming out of the pandemic unscathed. So how good your footing is after everything is said and done will depend on the level of stability instilled into your employee experience during these times.

By fostering transparency, encouraging employee engagement, and by being more empathetic, you can ensure that your team knows you’re on their side.