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Great Hires Are Better Than Frequent Fires: How Smart Recruiting Helps

Sponsored by: RocketReach

Hiring teams know just how hard it is to find candidates who hit the mark with both soft skills and technical skills.  Ideally, a new hire brings the majority of the hard skills required to do the job well. But soft skills are equally important, if not more important, depending on your company’s philosophy. In combination, hard and soft skills allow for a highly productive team and culturally rich environment.  So, how do you identify these powerhouse candidates? This is when smart recruiting tactics can make a strategic impact.

Why? Finding and placing high-performing candidates should be every HR professional’s primary goal. But if recruiting focuses more on an individual’s experience than their ability to enhance your culture or have the right attitude to learn, that hire could likely be a mismatch long term. How can you avoid this? To illustrate, let’s look closer at how we approach hiring at RocketReach

Smart Recruiting: Why Prioritize Soft Skills?

Of course, every job depends on a core technical or business skill set. However, we over-index on culture and behavioral skills because a candidate’s character matters, here. Well, not just here, but in all successful, people-first organizations.

A candidate with great skills requires less on-the-job training. But someone who’s a great cultural fit often possesses untrainable qualities that embody an organization’s values and vision. So it’s wise to get a read on each candidate’s potential to adapt to your culture and perform well with the team. 

What exactly is at stake? Well, according to a new SHRM report, over the past five years, 20% of Americans left a job because the company culture was bad. In fact, the cost of this turnover is estimated at more than $223 billion.

Here are several more findings to consider: 56% of Americans now say they feel less-than-fulfilled at work, while 26% say they dread going to work each day. In today’s talent market, finding an ideal candidate may not be easy. But hiring a strong candidate who also fits your company culture is arguably just as important (if not more so!) as hiring someone just because they have the desired level of experience.

How Smart Recruiting Leads to a Stronger Culture

Clearly, it’s important to build and sustain a people-first company culture. But how can smart recruiting help determine if a candidate is (or isn’t) a good “fit”?

1. Understand Your Work Culture

When considering your company’s culture, don’t just analyze intangible items like general employee vibes. Also include your leadership structure, core mission and vision, office environment, feedback and performance review processes, as well as overall interpersonal communication styles. These and other factors contribute to the relationships within your team and how the company is investing in its people. They also influence employee retention and how others perceive your organization.

Harvard Business Review agrees that a carefully crafted positive company culture helps develop workforce well-being. At this point, we all know how important culture is for working professionals. Every employee touchpoint, from onboarding to offboarding, influences how your organization’s culture affects your employees. As a result, people rank workplace well-being higher in importance than monetary compensation or material benefits. So, culture deserves to be top-of-mind with each new hire. 

2. Identify Characteristics That Map to Your Culture

Once you’ve clarified your company culture, let’s assume you want to sustain it. Using your analysis, you can identify the characteristics of current employees who are thriving. You can also compare and contrast those characteristics with previous employees who are better suited to a different culture. 

On the other hand, if you’d like to improve your culture, you can start identifying candidates whose soft skills align with your desired organizational direction.

For example, say your workforce is fully remote. This means collaboration is probably more challenging than in a traditional office environment. You may want to focus on candidates who demonstrate that they’re self-starters with a strong sense of resourcefulness, self-efficacy, and proactive ownership

Or, if your company’s mission and values emphasize diversity and inclusion, you may want to focus on candidates who are open-minded, adaptable, and have a curious approach to problem-solving. Try targeting candidates who seem resistant to change and more accepting of those with different backgrounds and ideas.

Of course, the idea of cultural alignment isn’t new. For example, a popular 2005 personnel study that is still cited today concluded that when employee characteristics align with company culture, their job satisfaction and performance are also stronger.

3. Interview With Alignment In Mind

After you understand the qualities a candidate needs to be successful in a given role, it’s time for interviews. Along with questions that evaluate hard skills, what are some questions you should ask to determine a candidate’s soft skills?

  1. What about our organization made you want to apply for this position?
    Pay attention to the enthusiasm and focus of each candidate’s answers. Did your benefits seem particularly attractive? Was it your company brand or careers page? Or was it the job description, itself? Do the candidate’s personal values align with your company’s? Each answer is a clue about the individual’s perspective, motivations and interests. This can determine how closely a candidate’s values align with your team’s and how you can sell them on these things down the line if they are a great fit
  2. What does your ideal next role look like?
    This can tell a recruiter tons about the type of environment in which a candidate will thrive. Do they envision working independently or in a group? What main responsibilities does this person want to own and enjoy most? Are they hoping to grow in mentorship or people management?? This can show you if your current team and environment fit the candidate’s needs.
  3. If one of your colleagues disagreed with you in front of a group during a board meeting or a meeting with leadership, how would you handle this?
    Sharing a hypothetical question about a challenging situation and asking for a suggested solution can reveal someone’s ability to listen and collaborate, think critically, and have the right attitude under pressure.
  4. Tell me about a time when you felt an employer’s culture didn’t suit your needs. Why do you believe it wasn’t the right fit for you?
    Sometimes a direct approach is the best approach. Pay careful attention to see what the answer reveals about the potential fit with your current culture (or the culture you’re working to achieve).

There are a million ways to ask interview questions that focus on soft skills and culture. But whatever questions you choose, make sure you tailor each to your company values and needs.

Hiring managers will understand the characteristics that align with an open position and the overall company culture. This frees you to get creative and keep interviews candid and human. The less “cookie cutter” your questions, the better they will serve your talent strategy in the long run. More importantly, ensure that your interview teams are trained to over-index on culture and company values – that way everyone is looking through a people-first lens. So whether you’re conducting a pre-screening interview, or you’re in a final-round group interview, put your culture front-and-center. 

10 Ways to Drive Employee Engagement With Team Problem-Solving

Are you looking for proven ways to drive employee engagement? Many organizations find that collaboration is a highly effective strategy. For instance, consider these 10 team-centered methods recommended by business leaders:

  1. Use the SCRUM Framework for Project Management
  2. Involve Action Focus Groups to Improve Employee Engagement
  3. Empower Employees to Take Ownership of Work Issues
  4. Give Employees a Voice in Problem Solving
  5. Create a Strength-Based Team Culture Using Assessment Tools
  6. Leverage Diversity and Mastermind for Problem-Solving
  7. Take a Bottom-up Approach
  8. Use OKRs to Drive Teamwork and Engagement
  9. Engage Employees in Weekly Virtual Team-Building Activities
  10. Personalize Engagement Drivers to Employee Groups

Why are these engagement ideas so powerful? Learn more from the descriptions below…

1) Use the SCRUM Framework for Project Management

The SCRUM framework encourages team members to work together to solve problems and complete tasks. This helps foster a sense of teamwork and engagement. It also gives team members a say in a project’s direction and execution, so they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility. Plus, each phase of the project is transparent to everyone on the team, so everyone on the team remains aware, focused and motivated.

Omer Usanmaz, CEO of Qooper Mentoring & Learning Software

2) Involve “Action Focus Groups” to Improve Employee Engagement

We conducted an engagement survey with results that identified six individual areas for improvement. Instead of using managers to do this, we asked for employee volunteers to create a response to the challenges identified in the survey. Each Action Focus Group (AFG) included 10 members, which met 3-5 times to identify and recommend a solution for the company to implement. Then each AFG presented its improvement plan to the senior leadership team, which in turn, provided feedback. After each AFG adjusted its plan, we implemented the final recommendations.

With this AFG approach, employees became actively involved in solving key problems. In addition, this process gave participants an opportunity to build connections outside their primary business areas.

Deborah Norris, Senior HR Manager at Amentum

3) Empower Employees to Take Ownership of Work Issues

We drive employee engagement with team problem-solving by encouraging employees to identify and solve problems affecting their work. We have found that employees are happier, more engaged and more productive when they can take ownership of issues that impact their work. 

We achieve this by providing space for employees to voice their concerns about issues and encouraging teams to come together and solve problems (sometimes with incentives), instead of relying only on managers or supervisors. 

Debee Gold, Owner & Clinical Director of Gold Counseling & Wellness

4) Give Employees a Voice in Problem Solving

Too many organizations identify problems, and then leadership dictates solutions in a vacuum. At 104 West, we recently held an all-company meeting, where administration and staff broke out into groups, identified roadblocks to growth, proposed solutions, and then came together to share thoughts. We are now implementing plans based on those ideas, and every person in the organization has a role in thisa role they helped determine.

This process helped us drive employee engagement at all levels, empowering people to be solution seekers and showcase their problem-solving and leadership abilities.

Joan Wyly, Vice President of 104 Degrees West Partners

5) Create a Strength-Based Team Culture Using Assessment Tools

Using assessment tools like Gallup StrengthsFinder, team members can understand how to create a more strength-based approach to teamwork and problem-solving. Additionally, regular “skip level” sessions allow for bottom-up feedback that helps build a more robust work culture. Also, personalized recognition leads to a more positive employee experience.

Together, these practices can produce a psychologically safe environment where teams thrive.

Rapti Khurana, VP of Talent Engagement & Development at the National Football League

6) Leverage Diversity and Mastermind for Problem Solving

When problems need to be solved, team members tend to find a solution by relying on their individual experience and determination. That can lead to excessive time scratching heads and spinning wheels, without making much progress. However, when people come together to leverage the power of cognitive diversity, an equally diverse array of potential solutions becomes more readily available.

A mastermind-style problem-solving conversation brings together members of disparate teams that are traditionally siloed. Coming together in this way to work toward a common goal can positively impact everything from engagement and retention to trust and productivity!

Erich Kurschat, Owner of Harmony Insights LLC

7) Take a Bottom-up Approach

I’m a big proponent of the bottom-up approach to team problem-solving, based on the teachings of Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa. We involve our front-line employees in group problem-solving, as well as our managers. Front-line employees are given the authority to act autonomously within specific guidelines.

This approach is practical because those closest to a problem often know the most about it and are in the best position to devise solution strategies. Empowering workers at all levels of our organization to participate in problem-solving drives employee engagement.

Dean Kaplan, President of The Kaplan Group

8) Use OKRs to Drive Teamwork and Engagement

For our team at Compt, goal setting and management have been driving forces in employee engagement and group problem-solving. We set objectives and key results (OKRs) as a company, and each department has its own OKRs that support overall company goals. In addition, each employee’s personal goals are tied to that employee’s department goals.

We host monthly company-wide “retro” meetings to share how each team is performing in a measured and data-driven way. Everything we do is quantified, which promotes accountability and cross-department teamwork to achieve overarching goals. This ensures that we are all constantly moving in the same direction toward the same outcomes. And because each individual’s actions impact the company’s success, we feel compelled to be more engaged and create a workplace that benefits us all.

Amy Spurling, CEO, and Founder of Compt

9) Engage Employees in Weekly Virtual Team-Building Activities

One way we combat engagement issues is through weekly virtual team-building activities. Each session is planned and hosted via Zoom by a different group of employees. This way, our workforce enjoys programming variety, while each group has a vested interest in the success of the activity they host. For example, activities have ranged from virtual quiz nights to elaborate online escape room challenges.

These team-building activities have been a resounding success. They’ve provided employees with memorable shared experiences and have helped build bonds between colleagues, ultimately leading to increased workplace collaboration.

Clare Jones, Marketing Manager at OfficeSpaceAU

10) Personalize Engagement Drivers to Employee Groups

The best employee engagement strategy is to ride the drivers. Each organization, of course, will have different drivers. For example, meaningful work, career growth, empowerment, belonging, recognition, leadership and fulfilling work relationships. 

Choose a segment of your employee population. Then implement a strategic theme strategy across your drivers that are personalized to the group but high-profile enough that successes will be seen and heard throughout the organization. Ride the drivers, measure, rinse and repeat.

Marcus Holmes, HR Operations General Manager at City of Detroit

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These ideas on how to drive employee engagement were submitted via Terkel. Terkel is a knowledge platform that shares community-driven content based on expert insights. To see questions and get published, sign up at terkel.io.

To Boost Retention – Review for Projects, Not Performance

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

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

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

Projects and Teams are Already on the Rise

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

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

Anchored to Specific Targets

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

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

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

Reflecting What’s Happening Now

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

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

A Resilient Framework

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

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

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

Want to Fuel Agility? Understand Employee Skills

Sponsored by: Empath

In today’s world of work— agility matters — and how we enable our own employees to meet our company goals, is vital. This isn’t possible without a mechanism to understand the held skill & experiences among our own contributors. In today’s world, seeking talent externally could be considered an outdated and ineffective response to fulfilling talent needs. 

The future of work demands that we explore the weaknesses of this strategy.

Our Guest: Carlos Gutierrez

On the latest Worktrends podcast, I spoke with Carlos Gutierrez, the co-founder, and CEO of Empath, a SaaS technology platform that uses machine learning to transform the way talent is managed and grown internally. Previously, he served as chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategic advisory firm. Carlos spent nearly 30 years with Kellogg, a global manufacturer of well-known food brands.

Let’s open the conversation about the relationship between agility and skills. First, there is no doubt that organizations need to embrace agility. However, if a foundational strategy isn’t in place to respond to rapidly changing internal and external environments, achieving agility will remain elusive.

Agility Requires a Different Mindset

The thing about agility is that it’s sort of the opposite of the way companies used to run where you develop a plan and you stick to the plan. Agile, an agile methodology or agility, is just the opposite. You don’t stick to a plan because you know that your environment will be changing very rapidly. And what we can do is change departments, change teams, move around, redeploy people and do that very quickly if you have a skills inventory of all your employees. So you can do an agile methodology even quicker than it would if you weren’t able to measure skills.

Powering Agility & Upskilling

As the saying goes: Information is power. To manage & deploy the skills to carry out vital initiatives, organizations must know what skills are actually present and those that are missing:

…So you need to have the information of the employee skills, proficiency levels, and the skills required to go to other jobs. And that’s where you get the gap that you need to fill, the upskilling gap. And we do that for every employee in a company.

A Solution: An AI-Powered Internal Skill Library

Capturing existing skills within your organization is critical. People evolve much more quickly than their resumes — and so do the roles they hold. A more sensitive, dynamic mechanism to capture this is required. Applying cutting-edge technology simply makes sense. Moreover, companies that fail to take people skills into consideration when projecting future business needs will inevitably fall short. 

Companies can create more accurate plans if they understand the skills they seek could already exist internally.

…What we tell companies and what companies have found who use skills, who have accurate skills inventories, that the person they’re looking for is already inside the company. They just don’t know it because they don’t have visibility into, say, 20,000 people.

The Wave of the Future: Machine Learning to Establish Skills

Resumes simply aren’t enough to help organizations understand skills and become agile. The language is much more complex than we realize. We need to be less subjective and listen with more powerful tools.

…I hear sometimes about, well, are you going to have machine learning and AI determine the skills of a person or infer? I can assure you that we will be more accurate in companies in this business than the subjectivity of human nature. So our algorithm, our machine learning algorithm captures signals…The machine can infer what the skills are. It’s actually a very complex technology, but you will never notice it. It’s like picking up a phone and calling, you don’t know what’s behind the call.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful. I know that I found the discussion fascinating.

Subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Also, for more great conversations, be sure to follow #WorkTrends on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram!

Recruiting Challenges for Fast Growing Startups and How to Overcome Them

Sponsored by: RocketReach

Recruiting challenges face every organization — one that is particularly daunting for smaller companies and fast-growing startups. As agility is often a make-or-break for these organizations, sourcing high-quality candidates quickly is vital.  

Yet, connecting with the right candidates with the right skill sets, at the right time is often elusive.  

Recruiters have the very difficult task of finding these candidates, while simultaneously verifying that they possess the right skills to fulfill the role and its responsibilities. Ensuring this is often key to an organization’s ability to grow, develop and scale. 

A less than “good fit” hire — can disrupt workflow, damage an organization’s work culture, and waste valuable resources.

Our Guest:  Julia Kimmel

On this latest episode of #WorkTrends, I spoke with Julia Kimmel from RocketReach. For her entire career, Julia has embraced the fast-paced and multi-faceted environment of the startup world. Managing people and processes and helping companies and teams grow across organizations. Since last year, she has overseen the growth of RocketReach from 15 people to over 100. And sorry, no, she’s not related to Jimmy Kimmel. 

Let’s talk about recruiting work-from-home talent for fast-growing startups, the challenges, and how to overcome them.

Startups need to work hard to avoid costly mistakes. Julia:

…it’s hard for startups to plan far in advance. Things change constantly. And if you asked anyone planning to scale a startup and asked them what you could plan for even a year in advance, it’s tough to make those types of decisions. Often I think one of the things that startups have a tough time with is that there isn’t a great hiring strategy, and a lot of startups hire way too quickly.

Overcoming Recruitment Challenges

It’s no mystery why sourcing top talent is an obstacle for many businesses. There is a ton of competition, and getting to know a candidate is a skill of its own. In job interviews, you want candidates who are passionate about curiosity, creative problem solving, and communication. But the true key to finding talented people? Putting in the work.

I think ultimately no one wants to hear it, but it really comes down to sourcing. It’s how you initially get strategic about where you’re looking for people. What are the cues that are constantly going off for the recruiting team to go after certain areas of the market or certain industries? Certain companies are an easy one, but I think you really need to fine-tune and get your team into a place where they feel empowered about sourcing.

Startups vs. Large Companies

There are obvious perks of working for a large, established brand. Many people are drawn to work for large companies because they feel more secure regarding hiring freezes or layoffs. While working at a big brand has its perks, startups can offer more autonomy and hands-on experience.

…one of the things that really stands out to me is that startups really can dig into more and actually market a little bit more – at large companies, you typically work on a very small piece of a project, and your work sometimes goes unnoticed. It’s unclear if what you’re doing is really making a difference, and many people at those companies are doing exactly the same role as you. I think small companies need to sell how much ownership and impact people get to have on the business.

The Future of Startups and Talent

From an HR perspective, will startups and young companies gain a hiring advantage over large companies in the next decade?

Large companies come with a lot of policies, protocols, and regulations. The world is changing, and people want to have more flexibility. I think startups will be popular because there is just a ton of flexibility. If the startup is running the right way, you get to structure your schedule, your day, and your work in a way that makes sense for you. There’s a lot more autonomy, and people are looking for ways to grow, learn, and be challenged. A smaller company can provide this easier than a large company.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful. To learn more about recruiting based on data, visit https://rocketreach.co/

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

Why Empathy is the New Brand of Leadership

Sponsored by: Dell Technologies

When it comes to the people who work for your company, is there anything more important than understanding them and their needs? For leaders, this means seeing things from their perspective. We call this Empathetic Leadership. 

Empathetic leaders can create a space where employees feel heard, valued, and understood – and when employees feel like this, guess what happens? They’re more engaged and productive at work, making them more committed to their work and your organization. 

A recent Dell Technologies Study found that creating an empathetic culture helps companies succeed in today’s do-anything-from-anywhere economy. Leaders need to put people front and center and equip them with the right technology to innovate.

Our Guest: Jennifer Saavedra

On our latest #WorkTrends Podcast, I spoke with Jennifer Saavedra, Chief Human Resources Officer at Dell Technologies. She leads the company’s Global Human Resources and Facilities through the dynamic lens of culture and, most importantly, people. She has a doctorate in Industrial and Organizational Behavior from Tulane University. Jennifer has also served on the executive boards for many of Dell Technologies’ employee resource groups and is currently the executive sponsor for the Black Networking Alliance. 

Her work helps us understand the psychology of human behavior so that individuals and organizations alike can be their best. 

Jennifer says the last two years have redefined work:

One of the things at Dell Technologies that we’re really focused on is defining work as an outcome, not as a specific time and place. We know that employees value freedom and flexibility, and it’s really about helping everybody make an impact.” She says, “not every individual has the same way they work or the same needs. And we have a history of doing this. At Dell, we’ve been doing this for over ten years.

Flexibility is Key

Everybody wants to know what the “new normal” will look like. After two years of the global pandemic, Jennifer says Dell polled their team members on the company’s practice of hybrid work. A notable 86% of their team members said they feel Dell is leading the way. The current world of work is an opportunity to make things more inclusive.

It’s a great equalizer. We have learned a lot about how to be inclusive and make things more accessible to people. And keeping an eye on the partnership between human resources, the business needs, our team members, facilities, and IT, I think these are things that give us a lot of hope and a lot of promise.

What the Data Says

Success is a goal shared by all, from employees to executive leadership. Employees need their companies to be there and support them. While the future of work develops and takes form, it needs to be understood that agility will play a key factor. As new ideas and possibilities for work come to light, they should be carefully considered. An astounding 91% of Dell’s team members reported that they could easily adapt to the work preferences of others, whether it’s timezone, means of communication, or other.

As other companies are thinking about building their strategy, it’s really important to look at the business needs. How does the work need to get done, and how can you consider personal choice? I think you need to assess roles. Some roles need to be done in certain locations or co-located. Once you know that, you can then support your team members by understanding what works best for them.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful and inspirational. Learn more about leadership and putting people front and center with Dell’s Breakthrough Study.

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

How Gamification Can Build Inclusive High-Performing Teams

A productive team is essential if we want to have any success at work. Engaged teams lead to successful endeavors, while a dysfunctional team may force us back to the drawing board, cause layoffs, and high turnover. Unfortunately, building a good team isn’t easy, and the hybrid/remote work culture can make communication and engagement even more difficult. 

At the same time, entry-level to executive employees are wondering how they can better connect with others at work. Gallup shows that $1 trillion is lost due to voluntary turnover. This illustrates that there are still too many employees who are disengaged and unfulfilled at work. The majority say their organizations could have done more to keep them.

Our Guest: Lauren Fitzpatrick Shanks

Lauren Shanks is an entrepreneur, award-winning engineer, tech leader, mother of two, founder and CEO of KeepWOL, and much more. She is the first black woman to graduate from the University of Kansas’ Aerospace Engineering Department, a recipient of the Women in Technology Rising Star Award, and more fabulous accomplishments. 

So, what is gamification, and how important is it for companies to gamify their training and engagement initiatives? Lauren explains: 

So the importance is high, but it’s also important to understand what it all means and make sure that we use the terminology in the right way. With gamification and simulation in games, there’s a continuum. They cross over, but there are still bits of nuances. With gamification, we can think about it as game elements and mechanics of things from games being added to situations that weren’t meant to be a game.

Boost Morale, Gauge Productivity and Development

As humans, we want to win. Some people are not competitive, but they still don’t want to lose or fail. Games hack the human brain and tap into its reward center. Games typically require quick thinking that can disarm individuals and get more into a competitive mindset. It is important to be mindful before implementing gamification, but the possibilities are big:

We’ve worked with teams of all different complexities. That’s what’s really amazing about games and gamification because they can be used to bring people from different generations and different cultures together. We’ve all played games before in our life. We all have that innate desire to not fail. So we’ve worked with matrix-based teams, C suite teams, and multidisciplinary teams. Teams of all makes and molds are utilizing KeepWOL’s game suite to develop exceptional teams.

Future of Gamification

Gamification is not exactly new, but it certainly holds potential for workplaces in the future. Lauren shares a story from the KeepWOL team’s recent booth at the world’s largest conference for talent development:

…on our banner, we had the words, game-centric, and play. People were flocking to our booth because their companies had sent them there on a mission of how do you incorporate some of these new trends, these new things that are going on. Gamification is not new. But it takes a little more time to get things into the enterprise space. And so they’re coming to us, they’re flocking. And they’re like, how do we incorporate this into our talent development initiatives? And just for the future of work, if we’re thinking about this, KeepWOL, we’re using games to bridge that gap between learning and doing.

I hope you found this episode of #WorkTrends helpful and inspirational. To learn more about Lauren Fitzpatrick Shanks and game-centric talent development, please visit https://www.keepwol.com.

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

Work Sucks, But It’s Our Fault

Burnout and dissatisfaction at work are nothing new. In fact, a recent Gallup study found that more than one-half of American workers feel disengaged at their jobs. Too often we look at work as a necessary evil. We have to do it to pay the bills, but it’s not really something we’re passionate about. 

Meanwhile, business owners and leaders are left scratching their heads wondering why their employees are unhappy and unengaged. The business suffers as a result. So what’s the solution? How can businesses create a culture that engages and motivates employees where productivity and creativity actually thrive?

Our Guest: Dr. Tiffany Slater

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Dr. Tiffany Slater, CEO and Senior Human Resources Consultant for HR TailorMade. Dr. Slater believes that the people you work with are the single most important element to building a thriving future for your business. Happy people make the world a better place.

What does it mean that people suck and why should we blame ourselves? Dr. Slater explains:

I know that sounds crazy as an HR person for me to say that but you have to say the whole thing together.  People suck and it’s our fault. As leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure that our team has everything that they need to be successful. And when they’re not successful the first thing we have to do is look at ourselves and ask if we did all that we could to make sure that they were successful. So that’s why people suck because a lot of times we don’t do our part.

Employee Performance

There are so many factors that play into a person’s ability to perform at their best. So how can business owners or leaders identify those factors and ensure that people are performing at the highest levels? Dr. Slater:

Make sure the work environment is conducive to being successful as a team member. I think the most important thing is that we create an environment that people actually love. The days are gone when people are just happy to come to work for a paycheck. People want to like what they do and where they do it.

Dr. Slater adds:

Make sure that people understand what value they add to the organization. Making it very clear what an individual’s role is in the overall success of the organization motivates people to want to work at their highest level.

Hiring People Who Don’t Suck and Firing People Who do

Hiring the right people can be challenging, time-consuming, and expensive. Equally as challenging is knowing when to fire someone vs investing the time to discover ways to help them perform at a higher level. So how do we hire people who don’t suck? Dr. Slater:

We hire people that don’t suck by making sure that we ask the right questions up front, and making sure that upon their onboarding we have a plan already designed to support their success.

And when do we fire people who do? Dr. Slater adds:

We shouldn’t just fire people that suck. So obviously there will be times when it’s necessary but that should not be our first response. We should always look to discover what we can do to help that individual to perform at a higher level. And if we’ve done that once or twice then we should start considering if it’s the right fit and if they truly just suck.

Joy in the Workplace

Bringing joy into the workplace leads to better business results and higher employee performance. Dr. Slater explains.

If you will create a joyful work experience for your team they want to stay. They want to work in your organization. Additionally, they want to help the organization to be successful because they understand that the organization’s success is also their success. So creating joyful work experiences is truly the key to a successful business. And I would be willing to bet that it is the key to making the world a better place because happy people make the world a better place.

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. To learn more about Dr. Tiffany Slater and HR TailorMade, please visit https://www.hrtailormade.com/.

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

Why Employees Need Leaders to Lead by Example

We bought mental health tools, but has everyone bought in? Many companies understand the importance of promoting mental health in the workplace. As a result, they have enacted programs and policies designed to put the well-being of their employees first. A recent MetLife survey found that at least 68% of respondents working at companies with more than 100 employees report having a wide range of programs designed to prevent mental health problems. 

To make the most significant impact, a sharper focus on support should become a key aspect of a company’s culture. But cultural values, and the effectiveness of any company initiative, can only be established with buy-in from all parts of the company – management especially. So now more than ever, employers seeking to improve employee mental health must first improve their understanding and involvement in mental health initiatives. 

This article will discuss the role managers play in employee well-being and how to lead by example. First, we’ll look at how employers can impact employees, both positively and negatively. Then we’ll examine how employers can maximize their positive impact as they lead by example.

Understand the Role Managers can Have on Employee Well-being

While most managers aim to support their employees, they may not be aware of how their managerial style can affect mental health. A 2020 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, & Health found that in workforces where leaders and managers whose “quality of leadership” has higher levels of traits perceived as fair, empowering, and supportive, employees have a lower risk of reporting mental distress. Similarly, teams that embody these same traits show a more “protective, prospective effect on employee mental health.” 

On the other hand, passive leadership predicts higher levels of role ambiguity, conflict, and overload – all of which lead to psychological work fatigue and have been shown to influence overall mental health negatively. 

Without a doubt, managers play a huge and direct role in the mental well-being of their employees. However, managers also play a more indirect role. The example they set for employees may increase – or inadvertently decrease – how likely they are to engage with mental health resources and initiatives. Employers that show little buy-in to health initiatives may unwittingly diminish the perceived importance of these programs, thereby limiting employee participation. The stigmas associated with mental health mean that many employees may not be initially willing to bring mental health conversations into their workplace. They may require the encouragement of their managers before they can do so. 

Support Your Employees and Lead by Example

HR professionals are acutely aware of leadership’s important role in bolstering workplace wellbeing. According to Unmind’s 2022 Mental Health Trends Report, 76% of HR professionals believe senior leadership needs to boost their well-being IQ. To drive real, long-lasting change, workplace leaders must work on supporting the policies they seek to implement. You can accomplish this by being seen modeling healthy behaviors, creating open channels of communication, and continuing to learn.

Model Healthy Behaviors

Modeling healthy behaviors can be one of the most effective ways to show your employees your commitment to mental health. Unfortunately, according to a recent MetLife survey, only 1 in 3 employees believed that their organizational leaders lead by example when it comes to mental health. This included sharing their difficulty with stress, burnout, depression, and other mental health problems. While it can be difficult to talk about personal mental health challenges, doing so is one of the best ways employers can continue to destigmatize mental wellbeing. 

Modeling healthy behaviors such as those described above, in conjunction with others such as establishing breaks, encouraging time off, and creating divisions between home and work can underscore leadership’s commitment to inclusivity and communication. Most importantly, doing so may give employees the push they need to open up about their issues, thereby allowing managers to help them or guide them to the resources they need. 

Create and Maintain Channels of Communication with Employees

Opening up about personal mental health is only one part of the solution. Managers must also strive to create and maintain open communication channels with their employees. This will help them feel comfortable sharing and ultimately resolving their challenges.

Encouraging discussion and openness is a critical component of supporting employees. But unfortunately, not everyone feels comfortable or has had a positive experience opening up.  A recent survey by Mind Share Partners found that less than 40% of employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work to other colleagues, their managers, and HR. Furthermore, only about half of the respondents (49%) described their experience as positive.

Managers must assure their employees that opening up about mental health will be met with support and care.. Letting them know that leadership is an ally in combating – rather than a contributing factor – to workplace stressors. The Mind Share report also found that employees who did feel supported by their employers were twice as likely to talk about their mental health at work. In addition, employees reported higher job satisfaction and were more likely to stay with their company. 

Keep Learning

Unfortunately, the ongoing shifts in workplace dynamics suggest that mental health in the workplace will only continue to garner importance. Despite this, most managers lack formal training on mental health issues, which means that even though employers might be willing to help and support employees, they may be unable to do so. 

Formal training sessions and making mental health support resources available to all levels of leadership will help employers deal with employee mental health more effectively. Training and support will also tell employees that their issues will be taken seriously.

In leading by example, employers are taking on a more dynamic and effective role in supporting employee wellbeing. While it may not always be easy, doing so is the best way to drive real change and create an open, healthy workplace where employees can thrive. 

6 Ways Employee Recognition can be Established in a Fair Climate

Sponsored by: Cristaux International

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

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

Why is Fairness Important to Recognition? 

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

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

 

Fair Recognition Programs

Overall benefits of corporate wellness (©Cristaux.com)

 

6 Ways to Establish a Fair Recognition Climate

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

1. Use Employee Data

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

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

2. Allow Everyone to Achieve

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

3. Recognize Consistently

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

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

4. Show Appreciation

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

5. Celebrate Diverse Accomplishments

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

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

6. Recognize in Different Ways

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

Fairness Makes Recognition Fruitful

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

An Empathetic Workplace – 4 Practical Tips

As a business leader, you want to keep employees engaged at work and encourage company loyalty. How does the empathetic workplace blend in with those goals? How can you create a culture that makes people care about their jobs? The key is making empathy your central focus by starting with a top-down approach.

When leadership makes employees feel respected and valued, they provide a space where employees can bring their whole selves to work. In turn, their teams are happier and more motivated. Employers who want to facilitate a compassionate company culture need to improve communication, boost transparency, listen to employees, and include more stakeholders in the decision-making process.

The Importance of Empathy

Traditional work methods got flipped upside down at the start of the pandemic, creating additional stress in people’s work and personal lives. Research conducted by Qualtrics found that 42% of employees experienced a decline in mental health after the start of COVID-19. This stress caused a decrease in work performance, with 20% of people saying it took longer to finish tasks and 12% saying they struggled to juggle workplace responsibilities.

Creating an empathetic workplace can help ease some of the stress employees are feeling. Recent research from Catalyst shows how empathy can improve workplace performance. The survey found that 76% of people with highly empathetic leaders reported feeling more engaged at work, while less than a third of those surveyed with less empathetic leadership reported engagement. So what does this mean for you? If you want your employees to do their best work, creating an empathetic workplace isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.

How to Create an Empathetic Workplace

Empathy has the power to transform your workplace. However, it takes more than one initiative to make empathy the cornerstone of your company culture. Here are four things you can do to continuously foster compassion and create a company culture grounded in empathy:

 

1. Implement an Open-Door Policy

Opening communication lines across the company is a great way to show employees that they’re in an environment that values empathy. When appropriately implemented, an open-door policy can improve communication across all levels of an organization and establish trust among employees. Rather than keeping workplace issues to themselves, employees with this policy will feel more comfortable discussing problems with managers. This allows managers to address concerns before they become major stressors.

For an open-door policy to be successful, you need to encourage upward communication. If this is a new concept for your workforce, you may need to prompt workers to provide senior leadership feedback. One way to get the ball rolling is by asking employees for feedback in annual surveys and addressing the survey results in a companywide meeting.

 

2. Be Vulnerable

To effectively lead a team through a crisis, transparent communication is key. Yet very few leaders keep employees in the loop. In a recent survey conducted by Leadership IQ, only 20% of employees said their leaders always openly share ongoing company challenges. When employees are left in the dark, anxiety and fear can develop, causing them to consider looking for new career opportunities. On the other hand, when leaders openly share company challenges, employees are 10 times more likely to recommend them as great employers.

So how can senior managers and CEOs practice vulnerable leadership? You could try discussing challenges you or the company are facing and victories you’re incredibly proud of. By opening up to your team, you make it easier for them to open up to you.

 

3. Listen More Than You Speak

To be empathetic, you need to become a better listener. This means keeping an open mind, recognizing how your employees are feeling, and trying to understand their perspectives. While you don’t have to agree with everything said, ensuring your team feels heard can make a world of difference. In fact, employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more empowered to do their best work.

Try to listen more than you talk. Your goal should be to avoid interrupting employees while they speak. Paraphrase what was said after they’re done to show that you are listening. Although you may disagree with what was said, it’s still important to validate the other person’s perspective and let them know you understand where they’re coming from.

 

4. Talk With Your Team Before Making Decisions

As the world returns to normal, you may be wondering what your work environment should look like. Some employees may be eager to return to the office, while others enjoy working from home. Before creating a return-to-office plan, talk with your team about their preferences.

Employees will have their own unique qualities that dictate which type of working environment suits them best. As an empathetic leader, it’s important to keep each individual’s unique characteristics in mind while creating a plan that works for them. The world of work has been permanently altered, and there’s no longer a one-size-fits-all strategy that works for everyone.

If you want employees to care about their jobs, you need to care about them. By creating an emphatic work environment, you can create a space where employees feel safe bringing their whole selves to work.

Ways to Help Veteran Employees Thrive

Sponsored: Orion Talent

I am a staunch advocate of veteran hiring. It is a smart business decision with a positive impact on everything from profitability to innovation to competitiveness. Not only are you hiring men and women with state-of-the-art technical skills and proven leadership skills far beyond that of their civilian peers, but you are also accessing resilient soft skills. Combined, these skills will help shape the future of your company.

While many of you are already on board with hiring veterans, I know retaining veterans is an entirely different animal. In a recent conversation with Meghan Biro, we talked about how many companies don’t transition service members to civilian roles very well. According to SHRM, the average annual employee turnover rate is around 19% making it a formidable hurdle for talent acquisition leaders. When we consider veteran employees, the percentage jumps to nearly 50% leaving their first post-military position within a year.

Much of this turnover can be attributed to a lack of support. Or, an undefined career path, feeling uninspired, or skills misalignment. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Luckily, these issues can all be addressed through a well-planned veteran onboarding and retention plan.

Help Military Veterans Thrive with These Five Strategies

1. Mentorships 

Mentorship is an excellent way to provide your new veteran employees with a connection to another veteran. They can serve as a resource, guide, and advocate in their new role. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs offers a wealth of information on retaining veterans, including information on setting up a successful mentorship program. 

Listed among the benefits of veteran mentoring are an increase in morale, and productivity. In addition, retention, better adaptation to workplace culture, better career development, and promotion of diversity. These voluntary relationships are also a great way to transfer institutional and cultural knowledge.

Technology powerhouse Siemens has been successfully executing its veteran mentorship program for years. Orion Talent has worked with Siemens to hire nearly 2,500 veterans since 2010, and among their veteran retention best practices is a military peer mentorship program. Mike Brown, Global Head of Talent Acquisition of Siemens, explained their program.  “When other military come in now, they get paired up. And I think that really helps with their transition.” 

2. Employee Resource Groups

Similar to the retention benefits of mentoring veterans, creating Employee Resource Groups or Veteran Affinity Groups also offers increased employee engagement and job satisfaction. The VA calls these voluntary groups a “critical element to retention advocated by study respondents”  in their Veterans Employment Toolkit. ERG programs can also include career development, advocacy, community service, and social activities. Make sure to give your veteran employees the time and space to participate in these groups, especially as they onboard.

An additional benefit of veteran ERGs is that they help build your company’s reputation in a job market where candidates, veteran or civilian, are seeking purpose-driven work. They also increase workplace agility as your org chart is flattened in an ERG. Collaboration and innovation often follow!

3. Career Pathing

When I speak with men and women transitioning into the civilian world, their desire for a clear career path stands out. Their military career progression was clearly laid out, with defined goals and requirements. In civilian terms, you can think of this as career pathing. When you hire a veteran for a Junior Electrical Engineer position, you could lay out a plan with steps and milestones to reach Senior Electrical Engineer and then Project Manager, for example. 

Laying out these career paths pays dividends in terms of engagement and retention. Employers also experience higher performance and productivity rates. This Mercer study shows that 78% of employees would stay with their current employer if they were given a clear career path. 

4. Upskilling

Offering continuous development and ongoing education to your veteran employees is a powerful retention tool.  

Not only are you illustrating your investment in their success by providing these programs but you are reaping the rewards. Aside from increased retention, benefits of upskilling include increased employee satisfaction, less need to hire train new employees, and becoming more competitive in your industry.

“Our experience shows that when veterans receive tailored preparation for future roles, it leads to a better fit, a better transition, and ultimately better retention,” explains Laura Schmiegel, SVP, Strategic Partnerships at Orion Talent. “This helps companies save time and money in employee turnover, and it means they get to keep some of their best talent.”

As Meghan discussed in her recent article on veteran hiring, workforce partnerships can play an important part in upskilling. Strategic workforce partnerships like the Department of Defense Skillbridge program allow you to recruit veterans and gain access to their existing expertise while upskilling and reskilling them at the same time. 

5. DEI Initiatives

The veteran population represents a 43% diverse workforce and should be an integral part of a company’s DEI initiative. As with any other group in your initiative, you will want to consider how to prevent bias towards your veteran employees. Unfortunately, some old biases may linger, and your DEI strategy is the place to nip that in the bud. 

This HR Exchange article by LaKisha Brooks explains, “These judgments are often harmful to diversity initiatives because they limit our ability to see people as individuals with unique talents to contribute. For example, bias against veterans includes assuming they have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Bias can also include mental health problems just because of their military background, assuming they have a particular personality type, such as being rigid or stern…It’s essential to put assumptions aside and ask meaningful questions to learn the truth instead.”

These five veteran retention strategies will help highlight to the veterans at your company that yours is a workplace that sees them for the unique individuals they are with valuable skills worthy of investment. But, you don’t have to take on all five at once. Choose one, and make it amazing! Then move on to the next retention strategy. Your veteran employees will be proud to call your company home.

 

Why Trust and Transparency Matter in the Workplace

Many business experts champion trust in the workplace. They include the likes of Stephen Covey and my dear friend, David Horsager. (His 8 Pillars of Trust and his many excellent books should be required reading.) However, what is perhaps less well known is the neuroscience of trust. As a species, we’ve developed an array of neurochemical survival mechanisms. Employers often ignore these mechanisms, and as a result, miss the opportunity to build trust and transparency in the workplace. 

The Neuroscience of Mistrust

Let’s start with the opposite of trust. It is the “fight or flight” response we experience when faced with a perceived threat. These “threats” elevate the hormone cortisol, which narrows our focus to deal only with the immediate. The threat could be actual, imminent, physical, or merely a harsh interruption in our day. The problem is, our bodies can’t easily tell the difference.

Of course, cortisol has other important functions. Cortisol controls blood sugar levels, memory formation, and blood pressure. At normal levels, it keeps us engaged with the day’s activities. When elevated, cortisol puts us on “alert status” and makes trust a low priority.

Trust and the Willingness to Take Risks

In my book, The Velocity Mindset, I discussed how cortisol can prevent leadership teams from identifying and achieving objectives. Additionally, I highlighted the role another hormone, oxytocin, plays in velocity (speed with direction and alignment).

Trust in the workplace—and its neurochemical roots—are key drivers for business success. Compelling research by Dr. Paul Zak and others champions the well-established science around oxytocin and trust. According to one study, oxytocin “affects an individual’s willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions.” Additionally, researchers have found that oxytocin “enhances an individual’s propensity to trust a stranger when that person exhibits non-threatening signals.”

Obviously, creating artificial trust in the workplace via oxytocin injections would be a short-sighted and ethical nightmare. Nevertheless, there must be practical ways to promote trust knowing that our biology.

Fortunately, trust in the workplace can be accomplished with common-sense approaches, as Horsager and others have shown. An Oxford study summarizes the key drivers and human resource practices that develop trust. These include mutual respect, open communication, and fairness, especially in appraisals of work. The study also identifies factors which decrease trust, such as a lack of transparency in decision-making.

The Risk of Betrayal in the Workplace

Trust is the gold standard. It is the glue that makes alignment and velocity possible. The benefits of increased trust in the workplace are enormous. Over the long term, it increases individual employee productivity and engagement. To paraphrase Zak, it improves collaboration and cultivates a happier, more productive workforce. On the other hand, the consequences of breaking that trust are far worse than not having it in the first place.

Studies have shown that a betrayal of trust, whether familial, cultural, or institutional, creates high levels of long-term stress, including the release of cortisol. If such responses become ingrained in an employee’s experience and memory, the chances of returning to a state of unqualified trust are slim. Consequently, employees might resist a manager or HR professional’s efforts to right a wrong or be transparent after a breach of trust. 

Though a proactive HR team may be capable of rebuilding this trust, the effort is complicated by the very neurochemicals that make us human.

Transparency: The Path To Velocity

It is not easy to win trust and transparency in the workplace. As a result, people are taking a risk when asked to make decisions that may not benefit them. The deciding factor is often how comfortable they are with those asking the question. Transparency, trustworthiness, empathy, and understanding are not just words. They are requirements for every HR professional and executive who aspires to true leadership. 

Today, it is impossible to take a “my way or the highway” approach to business. We need everyone’s buy-in to remain focused on tasks that support a purpose. Trust and transparency in the workplace, like everything else that enables leadership, begins with an understanding of what makes us human. And most importantly, it requires a willingness to work hard to gain that trust. 

Business Needs vs. Employee Needs: Finding the Happy Medium

It’s been a hard year and a half, and as the pandemic continues to fluctuate, illness and lockdowns have taken their toll. The effects extend into the workplace, too, as companies struggle to find a happy medium between employee needs and business needs.

During this time, employees reevaluated what a workplace means to them and how job satisfaction plays into their overall happiness. Many employees found that they’re happier when they don’t have to commute, dress up, or stick to prescribed business hours. Others are ready to get back to the workplace where there are fewer distractions and more in-person collaboration.

Many businesses, on the other hand, are eager to get back to an in-office model without Zoom meetings. Managers want to communicate quickly with employees at their desks, instead of via chat. It’s understandable but short-sighted for employers to try to get back to a pre-pandemic way of operating. As the health implications of COVID-19 can’t be undone, neither can the effects it’s having on the workplace, which is why the need to find a happy medium is important.

These changes create a need for HR teams to adapt to the realities of these changes. Therefore, it’s time for businesses to adapt their return-to-office plans to ensure that they are employee-centered. Now more than ever, balancing employee needs against the needs of the business is imperative.

Listening to Employees

Work-from-home employees are not shy about their preferences and pain points around remote work. Coworkers commonly talk amongst themselves about how much they like not having to dress in full business attire or commute. They also expressed frustrations around digital communications and how, since they’re online, the workday can stretch beyond regular hours.

Before putting forth a return-to-office plan, businesses must listen to what employees truly want. To avoid turnover, some employers plan to skip a return-to-office life altogether, especially since a lack of remote work options is a deal-breaker for many employees and may send them searching for a job elsewhere. Many employees have already made that step, citing lack of remote work options as the main reason for seeking other opportunities. Notably, according to a survey by ResumeBuilder, 15% of workers are planning to leave their jobs before December.

What is the best way to find out what employees need to be happy in their current positions? Ask them. Hold a company-wide meeting to discuss what they like about working remotely, what can be improved, their thoughts on returning to full-time office work, and any questions they may have.

HR teams should leverage anonymous channels like digital surveys to make sure every voice is heard. These tools are perfect for individuals who are not comfortable speaking up in a large group, or for those who worry that their opinions will reflect poorly on them. 

Company leaders should also trust employees. They know how they work best, as well as the ways working from home affects their work-life balance. HR teams know happy employees are more engaged, produce better work, and stay in their positions longer, creating positive business outcomes.

Balancing Employee Needs With Business Needs

While keeping employee needs top of mind is essential, HR professionals must also evaluate how best to serve the company. If remote work begins to negatively impact employee and company performance, that can’t be ignored. Conversely, if an organization consistently meets KPIs, is growing, and employees are engaged, there’s no need to return to the office five days a week.

Instead of assuming performances and company operations will improve in an office setting, HR teams should strive to find balance. There’s no need for extremes. Companies don’t need to decide to keep operations fully remote or shift them entirely back to the office.

Over the course of the pandemic, it’s become clear what job functions need to be performed in person versus remote. Some team members can complete all of their job functions from home, while others have duties that require in-person work.

Companies should try to strike a balance and meet their employees in the middle. Offer a schedule that accommodates working from home alongside in-person work. For example, some organizations can easily let employees work from home three days a week, while requesting in-person attendance for meetings.

Companies can also strike a balance by easing the dress code to make going into the office feel more comfortable. Additionally, they can find cost savings by allowing employees to work from home. Businesses should evaluate whether they can stagger when different staff members come in. By doing so, they can use a smaller office space, saving on rental costs and utilities, among other expenses. At the same time, employees will appreciate the flexibility of being able to choose to work from home on a regular basis.

Looking to the Future

Before implementing a return-to-office plan, HR teams must equally weigh the needs of the business against those of their employees. Therefore, it may be tempting to develop this kind of plan quickly. However, HR teams must take time to listen to employees and measure their needs alongside business goals. This will create a happier and more effective workplace for everyone.

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

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

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

Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on Workplace Technology Innovation

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

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

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

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

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

Accessible and Individualized Technology will Empower Employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Modern Technology to Create Better Workplaces [Podcast]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Creative with Modern Technology Adoption

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

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

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

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

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

 

Best Practices, Legal Requirements, and Respectful Workplace Culture

In the modern workplace, a respectful workplace culture isn’t just a cherry on top of a job role. If the work culture isn’t healthy and respectful, it could mean organizations lose their best employees and lose out on the best candidates. People don’t just want a respectful workplace culture, they EXPECT it. It’s a necessity for a high-performing workplace.

The issue, however, is that many organizations don’t realize the importance of creating and maintaining a positive culture. They also don’t understand the strong role leaders play in making that culture a reality. By empowering leaders to facilitate respect in the workplace, organizations can improve productivity and employee experience, and also protect businesses from legal issues and allegations.

Our Guest: Labor, employment, and human-rights lawyer Marli Rusen

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Marli Rusen: labor, employment, and human-rights lawyer, mediator, arbitrator, author, speaker, and organizational consultant. Using her knowledge of workplace dynamics and law, Marli helps organizations create productive and healthy work environments. She reviews, analyzes, and helps resolve serious workplace issues, like misconduct allegations, employee disclosure, mental health discussions, etc.

Because of her extensive experience over the last 25 years, I wanted to get her take on how legal and societal expectations around respectful workplace culture have changed over time. According to Marli, in the last five years, a respectful culture has become a must-have at any workplace.

“Respectful workplace culture and conduct used to be an afterthought or a ‘nice-to-have,’ but has now turned into an expectation on the part of employees. And it’s now a legal requirement on the part of the courts,” Marli says. “It’s a core expectation in the employment world, and leaders should take notice of this.”

Why should they take notice? Marli says there are several reasons. 1) If an organization doesn’t take respectful conduct seriously, high-performing employees will look elsewhere. 2) If an employee sees that leaders are taking part in or tolerating misconduct, they may take legal action against them. And 3) organizations are putting themselves at risk in the “court of public opinion,” because employees can take them to task on social media. Leaders are key in preventing catastrophes and keeping employees happy.

“Leaders have a greater responsibility in maintaining a respectful workplace culture because they have greater authority. They have the power and therefore have the responsibility to exercise that to build and sustain a respectful workplace,” Marli says.

Walk The Talk: How Leaders Can Maintain a Respectful Workplace Culture

So what can leaders do to make sure they’re holding up their end of the bargain for employees? How can they best utilize their power for the good of the organization? According to Marli, they need to consider the three M’s of leadership.

“The first M is MODEL. Leaders need to model respect. Walk the talk. Show how they expect people on their teams to behave. The second M is MONITOR. Leaders need to get out there and engage and interact with employees to make sure they’re treating each other well,” Marli says. “And finally, the third M is MITIGATE. Leaders are the face of organizations, so they have to mitigate risks for other leaders. If they see something amiss at an organization, they need to speak up and help others.” 

As companies add policies to ensure a respectful workplace, they have to be careful that once the policies are written, there are plans to take action in the face of a violation. There can’t be a culture of avoidance at work, otherwise, there is no point in creating policies at all.

“In some workplace cultures, there’s a fear of holding people accountable because doing so will seem disrespectful. There is a belief that they need to make people feel good and not give critical feedback,” Marli says. “But once there’s been an objective review and allegations are confirmed, there’s an obligation to take action. Organizations must demonstrate through measured consequences that they take these issues seriously.” 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about creating and sustaining a respectful workplace culture by reaching out to Marli Rusen on LinkedIn.

Improve Workplace Culture with a Powerful Strategy: Bystander Training

Do we need to worry about toxic workplace culture now, in the midst of an exhaustingly protracted pandemic that’s badly straining employers and employees? It’s a question a lot of HR practitioners are asking themselves: What do we prioritize right now? Do we continue with the triage of focusing on security, safety, and trying to maintain things like vaccination policies, masking policies, digital virtual work cultures, and all the workarounds that have now become part of the new way we work? Is a toxic workplace culture still an issue, right now?

Yes. It’s always an issue. Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are more critical than ever. And unfortunately, the pandemic has increased some tensions and bad behavior. Racism (and other isms) have been rearing their heads in life and in work. But recently I came across a powerful new strategy that may change how we’re addressing bad behavior in the workplace. It’s called bystander training, and it trains employees to recognize, bear witness, and speak up. It shifts the focus from reactive to proactive and may help managers and D&I departments to intervene when they can’t have eyes on the ground in 90 places at once.

By the Numbers

How rampant is discrimination? A recent Glassdoor survey revealed that bias-related behaviors shape the workplace experience for too many. The survey of over 1,100 employees found that 61 percent have either witnessed or experienced workplace discrimination based on age, race, gender, or LGBTQIA+ identity. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Ageism: 45 percent
  • Racism: 42 percent
  • Gender discriminaton: 42 percent
  • LBGTQIA+ discrimination: 33 percent

That discrimination takes on many forms of bullying and microaggressions. (Microaggressions are those relentless, daily behaviors that may seem subtle, but can have a crushing effect). An estimated 48.6 million Americans have been victims of workplace bullying. A McKinsey study of women in the workplace found that nearly two-thirds reported experiencing racist and sexist microaggressions as a workplace reality. Couple that with the increasing stress of working during a pandemic (such as juggling work and childcare or risking safety to keep a job), and we really need to do better.

Helping the Cause

Many organizations are trying to do just that. Glassdoor also found that hiring for roles addressing corporate diversity and inclusion increased 30 percent from 2018-2019, for instance. But hiring programs aren’t enough—that aforementioned need to actually see, witness, and address requires that others participate, particularly in larger organizations. And it can’t just be a few whistleblowers or far too many occasions will be missed and far too many bad behaviors unchecked. Certainly, training bystanders is a solid approach, if done right. And it does seem that this bystander training is being done right, for a number of reasons.

1. Bystander training helps create a culture of witness and accountability. 

Bystander training encourages employees to speak up and support others’ speaking up. That can help combat the “bystander effect”—a socio-psychological observation that people are less likely to step in during a crisis if others are present. By creating a shared culture of witness and accountability, employees may not feel like the odd person out. Rather they feel empowered by those around them to take a stand, so long as everyone’s received that training. (This is yet another reason why improving workplace culture is significant.)

2. Bystander training is a proactive approach.  

Taking a reactive approach to harassment isn’t always effective. It can feel disingenuous when a new policy comes on the heels of a news story, and that can erode employee buy-in and trust. It can also seem to lack the proper scaffolding: employees may wonder if there are really any tangible actions to take after that two-hour presentation concludes. As far as its impact on culture, it doesn’t shape culture so much as mirror it. If your work culture doesn’t have a specific stance on workplace harassment, you need to create one ASAP. Strategies like bystander training go a lot farther to intentionally clarify your culture and values. You’re coaching employees on what discrimination and bullying look like so they can identify what they’re seeing, and at the same time, driving home the point that those behaviors won’t be tolerated in your workplace.

3. Bystander training offers individuals options for taking action. 

Not everyone has the same instinct to intervene immediately, and that sometimes inhibits them from acting at all. Bystander training lays out the options on how to respond and addresses these factors. If an employee witnesses a racist comment, they may want to quietly tell their manager or supervisor instead of intervening. In some cases, stepping in may have an adverse effect. The point is that they know the parameters of acceptable and unacceptable, and don’t have to question their own judgment. They also know there are a number of ways to stop harassment, not just in the moment, but in a powerful, systemic way.

We often bring social blind spots into the workplace and that’s where they become an issue, standing in the way of true inclusiveness, diversity, and a sense of belonging. But when the intentional focus comes into play, one employee’s “I was just joking” is seen as another employee’s serious discomfort. The old excuses (and I’m thinking of some legendary toxic workplaces here) are seen as gaslighting and harmful smoke screens. You can’t fix it if you don’t agree it’s broken.

Bystander training creates that framework for understanding, if not agreement. It provides a forum for discussing red flags that we didn’t have the tools to address before. And in doing so, it provides another powerful strategy for improving the culture of working. This could also mean you don’t lose another terrific employee in the long run. Because instead of being harassed, they were actually heard. In a people-centered workplace culture, that’s the new bottom line.

Why Companies Focusing on Workplace Design Thrive

Companies have specific priorities to help them create traction and build better businesses. They make sure their finances are going well, remain competitive, and engage employees for optimal productivity.

However, during 2020, unprecedented shifts happened. The pandemic and quarantine greatly impacted how organizations operated. Chiefly, among those impacts, were shifts in workplace wellness programs.

Companies were in survival mode, but they also had to address physical safety concerns due to COVID-19. They had to set up work-from-home measures and help combat feelings of disconnect associated with a remote workforce. Now that we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, companies are beginning another shift from surviving to thriving. They’re expanding their typical view of employee wellness to fit long-term needs.

How to Improve Well-Being in the Workplace

Last year, we saw a rapid evolution in the workplace wellness space. Many companies are learning that employee well-being can affect engagement, productivity, and the bottom line. They’re also discovering that more than just the typical aspects should be included in their wellness programs. A modern wellness program should go beyond telling individual employees how to improve their physical health, for example.

Today, the following should be integrated into a comprehensive strategy.

  • Physical well-being | This is the most traditional aspect of a company’s wellness program. It’s related to offering activities and support that focus on physical health.
  • Mental health | Employees’ mental well-being has garnered attention and investment recently—especially in light of pandemic stressors.
  • Community and connection | A remote workforce highlighted that relationships and employee engagement need to be redefined and fostered more intentionally.
  • Telehealth and employee assistance programs | Providing remote medical resources and assistance programs helps employees overcome issues more easily.
  • Financial health | A notoriously overlooked, yet critical element of workplace wellness programs includes providing financial planning support, resources, and even extended paid leave.
  • Workplace design | Workplace design is an emerging trend that highlights how employees’ work is actually designed to alleviate stressors, improve engagement, and boost productivity.

Proof That Workplace Design Works

Companies that focus on improving their workplace design are experiencing positive results. Microsoft Japan is a great example of an organization using workplace design as a strategic mechanism to increase productivity. It implemented a four-day workweek, encouraged 30-minute meetings, and emphasized its chat messaging system over email. The results? A whopping 40 percent swell in productivity.

To determine the return on investment of workplace wellness programs such as Microsoft Japan’s, measuring employee engagement is key. An engaged workforce has a slew of advantages. These include greater productivity, fewer absences, and increased retention rates. In turn, all of these benefits of workplace wellness programs that focus on workplace design lead to a more profitable company.

Workplace Design as a Strategic Mechanism

Implementing and integrating a thoughtful and strategic work design with well-being in mind is an important step for organizations that want to be industry leaders. There are three key areas of focus that will help any company improve wellness in the workplace using creative workplace design:

1. Stay up to date on technology trends

Keeping up with new technology that enables employees to work remotely with more efficiency and engagement is key to modern workplace design. By staying abreast of emerging trends and better technology practices (such as virtual private networks and desktop-as-a-service offerings), companies set their remote or hybrid workforce up for success. In addition, setting up Slack channels or Zoom meetings that function as virtual break rooms can increase engagement.

2. Create new cultural norms

Your team won’t know how to improve well-being in the workplace using workplace design without a cultural shift that starts at the top. When leaders model the changes in a company’s modern workplace design, employees are much more likely to follow suit. Set up walking meetings, flexible work hours, and a culture of no-meeting days to combat Zoom fatigue. Also, be sure your leadership team embraces those practices.

3. Allow employees to choose wellness initiatives

Not every wellness practice suits every team member. Some (say, parents) might prefer flexible hours, but others might choose to work from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Make promoting workplace wellness programs part of the company’s day-to-day. But let your employees pick what works for their lifestyles and preferences.

Companies that pivoted to survive the pandemic must continue to be flexible with their thinking and business practices. It’s clear there’s a “new normal” for a company culture that includes support for remote work, intentional employee engagement practices, and investment in employee well-being in general. Embracing modern workplace design is the next step toward creating an organization that doesn’t just survive, but also thrives.

Image by Joel Muniz

The Nonprofit Mindset: How This New Outlook Helps Business Leaders

With people talking about a post-pandemic restart to the economy, your business might be looking to bring in a fresh new outlook. If you’ve so far struggled to find this fresh direction in 2021, you might want to consider taking a page out of the nonprofit handbook – starting with the nonprofit mindset.

We’re not talking about changing your business model, of course. Instead, consider giving your business a unique edge in your market and make the most of limited resources by thinking like a nonprofit.

How do nonprofits do that? What measures, systems, and presentation elements are immediately transferable to for-profit enterprises? Here’s how you can think like a nonprofit to ensure your business benefits from a fresh outlook.

What Do Nonprofits Do Well?

First, let’s take a look at what nonprofits do exceptionally well.

You might think nonprofits remained focused on their mission 100% of the time. And building an operation around a force for good is undoubtedly inspiring and commendable. But many nonprofits are more than that; they’re well-oiled machines doing innovative work with a percentage of the resources’ blue chip’ organizations are able to leverage.

Most notably, nonprofits excel in:

  • Offering staff unique opportunities in the workplace
  • Developing enjoyable office and on-site working environments
  • Reacting quickly and creatively to new stories (great comms departments)
  • Diversifying their funding and revenue streams

Pick up just one of these traits by looking at nonprofit operations, and your business will gain a significant edge over your competitors.

(This Donorbox article is an excellent bit of extended reading on the signs of a successful nonprofit.)

Developing Connections and Earning Trust

Nonprofit Mindset: World Help

Image: Vet Comp & Pen

While a nonprofit user base might look a little different from your typical e-commerce store or Instagram influencer’s audience, there are many transferable methods and approaches that can help form a nonprofit mindset. Taking note of how each organization uniquely addresses its audience could inspire your next campaign or website update.

Nonprofits don’t just treat their user bases as customers but stakeholders in a mission. If their customers buy second-hand items, for example, they’re buying into that mission. If they need assistance on a personal level, they’re buying into a solution that provides them with the help they need. That greater sense of togetherness helps instill trust, as does content built around it. In other words, making people (or animals or the environment) the focus of your content (instead of your products and profit motive) is a great way to earn those users’ trust and strengthen bonds with them.

While veteran compensation consultancy Vet Comp & Pen isn’t a nonprofit, it does incorporate a nonprofit mindset in its content. Looking at their website, you quickly notice the presence of previous users/customers and their feedback. This doesn’t just reinforce the legitimacy of the company and their work, but it also strengthens the connection between them and the wider veteran audience.

It’s not enough to say you’re different; you have to prove it. And the best way to do that is by incorporating impactful testimonials into your messaging.

It’s much harder to earn the audience’s trust as a for-profit business; we’re not arguing otherwise. However, the techniques nonprofits use are hardly revolutionary. Putting typical users at the front of their web design and branding, integrating themselves into online communities, and giving them decision-making powers are all easily adoptable methods that make a huge difference.

Three lessons:

  • Make mission-focused content
  • Make your team a prominent part of your website
  • Encourage feedback from positive experiences

Creating a More Organic Social Media Presence

Nonprofit Mindset World Help

Image: World Help Instagram

You might not be much of a Tweeter or Instagrammer yourself, but you probably understand how important social media is to running a modern business. However, not everyone gets it right.

Social media is an essential tool for nonprofits. It provides an inexpensive way of getting their message and mission noticed by the right audience. For-profit enterprises should emulate this strategy to diversify their digital output without adding extraordinary costs.

Social media can feel forced, so aim for a more organic presence and growth pattern. Rather than bombard your suspected target market with ads, aim for a more natural approach and let your brand speak for itself. Look at World Help and Choose Love and how they’ve put the people they aim to help at the front and center of their Instagram output. This approach makes the content feel less like advertising and draws people in with a story.

Aim for a multi-pronged social media presence. Don’t just focus on regular posts. Use Instagram and Facebook stories, for example, to react to topical issues and events. Give your audience incentives to share content (and be willing to associate yourself with other brands by sharing their content). And use live streaming as a way of connecting directly with influential members of your online community.

Yes, these are all social media basics – but the best nonprofits are getting it right every day. With a nonprofit mindset, so will your organization.

Three lessons:

  • Don’t make yourself or your business the story
  • React to topical events on social media
  • Live stream for immediate feedback

Learning to Do More with Less

Everyone knows most nonprofits lack the spending power of major brands and corporations. People also understand nonprofits doing more with less is crucial for their operation.

This is an important lesson for every small-time startup and garage side hustle out there. You might not have the funding – but drive, solid messaging, and creative thinking can get you pretty far. Even the way these organizations structure their workdays makes an impact.

Of course, the aims of a nonprofit can help it earn media coverage and praise that a for-profit business of the same size couldn’t necessarily win. However, this should signal every small business owner that getting involved in social causes and trying to make a difference works. It is not just a way to feel good about your business; it’s a way of making an impact on a bigger stage.

Investing in charity, championing social causes, and involving your team in community projects is a great way to gain free advertising and profile building for your business. After all, doing more with less is about making sure people are taking notice of you. You could follow the thought leadership route or put all your extra cash into funding good causes. Either way will earn you unique coverage in new and old media you can turn into leads.

Of course, always remember that the idea that social media has leveled the playing field is unfounded, as a significant budget will always help brands rise to the top. However, creative use of media on a low budget can help you get noticed by people who prefer content with care applied with precision.

Nonprofits are also known for making the most of potentially outdated forms of marketing, such as print content and fundraising emails. Sign up for a couple yourself and analyze how subtle copy and well-placed CTAs help them earn donations.

Three lessons:

  • Content doesn’t always require a huge budget
  • Audiences react to interventions on social issues
  • Giving back can help you earn media opportunities

The NonProfit Mindset: Making it Work for Your Business

Nonprofit organizations excel in creating a passionate community around their work and telling insightful stories. And they do all of that on very tight budgets.

Take a deep dive into their content output. Look at how they interact with audiences through social media and email. Emulate how they structure their teams and incorporate real-world customers and stakeholders in their outreach. Gain all this insight.

Then make the nonprofit mindset work for your organization in 2021.

 

Image by Aaron Amat

Leadership in Divisive Times: Dealing with Colleagues in Denial

When was the last time a colleague said something so ridiculous that it made your jaw drop? A four-year study by LeadershipIQ.com found that employers and boards fired 23 percent of CEOs for denying reality, meaning refusing to recognize negative facts about his or her organization’s performance. Additionally, our recent challenge of mostly politically-driven alternative facts and dealing with colleagues in denial can get overwhelming.

We typically respond to people denying reality by confronting them with the facts and arguments. But research suggests that’s precisely the wrong thing to do.

Research on confirmation bias shows that we tend to look for and interpret information in ways that conform to our beliefs. There is an emotional investment in continuing to believe what you want to believe. Furthermore, studies on a phenomenon called the backfire effect shows when presented with facts that cause us to feel bad about our self-worth or worldview, we may sometimes even develop a stronger attachment to the incorrect belief.

Our Mental Blindspots

These mental blindspots are two of over 100 dangerous judgment errors that result from how our brains are wired, what scholars in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics call cognitive biases. We make these mistakes not only in work but also in other life areas. For example, in our shopping choices, as revealed by a series of studies.

Fortunately, recent research in these fields shows how you can use pragmatic strategies to address these dangerous judgment errors, whether in your professional life, relationships, or other life areas. You need to evaluate where cognitive biases are hurting you and others in your team and organization. Then, you can use structured decision-making methods to make “good enough” daily decisions quickly, more thorough ones for moderately important choices, and an in-depth one for truly major decisions.

Such techniques will also help you implement your decisions well and formulate truly effective long-term strategic plans. In addition, you can develop mental habits and skills to notice cognitive biases and prevent yourself from slipping into them.

A Better Way to Deal with “The Ostrich Effect”

In today’s divisive world, there are two distinct types of denial: personal and professional. How we deal with those in denial on non-business matters is a personal choice. So, for this post, we’ll focus on the professional aspect of denial, or “The Ostrich Effect.” Keep in mind that these same concepts apply to professional and personal relationships and all forms of denial.

So how do you deal with colleagues suffering from the professional form of denial?

Rather than arguing, it is much more effective to use a research-based and easy-to-remember strategy I developed called EGRIP. This acronym stands for Emotions, Goals, Rapport, Information, and Positive Reinforcement.

For instance, consider Mike’s case, a new product development team lead in a rapidly-growing tech start-up. He set an ambitious goal for a product launch, and as more and more bugs kept creeping up, he refused to move the date. People tried to talk to him, but he hunkered down and kept insisting that the product would launch on time and work well. I was doing coaching for the company’s founder, and he asked me to talk to Mike and see what’s going on. During my first conversation with Mike, I explained the EGRIP concept:

E – Connect with their emotions

In the workplace and out, when someone denies clear facts they qualify as one of your colleagues in denial. So you can safely assume that their emotions are leading them away from reality. While gut reactions can be helpful, they can also lead us astray. What works better is to focus on understanding their emotions and to determine what emotional blocks might cause them to stick their heads into the sand of reality.

In my conversations with Mike, I discovered that he tied his self-worth and sense of success to “sticking to his guns.” He associated strong leadership with consistency, so he was afraid of appearing weak in his new role as the team lead. He believed team members were trying to undermine him by getting him to shift the schedule and admit he failed to deliver. This false association of leadership with consistency and fear of appearing weak is a frequent problem for new leaders.

G – Establish shared goals

Then, you must establish shared goals, which is crucial for effective knowledge sharing. I spoke with Mike about how we both shared the goal of having him succeed as a company leader. Likewise, we both shared the goal of having the new product be profitable.

R – Build rapport

Next, build a rapport by establishing trust. Use empathetic listening to echo their emotions and show you understand how they feel. I spoke to Mike about how it must hard to be worried about the loyalty of one’s team members and also discussed what he thinks makes someone a strong leader.

I – Provide information

At this point, start providing new information that might prove a bit challenging — but won’t touch the actual pain point.

I described to Mike how research suggests one of the most important signs of being a strong leader is the ability to change your mind based on new evidence. Along the way, I provided examples such as Alan Mulally saving Ford Motor Company through repeated changes. If I had begun with this information, Mike might have perceived it as threatening. However, by slipping it in naturally as part of a broader conversation — after cultivating rapport built on shared goals — Mike accepted the information calmly.

P – Provide positive reinforcement

Then, after the person changes their perspective, provide them with positive reinforcement, a research-based tactic of shifting someone’s emotions. The more positive emotions the person associates with the ability to accept counter-intuitive facts as an invaluable skill, the less likely anyone will need to have the same conversation with them in the future.

Dealing with Colleagues in Denial: A Different Approach

With Mike, I discussed where he could best exhibit these characteristics. Specifically, we talked about how to show those who might try to undermine him what a strong leader he is — and at the same time make the new product as profitable as possible. I directed the conversation toward how he can show strength by delaying the launch of the new product. Eventually, he agreed, and I praised his ability to show strength and leadership by shifting his perspective. From that point on, his team knew Mike based his views on objective data and evidence.

Next time you’re dealing with colleagues in denial, I wish you good luck. Remember that you can use EGRIP not simply in professional settings but all situations. Keep EGRIP in mind whenever you want to steer others away from false beliefs that cause them to deny reality.

 

Image by Fiskes

Building Company Culture: Embrace Failure to Sustain Performance

It’s safe to say that 2020 put company cultures to the test. Strong cultures came out of it stronger; weak cultures struggled to survive. But what is the makeup of a company culture that can endure such massive shifts in the market? What’s the secret sauce to building company culture?

Flexibility? Sure. Support? Yes. Innovation? Absolutely. But these attributes are outcomes of something more important: being unafraid of — and sometimes even encouraging — failure.

In other words, the best work often comes with some risk, yet the tolerance for risk seems to be something the business world opposes. If that weren’t true, golden parachutes wouldn’t be so common.

When there is no risk of failure, then failing is simply the result of incompetence.

Encouraging failure doesn’t mean setting people up to fall short. Instead, it means allowing people to do more — to push themselves — despite a potentially negative outcome. It’s about being unafraid to challenge employees and trusting them to bring their best. Because when new problems present themselves, all you have is your people.

Business leaders who realized that and responded by giving their workforce room to grow — and support along the way — are the ones that were able to reinvent the way they deliver value when the world suddenly changed. By allowing room for failure, they enabled more room for growth.

Unfortunately, many companies tend to be scared to let their people shine. They’re afraid of failure. When this happens, companies miss out on game-changing outcomes — like innovation.

Embrace New Ideas

Last year, Sherwin-Williams lost big when they fired an employee after he brought new ideas to the table on how the company could engage with younger audiences. Tony Piloseno was a college student, and Sherwin-Williams associate, with 1.2 million followers on TikTok.

His feed consisted of videos showcasing his excitement and passion for mixing paint. After gaining a large following quickly, Tony began signposting his account internally to illustrate what the brand could do on social media by marketing to younger crowds.

It seemed like an obvious opportunity for the company to grow its presence with an underserved demographic. But when Tony formally pitched the idea to corporate marketing, he was put under investigation by corporate personnel — accused of stealing paint and making the videos on company time.

Sherwin-Williams headquarters shut Tony down, despite having support from his immediate supervisor. Not only did the corporate marketing team dismiss Tony’s ideas, but they also schemed to get him terminated. Rather than taking a chance, the company sent a signal to the organization that great marketing ideas can’t come from employees outside of the marketing department.

While Tony’s story is a little extraordinary, employees everywhere have had very similar experiences, albeit perhaps on a smaller scale. Too often, organizations and leaders put employees in boxes. They discourage them from bringing unexpected skills or new ideas forward. Because the culture won’t give them room to try — they potentially fail.

So, how do you build a culture that embraces failure?

Do it Strategically

At the end of the day, leaders must ensure that individual productivity progresses the company toward strategic objectives. Allowing room for growth in an intelligent way means giving employees the space and tools to grow in the right areas. The good news? We don’t need to complicate this process.

This is where technology can play a significant role when building company culture.

Employers can achieve strategic alignment with employees through modern performance management tools. These tools make it easy to create challenging goals personalized to employee skill sets. And they help push the needle forward for overall company objectives. The key is to set goals that allow employees the opportunity to stretch themselves, either by sharpening existing skills or developing new ones.

Using a digital platform gives the entire organization insight into the goals set for individuals, how individual goals track with team or department goals, and how departmental goals align with company goals. Therefore, when an employee has a great idea, it’s being applied to tasks that complement overall business needs. Put simply, aligning goals to company strategy enables employees to execute the mutually beneficial vision.

Being comfortable with a little bit of risk — while leveraging technology to help employees to grow with the needs of the organization — gives workforces the ability to improve and perform at the highest level.

Building Company Culture: Fail Fast, Grow Fast

When put under pressure, any company’s ability to pivot determines overall success. Sure, new strategies can be scary. But aligning employee goals with business goals — and cultivating a culture that enables employees to try new things and rewarding risk-taking by not penalizing failures — helps companies find innovation in unexpected places.

Leveraging technology to support goal setting company-wide creates a path for sustainable growth. It also ensures that progress toward the execution of company strategy — even when small failures do occur. In the end, embracing failure is the possible route when building company culture.

Or rebuilding, as many companies will do over the next several months and years.

 

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

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

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

Our Guest: Jamelle Lindo, EQ and Leadership Coach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find Jamelle on LinkedIn and learn more about his work at JamelleLindo.com.

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

 

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Is it Time for a Company Culture Intervention? 5 Questions You Must Ask

When is a company culture intervention necessary? And how do you know if your company needs to hear some hard truths?

The truth is that through the decisions you make and the behaviors you reward, your company culture has defined itself. And once a company sets a precedent for culture, it is tough to rewrite the narrative. Despite what our About Us page and the first paragraph of our job descriptions say, our aspirations for a quality culture too often fail to match reality. Even worse, unintentional cultures — and unintentionally problematic cultures — stand out more than positive ones. 

So how do you know if your company culture is failing to keep its promises? How do you know if a culture intervention is required? 

Here are five questions designed to help you gauge the health of your workplace culture. Ask each to current leaders and employees willing to share their thoughts. You’ll soon know whether or not it is time for a company culture intervention.

Q1. What is Our Company Culture?

According to a recent survey by Deloitte, only 12 percent of workers understand their company culture. If you haven’t clearly defined your company culture, that data point may hit close to home as you learn if an intervention is required. Because when an unintentional culture is allowed to live and grow, you might get 20 different answers to this question from 20 different people.

You can tell employees about your ideal company culture. But if you want to know what your culture is really like, you must ask this question. Then, no matter how surprised you might be by the answers, you must act upon what you hear.

Q2. Do We Consistently Demonstrate Our Core Values?

One key driver of positive company cultures is the ability to honor and demonstrate a company’s established set of core values. Of course, this question assumes team members are aware of those core values. But if you learn they aren’t, that may tell you a company culture intervention is needed.

For now, though, let’s assume your core values are known and honored. Do our people, especially our leaders, consistently demonstrate those values? 

For instance, one of your core values is “diversity and equality.” Chances are you have data to tell you if your staff is diverse. You have more data that shows is gender parity is an issue. And yet, to get a feel for how team members really feel about this aspect of your company culture, you must ask the question. Again, get ready to hear some complex answers.

Q3. Does Your Culture Meet the Expectations of New Hires?  

When new hires face too many cultural surprises, the temptation to sneak out the back door can be all-encompassing. According to one study, 30 percent of new employees quit their jobs within the first three months — many due to a mismatch of expectations.

Yes, the best recruiting and hiring teams are careful not to oversell and overpromise. And yet, too many new team members soon notice the actual company culture isn’t what they expected. So — especially if you’re losing many new hires quickly and are getting negative reviews on sites like Glassdoor right after they’ve gone — ask this question. Who knows, just by asking, you prevent another employee from exiting out the back door.

Q4. Do Third-party Providers Respect and Represent Our Culture?

Ideally, your contractors, vendors, and service providers will respect — and represent through their actions and business practices — your company culture. For example, do they reflect your efforts to ensure diversity and equality? Could they be inadvertently exposing you to legal risk through language that doesn’t fit precisely with your messaging on the issues that matter? 

Again, ask the question. And if the answer reveals a potential problem, be ready to be part of the solution.

Q5. Do Our People Enjoy Their Work?

To thoroughly engage employees, your workplace culture must foster energy, inspiration, focus, and meaningful work. This is especially true now, as many companies remain impacted by the COVID-10 pandemic. Now more than ever, employees want to adopt flexible schedules that allow them to balance family or personal commitments with their enjoyment of work. They also want to count on wellness and mental health benefits. Most important, they want to know their boss thoroughly appreciates their work. 

People don’t stay at their jobs for the vague, fuzzy feeling they get from the inspirational poster in the break room. They stay because they want to — and because the company culture fosters their growth and wellbeing. 

Does yours? Ask the question. Then listen — really listen — to the answers.

Company Culture Intervention: Better Sooner Than Later

After you’ve asked these challenging questions — and have provided a psychologically safe environment for employees to answer them — you’ll soon know if your company requires an intervention.

And if the answer is yes? Be ready to act. Because if your company needs to start an intervention, sooner is always better than later.

 

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[#WorkTrends] How to Harness the Workplace Power of Introverted People

Many of us might not know that Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and also Elon Musk consider themselves introverts. Like many other introverted people, they have capitalized on their ability to listen well, stay objective, and find the answers in chaos.

Given their unprecedented success, why wouldn’t we want to harness the power and potential of introverts in our workforce?

Our Guest: Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D. Author and Speaker

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., is one of the top global leadership speakers on introversion and is the author of a new book: Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How to Unleash Everyone’s Talent and Performance. Who better to talk about unleashing the power and potential of introverted people in the workplace, right? 

First, I asked Jennifer what drew her to this unique workplace topic:

“I worked in a lot of positions in HR and leadership development and coaching,” Jennifer explained. “And it became a consistent theme that introverts were frustrated; they often felt overlooked and ignored. Everything was designed for the people who were the talkers — the loudest voice in the room. Since the diversity and inclusion conversation is so prevalent right now, I was surprised I couldn’t find anything on introverted people in the workplace. So I became almost a zealot about this!”

We’re glad she did. Now more than ever, with increasing dependency on remote work, many people who identify as introverts are making their mark in the workplace.

The Workplace Power of Introverted People

After explaining that introverts re-energize by taking quiet time — time that allows creativity to flow, innovative thoughts to development, and also deep reflection — Jennifer jumped into how to harness the power of introverted people:

“We must be more intentional about our hiring and culture practices. When we talk about HR, in particular, we have to ask ourselves: Are we including introverts in our planning and execution? Are they part of our diversity and inclusion plan? That must happen more. That’s when we change cultures; that’s when entire organizations change.”

“It’s not just a nice to have,” Jennifer said. “Because if we only listen to the loudest people in the room, half the voices and ideas aren’t being heard.”

As our conversation progressed, Jennifer and I also talked about her key findings while researching introverts in the workplace, how introverts are adapting to remote work (including those endless Zoom meetings), and much more. Please enjoy this episode of the #WorkTrends podcast. Then take a close look at how your organization integrates and respects people on both ends of the introversion-extraversion spectrum. 

 

Find Jennifer on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Editor’s note: We’ve redesigned our and #WorkTrends Podcast pages (and also our FAQ page) to help you be more productive. Please take a look!