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Our Now Normal: Why is There No Culture Button in Microsoft Teams?

In our now normal, company culture seems to have taken a back seat to… well, everything else. So how do we retain our best talent?

Statistics tell us that 2020 was “the year of productivity.” As the world of business moved all its staff into their bedrooms, efficiency levels skyrocketed. Gone were those unproductive hours in the air, on the road, in the canteen, and at conferences. They were replaced by an endless stream of back-to-back Zoom meetings, with hardly a minute left for a toilet break or a single creative thought. Instead, we belong to the next Outlook notification: “Reminder: Microsoft Teams meeting: 15 minutes.”

But I’d suggest that while quantifiable productivity rose in 2020, company culture went into free fall. Not an especially big deal, one might argue, as business owners found themselves caught in limbo between panic and delight. While bent over backward, they watched the bottom line swell while transportation and real estate costs plummeted.

Ironically, this new reality might spell the end of the very concept of the corporation. At the very least, it raises a truly fundamental question. One that millions of employees are secretly asking themselves behind closed doors…

Why bother working for a corporation?

Our Now Normal

Here’s the issue. As employees dropped like flies, cut loose throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the fata morgana of a “permanent job” showed its true colors: a nice idea, but with very little solid underpinning. Instead, employers rewarded employees with an unexpected bonus, a pipeline of bureaucracy channeled straight into their bedrooms. Forget about the separation of private life and work life in our now normal. Many families found themselves with multiple family members juggling multiple conference calls while simultaneously handling the baby and the toddler, the dog, the cooking, the cleaning. And in return? They heard that their salaries might be reduced, since their remote work took place in a low cost-of-living area.

Friday afternoon happy hours were a thing of the past, along with birthday songs, late afternoon hangouts, company parties, and townhalls. In their place, you guessed it: another Zoom meeting.

Some have realized that maybe it’s time to rethink the workplace. Or at least how they fulfilled their role in the workplace. Perhaps it’s time to go freelance. Not a big difference when you think about it. No concerns about distance, or the fear of receiving notice, or the monotonous workday. For many of the most highly skilled people, it won’t take very much convincing.

What is Next?

In the aftermath of COVID-19, with countries like China, Korea, Taiwan, and Australia finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, there’s been a dramatic surge in such search terms as “personal branding.”

Here’s the situation. Many employees are coming to the conclusion that a future working for one employer simply does not make sense. Instead, now they’re building their personal brand, making contacts, attracting business, and offering their services to the world at large.

I’d argue that we’re reaching the tipping point, at which the very idea of working for a corporation no longer makes sense. Why bother fighting a never-ending stream of politics, bureaucracy, red tape, rules, and regulations when you can keep a nice arm’s length from all of them? How does a good night’s sleep sound, without the constant worry of losing your job?

In sales, they say it costs ten times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. It’s at least that much in the case of employees, but most companies seem to have forgotten that fact.

Investing in Culture

Which brings me back to the beginning, when I observed that Microsoft didn’t pre-install a “culture button” in Teams: As a leader, that’s your role – not Microsoft’s (or Zoom’s, or Google’s). It’s your job to start focusing on your organization’s culture. That money saved in rent and travel costs? That money doesn’t belong to the bottom line. The truth is, it belongs to a bleeding culture in crisis.

Now is the time to reinvent what culture means. As managers and leaders, we need to be aware that many of our employees ask themselves, “Why should I, as an employee, stick with a company when the only connection I have is through the internet?”

As managers and leaders navigating our now normal, we need to ask ourselves: How can we reinvent the sort of culture that leads our best people to decide to stay with us?

 

To learn more about Martin’s new book, please visit MartinLindstrom.com/Ministry-of-CommonSense.

 

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How to Restructure Your Hiring Process for Fit Rather Than Vacancy

Few things frustrate business leaders more than a failed new hire. And yet, chances are your hiring process still focuses on filling a vacancy instead of finding a good culture fit. 

Think about it: Finding the perfect candidate for a job takes much time, energy, and money. So it is incredibly frustrating for a new hire to leave the company before recouping the investment. According to a Leadership IQ study, 46% of new hires either move on or get fired within their first 18 months on the job — and only 19% rate as an unequivocal success.

Those are certainly discouraging statistics. Often, our hiring considerations are so focused on assessing competency (i.e., “Can the candidate do this job?”) that we overlook chemistry (i.e., “Is the candidate a good cultural fit?”). When we take a utilitarian approach to the hiring process, we consider what’s on the résumé, identify the most technically proficient candidate, and then hire them.

Our long-standing hiring processes trap companies in a never-ending cycle of hiring the wrong people for the same position — all while wearing out existing team members with the start-and-stop nature of the process. That is why I approach hiring holistically, going beyond technical abilities to look at how a candidate’s personality will fit within the company’s cultural scope.

The Best Hiring Process: Find Candidates Who Fit the Culture

When my company started, it was just me, my girlfriend, and a few friends. We all trusted and felt comfortable with each other, so there was zero trepidation when making decisions and getting stuff done. When tensions did arise, it was because we’re all passionate people committed to success.

To be clear, finding a good culture fit doesn’t mean hiring people you want to grab a beer with after work (though it doesn’t preclude that). It means restructuring your hiring process from the ground up to look for more than just technical proficiency. Here are three ways to begin that process.

1. Create a “Personality Profile” of Current Employees

A few years ago, my company was in a rush to fill a management spot in our customer service department. After sifting through piles of résumés, we hired one of the first and most qualified applicants we found. A few months (and a few dissatisfied customers) later, the hire wasn’t working out — and stunted our projected growth.

The moral of this story? Get to know your employees and find out their likes, dislikes, similarities, and differences. You’ll likely start to see trends, and you can use that information to direct your company forward. This doesn’t mean every hire has to be exactly like the people already on your team. But forming a “personality profile” of your current staff will help you see blind spots or biases you can keep in mind as you bring on new hires.

2. Take a Sledgehammer to Your Current Hiring Process

Does your hiring process value chemistry and know how to find it? I’m not talking about silly concepts like “the “long flight test.” There are plenty of people I love hanging out with who wouldn’t fit in at our company. Likewise, you can probably think of people in your organization who are great at their jobs but honestly drive you a little crazy on a personal level.

Take your organization’s personality profile and intentionally apply it to every step of your hiring process. Look at the interviews that led to your best hires. What common themes emerge? How can you look for those same traits in a strategic, intentional way?

One way we’ve put this into practice at our company is through group interviews. This process lets our company’s DNA shine through, and it allows us to observe how the candidate aligns (or clashes) with our current culture and operating system.

3. Rethink What (And How) You’re Asking

According to Leadership IQ, only 11% of hires fail because they lack competency. With this kind of discrepancy, it’s probably best if the current method of interviewing — see a résumé, select a candidate — undergoes an overhaul.

That isn’t to say that companies should completely ignore competency. Instead, dedicate interview time to how candidates felt about their previous work experiences and what they liked or didn’t like about those jobs. Look at each potential hire’s analytical and problem-solving skills. Spend assessing their interpersonal dynamics. Get a read on how potential hires operate and be bluntly honest with them about your organization’s personality profile. Finally, ask for stories about how they’ve operated before in work environments like yours.

This is not a one-time restructuring of your hiring process. 

Keep everything that works for you, and learn from any hires who don’t pan out. Along the way, you’ll begin finding candidates who didn’t rise to the top of the list based on competency alone but who intrinsically gel with your organization. These are the people who last, build synergy with those around them, and become invaluable pieces of your organization’s future.

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[#WorkTrends] Hiring Hourly Employees, Improving Candidate Experience

Hiring hourly employees — for retail, travel and hospitality, hospitals, restaurants, and warehouses — is more critical now than ever before. 

So why don’t we make the hiring process easier? And why don’t we treat those on the front lines better?

We’ve been counting on our frontline staff members, many of them hourly employees, for nine months now. And we’re about to start rebuilding workforces. So soon, there’s likely going to be a tidal wave of organizations hiring hourly employees. 

So as your company tries to beat the competition and attract the best talent, and as you work to improve your employer brand, there are two words you need to think about seriously: candidate experience. This means this week’s podcast is just for you!

Because this week on #WorkTrends, we’re taking a deep dive into the best way to provide a super candidate experience for hourly employees.  

Our Guest: Quincy Valencia of Alexander Mann Solutions

With the inevitable hiring surge soon to begin, I’m thrilled to be joined by Quincy Valencia, Vice President – Product Innovation, at Alexander Mann Solutions. Having worn many hats throughout her 20-year career, Quincy has firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by candidates, recruiters, hiring managers, leaders, and vendors. In her current role, she leverages her passion for challenging the status quo as she designs new products that bolster AMS’s leadership position in the global recruitment industry. So who better to talk about something we don’t talk about enough: The challenges ahead of HR, recruiters, and hiring managers responsible for hiring hourly employees?

My first question for Quincy was simple: “Why do so many organizations leave hourly employees out of the candidate experience equation?” Her answer was both nostalgic and a reminder of far we need still need to go when hiring the best hourly candidates:

“It’s a vestige of old. Going back to the 90s, you had a personnel department. Everybody had the same process: People would come in, fill out the application, and you would hire. Later in that decade, technology came in, and we designed new procedures around old processes. Through the decades that followed, we’ve continued to promote the same old processes developed and designed for your salaried professionals — and not hourly employees.”

“Hourly workers have been looked at as more of a commodity — they kind of come and they kind of go. Turnover is higher. This work is not meant to be your forever job, and so that’s been okay.”

Improving Candidate Experience When Hiring Hourly Employees

After saying I firmly believe we should treat every employee as a valued member of a team — as humans — I asked Quincy why candidate experience is so vital now. Her answer was heartwarming: “Look, it is 2020. We’ve learned a lot about who really supports our businesses. And we know those people want us to treat them with the integrity, dignity, and respect they deserve. These are the people on the front lines of our economy. They are often the face of the businesses we all frequent. That should translate into your candidate experience, now so more than ever.”

Quincy added: “As our organizations are trying to grow and rebuild and survive this global pandemic, there’s a renewed focus on how we are competing for this talent. We’re having to really focus on the needs of the candidate. Fortunately, I’m seeing employers give this issue the due consideration it’s been deserving for a long time.”

So how do we improve the candidate experience? As anticipated, Quincy was ready with some real solutions to our very real challenges. “Number one is speed. Go through your application process. See how long it takes, how many broken links there are, and how many steps and clicks it takes. In a lot of cases, you’re going to be frustrated.”

Quincy continued: “Number two (or maybe 1A) is mobile. Applicants must be able to apply from anywhere. A lot of people don’t even have laptops or desktops anymore. So close to 70% of all job searches, certainly within the hourly category, begin on a mobile device. And then, number 3 is communication. Make sure you are not letting candidates go into that black hole of ‘I applied, and I’m never going to hear from you again.’”

Candidate Experience 101

Sure, some of this sounds simple enough. But how many of us are actually walking through our own application process? How many of us know how well we treat our candidates, including hourly employees? Quincy and AMS have certainly invested the time and energy necessary to understand their candidate experience — as we all should!

Listen in, and learn exactly what AMS is doing to attract, train, and retain top talent in the hourly category — and what a seamless hiring journey looks like as we approach 2021 and, finally, the end of the pandemic.

I’m grateful Quincy Valencia had the chance to stop by #WorkTrends this week and bring our front line employees front and center. I, and the TalentCulture team, thank Hourly by AMS for sponsoring this episode.

Find Quincy on LinkedIn and Hourly by AMS on Twitter.

A Special Offer: The Hourly Hiring Guidebook

It’s time to treat hourly employees with the dignity and respect they deserve. So, we’ve partnered with Hourly by AMS to redefine how great the hiring journey can (and should) be for your hourly job seekers.

Download your copy of The Hourly Hiring Guidebook: Defining a New Standard for Candidate Experience today.

And start providing a better candidate experience tomorrow!

 

Editor’s note: We’ve updated our FAQ page and #WorkTrends Podcast pages. Take a look!

 

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[#WorkTrends] The Power of Workplace Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging

Talking about workplace diversity without talking about inclusion and a sense of belonging can be counterproductive. Worse yet, it isn’t going to help the marginalized feel like they have a seat at the table.

I recently read a great post by LaFawn Davis of Indeed. In that article, LaFawn makes it clear the pandemic’s impact on people of color, women, older, and more often marginalized workers is entirely disproportionate. Cases in point:

  • Discrimination against Asians in the U.S. has surged since the early days of the pandemic. Over 30% of Americans have recently witnessed COVID-19 bias against Asians.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 33 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were Black. This, despite blacks comprising only 13 percent of the American population.
  • An October study on Women in the Workplace by McKinsey found that one in every four women is considering downshifting their careers. Or, they might give up their jobs due to the impact of Covid-19.

We have a lot of work to do. And we must start that work by acknowledging that people of color and women are shouldering recent burdens far more than others.

Our Guest: LaFawn Davis, VP of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, Indeed

Joining me this week on #WorkTrends is the author of that insightful post, LaFawn Davis. LaFawn is the Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Indeed. There, she leads Indeed’s strategic efforts to remove bias and eliminate barriers to entry by focusing on inclusive features and accessibility in products to help all people get jobs. She also enables a diverse and inclusive work culture for Indeed’s employees. 

Because I find too many companies are still trying to lump diversity, inclusion, and belonging into one entity, I started our conversation by asking LaFawn how these three elements differ and, taken one at a time, how they help us build a truly diverse workforce. LaFawn’s response quickly cut to the heart of the matter:

“Companies are trying to silo off diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Or, they make one of the words synonymous with the others,” LaFawn added. Next, LaFawn intuitively explained how a deliberate focus on each element helps create an innovative workforce:

“Diversity is the belief that teams with different work styles, problem-solving techniques, life experiences, backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets are truly what makes innovation possible. Inclusion is really around the actions and behaviors that create a culture where employees feel valued, trusted, and authentic. And belonging is a feeling of community; it is the people and our culture that make us feel connected.”

LaFawn when on to say that when those three elements are adroitly combined, we feel valued: 

“In the workplace, it’s not about looking like me or coming from where I come from. It’s about those common threads that pull us together.”

The Business Case for Workplace Diversity

Of course, many business leaders remain focused on the bottom line. So after talking with LaFawn about the undeniable systemic racism in the US today, I asked her how diversity, inclusion, and belonging impact that bottom line. LaFawn, as you can imagine, has some strong feelings about how leadership should be leveraging workplace diversity to build better companies.

“This should be what keeps every single business leader up at night,” she emphatically said. “Are we going to be a different and better company than we are right now? Ten years from now? 15? I mean, we know that businesses with a more diverse workforce are 36 percent more likely to be in the top tier of their industry. And we know that firms with greater gender diversity are 25 percent more likely to be at the top for financial returns, market share, and retention. So diversity, inclusion, and belonging do affect your bottom line!”

LaFawn and I also talked about how these three elements have been hit hard by the pandemic. Specifically, how the need to transform to a remote workforce and the stress the pandemic has placed on frontline workers impacts the ability to intentionally create and maintain a diverse workforce. We also discussed the role hiring has in creating workplace diversity and the mistakes commonly made as organizations work to include people of color, women, and other groups who feel marginalized in their workforce — those who do not feel they belong.

Looking Ahead to 2021

If you haven’t already, your organization will soon start taking a hard look at how diversity, inclusion, and belonging will look in 2021. Before you do, I invite you to listen to my conversation with LaFawn. In 20+ minutes, you’ll understand how she has helped Indeed build an innovative workforce. You’ll also learn how she has helped many other organizations — starting with hiring — create organizations where equality and parity become the norm. And where that norm becomes a critical component of the company culture.

My thanks to LaFawn Davis for joining me on #WorkTrends and for participating in our upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter chat at 1:30pm Eastern on Wednesday, December 16th. During that chat, we’ll answer these questions and more:

  • Q1: Why do organizations struggle with building diversity?
  • Q2: What strategies can help increase inclusion and belonging?
  • Q3: How can leaders build more diverse workplaces?

Our thanks also to Indeed for sponsoring this timely episode of #WorkTrends. 

 

Find LaFawn on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Editor’s note: We’ve updated our FAQ page and #WorkTrends Podcast pages. Take a look!

 

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Reality Check: 5 Business Myths Completely Busted by 2020

The year 2020 has been a watershed year. Or, as I would prefer to say (if allowed to coin a new term) – a ‘tearshed’ year. The breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted economies, businesses, and individuals at an unprecedented level. This crazy year has also completely busted many long-standing business myths.

Research conducted by the Centre for Risk Studies at the University of Cambridge took a look at the impact of the coronavirus on the global economy. The consensus projection: A loss of $26.8 trillion, or 5.3%, of global GDP in the coming five years. To make this data point more relatable, however, one needs to review it from the perspective of jobs. And this is where the numbers hit home harder. According to an ILO (International Labour Organisation) study, about 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy (nearly half of the global workforce) risk having their livelihoods destroyed. Even for the sharpest minds amongst us, to fathom the humanitarian implications of such displacement would be challenging.

Then, it is no surprise that leaders – ranging from Heads of State to religious figureheads to business leaders – have scrambled. They’ve called on all their intellectual, technological, and financial resources to rewire how we operate. What has emerged during this radical transformation? Some of society’s well-ingrained business myths have been turned on their head. Not surprisingly, given that our business and personal lives are so intertwined, these changes are being experienced across both work and life dimensions.

So, which business myths have we busted this past year?

Business Myth No. 1: The Bottomline Rules

The pressure that comes with the quarterly results cycle has kept CXOs on edge for far too long, forcing them to watch every dollar. While social causes have been the focus of many CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs over the years, the pandemic encouraged many to truly understand that in the interest of long-term sustainability, adding value to their entire eco-system was the raison d’être.

In a heartwarming move, the United States was ground zero for the ‘Together Without Hunger‘ initiative by the bakery-café fast-casual restaurant chain, Panera Bread. In association with Feeding America,  the goal is to feed half a million children and families during the US lockdown. Like many others, this organization stepped up to support the community, showing that capitalism has a heart, and not all business myths have a home in today’s corporate world.

Business Myth No. 2: Scale is King

Ever since humanity started congregating around communities and building the structure of modern-day nation-states, we have grown to believe that there is safety in numbers. The explosion of social networks with the ‘follower count’ metric fuelling the growth has further solidified this belief, at least, until now.

With the exponential spread of the coronavirus, we’ve learned that social distancing and limiting contact with others can save lives. Cocooned in their own homes, with additional time available to themselves, many have realized that it is not quantity but the quality of our relationships that is paramount. Similarly, we’re redesigning our workplaces to ensure the right balance of physical and virtual contact. Worldwide, organizations emphasize that our safety lies in our ability to be agile, not our ability to scale.

Business Myth No. 3: Size Does Matter

Maybe fifty square centimeters of cloth has become a critical weapon. A small mask now protects millions of people worldwide. Leading healthcare bodies, including the WHO (World Health Organization) – whose guidelines unequivocally mention that “Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives” – strongly advise wearing a mask.

Now as ubiquitous as the mobile phone, the mask has become an extension of our beings. (Not to mention a new addition to our daily wardrobe.) Until we welcome a vaccine, a small mask has emerged as our biggest and best defense tool. In effect, the mask has proven that size doesn’t matter. It is what role one plays that does.

Business Myth No. 4: The World is Flat

Through his 2005 bestseller book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, Pulitzer prize-winning American political commentator and author Thomas Friedman introduces us to the concept of the “flat world.” In this world, boundaries had melted, and trade flowed (almost) freely.

Today, as the world reels under the pandemic’s ravaging impact, global supply chains have been hit hard. During the middle of India’s lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Atmanirbhar’ (‘Self-reliance’ in Hindi) campaign. The initiative includes built-in incentives for Indian industry to enhance local production and reduce dependency on imports. Given the calls for protectionism in countries as diverse as the United States, Japan, and many in the EU (European Union), it is clear the world is fast developing an undulating (and perhaps self-serving) character.

Business Myth No. 5: Remote Means Distanced

As the pandemic took hold, people isolated themselves as a precautionary measure. Many leveraged video-conferencing platforms to maintain contact with their elderly parents and their social circle. Similarly, workers transitioned into a ‘work-from-anywhere’ mode to keep the engines of the economy running. Soon, they began to increasingly rely on the same platforms to remain connected to their colleagues.

If anything, humankind has realized that remote connecting can help meet much of the objectives of in-person meetings. This realization has lead us to far-reaching benefits such as a reduced carbon footprint. Bill Gates, known for being a visionary apart from his philanthropy, has already predicted that in the post-COVID-19 era, 50% of business travel will disappear.

Yes, over the past year, the changing world has completely shattered these five myths. Of course, even more will come to light as we segue into 2021.

For people who have seen their entire world changed in the span of a few months, the implications are immense. However, the dexterity with which we have accepted change shows that – like battle-hardened soldiers – we will continue to push forward against all odds. No doubt there will be scars, but they will be symbols of a victorious campaign.

 

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[#WorkTrends] Designing Work to Meet Personal and Professional Goals

We’re all doing more with less. And yet, we continue to work toward the achievement of our personal and professional goals. So how do we find the right balance… or shall I say the right “blend”? 

Even as we learn best how to work from — well, wherever — for most of us, our overarching goal remains integrating a productive, engaging professional life with a satisfying, fulfilling personal life. In fact, as I talk to members of the TalentCulture community over the past few months, one thing has become clear: The blending of personal and professional goals into a comfortable mix is finally gaining momentum. 

That makes sense; after all, attempting to create strict boundaries between one’s personal life and work often meets with disappointment. Especially now, when distancing oneself from personal life while at work — and removing work from our active thoughts while on downtime — is becoming increasingly difficult. 

However, with some concerted effort, we can balance satisfying personal and professional goals. 

Our Guest: Author and Productivity Expert, Carson Tate

Joining me on the #WorkTrends podcast this week is Carson Tate, the founder and managing partner of Working Simply, Inc. — a consulting firm that enhances workplace productivity, fosters higher employee engagement levels, and helps build personal and professional legacies. Carson’s newest book, where she talks about making any job your dream job, is Own It. Love It. Make It Work. Of course, I had to ask Carson if someone, especially now, can really design their work in a way that makes them happy in their professional and personal life. Her answer was both encouraging and inspiring:

“That is the big question, and it often comes with an eye roll or a sigh. Yes, because any job can be a place for fulfillment and engagement for you. Because who defines what fulfillment and engagement look like? You do! So you must own the opportunity to shape and craft your work in a way that works for you. You actually own your piece of the action. So you must identify what you need to be happier, more fulfilled, more engaged, and more excited about going to work.”

I followed up by asking how that is possible given many of us can no longer separate who we are at work and who we are at home. Carson replied, “When our commute is two minutes to the kitchen table, our concept of work is very different. Folks are working more hours. There’s more burnout because of the connectivity. And there’s anxiety around making sure I stay visible; that my boss knows what I’m doing and that I’m adding value.”

“So it’s even more important to be thoughtful about what it is you need, the conditions under which you work best, and also your own levels of engagement and fulfillment.”

Professional Goals: How to Make “This” Job Your “Dream Job”

Carson shared with us many tips on how to stay connected and visible while working remotely. Her tips are sure to help all of us balance our desire to live a fulfilling personal life while being fully engaged at work. My favorite moment came when I asked her about the three most important steps when making our current job our dream job. “Own it… love it… make it work,” Carson said. She added: “When we own our work, we align our strengths to the work; we then do better work. When we love our work, we have a clear idea of where we want to go and the skills we must develop to get there. And when we make it work, we’re designing the work for more meaning; we find purpose in what we do each and every day.”

Solid advice we can all use. But we weren’t done yet. I also talked with Carson about avoiding the roadblocks that interrupt our career journeys (especially in these challenging times), how to ensure we’re getting the recognition and appreciation we all need while working from home, and much more. Be sure to listen to the entire episode!

My thanks to Carson Tate for joining me on #WorkTrends. A thought-provoking conversation, indeed!

 

Find Carson on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Editor’s note: We’ve updated our FAQ page and #WorkTrends Podcast pages. Take a look!

 

Johanna Buguet

[#WorkTrends] Leading a Corporate Revolution Through Intentional Integrity

What is intentional integrity? And how can it lead to a revolution within your organization?

Even before the pandemic of 2020, ethics and integrity were a significant issue in our business world. Of course, everyone — and every company — thinks they have integrity. Yet week after week, organizations like Boeing, Wells Fargo, and Hobby Lobby fail to live up to their values. Google, Facebook, and the Houston Astros are no different.

For many of us, the confusion sparked by the pandemic — combined with the politicization of the virus itself — made it seem as though integrity was in even shorter supply. Add the lack of face-to-face contact, loosened controls, and the ongoing negative input from 24-hour news cycles, and many have begun to feel the time is ripe for integrity to take a nosedive. In fact, according to a 2020 survey conducted by EY, 90% of employees believe the pandemic puts their employer at risk for unethical business dealings. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. I firmly believe the brands and leaders who conduct themselves using intentional integrity do so for the organization’s greater good, including its employees. I also maintain those companies will revolutionize how businesses function in our post-pandemic world. 

Integrity will always matter. Intentional integrity makes all the difference.

Our Guest: Rob Chesnut, Author

In this week’s episode, Rob Chesnut, author of Intentional Integrity: How Smart Companies Can Lead an Ethical Revolution, joined us on #workTrends. We talked about the concept of intentional integrity — and what that means within an organization. As you’ll hear, we talked to the right guy: Rob previously served as Airbnb’s General Counsel and Chief Ethics Officer and led eBay’s North America legal team. 

Right off the bat, Rob helped us understand why integrity seems to be in short supply: “Look, everybody’s got a video camera, right in their hand, every day. When I was growing up, there were three news stations. Now, we all have a global digital platform; we can all be a news reporter. So we are in an age of unprecedented transparency. Plus, people increasingly feel empowered to speak out.”

As Rob said, all that is true in the workplace as well: “20 years ago, employees might have kept their mouth shut because they wanted to preserve their career. But now, if they don’t like something at their company, they’re going to blog and tweet about it. To take action, they might even organize a walk-out of other employees.” Rob added: “All these forces: Transparency, employee pressure, consumer pressure, and government pressure are pushing companies to straighten up. They are now more focused on doing the right thing. Of course, this is a huge improvement over cutting ethical corners to try to hit a quarterly profit number.”

And that, my friends — even when perhaps initially forced — is intentional integrity.

Intentional Integrity: A Powerful Wind at Your Back

Of course, I asked Rob about the bigger picture implications for companies that don’t directly address integrity daily or make integrity a core value. Rob’s response was enlightening:

“On one hand, if you don’t pay attention to it and you operate with a 20th-century company approach — worrying about your quarter profit number, for example — you can wreck your brand. Soon, you may find employees, customers, and even government agencies coming at you. On the other hand, intentional integrity can become a powerful wind at your back. Get this right, and employees will stay at your company longer. Perhaps even better, they’ll encourage their friends to come work there. At the same time, customers will become loyal spokespeople for your brand.”

Rob added: “The pressure is on. Today’s businesses must have positive implications for the world. Those that do out-perform the stock market and their competitors.”

In my time with Rob, we also talked about the pandemic’s impact on ethics and integrity. We also discussed how the workplace is continuously changing, but our definition of integrity does not, and how intentional integrity helps us overcome the mistakes inevitably made. 

Listen in. Then take a moment to think about how your company currently leverages intentional integrity. And how you — thanks to Rob’s timely advice — can do even better, and very soon!

 

Find Rob on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Editor’s note: Check out our new FAQ page and #WorkTrends Podcast pages. Then let us know how we’re doing!

 

Cottonbro

Undeniable: The Positive Power of Workplace Gratitude

Who doesn’t want to be thanked for their loyalty or a job well done? Who doesn’t want a metaphorical pat on the back for going above-and-beyond? Everyone values a genuine thank you! But engagement and appreciation efforts workplace gratitude should be sincere and consistent across an organization.

Building a workplace culture of gratitude is especially relevant now because of what we are seeing as a result of the pandemic. We are witnessing increased worker stress, loneliness, anxiety and depression; concern about the future and the pressure of juggling family and work commitments.

The impact is undeniable. In fact, new SHRM research found between 1/4 and 1/3 of U.S. employees often experience symptoms of depression as they live through the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers are in a unique position to help employees battle the negative effects of this “new world” through sincere gestures of kindness and also through demonstration of appreciation.

How to Embrace Workplace Gratitude During the Pandemic

Personal engagement is always critical, but especially now. If you can, pick up the phone and check in on employees. Don’t overlook the basics at this time, because people need to know they are valued and not alone.

Celebrate your remote workers! Because workplaces aren’t the same anymore, it takes some creativity and organization to translate your culture into virtual events. We’ve seen teams have a great time engaging online with coffee, pizza and ice cream parties. With Halloween around the corner, we have many suggestions for how to deliver fun for all! Help managers with ideas and helpful hints for how to handle invites, contests, virtual games and conversation starters for enjoyable virtual social events.

Another idea is to empower employees to support their local communities. Community giving instills gratitude in anyone who partakes. If service work is important to your workplace culture, then find ways to enable employees to participate virtually. They’ll love the opportunity as we all see the increasing needs of those around us.

Whatever you choose, be sure to be kind and authentic. And if you can – be unexpected!

Holiday Appreciation

We highly recommend a thoughtful letter of appreciation to employees about their role and their importance during these challenging times. Sometimes that’s all you can afford to do and that’s okay. On our website, gThankYou.com, we have some excellent examples of Thanksgiving letters for inspiration.

This year, stick to holiday traditions if they are held near and dear. We love fresh ideas, but employees will have gift-related expectations from previous years. Whatever you choose to do, be authentic to your culture and considerate of your budget.

Practical gifts are key.

Family gifts (games, puzzles), wellbeing resources (yoga on-demand, health resources) and food on the table are all truly valued and appreciated…especially when things are financially tight or unstable in any way. And let’s face it, sometimes cash is the very best answer. Most importantly, plan now – be early. Between COVID and the election there are too many distractions, and this is not the year to forget to thank employees.

The Science Behind Gratitude

Over the last 20 years, research has shown gratitude to provide important physical, psychological and social benefits, including:

  • A stronger immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better sleep
  • Willingness to exercise more
  • Higher levels of positive emotions such as joy and happiness
  • And, more helpful, generous and compassionate behavior

And research has shown countless ways gratitude directly pays off in the workplace with:

  • Improved employee wellbeing, productivity and job satisfaction
  • Resulting in demonstrated improved ROI due to:
  • higher employee retention,
  • improved employee performance and happiness, and
  • better employee, team and customer relationships

Professor Robert A. Emmons, a foremost gratitude researcher, calls gratitude the “ultimate performance-enhancing substance.” Gratitude makes both the giver and receiver feel good. In addition, gratitude sets off a good kind of contagion.

Want to learn more about the science of gratitude and how to create a culture of gratitude? I highly recommend our free ebook, “Transforming Your Workplace with Gratitude.”

A Culture of Gratitude

At gThankYou, we believe in making gratitude a pillar of the business. We’ve learned: To build and foster a culture of gratitude where leaders thank employees, team members show appreciation for each other, and thoughtful gestures are common, authenticity is key. Regular messages and example-setting need to be from the top down. Leadership needs to encourage, model gratitude. They also must hold managers accountable for showing gratitude to their teams.

Here are some tips to consider as you frame what a “Gratitude Culture” looks like in your business:

  • Gratitude must be part of the fabric of the workplace culture.
  • Senior leadership needs to model gratitude and mid-managers need to be trained and held accountable for appreciating their teams.
  • Simple gestures are great – but fairness and consistency are key.
  • Remember, gratitude needs to be specific to feel authentic.
  • Employees need easy ways to show appreciation to each other and their input in the “how” should be requested (and also respected) to make it work.
  • You can’t simply say, “thank you” at year-end and be done. 

Future of Work

Remote work will continue to be the norm until there is widespread availability of a vaccine and cheap, quick COVID testing. Some companies, like Pinterest, have already indicated that remote work will become permanent and thus will have a wide variety of implications – in areas such as hiring.

With some effort and planning, we will all get better at remote and virtual employee engagement and recognition. While it’s not easy these days to extend an in-person smile or handshake or share a heartfelt say thank you in the office, pick up the phone and write handwritten notes.

Bring the old school into the new world. Your sincere interest, concern, appreciation, and gratitude work – I promise!

 

Listen to our interview with Meghan M. Biro on TalentCulture’s #Worktrends podcast!

 

Andrea Piacquadio

The Age-Inclusive Benefits Your Employees Need During the Pandemic

This is the perfect time to re-evaluate what we offer to employees and why, including age-inclusive benefits and eldercare.

Few events have affected the fabric of our daily lives on such an impactful scale as COVID-19. With about one-third of Americans are working from home for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus, many offices often sit completely empty. The space we perhaps painstakingly designed or adapted to bring out the best in our teams? That is no longer a recruiting, retention, or productivity asset.

We haven’t always connected a physical office space with corporate culture. It’s remarkable to think about how two young founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, started a technology and office culture revolution when they founded Google in 1998. That was the beginning of open office spaces and laid-back casual dress in the office. It came with the idyllic imagery of collaborating while sitting on a bean bag, jotting the next big Google idea on a white board with coworkers before hopping onto a Razor scooter to make your next meeting. Hard to believe, but the open-office trend has been persistent in the workplace for over twenty years now.

Office Spaces Continue to Evolve

Over those twenty years, our office spaces have continued to evolve and iterate. They’ve been upgraded with each new innovative perk and deliberate decision. For HR partners and leaders, their responsibilities have expanded to providing free lunch and snacks – whether fun and indulgent or nutritious and vegan-friendly. HR has also been tasked with finding space for employees to decompress, discovering ever-inspired caffeine choices, and inventing ways to encourage collaboration, productivity, and a sense of belonging. In fact:

  • 31 percent of employers now offer free snacks
  • 95 percent have kitchenettes
  • 78 percent have free coffee
  • 13 percent have partially or fully subsidized cafeterias

But what happens when no one is in the office?

And furthermore, when we are able to all safely return to our office spaces, what happens to our snack stations? Our collaboration areas? The completely open office plans and other clever details to encourage people to brainstorm and connect? These sources of innovation and employee bonding are now potential liabilities: Virus-spreaders that, for the time being, sit mostly lonely.

Benefits Were Never About Nap Pods

The reality is, though, benefits were never really about nap pods, energy bars, and canned caffeine.

COVID-19 has laid bare what employee benefits are truly about. If your employees can no longer get free lunch or catch up over a free cup of coffee, how connected do they feel with each other? If employees no longer step foot into an office designed to inspire them and help them do their best work, how connected do they feel about working for your company? Perhaps most importantly, what kind of employee benefits do they want?

Is enduring this pandemic bringing to light that our employees want benefits that can positively impact their quality of life on a deeper level? And not just unlimited espresso?

Our office space here at Homethrive is no different. While staying in a practical budget for a growing company, we tried as best as we could to make it fun and appealing. No, we don’t have free lunches. But we tried our best to make it comfortable and memorable. We wanted to be a place where young talent feels excited about coming to work every day. A place so inspiring everyone had every intention of doing their best work.

“You’re on Mute!”

And my workdays are probably the same as yours now. I’m fortunate enough to have a home office that I’m taking Zoom call after Zoom call in. It’s been “connecting” – for lack of a better term – to see my colleagues and employees in their apartments and homes. And its’ been fun, every once in a while, to see a furry friend or roommate walking by in the background. Over the past several months, we’ve been finding surprising ways to bond over how our lives have changed in this new normal. And I’ve learned more about the unique family and living situations of my employees. One team member with a nurse roommate, for example, has been staying somewhere else; a senior leader moved her father out of his nursing home into her home to care for him.

We all look silly wearing headphones. We all still fumble when sharing our screens on Zoom. And, like everyone else, we repeatedly say, “You’re on mute!”

Prioritizing Age-Inclusive Benefits

Throughout this very human transition, we’ve realized that so many of the employee benefits we’ve been focusing on are centered around a physical space and tangible offerings. We considered other perks that encourage health and wellness such as discounted gym memberships most important. For example:

  • 13 percent have onsite massage therapy services
  • 21 percent of employers have quiet rooms in their offices
  • 32 percent offer a fitness center membership
  • 60 percent provide or subsidize the cost of a standing desk

And yet, fewer than 10% of employers offer eldercare benefits.

So many of these perks are also age-specific. But are not age-inclusive benefits. Sure, collaboration spaces are great. But someone in their mid-50s is not going to comfortably chat in many of the chairs that these spaces feature; they may fear getting back up once they sit in a bean bag chair. The foosball table is fun. But how many team members not in their 20’s use it? How many team members use it period?

Time to Re-think Benefits Budgets

This is a tremendous opportunity for all of us. As leaders and advocates for our teams and employees, we can take a step back. We can realize our employees bond with each other and feel connected to our companies on deeper levels than the sum of the benefits and perks we previously offered. And now that a stunning office space is no longer on the table? This is the time to be creative with how we compete for the best talent. We can and should make a play for the best talent in more meaningful ways, including age-inclusive benefits and eldercare.

It’s also a time to reevaluate where we are spending our benefits budgets. A time to expand to new and innovative benefits that reflect the ways that our lives are changing. Providing support for the new stressors in our lives like caregiving for aging partners or parents, for example.

Our urgent need, really, is to help our employees be productive, happy, balanced and satisfied. Life is stressful in new ways, but we’re also grateful and focused in new ways. So, within their new normal, let’s find new ways to help our employees live better.

By the way, those “young founders” Sergey Brin and Larry Page? They are now both in their late 40’s. And they aren’t getting any younger.

I’ll leave you with that.

 

Andrea Piacquadio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Guest on #WorkTrends: Mark Herschberg

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

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

The Job Description and Company Culture

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

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

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

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

 

Find Mark on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Cottonbro

#WorkTrends: The Power of Workplace Gratitude with Liz King

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

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

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

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

Liz King on Workplace Gratitude

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

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

Appreciation is Personal

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

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

Walking the Thankful Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Photo: Anika Huizinga

How to Stay Productive During the COVID-19 Crisis

Remote work isn’t new. In fact, working from home been on the rise since 2010. But this new decade brought with it COVID-19, triggering a complete paradigm shift for remote work, school and life — worldwide. As a result, how we communicate, learn, teach, and conduct business has changed. And staying productive has become a challenge all it’s own.

Back in April, FlexJobs reported more than half of all Americans were working from home. Since then, 65% said their productivity increasedIn June, Stanford reported that 42% of the U.S. labor force was working from home full-time, signaling a return to the office for many. But in July, COVID-19 cases soared by more than a million globally. More than half of all states in the U.S. that reopened (or planned to), closed in an effort to curb the virus. Given this ever-evolving context and data, we soon knew it would be a tough summer. 

How Do We Stay Productive?

Now that we roll into the fall, families and students grapple with how to return not just to school, but to some sense of normalcy. At the same time, organizations struggle with re-entry to the workplace. While Twitter says they’ll begin reintegrating employees into their offices soon, major companies like Amazon have decided to remain remote until the end of 2020. Google and Facebook have announce their employees will work remotely until mid-2021. 

So amid this ongoing crisis and uncertainty, how exactly do we keep stay productive? In the workplace, how can we find the balance between completely safe and fully engaged?

For many leaders, these seven strategies now serve as a roadmap that helps teams stay productive during the COVID-19 pandemic…

1. Focus on Priorities

Location shouldn’t matter as long as the work gets done, especially now. Employees should think about what work needs to get done, in what order, and how they should tackle that work. Managers, on the other hand, should think about the work that must be produced today while keeping an eye on what’s on the horizon. Combined, this strategy helps set realistic priorities while reducing stress and burnout.

2. Boost Communication

For a remote workforce to be successful, strong communication is key. So managers must integrate communications technology like Slack, Trello, Basecamp, and Zoom. By leveraging these tools effectively and in a balanced manner (no Zoom calls at 6:15am!), managers can easily check-in with employees – perhaps even more often than they did when sharing an office. The win-win: this boost in communication builds even stronger working relationships across the organization.

3. Adopt New Approaches

As the world of work changes, managers must change their approach. True, we’re no longer in the same office. But that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to build mutually-beneficial, one-on-one relationships. One example is making remote work feel more human. Other approaches range from more informal meetings (just to connect), to co-created checklists and to-do lists (to build autonomy). Bottom line: The same rigid approaches to work we used to rely on may not work well now.

4. Set Clear Expectations

Clearly stating expectations and setting common goals is more important now than ever. Just as vital: A clear of understanding of how work will be measured. This will help ensure everyone understands what productivity looks like. At this time, being autocratic may not be the right answer. So welcome input and questions. After all, when managers encourage curiosity it naturally empowers each of us to do good work.

5. Offer Respectful Radical Candor

Managers and leaders must lead by example. So, no more excuses to others — or ourselves — as to why we can’t get work done. To excel, we must be honest about why we can’t be efficient during these times. Let’s accept responsibility and ditch the lies to hack productivity. Let’s consistently offer respectful radical candor. We can then co-create solutions to the challenges we face. By working together, we can overcome whatever keeps us from being productive.

6. Use Stress to Your Advantage

Not all stress is bad stress. Some stressors actually motivate us to better maintain our focus, stimulating a better work performance with goals and deadlines at the forefront. Of course, sometimes stress becomes too overwhelming. When that happens, take a deep breath. Refocus on the highest priorities. Where possible, reset expectations. By focusing on an employees strengths rather than what feels like a weakness during stressful moments, managers can help reduce the bad kinds of stress. And use the good for good.

7. Employ Empathy

Remote work has always meant a flexible work location, work schedule and dress code. But now, empathy plays a role in flexibility. Today, many of us must think about the pressures of working from home. We must integrate family responsibilities, distance or hybrid learning for children, and other life commitments. Showing empathy, and specifically knowing what each of us might be going through during the COVID-19 crisis, helps maintain – and even improves – our work culture.

Leverage these seven strategies. Help team members and leaders stay productive. Enable a positive company culture. Do it well, and you’ll help everyone feel more at ease during a complex time.

Edward Jenner

#WorkTrends: Transforming the Healthcare Benefits Experience

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

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

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

Healthcare Benefits: A Timely Conversation

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

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

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

Healthcare Education and Empowerment

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

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

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

 

Find Justin on Linkedin and Twitter.

 

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

 

#WorkTrends: Sexual Harassment In Virtual Workplaces

An ill-suited conversation. A moment of innuendo. Or a comment targeted at our gender, wardrobe choices, and even our hairstyles. Each, depending on context, are considered sexually harassing messages. And yet, especially in a remote working environment, identifying harassment often comes down to a feeling you get rather than something you can prove. You feel the other person’s behavior or comment was inappropriate. But was it sexual harassment?

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

Under any circumstances, this is not an easy topic. Now, with many employees working from home, the degree of difficulty has only increased. After all, sexual harassment does not always occur face-to-face or by touch; video conferences, emails and texts, and collaboration platforms like Slack are also delivery methods.

The Uncomfortable Conversation: Sexual Harassment

I invited Sarah Beaulieu, co-founder of The Uncomfortable Conversation and author of the book Breaking the Silence Habit: A Practical Guide to Uncomfortable Conversations in the #MeToo Workplace, to join me on #WorkTrends℠. In a frank discussion, we dove into the nuances of socially distanced forms of sexual harassment. I quickly learned this is an issue Sarah deeply cares about, and has since her first discussion on the subject: “In that moment, and in the conversations that followed, I learned about the power of a single conversation.”

Sarah emphasized that work cultures are work cultures, face-to-face or not – and harassment is harassment. Regardless of our working environment, she said we need to set our own personal boundaries, and organizations must set them as well. “Individually and organizationally – collectively – we’re responsible for holding the line,” Sarah said. “When we hold that line together, and in service of our work culture, it’s less likely sexual harassment takes place.”

The Role Silence Plays

During our conversation, I was particularly struck by the role silence plays in enabling sexual harassment — and how, over time, that silence can be so damaging to workplace culture. Sarah agrees, and astutely adds: Silence is a choice – and culture is the conversations we choose to have, or not have, together.”

Yes, sexual harassment is a difficult topic. And yet I’m so glad we started this discussion. Please, listen to the entire podcast. In our time together, Sarah shares so much of herself and her work. And every word will help us start the uncomfortable – but absolutely necessary – conversations.

Find Sarah on Linkedin and Twitter.

 

(Editor’s note: Soon, we’re announcing upcoming changes to #WorkTrends podcasts and Twitter chats. To learn about these changes as they unfold, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.)

 

Photo: Christina @ wocintechchat.com

WFH Employees: How to Keep Them Safe

In some countries, as lockdown measures continue to ease, businesses are opening and employees are heading back to work. But some of us are still working from home — a policy that has become the ‘new normal‘ and may continue for millions of people, even in the wake of the pandemic.

Companies need to make sure their employees still feel safe and connected at home to avoid WFH burnout. Here are some effective ways to make physical and mental safety and employee well-being a top priority:

Let’s dive in!

1. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

When it comes to working remotely or working from home, communication is key. According to a Buffer survey, 20% of remote workers struggle with communication.

Providing several communication channels can enable the company and employees to stay in touch. An HR manager can run conference calls (both video or audio) to help bring teams together and keep them aligned on projects. One-on-one calls are more personal and can give employees a way to reveal any struggles or concerns.

Not only does communicating make employees feel safe and connected, but it also helps them feel valued — even when they can’t draw on the support of an office or workplace environment.

2. Adjust Company Policies

With the pandemic still raging, we’re not quite at “business as usual” yet. So, it’s crucial to adjust or revise company policies and continuity plans to better protect your employees and meet their needs. Flexibility is key: more than two-thirds of employees say at a loss of flexibility would convince them to find another job. WFH security guidelines can ensure that employees can use their own devices without worrying about their data getting leaked or hacked.

As you anticipate your business demands, use workforce management software to unlock your workforce’s potential and keep employees from feeling overwhelmed. Adjust your policies regarding benefits, pay, sick leave, and paid time off to fit the circumstances.

3. Provide Team Building Activities

Since working from home isn’t the easiest task for some employees, it’s important to help them manage stress levels and feel connected to each other. One effective approach is to strengthen teamwork at the same time with team building activities, such as icebreaker or informal video conference calls. Consider movie nights, or get-togethers to just talk about life.

 Such activities can help employees not only decompress, but build their sense of personal connection and trust. 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very crucial” to strengthen employees’ work relationships and overall efficiency.

4. Promote Fair Workplace Practices

Make sure your WFH policy aligns with the company’s principles and maintains fair treatment for all employees. 54% of employees rank fair treatment as the second most valuable employer attribute, a strong factor in a decision to stay or leave.

Double-check that all employees have equal access to the company’s services, such as the devices they need to work remotely, such as laptops, internet connection, and cybersecurity. And extend sick or paid leave policies to employees even when they’re working from home. 

5. Reward and Recognize Employees

When remote employees feel valued and safe, they are free to be productive, and get their projects done effectively and efficiently. They may be working remotely, but they feel appreciated and acknowledged. Over 79% of employees who feel under-appreciated consider quitting their job — and this is going to extend to employees working from home as well. 

Build employee engagement with rewards and recognition — even just a note recognizing their efforts can go a long way.  

Whether your employees work from home occasionally or exclusively, it’s always important to make them feel safe. Support them, engage them, and you’ll see the results.

Photo: Meagan Carsience

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and the Bottom Line

The events of the last few months have brought increased attention to the value that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bring to the workplace and to society at large. Increasingly, organizations are engaging in discussions around flexible working, social justice, privilege, equity, and about what this all means for the future of work. 

For those who work in the DEI space, these conversations are not new. The strong connections between workforce diversity, inclusion, and engagement have been documented for years. When organizations build diverse cultures where everyone can succeed and thrive, business results also flourish. 

A recent report from The Conference Board outlines how building a stronger connection between inclusion and engagement initiatives can help human capital leaders improve the employee experience while increasing trust and feelings of belonging. As organizations rely more heavily on team-based models, these links become crucial to driving performance and sparking innovation. 

Yet many organizations still struggle to put DEI into practice. Effective DEI strategies and initiatives often require changes in norms, talent processes, and leadership styles, all of which may encounter resistance. Change is difficult. Hence, this period of turmoil constitutes both an ideal and a challenging time for human capital leaders to take action and strengthen DEI within their organizations.  

It’s the ideal time because DEI is top of mind among leaders. There is strong executive support to create positive change that drives resilience; in many cases business leaders are reaching out to their HR teams for the first time to ask for DEI solutions. It is also a challenging time because these important conversations are happening as leaders juggle multiple considerations around the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, and their business needs — and they often are doing so with fewer resources. 

What can human capital leaders do to advance DEI, build resilience, and drive positive organizational change? Building on insights from executives across industries and regions who participated in Conference Board research, we recommend the following four steps:

1. Create a common vision around what DEI means for your organization, and why it’s especially important now.

Enhance communication and encourage consistent messaging across the organization. Help leaders and colleagues understand how DEI can improve the work environment and increase resilience during times of change.

Practical tips from DEI leaders:

  • Create organization-wide definitions of DEI that align with the organization’s culture and values.
  • Identify measurable behaviors and clear expectations that help hold people accountable for those behaviors.

2. Encourage collaboration and broader participation in your DEI initiatives.

As recent events increase DEI’s visibility, they also amplify opportunities to engage employees and leaders more broadly across the organization. Now is the time to boost interest among those who typically do not participate in DEI, to create shared accountability, and to help ensure that the burden of driving change doesn’t fall solely on underrepresented groups.

Practical tips from DEI leaders:

  • Provide resources on how people can participate and take action both at work and within their broader communities.
  • Communicate and set clear expectations, which can go a long way toward people feeling supported during times of change. Encourage dialogue over conflict and make it OK to make mistakes; this will help build trust.

3. Invest in inclusive leadership skills development.

Inclusive cultures do not just happen by chance. They require intentionality and willingness to change how we work and interact with our colleagues, as well as identifying the inclusive leadership behaviors to help drive your people strategy. At times, this will require leaders to learn new skills and to “unlearn” how they manage their teams in order for them to fully integrate different perspectives. The good news: these new skills can improve both leadership effectiveness and business results.

Practical tips from DEI leaders: 

  • There are multiple models of inclusive leadership to help identify key behaviors. You don’t have to start from scratch, leverage existing models of inclusive leadership in the field.
  • Work with both formal and informal DEI champions across the organization to outline key inclusive behaviors that are meaningful to you. Some organizations may want to highlight how diversity and inclusion improve decision-making, whereas others may focus on the connection between DEI and innovation. The key is to make inclusion relevant to your business and work.

4. Enhance accountability. 

To drive effective change, holding people accountable for their role in creating a more inclusive culture is key. Accountability helps establish clear expectations about how everyone can participate, including specific behaviors (e.g., team or leadership behaviors) and, for people managers, metrics (e.g., diversity representation, engagement). Without clear accountabilities to help us keep the goals in mind, we’re all bound to go back to our “old ways” of working.

Practical tips from DEI leaders: 

  • Ask for input on your strategy from, and conduct regular follow-ups with, leaders about DEI accountabilities and progress. Having a voice helps increase ownership and buy-in.
  • Engage your human capital analytics team to identify patterns, trends, and examine the impact of your DEI efforts. Assess what is and isn’t working, such as by comparing promotion and attrition rates for employees who participate in a program or activity and those who do not.

This is the time for human capital and business leaders to drive positive organizational change, increase DEI, and create more effective ways of working across differences. Follow these guidelines to capitalize on this moment to improve workplace culture and business results.

Photo: Markus Winkler

Speaking Emoji: The New Language of Working

Emojis are both a language and a technology. Cultivate’s recent study into just how we use them shows how creatively we’ve adapted to this hybrid form of communication. In just over 20 years, emojis have evolved from the province of teens to an accepted part of business conversation. Influenced heavily by the presence of Gen Z and millennials, emojis have become a standard way to communicate — faster, more effective, and also, enabling us to communicate with more empathy

After 6 months of studying communications over Slack at four enterprise companies — including a total of 83,055 messages that used 101,134 emojis, Cultivate found some interesting trends. 30% of messages used Thumbs Up, while 27% used Mask Face

Emoji usage also differs by company: each has their own visual vocabulary based on company culture. And each generation has their preferences. Baby boomers enjoy receiving business texts with emojis, but only in the right context. Gen X appreciates informal channels like Facebook that can still be written professionally. Clearly, the majority of Gen Y (millennials) are obsessed with emojis and quick, digital-first communications like IMs or DMs. And Gen Z loves video formats, apps and mobile-only approaches with filters and emojis. 

In terms of how we use emojis, 16.3% of ad hoc requests were most typically answered with Thumbs Up, 1.31% with Okay Hand and 1.29% with Coffee.  14.64% of responses to completing tasks were followed by the highest-ranking Thumbs Up emoji and 1.13% were followed by the lowest-ranking Prayer Hands emoji 1.13%. 

The study also found that managers speak their own language: the top five emojis used by managers were different from the top five used by employees. The top emojis used by managers include Thumbs Up (in 4.63% of messages), Clapping (in 1.80%), Party Popper (0.88%), Smiley Face (0.53%), and Heart Eyes (0.39%). The top used team member emojis were Check Mark (in 1.83% of messages), Heart (1.35%), Laughing Crying (1.23%), Eyes (0.64%), and Heavy Plus Sign (0.54%).

Moreover, Cultivate found that managers and employees each tend to stick to the same emojis. As a language, emojis create a sense of connection — no matter the age or rank. And they add a personal touch along with a business personality that sets the tone for the work culture. 

Emojis also offer context to a message by bridging understanding with a reaction/emotion, especially for women, as recent research done by psychologists at Southwestern University found women tend to use twice as many emojis as compared to men. They use more emojis in particular to communicate and express emotions to family, friends and colleagues. Of course it depends on who we’re emoji-ing: you may not want to throw a line of crazy faces to your manager in an email. Then again, it might garner a Thumbs Up.

Photo: Kevin Butz

Encouraging Civility Among Remote Employees: 7 Strategies

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

Fewer Social Cues

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

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

7 Effective Strategies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Tetiana SHYSHKINA

Leaders: Ditch the Lies, Hack Productivity

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

Lie #1: Being productive is about being busy. 

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

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

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

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

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

How to Undo the B.S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Mathias Jensen

#WorkTrends: Leading Through Uncertainty

These times have truly challenged us all, leaders or not, to look at the critical role leadership plays in a crisis. Doug Butler of Reward Gateway came to #WorkTrends with plenty of answers to the pressing question: what’s the best way for leaders to bring teams together, through, and past these times?

Start with open, honest and clear communication, said Doug. When it comes to decision-making, employers need to explain the uncomfortable. And if the business is facing risks, say so. Share the potential “ramifications to the business” of a certain strategy, he added. But don’t leave out a sense of hope. Employees need to hear “that there will be something on the other side.” Meghan noted that a balance — between transparency and cautious optimism — can do much to build a sense of trust. And trust during a crisis is what we all need.  

Maintaining visibility means being there — and video is a great tool for that, said Doug. Another factor to maintain is balance. Change brings opportunities, he pointed out, but it’s important to focus on the priorities — it’s not a time to undo an entire system that’s working just because you can. Keep listening and be receptive both to ideas and mistakes. More than ever, a culture of understanding is powerful right now, Meghan added. 

For any leader, these times are testing our organization’s ability to pivot, and pushing our employees to be agile — and willing to embrace (and not resist) change. It’s a time of growth for all of us — and leaders are no exception.   

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

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are some organizations struggling in today’s economic crisis? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can help organizations better survive a crisis? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to best lead their company through a crisis? #WorkTrends

Find Doug Butler on Linkedin and Twitter

This post is sponsored by Reward Gateway

Photo: insung yoon

#WorkTrends: Improving Work Culture with VR

Newsflash: We may be unintentionally undermining our working relationships. Remote working has brought with it some vexing challenges, including distractions, Zoom fatigue, and even incivility. Taken out of physical context, we tend to misread and misinterpret each other. And that can have some troubling side effects.

How can we repair this? To find out, Meghan M. Biro invited Robin Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist and the CEO / founder of Live in Their World (LITW) to #WorkTrends. Robin is using VR technology to improve and strengthen our work relationships, face-to-face or not.

Even on a good day, we may not be as clear as we mean to be on text and emails, according to Robin. And while on video, “bodily cues or facial cues can help you decode what’s going on,” information can still get lost. Even the size of the video screen can be a distraction, noted Meghan. And a tiny delay means we don’t really see people’s reactions as they happen. All can create tension — the opposite of what we need.

With VR, Robin and her team are teaching us how to read each other better and get along again. It’s a particularly valuable tool in improving empathy among workforces when it comes to diversity, as participants learn not only how to authentically walk in each other’s shoes, but “in their feet,” noted Robin.

VR doesn’t need to be expensive and can be remote (a Youtube 360-type experience). Given how effectively it expands our understanding of each other, it may come to be a standard operating procedure in terms of how we tend to our work cultures.

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

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do some organizations struggle with incivility in their work cultures? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can organizations use to help improve remote working? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders use Virtual Reality to improve culture? #WorkTrends

Find Robin Rosenberg on Linkedin and Twitter

#WorkTrends: Innovating a Culture of Wellness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter Chat Questions

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

 

Photo: ion dooley

#WorkTrends: Managing Down, Up, and Across: Best Practices

People always create the culture, especially at work. And when Meghan M. Biro and tech and workplace innovator Dr. Janice Presser joined forces on this week’s #WorkTrends, what emerged was a new compact for managing not just teams, but everyone we work with — including ourselves.

We can’t just consider dynamics as one-way, Janice noted. Managing relationships goes in three directions: “Up, sideways, and down,” she said. Employees can and should work on ‘managing their managers,’ but to manage up, managers need to understand what makes employees motivated to work first, explained Janice. “One motivator is power. Not power over people necessarily, but empowerment. And the other is affiliation.” As an employee, do you know what skill (and value) you have to complete a task —  and contribute to the team? More importantly, do you know who you need to report that task to?

No matter the direction, Meghan pointed out, and whether you’re managing a team, a report, or a boss, it can be like walking a tightrope. As Janice noted, the key is understanding exactly who you’re dealing with, and what makes them tick, and we can do that just as well with someone in charge as we can with a colleague or a report.

Not surprisingly, one of the most effective strategies for enabling employees to do well is to “get out the way,” said Janice, which is a matter of trust — a factor that needs to exist across the board. In terms of managers, however, they need to trust that their employees will each do their part to contribute to the bigger picture. After all, everyone lands in a particular career role for a reason. And one smart tactic for helping employees climb the ladder is to let them switch roles until they find their niche. “Just let people swap,” she said. It can do wonders in getting everyone to feel that “corporate love.” The approach doesn’t even have to be fancy, added Meghan: informally managing peer relationships helps “employees figure out who on the team will love doing that part of the work.”

As for managing across, there’s a foolproof way to reduce friction and resentment among your team. Be grateful for those doing their job so you don’t have to. We all have our unique talents. And in the end, love and appreciation will take us all a lot farther.

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

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do companies struggle with management issues? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can improve how we approach managing? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help organizations improve how we manage? #WorkTrends

Find Dr. Janice Presser on Linkedin and Twitter

 

Photo: Margaret Weir

Training Your Workforce for Data-Driven Decision-Making

The power of business driven by data insights is undeniable. But no matter how clear we are about the importance of being able to base key decisions on a clear framework of data analysis, actually applying this approach is another story for many organizations. From leaders to managers to workforces, what’s needed is a program that encompasses all the knowledge, skills and strategies to enable our people to become data-fluent and data-confident, so they can apply the right data to their decision-making across the board.

Just why some organizations fall short on this is partially a matter of culture: we may embrace the concept of “data” in our work cultures, yet we fail to commit to developing the analytics skills our teams need to harness the data. It may also be a matter of infrastructure: many organizations simply will not have the means to create, manage, and implement a multidimensional training program on their own. And for some, it is the inability to assess our own limitations: we may not even realize where the gaps are in terms of competencies — or even the technology needed to carry them out. On all these fronts, however, there is no reason to go it alone.

To effectively empower our workforces, it’s a best practice to establish a partnership — one that provides the vision, structure, tools, and collaborative energy to turn our people into data-driven decision makers. If we’re going to transform our work culture to be competitive going forward, that’s what we need to instill data-driven decision making as a core competency. And we need to be able to capture the imaginations and drive the engagement of a diverse and multi-generational workforce — who may want their learning delivered in a whole range of ways, across different channels, and at different speeds. 

Recently I sat down with Donna Trice, Sr. Mgr., Education and Training Division, and Katie Whitley, Education Account Executive, of SAS for a roundtable about just this challenge. We discussed how SAS works with organizations to shape effective, ongoing  partnerships, embarking on a collaborative journey around data literacy and analytics training that carries through from planning to adoption to refinements. It’s a dynamic that thrives when all parties are actively involved. What SAS brings to the table is a level of expertise, perspective and also flexibility that most organizations don’t have, and likely need, to equip and train our workforces to become data-driven decision makers. 

What follows are highlights from our conversation:

Assessing Needs

Meghan M. Biro: Something I see in terms of technology now is that it’s not about simply selling and buying. There’s no “one and done” with software and tools that are this powerful and this sophisticated. Learning the technology is also a huge part of being a modern company. True learning partners can’t position something and then walk away. They have to create an ongoing partnership and be responsive to a company’s evolving needs. 

Can you talk about how you assess the individual needs of each company — and what some of the distinguishing factors are? You may be working with a company that wants to be in front of the most cutting-edge skills, and another company that is a bit more traditional. So how do you determine the best route for skills training for each of these workforces? And what are the various methods for coaching and learning that work for one work culture versus another? How do the approaches differ, and what tools do you use, such as learning portals?

Donna Trice, SAS: We start by having conversations, qualifying and understanding their learning goals. We work with our clients to look at their skills today and where they want to go. Together, we create a training plan that works for them and their employees.  This may include a learning needs assessment, some may prefer public classes; others may want us onsite; others prefer e-learning. We can bend and flex to cater to customer needs.

It’s all about meeting the customer where they are. So, for companies that aren’t as ready to take a large leap, those that prefer a more traditional approach to learning, they may schedule multiple onsite training sessions up front on multiple topics versus a company that comes to us and says “I want to build out a data science team.”  For that company, we may lay out a six-month plan with different training modalities complete with a custom learning portal and reporting to track progress and outcome metrics. 

Creating the Foundation for Skills Development 

Meghan M. Biro: I’m going somewhat high level here, but do you think part of the gap regarding training and skills has to do with how we envision skills development? We hear a lot about the training that employees themselves need. But it seems like companies also need to take a clear look at the big picture. 

In other words, how can we better equip our leaders and managers and learning teams to make the right decisions for their workforce, and develop that 20/20 vision? What’s the right approach for working with leaders to develop a real base of knowledge — so they can set a course for learning and development that fully utilizes the capabilities of their own technologies?

Katie Whitley, SAS: This is such an interesting question — and there are many sides to the answer. We need to look at skills development with our customers two ways: macro and micro. And we need to give customers the confidence that we can help tackle both.

The macro is important so organizations can see the big picture of skills development — how it will affect and benefit the entire workforce. It’s not just getting their people trained. It’s understanding their jobs, the skill set needed to be successful and exceed beyond that, and their current ability to meet those expectations. In other words, where are they now and where do they need to be to meet their business objectives? It’s also important to understand how making these advances forward will not only benefit one group but create efficiencies company-wide.

But not everyone will need the same plan to succeed. Once you have the big picture of how skills development will benefit your organization at the macro level, you need to look at the individuals and get a true understanding of the current skill levels and not only understand their gaps, but their ability to learn, and the format in which they learn best. Creating role-based plans specific to an individual’s learning needs will ensure the employees are getting a tailored, prescriptive plan — where success can be tracked and measured.  

And, the most critical piece to success is ensuring knowledge and skills are building up. Because, let’s face it, there are lots of e-learning platforms out there. SAS pays critical attention to this part, and issues completion badges and globally recognized certifications to validate skills gain. We’ll even step in with mentoring and coaching if it’s needed to advance knowledge gain. 

Mentoring hours and certifications are a great way to achieve this. When you combine this with role-based plans that look different for a business analyst versus a data scientist, administrator or model manager, that’s where you get success. As a business, you have to prioritize these plans according to your goals and find the right learning partner to get you there.

The Future of Work

Meghan M. Biro: Looking forward, we want to make sure our workforce masters in-demand software and tools. I know certain careers are starting to really pick up, like data science, where jobs are growing by 29% this year. Given the job starts at around six figures, I’m not surprised it was LinkedIn’s most promising job for 2019. But skills in data science require a lot of very specific learning — and we see a lot of gaps in our current workforce. 

What will it take to better train our workforce — and ensure the next generation is ready to work with AI and machine learning? I’m also thinking of education: How does learning cross over from the workforce into the academic arena?  

Donna Trice, SAS: SAS’ approach to building the next generation of data scientists, programmers, and AI and machine learning experts is rooted in building collaborative relationships between businesses and academic institutions to ensure there is an analytics talent pipeline that businesses so desperately need. 

This can take the form of free training and enablement, such as course materials and workshops, to help faculty build their curriculum, along with low and no cost SAS software options. We also work with academic researchers, providing them with access to powerful SAS Analytics so they can extract deeper meaning and insights from large amounts of disparate data.

All of that said, in order to truly fill the analytics skills gap, there has to be a partnership between analytics companies like SAS, universities, and industry. SAS is finding creative ways to be there to support universities who want to give their students a competitive edge in the labor market, while also helping commercial customers find and hire the early-career talent they need. The key is building collaborative relationships between SAS’ industry and academic partners — to ensure alignment between the analytics skills that faculty teach, and that students learn, and what industry needs to grow and succeed.

This post is sponsored by SAS.

Photo: Mimi Thian

#WorkTrends: Culture That Counts Right Now

Now more than ever, the culture of a company matters. From values to purpose to behaviors, culture is what crosses through every level of an organization and connects its people together. This week on #WorkTrends, Meghan M. Biro and Organizational Culture Strategist Josh Levine got into the power — and the importance — of work cultures today.

As companies have transitioned their workplaces to remote, grappling with new policies and tough decisions, it’s the leaders who have the power to transform and unify, said Josh. Leaders turn micro moves into macro shifts — and if they convey true intentions, mission, and expectations, employees will make the connection.

But it’s the managers who do much of the heavy lifting, Meghan noted — and Josh agreed, adding that it’s up to organizations to set their managers up for success. “Organizations need to empower managers to reward and recognize value-driven behaviors, so that people inside can understand values as more than words.”

Meghan and Josh concurred that within a great company culture lie tremendous meaning and opportunity — especially now. In these real (and unreal) times, an authentic culture can sustain an organization for the long haul — through this crisis, and to what comes next. And the bottom line has to be people: a culture’s true value should be helping other humans be better at their jobs, and better to each other. More than anything else, that’s what counts right now.

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

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are some organizations struggling with company culture? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can improve company culture now? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help create better company cultures? #WorkTrends

Find Josh Levine on Linkedin and Twitter