Insperity HR Outsourcing & PEO Services Thu, 01 Dec 2022 15:39:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Care for your people: When life stressors and work collide Thu, 01 Dec 2022 15:30:00 +0000 Whether it’s a busy season or an unexpected event, life can be busy and stressful. It’s easy to say leave your problems at the door, but sometime common life stressors can affect employees’ personal lives so much that it creeps into their professional life. This is especially true in a post-pandemic landscape where there’s even more of a grey area between the separation of life and work.

Increased levels of psychological or physical stress can have serious implications on employee performance and that of their teams.

While you, as a business leader, can’t prevent the hardships of life, you can put programs and policies in place to help employees in their time of need.

What is a life stressor?

While balancing work and personal lives can create tension for employees, life stressors that can impact performance go beyond typical day-to-day life issues.

Make no mistake, balancing everyday issues like competing family schedules, managing commutes or juggling child care can be challenging. For the sake of this conversation, life stressors are larger, often more traumatic life events, or major life changes.

Common life situations that may impact employee performance include:

  • Changes in marital status
  • Changes in child custody arrangements
  • Loss of a family member
  • Illness (either for the employee or a family member)
  • Mental health problems
  • Buying or selling a home
  • Financial challenges, including bankruptcy
  • Accidents or disasters

Another increasingly common life stressor today is elder care, when an adult child becomes responsible for elderly family members.

Life stressors can cause physical, emotional and behavioral problems, potentially pulling an employee’s focus away from work. The stress can impact their wellbeing and mental alertness, making it hard for them to be present and productive. It can also create a lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating.

While these situations are personal in nature, they can easily impact an employee’s work life – and their team or employer.

How can your business help employees manage life stressors to avoid negative impacts for both the employee and the business?

What are the signs your employee is struggling?

If an employee is having trouble managing a personal life stressor, their demeanor or performance may change.

Previously stellar employees may:

  • Become problematic
  • Be distracted or unfocused
  • Make mistakes
  • Miss deadlines
  • Be away from the workplace more than usual
  • Exhibit anger, or have a shorter fuse, lashing out at fellow employees or customers

While it’s easy to dismiss a bad day, when employees are dealing with continued stressors, their bad days can add up to bad weeks, or even months. The situation can hurt team morale or customer relationships, causing a loss of trust and confidence.

One employee’s stress can disrupt the workplace and create ripple effects that impact business.

While no one anticipates life stressors, they naturally happen. How the employee and the employer handles these situations can have lasting impacts on the employee in their time of need and on the business.

How can you talk to the employee about their life stressors?

Everyone handles stress differently, and depending on your relationship with the employee, they may or may not feel comfortable sharing details of their situation with you.

1. Work to create a positive environment of trust and mutual respect that allows employees to discuss their challenges with you openly. This means making yourself or the employee’s direct manager accessible and interested in their well-being.

2. If an employee does not openly share their situation, but their performance is suffering, their manager should address the issue with the employee.

3. Talk with them one-on-one, and share that you’ve noticed a problem. Ask if there is anything that’s led to this dip in performance. This offers them the chance to open up about their situation.

While there are life stressors and situations that require employees to divulge some information – say if an employee needs to request extended leave or medical accommodations – there are no laws that require an employee to share anything about their personal lives.

4. Let the employee know that you (and your leadership team) care and would like to work together to address their performance. Show them that you are there to support them. Let them know they’re a valued member of the team, and ask what you can do to help.

While employees do not have to share their personal news with you or their supervisor, if they aren’t meeting their job requirements, the life stressor has become a performance issue. It’s important that all employees be held accountable for their job performance.

How can your business provide assistance during life stressors?

If the employee isn’t able to focus or positively contribute due to the life stressor, the situation needs to be addressed in a proactive manner, respecting both the employee’s needs and that of the business.

Depending on the life stressor, an employee may need to prioritize their personal life versus their work commitments.

Thinking ahead and establishing policies and procedures that address potential situations can help avoid problems.

Each life stressor may require different solution:

  • To help an employee better manage their personal situation, an employer can offer an employee assistance program that provides confidential support, resources and referrals. 
  • If part of the challenge is meeting regular office hours, it might mean offering a flexible work schedule.
  • If the life stressor is the loss of a family member, offering condolences and support may include bereavement leave.
  • If an accident or natural disaster is involved, it may mean helping connect the employee to available government assistance.

If a change in the employee’s health has caused the issue, an employee may ask an employer to grant them a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Or if an employee needs to take leave due to a medical condition, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may apply. Other solutions could include a leave of absence or allowing an employee to work from home when possible.

No matter what the solution, the common denominator is consistency: each employee must be treated the same.

One employee can’t be offered accommodations or solutions that are not offered to others. To maintain that balance, think ahead and prepare for a scenario. Create policies and procedures to fairly address the situation no matter what employee is involved.

Also keep in mind privacy. Whatever the employee shares with you should be kept private and only shared with those who may need to know, such as human resources or the employee’s direct supervisor. Respecting the employee’s privacy and encouraging others to do the same helps contribute to a positive, trusting work environment.

Summing it up

Finally, maintaining open communication, proactively addressing problems and highlighting resources that are available can help protect both employees and businesses from added stress when life stressors interrupt the workplace.

To learn more about how to support your workforce with issues like life stressors, download our complimentary magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

Leadership and management
Packed schedule? The secret benefits of unscheduled moments at work Tue, 29 Nov 2022 15:30:00 +0000 Have you found yourself in a new scenario, whether it be from your childhood or time in school, where you learned something you didn’t expect? Maybe you had stretches of free time over the summer where you explored and discovered something new. Or, early in your career, a tenured co-worker went out of their way to help you, mentor you or even coach you without formally being asked.

Those moments in which you did something completely “off plan” and had to test your critical thinking, stretch your capabilities or deploy your imagination – and actually learned something valuable about yourself or life in general from it – are unscheduled adventures. In fact, you probably learned some of your greatest lessons in those moments when things technically “went wrong” or you embarked on an activity that no one instructed you to do.

Some of the most memorable moments of my life are wandering around outside, getting lost in the woods and having to navigate my way back home on my own. And some of my most fond moments in business are very similar. A simple interaction with a trusted friend or colleague who put me back on track without ever creating a Zoom meeting.

From childhood to adulthood, there’s much in life that’s prescriptive. At school, you go to class at set times, learn from a lesson plan, and even eat lunch and go to recess when you’re told. As adults, it’s the same thing at work – much of your day is already mapped out from the start, from everyday tasks to training, seminars and meetings. Certainly, that can become repetitive and even predictable.

Have you considered that your team members can benefit from unscheduled adventures just as much as our younger selves did?

What are “unscheduled adventures”?

In the workplace, unscheduled adventures could be any activity that isn’t planned and, instead, happens organically. Examples:

  • A spontaneous conversation, meeting, team-building activity or outing
  • Moments of levity and humor, especially in stressful times
  • Random brainstorming
  • Discussions or activities that veer off an agenda
  • Unexpected collaboration
  • Asking questions
  • Trying a different approach
  • Spending time researching an issue on a whim

What’s the benefit of unscheduled adventures at work?

Unscheduled adventures result in serendipitous, fortuitous moments that can enable you and team members to be your most real, authentic selves and discover more about each other than you ever would otherwise. As a result, you can:

Unscheduled adventures can even turbocharge employee engagement and inspire your team members to spend time on their own thinking about how to solve business problems – without anyone telling them to do it! That’s called discretionary effort and it’s what every employer dreams of successfully encouraging.

This level of magic and spark simply is not typically achievable in a rigid, overly scheduled environment.

How do you support unscheduled adventures at work?

So, how do you, as a business leader, support a work environment that’s conducive to unscheduled adventures? What would that be like? And what are you doing to facilitate those special “a-ha moments?”

1. Know yourself as a leader

To create the right environment that balances an agenda with spontaneity, you need to know yourself pretty well.  Take a moment, and take an honest approach to see if you tend to:

  • Focus on tasks, processes and goals, or focus on relationships?
  • Be schedule driven or more spontaneous?
  • Bend rules, or does that create anxiety within you?
  • Get impatient and frustrated when things go awry, or stay tolerant and calm?

There is no right or wrong – it’s just different ways of thinking and handling situations. This exercise is meant to help you manage your team with greater awareness of the behaviors you want to develop or dial back.

2. Know others’ personalities and working styles

In addition to knowing your own tendencies, you need to know about the other members of your team. Get acquainted with the different DISC personalities and working styles of your employees, and anticipate how they may react in unscheduled moments or respond to your own behaviors.

Because here’s the thing – unscheduled adventures have much less to do with managing tasks and way more to do with interacting with people.

D personalities: Fast paced and task oriented, these employees want things done now – or, better yet, 10 minutes ago. They have an end goal in mind and want to stick to the agenda so they can get there quicker. You’ll hear them say things like, “Why are we standing around chitchatting? Get to the point and get it done!” This doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for unscheduled adventures.

I personalities: These employees like to infuse humor and levity into challenging situations, and seek to find ways to change the pressure of a room for the benefit of everyone. They are spontaneous and prefer not being bound by rules. They can talk aimlessly for as long as you’ll let them. Often, you’ll hear them say, “Let’s have fun!” Of course, this means they can get off track pretty easily and may have to be reigned back in.

S personalities: These employees are highly responsive to their environment. They are steady and like to go with the flow, supporting a given situation to create harmony. If it gets too tense, they’ll get quiet. You may misinterpret them as having nothing to say, but it’s probably because the atmosphere is too confrontational. However, if it’s open and safe, they’ll share more of themselves and their ideas. So, if you create an environment that encourages unscheduled adventure, you might extract a lot of value and insight from these individuals.

C personalities: Task and process oriented, and extremely precise and deliberate, these employees love structure – to the extent that they’ll try to schedule everything. You may hear them say, “Spontaneity has a time and place, and that’s at 2:32 p.m.” (Just kidding – but not really!) The more they try to schedule everything, the more everything becomes part of the agenda.

Consider how you’ll work with the Ds, Is, Ss and Cs on your team – and how you’ll encourage them to work together among themselves. In short, the challenges in managing unscheduled moments will lie in:

  • Getting the Ds and Cs to understand their natural instincts toward order and precision
  • Keeping the Is on track
  • Supporting and encouraging the Ss

3. Understand what your culture tolerates

Assess, within reasonable boundaries, what your workplace culture will tolerate when your team ventures off schedule – as well as the message that your employees are receiving any time it starts to happen. Does your culture:

  • Allow for moments to veer off agenda?
  • Encourage spontaneous conversations?
  • Welcome ideas from the bottom up?
  • Have moments of laughter and fun?
  • Value continuous learning and development?
  • Provide opportunities for people to ask questions?
  • Discourage or encourage vulnerability?

4. Choose a behavior when the agenda goes out the window

Think about Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation. The poor guy just wants to have the perfect family Christmas, but what happens? Everything that can go wrong does. How does Clark react to the complete upheaval of his fun, old-fashioned family Christmas plans? He goes berserk! By trying to make everything perfect, he pushes everyone away.

Obviously, this is an extreme, and hopefully humorous, example. But use it to consider how a person can best respond to an unscheduled adventure:

  • You don’t need to show anger or frustration (You know, avoid saying burn my dust, eat my rubber!)
  • Don’t think of it as a threat to your control or authority (Don’t go straight to … get me somebody, anybody. And get me somebody while I’m waiting!)
  • Remember, the best leaders don’t create tension, anxiety and fear (Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas!)

Instead, strong leaders allow people to breathe more easily than if they’re afraid or under pressure. They create space for others to explore, stretch and grow. They infuse the atmosphere with calm and assurance.

Tips for creating unscheduled moments that build trust

  • Be willing to interact differently – and collaborate – with your people.
  • Admit what you don’t know and encourage learning together.
  • Highlight the strengths of the people around you.
  • Prioritize trust.
  • Express compassion and empathy.
  • Make room for those unscheduled moments. Avoid phrases like:
    • “We need to get back on track.”
    • “Let’s set a separate meeting time to go over that.”
    • “Put that thought in the parking lot for now.”

Think about how you want people to remember you after the interaction – and align your words and behavior with that image. Ultimately, respond in a way that meets employees’ needs.

Summing it all up

Unscheduled adventures are so important to the workplace because they can teach us how to build trust and camaraderie, foster innovation, boost confidence, encourage learning, inspire self-discovery and even spur greater discretionary effort. It can bring fun and spontaneity into the workplace, helping to break up the monotony and shake people out of repetitious activity and predictable thinking. As a leader, you can cultivate a work environment that, while still operating with a basic structure and agenda, allows space for some deviation in plan. Know yourself, your team and your culture, and respond to unscheduled adventures with calm and tolerance. That way you won’t have to end your tirades with, “Where’s the Tylenol?”

Want to read more about leading your team in an inspiring and supportive way? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

Leadership and management
The do’s and don’ts of workplace gift giving Thu, 24 Nov 2022 15:30:00 +0000 As the end-of-year holiday gift-giving season approaches, you may start to stress about buying gifts for colleagues. Workplace gift giving can be tricky. You may wonder what to buy, who should receive a gift and how to go about the process of giving presents at work.

Thankfully, the etiquette is less complicated than one might think.

Below are the do’s and don’ts of giving gifts at work. Let these essentials guide you through the holiday season and into the new calendar year.

1. Do check your company’s policy on workplace gift giving

Before you put together a shopping list, it’s wise to check your company’s gift policy.

Such policies help a company avoid conflicts of interest, both real and perceived. Because there’s ongoing potential for gifts to be exchanged between employees and customers, vendors, suppliers, job applicants and other business stakeholders, it’s smart to have a clear company gift policy in place to prevent problems down the road.

A company gift policy should:

  • State from whom company employees may accept a gift
  • Outline the circumstances under which an employee may accept a gift
  • Offer guidance about what is and isn’t appropriate to accept as a present
  • Define what is allowed or prohibited

Wondering what to do if your company doesn’t have a gift policy in place as the holiday season gears up? Fret not. The following guidelines will help you as you consider handing out workplace presents.

2. Don’t give presents to your superiors

A reliable rule of thumb regarding workplace gift giving: Gifts should flow down the supervisory reporting line, not upward.

Thus, a boss or manager may give presents to direct reports, and employees can laterally exchange gifts with each other. But employees shouldn’t typically give gifts to supervisors. 

This rule protects employees from feeling pressure to purchase gifts for the people who sign their paychecks. Following this policy helps avoid any appearance of a quid pro quo, or the expectation of special treatment.

If there’s a special occasion to celebrate, however, the entire team may collect money to purchase a group present for a manager or business owner. Should a team wish to celebrate, say, a supervisor’s 20th work anniversary or exceptional professional achievement, a group gift will show appreciation without giving the appearance of favoritism being sought from a specific employee. 

3. Don’t give gifts near performance review time

Timing is everything with workplace gift giving. Presenting a gift to your manager right before your annual review can send the wrong signal. While your motives may be innocent, your intentions may be perceived as an attempt at bribery.

4. Do keep it professional

Always consider how your gift choices communicate your intentions in the workplace. You want to think through how the giver – and onlookers – may interpret your gift.

Avoid giving personal items someone might wear (perfume, clothing or jewelry) or items typically not allowed in the workplace (alcohol, gag gifts or any item that may offend others). Invest instead in edible gifts, appropriate books or other gender-neutral items that reflect your thoughtful intentions in a professional manner. 

5. Do aim for inclusion

As the year winds down, no one wants to be left out of the holiday fun. Suggest holding an end-of-year celebration with a voluntary gift exchange, one open to everyone willing to participate. Who knows? A bit of merriment might be just the thing to boost seasonal morale.

A gift exchange isn’t an excuse to give a cheap, lousy present, however. When choosing a gift for an office exchange, take the time to select an appropriate, thoughtful gift. This will keep the recipient from feeling short-changed. 

Also, be mindful of hosting gift exchanges where “stealing” is allowed. This practice may result in hard feelings. The ultimate objective with office gift exchanges should be to have a fun event in which all employees feel they are valued equally.

The same can be said of team workplace gift giving. If you decide to give a book or a company-branded item as a gift, for example, providing the same gift to everyone on your staff shows your clear intentions as a team-building manager.

6. Do observe the gift-giving spending limit

Observe formal spending limits for workplace gifts. Exceeding the set amount is likely to make coworkers feel uncomfortable and, again, may invite misinterpretation of your motives.

Giving cash as a gift is considered unacceptable – unless, of course, the company provides it in the form of an employee bonus. On the other hand, gift cards and gift certificates can be acceptable gift choices. The gift card for a major retailer wrapped imaginatively can be a big hit with coworkers.

7 Don’t pressure employees to participate

If your office is collecting money for a group gift for a colleague, cash-strapped colleagues may feel uneasy. Feeling the pressure to give more than they can afford can breed negativity, feelings of exclusion or resentment.

Should a team member have a baby, is hospitalized or experience a loss, sending the employee a fruit basket or flowers from the entire team is appropriate. If there isn’t room in the budget to cover costs, invite volunteers. Never pressure someone to contribute, however, no matter how much you believe they can afford it.

The same guideline applies when asking employees to donate to philanthropic causes. From time to time there may be good reason to invite people to make a voluntary contribution to a charity. Some businesses may see lasting value in coming up with a long-term strategy for supporting charities. For example, a voluntary matching gift program is one way your company can show appreciation by matching employee contributions to nonprofit organizations. 

8. Do set a company code of ethics that addresses workplace gift giving

If you’re a business owner or manager, a major part of your role is to shape company culture. With that responsibility comes the opportunity to establish and enforce clear policies and procedures designed to give everyone piece of mind. 

Upholding a code of ethics will help set clear expectations for employees to practice and demonstrate equal treatment and non-discriminatory actions in the workplace. And, yes, this can include gift-giving guidance during the holidays and beyond.

For more information on management issues, download our complimentary e-book: 7 most frequent HR mistakes and how to avoid them.

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8 must-have leadership traits for current and future leaders Tue, 22 Nov 2022 15:30:00 +0000 Many leadership traits—for example, ambition, initiative, attention to detail, business acumen , creative problem solving and critical thinking skills—will always be desirable in business leaders regardless of internal or external conditions of the moment. No matter what, the people who possess these characteristics will be valuable to their organizations and the teams they lead.

However, the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid work that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has forced certain leadership traits to the forefront and accentuated their importance. Why?

This new work environment is defined by:

  • Less in-person connection
  • Greater physical distances between colleagues—sometimes across state lines and even time zones
  • Fewer opportunities for collaboration and spontaneity
  • Less direct supervision from managers
  • Increased workplace flexibility
  • Blurred lines between work and personal time

The circumstances surrounding managing remote and hybrid employees have challenged leaders to hone existing traits and perhaps practice them in a new way, as well as acquire new skills.

8 leadership traits for today’s leaders

As you assess the effectiveness of your slate of managers and evaluate your individual contributors for potential promotion to the ranks of leadership, here are the must-have traits that all current and future business leaders should exhibit in our post-pandemic working landscape:

1. Servant leadership and coaching abilities

The role of the manager has fundamentally changed. Previously, managers were traditional “bosses,” their relationships with direct reports characterized by formality, power and control. An employee’s advancement depended on how their boss judged them in an annual performance review.

In remote and hybrid work environments, this outdated view of the managerial role just won’t cut it. Why?

  • Regular contact between managers and employees is essential to build relationships based on trust.
  • Extra initiative on the part of managers is critical to maintain employees’ motivation and engagement.
  • Employee expectations of their managers, especially as younger Millennials and Generation Z grow in numbers in the workforce, have simply evolved.

Today, a manager is viewed more as a guide or a coach. Managers are facilitators, removing obstacles from employees’ paths and obtaining resources to help employees perform at their best. Managers advise on how to improve certain skills and achieve goals. And lastly, managers help employees chart their career path and plan the next move in their career progression.

It’s all about being a servant leader – the practice of setting one’s own needs aside to serve others and help them excel.

In evaluating who within your organization is well suited for management, keep an eye out of specific leadership traits. Look for managers and employees who:

  • Genuinely care about others
  • Enjoy helping others accomplish a task or goal
  • Are team players who care as much about the success of the group as their own individual success

2. Resilience

Where, when and how we work have transformed rapidly in the last few years. The evolution of the workplace will undoubtedly continue, because economic conditions, sociopolitical issues, markets, industries, technological developments and employee preferences, for example, aren’t stagnant either. Change is our constant.

Regardless of any unsettling events happening around us, it’s important for leaders to display resilience. When confronted with difficulties, they must be able to:

  • Recover well and formulate a plan of action
  • Learn from the past and apply that knowledge to the future
  • Express confidence in the organization’s values, mission and vision
  • Remind team members of their shared purpose and goals to keep them on track
  • Model steadiness and fortitude to help employees develop a mindset of resilience

Who makes an effective leader? Look for managers and employees who adapt quickly – especially those who have thrived in a remote or hybrid work environment.

3. Empathy and emotional intelligence

Empathy and emotional intelligence, or EQ, are all about being able to:

  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand their viewpoint
  • Perceive others’ feelings through a combination of verbal and non-verbal cues (body language and tone)

By understanding their employees, managers:

  • Know what motivates or de-motivates them, and can adjust their leadership and communication styles to better guide their teams
  • Notice when an employee is stressed, upset or distracted, and can initiate a conversation that leads to faster resolution of the issue

It’s easier to detect others’ feelings when they’re right in front of you.

But what about employees who you don’t see frequently – or the employees you never see except through a computer screen? Now more than ever, managers must get to know their employees and regularly engage with them so they understand which behaviors to look out for and how to effectively lead them.

Additionally, remote and hybrid employees are subject to greater stressors than ever before. Working from home can involve unique disruptions, such as:

  • Spotty internet connections
  • Barking dogs and small children in the background of videoconferences
  • Challenges in balancing personal obligations with work
  • Family issues spilling over into the middle of the work day

Managers should extend grace and understanding toward employees, rather than judgment and recognize that employees are humans with lives outside work. Instead of stressing about the minor stuff, managers need to start asking: “How are you? Is there anything I can do to make your working situation more comfortable?”

Managers can also share tips and best practices with employees on managing stress and avoiding distractions.

Who makes an effective leader? Look for managers and employees who:

  • Pay attention to others’ feelings
  • Show grace and compassion toward others
  • Are skilled at reading people

4. Sharp focus

Employees aren’t the only ones struggling with lots of distractions at home. Managers are susceptible to the same challenges.

Leaders have a lot of responsibilities on their plate and they often assume they can multitask successfully in a remote environment. However, it’s not as easy as it may appear at first. Like any other employee, managers must take care to maintain their focus and attention to detail outside the traditional office environment.

It can also be helpful for managers to schedule periodic breaks throughout the day to reset and recharge. After all, several hours of staring at a computer screen can make anyone’s attention wander.

In identifying potentially successful leaders, look for patterns of behavior in managers and employees that prove they inherently have the leadership trait of sharp focus.

  • Do they often make mistakes?
  • Do they miss deadlines or regularly drop the ball?
  • Do they fail to meet goals?
  • Do they make it a regular practice to schedule time for certain tasks, or are they always trying to multitask?

5. Guardian of work-life balance and mental health

Working from home can increase the risk of becoming a workaholic. Many employees find themselves answering “just one more email” at 10 p.m. or feeling like they have to overcompensate to prove their value and work ethic by putting in extra hours in the evening or early morning. When your work space and living space occupy the same real estate, it’s almost too easy to work – your laptop is right there on the dining room table!

But this isn’t sustainable for the long term – in fact, it’s a leading cause of employee burnout.

Managers need to look out for workaholic behaviors and discourage them. Instead, managers should promote work-life balance by:

  • Setting expectations and rules for work practices (for example, no work emails sent after office close)
  • Promoting resources available to employees, such as an employee assistance program or workplace wellness programs, that can assist with mental health challenges as well as other personal issues
  • Encouraging employees to take breaks and time off when needed
  • Prioritizing quality and results over time spent in the office
  • Modeling desirable behaviors – managers should adhere to any office policies that promote work-life balance and avoid showing reluctance to take time off

Who would make a great leader in your organization? Look for managers and employees who:

  • Have established healthy personal boundaries rather than working at all hours of the day and night without breaks
  • Manage their own time well while on the job
  • Place importance on mental health, self-care and time with family

Note: Don’t forget to take steps, as an organization, to care for your managers and do your part to promote their wellness.

6. Trusting and empowering others

When employees are off-site, managers can’t exactly walk down the hall to their cubicle to go check on them. Managers of remote employees have to get comfortable with the idea that they can’t hover over their employees all day to see what they’re doing and make sure work gets done. That’s micromanaging, and it can cause employee morale to plummet.

Managers also need to move past the idea that they’re the only ones who can do a task well.

Instead, managers need to cultivate strong relationships based on trust – and then release employees to do their jobs. Managers should empower others to be autonomous and take ownership of their work, within defined parameters, so they’re freed to focus on big-picture responsibilities.

Who makes a strong leader? Look for managers and employees who enjoy teaching others to do a task independently, and are eager to delegate if it means greater efficiency and happier, more fulfilled employees.

7. Effective communication

Good communication and interpersonal skills are always important leadership traits for managers. But now, these skills are absolutely vital because:

  • Having employees located in different geographic areas or time zones can mean that managers need to tailor their communication approach—scheduling, frequency and medium—for each team member.
  • Greater separation between colleagues means more opportunities for misunderstandings. Managers must know how to communicate to avoid unnecessary conflict.
  • Remote employees, especially those located farther distances away from the office, can feel more isolated and disconnected from their workplace, and even out of the information loop. However, good communication from managers can enhance engagement and feelings of belonging.
  • Workplace teams use a plethora of media to communicate with each other. Managers need to know which medium to use and when, and how to leverage it most effectively.

As you can see, effective communication has nothing to do with being an introvert or extrovert. Rather, it’s about these traits:

  • Honesty
  • Transparency
  • Inclusion
  • Trustworthiness
  • Relationship building
  • Desire to overcome distances and separation to create a cohesive team environment

Remember that effective communication is two way. Managers must make themselves available to employees for receiving their questions, concerns and feedback. Maintaining open lines of communication, and having an open-door policy for employees, is very important.

It can also be a good idea for managers to show vulnerability to team members. Owning up to their own failures and mistakes to demonstrate their humanity can be an excellent teaching moment for team members and can further build trust.

8. Self-reflection

Today, there are a lot of expectations and demands placed on managers. It’s always easy for managers to operate in bubbles given the nature of their position, but it’s especially so when teams are more disconnected. Being able to evaluate oneself, maintain awareness about strengths and shortcomings, and demonstrating an openness to improvement can impact how well managers:

  • Engage with team members
  • Adapt to change
  • Perform over time and reach the next level of leadership

Who may have potential to be a great leader? Look for managers and employees who:

  • Take the initiative in identifying development opportunities
  • Accept feedback and constructive criticism well
  • Seem to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses

It all comes down to people strategy

Leaders tend to get mired in data, execution and outcomes, but it’s clear that a major part of what makes or breaks their success is how well they deal with people—particularly how they foster inspiration, motivation, engagement, productivity and trust from a distance.

The necessity of continual development

No matter whether a manager is brand new or highly experienced in a leadership role, no one knows everything they need to know or has mastered all the leadership traits they’ll ever need to be effective. Learning, development and improvement is an ongoing process. If your workplace has a continuous learning culture (and it should), invest the time and resources in helping your managers regularly work on these skills so they can maximize their effectiveness and value to your company.

Summing it all up

In the post-pandemic workplace, in which remote and hybrid work is commonplace, eight leadership traits have become incredibly valuable to companies and lower-level employees alike. As you evaluate the effectiveness of your leaders and look to identify more individual contributors with management potential, assess how well they embody these eight characteristics. No matter how green or tenured your managers are, commit to developing these skills to ensure that your leaders are as successful as possible.

For more information about how to develop strong, effective leaders in your business, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

]]> 12 Leadership and management
How to tackle wage growth and remain competitive in a tough market Tue, 15 Nov 2022 15:30:00 +0000 Wage growth, record-high inflation and an extremely competitive labor market have all put business leaders in a difficult position. Anyone involved in hiring and retaining employees is torn between important and seemingly contradictory objectives:

  • Address employees’ pain and concerns about the increased cost of living so you can prevent them from disengaging or leaving the company in search of a higher salary elsewhere. (The Great Resignation is ongoing, after all.)
  • Win the war for top talent that’s driving wage growth – and be able to entice new hires across the finish line, sometimes with great urgency to overcome other job offers on the table.
  • Be smart with company financials and stick to budgets, especially in the face of a potential recession.

In these uncertain times, how can leaders make optimal compensation decisions for their employees’ benefit while still controlling business costs and maintaining compliance?

1. Understand cost of labor versus cost of living – and decide which will drive your company’s compensation philosophy

Although cost of labor and cost of living are two distinct concepts, employees and the general public tend to conflate the two.


So, what’s the difference between the two terms?

Cost of labor: How much a company must spend to hire and retain employees in a particular market. It has to do with supply and demand, and can be industry and role specific. Information for individual markets can be obtained from various sources, including labor market competitors and published data from survey vendors.

Cost of living: The measure of the average change over time in prices paid by consumers in a particular market for goods, such as food, gas, housing and transportation. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), an economic indicator released each month by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, puts inflation at a 40-year high, having increased 8.2% over the prior year.

Traditionally, the cost of living isn’t a factor for companies in determining wages and pay increases. Instead, the cost of labor has usually been companies’ predominant consideration.

However, the current climate is forcing many business leaders to reconsider that stance and wrestle with these questions: How do we keep up with the rate of inflation in our salaries and be competitive? What will we do going forward to help employees?

As business leaders undergo the budgeting process, they must consider whether salaries and pay increases will be based on the cost of labor, cost of living, or some combination of two.

Then ask yourself what your company can reasonably afford.

Your decision on this point will help to inform your overall compensation strategy.

2. Establish a compensation strategy

Every business needs a sound and proactive compensation strategy to:

  • Protect the long-term interests of business
  • Meet the needs of team members in the here and now

Your company’s compensation is one of the most important elements of a clearly defined human capital management strategy. Given today’s climate, it’s more critical than ever in creating discretionary effort in employees and preserving the discretionary income that businesses will need for the future.

Whether you realize it or not, if you’re hiring employees or giving out pay raises, your company already has a compensation philosophy. So, why do you need a formalized strategy? Because it:

  • Serves as the foundation and principles for how your company pays its people
  • Is important to document your strategy in writing in the case of disputes
  • Acts as a guidepost in times of stress or change
  • Aids in the consistent application of compensation policies

All of this helps you treat employees equitably and avoid legal problems down the road.

Here are a few simple steps to get started creating a compensation strategy:

  1. Assess your current pay practices, including base pay along with any bonuses or incentive plans. Consider how your pay program aligns with your business strategy, competitive outlook and human capital needs.
  2. Examine why your pay practices are in place. Did you decide to base your compensation philosophy on cost of living or cost of labor?
  3. Define the competitive market position of your organization. A lot of companies will say that they target the 50th percentile, to be right in the middle of what other companies pay. However, you’ll want to consider certain factors, including:
  • Who your competitors are
  • The size of your business
  • Where you hire (locally, regionally or nationally)
  • Your budget and pay capabilities

All of these factors go into the development of a compensation strategy and establish a framework to attract and retain employees and motivate them to do their best.

Your compensation strategy should:

  • Align with your company’s vision and values
  • Promote equity and fairness for employees
  • Ensure fiscal sensitivity for the organization
  • Be legally compliant
  • Be easy to communicate and explain to employees
  • Be applied consistently

3. Ensure pay equity

As you contemplate increasing employee pay or setting salaries for sought-after new hires, be careful to maintain pay equity within your organization.

Pay equity means compensating employees in similar job functions with comparably equal pay, without regard to protected classes, such as gender, race or ethnicity. Of course, not all employees will be paid precisely the same amount, even if they occupy the same job function. Salary differences often come down to other unique, individual factors, such as:

  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Specific skills that are relevant to a position
  • Responsibilities of a position in the organization’s long-term financial stability

Pay equity is often mandated by state law, so maintain awareness of your company’s legal obligations. Nearly all U.S. states have enacted equal pay laws to varying degrees. Some states, such as California, have even gone on a step beyond the “substantially similar job functions” standard to also require employers to provide pay rates for employees by department. It’s likely that other states’ pay laws will enact similar, more stringent measures in the future.

But when compliance and best practices run up against flexibility in adapting to market demands, pay equity can become a tricky issue for businesses.

Especially in an ultra-competitive labor market, it can be tempting to offer a talented job candidate more money when you’re under pressure to fill a position fast and they’re the perfect fit. However, don’t overpay in a moment of urgency or desperation. In fact, this can be a slippery slope.

Pay compression is when there’s little to no difference in pay between employees despite differences in their experience, knowledge and skills. If you pay new employees at the same level or more than tenured, experienced employees in a bid to secure a job candidate, pay compression may be the result. This can cause many unintended consequences among your employees:

  • Weakened trust in the company and management
  • Lower morale and satisfaction
  • Disengagement
  • Reduced productivity
  • Loss of valued, long-term employees
  • Potential discrimination claims

Quick decisions need to be made in a competitive hiring process, but taking the time and effort to ensure internal pay equity is worth it.

What can your company do to preserve pay equity and avoid trouble?

  • Regularly update job descriptions and ensure their relevancy to the actual duties performed by employees. Job descriptions are how companies identify similar job functions.
  • Conduct a pay-equity analysis to identify pay gaps in your organization, with the engagement of internal or external counsel.
  • Prohibit salary negotiations, which enable organizations to drive up the costs for new hires to bring them onboard. Instead, establish set pay ranges for each position with recruiters – and don’t deviate up or down from those ranges.

4. Embrace pay transparency

More than anything, employees and job candidates want your company to be transparent about your pay practices. They also want to understand the reasoning behind these decisions and gain assurance that your decisions are based on objective data that reflects the relevant markets.

This desire is reinforced by a growing trend in state legislatures to enact pay-transparency laws, with the intention of closing pay-equity gaps.

What is pay transparency? It’s the willingness of companies to:

  • Explain the how and why behind their compensation strategy and practices
  • Disclose pay ranges for positions or departments
  • Allow employees to share their salary information with others

To some degree as mandated by regulations, leaders must share pay ranges with employees and be prepared to explain to employees:

  • Where they fall within the set pay range
  • Why their pay is set at the current level
  • How they can direct their efforts to increase their compensation

How well your organization accomplishes pay transparency depends on:

  • The quality and regularity of manager training for these types of conversations
  • Executive leadership support and buy-in
  • Your culture
  • Communication capabilities of the organization
  • The level of sophistication of the compensation strategy

5. Implement variable pay programs instead of base pay increases

Sometimes, it’s just not financially feasible to deliver on pay raises for current employees, or a job candidate simply wants too much money. But all is not lost.

If you aren’t able to offer a higher base salary, there are other ways to acquire talent and motivate current employees without damaging the integrity of your compensation strategy and practices. A great – and, perhaps, less risky – solution is to implement variable pay programs.

Unlike salary, a fixed cost that the company pays out regardless of performance or achievement of goals, variable pay is distributed to employees contingent on their contribution to the organization’s success. It’s a win-win – employees can earn more money and are incentivized to perform at a high level, and it serves the need of your business with less impact on the company budget.

Additionally, variable pay isn’t as “sticky,” or permanent, as an increase in base salary. If your company’s financial outlook changes or external conditions shift, you can easily end or modify variable pay programs and avoid overpaying employees for the long term.

Here’s how you can started:

  1. Start at the top and engage executive leadership in conversation to get everyone on board. Decide which behaviors or results you want to reward and align them with the goals you want to meet.
  2. Include the financial team in all discussions so everyone is on the same page in terms of funding – and ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises ahead.
  3. Create a variable pay plan in writing. This plan should be:
    • Adaptable. Reserve the right to make changes, including downward adjustments, at any time based on employee performance or company finances. You should also be able to adapt the plan to change goals and strategies to achieved your desired financial objectives or re-incentivize employees.
    • Finite. Tie incentives to clear goals, at a defined frequency and with an end date. Open-ended goals are more difficult to measure.
    • Limited. Establish a cap, or maximum, on payouts to avoid putting the company in an unexpected or challenging financial position.
    • Simple. The more complex the plan is, the greater the potential for confusion and misunderstandings.
  4. Communicate with employees consistently. Everyone should know the expectations and what the rewards are for meeting them.

6. Shift towards a “total rewards” strategy

What else can you do to engage and motivate employees and entice new talent that doesn’t involve cash compensation? Get creative!

What else does your organization bring to the table that brands you as unique and differentiates you from competitors? Think about what job candidates and your employees value most in their work environment.

The possibilities run the gamut. Some examples:

This is known as “total rewards,” or the cumulative value of all the rewards and the overall positive experience that employees can enjoy at your workplace.

This can drive motivated, productive workforces who feel appreciated and rewarded for contributions, which in turn can improve the relationships between employees and company leadership.

7. Account for the removal of geographic limitations

Remote work has enabled recruiters to source job candidates from across the U.S., without regard for geographical limits.

But, when compensation strategy is largely dictated by the local, specific market, how do you handle payment for employees in varied locations? You can’t have a different payment standard for each individual employee – the larger your company is, that’d be a nightmare to manage.

If your company offers remote work, you may need to modify your compensation strategy to account for this scenario. Come up with an approach that is

  • Consistent
  • Easy to manage
  • Easy to communicate to employees and candidates

A few common options:

  • If you have one office, set pay rates based on your main office location.
  • If you have multiple offices, choose the regional office that is closest to an employee and establish a geographic differential based on the corporate office to account for variations in the cost of labor or cost of living in other areas.
  • Establish geographic differentials for various locations around the country. Many organizations are moving toward a strategy of looking at a national average and establishing geographic differentials for major metropolitan cities.
  • If employees leave major metropolitan areas to work remotely in less expensive markets, you have the option of either reducing that employee’s pay (the less popular choice) or lowering annual salary increases.

8. Rely on a professional employer organization (PEO)

Overwhelmed by the idea of implementing a compensation strategy and need help thinking through complex issues surrounding budgeting, logistics and compliance? A PEO with dedicated compensation professionals can help!

Summing it all up

Between unprecedented inflation, and a competitive job market that’s driving wage growth, employers are in a tremendously difficult position. How can they meet the expectations of job candidates and employees and not get left behind while controlling costs and maintaining fiscal prudence? Here, we’ve outlined eight strategies to help employers navigate these tough times. To learn more about making your company appealing to employees, no matter the current work environment, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to attracting, recruiting and hiring top talent.

Benefits and compensation
Hiring in a crisis: 10 strategies for uncertain times Thu, 10 Nov 2022 15:30:00 +0000 As a business leader today, you may find yourself hiring in a crisis such as a(n):

When an economic, social, or really any marketplace uncertainty is taking place, it’s less often an isolated, short-term event. Typically, one crisis spurs other crises, which gives the experience a lengthier, episodic quality and complicates the conditions in which you recruit candidates.

An example of this is what happened with the COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn’t simply a public health emergency. There were diverse impacts on the business world:

  • Lockdowns across multiple states
  • Business closures
  • Near-collapse of several industries
  • Widespread layoffs
  • High unemployment claims
  • School and daycare closures
  • Lack of technological preparedness for the sudden shift to remote work

Now let’s explore why you would want to hire in the midst of such chaos and the effect that crises can have on the hiring process.

How crises impact hiring

The existence of a crisis doesn’t mean that hiring stops – for some businesses, it’s quite the contrary. When a crisis creates a surge in demand or presents a unique opportunity for your product or service, your business may actually expand while others struggle.

Or perhaps your business was impacted by a crisis, but now it’s in recovery mode. For example, maybe you’ve ridden out the storm and are ready to hire again after layoffs, or you’ve shifted your business into a new direction and need talent to support this move.

Whatever your company’s situation, a crisis doesn’t necessarily change the basic fundamentals of the hiring process. Rather, a crisis tends to impact the mindset of hiring managers and job candidates.

Hiring managers

Hiring managers focus on how a new hire can improve the business going forward.

Their goal is to identify the person who embodies the desired set of skills and will bring the most value to an organization given all that transpired, or is transpiring, during the crisis.

Job seekers

For job candidates, changing companies is much more personal and fraught with uncertainty.

For some, a job with your company could represent a dramatic improvement in their current circumstances. You won’t have to sell them too hard on the benefits of accepting a job with your company.

But in other cases, a job with your company could represent a change from a currently stable position to a less stable one. Or it could mean jumping from one uncertain situation to another. These prospects won’t be so easy to convince.

Overall, job candidates are worried about the crisis worsening and are anxious about their future job security. Understandably, they ask themselves these types of questions:

  • What’s better about this new opportunity than my role at my current company, if anything? What’s in it for me?
  • What if I’m the last one in? Will I be the first one out if things get worse?
  • Is it likely that I’ll have to take a pay cut or a reduction in benefits?
  • Will my scope of responsibilities change in a way I won’t like?
  • How will this job change affect my family?
  • How will this job change impact my career for the long term?

If you’re targeting highly skilled professionals in niche areas and other choosy job candidates, be prepared to deploy ingenuity in your recruiting strategy. These candidates are aware of their worth in the job market and are challenging to recruit in normal times – especially so during a crisis when people are fearful of making a wrong move.

As an employer, you’ll need to deploy an emotionally intelligent recruiting strategy that factors in the psyche of different types of job candidates during a crisis:

  • Identify and respond to their needs and motivations.
  • Allay their fears and concerns.

What employers should do when hiring during uncertain times

1. Assess your open position and company from the perspective of each job candidate

In addition to posting jobs on online boards and LinkedIn to reach a broad swath of candidates, you should also actively seek out prospective candidates and contact them directly. Before you do, consider how each particular candidate will most likely view the opportunity with your company.

  • Are they currently employed?
    • If not, is it because they’re in an industry impacted by a crisis?
    • If so, how long have they been with their company? How has their career advanced within their current company?
  • How stable is their current company or industry compared to yours?
  • How well do their skills and current title align with your open position? Based on their history, are they likely to be interested in what your position entails?
  • Does your position represent a demotion, lateral move or a promotion for them?

This analysis will set the tone and strategy for your initial communications, and improve your chances of them engaging with you.

2. Enhance the quality and frequency of your candidate outreach

Whether prospective candidates can afford to be choosy or they’re hesitant to make a change amid a crisis, you’ll have to put in more front-end work to entice qualified prospects into moving to your company. This means engaging in more outreach to compensate for the anticipated lower response rate.

To yield more responses, your messages need to be personal and targeted – not just a generic job description. Show prospects you’ve done your research on them, are impressed by them and aren’t wasting their time with an opportunity that isn’t relevant.

  • Reference their background and skills, and explain why you think your opportunity may excite them.
  • Communicate the value of the role to your organization.
  • Describe what they’ll gain from the position.
  • Ask them questions about their goals, interests and needs, or what concerns them about changing jobs now.

In all your communications, demonstrate transparency and strive to overcome obvious objections. If your company is known for experiencing adverse impacts of a crisis, acknowledge it and explain that conditions have improved. At a high level, mention new strategies and future plans so prospects understand that your organization is stable.

3. Identify what differentiates your company from the competition

Savvy job candidates look beyond salary. They want to know what the company stands for and how they take care of their people. Especially in a crisis, prospects want to feel a sense of security at your company.

Different crises can make people examine your organization in distinct ways. For example:

  • An economic crisis can make job candidates focus more on benefits packages.
  • Social and political turmoil can lead candidates to study an organization’s diversity initiatives, values or their inclusion policies. 
  • A pandemic can cause prospects to prioritize safety practices, remote work capabilities and paid sick leave.

To make your company stand out, identify what you’re doing differently and how this makes you more attractive to candidates – especially through the lens of a particular crisis. Then leverage it in your job advertising and candidate outreach.

Think about:

  • What’s your company culture?
  • What’s your vision and mission?
  • Do you allow people to work remotely?
  • Do you offer flexible scheduling?
  • What are your workplace policies?
  • How diverse is your company?
  • Do you have a competitive benefits package?
  • How generous is your paid time off (PTO) policy?
  • What unique perks do you offer?

If your company doesn’t have any strong differentiators or exceptional qualities, create them.

  • Analyze what your competitors offer.
  • Ask current employees and prospective job candidates what they expect companies to offer and what’s most important to them.
  • Read online reviews of your company for unfiltered feedback.
  • Determine what you’re capable of delivering from a financial standpoint.

4. Be flexible

By nature, a crisis is disruptive. As the situation evolves or as you receive feedback, you need to be able to reassess your requirements of candidates as well as your recruiting strategies and processes.

In a crisis in which entire industries were impacted, you may receive a flood of applications from candidates with experience in these industries who were laid off. They may not be an exact match with what you’re looking for, but perhaps some flexibility is called for.

In reviewing the applications you’ve received, consider the following:

  • Are there desirable skills that could translate from other industries into this role?
  • How broad is the role?
  • What can you do from a training perspective?
  • How much value do you place on a candidate that’s adaptable and can learn new skills?
  • How could fresh perspectives and ideas benefit your business?

Other crises, such as pandemics or natural disasters, can keep people out of the office and disrupt traditional hiring conventions, such as face-to-face interviewing. If necessary, enable virtual interviewing and onboarding. (You may want to gauge job candidates’ comfort level with remote work and virtual business platforms.)

5. Evaluate candidates’ mindset of resilience

During a crisis, equally important as a job candidate’s qualifications is their mindset of resilience. This means that they can:

  • Adapt to changing circumstances by incorporating new behaviors and following new processes
  • Let go of what makes them comfortable
  • Tolerate ambiguity
  • Work well under pressure

Encourage job candidates to describe a time in which they did one of the following:

  • Overcame adversity in their career
  • Helped their team to bounce back from a challenging situation
  • Successfully navigated a previous period of change or turbulence


As any crisis demonstrates, change is inevitable. Your team members need to be able to handle change well to maintain a productive working environment and improve the odds that your business will survive the next crisis.

You also want to make sure they’re not the type to bail at the first sign of a challenge.

Mistakes employers should avoid when hiring in a crisis

1. Closed-mindedness and complacency

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that, in a crisis, you don’t have to do anything differently to reach candidates and convince them of your company’s attractiveness.

And don’t assume at the outset that you know a job candidate’s motivations, mindset and level of desire for a new job.

Instead, listen. Ask questions and dig deeper into their background and motivations.

Be open to feedback and willing to adapt your recruiting approach based on what you learn about a candidate.

2. Operating in short-term, emergency mode

So often, companies treat hiring in a crisis as an emergency that needs to be resolved quickly.  

Instead, it should be treated as a strategic, long-term decision. Don’t rush to hire someone without a clear idea of who you’re looking for or the value they’ll bring. You’re not just trying to find a person – you need the right person.

3. Neglecting online brand perception

In a crisis, disgruntled employees tend to air their grievances about layoffs and criticize their company’s crisis response on job-review websites. If this happens to you, it can impact the perception of your company in the eyes of current job prospects.

Maintain awareness of your company’s online reviews. Address negative feedback thoughtfully and professionally – but don’t leave it unanswered.

Leverage your company website and social media channels to build a positive reputation. Use this space to communicate transparently and frequently:

  • Publicize what you’re doing to help and preserve employees.
  • Share positive news about your company and larger industry.
  • Promote your company’s good works within the community.
  • Explain the steps you’re taking to stabilize the company during the crisis.

4. Inability (or resistance) to answer hard questions

Count on savvy job candidates – and even those who are simply skittish about making a job change – to do their homework on your company and ask tough questions. If you want to project an image of transparency, stability and preparedness for the future, you should be ready to answer them.

These questions may include:

5. Overly long hiring process

Limit the number of interviews per candidate to three to four, at maximum. By this point, you should know whether you want to advance to the offer stage with a candidate.

If you like a candidate, move forward. Don’t be fearful of missing out on someone better. If you wait for another hypothetical candidate to emerge, the actual exceptional candidate you liked may accept another offer in the meantime.

Remember: Crises impact industries, companies and individuals differently. Where some struggle, others thrive in new opportunities. Don’t assume that a candidate is desperate for a job or not in demand with other companies.

Summing it all up

Rather than completely overhauling widely accepted recruiting tools and processes, hiring in a crisis is all about understanding the mindset of job candidates and being flexible enough and open to feedback to adjust your recruiting strategy.

In addition to selling a prospective candidate on your company and the role, you’ll have to spend more time assessing their needs and motivations, addressing unique concerns and fears, and convincing others that you can deliver stability and security.

To learn more about how to hire successfully regardless of the circumstances, download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

]]> 2 Hiring
Is your employee quiet quitting? Here’s your action plan Tue, 08 Nov 2022 15:30:00 +0000 Quiet quitting is the popular new Great Resignation-era term for an employee who hasn’t quit (yet), but definitely exists on a spectrum of disengagement. As employees become increasingly fed up with some aspect of their job or company, they may withdraw from others and withhold discretionary effort, instead just doing the bare minimum to get by without attracting too much negative attention.

Clearly, this isn’t what the average company wants in their workforce. When you have an employee quiet quitting, it’s not just employee retention that potentially suffers. It can impair:

  • Productivity
  • Innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • The quality of products and services for customers

It can also increase employee absenteeism.

Employees quiet quitting may even suggest deeper, pervasive problems with your company culture.

It’s definitely a problem that you don’t want to just accept as a new status quo.

So, how do you identify when an employee is quiet quitting and what can you do to stop it before it becomes a more significant issue?

Recognizing the warning signs of an employee quiet quitting

What should you look out for? Pay attention to negative changes in behavior, no matter how subtle or gradual they are.

Behavioral changes will be most noticeable with your high performers. Employees who usually express enthusiasm, participate in meetings, and are among the first to volunteer for special projects may start:

  • Pulling back
  • Speaking up less
  • No longer going above and beyond
  • Becoming less visible

It will almost always be more challenging to identify quiet quitting in employees who:

  • Work remotely, due to reduced face-to-face time and personal interaction
  • Have always done the bare minimum and coasted along – they fly under the radar more easily and their performance is fairly consistent

It’s also important to note, you likely won’t have a business that’s full of 100% superstars  – and that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with the segment of your employee population who fulfill their job requirements and nothing more, and then go home on time each day. Solid, steady performance can make for dependable employees.

What to do when your employee is quiet quitting

Keep the following points in mind to ensure that your expectations about “high performance” remain realistic:

1. Talk to the employee ASAP

During your next scheduled meeting with the employee or at the earliest convenient opportunity for the two of you to speak privately, bring the topic up. This should be a simple conversation and, for the employee, feel as though you’re checking in because you care. You don’t need to ask, “Are you quiet quitting?” But, say something like:

Hey, I’ve noticed you pulling back and not engaging as much. You used to always do X, but now you do Y more frequently. I want you to know that we value you here, because of [describe their best characteristics]. With this in mind, is everything ok? Is there anything we need to discuss? How can I help you? Please know that I have an open-door policy and you can always discuss any challenges you’re facing with me. I’m here for you.”

2. Reinforce your employee’s value to the company

Like stated in the example script above, you want to make sure your employee knows that they’re valued and that their work is appreciated. If they are in fact quiet quitting, this is likely something that needs to be reinforced multiple times, in multiple ways. Consider how your culture promotes employee recognition, and see if there’s anything you can do in this area.

3. Express the behavioral shifts you’re seeing and why you’re concerned

The COVID-19 pandemic shifted employee mindsets – most likely permanently. Changes that would have come about over time with younger generations of workers, such as Generation Z, were accelerated by the pandemic. Now, employees have a different philosophy about the role of work in their lives and they crave more balance and flexibility. Employers should respect this and not automatically assume that embracing these modern workplace trends is a form of quiet quitting.

Whether it’s an part of this “expected” mindset shift or a bigger behavioral change, make sure to spend time with your employee building trust and figuring out how you can best support them. Share with them what concerns you have – and ask if you can brainstorm solutions together.

4. Prioritize your employee’s wellbeing

Expressing that you care for your employee can go a long way. If the employee cites a personal matter as the reason for their behavior, make sure they know about all the resources available to them via your company’s employee assistance program.

5. Practice servant leadership

Inquire how you can help, and make sure you are approaching the situation not from an area of correction, but as a servant leader. If they raise a work-related matter that is impacting their behavior, guide them toward finding a solution.

6. Encourage them to come to you

Let them know that your door is open if they have any concerns or challenges going forward. The employee can either choose to open up and explain their change in behavior – or not. You can’t force someone to share information with you. Your responsibility as a manager is to simply make the effort to start the conversation and try to keep a pulse on what’s happening with employees.

At this point, there’s no discipline or coaching involved – it’s just a discussion aimed at getting a sense of what’s going on with that employee.

7. Manage performance (if needed)

As long as an employee is completing their work according to standards, then their change in behavior is just something that you’ve noted and can keep an eye on through periodic check-ins. There’s not much else you can do.

But if their quality of work is slipping, then you’re dealing with a performance issue and may want to respond accordingly with a performance-improvement plan.

How to prevent quiet quitting in the first place

You may look at the list below and think, “Well, this all sounds familiar.” And you’re right!

Preventative measures against quiet quitting are all about getting back to the basics. None of these actions are anything new or groundbreaking. Rather, these are all tried-and-true tactics for engaging employees and preserving morale. That’s basically all quiet quitting is – a lack of engagement, motivation and morale to varying degrees, now operating under a new term.

1. Communicate regularly

It’s absolutely critical, especially for today’s remote and hybrid work environments when people are naturally more disconnected, for managers to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with their employees. This is the ideal opportunity to catch up with employees and understand what they’re thinking, feeling and experiencing.

Specifically, ask them about their:

  • Workload
  • Feelings of purpose, fulfillment and satisfaction
  • Desire for greater challenges or responsibilities
  • Goals
  • Career path
  • Need for help with any obstacles

2. Build relationships

By engaging with your employees regularly, and encouraging them to come to you with any concerns or challenges, you will cultivate trust and rapport over time. When you have positive relationships with your employees, they are more likely to be transparent and communicative about their struggles and grievances, and less likely to be passive aggressive in quiet quitting.

3. Promote work-life balance

Employees want to be viewed as well-rounded individuals with lives and obligations outside work. Following the pandemic, there’s also a heightened focus on employee health and wellness, which of course is incompatible with being a workaholic.

Make sure your company promotes work-life balance to mitigate employees’ stress and anxiety. Examples include:

  • Making all special project assignments voluntary
    • Regularly checking in about workload and making adjustments as necessary
    • Setting boundaries between work and personal time, such as discouraging work emails or phone calls after a certain time in the evening
    • Encouraging employees to take breaks
    • Reviewing policies about leaves and paid time off (PTO)

And, with the prevalence of remote work, many employees have become accustomed to greater workplace flexibility that enables them to enjoy increased autonomy over where, when and how they work as long as they meet deadlines and quality standards. Generally, people no longer feel that they have to completely sacrifice their personal lives for work productivity.

Employees who lack work-life balance and flexibility, or feel that their company doesn’t really care about them or their well-being, can become frustrated and resentful. In this case, quiet quitting is a way to protest a perceived lack of control over their working conditions and their employer’s callousness.

4. Ward off employee burnout

When employees feel overworked, overwhelmed and as though their professional and personal lives are out of balance, burnout can simmer and fester below the surface.

In this case, quiet quitting is a means for employees to reclaim their mental health in what they perceive as an impossible situation. That’s why employee burnout is a leading cause of quiet quitting.

Avoid employee burnout proactively.

5. Continually assess your culture

Evaluate whether your culture embodies desirable values for today’s workplace, such as:

  • Respect
  • Transparency
  • Integrity
  • Priority on employee well-being

Furthermore, does your company leadership model these values each day?

If your company doesn’t promote certain values or employees perceive that leadership doesn’t really care about the company values, quiet quitting is your employees’ means of withdrawing from a negative or toxic environment.

6. Maintain awareness of changes in job responsibilities

It’s actually pretty common for jobs to evolve over time; for example, following a merger or when companies are understaffed and fewer employees have to assume more responsibilities. The question is, is your employee on board with the changes? If not, this can be a major factor in why they’re unhappy and resentful at work, and unwilling to put forth extra effort.


  • What was the employee hired to do versus what they’re doing now?
  • Do the current job responsibilities and required skills align the employee’s skill set, interests and goals?
  • Has the employee taken on additional responsibilities over time? If so, is their salary still appropriate or are you underpaying them?

It’s a good practice to let employees know at the outset that the potential exists for their job to evolve over time. Continually update job descriptions and, whenever changes occur, discuss those with employees to obtain their buy-in. Make sure the company is being fair with compensation practices.

And, most of all, you want to make sure you have the right people in the right job – for both the company’s and employee’s sake.

7. Never appear to take employees for granted

Don’t discount your employees’ need to be recognized or rewarded for their contributions and accomplishments. Even a simple thank you can let employees know that you appreciate their efforts and the value they bring to the business.

Summing it all up

Quiet quitting – the idea that an employee is putting forth less effort than usual as a protest against something negative in the work environment – may be a new buzzword, but in practice it’s nothing new. Fortunately, the remedies for this situation aren’t new either – they’re proven tactics for engaging employees and improving morale. If you recognize the warning signs and suspect that an employee is quiet quitting, talk to them as soon as possible and try to understand what’s going on with them. Communication is the best tool in your arsenal for stopping quiet quitting in its tracks.

To learn more about re-engaging employees and overcoming the quiet quitting phenomenon, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee engagement.

Training and performance
What is employee voice? 10 ways to encourage your people to speak up Thu, 03 Nov 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Most company leaders say that they want their employees to be heard. They want their employees to have a voice. But, when it comes down to it, what exactly does “employee voice” include? Is it simply just about speaking up when they have a concern?

What is employee voice?

Employee voice is more of an all-encompassing phrase to describe the ways in which employees are able to contribute, influence and share their points of view as it relates to work activities, decisions and overall company culture. Employee voice includes things like:

  • Speaking up in meetings
  • Sharing ideas and knowledge
  • Offering feedback and constructive criticism
  • Engaging in healthy debate
  • Collaborating more with team members
  • Recognizing peers for positive contributions
  • Going to their manager with questions or concerns
  • Having an overall positive influence on the work for which they’re responsible and the people around them

Employee voice doesn’t seem complicated – but it can be stunted when leaders do not convey the importance and acceptance of employee voice with their teams.

Why employee voice matters

When employee voice is recognized and valued, employees are more productive and committed. They know what they do matters to the company, customer and team members. Employee voice is a critical ingredient for achieving high employee engagement, morale, loyalty and retention.

When employees speak up, it’s indicative of a high-functioning workplace. It usually means:

From leaders’ perspectives, employees using their voices prevents companies from becoming mired in stagnation and groupthink. Companies can gain valuable employee insights and knowledge, and as a result don’t miss out on any opportunities for creativity, innovation or improvement.

Additionally, when a person feels comfortable speaking up and contributing, they will tend to feel more invested in the quality and outcome of their work product, which ultimately improves the customer experience.

Why employees want to have a voice

For employees, the awareness that they can speak freely makes them feel:

  • Like an active stakeholder
  • Valued and appreciated
  • Heard
  • Supported
  • Confident
  • Empowered

Employees using their voice has the added benefit of boosting their careers. When managers and peers are regularly exposed to the insights of an employee and better understand their value, it can expand that person’s sphere of responsibilities and speed up their advancement.

How leaders can amplify employee voice

Whether you know employee voice is specifically an area for growth, or if your primary goal is to improve employee engagement and retention, implementing the below strategies is a good place to start.

1. Confirm yours is a speak-up, listen-up culture

Everything comes back to the type of culture you have. Evaluate your culture to ensure that the right elements are in place to encourage people to speak up.

A culture that is conducive to speaking up emphasizes:

  • Trust
    • Respect for others
    • Inclusion
    • Tolerance for diverse viewpoints, especially those that differ from one’s own opinions and beliefs
    • Innovation (an appetite for new ideas and challenging the status quo)
    • Safety (zero tolerance for harassment or retaliation)

These values must be talked about and demonstrated each day.

But to have an effective speak-up culture, you must also have a listen-up culture. For employees to make the effort to speak up, they have to know that leaders are listening. Otherwise, it’s a waste of their time and they’ll quickly become disengaged.

2. Model speak-up behaviors

Leaders set the tone for the organization. Your employees take their cues about what’s important from you. So, if you want your employees to embrace a certain value or behavior, you have to model it.

To show them that a speak-up culture is important, you should regularly:

  • Share your own thoughts and feedback.
  • Challenge conventional ideas – in a positive, constructive way.
  • Recognize and praise team members for speaking up.

3. Practice transparency and collaboration

Share as much information with employees as you can, as soon as you can. Whenever you enact new initiatives or plans of action, hold team sessions and involve employees in the development process as much as possible. Always look for ways to collaborate with employees.

The more employees are looped in, the more confident and empowered they’ll feel and the more meaningful their insight will be.

4. Meet regularly with team members

Trust doesn’t happen immediately – you have to build rapport with your employees, both in group settings and one-on-one. This also increases opportunities to model the speak-up, listen-up behaviors you want to cultivate.

5. Solicit employee input

It’s not enough to tell employees to speak up – you have to give them the opportunity and channels to do so.

Don’t just talk at your team members – invite them to participate in a two-way conversation. Make it at a regular practice to ask others, “What do you think?” Reserve time during meetings for others to present ideas or ask questions.

Let employees know that you have an open-door policy, and that they can bring ideas, questions and concerns to you at any time. If you’re not available at the exact moment an employee stops by or messages you, schedule a mutually convenient time as soon as possible.

Consider more formal and scheduled means of capturing employee feedback as well. You could leverage employee surveys or focus groups on an annual basis, for example.

6. Park your ego

Make it clear, through your words and actions, that you’re not threatened by others challenging long-held company beliefs or practices and even your own opinions – again, in a respectful, constructive way. Successful leaders can’t have an ego and take professional disagreement personally. This is especially true if you want to reinforce that yours is a tolerant, innovation-friendly workplace.

7. Be respectful

When employees share ideas or feedback, be careful to avoid quick judgement, criticism or rejection – even if you strongly disagree. These actions could have a chilling effect on future employee contributions, which can undo all the progress you’re trying to make toward establishing a speak-up culture.


  • Focus on the positive and praise the elements of the employees’ contributions that you feel warrant it.
  • Thank the employee for their contribution.
  • Let them know that you’ll think about what they said.

8. Demonstrate active listening

Remember the listen-up culture we referenced previously? In today’s workplace, one of the most important soft skills that leaders should master is active listening skills, which include:

  • Avoiding distractions and focusing 100% of your attention on the employee speaking.
  • Expressing interest.
  • Asking thoughtful follow-up questions.
  • Seeking clarification when needed.

9. Accommodate different personalities and working styles

Sometimes, an employee being quiet has nothing to do with your organization or management. Maybe they’re an introvert and are just naturally quiet and reserved, or they have a fear of speaking in front of others.

Managers must adapt their leadership style according to personalities and working styles. Get to know your employees as individuals and learn their preferences. You may have to identify alternate ways for them to contribute their feedback without generating discomfort. This is part of having a culture of inclusion.

For example, you could let employees:

  • Anonymously share feedback.
  • Submit their feedback privately via email or in one-on-one conversations.
  • Have extra time to gather their thoughts to avoid a situation in which they feel put on the spot.

10. Always follow up

If you’re going to ask employees to take the time and make the effort to speak up or complete surveys, make it worth their while. You can’t just leave them hanging and ignore what they said forever. This will make them feel belittled and rejected, and annoyed that you wasted their time. Over time, they will come to understand you’re not actually listening, nor do you care – and they’ll stop speaking up.

Always follow up with employees to let them know what became of their feedback or idea. The company will either:

  • Implement it
  • Modify it
  • Take no action

If you can’t implement an employee idea at this time or you have to make changes, tactfully explain why. Encourage them to keep sharing.

If the company is implementing an employee idea, recognize and celebrate this employee in front of their peers for their contribution.

If an employee reported a concern to you, inform the relevant parties and come up with a plan of action in a timely manner.

Report all survey results to the entire company, along with any next steps.

The point is, take some sort of meaningful action that lets the employee know you heard them and cared enough to investigate what they had to say.

Summing it all up

The employee voice is a powerful tool. When employees feel they can speak up and share ideas, knowledge, opinions, feedback and concerns, this means your company likely enjoys high levels of engagement, ownership of work, trust, respect and inclusion among its people. It’s also a great means for companies to improve and innovate. However, if you’re struggling to get your employees to speak up, enlist the 10 tips outlined here.

Encouraging employees to use their voice is a strong indicator of a healthy speak-up, listen-up culture. To learn more about creating a workplace in which everyone feels comfortable speaking up, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to company culture.

Leadership and management
Effective leadership: How to see the future through the fog Tue, 01 Nov 2022 14:30:00 +0000 In our potentially recessionary, post-pandemic landscape, the future of the workplace is unclear. As the fog of uncertainty looms along the horizon, it is critical that we view the future with a refreshed perspective and playbook. During tumultuous periods especially, there are certain characteristics that distinguish good companies that get by – or even struggle – from great companies that thrive.

So, what’s the answer for navigating through times of uncertainty – especially when the path forward is difficult to see?

What makes a company great, anyway?

What’s something that organizations can consistently turn toward and rely upon to succeed – regardless of what’s going on around them?

One answer for this burning question: effective leadership. There’s a compelling argument to be made that, for employees, managers play the most prominent role in:

  • Engaging talent
  • Inspiring connections to the workplace
  • Bestowing a sense of purpose and direction
  • Improving workplace culture
  • Retaining talent

In fact, the role of the leader in our modern workplace has never been more complex or more critical, because there’s never been more at stake.


Gallup research has found that one of the most essential aspects of the human condition is the need for a “good” job – that is, being employed at full capacity in a job they enjoy.

But the most resilient and profitable businesses are the ones that focus on creating “great” jobs. A great job:

  • Makes people involved and connected with their workplace
  • Generates enthusiasm
  • Gives a sense of purpose and fulfillment
  • Inspires people to do their best work

A great job is the foundation for physical, emotional, social, financial and community wellbeing. In this sense, it improves an employee’s overall life, and it’s very important to get this right.

Moreover, following the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees have expanded their priorities. They also consider a great job to be with a company that prizes individual wellbeing and enables work-life balance.

Who is a major factor in ensuring the continued existence of great jobs? Again, it comes down to effective leaders.

A big component of having a great job is having a great manager – in fact, a manager who’s more like a coach and less like a delegator or boss.”

Jim Harter
Chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing

The unique state of our current workplace

What’s going on right now in the workplace is unprecedented. A number of factors have merged to create an unconventional, highly dynamic environment plagued by uncertainty. Two of the biggest factors adding to a foggy forecast include:


1. An evolving job market

The Great Resignation continues and an elevated numbers of employees are voluntarily quitting their jobs. Most are moving to a better job, pursuing new educational or career opportunities or escaping post-pandemic stress and burnout.

Companies are focused on how to do better to avoid being understaffed. Because an employee’s direct manager is their most significant and meaningful relationship at their company, these retention efforts should include building up effective leaders.

2. A shifting economy

Today’s headlines are filled with questions over whether the U.S. is in an economic recession and what will happen next. Compounding this issue, we are also facing a 40-year high in economic inflation. Companies are left wondering how to respond to these challenges in ways that preserve their long-term viability without exacerbating challenges associated with The Great Resignation.

Even if the U.S. goes into a deep recession, it’s not clear that the gap between job openings and hiring will close. It’s likely that there will still be many job openings.

Effective managers will be extremely important in maintaining employee morale and demonstrating support for employees during this time so that they’re not tempted to go elsewhere for a perceived better opportunity.

What are the biggest pressures for leaders today?

This environment has placed greater-than-ever pressures on managers to:

  • Increase employee engagement
  • Lead dispersed teams
  • Prioritize employee accountability
  • Understand employee needs

1. Dip in employee engagement

Jim Harter, chief scientist at Gallup shared that, employee engagement, which had been on the rise for a decade, has now suddenly dropped four points. Just 32% of U.S. employees are engaged versus 36% a year ago (2021).

In its research, Gallup has identified a proprietary set of specific elements that most impact employee engagement, such as whether employees:

  • Understand the expectations of them
  • Have what they need to do their jobs
  • Have the chance to do what they do best at work
  • Are recognized for their work
  • Are involved in setting their personal goals
  • Feel connected to a larger mission or purpose
  • Feel like they belong and are connected to their colleagues
  • Believe their opinion counts
  • Experience progress and growth in their careers

These are all “basics,” but they are often overlooked, very real human needs that never change despite external conditions.

Managers are in a position to greatly impact each of these areas.

2. Leading a hybrid workforce

As many workplaces have moved permanently to remote work or hybrid work, social connectivity is largely administered by digital connectivity.

Certainly, there have been many advantages for workers. Employees cite reduced commute time, and therefore more time in general, along with greater freedom and workplace flexibility.

However, the separation of remote and hybrid work can present significant challenges, too. Vulnerabilities in the workplace now include:

  • Lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities
  • Less understanding of how employees can do what they do best
  • Diminished workplace culture
  • Fewer opportunities for personal connection, which impacts how employees link their work to a larger mission or purpose
  • Reduced collaboration, along with a shaky understanding of which tasks call for collaboration and when office time is necessary

All of this contributes to lower engagement and even performance issues.

We have realized that for effective leadership, in-person, face-to-face interaction can’t be entirely replaced by videoconference or other forms of collaboration technology. It’s when we’re directly in front of people that we pick up on cues ore make connections that may not have happened over a distance.

We have lost, and have to correct for, in-person time when it’s important.

When should employees go into the office to collaborate? Most people say it’s when their manager tells them to or when they decide to do so themselves. The lowest number of employees say it’s when they decide as a team – and yet, this group reports the highest levels of engagement.

3. Higher need for accountability

Workplaces need criteria in place so that autonomy becomes more rational. This means that employees view their decisions about their work less about what works for them individually, and more about what works for the team as a whole – and what leads to better outcomes.

Systems of accountability must be present and based on:

  • Individual performance
  • Team collaboration
  • Customer experience

Who can facilitate conversations with employees, so they make the “right” decisions for the team and their company while still enjoying autonomy? Effective leaders (specifically, direct managers).

Who can clarify expectations, strengthen workplace connections and facilitate employees’ day-to-day needs so they can be their best? Again, managers.

We have to take a different approach. It’s not us as an organization versus our employees. We have to upskill our managers to have the right kind of conversations with employees so they can make rational decisions while still having some autonomy.”

Jim Harter
Chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing

4. Shifting employee priorities

Many of these shifts that we’re seeing in worker priorities – the desire for autonomy, flexibility, work-life balance and wellbeing – are the result of younger generations.

Many of these trends were already emerging and may have taken a few decades to come to fruition, but two factors accelerated their adoption and acceptance:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic, which forced everyone to rapidly change the way we work
  • The growing presence and influence of Millennials and Generation Z in the workforce, who bring a different mindset toward work

What do Millennials and Gen Z workers want, generally?

  • A purpose, not simply a paycheck
  • A job that encourages their career development, not one that merely satisfies them
  • An ongoing conversation with their manager and involvement in why certain decisions are made about their jobs, instead of an annual review

These evolving employee preferences are reshaping the role of managers and driving significant changes in how, and over which topics, effective leaders engage with their team members.

The pastOur future
My paycheckMy purpose
My satisfactionMy development
My bossMy coach
My annual reviewMy ongoing conversations
My weaknessesMy strengths
My jobMy life

The key to seeing the future through the fog: Effective leadership

As we have discussed the factors complicating the modern workplace, there has been a common theme woven throughout. Effective management is a solution to many of the problems companies face today – as well as in any work environment.

But what does effective management mean in our current climate?

How do managers need to evolve going forward?

What new skills do they need to acquire or enhance?

1. Managers as coaches

A manager is no longer a “boss” or a delegator, but instead acts as a coach and facilitator of success for their team members.

To be an effective coach, managers must engage employees regularly so they can:

  1. Have meaningful conversations that allow them to understand each employee’s personal situation, preferences, strengths and professional goals
  2. Involve employees in establishing performance goals
  3. Set expectations and systems of accountability

This builds trust. Furthermore, by accentuating their strengths, helping employees plot their career paths and guiding them toward opportunities that will help them accomplish those goals, managers can boost:

  • Employee confidence
  • Feelings of inclusion
  • Engagement

Engaging employees in this way also helps to eliminate common areas of frustration and perceived disrespect. If a manager knows who their employees are as people, including their personal challenges, desires and innate tendencies, they can cater their management style to each person’s needs. Because everyone is wired differently, managers can’t expect to treat everyone the same and expect consistently good results.

As an example of how employees can be so vastly different, Gallup recently conducted a survey of 15,000 workers asking them whether they prefer, post-pandemic, that their work and personal life are separate or blended. Surprisingly, the result was 50% in favor of separation and 50% in favor of a blend. Now think about the people you manage – and imagine the friction that could be created if you didn’t know which category each of your employees prefer.

2. Effective leaders as deliverers of a consistent culture

In times of uncertainty, organizational culture can be a powerful differentiator between good and great workplaces. A culture with desirable qualities can:

  • Attract and retain star employees and, as a result, elevate the customer experience.
  • Can help employees to be more resilient and enable companies to better weather tough times.

Despite the increased focus on employee wellness in company culture, Gallup has found that the number of employees who strongly agree with the statement “my employer cares about my wellbeing” has dropped from nearly half to less than a quarter. This is a major problem, and managers must work to combat this perception and help to close the gap between executive leadership and employees.

Managers are the leaders who employees interact with the most. To many employees, their direct manager is the face of the company and represents the brand and culture to them. Therefore, managers have the most regular opportunity to embody and model the organizational culture to employees.

4. Effective leaders as architects of resiliency and engagement

Leaders must build resiliency and engagement in their employees to counteract negative emotions, such as change fatigue. To do this, they must balance flow and burnout.

  • Flow is the state at which employees experience challenges, but they rely on their strengths and manager’s guidance to perform at their best.
  • Burnout is when employees experience challenges plus barriers in their way.

Both flow and burnout share “high challenge” in common. Challenge is good and you don’t want to remove it from the workplace. What effective leaders should remove from the workplace are the barriers that hold employees back and frustrate them, so they can help employees accomplish what they need to do.

There’s also the recent phenomenon of quiet quitting, which really just means that employees are not engaged. If managers understand their employees and their personal situation, and take steps to intervene, quiet quitting doesn’t have to happen.

As Gallup has found, the average engagement level in the U.S. is at 32%. At great companies, regardless of geographies or industries, engagement levels are consistently at 70% or higher. What this statistic tells us is that high engagement is achievable and that leaders have an important role to play.

Summing it all up

Today’s workplace landscape has presented significant challenges for organizations and much uncertainty about how to proceed and realize success. The good news is that we know of a main factor that can help organizations transition from good to great and even thrive in any environment: effective leadership. This is a constant that organizations can lean on to do well in any work environment, no matter what’s going on.

To succeed, today’s leaders must:

  • Act as their employees’ coach
  • Deliver a consistent experience with the company culture
  • Help to close gaps and misperceptions between leaders and the people they lead
  • Build up engagement and resiliency – despite employees’ temptations to give in to change fatigue and burnout

To learn more about how to lead an organization that will thrive in the future, download our free E-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

This article is based on a presentation by Gallup Chief Scientist, Jim Harter, Ph.D., as part of the Insperity Webinar Series, on August 17, 2022.  The article contains trademarks, copyrighted content, and other intellectual property which is owned by Gallup. Use of Gallup’s intellectual property for any purpose is prohibited without express permission from Gallup, Inc.
Leadership and management
Your road map for hiring highly skilled workers Thu, 27 Oct 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Do you have an open position with super-specific criteria that you’ve had a difficult time filling? Or, maybe the criteria aren’t as specific, but a talent shortage is making it harder to find the right person. If you’ve been trying to pinpoint the right candidate awhile without any luck, one reason could be because you’re looking to hire a highly skilled worker.

So, who is this, exactly?

A highly skilled worker is anyone with qualifications that are rare to find and difficult to obtain – and, at this moment, very much in demand.

Examples of highly skilled employees

Although technical and scientific fields – engineering, computer programming or health care – may come to mind first, highly skilled workers can be found in any industry or profession.

They also encompass a diverse range of ages, experience levels and educational achievement.

This type of worker could be late in their career with a strong network of contacts or a body of knowledge that’s near impossible to replicate in shorter order. Or it could be someone much younger – possibly even without a higher education degree – who is gifted at a certain task.

Some examples:

  • A national-security journalist with well-embedded sources in every branch of government
  • A petroleum engineer who specializes in a certain type of drilling and has worked in diverse climates and geological formations across the globe
  • A CFO with experience bringing multiple billion-dollar companies of a specific industry out of bankruptcy
  • A computer whiz with a knack for programming software used by law enforcement

Successful recruitment strategies

“Highly skilled” can take many forms. Whatever the specific criteria for your open position, hiring such a specialized role is inherently more challenging than the norm. It requires a more inventive recruiting strategy.

Follow these steps that will increase the odds of landing the top talent your team deserves.

Step 1: Define exactly whom you are looking for – and can realistically find

To begin, make a list of everything you want in your ideal candidate:

  • Specific skills
  • Education level
  • Certifications obtained
  • Years of experience
  • Location

Now ask yourself:

1. Is this list realistic?

How likely is it that someone who embodies each of these desired traits exists?

It’s critical at this step to weigh job requirements versus preferences. It’s common for companies to compromise on certain requirements (years of experience, education level and certifications obtained).

For example, it can surprise some employers to learn that many of the most skilled workers in their industry may not have a master’s degree, or they don’t have the free time or the funds to earn certifications. You don’t want to eliminate otherwise qualified candidates based on arbitrary or uninformed demands.

Similarly, some fields may overlap in ways that it’s worth looking at how skills may transfer from one occupation to another. Do your industry research to gauge what types of excellent candidates you may be missing out on by being too wedded to a narrow checklist of experiences.

Think through, too, what is necessary for someone to complete their job responsibilities successfully, what aligns with your company culture and what you’re comfortable with.

2. Will you draw from a local, regional or national talent pool?

Early in the process, you should decide whether you want to exclusively seek local candidates.

Doing so may sharply limit your search, making recruiting more challenging. If you plan to draw from a local or regional talent pool, are these prospects available?

Conversely, if you’re willing to broaden your search to regional or national candidates, do you have the money to help the new hire relocate to your area?

And, most importantly, can you pay the market rate (or higher) in order to lure talent away from current jobs or competitors?

Step 2: Make your company and job opening stand out

Before you broadcast your vacancy, put yourself in a prospective applicant’s shoes.

If you were an in-demand professional under consideration for a new job:

Think about how to sweeten the deal for highly skilled workers – because their decision to accept a job with your company is never solely about the job itself.

Some points to consider:

1. Is the salary you plan to offer competitive?

Or is it, at least, aligned with market rates?

When hiring highly skilled workers, you may find that you must be flexible on salary to get the right candidate.

How flexible are you willing to be? How can you woo job candidates if you’re limited to a certain salary range?

2. Other than an attractive salary, what perks can your company offer?

Common options include:

  • Opportunities to work remotely
  • Flexible schedules
  • Generous paid time off (PTO)
  • Education or certification reimbursement
  • Bonuses
  • 401(k)
  • Stock options
  • Profit-sharing opportunities
  • High-quality insurance coverage
  • Relocation assistance
  • Unique on-site amenities at your office, such as fitness facilities or catered lunch

3. What is your company culture?

Is it the type of environment that fosters trust, autonomy and creativity? This is what highly skilled workers tend to seek.

With this information in mind, write a job ad that pops. Ideally, it will speak directly to the type of candidate you’re targeting and grab their attention immediately.

General tips:

  • Limit your job ad to half a page. Most people will read the text on a mobile device. Overly long text takes longer to load, requires multiple scrolls and can become unwieldy.
  • Make the first few paragraphs catchy and engaging.
  • Use bullet points liberally. Again, you want people to be able to skim your text easily.
  • Focus on the most critical skills you want. Be very specific to eliminate unqualified applicants.
  • Play up your company culture and unique benefits. Remember, however, that candidates do tend to talk with colleagues and peers about employers, so you don’t want to over-hype your company culture in a way that is misrepresentative.
  • Insert the job title in the headline. When creating it, be strategic and ponder how job candidates will most likely search for a position online. You want to make sure that your position announcement is easily found and considered by the most desirable prospective employees.

Step 3: Perform outreach and identify a narrow pool of candidates

Of course, hiring highly skilled workers isn’t a passive process.

It’s never as simple as writing a job description, posting it on the generic online job boards and immediately receiving a slew of qualified applications.

You must do your part to actively search for the right candidates. It also doesn’t hurt to be creative in your approach:

  • Advertise on niche job boards dedicated to specific industries or professions. Typically, big name job search engines aren’t where highly skilled workers gather. They tend to look for positions in more niche spaces.
    • For example, is popular with web developers. Technical candidates like Oilfield workers use
  • Recognize when a job board isn’t the best option. Recruiting at the executive level? These candidates often aren’t active on job boards.
  • Social media can be helpful. Use LinkedIn to share your position announcement with the broadest range of candidates. You might also share via Facebook and Twitter.
  • Request candidate referrals from people in your professional and educational network, including industry peers and fellow alumni.
  • Contact industry associations to look for talent and post to online professional forums.
  • Consider hiring an outside recruiting firm to assist with recruiting.

Targeting passive candidates

Don’t be deterred from reaching out to passive job candidates.

These are people who aren’t actively looking for a new job – but who might consider one if the right opportunity came along. In fact, in a tight labor market where available talent is hard to find, you should absolutely contact passive candidates.

These candidates are more of a challenge to engage with, however, because they hold the upper hand and can afford to be choosy. When targeting this audience, you’ll want to be especially polished and persuasive when discussing:

  • Salary
  • Company culture
  • Perks

This is critical.

You’ll also want to find out what they’re not getting at their current company, and be prepared to address how your company can deliver it. (Just make sure that you’ve got buy-in from your hiring manager.)

Crafting messages that garner a response

Before you reach out to a candidate, read that person’s LinkedIn profile, resume or professional website first.

Note something of interest in their background. Identify what they most seem to value in their work.

When you write your initial email or LinkedIn message, use that tidbit in the subject line to grab their attention. You want your message to seem personal and sincere, signaling that it was written especially for that person.

Generic messages get deleted.

Screening effectively

With each candidate interaction – be it online or in person, work to verify that the person is a good fit both in terms of qualifications and company culture. It’s smart to have a list of screening questions ready – and to use them consistently.

Examples of what you may choose to ask about include:

  • Experience
  • Why they want to change jobs
  • What might motivate them to switch jobs (if they’re a passive candidate)
  • What they enjoy most about their work
  • What type of company environment or working arrangement they seek
  • What salary range they will accept
  • Whether they’re willing to relocate

To help screen candidates, many employers ask applicants to complete an assessment test. This could be a cognitive or personality assessment to inform how a candidate handles stressful situations or interacts with colleagues. Alternatively, it could be a more technical assessment to vet whether skills are up to par.

As you communicate with prospects, be sure to inform them about what to expect during the recruitment process. Keep them in the loop about what will happen next and in what timeframe they should expect to hear from you or another company representative. Provide prompt, professional feedback as is appropriate.

Delivering a great experience for the candidate will go a long way toward keeping them engaged and, at the end of the process, excited to join your company.

Step 4: Interview the top few candidates

From the start of this process, you should know that you won’t identify a large quantity of candidates.

Realistically, and depending on the specificity of your job requirements, you should identify three or four core candidates to interview formally.

How you conduct these interviews is largely your preference. You could start with a phone interview followed by one or two in-person interviews, or you could jump right to an in-person interview.

Your goal is to conduct a more in-depth probe into the information discussed during the screening process and explore insights gained from administering any assessment tests.

Hopefully, by the end of the interview phase, you can select the optimal candidate.

Step 5: Make an offer to your skilled worker!

When you’re ready to move forward with a candidate, work to ensure the offer is as competitive as possible. It needs to convince the skilled worker to come aboard while remaining beneficial for your company.

The offer needs to be a win-win.

Even if your offer is excellent, don’t be surprised if the candidate still submits a counteroffer – especially if you’re dealing with a passive candidate. After all, this is a negotiation.

Highly skilled workers:

  • Know you need them
  • Understand their worth in the job market
  • Will act to get the best deal possible

You should also expect that the candidate’s current company will try to retain their employee with their own counteroffer. Therefore, when making an offer, try to be flexible on what you can ultimately pay out.

In this scenario, salary, company culture and additional job perks are key to winning the battle over talent.

Summing it all up

Hiring highly skilled workers takes a bit more ingenuity and tenacity than the average recruiting process.

  • Be specific and realistic in your expectations.
  • Take the time to consider what makes you stand out from other companies.
  • Write a job ad reflecting these differentiators.
  • Execute an excellent recruitment strategy.

If you can do these steps well, then you just might win over the most qualified, knowledgeable candidates.

For more information about hiring highly skilled workers, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to attract, retain and develop your employees.

]]> 0 Hiring
Upskill your workforce and build a future-ready business Tue, 25 Oct 2022 14:30:00 +0000 In today’s post-pandemic landscape, a company’s path to success depends on the quality, adaptability and resiliency of its people. But how do you cultivate a top-notch workforce ready to meet all the challenges of our modern and dynamic workplace? Upskilling your workforce is an important place to start.

When you need additional skills in your workplace, it’s good to have a mix of external candidates so that your company can incorporate new and more diverse capabilities, experiences and perspectives. But with a competitive labor market that has complicated attracting top talent, along with rapidly rising wages and increased demands for more expansive benefits, it’s not always feasible to rely on recruiting alone to reskill or upskill your workforce.

To stay ahead, it’s critical that your company invest in the people you already have on your team via a comprehensive training and development program. In other words, on a continual basis, your company’s leaders must intentionally and proactively take steps to prepare your workforce for whatever the future holds.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

  • Why upskilling your workforce matters, and the benefits to your organization
  • The employee attributes you should prioritize
  • How to get started
  • What to watch out for

Importance of upskilling your workforce

Many companies don’t put a lot of weight in ongoing training and development. Why? Because it’s often viewed as:

  • Expensive
  • Frivolous
  • Never used once completed

Furthermore, company leaders often say, “We hire people who have the competencies we need. Why do they need extra training?”


The counterargument to that is that the workplace isn’t static – and your people can’t be either. Knowledge and skill development is never a one-and-done deal – no one walks in the door knowing everything they need to know at their job, nor can all this education take place in a single training session. Plus, conditions are always evolving and require companies to keep up.

Furthermore, it’s not just always financially feasible to hire a candidate with the desired level of experience and mastery of all the skills you deem necessary. This caliber of talent is not always available at a competitive rate within your budget. Yet, you still need these competencies to succeed.

The benefits of upskilling your workforce

Upskilling your workforce via training and development has a strong return on investment when:

  • It targets a specific competency that can be addressed by people and resolves a business need or problem (not a process or tool issue)
  • Employees can demonstrate mastery of a competency following the training
  • It connects to an employee and integrates within their role going forward into the future

And it does not have to bust your company’s budget. There are plenty of cost-effective training and development options.

Upskilling has very real benefits to your employees. When you equip your team members with the right tools, resources, knowledge and skills, they can:

  • Perform their job responsibilities and everyday tasks most efficiently and effectively
  • Maintain pace with industry and job trends
  • Adapt to fluid internal and external circumstances with less disruption
  • Expand their knowledge base and skill set to assume new responsibilities
  • Gain autonomy and take greater ownership of their work, while requiring less support
  • Advance in their careers

Upskilling your workforce can positively impact your business as well. It’s been proven that training and development:

All this can improve business performance.

Additionally, in the current job market in which the balance of power is tilted toward candidates and employees, people simply expect their employers to offer ongoing training and development. Employees want to continue to grow and progress in their careers, and they see this as a crucial enabler of that goal. It’s something that can help your company stand out and be an employer of choice.

Employee attributes to prioritize

When it comes to upskilling, it’s important to evaluate the qualities present within prospective employees that make them the types of people you’re able to invest in with training. As you build your team initially, consider their:

Certainly, mastery of hard skills – the practical knowledge an employee needs to do their job, or the basic boxes that must be checked – is required for an employee to get by each day. But hard skills are also pretty straightforward to quantify, teach and measure.

To build a strong, innovative, world-class business, soft skills are crucial. Examples of soft skills:

Any skill set can be built upon over time. However, soft skills usually must be developed through experience and mentorship.

When you hire employees initially, consider in which way they may be deficient in certain hard or soft skills. Ask yourself, honestly, whether you have the time and resources to dedicate to bringing them up to your desired level of proficiency. Are you willing to put in that work? If yes, make sure you have the appropriate training programs in place. If no, don’t hire them for your sake and theirs – it will only result in frustration. You also don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver on learning and development.

Additionally, an employee could have all the hard and soft skills you’d ever want, but if they fail to embody your culture and values, they won’t be successful – despite training – and can drag your business down. That’s why it’s very important to assess their cultural fit and alignment to core values.

Lastly, look at their internal drivers, which are arguably more important than skill sets. For example, does an employee:

  • Have ambition and goals?
  • Have motivators?
  • Hold themselves accountable, and how?

During candidate interviews, ask behavioral questions aimed at identifying the presence of internal drivers. After an employee is hired, it then becomes the role of the manager to cultivate these drivers to encourage the best possible performance. Of course, an undesirable workplace culture can extinguish these drivers.

Cultural fit and internal drivers can’t be developed, period. Employees either have them or they don’t. If a candidate lacks these traits, it’s best to avoid hiring them and wasting resources on training and development.

Getting started with upskilling: The role of culture

How do you nurture the qualities you want to see in your workforce and allow these to thrive? How do you become a company of highly skilled workers that’s ready for the future?

It all comes down to your culture. Your culture must:

  • Be intentional by design
  • Prioritize learning
  • Make people feel comfortable asking questions or speaking up
  • Favor collaboration and communication
  • Enable employees’ natural gifts and tendencies to shine
  • Encourage recognition of others’ gifts
  • Instill resilience and adaptability
  • Welcome risk tasking
  • Embrace innovation and creativity
  • Tolerate the failures that inevitably accompany risk and innovation

As a leader, your actions demonstrate the culture to employees. Lead by example, remembering that you are a reflection of what you want your people to do. Be careful to not shut people down, exclude people, or express anger or frustration at failure.

Once you have your culture in place, you can implement training programs, deciding on the what, when, who and why.

It’s not uncommon for companies to acknowledge the need for training and the new capabilities within their workforces that rise out of it, but they lack the time and resources to train or have no idea where to begin.

Lots of businesses start with the solution: Train on X skill. Instead, work backward and start with your end goal in mind: “I’m looking to fix X problem, because then I will see X result.” Then identify:

  • The skill sets and competencies that you need to develop
  • From which employees you need these skill sets and competencies to flourish
  • Whether training is required
  • What else needs to change within the business to accomplish the goal

Things to remember when upskilling your workforce

1. Don’t create training and development solutions in a vacuum, discussing them at the highest echelons of your company and then rolling them out to the workforce. Instead, collaborate with your team and solicit their perspectives, feedback and opinions. Bring new voices into the conversation so that the training and development program will be more well-rounded and, ultimately, more empowering and effective.

This is because employees don’t like to have things done TO them. Nothing you do TO your employees will be well received, no matter how great the benefits are. Instead, introduce training and development initiatives WITH your people to obtain their buy-in, commitment and discretionary effort.

2. Training is not a one-time event; rather, it’s a series of steps involving repetition. Employees may have to hear new information multiple times to really absorb it.

3. Training is often cyclical in nature, not a straight line from start to finish. As a manager, you:
Identify what needs to be fixed.

  • Administer training
  • Provide feedback
  • Assess whether the employee mastered the training according to success metrics
  • Move on to the next problem or revisit the training. Either way, the cycle starts again

4. Employees learn in all sorts of ways. Deploy various methods to convey the same information to different people.

5. Mere observation likely won’t be effective. Embrace experiential learning in which people must think for themselves and DO. Making mistakes – and following up with a debrief discussion – is an important and necessary part of the learning process.

6. Despite what many company leaders want to believe, competency has nothing to do with tenure. Anytime someone encounters a brand-new skill or situation, regardless of how much time they have spent in their role, it causes them to restart the learning process.

7. “Working harder” is not a remedy for lack of knowledge or skill set. If you tell an employee who is struggling with a competency this, it will only make them more frustrated.

8. Employees crave direction and guidance, especially during periods of change. Yet, managers often fear micromanagement and, as a result, they tend to overcompensate in the opposite direction and end up under-supervising. This is also applies directly to when employees are learning new information. In trying to avoid doing their people a disservice, managers end up doing exactly that. Leaders must be directive during training, even with tenured employees.

9. Burnout is a real risk when you ask people to learn new skills and step out of their day-to-day routine. You must balance the need for training and development with avoidance of overwhelming people, especially if your workplace is understaffed and employees have taken on extra responsibilities already, or if change fatigue is rampant. In these cases, be mindful of the timing, duration and frequency of training, and how it can take a toll on your workforce.

Summing it all up

If you desire certain skills and competencies among your employees to future-ready your business, and recruiting isn’t an option, you’ll need to upskill your current workforce. This offers many benefits to your employees and business alike. To get started, assess the hard skills, soft skills, cultural fit and internal drivers of each employee to ensure that training and development are worth the time and resources you’ll need to commit. Examine your culture, including your dedication to learning and your tolerance for failure. Then start with your end goal in mind and, from there, determine which skills need development and how you will carry out training.

To learn more about preparing your workforce for the future, download our free magazine: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

Training and performance
Effective employee mentoring for today’s workforce: 9 simple steps Thu, 20 Oct 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Employee mentoring programs aren’t just buzzwords to add to job descriptions and career pages. Creating a method that supports chemistry and lasting productivity through an effective mentorship program has a place in your strategic planning.

We’ve spent the last few years re-learning what employees need and want. The Great Resignation has shown us that individuals are more than willing to make big career changes if it means moving somewhere they feel they’ll:

  • Be more valued
  • Have more flexibility
  • Get better pay
  • Grow in their career

This has placed a critical focus on retention – and all efforts that go into supporting that. This is where having a strong employee mentoring program can make the difference between someone who may be quiet quitting at their desk and someone who’s feeling more plugged in to their team and the company’s mission than ever before.

Why have employee mentoring programs?

Successful employee mentoring programs can create a variety of positive outcomes. But they should exist for one reason – to address a specific organizational need or set of needs.

These might include:

With clear insights into the need behind the mentoring effort, you’ll be better able to gauge success.

Benefits of employee mentoring

Small businesses can benefit greatly from mentoring because it’s relatively inexpensive compared to formal training and development programs. Regardless of business size, there are a variety of benefits that include:

  • Mentoring offers more variety than formal training, which may be a cookie cutter, on-size-fits-all solution
  • Unlike formal training courses, mentoring often results in deeper, personalized conversations and feedback
  • Mentoring increases an organization’s bench strength, making it easier to keep things moving when a team member is on vacation, retires or moves on to another job.
  • A mentoring program can get off the ground faster than a formal training program. This is especially important in today’s professional landscape, where leadership may not have six months to come up with a new training program. There may be an immediate desire to start investing in professional development for employees now so that they don’t leave for new opportunities.

Building an employee mentoring program in a post-pandemic workplace

As with any other HR endeavor, there are both best practices to follow as well as pitfalls to avoid. Here are eight tips to help you develop an outstanding employee mentoring program that will support today’s workforce.

1. Think beyond one-way mentoring

Mentorships involving tenured employees are a great way to get new hires used to the company’s workflows and processes, but employee mentoring should go beyond just the tenured teaching the new.

Mentorship from recent hires who have brought valuable new information into your organization (i.e., reverse mentoring) can also re-energize and re-engage workers in the middle of their careers.

2. Define desired outcomes and milestones

What does a successful mentoring relationship look like? How does this help the employee and your company? Defining your desired outcomes for an employee mentoring program from the beginning helps you address your needs best.

For example, at a software company, you might state that a mentoring program goal is for incoming and junior level software engineers to be able to acclimate to your environment, understand your processes and help achieve company goals.

With those goals in mind, you can set milestones for your mentors to use as benchmarks. You can also decide what tools and resources (e.g., mentor training, timelines) you’ll need to create to foster success.

3. Identify a program overseer

Strong employee mentoring programs have one or two people who oversee the program at-large. This could be someone from your HR team or an employee who is passionate about mentoring.

These program administrators are responsible for:

  • Connecting mentors and mentees
  • Monitoring the relationships
  • Ensuring mentorship activities benefit the mentee and the company
  • Resolving any issues that arise in a consistent manner (e.g., what happens if a mentor leaves the company?)

4. Don’t play matchmaker

Don’t choose mentor and mentee pairs only because their personalities are compatible. It’s not a blind date. A match should be based on the skills of the mentor and the needs of the mentee.

5. Develop specific mentor criteria

The best employee mentors have distinct, important skillsets to share and characteristics that align with your organization’s values (e.g., perseverance, a servant leadership mindset).

They also have the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to successfully deliver the desired outcomes of your program.

Using this information to guide you, you can develop criteria for your mentors.

In general, some things to look for in an employee mentor are:

  • A desire to work with someone and share information
  • The ability to have two-way communication about processes
  • Willingness to accept mentees’ input as well as provide guidance and support
  • A desire to help the company as a whole and make it a stronger organization
  • One year of service in your company
    • This may be less important if you have an individual who is hired specifically for new skills or technology that they bring on board. There will likely remain some duration for the person to be properly onboarded, but they may not need a full year or so before beginning to mentor others.
  • The ability to meet any performance evaluation rating requirements

These factors are important because employee mentorships aren’t just about the tactical transfer of information. They’re also a strategic opportunity to pass on attitudes and values important to your company culture.

6. Take a practical approach

Rather than just have mentees observe their mentor or ask questions, get them involved in the actual work when they’re ready and when appropriate. So doing helps the learning take hold while building confidence in the mentee and trust in the mentor and supervisor. Plus, in client-facing roles, this approach may help forge new relationships with customers and may help keep them at ease in the event of a handoff.

The process of a true mentor naturally shifts responsibility to the mentee:

  • The mentor shows the mentee how to do something.
  • The mentor and mentee do it together.
  • The mentee shows the mentor how to do it.
  • The mentee does it independently.

7. Don’t let it look like a fast track

Studies show that people who participate in workplace mentorship programs (both mentees and mentors) are more likely to be promoted than their peers.

However, you don’t want your mentoring program to be perceived as a guaranteed path to a promotion, as it’s not a realistic outcome for every employee. This perception could also draw participants for the wrong reasons and distract from the program’s real goals.

Participation doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t guarantee a move up the ladder either.

8. Don’t use the employee mentoring program as a crutch

Mentoring programs are not a replacement for performance management processes or day-to-day leadership. Likewise, the mentor should not become the mentee’s de facto supervisor. That would undermine the authority of their actual manager.

Rather, if performance issues arise with a mentor or mentee, your program should have a plan for modifying the mentor relationship when needed and communicating with the supervisor who should address the issue.

9. Set the mentorship length to fit your objectives

If you’ve given mentees some new experiences and they’ve done well, there’s no problem in bringing the mentoring cycle to a close.

In fact, establishing a program timeline at the outset can help motivate participants to make the most of the opportunity. Plus, in larger companies, repeating mentoring cycles may help ensure that everyone who wants to participate can do so without overwhelming any of the mentors.

Mentoring can take place over the course of a year, a season, or even a quarter. It all depends, again, upon your company’s needs, demand and calendar.

Wrapping things up

When it comes to talent development and strengthening professional relationships, there’s always room for improvement. Mentor programs can go a long way to help foster growth. And, arguably, mentoring may be seen as an ongoing leadership competency in our rapidly changing world of work.

When the mentorship period is over, consider holding a special wrap-up meeting, luncheon or recognition ceremony to mark the occasion. This is another great opportunity for senior leadership to step in and sing the program’s praises, cheering the efforts of all those involved.

You can also showcase mentors and mentees in a company newsletter so that you not only celebrate participants, but also build buzz for the future.

Growing your business through employee relationships

Want to learn more about creating effective employee development programs that set your business up for success? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

]]> 4 Strategy and planning
The future of recruiting: 8 ways to win the talent war Tue, 18 Oct 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Many businesses, regardless of size, type or industry, have found themselves in the trenches of today’s talent war, and the future of recruiting seems complicated and murky. Today, attracting and retaining top talent is one of the most pronounced challenges that leaders face.

Why is there a talent war?

  • Employees have a wider range of career options than they ever have before. With remote and hybrid work arrangements now the norm, employees are no longer constrained by geographical factors that previously dictated where, when and how they work.
  • There are roughly 10 million job availabilities in the U.S. and only about half the available qualified workers to fill them, resulting in a massive talent shortage.
  • Wages are rapidly increasing.
  • Demands for greater workplace flexibility have risen.
  • The Great Resignation continues.
  • The balance of power seems to have shifted away from the employer toward the employee.

Compounding the uncertainty of the current workplace, it’s unclear whether these trends will persist if an economic downturn occurs.

With this in mind, how can today’s business leaders:

  • Re-evaluate their recruiting approaches?
  • Compete successfully against other companies?
  • Build a brand that drives loyalty and innovation among employees?
  • Become an employer of choice?

8 strategies to successfully recruit and retain in today’s talent war

The answers to these questions above are found in eight solutions that businesses can use in order to successfully fight the talent war in a time of unprecedented uncertainty.

1. Know and promote your employee value proposition

Every organization needs a clearly defined company brand – specifically a value proposition or brand promise – that articulates the benefits that customers will gain through the client relationship. Once realized, a value proposition transforms customers into brand advocates.

Similarly, businesses need an employer brand – their employee value proposition– to compete and win in today’s increasingly complex job market.


Your company brand focuses more on products and services (what your company delivers), while your employer brand is about why employees want to work for you. The employer brand is what attracts and retains employees for the long term.

It’s all selling – it’s just that the audience, their needs and how you communicate with these groups differ.

2. Clarify your company’s recruiting messaging

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way that candidates seek jobs and the way that companies recruit – and these impacts will be felt for a long time.

During the pandemic, employees came to a realization that life is too short to spend time at a job that doesn’t fulfill them or accommodate their needs. As a result, many employees have:

  • Shifted their own priorities
  • Pursued more desirable salaries and benefits, and greater opportunities for flexibility
  • Changed professional or educational paths to choose a course that makes them happier

Recruiting is no longer simply about the specific job. Candidates want more – to know more about the company as a whole and to understand what’s in it for them by joining a company.

Furthermore, to successfully speak to candidates and sell a company, recruiters must recognize that employees – especially those in younger generations – have fundamentally changed in their desires and priorities. It goes beyond a company embracing remote or hybrid work – that’s part of it, but this is a larger movement toward meeting employees where they are and putting their needs front and center.

Lastly, recruiters must understand that every candidate is different and they don’t all want the same things.

As it relates to your employer brand, these are the two most important factors for job candidates:

A. The employee experience

Recruiters need to answer these questions for candidates:

  • What’s an average day like at your company?
  • What are employees gaining from a position at your company?
  • What will employees learn?
  • What opportunities will employees have?
  • How does the position fit into the candidates’ long-term career path? (Talk to candidates about the next two to three steps of their career progression, not just the immediate job opening.)

B. Workplace culture and values

Job descriptions should no longer solely discuss job requirements and skill sets. Also highlight your company’s core values, mission and vision so that candidates understand:

  • “Who” your company is
  • What’s important to your company
  • Why working at your company matters

The most successful hires are a good cultural fit, so this information can also help you more quickly identify people with same values and beliefs.

Essentially, prospective employees want to peek behind the curtain into “a day in the life” and the company culture.

3. Align recruiting and marketing

It’s critical that your recruiting team partners with your marketing team to promote your employer brand and implement an effective recruiting strategy.

Your company should have consistent messaging across channels, from the careers page on the company website to your social media accounts. Via these channels, emphasize the employee experience, values and culture at your workplace.

Social media, however, has become the primary vehicle for engaging with candidates, especially with posts, pictures and short videos that cover topics such as:

  • Culture and values
  • Employee spotlights
  • Client interactions or major successes
  • Volunteerism and other community or philanthropic initiatives

Job candidates – especially those who are younger – want to be able to hop on their phone to easily access information about your company and, within a few minutes, understand what’s appealing about it and what it’s like to work there.

The good news is that you don’t need million-dollar budgets or several weeks to put together slick marketing videos. This is actually a continual, quick and low-cost way to:

  • Polish your employer brand
  • Get your recruiting message out
  • Engage with prospective and current candidates

4. Embrace non-local recruiting

Remote and hybrid work have broken down geographical barriers, serving as a powerful tool in the war on talent. No longer limited to candidates in their local area, recruiters can take a more national – or even international – approach to recruiting without forcing candidates to relocate.

There are tremendous advantages in this newly “opened door” for companies struggling to find and hire qualified talent:

  • The opportunity for more diverse candidates, with a broader range of skills and experiences
  • Potential for employees to better represent the customer base – and even the possibility for adding new clients or expanding into new areas
  • Increased language and cultural awareness among employees
  • Ability to recruit within pockets of the U.S. in which candidates with certain skill sets tend to be concentrated, because companies of the same type or industry have clustered in that location

All of these advantages lead to less groupthink and more innovation, higher-performing teams and improved financials.

5. Make everyone a recruiter

Although recruiters are still ultimately responsible for finding and hiring new employees, it’s no longer the expectation that only recruiters should engage in posting and sharing job opportunities, or looking for qualified candidates. That old mindset can be restrictive and lead to your organization missing out on great opportunities to market itself or reach the right candidate.

Instead, think of everyone at your company as a representative and brand ambassador. Everyone can explain the company’s story and values. Anyone can post or share a job – that’s how job postings can go viral. Anyone can leverage their individual connections and online spaces to refer a potential candidate.

This is also something you could consider as part of a broader employee referral program.

6. Adopt a positive mindset about review sites

Many organizations take a fear-based approach to employee review websites, such as Glassdoor, because they can’t fully control the content and view them as an obstacle. Certainly, poor word of mouth can hurt recruiting initiatives.

But, these websites and online employee chatter will continue to exist regardless of your feelings. And certain factors are within your control, including your employer brand.

These websites shouldn’t be scary for companies with a strong employer brand that center their recruiting efforts on the employee experience, culture and values.

Instead, shift to a hopeful, proactive mindset. View these websites as an opportunity to talk about your employer brand and point potential candidates toward your company.

Of course, consider responding to negative employee reviews appropriately so that no undesirable impressions are left unaddressed. But, make sure you’re also working to address any candidate or employee concerns mentioned internally as well – which in theory should result in less negative reviews! This gives job candidates get the opportunity to see your company’s empathy and professionalism (your employer brand in action!).

7. Keep engaging and communicating during tough times

Recruiting efforts shouldn’t stop even when your company experiences a crisis or goes through a challenging period. No matter what’s going on, you should still promote your employer brand – share your company’s stories; talk about your culture, mission and values; and explain why all these things are important.

For example, we may be on the precipice of an economic downturn, which can often mean tough decisions surrounding hiring freezes or layoffs. How can an employer brand survive circumstances like this?

Actually, your employer brand is more critical than ever during these times. It’s your guidepost, governing all your actions and communications.

And all crises and challenges inevitably end. Companies that stand out to candidates and avoid recruiting problems once the tough period ends are the ones that:

  • Reinforce their company values constantly to remind candidates what’s so great about the company
  • Cultivate and grow their prospective talent pool even when they’re not currently hiring to keep people interested, engaged and in anticipation of a job opening up

8. Sell the company to candidates and employees

In all of the ways that we’ve outlined how to promote your employer brand and recruit successfully, you actually have two target audiences: job candidates and current employees.

As it turns out, recruiting is an ongoing activity that doesn’t end with a hire. The difference is, you now have to encourage employees to stay put.

Just because someone has joined your company doesn’t mean you have them for the long term. To retain them, you want to continue to talk about:

  • Why they’re here
  • Why their work matters
  • What opportunities are available for them to benefit their career (and life outside of work)
  • What they love about the company

All the materials that your recruiting and marketing teams produce, and the engagement that occurs in your online recruitment channels, are visible and relevant to employees, too.

Summing it all up

The future of recruiting is all about winning the talent war – overcoming talent shortages and convincing candidates with abundant options that your company is the best choice for them to:

  • Make a difference
  • Learn and develop
  • Facilitate career growth

That’s a tall order. But with the right recruiting strategy and mindset for our modern times, it’s possible.

Focus your efforts on building a strong employer brand with a compelling employee value proposition that’s centered on the employee experience, culture and values. Work with marketing to continually deliver this messaging. Transform everyone at your company into a brand advocate. Don’t let up on these efforts – even during challenging periods when you’re not even hiring. And remember that you’re always targeting both job candidates and current employees in your recruiting activities and communications.

Want to learn more about attracting and retaining the best talent? Employee engagement is a crucial element of being an employer of choice. Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee engagement

8 reasons why employee productivity may suffer Thu, 13 Oct 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Employee productivity is a core area of focus for leaders. Your business is only as good as your employees. If they’re not performing to expectations, productivity — and the bottom line — are destined to suffer.

This is especially important today, in a post-pandemic workplace. According to the US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employee productivity is down 4.1% on an annualized basis; and managers are seeing its effect in a Great Resignation era and now the onset of the quiet quitting phenomenon.

Now is the time to make sure your organization is prioritizing employee productivity, which is less about how much you can squeeze out of your workforce and more about recognizing that people aren’t robots. If you want to be sure your employees deliver their personal best, take a close look at your company’s environment and stamp out these productivity killers.

1. Lack of big-picture view

Employees want to know how their work impacts the overall success of the company, and they want to feel personally connected to that mission.

Every company should identify components called key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate success for each employee’s position. Show team members how their piece of the puzzle fits into the organization’s goals.

Once KPIs are identified, monitor them and measure compliance. Without using scare tactics, let employees know the risks of not meeting goals, such as downsizing or losing market share. Other than KPIs, you can also connect employees to your company mission through:

  • Regular communication (from direct managers and in broader company meetings) of the company mission, vision and values
  • More opportunities to utilize shared decision-making
  • Feedback received from employee surveys
  • Rewards and recognition

2. Poor supervision

If a group’s productivity is lagging, consider a closer look at how you, other leaders or the direct managers are missing the mark. Managers sometimes miss the mark by:

  • Not being consistent or transparent
  • Micromanaging or not giving enough supervision
  • Not providing enough time to complete tasks
  • Playing favorites

The remedy here, whether it’s in self-reflection or in partnership with other leaders on your team, includes:

  • Asking your employees:
    • How can I best support you?
    • What resources do you need to succeed?
    • There is an issue I’m seeing with productivity; how can I help?
    • Because of x, y, and z, we need to make these following changes. Do you have any questions? 

Be proactive to include managers in decision-making and help them feel supported. Meet with them consistently and encourage open communication to be sure KPIs are on target.

3. Poor communication

Communication is a two-way street. You need to communicate with employees, but you also need to provide opportunities for employees to voice opinions and concerns.

Feeling like management doesn’t listen is a common reason employees don’t feel engaged. It’s important to create a safe place for employees to vent their opinions — good, bad or indifferent — and be sure the venting doesn’t show up in their reviews.

Good communication is especially important in a hybrid workplace, where it’s even easier to have information lost in translation across dispersed teams.

Improving communication happens at all levels, but is especially important for direct managers. Consider:

  • What avenues do your employees have to share feedback? (Surveys, one-on-one meetings, team settings, etc.)
  • Are you taking time to build connections, or are you heavily focused on task completion?
  • If you have an employee who is showing lower productivity, is this normal? If it’s a change from historical behavior, there is potentially something else going on that hasn’t been communicated.

4. Lack of delegation

Leaders are notorious for not being able to delegate because they don’t want to cede control of their work. This results in an overworked leader as well as a workforce with low self-esteem and team buy-in.

If a supervisor continually leans on one person, that person becomes overloaded, and the rest of the team becomes disengaged. The overloaded employee burns out, eventually joining the ranks of the low producers.

5. Inconsistency 

When a work group constantly changes direction or doesn’t value consistent processes, it’s often because those at the top don’t have a clear understanding of the group’s role or the company’s goals and vision.

If the rules are always changing, employees may be too distracted to get the work done or, worse yet, just give up.

Inconsistency at the top has a downstream impact on every department, and consequently on the client. Work to:

  • Set a clear vision and objectives for the company and each work group
  • Monitor and measure KPIs for all positions
  • Be transparent and communicate any changes to that vision or direction at regular meetings

6. Weak company culture

Whether it is something big like violating company policy or corporate integrity to something smaller like office rumors or unclear dress codes – or even having limited flexibility as to when the workday starts or ends – these situations all contribute to a negative workplace culture. This can cause discomfort, distraction and in the end, low productivity.

Employees may suffer anxiety and sleepless nights wondering what’s going to happen at work the next day. This could slowly lead to quiet quitting.

If the issue is bigger and related to company policy, you can help mitigate this by providing a risk-free environment for expressing concerns, without fear of retaliation. Creating a culture that employees love plays a major role in how they work.

7. Inadequate technologies

Technology changes quickly, and if your employees are working with old tools they will not be as effective as they could be. Stay up with the trends used by your customers and competitors.

Ask your employees what they need to be more effective and efficient. They likely have a better idea than you do, and they’ll appreciate your interest.

You don’t need to make any commitments. Just listen. Maybe you can say, “I can’t make any promises, but I’d like to get your suggestions.”

8. Lack of acknowledgement

When one member of a team goes above and beyond, co-workers see that. They also see if it isn’t acknowledged and figure, “Why bother?”

The stellar employee feels it, too, and most likely will be sending out resumes soon.

We all like a pat on the back when we’re doing a good job. A casual “Well done!” in the hall or calling the person out in a meeting is sometimes all it takes.

If you’re thinking of starting an employee recognition program, it has to mean something — or it’s just white noise. Since preferred methods of recognition are different for each person and work group, consider a survey to identify what employees prefer.

Seeking more ideas to optimize output? Download our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.

]]> 6 Training and performance
How to improve servant leadership with shared decision-making Tue, 11 Oct 2022 14:30:00 +0000 When you think about servant leadership, the first words that come to mind are probably empathy, awareness and listening – but maybe not shared decision-making.

However, shared decision-making does make the list of important tools in a servant leader’s toolbox.

What is shared decision-making?

Shared decision-making is a process that draws on the combined knowledge of many stakeholders (whether that’s members of your team or other leaders) to make smarter, more effective decisions.

In this article we’ll answer:

  • What makes it different from collaboration?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What does it look like?
  • How can you adapt a shared decision-making mindset if you’re used to making top-down decisions?

Shared decision-making is different from collaboration

Shared decision-making and collaboration both involve groups of people working together to achieve a goal. However, the goals for shared decision-making and collaboration are subtly different.

The shared decision-making process brings people together to decide on something. Collaboration brings people together to produce work.

Take the example of a product manager who needs to decide which new features to include in a software update.

In a non-shared decision-making process, the manager might:

  • Think about the (perceived) needs of their team and recommend changes or additions based on their understanding and insights

 In a shared decision-making process, the manager might talk to:

  • The product planning, engineering and marketing people on their team for input
  • Customer service representatives and salespeople who hear directly from customers about the current software version’s pros and cons
  • Top customers about what they need
  • Other product managers in different regions to get their perspective and learn how they approach product updates

When it’s time to build the features that will be included, the product manager may collaborate with some or all those stakeholders to produce them.

The benefits of shared decision-making in management

Health care and education are two fields that often use shared decision-making to improve outcomes for patients and students. But any organization can benefit from it because the process brings in perspectives and information that decision-makers might otherwise miss.

From a servant leadership perspective, shared-decision making is another tool for both coaching and collaboration. It’s about empowering others to find innovative solutions that maybe wouldn’t have been considered in a top-down strategy.

Here are some advantages:

1. Better employee engagement

When employees know that their input matters and see how it can contribute to business goals, they’re more likely to be engaged. This is especially important to employees in a post-pandemic workplace, where individuals are placing more value on their time and impact.

And when employees are brought into the decision process to share and discuss ideas, it boosts employee engagement.

2. Better customer loyalty

Servant leadership doesn’t always have to apply to your direct team – your influence may sometimes be out of the scope of personnel management. Therefore, sometimes the decision making process can go beyond the business walls as well. When you’re planning to make a decision that will impact your customers, it makes sense to hear from them.

In a shared decision-making process, you can also survey your customers and use that data to inform your decisions. When customers know you’re listening to and delivering on their needs and wants, they’re more likely to stay engaged with your product.

3. Improved change management

You may have heard the statistic that 70% of change initiatives fail due to poor communication and a lack of buy-in.

But with shared decision-making, communication is more open and frequent among leaders, front-line managers and employees. That can improve buy-in at all levels.

Shared decision-making and servant leadership can be a critical success factor for leading through change. Even if a decision needs to be made – and maybe not with the direct involvement of all employees – you can still include them in the decision-making process through transparency:

  1. “This is a decision we are considering.”
  2. “Here are options we are exploring.”
  3. “This is what we decided, and why.”

4. Fewer unintended consequences

No one wants to make a business decision that goes badly. When you make a decision on your own, you may not have all the information you need, which raises the risk of making a bad decision. That’s bad for the business and could be bad for your job, too.

When you get more perspectives and information during the decision-making process, you’re less likely to run into problems you didn’t anticipate once the decision is made.

How to put it into practice

If you’re new to management, or if you’re used to working in organizations with a top-down decision-making culture, moving to shared decision-making can take some getting used to.

Here are five steps to make the switch:

1. Start small

Focus on small changes you can make within your own team or department first.

Trying to make changes that affect groups outside your immediate sphere of influence is too much to take on when you’re just getting used to the shared decision-making process.

2. Start early in the decision-making process

The sooner you gather the information you need, the more likely it is you’ll make good decisions. You’ll also save time.

For example, if you know your employee benefits portal needs an overhaul, it’s better to talk to your stakeholders before you start deciding what elements should be part of the new site.

3. Make it a natural part of your workplace conversations

Finding time to loop people into the decision-making process can be a challenge. And making the discussions too formal can make stakeholders uncomfortable.

One way to ease into the process is to start asking questions related to your upcoming decisions, whenever you’re chatting with team members, customers and colleagues.

When you’re always seeking input, people may be more comfortable answering your questions – and they may start coming to you with their ideas.

4. Ask exploratory questions

It’s hard to make a good decision if you don’t know what you don’t know. Asking your stakeholders open-ended questions will give you more useful information than yes-no questions.

For example, do you need to write job descriptions for new roles? Make a point of asking team members who’ve done that job, or one similar, what skills they think are essential and why.

Encourage your stakeholders in the decision-making process to ask you and each other questions, too. They may raise issues you hadn’t considered.

5. Know when to call a meeting

Casual conversations can give you initial information to help you see where your decision-making process needs to go. However, when a decision will affect your entire team, you’ll need to get everyone together to talk about it for the sake of transparency, brainstorming and buy-in.

The leader owns the decision

With many people contributing to the process, it’s natural to wonder who takes responsibility for the finalized decision.

The leader or manager guiding those conversations is responsible for the decision and the outcome.

In the example of the product manager planning a software update, the manager may get a dozen suggestions for new features from other stakeholders. Based on those conversations along with other factors like budget considerations, it’s the manager’s responsibility to decide which ones to include.

If that decision turns out to be the wrong call, a good manager will take responsibility for it, rather than use shared decision-making as an excuse. However, with all the stakeholder information that it provides, a bad call is less likely than if the manager was making the decision alone.

By tapping into the collective knowledge and insights of your employees, colleagues and customers, it can strengthens your ability to make choices that benefit your company, your customers and your career.

Download our complimentary magazine, The Insperity guide to leadership and management, for more leadership tools that will help your company thrive.

]]> 0 Leadership and management
How to create a clear company mission that guides employees Thu, 06 Oct 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Most employees want more out of their job than just a completed task list. They want to be tied to a broader company mission and play a part in that success. But even your top employees with strong company pride need to know where to go.

This is especially true in a post-pandemic business landscape, where employees especially value being connected to a company with similar values to those they hold.

When it comes down to it, without direction, there’s a lot of noise (heavy workloads, unclear communications, lack of visibility) that can keep your employees – and ultimately, your company – from getting ahead.

Kill the static. Follow these steps to connect your employees to a clear mission, guided by a strong vision and values.

1. Develop your company mission

Your mission is your company’s purpose. It’s why you do what you do. And it should stand the test of time.

But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring or basic. In fact, the best company mission statements are inspiring and help rally employees around a common good.

As you develop your mission statement, consider what makes your company unique. Is it the quality of your product or service? Communication? Fairness? Community involvement?

When you incorporate these elements into your mission statement, it says that in every way that you approach the market, this is where your organization places value.

Consider Starbuck’s mission statement: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

Notice, its mission isn’t to sell the most coffee or even to make the best coffee – it’s more ambitious than that. Instead, its mission is to develop a human connection with customers through coffee. And that’s something that its employees can get behind.

Employees will always do what they think is best according to what they think leaders want or need. If you tell them what you want, it focuses their behavior as intended. In the case of Starbucks, the mission statement helps to focus employees on creating a great customer experience – above all else.

2. Narrow in on your vision

Vision and mission statements are often confused. While the mission statement is broad and lofty, the vision statement narrows it down. Consider:

A vision statement is how to accomplish the mission. It’s measurable.

For example, “Toyota will lead the way of the future of mobility, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people.”

Your vision should make it easy to explain business decisions to employees. In Toyota’s case, the vision could help clarify to employees why they’re making a product a certain way (to keep it safe and be responsible) or why a quick turnaround is needed (to lead the way in their industry).

However, understand that, unlike the mission, a vision statement can waiver over time. Leaders must continuously revisit it to ensure it still makes sense.

3. Articulate your values

Much like your vision supports your mission, cultural values help you achieve your vision.

For example, a good value statement might say, “It’s ok to disagree. It’s not ok to be disagreeable.” This particular type of value tells employees that you want and need their opinion, but that you also want them to be respectful.

Concrete cultural values define behavioral expectations. They explain how the company expects the individual employee to work.

With your company’s values as their compass, employees will naturally work toward the company mission and vision. Over time, they’ll develop healthy and productive methodologies for achieving their individual goals.

4. Align your employees

Have you ever seen a marching band perform? The band looks to the drum major at the top waving the baton. This helps the band to see what direction they should be moving so they can create the right formation on the field.

Your mission, vision and values are the baton for your company. As long as employees can see the baton, they can march in the same direction and organize the way you intended.

If a company doesn’t align itself with its mission, some employees will work toward one thing while other employees are working toward another. For example, the manufacturing team might buy a new, expensive machine for a new product while the mission and vision are geared toward a different, existing product. This type of misalignment can cause your company to lose valuable capital – from both the productivity of your people and the actual cost associated with the mistake.

Senior leaders are your keepers of the baton. They must be accountable for making sure employees’ work continues to support the mission and vision day after day. As it trickles down, the accounting team’s part will be different than the service team’s part. But each team needs to know what their share is and why it’s important so they can make appropriate decisions.

5. Keep it top of mind

Once you’ve rolled out your new company mission, vision and values, how can you keep them front and center? Here are a few ideas worth considering:

  • Climate surveys
    Ask questions about mission, vision and values in a climate survey to see where your staff stands. For example, include questions like “Do you know what the company’s mission is?” Or, “Do you know how you contribute to the company’s mission?” to get started. If you find that your employees’ answers are inconsistent or inaccurate, you’ll need to help them better understand how to contribute. 
  • Decision making
    When a company outlines its mission, everything and everyone begins to head in the same direction. It becomes easier to spot what’s working and what isn’t – you begin to see outliers. For example, say a new program is having issues. Ask: Is this something we need to reach our mission? If it’s not, it may not be something to focus on at this time. It could be put on the to-do list for later. 
  • Company-wide meetings
    To keep employees engaged, regularly share news about how the company is striving to reach the mission and vision. Not only is a well-informed workplace much happier and more productive, but this also helps the entire organization keep an eye on the prize.
  • Individual goals
    Managers should meet employees where they are. By analyzing what the employee does, and how he or she helps achieve the company’s mission and vision, managers can make it more relevant to the individual. Employees who clearly understand their piece of the pie find more meaning in their work and stay more engaged.
  • Regular meetings with direct reports
    Weekly or monthly meetings help managers develop a good relationship with their direct reports. These meetings also help ensure an employee isn’t out of alignment for months before it’s discovered.
  • Difficult conversations
    When difficult conversations have to occur, look to the company’s mission or vision to steer your talk. For example, in a manufacturing environment, you might say: “Our mission revolves around quality, and people trust that about us. This week, there were several instances of poor quality products being put out there. Not only does this not meet our standard, but you have to understand the message this sends our customers.” Sometimes you have the wrong person in the job, and other times, an employee just needs to have it brought to their attention.
  • Skip level meetings
    As companies get larger, messages can occasionally get lost in translation. Skip level interviews – where employees meet with their boss’s boss – can help ensure the messages are being passed down the chain effectively.
  • Rewards
    Keep employees aware of how they’re doing, and reward them for good work. For example, if client retention is important, it might mean rewarding an employee who did everything they could in a difficult situation to keep a client happy. Make sure rewards are linked to the mission and vision.

Ready to learn more about how to improve your business?

Download our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-Notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business, to discover more ways to turn your vision for your company into reality.

]]> 6 Training and performance
Weathering the storm: How to “recession proof” your business Tue, 04 Oct 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Talks of an impending economic recession, whether it’s forecasted to be a rain shower or a torrential downpour, can be stressful for all business leaders. No matter what actually unfolds, it’s a good idea to prepare for the road ahead in order to mitigate the worst impacts on your business.

Some advice is universal and applies to any economic downturn, such as:

  • Protect cash flow
  • Reevaluate unnecessary expenses
  • Solidify relationships with customers

What’s happening today?

However, there’s nothing conventional about today’s economic landscape. The strange blend of factors that we’re currently experiencing make the looming recession unlike any other:

  • Inflation coupled with rising interest rates
  • A severe talent shortage
  • Heightened turnover owed to the ongoing Great Resignation
  • Wage growth
  • The rise of hybrid and remote work

These factors call for a unique approach to recession-proofing your business – and, in some cases, throwing out old rules from yesterday’s playbook that could cause more harm than good at this moment.

How to prepare your business for a recession

So, what does this all mean for your business right now? How can you begin preparing?

  • Focus on your company’s ability to pivot quickly to changing external conditions.
  • Liquidity – the amount of cash your business has on hand – is always important, but it’s especially so in a downturn. Think about how much surplus you have – enough for three months, six months or even a year? What’s the optimal amount for your business regularly, and what amount will provide sufficient security in a recession?
  • Credit markets tend to tighten during economic slowdowns. As conditions worsen, it can become more difficult to obtain additional capital. Think about your borrowing capacity. If you need to increase your credit limits, consider doing it now versus later.
  • Ponder your working capital – accounts receivable, inventory and accounts payable – and how you can shorten the time frame from working capital to cash.
  • Conduct cash-flow analysis, with different revenue and operating cost scenarios. For example, what happens if revenue drops 10%, 20%, etc.? What operational costs can be adjusted to help mitigate the impact of these revenue reductions?
  • Categorize expenses into buckets and prioritize expenses for potential reductions. Some will be easy, some may require process changes and some will be extremely difficult.
  • Sure, conventional wisdom says to stop spending money. Despite the need to reassess unnecessary expenses and reduce costs, attracting and retaining talent remains a major concern and top priority. After all, you have to have the right people to sustain normal operations. As a result, organizations have to continue advancing talent-retention efforts – not retreat from them, despite a deterioration in economic forecasts.
  • Additionally, in some circumstances beyond talent retention, businesses actually should consider increasing financial investments rather than cutting costs:
    • To seize an opportunity to increase market share
    • To boost revenue
    • To enhance competitiveness (including participation in learning and development)
    • To realize much-needed efficiencies
    • To pick up key talent that may have been otherwise unavailable six months ago

Examples of a wise increase in expenditures could be related to forming a new strategic partnership, implementing a new technology system, training on a new skill or incorporating automation. Think of these as offensive, proactive measures, instead of defensive cost reduction measures, that will pay off over the long term.

  • Consider how to shift more expenses from fixed to variable. For example, could you change your staffing model to rely more on outsourced, contracted labor? Could increases in staff pay be in the form of performance bonuses versus raises in base salary? A PEO can discuss your options with you regarding talent-related expenses.

Keep employees engaged and motivated

As your business adapts to an economic downturn, don’t overlook the impact that these changes can have on employees – including their mindset, morale, productivity and engagement.

They hear the same economic news as business leaders and aren’t immune to:

Communicating openly and regularly

Remember this famous line? “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it’s taken place.”

It’s critical to communicate with employees:

  • Honestly
  • Openly
  • Regularly

The appropriate level and cadence of communication can be tough to define, but generally share information as soon as possible and that:

  • Concerns employees directly. There’s a fine balance here. Give them enough information to understand what’s going on and why a change is necessary, but you don’t need to overshare and jeopardize long-term strategic plans.
  • Links macroeconomic factors to specific company decisions. For example, high fuel costs and exorbitant airfares means less company travel.
  • Assures employees that you are committed to them and their best interests.
  • Is honest – even if that means saying, “I don’t have the answer right now” or “I can’t share that information yet.”

Along with sharing information, solicit employee input as well. The more that employees feel you’re listening to them, the better their buy-in.

Good communication contributes to a sense of security, which is vital to calm that part of the brain that’s always scanning the environment to ascertain whether it’s safe and okay to focus attention elsewhere. Everyone wants to feel their safety and security needs are met before engaging with professional obligations at a higher level.

Otherwise, when people feel as though their company is withholding information and they’re not getting the full story, human nature is to connect the dots and fill in gaps in a manner that’s almost always more negative than positive. Any company wants to avoid the dreaded rumor mill, which is most definitely a drain on your work environment.

To aid in two-way communication with employees, adopt diverse channels and tactics:

It cannot be overstated how important frontline managers are to getting a pulse on what employees are thinking and feeling, and filtering down critical messages from leadership. Relationships with managers are the heart of any workplace culture.

Preserving workplace culture and values

Certainly, the decisions that business leaders make during a recession, and the priorities they focus on during this time, impact workplace culture. Employees will watch to ensure that leaders’ previous words align with their actions when things get difficult.

Because of that, it’s important to consider the cultural impacts of any business decision impacting your workforce, especially cutbacks due to financial constraints. What (unintentional) message is the program cut or benefit reduction sending to your workforce about the company’s priorities? Does a decision appear to depart from organizational values?

This underscores why communication is critical. You need to get out in front of any misunderstandings and clearly explain why the change is happening.

10 ways to sustain a positive culture during an economic recession

Aside from the big one – making sure communications are clear, timely and understood – here are some other ways to ensure company culture isn’t lost during a difficult economic environment.

  1. Ask for employees’ feedback on how to continue a certain program or benefit for the near term in a more budget-conscious way.
  2. Clarify that your values have not changed, nor has your commitment to employees.
  3. Set clear goals for employees to rally around.
  4. Explain to employees the purpose and meaning in their work, and how they make an impact.
  5. Foster connection and belonging through this shared experience. Remind employees of how the organization has weathered past recessions and describe the experiences that the team has overcome together during those times.
  6. Empower employees with more autonomy and flexibility to go forward and conquer what lies ahead.
  7. Encourage frontline managers to spend more time engaging with their teams. Although managers’ prioritization of their time with employees can tend to fall during difficult times, regular manager-employee engagement is the key to maintaining culture.
  8. Employees may have their own financial concerns and are wondering how the company plans to help them during times of inflation. Consider what you can do to ease employees’ financial burdens, and remind them of resources that exist to support them.
  9. Consider establishing an employee benevolence fund to give employees an opportunity to help each other.
  10. For the foreseeable future, employees will maintain their balance of power in the job market, which means that your company can’t ease up on efforts to retain employees. Think about ways to keep employees satisfied without adding to fixed costs through a total rewards program:

When employees are given the right information and support, they can surprise business leaders with their commitment, discretionary effort and resilience.

Difficult times can challenge culture, but they also present a unique opportunity to strengthen culture as well. It’s in times like these that leaders get to live out their company values and demonstrate their support of employees.

Summing it all up

Economic recessions often force tough decisions on businesses. Should we enter a recession period, it’s important for businesses to prepare now – not only take steps to protect the organization financially, but to do so without alienating employees or damaging workplace culture. This is especially important because we are still in the Great Resignation and face unprecedented talent shortages.

For more guidance on how to not only survive but thrive during a season of change, download our magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

Business Resiliency Series
5 signs your job application process is scaring away top talent Thu, 29 Sep 2022 14:30:00 +0000 When you’re hiring for an open position, are you getting the number and quality of applicants that you want? If not, your job application process could be part of the problem.

A frustrating job application process can scare off good talent. If it’s too difficult or confusing, busy jobseekers simply won’t apply. Or worse, they may develop a negative view of your company and share their bad impression with others.

This means not only your recruitment process is at stake but also your brand.

Let’s take a look at the subtle ways your job post or application may be discouraging candidates from applying – and discuss what you can do about it.

1. Your job description and application are too long

When candidates go to apply for a job you’ve posted, they need to be able to fill it out completely and submit it in 15 minutes or less. This is especially true in a job-seekers market, where they are used to “easy apply” and autofill options. The longer it takes to apply, the more candidates will drop out of the process.

There are a few things to consider doing to shorten the process:

  • Edit your job description to make it brief and to the point. Put the most essential experience and skill requirements at the top of your list.
  • Reduce the number of form fields in your job application. Try collecting only the information that’s necessary for the first stage of consideration, such as name, contact information and resume.
  • Only ask for recent employment history – more than 5 years can also turn applicants away
  • Make sure whatever platform you are using to list the description or application is mobile friendly (or it could take longer to fill out)

Asking for too many details may exhaust candidates’ patience. They may even give up halfway through the job application.

2. Your job application process is outdated

The phrase “if it isn’t broke, don’t change it” does not apply here. If you haven’t made any changes to your job application in recent years, especially in the era of The Great Resignation, you might be behind the curve. Here are some warning signs your process could be outdated:

  • You’re still asking for a cover letter as a requirement (make it optional, and consider if it’s an effective tool for the job you’re hiring)
  • You ask candidates to upload a resume in a PDF format and/or fill in employment history via longer forms (Many employers now allow candidates to provide a link to their LinkedIn profile or a Google Docs file That creates a faster and more seamless way to apply, especially on a smartphone.)

Note that LinkedIn is designed to showcase candidates’ professional experience, education and expertise. It was common several years ago (and controversial) for employers to request candidates’ personal social media pages on sites like Facebook and Instagram, too. Now, most candidates view that type of request as intrusive, which means they’re likely to abandon the job application and look elsewhere for work.

3. You don’t include a strong employer brand message

Do your job postings and employee applications answer the question, “What’s in it for me”? If not, including a clear employer value proposition may boost the number of candidates who apply.

Today’s candidates are interested in salary range and traditional benefits like a 401(k) and health insurance. They’re also interested in employers who offer a good fit for their values and lifestyles. A brief but accurate portrayal of company culture – what it’s like to work there – has value and makes a difference to most job seekers now.

For example, most candidates require flexible hours or remote working options. They’re also looking for work that has meaning to them or makes a positive difference in the world.

To appeal to these applicants, start your job posting with a brief statement of the reasons why someone would want to work for you (beyond your list of traditional employee benefits). For example:

  • Were you voted a top workplace by a news outlet, industry group or employer review site?
  • What is special or different about your company culture? What makes your company stand out?
  • Do you have a unique or exciting mission?
  • Does your company offer opportunities for learning and career growth?

Highlight the things that make your employer brand strong to increase your appeal to top talent.

4. Your job application process is unfriendly

Because online job applications are automated, they can feel impersonal, making candidates wonder if a real human ever sees them.

By including the contact information for the position’s hiring manager or the recruiter, you can make the process more warm, personal. You’ll give candidates someone to contact if they have questions that aren’t answered in the job description, too.

Also, don’t let candidates think their application fell into a black hole. Be responsive and provide feedback throughout the hiring process. These days, job seekers expect you to inform them about their application status. Make sure it’s in a timely manner, too – within 24 to 48 hours of receiving an application.

Once candidates know you received their application, keep them up to date on where they are in the process. For example:

  • Will a recruiter contact them?
  • If so, when can they expect to hear from the recruiter?
  • If not, will you keep their application on file for future job openings?

When your system walks applicants through every step, they’re more likely to stay engaged. Even if they don’t get the job, they’re probably going to think more highly of your organization than if they hear nothing at all.

This isn’t just important for your reputation as an employer. It can affect your organization’s image with customers, too. After all, there’s sometimes overlap between job candidates and clients.

A job applicant who feels ignored or mistreated may choose not to do business with that company any longer. And candidates share their experiences, good and bad, with others on review sites or via social media.

So, it’s wise to treat your candidates as if they’re your current or future customers.

5. Applicants experience tech troubles

Have you ever abandoned a full cart while shopping online because you ran into technical difficulties during the checkout process? Did the store seem less reliable to you after the tech problems?

The same thing can happen with an employment application form. As a business, you lose credibility and qualified applicants when your online job application presents candidates with technical glitches.

It’s a good idea to test your job application process thoroughly to see how long it takes and how well it works. To that end, you and your current employees can take a closer look at it, with an eye to answering these questions:

  • Is the job description compelling and brief?
  • Are the application instructions easy to understand?
  • Does the application process freeze up or crash?
  • Is it easy to upload a resume or link to a LinkedIn profile?
  • Is the application easy to  fill out on mobile devices?
  • Does the application take 15 minutes or less to complete?
  • Can candidates follow up online to check their application status?
  • Will candidates get automatic updates via email or text as their application is processed?

The takeaway

Investing the time to create a job application process that appeals to candidates can pay off by delivering more and better – quality candidates to your organization. It can also help protect your brand’s reputation.

From posting a job opening to onboarding new hires, talent acquisition can be tricky. Not sure if your company is following best practices? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to attracting, recruiting and hiring top talent.

]]> 1 Hiring
The hidden link between new hires and employee engagement Tue, 27 Sep 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Employee engagement (whether with tenured employees or new hires) continues to be top of mind for business leaders in The Great Resignation era, where retention is crucial in the war on talent.

Actively disengaged employees are not as productive or happy as their engaged counterparts. If they’re not feeling motivated or willing to give 100%, that’s not good for your bottom line. Checked-out employees aren’t great for company morale or recruiting talent, either.

What’s the solution? It’s clear that when you work to develop a highly engaged workforce, they’ll be happier, healthier and more dedicated to making your business thrive.

But did you know that the link between employee engagement and your bottom line starts long before an employee begins their first day at your company?

The way you handle hiring and onboarding – from interviews, to the offer, to their first day – sets the tone for how engaged employees may be down the road.

In other words: engage employees from the start and keep them engaged by creating a culture of learning, development, purpose and high performance.

Here’s how:

1. Double-check your foundation

To ensure that you’re engaging employees from the start (even when they’re still in the potential employee phase), make sure that anything you share on a job posting or during interviews is reflected in your people strategy.

Why? Down the road, your employees will look back at how you “sold” the company culture. The question you’ll want to be answer with a definite yes is, “Does our employee experience match the employee value proposition we share with job candidates?”

2. Show job candidates their value

It’s easy to feel like just a number in a sea of job candidates, especially at a large organization. But no one wants to be an anonymous cog in a machine.

In particular, millennials and Gen-Z workers, perhaps more so than preceding generations, crave purpose in their work.

Plant the seeds of employee engagement early. This is especially important in a workforce where some candidates may very likely be interviewing for a hybrid or remote position.

Regardless of their location, show candidates (and in this case really any employee) that they’re valued by:

  • Focusing on how they can make a meaningful contribution to your company’s mission
  • Sharing the ways your company supports employee development (such as trainings and leadership pathways)
  • Be courteous of their time – this can look like responding promptly or not putting them through weeks of interviews

3. Guide them step by step

A lot of time may pass between that first interview and the first day at work.

Don’t leave your job candidates hanging and wondering what’s going on – that’s a recipe for anxiety and may give future employees the impression that your company doesn’t care much about them as individuals.

Communicate often to keep them in the loop about the process. For example:

  • The status of a background check
  • Next steps in the hiring process
  • When to expect a job offer
  • Agendas for their first day/week of work

Once hired, greet new employees on their first day, in person or on the phone if they’re working remotely, and guide them step-by-step through the transition.

It pays to take the onboarding process seriously. When you show job candidates you value their time and are looking out for them, they’re likely to carry those feelings on with them into employment.

4. Keep it going with a high-engagement work culture

Once candidates successfully make the transition to employee, it’s important to keep up the momentum.

A growing body of research shows that organizations that engage their employees have:

  • Better customer engagement
  • Higher productivity
  • Better retention
  • Fewer accidents
  • Higher profitability
  • Healthier employees

5 tips for prioritizing employee engagement with new hires

Employee engagement is a moving target. You’ll want to reassess your efforts on a continual basis to accommodate new workplace trends. Use these tips to get started.

1. Zero in on your employees’ interests

Where do they see themselves in the next year, two years, five years? What skills do they need to hone in on or develop to get there? Work to understand their vision and do what you can to get them there.

This can include personal interests, as well. In a post-pandemic workforce especially, employees value work-life balance and want their leaders to as well. If you prioritize learning about their interests outside of work, you can build trust that will carry over into their work.

Think about a time that you have started a new job and someone in leadership took a moment to learn about your life outside of work – familiarity can go a long way! 

2. Create opportunities for engagement in everything you do

It’s in your one-on-ones with employees. It’s in your monthly team meetings. It’s in the quarterly company meetings you hold to discuss the company’s goals, and how employees contribute to them. New hires want to see:

  • Recognition given
  • Growth opportunities
  • Flexibility (in environment and in leadership)
  • Team-building activities

3. Be open to feedback

With the rise of remote work, rewarding and recognizing employees in person might not always be possible. But that doesn’t mean you should skimp on the kudos.

A 2022 survey conducted by Flexjobs reports that 42% of people quit because of burnout. Burnout is something that can go hand in hand with disengagement. So, even if your company is facing larger business challenges or is feeling short staffed, engagement should still be a priority. Consider asking your team what engagement means to them?

You can propose:

  • Do you want to connect more or less via video?
  • How do you like to be recognized? One-on-one, in a group setting, in email, etc.?
  • What types of rewards do you value?
    • Public recognition
    • Small gifts in the mail
    • Extra time off
    • A private note

4. Promote work-life balance

Policies that help new hires and tenured employees manage their non-work responsibilities and have a rich home life are likely to increase employee engagement.

These aspects not only make top workers’ wish list, but are becoming increasingly standard to attract and retain talent in today’s job market:

  • Competitive compensation and benefits
  • Flexible hours
  • The option to work remotely
  • Ample vacation time

5. Launch an employee referral program

Some of the most engaged employees with the highest retention rates come from employee referrals.

They’re often a better cultural fit for companies, because employees usually refer like-minded people from similar backgrounds.

Plus, when referred employees join the company as new hires, they have built in connections, easing their transition.

The bottom line

It’s easy to see how employee engagement and your bottom line are linked. Highly engaged employees are more productive, they stick around, they represent the company better, they deliver more to the customer and, ultimately, they provide a greater return on investment.

Although re-engagement of tenured employees is sometimes impossible to avoid, you can reduce the need by prioritizing the engagement of new hires from the start.

Learn more about how to develop highly engaged and productive employees. Download our complimentary magazine: The Insperity guide to employee engagement.

]]> 2 Leadership and management
Feeling understaffed? 7 helpful tips for leading a lean team Thu, 22 Sep 2022 14:30:00 +0000 If you are feeling like your business is understaffed – that you have more work than employees to handle it all – you are not alone. Between The Great Resignation and a looming economic downturn that has necessitated layoffs, many companies across the U.S. are experiencing a talent shortage.

Or, it could be that your business has experienced rapid success and needs to scale up fast. That is an exciting position to be in, but it can certainly place huge amounts of pressure on your company in the short term.

What else can exacerbate being understaffed?

  • Operating in niche areas requiring highly specialized, hard-to-find personnel
  • A location in smaller, more remote areas that tend to be less attractive to current and prospective employees alike
  • A negative culture and reputation that repel talent

The longer your current employees have to take on additional work to compensate for the talent shortage, especially if it is in areas outside their interests and core job responsibilities, the higher the risk that morale will tank. Employees may reach a breaking point and leave.

How to know if you are understaffed

If your company engages in strategic workforce planning, then your staffing plan will indicate when your current workforce numbers and allocation to various responsibilities are out of alignment with business needs and goals. With this information, you can proactively make adjustments, in the right areas, before your employees are significantly impacted.

If you do not have positions identified and need to add new roles, investigate the following questions:

  • Are projects not getting completed because there are not enough people?
  • Are all your employees at maximum capacity?
  • Do you deal with overtime frequently?

If you have a positive workplace culture that prioritizes honesty and transparency – and your people feel safe in truthfully reporting how they feel to you – they may openly express concerns about being overworked.

Otherwise, you will need to be on the lookout for signs of stress or burnout in employees – just be careful to confirm that it is related to taking on extra workload by speaking with employees directly.

After all, stress and burnout can also be caused by:

  • Management styles
  • Workplace conflict
  • Personal issues
  • Performance issues
  • Boredom or lack of engagement with work

If you are going to dedicate time and resources to address staffing, you want to make sure there are not  any underlying issues that make staffing challenges seem more pronounced.

7 helpful tips to manage an understaffed team

When the company (or your department) is understaffed, what happens if it is not financially feasible to hire more people? It may not be a good idea to continue with the status quo and allow circumstances to potentially get worse.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Here are actions that can be taken to alleviate the situation and keep relationships with employees intact.

1. Communicate: Acknowledge that you are understaffed

  • Let employees know that the company is understaffed and why. If you are able to estimate how long the situation will last, explain this.
  • Express that you are aware of all the work they are doing and appreciate their efforts.
  • Encourage employees to discuss their concerns, feedback and any ideas they have with you. They might suggest something you would not have thought of otherwise.
  • As soon as possible, share with employees the roadmap that your company leadership has to reduce their workload. Solicit their input on those plans to ensure you have not overlooked anything that could negatively impact them.

Most of all, be prepared to listen, take action and look for small changes that can have a big impact. For example, schedule “No Meeting” days so everyone can focus on completing tasks.

2. Prioritize responsibilities

With your team’s input, meet as a leadership team to discuss which areas are most critical and which tasks can wait. Another way to think about it is: “What can we stop doing, at least temporarily, that is just getting in the way?”

However, create a plan for all the projects that are put on hold, so they are not forgotten.

3. Redeploy staff

Do some departments or teams within your company have a lighter workload than others? It may be necessary to cross-train employees with lighter workloads and redeploy them to the teams that are overwhelmed and could use additional help.

4. Allow employees to trade responsibilities

Do any of your employees have a specific area of interest or a passion for a certain skill? Maybe they would be willing to take on more work in that area. And, if there is some aspect of their job that they do not enjoy as much, maybe another employee would like to assume those responsibilities.

If employees enjoy what they are doing, and can unload the tasks they would rather not deal with, the extra work may be less burdensome.

5. Get leaders involved

When times get tough, everyone has to step up for the team – and that includes leadership. Resentment can fester when employees feel as though others are not carrying their weight, or that the “senior-level people” are asking “the lower-level people” to do something that they are not doing themselves.

In the spirit of modeling the behaviors and attitude that they want employees to follow, and to help reduce their employees’ workloads, managers should be open to taking on additional work as well.

6. Embrace flexibility

If you are asking employees to take on extra work, which often means longer hours on the job, allow them to have more workplace flexibility so they can still maintain work-life balance. This includes opportunities to:

This may reduce the risk of burnout while increasing engagement.

7. Consider short-term help

Hiring more full-time workers may not be in the budget, but perhaps hiring other types of workers could be approved. Consider:

  • Part-time workers
  • Job sharing (an arrangement in which two people “share” the same job, each working on a part-time basis)
  • Temporary workers (employees of your company or a temporary agency who are hired for a designated period of time for a specific purpose)
  • Contractors (professionals in business for themselves who are hired your company for a designated period of time for a specific purpose)

Just make sure that you do not misclassify employees as contractors.

Things to keep in mind when you can hire more people

If you are in a financial position to hire more people, great news! You will be able to resolve the problem and make your employees happier in less time.

A few things to remember:

  • Pay attention to your workplace culture and maintain a positive, trusting and supportive atmosphere. Do not wait until you are short-staffed and in a pinch to address any culture problems that may be the culprit for being understaffed in the first place – or, at least, can hinder your ability to fill open positions.
  • Understand exactly who you are looking for. Consider how much time you will be able to dedicate to training if you already have a lean team. Do new employees need to be ready to go, with minimal supervision, when they report for their first day?
  • Have well-written job descriptions ready in advance that not only focus on the specific job requirements and responsibilities, but also describe your workplace:
  • Mission, vision and values
    • Company culture
    • Commitment to learning and development
    • Benefits
    • Big-picture goals

Prospective applicants should immediately be able to grasp what your organization is all about from your job descriptions – and it should entice them to apply.

  • Monitor employee reviews and other online chatter about your company. If you see negative feedback, start a discussion with your HR partner. It is important to listen to the feedback and make changes in the company if that feedback is accurate. Is there a process issue? Does communication need to improve? Is manager training needed?
  • Recruiting can be a time-consuming, lengthy process. Consider your strategies for recruiting:

Summing it all up

If your business is understaffed, make a plan and act as soon as possible to prevent your employees from becoming overworked, stressed and burned out. If you can hire more employees, this is the clear, desirable solution. Recruit carefully, with an emphasis on cultural fit, to ensure that new employees are successful.

If you cannot hire more full-time employees, your actions need to center on strong communication and other creative solutions, like redeploying staff, trading responsibilities, asking leaders to absorb more workload and consider temporary help. By doing this, you can maintain employee morale and engagement, and prevent a devastating round of departures from your company.

To learn more about cultivating a committed team that can help your business navigate through challenging times, download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

Strategy and planning
Your definitive guide to employee training: Why, when and how Tue, 20 Sep 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Employee training is one of the most significant investments in time and money that your organization may make, but it’s also one of the most critical initiatives impacting the long-term success of any business.

After all, employees don’t just walk in the office door initially with all the information they need to do their jobs well. Maybe they’re experienced and highly knowledgeable, but there are still unique factors at your workplace that can impact their performance.

And most employees want to advance in their career, not remain rooted in the same spot for years on end. Reaching one’s ultimate career destination – whether it’s a lateral move into a specific dream job or upward progression to a leadership position – requires the acquisition of additional knowledge and skills.

Furthermore, organizations are constantly in flux, with both internal and external conditions evolving. If economic conditions, industries, marketplaces, technology and the legal landscape don’t remain static, your employees can’t either – lest they and your company fall behind.

In short, there’s always something new for employees to learn that brings value to themselves and businesses.

Who needs employee training?

With this in mind, let’s start with the easy question: who needs to undergo training? Everyone in your organization, at various points – regardless of role or rank.

The following questions then become:

  • Why – for what purpose does training need to happen?
  • When – how often should training happen?
  • How – by what means should training be delivered to employees?

In this discussion, we’ll cover these questions and evaluate how to set up a meaningful and effective employee training program.

Why employee training matters

First, employee training is incredibly important for both companies and their workforces.

For employees, training programs:

  • Prepare them to do their jobs well
  • Give them an understanding of what’s expected of them and put everyone on equal footing
  • Maintain and enhance their knowledge so they can continue to do their jobs effectively and even improve performance over time
  • Motivate them to grow professionally and achieve personal career goals
  • Build confidence
  • Make them feel valued
  • Keep them engaged

For companies, training programs are also critical for:

  • Imparting knowledge and information to employees consistently
  • Inspiring a culture of continuous learning
  • Keeping up with trends and, as a result, remaining innovative, competitive and profitable
  • Retaining employees and encouraging internal mobility
  • Avoiding accidents or costly mistakes
  • Protecting the organization from legal liability
  • Boosting their reputation
  • Preventing knowledge and skill gaps related to the Great Resignation or layoffs

Types and purposes of training

Over the employee lifecycle, there are many different types of training that employees may need, including:

  • Initial training as a means of introduction to a company and job role (onboarding and orientation), which usually covers topics such as:
    • Culture
    • Mission
    • Vision
    • Values
    • Expectations
    • General office and team policies
    • Processes
  • Systems and technology training
  • Safety training
  • Ongoing knowledge, skills and competency training related to a specific job role
  • Leadership training
  • Teamwork training
  • Cross-training employees to learn the competencies of other departments or roles
  • Reskilling employees so they can shift over into new roles
  • Reinforcement training (for disciplinary reasons or when a skill needs to be revisited)
  • Any training that’s highly encouraged or required by law in some industries, examples of which include:
    • Compliance
    • Ethics
    • Discrimination and harassment
    • Human rights and fair labor practices

For some of these types of training, it’s immediately clear why it needs to happen and what the objectives are. Often, this is the generalized training that applies to all employees or is required by law.

In other cases, the need for training may be less overt and perhaps more specific to certain teams or employees. You’ll have to perform a deeper assessment to understand what’s necessary, why and the results you should expect.

Determining where your company needs training

When it comes to identifying which areas of your business would be best served when establishing a training plan, here’s a checklist to get you started.

Generally, it can also be helpful to think about organizational goals, mission and values. Are there any missing pieces that can hold your company back from reaching goals or realizing its purpose?

When it comes to individual employees, understanding their training needs comes down to having an ongoing dialogue with them. Ask them:

  • What are their strengths and weaknesses – and how each of those can be leveraged
  • In which skills or knowledge areas they most need improvement
  • About their personal interests
  • How they learn best
  • In which way they can best serve organizational goals
  • What the next steps in their career look like, and how training can facilitate their progress

Training frequency

Some training may be time specific. For example:

  • The first few weeks of a new employee’s start date is optimal for conducting orientation and onboarding.
  • Your company just implemented a new technology and employees need to be able to use it.
  • A new law was recently passed that impacts your business in some way, and employees need to understand new regulatory requirements and associated processes.

Or, training may be dictated by the government or another external authority to recur at prescribed intervals – annually, semiannually or quarterly, for example. Examples of this could be safety or compliance training.

In most other cases, training will be situational and should happen whenever you identify a need for it and the timing is convenient for your employees.

Look at the impacted employees’ schedules. Consider whether any major project deadlines or work events are happening, and try to work around those schedule conflicts. Let employees know in advance:

  • That a new training is happening and why
  • What the training will cover, what they will be expected to demonstrate at the conclusion of training and how the training will benefit them
  • How they should complete the training and by when
  • The duration of the training

If you identify several training needs, prioritize them based on importance and business impact. What needs to be done sooner rather than later for employees to be effective? What is most urgent?

Training selection

As you decide which training options are best for your company, or you need to vet a training opportunity pitched by an employee, consider the following.

Any training that your company delivers should be:

  • Clear in purpose and objectives
  • Relevant to a specific business need or employees’ roles
  • Achievable according to established metrics of success

All training should have measurable value – it should never be about training just for the sake of it.

  • Evaluate what participating employees and, by extension the company, should get out of the training. Is it meaningful?
  • Examine the costs of the training against the benefits. What is the anticipated return on investment (ROI)?
  • Define what success looks like. What knowledge or skills should employees be able to showcase? How will they demonstrate this? Will the company realize any quantifiable benefit and, if so, what?

With the rise of remote and hybrid work environments and increased workplace flexibility, as well as the presence of multiple generations in the workplace, ask:

For external training, perform due diligence to assess the expertise and qualifications of the provider, and how reputable they are in your industry. All training should come from legitimate, respected sources.

How much travel or time away from the office does training require, and is this acceptable to you?

Additionally, be realistic about the limitations of training. For example, all the training in the world cannot overcome or fix underlying problems with your workplace, such as:

  • A negative culture
  • Interpersonal issues between colleagues
  • Disengaged and uninterested employees

If you’re trying to correct any of the above issues, more training isn’t what you need.

Training execution

Here’s a list of creative and effective learning and development ideas to consider.

The main thing to remember is that, today, most employees want their training to be:

  • Short and concise “micro training” (20 to 30 minutes maximum)
  • Highly focused in subject matter
  • Immediately relevant
  • A blend of media and methods, including:
    • Recorded presentations
    • More interactive presentations (live, instructor-led with opportunities for questions)
    • Printed materials
  • Seamlessly integrated into the workday (in-the-moment, on-the-job learning)

Consider offering an online learning portal to make training easily and consistently accessible.

Important: don’t give up on training when times get tough

When an organization faces budget constraints or financial pressures related to an economic downturn, employee training is often one of the first items to get scaled back. This is a big mistake – especially in tight labor markets in which the balance of power is shifted in employees’ favor.

Employees crave opportunities for learning and development, and frequently cite it as an important factor in their engagement and retention. This because they want to keep:

  • Improving themselves
  • Making themselves more competitive
  • Benefiting their career path

When employers have to work harder to attract and retain top talent, a robust offering of training and development opportunities can be a key differentiator between your company and competitors.

Summing it all up

Employee training offers many critically important benefits for employees and companies alike. There are many types of training that your business may need to implement. In evaluating what makes the most sense for your organization, conduct the appropriate analysis of your business situation and goals, talk to employees and consult what the law says (if relevant). Select training based on its clarity of purpose and objectives, relevancy to employees’ jobs and company goals, and achievability according to metrics for success. Also consider the ROI and appeal to a broad cross-section of employees. Employees want their training to be short, focused, on the job and diverse in approach.

To learn more about delivering effective and meaningful training, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to learning and development.

Training and performance
Employee terminations 101: What to say and do when it happens Thu, 15 Sep 2022 14:30:00 +0000 When it comes to an employee termination, the steps leading up to the actual conversation might be the easier part. If you have a progressive discipline policy in place and you’ve followed all the appropriate steps leading up to a termination, your move really shouldn’t come as a surprise to the employee.

Even if they might be expecting it, how do you handle the actual conversation during which you deliver the unfortunate news?

Regardless of the reasons behind the decision, terminations will always be among one of the most difficult conversations you’ll have with an employee. However, with preparation and adherence to best practices, you can limit the awkwardness as well as any potential pitfalls.

Termination, defined

Termination means any separation from a company, for any reason. It could be:

  • Voluntary (resignation)
  • Involuntary (layoff or firing for performance, conduct and behavioral issues)
  • A mutual agreement that the employment arrangement isn’t a good fit for either the employee or company

Who should be involved in an employee termination

This may vary depending on a specific company and its organizational structure and culture, but generally the following parties should be present when an employee is terminated:

  • The employee’s direct supervisor or manager
  • A third-party witness (for example, the manager’s manager or a human resources (HR) professional)

If you work with a professional employer organization (PEO), a representative from the PEO can also sit in on the conversation to:

  • Provide additional HR support
  • Act as another witness
  • Help deliver the termination message
  • Consult on how to avoid other potential problems

Where employee terminations should take place

A face-to-face meeting is always preferred. This is a tough conversation to have and, out of respect for the employee, it’s best to deliver it personally.

Although open-concept office spaces are common, they’re definitely not conducive to the privacy and sensitivity that a termination conversation calls for. Find a conference room or huddle room space that is:

  • Enclosed so that other employees can’t overhear the discussion
  • Lacking large glass windows, walls or doors so that no one else can peek inside
  • Quiet

However, with the rise of remote work and the dispersion of employees across states and even time zones, it may be not be feasible to meet with an employee in person. In these cases, terminating an employee via videoconference is acceptable.

When sending meeting invitations to remote employees, access their calendar to confirm when they next have an opening, and schedule a meeting as soon as possible. Allow for a short turnaround time between when the invitation is sent and when the meeting starts – preferably less than an hour.

Make sure remote employees are in a private, quiet location – alone – before initiating the discussion.

Note: If an employee has abandoned their job and you have no way of reaching them, then the “location” becomes a termination letter sent to their mailing address.

When termination should happen

There’s much debate within the HR community on which day of the week and time of day are optimal for terminating an employee. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Waiting until the end of the day to terminate an employee can be beneficial, because there will be less employees in the office to watch the terminated employee pack up their belongings at their desk and be escorted out.
  • If you terminate an employee on a Friday, they will have to wait a few days to file for unemployment benefits and put a plan into action.

As a general rule, once you’ve made the decision to terminate an employee, act as soon as possible – within a few days. Otherwise, if you wait several days or weeks, other issues could arise that may make a termination trickier, such as:

What you should bring

There is no required paperwork that you must bring with you to a termination conversation. However, it can be a good idea to have:

  • A termination letter simply stating that the employee no longer works for the company as of the day’s date. All parties present should sign the letter, and copies should be given to the employee and retained by the company for the personnel file. (Employees may need this documentation to be able to sign up for benefits under their spouse’s plan.)
  • An FAQ document for the employee that covers common post-employment questions
  • A checklist for the topics you’ll need to cover during the termination conversation and actions you’ll need to take immediately following.

Some companies provide a separation agreement, which usually covers:

  • Severance pay if applicable
  • Return of work property
  • No-solicitation provisions
  • Waivers of rights to file claims against former employers (except for wage claims)

If you plan to provide a separation agreement, it may be best to deliver it after the termination conversation. Instead, consider sending it to the employee via secure email once the meeting concludes so that they have ample time to review and process the information within the agreement.

What you should say during employee terminations

When planning what you’ll say during the conversation:

  • Have a game in plan in advance – don’t wing it
  • Keep in mind that every termination is unique; make sure all information shared is necessary and accurate
  • Be careful not to say anything that could open your company up to potential problems

If the termination results from a performance, behavioral or conduct issue, then you most likely have disciplined the employee previously, including issuing written and verbal warnings, and had prior discussions with the employee about resolving the problem. They should not be caught off guard. In this situation, not much else needs to be said besides:

Thank you for meeting with me today. As you’re aware, there have been concerns around [the issue]. Despite our attempts to solve the problem, we have not seen any improvement or achieved the results we expect. Therefore, we are terminating your employment. Your last paycheck will include all wages owed.”

You will want to determine in advance whether your state or locality:

  • Has any specific final pay provisions
  • Requires paid time off (PTO) balances to be included on final paychecks

The conversation surrounding layoffs may be somewhat lengthier. Because the termination is through no fault of the employee’s, you may want to explain the reasons for the layoff and review severance packages and other transition services your company may offer.

Ending the conversation and afterward

To close the conversation, ask the terminated employee, “Do you have any questions about your final paycheck or benefits?”

Avoid asking the more general, “Do you have any questions?” This provides employees with an opportunity to:

  • Challenge you
  • Argue about the (real or perceived) reasons for the termination
  • Become emotional

If an employee raises any new issues that you have not heard previously to protest their termination, such as a medical issue or disability, it’s a good idea to consult with your HR, legal team or PEO before responding.

Once the termination meeting is over, take the employee to their workspace to pack up their personal property. This is a good time to collect any company-issued cell phones, keycards, pay cards or access badges.

If the employee is emotional, it may be best to escort them out promptly. Have their personal belongings packed for them, and send it to their mailing address via courier.

If an employee works remotely, send a courier to their home or off-site workspace to pack and retrieve company property and deliver it back to you.

Don’t forget to switch off the employee’s access to company systems.

Summing it all up

When you decide to terminate an employee, act as soon as possible. But first, plan where the termination conversation will take place, who needs to be present and which materials you’ll bring with you. Write a script for what you plan to say – keep it concise. If you’re caught off guard by something an employee unexpectedly says that could have negative implications, consult with your HR team or PEO before responding. Your company is always evolving – and employment changes are just one of the many challenges you’ll encounter. To learn more about adapting to workplace changes, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to managing change.

Policies and procedures
Quiet quitting: The not-so-silent phenomenon sweeping the workplace Tue, 13 Sep 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Lately, you may have heard the buzzword quiet quitting. But what exactly is it if it’s not actually about leaving a job? An outgrowth of The Great Resignation, it’s a trend gaining traction on social media in which working professionals share their alternative to quitting their job outright.

Even among quiet quitters, there’s a range of behaviors. These employees fall into one of these groups, which are progressively more extreme:

  • I’m no longer going to stress out over my job and getting everything done perfectly, but I’m still going to be productive and produce quality work.”
  • I’m only going to do what’s asked of me and nothing more. I’m just going to coast along and won’t go above and beyond without additional pay.”
  • I’ve mentally checked out of work and plan to get by doing the bare minimum until I attract negative attention. I’m sheltering in job and will flee the minute a better opportunity becomes available.”

An employee who is quiet quitting hasn’t given their two weeks’ notice (yet!), but they’ve completely rethought their approach to work. Instead of giving their best, they could choose to do the bare minimum.

Why does quiet quitting matter?

If the employee is still meeting minimum requirements and finishing work – you might be wondering, “What’s the big deal?” It’s similar to a server at a restaurant. Is it a big deal if they don’t refill your water and check in a few times as long as they take your order correctly and deliver the food?

The concern with quiet quitting (and in the case of our example of the absent server) is that it indicates some level of disengagement and can be a form of protest against something an employee’s not happy about in their current job. When quiet quitting results from low employee engagement or even anger, it may indicate deeper problems within your workplace, such as distant leadership or an undesirable culture.

And it’s not all positive for employees either. Quiet quitting has the potential to impair relationships with colleagues and managers, and can lead employees to overlook or retreat from opportunities for sought-after work projects or even career advancement.

Why are employees quiet – and when do you need to worry?

Let’s talk about the quiet in quiet quitting. Really, it’s just a way of saying that these employees are stopping short of taking a big, noticeable step like quitting their job. Instead, quiet quitters are dialing back and, in doing so, may:

  • Lay low
  • Withdraw from social interaction in the workplace
  • Reduce their communication

To be clear, being quiet is not automatically a red flag. In fact, there are many valid reasons why an employee might be quiet.

Maybe an employee is an introvert, or outwardly appears quiet as part of their personality type. Quiet is part of their baseline.

It may be that an employee is focused and has their head down working, reflecting and planning. That’s actually a great thing! They’re doing what you want them to be doing.

The danger zone is where employees suddenly turn quiet because they feel like:

  • They have nothing to say of value
  • They have nothing meaningful to do
  • No one listens to them anyway

What’s the quitting in quiet quitting?

If employees get quiet because they have nothing to say or do, or that no one is listening, it can be related to their feeling:

  • Directionless
  • Purposeless
  • Unmotivated
  • Unfulfilled
  • Misunderstood
  • Underappreciated

All of the above feelings can make a person feel like quitting – or giving up – causing them to withdraw and, eventually, leave.

Who’s quiet quitting?

Across the entire U.S. employee population, engagement is falling. According to Gallup, employee engagement has declined for the first time in more than a decade, from 36% engaged employees in 2020 to 34% in 2021 – and now 32% in 2022.

So, if engagement is in a slump across the board, why has quiet quitting become a social media phenomenon primarily with younger workers? Why does Gallup data show that younger Millennials (born after 1989) and Generation Z workers have the lowest level of engagement of any age group?

Generally, different generations have adopted their own approaches to work. For example, Baby Boomers have long been recognized for their strong work ethic. Typically, they would do anything necessary to show merit and climb the corporate ladder.

With older Millennials, the new catchphrase became “work-life balance.”

Now, younger Millennials and Generation Z workers are all about “life-work balance.” It’s a subtle shift that reflects how they put their personal life first. Overall, their attitude is “I have a life and I have to work. But my work is just a part of my life – it’s not my entire life.”

When engagement is low as a result of feeling misunderstood, underappreciated and undervalued, this modern attitude toward work can easily shift into a more negative mindset: “They don’t care about me, so I don’t care about the company. I’m not doing anything extra to help them.”

Furthermore, younger generations live in the post-digital world. They’re accustomed to using technologies that, while making work more efficient and enabling remote work, have also created more barriers to face-to-face human interaction. In this way, their reliance on technology could encourage disconnection from others.

The small things you should look out for are behavioral cues, or “whispers.” And if we don’t pay attention to the whispers, then get ready for the shout.

What does quiet quitting look like?

Here are three possible stages of quiet quitting to be aware of:

  1. TOLERATE:This behavior/situation/person drives me crazy, but I just want to get back to my job. I don’t like it, but I’ll put up with it.”
  2. AVOID:I’ll do whatever I can to not deal with this behavior/situation/person. I’m looking for opportunities to get away or distance myself.”
  3. ELIMINATE:I’ve had enough, and I can’t take any more of this behavior/situation/person. I have to find a better place to work.”

As a leader becomes aware of the varying points within the tolerate and avoid stages, know that once an employee reaches the eliminate stage, they’re out looking for a new job and are no longer quietly quitting – they’re going to actually quit in the near future.

In addition to the withdrawal that we mentioned earlier, look out for any sudden changes in behavior that are the opposite of what an employee would usually exhibit. It could be a normally engaged employee suddenly getting quiet – or it may be a normally quiet employee suddenly becoming pretty outspoken and assertive.

A few more behaviors to put on your radar:

  • Disillusioned
  • Frustrated
  • Overwhelmed
  • Confused (by lack of direction)
  • Bored
  • Unenergetic

Pay attention to the small things – the potential warning signs that someone is looking to quit. (Of course, this task is more challenging when managing remote employees who aren’t directly in front of you to easily pick up on more subtle cues.)

The small things you should look out for are behavioral cues, or “whispers.” And if we don’t pay attention to the whispers, then get ready for the shout.

How to keep employees from quiet quitting and encourage re-engagement

1. Make sure that leaders’ cups are full

You know how flight attendants on airplanes tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others? If you’re not taking care of yourself first, it can become very difficult to care for your team. You need to have energy for yourself so you can bring energy to your team members and keep them engaged.

There’s a tremendous amount of stress placed on leaders – though, that stress need not come at the cost of the team’s success. No one wants to be on a boat in a middle of a storm, the waves getting higher, only to discover that the captain jumped ship 10 minutes ago with the emergency raft.

So, here’s what you can do to help yourself:

  • Practice self-care
  • Emphasize the things that bring you passion in your work
  • Partner with other leaders to share learnings and best practices
  • Prioritize the things you enjoy outside of work that increase your energy and inspiration
  • If you’re a senior leader, don’t forget to take care of your middle managers

2. Bring energy to your team

Have you ever heard the phrase “If the audience is dead, wake up the speaker?”

If your team is disengaged, then you, as the leader, need to become a needs satisfier, not a needs frustrater. Start from a place of servant leadership, helping others to reach their goals.

Turn on the light and bring the energy in your workplace by implementing a culture of:

  • Love and belonging
  • Safety and security
  • Fun and learning
  • Results and autonomy
  • Recognition and worth
  • Growth and development

All of these attributes are interconnected and represent opportunities to meet needs and increase engagement within your team. 

3. Understand what brings YOUR team energy

From the above list of ways to introduce energy within your team, there will be certain areas that resonate more than others depending on your individual employees.

This is where you need to be aware of personality assessments, such as DISC or Myers Briggs. Connect the gifts or strengths that someone already has and tailor the work environment to them.

Summing it all up

Quiet quitting, the phenomenon of “I’m not quitting my job, but I’m not giving 120% either,” is a slippery slope when it’s related to disengagement or is revenge for perceived wrongdoings. As these employees advance through the stages of tolerate, avoid and eliminate, their lack of discretionary effort and growing negativity can have real impacts on your company and other team members.

To re-engage these employees, attend to your own passion and excitement for your work; create a trusting, inspiring and safe atmosphere that offers plenty of opportunities for recognition, growth and autonomy; and emphasize what is most important to your team according to their unique needs and personalities.

Want to learn more about how to overcome quiet quitting? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee engagement.

Strategy and planning
How to retain employees and thrive during the Great Resignation Thu, 08 Sep 2022 14:30:00 +0000 What began in late 2020 as a spate of post-pandemic turnover has quickly accelerated into a much larger and widespread phenomenon: what everyone now commonly refers to as The Great Resignation.

These conditions have persisted for a few years now, and affect all industries and job categories. So what is going on? And how do you best protect your business. In this article we will discuss:

  • Why is the Great Resignation happening?
  • As a business owner, how should you respond?
  • What specific areas should you focus your time and effort?

What’s happening during The Great Resignation

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) summary for July 2022, the worker quit rate remains elevated at 4.2 million voluntary resignations for the month, representing 2.8% of the entire U.S. workforce.

Even more concerning for employers, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports in its Spring 2022 People + Strategy Journal that on average, a majority (about 60% at the time of reporting) of recent turnover is voluntary.

Employees (and the leaders who hold organizations together) are leaving their jobs in droves, at their own initiative, and a sizeable portion of them don’t seem concerned about the security of having another job lined up.

Interestingly, consulting firm Grant Thornton reports in its State of Work in America survey that two in five workers (40%) who changed jobs in the last year are already looking for another job. This suggests that job hopping has become a phenomenon in itself, whether that’s because of bad onboarding or increased opportunity – or both!

The big question is whether The Great Resignation will become a new normal for the long term, or whether a slowing economy may lead to employers tapping the brakes on hiring.

No one has a crystal ball and knows precisely what’s going to happen in the months and years ahead, but employers can take action right now to combat immediate effects.

Why employees are leaving

So, what’s going on with workers? What’s driving these unprecedented resignation levels?

The COVID-19 pandemic started as a collective trauma that all workers experienced simultaneously, spurring a variety of emotions such as:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Frustration
  • Isolation
  • Burnout

As a result, it morphed into a mass moment of reflection for workers to re-evaluate their goals, priorities, interests and preferences going forward.

Certainly, some tenured employees have decided it’s a good time to retire – even a bit early. And the SHEcession has forced significant numbers of women out of the workforce – many of whom have yet to return.

But what about the employees who are still actively working? Some employees may have decided to pursue another career or go back to school to study another discipline.

Perhaps other employees realized that they enjoy working remotely and balancing professional and personal obligations, such as:

According to the same SHRM data, the top 5 reasons that employees leave their jobs right now are:

  • Higher compensation (32%)
  • Improved work-life balance (29%)
  • More competitive benefits (25%)
  • Desire to find more empathetic leadership (21%)
  • Better workplace culture (21%)

Given the tight labor market and record-high numbers of job openings, workers are well positioned to demand more – and receive it. Employees have options and, as such, companies have had to adapt their recruiting and hiring methods to become more competitive.

How businesses can respond to The Great Resignation

Remember: it’s almost always more expensive to recruit new employees than to retain your current workforce. The questions at hand are:

  • How can you prevent your business from becoming a victim of The Great Resignation and mitigate its impacts?
  • What can you do to engage and hang on to your valued employees?
  • What changes will your business need to make, potentially for the long term?
  • Have your employees’ desires and priorities changed?

With the ever-changing landscape of employment and productivity in a post-pandemic landscape, here are some strategies to avoid impacts from The Great Resignation.

1. Invest in retention

Having a strong people strategy is one of the best starting points for making sure your existing workforce feels respected, valued and appreciated. Transforming your retention efforts is one of the first places to begin when discussing how to combat The Great resignation. Although most of the categories below can be included in a retention strategy, the big three to think about are:

  1. Competitive salaries and benefits Review your salary structure, bonus programs employee benefits and other employee recognition programs to see where you have room to make improvements.
  2. Good company culture – A strong company culture with clearly defined values that are carried out by leaders is essential. Make sure the qualities of your organizational culture align with what your employees want to see.
  3. Employee engagement – Low engagement is a bad sign when it comes to retention. If you’re in the spot, there’s still time to improve employee engagement.

2. Focus on servant leadership and communication

Everything surrounding The Great Resignation, at its core, relates back to the connection and communication between employers and employees – the strength of the relationship between these parties.

The absence of connection and communication leaves room for misunderstanding, worries and resentments to fester. Wherever there’s a gap of information, people tend to fill it with their own assumptions – and it’s often negative.

If you don’t know your employees, they’re a complete mystery. You don’t know what they’re thinking and feeling. You may misunderstand their behavior. You can’t anticipate their needs or have the opportunity to deliver what they want.

Likewise, if your employees never hear from you, they don’t understand the reasoning behind company decisions or they can misinterpret the actions of leadership. They don’t feel they have a resource for communicating concerns or asking for help. They feel encouraged to leave.

Companies that prize transparency and honesty in their culture seem to perform best and have the most engaged employees.

To many employees, their frontline manager is their most important relationship at work – to them, this person represents the company. It’s essential that leaders frequently engage with their direct reports to:

  • Regularly check in on them, both professionally and personally, and find out what they need
  • Evaluate workload
  • Answer questions
  • Make accommodations as needed
  • Provide coaching
  • Offer resources and support
  • Help guide their career forward
  • Communicate expectations

The old saying that “people leave managers, not jobs” remains true. A fractured manager-employee relationship is extremely harmful to retention. The strategies above are especially important when leading a remote team.

Companies that emphasize connection and communication will be far ahead of the game in proactively addressing employees’ concerns before they decide their best course of action is to leave.

3. Prioritize flexibility and work-life balance

Yes, a lot of employees enjoy remote work. But that’s just part of the equation. You know what employees want even more? The autonomy to decide where and how to work.

They want to be responsible for choosing the optimal working environment for their individual needs and the type of work they’re currently producing. They no longer want their schedule dictated to them.

Employees also crave more work-life balance in which “work” and “personal stuff” aren’t sectioned off into separate buckets to be dealt with at a prescribed time. People want the option to tend to their most pressing priority at the moment as long as they’re meeting requirements and satisfying deadlines. For example, employees can be involved in their children’s school activities, visit the doctor’s office, take their dog for a walk or go to the gym during the work day without begging for permission.

There’s a growing recognition that work isn’t one size fits all – not everyone is productive under the same conditions or at the same general time. This is why many companies are becoming flexible workplaces, offering such work arrangements as:

  • Options for 100% remote work
  • Hybrid work (employees have demonstrated a willingness to come to the office when it’s justified and the reasoning is communicated well)
  • Flexible schedules
  • Shortened work weeks
  • Flexible or unlimited paid time off (PTO)

From employees’ and job candidates’ perspective, workplace flexibility and the option to work remotely – at least part of the time – are no longer seen as special benefits, but are quickly becoming expectations for their next job.

Companies that resist this trend risk falling behind in recruiting and retaining top talent.

4. Re-evaluate expectations and policies

With the shift toward flexibility and autonomy, employers must adjust to the evolving landscape and keep up with the times. This means reassessing workplace expectations and policies to benefit both businesses and employees.

To encourage wellness and work-life balance, how can you consider adjusting:

  • PTO policies – Many companies are increasing PTO or removing limits on PTO.
  • Dress code – Given the fact that many employees worked from home for more than a year, perhaps standards around attire have become less formal.
  • Remote work – What are the firm rules for remote or hybrid work? Do they allow for a flexible workplace culture?

It may not even be major, sweeping changes that companies have to make, but more “spot” changes that are relevant to the moment.

Whichever changes you implement, be mindful about which employees the changes apply to and the precedents you’re setting. During The Great Resignation, many companies have become more generous with new hires in a bid to attract top talent. But don’t overlook tenured employees – they will want the same treatment. Best practice is to treat all employees equally. Document all policy changes and notify employees in writing.

5. Conduct employee surveys

You may not know how to make your workplace more desirable if you don’t understand what’s most important or meaningful to your employees – or what problems exist.

Employee surveys are a great way to obtain feedback. But, if you distribute surveys, you must also be willing to communicate the major findings and share which actions you’ll take next and why.

It’s also smart and proactive to conduct stay interviews with tenured employees to uncover what has kept them at your workplace and if they have any recommendations to share.

By the time an employee resigns, it’s obviously too late to retain them – but you can still glean valuable insight from them via a thoughtful exit interview. Ask them what went wrong or what they felt was missing at the company. In what way do they consider their new role or company to be superior?

Also monitor employee reviews online.

Through these activities, a realistic and consistent picture of your company should emerge, helping you to identify areas for prioritization and improvement.

6. Champion employee wellness

Use gathered information from surveys to understand what employee wellness programs and health offerings are most important to your employees. This information could strengthen their engagement and boost satisfaction.

Following the pandemic, there’s a heightened focus on wellness and whole health in the workplace – not just physical health, but also mental and financial health. How can you enhance your wellness programs to be more helpful and beneficial to employees? What services can you highlight in your employee assistance program (EAP)?

7. Motivate employees with growth opportunities

Opportunities for learning and development are commonly cited by employees as desirable. Most employees want to keep improving themselves and expanding their skills and knowledge. A lot of training and development opportunities don’t have to break the bank, either. Little- or low-cost strategies to invest in your workforce’s professional development include:

  • Explain what their career path looks like in your organization and what the requirements are to achieve the next step in their progress.
  • Offer mentoring sessions or an opportunity to work on unique projects.
  • Hold lunch-and-learn workshops to develop new skills and boost morale. Guest speakers can even come from other parts of the organization.

7. Enhance diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)

DE&I plays a huge role in employee retention.

Future generations of workers, such as Generation Z, are much more diverse than their predecessors and expect their employers to have a diverse population as well.

Furthermore, it’s well established that a diverse workforce – with diversity in thought, background and life experiences – leads to better-performing teams, higher job satisfaction, more innovation and increased revenue. Who doesn’t want to be part of a workplace with these attributes?

8. Proactively look for the signs of burnout – and take action

If you’ve established good communication with your employees, you’ll know what to do when you notice red-flag behaviors indicating burnout:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Withdrawal
  • Reduced productivity
  • Seeming lack of interest (boredom)
  • Noticeable stress

Finding signs early on is key, and your response as a leader can make all the difference in how the individual chooses to move forward.

9. Expand your circle of job candidates

When employees leave and the job market is ultra-competitive, you can’t afford to be overly choosy in replacing them. Otherwise, you could have an empty chair and a gaping knowledge and skills gap in your workforce for a while.

In these circumstances, you may have to be more open-minded and consider candidates who may not fit every single desired criteria or who have less experience. Determine which qualifications are a “must have” versus a “nice to have.”

To name a few, think about hiring:

Any of your hiring initiatives should aim to be as diverse and inclusive as possible – not only to support your organization’s DE&I goals, but to also find the widest possible pool of talent.

Summing it all up

The Great Resignation has persisted for years now – and we don’t know if the coming months or years will bring any abatement. To be prepared for any scenario and to implement solid, evergreen engagement and retention practices, consider the tips we’ve outlined here to gain the best chance of keeping employees at your company – or, at least mitigating any long-term talent gaps.

For more information, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee retention. What else can you to encourage employees’ loyalty? Popular choices include implementing a bonus program or recognizing employees more for their work

Strategy and planning
Strategic HR management: 5 critical steps for HR professionals Tue, 06 Sep 2022 14:30:00 +0000 If you think it’s important to have a business plan and strategic vision, you need a human resources (HR) plan, too. It’s just as critical – and especially so in a post-pandemic workplace where having a people strategy can make all the difference in building an engaged, successful workforce.

A solid HR strategy:

  • Gets your employees ready to execute on your business strategy and goals
  • Helps prepare your current staff and anticipates your future HR needs
  • Prevents employee turnover and prepares your business leaders to make strategic hiring decisions in the future
  • Includes a succession plan to limit disruptions to your business should there be a change in management or structure

So what’s your company’s HR strategy?

If your HR department works only on tactical processes like payroll and time and attendance, you’re missing out on strategic HR benefits.

Business goals achieved with an HR strategy include:

  • More productivity
  • Higher employee satisfaction
  • Better bottom-line results

Transform your HR department from a service group to a team that creates value across the company.

The complete HR strategy: tactical HR and strategic HR

Tactical HR and strategic HR are both necessary for a company to reach its full potential. However, tactical HR must come first, because it includes things that make it possible to hire, train, pay and manage employees.

Tactical HR also addresses compliance with employment and benefit rules. Examples include, but certainly aren’t limited to:

Strategic HR examples include tasks that are future- and value-focused, such as:

5 HR strategy examples

Interviews, onboarding, performance reviews and other HR services can benefit from strategic input to create better experiences for candidates and employees. A strategic approach to HR can also help your company avoid common HR mistakes that involve tactical HR processes.

Remember: To effectively execute larger business goals, the whole culture must be aligned with them. And that requires HR insights and support.

In other words, having the HR department at the planning table – with a clear strategy in hand – is mission critical.

Here are five steps to creating an effective strategic HR plan and gaining a competitive advantage for your company.

1. Assess your current workforce

Your first step in strategic HR planning is identifying your current employees’ knowledge, skills and abilities. This includes evaluating your employees’ competencies, education levels training and certifications.

But you shouldn’t stop there. Consider what talents they have beyond their current job descriptions. For example, your data entry employee may also have a knack for building customer relationships. You can pick up on these less obvious talents by getting to know your employees through regular conversations – both formal and informal.

And chances are your personnel files already contain a wealth of information to help you monitor your employees’ talents and skills, such as:

  • Resume
  • Continuing education history
  • Performance appraisals
  • Projects completed

Having a system (e.g., an interactive organizational chart) to capture and archive your employees’ information can make keeping track of your employees’ talents easier. At the same time, your employees will feel more valued if it’s clear that you’re making note of their strengths.

In addition, performance reviews can help you determine when employees are willing and able to assume additional responsibilities. When employees consistently rank high in all categories, it is a good predictive indicator they may be ready to take on some more challenging work. Not all employees want to move to other positions, though. If this is the case, look for ways to challenge them in their current roles.

2. Create employee development plans

Having qualified employees is only one step when building a long-term HR program with a winning workforce. To make a real impact, your employees’ work needs to support the company’s growth goals.

You can do this by making an employee development plan. This will help you create clear direction on how to increase their skills and advance their careers so that your business can forge ahead. Follow these steps to help make sure your employees’ development plans are on point.

  • Consider your business goals – Before you set objectives and track metrics for employees, you should try to align their development plan with your company’s needs.
  • Talk to your employees – Don’t just assume you know your employees’ skill levels and career aspirations.
  • Decide what skills your employees need – Once you’ve looked at each of your employees’ abilities and experience, as well as your company’s needs, decide exactly what skills each person needs to acquire.
  • Create an action plan – Once you know what the objectives are, you can figure out how your employee will go about achieving them.
  • Apply the new skills in the workplace – Set up some opportunities where your employees can quickly apply their new skills to the job and get feedback.

It’s important that your company doesn’t neglect the employees you already have – especially top performers. Even for your high achievers, there’s always room for improvement, and they still need development-focused attention from you.

Present employee development plans positively (and not solely as a form of corrective action) by positioning them as an opportunity to maximize potential and improve the employee experience. Retention is critical to maintaining a winning workforce.

3. Create a succession plan

With business growth comes change. Whether it’s a shift in the executive team or a reorganization of departments, you need to be prepared. A succession plan can help you minimize disruption by identifying critical roles in your business and employees who have the skills to immediately assume these positions, should someone leave.

You may choose to involve employees directly in creating your succession plan. This would mean having conversations with all of your employee stakeholders to find out what their career goals are, where they see themselves in the future, and what development they may need in order to get there.

Another option is to create a succession plan behind the scenes. The choice really depends on your organization’s culture.

Keep in mind that transparency eases anxiety and keeps your employees from imagining negative reasons for the changes. It also gives you the opportunity to explain the “why” behind the change and how it may affect them exactly.

4. Perform a gap analysis

A gap analysis helps you identify what resources your company has and what you’ll need in the future. When performing a gap analysis, you’ll assess your HR practices and infrastructure to determine where your company is falling short.

For example, some of your HR practices may be designed to fit where your company was five years ago, but don’t meet your needs today or where you plan to be soon. After a gap analysis, you can improve your current procedures and implement new practices that will better support your business’s growth.

When conducting a gap analysis, take a look at your:

  • Job descriptions – Do they match the expectations you currently have for your employees and outline all the necessary skills and requirements?
  • Employee handbook – Have you reviewed or refreshed it in the last two years? Check to see if your policies are still aligned with employment laws. This is especially important if you’ve expanded into new cities or states where you may be subject to different regulations. When was the last time your employees read the handbook? Consider asking them to re-read it once you make updates.
  • Training programs – Are your employees being prepared for their roles in an organized way that still makes sense according to business needs?
  • Health benefits – Are you providing what is required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while also meeting the needs of your employees?
  • Sick days – New paid sick day standards are emerging across the country in a few states and a growing number of cities. Check the current sick days laws to be sure you’re in compliance.
  • Business performance – If revenue is climbing, it may make sense to up your contributions to your employees’ retirement accounts or award more days of PTO, which will add value to your total rewards package. If revenue is down, consider scaling back on some of those benefits to help stabilize your business.

5. Decide how to increase resources for the future

As your business grows, so will your staffing needs. To find the best talent for your business, you must know whom you’re seeking ideally.

Review the information you have gathered about your current workforce. Do you have enough people? Do they have the right skills and know-how to help you achieve your business goals?
This information can help you decide what jobs need to be filled and who would be the best fit. From there, you can better determine if you can promote from within or if you’ll need to recruit new talent as your business grows.

This is where your skills inventory is especially helpful. Do you already have a potential fit within? Do you need the skills to be mastered already, or could they be attained through training? Many times a current employee who is a known culture fit is worth investing in additional training.

As you think through potential staffing changes to come, also consider common struggles that could make it difficult for businesses to recruit new employees:

  • Your current total rewards package doesn’t meet the expectations of your ideal candidates.
  • Upcoming technology changes or shifts within the economy make it difficult to recruit quality talent. For example, say your business needs to adopt a new technology and there’s a shortage of experienced candidates who are qualified to fill the relevant positions.
  • Your company culture is poor, which is a major turnoff for highly qualified candidates who can be choosy about where they work.

Knowing these things can help you avoid recruiting roadblocks before they become a problem. Resolving these issues are key to attracting great talent and improving employee retention. Otherwise, you may find yourself constantly replacing employees from an increasingly narrow, poor pool of prospects.

Time to develop an HR strategy

Remember: HR planning is an ongoing process. Your HR strategy should be reviewed regularly and updated as your organization changes. The key is to choose strategic initiatives that align with your company’s goals.

The role of HR is to be a business partner to a growing organization. So, strategic HR management can benefit smaller companies as well as larger ones. In fact, a smart HR strategy can help small organizations reach the 50-employee mark quickly and with stronger talent.

Not sure how to get started? Learn how to create an air-tight HR strategy that puts you on the path to success by downloading our free e-book, 7 Most Frequent HR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.

]]> 0 Strategy and planning
7 ways to support employees during economic inflation Thu, 01 Sep 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Economic inflation isn’t just an external news story – it’s a painful market condition that affects nearly everyone. It can have a wide-ranging negative impact on your workforce and, ultimately, your business.

How so? Inflation can:

  • Diminish the reach of employees’ salaries, making them feel as though they don’t earn as much as they used to
  • Affect aspects of their lives as consumers with the rising costs of everything from groceries to fuel to vacations
  • Reduce the amount that employees are able to contribute to their 401(k)s, which can result in significant long-term impacts, including delays in plans to retire as expected
  • Increase stress and anxiety levels in employees, which can:
    • Distract them from work
    • Cause productivity to plunge
    • Generate tension and conflict and, in worst cases, even violence in the workplace
  • Force employees to take second jobs, which can cause burnout and exhaustion
  • Lead employees to leave your company for higher pay elsewhere to counteract the effects of inflation

Communicate with employees about inflation: Yes or no?

Although no company is ever obligated to discuss topics that aren’t specific to the organization, be aware that your employees, especially younger workers (Millennials and Generation Z), may expect you to acknowledge issues that personally impact them both inside and outside the workplace.

In the post-COVID workplace, employees tend to have much higher expectations of their employers, including the frequency and breadth of communications. Therefore, understand the needs and expectations of your workforce.

To maintain strong employee relationships and avoid getting caught off guard, inflation is one of those current events for which you should consider preparing a communication plan. With your workforce, as a general rule it always pays to get ahead of certain issues and be:

  • Connected
  • Communicative
  • Empathetic
  • Transparent

Let employees know that you’re aware of their struggles during this challenging time, that you care and that you want to support them. As a result, they are more likely to feel heard and valued, and they are less likely to take any drastic, stress-induced actions.

How to support employees during economic inflation

With that being said, how can you demonstrate your care and support for employees?

1. Promote your employee assistance program (EAP)

Your company’s EAP exists to help employees with a variety of both work and home-life topics by opening up efficient, confidential access to professional resources. Leverage it!

With inflation, your EAP can connect employees to financial professionals in order to become more financially stable and learn how to manage the impact of inflation on their income and household budget.

Additionally, employees dealing with inflation-induced stress and anxiety can find mental health professionals via the EAP.

When you communicate with employees about inflation, remind them of your EAP’s availability and diversity in services, as well as how they can access it.

2. Engage top-priority employees

During times of inflation, it’s a valid concern that employees may leave your company in search of higher pay or better benefits. This is especially true when it comes to talent that you can’t afford to lose.

It can be a smart exercise to identify the most mission-critical talent in your workforce and proactively start discussions with them. Conduct stay interviews with these employees to:

  • Find out what they like about your company
  • Ask if there are any changes they recommend or concerns they have
  • Inquire about what they need that they’re not currently getting
  • Get an idea of which scenario(s) would make them more likely to leave

Also train managers to have regular conversations with their direct reports about what keeps them at the company and what might make them consider leaving. Inform managers on what they should look out for that could indicate an employee preparing to leave – for example, a sudden change in behavior or increase in absenteeism.

3. Support managers

Your managers really are the glue that holds everything together in your workplace. But they’re not immune to their own personal distractions and life stressors as well, particularly those resulting from widespread events such as economic inflation.

That’s why you should put extra effort in supporting managers. Educate them on how to deal with unfocused, anxious employees by:

  • Offering more training on coaching employees through inflation-induced stress or resolving conflict, including role playing certain scenarios
  • Guiding them on how to conduct stay interviews
  • Freeing up space on their calendars so they can schedule regular one-on-one meetings with direct reports and keep a better pulse on what’s going on with employees
  • Advising them on the behavioral cues, tone and body language to look for when evaluating whether an employee is struggling more than others or might be at risk of leaving the company

4. Increase company contributions to retirement planning

A 401(k) retirement plan is an important benefit that your company pays to provide for employees – and you want to make sure that they know how to take full advantage of it for their financial well-being and future security.

When communicating with employees about inflation, remind them of the long-term benefits of contributing to their retirement plans. Urge them to not give up on their investments or their retirement dreams.

If budget allows, consider upping the amount that you contribute or match to your employees’ plans each month to help ease their stress.

5. Explore other financial incentives

Of course, there’s always the option of raising salaries commensurate with inflation. This would be a popular option with employees.

However, from employers’ perspective, the cost of living doesn’t necessarily equate with the cost of labor – and it’s the latter that determines salaries. Furthermore, many employers have spent much of the recent Great Resignation raising salaries to attract and retain top talent in a super-competitive job market – and many are now stretched thin.

Even during times of inflation, companies cannot become so desperate to retain employees that they overextend themselves and lose sight of their own financial viability.

If increases to base pay aren’t possible, there are alternative approaches that still have the potential to help employees earn more money and ease financial stress without impacting companies’ regular fixed costs. These options revolve around bonus programs and can include:

  • Performance bonuses – Focused on an employee achieving a specific goal or objective, or demonstrating a desired behavior in the workplace
    • Retention bonuses – Used to retain employees during transition periods to encourage them to stay
    • Sign-on bonuses – Given upon hire and not based on performance
    • Spot bonuses – Immediate (on-the-spot) recognition for outstanding contributions of individuals or teams

In addition to reducing employers’ financial risk, bonuses act as a powerful incentive for employees to maintain strong performance despite personal distractions.

If you do enact any pay changes, be mindful of internal pay equity. Document all reasons for pay changes in writing.

6. Seek out other incentives as well

In times of stress, employees tend to fixate on base pay. But there is a larger picture. Often, companies are able to offer benefits to employees that, while not costly to the bottom line, deliver value to employees personally while increasing their engagement.


Training and development has the added benefit of making employees more valuable to their employer as well.

7. Allow employees to work from home (if you don’t already)

Still have grand return-to-work plans following the COVID-19 pandemic? Inflation may put a damper on those. With high costs of work-related expenses – for example, gasoline for commuting, eating lunches out, happy hours, dry cleaning professional attire and childcare – many employees in roles that are conducive to remote work may resist coming into the office. From their perspective, why spend all that money if it’s unnecessary?

Depending on your business and specific roles, an easy way to mitigate employees’ costs is to allow them to work:

This will also align your business with the latest workplace trends and employee expectations, and help you to avoid dreaded post-pandemic turnover. These days, it’s not just a better salary that motivates employees to make a move. Most employees really want more workplace flexibility and will change jobs to attain it.

For employers, this has the added financial benefit of reducing company overhead.

Summing it all up

Economic inflation isn’t an issue that employees leave in the outside world when they walk through your office door – it’s a major issue that can cause employees significant amounts of stress and anxiety. In this way, it very much infiltrates your workplace and can have many negative impacts. Here, we outlined seven tips that employers can put into practice to demonstrate their care and support for employees during inflation and, hopefully, re-engage and retain employees, calm concerns, shift employees’ focus back to work and maintain productivity.

For more information on helping employees navigate tumultuous periods, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to managing change.

Leadership and management
Why level of service matters when choosing a PEO Tue, 30 Aug 2022 14:30:00 +0000 What should you look for in a professional employer organization (PEO) when it comes to service? If you’ve never used a PEO before, you need to know that the level of HR support, breadth of services offered and the delivery model for those services can vary widely among what seem to be very competitive providers.

Our aim in this article is to help you recognize and understand these differences when you’re shopping for HR outsourcing services. But most importantly, we want to encourage you to stay focused on your business needs and seek out a level of HR support that aligns best with your goals.

What matters to your organization?

When shopping for HR outsourcing services, many people start by comparing different PEOs before they have a really good understanding of what they’re trying to fix inside of their business.

Just like you wouldn’t blindly shop for a house without knowing what features are most important to have, be careful not to jump into comparison shopping too soon when searching for the right HR outsourcing services.

Instead, first concentrate on the problems that need to be solved in your business. This will help you locate the right PEO to work with and the breadth and level of services that fit your needs.

Look at the challenges in your business that are potentially costing you money. These issues could be:

  • We’re not growing as fast as we want to be.
  • Our sales aren’t as high as we want them to be.
  • Our profitability is not as high as we want it.

Ultimately, a PEO’s level of service matters because you’re trying to solve your particular business problems. Knowing how you plan on using HR outsourcing services and what solutions you’re seeking positions you to best evaluate your options.

Levels of HR support from PEOs

At first glance, especially after engaging with many similar sounding marketing materials and sales pitches, it’s easy to miss the differentiators between PEOs. That’s because when we shop for something that’s new to us, we tend to look at the similarities rather than the differences, and that’s often the case for new buyers in the PEO market.

It’s the differences that matter – not the similarities – among our buying choices. And one of the major differences in the PEO marketplace is the level and breadth of service that each one offers.

PEO A: Some PEOs are built around a self-service model, providing an online library of HR best practices and advice for their clients.

PEO B: Other HR outsourcing providers may expand on an online database by providing a call center to which clients can reach out with questions.

PEO C: At the opposite end of the spectrum are full-service PEOs that give clients a dedicated service team, providing the opportunity for ongoing guidance from a trusted group of HR professionals.

What does level of service look like?

Clients from each of these types of PEOs could have much different experiences in the moments when they need HR support. Let’s use preparing to terminate an employee as a sample situation.

PEO A may provide you with an online list of steps on how to enter a termination into their system so that they can generate a final paycheck.

PEO B may suggest that you call into their call center to discuss any concerns that you may have prior to starting the termination process.

PEO C might encourage you to call your HR specialist to discuss:

  • The details of the termination
  • How to document it
  • Any potential liability challenges that could arise

And then PEO C might also ensure that the terminated employee gets all of the necessary resources (e.g., benefits continuation information) and has a positive experience throughout the termination.

What does good HR outsourcing service look like?

So, the definition of “good” PEO service is all relative depending on your organizational needs and how your internal team wants to be supported when you seek HR help from your PEO.

For one company, full-service may be the clear winner. They’re seeking a partner to help them approach HR strategically and deliver complex solutions. For another company, a call center model may be perfectly adequate. They want access to best practices and occasional help with applying them to their workforce.

No matter your preferences, remember that the value of a PEO’s services to you can and should go beyond just giving you time back through administrative relief. Look for a PEO that gives you additional resources to solve the people-related problems you want to fix – those that you haven’t been able to resolve yet with the talent you already have inside your organization.

Summing it all up

When evaluating service level, don’t just let PEOs market to you. Rather, determine what services are most important and how you’d like to access them, and then use that information to make sure a PEO is the right fit.

Ask to meet with the service teams that would actually be providing the HR outsourcing to your company. Because just like you would hold interviews for an internal HR hire, you should be interviewing your PEO. Bring some real world scenarios that are happening in your business and ask them – how would you help me solve this? What would you do?

You will be able to learn fairly quickly if a PEO’s service team:

  • Has the right skillset and level of expertise to serve you well
  • Provides the depth of service you’re seeking
  • Has the type of mindset with which you can work well and be successful

If you’re searching for a PEO, download The Insperity guide to HR outsourcing. In this free magazine, you can discover how PEOs commonly help client companies, weigh your HR outsourcing options and learn which questions to ask a prospective PEO.

Strategy and planning
8 things great leaders make time for every day Thu, 25 Aug 2022 14:30:00 +0000 In a time where hybrid work is king, the Great Resignation continues to pull competitive talent in all directions and a recession clouds the market, great leadership remains a crucial element of business continuity and success. So, what makes a great leader?

There are common answers that scratch the surface: Great leaders can be generally described as good communicators, strategic, motivational, authentic, easygoing and more.

In addition, there are best practices for good leadership that can be carried out by anyone, even if a person isn’t in a managerial role. Essential traits for everyday leadership include:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Emotional intelligence
  3. Vision
  4. Participation
  5. Coaching ability

What sets great leaders apart from good leaders?

But outside of classic traits of great bosses, what are the little differences that set great leaders apart from good leaders? Answers to the question change as the business landscape evolves, especially in a post-pandemic workplace. The answer also depends on the point of view of the individual contributors (and shifts as their priorities change).

An employee five years ago might want a boss who champions their professional development, while today that same employee might want a leader who prioritizes work-life balance. No matter the season, actions found in the quiet, small moments are often where great leadership thrives.

We brought this question to the Insperity team and asked: As a leader, what is one thing that you try to make time for every day? Here’s what they had to say.

8 actions great leaders take every day

1. Be comfortable with learning and vulnerability

I can honestly say that there hasn’t been one week, since joining Insperity in 2003, that I haven’t learned something new, whether intentionally or by accident! Saying “I don’t know” takes vulnerability and humility.

Vulnerability and humility build trust. Someone who is able to say those three little words is a trusted and reliable resource. I owe it to those around me to give them an “I don’t know” over an incorrect answer or guess. When I have to say, “I don’t know,” it’s important to follow with, “but let me find out, or find someone who does know.”

Veronica Medlin
Managing Director, Insperity 401(K) Plans

2. Express appreciation for others

This is a tough question, as no two days are the same.  That said, from a “habit” perspective, I try and express my gratitude and appreciation to – and for – those around me.  Without my close-knit group of leaders and support team, I simply wouldn’t be able to achieve anything of substance. 

From a short email to say thanks or well done, to just stopping in for a minute to chat, relationships matter.  We should pour a little of ourselves into our relationships every day.

Roger Nicholson
Senior Vice President of Service Operations

3. Be present with your team

Being present, each and every day – and truly knowing the people I work and interact with – allows the building of real relationships. Some of us have seen each other go through weddings, divorce, first home purchases, raising children, illness, loss, graduations, personal achievements and everything in between.

Getting to know the people I am fortunate enough to work with and lead, at a more personal level, allows me to understand:

  • What makes them feel valued
  • Recognize when they aren’t quite themselves
  • Celebrate their successes
  • Know how to help them through challenges in a way that is meaningful to them as individuals

Veronica Medlin
Managing Director, Insperity 401(K) Plans

4. Practice self-care and encourage others to do the same

One thing I’ve learned since navigating the pandemic is the important of prioritizing self-care. This starts with my morning routine. Each day begins with some form of exercise. Stepping away, focusing my energy and mind elsewhere, creates the space for new ideas and solutions. It’s a great tool for problem solving. I also encourage my team to protect time on their schedules for self-care.

Amy Schisler
Managing Director, Midmarket Consulting & Development

5. Prioritize connections – both professionally and personally

I try to make time every day to connect with someone who is not expecting to hear from me – maybe a friend, coworker or even a family member. I simply let them know that I am thinking about them. It’s always nice to know when you cross someone’s mind.

Joanne Crossland
Managing Director, Service Operations

6. Start the day with intention

The one thing I make time to do every day is pray and read my Bible. There are many challenges that leaders face every day – those which we can see coming and those which we can’t. For me, it is extremely important to be anchored in my faith in order to face and address each challenge.

I ask for wisdom, insight and understanding – things that every leader needs. When I spend time in the morning to pray, I can go forward into the day with confidence that I am not alone but have everything I need to successfully accomplish what comes my way.

Corinn Price
Executive Director, Corporate Citizenship

7. Publicly embrace the company culture, mission and values

Doing so is a display of your trust and respect for the highest levels of leadership, and your personal belief in the company’s mission and values. A company’s culture and success depend on a united front!

Veronica Medlin
Managing Director, Insperity 401(K) Plans

8. Set boundaries for good work-life balance

In a hybrid or remote environment, we need to be intentional about work-life balance. For example, even though I’m up early, I make a point to NOT read emails outside of my intentionally set time parameters. Taking time to focus on my well-being helps me take better care of everyone around me. As a leader, it is especially important to model this for others.

Amy Schisler
Managing Director, Midmarket Consulting & Development

Summing it all up

One of the main takeaways is that great leaders take time every day to prioritize the relationships – whether that’s with their teams, their coworkers or their loved ones outside of work. The foundation of those relationships is what creates trust and allows leaders to show their teams daily that it’s okay to be vulnerable. This makes celebrating wins and giving recognition much more meaningful.

Want to learn more about how you can practice great leadership and build great leaders in your organization? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

Leadership and management
Don’t overlook your leaders: Why taking care of middle management matters Tue, 23 Aug 2022 14:30:00 +0000 When you think about “taking care of employees,” who first comes to mind? It’s likely the team members who take up the biggest percentage of your workforce, right?

A perception exists in workplaces that programs targeting wellness, engagement or retention are designed specifically for individual contributors.  But what about middle management? Your team leaders, supervisors and managers.

Middle managers tend to be viewed as “above” and set apart from the average employee. Middle managers are the unsung heroes of the workplace, the glue holding everything together – they guide their teams, work to achieve goals and targets set by executive leadership, report results upward and seemingly do it all freed from the same challenges as the people they lead.

Why caring for middle management matters

Despite titles, rank, or seniority, everyone feels the weight of everyday life equally. Middle managers experience the same problems, concerns and emotions as all other employees, especially when there are surprising and undesirable business changes or industry disruptions. They’re people, not machines.

So, what’s behind the idea that the wellness, engagement or retention of middle management is less of a concern? Why do they sometimes get overlooked by executive leadership?

  • Managers can naturally embody the characteristics of strong leaders, such as resiliency, composure and positivity. But, the outward image doesn’t necessarily align with the internal reality.
  • Middle managers themselves often don’t recognize when they have a challenge that calls for a conversation with someone further up the organizational ladder.
  • They may resist speaking up in fear of appearing incompetent or weak.
  • They feel like they have to leave all their personal baggage at the door when they come to work and just focus on work. Middle managers may tell themselves, “I can’t have a bad day.” But, in reality, we bring our whole selves to work. All the personal matters we deal with impact our work performance to some degree.

If middle managers adopt this mindset that prevents them from speaking up to request assistance or call attention to an issue, nothing will get done to help them and problems can escalate.

Extra burdens that middle management bears

The bottling up of emotions is a serious problem, because often middle management is subject to even greater levels of stress than the average employee.

In addition to the personal issues we all encounter, middle managers can carry different levels of responsibility in the workplace. For example, they may have to:

  • Complete the everyday obligations of leading people, whether it’s:
    • Keeping up with team members and maintaining a pulse on what’s going on with them professionally and personally
    • Disciplining employees
    • Resolving conflicts between employees
    • Preventing incidences of discrimination and harassment
  • Facilitate workarounds for budgetary and logistical constraints
  • Process challenges their company is facing, since they usually have greater visibility into the inner workings of the organization than the average employee
  • Take responsibility for their team’s results – or shortcomings – as the most visible person of their group
  • Handle the pressure to set a good example for their teams
  • Work longer hours, placing them at a high risk of burnout

A newfound focus on wellness for middle management

There’s never been a better time to reassess how your company thinks about and cares for middle management.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the high levels of stress, anxiety and burnout that were inflicted upon employees during this time, companies are now extremely attuned to the physical and mental wellbeing of their workforce. There’s a growing recognition among business leaders that wellness is important at every level of the organization and across functions to maintain high levels of productivity and quality performance.

Additionally, against the backdrop of the Great Resignation, business leaders are increasingly aware that effective employee engagement and retention initiatives translate into:

  • A stronger, more positive workplace culture
  • Prevention of knowledge and skills gaps, especially in critical roles such as management
  • Dollar savings associated with less turnover

Cultivating wellness, engagement and retention in middle management

You may notice that many of the following tips sound exactly how business leaders would approach the average employee. They are – and for good reason. Remember, middle managers are not different from any other employee when it comes to encountering challenges.

Instead, much of this discussion centers on overcoming the false perception that individual contributors are the only intended recipients of wellness programs, engagement initiatives or retention measures.

1. Clarify that your employee assistance program (EAP) is for everyone

Communicate with middle management about all the benefits of your EAP. Make it clear that it’s for their use as well. If they harbor concerns about perceptions of their direct reports, peers or superiors, remind them that it’s a confidential service.

2. Prioritize employee wellness – and make it part of your culture

If your company’s people aren’t well, then you can’t create a culture that is well.

Managers can get incredibly busy and feel pressured to be available to their teams all the time, but make sure that their commitment to your company doesn’t come at the cost of their mental or physical health. Communicate to your managers that the health and well-being of everyone at the company is a top company priority.

Along these lines, consider how your company can introduce more workplace flexibility as a means of promoting balance and health. Encourage managers to set healthy boundaries, such as not emailing their team members late at night.

It’s especially important that your managers participate in these activities. If you want to show the rest of your workforce that mental and physical health and work-life balance are company priorities, then this behavior must be modeled from the top down.

Executive leadership must buy in so that middle managers and employees alike don’t fear any penalties for engaging in pro-wellness practices.

3. Celebrate an open, safe workplace

One of the biggest concerns of middle managers is that they feel they don’t have anyone with whom they can discuss their issues without negative repercussions. To counteract this perception:

  • Encourage managers to have regular one-on-one meetings with their manager above them. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss challenges in an honest, straightforward way and feel heard.
  • Make middle managers aware of the resources they can access and the contacts they can reach out to if needed, other than their direct manager.
  • Encourage open conversations and transparency at all organizational levels. Managers should feel safe expressing ideas, opinions and concerns with both their peers and superiors.

4. Ask middle managers what they value

Just like any employee, middle managers are unique in what motivates and inspires them to put forth their best performance. It’s not always compensation based. Perhaps it’s:

  • Additional PTO
  • A special opportunity to stretch themselves and showcase their skills and abilities
  • Professional development in an area of particular interest to them

When you know what your middle managers want, you can better engage them.

5. Recognize middle managers for a job well done

Middle managers also enjoy accolades and recognition when they’ve earned it. Ask managers how they prefer to be recognized – it’s never a one-size-fits-all situation.

6. Develop skills that middle managers need in today’s workplace

Employees across the board regularly cite lack of development opportunities as a reason why they lost interest in their current role or left their company.

Just because someone has attained the ranks of middle management doesn’t mean that their need for learning, growth and development stops. It’s a continuum – managers still need to work on themselves and improve their knowledge and skills in a rapidly changing workplace. For example:

Ongoing and relevant training and development:

  • Helps make middle managers more effective
    • Empowers them and bestows more self-confidence in their abilities
    • Provides the support they need to better engage their own employees
    • Prepares managers for the next step in their careers

7. Create pathways upward

For many managers, middle management isn’t the final stop in their career trajectory. Perhaps they dream of being a director, vice president or president. They want to know what’s next and how to get there. For a middle manager to feel engaged and enthusiastic, they need to feel that the potential for upward mobility exists.

Once you understand a manager’s overall goals, work with them to put together a career development plan. Perhaps pair them with a mentor who occupies the role they want to fill next or who has a skill they need to acquire.

Summing it all up

We don’t always immediately think of middle management when it comes to matters of workforce wellness, engagement and retention, but the reality is that middle managers are no different than individual contributors. We’re all human and experience similar issues. Ensuring middle managers’ wellbeing and inspiring them to put forth their best performance calls for a similar approach to how a business leader would encourage any employee. We’ve outlined seven steps for how your company can improve in displaying care for middle management.

To learn more about supporting your company’s leaders, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

Leadership and management
What’s a people strategy, and why do you need one? Thu, 18 Aug 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Does your company have a people strategy? Which is another way of asking: Are you focused enough on your company’s most valuable asset: your people?

If not you’re not sure, you might be falling behind in your efforts to procure and retain employees during the Great Resignation. Furthermore, your organization may not be achieving the performance and results that you expect.

This is because your people have a huge impact on the ability of your business to:

  • Meet goals
  • Realize overall success
  • Boost your bottom line

What is a people strategy?

It’s your company’s strategy for how you’ll support the needs and professional growth of your team over the employee lifecycle and, ultimately, how you’ll leverage your people to grow your business, improve productivity and achieve specific business goals.

This includes how you plan to:

Think of people strategy as an umbrella that covers all the employee-related, big-picture things that prevent you from getting wet and even drowning. Examples of what a people strategy encompasses are:

Why do you need a people strategy?

The purpose of any business strategy is to lay out a plan of action for how your organization will get to where it needs to be.

For employers, a thoughtful and well-executed people strategy constitutes a roadmap for how you can best use your people to accomplish business goals. It sharpens your focus on:

  • Hiring the right people who embody the competencies your organization needs
  • Guiding employees’ efforts and activities in the right direction
  • Getting the right people in the right roles, at the right time
  • Obtaining the growth, development and performance that you need from your employees
  • Helping you identify your best performers and formulate their next steps

Your people strategy demonstrates your commitment to and investment in your people, which can increase their engagement and encourage them to stay.

It can also reduce your organization’s exposure to certain risks, such as:

  • Widespread employee dissatisfaction
  • Sudden increase in turnover
  • An unexpected talent gap
  • Failing to meet goals and falling behind

For individual employees, a people strategy also:

The more loyal your employees feel to your company, the less you have to deal with frequent turnover and its associated costs.

Getting started: The basics of people strategy

Here’s what you can do to get on track with a successful people strategy.

1. Gather information from leadership

Facilitate a meeting with executive leadership during which they’re challenged to describe their perceptions of the workplace culture and employees. Prompt them to think about high-level characteristics of employees as well as more detailed observations, such as how meetings go, how colleagues interact or even whether employees arrive on time for work. It’s important that everyone gains as comprehensive a picture as possible of the workforce.

You can also obtain people analytics from HR leadership to inform the conversation, including figures on turnover and retention.

These analysis-gathering meetings must take place within an environment that’s conducive to open conversation and participation without judgement. Leaders must feel that they can be vulnerable with each other and share their honest thoughts.

2. Solicit employee feedback

Once you know what managers think, now you must understand what employees think – and determine if there are any gaps in perception between leadership and employees. This will balance and complete your view of the employee experience.

Employee feedback can be obtained from surveys or focus groups. Ask employees the same questions you asked executive leadership for consistency and ease of comparison.

For tenured employees, you can also conduct stay interviews to find out why they have remained with the organization for so long.

When engaging with employees, practice transparency and let them know upfront that company leaders are interested in finding out information such as:

  • Employees’ perception of the workplace culture
  • What employees need to succeed
  • How they want to be developed
  • Which competencies are missing, in their view
  • What else the company can do to improve the employee experience

Emphasize that this is a win-win for both the organization and employees – the company values them, wants to invest in them and will give them more opportunities to develop and grow. The more you involve employees in the process, the more they’ll trust you and share valuable feedback.

Otherwise, people tend to get nervous about getting called in for interviews with HR representatives. In the absence of any other communication, employees may worry that something negative is happening within the organization and that their jobs may be at risk.

This is especially true following the COVID-19 pandemic. The emotional scars from this experience have contributed to a general unease and heightened sensitivity in the workplace. For this reason, how managers and employees work together has permanently changed – employees now have much higher expectations of manager communications than they did before.

3. Accumulate findings and come up with a people strategy to support business goals

After interviewing leadership and employees, trends should emerge. If there are any gaps between leadership and employees’ opinions, this will become apparent.

This is where you contemplate:

What are my overarching goals? Where does the business need to be in three to five years?

What do I need from my people to get there? What’s missing right now?

How can I fix these gaps in perceptions?

What are the next steps I need to take?

Present your findings to your leadership group, and work with them to create a plan.

4. Communicate any new plans or revisions to existing strategies

Once plans are solidified, the next question to ask is, now will leadership share any updates or changes with everyone?

Consider starting by sharing the information with middle managers, who can discuss any changes or additions with their departments and teams. Regardless of the exact route you take to distribute new information, your people strategy should be clearly communicated and defined, especially if there are new actions being implemented.

It’s possible that this exercise can unveil weaknesses in the management team. Although this can be uncomfortable for executive leadership to acknowledge, and it can cause stress within the workplace, they may need to pause and develop managers further in carrying out people strategy.

Summing it all up

A solid people strategy is instrumental to your company’s ability to attract, develop, train, engage and retain a talented workforce and get the right people in the right role at the right time – all of which impacts goal achievement and the overall success of your business. A people strategy is a great tool for both employers and employees, providing each group with focus and a concrete direction forward. It can also strengthen relationships between the two parties. To get started, engage in conversations with leadership and employees to get a full picture of the workforce, and then use these findings to formulate a strategy and plan next steps.

Interested in learning more about how a PEO can help you implement a people strategy, among other crucial HR functions? Download our free e-book: HR outsourcing: A step-by-step guide to HR professional employer organizations (PEOs).

Strategy and planning
Mental health in the workplace: 5 best practices and laws to know Tue, 16 Aug 2022 14:30:24 +0000 The stigma associated with mental health issues can be challenging to address in the workplace. Many people carry subconscious biases toward mental health issues that can lead to serious workplace problems such as discrimination and hurt an employee’s wellbeing.

Additionally, those suffering from mental health issues in the workplace might choose to keep their personal challenges to themselves out of fear of being labeled weak or incompetent to perform their job duties – which can stand in the way of them seeking help.

Here are five steps companies can take to effectively support employee mental health in the workplace.

1. Educate your workforce

Experiencing mental health issues – like anxiety, stress, grief, trauma, depression and burnout – in more common than you may realize.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults experience mental illness in a given year.

When you consider these numbers, chances are likely that someone in your workforce may be suffering from mental health issues. If that’s the case, it has the potential to not only affect the employee in question – but also a good portion of your workforce, team morale, productivity and other areas that impact overall business performance.

There are four subtle signs you can watch for to identify an employee struggling with emotional health in the workplace. They may:

  1. Be more likely to miss work (increased absenteeism)
  2. Lack efficiency and show poor decision making skills
  3. Have gaps in their productivity, resulting in poor job performance
  4. Experience strained interpersonal relationships with coworkers

By helping your employees understand the importance of mental health at work, and that common concerns can be quickly addressed, you can cultivate an accepting environment that reduces stigma and minimizes the potential for long-term problems.

2. Promote good mental health practices

Managers and employees who are educated on how mental health issues can affect the workplace will be better prepared to offer help, follow wise protocol and avoid developing stigmatizing prejudices.

Here are six proactive initiatives to address mental health in the workplace:

  • Offer lunch-and-learn programs on the facts about mental health.
  • Establish an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides counseling and mental health services and support. Make sure your employees know about it and how to use it.
  • Train managers on how to spot risk factors and signs of stress, fatigue, anxiety or depression.
  • Have an open-door policy for employees to share when they’re going through a difficult time at home or are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Work with managers on how to help their employees balance their stressors and embrace a healthy work-life balance.
  • Include information on how to address mental health in the workplace in your employee handbook.

3. Treat mental health hand-in-hand with other wellness initiatives

We’re all aware that we have choices when it comes to our physical health. To proactively protect ourselves, we’re consistently encouraged to get free flu shots, stop smoking, eat healthy – the list goes on and on. Mental health and wellness should be no different.

It’s important to be proactive for emotional wellness, too. By addressing mental health conditions in the workplace as you would any other wellness topic, you can help open the door to productive solutions. Talking openly about commonplace mental health concerns is an important part of a healthy work environment. Don’t sweep it under the rug.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Many types of mental health issues are brought on by challenging life events and are not permanent.
  • Employers who are knowledgeable and open with their employees about difficult issues create an atmosphere of trust (which ultimately leads to happier employees and greater productivity).
  • Businesses that encourage work-life balance and make employee wellbeing a priority not only reduce the risk of employee burnout, but also experience lower turnover rates with fewer sick days reported.

4. Focus on stress management, not stigmatization

Stress can manifest in many different ways, so it’s important not to jump to conclusions about someone’s mental health in the workplace. If you are concerned about an employee or peer’s emotional health, it’s best to start with an honest conversation without making assumptions or labeling the behavior.

It is important to be direct and upfront. Be specific and to the point.

For example, you might say, “I noticed you yelled at Mary during the meeting and left the room abruptly. Is there something going on that you can tell me about?”

A good starting point is to suggest they ask themselves these questions:

  • What is causing my stress?
  • Do I feel that it is temporary?
  • Do I need to ask for a change in my workload or schedule?
  • Where is this coming from?
  • Should I seek help?

If they indicate that they need additional help for work-related stress, be open to their suggestions about what they need. Be supportive and nonjudgmental. Let them know there are resources to help them, and put them in contact with your HR professional or EAP. Remember that mental health concerns are to be kept confidential.

5. Create a healthy workplace culture of trust

Your employees are your greatest asset, and they need to know they’re valued and supported. Nothing communicates this better than creating a balanced culture where people feel that they matter.

When you have a strong company culture, you’ll foster an atmosphere of grace and mutual trust within your business that reinforces the importance of mental health awareness and acceptance.

Employees who feel valued are more likely to have open, honest conversations and genuinely care about each other, their work and your business.

Here’s what you can do to nurture a supportive company culture:

  • Have an open door policy.
  • Let your employees know how their work contributes to the greater good of your business.
  • Recognize people for their unique accomplishments.
  • Don’t tolerate gossip, including name calling.
  • Be trustworthy.
  • Develop a mission statement that supports and values your employees as your number-one asset.
  • Communicate and reinforce your culture regularly.
  • Realize your words are powerful; they should be intentional and thoughtful.
  • Demonstrate your culture from the top – lead by example.

We all face difficult times in life and could encounter mental health concerns at any time. Being proactive and making sure your employees have the support they need at work can be a big part of their successful recovery.

If an employee requests to take paid time off to handle a mental health concern, make an effort to grant it. Taking earned leave doesn’t require a medical diagnosis or utilization of the days allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for serious health conditions.

But what if the employee is asking for time off due to a chronic or serious diagnosed bout of mental health complications? It’s wise to look at what kind of reasonable accommodations can be implemented to assist the employee to meet the essential function of their job.

Mental Health and the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination in the workplace due to disabilities or illness. It defines someone as having a disability if their impairment limits a major life activity or if there is a record of impairment.

  • A reasonable accommodation, including requests for time off, doesn’t have to be expensive for a company. Something as simple as restructuring the workday, moving start times, chunking up breaks or providing flexible work arrangements could be all that is needed. These smaller accommodations may lead to fewer requests for lengthy leaves.
  • Employers can also look at additional, optional ways to create a more peaceful and supportive work environment for workers with mental health disabilities. Referring them to the employee assistance program (EAP) and free or low-cost resources through the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) can make a big difference in workplace satisfaction and management of mental health symptoms.

What if a worker can’t regularly meet the requirements of their job, even when given reasonable accommodations and an allowable and reasonable amount of leave under the ADA?

Using Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for Mental Health

When the accommodation that a worker seeks includes time away from the office, the topic of FMLA may come into play. How can a manager or HR leader know what leave of absence qualifies for FMLA and what doesn’t?

While the topic of mental health policies is a complicated one that may require the advice of a legal or HR consultant, here are the quick FMLA facts:

  • One or two days away, from time to time, and requested in advance, may be a good use for unused flex time, sick leave or even banked vacations days (and handled in the same manner as common illnesses or injury).
  • If the absence is greater than three days and if certain criteria are met, qualified FMLA may be considered.
  • Not all companies have to offer FMLA leave. Those with fewer than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius aren’t bound by FMLA laws.
  • The employee must have worked 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months to qualify for leave.
  • The leave is usually unpaid, although certain states may cover time away with partial disability plans or additional private insurance compensation.
  • Leave may be taken intermittently, a few days at a time or all at once – totaling no more than 12 weeks off in a one-year time period.

An employee will typically be restored back to the same or an equivalent position when the employee returns from family and medical leave. An employee who does not return to work at the end of an authorized leave should create an opportunity for the employer and employee to engage in the interactive process to see if any reasonable accommodation could return the employee to work.

In the event an employee’s position with the company is affected by a decision or event not related to the employee’s leave of absence (e.g., job elimination due to a reduction in force), the employee will be affected to the same extent as if they were not on leave. Certain “key employees,” as defined under the FMLA, may not be eligible to be restored to the same or an equivalent position after leave if doing so would cause substantial and grievous economic injury to the operations of the assigned company.

Finally, if you find that your top-tiered talent is requesting more time away due to stressful work obligations, a formal sabbatical program may be a perk to consider offering.

The laws governing employment can be cumbersome and overwhelming. Don’t leave your business exposed to undue risk. Educate yourself on the basics by downloading our complimentary e-book: Employment Law: Are you putting your business at risk?

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6 ways to hire for cultural fit in the workplace Thu, 11 Aug 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Have you heard people throw around the term cultural fit? It’s understandable – having a positive workplace culture is very important for any business and takes time to cultivate. Naturally, employers want employees who will blend seamlessly into their organization and help to maintain the environment they’ve worked to build.

But what does cultural fit really mean? And how do you hire people who are a good cultural fit?

Cultural fit: perception versus actual meaning

Too often, hiring managers think of a good cultural fit as someone who is like me and others who work here. Perhaps they relate well to some aspect of a prospective hire’s personality (“I like this person’s sense of humor”) or they discover common ground (“we went to the same college” or “we’re from the same city”).

Or, maybe a prospective hire just feels like someone with whom the hiring manager would enjoy having a beer with at happy hour. It’s not uncommon to hear hiring managers say stuff like, “We’re a young group of people at this company and we like to go out and grab drinks after work, so we’re looking for a young go-getter.”

However, this type of mindset can:

  • Allow unconscious bias or familiarity bias to creep into hiring decisions – at the expense of hiring the most qualified, optimal individual
  • Lead hiring managers to overly focus on people who think or look like them, which then can touch on protected classes, such as age, race or gender – and if that sways a hiring decision, it’s discrimination
  • Result in a homogeneous, overly conformist workforce

Here’s the thing – you’re not hiring your next best friend. You’re hiring someone who is supposed to help propel the company further toward success.

Instead, cultural fit is actually about finding someone who meets both of these criteria:

  • Aligns with your organization’s mission, vision, values and professional ethics, and has a similar outlook on the company’s trajectory
  • Adds something new to the organization that’s currently missing

Although cultural fit is a widely used term, it may be a bit misleading and outdated. Because what you’re really aiming for with any new hire is cultural impact. Ask yourself whether any new hire:

  • Has a different perspective
  • Approaches challenges differently
  • Has a new type of experience
  • Will likely result in improvements or enhancements within your organization

Importance of cultural fit

Cultural fit, or cultural impact, is critical because it leads to greater inclusion. It’s about bringing a lot of diverse personalities, backgrounds and thought processes together to generate new, out-of-the-box solutions.

This often results in:

  • Less groupthink
  • More innovation and creativity
  • Growth
  • Increased profitability

Additionally, workplaces that hire people who are good cultural fits are less likely to experience problems with employees who don’t align with their mission or values and can drag the organization down.

Maintaining a positive culture and ensuring that each employee is a good cultural fit are both especially important – and even more challenging – in today’s remote/hybrid, more dispersed workplaces.

How to hire for cultural fit in your workplace

1.      Know your true culture

To hire well and incorporate the right people who will enable optimal outcomes, you need to understand the work environment that defines who the “right people” are in the first place.

Your organizational culture permeates nearly every aspect of your business and each employee’s day to day experience. As a result, it has a big impact on:

  • How happy and committed your employees are
  • The quality of work they produce
  • How smoothly your company operates
  • How well you deliver on your promise to customers, partners and team members
  • Whether your company is innovative, growth oriented and profitable

You must have a clear understanding of the culture you have versus the culture to which you aspire – if there are any gaps.

Is your culture – the culmination of your mission, vision and values, as well as your policies and rules, procedures, expectations and social norms – lived out through every person in your organization each day? Or is it just exist on a poster on the wall?

You should also issue cultural surveys to employees annually to obtain feedback about what’s working well versus what should change. This is also a good, regular practice simply so you can maintain a pulse on how your team thinks and feels.

Any new hire should:

  • Align with your cultural aspirations
  • Embody what’s currently working well

2.      Embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)

Considering DE&I when hiring requires vetting candidates according to deficiencies that exist on your team.

Once again, it’s not about consideration of attributes that can run afoul of discrimination laws, such as gender, race or national origin. It’s about honestly assessing your organization’s strengths and weaknesses and then identifying candidates who have strengths you don’t have or who can fill in those cultural gaps between where you are and where you want to be.

Any new hire should broaden your workforce and represent a value add by introducing some new:

  • Skill
  • Area of expertise
  • Perspective
  • Collection of experiences

3.      Broadcast your culture

To attract the right people, you need to make it clear what and who you’re looking for.

Explain your workplace culture in well-written job descriptions, as well as your company website, social media and other recruiting materials. Share your organization’s:

  • Mission, vision, values – all the things that your organization stands for
  • Working style, including policies, procedures and team dynamics
  • What you envision the occupant of the job role bringing to the table and how this position impacts the organization

4.      Incorporate culture into job interviews

It’s a good idea to reiterate messaging around your workplace culture toward the beginning of job interviews. Make it clear to job candidates that cultural fit is a priority of yours.

Set and clarify expectations early, and lay the groundwork for asking questions that are intended to:

  • Uncover their personal values and ethics
  • Gauge their working and communication styles
  • Determine how they’d react when faced with a certain scenario (their thought processes and problem-solving capabilities)
  • Confirm how they view your organization
  • Find out what they consider to be most important about your mission, values and customer service

Ultimately, this will help you determine whether candidates are a good cultural fit.

With remote/hybrid roles or non-local candidates, here’s how you can go a step further to help identify good cultural fit:

  • Conduct video interviews so you can see the candidate’s reaction to questions along with their body language and non-verbal cues.
  • Ask pointed questions about their work ethic and experience in virtual work environments. Examples:
    • How do you stay connected with team members and leaders?
    • How do you see yourself growing in this role while virtual?
    • What have you done to enhance communication with team members and leaders?
    • Do you have any ideas for improving collaboration and team building, or even just creating fun opportunities to connect?

5.      Be objective when making big decisions

To avoid the temptation to advance candidates to the next stage of the recruiting process based on your personal preferences or gut feelings, put anti-bias safeguards in place.

  • Involve other people in the recruiting process, thereby creating a hiring committee or panel. These individuals can come from across the organization, and may include human resources (HR), the hiring manager, a DE&I professional and a subject matter expert from the relevant functional area. Together, these individuals can discuss the cultural fitness of each candidate, among their other attributes, and make more balanced, thoughtful decisions.
  • Use a number or rank-based system to grade candidates based on their answers to interview questions. Be sure to ask each candidate the same questions for fairness and consistency.

6.      Immerse new hires into your culture

Once you’ve officially hired your next employee, the next step is to give them a thorough introduction to your culture. It’s not enough to tell them about it during the recruiting process – now, you must present them with more in-depth information, train them and prepare them to live out the culture each day.

After all, you don’t want to go through the trouble of carefully selecting a candidate based on cultural fit and then drop the ball once they get in the door.

Evaluate your employee orientation and onboarding processes to assess how you can improve initial education about your workplace culture.

Beyond this point, workplace culture must be reviewed regularly and refreshed as necessary. Periodically remind employees about the culture and let them know of any updates in a timely manner.

Summing it all up

Cultural fit – it’s one of those employee qualities that every company wants, but many don’t entirely understand or know exactly how to achieve to get desired outcomes. Here, we explained that the term cultural fit could be replaced with cultural impact, because that’s what you’re really going for: an employee who aligns with your organization’s values and goals, but who brings some new strengths to your team. Then we outlined six steps to take during the hiring process to identify new employees who meet this criteria. Remember: cultural fit has nothing to do with hiring employees who look or think like you, or with whom you personally share commonalities.

Employees who are good cultural fits will impact your organization in myriad positive ways. To learn more about cultivating a workforce that will help your company accomplish its performance and growth goals, download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

]]> 2 Hiring
10 organizational culture qualities every company should have today Tue, 09 Aug 2022 14:30:00 +0000 When it comes to driving the success of your business, organizational culture is – without exaggeration – everything.

It impacts the:

  • Engagement and satisfaction of your workforce
  • Cohesion and harmony among people
  • Behavior of your people
  • Leadership style in your organization, which has an effect on the relationships between managers and their direct reports
  • Willingness of your organization to embrace change and evolve
  • Innovation and creativity of your workplace

In turn, all of these things influence:

  • Whether your employees enjoy an environment in which they can thrive
  • The quality of work that your employees produce
  • How long employees stay with your company
  • The ability of your organization to operate smoothly with minimal disruptions
  • The competitiveness of your organization
  • Whether your organization grows, increases revenue and maintains profitability

The bottom line: Companies with a desirable culture attract and recruit top talent, better retain employees, experience fewer problems and are generally more successful.

On the other hand, companies with culture problems experience the opposite.

So, what exactly is organizational culture?

Your organizational culture is the culmination of your organization’s:

  • Core values and beliefs
  • Practices and procedures
  • Priorities
  • Expectations
  • Rules and policies
  • Programs and initiatives
  • Working and leadership styles
  • Employee attitudes
  • Social order

There’s hardly an aspect of your business or a part of each employee’s day that culture doesn’t permeate.

Culture is the “sum of all the things” – everything that makes your company what it is and helps you to deliver on your promise to customers, partners and team members.

Or you can think of it this way – your culture is your organization’s unique identity and personality. When people think of your organization, certain attributes may automatically come to mind.

What does organizational culture look like in action?

Organizational culture is something that you can actually observe in real time. In any workplace, watch for how:

  • Employees go about their day to day and get their work done – and if they seem happy in the process
  • Employees speak with customers
  • Colleagues interact with each other
  • Managers and employees interact
  • The company as well as individuals respond to any challenge, from a minor problem to a major crisis
  • The company expresses an openness to change and new ideas – even if it runs counter to long-held beliefs
  • People speak up and share their ideas or feedback willingly

You’ll witness a dynamic that’s either:

  • Uplifting, inspiring and functional
  • Toxic, demoralizing and dysfunctional
  • Somewhere in between

Furthermore, culture is dynamic. It must be embedded into new hires and practiced daily by employees – it’s not just written ideals that live in a handbook or on a poster. It must also be revisited regularly and refreshed as needed, in response to evolving internal and external conditions.

Many companies issue cultural surveys to their employees annually to obtain feedback about what’s working well versus what should change.

If not given appropriate attention, culture can certainly deteriorate.

Elevation of organizational culture in today’s workplace

To be clear, culture has always been important as it relates to recruiting, retention, profitability, business growth and success.

What’s different right now?

Human resources professionals and company leadership have now realized that organizational culture is the number one recruiting and retention measure their organization has.

Smart leaders understand that if they’re not evaluating how their existing and prospective workforces perceive their culture, they’re already behind their competitors and missing out on opportunities and talent.

When all other things are equal in terms of salary and benefits, culture is the big differentiator.

What spurred this realization?

For starters, generational differences in tenure. Millennials and Generation Z are quickly growing in numbers. Younger workers tend to stay at companies for shorter periods of time than older generations – sometimes just a few years. Among these age groups, job hopping is much more mainstream and accepted. As these workers rise in influence and take over from Boomers and Generation X, retention will be a key challenge for employers.

But it’s also true that the COVID-19 pandemic served as a reset, presenting employees of all ages, job types and industries with the opportunity to pause and reassess what’s most important to them. Following this experience, people tend to more strongly value:

  • Personal satisfaction and fulfillment
  • Genuine relationships
  • Authenticity
  • Less stress
  • Wellness (physical and emotional)
  • Work-life balance, and the ability to fit work within their personal obligations and interests

If a company has a culture that many people perceive to be negative, those employees are more willing to walk away and find another job than they may have been previously. In fact, the search for a better workplace culture is one driver behind post-pandemic turnover (aka, “The Great Resignation”).

As a result, companies are increasingly concerned with how to build an organizational culture that aligns with evolving employee expectations.

And as companies undergo significant changes brought on by the pandemic – namely, the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid work on a permanent basis – they’re compelled to figure out how to improve or maintain culture in an environment in which people are dispersed and less directly connected on a day-to-day basis. Leaders have to be much more intentional and proactive about fostering a culture that will appeal to their workforce and benefit their business.

10 essential qualities for outstanding organizational culture

Clearly, job candidates and employees want a desirable workplace culture. They often cite this as one of their biggest priorities when evaluating their current position or potential career opportunities.

But what makes a “desirable culture?” Here’s a list of what’s top of mind for most workers and what any company should strive for.

1. Sense of belonging

The old attitude at work was, “Check your personal feelings at the door.”

But, following the pandemic when people endured so much stress, panic, grief and burnout, mindsets have shifted.

Today, it’s all about supporting employees. Leaders recognize that, for employees to thrive, they must be able to bring their whole selves to work. Employees should also feel comfortable and safe raising concerns and discussing personal challenges.

After all, we’re all human and have distractions and stressors that we carry with us whether or not we’re open about it. Why not allow more authenticity and, as a result, be able to help each other overcome challenges or find a way to accommodate an employee who is struggling with a personal issue? This fosters greater loyalty from employees and helps to mitigate stress.

2. Focus on wellbeing

Employees need to know that their employers care about them as people – beyond the value they bring to the business.

Post-pandemic, employees have made it clear that their physical and mental health are paramount and deserve ongoing attention – and their employers’ values on this topic should align with theirs.

Employees desire more workplace flexibility to preserve their wellbeing and enjoy a more balanced lifestyle. They need to be able to tend to whatever is happening at home alongside work, whether that’s caring for young children or aging parents. Organizational culture must adapt to allow for more flexibility and accommodations while preventing employee burnout.

Employees also expect workplaces to offer resources and support in maintaining their well-being. This support could take the form of an employee wellness program, an employee assistance program or even just an environment in which people ask about each other and feel comfortable seeking assistance.

Furthermore, sociopolitical issues and current events can also impact employees adversely. Leaders must be sensitive to what’s happening in the larger community and how it can affect employees’ mindset and productivity. How can leaders invite conversations about these issues? How can the impact from these events be addressed and resolved in the workplace?

3. Inclusivity

Inclusivity is about having a culture for ALL. Everyone – regardless of their individual differences – should feel welcome, accepted and valued for who they are and the contributions they offer.

It’s important to create a discrimination- and harassment-free environment in which everyone feels comfortable speaking up to share ideas or feedback, participating fully in meetings or taking calculated professional risks necessary to achieve career growth.

4. Connectedness

Going hand in hand with inclusivity, connectedness is about inspiring teamwork. Employees should feel that they are on a team, with everyone working toward shared goals and in pursuit of a larger purpose.

The big challenge for employers in remote and hybrid work environments is forging connections and camaraderie when people are physically apart – sometimes scattered across distant locations and even across time zones.

From reimagining the onboarding process and investing in collaborative technology, to prioritizing team building, encouraging mentorships, and launching affinity groups or employee resource groups, companies must consider how they can embed connectivity and prevention of workplace isolation into their culture.

5. Transparency

Secrets, gossip and exclusion are the drivers of a toxic workplace.

A transparent culture values honesty and open, timely communication with employees about matters relevant to them. Your workplace should prize transparency because it fosters trust and integrity throughout the workplace, and bolsters feelings of respect, inclusion and connectedness within employees.

Additionally, transparency can level the playing field and help everyone to feel equal.

6. Respect for others

The foundation for any healthy culture is treating others with respect. Nothing will hurt morale and retention faster than an environment in which people feel constantly belittled. Respect in action can be big or small and look like:

  • Listening and championing the ideas of others
  • Using everyone’s time wisely
  • Addressing any issues with those involved and not anyone else
  • Building a strong people strategy that focuses on employee happiness

7. Trust

Employees need to feel safe with each other in sharing ideas and exploring new ways of working and accomplishing tasks – and know that others are there to support them. In a healthy culture, people can rely on each other without fear of reprisal or ridicule.

Trust is also an essential component in managers granting employees the greater autonomy they crave. The delegation of certain responsibilities from leaders to their employees should be encouraged to boost their confidence and allow them to gain the experience necessary to grow in their careers.

8. Dedication to growth and development

Companies can’t allow themselves to become stale or mired in groupthink. Instead, it’s important that everyone on the team share an enthusiasm for:

  • Expanding knowledge and skill sets
  • Keeping up with industry news and trends
  • Pushing each other to be their best and reach their full potential

A culture of continuous learning leads to more innovation, creativity, recognition of good business opportunities and, ultimately, more success.

9. Openness to change and evolution

Nothing stays the same forever. The conditions surrounding businesses are always in flux, whether it’s the passage of a new law, the introduction of a game-changing technology, or a market shift.

Furthermore, companies themselves change over time as they grow. What your company once was, your legacy, may not be what your company is about today. (However, as companies grow they need to have a plan for how they’ll maintain their culture.)

Companies can’t be so beholden to outdated practices or fearful of change that it holds them back, causes business to suffer or repels employees. Instead, companies that seek out and embrace new ideas are better poised to take advantage of lucrative opportunities.

They can also adapt more nimbly in response to unexpected changes that could otherwise threaten their business. As part of a culture that embraces change, employees should be imbued with a mindset of resilience to help them cope even when changes are undesirable at first.

10. Consistency

Everything, including culture, starts at the top of your organization. To get buy-in from your entire population of employees, the values and behaviors you want them to adopt must be modeled by leadership. Every day, your leadership needs to walk the walk and champion the culture you want everyone else to embody.

Otherwise, employees will get the impression that everything you say about culture is just lip service – and you’ll end up with a much different culture than what you expect.

Summing it all up

Organizational culture has always been important, because it touches nearly every aspect of a business. However, in our post-pandemic paradigm and with the increased prominence of younger generations of workers, it’s become the #1 most critical initiative for attracting top talent, retaining employees and positioning companies for success. Not only do you need to cultivate your own company culture with intention, but you need to carefully maintain it and review and refresh it as needed. Most of all, make sure that these 10 qualities outlined above are embedded into your culture.

To learn more about building an outstanding organizational culture that will attract and keep the best talent, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to company culture.

Strategy and planning
5 tips for handling different work styles among employees Thu, 04 Aug 2022 14:30:00 +0000 We’re all familiar with assessments that show your employees’ strengths and where they fall on a work style or behavior chart. Regardless of the model you’re using, know that people typically don’t have just one style. There are many different work styles out there.

And, whether you have tenured employees or new hires, also realize that people’s work styles can change over time. The work style of someone on your team before the pandemic could be completely different than how they prefer to work today, in our commonly adopted hybrid workplaces.

Managing your employees’ different work styles isn’t an easy task. But one thing’s for sure: There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all leadership.

Here are five tips for handling different work styles in the world of hybrid and remote work.

1. Meet them where they are

As a leader, your job is to adapt your style to get the most out of the people around you. What are your employees’ strengths, and how do you use those to get the best from them?

People tend to respond well to others whose work style reflects their own. For example:

  1. Work style: Go-getter John
    Value: He has the ability to see the full picture and make things happen quickly and on point.
    How to respond:  The key here would be to give John the latitude to get things done within a framework (no micromanaging for him!), while still working toward the business’s mission and vision.
  2. Work style: Fact-checker Jill
    Value: She will work meticulously to not just get work done, but to get work right.
    How to respond:  When you’re working with someone like Jill, who relies on facts to make decisions, you should provide information that supports why something needs to be done. And you should expect that Jill will do her own research to verify your information. She’s not questioning you or your research skills – she just needs to find her own proof before moving forward. She’s more about getting it right, than just getting it done.
  3. Work style: Social Mark
    Value: He is a team player who enjoys collaboration and thrives on bigger group projects.
    How to respond: You can expect to spend 10 to 15 minutes talking about family, football and his biking group before getting down to business. Meeting Mark on his social plane will help build trust and camaraderie with him.

2. Put the right person in the right job

It’s your job as a leader to understand what motivates your people. Putting them in the right position and giving them an environment where they can succeed is crucial to their success – and yours.

When you’re hiring, part of the interview process should include determining whether your job candidate has the work style to fit the job. Just because someone has the skills doesn’t mean they’re the right hire. An analytical person may have skills and experience as a salesperson, but it may not be their passion. Finding the right person goes beyond finding someone whose credentials match your job description.

If you have a “steady Eddie” on your team who’s a bit reserved and doesn’t like conflict, then try not to put him in situations that make him uncomfortable. If you have to put him in an uncomfortable situation, make it a safe environment where there’s no threat of repercussions. Give him projects where he works independently or one-on-one, and where there are defined processes and objectives.

Now, if you have someone like John, the dynamo, on your team – don’t put him on a project working alone in the back room. He’s not going to be productive or happy. Note, though, that giving him room to run doesn’t mean a license to run amok. Results-oriented people like John sometimes don’t realize the collateral damage they might leave in their wake.

3. Set a clear vision for the team

Managing challenging behaviors – such as steamrolling or overanalyzing – takes planning and communication on your part. It’s important to play to your people’s strengths and direct their energy toward common goals.

The tone of your workplace has a lot to do with setting expectations – and that’s what your team looks for you to do.

When beginning a project, gather the right team members together to talk about objectives and goals. How does the project support the company’s values and vision? How does each person’s role support the goals? Everyone should be on the same page, working toward the same outcome.

How the team arrives at the final goal may look different to each person because of their individual work style. So, it’s up to you to focus their strengths, make sure they understand their roles, give feedback along the way, and give them the support or independence they need to do great things.

A lot of times, the team dynamic gets mired in different work styles or personality misunderstandings. If that’s the case, get everyone in a room and hash things out. If you’ve hired well and you have a good team, it probably won’t take too long for everyone to remember they’re working toward the same goal and it’s only a matter of understanding others’ perspectives.

4. It’s not wrong, it’s just different

Some people wonder if it’s good to have a mix of work styles on the same team. Absolutely!

If you have different work styles on your team, it means work gets done, it gets done right, and you all might have some fun in the process.

For example, if you have all go-getters like John, a lot of stuff will get done, but details might get missed. Whereas, if you have all analytical types like Jill, the work will get done right, but it may take longer than anticipated. And a roomful of social Marks will be a lot of fun, but it may turn into a lot of talking, and not much getting done.

You don’t want to surround yourself with employees whose style is just like yours. Welcome other perspectives and styles – it’ll likely improve your quality of work.

The key throughout all of it is that you, as the leader, must focus your energy into uncovering people’s strengths and putting them in the right situations. This is especially important if you have a remote team, where people’s work styles can be especially unique based on work environments as well.

5. Start understanding your employees’ different work styles

Certainly offering a behavior assessment such as DiSC, Myers-Briggs or StrengthsFinder is a great place to start in figuring out what motivates your team.

As beneficial as work style assessments are, remember that it’s not about putting people into buckets. It’s about finding out what motivates them and where their passions lie and using their strengths to build a better workforce.

Keep in mind:

  • You don’t have to guess what your people need to succeed. Ask them.
  • Let them know you’re there to support them.
  • You hired them to do a job – give them the tools and the support they need to do it. You might open the dialogue like this: “What can I do to help you do your job most effectively?”
  • Don’t forget to listen. If it will make them more successful – and therefore you and your company more successful – give it consideration.

You may not be able to provide everything they desire, but knowing what they need and assuring them you’re trying to help them succeed can lead to higher employee satisfaction and engagement.

For more information about how to be a better leader and help your employees succeed, check out our e-book, How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

]]> 0 Leadership and management
9 effective ways to improve employee productivity in a hybrid world Tue, 02 Aug 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Employee productivity can feel transactional when the focus is put on the amount of work an individual is producing in a pre-determined amount of time. Is that the right focus, though?

Having a productive team is less about finding areas to cut time and work faster and more about the different factors that play into where good productivity comes from – like employee engagement, company culture and overall employee happiness in their role.

What we know now, in our post-pandemic paradigm, is that employee productivity is a critical human resources initiative deserving of company time and resources. After all, it’s directly linked to higher retention and better employee performance.

It’s entirely possible to have a bunch of happy, engaged employees who love their jobs but aren’t terribly productive or hard-working. It’s also possible to be surrounded by productive employees who aren’t engaged at all. So, how can you ensure your engaged workforce is also as productive as possible?

Here are some of those basics, which should help you lay the foundation for improving employee productivity in a hybrid landscape.

1. Give employees an environment in which they can each personally thrive

During the COVID-19 pandemic, working professionals got the chance to try a different way of working – one that largely proved to be successful. Now more than ever, people are free to work how it best suits them as individuals. This is the number one most crucial workplace shift that leaders can embrace to boost morale and productivity.

Remote work enabled employees to have more time back in their day and achieve a better work-life balance, while eliminating commutes, alleviating stress and avoiding personal costs associated with going in to the office. Many workers strongly prefer this lifestyle and claim that it’s made them more productive.

An individual’s productivity can thrive in a hybrid arrangement. Their work may also incorporate other forms of workplace flexibility, such as more autonomy over their day, a flex schedule or a shortened work week, for example.

Throughout the pandemic, what employers have learned is that what brings people joy and fosters engagement and productivity isn’t always the work itself. Often, it’s also about an environment that enables employees to:

  • Work when they feel most productive
  • Work under conditions that encourage more creativity and innovation
  • Balance productive “alone time” with team collaboration time
  • Be more involved with their family life
  • Have time to pursue hobbies on the side or attend to personal matters
  • Take advantage of more opportunities to recharge

2. Establish values

Your company’s core values help you:

  • Define how and why you’re in business
  • Explain to the public and your employees what they can expect from your company
  • Decide who you’ll hire
  • Identify who your clients are

As it relates to employee productivity, your company’s values should be:

  • Clear
  • Easy for employees to translate into actions
  • A guidepost for the manner in which work gets done

Your values should determine what constitutes good performance and should help you set clear and effective measures of productivity.

3. Communicate clear goals and instructions

Employees who understand their jobs and the associated requirements and expectations will do their jobs better – and, as a result, be more productive.

To aid in good communication and therefore higher productivity, your workplace must have:

  • Well-written job descriptions that clarify the responsibilities of each position and help managers and employees establish clear, relevant performance standards and goals.
  • Regular interaction between direct managers and employees. That’s because, ideally, managers:
    • Explain to employees how their individual activities support the overall organization
    • Help resolve roadblocks
    • Coach employees through challenges
    • Redirect employees if they get off track

If a manager’s expectations aren’t clear, employees may become confused, bored or resentful, and more focused on their own survival than how they can help the business succeed. It’s especially important to maintain clear and consistent channels of communication when working in a remote or hybrid workplace.

4. Make deadlines realistic

Before giving your employees a deadline to meet goals or complete projects, first determine:

  • What is the desired outcome?
  • How do you gauge success?
  • What steps are required to meet the goal?
  • How much time will it reasonably take to complete the goal?
  • What other projects is the employee or team handling, and is their overall workload feasible?
  • What milestones will you use to measure progress?

In other words, any goal that you give an employee should be a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely).

Clarity from you is vital to the success of any project.

On the other hand, confusion or lack of firm direction causes frustration in employees, which generates unnecessary stress and can waste their time.

Some managers apply greater pressure on their team, because they believe that having big, aggressive goals spurs productivity. However, not allowing adequate time for employees to meet deadlines and juggle other professional and personal responsibilities, or prizing productivity over your employees’ well-being, can result in them feeling overworked and burned out. In this scenario, employees are more apt to disengage – the opposite outcome of what you intended.

5. Balance accountability and authority

Most managers want their employees to take ownership of their work. After all, people are more productive when they’re:

  • Given more autonomy over their work
  • Assume responsibility for the output
  • Held accountable by others for the outcome

In this scenario, employees have a vested interest in performing well and generating quality work.

But more responsibility must be accompanied by the authority to get the job done – otherwise you’re setting your people up for failure from the start. That means you, as a manager, must:

  • Provide adequate resources
  • Give employees the latitude to make decisions and execute their ideas
  • Make management and other stakeholders accessible to employees so they can obtain timely buy-in and approval
  • Remove any other roadblocks
  • Micromanage less, delegate more

Let’s elaborate on micromanagement, because it’s a big management mistake that kills morale and productivity.

Your job as a business leader is to empower your team and serve as the coach on the sidelines, available for questions and suggestions. It can be one of the hardest lessons for a manager to learn, but their job is really about setting clear expectations, providing training and direction, and then getting out of the way to let employees do their job.

Instead, a micromanager tries to get involved in every detail, imposes their preferences on others and hovers to ensure that employees get their work done. At its core, micromanagement is about a lack of trust. This stifles employees, causes them disengage and can hurt productivity. By the way, this is the exact opposite of giving each employee an environment in which can thrive and have the flexibility to work as they see fit.

An effective and empowering management style means you check to ensure milestones are met, but you don’t expect every detail of the project to be run through you. It takes finesse to know when to not over-communicate and over-manage, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded with employees who flourish.

6. Listen

Effective managerial communication is about more than talking, hosting meetings and sending emails.

Listening is the other vital and sometimes overlooked component to improving employee productivity. Good managers realize that maximizing the performance of team members is often rooted in open, two-way communication.

Employees are on the front line dealing with customers and handling day-to-day issues. If you’re not tapping into your employees’ knowledge, you’re missing out on good sources of information that can inform realistic productivity goals and keep you tuned in to what employees are feeling and experiencing on the job.

Making employees feel heard and valued is important for their morale. By simply listening to them and finding out what’s going on in their lives that could impede productivity, you can reduce their stress and help them focus more on work.

Additionally, you can empower employees and increase their productivity by:

  • Regularly asking employees for their input
  • Challenging them to come up with a solution to a problem
  • Letting them independently work through issues they encounter

7. Celebrate success

It’s human nature to want to know whether you’re doing a good job and making meaningful contributions. When you know you’re doing well and others notice, you continue that behavior.

Employees want and deserve recognition when they contribute to the success of your company, so look for ways to acknowledge and celebrate individual, team and company milestones. Recognition can be an equally powerful motivator alongside bonuses and special perks.

What are some of the ways you could recognize employees?

  • Monetary rewards are certainly desired and the most popular option.
  • Greater workplace flexibility or extra time off.
  • Often, a simple, genuine “thank you” can go a long way toward boosting employee morale and making employees feel as though they’re a valued member of a team.

What we appreciate and find motivating is personal to us. As a manager, you have to get to know each person on your team and understand what they find meaningful.

Never forget: Lack of recognition may drive your best talent to look for jobs at which they’ll get the appreciation they feel they deserve.

8. Train, retrain and promote

The status quo doesn’t last forever. Keeping one’s knowledge and skills current and maintaining pace with industry trends helps employees to work smarter and more efficiently. If you provide them with resources and training to help them do their jobs better, productivity will follow.

Furthermore, having internal mobility and a career path within an organization, in alignment with personal career goals, is a strong motivator for employees. They need to feel that opportunities exist to further their potential and achieve their dreams.

To keep employees productive, don’t focus so heavily on the here and now of your company’s needs that you overlook training and development. If you invest in employee skills, you’ll foster loyalty to your company and build your bench of future leaders.

Remember that what employees want in their career development may change throughout each stage of their professional lives. For example:

  • Fresh-out-of-college new hires may want the experience necessary to gain a promotion.
  • A mid-career employee may seek new challenges by making a lateral move into a different department.
  • A subject-matter expert may want to take classes on emerging technology rather than be trained to manage people.

Not everyone is hard-charging and fighting for promotion to be productive and a real asset to the company.

Create employee development plans that describe how your employees will acquire needed skills, whether that’s through formal or on-the-job training, development courses, coaching or mentoring. To keep employees motivated and productive, you’ll need to follow up on that training with opportunities to apply what they’ve learned.

9. Manage growth

Measures of productivity can change as your company grows.

When there are four, five or even 10 people in your company, communication is organic. Everyone wears multiple hats and people tend to work and collaborate as a team more frequently. Productivity goals may be more general.

But when a company grows, people tend to be hired for a specialized area of expertise. Individual expectations for performance may expand and become more targeted.

Employees can become more siloed and therefore communication can become more challenging. As a result, it can be difficult to spread messages throughout the company to maintain culture and keep everyone on the same page in explaining how they support the business and share values.

It this issue is left unattended, you could end up with a bunch of hard-working people who rarely speak to each other or never work in multidisciplinary teams. In such cases, you may have departments or individuals who meet or exceed all measures of productivity, but the company may be struggling to meet its goals.

To combat this scenario, you’ll have to be more intentional and frequent in your communications.

When your business was small, it may have been a foregone conclusion that “this is what we believe and this is how we do business.” As you grow, make sure that your core values and expectations are:

  • Strategically defined in your policies and employee handbook
  • Communicated during the hiring and onboarding processes
  • Practiced daily

Revisit and update old procedures and processes to ensure operations are as smooth and supportive of employee productivity as possible.

Summing it all up

To improve employee productivity and performance in today’s hybrid workplace, you’ll need to be in tune with individual employee preferences and foster a culture of trust and open, two-way communication. You’ll need to be guided by core values and clearly established, realistic and strategic goals. Offer employees ongoing training and development to keep them sharp and motivated. Develop a leadership style that embraces delegation, empowerment and personalized recognition of others. These ideas are encapsulated within the nine approaches outlined here.

Ready to learn more about how to increase your employees’ productivity and performance? Download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

]]> 0 Training and performance
8 creative employee growth and development ideas Thu, 28 Jul 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Employee development is an important part of creating a culture of continuous learning within your organization.

Unfortunately, many small and midsize businesses don’t have a big budget for the latest and greatest advances in employee development. Because of that, leaders often make the wrong assumption that any company-sponsored professional development is financially out of reach.

The good news is, even if your company lacks the deep pockets of a major corporation, you can still absolutely build up your employees’ knowledge and have them learn new skills.

In this article, you will learn:

  • Why career development training programs are important
  • What to do before you start employee training
  • Cost-effective employee development ideas
  • Why it’s important to invest in your people
  • Learning and development must-haves for today’s workforce

Why career development training programs are important

Ideally, learning and development should be a win-win. They can help your employees be more productive and streamline your processes, resulting in a better bottom line. Training also shows employees you value them enough to invest in their development, fostering a sense of validation that can translate into higher levels of satisfaction and retention.

Start with your new hires

Starting with new employees sets the standard on what you expect from your employees. That’s why new employee training is the first building block of developing a company culture of learners excited about their career growth. You’re able to train new hires on the history of the business and what it takes to be successful in their role. Typically, new employees should be in their training period 30 to 90 days. That’s a reasonable time to complete onboarding and for managers to learn what specific skills that employee needs to continue growing.

Before training

1. Evaluate each opportunity and choose wisely

To help you get past the sticker shock of direct and indirect costs associated with employee development, look at it as an investment in your business and your employees. Do your due diligence to get your money’s worth, maximize your return and ensure your employees (and your business) benefit from the experience.

2. Plan specific skills training

Beware of training for training’s sake. Do not blindly throw training at your employees, just so you can check off a box on their annual review. It should have quantifiable value.

What is your vision for your organization? Your key initiatives for this year?  What about individual employees’ career goals? When presented with a professional development opportunity, cast an analytical eye. Make sure the content and performance outcomes align with your organizational goals and your employees’ development plans.

3. Establish performance outcomes

How will what they learn help employees be more effective in their roles or help them accomplish their career goals? Guide them in establishing specific, clear outcomes for the training and encourage them to write them down. It doesn’t matter if they’re formally documented or jotted in a notebook. Studies show that the simple act of writing out goals and objectives increases the likelihood they will be achieved.

With that said, here are some employee development ideas that will help your team learn and grow without breaking the bank.

8 cost-effective employee development ideas

1. Take advantage of industry offerings

Tap into membership with organizations in your field or industry to access resources that can keep you and your employees knowledgeable on relevant topics. Professional organizations offer a wealth of educational programs and content, such as webinars, blog posts and white papers, for nearly every industry and discipline. And much of it’s free and easily accessible. At most, you may have to pay a nominal fee for an annual subscription or membership, but you’ll have access to relevant content anywhere and at any time.

2. Organize a book club or employee forum

Employees can select a book, article or topic and meet regularly – in person or via videoconference – for discussion.

This is a fun way for employees to share the latest ideas and trends in their industry or in their individual roles, or learn more about critical talents and skills – all while getting to know other members of their team better. (This way, it’s a great development and team-building activity combined.)

It doesn’t have to be boring or dry (think Management 101). Pick topics that are interesting, exciting and relevant – something that employees can use today and tomorrow. For example, emotional intelligence is a hot topic across many industries and roles.

This type of development activity has many benefits:

  • It encourages employees from the same teams or even different teams to come together. This enables employees to potentially learn about other roles within the company and achieve a kind of organic cross-training.
  • Employees can learn from each other and find value in other perspectives and experiences.
  • It helps employees sharpen their skills in formulating and articulating opinions and teaching others.

Note: Especially in virtual environments, you’ll need a skilled facilitator to make this interaction a success. Some people may be more reserved in videoconferences or online than they ordinarily would be if they were in the same room as others. As a result, conversation may not flow as naturally without a leader to help guide the discussion.

3. Establish a mentoring program

Set up a mentoring program to pair employees who are knowledgeable in a subject or skill with others who need to improve. For example:

  • Tenured employees can share their wisdom with less-experienced employees who may be taking on more complex projects or training for a management role.
  • Newer employees can share their unique ideas or skills from previous job experiences with more seasoned colleagues (often called reverse mentoring).

Successful mentorships can go up or down the organizational ladder. After all, different generations have much to teach each other.

At the start of any mentor relationship, both parties should set clear expectations and understand all their responsibilities to the other party. Especially in virtual environments, it’s critical to schedule regular, face-to-face meetings to connect.

4. Leverage internal talent

Some of the best trainers are already available to you at no extra cost: your current workforce. You likely have untapped subject matter experts (SMEs) on staff with an interest in teaching skills and sharing knowledge with larger groups of their colleagues.

In addition to leveraging your employees’ core job responsibilities and skills, do a little sleuthing and find out more about your employees’ interests, hobbies and lesser-known areas of expertise. You might uncover employees with valuable skills they can teach to others.

Be forward-thinking and try to recruit employees who are qualified and have an interest in contributing to your company’s training and development efforts. This ensures ongoing and future growth within the company while giving employees the opportunity to build sought-after leadership skills.

5. Invite an expert from your network

Reach out to your network of business associates and clients to find experts who are willing to speak to your employees about a topic, either virtually or in person. It’s a win-win – it flatters your professional contacts, and your employees will learn something new. Your contact may also return the favor by asking you or someone from your company to present to their employees or peers, which could eventually lead to new business for both of you or, at least, positive word of mouth about your company.

6. Launch a lunch-and-learn

If you feed them, they will come, right?

Consider turning an internal SME’s or external expert’s presentation into a lunch-and-learn. Your employees enjoy lunch (they can bring their own, or you can cater it) while they listen, engage and learn. Many companies have had success in deploying over-lunch educational programming in both remote and in-person work environments. In fact, as companies bring employees back onsite in the post-pandemic era, lunch-and-learns are among the most popular development opportunities in wide use.

They’re popular with employees, too, because they’re usually narrow in focus, short in duration and make smart, efficient use of their time.

7. Embrace social media

Formal learning structures have given way to short, bite-sized learning opportunities available on demand, 24/7 – free of any logistical barriers to personal development. That’s why social media is such a popular delivery method for development content. Examples:

  • On YouTube, employees can watch a quick five-minute video of experts in their field.
  • TED Talks cover nearly every topic under the sun.
  • LinkedIn Learning offers thousands of online courses on a variety of business, creative and technical topics.
  • Podcasts, formerly reserved for entertainment, are increasingly downloaded for educational purposes.

8. Don’t ignore traditional resources

There’s still value in traditional approaches to education and development. For example, trade magazines and journals – most no longer printed, but all available online – are always reliable sources of industry news and trends.

Furthermore, some employees may still want to access recorded, self-paced presentations.

It’s a matter of knowing your employees and their wants.

Development musts for today’s workplace

The days of all-day seminars led by droning instructors who subject participants to “death by PowerPoint” are gone. The world of employee learning and development has changed permanently for a few reasons:

  • A growing dominance of Millennials and Generation Z employees in the workforce, who bring a more collaborative, interactive mindset and want information quickly and in short bursts. In general, they reject recorded, lengthy presentations.
  • With the rise in virtual and hybrid workplaces, and the lingering reluctance of people to gather in person in large numbers, formal conferences and seminars are less popular than they were before the pandemic.

Companies simply can’t use traditional employee development ideas and approaches anymore and expect a desirable return on investment.

Today, the most successful employee development initiatives align with these characteristics:

  • Applicable to both on-site and remote work environments
  • Available in different delivery methods, and always easy to access
  • Employee-centric (considering employees’ needs, preferences, learning styles and desired scheduling)
  • Very focused in topic
  • Immediately relevant
  • Short and easily digestible (20-30 minutes is considered long by today’s standards)
  • More interactive in nature (live, instructor-led and encouraging of conversation and questions)
  • Seamlessly integrated into the workday (in-the-moment, on-the-job learning)

Summing it all up

Investing in your employees’ development helps to:

  • Expand your staff’s knowledge and skill set and, as a result, improve their performance
  • Support employees’ career pathing
  • Maintain your company’s competitive edge
  • Enhance employee engagement and boost retention by making them feel valued and supported
  • Convey that your workplace is dynamic, receptive to new ideas and committed to forward progress – another boon to retention

What “works” for employee development has undergone significant changes in recent years. Today, it’s all about being brief, focused, employee-centric, agile and relevant. All the employee development ideas presented here align with these trends. Better yet, they’re low-cost or free and easily within the reach of resourceful business leaders.

For more information about how to invest in your employees and reap the benefits of a robust employee development program, download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

]]> 3 Training and performance
7 ways to encourage employees to take ownership of their work Tue, 26 Jul 2022 14:30:00 +0000 You’ve probably heard someone say, “One of my professional goals is taking ownership of a big project.” But as a business leader, have you said, “I really want my employees to desire taking ownership of their work”?

When you think if an ideal employee or team, qualities like good communication, problem-solving and dependability come to mind. But an essential component of a high-functioning team, and outstanding business performance, is individual employees taking ownership of their work.

And the benefits of employee ownership extend beyond strong business performance.

There’s a direct link between employees taking ownership of their work and businesses achieving the things that are most important to them: high employee engagement, morale and retention. Furthermore, employees taking ownership is an indicator of a desirable workplace culture and thriving manager-direct report relationships.

Clearly, employees taking ownership should be a priority at any organization.

So, what is taking ownership at work all about?

We’ve all heard phrases such as take the reins, hit the ground running or take the ball and run with it, right? That’s exactly what we’re talking about here.

When we refer to an employee taking ownership of their work, this means that they assume responsibility for completing or overseeing a task, project or initiative from start to finish, and are accountable for the results.

During the process of completing their work, these employees are motivated to put in their best effort, going above and beyond to enhance the quality of their work. They feel invested in the outcome – caring about organizational success in the same way that their manager or a business owner would. Concerned for their own personal success as well, they desire to make a positive, wide-ranging impact and carry influence within their sphere of expertise.

What does taking ownership at work look like?

Employees who take ownership may:

  • Volunteer first for opportunities and assignments when their manager offers
  • Are proactive in knowing which tasks must be done – acting independently and without requiring instruction
  • Anticipate potential problems and take steps to resolve issues before they escalate
  • Take risks in a calculated, thoughtful way that’s intended to advance creativity or innovation

On a day-to-day basis, employees who take ownership exhibit these characteristics:

  • Interest and satisfaction in the work they do
  • Eagerness to learn and do more
  • Fully participate in team or client meetings
  • Are willing to provide feedback and ideas
  • Practice autonomy and self-sufficiency
  • Confidence
  • Healthy ambition
  • Awareness that they are the masters of their own success

Taking ownership is the same thing as telling others in the workplace that you’re trustworthy, reliable, conscientious and diligent – even when authority figures aren’t looking.

Ultimately, taking ownership is the intersection of individual passion with initiative and accountability.

The alternative scenario has employees:

  • Doing the bare minimum to get by
  • Going through the motions each day on autopilot, without the motivation or inspiration to think of new ideas or uncover opportunities for improvement
  • Withdrawing – not sharing ideas or taking healthy risks – and letting the organization stagnate
  • Going to their manager and seeking help with every little thing

Why taking ownership matters

Taking ownership is important for employees, managers and the entire business.

For employees, taking ownership helps them to:

  • Build trust with their manager and other team members
  • Increase their self-confidence and sense of self-worth
  • Take pride in their work and experience ever-greater levels of autonomy
  • Keep learning, growing and developing
  • Assume additional responsibilities and become a candidate for promotions
  • Excel in their career

From a manager’s perspective, these employees:

  • Free managers to focus more on strategic goals and bigger-picture issues, instead of forcing them to get involved with every minor task and conflict employees may experience.
  • Strengthen relationships with their managers and reduce the need for difficult, tense conversations about performance.
  • Strengthen team morale and positively influence other employees to work harder and feel connected to broader team goals

For the organization as a whole, employees taking ownership positively impacts the bottom line through:

  • Happier, more fulfilled and committed employees
  • Low turnover and, therefore, better retention
  • High-quality work output
  • More idea sharing and innovation
  • Improved culture and team dynamics

7 ways leaders can encourage taking ownership at work

Of course you want your employees to take ownership. Employees who embrace these characteristics are every manager’s dream team member!

But, how do you get to this point?

As a manager, here are the actions you should take to encourage your employees to take ownership of their work and reap the benefits.

1. Exhibit ownership and passion yourself

Everything starts at the top of the organization. Your employees take their cues about what’s important and how to act from you – if you want your employees to embrace a certain behavior, you have to model it.

At the outset, explain to each employee that you value their taking ownership and encourage them to do it.

2. Get to know your people

It can be difficult to inspire people to do more when you don’t fully understand them and what makes them tick. So, learn about your team members as individuals.

  • Where do they see themselves next?
  • What’s their ultimate dream role?
  • What excites them most?
  • What motivates them every day?
  • What are their strengths?
  • What are their hidden talents and interests?
  • Do they have any fears or roadblocks that are holding them back?

Regular one-on-one meetings and team meetings are important for regularly checking in to discuss these topics and just find out how they’re doing in general – both professionally and personally.

So much of encouraging employees to take ownership comes down to building rapport and maintaining open communication.

3. Align workers’ job functions and projects with company goals, mission, vision and values

Most people don’t find it inspiring and empowering to feel like a “sheeple,” just blindly following orders with limited visibility. We all need to understand the why behind what we do.

That’s why employees must know:

  • The full extent of their job responsibilities, the parameters they work within and your expectations for their performance
  • Whether you permit them to step outside their “job description box” and think bigger (and you should)
  • How their role fits within the larger team and impacts or supports other positions
  • Why their job functions – from day-to-day tasks to major initiatives – matter and how they contribute to the company’s success in reaching goals
  • How their role upholds the company mission, vision and values

It’s up to leaders to communicate this bigger-picture vision and imbue team members with a sense of purpose and direction.

Furthermore, when employees understand the reasoning behind what they do and how they do it, they are more likely to feel confident stepping up, claiming ownership and making good decisions when called upon to do so.

4. Provide ongoing opportunities for learning and development

When employees first join your team, whether they’re brand-new hires or they’ve transitioned into a new role from another team or department, you need to give them a good foundation for their role through training.

Their initial training period is when employees:

  • Learn new processes, procedures and, potentially, technical skills and technology systems
  • Build relationships
  • Adapt to team dynamics and norms
  • Acclimate to the culture
  • Figure out how their role fits in

As their manager, you are responsible for getting employees to a place at which they feel knowledgeable, prepared and confident – and, as a result, will feel comfortable seizing ownership when the opportunity arises.

But to maintain employees’ passion and motivation to do more, establish a culture of continuous learning.

Help employees expand their knowledge, keep up with trends and understand that their initiative equates with advancement:

  • Work with employees to formulate their career path and set benchmarks about what they need to learn and do along the way to accomplish their ultimate goals. Also include them in your succession planning.
  • Connect employees with internal training resources, such as webinars, podcasts, articles or online courses, as well as vetted external development opportunities.
  • Allow them to shadow colleagues and other groups from whom they can learn a valuable skill and forge relationships across the company.
  • Pair employees with a mentor.

5. Ask for employees’ input – and listen to them

Want to know what your employees think about a business challenge? Want them to share their ideas for achieving a certain goal? Get in the habit of regularly asking them for their opinions.

This is a major part of building up employees’ self-confidence and autonomy. After all, everyone wants to feel like others trust them and value their opinion. Once that seed has been planted, employees will do it more often.

However, to maintain trust and a culture in which employees feel comfortable speaking up to share their ideas and opinions, you need to:

  • Listen thoughtfully and ask follow-up questions if you need clarification.
  • Carefully consider their input – avoid criticism or quick rejection.
  • Explain tactfully why you can’t implement a suggestion at this time, if you’re unable to do so.
  • Encourage them to keep sharing.

6. Show gratitude

Instilling a culture of gratitude in your workplace is so important.

Everyone likes to receive positive feedback and feel appreciated. It makes us feel good about ourselves and, as a result, increases confidence. It also creates an environment in which people are happier and more motivated.

When your employees exhibit desirable behavior, such as taking ownership of their work or accomplishing a positive outcome, don’t forget to thank them and tell them you noticed.

Also consider a formal recognition program or encouraging peers to recognize each other for a job well done.

As a result of earning the acknowledgement that most employees crave, they’ll keep up the good work.

7. Encourage autonomy. No micromanaging!

Hopefully, with the rise of remote and hybrid work, the days of managers hovering over their employees’ shoulders and breathing down their necks is a manager mistake of the past.

There’s no quicker way to diminish employee morale, initiative and confidence than making them feel constantly watched, judged and bossed around, forced to conform to someone else’s preferences.

Remember earlier when we said that employees take their behavioral cues from managers? If you make them feel small and childlike, they’ll feel stifled and resentful. If you make them feel boxed into a certain way of doing things, it reinforces the idea that they’re “beneath” you and can’t do anything without your say-so.

But if you empower them and build them up, they’ll take ownership. In fact, most employees want more autonomy in the workplace – not less. People want to feel smart, valued and trusted.

How can you banish the temptation to micromanage and learn to let go?

 Understand the proper role of a manager.

Managers should be available to answer questions, offer guidance and coach employees – not to spoon feed employees and hold their hand every step of the way. You do not need to get involved in every single task that an employee undertakes or manage every single conflict or challenge that employees face. Instead, encourage their independence.

Learn to delegate more often.

  • Determine which tasks require your involvement versus those you can hand off to others.
  • Strive to make your people feel capable and prepared.
  • Assure them that they have your full confidence, but you’re available to support them when needed.
  • Strike a balance between that support and giving them the freedom to inject their own discretion, creativity, problem-solving skills and decision-making authority into assignments.

Engage in open communication with employees and solicit their feedback on your performance.

Ask them how you can better serve them.

  • What do they need from you?
  • What, specifically, do they wish you would do more – or less?
  • How well are you walking the line between overzealous oversight and ensuring that everyone’s on track?

Summing it all up

Employees taking ownership of their work is critical for businesses in terms of a motivated, confident, and engaged workforce; trusting relationships; quality work output; and, ultimately, successful performance and goal achievement. If you implement the seven tips outlined here, you’ll have a positive work environment in which employees feel empowered to take ownership of their work and managers feel comfortable in stepping back and enabling more independence.

Encouraging autonomy is one piece of the puzzle. To learn more about creating a workplace in which employees want to stay for the long term, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee engagement.

Training and performance
Let’s unpack it: What’s an inclusive workplace? Thu, 21 Jul 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Diversity and inclusion are important topics for business leaders to be not only familiar with but actively incorporating into their organizational culture. In action, this can look like prioritizing the hiring and promotion of diverse groups of people within your company, which can make you a stronger organization.

So, where does inclusion come into the equation?

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is the sometimes-overlooked piece of an organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policy. But intentionally inclusive workplaces can bring together all kinds of talented individuals – those of different races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations – as well as those with various skill levels, life experiences, educational backgrounds, geographic locations and socio-economic statuses – to foster powerful collaboration.

When different voices are heard and valued, not  just present, business performance can reach new heights.

What is an inclusive workplace?

How well does your work environment accept, appreciate and acknowledge all job applicants and employees? Your answer illustrates how far along you are toward creating an inclusive workplace.

In the words of inclusion strategist and author Vernā Meyers, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Inclusive workplaces are those where all employees feel:

  • Truly welcome and safe
  • Heard, appreciated and respected
  • Free to be themselves in the workplace without punitive responses

While workplace diversity focuses on representation or the makeup of your employees, inclusion is the outcome of a company culture that makes all employees feel understood, valued and respected. It’s the result of an environment that’s safe, supportive and enjoyable for all. A culture of inclusion is what positions diversity to thrive in an organization.

Inclusivity challenges

If it were easy to build an inclusive workplace, it wouldn’t require much strategy to get there. In reality, most organizations must address barriers that get in the way of establishing and maintaining an inclusive environment – even when their leaders have already embraced the values of diversity and equity in the workplace.

The obstacles to inclusion sometimes include:

  • Unconscious biases – it takes time and effort for your leaders and wider workforce to build self-awareness and identify their blind spots.
  • Limiting expectations – everyone has their perspective on what makes a traditional professional work environment, and it doesn’t always allow people to be themselves.
  • Lack of diversity in leadership – despite the clear advantages of diversification, the percentage of underrepresented populations in executive roles – and especially C-suites – within companies remains low.
  • Lack of modeling – senior leaders have a lot of competing strategic priorities, which can sometime lead to a lack of modeling and communication around inclusion.
  • Lack of meaningful solutions – The exercise of obtaining employee feedback but not implementing impactful changes can lead to increased turnover and low employee morale

For these reasons, we must be committed to increasing our awareness of inclusion best practices and intentionally encouraging a more inclusive culture to grow in our organizations.

5 ways to create more inclusive work environments

Building an inclusive workplace culture results from prioritizing it as a goal and implementing purposeful strategies to get there. Here are five practical strategies you can use to move your organization in the right direction.

1. Coach your higher-ups

To reach your inclusivity goals, your senior leaders must be committed to inclusion, aligned in their views and inclusivity practices and able to consistently promote inclusive behavior with their words and actions.

It’s good practice to partner with a third-party DEI consultant who can help your leaders recognize their unique opportunities for improvement. Doing so can help you make progress more quickly and invest in the most effective trainings.

At the very least, you can educate your leaders with books and the many online DEI resources available on topics such as:

  • Using inclusive language in the workplace
  • Providing equitable development opportunities
  • Being vulnerable as a leader

With time, an initial willingness to invest time and effort into DEI education can lead to key aha moments that will cascade through your organization. And this effect gets accelerated when your leaders communicate openly about how and what they are learning and ask for their employees to let them know when they miss the mark.

2. Ask employees how you’re doing

To continue growing as an inclusive workplace, leaders should formally ask their employees how they are doing. To ensure you receive thoughtful, constructive feedback, it’s best practice to conduct an annual DEI survey that uses both closed and open-ended questions. This gives your workforce the opportunity to share their perception of how inclusivity shows up or does not show up in your organization along with some suggestions for improvement. Your first DEI survey will also establish a data-driven baseline from which you can continue assessing your progress year-over-year.

3. Act on opportunities for improvement

Your DEI survey results will most likely reveal areas for improvement and even point to needs that could lead to multi-year initiatives. Before you spend time developing, distributing and assessing a DEI survey, make sure you have the bandwidth to act once the responses come in. It can be demoralizing to employees who open up and share their thoughts if company leaders fail to act on issues that are uncovered, which is the opposite of how we want employees to feel in inclusive workplaces.

Depending on your unique responses, follow-up actions could include:

4. Provide safe spaces

Providing safe spaces for employees is an important component of leading an inclusive organization. Those safe spaces can be in the form of the one-on-one meetings with individual employees. They could be opportunities for employees to connect on a personal level, such as team lunches or other informal activities. Being intentional about creating safe spaces and what they look like helps bolster inclusivity.

5. Improve your meetings

Leaders have to be savvy to facilitate inclusive meetings among diverse groups of attendees. The goal should be to ensure engagement from each person who takes part in your meetings.

To achieve this, you may need to:

  • Be an ally and help elevate voices that sometimes get spoken over.
  • Call on those who may be less likely to share because of their cultural norms (after privately discussing your plans to do so beforehand).
  • Schedule meetings more mindfully to accommodate employees in various time zones.
  • Help everyone participate fully no matter their mode of collaboration (in-person or remote).

Summing it all up

As we strive to be more intentional about inclusivity in our organizations, we must realize that there’s not a cookie-cutter approach to improving DEI. The steps each company walks through won’t be the same and won’t be linear because improving DEI outcomes requires a customized plan of action.

Building a culture of inclusivity is only one great way to build your reputation as a top workplace. Get more ideas in this free issue of the Insperity Magazine: The Insperity guide to being a best place to work.

Strategy and planning
8 HR KPIs to measure in a post-pandemic workplace Tue, 19 Jul 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Many Human resources (HR) key performance indicators (KPIs) have proven useful to track and measure consistently year over year. However, the last few years – dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and social and cultural unrest – have changed the workplace in fundamental ways. This has pushed specific HR KPIs to the forefront in importance and significance.

HR KPIs are the workforce metrics that HR departments use to evaluate:

  • How HR influences and contributes to the company, and impacts the financial bottom line
  • How successful HR is at achieving HR strategy and overall organizational strategy
  • Which initiatives and processes to maintain
  • Where opportunities for improvement exist

The top HR KPIs that your HR department should prioritize right now – and why – include: 

1. Recruitment costs

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most employees worked in an office. For that reason, employers limited their recruiting activities to their local, immediate area.

Now, many employees work remotely, or at least on a hybrid schedule. Remote work has opened up the possibilities of recruiting top talent without regard for location – an exciting turn of events that has drastically broadened the pool of applicants. These workers may reside greater distances away – other cities, states, across the country and in different time zones.

In addition to recruitment costs, salary offsets for employees who live in areas with a lower cost of living could represent a savings on the balance sheet over time. For example, a hire in California may command a $100,000 salary, but a comparable hire in Tennessee may only cost $60,000. More geographical options for recruitment mean more opportunities to contain costs – though, companies will still need to assess local employment laws to capture the full cost picture of each new hire.

HR can track the location and cost of new hires to determine where and how to best focus recruitment efforts.

2. Employee productivity

When employees were based in an office, it was much easier to track productivity. All managers had to do was walk down the hall to check whether their employees were at their desks and engaged in their work.

Times have changed.

With employees working remotely and largely out of sight, it’s much harder to measure and improve productivity. Furthermore, the popularity of flexible schedules and a growing “work output and quality over hours clocked” mentality have really changed the fundamental definition of productivity.

Now, managers must be diligent about:

  • Working with employees to set SMART goals
  • Establishing clarity around baseline performance and production standards
  • Holding regular one-on-one meetings and touchpoints with team members to discuss how they’re doing

Productivity can be harder for HR to measure directly or in real-time, since typically this KPI is measured by direct supervisors, with that in turn rolling up to department heads. To keep best track of any organizational-wide issues with productivity, HR should have regular meetings with department heads to identify any concerns or bottlenecks. If productivity concerns are identified, HR can recommend solutions such as:

  • Coaching or counseling
  • Performance improvement plans
  • Additional training
  • Assigning mentor/mentee relationships
  • Reassignment or redefining job roles
  • Discipline or if necessary, termination

Finally, it’s important that managers and supervisors know how and when to reach out to HR with any individual employee performance concerns or themes, so that HR can provide appropriate guidance and solutions.

3. Employee engagement

Post-pandemic turnover – also known as the Great Resignation – has led HR departments to zero in on employee engagement, satisfaction and retention. More than ever, HR professionals want to know how to encourage employees to commit to their company for the long term and, as a result, avoid the significant costs of replacing an employee.

Employee engagement is all about whether:

  • Everyone on the team feels included and part of the company
  • Employees understand their role and how it integrates within and contributes to the larger team and organizational strategy
  • Employees know and align with the organization’s mission, vision, values and culture
  • Feelings of responsibility, motivation, accountability and ownership of work are high

However, with the rise of remote work, many workers report feeling more isolated and disconnected from their teams. For this reason, HR teams should definitely want to keep a pulse on employee attitudes within their companies.

Unfortunately, employee engagement can be difficult to measure. An option for HR professionals is to distribute employee surveys – specifically, a culture or climate survey. These surveys aim to uncover how employees perceive the workplace culture and how connected they feel to their workplace.

If you decide to distribute a survey, here are a few items to note:

  • Be mindful of the frequency of survey dissemination. Target once per year or, at maximum, every six months to avoid survey fatigue. People who receive too many surveys may simply start to ignore them and you’ll end up with an unsatisfactory response rate.
  • Be mindful of the timing of a survey. For example, don’t send out a culture survey immediately following a negative event, such as lay-offs. A rattled workforce won’t provide the most accurate or positive feedback.
  • Commit to reviewing the results carefully and taking action when feasible and appropriate.
    • Be prepared to acknowledge instances in which the company is falling short.
    • Identify short- and long-term actions to address employee feedback.
  • Assure employees that their voices were heard and put to good use. But, communicate to them upfront that not every piece of feedback can be implemented – the company has to be realistic and focus on what’s achievable.

4. Employee satisfaction

Employee satisfaction is all about how happy employees are with their experience working for a company. In the post-pandemic paradigm, examples are:

  • Is their individual role fulfilling?
  • Do they believe they are paid well?
  • Do they like the overall structure of the company?
  • Do they agree with the mission, vision and values, and enjoy the culture?
  • Do they believe that their benefits are valuable and useful to them and their families?
  • Do they feel that their working arrangements and schedules support a healthy work-life balance?
  • Do they feel supported, valued and trusted by their manager and peers?

High employee engagement and high employee satisfaction tend to go hand in hand.

For many employees, the last few years have been stressful. The lines between work and personal life have blurred. Burnout is prevalent. People are re-evaluating their priorities and many are eager to make a change. As a result, employee satisfaction is a major concern for HR professionals.

Much like engagement, HR can best measure employee satisfaction through surveys.

5. Employee retention

Employee retention is all about those workplace attributes that convince team members to stay for a long time. These are usually things that set a company apart, such as:

With greater numbers of employees on the move and more job openings available than active job seekers, HR professionals should be very interested in what makes their company attractive and competitive.

HR can monitor average tenure length in employee records and watch for changes in trends. However, to get the why behind retention, surveys and one-on-one interviews with tenured employees can be helpful.

6. Employee turnover

The flip side of retention is employee turnover – why employees choose to leave. What are organizations doing wrong to push valued employees away, and what actions can be taken to reverse turnover?

Losing employees can happen for a range of reasons, such as:

  • Lack of support from their manager or team
  • Not being challenged enough or granted sufficient autonomy
  • Burnout and the desire for change
  • Criticisms of the workplace culture
  • Workplace changes that may be viewed negatively by employees, such as returning 100% to the office
  • Perception of better opportunities elsewhere (more competitive pay and benefits, or greater opportunities for advancement)

In addition to exit interviews with employees and listening for common themes, HR can monitor the turnover rate in employee records and look for troublesome trends. For example:

  • Have a large group of employees left within a defined period of time, and can this activity be tied to any specific events?
  • Does a certain department or manager have higher-than-average turnover?

7. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)

In the last few years, these critical issues have been highlighted across the country and have become an increased area of focus for large and small businesses alike:

  • Inclusivity
  • Equal opportunity
  • Anti-discrimination and harassment
  • Avoidance of unconscious bias against those who are unlike us

The modern workforce expects their company to be more diverse – especially up-and-coming Gen Z. To be competitive and maintain a positive, forward-looking image, many companies are aligning with these expectations.

Furthermore, numerous studies have established that companies with diverse workforces are more innovative and profitable, and enjoy higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction.

Widely reported and easily available demographic metrics for HR departments to track are:

Additionally, HR professionals can evaluate their recruiting practices to couple hiring and DE&I strategies and enable a wider pool of job applicants to participate in the process.

Another consideration here is that financial organizations that provide funding to companies, such as startups and non-profits, are increasingly looking for evidence of diversity in the workplace across all roles, to commit to providing ongoing funding to those companies.

8. Training

Given the newfound physical distance between employees and companies, it’s extremely important for new employees – or existing employees moving into new roles – to receive a proper foundation for their work with training that covers:

  • All knowledge and skill requirements for the individual role
  • Company systems and technology
  • Workplace processes and procedures
  • Culture

This can be accomplished with a thoughtful, remote work-friendly onboarding program.

Additionally, companies may consider offering opportunities for job shadowing and mentoring.

To track the effectiveness and value of training, HR can survey employees – or interview them one on one – to find out whether gaps exist between their day-to-day experience at the company and the training they received.

Summing it all up

Following all the shifts in the workplace and cultural upheavals over the last few years, there are eight HR KPIs that stand out as most relevant and useful. Adoption of these KPIs and openness to making changes based on performance can help to control employee costs, enhance the workplace culture, prevent employee exodus, boost diversity and, ultimately, improve a company’s reputation.

Overwhelmed at the thought of tracking and analyzing all this data? A professional employer organization (PEO) can help companies hone in on their optimal HR KPIs, as well as monitor and evaluate these metrics. To learn more about how a PEO can reduce a company’s HR burden, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to HR outsourcing.

Strategy and planning
Why self-assessment is a critical exercise for business leaders Thu, 14 Jul 2022 14:30:00 +0000 As a business leader, you’re probably accustomed to conducting performance reviews with employees. This is because it’s so important for team members to receive constructive feedback from objective third parties. We simply do not see ourselves the way other people do.

But what about you – who’s reviewing your own performance?

Maybe someone is once a year as your regular performance review, but maybe no one is.

The higher up the organizational ladder that business leaders climb, there are fewer opportunities to obtain constructive feedback. In fact, it could be pretty easy to avoid feedback entirely if you didn’t want to hear it. This is because:

  • Leaders may not have a manager above them or peers who are available to provide feedback.
  • Employees are usually hesitant to be perceived as criticizing their manager and won’t say anything negative – even if invited to.

(Side note: Though, employees’ fear of being honest and open is feedback in and of itself – a warning sign that your culture may require some attention or that your leadership style has reduced trust.)

It can be easy to get stuck within a leadership bubble, somewhat isolated and cocooned from any criticism or feedback, certain that you’re only getting better because of your current position or continued upward trajectory.

So, what’s the answer? One helpful solution can be leadership self-assessments.

This activity may not always be fun and can definitely be challenging, but it’s an essential practice for leaders who strive for improvement and growth.

What is a leadership self-assessment?

A self-assessment or evaluation is a “warts and all” review of yourself that:

  • Takes an honest look at where you are right now
  • Assesses what you’re doing well and should continue doing
  • Reveals competencies in which you may struggle
  • Uncovers opportunities for improvement
  • Confirms what you should stop doing altogether
  • Evaluates progress toward professional goals

Why is this exercise so important for leaders in particular?

Benefits of a leadership self-assessment

For starters, leaders need feedback for the same reason their employees do – to understand how to perform better and be more effective in their role.

A self-assessment is critical for:

  • Enhancing self-awareness
    • Knowledge of your strengths to augment and capitalize on
    • Knowledge of your weaknesses to improve upon or eliminate
    • Insight into your tendencies, drivers, de-motivators and stressors
  • Proactively identifying and banishing undesirable behaviors and habits that can impair relationships with employees, therefore reducing turnover while increasing productivity and morale
  • Formulating a plan to reach your goals faster

In many ways, a self-assessment is like a personal SWOT analysis.

When you share your self-assessment practices with employees and explain to them how you’re trying to improve in certain areas, you can:

  • Instill and reinforce a culture of continuous learning and improvement
  • Inspire others to act similarly
  • Expose your vulnerability and humility to your team, which can have a positive impact on your culture and relationships with employees
  • Encourage honest, transparent communications

Furthermore, compared to an evaluation by an authority figure, a self-assessment can be incredibly motivating because it comes from within.

Frequency of self-assessment

Certainly, it’s recommended to make leadership self-assessment an ongoing endeavor – something you practice daily as part of an effective habit associated with strong leadership.

However, it’s also a great idea to formally schedule times to evaluate yourself in a more detailed and comprehensive manner. Human tendency is to put off exposing oneself to criticism, but having time blocked off on your work calendar can make it harder to avoid this activity.

You can perform an in-depth self-assessment quarterly or a few times per year. The main point is to set up a regular cadence. Plus, the feedback you receive from others, if any, is likely in the form of a performance review that’s conducted annually. Self-assessment gives you ample opportunity to focus on improvement throughout the year.

Also consider going off-site from your workplace – making this a “personal retreat” of sorts. This will enable you to better focus and fully dedicate the appropriate amount of time to this exercise, away from the distractions of your office or home.

What does a leadership self-assessment include?

Consider which competencies and skills are most relevant and critical to your role and type of work.

Examples of common areas of evaluation for leaders:

It’s easy to want to touch on everything; to prevent this exercise from becoming overwhelming, select your personal top five to seven competencies.

Self-assessment process

Once you’ve decided when you will complete the self-assessment and have identified the competencies on which you’ll judge yourself, you’re ready to get started.

You have a couple of options:

1. Create your own questionnaire and rate yourself

This option allows you to tailor your questionnaire perfectly to your company and leadership role. The questionnaire doesn’t have to be lengthy or complicated, but it does need to address all the core competencies you’ve identified as most important.

This can be done through a series of:

  • Questions
  • Agree/disagree statements
  • Opportunities to rank oneself on a scale

2. Use a third-party tool

If you really want to gain the most objective, bias-free picture of yourself and understand how others view you, this is a great choice. There are many different types of leadership assessment tools and general personality tests, such as Myers-Briggs or DISC, from which you can choose.

At the same time, you can supplement your leadership self-assessment by conducting a 360-degree assessment, during which you also solicit feedback from people at different levels of your organization who have a working relationship with you.

These individuals could be:

  • Colleagues or peers
  • More senior manager
  • Direct reports on your team
  • Vendors
  • Clients
  • Mentors

This fills out the snapshot of your current performance and can highlight any discrepancies in how you rate yourself compared to others for a certain skill.

What to watch out for

Take care to avoid – consciously or unconsciously – tainting the results of your leadership self-assessment. Although you know yourself better than anyone else, and that’s why a self-assessment is so valuable, the potential for error is always present.

Top mistakes that leaders make when engaging in a self-assessment are:

  • Allowing your own bias to creep in. For example, cherry picking competencies that you know you’re good at and rating yourself only for those.
  • Making excuses for yourself and not being 100% honest in your evaluation.
  • Being overly negative, which can diminish your confidence and motivation.
  • Not sharing the results of the evaluation with a select group of people to broaden your perspective and identify any blind spots.
  • Ignoring the results and continuing on with “business as usual.”

What to do after completing a leadership self-assessment?

A self-assessment is a pointless activity if you don’t leverage the information you uncover to your benefit,  take meaningful action in the near future and hold yourself accountable to making improvements.

Some options for a path forward include:

  • Share the results of your leadership self-assessment with a circle of trusted peers and ask them if they agree or disagree with your assessment – and why.
  • From your self-assessment, select the one or two competencies with the biggest gap between your current performance and your desired performance.  You can’t do everything at once, so focus on a couple at a time.
  • Procure a mentor who embodies one of these skills or competencies well and can give you advice and training. Or, you can ask a peer who has mastered the skill or competency to help you. This not only aids in your learning, but can also expand your professional network.
  • Take advantage of other training and development resources.
  • Let your employees know the skills you’re working on and ask for their honest feedback on your progress.
  • Set concrete goals for what you’d like to accomplish – with deadlines.
  • Create a means for measuring success.

Summing it all up

All employees benefit from objective, thoughtful performance reviews – and even the most senior of managers are no exception. But because they occupy a unique position in the organizational hierarchy that can disrupt the ability to obtain honest, timely feedback from others, leadership self-assessments are necessary for leaders to grow, develop, improve and achieve goals.

To learn more about the practices that align with strong leadership, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

Leadership and management
6 signs of overworked employees: Prevent burnout Tue, 12 Jul 2022 14:30:00 +0000 It’s natural to want your employees to be as productive as possible, and every company will have occasional times that are busier than others. But don’t make the common mistake of burning out your top talent. Since the pandemic, there has been a move towards employee mental health and wellbeing. Initiatives have been put in place that focus more on the employee to reduce job stress. 

To avoid employee burnout, you’ll want to balance your high expectations with solid strategies to prevent employees from becoming overwhelmed.

Overworked employees can affect every area of your business. Here’s how:

  • Productivity can plummet when employees aren’t able to get everything done.
  • Quality deteriorates when employees can’t take the time to do their jobs right.
  • Growth stalls when employees can’t break away to take new training or implement a process that could help the business.
  • Customer service may decline when employees are focused only on getting by and can’t concentrate on building and sustaining customer relationships.
  • Reputation suffers when a company is known for running its employees into the ground.
  • Morale takes a nosedive when employees lose passion. They may burn out and/or leave the company.

A survey conducted by Indeed showed 52% of respondents feel burned out, with a majority saying feelings of burn out have worsened post pandemic. It’s important to recognize the signs of burnout and overworked employees early on to prevent burnout and, hopefully, help improve employee engagement.

Pay attention to these six warning signs of overworked employees:

1. Poor work performance

Keep an eye out for employees who are not meeting deadlines, turning in projects late or incomplete, or doing the bare minimum to get by.

 2. Absenteeism

Note when team members are frequently late or missing work.

3. Heightened employee emotions

Have you observed employees having a shorter fuse when stressed; are often distracted, unhappy or disengaged?

4. Poor customer feedback  

Do customers communicate that they’ve noticed a change in service? Have you heard comments such as “Gosh, I try to schedule things with Shannon, but she’s scheduling four months out. She must be very busy.”

5. Working long hours  

Watch for employees putting in time after hours, on weekends and holidays, and not taking vacations.

6. Revealing statements

Beware of comments such as, “I practically live here,” or “I wish I could take a vacation, but I would have to work 40 hours extra just to take one,” or “I can’t remember the last book I read for fun.” Employees may say these things half-jokingly, but they’re really a distress signal.

Getting to the bottom of employee burnout

Employee burnout is the culmination of physical and emotional exhaustion, which can be further impacted by a lack of support and resources.

How do you know if your office suffers from employee burnout?

Employees may do these things:

  • Disengage or withdraw
  • Appear demoralized, worried or stressed
  • Perpetuate a negative workplace culture
  • Take frequent absences
  • Become sick often
  • Leave your company for another opportunity

How can you prevent these types of situations from happening?

Be proactive to prevent overworked employees

The ideal scenario would be to prevent overworking your employees in the first place. While this isn’t always possible, business leaders often know in advance when they may need an employee to work more – for example, when the company lands a new client or an indispensable employee leaves.

Be honest and transparent when it’s necessary for employees to put in extra time, then put together a plan to help them cope. If someone is leaving your organization, maybe you could shuffle the workload around or bring in temporary or part-time help.

Be sure to tell employees step by step what you plan to do to help them until a replacement is hired, and your timeline for making changes.

Set proper expectations

The quickest way to make an employee burned out and unhappy is to hold them to standards that they can’t achieve. Ultimately, happiness and job satisfaction are strongly correlated with productivity. You extract the highest-quality, most consistent work from people who are in a good place in terms of their physical wellbeing and mental health, and who feel that their needs are being met.

Below are tips for ensuring that your expectations are realistic and achievable:

  • Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for each type of role or each department at your company. These should be:
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Tied to business goals and strategy
  • Identify baseline performance and productivity standards.
  • Monitor and measure KPIs continually:
    • If 100% of your staff is able to meet their KPIs, they may not be challenged enough, and your expectations may be too low. Consider increasing KPIs.
    • If fewer than 50% of your people are achieving their KPIs, this could be an indicator that your expectations are unrealistic or there’s another underlying issue.

Re-examine your workplace culture

First examine your work environment and processes to determine if there’s a workplace burnout problem. Have there been any recent changes that could be the culprit? Is your employees’ workspace conducive to getting tasks done? For example, is your office design crushing productivity?

Consider all workplace-related root causes for a dip in productivity, including your own management style.

Then ask your people if something at work or in their personal life is impacting their performance, and plan for how to overcome these issues. You could conduct:

  • One-on-one interviews
  • Small focus groups
  • Larger team meetings

To better incorporate feedback from introverted or less talkative employees, consider a combination of meetings or focus groups with one-on-one interviews. If no other clear issues are uncovered, consider lowering your KPIs. Understand that productivity is dynamic – it will ebb and flow at times.

Provide proper training

You should give your employees everything they need to succeed and meet desired productivity levels, and that includes proper training for their roles.

Know that you can’t out-train a poor work process, though. If your processes are flawed, no amount of training will help. This is why you need to be sure that you’ve established solid, proven processes, procedures and measures – and then train according to those.

Be realistic about what the employee experience will be when someone starts a new role, whether they’re brand-new hires or transfers from another department. You can’t expect that on their first day someone will perform at the same levels as someone who’s been in the same position for five years.

Give people a ramp-up period – commonly 90 to 120 days – for learning and instruction. This allows them to build up confidence and get into a cadence with their new role without experiencing burnout. They also need time to adapt to a new team culture by getting to know the personalities and working styles of their new co-workers.

Use these best practices to avoid overwhelming your employees

Managing the workload of your workforce, and making sure it doesn’t stress out your employees, is an ongoing process. Here are some practices you may want to try:

  • Check in with employees regularly, in one-on-one meetings, to see how they’re doing with their workloads, and to provide help and guidance.
  • Conduct company surveys, exit interviews and even stay interviews to see if your company’s culture normalizes overworking. How do they feel about how much they work? What support do they need?
  • Enable employees to work at home or work flexible hours. Not commuting to the office can make a huge difference when people are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Cut out meetings that are ineffective and without clear goals.
  • Emphasize efficiency as a critical part of your company’s culture, train your staff on what efficiency means in your organization and help them eliminate inefficiencies.
  • Empower your employees to say no — whether it’s to an extra project or a client visit that could be handled just as easily with a phone call.
  • Provide lunch or snacks to employees who work overtime. (For employees entitled to overtime pay, be sure to capture, and pay for, all time worked, including lunches if worked. Follow all Fair Labor Standards Act regulations.)
  • Send out regular salary surveys to see how your organization stacks up. If you’re underpaying your employees, it’s going to lead to burnout faster, and they’re more likely to leave if overworked.
  • Make sure your staff uses their PTO/sick days and takes time off after busy seasons (such as tax season for accounting firms).
  • Encourage work-life balance. Incorporate more flexible scheduling if your business allows for it. You could also give people periodic wellness days – or even a few hours off here and there – so they can recharge or attend to personal matters.
  • Get away from the office periodically to give people a change of scenery and the opportunity to disconnect from office goings-on. For example, take your team out to lunch or have some meetings off-site.

The bottom line is this, with these strategies in hand, you’ll be well-equipped to help your employees manage their workload. As a result, they’ll be happier, healthier contributors to your organization, and you’ll hopefully avoid job burnout.

To learn how a PEO can help your organization build solid strategies to operate more efficiently and help prevent employee burnout, download our free e-book: HR outsourcing: A step-to-step guide to professional employer organizations (PEOs)

]]> 0 Strategy and planning
8 Trends in HR changing the future of work Thu, 07 Jul 2022 14:30:00 +0000 For all the speculation about what the future of work will be like, one could argue that “the future of work” is already here – it actually began in mid-March 2020 when workers around the world were sent home by their employers to slow the spread of COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, companies were toying with videoconferencing technology and allowing people to work remotely – but then things got serious. Suddenly, everyone was thrust into action as part of an impromptu, widespread experiment in real time.

For the last few years, we’ve all been grappling with rapidly unfolding changes. Now that the situation has stabilized, it’s a question of which changes will stick around for the long term.

We occupy an evolutionary state in which we’re investigating the choices before us and how to move forward:

  • What aspects of the pre-COVID workplace will we return to?
  • What new changes will we further revise going forward?
  • What aspects of the current workplace will we adopt permanently?
  • How will leaders need to adapt in the post-pandemic workplace?

Let’s discuss eight hot issues impacting the future of work.

1. Remote work and, ultimately, flexibility

The pandemic proved that employees can successfully work remotely, without negatively impacting productivity or quality of work.

During this time, employees got to experience a whole new day-to-day routine and, for many, they were able to enjoy not just a better work-life balance but a work-life integration. For the first time, they were, for example, able to walk their dog in the middle of the day, run time-sensitive errands or exercise during breaks. If they were parents or caregivers, they could engage more easily and frequently with children or relatives throughout the day.

For many employees, the new normal works well for them. They’ve become accustomed to it and they don’t want to give up their newfound freedom for a commute and long hours in a cubicle again.

Despite this, a sizeable portion of employers report wanting to return to the office full time, for various reasons. It appears that employers and employees could be headed for a stand-off.

Going forward, most organizations will likely settle on a hybrid work arrangement, as well as flexible work schedules or even shortened workweeks, as a compromise. In terms of remote work, the “cat is out of the bag” and there’s no going back to five days in the office for most companies.

Currently, employees have a lot of say over their work conditions – and they clearly want more agency in how, where and when they perform their work. Companies must recognize this and take action to incorporate more workplace flexibility – or risk losing top talent to competitors.

In this remote and hybrid work environment, workplace leaders will need to become adept at managing remote employees by:

Companies that insist on 100% on-site work will need to be prepared to:

  • Fully explain the business needs or the “why” to employees for a fully on-site schedule.
  • Consider taking steps to enhance their workplace, making the office more amenable to collaboration and creativity
  • Institute more rigorous health and safety standards
  • Focus on how to introduce flexibility for employees in other ways

2. Investing in time and attendance tracking

In remote, hybrid or flexible workplaces, work is no longer centralized at the same time and location This leads to some big questions for employers to consider.

  • Have workplaces been focusing on the wrong things all along? Where work-life integration exists, is it the deliverables and results that matter more, or hours spent in a chair? How does this impact time tracking?
  • Where there is fluidity between work and life, how can companies make time tracking fair and equitable to everyone?
  • How should employers measure productivity in general?
  • Which key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics need to change per role?
  • Are there other ways to leverage technology to help companies understand the value they’re getting from individual employees – without being intrusive or making employees feel micromanaged?

Now more than ever, with remote and dispersed workforces, companies need a time and attendance policy to address these issues. A time and attendance policy doesn’t have to conflict with solidifying norms around workplace flexibility. Rather, this type of policy exists simply to establish basic ground rules, set expectations around availability and accessibility, and ensure fairness for all employees.

3. Relying on independent contractor labor

As businesses face post-pandemic turnover and a tight, ultra-competitive labor market, hiring talented independent contractors to fill knowledge gaps and complete specific deliverables in a timely manner is growing in popularity.

Often, it can be a great idea.

  • Contractors can enable your business to scale up or down efficiently, according to your needs at the moment.
  • As people reassess their priorities, goals and interests post-pandemic, many workers are open to temporary and short-term work because of the lack of long-term commitment.
  • Contractors are usually highly skilled or knowledgeable in a specific area and don’t require lots of training to get up to speed.

However, there are some drawbacks.

  • Independent contractors, or any temp worker, can be difficult to retain.
  • They are more disconnected from your workplace culture and lack the sense of loyalty and long-term investment in your company’s success that a full-time worker would have.
  • There may be a large pool of willing contractors and temp workers right now, but those conditions can swiftly change.

4. Expanded employee benefits

Of course, the standard suite of benefits will always be important in attracting and retaining employees. This includes:

  • Retirement account (401(k))
  • Health insurance (along with dental and vision insurance)
  • Paid time off (PTO)
  • Life insurance
  • Disability insurance

But the pandemic shifted peoples’ priorities and exposed needs that were neglected previously by employers, such as the importance of mental health and support for working parents of young children.

As a result, other benefits that would’ve been less common a few years ago have skyrocketed in popularity with employees. Companies looking to step up their game in attracting and retaining top talent may want to consider these options, such as:

  • Investments in mental health and physical wellness through a workplace wellness program
  • Childcare assistance
  • Financial wellness programs
  • More PTO (with some companies even considering unlimited PTO)
  • Continued ability to work remotely, at least some of the time

There is a growing sense that employers should enable employees to bring their whole selves to work, free of distractions, and make them feel seen, supported and valued.

5. Improved training and development

One of the reasons that employees cite for leaving their companies in the midst of the Great Resignation is that they don’t feel invested in or developed. They feel stagnant and stuck in a rut, as though they’ve learned all they’re going to learn at their current company. Because most people crave growth, upward mobility and opportunities to improve, they’ll go elsewhere to obtain it.

In financially tough times, training and development are commonly among the first line items in a budget to get cut or scaled back.

However, companies should consider not moving training and development to the expendable list. Why?

Training and development are critical in:

  • Preventing turnover
  • Maintaining high employee morale and engagement
  • Remaining competitive in the marketplace by expanding employees’ knowledge and skills
  • Reskilling staff to manage worker shortages

In delivering effective training and development that’s suited for today’s workplace, companies must consider:

  • The skills that were exposed as lacking among some workers during the pandemic, and how those can be improved (for example: technology proficiency, time management, problem-solving abilities, good communication, empathy and EQ)
  • The delivery methods and duration of training for remote, dispersed workforces
  • The preferences of Millennials and Gen Z workers, who are growing in numbers and prefer focused, concise and short learning opportunities (“micro-training” bursts)

6. Transparent leadership

Everything boils down to good, regular communication. This certainly transcends current circumstances and is always true, but it’s especially important following tumultuous periods.

In the absence of communication from leadership, employees will fill in the blanks on their own and their input will usually be negative.

Leaders tend to think of transparency as all or nothing and worry about having to share with employees every little thing they’re dealing with. However, it’s much more simple. Transparency is really about informing employees of the matters that are important to their jobs and the organization as a whole in a timely manner.

Employees want their leadership team to communicate openly and honestly about:

  • What’s going on with the business now and in the near future
  • Changing policies, procedures or expectations – and the “why” behind these decisions
  • Company goals and purpose
  • How their role supports the overall company

This helps to provide a sense of stability and consistency, and helps people to feel prepared for what’s coming. Furthermore, everyone wants to know whether and how they’re making a difference to remain engaged.

When employees work remotely or on a hybrid arrangement, it can be easy for them to fall victim to workplace isolation and feel disconnected from the workplace culture and their team, or feel like they don’t know what’s going on at the office. That’s why it’s imperative for managers to maintain regular communication and a constructive dialogue. When teams are further apart, more effort and intention is required from managers to connect and inform.

7. Diversity and inclusion

For a long time, a compelling business case has been constructed showing that a diverse workforce, as well as a diverse leadership team, can improve any company’s culture and bottom line. Companies with diverse and inclusive workforces boast higher employee satisfaction and engagement, and are more collaborative and innovative.

For established business reasons and due to major cultural shifts, companies are looking closely at how to support greater diversity and inclusion within their workplaces. As a start, companies should:

8. Importance of human resources

Human resources (HR) has a hand in managing all of the issues outlined here. If anything, the last few years have underscored the fact that people make up companies – and understanding how to get the people part of the equation right is fundamental to the success of any organization. This truth has elevated HR in the minds of business leaders. Going forward, HR will remain a critical organizational function.

For companies that lack a dedicated, in-house HR team, working with a PEO can be a great option in preparing a company for the future of work, whatever that may bring.

Summing it all up

The future of work is here, and there are eight issues that are shaping the discussion surrounding it. Employers need to address these issues to be competitive with employees and job candidates, as well as not be blindsided by unfolding developments.

To learn more about adapting your workplace to current expectations – and even anticipating what lies ahead – to maintain employee satisfaction, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee engagement.

Strategy and planning
Is your employee wellness program up to par? Tue, 05 Jul 2022 14:30:00 +0000 In the last few years especially, employee wellness programs have soared in prominence. The COVID-19 pandemic and all the stressors placed on workers during this tumultuous time have highlighted how critical mental health, work-life balance and overall wellbeing are. As a result, increasing numbers of employees consider their wellness to be equally important as traditional priorities such as job stability, salary and benefits.

Why do employee wellness programs matter?

There’s a growing body of evidence that employee wellness programs are important and deliver a valuable return on investment (ROI). Their benefits include:

According to an employee survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 62% of employers consider wellness initiatives to be “very important.” In fact, wellness programs ranked within employers’ top six benefits.

The existence of employee wellness programs may not necessarily make or break a job offer, but they can certainly set your company apart for job candidates when all other factors are equal. In a job market tilted in favor of employees and applicants, a comprehensive and well-executed wellness program may very well tip the scales in your favor.

With this in mind, whether your company has instituted an employee wellness program or you’re thinking about doing it, you may wonder:

  • How do I confirm that what my company offers is desirable to employees?
  • How does my company’s wellness program stack up against our industry peers and competitors?
  • What changes do I need to make so my employees are happier?

Employee wellness programs versus general benefits

First, let’s clarify how wellness initiatives are different from standard employee benefits, such as 401(k) retirement plans, paid time off (PTO) and various types of insurance (health, dental and vision being among the most common).

Employee wellness programs encompass any activity or initiative related to employees’ overall health and well-being, both at work and outside work, including:

  • Physical health
  • Mental and emotional health
  • Social health
  • Financial health

These initiatives are designed to:

  • Educate employees on various health- and wellness-related topics
  • Promote positive, healthy behaviors on a consistent basis
  • Motivate employees to make changes to improve their personal situation, if needed
  • Provide resources that employees can access for more assistance or in-depth information

The overall goal of any employee wellness program is to enable employees to bring their best selves to work, with the potential for sickness, chronic poor health, stress, anxiety or other distractions significantly reduced.

The foundation for a solid employee wellness program

Want to know what many companies are doing to promote wellness? Here’s a list of widely adopted wellness initiatives.

  • An electronic self-assessment tool that asks employees a series of questions about their current health data, lifestyle and habits to deliver an overall snapshot of their health: This tool may help identify where employees might consider making changes. Often, this type of tool is available via your company’s health insurance carrier.
  • Resources with general tips on nutrition, proper sleep, exercise, stress management, etc.: Access to this type of information can guide your team toward healthy practices and habits.
  • An employee assistance program (EAP), which connects employees with tailored resources and professionals covering a variety of topics, from substance abuse to grief and family and relationship issues: With today’s emphasis on mental health, an EAP can be a great resource for getting employees help efficiently and confidentially.
  • On-site clinics or health screenings: These can make it more convenient for employees to prioritize health, if it makes sense for the individual business.

If you implement the initiatives on this list, your company will already be on stronger footing.

A note of caution: Before proceeding with any employee wellness initiative, it’s always a good idea to seek legal counsel for guidance. This is particularly true when activities might involve collecting employees’ health information or tracking health metrics. You don’t want to risk compromising anyone’s privacy or running afoul of federal laws that may apply. And if you do implement a wellness initiative, employee participation should always be voluntary – never required.

Wellness features that go above and beyond

Want to take your employee wellness program to the next level? Here are some of the latest workplace wellness trends that have paid off for some companies:

  • On-site fitness centers or paid gym memberships
  • On-site massages
  • Meditation or rest spaces
  • Various health and fitness challenges, with rewards for meeting goals
  • Additional resources and support for working parents and other types of caregivers
  • Coaching on financial well-being, including guidance on making smart financial decisions
  •  A set number of catered meals for employees each week or month – or even just providing healthy snacks

How does your employee wellness program compare to others?

It can be challenging to find data to compare because companies:

  • Don’t always participate in surveys, which is how comparison data is typically gathered
  • Can have complex, dispersed (national or even international) operations, and their wellness programs can vary according to location
  • All differ based on unique business factors, their workforce and budgets

Other than reaching out directly to individual corporate HR departments to inquire, pay attention to other companies’ job postings and see what they advertise to candidates. You can also review the careers section of other companies’ websites to see the full list of their programs and benefits, if available.

The reality is, there aren’t any etched-in-stone standards. Rather, employee wellness programs tend to be company specific. The exact mix of wellness features that your company provides will largely depend on three factors:

  • Your employee population
  • Your budget
  • Your values

Focus on your company – what makes sense and is working well, what your employees want and what you can afford.

Get started by surveying employees to find out what they like or dislike about your company’s wellness program, as well as any other features or services they’re interested in. You can also provide a tool that allows for ongoing feedback, such as an email inbox dedicated to employee suggestions or a form on the company Intranet.

The true employee wellness differentiators: company culture and good leadership

An employee wellness program is just one piece of what improves working conditions and appeals to new hires, but it’s not the end-all, be-all.

A “competitive” employee wellness program won’t add much ROI if caring about your people isn’t already ingrained in your company culture, core values and leadership.

For an employee wellness program to feel authentic and be meaningful, it should be apparent that regard for employees’ wellbeing permeates every aspect of your company, from the top down.

Consider what your company’s core values are and whether anything important is missing. Assess whether your people practice these core values daily.

Leaders in your organization should consistently display certain behaviors such as:

  • Practice servant leadership – the elevation of team members’ needs above the leader’s and acting as a facilitator and resource in helping employees reach their goals.
  • Communicate transparently.
  • Build trust and respect.
  • Regularly check in with team members on an individual basis to maintain a pulse on what’s going on with them personally and professionally, and find out where they may need help.

Especially in our rapidly changing workplace in which more people work remotely or feel compelled to sit at a computer all day, be mindful of the little things that can improve your employees’ day and alleviate stress. Examples:

  • Evaluate the frequency and length of videoconferences – and whether the camera needs to always be on.
  • Encourage employees to step away periodically for breaks or to get outside.
  • Set boundaries that preserve work-life balance.

Where else should the concept of employee wellness play an important role?

Aside from the implementation of an employee wellness program, there are other ways and areas in which employee wellness should play an important role:

  • Regular assessment of benefits, especially regarding increases in PTO – many employees cite additional leave to rest, recharge and focus on personal matters as one of their most coveted benefits
  • Regular evaluation of workplace policies – and how those policies could be relaxed or altered to benefit employees without negatively impacting your business
  • Integration of workplace flexibility, intended to bestow employees with more autonomy over where and how they work
  • Training and development
    • Ensure there are ample opportunities for employees to learn and grow in alignment with their goals
    • Regularly discuss with employees their career aspirations and goals
  • Team-building activities

The bottom line: It’s the day-to-day employee experience that matters the most. When everything else at your company is outstanding, the employee wellness program should be the cherry on top.

Summing it all up

Employee wellness programs can be an important part of your employee engagement and retention strategy, and in recent years they have grown in popularity as employers recognize their value. However, these programs are likely not the single issue that will ultimately sway new hires to join your company or convince employees to stay for the long term. Your ongoing focus should be on upholding core values, maintaining a wellness-centered culture and training empathetic leaders – all of which reinforce your company’s prioritization of individual well-being.

As you consider how to make your company competitive, ensure that your employee wellness program covers the basics. As you enhance and elevate your program, find out what your employees want and see if it aligns with business needs and budget. Tie everything back to your values and culture. If you’re able to find out what other companies are doing, that can provide additional insight – but it’s not crucial.

Want to learn more about how to offer attractive benefits, perks and programs that will provide value to your workforce? Download our free e-book: The Insperity guide to employee benefits.

Benefits and compensation
8 answers to the question: How to become a great leader? Thu, 30 Jun 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Great leaders aren’t always found with the title of CEO or manager on their business card.

Anyone can demonstrate leadership qualities.

It’s not about winning a popularity contest. You don’t have to be liked to be respected. It’s about serving and influencing others regardless of their job title in the effort to achieve a certain goal. More than anything, it’s about creating harmony in an environment where people want to work together. This is especially important in today’s flexible workplace, as good leadership is needed in many different environments – in-person, hybrid and virtual.

So, want to know how to be great leader?

Leadership can be a struggle to develop, as there are intrinsic qualities that are tough to cultivate.

But if you’re willing to face the challenge, and follow these guidelines, then you’ll be on the right path to becoming the leader your business needs to succeed, whether your employees are in office, completely online or somewhere in between.

1. Build trust

When it comes to leading a team, you have to be willing to go out on a limb for your employees to show you have their back. Exhibiting a genuine interest in your team’s wellbeing shows you care and are willing to protect them when necessary.

When you build trust, it demonstrates that your own interests and actions will never supersede the goals of the organization or your employees.

How can you build trust?

  • Participate in day-to-day activities and make yourself available for questions. This is especially important for a remote workplace, where it’s not as easy to walk down the hall to ask something.
  • Make a continuous effort to learn something about each of your employees.
  • Be fair and consistent. Employees should be able to anticipate rewards or consequences based on your past actions.
  • Involve them in important decisions to show you value their input.
  • Recognize an employee’s contribution rather than taking credit for results.

2. Promote an open environment for two-way feedback

Part of the trust-building process is creating an environment where it’s safe to take risks and allows you and your employees to comfortably exchange candid, honest and direct feedback without the fear of being punished.

It’s important you provide ample channels for two-way communication between employees and managers, and also solicit and reward them for their ideas and contributions. This facilitates progress toward reaching organizational goals.

Open the communication channels by:

  • Encouraging employees to ask questions, discuss concerns or suggest ways to solve problems. Allow them to express opinions on company decisions or policies.
  • Highlighting examples of people who have achieved significant progress toward the company’s goals or performed in a way that supports them.
  • Not talking over or dismissing an employee’s viewpoint. All employees, including management and senior leaders, should respect their colleagues’ opinions.

Knowledge is power. That’s why you should ensure that every employee is provided up-to-date information about the organization’s goals, performance successes and failures.

Use email, your company intranet and team meetings to help spread the word. And, whenever there’s a change – good, bad or ugly – update your employees and tell them why it’s happening. And, expect the same from your direct reports.

The points above apply in the same way to remote teams as well. Creating an open environment behind screens isn’t much different in terms of strategy, but it may require a little more intentional work on your behalf to ensure employees don’t have extra roadblocks and feel connected.

This is critical because the longer you or an employee withholds key information, the more it hurts your organization. It prevents you from building trust and an open environment that will develop your team. You’ll earn credibility when you are open to feedback and work toward making changes to fix issues as they arise.

3. Be a coach

One of the main duties of a leader is coaching your employees.

As a leader, you should foster trust and cooperation. Leaders can paint a vision of the future that inspires the team to do whatever it takes to get there.

And as a coach, you have to inspire action that will help execute that goal. Reinforce an honest and candid environment without taking information personally. Equally treat everyone like you would want to be treated.

Give credit where credit is due. Say “thank you,” be encouraging, and try to put yourself in their shoes to better understand their everyday challenges.

Find ways to energize, motivate and show confidence in your team with the belief they can do anything they set their minds to. Take advantage of performance reviews. Use the results of those reviews to provide opportunities for employees to grow and develop specific traits or skills.

Provide coaching and mentoring to build confidence and competence – it’s not a one size fits all approach.

Reinforce positive behavior when employees are accomplishing their goals and objectives. This could be recognition in front of peers and other rewards that don’t cost money, but are meaningful to the employee.

4. Show confidence in your decisions

When you undertake the responsibility of leadership, you have to be comfortable making big decisions and sticking to them.

You can’t be afraid to be decisive and make tough calls when circumstances require it. It’s critical you understand the many facets of an issue and obtain as much information as possible to make an informed decision.

Ensure your choices are not just beneficial to you, but with the organization’s goal in mind. Once a decision has been made, you have to be confident in sharing that information. One of the best strategies is to always communicate the “why” behind the decision.

5. Take responsibility

We’re all human. Mistakes will happen. But it’s not always easy to own up to mistakes and be receptive to feedback and change.

Business growth involves taking risks that don’t always pan out. Be willing to stand up for your employees and their decisions when expectations aren’t met. This will motivate your employees to feel they can accomplish what’s needed to achieve the organization’s goals.

You have to support and assist your team. Give them the confidence to take risks and speak up without being punished. When the mistake is yours, take ownership. Don’t try to blame someone else, the situation or a circumstance.

Be credible – people want to follow an honest leader. Be candid about why things didn’t work out, learn from the mistake and move on. People will trust someone who actively displays honesty.

6. Have a mentor

No matter who you are, it’s always helpful when you have someone to look up to who is experienced with strong leadership capabilities. It makes it a lot easier to see someone perform in action than living by words on paper.

Rarely will someone offer to be your mentor – you’ll likely have to do the courting. It may be someone in your business area, but a great mentor relationship doesn’t necessarily need to be in your same industry.

Identify potential mentors who have similar values, then have casual meetings with them to find the one with whom you have good rapport. Be prepared to explain what you hope to learn, why you value their insight and expertise, and what you bring to the relationship.

When faced with a big decision or obstacle, imagine how your mentor would handle it. Think about what they’ve done to overcome similar situations. This can help point you in the right direction when you find yourself being challenged.

7. Leverage your team

As your business grows, you’ll realize that you can’t be around for every decision, and you won’t be fully qualified to perform in every position.

That’s why it’s crucial to leverage the strengths of your team. This means finding each employee’s strengths, trusting their expertise and making the most of their abilities. Find out what they’re passionate about and help them lead a related project. Empower them to succeed with meaningful work that supports the company’s goals and objectives.

Clear any organizational roadblocks for your team that could limit creativity and innovation. Ask and provide them with what they need to be successful and achieve their work. Don’t get in their way if they’re meeting or exceeding expectations. This is especially important for remote teams. Check in to make sure your remote workers have the resources (equipment, software, support) needed to be innovative in a remote environment.

8. Be flexible

Workplace flexibility is expected of organizations today, but it must also be practiced by leaders. Flexibility isn’t just about not driving into the office, it covers when, where, and how your employees work – and how you respond. Here’s some tips.

  • Understand high-level policy changes that promote more workplace flexibility like:
    • Hybrid work
    • Flexible scheduling
    • Access to technology
  • Check in with employees to assess individual needs (like stepping out for an hour to pick up a child), and allow them within reason
  • Ask employees if there’s a better way to get work done that makes life easier for them
  • When you can’t be flexible, again, share the “why,” and address the business needs at hand.

Now you know what it takes to become a great leader. But do you know how to build a more productive workforce? For more tips, download our free guide, How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

]]> 2 Leadership and management
Managing remote employees: 8 tips and best practices Tue, 28 Jun 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Being proficient at managing remote employees requires a mental leap, especially for traditionally minded managers.

At first, business leaders, used to monitoring productivity based upon workers’ “desk time” and visible activity levels, may find a shift to remote work foreign and unwieldy. Employees, too, may feel out of sorts in the beginning, as they adjust to significant shifts in their days.

That’s understandable.

After all, while everyone seems to grasp what “work from home” means, not everyone has experienced it yet. And there are definitely pros and cons to working remotely.

Expectations when leading a remote team

To lead a remote team well, managers may discover they need to loosen their reins a little while finding ways to continue to hold employees accountable.

Without the ability to continuously monitor employees in a shared office space, they may find success by focusing more on what gets done and whether it meets well-defined quality standards. It’s helpful, too, to be willing to experiment a little with technology and how meetings are conducted.

In other words, successful pivots to virtual work – whether planned months in advance or in response to a natural disaster or a global pandemic – require that managers be willing to recalibrate how they lead their people and move away from the idea of micromanagement..

Leaders should also become familiar with work from home best practices and expect a certain amount of trial and error, because the growing trend of remote work is here to stay. To get you started, below are seven basic tips to help business leaders when it comes to managing remote workers.

1. Understand common work from home challenges

Typically, there are four main challenges supervisors and business owners encounter when managing a remote workforce.

  • Lack of face time with coworkers and supervisors – face-to-face interaction is vital to company culture and workplace encounters. The absence of in-person communication can be strongly felt by virtual teams. Consider collaboration tools to improve employee engagement and increase social interaction between remote team members.
  • Video fatigue – On the flip side of the previous bullet, using Zoom all the time to aid connection can have worse consequences. Empower employees to decide as a team and when meeting internally if they want to be on camera or not.  Requiring all cameras all the time – unless client facing – can erode morale and is just another way to senselessly control and micromanage what employees are doing.
  • Communication breakdowns and bottlenecks – When working remotely, we can’t peek over the cubicle or slip down the hall to see if a colleague or supervisor is around to answer a quick question. Plus, for all their convenience, slack messages and emails can go unnoticed. Managers can help address these issues by modeling effective communication strategies.
  • Surrounding distractions – Whether it’s another coffee shop customer accidentally spilling sugar on a remote worker or a cheerful toddler giving a mighty shout from the living room during a zoom call, distractions seem to come with the remote work territory.

Assuming such incidents don’t become routine, patience is helpful – especially when remote work is a temporary solution to a short-term event, situation or crisis.

2. Set clear remote work productivity standards

It’s important to set clear expectations when discussing productivity standards with your remote team. Some productivity standards will vary with the job; others may be standard across the company.

Individual standards must be analyzed and documented, however informally. For example, you and your teleworking team may decide that any developer assigned a project must deliver code ready to be tested in five working days, and if a deadline won’t be met there must be 48 hours’ notice.

Meanwhile, a call center employee may need to resolve 10 client calls an hour while ensuring there are no crying babies in the background. A recruiter may need to conduct 20 phone interviews and fill five positions a month.

Although documenting productivity standards may seem like too much of an extra effort, it can help spot trends that need to be addressed. It can help you spot burnout or the need to provide additional training to improve a bottleneck that impacts productivity.

3. Identify and provide the right tools

An important aspect of successfully managing remote employees is to make all necessary tools easily accessible. To meet that need, leaders and teams may have to puzzle through what should be put in place to ease a telecommuting transition.

Remote employees need the same access to things utilized by onsite employees, which may include (but are not limited to):

  • Policy and procedure manuals
  • Presentation templates and supplies
  • Mail supplies and stationery
  • Apps & Software programs
  • Corporate credit card

Remote work technology

Most remote work can be conducted with little more than a computer, internet access, a phone and a headset. However, there may be additional tools and resources you should consider to help employees remain productive such as:

  • Access to digital communication tools and files
  • A small printer or an account at a local copy shop or mail services center, all with clearly communicated spending limits
  • Company laptops
  • Reliabile internet connection or access to a co-working space
  • Digital video conferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams

Remember: You and your remote employees may find that some tasks must be conducted in the office for security reasons or because it’s simply more efficient to meet in person. Be ready to accept the limits of remote work for some portions of a job or for individual units within a larger division.

Transitioning teams to remote work

In a perfect world, new remote employees would train to use relevant remote technology and protocols six months before implementation.

Yet, even if a shift to remote work is anticipated to take place in a matter of weeks (or days), a four- or 24-hour trial run may reveal unanticipated shortcomings to a seemingly workable remote plan.

Depending on your circumstances, you might have the whole team participating or only one or two members.

4. Set aside specific days, times and methods for team interaction

For remote teams, it may take a little extra effort to recreate common workplace water cooler communication. And when there is a mix of off-site and on-site employees, remote managers should seek team building opportunities to include everyone whenever possible.

It may seem artificial or cumbersome at first, but encourage your remote workers to contact you and other team members regularly – and vice versa. What constitutes “regular contact” depends, of course, on the job and the tasks work from home employees must accomplish.

Building better remote team connections

Obviously, email, instant messages and phone or Zoom video calls are essential for remote interaction.

When possible, it’s helpful for employees to keep their workday calendars up to date on a centralized platform or application. Also useful are “away” notifications on software and out-of-office email replies during normal work hours. These seemingly little things help minimize the risks and frustrations associated with those dreadful communications bottlenecks.

For fully remote offices, encourage team members to pick up the phone or schedule short video calls to cut down on the back and forth.

Building better interactions during meetings

To monitor progress and foster collegiality, it’s helpful to establish a set time for group online interactions. Brief daily check-ins or staff meetings help leaders and project managers to assess situations and identify roadblocks with each employees work load.

It may be helpful to revisit how to run a successful meeting. There’s not a huge difference between remote and in-person meetings, but generally it’s helpful to:

  • Have a clear agenda
  • Set expectations ahead of the meeting by adding “be camera ready” or “camera optional” to the invite
  • Call roll at the beginning of large meetings so that everyone knows who is present
  • Encourage everyone to mute themselves when they’re not speaking
  • Schedule no meeting days/time frames for the team to have dedicated flow time to get work done

The agile process, developed within the software community but now applied in several industries, can be useful when managing teleworkers. Many remote teams find the process helps nurture accountability while also helping managers monitor projects.

5. Follow up with remote employees regularly

As with the rest of the advice here, there’s no one-size-fits-all for how often a manager should reach out to remote workers.

Yet the most effective one-on-one calls aren’t just about monitoring productivity. They can also be powerful means of keeping remote employees motivated and engaged.

A great initiative would be to ideally, schedule one-on-one calls – whether daily, weekly or biweekly – this can help a manager:

  • Determine if the employee is doing well overall
  • Work with the staff member to identify and eliminate bottlenecks
  • Discuss plans for the employee’s professional development
  • Answer a range of questions relevant to the employee

Depending upon the employee and the nature of their job, more or less routine interaction may be required. For example, Amanda may need a call once a week while Matthew may require daily calls.

Keeping productive workflows in mind and as much as schedules permit, supervisors should be adaptable to staff needs and calendars.

6. Create a video or tip sheet with other remote employees’ suggestions

Staff members or trusted industry peers who have traveled the remote road before may have advice to share, including what software is most helpful or what’s required to set up a home office.

These insights can be shared via PDFs, short videos or informal question-and-answer video calls.

Other valuable remote management tips include:

  • How to manage the ebb and flow of ordinary days and peak periods
  • Favorite local eateries that deliver
  • Maintaining work-life balance while working remote
  • How to incorporate healthy behaviors
  • Time management ideas
  • Personal strategies for staying on task and organized

7. Remember, remote doesn’t mean cheaper

Budgets play an important side note when talking about remote workers. Some business leaders may assume that instituting remote work and cutting office space by 50% equals a 50% reduction in the expense of housing employees in a traditional office.

However, the formula isn’t so straightforward. Yes, your company will probably spend less on physical office space, but those savings are likely to be spent elsewhere, depending on the remote work that needs to be done.

For instance, your travel budget may increase if remote workers in other states need to travel to the main office once a quarter or more. Or, you may need to invest in new or upgraded software or additional hardware, such as headsets, to properly outfit remote employees.

Remote workers can be just as productive, if not more so, than in-office employees. You just have to set them up for success.

8. Continuously communicate with your team

Virtual work definitely adds complexity to the leadership function, but managing remote teams really isn’t all that different from managing onsite teams. Regardless of location, all managers share the same basic challenges in leading people.

One such challenge that any manager will encounter at some point is engaging in difficult conversations with employees. These types of conversations typically focus on:

  • Negative feedback about job performance
  • Negative feedback about a specific behavior
  • Disciplinary issues
  • Demotions or involuntary reassignment of roles and responsibilities

Without a doubt, engaging in difficult conversations with employees can be uncomfortable in any setting. But in an environment in which a manager and subordinate may rarely, if ever, interact in person, both parties are vulnerable to misunderstandings. Successfully navigating these difficult conversations virtually requires a higher level of emotional intelligence and more intention.

Here are some tips to overcome one of the toughest aspects of leading remote teams: engaging in difficult conversations.

  • Establish trust. You and your employees should be able to be open and transparent with each other. Your employees should view you as a coach – someone who wants to help them succeed – not as an adversary.
  • Spend time getting to know your team members. Learn their personalities, working styles and communication preferences. Engage in remote team-building activities or virtual social gatherings to build rapport and understand who your employees are on a deeper level. Find out how you can adapt your management style to best support each individual employee.
  • Set personal expectations. Talk with your employees about their roles and responsibilities, processes for carrying out their work, expected quality of their output, work hours and availability for meetings. Don’t assume that you’ve been clear in outlining your expectations – be thorough and ask your employees if there’s any confusion to clear up. This is one of the most common mistakes that managers of either remote or on-site teams make.
  • Review the company’s remote work policy. This policy should cover the company-wide requirements and expectations for working remotely – for example, the technologies that should be used, IT and cybersecurity standards, optimal working conditions, productivity standards, and rules and procedures to protect sensitive information.

You can demonstrate trust in your team by managing outcomes versus people. In other words, don’t fixate on how many hours employees are online each day or how often they check in. When employees work from home, there will always be distractions.

Instead, focus on your employees’ output – what they did well and accomplished, or what they missed or didn’t complete. In a remote work environment, you have to trust your people, because you simply can’t police them from afar.

You can also build trust with employees by owning up to your mistakes and identifying opportunities for your improvement. If an employee’s error or oversight resulted from your actions, be honest. You can say something like:

“I want to give you some feedback on a project you recently completed. To be fair, I did not properly set expectations, so let’s clarify those expectations now and see how we can approach the next project.”

Your team members should also know how to reach you if they have questions or concerns. Be accessible when you say you are available.

Find more tips for how to manage remote employees. Download our free magazine, The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

]]> 6 Leadership and management
10 important ways to couple DE&I with your hiring strategies Thu, 23 Jun 2022 14:30:00 +0000 With diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as an increased business focus across the board, more are setting a strategic DE&I goal to hire a diverse workforce (aka DE&I hiring”).

Multiple studies have shown that companies with diverse workforces and diverse leadership:

  • Perform better, likely as a result of reduced groupthink and more innovation
  • Enjoy greater financial returns
  • Achieve stronger employee engagement and improved morale

Many business leaders want to attain these benefits at their companies, which has driven DE&I high in popularity as a critical hiring strategy to pursue.

The role of recruiting in DE&I

Recruiting and hiring are central in supporting DE&I initiatives. After all, recruiting and hiring are how business leaders get the right people – that optimal blend of demographics, beliefs, backgrounds and experiences – in the door. You can’t have inclusion and equity without diversity – it all starts with intentionally cultivating a workforce that:

  • Represents the communities and customers your business serves
  • Introduces new perspectives to your teams
  • Enhances your workplace culture

DE&I matters to job seekers and employees as well, and therefore makes attracting top talent easier. A Glassdoor study found that 76% of survey respondents consider a diverse workforce to be an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. For younger workers, particularly Generation Z, a company’s DE&I commitment is especially important

Adapting the recruiting and hiring process for DE&I

With this in mind, how can a company’s DE&I and human resources (HR) teams work together to accomplish the overall DE&I hiring strategy? 

1. Complete an internal assessment

You can’t set a realistic strategy without first understanding your current state of affairs. You also need to be prepared to discuss your current DE&I progress with job candidates if they ask about it.

Conduct an honest assessment of where your organization is on its DE&I journey. Ask your team:

  • Have you defined what diversity means for your organization? So many people automatically think about gender and race when they hear the term diversity, but it’s much broader than that. Diversity could also focus on age, religion, disability status, cognitive differences, skills or educational background, for example. Figure out what makes sense for your organization.
  • How diverse is your organization according to your company’s own definition, and how does this compare with where you’d like to be?
  • Do you have a DE&I strategy that’s connected to business goals? Do you have dedicated, internal DE&I professionals or access to external DE&I expertise to help implement the strategy?
  • Do you have any internal mechanisms for improving the visibility of diverse employees and encouraging employee collaboration and knowledge-sharing about DE&I? Employee resource groups are a great example of this.

Talk with leaders and managers, as well as employees. With employees, you can use focus groups or collect feedback via employee surveys. Ask respondents about the organization’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement as it relates to DE&I.

2. Establish your goals

Now that you have data from your research, where do you go from here? What do you want to accomplish? What will you prioritize? Which goals are most feasible to start with?

This is when you set your DE&I strategy so you can align recruiting and hiring efforts and establish goals. As mentioned, recruiting and hiring are instrumental for your DE&I strategy and are often the first, most common areas that employers prioritize in enhancing DE&I efforts. At this stage, you need to obtain buy-in from senior leadership, because the following actions must be filtered from the top of the organization down:

  • Communicating that DE&I is a top priority
  • Educating leaders and employees alike on why DE&I is important to the success of the business
  • Informing your workforce about strategies and goals
  • Modeling desired behaviors and language

3. Create the process

Map out a recruiting and hiring process that is consistent for each candidate, and that will help your company achieve its DE&I hiring goals. Aim to make the recruiting and hiring process as open, accessible, fair and free of bias as possible to break down barriers and capture the largest possible pool of qualified applicants.

4. Encourage collaboration between recruiters and DE&I professionals

HR teams and recruiters should be in regular communication and partnership with DE&I professionals. After all, there’s much that DE&I professionals can teach recruiters about introducing a DE&I lens to the recruiting and hiring process. Furthermore, DE&I professionals can help to ensure that HR professionals are set up for success in a world in which job seekers want more information about DE&I.

For example, DE&I professionals can:

  • Review recruiting and hiring processes and suggest changes to better align with the DE&I strategy
  • Offer trainings on topics such as:
    • Awareness of all types of diversity
    • Identification and elimination of unconscious bias as well as any other subtle barriers to job candidates
    • Legally compliant interview practices and consistent questions
  • Inform about concrete organizational DE&I achievements to date and goals going forward
  • Provide materials that recruiters can use to promote the company’s DE&I activities to job candidates and prospective applicants
  • Assist in preparing DE&I and accommodation statements (more on this below)

Furthermore, not everyone who may be involved in the recruiting and hiring process is trained in human resources, much less DE&I. For example, in smaller companies the hiring manager may simply be the individual who will directly oversee the position being filled – someone without HR or DE&I expertise.

That’s why it may be beneficial to form a larger, diverse hiring committee that includes HR, recruiters, DE&I professionals and any other key constituents who will interact with a certain position. These individuals can share responsibilities for reviewing applications, interviewing candidates and making hiring decisions. The people who are part of this committee should reflect the company’s desired brand of diversity and should undergo more extensive DE&I training.

This reduces the risk of any single individual allowing their bias to influence the recruiting and hiring process, and helps to avoid any unintentional mistakes.

5. Prepare DE&I and accommodation statements

In any marketing materials that job candidates and prospective applicants see, particularly job postings and the career section of your website, it can be impactful to include DE&I and accommodation statements.

A DE&I statement goes beyond the standard Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) verbiage. It proactively communicates a company’s unique commitment, beliefs, values and philosophy on DE&I. This should attract the attention of job seekers looking for this information.

An accommodation statement describes how your organization meets the unique needs of employees and even job candidates. It invites job candidates to notify your company of any accommodations they may require during the application and interview process. For example, maybe someone has a physical issue climbing stairs. If they let your organization know, you can remove that barrier when they come on-site for an interview.

These statements can help to make the process feel more inclusive and accessible for job seekers and encourage the greatest number of qualified applicants to participate.

6. Reconsider your candidate pipeline

Think about where your recruiters typically find job candidates. Chances are, you’re posting to your website, LinkedIn and a few job posting sites such as Indeed, CareerBuilder, Glassdoor or Monster.

Consider how you can expand your recruiting efforts. What else could your recruiters do to connect with a more diverse pool of candidates? How could your company build better relationships within the surrounding community to raise organizational awareness? Are there other sites or industry groups you haven’t reached out to yet?

7. Rethink “good fit”

For valid reasons, hiring managers are concerned with finding a candidate who is a “good fit” for the organizational culture.

But what does that mean exactly? Often, it falls into: “This person is like me. I see myself in them.” In other words, it’s an opportunity for familiarity bias to creep into the recruiting and hiring process. Unfortunately, this can lead to a homogenous workforce.

DE&I hiring can help recruiters redefine the concept of “good fit.” Ideally, this is a candidate who aligns with a company’s mission, vision and values, but also contributes something new to the culture and enhances it. It could be as simple as a different way of thinking or a different life experience.

8. Evaluate candidates outside your preconceived notions

When engaging in DE&I hiring, you may need to consider other types of candidates you may not have thought about before or take steps to make your workplace more open and inclusive to greater numbers of people. This is especially true in a competitive labor market.

For example:

  • Decide which skills in a position are an absolute must versus skills that could be trained over time.
  • Re-evaluate the level of education that’s truly necessary for a position.
  • Determine whether a position really calls for a full-time schedule versus a part-time schedule – or even if a flexible schedule is possible.
  • Consider other forms of support your workplace could offer employees – for example, childcare support for working parents could encourage more women to return to the workplace.
  • Don’t rush to overlook candidates you may (wrongly) assume lack the required knowledge and skills or have an irrelevant background, such as veterans or candidates with criminal records.

9. Remove bias from the hiring process

We all have unconscious biases – our personal preference for or disinclination toward certain qualities in another person. It influences how we stereotype and engage with others, and can be so ingrained within us that we may not even be aware of it.

It’s critical that you learn how to identify and eliminate bias in the hiring process to reach DE&I goals. In addition to the thorough anti-bias training that DE&I professionals can provide, here are a few tips:

  • Think about the language you use within job postings and on the career section of your website, or the interview questions you ask. Are you unintentionally excluding or turning off any candidates with your word choices? Are you communicating, non-verbally or verbally, any undesirable messages without meaning to?
  • Consider conducting an initial blind screen of job candidates.
  • Leverage automated tools, such as an applicant tracking system (ATS), to initially screen candidates and deliver a consistent application experience.
    • There are prose and cons of utilizing an ATS – it provides consistency but may make it more difficult for hiring managers to consider alternative experiences or education, creating the potential to miss out on strong talents

10. Protect against charges of tokenism or discrimination

DE&I hiring can be a delicate balance between hiring for skills versus diversity. You know that you want a diverse and inclusive organization, but you don’t want to lose out on the best person for the job either – if the best person turns out to not be a diverse hire.

From job seekers’ and employees’ perspective, no one wants to feel like a token hire either. That’s a surefire way to damage morale.

Remember: Your recruiting and hiring process isn’t about filling quotas for a characteristic, such as gender or race. Instead, it’s about reaching more people, removing potential barriers and offering a welcoming and inclusive environment. Once you have a more diverse applicant pool, skills and qualifications are always the most important considerations.

However, diversity goals may be a final, decision-making factor when all other things are equal – maybe one candidate is selected because they bring something new and unique to the organization at that time.

But couldn’t that expose your company to charges of reverse discrimination? The best ways to avoid these claims are:

  • Don’t get overly specific with DE&I goals (example: X% of our workforce will be a racial minority). Instead, generalize your goals and aspirations.
  • Ensure consistency throughout the recruiting and hiring process – even asking all job candidates the same interview questions.
  • Introduce more objectivity into the recruiting and hiring process, such as a candidate-rating system or the diverse hiring committee we mentioned earlier.
  • Continue collaboration with your company’s DE&I team to learn best practices.

Summing it all up

To carry out your company’s DE&I strategy, it’s critical that your recruiting and hiring processes are aligned and supportive. After all, recruiting and hiring are all about creating the workforce you want to have. Therefore, it’s also important for HR recruiters and DE&I professionals to collaborate over the long term to share knowledge and make your recruiting and hiring processes open, accessible, fair and bias free. Here, we’ve outlined several steps to accomplish this.

Want to learn more about obtaining the most qualified, skilled applicants from the broadest possible pool of candidates? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to attracting, recruiting and hiring top talent.

Corporate social responsibility 101: Everything you need to know Tue, 21 Jun 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Still wondering what corporate social responsibility really is?

The adoption of “corporate social responsibility” is a trend that has really gained traction in the last 10 years. If you’re still trying to figure out what it is and what it means for your organization, you’re not alone.

Let’s put it this way: We know what a “good human citizen” looks like and the characteristics that go along with that, right? It’s generally someone who exhibits ethical behavior and practices kindness, caring, empathy, generosity and other desirable qualities – someone who does the right thing even when no one’s watching and regardless of their own personal interests.

It’s the same thing with companies. A company may be an inanimate legal entity, but it’s made up of humans and behaviors.

Corporate social responsibility defined

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is simply the vehicle that enables a company to:

  • Describe its peoples’ collective values and beliefs
  • Explain how its actions exemplify these values and beliefs
  • Promote the positive impact it has internally and externally in the community.

In other words, it’s how companies demonstrate good “corporate citizenship” – how it strives to do the right things.

These efforts are usually encapsulated in these ways:

  • A CSR program:
    • Identifies desired areas of impact such as wellness, philanthropy, the environment ethical practices, etc.
    • Collaborates with internal stakeholders to promote the advancement of the initiatives
    • Coordinates across the organization to collect data on results
    • Creates an annual CSR report that celebrates activities and accomplishments affiliated with these initiatives within a single calendar year.


What’s included in a corporate social responsibility report?

CSR covers many areas of focus, which are then outlined in the annual CSR report. Topics covered usually include:

It really is a snapshot of your company’s culture and everything you value.

Consumer social responsibility report example

Here’s an example of a completed CSR report that was done by our own Insperity team for 2021.

What should you include in a CSR report?

Currently, no widescale standards or firm requirements exist regarding which topics must be tracked in a CSR program and covered in a CSR report. There’s still a lot of debate about what constitutes the right amount of information to share. This is because CSR is still fairly new to the business world and is evolving quickly – there are no hard and fast rules. Plus, every company is different.

You’ll have to make a decision about what you want to focus on and publicize based on:

  • Your company’s unique factors and circumstances
  • What your peers and competitors are doing
  • Which areas your organization has the greatest impact on stakeholders
  • What your stakeholders expect

Some companies rely on reporting frameworks – a popular example being the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) – that does call for the disclosure of specific information. The reason is many feel it lends their program and reporting an extra layer of credibility. This, however, is optional.

Who is a corporate social responsibility program for?

The beauty of a CSR program lies in its versatile appeal. A CSR program has many different audiences with varying interests:

  • Employees
  • Prospective job applicants
  • Clients
  • Industry partners, including vendors and contractors
  • Investors
  • Government
  • Members of the surrounding community, including community partners
  • Media

Your employees and job candidates are interested in what your organization is doing for its people and to positively impact the world. Working professionals of today, especially Millennials and the ever-growing numbers of Generation Z workers, prioritize being part of a company that seeks to do good and exhibits values that align with theirs. People don’t want to just work for a company and earn a paycheck – they want to be part of a positive mission that’s bigger than themselves.

Furthermore, your clients, industry partners and community partners want to know who they’re transacting with and which values and actions they support indirectly.

Investors are interested in anything that impacts an organization’s image and reputation, recruiting efforts, customer acquisitions and the ability to avoid any negative outcomes – all of which affect profitability and the bottom line.

Government entities are concerned with how your organization works to comply with applicable laws and avoid any negative impacts that may fall within their purview, particularly regarding the environment, personnel health and safety, equal opportunity for all workers and human rights.

As for the media, CSR is simply good public relations and image building.

What are the benefits of a corporate social responsibility program?

Keeping in mind the stakeholders for CSR, in sum here are the primary benefits of enacting a corporate social responsibility program:

  • Conforms with increasing internal and external pressures to report on CSR topics
  • Aligns your organization with its peers and prevents perceptions that your company is “regressive” or “uncaring”
  • Assures stakeholders that your company displays good corporate citizenship and is doing the right things
  • Presents an opportunity to steer the company’s narrative while improving visibility, image and reputation
  • Showcases a commitment to transparency, organizational values and improvement in meeting CSR-related goals and objectives
  • Demonstrates legal compliance
  • Boosts recruiting and client acquisition
  • Strengthens employee engagement and raises morale

How to create a CSR program and report

Here’s how you can get started implementing a CSR program and reporting annually.

1. Form a CSR steering committee

This is the core group of employees who focus on CSR and oversee the annual CSR report. This includes any other CSR-related content your organization disseminates as well.

In coordination with executive leadership, these committee members set the overall CSR strategy. This includes:

  • Deciding which CSR focus areas your organization will prioritize for tracking and reporting
  • Choosing and adhering to a reporting framework, if any, along with selecting reporting metrics
  • Conducting benchmarking analysis by comparing your organization’s efforts against peers and competitors
  • Obtaining internal support and buy-in from executive leadership
  • Establishing goals and monitoring year-over-year improvements in performance
  • Selecting a consistent publication date for the CSR report each year (typically, organizations publish these reports for the prior calendar year toward the end of Q1 of the current year)
  • Establishing the timeline or schedule for producing each year’s report, as well as assigning tasks and preparing a report outline
  • Identifying cross-functional subject matter experts (SMEs) and leaders with whom they will need to engage

Ideally, your steering committee includes professionals who specialize in CSR as well as marketing and communications. You will also need a resource to write the report. Additionally, your committee may include representatives from organizational functions that will be included in the report, so that they can efficiently liaise with their teams to obtain necessary information.

2. Regularly engage with all internal stakeholders and SMEs

The departments within your organization that your CSR committee members will need to collaborate with on an ongoing basis include:

  • Executive leadership
  • Human resources (HR)
  • Health, safety and environmental (HSE) personnel
  • Community relations
  • Legal
  • Various SMEs in areas that are targeted for a special highlight in a specific year’s report

These parties can help CSR steering committee members to uncover potential story ideas proactively and collect information. They can also provide pictures of certain events or people that should accompany content. Notably, they should be available for interviews to provide more details when necessary.

It’s important to stay in touch with these contacts throughout the year to avoid delays and last-minute rushes – or overlooking valuable information that would have been optimal to include in your report. For most people, it’s difficult to remember what happened in January by November.

3. Validate all data and information

Before any data or concrete information goes into the report, verify the source and confirm its accuracy. False information can damage your company’s credibility or put your organization at legal risk.

4. Write the report

At this stage, the designated writer puts together the content for the report. There are no rules on the report structure or even the length – take as much or as little space as you need to fully tell your company’s story for the year. Reports can range in length from 10 to 100 pages.

A growing trend is for companies to divide their reports into chapters on environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics. (The social chapter often encompasses health and safety performance, employee matters and community impact.)

However, it is up to you.

If your company uses a reporting framework, such as GRI, it’s common practice to have the report divided into two main sections:

  • The body of the report, where you write in narrative format and include pictures and graphics to enhance the content
  • The index of the report (at the back), where you insert data tables and explain where, specifically, within the body of the report your company has answered questions and addressed reporting requirements

5. Conduct internal reviews of the report with all stakeholders

Anyone with ownership over content in the report should review it for accuracy and clarity before the report’s publication. Typically, the parties with most seniority and veto power – legal professionals and executive leadership – conduct final reviews.

6. Publish and distribute the report

When your company has finalized your annual CSR report, you have the option to print it, post it online or both.

For external audiences, you can make your report available for download on the CSR page of your website. You can announce its publication via:

  • Social media
  • Press release
  • Mass email to targeted parties

For internal audiences, you can notify them via:

  • Mass email to all employees
  • Intranet
  • Employee newsletters
  • Major company meetings

You can also distribute copies:

  • Within your office (reception or lobby area)
  • Via postal mail to targeted parties
  • At major company meetings, such as annual shareholder meetings

How do you know if you need a corporate social responsibility program?

This brings us to our final point: Should your company engage in CSR efforts?

Truly, CSR is relevant and valuable for any company – regardless of business prominence, type, size or industry. Certainly, some companies are more visible than others. Public companies have more expectations for transparency placed upon them than private companies. And in some industries, such as oil and gas for example, it’s more strongly encouraged to engage in CSR efforts versus other industries.

Generally, how do you know whether a CSR program or report is the right activity for your organization to commit significant time and resources at this time?

Ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Is your company doing specific things that are positively impacting your community, the environment or your employees?
  • Do you want to demonstrate good ethics, strong leadership and robust controls?
  • Do you have compelling, meaningful stories to tell that bolster your company’s mission, vision, values, ethics or culture?

If you do, then the answer is simple: Yes, it’s a good idea to participate in corporate social responsibility.

However, there are a few big caveats:

  • Don’t exaggerate any statements, or offer “fluff” or shallow claims just to jump on the CSR train. You can damage your credibility by doing this. Instead, be authentic and make substantial claims backed up with data and facts.
  • CSR is a long-term commitment. Therefore, be transparent and consistent in:
    • Tracking data and improvement on previously reported metrics
    • Reporting this information on an annual cadence.

Once you start this initiative, your stakeholders expect it going forward. If you allow any gaps in your reporting, it may appear as though you’re trying to conceal something unflattering or that CSR simply isn’t a priority at your company.

Summing it all up

Corporate social responsibility programs are rising in popularity; therefore, there’s a lot of internal and external pressure for companies to engage. It’s also a significant commitment that requires you to dedicate personnel and resources, and establish a reporting process, which can seem daunting at first. That being said, there are many powerful benefits associated with a well-executed CSR program.

For more information, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to corporate social responsibility.


Strategy and planning
11 things not to do when leading a video meeting Thu, 16 Jun 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Whether you’re just learning how to host video meetings or have lots of practical knowledge, taking time to consider how you could improve the overall experience for your attendees is worth everyone’s time. And yes, there’s more to it than making sure you’re not muted.

Even when you find yourself in back-to-back video meetings throughout the day, you still owe your team and clients a valuable experience when it’s your turn to lead a call.

Yet, most have attended a virtual meeting that dragged on too long, included cringe-worthy moments or otherwise fell flat. Let’s commit to a better way, one Zoom call at a time.

Here are the top things video meeting hosts should absolutely avoid (along with a few ideas for what to do instead).

1. Don’t be ambiguous about the meeting format

How many times have you joined a virtual call and wondered, “Do I have to turn on video?” If you’re hosting a call, you can easily quell this common and cumbersome question ahead of time.

All it takes is:

  • One line in your invite description: “We’d like everybody to be on video.”
  • Set expectations for your department ahead of time. For reoccurring video meetings, make sure your group knows everyone is encouraged to be on camera regularly.

Keep it light and keep it clear. Also, leave room for occasional switch ups. Try to avoid asking, “Why aren’t you on video?” If that person usually is, they probably have a good reason why they aren’t.

Also, does the meeting really call for everyone to be on camera? It’s okay if not every remote meeting uses video. Consider the meeting format:

  • Will you all be closely reviewing screen-shared content most of the time?
  • Is it a quick call with one or two people that won’t take long?

Removing the barrier of someone needing to get ready for a video call in these scenarios could actually improve engagement and save time.

2. Don’t forget about a backup plan

Do you know what you would do if your meeting technology went completely haywire? As host, it’s on you to have a workable backup plan when things go wrong, whether that’s to use phones, work over email or reschedule. In large meetings, you can designate a particular person who’s willing to provide tech support to you and other attendees.

3. Don’t neglect to break the ice

Think about the moments between your attendees clicking “join” and the meeting officially kicking off. What do you usually do with this time? If you have a habit of saying, “We’re going to wait five minutes for everyone to join,” or cutting straight to your agenda, you can do more.

It’s best practice to ease into a Zoom meeting just like you would in-person, but it takes some extra effort from the host in an online setting. The main goal is to start on a positive note. This is especially true to avoid the monotony of standing meetings that always begin in silence.

Here’s how you can do so, ordered from easy to more involved:

  • Ask how everyone is doing
  • Ask attendees to talk about something they did outside of work recently
  • Talk about your latest wins
  • Ask attendees to share in chat what they are most excited about regarding your meeting topic
  • Link to a digital whiteboard with prompts people can answer as they join

4. Don’t take liberties with professionalism

Sure, you’re in charge of the meeting, but that doesn’t mean the rule of thumb is to be extra relaxed.

Always model the workplace professionalism you expect from your employees in video meetings.

  • No cluttered surroundings
  • No news playing in the background
  • No dialing in from a noisy Starbucks
  • No texting or checking email on another monitor (it’s more obvious than you think!)

At the same time, meeting hosts who work from home are humans, too. When you do have moments that deviate from your etiquette norms, acknowledge it and move forward. For example, if you’ve been in back-to-back meetings with no time for lunch, explain that you need to go off camera for a few minutes and eat.

5. Don’t settle for disengaged participants

If your team members aren’t on camera, and they’re muted, it’s like they’re not there. Without calling anyone out, you need a plan to engage your employees in your virtual meetings if you see them withdrawing like this frequently. The first step relates to the last point – what example are you setting as a leader in terms of engagement?

Be sure you intentionally show that you’re listening by:

  • Looking into the camera
  • Nodding your head in agreement even when muted
  • Unmuting often to chime in with a response
  • Looking up regularly even when taking notes

But getting engagement in your Zoom calls takes more than being a good role model. Other tools for engagement include:

  • Sharing meeting documents and questions in advance so that teammates have time to come prepared to discuss
  • Encouraging open dialogue at the start of the call
  • Leaving time for questions at the end of a presentation, and pausing for questions throughout
  • Keeping the time of day in mind. This isn’t always possible, but avoid scheduling meetings that require high engagement at times you wouldn’t schedule it if you were in person. This means avoiding first thing in the morning and end of the day.

6. Don’t skip the visuals

Take extra advantage of the capabilities of your system to quickly improve your video meeting experiences. Adding visuals like a shared agenda, digital whiteboard or slideshow gives everyone something to focus on (instead of staring at themselves for an hour).

Be sure you know how to:

  • Use your features related to muting, chatting and recording live transcripts
  • Split attendees into breakout rooms
  • Share your screen
  • Utilize the full functionality of your meeting app

When you take the time to really understand your virtual collaboration tools, you’ll find most are pretty savvy, simple to use and great for boosting engagement.

7. Don’t tolerate sidebar conversations

This sounds harsh, but it’s a good expectation to set. Although sidebar conversations are usually well-intended, they don’t usually happen during in-person meetings. Just imagine two employees passing notes or whispering back-and-forth.

At minimum, the employees engaged in the side-chat aren’t fully focused on what information is being shared. Or worse, they could distract other employees and create a cliquey environment.

Stopping sidebars is easier than it sounds, too. At the beginning of a meeting you can say, “Also, I want to remind everyone to avoid side conversations over chat. Let’s be mindful to work at a pace where everyone can share their thoughts before moving on to something else. It’s important for the whole group to hear what everyone thinks.”

If it’s happening often with a particular employee, you may need to address it during your next one-on-one.

8. Don’t put employees on the spot

If you were face-to-face, you would never ask employees to present something in a meeting without discussing it beforehand – they may not be prepared. The same rule should apply to Zoom. Don’t ask employees to share their screens or lead a discussion without fair warning. Make sure anyone who you’d like to contribute to a virtual meeting is prepared to lead and can use the necessary technology smoothly.

9. Don’t say “Let’s take this offline”

When facilitating a virtual meeting, you can’t stand at the front of the room, but you still have to keep a handle on the flow of the conversation. If a participant is speaking for longer than seems fair or going down a topic trail that doesn’t fit the agenda, be careful with the phrase, “Let’s take this offline.” It can sound dismissive and cause stress that what they said was wrong. Instead, you can say, “This is important, and we should dedicate more time to this separately from this conversation. Let’s stay on after or set up a separate time.”

10. Don’t reserve more time than you need

Are you ending a lot of Zoom calls with the phrase, “I’m going to give you 10 minutes of your life back,” when you’re running ahead of schedule?

This may be an indication that you should schedule shorter calls, formalizing your team’s efficiency by building in more grace periods between meetings. When you do finish early, be congratulatory, thanking attendees for their participation and presence rather than subtly speaking about your time together as though it’s draining everyone’s energy.

11. Don’t fail to share meeting notes

Don’t forget to make all video meeting notes, recordings, chat history or whiteboard screenshots available post-meeting. This helps attendees follow up on their action items, retain the key takeaways and prepare well for your next meeting together.

Summing it all up

Leading virtual meetings is commonplace, which makes it easier to slip into habits that may lead to a dull, disengaged setting.

Remember, the way you lead a Zoom call isn’t much different than the way you should conduct yourself as the leader of a face-to-face meeting. With preparation, engagement strategies and practice, you can significantly improve the experience in your video meetings.

Better collaboration is just one way to build an outstanding company culture. Get more ideas in this free issue of the Insperity Magazine: The Insperity guide to company culture.

Leadership and management
Low morale at work: Who’s at risk and 4 steps to avoid it Tue, 14 Jun 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Low morale at work can be a big problem, killing engagement and productivity, spreading negativity and nudging employees out the door. As business leaders, we want to address employees’ morale issues as early as possible before they escalate and harm the company.

An even better approach would be prevention of morale issues in the first place – if only you could know in advance which employee’s morale was going to take a dip. You could pay close, careful attention to at-risk employees and work with them to prevent any problems actually materializing.

Impossible, right?

Here’s the thing: this isn’t wishful thinking. Nor do you need a crystal ball. Experience has shown us which employees and teams are at the highest risk of low morale.

Revealed: Highest risk employees for low morale

Regardless of an employee’s individual role and the type of work they do, the employees and teams that struggle the most with low morale have recently undergone – or are in the midst of – a significant change within the workplace.

The change could be abrupt or unexpected. Or, it could be something that has been planned for awhile, but just now has been implemented. The main point is the change has disrupted how the employee or team functions, or removes something from the work environment that an employee believed in, enjoyed or relied upon previously. There’s a palpable sense of loss.

Workplace scenarios that employees may perceive as negative and that could result in low morale include:

  • A manager or team member’s departure from the company (especially if a friendship existed)
  • Introduction of a new manager, perhaps one with an undesirable, ineffective leadership style, infrequent, opaque communication style or even lack of experience
  • Merger and acquisition
  • Reorganization of the team
  • Assignment to a new office
  • Modification of job responsibilities
  • Demotion
  • Change in remote work status (these days, usually a return-to-office mandate)
  • Other major policy or benefits changes
  • Layoffs
  • Implementation of a new technology or system that requires more knowledge and training that removes an employee from their comfort zone
  • Some other workplace-related crisis

These changes could impact your entire company or be limited to pockets within your company – specific departments or teams, or even certain individuals.

Both managers and employees are vulnerable to low morale. Although business leaders hope that they have the right people in charge – trained in change-management competencies and empowered to guide their teams through difficult periods – managers are human, too.

Low morale in managers is particularly worrisome because of their position of respect within and authority over the team. Among any group of co-workers, negativity tends to be contagious. The risk is that other employees will pay attention to their manager, whose feelings will trickle down to their team and impact the mindset of everyone.

The warning signs: What low morale at work looks like

Here’s what you should look for when you suspect an outbreak of low morale.

  • Former top performers seem to lose motivation  
  • Employees become quiet and reserved in meetings and withdraw from peers and managers in day-to-day interactions
  • Lack of enthusiasm, passion or “spark”
  • Lack of initiative
  • Negative change in behaviors, habits and temperament
  • Missed deadlines
  • Decreased quality of work
  • More frequent absenteeism

It just seems like they’re going through the motions and doing the bare minimum to get by each day – and don’t seem particularly happy about it and they’re certainly not putting forth their best effort. Depending on what’s going on with them personally or in the job market, these employees may be sheltering in job until a new opportunity arises.

Proactively preventing low morale at work: 4 steps

By the time you notice that an employee exhibits symptoms of low morale, it’s probably too late. You can salvage the situation and hopefully retain the employee, but at least some damage has been done.

But if you know which employees are at risk for low morale, you’re at a double advantage. You can:

  • Monitor and engage with those employees long before problems are apparent
  • Deploy strategies and best practices that maintain a positive workplace and help employees adopt a mindset of resilience despite changes

1. Rely on your company’s North Star

The North Star, which sits directly above the North Pole alongside Earth’s rotational axis, has long helped travelers and navigators in the Northern Hemisphere orient themselves and find their way – no matter how the conditions around them change.

Did you know your company has its own North Star, too? It’s called your:

  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Values
  • Culture

These things are created with intention and define your company’s identity. They shine above everything you do in your day-to-day work, showcasing the ideals that you want to exemplify each day. And they are the “constants” that guide your company and its peoples’ actions and keep you on course – despite inevitable changes that may unfold internally and externally.

Having a clear mission and vision, along with strong core values and a positive workplace culture, is the single biggest differentiator between companies that struggle with low morale versus those that don’t. Every company experiences changes and crises – but not every company has morale issues. What sets one company apart from another? Mission, vision, values and culture that don’t simply live on a poster, but are practiced and discussed daily.

During a significant change or crisis, your mission, vision, values and culture serve as a reminder to employees of why they’re really there, what’s really important, and what binds the team together. They instill a sense of teamwork and a higher, longer-term purpose despite the short-term challenges.

2. Understand your #1 priority as a business leader

Your people are your greatest asset. Keeping your people engaged and happy is your top priority, because there is a direct correlation between the success of your business and your employees:

  • Finding satisfaction in the work they do
  • Knowing they are supported by their company

So, checking in on employees isn’t something you do only when you suspect problems. It’s something you do regularly to let them know that you care, uncover those potential problems that you had no idea were brewing, and listen to their input.

Continually think about what you can do to enhance your culture, better engage employees and provide more support and resources to them. As a business leader, you are there to help them do the best work they can and facilitate getting them what they need.

Once an employee understands that you care through your actions, trust is established. As a result, open-door policies and meaningful, two-way communication are more likely to be feasible and successful. Meaning, employees are more likely to come to you with their concerns on their own initiative so you can effectively address them – as opposed to employees’ feelings of low morale festering internally until they reach a breaking point.

3. Communicate well and with intention

Whenever you announce a significant workplace change to employees, plan ahead and be intentional in what you say and do. This is a good, basic process to follow:

  • Get manager buy-in first. These are the people that you expect to lead teams through the disruption, so they need to get the right messaging first. If they’re not on board, no one else will be either.
  • Depending on the size of your business, number of employees and the nature of the change, select your method of delivery carefully. Most often, changes are best announced in person because:
    • It’s more personal and caring
    • You can better convey your desired tone
    • You can see employees’ reactions
    • You can answer their questions in real time
  • Clearly explain the change to managers and employees, along with the business rationale. Weave your company’s mission, vision, values and culture into the discussion, and explain how these changes align with your North Star. Describe what the impact of the change will be to the affected parties, along with any changes in expectations. Emphasize the benefits, too – you want to get employees on board and energized about the possibilities ahead. Focus on gains rather than losses.
  • Be transparent (which should be one of your core values that you practice daily). Admit when you don’t know a piece of information or can’t answer a question at that time. However, commit to finding out the answer and following up.
  • Demonstrate respect (another potential core value) and listen to employees. Answer their questions and solicit their feedback. Address their initial concerns.
  • Set employees up for success. Offer the support and resources they need to thrive in the new environment. Let them know where to go and who to talk to if they need to discuss the change further.

4. Periodically obtain feedback via a formal culture survey

At pre-determined, regular periods, formally issue a culture survey to your entire organization. You could also break employees up into focus groups for more in-depth discussion. Choose the interval of time that works best for your business, depending on its size, number of employees and how extensive your research methodology is, which impacts the length of time that the process takes.

Don’t wait until morale is at all-time lows to engage in this exercise – you know you’re going to get negative feedback in that scenario. Instead, disseminate the survey regularly so you obtain results that are truly reflective of the day-to-day experience at your company.

Find out if:

  • Employees’ average day aligns with mission, vision, values and culture
  • People agree on what the culture is and describe it similarly
  • There are opportunities for improvement

If you do uncover action items, determine what your company will do. How will you select, prioritize and implement these action items? From which stakeholders do you need buy-in? What is the timeline?

Always follow up with employees to talk through the survey results and the next steps. Explain why certain actions are being taken at the expense of others. Otherwise, you could make employees’ morale worse by giving the impression that you’re not really listening to them.

Summing it all up

The mystery behind the most common source of low morale at work has been cracked. Most cases of low morale at work are associated with employees or teams undergoing a significant change in the workplace, in which an employee or team views the situation negatively and feels as though they’ve lost something. Knowing this information is half the battle in combating low morale.

When changes inevitably happen, you can pay special attention and show greater care to these employees. Additionally, you can establish an anti-low morale workplace by taking proactive steps to prevent it from ever happening. Promote your mission, vision, values and culture; demonstrate care and support for employees, with their engagement and satisfaction being your top priority; practice good communication; and solicit feedback.

Want to take your efforts to banish low morale at work even further? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee engagement.

Training and performance
7 real leadership challenges of a post-pandemic workplace Thu, 09 Jun 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Nobody is immune to leadership challenges, and although the world has largely emerged from the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and has settled into “a new normal,” there are still roadblocks to work through.

So, we asked high-level leaders to share a leadership challenge they have faced in the post-pandemic workplace landscape – and more importantly how they’ve worked to overcome it.

1. Challenge: Communicating purpose and value

Today more than ever, employees seek purpose and value in their work. Employees want to know:

  • Why?
  • What’s the vision?
  • Where are we going?
  • How do I fit into these plans?

Employees need the inspiration of a shared vision and encouragement to achieve goals as a team. This is easier said than done as a leader, who can also face challenges like:

  • Maybe not always feeling inspired
  • Unsure of how things are going to turn out
  • In the same boat as employees, juggling new and different complexities of hybrid work

Additionally, in remote or hybrid work environments it can be more challenging to bring employees together – even virtually – to discuss a shared vision and purpose. More agile work schedules and employees working in different time zones mean that everyone may not be available at once. 

The solution:

Leaders have an obligation to ensure that employees understand their place within the bigger picture and how their contributions help the business reach goals and succeed.

From a people perspective:

  • Remember that employees are emotional beings, with highs and lows.
  • Meet your team where they are at; be present and celebrate small wins.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Be purposeful in your recognition of employees. Make a genuine effort to help the team see the awesomeness in their contributions that enable the business.
  • Tell employees often that they and their work matter and that they are seen, heard and appreciated.    

From a work perspective:

  • Engage with individuals and teams to provide clarity on your shared purpose, including your mission, vision and goals.
  • Explain why you all exist as a team, how each person offers value as a contributor, what it means to perform at their best and what winning looks like.
  • Furthermore, describe the non-negotiable values that lead everyone to do their best work in the way you believe in doing it.

Lisa Jasper
Director, Performance Improvement

2. Challenge: Fear of messing up

We are living in a time in which people may have heightened anxiety and a potential fear of making mistakes. And if that’s not enough, the desire to be seen as a valued part of the team can quickly move someone from stressed to distressed – fearing failure before they even start.

A culture defined by no room for failure – without considering how we learn and grow – often presents itself as team members not asking questions or speaking up.

The solution

As leaders, we need to be careful not to create a culture where failure describes the person. Failure is an event, not a person.

Conversely, we need to engineer an environment in which no one is defending themselves out of fear of belittlement or retaliation, but instead the culture champions each other in the pursuit of excellence.

When employees are comfortable enough to raise their hand to say, “I made a mistake,” “I need help” or “I don’t understand, can you explain it again,” leaders have engineered a safe environment. This is where people feel safe enough to ask questions that will allow them to continually learn, stretch and grow.

This culture is created by leaders in three ways

  • Know yourself. Have self-awareness to know that a temporary failure or setback is not a threat against your leadership.
  • Choose yourself. There are two choices when it comes to viewing failure: You can either react negatively or respond positively. The choice you make sets the tone for all those you lead.
  • Give yourself. As a leader, decide how you want to be remembered during this interaction. What’s your brand – what do you want people to say about you?

A couple of quotes to remember

  • Failure is simply a test of your commitment to succeed.
  • Because it impacts you and it impacts your team, it’s worth repeating: failure is an event, not a person.
  • Finally you could say, sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

Pete Hinojosa
Thought Leadership Director

3. Challenge: Overcoming talent shortages

Companies are going to be competing heavily for limited numbers of talented workers.

A snapshot of what’s going on:

  • Record numbers of Baby Boomers have left the workforce since COVID-19. For example, according to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), in the third quarter of 2020, 3.2 million more U.S. workers over age 65 stopped working compared to the same quarter in 2019. It’s unclear whether and when those numbers will reverse, or if older Americans did indeed retire earlier than planned.
  • Women’s mass exodus from the labor market has been dubbed “the SHEcession.” SHRM reports that women accounted for 63% of jobs lost during the pandemic and, as of January 2022, are still “short by more than 1.8 million jobs lost since February 2020.”
  • The prospects for the future aren’t that promising either. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. birthrate has plunged to a 35-year low. On average, American women have 1.71 children, which is not enough to replace previous generations.

The solution:

To prevent critical gaps in knowledge and responsibilities, companies must, more than ever, focus on:

This is an important opportunity for businesses to evaluate how they can become a workplace where employees want to stay for the long term. Businesses must focus on doing the types of things listed above that help to retain current valued employees – and not just focus on hiring new people.

Companies may also need to be open to workers and working arrangements they may not have considered previously. For example, this may include employees:

  • Who work part-time schedules, as opposed to full-time schedules
  • Who live and work remotely, potentially in other cities, states or even countries
  • Who need additional training to successfully carry out their job functions

Older employees can be an advantage to businesses as well. For many, their expertise is still peaking at age 65 and beyond. Mature adults can continue to bring experience, insight and value to a company in ways that younger, less seasoned talent can’t. Cultivating, reskilling and retaining older workers can help businesses prevent and fill many of the talent gaps that companies face.

Mary Kay Engelhardt
Vice President, Recruiting & Selection

4. Challenge: Keeping a pulse on your remote or hybrid team

How do leaders maintain a close and successful working relationship over the long term with team members they may not see face to face regularly?

When managing remote or hybrid employees, it can be challenging to spot when something may be “off” with a person or entire team and quickly address the small things so they did not escalate into bigger challenges.

The solution:

Be deliberate in when and how you connect with people, using some of the below techniques:

  • When engaging with direct reports, ask about each individual team member to reinforce the importance of taking care of people.
  • Schedule a routine appointment on your calendar to connect with at least two different individual contributors each week. This can be a Skype message, an email, a videoconference meeting or a phone call. The only rules are that it is one-on-one and, if you detect anything that indicates uncertainty from a team member, to have a conversation.
  • Practice social awareness.
  • Build up your emotional intelligence.
  • Become adept at proactively addressing problem behaviors.

Fernanda Anzek
Managing Director, Human Resources Operations

5. Challenge: Recruiting in a competitive market

These days, it’s more difficult than ever to attract top talent in a competitive job market.

Job seekers have leverage and can afford to be choosy. They don’t have to spend long periods searching for a position. At any given time, they could have multiple opportunities or actual offers on the table, so recruiters have to act fast.

How do candidates want to see the application process improved?

  • Candidates want an easy way to apply requiring the shortest amount of time – if the application can be completed with a cell phone, even better.
  • Candidates will no longer entertain lengthy processes with five or more interviews. If you can’t make a decision based on one or two interviews, candidates will likely move on.

Furthermore, the single, major differentiator for candidates when multiple offers are on the table is workplace flexibility.

The solution:

  • Allow for remote work, hybrid work and flexible scheduling.
  • Simplify (and shorten) your job application.
  • Make your application mobile friendly.
  • Remove any other roadblocks that you’ve identified during the application process.
  • Implement an applicant tracking system, which can automate and streamline much of the recruiting process and deliver a consistent candidate experience.
  • Reduce the number of interviews (two maximum).

Kim Castro
Managing Director, Recruiting Services

6. Challenge: Maintaining motivation and focus

Early in the pandemic, there was an increased effort to keep employees motivated and focused. People were afraid for loved ones, adjusting to remote work and overcome with uncertainty of the future. In this case, we can steal a play from our pandemic rule book for maintaining motivation and focus, which continues to be a business challenge.

The solution:

  • Stay optimistic
  • Be consistent in connecting with people regularly via individual and team motivational conversations
  • Ask for employees’ feedback and opinion
  • Implement some type of group activity once per week to engage the team (for example: my own team has started a tradition of light-hearted joke emails on Friday mornings).

Omar Bangash
Director, Recruiting Services

7. Challenge: Leading through change

During the pandemic, we were given a crash course on how to manage employees through a work environment transformation while maintaining business continuity. We quickly moved into high-functioning mode and had to consider:

  • Employee safety and wellness
  • Flexible workspaces and scheduling
  • Increased client demand
  • Workflow changes
  • Technology changes
  • Staffing shortages

The solution:

Although employers have always faced catastrophic events, none have been as intense and far reaching for leaders of today as the impact of COVID-19. The experience helped us know that we can overcome, and now we have a great roadmap on how to lead through change, which continues to be a post-pandemic challenge.

There are unique solutions to each of the changes listed above, but the main driver of smooth change management is:

  • Good teamwork
  • Cross-training
  • Accountability
  • Streamlined decision making when needed, including any necessary pivots when challenges arise
  • Encouraging and modeling interactions with coworkers, clients, etc. that is caring, genuine, sensitive and timely
  • Abiding faith and trust
  • Reaching out to additional resources for support
  • Consistent and transparent communication

Anna Brewer
Director, HR Administrative Compliance

Summing it all up

With changes in the larger workplace come unique leadership challenges. Our Insperity leaders have identified seven areas in which leaders may struggle in the post-COVID landscape, and have offered solutions for each.

To learn more about adapting to workplace changes and overcoming the challenges that come with managing people in a rapidly evolving environment, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to managing change.

Leadership and management
16 proven strategies to improve manager and employee engagement Tue, 07 Jun 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Everyone wants happy employees. But one connection that’s often missed is that employee satisfaction and employee engagement go hand in hand. So how do you measure engagement in your workforce? What are some employee engagement best practices? And why does it matter for your business?

First, let’s quickly define employee engagement.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the level of enthusiasm and dedication an employee feels toward their work. It’s more than having happy workers and minimizing employee turnover. For engaged employees, the job is far more than just a paycheck. They’re eager to take on responsibilities, carry out their duties and give you their best work.

Take a look at your staff. You may see that your employees will fall into one of three categories of engagement:

  1. Engaged – The employee believes in the business, wants to improve their work, is willing to do what it takes to help the organization succeed and is motivated by their leaders. Efficiency and enthusiasm are the hallmark traits of an engaged worker.
  2. Disengaged – The employee does slightly more than the bare minimum, exhibits little passion for their job and sees work as an exchange of time for a steady paycheck. Disengaged workers are often engaged workers who’ve lost their enthusiasm for one reason or another.
  3. Actively disengagedThe employee demonstrates low job satisfaction and makes that known, spreading negativity across the organization and often dragging operational efficiency down with them.

Engaged employees often become your company’s high performers – those who are self–motivated, innovative, proactive and are eager to learn new skills. Studies have shown that these valuable achievers can deliver as much productivity as four average employees. A bonus is that these employees are often your company’s best ambassadors, speaking well of your business.

On the other hand, disengaged employees will cost your company. A Gallup poll estimates actively disengaged employees cause U.S. companies between $450 – $550 billion in lost productivity per year.

Employee engagement starts with management

Engaged managers are better at building teams of engaged employees. Good managers convey consistent expectations to their employees that are realistic, clear and concise.

A 2017 Gallup report concluded that employees supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than employees supervised by actively disengaged managers.

Managers clearly set the tone to increase employee engagement.

When leaders are visibly committed to their work and role – coaching and encouraging employees, celebrating successes and proactively addressing challenges – employees often follow suit. They’re more productive, provide better customer service and are less likely to leave a company.

7 strategies to improve manager engagement

Engaged managers happen when your company’s leadership promotes effective communication, a culture of transparency and policies that support the health and wellbeing of your workforce – at every level.

Consider the following strategies:

  1. Empower your managers to make more business decisions.
  2. Reward and recognize your managers when things are done well.
  3. Tell your managers that you respect their work and leadership.
  4. Provide your managers with the opportunity to learn new skills and advance.
  5. Give your managers the resources and time they need to do their jobs successfully.
  6. Continually audit that your managers’ abilities and skills are being put to good use.
  7. Effectively communicate decisions, company strategy and company mission to managers.

It’s clear employee engagement is important. But do you think your employees are likely to be engaged if their managers aren’t? Consider the HR outsourcing services offered by a professional employer organization (PEO). They can help assess your challenges and guide you in creating an action plan using strategies proven to increase employee engagement.

Now, what about employees?

9 employee engagement Ideas and best practices

An employee engagement strategy can help the business owner develop a highly engaged workforce of happier, healthier and more dedicated employees who make your business thrive.

Here are some best practices for improving employee engagement.

  1. Hire the right people – Create job posting descriptions with specific language to attract the best candidates. Being transparent in your expectations about job responsibilities, starting from the onboarding process, forms a solid foundation of engagement and a great employee experience.
  2. Build a strong company culture – A strong culture of trust and communication makes it more likely that employees will approach a manager to discuss why they are unhappy. With two-way communication built on trust and regular feedback, you’ll have better chances of motivating a disgruntled employee to become more engaged while creating a stronger work environment.
  3. Recognize and reward employees – You can foster employee engagement with a culture of gratitude. Not only does showing a little appreciation increase productivity, but people will continue to do the right things for the right reasons.
  4. Create a recognition program – Praise doesn’t need to cost you. Everyday rewards initiatives like a handwritten note or thank-you email go a long way. Gift cards for a coffee, book or lunch will be appreciated and can be more frequent than a more formal award.
  5. Provide career growth opportunities – Provide employees with career opportunities such as a mentor, a choice assignment, professional development training or a promotion that reflects career progression. Such opportunities can help an engaged employee blossom into one of your top high-performers.
  6. Be flexible, adaptable and transparent with your workforce – When a business owner models the company’s core values, employees will understand how to reproduce them in the workplace. Sharing news while being flexible and adaptable not only helps the company through difficult times. It’s an opportunity to be a powerful role model for employees who may be struggling.
  7. Strive for accountability in all your employees – Fairness is a foundational concept in the workplace during good times and bad. When employees see that everyone is held accountable to a clear set of rules, a business owner will often have a better outcome in instituting cost-cutting measures, for example.
  8. Run team-building activities – Whether it’s a team lunch via teleconferencing or an in-person recreational activity, team building helps employees make meaningful connections with their colleagues. Positive company morale and employee engagement often go hand in hand.
  9. Support employee engagement outside the workplace – Giving back to the communities where you do business can be meaningful for you and your staff. Employee volunteer programs can foster engagement by increasing feelings of commitment to the company they represent while helping the community.

Accurately measuring employee engagement

Employee engagement measures track employee activity to see how engagement impacts business goals, such as increased sales, revenue, employee retention rates and other company growth indicators.

Several ways to measure employee engagement include:

  • Create an employee engagement survey – You can ask about an employee’s engagement in a companywide anonymous survey or receive it in on-on-one sessions.
  • Analyze retention numbers – If more employees are leaving than is typical, conduct exit interviews to uncover the root causes.
  • Examine your productivity – If your company misses productivity targets, an in–depth look could point to less-than-ideal employee engagement.
  • Create an in-house focus group – Include employees from different levels and departments, and consider using an outside, trained facilitator to solicit insights.
  • Hire an outside consultant – Sometimes, a specially trained consultant can best assess employee engagement across operations, recommend a remediation plan for improved performance and set up measures for tracking employee engagement.

Employee engagement affects your bottom line

Employee engagement has several concrete benefits for any business owner. When employees feel more connected to each other, the company purpose and the customers, they tend to stay longer in their jobs and report higher employee satisfaction. Greater retention means less employee turnover, less time spent recruiting and training new hires, and more money saved due to less turnover.

Engaged employees yield higher productivity and profitability for your business by outperforming teams of disengaged employees when it comes to:

  • More-satisfied customers
  • Higher output
  • Lower absenteeism rates

Also, engaged managers working with engaged teams are more capable of innovation and growth. Any engaged manager will need enthusiastic team members eager to work hard and meet (or exceed) company goals.

To learn more about engaging your entire workforce, download our free magazine, The Insperity guide to employee engagement .

]]> 2 Training and performance
Ready for a full return to the office? 5 strategies to consider first Thu, 02 Jun 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Although we’ve reached some semblance of a “new normal” when it comes to working in a professional environment post-pandemic, there are still lingering questions regarding why, when and how often employees should return to the office. What’s still the issue? There’s a big disconnect between what employers and employees want.

According to a Future Forums study conducted in Fall 2021 about inflexible return-to-office policies, 44% of executives want to return to fully in-office work, compared to only 17% of non-executive employees.

So, what’s the solution?

Employers’ view on a return to the office

Employers often cite the following rationale for a full-time return to the office:

  • Collaboration and teamwork are best fostered when everyone’s together in person.
  • Workplace culture needs to be preserved, and this is best accomplished when everyone’s together in person.
  • Spontaneous conversations and idea generation can only happen at the office when people bump into each other by chance and talk face to face.
  • It’s easier to monitor what employees are doing.
  • Employers generally prefer an office environment and enjoy the energy of a full office.

Essentially, these employers miss the traditional, pre-COVID workplace and want to go back.

Employees’ view on a return to the office

From the employee perspective, the last two years have demonstrated that they can be equally effective at their jobs from home or any other location. Technology has enabled them to perform all the duties of their jobs remotely while continuing to interface and collaborate with team members, managers and clients.

  • Productivity: Some employees report feeling even more productive and efficient at home without constant interruptions from colleagues, distractions around the office, unnecessary meetings or even just small talk with friends at work.
  • Cost-savings: Working from home has saved employees a lot of money – especially in a time with record-high inflation and gas prices. No commute means lower gas expenses. They’re also saving other costs associated with going into the physical office, such as lunches out with co-workers or buying and dry-cleaning professional attire.
  • Work-life balance: Employees have had a taste of freedom and improved work-life balance, and they want it to continue. No commute and being home means more time to spend with family and pursue personal interests and hobbies. For employees who are parents or caregivers for other family members, remote work has been especially helpful in balancing professional and personal obligations.
  • Environment: For many employees, remote work is work without many of the less satisfying, unfortunate elements that often come with a workplace. There’s less exposure to office drama or politics, and they can be in a more comfortable (cubicle-free) environment, wearing casual attire.
  • Health and safety: Of course, some employees – especially those with certain medical conditions or who care for an immune-compromised family member – remain concerned about exposure to COVID-19, which for them may carry a higher risk of a severe outcome.

Overall, they have discovered that there is a better way to work that balances individual and company needs and, for them, there is no going back.

What’s wrong with asking employees to return to the office?

Despite the employee views, some employers may still want or need to ask employees to return to the office. They might promote things such as free breakfast or lunch, or team-building games at the office, in a bid to raise employee morale and engagement.

Approaching the situation in this manner is problematic, because:

  • It doesn’t address that employees hold greater leverage in the job market, and it places the business at risk of losing valued people.
  • It doesn’t share the reasoning behind the decision or communicate the benefits of on-site work to both the individual employee and the organization. Employees cannot support what they don’t understand.
  • Issuing orders that feel arbitrary to employees creates resentment and sends the message that employees’ concerns are irrelevant. Worse yet, with the lack of any reasons given, employees may perceive that their employers don’t trust them to work remotely.

5 ways to plan a return to the office that works for everyone

To avoid some of the issues above, use these strategies to make sure whatever change you have in plan works for all parties and does not lead to larger disruptions of business operations and unintended consequences.

1. Don’t forget the needs of your employees in the process

Before interrupting the workplace schedule and routine, consider how any change will affect employee engagement and satisfaction. Ask yourself:

2. Create a return-to-office strategy based on feedback

Before making any decisions or announcements about a return to the office, companies should consider conducting a “readiness to return to office” survey of their employees. This is a critical opportunity to:

  • Get a pulse on what employees think about remote/hybrid vs. on-site work.
  • Identify any major gaps in preferences between employees and leadership.
  • Uncover any concerns or roadblocks that may exist for employees.
  • Ask employees what they need from the company to be successful in an on-site or remote/hybrid work environment.
  • Find out what level of flexibility your employees want.

You can also combine this with a general culture survey to find out if there’s anything specific about your physical office or workplace culture that employees find unappealing in person.

The results of the survey should govern your decision making, communication and how you address employees’ concerns throughout the return-to-office process.

If a huge disconnect exists between you and your employees, proceed with caution, and think carefully about how to address employee concerns to avoid alienating large swaths of your workforce.

3. Prioritize timely and well-communicated announcements

Transparent, honest and consistent communication is key. The biggest things employees want to know about an ask to return to the office is:

  • Why
  • What’s in it for me
  • Who’s involved

When you make an announcement to employees, share results from the “readiness to return to office” survey with them. Tell them that your decision is based on their feedback.

Let them know which employees your decision applies to, or if everyone is impacted regardless of role, rank or performance history.

Explain how your decision aligns with and supports the company’s mission, vision, values and culture, as well as specific business goals.

If your business plans to introduce other measures that encourage flexibility in conjunction with a return to the office, such as hybrid work or alternative work schedules, announce this to employees as well. Prepare written policies that set expectations, clarify rules and restrictions, and establish consistency. Talk about the purpose of going into the office going forward.

Describe the benefits of returning to the office for employees and the company as a whole. Your goal is to energize and excite employees about the future, and help them understand how their personal circumstances will improve with the new changes.

However, this is also a conversation between the company and employees. Let them know with whom they can discuss additional questions or concerns.

4. Be realistic about a return to the office

Getting back to the physical office in some form will be a gradual transition – it won’t be a quick shift that happens within a few days. You may need to give your employees at least a month’s notice.

Consider your employees’ personal circumstances and obligations, and understand that they may need to shuffle some things around after two years of working remotely. For example, maybe they need time to make alternative arrangements for children’s daycare or for an aging family member for whom they’ve been caring.

This rule still applies even if your team has already returned to the office part time ,and that schedule is just changing to three or four days in the office instead of one or two.

If you’re implementing hybrid work arrangements or alternative work schedules, make time to meet with employees individually to discuss their unique scheduling preferences.

If an employee notifies you that they have a medical condition that increases their risk of severe COVID-19, you may need to engage in an interactive discussion with them per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to find a reasonable workplace accommodation. Depending on their role and job duties, this may involve permanent, 100% remote work.

5. Make improvements when needed

Determine whether you should enhance your physical office to encourage employees to come back to work on-site. For example:

  • Re-evaluate whether you want to stick with assigned cubicles or offer a mix of shared spaces to accommodate different working styles and purposes, such as open collaboration areas, private meeting rooms and outdoor spaces. If you implement a hybrid schedule, this is especially important as you revisit the role of the office and define the purpose of coming on-site.
  • For employees who are concerned about COVID-19 exposure, assess your health and safety protocols and consider making building upgrades to protect health and safety.

Maybe your workplace culture could benefit from a review as well. For example:

  • Strive for an environment that uplifts and inspires.
  • Make trust and autonomy central to your culture – you don’t want employees to feel as though the return to the office is to enable more micromanagement.
  • Consider how to better support employees who are parents and/or caregivers.

Summing it all up

Although many employers want a more regular, traditional return to the office, many employees don’t. The way forward seems to center on hybrid work, a combination of remote and on-site work, as well as the enablement of more worker flexibility and autonomy.

Whether your return to work is a hybrid two-days-a-week schedule or full shift to on-site work, survey your workforce and find out how they feel. Based on these results, come up with a plan, communicate it and make accommodations when necessary.

Listening to your employees and factoring their needs into major workplace decisions is crucial for increasing their morale and engagement. For more strategies on improving employees’ attitude toward, and connection with, the workplace, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee engagement.

Training and performance
6 ways to get your leadership team excited about company culture Tue, 31 May 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Company culture can be an ambiguous idea until it’s put into action. So how does that happen? Leadership. When your employees regularly witness a strong connection between leadership and culture, they’ll believe and buy into your organizational values.

Leaders must champion culture, yet our leadership and culture both evolve over time. How can you ensure that this progress happens in unison – that over the years your leadership team continues to mirror your culture and speak its language to the employees they manage?

6 strategies to champion leadership and culture

Like nearly every aspect of running your organization, maintaining this important dynamic between leadership and culture requires strategic planning and execution. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated. To help, we’ve assembled a list of six intentional ways you can reenergize your leadership team and reinforce your company culture at the same time.

1. Offer a refresher course

Up front, during new manager onboarding, most companies do an excellent job of training leaders on their culture, core business values, mission and vision. But that shouldn’t be the end of the story, and too often it is.

Ideally, you would offer your leaders an in-person refresher course on these topics at least every three to four years. If you’ve modified the way you want your values interpreted, or have extended parts of your mission, hosting a leadership refresher course would give you an opportunity to discuss these updates at-length.

This would also provide you with time to explore:

  • How your top managers can reflect your culture within their leadership
  • How they can support their teams’ efforts to live out your values
  • How they can communicate changes to the rest of the company

At all times, especially in the years between these meetings, make aspects of culture, mission, vision and core values a regular part of all your communications. Then, when you come together to go deeper, the conversation about your culture feels familiar and is easy to connect to your day-to-day operations.

2. Plan a day of service

Do your leaders regularly have the opportunity to get out and serve together? If servant leadership or community engagement are an important part of your workplace culture, planning a day of service can be a great way to keep your leaders refreshed and connected to your mission. It can be a day to ensure that your leaders show up in a way that exemplifies your values, modeling for employees what you expect from them.

3. Tie leadership performance to exemplifying values

When leaders are around other leaders, they naturally emulate one another and thus, your values. But how can you be sure they take those values back to their individual teams? Incorporating culture-modeling questions into management performance reviews can get your leaders’ attention and help facilitate this values transfer.

For example:

  • If your organizational culture prizes innovation, your leaders’ performance reviews could ask, “How have you empowered your team to innovate? How have you helped take them to the next level?”
  • For cultures emphasizing teamwork, ask, “How have you helped another leader’s team here? How do you show respect for the worth of the individual?”

Bringing culture and values into your performance management process will help keep them top of mind for your leaders.

4. Encourage leaders to self-evaluate

There’s a tendency in leadership to point to the people as a problem when workplace culture seems off, but oftentimes the problem stems from the leader.

But if you can create an environment where your leaders feel comfortable taking inventory of themselves, it can help them assume full responsibility for their role as a face of your company culture. When your upper managers model self-awareness and lead with emotional intelligence, it will work its way down into your organization and create a profound effect on your culture.

Discuss this with your leaders. Walk through the questions you ask yourself as a leader, especially regarding your influence over company culture. For example:

  • If my team isn’t living up to the values, what’s missing in my communications to them?
  • Am I sharing and modeling our values? Where is there room for growth?
  • Do I showcase our culture?

5. Spend time with leaders of other organizations

When your leaders are able to step outside of their everyday work environment and spend time with leaders from other companies, it helps them remember what’s unique about your organization and refine the skill of showcasing your culture and values. Networking with other leaders through professional associations or conferences can be a powerful source of inspiration, too.

In busy seasons or after years of being involved, it’s easy to pull back from engaging outside our organizations, but we should continue prioritizing these opportunities because they can reinvigorate us and make us better leaders.

6. Provide thought leadership opportunities

In the same regard, helping your management talent see themselves as thought leaders can keep them focused on your values and culture.

You can create these opportunities by:

  • Providing resources that help them build their public leadership brand
  • Allowing them to share their ideas on your company’s website or social media channels
  • Connecting them with speaking engagements in your community

When we put ourselves in the position of needing to articulate our thoughts publicly, it encourages reflection and reaffirms vision.

Summing it all up

Your organizational culture and leadership both have tremendous influence over the other. Without leaders who model the company culture you wish to establish, it can be very difficult to move from words to actions. That’s why keeping your leadership team aligned with, and energized about, your culture is so important.

For more ways to help you and your leaders reach full potential, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

Leadership and management
Is your leadership on the defense? 8 strategies to build trust in the workplace Thu, 26 May 2022 14:30:00 +0000 If misunderstandings and interpersonal issues are fuel to the fire that is conflict in the workplace, what can be used to put out the flame? Or what could have been done to prevent the fire in the first place?

Before answering those questions, ask: How did the fire begin? Typically, these type of relationship fires begin because of one missing element: trust.

Start with the source: Trust in the workplace

As a leader, you can troubleshoot whether you have trust in the workplace when you engage in critical conversations with employees. Discussions around the following topics can be applicable:

  • Job performance (including formal performance reviews)
  • Feedback on projects
  • Interpersonal issues with other colleagues, or perhaps even between you and the employee
  • Disciplinary issues
  • Inability to reach goals
  • Negative impacts to career path, such as a demotion or role change
  • Or any regular day-to-day interaction

From both the manager and employee perspective, many people dread these conversations because they’re often tough or potentially uncomfortable.

A common reason why? There’s a lack of trust. Employees may not believe their manager truly has their back, supports them and advocates for their best interests. They may even see them in an adversarial role.

Some employers, in moments of frustration, can even unintentionally say morale-killing things to employees, which can easily compound the lack of trust and demotivate their people.

When these critical conversations happen, employees may react in a number of ways that you may not expect or even want. They may:

  • Shut down and say nothing
  • Become passive
  • Withdraw
  • Shift blame
  • Become angry, defensive or aggressive
  • Seek to shut down the conversation as soon as possible, even if they’re seen as overly agreeable

Prescriptive leadership: One strategy and three steps to try

Prescriptive leadership is often reactive (grabbing the extinguisher to put out the fire). As a leader, you’re taking a step-by-step approach to try and fix a situation with an employee in which it’s apparent that something is ablaze. It’s about building trust and making things better in the moment.

Here’s a simple scenario to think through to consider the DNA approach.

A leader walks into a meeting with news of a decision that will take their team to their next goal. As the leader explains the new opportunity, a senior team member speaks up and comments bluntly about their concerns of how the new initiative will work.

The leader can take this in one of two directions:

  • React: If the leader reacts, they may ignore the comment altogether or attack the comment with a loaded reply.
  • Respond: If the leader responds, they will complete the final two steps of the DNA approach.

So that we don’t over complicate the directions of a prescription, keep it simple in three parts.

D = Decisions that have been made

We all carry around a set of beliefs, biases, natural tendencies, preferences and life experiences. Together, these are the “stories in our heads” that we tell ourselves – our built-in thought processes that influence how we automatically respond to others’ words and actions.

This is where many leaders and employees alike stop. Most people don’t want to see an issue from another perspective – their decision’s been made. Someone says or does something, and then we react according to our pre-made decisions.

In the example above, a leader is challenged by a team member who disagrees with them. Their initial reaction might be to put that employee in their place. Or as noted, they might ignore the comment altogether.

Lack of understanding and conflict can ensue.

N = New information is available

A leader who progresses to this next level will, when confronted with new information or some sort of challenge, first seek to learn and understand. They won’t automatically accept or reject the information on the basis of whether it aligns with their own decisions.

When the senior team member made their blunt comment – regardless of what leadership thought their intent was – the manager has an opportunity to seek new information.

A = Ask questions, adjust and act

How do you gather new information and see from their perspective? Use this final step and ask:

  • Questions
  • For their input and insight
  • Why they feel a certain way
  • What their experience suggests

Based on what they learn, prescriptive leaders can adjust their decisions and act on new thought processes. This is critical for a climate of collaboration and trust – and extinguishing the fire.

Why we need trust in the workplace

Leaders are critical in influencing workplace culture and establishing trust because employees watch their actions and cues. They learn very quickly whether they can speak up, ask questions and challenge ideas. Employees intuit whether they’ll face some form of pushback from leadership, including being berated, belittled or ignored.

Consider it this way:

  1. Leaders influence emotions.
  2. Emotions drive people.
  3. People drive performance.

Your leadership impacts how comfortable or on edge, or how open or closed off, people feel. This can directly impact performance and output, as well as day-to-day interpersonal relationships.

The key to establishing trust: Preventive leadership

Preventative leadership is proactive – leaders use this style to clear debris, set alarms and help avoid fires from sparking. It’s the work done before the conflict ever begins.

Preventive leaders are:

  • Empathetic and able to adopt the perspective of others
  • Servant leaders who want to support and meet the needs of their team members
  • Eager to listen, ask questions and learn from others
  • Accepting of differences
  • Collaborative
  • Respectful of others

Someone who practices preventive leadership can answer yes to both these questions:

  • Do I have an environment where new information is sharable?
  • Am I willing to accept, act on or even adjust to this new information?

So, how can you proactively develop trusting relationships with employees and prevent critical conversations from becoming difficult and damaging that trust?

7 ways to practice preventative leadership

1. Establish your company’s values

Your company’s values are its stable foundation. Common examples of values are integrity, respect, innovation, adaptability and accountability. When put into practice, values lay the groundwork for trusting relationships and a positive culture.

Continually evaluate which values your organization excels at embodying and in which areas your organization could improve. As leaders, the gap between what we say and do with those values is trust – your values aren’t just words on a poster.

2. Get to know your people

By proactively getting to know your people, you’ll find new understandings that build trust and may influence growth overall. You’ll learn:

  • What motivates them
  • What stresses them out
  • How they solve problems
  • Their strengths and weaknesses
  • Their ideal working environment
  • The first questions they like to ask when handed a new assignment or project
  • Their preferred means of communication
  • How they like to be recognized for exemplary work or achievements

How do you find out this information?

  • Ask your employees directly.
  • Create a set of questions that you ask overtime in your one-on-one meetings
  • Give your employees a DISC personality assessment (or maintain awareness of the DISC assessment and try to ascertain their DISC personality type on your own).

Sometimes the road to establishing trusting relationships can be hindered by misjudgement. Find peace in the pause, and consider these questions before jumping to conclusions about employee behavior:

If you understand someone else’s motivations, preferences and natural tendencies, as a result there should be less conflict, misunderstandings and discomfort.

3. Give your feedback story

Let your employees know upfront why and how you give feedback. Your employees want to know that your feedback isn’t about you not liking them and harping on them, or you feeling superior. It’s about you wanting to help and support them.

An apt analogy to share with employees is that you’re like an air traffic controller. You have a different – broader– perspective of their journey. Your intention isn’t to make people feel upset or like a failure. Your intention is to keep each member of your team on course, much like an air traffic controller delivers so pilots can reach their destination.

A pilot getting good information doesn’t question an air traffic controller. They know the air traffic controller can see something they don’t and wants to help them avoid mistakes. Likewise, your employees should understand that you’re giving them information to support them, bolster their career and help them reach their goals.

4. Engineer your culture

Your best intention minus action equates to a lack of trust. On the other hand, your best intention plus action equates to increased trust.

In other words, to get the culture you want, you have to match your words with your actions and lead by example. Your employees are looking at the last thing you did – not your last best intention.

5. Create certainty

Your employees need to feel safe, understood and valued. When thinking about your leadership, your people will consider these three measures:

Safe: Does my manager have my back?

Understood: Does my manager have empathy for me and seek to understand my perspective?

Valued: Does my manager recognize my talents and how they benefit the organization while leveraging my gifts to their full potential? Do they recognize and reward me for a job well done?

Ask yourself:

  • Are you struggling with any employees?
  • Do you truly have your employees’ back?
  • What actions are you taking to make people feel safe, understood and valued?
  • How do you recognize and reward employees?

6. Determine whether you’re under-leading or over-leading

To maintain trust, leaders should adapt their leadership style over time and manage employees at their appropriate level of development.

Under-leading means that you provide minimal guidance and supervision to an employee. Over-leading means that you’re more controlling and watchful – perhaps even as far as micromanaging.

Few things are more frustrating to an employee than being new to an organization or learning a new task and not having enough direction or input. Meanwhile, a highly experienced, knowledgeable, tenured employee doesn’t need someone peering over their shoulder and holding their hand.

Note – when it comes to leading during change, leaders tend to under-lead. When something is new, that’s when more direction is needed, not less.

7. Become a master of WHY

In the same way that preventive leaders should ask questions of others, they should also be tolerant of others’ questions for them. This willingness creates a safe environment and increases trust.

For someone to understand what they’re doing, it is often helpful for them to know why they’re doing it. A leader will struggle with a climate of trust when their people:

  • Aren’t willing to ask questions
  • Feel like you’ll get offended if they do
  • Be afraid of getting shut down after asking questoins

 People need clarity and consistency to do their jobs well, and that comes from asking questions in an environment built around trust.

Summing it all up

Engaging in critical conversations with employees can easily reveal whether you practice preventive leadership and have established a climate of trust in the workplace. If you don’t and haven’t, then these conversations can be incredibly challenging. You can also rely on prescriptive leadership techniques that help in the moment but may fail to identify or resolve underlying trust issues.

To establish and maintain trust with employees, utilize the DNA approach while also putting the seven qualities of preventive leadership into practice.

For more information about how to develop the skills associated with preventive leadership, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

Leadership and management
Employee value proposition: A key ingredient to gaining and retaining top talent Tue, 24 May 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Do you aspire to position your organization as an employer of choice? While there are many steps to building that reputation over time, one accessible strategy that you can implement almost immediately is to establish an employee value proposition (EVP).

In this article you’ll learn:

  • What is an employee value proposition (EVP)?
  • How does an EVP help position you as an employer of choice?
  • How do you create an EVP?

What is an employee value proposition?

An employee value proposition (EVP) is a statement that shows what an employer or organization is willing to do to support its employees. Like a customer value proposition, an EVP is a promise of what an employer is committed to providing to its potential and current employees.

Why you need an employee value proposition?

In tight labor markets, being known as a top workplace can help insulate you from the stress and strain of a widespread talent shortage.

A well-written EVP helps you articulate your dedication to welcoming, supporting and recognizing your employees. Highlighting what’s uniquely appealing about joining your organization, an EVP can provide job candidates with a first glimpse at your company culture. An EVP is a core component of any top employer’s recruiting and retention strategy.

Who should create an employee value proposition?

When you’re ready to write or revamp your EVP, assembling the right team of collaborators will help you produce one that’s both authentic and effective.

Ideally, you’d get input from those who are responsible for your:

  • Human resources
  • Recruiting
  • Department leadership
  • Marketing

There should be a strong dotted line from your EVP to your company’s culture, mission, vision and values, and bringing together this group of people will help you connect to that broader context

How to develop your employee value proposition

Think about your happiest, most engaged employees. Chances are there’s something about working for your company that has delighted them and motivates them to stay with you. Keep these employees in mind when you set out to develop your EVP. Why do they like working for you? The answer to this question becomes the foundation of your EVP.

Rather than making an educated guess, consider surveying your current employees to find out why they are happy working for you. Ask open-ended questions about their employee experience, such as:

  • Why did you decide to work for us?
  • Why do you enjoy working here?
  • How do you feel about:
    • The company benefits?
    • Your supervisor?
    • Your schedule and work-life balance?
    • Your career progression and growth opportunities?
  • Why would you recommend us as an employer to a friend?

You can also get unfiltered insight into your employees’ opinions about working for you by reading their comments on review sites like Glassdoor or Indeed, focusing on the most sincere, positive feedback.

Look for patterns among responses and reviews, borrowing these sentiments to craft your EVP.

What to include in an employee value proposition

Your EVP should align with the information you gather from your current employees, balancing:

  • What your company offers its workers
  • How you compare to your competition
  • The experience employees can expect from their first day to their last

Depending on the insights you’ve collected, you may wish to highlight a couple of key differentiators in your EVP, such as:

  • Compensation
  • Work-life balance
  • Corporate culture
  • Career progression
  • Job security

Your employee value proposition can be as short or long as it needs – focus more on highlighting the above sentiments and what’s most important to convey rather than fitting into (or trying to meet) a specific word count.

Employee value proposition example

Here’s an example of an employee value proposition:

At Company ABC, we provide a work culture that is empowering – encouraging our team to be great and give their best each day. Our valued employees are the foundation of our success and are the key to fulfilling our mission. Company ABC invests in employee learning and development and strives to promote from within.

How to use your employee value proposition

Once you’ve established your company’s unique EVP, you can start sharing it. Consider these options:

  • Make sure your tenured employees know your EVP – whether it’s already existing or brand new. Consider company-wide communications about the EVP, especially if it has been recently established or updated.
  • Give it a prominent spot on the “Careers” page of your website.
  • Begin your job postings with your EVP and list of employee benefits (instead of just tacking these on at the end).
  • Utilize your EVP’s messaging whenever you’re engaging with potential employees, whether in person or online.

Putting your employee value proposition into practice

Making good on your employee promise is even more important than crafting the right message. Once you establish an employee value proposition, you must live it out. If not, you risk damaging trust in your leadership and weakening your employer brand (as well as the likelihood that your employees will stick around).

For example, if your EVP mentions career progression or personal growth, ensure you’re truly providing those opportunities to your employees. What systems do you have in place to encourage all employees to grow?

No matter what your EVP promises, having regular surveys and communications is key to continuing to show employees that you care about their experience with your company. The EVP will allow you to fine-tune your level of support and consistently reaffirm your commitment to helping employees succeed. Also, recognizing and rewarding employees according to what you’ve outlined as important in your EVP will help your message to them resonate long after the recruiting process.

And lastly, plan for your EVP to evolve over time, revisiting it often to help ensure you remain sincere and stay relevant to the candidates you want to attract.

Summing it all up

As an employer, what is your promise to job candidates and seasoned employees? What makes your company unique? This is your employee value proposition, and the more specific, tangible and honest it is, the better. Promoting what makes you special as an employer will encourage more candidates to choose you over competing opportunities.

And remember, EVPs aren’t just a tool for making new hires. When accurate, they’re an aid to retention, helping affirm your company culture and employer brand through every stage of an employee’s tenure.

Knowing how to articulate your employee value proposition is just one of many strategies for attracting and retaining top talent. Learn more about becoming an employer of choice by downloading our free e-book, How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

7 secrets to managing Gen Z in a remote workplace Thu, 19 May 2022 14:30:00 +0000 The rise of Generation Z in the workplace comes during a transformative period.

The oldest members of Gen Z, people born between 1996 and 2012, are approaching their mid-20s and therefore have only been in the professional workforce for a few years. Like other generations before them, they bring a new mindset along with different wants and expectations.

In addition, they are entering and acclimating to the working world during a major shift that will forever change the way many companies conduct business: the mainstream adoption of the flexible workplace, including remote work and hybrid work.

Benefits of managing a Gen Z workforce

In this new era, there are plenty of great things about Gen Z in the workplace, especially in the remote era:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has covered the majority, if not all, of their career so far, which means they are far more likely to be adaptable and resilient.
  • They value flexibility – in fact, it’s the norm to them and they thrive in it. Many of them have little to no experience in a traditional 9-to-5, on-site work setting.
  • They tend to be very comfortable with technology, especially digital communication. After all, they don’t remember a world without computers, the internet, email, social media, cell phones and a host of other conveniences that are now commonplace. For this reason, they are adept users of existing technologies and often early adopters of emerging technologies.
  • They are typically independent, creative and eager to learn. They want to make their mark on their workplace, and quickly.

Challenges of managing a Gen Z workforce

There also some challenges that are unique to this age group in this particular moment in time:

  • They tend to crave social connection – both digital and face to face. In a remote work environment, forging and maintaining these connections requires more effort.
  • Because many of them have only worked for companies remotely, or their current remote job is their first job, Gen Zers are more likely than prior generations to have weaker, distant relationships with colleagues and managers, and feel disconnected from their employer.
  • For some Gen Zers, perceived isolation can feel like monotony and result in boredom.
  • They expect success to happen quickly, as a result of their contributions rather than tenure. If success does not happen in alignment with their expectations, they can get frustrated.
  • Job hopping is not viewed negatively among Gen Zers. Being younger and less likely to have families and firm commitments, and freed from the constraints of working within a particular location or time zone thanks to remote work, Gen Zers are more mobile and likely to change jobs frequently if they are unhappy with some aspect of their current job. If you fail to engage them, they are out the door.

To recruit, engage and retain this new generation of workers, companies must evolve in how they operate and manage employees in remote and hybrid work environments.

So, what are some things you, as a business leader, can do to help the Gen Zers in your workforce become more engaged and productive in a remote work setting – and overcome the challenges we have addressed?

1.      Highlight your mission, vision and values

Members of Gen Z tend to be cause driven, meaning that they maintain awareness of current events and community issues, and feel passionate about their desired outcome based on their core values. Their values are extremely important to them and their identity, and they like to get involved and support causes they believe in.

For this reason, they are often true believers in good corporate citizenship. They want their employer’s values to align with theirs and prefer to be affiliated with a company that cares about (and positively impacts) the community around them.

When you recruit a Gen Z employee, emphasize the things that are going to engage and motivate Gen Zers: mission, vision, values and causes that you actively support. Speak their language. Remind them that they play on a team with a purpose. Communicate these themes continually throughout their tenure.

It can also be helpful to clearly explain to them how their individual role makes a difference to their team, the company as a whole, customers and the wider community – and remind them regularly.

By emphasizing values and purpose, you can help them feel more invested in your company and generate enthusiasm.

2.      Focus on employee wellness

Let them know that you care about them individually as people. In fact, empathy for others may be one of your organization’s core values that you model every day.

The pandemic has made everyone more aware of physical and mental health and wellbeing. Gen Zers are especially attuned to wellbeing, and often prioritize their health and happiness over more traditional workplace perks that would have excited previous generations. Let them know about workplace wellness programs, your Employee Assistance Program and other flexibility measures that put their wellbeing at the forefront. Explain how your organization protects work-life balance.

3.      Set new hires up for success

Employee onboarding and orientation are necessary processes with any new hire. But in remote work environments in which in-office time and face-to-face interaction are less common, onboarding and orientation become more important. And with Gen Zers, who are almost brand-new to the working world and already inclined to feel disconnected, it’s absolutely critical to get started on the right note.

Onboarding remote employees is your single best opportunity to immerse newbies into your culture, make them feel like part of a cohesive team and train them. This will convey everything important about the company and their role, and instill a strong sense of connection at the start.

Take the time to assess how you can enhance your onboarding and orientation process for Gen Z. Be intentional in crafting your procedures and curricula to effectively address the challenges associated with this group in a remote setting. For example:

  • Set clear expectations.
  • Assess how you can make new employees feel more welcome.
  • Consider how you can help initiate good relationships between new employees and their colleagues.
  • Let new employees know about opportunities for socialization, as well as unique perks that encourage well-being and enable flexibility and work-life balance.

4.      Rethink the manager-direct report relationship

In the past, the relationship between managers and direct reports was more formal and distant, characterized by power and control. An employee’s prospects for a promotion or salary increase depended on the boss’s judgment in an annual review.

To be effective and engaging with Gen Z, leaders must now re-evaluate their role and shift their management tactics to align with new expectations.

That’s not to say that managers should swing in the opposite direction and cultivate friendships with their team members. But it does mean that Gen Z is looking more for a guide and a coach rather than a traditional “boss.”

It’s the concept of servant leadership – how can managers give employees the support they need to enable their productivity and success, whether that entails:

  • Advanced training
  • Learning and development opportunities
  • Introductions to influential people within the organization
  • Desirable work assignments
  • Other resources

These qualities are especially important in a remote setting.

What should managers do to not only manage remote employees well, but also be effective with Gen Z?

  • Frequently communicate with employees, checking in to see how things are going, asking about their workload, addressing any concerns, and providing and soliciting valuable feedback. Managers will need to take a custom approach with each employee – some may prefer weekly check-ins, others may need daily check-ins. The point is that a manager is very much an active presence and facilitator – but never a micromanager about every little task.
    • Build trust.
    • Commit to open, two-way communication and transparency.
    • Serve as a source of knowledge and opportunities that can benefit employees.
    • Give more autonomy and offer challenges, when appropriate, to enable growth.
    • Intervene when downward trends emerge, such as a dip in productivity or work quality, and counsel employees on how to get back on track.

5.      Establish and maintain connectivity

Many Gen Zers may never know the office water-cooler experience or be able to walk down the hall to have a spontaneous conversation with a colleague.

In addition to establishing positive manager-employee relationships, what else can you do to help Gen Z employees integrate well within a team?

  • Try pairing them up with a colleague who performs similar or complementary work – also known as a “buddy system.” Usually, the buddy has been at the company for a longer period of time and can help train new employees and acclimate them to the remote work environment. Equally important, it gives new employees a familiar, friendly face to go to with questions and a source of much-needed social interaction.
  • Assign new employees to a mentor – someone more senior and experienced from whom they can gain valuable knowledge and skills. Have them meet up with their mentor regularly to discuss their goals and progress, or allow them to shadow their mentor as they go about certain tasks.
  • On the flip side, perhaps a Gen Zer has a valuable skill or expertise to share with more tenured employees. Reverse mentoring can help build confidence in younger employees by letting them assume a position of empowerment and giving them an opportunity to network throughout the organization. It can also help them feel included and accepted within their team.
  • Initiate engaging remote team-building activities, including virtual socializing and more fun, casual events.
  • Let employees know of any employee resource groups (ERGs) or employee affinity groups, such as a book club, fitness club or volunteer activity. This is a good way to fulfill their desire to further a cause and connect with others.
  • Leverage communication platforms that enable casual, on-the-fly interactions. (This will also help avoid the perception among Gen Zers that your company is behind the curve on technology adoption.)

6.      Map Point A to Point B

In the past, employees worked a number of years in their specific roles, working hard and waiting patiently for a promotion.

Gen Z doesn’t want to wait several years for a promotion – they want to see the results of their contributions much sooner. They need to know that they are regularly making forward progress, otherwise they may feel “stuck” and bored. One of the most common reasons that employees leave companies is the sense that they cannot accomplish their goals there. These feelings can be exacerbated when one experiences workplace isolation in a remote environment.

To build on Gen Zers’ enthusiasm while curbing potential frustration, be proactive about discussing their goals early on, and regularly. What do they ultimately want to achieve professionally? Which role do they aspire to? What does their life look like in five, 10 and 20 years?

Once you know this information, guide them through a career path-mapping exercise. Help them understand the skills they need to master and the knowledge they need to acquire. Explain which roles they should target on their ascension toward their ultimate goal. Give them a general approximation of the timetable, if possible.

Having a plan in place gives Gen Zers something concrete to work toward and feel productive. It also removes the mystery and anxiety surrounding workplace advancement.

If their priorities shift, help them adjust their career plan accordingly.

In the meantime, regularly recognize employees for their positive contributions and accomplishments. That can go a long way toward making them feel valued and “seen.”

7.      Encourage learning and development

Because of their desire for forward momentum and purpose, Gen Zers tend to be enthusiastic learners and are receptive to new ideas. To keep them engaged and prevent boredom, consult with them on putting together a learning and development plan that aligns with their career goals and interests. There are many cost-effective, remote-work-friendly employee development ideas for your company to consider.

Bonus tip: Be flexible

In addition to allowing remote or hybrid work, how else can you introduce more flexibility into your workplace to appeal to Gen Zers’ desire for work-life balance and well-being?


Summing it all up

In our permanent “new normal” of remote and hybrid work, members of Generation Z have unique attributes that make them highly effective employees. However, they are also susceptible to certain challenges. Here, we have outlined seven strategies that managers can adopt to better recruit and retain Gen Zers in a remote work environment while keeping them engaged, motivated and productive.

To learn more about being an effective leader, particularly during times of transition and disruption, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

Leadership and management
How and when to update your employee handbook: 5 simple steps Tue, 17 May 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Once you’ve created your all-important employee handbook and distributed it to your workforce, it’s easy to mark the project finished and forget about it for a few years. But what happens when new employees ask questions about an outdated policy? Or what if an issue comes up that the handbook doesn’t address?

Employee handbook updates are necessary – so now let’s walk through when they should happen.

When to make employee handbook updates

Your company and the world around it are not static entities. Change is constant and inevitable. As a result, employee handbooks should be dynamic, living documents. They must be maintained as internal and external conditions evolve, such as:

  • Introduction of new federal, state or local laws
  • Growing numbers of employees, thus subjecting the business to new laws and making your human resources (HR) more complex
  • Expanded operations into other localities and states governed by new laws
  • Broader scope of operations and services, including entry into new markets
  • Changes due to larger cultural moments, along with employee expectations (a major, recent example being the rise of remote work and hybrid work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic)
  • Shift in the company mission, vision, values or culture
  • Need to revise or implement new policies for any reason

Additionally, you may need to make small cosmetic updates over time, such as noting a change in company leadership or even just correcting typos.

Why employee handbook updates matter

Updating your employee handbook is important for:

  • Ensuring compliance with ever-evolving federal and state law
  • Keeping up with changes inside and outside your organization
  • Maintaining consistency in practices and application of rules
  • Providing a useful and relevant resource to employees and company leaders alike

On the flip side, never – or, at least, infrequently – updating your employee handbook could leave you with potentially negative consequences:

  • The phenomenon of “old handbook, new reality” – you have an outdated document that doesn’t align with current workplace conditions and is therefore irrelevant to everyone
  • Inability to enforce new, desired policies that aren’t written down, or hold anyone accountable if a rule is broken – you don’t have anything to fall back on if a policy isn’t in writing
  • Confusion among employees as to which rules exist and are enforced
  • Accusations of unfair treatment
  • Misalignment with the company’s current mission
  • Appearance of lack of compliance with the latest laws

How to make employee handbook updates

For some companies, necessary updates for their employee handbooks can arise so frequently that they could revise this document monthly. Of course, no one wants to do that – that’s not an efficient use of personnel time or resources, and employees could get exhausted from constant updates and confused about which version of the handbook to refer to.

A good cadence is to review and update your employee handbook every one to two years, maximum. Ideally, this is an annual exercise. Probably the only reason your company might consider updating its employee handbook more frequently is for a critical change, such as a new law taking effect on a certain date or a significant policy that must be addressed as soon as possible.

Annual employee handbook review: 5 steps

Annual employee handbook updates

Steps 1-2: Review handbook and compile updates, and write or revise content

Coordinating what updates need to be made doesn’t need to be a one-time project within a tight timeframe. Throughout the year, your company’s HR team or a designated team member should:

This information should be compiled and saved for the next targeted update and publication date.

When revising content or writing new content for the employee handbook, in some cases you can rely on the verbiage of federal or state laws. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is also a good resource for obtaining boilerplate content.

When writing for an employee handbook, the main objectives are to:

  • Be clear and concise
  • Be comprehensive in scope (anticipate and address the most common questions employees will ask)
  • Align with the company’s mission, vision, values and culture

Once you have created your revised employee handbook, perform a review to ensure that the new content aligns with your organization’s workplace culture. This answers the question: Who is involved in an employee handbook update?

The review can be carried out by executive leadership, the HR team or an employee committee comprising representatives from each department.

For the last step toward approval, your legal team should conduct a review to ensure that your employee handbook:

  • Is in compliance with all applicable laws
  • Has not unintentionally exposed the company to liability
  • Has sufficiently addressed all critical issues

Step 5: Publish and re-issue to employees

Once all updates to the actual document are completed, the final question left is: Where do you share this information?

Typically, as part of an onboarding and orientation process, new hires receive a copy of the employee handbook. Then they sign a document acknowledging receipt of the handbook and that they’ve read and understood the content.

What about longer-tenured employees, many of whom signed off on an older version of the handbook? They also need to be aware of employee handbook updates. To enforce all workplace policies, you must be able to demonstrate that each employee is aware of the most recent content within the employee handbook.

Therefore, each time you update the handbook, date it – or give it a version number – and distribute it electronically to your entire employee population. Highlight the changes, and ask them to re-read the document, and sign and date an acknowledgement form. Keep this form with their signature and the date in each employee’s personnel file.

You may be tempted to just send a handbook addendum to employees showing the updates. In most cases, that’s not a good idea because it can be confusing for employees. It’s more documentation for them to keep up with, and it requires them to take an extra step of cross-referencing the changes with the existing content in the old employee handbook.

Giving your employees an entirely new handbook ensures that they have all the information in front of them, in one place. Overall, it’s simpler, and it better protects your company.

Additionally, before rolling out changes to employees, it can be beneficial to train managers on new policies so their interpretation and enforcement is accurate and consistent.

Summing it all up

Here are the five W’s (and one H) for making your employee handbook updates:

What: Consider evolving practices, new laws, expanding operations and shifting values that may require policy updates or additions.

Why: The goal of updates is to maintain legal compliance, relevance and accuracy, as well as ensure alignment with the current state of your operations.

Who: Your HR and legal teams should work together to assess the document.

Where: Disseminate the modified document to your workforce.

When: Every one to two years, max.

How: Assess the document, compile updates, write or revise content and conduct cultural and legal reviews.

Are you planning an update to your employee handbook and want to ensure your document is as comprehensive as possible? Download our free e-book: 10 must-have HR policies that no business can do without.

]]> 0 Policies and procedures
What is a flexible workplace – and why should your company be one? Thu, 12 May 2022 14:30:00 +0000 As companies move forward with post-pandemic planning, one thing is increasingly clear: we have now arrived in the era of the flexible workplace.

For many employers and employees alike, the national conversation around flexibility centers on remote work or hybrid work. This is because, according to many reports, more than half of U.S. employees in applicable roles plan to pursue permanent remote or hybrid work in the near future.

What is driving workplace flexibility?

For many employees, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing widescale, prolonged work-from-home experiment demonstrated that they can be equally productive at home as in the office – in some cases, more so. Employees prefer no commute and, instead, have enjoyed greater work-life balance. They can spend more time with family, easily pursue outside hobbies and interests, and better fulfill caregiver or parent responsibilities.

The pandemic has also caused employees to reevaluate their priorities. Salary and benefits are still important, but higher numbers of U.S. employees cite their physical and mental health, wellbeing and work-life balance – directly associated with workplace flexibility – as their top concerns.

For many employees, there’s simply no going back to a pre-2020 world.

  • Younger workersMillennials and Generation Z – are beginning to dominate the workforce. Employees across the board, of all generations, are interested in more flexibility at work, but this is especially true with younger workers. They prioritize personal satisfaction and crave more balance in their lives. Generally, younger workers want the freedom to work where and when they want, as long as they get their work done. Notably, they tend to be early adopters of, and advocates for, the technology that makes flexible work arrangements possible. Furthermore, workers in this age group change jobs more frequently – and their tenure may be even shorter if they are unhappy with current work conditions.

Companies refusing to get on board with workplace flexibility may face challenges in recruiting and retaining top talent – especially in today’s fiercely competitive job market – compared to companies that are willing to adapt to new employee expectations.

If your company falls within one of the following camps, this discussion about workplace flexibility is for you.

  • Are you curious about introducing flexibility into your workplace, but aren’t sure where to start?
  • Does your company leadership cling to the traditional “on-site, full-time” workplace? Have you considered alternative ways to embrace flexibility to remain competitive?
  • Is it impossible for your business to support remote or hybrid work? Perhaps you have frontline-type employees, such as those working in retail or at manufacturing facilities, for whom remote or hybrid work is not feasible. Are you concerned that you are doomed to lose employees and there is nothing you can do about it?

What is a flexible workplace?

First, let’s tackle what flexible workplace actually means. Its scope is much broader than many of us think, extending far beyond just remote or hybrid work – although that is an important component.

A flexible workplace acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits-all work environment that makes everyone happy, engaged and productive. Therefore, a flexible workplace allows employees to have more freedom and autonomy in at least one of these three categories:

  • WHERE employees work
  • WHEN employees work
  • HOW employees work

Examples of WHERE flexibility:

  • Offer remote work.
  • Offer hybrid work.
  • Within offices, give employees the option to choose their preferred workspace – versus having an assigned, permanent desk – from among collaboration spaces, private rooms, casual lounges or outdoor areas. You could also implement co-working spaces or try hot desking.

Examples of WHEN flexibility:

  • Implement flexible scheduling, such as a shorter work week, seasonal hours or even permitting employees to customize their daily hours.
  • Consider job sharing, an arrangement in which two employees work part time and essentially “share” a single, full-time position. This is beneficial for employees who want to work but cannot commit to a full-time job, such as parents, caregivers or those with certain medical conditions.
  • Let employees take their lunch break when they want.
  • Provide increased quantities of paid time off (PTO) beyond the standard two weeks – or even consider unlimited PTO, if it works for your business and you have assessed the pros and cons.
  • Offer other types of paid leave that recognize employees’ other life obligations. Alternative types of leave could support caregivers, parents, volunteerism or continuing education.

Examples of HOW flexibility:

  • Let employees dictate their daily schedules, including planning their day and when they will tackle certain tasks, projects or processes.
  • Permit employees to communicate and collaborate with colleagues according to their preferences.
  • Relax the dress code. Evaluate whether it is truly necessary for employees to wear formal business attire every day as opposed to more casual attire – and why. (Of course, this does not apply to uniforms.)
  • Give employees a say in the decor and ergonomics of their workspace.
  • Let employees bring pets to work.
  • Allow employees to have their personal cell phone with them and access to the internet for personal use.

For each of these examples, employers should still set consistent rules, establish clear expectations and explain the business rationale for each decision made on workplace flexibility. After all, flexibility and autonomy do not equate with anarchy.

Benefits and challenges of a flexible workplace

Companies that embrace workplace flexibility can reap significant benefits, such as:

  • Greater employee autonomy improves confidence, motivation and resilience
  • Employees feel that their employers are listening to them and care, which translates into increased engagement and higher morale
  • Employees can work according to their preferences and needs, which can boost productivity and general happiness
  • A positive workplace culture that prizes respect, trust, empathy and work-life balance
  • Good reputation and word of mouth among employees and job candidates
  • Positive effect on recruiting and retention
  • Potential antidote to negative workplace trends seen during the pandemic (examples: employee burnout and the exodus of parents, particularly mothers, from the workforce, also known as the SHEcession)

A flexible workplace is a critical component of creating a workplace that employees never want to leave.

However, having a flexible workplace isn’t without challenges either.

  • If employees are not consistently in the same office together, it can take greater effort to build human connection and, as a result, maintain team cohesion and workplace culture. You will have to be intentional in fostering a sense of camaraderie and teamwork, and may have to be creative with team-building activities.
  • Especially with employees who are permanently remote – potentially even located a significant distance away – you will have to ensure that an employee’s lack of physical presence doesn’t result in less involvement and feelings of isolation. Employers cannot forget about out-of-office employees or show favoritism to in-office employees.
  • When colleagues cannot just walk down the hall and find someone at their desk, on-the-fly, real-time communication can be disrupted. However, managers and team members should know where other employees are and when they are available, regardless. Establish expectations around schedules and availability, keep work calendars updated and encourage employees to leverage communication platforms and practices that keep everyone connected.
  • Some managers who are accustomed to a traditional work environment will have to adapt to be effective in a flexible environment. This may involve additional manager training. When leaders cannot watch over their employees all day and know exactly what they are doing at every moment, they must shift their focus to managing results and outcomes. Major questions should be:
  • Is the employee’s work getting done on time and in accordance with quality standards?
  • Is this employee meeting their personal goals that we set weekly, quarterly or annually?
  • Does the employee have a positive impact on their team and company?

Aspire to an uplifting and engaging workplace, not one in which managers feel frustrated over misguided expectations and employees feel smothered.

  • Some employees, especially remote or hybrid employees, may need additional training about how to be an effective worker in a flexible environment.
  • With flexibility comes the potential for abuse by employees. You must have clear, written policies in place so there is no mystery about the rules and when they apply. When negative patterns of behavior emerge and cause problems, be prepared to discuss problems with employees and have a disciplinary policy in case.

Basic steps to create a flexible workplace

1. Review and reassess current workplace rules and policies

As you examine what your workplace currently allows, evaluate which rules seem arbitrary.

Ask yourself:

  • Do your rules serve a clear, critical business need?
  • Do your rules serve employees well?
  • How can you improve employees’ work environment?
  • How can you give employees more autonomy?
  • Is there a better way to get work done that makes life easier for them?

2. Talk to your employees

You cannot take truly meaningful, effective action if you don’t know what your employees consider important. Find out what they value and want in their workplace.

For most companies, the easiest, most efficient option will be to survey employees. Ask what they like and dislike about their workplace. What should the company start doing, stop doing and continue doing?

Of course, it is not realistic to assume that all feedback can be accepted and implemented. However, if you are going to survey employees, be prepared to explain to them why you did not implement certain feedback. Cite business reasons when doing so. Otherwise, employees will feel ignored, become discouraged and hesitate to participate in future surveys.

3. Assess what works for your business

Armed with your own research and the results from employee surveys, figure out where win-wins potentially exist for both employees and your business. Having a flexible workplace is about striking a balance between employee wants and business demands.

4. Document and communicate all changes in rules and policies

Add new rules and policies to your employee handbook surrounding a flexibility initiative. You don’t want to create new layers of complexity or inflexibility, but you need basic, consistent parameters. You have to protect your business in case an employee abuses new policies or claims unfair treatment.

Announce all changes to your workforce, so everyone is aware. Leverage different communication channels, including townhall-style meetings and email. This is your chance to introduce the new policy, generate enthusiasm around the change, establish expectations and answer questions.

5. Enable feedback

Making your workplace more flexible isn’t a one-and-done change. Have a feedback mechanism in place so you can learn what is and is not working for employees, and respond accordingly. This is how your organization maintains its morale and engagement internally, and a good reputation externally.

Summing it all up

There’s no going back – the majority of employees clearly want a more flexible workplace and greater autonomy over their work day. Ignore this major shift underway, and you’ll risk significant recruiting and retention problems. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking flexibility is only about remote or hybrid work – though that is a big, highly desirable piece of it.

If your workplace cannot accommodate remote or hybrid work, there are many other ways to embrace flexibility and autonomy, and improve working conditions for employees. As a result, you can raise morale and engagement, and more easily entice employees to stay with your company.

Going forward, a flexible workplace will be a critical ingredient for and indicator of a positive workplace culture. To learn more about what makes a great culture, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to company culture.

Strategy and planning
8 essential tips for leading a growing team Tue, 10 May 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Every time your team grows, you’re changing its culture. For this reason and many others, growth is not only exciting – but also challenging. The operational demands of an expanding organization are already difficult; add in a growing team of people, and that makes a leader’s job even more complex.

Here, we’re going to dive into the unique challenges involved in leading well while scaling up. We’re also sharing best practices for managing fast-paced team growth successfully.

What makes leading through growth hard

HR best practices are hard to focus on when you’re managing an expanding customer list or a time-sensitive opportunity. Yet, it’s important to not minimize the people factor in the growth equation – it’s essential to sustaining healthy growth.

Adding people to your team is a sign of business success, yet it can be quite challenging to accomplish when you have to scale up quickly to meet growing demand.

First of all, most leaders are in a rush to get empty seats filled with people who can help them achieve their goals. Every new person that you add is going to impact everybody else on the team, and the culture of the team, significantly. Even when an extra set of hands is desperately needed, new help can be unsettling to a team if not brought on board effectively.

Healthy headcount growth involves maximizing your time investment and efforts to support each team member even when business challenges are vying for all of your attention. This investment up front will pay off tenfold. 

8 practical tips for leading a growing team

Wondering how you can help support the people on your team – both the new and the tenured – through times of rapid growth? Start with these tips.

1. Be intentional when making new hires

Hire with your whole team in mind. Resist the urge to fill an open role quickly. Waiting for the right person is better than quickly onboarding someone who doesn’t have the right skills for the job. And remember not to fall into a pattern of looking to hire replicas of yourself or a top employee. Instead, look to broaden your team’s collective skillset with new people who bring something unique to the table.

Also keep in mind, you can spend the time either selecting, developing and retaining the right folks or cleaning up a mess after making a rushed and poor hiring decision that impacts clients and team members alike.

2. Build a sense of belonging

Work to establish your team culture by design – not by default – to create a palpable sense of belonging and a shared sense of purpose among your team members. Help new employees meet all the right people. Highlight your mission, vision and values often and consistently with team members.

Shed light on your unspoken rules. For example, do you have a particularly service-oriented culture where all employees work to help each other and your customers? Highlight these great cultural expectations rather than waiting for new hires to figure it out.

3. Encourage employees’ sense of ownership

Ownership and autonomy are especially important to every team of professionals. You need to give people room to make decisions and manage their work processes and deliverables. Great leaders know that their way isn’t always the best way.

Find ways to help everyone consider how they are making the team function successfully through growth. Regularly ask questions that encourage employee ownership, such as:

  • What ideas do you have for how we should work together?
  • What does success on X project look like to you? How will that be executed?
  • How should we manage delegating the work, especially during busier times?
  • What do you need from me to support your work?
  • What roadblocks or barriers do we need to address?

4. Share the “why”: Assigning meaningful work

It’s not just a millennial thing. Nearly every employee wants to know the work they’re doing matters and is connected to something bigger than themselves. So, leaders should strive to give every person on their team meaningful work – or more importantly, explain the meaning in their work. When you fully explain why the work is needed, even administrative tasks can become purposeful.

For example, by recording and updating notes on all of the clients talked to in a day, the next person who works with that client will know what’s current, relevant and how best to serve. Without current notes, the next person has to operate in a black hole. Even seemingly insignificant tasks can help a team serve its clients best, which in turn helps that team, and organization, grow.

5. Expect, and model, inclusivity

Leaders set the tone regarding how welcoming and inclusive a team will be to new staff and everyone’s ideas. Look for ways to communicate how everyone has value and adds to the strength of the team. Model that, by working together, you can make better decisions and generate more creative solutions. Expect and encourage the whole team to keep an open mind and maintain an environment where no one shuts down ideas.

6. Empower everyone to address conflicts

Most employee conflict does not require leadership to step in. Instead, talk to employees about how they’re going to problem-solve, by asking:

  • What is the issue, and how do you plan to address it?
  • How do you think that will work for you and your peer? Play that out to the end.
  • What’s the goal? How do you want to move forward?

If employees are not successful resolving their own conflict after two attempts, then it is time for the leader to intervene.

7. Leverage a mentoring program

Buddying up employees through a mentoring program, formally or informally, is a great strategy to use when leading a growing team. Not only can this arrangement help you get new hires productive more quickly, but it’s also a great way to help more tenured employees develop their coaching skills.

8. Show a genuine interest in people’s lives

When your employees know you care about them, they’re more likely to follow suit with each other. In meetings, spend a few minutes asking about employees’ personal lives and investing in relationships before pivoting to business matters. Leaders need healthy boundaries but should show interest in employees’ hobbies, families and weekends. When people know that you care about them, they are much more willing to provide discretionary effort.

Summing it all up

With these strategies, you will find ways to support every employee on your team, despite the challenges you might face when your company is growing rapidly.

As a leader, it’s up to you to make sure your company culture supports your mission, vision and values. To learn how, download your copy of our free magazine, The Insperity guide to company culture.

Leadership and management
13 hacks to retain employees and improve company culture Thu, 05 May 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Is your business experiencing the struggles of the Great Resignation? What if you were able to retain top-performing employees and keep them engaged, productive and happy?

There’s no denying that the thirst for business growth has companies poaching talent and offering massive incentives for employees to leave their current employer. But, the good news is, you must be doing something right if your competition sees value in your employees.

You just need to find out how to keep good employees around. That’s certainly a much better strategy than trying to convince them to come back after they’ve left. It also saves the time and money involved in backfilling roles. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true things you can do to help cultivate and retain a thriving workforce.

First, learn to recognize complacency

If you’re not experiencing as much growth as you’d expect based on the resources you’re putting in, and you have long-term employees, it may be time to ask your leadership team some tough questions.

Being as honest as you can, ask yourself:

  • How has our organization improved lately?
  • When was our last real success?

If you have to reach back further than you’d like for answers, this demonstrates more than just a problem with hitting your goals. It also shows that you have team members and a workplace culture that have accepted these flatlining results.

If you’re not OK with your company’s progress, but some of your team is, you’ve got a problem – no matter how loyal they’ve been to your company in the past.

This can be a tough spot to be in as an employer when you care deeply about honoring loyal employees’ contributions and maximizing your company’s potential. But, with the right approach, you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

13 creative ways to grow and retain great employees

1. Bring in new hires

If you have open roles or are in the position to expand your team, bringing in external hires is one way to reset.

And despite the challenges mentioned earlier, when done well, hiring outsiders who bring new ideas can eventually help motivate your current employees, too. The key to getting existing and new employees gelling as a team is to honor both groups for their unique perspectives.

You can do this by:

  • Setting aside ample time for everyone to get to know each other on a personal level
  • Acknowledging the successes of the existing team
  • Empowering external hires
  • Encouraging existing employees to be open to their suggestions

However, to make this most successful, you also need a separate plan for improving employee engagement among any poorly performing long-term employees.

2. Give team members a chance to grow

Getting long-standing current employees into learning mode and restarting their personal growth process is one of the best ways to get them excited to stay at your company – and back into a position of helping your business grow.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Provide personal development opportunities, such as attending a conference or networking with people in similar roles at other organizations.
  • Offer skills assessments to generate excitement about further developing their strengths or picking up new skills.
  • Create formal opportunities to try out new roles or responsibilities within your company.

Another proactive strategy is to identify tenured employees who have worked with a growth mindset, staying invested in themselves and your organization throughout the many years they’ve worked for you. Recognize that these employees can inspire others to follow their lead.

3. Create performance plans for your best employees

Your competition is only interested in your top-performing employees. These are employees who want to be challenged and will often exceed expectations. Start by finding a way to measure your employees’ performance so you can set goals and expectations.

This is especially helpful in the onboarding process for new employees. These metrics will help you give your employees clear direction and ensure their work stays on track.

Take advantage of performance reviews to see where your employees are going above and beyond, and where their weaknesses are. If necessary, look past money and numbers to find out who is trying to excel.

4. Provide mentorship opportunities

High performers want to expand their skill set. Appoint mentors to both new and current employees, so they have someone they can learn from and go to with questions. Give employees an opportunity to lead a project. Encourage them to attend classes, webinars and professional development conventions. These are viable methods for employees to expand their knowledge and gain experience.

5. Offer flexibility in the workplace

Your employees are human. They have kids, doctor’s appointments and everything that makes life what it is. Giving your talent flexibility with their schedules and acknowledging a healthy work-life balance can be a helpful way to retain employees.

More than a third of U.S. households report working from home more frequently than they did before the pandemic, according to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau. A policy that allows for some degree of remote work will not only give your employees a break from the office, but it can save them time and gas money as well. It can also make you more attractive as an employer. This simple “perk” can be a big incentive for your employees to stay.

6. Pay more competitive salaries

By keeping tabs on your competition, you’ll have an edge when it comes to retaining and recruiting top talent. Take advantage of job websites such as Glassdoor or LinkedIn to find out how your competition stacks up when it comes to compensation, benefits and workplace culture. Use this to help benchmark your own offerings.

Aim to meet or exceed the salaries and benefits of your top competitors. Doing so can increase your chances of retaining and attracting talent.

7. Start employee appreciation initiatives

An occasional, simple form of recognition like “great work” could be all that’s needed to keep employees motivated. Take note of your employees’ achievements or yearly anniversaries. One of the easiest ways to keep employees happy is to let them know that their accomplishments are being noticed with a recognition program. Don’t wait for their annual performance review.

Consider asking employees how they like to be rewarded. They may just be looking for a pat on the back. But you may be surprised to find which appreciation methods they find most appealing.

8. Consider perks and incentive-based bonuses

Consider performance-based incentives that give your employees a chance to earn more money. After all, who doesn’t appreciate the opportunity to earn a bigger paycheck? Plus, it’s extra income you don’t have to find in your budget. They’ll bring it in themselves.

If you have employees who are tied to sales, consider offering them commission on top of their base salary. Outside of health care insurance, research ways to offer your employees a wider variety of benefits. This could include investments, such as stock options and 401(k) retirement plans.

9. Implement workplace amenities

Simple niceties, such as free coffee, water and snacks, can go a long way when it comes to making your employees happy and productive. You should also consider your employees’ workspace.

Do you provide employees with a comfortable work environment? Can they easily communicate with their coworkers? Are there any tools, equipment, software or resources that could make their jobs easier? These simple gestures can help you win your employees’ loyalty.

10. Provide career growth opportunities

Some employers see job title changes as a cost-efficient way to retain employees and boost morale. But that perspective may be short-sighted.

Consider laying out a growth path for your employees that comes with job title changes and increasing responsibility. Knowing there is more to accomplish, and other roles to aspire to, can empower employees to work harder, which may help reduce turnover and improve job satisfaction.

11. Use non-compete agreements sparingly

You have to accept that no matter how happy your workers are, some are eventually going to leave. If you have employees who have access to sensitive information on a consistent basis, their departure could lead to damaging consequences. If this is a concern, then a non-compete agreement could be a good way to protect your company.

But beware: The effectiveness of these types of contracts varies from state to state. In Massachusetts, for instance, politicians have feuded over the idea of outlawing non-compete contracts altogether. If your employees don’t have access to vital information, then a non-compete agreement could open you up to potential problems.

This was the case when an employee of New Jersey-based sandwich maker Jimmy John’s posted the company’s non-compete agreement, which outlawed employees from joining competing similar companies. These agreements should be limited to high-level executives or employees with confidential information.

You also have to consider if a non-compete contract requirement will push away potential talent. Some might see them as intimidating. Remember that most non-compete agreements have time constraints that eventually expire. You also have to consider the costs if you were to pursue a lawsuit.

12. Promote feedback

Not all employers take advantage of exit interviews. But this could be your best opportunity to receive a raw, honest response from employees before their departure. Use this opportunity to ask why they are leaving. They may tell you why they found your competition more appealing and how you can prevent the departure of further employees.

Also, survey existing employees for feedback, and ensure that their responses will not result in any negative consequences. Make it clear that you’re there to listen to their experiences, feelings and judgments.

13. Don’t burn bridges

While it’s easy to be bitter about an employees’ exit, it’s important to make their departure a positive experience. Focus on their contributions to the company and goals they’ve met. Encourage them to touch base periodically with their new venture.

Remember that there’s always a chance an employee could return to your company in the future. Moreover, you don’t want disgruntled ex-employees spreading their negativity to your current team or other potential candidates – or posting negative reviews about your company online.

Key takeaways

A high employee turnover rate can be detrimental to any business; that’s why in this post-pandemic job market, you must continually evaluate your employee experience. Provide your employees with learning opportunities, consider flexible schedules and focus on overall employee satisfaction. Place the emphasis on your most important resource: your people.

Having trouble with retention and also need to fill open positions? This free report gives the information you need to compete with big businesses for the nation’s top talent.

]]> 0 Hiring
Addressing current events at work: The good, the bad and the necessary Tue, 03 May 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Current events can be hot-button topics that often affect different people in unique ways, and therefore have an impact on daily business operations. But where’s the line between “This shouldn’t be a work conversation” and “This is affecting our employees’ productivity and wellbeing?”

There’s a place for addressing current events at work, and it should be part of your overall communication planning and strategy.

The 411 on current events at work

It is completely natural that discussions about current events will take place within your organization among employees. This can include topics such as:

  • Hard news events occurring at the local, state, national or international level (examples: Russia-Ukraine war, natural disasters, etc.)
  • Events impacting public health, economy or public institutions (examples: pandemic and inflation)
  • Political, social and cultural issues (examples: legislation and elections)

Historically, company leaders may have viewed current events that do not directly impact the company as irrelevant and not issues to discuss in the workplace.

However, this position has evolved as workforce expectations change. Today, more companies recognize that some current events, although perhaps outside the scope of business operations, can impact their employees in a number of ways:

Why is this?

  • With the rise in hybrid work and remote work, there’s less of a hard divide between employees’ work and personal lives.
  • The 24/7 news cycle and heightened use of social media can increase employees’ exposure to and awareness of current events, which can raise stress and anxiety about these topics.
  • Younger generations of workers (especially Generation Z) have greater expectations for their employer to display corporate citizenship – meaning, getting involved in the community, taking stands on issues and modeling values that, ideally, align with theirs.

As a result, it can be challenging to identify current events that don’t impact employees, and thereby employers, in some way.

Benefits of addressing current events at work

The inclusion of guidelines for handling current events within your company’s communications plan provides important benefits for any business:

  • Outlines a plan of action for what, when and how to communicate, if at all
  • Shifts your business from a reactive to a proactive mindset
  • Creates consistency in your company’s response
  • Gives employees an idea of how you, as their employer, might respond to a future event, which can convey that the company is staying on top of evolving news and events
  • Helps employees to feel seen, valued, respected and supported through difficult times
  • Fosters a strong connection between employees’ professional and personal lives, leading to a positive impact on long-term wellbeing goals
  • Shows responsiveness to employee expectations for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and engagement

Ensuring a thoughtful, consistent response to current events across the entire organization helps cultivate a positive company culture and an employee experience worth showcasing. And if your company publishes an annual CSR report, it may provide you with an opportunity to weave in compelling stories that demonstrate the heart and values of the organization from your employees’ point of view.

From an employer brand standpoint, few resources are more powerful when it comes to recruiting and attracting talent.

How to address current events at work

So, how do you get started incorporating these guidelines into your communications plan? Your company has two potential courses of action for dealing with current events:

  1. Forego communications about current events that do not directly impact the company.
  2. Communicate about specific, relevant current events.

If you decide to forego all communications on current events, explain this to employees up front, along with the rationale behind your decision. Insert a written statement explaining this position in your communications plan.

The worst approach would be silence without explanation. If you leave blanks, employees will undoubtedly make assumptions. Employees can misinterpret your organization’s silence as:

  • Simply not caring about a specific issue
  • Being out of touch with current events
  • Not appropriately prioritizing people and community within the broader business context

Choosing to communicate about current events doesn’t necessarily mean that your organization is taking a definitive stance for or against something, which can carry its own risks in today’s political landscape. For most companies, this simply means that you’re acknowledging the current event and offering support to employees.

Confirm which types of current events you will address

At a high level, reference the types of current events your company will communicate about in your communications plan. Consider:

  •  Issues that your employees have shared are impactful to them and their families
  • Potential connections between current events and your unique employee population
  • Issues that have the potential to eventually have a more direct impact on your business, customers or local community

Between an absence of communication and full communication regarding current events, there is no right or wrong answer across the board – it’s about what works best for your company given your unique:

By defining which types of events you will address in advance, you’re less likely to be caught off guard and unsure whether or how to react to a current event. If an employee has questions or concerns that some topics are given more weight than others, you can point them toward your documented company policy.

Select communication messaging, methods and frequency

Much of this will depend on the size of your business, the specific event and how quickly information evolves. In many cases, a one-time communication will suffice.

The most common delivery methods that companies use to discuss current events include:

  • During a company-wide meeting (in person or virtual)
  • Within the context of small group or one-on-one meetings between managers and direct reports (in person or virtual)
  • Recorded message from company leadership
  • Email
  • Company intranet posting
  • Internal social exchange posting

Leadership should decide on the content of messaging, and it should cascade down through the organization in a prepared process.

Extend support to employees

If you decide to communicate about certain current events, the general sentiment you’ll try to aim for is: We’re aware of the issue and are listening to employees. The company cares about your wellbeing and wants to support you.

It’s simple acknowledgement of an external event that may be a factor in someone’s life, competing with work for their attention and peace of mind. It’s also a way to express empathetic leadership.

Let employees know about available resources to help mitigate their stress or anxiety related to a current event, such as:

Coach leaders on how to have conversations with employees after tough or negative events and how to foster a mindset of resilience within their teams.

A note on PTO: If employees have available PTO in their leave bank or are willing to take unpaid leave, treat it as any other PTO request and allow them the time off to process a difficult current event that’s impacted them – within reason.

Continue listening

Solicit feedback from your employees on a regular basis, so you:

  • Keep a pulse on what your employees think
  • Discover which topics matter most to them
  • Understand employee perspectives about how your organization handles internal communication

This can be accomplished as part of an annual corporate culture survey or pulse survey, or as a company townhall meeting.

Before you ask for employee feedback, make sure they know it is not possible to implement every suggestion. Otherwise, you risk the appearance of not listening – the opposite of your goal in soliciting feedback – and they may resist participating in future feedback sessions.  

Be prepared to handle heated discussions of current events among employees

As mentioned, current events are more casually and frequently discussed among employees. That’s fine – until there are disagreements and heated arguments, which can be disruptive to the workplace. Be prepared to diffuse tensions associated with discussions about current events in the workplace.

The situation can become contentious when employees talk politics, which of course are closely related to current events.

Have a separate policy about political speech and activity in the workplace that can help guide you in controlling these discussions and limiting their effect on workplace morale. Frequently remind employees of your organization’s core values, including respect for others and the courteous exchange of ideas, as well as anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.

Summing it all up

The days of “If it’s not directly work related, we don’t have to plan for it” have likely passed – or, at least, have become a bit murkier. It’s a relatively recent phenomenon in the workplace, but increasingly more employees expect their employers to acknowledge current events that concern them and their interests outside of work.

Whether your organization sticks to a position of non-communication or opts to communicate regularly with employees about current events, you need to account for this in your communications plan and explain why you’ve adopted this stance.

To learn more about other policies and plans that can benefit your workplace and help you avoid unnecessary conflict, download our free e-book: 10 must-have HR policies that no business can do without.

Strategy and planning
8 interviewing tips to sell your company and attract top talent Thu, 28 Apr 2022 14:30:00 +0000 When attracting top talent in a competitive job market, the very first interaction a potential candidate has with your company starts in the job interview. And in this case, first impressions are extremely important.

Selling your company to candidates

Remember: An interview is never solely about a job candidate answering your questions and then you decide whether to hire them. Candidates are also interviewing you and scoping out your organization, which you represent, to decide whether joining your company is the right move for them. In tight job markets – or when you’re recruiting highly qualified job candidates who can afford to be choosy, as well as passive candidates – this is especially true. In other words, the interview is an opportunity for both parties to shine.

The last thing you want is for a job candidate to be so turned off by your interviewing technique and process that they tell other prospective applicants about their bad experience with your company or post a negative review online. This can hurt your employer brand.

With this in mind, let’s walk through an optimal interview process, highlighting the actions you should take for the best chance of a successful outcome for both parties. These tips are relevant to both in-person or remote (video or phone) interviews.

8 ways to attract top talent during an interview

1. Understand the company you’re selling

This seems simple, but the main thing you can do to make sure you’re putting your company in the best light in front of a job candidate is to understand in advance all the reasons you know the company is great. Be prepared to share:

  • The company culture, mission, vision and values. More and more candidates expect their employer to have values that align with their own. When you discuss this during the interview, also share examples as to how those values are put into practice by the leadership team on a daily basis.
  • Benefits: Don’t skimp on the details when it comes to what your company offers. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your company’s complete benefits package, which may include:
    • Health insurance
    • Dental insurance
    • Paid vacation
    • 401(k) retirement plan
  • Perks: How does your company go above and beyond, and what sets it apart from other companies? What are the perks and other aspects of the company culture that make your organization unique? Do you offer some of the following?
    • Tuition reimbursement
    • Wellness programs
    • On-site childcare
    • Volunteer days
    • Casual dress code
    • Snacks or free meals
    • Pet-friendly office
    • Hybrid work options
    • 10/90 work weeks
    • Annual reviews
    • Quarterly or yearly bonuses

These are just a few examples of the many fringe benefits you may have. Don’t give the high-level overview – provide details. Candidates want to hear the full list, so they have a clear answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?”

2. Prepare for their questions

Taking time to prepare for the questions your interviewee may have is just as important as the questions you are preparing to ask. As candidates may have multiple offers on the table, the answers to these questions will be most important in their decision-making.

  •  What do you enjoy most about working for your company?
    • You want to show enthusiasm and generate excitement about your company. If you haven’t thought about this question and look unprepared, or struggle to produce a positive answer for why you enjoy showing up to work day after day, then the message may come across from a candidate’s perspective as negative. This may lead them to form the opinion that your organization isn’t one they would want to join.
  • What keeps you coming to work every day?
    • If your candidate asks this question after asking what you enjoy, they’re probably looking for more information. Your answer may address:
      • Great team members
      • Work-life balance
      • Freedom of expression
      • Room for professional development and growth within the organization
      • Flexibility

3. Gather all information about the position

Are you an HR generalist or an assistant, as opposed to the direct hiring manager? It’s often the case that the person conducting the job interview is not the same person who will manage the new hire. In this circumstance, it’s especially critical that you speak with the hiring manager and team members to understand all facets of the open position and its requirements, including:

  • The team
  • Technologies used
  • Day-to-day tasks
  • Types of projects
  • Customers they’ll interact with
  • Opportunities for travel, training and continuing education

Make sure that you can answer these types of questions. Job candidates are almost guaranteed to ask them, and they may be frustrated with vague, inadequate answers.

4. Know who you’re looking for

Candidates are analyzing the questions you ask them. If there’s ambiguity about what you’re looking for in the role, they may be hesitant to move forward. Make sure you understand in advance:

  • What key factors are required for the role and, therefore, which core competencies are critical?
  • What other qualities and characteristics would bring the most value to the role, as well as the organization?
  • What makes someone a good fit in terms of skills and qualifications?
  • What makes someone a good cultural fit in terms of fitting in with the team and aligning with the company’s core values?

It’s also important to define the type of job candidate you’re looking for upfront because these are objective, consistent standards by which to measure all candidates. You don’t want to rely on gut feelings, which are subjective, tend to be based on personally liking someone and can often turn out to be wrong.

5. Become familiar with each candidate

The interviewer reflects the company for which they’re hiring. So, candidates will want to be met by someone who is warm, attentive and cares about their professional development. Before the interview:

  • Learn their names so that you can build rapport.
  • Review each candidate’s resume in advance of the interview. You don’t want to waste time in the interview reading the resume aloud or rehashing basic information.
  • Write down specific questions covering areas over which you need elaboration or clarification relating to their unique work history. Also prepare questions about how their skill sets and competencies relate to the open position.

6. Plan the interview process

You want to offer each job candidate a good experience interviewing with your company and be respectful of their time. To that end:

  • Streamline the interview process as much as possible. For example, condense a four-step process (initial phone interview, in-person interview, follow-up interview and final interview) into a few steps. This is for simplicity and to avoid burnout and frustration from job candidates.
  • Be prepared to deliver an introduction, or ice breaker, in which you’ll explain that the purpose of the interview is to ensure that both parties get the information they need to make a good decision. Then describe the overall flow of the interview to the candidate and what the interview will entail. They will want to know what to expect up front.
  • If the interview will be a group or panel interview, decide in advance the questions that each person will ask and in which order, and who will provide the overview at the beginning. (Good practice is to cap panel interviews at three people maximum to maintain efficiency and time management, and to make job candidates feel more comfortable and less overwhelmed.)

7. Be aware of your behavior, body language and tone

Interview processes can become methodical and draining for the interviewer, especially if it’s a role you’ve had trouble filling. But don’t let this seep into the interview and come across negatively to the interviewee.

  • Be engaged. Give your full attention to the job candidate for the duration of the interview, leaving behind anything that could distract you, such as a cell phone.
  • Maintain eye contact and your focus on the candidate – don’t look around the room or stare off screen at your notes, which can make you appear distracted and rude. If you need to look down at your notes, explain this is what you’re doing.
  • Don’t cross your arms or lean back. It can unintentionally look defensive and closed off.
  • Don’t forget the human element. You want to do what you can to make people feel comfortable even though they’re in the hot seat.
    • Understand that many people are nervous in this situation, so give them some grace.
    • Demonstrate warmth and enthusiasm in your tone – especially if it’s a phone interview and the candidate can’t see your facial expressions or gestures.
    • Allow candidates time to pause and consider their response, if you sense that a candidate is struggling with a question. Remember:
      • Not everyone has to answer right away.
      • Don’t let them off the hook, but do probe further, ask follow-up questions and encourage them to say what comes to mind.
  • Deploy active listening skills.
    • Listen carefully to what candidates are saying. How job candidates answer questions reveals their thought processes and what they consider important. It can also uncover some red flags to watch out for.
    • Pay attention to accomplishments and anecdotes that demonstrate ambition and initiative. As part of this discussion, note whether the candidate appears more confident or arrogant. And, to what extent do they show drive and passion?
    • Consider their choice of words. (For example, do they use “I” or “we” more? What does this say about their individual – versus team –accomplishments?)
  • Be selective about where the interview happens. Pick a neutral, professional environment, in a quiet area free of family interruptions or barking dogs. Be mindful of your background and conceal any personal or sensitive information that may be visible.

8. Ask the right questions

Lead the interview by asking what a candidate knows about your company. This saves you valuable interview time in describing the company – which the candidate should already know anyway, at this stage of the hiring process. Asking this will help you gauge how much research and preparation a candidate has done.

You also want to ask why they’re interested in the position and your company. This will indicate their level of motivation, passion and commitment.

In addition to your other planned questions, including those specific to a candidate resume, use these examples of strong behavioral questions as a starting point for your standard interview guide questions:

Adaptability: Tell me about a situation when you were under a great deal of pressure because of numerous demands competing for your time and attention. How did you resolve the situation?

Customer service: Tell me about the most difficult customer encounter you’ve experienced. How did you handle it?

Dependability: Tell me about a time when you had difficulty keeping a commitment. How did you handle it?

Ethics: Describe a situation in which you worked with someone you didn’t like or respect. How did you cope with the relationship?

Initiative: Tell me about an opportunity that presented itself to you, but you were reluctant to take the risk. What did you do?

Interpersonal skills: Tell me about a time you had a serious conflict with a co-worker. How did you handle the situation?

Judgment: Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision. What process did you go through to arrive at the decision?

Leadership: Tell me about a time when you had to inspire or energize an unmotivated individual or group? How did you do it, and what was the result?

Planning and organizing: Give me a summary of the techniques you use to plan and organize your work. Describe how you applied one of these techniques in a specific situation.

Teamwork: Tell me about a time when you had to set your own interests or priorities aside in the interest of the team.

Bonus tip: Follow up after the interview

The interview experience doesn’t end with the final question. Always conclude each interview by asking the candidate if they have any additional questions. Then:

  • Review the next steps in the hiring process and provide a timeline for when the candidate can expect to hear back from you. Communication and follow-through are key – do what you say you’re going to do. So many candidates report frustration at hearing nothing back from a company after they’ve spent their valuable time interviewing. No one wants to feel ignored or rejected without explanation.

Professionalism and transparency say a lot to others about your employer brand. You want to behave in a way that leaves a good opinion with as many people as possible. Frankly, ghosting a candidate is as bad – and probably even worse for your brand – as having them ghost you.

  • Once your company decides to hire a candidate, inform the other candidates who interviewed as a sign of respect and courtesy. Give them constructive feedback if you feel there’s a specific way they could improve for their next job interview.

Summing it all up

Attracting top talent in today’s competitive market can be challenging. Focus on:

  • Sharing your company’s mission, vision and values
  • Giving details about the different benefits and perks offered for the position
  • Preparing for their questions regarding why you love your job. What makes the company sizzle?
  • Coming to the interview prepared, briefed on the history of the candidate and focused on the conversation
  • Following up after, regardless of whether the candidate is hired, to maintain a good brand reputation and future opportunities with the candidate

To learn more about how to hire the right people and winning top talent, download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

]]> 2 Hiring
12 unique employee perks that don’t require a big budget Tue, 26 Apr 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Your employee perks should be valuable to your employees and, by extension, add value to your workplace. This doesn’t mean that they have to cost a lot of money – but they do need to impact employees in a meaningful way.

What are the perks of perks?

If your employees think of your perks as nice-to-haves but not essential, then these aren’t things that add value. Your employees simply won’t care enough, and your efforts will have been for nothing. And perks aren’t about just slapping a few quick ideas together to appease people. The selection of unique workplace perks calls for thoughtful analysis.

How do you know whether the perks that your company provides meet your employees’ needs and make sense for your business? In a CareerBuilder survey released in January 2019, job seekers claimed that benefits and convenience are considered more important than paid compensation. In this study, 75% said that beyond salary, perks are the most important factors they consider when applying to a job.

Those surveyed also indicated that they would choose the following employee perks to make their workplaces more satisfying:

  • 42% said half-day Fridays would make them more willing to join or stay at a company
  • 23% wanted on-site fitness centers
  • 21% desired award trips

So how do you figure out what your employees value so you can offer perks they actually want? We’ll cover this in the next section, along with simple big-business perks you can offer employees without breaking your budget.

Survey your workforce

The best way to understand what your employees consider valuable workplace perks is to ask them directly. Try to figure out what issues they’re facing in their personal or professional life. If you see a trend across many employees, then you can work to address it.

Depending on the size of your workforce, you could interview each person on your team personally, or you could distribute an anonymous online survey. Keep in mind the benefits associated with an anonymous survey:

  • Greater likelihood of receiving more honest, objective feedback
  • Employees have more time to consider their opinions and issue thoughtful responses
  • Possibility of enabling anonymity if desired

How to run Your employee perks survey

  • List the perks your company currently offers (if any), and ask employees how they feel about them. This will help you pinpoint what should be eliminated, continued or changed.
  • Ask each employee to rank, in order of importance, the top three to five perks they’d appreciate most at work. This will prevent the number of options from spinning out of control and will assist you in more quickly grouping and narrowing down the most popular responses.
  • Advertise a prize drawing from among survey participants to encourage participation.

Before putting together your survey, it’s important to quickly recap the difference between benefits and workplace perks.

Understanding employee benefits vs. workplace perks

Both are a crucial part of your comprehensive human capital strategy, but they’re not interchangeable terms. The main difference between benefits and workplace perks is that benefits are what many companies offer to employees as part of their compensation package. On the other hand, perks are company-wide extras that elevate your benefits and compensation package and set it apart.

Benefits packages have become so commonplace that employees expect them, such as:

  • Health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Paid vacation and sick days
  • 401(k) retirement plan
  • Disability insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Paid parental leave

Employee perks demonstrate that your business goes above and beyond to keep employees happy, and that you value them as people with obligations, goals and needs that exist beyond their jobs. These are benefits that are unique to your workplace and help convince others that working for your company is an unmatchable experience.

Some examples of sought-after perks (which vary in cost and complexity) include:

Offering employee perks gives your company a valuable edge. Plus, perks not only help you attract new candidates  but also also help you retain current ones. Sometimes those little “extras” that add to employees’ work-life balance can trump higher salary bids by competitors.

But when you own a small business, you don’t always have the budget to spend on the non-essentials. Don’t sweat it! You don’t have to have a high-octane income statement to offer office perks that will win them over and keep them content for the long haul. Here are some strategies to fit every company’s perks budget.

12 employee perks employees will love

1. Acknowledging national events

Sporting events, holidays and national events can unify your workforce when you acknowledge them collectively. For example, before the any big national championship games, let your employees come to work wearing their favorite team jersey. Occasionally let them dress to show patriotism or support for a certain cause.

These personal expressions help your employees get socially involved at the workplace, giving them common ground on which they may build more productive working relationships. Special days at the office add meaning to the workplace because employees want to be a part of something fun, and they want to be a part of something sincere. It’s not always about getting extra time off.

2. Volunteer hours

Say goodbye to the “me” culture and hello to the “we” culture. In an age when corporate and social responsibility are a top priority, giving your employees time to volunteer has become almost equivalent to giving them time off. Employees today want to belong to something bigger than your company. Particularly for millennials, your company’s charity and volunteer initiatives can influence a job seeker’s decision to accept your offer. Employees are balancing work and life in new ways. On-the-job volunteering is an extension of that.

3. Matching charitable contributions

Today’s employees, more than ever, want to see the organizations they work for supporting causes they believe in. Establishing an employee matching gift program is an easy win in this area. Employees will feel supported in making positive impacts for causes they care about; you will likely play a bigger part in supporting your local community as a result; and employee engagement will rise.

4. Friendly competitions that encourage healthy choices

Encourage a fun competition among your employees that provides incentives for making healthy lifestyle choices. Consider offering discounts on the initial purchase of fitness monitors to those who wish to participate, as well as fun, inexpensive (or cost-free) prizes for winning or meeting goals. You can splurge on cash gift cards and extra PTO days for winners, or keep it simple with a non-Friday casual dress day.

Organize intramural sports teams for after work or encourage an informal lunchtime walk that any employee can choose to participate in, on any given day. Partnering with a local gym to offer employees company-exclusive gym membership discounts or fitness stipends is another relatively inexpensive option.

5. Fun or charitable activities as team-builders

What about adding some collaborative games to your employee break rooms? Jigsaw puzzle, search puzzle and crossword puzzle challenges between departments can encourage teamwork and friendly competition. You might even ask employees for recycled board games to be donated or brought in for a monthly gaming lunch or happy hour.

You can tie corporate recreation to charitable efforts by offering inexpensive arts and crafts supplies for employees to create cards or holiday ornaments for hospital patients.

And if you have the room and budget, adding one or a few recreation tables like pool or ping-pong is an easy-to-implement option.

6. Health and wellness programs

Partner with a local hospital or clinic to offer free on-site health screenings and flu shots. The initial cost of benefits like these can actually help stave off future productivity losses and higher treatment costs incurred by ill employees out on sick leave.

Additionally, have you thought of offering an employee assistance program? Some companies enlist a service providing a network of mental health providers, dependent care specialists or additional wellness support hotlines for employee use. Having access to this kind of instant support is a major plus for busy parents and families.

Other inexpensive ideas include sending out regular email reminders offering healthy recipes, office ergonomic awareness or quick stretching routines that easily fit into a busy workday.

7. Delicious, healthy snacks

You don’t need to have Wolfgang Puck on retainer to please your employees. Pay a nominal yearly fee and stock up on bulk snack foods from big-box stores and club providers. Buying in bulk offers you a discount. And filling containers in your office break rooms with free granola bars, nuts, pretzels or other healthy options is an inexpensive way to put a smile on your team’s faces.

Offer monthly “theme” lunch days around special events like baseball opening day or the start of summer. You can serve a catered meal, or appropriate snacks, and ask employees to dress in accordance with the theme.

Around the holidays, present opportunities for office potlucks where everyone brings in a favorite family dish to share. Other fresh ideas include organizing a department cook-off challenge. Or, make arrangements for a local food truck to park outside your building and offer free or discounted menu items occasionally.

8. Prioritizing work-life balance

With remote work now more commonplace as a result of the pandemic, most employees expect and appreciate greater flexibility in the workplace. If a fully remote workforce isn’t feasible for your business, consider offering hybrid schedules where it makes sense (or at least for certain roles that don’t require a physical presence in a specific location).

This allows employees a certain number of weekly work hours that can be spent at home, which can make it easier for them to juggle other responsibilities, such as caring for young children or aging parents. It may be a benefit to your business as well.

If your business doesn’t support a more flexible telecommuting option, and you can’t afford to offer additional PTO days, consider occasional half-day Fridays or extended lunch hours. This gives your people a little extra time to relieve stress by socializing or to run personal errands during the workday.

Finally, celebrate the time off that you do offer. Encourage the sharing of photos throughout the office on central bulletin boards or set aside a few minutes at the beginning of Monday meetings to discuss leisure or family activities. Getting to relive the fun with your colleagues can foster tighter bonds and make the good feelings last longer.

9. Learning and professional-development opportunities

Establishing a culture that supports continuous learning can help foster a mindset of growth and professional development among your workforce. You can do this a few ways:

  • Offer learning resources on your employee intranet or through another online library.
  • Host monthly, quarterly or yearly in-house training opportunities either online or in person.
  • Allow employees to attend external learning opportunities with local institutions, industry associations and certification organizations.
  • Encourage self-learning, peer learning and mentorships.

10. Help with student loan repayment or tuition reimbursement

In a competitive job market, one way to attract a younger workforce is to help tackle their (often) biggest debts with a student loan repayment benefit. This can be done on a smaller scale — you could start by offering $50-$100 a month.

Another way to support new-graduate hires or staff working toward more advanced degrees and certifications is through tuition reimbursement. This educational benefit allows employees to be reimbursed up to $5,250 a year in tax-free tuition costs.

Finding ways to relieve the financial burden by helping with these reoccurring, long-term payments may also help with the overall stress of your employees. And as a result, productivity could go up.

11. New parent support

Whether it’s during pregnancy, adoption, infancy, toddler years or beyond, there are helpful and unique ways to support parents and primary caregivers. Time off and flexible scheduling is one of the top perks that employees needing this type of support want to see.

Make sure communication is clear as to the PTO time allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or equivalent laws at the state level.

New parent support can also be implemented in how your employee is transitioned back to work. Consider these low-cost options:

  • Create a plan of action in advance
  • Prioritize flexibility
  • Consider remote or hybrid work
  • Allow for transition time, including potentially part-time work
  • Add facilities on-site that allow for extended breaks for breastfeeding mothers

12. Flexible scheduling

Flexible work schedules reap benefits for both the employee and employer. For example, productivity increases. Not only are employees given more control over how they put their time in, but they’re also provided an environment of autonomy. That autonomy can lead to higher productivity. Some other benefits include:

  • Employees can become less stressed.
  • Absenteeism can decrease.
  • Employees can make decisions resulting in healthier and happier outcomes.
  • It builds trust.

By having healthier and happier employees, the quantity and quality of work performance is better than with unhappy employees. When they feel involved in having autonomy with their work schedule, employees feel more valued.

When given the latitude to attend to common life matters and return to work afterward, employees know they don’t have to compromise their professional life for their personal life. Rather than take time off or call in for work, employees could move hours around to manage events or other appointments. Also, this workplace perk doesn’t cost the employer a dime.

Key takeaway

You don’t need to have a fat wallet or offer more employee perks than your competitors to win over top talent. Talk to your current employees and implement benefits that support their most important concerns, as well as your company’s culture. When you do so, you will attract the right people and keep office morale high. Interested in additional ways to improve your retention strategy?

Download our guide, How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business, to learn successful ways to increase productivity and align your people for sustained growth.

]]> 0 Benefits and compensation
Diversity in leadership: 6 steps you can take today Thu, 21 Apr 2022 14:30:00 +0000 If your company lacks diversity in its leadership, which is an important HR trend not going away any time soon, you could be missing out on many business benefits. And yet, despite the clear advantages of diversification, the percentage of underrepresented populations in executive roles – and especially C-suites – within companies remains low.

Why diversity in leadership is important

Having diverse leadership can accomplish the following:

  • Demonstrate your organization’s commitment to reflect the communities it serves.
  • Improve understanding of different target customers and geographic areas.
  • Promote learning, growth and expansion of perspectives among the workforce by bringing together different worldviews and life experiences.
  • Avoid groupthink, challenge the status quo and spur innovation – all conditions associated with higher revenue.
  • Foster a more inclusive culture in which everyone feels welcomed and accepted, which boosts morale, engagement and productivity.
  • Inspire and empower diverse talent at lower levels of the organization to push for success.
  • Increase the likelihood of greater empathy among leadership.
  • Potentially aid in earlier detection and resolution of discrimination and harassment issues.
  • Boost the company’s brand and reputation, which can enhance recruiting and business acquisition.

Want to harness these advantages and enjoy a stand-out employer brand? Follow these steps to achieve greater diversity in leadership.

1. Consider the full scope of diversity in leadership

When people think of diversity, race, ethnicity and gender usually come to mind first. However, diversity is a much broader concept. Other types of diversity include (but are not limited to):

  • Age
  • Disability status
  • Educational experience
  • Skill sets
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Parent or family caregiver status
  • Socioeconomic background
  • Veteran status

Diversity can mean different things to different companies based on unique factors, such as:

  • Your industry
  • The type of business you have
  • The markets in which you operate
  • Your current workforce
  • The local pool of talent available to you
  • Your organization’s culture and values

Define what diversity means for your business so you have a realistic goal in mind and can formulate a plan to reach your targets.

2. Get stakeholder buy-in

The next step is making the case for more diverse leadership. To succeed, your plan needs stakeholder buy-in, and that buy-in must start at the top. As you plan your pitch, highlight the concrete benefits to your organization.

Revenue and profitability

When you argue the case for diversity, focus on the financial upsides to your business and how it can improve the bottom line. Hard data can be very persuasive – and there is compelling evidence that having a diverse leadership team positively impacts organizational performance.

Customer and talent acquisition and retention

Customers, current employees and prospective job candidates want to see organizations with which they’re affiliated embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Customers are no longer merely buying products or services, and workers no longer just clock in and out of a 9-to-5 job.

Instead, more people actively seek to affiliate with companies that align with their values and support socially conscious causes. Many Millennials and Generation Z workers, in particular, are themselves more diverse and consider it a priority to work for diverse companies that reflect their worldview.

Right now and for the foreseeable future, DE&I is one of the hottest topics of conversation related to the workplace. Companies that fail to acknowledge this will get left behind by customers and talent alike.


As more states consider or enact corporate inclusivity laws focused on improving gender diversity and the proportion of underrepresented groups within the highest echelons of leadership, DE&I is an increasingly important part of legal compliance.

For example, some states are encouraging companies to disclose board diversity data or set minimum diversity targets.

Be familiar with current and pending laws in the state where you operate.

Companies with multi-state operations may face a growing patchwork of regulations. The most efficient solution to an increasingly complex compliance landscape is to start diversifying your leadership now.

3. Bring in diversity implementation experts

To give your new diversity program the best possible start, consult with experts as early as possible.

Diversity and inclusivity professionals have the resources, knowledge and sensitivity to navigate the workplace changes that come with implementing a diversity program. For example, as with any other change-management initiative, they can help your organization to:

  • Gather data
    • Get a pulse on staff sentiment
    • Review processes and systems
    • Find disconnects between leadership and staff
  • Make recommendations based on data
  • Establish targets and strategic initiatives
  • Dissolve and restructure current processes as needed to make them more equitable
  • Create training
  • Guide messaging and facilitate conversations

DE&I experts also have the regulatory know-how to help your organization comply with applicable diversity laws while still adhering to anti-discrimination laws.

Some companies rely on consultants for this knowledge. However, many companies have begun hiring permanent, in-house DE&I professionals.

4. Lead the shift in your company culture

Once you commit to diversifying, you must regularly speak the language of diversity, partnership and inclusion. Whatever diversity means to your organization, use that language consistently and frequently, and embed it into everything you do – from your website and marketing materials to meetings and trainings. This will reinforce the message to both internal and external stakeholders.

For team members to know that the company takes DE&I seriously, leaders must state diversity goals clearly and often. Furthermore, leadership needs to model all desired behaviors and messaging.

5. Overhaul your hiring practices

Be careful to not tokenize diverse hires in leadership roles, which can damage their morale and make your company appear disingenuous in its diversity efforts. First and foremost, focus on hiring the best person for the job with the right skill sets. Because you’re diversifying and therefore have the widest possible pool of talent under consideration, along with a thorough recruiting process, be assured that you can accomplish both goals of diversification and hiring the best people successfully.

The exciting part of this endeavor is that you will likely have the opportunity to network and recruit in ways that are new to your organization, exposing your company to talented job candidates you may have never reached before, and helping you to discover equally successful recruiting methods and resources to leverage going forward.

Diversify your talent pipeline

Don’t discard traditional recruiting methods, along with tried-and-true talent pools, that have served you well in the past. Certainly, keep doing what has proven effective. However, consider other resources that may serve underrepresented groups, including specialized media and professional associations.

If your non-management workforce is already diverse, promoting to leadership from within may be a logical choice.

Eliminate bias from the hiring process

Many of us relate best to people similar to ourselves, or who align with our preconceived notions of who should fill a certain leadership role. Whether or not we’re aware of our biases and preferences, they can skew our perceptions of job candidates.

One approach to combat this is blind hiring. With names and other personal information removed from resumes, recruiters can focus on candidates’ accomplishments without the influence of identity indicators.

On the other hand, the language and behaviors we display can deter qualified candidates from ever applying. Make sure that you’re not unintentionally limiting your pool of job candidates by turning people off. Reassess your company’s written marketing and promotional materials, and review job postings.

Identify words and phrases that can reveal and communicate to others our unconscious bias – thereby limiting the number of jobseekers who can see themselves in a leadership role at your company. Reconsider what you say during job interviews as well.

When you find these barriers to diversity in your written and verbal communications, change them to be more neutral.

6.      Provide resources to support ongoing diversity

Once you’ve diversified your leadership team, your goals will be to:

  • Maintain your diversity
  • Retain your new hires

To that end, you’ll need to put in place resources to support your diverse leaders. As an example, many companies have created employee resource groups (ERGs). ERGs can support your diversity program by giving employees at all levels of the organizational hierarchy a place where they can discuss issues that affect them and interests they have in common. This also provides diverse leaders a forum in which to discuss diversity initiatives and their importance with other team members.

You also want to make sure that you have the long-term support needed to solidify your organization’s DE&I commitment beyond any single program. Consider the structures you will need to maintain this commitment, such as:

Summing it all up

For companies, the benefits of achieving diversity in leadership are clear and significant. In addition to adding fresh perspectives and enhancing the workplace culture and employer brand, diverse leadership helps companies to thrive by driving innovation, increasing revenue, and attracting customers and talent. However, a diversity program also requires commitment, planning and continuous learning.

Are you ready to diversify your leadership team while acquiring top-tier talent? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to attract, retain, recruit and hire talent.

]]> 0 Leadership and management
Leading with empathy – without ignoring execution Tue, 19 Apr 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Yes, you can have it all: empathy and performance.

Leaders’ minds often toggle between focusing on business needs and tending to employees. Yet, there’s more overlap between leading with empathy and executing on goals than many of us realize. Leaders really can do both without one being at the expense of the other.

This article will show you how. Read on to:

  • Get recharged with the many valuable reasons to show empathy as a leader.
  • Understand the mounting tension between compassion and performance in today’s workplace.
  • Learn the key to prioritizing both empathy and execution as a leader.

The value of leading with empathy

The benefits of leading with empathy outweigh any misconceptions as to why a leader shouldn’t show empathy.

Showing empathy engages others. Engagement and performance are highly correlated. When engagement is higher, performance also tends to be higher.

Furthermore, empathy is a relational skill. When relatedness is stronger, the bonds of a team are stronger. The team can face complex challenges successfully when team members:

  • Truly “see” each other
  • Understand who has the capacity to take on more responsibility
  • Accept mutual accountability for team performance

Showing empathy when leading employees can be transformative for your team.

Tension between compassion and performance

In today’s work-life climate, leaders are under tremendous pressure to focus on business performance, which is almost always the collective result of each individual’s performance. But there’s also a heightened need to show empathy and compassion as part of a broader emphasis on employee wellbeing.

You may be asking, How can leaders serve their team members’ needs and still deliver results when the business requires extraordinary effort to achieve success?

It all starts by engaging in conversations that connect.

How to prioritize both empathy and execution

Conversations are the simple key to balancing both empathy and execution because they’re the place where compassion and action converge – a formula for success.

When leaders are reacting to mountains of challenges, and the pressure to perform is high, it’s easy to skip conversations with team members and attempt to drive results via email and directives distributed at meetings.

This tendency seems like a direct path to the desired outcomes, but it also eliminates nearly all opportunities to:

  • Connect with team members
  • Uncover the challenges they are experiencing
  • Offer empathy and compassion to help them through

Typically, when leaders are feeling stressed about deliverables, they double down on managing tasks and cancel one-on-one meetings with team members. But there’s a better choice. When the pressure is on, meaningful, efficient one-on-one meetings are pure gold. Leaders may think they don’t have time to connect, but the missed opportunity cost can be significant. Connect with the team.

At their best, these conversations happen with a team member – rather than to them. They’re collaborative conversations about collective goals that explore how the manager and employee can solve problems together. It’s time to confirm “we’ve got this.”

How do you find time to have conversations with each employee when your days are jammed with other meetings and tasks? The answer can be simple: optimization. Master shorter, more intentional one-on-one meetings. A three-minute conversation can often change everything for the better.

Here are some tips for having short conversations that show empathy and drive performance:

  • Be fully present in the conversation. “See” the other person.
  • Help your employee define what the next successful step is.
  • Clarify any resources that are needed to perform well.
  • Offer recognition and instill confidence in their ability to be successful.
  • It really comes down to listening! Maintain a judgment-free space for your team member to share their current state.

If you’re looking for questions to start off the conversation, try some of the following:

  • Ask open-ended questions to learn what employees are thinking and feeling:
    • What are your plans?
    • What are your obstacles?
    • What is success for you?
    • What does the situation look like from your point of view?
  • Consider additional questions like:
    • How can we achieve “X” (a specific outcome) and help you navigate “Y” (the challenges of your workload, stress level, etc.)?
    • What resource would be most useful for you now, to help you perform well during this sprint?
    • What could you do today to recharge and prepare yourself for the challenges ahead this week?
    • What is your biggest challenge right now that is having an impact on your ability to perform at your best?
    • What elements of this challenge boost your energy? How can we configure the work to keep your energy level high through this next high-volume period?

When a leader invites open dialogue and seeks to understand a team member’s readiness to perform at their best, valuable information flows. Only then can you work together to co-create solutions that deliver results and address the team member’s needs. These are moments when trust can be fortified. Be ready to connect, listen and support.

Summing it all up

Leading with empathy can put organizations in the best position to achieve success. Despite the high pressure to perform, and seemingly logical choice to cut back on one-on-one time with employees when there’s much work to be done, effective leaders stay connected and empathetic through intentional, meaningful conversations.

What really creates the most value for leaders? Investing a few focused minutes in conversations where empathy and compassion can fuel performance is a smart choice. Your conversations CAN change everything.

Download our e-book, How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business, for more ways to grow your business by leading your people well.

Leadership and management
Attracting top talent in a competitive job market Thu, 14 Apr 2022 14:30:00 +0000 If you’re managing a company during the Great Resignation and beyond, then you’re undoubtedly feeling the pressure to come up with ways of attracting top talent to your company.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) report from March 2022, there are more than 11 million job openings in the U.S., but only just over 6 million candidates looking for work. In other words, there are more job openings than people available to fill them—a yawning supply-demand gap of about 5 million.

What’s going on?

During the pandemic, many workers dropped out of the workforce entirely and still have not returned in large enough numbers – particularly women, in what has become known as the SHEcession.

There is also a lot of churn within the labor market owed to post-pandemic turnover. Many people are reassessing their priorities and goals, leading to record-high resignations. Some employees are leaving jobs to:

  • Obtain improved titles, higher salaries and better benefits
  • Achieve stronger alignment with their personal needs and preferences (for example, they want continued or enhanced flexibility)
  • Change careers entirely and start over fresh

These conditions have shifted the power dynamic in favor of employees. Companies must do more to gain the attention of job candidates – especially top-tier hires – and convince employees to stay for the long term.

Nine ways your company can attract top talent

1. Promote your employer brand (mission, vision and values)

Start by looking at, and possibly refreshing, your company’s mission and vision – that is, what your organization does, why it exists and what it stands for.

With this comes your company’s core values – the behaviors and character traits that your people exhibit as you work to fulfill your company’s mission and vision. Your values are the foundation of your organization and the guideposts that keep you on track.

Together, your mission, vision and values make up your employer brand.

Now more than ever, there’s value in promoting your brand heavily. Try to display consistent messaging on your company’s website, social media and job descriptions.

Why? Today’s workers want:

  • A role that is meaningful at a personal and company level
  • To be part of a company that has a purpose to benefit the larger community
  • Their personal values to align with their company’s values (because they often view their company as an extension of their identity)

To be competitive, you must recognize and address these desires. Furthermore, it will be instrumental in attracting employees who are the best fit for your organization and most likely to embody your values.

2. Focus on your workplace culture

Your workplace culture is the shared understandings of your work environment and what bonds your team together. It’s the day-to-day experience of working at your company.

In determining what your culture is and whether it’s positive, ask yourself questions such as:

  • How do people treat and speak to each other?
  • How do people collaborate in the course of completing work?
  • What is the dominant leadership style?
  • Are organizational values actively practiced each day, from the top down?
  • What is the level of engagement and motivation among employees?
  • How do you motivate, reward and recognize your team?

Make it a priority to understand the culture you have, and continually evaluate how you can maintain or elevate it.

A good workplace culture is one of those intangible qualities that makes or breaks a job for an employee. It either pulls workers to stay put or pushes them to run for the nearest exit at the next opportunity. A good culture is highly sought after and, though it should be straightforward to establish and maintain, does require active effort to nurture. However, it can be quickly damaged and, as a result, can impact word of mouth, reputation and retention.

Examples of good culture qualities that people commonly seek out include:

Should your company be fortunate enough to already enjoy a positive workplace culture that aligns with the desires and expectations of today’s workforce, promote it heavily on your website, social media and in job descriptions. It will be one of your strongest attributes to advertise – it’s unique to your company and not easily replicated elsewhere.

3. Regularly evaluate your benefits offerings

Many companies provide a basic benefits package that may offer employees access to things like:

To compete for top talent, make your benefits package as solid and comprehensive as possible. Regularly evaluate the details of your benefits package, and compare it to what your competitors and industry peers provide. If it’s financially viable for your company, make changes to enhance the attractiveness of your company. For example:

  • Can your company match employee contributions to retirement plans?
  • Can you increase the amount of PTO you provide? This is a widely discussed issue, especially with employee burnout becoming a prevalent topic during the pandemic.

Additionally, consider what other special perks you can offer that are unique to your company.

This is all especially important if you hope to lure passive job candidates away from their current companies.

Highlight your benefits offerings both in job descriptions and in the employment or career section of your website. In order for it to be an effective recruiting tool, people must first know about your company’s excellent benefits.

4. Embrace flexibility

Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing dominance of Millennials and Generation Z in the workforce have impacted the extent to which today’s workforce desires flexibility. In fact, flexibility is consistently cited as one of the primary job attributes people crave going forward.

This is the future of the workplace: not necessarily 100% remote, but certainly not 100% on-site either. When working on attracting top talent, consider that employees want the autonomy to choose a remote or, at minimum, hybrid model of working. They want to choose their location and have more autonomy over their schedule. Remote work is here to stay to varying degrees, depending on the organization. Companies that resist this paradigm may get left behind.

If remote or hybrid operations suit the type of business you have and your available roles, consider how to introduce more flexibility into your business if you have not already.

5. Commit to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)

A diverse and inclusive workplace is incredibly important to the Millennial and Generation Z workers that are growing in prominence and ascending the ranks of companies. Like flexibility, diversity is a commonly cited factor of great importance to them in fielding job offers.

DE&I offers a range of benefits to businesses:

  • Increased morale, engagement and productivity resulting from feelings of inclusion and contentment
  • Broadened perspectives that generate new ideas, leading to competitive advantages
  • Less groupthink
  • Improved understanding of different customers and markets, which can enable quicker expansion into new areas
  • Reduced risk of discrimination and harassment issues

For these reasons, DE&I is associated with boosts in revenue.

Today’s workforce wants more than lip service or a checkmark on a box – they want to know specifically what their companies are doing to increase diversity, especially diversity in leadership. They also want to learn of concrete achievements toward these goals. To start with:

  • Establish and promote a DE&I policy.
  • Showcase ongoing DE&I initiatives and successes on your company’s website and on all marketing and recruiting materials, as well as in job descriptions.

6. Incentivize employee ambassadors

Positive employee word of mouth, favorable employee reviews and employee referrals have always been highly successful recruiting tools for attracting top talent. Assuming that your employees are happy, your current workforce is your ready-to-go army of brand ambassadors and secondary recruiters.

Here are a few employee ambassador opportunities to start with:

  • Let employees know that you appreciate their feedback and referrals, and let them act as they see fit.
  • Make sure that employees are well versed in the company mission, vision, values and what makes your company culture special.
  • In adherence with your company’s social media policy and while protecting sensitive information, allow them to advocate for your company on social media. For example, they can talk about:
    • How exciting and impactful their work is
    • Their personal achievements
    • The good things that your company does for the community, such as company-sponsored volunteer activities
  • Make your employee referral plan more robust. You could offer a referral bonus or some other type of award for referring a new employee who remains with the company for at least 90 days.

7. Monitor your brand presence and reputation online

Unfortunately, not everyone will have something positive to say. It’s entirely possible that you will find your company on the receiving end of a negative review online. How you respond to the situation is critical.

Know that job candidates are doing their research and paying attention to what employees and customers say about you online. Prospective employees have access to a vast amount of information before they ever pursue a job with your company.

Brand reputation best practices:

  • Proactively monitor news, social media posts and reviews about your company.
  • In a timely and professional manner, defend your company against negative posts or reviews.
  • If possible, dedicate a specific employee to the task of responding to reviews as a company spokesperson.
  • Demonstrate your company’s willingness to listen to feedback, be respectful and adapt as necessary to counteract negative perceptions.

The last thing you want is to let negativity remain in public view, unaddressed. Job candidates may assume your company doesn’t care or, worse, that the accusation is true.

Additionally, you should protect your brand presence and ensure professionalism. Make sure that:

  • Your website and other external-facing materials show a consistent and desirable brand voice and image.
  • Your website is functional and loads efficiently.
  • Your company materials address all the major messages that today’s job candidates and employees care about, such as benefits, flexibility and DE&I.

8. Deploy a smart recruiting strategy for each open position

You can’t have a cut-and-paste, one-size-fits-all recruiting strategy for attracting top talent. People want to feel sought after and valued, and you certainly don’t want to turn someone off your company by wasting their time.

Craft a custom plan of action, especially to target choosy job candidates and those who are highly skilled in their field. You want the first impression of your company to be that recruiters have done their homework.

Other best practices:

  • Write compelling job descriptions. Lengthy job descriptions with too much technical detail about responsibilities and long demands for qualifications won’t drum up much interest in your company. Instead, focus on the overall purpose and value of the role.
  • Keep an open mind. Although foundational skills are important, consider which skills can be trained versus which skills are required at the outset. Because you are competing for talent, you may have to examine candidates you may not have considered in the past.
  • Avoid common recruiting mistakes and instead:
    • Ensure a smooth recruiting process marked by efficient processes and good, timely communication.
    • Be ready to make quick decisions. Nothing turns off a candidate more than waiting to hear about next steps. Feedback and next steps should be given to the candidate in under 48 hours.
    • Prepare for competing offers. The average candidate is receiving two to three job offers during their search. Come prepared to negotiate, knowing the candidate is the one with the decision power.
    • Be prepared for the interview.
    • Be ready to discuss development opportunities related to each open position. Top talent will certainly want to know how they can advance through your organization, as well as the process and timeline for promotions, and what you can offer in terms of training and development.

Summing it all up

Despite a labor market tilted in favor of employees and job candidates, there are many strategies for attracting top talent right now. The current environment is an opportunity for your organization to promote its most positive attributes and realign priorities with what today’s workforce wants in their employer, so you can ultimately become well positioned to thrive in the current landscape.

Want to become an even more competitive recruiter and employer? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to attracting, recruiting and hiring top talent.

]]> 2 Hiring
How to avoid groupthink – tips and tricks Tue, 12 Apr 2022 14:30:00 +0000

Have you ever been in a work meeting when a leader has proposed a course of action and everyone agrees fairly quickly? In such a situation, some of the more out-spoken colleagues immediately and enthusiastically show support – sincerely or not. But maybe some people look unsure or uncomfortable, yet hesitant to voice doubts. Perhaps more reserved employees remain quiet entirely.

The main thing is, no one asks follow-up questions, raises thoughtful objections, explores other facets of an issue or plays devil’s advocate. This is an example of groupthink in the workplace.

Groupthink defined

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon in which people make largely unanimous and unquestioning decisions for a variety of reasons:

  • Avoidance of disagreement and conflict
  • The desire to maintain the status quo
  • The pull to conform with others
  • The fear of looking ignorant or wrong
  • Sense of loyalty to one’s manager or colleagues, along with the perceived obligation to avoid making them look bad by contradicting them
  • The pressure to make a decision within a short timeframe or in accordance with the wishes of a higher authority
  • Belief that one’s own input won’t make much of a difference
  • Lack of employee engagement with the decision-making process
  • Insulation from opposing sources of information

The presence of any of these factors can cause critical evaluation, thoughtful discussion or healthy dissent to be overridden in favor of harmony and conformity.

After all, it can seem more convenient and safer to just go with the flow and not rock the boat. However, many times the result can be less-than-optimal or even very poor business decisions.

How groupthink happens

It can occur when an organization’s people lack the strategies and tools to manage conflict effectively, whether that entails policies, procedures, reporting structures or training. When poor conflict management exists, unfortunately, challenging ideas may be misconstrued as challenging people. Those who feel they are being challenged can take personal offense and tempers can flare. Most have a natural tendency to want to avoid these awkward or unpleasant encounters with others at work.

Groupthink can also be a symptom of a negative workplace culture in which people:

  • Don’t feel included
  • Don’t feel comfortable speaking up to disagree with or challenge ideas – especially to a manager
  • Do feel pressured or coerced to think a certain way

In some situations, colleagues may genuinely think the same way about a topic because it’s a more homogeneous workforce – everyone has similar life experiences and perspectives. However, this can lead to blind spots – the overlooking of critical insights that colleagues with different backgrounds could otherwise provide. This is also why diversity in leadership is especially important, considering it’s the level where consequential decisions are made. 

Most often, groupthink is unconscious and unintentional.

The warning signs of groupthink

Since groupthink is usually unconscious and unintentional, it can be hard to figure out whether it’s present in your organization.

Yet, there are common warning signs, and here are some proven ways to spot them:

  1. Observe employees’ behavior:
    • How well do people collaborate?
    • Does anyone disagree when ideas are discussed?
    • Does anyone ask questions or raise valid concerns?
    • Do people seem fearful or under stress?
    • In which scenarios does healthy dissent happen versus not happen?
    • Which types of employees are speaking up the most?
    • Is the reaction to challenges mostly negative or positive?
  1. Listen. If you’ve heard people around you saying, “This has been working well for a long time and we don’t need to change,” that’s a red flag for groupthink. People who adhere to this mindset tend to believe there’s only one way of doing things. If several people say this, it indicates a widespread unwillingness to listen to new ideas and perspectives.
  2. Think strategically. Consider whether your organization is growing at the rate you anticipate, or if it seems stagnant. If the company isn’t expanding satisfactorily, or if revenue is flat or even dropping, that could be a sign that stale ideas are in circulation. Also, consider the flip side of stagnation. If your organization has been doing really well lately and has enjoyed some recent successes, watch out for complacency, which can trigger groupthink.
  3. Get big-picture perspective. Take a look at your company’s board, managers and general employee population. Does everyone seem to have similar resumes? For example, does everyone tend to have the same:
    • Life experiences
    • Socioeconomic backgrounds
    • Education levels and areas of focus
    • Ingrained opinions
    • Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills

Furthermore, does any particular gender, race, ethnicity or age group, for example, tend to dominate within your workforce?

If so, you may have a diversity problem that can lead to groupthink.

The consequences

When groupthink exists in a workplace, a number of things can happen:

  • Dearth of creativity and innovation
  • Business mistakes or lost opportunities
  • Slow or stagnating business growth
  • Work environment doesn’t feel inclusive to some people
  • The blame game (When no single employee feels they own a decision, finger-pointing and protests of “It’s not my fault” often occur when things go wrong.)
  • Feelings of discouragement, disconnection and frustration, which causes burnout and lowers morale among employees
  • Impaired relationships between managers, employees and peers

All of these consequences impact each other and have the potential to affect an organization’s productivity and financial bottom line.

Strategies to overcome groupthink – and prevent it in the first place

  1. Employees need to know, without any doubt, that:
    • Their ideas and opinions are valued.
    • They can voice their ideas and opinions without retribution – even if they may be in opposition to someone else’s, particularly a manager’s.
    • The company evaluates information objectively.
    • The company is unafraid of making changes to the status quo in the best interest of the organization.
  1. Diversification, starting at the top of your organization, is another way to start making changes. You must have a diverse representation of people, especially in those critical decision-making roles, to encourage and obtain a broad variety of perspectives on certain issues.
  2. Inclusivity – the idea that someone doesn’t have to change who they are at their core to be accepted in the workplace – is equally important. Often, people assume diversity and inclusion go hand in hand. However, just because an organization is diverse doesn’t mean it’s automatically inclusive.
  3. Managers should prompt employees to object or present other ideas during discussions. In fact, these skills should become an essential part of manager training:
    • Running brainstorming sessions
    • Leading groups in healthy workplace debate
    • Avoiding an intimidating, know-it-all persona
    • Listening to and considering new, unanticipated ideas
    • Balancing conversations so that everyone has a voice
    • Encouraging people who are quiet or naturally more reserved to speak up
    • Escalating potential problems or issues that are brought to their attention

Lastly, leadership should periodically review current policies, procedures and strategies, and assess where improvements can be made. The prevailing rule should never be: “X works, so X is the only way.”

Summing it all up

People often have a powerful need to belong and feel accepted, while fearing mistakes and conflict. That’s why groupthink is a challenge for so many organizations – and, in most cases, we’re not even aware of our mental processes that nudge us toward conformity and agreement. In some cases, groupthink can be a symptom of deeper problems at a workplace like conflict management, culture and diversity. To uproot groupthink and avoid the negative consequences, companies need to pay attention to the presence of common warning signs and practice certain strategies:

  • Increase diversity
  • Enhance inclusivity
  • Train managers well on leading others through the decision-making process
  • Have a plan for conflict management
  • Review current practices and update as needed

To learn more about being an organization that promotes creativity, idea sharing, critical thinking, diversity and inclusion, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to being a best place to work.

Training and performance
Employee bonus programs: What’s right for your company? Thu, 07 Apr 2022 14:30:00 +0000 A thoughtful, high-value employee bonus program can help make the difference between struggling to recruit and retain talented employees, and having a workplace that employees never want to leave. That’s especially true in job markets that are tilted heavily in favor of job candidates.

But before you dive in and implement an employee bonus program, it’s important to consider your options, evaluate what’s best for your company and find what’s most valuable for your people. Here’s everything you need to think about at the outset of this journey, or if you’re in the process of reviewing existing plans.

Employee bonus programs defined

An employee bonus is a form of payment – most often monetary – in addition to an employee’s base pay. Employers usually offer bonuses to employees for a specific purpose (for example, to reward certain behavior or to recognize the achievement of established goals).

For employees, bonuses are very popular because they represent an opportunity to earn more money beyond what their salary or hourly rate dictates. Most people want more money if the opportunity presents itself, right?

How employers benefit

A well-structured employee bonus program may help your company:

  • Attract talented, motivated employees who want the opportunity to earn more
  • Reward top performers, thus inspiring employees to perform well
  • Promote desirable employee behaviors
  • Improve employee satisfaction, morale and productivity
  • Make employees feel valued and appreciated
  • Retain employees
  • Focus employees on organizational goals and individual goals, tying rewards to the achievement of both
  • Boost earnings, particularly when employee goals are aligned with what drives success for a business

For employers and employees, employee bonuses should be a win-win situation.

Types of bonus programs

There are many different options for employee bonus programs. These options can be implemented individually or in combination with each other.

Performance-based bonus

  • Focused on an employee achieving a specific goal or objective, or demonstrating a desired behavior in the workplace
  • Given over a designated period of time (e.g., annually, semi-annually or quarterly)

Spot bonus

  • Immediate (on-the-spot) recognition for outstanding contributions of individuals or teams
  • Based on direct observation or feedback from others
  • Quick way to say “thank you” without making employees wait for a longer period of time to receive a bonus

Sign-on bonus

  • Extra incentive for job candidates – especially those with high-in-demand skills and knowledge – to join your company
  • Given upon hire and not based on performance
  • Usually a lump-sum payment the employee receives on their first paycheck or after a brief period on the job

Retention bonus

  • Used to retain employees during transition periods to encourage them to stay
  • Agrees to pay an employee a pre-determined amount upon the occurrence of a specific event or date
  • Amount varies depending on the employee (e.g., role, seniority, performance or achievement of goals)
  • Usually a lump-sum payment (with the employee generally receiving the first half of the bonus on their paycheck beginning on a specific date, and the second half on another date designated by the company)

Referral bonus

Project-based bonus

  • Reward for teams or individual employees completing a special project on time, under budget and within performance criteria established at the beginning of the project
  • Based on project metrics
  • Given as a lump-sum payment to designated team members at the end of the project

Non-cash rewards

Creating and tailoring your employee bonus program

Your employee bonus program must align with your company’s business strategy and goals, as well as your compensation policy.

Additional considerations:

  • Your company’s culture as well as your mission, vision and values
  • Your expectations for what you’re trying to achieve
  • Your company’s particular situation – and what’s feasible and affordable for the long term
  • What your competitors and industry peers are doing
  • Economic conditions
  • The current job market

As you go through this exercise, also keep the following in mind:

1.      Understand what drives your employees

Don’t just come up with a bonus program that you would want as an employee or that you assume will work best. You’re not trying to motivate yourself, and your baseline for a good bonus program might not match that of your workforce.

Instead, approach the issue from your employees’ perspective. Consider what your employees – the recipients of the reward – want. What type of reward will be the most effective in obtaining the results you want for the company and keeping employees engaged and happy?

The bottom line: Any bonus program must be meaningful and hold value for your employees. Otherwise, a bonus program will be a waste of time, effort and money – and won’t produce the desired results.

Ask yourself these types of questions:

  • Is a year-end, once-per-year bonus enough to keep employees encouraged throughout the year?
  • Should you consider spot bonuses, or do your employees feel more comfortable with predictability?
  • Do your employees value time off and flexibility more than cash?

Solicit feedback from employees by asking them directly or issuing an employee survey on the topic.

2.      Clarify eligibility, requirements and frequency

For fairness and transparency, and to protect your business against adverse action from disgruntled employees, you must specify:

  • Which employees are included in the bonus program
  • Who is eligible for certain types of bonuses (if you offer more than one type of bonus)
  • Why certain employees are eligible for bonuses
    • Is it based on role, department, seniority or tenure?
    • Use concrete statements such as: “You must be a full-time account executive hired on or before June 1, 2021.”
    • Are employees who contribute directly and indirectly to goals included?
  • What the requirements are to achieve a bonus, and how performance and goal achievement will be measured
  • When and how often bonuses are distributed
  • The conditions under which an employee is no longer eligible for a bonus
  • Any other terms and conditions

There should be no ambiguity surrounding who did or didn’t receive a bonus, and why.

3.      Document your program

Much like other HR documentation, everything about your employee bonus program covered above should be put in writing – ideally, as part of your compensation policy.

A written explanation of your bonus program can serve as a handy reference for employees, should they have questions or concerns. After all, it’s a lot of information for employees to process and remember. You don’t want to constantly receive a flurry of emails in your inbox about bonuses.

It encourages clarity, transparency and consistency in implementation. Creating documentation eliminates surprises and confusion when bonuses are issued. Everyone has the same information at the same time, understands the rules and knows in advance what’s expected of them to receive a bonus.

Most importantly, it protects your business from claims of unfairness or discrimination.

4.      Communicate regularly about performance and goals

Communication of clear objectives from management to direct reports is crucial. Employees shouldn’t miss out on a bonus because of misunderstandings or lack of awareness about expectations of them.

This is particularly true for frontline supervisors managing employees who may not have access to technology to review performance assessments and progress toward meeting goals. As a general best practice, managers should schedule regular, one-on-one meetings with employees to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Summing it all up

An employee bonus program is one of the most powerful tools employers have to better recruit and retain employees while improving morale, satisfaction and productivity, and helping businesses achieve goals. There are many different types of monetary bonuses to choose from, in addition to non-cash rewards.

To be successful, an employee bonus program should align with business strategy and compensation strategy, along with other key considerations. Selecting and implementing a bonus program should also involve examination of employee preferences, clarification of eligibility, requirements and frequency of bonus distribution, documentation of the program and regular communication.

Ultimately, the best employee bonus program is the one that is feasible for your business over the long term and most effective for motivating your employees.

To learn more about employee offerings that can positively impact your workforce and company, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee benefits.

]]> 0 Benefits and compensation
Outsourcing HR services for your small business: What you need to know Tue, 05 Apr 2022 14:30:00 +0000 At the end of the day, do you experience hefty payroll problems? Are you losing more employees than ever before? Do you still use spreadsheets to manage things like PTO? Then, it’s probably time to break away from the chaos, outsource your HR administration tasks, and save time and money.

But how do you know if a small business HR outsourcing solution is right for you? Here are a few points to help you find out.

What is HR outsourcing for small business? 

On a basic level, HR outsourcing simply means hiring people outside of your company to perform HR services for your small business. These tasks are typically completed in-house. However, if you dig a little deeper, it’s more like a partnership. That’s because, when you work with another company to help you get your HR functions done, you’ve essentially created a team – where checking HR tasks off your list is the common goal.

And if it’s the right company, you can expect to talk in detail with a dedicated HR specialist to help nail down what’s best for your small business. Get the help you need to:

  • Provide employee access to big-company benefits – When outsourcing, everything from medical health insurance and dental and vision coverage to adoption assistance and training and development resources are in reach.
  • Decrease risks – Sidestep a host of employer-related legal problems and reduce risks when you allow HR professionals to guide you.
  • Get the most out of your talent – Obtain recruiting help to attract employees, and get the performance management support you need going forward to help retain productive talent.

Why do small businesses outsource HR?

Your small business can have big challenges. Benefit from the HR services, support and technology that small business HR outsourcing can provide. You’ll get a plug-and-play HR infrastructure that can allow you to focus less on routine HR administrative tasks and more on key business opportunities.

Which types of functions are outsourced?

As a business leader, smooth payroll processing, consistent HR compliance and happy, healthy employees are just a few of the things that stay top of mind. And while these things are necessary for a business to be successful, they’re not where most people want to spend their time.

Explore the benefits of a complete HR solution

From benefits and payroll to HR compliance, technology and more, one HR solution can deliver:


Background checks, sick leave, employment laws – it’s easy to get overwhelmed with HR-related compliance. And while some things may not seem like a big deal (jury duty requirements, for example), when faced with an HR compliance issue because you’re unfamiliar with the laws in your state, the end result could be stressful and expensive. Outsourcing to an HR partner can help guide you through compliance concerns and help avoid violating someone’s rights.


Build a solid company culture and recruit stellar employees. Before writing a job description or conducting an interview, look at your company culture – especially during this post-pandemic time of change. Outsourcing HR services for your small business and working with an HR partner can help you design an attractive culture for potential new hires. This is crucial to standing out from other companies and attracting ideal talent.


Boost employee productivity, retention and skills with a solid training and development plan. Doing so helps you not only get more from your team but also enables you to move forward faster toward your business goals.

Policy creation

Reduce employer liability from the start when you put proper policies and procedures in place. Outsourcing this task to an HR provider that offers a complete HR solution allows you to manage risk and safeguard your business from liability – all from one seamless HR solution.

Benefits administration

Let your outsourcing partner offer benefits to your employees under plans that they sponsor, while an HR specialist takes care of a multitude of tasks such as FSA, COBRA and retirement administration duties.

Employee retention

Become an employer of choice, increase your value proposition and retain more employees by offering exceptional learning options. For instance, millennials want to continually learn and grow. Organizations that invest in leadership development could potentially have more of a competitive advantage moving forward. Partnering with a third party could help bolster the training and resources side of your business and put you in a better position to keep top talent.


Get the help you need to handle terminations with ease. With small business HR outsourcing, HR professionals are available to guide you through the separation process and even offer a separation release agreement. This can help ensure all documents meet federal and state regulations, and decrease risks to your business—including potential EEO claims.


Take advantage of all-in-one access to HR, payroll and business performance tools. Also, integrate payroll, streamline time and attendance, and decrease the need for tedious manual data entry when you operate across one seamless technology platform.

Why should small businesses consider HR outsourcing solutions?

If you’re looking for a competitive advantage, outsourcing the bulk of your day-to-day duties can help get you there. Best of all, when you work with an HR partner who will listen to you and hear your specific business needs, they’ll then be able to help you work through various HR matters or take them off your plate.

Not sure if outsourcing HR services for small business is right for you? Consider whether the points below apply to you:

  • HR administrative work is consuming too much of your time – Lighten your daily HR administration, and put more focus on HR strategies that will help grow your business.
  • Your employees don’t have a self-service option – Help your team feel empowered to get things done with an easy-to-use self-service platform.
  • Internal HR is becoming too expensive – Keep costs down when you outsource HR tasks to a true HR partner for an affordable cost.
  • Regulations are becoming difficult to keep up with – Quit drowning in the alphabet soup of state and federal laws and regulations, and get the stress off your plate.

What is the cost for outsourced HR and payroll services?

Outsourcing costs can vary from company to company and are based on a variety of factors. For instance, you may initially feel you don’t need to outsource any of your HR, but when an issue arises and you’re contacting an attorney every time you have a question, those fees can really add up later.

First, determine which HR solutions for small business you plan on outsourcing. Are you only concerned about one aspect of administrative work, such as payroll? Or are you looking for a complete HR solution that encompasses multiple services?

In addition, there are two sides of outsourcing: your direct costs (such as offering access to employee benefits, workers’ compensation coverage, etc.) and administrative fees (such as payroll, HR compliance, technology, etc.). Depending on what you decide to outsource and how things are set up, you could pay administrative fees as percentage-based or at a flat rate.

Regardless, outsourcing even a portion of your HR tasks could save you money. Plus, if you decide to take advantage of a full HR solution, you’ll be able to access just what you need in one location – giving you more time to focus on revenue-generating business activities.

Bottom line

Whether it’s time-consuming routine HR tasks, benefits management, compliance worries or more, small businesses face so much day to day. Having a company you can count on to outsource an array of tasks – instead of doing everything internally – could help you reduce your workload and concentrate more on your organization.

In addition to being able to offer employees access to competitive benefits, taking advantage of a complete HR solution enables you to get much-needed payroll assistance and HR guidance, plus access to innovative HR technology and dedicated support. All this and more could potentially work wonders for your business growth.

Learn more about HR solutions for small business by downloading our free e-book: A step-by-step guide to HR outsourcing.

Strategy and planning
How to smoothly end an independent contractor relationship Thu, 31 Mar 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Sometimes partnerships or contractor agreements must end due to issues with the quality of the work, a change in your business needs or a reduced budget for outsourced services. Oftentimes, these contracts are with freelancers who have been around for years. Maybe they’ve even been invited to your company’s holiday party. How can you successfully separate from these individuals while causing the least amount of turmoil?

This article will support you through the process of ending your working relationship with a longstanding independent contractor, helping you:

  • Communicate and address any performance issues
  • Understand the legal risks of ending a freelance contract
  • Apply HR best practices when terminating a contractor agreement

Try resolving problems first

Your independent contractor may not be a W-2 employee, but they are human, and you should attempt to resolve any issues before moving to contract termination – much like you would with a regular employee.

For example, if a full-time employee’s communication or performance were off, you would probably take them out for lunch and discuss the issue, getting it out in the open. You would try to find a resolution and continue working together. If you’re in this situation with an independent contractor, it doesn’t hurt to pay them the same respect and try to work out your stylistic or communication differences.

This approach isn’t just best practice from the human perspective. Consider the business needs; it costs time and money to find someone to replace this individual, even as a 1099 worker.

It’s good practice to know the potential impact on your company’s bottom line before raising issues with a contractor. Ask yourself:

  • Is this issue really important?
  • Does it affect the end result of the product or service that this person is providing?
  • Is my concern so important to address that it would actually impact the result?

If the answers are no, the resolution could be figuring out how you can resolve the problem without ending a relationship. From both the human and business perspectives, the right thing could be waiting to resolve minor issues until a project is finished, setting a meeting to discuss the issue or even looking at the problem from a new perspective and deciding it’s not as huge you once thought. All of these are good to consider before moving to end your relationship with an independent contractor.

If you’ve determined it’s time to end a contractor relationship, regardless of whether there are problems with the person’s performance, there are legal factors to consider before proceeding.

Again, independent contractors who have provided services to your business are self-employed, so you cannot terminate their employment as you would a W-2 employee. Instead, ending a contractor relationship involves terminating the professional services agreement and statement of work between your company and the contractor.

For this reason, as long as you have correctly classified your independent contractor, labor laws do not apply to your relationship with this individual. However, you are responsible for honoring the terms of your agreement under contract law, which will help you avoid a breach of contract lawsuit.

Specifically, you’ll want to review your original agreement with the independent contractor to understand and carefully follow any:

  • Termination provisions – Under what conditions can the agreement be terminated?
  • Notice provisions – How many days’ or weeks’ notice must be given to legally terminate the agreement?
  • Payment terms – How many days or weeks do you have (after the contractor submits a final invoice) to pay for services performed up to the time of the agreement’s termination?

Before you begin the process of terminating a contractor relationship, reach out to your legal counsel. Their guidance will be especially important to you if:

  • Any aspect of your agreement is unclear
  • There is no written agreement
  • You wish to dispute the final payment

Seeking clarity on the legal aspects of terminating a freelance contract helps you honor your agreement with this individual and minimize your risks.

Terminating a contractor agreement: HR best practices

When it’s time to communicate with a contractor about ending your professional relationship, make it your goal to treat this person like you would a W-2 employee in the same situation. This is best practice because:

  • All people want to feel respected and valued for their contributions – regardless of their employment status.
  • Professionals for hire are often well-connected to other freelancers doing similar work, and they might share a negative experience with their network.

So, here are ways you can show consideration at the end of a freelance contract.

  1. Give adequate notice of at least two weeks, or up to 30 days, when possible (ensuring you follow any notice provisions in your professional services agreement).
  2. Gently remind the contractor of any agreement terms regarding intellectual property and works made for hire.
  3. Notify all internal employees and customers who worked with the contractor.
  4. Provide an opportunity for goodbyes appropriate for the length and nature of the contract relationship (e.g., card from the group, lunch, etc.).
  5. Offer resources, providing a:
    • Contact in your accounting department for questions about tax filing
    • Contact for requesting files they could use in their professional portfolio
  6. Volunteer to recommend the contractor on LinkedIn or to leave a review on a freelance website.
  7. Leave the door open to work together again in the future if appropriate.

Applying HR best practices, even when terminating a freelance contract, extends your employer of choice reputation beyond the workforce you traditionally employ.

Summing it all up

Graciously closing out a significant independent contractor relationship involves:

  • Making a sincere effort to resolve issues
  • Honoring your agreement with the individual
  • Treating the contractor with the same consideration that you would an employee

Regardless of pay style or structure, people want to be valued. When you follow HR best practices while working with independent contractors, you communicate that you’re an organization that honors work contributions of all kinds. Get the insight you need to manage your people more proactively. Download our complimentary e-book now: 7 Most Frequent HR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.

Policies and procedures
How to lower employee stress about health insurance Tue, 29 Mar 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Health insurance is often the biggest-ticket item in any company’s benefits package, and the cost of health insurance rises on average each year, historically.

Companies spend a lot of money, time and effort to make their benefits competitive and provide quality group health insurance plans to employees. But perhaps not enough time is spent educating employees about their available options and helping them navigate what those options mean for them and their families.

A recent Business News Daily article underscores the importance of educating employees about their health insurance benefits. Not having a clear understanding of what their health insurance plan covers until they find themselves at the doctor’s office or hospital isn’t ideal. You give your employees an advantage when you inform and empower them to make prudent decisions regarding coverage and treatment options.

Why health insurance is a stressful topic for employees

Health insurance can be complicated, and often the differences between plans can be subtle.

  • People fear making a “wrong” decision that they’ll later regret – usually after their health situation changes or a medical emergency happens, and when they need their health insurance more than ever.
  • There’s a lot of anxiety about the unknown. If someone doesn’t have a strong grasp of how a particular health insurance plan works, they may not even be sure what they signed up for when a health matter comes up.
  • It boils down to this: Everyone wants to make smart financial choices. No one wants a surprise adverse financial impact, especially in the midst of a health issue.

Lack of direct control can be an issue as well. Much employee stress arises when health insurance plans change unexpectedly – especially when they’re scaled back. For instance, maybe employees now have to pay more out of pocket or their trusted, long-time physician is no longer in network under the revised plan.

The challenge for employers

Understandably, employees want more assistance in wading through options and making a decision.

However, there are limits to the help that companies can realistically provide; no business should try to tell employees which plan to select.

Business leaders need to take appropriate measures to protect their companies from disgruntled employees or, in some cases, adverse legal action. For instance, if an employee decides that a recommended health insurance plan isn’t beneficial to them for some reason, you don’t want them to have grounds to accuse your company of leading them astray and coercing them into a “bad” decision. Even if the employee has no legal footing, they can still develop a negative attitude and resentment toward the company.

That’s why business leaders and human resources (HR) departments generally don’t want to tell any employee which health insurance plan to pick. There are too many variables and unique factors in a person’s life that determine whether or not a plan is optimal for an employee and their family.

A company’s appropriate role is to educate employees to be thoughtful consumers and guide them toward appropriate resources. Ultimately, the decision should be left up to the employee.

How employers can do better

Still, employers must take these concerns about health insurance seriously. After all, companies want:

  • Employees and prospective hires to view their health insurance plans as a valuable benefit, and to enjoy peace of mind
  • A good return on their substantial investment in the form of successful recruitment, satisfied employees and high retention
  • A focused, productive workforce – not employees who are distracted and worried about other issues to the extent that work performance suffers

Keeping in mind the narrowly defined role companies should be taking in the employee decision-making process, what exactly can companies do to help employees cut through all the confusion and stress about health insurance?

1.      Explain everything thoroughly during new-hire orientation

During your new-hire orientation, don’t rush through the discussion about health insurance or, worse, just briefly mention it as part of a larger benefits package. Use this opportunity – when employees are brand-new to your company, eager to learn and you have their attention – to describe in detail the health insurance plans your company offers.

  • Explain the differences between plan options.
  • Walk through a demonstration of your company’s health insurance or benefits portal (if you have one) and make sure employees are aware of all the services and conveniences your company offers.
  • Instruct employees on how and when to enroll.
  • Allow audience Q&A and answer general questions.
  • Refer them to specific people and resources for personal or more in-depth questions, as well as plan advice and assistance with finding in-network providers.

2.      Provide employees with contacts and resources

The most appropriate people and resources to assist with employee questions about health care coverage depend on the particular way in which your employees receive benefits. At a high level, employees might be directed to the:

  • HR benefits specialist
  • Professional employer organization (PEO) service team or dedicated HR specialist (if your company outsources certain HR functions to a PEO, and the PEO provides benefits to your employees)
  • Contact center or member services at the insurance carrier

Provide your employees with at least a few different contact options, if possible.

3.      Make information available 24/7

Have a secure online portal that contains everything employees want to know about their benefits, including health insurance. A portal houses all this information in one central location, where it’s available any time.

With a benefits portal, employees can do many tasks, including:

  • View and compare health insurance plans
  • Enroll in a health insurance plan when eligible
  • Add covered dependents
  • Switch plans when eligible
  • Access resources and services aimed at improving health and wellbeing, such as workplace wellness programs
  • Find key contacts, such as the insurance carrier’s contact center or member services representative
  • Sign on to the carrier’s website for claims information and to track deductibles (if the employer’s benefits portal provides these links)

Some companies have even incorporated decision-making tools that ask employees questions about their individual circumstances and use artificial intelligence to recommend a health insurance plan to them based on their answers.

With all this information easily accessible, employees can feel more knowledgeable, empowered and in control.

4.      Deliver ongoing education

Employee education about health insurance doesn’t end at orientation. There will always be evolving personal circumstances, plan updates and a changing regulatory landscape to spur new questions.

Traditionally, open-enrollment meetings and general informational meetings haven’t been that well attended by employees. Why?

  • Employees do want assistance with understanding and selecting health insurance plans, but these lecture-style meetings are typically perceived as dry and include general information that can be read online.
  • Many people are averse to asking questions about health insurance, as it relates to their personal situation, in front of others. Instead, they prefer to ask questions privately in a one-on-one, confidential setting.

It’s important to note that in our post-pandemic world, these large on-site meetings are increasingly less common.

What else can you do?

  • Think about the most common concerns employees have. What topics are especially timely or are highly relevant to the health insurance plans your company offers?
  • Does the presentation convey something new to capture their interest?
  • Consider how you can present information in an engaging way. For example, host webinars or lunch-and-learns. Bring in external experts and insurance carrier representatives.
  • Present information in short, bite-sized chunks and focus on a single, specific topic for the best results.
  • Craft engaging communications to invite employees to the presentations. Provide an overview of what they’ll learn and specific questions that will be answered.
  • Make the presentation interactive, especially if it’s in a virtual environment. Give employees the ability to ask questions anonymously, or provide them with contacts with whom they can follow up later.

5.      Communicate regularly

It’s important to communicate regularly, especially about:

  • Open enrollment
  • Upcoming changes to health insurance plans
  • Personalized reminders for employees to take certain actions
  • Educational opportunities related to health insurance

This is so employees see you as an advocate for their knowledge and health, and as a proponent of transparency.

If changes to health insurance plans are coming, get out in front of them with as much advance notice as possible so employees don’t feel caught off guard. Implement a communications campaign to give employees numerous opportunities to understand the changes coming and how those changes will affect them. This is also a proactive move to ward off any anger or resentment based on misunderstandings.

6.      Leverage different channels to reach employees

We all have our preferences – some of us like to read on a screen; others like to hold printed materials. Some of us work at the office; others work remotely at home.

To reach all of your employees, consider using a variety of communication channels to raise the likelihood that they receive the message and remain informed:

  • Email
  • Online portal
  • Company intranet
  • Printed materials available at the office
  • Printed materials mailed to employees’ residences

7.      Promote your company’s employee assistance program

What if your employees have a health-related problem – but they’re not sure where to go or what to do to seek help – and they don’t feel comfortable reaching out to HR or the insurance carrier to ask? Or maybe they need guidance with their relationships or finances – or help finding dependent care for their children or aging parents?

That’s where employee assistance programs (EAPs) play a vital role. An EAP is a third-party, confidential resource that can connect employees to many types of professionals to assist with diverse issues.

For example, during and since the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have become much more attuned to employees’ mental health. With mental health struggles increasingly viewed as less stigmatizing and more commonplace within the workplace, company leaders are having open and frank discussions about the need to proactively address issues before they escalate into major problems.

Treatment for mental health issues is often covered under health insurance plans. However, an EAP can serve as an initial resource for:

  • Connecting employees with in-network mental health professionals who can help them (often with no co-pay for a specified number of visits)
  • Obtaining tips to manage the underlying stressors that contribute to poor mental health

Additionally, EAPs can connect employees to nutritionists, clinicians and other professionals who can help them proactively cease unhealthy habits and lifestyles, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, smoking or substance abuse. By implementing positive changes, employees can work toward using their health insurance less, potentially saving them (and the company) money, and thereby reducing some of the stress associated with health insurance costs.

Your EAP should be easily accessible within a benefits portal or company intranet.

Don’t let employees suffer in silence. Champion your EAP so they know they have a confidential, safe environment in which to seek help.

Summing it all up

It’s clear that employees want more help with employer-provided health insurance to better understand offerings, and reduce the fear of wrong decisions and unexpected changes to their health plan – all of which could mean big costs for individuals and families. Although employers should refrain from explicitly recommending a specific health insurance plan to employees, there are many meaningful steps that leaders can take to mitigate employee stress about health insurance, which we have outlined here.

For more information about best practices in delivering quality employee benefits, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee benefits.

Benefits and compensation
The 3 C’s of a successful leadership development training program Thu, 24 Mar 2022 14:30:00 +0000 A leadership development training program is a goal of many businesses, but what exactly does it include? What should it include? How can it be successful?

The benefits of an in-house leadership development training program are worth figuring out the answers to those questions. A successful program can increase productivity, nurture and retain talent, improve employee engagement and enhance your employer brand in ways that may help attract new staff members. It can also be a priceless tool in diversifying leadership.

Far too often, however, people can get stuck on the nuts and bolts of developing and implementing a system. And, yes, those things – determining training methods, selecting who will be trained, setting an implementation calendar, evaluating progress – are incredibly important considerations.

More crucial, however, are the overarching philosophy and habits through which you plan to cultivate your leadership experience.

The 3 C’s of a leadership development training program

When it comes to equipping your organization’s leaders and future leaders with what they need to be successful, there are three core components to consider:

  • Connection
  • Culture
  • Competency

As you sit down with your leadership team and decide how to get the most from your talent, how would you rank these core components in order of importance?

Competency may feel like a natural starting point since, in many ways, it’s easiest to visualize how increased competency could lead to business growth. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But, before starting with competency, consider how connection and culture are the glue that holds competency together.

Competency is the thing that we need from people, but connection and culture are what actually maintains a business. If there is no connection and the culture is bad, then leaders and their teams may decide to take their competencies somewhere else. 

There’s no right or wrong answer on where to begin; consider looking at it like the three C’s are dependent on each other, and find a balance that works best for your leadership team.

Let’s look at the three C’s of a successful leadership program through this scenario:

Bob from your leadership team comes to you and says he’s having conflict left and right with his team. Everyone is always complaining; everyone is always upset. People are hinting at leaving if things don’t change.

Where does he go from here?


This core component of a leadership development training program centers on interpersonal engagement, including how we understand, value and nurture the gifts of the people we hire.

It’s also the piece with which most people struggle. Connection skills are soft skills, but that doesn’t mean they’re “weak.” In fact, they are quite powerful. Competency is what we expect from people, culture is what employees live in, but connection is what employees need.

How does connection fit into a leadership development program?

To connect well – and in ways that will motivate others to achieve more professionally, we have the opportunity to minimize our needs while maximizing our emotional awareness of others’ needs.

So, in the scenario above, how does connection come into play? Should Bob rush to eliminate the complaints in order to quickly get back to “productivity?” Or should he ask himself, Why are these individuals upset? Are the individual needs of each person on the team being met? Are personality differences getting in the way, creating disconnection in the group?

When we lead others, we must learn to not just say the right thing but also say it skillfully. It’s easy to want to find resolution, but the interaction needs to address the root of what is causing the problem.

So, how does someone develop emotional intelligence? A good starting point is utilizing and applying

behavioral assessments (DISC), EQ training and practicing servant leadership. Emotional intelligence and the skills needed to connect with others (empathy, vulnerability, respect) are also learned through the awareness of the assessment and mindful practice as part of your culture.

Peer-to-peer and mentor relationships create an opportunity for observing people who possess skills another person may not have, and for reflecting on where one might still have room for growth. This is not a one-and-done process. Connecting with people is an ongoing way to strengthen or weaken your organization.


The work climate we create is the foundational context through which our people use their gifts. This is the experience that employees and leadership hold in common.

Overall, culture reflects what our employees say about their day-to-day interactions – through our mission, vision and values statements – and how leaders live those out by example for the rest of the company.

How does culture fit into a leadership development program?

You may have a great culture on paper, but if you’re not treating your people with dignity (at a minimum) or getting to know the people with whom you work in a collegial, productive way, then – again – it’s going to be hard to lead them anywhere. People want to know that you care.

If there’s any consistent misalignment apparent between what the core values posters say and what the people are experiencing, then you run the very real risk of losing the power of the culture you desire. Intentions can only go so far – if your organization values servant leadership, your employees will want to see that in action.

Remember: Your values are a foundation for your culture. Regardless of how much change may occur, the values are the stability point that everyone can look to for guidance.

Going back to the Bob scenario, culture is what’s established both before the conflict arises, as it’s happening, and as it’s being resolved. Think about the culture as something that’s underlying everything else. It’s shaped in an environment of connection (like Bob discussing with his team what their needs are) paired with the competencies each person has.

Without a shared sense of purpose, it’s hard to lead a team toward a common goal.

Think about how your leaders are carrying out your mission, vision and values. How can your leadership development program support that even further? Could a scenario like Bob’s have been avoided if his team felt more connected to the company’s core values?

Maybe start at the ground level. What does your culture look like currently? Is it based on connection, or is it based on power, force or guilt?


This core piece reflects the gifts and strengths your people willingly or unwillingly share. It’s the day-to-day use of their skills and abilities – both now and moving forward with the organization.

Parts of competency may include:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Time management
  • Professional skills and potential capabilities

But competency is not just conflict resolution. Conflicts are created that cause people not to work well. It is about holding people accountable, but if the culture and connection aren’t there, then no one will feel valued or part of the team, and competencies will be withheld.

Think of competency beyond the worker-based factors:

How does competency fit into a leadership development program?

If you’ve created a company in which the culture and connections are solid and steady, your employees are more likely to move beyond just doing the basics to giving you their full discretionary effort. They’re more likely to bring you all their gifts, not just the obvious skills, abilities, experience and degrees for which you hired them.

Building trust is where Bob’s scenario fits in with competency. If his teammates trust him enough to talk through their needs and disconnection, the team will be able to move forward. If they don’t trust Bob, they will either go somewhere else or, even worse, keep working and sabotage Bob.

Consider that you can increase and enhance your competency by understanding connection and culture. That opens up new growth potential (for them, for you and for your company) and increases engagement, while adding to your company culture in meaningful ways.

Looking for suggestions for how to implement the 3 C’s?

Connection: You can utilize DISC, EQ, StrengthsFinder, etc. – think about tools and development that increase awareness of the individual while teaching how to understand and value those with whom you work.

Culture: You can utilize servant leadership – think about a culture based on influence, not power or control.

Competency: You can utilize 360 Assessments or Situational Leadership II – think about a model that helps your leaders develop the competencies you are seeking.

Summing it all up

Connection, culture and competency, when working in cohesion (the unofficial fourth C), can be a formula for success in developing a leadership development training program.

Culture is what employees live in, connection is what they need, and competency is what they give. How are all three wrapped into your mission, vision and values, and how are leaders taught to live those out by example?

Curious to learn more about leading your people well? Download our free e-book: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

]]> 0 Leadership and management
How to speed up your interview process and win top talent Tue, 22 Mar 2022 14:30:00 +0000 Today, attracting talent in a competitive job market is crucial. In many cases, candidates are interviewing for several jobs at once, comparing their experience with you against other employers. Your interview process needs to vet your candidates and also woo them into choosing your company over their other opportunities.

In this article, we’ll help answer the questions:

  • What do job candidates want in an interview process?
  • How long should interview processes be?
  • Are there actionable steps organizations can take to speed up the interview process easily?

What candidates want in the interview process

Today’s job seekers are shopping the labor market like career consumers. And during the interview process, they’re looking for scheduling flexibility and considerate communication.


When they reach the interview step, candidates often encounter employers who expect them to fully accommodate their schedules. They may be presented with narrow interview time slots, even when they’re employed elsewhere or are passive candidates who didn’t actively seek the new job opportunity. But what candidates really want from potential employers is interview schedule flexibility and meetings that are easy to fit onto their crowded calendars.

You can offer this flexibility by:

  • Offering evening or weekend interviews, maybe meeting at a local coffee shop if your offices are closed during those hours
  • Arranging video job interviews instead of meeting in person

These accommodations can eliminate candidates’ need to take time off at their current jobs or reduce that time by eliminating travel.

Considerate communication

It’s not uncommon for candidates to interview for a role and go months without feedback or get ghosted altogether by hiring managers. Both of these scenarios are completely contrary to what candidates actually want in the job interview process: considerate communication.

You can provide a courteous interview experience by:

  • Sharing pertinent information – Before an interview, give candidates the details about whom they will meet and what they can expect.
  • Giving timely follow up – Aim to get back to a candidate 24 hours after each interview. (Even if you don’t have a decision made, it’s best practice to reach out and keep the candidate warm until you do.)
  • Providing feedback – Offer personalized feedback after interviews, including the reasons candidates will or won’t move forward in the process.

Job applicants today expect a polished, pleasant candidate experience from start to finish, including the interview. Providing your interviewees with the scheduling flexibility and considerate communication they want will distinguish your organization from other employers.

How long should the interview process take?

The length of the interview process depends heavily on the role for which you’re hiring. So in reality, there’s no one right answer on how long your interview process should be.

However, when it comes to duration, there are a couple of factors employers should be cognizant of throughout the interview process:

  • Your organization is probably not a candidate’s only option.
  • Depending on the current demand for talent in your industry or in certain professions, candidates can go off the market within 10 days, five days or in as little as 24 hours.

In other words, your interview process should take no more time than is necessary to make an informed hiring decision.

How to speed up interviews: 6 tips

Faster interviewing is better for employers and candidates. A few smart steps can help you achieve a more efficient interview process without sacrificing quality.

1. Interview fewer candidates altogether

The fewer people you put through your interview process, the faster it can go. But cutting back on interviewees requires proper vetting at the front-end of your hiring process. Investing more time in applicant screening can be worth it, really helping you improve the interview experience for your top three to five recruits.

2. Be prepared to make an offer before you start interviewing

Sometimes offer approval steps are what slow the interview process down. Having your compensation budget approved before you even advertise a job opening enables you to make a quick offer when you’ve interviewed the right candidate.

3. Consolidate interviews

Traditionally, employers have used multiple rounds of interviews to select top candidates. When time is of the essence, however, consolidating interviews can speed up the process.

For example, if you have multiple people needing to conduct interviews:

  • Could you do a panel interview instead?
  • Could you block off time for back-to-back interviews with the candidate, so the candidate doesn’t have to come back multiple times?
  • Could you share one recorded video interview with all the stakeholders (with the candidate’s permission)?

4. Prune your list of interview questions

Get everyone who interacts with your candidates on the same page to ensure you’re not duplicating interview questions but using your time with the candidate wisely. Decide which interview questions you truly need to ask and what responses you need to hear in order to be sound in your decision-making. Consider cutting any questions that aren’t truly necessary.

5. Gather info about candidates’ other options

It’s wise to gather information about your candidates’ other opportunities during your first conversation.

For example, you can ask:

  • Do you have any other offers on the table?
  • Are you in final interviews for any other positions?

Some candidates aren’t comfortable sharing these details, but many are. If they’re interested in your opportunity enough, they often want to share if they’re considering other options. This information can help you understand candidates’ timelines better and know when to accelerate your recruiting process accordingly.

6. Bypass unnecessary hiring steps

If there are any pre-employment assessments that you use during your interview process but don’t rely on too heavily, you might consider skipping these in tight labor markets. Reference checking is another step that may not be necessary when speed is your goal, as most candidates choose references who they know will say positive things about them.

On the other hand, it’s always worth your time to do at least one in-depth interview and also a background check. These are hiring steps you never want to bypass.

With these strategies, you can speed up interviewing and still get a strong sense of which candidate should get the job offer.

Summing it all up

Job seekers today expect an outstanding candidate experience that features interview scheduling flexibility and courteous communication throughout the process.

Because they may have multiple job opportunities to consider at once, the first employer to reach the end of the interview process and make an offer often gets the hire. That’s why using smart strategies to speed up the interview process should be of high importance to organizations that want to fill open roles and keep them from turning into long vacancies.

Even so, it’s wise to remember that all positions are different, and there’s no one gold standard when it comes to interview process length. Always be sure to evaluate what makes the most sense for each role.

From posting a job opening to interviewing to onboarding new hires, talent acquisition can be a lot of work. Not sure if your company is following best practices? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to attracting, recruiting and hiring top talent.

]]> 1 Hiring
Managing employees across time zones Thu, 17 Mar 2022 14:30:00 +0000 The widespread adoption of remote work has enabled a larger number of companies to hire employees from anywhere – in the same city, across the state, the other side of the U.S. or even around the world. By hiring employees across time zones, many companies are taking advantage of the opportunity to:

  • Extend business hours
  • Make personnel immediately available to more customers, thereby improving customer service
  • Broaden the job candidate pool to obtain top-tier talent
  • Increase diversity in their workplace

So, how exactly can business leaders overcome distance and separate schedules to successfully manage employees across time zones?

The general rules of good leadership still apply

Over the past few years, leaders have learned to successfully manage remote employees. The virtual environment has shifted workplace culture, and management has also had to shift its focus to:

  • Check in more regularly
  • Work harder on connecting with individuals and maintaining team cohesion
  • Be intentional in enhancing empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ)
  • Detect subtle facial cues, tone and body language over videoconference
  • Maintain awareness of employees’ mental health, workload and work-life balance

These are all positive developments and are applicable skills for managing employees over greater distances, too.

Once you’ve managed remote employees within the same ZIP code, managing employees in other time zones generally isn’t that different. Remote is remote, whether the team member is down the street or five states away.

The core rules of solid leadership in remote work environments – or any work environment – still apply:

  • Meet employees where they are
  • Clarify goals and expectations
  • Give employees autonomy to get the job done in a way that works for them

There are just a few key additional factors you should consider. After all, managing employees across time zones isn’t without its unique challenges:

  • You won’t see distant employees as often and certainly not without intention.
  • There may be delays in communication and response times, which means you can’t always expect real-time conversations and results.
  • Expectations and due dates can sometimes get tricky – especially if the time gap is bigger. For example, if you’re in London and need a report by Monday morning, an employee in California might not deliver that to you until the end of your day.
  • It can be more difficult to identify mutually agreeable meeting times.
  • Employees can feel a stronger sense of workplace isolation.

Once you acknowledge these challenges exist, you can turn your focus to managing employees across time zones despite the potential constraints.

Figure out why you’re meeting, and when

When you’re on a completely different working schedule than some or all of your team members, it’s more crucial than ever to connect, get face-to-face time and learn about work progress on a regular basis. Of course, that can be tricky when time zones get in the way.

Here are some tips you can experiment with to see what works best for your business:

  • When you schedule meetings and send meeting invitations, clarify the time zone in which the meeting takes place.
  • Be courteous about not scheduling one-off meetings for really early or really late in the day for certain time zones. For example, if you’re on the East Coast, try not to schedule a meeting that will happen at 5:30 a.m. on the West Coast.
  • If there is a certain block of time in which all employees are working and availability overlaps, consider designating those as core meeting hours. For example, if you have employees across the country, perhaps the middle of the day is best for meetings.
  • If you have recurring team or department meetings, change up the time every so often to avoid inconveniencing the same employees for too long. You can rotate meeting times so that some employees have to meet earlier (7 to 8 a.m.) or later (5 to 7 p.m.) for their time zone and can all share in the burden of having a less desirable meeting time temporarily.
  • For recurring one-on-one meetings, ask the employee what time works best for them. To accommodate several different employees in various time zones, you may need to adjust your own schedule to work earlier on some days and later on other days. If you do this, just make sure everyone on the team is aware.
  • Use a shared team calendar that shows employees’ availability so that managers and colleagues can easily book meetings during open times. With some software, employees can even set parameters on their availability to avoid receiving meeting requests that won’t work. This saves everyone time.
  • Reassess what constitutes a successful meeting in a working environment with dispersed employees in different time zones. For example, evaluate the duration and size of typical meetings.
  • Can you condense meetings that were formerly one hour into, say, 25 minutes?
    • Who truly needs to be included?
  • Sometimes, larger meetings and formal company announcements have to occur at a certain time and place. In these instances, record important meetings and ensure that employees in other time zones are given access.
  • Be mindful about requesting on-site meetings. If you elect to have one, you’ll have to cover employees’ travel and accommodations. Weigh the return on investment for your company.

Additionally, think about what on-site meetings mean for employees in other locations. For you, it may mean a commitment of an hour or two. For them, it could be a time commitment of one or a handful of days, depending on travel time, and could introduce unnecessary stress in their personal lives.

Team cohesiveness and preservation of workplace culture

When people aren’t directly and spontaneously interacting as much, and instead operating in their own silo and time zones, it’s a natural concern that team cohesion will fracture and workplace culture will diminish.

From the on-a-different-time-zone-employee’s perspective, they may also worry that they’re going to be overlooked for opportunities, cut out of the information loop or feel lonely.

Managing employees across time zones forces business leaders to do the hard work of really figuring out what makes a team cohesive.

Spoiler: It was never about the foosball table or the beer on tap back in the days of everyone working on-site – those are easy “outs.” The answers are actually much more simple and basic, and these practices still apply to more flexible and remote working environments:

  • Have a clear, common purpose and make sure everyone knows what that is. You want people to feel as though they’re part of something amazing, important and fulfilling.
  • Hire people who feel passionate about their work, and give them the right tools and resources to succeed.
  • Encourage mutual accountability. All team members should want everyone else to do well because they all care about the outcome of their work.
  • Emphasize caring for each other’s personal well-being.
  • Aid employee development so they can advance their professional knowledge and skills.

Other creative ideas for building engagement and community: