The Real Reason Why Employers are Struggling to Fill Job Openings
I recently returned from Atlanta and Little Rock to give a series of presentations. When I went to area restaurants their staff shortage dilemma was no different than my home of Phoenix. Long lines and long waits were common. And that’s not just the restaurant industry, it’s a pervasive complaint from all of my clients and conference session attendees.
Salary expectations is often cited as a driving factor behind the “The Great Resignation” but there’s much more to this economic trend than meets the eye. It’s true, many employers are focused on giving employees higher pay but less attention seems to paid to flexibility, culture and other factors that truly motivate employees.
In this article, I would like to explain why so many employers are struggling to fill job openings and why they need to better understand the other factors behind this trend.
The Real Reason Behind the Great Resignation
Recent studies by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show job openings are growing in the United States but employers are struggling to attract candidates. Employees are also quitting at record levels and the unemployment rate is holding at 3.6 percent.
But what is causing this rate to stabilize?
Low salary and unsustainable workloads are cited as two of the main reasons behind the Great Resignation. Research by Glassdoor shows a 43 percent surge for salary expectations in 2022 and according to a recent survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, employees are quitting in numbers due to the lack of career opportunities.
These should be quite sobering statistics for employers but not something we should merely put down to economic recovery. The truth is, the great resignation didn’t start with the pandemic and organizations now need to examine the root cause of these problems. A lot has changed in recent years and a type of awakening seems to have given employees reason to expect much higher expectations for their workplace.
Employees Want a More Meaningful Workplace
According to the above cited recent survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, employees are also quitting for reasons beyond salary expectations. People are wanting meaningful perks like mental health therapy, family leave and days off. One leadership consultant in the above article sums things up when she says that people are realizing they were not designed to work like machines and that they deserve better working conditions.
But that’s just part of the story…
In all my years working as a consultant, I have witnessed the power of company values and culture. These studies are pointing to the fact that employees want to work for leaders who care and companies that foster an autonomous culture. They show how people now expect to be valued as individuals and to be treated as though their values really do matter. We should also see this from a rational perspective because flexibility, meaningful work, and support for health and well-being are some rather obvious reasons that motivate people to perform at their best.
And where do we go from here?
The current problem with employers struggling to fill openings goes far beyond workload and salary expectations. While they matter greatly, employers need to examine how they plan to address the other factors mentioned above. It’s not an overnight process and it takes everyone in the organization to actively participate but a high-level consultant can provide guidance and advise them through the process.
Overloaded with Information: Do we no longer need to think for ourselves?
Is the age of information and over-reliance on Google impairing our capacity to think for ourselves? While knowledge is power, many studies suggest the overload of information is affecting our ability to decipher and process information. I have personally encountered these issues at seminars in which attendee’s struggled to learn or understand how they might apply certain theory in their given role. It’s also apparent in the workplace, where both information and technology seems to remove the need to think and seemingly enable people to “slide” through their jobs!
But might we accept these drawbacks in return for so much valuable information?
After all, in the knowledge economy, data is our most valuable commodity.
Why “Too Much Information” is Impairing Our Ability to Think/Do
Research by Harvard Business Review suggests that increasing levels of information can not only interrupt productivity but also lead to adverse affects on a person’s well-being, innovation and decision making. For instance, these studies demonstrated how the average person might take more than twenty minutes to return to a task after being “interrupted” by an email. In terms of innovation or decision making, this surging volume of information requires more time to decipher and process data, which will often cause distress and maybe even dishearten or discourage the individual.
We all know the saying – “Too much information”.
The truth is, while industry data is widely available and online studies, opinions and Wikis can be valuable for getting the job done, researchers are pointing to the fact that excessive information can often get in the way of how we think and what we do.
There is also reason to believe the over-reliance on social media and technology is reducing people’s intelligence. The Apeiron recently noted that we’ve lost the ability to think critically, and question our sources of information. And as if that’s not enough, Patricia Greenfield, a researcher and professor of psychology at UCLA, recently stated that while visual skills seem to be improving with the growth of technology, our skills in analysis and critical thinking are most certainly on the decline.
Now, that’s not to say this surging volume of data or technology is a bad thing but rather to say we might need to change how we work and know when to stop.
Time to Change and Think about How We Use Information?
It seems to me that we have become over-dependent on information and technology to the point in which our capacity for critical thinking is in steep decline. For me, this explains why more and more employees and conference attendees have seemingly lost their ability to be resourceful and to decipher information in such a way that it applies to them. It’s almost like an addiction and this flow of valuable information is endless which requires a need for individuals to know when to turn off the tap and re-learn how to depend upon their own critical thinking.
Or maybe people no longer need to think for themselves?
I’d like to think we are still early with these issues and ready to shift back toward our own thinking for the sake of future innovation, decision making and mental well-being.
Is Company Culture the Key to a Successful Merger or Acquisition?
An acquisition or merger has the potential to transform a company overnight and have a profound effect on company growth, capital and even the stock price. However, there’s always a degree of risk involved, and it certainly doesn’t always go to plan.
In fact, 60% of the Leaders and Human Resource professionals I polled, whose company experienced a merger or acquisition in the last five years, felt that it negatively affected the organization. And while many factors can disrupt the process, the management of company culture is often the difference between a successful merger and a slow, painful and costly process that could have been avoided.
Let’s take a closer look at company culture and a quick overview of how to better manage and understand the role of company culture during a corporate merger.
How Company Culture Can Disrupt a Merger or Acquisition
Company culture is the vision that drives a company, the working norms that characterize a workplace and the values that guide employee behavior. In order to properly integrate two companies, it’s essential to address this company culture effectively and ensure all teams and employees are on the same page as leadership.
After all, a company’s vision is usually clear among leadership during a merger but a greater challenge comes in getting the actual work done. That is to say, friction or misunderstandings between teams/employees is common during a transition and without careful management, the plan and overall process is sure to suffer.
But how can this kind of situation be avoided?
3-Steps to Manage Company Culture During a Merger/Acquisition
A strong and cohesive company culture is at the heart of every successful merger and significantly increases the likelihood of success. However, a comprehensive approach is needed to define this culture and ensure a successful integration for both sides.
Here’s a quick look at three steps to managing culture during a merger/acquisition:
- Diagnose the Company Culture and Establish How Work is Done
Leaders need to have an exceptional understanding of the culture in both companies. It’s necessary to take a scientific approach during this diagnosis as opposed to using assumptions or gut-based thinking which will expose the merger/acquisition to more risk.
- Manage Differences and Build a Comprehensive Change Plan
It’s necessary to manage any differences in terms of the “way of working” between two companies in order to build one cohesive high-performing culture. The most suitable behaviors and management practices are identified and used to create a comprehensive change plan with specific themes and initiatives for the new company operating model.
- Rolling Out the Model and Tracking Progress
It’s then time to hard-wire these changes into the company model with the assistance of a top team (and leadership) who will model these new aspects of the company culture. The implementation of these initiatives/themes also needs to be tracked and clear milestones should be set in order to monitor progress. Further, surveys and focus groups can keep track of employee moral and the top team should be held accountable for all progress.
When integration is slow or ineffective, desired targets are often missed and cost savings are almost impossible. Aside from economic performance, a poor culture promotes unethical behavior and often leads to mistrust among employees. As if that’s not enough, lack of attention toward company culture can have a negative impact on the physical and emotional well-being of employees from both companies. But with better understanding and management, a smooth and successful merger or acquisition is more than possible.
The High Price of Stockholder Satisfaction
Still appropriately socially distanced, the VP of a national organization and I met for coffee. The conversational update about how the business was doing gravitated to the spate of Glassdoor complaints that former employees had posted. The VP acknowledged they were bad reviews but also pointed out that they stemmed from the home offices in another state. There, he said, the culture was pretty toxic. Lots of emphasis was placed on whether stockholders were satisfied with their numbers. It was there that the company turned to layoffs when profits were taking a hit. Not a new tactic. And an often misguided one.
I looked into this practice a little more and found a couple articles of interest. I also polled Leaders and Human Resource professionals whose companies are publicly traded, and 60% of the respondents felt satisfying Stockholders factored highly into daily operations. Therefore, they were forced to make tough decisions on labor based on that pressure.
In his article Negatives of Maximizing Shareholder Value Gregory Hamel writes, “Another negative consequence of shareholder value maximization is that it can hurt employees. The lower a corporation’s costs, the more profit it stands to make if its total revenue is constant, so corporations can benefit from cutting employee benefits and wages. If domestic labor is not cheap enough or not productive enough, businesses can outsource labor to foreign workers who are willing to work for lower wages.”
In a study researched by Agnes Zdaniuk and Nita Chhinzer found that who relays the message even affects the outcome. Nita Chhinzer Associate Professor, Human Resource Management and Business Consulting (Dept of Management), University of Guelph (Canada) wrote:
“Excuse-and apology-based explanations highlight the fact that a company’s actions, as well as errors in forecasting and responding to changes, contributed to job losses. There’s also a larger drop in share prices in response to excuse- and apology-based layoffs when the CEO delivers the message, compared to any other messenger. Essentially, shareholders view the layoff more negatively when the announcement comes from the CEO, and the layoff explanation can be attributed to a failure to respond to internal and external changes. That means using a human resources manager, legal counsel or another manager rather than the CEO to make the announcement can minimize the negativity of stakeholder reactions to layoffs.”
One of the first times in my own life when I was exposed to the idea of laying off employees to save money, was when I was in my very early 20s and my mother told me that the newspaper she worked for as a reporter was going through financial difficulties. But rather than lay employees off the newspaper offered early retirement along with a small financial package and the timing it was perfect because my mother was interested in moving overseas and so the option to accept the early retirement worked out perfectly for her.
My husband also took a similar package after working for his employer for 31 years.
Along with offering with offering early retirement, and other incentives to leave, as an option there are other possibilities that employers can offer such as the following:
Hiring Freeze – to be perfectly honest there’s nothing that screams hypocrisy more to employees being laid off then watching new employees enter the organization.
Freeze Salary and Benefits – studies and surveys have shown that employees are willing to hold off unexpected salary raises or increased benefits to protect their job and to protect the company. Knowing that when times are better those increases will probably be reinstated.
Let temporary employees and contractors go – your first commitment is to your own employees first. Most of them are willing to work harder if it protects their job in the long term.
Don’t fill vacated positions from terminations layoffs and normal attrition – This is the perfect time to take advantage of people leaving of their own accord.
Reducing pay or work hours – this can have serious ramifications to the morale of your employees. Before taking this action look very closely at the possible consequences.
Short term furloughs – same as the above this is a decision companies should not enter into lightly, but it might be the only choice for short durations. Be aware that when you are able to ramp up your employee headcount those that have been furloughed need to be the first ones called back to the organization.
All of these actions can and will have consequences to your organizational culture and how you handle them will have a direct impact to your organization organization’s future. That includes your own future as well.
If you want to learn more about how we help your organization’s culture repair itself after these events just give me a call. Let’s chat about it.
#stockholders #salaries #employees #furloughs #layoffs #salary #benefits #satisfaction #terminations #companyculture #humanresources #ethiture #jointheculturalmovement
Hire the Right People
I was with a group of executives recently doing my workshop Leading the Pack – How a Culture of Learning Puts You Ahead. One of them was particularly troubled by the fact that he was fully staffed but he had several employees that regularly showed up late, and it was stressing him a great deal.
As an HR practitioner my “go-to” question was, “Do you have corrective action process?” Not only did he not have one, but he said that his version of correction was to tell his employees, “Be here on time!” Let’s be honest if his employees continue to be late then his imperative clearly wasn’t getting through. He wasn’t correcting, and he wasn’t taking action.
What he really needs, as harsh as it may sound, is to clean house. He needs to let go the people that won’t get there on time and hire people who will. Because it might be that these employees do good work once they’re there, but that still doesn’t make them the right employees for his organization. The right employees find a way to get to work on time and have a desire to be there on time. If this isn’t high on the employee’s priority list then clearly the success of the company isn’t either.
The most important part of building and maintaining a positive and thriving company culture is to have the right people. It’s not enough just to have people that have that have technical skills and know-how for the job. It’s also important to look at the candidate’s desire to support your company’s values. Your employees don’t need to be stamped out of the same mold, but they do need to share the same sense of key ideals your company is based on.
Inc.com offers a succinct article to help you understand if an employee is the right fit in three clear dimensions. There are also a plethora of evaluation tools, and as long as all of your candidates are tested consistently and uniformly (which is the legal way to do it by the way) you will find these a great means of separating the candidates who fit from the ones who won’t.
I’m also certified in Development Dimensions International’s Behavior Based interviewing method, “Targeted Selection” and I can’t say enough good things about this process. While there is a lot of front-end work to create the right interview questionnaire for the specific jobs, it pays off in making the cream of the crop bubble to the surface. In addition, it helps recruiters prevent wayward questions that get them in the danger zone or waste an interview opportunity by not getting relevant information to reveal itself.
You’ll also learn a lot about cultural fit through the workshop, Company Culture Is Not a Game – Unless It Is. The ability to spark safe discussion among the participants helps organizations get a grasp on what their organization’s values are and create initiatives that follow-suit.
For example one organization decided to participate in a number of non-profit and community related volunteerism. This was not only great for employee morale and public relations for the company, it also gave them a series of discussion points and questions for interviews that revealed candidate fit.
Want to chat more about this? Give me a call! (480) 646-2400
Who’s Ghosting Whom?
At an out-of-town convention where I spoke recently, I had the opportunity to sit with some attendees during breakfast the morning following my presentation. These we’re all business leaders and they began to express a sentiment that I hear every time I speak with business leaders. That is that they have a terrible time recruiting.
A couple of years ago I had written an article about this very subject. And one of the things that came up, in that article, was how frequently applicants, or new hires, “ghost” the employer. Either the applicant schedules an interview and never shows up for it, or the new hire gets the job and either never starts or goes through training for a week, or so, and then never comes back.
This is very sadly nothing new. When I worked for the hotel and the hospital, I used to manage human resources for, it happened. And it was frustrating.
Nobody wants to have a revolving door or to spin their wheels wasting time on recruiting applicants that really don’t care about staying at the job.
What we all see, however, is that this is happening a lot more often. It’s become so prevalent that employers consider themselves lucky when someone shows up as promised.
I think there are several reasons why. Starting with the fact that work ethic just isn’t what it used to be. Perhaps most kids aren’t being raised with it. (I’m happy to say my daughter’s work ethic is remarkable). Employees today know that it’s an employee’s world and they have extremely high expectations for the workplace. They are no longer satisfied with the eight to five and “Here’s your paycheck” every two weeks lifestyle of the baby boomers and the generations before them.
Did we cause this?
Isn’t it also possible that in part we are getting what we ask for? Here’s what I mean. I know a lot of business coaches, consultants and independent contractors – people like myself that are entrepreneurs that are basically looking for work every day in terms of networking and outreach. How often do we contact a company via email or telephone and never hear anything back? Company reps just ghost us. They won’t take the time to say, “Thanks but no thanks”.
Since I also do career transition work, I have the opportunity to help a lot of candidates for the workforce who say that they interview with the company and never hear anything back. And so, they’re left wondering, discouraged and disenchanted. It’s a bad reflection on the company. You see the commentary on Social Media.
Change the Way We Connect
If companies took a little bit more time to respect their applicants, to simply follow-up and let them know that they’ve gone another direction, or chosen another candidate, it would at least be some news. But because most companies are not respecting candidates enough to take a moment out of their time to let them know the status of their application most candidates don’t feel like they need to take the time follow through with the employer either.
While that doesn’t fully explain the unprofessional behavior of ghosting an employer after already accepting and starting a job, it does speak to the prevalence of the behavior altogether in today’s society. I think that if we both work together to follow-up and follow-through we can change the way we connect with one another for the better.
Open Door or Revolving Door? That is the Question.
When I worked in Human Resources at my two previous companies, I was proud of my open-door policy. But sometimes it came to haunt me. There was one staff member, in particular, who was always standing outside my office door first thing in the morning. Literally! I would be on my way to my office, hadn’t even set down my purse or grabbed a cup of coffee, and there he stood outside my door. Every day was a new problem and a new complaint. Most of which were trivial things. It made him a high maintenance employee.
Maybe what I just wrote raised your hackles. When you’re in Human Resources you get to know the legitimate HR related or personal issues you’re help is needed with – and you also get to know when people have issues that a little resourcefulness could unveil the solution to. Let’s face it. Some people like to gripe.
When you’re in Human Resources you want to be there for the members of your organization. Or, rather, you should want to – otherwise HR isn’t the best career choice for you. In Human Resources, you are the liaison and the one person that’s the cushion between non-management and management.
If someone has a problem with a health issue, their family, or a workplace complaint, whatever it may be, we need to be there to help.
See the fine line?
I recently surveyed human resources professionals and leaders and I asked them what percentage of their time they were spending on employee’s personal issues. 55% of leaders and Human Resource professionals said they are spending excessive amounts of time dealing with employee relations disruptions.
What if those issues were actually caused by management?
One client I spoke to said that in her company the most frequent employee complaint is employees talking to one another about unfair expectations by management. In their company they see their clients by appointment only. Management wants them to double up on appointments to squeeze more clients into each day. But when they do, clients complain because they feel like they are not getting the one-to-one attention that they deserve. There have been multiple complaints on public forums, such as Yelp, about the lack of personalized attention that customers experience when the provider doubled appointments. Then upper management criticizes the employees every time there’s a negative complaint. It’s a terrible “Catch-22” because the complaint comes from something that management required and the employees don’t recommend doing. But they can’t refuse.
In another organization, an employee told me that they have requirements to fulfil by management that are unrealistic. Since management doesn’t actually do the job, or understand how it works, so the requirements are unachievable.
I once had a similar situation when I was required to fill every new hire requisition within 30 days. I would do the preliminary interviews and take my interview notes to the hiring manager for them to do a second interview. But then the paperwork sat on their desk week after week after week gathering dust. No matter how many times I reminded the manager, second interviews never seemed to be scheduled.
I would get negative rankings on my performance evaluations for not filling each req in the 30-day timeline. A more achievable goal which would have been that I do the pre-screening interview within two weeks. Then my obligation would end once the paperwork went to the hiring manager.
Here 7 tips on how you can avoid spending excessive amounts of time on employee related complaints at your organization:
- Value all of your employees, including race, ethnicity, disability, religion, LGBTQ and all differences. All people need to feel valued, connected, that they have opportunities for growth and there is hope. Regardless of our age race ethnicity disability religion or status, if you respect your people they will want to do their best for you. It’s just the right thing to do.
- Have frequent and open communication: companies that are highly transparent have great cultures. Even if the news that you share isn’t good news if you are forthcoming your employees will almost always be supportive and understanding and they will stick with you in good times and bad.
- Acknowledge birthdays and important family occasions: See number one. people want to feel seen and for almost everyone acknowledging birthdays or important family occasions really makes them feel acknowledged. On a cautionary note, be aware that some people’s religions are not as receptive to this or some people may feel uncomfortable because of cultural norms. So if you are aware of those then of course you’ll want to abstain. But even if you acknowledge the birthday or important occasion of somebody whose faith or culture does not celebrate these events they will typically know that you had the best of intentions.
- Have frequent fun activities: BBQ, Escape Rooms, Bowling and so on. Include online ones for remote workers such as games learning opportunities virtual coffee breaks and team meetings. Most people love opportunities to see each other outside of of the workplace and to see people in different environments. You never want to make these occasions mandatory because that will immediately work against you. But invitations to something fun well nearly always create connection and fond memories for your employees which only enhances the culture of your organization.
- Ensure that your company regularly discuss is the company mission and values. Did you know that only 6% of companies regularly discuss their organization’s vision and mission statements? Most people don’t even know what they are. And that means that your employees don’t really know the purpose of what they’re doing and what the end goal is. Make opportunities in employee meetings, and events to talk about your company’s values and mission and make sure that your employees can discuss them in a way that shows that they really understand what your organization stands for.
- Participate in community volunteering and giving and foster a strong sense of community at the workplace: when employees have opportunities to volunteer if they choose to it helps their self-esteem to be involved in something for the greater good. In addition, obviously it makes our communities better for all of us. Whatever your organization can do that’s beyond just check writing, make opportunities. I have heard great feedback from.
- Review and respond two submissions to your suggestion box: a kiss of death for an organization is to have a suggestion box that gets ignored. Employees will resent that in a heartbeat. Even if you can’t act on every entry that makes its way into your suggestion box at least get back to the submitter and help them understand why. Suggestion boxes can be a excellent method for getting great ideas from employee’s past experience at previous employers, and from what they’re currently doing on their job, that you may not be seeing which can add great value to your organization.
These are just a few of many possible ideas and they all appear on cards in my Company Culture Board Game, a highly interactive element to my company culture workshop. Gamification is a proven way to engaging your whole workforce into creating collaborative initiatives. If you want to learn more about this workshop just reach out to me to discuss if it’s a fit for your organization.
Losing Your Grip – The Perils of Outsourcing Staff
Every company changes over time. The way people work also changes due to change in leadership. Every leader brings forward a new approach with regards to the resources, and their values.
This article focuses on one such approach where companies let their employees be outsourced and still work for them as contractors. The company positions itself to decrease its duties and liabilities to these freelancers while basically the same output it would have from “permanent” employees. Unfortunately, polls have exposed results stating that it has a negative impact on incumbent staff and the company morale in general. Especially when leaders avoid transparency, choosing to withhold details of the organization’s conditions which lead them to that action. It’s a recipe for distrust and angst.
I recently ran a poll of my own with Executives and Human Resource Professionals in my network and results revealed that of the Leaders and Human Resource professionals whose company outsourced staff members who still work for them as contractors 85% said there had been a negative effect on them and on incumbent staff.
Organizational Change drives a lot of change in the workplace environment. There are multiple short term and long-term effects of any operational change. It has been reported that after such changes in a company, employees have complained of lower clarity in their jobs. The job responsibilities and liabilities come under questionable conclusions due to organizational changes. In simple terms, they don’t know where they stand and what’s expected of them.
A long-term effect of outsourcing is that layoffs are often imminent. This frequently leads to a loss of trust between the higher authorities and the employees. Outsourcing work from previous employees adds to the inferiority complex and worsens the situation further.
One common complaint is it lowers job security as well as the productivity of the entire team. To counter the productivity loss, companies need to put more focus on the existing employees so that they can accept and adapt to the changing work environment.
Organizational changes, therefore, trigger various psychosocial effects in the workers. There are adverse effects. While some short-term effects recuperate with time and job clarity, long term issues don’t easily get erased. Outsourcing work has its own side effects. It affects the morale of the existing team and creates a disturbance in the work atmosphere. The bridge of trust between the stakeholders and the employees suffers majorly due to such organizational changes.
Outsourcing work, on the other hand, helps the companies expand their territories a lot more. It increases the window of opportunities as the company can take more risks. Having “permanent” employees is often a burden because the company is liable to pay them and maintain benefits for them.
The poll I conducted showed that 85% of the people responding had a negative effect when companies outsourced work to contractors. Therefore, it is essential for companies to change this trend to support their existing employees. This change in trend is not possible overnight and requires experienced help. That’s where I pitch in, ensuring a smooth workplace atmosphere. This adds to resolving the existing issues in the system and helps companies improve their relationship with stakeholders involved.
Change is never easy. Still, change is essential. A company content to standstill will eventually stagnate and fall behind the competition. Every company has their own policies, which change with time to accommodate organizational change.
Change has its own side effects too. The idea of keeping employees motivated and equally focused on work is often an issue at the workplace. But it doesn’t have to cripple you or show up as red numbers in your profit and loss statement. Smart leaders anticipate that if outsourcing is an inevitable process of their change, then heading it off at the pass with programs that will mitigate negative effects on morale are like an insurance policy, and an investment in their people.
If your office culture is struggling due to these changes, there’s always a solution to it. Book a discovery call. I’d be happy to chat with you about how we could work together to help your company outlive, outlast and outperform the competition.
Is Isolation Always a Bad Thing?
In a recent poll at one of my workshops, it was discovered the vast majority (80%) of employees were feeling disconnected from their work colleagues. As if that wasn’t enough, many of these same individuals were feeling lonely and isolated due to the unusual nature of working from home. But while this poll was rather negative and disheartening, I also found a very different message in the thoughts and opinions of non-attendees. With this in mind, I’d like to talk about the following question:
Is isolation always a bad thing?
The Dark Side of Isolation
Isolation is linked heavily with poor mental well-being and many serious health problems such as anxiety, depression and cognitive decline. Social isolation is also a common cause of loneliness – the consequences of which can hardly be overstated.
It should go without saying that isolation is nothing new. Stressful events or personal concerns will often leave a person feeling isolated and these instances are not native to the pandemic. That is to say, there are many ways to feel isolated: if a person is made unemployed or lacking in self-esteem, they might feel alone, and the same can be said bereavements, breakups or a person living away from home.
However, the pandemic has certainly highlighted the risks associated with isolation and shed some light on the importance of remaining connected. I believe the above-mentioned poll is also an indication that companies need to pay more attention to the impact of isolation on their employees and company culture in general.
The Good Side of Isolation
It’s not always a bad thing to spend time alone. Isolation will often remove the unwanted distractions that enable a person to “clear the mind”. Spending time alone can also boost creativity and statistics show that employees working from home are more productive – especially if they get to decide their working hours (flex-work).
In a recent interview, the HR manager at PADT said that company “check-ins” suggested most employees did not wish to return to the office full-time. Lara Maack then went on to explain how and why the workforce was more connected than ever. While some of this was due to the implementation of Zoom, MS Teams etc, there’s reason to believe that many employees are simply adjusting to the new landscape.
On a personal level, I can also say that my connection with clients (and friends/family) has benefited in many ways from this COVID-induced isolation. This is partly due to the above technology but also because differentiation (being autonomous) is an essential ingredient in any healthy relationship. What’s more, time apart allows us to better appreciate the time we get to spend with others and think more carefully about how we interact as friends, family and colleagues. But it’s not easy to structure a company culture in the midst of a pandemic and mitigate the risks associated with isolation.
As a direct outcome of my Company Culture is Not a Game – Unless It Is workshop, one of my clients made up a schedule of events for employee virtual events and they’ve been having a blast eliminating isolation.
Maybe I can help you with that? Please do not hesitate to reach out for a free 30-minute consult.
In a recent episode of “The Rookie” on ABC, a pearl of wisdom was shared that rhymes nicely with my own school of thought – “Empathy shouldn’t be a liability”.
It got me thinking because I often talk to my clients about the role of empathy and why empathy is the key ingredient to creating a thriving culture within a company.
And you’ll have to forgive me for blowing my own trumpet in this article, but I feel it’s important to explain a certain point for the sake of providing some context. With that said, I’d like to explain how and why empathy can foster a thriving company culture…
Why Empathy is so Important for Creating a Thriving Company Culture
According to a recent Gallup assessment, empathy is my number one strength and one which has served me well in recent years. I say this because I have always tried to deploy empathy as a consultant in order to create meaningful relationships and connections with clients and within the culture of their respective companies.
Let me explain this better from a fundamental point of view…
As with any type of society or community, empathy can help build and nurture a company culture. It’s true that empathy is not often talked about in this context but it’s important to know the significance of empathy, or lack thereof, in a workplace. Because without empathy, work colleagues have no motive to care for one another and no reason to make sacrifices for the sake of achieving a common goal. The presence of empathy has the opposite effect and encourages individuals to understand, while improving communication and productivity throughout a company.
Empathy is also a vulnerable choice but one that enables employers to connect with their employees in a more meaningful way and there are many studies back this up. For instance, mirror neurons are triggered when empathy is deployed. These neurons can help a person feel what other people might be experiencing, but without actually having the experience themselves. It’s a broad concept, of course, but this special attribute can help companies develop a better relationship with employees.
I also mentioned my recent Clifton Strength assessment on Gallup and this is something a company can also use to their advantage. “Clifton Strengths” refers to an assessment that shows the unique power of an individual. Research indicates that a person who can harness and deploy these strengths tends to be more productive, engaged and content in the workplace. Hence, these assessments are often used to inspire employees, leaders and even entire companies to improve performance.
Now, I’m only scratching the surface here, but I think you can understand why I always encourage employers to take a similar approach to company culture.
Some Final Words on the Role of Empathy for Company Culture
According to Dr. Brene Brown, a world-renowned researcher at the University of Houston, vulnerability is at the heart of all human experiences. Further, vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but rather the very-birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and empathy. This indicates how it takes vulnerability to be empathetic and while this might feel uncomfortable at first, it’s often the way to a wealth of opportunities.
As a consultant, I act on my own empathy as much as possible, and I also try to do this without expecting anything in return. I believe this helps me sleep at night, while bringing more meaning to my work as a consultant. But for some employers (and people in general), empathy is regarded as a type of soft skill and maybe even a “weak” alternative to demanding higher standards in the workplace. In other words, many folk still seem to think that showing empathy is something to fear or avoid.
Empathy is not a sign of weakness and feeling vulnerable is a risk we must take to experience meaningful relationships and true connection within a truly great company culture.
The Cost of Civil Suits and Why Companies Need to Care More
The Cost of Civil Suits and Why Companies Need to Care More
If you’re like me, you try to plan ahead but need a push every now and again to focus on the less enjoyable side of running a company. The cost of civil suits is one of these areas and one that demands attention. More specifically, many employers take a “it will never happen to us” mentality toward workplace bullying and civil suits can cost thousands of dollars, while damaging the morale and culture inside a company.
I won’t hold you up with too many details but it’s important to know the potential impact of bullying for a company and indeed – the cost of civil suits. Let’s take a quick look at some alarming statistics that should help bring the point home and the extent to which workplace bullying and civil suits can have on any company.
Worrying Stats and Why Companies Need to Care More
It’s true, many employers are slow to address issues related to bullying in the workplace and this only leaves the company vulnerable in a very serious way. Believe it or not, recent studies show the vast majority of workers have at least witnessed bullying in the workplace, while over 50% of employees claim their performance was has been affected by bullying.
Bullying is a common cause of high-anxiety situations. As you might find with a bullied child at school, an employee is unlikely to perform well in these situations. And employees will not only face a loss in moral due to bullying, but also a significant drop in productivity.
But what does bullying actually look like in the workplace?
The Serious Implications of Bullying at the Workplace
Bullying can refer to a wide range of occurrences such as intimidation, humiliation or verbal abuse. Further studies show these are also not one-time incidents and something that happens over long periods of time which causes further loss of productivity and moral within a company. And that’s just part of the story…
Lack of action against bullying in the workplace will cost the business money.
If an employer is proven to be liable for bullying at work, they might be obliged to pay damages to an employee. There are often rehabilitation costs or counseling fees associated with any related emotional damages. As if that’s not enough, there are also legal fees in such instances and high-profile cases have required companies to pay out millions in settlements.
Maybe you get my point already? While some employers choose to ignore the many reasons for addressing bullying at the workplace, the cost of civil suits demands such attention. And bullying in the workplace actually happens – a lot. This is hugely detrimental for employee moral and surely not the kind of environment you wish to oversee. I also suggest that companies should want to care more for the well-being of their employees for the sake of humanity and not because of productivity or profit.
I should know. It happened to me.
The Key to Outsourcing Without Disrupting Company Culture
Outsourcing work is often regarded as the best way to reduce costs, free up time and improve efficiency. It’s also quite a polarizing issue that can have negative affects on company culture and cause employees to worry about their future and job security.
It’s no surprise because outsourcing usually means laying off workers or reducing the work-hours available. This is partly why many companies avoid, or hold off with, outsourcing and opt for a more costly system for the sake of the company moral.
But is it even possible to outsource without disrupting the company culture?
Why Outsourcing is the Sensible (and Most Profitable) Way to Proceed
Recent studies suggest that outsourcing can quickly increase the profitability of a company. It’s not just the lower cost of outsourcing that makes a company more profitable but the lack of costs in general such as those associated with in-house management. There are also more than 57 million freelance workers in America and over 300,000 jobs get outsourced every year. There’s also the fact that our future is in the hands of millennials and Gen Z. These are tech-savvy generations which are more likely to work independently and seek outsourced work in the freelance industry.
Now, let’s assume that outsourcing makes sense and tackle a more pressing issue…
The Key to Outsourcing Without Disrupting Company Culture
The truth is, outsourcing will inevitably take some jobs away and be the cause of concern for any workforce. This concern is something to take seriously and also to alleviate at every given opportunity. If no effort is made to address such issues, this kind of uncertainty can have a terrible effect on employees and the company culture.
As for avoiding disruption, it’s crucial to properly communicate. This might mean reassuring certain employees of their job safety or giving perspective to the company in terms of the big picture and why outsourcing is good for everyone in the long term.
For example, the type of jobs that give way to outsourcing are often mundane or low-paid jobs that we can afford to lose. That’s not to say anyone can afford to lose their income but rather an observation that one might take this opportunity to pivot into a more suitable role with better pay. In my workshop, Leading the Pack – How a Culture of Learning Puts You Ahead, I often tell the story of a man who was so comfortable in his 30 year on the job routine that when he was taken off guard by a merger he was literally unemployable.
Communicating effectively is the key to successful outsourcing and maintaining company culture during the transition. The final point above also reminds me of the richest man in the world and his thoughts about automation, for Elon Musk once said, “Automation will make jobs kind of pointless” and that people should learn soft skills for the sake of their long-term future. Musk was referring to skills relating to communication, efficiency and observation (skills which machines cannot master yet) and how this creates an opportunity for those who might want to remain employed.
You might notice how a similar perspective might be taken when it comes to outsourcing and why excellent communication is needed to maintain company culture. Indeed, outsourcing is an instrument that can produce many benefits but as I always tell my clients, maintaining a strong company culture is the true path to profitability.
Are You a Victim of Your Organization?
In 1968 when I was in the fourth grade, girls were not permitted to wear pants to school. In years prior it never really meant anything to me but as I, and my friends, got older and pulled farther and farther away from our mothers having to pick our clothes for us, what we chose to wear made a difference.
There was something about having to wear a dress every day that made me angry. It was like a uniform. Restrictive and uncomfortable. I grew up in Denver and it was cold in the wintertime. Why did I have to walk to school with my legs freezing? Even with tights on it was awfully cold.
I rallied my friends and found everyone felt the same. We didn’t understand how what we wore had any effect whatsoever on our ability to learn. So, I gathered my girlfriends and we petitioned the principal’s office, asking for a face to face meeting. We argued in not-so-sophisticated 8 and 9 year old’s language how discriminatory we felt that was.
You know what? We won our argument! The dress code at my elementary school was changed. For the rest of my school years I never wore a dress again! Oh, except for my senior prom!
We didn’t sit around like victims, forever ticked off that we had to wear dresses when the boys could wear pants. We were so over having the guys flip up our skirts to expose our underwear, yelling “Dress up day!” and we decided to do something about it.
What our small, but mighty group accomplished was that we affected a change in the culture of our elementary school.
There’s no reason employees of a company can’t rally in the same manner. There have been countless times in my career, when I worked internally for one organization or another, where the employees sat around and lamented about how screwed-up they thought things were. But rarely did they ever actually do anything about it.
Some of them felt defeated because they’d put a suggestion in the suggestion box and nothing ever came of it, and so in my work as a company culture consultant one thing that I always impress upon organizations is that if you’re going to have a suggestion box you better check it. You find real useable gems in there. If you can’t actually implement the suggestion, management needs to at least get back to the employee and thank them for their contribution.
But back to affecting change. If you work for an organization and you’re not happy with the culture then do something about it. Offer some solutions. Maybe your organization could use training. Is there something specific that you’re not happy with it your organization? What is it? Is it that they don’t offer opportunities for learning? Is it that you feel there isn’t enough diversity and inclusion.? Is your company rigid and lacking in the ability to offer flexible schedules? Has your company failed in addressing the pandemic and making remote working as seamless as they could?
I was once with an organization where the top executive told everybody in his direct staff that when they walked down the hallway and saw an employee, they did not yet know, they needed to do more than just nod hello. They needed to stop, greet the employee, shake their hand, and spend just a few minutes getting to know them.
The atmosphere in the organization was one of the most upbeat and positive environments I’d ever had the pleasure of being in. The sense of community could not be matched because everybody felt welcomed and they felt like they were seen and their presence was valued. The sense of community was extraordinary.
There are solutions to bad cultures out there. Even bureaucratic ones. Doing something about it really doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. If fourth graders can make a red-tape change so can you.
Why Transitions in Business Often Fail
Businesses with a strong focus on company culture are much better positioned to succeed than businesses without an organizational culture.
It’s a common theory that gets bandied around at HR meetings from time to time but a little digging should assure you of the accuracy of this statement.
It’s true; studies clearly indicate how and why a positive work culture will increase motivation, productivity and general happiness amongst employees. But as with the sun rising every morning, we also know that change is inevitable for every business and a strong company culture is needed to navigate such times.
Let’s take a look at why transitions in business often fail…
Why Transitions Happen (All the Time)
Transitions within a business take place for many reasons. If one company is acquiring another, this is also the coming together of two different cultures. Retirements, resignations or deaths are other examples of a transition, while even a change of leadership can significantly impact the company culture.
Transitions can appear rather straightforward when everything goes to plan and when a company culture is strong. However, it takes a concerted effort to ensure any transition looks seamless or “straightforward”. In fact, most businesses suffer immensely in the months and years that follow a transition. In case you might be asking yourself, a Canadian friend just told me about a recent BDC study of more than 200 mid-sized businesses in Canada in which just 20% of these companies met their financial targets after a transition.
But why do transitions in business fail so often?
Why Transitions in Business Often Fail (and Why this Shouldn’t Happen)
There are literally hundreds and hundreds of variables that can cause a transition to fail but here are a few common instances in which it might happen:
Businesses Take the Wrong Approach to Leadership
It should go without saying that not every leader is created equal. For instance, there’s a common misconception in some businesses that pressure and stress is the best way to produce better and faster results. This is simply not true and an approach which often results in a slow and lifeless workforce.
Two Merging Companies Count on Synergies
Companies will sometimes hope for a powerful synergy when two companies merge. In reality, there is rarely a guarantee in this regard and synergies are often not as powerful as expected, even when they work.
The Business is Without a Healthy Company Culture
Employees understand what’s expected of them from companies with a strong organizational culture. They know what behaviors, or outcomes, are necessary and act accordingly. For this reason, a strong company culture will ensure a cohesive effort when it comes to a transition. Further, a strong culture will often allow for grace and patience when faced with any setbacks.
My Final Thoughts
The truth is, almost any business is certain to suffer in the wake of a transition when company culture is weak and employees are demotivated. For these organizations, production is slow, quality is low and poor decisions are commonplace at the very least.
And you know what’s the worst part?
It doesn’t have to be this way and a company that applies the right approach and focus to company culture shouldn’t have to really worry about any of the above.
Empathy - A Little Goes a Long Way
If you’ve never done a Clifton (formerly Gallop) Strengths Finder self-assessment (https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/home.aspx ), I strongly recommend it. It’s fascinating to find out which of your strengths rank the highest, and how you can utilize those strengths to the benefit of yourself and others.
My number one strength is empathy. In my business relationships it’s surprising how often this strength, which seems so “un” businesslike, is actually my best asset. Empathy has helped me to build wonderful, enduring relationships with my clients and colleagues.
Right now, empathy is in short supply in the workplace. For many of us that means a remote work-place. The people that you lead maybe trying to do their work while their spouse, or significant other, is also working across the room. Children are trying to get class work done online and are frustrated with lack of interaction with classmates who they cannot see, play with, or do sports with right now.
Maybe your employees and coworkers are “sandwich generation” and trying to care for elderly parents in this particularly scary time.
There’s a missing element of empathy in the workplace as noted in this 2018 article “Perceptions of empathy are gendered. “Men are 15 percent more likely than women to agree that their organization is empathetic,” according to the report. Moreover, while 71 percent of men view organizations in general as empathetic, only 33 percent of women say so.” (source: https://associationsnow.com/2018/07/leaders-empathy-problem/ ). Not much had changed – even in these 2020 circumstances according to the client network I speak with regularly.
Whatever the circumstances may be being empathetic – even if it’s not your #1 strength, as it is mine, can still be fostered. Do whatever you need to do to make sure that your coworkers, supervisors and staff know that you understand that they are going through difficult times and that you will be there to assist them in any way you can. Use regular touch points with Zoom or text messages, even good old phone calls. You’ll never really know what they need most until you ask and have an open honest conversation with them. Empathy feels good as a strength – try it on.
Sometimes you just gotta spread a little publicity!
I’m pretty excited about this press release – why not share it?
Virtual Company Culture Board Game
Chandler, Arizona – Stephanie Angelo, SPHR, SHRM-SCP a speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in company culture and leadership has re-invented Company Culture – a Game of Workplace Traction not Transaction™.
Not to be hampered by COVID19 the recently released board game was immediately re-created into a virtual option. Using Zoom and on-line game hosting technology, Stephanie can accommodate groups in a single location or spread out globally.
“This is a hands-on interactive session with the first-ever board game designed to illustrate what is and is not a great company culture to help attendees compare and contrast important benefits, features and attributes to discover how they can apply it to their own organizations”, says Angelo. “This game is about getting people within companies to talk to each other. It’s about what we, as human beings, value and what people find important at the workplace. It covers some items from policies and procedures and U.S. Federal laws, and most of all what makes a company really great – its culture. Culture can be described as the personality of the company. While pay and benefits are very, very important, people want to be valued, to feel they are contributing, that their voices are heard, and their presence is appreciated. Create that, and you’ve created a great company culture!
Now more than ever, businesses need to think about how they will re-engage employees. Some will have suffered financial, and even family losses, some will be excited to return to work, and some may be brand new to the organization that’s regaining its footing. This workshop and game is an idea way to create fresh and innovative ideas for your organization.
Company Culture is a game for team building, department meetings and company events. It’s about what makes a great company culture and what helps your people thrive. This game will get everyone talking about ideas and creating positive programs that make companies a great place to work. Players have positive, productive fun and create a company culture of Traction not Transaction™.
“Traction not Transaction™ is the company’s mission to help employees gain emotional traction to grow within the organization well beyond transactional fulfilling of job duties.” says game inventor Stephanie Angelo. The description and a quick view of the game can be found at: https://stephanieangelo.com/company-culture-game-workshop/
For more information and to schedule a virtual workshop for your organization visit www.StephanieAngelo.com
Stronger than a Post-it®
I wrote myself a reminder to write a blog on a sticky note and stuck it to my desk. I wanted to write next about the importance of always having fresh ideas at your organization.
Looking at that Post-it® note got me thinking how post-it notes in-and-of-themselves were a fresh and innovative idea developed by a 3M scientist named Dr. Spencer Silver.
According to the story, Dr. Silver was working on an adhesive and the one he created was so light it was considered a failure. It took several years to realize how useful it could be to have an adhesive that was so light that it could be easily removed from a surface without causing damage. Now Post-it® notes are so popular worldwide that even if the paper itself is not the Post-it® brand people call it a “post-it” no matter who made it.
While that might be a story of a new and innovative product, your workplace culture is no different. Fresh new ideas are what keeps a company thriving. Without that it’s like the slow uphill grind of a roller coaster. Just as it gets to the crest it drops speeding backwards instead of swooshing forward over hills and curves.
Sometimes we’re so comfortable in the way we do things we need an external perspective to help us see what’s right in front of us. Having said that, it’s equally an excellent way to reveal what is otherwise hidden. Doing a company culture workshop with your employees, is a fresh, fun way to get employees at all levels of the organization to talk about what‘s going on, and what they’d like to see implemented at the organization. As Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur and Kavi Guppta write in their article Don’t Let Your Company Culture Just Happen “Companies try to motivate their people with incentives and unique perks like ping-pong rooms and free meals, but none of those approaches address the deeper issue of why employees are so disengaged.”
One of our favorite workshops to facilitate to address employee culture and engagement, features the Company Culture board game. Company Culture is a game for team building, department meetings and company events. It’s about what makes a great company culture and what helps your people thrive. This game will get everyone talking about ideas and creating positive programs that make your company a great place to work.
Players also get to see what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes. It’s positive, productive fun that results in group creation of new and innovative practices at the workplace.
Make no mistake; we are not just “playing games” this highly interactive element to our training has very targeted outcomes. If you are wondering about the investment of your training dollars – understand that this has “long term” written all over it. We care as much as you do that the training “sticks” stronger than a Post-it® and you have a strong, prosperous, highly motivated loyal and happy workforce.
A Commonly Asked Question - Or Two
Posted July 8, 2020
I’m always asked by people, “Hey Stephanie if we already have a great company culture why would we want this workshop?” Or, “What if we don’t have a great culture then what?” Both of those are great questions. There’s a third element that I’ll talk about too.
Culture is defined as a set of values that are shared by the organization. Values aren’t necessarily good. I once worked for a man who valued charging more money to hourly employees on their insurance premiums than was required so that we could put it in a shared pool that was to be divided by the executives at the end of the year. I refused to participate and lost my job as a result. At least I knew I could look myself in the mirror after that. I did not share the same sense of values.
First: If you have a great company culture, I am happy for you! It takes special people at the top to make a company culture great. It doesn’t “just happen” by itself and if your employees aren’t supported by the folks at the top great culture doesn’t last for long. The support for having the workshop is if you already have a great company culture it will stay great if you do something new and innovative to keep it fresh,
Everyone gets to be involved in the conversation, not just those on the executive board throwing ideas out based on what they think will make the organization great. Employees are motivated by being heard, valued, feeling connected and being able to contribute.
Second: For organizations that don’t have a good company culture, and are smart enough to recognize they need help, this safe and fun workshop allows people to talk freely and openly. What happens to players during the game isn’t something that the players do to each other like a mean move in the game “Sorry” where you bump somebody from their spot and put them back to start. In the Company Culture game, it’s all randomly driven by the cards. The cards are only based on a hypothetical company.
Every comment, suggestion, occurrence, or event on the playing cards comes from things that I have encountered in my professional life as a Human Resources professional, coach and representative to companies working closely with employees.
Third: The third scenario is that of the organization has a terrible company culture and they either don’t know it, or they don’t know it they still don’t care. Not that I want to point any fingers at anyone in particular, but I’ve come across my share of these kinds of companies. The fact that they flat don’t care it’s amazing to me. They typically have extremely high turnover and simply shrug it off as, “Oh well, we’ll just hire somebody else.” It’s a constant revolving door of employees – exhausting their human resources professionals. According to this 2019 article by Sheila McClear, Toxic workplaces have costs businesses $223 billion over the last 5 years
I’m sure reading that you say to yourself, “Well I don’t want to be one of those companies.”
Then don’t be. Be either one of the first two I discussed. Be a company with a great culture that always wants to improve, or one that knows that they can have a great culture and is willing to improve.
The Company Culture workshop, with its exclusive board game, can be played in-person and virtually, sparks genuine conversation between all of the players. This game is excellent for employee events, team meetings, department meetings, monthly meetings, quarterly meetings, employee events, – you name it! Any time you want to re-engage your employees.
It gets everybody involved. Employees sometimes play the roles of executives and executive sometimes play the role of hourly employees – it’s completely randomly selection. It’s one of the safest ways I know to get people talking. New ideas are generated and programs are launched.
The result is creation of in-house programs that elevate your employee morale. It keeps your company fresh and relevant, always improving its culture.
A Prime Opportunity to Engage Our Ingenuity
June 17, 2020
During a recent Company Culture workshop, I ran into a curious set of circumstances because all of the people present were owners of their own companies. Typically, this workshop’s participants are members of a single company at all levels. That’s important because leaders want to learn what their employees value and this gives their workforce a voice.
While the game is designed to elicit discussion and spark ideas about culture initiatives within the organization all of the people present were basing the outcomes on their own opinions. In and of itself that isn’t bad. I reinforced with these owners, that they need to go back to their organization, gather their employees (even if it has to be done virtually) and share the ideas with them to get their input.
The best ideas about culture initiatives come from the people that are truly in the “thick of it” not the people that are on top of the hierarchy. However, defining your culture definitely needs support and input from the people at the top.
Right now, during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, or recent orders, depending where you live, many employees are feeling disengaged and distant from the organization. Sometimes the managers know that their employees are feeling isolated. One owner told me that his solution was that he told his employee to stop watching the news. While that can be helpful, it isn’t enough. It reminded me of the character of Michael Scott played by Steve Carell on The Office. I could see this man’s employee looking at the camera with that befuddled “huh?”
What if we took action differently in a way that engaged our employees beyond just getting their jobs done? You can do something inventive, creative and fun. Initially it may sound funny, even ”lame” however, a poetry contest, recipe sharing page, and a suggestion box of ideas both virtual and in-person work well to get your folks communicating and watching what’s going on. What if they could be sent a .pdf business book? Enrolled in an online language course? Something that improves their minds and benefits them while they’re home?
We are only limited by our imaginations and this is a prime opportunity to engage our ingenuity beyond what we normally do in our day-to-day jobs.
7 Ideas to Increase Employee Engagement During COVID-19 Dr. Leonie H Mattison, Ed.D, MBA reminds us that “The COVID-19 pandemic is a temporary bend and not the permanent end to talent development.”
The Company Culture Game workshop is designed to engage everyone in conversation. You’d be amazed at what you learn from the people playing the game and then having creative conversation. Throwing ideas on the wall, so to speak, like al dente spaghetti and seeing what sticks.
I can’t wait to see what those business owners come up with after they’ve taken the discussion from the workshop back to their employees. It was especially interesting when we talked about measurements – which ones to use and how to implement them. That seemed like something they could really wrap their heads around.
The impressive thing about this group was how willing they were to try something new. Those lucky employees – I’m excited to see what happens next!
If You’re Judging a Game by its Cover
I was four years old when my family moved from the Midwest to Denver for my father’s job. My mother told the Realtor she did not want a house in the “lily white high-wealth” area. She specifically wanted to be in a highly integrated neighborhood.
I grew up going to schools that were almost equal thirds: 1/3 White, 1/3 Black, 1/3 and Hispanic. At that time, in the early sixties (yes, I’m THAT old) there were not yet many people of Asian or Middle Eastern decent.
Back then, the common term was Black and not yet the term African American. African American was not coined until somewhere in the late eighties perhaps 1988 or 1989. And popularized by Rev. Jesse Jackson.
When I was growing up equality and respect among races, religions, ethnicities was not just a theme in my household. It was in THE theme. It’s all I ever knew.
I now work in Company Culture initiatives for organizations, and when I designed the Company Culture game and workshop I gave every aspect quite a bit of thought. How was I going to design it? What would it do? How would people play? What would the cards say? What is the strategy? What should it look like from the outside?
Having a clean, perhaps blue and black logo-ish corporate look to the box design had crossed my mind but I opted for something a little bit more whimsical and inviting. The artwork, by Taryl Hansen, was conceptualized while she observed a group playing the game and drawn, literally and figuratively from what she heard us saying.
Make no mistake, purpose of the game and the workshop are to address the roots of problems within an organization. The goal is to weed out issues at the roots and resolve them. Then keep those solutions maintained for years to come, always addressing them, refreshing them. Then looking for new initiatives and solving any problems early – should they come up at all.
If you’re judging the game by it’s cover, then please stop. That would be no different than judging a book by its cover or a person by their appearance.
This workshop is designed to address real issues and achieve real goals. Right now is the perfect time to talk about painful issues across America that affect every organization. If you have questions about how to address these issue causing tensions then let’s talk. It’s time to have honest conversations and for both sides to do a lot of listening.
When Your Employees Put the Customer First
Picture this, a client comes into your store and the employee who assists the customer is doing whatever they can to make sure that that customer’s needs are met before anything else.
Businesses are beginning to reopen, many with safety guidelines, and the employee interacts with your customer with an attitude of pride and enthusiasm. The customer and the employee engage in everyday light banter and at some point, the customer says to the employee, “You seem to really like working here”. The employee responds, “Yeah, I really do. I love this job”.
“Why is that?”, the customer asks. “Well, they always make me feel like they value my opinion and appreciate what I do. I’ve made suggestions that they’ve listened to and sometimes they’ve even used them. Last year I had some unexpected things happen in my family and I really needed to take time off, and they were so willing to work with me and be flexible. It was such a stressful time and I’ll never forget how much I appreciate that they made it a little bit easier for me”. “So, do you think you’ll stay here for a while”, the customer asks. “Yeah, I really do”, says your employee. “They have a couple programs here, that I’d really like to take advantage of, that I think will make my career better. And I know that even if I don’t promote here, which I probably will, I’ll still be able to take those skills somewhere else. And they know that, and it doesn’t bother them at all”.
Fantasy? Not at all. This kind of work environment can, and does, exist. When you create a great company culture for your employees, and you put them first a natural segue of that is that your employees will put your customers first. Happy customers are your best advertisers.
You’ve probably seen the flip side. It really doesn’t take a lot for negative messages to get spread. You do have to work that much harder for positive ones. People ask each other for recommendations every single day. There are web sites devoted to referrals. The goal is for your company to be the one that’s top of mind – because its good.
All of the things the employee told the customer they love about their job, and many more are elements weaved within our Company Culture Workshop. This engaging workshop helps you, and your employees, reveal what is, and what is not, happening at your organization. There’s never any pressure, or embarrassment, because what happens in the game is purely hypothetical. It’s about an imaginary company. The workshop opens up dialogue and conversation. This helps you hear from your employees what they really feel and what they want from your organization.
The single goal of the workshop is to help you create, or improve, a great company culture. The outcomes are ready-to-go initiatives created collaboratively by all the members of your organization.
A survey done by Columbia University shows that organizations with great cultures have turnover of only 13.9%. That’s excellent news and something to strive for or beat.
“Company Culture” is sometimes tossed around casually in conversation, taking away the depth and importance of the words. Company Culture is a widely shared set of values and beliefs that are shared within an organization. Like a singular “personality”.
Any forward-thinking leader will know that company culture is not only the backbone of a business that inspires putting the customer first, but also the key source of empowerment that will help their people grow and thrive. That’s what we call having Traction not Transaction™.
We Are Nothing if We Don't Learn to Adjust
We are nothing if we don’t learn to adjust. And the time to do it is now.
In January 2020 I booked a leadership speaking engagement with an organization to be facilitated this late spring. Then the world found itself in COVID19 lockdown and we are stuck in its grips for an undetermined length of time.
I offered to provide the same presentation only it would be virtually instead of in-person. “No”, they said in an email. “We only have in-person presentations.”
I responded that if they are going to train leaders to lead in tough times, whatever they may be, we have to be the ones to set the example ourselves. If they plan to have presentations by people who can only do them in-person, and expect them to do them well, they may be surprised.
I’ve been doing presentations virtually and for on-demand recordings for years. This isn’t new to me and I’m happy to adjust to my client’s needs. The particular presentation we were discussing was to be my Company Culture workshop – with a board game no less!
Shortly after COVID19 was a reality here in the United States I knew I needed to go virtual with my board game to have a second option for my clients. At this writing the virtual version is in development, and would not be ready in time for this particular group.
I was not about to let that deter me. I set up a two-camera Zoom. One camera, my desktop’s web cam, focusing down on the game board and the other, via my laptop on me.
I played the game as if I was all six players and my attendees followed along with 8 x 11 printouts of the board, so they could have some semblance of the hands-on activity and still interact with me.
You know what happened? The leaders in the group understood I was pinch-hitting the best I could under the circumstances and they still had a full workshop and the game playing experience. Of course, it wasn’t quite the same. It still worked. They were evolved enough to adapt. Which is exactly what successful business leaders do.
I’m honored to have had a front row seat to them standing up, brushing the dust off and saying, “Bring on the next challenge!” The time is now to re-engage with your employees.
We’re here to help you make that adjustment. Need to brainstorm how?
What is Your Company Culture Going to be After COVID19?
Apr. 20, 2020 by Stephanie Angelo, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
It’s not easy to imagine what the world might look like after COVID19. While the virus will pass, unemployment is rising, and questions remain about the economy. And then there’s the inevitable strain and stress that will come with returning to the workplace.
Sure, some employees will return with a renewed sense of drive and purpose. However, not everyone will be happy, and some workers might even feel resentful that you let them go. Maybe you have similar concerns about the future of your business?
The truth is, nobody knows how this situation will play out, and this is exactly why forward-thinking leaders are using this time to plan ahead and rebuild their company culture.
Why Company Culture is the Key Enabler Post COVID19
In a recent survey, the National Small Business Association stated that more than 35% of small business owners are worried about the financial security of their business. It’s true, many business owners are likely stressed about letting staff go these past couple of months. Most businesses are also struggling to pay wages, while uninspiring forecasts bring little more than anxiety and pain to an already troubled balance sheet.
But what’s this got to do with company culture?
Well, employees tend to work better when their values and needs are aligned with those in the workplace. Establishing a great company culture helps create an environment in which employees can feel this way about their work. Company culture is also the birthplace of productivity and the source of “belonging” that coworkers feel between one another. And when employees are tasked with keeping things fresh or coming up with innovative ideas, it’s the company culture that brings and holds everything together.
Moral of the story: Company culture is the key enabler for a greater sense of togetherness and an increase in productivity and profit in the workplace.
About Using Company Culture to Thrive Post-COVID19
Employers need to think about what they are going to do when they bring people back to the workplace. Whether this refers to existing staff or new employees, it’s important to realize that things have changed, and it will never be “business as usual” again. In many ways, we might even compare this situation to 9/11 and how those attacks not only heightened the need for surveillance but also changed airport security forever. For this reason, a progressive mindset will be needed in the wake of COVID19 and creating a good company culture can help employees navigate and thrive during the uncertain times ahead.
Creating a company culture is also not as formal as it may sound and something that can inject enthusiasm into the workplace. For instance, I recently developed a board game that is part of a company culture workshop I run. You can participate in these workshops in person or online, and the board game is all about creating a company culture that helps your people thrive. This game is friendly, fun competition that prompts safe conversation. It gets everyone talking about new ideas in a positive environment and creating programs that will make your company a great place to work.
“Company Culture” is sometimes bandied about and used as a buzzword which can detract somewhat from the meaning. However, any forward-thinking leader will know that company culture is not only the backbone of a business but also the key enabler that will help their people grow and thrive long after COVID19.
Transparency: Active Awareness
“Can I share something with you?”
“I need to get this off my chest.”
“I need to tell you something I can’t tell anyone else.”
Depending on the context of the situation, and your personality, these questions can be either innocuous or terrifying. Let’s say it’s your closest friend and it’s just the two of you sitting in a private corner of your favorite bistro. In this case, you may think the questions are on the harmless side.
Now imagine that the person asking the question is a co-worker and it’s just the two of you on your way to a meeting. Re-read the questions in this context and note how you react, paying attention to your feelings. Startling? Awkward? Uncomfortable?
The concept of transparency is at the heart of each of the questions. We face conversations and situations involving some degree of transparency every day. The issue is, then, what level of transparency is appropriate, and when?
We find at the two ends of the transparency spectrum complete closure and total openness. Some people are open books, while others remain complete mysteries. And everything in between. Therefore, transparency may be straightforward on the one hand and more demanding on the other.
Which leads us to time and place; when and where transparency is appropriate. Let’s focus on the scenario that involves work and co-workers.
The Nature of Work and Transparency
Much writing exists about transparency character traits and leadership, particularly at work. Research tells us that “…trust must be mutual and reciprocal” (Bandsuch, Pate, Thies – 2008). Where does that leave us in today’s workplace? First, communication is critical. Although we seemingly drown in an ever-flowing river of words and information, words matter. How we use them matters more.
But where do we draw the line when it comes to being transparent in the workplace? There is an appropriate amount of information which is necessary for us to do our work as well as build trust with colleagues.
What happens when we cross the line? Many of us are familiar with the acronym TMI – too much information. You likely have experienced someone holding up their hand to stifle the conversation when they have heard more than they are comfortable hearing.
What’s Considered Inappropriate
There is such a thing as too much transparency. We tend to think of this as over-sharing. Co-author Roger worked with a colleague, Sandy, who had issues with boundaries, especially with what information was appropriate to share. Sandy shared heart-wrenching personal stories in work meetings and hallway conversations. They were stories best saved for a close friend, or in some cases, a counselor’s office.
One-on-one conversations with Sandy not to share her personal stories in open work forums were not successful. She insisted that she was being transparent. She believed it was in the scope of acceptable behavior to tell what she felt where transparency stories, even though she received explicit requests not to. She thought she was connecting and “letting others in.”
Instead of building bridges, Sandy burned them. She misunderstood the concept of transparency and failed to consider personal boundaries. She did more harm than good. Her actions came at a cost to her health and work relationships.
What’s Considered Appropriate
Consider this situation and the role transparency plays. Let’s say that you and others belong to a group and that group has a facilitator. There is an expectation that you and your fellow participants foster a culture of trust and transparency over time. It is the facilitator’s purpose to guide the group’s conversation and control the flow of ideas.
One more caveat: the facilitator is not obligated to share information about himself or herself. The facilitator administers the rules and guidelines of how the group operates. And it’s not necessarily their role to agree or disagree with a participant’s opinion.
There are two strong dynamics at play in this situation: boundaries and context. It’s natural in many cases for a facilitator to have personal role-based rules within the group. When you have a group that agrees to be transparent (like a Mastermind) and a facilitator whose role it is to abide by a different type of transparency, the participants and facilitator must agree to group boundaries and expectations.
Calls to Action
- One takeaway is to be self-aware about whom you share with and what you share with them. Be selective about what you share, and with whom you are transparent. We don’t advocate non-transparency, rather we encourage selective transparency.
- Another lesson is to be socially aware. Consider your audience. Whether it’s solely with another person or group of people. Look for signs or cues as you’re talking. Think about the effect what you’re saying has on the person or people in front of you. Also, think about occasionally asking the person or group if they’re comfortable with what you’re sharing. We all have different tolerances for what we consider appropriate and inappropriate information.
- And lastly, consider time and space. The age-old advice that “there’s a time and a place for everything” holds when it comes to being transparent. Set boundaries. When you find that you’re at a loss for reading a situation, find a trusted friend or adviser to help you navigate these situations.
The Dalai Lama says, “A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” How true. The key to transparency is awareness.
Stephanie Angelo helps companies attract, train and retain employees with keynotes and training focused on company culture of Traction not Transaction. She facilitates Mastermind Groups for business owners who hunger for collaboration with other business owners to scale their businesses. For company culture improvement visit www.StephanieAngelo.com Business owners learn more at www.HighStakesMastermindGroups.com
Roger Wolkoff will help you discover how emotional intelligence paired with authenticity improves communication, ups productivity, and positively influences culture. Visit https://www.rogerwolkoff.com/ to connect with Roger and work with him to help you deliver results and grow your bottom line. Roger is a keynote motivational speaker and author from Madison, Wisconsin.