Organizational Culture

sherrie-suski-cultureWelcome to 2019! It’s hard to know where to begin on your journey toward improving organizational culture if you don’t know where you are currently.  There are a number of different ways to measure culture……… satisfaction surveys, pulse surveys, MBWA, but it is sometimes helpful to have a framework in which to fit your feedback results.  Do you know what your end goal looks like and the steps needed to get from here…. to there?

The journey toward assessing and improving your organizational culture can be roughly broken down into the below five stages.

Functional

Learning and talent are often separate processes. Both are regarded as necessary for HR operations, but they are distinct from how business is done. Most employees do not regard the culture as engaging. Culture is frequently hierarchical. HR may conduct an engagement survey periodically but the inertia behind addressing some of the engagement challenges is low.

Cross- functional

Executive support for learning and talent is more evident but the culture is still principally characterized as a top/down command and control philosophy. The organizational structure is fairly hierarchical, but employees see opportunity for career advancement and mobility. Senior leaders are not purposefully driving efforts to enhance the culture or the level of execution and engagement among employees.

Building

Learning and talent begin to converge based on an awakening of how they can be leveraged to achieve better business outcomes. It is frequently at this stage that the organization becomes focused on quarterly or annual goals.  Employees recognize a shift toward more people-centric strategies as executives support more initiatives that strengthen the culture. Key to success in this phase is the degree of middle management support. Information flow becomes more organic.

Enhancing

An inspired, growth-minded organization is recognized as a true learning culture with a people-first philosophy. The organization is innovating and responds quickly to market changes, often seizing first-mover advantage and outstanding talent. Execution and engagement studies are regularly conducted to measure the tempo of the employee culture and there is wide-spread support for adjusting tactics when signs of engagement begin to drop.  Goals and a goal-based philosophy are adopted across the organization and embedded into the culture.

Optimized

A self-developing ecosystem drives change at individual and organizational levels. Collaboration and transparency in career and development abound. Employee ideas are valued and encouraged regardless of level. The organization is agile and consistently at the front of its field. The people culture is at the heart of the organizational philosophy. As such, multiple measures of employee engagement are used and there may be a dedicated function aligned to the candidate and employee experience. Highly sought after employer.

Not every organization will achieve the optimized state, but it is, nevertheless, a worthy goal.  The closer you can get, the better your organization will be from both an employee and investor perspective!

Wellness Programs

 

Bring up the word Wellness and what immediately jumps to mind is usually ways to improve the physical health of the workforce.  However, true wellness covers a broader spectrum and includes, not only physical, but emotional and financial wellness as well. Especially at this time of year when the urge to overspend is likely, a targeted approach towards financial wellness makes all the sense.  Similar to overeating and alter regretting it, over spending comes with its own regret and last log after the start of the new year and take much longer to rectify than losing a few pounds.  

The most effective Financial Wellness programs, however, are not a one size fits all.  A new study by Prudential Financial, Inc. examined differences in the financial needs and attitudes of various underserved groups in the workplace and the income inequality that affects each set. The 3,000 U.S. respondents included women, African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, caregivers, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Among key findings in the survey, African Americans across all income levels were more likely than the population at large to prioritize helping others financially, including caring for parents or other family members, paying their children’s college tuition, leaving an inheritance to their heirs, and giving to charity. Women in the survey earned an average annual income of $52,521, compared with $84,006 for men. Half of women said they were the primary breadwinner in their household. Almost 40% of caregivers don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire, compared to just 25% of non-caregivers, and caregivers were more likely to take out a loan or hardship withdrawal from their 401(k) plans.

In a statement, Lata Reddy, Prudential’s senior vice president, Diversity, Inclusion & Impact, said a person’s path to financial wellness is deeply personal. “While there are common experiences that tie us all together, there are also distinct factors that are unique to our individual journeys that impact the ultimate destination,” she said. “These factors need to be clearly understood for true progress to be made.” Reddy recommended that employers listen to the people in each community to understand their needs.

This ties in nicely with the Workforce of One approach that I am so an advocate of.  Programs created for the “average” employee are serving no one, because no one is the “average” employee.  Just like the Target page that pops up with different recommendations depending on who is logging in, we need to design our HR programs to ensure that we are meeting the needs of individuals.

Corporate Wellness Programs

 

There is some truth to the saying that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.   And more employers are taking a holistic approach to their employees’ health and well being.  Not only is it good for the employees, it’s good for the company’s bottom line! To effectively integrate an approach toward health and wellness into the workplace, though, requires planning, education and a platform.  Enter the new breed of Wellness portals. Wellness portals are a critical piece of a total wellness solution.

Wellness portals are online platforms designed with responsive design in mind so that they can be accessed from any device at any time.  Wellness Portals offer a place for every member of your workforce to access secure, personal information having to do with their particular paths toward wellness. They will be able to track their progress in a wide variety of different program activities, set goals for themselves, and see these goals achieved which creates motivation to set new goals.

The Best Wellness Platforms Should Be Able To:

  1. Conduct a confidential Personal Health Assessment
    2. Educate (videos, books, webinars, biometric results)
    3. Track program participation and activity
    4. Make engagement easy with a mobile app
    5. Track and administer incentives and rewards
    6. Demonstrate how to be healthy
    7. Provide the tools needed to be healthy
    8. Deliver behavior change campaigns and challenges
    9. Encourage social support
    10. Create a health promoting culture

If you choose, Biometric screening can be integrated with your wellness portal so that the results of any screenings your employees have done can be accessed through their own portal and they can keep track of screenings year over year to track progress.  

Although a wellness portal is a fantastic, some employers believe that having an employee wellness portal is the same as having a wellness program. They mistakenly assume that all their company needs to improve employee health and reduce health care costs is get their employees to go online. A wellness portal is not a wellness program. It’s a computer software program that can be used to help deliver wellness programming and help manage the process. They have all of the features and benefits that come from the computer coding and programming and are tools to encourage and promote a healthy lifestyle!

The Decision Process versus the Outcome

Consciously or unconsciously, we all tend to associate good decision-making processes with good outcomes and bad decision-making processes with bad outcomes.  This philosophy allows us to feel in control. All we need to do is to ensure that we hone our decision-making skills and we can nearly guarantee a positive outcome.

Unfortunately, this just isn’t always the case.  When we uncouple the decision from the outcome, we know that we say it’s a bummer or call it unfair when what we consider a good decision process, results in a bad outcome and good luck when a bad decision process results in a good outcome.  

“Don’t be so hard on yourself when things go badly and don’t be so proud of yourself when they go well.” I think this is one of the hardest pieces of advice to follow. Chance, timing and place are important contributors to any outcome.

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Success is what is called a lagging indicator. We can only report on it after it has happened.  Decision Processes, on the other hand, are leading indicators of success. Well-honed Decision Processes establish some degree of repeatability in a world where chance roams freely.  So, spend your time focusing on the quality of your decision processes and not your outcomes.

Your Context Determines Your Results

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Imagine for a moment that two people are attending the same event.  One walks into the room with the excitement of meeting new people and networking.  She is excited about what may unfold; the other, feeling insecure, dreads the event.  She fears it will be awkward and that small talk will not come easily. Strangely enough, that is exactly what happens.  The first person has a fabulous time, meets dozens of new people, is memorable and leaves the event feeling exhilarated. The 2nd person, chooses to arrive late and leave early, to spend as little time as possible in an uncomfortable environment.  Oddly, each person experiences the exact same event differently, but exactly as their initial context would have predicted.  Why is that?

Context

It is because our context sets off a whole chain of predictable events.  Our context is what we believe about something, it is our internal speak, our expectations that we set about something or someone.  The funny thing about context is that it works in a very predictable way to create results.

Assessment

When we assess a situation, we look at it form our particular point of context.  What we see and hear, our assessment, depends on our context.  In our example, the first person walks in and sees everyone smiling and laughing and is excited to join the conversation.  The second person walks in and assesses the situation whereby everyone already has a group and she is not a part of it. She doesn’t know what they are talking about and believes she will not fit in.

Emotions

The emotions are created based on our assessment of a situation.  The first woman feels emotions related to excitement, energy, enthusiasm and, perhaps, most importantly, belonging.  The second woman feels emotions related to insecurity, fear, loneliness and lack of belonging. Both set of emotions have been reinforced by their assessment of the situation.

Behaviors

Behaviors require action.  However, the actions we choose are a direct reflection on the context, behaviors and emotions that preceded them.  One woman spends time moving from group to group, contributing to each conversation.  The other woman joins one group, quietly listens, does not feel comfortable contributing and decides to escape the uncomfortableness and leaves the event early.

Results and outcomes

Last in the chain of events comes results.  Results are what we make happen or allow to happen to us- the choice is ours.  In both cases, the initial context has been reaffirmed. The first woman is likely to go to another event- she perceives that everyone liked her and she made new contacts.  The second woman confirmed that these types of events are uncomfortable, that groups form quickly, and she does not possess the social skills to join in.

Think, for a moment, about the recent results in your life and the context you have that precedes them.  Could the results have been changed if your context had been different? Don’t you owe it to yourself to try?

 

 

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

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Diversity is not just the range of human differences, but acknowledging, understanding, accepting, and valuing differences among people including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs.  Diversity and Inclusion programs are developed in the workplace to ensure that people of all types are included at all levels of the organization and can draw on each other’s strengths and experiences.

The world’s increasing globalization requires more interaction among people from diverse backgrounds. People no longer live and work in an insular environment; they are now part of a worldwide economy competing within a global framework. For this reason, organizations need to become more diversified to remain competitive. Maximizing and capitalizing on workplace diversity is an important issue for management.

Managers need to recognize the ways in which the workplace is changing and evolving. Managing diversity is a significant organizational challenge, so managerial skills must adapt to accommodate a multicultural work environment.

Effective managers are aware that certain skills are necessary for creating a successful, thriving, diverse workforce.

First, managers must understand discrimination and its consequences.

Before we can truly embrace a diverse workforce, managers must understand that discrimination hurts us all, not just the person who is of a different ethnicity, but those who have to witness it.  It creates a divide in the workplace and is counter to the desire to collaborate.

Second, managers must recognize their own cultural biases and prejudices.

Each individual is unique and does not represent or speak for a particular group. When creating a successful diverse workforce, an effective manager should focus on personal awareness. Both managers and employees need to be aware of their personal biases. Therefore, organizations need to develop, implement, and maintain ongoing training because a one-day session of training will not change people’s behaviors.

Finally, managers must be willing to change the organization if necessary.

Organizations need to learn how to manage diversity in the workplace to be successful in the future. When dealing with diversity, managers must promote a safe place for associates to communicate. Social gatherings and business meetings, where every member must listen and have the chance to speak, are good ways to create dialogues. Managers should implement policies such as mentoring programs to provide employees access to information and opportunities. Also, employees should never be denied necessary, constructive, critical feedback for learning about mistakes and successes, due to concerns about a person’s differences.

Managing diversity is about more than equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. Is it about embracing each of our unique differences.

Performance Management is not an Annual Exercise

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There is a dwindling focus on the traditional annual performance appraisal and a there is a growing trend toward developing feedback loops that give continuous, real time feedback to employees. According to the 2018 State of Continuous Performance Management Survey,  conversations about aligning business goals, check-ins on progress and periodic feedback should be used to manage and continuously motivate employee performance.

HR respondents in the study identified their top three goals for their performance management program as creating and maintaining feedback and coaching cultures, retaining high performing talent and training the workforce on needed skills. To better manage and motivate workers, Betterworks said, employers can help employees find purpose and direction among change, connect employee contributions to the organization’s larger goals and identify and reward top performers.

In a Wakefield Research study, more than 60% of employees said they feel the traditional performance review is outdated, and nearly all respondents said they prefer that managers address performance issues and development opportunities in real-time. Frequent, informal assessments allow workers to improve or correct their performance with immediacy.

Ideally, having a robust performance management platform can assist in giving and receiving real time feedback, create an environment where information is sought out and shared, build engagement and detail plans for talent learning opportunities and enhancements.  Employees want to know not only how their past performance has been, but the plans for their future as well. Consider the below:

  • More than 90% of 18 to 34-year-old workers say a clear succession plan would boost their level of engagement
  • 94% of employers report that having a succession plan positively impacts the entire workforce.
  • 32% of people say they’d quit if there was no room to learn, grow, or advance at their job.
  • Succession programs have been shown to have a positive impact on employee retention. By preparing high-potential and high-performing employees for progression in the organization, and investing in their development, you demonstrate an organizational commitment to them that will most often be reciprocated.
  • Companies with sound succession plans are correlated with better long-term performance.

Succession Planning or Talent planning, which refers developing plans for the whole organization, are a primary outcome of a solid, on-going Performance Management approach that many companies are moving toward today. It is a win-win scenario for both employees and employers alike!

 

Employee Satisfaction

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When employers consider employee surveys to discover ways to boost employee satisfaction and retain employees, they often think of incentive pay, additional benefits, and perquisites. When reviewing results of such surveys, employers may fear they won’t be able to respond to employee needs that surface. However, they may be missing existing satisfiers that are already in place but are not being well utilized. In some cases, giving attention to current programs and setting of expectations can turn stale programs into real opportunities for employee satisfaction.

Career growth and even professional relationships are often motivators of satisfaction and engagement. One of the reasons employees leave a company is career growth opportunity; a reason employees stay is the relationships made while employed. One survey showed 25 percent of departing employees revealed that they would have stayed in their position with the company if they had a more respectful and connected relationship with the direct manager.

Employees want to learn, be in mutually beneficial and respectful relationships, and experience healthy professional relationships. Management must connect with workers both professionally and personally, and, depending on the work atmosphere and nature of the company, create a fun work atmosphere and initiate conversations about things outside of work. Other things managers can do to build employee satisfaction are:

  • Permit employees to use and demonstrate their strengths. Everyone wants to be valued and make a difference. Know where to place each employee for the greatest results. Ask what an employee wants to do in the company and look for opportunities to create the experience.
  • Ensure employees understand personal and business goals and the work scope related to their position and how it ties into the big picture. Individuals on a team create winning solutions when everyone knows their role on the field and the game rules.
  • Enhance communication. Hear your employees. Ask what is and is not working and take action to explore where the company can and cannot implement idea changers. Have managers meet with employees on a regular basis and report on performance, engagement, and employee feedback.
  • Consider stay interviews to understand turnover and engagement.
  • Create a learning environment. Foster internal opportunities to learn from one another and expand upon existing skills. While this may slow some projects down, future projects led by a well-rounded work team will create greater quality, productivity, developmental growth, and shared knowledge.

In the very tight labor market we are in, it is critically important that we find more cost effective ways to keep our employee workforce engaged and energized.

How to Handle a Workplace Bully

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We have talked about how to identify a workplace bully.  Now, how do you handle the bully that you encounter? Bullies, in general, prey on people’s insecurities and emotional nature.  The key is to remain calm and portray an air of confidence.

Don’t respond to emotionally criticism or offer explanations

Although this sounds counterproductive, the bully will often make outlandish claims in order to reel you into a fighting match.  You don’t want to give them fuel for their fire.  Instead of defending yourself in an emotional manner, simply state the facts.  “I don’t believe that happened” or “that is not how I recall the events” When your reply emotionally you let the bully know that he/she has gotten to you.

Do ask them to clarify and to speak slowly

The bully depends on being able to throw out accusations at record speed without anyone actually questioning them.  When forced to slow down, repeat themselves or offer actual facts, the bully will often feel deflated.

Document

If the bully is really out of line, no one deserves to be harassed.  Document the conversations, the way someone looked, what was said, threats made, etc..  All of this will be necessary if you ever have to claim a hostile work environment which will require that you have multiple examples. 

If you happen to be in a state that is a single consent recording state, record.  It is legal for you to record any verbal exchanges you have with the bully to be used when you make a formal complaint.

Teach People how to Treat you

In other words, don’t teach people that you are someone who will allow unprofessional behavior to occur without consequences.  If someone is yelling at you, calmly state “ I am not going to allow you to yell at me. We can continue this conversation when you have been able to calm down” and walk out of the room. 

Use your Allies

Everyone in business needs allies. Build them early and spend time reinforcing those bonds. They will serve as a double check that you are not doing anything to instigate this behavior and help provide support the next time the person is out of line.

Unfortunately, bullies are found in all walks of life and at all ages.  Educating yourself, in advance, on how to handle a situation before it occurs is one of the best ways to be proactive and ensure that you will look back on the situation, proud of how you handled yourself.

The Employee Experience

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There are a multitude of ways, and just as many reasons,  to design a positive and unique employee experience. Developing a strategy to create an employee experience should takes into account the physical environment your employees work in, the tools and technologies that enable their productivity and learning to achieve their best at work. All of this is part of continuously evolving our employee capabilities. The Future Workplace and Beyond.com study entitled “The Active Job Seeker Dilemma” found that 83% of HR leaders said “employee experience” is either important or very important to their organization’s success, and they are investing more in training (56%), improving their work spaces (51%), and giving more rewards (47%). 

Companies are also forced to focus on creating a compelling employee experience as the war for talent heats up. With unemployment rates at less than 2% for 25+ year olds with college degrees, the experience you are offering becomes more important than ever.  Mercer predicts that 90% of employers anticipate more competition for talent, especially in India, North America and Asia. So, making the workplace an experience allows companies to embed their culture and values in the workplace and use this to their advantage.

Branding

Define your employment brand. Just like a company brand that helps customers understand who you are, how you act, and how you differentiate, companies also have an employment brand, whether it is conscious or not. It’s best if your employment brand is created consciously. Define your employee brand and deliver on your promise. Be sure that if your recruiters are promising a fun-filled work environment, the new employees won’t find drudgery and old technology awaiting them.

Work Space design

Most workplaces are “designed mostly for extroverts and their need for lots of stimulation.” Introverts are highly talented individuals with a very different set of needs and characteristics. So, companies should ask, “How can we accommodate both our introverts and our extroverts in our work spaces?”  Spaces should be designed to allow employees a choice of where and how they work. Some may choose high cube walls, where they can recoup form the pressures of interacting with others all day. Others may choose a very open environment where they are bombarded by noise, chatter and stimulation.  Both types of employees have much to offer but will be more highly engaged if allowed to meet their individual needs.

Free to Share

Gallup’s data revealed that just three in 10 U.S. workers strongly agree that at work, their opinions seem to count and matter. However, they found that by moving that ratio to six in 10 employees, organizations could realize a 27% reduction in turnover, a 40% reduction in safety incidents and a 12% increase in productivity.  Reason enough to conduct regular Pulse Surveys on a variety of topics, ensuring that you feed back the results and the follow up action plan.

 

Trust in Leadership

Little else matters to employees if they don’t trust their leadership and the leadership of the company.  In the old adage “actions speak louder than words” we need to say what we do and do what we say. Trust is built a little at a time over a long period of time yet can be destroyed very rapidly.  Employees know when you truly care about them and their lives in and out of work.

There is no magic to creating an employee experience.  It’s all about understanding what your employees want and need and then finding a way to consistently deliver.