Understanding the Reality of Gender Discrimination in Performance Reviews

Posted on June 14th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Workplace Culture. No Comments

The act of reviewing an employee’s performance regularly and objectively has many benefits. The assessment can help the employee gauge their progress and make appropriate adjustments to the way they approach their work. Ultimately, this can lead to a motivated, skilled and active workforce.

With this in mind, it is clear that having objective and constructive performance discussions is something every organisation should work toward. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Managers carrying out the reviews are human beings, and as such are subject to both conscious and unconscious biases. Even those who believe themselves to be completely egalitarian can still be guilty of unwitting bias based on preconceived stereotypes, as was demonstrated in a series of Implicit Association Tests carried out by Mahzarin Banaji. Often, this prejudice is levelled at women.

 

The impact of gender discrimination on employees

Given that a favourable performance review can affect an employee’s chances of progressing within an organisation, the issue of gender bias needs to be addressed. An employee who feels unfairly treated will be demotivated, so it makes good business sense to try and remove unconscious biases wherever possible. Hidden biases such as gender discrimination, according to Caroline Simard, the director of research at the Clayman Institute, also create “cumulative disadvantage over a woman’s career over time, resulting in lower access to key leadership positions and stretch assignments, advancement and pay.”

Despite this, it has been found in a 2015 study that only one-third of employees feel that gender equality was a priority within their organisation.

 

Addressing stereotypical language

Recent research demonstrates that  female employees are assessed differently to their male counterparts. This difference presents itself both in the language used to describe an employee and the quality of constructive feedback provided.

It was made clear in a 2014 Fortune article that women were much more likely to receive a critical performance review than men. The data collected for the study was analysed by a linguist, who examined both the type and frequency of the words used in a sample of performance reviews. It was found that female employees were much more likely to be negatively described as ‘abrasive’, ‘strident’ and ‘aggressive’  while demonstrating behaviour that, in men, was considered ‘confident’ and ‘assertive’. The linguist discusses how the word ‘abrasive’ was used seventeen times to describe thirteen different women. Only the word ‘aggressive’ was used in the men’s performance reviews, and this was used to praise and encourage. Interestingly, the gender of the manager was not an issue — both female and male managers were generally more negative toward female employees.

 

Addressing unhelpful, critical reviews

The study mentioned above also reflects the reality that when men are given negative reviews, there is generally a constructive element to be found. Should they be found lacking in certain areas, they are given clear instructions on how to develop their skills to perform better in the future. The feedback provided to women, conversely, was more negative and far less specific. They were notified of areas where they were not performing as desired, but they were not given the tools necessary to improve. Such behaviour not only does the employee a disservice, but it also guarantees that the organisation does not reach its full potential.

 

How HR can eliminate gender discrimination in performance reviews

In an ideal world, all biased behaviour, both conscious and unconscious, would be eliminated overnight. Unfortunately, this is impossible, but equality is certainly something we can work toward in order to ensure a fairer, better functioning organisation. It begins with addressing the issue head-on and promoting a conscious awareness regarding gender bias.

One method of tackling gender discrimination is to encourage managers to be mindful of their language. Words used in a performance review should be constructive and objective. Judgemental and emotive words should be avoided, and the review process should prioritise communication both ways. Open communication allows the employee to respond, while providing a balanced and accurate view of the situation.

In a similar vein, the HR department could benefit greatly by introducing a means of providing anonymous feedback to employees. This system enables staff the freedom to report behaviour that they are uncomfortable with, without the possibility of facing any personal repercussions. Such feedback may highlight important and concerning issues when it comes to the running of an organisation; for example, it may come to light that the staff believe that men are consulted far more regularly than women when it comes to important business decisions.

Managers should also ensure that their reviews are specific. The evaluation of the employee’s performance should be considered against agreed objectives, behaviours and values. In this way, performance reviews are less subjective and a far more fair way of evaluating performance.

 

About the Author: Stuart Hearn heads up a team who designs innovative performance management software. He has been working in the HR sector for over 20 years, previously working for Sony Music Publishing and co-founding PlusHR.

 

 


When to Say “No”

Posted on June 9th, by a Guest Contributor in Career Advice, Personal & Professional Development. No Comments

Whether you’re just starting out in your career or whether you’re well into it, it’s important to take on new opportunities. Joining a task force, working on a cross-departmental project, taking on a group presentation to a new client . . . things like that give you a chance to find out what you like and what you’re good at. Taking on such projects tests your will and your fortitude, especially those projects that are likely to stretch beyond the usual forty- or fifty-hour workweek.

The key is to take on projects that you know you can complete. You need to feel confident that you can deliver. You don’t want to be the one who volunteers and then doesn’t carry her own weight. Whatever you take on, you have to follow through. You have to push yourself to do it, even if it means you might have to sacrifice your personal time as your work week extends to seventy or eighty hours for a certain period of time. The last thing you want is to sign up for an extra project and then be the one who always leaves early or never shows up. You don’t want to be the one who makes a lot of promises but never delivers. You don’t want to be that person.

Opportunities and risk go hand in hand, and saying “yes” to opportunity means you’re taking on some risk. Saying “no” also can be risky, even when it’s the right thing to do.

Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of volunteering for extra work. Your boss volunteers you instead, saddling you with a project or a presentation that you have little time for. Some of these projects might not be to your liking, or they might not provide you with the kind of visibility that will put you in line for a promotion. Sometimes you just know that there’s no way you can take on another project and give it your all.

So what do you do when you know the right thing is to say “no”?

The key here is to decline politely without actually saying “no.” One way to do this is to say something like, “This sounds like a great project, and I’d be happy to help. I’m working on Project X, Y, and Z right now, and so I could take this on early next month. Would that work for you?” or something like, “I’d love to work on this. Do you see this as a priority over Project A, which is due at the end of the week?” Responses like this let your boss know that you’re both enthusiastic and willing while at the same time prompting him to consider your workload and how much time you could reasonably dedicate to the project and still get the job done.

Saying “no” can be uncomfortable, but it’s often necessary. Only you know how much you can really handle. While you don’t want to be afraid to push yourself, it’s important to know when to say enough is enough—just so long as you say it in a way that keeps your good reputation intact.

About the Author: Jena Abernathy is a nationally recognized leader in human capital management, performance excellence, and organizational development. A sought-after speaker, she is a passionate advocate for women in executive and governing board roles. She has written for and been featured in a wide variety of media, including CNN, the Financial Times, CBS Money Watch, FOX Business, and the Miami Herald.  You can connect with Jena on Twitter or at www.jenaabernathy.com.


Finding Your Breakthrough Moments #SHRM16

Posted on June 7th, by Jennifer Payne in HR Conferences, SHRM Chapters and Conferences. No Comments

I will once again this year be attending the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C. from June 19-22 as part of the social media and blogging team.  Stay tuned over the coming weeks for more updates and coverage from the show.

 

When I think back over the course of my HR career thus far (now nearly two decades long….yikes! When did that happen?), I can say with certainty that there were distinct moments in time that helped to define and shape the course of my career.  These times may not have been “moments” in the context of minutes, hours, and days, but they were moments in time in the context of transformational periods – some more finite in nature, and some that were a bit more of a slower evolution.  But regardless of the manner in which they happened, the outcome was the same…they provided a crossroads where afterwards my career trajectory changed in a fundamental and noticeable way.

 

Read the full post on the SHRM Blog.


Zenefits and the Compounding Effect of Cultural Assessment

Posted on May 31st, by Rita Trehan in Business and Workplace, Workplace Culture. No Comments

Culture is one of the easiest things to blow off when it comes to organizational investment. You build it, and you just sort of place policies and procedures to make sure it works, right? When HR managers shout from the rooftops that corporate culture can be the downfall of an organization (or at the very least a huge stumbling block) if not properly cultivated and managed, we’re quite often met with an exasperated response. Not THAT again. And yet, when the company stumbles and falls over said block to the tune of millions of dollars, it’s most irritatingly a malady that could have been avoided. There is nothing that guides a company to it goals and beyond quite like a dynamic, properly-cultivated corporate culture, and a perfect example of this has recently hit the news: Zenefits.

 

This darling of Silicon Valley shot through the uprights not unlike a good number of its start-up constituents: former CEO Parker Conrad Valley’s billion dollar startups, peaking last year when he was able to raise $500 million for a corporate valuation of $4.5 billion. Announcing itself as the fastest-growing software service ever, based on a free cloud-based HR platform for small businesses around the U.S., it makes the majority of its income from commissions when clients use their platform to purchase insurance. The model was genius, and the corporate culture was constructed to obtain those sales by any means necessary.

 

There was only one big problem: they’ve been accused of partnering with quite a few salespeople without the proper license to sell insurance, and reportedly skirted quite a few laws that would make for the legal sale of insurance products. That’s not just a small pebble they stumbled over; that’s a gigantic legal boulder that’s put them under the watchful eye of the Federal government and downgraded them as an investment. Conrad has stepped down, and the former COO, David Saks, has taken the helm. One of the first things he did was address the errors in culture that led to their current state. He’s quoted in a Forbes article as having sent an email with the following text:

 

“We must admit that the problem goes much deeper than just process…Our culture and tone have been inappropriate for a highly regulated company. Zenefits’ company values were forged at a time when the emphasis was on discovering a new market, and the company did that brilliantly. Now we have moved into a new phase of delivering at scale and needing to win the trust of customers, regulators, and other stakeholders.”

 

As someone who has made a career out of designing adaptable, successful corporate cultures, I feel that they could have benefitted from strong HR. As Saks stated in the email, the culture that founded the company is very different from the one that will right the ship and keep it afloat. Where it appears the first epoch of the company’s history could be best summed as “by whatever means necessary,” it safe to assume that through careful corporate assessment and an in-depth look at their culture and the talent that supports it, it will most likely evolve to “with our shareholders and customers at the center of whatever we do.”

 

When speaking of corporate culture, a static approach is never best. You don’t just build it and let it go, letting it self-maintain with performance evaluations, retention and turnover. It must be constantly assessed against the market, customer satisfaction, internal goals, and staffing needs. While the vision, mission, and values of the company remain standardized for long periods of time, corporate culture is an ever-evolving means to accomplish your objectives. It drives, incents, connects, and deploys your resources of a human variety, and without the proper tools to monitor it — and the sense to pay attention to red flags once they’re raised —you will meet with obstacles that are unpleasant. Most important, they can usually be avoided.

 

The proprietary culture assessment tools I’ve developed from years of experience paired with recent technological advances act as a canary in a coal mine. They’re capable of assessing the culture from all aspects, and paired with market information and 11 other data inputs (13 in total), they can give you a 360-view of your company that can warn of disasters such as these along with other issues, such as turnover/employee defection, potentially derailing internal disconnects, and so much more. You need to monitor corporate culture effectively and often, and I have the tools that can accomplish this and so much more.

 

More than ever, companies must truly look deep inside their ranks to ascertain what is going on. It’s no longer sufficient to simply rely solely on client and employee engagement data to give you a view of what’s happening with your company; this type of insight only scratches the surface at best. Most employee engagement data tell us 86% of people are disengaged, which is a warning sign within itself. Don’t you want to know why before that expense and productivity issue hits your bottom line? I know I would.

 

I believe that companies need to take on the issue of culture more than ever before. Dig deep and use tools like my Capacity Framework to connect deep, disparate data for a powerful, actionable source of information: customer data, engagement data, exit interview data, performance data and metrics, talent data and more. Prioritize your corporate culture, and take action on this type of data, outlining the top strengths and challenges for your company. It’s only by connecting all the dots that you will truly paint an accurate picture of what’s going on in your organization, and armed with that knowledge, you can take action and manage your culture as you would any other asset within your company. For it is an asset, perhaps your greatest, and it must be constantly minded as if it could tear your company apart if mismanaged.

 

Because the truth is — and this Zenefits example is an illustrative example — it most certain can.

 

About the Author: Rita Trehan is the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at www.ritatrehan.com.


Not My Circus

Posted on May 26th, by Joan Axelrod in On My Mind, Personal & Professional Effectiveness. 2 comments

 

When you take off on a flight, the attendant always says the same thing: “In case of an emergency put your oxygen mask on first before helping the people around you.” This includes the ones you love!

As a road warrior I know this mantra better than anyone.  I heard these words every Monday morning for 17 years! It was the theme song of my undoing and then the melody of my road back home.

This, my friend, is the single best piece of advice in my tool chest of tricks. We all know I have a treasure trove of good advice, cautionary tales, analogies and tricks up my sleeve.  This one should not be ignored!

Recently, one of my favorite members of my Personal Board passed through town.  At an impromptu mini board gathering over fish tacos and red wine, she reminded me of another important saying, “Not my circus, not my monkeys!”

Wow, how powerful and freeing is that statement?  How thought provoking.

“Save yourself first” so you can save the folks around you. Further, “If it is not your circus and not your monkeys” where do your responsibilities start and where do they end? What is yours and what is theirs? What is helping and what is enabling? What is teaching and what is providing answers? Listening and lecturing? Loving and smoothing?

As a parent of grown children, letting go is a tippy ship at best.  Mission accomplished, although I type through tears, as my son officially graduates and moves the last box of clothing and mementos to Philadelphia next month to start his new career. Nevertheless, isn’t that the point?  If you do it right they should leave the nest! My son put his oxygen mask on first! He found his own circus and his own monkeys! Painful as his parting is, I couldn’t be prouder.  The coolest part is that we are going to meet every other week in the middle for a meal (once a foodie always a foodie). I will say that again. WE WILL MEET IN THE MIDDLE! (Hold that thought)

So if we are to put our “Oxygen mask on first,” and if it is  “Their circus and their monkeys” how are we to continue to show up for our family, friends, colleagues, society and the world in a caring and meaningful way while still retaining our boundaries?  After all, isn’t showing up fully truly the only way we can make an impact? How then will we still help the ones we love and be of service?

Here is my list of tips for putting on your oxygen mask first so you can show up for those around you while continuing to take care of yourself.

 

We are all a work in progress

Never stop growing, learning, evolving, exploring, asking, stretching, reading, expanding, scaring yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone! Repeat!

I am a life learner! I say that I am done getting certifications and degrees.  We all know I am lying. I will never stop learning!  I will never stop reading, taking courses and stepping out of my comfort zone.  I will never stop reinventing myself! We live, we learn, we grow and should repeat this process again and again and again!  Pay it forward by sharing your knowledge.

 

Be Your Personal Best

Whatever your aspiration, strive to be the best in class.  How do you achieve this? Simple, roll up your sleeves and put in the work!  Do the research. Do your homework. Network, Network, Network (even when you are exhausted). Stretch further than comfortable. Show up fully. Frankly, when you think you have done your best work possible, take one more pass through.  In conjunction, have no expectations of others. You won’t need to, you will be too busy leading by example.

 

Take Care of Yourself

I never end a coaching session without inquiring about my clients’ self-care rituals.  Why? Because at the heart of our work together, no matter what the topic, we can accomplish nothing if we are not taking care of ourselves.

It is the same reason that I watch everything I put in my mouth. Eat organic if possible (even when traveling).  Try desperately to get a good night sleep each night, and exercise regularly. I have dragged my yoga mat with me on every trip I have taken for all 17 years of business travel (oh the places we have seen!).  It took my limo driver until last year to figure out that I was not a heavy breather and I was meditating on the way to the airport!

Create a healthy routine and stick to it. A healthy life style will lead to productivity. You will become influential, productivity is sticky!

 

Listen More, Talk Less:

Don’t let the noise cancelling headphones, pile of work, the fact that I am typing, have my eyes closed, am facing the other way, or that I am actually sleeping dissuade you.  If I am in your presence (whether I know you or not) you will talk to me and I will listen. You will tell me things you have never told anyone, and I WILL KEEP YOUR CONFIDENCE.  I will give you advice, I WILL NEVER JUDGE.  Trust me I know things I could have gone my whole life without knowing, but rest assured when you utter the last word it is already forgotten.

When I go on vacation with my family I am instructed not to look up or make eye contact with anyone! (After all, it is their time).  All kidding aside this is the best gift you can give someone, empathy and understanding. A safe place to unload, and then let them go on their contemplative way to figure it out.

 

Energy Zappers/Energy Fillers:

Get in touch with the people, places, and trying that are sapping your energy and GET RID OFF THEM!  Okay, so this is not always practical. If it was, I for one would spend my days reading, doing yoga, cooking, gardening, hiking, mountain biking, eating at great restaurants and watching old movies.

We are all intimately in touch with what brings us stress; however, are you aware that there is a positive counter balance?

I am also a bit of a math geek, and a strong believer in that “What gets measured gets done.”  In fact if I was to get a tattoo (which I won’t kids, so you can’t) it would have that phrase.  As a result, I have invented the “Balancing Act” equation. (AP to follow)

How does it work? Make a list of everything that brings you stress and give it a numerical value. Then, come up with a list of energy fillers and do the same until you reach equilibrium!  I challenge you to balance your act! Leave others to do the same.

 

Speak Your Mind.  Don’t over communicate:

No one likes a nag and overstating the same point over and over and over again does not make it so.

Stop!

Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over again expecting different results.  This came up two blogs in a row for a reason!  Don’t hold back. Say it once. Hope you are heard. Move on.

 

Come As You Are

You cannot change anyone but yourself and you should not want to.  It is your responsibility to continue to grow and evolve, and it everyone else’s responsibility to do the same.  You should always strive to be your personal best and hope that the people around you continue to do the same.  At the end of the day you must accept people for where they are regardless of the level.  That is their choice.  Do not let it deter you from continuing to grow. I repeat, do not let it deter you from continuing to grow. Lead by example.

 

Drop the Mad

This is one of my personal favorites; however, be cautioned it does not always work! Nothing was ever accomplished through screaming, yelling and or trying to solve the world’s problems in one sitting.  Sometimes you just have to take a break from it all and have some fun.  If you can put together some peaceful connected moments you can get back to figuring out the world’s problems through a clearer lens.

 

Take Breaks

Step out of the drama! Get out of the ring! Take yourself out of the line of fire! Do it for an hour. Do for a day. Do it for a week. Do it for any amount of time necessary and practical so that you can clear your head and think.  Take as much alone time and thinking time required to make the decisions and put the actions in place that are right for you.  After all this is yours, not theirs.

 

Empty Vessels/Projects:

Oh how I love a good project!  I get that from my Grandma Fanny.  She always took in strays, and I am very much the same.  I have a 12 foot farm table and none of the chairs match.  Neither do the people that often pass through for the home cooked meals on Sunday.  My family and I often reminisce and say, “I wonder what ever happened to so and so. I hope it all turned out well”.

I bring this up as a cautionary tale. It is a gift to give, but it can also be trap.  Always give and open yourself to others, but remember it is a two way street.

 

So, in conclusion, what is yours, theirs and ours anyway?

Another favorite saying of mine is really a question. What happens when you stop hitting your head against a wall?  Answer, it stops hurting.  What is yours and what is theirs anyway?  Truth is, it is all yours and it is all theirs.  It is our job to be our best, it is their job to strive to do the same. It is our job to take care of ourselves. It is definitely their job to do the same.  It is always our job to show up fully. To be kind, caring, helpful (when asked), resourceful and always, always show empathy. It is their job to clean up their side of the street and do the same. Perhaps in time we agree to meet in the middle? Perhaps we don’t?  In the end the universe will take care of the rest.


A Conversation on Workplace Bullying #SHRM16

I will once again this year be attending the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C. from June 19-22 as part of the social media and blogging team.  Along with our usual previews and coverage, ahead of the conference each member of the team will be conducting a Q&A with one of the conference session speakers.  I chose Catherine Mattice, who along with her company Civility Partners, strives to educate and address the topic of workplace bullying.

Catherine and I chatted about why she chose to dedicate her career to workplace bullying, why it’s a very relevant topic for today’s human resource professionals, and what to expect from her session at #SHRM16.

Read the full Q&A over at the SHRM Blog.


Organizations vs. Humans – Are We At Odds? #WorkHuman

Posted on May 20th, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace, HR Conferences. 2 comments

The sign of any great conference is when you continue to mull over the ideas with which you’re presented and the concepts you learn even after the event itself is over.  It’s now a little over a week since WorkHuman 2016 wrapped up, and I’m still contemplating much of what I heard.

The event closed on Wednesday afternoon with a keynote from business thinker and author Gary Hamel, in a session titled “For Human Being to Thrive at Work, Bureaucracy Must Die.”  The closing keynote spot at any conference can be an unfortunate place on the agenda, as many attendees tend to cut out early to catch flights home.  That just did not appear to be the case for most at WorkHuman, and we were treated to an energetic, entertaining, and very relevant message.

The overall theme of Gary Hamel’s keynote was that the design of most of our organizations is in direct conflict with human nature.  He offered the following three truths:

  • Humans are creative, most of our organizations are not
  • Humans are adaptable, most of our organizations are not
  • Humans are passionate, most of our organizations are not

And because of these truths, most of our organizations are less human than the people that work within them, and therefore waste more human capacity than they use.

A pretty sad state of affairs, isn’t it?

Hamel went on to suggest that our roles as leaders is NOT to get the people within our organizations to serve the needs of our organizations, it’s to build an environment with such a compelling purpose that our people voluntarily bring their individual gifts to work every day.  And when they do that, if we utilize those gifts appropriately, they will contribute to the overall success of the organization.  He then promised us seven ways to change the realities within our organizations (but actually only got around to five – probably because he was just so passionate about each one that he spent more time than he expected to on each).

The five ways he touched on were:

  • Get Angry – that our workplaces as so designed that our people are forced to show up but leave their humanity at home
  • Load Up On data – if you want to inspire and lead change, you need to speak to the head as well as the heart
  • Find the Fringe – and then push the boundaries
  • Develop a New Set of Principles – whether it be meritocracy, more collaborative decision making, finding and developing the natural leaders in your organization, or embracing the wisdom of the crowd
  • Reinvent the “How” – enlarge the scope of decision making and embrace the idea that irregular people doing irregular things in irregular ways create irregular successes

Each of these probably each deserve their own post, and perhaps at some point I’ll revisit them, but for now I’ll leave you with this takeaway…

As HR leaders, we cannot be the champions of bureaucracy and the status quo, especially when that status quo runs contrary to the very nature of human beings.  And for many HR professionals that can be a challenge; many by nature and training tend to want to preserve the status quo at all costs.  But that is no longer a sustainable way to approach our businesses and workplaces.  We have a duty to challenge these constructs that really don’t serve long term sustainability or promote great workplaces and bring out the best in our people, the people who make our businesses what they are.

That’s no easy task, and certainly we can’t do it alone, but we can be the ones at the forefront of the change.  The “how” is the difficult part, but these five ideas for changing our realities are a good starting point.

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.


Change, Resilience, Choice and Gratitude via Michael J. Fox #WorkHuman

Posted on May 17th, by Jennifer Payne in HR Conferences, Personal & Professional Effectiveness. No Comments

I grew up knowing him best as Alex P. Keaton and Marty McFly.  I was a fan of Family Ties and even bigger fan of Back to the Future.  Full disclosure: I’ll still stop and watch it any time I stumble across it on TV.  Hey, what can I say, I was a child of the 80s and that was one of the movies that defined my childhood.  What I never could have anticipated watching Michael J. Fox in the mid-80s is that I would have the opportunity to hear and see him speak live thirty some years later.  And not only would I have that opportunity, but that it would be one of the most genuine and inspiring keynotes I’d experience to date, centering on a story that I’m sure even he could have never anticipated back then.

Michael J. Fox had the entire crowd at WorkHuman on last Wednesday morning completely captivated.  In a keynote that was more like watching a conversation in someone’s living room, he chatted with Globoforce’s Julie Zadow and shared his journey that began when he failed drama class and dropped out of high school, but yet still chased his dreams and the future he knew he wanted by moving to Hollywood to pursue his acting career.  He guided us through his journey of his Parkinson’s diagnosis and how he came to terms with it.  He left many without dry eyes, and all walked away realizing what an outstanding human being with which we had the honor of sharing an hour of our lives.

Michael touched on a number of topics and ideas and he took us through his journey, but a few really stood out to me.

 

Change Happens Quickly, But…

Michael talked about how quickly his life changed once he got his big break.  The Family Ties and Back to the Future roles came around the same time, and propelled him into the fame that would shape much of the rest of his career.  But they didn’t come without a heck of a lot of hard work, preparation, and struggle leading up to them.  And he certainly didn’t stop working hard when they did come around – he filmed Family Ties during the day and Back to the Future at night so that he was able to take advantage of both opportunities.  The lesson here: keeping plugging along and pushing through the struggles, because you never know when the opportunity to propel you to your own version of stardom may come along and change your life forever.

 

Choice & Resilience

Life is all about circumstance and choice: you find yourself in a circumstance, and you have a choice how to react to it.  You can accept it, or try to deny or ignore it.  Accepting something does not mean you are resigned to it; what it means when you accept something is that it become a truth that you can now manage.  And when you accept that truth it begins to take up a very finite space in your world, allowing you to deal with it and move on.  When you refuse to accept a truth, it takes on a life of its own and can begin to infiltrate your entire life, making it much more difficult to manage.  Michael has accepted his Parkinson’s diagnosis as a finite truth in his life, something he can manage, does not fear, and has used for the greater good in his activism and work with his foundation.

 

Gratitude

One of the final ideas Michael left us with was, “Just love life and be grateful.” So simple, yet so powerful.  We all have struggles we deal with in our lives.  We all have our ups and downs.  But we are here, we are living, we have the ability to contribute to life and the world.  We have a choice – to focus on the negatives we deal with and dwell on what we don’t have, or to embrace all of the positives and to be grateful and love what we do have.

 

Lessons for HR Leaders?

How do these ideas apply to our roles as HR professionals and leaders?  I’d say if we want to lead effectively, and if we want to build great workplaces that encourage the best in our people, we can’t do it without embracing these ideas.  We have the ability to create great changes, but it can’t happen without the leg work behind it.  We will inevitably face challenges and struggles, and we have a choice how to react to them and a responsibility to be role models for choice and resiliency.  And we are certainly never going to nurture great workplaces without a culture of gratitude – for each other, our teams, and the hard work and accomplishments we achieve.

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.


Checking in From #WorkHuman Day 1 – Happiness as a Business Strategy?

Posted on May 10th, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace, HR Conferences. No Comments

I’m here in sunny Orlando, FL this week for the 2016 edition of the WorkHuman conference.  Now in its second year, WorkHuman is a concept developed by the folks at recognition company Globoforce, and it’s slowly taking on a life of its own.  Focused on topics like happiness, engagement, and recognition, WorkHuman is all about creating great workplaces that are built to bring out the best in people and harness the power of social connections to drive positive business results.

Right from the moment of arrival on site, it became apparent that this is a different kind of HR conference.  The agenda includes (optional) time for yoga and mindfulness, the colors in the space are bright and cheerful, there was a “cookie wall” (yes, an actual wall covered in cookies for the taking), and the opening event was actually called a “Happy Hour” and not an “opening reception.”

Some might say that sounds a little too “warm and fuzzy” or “Kum Bah Yah” for them, but as we launched into the opening general sessions this morning, there were certainly enough stats and stories shared to prove that focusing on happiness and creating great cultures isn’t just some warm and fuzzy “HR speak” concept with no connection to the reality of the workplace.

The morning kicked off with Globoforce’s Derek Irvine, Vice President of Consulting Services, sharing among other things the following stats:

 

Only 20% of employees have received some kind of recognition within the past month, and that percentage only goes up to about 30% when stretched to a six month time period.  Yet 78% would work harder and 83% would feel more engaged with even a simple “thanks.”

 

Seems like a huge missed opportunity there, huh?  And let’s face it, without engaged and productive employees, no business can be successful in the long run.

We were then treated to an opening keynote with Shawn Achor, renowned Harvard professor, author, and “happiness researcher” in which he dove into some of the science behind happiness, helping to create a business case for the importance of caring about it in the workplace.  He touched on the following points:

 

The power of impact – don’t focus just on how happy an individual is, but rather on their potential to create happiness around them.

There’s a difference between pleasure and joy.  Focusing on pleasure is short-sighted, where focus on joy takes a longer view.  It’s possible to experience overall joy in what you do, even if not every moment generates pleasure.  And happiness is the joy you feel working toward your potential.

Happiness does not necessarily equal success.  The flaw in that thinking is that our brains constantly recalibrate the definition of success.  The greatest predictor of long term happiness is social connectedness, not achievement or success.  The keys to happiness, potential, and great leadership is making other people around you better.

Nurturing a culture where people not only receive recognition, but also willingly give it creates a powerful force for positive change.

 

I’d agree that he offered some great ideas and wisdom, but our challenge as HR professionals and leaders is figuring how to take these concepts and weave them into the realities of our individual organizations.

I’m looking forward to hearing more thoughts, ideas, and success stories as WorkHuman continues over the next couple of days.  Stay tuned for more updates, including highlights from tomorrow’s highly anticipated keynote from Michael J. Fox!

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.


Do Employees Leave a Company or a Boss? 

Posted on May 3rd, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Employee Engagement, Workplace Culture. 1 Comment

 

There are various schools of thought on what drives employee retention.  Some expert sources like Gallup place an emphasis on the importance of the manager’s role in engaging, motivating and retaining employees.  Other sources suggest that employees rarely leave a job solely because of the boss since there are many other contributing factors such as a compelling strategy, company culture and meaningful work.

Either way, businesses of all sizes are increasingly concerned about employee retention and realizing that high engagement is critical to reducing turnover.  The best employees will leave if they’re not engaged, while the lower performers often stay.  When this cycle continues, businesses struggle to achieve results and retain customers.

According to the 2015 ADP Midsized Business Owners Study the level of concern about employee engagement spiked 25 percent in 2015 after remaining flat since 2012, with two of five midsized employers expressing high levels of concern. So how can companies more effectively engage their top talent?

Here are three tips to help deepen employee engagement and avoid common pitfalls:

1. Nurture a strong workplace culture. Organizations that create a culture defined by meaningful work, organizational fit and strong leadership often outperform their peers and outpace competitors in attracting and retaining top talent.  Key components of a strong workplace culture include diversity and inclusion, a common purpose and a sense of community.

As stewards of company culture, HR leaders should strive to create – and actively promote – an inclusive work environment that champions collaboration and a connection to the local community.  Offering volunteer opportunities to give back to the community and employee recognition programs can help employees develop a sense of companionship leading to stronger feelings of engagement.

 

2. Empower employees to grow their careers. Uncertain career paths are a common pitfall that can result in low employee engagement.  Companies that keep career development top-of-mind by offering employees clear career paths, challenging assignments, mentoring programs and training to nurture their professional skills are more likely to retain top performers.  Ensure employees understand the diverse career opportunities available to them company-wide and the steps they can take to grow within the organization.  And, whenever possible, offer flexibility in how employees chart their individual career paths, such as with job-rotation programs and job shadowing.   Career growth comes from creating opportunities for employees to learn new skills and experiences.  It doesn’t need to be offering opportunities to ‘climb the corporate ladder’.  The ladder has been replaced with a lattice demonstrating the importance of lateral moves in order to grow professionally.

 

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Employees need to hear from their leaders.  An absence of communication leads to a lack of trust in leadership.  Communication is critical to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of the corporate strategy and how their work contributes to successful achievement of the company’s goals.  Having clarity around their company’s strategy and vision becomes the motivation for employees to make the discretionary effort that defines engagement.  Businesses that create frequent opportunities for leaders to communicate with employees – via email, Town Hall meetings, one-on-one interactions or social media help inspire trust.  Ongoing communication needs to honest, real-time, and authentic so that employees understand the bigger picture and feel comfortable sharing innovative ideas to help themselves and their employers grow and thrive.

 

Because employee engagement is strategically linked to retention, HR leaders need to take an integrated approach.  This includes fostering a collaborative work environment with trusted leadership, work with a purpose, and diverse growth opportunities.  Investing in employee engagement ultimately delivers benefits far beyond the bottom line with increased productivity, reduced turnover and long-term retention of highly skilled staff who directly contribute to achieving business goals.

 

 

About the Author: Emma Phillips has more than 20 years of experience leading the design and execution of strategic HR initiatives. As vice president of human resources for ADP’s Major Account Services business unit, Emma and her team focus on attracting, developing and retaining top talent, succession management, performance management, leadership development, change management and associate engagement.