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.
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.
About a year ago, right after I first heard about the concept of #WorkHuman and the inaugural WorkHuman conference was held, I started writing a post on the difference between happiness and engagement. As it happened, life got in the way and the post was put on the back burner, but as we’re now gearing up for the second annual WorkHuman conference, which this year I have the honor of attending, it seemed like a great time to revisit the topic.
As one of the more recent overused prevalent catch phrases and trends in the Human Resources profession, discussions about “employee engagement” in the workplace have been going on now for quite some time. Just Google the word and undoubtedly you find thousands of articles, blog posts, and best practices about how to achieve and attempt to measure how engaged your employees are. Heck, even my own job title has the word in it now. The discussions and debates have been going on for so long, in fact, that some have said it’s time to move on from that topic, that there’s nothing more to say about it.
I was part of a live, call-in episode of my favorite HR podcast, Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane’s HR Happy Hour a while back, in December 2014, where we addressed just this issue. Titled “Celebrating the Final Conversation on Employee Engagement?” the 200th episode of the show set out to lay to rest the employee engagement debate once and for all. But what we discovered through the various callers and discussions on the show is that the topic is far from dead. One element that did come up was the difference between happiness and engagement.
If you look at the official definitions of “happy” and “engage” on Dictionary.com, you’ll see that there is a difference:
Happy: delighted, pleased, or glad as over a particular thing; characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy.
Engage: to occupy the attention or efforts of (a person or persons); to attract and hold fast.
From these definitions we can infer that just because someone is engaged, it does not necessarily mean they are happy. Engagement simply means they are putting forth the effort; happiness on the other hand implies an intrinsic sense of joy or pleasure.
One point that was made on that show is that we don’t need to care about whether or not employees are happy, we just want them to be engaged and productive. It’s not our jobs as employers and human resource professionals to ensure that our employees are happy; and in fact, there are too many outside factors that play into that anyway. We just need to ensure we’re providing an environment where they can be connected to their work and achieving what they need to achieve.
But I ask this question: are happiness and engagement REALLY mutually exclusive?
Shortly after last year’s WorkHuman conference, another episode of HR Happy Hour aired, one that was actually recorded live at the event. Steve and Trish kicked off the show touching on the idea of happiness and happy employees, and referenced something that was said at the conference: “Happier workers work harder.” And I think I tend to agree.
You see, I’m not convinced that happiness and engagement are completely separate issues. Yes, it’s true that you cannot control all factors that play into someone’s happiness. You can’t control whether or not they are having marital issues or problems with their children. You can’t change the fact they may be dealing with aging or ill parents. You can’t fix depression or mental health issues.
But you know what we can do? We can help to build and shape cultures where people feel recognized and appreciated. We can take the time to care about the well-being of the folks who show up and spend a large percentage of their lives with us, helping to achieve the goals we set out for our companies. We can create departments and teams where people feel included and like they belong, somewhere they can generally enjoy coming to; where they can say they love their job, even if they don’t actually like it every day. And when we do that, doesn’t that help to create employees who are, in fact, happy….even if it’s only in the workplace?
I offer this example. One of my own coworkers deals with an exceptional amount of drama and issues in her personal life. From issues with kids to ongoing problems with family, it seems as if it’s just one thing after another for her. All of this could easily get her down, distract her, and even create disengagement from her work. Yet, because of the environment we’ve created, she’ll be the first to say, “I’m thankful for my job; it’s what keeps me sane some days.”
Is it our responsibility to create that type of environment? No, not necessarily. We have an obligation to create workplaces where our employees have the resources they need to do their jobs. But does it behoove us to think about the benefits of a happy work place? By my own experience, I’d say it does.
Just as happier people outside of work could tend to be more engaged and productive in their jobs, I also believe that a happy work environment can offset a hectic or difficult personal life. And by extension, also creating a more productive and engaged employee.
We all strive to be good employers. Is it enough to create an environment of engagement? Or SHOULD we be thinking of taking that extra step and striving to create an environment of happy workers? Some may still disagree with me and say happiness is not our business. From my experience I beg to differ.
What do you think? Are happiness and engagement two separate issues? Should we be concerned about the happiness of our employees?
Interested in joining in the discussion about creating great workplaces and cultures? Join us at WorkHuman 2106. Register here, and as a reader of this blog use discount code WH16JP300 for $300 off the regular registration fee.
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.
Over the past decade, I have had the privilege of working alongside our educational system coaching (and teaching) leadership principles to the senior leaders in our educational institutions from New York City to the Rio Grande Valley. It has been an amazing experience, which has tremendously enriched my life and fulfilled my professional career. Recently, one of my incredible clients, Uplift Education, published a newsletter highlighting the issue of bullying in their schools, and how to address this reality. I was impressed with their coverage and their staunch stance of a ZERO TOLERANCE for bullying in their schools.
While reading their commentary, it was impossible for me not to realize that much of what they were addressing is not limited to children. Bullying is alive and well in our adult circles – professional and personal. Chances are each of us have experienced bullying at least once in our workplace, if not in our social circles. To be clear, let’s identify what we mean by bullying:
- The behavior toward another individual is deliberate. It is pre-meditated with the bully’s intention being to hurt someone – in some way.
- The behavior is repeated – over and over again. It becomes habitual and the ‘accepted’ approach toward the other person. The behavior may change in how it manifests – yet, the behavior is indeed consciously calculated and intentional.
- The power between the individual and the bully is imbalanced – real or imagined. There is perceived difference in power, status, strength, societal or political position, etc. between the bully and the victim – and the bully leverages that to their benefit.
With that as our baseline, how ‘bullying behavior’ shows up as an adult may vary from how it manifested as children. Physical bullying (hitting, pushing, slapping) is far more prevalent when we are younger, than as adults. However, other forms of bullying such as name-calling, divisive gossip, exclusion and deliberately getting others to hurt, exclude or ‘gang up’ on others, and cyber bullying via Facebook, and other social media mechanisms is much more widespread and common than many may realize.
As a team leader and leadership coach, I hear examples of this on a regular basis. Many of my clients have shared that team members are blocking them on Facebook or other social media channels, or withholding critical information they need to do their jobs. This also cripples their ability to become a part of the team and/or to foster spirit de corps. Others have stated how peers and team members have spoken half-truths about them and continue to proliferate these fibs and rumors to that individual’s demise and ongoing exclusion. Still others have ‘voted individuals off the island’ due to a simple difference in opinion, a different choice made, or just to assume a superior position that the bully’s victim.
Bullying in the workplace and in life can be completely disruptive not to mention hurtful. It is typically driven by the perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual. This can be driven by jealously, insecurity, unbridled ambition, or an imagined sense of superiority. Bullying can show up by a set of acts by commission – actually DOING things to others; yet it can also manifest by acts of omission – which can be someone withholding resources from others or simply not being loyal and standing by the victim, to others. And in the worst of all cases, the bully involves others to gang up on the victim and those that ‘cave’ and do not stand tall to support the victim are in many cases the greatest bullies of all. Over the course of my adult life and career, I have been the victim of both types of bullying. It is no fun and can completely derail your self-confidence, and have you questioning your every thought, word, and deed – which is, of course, what the bully wants.
So what can we do about this reality? Well, there is a website that does an amazing job of highlighting a few steps to take when this happens in the workplace. It consists of shining a bright light on bullies in the workplace and requires nothing short of turning the workplace culture upside down. Bullies must experience negative consequences for harming others. Senior leaders need to call out that negative behavior, and certainly not reward it. Only Senior Leaders can reverse the trend; and if they actually support it – then the team and organization can become toxic. I have actually had a leader support the bully’s behavior, and that can be extremely disheartening. However, what I believe whole heartedly is this: the truth ALWAYS will reveal itself over time.
A few additional thoughts for consideration:
- Always take the high road.As our father has always taught us, ‘if you see it, so does everyone else’. So let the bully reveal their true behaviors – as over time, even if they are the best actors in the world, their passive aggressive, manipulative, and mean behaviors will be revealed.
- We need to try to do our best to LIVE the Golden Rule.Yes, trust me when I say this can be hard when folks have been ugly and divisive relative to you and your work. Yet, again, as my parents would say – at least you can sleep well at night knowing you are living YOUR life in integrity and with purity of intention.
- Take care of your health during these stressful times.When folks are mean to us, if we internalize this, it will most certainly show up in our bodies. Thus, we need to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Eat well. Exercise every day at least 30 minutes. Consider Yoga or medication to help lower your blood pressure.
- Finally, we need keep these ‘evil doers’ in our prayers.It is impossible to harbor ill will against someone when we pray for them – of this I am 100% certain.
What are your thoughts? What suggestions to you have when we face situations like this in life and/or in business?
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken? Random Encounters That Change Your Life, was released on 11/1/11 to national acclaim, and endorsed by Stephen Covey and John Maxwell, among others. Her second book in the series, entitled Is This Seat Taken? It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat was released 1/13/15. It has already been endorsed by notables such as Marshall Goldsmith, Sean Covey, and Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines. This book shines the light on late in life reinvention and encore ‘second half’s’ of diverse individuals. The individuals are in some cases widely known and others are somewhat anonymous to the mass public. The common thread is their ‘post-50’ resurgence in life and in some cases their ‘fork in the road’ is quite serendipitous. Kristin’s third book, a sequel to ‘Is This Seat Taken?’ will follow later in 2015. Kristin is on Twitter as @kristinkaufman.
The employees of a business keep the business going. Without the employees, there would be nothing. Employees need to stay happy and productive in order to keep the business alive. One of the major factors contributing to employee happiness is work relationships between coworkers, and between the employee and manager. There are many ways to maintain healthy relationships with employees to keep the business environment in good standing and the success of the business moving forward. Plus, relationships are what build better workplace culture. Below are five ways managers and employees can build healthy relationships.
To keep up good relationships with employees and avoid the risk of losing them, consider rewarding employees when good work is done. Employee recognition can range from a thoughtful card to personalized gifts or company-wide outings. The best way to capitalize on recognition is by knowing the person you are recognizing. Don’t feel like you, as the manager, always have to be the only one recognizing great work. Have employees within each team or department appreciate each other through their own nominations. This can also bring more unity among coworkers. Simplly put, appreciating your employees will deepen your relationship and retention rate.
Be friendly, but don’t play favorites
Though this may seem obvious, you’d be surprised how common it still is today in the workplace. The one thing for employers to remember when being friendly towards employees is to not play favorites. Favoritism in the office is bad because it can cause other employees to feel disrespected and forced out. An employer should be friendly with all employees, not one more than another. Just remember not to be too friendly where employees can take advantage of the situation. An employer should build good rapport with the employees where they feel comfortable, not scared or intimidated.
For example, employers should emphasize friendliness in the company culture through team building activities so employees feel more comfortable with each other. The more friendly employees are with each other, the more growth within the office.
Better communication tactics
Find better ways to communicate with employees—don’t settle for the norms of email and chat. Part of being approachable is making sure more than one way of communication is possible between employees. Poor communication can lead to friction and inefficiency in the workplace. Basically, create an environment where employees are comfortable conversing ideas and asking questions with one another. This way, you’re not only strengthening culture, but helping employees grow by learning from each other.
In addition, have a level of transparency by keeping each other in the loop. Employees can harbor negative feelings when they feel the company engages in secretive actions that directly impact the employee. Instead, consider meaningful company meetings and face-to-face discussions when something comes up. Retention rates remain high when employees feel like they are informed on company business.
Along with better communication, managers should be sure they are really listening to employees. Have a virtual suggestion box where employees can anonymously leave comments and tips concerning the workplace. However, the second half of listening is acting on what employees want. Through their suggestions, create an office environment where employees are the most engaged and productive. Employees will also be more aware and positive when they know upper management is actively listening.
Employees training employees
We all know personalized training helps employees grow and have a greater sense of purpose within the company. Why not take career development to the next level and have employees teach each other what they know? Have them become experts in fields and teach others how to become experts. It will not only increase employee morale, but help those less inclined socially to become more social in the office. New relationships can be formed and again, create a friendlier office culture.
All and all, remember to keep healthy relationships among your coworkers to insure a greater company culture and the well-being of the company overall.
About the Author: A previous guest contributor to Women of HR, JP George grew up in a small town in Washington. After receiving a Master’s degree in Public Relations, she has worked in a variety of positions, from agencies to corporations all across the globe. Experience has made JP an expert in topics relating to leadership, talent management, and organizational business.
In Human Resources, as much as any professional discipline, we women have hit our stride. Given the opportunity to compete in the field, we’ve succeeded: to reduce turnover, attract and retain those diamonds in the rough, and build reputations for respectable (and even press-worthy) organizational culture. It’s been our ticket to the C-suites of the Fortune 500 – and not a moment too soon. And as the scope of the job changes from “intuition” to data-driven strategy, we have the chance to show our adaptability, too.
But then again, our stature puts us in an awkward position. Despite our best efforts to promote organization-wide diversity and inclusion, all too often we discover unfair treatment – especially of women.
And we want to do something about it.
Really, you want to do what’s best for your own professional development and career goals, but you also want to support the marginalized, underrepresented people in your own organization. How can you do both of these things both effectively and fairly? Even if these distinct goals aren’t completely at odds, how do you send a message to those around you what your priorities are?
It’s a question I’ve seen come up to the surface over and over for a long time. Our exit interview software actually came out of a project to identify the greatest barriers to the advancement of women and minorities in the workplace. We’ve uncovered pivotal opportunities for our clients, but we’ve also encountered challenges that most executives would hope to sweep under the rug.
One of the best – and worst – parts of creating a truly anonymous exit interview system is the abundance of brutally honest answers.
These are the real voices of women at one of our clients. This is a large (10,000+) and decentralized organization, but neither a poor performer nor ideologically backwards. The employees’ reasons for leaving, for example, hardly deviate from our measured industry norms. And yet comments like these are far too common:
“The biggest thing I noticed at [the company] is that if you’re a woman, you had better act ladylike. There was nothing more contemptible than a woman who spoke her mind. As a woman you were supposed to just nod and do as you were told. I was described as “aggressive.” I’m not aggressive. I am passionate and dedicated. I take pride in what I do and do it well. This is not what was rewarded. Being demure seems to be ‘leadership’ quality most desired at [the company].”
“My boss had a very hard time providing accolades, at least to the women who reported to her. She didn’t seem to have a problem telling the men who reported to her that they were doing a good job or even giving them credit for work done by somebody else, but she had a hard time telling a woman that she was doing a good job… Most of the time, my boss would cut me off if I started to speak during a meeting.”
“Men are definitely recognized more than women in the department.”
“I was repeatedly harassed by [a male coworker]. When I demanded it stop… [he] went to management and lied.”
“I was harassed several times and nothing was done about it.”
Of course I’ve picked a few especially unpleasant-to-read examples, but haven’t you felt this way at least once in your career? If not, I envy you. If you’re anything like me, this sounds all too familiar, if a bit distant. And, if you’re anything like me, part of why you’re still in the business is because you believe it doesn’t have to be this way.
But what now?
Imagine these were your findings. Or, maybe you don’t have to. Maybe you’ve already faced this issue within your organization. How do you deal with it? Tell us in the comment section.
About the Author: Deb Dwyer is the founder and president of HSD Metrics, a provider of organizational surveys designed to increase retention, engagement and organizational effectiveness. With over 30 years of combined experience in human resource management and survey research, Deb’s extensive knowledge reaches beyond organizational research to include expertise in work climate improvement, retention, hiring and selection, employee orientation, performance management systems, recognition programs and career development systems.
Diversity. What does it mean to you (aside from a pretty handy street dance troupe)? It’s an important topic to mull over because the modern workplace is expected to employ a diverse workforce, with HR departments obviously playing a crucial role in the process.
But as with so many valuable concepts, the risk of the principle being lost in the rhetoric and its substance replaced by an empty corporate buzz word is high. As HR employees – dealing with the people behind the labels – it is our duty to clarify the recruitment process we are expected to implement and highlight any practical issues that arise.
Diversity and the ‘tick box’ culture
One of the measures of a diverse workplace is how closely it reflects the make-up of the society in which it operates. This has led to government statisticians compiling lists of percentages where citizens are divided into their ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation and numerous other categories and the numbers compared – often unfavourably – with the make up of the company.
If we’re not careful, this can lead to diversity being treated as another item to be included on a growing list of corporate targets. ‘Do we have a disabled guy? Good. Five per cent ethnic minorities? Great. We’re running at 55-45 gender split though; need to even that up a bit.’
Here we stray into that contentious issue of ‘positive discrimination’, and whether it is ever right to recruit someone on the basis of their age, gender, sexual orientation or cultural background. Whatever your position about that, it is a very real dilemma that the Human Resource department has to grapple with – diversity in the real world rather than a utopian concept.
Do we still have an appetite for diversity?
Recent world events have even cast doubts on the value of diversity itself. Struggling economies have led to high levels of unemployment and the accusation by some disgruntled citizens that their jobs are being taken by people from minority backgrounds. And there is no doubt that recruiters in many fields have sought to actively import talent where there is a perceived lack of it from amongst the local employment pool.
With the media highlighting the negative aspects of muticulturalism and the dangers of excessively liberal policies, and the rise of nationalist parties in the political sphere, even the politicians’ are displaying quite schizophrenic behaviours as they reflect the public’s ambivalence over diversity.
Companies as diversity in action
The modern workplace, to varying degrees, mirrors the situation in society at large. People from different backgrounds come together for a common cause and while there are inevitably culture clashes and disagreements there is also a lot of solidarity and shared identity. A company’s success seems often to be related to the extent to which its workforce has been integrated, enabling everyone to pull together. But is there more that a diverse workplace can offer up?
Attack of the Clones
In our drive for diversity, we must ensure that the people we recruit are given the support and freedom to actually express their unique qualities and perspectives. In a modern workplace we need to utilise the full richness of each individual’s experience and tap into their irreplaceable skills and strengths, if we are to remain relevant and competitive as a unit.
Employees are not just representatives of particular demographics in society, they are living, communicating windows into the minds and hearts of the people who share significant elements of their background. If one of our employees uses a wheelchair, he or she will be invaluable in assessing how accessible our company is to other wheelchair users. If a female employee objects to the chauvanistic workplace culture then ignore her at your peril. It is highly likely that sexism is coming across in our products and services, alienating women in society.
In some ways, a diverse company is a gift which gives us the opportunity to interact with society at a deeper, more inclusive level. But we must still make the most of the richness at our disposal by treating employees as respected individuals. Otherwise we risk creating a sham diversity rather like the clone troopers in the Star Wars stories. Here, the individual troopers are largely identified by surface differences alone (hairstyle, uniform trim, etc.) to compensate for the fact that they are all cloned from one source.
Is diversity still on the menu? Absolutely, but only the best restaurants can combine all of the flavours into one appetizing dish.
About the Author: Nicole Dominique Le Maire has gained a reputation as a highly valued leader within the female business and Human Resources Industry. As a multi-talented woman entrepreneur and a global people connector, she is also the co-author of two books, including “The Female Leader.” As a result, she has gained tremendous experience guiding startups and entrepreneurs which has supplemented her MBA, MAHRM, and MCIPD and this has catapulted her to become one of the top leaders in the Human Resources industry. Get in touch via twitter @NicoleLeMaire or one of the business websites, humanresourcesglobal.com, newtohr.com, thefemaleleader.biz
There was a time, not very long ago, when service awards as part of most companies’ recognition strategy was the norm. Employees were regularly honored for a certain number of years of commitment to the organization with anything from a certificate, to a trinket, to the opportunity to select from a catalog of a variety of household or recreational items, depending on their total number of years of service.
Some argue that service awards are a dying breed; that in a world where loyalty (on both sides of the equation) is a commodity to be casually tossed around, where employee tenures are shorter and shorter, that there’s just no relevance in recognizing years of service. Instead of rewarding employees for the number of years they’ve put in, something that is becoming increasingly meaningless to employees, we should be recognizing them in other ways, such as for specific achievements, outcomes, and contributions to organizational success.
This idea that service awards are no longer relevant may be true in some companies and certain industries; I would suspect that, for instance, in high tech, Silicon Valley type organizations where talent is regularly recruited away by the next up-and-coming start-up, or where contract work is much more common, and where tenure is measured in months rather than years, service recognition likely holds little value.
But what about those industries and organizations where long-term employment is more the norm than the exception? And yes, these companies and industries do still exist. I work in the grocery retail industry and just recently we recognized over 300 (yes, 300!) employees who have dedicated 25, 30, 35, 40, and even 45 and FIFTY years of service to our company. And though this year was an unusually large number of honorees, it is typical for us to annually recognize well over 200. We do this through dinners in each of our operating regions, at which honorees and their guests are treated to a nice meal and a program which includes short bios of each of the honorees, personal congratulations by our executive team, and a small gift and token of appreciation.
I can honestly say, there is nothing quite like the look of pride and appreciation on the faces of these honorees; pride in making an life out of an honest day’s work from the simplest of beginnings in one of the simplest and most common places in all of our lives – a grocery store. Pride in a job well done, pride in simple service to a specific community and regular customers. You’d be hard pressed to convince me that service awards aren’t relevant…in our little corner of the world.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest trends in the HR space, as we should. As good HR professionals we should make it our business to be in tune with what those trends are. But it’s also very easy to want to just jump to conclusions based on what we read or by what various “thought leaders” are saying. But as good HR professionals, we also need to learn to take what we read or hear, assess it, and make decisions based on what’s best for OUR organizations. For me and my company, that means realizing that service awards are still VERY relevant. They are an integral part of an overall recognition strategy that also includes various other components and rewards related to performance and other criteria, and foregoing them for just the other pieces of the strategy would be detrimental to overall morale.
Read. Listen. Learn. Assess and apply your knowledge. Then do what’s best for you, in your company and your world.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, 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.
What is a great corporate culture? Among other things, it’s that intangible something that motivates and inspires employees to do their best work, whether they are under the watchful eyes of management or not. But a great corporate culture doesn’t happen overnight. It must be consciously cultivated and constantly protected as one of the company’s greatest assets. After all, that culture—that unique “collective corporate environment”—is what drives productivity and sets an organization apart from its competitors. Being that creating a healthy corporate culture is essential for all businesses, here’s a look at two key factors—Employee Recognition and Discipline—and the importance of each in creating and protecting your corporate culture.
In many ways you could call employee recognition a culture within itself. After all, what better way to recruit and retain top talent than by being recognized as a company that knows how to recognize and appreciate its employees? It’s no wonder that employee recognition programs are becoming more prominent among small and large organizations, as they can help businesses create and protect a positive corporate culture by…
Creating an atmosphere of trust and respect
Proper recognition helps create an environment where employees are encouraged to openly share ideas and opinions because they feel that what they have to say is important to the company and appreciated by management. Good managers understand that recognition isn’t always about the pat on the back or some tangible reward. True recognition is more about employees being able to actively contribute in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect, without fear of reproach or being shot down.
Fueling employee engagement
It’s no secret that engaged employees are happier employees. Recognition programs can help to fuel greater employee engagement by appropriately recognizing individual achievements, at the same time encouraging more of the same. The most effective rewards are specific to the task that has been accomplished. They are also all-inclusive, being distributed across all levels of the organization so every employee feels that they have a fair chance of receiving recognition. Rewards should also be delivered quickly with respect to the task or behavior that is being recognized. And finally, the more meaningful and relevant the reward is, the more it will fuel a corporate culture of happy and engaged employees.
Reinforcing positive behaviors throughout the entire organization
A corporate culture has the power to influence every aspect of an organization for good or bad. Employee recognition and rewards programs help to promote a positive culture by reinforcing positive behaviors throughout the entire organization. This is especially true of “strategic” employee recognition, which can spur innovation by encouraging employees to repeat desired behaviors over and over.
Unlike the word implies, discipline, with respect to building and protecting a corporate culture is not about implementing and enforcing a cold harsh set of rules. Discipline is about creating the desired climate from the top down. It’s about management teams that are committed to:
Set and communicate clear goals
Employees respond well to management that clearly communicates corporate goals and expectations. Clear goals help employees recognize the specific roles they play in helping the company accomplish its objectives. In addition, clear and realistic goals, along with suitable recognition for achieving those goals, challenges and motivates employees to do their best work, which is what a great corporate culture is all about.
Model the desired culture
Think of a business with a great culture and you can be sure that the desired corporate values and expectations are modeled from top leadership on down. Practicing what is preached allows management to effectively discuss corporate values, principals and behavioral expectations with employees in an open and positive atmosphere. Plus, leading by example sets a true standard that employees will more willingly try to emulate.
Even the most motivated employees need managers to lead them to act. And they tend to respond best to managers who hold themselves to the same standards of excellence, responsibility and accountability that they ask of employees. Especially those leaders that actively and effectively recognize and reward employee accomplishments. This type of leadership is essential for cultivating and protecting a positive corporate culture.
About the Author: Robert Cordray is a freelance writer and expert in business and finance. He has received many accolades for his work in teaching solid entrepreneur advice.
Three things needed for a long term relationship are commitment, caring and communication. Just as partners in a successful marriage, who are committed to one another, understand the benefits they receive from one another, employees and employers require the same. Employees need to achieve results and employers to provide stability.
Caring is not a word used often in employment agreements but love has a place in the corporate world. The best employers treat their employees well by providing competitive salaries and benefits, training supervisors to manage effectively, giving employees the tools that they need to do their jobs, and, most important, letting employees know how they are doing. Employees show that love back by being passionate about quality and loyal to the companies for whom they work.
And then there is communication. In order to sustain a long term and healthy relationship with employees, smart companies provide job descriptions, mission statements, vision, goals, and frequent performance feedback. And smart employees, who understand where the company is headed and what they need to do, offer innovation.
Just like a successful marriage takes work, the relationship between employers and employees requires the same commitment, caring and communication, not just offered once, but provided continuously over the long term.
About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.