4 Necessary Upgrades To Your Employees’ Benefits in the Hybrid Workplace
With more employees working both in-office and remotely, it's clear that the future of work is hybrid. In a recent study conducted by Benefits Canada, more than half (54%) of Canadian employers reported that they have begun using a hybrid work model. While this setup has many natural advantages for employees, it also presents a unique opportunity for companies to upgrade their employee benefits, both to attract and retain top talent.
This is important to consider since many traditional employee benefits are not hybrid-friendly, and cannot be fully utilized by employees. By upgrading these benefits, companies can create a win-win situation where employees are happier and more productive, while the employer benefits from increased loyalty and retention. Below are some ideas on hybrid-friendly benefits that your employees are sure to appreciate.
Whether companies provide a budget for equipment or provide the actual equipment themselves, allocating resources for employees to be able to build better desk set-ups at home is crucial. Studies have shown that ergonomic desk equipment can improve employee health by reducing strain on their bodies, making them less likely to experience back pain, neck pain, and other posture-related issues. Feeling comfortable in workstations can also reduce fatigue, discomfort, and stress, leading to fewer breaks and higher productivity levels. In addition, better desk equipment like updated laptops or computer models, high-quality microphones, and noise-cancelling headphones can improve communication among both employees and employers.
With continuous screen time brought about by the hybrid work setup, employees need to take care of their eyes more than ever. Eye strain and other vision problems can negatively affect productivity and even cause increased absenteeism. This is why vision insurance is a crucial aspect of hybrid work benefits, and why it is in the employer’s best interest to not only offer but also teach their employees how to use vision insurance. Employees can easily cash in these insurance packages for comprehensive eye exams, prescription lenses, and other vision-related expenses, or they can claim back the costs through direct or manual billings. This is easily accessible as some of these insurance processes can be done online through eyewear websites.
While specific wellness programs on their own can be a good employee benefit, these programs assume a one-size-fits-all approach. A company-chosen program may or may not be a good fit for an employee in a hybrid setup, which is why it would be good to amend this type of benefit by converting it into a wellness budget. This allows for flexibility and customization in wellness offerings. Like many other benefits, this can be done through reimbursement for eligible services such as gyms, spas, and various other wellness offerings. This approach can greatly reduce costs associated with traditional in-person wellness programs, and can even accommodate virtual wellness programs for employees who wish to avail of the benefits from the comfort of their own homes.
By allowing employees to set their own schedules, especially during remote working days, companies can help reduce their stress and promote work-life balance. Working during hours that suit personal needs and preferences can greatly increase productivity as employees are able to work during the time of the day when they are most awake and alert. Flexible schedules will also enable employees to accommodate other commitments, from prioritizing their mental health to spending time with their families, and many other personal endeavours. All things considered, flexible schedules are a low-cost benefit that can bring about high employee satisfaction. In addition, this benefit will help employers attract and retain top talent, especially those with caregiving responsibilities.
These are only a few benefit ideas that can help your employees and strengthen your company’s relationship with them. For more ideas and other related information on employee engagement and company culture, make sure to check our website!
How badges boost your employee recognition program
Badges can be a creative and effective way to enhance employee recognition programs, making them more fun, engaging, and visually appealing. Badges serve as symbolic representations of achievements, behaviors, or skills that employees have demonstrated. Here's how badges can be used to make employee recognition more enjoyable and engaging:
- Visual Appeal and Gamification: Badges add an element of gamification to recognition programs. Employees can earn badges for completing tasks, achieving milestones, or embodying company values. The visual nature of badges creates a sense of accomplishment and excitement, similar to earning achievements in video games.
- Core Values: Badges can be used to represent the core values of your organization. In fact, recognizing employees who demonstrate core values is a great way of strengthening organizational culture while putting them at the forefront of the employee experience.
- Varied Recognition Levels: Different types of badges can be designed to represent various levels of achievement. For instance, a company could have bronze, silver, and gold badges to recognize different tiers of performance. This tiered system encourages employees to strive for higher levels of recognition.
- Collectible and Customizable: Like collecting virtual rewards in games, employees can collect and display badges as part of their professional profiles. This customization allows employees to showcase their unique accomplishments and contributions, boosting their sense of pride.
- Competition and Collaboration: Badges can foster healthy competition among employees, driving them to achieve more and earn recognition. Additionally, badges can be used to encourage collaboration by awarding badges for teamwork, mentoring, or knowledge-sharing.
- Instant Gratification: Badges offer immediate gratification, as employees receive recognition in real-time when they achieve specific goals. This instant feedback reinforces positive behaviors and motivates employees to continue excelling.
- Peer-to-Peer Recognition: Employees can nominate each other for badges, promoting a culture of peer-to-peer recognition. This democratic approach increases engagement and helps build stronger relationships within teams.
- Event-Based Badges: Special badges can be created for events, holidays, or themed months. For example, a "Customer Service Superstar" badge could be awarded during Customer Service Week. This adds an element of surprise and excitement to recognition efforts.
- Skill Development: Badges can be tied to skill development and training achievements. As employees complete training modules or acquire new certifications, they earn badges that demonstrate their professional growth.
- Storytelling and Branding: Each badge can have a story or description attached to it, explaining why it was awarded and what it represents. This helps reinforce company values and culture while creating a narrative around each recognition.
- Social Recognition: Badges can be shared on internal social platforms or company-wide communication channels. This encourages employees to celebrate their achievements and showcase their badges, contributing to a positive, collaborative atmosphere.
- Long-Term Engagement: Badges contribute to the longevity of recognition efforts by providing a tangible and visual record of an employee's journey within the organization. Over time, the collection of badges serves as a proud testament to an employee's contributions.
When using badges for employee recognition, it's important to ensure that the criteria for earning badges are clear and aligned with the company's values and goals. Regularly updating badge offerings and keeping the recognition program fresh can help sustain interest and engagement among employees.
How to Encourage Lifelong Learning in Employees
Career growth and upskilling are some of the most significant factors behind employee retention. The HR Reporter reveals that nine out of ten Canadian employees feel stagnant in their roles, leading to hesitations on whether they should stay at their current workplace or find another job. It isn’t for lack of trying, though, as almost half of the current workforce has expressed the desire to develop their professional skills. The problem is that many employees don’t know where to begin. As such, it’s up to an organization’s leaders to provide opportunities so employees can learn these new skills. This way, they’ll have a chance to grow professionally and become lifelong learners who are also more engaged in their work. Below, you’ll find some tips on how to accomplish this as a business leader.
Include learning as a performance goal
Employees must have work targets in order to succeed. It guides them on what is expected of them, essentially serving as motivation in the form of objectives to hit. Considering that workers would be focused on this, it would be highly beneficial to include a learning aspect in performance goals. In fact, a survey revealed that 88% of Canadian employees believe that goal setting impacts their job performance. Examples of accomplishments that fall under this category are a license or a certification from platforms like Coursera or Google, proving that they studied and learned how to do a specific skill. By incorporating these into their goals, employees would have something concrete to work towards, and it would also serve as a measure of their growth.
Provide access to learning resource platforms
Effective leaders invest in the development of their employees, most often in the form of seminars or digital tools, as outlined in our post "How To Stay Ahead of the Curve". Apart from the more common group programs, self-directed learning opportunities have also been proven successful as long as employees have the proper resources. One such platform that provides world-class learning materials is Studocu. Available online, it offers over 20 million educational resources from an active study community across the world. Signing up opens up a selection of higher-education course materials on a variety of topics at different skill levels. This allows employees to easily tailor the study materials to their needs. Employees can also benefit from a platform like Scribd, which hosts millions of eBooks, journals, and audiobooks. Giving your employees access to these avenues equips them with the tools that can help them learn at their own pace and personal style.
Create social learning opportunities
Although leaders play a huge part in the growth of employees, over 55% of Canadian workers report that they also learn a lot from their peers, as per a recent Canadec survey. This is the social learning theory in practice. Introduced by Canadian-born psychologist Albert Bandura, this theory states that people learn behaviors from interacting with and observing others. It’s highly useful in a workplace setting as employees will typically have a diverse pool of peers to learn from. With this, employees can be more competent and well-rounded as they gain insights by watching others work. Thus, it’s the role of a leader to provide avenues in which employees can engage with one another. On top of encouraging in-person breakout sessions, providing communication platforms such as GSuite and Slack can streamline communication efforts and give employees a tool to learn from their colleagues.
Recognize employee achievements
A report from Benefits Canada found that 57% of employees feel that meaningful professional recognition can increase the likelihood of them staying in a role. Similarly, feeling valued by bosses can increase engagement, which is critical for better productivity. That being said, in terms of encouraging lifelong learning, it can be worthwhile to acknowledge when an employee has finished a course or a training program. A service like Qarrot can help you reward employees who contribute to your company in various ways. For instance, you can track and appropriately incentivize an employee who finishes an upskilling course. With an employee recognition program, your employees can be further motivated to continue performing and learning for their roles.
As a leader, it’s important to prioritize the growth of your employees to get the best out of their performance. Follow the tips above to help them engage in lifelong learning. For more ways to strengthen workplace engagement, try Qarrot today.
Building a Solid Foundation: How to Create Core Values for Your Company
Core values are the guiding principles that define the identity, culture, and purpose of a company. They serve as a compass, directing employees' behaviors, decision-making processes, and interactions with stakeholders. Creating well-defined core values is crucial for aligning the organization, attracting like-minded talent, and fostering a positive work environment.
In this article, we will explore a step-by-step approach to help you create meaningful core values that resonate with your company's vision and mission.
Step 1: Define Your Company's Vision and Mission:
Before diving into core values, it's essential to have a clear understanding of your company's vision and mission. The vision represents the long-term aspirations and goals, while the mission outlines the purpose and how the company aims to achieve its vision. These elements provide a solid foundation for developing core values that support and reflect your company's overarching objectives.
Step 2: Identify Your Company's Beliefs and Principles:
Gather key stakeholders, such as founders, executives, and employees, to engage in a collaborative discussion about the beliefs and principles that define your organization. Ask thought-provoking questions like:
- What values do we hold dear as a company?
- What behaviors and characteristics do we want to encourage and embody?
- What principles guide our decision-making processes?
Encourage open and honest conversations to ensure diverse perspectives are considered. Aim for consensus and focus on selecting values that are authentic and relevant to your company's culture.
Step 3: Keep It Concise and Memorable:
While it's tempting to create an extensive list of core values, it's important to keep them concise and memorable. Three to five core values are generally sufficient to ensure clarity and ease of understanding for employees and stakeholders. Avoid generic or clichéd statements and strive for specificity and uniqueness that truly differentiate your company.
Step 4: Make Them Actionable:
Effective core values go beyond mere statements on a website or office walls. They should inspire and guide employees' actions on a daily basis. To make your core values actionable:
- Define observable behaviors associated with each value.
- Provide examples of how these behaviors manifest in various aspects of the organization.
- Integrate core values into performance evaluations, hiring processes, and employee recognition programs.
Step 5: Communicate and Reinforce:
Communicating core values consistently and regularly is crucial for their successful implementation. Use multiple channels, such as company meetings, newsletters, intranets, and training sessions, to reinforce the importance of core values and share stories that exemplify them in action. Leadership must lead by example, embodying the core values and integrating them into their own decision-making and communication.
Step 6: Integrate Core Values into Processes:
To truly embed core values into your company culture, integrate them into various aspects of your organization. Incorporate them into recruitment and onboarding processes, performance evaluations, employee recognition programs, and internal communications. Reinforce the values through storytelling, sharing success stories that exemplify the values in action.
Step 7: Embrace Consistency and Accountability:
Consistency is key to fostering a strong culture based on core values. Leaders and managers must consistently model the values in their behavior and decision-making. Encourage open discussions about the core values and provide regular opportunities for feedback and reflection. Hold employees accountable for upholding the values and address any behaviors that are not aligned with them.
Creating core values for your company is a deliberate and collaborative process that sets the foundation for your organization's culture. By aligning core values with your vision, involving employees, and ensuring that the values are actionable and integrated into various processes, you can create a shared sense of purpose and guide your company towards success. Embrace the power of core values as a driving force that shapes behaviors, decision-making, and the overall identity of your organization.
Reinforce your company culture with a value-based peer recognition program - book a demo with Qarrot!
Inclusive Communication in the Workplace: Why it Matters and How to Achieve It
Inclusive communication is a language style that actively acknowledges individuals for who they are and demonstrates respect for people from various backgrounds. It ensures everyone's perspectives are respected and that each employee has access to equal opportunities.
Inclusive communication employs neutral, non-discriminatory, and unbiased language and communication techniques to develop a friendly, polite, and egalitarian environment where people feel appreciated and heard, regardless of their differences.
What is inclusive communication in the workplace?
Inclusive communication creates a work environment that feels supportive and genuine. This type of communication helps employees feel at home at their place of work. Companies that prioritize a culture of inclusive communication have a greater chance of success, often surpassing their competition in crucial areas like hiring, employee engagement, employee satisfaction, and business growth.
Communicating inclusively goes hand in hand with diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. The more leadership commits to DEI initiatives, the stronger the culture of inclusive communication will become.
At the root, inclusive communication is about promoting an atmosphere of respect at work and fostering open communication where employee differences are honored and respected. Workshops on topics like unconscious bias and the harmful impact of prejudice and stereotyping can cut off hurtful communication habits at the source.
Other components that create an intentional culture of inclusion include routinely evaluating and eliminating barriers to inclusivity and actively working to promote a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Businesses prioritizing inclusivity position themselves for long-term success and have happier, more engaged employees.
A variety of inclusive communication modes exist in the workplace, including:
- Non-verbal: Body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice all significantly impact fostering an inclusive work environment.
- Verbal: Potentially the most prevalent method of communication at work.
- Written: All written communication, including emails, memos, and company reports.
“Isms” that undermine inclusive communication
Communication cannot be inclusive if the work culture allows prejudiced language or hate speech. Here are four common “isms” that actively prevent inclusivity:
- Sexism: Sexist language that degrades or stereotypes an employee based on their gender.
- Ageism: Terminology that singles someone out due to their age.
- Racism: Racially charged language that is insulting or stereotyping.
- Ableism: Stereotypes or insults someone due to their differing abilities.
Why is inclusive communication important?
Organizations can build an inclusive, respectful, and equitable workplace culture for all employees by promoting inclusive communication awareness and education.
Creating a culture of inclusive communication shows the company’s effort to utilize language that contributes to a more equitable world while condemning the misrepresentation and institutional discrimination that plague our workplaces to this day.
Inclusive communication breeds a culture of acceptance and opportunity for all. This triggers a domino effect that can improve productivity, employee engagement, and even customer satisfaction.
Multiple factors make inclusive communication in the workplace necessary:
- Respect: All people should be treated with respect, regardless of gender, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or ability, as demonstrated by inclusive communication. It produces a friendly and encouraging work environment.
- Diversity: Inclusive language shows a company values diversity within the workforce.
- Legal obligation: Companies are required to provide a work environment free from harassment and discrimination. Inclusive communication is a crucial part of cultivating an equitable company culture.
- Communication: Everyone can better comprehend one another and collaborate more successfully when speech is free from bias.
- Reputation: Businesses that prioritize inclusive language are more reputable in the eyes of potential employees, investors, and customers.
- Employee engagement: When employees feel valued, metrics like engagement, morale, and productivity improve.
How to communicate with inclusivity in 2023
Here are some actionable ways to make workplace communication more inclusive this year:
Replace stereotypical and culturally insensitive language with inclusive alternatives
Many expressions commonly used in the workplace are exclusive in nature. Encourage employees to consider what language they use that, while not overtly offensive, does not reflect everyone in the office. People often use slurs without even realizing it.
Even the most seemingly innocuous words can be rooted in discriminatory language. For example, the word “dumb” is commonly used to reflect someone who isn’t intelligent but is actually defined as someone who cannot communicate verbally. And while commonly used to say someone behaves erratically, the term “spastic” actually references the muscle tightness and contractions resulting from cerebral palsy and/or multiple sclerosis.
Commonly used idioms like “blind leading the blind” and “falling on deaf ears” are also exclusive in nature.
Understand employee identities
People's identities are primarily shaped by their race and ethnicity, meaning misidentification can be damaging and invalidating.
Make an effort to understand and learn whatever race, ethnicity, or national origin employees identify to avoid making assumptions and lumping everyone into one racial group, such as Asian or African. Encourage employees to communicate openly about the language they do not perceive as inclusive.
Communicate openly about language preferences
Ableist language can indirectly define a person by their disability status and propagate harmful stereotypes.
This is incredibly dangerous, considering the discrepancy between employment rates for people with and without disabilities. In 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 21.3% of people with a disability were employed. That is less than a third of the employment percentage for those without a disability (65.4%).
Companies can actively combat ableist language by communicating openly about what language employees with disabilities prefer. Some people prefer person-first language like “person with a disability”, while others prefer identify-first language like “disabled person”. Genuine inclusivity means recognizing that not every person perceives language the same way and prioritizes respecting each and every employee’s definition of what is and isn’t inclusive of their identities.
How to drive inclusive communication rewards and recognition software
Building a culture of inclusivity in the workplace is no small feat, but injecting inclusive language into rewards and recognition programs is a good place to start. You can make your organization a hub for inclusive collaboration by standardizing the process of rewarding and recognizing employees.
Qarrot empowers employees to nominate each other, all while providing managers with advanced insights that weed out any potential biases. Interested in learning more? Book a demo to see Qarrot in action!
The Case for Employee Engagement
Gallup estimates that low engagement costs the global economy US$7.8 trillion and accounts for 11% of GDP globally. Gallup’s analysis of 112, 312 business units in 96 countries found a strong link between engagement and performance outcomes, such as retention, productivity, safety and profitability.
In its Global State of the Workplace: 2022 Report, Gallup makes a compelling case for employee engagement. In fact, the research firm goes so far as to describe employee wellbeing as the new “workplace imperative”.
Whereas many organizations today measure ESG - their commitment to improve environmental, social, and governance metrics - the report asks if these same organizations know whether their employees feel respected or cared about. It’s a compelling question and one that is very much on the minds of human capital professionals as they struggle with the effects of poor employee engagement.
And while the global level of employee engagement was trending more highly until 2019, the pandemic brought about a significant increase in negative emotions felt by workers everywhere. In its report, Gallup reports how workers respond to questions about emotions like stress, worry, and anger to name a few. For example, 44% of workers reported feeling stress “a lot of the day” at work yesterday. Not only are the levels of negative emotions higher since the pandemic compared to previous years, but Gallup found these figures are 46% to 83% higher than for engaged employees
Globally, only 21% of workers are engaged at work. While marginally higher than in 2020, this level should cause employers who aren’t already focused on this issue to seriously reconsider their priorities. Poor engagement costs companies lost revenues, reduces worker productivity, increases involuntary staff turnover, worsens safety, and lowers customer satisfaction.. In fact, Gallup estimates that the aggregate cost to the US economy is $7.8 trillion dollars per year - the equivalent of 11% of GDP.
That is a shocking figure.
Put in simpler terms, the report states that business units with engaged workers have a 23% higher profitability than those with miserable ones.
Given the causal relationship of employee engagement on commercial outcomes, Gallup goes on to recommend that executive dashboards include wellbeing metrics in addition to the ESG, financial, commercial, and operational ones already in place. They also propose that wellbeing be part of organizations’ brand promise.
This recommendation isn’t entirely new, however. The business of measuring and tracking employee engagement is now well-established with tools like pulse surveys that aim to regularly gauge workforce sentiment. More sophisticated survey tools go so far as to enable their client organizations to ask specific questions and allow for anonymous comments so that staff can provide feedback about their work environment and manager without the fear of reprisal.
And while wellbeing metrics may not yet feature as prominently as commercial and operational ones in company dashboards, there is a growing body of evidence that leaders are paying attention. The sheer growth of employee engagement practices, tools, and solution vendors is proof of this.
But what should organizations do once they uncover poor engagement amongst their ranks?
The Gallup report isn’t prescriptive. But from the larger body of research done by the firm, it does mention the strong correlation between the caliber of their people leaders and the engagement levels of their employees.
Likewise, it outlines the most common causes for burnout, which not surprisingly also have much to do with people leaders. For example, themes such as “unfair treatment at work”, an “unmanageable workload”, “unclear communication from managers”, and a ‘lack of manager support” are amongst the top reasons cited by employees who experience burnout.
In that regard, the report does emphasize the importance of people leaders and managers as being at the core of a thriving workplace. And it proposes that successful managers are skilled at being coaches, listeners, and collaborators, amongst their other trademark roles and responsibilities.
This is a compelling vision for the next generation of people leaders and managers, who will find themselves responsible for an increasingly hybrid workforce. One which will be more geographically diverse in many cases as well.
In this regard, we believe it important to consider the tools that people leaders and managers will require to be better in the areas that Gallup identifies - whether or not staff are working in the same office location, at a coworking space in another city, or their living room halfway across the world.
And while team messaging, collaboration, and video conferencing tools have become commonplace in most organizations, they often lack some of the components that leaders and managers need to foster a strong organizational culture and the feeling - as an employee - of being appreciated.
This is where recognition programs can be of help.
Recognition programs provide the ability for managers and, often regular employees, to easily express their appreciation for a job well done. Programs of this kind also often emphasize the organization’s core values and put them at the center of the recognition process.
The mere act of recognizing a direct report or a coworker can have a significant impact on their sense of feeling appreciated and respected within their work environment. Moreover, programs can target other critical and highly desired behaviors, such as collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and teamwork.
And like many of the tools that are now commonly used by geographically distributed teams, recognition programs like Qarrot are available as web and mobile applications so that workers can send and receive kudos regardless of their location or proximity to their coworkers.
To learn more about how Qarrot can help your organization improve employee engagement, click here.
What defines a good employee experience in a hybrid/remote work environment?
In early spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we knew it. Schools shut down, toilet paper disappeared, and thousands of employees suddenly found themselves working from the kitchen table. As many of these impromptu remote workers and their employers soon found out, however, not all work-from-home environments are created equal. Remote work sounds like a cushy gig, but it takes the right combination of factors to make virtual employment beneficial for both parties.
If you’re thinking about hybrid or fully remote work for your staff, take note of the qualities that make for a productive, morale-boosting virtual work environment.
1. Flexibility is a cornerstone.
Not everyone wants to work from home all the time, and some don’t want to work from home at all. Rather than dealing in absolutes, giving your employees a choice empowers them to make the decision that suits their needs and preferences.
This may or may not be possible, depending on your industry. Teachers, for example, can’t easily switch back and forth between the classroom and the home office. But accountants, attorneys, and even therapists can perform at least some of their duties without physically coming to work.
Consider how flexible you can be in extending remote work options to your staff. When you can, let your employees choose if and when to take advantage of the opportunity to work virtually.
2. Expectations are clearly defined.
Employees are more likely to perform at their best when they know what’s expected of them, especially when the work environment changes or when they don’t have managers or supervisors nearby for direct guidance.
If you opt for a hybrid environment, where employees are sometimes in the office and sometimes at home, your staff needs to know what days they can work remotely, when they’ll be required to show up in person, and what protocols to follow when they choose to stay home.
Even for a fully remote setup, make your parameters crystal clear. Do employees still need to report at a certain time? If so, how will they let you know that they’re “clocked in” from home? How will you ensure that they’re taking legally required breaks but not taking advantage of minimal oversight?
Figure out what a successful hybrid or virtual work situation looks like from your company’s and stakeholders’ perspectives. Then, develop easy-to-follow guidelines for your employees.
Make sure your expectations are fair, however. One of the great appeals of remote work is its freedom, so avoid micromanaging unnecessarily. Requiring staff to dress professionally for Zoom meetings is reasonable, but telling them not to wear pajamas while they send emails is a bit much.
3. Employers help with the logistics.
Especially if your company has only recently shifted to remote work, your employees might not be totally prepared. Believe it or not, not everyone has a computer or WiFi at home, nor does everyone have a distraction-free workspace outside the office.
Get ahead of these issues by directly asking employees if their homes are prepared for remote work, and take inventory of how you’d be able to help them get there. Can your company afford to give out remote work stipends? Is there any tech you can invest in, like wireless headsets or laptops?
It’s important, too, to be aware that W2 employees can’t deduct any work-from-home expenses on their taxes. If they have to pay for equipment, furniture, software, or extra utilities in order to perform the job they do for you, you’re the only one who can reimburse them for those costs. Take care of your staff–particularly if working remotely is a requirement–and they’ll take care of you in the form of company loyalty and heightened productivity.
4. Support is extended proactively.
Aside from stipends or reimbursements, remote employees need to know that the same resources they had in the office are still available from home. Don’t assume that no news is good news in a hybrid or remote work environment–your staff might be struggling but not be comfortable enough to tell you.
Periodically reach out to and check in with your employees. Let them know how they can access human resources, supervisors, upper leadership, and tech support. Ask how they’re doing and what would make the remote work experience better overall.
This is also a great way to keep tabs on if remote work is worth offering long term. If your employees adjust well and maintain or exceed their in-office performance, you will have successfully modernized your company’s work model.
5. Patience is a company pillar.
The transition to remote work, even in the best of situations, will inevitably come with hiccups. It also comes with an understanding that the lines between your employees’ personal and professional lives blur somewhat. Their Internet may go down from time to time, or the occasional toddler may waddle past the camera during an important Zoom meeting.
These things are bound to happen–even to you–so you may as well take them in stride. Your employees will appreciate your recognition of the fact that they are indeed human, and they’ll be grateful to see you acknowledge your own humanity, too.
This doesn’t mean that expectations for decorum and responsibility go to the wayside; it simply means that you intentionally cultivate a company culture that acknowledges the reality of a hybrid or virtual work environment.
By resisting the urge to wield discipline where you can use humor or compassion instead, you’ll improve the remote work experience for both you and your staff. By viewing these moments as opportunities to build connections, you’ll strengthen rapport, learn more about your employees, and make an unforgettable (and inexpensive) investment in your #1 resource: human capital.
Some companies have used a hybrid or fully virtual work model for the last two years, while others are just now making the switch. Either way, it’s become abundantly clear that remote work is here to stay.
Implementing virtual work options is a learning process, though, for leadership and staff alike. Don’t be afraid to innovate and adjust as you go. As long as you remain patient and flexible, you’ll ensure a good experience and healthy environment for employees working remotely.
How To Empower Employees To Take Charge of Their Personal Development
When you hear "personal and career development," you may feel a flash of dread. As a leader or manager, you know the importance of employee development. Time over time, statistics and studies show a lack of development is a leading cause of employee turnover.
Here are a few examples:
- Pew Research found that 63% of respondents who left jobs in 2021 gave the lack of advancement opportunities as the reason for leaving.
- According to a 2022 McKinsey study, insufficient career advancement was the most common reason for quitting a job.
- According to a 2022 SHRM report, 61% of respondents cited lack of career development and advancement as a top three cause of turnover, while 21% said it was the number one reason.
Despite the glaring statistics, for many managers, it seems impossible to prioritize. You know it's your responsibility. And, of course, you want to help employees grow their skills and careers. But your to-do list is overflowing with a million other tasks that are arguably more urgent.
Ideally, your employees would take an active role in their professional development. They would come to you with questions, sharing with you their goals and professional aspirations.
The reality is employee development should be a two-way street. Managers shouldn't bear all the responsibility. You can empower your employees to advocate for their professional development and growth.
In this article, we'll cover actionable strategies on how to empower employees to take charge of their own professional development. As a result, your employees will be given the tools and road map to take charge of their own careers. As a manager, your role will be more of a helpful guide rather than the primary driving force.
What is Employee Empowerment?
Would you rather have to micromanage your employees to get even the smallest of tasks completed? Or would you rather have them be self-motivated and independent? Of course, most managers would choose the second. Self-motivated employees mean less work for you as a leader.
Despite this, many leaders end up doing the opposite. The idea of giving employees more freedom can trigger a leader's biggest fears. In short, people taking advantage of company time and not delivering results. Many try to avoid this by doubling down on the opposite of autonomy. Control.
Like many things in human psychology, the answer lies in a counterintuitive approach. When leaders offer employees freedom and autonomy, they are motivated and perform better.
In an HBR article titled When Empowering Employees Works, and When It Doesn't, researchers explain what it means to empower employees. They state, "leaders who were perceived as more empowering were more likely to delegate authority to their employees, ask for their input, and encourage autonomous decision-making."
In essence, empowering employees is about providing a baseline level of guidance, support, and structure. But also give employees the opportunity to test their ideas and innovate within those set parameters.
In other words, it's not about letting employees run wild and free. But giving them a basic structure and letting them experiment within it. According to the researchers, this management style leads to employees who "are more likely to be powerful, confident individuals, who are committed to meaningful goals and demonstrate initiative and creativity to achieve them."
How does all this apply to employee development? Managers often act as the driving force of employee development. This places an undue burden on managers on top of all their other duties.
In reality, employee development has a greater chance of thriving when employees are empowered to advance their development.
With a few strategies, managers can enable employees to take the lead in their own careers. Managers are still responsible for high-level direction, support, and approval. But employees will be in charge of steering their own ship.
How To Empower Employees To Take Charge of Their Development
1. Understand employee needs from the start
Often, development talks begin before an employee starts their new job. If they didn’t occur in the interview, a great time to start is during the onboarding process.
By setting the tone from the start, you can show your employees that their development matters to you, and you can guide them through building a learning path to help them succeed in their roles (and beyond).
Here are a few questions to start these conversations:
- What are your long-term professional and career ambitions?
- What do you hope to achieve in this role?
- What skills do you hope to acquire or improve?
- Are you looking to grow your career quickly (i.e. take on management responsibilities) or deepen your knowledge as an individual contributor?
If you use skills assessments in your recruiting process, you can use those insights to identify skill gaps and areas for improvement.
Empowering employees to tackle self-development from the start of their time at your organization will show them they are in control of their future. This perspective shift can help them view their new role as a growth opportunity instead of feeling like they are a slave to your bottom line. The more in control of their future they feel, the more likely they will want to continue their journey at your company.
2. Embed it into your culture with a dedicated meeting
Work is busy. Our to-do lists are constantly growing with new and shifting priorities. By its very nature, “employee career development” is a forward-looking process. When you’re so busy thinking about the here and now, planning for the future can quickly fall by the wayside.
This is why it's crucial to carve out dedicated time for development discussions. Be realistic. Don’t set these meetings at a frequency that seems unattainable. That will only lead to cancelled meetings, and nothing kills employee morale like cancelling a meeting they were looking forward to. Start small, test out how employees respond, and adjust accordingly from there.
For example, you can start by booking a meeting every 6-month with each employee. By proactively bringing up this topic and dedicating time to it, you will demonstrate to employees that you are serious about their professional development. In turn, they will be more likely to be proactive on their side, come prepared for the meetings, and be an advocate for their own development.
3. Set clear goals and expectations
Getting a recurring meeting set up is a good start. But it’s not enough for employees to feel empowered to take charge of their professional development. They still have to consider important questions like:
- What long-term goals are you working towards?
- What type of projects are you enjoying or not enjoying?
- What skills do you want to improve?
Remember: Empowering employees isn’t about letting them run wild and free. Employees still need some high-level direction. This is especially true when they are more junior or at the start of their careers. In other words, clearly defining expectations and setting goals is crucial to ensuring employees start on the right foot.
For example, as part of your discussion for each meeting, you can establish one “career and professional development” objective to achieve.
This can take many forms, for example, working on a self-directed project, shadowing with another department, or taking an online course.
With open communication and asking the right questions, you can help employees develop a high-level objective to work towards. Establishing clear goals and objectives is the foundation of employee empowerment. The idea is to help employees with a general direction to work towards; how they get there is up to them.
4. Provide access to resources for development
A great way to empower employees to pursue their development is to set aside a budget for learning and development.
- Online courses
- Webinars, training programs, workshops, etc.
- Magazines, publications, books, etc.
- Conferences, events, etc.
Of course, some materials and resources aren't free. But many others these days are free or highly affordable. You can consider carving out a monthly "learning budget" where employees are reimbursed for any learning materials and resources above. Even a small budget can go a long way for online courses and learning materials.
As a way of motivating employees to take part in additional learning and development, you can create a channel in your local work chat where employees share any additional learning programs that they are undertaking, whether it be attending a webinar or completing an online course.
You can even make it a group challenge to get the ball rolling. For example, find an online course that appeals to your entire team and make it a quarterly challenge to complete the course. You can even incentivize and reward those who follow through with their final goal.
Providing access to these learning opportunities and materials will help establish a culture of learning and development among your team. Employees will feel their career development is being prioritized, empowering them to take action.
5. Help them identify their strengths (and weaknesses!)
As a manager, you know that no two employees are created alike. Some employees are amazing self-starters and need very little prompting. Others, however, seem impossible to convince to go beyond the minimum.
In the book Radical Candor, Kim Scott, author and management expert, proposes a model to help managers evaluate their employees' performance and guide them into roles which will allow them to perform at their best.
In other words, Scott truly believes that everyone can be an A-player employee. If they perform at average or mediocre levels, what she calls “B player employees,” it reflects a bad job fit. A manager's job is to steer employees out of this limbo. A new position may even be necessary.
The first step to empower employees is to help them identify their strengths, highlight what they are good at, and where their potential lies. But the other side of the coin is important, too; challenging employees by letting them know where their work is falling short or where their weaknesses lie.
Of course, it’s difficult to have these conversations. But challenging people shows that you care enough to point out when things aren't going well. And Scott believes the “discomfort is better than being labelled permanently “B Players.” Ultimately, it will benefit both parties (and even the entire organization) when employees' strengths are developed and utilized.
6. Help facilitate connections
As a manager or leader, you may have exposure or access to other leaders or departments that your employees may not have contact with. These connections can be a powerful way to promote their development and learning.
For example, during an employee's tenure, they might realize they want to develop skills they aren't using in their current role. They may also express an interest in learning more about another department or team.
This curiosity doesn't mean you must transfer a valuable employee to another team. You can, however, arrange an introduction and offer shadowing or mentorship opportunities. The goal is to empower employees to explore different areas of interest.
Ultimately, what’s better for the organization's bottom line? Having an employee unhappy and struggling in their current role. Or have the employee be more productive and feel empowered in a role that’s a better fit for their skills and talents.
In the end, allowing your team to explore other options and grow their skills will give them a sense of purpose in their work. More importantly, they will feel the company and leaders truly care about their long-term growth and happiness, which is the best strategy for employee empowerment.
7. Recognize & reward development efforts
Employee recognition is underutilized as an employee motivation and empowerment tool. It costs zero dollars to give recognition. By letting employees know what you value with positive reinforcement, you can boost their motivation.
In the context of professional development, giving employees recognition for completing an online course, meeting training requirements, or taking on a stretch assignment can be a powerful way to motivate employees to continue down this path.
Moreover, it can set the bar for the rest of the team. Using a recognition tool like Qarrot, you can easily post a recognition to a public social feed for everyone to see. When you give recognition for a specific achievement or embodying a certain value, it signals to the team what is important to you. As a result, this provides employees with the incentive to meet this standard as well.
Remember, the best type of recognition is specific and timely. Don’t wait too long until the goal is complete to offer recognition, and try to avoid vague or high-level “good jobs.” Shine a light on the precise accomplishment the employee completed and its impact on you and the team.
This type of detailed recognition is most likely to fuel a growth mindset among your employees and team. As a result, your team will be more motivated to continue to embrace challenges, seek learning opportunities, and invest in their development.
Being a manager involves more than guiding your employees through their daily tasks. It's about helping them become the best versions of themselves and giving them the tools to grow in the company.
But this duty doesn't have to fall on the shoulders of leaders. Employees should be responsible for being proactive about their development as well. First, leaders must provide some basic guidance and support—empowering employees with a roadmap to growth and success.
When employees are inspired to take control of their own development, it's not just good for them—it's good for the whole company. Setting clear goals and expectations, identifying employee strengths, and providing access to learning resources are critical steps toward empowerment.
As employees invest in their development, the positive effects spread throughout the organization. This leads to happier employees, better work, and a team capable of handling challenges. Ultimately, when organizations commit to helping employees shape their careers, it's a win-win.
How to survive the great resignation
Like a newsworthy political scandal, The Great Resignation is emerging as one of the most discussed labor trends of 2021. But what is it exactly? And how does it concern employers of different stripes?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record number of Americans quit their jobs in April 2021. However, this was just the beginning. In July over 4 million Americans left their jobs, setting yet another all-time high. And then both August and September set further records.
The common perception was that remote work - with its more flexible hours, non-existent commute times, and family meals - was leading workers to quit their jobs in favor of a lifestyle with greater passion and purpose. According to Forbes, surveys made headlines declaring that 40% of workers planned to quit their jobs - and soon. And when 4.3 million Americans left their jobs in August, this grim forecast seemed to be coming true.
Despite these all-time records, the figures are much less scary (from an employer’s perspective) than at first glance. The number of workers quitting their jobs represents something closer to 3% of the total workforce. A far cry from the 40% announced earlier this year. That said, the U.S. has over 10 million open jobs. So while some perspective helps to calm nerves, the pressure is real for certain industries.
The Great Retirement?
Moreover, the reasons why more people have been leaving their jobs seems less problematic (in some sense) than the theories being bandied about earlier this year.
Fully two-thirds of the departures were not due to workers “quitting” per se. According to new research from Goldman Sachs, they were retiring. However, here the picture gets interesting. Of those workers retiring, about 1 million were “normal”. The balance - about 1.5 million workers - were taking an early retirement.
Given the generally permanent nature of retirement, the majority of workers leaving the labor force likely won’t return. As Goldman notes, retiring "tends to be stickier" than other reasons someone might leave the labor force. Because of that, "we therefore expect that the participation shortfall from early retirees will unwind relatively slowly through fewer new retirements going forward."
While some portion of older workers may return to the workforce once they feel conditions are safer for them to do so, most economists are expecting effects of the “Great Retirement” to be felt for a while, leaving a tight labor market across the U.S.
Strategies for Retaining Older Workers
While the recent trends may have brought early retirements into focus as a strain on the labor market, many companies already employ strategies to retain their older workers for longer.
As noted by Forbes, the first step to retaining older workers is to count them. Until your company has a firm grasp of its workforce demographics, it’s difficult to assess the impact of future employee retirements.
With an understanding of the age distribution of your workers, you can develop programs to keep them engaged and actively working.
For example, training programs that are ‘inclusive’ of older workers such as the Talent is Ageless initiative at CVS are a great way of developing older workers, while signalling their importance within your employee base.
Signalling this importance is also quite important as most Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs expressly overlook this segment of the workforce and, so, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many older workers are opting for an early retirement when work conditions aren’t ideal.
A further way of combating early retirements is to meet your older workers half-way, by letting them have more flexible work hours. This greater flexibility is ideal for both employee and employer alike as, in many cases, companies can retain the experience and knowledge of their older workers longer, while employees who would have otherwise had to abruptly adjust to retired life can follow more of a gradual transition.
Under this structure, it’s important to ensure your culture supports more flexible hours and doesn’t discriminate against those who take this option. A great example is the U-Work program offered by Unilever. The program effectively offers workers a contract and not a job, whereby they receive a minimum monthly retainer and health benefits. On top of this, workers earn additional amounts for the projects they participate in.
Although The Great Resignation affects industries and companies differently, it is undoubtedly a wise strategy to assess the age distribution of your workforce. As those workers who are 50 and over are increasingly likely to take an early retirement. But as demonstrated above, it’s never too late to employ programs that engage, develop, and retain your workers regardless of how old they are.