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.
Redefining productivity by prioritizing outcomes over output
How do you define productivity? Do you look at the hours worked, the effort expended, and the exhaustion incurred? Or do you look at results? If you’re in the first camp, you might be measuring productivity all wrong.
Prioritizing output has long been the traditional way of gauging employee productivity. But think about it this way: is the most effective person on your team the one who takes eight hours to complete a project…or the one who can bring about the same or superior results in half the time?
Don’t despair if you’re late to the “outcomes over output” party–but keep reading for a way of assessing employee effectiveness that’ll change your company for the better.
Burnout culture is on its way out
We’ve all been in careers where we felt a certain pressure to appear dog-tired from all the work we put in.
Late nights and early mornings were glorified, and coming in on our days off was a badge of honor. These were habits we adopted to show our bosses that we’d work ourselves to the bone to hit company goals. We were expected to be grateful for the opportunity to wear ourselves down in exchange for a paycheck.
But there’s a major cultural shift taking place, one that places employee wellness and satisfaction above burnout.
A record number of American workers left their jobs in November 2021–4.5 million, to be exact. These employees weren’t leaving the workforce; they were breaking up with their employers. And with 11.3 million positions waiting to be filled across the U.S., the unhappy and overworked have plenty of options at their disposal.
Long gone are the days when employees had to take whatever job they could find. And companies who want to minimize turnover and avoid staffing shortages would be wise to change how they gauge productivity.
A new take on an old concept
When we talk about prioritizing outcomes over output, we mean shifting the focus away from individual behaviors and onto specific results. In other words, as long as the job gets done and gets done well, your employees have fulfilled their obligations.
To put this into perspective, consider your own company work model, and ask yourself which components are necessary and which aren’t.
Do your employees really need to report at 9:00 am on the dot and remain glued to their computers for five hours before their first break? Or does that rule exist because that’s how it’s always been done? If an employee knocks out all of the day’s tasks by lunchtime, why are they beholden to run up the clock all afternoon?
The purpose of growing your team is to see improved results, whether it be to increase revenue, secure new clients, or expand your audience. None of these things requires a workaholic mindset to come to fruition, yet all of them can still be achieved when you move away from output-oriented culture.
How this shift in priorities helps your bottom line
Transforming your company in this way requires effort, and it won’t be easy to get everyone on board. You may even have doubts yourself. But when you consider the far-reaching benefits, both in the short and long terms, it’s hard to argue against redefining how you measure productivity.
Reduced sick days
Absenteeism is the bane of any employer’s existence. Employees calling in sick, using PTO at inconvenient times, or not showing up at all can throw a major wrench in your operations.
If your staff has more control over when and how work gets completed, however, they won’t need to request time off nearly as much. Not only does this ensure that high-priority tasks are tended to on time, but it also means less revenue lost to employee absence.
Lower turnover rates
People stay where they’re happy, plain and simple. An employee with zero downtime, poor work-life balance, and a sense that the big bosses are always breathing down their neck is more likely to jump ship than the employee whose time and autonomy are honored.
We’re seeing this exact dynamic play out across the labor market, with workers ditching low-satisfaction jobs for positions that respect these employees’ inherent value. You want your company to be the one they’re running to, not from.
Counterintuitive though it may seem, prioritizing outcomes over output can actually boost productivity.
The reasoning behind this is almost too simple: when you measure productivity by results realized, you’re looking for efficiency. The most efficient employee, therefore, isn’t the one who takes all day to get back to a top client. It’s the one who calls the client and makes the sale right away. But if your staff knows they’ll be at work for eight hours no matter how well they manage their time, what incentive do they have to work harder?
By adjusting your focus, you also adjust how your employees approach their job functions as a whole, giving them a reason to get you those results faster.
How to change your productivity metrics
If you’re convinced that this culture shift is in your company’s best interest, you need to take concrete steps toward reconstructing how you measure productivity. Here are a few to get you started:
- Cut out busywork. Your employees should only perform work that’s directly linked to the company’s goals.
- Be clear about results. Your staff can’t hit a target they can’t see. Let your employees know exactly what results you expect to see from the work they do, and be as specific as possible. “Increase revenue” isn’t nearly as helpful as “increase sales by 10%.”
- Share timelines. It’s perfectly okay to give your employees deadlines, and in fact, it’s necessary. Setting a target date for when those aforementioned results should be achieved will only help your staff to manage their time appropriately and effectively.
- Loosen the reins. You’ve simplified job duties, communicated goals, and implemented timelines. Now, trust your team to get it done.
Defining productivity by outcomes over output may feel foreign, but it’s one of the best ways to maximize efficiency and improve employee satisfaction. Particularly in the age of remote work and employee empowerment, can you really afford not to make this shift?
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.
Employee Skills Assessments: Making the Most of Your Workforce
Ensuring employees possess the right skills is crucial. Enter employee skills assessment – a valuable tool empowering HR professionals to identify and assess the skills of future or current employees and ultimately leverage the talents within their workforce.
For HR professionals, this process is akin to having a personalized roadmap for employee development. It enables them to achieve some of the following objectives.
- Craft targeted training programs
- Create personalized learning paths
- Plan for the future by aligning employee skills with organizational goals
While traditionally, we have seen skills assessment tests happening during the recruitment and onboarding process, employers have realized their importance and have started conducting them periodically for their existing workforce. Having a robust assessment structure enables companies to make the most of their workforces. It also ensures that they have the requisite skills needed to perform their expected tasks.
In this article, we’ll explore why your companies could benefit from actively investing in employee skills assessment, highlighting the transformative impact it can have on individual careers and the collective success of the organization.
Benefits of Employee Skills Assessment
1. Reduce bias
In a popular Gallup survey of 7,500 full-time employees, they found the top reason for burnout being “unfair treatment at work.” Most employees complain of workplace politics acting as a bottleneck and hindering their proper growth. Undertaking a skills assessment test would help employees prove their abilities and mitigate the negative effects of favouritism and bias. This shift towards a merit-based approach ensures that talent is recognized and nurtured based on actual capabilities, not personal opinions. For HR leaders, this translates into a more accurate identification of high-potential employees. This becomes a powerful tool for HR leaders, fostering a culture of fairness and transparency and maximizing the full potential of their workforce.
2. Close the skill gap
According to a SHRM study, 75% of employers reported difficulty in hiring because they faced skill gaps in job candidates. As a result, companies often hire people who may not be the best fit for their position. When HR leaders actively undertake periodic monitoring of their development via skills assessment tests., they can better understand the skills gaps within their workforce and plan accordingly. In other words, HR can proactively bridge the divide between existing skills within their workforce and the evolving needs of the organization. This proactive stance is crucial for the organization's overall success. Addressing skill gaps ensures that the workforce remains adaptable and aligned with the company's objectives. It enhances employee performance, productivity, and job satisfaction while safeguarding against potential organizational shortcomings.
3. Creating personalized development plans
Creating personalized development plans is imperative in today's fast-changing world. Employees are frequently called upon to acquire new skills to adapt to technological and industry shifts. Consequently, hiring decisions increasingly hinge on a candidate's proactive approach to personal and professional growth, recognizing the ongoing need for evolution post-employment.
Incorporating a skills assessment tool into your workplace practices is instrumental in supporting employees with the desire to cultivate fresh skills. It serves as a proactive mechanism, identifying skill gaps and ensuring that employees receive targeted development opportunities. Moreover, the tool enables HR to craft individualized training plans, fostering an environment where employees feel valued, empowered, and equipped to take on their roles. This bolsters employee satisfaction and strengthens the organization's resilience in the face of evolving demands.
4. Boost Retention and Satisfaction
The adoption of these assessment tools signifies an organization's commitment to identifying and nurturing individual strengths. This acknowledgment not only empowers employees but also fosters a sense of value within the workforce. When employees perceive that their skills are not only acknowledged but actively developed, it contributes significantly to employee engagement and job satisfaction. The result is a workforce that feels not only competent in their roles but also valued and supported. This heightened job satisfaction translates into increased employee engagement and loyalty, making employee skills assessment a powerful tool for HR leaders seeking to create a workplace where talent not only thrives but remains committed for the long term.
Potential Drawbacks of Employee Skills Assessment
Using an employee skills assessment tool can benefit individual employees and the organization as a whole. However, this process is not without its limitations. This section will review some of the potential shortcomings of these types of evaluations, so you can be prepared to address and mitigate these potential problems if and when they arise.
1. Subjectivity in self-evaluation
When employees are asked to assess their own skills, the number one risk is faulty assessment. In other words, self-assessment leads to subjectivity, as people may overstate their abilities due to personal biases or a desire to appear favourable. This can result in inaccurate data. Self-assessment may fail to provide the objectivity needed for a comprehensive understanding of skills.
2. Inflated confidence
Similarly, when employees assess their own skills, there's a risk of inflated confidence. In these cases, employees rate themselves higher than their actual proficiency. This can misguide HR decisions, causing a disconnect between perceived and actual skills within the organization.
3. Challenge in identifying genuine gaps
Limited self-awareness may hinder the identification of genuine skill gaps. Without a clear understanding of weaknesses and areas of improvement in your workforce, targeted development efforts may fall short.
4. Low participation and response rates
As someone who works in HR, you know that getting everyone to participate is unlikely, especially in large organizations. Some employees may exhibit low participation rates or response rates for self-assessment, potentially resulting in incomplete or skewed data. This could present a barrier to obtaining a holistic view of the organization's skill landscape.
Reducing these challenges
To address these challenges, it's crucial to supplement self-assessment with external evaluations and feedback mechanisms. This approach ensures a more balanced and accurate representation of employee skills, laying a reliable foundation for strategic talent development and organizational growth.
Finding The Right Skills Assessment Tools
Using third-party tools
HR teams can efficiently conduct employee skills assessments by leveraging third-party tools and services, streamlining the process and obtaining valuable insights. Here are some examples:
LinkedIn Skill Assessments:
Description: LinkedIn offers skill assessments for various domains.
Benefits: HR can gauge candidates' proficiency directly on their professional profiles.
Description: SkillSurvey provides 360-degree feedback and skill assessments.
Benefits: Offers a comprehensive view of an employee's skills through peer and supervisor feedback.
Description: Vervoe offers skill testing and assessments for hiring and development.
Benefits: Helps HR evaluate both technical and soft skills through real-world simulations.
For HR teams on a budget, several cost-effective solutions ensure effective employee skills assessments:
Description: You can create custom skill assessment surveys from scratch using the tools available on Google Forms.
Benefits: Free and user-friendly, allowing HR to design tailored assessments.
Description: Talentsoft Hub offers a suite of HR solutions, including affordable skills assessment tools.
Benefits: Tailored for small to medium-sized businesses, providing a cost-effective solution.
Description: Test Gorilla offers a solution designed to assist employers in evaluating the skills and abilities of job candidates efficiently.
Benefits: Test Gorilla’s platform is cost-effective and available for even small teams, covering areas such as cognitive abilities, personality traits, technical skills, and job-specific competencies.
The pursuit of optimizing your workforce through skills assessments is not just a strategic move; it's a commitment to unlocking the potential of all employee.
However, like many endeavours in HR, there are challenges and roadblocks to be on the lookout for, like subjectivity in self-evolution and low participation rates. But these challenges can be mitigated with the right approaches.
By embracing skills assessments, HR professionals are committed to fair recognition and transparent talent development. This commitment goes beyond identifying strengths; it extends to crafting personalized development plans that enable employees to evolve alongside the ever-changing demands of their roles.
Ultimately, investing in employee skills assessment leads to a workplace where talents become aligned with organizational goals, and employees are empowered to reach their full potential.
5 strategies for successful goal setting
Goal setting is a fundamental step in the growth and development of every employee. From boosting employee productivity and morale to optimizing communication - successful goal setting is as beneficial as it is integral to any organization.
Although goal setting may be perceived as an unnecessary administrative burden, in reality, it’s an opportunity to further unlock team members’ potential. More often than not, employees appreciate the opportunity to discuss both near-term and longer-term professional goals with their manager. Goal setting is a chance to refocus your employees’ attention to where and how they should be prioritizing their time, laying the groundwork from them to achieve, and maybe even exceed those expectations.
As the saying goes, failure to plan is planning to fail. Here are 5 ways you can set your employees up for success, and keep them both motivated and engaged while working towards any goal.
Set goals with a definite timeline
What’s the difference between a dream and a goal? An end date. Whether you want to have a goal met by the end of the week or the end of the year, an end date makes the goal real and will motivate your employees to meet that deadline. When it comes to deciding on a completion date, make sure to also take possible conflicts or roadblocks into consideration. Try to find the right balance between a realistic timeframe that will keep your employees motivated, but also one that will not cause unnecessary stress. Whether you circle the date on your calendar, set an alarm on your phone, or follow a daily countdown - it’s time to grind!
Set goals that align with organizational values
Whenever one of your employees hits a goal, their achievement will contribute to the overall success of your team - so goals should always be planned within the scope of your organization's values and aspirations. When goal setting with your employees, circle back, and establish how that specific goal will benefit the overall team. Why is that particular goal important, and how will it contribute to future plans or next steps within the organization? Organizations will only evolve as employees develop - effective goal setting will ensure that your company can scale successfully.
Related Article: How to give feedback to get better results
Set goals that are measurable
As the saying goes, sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination. Those who achieve their goals know how to track benchmarks and growth from the very start. Identifying key metrics or indicators of success are great for establishing when and how a goal is met, but also monitoring progress. Ensuring goals can be tied to something measurable will not only keep employees accountable but can be both informative and encouraging when reflecting back on progress made.
Set goals in an open feedback loop
When it comes to goal setting, the last thing you want to do is establish a goal then hang your employees out to dry. Make it a habit to check in with them and discuss how their progress is coming along, or ask if they need any additional support. Goals may need to be altered or tweaked based on organizational changes, and it’s much easier to regroup when everyone is on the same page. Plus, performance reviews or one-on-one feedback meetings never seem as daunting or intimidating when there has been constant, open communication.
Related Article: Benefits of Positive Reinforcement in the Workplace
Celebrate achieved goals to pave the way for continued growth
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways you can boost employee morale and performance. Whether an employee achieves their end goal or accomplishes a crucial stepping stone along the way, it’s important to recognize a job well done. Acknowledging employees for wins both big and small will encourage them to challenge themselves while also building confidence in their abilities. So celebrate your employees when they crush goals, then encourage them to strive for even more!
Learn how you can recognize and reward your people your way - request a demo with Qarrot!
How to encourage employee alignment in times of growth
Employee engagement is the key to employee alignment. As your company grows, your vision, mission, and values for your company can become diluted. This can sometimes lead to organizational misalignment. A few signs of a misaligned company are:
- Difficulty scaling
- Decision-making is a long and complicated process
- Silos exist with little to no communication between them
The “not my department” mentality kills morale. That misaligned culture will not allow your company to scale and it will slow down the production and productivity of everyone involved.
So how can we encourage employee alignment, especially in times of growth?
Align vision, mission, and values
To align vision, mission, and values you first have to identify what might be hindering your company’s efforts to get employees behind its vision and creating misalignment. Sometimes it’s a simple policy that needs to be updated, but often misalignment is the result of something much bigger. Identifying the problem first will help you move towards solving it.
One of the most important factors aiding this process is proper and clear communication. Ineffective communication can lead to assumptions. Assumptions about what your company values may not align with the message or culture, you are trying to achieve.
For example, Company A has proudly introduced a new mission statement built around a culture of innovation. The CEO boasts about the creativity of employees, the new option for employees to allocate up to 20% of their time working on new ideas, and a rewards initiative to encourage employee involvement. However, prior to developing its new mission statement, Company A suffered from a highly siloed culture and poor cross-departmental communication. A lack of collaboration and communication between departments can stifle any innovation initiative, no matter how much boasting the CEO does. This culture misalignment not only sends mixed messages to employees, but it completely undermines upper management’s aspirations for Company A to become more innovative. The likely result of such a situation is more unengaged employees and very little true innovation.
First by identifying the problem, in this case, a highly siloed culture, upper management can develop a strategy to better align the company’s culture with its new mission. That strategy may include training for managers, smaller cross-departmental initiatives to initiate collaboration and communication, and encouraging employees to celebrate those behaviors.
Assess and measure
“What gets measured gets improved.” - Peter Drucker
Misalignment between departments of a growing company isn’t a simple fix. Reporting on progress is important to assess if the re-alignment strategy is being effective. It’s hard to motivate multiple departments to report on progress if they don’t buy into the overall project vision first.
Once you can clearly and concisely communicate the benefit of better alignment, you need to develop certain KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, that will become critical indicators of progress toward your intended results. Every organization should know how to measure how well the efforts of their employees are impacting company objectives. KPIs provide a focus for operational improvement and create an analytical basis for decision-making.
Create goals that align departments
When you think about breaking down silos and encouraging better communication, change won’t happen overnight. A clear view of the outcome you want to achieve and a plan for moving forward are a great place to start. But cultural change is the result of adopted behaviors and actions and often requires active communication, support, and reinforcement. A gamification and rewards system can encourage the adoption of the behaviors and actions you want to encourage.
With Qarrot, you can create award campaigns for employees to participate in. Say, for example, the misalignment exists between department managers and Payroll. Payroll says employees are not filling out their time-sheets on time and this is putting stress of the payroll department incurring additional costs. Employee managers say they are putting pressure on employees to fill out timesheets, but they have no real way to measure success until Payroll contacts them again.
To encourage employees to fill out timesheets using a rewards and recognition system like Qarrot, the Payroll manager can set up an ongoing campaign to award points every time they record their action of filling out a timesheet. This offers the employee an incentive to fill out their timesheet, as well as a way for department managers to see who is, and who isn’t, participating in the process.
As your company grows, company alignment is critical. Aligning department efforts, and aligning employees to your mission, vision, and values of the company are as important as developing KPIs to communicate the success of your alignment efforts to the people who need to know.
Ready to see how Qarrot can help boost your employee alignment efforts during times of organizational growth?
How to give feedback to get better results
What is the one thing that would make most managers better? The ability to provide effective feedback to their employees.
We know employee feedback is important, but there is a proper way to provide feedback that will produce better business results. First, ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Does the phrase "performance review" put your stomach in knots?
- Are there particular employees you know will be more difficult to provide feedback to than others?
- Do you dread offering criticism?
Honestly, if you answered YES to any of the above questions, you’re already in the wrong frame of mind for providing feedback that will actually offer value to your employees. Accurate feedback is the key to engaging people and keeping them on track. Feedback, when done right, with the right intentions, can lead to better business results by helping motivate employees to meet professional goals. Business success is the result of aligning professional goals with the overall goals of the organization.
So, what’s the trick to providing effective feedback? Here are a few tips to consider:
Criticism isn’t always easy to take, let alone deliver, but if done appropriately, with enough thought, and the best intentions behind it, the benefit is that it should help to increase the productivity of the worker receiving the feedback. The constructive part of “constructive criticism” is in the plan to do better. It gives an employee an objective to work for. Non-constructive criticism, or griping if you will, will have the immediate and opposite effect. Nobody likes to be criticized but if it leads to growth it’s easier to handle and easier to convey.
Focused attention on particular feedback will have greater results than when combined with other issues. If the feedback you are giving to an employee is negative you may be tempted to start with a compliment, thinking it will help soften the blow of the criticism. This just muddies the waters of your message. If your intention is to provide feedback with the objective of changing a particular behavior or motivating for better performance, then the focus should be placed solely on that topic in your discussion, and on that topic alone. The same goes for a compliment. Praise goes a lot further and provides more value when not combined with any other motives.
Quarterly and annual reviews are great! They can provide valuable insight as to how an employee is performing and meeting business objectives. They can provide areas to work on moving forward to the next quarter, or year, and offer benchmark data for overall employee performance. However, feedback that provides the best results is offered in the immediate. Issues need to be dealt with as they arise. Wins need to be celebrated as they occur!
Know your audience
Depending on the type of feedback your managers are offering, and the personality type of the employee, you must be mindful that there’s a time and a place for everything. Never criticize publicly. Studies have suggested that public disapproval, or putting someone on the spot with negative feedback, can alienate and embarrass the employee. This will only lower their ability to process the feedback constructively. Subsequently, caution should be exercised in sharing positive feedback publicly too. Congratulations and acknowledgment for a job well done in a public setting is something to be left to your discretion. Some employees LOVE public acknowledgment when some loathe being the center of attention.
Stick to performance
This is one of the hardest things to keep in mind when providing feedback to employees. We discussed remaining constructive, but more than that, stick to words that don’t discuss the personality traits of the employee. Focus on discussing “things they do,” rather than, “who they are.” The best way to help an employee acknowledge and be responsible for their habits or behavior is to discuss them, openly and without personal judgment. As soon as you start discussing overall personality you’ll lose their attention and worse, they could become resentful. Example, instead of saying “You’re a lazy team member, you’re always late!” try, “Your being late hurts our team performance.”
Observe peer recognition
Do you have employees who are loved by their co-workers? Let them know it! Morale and engagement levels in any workplace strongly depend on how well people get along. It’s true that one bad apple can spoil the bunch. Praising positive team spirit can encourage staff to share that behavior and affect your overall company culture.
Can you think of any other tips to help managers provide better feedback to their employees?
Employee recognition software can be a valuable tool for managers when providing feedback. Using software like Qarrot, employees can recognize one another and be awarded points for meeting or exceeding sales quotas, goals and objectives. These peer-to-peer and manager recognitions are immediate and favorable to the employee. Employees can turn in points as they earn them for gift cards or other prizes set by the company.
More than that though, managers can view, in real-time, as employees engage with each other. In the company feed managers can see as employers reward points, as well as comment on the achievements of others as they are earned in the system.
Managers can also quickly export reports to see who earned, or rewarded, points for a selected time period. The nature, and frequency, of an employee’s engagement with company programs, such as Qarrot, is a strong indicator of the overall engagement an employee has with their team, to their goals, and to their job overall. Nothing can better indicate a need for feedback, and coaching, than disengagement. Just remember to use the tips we provided above!
Curious how Qarrot can help you provide better feedback for your employees? Book a Demo, we’d be happy to give you a look around our product and show you how it works!
5 performance tips for the Gen-Y CEO
By most accounts, around 3 years ago we crossed the Rubicon. Millennials, who had been rising up the leadership hierarchy and already knocking on the door, started taking over the corner office, sometimes even at very large organizations.
For a Gen-Y CEO to be at the helm when millennials are entering the workplace in record numbers is only appropriate. However, the current moment is also a major transition, with significant members of Gen-X still part of the workforce, and often in senior positions. This brings about unique challenges for a Gen-Y CEO and helping organizations navigate this transition successfully, while empowering leaders of the future, will be critical to the success of an organization going forward.
With a lot of existing management literature on managing performance being made obsolete in the current scenario, and not many experienced CEO’s of the same cohort to draw on for advice, it becomes incumbent to chart one’s own course by following these simple employee engagement and performance strategies based on first principles:
- Move away from a view of performance review or appraisal as something done sporadically, in fixed mediums, and in a one-size-fits-all format. The same ease that millennials have in communicating across social media and blogging platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, etc.) when building a personal brand, needs to be put in service of being the organization’s principal spokesperson across all relevant channels. This includes not only regular feedback on work, open conversations on career goals, standard updates on achievements, company performance, etc., but giving the world a closer look at the culture and identity of the company itself. Recognition that brings a personal perspective to things, lauding employee efforts in a genuine way, sharing photos and write-ups about team outings, all serve this broader goal.
- Bring empathy into every interaction with millennial employees who will look up to you as their guiding light, as they themselves navigate a critical early phase in their careers where they are looking at personal fulfillment as well. The broad objectives of the organization, with a mission bigger than your individual goals, that drives you, needs to be shared honestly and transparently. You are in the best position to communicate why what someone does matters, and you must, incessantly and obsessively. This can be done at all-hands, in team meetings or even a casual walk-in at someone’s desk spontaneously - all you need is a genuine desire to make sure everyone is on-board with you as you chase your lofty goals.
- Experience is not a taboo word, and don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when dealing with Gen-X employees. Just like millennials, this moment is a challenging one for Gen-Xers. A lot of the paradigms they grew up with are now obsolete (including, but not limited to, a standard career trajectory), and they are having to learn new things just to keep up. Encourage learning and up-skilling, and be a partner with them as they adjust to this new world, but also value what they bring to the table. This includes a culture of discipline, rigor, and in general, a long-term view of customers and other stakeholders that are an asset to you.
- Encourage and embrace non-traditional career paths for employees. One of the hallmarks of Gen-Y, sometimes viewed negatively, is a perceived impatience in search for an entrepreneurial career that is aligned with their own personal narrative. As a leader building the organization of the future, your goal is to match a fluidity in role definitions, while making sure the organization is driving towards its long term goals. A developer with a talent for writing and communication who wants to make the leap to product marketing, or a QA specialist who wants to make the leap to a developer? Make it work, and make sure processes don’t stand in the way.
- Practice and develop a culture of employee assessment, as you want to be assessed yourself - as the creator of long-term value, going beyond only a quarter-on-quarter incessant focus on numbers and deliverables. This ties into point 2 above, where an employee's holistic contribution to the broader vision and their part in shaping the culture holds as much value as traditional metrics. You need to realize that one of the things you are selling is a narrative, an extremely critical intangible, and people who help drive your message by action or otherwise are assets you need to empower and help grow. The product manager who went out of the way to create a fun hackathon for high-schoolers around your platform ‘gets it’, and so should you.
Finally, it all boils down to bringing the whole of yourself as a person to work, and recognizing and encouraging the same in others. The old narratives that were successful in the past, driven by rigid hierarchies and a long list of taboos, have crumbled. In its place, there is an opportunity to create a workplace that mirrors a good life - healthy and focused on long-term personal growth.
Strengthen workplace culture while driving better engagement and performance - book a demo with Qarrot today!
How to incentivize creativity, innovation, and out-of-the-box thinking
Innovation starts, at its very basic level, as a disruption of the old. It can be implemented in processes, services, products, and strategies. Creativity can be a powerful ingredient for better problem-solving and innovation and has become an asset in every field. Once employees begin to think creatively, they can unlock the ability to dramatically improve a product, position, or company for the better. Most employees have interests outside of work and possess varied backgrounds. They may have acquired skills in previous fields that they don’t even realize can be applied to their current position. Bringing those skills to a job that doesn’t explicitly require them can create innovative ways of getting ahead. Take the example of someone with computer programming skills now working in a managerial role. What if she wrote a short program to shorten the amount of time spent analyzing data in order to spend more time on other managerial tasks? This employee’s efficient use of skills saves company funds and resources and allows for employee and company growth.
Unfortunately, not all employees are going to take on such initiatives on their own. Sometimes an incentive or reward can do the trick, but according to a study in a Harvard Business Review article, these incentives are best reserved for a job done well and are not as effective as a general motivational tool. Offering a financial reward only to accepted ideas that were implemented into action motivated fewer, but higher quality proposals that were more likely to succeed. On the same note, some research shows that financial incentives for innovation can actually stifle creativity completely. So what is the real key to incentivizing creativity? Getting your employees to care, feel connected, and challenged, which requires more than simply offering a reward.
How to boost innovation:
Create a strong team
Create a strong team that will help turn their creative ideas into reality. If you want your team to be innovative, start at the beginning: think outside-the-box when you’re hiring. Someone who doesn’t necessarily fit the psychological profile of the office will add different ways of thinking to create fresh ideas. This diversity should be applied to leaders as well, ensuring they have been assigned to the right role. A creative employee’s eccentricities are often what help them to be innovative; they question the norm and push boundaries for results. Involve your employees early, this will help them feel invested and more likely to implement innovative ideas from start to finish. Use techniques for brainstorming such as mind-mapping and lateral thinking, and emphasize the importance of homework vs. teamwork. Brainstorming should be done individually and in a group, this way employees all have innovative ideas to contribute and bounce off of one another to create stronger thought patterns. If your team is lacking in new ideas, work with your existing team by jostling their way of thinking. Prioritize trust and learning by getting to know your employees personally and recognizing their specific skills. This will help you assess what creative assignments to put them forward for, who to ask for ideas, and when. This will also help assign a project outside of their norm, use incentive deadlines, balance tasks with rewards, and raise the stakes just enough to create a challenging and exciting motivation for creativity. This will automatically trigger a new way of thinking and perhaps sprout new innovative solutions.
Implement an innovative culture
Implement an innovative culture by encouraging a growth mindset in the workplace. This requires openness to ideas, change, and failure. Make employees feel comfortable offering any innovative ideas they may have, even if they’re not the right fit. Encourage them to let you know their ideas through an email, a message board, an idea box, or any means that will be regularly checked and acknowledged by management. This way if the employee is enthusiastic about an idea, they know it will be heard either immediately or in a timely fashion. If it is not an opportune moment to acknowledge their efforts, hold back from brushing them off. Assure them you’re interested and will check it out soon. This way, employees from all levels within the company can feel free to implement ideas, because you never know where a fresh change could come from. Additionally, try the simplest perspective trick to encourage positive results. Using the words “Yes, and” rather than “Yes, but” creates an environment of encouragement. It recognizes the obstacles in the idea and promotes the employee to continue digging deeper.
Start solving internally
Start solving internally by encouraging employees to bring forward job or company problems as well as their solutions. This will help the employees air their frustrations and be heard, and in turn, help them feel more in control of their tasks. Keep track of an efficient employee’s shortcuts, even if they were unauthorized. Sometimes these loopholes are created by the employee to get through the mundane and bureaucratic tasks quickly and are actually very innovative ideas that shouldn’t be overlooked. If the ideas ultimately don’t fit, and the merits and downfalls have been considered, let the employee know why they won’t work.
Then get out of the office
Then get out of the office, literally and figuratively. Experiment with open concepts, designated rooms with creative atmosphere, or spending some time with the team outdoors. Look for ideas in other industries to study how they encounter and solve complications, for a different way of thinking. Allot a specific time for employees to work on ideas away from their daily duties, hold creative workshops, or monthly meetings outside of the office. Not only will this change be an incentive, but employees will look forward to this time and be motivated to innovate. The change of environment will change the mindset of your employees to think out-of-the-box, as they will literally be out-of-the-box!
Encourage failure and risk
Encourage failure and risk, and in turn, stifle fear. The enemy of creativity is fear, and failure is one of the main engines of anxiety in creativity. There is an element of vulnerability to creation that if stopped by fear, will be extinguished. Realistically, not every idea will be the best one, but by encouraging employees to take a risk, you will establish trust by allowing an employee to feel that they can fail and try again. Let the employee know where their idea is lacking and encourage them to keep trying.
Execute employee ideas and reward successful innovation
Employees feel motivated and empowered when their creative ideas are chosen and implemented. Initiate a strategy to execute innovative ideas and embrace change. If ideas are never taken to action, employees will view their efforts to be useless and lose motivation to bring ideas forward. Create an idea management system that clarifies where and who started the innovative idea. Keeping track of this will help motivate innovation at any level and keep the company growing. Once a successful idea is chosen, then reward the employee. This can come in the form of financial compensation, flexible work hours, remote assignments; something that suits the specific employee’s needs and keeps them happy and motivated to create more innovative ideas.
Creativity is a tricky thing - you can’t force it. As much as you try to motivate it, it will equally disappear. Creativity and innovation come when there is an environment of trust, patience, freedom, and purpose.
Crafting the perfect incentive program can be tricky, but we can help - book your free trial with Qarrot today!