Diversity & Inclusion

sherrie-suski-diversityMuch is being written about diversity and inclusion these days.  Recent events have spurred companies toward developing full blown D&I programs.  However, most are simply focusing on the metrics of what a diverse population looks like.  What percentages of minorities do we have, how many are in management positions, how many females do we have in management positions? While that may indeed tick the box on diversity, it does very little to ensure inclusion.  Inclusion is a little harder to measure. 

Where diversity is about variety, inclusion is about having a solid foundation for supporting employees and their different needs. Inclusion requires a culture where employees feel welcome, respected, and empowered to grow. Even the most diverse companies can’t be successful without inclusion. 

Many employees still feel that they don’t belong, and dozens of companies have made recent headlines for diversity and inclusion-related crises. In these workplaces, many female employees don’t feel respected (or sometimes even safe), minorities can be painfully underrepresented, people with disabilities often don’t have the resources they need to succeed, and so on.

No company wants to have a culture where not every employee feels like they are valued and can thrive, but it’s hard to address problems when you don’t know they exist. Without a way to measure inclusion, executives and HR teams have to rely on their own subjective perceptions of the culture at their organization—with varied levels of accuracy.

But inclusion isn’t totally unquantifiable. If you want to know whether your employees’ experience aligns with your company’s ideals—at scale—you can just ask.

In July of 2018, SurveyMonkey partnered with Paradigm,  a consulting firm that specializes in diversity and inclusion. Together, they created a survey template designed to investigate the many different layers of inclusion in the workplace. They used the template to survey 843 working Americans, and the results were telling:

  • 44% of employees didn’t feel that they could express a contrary opinion at work without fearing negative consequences. 
  • 32% did not feel that their opinion was valued
  • 60% of employees say their compensation is fair relative to others at their company. But only 48% of Black workers agree with this statement.
  • In every single case, the percentages were lower for people from the underrepresented communities that we checked for (women, Black, and Latinx.)

The importance of inclusion is easy to understand, but the layers of company culture that make up “inclusion” aren’t. Unlike diversity, inclusion is heavily rooted in employees’ individual experiences—which aren’t easy to monitor or quantify. And perception of culture can differ dramatically from person to person.  That is why it is so important to carefully craft a survey and ask each of your employees how they feel to be able to truly understand whether you have an inclusive culture.

Human Capital Management (HCM) Platforms

sherrie-suski-hcmHuman Capital Management System (HCM) is a one-stop solution to manage HR needs, to streamline processes, to provide visibility into the global workforce, and to provide a user experience that’s accessible from anywhere. So we can keep your people engaged while helping them adapt and grow. It covers the whole employee lifecycle: onboarding, recruiting, learning, compensation, payroll, benefits, time off, analytics, planning, etc.

How can an HCM benefit your organization?

There are a number of variables and considerations when selecting a new Human Capital Management (HCM) Platform.

  • What is the size of the company?
  • What are the platforms other functions are using?
  • Does your company plan to grow?
  • Are you global or domestic?
  • Do you have field teams that require mobile capability?
  • Do you need customized reporting capability or is standard reporting sufficient?
  • Are you looking to integrate payroll?
  • Which modules will you need?
    • Learning Management System
    • Applicant Tracking System
    • Performance Management
    • Compensation
    • Does it offer machine learning capability?
    • Do you require a cloud based solution?

The majority of providers today have cloud based solutions.  A cloud based solution refers to on-demand services, computer networks, storage, applications or resources accessed via the internet and through another provider’s shared cloud computing infrastructure. One of the key benefits of cloud-based software is the flexibility it offers. Cloud doesn’t tie you or your business into a single location. You will be able to do business from all over the world. This kind of flexibility can also help with employee satisfaction and productivity.

Selecting the right HCM for your business now and in the future provides a one stop shop for you and your employees to be able to access all information in one place.  Designed correctly, HCM’s save a tremendous amount of time and manual manipulation.  Value propositions include:

  • A single platform to manage and develop a diverse workforce with transaction history and operational metrics in a single system providing real-time global visibility.
  • Organizational flexibility and agility to adapt to change (M&A activity and shifting business models).
  • Operational efficiencies, freeing up more time for employee services and strategic HR initiatives.
  • Consumer grade, modern mobile experience for managers and employees.

Choose wisely as HCM subscription and implementation fees are not inexpensive and the time devoted to bringing one up is significant.    

An Attitude of Gratitude

sherrie-suski-gratitudeGratitude is an intriguing concept.  It has very little to do with how much you have or what your position is in life and much more to do with the personal quality of being thankful, of the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Actively practicing gratitude and pulling it toward you on a daily basis is important because it helps us to see a world that is bigger than ourselves.  When we have gratitude, we can help each other grow personally or in business. We can help those less fortunate because we see and appreciate how much we already have.

Some of the benefits of gratitude include:

It helps you to be in the present by noticing what you do have and stopping to acknowledge it 

Being grateful has the power to change your mood almost instantly from negative to positive

The simple act of gratitude has been scientifically shown to balance our heart rhythms and nervous system, leading to favorable changes in immunity and hormonal equilibrium, as well as increased production of the anti-aging compound DHEA.

Further benefits include a significant reduction in stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Those in the gratitude condition reported fewer health complaints and even spent more time exercising than control participants did.

Improved emotions when someone who has a chronic illness focuses on an “attitude of gratitude” instead of feeling negative.

5 Ways Gratitude Changes our Brains

Gratitude Improves Mental Health 

Gratitude Improves Physical Health

Gratitude Improves Resiliency

Gratitude Activates the Brain Stem Region that Releases Dopamine and Serotonin

Gratitude Improves Sleep

Tips to Foster Gratitude 

Keep a journal of or in some way note big and little joys of daily life.

Write down “three good things”—identify three things that have gone well for you and identify the cause.

Write thank-you notes to others.

Think about people who have inspired you and what about them was most significant.

Engage in “mental subtraction.” Imagine what your life would be like if some positive event had not occurred.

How do you practice gratitude during Difficult Times? 

Just being around those you love can help you feel more grateful. Also, being more appreciative of life and feeling less cynical pushes you in a more thankful frame of mind. At other times, when you are facing a tough time, seeing it as a gift is useful.  Even in hard times comes the opportunity to learn, to improve, and, most importantly,  to give back. 

Living our Purpose

sherrie-suski-wfhAs a purpose driven, value led company, Tricon understands how critical it is to embrace our humanity, and to be understanding and compassionate, especially during this pandemic. Our Purpose Statement and Guiding Principles take center stage at this time and we will do whatever we can to support the well-being of residents and employees. Our physical, social, emotional and financial benefit programs, that already existed, were well designed to help our employees through this crisis, and we further expanded our offerings to include additional services that are tailored to this specific situation. Everything we do is through the lens of care and support.

That’s the culture of Tricon. When you get culture right everything else falls into place and there is no better time to let that shine than right now.

Some of our employee benefits include:

  • Continued all employees on full pay whether or not we have full time work for them.
  • Continued employees who could not work at all due to childcare responsibilities on full -pay for
    6 weeks while they made alternate arrangements
  • Waived all member cost share (copays, deductibles and coinsurance) for the testing AND
    treatment of COVID-19
  • Made available a free 24-Hour Helpline, through Cigna Behavioral, that is available to all
    employees so they can talk about any stress or anxiety they are feeling during this time
  • Implemented immediate paid medical leave for any employee diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Offered paid caregiver leave for employees caring for a family member diagnosed with COVID-
    19
  • Assured employees with monthly or quarterly incentive plans that Tricon would account for
    COVID-19 impacts to operations and continue to pay them the average of what they had
    received for the last 3 months
  • Provided access to free mental health professionals, via phone or text, through the Employee
    Assistance Program
  • Offered free, live financial planning webinars
  • Provided 100% coverage for virtual doctor visits and online health care services for employees
    with chronic conditions or who are immune compromised
  • Presented well-being modules and challenges geared to staying physically and mentally healthy
    at home
  • Introduced contests to add some fun into the day- like Jellybean counting.
  • Conducted wellness checks- that included personal phone calls to each employee
  • Distributed Pulse survey that allow Tricon to tell if there is an area of employee concern that has
    not been adequately addressed or a specific geographical region that needs extra care

Tricon has really gone above and beyond to show incredible support to our employees and their families during this turbulent time.

Forbes Excerpt: “Getting Ready to Join the Workforce …”

I was recently featured in Forbes Human Resources Council’s “Getting Ready to Join the Workforce: 13 Tips for High School and College Seniors.” Below is an excerpt of the piece. Click here for the full article.

“7. Identify What Makes You Unique

Help employers understand why you stand out from the crowd by focusing on accomplishments or attributes that make you unique and of which you are exceptionally proud. Be willing to take risks and put yourself out there. If employers aren’t connecting with who you are, those are not employers with whom you want to align yourself. You have a right to find an employer who values you! – Sherrie Suski, Tricon American Homes”

Do you feel Proud?

sherrie-suski-proudWe had an exercise recently with Simon Sinek’s organization to re-visit our Purpose Statement and Guiding Principles.  For us they are not just words on a wall, but the very essence of who we are and why we exist.  The exercise started off with sharing stories of what made each of us feel proud to work where we do.  As we shared the stories around the table, it became clear that each person was passionately engaged in what we were creating.  

Jon R. Katzenbach, suggested in his book “Why Pride Matters More Than Money” that pride grows out of “the relentless pursuit of worthwhile endeavors.” This “intrinsic pride” becomes “institution-building” when it “prompts the kind of effective, customer-focused behaviors” that distinguish an organization from its rivals. Commitment based on “self-serving or materialistic gains,” he adds, is “short-term, transient, and risky.” It doesn’t unleash “the kind of emotional commitment” that builds “long-term sustainability.”

Knowing that the values of the company you work for align with your own individual values is an important indicator in the number of proud moments you will experience there and likely an indicator of your level of potential engagement and commitment.  

It would be difficult to work for former Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh who was recently charged with wire fraud and tax evasion and feel proud  of the company you were keeping. She is accused of ripping off nonprofit organizations and taxpayers by accepting payments for tens of thousands of books she never intended to deliver. Pugh used the money, according to court papers, to fund her mayoral bid and to buy and renovate a house in Baltimore.  Very few of us would wish to work for an organization that exhibited these values, and, if we did find ourselves in this position, would probably feel compelled to put in as little time and energy as possible, while feverishly looking for another job.  

Figure out in advance what makes you feel proud and what stories you would want to recount about why you felt proud of the company you work for.  It likely has little to do with their financial results or their share price. It likely does have to do with how they treat people and the value they place on doing what’s right, not what’s easy.  

Some of the stories that surfaced for us revolved around caring for an employee in a very difficult personal situation, making a choice that we felt was right but certainly not financially prudent, volunteering, caring for our residents in ways that went above and beyond what anyone would expect.  

Each company will have its own unique brand and style, but the next time you are contemplating switching jobs, ask the recruiter what some of their most proud moments have been and ensure that they align with what would make you feel proud.

Are you a Connector?

sherrie-suski-officeWhen we think of the word “connector” we usually imagine something technical, a wire, a tube, something that plugs in at both ends, but increasingly, the word is being used to describe some of the best managers. A connector manager is defined as one who fosters meaningful connections among employees, teams and the organization to develop an employee’s specific capabilities. This is in direct contrast to the “Always On” manager approach which defines someone who commits to constant employee coaching and development.

Similar to the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child”, the data is showing us that managers who reach out to others to fulfill some of their own employee’s developmental needs are highly likely to experience better retention and better output.  Connector Managers give targeted feedback in their areas of expertise; otherwise, they connect employees with others on the team or elsewhere in the organization who are better suited to the task. They spend more time than the other types assessing the skills, needs, and interests of their employees, and they recognize that many skills are best taught by people other than themselves.  Most senior managers are exceptionally willing to help develop subordinates outside of their own departments. It gives them an opportunity to shine, showcase their own skills and do something that is clearly in the best interests of the organization

Gartner research finds that Connector managers triple the likelihood that their direct reports are high performers, and increase employee engagement by up to 40%. Reason enough to dive further into this approach.

Developing mangers to personalize employee development

Only 32% of employees believe their managers tailor coaching and development to their actual development needs.  This is where a strong performance management system is essential. One that focuses on individual development plans and not just quarterly or annual goals to accomplish.  Even employees who are not capable of moving up in the organization have hundreds of lattice or horizontal learning and growth opportunities.

Power the team for peer development

Only 25% of managers leverage their direct reports to develop others across the team.  No manager is an island unto themselves or should be expected to be the expert on everything.  Especially as our workforce ages there are a plethora of individual contributors who have a variety of interesting and enriching experiences that they want to share.  Partner up some of your younger employees with some of your more senior team members.

Enable managers to partner for best fit connections

Although most organizations are investing to improve employees’ opportunities to connect for development, only 32% of employees rate these development connections as high quality.

Don’t overlook skill sets that other managers possess and would be willing to share.  No one manager can be the best at everything and understanding your own strengths and weaknesses is key to knowing what to “insource” within your own organization

Fortify your 401(k)

sherrie-suski-401kThe middle of the year seems like a good time, albeit, not as good as the beginning of the year, but good none the less, to ensure that you are on track to set aside the maximum amount allowed in your 401(k) plan.  If there is some catching up to do, contributions spread out over the remaining 6 months are infinitely easier to handle than if you wait until the last quarter of the year, which will necessitate such choices as rent versus 401(k) contributions or tasty meals versus 401(k) contributions, in which case the 401(k) almost never wins.  There are many variables when investing and your 401(k) is no different and not immune to any of them. It not always just how much you save that predicts your outcome when you retire, but how you save and what the economic environment looks like.

Your Contributions

The IRS has generously increased the maximum annual contribution limit in 2019 to $19,000, up from $18,500 in 2018. However, if you are moving toward those golden years and will be 50 years old or older at any time in 2019, you can contribute an additional $6,000 in the form of catch-up contributions. This means you’ll be able to contribute up to $25,000, which includes the catch-up contributions. If your employer makes matching contributions, the amount going into your 401(k) could be much higher.

Employer Matching

Any employer match is a good employer match!  Most employers have a 3,4 or 5 year vesting schedule on their match contributions so that employees are encouraged to stay around to actually collect 100% of their match.  This employer match is set aside as you make your own personal contributions, but should you leave before you are fully vested in the company match, you will only receive a portion of it.  Occasionally you will hear about companies with Safe Harbor plans. In this case, the employer match is vested 100% and immediately.  There is no vesting period at all. The reason this is attractive to many companies is that it significantly decreases the discrimination testing that must be done annually on all 401(k) plans and it ensures that you plan will not be found to have to refund dollars contributed back to your highly compensated employees.  Many of whom happen to be your senior staff and C-Suite individuals.

Economic Environment

To some extent this is beyond your control.  Certainly, the economy’s performance is beyond your grasp to influence, but how you react to the economy and the types of investments you make is very much within your control.  Forbes economic advisors are predicting on a 20% chance of a recession this year and a 30% chance of a recession next year.  One of the best predictors of a potential slow down is the US bond yield curve which inverted in March of this year for the first time since 2007.  An inverted yield-curve occurs when long-term debts have a lower yield as compared with short-term debt. An inverted yield curve is generally considered a recession predictor. It won’t be immediate, but recessions have followed inversions a few months to two years later several times over many decades. When you see this economic phenomenon, money market funds, CD;s and short terms treasury notes start to look more attractive.

Your 401(k) should not be a set and forget savings tool but one that is actively managed, at least quarterly, to ensure that the results are what you are hoping for when you do finally decide it is time to retire. 

Mid-Year Crisis

We have all heard of the proverbial mid-life crisis where people in their 40’s or 50’s start to take stock of their lives, celebrating or lamenting what they have or have not accomplished.  Many of us go through the same feelings, albeit on a smaller scale, when the mid-year hits. It signals that it is time to take stock of what we and our teams have accomplished to date and determine how to prioritize our goals over the course of the rest of the year to ensure that we finish where we want to be, having accomplished everything we set out to do in January.  

Take stock

For those without an automated goal planning platform or for those of you have a platform that you don’t check into and update very often, now is the time.  Review what you committed to in January, update what has been accomplished and decide now what shouldn’t still be on the list. Business priorities change constantly and initiatives that seemed critical in January may not be so any longer.  Or, conversely, there may be projects that need to be added.

Prioritize

Align with key stakeholders in the organization to ensure that you understand not just HR priorities, but organizational priorities.  Where can you make the most meaningful contributions?  Whose buy in do you need? Ensure that you communicate these priorities to your team so they clearly understand which projects have the most visibility and are in a critical path.  

Assess resources and expertise

If there are significant changes to the plans that were carefully laid out in January, you will need to re-assess both the resources you have at your disposal and the expertise that exists within your team. In most cases there will be options.  You will be able to make a case for leveraging external resources if required to get the job done.  If it a training and expertise concern, now is a good time to explore additional training opportunities for your team members to ensure they are better prepared in the future.  

Develop Training Plans

To ensure that everyone on your team is prepared to tackle their new assignments for the remainder of the year, you may need to add “Training Plans” to your own goals. Assigning responsibilities to employees who are not adequately trained is a lose lose proposition.  No one wants to appear incompetent. Remember that training and development is a process that takes place over time. The plan itself is not the end, but rather the means to achieving a skill set or competency.

July 1st, just like January 1st, is a time to take stock of what has been done and what is still to come.  Re-assessing our priorities now assures that we finish out the year proud of what we and our teams have accomplished on behalf of our organizations!

Employee Engagement in Action

Employee Engagement must be close to the top buzz word for 2019 or perhaps even the last decade.   While everyone can speak eloquently about the benefits of encouraging employee engagement and the importance of it to producing top business results, ask more specific questions and those once vivacious people go silent.  Few actually spend the time to detail the specifics of what activities actually do increase employee engagement in the workforce. Before we increase our spending in 2019 by 45% on increasing employee engagement as predicted by G2 Crowd, let’s figure out exactly how we should be allocating those additional dollars.

Productivity 

Productivity yields employee engagement. A novel concept as most would argue that it is the reverse; a previously engaged employee yields better productivity.  However, this gives us a significant opportunity to ensure that we provide our employees with every opportunity to not only produce, but to understand how what they do fits within the framework of the organizational objectives.  Establishing waterfall goals is an easy an effective way to assist employees at every level to understand their ability to accomplish objectives and feel proud of their contribution to the organization, thus yielding more productivity.

Employee Recognition

Employee recognition can come in many forms, individual, team or even Company.  We use a peer to peer recognition program called Good Gotcha’s. Anyone can nominate anyone else for doing something good.  A subset of those are then chosen and announced at our quarterly all hands meeting. We also have quarterly awards structured around our Guiding Principles, an annual President’s award and Community service award.  Don’t forget about company awards, there is Great Places to Work and the corresponding Fortune awards, AON Top places to Work and many local awards.  Employees feel proud to work for a company that is recognized nationally as one of the best places to work!

Promoting Wellness

Healthy employees are happy employees!  While only about 10% of employers have implemented a formal wellness platform, they provide opportunities across a host of health initiatives for your employees.  We use Vitality and could not be happier.  Employees have the ability to earn points for individual or team fitness challenges, for taking healthy actions like getting a physical of biometrics performed, buying healthy food and participating in physical, mental, emotional and financial wellness opportunities offered by the company.

Continuing Education/Learning

Almost all employees want the opportunity to develop their skills whether that be through lattice, vertical or ladder, horizontal learning opportunities.  We offer a three fold approach to learning that encompasses action steps, which are specific projects an employee can tackle to enhance their value to the company, internal training opportunities through custom content and courses and also through Franklin Covey’s All Access Pass and external training courses or certifications.

The list is likely endless.  Almost anything you do with the employees’ best interest in mind can be utilized to enhance employee engagement, and, ultimately, company performance!