Is Patience a Virtue?

We live in a world where the pace is constantly increasing.  An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense ‘intuitive linear’ view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate), according to Wikipedia. Accelerating change – Wikipedia

90% of the world’s data was generated in the last 2 years How Fast Is Technology Growing Statistics [Updated 2021] (leftronic.com).  The adoption of mobile devices has led to the mass adoption of mobile banking technologies.  5G network technology is expected to be 100 times faster than the 4G standard, delivering 10 gigabits per second. The technological progress of mobile broadband networks will enhance IoT, bringing faster wireless internet to cars, refrigerators, and other innovations.

Workers in technology companies and other high-growth industries, routinely work 60+ hour weeks just trying to keep up.   In the last 40 years, Americans, just on average, have been working longer hours for more weeks a year. The average worker in 1980 put in 38.1 hours for 43 weeks a year. Today, the average employee works 46.8 weeks a year for a total of 38.7 hours a week.  Small increase but hey add up!

So, does patience Four Reasons to Cultivate Patience (berkeley.edu)have a place any longer in our amped-up society?  It does when it comes to human interaction.  You can be impatient with the process, focus on meeting deadlines and project plans and strive to deliver ahead of schedule.  However, there is an inverse relationship between being able to achieve the above and the amount of patience you show to the individuals on your team.  Give your employees time to finish their thoughts before jumping in.  Make sure you listen more than you speak.  It can be tempting to jump in right away with your own ideas but resist that urge and just listen and ask probing, not leading, questions. For many people, silence is uncomfortable. A break in a conversation for too long can feel awkward. Rather than succumbing to it. Use it to your advantage. Next time you feel like jumping right in to say something, pause and count to 10 in your head. You’re likely to find the other person in the conversation will step in to fill the silence. If you’re a manager, this is a powerful tool. It gives your people an opportunity to fully share what’s on their minds. How Managers can be more Effective Listeners to Better Lead their Teams (getlighthouse.com)

Different people process information at different speeds.  Giving your team members the freedom and opportunity to process all of the information and then revert back with questions will likely yield superior results in the end.  They will usually be more receptive to whatever change you are bringing forth as they will have had the time to adjust.  Not everyone can move at the same pace and human nature is to resist something until you have had time to think it through.

Start with the strongly held belief that everyone comes to work wanting to do their best.  Giving your employees the space they need and being patient with those who move at a different pace is the key to successful leadership!

Our Attitude is our Altitude

I have to admit that this Is not my witty saying.  It is a reference from a beautifully written piece by Korn Ferry Korn Ferry | Organizational Consulting CEO, and published author, Gary Burnison. Gary Burnison (kornferry.com) He explained it this way:

When one person says thank you, it can set off a positive chain reaction. The reason lies in emotional intelligence (EI). Daniel Goleman, who has done extensive research and writing on EI and who works closely with our firm, has explained that when we develop and express our EI, we transmit more positive feelings such as gratitude than negative ones. It’s like a spark that ignites as others respond. Moods shift and positivity elevates everyone. Then our attitudes truly become our altitude.

As I read it, it reminded me of one of our own Guiding Principles at Tricon Residential. Tricon Residential – Rental Living Reimagined To elevate each other so together we leave an enduring legacy.  Similar to the ripples in the pond, each of our actions every day has a consequence.  Some purposefully intended and some not. But each of has choice to positively impact those around us or to think only of ourselves.  We have such a broader impact when we choose the former. By choosing to spread positivity, there is a ripple effect that spreads out likes rays from the sun, finally reaching earth some 90+ million miles away.  Gestures do not have to be large to make an impact.  Simply remembering to be grateful and to share thankfulness and appreciation is enough.

Appreciation is a cornerstone of the culture at Southwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines | Book Flights, Make Reservations & Plan a Trip named by Forbes as America’s #13 Best Employer of 2018. One way the company appreciates employees is by paying attention to special events in their personal lives—from kids’ graduations to marriages to family illnesses—and recognizing those with small gestures like flowers and cards. “We’re all encountering different obstacles in our life, we’re all celebrating different things in our life,” says Cheryl Hughey, managing director of culture at Southwest.

Studies show that grateful employees How to Exude Gratitude at the Office and Bring Value (dawnstebbing.com)are more concerned about social responsibility, for example. Grateful employees—as well as employees who receive more gratitude—also perform more “organizational citizenship” behaviors: kind acts that aren’t part of their job description, like welcoming new employees and filling in for coworkers.

In fact, gratitude and kindness seem to form a positive loop in the workplace. Just as gratitude leads to altruistic behavior, research suggests that the opportunity to help others and serve a cause is one of the major sources of gratitude at the office.

So, remember to say thank you often, go out of your way to show appreciation, and check in on each other regularly!

Reimagining Recruitment

Being unable to hire qualified workers is the most critical and widespread challenge businesses face today in the post-pandemic world.  Businesses that don’t have enough employees are forced to reduce their hours, scale down operations, and in some cases, permanently close, all leading to a less than rosy economic recovery.  

In a recent Committee to Unleash Prosperity paper CTUP_BonusUnemploymentBenefitsLaborShortage.pdf (committeetounleashprosperity.com) by Casey Mulligan, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, who served as chief economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the latest monthly jobs report from the Department of Labor for April and May have shown disappointing employment increases, flat job participation rates, and a slight increase in the number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits.  Two weeks before the May jobs survey, the BLS counted 9.3 million unfilled jobs in America, even with more than nine million Americans “unemployed.” The 9.3 million unfilled jobs is almost 2 million beyond the pre-pandemic record for the U.S., and the policy riddle is why more unemployed workers are not getting back in jobs. Small business owners around the country—construction firms, restaurants, bars, retailers, hospitals, and factories—are complaining that workers they want to rehire are less likely to work now. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, some nine of 10 small employers are citing a shortage of workers as a top concern. 

Back in March, Congress and President Biden enacted the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. H.R.1319 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Because of the $300-a-week bonus unemployment benefits enacted in March 2021, along with other expansions of welfare benefits and cash payments unrelated to work:

  • In 21 states and DC, households can receive a wage equivalent of $25 an hour in benefits 
    • with no one working. 
  • In 19 states, benefits are equivalent to $100,000 a year in salary for a family of four with 
  • two unemployed parents.
  • In all but two of the blue states, $300 Supplemental Unemployment Insurance benefits 

plus other welfare pay more than the wage equivalent of a $15 minimum wage

There are 1.4 available workers per job opening in the US. This rate is just half the average of the past 20 years

Clearly, corporations are going to need to woo these workers back to work.  According to Jennifer Shappley,  Jennifer Shappley | LinkedIn the vice president of global talent acquisition at LinkedIn, the key to success in fighting the war for talent, is for corporations to offer flexibility to their employees. 

Forward-thinking companies recognize that employees, just like consumers, are attracted to different types of flexibility.  The below are some ways you might consider enticing your prospective employees and current workforce back to the office

  • Offer a hybrid model where they work 2-3 days in the office and the remaining days in an alternate location
  • Create more inclusive job advertisements. Job listings referring to “responsibilities” rather than “requirements “. LinkedIn finds a 14% increase in candidates when job posts mention responsibilities, but not requirements
  • Consider whether a 4- year bachelor’s degree is necessary.  LinkedIn reports a 20% increase in managers hired who didn’t possess a traditional four-year degree.
  • Be empathetic and concerned about your employee’s mental health- allow sick days to be used for “wellness days”
  • Re-imagine the workplace to be warm and inviting
  • Create informal areas where employees can collaborate with each other
  • Sponsor afternoon events where employees can enjoy a glass of wine and each other’s company

At the end of the day, monetary compensation is only one reason why employees work.   Help your employees to balance their work and personal lives, provide a comfortable and relaxing work environment and allow them responsibilities where they feel fulfilled at the end of the day and you will attract the candidates you need!

Maybe the Greeks Had it Right

sherrie suski pandora's boxIn the Greek myth of Pandora’s box, Pandora was given a box by the gods. The gods told her that the box contained special gifts from them but she was not allowed to open the box ever. Pandora was trying to tame her curiosity, but at the end she could not hold herself anymore; she opened the box and all the illnesses and hardships that gods had hidden in the box started coming out. Pandora was scared, because she saw all the evil spirits coming out and tried to close the box as fast as possible, closing Hope inside.  As she slowly re-opened the box, there was Hope, in the corner and it needed to be coaxed to enter the world and show all humankind that it existed.

Humans need Hope and as leaders, we manage humans.  It is up to us to set the stage for a hopeful environment, one in which when the going gets tough, we remind people it is temporary and that we will get through it together.  Some of the ways we can create a culture that is built on Hope as the foundation are to:

Get to personally know your team

It is hard for you to offer Hope in a way others can receive it if you don’t truly understand the people who work for you.  Spend time getting to know who they are outside of work, what hobbies they have, how old their children are

Allow you leaders to lead

Ensure that you hire the right people and then provide them with both challenges and choices on how they meet that challenge.  You get to define the what, but let your leaders define the how

Recruit help

Every organization has both formal and informal leaders.  Find those informal leaders. and enlist them to help you instill Hope throughout the organization.  When communication takes both a formal and an informal path, it is much more impactful and spreads much more quickly than depending on formal communication channels alone

Offer the right information at the right time

While honesty and transparency are admirable traits, when you are trying to create an environment of Hope, it makes sense to shield your team from some of the inconsequential negative information.  I am not suggesting that you withhold critical, negative information, only that you smooth the ups and downs and focus on the larger upward trend

Paint a picture of a hopeful future

Continually help your team to see how bright the future could be.  Choose to focus on the positive and show them the path to get there.  Share with them all the things that are going well and how you will help them to overcome what is not.  Happiness is a choice.  Choose wisely.

Internal Employee Communications

sherrie-suski-officeDeveloping a comprehensive and intentional internal employee communications strategy and a plan to execute on that strategy is critical to the success of your business, no matter the size. The best internal communication strategies do more than simply manage and distribute information. They can foster an engaging environment and cultivate relationships that are built on trust. That trust, in turn, creates a strong company culture whereby your employees know you trust them to deliver and they trust you to have their best interest at heart.

An internal communications plan is a clear guide for consistently communicating with employees, so they feel informed about goals for your organization or a specific initiative. This ensures they take action and do their part in achieving those goals. It should clearly and specifically define what internal communications strategies are important to focus on, how, when, who’s implementing them, and how you’ll measure them to demonstrate value and impact.

An internal communications plan should facilitate important conversations and engagement with key leaders and partners about internal communication strategies that can best deliver on key business needs and opportunities throughout the company.  It should also focus keenly on behavioral change that you expect will result as an outcome of this communication.  Communication just for the sake of communication is nothing but noise in an already noisy world.  You must understand and help your audience to understand what the call to action is and be prepared to measure whether or not you have achieved your goals.

If you are not yet fully convinced that you need an internal employee communication plan, read on!

Your employees are your most dedicated brand advocates.

According to Gallup, less than 30% of employees believe in the brand they work for!

This is very concerning, considering employees are the ones charged with delivering on the promises a brand makes to its customers. So start to think of internal communications as a marketing/branding exercise.

And Forbes agrees, you need to approach your internal marketing the same way you would external marketing efforts—by knowing your audience, your goals, tailoring the message, and providing an exceptional experience. This will require involvement from a cross-functional team.

Internal communication builds employee engagement, culture, and trust.

Internal communication is a key driver for employee engagement. The vehicle for all employee engagement initiatives is communication, core values, and a commonly held purpose statement or why. When employees feel like they are communicated with, engagement and trust will flow, resulting in a strong corporate culture.

If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail

If your ideas for internal communication revolve around upcoming events and random requests, then you don’t have a strategy. You likely are reinventing the wheel each time and are confusing your internal customers. Internal communications need to be woven into the larger company strategy, with a funded and well understood plan for execution.

Employee Well-Being Redefined

sherrie suski 2021 wellbeingWe typically define well- being in terms of emotional, physical, social and financial wellbeing and while employee wellbeing has always been the purview of HR professionals, it has been taken to a stratospheric new level moving into, what some are calling, the 13th month of 2020, January 2021.  

Never in most of our lives have our employees needed more care, empathy and information that they do today.  At every turn they are struggling with at least one, if not, multiple of the above areas that define wellbeing.  They no longer get the immediate feedback that was part of their everyday office life, where a simple smile, or gesture of reassurance was more than welcome on the days that were difficult.  They had opportunities to use the gym, stay physically active, to socialize with family and friends and to feel some sense of control around their financial future.  If any one of the above areas is in question, it can cause employees not to be able to bring their best selves to work, but when all four have been impacted and the same time, some fee they are driven to distraction by what feels like an out-of-control life.  

Employers need to step up and step in at every opportunity and this is NOT just the purview of the HR function.  This is every people leader’s role.  Your employees need to know that you care, and they need to know that you are there for them, as a beacon in the night, assuring them that life will return to normal and that you are there to support them with whatever resources are at your disposal should they and their families need them

Emotional Support

  • Make it simple for people to connect and do their jobs no matter their circumstances
  • Gauge employee sentiment via a pulse survey to understand where people are struggling
  • Bring to light information and opportunities that are specific to them so employees can thrive amidst uncertainty
  • Employee needs haven’t changed, just evolved.

Valuing every person, every day goes a long way in honoring employee needs and understanding motivations.

Physical Support

  • Offer a wellness platform, like Vitality,  that all employees can engage with virtually
  • Create contents that employees can participate in on socially distanced teams or individually
  • The COVID 15 is no joke.  Being overweight can increase health risks, so help employees to shape up by offering education on healthy eating

Social Support– 

  • Nurturing new hires to accelerate their productivity
  • Providing employees access to relevant learning and development to foster their growth
  • Enabling meaningful manager feedback and coaching to boost performance
  • Increasing motivation by recognizing employees when and how they want to be spotlighted
  • Keeping a pulse on how employees are feeling

Financial Support

  • Offer financial planning courses on subjects of interest to wide ranges of employees
  • Talk openly about the benefits of Living Trusts, saving for retirement and the benefits of a 401(k)
  • Ensure employees, if you are able, that their job is secure.  The stress created form an uncertain financial future is keeping many people up at night.

HR leaders have an opportunity and an obligation to get this right.  Now is the time to reach out to your employees and ensure they know that you care about them not only as employees, but as human beings.

Did You Forget Your Brand?

sherrie-suski-brandCrafting and supporting a meaningful and aligned external and internal brand identity requires us to be proactive in nature. COVID-19 required us to be reactive in nature.  While we were busy reacting to the imminent threat in front of us and scurrying to move our workforces’ home, figure out testing, manage through a reduction in force in some cases, many forgot their brand.  

Brands do not only require management during the good times but require even a more significant effort during the difficult times.  This is the opportunity to have your vision and guiding principles be more than just words on a wall.  This is the perfect opportunity to show your employees that you value them and not just say the words.  In many cases, when our economy and our companies return to “normal”, there will be significant repair work to be done by those that did not understand that a pandemic is not a good excuse for exiting your internal  employer brand.  The good news is, however, you can get a head start!

Reduction in Force

Think long and hard about your need to do a RIF.  While cost savings are typically the primary motivator, who has created the spreadsheet and calculated what will be lost on the other side?  Good employees may not want to return and will have moved on. They will also have told a dozen of their closest friends not to work for you as you will be viewed as a Fairweather Friend.  Those employees who are still with you, may choose to seek out other opportunities when the economy picks up as they will have seen how committed to the employees you really were and believe that they will fare no better during the next tumultuous event.

Top Workplace awards

If you treated your workforce well, if you stood behind your employees and did not succumb to panic, now is the time to showcase that by crafting an entry for Best Places to Work, Energage or one of the many other employee engagement surveys. Your employees will know how fortunate they are and will want to tell the world what a great place your company is to work.

While Glassdoor may be the bane of their existence for many in HR, you can learn to leverage the site to your advantage.  Actively ask your employees to write a review.  It is always the hope that they have something positive to say, but even when they don’t think of it as a learning opportunity for how you can improve.  

Keep in mind that what you do today will remain a part of your employee culture for much longer than COVID  will be a pandemic and ensure you are making the right decisions for the long term.

When HR Reporter asked participants to rate how challenging 12 major workplace issues might be in 2021, more than six in 10 (66 per cent) said recruiting and hiring would be challenging.  Make sure that you are doing everything you can today to set a successful stage for tomorrow for your current and future employees!

When the Chips are Down

sherrie-suski-chipsWhen the chips are down is a saying that comes from the world of poker, something my Granddad loved to play and taught my brother and I at an age that my mother thought was way too young. He would be puffing away on his cigar , the smoke circling the room, and showing us how to make a “poker face,” one where your opponent cannot tell what you are thinking or assess your next contemplated move. We would play past our bedtime with my Mom giving up at some point and letting us just enjoy!  I still think of those poker games with fond memories in the rare event that cigar smoke wafts my way.  The saying means when a situation is urgent or desperate. In poker, chips represent money being bet. When all the bets have been made, and the chips put down, the hand is over, and the players turn up their cards to see who has won. This analogy is especially pertinent when it comes to defining moments for leaders.  Real leaders step up when the chips are down.  They stand behind their teams.  It is really just that simple.

People who have a title that would indicate they should be a leader or call, or think of themselves as, a leader, frequently do not step up.  They navigate through a number of unsuccessful gyrations which can best be categorized as blaming, shaming and threatening.

Blaming 

When a leader throws his or her hands up in the air and blames someone else in the company for what’s happened, they’re pretty much saying: “Hey, it’s not my fault! It was completely out of my control!”

To the leader that blames, sentences beginning with “You…”, “If only…”, and “They…” are commonplace. And if there just happens to be an “I” in there…you can almost guarantee it’ll be quickly followed by “but”.

But the crazy thing is, these same people that continue to point the finger and make their employees feel insecure, are also usually the first to take the credit when everything pans out the way it should. Look at how you lead in a situation when things don’t go according to plan. Monitor your speech and how you say things. Avoid using pronouns and words that suggest blame

The short of it is: bad leaders blame, great leaders don’t!

Shaming 

Many leaders play the shame game at work.  The shame game goes like this. It doesn’t matter what behavior the employee exhibits—leaves work early, turns in work late, fails to turn in a report, or misses their quarterly numbers—your response is to shame the person and not focus on the behavior.

Managers, supervisors, and CEOs who use shame as a management tool like to single out people in meetings and shame them in front of their peers. These leaders focus the attention on the person— not the behavior—hoping that by shaming the person in public, the behavior will change.

However, this tactic usually backfires. Instead of placing the focus on the person, shaming places the focus on the leader’s behavior. In the end, the leader is angry, the employee is ashamed, and the rest of the employees have lost respect for the leader.

Threatening 

I’m not talking about threatening to kill them, but rather threatening them with their jobs or loss of income. It’s not professional, and it makes the leader appear weak instead of strong.

Throw Temper Tantrums

You’d think that by the time people achieve management status they’d be all grown up. But that’s not always the case.

While some people may appear to have reached adulthood, in reality, they’re just spoiled brats who throw fits when they don’t get their way.

That’s not cool in a professional environment, and it won’t garner respect or loyalty from staff.

Refuse to do things for themselves

The best managers lead by example, not by command.

In other words, they never ask their staff to do things they aren’t willing to do themselves.

Managers who behave like certain tasks are beneath them will never have a staff willing to go the distance for them.

None of the above means that you do not hold people accountable, but a true leader does it in a way that instills confidence in the team’s ability to resolve the issue at hand.  Letting them know they are behind them all the way.

What poor leaders do not realize is that they will indeed mobilize their team, but it is likely in camaraderie against them and not with them.  Any hope at garnering discretionary effort is gone and they have created an eat what you kill, every person for themselves environment.  Exactly the opposite of what many of these leaders profess to want and then cannot understand why they don’t have.  

You have a choice everyday in terms of how you respond.  Choose wisely, you cannot take it back. 

Principles of Influence

sherrie-suski-influenceThere is never a day when our life would not be easier if we honed our ability to influence others.  Influence should not be confused with manipulation, which has a negative connotation in most people’s’ minds.  The difference lies in the intention of the giver. Influence respects the target’s well-being and health. Manipulation is not often hindered by these concerns.  

According to Influence at Work, there are 6 principles of Influence 

Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking and Consensus

Reciprocity

Simply put, people are obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.  For example, does the giving of a mint have any influence over how much tip you’re going to leave them? Most people will say no. But that mint can make a surprising difference. In the study, giving diners a single mint at the end of their meal typically increased tips by around 3%.  It increases even more if the waiter pauses, turns back and gives a 2nd mint saying something along the lines of “just because you’re special”

The key to using the Principle of Reciprocity is to be the first to give and to ensure that what you give is personalized and unexpected.

Scarcity

Simply put, people want more of those things they can have less of. So when it comes to effectively persuading others using the Scarcity Principle, the science is clear. It’s not enough simply to tell people about the benefits they’ll gain if they choose your products and services. You’ll also need to point out what is unique about your proposition and what they stand to lose if they fail to consider your proposal. 

Authority

This is the idea that people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts.  State the number of years of experience has in the field. Have they been published, mention it!  What the science is telling us is that it’s important to signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgeable authority before you make your influence attempt

Consistency

People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done. So when seeking to influence using the consistency principle, the detective of influence looks for voluntary, active, and public commitments and ideally gets those commitments in writing.

For example, one recent study reduced missed appointments at health centers by 18% simply by asking the patients rather than the staff to write down appointment details on the future appointment card.

Liking

People prefer to say yes to those that they like. Persuasion science tells us that there are three important factors. We like people who are similar to us, we like people who pay us compliments, and we like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals.

Consensus

Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their own.  Sharing what others have done and the results they have achieved is a powerful motivator. 

Try a few of these and watch what results you are getting before adding others.  Soon, you will find, that this process will become second nature!

Inclusion and Diversity

While we are all used to the acronym D&I, it would more aptly be called I&D.  That which comes first garners a disproportionate share of the attention and that is exactly what has happened in this case.  Employers and the media alike are focusing on diversity, and primarily racial diversity at that.  Diversity, however, has many meanings.  It could indeed be ethnic or racial or gender, but it could also be cognitive diversity; a difference in the way someone thinks or interprets the world.  The fact is, that no matter how diligent you are in sourcing from a diverse candidate pool, tracking your internal metrics and publishing  your statistics to your Board, shareholders, investors and other stakeholders, none of it really matter if you haven’t spent the time to create an inclusive workplace. Your diverse population will leave because they don’t feel comfortable; they don’t feel like they belong.

An inclusive workplace is more than one with a Diversity Council, a few Affinity groups and holidays that include Martin Luther King Day and Juneteenth.  A truly inclusive workplace is one where everyone feels a sense of belonging.  They can bring their best and whole self to work everyday because they know they are not only accepted, but celebrated, for their differences. 

DIVERSITY: is being invited to the party

INCLUSION: is being asked to dance

BELONGING: is dancing like no one’s watching

Research tells us that over 40% of employees feel left out or isolated at work. U.S. businesses spend nearly 8 billion dollars each year on diversity and inclusion (D&I) trainings that miss the mark because they neglect our need to feel included.  If workers feel like they belong, companies reap substantial bottom-line benefits. High belonging was linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52M.

Employees with higher workplace belonging also showed a 167% increase in their employer promoter score (their willingness to recommend their company to others). They also received double the raises, and 18 times more promotions. 

There are a number of different ways that employers can increase an employee’s sense of belonging.

Lead the Charge: Ask “How would you change the situation if you could?”

Pay it Forward: Ask  “If you were to talk to someone who has just been excluded in  this same situation, what would you say or do for them to help?”

Gain Perspective: Ask- “Do you know of others in the organization who have faced  similar situations and found ways to cope?”

Be an Ally: Remind yourself of the importance of inclusive behaviors at all times. We can never fully know another’s sense of belonging within our team. Including others and treating them with fairness is always a good idea.

Promote Allies: Verbally compliment fair and inclusive behavior as a way to demonstrate that this is behavior you value.

Working together we can increase the sense of belonging for all employees in all companies!