Unlock Your Potential

We have all heard the staggering statistics around the rise in mental health issues over the last 18 months as the world and the people who populate it struggle through COVID. The coronavirus (COVID‐19) pandemic’s impact on mental health (nih.gov). The pandemic is not just a medical phenomenon; it affects individuals and society and causes disruption, anxiety, depression, stress, stigma, and xenophobia. Quarantine and self‐isolation can most likely cause a negative impact on one’s mental health. A review published in The Lancet said that separation from loved ones, loss of freedom, boredom, and uncertainty can cause a deterioration in an individual’s mental health status. Patients with mental health disorders in the COVID-19 epidemic (nih.gov).  Whether your workplace is your kitchen table or your high-rise office, the fact of the matter is that most of us spend the majority of our waking hours “at work”.  Employers, therefore, have an obligation and a societal duty to offer solutions to this ever-growing mental health crisis.

Never has the focus on employee well-being been so critically important and been quite as honestly the difference between life and death. The Impact Of Covid-19 On Suicide Rates (psycom.net). A new report by The Well Being Trust released last month found that 75,000 additional people could die from what they called “deaths of despair,” (which include suicide and substance abuse) because of Covid-19. Suicide is likely to become a more pressing concern as the pandemic spreads and has longer-term effects on the general population, the economy, and vulnerable groups,”  according to David Gunnell, professor of epidemiology at the University of Bristol.

Employers have a responsibility to create robust employee well-being programs and to ensure that they offer something for everyone.

Physical well-being

Employees are being told to isolate and many gyms have been shut down for months, leading to a lack of physical exercise and all the added health benefits it brings. The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise – HelpGuide.org  That shouldn’t stop you from offering exercise opportunities through programs like Vitality Online Fitness Training | My Vitality Coach.  You can run group engagement activities with prizes galore!

Emotional Wellness

Outside of the standard EAP’s which have experienced a jump in employees utilizing their resources, there are also programs like TalkSpace Talkspace – #1 Rated Online Therapy, 1 Million+ Users that offer one-on-one counseling, couples therapy, and Psychiatry, all 100% virtually with licensed practitioners.

Financial Wellness

Large numbers of employees in the hospitality business sector were impacted by COIVD when restaurants, hotels, and the travel industry literally ground to a halt.  While stimulus checks and increases in unemployment staved off starvation, the stress associated with not being able to pay your rent or mortgage and not knowing when you will be employed again is huge.  Offer employees the opportunity to engage with a financial coach to understand how to best manage through this difficult time.

Social well-being

We are social creatures by nature and the stress caused by not being able to hug, interact, and see our loved ones and co-workers is tremendous. Consider forming online interest groups that are designed to foster not only an inclusive workplace but to organize learning opportunities and discussions to encourage and elevate open and honest conversations around the topics that matter most.  Sometimes just knowing you are not alone, is all that is needed to help you realize that this will eventually pass.

Employers have a unique opportunity to engage with their workforces during this pandemic, to do the right thing, and to come out as a stronger team on the other side!

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.

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!

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.    

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.