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.

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!

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.