The Key to Success

We have all been there.  Should we buy the house or not?  Should we go back to school or put our energies into our current role Should I Go Back to School During a Recession? – Kenzie Academy (snhu.edu)?  Should we hire the candidate or move on?  We, more frequently than not, choose to stay the course.  We choose not to buy the house and to stay where we are, we choose not to return to school and we choose not to hire the candidate.  We pat ourselves on the back for making a great decision.  The house was too expensive, and we probably couldn’t have sold our current home, we probably couldn’t have managed to further our education and continue to work and that candidate that we decided to turn down was lacking in at least 6 different ways.  You have avoided what was certain to be a failure.  The question is, whose failure are you actually trying to avoid and what are you giving up when you are unwilling to take a risk? The Incredible Power of Taking Risks in Life – The Daily Positive

The fact of the matter is, the greatest achievements require going outside of your comfort zone and taking a well thought out risk.   Many of us have a difficult time dealing with the uncertainty that goes along with taking risks. We grow uneasy not knowing the outcome and we fear potential failure. What if I cause my family financial ruin?  What if I lose my job because I can’t put in as many hours as before? What if the candidate that I hire isn’t perfect and I am blamed? At the root of most of these questions is the questions “What if I’m not good enough?”  

One way to combat the fear of risk taking is to ask yourself “What if” or “So what?”  These questions can diffuse the negative self-talk by providing alternatives. Taking a risk to achieve a goal requires courage to face the fear of uncertainty. No matter the outcome, either way, we grow through the process and become more resilient and confident.  There is no right or wrong answer to many of life’s questions and avoiding them all together ensures that you never allow yourself the opportunity to grow.

Another way to combat the fear of uncertainty is to remember that in almost every situation, you are allowed to make a U-turn.  If the decision you made does not work out as you expected it to, then make another decision.  Figure out what your learnings are, what experience you took away from the situation and move on.

One of the more obvious ways to reduce the fear of risk is to learn as much as you can about the experience you are considering embarking on. Career advice: How to get better at taking risks (usatoday.com) Find other people who have done what you are considering doing and get their advice, listen to what they have learned and what they would have chosen to do differently.

Successfully taking risks The Importance Of Taking Risks (7 Reasons To Take More Risks) (eightysixfourhundred.com)can lead to very positive outcomes including:

  • Standing out form the crowd
  • Helping you to feel alive and empowered
  • Enabling you to think more creatively
  • Helping you to learn about yourself

Risk taking can be healthy and help people develop confidence. Any failure you experience is part of the success process, not the antithesis of success.  If you aren’t willing to risk failing it is likely you will never be willing to take the risks necessary to experience great success!

The Great Resignation Becomes The Great Regret

It is no secret that employees have been quitting in droves, leaving the safety of positions where they have built up political capital for new positions that promise greener pastures and can come with 25%, 50%, and higher increases. Employees say they are leaving to work for employers who are more people-centric, where they feel like their work has a purpose and can add meaning to their lives. According to Pew Research Pew Research Center | Pew Research Center in a new study, “low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement, and feeling disrespected at work”, are the top reasons why Americans quit their jobs last year. But are all these workers leaving their jobs for new jobs finding that the new jobs are that much better than their old jobs? That their new employers are that much better than their existing employers? In many cases, the resounding answer is “No”.

That theory has been echoed by another study released this week by the job search site the Muse. Muse Jobs (Hiring) – ItsMyCareer Its study of more than 2,500 workers found that almost three-quarters of them (72%) experienced either “surprise or regret” that the new position or new company they quit their job for turned out to be “very different” from what they were led to believe. Nearly half (48%) of these workers said they would try to get their old job back thanks to a phenomenon that the Muse is calling “shift shock”.

“They’ll join a new company thinking it’s their dream job and then there’s a reality check,” the company’s CEO, Kathryn Minshew told FOX Business. “It’s this really damaging phenomenon where people are brand new in their role, and they suddenly realize it’s not at all as advertised.” They have given up the solid relationships and reputations built over the years at their previous positions, to chase the next best thing.

Much of this confusion is being driven by Gen Z, Generation Z – Wikipedia those generally born after 1995 who make up more than a quarter of the workforce. According to a recent study by career counseling provider Zety, Zety – Professional Resume & Cover Letter Tools For Any Job those workers report that the factors that are most appealing in a new job include, of course, a good benefits package (67%). But just as important to them is a company with “values that match their own” (62%), that has a purpose for being that “goes beyond merely making a profit” (61%), offers “plentiful career development and progression opportunities” (59%) and has a “strong brand reputation” (49%).

Ask any baby boomer who’s been in the workforce for a number of years and they’ll tell you that the grass is often the same color at the new job. But few, if any Gen Zer’s are seeking the advice of boomers.

The good news is that companies have a choice and research firm Gartner Gartner | Delivering Actionable, Objective Insight to Executives and Their Teams urges employers to adopt a more “human-centric” work model that includes better working hours, more productive meetings, and greater flexibility to reduce this turnover. Having clear growth opportunities and career paths are a must for a generation that grew up with instant gratification. Neither the great resignation nor the great regret is in employees’ or employers’ best interests. A strong people-centric philosophy will likely cure both.

The Changing Face of Human Resources

There has been an earthquake-like shift in the employee-employer relationship and it has happened, not over decades, but within 2 years. It has changed the way employers interact with their employees and the way employees show up for work. In the past, even the advanced HR functions were still primarily transactionally based. This shift has necessitated that employers look at each employee in an authentic Are you an authentic HR leader? (humanresourcesonline.net)way, taking into account their needs on a holistic basis and not just during the workweek. Employees more than ever before are coming to the table with demands. Demands for work/life balance, for enhanced benefits, for more pay, and most importantly, for meaningful work where they can serve a greater purpose and be a part of something bigger than themselves. They are holding employers accountable in record numbers for taking a stand on important issues and being able to eloquently articulate how they are improving the world.  

COVID, while an incredible health travesty, has in some ways, sped up this revolution. It has caused people, employees, to step back and assess what is important to them, where they want to work, how they want to work, and what they are willing to sacrifice, if anything, for a job. In record numbers, over 4.4M in Nov 2021 alone, People Explained Why They Resigned During The Great Resignation, And Their Points Are Sooo Valid (yahoo.com)employees are quitting and quitting without necessarily having another position lined up. Quitting to pursue their passions and their interests and realizing that money is only a part of the equation to leading a happy life. The term The Great Resignation, Great Resignation – Wikipedia coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, who predicted the mass exodus in May 2021, is on everyone’s minds.

I feel very fortunate to be a part of an organization that started this journey long before the world had ever heard of COVID, to have embraced our WHY, and to have established inspirational Guiding Principles that serve as a daily roadmap for our teams for how we want to serve our employees, our residents and our broader communities. Well-being has always been at the forefront of our message and wellbeing in the broader sense of the word, incorporating physical, financial, social, emotional, and career wellbeing. As a people-first company, we continue to take the individual needs of our workforce into account, personalizing our offerings and doing what is right.

While the staggering numbers of employees who are quitting their jobs and moving on may slow in the coming months, the seismic shifts surrounding flexibility and employee demands that have occurred will remain. I am frequently asked by our employees and others if we will revert to the old ways of working without the flexibility and the hybrid The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready? (microsoft.com)schedules. My answer is always the same “No”. Once we enter a period of enlightenment it is impossible not to know what we know. People can be highly productive working from someplace other than the office, working irregular hours and days, and can be trusted to get the job done, whether you can “see” them or not.

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!

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!

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.

Continuous Feedback

sherrie-suski-reviewAn increased number of organizations are moving away from the annual review process to a feedback process that incorporates more frequent or real-time feedback. How frequent the review process depends on the scale, culture, and needs of the organization.  Although the process sounds simple enough, there are a number of considerations to be debated prior to implementing this type of change, from systems and platform changes to training associated with the new process.

Quarterly Feedback

Some companies choose to take an interim step between annual reviews and real-time feedback.  Enter the quarterly review. Quarterly reviews can be as simple as creating a comment box where each of the managers composes a brief summary of accomplishments for the preceding quarter or as complex as an annual review process, with ratings against core competencies, and comments for each conducted quarterly instead of annually.  Whether simple or complex, this process alleviates the employees’ common concerns around being surprised at the end of the year with feedback that they had never heard.

Real-time Feedback

The end goal in giving real-time feedback is to be able to provide continuous feedback to the employee so they can course correct in real time.  Normally this will be a two-way street where the manager can give feedback and the employee can ask for feedback on a specific project.  Many real-time systems will also provide an avenue to create Individual Development Plans ( IDP’s) in conjunction with the feedback to address any skill gaps that are identified so that training needs can be identified and a plan built to address

360 Feedback

Moving to 360 feedback, which entails feedback coming from the employee’s manager; peers; and subordinates, and is the most comprehensive of the feedback systems.  360 reviews should never be introduced without a training plan that encompasses all levels of the organization. Employees need to be coached on how to solicit feedback, how to give appropriate feedback and how to handle the feedback once it is received.  Criticism that is not truly constructive and offered with a pure heart, is almost never internalized.

Compensation

Organizations are frequently perplexed when it comes to implementing compensation reviews without an annual rating process that drives a matrix to calculate the percentage increase earned. After all, pay is one of the primary reasons employees show up to work each day. If you’re fundamentally redesigning how you determine their pay, then you need a clear plan that’s clearly communicated.  Many organizations have moved to a simplified approach where each manager is given autonomy to make pay decisions. Each manager is allocated a budget and is responsible for determining the pay/bonus of direct reports.

Ultimately, whichever review process and compensation model you choose to implement, your people leaders need to be trained to take an increasingly more active role in the management of their teams.  They need to understand that managing their people to be the best they can be is fundamentally what leadership is all about!

Measuring the Employee Experience

There are many tools on the market that purport to accurately measure the customer experience.  They focus on such topics as action management, customer segmentation, feedback management, sentiment analysis and trend analysis, just to name a few.  Then there are whole CRM systems whose goal it is to manage a company’s interaction with current and future customers. The CRM approach tries to analyze data about customers’ history with a company, in order to better improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on retaining customers, in order to drive sales growth.  If we want to understand the employee experience, we have to pursue it with the same gusto and metrics that we do our customer experiences. In general, great experiences don’t just happen, they have to be consciously designed.

We need to start with the belief that a strong correlation exists between the quality of the employee experience and work productivity, which ultimately drives engagement and, hopefully, the delivery of more value to your end customer.  However, there are challenges around measuring workforce experience because no single person, department or function owns the whole experience. Organizations use many tools to understand the experiences, positive or negative, their employees are having — pulse surveys like Waggl, annual employee surveys, quarterly or annual performance reviews incorporating self-reviews, weekly management meetings, talent and succession planning, town hall meetings and so on. The issue is that these tools and the feedback received from them can offer a fragmented and often misleading view of how good the employee experience is.

Forrester has a Workforce Experience Model that is worth reviewing.  It is built around Engagement, Productivity and Impact.  The only issue I would take with their assumptions is that I believe productivity actually drives engagement and not the other way around.  

Productivity

Being able to measure productivity assumes that you have done studies to understand what acceptable levels of productivity are by function.  It isn’t the measuring piece that is difficult, it is understanding and creating the “what” to measure and the scale that makes it challenging

Engagement

An engaged workforce willingly invests time and energy in the success of the business and the degree of engagement will impact business results. Everyone has discretionary engagement that they may choose to deploy at their job or elsewhere. Your mission is to ensure that it is deployed at the job to the benefit of the customers.  To my point, Daniel Pink’s secret to high performance and satisfaction  – the deeply human need to direct our own lives (autonomy), the desire to get better at something that matters (mastery) and the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves (purpose).

Impact

The positive business outcome of productive, engaged employees is a loyal customer. Customer-facing employees, customer service, for example, have the greatest potential direct impact on the customer experience and satisfaction. What about those employees that don’t usually engage with customers directly, like Accounting, Finance or HR, where the potential for positive impact on customer experience is harder to quantify? They know how the processes really work in your organization and may be the best ones to identify and rectify problems for customers quickly.

The conventional eNPS  (Employee Net Promoter Score)  is a standardized tool that you could benchmark your organization against year over year and,  benchmark your ratings against other companies of your size or in your industry. The issue is that it is one question and for most of us, does not really provide value when wanting to delve into the specifics.  There are also multiple surveys you can conduct through Fortune, OC Register or other organizations, but they are quite expensive and questions can be tailored so they do not provide an apples to apples comparison across organizations.  Eventually, it would be great to have an industry accepted employee engagement scale that could be used to drive the employee experience and, ultimately the customer experience.

(From Forbes) “Want To Get Noticed By Recruiters? Honing These 10 Skills Can Help”

I was recently featured in a Forbes article on recruiting. You can find an excerpt from the article below. For the full article, click here

 

6. Automation

In order to stand out, you need to be ahead of the trends. Experience in and being able to talk intelligently about AI and RPA ( Robotic Process Automation) is important in any field to which you are applying. Ensure that you have some examples of how AI has streamlined a process, created efficiencies and delivered measurable results. Discuss what you were able to achieve by freeing up resources. – Sherrie SuskiTricon American Homes”

Workplace Certifications

We recently embarked on a fact-finding mission around workplace certifications.  I felt strongly that we had done an amazing job internally creating a world class work environment for our employees who are spread out over 10 states and 19 different locations, but few outside of the company were aware of that.  In today’s competitive global job market, being a well-known organization or having a famous consumer brand name is not enough to attract and retain top talent. Organizations need to build an agile and connected workplace, create amazing employee experiences, nurture feedback and dialogue, actively focus on innovation, and embed their businesses into the future.

Types of certifications

Great Place to Work

This is a certification connected to Fortune. The survey is actually conducted by their research partner, Great Place TO work.  The survey is made up of about 60 questions and an additional lengthy questionnaire needs to be completed by Human Resources.  They tell you 4 hours, but we easily spent 5-10X that. Should be fortune- ate (😊) enough to be certified, this opens up the door for you to participate throughout the year in a number of other certifications including:  Top 100 Companies, Best workplaces for Diversity, Best Workplaces for Parents, Small & Medium companies, People’s Companies that Care Best workplaces for Millennials, just to name a few.

Aon Best Employers

The program salutes the achievements made by organizations that create sustainable competitive advantage through their people. Aon Best Employers program looks into the health of your organization from the inside, using the most objective measure possible – your employees’ opinion. Backed by more than 18 years’ worth of data on employee experience, Aon Best Employers program measures and recognizes extraordinary employers. It differentiates on people factors which are the key to success: high employee engagement, profound agility, engaging leadership and maniacal talent focus. Aon looks at 4 key areas:  Engagement, Agility, Engaging Leadership, and Talent Focus. They offer both a ready to use on-line survey, as well as a tailored engagement survey that you can customize.

Glassdoor Best Places to Work

Although considered a necessary evil by many to whom I have spoken, there is no arguing that prospective employees turn to Glassdoor to see what others are saying on the inside.  Glassdoor automatically selects those employers that obtain the highest average number of stars given in the reviews by their own employees.  I am proud to say we are at a 4.6, but 1/10th lower than we needed to be to win a Best Small & Medium Places to Work for 2018.  

Next time we will talk about the reasons why, both internally and externally it makes sense to participate in Work Place certifications.