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!

Consciously Created Culture

Often times the task of “creating” the culture falls to the HR team.  The team struggles with not only how to architect the culture, but have a difficult time envisioning what that will look like in the context of their own organizations and what day to day actions to take to reinforce and embrace that culture. Should they focus on defining values, creating wrap around programs or instituting perks?  The answer is, as in many situations, it depends.

Perhaps the first place to start is understanding your external branding.  It is important that your internal branding around culture flow directly from your external branding.  It is difficult to create an internal brand exclusive of a complete understanding of an external brand.  Start here with your marketing team to fully understand what the differentiators are in the market and how they brand the company externally.  

Next, think about what is important to your workforce and the culture you want your employees to talk about when describing your company.

Comparably, is a platform to provide anonymous and comprehensive data on compensation, and insights into work culture. They give employees the knowledge they need to take control of their experience at work, to build awareness about workplace transparency, and to make work better.  Some of the categories they focus on are:

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are important for every organization.  Diverse companies are more innovative. having employees from diverse backgrounds brings different ideas to the table, preventing “groupthink” and promoting innovation. A diverse workforce ensures that some employees will be analytical, while others will have more creative propensities. Diverse approaches to the same problem generate new insights and enhance efficiency. 80 percent of people in a recent Universum https://universumglobal.com/about/ survey (including 85 percent of women) felt it was important that an employer “engages in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Professional Development

Employees today have an expectation of their careers providing not only a paycheck but an opportunity for growth and development as well.  A goal to shoot for “Training is always available, and you have the opportunity to work on projects outside your day to day role and grow your skill set. This is especially highlighted with career progression”.  Companies should shoot for at least 20% of their positions being filled from within as employee promotions. A lofty goal would be 50%.

Work-Life Balance

Flexible schedules, telecommuting and PTO can all contribute to a healthy work life balance.  However, employees need to see that the management team is modeling these behaviors before they are likely comfortable taking advantage of them themselves. Some other ideas include sponsoring events where employees family members are encouraged to join in, offering part time or job share positions.

Perks and Benefits

No conversation on culture would be complete without discussing perks and benefits.  Some of the usual benefits are on the list like company provided health insurance with affordable employee contributions and PTO ( but not unlimited).  Studies routinely show that employees do not like unlimited PTO because very few actually feel like they can use it. Wellness initiatives are another popular perk in 2019.  Most of these platforms provide gamification opportunities for bringing teams and workforces together in fun competition.

The most important aspect of consciously creating a culture is that you create one that is unique to your company and the employees you serve.  

Defensiveness

sherrie-suski-defensivenessDefensiveness is defined as the quality of being anxious to avoid criticism and/or the behavior intended to defend or protect.  Some have even defined it as reacting with a war mentality to a non-war issue. While none of us relishes criticism, it is a necessary part of growth.  To be able to see ourselves as others see us is a gift that allows us to leave old habits behind and adopt new, healthier ways of having relationships with others.  

An Open Heart

Changing defensive behavior stars with being able to listen with an open heart to what is being said.  Assume the person has your best interests in mind and is sharing something that you need to hear. Try and clear you mind so that you are truly listening and not rehearsing your next defensive statement in your mind while they are speaking.

Express Your Feelings

Being able to openly express your feelings is requisite to becoming less defensive.  Letting people know in a calm manner when they have upset you is not being defensive.  Lashing out with an inflammatory statement is. 

Building Trust

Working through conflict builds trust in any relationship.  It assures both partners that they can trust each other; they can be honest and acknowledge that any relationship is a work in progress, not fixed or defined on just one person’s terms or one moment in time.

Toxic Comments

Bottom line: if we don’t learn how to deal with our grievances head on, inevitably we deal with them indirectly, most often in more toxic forms: by teasing or making snide comments, holding grudges, or by growing more indifferent over time. 

Of course, it’s difficult to give and receive healthy criticism if we’re clinging to a defensive attitude. If you feel yourself become defensive, try to see if you can simply acknowledge it, and work through the conflict as honestly and generously as possible.

Self- esteem

Temperament, history, and, most importantly self-esteem can impact how we respond to criticism.  Some people have so much negative self talk occurring in their heads that they feel they just can’t accept any more from someone else.  Realizing that just because someone is criticizing one issue, does not mean you are a bad person overall is key to building better relationships

People who are more prone to defensiveness may perceive an attack in certain situations in which people with resilient and calm temperaments would perceive none. Experiment with viewing the situation from different vantage points.

Overall, defensiveness in life will hold you back from building better relationships and from growing as an individual

Human Resources Strategy

Once you have assessed your Organizational Culture and understand where you stand, you can move on to HR Strategy in support of that strategy.

The journey toward assessing and implementing your HR strategy may follow the same below five stages.

Functional

Minimal overarching strategies direct the HR team’s efforts. The HR team is largely reactive to the business stakeholders with respect to independent processes (talent acquisition, training, succession, compliance, compensation, etc.) The scope of HR’s roles and structure hold the function back from understanding the business and the employees. Several HR systems may still be manual. The team is focused on the day to day activities without understanding their impact on the organization.

Cross- functional

Strategies regarding critical HR functions (talent acquisition, management development and performance management) are project managed and process-driven, but they are not integrated. There may also be differing degrees of maturity. All functions within HR begin to engage more proactively with the business to ensure alignment, but efforts are not consistent, and change tends to happen slowly.  There are no launch plans and programs introduced, while valuable, may seem disjointed.

Building

Key HR processes start to become integrated as the organization recognizes the need for greater adaptability. Better alignment between the HR strategies and the business strategies is starting to take place. The cascading of organizational goals as a way to guide individual and team objectives and development begins to become pervasive.  Employees start to see the alignment between HR programs from various functions.

Enhancing

HR Programs such as talent acquisition, management development, succession, engagement and incentives are connected to one another in order to heighten the output of the organization. The business strategies are routinely translated into HR strategies, so the HR team remains in-step with the company.  There is a path that HR is capable of walking the organization down. An understanding of how each program introduced flows into and builds upon the one before.

Optimized

Sophisticated and integrated near and long-term HR strategies exist, usually in the 3-year range. Strategic objectives, which are typically cross-organizational, require HR leaders to collaborate cross functionally, creating shared goals and actions. Collectively these behaviors drive successful business outcomes. The strategy is continually reviewed to ensure it is on track with the business and averting unnecessary risk. When necessary, the strategy is rapidly altered based on data-driven inputs to stay on course.  Automation and data based decision making are key at this advanced stage.

Not every organization will achieve the optimized state, but it is, nevertheless, a worthy goal.  HR gains their seat at the table by being able to positively impact the business and align their processes to business outcomes.

Tech and Analytics Set Top HR Departments Apart

sherrie-suski-data

According to recent research from The Hackett Group, an IT service management firm, “World-class HR organizations” achieve more than other HR operations by spending 26% less, relying on 32% fewer staff and embracing digital transformation.  The adoption of digital technology could help HR departments reach world-class status in fewer than five years and see progress in less than two years. To be honest, HR departments who fully embrace the use of tech and analytics can see progress in as little as 6 months.  

The study went on to find that top tier HR organizations are better at developing people and moving them into new roles; two-thirds of open managerial positions at these organizations were filled by internal candidates. The Hackett Group said world-class HR departments contain an estimated 33% fewer transactional employees and 34% fewer staff dedicated to employee lifecycle activities.  The old rule of thumb of having 1 HR person per 100 employees is falling by the wayside with the introduction of technology. Technology not only makes the bottom line look better, but offers opportunities to employees, previously solely devoted to administrative work, an option to focus on more meaningful activities and the opportunity for real growth and career path.

Among the study’s takeaways, authors found that world-class organizations use digital technology to improve the customer experience, develop analytics capabilities, transfer resources from low- to high-value initiatives, and provide expertise and insights to business leaders. Use cases include recruiting, compliance, staffing services and outsourcing.  

Imagine:

  • Being able to predict turnover down to the individual level
  • Having zero errors in your administration because all of it is automated
  • Guiding each of your employees through their own personal benefit enrollment process focusing on only the items important to them
  • Creating a flawless candidate experience where each candidate gets a “red carpet” treatment

World-class HR leaders understand the need to provide other business leaders with HR data and insight affecting their individual operations. This technology-based capability demonstrates HR executives’ knowledge of the business and financial sides of an organization, which can seat them alongside other C-suite executives and shore up employee trust in HR program.  Top HR departments around the globe are moving to not only use but embrace these tools. Have you started?

The Candidate Experience

Every engaging employee experience actually starts with an engaging candidate experience.  Candidates start their experience with your company the first time they hear or see something that reflects your brand.  It could be an ad for employment, but it could also be a press release, a piece of gossip, a Google or Glassdoor review or a group of employees standing in front of your building.  Every interaction with your brand is an opportunity to delight or to disappoint.

One of the best ways to figure out how to be on the right side of that equation is to put yourself in their shoes. What would you want if you were a potential candidate?  You might want to work for a company that is stable and/or one that has good growth potential.  Maybe one where the application process is easy. When you are writing your ads, take advantage of the job profile that can be created using one of the many behavioral assessment tools.  

Employment Ads

I personally find Predictive Index to do an admirable job.  Each ad could be written to include not just the job responsibilities but using words that capture the essence of your company and this particular role.  

Instead of using:

Leader sought to manage the Accounting team focusing on deliverables

Use:

Dynamic leader sought to ramp up and manage Accounting team focusing on superior level of performance

Or Use:

Detailed oriented manager sought to manage Accounting team of professionals, ensuring the accuracy of all journal entries and reporting

These three sentences say basically the same thing but would attract very different types of candidates.  You want your candidates to feel they fit long before they ever walk in the door.

 

Ease of Application Process

Make sure your application process is easy. Applicants should be able to apply using their mobile device so it is imperative that all of your systems are created with responsive design in mind.  Your ATS should be programmed for multiple touchpoints with a candidate to ensure they know you received your resume and, ideally, although few systems are programmed to do this, allow them a self serve option to find out where they are in the process.  

 

A Personal Touch

Although technology saves all of us countless hours of times, a personal touch is still appreciated in this highly technological world.  Never allow more than 24 – 48 hours to pass before you have contacted a candidate to provide follow up feedback from an in-house interview. Even if the response is negative, candidates appreciate hearing honest feedback on what they can improve on and why their qualifications did not land them the position.

There are many ways to improve your candidates’ experience and be rewarded with the right candidates at the right time to scale your organization.

Workplace Anxiety

sherrie-suski-anxiety

The numbers of people who are affected by anxiety are on the rise.  Recent reports estimate that 40 million people are affected by anxiety, roughly 18 percent of the nation’s population. 

While it is hard to tell whether this rise is an actual increase in those affected by anxiety or simply an increase in those willing to report it, one thing is for sure, uncontrolled anxiety impacts a person’s quality of life both at home and at work.  

 

Strategies for coping with Anxiety

  • Ensure that you have a strong support system both at home and at work.  Spending time with family and friends is one of the best ways to ease the stress of the day.  People who develop strong emotional connections at work have built in safety nets for diffusing some of that stress before it becomes harmful.
  • Exercise before, during or after work.  Everyone has a time when they feel their best.  Some may prefer to get up early and for others it is the perfect release after the end of a long day.  Some are lucky enough to have company or company sponsored gyms that they can take advantage of during the workday
  • Take a different perspective, remembering that not everything is urgent. Learning to laugh a little at how busy things can get, automatically eases the stress level.  
  • Try looking at things a different way the next time you feel stressed.  For example: Instead of rolling your eyes when yet one more person walks into your office, think of it as how many opportunities you have to impact someone’s life in a positive way.  The more the better!
  • Do something to lighten your own mood.  Maybe it’s wearing a funny saying under your work shirt or leaving yourself inspirational messages.  Whatever breaks to constant stream of stress, even for a few minutes, will be helpful
  • Keep a journal of all the crazy, wacky, unbelievable things that happen.  Then, after a particularly stressful day, you will be able to review the past happenings and realize that today was no worse than some of the past days have been.  They passed and you got through them.
  • Fake it until you make it.  Pretend that you’re not anxious or bothered by what happens at work. Because of something known as cognitive dissonance, the mind can actually adapt to the way you act. If you act like a great, confident, happy employee every day even when you’re genuinely not, you can start to feel the very same positive emotions that you’re pretending to experience, and ultimately reduce your anxiety that way.

 

The way you handle the anxiety is not as important as finding the approach that works best for you.  Don’t be reluctant to reach out for professional help if you have tried numerous approached and nothing seems to be working.  Left untreated, anxiety has a negative impact on your quality of life and you deserve only the best!