Cultivating an alluring company culture

When it comes to building a company culture that invites employees in, builds them up and keeps them content, the question arises: What does it take to create that kind of culture?

For Mike Bogan, CEO of LandCare, it comes down to listening to employees, asking questions, staying engaged, striving daily for improvements, communication and caring about your team members.

“Our industry is unique, and we’re focused on bringing in the best talent and developing people to their fullest capability so they make the industry better wherever they land,” Bogan said. “Building a company culture that allows people to grow, develop to their fullest and find their passion – that’s good for the bigger picture.”

Establishing the culture
According to Bogan, LandCare decided to go in a new direction as a company in 2015. When heading into this new direction, Bogan said the company did not simply create a mission statement and hand it out to the teams. As a leader in the company, he decided to take a more hands-on approach.

“We went out into our branches to speak directly to the backbone of our company and asked our teams to help identify what our core values were going to be,” Bogan said. “We’ve rebuilt our company culture from the ground up, and we did that by listening. That’s how we came up with our core values as they stand today. We delight our customers. Lead with confidence and integrity. Work hard, smart and safe. Inspire others with meaningful environments. And we have fun with a commitment to teamwork.”

When it comes to the employee side of establishing this welcoming culture, Bogan says his employees do this by staying engaged in what the goals of the company are. This, Bogan says, gives employees the chance to contribute to and influence the direction the company’s growth will take.

Bogan says that the active participation and feedback he received from employees, whether favorable or critical, helps propel the company and creates a cohesive team.

“We can’t make things better without engaged team members, and we really do have that engagement with our teams currently,” Bogan said. “In our employee satisfaction survey this year, we had a record 97 percent survey completion rate. Everyone has a voice and they feel empowered to use it.”

One of the main ways Bogan says he actively participates when it comes to building this positive company culture is by simply asking questions. While it’s great to have an open-door policy, Bogan says many employees will shy away from speaking up or giving their opinions unless they are asked directly.

He recommends taking advantage of this by calling on someone during a casual meeting or even in formal ways, such as using an employee satisfaction survey.

“On conference calls or in meetings, I’ll take the time to put someone on the spot and ask them their thoughts on the topic at hand,” Bogan said. “With a little bit of coaxing, you can access a larger array of opinions, ideas and thoughts than if you never ask.”

Bogan says that when he visits other branches, he will also take time to meet and greet with other team members there. He uses this time to talk to them about their personal experiences with the company, how they feel about being part of the LandCare team and what they could improve on as a company or as a branch.

“We want this kind of participation to be second nature in our organization,” Bogan said. “People are only loyal and committed when they deeply believe in the company’s purpose. So, we show each team member they matter by asking them for feedback, testing new ways to improve communication, training and career development, all while taking the time to find out what’s important to them.”

Maintaining and growing the culture
Once the culture is established, the next task at hand is to maintain what’s been created and continue to grow it in a positive direction.

Bogan says that at LandCare, they don’t stop once the culture’s been established; they continue to evolve by striving to always improve as a work environment.

“One of our major focuses every year is on employee satisfaction,” Bogan said. “We grade ourselves and hold ourselves accountable to these measures. This year, we focused one of our wildly important goals on employee retention and satisfaction, and all our branches and support teams developed lead measures that they could influence to help move the needle.”

Bogan says that by performing weekly check-ins, they are able to quickly determine what is and is not working. The company then uses this to build a working model and learn how to proceed from there.

“The level of participation and engagement this generates in our branches as our teams see the direct impact this is having in their own businesses is highly rewarding, and is something we’re going to continue into 2018,” Bogan said.

Believe it or not, some companies may not see the importance of fostering a company culture such as the one at LandCare, but Bogan stresses that it’s one of the most important things a business owner could do.

While he would love to think that those working with him now will stay long term, that’s not always a possibility. But even if his employees do find employment elsewhere, Bogan still hopes they leave his care fully equipped to face their next challenge.

“If you truly care about each team member, you want the best for that person,” Bogan said. “Obviously, we try to nurture growth opportunities at LandCare, but if an opportunity comes up elsewhere, we hope to have imparted the skills and work ethic that will make them successful wherever they go. If they can’t find everything they want here, we want them to have had a positive experience and remain supportive of our success.”

Within LandCare, Bogan says there is a team dedicated to attracting employees to the company, as well as an organizational focus group dedicated to maintaining the talent brought in.

Bogan says that the company has high retention goals, which means that employee satisfaction and engagement is extremely important. Bogan notes that the company keeps a weekly score of how it’s performing, and with this score, they keep each other accountable.

“If you walk around any of our branches, you’ll find our scoreboards prominently displayed with updates on our progress,” Bogan said. “Our branch teams come up with their own lead measures on how they can impact the overall goal as individuals. When you’re accountable for measures you set for yourself, it creates higher engagement and investment in the common goal.”

With this operation in play, Bogan says LandCare has seen weekly advancement rates in the 90th percentile.

Giving back to customers
Along with creating a company culture that employees will thrive in, Bogan believes that it’s equally as important to let that culture cross over into the world of customer service.

Bogan says that just as it is with employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction is deeply rooted in communication. He strives to ensure that those at LandCare are asking the right questions, truly listening to the customers and are also working diligently to keep customers informed and engaged in the relationship.

“It’s all about communication,” Bogan said. “Show the customer that you deeply care about what is important to them. Providing excellent customer service means going the extra mile to prove to the customer that they are better served by LandCare.”

Along with taking care to ensure that his employees are maintaining this high standard of customer service, Bogan put his money where his mouth is by keeping the same standards for himself.

Bogan believes that from the top of the company to the bottom, everyone should be willing to offer this high standard of customer service to their clients, and likewise the employees should expect that same treatment.

“I take an open approach where I’m accessible and available to anyone who needs my ear,” Bogan said. “In our customer satisfaction survey this year, I encouraged anybody who wanted to share their experience to reach out to me directly. I picked up every phone call, responded to every email, worked with our teams to address any issues or concerns, and then I followed up directly with our customers to ensure that they were receiving the service they had hoped to get with us.”

Since taking this new direction almost three years ago, Bogan is amazed at how far the company has come. With the goal of putting people first in this new direction, Bogan feels that decision was one of the best he could have made.

“I came in knowing that there was a lot of work that needed to be done to right the ship, so I started with the people first,” Bogan said. “And now, almost three years later, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. We couldn’t have done it without sharing a vision that resonates with our team members. Culture has to live in each local branch, so any affirmation is really a sign of the impact of each of our leaders.”


100 Women: ‘Why I invented the glass ceiling phrase’

The term “glass ceiling” refers to the sometimes-invisible barrier to success that many women come up against in their careers. Management consultant Marilyn Loden coined the phrase almost 40 years ago but says it is still as relevant as ever.

I first used the phrase “glass ceiling” in 1978 during a panel discussion about women’s aspirations. As I listened, I noted how the (female) panellists focused on the deficiencies in women’s socialisation, the self-deprecating ways in which women behaved, and the poor self-image that many women allegedly carried.

It was a struggle to sit quietly and listen to the criticisms.

True, women did seem unable to climb the career ladder beyond the lowest rung of middle management, but I argued that the “invisible glass ceiling” – the barriers to advancement that were cultural not personal – was doing the bulk of the damage to women’s career aspirations and opportunities.

I was an experienced HR professional in the telecoms industry, and yet was often told by my male boss to “smile more”. He made a point of commenting on my appearance at literally every meeting.

On the occasions when there was more than one woman manager at a meeting, there were usually comments made if the two sat together. On several occasions, I was told that the advancement of women within middle management was “degrading the importance” of these positions.

Once I was told that despite my better performance record, a promotion I was hoping for was going to a male peer. The reason given was that he was a “family man” – that he was the main breadwinner and so needed the money more.

During the 1970s and into the 1980s, there were no laws in place in the US to protect women from workplace harassment or assault. There was also no awareness in organisations about the severity of the problem and zero interest in hearing about or resolving it.

On 24 May 2018, the “glass ceiling” will be 40 years old.

What has changed for working women in that time? The sheer number of female managers has increased dramatically across most industries and yet the metaphor continues to symbolise an enduring barrier to gender equality – one that has been normalised in many organisations where there is now a sense of complacency about the lack of women at the top.

I advise clients like the US military and Fortune 500 corporations to encourage employees – both men and women – to step up when they observe things happening in the workplace that are unfair, disrespectful or exclusionary.

It means saying to employees: “You have a part to play in creating a culture of respect for everyone. You can’t be a bystander in this effort. Instead, you have to take action.”

What is 100 Women?
BBC 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year. For our 2017 season we challenged them to tackle four of the biggest problems facing women today – the glass ceiling, female illiteracy, harassment in public spaces and sexism in sport. Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and use #100Women

Rather than accept the glass ceiling as inevitable, it is time for institutions to acknowledge that the embedded biases in their cultures predisposing many men for career success while diminishing the strengths, styles and capabilities of the majority of talented women must be eradicated.

Marilyn LodenImage copyrightMARILYN LODEN
I am referring to the biases that assume men are “born leaders”, that working mothers are not committed to their careers, that women are too emotional, that sexual harassment is not a problem, and that there is no room on the executive floor for people who speak softly, have a high degree of emotional intelligence and favour participative leadership over autocratic management.

Back in 1978, a common lament in organisations was that women “lacked the credentials and experience” required to lead effectively. Today, that criticism can no longer be used to justify their slow climb to the top.

Over the past four decades women have closed the education gap, moved into non-traditional jobs at remarkably high rates, simultaneously managed families and challenging careers, and demonstrated their ability to innovate, inspire and manage effectively in every sector of the global workplace.

We need only remove the blinkers to appreciate and leverage all that they have to offer.

You can watch Marilyn Loden taking part in the 100 Women Challenge: Breaking the Glass Ceiling on BBC iPlayer until 17 November


New Year’s Employee Engagement Strategy: Set Realistic Goals

Our founder, Stefan Wissenbach, always says “play a game you know you can win.” That’s not just about beating your kids at Scrabble – it means setting yourself up for success when creating personal and professional goals. When you set goals you can realistically accomplish, you help yourself build positive momentum and confidence that contribute to even greater successes.

Here’s our guide to setting realistic, achievable goals for 2018.

Forget “New Year’s Resolutions”
Nobody keeps their resolutions past February. (Seriously, statistics show that only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions)

Why do they fail? Mostly because they set too many resolutions and become derailed by small failures.

So while we do think setting a goal that begins on January 1st is useful timing, let’s skip the New Year’s nomenclature. Set a few goals for yourself for 2018 – but do it the SMART way.

A SMART Take on Goal Setting
Studies show that people with written goals are 50 percent more likely to achieve them than people without written goals. With that in mind, here’s a writing exercise to set you up for success in 2018.

Holiday travel is great for carving out time for self-reflection. Whether you find yourself in a plane, train or automobile, take a little time to review 2017. If you set goals for 2017, write down what they were. Which were you able to accomplish? Which did you leave undone? Note down what worked, what didn’t work, and what you can do to improve in 2018. We’re essentially applying the Experience Transformer technique to goal setting.

Then, draft out a short list of what you’d most like to accomplish this year. We recommend setting one big goal, or up to three. But no more than that, because you may find that following through is more of a commitment of time, energy and resources than you think.

Once you’ve sketched out three goals you’d like to achieve, make them SMART.

SMART is a goal-setting structure that helps with clarity, focus and motivation. These goals are:
Specific – What do you want to accomplish? Why is that goal important? What resources do you need to do it? What is your plan for getting those resources?

Measurable – How can you track your progress towards your goal to stay motivated? For the same reason it’s so important to measure engagement for your employee engagement strategy, it’s also important to measure your own progress in any area of your life you wish to improve.

Achievable – When goal-setting, be careful not to overestimate what you can do. If anything, underestimate and make sure you’re playing a game you can win.

Relevant – Write down why this goal is worthwhile to you right now. This statement will come in handy when you need to remember your motivation later.

Time-Bound – Set a time limit on when you can reasonably expect to meet this goal, and don’t make it too far ahead (like December 31st). What can you do in the next three months to get closer to your goal? Plan in bite-sized increments.

Adding details and giving yourself a structure to reach your goals will get you most of the way there, but there’s another component to success: Sharing your goals.

Make it a Team Effort
Research has shown that sharing goals with a friend and sending that friend regular updates on your progress can improve chances of success – people who write goals down, enlist friends, and send progress reports have been shown to succeed 75 percent of the time.

Sometimes a friend isn’t enough. Sometimes you need someone in authority to hold you accountable. If you need that extra layer, consider investing in a coach, trainer, or other professional (You can also enlist your own team members to be your “Goal Buddy”). Finding the right tools can also help. In the age of smartphones, you might well ask: Is there an app for that? There are probably several.

Most importantly, consider how you’ve achieved goals in the past. What about those situations contributed to your success? How can you recreate what worked then now? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to successful goal setting. The truest compass is always yourself.


KPMG’s dynamic skills development approach

As a global firm providing audit, tax, and advisory services across a multitude of industries and geographies, KPMG prides itself on fostering strong and dynamic relationships with its army of clients.

However, robust people ties are also emphasised internally: the organisation has long been fostering a people-first culture within its ranks.

That emphasis has been brought into sharper focus in light of today’s disruptive working world.

Ang Fung Fung, Audit Partner and Head of People, Performance, and Culture at KPMG Singapore, says these complexities make it all the more pertinent for the organisation to comprehensively review and restructure its people practices.

These include areas such as recruitment, onboarding, career progression for all 3,000 local staff, and even employee exits.

“This is the whole ecosystem we are trying to work on in terms of an employee lifecycle,” says Ang.

“A lot of these technology disruptions are cutting across different functions and they are blurring the lines.”

Long-term challenges
Two key issues continue to gnaw at Ang and her team: ensuring staff can ride on the disruptive digital wave, and grooming the next generation of Singaporean leaders.

While a lot of workers around the world are rushing to build their technical skill sets, Ang urges the staff on her watch to also develop their soft skills. These are also highly valued in today’s client-facing and digital-first world.

“I’m pushing very hard for this mindset,” she says. “In Singapore, we’re very good technically but once we stand in front of an audience we don’t seem to do as well as our counterparts elsewhere.”

Ang describes the Singapore economy as in a “digital-disruption transition”. “The work that we’re doing is going to be very different with things like robotics and artificial intelligence now part of the picture,” she says.

Local regulations also dictate people practices within KPMG.

With Singapore’s Manpower Ministry actively pushing for a stronger “core” of local staff across organisations, KPMG has embraced the Human Capital Partnership Programme.

Under this programme, managed by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, companies are recognised for enhancing skills transfer from foreigners to local employees.

Ang says possessing a strong local core is central to KPMG’s succession-planning efforts.

“As a whole, KPMG is a partnership,” she explains.

“The partnership mantra is that we all leave the partnership better as compared to when we receive it. As Head of People, the idea is to make sure that when the partners retire, the firm doesn’t disintegrate. So there’s a real need to have a strong succession-planning pipeline.”

Winning and managing talents
All soft skills aside, there is no running away from the fact that hard and technical financial skillsets form the lifeblood of KPMG.

The organisation fights for both talent and customers with the other “Big Four” auditing firms, and Ang concedes there is stiff competition for capable staff in particular.

KPMG’s chief local recruitment channel is through a combined recruitment fair targeting graduates of National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, and Singapore Management University, though Ang says the Singapore recruitment team also considers a substantial number of applications from final year students in overseas universities.

The organisation’s internship programme is a further source of high-potential, enthusiastic, and invested talent. KPMG ensures students who have performed well during the short-term assignments are given priority access to full-time jobs after the completion of their studies.

“In Singapore, we’re very good technically but once we stand in front of an audience we don’t seem to do as well as our counterparts elsewhere.” – Ang Fung Fung, Audit Partner and Head of People, Performance, and Culture at KPMG Singapore

“This personal connection that has been built during internships really helps us in finding the right talent for the firm,” Ang shares.

The challenge for the People and Culture team though, does not end as soon as the necessary roles become occupied.

With the majority of new hires coming straight from universities, Ang says the organisation must calibrate the workload of newbies to ensure they do not quickly burn out.

“The profession itself is quite challenging, and professional work is very client-centric,” she says.

“On the other hand, we have graduates who have just left university. Many are new to the world of work and there is often a steep learning curve when they first take on their new roles.”

Ang says new hires have a tendency to overcompensate when they discover that working life is very different from their time at university – and they end up spending long hours in the office.

To combat this over the past few years, KPMG has planned its HR interventions ahead of schedule.

“We train them during the less busy periods of the year,” Ang says. “For example, auditors have a very heavy workload from December to February. So we try to flatten it by shifting work at different times.”

Audit professionals form close to 40% of KPMG’s Singapore workforce, with these backbone staff managed into four pools.

“When you have a larger base, you have a better way of allocating resources. That’s one way of managing the volume of work,” Ang explains.

Vital skills

Most major accounting firms would traditionally consist of structured departments, but today’s complex business environment has many in this profession rethinking the status quo.

While the audit and tax functions of KPMG do retain a degree of structure – including minimum training requirements, continuing professional education, and structured training programmes – the organisation’s advisory department operates in a more fluid manner. Ang says opportunities are available for certain industry specialisations within each unit.

For example, employees in the Audit team are able to move to a due-diligence team within Advisory.

Ang highlights another opportunity now afforded in today’s fluid world of work.

“In the past, we only had our IT audit support sitting in the advisory department helping us do that part of the audit,” she says.

“But we are now realising that a lot of our auditors need to be upskilled in terms of IT knowledge and data analytics. Our IT people in advisory now can’t spend as much time supporting us, so we need to depend on ourselves.”

Instead, the IT support employees are moving to other areas, such as digital consulting, and understanding how companies embrace digital disruption. They are then applying these skills in their own operations.

In order to thrive in today’s tech-enabled working world, Ang says the organisation is driving the concept of equipping every employee with what she calls “T-shaped skills”.

The vertical bar on the letter ‘T’ epitomises the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, while the horizontal bar represents the ability to collaborate across disciplines.

“We aim to ensure our employees have broad perspectives while also being able to go deep into one specialised area,” says Ang.

This philosophy shapes the entire learning and development blueprint of KPMG.

Running parallel to it is the organisation’s equally-resolute determination to cultivate its workforce’s soft skills, particularly in today’s digital-first world.

With KPMG a client-facing organisation, the ability to confidently communicate and collaborate with clients is a cornerstone of the company’s success.

According to Ang, the nature of today’s work has also meant that geography has been consigned to the backburner.

“I could be sitting here (in Singapore) but working in the US. I need to be able to present myself online over Skype or Facetime to compete for an assignment,” she explains.

“This is an important soft skill which we’re trying to develop for all staff.”

One training programme is the organisation’s “Lunch and Learn” sessions, held every month for the senior management group.

This involves an external speaker conducting lessons on a wide range of soft-skill topical areas, such as networking.

“Lunch and Learn is very focused on senior management because its aim is to get the senior employees together for a short period of time,” says Ang.

“This has been very popular and I’ve attended them myself.”

The organisation has crafted a full suite of learning offerings, covering everything from business development, to presentation skills, to coaching.

“We have moved into an e-learning platform and bite-sized, self-directed learning. We have all these learning resources available and it’s up to the staff to register for whatever lessons they want to undertake,” says Ang.

While traditional platforms, such as classroom and face-to-face sessions, are still part of the overall learning and development framework, KPMG zooms in on problem-solving and critical thinking in particular.

“It is a challenge to avoid doing things robotically, and to move to become nimbler and more agile,” shares Ang.

“Our employees know they need to catch up and thus, they are open to changes in their work scope and trying out new things.”


2017 In Review: The State Of Gender Equality In The Workplace

It’s that time of year again when people tend to take stock of what they’ve accomplished and start planning for the new year. At Fairygodboss, we’re taking a look back at the year to try to understand how things have changed for women in the labor force and what some of the biggest developments have been in the workplace.

What we found in our annual survey and report about gender equality in the workplace s that some of our most fundamental, core findings from 2016 still hold true. For example, to the surprise of many who assume that job review sites attract extreme people or those who have had extreme experiences, to the contrary, we continue to find that women in our community for the most part report job satisfaction level of 3 or 4 (on a scale of 1-5). In other words, we believe there is a normal distribution of job satisfaction in our community regarding their overall experiences in the workplace.

Moreover, we continued to see in 2017 that job satisfaction levels for women correlated with certain other things, such as (i) the perception of gender equality in their workplaces; (ii) seeing gender diverse management teams at their companies; (iii) longer maternity leaves taken; and (iv) their perception that they work in a family-friendly environment. While causation is always difficult to prove, the consistency of these findings compared to 2016 was further evidence in my mind of the importance of these items to both recruiting and retaining women.

We explored 3 significant new research areas in 2017. First, we delved more deeply into the way women and men look for new jobs.

How Women And Men Jobseekers Differ

While we previously focused on the elements of a job that mattered most in recruiting women, we had not directly compared that to what elements of a job men cared most about. Moreover, our job-seeker research found is that women and men report that they rely on different sources of information and online resources and websites when looking for new work.

Specifically, we found that women are more likely than men to rely on their friends and personal networks as well as job review sites when looking for a new position whereas men are more likely than women to use traditional job boards and LinkedIn when looking for their new positions.

Moreover, women are more likely to value a good manager, the ability to work from home (or remotely), and work-life balance compared to men who are more likely than women to value career growth opportunities, their title and amenities at work when considering a new position.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

It would be impossible to write about workplace developments in 2017 without touching upon the sexual harassment developments both in terms of the headlines but also company policies that have started to already evolve. We’ve seen both victims advocating for change in the legal system as well as corporations taking it upon themselves to change their contractual processes. For example, Microsoft recently announced it is eliminating non-arbitration clauses that often bind victims of sexual harassment to secrecy that protects harassers and employers.

Fairygodboss also fielded sexual harassment research this year showing that most perpetrators of sexual harassment in the workplace are colleagues (under the age of 40) who harass women under the age of 30. This stands in contrast to headlines that suggest that powerful managers and celebrities tend to be the main problem. Moreover, we found that most sexual harassment goes unreported for fear by the victim of reputational harm and that when it is reported, it is often to a manager / supervisor rather than to human resources. These findings point to areas where employers looking to reduce sexual harassment can focus their efforts.

Women’s Employee Resource Groups

Finally, our research has identified a promising resource that 90% of Fortune 500 companies already have access to when it comes to effecting change and adopting policies that benefit women and improve gender diversity in the workplace. Specifically, companies’ internal women’s resource groups (also called affinity groups or ERGs) are something most female employees we surveyed decided to participate in, and even more encouragingly, experienced personal, career benefit as a result of participating. Finally, a majority of these women who joined their women’s ERG groups at work saw improvements in company policy that was initiated or supported by their internal women’s organizations.

Looking back at 2017, we believe that we saw progress for women in the workplace. While the numbers of women leaders remain small, I’m hopeful that the attention that sexual harassment has brought to women’s experiences in the workplace catalyzes further change and causes employers to both use the resources they already have at hand (e.g. their women’s employee resource groups) as well as make positive change in 2018 based on evidence that we and other organizations have gathered.

Georgene Huang is CEO of Fairygodboss, a marketplace where professional women looking for jobs, career advice and the inside scoop on companies meet employers who care about gender equality.


What are the people profession’s biggest concerns for 2018?

The CIPD surveyed 553 HR professionals last week about their biggest concerns for 2018. The new data protection regulations came out as the most significant, voted as the top concern by nearly half of respondents. This was followed by well-being and mental health, and pay and reward.

Below is some insight from the CIPD on tackling some of these crucial issues going forward:

Data protection regulation – 48% of respondents said it was their biggest concern for 2018

While many organisations are already familiar with their data protection responsibilities under the Data Protection Act 1998, from May 2018 those duties will be tightened up under the General Data Protection Regulation.

The new rules herald a significant change in the culture, as well as the processes, of how organisations handle personal data and there are stiff penalties for falling foul of the law. HR has a crucial role to play in achieving the new goal for data protection. If you haven’t already, it’s vital that you take steps now to ensure that your organisation is prepared for the new data protection provisions.

As data protection law is a highly technical area and the cost of breaches could be large, not only financial but reputational, it’s worth seeking out appropriate legal and good practice advice and guidance at the outset. It’s also important that the new rules are properly communicated to the workforce so that all employees understand their new responsibilities and the consequences if they don’t comply.

Our factsheet on GDPR in the workplace is here.

Well-being and mental health – a third (30%) say it is their biggest concern for 2018

Every employee should feel that they can bring their whole self to work and that the workplace is a safe and supportive environment. Work should do more than meet our basic financial needs and contribute to economic growth; it should also improve the quality of our lives by giving us meaning and purpose and contributing to our overall well-being.

Fostering employee well-being can also be a core enabler of employee engagement and productivity, and there’s growing evidence that employee wellness programmes can have a positive impact on key organisational performance indicators.

The CIPD’s factsheet on employee well-being is here.

There also remains a lot of stigma about mental health, especially in the workplace. Increasing awareness of mental health issues across the workforce can help to break the silence and start to build a more open and inclusive culture.

Managers need to be trained so that they feel confident and competent to have conversations with staff about their mental health and signpost to specialist sources of support if necessary. HR should ensure that employees know how to access the support the organisation provides so they can do so even if they don’t wish to disclose an issue to their manager.

The CIPD’s guide to supporting mental health at work is here.

Integral to any successful well-being programme is an understanding of the importance of how financial concerns can affect employee mental and physical health, as well as a recognition that, as income providers, organisations play a vital role in their workers’ financial lives. There’s a clear case for taking action and supporting employee financial well-being, making it an integral part of creating a healthy workplace where people can flourish, reach their potential and make a significant contribution to their organisation’s performance.

The CIPD’s practical guidance on improving financial well-being is here.

Pay and Reward – 13% of respondents say it’s their biggest concern for 2018

With political and economic uncertainty continuing, 2018 looks set to be a year of pay plateauing. While there’s no doubt that reward and pay are important factors in attracting, retaining and engaging employees, there are many options available for organisations to reward their staff and recognise their contribution other than by increasing pay. While each option has their own opportunities and risks, the most effective reward packages will be aligned with the needs of the business and staff, and reflect the organisation’s purpose and performance.

The CIPD’s latest Reward Management Survey is here.

Organisations need to assess their levels of executive pay, and ensure that it is not excessive. CIPD research has found that excessive CEO pay and reward in the UK has a significant impact on the motivation and engagement levels of the wider workforce. In order to ensure that productivity doesn’t suffer as a result, chief executive reward packages need to be simpler and more clearly aligned to performance and business outcomes, both financial and non-financial.

The CIPD’s framework for executive remuneration is here.

Some employers will see their payroll costs increase in 2018 in response to increases in the National Living Wage and the minimum amount that they must contribute to their employees’ pensions. Employers should look at job, work and organisational design needed in order to gain the additional performance and productivity that will pay for these additional employment costs. HR should also explain to those employees that will see their own minimum pension contributions rise in 2018 and highlight the costs to them of opting out of the workplace pension.

Gender pay gap reporting – the biggest concern for 5% of HR professionals for 2018

If they haven’t already, HR teams across the UK in organisations with over 250 employees should be identifying and reporting on the differences between male and female earnings in their workplaces, using six different measures. The deadline to report is 4 April 2018.

Gender pay gap reporting is not just about producing the right data, in the right way and at the right time. Just as important is the story behind the gap and how you communicate this internally and externally, both before and after publishing the numbers and ideally, a narrative that explains them.

If you don’t yet have 250 people, it may still be a good exercise to work out your gender pay gap, in case you grow employ over 250 individuals in the future, or if the reporting requirements change to include smaller organisations. You can still report voluntarily and the process can help to shed light on workplace and recruitment practices that may need to be refined.

The CIPD’s Guide on gender pay gap reporting is here and the CIPD’s own gender pay gap report is here.

Sexual harassment – the biggest concern of 2018 for 4% of respondents

Over recent months, we’ve seen that not everyone is being treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. The responsibility to solve these problems lies with everyone in every organisation – from leaders helping to build safe and inclusive cultures, to HR professionals having the confidence to challenge unacceptable behaviour wherever they observe it and being a ‘safe place’ where employees can be heard in confidence and know that their concerns will be addressed.

HR professionals must play a part in clearly articulating the organisation’s policy on bullying and harassment at work, and signpost where employees can go if they need support or guidance.

When it comes to reporting, there must be a clear process to ensure that any complaints are treated promptly and with the seriousness they deserve and also in proportion to the claim being made in order to be fair to both the person making the claim and the individual that stands accused.

Emerging Workplace Benefits Heading into 2018

With the new year approaching, HR managers are shifting their focus to benefit planning for the 2019 plan year. While questions loom about what direction healthcare benefits will take, the stability of voluntary benefits continue to be top of mind for many employers . Savvy benefit planners recognize that these programs round out compensation packages and contribute to their employees’ financial wellness.

Understanding potential gaps in medical plans, HR managers are working to decrease out-of-pocket expenses for employees by offering worksite benefits that complement the core medical plan. Employers are also using voluntary benefits to enhance their benefits offerings to attract and retain competitive talent.

Here are three voluntary benefits offerings that gained traction in 2017 and we expect will continue the momentum into the coming year. When properly communicated, these benefits, can add tremendous value to your employees and drive overall engagement within your workforce.

1. Student Loan Assistance:

The trend is becoming more common for employees to look to their employers for contributions to their overall financial well-being, over and above traditional 401-k matching programs. The newest population of employees entering the workforce on average have record high student loan debt and are therefore less financially secure. According to an ORC International survey commissioned by PadillaCRT1, one in four millennials owe more than $30,000 in college debt and think it will take more than 20 years to pay off their student loans.

Employers are attracting and retaining the latest working generation by helping employees manage their student loan debt through employer-sponsored programs. Here are three solutions to consider:

Refinancing Options: Many lenders specializing in student loan debt will allow employees to refinance and consolidate existing student loan debt. Just a word of caution, if you have a federally backed student loan, ensure that there are appropriate communications advising the employee of the potential consequences of refinancing.

Employer Contribution: Employer-sponsored match programs can help employees pay back their loans faster. There are various plan designs for consideration such as fixed contribution, contributions based on tenure, etc.

Debt Management Resources: Student loan refinancing programs often provide guidance and technology tools to help employees manage their existing debt and create a realistic repayment plan.

2. Worksite Benefits:

To confront the challenges of the cost shift in core medical plans from employers to employees, voluntary benefits are designed to help employees cover the out-of-pocket costs from unexpected medical issues. The most widely provided programs tend to be critical illness insurance, accident insurance and hospital indemnity insurance. These programs generally pay a cash benefit directly to the employee regardless of existing insurance for a covered accident or hospitalization.

Additional features of these worksite benefits are that they are usually portable for the employee if they leave their current employer. They can be payroll deducted and do not generally cost the employer to provide the programs.

As a starting point to offer the right mix of worksite benefits, employers should closely examine the core medical plan for any financial gaps for employees. Employers should also consider the demographics of their workforce. For example, employees with young children would benefit from an accident plan that can help pay for costs associated with a broken bone, while an older population may be more interested in a critical illness plan that can help cover expenses related to illnesses, such as heart attack, stroke and cancer.

Worksite benefits like accident insurance, critical illness insurance and hospital indemnity insurance are traditionally only offered during Annual Enrollment. In order for these programs to be successful, HR managers should communicate these alongside the core medical programs and emphasize how they complement the core medical offering.

3. Employee Purchase Programs:

The right voluntary benefit programs can help employees save time and worry less! We’ve started to see an increasing number of employers offer employee purchase programs to help employees pay for items that they may need, such as a new washer and dryer or new computer for a child going to college. Cash-strapped employees may not have sufficient credit to buy the products they need without avoiding a high-interest loan program. Employee purchase programs generally allow employees to spread out the payments on the products they have purchased over a period of time through payroll deduction. Young employees, who are trying to establish credit and manage student loan repayments may especially benefit from an employee purchase programs. Discerning benefit managers understand the benefit of employee purchase programs because they provide an alternative to employees taking loans from their 401(k) plans for these types of purchases. Employees can then focus on 401(k) plans as a dedicated retirement vehicle which is what they are intended to be.

As healthcare benefits evolve and the workforce changes, the flexibility of voluntary benefits will continue to play a role in employers’ overall benefit packages. Voluntary benefits are the weapon that employers can use to differentiate themselves and attract and retain an engaged workforce . Financial wellness will be more achievable for employees with a well thought out voluntary benefits strategy.


How Google Develops New Managers

Alex Langshur, host of Google Partners Podcasts, has launched the podcast Google HR secrets: identifying & developing great managers, interviewing Sarah Calderon, People Development at Google, on how Google selects, trains, and develops their managers.

Quoting a former manager of his, Langshur said that “A great manager will make a tough job challenging and rewarding, … but a bad manager will make a great job just so-so, and will make a tough job so crushing,” emphasizing the need to choose the manager, not the job, when looking for a new professional adventure. In his interview with Sarah Calderon, they discussed how Google, a company with over 70,000 employees and several thousands of managers at different levels, finds, manages and nurtures managers.

Calderon mentioned five lessons learned while teaching managers at Google:

High-performing employees don’t necessarily make good managers. To manage people requires a different skill set. It is not enough to be technically good in a certain field. Not everyone is fit to be a manager, even if they’re a great individual contributor. To find great managers, observe how they work with other employees. Notice if they show flexibility and accept change in their work style. Are they drawing clear roles and responsibilities for others? Is the feedback provided to their team useful?

To discover if someone is fit for the job, give them mini-assignments, for example, an intern to look after, or the leadership role in a small project. Evaluate them after a while to see if they like it, and if they were successful at it.

The best time to train new managers is a few months into the job. Calderon recommends not to wait too long, to avoid the forming of bad habits, but to wait long enough so they actually start to understand what the management job is. At Google, the waiting time is usually three months.
She also said not to train new managers before taking the job or immediately after taking it, but rather let them practice it for a few months, giving them enough time to understand what their job is and encounter some challenges. When training comes, it is not just a theoretical exercise but something that has real, practical meaning to new managers.

Don’t overwhelm new managers. When a new manager starts working, they should not be told everything they need to know as managers, but enough to go for their first six months, practice what they learned and add more to it later.

Things useful to teach them in the beginning are: how to provide feedback and how to be a good coach. Also, some of the things to learn are developing a culture of learning and developing emotional intelligence – how to be aware of oneself and the team managed. To be able to manage others one needs to be able to manager oneself.

Training isn’t the only way to support managers. Managers can learn from other managers. They should be encouraged to talk to each other and learn from one another. Also, tools for collecting feedback are a good asset for them.

Give managers the feedback they need to get better. Calderon mentioned Google’s custom to collect data from employees once a year, asking them to fill out a survey on their manager’s performance. This information is used to provide feedback to managers, helping them to evaluate themselves and grow. Determine first what a great manager is for the organization and guide them to achieve that. Google’s list of qualities of a great manager can be found in this guide, and they also suggest a feedback form.

Among the behaviors a manager should have, Calderon mentioned: be inclusive, don’t micromanage, support employees’ career development, being a good coach and communicator, having a clear vision and strategy for the team, being productive and results oriented, the ability to collaborate across organization, being a strong decision maker, and having key technical skills to advise the team when necessary.


Five Proven Strategies to Guarantee Your Diversity Initiative Produces Results

It’s not about doing the right thing, making others think you’re good people or keeping up with your competitors. Doing diversity right is about getting superior results.

Intent does not equal impact. Time and again I see organizations with good intentions embark on an enthusiastic endeavor to increase diversity in their workplace.

Time and time again I also see their nonexistent to negative impacts, from failure to create lasting positive change to crash-and-burn disasters rife with unproductive conflict. Often it’s because they didn’t follow one or more of these five proven strategies for diversity and inclusion success – the “new school” way. The good news is it’s never too late to learn and regroup, and a new year presents ripe opportunity for fresh starts!

Strategy No. 5: Hire an Excellent Training Partner. If you’ve invested lots of money in training but seen low to no meaningful results, or you’ve received feedback that D&I training has led to confusion or increased problems, you may have selected a training partner that was inadequate, or not a good fit for your organization’s culture. Not all diversity training or trainers are high quality, especially now that D&I is more common and sought-after than ever before. Engaging an inadequate training partner wastes scarce resources, and undermines the credibility of D&I efforts. Ensure you’re set up for success before making a game-changing investment by asking: (1) Do we need training? Sometimes leadership coaching, systems change, or data collection is a more appropriate intervention, and a true D&I professional will help you figure this out. (2) Do we need it now? Training usually yields a higher ROI after proper assessment or other interventions. (3) Who do we already have internally with expertise in organizational development, adult learning, instructional design and facilitation? Ask potential internal and external training partners strategic questions to determine expertise and fit.

Strategy No. 4: Measure the Meaningful Impact of Training … and Reinforce It. If your D&I training got rave reviews, but you’ve seen no-to-low meaningful outcomes in your culture, systems, or leadership, you may not have set training up for success back in the workplace. Not creating a robust plan for implementation and systems change following D&I training wastes resources. It’s a false belief, even among some training professionals, that the effects of training can’t be measured. This belief undermines the credibility of D&I, and reflects poor stewardship of an organization’s trust and investment of budget, time and talent. Before investing in training, ensure you’re set up for success by asking: (1) What are the specific goals or learning objectives for the training? (2) What is our baseline? In other words, where are we now in relation to our training goals? (3) How will we know whether this training was a success? What metrics will we track, and how will we measure it?

Strategy No. 3: Identify and Measure Meaningful Goals. If you don’t have D&I goals, or your goals are only to start employee resource groups or recruit/hire/promote more people of color or women, stop what you’re doing and focus here. Launching D&I efforts with no clear goals, or old-school goals that are limited to focusing on numbers devoid of meaningful strategy is the best way to ensure D&I stalls, fizzles or disappears. You can’t produce meaningful, measurable business-critical results without meaningful goals, and if you’re not producing meaningful, measurable results, you’re wasting time and money. Meaningful D&I goals address a current, pressing problem or take your organization from good to great. Tackling D&I without them adds tasks and stress to leaders’ and employees’ already-overflowing plates (thus reducing buy-in), and damages the credibility of D&I efforts.

Approaching your D&I initiative like a checklist of best practices from elsewhere without a solid business imperative that’s relevant and urgent to your organization’s success is just as ineffective as approaching any other strategic priority that way. Your goals, challenges and needs may not be the same as your competitors’, or the rest of your industry. You must do adequate assessment and gap analysis before taking action to get better-than-OK results. Start by asking: (1) How will a successful D&I initiative alleviate our existing pain points? (2) How will a successful D&I initiative move us from good to great in critical areas we already care about? (3) How will a successful D&I initiative help us avoid potential future pain points?

Strategy #2: Address Your Culture’s Toxicity to Excellence, Change and Inclusiveness. If you have meaningful, business-critical D&I goals, but you’re seeing low to no desired change or experiencing poor employee engagement, your organization may be too toxic for D&I to take healthy root. Also, if you don’t assess employee engagement in any formal, consistent way, haven’t reviewed your data for over three years or don’t cut your (engagement, turnover, promotion, hiring) data by strategic demographic groups, you’re flying blind. Your training program will fall flat and your investment is wasted if your culture doesn’t support healthy change, equity, inclusion or general excellence. Your core issue might not be about diversity and inclusiveness at all, but rather lack of accountability or effective leadership, which are creating or exacerbating diversity issues

Strategy #1: “Do Diversity” for the Results (Not Just Because It’s the Right Thing to Do). “Rightness and “goodness” are beliefs based on certain values. One’s beliefs and values may be precious but they aren’t facts or universal truth. They may not provide value, results or profit, which are important to organizations. Also, not everyone shares the same values. Expecting that everyone does is naïve, and believing everyone should actually reduces diversity and silences those who challenge or raise questions. Doing diversity based on notions of rightness is also unsustainable, because initiatives based only on beliefs and values are often viewed as nice-to-haves that get cut when leadership priorities shift, or resources become scarce. Believing that doing diversity is right or good isn’t required for it to work. Just as one doesn’t need to believe in internal combustion or the laws of physics to drive a car, the principles of diversity and inclusiveness work regardless of the belief systems of those involved.

Diversity plus inclusiveness gets superior results, as shown by multiple studies including from hard sciences like mathematics and economics. Doing diversity right isn’t about helping “them” (women, people of color, LGBT, people with disabilities, etc.). It’s not about doing the right thing, making others think you’re good people or keeping up with your competitors. Doing diversity right is about getting superior results in whatever critical, strategic priorities you already have. It’s about solving an urgent problem or going from good to great. That’s it. Diversity plus inclusiveness is an excellence multiplier. Don’t treat it as anything less by not implementing these five proven strategies to produce results that matter!


Five Feedback Questions to Help Employees Grow and Improve Engagement

It’s no secret that companies worldwide are looking to boost employee engagement. A Gallup report found that just 15 percent of employees globally are engaged at work. While there are a myriad of factors that contribute to that number, the lack of effective development is a major issue.

A survey found that professional growth and development was the top factor for retaining Millennials. And because the group now comprises the majority of the workforce, that’s an issue worthy of attention. But it’s not just Millennials who are suffering from lack of employee engagement. Nearly 70 percent of non-Millennial workers rate development opportunities as an important factor in job satisfaction.

Many companies are meeting those needs, with managers taking ownership of employee development and performance management, where they become coaches instead of traditional bosses. This type of development is built on regular employee feedback and conversations that help managers elicit the best performance from their employees.

At the core of any conversation are questions. Before I was in my current role, I spent years as a facilitator and executive coach. I learned that questions are key tools to not only obtain information but also induce deep inquiry about yourself personally and professionally.

Questions spark curiosity, and curiosity can lead to creativity, innovation, and problem solving. In the context of employee engagement and development, the questions you ask can unlock the type of development an individual needs to reach their potential and obtain their personal goals for work.

In my organization, I’ve earned the moniker Question Master for my penchant for poignant inquiries. Here are some questions we like to ask our team to help support their growth and spark work motivation.

What New Thing Did You Learn This Week?
They say that effective CEOs read 60 books per year. That’s more than a book a week! You don’t have to expect your employees to burn out their Kindles reading, but exposing yourself to new ideas in this way can greatly enhance innovation and employee performance. By asking this feedback question, you let employees know that you value learning and development, and it may entice them to increase their knowledge.

Have You Taken Any Risks Lately? What Did You Learn?
There’s a saying in Silicon Valley that could apply to the entire business world: “Move fast and break things.” Risk taking often leads to innovation and personal growth. But encouraging calculated risk taking only works if you don’t come down hard on people when they fail.

Employees will be less likely to step out on a limb if they’re ostracized when a project goes south. Get curious about the innovation and iteration process, and bring it full circle by cataloging what you and your employees have learned. It is during this time, too, that you can offer examples of constructive feedback to help improve employee performance.

Are We Providing Enough Growth Opportunities for Your Role? If Not, What’s Missing?

There’s a common saying in the business world: “People don’t leave their jobs; they leave their managers.” While it’s true that your direct manager is responsible for creating a positive employee experience and work culture, research suggests that many people leave companies not over relationships, but because they think they’ve stopped growing.
A Deloitte study found that 71 percent of Millennials expect to leave their jobs within two years because they’re dissatisfied with how their leadership skills are being developed. Want to stop your talent from looking at the exit door? Ask them this feedback question to determine what’s missing.

What New Skill Do You Want to Have by This Time Next Year?
Sometimes employees have a desire to grow their skill sets (whether personally or professionally), but they don’t know how to get there. They also may not have the resources.
The first step of an effective employee satisfaction survey is to ask them how they want to grow. You, as a leader, may be able to allocate resources, make a connection, or otherwise support their continued growth and boost employee performance.

What’s One Project You’d Love to Focus on for an Entire Week but Don’t Have Time to Accomplish?
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World , says deep work is when you focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. But in today’s world, it seems nearly impossible to carve out time amid distractions like email, Slack, and meetings.
Research shows that staying focused and getting into flow states greatly increases productivity. Three hours in flow is far more productive than six half-hour work sessions. Every time you come out of flow for something and ramp back up afterward, you lose, well, your flow. Finding out what an employee wants to focus on and helping them get there aids their growth and work motivation.

While this is just a sample of general, open-ended feedback questions, there are an infinite number of queries you can use to probe your employees. The idea is to get your employees’ wheels turning to uncover their deep needs and desires. Asking questions about employee performance and mindset not only gives you a better understanding of them, but also helps you become a better leader by gathering information and strengthening relationships.