How Do Ben & Jerry’s, Google And Facebook Boost Employee Engagement And Happiness? They Know Why

Let’s look at some numbers.

A whopping 90% of employees will sacrifice income for the opportunity to do purposeful work.
An overwhelming majority of people wants fulfilling work versus engaging work, with 64% raising their hands for fulfillment versus just 28 percent for engagement.
Despite this, 1 in 2 employees report their jobs lack purpose.
And, you’d better sit down for this one: Nearly half of all workers plan to look for a new job in the next year.
Considering it costs between 33% and as much as 213% of a year’s compensation to replace an employee, can you afford not to give your employees a sense of purpose?

The New Labor Contract for Harder-Working Employees

The terms of the American labor contract have changed, says mobile coaching pioneer BetterUp in its report “Meaning and Purpose at Work.” In exchange for workers’ time and talent, companies are now expected to make the workplace a source of personal growth, shared purpose and inspiration. The payoff, says BetterUp, is those who find meaningful work are happier, more productive and harder working.

Yes, harder working. Including longer hours and less time out.

Elon Musk knows well the drive of those striving to make a difference in the world. He tweeted of Tesla late last year: “There are way easier places to work, but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” He further noted: “But if you love what you do, it (mostly) doesn’t feel like work.”

It all comes down to purpose, and the why of business. Your employees want to change the world — even just a little piece of it.

“We have an inherent desire to be part of something that’s bigger than ourselves,” Elizabeth Lotardo, a vice president at leadership development consulting firm McLeod & More said in a recent Forbes article on purpose at work. “When you can see the impact that you have on another person, another community, on the world, that carries a lot of weight.”

The H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S. Factor

If you want to one-up the Joneses vying for your next hire, it’s all about purpose. Purpose is a key driver of happiness in the workplace. And happiness is the ultimate WHY, the most sustainable competitive advantage and the ultimate currency in business. Today’s most successful companies prioritize employee happiness to boost employee engagement and loyalty.

It’s the premise of Yellow Goldfish, in which co-author Rosaria Cirillo Louwman and I explored the nine ways to find and create H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S. in the workplace. We looked at how over 300 companies provide the little extras to contribute to the happiness of their customers, employees, and society.

Purpose is the third factor of the H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S. equation, and the third in a blog series taking an up-close-and-personal view of all nine factors that help businesses increase happiness to drive growth, productivity, success and bottom-line results. Here is a link to the first post: Health and Happiness at Work and the second: Autonomy is the Key to Employee Engagement.

In Yellow Goldfish, we looked at Ben & Jerry’s legendary founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, whose goal was to operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society. And they did it by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally. As proponents of the idea that business needs to protect the environment, they were pioneers in developing a socially conscious business. Oh, and they wanted to sell ice cream, too.

Tech giant Google is no stranger to purpose. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin set the groundwork for building the company on thoughtful design, strong purpose and culture. As noted in Yellow Goldfish, Page was quoted in the New York Times,

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New technology causing skills gaps and stagnant wages

Researchers urge employers and governments to focus on upskilling and lifelong learning to prepare employees for technological change and automation

Technological change is creating a skills gap and causing wages to stagnate, according to Hays’ Global Skills Index 2019/20.

The index measures how easy or difficult it is for firms to attract and retain the most talented workers in 34 global labour markets, based on a scoring system of zero to 10. It found that one of the biggest challenges is the gulf between the skills available and demand. The talent mismatch indicator rose to 6.7 in 2019 from 6.6 in 2018, reaching the highest level since the index began in 2012.

Wage pressure remained stagnant overall (at 5.0), but in high-skilled occupations rose from 4.0 in 2018 to 4.2 in 2019.

The report cited technological development as one of the main contributing factors. It also suggested that female-dominated sectors, such as retail, could be particularly affected by technological change.

This follows the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently finding that 11% of women in the retail sector are at high risk of losing their jobs, in comparison to 9% of men.

Hays advised governments and businesses to ensure their workforces are prepared for automation by upskilling existing roles, redeploying workers to areas less vulnerable to the effects of outsourcing and automation such as creativity and critical thinking.

Investing in training and encouraging lifelong learning will help combat wage stagnation, said chief executive of Hays Alistair Cox. “The sorts of roles we are filling today as a recruiter, particularly in the technology space, did not exist three years ago. We need to create a society where it’s perfectly normal that you will continue upskilling throughout your career,” he said.

He added that HR must accept that people may not stay at a firm even after it has invested in training them: “HR will think ‘there’s no point training these people; they’ll be off in two years’. But we need to accept that some people will go, as we’ll get others with skills.”

Part of the issue is a mismatch between how boardroom talent and those lower down the ranks approach their careers, he said. Whereas many in positions of power have taken a traditional route of working for one company for several years and climbing through the ranks, Millennials can be more interested in moving relatively quickly between different jobs, he said.

“They [Millennials] are interested in money, but they’re much more interested in the variety and type of work. They are much more willing to do a portfolio of jobs… Locking people into a particular job doesn’t wash in today’s world,” said Cox.

Beyond concerns around skills and technology, the index found there was little change in other factors affecting the labour market. Educational flexibility stayed static at 5.4, labour market participation at 5.2, and labour market flexibility at 5.3.

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Reviving the Employee Experience with Culture

Uncomfortable small talk during every morning elevator commute, hourly glances at the clock, separation of ideas and opinion with the help of cubicles, and strict managerial politics that just leave employees exhausted and hopeless. These are all common symptoms of a workplace that lacks any shred of company culture. Employees learn from the start that their primary goal in the company is to do what they’re told, praise the master, and go home. Any passions or dreams slowly evaporate leaving an unhappy and hopeless being, questioning their worth and sanity.

I am sure this is a reality for many employees as this mindset still exists in numerous companies around the world. In fact, 70% of workers in the U.S. alone are not experiencing any form of workplace engagement and around 88 percent leave due to this fact.[1] What can we learn from this? How about that salary is not the number one factor that dictates a job seeker’s decision when hunting for a suitable career? A corporate mentality that centers on the idea that employees should just shut up and work does not establish any creative ideas nor give a sense of purpose to employees. It further divides co-workers, provides no opportunity to foster new friendships, and instills fear where there should be freedom of expression.

What’s So Special about Company Culture?
By not taking care of employees’ social and emotional needs, employers are passing on the message that they are disposable and replaceable. When these beliefs are embedded in an employee, they lack a reason to care about a company that does not care about them.

Our desire for human interaction and belonging should not only be fulfilled in our personal lives, but in our work lives as well, especially since work takes out a good chunk of our day. Come to think of it, don’t you see your co-workers just as much as you see your family or even more so? Open engagement in a work setting is just as important for a functional and rewarding relationship with an employer as it is with a significant other. Engagement is not just about building relationships but includes the ways employers manage people, the state of the workplace, and the type of people being hired.

A research study discovered that investing as little as 10% in strategies that foster engagement can increase profits by $2,400 per employee, per year. Here’s another thing to think about: Companies that foster engaged brand ambassadors in their workforce report an average of 2.69 sick days taken annually per employee, compared to companies with weak engagement efforts, reporting an average of 6.19 sick days. Small improvements in culture can mean a significant increase in production.

How Engagement Can Help Marketing Efforts
Employees are the true marketers of a company, they are the ambassadors who can make social profiles and branding efforts explode. Companies need to ask themselves – does each employee out of my 50+ workforce know the company’s strategy, products/services, and target market? Can they transmit this message seamlessly to clients and new hires without questioning the validity of their statements? Around 40% of employees in the U.S. have no idea.

If an organization is looking to double their marketing efforts, giving employees the right tools (social accounts) and environment (freedom of creativity), will give them the fuel to post about events, product launches, and company quirks. If they are being pressed down into conformity and creativity is restricted, employers should expect some unpleasant reviews on sites like GlassDoor which could be detrimental to recruiting and sales efforts. After all, customers will value employee opinion above what’s written on a company’s Facebook or LinkedIn profile. Take a look at HubSpot,Avanade, and Twitter for examples of companies that place their employees on their priorities list.

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In addition, company culture lends a helping hand to the marketing department by providing excellent material such as, events, accomplishments, and personal stories that can be used for social posts while taking advantage of employee engagement to further promote current campaigns. Companies who choose to go down the modern path see more than a two-fold increase in revenue compared to competitors living in the dark ages. So what can you do to change your company dynamic around?

How to Sprout Workplace Engagement
Of course not all companies are the same and what one company can afford to allocate to a special budget many not be the case for their neighbor. The suggestions below are merely to show examples of the types of activities and changes an organization can invest in to spin things around within their workplace.

1. Spread the Word.

Employees must be knowledgeable of all company branding, vision, and goals if organizations want them to effectively transmit this message to outsiders. Have quarterly meeting to keep employees on track of latest news, products, and important marketing campaigns. Ensure the message is consistent across all departments.

2. New Hire Workshops.

Host events for new hires to meet the team and learn about company vision. These workshops could also include training, health & safety workshops, and presentations. The purpose is to break the ice, find common interests, and encourage engagement and interaction with other employees.

3. Blow Out the Candles.

Pick a day out of each month to celebrate those whose birthdays have passed. Buying one cake for everyone will be easy on the pocket and will still make employees grateful for the small gesture. It never feels great when the people you see the most forget about your special day. Everyone wants appreciation- start showing it. Even an email or a handshake is better than nothing.

4. Outdoor Team Building.

Host yearly company outings for team building workshops. Try rock climbing, obstacle racing, even volunteer opportunities to get the team to work together on a task unrelated to work, helping them to build trust.

5. Accept Socialization.

Don’t frown upon any interaction that occurs in the office. Work and fear should not be paired together. Further break the barriers of communication by eliminating cubicles and removing head management from isolated offices. This will help decrease the imaginary ranking system in the office, allowing for open communication and networking. Employees will be more likely to ask questions from those who were once disconnected from the rest of the team. Additionally, by removing the superiority complex from head management, employees will begin to feel as if they are all owners of the company, inspiring them to work harder using innovative and cost-saving methods. Look at newly emerging start-ups who are implementing such methods into their workplaces for proof.

6. Lunchroom Breaks.

Moldy sinks and broken microwaves not only raise the question of health and safety but make it the last place you want to eat lunch or take a break from the stresses of the day. Make sure your cafeteria has comfortable seating and enough utensils to make lunch time more pleasurable. We all work better after a relaxed mental break.

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7. Let’s Get Moving.

A sedentary lifestyle causes deleterious health consequences and makes it very difficult to work when all you feel is back or wrist pain. No one wants to look like a goofball stretching in the bathroom. If you are in the process of renovating your office, consider creating an exercise room full of yoga balls and mats to provide a comfortable environment for employees to stretch their legs. If you have a gym in the building, offer a discount on gym memberships or offer boot camps that can run during lunch hours.

8. Everybody Loves Free Food.

How about a free meal once a month? It can be simple as ordering pizza! Employees will appreciate the gesture and it will provide an opportunity to mingle and foster new friendships.

9. Add Value.

Working full time, and occasionally overtime, interferes with personal goals. By sitting down with each employee, preferably in the beginning of their journey with the company, and creating a list of goals and personal values, employees will stop seeing work as a leech sucking out the life force of each day but will look forward to coming in everyday knowing that they are moving forward in work and personal achievements. With their consent, post some values and goals around the office to help establish a support system for each employee.

10. Holiday Parties.
Dressing up on Halloween, hosting secret Santa for Christmas, or sharing New Years Resolutions – get the team involved in holiday events during lunch time or after work.

11. Brain-trust Meetings.

We all come from different backgrounds, experiences, and industries hence we can all add a different outlook on an issue if given the chance. Create an open environment where employees are welcome to raise their hands and voices, you will be surprised at the increase of suggestions and solutions.

Cheapness Speaks Louder Than Words
Organizations that follow the old ideology that suggests there is no need to spend extra resources and time on employees will begin to see a drastic decline in performance, and their recruiting department will find it harder and harder to continuously replace the employees that leave to pursue better opportunities. They are also losing their biggest competitive advantage in the business.

Employers need to invest in their people as they are the driving force behind product development and client retention. Employees push the company forward and set goals into action. As a wise individual once said, a person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.

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The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World

What makes an effective leader? This question is a focus of my research as an organizational scientist, executive coach, and leadership development consultant. Looking for answers, I recently completed the first round of a study of 195 leaders in 15 countries over 30 global organizations. Participants were asked to choose the 15 most important leadership competencies from a list of 74. I’ve grouped the top ones into five major themes that suggest a set of priorities for leaders and leadership development programs. While some may not surprise you, they’re all difficult to master, in part because improving them requires acting against our nature.

Demonstrates strong ethics and provides a sense of safety.
This theme combines two of the three most highly rated attributes: “high ethical and moral standards” (67% selected it as one of the most important) and “communicating clear expectations” (56%).

Taken together, these attributes are all about creating a safe and trusting environment. A leader with high ethical standards conveys a commitment to fairness, instilling confidence that both they and their employees will honor the rules of the game. Similarly, when leaders clearly communicate their expectations, they avoid blindsiding people and ensure that everyone is on the same page. In a safe environment employees can relax, invoking the brain’s higher capacity for social engagement, innovation, creativity, and ambition.

Neuroscience corroborates this point. When the amygdala registers a threat to our safety, arteries harden and thicken to handle an increased blood flow to our limbs in preparation for a fight-or-flight response. In this state, we lose access to the social engagement system of the limbic brain and the executive function of the prefrontal cortex, inhibiting creativity and the drive for excellence. From a neuroscience perspective, making sure that people feel safe on a deep level should be job #1 for leaders.

But how? This competency is all about behaving in a way that is consistent with your values. If you find yourself making decisions that feel at odds with your principles or justifying actions in spite of a nagging sense of discomfort, you probably need to reconnect with your core values. I facilitate a simple exercise with my clients called “Deep Fast Forwarding” to help with this. Envision your funeral and what people say about you in a eulogy. Is it what you want to hear? This exercise will give you a clearer sense of what’s important to you, which will then help guide daily decision making.

To increase feelings of safety, work on communicating with the specific intent of making people feel safe. One way to accomplish this is to acknowledge and neutralize feared results or consequences from the outset. I call this “clearing the air.” For example, you might approach a conversation about a project gone wrong by saying, “I’m not trying to blame you. I just want to understand what happened.”

Empowers others to self-organize.
Providing clear direction while allowing employees to organize their own time and work was identified as the next most important leadership competency.

No leader can do everything themselves. Therefore, it’s critical to distribute power throughout the organization and to rely on decision making from those who are closest to the action.

Research has repeatedly shown that empowered teams are more productive and proactive, provide better customer service, and show higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment to their team and organization. And yet many leaders struggle to let people self-organize. They resist because they believe that power is a zero-sum game, they are reluctant to allow others to make mistakes, and they fear facing negative consequences from subordinates’ decisions.

To overcome the fear of relinquishing power, start by increasing awareness of physical tension that arises when you feel your position is being challenged. As discussed above, perceived threats activate a fight, flight, or freeze response in the amygdala. The good news is that we can train our bodies to experience relaxation instead of defensiveness when stress runs high. Try to separate the current situation from the past, share the outcome you fear most with others instead of trying to hold on to control, and remember that giving power up is a great way to increase influence — which builds power over time.

Fosters a sense of connection and belonging.
Leaders who “communicate often and openly” (competency #6) and “create a feeling of succeeding and failing together as a pack” (#8) build a strong foundation for connection.

We are a social species — we want to connect and feel a sense of belonging. From an evolutionary perspective, attachment is important because it improves our chances of survival in a world full of predators. Research suggests that a sense of connection could also impact productivity and emotional well-being. For example, scientists have found that emotions are contagious in the workplace: Employees feel emotionally depleted just by watching unpleasant interactions between coworkers.

From a neuroscience perspective, creating connection is a leader’s second most important job. Once we feel safe (a sensation that is registered in the reptilian brain), we also have to feel cared for (which activates the limbic brain) in order to unleash the full potential of our higher functioning prefrontal cortex.

There are some simple ways to promote belonging among employees: Smile at people, call them by name, and remember their interests and family members’ names. Pay focused attention when speaking to them, and clearly set the tone of the members of your team having each other’s backs. Using a song, motto, symbol, chant, or ritual that uniquely identifies your team can also strengthen this sense of connection.

Shows openness to new ideas and fosters organizational learning.
What do “flexibility to change opinions” (competency #4), “being open to new ideas and approaches” (#7), and “provides safety for trial and error” (#10) have in common? If a leader has these strengths, they encourage learning; if they don’t, they risk stifling it.

Admitting we’re wrong isn’t easy. Once again, the negative effects of stress on brain function are partly to blame — in this case they impede learning. Researchers have found that reduced blood flow to our brains under threat reduces peripheral vision, ostensibly so we can deal with the immediate danger. For instance, they have observed a significant reduction in athletes’ peripheral vision before competition. While tunnel vision helps athletes focus, it closes the rest of us off to new ideas and approaches. Our opinions are more inflexible even when we’re presented with contradicting evidence, which makes learning almost impossible.

To encourage learning among employees, leaders must first ensure that they are open to learning (and changing course) themselves. Try to approach problem-solving discussions without a specific agenda or outcome. Withhold judgment until everyone has spoken, and let people know that all ideas will be considered. A greater diversity of ideas will emerge.

Failure is required for learning, but our relentless pursuit of results can also discourage employees from taking chances. To resolve this conflict, leaders must create a culture that supports risk-taking. One way of doing this is to use controlled experiments — think A/B testing — that allow for small failures and require rapid feedback and correction. This provides a platform for building collective intelligence so that employees learn from each other’s mistakes, too.

Nurtures growth.
“Being committed to my ongoing training” (competency #5) and “helping me grow into a next-generation leader” (#9) make up the final category.

All living organisms have an innate need to leave copies of their genes. They maximize their offspring’s chances of success by nurturing and teaching them. In turn, those on the receiving end feel a sense of gratitude and loyalty. Think of the people to whom you’re most grateful — parents, teachers, friends, mentors. Chances are, they’ve cared for you or taught you something important.

When leaders show a commitment to our growth, the same primal emotions are tapped. Employees are motivated to reciprocate, expressing their gratitude or loyalty by going the extra mile. While managing through fear generates stress, which impairs higher brain function, the quality of work is vastly different when we are compelled by appreciation. If you want to inspire the best from your team, advocate for them, support their training and promotion, and go to bat to sponsor their important projects.

These five areas present significant challenges to leaders due to the natural responses that are hardwired into us. But with deep self-reflection and a shift in perspective (perhaps aided by a coach), there are also enormous opportunities for improving everyone’s performance by focusing on our own.

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Your Employment Brand (Once Done Right) Probably Needs Less Refreshing Than You Think…


Trust me, I’m somewhat of an expert related to being impatient with things that are done well. But the reality is that once you (or I) create something, we see it more than anyone Brandelse. Whether it’s a comprehensive employment brand strategy or simply an analog handout you’re using at job fairs, you see the creative related to your employment brand about 1000x more than anyone else.

The result? You and I call for dramatic recasts/redos of employment brand artifacts much sooner than we should.

Let’s offer up some realities in support of this:

1–You are responsible for creating the brand around your HR/recruiting/talent practice at your company.

2–You do the work. It’s like having a child. It’s a LOT of work, and once done, you hopefully feel good.

3–You see the brand EVERY day. The imperfections and woulda/coulda/shoulda grind against you on a weekly, if not daily basis. A year in, you’re sick of it and thinking about doing it again. It feels necessary!

4–THE DIRTY SECRET TO REMEMBER – nobody gets exposed to your employment/HR/talent brand at the same level you do. You’re sitting on Main Street in Chernobyl related to your brand, everyone else is thousands of miles away. They come around every once in awhile, get what they need, then leave. They come back occasionally. THEY HAVE NOWHERE NEAR THE BRAND EXPOSURE YOU DO AS THE CREATOR.

The rule of seven in marketing says that prospects have to hear messaging 7X before they get it. Whether it’s an internal HR brand or an external employment brand you’ve create, PLEASE RELAX. If you did a great job on it and are proud of it, don’t recreate it every 12 months.

Chill out. If your brand efforts in recruiting or HR sucked the first time, then by all means, recast it and make it better. But remember, no one is seeing it as much as you are.

I think a good rule of thumb for a brand done well is to look at a rebrand at the 3-4 year mark. If you’ve had the same brand for that period of time, I think it’s OK to think about a HR/recruiting brand refresh.

I’m reminded of the power of leaving pretty good alone by our website at Kinetix. We get comments on how much people enjoy it on almost a weekly basis. If you asked me or my partner, Shannon Russo, what we want to do differently, we’ve have a laundry list of items. But based on the continuous feedback, we’d be suckers to change it too much.

Once your brand is good, don’t rush to redo it. Add depth to the brand components, tools and messaging you already have rather than starting from scratch.

This public service announcement is provided to all my OC friends in HR and recruiting

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Crafting an Employee Experience Program

Think about your company. More specifically, think about the overall mentality. Is it a place full of innovation? Are employees free and able to question the status quo? Are the employees described as experts, free thinkers, and collaborators? Is learning embraced? Are employees heard? Are the leaders exhibiting a fervent belief in the company’s mission and do they inspire employees? Is the technology and physical environments conducive to communication, collaboration, and productivity?

These are all descriptors of an expertly-crafted employee experience program.

What is employee experience? The definition of employee experience is really in the eye of the beholder as each employee experiences events differently. Thinking about it in another way, it’s a series of experiences that happen during the employee life cycle.

With that knowledge in mind, how do HR professionals create their own employee experience program?

Companies that have created their own EX program or have been successful at deploying their programs usually begin with a start-up mentality. Some come to it easy, while others struggle.

Kelly Kuras is the Senior Manager of Global Talent for one of the United States’ largest automakers. She says her company was forced to adopt the mindset after the automotive industry crisis struck between 2008 and 2010.

“We were given the grace of this period of time where it was obvious nothing we were doing was working,” Kuras said. “So, how do we do it differently and that really started to give us an innovative startup mentality of ‘Why not? What do you have to lose? You already lost, so what do you got to lose?’ We lost our fear of being perfect.”

RELATED: 12 Work-Life Balance Tips

Kuras’ company isn’t the only company that’s had to embrace the start-up mentality. General Electric has done the same. At first, it was not an easy concept to embrace because, historically, change hasn’t been seen as a good thing. However, the company is now experimenting, taking more risks, and quickly recovering from their failures when they happen.

At the heart of this is the workforce.

One of the first experiences an employee has within a company is the onboarding experience. Keep in mind, a company never gets a second chance to make a first impression. The key is making sure new hires feel welcomed, valued, and prepared to take on the responsibilites of work.

To do this, adjust the onboarding experience to focus on familiarity, simplicity, and culture, while making it personal for each new hire.

We’ve all been new to something in our lives. Examples include joining a new team in your favorite sport, going to a new school, or marriage. Think about how one feels in that situation. Feelings of disconnection, self-doubt, and nervousness are good examples.

The first order of business for a new hire must be creating an environment of familiarity.

Do this by having new hires greeted by the person(s) the individual interviewed with during the candidate phase. Consider creating a ‘who’s who’ area on your company intranet. Include photos, names, and titles. A similar offline approach is functional as well. Something like a simple bulletin board with staff pictures, names, and positions for instance.

Want more EX resources? Download: Translating Brand Promises into Employee Behaviours

These all sound rather elementary, but it could help avert an embarrassing situation such as a new hire asking a stranger to help with an employer-issued mobile device, only to learn later that person was the CEO.

Cinemark, uses employees to keep each other engaged and to positively impact the employee experience. Each new employee is assigned a ‘buddy.’ This allows the new employee to feel a familial connection to their new company right out of the gate.

Onboarding can be an uncertain time for a new hire. Add to that the complexity of the process and a new employee can be overwhelmed on their very first day.

The process should be fun, interesting, painless, and simple.

One way to do this would be to post schedules, materials, benefit forms, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the company on the company intranet. Provide new hires with a direct link to these items.

By providing these to the new hire before the individual’s first day, you eliminate a portion of their “new job jitters” and prepare the employee to start employment in a strong way.

When starting a new job with a different employer, the cultural learning curve is huge. Not knowing the rules, benefits, nuances, and traditions can leave a new hire feeling out of place. Don’t make that person learn these important items the hard way.

For instance, if your company observes a ‘Casual Friday’ rule, let the new hire know before they show up to work dressed in a suit.

Make sure the new employee knows what benefits and perks the company offers. Again provide links to these documents via email and post them in visible locations. Verbal mentions are a good thing, but remember, it can easily be forgotten as the new employee will be experiencing information overload during the onboarding process. Likewise, physical copies of this information are helpful, but it can be lost in the shuffle of documents a new hire procures during the first week.

It’s important to make sure the new hire feels prepared and included as a member of the company culture.

It’s easy to make the first day all about paperwork. In fact, it’s normal to do so. Don’t be normal.

The filling out of some paperwork is necessary on the first day, but consider having the new hire fill it out before arriving for Day 1. If you have to fill out paperwork on Day 1, keep it to a minimum, and allow the person to fill out the remaining documents online after they’ve settled into their new job.

Make Day 1 about building relationships and making that personal connection with co-workers and the company. As stated earlier, first impressions will have an enormous impact on the employee’s experience.

Central Theme
Onboarding can easily be one of the best experiences or worst experiences of your new employee’s life cycle with the company. When reviewing the strategy a company uses to onbaord, it should be noted, as evidenced previously, the internet can be the most powerful tool an HR professional can use. A web-based strategy allows professionals to coordinate and monitor every step of the process while addressing the challenge of making new hires feel welcome, valued, and prepared.

In summation
An accepted paradigm in the HR space is that a company providing a great employee experience will see the customer experience improve as well. As Richard Branson says, “if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.”

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Unfair Performance Reviews Prompt Most Employees to Consider Quitting

Performance reviews are almost universally dreaded, especially if done on an annual basis. Managers and employees alike often find them anxiety-inducing and frustrating, as so much hinges on one conversation. Employees know their careers (including promotions and/or pay raises) depend on the accuracy of their performance reviews, and can react poorly if the review is perceived inaccurate. Side note: this is not a far-fetched scenario; trying to summarize a year’s worth of feedback into an hour-long meeting is a challenge, and putting the responsibility of remembering everything a particular employee has done over the course of 12 months in the hands of the manager is a tall order.

In a recent survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. workers, Reflektive discovered just how damaging inaccurate performance reviews can be to an employer’s retention rates. A whopping 85% of people surveyed admitted they would at least consider leaving their company due to an unfair or inaccurate performance review, with half reporting they were “very likely” or “extremely likely” to do so. A quarter of those surveyed admitted feeling they were passed over for promotion due to inaccuracies or bias in performance reviews.

Samples of Performance Reviews Gone Wrong
What are the consequences of inaccurate performance reviews? Below are three examples of performance reviews gone horribly wrong. While fictional, they represent the opinions of 21 percent of survey respondents, who declared they would quit by “going out in a blaze of glory.”

Example 1: Terrance has worked for the same manufacturing company for ten years, and believes he is due for a promotion. However, when he sat through his latest performance review, he was shocked to hear his supervisor list off a series of mistakes on a project he completed six months prior, even though the project debrief turned up only positive feedback. The promotion went to a younger worker, and Terrance is sure favoritism was a factor. Enraged, Terrance leaves the company by posting an “I Quit” video on social media, implying the company practices ageism. The video quickly goes viral, and the company’s employer brand takes a major hit.

Example 2: Paul’s last performance review was a disaster, focusing only on the last two months of work and glossing over the rest of the year. Pauls’ performance in the early part of the year was stellar, but a series of personal crises have definitely affected his recent work. Paul is working hard to resolve his personal issues, and feels his previous hard work counted for nothing. In anger, he quits, and badmouths the company to anyone who will listen.

Example 3: Clare’s performance review was crushingly bad — much worse than she’d imagined. She spent much of the last six months unsuccessfully trying to secure feedback concerning a difficult project, and was taken to task over the project’s delays during her annual review. Clare, taking the most extreme action out of our three hypothetical examples of performance reviews, quits and reveals sensitive company secrets to her next employer.

These samples of performance reviews gone wrong might sound like the sort of scary stories HR professionals tell around campfires, but Reflektive’s survey revealed employees who feel wronged or slighted by performance reviews are capable of such acts. Of the 21% planning to go out in a blaze of glory:

78% said they planned to create an “I Quit” video
18% planned on badmouthing the company, coworkers, or the boss after quitting
12% said they planned to expose company secrets
To be fair, these employees were angry, and what a person says they’ll do when they’re angry doesn’t necessarily reflect what they’ll actually do. But that isn’t the point. The point is 21% of 1,000 workers are at least thinking of causing damage to their companies, all because of what they perceived to be inaccurate performance reviews.

Increasing Performance Review Accuracy
The annual review, as a business tool, is painfully flawed. Microsoft changed its entire approach to performance reviews when it realized this. Employees crave accurate, helpful feedback, and they don’t just want it delivered once a year; they want monthly, weekly, and even daily feedback.

Increasing feedback frequency eliminates many of the complaints employees have about performance reviews. Because less time has passed between reviews, managers and employees alike have a clearer memory of what happened when. Regular meetings also improve manager-employee relationships and make performance reviews more human: 45% of employees surveyed revealed they value regular reviews for the chance to spend meaningful facetime with managers.

Accurate, growth-oriented feedback should be a priority during performance reviews. Using performance management software to track employee progress and feedback gives both manager and employee a fair, accurate, and data-based picture of employee performance, reducing the risk of bias and inaccuracies.

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How to Shift to a Consumer Mindset to Modernize Your Workforce

In the future, organizations will be responding to new or increasing workforce pressures such as a diversifying workforce, rise in contingent labor, intelligent automation in the workplace and a shift to a consumer mindset. In response, leaders must shift their mindset from a focus on process to a focus on talent, which in itself has changed drastically.

What we’re seeing with the talent market in general, and what our clients are therefore asking for in particular, is a real shift toward a consumerism model for talent. So organizations are starting to treat their employees and their prospective employees the same way that they’re looking at their customers and their prospective customers. They want to understand all the aspects of what would make them engaged in their organization. They want to understand all the things that would drive them to want to work for their organization.

And they’re using a lot of the same techniques that a lot of chief marketing officers and sort of digital natives are using around bringing an experience to an employee or to a potential recruit that feels very tailored and curated for them. So we’re really seeing a shift from offering employment to offering experience and offering a purpose and a purpose-oriented career from offering sort of employment that’s tied to salary and benefits and some of the more traditional ways of thinking about the employee/employer relationship.

If we could tell our clients to do one thing, it would actually, ironically enough, be to look at everything. And we don’t mean change everything. But it’s really important for organizations to start thinking about every aspect of that employee experience. Everything that touches an employee or touches a recruit, their digital experience, their social experience, their environmental experience — put all of those things on the table. Not just what an HR function might own, or an IT function might own, or the business leader, but everything. And start to understand the connection between all of those elements, and start to really understand the changes that you’ve made and the changes you’d like to make in those areas with your end customer in mind too, in this case, as an employee or prospective employee.

So for us a really important first step is understanding the field of play. What are all the things that you have at your disposal as an organization to influence the experience of your employees? And once we start to really get a sense of that, we can then start to talk about what are the right areas to change and how the different functions kind of assert their own responsibility and where we should invest the most in terms of time and money and effort. But for us, the first step is always to curate and understand everything that impacts the experience your employees have.

So we mentioned before the aspects of digital, social and environmental, and those are good sort of big buckets of categories. In the traditional kind of HR speak, you have competition programs and benefit programs, you have all sorts of ancillary programs you may have put in place, ranging from tuition reimbursement to the ability to work from home. If you’re in the CIO’s seat or in her office, you might be thinking about the technology that you have and the infrastructure that you’re creating to meet employees where they’re at from a mobile perspective. And if you know you’re a business leader, you may be thinking about the work you’re asking employees to do and the purpose behind that. If you’re an executive, you’re undoubtedly thinking about the overall cultural impact that your organization has and its impact in the communities that it operates in.

All of those aspects sort of conspire to make an experience for an employee. They’re all aspects of the ecosystem that surrounds every employee every day. So as you’re thinking about an organization, what are those aspects that I can really be focusing on, the big buckets in our world are digital, social and environmental. And they run the gamut from the way you interact with employees every day to the work you ask them to do to the tools you give them to do it.

That means things should be easy to do. And that’s been something that we’ve been striving for in certainly corporate America for as long as a lot of us have been in our roles. We’ve tried to make work easier. We’ve tried to make someone’s life easier. What we haven’t really been able to do is work across our traditional functions to make work easier and make it more digital or more mobile-enabled. So when we’ve worked with companies, we’ve sought to really help them create a digital experience. It could be a mobile experience, it could be a website-based experience, it could be something that’s based in a specific technology, to allow for employees and managers and potential employees to solve all of their problems in as few steps as possible.

That’s becoming a real hallmark of a good digital experience: it is the ability to have a very consistent, very fast way of interacting with a problem and shutting it down as quickly as possible. So that means we’re not looking at creating online forms for people to fill out anymore. It means we’re creating in many cases technologies and applications that are mobile first. It means that we’re bringing forward all the things that we’re seeing in the process automation in natural language processing spaces in the consumer world. Or bringing them into an organization to help with everything from closing the books every month and every quarter on the finance side to processing an application and screening candidates on the recruiting side and creating marketing segments and cohorts on the marketing side.

With almost any application that you can think of, we’re starting to see organizations take advantage of digital tools to kind of solve problems in ways that aren’t necessarily aligned to the traditional functions of an organization, but are more rooted in the types of things that employees need to get done.

So given these shifts, what critical skills and capabilities will be required in the future that don’t exist today?

A lot of organizations have started to invest in what we might call data analysts or data experts. And that’s a great place to start. These are people who can understand broad swaths of data, can start to distill it and draw insights from it and start to make recommendations from what information and data tell you. Those are great skills to have, I think regardless of sort of what the latest trend is in terms of organizational change. People who can curate, digest, interpret and act on what data tells you are always going to be relevant employees.

So for sure, that is like a bedrock. Moving from that, we’re really starting to see, particularly in more of an HR lens, we’re starting to see a real focus on people whose experience would give them an employee experience kind of background. So they would be thinking about the employee as a customer. A lot of times these folks are coming out of sales and marketing. And they’re looking at every aspect of things like the moments that matter for an employee throughout her journey in an organization, from being recruited all the way to potentially retiring one day. And what are all of those aspects that are important to her? And how can I curate that for her, so it feels like it’s special?

And so those skills really are around creating user-first or user-centric design. That’s a great skill set in the market. We’re starting to see a lot, if we’re thinking more on the softer side, the ability to negotiate across multiple places in an organization is becoming really important. At the heart of a lot of these changes is the need for increased cooperation and collaboration across the traditional functions of a business.

And because of that, it’s not enough just to have a good idea. You need to be able to really bring the right experts together to solve the problem. And having that skill set to negotiate effectively is a skill that again is really never going to be out of style, will always be in vogue, but will become increasingly important in the next few years.

So when we talk to CHROs, [chief human resource officer] we give them a few different areas that we suggest they focus on in the future of work. One is around the culture of the organization. We’re not suggesting that HR should own the culture of an organization; I think culture is very much a diffused and in many cases sort of multi-climate thing. So in many ways culture belongs to the business. In many ways culture is enforced by a lot of things that HR owns in terms of policy and process and role. But it’s not necessarily the exclusive domain of the HR function.

However, a CHRO really needs to have a seat at the table in talking about aspects of an organization’s culture that the executives would want to maintain and aspects that maybe they want to change. And we’ve been seeing that as culture becomes an increasingly hot topic amongst C-suite executives. Our research is bearing out that CEOs, CIOs and CHROs are all listing culture as a primary initiative in the next two to three years. So for sure culture is an area that we’d like to see a CHRO focus on.

Back to this notion of employee experience, we want to see a CHRO starting to focus on that as well. It’s important for the CHRO to control what they can control and to orchestrate what they can’t. So they might not be able to influence the environmental aspects of a workspace environment, for example, or the social aspects from a charitable contribution in a community service-type point of view. But they can certainly influence them.

And they are certainly in the best position to curate the entirety of the employee experience and influence those around them, so we can make sure that we’re thinking about the employee at the center when we start to design changes to the way that company works, where an organization works.

Those are two big examples of areas of focus for a CHRO in the future. We would suggest all of that is underpinned by increasing amounts of workforce analytics that are driving even greater insights into your own workforce. Put differently, data. An organization has far more data at its fingertips than many organizations realize, and they don’t always know how to use it. And there’s a real skill to be able to pull all that data together and draw insights from it that help influence culture and help influence experience. So we’re not making changes just based on instinct; we’re making them based and grounded in data.

We’re also thinking about the shape of the workforce. It’s important not just to be doing workforce planning in a traditional way, which is oftentimes sort of replacing what you currently have and thinking about it from your current state, but to start to work backwards from a future state, thinking about automation, thinking about increased, or different, uses of contingent labor, thinking about different businesses that you might want to be in or geographies your organization might be exploring.

Working backwards from those future states and building a series of workforce plans backwards from the future, as opposed to forward from the present, is a great way to shift the mindset of a CHRO and of an executive team and really get them making decisions tomorrow that will influence the organization in two to three years.

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How to Demonstrate Your Strategic Thinking Skills

We all know that developing strategic thinking skills is important, but many don’t realize how critical it is to your career advancement to show these skills to your boss and other senior leaders. Showing strategic thinking skills tells your bosses that you’re able to think for yourself and make decisions that position the organization for the future. It assures them that you aren’t making decisions in a vacuum but are considering how other departments might be affected or how the outside world will respond.

When I’m helping my coaching clients learn to think more strategically, I emphasize that developing and demonstrating these skills are very different challenges.

Developing great strategic thinking skills requires you to gain exposure to strategic roles, synthesize broad information, participate in a culture of curiosity, and gather experiences that allow you to identify patterns and connect the dots in novel ways. That’s why high-potential and leadership development programs often include job rotations, cross-functional projects, and face time with senior leadership — these all accelerate the development of strategic thinking.
Demonstrating strategic thinking, on the other hand, requires that you are simultaneously a marketer, a salesperson, and a change agent. Proactive and widespread communication of your strategic efforts combined with the courage to challenge others and initiate and drive your strategic ideas are what make your boss and peers take notice.
The case of one of my coaching clients illustrates the steps you need to take to show off your strategic thinking skills. Tim Waters (not his real name), vice president of the U.S. supply chain for a growing medical products company, hoped to be named global senior vice president of supply chain but sensed that his promotion discussions were stalled. Tim had a good reputation for responding to business unit leads, and he worked tirelessly and effectively to keep the supply chain functioning well. He was therefore surprised to receive informal feedback from the head of HR, a longtime colleague and friend, who said that a few influential executives had voiced concern that Tim “wasn’t strategic enough.” These executives felt Tim was good at keeping the trains running, but he had not driven proactive change in the organization or set a strategic vision for supply chain. Tim was a strong strategic thinker, but he wasn’t doing it in a way his bosses could see it. He decided to engage an executive coach to help him learn how to demonstrate these skills.

Bring a point of view to the table
Your leaders want to know what you think, and they view your worthiness for promotion through the lens of how ready you are to make bigger decisions. By asking yourself, “Do people know where I stand?” you can sharpen your ability to demonstrate this skill.

Tim made efforts to update his understanding of trends and to refresh his network but realized that he wasn’t putting the knowledge learned to good use. One of the first changes he made was to instruct his assistant to block out 30 minutes on his calendar before important meetings. He knew that barely having time to collect his thoughts before going into meetings made him unprepared, less vocal, and less capable of synthesizing and sharing his knowledge. Just a half hour, once or twice a week, would allow him to shape his point of view on important issues.

Tim’s efforts began to pay off over time, and he was able to shift his contributions in senior executive meetings from operational input to strategic input. He took time to package his ideas into a vision for the organization and engaged his peers in new discussions about how the vision could impact their areas.

Having greater clarity of vision also enhanced Tim’s effectiveness as a supervisor. Tim was able to see how his team was missing the specific skills needed to support the vision. Now, instead of having reactive discussions with his HR business partner, he was able to engage in forward-looking discussions about strategic hiring and leadership development opportunities for his team. Demonstrating that you think strategically about hiring and talent development is a surefire way to make your leaders notice you.

Show that you can initiate innovation and bring strategic change
To be viewed as a strategic thinker, you must also demonstrate that you can use your knowledge to put new ideas into action. No matter your level, you can demonstrate strategic thinking by executing an innovative project that shows that your understanding extends beyond your current function.

Tim channeled the new energy and vision he had gained into a strategic planning process that culminated in formal recommendations for the supply chain group. Tim communicated the project and its milestones across the organization, allowing the executive team to see that he could lead a strategic initiative; previously, Tim would have kept it behind the scenes. Boldly suggesting value-added changes was a welcome shift to both Tim and his colleagues. Tim felt he had greater control, projecting greater confidence because he was no longer just reacting to others’ suggestions and issues, and Tim’s colleagues also appreciated that he was initiating improvements without their prodding.

Tim’s journey to demonstrating strategic thinking took him longer than he had expected, but over time, his boss, peers, and team noticed the changes and viewed them positively. Tim was promoted to the global role a year later and was ultimately better equipped to navigate the role.

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People Want Their Employers to Talk About Mental Health

Mental health awareness has reached an inflection point. Singers, actors, and athletes are increasingly coming out about their challenges. Michael Phelps has been outspoken about his struggles with depression. Lady Gaga told the press what it’s like to live with PTSD. Prince Harry added his voice to the group when he spoke about his battle with anxiety. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, talking about how he copes with depression, said, “One of the most important things you can realize is that you’re not alone.”

While these kinds of stories help to break down stigma, they are, unfortunately, not enough to make people feel safe talking about mental health at work. Despite the fact that over 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions each year ($16.8 billion in employee productivity), mental health remains a taboo subject. In fact, almost 60% of employees have never spoken to anyone at work about their mental health status.

To figure out why, Mind Share Partners, SAP, and Qualtrics conducted a study on the prevalence of mental health challenges and stigma in U.S. workplaces. It looked at the full spectrum, from 100% mentally healthy to chronic and severe impairment. In previous studies, mental health has often been measured through either diagnosable conditions or general stress levels. But these two metrics do not fully capture the breadth of mental health experiences that lie between them, such as undiagnosed conditions, episodic challenges, and symptoms that do not meet a clinical threshold.

We aimed to broaden this perspective by framing our questions in terms of individual symptoms, which are less stigmatized. Instead of asking whether respondents had a specific diagnosis, we asked if they had experienced one or more symptoms from a list of common mental health conditions. (For example, “In the past year, have you ever felt sad, numb, or lost interest or pleasure in most activities for at least two weeks?”) We collected responses from more than 1,500 U.S. adults in the for-profit, nonprofit, and government sectors, with statistically significant representation across race, gender, LGBTQ+ identity, education, and seniority groups — including demographics that have been historically underrepresented and under-researched in this area.

What Did We Find?
Less than half of our respondents felt that mental health was prioritized at their company, and even fewer viewed their company leaders as advocates.

This needs to change. Mental health is becoming the next frontier of diversity and inclusion, and employees want their companies to address it. Eighty-six percent of our respondents thought that a company’s culture should support mental health. This percentage was even higher for Millennials and Gen Zers, who have higher turnover rates and are the largest demographic in the workforce. Half of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zers had voluntarily left roles in the past for mental health reasons, compared with just 20% of respondents overall, a finding that speaks to a generational shift in awareness. It is not surprising then that providing employees with the support they need improves not only engagement but also recruitment and retention, whereas doing nothing reinforces an outdated and damaging stigma.

Because companies are not doing enough to break down this stigma, many people don’t self-identify as having a diagnosable mental health condition, even though up to 80% of us will manage one in our lifetimes. Low levels of self-identification mean that many workers won’t seek treatment, and it might explain why disclosure rates in companies are low. Our research showed that while nearly 60% of respondents experienced symptoms in the past year — a number much higher than the oft-cited 20% of people who manage a condition in any given year — close to 60% also never talked about their conditions at work. When conversations about mental health did occur, less than half were described as positive. In fact, respondents were the least comfortable talking with their company’s HR and senior leaders, although senior leaders, including CEOs, were just as likely to struggle with mental health symptoms as individual contributors.

While level of seniority had no impact on those who did and did not struggle with mental health, it’s important to note that demographics did. We found that LGBTQ+ people, Millennials, and Gen Zers were more likely to experience mental health symptoms for longer durations and were also more open to diagnosis, treatment, and talking about them at work. In addition, almost half of black and Latinx respondents had left a job at least partly for mental health reasons, compared with 32% of Caucasian respondents.

How Can Companies Do Better?
Companies that want to improve the state of mental health at work — especially for younger, diverse demographic groups — need to adjust their strategies. Mental health is not just an HR issue; it’s also a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issue and is slowly becoming its own category within DEI given its prevalence across all populations. At the same time, mental health needs to be looked at through an intersectional lens because of how much each person’s experience varies. This means that HR departments or check-the-box solutions like employee assistance programs (EAPs) are not enough to address its nuance or drive change on their own. Nor will mental health policies alone solve the problem.

Regardless of how robust a company’s benefits are, it is culture that ultimately reduces stigma and empowers employees to actually use those benefits without fear of retribution. Our study shows that the most commonly desired workplace resources for mental health are a more open and accepting culture, training, and clearer information about where to go or who to ask for support. The ways to achieve these, and other critical components, are multifaceted.

Start at the top. Changing the culture is a top-down process. It starts with transforming leaders into allies. Encourage executive teams, managers, and senior employees to share their experiences (or those of close family members or friends) at all-staff meetings or in other interactions with their teams. Modeling disclosure and vulnerability as strengths, not weaknesses, goes a long way toward reducing the stigma and setting the tone for transparency.

The CEO also has an important role to play here. Currently, many departments within a company have touchpoints with mental health, from HR to DEI to Learning & Development. However, there is rarely a single owner of corporate initiatives around it to ensure accountability. Given its prevalence, as well as employees’ desire for their companies to address mental health, CEOs can no longer afford to ignore it. Instead, they should serve as the normalizers-in-chief of mental health challenges, with support from their CHROs, to help build a culture of acceptance that permeates their organizations. “When SAP CEO Bill McDermott goes out of his way to champion wellness and mindfulness,” says Nick Tzitzon, executive vice president of marketing and communications at SAP, “it sends an unmistakable signal to 100,000 colleagues that we’re serious about building a culture of psychological safety.”

Invest in education. Trainings are imperative for all employees — and especially managers — to learn how to name, normalize, and navigate mental health at work. We’re not advocating for managers to become therapists. However, they should have baseline knowledge of tools they can use during difficult conversations and actions they can take to reduce the stigma, in addition to an understanding of mental health conditions, their prevalence and impact at work, and ways to recognize and respond to employees who may be struggling. In short, managers need to be taught to treat each individual with respect and realize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Tzitzon believes that mental health is the next wave of inclusion, but that it won’t be accomplished until all employees feel comfortable being honest and open about their mental health conditions without fear of consequences. “The leaders who help people open up about whatever is holding them back at work,” he says, “will be the most effective and admired.”

Provide support. At a minimum, companies need solid mental health benefits, and those that do have them must learn how to communicate them clearly — as well as their confidential nature. Many employees are either unaware of the mental health resources offered at their organizations, or they are afraid to use them. In our study, Millennials were 63% more likely than Baby Boomers to know the proper procedure for seeking company mental health support.

One way to ensure every worker is aware of these benefits is to talk about them, and any policies that support them, during employee orientations, as well as periodically each year. Stand-alone anonymous surveys or mental health-specific questions within existing employee engagement surveys are effective ways to measure attitudes toward mental health and keep organizations accountable. (After all, what gets measured, gets done.)

Some companies, like Verizon Media, Johnson & Johnson, and RetailMeNot, are taking their efforts a step further and implementing employee resource groups as a part of their DEI strategies. Such groups help raise mental health awareness throughout companies and create a forum for individuals with a condition, caregivers, and allies to support one another. Including mental health in DEI strategies is a critical component of enabling people to bring their full selves to work.

The ability to support employees with mental health conditions — and that includes most employees at one time or another — is becoming a defining issue in the next-generation workplace. While progress is being made, much more needs to be done to destigmatize conversations and treatment. So far, the lack of organizational ownership and a reactive approach have failed to create work cultures in which employees feel safe speaking up.

The good news is that change is possible. It starts with acknowledging the equal prevalence of mental health conditions from the C-suite to the front lines, changing organizational culture, introducing proper training and support, and addressing mental health as a standalone DEI issue. CEOs must lead by example as both the priority and culture setters of their companies. That said, every employee has a role to play as well. Culture change of any kind requires top-down and bottom-up support. Mental health is no different.

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