Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: Stop Tolerating Toxicity

Toxic workplace relationships impact not only the employee and their well-being but also organizational success and the well-being of employees' family members. HR departments who have a detox mission and address toxic workplace relationships can prove incredibly valuable to their organizations. Read this blog post to learn more.


In my prior career as an employment attorney and in my current one as an organizational consultant and coach, I have encountered numerous toxic workplace relationships. The cost of these relationships—to organizational success, employee well-being and the well-being of employees' family members—is astronomical.

And the greatest tragedy is this: Almost all of this loss, pain and suffering is preventable.

Why are toxic workplace relationships so common? And why are they tolerated?

The answer to the first question is that good people make bad decisions. Typically, employee relationships start out fine. Employees cooperate and collaborate in their relationships with their bosses and peers.

But then something goes awry. A trust gap opens. The employee does not address the problem promptly, directly and constructively, but the employees' avoidance instinct kicks in. Nothing constructive is done to close the trust gap. As a result, the problem festers and grows. Eventually, any remaining trust evaporates, and the relationship degenerates into aggression, passive aggression or both.

Note that I'm not talking about the incorrigible "work jerk," whose behavior should never be tolerated. Rather, I'm talking about people stuck in toxic work relationships producing jerkish and other negative behavior.

Managers and HR practitioners succumb to the avoidance instinct, too. Although aware of the toxicity, they don't intervene and are wary of wading into others' dysfunctional relationships.

What are the costs of tolerating toxicity?

  • Personal suffering. The immediate parties may think they have nothing in common, but they do: They're equally disengaged and miserable.
  • Work loss. Toxic relationships do nothing to improve the quantity or quality of work, customer service or on-the-job innovation. There is increased absenteeism and what Colleen McManus, SHRM-SCP, an HR executive with the state of Arizona, calls "presenteeism," in which people are at work but not focused on work, dwelling on negativity instead of doing their jobs properly.
  • Secondhand anxiety. Co-workers who witness the toxic behavior suffer, as does their contribution to the organization. They are the truly innocent victims.
  • Collateral damage. Employees affected by workplace toxicity typically bring their stress home. This doesn't reduce their stress; rather, it elevates their loved ones' stress. "So true! In the most serious situations," McManus said, "I have seen greater instances of alcoholism and domestic violence due to problems at work."

How HR Can Help

HR departments with a detox mission can prove incredibly valuable to their organizations and the people in them. It's not hard to identify toxic relationships. The challenge is taking action.

I can say with confidence that intervention is always better than tolerating toxicity. You'd be surprised how easily many toxic relationships can be reset when a skilled third party steps in. HR professionals are ideally positioned to help employees stuck in toxic relationships get back on track. Or, if there's too much baggage, HR professionals can facilitate a respectful relocation of the parties to different positions in the organization. This method is a good way to start.

Many times, a toxic relationship is rooted in an unwitting and unaddressed offense one employee gave the other. As a result, the offended party started behaving differently toward the offender, which produced more offensive behavior, and so on. "I'm always surprised," McManus said, "when I ask the parties to the conflict what a resolution looks like. Often, it's simply an opportunity to be heard."

She adds that a sincere apology goes a long way toward rebuilding trust. "They feel validated, which is important to them."

Sometimes there's a structural misfit in the workers' roles that needs to be clarified, or how the jobs interact needs to be modified. HR can help figure out how the jobs can function without recurrent friction. "This is our profession's bread and butter!" McManus said.

There may be a personality conflict, in which case the parties need better understanding of how to interact with people whose styles differ from theirs. If that can't be achieved, though, there can be an agreement to disagree and respectfully move on—whether to a different position inside or outside the organization.

An HR team that makes a commitment to identify and resolve toxic relationships is empowered by the CEO, and is supported by the leadership team will prove to be incredibly valuable to its organization and the people in it. HR team members can directly coach others to resolve conflicts and show managers how to coach their employees who are stuck in toxic relationships.

There's also a risk management, compliance and claim-prevention component. In my employment lawyer days, most of my billable hours arose from conflict caused by toxic workplace relationships. An HR profession with a detox mission will become painfully costly to my former profession.

SOURCE: Janove, J. (Sept 06, 2019) "Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: Stop Tolerating Toxicity" (Web Blog Post) Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/putting-humanity-into-hr-compliance-stop-tolerating-toxicity-.aspx

The answer to the first question is that good people make bad decisions. Typically, employee relationships start out fine. Employees cooperate and collaborate in their relationships with their bosses and peers.

But then something goes awry. A trust gap opens. The employee does not address the problem promptly, directly and constructively, but the employees' avoidance instinct kicks in. Nothing constructive is done to close the trust gap. As a result, the problem festers and grows. Eventually, any remaining trust evaporates, and the relationship degenerates into aggression, passive aggression or both.

Note that I'm not talking about the incorrigible "work jerk," whose behavior should never be tolerated. Rather, I'm talking about people stuck in toxic work relationships producing jerkish and other negative behavior.

Managers and HR practitioners succumb to the avoidance instinct, too. Although aware of the toxicity, they don't intervene and are wary of wading into others' dysfunctional relationships.

What are the costs of tolerating toxicity?

  • Personal suffering. The immediate parties may think they have nothing in common, but they do: They're equally disengaged and miserable.
  • Work loss. Toxic relationships do nothing to improve the quantity or quality of work, customer service or on-the-job innovation. There is increased absenteeism and what Colleen McManus, SHRM-SCP, an HR executive with the state of Arizona, calls "presenteeism," in which people are at work but not focused on work, dwelling on negativity instead of doing their jobs properly.
  • Secondhand anxiety. Co-workers who witness the toxic behavior suffer, as does their contribution to the organization. They are the truly innocent victims.
  • Collateral damage. Employees affected by workplace toxicity typically bring their stress home. This doesn't reduce their stress; rather, it elevates their loved ones' stress. "So true! In the most serious situations," McManus said, "I have seen greater instances of alcoholism and domestic violence due to problems at work."

How HR Can Help

HR departments with a detox mission can prove incredibly valuable to their organizations and the people in them. It's not hard to identify toxic relationships. The challenge is taking action.

I can say with confidence that intervention is always better than tolerating toxicity. You'd be surprised how easily many toxic relationships can be reset when a skilled third party steps in. HR professionals are ideally positioned to help employees stuck in toxic relationships get back on track. Or, if there's too much baggage, HR professionals can facilitate a respectful relocation of the parties to different positions in the organization. This method is a good way to start.

Many times, a toxic relationship is rooted in an unwitting and unaddressed offense one employee gave the other. As a result, the offended party started behaving differently toward the offender, which produced more offensive behavior, and so on. "I'm always surprised," McManus said, "when I ask the parties to the conflict what a resolution looks like. Often, it's simply an opportunity to be heard."

She adds that a sincere apology goes a long way toward rebuilding trust. "They feel validated, which is important to them."

Sometimes there's a structural misfit in the workers' roles that needs to be clarified, or how the jobs interact needs to be modified. HR can help figure out how the jobs can function without recurrent friction. "This is our profession's bread and butter!" McManus said.

There may be a personality conflict, in which case the parties need better understanding of how to interact with people whose styles differ from theirs. If that can't be achieved, though, there can be an agreement to disagree and respectfully move on—whether to a different position inside or outside the organization.

An HR team that makes a commitment to identify and resolve toxic relationships is empowered by the CEO, and is supported by the leadership team will prove to be incredibly valuable to its organization and the people in it. HR team members can directly coach others to resolve conflicts and show managers how to coach their employees who are stuck in toxic relationships.

There's also a risk management, compliance and claim-prevention component. In my employment lawyer days, most of my billable hours arose from conflict caused by toxic workplace relationships. An HR profession with a detox mission will become painfully costly to my former profession.

SOURCE: Janove, J. (Sept 06, 2019) "Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: Stop Tolerating Toxicity" (Web Blog Post) Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/putting-humanity-into-hr-compliance-stop-tolerating-toxicity-.aspx


Turnover Contagion: Are Your Employees Vulnerable?

Being positive in the workplace is more important than you may realize. With employee retention top-of-mind for organizations wanting to stay competitive in today's market, employers need to find ways to ensure employees are engaged. One way employers can decrease turnover rates is by using the infectious qualities of emotions to spread feelings of happiness. Read this blog post to learn more.


Employee retention is top-of-mind for any organization looking to stay competitive in today’s market. Despite swaths of technological advances, in our knowledge-based, global economy an organization’s key assets are still its employees. Considering this, substantial amounts of research have been published about potential predictors and causes of employee turnover. Most of this research can be classified into two categories: individual-level explanations (e.g., job satisfaction, person-job fit, etc.) or external and organizational-level explanations (e.g., unemployment rates, job demand, etc.). However, only having these two types of explanations ignores team-level and the inherent social aspects of turnover. Specifically, do the behaviors and attitudes of coworker's influence employee’s intentions to quit their jobs?

Quitting is infectious.

People regularly “catch” the feelings of those they work with, particularly in group settings. We’ve all been around someone at work whose sour mood set the tone for the day; their negative emotions dampened the mood of everyone else around them. Employee mood isn’t all that is affected. Surprisingly, the emotions of others influence judgment and business decisions – and this all typically happens without anyone realizing.

In a study on the spread of emotions, groups were created to judge how to best allocate funds in hiring decisions. A confederate (actor) was planted in each group and instructed to display one of four emotions: cheerful enthusiasm, serene warmth, hostile irritability, or depressed sluggishness. Not only did the emotions of the confederates spread to each member of the group but each group’s resulting judgments and behaviors were affected. In groups with a pleasant confederate, members displayed more cooperation, less conflict, and allocated funds more equitably than in groups with unpleasant confederate emotions.

In a related study, researchers looked into the contagion of social contexts on job behaviors. As it turns out, evidence suggests an employee’s decisions to voluntarily leave an organization is influenced by the attitudes and behaviors of their coworkers. They found evidence suggesting job embeddedness (how well employees feel they fit in with their job and the community) and job search behaviors of coworkers predict individual voluntary turnover. An employee’s job embeddedness is the relative strength of their organizational network; weaker bonds or links are easier to break. That is, if a coworker is low on organizational connection (e.g., fewer and weaker relationships with other organizational members) or engages in noticeable job-seeking behaviors (e.g., talking about an application or interview, expressing a desire to leave, quitting, etc.) their colleagues are more likely to choose to exit the organization. As can be imagined, this relationship is amplified when a coworker has both low job embeddedness and visible job-searching behaviors.

People leave organizations all the time. There are several reasons why employees decide to leave organizations - whether it be for personal (relocation of family member), professional (more pay, promotion, career change), or organizational (job or organization redesign). In fact, healthy businesses want some amount of turnover. However, in the case of turnover contagion, your employees are leaving simply because their colleagues are leaving. When a group of employees leave an organization in rapid cycle, it may be due to the influence of their immediate peer group and this should be cause for concern as turnover contagion is likely occurring.

The interplay of social contexts within an organization along with individual and organizational-level predictors adds more to our understanding of the complexity of employee turnover decisions. This is just one piece of the pie – and an important one. Understandably, more research needs to be conducted until just how this phenomenon works is understood, however, based on the evidence, organizations and leaders shouldn’t wait to act.

For one, it’s a tight labor market and has been for some time now. Overall, many employees are looking and leaving. There has been a cultural shift among workers where they feel increasingly less loyalty than before and are even more likely to job hop. To add to this, unemployment is at an all-time low and job growth is climbing. Meaning there are more open jobs than there are workers to fill them. It’s an applicant’s market. These factors, coupled with the sheer cost of replacing skilled employees – speculated to be a whopping 1.5 to 2 times an employee’s salary – should give pause to leaders when they suspect employees have caught the turnover bug.

On the bright side, turnover contagion can be minimized, and companies stand to reap plenty of rewards through emotional contagion. Just like negative emotions create a spiral of negativity, so too can emotions with a more positive valence. For example, leaders can use the infectious qualities of emotions to spread feelings of happiness by expressing gratitude or complimenting someone. In addition, increasing job embeddedness and strengthen the bonds your employees have by building more connection with their team, leaders, and other departments can go a long way to reducing turnover.

SOURCE: Ford, A. (13 August 2019)"Turnover Contagion: Are Your Employees Vulnerable?"(Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/turnover-contagion-are-your-employees-vulnerable

 


Creating High-Performance Teams

Having a high-performance team is essential in creating strong work environments. Can having a plan for more than the hiring process help both future employees and current? Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more about creating high-performance teams at your organization.


Every organization needs its teams to deliver a high level of performance to succeed in today’s business environment. Author Omar L. Harris offers clear guidance on how to hire for, support, and guide high-performance teams.

What are some tips to hiring employees to fit into high-performing teams? 

My top tip for hiring employees to fit into high-performing teams is to understand the key mix of attributes that the high-performing team members possess. Look beyond IQ and pedigree and focus on more attitudinal attributes such as work ethic, passion, solution-orientation, and the maturity to productively manage disappointment and conflict.

What are the stages of forming a high-performance team? 

The stages are:

  • hiring the right W.H.O.M. (work ethic, heart, optimism, maturity),
  • effectively onboarding each team member by getting to know them on a deeper level,
  • helping them accelerate their learning curve,
  • setting clear expectations of their roles,
  • building trust between the team members by encouraging vulnerability and open dialogue, and
  • crafting a clear mission with superordinate goals that bring the team together to achieve something that no one could achieve on their own.

What are the hallmarks of a high-performing team? 

One hallmark of a high-performing team is a level of professional intimacy among the team members, meaning they know each other well both as professionals and as people and enjoy working together. A level of transparency and passion for the work being done that leads to productive conflicts resulting in better decision-making. An adherence to norms that define how every member works together. And an absolute focus on delivering results. The characteristics that make this happen are simply people who work hard, have shared passion, search for solutions with a sense of urgency, and have the maturity to overcome inevitable conflicts and disappointments.

How can senior leadership create a culture of strong teams? 

Focus on creating a team of managers who love achieving results by putting their people in their strengths zones and developing their capacity and talents.

Do high-performance teams vary across companies, industries, or geographies? 

I've had the opportunity to lead teams across the world in the U.S., Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, and people are the same all around the world. People want to be valued. They want to believe in the mission of their organization. They want to have opportunities to develop. So leaders who want to create high-performance teams anywhere in the world need to be able to tap into these commonalities and work tirelessly to create the condition for the success of their people.

How can leaders help struggling teams? 

First understand the source of the struggle. Most issues occur during the team formation and team storming stages. And then level-up their own leadership skills to respond to the challenges of the moment. The best advice I can give is to look to deepen the understanding and connection with each member of the team and by improving each members focus and alignment, you improve the team dynamic by default. Lastly, recognize if the ingredients are off and make the necessary decisions to move poisonous people out of the environment.

What are other things to remember about managing high-performance teams? 

Performance is relative and the goal posts must be continually stretched to keep everyone engaged. Also, plan for succession so as people on the team achieve results and receive greater opportunities, the next generation of team members are ready to step up and continue on the mission.

SOURCE: Harris, O. (15 August, 2019) "Creating High-Performance Teams"(Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/creating-high-performance-teams

Here’s how to ensure employees know how to pick the right benefits

Open enrollment is often a stressful time for employees, as well as an important one. Recent research shows that the average employee spends less than 30 minutes selecting their benefits. Continue reading for more on communicating benefit options to employees.


Annual enrollment is an important time for employees — but it’s also a stressful one. The choices they make can affect their financial health, yet the average employee spends less than 30 minutes selecting their benefits, according to research from benefits provider Unum.

With annual enrollment planning underway, now is the time for employers to ask themselves, “How can we help employees make the right benefits decisions?” The answers may be more valuable than they think.

See Also: Avoiding Communication Overload During Open Enrollment

Today’s workforce is the most diverse in history, with four generations actively working, and a fifth connected through benefits and pensions. A robust benefits package is increasingly important for recruitment and retention, challenging employers to provide choices and options that support diverse needs.

About 80% of employees prefer a job with benefits over one with a higher salary but no benefits, according to the American Institute of CPAs. As such it’s vital that employers ensure their workforce is engaged with their benefits and taking full advantage of what is available. Here are five ways employers can make sure that happens.

See Also: Incorporating Incentives to Create Educated Benefit Consumers

1. Acknowledge that decision support addresses personalized needs. Tools that demystify the benefits selection process can help employees make choices that align with their risk tolerance, financial circumstances and unique needs. The best tools lead employees to a recommended suite of benefits options that fit their individual physical, emotional and financial health.

2. Know that year-round engagement improves benefits literacy. While employees appreciate benefits, they aren’t experts. Indeed, roughly one-third of employees are outright confused about their benefits, according to recent data from Businessolver. Keeping up a cadence of communication about benefits throughout the year can help address this challenge.

3. Recognize the power of a total rewards statement. It empowers employees to maximize the benefits available to them, and these tools can be accessed at any time, not just during enrollment. The most impactful solutions aggregate all employee benefits options in one integrated offering that demonstrates the full value of compensation and benefits investments made by them and their employer.

See Also: Communicating the Value of Employee Benefits

4. Think about different generations. Customizable benefits options are a crucial step in meeting the needs of today’s workforce. For example, our latest data shows that nearly two-thirds of millennials are concerned with managing their monthly budget, while over 50% of boomers are most worried about a large, unexpected cost. Having core medical plan offerings along with complementary voluntary options helps employees address varying financial needs. Likewise, paid parental leave and different health plan options assist families at any stage, and they make it likelier that your employees will engage with their benefits and remain with your organization.

5. Be sure employees know that savings vehicles contribute to financial well-being. Employees of all ages and income levels are facing financial stressors — but they may not be the same ones. Offering different financial benefits, such as student loan assistance and emergency savings accounts, in addition to retirement benefits, enables your employees to address both their immediate and long-term financial needs.

See Also: Ideas for Effectively Demonstrating Plan Choices

More than ever, employers have a responsibility to help employees make informed decisions when it comes to selecting the right benefits. Otherwise, they risk losing top talent to organizations that are better implementing benefits strategies and technologies.

By meeting the needs of a diverse workforce with an array of benefits options supported by appropriate decision support resources, employers can ensure they’re meeting their workforce’s needs and retaining valuable employees.

See Also: Ideas to Help Employees Find their "Best Fit" Plan

SOURCE: Shanahan, R. (26 June 2019) "Here’s how to ensure employees know how to pick the right benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/educating-employees-to-pick-the-right-benefits


4 benefits messages to send employees in May

With tax season over, and summer right around the corner, now is a great time to beef up communications about certain employee benefits. Read on for four benefits messages employers should send their employees this May.


With tax season behind us, summer right around the corner and the second half of the year coming up, now is a great time of year for employers to beef up communications about certain benefits.

That’s because there are a number of important messages that are specific to this time of year, including saving money for summer vacations and putting more money into a health savings account so employees can plan for healthcare expenses for the remainder of the year.

Here are four messages employers should share with their employers this month.

1. Think about putting more money in your HSA.

May is a great time for your employees to take stock of their healthcare costs from January to April, and plan ahead for the second half of the year. Here’s a breakdown you can send to help them save money and have more cash available through December to pay their bills.

  1. Add up this year’s out-of-pocket health care costs thus far.
  2. Make a new estimate of your upcoming expenses (padding that estimate for unexpected expenses that may pop up.).
  3. Add your estimated costs to what you’ve already spent.
  4. Compare that total with how much you’ll have in your HSA account at the end of the year as it is now.
  5. If there’s a gap, you can increase your contribution rate now to make up the difference.

2. Adjust your W-4s.

Tax season has passed, which means it’s an excellent time to…think a little more about taxes.

The tax law changes that went into effect at the start of 2018 might have made your employees’ existing W-4s less accurate. If they didn’t update their withholding amount last year, they might have been surprised by a smaller refund, a balance due, or even by a penalty owed — and chances are, they don’t feel too happy about it.

Let your employees know that they can prevent unexpected surprises like this next tax season with a visit to this IRS tax withholding calculator. There, they can estimate their 2019 taxes and get instructions on how to update their W-4 withholdings to try and avoid any surprises next year. If they can update their W-4 online, send them the link along with clear step-by-step instructions. And if they need to fill out a paper form, explain where to find it and how to submit it.

3. Revisit your budgeting tools.

Summer is almost here, and your employees are likely starting to think about hitting the beach, road-tripping across the country or eating their weight in ice cream. Since having fun costs money, May is a good time to serve up some ideas on how to squirrel away a little extra cash in the next few months.

Employers should share tips for saving money on benefits-related expenses, like encouraging high-deductible health plan employees to use sites like GoodRx.com for cheaper prescription costs, or visiting urgent care instead of the emergency room for non-life-threatening issues. Also, consider making employees aware of apps like Acorns, Robinhood, Stash, Digits and Tally, which round up credit or bank card expenses to the next dollar, and automatically deposit the extra money into different types of savings accounts.

4. Double-check out-of-network coverage.

While you’re on the subject of summer fun, remind your employees to take a quick peek at their health plan’s out-of-network care policies before they head out of town. If they need a doctor (or ice cream headache cure) while they’re away, they’ll know where to go, how to pay, and how to get reimbursed.

Employers should remind employees that their HSA funds never expire, and they’re theirs for life. So if they put in more than they need this year, it will be there for them next year.

SOURCE: Calvin, H. (1 May 2019) "4 benefits messages to send employees in May" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/4-benefits-messages-to-send-employees-in-may


4 Simple Reasons Why Texting Can Lead to Better Hires

If your recruiters are continually getting "ghosted" by job candidates, it may have something to do with their communication method. Continue reading this blog post for four reasons texting can lead to better hires.


It’s no secret that recruiters spend the majority of their time researching to find the right candidates for the right job, and even more time reaching out to talk to these potential candidates. So it’s natural that they become frustrated when candidates ignore communications like emails and LinkedIn InMail messages from recruiters. While these communication methods can work for some, they definitely aren’t preferred for all — especially these days.

With people busier than ever before, especially passive millennial candidates, recruiters are seeing more and more recruits “ghosting” them. If you are continually getting no responses to your outreach, it likely has something to do with the other 100-plus emails that are hitting candidates’ inboxes every day. Reaching out via SMS (text messaging) can help you break through the noise and make it easy for potential candidates to take the next step.

Here are four simple ways to use text messages to make better hires:

Texting is quicker

In a highly competitive market, speed matters more than ever. How quickly you can secure the talent you need impacts how quickly your business is moving forward. Seventy-three percent of U.S. millennials and Gen Zers interact with each other digitally more than they do in real life. If you want a fast answer, texting is the way to go.

Scheduling via text is also quicker

Nothing good ever comes from never-ending email chains, especially when the topic is as dull as “Are you available Wednesday morning between 9 am and 11 am?” Sending your candidate a link to your favorite scheduling client via SMS puts an end to group-email fatigue and gets the interview on the books in a matter of minutes.

Don’t forget reminders

There’s nothing worse than a candidate showing up late or missing an interview.
A quick text message is a perfect way to give your candidates a quick heads-up, give them an extra tip, a quick pat on the back and send them in ready to win. No one likes tardiness and no-shows. A quick reminder ensures everyone’s on the same page.

Accelerate the hiring process

Text messages make the candidate experience way more enjoyable by simply shortening the hiring process. Hiring typically involves emails, scheduling, and so much admin. A great SMS can make hiring human again, not to mention faster. By communicating directly with someone at a time that works best for them, especially in a way that they’re much more likely to respond quickly, it will help shorten the overall hiring timeline.
When used alongside other awesome tools, such as a chatbot, text messaging could even help qualify leads more quickly and immediately put you in touch with the best candidates.

The bottom line: utilizing text for recruiting can help you revitalize your talent pipeline and create a more engaging candidate experience.

SOURCE: Bounds, D. (25 April 2019) "4 Simple Reasons Why Texting Can Lead to Better Hires" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://hrexecutive.com/4-simple-reasons-why-texting-can-lead-to-better-hires/


The talent textbook: 4 ideas for giving better feedback

How can reviewers take the sting out of negative feedback or even constructive criticism? Coaching employees who need improvement, aren’t quite ready for higher pay, more responsibility, or leadership opportunities can be difficult. Read this blog post from HR Drive for four ideas on giving better feedback.


"You got a promotion! You get a raise!" It's almost as fun for managers to say it as it is for employees to hear. Giving good news during a review is easy, but how can reviewers take the sting out of constructive — or negative — feedback?

Coaching an employee who needs to improve or who isn't quite ready for more responsibility, higher pay or leadership opportunities is perhaps the most difficult aspect of performance management, so in this installment of the Talent Textbook, we'll offer four guiding principles from experts for giving better feedback.

#1: Meet more often

Many talent experts today recommend retiring the annual performance review and replacing it with frequent feedback instead. Unlike annual reviews, continuous feedback sessions can lessen anxiety for managers and workers both, making the conversations less formal and more focused. They can help send the message that the company culture is one of listening and responding to workers' needs — and they help talent pros and managers minimize the risk that workers will be dissatisfied with or surprised by the discussion.

"That feedback should be coming constantly," said Jim Flynn, CHRO at Sitel Group. "Everyone should know where they stand constantly."

Flynn believes that frequency transforms the feedback session into a chance to reflect and recalibrate on priorities and goals. It can also ensure that workers are aware of their progress toward a pay increase, promotion or increased responsibility because their manager has reminded them more recently.

For Jodi Chavez, group president professional staffing group at Randstad Professionals, Randstad Life Sciences, focusing up frequently keeps managers better informed about workers' desires and expectations, potentially preventing turnover and keeping the feedback session from devolving into a bidding war.

"If an employee has a desire and a belief that they want this promotion or to be in that role, there can be instances where you won't be able to undo their desire to leave," she said.

"It can be easier if you catch that earlier on in the process — so constant communication, so they know what you're looking for and you can keep coaching them, is important. It only becomes an issue when no one knows that it's a desire until later in the process."

Just as you wouldn't assess business goals and objectives only once a year, talent pros should expect to assess people often to curb employee disappointment, Flynn said, and this is especially true for employees early on in their careers.

#2: Give a heads up and an open ear

There's still stress for talent pros and managers even when preparing to deliver feedback in a more casual session: Will they feel insulted? Will they disengage afterwards? The fears are relevant, so that's why the way reviewers deliver feedback matters as much as the frequency.

Chavez and Flynn agree that managers and talent pros should begin conversations with what they're going to cover in the session. They can continue to be transparent with workers by providing the reasoning behind the feedback and their expectations for the future, Flynn said.

"I think the old sandwich approach, employees see through that," Flynn said, referring to the tactic of "sandwiching" a criticism between two compliments. "I would rather be more upfront and honest, and that should be the manager's approach to everything."

In that same realm, honest feedback should never come with bias or malice attached. Jeannie Donovan, VP of HR at Velocity Global, wrote in an email to HR Dive that "clear is kind" when it comes to constructive feedback. Whether the manager is discussing goal setting or areas that need improvement, the employee's pay grade or their potential for a future promotion, Chavez said the same principle applies: stick to the facts and strive for objectivity.

"For new talent managers, I think it's important to stay very factual and to hear the employee," she said. "Don't lead with false promises, just very cut and dried — 'The role that you're in and the experience that you have puts you at this level [of pay.]'"

That's not to say that a manager should shut down further discussion, Chavez said. Discussing an employee's strengths and listening to their desires can help them visualize a realistic and reachable future for themselves within the organization.

"It's really important to sit down and talk about the positive things that the employee brings to the table — it's a non-defensive position to put the employee in," Chavez said. "Try to understand what is important to them, and let them tell you. 'I may not be able to be a supervisor, but I'd still like to learn more about how to manage people' — once you know that as a manager, giving them pieces that help fulfill that helps them stay engaged."

#3: Support your managers

Talent pros should focus on workers when they consider their feedback best practices — but managers need their attention and expertise, too. As Flynn put it, "sometimes you have to carry cold water warmly" when delivering feedback, and managers need encouragement, support and guidance from talent pros to pull it off.

"A good HR business partner should understand when those difficult conversations could be occurring," he said, noting that this partnership goes both ways. "If a manager is aware that it might be a tough conversation, it's always a good idea to give your HR business partner a heads up so they can be attuned."

Providing tools or suggestions for approaching reviews can help managers to execute conversations with employees with clarity and mutual understanding. For example, Donovan coaches her managers on the "stoplight exercise," which can be helpful when an employee is making a case for a promotion. She said that managers can take a pen to the job description for the role their charge would like to be promoted into — highlighting current responsibilities in green, responsibilities they have a slight grasp of in yellow and tasks they've never touched in red.

"This is a straightforward way to identify strengths, weaknesses, and gaps to assess readiness for that promotion. Further, if this exercise yields gaps, the results indicate where exactly to focus on growth," she wrote.

Donovan echoed Flynn's belief that managers and talent pros should partner in the feedback process, and that debriefing afterwards is as critical for retention as it is for employee satisfaction.

"Have that second set of eyes to be aware and look for signs of disengagement or other harmful behavior," said Flynn. "Some managers are hands off, so if they've had that difficult conversation make sure you're maintaining that personal connection and increasing your frequency of touch."

#4. Shift the focus forward

The last thing constructive feedback should sound like is a lecture. Reviewers should reiterate that the feedback is in service of plan to get that employee a promotion, salary bump, conference excursion, a chance to lead an internal workshop or whatever the goal is in the future, Chavez said.

"They should feel positive about what they have contributed and what they can continue to contribute," she said. "[It's about] what you can do to help foster that growth for them."

Flynn's approach is similar, keeping the conversation productive and goal-oriented: "I probably spend 25% of the time talking about past performance, and goals reached and past behavior, but I like to focus more on what are the strengths, what are weaknesses and where the potential is."

With the future in mind, Chavez points out that a transparent, frequent and collaborative review process could prevent promising talent from leaving down the road. It can even have ripple effects across an organization, according to Donovan, who saw that workers had a clearer vision of their goals when she transitioned to more continuous feedback.

"As a result of our laser-focus on more frequent performance conversations, our employees have a roadmap of what needs to be done and when, and this approach lends itself to higher productivity and a general sense of purpose across the board," Donovan wrote.

SOURCE: Fecto, M. (10 April 2019) "The talent textbook: 4 ideas for giving better feedback" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/the-talent-textbook-4-ideas-for-giving-better-feedback/552276/


Why your company needs a culture deck

Many HR professionals often recommend that employers create strong, positive company cultures as a way to best attract and retain talent. Read this blog post to learn why your company needs a culture deck.


Ask any HR professional how an employer should best attract and retain talent, and they’ll likely tell you that they need to create a strong, positive company culture.

But they’re also likely to say it’s easier said than done.

Sure, you can help attract employees with salary and benefits — but any other employers with the right data or a good broker can match those enticements. However, the culture at an organization is something that is not so easy to replicate.

Building a culture isn’t done by issuing a memo. The C-suite has a clear role in building the culture of an organization, but it can’t dictate it. Instead, most corporate cultures take hold based upon the behavior of employees. No matter how much the CEO wants “empathy” to be a company value, it’ll never happen if you hire a bunch of people who aren’t empathetic. The example the C-suite sets will have a far greater impact on culture than what they say.

To shape and influence the culture, one of employers’ best tools is a culture deck — which breaks down your company’s culture, core values and mission into clear, easy-to-absorb pieces.

It’s been 10 years since Netflix published the first culture deck to the internet. In 125 slides, the company outlined its values, expected behaviors and core operating philosophy. In the decade since, it’s been viewed more than 18 million times. Many other companies have followed suit with their own versions of a culture deck.

Done well, a culture deck is a promise made among the people at a company, regardless of what role they’re in or what level they’re at. A culture deck unifies thinking around how everyone is going to behave, and what matters most to them. A culture deck can galvanize what’s already happening inside the organization, and help you chart a course into the future. It can serve as an important filter in the hiring process, as prospective employees either get excited about working in a culture like yours’ or self-select out. A culture deck can infuse your mission, vision and values throughout the company, making your culture top of mind for everyone and part of their everyday conversation, and serve as a terrific introduction during new employee orientation.

If you think a culture deck could help your company, here are five keys to ensuring the deck has a positive impact for your company.

It needs to ring true. While a culture deck must be aspirational, it also must be rooted in truth. If it’s wishful thinking, employees are going to roll their eyes and you’re not going to create much cohesion.

You need to give it high visibility. Consider that research shows people need to hear something seven times before it starts to sink in — if you communicate the culture deck once a quarter, it’ll take almost two years for people to begin to get on board. The culture deck needs to be talked about in meetings. It needs to be shown on video screens throughout your offices. This can’t be a PPT that’s posted to the intranet and forgotten.

The CEO needs to be a champion. While the CEO can’t simply dictate culture from on high, if they aren’t actively on board people will notice; the tone at the top needs to be pro-culture deck. How seriously the CEO takes the culture deck determines how important it is to employees. If the CEO brings it up in all-hands meetings, that shows how committed they are to building a positive culture.

You need other champions, too. It’s good to identify a number of ambassadors throughout the company. These folks can be counted on to talk about parts of the culture deck with their colleagues. When business discussions are happening, these are the people that will say, “There’s that section of the culture deck that we should consider in this discussion.” When people start using the culture deck as a decision-making tool, that’s when you know you’re on the right track.

Remember that your culture is about more than just the deck. The culture deck is just one tool of many. It needs to be a centerpiece of your culture conversations, but simply creating the deck does not automatically mean you’ve created a culture.

Your company is a living, breathing organism — it will grow and change over time. And that means your culture must also adapt. The culture deck is not written in stone, but is a guide that can enhance communication, help team members live the corporate values and become better employees, assist you in hiring people that fit better and thereby reduce employee churn, and ultimately to help your company thrive.

SOURCE: Miller, J. (3 April 2019) "Why your company needs a culture deck" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/why-employers-need-a-culture-deck?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


How to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude Towards Employees

Employees are more likely to trust their employers who recognize their value. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn how you can develop an attitude of gratitude towards your employees.


Many companies plan to boost employee engagement in 2019. With benefits for both employees and employers, the strategy is easy to understand. What’s more, a strong employee recognition program can set your company apart in a tight job market.

Indeed, we find that demonstrating pride in our employees leads them to take pride in our company. A human-centric approach creates a company culture that puts workers first. Employees are more likely to trust (and feel trusted by) companies that recognize their value.

Putting employees first can also pay big dividends to the bottom line– a strong connection exists between employee trust and company performance. Companies with high degrees of worker trust consistently outperform in terms of productivity, innovation and retention. Happier employees also contribute to a positive company culture.

That positive culture can stretch far beyond the office walls. When job seekers research your company on social media and third-party review sites – something nearly everyone does these days – they will see positive feedback from your employees. This sets your company apart from the crowd and can help attract top talent to your organization.

Creative ways to show you care

When you recognize the value your employees bring, you demonstrate the company’s values of gratitude and appreciation. Don’t just assume employees already know you think they are amazing, show them. Here are some ideas to help you acknowledge employee contributions:

  • Reserve a designated “thank you” time during staff meetings – This provides a chance for managers and team members to express gratitude towards each other.
  • Implement a weekly email “shout-out” campaign – Spread recognition of top performers to the entire firm on a weekly basis.
  • Recognize individual successes with quarterly awards – Prizes for notable achievements and employees who consistently give 110 percent cannot be overvalued.
  • Provide special well-being perks to all – Ideas include reimbursing employees for fitness classes, books or purchases of apps that promote healthy living. Provide periodic yoga classes, chair massages or meditation sessions.
  • Plan special team celebrations after wrapping up a big project – Consider generational differences and crowdsource ideas so employees get something they really want.
  • Arrange annual team retreats packed with fun activities.

When companies celebrate their employees, everyone wins. Employees are happier. There is less burnout and turnover. We have seen a myriad of bottom-line benefits from on-going employee appreciation programs at Indeed. Recognition truly transforms workers, teams and companies.

SOURCE: Wolfe, P. (4 April 2019) "How to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude Towards Employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/how-to-develop-an-attitude-of-gratitude-towards-employees


HR’s newest mission: Building a culture of trust

Fifty-eight percent of people report that they trust strangers more than their own bosses, according to a Harvard Business Review survey. Continue reading this blog post to learn more about building a culture of trust.


NEW YORK -- In an environment of workplace uncertainty and change, building or even just maintaining trust can be a herculean task for employers.

Indeed, 58% of people say they trust strangers more than their own bosses, according to a Harvard Business Review survey. Trust is a critical component to creating a happy and effective workplace, Andrew Ross Sorkin, co-anchor of CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” said Tuesday at CNBC’s @Work Talent and HR event in New York City.

So how can HR professionals build employee trust? It begins with getting them to believe they have their employees’ best interests at heart.

“I don’t think we’d ever be satisfied until everyone felt that way,” said Jayne Parker, senior executive vice president and CHRO at the Walt Disney Company. “We do a lot of research to look at this because we know how important trust is.”

About 30% of workers aren’t happy with their jobs, according to a recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey survey. Factors contributing to an employee’s sense of work satisfaction are pay, opportunity, autonomy, recognition and meaning, Jon Cohen, SurveyMonkey’s chief research officer, said during another session at the event.

“Workers want to trust their managers and believe they want them to succeed,” Cohen said. “Of the employees who don’t trust their boss, two-thirds said they’d consider quitting.”

With a company the size of Disney, developing teams and building trust within those individual units can translate to overall company trust. Disney has worked hard, Parker said, to make sure employees can say, “I trust the person I work for. I trust they’ll treat me with sincerity.”

Indeed, 65% of employees who don't trust their direct supervisors to provide them opportunities to advance their careers have considered quitting their jobs in the last three months, according to the survey, which was discussed at the event. Conversely, just 17% of people who trust their supervisors "a lot" to advance their career have considered quitting.

SurveyMonkey asked 9,000 U.S. workers whether they were satisfied with their jobs; 85% of respondents said they were “somewhat satisfied” with their work. However, these results shouldn’t give employers comfort, says Cohen. Those employees still have plenty of reasons to look for new jobs — uncertainty being one of them.

“The happiness people report at work is real, but the anxiety is real too,” Cohen says.

Disney recently closed its $71.3 billion deal to acquire large swaths of Fox’s entertainment segment. As such, there is insecurity within the offices of both entertainment giants, Parker explained.

As the closing date approached, reports started circulating that employees of both companies were expecting layoffs. In a situation like this distrust starts to emerge and people begin to ask “backstabbing questions,” Parker said. Employees want to know who will have their back. It’s up to the employer to be as transparent as possible and be honest that there will be changes made.

The employee may not happily skip off after this conversation, but they can have a better understanding of what is going on, easing the tension of the situation.

“We spent the past year focusing on sincerity and authenticity,” Parker said of the merger. “We have to be honest that there is going to be change in the company.”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A.; Webster, K. (3 April 2019) "HR’s newest mission: Building a culture of trust" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/hr-mission-to-build-a-workplace-culture-of-trust?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000