Know your people, know your data: Keys to measuring employee engagement

Does your organization offer a total compensation and benefits package that appeals to employees? According to research, over half of employees believe that health insurance is important in terms of their job satisfaction. Read this post for ways to measure employee engagement.


Offering a total compensation and benefits package that fits employee needs drives morale, motivation and performance in the workplace.

Simply put, people who are happy and healthy are more productive. When an organization offers benefits that appeal to employees (and workers know how to use these benefits) employers should see an increase in total productivity.

On the other hand, if a company is off the mark with the total compensation package, or simply hasn’t communicated the benefits to people correctly, it will either see unchanged productivity or a decline. Organizations struggling to find improvement in productivity should look at their employee benefits offerings for answers.

Providing effective group health insurance and well-being programs is a good way to reduce the amount of sick leave worker's take. If employees promptly get healthcare when they’re ill, they’re more likely to be healthier overall. If an organization doesn’t offer appropriate health benefits, the result can be presenteeism.

Additionally, the cost of presenteeism multiplies when sick staff are contagious. One sick person refusing to take a day off can snowball into multiple people arriving ill to work on subsequent days. When illnesses reach critical mass and it’s harder for people to recover from things like the flu or a cold, organizations may find themselves short-staffed when employees finally pay to see a doctor.

Job satisfaction and morale are also linked to employee benefits. Research shows more than half of employees believe that health insurance is important in terms of their job satisfaction — even more crucial if staff live in an area where medical services are expensive.

Strategies to measure benefits engagement. HR staff have multiple ways of measuring how certain workplace functions are performing. Here are some effective methods organizations can use to measure benefits engagement.

Staff surveys. Questionnaires that seek to understand what benefits your staff know they have, and how they’ll use them.

Pulse surveys. Asking staff short, frequent questions about a benefits platform.

Focus groups. Gathering cross-functional groups of staff members together to have a facilitated discussion about benefits.

Exit surveys. Include questions about benefits and satisfaction levels during exit surveys, and then investigate what their next employer might be offering to have lured them away.

If organizations are not regularly questioning how well their benefits plan is performing, they may be missing an opportunity to get key insights into how employees feel about their packages.

Offering employee benefits isn’t just to support an organization’s staff, it should also support an organization’s long-term sustainability. Employee engagement is one key measure. The challenge for organizations is ensuring not only that they include benefits that will be relevant to staff, but also that they properly educate them in what those benefits are.

The less staff are educated on what benefits exist and how they can use them, the less likely they are to engage with them. Not having an appropriate communication strategy can often set benefits plan performance behind.

Working with analytics and claims data can indicate when specific benefits aren’t being used. Knowing what causes the lack of engagement requires a bit of discussion and investigation, but finding sustainable solutions is completely dependent on understanding whether the issue is the benefits themselves, or the communication to staff.

SOURCE: Rider, S. (1 November 2019) "Know your people, know your data: Keys to measuring employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/using-data-to-measure-employee-engagement


7 Tips for Coaching Employees to Improve Performance

Did you know: Coaching is central to improving team performance. Effective coaching skills, like managers and leaders, are critical to the success of a business. Read on for seven tips to effectively coach employees to improve performance.


Managers and leaders are critical to the success of a business, and so are effective coaching skills. Consistent coaching helps with employee onboarding and retention, performance improvement, skill improvement, and knowledge transfer. On top of these benefits, coaching others is an effective method for reinforcing and transferring learning.

While there are many important leadership skills and competencies, coaching is central to improving the performance of entire teams.

A coaching leadership style is proving to be much more effective with today’s employees than the more authoritarian styles that many business leaders operate under. Leaders who coach employees instead of commanding them are able to build a much more talented and agile workforce, which leads to a healthy and growing business.

Think back to your peewee soccer days (or any team sport, really). I bet you can think of three kinds of teams:

  1. The directionless group of kids running around aimlessly, taking frequent breaks for cookies and juice.
  2. The organized group who focused, but still had fun.
  3. The hyper-focused, aggressive group.

And how do you think these teams got the way they did? The coach, of course! The first group had a coddling coach, the second had a balanced coach, and the third had an intense coach living out his failed soccer dreams vicariously through a group of 6-year-olds.

Which seems like the healthiest group? Hopefully, you said the second one. But how do you coach in such a way that produces a healthy team?

Good coaching can be easy to spot, but hard to emulate.

First, you need to meet your team members where they’re at. Coaching isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Some people will need a lot more handholding than others, depending on where they’re at in their job role and overall career.

So before we get to our seven coaching tips, here’s a quick look at how you can align coaching conversations with individual employees’ needs.

How to Coach Employees at Different Levels

The best coaches don’t use the same coaching style for each individual team member. They’re flexible enough to adapt to the situation at hand.

There are five levels of employee performance, and you’ll have to adapt your style for each one to coach them effectively:

  • Novices
  • Doers
  • Performers
  • Masters
  • Experts

Level 1: Novice

Novices are in the “telling” stage of learning. They need to receive a lot of instruction and constructive correction. If you’re confident in the people you’ve hired, then they probably won’t need to stay in this stage very long. Also, watch out for your own micromanaging tendencies – you don’t want to hold an employee back from moving to the next level!

Level 2: Doer

Once Novices begin to understand the task and start to perform, they transition to the Doer stage. They haven’t yet mastered the job, so there’s still a heavy amount of “tell” coaching going on. But they’re doing some productive work and contributing to the team. So, there are now opportunities to encourage new behaviors, and praise Doers for good results.

Level 3: Performer

As Doers start accomplishing a task to standards, they become Performers. Now they’re doing real work and carrying their full share of the load. And they’re doing the task the way it should be done. With Performers, there’s much less “tell” coaching, if any at all. But there’s still feedback, mostly focused on recognizing good results and improving the results that don’t meet expectations.

Level 4: Master

Some Performers may continue to grow on the job and reach the Master stage. At this point, they can not only accomplish tasks to standards, they can do so efficiently and effectively. Plus, they have a deep enough understanding of what should be done that they can teach and coach others on the task. And they know enough to actually help improve standard processes.

Level 5: Expert

Experts are valuable members of the team and may become front-line team leads. Experts don’t need a lot of direction – they’re highly self-sufficient. If anything, they can provide direction to others. Experts don’t necessarily require a lot of recognition and praise to stay motivated, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want any.

7 Coaching Tips for Managers and Leaders

So, now that we’ve gone over the different performance levels your employees can be at, let’s get to what you came for – the tips!

These coaching tips will work with any of those five levels and can help you have more mutually beneficial coaching conversations that will improve overall team performance!

1. Ask guiding questions

Open-ended, guiding questions lead to more detailed and thoughtful answers, which lead to more productive coaching conversations. As a manager or leader, it is critical that you develop strong relationships with your employees. This will help you determine if your employees are curious, have the capacity to perform and improve, and what kind of attitude they have towards their work.

This is where communication skills and emotional intelligence really come into play. Managers must guide conversations both by asking questions and listening, not by giving directives. Employees learn and grow the most when they uncover the answers themselves.

2. Recognize what’s going well

Coaching well requires a balance of criticism and praise. If your coaching conversations are completely focused on what’s not working and what the employee has to do to change, that’s not motivating, it’s demoralizing.

Your recognition of the things your employee is doing well can be a springboard into how they can build from that to improve. We’re not talking about the compliment sandwich here, though, because that coaching technique often devolves into shallow praise that comes off as insincere.

Giving compliments that you don’t actually mean can have a worse effect than not giving any at all, so take the time to think about specific things that are going well, and let your employees know that you see and appreciate them!

Another aspect of this is how the employee likes to be recognized. This is a good question to ask them from the start of your relationship – does frequent recognition help them stay motivated, or is every once in awhile sufficient? Do they prefer recognition to be given publicly or privately? The last thing you want to do is embarrass someone when you’re trying to be a good coach!

3. Listen and empower

Coaching requires both encouragement and empowerment. As a manager and a leader, your job is to build one-on-one relationships with employees that result in improved performance.

Your employees are likely to have a lot of input, questions, and feedback. It’s important for them to know you care enough to listen to what they have to say, so encourage them to share their opinions.

Some employees will have no problem speaking their mind, while others will need a LOT of encouragement before they share an opinion with you openly. Once they do open up, be sure to respect those opinions by discussing them, rather than dismissing them.

4. Understand their perspective

When you’re coaching employees to improve performance and engagement, approaching things from their perspective, rather than your own, will help enormously with seeing the changes and results you want.

Everyone has different motivations, preferences, and personalities, so if you ask questions to help you understand where their “why” comes from and what their preferred “how” looks like, then you can tailor your coaching conversations to align the way they work best with the improvements you’re both aiming for.

For example, maybe you recently moved from an office plan that had lots of individual offices to a much more open-plan, and one of the reps on your sales team has shown a drastic decrease in successful calls. If you start asking questions and find out that this is someone who is excellent in one-on-one conversations, but rarely speaks up in a group setting, then you can see how they’d feel like everyone is listening in on their call, making them less confident than when they had their own space.

With that perspective in mind, you can work with them more effectively on how to get their numbers back up.

5. Talk about next steps

Coaching conversations are meant to yield changes and results, so be sure to clearly define and outline what needs to happen next. This will ensure you and your employees are on the same page with expectations, and provide them with a clear understanding of the practical steps they can take to make changes and improve.

Also, these next steps should be mutually agreed upon – talk about what is reasonable to expect given their workload and the complexity of the changes being made.

6. Coach in the moment

If an employee comes to you with a question about a process or protocol, use this opportunity to teach them something new. If you’re not able to stop what you’re doing right away, schedule time with them as soon as possible to go over it.

Better yet, keep a weekly one-on-one meeting scheduled with each employee so you can go over questions and issues regularly, while maintaining productivity. Coaching employees with a goal of improving performance means making them a priority each week!

7. Commit to continuous learning

Make a commitment to improving your own skills and competencies. If you’re not continuously learning, why should your employees? Lead by example and your team will follow.

Show that you are interested in their success (why wouldn’t you be?). Ask questions about where they see their career going, or how they see their role evolving in the company. Even if they don’t have a plan laid out yet, these questions will make them think about their career and what they want to accomplish within the organization.

Show your employees that you don’t just want them to do better so you look better, but that you’re actively interested in their career, accomplishments, and professional success.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a critical aspect of coaching employees in a way that builds relationships, boosts engagement, and improves performance. Managers and leaders can see greatly improved coaching skills by taking steps to improve their EQ – they go hand in hand!

SOURCE: Brubaker, K. (24 September 2019) "7 Tips for Coaching Employees to Improve Performance" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.humanresourcestoday.com/?open-article-id=11617247&article-title=7-tips-for-coaching-employees-to-improve-performance


It’s Time to Stop Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Did you know: By 2024, 25 percent of the workforce will be 55 or older, which is up from 11 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read the following blog post from UBA to learn more about stopping age discrimination in today's workplace.


The kids are more than all right: they’re the stars of the show.

It seems like developing market research in every business sector is all about millennials and Gen Z. How do we capture and retain their interest? How do we market and remarket to them? What are they interested in to begin with? What do they find attractive in a brand or company?

In the midst of a culture that glorifies youth, we must be particularly careful about how we recruit employees of all ages, and not neglect the benefits of a multi-generational workplace. After all, corporate diversity initiatives should be 360 degrees, and that includes age.

According to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25% of the workforce will be 55 or older in 2024, up from 11 percent in 2000. People are retiring later and staying in their careers longer. Studies also show that workers older than 50 are more engaged at work than the younger generation, and therefore can provide a unique perspective that may not be present in millennials or Gen Z.

So how do we make sure that these older employees are part of our team? One of the biggest keys to preventing and reversing age discrimination is simply making sure that age is included in your diversity discussion as plainly as possible. Many initiatives center on understanding how gender, racial, and ethnic diversity plays a role in company operations, but little time is spent on age.

"There's substantial evidence that an age-diverse workplace, especially in industries that tend to exhibit ageism, can lead to more effective teams and companies," says Chip Conley, Airbnb's strategic advisor for hospitality and leadership.

A good first step to mitigating age discrimination at work is how you present your company to begin with. If your digital presence and recruiting materials are full of photos of trendy 25-year-olds, you are sending a clear message about who you’re looking for.

Additionally, if you are funneling money into social ads for hiring, you might be missing great talent entirely as older generations are less available to these types of communications. Make sure any job listings are scrubbed of age-related language like “digital native” and “tech-savvy.” These terms immediately deter older talent and narrow your candidate pool. The consequences of non-adherence to age-neutral hiring practices goes beyond just missing out on talent. Failing to keep a multi-generational team in mind could put your company at risk for expensive age discrimination lawsuits.

Another way to grow an age-diverse team is to promote talent from within. Millennials and Gen Z have less loyalty to companies than previous generations, and that reputation may not be due to their own lack of values. If millennials age but do not experience career advancement opportunities or investment from an employer, they will look elsewhere to get the promotion they want. Conversely, if your team has a strong career advancement pipeline, you’ll be able to retain talent that grows with you while diversifying your age group.

SOURCE: Olson, B. (31 October 2019) "It’s Time to Stop Age Discrimination in the Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/its-time-to-stop-age-discrimination-in-the-workplace


Strategies for communicating with all five generations in the workforce

The age gap in the workforce today is getting increasingly wide, with more employees over the age of 85 than ever before. Read this blog post for strategies to help employers communicate with all five generations in today's workforce.


The age gap in today’s workforce is getting increasingly wide. Just look at the Democratic primary for the nation’s highest office.

With Pete Buttigieg, 37, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78, running for president, the age range of the job applicants for the biggest job in the U.S. now spans four decades. There are also more workers over 85 working than ever before, according to Labor Department and U.S. Census Bureau data.

Here’s another fact: Today 38% of Americans work for a boss who is younger than they are, said Lindsey Pollak, author of “Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace,” at the Atlantic’s Aging Up conference on Wednesday.

“This is the first time in our country's history that we have five distinct generations in the workplace,” said Pollak, who has spent more than 10 years researching and studying millennials. “They are the largest generation in the workplace. You've heard a lot from millennials today, but all of the rest of us are here too.”

“To succeed in this environment, however you approach it, you have to think about all of those generations,” she said.

How can employers win the war on talent with such a diverse age range in the modern workforce? Pollak uses the example of a music remix to frame various engagement strategies — an idea she got based on her interview of a DJ. For example, playing a remix of a classic song at a party could entice both the younger and older generations to get on the dance floor, she said.

“[The DJ] said the trick is to play a remix because the older people at the party recognize the classic and say I know that song. And they come and dance,” Pollak said. “The younger people recognize the remix… and they come and dance. So the solution to a five-generation workplace is not either-or. We did it the millennial way or we do it the boomer way. It's always about, how can we bring everybody together?“

Pollak offered three examples of how employers can appeal to multiple generations. The first centers on recruitment. Employers should recruit from across generations. One example was a solution by a pool and beach club in Galveston, Texas, which began recruiting older workers after they experienced a downturn in teenage applicants, she said.

“[The beach club] looked around and said, who really comes and swims here every day? It's the people over 50 who want a low-impact exercise,” she said. “And so they started putting up posters saying, do you want to turn your passion into a career?”

The idea worked. Lifeguard staff became people over 55 including one 83-year-old lifeguard, Pollak said.

A second strategy involves communication, she said. Asking employees about their preferred communication style is one key way to ease multigenerational differences.

“The simple [strategy] here is to not look for the one way that everybody wants to communicate. There isn't one. It depends on your personality. It depends on the work that you do. It depends on your personal preferences,” she said.

The solution is to simply get in the habit of asking everyone at work how they prefer to communicate. Asking employees their communication style of preference — whether that be over text, a phone call or social media — can help improve communication.

Employers should look for mentoring opportunities, along with reverse mentoring experiences, where younger workers can help guide older workers on new skills, she said.

“Mentoring is an example of a classic practice that should never go out of style. There is nothing old fashioned or outdated about mentoring,” she said.

Mentoring also goes in both directions. Junior staff may be more proficient using various apps, for instance, and be good candidates to train other colleagues. To have a successful multi-generational workforce, employers should consider input from employees in a variety of age groups.

“Think of yourself as having a multigenerational board of advisers,” Pollak said. “What if you had a person from each generation who was advising you on how to look at the world and how to think about your job and your career?”

SOURCE: Siew, W. (31 October 2019) "Strategies for communicating with all five generations in the workforce" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/strategies-for-communicating-with-all-five-generations-in-the-workforce


4 Steps to a Pet-Friendly Workplace

According to research from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, employees who bring their dogs to work experience lower stress levels. Read this blog post from UBA for four steps to creating a pet-friendly workplace.


If your team is waving goodbye to doggy day-care and the days of leaving furry friends at home, congratulations! The trend of bringing dogs to work started soon after what is widely considered the most influential research on dog-friendly offices, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Among the many benefits, research uncovered that employees who brought their dogs to work experienced lower stress levels, as well as facilitated conversation and better socializing during their 9-to-5 schedules. Dogs are a great conversation starter, acting as somewhat of a “social lubricant” that allows natural discussion to flow between colleagues who otherwise wouldn’t interact. Dogs can also help enhance trust and collaboration between coworkers, according to a study from Central Michigan University.

Allowing four-legged friends into your office might have unintended positive consequences for employers as well as employees. Science shows us that dog lovers experience higher levels of oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone, and that even spending brief periods of time with dogs can increase a sense of well-being for the owners and their pet-loving coworkers. These feel-good hormones can lead to higher levels of neurological productivity, meaning better work for less time spent.

If you haven’t already adopted a dog-friendly office policy, try these steps below and get smiling! Watch your recruiting, retention, and overall office mood skyrocket.

Steps to becoming a dog-friendly office:

  1. Make sure your building approves. Some office buildings have restrictions that prevent pets from visiting if they aren’t a registered emotional support animal. Building management should be able to answer this question for you, as well as help with any red tape or paperwork for getting a pet-friendly workplace approved.
  2. Take a quick survey of the team. It’s important to make sure everyone on your team is comfortable with dogs in the office. Sending out a quick survey via Google Forms or SurveyMonkey can help you gauge whether there are allergies, fears, or just general apprehensions about pets in the office.
  3. Make sure the guidelines are clear. To ease any stress, make sure the expectation is clear that, in order to bring a furry friend, they must be friendly (to other dogs and humans) and have all their vaccinations. To ensure that all dogs are suited for the work environment, you can get your dog certified with the AKC Canine Good Citizen CertificationIt’s not a bad idea to additionally request dog owners to bring their own baby gate or crate, so that their dog can be contained in one area if needed.
  4. Start small. If you aren’t ready to adopt a dogs-anytime policy, try rolling out just one day a week, maybe on Fridays. If things are going well, you can expand to a greater amount of time and less restrictions.

SOURCE: Olson, B. (24 October 2019) "4 Steps to a Pet-Friendly Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/4-steps-to-a-pet-friendly-workplace


Strategies to promote emotional well-being in the workplace

Fifty-eight percent of employers are offering wellness programs, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, one in five adults experiences some form of mental illness during the year. Read this blog post to learn more about how to promote emotional well-being at work.


Employers are taking a greater interest in their employees’ well-being by promoting emotional wellness at work.

Wellness programs are offered by 58% of employers, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management. There are mutual benefits to be reaped by the employer and employees when an organization looks to support its workers’ emotional wellness.

About 90% of employees perform better when they address mental health, but only 41% feel comfortable bringing it up during a check-in, according to data from 15Five, a software company that specializes in gathering employee feedback.

One in five American adults experience some form of mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. Additionally, one in every 25 adults is living with a serious mental health condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or long-term recurrent major depression.

Employees are demanding better mental health benefits from their employers and some of them are listening. In September, coffee giant Starbucks announced that it is taking steps to improve its employees’ mental health with a new long-term initiative that includes an enhanced employee assistance program and mental health training for store managers.

See Also: 5 reasons employers should offer student loan repayment benefits

Only 25% of U.S.-based managers, across a variety of industries, have been trained to refer employees to mental health resources, according to SHRM. Employers including PNC and Ocean Spray are also investing in benefits to address mental health.

By investing in emotional and mental wellness benefits, employers are creating a human-centric workforce that drives retention, productivity and engagement, says Heidi Collins, vice president of people operations at 15Five. A key part in achieving this to create a culture that normalizes conversations about mental health.

Collins spoke with Employee Benefit News about how organizations can provide management with stronger training and more open check-ins that enable them to build trusting relationships with their employees to promote productivity.

How is 15Five creating a culture that is more understanding of employees’ mental health needs?

In so many different practices with our employees, both in our manager and direct report programs, but also as a company as a whole. We are normalizing emotions and emotional wellness in the workplace. What it all has, to begin with, is the strategy behind it and your company’s values. It can’t just be a program that HR is sponsoring and promoting but that’s not really attached to the overall company values.

How can an employer create a more mental-health and wellness-focused workplace?

We do automated weekly check-ins between managers and their direct reports. We have a recognition feature called High5, so that people throughout the organization can highlight their peers, express gratitude and also highlight someone for how they may have impacted their day or a project that went really well. There’s a recognition feature, there’s a review feature, there’s a weekly check-in feature. In the weekly check in we have a poll rating and every week we ask our employees: on a scale of one to five, how did you feel at work this week? So we build into our product the practice of managers checking in with their employees about their feelings and about their emotional and mental well-being. We attempt to create enough psychological safety, trust and openness to vulnerability that employees feel comfortable that if they are having a two out of five weeks, it can be okay to share that with a manager and be able to back it up with the reason why. So for example, an employee might say: This week was a two out of five for me because three projects blew up in our faces and at home my kid is sick and I didn’t get any sleep. The employee can just lay it all out there.

How can employers and employees become more comfortable normalizing the conversation around mental health?

It has to be very intentional, deliberate and explicit. It’s the kind of stuff employers may talk about or advertise or promote on their employer branding website...it should be very clear that promoting emotional well-being and mental wellness is part of the employer’s culture and something they value. The executive team and all of the leadership needs to be totally brought into that and that’s challenging because there are many people out there in the world who aren’t comfortable yet with talking about or bringing up those kinds of things at work. That’s the big challenge we’re facing right now, yet so many employees are coming to expect [support for mental health issues].

Is there a generational disconnect when it comes to promoting emotional wellness in the workplace?

I would say that those of us who don’t have our heads stuck in the sand, we get it. We realize that there’s a reason this mindset of addressing employees’ mental health is so popular. It’s because it’s way more effective. This is how we want to work. I’m generation X and I have a lot of friends who work in big corporate environments who still think you leave your emotions at the door. But I would say those of us who want to have a more progressive approach are so on board with it. HR professionals and potential employees who follow those old school ways, they won’t even get hired at a company like ours and I bet a lot of our customer’s companies. That’s because we know that doesn’t work anymore.

See Also: What is Perfectionism, and Is It Affecting Your Work Life?

What specifically has 15Five done to promote this initiative among its employees?

It all starts from our hiring process and what we communicate about our values and what it’s like to work at 15Five. Not only are we assessing candidates on their skills, but we’re also assessing them on their willingness to go to that very vulnerable place in their day to day with their manager or direct report. We have question in our interviews that ask “would you be comfortable talking about emotions at work?” and “if you were a two out of five on the emotion poll for the week, would you be able to share that with your manager and how would you go about doing that?” We will ask questions to make sure candidates we are bringing in are okay with this way of doing things. If somebody is going into a manager position internally, we have just implemented a manager assessment interview to make sure this person really has the skills to be a 15Five manager. A manager in our eyes is not just a taskmaster or somebody who approves your time off. They need to be employees’ coach, cheerleader and champion and they need to be comfortable supporting employees when things aren’t going well. It’s almost like having the skill set of a therapist.

SOURCE: Shiavo, A. (23 October 2019) "Strategies to promote emotional well-being in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/strategies-to-promote-emotional-well-being-in-the-workplace


What is Emotional Agility, and How Can You Manage Your Emotions in the Workplace?

What is emotional agility? Emotional agility is defined as one's ability to deal with stressors and discomfort at work and in life. Read this blog post to learn more about being emotionally agile and how to manage your emotions in the workplace.


It’s a buzzword we hear all the time: emotional agility. So you may be asking, what exactly IS emotional agility? It’s defined as one’s ability to deal with stressors and discomfort in work and life. People are preprogrammed to deal with situations in certain ways, but these types of reactions don’t always allow room for emotional growth.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space,” explains Dr. Susan David, an award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist. “This space is born out of emotional agility. In that space is our power to choose. And it’s in that choice that lies our growth and freedom.”

When people are emotionally agile, that space gives them the opportunity to deal with difficult and stressful situations and become resilient. Dr. David elaborates: “Emotional agility is being sensitive to the context and responding to the world right now—and that allows us to move into a space where we are managing our lives more in accord with our values.”

Stop Managing Emotions at Work, and Start Experiencing Them

“Firstly, it’s normal, healthy and good to experience the full range of emotions,” Dr. David continued. It’s unrealistic to try to focus on being happy and positive all the time. This hyper-focus lessens one’s adaptability and agility.

The workplace demands a lot of employees. No matter how stressful or taxing, employees are expected to hide their emotions at work and only portray positive emotions. However, research shows that experiencing difficult emotions helps people successfully navigate complex situations at work and at home.

Dr. David believes all emotions are necessary for employees to succeed in their careers: “There is no collaboration … without potential conflict. There is no innovation … without the potential of failure. And if there’s no openness to the emotions, the disappointment and the loss that comes with failure, well then you’re not going to get real innovation.”

Becoming Emotionally Agile

Even with the best intentions, things don’t always pan out like we plan. Unexpected or non-ideal outcomes in the workplace can elicit rigid or preprogrammed reactions to emotions, like ignoring them, bottling them up, placing blame, or replaying situations over and over in one’s head.

“Rigidity in the face of complexity is toxic,” Dr. David said. In order to become emotionally agile, people need to acknowledge and understand their emotional responses but not take them as fact. For example, if a person is feeling a stress response, it doesn’t mean everything about their life has to be stressful. By understanding these emotions, one can learn from them and ultimately move forward.

Dr. David elaborates: “The radical acceptance of our emotions — even the difficult ones, even the messy ones — is the cornerstone to resilience, to effectiveness, to success, to relationships, and to truly thriving.”

Bonus: Tips & Tricks to Cope With Stressful Workdays

  1. Compartmentalization (when negative emotions from home affect your work). Try your best to leave personal matters and issues at home. When you commute to work, use that time to tell your mind to let go. You can also compartmentalize work-related stressors so that your emotions at work don’t spill over into your personal life too.
  2. Deep breathing & relaxation techniques. This will help with emotions like anxiety, worry, frustration, and anger. Take deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly until you calm down. Slowly count to 10. You can take a walk to cool down and listen to some relaxing music. Talk to someone who can help you calm down.
  3. The 10-second rule. This is especially helpful if you are feeling angry, frustrated or even irate. If you feel your temper rising, try and count to 10 to recompose yourself. If possible, excuse yourself from the situation to get some distance, but remember to reassure the other party that you will return to deal with the matter.

Sources:

SOURCE: Olson, B. (5 November 2019) "What is Emotional Agility, and How Can You Manage Your Emotions in the Workplace?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/what-is-emotional-agility


Consider these 4 strategies to boost employee engagement

Strategic compensation and benefits packages are at the foundation of any high-performing culture. HR departments can boost employee engagement is by developing a holistic employee benefits package. Read this article for four strategies to help boost employee engagement.


The foundation of any high-performing culture is always a strategic compensation and benefits package. Employee engagement at any company requires the involvement of the HR department — and one way HR teams can boost engagement is by developing a holistic benefits package.

Creating a benefits plan that suits a diverse multi-generational staff is key to keeping staff engaged at every age and in every department. What were once non-traditional benefits are now becoming mainstream. For example, offering student loan repayment plans instead of 401(k) incentives to motivate younger staff, or voluntary benefit choices for employees with specific health issues.

Even the way an office is ergonomically designed can benefit employees. Adding a walking treadmill or offering a standing desk option helps foster productive work, which directly leads to greater employee satisfaction.

This is a complex equation, and getting it right is challenging. We have hard, candid conversations with employers surrounding what enjoyable, relevant work means. From there, we can establish the purpose behind engagement, creating goals and strategies that offer recognition, growth and the opportunity to voice ideas.

Employees want holistic support for their overall health and wellbeing. Employers are expanding their view of employee benefits to include many more aspects of health and wellbeing — from work environment, convenience services and onsite facilities, to attendance and leave policies, flexible work arrangements and organizational discounts.

What do employers gain from these benefits? A healthy, adaptable and engaged workforce prepared for the future of work and ready to drive business success.

What we know works

The key to engaging employees with benefits is to apply a strategic design thinking methodology, a planning method that starts with an understanding of an organization’s specific needs.

One size fits one, not all. In the past, efforts were made to make one program work for everyone, but every staff member in the workforce now expects answers for their individual needs, concerns and health risks. Offering flexible benefits or voluntary coverage is a powerful tool — and can help employers gain a productivity boost with a healthier, more engaged workforce.

Align benefits with the whole person. Benefits should align with all aspects of employees’ lives in order to truly support health, wellbeing and work-life balance. This includes the social systems they are part of, their passions, their work habits and personal life events. Nutrition advice, health literacy training and support for personal interests are all possibilities for boosting engagement, physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

Look at the data. Organizations have access to more health data than ever before — and technology makes it easier to analyze — but few employers are fully leveraging this information to design benefits that engage their employees. By analyzing and correlating demographic, health and employee-provided data from varied sources employers can identify which benefit programs workers truly value — and which deliver value.

Use both new and traditional channels to communicate. Organizations must actively market benefits to employees using engaging, relevant and timely communications. Companies can also communicate through technology.

When staff have access to benefits that best support their individual health and wellbeing, organizations will benefit.

SOURCE: Rider, S. (30 October 2019) "Consider these 4 strategies to boost employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/4-strategies-to-boost-employee-engagement-with-benefits


Ensuring the Mental Well-Being of Employees

"Mental health problems have an impact on employees and businesses directly through increased absenteeism, negative impact on productivity and profits, as well as an increase in costs to deal with the issues," explained Tonya Bahr, one of our expert Benefits Advisors. Additionally, they impact employee morale adversely.

This results in increased sick absences, high staff turnover and unsatisfactory performance within the business, not to mention the heightened possibility for injury. Stress from the modern work environment typically derives from excessive pressures or other types of demands placed upon employees. There is a clear distinction between pressure, which is a common motivation factor, and stress, which can occur when the pressure becomes excessive.

Certain employees are at a higher risk of suffering from mental health problems than their co-workers. Nonetheless, higher stress levels correlate with a higher risk for mental health issues. Therefore, it is important as an employer or hiring manager to read the signs of potential mental health issues in employees before it is too late.

1. Relationship Problems with Superiors

The most common origin for office stress is dealing with a difficult boss, as certain individuals may fear the hierarchical nature of the organization. Yet, this is the simplest of issues to resolve, as the key to overcoming mental illness lies in the effectiveness of communication. For example, striking up a sincere, relaxed conversation could potentially soften hard feelings. Sometimes, the boss may set unrealistic targets, where an honest discussion can help adjust deadlines.

2. Relationship Problems with Co-Workers

Another reason for an increase in mental illness in the workplace could be difficult co-workers. This is especially true in work environments that surround a culture of competitiveness. This makes for a more difficult work environment, increasing stress. However, employers can make time for conflict resolution by employing a tactic of mutual conversation, concluded by an agreement.

3. Work/Family Conflict

Today, families struggle coping with an increasingly complex world, and that family stress is often carried on an employee’s shoulders when they enter their workplace. Fortunately, you can help employees balance work and life by providing different avenues for seeking mental health care, as well as providing educational resources to your staff. In fact, many employers allow a ‘flex-time’ benefit to help employees work the hours they will be most-focused, relieving anxiety and stress over missing, for example, their child’s baseball game.

Why Hierl?

At Hierl Insurance, we love what we do, and this includes a partnership with you in mind. We understand the demands of each client are unique, so we craft your options to fit your business perfectly, creating a different story for each client. We believe it is OK to like your experts. We stand by waiting to greet you with a warm welcome to devise a blueprint to turn your company’s dreams into reality.

To speak with Tonya, contact her today at (920) 921-5921 or by email at tbahr@hierl.com


Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: 3 Steps to Active Listening

How many periods do your sentences end in compared to question marks? A common complaint from employees about HR professionals is that they don’t listen to employees. Read the following blog post from SHRM for three practices of active listening.


When I work with executives and managers, a common complaint I hear about HR professionals is "They don't listen. They just tell."

So when I work with HR professionals, I encourage them to adopt three practices of active listening:

  1. The period-to-question-mark ratio.
  2. The EAAR listening method.
  3. Confront, then question.

The Period-to-Question-Mark Ratio

When you're engaged in a conversation, what's the ratio of your sentences that end with periods to those that end with question marks? If you're like most people, the ratio is overwhelmingly tilted toward sentences that end with periods. This could show that you are telling people what to do more often than you are looking for consensus on how to solve a problem. When you engage in a discussion with an executive, manager or employee, keep the ratio in mind. Strive to correct the imbalance by making yourself ask questions. The fact that you ask matters more than what the question is.

People I've coached have found that keeping the ratio in mind acts as a self-regulating device to ask more questions.

The EAAR Listening Method

E: Explore

A: Acknowledge

A: Apply

R: Response

It's a sequence. Begin the discussion with an exploratory, open-ended question: "Ms. Manager, what are the reasons that led you to conclude Mr. Employee should be fired?" "Tell me more." "Please share some examples." "Help me understand."

Once you've explored the other person's position and reasons for it, move to acknowledgment. Get the person to acknowledge that you understand his or her point. "So, Ms. Manager, if I understand you correctly, you believe Mr. Employee should be terminated because of the following reasons… Is that correct?

Although critical, the acknowledge step is often overlooked. Instead of confirming the understanding, the listener makes an assumption, which often proves erroneous and leads to unnecessary conflict. The EAAR method eliminates this possibility. If the person says, "No, that's not my position," simply go back to the exploration step: "I'm sorry. Please explain what I missed."

In your response, apply portions of what the person said, even actual words the person used. Even if your response isn't substantively what the person originally sought, this approach creates optimal conditions for acceptance.

"Ms. Manager, I agree with you that Mr. Employee's behavior is unacceptable. What you described [list the employee's actions] makes a compelling case. However, because of the following reasons, I think termination now would be premature and present undue legal risk.

"Nevertheless, I'm happy to work with you on an intervention strategy. If Mr. Employee is willing and able to close the gap in your legitimate management expectations, he will do so. If not, we will be in a much stronger position to terminate his employment, and I will support you."

Many HR professionals have told me that when they've used the EAAR method, conversations they feared would turn ugly became positive. Instead of a clash of wills and arguments, the discussion became collaborative and solution-oriented.

Confront, Then Question

What if you are the bearer of bad news? You must deliver a message you know won't make the recipient happy.

The approach here is to confront, then question. Make a short opening statement. State your position succinctly and without elaboration. Next, switch to question mode.

You can think of this approach as beginning the EAAR method with a short opening response to frame the conversation.

"Mr. Executive, based on our investigation, we found that Mr. Employee in your department engaged in actions that violate our anti-harassment policy. Although we understand he has been with the company for a long time and is one of your best performers, given the seriousness of the misconduct, we believe the appropriate action is termination of his employment."

Next, go to question mode: "What do you think?" "What questions do you have?" "How do you see things at this point?"

Assuming the executive doesn't respond by saying "Great idea! Go for it!" and wants to argue his or her point, pivot to exploration and start the EAAR process at that point. "I want to make sure I understand you, so please tell me what you agree with, what you disagree with and your reasons."

After that comes your acknowledgment: "Let me make sure I understand you. You agree that Mr. Employee's behavior was unacceptable and violated policy. However, you disagree that the proper remedy is termination. Instead, you recommend a suspension and written warning for these reasons. [List the reasons.] Is that accurate?"

Now you're ready to apply. From what the executive said, extract what you can use in your response.

"I appreciate the fact that you support our investigation and finding of misconduct. Our only disagreement is the appropriate remedy. Your points about Mr. Employee's long service and stellar performance are valid. Yet for these reasons [list them], I still believe termination is called for. How do you suggest we resolve our differing views? For example, should we present them to the CEO and let her decide?"

These types of conversations can go in all sorts of directions, including ones you don't anticipate. That's OK, so long as you don't lose sight of the value of questions during a dispute.

Avoid cross-examination questions, such as "Isn't it true that … ?" Your questions should not state or imply your view. They should be curiosity-based, as you're genuinely trying to find out what the other person thinks.

The confront-then-question approach allows you to go directly to the heart of the matter. Even if you sense rising tension and hostility, the negative emotions will soon be arrested by your open-ended, exploratory questions.

When HR professionals make a commitment to active listening, executives, managers and employees become their biggest fans instead of being their biggest critics.

SOURCE: Janove, J. (9 October 2019) "Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: 3 Steps to Active Listening" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/putting-humanity-into-hr-compliance-active-listening-.aspx