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Creating a Remote-Friendly Benefits Strategy

As organizations settle into offering remote work as a long-term solution, it’s time to re-evaluate their employee benefits strategy to match the needs of remote employees. It’s not surprising that employees working from home have different needs than those working in an office. While it may seem obvious, it will still take time and effort to design a strategy that matches these new needs.

With open enrollment approaching, benefits strategies are top of mind for employers, many of whom are concerned about shrinking budgets as the economy continues to feel the impact of COVID-19. With that in mind, we’ve created a list of employee benefits and perks designed for employees working from home, which can be worked into a variety of different budgets.

Home office support

Consider offering employees a budget to help them adapt their homes into functional workspaces. Small things like folding partitions, ergonomic keyboard and mouse supports, back pillows, and desk lamps can make a big difference in someone’s experience working from home. The more comfortable and functional their space is, the more attention they will have to get work done.

Mental health services

As many employees adjust to working in more isolated environments, and a growing number of adults in the United States say they are suffering from mental health issues, offering virtual wellness services can make a meaningful impact on your employees’ health. Services like BetterHelp and TalkSpace offer virtual therapy over phone, text messaging, and video calls. Giving employees an accessible format for meeting their mental health needs—especially as they learn to navigate the challenges of the pandemic—can help improve their quality of life and their ability to bring their best self to work.

Childcare support

With many schools continuing to stay closed going into the rest of the year, families are under a lot of pressure to support their children who are learning virtually while they’re also working from home. Consider offering financial support for childcare services, giving parents some much needed relief. If this isn’t an option for your company, offering flex-time can be a significant help to parents who need to be available to support their children during the day.

Subscription benefits

One way to support employees as they work through the pandemic is to offer grocery subscription services. This can provide higher risk employees relief from going to the grocery store and can provide support to working families who are already crunched for time and resources. Home Chef, Instacart, and HelloFresh are some of the many popular meal and grocery delivery services available.

People-centered design

In the end, your employee benefits should reflect the needs of your team. Consider running a company-wide survey to identify the most common needs your employees share, and find solutions that can work for both them and you. Your benefits package is a wonderful way to help build strong and long-lasting relationships with your employees. By designing a benefits plan that meets their needs, you’re showing them you care about their wellbeing, which can positively impact not only their quality of life but the quality of your business.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Effectively Communicating Employee Benefits Plans

As open enrollment approaches, employers and HR departments need to be thinking about the most effective ways to communicate with their employees about the benefits package. This is especially true if your company is functioning with newly remote employees. Benefits are expensive. And ensuring your employees know what they have and how to use them is a critical part of ensuring a positive ROI on your benefits package.

Here are several things to keep in mind as you work out your communication strategy.

Pick your purpose

Defining a messaging plan around your benefits package should be a critical part of your benefits strategy. For messaging to be successful, you need to define a clear purpose behind the communication.

  • Are you implementing new benefits designed for remote employees?
  • Are you attempting to increase engagement with your benefits?
  • Are you trying to educate employees about what’s available to them?
  • Are you trying to educate employees about how to use their benefits?

An easy way to lose your audience and miss the mark on your message is to get your goals jumbled. To create clear, easily consumable information around your benefits, identify a goal for each piece of content you create, and stick to it. Ask yourself if everything in that piece of content aligns with the goal, removing everything that doesn’t.

This leads us to the next piece of the puzzle: what content, and where?

Pick your platforms

Depending on your provider, the demographics of your employees, and the benefits themselves, you may want to use a variety of ways to communicate your benefits package. Whether you’re using a website, a string of emails, in-person/video meetings, or shared documents, there are several things to keep in mind.

  1. For the sake of ease and efficiency, have a place where employees can access all the documents they may need to learn about and use their benefits.
    1. If you’re sending documents through the mail or over email, make sure you also store them somewhere they can access later. Use DropBox, Google Drive, or any file sharing platform to keep all documents in one place.
    2. If you’re using a website or page on your website for employee benefits, create a clearly marked and easily accessible place for employees to find any documents they might need. Keep this accessible year-round.
  2. Consider the different demographics within your team and develop a communication strategy that meets their differing needs. Older employees may find in-person or video training sessions useful when learning to use their benefits platform. Younger generations who may be new to having their own benefits plan may need extra help understanding their benefits as well.

Keep it going

One of the most effective ways to increase ROI on your benefits plan is to create a year-round benefits communication strategy. Keep it top-of-mind for your employees by regularly checking in with them.

  • Consider adding it to your company-wide newsletters
  • Hold quarterly training sessions or meetings to help your employees use and understand their benefits
  • Survey your employees and keep close tabs on how they feel about their benefits plan, including:
    • How easy it is to use
    • How relevant the benefits are to their needs
    • How often they use their benefits
    • How satisfied they are with their plan and what they would like to see changed

Effectively communicating employee benefits plan takes time and effort. Be ready to hear and act on the feedback you receive. Pay careful attention to who uses their benefits and who doesn’t. If you’re serious about creating a benefits plan that works for your business and your employees, then take the time to work out your communication strategy. It’ll pay off for you and them.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Employee Benefits: Planning Ahead

In the past year, employers have had to make significant adjustments to their benefits packages to cope with the pandemic. Most significantly, employers with less than 500 employees have had to adopt new paid leave policies to help employees combat COVID-19 and new childcare demands, with 44% planning on expanding their paid leave benefits in 2021.

But that isn’t the only thing that’s changed. As employers look ahead to upcoming open enrollment and prepare for the year ahead, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Virtual enrollment

Since in-person meetings are sharply declining for safety concerns, employers are shifting the yearly in-person meeting with their broker to virtual walk-throughs over the phone, or doing it themselves online. But it’s more important than ever that employers get the most help they can when it comes to their employee benefits plans.

The changing needs of the workforce, the blowback from delayed elective surgeries, and new regulations mean there’ a lot employers have to navigate if they want to see solid ROI on their benefits packages.

To best prepare your business for the upcoming virtual enrollment period, start by checking off this list:

  • Do some preliminary research and see what’s out there. Get a feel for what other employers of a similar size and industry are doing.
  • Ask your employees what they need the most. Create a tiered list of benefits they express a need for, and benefits they would appreciate, but don’t require.
  • Create a detailed list of questions.
  • Call your broker with your questions and the information you gathered and walk through what’s available to you, making sure to take note of everything.

Research preparation will help you cover all the bases and avoid any gaps or lost opportunities. Make sure you give yourself enough time to do sufficient research and get answers to your questions.

2. Shifting the basics

As you plan for the year to come, take stock of all the changes your organization has gone through in the last months. Have you gone partially or fully remote? Are you considering offering remote positions at your company moving forward? Do you have young parents on your team who are juggling new childcare challenges?

Your benefits strategy may very likely need to be updated to meet the challenges relevant to your employees today. To attract, retain, and engage talent, it’s essential you understand their needs and offer resources for them to maintain a healthy life, both physically and mentally.

And that looks different for remote employees, parents with children at home, and employees suffering from increased strain on their mental health due to the isolation and anxiety caused by the pandemic. The basics of employee benefit packages need to shift around these new and different challenges to adjust appropriately.

3. Benefits communication

With the vast majority of organizations still working remote and expecting to continue doing so into the year to come, employers must create a solid virtual communication strategy around their employee benefits.

Depending on the technical skill level and abilities of your employees, you may want to offer varying types of education and support around how to use their benefits. Especially with heightened awareness around healthcare, employees may be more anxious to learn everything they can about their benefits to help ease some of their anxiety.

4. Planning for changing costs

With so much up in the air, leaders in healthcare are warning that cost projections for next year are cloudy at best. Increased demand for mental health services, the blowback from delayed elective surgeries, and potential vaccine costs are making it difficult for employers to prepare financially for the unknowns. To help with this, talk with your employees about what services they expect to need. Work with your broker to define a strategy that works best for your business.

Stay tuned

As circumstances change, be sure to keep a finger on the pulse of the insurance industry. Keep tabs on how your employees are feeling and what their concerns are moving forward. Although this can feel overwhelming, remember that there are many resources available to you to help guide you through the confusion and change.

Work closely with your broker and expect them to provide you with objective, informative information. Your broker should be your right-hand man during the next few months, and if they aren’t preparing you with strategies, education, and support, you may need to look elsewhere. As you move through the upcoming six months, stay informed, in touch, and open to new solutions and ideas, and you will come out the other side successfully.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Hiring Managers, It’s Time to Adapt!

Among all the aspects of day-to-day operations that have changed this year, very little in the business organization has been left untouched. As the future begins to settle into a clearer picture, HR departments are doing what they can to adjust their practices to meet the new needs of the day. Among the methods needing evaluation and improvement, hiring is going to be high on the list.

Here are three areas that hiring managers should keep in mind as they adjust their systems to the new normal.

The description and the search

With millions of people unemployed, organizations are experiencing a larger than normal pool of candidates viewing their job postings. This can be an excellent opportunity for companies to be picky and find the best candidates possible for their roles. However, it can also cause problems.

With so many people out of work, it would be no surprise to find yourself slogging through piles of resumes and running through many interviews with candidates who aren’t good fits. To help avoid attracting people who won’t be a good fit for the role or your culture, you can do a few things.

  • Put the starting salary for the role in the description
    This is a good practice even if you aren’t fighting off hordes of job seekers to find the right candidate. Wage transparency helps job seekers decide for themselves if the role you’re offering would fit their needs. It also says something about your company culture: mainly, that you aren’t secretive, and that you value transparency.
  • Keep up your standards
    Having a larger pool of candidates may make hiring managers feel they have to put less work into the candidate experience. But doing this would be a mistake. Your candidate experience plays directly into your brand image and your reputation. It’s the first interaction new employees have with your company culture. Ensure you’re doing the best you can to respect the time and energy of each candidate—it’s good for everyone.
  • Be clear about your culture
    Where at all possible, include information on your company culture in the hiring process. Make sure your description honestly illuminates what it’s like to work for you. When you’re interviewing candidates, try convincing them not to take the job. Tell them about all the aspects of the role they might find challenging or frustrating. If they are still interested in the role, then you know you’ve got someone who is genuinely ready to take it on.

Regarding resumes

When hiring managers review resumes, it’s common for them to look for things that they deem as red flags. These could be:

  • Gaps in work (large chunks of time between employment)
  • Short stints at more than one job
  • Jobs worked below their skill level
  • Jobs worked that don’t apply to the traditional career trajectory for people with their skills

But it’s more critical than ever that recruiters take a second look at these practices. Assuming you know what each of these means on a resume isn’t just selling yourself short on potentially qualified candidates—it’s directly harmful to the job-seeking community.

With coronavirus causing mass layoffs, many people might have gaps on their resume or have to work jobs that don’t match up with their skill level. They may work temp jobs or positions that don’t relate to their field. This is not a defect. It is merely a fact of life working in a struggling economy. Do everyone a favor, and don’t assume anything. Make a note and bring it up in the interview and find out more from the candidate. You may be surprised by what you find.

Virtual onboarding

While you may not be hiring right now and don’t feel an intense pressure to create new systems for integrating remote onboarding into your process, you will eventually. Even outside of COVID, remote work is here to stay, which means that recruiters need to buckle down and figure out how they can meet the needs of new employees working virtually.

The good news is there are a lot of really great resources out there to help you design a successful onboarding process. Do your research and cover all the bases. The last thing you want is to bring someone on who struggles to connect with your culture, doesn’t feel a part of the team, and gets lost in the shuffle because they aren’t physically in front of anyone.

Don’t get complacent

However it is you keep your practices up-to-date, make sure you’re paying attention. As job seekers and recruiters alike adjust to the demands of our new world, it’s important to remind yourself not to get complacent. There will always be room for improvement and growth. Remember, the hiring process should be seen as sacred at your company, and treated with the attention and care it (and your candidates) deserve.

 

Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Remote Work: Planning Long Term

As the world begins to settle into the reality of working from home as a long-term strategy, organizations must take the time to think ahead. When the pandemic hit, the world of remote work, which had been steadily gaining more and more attention, was fast-tracked into the right-now. There was (and in many cases, still is) a lot of maneuvering to make this new reality function properly.

Organizations had to grapple with new forms of communication, management, leadership, and company culture. Not to mention a load of new compliance regulations and resources that required some serious attention. But as time has passed, organizations have *begun* to find their stride, identifying new strategies, tools, and solutions to help them navigate this new world.

And as was predicted before the pandemic hit, organizations are starting to see remote work positions as viable options they can offer moving forward. While all the maneuvering and finagling to immediately make remote work happen will continue to serve organizations in the future, it doesn’t necessarily account for all that needs to be considered in the long term.

Here are three things to keep in mind for offering remote work indefinitely.

1. Where is your talent?

While your company may have historically stayed to the talent found locally, it may no longer be a smart requirement. Consider expanding the radius where applicants may be based. While working in different time zones can require some adjustments to how you communicate, it isn’t that hard to make the shift. Just be aware of the of needs within that role and determine how you’ll be able to meet those needs. For example, if checking in with a manager on a day-to-day basis is part of the role, being in a time zone close enough to allow for availability overlap may be a requirement.

The wonderful thing about expanding the radius of the talent pool is the exponential depth of field your hiring managers get to play within. This expansion affords you the flexibility to become more selective in your hiring, while potentially creating opportunities to connect with applicants of more diverse backgrounds, skillsets, and experience.

2. Re-evaluate organizational policies

Remote workers tend to have different needs than on-site employees. Take the time to re-evaluate what you’re offering employees and define what applies to those working remotely and those working locally. Here are examples of some policies you’ll want to consider:

  • On-site, or local perks such as gym memberships.
  • Remote working options often work well with flex time, while on-site work tends to lean away from this.
  • Hours tracking. How do you track time? Is it project-based, by the hour, or both?
  • Work-life balance policies addressing overtime.
  • Data and project tracking information. Is this available to remote workers?

If you’re choosing to offer remote working positions indefinitely, go through each of your practices with a fine-tooth comb. Identify what is and isn’t applicable and adjust as necessary. Not doing so will often leave your remote workers getting the short end of the stick, struggling to get their needs met.

3. Who’s remote? How do you support them?

Whether or not you’re offering remote work into the future, if you are doing so now, then be aware of the different circumstances of your employees. Do you have young parents whose children are home from school? Do you have students who might not have access to a private space? What are the resources available to your remote workforce, and how are you meeting their needs?

Do your research. Consider creating a company-wide survey asking about the challenges your remote employees are facing. Identify trends and find ways to help your employees overcome those challenges.

If you’re hiring for remote working positions for the future, identify your ideal candidate. What requirements do they need to fulfill the position? What are the ways you can support them in their remote role? Determine what all you need and communicate it to your candidates so they can make the most informed decision about whether or not they’ll be a good fit for your remote role.

Keep learning

As we continue to grow and change along with the changing demands of the economy and safety guidelines, businesses must keep a close eye on the inner workings of their organization. Just because you evaluated the challenges your newly-remote employees were facing at the beginning of the pandemic doesn’t mean you can afford to look away for more than a few months.

Needs change. New challenges arise. It’s up to leaders to keep a continual dialog going with employees to be aware of situations as they change and develop (not after they’ve been festering and growing). Keeping up this dialog will help you steadily improve your processes. Be proactive about it and offer space for employees to reach out with their needs. The better the communication is, the more successful everyone will be.

 

Photo by Michael Simons

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Employee Management: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Growth

See if this story sounds familiar. You get a job you love. It’s challenging, engaging, and fun. You work hard at it, overcoming the challenges, developing more efficient processes, and creating quality work. Your manager can step back and relax. They no longer have to look over your shoulder to make sure you’re getting the job done. In fact, they might not even know everything you’re doing in your role.

You do it long enough that it becomes second nature. Time passes, and your job ceases to challenge you. Because your manager is comfortable relying on you, they don’t feel the need to give you much attention. It’s in their interest to keep you doing your job since you do it so well, and they don’t think to offer you new opportunities for growth.

Your manager may even start taking you for granted. Because after all, you make all the hard work look so easy because you’ve mastered it. You begin to feel unfulfilled and frustrated, wanting more room to grow in an organization that wants to keep you where you are.

Eventually, you find a higher-paid, more challenging position, and leave the organization to start over.

It’s the natural cycle of most careers, and while it isn’t inherently bad, it does leave organizations missing a massive opportunity that impacts their bottom line, culture, and growth trajectory.

Integrating growth

When organizations are structured this way, they aren’t doing anyone any favors. Employees value opportunities for growth—a lot. And organizations that don’t understand this miss out on the potential their employees have to offer while dealing with higher turnover than necessary.

Organizations that haven’t built an integrated system for growth within their employee experience tend to struggle with employee development. But to maximize the value of each employee, organizations should create a system specifically designed for employee growth that is implemented from the very start of their role and lasts through the entire employee lifecycle.

This isn’t just in the interest of employees—it benefits everyone. Giving your employees chances to learn and grow in their roles not only helps them develop, but deepens their store of resources to offer your company, enriching both your organization and their career path.

Develop plans

But without a system designed to be applied to every position, you’re going to struggle keeping this growth alive. Consider implementing evaluation and development plans for each employee, defining goals and key measurements to track their progress and growth, and help them and their manager visualize their trajectory forward and upward.

Create accountability

Using the plan, set quarterly reviews so both the employee and manager can keep this plan top of mind throughout the year. Set expectations of your managers that they will prioritize these plans and continue to discover new ways their team members can engage and grow within the company.

Integrate this planning process as part of the company culture, developing an expectation among every member of your organization that they will have the opportunity to grow in their roles.

Break the cycle

By doing this, you’ll help to develop a company culture that promotes a learning environment, attracting talent that will be dedicated and engaged as they grow in their careers. It will foster a sense of loyalty and commitment that employers dream about.

But breaking out of any cycle can take time and be a challenge. If you want to maximize and retain the talent you have, give your managers the tools they need.

  • Ensure you’re training correctly.
  • Provide them with tools to identify areas for growth.
  • Allow the roles they manage to stay flexible.

Help your managers break the habit of complacency, and reward and celebrate the growth they help foster. Remember, growth is a team effort—everyone needs to be involved.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Talent Optimization and Retention in the Age of COVID

Maintaining a healthy company culture and happy employees will always matter—even while millions are on unemployment and the power lies with employers. The economy has employers and employees alike feeling a bit trapped. Even if you find yourself with employees who feel they aren’t in a position to leave their job, you should still want them to be engaged and productive while they’re with you.

What happens to companies that have unhappy, disengaged employees? They fail. As your employees are responsible for generating the company’s success, you need them to be positively contributing to the organization. Now more than ever, you need employees to feel dedicated to their roles and your company as a whole.

Here are a few ways to build up both your employees and the company simultaneously.

Professional Development

Offering opportunities to develop and improve skills isn’t just something employees want—it also helps deepen your company’s assets, at a fairly low cost. Companies like Skillshare, Lynda.com, and edx.com, all offer reasonably priced online courses for professional development in subjects ranging from marketing to project management to graphic design.

Take advantage of these easy-to-access tools, offering your employees a chance to learn and grow. Through this training, you’ll be developing stronger relationships with your team, maximizing talent, and preparing employees to flourish within your company.

Hiring from within

While many companies struggle to effectively hire from their pool of existing talent, doing so is not only cost-effective and saves time but helps foster an environment of dedication and growth.

Train your managers so they can recognize when an employee has the potential for something different, and also allow the managers the authority to take action. It can be challenging for managers to allow for this growth when they have highly functioning employees who do their jobs well. The managers have little incentive to take a person out of their role, even if they would be a great fit elsewhere in the company.

Make sure you’re training your managers to train their teams with the goal of growth. And to plan for the eventuality that they will move on to other roles.

Compensation matters

While employers understand that compensation is often a defining reason for turnover, its importance can’t be stressed enough. Employees are working to make money. Above all other perks and benefits, it’s what they need the most. Money is high on the list of factors that play into an employee choosing to stay or leave their position.

Compensation doesn’t just say something about how your company views the role an employee has. It also puts a numerical value on exactly how much an individual employee matters to the organization. Compensation also has a direct effect on how an employee views themselves within the company and factors into their satisfaction, dedication, and loyalty.

What you need to do is simple: make sure you are paying your employees what they’re worth, or they’ll leave for a job that will.

In this together

Whether or not the economy is struggling, you and your employees are in it together. By carefully strategizing, you can make decisions that have a positive impact on your business and the individual lives working within your organization. The talent of your company—what makes people want to work with you and buy from you—comes directly out of the talent working for you.

Lean into that talent. Boost it up and recognize it. Give it a platform to grow, and you’ll create an enriching work environment that mobilizes your company growth and pushes you towards success.

 

Photo by Anton Yankovyi

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

 

Combating Presenteeism in the Workplace

Most employers have a good idea of the negative impact that employee burnout has on their culture, bottom line, engagement, and turnover rates. Needless to say, it’s big. Many things can lead to employee burnout, but most often left out of the conversation is the problem of presenteeism 

Presenteeism is the act of coming into work when you are not entirely up for it, either because of illness or mental health, and working at a reduced capacity. This leads to increased burnout because it stresses the body and mind when it should be resting, and is instead straining energy resources and stamina. 

Successfully approaching the problem requires a multi-pronged approach.  

Set the tone 

While employees may read in your handbook that their wellness matters, it may not be evident within your culture. If you have managers and leaders within your company that pedestalizes employees who work overtime or come in when they are sick, you might as well be telling others that is the expectation of all employees.   

Make sure you not only encourage people to stay home when they are sick, but also make a concerted effort to identify when people are at work when they shouldn’t be. And when that inevitably happens: Send. Them. Home. 

Sick days aren’t enough 

While sick days are essential, they don’t encompass all the other valid reasons for not coming in to work. Taking a day off for mental health reasons is just as valid as doing so because of physical illness. In today’s culture, younger generations are prioritizing mental health and wellness and want to see their company do the same.  

Make an effort to destigmatize the topic of mental health in your workplace and encourage people to go home when they need the day off. Doing so will help you build strong relationships with your employees based on trust, loyalty, and care. When employees feel taken care of and are free to take care of their personal needs, they will become deeply invested and engaged with your company. The loss of one day of work may be all the difference someone needs to help them return with more energy, drive, and dedication.  

Learn how to ask 

Despite telling your employees it’s ok for them to stay home for personal reasons or due to illness, many people will push themselves to go into work regardless of their condition. It may take time for these employees to unlearn unhealthy working habits, and as leaders, it’s your job to help them do so.  

Take care to notice when someone seems burned out, on edge, or sick. Take the initiative to ask how they are doing. In some cases, you may need to ask twice to get a genuine answer as the robotic response of, “I’m good!” because it’s so ingrained in our unconscious reactions.  

When someone does tell you they’ve been having a hard time, or even just having a hard day, ask them to take the rest of the day off. Or suggest they take the following day off. This small act will help those who may not have even considered taking time off to take a step back and re-evaluate. These actions show employees that not only are you paying attention to their wellbeing but that you are prioritizing it.  

Lead by example 

If staying home from work makes you cringe, then this is for you. Yes, it is true that as leaders, you have the responsibility to show up consistently for your employees. But you ALSO have the responsibility to lead by example, to take care of your own wellbeing, and to show your employees that taking care of themselves isn’t just encouraged, it’s expected.  

Being open and honest about why you are taking the day off may make a more significant impact than you’d expect. For instance, if you were to tell your staff you’re taking the day off for mental health, you are doing two powerful things: 1) you’re making a statement that mental health should be prioritized, and 2) you’re showing your employees that it’s ok to acknowledge mental health in the workplace. Being known as a leader who expects their employees to act like humans and not robots is a gift both to your employees and your company.  

What goes around, comes around  

The lovely thing about becoming a company that does this is the reciprocal nature of the relationships you’re building within your company. As people are treated well and encouraged to take care of themselves, they will, in turn, treat your company well and value their roles within it. Taking this approach with your employees may have a lasting effect on their lives and your business. 

 If someone comes into your company from a culture that pushed them beyond what was healthy, their potential for growth is massive. They might not even be aware they have been burned out, but when you provide them with the opportunity they need to care for themselves, you may find that their store of energy and dedication grows and deepens beyond what you both imagined.    

Think of it like a wilted tree. The more nutrients and water you give it, the larger and more resilient it will become, bearing fruit that will feed the land around it. Nurture your employees like you would that tree, and watch as they amplify their power within your business and become the force that pushes your organization forward and up. 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

 

Don’t Lose Momentum (No, We’re Not Talking About Growth)

We’ve all been experiencing the effects of the pandemic for a few months. And chances are, you’ve begun to think about whatever the “new normal” is that people are talking about. 

What is going to change permanently? 
What will revert to how it was before the pandemic? 
How will our jobs/company function for the foreseeable future?  

You’ve got your mind on the future along with everyone else. You’ve seen all the posts about returning to work, what companies can expect when they reopen, etc.   

In the first few weeks of the stay-at-home orders, it was challenging to have a conversation that didn’t revolve around the pandemic. Like at all. Leaders spent a lot of time reassuring their teams that everything would be ok, that they didn’t expect them to be perfect, that it was ok to feel anxious or scared.  

And this was the right thing to do. During any time of transition (pandemic or not), employees need to be reassured that they’re allowed to take time to adjust, to make mistakes, and to struggle.  

It’s a critical part of ensuring the psychological health of your employees, boosting a positive company culture, and developing trust-based relationships within your company structure. And generally, after a certain time, you can expect the transition period will come to an end, and you can begin looking for a higher level of consistency from your employees. 

But this isn’t a normal transition. It isn’t a merger; it isn’t a change in leadership or processes; it doesn’t have that lovely, reliable beginning, middle, and end that comes with most other transitions.  

Sure, it had a beginning, but we have no way of knowing exactly when this will all be over. We’ve been told to expect multiple waves of shut-downs and stay at home periods that could reach into the next two years. And no matter who you are, whether or not your job has been affected, you will experience the effects of the pandemic in your life.   

Emotional burnout  

So your company leaders did all the check-ins and wellness reviews they could when the pandemic started. But often those precious one-on-one check-ins that everyone is raging about are emotionally draining.  

For leaders who made significant attempts to increase communication with their teams and to offer support to employees one-on-one, it wouldn’t be surprising if they have begun to feel drained. 

Those check-ins demand emotional presence; they require tact and patience and genuine connection. All of which takes energy. Not to mention the extra effort it requires to do this stuff remotely. Plus, if you’re a leader, who’s checking in on you? No one? Your cat? 

If you’re not emotionally drained by now, just wanting to focus on the work at hand, you’re probably part of a select few. The novelty of working from home is no longer filling the gap of social connection and society being open. For the majority of people, the consensus sounds something like, “We’re sick of talking about COVID, and we just want things to go back to normal.” 

Nurturing that precious momentum 

When the pandemic first struck and everyone was experiencing their first few weeks at home, the video calls, virtual happy hours, and one-on-one check-ins were running rampant. But now that we’re all tired and burned out, those key actions are becoming more and more difficult to maintain.  

And unfortunately, there is no one solution to make it easier. But letting them slide because you’d rather focus on your work and ignore the pandemic isn’t a good solution. Those who are prone to isolation, anxiety, and distraction are now at even higher risk of losing their path.  

It’s critical we continue to consistently check in with each other. If you’re a leader who’s feeling burned out on check-ins, consider setting up a buddy system and encourage team members to check in on one another. Spread the responsibility around to your whole team.  

Remember, this is a long haul. To maintain the health of our communities, we need to buckle down on our wellness plans and cement them into our weekly schedules. This is not the time to let them slide.  

If anything, the “new normal” will be more people and wellness-focused. So if you want to think about the future, go ahead. Just don’t forget to include the vital acts of community support and wellness that we all need so badly today.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by alexmia

 

Nurturing an Inclusive Workplace

Your employees are your greatest resource. Your biggest asset. Your power. Your drive. Your agility and foundation! You’ve created a great team–you’re sure of it. But when was the last time you checked to make sure you’ve got the diversity of talent your company needs? 

Are you sure you have everything you need in your proverbial toolbox? Having one full of just hammers is going to be useless unless you’ve got nails. And screws, and levels, and safety glasses, and saws, and…you get it. When you hire a bunch of people with the same skills, the same backgrounds, and the same experiences, you’re selling yourself short and weakening your potential. The more diversity of thought, experiences, strengths you have on your team, the more successful your business will be.   

Ensure you’re putting an emphasis on protecting and nurturing diversity within your workplace by consistently and objectively assessing where your company is falling short and where it’s excelling. The following are some key areas of operations to consider.   

Inclusive language 

Every business has a voice. It comes across in every communication aspect of your company, from external marketing to internal communications. The atmosphere of your business to your employee handbooks, internal surveys, data collection, and emails are all opportunities for communication. Consider how you use language that can apply to the broadest range of people. Some example to consider: 

  • Disabled vs. person with disabilities  
  • Deaf vs. hearing impaired 
  • Spouse vs. wife/husband
  • Salesman vs. salesperson 

Learning to identify language differences can feel subtle and takes practice. In the past, you may have unknowingly assumed gender, forced someone to choose an incorrect personal identification, or otherwise left out or incorrectly referenced a marginalized group of people. Don’t dwell on the past, look ahead, and persistently ask yourselves and your team how you can improve.
 

Accessibility  

Identify areas where you can improve your company’s accessibility to people experiencing different forms of disability.  

  • How accessible is your workplace to people using wheelchairs?  
  • Is your office equipment (printers, copy machines) accessible from a seated position? 
  • Do you offer accessible employee desk space? 
  • Does your office space have ramps and elevators? 
  • Does your company offer alternatives to phone calls for people with hearing impairments? 
  • Do the signs in your office have brail and raised lettering? 

To make working at your company more accessible, consider offering remote working positions. You may be surprised that remote employees tend to be more productive and engaged than those working from an office.  Whatever you do to improve accessibility to your office, know that solutions are evolving and developing, so what might have been unattainable five years ago may be possible for your company now.  

Representation 

Chances are, your company has a website and social media presence. Take a look at what demographic your online presence represents. Do all your photos depict the same type of person? Are the only photos representing people with disabilities directly related to content about disabilities? That’s problematic in itself.  

The key is to choose photos and language that speak to the broadest range of people and not just to who you might think your customer is. Use your messaging to help build connection and understanding, reaching a greater variety of people and giving a voice and representation to traditionally marginalized groups.  

The more people your brand speaks to, the more comprehensive the range of prospective job candidates and customers you’ll attract. Seeing is believing. The more diversity you use in representations of customers, employees, and leadership, the easier it will be for people to see themselves in those roles. 

Hiring process  

Creating an unbiased hiring process can be a difficult task. Everyone’s got biases, and it’s a challenge to remove it from any process where humans have to choose other humans. So how do you go about minimizing bias from your hiring process? There’s a crazy amount of information on this topic, but here are four of the most common points.  

  1. Educate your hiring managers about bias. Give them opportunities to learn how to identify their own and other’s prejudices.  
  2. Review your job description. Consider how you can eliminate adjectives that are associated with one gender, ethnicity, or body type.   
  3. Standardize, standardize, standardize! Make sure you’re approaching each interview with the same set of questions and expectations.  
  4. Consider using blind recruitment strategies. Try removing identifying characteristics from the hiring process such as names, age, education, etc.  
  5. Internal assessment. Constantly ask questions to stay on top of your game.  
  • Are my employees trained to identify their own biases? 
  • Do we require qualifications that might not be necessary? 
  • Is our ideal candidate defined? If so, what are the qualities that might be based on bias? 

Leading with inclusivity is a constant learning process and not a one-and-done check on your to-do list. Prioritizing diversity within your hiring process takes regular evaluation and improvement.  

Leadership 

Take a look at your company: how many people in leadership positions are the same sex and ethnicity? Hiring and promoting based on sex or ethnicity is obviously unethical. But the demographics of your leadership team could give valuable insight into your promoting and hiring practices. Take pains to make sure that people with the same titles are paid the same amount. Take a critical eye to your company hierarchy.  

Make your moves 

When you’re evaluating where you can improve, the best thing you can do is be honest with yourself and your employees. Understand you can never learn too much. Set an example as a leader who is always willing and devoted to nurturing a diverse and accessible workplace. The better you become at it, the higher the potential of your workforce will become. Your culture will thrive with varying experiences, strengths, and points of view, and your company will follow.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Leigh Prather