Kicking Ageism Out of Your Workplace

Ageism is an established problem HR departments battle. Laws and organizations have been founded upon the need to protect workers from ageist practices. A report by Glassdoor in 2019 found nearly half of respondents in the US had witnessed or experienced ageism in the workplace. It also found that younger employees, aged 18-34, were more likely to witness or experience some form of discrimination in the workplace. In the UK, for example, 48% of adults (aged 18-34) experienced ageism in the workplace, in contrast with 25% of employees aged 55+.

You might be thinking, “Wait, I thought ageism was about older employees?”

Here’s the deal.

Ageism is about senior employees, but it also encompasses young employees. It’s as easy to assume an older employee won’t know how to use new technology as it is to assume a younger employee can’t handle the responsibility of important work.

To protect your workplace from ageist policies, attitudes, and culture, take these steps.

Use your words carefully

A lot can be conveyed by how we talk to one another. What feels like harmless turns of phrase can make a considerable impression and convey held biases we may not be aware of. For instance, referring to a younger employee as a “kid” can mean you view them as a child. Think about what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. Words conveying a dismissive, slighting, or negative connotation can pop into our vocabulary without much thought but can do serious harm to an employee’s experience.

Think before you ask 

One incredibly unprofessional, but common experience young employees have is to be given irrelevant tasks. For instance, an employee in their twenties just out of grad school gets called into their boss’s office. Instead of getting a real assignment, they’re asked to pick up the boss’s cat and take it to the vet. Oh, and while they’re at it, pick up some cat food from a store across town.

Passing off personal tasks to young employees, often with the title of Assistant, is unfortunately all too common. These behaviors show a lack of respect for the employee’s experience, skillset, time, and contribution.

Review your demographics 

One way to spot ageism in your workplace is to evaluate the demographics of the people on your team. For instance:

  • Do you have a predominantly young or old team?
  • Do people in your field tend to be older?
  • Do you discount younger professionals because you don’t think they can handle the role’s responsibility?
  • Do you assume older people within the field won’t be as agile or technically capable?

Your workplace demographics are a great place to start when looking for patterns in your hiring practices that might be weeding specific demographics out of your talent pool.

Where you offer opportunities

Beware of assuming the only people who want growth opportunities and new training are younger employees. Development programs, unique and challenging opportunities, new tech, and strategy shouldn’t belong to only one demographic. Ensure you offer these opportunities to your team equally, providing room for growth and development to everyone.

Don’t get complacent 

Ensuring your workplace is both in compliance and a positive environment for people of all demographics takes commitment, effort, and diligence.

This isn’t a conversation you should have once and move on. Diversity, inclusion, and anti-discrimination should be an ongoing conversation and priority for business leaders across industries. Train your managers to catch their own biases, recognize ageist practices and mentalities, and address it when they see it. Teach your employees to do the same and build a system that acknowledges and responds appropriately to employees who speak up.

Creating a safer, more inclusive environment won’t just protect you from lawsuits but protect employees so they can flourish and grow within your organization.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Are Exit Interviews Really Worth It?

The value of exit interviews is a long-standing debate in the HR world, with people landing on both sides of the aisle. Some argue if an organization is broken, exit interviews are useless and hurt the interviewee’s reputation. Others say they are an excellent opportunity for an organization to learn from its mistakes.

The reality? The answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Every time a valuable employee leaves an organization, it suffers. Not only because of the cost it takes to hire and train a replacement, but also:

  • For the loss of institutional knowledge
  • For the time it takes for teammates to adjust
  • For the potential dip in productivity and team morale
  • For the loss of value to customers

So, it makes sense that the smartest move for an organization is to try everything to mitigate loss.

The catch

Exit interviews, team check-ins, increased training, and team development are tangible ways to counteract the loss of a valued employee. However, if your organization suffers from a toxic company culture and mindset, or functions under a fear-based leadership style that discourages open and honest conversations about what’s not working, you’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands.

In this kind of culture, exit interviews will likely be ignored and forgotten. Organizations failing to manage these issues will likely experience (at least) one mass exodus of employees. For that reason, it’s worth doing what you can to conduct honest exit interviews.

For example, suppose employee retention is low. In that case, it’s likely at some point, leadership will take a keen interest in figuring out the cause, at which time those exit interviews will come in handy. No matter the case, exit interviews can be instrumental if handled correctly. If you’re interested in doing what you can to improve your organization, inform your leadership, and mitigate loss, then exit interviews are a great place to start.

Follow these steps to make the most out of them.

Don’t wait 

It’s essential to get your interview in before too much time has passed. Everything will still be fresh in the interviewee’s mind, making it easier for them to recall information and offer suggestions. However, be sure to account for heightened emotions as this can be a rather tumultuous time for a departing employee. It may be worth it to schedule another interview a few months down the road when the dust has settled to allow for hindsight and clear thinking. 

Clarify goals

Before you start your interview, work out what it is you’re trying to gain.

Do you want:

  • To uncover processes that need a review?
  • An honest assessment of managers, leadership, or team dynamics?
  • To get a picture of the job they’re leaving for?
  • To find out why their new job is more attractive than their current role?

Knowing the goals and what you want to gain will help you frame intentional questions and prepare for the answers.

Review  

A common misstep is to forget the interviews as soon as they’re done. But there isn’t any point in conducting them unless you’re ready to follow up, analyze the data, and use what you learned.

Respond 

Once you’ve gotten what you can out of an interview, set up action steps for integrating what you’ve learned. If your goal was to see how your company compared to its competitors in talent attraction, your response would look different than if you wanted to uncover issues with leadership styles. Make sure you lay out your goals and how you’ll reach them both before and after an interview; otherwise, all it will do is gather dust and become irrelevant.

Start before it ends

Internal reviews are a critical part of growth and development. While exit interviews are an excellent way to mitigate loss, they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution to uncovering issues within an organization. If you’re really interested in improving the employee experience, work out leadership problems, evaluate company culture, and generally drive your organization in a good direction, don’t wait until an employee leaves to get their opinion.

Start early and start strong. Set internal reviews throughout the year, with individuals as well as entire teams. Normalize feedback and open, honest communication. Train leaders and managers to respond to and positively integrate constructive feedback. And above all, work to foster a trusting environment where employees feel free to share their experience without fear of retribution.

All of this may be uncomfortable, but the positive impact on your organization makes it well worth the effort.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Getting the Competitive Advantage: Optimizing HR

Your HR team worries about a lot of things.

They worry about compensation, compliance, retention, engagement, attraction, productivity, company culture, and more. Over the past few years, HR has gotten more and more attention as leaders recognize its ability to drive results and growth.

If your C-Suite hasn’t yet, it’s well past time to start strengthening the ties between HR and your leadership teams. With the right direction, HR can provide insights into different levels of your organization that direct managers, individuals, and high-level leaders can easily miss.

Uncovering the competition

A large part of attracting and retaining top industry talent is standing out among your competitors. This requires an intimate knowledge of the different factors employees care about right now, not what ten years ago.

HR has a unique window into this subject. They have access to internal team reviews, the benefits you offer, and professional development plans. They’re there for interviews and can track what questions candidates ask about the culture, what you offer, and how your business is run.

All this is a roundabout way of saying HR has the hard data you need.

If you’re wondering why a clutch of employees all left at the same time or why you don’t see a strong ROI on your benefits plan, your HR team has the answers in substantial, verifiable numbers. Their insight can be invaluable when deciding what perks to offer or how to develop company loyalty and engagement.

Setting you up for success

While HR may have a lot of insight into your organization’s critical parts, it’s essential to remember they are busy. Without a concerted effort on behalf of the leadership, their wisdom can go unspoken, unused, and wasted. To make sure you don’t waste your opportunity for development, take these steps.

Start the conversation

At the beginning of every year, sit down with your HR team and start a high-level conversation about your organization’s current state. Ensure you hit the major talking points: benefits, employee engagement, retention, compliance, and culture. Get a gauge on where they think you are on the competitive landscape. Think about and ask such questions as:

  • What are your competitors offering?
  • Who have your employees left your organization to work for?
  • What do employees care about currently?
  • What are the trending challenges employees are struggling with?

Use this conversation as an opportunity to brainstorm ideas, solutions, and possible challenges. Identify three high-level, long-term goals you have.  Break those goals down into actionable, measurable, short-term goals to focus on throughout the year.

Revisit, review, repeat

Set quarterly meetings to review progress on each of these goals. Make sure to set the tone for open, honest communication. Your HR team needs to know it’s okay to talk about these issues because without that confidence, these meetings will be useless. It can help to focus on hard data to de-personalize successes and failures.

Make these reviews about progress and engage and encourage your team’s creativity to solve problems and develop new ideas to help you keep your competitive advantage. Set measurable, SMART goals to create a clear path forward.

Unlock your potential

Since the HR department touches different parts of your organization, its ability to affect change and assess your company’s health can be meaningful. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to gain real insight, gauge where you are in your competitive landscape, and set yourself up for success. Strong leaders understand the need for transparent internal processes for growth, and HR has the insights to get you on the right path.

Together, your potential is more significant than you may think.

 

Photo by Roman Samborskyi

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Driving Growth with Purpose

Keeping employees engaged is a constant worry for leaders. There are many ways to address engagement in the workplace. Benefits, company culture, and professional development are some aspects of the employee experience that drive engagement. But if you look at engagement from a personal—even emotional—level, there’s something deeper at play.

Think about the last time you became disengaged with a project. What was the deriving factor behind your disengagement? More often than not, we become disengaged with our work because we feel it doesn’t matter. We become disengaged with our roles when we lose our sense of purpose.

That deep human need to feel valuable, of use, and appreciated—to feel like we matter­—plays a central role in whether or not we give our 100% at work or if we slowly decline and become less and less interested in our contributions.

While creating a supportive company culture, good managers and fair compensation can make a huge difference in employee engagement. It’s important not to leave out this simple yet critical part. You need your employees to feel like they matter to you, your organization, and your customers. 

So how do you do that? Try these steps.

Ask them about their career goals

Whether an employee is just starting or has been with your company for years, engaging them in a discussion around their future and interests can make a serious impact. By doing so, you can:

  • Align their aspirations with your goals for the future of your business. Maybe their interests lie in learning a new set of skills your organization could use!
  • Show them you acknowledge their individuality, path, and personal trajectory outside of your organization.
  • Get them thinking about how they can grow within your company—creating a path to a good future for both them and your organization.
  • Help them realize the work they’re doing will play a part in their future opportunities.

Recognize, recognize, recognize

And the more often you do it, the better.

Did an employee write a great email? Tell them. Did a team complete a project without any hiccups? Celebrate it. Tell your managers to watch the individuals on their teams and identify and celebrate their particular strengths. When people feel seen, they put more intention in their actions. Appreciation goes both ways, so make sure you’re not stingy with yours.

Make your organizational goals personal

A great way to foster purpose is to help your employees see their role from a broader perspective. Engage them in conversations about the future of the company. Ask for their advice and input on how things could be better, and center all of this around your organizational goals. Help your employees see how their role is essential to your organization’s success.

Consider having interdepartmental check-ins where each department talks about how they rely on one another. When your company meets a goal, celebrate your employees for making it happen.  

Be flexible when you can, where you can

Employees have lives outside of your organization. They have families, personal goals, friends, doctors’ appointments, and mental and physical health to manage. So, when an employee approaches you for help, be it flex time, extra time off, or medical leave—supporting them to the best of your ability can make a lasting impact on their loyalty and engagement. They’ll feel valued and taken care of as individuals, and that will translate to how they see themselves as employees.

Some employees expect to be resented for taking time off—and in many cases, it’s true. They fear losing their jobs, their position, and their standing. Show them it’s safe to be human and that you have their back.

It can be challenging to find effective ways to make employees feel seen and valued, but the effort is worth it. It will foster strong, loyal relationships and a sense of value and purpose for everyone. This value will translate into high-quality work, dedicated employees, and a culture and brand that will attract, retain, and drive talent.

 

Photo by Vassiliy Kochetkov

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Four Ways to Spread Gratitude Within Your Organization

Gratitude can be the simplest and most direct way to foster an organization of employees who feel valued, engaged, and driven by purpose. A thousand studies exist detailing how employee recognition can reinforce employee loyalty and boost productivity—but it’s just common sense when it comes down to it.

If you tell your employees how grateful you are for them, you’ll see them find greater purpose in their roles, dive deeper into their work, and have them feel like their effort matters. It’s the same in our relationships. Ignore what someone does for you, or feel ignored yourself, and those relationships will suffer.

With the holidays upon us, now is a great time to work in some gratitude to your weekly to-do list. Try these four ideas to get the gratitude flowing.

1. Share it

One great way to show an employee some gratitude is to share it on social media from your company page. Boast about their talent, what they’ve done for your organization, and how grateful you are for their hard work. The public nature of this form of gratitude makes it all the more valuable. You aren’t just telling all of your employees and your followers about them, but you’re speaking to their entire network. By building someone up publicly, you’re:

  • Displaying a beautiful part of your company culture for all to see
  • Celebrating someone on your team who deserves the applause
  • Setting an example of what you value within your organization that others can emulate
  • Publicly demonstrating your company values

While this type of gratitude is simple and doesn’t take a ton of effort on your end, it can mean a lot to an employee who wasn’t expecting it. Have fun with it and remember to spread the love to more than one employee.

2. Make it a team effort

Peer recognition can be a wonderful thing. But how do you encourage it within your team? Consider creating a company-wide recognition program where colleagues nominate one another for different prizes. The prizes don’t have to be big—it’s the thought that counts for these types of things. It can be a fun way to get employees thanking each other, and to foster a sense of team spirit and camaraderie.

Weave the announcements into a spot at your annual holiday party, in your company newsletter, or at monthly team meetings. It’ll be a fun way for employees to build each other up and celebrate one another’s contributions.

3. The gift of cash

You might know the saying “cold hard cash”. For most people, receiving money is neither cold nor hard (especially if it comes attached to a handwritten note or a heartfelt message). In challenging times (which this year has definitely served us), pure compensation can make a real difference in someone’s holiday. For instance, their spouse may have lost work due to the pandemic, or they might have a sick child, or they may have lost value in the volatile stock market. Whatever the case, cash can be an effective way to give back a little of the value you received from an employee. If you don’t have extra cash to give out, consider including a note with their holiday bonus (if they receive one) or a gift card to a store.

4. The gift of time

Another great way to show appreciation is to provide employees with an extra day or two of PTO. Spending extra time with the family or going on a fun weekend trip goes a long way in boosting employee energy and engagement. Having time to rest and do something fun can be one of the most valuable gifts for employees who are used to working hard just to get those few extra days off.

However they choose to use their PTO, they’ll associate the free time with you and the gratitude you showed them.

Don’t hold back

Showing gratitude never gets old.

You can’t overdo it.

You can’t thank someone enough.

You may never know the extra hours your employees put in under the radar on projects, or the late nights they spent making something perfect, or the customers they went out of their way to please. Employees do this on their own, often without people telling them—and displays of gratitude keep them going above and beyond for you. Gratitude opens up a two-way street, where thankfulness flows back and forth, driving loyalty, satisfaction, and purpose.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners