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 

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.

 

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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 

 

Five Steps to Developing an Innovative Organization

More than ever, we know how valuable a genuinely innovative team can be. Organizations that weren’t flexible enough to find solutions to 2020’s problems have suffered and closed their doors. On the other hand, agile, innovative, and quick-thinking organizations have had a much easier time navigating this year’s challenges.

Changes are happening fast—not only in our economy but also:

  • In how customers communicate and set their expectations,
  • In businesses adopting new processes and technology platforms,
  • In the ways people communicate with one another, and
  • In the types of resources people need and use.

Because of this, flexibility and innovative growth are the keys to developing thriving businesses in the years to come.

If you’re looking around at your team thinking, “Well, this isn’t us,” don’t worry! Innovation and flexibility aren’t innate traits that we either have or don’t have. They are teachable, learnable skills.

To help put your organization on the right track in 2021 and beyond, try these five tips.

1. Encourage honest, open feedback

Growth can’t happen without collaboration, and true collaboration results in the best your organization and team have to offer. But that can’t happen without a system designed to encourage and nurture open and constructive feedback. This atmosphere often comes from the top down.

Consider how you, as a leader, ask for and receive feedback:

  • Do you ever ask your team’s advice?
  • Do you ask for their input when developing new processes or reviewing old ones?
  • Do you encourage their feedback on projects?
  • Do you celebrate their input?

Take note of how you demonstrate the value of open, constructive feedback. Then work to encourage it in areas where it’s lacking. Remember to train new employees to expect feedback and to feel confident enough to give their own. Make time in meetings to discuss ideas as a group and ask each person’s opinion. Single out people who seem shy and help bring them out of their shells (and the same goes for those who are incredibly confident—single them out!).

The goal is to work open feedback into everyone’s expectations about how things are developed and created within your company. When people expect it, it’s much easier to receive it, and it feels a lot less scary to give it.

2. Professional development

One way to nurture innovation is to make an effort to stop employees from stagnating in their career development. Offer opportunities for them to learn new skills, to expose themselves to new ways of thinking, and to move forward.

Yes, it will help deepen the resources they can offer your organization, but it will also foster employee loyalty, engagement, and satisfaction. Professional development adds value for everyone involved, and your team’s productivity and strength will demonstrate that.

3. Psychological safety

For innovation to thrive, there needs to be a level of psychological safety within your organization. Employees need to feel free to try new things, to fail, and to try again. Fear of failure is one of the main reasons things fail in the first place—because people were never able to try.

Train your employees to try new things. Develop their confidence and encourage their ideas. This atmosphere will foster excitement and work against the age-old resistance to change.

4. Employee empowerment

One way to encourage growth and innovation is to provide employees with a strong sense of ownership over their contributions. Train your managers to empower their team to take the initiative. Does someone have a new technology they think would be an asset to the company? Encourage them to prove to you why their idea is a good one.

When employees feel like their work is guided by their inspiration, knowledge, and expertise, they’ll be more likely to put more energy into what they’re doing. Ownership leads to excellence.

5. A values system

Review your values. Far too often, organizations’ values look something like this: integrity, dedication, and excellence. If that sounds familiar, then you’ve got some work to do.

Develop a values system that genuinely reflects your goal of driving growth, encouraging development, being challenged, taking individual ownership, and pushing the goal post farther each year.

Your values are the road map to your company’s future. They inform how you approach challenges and navigate difficult situations. Give them the thought they deserve and encourage your employees to take them to heart. As your team develops around these concepts and begins to identify with the values you create, you’ll see the magic that happens when a team is empowered, driving growth, and taking ownership of your company’s future. It can be a beautiful thing.

Keep working at it. Keep coming back to it. And watch your organization thrive.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

The Power of Permission

What is it that holds you back? What pushes your employees or peers to burn themselves out? What halts growth and stifles innovation? What keeps cultures from overcoming periods of apathy? Some might point to poor company culture, faulty leadership, or even personal mental health and wellness. But one thing ties them all together—permission.

When we don’t feel like we have permission to do things that need to be done, we hold back and force ourselves into doing something unnatural. And that unnaturalness forms tension between two opposing things: what we are doing vs. what we should be doing.

Now, more often than not, permission is given tacitly. Meaning no one tells us we have permission to take the day off when we need the rest (except maybe during the onboarding process). It’s either built into the culture, or it isn’t. Sometimes, even if it is built into the culture, we don’t allow ourselves permission out of pure habit, fear, or uncertainty.

But whatever the cause, the bottom line is we need permission. We need it to maintain wellbeing at work, try new things freely, follow our gut, and actively confront difficult problems. Permission is needed if we want our organizations to have a healthy growth rate, our employees to have a healthy work-life balance, and our values and vision to withstand change.

For leaders

You may think your employees feel like they have the permission they need to:

  • Take time off work
  • Advocate for their needs (physical, mental, personal, and professional)
  • Try new processes
  • Challenge their leaders
  • Confront issues they see within the organization

But ask yourself: are you sure? How are you sure? Do you expressly permit your employees to do these things? Do their managers? Is it written in your company values? If you’re not sure, then your organization could probably benefit from a refresher.

Some red flags can help you identify when employees need permission. Suppose you have more than one (or even one) employee burning themselves out, consistently working long hours, or taking on too many things. In that case, they probably feel like they don’t have permission to say no to taking on more responsibility, taking the time they need for themselves, or asking for help.

If you want to remind your employees (or tell them for the first time) they have your support in doing these things, try:

  1. Telling them in a one-on-one or company-wide meeting
  2. Training your managers to work it into the onboarding process
  3. Writing it into your company values
  4. Acknowledging or celebrating employees who set an example
  5. Sending it in an email, writing it on the wall, shouting it from the rooftops

However you go about it, remember people often need to be reminded of what is allowed. Don’t fail to do so. Keep it in the conversation, add it to your company employee survey, bring it up wherever and whenever you can. It takes time to unlearn habits of keeping their heads down, keeping quiet, and avoiding asking for things. As a leader, work with your employees to gradually build their sense of permission.

And don’t forget to set the example. Don’t be afraid to tell your team when you need time off or that you’re comfortable asking for help when you need it.

For individuals

We’ve all had jobs where we felt we had to show up when we were sick or couldn’t take time off when we needed it. We’ve had managers who got mad at us for needing help or refused to listen to new ideas. There are far too many people working too many hours because they don’t feel they can advocate for their needs.

The fact is, sometimes you need to give yourself permission. If no one is doing it for you, do it yourself. And if you can’t do it, then here you go. Repeat after us:

You are allowed to take time off when you need it. You have permission to ask for help. You have permission to confront issues. You have permission to say no to more work. You have permission to quit any job that doesn’t give you permission to do these things. You have permission to ask for a raise and to tell your boss you deserve a promotion. You have permission to follow your gut. You have permission to fail.

For each other

As a society, we haven’t done a great job teaching people their needs are just as important as their jobs. We haven’t done an excellent job raising people to feel free to take time off or say when they’re overwhelmed. It’s not uncommon to feel like admitting you’re overwhelmed or need a break is like saying you can’t do the job. It feels like failure to admit these things to ourselves, much less each other, and even less to our bosses.

But if we don’t encourage people to advocate for their needs or take a day off without feeling guilty and afraid their positions will be negatively affected, we’re building an extremely fragile foundation for our success. For our organizations to succeed, we need our people to succeed. And for our people to succeed, we need to build a culture that allows them to meet their needs, guilt-free.

 

Photo by Lindsay Helms

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners