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.

 

Photo by Viacheslav Iakobchuk

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.

 

Photo by fizkes

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Tips for Virtual Onboarding

Hiring is a tricky process. You’ve got a lot at stake, and you want to make sure you start strong. But what does hiring look like with remote employees?

You can’t have them shadow someone all day, and you can’t walk them around the office to get acquainted with the team. And onboarding goes beyond the first day–it can easily reach into the first few months after someone assumes their position.

Today, managers hiring remote employees grapple with many questions:

  • How do company values integrate into the onboarding experience?
  • How can new hires feel more connected to the team?
  • How can new hires feel welcomed?
  • What is the best way to mentor and coach new hires?
  • How do you ensure the psychological safety and well-being of new hires?

Try these tips for improving the virtual onboarding experience.

Help them connect

One way to help new employees feel connected with their team and your company values is to boost both individual and group face time. Instead of merely introducing the new hire at the next team meeting, consider breaking up onboarding tasks and assigning them out to different team members to complete. For instance, if you need new employees to get a handle on your file-sharing system, your various communication channels, and your project management processes, assign each team member one task to teach them.

Don’t worry if you have overlapping subjects shared between team members. It never hurts to learn something twice, and it helps reinforce the way your company approaches communication. These one-on-one meetings give new team members a chance to question their peers about what it’s like to work for you. This opens up opportunities for your team to instill company values from the get-go. 

Keep your new hires safe

Psychological safety is a crucial component of a strong company culture. Particularly in virtual environments, it’s critical to over-communicate—especially in the beginning. Creating a transparent feedback process that’s open, encouraging, and constructive will help prepare new hires to interact with your team and accomplish projects.

To counteract possible anxiety stemming from a lack of social and interpersonal cues, make an effort to expressly tell employees when their work meets or exceeds expectations—even for something small. A well-written email to a client, a clearly organized document—whatever it is, make sure you tell them. A simple “well done!” can go a long way in helping them get a feel for how well they’re performing in their new role.

Additionally, make sure you have a transparent system to catch and deal with bad behavior. Workplace bullies don’t go away just because your team is virtual. Develop a company culture that discourages any toxic behavior and a system to manage it if it occurs. 

Clarify the unspoken rules

With many people suffering from increased anxiety and depression due to the pandemic, developing ways to make your work environment less stressful goes a long way in helping people acclimate to their role and to your company culture.

Every workplace has a list of unspoken rules people slowly pick up on as they acclimate to the work environment. But these rules may be harder to pick up on in a virtual work environment, leaving employees to guess what’s acceptable and what’s not. For instance:

  • Is it okay to turn off cameras for a short time during long meetings?
  • Is it acceptable to take a break and go for a walk in the middle of the day?
  • Are you expected to respond immediately to messages on Slack?
  • How are you expected to dress for internal and external meetings?

Make a list of unspoken company rules available to your team members. This will relieve stress and help your new employees settle in quicker and easier.

It’s a team effort

When approached with a collective mindset, onboarding becomes easier than leaving it to one person to guide a new employee through the first few months in their role. A team approach encourages new workplace friendships, better communication, and clearer company culture. Consider doing a post onboarding survey to gauge what you did well and what needs improvement. Keep looking for new ways to engage your team members, both new and old. Virtual work environments don’t have to be lonely and isolating.

Give your team a structure for clear communication, community, and connection, and watch them thrive.

 

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Wellness Plans: Q&A

Are you thinking of implementing a wellness program? If so, check out answers to these common questions.

Q: What kind of wellness plans are there?

A: As employee wellness has increasingly gained attention and a spot on most employers’ priority lists, the variety of wellness plans has increased. Your wellness plan will change depending on several things: where your priorities are, what your budget is, and the demographic you want to reach. Some examples of standard plans are:

  • Wellness programs to help stop bad habits such as smoking
  • Paramedical plans that offer massages, chiropractic work, or acupuncture
  • Employee assistance plans and teletherapy to provide mental health support
  • Physical activity challenges such as community races or a team steps contest
  • Coaching services for leading a healthy lifestyle (cooking, physical activity, mental wellness)

Q: How do I choose a wellness plan for my business?

A: Not every wellness program will work for your business. First, ask yourself, “What is my primary goal for implementing an employee wellness program?” Your plan may look different if your goal is to reduce healthcare costs for your business than if your goal is to create more loyal employees by developing a positive culture.

In either case, the main thing you want is for people to participate. If you choose a plan that doesn’t interest your employees, they’ll be much less likely to participate, resulting in a low ROI. Send out a survey, taking the temperature of your employees’ feelings about a wellness program. Ask what interests them, what challenges they have and would like help with, and how they see themselves participating. Use what they tell you to inform your wellness plan choice.

Q: Do wellness plans work?

A: There’s been some back and forth about whether or not wellness programs work. Critics point to studies showing a lack of clear improvement or healthcare savings for employers who offer wellness programs. There have also been studies showing that while people who participated in the programs cited feeling happier and healthier, their participation didn’t result in decreased healthcare costs for employers. Other studies show that programs aimed at increasing physical health are most often used by those already in good health and can possibly alienate those who aren’t.

However, the conversation of employee wellness has become a top concern for employers and employees alike. Employees expect more from their organization and value jobs that support their overall wellness. Proponents of wellness programs point to studies linking them to increased employee retention, satisfaction, engagement, and much more.

Q: How do I keep my wellness plan in compliance?

A: In the past few years, regulations for ADA-covered wellness programs that include employee participation incentives have come under some scrutiny. Critics say wellness programs that require employees to pay higher premium costs for not participating or not meeting specific health-related goals are immoral and violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This year, the EEOC has proposed new regulations, requiring only “de minimis” incentives for employee participation. Under the new rules, health-contingent wellness programs would still be allowed to offer incentives of up to 30% of the total cost of insurance, but no more. So far, the new regulations haven’t been published yet and will likely be challenged. To stay in compliance, be sure to know what kind of wellness program you’re offering and how it may be affected.

 

Photo by Vasyl Yakobchuk

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Empowering Women in the Age of COVID

While the pandemic has highlighted many staggering inequalities in our economic and social system, one of the most significant is its disproportionate effect on women in the workforce. To get a broad idea of the affect coronavirus has had on women, let’s look at some numbers.

So what does this mean for employers? It’s time to lean into strategies designed to empower, educate, and support women in their workforce.

Start with education

A critical factor in working against the inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic is to build awareness within your company and your community about the effects that recessions have on women and minorities.

The more awareness you build, the more effectively you can push your community towards working against those detrimental consequences.

Financial empowerment

One significant way employers can affect positive change is by developing wellness programs that focus on financially empowering their employees. The 2020 Workforce Benefits Report by Bank of America determined that because women and men have different financial goals, they also have varying challenges and needs.

According to that report, women are less likely to feel they have control over their credit card debt, citing it as one of their top three financial concerns. It found women are twice as likely not to have money left over after paying their monthly expenses, and saving for retirement was a top financial goal.

As employers develop wellness programs and benefits packages for 2021, these are critical components to keep in mind.

Consider implementing debt management support. As women are much more likely to have credit card and student loan debt than men, offering services to help them address their debt would be a targeted way to enable them to become financially stable in 2021.

Your employees may also greatly appreciate the ability to talk to an expert who can help them plan for their financial goals and mitigate challenges. Partnering up with a financial consultant who offers this type of support, enabling employees to become more financially literate, can help them gain long-term stability.

Holistic wellness

The pandemic hasn’t just taken a toll on financial situations—it also puts people’s mental and physical health at risk. To support your employees as they navigate the pandemic, consider offering assistance programs such as an EAP or virtual mental healthcare services.

Remember, wellness isn’t just financial, or mental, or physical. It’s a combination of everything. Employers who focus on supporting their employees in each category see increased engagement, loyalty, and productivity. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do. In times like these, businesses, employees, organizations, and communities all have to work together to protect and support one another. Together, we’re strong.

 

Photo by Marina Pissarova

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners