20 Things That Matter to Your Employees

It’s no secret that many businesses are struggling to find and keep good employees. A common refrain is that this is due to a strong economy and low unemployment rate. And these factors are most certainly at play. But at the end of the day, employees choose to stay or leave for a variety of reasons.

Is there a way to make your organizational turnover magically disappear? No. But there are really just two basic steps to recruiting and retaining great employees:

  1. Find out what they care about.
  2. Do your best to provide it.

If you want to hang onto your best people, it serves you well to find out what they value and begin to shape your corporate culture around those key things.

What are employees looking for?

Don’t get stuck in the mindset that a paycheck is the only thing that matters. Yes, compensation is important. And it still ranks near the top of the list when it comes to reasons to take or leave a new position. But today’s employees care about a whole lot of things. And unlike during the recession, they aren’t afraid to venture out looking for new opportunities that provide them.

Lots of research has been done on what employees want out of their jobs and careers. If you want to take a direct approach that applies specifically to your team, business and industry, ask your employees what matters most to them. Survey your entire team regularly and commit to conducting exit and stay interviews with your best employees.

If you want some quick answers based on employee satisfaction research and studies, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s a list of 20 things that show up time and time again on the list of things employees want and need from their employers in order to be happy and satisfied at work.

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to employees. Hint: Fair, honest, and respectful treatment of all employees at all levels has become a basic expectation.
  2. Fair and adequate compensation – Employees will accept lower salaries in exchange for other meaningful things, but at the end of the day they need to feel valued AND be able to make rent.
  3. Comprehensive benefits – Healthcare is becoming a larger driver of job choice and satisfaction. Today’s job seekers are expecting to see benefits information listed up front in job postings, and they are using that information to make career decisions.
  4. Career development – Dead end jobs are so yesterday! If your employees can’t see a path for the future within your organization, they’ll start looking elsewhere.
  5. Trust – Levels of consumer and employee trust are at an all-time low. A culture of transparency will go a long way toward increasing staff loyalty and engagement.
  6. Meaning – Your employees want to be connected to something bigger than their To Do list. They want to work for companies who are doing good in the world, and they want to know how their work contributes to that vision.
  7. Flexibility – Employees are balancing a variety of responsibilities, both at work and at home.
  8. Balance – More and more people are prioritizing a healthy balance of work and rest. Your staff is willing to work hard, but they can’t (and won’t) do it 24 hours a day.
  9. Recognition – Feeling valued and appreciated is critical to keeping your team happy. This doesn’t have to mean constant praise or raises. But they need to feel that their work is important and that they are valued both as people and contributors.
  10. Communication – Poor communication and lack of information are top complaints of unhappy employees. It’s a basic thing that is often overlooked. Don’t be that employer.
  11. Culture – Nothing chases good employees away faster than a toxic manager or culture. Tolerating a negative environment and destructive behaviors will encourage bad employees to stay and good employees to leave.
  12. Leadership – Organizations with weak leadership will have a hard time hanging onto strong employees. Lack of clear direction, goals, and expectations leads to lack of engagement. Bottom line: positive, motivated employees want to work for positive, motivated leaders.
  13. Autonomy – Employees want to feel like their ideas matter and that they are capable of running projects and making decisions. Micromanagement will crush employee innovation, creativity, and initiative. It will also destroy engagement and morale.
  14. Teamwork – An environment of support and collaboration is far superior than working alone or in a vacuum. Even the most independently motivated workers want to know there’s a capable team behind them they can count on.
  15. Technology – Your employees want to be good at their jobs, and they expect to be given the tools to do so. Outdated tools and processes will quickly frustrate those who strive for high performance and continued improvement.
  16. Training – Developing your employee skill sets doesn’t just help you and your company. It shows your employees that they are worth investing in. And it keeps their work from becoming monotonous, boring, or stagnant.
  17. Diversity – Employees come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and preferences. Your employees crave variety and so should you. Not only do diverse teams perform better, they open the door to a wider pool of talent.
  18. Sustainability – Think people aren’t concerned about the long-term survival of their jobs, companies, communities, and the planet? Wrong. Sustainability has become a catch phrase for a reason, and today’s employees are factoring corporate social responsibility into their career choices.
  19. Integrity – For better or worse, employers lead by example. Increasing numbers of employees are looking for employers who demonstrate things like honesty, fairness, and equality, and they can tell the difference between companies who talk a good game and actually follow through.
  20. Security – Employees want to be part of financially sound and stable organizations. Yes, today’s workforce is mobile, but it’s not just about random job hopping. Career moves and decisions are often based on forward motion, increased opportunities, and the ability to get ahead financially. A chaotic, unpredictable, or volatile environment won’t feel like a safe bet.

How do you measure up?

Is your organization committed to providing some these kinds of things? If not, it’s time to start— unless you secretly enjoy higher turnover, lower productivity, and a constant struggle to find good people.

In that case, forget about this list and keep on churning through your staff. Your competitors will be more than happy to snatch up your best employees.

 

Photo by WAYHOME studio

Just Be a Better Healthcare Consumer, Will You?

As healthcare woes continue for businesses and individuals alike, there’s growing sentiment from some benefits brokers that patients just need to become better consumers of healthcare. But there are others who realize it’s not that simple, and who are committed to shouldering some of that responsibility— and making a difference.

Common healthcare consumer advice sounds something like this:

  • Spend more time shopping around!
  • Put as much thought and effort into looking for a surgeon as you do into looking for a car! Or a microwave! Or some other fill-in-the-blank item!
  • Get recommendations on hospitals and doctors!
  • Do price comparisons on procedures!
  • Just be healthy to start with!

Often, these things are said with much vigor and enthusiasm. And many exclamation points! As if it’s a simple, basic idea no one has thought of yet. Or as in, “Why aren’t people doing this already?!?!?!”

Well, for lots of reasons. Including the fact that the current healthcare landscape makes it nearly impossible.

It ain’t that simple

When employees think about employee benefits, they see themselves as patients, not as consumers. And that’s a very different dynamic.

Consumers have choices. And time. And alternative options.

Need a new car?

You’re not going to die if it doesn’t happen today. And you probably know a mechanic or two who can give you some pretty solid advice. You could also check out the latest Consumer Reports, which will provide extremely detailed information on which cars perform the best on every factor imaginable. Once you’ve decided what you want, there are all kinds of places you can go to make that purchase, and the MSRP and Kelley Blue Book values make it easy to know if you’re getting hosed or not. More importantly, if you don’t want to rush this purchase, you don’t have to. You can take the bus. Or carpool. Or get a Lyft.

Now, let’s say your appendix goes out.

It happens pretty quickly and you’re in extreme pain. And let’s be honest, it’s probably the middle of the night. Decision making is impaired at best, and comparison shopping is out of the question. There’s one, maybe two hospitals in your area. No sense in getting a recommendation or asking how much an appendectomy costs. You’re stuck with the doctor on call— and whatever random price point the facility decides to set. What’s it based on? You have no clue. You can request an itemized bill after the fact, but you’ll have to jump through hoops to get it. And then what? There’s no option to get your money or your old appendix back. There is only an arduous battle over charges, coverage, networks, and payment plans.

Comparing patients to consumers only goes so far

Patients are often at an extreme disadvantage, even when they don’t need emergency surgery.

The system isn’t set up to be patient friendly. It’s set up to be profit friendly.

  • And cumbersome
  • And inefficient
  • And mysterious

Have you ever tried to shop around for a doctor? There isn’t much to go on. Personal anecdotes from friends, relatives and the Internet— where we all know everyone is super reasonable.

Go ahead! Try to come up with a Consumer Reports style matrix with physician and hospital ratings, success and failure rates, accurate pricing, and comprehensive data based on specific experiential factors. An experienced employee benefits broker may be able to gain access to these kinds of numbers, but the typical healthcare consumer is straight out of luck.  

Being better consumers of healthcare is difficult

Here are a few key reasons why:

1.) Lack of data

Navigating the healthcare system is nebulous at best, nightmarish at worst. Medical charges are based on a variety of factors that patients have little control over or even knowledge of: Contracts between doctors and hospitals, hospitals and drug stores, drug stores and pharmaceutical companies, employers and insurance providers, insurance providers and care providers, and the list goes on.

Plus, there’s that little thing called the Chargemaster, a comprehensive collection of prices for everything from alcohol swabs and IV bags to spinal surgeries and heart transplants. But not only is this critical information not transparent or readily available to patients, it’s not based on actual costs. Plus, it’s not even standardized! Chargemaster pricing varies wildly from hospital to hospital.  

Long story short: Your average Joe or Jane patient does not have access to the information necessary to make rational healthcare choices and decisions.

2.) Lack of power

The doctor/patient relationship is not an egalitarian one. The patient is sick, scared, and in perhaps in pain. They have no idea what is wrong or how to fix it. The doctor has all the knowledge, experience, authority, and power.

And yet somehow the frightened, confused, sick person is expected to take charge of the situation and become an informed consumer. How good are you at research, communication, and standing up for yourself when you have the flu? Probably not nearly as effective as when you’re well.

Expecting patients to take charge when they are feeling most vulnerable isn’t realistic. Their reasoning and decision making have been compromised. They just want to be taken care of. They want to put trust in their doctors and caregivers, not question everything they do. 

3.) Lack of resources

If you’re lucky, you may be able to delay your elective surgery long enough to shop around. If you’re really lucky, you may have found a way access reliable information on the best place to have it done. If you’re exponentially lucky, you have all of the time and resources you need to be able to go to that place.

The problem is that a lot of healthcare consumers don’t. Geographically, their options are limited. Physically, they can’t travel. Financially, they can’t afford to go to the next town or city or state. It’s quite possible they can’t even afford the visit they just had.

In a perfect world, everyone would be able to shop and spend where it makes the most sense. But in the real world, there are a whole lot of people who simply don’t have that option.

4.) Lack of control

“Just be healthier!” can be valid advice, but it’s not the ultimate answer.

The cold, hard truth is that even healthy people can become sick. Or get in a car accident. Or have a child with cancer.

Sometimes, stuff just happens. Despite the best of intentions. Blaming sick people for the cost of healthcare may seem reasonable— until that sick person is someone we know and love.

How employers (and brokers!) can help

A patient is just one person. But a business is a group of people with more resources and leverage, and access to an employee benefits advisor who knows the system inside and out.

Good brokers understand they can’t fix the problems at the core of the healthcare system.

Great brokers know they have the power to inch their way toward making positive change within it, and for the organizations and employees they are helping.

As an employer, you actually do comparison shop for healthcare. Every single year. And, you’re buying in bulk! This gives you a level of power that individual healthcare consumers don’t have. Use this leverage, and the knowledge of your benefits broker, to make choices that make sense not just for your business, but for those who need coverage and care.

Working with the right broker makes all the difference here. You can choose a broker that focuses on plans and premiums, or you can work with an advisor who is committed to helping you create the right healthcare strategy for your business and the build best benefits plan for your employees.

A quality advisor will also go the extra mile, helping to educate your workforce about the plan details, how to use it, and where to go for care— before they need it. The more your employees know upfront, the smarter choices they can make.

People really do want to be better health care consumers. They just need the tools to do it. Let’s all work together to make it happen.

 

Photo by Dmitriy Shironosov  

Is Your Need for Speed Holding You Back?

Getting stuff done is great, right? Checking those little boxes feels super productive, and super validating. You’re happy because you’re cooking through your To Do list, and your boss will be really happy because surprise! You’re done already!

Except that you could be making more work for everybody on the team.

The myth of productivity

Many of us have been trained to think that it’s the volume and pace of our work that matters most. But in the frantic frenzy to finish first, we can miss a lot of things along the way.

I once worked with an intern who was a very stellar person. I liked her immensely. But she was super competitive and fixated on completing her work as quickly as possible. Popping her head into someone’s office to say, “I’m done! Got anything else for me?” was her favorite thing to do. Impressing people with her speed and productivity was how she demonstrated her value.

The thing is, she was so busy flying through her task list that she was skimping on processes and details. More often than not, the jobs she considered done needed to be fixed or redone. But because she would speed through those processes as well, she was often asked to do or fix things multiple times. 

At this point, staff members would often get frustrated and take their tasks back. Over time, it became apparent this was more efficient than continuing to:

  • explain the assignments over and over
  • issue warnings about the consequences of mistakes
  • coach her on how to slow down and work more deliberately

Eventually, most of us stopped giving her anything of substance because it was easier and less risky to simply keep doing those things ourselves. I discovered I could take her for coffee instead of giving her work— and still save time in the long run!

As a result, she became the queen of mundane tasks: envelope stuffing, mail runs, office storage organization. She completed these things quickly, and with a great attitude. But at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure everyone would have liked to see her to get more out of her internship experience.

Unfortunately, her focus on speed and multitasking kept her from gaining more advanced skills and experience. And it kept us from using her to her full potential. 

Slow down to improve results

Our society places a huge value on working quickly, doing multiple things as once, and being constantly accessible. But all of these things can actually cause your work to suffer.

If your team operates at a frenetic pace all the time, you could be holding your business back. People will become frustrated, mistakes will increase, and accidents will be more likely to happen. More importantly, goals that could be achieved through thoughtful intention, detailed planning, and diligent follow-through will remain unmet. And that’s no good for anybody.

So how do we retrain our brains (and our teams!) to work more carefully, thoughtfully, and efficiently?

Start single-tasking

There are lots of articles and studies about the myth of multi-tasking.

  • Research has shown that multitasking takes as much as 40 percent more time than focusing on one task at a time — more for complex tasks.
  • One study revealed that people who were considered heavy multitaskers were actually worse at sorting out relevant information from irrelevant details.
  • Still not convinced? Try this little exercise.

Get in the habit of focusing on a single task. Schedule time on your calendar or even set a timer if you need to. Commit to working on one thing in that time period and one thing only.

Ask questions

Is your mind starting to work on an assignment even before the person explaining it to you is finished? This is your first mistake. Pay attention. Listen carefully. Make sure you fully understand the project, the process, and the purpose.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions before and during the process. Clarity is your friend. Taking five minutes to discuss details as you go can save you tons of time in the long run. Many speedy employees have had to go back and rework things they thought were “finished” because they either jumped in too fast or didn’t slow down long enough to get the facts.

Prioritize

Yes, you have a million things to do. So does everybody else. But working in a scattershot manner won’t help you get the right things done at the right time. For that, you need a plan.

Work with your team to determine which items are the most important and the most time sensitive. Rank your daily or weekly tasks so that you know which ones to funnel your time, efforts, and energy into. Choose one thing that you will get done, no matter what. If you find yourself getting sidetracked or distracted, refocus on your priority item of the moment.

Reduce distractions

Even with the best intentions, we all get distracted. But some of us are better than others at letting those distractions in— or keeping them out. Are you constantly checking your phone, texts, and email? If so, you’re using up valuable time and brain space switching back and forth between your inputs and outputs.

Questions, phone calls, and emails take a huge toll on your focus.

  • According to one research study, it takes approximately 20 minutes to return to task after an in-person interruption, 15 minutes for a phone call interruption, and 64 seconds after an email interruption.
  • The same study found that workers were dealing with email interruptions about every five minutes.
  • This means we are wasting one out of every six minutes per day on email interruptions alone— not including phone calls and in-person questions!

Want to focus on a task? Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Turn off your email alerts. Hide your Slack. The world won’t end if you’re offline for 15 or 20 minutes. And you’re much more likely to make real progress.

Quick vs. Quality

If you’re having brain surgery, do you want it to go quickly? Or do you want it to go well?

There’s a big difference here. And I think we can all agree which one sounds more appealing. 

 

Photo by Earl Walker  

4 Keys to More Effective Workplace Communication

We communicate every day in lots of ways. At work. At home. At Starbucks. Most of the time, we do it without a specific plan. And while planning out your communications may sound strange, it can work wonders for your results— especially when you’re talking business.

To make the most of your workplace communication efforts, you’ll want to consider the following factors:

  • Priorities – Are you communicating the most important things?
  • Data – Is your information accurate?
  • Audience – Are you speaking to the right people?
  • Rhythm – Does the timing make sense?

Start with priorities

Some conversations are best when they come about organically, but that’s rarely the case when you need to address a specific topic with your team. Setting your priorities before you have that conversation will help keep you from being unclear, getting sidetracked, or missing the point completely.

To get on the right track, ask yourself these key questions:

  • What is it that you need to convey?
  • Are you leading with the most critical information dancing around the topic?
  • How will you express your thoughts in a way that makes sense and resonates?

Be sure not to cram too many priorities into any one conversation. People can only process and remember so much. Keep the priority list short, clear, and succinct and you will have an easier time getting the information across.

Check your data

If your conversation centers around trends, numbers, research, and/or evidence, make sure you get your facts right.

  • Do your homework
  • Check your sources
  • Write things down
  • Don’t try to wing it or keep a bunch of statistics straight in your head

Which of these approaches sounds more effective?

“According to your last review, you’ve missed 3 deadlines in a row.”

“I feel like you’ve been missing a few deadlines.”

Number 1, right? If you have the actual review in front of you, even better! Now you can work off of documented history rather than hazy memories.

If you’re talking trends, simply saying “Sales are up!” isn’t going to be nearly as impactful as saying, “Total sales are up 12%, but online sales are up 26%.” Now that’s some useful information! But if sales are actually up 36% and you didn’t get it right, you missed an even bigger opportunity.

If you’re using numbers to make your point, the key is to be specific and accurate.

Consider your audience

Before you get into a discussion, take a moment to think about who needs to hear your message and what their respective concerns will be. Depending on who you are talking to, these things can be vastly different. Here are a few examples.

  • Prospects will be interested in what you can do for them
  • Clients need to feel appreciated and valued
  • Partners want to know the advantages of working with you
  • Employees are interested in company culture and values, and where they fit in

Of course, all of these things can adjust and change depending on the topic of the day. The key is to think about who you’re communicating with and how the information will be received and processed— before jumping into that discussion.

Thinking about your audience will help you tailor your delivery to make it as effective as possible.

Get your rhythm down

To communicate effectively, you have to know what needs to be communicated and when. Blindsiding someone with a conversation out of context (or out of nowhere) never ends well and waiting to deliver critical information does way more harm than good.

To make sure the timing of your communications make sense, ask these questions:

  • Is this information urgent or time sensitive?
  • Who needs to know about this and when?
  • Is it something that needs to be communicated regularly?
  • Who should the message come from, and in what format?
  • Is there an existing meeting where it makes sense to bring this up?

But keep in mind that it also depends on who you’re talking to:

  • Prospects don’t want to be overwhelmed with information or solicitations
  • Clients can’t just hear from you when there’s a problem
  • Partners need to be reminded of the value of your relationship
  • Employees get very frustrated when they don’t know what’s going on

Use this information to plan out individual discussions and get the most of your conversations. Or, better yet, put together a big-picture communication strategy that covers all of your needs.

Yes, may sound like a lot of work on the front end, but it’s work that will pay off in the long run.

 

Photo by rawpixel 

Job Interview Tips – For the Boss

There’s a ton of information out there about how to conduct yourself before, during, and after a job interview, and about 99% of it is geared toward candidates. This is very helpful if you’re looking for advice on how to score yourself a new job. But what if you’re on the other side of the table, looking to score a fantastic new hire?

If you’re new to the hiring game, you may not know quite where to start. If you’ve been recruiting forever, you may have fallen into some habits that no longer serve you. Either way, it’s always good to review best practices for interviewing job candidates.

Here are 7 ways to make the most out of your interview process:

Be prepared

As the interviewer, you hold the primary position of power. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to do your homework. A great candidate will take the time to learn about your company, industry, and the specific role they aspire to take on. A good interviewer will also show up prepared.

  • Look over all of the applicant’s information carefully beforehand.
  • Compare skills and experience to the job description to see which ones apply.
  • No matter what position you are hiring for, do not simply show up and wing it.

A candidate that senses you are disorganized or phoning it in will extrapolate that behavior to the rest of the organization and set expectations accordingly. Represent your company and yourself in the best possible light. 

Be consistent

Your hiring decisions will come much more easily if you’re comparing apples to apples. Or at least fruit to fruit. If your interview questions aren’t standardized, you won’t be getting good comparative information to help you weigh your options. At least not in a way that makes sense. Likewise, if you’re making assumptions about an individual before they even show up, you’re not allowing for equal footing.

  • Ask the same questions of every applicant.
  • Treat each interviewee equally.
  • Take steps to eliminate hidden bias from your processes.

Having a clear, standardized process makes hiring easier on everyone. The more consistent your processes are, the more fair they will be to your candidates, your current employees, and your hiring committee.

Be honest

There was a time when businesses could afford to be vague and cryptic with their job listings— and still see a pile of applications come in. During the height of the great recession, it was also easy to lowball on salaries or neglect to mention them until it was time to sign on the dotted line. In today’s talent market, this is no longer the case. Job seekers have expectations about salary and benefits, as well as other things like career development, company culture, and flexible schedules. If these things aren’t in alignment with what you’re offering, candidates will move along. Sometimes without even saying a word. Just like a ghost.

  • Make sure the job description is accurate and up to date.
  • Be upfront about compensation and benefits.
  • Sell your organizational culture accurately.

If you’re trying to win great talent by overstating the role, downplaying particular facets of the culture, or portraying a workplace reality that doesn’t exist, your victory will be very short-lived. And your turnover numbers will show it.

Be interested

Think about the interview as a first date scenario. Do you really just want to spend the whole time talking about yourself? If so, is that going to garner any interest from a potential hiring match? Probably not.

  • Don’t use this as an opportunity to sell your candidate on the company or job.
  • Learn about each candidate’s hard and soft skills, as well as their career aspirations.
  • Think about how that person would fit into the role, the department, and the team.

Of course, you want your candidate to be interested in what you have to say. And any new hire worth their salt will feel exactly the same way.

Be quiet

Again, it can be really tempting to talk your way through the entire interview process, especially if you are genuinely excited about the position, the company, and the possibilities.

But communication is a two-way street. If you really want to know about your applicant, you have to listen to what they say.

  • Resist interrupting or interjecting.
  • Listen for content and nuance, look for body language and other non-verbal cues.
  • Never make assumptions about what a candidate means. If you have questions, ask. And then listen carefully to the responses.

Be aware

Don’t make future discrimination claims part of your standard hiring process. Avoid inquiring about candidate traits, beliefs, situations or preferences that are not specifically job related. The following topics are in the discrimination danger zone:

  • Race, national origin
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Marital status
  • Pregnancy, number of kids

Keep your conversation focused on the company, the position, and any relevant skills and experience necessary to perform.

Be thoughtful

When it comes down to it, every interaction you have is a reflection on you and your company. Are you providing a positive experience or a negative one? What kinds of things will they tell their family, friends after they’ve gone through the process? What might their 10,000 Twitter followers see, hear, and think?

Follow these basic rules to put your best foot forward:

  • Be friendly – Make people feel comfortable.
  • Do what you say – Be on time and keep appointments.
  • Communicate – Let people know where they are in the process and next steps.
  • Follow through – If you say you’ll call or email, make sure it actually happens.
  • Always follow up after an interview or phone screen, no matter what the outcome.

Even if you don’t end up hiring a particular candidate, they should still be considered a potential client, customer, and reviewer. Give your candidates a great experience and they’ll walk away with no regrets. They might even keep you on their short list of coveted employers. Who knows? Next time, they might be a perfect match!

 

Photo by  Kittisak Jirasittichai