Support Employees During National Disability Employment Awareness Month

A good indicator of a strong workplace culture is its commitment to diversity and inclusion, where your employees feel comfortable coming to you to voice their opinions and concerns. When employees work in an environment where they feel valued, productivity increases.

Employees with disabilities contribute to the workplace in many ways, and National Disability Employment Awareness Month recognizes this.

What is National Disability Employment Awareness Month?

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) was established in 1988 by the United States Congress to take place during October of every year. It commemorates the contributions of people with disabilities to the US economy and workplaces and reaffirms their commitment to providing equal opportunities for all citizens.

Disability statistics to keep in mind

To create a clear understanding of the relevant challenges people with disabilities in the workplace face daily, here are some vital statistics to keep in mind:

Use NDEAM as a catalyst to support employees with disabilities all year

Review your company policies

NDEAM is an excellent time to review company policies to make sure they display a commitment to having an inclusive company culture.

Establish an employee resource group (ERG)

You can launch a disability Employee Resource Group, or ERG. ERGs offer employees an opportunity to connect and receive support from others with similar backgrounds or interests. If your company has an established ERG, use NDEAM to remind employees of the resource.

Create a display

Make a display on your breakroom bulletin boards or in other places that employees frequently visit. Post positive messages about how your company provides an inclusive workforce on all levels.

Train supervisors and educate employees

Both supervisors and employees have an impact on company culture and inclusion. During NDEAM, conduct training such as:

Publish content

You can publish content such as blogs, videos, or a website page that is related to topics like:

  • Your company’s commitment to inclusivity
  • The process to request reasonable accommodations
  • Recognizing the contributions of important leaders in the disability rights movement

Drive a social media campaign

NDEAM provides resources, such as posts and images, to use on your company’s preferred social media platforms. Use the provided posts and tweets with the suggested hashtag #NDEAM to spread awareness.

Issue a press release

Employers can issue a press release to announce their involvement in NDEAM. A “fill-in-the-blank” template is available for your marketing team to use, courtesy of the Department of Labor.

Volunteer to participate in Disability Mentoring Day

Disability Mentoring Day promotes career development for youth with disabilities through:

  • Hands-on programs
  • Job shadowing
  • Ongoing mentoring

Disability Mentoring Day is observed on the third Wednesday of each October, but you can host your own event any day of October or during any month of the year.

 

Strive toward an inclusive workplace

 

Even though NDEAM takes place during the month of October, inclusivity and recognizing the contributions of your employees with disabilities is important every month and every day of the year. A workplace where everyone feels like a valued team member contributes to a strong, healthy company culture and empowers employees to go above and beyond for you, their team members, and the company.

 

And a workplace where all employees feel valued and empowered is something every employer should strive toward!

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

 

A Positive Company Culture Offers Far More than Just the Soft Stuff

Company culture is often labeled as the “soft stuff” in business, yet companies that take their cultures seriously see it as an investment.

The hard truth is that cultivating culture pays off. For example, in a 2018 report, Forbes found that companies with strong cultures saw a 4x increase in revenue growth. And job turnover was a mere 13.9 percent, compared to their counterparts at 48.4 percent turnover.

Why is this, though? A positive company culture impacts company success and client experience because it encourages and fosters employee motivation, engagement, commitment, and ultimately, productivity.

Employee motivation

Many people choose the companies they want to work for based on culture. Perhaps they identify with the company values and see a good fit for themselves in that environment. That can be a strong motivating factor for taking the role and wanting to continue being a part of the team.

Motivation only goes upward from there!

When a company culture is truly embedded into the organization, employees will identify with it. Culture-focused organizations will help their employees see the impact their individual work has on the larger purpose of the organization. And when people have a sense of purpose in their work, they are more driven than their zero culture counterparts.

Employee engagement

Engaged workplaces are 21% more profitable. And who doesn’t want that?! Employee engagement stems from culture, and when culture is strong and people feel a sense of belonging, they are more collaborative and productive. When a culture encourages people to express themselves, voice their ideas, and actively listen, they can help but feel more engaged and comfortable.

And if that wasn’t enough, a company culture that values employees naturally produces employees who value their clients. They care about the company and its clients because engagement translates into an employee’s emotional commitment. They will engage authentically and go above and beyond to deliver a better client experience when they are emotionally invested in their roles.

Employee Commitment

A strong company culture leads to employee commitment and retention. If a company fosters a culture of continuous learning and personal growth, employees are able to view their career as a long-term investment and take pride in it. When the culture encourages and practices personal development, employees are much less likely to be out looking for other job opportunities.

On the other hand, when companies have a poor culture, 48% of employees will start looking for a job. And while job hunting, they’re not thinking about your company or your clients as their top priority. So not only do you lose the productivity when the job-hunting employee leaves, but you’ve started losing productivity from them long before they walk out the door for that next job.

The ultimate impact

Once a positive company culture achieves employee motivation, engagement, and commitment, the culture can then begin fostering high-performance teams and productivity. Motivated employees are committed to the organization’s goals and perform their tasks full-heartedly.

Spend a few minutes reflecting on your company culture. How healthy is it? How engaged are your employees? How committed are they to the work your company does and the clients you serve?

If you’re feeling at all uncomfortable with your answers or you simply don’t know the answers, then spend some time planning.

  • Get started by writing a description of your culture today – being completely honest about the ups and downs.
  • And then write a description of your ideal culture and how you would like it to be.
  • Bring your team together and get honest with them about what you see today and what you’d like to see the culture move to.

When people see and feel your vision, they are much more likely to participate in making it a reality. As a team, start looking for ways to turn it around. Don’t try to tackle it all at once. Make small changes and let them become “normal.” Then make more small changes. Then a few more.

Soon, you’ll find yourself with a strong culture where people want to come to work and want to refer their friends to come and join them – the ultimate compliment to a strong company culture!

Companies who make the investment into a culture-first work environment have seen a staggering 682% increase in revenue growth! How would you like to see that added to your bottom line?

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by nd3000

Pet-Friendly Workplace: The Benefits and Pitfalls

Pets are a person’s best friend and an important part of people’s lives—67% of American households, or about 85 million families, own a pet of some kind, whether it’s feathery, furry, or has scales. Besides offering a pet insurance benefit, being in a pet-friendly workplace can improve team morale and company culture, along with other benefits.

What is a pet-friendly workplace?
A pet-friendly workplace means pets are allowed to join your employees at the office. Pet-friendly workplaces usually have policies to include dogs or cats only. Regardless of whether your workplace is pet-friendly or not, some employees may require a service animal. A service animal is defined as an animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service animals are seen as providing a “reasonable accommodation” to your employees and is compliant with the ADA.

What are the benefits of a pet-friendly workplace?

  • Reduces stress: Studies show pets help lower cortisol (a stress hormone), lower blood pressure, increase feelings and improve overall job satisfaction. Dogs and cats are cute, cuddly, and fluffy, so it only makes sense that having them around would be a mood booster.
  • Boosts office morale and promotes productivity: An office with happy, stress-free employees increases productivity. While it might be distracting to have an office full of dogs and cats, the benefits of being able to take short breaks to pet your dog or cat are worth it.
  • Improves workplace communication: Poor communication between employees blocks productivity. Pets help create bonds and connections between employees and facilitate conversation, which are great for enhancing communication.
  • Improves work-life balance: Employees’ pets get socialized with other pets, and instead of your employees paying for expensive pet sitters or worrying about leaving their pets at home, they can bring their pets to work and lavish them with affection—a win-win for everyone.
  • Improves employee retention and company loyalty: Because pets help improve work-life balance, employees will have fewer stress issues and fewer health issues, leading to higher job satisfaction and fewer work-related absences.
  • Makes your workplace appear more attractive to prospective employees: When your workplace is pet-friendly, it is an incentive that might encourage like-minded employees to apply for positions at your business. 

What are the pitfalls of a pet-friendly workplace?

  • Compliance considerations: You will need to understand your local and industry rules and regulations when it comes to a pet-friendly workplace. Also, you will want to have insurance coverage before launching your pet-friendly workplace program to cover issues like:
    • Pets damaging something at your workplace
    • Pets being injured from something at your workplace
    • Pets potentially hurting other employees/pets
    • Pets potentially hurting visitors to your workplace
  • Potential source of distraction: Yes, pets are cute. But they can have the potential to be a little too distracting to employees that need to focus on work.
  • Potential tension: If you allow pets to roam around freely, there’s the potential of causing tension in employee relations if someone’s pet bothers another employee or pet.
  • Allergies and phobias: Some employees may have allergies to pet dander, which will lead you to have to install a new HVAC system at your workplace to filter this dander. Some employees may also have phobias of dogs or cats, and in this instance, pet-free zones will need to be established.
  • Cleanliness issues: Pets can, and do, have accidents. It’s unavoidable. Pet-friendly cleaning supplies and poop bags need to be made available to employees to clean up after their pets.

Make pet-friendly workplaces work for all employees

Even with the pitfalls, the benefits of a pet-friendly workplace will make a happy and healthy working environment for all. Create a policy that protects your workplace and enables safe, work-appropriate pet fun. Carefully review both the benefits and the pitfalls, and talk to your leadership board, advisors, and legal counsel for help in implementing your pet-friendly workplace.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by fabianponceg

Lead Your Team Through Four Stages of Team Development

Sometimes leading a small, growing company is like working as a rollercoaster attendant. You are constantly watching the twists and turns and the ups and downs. Through all this turbulence and volatility – and motion sickness – you will see teams make or break it, and people come and go faster than business cards can be printed.

 

Turnover and change make it difficult to form cohesive teams that are able to perform effectively. What if there was a model of team development that could help you lead a team to achieve, grow, face challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, and deliver results?

 

Apply the Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing model of team development and give your team a path to follow on their way to high-performance.

 

After applying, enjoy the benefits of identifying and understanding why team behavior changes so you can maximize team processes and productivity.

 

Forming

 

When teams form, people come together with excitement and positive expectations for the team experience. You will see people on their best behavior while they seek out similar people with shared needs.

 

At the same time, members may feel anxiety, confusion, and ambiguity since they are a group of strangers with little agreement or team purpose. They may question their “fit” in the team or if their performance will measure up.

 

Everyone at one point in their life experiences this excitement and anxiety when forming a new team, making it critical for the leader to provide guidance and direction. Use this time to guide the team to create clear structures, goals, direction, and roles so members begin to build trust and confidence.

 

Storming

 

Conflict and friction are inevitable when relationship styles, work ethics, and communication patterns arise and clash. For example, people may challenge each other for power or clash over team processes.

 

Lead your team to persevere through this phase because it can make or break a team! Lead your team through storming and learn the skills necessary to push through. If this phase is skipped, the group will keep revisiting until the skills are gained, such as task-related skills, group process, and conflict management skills.

 

Fortunately, storming is not always “glass half empty.” A little friction can be good. For example, conflict can reveal issues to solve innovatively and collaboratively and spur thought-provoking and challenging conversations. This respectful disagreement can increase a team’s open-mindedness and consideration of others’ thoughts and ideas. 

 

Norming

 

If you are norming, you will most likely notice team members solving personal clashes between their expectations and the reality of the team’s experience. But the storm passing over does not mean your work is over yet.

 

Encourage your team to set more flexible and inclusive norms and expectations, making the team stronger and more comfortable voicing their concerns and exchanging constructive criticism.

 

Once team members have established these norms and ground rules, they can re-focus on the team’s tasks as they persevere in becoming a high-performance team.

 

Finally, the team is performing!

 

You will know when your team reaches the performing stage when everyone feels satisfied with their team’s progress and comes together to be “greater than the sum of its parts.” They will share insights into personal and group processes and have a visible “can do” attitude. Roles will become more fluid as members take on various responsibilities as needed, and differences among the members are celebrated and used to enhance the team’s performance. For example, people will balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

Do not stop there, though. Team commitment and competence are strong, but there is always more opportunity to deepen individual skills and abilities, including continuously improving team development.

 

Celebrate

 

You cannot switch on teamwork. It takes time and team building for a team to move from strangers to collaborative co-workers. The progression through these phases is essential in ensuring that a group becomes a cohesive, functional unit. 

 

Imagine the positive impact it will make on your company. You can lead your team to perform optimally and manage crises, and you can foster an inclusive and equitable environment that celebrates difference, collaboration, and accountability.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

 

Photo by thithawat

The Truth About Reactive Management

If you’re a business owner or manager of a team, you likely wear many different hats. Especially for small businesses, owners often find themselves going in different directions every day. If this sounds familiar, ask yourself when was the last time you were able to sit down and think ahead? What about actually plan ahead?

All too often, leaders get wrapped up in moment-to-moment tasks, allowing their time to get sucked down the drain of immediate crises. Working in a constantly reactive state can feel good, though. You may be thinking:

I’m a fast and efficient problem-solver!
I’m a doer. I get s**t done!
I don’t let problems bring me down—I face them head-on!

Yes. You probably are all those things. But when you spend 100% of your time being all those things, you miss out on time spent being a strategist, a planner, a thinker, and a visionary! How do you expect your business to grow if you can’t think farther ahead than the next problem brought to you?

Reacting to every little thing that comes across your path can make you feel like you’re getting a lot done. But while you’re focusing on what’s right in front of you, more significant problems will grow in the background, and you may not even notice them developing. And when they catch up to you, you won’t have the time or energy to manage them.

Rewiring your approach

Although reacting to urgent problems is part of every leader’s job, it’s critical they also make time to manage for the future, not just the current moment. Get a handle on your reactive managing style and start building a foundation for the future by:

1. Sharing responsibility

One of the major issues with reactionary managing is allowing unimportant but urgent tasks to eat up your time. Start practicing the art of delegation and hand off some of these tasks to your team. It can feel scary to delegate, but hopefully, you’ll soon find that your team is more than capable of answering phone calls and emails, calling that cranky client, or fixing a botched order. Save your time for issues that need your attention specifically—not just attention in general.

2. Re-imagining your schedule

If you’re wondering where you’re supposed to find the time to plan, look at your calendar and pinpoint areas that can be re-prioritized.

But I don’t have the time!” isn’t an excuse.

Yes, you do have the time. You’ve just decided it’s better spent elsewhere. But is it? Really?

It’s a safe bet that you’ve got 30 minutes, or even an hour, every day you could re-allocate to a different activity. If you’re not sure where to start, try tracking your time throughout the week, detailing exactly how you spent each moment at work. Chances are, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised by how much time you ended up spending on unnecessary tasks that don’t require your energy.

Block out designated time on your calendar to spend looking at the big picture of your business. Allow yourself to identify those background problems that are much more easily dealt with before they grow, rather than after they’ve boiled over. Hold boundaries around this time. Tell your team you are unavailable during these blocked-out times and give them time to develop their independence with your newfound delegation.

Treat this time like it’s sacred—because it is! You need that time to make sure your company grows smoothly and efficiently.

3. Creating, refining, and implementing processes

A common issue among businesses that are run reactively is a lack of clear processes for employees to follow. If your management style is running around putting out fires, you probably haven’t had time to build an organized system for solving problems and dealing with spontaneous change.

Every leader, team, and organization will face roadblocks, speed bumps, and detours. But if you don’t have a map for your team to follow to their destination, the efficiency with which they’ll arrive at a solution will take a big hit.

It is time well spent to work out and document processes for your team to follow when issues arise. Proactively planning for potential challenges that your team may face will save you a lot of time and energy for when they do appear.

Be proactive

Being quick on your feet and always moving to the next shiny new challenge may be fun at times, but it’ll eventually burn you out and leave you with larger problems. If you want to grow your team or business in a sustainable direction, prioritize strategy and proactively plan for your future. It’s the only way to win.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by artursz