Getting the Competitive Advantage: Optimizing HR

Your HR team worries about a lot of things.

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

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

Uncovering the competition

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

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

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

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

Setting you up for success

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

Start the conversation

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

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

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

Revisit, review, repeat

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

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

Unlock your potential

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

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

 

Photo by Roman Samborskyi

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Driving Growth with Purpose

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

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

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

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

So how do you do that? Try these steps.

Ask them about their career goals

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

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

Recognize, recognize, recognize

And the more often you do it, the better.

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

Make your organizational goals personal

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

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

Be flexible when you can, where you can

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

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

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

 

Photo by Vassiliy Kochetkov

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

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.

 

Photo by ammentorp

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 

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