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?

 

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Photo by nd3000

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

Facing Challenges as a High-Performance Team

Imagine your team works on a project or goal, and they need to get from point A to point B. Do you believe the bridge between the two points provides the necessary support to carry your team over? What if an obstacle is thrown their way?

Perhaps an essential team member calls out sick, and the team depends on them to reach a deadline. This is when your team will show whether they are a high-performing team or merely highly productive.

You can have intelligent, capable, and productive individuals on your team, but if they cannot persevere through challenges, it is time to foster a high-performance team. This is possible by establishing the primary components of a high-performance team: a positive work environment, collaborative problem-solving, and leadership.

Positive work environment

The first component of a high-performance team is having a positive work environment. Start by creating ground rules to establish the values of the group. The ground rules communicate personal behavior expectations that reflect the team’s values.

And how your team handles emerging challenges depends on your team culture!

For example, if a team values learning and openness to new approaches, they would expect others to ask questions and offer guidance while promoting curiosity.

Foster a team identity built on a commitment to a shared goal or vision. Strong team identities are built on listening, trust, respect, and understanding strengths and diversity. These values are critical for working interdependently because they enable people to rely on one another.

Collaborative problem-solving

By fostering listening skills, trust, and team identity, a team can problem-solve collaboratively. Problem-solving demands an exchange of ideas, which is possible only if team members work hard to listen to perspectives that are different from their own. An excellent way to approach collaborative problem-solving is by using divergent and convergent thinking strategies.

Divergent thinking helps high-performing teams identify many solutions to
a potential problem. The spirit of the activity is to defer judgment and encourage contributions in a free-flowing and creative way. There are
many exercises you can use to promote divergent thinking:

  • Letting your team have time to think about the problem
  • Making lists of the potential solutions to the problem
  • Doing verbal brainstorming or mind-mapping

Once you have a solid set of potential solutions, the team moves into the convergent thinking stage, where they work together to:

  • Narrow down options
  • Decide on the best solution
  • Reach a consensus based on a benefit and risk analysis

When you have fostered a healthy team environment, the inevitable conflict will be manageable through your ground rules of mutual respect. Create a positive work environment with strong listening skills and team identity and you will see your teams making decisions and action plans to face challenges head-on in a collaborative way.

Leadership

Leadership helps provide the bridge’s strength and support to push a team to persevere when faced with a challenge. The leader creates a positive work environment and encourages collaborative problem-solving while nurturing their team’s capabilities. Remember that leaders are not always the boss; you can have a de-facto leader on your team too!

Leaders contribute to high-performance teams by attending to the team’s health, maintaining the strategic vision, supporting team members individually, demonstrating and encouraging accountability, and modeling the way through behavior and action.

Be the three-legged stool

Although the three primary components of a high-performance team are fostered separately, they all depend on each other like the three legs of a stool. If one leg is not stable, the others will not be either. Nurture all three components and embrace challenges head-on!

 

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Photo by stillfx

Take the Formality Out of Performance Reviews

Let’s see if this scenario is familiar.

You call your employee into your office. You review their strengths and weaknesses, assess their performance, and set goals. You may even use a rating scale to show the employee if they met, exceeded, or failed to meet expectations.

You’ve just conducted a formal performance review, and when it comes to this process, organizations lose anywhere from $2.4 million to $35 million a year in working hours for employees to participate in reviews. Yet 72% of companies still conduct annual performance reviews.

So maybe it’s the process of conducting performance reviews and not the reviews themselves that need to be changed.

What should be included in a performance review?

You may hear performance review and professional development used interchangeably. But they are two different things. A performance review measures past performance and how well an employee performed in their expected role; professional development looks forward and inspires employees to improve.

Both have their place, but a performance review is geared toward just that: Performance. Consider these things as you’re conducting reviews:

Ask questions 

To ensure there are no surprises, send the review agenda to your team member beforehand, so they’ll know what will be discussed. Ask them to provide feedback about the agenda; doing so gives them co-ownership of the conversation.

During the review, ask open-ended questions to gain the best responses. Close-ended questions that only allow a yes or no answer won’t allow opportunity for insight and make the review unnecessarily formal.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What accomplishments are you the proudest of?
  • What goals did you meet?
  • What skills do you have that we can use more effectively?
  • What about your role helps the company succeed?

You can also allow employees to do regular self-evaluation. While there are myths surrounding self-evaluations like “Employees only want to explain away their bad performance,” reflecting helps make employees happier and less likely to burn out. When coupled with an open and honest culture, self-evaluations will also be open and honest.

Consider doing a weekly check-in with self-reflection questions that look back at performance and how well team members feel they did over the past week:

  • Did you complete your ONE THING item from last week?
  • What was your greatest success over the past week?
  • What was your biggest challenge over the past week?
  • What did you learn this week through training and insight?
  • What is the ONE THING you must accomplish over this coming week?

You can use/revise this template or any number of templates you can find on the web by searching the term “employee self-evaluation template.” Choose whatever fits your company culture.

Treat performance reviews like conversations

Think of a review like a conversation, and it will remove any stress or burdens on you and your team members. But keep in mind exactly how you word things. Even things you meant as praise could be misconstrued as negative feedback if not worded correctly. Avoid:

  • Definitive terms like always and never
  • Subjective terms like rude, polite, and enthusiastic
  • Vague terms like good and poor

Instead, go further and use phrases like:

  • “I encourage you to continue [doing this action]. It provides good results for the team.”
  • “When you contact a customer after a sale is closed to ask them if they need anything, that shows you go above and beyond.”
  • “I advise you to stop [doing this action]. It results in [this consequence].”

You can also keep the review language and tone conversational by:

  • Not using a formal rating system
  • Making clear what factors of the review are tied to employee raises
  • Assuring employees this is a check-in as opposed to a performance judgment
  • Focusing on creating a culture of listening and growth
  • Having open conversations as opposed to formal discussions

Consider your cadence

Having a performance review once a year is a traditional approach. But that may not work for your organization. Think about what would be the best: Quarterly reviews? Monthly? Weekly? Consider your current framework and process and adjust accordingly.

Also, couple reviews with open feedback. When leaders provide their team with frequent and honest feedback, your team is more likely to be motivated and engaged at work.

Show your appreciation

No matter what kinds of questions you ask and how often you conduct reviews, they aren’t just about formality, ratings, and numbers. They are a way to show your employees appreciation for their work and help both you and them develop a better future. And that is a good thing.

 

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Photo by Somsak Sudthangtum