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Don’t get me wrong– your CFO isn’t the bad person here—most likely, your finance guru wants the same thing you do—an organization that runs at its peak efficiency, with employees who are productive and committed to helping the company succeed.

It’s just that you may come at that goal from different directions. You believe that intentionally creating a positive employee experience (EX) is necessary to make the organization competitive—and to do that, you may need to invest in organizational restructuring, work space restructuring, process reorganization and additional programs and activities to make that happen.

Your CFO believes in investing—when it’s prudent. When the outcome clearly is greater than the cost. When risk is minimized—or in order to further minimize risk. They want to protect the company from unnecessary or untimely financial losses, so big ideas may sound great, but if the numbers associated with those big ideas don’t add up, the best ideas just aren’t going to fly.

To get the CFO on your team and to know your plan is rock solid, take the following steps:

Make sure your CFO understands what employee experience is.

What might be second nature to you could seem like a second language to your CFO. Employee engagement vs. organizational culture vs. employee experience. Be able to clearly outline what they all mean, and why are they important—particularly, why are they important right now?

Here’s a succinct definition:
Employee Experience is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection to the organization — every employee interaction, from the first contact as a potential recruit to the last interaction after the end of employment.

To improve the employee experience, the first step is to discover what your people are currently experiencing. Find out with 15five.

Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage describes employee experience as a combination of three distinct environments (physical, cultural, and technological). Unlike employee engagement, the employee experience cannot be measured as effectively, but the level of engagement can reflect the overall employee experience.

So you will want to outline the ROI of employee engagement for your CFO. This worksheet can help you figure out just how much employee disengagement is costing you. If your finance person has bought into marketing efforts to support the customer experience and the technological tools that support that, your employee experience strategy may resonate.

Describe the problem that necessitates a definitive change.

Perhaps employee turnover is high, time to fill jobs is increasing, organizational goals aren’t being met, sales are slipping, or employee survey data indicates widespread dissatisfaction. Maybe external factors, such as a disruptive technology, or a new competitor are forcing you to consider new approaches.

Or maybe the driver of change isn’t a negative event, but the desire to surge ahead of the competition, to integrate employees and processes from a recently acquired company or to take advantage of a new opportunity.

In any case, lead with the issue at hand and explain how, if unaddressed, it will have negative effects on your company, employees or customers. Provide empirical evidence, not just anecdotes that tell the impact of the problem—how widespread it is, how long it has been occurring and the overall effect.

If your goal is to be an industry leader, you must invest in the people who can make that happen.
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Be able to explain if it is systemic or isolated. An employee experience strategy makes much more sense for widespread issues than ones that are localized and that may be addressed with other strategies that include a less extensive focus on employee engagement.

For example, if a department lacks resources to succeed or has an ineffective manager, employees will become frustrated. But if that issue is primarily limited to that department, addressing the issue at hand (acquire the resources, train/counsel or remove the manager) will yield a faster turnaround. While EX strategies can always benefit, make sure the problem can’t be addressed with a tangible solution first.

Give a snapshot for where your company matches up against competition, and if that reflects your organization’s mission or objectives. If your goal is to be a leader in the industry, your company must invest in the people who are needed to make that happen.

Detail the costs of implementing your employee experience strategy.

The cost is not just financial, but may also include a loss of time and productivity when learning new technological systems or adjusting to new workspaces. Crunch the numbers to determine the full picture so you can acknowledge the inevitable downsides and have a plan to address them.

Once you’ve determined the cost of implementing the plan, assess the intangible cost of not making the improvements—or not making the improvements now. Are you likely to lose your position as an innovative leader? As one of the Best Places To Work? Will you lose customers if you can’t make the needed improvements, and what will that financial loss amount to?

Companies focused on employee experience have more than 4X the average profit of others.
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In his research, Morgan found that companies that were focused on EX had more than four times the average profit of other organizations, and more than two times the average revenue. Morgan’s research also suggested the companies that were doing the best also had fewer employees, indicating higher levels of productivity and innovation.

Outline the expected outcome and include evidence.

If you proceed, what happens and when? How will the changes be measured, and how will you know that any improvements are correlated to the changes? Your best measurement may be employee engagement factors, such as changes in retention, sick days, turnover, productivity, etc., even if these measures cannot convey the entire picture.

Use case studies available to show what initiatives other companies have taken and what results they have seen. What stumbling blocks or successes have they encountered and what lessons can your company learn from them?

Explain how your EX efforts will address issues that reverberate beyond actual employees, such as customer satisfaction, company and brand image (think Glassdoor reviews) and decreased recruiting time.

Tie back to your ongoing critical projects and the imperative for engagement and retention. (What does it cost if you lose an employee who leads a critical project–not just the cost of replacing her, but the decreased productivity until a new person is hired and up to speed?)

Finally, ask your CFO what kind of outcome they would like to see. What areas are they struggling with? How would these changes make the CFO’s mission easier? Get them to share in your vision of change, seeing how they can benefit too.

When you think about getting your CFO on board with your employee experience initiative, start thinking like them. Not to try to outwit them, but to truly understand their concerns and determine if your responses are valid.

Rather than a knee-jerk reaction, assume any hesitance or questioning on their part has merit. By figuring out the answer, you’ll develop a stronger argument and perhaps even a better employee experience strategy that will ultimately benefit your organization—with your CFO in your corner.

Pamela DeLoatch is a B2B technology writer specializing in creating marketing content for the HR industry. With a background as an HR generalist and specialist, she writes about the employee experience, engagement, diversity, HR leadership, culture and technology. Follow Pamela on Twitter @pameladel.

Image Credit: Sarah Ackerman

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Employee feedback should be simple. Just speak with your employees, right? Not exactly. Most managers are afraid to communicate with employees and for good reason. Research shows that feedback interventions can often backfire and more than one-third of feedback conversations actually decrease performance.

As a manager, giving feedback is something you will probably do as the most frequent part of any continuous performance management process. Yet as coaches and trainers, we regularly hear from our manager clients how “difficult” they continue to find the feedback process and how much they dread having what they imagine will be another tough conversation.

More than one-third of employee feedback conversations actually decrease performance.
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Let’s take a typical scenario–someone on your team is struggling with a project or is experiencing conflict with a team member, and since you are their manager you need to “have a talk” with them. You want to do this not just to resolve the current issue, but also to motivate them to improve their work performance and employee engagement levels overall.

Perhaps this is not the first time you are having this talk, so you anticipate the conversation may get dicey given the prior history and failure to make a difference. You also want to come out of this making sure you get along well with them in the workplace. These are a lot of factors to navigate successfully!

So how do you make employee feedback work?

Sandwiches Are For Eating, Not For Employee Feedback

There is a ton of advice out there about how to give effective feedback. Some of what is still floating around is a variation of the “feedback sandwich” technique where you praise them a little, and then you give them the tougher feedback, and end with reassuring them what a great job they are doing overall.

Ok, not bad and there are clearly good intentions at play here. Unfortunately it doesn’t work very well. This method of feedback has been shown to be confusing to the receiver and possibly insincere on the part of the giver, since there are mixed messages at play within the same conversation that end up diluting what may need to be said more directly.

The next level is where you have been regularly offering praise and employee appreciation, and then you give tough, direct feedback. Ideally you share feedback with candor and show them you care, rather than just being brutal. You are specific in your details and direct in what you are really telling them, so you don’t dilute the message. Bonus points for talking about the impact they are having on the business or the team, so they don’t take it personally.

Kim Scott has a great framework on doing this called Radical Candor. Balance these intentions and practices well and the other person will leave the conversation going, “Ok, this is hard, but I know my manager really values me and I understand the feedback and what to do about it.”

Getting much better. Now you’re in the realm of giving more effective employee feedback. But wait, there is a whole other level still being missed here.

The Feedback Aikido Technique

The truth is, employee feedback can be very personal and this can work in your favor if you approach it from a whole different orientation. This is the level we call Feedback Aikido. By Aikido we are not referring to the competitive version of the martial arts, but the kind that is more commonly practiced in Dojos across the planet as an exchange of energy between people.

Here is how it works: on the Aikido mat, both parties center and ground themselves and approach any conflict with each other from a position of mutual respect, care and openness. One person will inevitably throw the other person over in the process (the physical equivalent of giving some really difficult feedback) but it is never about winning or losing.

Aikido–and employee feedback–is about the giving, receiving and redirection of what is occurring between people so that both parties end feeling more trust, support and connection at the end of the process. This happens in part because they take turns taking the fall. Here’s the catch: doing this well goes beyond just having good form and technique.

What? Beyond technique? Then how do I do it?

Most managers when they are giving feedback, are tapping into how hard it might be personally to give this feedback. But if you think about it, it’s probably twice as hard on the other side, for the employee who is receiving feedback.

Their personal status, perceived standing within their team and perhaps even their job may feel like it is on the line. In short, they may see themselves as potentially taking a fall and may start to get into high “threat alert” mode and become defensive. Or they might not agree with what you told them, reject the feedback and have the work relationship be in a worse state.

You know this, and that’s why you don’t want to give the feedback. As humans, it is natural for us to move away from pain or discomfort and towards pleasure and ease. You anticipate a tough conversation and don’t want to deal with the potential awkwardness, stress, defensiveness, arguments, passive agreements (without actual changes) or any negative impact that may be the result.

Odds are, you may be bringing a combative nature or resistance yourself to what they have to say in the conversation because of your perceptions of them or their past history.

It’s why we so often see this sort of feedback can devolve into the verbal equivalent of a Jiu-jitsu match, where both sides start grappling each other to the ground and getting into an entanglement on who is right, saving face, or vigorously defending themselves. While that may be part of the equation in a tough conversation, there is a much better way.

Learn how to balance a more human-centered conversation with the critical ability of challenging employees to grow and improve. Join Our Live Webinar on March 20th!
Access Your Vulnerability as a Leader

We were working with one CEO who had a key executive on his team with whom he needed to have a feedback conversation. He had shared his input before on how she was mismanaging her team and treating her employees, but nothing was changing. In fact, it seemed to getting worse. He was frustrated and his patience was wearing thin. He wanted to show her the impact of all the things she was still doing wrong and express that if she didn’t shape up, her job could be on the line.

A setup for more issues with her? Almost certainly. He braced himself for the showdown, clarified and prepared his arguments and pondered possible next steps if it didn’t go well. In short, this was competitive Jiu-jitsu waiting to happen and if he only did it “right”, the other side would finally “get it”, agree, and change their ways. There was however no way this was going to go well from our perspective given the setup and eroding trust between them.

So we talked more about it with him before he met with her, and he shared the following:

1) She was being controlling with her employees. We asked him if others ever experienced him being controlling at work. Turns out the answer was “Yes”.

2) He found her to be a bulldog. We asked if anyone ever experience him being a bulldog? “Yes” again.

3) He didn’t like the way she treated her employees. We asked if including feedback that suggested her job was on the line, would be somewhat equivalent to how she threatened employees? Once more, “Yes”.

Now we were getting somewhere because he could see that everything she was doing was something he was sometimes also doing (or had done in the past). So we asked him to share this with her.

“What?”, he asked. “Share where I haven’t been a good leader at times? Why is this about me? This is feedback for her!”

Not when we are putting ourselves on the line, which is what we recommend is needed here.

Ask yourself, What are you working on in your own personal and professional development that is challenging or holding you back?

Feeling the burn on this one? Now we are in Aikido territory where you are open, flexible, meeting the person where they are at and not being defensive.

Managers must be willing to take the lead in sharing their own human fallibility.
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Our observations for these circumstance is that most managers are still trying to save face or be right when they are leading. Since they are the managers, they imagine they are supposed to be strong, lead, have all the answers, etc… In short, they are still trying to “manage” the old way, rather than actually growing their talent by putting themselves on the line and modeling vulnerability.

This is where the practice of verbal Aikido comes in, because instead of being the “superhero”  and giving effective employee feedback that will help the employee’s career, be the person who is willing to take the lead in sharing your own human fallibility and where you are growing.

Psychological Safety & High Performance

As Amy Edmondson has shown in her research, it is fallibility and sharing on a human level that creates psychological safety for others in their challenges. By modeling these behaviors, a deeper level of trust, belonging, and dedication to one’s work can start to come online. This fallibility invites vulnerability on both sides and this is what allows genuine trust to grow. This trust is the bedrock for effective feedback conversations.

As an employee you will fight harder, work the extra hours, and do whatever it takes for a leader who will show you his or her soft underbelly and put his or her own neck on the line first.

So back to our example. This is what happened to the CEO we were working with—he got vulnerable first and shared with the senior leader all the places he was working on in his own personal and professional development and his ongoing struggles with it.

And then he gave her the direct feedback. He shared the impact of her actions on him and the company and his support and challenge for her to come through in the current situation. The results were astounding.

Lead employees from a place of vulnerability to create psychological safety and build trust.
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They had a deep conversation—in this case, shared some tears as the conversation went on —and she started to get vulnerable herself and open up. She had a lot going on in her life, including life transitions in the midst of a messy divorce that was affecting her performance, though she was trying to hide it. No doubt it was affecting her own management tendencies.

Now he knew, and could be there as a support for her. Before, it looked like she was just messing things up and needed to step it up. But now they found themselves on a shared journey, and had each other’s backs with the tasks at hand. This vulnerability made them stronger as a team and increased their trust for each other. A few weeks later, he started to notice significant differences in her work as a manager on the project – the feedback was sticking.

As a manager, you want to create a rock solid team, and doing this is not about being perfect or just learning the techniques on how to give tough feedback. Let people see your vulnerability and reveal your own fallibility and where you are learning and growing yourself.

Lead them from this place of vulnerability to create psychological safety and build trust. Remember, none of this means you lose your own center or guidance as a leader—you practice Feedback Aikido and are willing to take the fall as much as they do. At the same time you remain centered and balanced in yourself, and have the courage of your convictions to lead your team in the right direction.

Praveen Mantena is an Executive Coach, Leadership Trainer, and Managing Partner at Burst Forward, a professional services firm dedicated to helping business culture transform. He is passionate about creating healthy, vibrant cultures within organizations and facilitating the conditions for cultural change through the domain of effective leadership.

Jim Donovan is a Leadership Trainer and Managing Partner of Burst Forward. Jim is passionate about helping create cultures where the best is brought out in people, which he does by measuring leadership and then helping leaders upgrade their capacity for peak performance.

Want to dive deeper into the practices and distinctions that make the next level of employee feedback work and see examples of what to do and what not to do? Join Our Live Webinar on March 20th!

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In 2017, did your company have what it took to be one of the Best Companies To Work For? Well then, congratulations are in order…

Wait a minute though, it looks like the rules have changed.

The 100 Best Companies To Work For is an honor granted to a select few businesses based on an annual survey of millions of employees. But for the first time in twenty years, Great Place To Work (and Fortune) have changed their methodology.

A Great Place to Work is no longer simply one where employees trust each other, have pride in their work, and enjoy their colleagues. The original formula of only focusing on trust, pride, and camaraderie is no longer enough.

You may be asking yourself, Why does this even matter? Why would our company even want to be considered for this designation? Well, in addition to helping with recruiting efforts, Fortune shares that publicly-held companies that appear on the list have delivered stock market returns two to three times greater than major stock indices.

Here’s what you need to know to make the cut next year:

The Rules Have Changed

Today’s Best Companies To Work For realize that success is reached through modern management methods that keep up with the rapidly accelerating pace of change in business. More than ever before, technology has increased the pace and volume of transparent communication both internally among employees and externally to customers via social media.

Greatness at work is now achieved through a commitment to a new set of criteria. After reviewing an applicant’s employee survey and culture audit, companies seeking to be certified as The Best were then rated based on these 6 categories:

1) Values
2) Innovation
3) Financial Growth
4) Leadership Effectiveness
5) Maximizing Human Potential
6) Trust

Let’s unpack some of these to discover how modern businesses are changing their focus to become more universally people focused, while quite literally improving the world around them.

Maximizing Human Potential “For All”

Great Place to Work now looks at how well companies create a consistently positive experience for all employees, stating that “every employee matters in an economy that is about connectivity, innovation, and human qualities like passion, character, and collaboration”.

Every employee matters in an economy that is about innovation, passion, and collaboration.
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Their latest research shows that companies that rate at the top of this new “For All” standard grow revenue three times faster than their less-inclusive rivals. They also grew revenues 10% faster. With this change in criteria, Salesforce shot to the top of the list–a new #1 for the 1st time in 7 years! This ascension was largely due to Salesforce’s efforts to create a “Great Place to Work For All”, and for creating a globally-cohesive culture.

One exceptional way to universally maximize human potential is to create a clear mission and vision along with a list of core values. Creating core values is an exceptionally powerful exercise that allows companies to codify their organizational culture by purposefully distinguishing the elements that are unique, strong and positive. (Note that Values is also the #1 category by which workplaces are considered to be on the 100 Best Places list.)

Clearly articulating your values and continuing to use them as a cultural touchstone over time, also helps to Maximize Human Potential “For All”. An organization can use their values to amplify their Diversity and Inclusion efforts.

According to 15Five CEO David Hassell, hiring for culture fit can be dangerous and often is used as a euphemism for hiring people from similar backgrounds. Instead, hiring for values fit can help create a standard that is more universally inclusive. When a candidate is excited about the company mission (in our case to create workplaces where people become their greatest selves), they will likely be a fit regardless of background, personality or work style.

The next step is to gauge whether a potential hire is a values fit:

“The key is to ask questions about the candidate’s personal and professional lives and try to understand why they have made the decisions they did. If an employee shares your company’s key values, then she can learn to embrace your more specific day-to-day work culture. You can’t force someone to adopt your company’s culture, but you can lead by example and openly discuss core values at every opportunity. Pretty soon, it will become apparent whether a new employee fits with these core values.”

So how can businesses become more values-driven, build more trust, develop their leaders, and maximize human potential? (I didn’t forget about innovation and financial growth, I’ll get to that later.)

The Path to Greatness

In short, the answer is a commitment to the greatness of every employee via agile performance management software.

Looking for an agile performance management software solution to maximize human potential at your company? Give 15Five A Try!

The March edition of Harvard Business Review is entitled “The New Rules of Talent Management“, and contains three connected articles. In the first piece entitled, “HR Goes Agile”, Peter Cappelli and Anna Travis essentially echo what we have discussed for awhile, that The Industrial Revolution is over, yet businesses continue to use outdated strategies and tactics like command and control management and the universally loathed annual performance review:

“Technology and a new generation of employees has fundamentally changed the nature of work. This new generation performs at their peak when given flexibility, feedback and growth opportunities. What’s standing in your way of success is not a savvy competitor — it’s antiquated practices like top-down management, annual performance reviews and slow feedback loops. ”

Or as Cappelli and Travis put it:

“People Management is changing. Successful companies are now trading annual performance reviews for more regular feedback and performance conversations. They are separating development conversations from discussions that evaluate past performance, especially as a consideration for advancement and pay increases.”

All of this hinges on more effective leadership, and the process of transforming managers into coaches. This includes giving employees leeway to take risks. Celebrate the wins and coach them through the lessons of each failure.

A great place to start is by asking employees questions. This is according to leadership coach Ed Batista in the introduction to Harvard Business Review’s Guide to Coaching Employees. According to Batista, questions “help them fulfill their immediate responsibilities more effectively and advance their development as professionals over time”. He goes on to discuss that a leader’s impact is not in telling people what to do but in empowering and motivating them.

What’s preventing success isn’t a competitor, it’s antiquated practices like annual reviews.
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Coaching may seem intimidating at first, especially for managers that have little to no experience. But today’s employees want to learn and grow, and demand more than just being told what to do. According to Gallup, 87% of millennials say that learning and development is important to them.

Fostering Innovation & Financial Growth

See, I told you I would get to these elements…

While Innovation and Financial Growth are numbers 2 and 3 on the list of criteria to be considered one of the Best Companies To Work For, they should be at the bottom of the list. Mind you that isn’t because they are unimportant–just ask your CFO. It’s because they are a byproduct of focusing on the other areas.

That’s why 15Five CEO David Hassell wrote an article in Entrepreneur, entitled, “To Be Results Focused, Stop Focusing On Results”:

“Many managers create monthly and quarterly revenue goals and work backwards using scare tactics to get the team on board… Instead, establish trust and transparency with the team. Employee engagement and accountability will naturally emerge when your people feel heard and seen, encouraged and supported… Build trust and provide challenge to foster natural accountability. To come out on top financially, always start with the drivers of financial success–your team.”

As far as innovation is concerned, that also emerges organically in healthy work environments. When we are in overly competitive environments or otherwise feel threatened, we cannot think creatively. There is a biological reason for this. According to this Harvard Business Review article, to perform at a high level and to be more productive and creative, company leaders and individual managers must create psychological safety:

“The brain processes a provocation by a boss, competitive coworker, or dismissive subordinate as a life-or-death threat. The amygdala, the alarm bell in the brain, ignites the fight-or-flight response, hijacking higher brain centers. This ‘act first, think later’ brain structure shuts down perspective and analytical reasoning. Quite literally, just when we need it most, we lose our minds.”

You may not be looking to become one of the 100 Best Companies To Work For any time soon, but you probably do want to be financially successful. You may even be one of those leaders who wants to re-humanize business by making your company a place where people can self-actualize and have a positive impact on the community at large.

The path to either your lofty goals or more traditional benchmarks for success is the same. Codify your values and create endless opportunities for employee growth. Transforming the leadership and management at your company so that they are focused on coaching employees. Implement continuous performance management technologies and processes that actually improve employee performance instead of simply measuring it. This strategy is the future of work, and apparently the future is already here.

David Mizne is Marketing Communications Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. David’s articles have appeared on The Next Web & TalentCulture. Follow him @davidmizne.

Image Credit: Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

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Does your job feel like torture? Probably not, but the Spanish word for job is trabajo, which is derived from the vulgar Latin word for “torture.” The truth is that most jobs are simply too small for us.

As human beings we desire more. In short, we want to have meaning and purpose in what we do because we want to make a difference that matters. One of the least tapped engines of engagement and performance at work is purpose, something we explore in depth in our new book, The Purpose Revolution-How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage in an Age of Social Good.

Purpose is the best way to boost employee engagement among your people as well as for yourself. When people have purpose at work and see their job as a true calling instead of just a career or a means to an end, they are more engaged, satisfied, and committed to the organization. They also are less inclined to leave their employer and they even call in sick less often.

Purpose Boosts Employee Engagement

Why is purpose the key? We feel deeply satisfied when our work creates purpose and becomes more than just a job. And for many, having purpose is the greatest job perk there is.

Take zookeepers, who love their work despite being typically well-educated but notoriously underpaid, and spend many hours scrubbing enclosures and picking up waste. On the surface, it can be a tough job to be exposed to the elements and responsible for dirty work, but researchers have found that zookeepers love their work.

Many have a sense they are “born to do this job” and that their role has a deeper meaning because it serves a greater purpose: improving the health and wellbeing of animals, creating educational opportunities for the public about the conservation of endangered species, and the importance of biodiversity in natural habitats.

When people have purpose at work, they are more satisfied, and committed to the organization.
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Not every organization needs a zookeeper, but each one could certainly benefit from employees who are purpose focused, engaged and motivated to do their best. The best way to drive purpose and boost employee engagement is to separate job function from purpose.

Job function is what you do–the set of tasks a person performs–whereas job purpose is what results: the greater impact on customers or society.

For example, consider a person who issues building permits in a municipality. Their job function is to process the permits, but their job purpose is to ensure public safety by requiring contractors and homeowners to meet specific building standards, which results in injuries prevented and lives saved. Saving lives feels like something to celebrate more than stamping paper. It’s not hard to imagine how this mindset helps bring more purpose to jobs that might otherwise seem less meaningful.

Drive purpose and boost engagement by explaining the greater value behind an employee’s work.
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The way connect employees with their job purpose over their job function is to directly explain the greater value behind their tasks. The employees need to understand the difference they actually make in the lives of the customers.

For example, a customer service representative at a large hardware retailer has the job function of answering questions and stocking the shelves, but their purpose might be to help customers find cost-effective solutions to their problems and to empower them to learn new skills.

It may be necessary to reiterate this point during group or one on one meetings, but once employees internalize it, they’re likely to view their job in a different, more positive way. When employees understand that they are contributing to a larger overall effort, they feel a sense of connection to their work, their colleagues, and the organization’s purpose.

Create Line of Sight to Purpose

One of the key leadership roles is to consistently create what we call “line of sight” to purpose. We spoke with the largest Molly Maid franchise owner in Canada, who attributes his success as much to higher purpose as to a thorough cleaning of a home.

During our discussion he talked about the fact that many of his clients are older people who may not get many visitors. He therefore encourages his employees to take a few extra minutes to chat with clients when they arrive on-site or before they leave. He challenges his team to reframe their work toward a higher purpose: helping alleviate loneliness. Both the employees and the clients appreciate these conversations, which result in stronger relationships, loyal customers, and happier employees.

Employees with purpose are extremely valuable to companies. For example, we were working with a large retail bank that was trying to encourage its customer service representatives to up-sell clients on more of the bank’s services. From a business perspective, the function of this is to “get a larger share of wallet” by selling financial products— loans, credit cards, investment accounts, and the like.

We discovered that when leaders focused the employees on the purpose behind this upselling, rather than merely the function, sales increased. That’s because the leaders were able to demonstrate how “helping clients simplify their financial lives and get the best products to meet their needs” was important.

Articulated in this way, many of the service reps felt more charged to help their clients better their lives and plan their futures through financial management. In the end, customers were supported, sales increased and employees were able to make a measurable difference in people’s lives.

The Big Shift Purpose Exercise

So, let’s get started with the shift from job function to purpose. You can creatively brainstorm this simple purpose exercise with your staff. The results will be enlightening as people think differently about their roles in the organization and their greater impact on society.

1) Ask staff how their job provides them with personal meaning, and how it makes a difference to others

2) Have them make a list of the main job functions in their area of responsibility, with brief descriptions of the role and tasks

3) Brainstorm a big list of ways the job makes a difference: How does it make someone’s life, society, or the planet better?

4) Craft simple “higher-calling” or purpose statements

The following are a few examples to get you thinking:

When you can help people connect with their job purpose—so that they see it as separate from their job function—they discover how their position can be a calling and not merely a job. Their engagement and performance will naturally increase, and they will be more fulfilled at work and in their personal lives. Explaining purpose to others and driving purpose in an organization take practice, but once mastered these skills can make a big difference to the success of a team or company.

John Izzo is co-author of The Purpose Revolution and president of Izzo Associates. He has spoken to over one million people and advised over 500 companies, including IBM, Qantas, the Mayo Clinic, Verizon, RBC, TELUS, Walmart, DuPont, Humana, Microsoft, and IBM. He is the author or coauthor of six books, including Awakening Corporate Soul.

Jeff Vanderwielen is co-author of The Purpose Revolution and vice president of consulting at Izzo Associates and a former senior change consultant at Ernst & Young with 20-plus years of experience helping organizations manage large-scale change and articulate a compelling purpose – their core good – as the organizing center for their vision, strategy, and culture.

Image Credit: James Pond on Unsplash

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It all began with an article published in Harvard Business Review in March of 2016 entitled, “Two-Thirds of Managers Are Uncomfortable Communicating with Employees”. When we delve into this a bit deeper we’ll see that it’s not a matter of comfort, it’s a matter of fear. People often avoid confrontation because they are afraid of rejection, have had negative past experiences, or are unsure of their needs, values, or beliefs.

An Interact survey of 500+ employees and over 600 managers found that 69% of managers are often uncomfortable communicating with employees. A smaller (yet still alarming) percentage of managers are not comfortable with recognizing employee achievements, giving clear directions, and being vulnerable. Over one-third of managers (37%) are uncomfortable with giving crtical employee feedback that may trigger a negative response from the employee.

In January of 2018, The Ladders and Quartz both ran follow-ups to the survey as if the results were not almost two years old. Clearly a deficit in quality feedback from managers is still a concern. In the aforementioned article, Quartz author Corinne Purtill references Gallup’s most recent State of the American Workplace Report:

Organizations are realizing that more frequent, ongoing conversations may be the missing link in performance management, but there is a huge caveat: Managers have to understand how to have effective performance conversations with employees…Unfortunately, Gallup research suggests that many managers struggle in this area.

Want to understand how to have more frequent and effective performance conversations with employees? Give 15Five a try!

A couple of years ago, we surveyed 1,000 full-time employees across the US and found that over 80% of them would rather join a company that values “open communication” than one that offers great perks such as top health plans, free food, and gym memberships.

Today’s employees crave feedback. They want to learn and grow personally and professionally. But many managers who are charged with facilitating that growth and development shy away from providing a constant stream of positive and critical employee feedback, recognition, or even clear performance expectations. So why do so many managers struggle with communication?

Employee feedback can seem scary

According to “mental strength” expert Amy Morin, fear of confrontation is often based on false assumptions. We can fear confrontation because it triggers painful experiences from our past. Perhaps a parent or other authority figure from our formative years was overly confrontational, angry, or even violent.

But there is a risk inherent in withholding critical employee feedback. When managers fear confrontation for too long, they stew on things instead of resolving them. Everything an employee then does fits into a story about who they are, and over time it becomes impossible for managers to divorce the story from the person.

People have habits and patterns sure, but they are also dynamic and malleable, especially after they are gently made aware of the impact they are having on others. The trouble is, if we are annoyed by someone’s behavior or disappointed by their performance and we are too afraid to confront them at the outset, we often blow up at them for a relatively minor mistake or undesirable behavior down the road. It can be exceedingly difficult to repair a relationship after such an interaction.

According to Amy, we need to check our assumptions :

In reality, confrontation is healthy. There are many kind—and assertive—ways to speak up and express your opinion, and doing so might improve the situation more than you ever even imagined.

Employees can smell fear

Another recent Quartz piece entitled, “You Will Never Be a Great Leader Until You Conquer This Fear” draws a line in the sand. According to the author, Melody Wilding, a manager is required to provide critical employee feedback. They must do so to avoid becoming the office pushover which erodes their self-esteem. And workplaces where employees don’t receive feedback have issues with poor employee engagement and lack of trust.

This problem may be bigger than just your personal experiences. In a highly competitive workplace where mistakes are not tolerated, employees are unlikely to speak up. Even sitting down with an employee to discuss an issue will have them on edge. So set the tone that you are there to coach and support them, not to punish and chastise.

According to Melody, language is important. She suggests talking about how something made you feel or what your impression was. Don’t use the second person voice as in, “You failed to complete that report for the last two weeks in a row!” Try using first person: “I received an email from our client that they haven’t received an update on their account for some time.”

Better yet, frame comments as questions with a supportive tone: “I want you to consider me as a resource for you to do your best work and grow in your role. Is there anything you are stuck on? How can I help?” Now an employee can feel safe to share a perceived failure because you have framed your relationship as a partnership.

Be direct with people

It may seem at times like beating around the bush is the easiest way to relate to an employee. Perhaps that’s to avoid a negative reaction, or to have your message more easily received.

Being indirect is a disservice to you and to the employee. People want assertive leadership and want a manager who has their back. Being confident emboldens them to be their best. But most of all, being direct sends the message that you trust them and that you are trustworthy.

According to Gallup, you can maintain trust by ensuring that employees feel a sense of belonging to you.  This begins by addressing basic workplace needs like clarifying expectations:

As the manager, you must provide your … workers the right work to do, the appropriate amount of work to do and performance expectations for their work. Setting these clear expectations indicates your attention to, understanding of and respect for their job role, helping employees succeed.

A great way to clarify expectations is by setting quarterly Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with every member of your team. When employees understand the top priorities from the top to the bottom of the organization, they can work confidently. They know that they are contributing to big picture goals. This also makes it easier to give critical feedback later on, because instead of discussing your perspective on their performance you have hard data to back up the conversation.

It takes some internal work to dispel our fears, even the fear of confronting an employee about their performance. So when taking that first step to provide feedback, start by entering the right frame of mind.

Your state of being is important, even if the interaction does not take place in person. Consider the outcome you are trying to create. (Note that it should be to achieve a greater connection between you and the employee even if the feedback you are about to give is highly critical.) Then go confidently forth knowing that your people crave your feedback and your leadership.

David Mizne is Marketing Communications Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. David’s articles have appeared on The Next Web & TalentCulture. Follow him @davidmizne.

Image Credit: Andreas Klassen on Unsplash

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I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to technology and am guilty of irresponsibly multitasking nearly every day.

What’s amusing is that I probably use less technology than most people. I use a handful of mobile apps (including messaging and the actual phone app), I haven’t owned a television in a decade, and I love my 2001 truck because it doesn’t talk to me or try to help me park.

I proudly consider myself a Neo-Luddite, someone who resists modern technologies and dictates a return of some or all technologies to a more primitive level.

Can you blame me, when humanity is so irresponsible with the use of technology? Albert Einstein, referring to the atom bomb allegedly said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” Today’s atom bomb — besides the actual atom bomb — is Artificial Intelligence, which we insist on creating despite the facts that it has the potential to eventually wipe us out and we don’t even know how it works!

Ok Miz, but you use tech too!

Yes, I’ll admit that there’s some hypocrisy at play here, since I am voice-typing this post in a Google Doc on my MacBook Pro, via my noise cancelling headphones. Being a Neo-Luddite doesn’t mean that one doesn’t use any modern technology. It means using only as much technology as is absolutely necessary, and forging healthy relationship with the tech that you do use. (And also writing snide Facebook posts.)

Lately I have failed at maintaining a healthy relationship with tech. The apps I mentioned using above are overtaking my life. I’m constantly cycling through Slack, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail (work and personal, which I strongly advise keeping separate), and my calendar.  This behavior causes physical discomfort that I can only describe as a cloud in my brain, and leads to periodic creative burnout.

I would think that I’m alone in this always-on dilemma, except that based on the rapid responses I receive others seem to be just as enslaved by their inboxes and Slack feeds as I am. Perhaps they just deal with it better than I do, or they’re more acclimated to technology and multitasking. Am I the weirdo here?

Maybe, but it turns out that even if it feels perfectly normal to lovingly tuck your phone and apple watch under your pillow at night, or to have 742 tabs open in your browser all day, science says that these behaviors are destroying your brain.

The Science of Multitasking & Technology Addiction

Volumes have been written about the dangers of multitasking, yet we still do it. Multitasking is the tobacco smoking of our age. Everyone knows it’s harmful, and everyone does it anyway. Multitasking saps our energy and frequently checking social media or other communication apps, creates a pinball effect on our concentration.

Multitasking is the smoking of our age. Everyone knows it’s harmful, but they do it anyway.
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According to a study conducted at Stanford University, multitasking increases stress levels and negatively affects our mood, motivation and productivity:

People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, a group of Stanford researchers has found.

And in 2011, the University of California, San Francisco published a research study that showed how multitasking has a negative impact on short term memory that becomes increasingly apparent as we age. These behaviors may not bother you today, but the clock is ticking.

Another major issue is that hopping back and forth between tasks and different apps causes anxiety, which is bad for your health and negatively impacts creativity at work. When we are anxious our bodies start accessing more primitive brain structures that are designed to keep us safe from danger. We stop accessing other areas like the frontal lobe that have adapted for critical thinking and creativity.

It also turns out that staying tethered to your inbox is harmful to your health. Researchers at UC Irvine measured the heart rates of two groups of employees. Those who could access their emails were tense and exhibited high heart rates. The group who did not have access to email performed their jobs relatively stress-free.

Why Do We Habitually Check Email and Social Media?

According to Nir Eyal, author of Hooked: How To Build Habit Forming Products, we are internally triggered to impulsively use certain software:

Internal triggers are cues informed by mental associations and memories. Certain places, situations, routines, and most frequently, uncomfortable emotions all act as internal triggers. When we’re lonely, we check Facebook. When we’re uncertain, we Google. And when we’re bored, we check YouTube, sports scores, Pinterest, or any number of other digital distractions.

I personally experience this with nearly every communication app I use. Did someone email me? Is there something on my calendar that I need to prepare for? How many likes did I receive on my latest witty anti-technology Facebook post?

Of course, things are made worse by what Nir calls external triggers. Those little red badges on our apps, and the incessant pop up notifications from our phones answer these internal questions. Yes! Yes, someone did email you! They probably want to validate your existence in some way or offer you some exciting new opportunity. Quick, before it’s too late, tap the icon!

5 Ways To Improve Health and Productivity

All is not lost. There are steps you can take to have a healthier relationship to technology and work.

1. Take some time to look at the wall

There’s a famous story about a dairy owner who visits the dairy one day and observes a group of his cows grazing. The man who manages the dairy walks over and greets the owner.

“Look at these lazy cows”, says the owner. “They’re just standing around eating my grass.”

The manager looks the owner dead in the face and spits a bit of tobacco onto the grass. “They ain’t lazy, they’re turning grass into milk. ‘Round here we call that magic. Can you do that?”

There’s a sense in business and in life that we always have to be productive. What nonsense. Research shows that more mental downtime like walking in nature, taking naps, and meditating is beneficial for the world’s greatest artists and athletes. They are able to replenish attention, solidify memories, be more creative and yes… even be more productive.

More mental downtime helps us replenish our attention, and improves productivity and innovation.
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This process is not just for “creatives” like designers, writers, and artists. Every employee is a “creative”, because every job description explicitly or implicitly includes problem solving as a skill.

2. Train others how to communicate with you

Every day our behaviors create expectations in others that we will be immediately available. My problem with communication technology is that I don’t set adequate boundaries and communicate expectations. My heart is in the right place, because people often need me to edit a document or respond to questions. Even in our culture that embraces taking time away from online communication to perform deep work, I don’t always take advantage of that freedom because I don’t want to be the bottleneck.

Don’t respond right away when you receive these communications. That sets a new expectation that you may or may not be available. You’re basically training people to stop interfering with your work day.

By not answering emails right away, you are training people to stop interfering with your workday.
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Start each day with the most high leverage tasks and things that require your creativity. Stay off email and Slack initially, and carve out windows when you are available for communication. Be vocal about this so that people know when is the best time to interact with you and when they should leave you alone.

3. Consider taking a break from work while you are on vacation

Vacating, leaving. That’s the point of a vacation. But research shows that few people actually honor their time away from the desk. Even when people are encouraged to use all of their vacation time, 70% choose to work rather than taking time off. 

We are concerned that emails and other work will pile-up so we check in briefly and take tiny bites here and there. We’ve spent money and PTO, and haven’t really vacated or rejuvenated. We come back way less refreshed than we could be, which doesn’t serve us or the company. I say take it a step further. Don’t just check out from work, take a vacation from technology altogether. 

4. Retain your attention

When Pokemon arrived back on the scene and distracted millions of Americans with augmented reality, I decided to interview Nir Eyal. To avoid getting lost in habit forming product, he advises the use of what he calls attention retention devices – technologies specifically designed to block out the triggers and distractions from other technologies. 

For example, Nir uses Pocket instead of reading articles on his desktop. The app removes all of the ads and links to other articles so a five minute distraction doesn’t turn into an hours long wormhole through online content. 

5. Choose your tech wisely

Choose apps that allow you to streamline your life and get things done efficiently so that you can stop using the app after a short time. For example, I can check in with my manager in 15Five by answering a handful of questions each week.

That brief use of tech saves me from filling out multiple spreadsheets or sending fifty emails back and forth to update the status of key objectives. My manager and I can later have a genuine human interaction in a one on one meeting, with a clearly defined agenda based on my 15Five answers.

While this may seem like a shameless plug for 15Five (and it is), it’s also a genuine sentiment. I am periodically asked to use some new software application at work, and I repeatedly put it off until I am dragged into it kicking and screaming, baby tantrum style. But I’m overjoyed when asked to use an app that is intuitive and doesn’t demand more than a few minutes of my time every now and then.

Neo-Luddite Wisdom

How many times a day do you read or write status updates on your phone? If your thumb is permanently locked in scroll mode reading news stories on the web the entire day, the rest of you isn’t really living. Only connecting with your immediate surroundings or interacting fully with other human beings can give you that sense of deep fulfillment.

We can’t stop the wheel of tech automation, which is creating more efficiency and increasing the velocity of life and business. But when tech creates space, don’t just rush to fill it with more tasks or more distractions. Breathe. Remember that you are indeed still human and need to take space just to think every now and again.

We also crave connection. Real connection, not a barrage of truncated, relatively meaningless posts and comments on Facebook or Instagram. Building deep personal and professional relationships with other people takes time and effort. Be willing to put all the tech on pause periodically and give the people that matter most in your life your undivided attention. 

David Mizne is Marketing Communications Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. David’s articles have appeared on The Next Web & TalentCulture. Follow him @davidmizne.

Image Credit: US Army

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Over the last year, we’ve seen the employee performance management landscape evolve like never before. That’s evidenced by the fact that performance management is becoming a ubiquitous term, but what does it even mean? Is it the next in a long line of business buzzwords, joining the likes of employee engagement and workplace culture?

Employee Engagement Trends. Those were the topics of our top performing posts in 2016 and 2017, proving that the term still resonates with throngs of managers, company leaders, and HR professionals. While various technologies have helped drive the evolution of employee engagement, there’s so much more to the relationship between managers and employees besides that one outcome.

Performance Management is how we’re working together as teams and managing people. We can let the term slip into the meaningless buzzwords bucket, or we can rally around it and commit to building authentic work relationships and nurturing employee growth — not merely to produce positive business outcomes, but because that’s the impact we want to have on the world.

Global employee engagement remains ridiculously low, and productivity is at a standstill. So more and more organizations are adopting best HR practices of ongoing conversations, employee recognition, and reforming their annual performance review process. If for no other reason than to improve business outcomes.

But fret not progressive business leaders! The movement to foster genuine relationships between managers and employees and to rehumanize business is gaining steam, and we can expect more in 2018. Here are some trends to look out for this year that will be redefining the future of People Operations roles and how business gets done:

1) Finding The Leverage & Developing Trust

Companies are always looking for ways to improve employee productivity, and they can learn from high-performing organizations. Companies like Apple, Google, and Netflix are 40% more productive than the average company by using a mix of strategies that focus on organizational structure and trust-building.

According to research by Bain & Company, the way companies construct their teams has a major impact on productivity. Apple and Google for example, dedicate 95 percent of their top talent to key business functions, as opposed to spreading top talent across many areas.

“It took 600 Apple engineers fewer than two years to develop, debug, and deploy iOS 10,” Bain’s Michael Mankins told Fast Company. “Contrast that with 10,000 engineers at Microsoft that took more than five years to develop, debut, and ultimately retract Vista. The difference is in the way these companies chose to construct their teams.”

Mankins also pointed out that extending trust to employees improved productivity at top companies. He said organizational rules and processes often prevent people from getting things done. Netflix avoids a common process issue, expense management, by trusting its employees. The company has no expense policy. Instead, it trusts employees to act responsibly.

“The company is telling employees, ‘We assume you are not here to rip off the company, and we’re not going to put in place processes that consume human capital, waste time, and zap energy,’” Mankins explains.

Extending trust to employees improves productivity at top companies.
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Look for more companies to mimic the leaders in productivity by organizing teams to improve output in critical areas, as well as eliminating some bureaucracy by trusting their employees more.

2) Continuous Performance Management Will Catch On

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report, 70% of companies are in the process of reinventing their performance management process. Organizations are realizing the old way of performance management no longer fits the way of business today (something we frequently cover on this blog).

Today’s workforce desires authentic relationships between employees and managers, as well as opportunities for development and advancement. This generation has ushered in the disruptive age of continuous performance management.

Today’s employees desire authentic relationships with managers and opportunities for development.
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In 2018, expect more organizations to embrace continuous performance management. As Josh Bersin notes in his article, HR Technology in 2018:

Continuous performance management is possible, it works, and it can transform your company. We’re not talking about doing away with ratings, rather we are talking about building a new, ongoing process for goal setting, coaching, evaluation, and feedback.

Very few software solutions integrate all of the HR Technology tools that companies need to develop and advance their employees by checking-in continually throughout the year. Look for continuous performance management solutions that incorporate objective (OKR) setting and management, weekly feedback, 1-on-1 meetings, and quarterly reviews.

Continuous performance management software will make it easier for managers and employees to collaboratively map out career trajectories, and to provide the coaching and mentoring that people need to become their best selves.

Continuous Performance Management Software is here! Give your employees the clarity, feedback & coaching they crave. Give 15Five a try!
3) Employee Experience Becomes A Thing

While much attention has been focused on improving employee engagement, organizations will also shift focus to improve employee experience. This involves a more holistic approach that follows the entire employee journey, much like companies map the entire customer journey.

Employee experience aims to provide positive touch points in work culture, technology, and physical environment. This includes equipping people to meet their goals, develop new skills, and helping them to feel more passionate and creative about their work. Organizations will design the employee experience around data on how people work, make decisions, and organize their day.

The concept is gaining traction and has shown to improve employee involvement and employer brand commitment. Organizations such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Ralph Lauren, Adobe, and Airbnb have made employee experience a key part of their strategy. Look for more companies to do the same.

4) People Analytics Will Become Essential

People analytics will no longer be a nice-to-have part of the HR toolkit. It will be an indispensable aspect of running a business.

According to a Bersin by Deloitte report, more than two-thirds of companies are now using an analytics platform, and organizations are investing in this data in a major way. As Bersin explains, “Employee-related data is just as important or more important than customer data, because it tells you the secrets of how to manage your business better.”

As companies can collect data on turnover, performance rating, team interaction, wellbeing, and employee feedback, managers can make more informed decisions and improve the employee experience.

5) Increased Focus On Individualized Employee Support

Personalization has become a key part of creating a delightful customer experience, and organizations will use the same approach in their performance management efforts. A one-size-fits-all management approach can’t bring out the best in employees because every employee is different.

Workforces are more diverse than ever, with teams consisting of people from various generations, backgrounds, cultures and locations–with the increasing prevalence of remote work arrangements. (About 43% of Americans spend some time working remotely, a four percentage point increase from four years earlier.)

Relying on individual data as well as feedback conversations provides managers the tools for tailoring performance management, development and other aspects of work for each individual employee. For example, Eric Lesser and Maria-Paz Barrientos of IBM write about how personalizing the work environment can make a difference in their article in Workforce:

Some employees are fine working in open, collaborative spaces; others are distracted. Giving employees options where they work, depending on the task, can affect short-term productivity and longer-term engagement.

In the coming year, more managers will take a personalized approach to motivating individuals to help them meet their performance goals, which in turn will boosts team performance.

6) A Streamlined Approach To Learning And Development

According to Gallup, 87% of Millennials cite access to professional development and career growth opportunities as the most important factor in a job.

Look for companies to respond to this need by providing more training opportunities, but not the traditional kind. Organizations are moving toward micro-learning, which are short, informal, self-directed and mobile-optimized content on single topics. These can be brief videos, webinars, podcasts, or even games that provide learning materials in an easy-to-absorb format.

When you allow employees to do what they do best, it makes your team more innovative and productive.
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These training methods put employees in control of their development so that they can add to their skillset with on-demand content. It makes learning more continuous and engaging.

There will also be a social aspect to this type of training, with the growth of platforms such as Slack, which allow employees to quickly share ideas. Learning and development content will continue to spread organically through these employee networks.

7) Rethinking Job Roles

When you allow employees to do what they do best, it makes your team more innovative and productive. Research shows that 60% of employees want the ability do what they do best, regardless of their role. They are driven by purpose and managers who actively promote their development.

What does this mean? The end of traditional job roles.

Companies will move to what’s called “job crafting,” which are job roles built around an employee’s strengths and interests. Tom Haak, founder and director of The HR Trend Institute, describes how it works in his article, The End of Static Jobs:

When there is an assignment, there is a process to look at the capabilities (qualitative and quantitative) required for this specific assignment. The wishes, needs and capabilities of people connected to the organization are known, or captured as part of the process… Teams are not built of people with specific fixed jobs, but of people who have specific skills that are needed to deliver the assignment.

Of course, this shift will rely on organizations using two of the employee performance management trends mentioned earlier—(#4) people analytics and (#5) individualized support—to understand the specific capabilities and desires of employees.

Performance management has undergone a dramatic shift in recent years, and organizations are starting to get a hold of what works best for them. Or rather, what helps their employee become their best, for themselves and the company. And as new tools enter the market, they’re helping to reinvent global HR initiatives every year.

Continuous performance management will be the focus of 2018. People analytics tools and other HR Tech will allow managers to be present every week, month and year of the employee lifecycle. This will lead to increased business growth, recruitment, and onboarding, and less of the employee lifecycle that everyone hates… terminations and exit interviews.

David Mizne is Marketing Communications Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. David’s articles have appeared on The Next Web & TalentCulture. Follow him @davidmizne.

Image Credit: Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

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Curiosity. Introspection. Integrity.

These are some of the most sought after traits in both company leaders and employees at any level. So whether they are inspiring self-reflection or soliciting information, good questions (and people who are willing to answer them honestly) are vital to a thriving workplace.

Questions are not only core to the 15Five product but also core to our workplace culture. It’s no wonder that our first eBook of Employee Questions remains one of our most popular pieces of content, proving that asking questions is an incredibly valuable skill sought after in the business world.

Good questions and honest answers are vital to a thriving workplace culture.
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I have assembled a follow-up eBook with over sixty new questions, along with detailed information about why they are valuable or when they should be asked.

The book is broken up into ten different chapters for managers to ask feedback questions that impact workplace culture, employee development, and customer delight. There are also questions that help employees become more successful in completing their quarterly key objectives.

Here are some examples from the chapter on cross-team collaboration:

1) Who on a different team would you like to include in a brainstorming session?
Sometimes the best people to help with ideation are not as close to the design/problem/initiative as you are. Fresh eyes from others at the organization, or people whose top strengths lie in the creative realm can be just what you need.

2) If you could shadow anyone at the company for a day, who would it be?
Winning today is not as simple as it used to be. Technological advancement means that new products and services (including those of your competitors) can penetrate the market in years, not decades. Innovation must occur far more rapidly these days for businesses to stay competitive. Part of that competitive edge can be to see another aspect of the business through the eyes of a co-worker. Then take what you learn back to your work and get creative.

3) Have you honored your commitment to other team-members? Where are you out of integrity
This question is more about team dynamics than getting a project completed, but trust is vital for building a collaborative workplace culture. When people reach out for a collaborative effort, this question reframes the issue as one dealing with trust, honesty, and empowerment.

Brainstorming collaboratively or finishing a project that is outside the scope of your goals may seem like a favor to a colleague, but everyone’s job at the company is to ensure that the business succeeds. Take the opportunity to follow-through, restore trust, and get things done together.

Below, you will find the entire Great eBook of Employee Questions, Part 2: Return of the Question Master. Included are several Genius Questions from our favorite business leaders and People Ops experts.

There are practically infinite questions out there, and asking them can help you as a leader to maintain visibility, strengthen relationships, and gather information to help you lead better. And who knows? With a little time and a bit of practice, you may even become The Question Master…

Shane Metcalf is cofounder and VP of Customer Success at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. Shane has spent his career studying organizational & human development and the power of asking the right question.

Image Credit: Edu Lauton on Unsplash

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Have you just completed the latest round of annual performance evaluations? Or are you gearing up for the next time you have to be reviewed/review others?

Word on the street is that employee performance reviews are a thing of the past. But they’re not really dead for most organizations, because reviews are not devoid of all merit. Progressive companies are fitting reviews into continuous performance management philosophies that includes regular communication, employee feedback, and a process to clearly define and track priorities.

Nobody Likes Performance Reviews

It comes as no surprise that employees hate performance reviews. Who likes being put on the hot seat to be scrutinized? While reviews are supposed to reflect on the arc of employee performance over the preceding 12 months, they tend to only address the last few weeks of work. Consequently, they tend to be inaccurate and subject to all sorts of biases.

Employee fears and concerns are significant, since in many cases a poor review can mean denial of advancement or increased compensation, or in some cases can lead to termination. But employees are not alone in their loathing of this archaic business practice:

According to Deloitte, 58% of executives believe their current performance process does not drive employee engagement and high performance.

Only 4% of HR managers think their system of assessing employees is effective at measuring performance.

62% of managers agree that performance reviews are outdated ways of managing performance.

66% of employees say the annual performance evaluation process interferes with their productivity.

The Answer: Continuous Performance Management

For a performance review practice between managers and employees to be effective, it can not stand alone. Reviews must complement other practices that fit an overall management philosophy, like regular employee feedback.

For example, when GE killed its performance review after 3 decades, they implemented an application called PD@GE (Performance Development at GE). Employees focus on near-term priorities and have frequent conversations with managers regarding progress.

GE Managers provide positive coaching throughout the year, which culminates in the “annual summary conversation”. This includes a retrospective and future goal-setting, but doesn’t involve pay or advancement discussions. It’s a conversation that lacks the awe-inspiring formalities of a traditional annual review.

For more examples of companies who are ahead of the curve, and the details of a proven continuous performance management strategy, check out the infographic below:

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</p><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p><a href=’https://www.15five.com/blog/annual-performance-evaluation-infographic/’><img src=’https://www.15five.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/15Five_Best_Self_Review_Infographic-1.png’ alt=’15Five Best-Self Review Infographic’ width=’1080′ border=’0′ /></a><strong>Source: www.15Five.com</strong></p><br /><br /><br /><br />

David Mizne is Marketing Communications Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. David’s articles have appeared on The Next Web & TalentCulture. Follow him @davidmizne.

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How do you look at The Employee Lifecycle? Are you detached like a seasoned clinician who views patients in terms of mechanics, or are you involved like the newly graduated nurse who is focused on the experience of the person and the wellbeing of their body? Both have the best interests of the patient in mind, but there is a difference.

Of course we are not talking about birth, adolescence and adulthood. We are talking about hiring, development, employee satisfaction and retention. Do you consider your workforce in terms of what you can “get” out of employees and their ELTV, or are you interested in team-building and employee development to find business success through supporting people to achieve greatness?

To delve into this distinction, I sought the wisdom of Colleen McCreary, a people ops thought leader who was one of the first to terminate the annual review process in lieu of career focused development conversations. (You can read that interview here.)

Colleen is currently Chief People Officer at Vevo, the world’s leading all-premium music video and entertainment platform. Below, she offers advice for handling the different stages of the employee lifecycle via the lens of making people feel valued instead of merely extracting value from them.

DM: In Silicon Valley, there’s a concern about being able to hire and retain the best people. How does one win the “war on talent” in terms of both recruiting and retention?

CM: Going back over twenty years, I’ve never worked in the tech industry when the war for top talent wasn’t considered “on”. Even during the downturn or the dot com implosions, top talent is still considered top talent. People are always looking for it.

My biggest advice around recruiting employees involves two things: customization and hygiene. They are pretty boring, but they are the most important.

Customization is all about spending time taking the positions in your company and deliberately mapping them to the candidate you’re reaching out to. You want people to clearly visualize being in that work environment and doing the work that you have to offer them. People want to feel valued and important, yet many companies skip over this step.

Recruiting is a lot like dating. You want to put your best foot forward and make that other person feel like you’re that special match.

The hygiene side is about valuing people’s time. Show up when you say you will and get back to people as promised. Make them feel like you are the right person who’s going to take care of them over time.

I see that, especially with startups that are trying to make a name for themselves. One of the ways that they can prove they are a legitimate company is through the recruiting process, and showing that they have invested a great deal of time and effort, including all of the details around the hiring process.

To take the dating metaphor even further, now you’ve decided to get married (hire the person). There are many things you have to do that are similar to having a longer term romantic commitment with someone. That includes making them feel appreciated on a regular basis, meeting that need to feel valued and to have the other person notice what you are doing.

If you are in a relationship like that, you don’t want to be forgotten. You want that other person to put effort into continuing to recruit you over time.

Not only is employee recognition important, but employers must realize that people will change over time. Set the ground rules so that people know as they change, what the expectations are for a successful relationship to continue.

People forget that it’s a balancing act that goes beyond HR. The majority of this relational work happens between a manager and employee. HR’s role is to help facilitate the conversation and remind the manager to show employee recognition, value great efforts, and understand how to motivate their employees. If you can facilitate those conversations along the way, you will be much more successful.

Are you looking for a simple yet powerful employee recognition tool? Give High Fives a Try!

DM: What are the top 3 factors that influence employee satisfaction and retention? Is it about the culture, compensation, perks, employee recognition…etc…?

CM: Employees want to feel valued. Right off the bat, they want to know if their manager cares if they show up for work or not and that the work they do matters. So few companies consider the different ways to express that to employees. Not everyone is motivated by the same things or feel valued in the same way.

You can certainly give someone a raise (and I have yet to hear about someone who turned that down) but everyone reacts in a different way. There are people who, if you show their work to the CEO or are allowed to speak externally on panels, or open-source their projects… that has a ton of value for them.

The #1 factor is still to tie the work that they do every day to the big goals that the company is trying to deliver. That means that the work you show up and perform every day genuinely matters to the company.

It’s important for people to have a say in what they are doing but also how they get it done.
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The #2 factor: Does my employer really want to invest in me or not? “Invest” is a vague term that could be around benefits, but it’s usually around career growth and taking on new things. That’s why you hear about training a lot. I frame the conversation with my own team that a specific training is not just about their current role, but provides longer term benefits at other companies in the future.

The #3 factor: Giving people the flexibility and freedom within their jobs, and giving them some autonomy and control over when and how they get to work on projects. The work/life balance question is a bad question to ask people. The question really should be about perceived control of time. It’s important for people to have a say in what they are doing but also how they get it done.

There is an assumption that people are paid commensurate to the market they are in and the level of responsibility that they have. I say compensation doesn’t matter until someone feels stupid. That’s when they feel like the company is taking advantage of them, paying them unfairly, or the amount of money they are giving up for a job significantly impacts their lifestyle and family. But I don’t usually see compensation or perks in the top 3.

DM: Absolutely! What I have seen in surveys by The Society for Human Resource Management and elsewhere, involves clearly communicating goals, employee recognition…etc…

CM: Yes, those aspects are important too. 15Five is great for setting up the conversation to be able to understand what’s behind employee motivation. So many managers don’t think to ask, What would make you feel most valued? What can I do for you that would make you feel like you have more control over your work?

Compensation doesn’t really matter until your employee feels stupid.
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There are some companies whose products only ship at Christmas. There’s a huge amount of pressure because everything is dependent on these external forces and deadlines over which the employees have zero control. Being able to facilitate these conversations about control can make a huge difference.

When we first rolled out 15Five here at Vevo, I heard people say that it was the first time their manager knew all the things they were working on. That was universal and continuous. There was never a forum to talk about it. There were many week to week tasks that weren’t big enough to make the list for the purpose of demonstrating performance. Or there were tasks that were not strategic or important enough to bring up in a one on one meeting. But people spend time on those things that don’t ever get recognized.

DM: We agree with the thought of helping people succeed not just at their current job, but even for when they move on. Some believe that is setting up for turnover, others say that level of support increases retention rates. What have you found?

CM: I am transparent with people about their path at the company and the skills that they need to move forward, and I am willing to invest in that development. That always pays dividends.

My job as a direct manager is to get somebody to their next job. I take that very seriously and I build up the trust and honesty with my team so that they trust me enough to share that their next step isn’t necessarily at the current company. My job is still to set them up to do well, and ideally the trainings will still be adding value at the company. People then tend to be loyal to their manager and the organization far beyond how they would have been.

Getting comfortable with the fact that an employee will leave just takes time. Many managers haven’t built the muscles to understand that providing support beyond the current company will help the organization.

Maybe it’s the Silicon Valley in me, but I just don’t worry about it. People are going to leave and our job is to put them in a position where they are giving the most they can to your organization in the time that you have them.

David Mizne is Content Manager at 15Five, lightweight performance management software that includes continuous feedback, objective (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. David’s articles on talent management have appeared in The Next Web, TalentCulture, and Startups.co. Follow him @davidmizne.

Image Credit: rawpixel.com on Unsplash

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