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“Summertime and the living is easy.” A nice sentiment for Ella Fitzgerald, but for most of us that probably hasn’t been true since grade school. Expectations for productivity are as high as any other time of year, and for some organizations the mid-year performance review is just around the corner.

Maybe right now you’re doing performance reviews only once a year. You aren’t alone. Less than half of organizations hold formal reviews more frequently. But in today’s dynamic business environment—the same environment where summertime ain’t so easy—companies are finding that annual reviews are not enough.

The problem with once a year reviews

The speed of business has accelerated tremendously. With that, goals change. When you and your employee look back on priorities set twelve months ago, those goals may have little resemblance to the current work at hand. How do you evaluate performance on outdated objectives? What’s more, can that outdated evaluation even help the employee prepare for the next phase of a project, or their career?

Think of an annual review as a shiny new car, just being driven off the dealer’s lot. As soon as the car hits the street, it begins to depreciate. With annual performance reviews, from the moment the goals are being drafted, they are subject to change and obsolescence.

The problem with annual performance reviews isn’t just that the goals are static in a dynamic environment. It’s that the reviews aren’t effective. Once a year conversations don’t address problems in a timely manner. They don’t give the employee an opportunity to course-correct a problem until perhaps months later. They don’t provide the positive employee feedback on a job well done that may spur the additional effort and motivation that can be beneficial throughout each review cycle.

If you watched the NBA finals, you saw a perfect example of a dynamic environment that required constant agility, both physical and strategic. Can you imagine if one of the coaches said—you know, I’ll just wait until after the game is over to give the team feedback on their performance?

An annual performance review is like that—information that is given too late to matter. And that’s something no one appreciates. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 66% of employees feel the traditional review interferes with their productivity, with 65% saying the review isn’t relevant to their jobs. Managers don’t like annual reviews either, with 95% saying they are dissatisfied with their current system.

It’s not that employees don’t want feedback. In fact 65% of employees want more feedback—and it doesn’t have to be positive. Eighty-three percent of employees say they appreciate feedback even if it’s negative. Getting employee feedback that’s timely, specific, applicable to their jobs and most of all, more often, vastly improves employee motivation.

Creating an effective mid-year performance review

The addition of a mid-year performance review gives employees and managers a point to reevaluate goals and performance, while still having time to make changes. But developing a useful mid-year review requires preparation and thought.

Is a mid-year review the same as an annual review—just more frequent? Actually, no. Ideally, a mid-year performance review takes on another layer of coaching and employee development. It’s an opportunity to give feedback and direction that may not get covered in a once a year performance discussion.

Here are three tips for holding mid-year reviews that respond to the needs of everyone at your organization:

1) Focus on conversation. The mid-year review is not necessarily a goal setting time as much as it is an opportunity for a coaching conversation. It’s a time to discuss with the employee if their goals are still relevant, and to delve into their successes and challenges. Sure, you’ll look at how the employee is performing (and what metrics support that). But overall this is the time to ask, What type of support do they need and how can I help?

Provide employees with the opportunity to share their perspectives and concerns. Then take time to discuss the employee’s development, without waiting another six months to begin. Personal goals can also change throughout the year, so it’s important to determine how you can help the employee attain experiences or education to move toward a desired career opportunity.

Mid-year reviews are not just annual reviews done more frequently. The Best-Self Review adds a layer of coaching and development that employee’s crave.

2) Avoid comparisons to peers. Part of the dread of the performance management process is the forced ranking of employees. The so-called “rank and yank” system is incompatible with knowledge or service based jobs, where collaborative and non-competitive relationships allow for information to be shared and innovation to flourish.

Forced ranking, or social comparisons, make it more difficult for employees to accept feedback. Researchers at Columbia Business School found that when employees were compared to their peers, employees felt the employee feedback process was unfair because it did not provide specific details about individual performance.

What’s more effective, the researchers said, are temporal comparisons—the “me now, versus me in the past.” The contrast of the same individual at two time periods was seen as a more fair and individualized approach, which made the employee more receptive to both positive and critical employee feedback. Seems like managers should take a page from Hemingway’s book: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

3) Separate compensation from the review process. When the goal was to make a certain number of widgets, accurately, and within a short amount of time, it was easy to create a pay for performance system. Today, if an engineer slacks off from making a widget because she’s using initiative to come up with a new device that ultimately works better and costs less, should she be chastised because her original widget-making performance suffered?

If your organization wants to promote creativity and its inherent risk-taking, do you want to only award successful outcomes? As we all now by now, prioritizing rewards instead of learning and innovation can actually demotivate employees.

Compensation does need to be discussed during the mid-year performance review, and some companies are finding success in having a separate compensation discussion towards the end of the annual cycle. Whatever your compensation philosophy, make space during intermediate reviews to help the employee know exactly how they’re performing, so the compensation decision is not a surprise.

People Operations expert, Colleen McCreary, likes a quarterly compensation review, which gives managers the flexibility to have shorter term conversations around goals and outlook. She shares that this is especially important for more junior employees:

“For most companies in tight labor markets, doing a compensation review once a year sets you up to be at a disadvantage. And certainly you are setting yourself up for having to break your pay philosophy. For example, what do you do when someone who is taking on more responsibility and brings in high results doesn’t get recognized, because your system is set up for once a year pay raises?”

Mid-year reviews: only part of the solution

Even though mid-year performance reviews are an improvement from annual reviews, two performance discussions a year are still not enough. More than 50% of office professionals surveyed said they would like performance reviews at least once a month, however, most executives (69%) hold them once or twice each year.

Managers may have a blind spot when it comes to performance reviews. The survey referenced above found that 94% of executives were confident employees were satisfied with the current performance management process, while most employees felt the process was outdated and irrelevant. When execs and employees disagree this much behind the scenes, that means employee feedback is failing and proves the point that more frequent communication is needed.

The missing key: continuous performance management

Even some of the more progressive companies that are doing mid-year reviews are missing the boat on continuous performance management. More frequent feedback gives employees the macro and micro view of their performance, enhancing their ability to do the job.

Talent Management Guru Josh Bersin estimates that 70% of multinational companies are moving in the direction of a multisource assessment. But to be effective, managers will have to bridge the perception gap on the need for more frequent feedback.

The foundation for a multisource assessment includes setting the direction on priorities via Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), and then using the data on the progress of OKRs in mid-year and annual performance discussions. In between those reviews are scheduled Weekly Check-ins and 1-on-1s, and ad hoc discussions.

This process as a whole provides the fluidity for changing direction as business needs warrant, provides managers an opportunity to course correct, and coach employees in the moment. When done right, the performance management process can be extremely motivating and can increase employee engagement by building trust and increasing an employee’s sense of purpose.

As you perform mid-year reviews with your team, consider how more frequent and regular performance discussions could benefit your organization. Yes, a continuous performance management process will require some more time and diligence up front, but creating a more engaged and agile team that is ready to handle the dynamics of today’s business environment, will be well worth the effort.

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 also appeared on The Next Web & TalentCulture. Follow him @davidmizne.

Image Credit: Pablo Hermoso on Unsplash

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The traditional office landscape is changing and has been for quite some time, but the degree to which it should be shifting is subject to debate. Many employees consider their local coffee shop to be the ideal work environment, while traditional company leaders consider remote work to be a threat to their ability to manage employees. Perhaps Gallup CEO Jim Clifton said it best in the 2017 State of the American Workforce Report: “The very practice of management no longer works.”

Risky or not, increased telework seems to be the growing trend. Gallup reports that employees working remotely at least part-time grew from 39% in 2012 to 43% in 2016. The willingness to leave employers for others who offer this option is even larger. According to Softchoice’s 2017 study Collaboration Unleashed, 74% of workers would switch jobs for the opportunity to work off site more often.

74% of workers would switch jobs for the opportunity to work off site more often.
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Millennials are the usual suspects for so many global trends these days. With this demographic capturing the largest share of today’s employee base, a Gen Y disruption of workplace status quo is no exception. While remote work is neither new nor demo-specific, younger generations in particular are looking for more flexibility.

It’s easy to see why when you consider modern technological conveniences. Conveniences, mind you, that most have never not had access to in their careers (and for even later bloomers, in their entire lives). In fact, Softchoice found Millennials twice as likely to feel more productive and better equipped working at home than Baby Boomers.

Follow the logic to its natural conclusion and the inevitable question for this segment must therefore be, “Why not?”

What is the ideal work environment anyway?

The enhanced ability to communicate and operate has in many ways created an always-on, always-available expectation from employers in various industries. For the most part, today’s employees—especially tech-savvy younger ones—accept this reality. In return, they often want greater leeway in how and where they work.

Employers have responded. More progressive companies recognize how this give-and-take can be a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting talent. In many places, remote-work opportunities are no longer just a luxury option, they’re a standard feature.

And we can’t discount the impact of environment on producing high quality or creative work. Take for example the relatively recent spawning of the Digital Nomad. These world-traveling workers are often inspired by the changing landscape, inspiration that pours over into their work product. In an age when creativity is a competitive advantage for businesses, shouldn’t we allow people to work where the inspiration lies?

That said, remote work is not for every person or every organization. One study by Upwork discovered that 57% of companies still lack some sort of remote policy. For some, the nature of the business precludes out-of-office work for practical, legal, or security reasons. And this is okay, it’s not like employees across the board are abandoning their traditional workspaces like sinking ships. According to BambooHR, 79% of workers still believe they accomplish their best work at the office as of 2016.

This doesn’t mean they don’t want the option to change up the scenery, though, as we’ve seen from Gallup and Softchoice. Companies offer a range of options from flexible hours, to a few days a week out of the office, to full-time off-site duty. In any scenario, businesses must strike a balance between location leniency and adherence to established expectations to create an ideal work environment that works for them.

If you’re an organization that doesn’t operate out of a secure compound and can afford to consider relaxing in-office requirements for your people, there are all kinds of factors to kick around with your team. Two of the bigger ones have to do with employee productivity and work culture. Let’s address the main hot buttons for each.

Remote worker productivity

For more conservative leaders, one of the first things they’ll point to when the topic of remote work surfaces is impact to output. Slacking off, general disconnect among teammates, and the stunting of employee development are all common claims in these circles. The truth is, this kind of doom and gloom tends to be unwarranted. Employee productivity doesn’t have to suffer simply because work is performed outside of HQ.

Let’s put this in perspective. Were productivity to come to a standstill every time people left for the day, no school in the free world would assign homework, encourage off-site study groups, or conduct online classes. If kids—i.e., those learning full time with little to no other responsibilities—can handle the task, adults can as well. With few exceptions, their livelihoods depend on it.

If productivity is the end goal, why enforce a certain means to that end by limiting remote work?
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However, flexibility on this scale goes hand in hand with accountability. Working remotely in most cases is a privilege, not a right. And it appears employees have been doing a nice job earning this privilege based on Global Workplace Analytics’s 2015 US Census Bureau survey.

Results showed that the work-at-home, non-self-employed population has grown 10 times as fast as the rest of the workforce since 2005. Had there been a corresponding uproar over plummeting productivity rates, it’s hard to imagine that networking technology leaders such as former Citrix CEO Kirill Tatarinov would still be predicting that a full 50% of the workforce will be remote by 2020.

The key is understanding that a productive environment means different things to different people. Next to every person whose workday motor thrives on working in-house there are three others who feel stifled by the cubicle life. For them, inspiration and motivation come from home, the local overpriced coffee shop, a beachfront villa… in other words, from elsewhere. If productivity is the end goal, why enforce a certain means to that end if it’s not absolutely critical for your business?

If you’re toying with offering remote-work opportunities, include these 3 productivity fundamentals in your consideration set:

1) Make sure critical technology is in place. When it comes to inter-office collaboration and remote work, there are literally dozens of proven platforms out there that can support your efforts. These include platforms for communication (Slack), project management (Asana), document sharing (Google Docs), and other business functions. All enable real-time collaboration, automate certain mundane tasks so employees can concentrate on meaningful work, and virtually eliminate the need for in-person project management.

2) Establish regular check-ins. Create a once-a-week ritual to regroup as a team or have 1-on-1 meetings with direct reports at intervals that make sense for your business. For remote workers, this is the best way to stay up to date on what’s happening around the company. For managers, it ensures they know how employees are faring, both on deliverables and in general. And don’t just do it over text or instant message. Seeing faces and hearing voices allows you to pick up on the subtleties like voice inflection and body language, so that you can also feel what employees aren’t saying.

The number one continuous performance management software helps you set a regular cadence of communication with your remote employees. Discover 15Five’s Weekly Check-In

3) Coach you remote employees. It can be easy to just assume that a person’s productivity will automatically transfer from the office to the home or café. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. To make sure people can execute well on their own, show them how to do it. Train them when it comes to communicating regularly to manage expectations, developing routines that support their work/life balance, and even setting up customized at-home work stations that best suit their styles. Just as important as coaching remote workers is coaching the managers who oversee them. Leadership roles can be challenging enough, and this only increases when your people aren’t sitting within earshot.

Remote work culture

Okay, remote employees can still be productive, but building a work culture under these conditions is impossible.

Not so fast. The larger and more spread out your business becomes geographically, the harder it is to maintain a strong, cohesive, and pervasive culture. But, at the end of the day culture isn’t a place. It’s a mindset.

At the end of the day culture isn’t a place. Culture is a mindset.
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The company mission, vision, and values, and expectations for positive working relationships aren’t spatially-bound. Yes, the kind of face time that’s always been so critical for building camaraderie and trust may become more limited as remote-employee numbers grow. That doesn’t mean the cultural values you’ve spent so much time instilling all of a sudden go out the window.

Based on Softchoice’s findings, 83% of office workers use technology to collaborate with others outside their office, and 24% often or always have at least one remote participant in every meeting. This same, now-ubiquitous technology was itself once a source of anxiety. Depersonalization, destruction of personal time, the elimination of jobs . . . all fears surrounding recent modernization that proved to be largely unfounded. Companies have adapted to such conveniences, both functionally and culturally.

Remote work is merely another facet of a rapidly-evolving business world. Like any other facet, if you want it to work, you need to work at it. Many managers, supervisors, and executives we’ve spoken with who have embraced this remote work challenge would agree. Nearly 1 in 4 say that employee quality of life has improved, while 1 in 5 have seen progress in productivity. Ironically, 3 in 5 also indicated communication with remote employees was as good or better than with those in-house.

Bottom line, long-distance relationships can be fruitful, they just require a little more effort and TLC along the way. Here are three important considerations when it comes to building, maintaining, and cultivating culture in a remote-work environment:

1) Leverage local offices as much as possible. Unless your business is conducted exclusively over the cloud, odds are you have at least one communal workspace. (We now have three; Raleigh, Manhattan, and San Francisco.) A few mandatory office days at one of these spaces when onboarding employees goes a long way to making a new remote worker feel like part of the team. If you have many offices, make each one a place people want to use even if they’re fully remote. This can be accomplished through creative workspaces, playing music, weekly happy hours, lunch workouts, or other on-brand offers. Mostly though, people will want to come in if you hire enthusiastic people, create a high energy workplace, and foster transparency so that people genuinely trust each other.

2) Make face time a priority. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, there’s no replacement for face time. Organizing company-wide or department specific retreats, off-sites, training seminars, etc. all generate social and emotional returns for your culture that can’t be measured in dollars. Keep the spirit of these events alive throughout the year by developing regular rituals that bring people from different locations together face-to-face, such as our infamous Question Friday. The content and frequency of these rituals should reflect your own values and culture.

3) Reinforce culture through ongoing connections. In-person meetings and events are important, but they’re not always convenient, nor are they always necessary day to day. To avoid the potential sense of fomo (fear of missing out) among remote employees, there are other ways to make them feel like they’re included and have a voice. There are software solutions that keep everyone updated on relevant departmental and company news, and that allow the team to celebrate individual milestones and big wins. Assigning mentors who aren’t direct managers is another powerful means of employee growth and development through continuous, reliable connections with other trusted members of the team.

Pro tip for potential remote employers

As we’ve established, remote work is not the death knell for either employee productivity or  organizational culture. When done well, you can attract and retain high-powered talent, foster positive morale through flexibility and trust, save everyone money, and even optimize employee performance.

But, if you’re going to offer remote work options, be clear on expectations. Of those who participated in Softchoice’s survey, 73% of workers “allowed to work from home on occasion” were still expected to be in the office. Unwritten rules or uncertainty about leadership’s intent undermines the spirit of the benefit.

If you hire people you trust, then trust the people you hire. If someone gives you a reason to do otherwise, odds are it’s really not a matter of whether that person’s working down the hall or down the street. As long as remote work is a realistic option for your business and you put the right guardrails in place, you may just find the results are anything but a step backward.

David Hassell is the cofounder and CEO of 15Five, lightweight performance management software that includes continuous feedback, objective (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. David is a speaker and prolific writer and was named “The Most Connected Man You Don’t Know in Silicon Valley” by Forbes Magazine. 

Image Credit: NASA on Unsplash

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Depending on which article you pick up about the future of work, you may find yourself either stress hyperventilating or settling back in your chair with a false sense of security.

But neither approach will help you and your employees prepare for the rollercoaster shift in work that is underway due to significant changes in technology. But there is hope. While we may not be able to anticipate all of the changes in store, we can prepare, using our humanity to our advantage.

Argument # 1: Advances in technology make the future bleak for humans

The predictions are dire. Oxford University reported that 47% of U.S. jobs could be replaced by robots in 20 years. The CEO of Deutsche Bank commented that robots could do half of the jobs of the 97,000 people employed at the bank. AI and machine learning technologies will take away low skilled jobs such as food prep and equipment operators. They can also replace employees who interact with customers and those with repetitive functions, like many office workers.

And in 2017, MIT Technology Review reported that nobody understands how the most advanced algorithms in artificial intelligence do what they do.

We are doomed. Unless we’re not.

Argument # 2: Technology will deliver us, providing a brighter, more productive future

Throughout history, as new technologies have developed, some jobs have been made nearly extinct (remember the Blockbuster Video clerk?), but other jobs have expanded, providing tremendous opportunities to more than compensate for any jobs lost.

In her podcast, Susan Lund, partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, said that since 1980, the number of jobs lost due to PCs and the Internet totaled 3.5 million. However, the number of jobs created because of those technologies, including growth in computer hardware manufacturers, semiconductors, software developers, app developers totaled 19 million jobs for a net gain of 15.8 million jobs.

Technologies like AI and machine learning will take away some of the mundane aspects of jobs, such as sifting through resumes, allowing us to focus on higher level skills. Virtual and augmented reality will be tools that help us expand our horizons in learning.

Which argument is true? Can both be? The wave of technological change is coming, and organizations must be prepared for the unknown.

How to prepare employees for the future of work

According to Dell, 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. But we know this—as technology frees up more pedantic tasks, we need to help our employees hone their uniquely human skills:

1) Develop leadership skills

Whether an employee is technically a “leader” or not, leadership skills will have increasing value. The leaders of today and tomorrow need not be managers, but inspirers. They need to understand how to connect with their employees and to establish a workplace culture where employees can become their best selves. Many millennials say they feel ill-equipped to manage a team, but developing this skill will be necessary, particularly as baby boomers retire, opening up new job opportunities at higher levels.

Establish a workplace culture where employees can become their best selves. Check out The Best-Self Review!

Give your employees opportunities to lead, even if not in an official capacity. Encourage them to head a project, or even create an ad hoc group to problem solve your company’s most pressing issues. The more they practice leadership skills, the more confidently they’ll step into leadership roles.

2) Teach how to use feedback to drive performance and innovation

The pace of work is only going to get faster. Ensuring employees excel—which also means reinforcing what is done well—requires frequent employee feedback. Discover their challenges and triumphs, and provide your employees with the information and guidance they need to surge forward.

Coach your employees on how to actively listen to others and provide them with educational resources that help them to guide others toward greatness. The most effective way to teach leadership is to model it; reinforce how getting and using feedback enhances employee development.

3) Foster creativity

The new world of work will require new ways of thinking. In fact, many experts report that a surefire way to future-proof your career is by choosing a creative role. As a leader, you can help employees to remain relevant throughout their careers by encouraging creativity and innovation.

Productivity is important (needles gotta move!) but remember that time for contemplation is valuable as well. Celebrate all ideas—even ones that might not be practical—as those may still open the door to better ones. Incorporate brainstorming sessions into planning and strategy routines and be open to employee suggestions for new processes, products, designs, or messaging.

4) Learn to use technology

We can’t completely get away from technology. The point is to embrace tech; not to avoid it. Organizations have more data now than they know what to do with. Being able to understand data and to contextualize what the information says and implies is key.

Every company, regardless of its product or service, is a technology company; we all rely on technologies for insights, communication and operation. Create a culture where each employee understands that technology is not the enemy. By creating healthy relationships with tech we can use these tools to enhance performance.

5) Create employee growth and development opportunities

Employees will need to constantly evolve as technologies advance. That means employees must always be looking for opportunities to learn.

For baby boomer employees, this could mean investing in technical and nontechnical skills that allow for additional lateral movements as they consider powering down their careers. For employers who are earlier in their careers, this means providing frequent opportunities to update skills to remain current. For those who may lose their jobs due to technology, this would mean gaining skills that could lead to an alternate career.

While new skills are important, there is a foundational approach we need to have as we face the future: a growth mindset.

A person with a growth mindset believes their intelligence can be developed, versus someone with a fixed mindset who believes intelligence is fixed. Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University who developed the idea of the growth mindset, describes it this way:

“Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).”

Those with a growth mindset focus on learning. When an organization embraces a growth mindset, employees feel more empowered and committed, Dweck says.

As we contemplate what the future of work holds for our employees and for ourselves, the truth is, we don’t know what will happen. But with a growth mindset, we can dedicate ourselves to learning, growing, and making space for creative expansion. If the robots are indeed coming for us, let’s focus on developing those human qualities that technology can never replace.

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 also appeared on The Next Web & TalentCulture. Follow him @davidmizne.

This post originally appeared on Technology Advice.

Image Credit: Andy Kelly on Unsplash

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Humankind has long struggled to find the secret to living a happy life, but what about workplace happiness? Have you ever wondered how your employees feel at work?

Perhaps you’ve tried to create a fun and satisfying environment, with activities like foosball and ping pong or by offering free lunches and snacks. But if you haven’t found success, it may be because those perks focus more on downtime, rather than creating a productive work environment. Fun and games may not create sustainable happiness in the workplace, alongside high performance, so what does? And why should leaders care about workplace happiness anyway?

What is happiness?

I like being happy, and I think most people do, but how often do we really think about what happiness is? In our personal lives, it may be a moment, maybe when the family is gathered around, when we realize that emotion bubbling up inside is happiness. Or it could be the sense of satisfaction that cascades over us after a hard fought accomplishment. We may think lovingly about a relationship that is deep and satisfying.

But managers must realize that their happiness may be different from the happiness of their employees. And, as an intangible, internal, and individual feeling, it seems almost impossible to create on behalf of someone else.

Researchers have spent a lot of time trying to understand exactly what happiness is, and how it affects us.

One definition of happiness, according to Happify—an online platform designed to improve mental wellbeing—is that it is the combination of how good you feel on a day to day basis (hedonia, or pleasure) and satisfaction with your life (eudaemonia).  Scientists now suggest adding a third component to the estimation of happiness: your engagement related to feelings of commitment and participation in life.

Research collected by Happify states that happiness is 10% determined by circumstances, 50% influenced by biology, and 40% controlled by thoughts, actions, and behaviors. Those thoughts, actions, and behaviors can be developed, making happiness a skill. In other words, we can increase our happiness through practice.

We can increase our happiness through practice.
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Neuroscientists agree, and say certain behaviors, such as finding gratitude, labeling emotions, making a “good enough” decision, and touching others (appropriately) all boost happiness hormones in the brain.

Happiness may be a little like art: we know it when we feel it. While someone can’t make me happy, I can take actions to increase my own happiness. But are there other benefits to being happy?

The importance of happiness

Is experiencing happiness truly necessary? Maybe in our personal lives, but is workplace happiness really a prerequisite of high performance?

If nothing else, being happy is healthier than being unhappy. Studies show that happiness can protect your heart, strengthen your immune system, reduce stress, decrease aches and pains in the short-term and long-term, and even lengthen lives.

With more emphasis on mental well-being as well as physical health, happiness has become not just an individual pursuit, but one schools and businesses are tackling as well.

One of the most popular classes taught at Yale University is Psyc 157, Psychology and The Good Life, which tries to teach students how to be happier through lectures and behavioral change exercises. After facing the stress and anxiety of trying to get into college, students want to learn new behaviors to re-prioritize happiness, the professor said.

At Stanford Business School, teaching happiness involves helping students learn how to build better relationships. The class, nicknamed “Touchy-Feely” focuses on emotional intelligence skills: relationship building, communication, self-awareness and giving and receiving feedback. These abilities are essential to creating positive relationships at work—which also has a positive correlation with happiness. A Gallup poll indicated that close work friendships increase employee satisfaction by 50%.

Giving and receiving feedback at work builds your emotional intelligence skills and contributes to workplace happiness. To begin setting a weekly communication rhythm with your employees, Click Here.
Why workplace happiness matters

Besides a healthier employee base, one that possesses emotional intelligence to navigate social interactions, what does a happy workforce yield?

Happy employees are 12% more productive than their grouchy counterparts. They also tend to be more creative and more collaborative. Why? It goes back again to physiology. Studies show that the brain functions better when people are happy.

Happiness researcher Shawn Achor says that we tend to get the relationship between happiness and success backward. “Happiness is perhaps the most misunderstood driver of performance,” he says in an article in Harvard Business Review:

“For one, most people believe that success precedes happiness…in fact, it works the other way around: People who cultivate a positive mindset perform better in the face of challenge. I call this the ‘happiness advantage’—every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive.”

Clearly there are advantages to boosting workplace happiness, yet so much of that creation is self-determined. How can employers make employees happy, sans foosball table?

Keys to achieving workplace happiness

Happiness engages the brain and connects people with a sense of purpose. Instead of trying to create a playground for grownups, employers should focus on what really matters: creating a culture that embodies collaborative environments where innovation thrives and where people want to work hard.

Happiness engages the brain and connects people with a sense of purpose.
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One of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes is called, A Nice Place to Visit. In it, a small-time crook is killed, only to find himself in a wonderful afterlife where everything was at his bidding. Eventually, the crook gets bored with winning at gambling and having effortless success. He complains to his “guide” that he’s so dissatisfied, he wishes he were in the “other place.” His guide says: “This IS the other place!” (Cue dramatic 1960s music.)

This reminds me that regardless of how often we dream of winning the lottery, quitting our jobs and sailing off into the sunset, as humans, we find fulfillment when we work hard. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says people find great satisfaction when they are in a state of flow, completely absorbed in the creative process. With athletes, we’d say they were in “The Zone”. Csikszentmihalyi describes it like this:

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

Many companies have researched how to create fulfillment in employees and have enacted numerous policies and activities including providing regular employee feedback, offering meaningful benefits, investing in learning and development, incentivizing wellness and building in time for fun. But the focus on purposeful work needs to be a distinct part of the equation as well.

Creating a happy workplace involves looking at all aspects of your workplace system: hiring employees who are emotionally intelligent, who have a positive mindset, and then providing development and growth opportunities, teaching employees how to give and get feedback positively, and ensuring that there is an atmosphere of psychological safety, so employees feel encouraged to take the risks needed for creativity and innovation.

The feeling of happiness may be hard to describe, but it is worth pursuing, for both individuals and businesses. As we understand the benefits of workplace happiness and the conditions that contributes to it, we may not be able to make employees happy, but by providing a work environment that is fulfilling and challenging, that is collaborative and offers opportunity for “flow,”, we can help employees create their own happiness.

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.

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Whether you’re a farmer, have a fruit tree or two, or simply enjoy fresh produce, you likely know that cultivating crops requires more than just sticking seeds in the dirt. (Yes, this is going to be a metaphor about employee growth and development.)

First, you have to prepare the ground and make sure it’s a fertile environment. Loosen the soil so that the seeds have room to sprout. After the seeds have been planted, you still have to nurture them, ensuring they get the right amounts of water and sunlight and pulling weeds that may choke off growth.

If you’re an employer, cultivating your workforce requires very similar actions. You have to ensure the work environment is one that focuses on employee growth and development. That the culture is one where employees can be themselves and be heard. One where employees are encouraged to develop and are given the resources to do so, and where toxic influences are excised.

Cultivating your workforce in this way has significant impacts on performance outcomes like employee engagement. Businesses are beginning to recognize two significant facts about engagement. The first: according to Gallup, a whopping 68.5% of employees are not engaged at work. That means they aren’t invested in the company mission. They feel no compulsion to be innovative, collaborative or committed.

The second fact: engaged employees are key to your company’s success. Companies with more engaged employees have 22% more profitability and 21% more productivity than those without. But even as companies recognize the value of an engaged workforce, many remain stuck on how to create and continually nurture one.

Are you stuck on how to unlock the potential of your entire workforce? Give 15Five A Try!

For insights on how to take those next steps, I recently produced a webinar with Cassie Whitlock, Director of HR at BambooHR, Joe Mechlinski, Founder and CEO of Shift, and moderated by Tawni Reed, HR generalist, BambooHR. Check out the webinar recording below and read on for advice on cultivating a more engaged and productive workforce.

Cultivating Your Workforce – A Panel Discussion on Employee Development and Growth

The Single Biggest Problem with Employee Engagement Programs Is…

According to Joe, companies waste time with different tactics to solve the symptoms of disengaged employees, but not the underlying issues. But once companies recognize the critical connection between engaged employees and performance, it becomes a no brainer to look for programs that will support and raise that performance.

When companies build an employee engagement program from the outside in, without understanding what employees or managers want or ensuring the program is flexible, it will not gain traction, Cassie added. Employees have different motives, priorities, and preferences, and an engagement program should reflect that. BambooHR, which provides HR software solutions, has a fairly young employee base, Cassie said, but employee offerings need to be useful to those who are in different stages of their career.

Employee engagement programs that are limited to some areas of a company will not succeed, Cassie added. Instead, employee engagement must be sustainable and interwoven in all offerings within the company, from hiring, employee onboarding, benefits, and compensation, to rewards and recognition.

Employee engagement must be sustainable and interwoven in all offerings within the company.
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All engagement programs are not created equal. Those that are not rooted in leading social science research, or those that are run by leaders who don’t understand the dynamics, culture, and psychology that drive authentic engagement will fail. To succeed, the programs (and the leaders) must understand intrinsic motivation, and that employees want to have a sense of autonomy, mastery, and meaning in their work.

How to Onboard New Employees into Your Culture

Your biggest insurance policy for getting new employees engaged is to already have a highly engaged workforce, Joe said. If you don’t have that already, that is the first area of focus.

Developing employees takes work on both sides. Managers need to create a healthy environment, the right processes, and a strong company culture so employees are empowered to develop, Cassie said. And managers may need to develop additional skills to help them do that, she added.

Shift, a consultancy that concentrates on increasing employee engagement, hardwires engagement into their own organization by setting Fridays aside for one-on-one meetings. That schedule ensures employees and managers have ongoing conversations about professional development and performance on stated goals, so they can start the following week fresh and focused.

Still, managers can’t make employees want to develop—that desire must come from the employee. Managers do need to understand that while all people have the capacity to grow, they don’t all have the ability to grow in the same way. Helping an employee align their unique skills to their roles so they can operate in their zone of genius is a skill in itself.

How to Incorporate Employee Growth and Development into Goal Setting?

Science shows time and again that goal setting works and leads to high performance. Some companies use OKRs and others use V2MOMs or another methodology. Which specific one you use will match your particular culture and performance management strategy. Whatever your choice, management by objectives is critical for ensuring that employees are focused on the most high leverage tasks.

Keep in mind, that goal setting isn’t something an employer does for a person, but with them, Joe added. During this time, look at whether or not you’re spending time on things that are important, he said.

Goal setting isn’t something an employer does for a person, but with them.
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At BambooHR, the company establishes an annual theme and asks what does that theme look like through the company lens. This year, the theme is “exceptional.” In choosing to be exceptional, the company is teaching concepts like the psychology of feedback and how to receive it. This lays the foundation that the company values employee feedback and starts conversations about it, Cassie said.

Getting Executive Buy-In to Begin an Employee Growth and Development Program

According to Cassie, the data makes the case that higher employee engagement benefits you. One study indicated that organizations that have engaged employees outperform other companies by 200%. But don’t just use external data, look at your internal data too. Be able to describe the outcome you’re driving, i.e. trying to fix a problem or being proactive in differentiating yourself from competitors. Outline your resources and how you’ll measure your progress, she added.

Helping executives envision the tangible benefits that engaged employees will yield often helps, Joe added. By asking leaders what would be an ideal work day of the future and what constraints prevent that day from materializing, executives often say their team’s performance is a limiting factor. With that realization, executives are more willing to look at how to develop the team’s abilities.

Executives understand a customer’s lifetime value. It’s a logical segue for them to realize that employees have a lifetime value too, once you account for the knowledge an employee brings to the company, and the revenue and other contributions they offer while they are there. When you also consider that an employee’s latent potential exceeds the current capacity, companies could enjoy 20% – 50% more output than they currently see.

Is Your Employee Engagement Strategy Working?

We use many metrics to determine if an engagement strategy is working. The Employee Net Promoter Score, pulse surveys, participation in engagement program activities, turnover, participation in employee alumni networks, goal attainment, etc. And while these measurements can be helpful, they are still lagging indicators. Engagement itself is much more amorphous and difficult to measure.

If you’re in pain and go see a doctor, she may ask you to rate your pain subjectively on a scale from 1 to 10. Even though the rating is based on how you feel rather than objective data, that doesn’t make your assessment less real. The same is true with engagement—it can also be felt. When you walk into the office, what is your experience? Is it energized? Is there momentum? Chances are, you’ll need to use a combination of quantitative and qualitative data to measure movement towards your goal.

As you decide on an engagement strategy, keep in mind that this is a long game; one that requires thought, time, attention and consistent effort. And remember that, like any good farmer knows, when it comes to cultivating your workforce, you will reap what you sow.

David Hassell is the cofounder and CEO of 15Five, lightweight performance management software that includes continuous feedback, objective (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. David is a speaker and prolific writer and was named “The Most Connected Man You Don’t Know in Silicon Valley” by Forbes Magazine. 

Image Credit: Tom Hauk on Unsplash

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Woah! What an April! More articles about continuous employee feedback were published in this one month than we’ve seen in any other month over the last half-decade.

Amazon and Nike both made headlines, the former for a company-wide roll out of Connections, a daily Q&A feedback program that is being received with some employee skepticism. Amazonians are far more excited about Forte, introduced last year to simplify and improve their performance review process with a focus on employee strengths.

As for Nike, news regarding the introduction of employee feedback software was bittersweet. The launch of their feedback system is meant to allow “employees to confidentially report workplace concerns as it continues an investigation into complaints of inappropriate behavior”.

So whether you are trying to remedy a toxic culture of harassment, improve productivity, or are motivated by the bajillion other reasons to communicate with your employees, this post is for you. Below are a selection of the latest and best employee feedback articles from around the web:

1) Employee Feedback Strategy: Your Guide to Success

By Fresia Jackson

Our friends at Culture Amp friggin’ nailed it with this one. Some have never heard of the phenomenon of soliciting quantitative and qualitative information from employees. Others are unfamiliar with the practice of providing people with your perspective on their performance. For those folks, this piece is a great place to start.

Fresia suggests building a “culture of feedback” by developing a comprehensive employee feedback strategy. To be effective this strategy must be part of an overall process and must be used to improve employee performance in a timely manner.

A successful employe feedback strategy focuses on all aspects of the team experience, from employee learning and development to management effectiveness. One critical component is the human element–anonymous feedback shouldn’t replace the all important in-person conversations between people at your company, especially between managers and employees.

Ready to take your one on ones between managers and employees to the next level? Try our best in class 1-on-1 meeting agenda software.

2) How to Give Feedback That Actually Works, Without Hurting Anyone More Than You Have To

By Leah Fessler & Khe Hy

In 2016, The New York Times published abundant research from Google regarding what it takes to build effective teams. They found that “more communicative, honest cultures drive increased productivity, innovation, and employee satisfaction”. Because many companies look to successful tech giants like Google and adopt their management systems and strategies, these findings helped to fuel the feedback revolution.

Quartz created this guide to add more fuel to the feedback fire, because the authors recognized that the practice of communicating reflections about employee performance can be complicated. Research by Zenger/Folkman found that nearly half of all managers dread giving negative feedback. And employees can have a hard time accepting critical feedback because of the conflict that exists between the drive to grow and develop, and the desire to be accepted as we are.

Fessler and Hy offer tons of advice in this guide for managers, including losing the “feedback sandwich”, being direct and candid, and knowing the purpose behind your feedback. Managers must also remember to give constructive praise, since many of us are quick to notice what’s wrong but employees need to know what they are doing right.

3) Mastering the Art of Negative Feedback

By Arlene Hirsch

As I stated above, many managers are afraid of giving critical feedback. How fortunate that clinical professional counselor Arlene Hirsch offers advice for company leaders in this article.

She explains how many companies still use the dreaded annual performance review as the primary means for managers to provide performance feedback. Because these reviews are so remote, “people being evaluated can feel unfairly judged on things that happened months earlier and don’t seem relevant.”

So Arlene suggests using developmental feedback which is more forward-looking and relationship-oriented. Real-time feedback, along with coaching and guidance can actually influence future employee performance instead of criticizing what has already occurred. She quotes Linda Richardson’s book, Sales Coaching: Making the Great Leap from Sales Manager to Sales Coach:

“Developmental feedback looks forward to what we [the coach and the person being coached] can do to improve and create a better picture for the future… Developmental feedback empowers because it helps people identify obstacles they face and reinforces their role in removing the obstacles each day.”

4) Increase Employee Engagement by 300% With This Daily Practice

By Christine Comaford

Christine is also not a fan of annual reviews and she offers a new approach to standard performance management, called Performance Motivation. Managers can inspire maximum performance not by grading it but by using a process that creates intrinsic motivation and benefits both the employee and the company.

Employee feedback therefore needs to be more frequent and informal, and Christine advises the use of a tool called The Feedback Frame. The first step is to build rapport because unless employees feel safe and genuinely supported they won’t be able to receive the feedback managers provide. One way to build this sense of safety is that everyone throughout the organization gives and receives feedback without exception.

5) Why HR Can’t Expect Continuous Learning Without Regular Feedback

By Riia O’Donnell

Et tu HR? Yes, Human Resources (or People Ops for you progressive types) has a huge responsibility to create the structure and strategy of employee feedback at a company. This article begins by luring us in with some eye opening employee feedback statistics:

– According to PwC, 60% of employees want feedback on a daily or weekly basis (and that number is much higher for younger employees)

– Gallup reports that employees who received strengths feedback had 14.9% less turnover than employees who received none

– LinkedIn found nearly 70% of employees said they would work harder if their efforts were recognized

According to Riia, employee feedback is actually a form of learning but for many employees the term is synonymous with criticism and censure. To change that impression, the when and how of providing feedback is as important as the what. For example, employees should never be criticized publicly. And even positive feedback like employee appreciation might be best when offered behind closed doors. It all depends how the individual likes to be appreciated.

Given the performance review revolution, it’s no wonder that continuous employee feedback is on the top of everyone’s minds lately. We have said for years that soliciting and providing feedback are vital business practices for building genuine, trusting relationships between employees and managers and influencing desired business outcomes.

Today the stakes are even higher because employee’s crave growth and development. Companies that wish to retain their best and brightest should be providing these learning opportunities. Managers can simply discover these opportunities for individual growth via a comprehensive performance management strategy that includes direct and continuous employee feedback.

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: Ben White on Unsplash

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Over the last several years a performance management revolution has taken place, and businesses are now focusing more on the growth and wellbeing of their employees. This has led to the implementation of employee development programs that annually cost companies hundreds of billions of dollars. While it makes sense to respond to employees’ desires for growth in the workplace, many executives still grapple with how to improve the effectiveness of these programs.

The cause for the revolution? Employees in today’s knowledge-worker economy don’t respond well to techniques like command and control leadership or micromanagement. Small tech startups as well as established Fortune 500 companies like General Electric, Microsoft, and IBM, have shed outdated businesses practices like stack rankings and annual reviews, in lieu of continuous performance management strategies.

This is a cultural revolution that goes far deeper than the decision to hold annual reviews or not. Organizations must choose whether they will just assess performance or work to improve it, and whether they will create collaborative environments or competitive ones. But the number one question that today’s business leaders must ask themselves is: What do employees really need to become their best selves at work?

Want to help your employees to be more productive, innovative, and become the best versions of themselves? Discover The Best-Self Review.
A Culture of Employee Growth & Development

There’s a common saying in the business world: People don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers. While it’s true that one’s direct manager is responsible for creating a positive employee experience, research suggests that many people leave companies not over relationships, but because they feel like they’ve stopped growing.

According to The Society for Human Resources Management’s Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, an organization’s commitment to employee development is “very important” to 40% of the thousands of employees surveyed. Yet only 25% of those employees are very satisfied with the level of commitment to development at their organization. Also ranking highly as an aspect of job satisfaction were opportunities to use skills and abilities at work (#5), and career advancement opportunities (#10).

Based on these numbers modern organizations must be intentional about employee growth and development initiatives. This takes two forms; (1) increasing the levels of skill and knowledge within a person’s current role, and (2) career development.

Thanks to the work of Carol Dweck, we now know that when an entire company embraces a growth mindset (the belief that talents can be developed as opposed to being fixed innate gifts), their employees feel more empowered and committed. But according to Dweck, when companies create competitive environments, people withhold information, don’t ask for feedback, and innovation suffers. Business leaders therefore must actively work to embrace a growth mindset and create a Growth Organization.

The natural byproduct of work must be continual growth and development.
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In Growth Organizations, the natural byproduct of working there is that every individual is continually growing and developing and becoming the best version of themselves. That is not a nice to have as a byproduct of desired business outcomes, it’s where leadership must be focused. Leaders must recognize that growth and fulfillment is an employee’s birthright, it is how we are designed to be as humans.

Growth Organizations Have a Competitive Edge

Technology has dramatically speeded up the timeline for new companies to bring their products to market. That means your great idea can be duplicated and your market share pilfered in months, not years. A company’s greatest competitive advantage then is its people.

Accordingly, every manager’s job is twofold; (1) Regularly communicate with employees to learn about their strengths, weaknesses, and personal/professional aspirations. (2) Create a safe space where employees readily volunteer their mistakes, opportunities, and triumphs.

The beauty is that these two goals are inter-connected. The more open communication that takes place with supportive and timely responses from management, the more vulnerable and transparent employees are willing to be. A culture of feedback will slowly start to develop, where not only are requests for information complied with, but information will be freely volunteered.

Upper management’s job is to create the frame of the Growth Organization. This emerging paradigm stems from a focus on the growth of employees personally and professionally. Through that, every member of the team can grow their personal and collective strengths, skills and abilities. The company will grow in terms of product innovation, employee headcount, customer count, and of course revenue and profitability.

Focusing on development represents a 180 degree shift in management philosophy that goes beyond putting people-first. It goes beyond perks, compensation and positive work environments. This philosophy isn’t focused on hitting the numbers, no matter the cost. It’s a renewed focus on employee development and a culture of growth.

Leaders must now create a deliberate culture, no longer looking at profit and business objectives first. While those matters are still important, leaders are now prioritizing their people and the systems that can help them thrive. Being deliberate about employee growth includes training in soft skills as well as professional development.

Employee development programs can fail when growth is not expressed as a core value of the organization. Leadership must commit to consistently listening to employee feedback, and then have every employee obtain new skills and access the latest information that is relevant to their roles.

This benefits both the organization and the individual employee, and can be done with very little cost by growing a library of business books or providing access to online repositories of information. Allocating a certain amount of departmental budgets to seminars, conferences, and continuing education can also yield a high ROI.

When Good Is Not Good Enough

As mentioned above, employees deeply desire to advance in their roles. Ironically, what often holds them back is being good at what they do!

One of the best frameworks for moving an employee forward within their role is the four zones of employee performance discussed in The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks:

1) Zone of Incompetence: Employees are bogged down doing tasks that they are not good at, and often stagnate from frustration.
2) Zone of Competence: Employees are competent, but not doing tasks that they are uniquely skilled to perform.
3) Zone of Excellence: Employees perform activities extremely well and make a great living, but are capable of much more.
4) Zone of Genius: Self-actualization (at least in the workplace) via offering one’s unique gifts.

While the goal is to move every employee along from Zone 1 to Zone 4, the common stuck point is # 3, the Zone of Excellence. This is the danger zone for managing talent. People add tremendous value here, but don’t feel fulfilled. Employees may feel afraid that if they ask to have these seemingly vital activities moved off of their plate, that they will no longer be deemed valuable or that they will be standing in the way of team objectives.

We always have to perform tasks that we find less than thrilling. The goal is for the majority of the work that an employee performs to fall within their Zone of Genius. This is work they are exceptional at performing and are deeply passionate about. You may have to find a contractor or make an additional hire to pick up the slack, but allowing someone to predominantly use their highest skills responds directly to their need for growth and development.

Career Development, Not Career Confinement

The other aspect of growth that employees desire is career development. But the reality is that at some companies there may not be a path for people to move into greater responsibilities and to advance they will have to look outside the company. While it may feel scary for managers to focus on career development at the risk of losing their best and brightest, this is the commitment they must make.

John Hall, CEO of Influence & Co. wrote in this Inc. article, that every workplace should serve as a stepping stone. Hall explains that training employees encourages retention but the alternative is fine too:

When employees do leave and you’ve coached, educated, and trained them, they’ll leave on better terms and be more inclined to advocate for your brand to future partners, clients, and even potential employees.

Many managers are scared of a talented employee considering their options elsewhere, that the person will get an offer and they’ll either demand to be paid more or leave. By holding employees close, you are sending the message that you care more about yourself and the pain of losing them, than you actually care about that employee’s best interests.

By giving employees the freedom to explore, you are saying, “I care about your best interests over mine”. Ironically, you end up with very little turnover because people who feel cared for tend to stick around. You may lose some of the people who interview elsewhere, but they shouldn’t be at your business anyway. We never get the best work from those we hold hostage.

We never get the best work from the employees we hold hostage.
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When you hire an intelligent and skilled individual, those are merely indicators of how successful they can become. Of course, their trajectory can go the other way too. Only management and leadership that is committed to employee development can take existing talent to the next level by creating environments where people flourish.

Growth Organizations are unique in that people feel genuinely supported as human beings. That drives them to naturally want to improve and contribute and as a result everyone benefits, including your investors and valued customers.

David Hassell is cofounder and CEO of 15Five, lightweight performance management software that includes continuous feedback, OKRs, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. David is a speaker and writer and was named “The Most Connected Man You Don’t Know in Silicon Valley” by Forbes Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @dhassell.

Image Credit: Rob Wingate on Unsplash

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We used to just call them “mental health days.” Those days when you just need to get some separation from the daily grind, refresh yourself, and do whatever it takes to get a break from multitasking and workplace tech.

Of course, now we understand more clearly the link between employee happiness and outcomes like higher engagement, increased productivity, and business growth. We also know that there’s a link between workplace stress, burnout, low productivity and employee turnover.

Company leadership that fosters a work culture of self-care is more likely to find itself with happier people and higher employee engagement. So as you set your strategic company objectives every quarter remember to focus on your culture as well as your revenue. Or as management expert Peter Drucker is reputed to have said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

As you set strategic objectives remember to focus on your culture as well as your revenue.
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Regardless of whether he actually said that, the sentiment is true. Company culture either supports your goals or it’s undermining them. Company leadership needs to proactively set the framework for its culture. Otherwise, an ill-defined work culture will develop organically that may not be one in which people and the company can flourish.

Here are five ways you can establish and foster a culture of self-care at your organization.

Insist People Take PTO

Employee burnout is huge driver of employee turnover, evidence that the value of “mental health day” still holds. Sometimes, the greatest self-care a company can offer its employees is making sure they step away. Sweden requires 5 weeks a year of vacation, and many tech companies like Buffer have used internal data and surveys to understand the ideal number of days and weeks off an employee should take to stay fresh.

The greatest self-care a company can offer employees is ensuring they step away from their work.
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But don’t feel like you have to implement an unlimited time off policy because all the cool companies are doing it. Unlimited time off has its pros and cons, so find a system that works for your team. Maybe start by requiring employees to take off a certain amount of days each quarter, or limit how much unused vacation time an employee can sell back to the company.

Create Space For Mistakes

I had a mentor years ago who told me, “No one comes to work with the goal of messing up.” When things go awry, as they inevitably do, your company can have a culture that looks for solutions or one that seeks to lay blame.

Which of the two work cultures strikes you as the one where people will feel more permission to share their ideas, get creative, or take some calculated risks? Companies want those qualities in employees because they foster a broader culture of innovation and collaboration.

Start all post-mortem meetings with the assumption that the employee had the company’s best interests at heart, a mindset that will help prime managers to think positively about solutions rather than placing blame. Suggest concrete steps to mediate or fix mistakes, or discuss retraining or coaching if a deeper systemic problem presents itself.

And if an employee just isn’t made for the role they have – put them where they can play to their strengths, if possible. Employees who feel like they’re really using their skills are more productive and less likely to leave.

Value People’s Time

Valuing people’s time shows that you value them as individuals, not just as employees. As a leader you can model the following behaviors for the team or entire company:

1) Limit the number of large meetings, whether scheduled or ad hoc.

2) Minimize meeting durations by creating agendas and collecting relevant information beforehand.

3) Set communication time zone boundaries. Unless there’s a bona fide emergency (e.g. something’s on fire or about to be), nobody needs to be sending emails or messages at 2 a.m. Certainly nobody should expect a response at that time. If your workflow can manage it, let employees set their own communication no-go zones that best mesh with their work style.

4) Try to eliminate TPS reports and other unnecessary paperwork. Use a business intelligence tool with data visualization dashboards that communicate progress toward ongoing goals so that teams don’t waste time writing reports that never get read.

5) Encourage employees not to eat lunch at their desks. Lunch provides a perfect time for employees to socialize and take a break from staring at their screens.

Physical Health Is Part Of The Self-Care Culture

Physical discomfort and exhaustion interfere with our energy and focus. While everyone knows this, employees may not feel comfortable taking steps at work to see to their physical health. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to show them otherwise.

This could be as simple as making sure there are healthy snacks in the vending machines and common areas, or encouraging them to get away from their desks and take short walks. Those workers who stand all day can be provided ample opportunities to get off their feet for a bit.

If your work environment is lucky enough to be near a green space like a park, you can start a walking club where employees can walk together at fixed times. If there’s space and interest, providing short onsite yoga or meditation classes can help. You can also hire vendors who provide worksite massage chair services that can help reduce employee stress.

Many companies offer workplace health benefits that reimburse workers for all or part of gym memberships or workout classes. Check with your health plan to see if it covers proactive health benefits and reimbursements.

Solicit Employee Feedback

While it’s always useful to start with general principles and best practices, it’s also important to find out what a genuine self-care culture looks like for your unique organizational culture. Solicit information from your people about the attitudes, habits, and other factors that they feel your organization lacks. Work with them to discover ideas on how to improve your self-care culture.

This doesn’t mean you have to implement every idea proposed, as some just aren’t feasible. But at least listen and acknowledge each response. Even the process of listening to your people and working with them to create and promote a self-care culture contributes to its realization, since giving employees a voice improves their emotional wellbeing.

By definition, much of your work culture isn’t written down or formalized. Some of these suggestions can take the form of policy, like vacation time and communication time zones. However, much of the self-care culture you create will be modeled by your own behavior.

You build culture not so much by what you say, but through intentional acts and how you treat people. These acts start building the habits and attitudes of self-care in others, which then manifests in informal social patterns and mindsets. This virtuous cycle simply reinforces a self-care culture that’s meaningful for employees and valuable for your company.

Elisa Silverman is a TechnologyAdvice contributor who follows these simple principles when writing: Never waste the reader’s time. Always be relevant — or at least be interesting. She’s been freelance writing for eight years, after spending years working in the technology and legal fields. You can connect with Elisa at www.elisasilverman.com.

Image Credit: Haley Phelps on Unsplash

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In the wake of SpaceX’s successful launch of a Tesla into space in February, Elon Musk today announced the launch of his latest idea—SpaceAds. This new venture will allow the world’s most innovative companies to place branded artifacts in space to advertise their “out of this world” offerings.

Starman Waiting In The Sky

The world stood transfixed earlier this year as the most powerful rocket in operation, the Falcon Heavy,  placed a shiny red Tesla Roadster into an elliptical orbit around Earth and Mars. The car will reportedly stay in that orbit for a million years as its sole passenger, “Starman”, can be watched live on his mythical journey through the void:

Live Views of Starman - YouTube

Many fans of the galaxy’s most expensive publicity stunt are tracking the voyage of Starman and his $250,000 automobile on apps like SkySafari 6 and StarWalk 2. Due to the initial success and ongoing interest, the SpaceX marketing team now believes that launching business artifacts into space could indeed be the future of advertising.

SpaceAds Launches

A special invitation has been extended to a select group of disruptive tech companies that have caught the eye of prolific business magnate and investor, Musk. These three brands are invited to participate in the first launch of SpaceAds, an event which marks Musk’s first foray into the advertising space:

1) On demand transportation company, Lyft, has been making serious headway against its largest competitor, Uber, over the last year. As a reward for their steadfast gumption, they were asked to place their iconic pink mustache among the stars.

2) Slack, the fastest growing startup of all time that disrupted the real-time messaging space in 2013, will also be sending their corporate logo—a multicolored hashtag—into orbit.

3) The unexpected invitee among the three is 15Five. The startup was first to market in the now saturated continuous performance management space. But the scrappy young company continues to be a disruptive force, leading the pack on review sites like G2Crowd, and recently introducing the revolutionary Inappropriate Question Bank. They will be contributing their bright orange fidget spinner to the interstellar logo lineup.

A Fidget Spinner? Why!?

“Quite frankly, we still have about 2,200 of these things which have fallen way out of vogue,” said 15Five Marketing Programs Coordinator, Mitchell Yee. “We tried concealing them in our swag bags at trade shows, but most people look in the bag for a moment, then remove the apparently offensive item before moving on. They usually turn back and offer a final look of disgust.”

Of course, launching a rocket into space is not cheap. Even though SpaceAds is footing the majority of the astronomical bill for this maiden voyage, each company is contributing nearly half a million dollars. That’s a mere drop in the bucket for Lyft and Slack, which have taken hundreds of millions in funding and are valued in the billions of dollars.

15Five on the other hand is pre-Series A. The much smaller company has come under harsh criticism for what many have called an irresponsible business decision.

“If you call spending a significant portion of our annual revenue to place a worthless piece of plastic and metal into space irresponsible, you clearly don’t understand how we roll in the Valley,” said Yee. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get on line to buy Burning Man tickets.”

David is VP of Shenanigans at 15Five, where he writes such hilarious April Fools posts as, New Feature Release: The Micromanagement Dashboard and The 14Four. Follow him on Twitter @AttemptingToBePithyIn280Characters.

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When you think of workplace culture, what comes to mind? You may think of how your team interacts in a meeting, if employees hang out with one another after hours, or if there’s a table tennis tournament lighting up your office. But culture goes beyond that, and is created by the sum of your—and everyone else’s—behaviors and actions.

One important element that defines and reinforces work culture is employee promotions. Who gets promoted, why, and how can reveal more about your culture than your mission statement. A thoughtful promotion strategy like the one outlined below, can go a long way in defining what you want your work culture to look like and influencing what it becomes.

The Good, The Bad, and The Disengaged

Great Places to Work surveyed 400,000 U.S. workers and found that when promotions are perceived to be fair and well-managed, employee engagement and retention soars. Fairness in advancement opportunities seems to also go hand in hand with success. 75% of employees at the 100 Best Companies believe promotions go to those who deserve them.

Unfortunately, that means the reverse is also true: 25%–a full quarter of employees at the best companies—believe that promotions don’t go to the right candidates. With career advancement (and increased compensation) being high on the list of what employees desire, poor promotion decisions can be catastrophic.

25% of employees at the best companies believe promotions don’t go to the best candidates.
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Today’s employees anticipate fewer promotions due to flattened organizations, and that reflects in their decreased degree of commitment and engagement to work. A Gartner survey shows that 23% of employees in the U.S. (and only 16% across the globe) are willing to do the extra work needed to be promoted.

With the perception of fewer opportunities for advancement, there is increased scrutiny of who actually gets promoted. If the right person isn’t selected (either in reality or as interpreted by fellow employees), that promotion can have a ripple effect on a workforce. Because promotions are often made in a vacuum, with leaders thinking about the immediate needs of the team or business unit, the overall effect on organizational culture can be overlooked.

An Employee Promotion Can Sabotage Your Culture

Promotions, even the ones with the best intentions, can sabotage your culture. Here are some typical examples of how that happens:

The promotion is based on time served. Jada has been in her position for four years and the other original team members have been promoted except for her. But Jada is an average performer, unlike her stellar teammates. Should she get a promotion, so she can keep up?

What to do: Promotions should be based on an ability to perform new tasks and proven success on past performance. But for Jada, the question isn’t whether she should be promoted, but rather why is she an average performer?

Is she receiving employee feedback that outlines performance expectations? Has her manager asked her about her career aspirations and discussed ways to get there? Is Jada receiving the employee development she needs to be successful (as defined by her manager and her)? Is her manager dedicated to helping Jada succeed, and does the manager have the skills to do so?

The answers to these questions can provide a foundation for helping Jada take her next steps at the company and in her overarching career.

Promotions are not the only option for an employee who may feel stuck at a certain level. Lateral movements and more interesting projects are ways to bring freshness and opportunity to a quality employee without providing undeserved advancement. These options are especially pertinent when an employee does not have the desire or ability to manage others.

Also look for opportunities to improve employee development, and if employees aren’t progressing, check for the underlying reasons. If employees truly cannot be motivated, you may need to make the hard decision to let them go. Otherwise, you’ll encourage mediocre performance with the message that what you do doesn’t matter—it’s how long you do it for that counts.

Expand The Employee Promotion Pool

It’s been said that it’s not what you know, but who. But not all stellar employees enjoy the same visibility as others:

Not all qualified candidates are equally considered for promotions. Underrepresented candidates, those without a champion, or those without similarities to leaders (race, gender, language, school, sports, family, etc.) can—perhaps unconsciously—be overlooked. This can easily happen, especially when you consider this: women apply for positions if they meet 100% of the criteria, while men apply if they only meet 60%.

It follows that when women think about asking for a promotion or throwing their hat in the ring for consideration for the next level job, the same reservation applies. If you only pay attention to the obvious choices, you may be overlooking excellent alternatives.

What to do: Be intentional in seeking out and considering all qualified candidates. The NFL applies the Rooney Rule to find good underrepresented candidates for head coaching jobs. In order to increase diversity in coaching and management, the NFL requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and general manager positions.

Although your efforts don’t have to be solely about race, use the Rooney Rule for inspiration: look for those invisible candidates; ones you don’t know as well or have as much in common with. Yes, you still want to find the best candidates for promotion—but you might not if you prematurely limit your pool of possibilities.

By widening your lens your actions reflect that everyone’s contributions are important, that the promotion process is fair, and that you are committed to diversity and inclusion.

Employee Strengths and Values

According to Gallup, promoting an employee into a job that needs skills they don’t have backfires 80% of the time. And when you promote an employee who performs well but doesn’t live the company values, you risk creating a rift between the actual and perceived values of the organization. Below are two examples of what to do when an employee performs well, but may not have the skills or commitment to values that warrant advancement.

The new job doesn’t match the candidate’s strengths. Vijay, for example, may have had a stellar sales year, but that doesn’t automatically mean he’s the right person for the new sales manager position.

The independence and extreme competitiveness that achieved sales success may not be helpful when it’s time to strategize, coach, and motivate a dispersed sales team. As your once-stellar performer struggles in the new position and the sales team chafes under Vijay’s command and control management, sales and productivity slip. Frustrated with the unanticipated difficulty, Vijay quits and goes to work for a competitor.

What to do: Be clear on what skills and experience a candidate needs to succeed in the new job. While training may be necessary, the candidate should have the foundation that allows for growth.

What are the true essentials of the job? Maybe it’s being creative, energetic, and compassionate, with a desire to problem solve, combined with technical knowledge. For Vijay, managing people was not the right fit for his skills. His manager could have considered other ways to use his expertise as a respected individual contributor.

A mismatch between skills and job requirements shouldn’t come as a surprise. Ongoing performance management and development with their managers should help employees recognize strengths and weaknesses and prepare them for next steps in their careers.

Ongoing performance management should prepare employees for the next steps in their careers.
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Knowing what is needed in the job and finding the right person to do it tells your employees you want to invest in them and that you care about their success.

The person promoted doesn’t reflect company’s stated culture. Your company states that integrity is the bedrock of the institution, yet Dennis brags about how he closed a deal using questionable practices.

Innovation is key, your company says, yet Wanda, the leader of your creative team, is known for shutting down ideas she doesn’t like.

When people like Dennis and Wanda get promoted, it suggests that you don’t reinforce what you’ve said you stand for, and that your ideals are applied situationally.

What to do: Employee promotion is a clear example of actions speaking louder than words. When you promote someone, be clear on why you’ve selected them and understand what the perception will be. Your decision shouldn’t solely rest on what will be supported by the team, but consider all aspects of the promotion decision to ensure you have the best person, not just for the job at hand, but for the company.

Deciding if an employee is ready for a promotion shouldn’t be difficult. It should be a result of a quality performance management strategy, where you and your employees have had ongoing conversations about employee goals, strengths, weaknesses and interests, and the company’s needs.

Have an ongoing conversation about your employees’ goals, strengths, and career trajectory. Give 15Five a try!

Doing consistent work by setting quarterly objectives and providing frequent employee feedback and coaching clarifies who to promote and when, based on actual relationships and performance data. With promotions, it’s not what you say, but what you do. Your company culture depends on your commitment to the latter.

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: Marc Rafanel Lopez on Unsplash

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