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Recently, Starbucks has been faced with the issue of biased behavior in the workplace. The coffee giant saw widespread media coverage as a result of an incident filmed and shared worldwide, in which unconscious bias may have played a role. The company quickly addressed the behavior by making it clear that it’s not in line with their values. They’re also showing their commitment to addressing the problem, by closing every store for a day to provide training on biased behavior. And most recently, they’ve changed the operational policy that was at the heart of the incident.

What is unconscious bias? An unconscious (or implicit) bias is a prejudice that favors a certain group of people over another. We develop these biases over time without realizing it, and sometimes they even contradict who we think we are and what we believe. Unconscious biases can be based on our upbringing, our individual experiences, or what we hear and see represented in the media. As we absorb biased ways of thinking, we adapt our behavior. Biases can lead us to behave illogically or inappropriately, and can even drive us to treat others unfairly.

What Starbucks is doing – publicly apologizing and reacting strongly and quickly with an awareness training program – is important. Starbucks has taken an important initial step. Yet, studies have shown that biased behavior can be difficult to change. We don’t have control over what we’re not even aware of, and gaining that awareness isn’t easy. It takes significant effort and careful un-learning of years of ingrained messages and learned associations.

A one-day training on implicit bias is a great start. Over the longer term, there are two additional actions that companies can take to create a more inclusive culture both in how employees treat customers and in how they treat each other. The first is to recognize that awareness alone is not enough. After all, getting people to admit to holding bias doesn’t mean they’ll change their behavior to account for it. To ensure long-term changes in the everyday behaviors of employees in all ranks, companies can provide ongoing reminders, nudges, and actions that keep bias awareness relevant and current for employees.

The second action they can take to ensure long-term change is reframing the tone of trainings. Many existing diversity trainings focus on the punitive – they’re mandatory, and they transmit the message that if you mess up, and this or that bad thing will happen to the company. While well intentioned, this negative messaging doesn’t always lead to a more inclusive and welcoming culture. Instead, when people are given the choice to opt-in to diversity trainings, it helps them self-identify as pro-diversity, and begin to internalize that sentiment.

These two actions can help amplify and sustain the impact of immediate training, like what Starbucks is doing this month. Given that unconscious bias is developed over time, it makes sense that ongoing, consistent, and positive reinforcement is part of the solution needed to inhibit it. And the impact of changing this behavior is significant: doing so will ensure a positive experience and journey for employees and customers alike.

The post Grappling with Unconscious Bias in the Workplace appeared first on Engage.

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Failure to incorporate big data into human resources can hurt managers and companies, an expert says.

“Historically, HR departments have been run by wonderful people who are great people-people,” Jenny Dearborn, co-author of “The Data Driven Leader,” said in a recent podcast. “They are great at the human interaction. They’re great at being empathetic. They’re wonderful at caring deeply about how people feel, and that’s fantastic. But really to be a competitive differentiator moving forward, we need to move beyond that, and we need to use all of the tools available to us in order to be more effective. Every other functional area in a business is using all of these resources available to them, all of the data and insights. HR needs to use that, too.”

But an organization’s data is not always readily packaged for HR’s use, she added. For instance, the sales department holds sales data, customer interaction data is with the customer service team and productivity numbers might be in multiple locations. To make the most of the data, they need to share it, but that’s a point of contention for many division leaders, Dearborn said.

“They’re concerned with: ‘If I give you this information, how are you going to use it to potentially make me look bad, make me look like I missed a trend or that I wasn’t doing my job as well as I could have?’” she said. “There’s a lot of searing skepticism about giving over raw data to a central group and saying, ‘Triangulate this. Put some algorithms on top. See what you come up with.’ People are quite reluctant to share.”

Concerns about data privacy are another challenge, especially in light of recent breaches at major companies such as Equifax, Uber, SunTrust and Yahoo. The balance between company rights and consumer protections is still being worked out at many organizations.

The catch is that “most companies have all the data they need, they just don’t know how to use it,” Dearborn said. They have data on customers, employees, accounts and earnings, but they don’t know how to translate that data into actionable information. As a result, HR departments are looking to hire data scientists. In fact, it’s the most requested new job at departments, Dearborn said.

As analyses get more sophisticated, companies can begin to predict future successes, right down to the individual employee level, she said. “You can say, ‘I believe this employee will be successful in the future. There is a 90 percent confidence rate that this particular employee will make quota at the end of the year. I believe this other leader will likely fail, unless there is some sort of intervention,’” she said. “You extrapolate that out, and you can start to predict behavior. That’s really powerful. It’s a wonderful tool for a corporation to make sure that they meet their revenue targets.”

This article was written by Stephanie Kanowitz from FierceCEO and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The post To Maximize Success, HR Professionals Need Big Data appeared first on Engage.

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In 2015, when the race to offer paid parental leave benefits was heating up, leaders at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation asked themselves if their policy aligned with their mission to support healthy families as an organization.

In a matter of weeks, the Gates Foundation’s top brass approved a policy that took the program from 12 weeks to up to 52 weeks of paid time off for mothers and fathers in the first year of a child’s birth or adoption. Those parents already on leave when the announcement was made were also eligible for the extended benefit. With the exception of Netflix, not many other companies (for-profit or not) were giving workers (of both genders) a chance to take a full year off to be with their new babies.

In the absence of a federally mandated paid leave policy, some states and cities have implemented their own, while private and public companies also created their own policies.

Fast Company has reported on organizations one-upping each other to extend their leave offerings (in an effort to be more inclusive and attract talent) that range from 12 weeks to six months to make up for the fact that the U.S. can’t compete with other countries on offering paid parental leave to its workforce. The U.S. is the only country among the 42 developed nations analyzed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that does not have any federally mandated paid leave policy. And this interactive map shows how far behind we are compared to the rest of the world.

[Image: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation]As the Gates Foundation soon discovered, extending workers that much time away isn’t without challenges. With more than two years of experience with the 52-week parental leave—and 222 new parents (66% women and 34% men) participating out of a staff of 1,546–the Foundation’s chief human resources officer Steven Rice tells Fast Company what the investment brought the organization, and what still needs work. His responses are lightly edited for clarity.

Challenges: “This Is A Work In Progress For Us”

It puts pressure on the leadership team when they have an individual leave. The management team, while they appreciate the intent of the program, have a hard time understanding, “How do I still get work done when I have a key individual key contributor out for that length of time?”

Managers are now learning how to quantify the work that needs to get done, how to reset goals and expectations across the team, how to train a backfill individual that’s going to be there for 12 to 18 months. We have toolkits. We do learning sessions and focus groups for the management team.

The other component for that manager is, “How do I reintroduce the individual that’s coming back into the organization?” Like any dynamic organization, a year is a long time in terms of how many changes or shifts happen. So we’ve actually had managers do a new hire orientation to bring the individual back in. We weren’t anticipating the depth of how much that work was going to be for the manager. So those are the two areas that we underestimated, and probably where we still continue to do a lot of our work.

Fathers: “They Need Some Additional Coaching Or Guidance”

Men who are in leadership roles feel a different type of stress or pressure on needing to want to take some time off but get back into the job. They probably hang onto the work much more strongly than a man in an individual contributor role. So we’re working on how can they actually delegate work and responsibilities, still feel supported, and feel that their re-entry would be managed.

Disconnecting: “It’s Case By Case”

We’ve had to be extremely prescriptive that the individual going on leave is the person who actually describes what connectivity looks like. Before someone goes out, we spend a lot of time with them, asking what good and bad connectivity looks like. We don’t want to prescribe that it has be zero offline.

We have a lot of type A personality folks here who want to stay connected. Through that conversation, we’re pushing a lot of their strongly held beliefs that they need to call in every month, or they need to be reviewing email, or still want to be in staff meetings. I’ve had three individuals on my team say, “I would like it if I can get a phone call with you for 30 minutes every three to four months,” and I say, “It needs to be what you view as being a positive connection back into the organization.”

The intention of the program is for them to spend as much quality time with their newborn, so we’re going to draw a line. If they continue to push back, we’ll consider removing connectivity and doing other things, but we don’t want to do that. What’s interesting is that once their child is either adopted or they give birth, we just find the connectivity drops dramatically.

Benefits: “We Contribute To A Healthy Family”

We see that as a significant benefit. The second benefit is that those individuals who have participated in the program are committed, highly productive, and aligned to the Foundation. We now have an individual that is going to drive even harder on behalf of the work that they do at the Foundation.

Bonus: Opportunity And Engagement

I never anticipated how we were going to manage backfills [to replace employees on leave] when we launched this program. We now have a website that shows all the opportunities popping up through the organization, and we now have people applying for these backfill positions as stretch opportunities for them to grow in their career and experiment and experience new parts of the organization that they wouldn’t have experienced previously.

One team was going through a reorganization when a person was going out on leave. Prior to that, they were on our high potential list. As we’re looking at the reorganization, we wanted her back in a leadership role, so we let her know that [position would be open for her when she came back], and so she was promoted while on parental leave.

Leaving After Leave

We’ve actually had two individuals decide to make a life change [and leave the company to stay home with their child], and we were happy about and supportive of that. We asked them to join the alumni network, and at any point in time when that decision may shift or change, we want them back. We’ve now had a small handful of individuals that have come back, and then within a year have gone back out on parental leave, so they are now on their second child. And the program doesn’t shift or change.

How To Replicate The Program At Other Companies

Invest the time. I can’t underestimate the amount of time or the approach with helping leaders to have productive conversations with individuals who are going out. I do think that reflecting on all of your people practices and policies that reinforce that you going out is not something that should be seen as negative, or should impact your ability to progress in your career in the organization, no matter the size of your organization or how much leave you actually provide.

Stay positive. There is a productivity component if you think about it as a positive versus if someone abuses it. It’s up to the organization to create a compelling environment where people want to work and do their best work. If I leaned into this from a fear perspective, we wouldn’t see the benefits that we are seeing. Look at this being a glass-half-full opportunity on getting better engagement, having people love the organization, and wanting to do even better work when they come back.

Make parental leave mission-critical. We felt it would be disingenuous if we’re out talking about creating healthy families as well as having children thrive if our internal people practices didn’t align and support that. From an HR perspective, all of our work is aligned to who we are: Outside needs to be reflected on our inside.

This article was written by Lydia Dishman from Co. Create and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The post How The Gates Foundation Makes 52-Week Paid Parental Leave Work appeared first on Engage.

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When her 17-year old son needed partial hospitalization for symptoms arising from his Asperger’s syndrome, Marcia Haugstad, a manager at Deloitte, requested paid family leave. Unfortunately, just as he was progressing enough for her to think about getting back to work, her elderly mother suffered a bad fall that broke her pelvis.

“I called Deloitte and told them about my mother. My team was 100% supportive,” she recalls. “They agreed I should take the full four months off. That got us almost all the way to the end of my mother’s rehab period.”

Deloitte’s U.S. well-being leader, Jen Fisher, asserts that many of the company’s employees are part of the “sandwich generation,” caring for children and aging parents at the same time. These workers are most likely gen Xers, who are sandwiched in between boomers and millennials and don’t get a lot of attention. It’s ironic when you consider that the highest percentage of managers (37%) are gen X. According to the most recent workforce data from Gallup, 11% of gen X managers care for an elderly or disabled person, and 64% have one child or more living at home.

Paid family leave takes on a new meaning for workers like Haugstad, because it’s not just about taking care of a new baby, but also for sick family members.

According to the Society For Human Resources Management (SHRM), over 75% of employers say caregiving benefits will grow in importance to their companies over the next five years, especially when it comes to caring for elderly or ailing family members.

That’s likely because as AARP chief advocacy and engagement officer Nancy LeaMond noted in HR Today, “Of today’s 40 million family caregivers, 24 million are juggling caregiving responsibilities and employment. By recognizing and supporting their needs, employers can improve productivity and foster a stable and healthy workforce.”

This is becoming increasingly important, because as unemployment hovers at historic lows (4.1% for the last six months running), employers’ bids to attract and retain talent has heated up. And while some are tailored to attract millennials (see student loan repayment), others are targeting this growing slice of the workforce that’s often overlooked.

Fast Company recently asked some companies about their approach to extended paid family leave and how it is affecting their businesses.

Fisher at Deloitte says their program provides 16 weeks of paid time off annually for a range of caregiving needs, including the addition of a new child through birth or adoption, supporting aging parents, and caring for an ill sibling, spouse/partner, or child. “We recognize that family dynamics and structures are constantly evolving,” she says. “This, in addition to our focus on innovating our well-being-related offerings to meet the diverse needs of our multi-generational workforce, prompted us to rethink our parental leave program and take a broader, more inclusive approach to caregiving.”

The response, she asserts, has been “phenomenal.” She says that leadership received numerous emails from staff, some of whom shared their personal caregiving stories and gratitude for the additional support. Others said that although they may never need the program, it gives them peace of mind knowing that it is there. “Program participants have also shared the incredible impact that the program has had on their families and their own well-being,” Fisher says.

For her part, Haugstad contends that she didn’t think she would have been as productive if she had to juggle work and time at the hospital for both her son and mother. “My clients wouldn’t have had the best of me, that’s for sure,” says Haugstad.

Echoing this sentiment is Rosemary Arriada-Keiper, vice president of Global Rewards at Adobe. “Employees need to be able to care for themselves and their families at home before they can be their best at work,” she notes.

As part of Adobe’s enhanced family leave that the company announced in 2015, Adobe provides employees up to four weeks of paid time to care for a sick family member. Adobe also offers a backup care program through Bright Horizons to provide up to 100 hours of temporary care for employees’ loved ones, including parents, adult children, spouses/domestic partners, and in-laws while the employee is at work.

Although they weren’t able to provide any data on how this has affected their retention rates in the past two years, Arriada-Keiper says, “Our employees are our greatest asset, so when we do the right thing for them, it’s inevitably the right thing for the business.”

Large companies aren’t the only ones willing to stretch their paid leave benefits.

Norway, the country often at the leading edge of offering paid leave and other family-friendly benefits, is having an impact on a very small slice of the U.S. workforce through the Oslo-based Kahoot! Falguni Bhuta, Kahoot’s head of global communications and partner marketing, is one of four U.S.-based employees of the 50-person edtech company. She says that the Norwegian government mandates such things as getting 60 days paid time off to take care of a sick aging parent. Otherwise, in-home elder care is subsidized by the government, and If your dependents (such as a spouse) are sick or disabled, you get don’t get time off to care for them, but you do get paid time off to take care of yourself to combat the attendant mental stress associated with caregiving.

Coursera, with just over 250 staffers, has an unlimited paid time off (PTO) policy, which can be used toward caring for loved ones. A Coursera spokesperson says that those who are drawn to work for the company for its mission are simply asked to apply their good judgment and discretion while taking benefit of uncapped PTO. “If in doubt, they can discuss that with their manager on how to best avail the benefit,” according to the spokesperson.

Last year, mapping software company Planet launched a paid family leave program that offers up to six weeks of full salary for employees who have family members in need of care. Cara Brennan Allamano, the senior vice president of Planet’s People+Places Team, says, “We feel it’s important that our employees have the time and flexibility to take care of their family responsibilities. It assures us that they are more connected, present, and innovative on the job.” While she doesn’t have any specific data to share, Brennan Allamano says, “We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from those utilizing the benefit, and feel this greatly impacts our talent attraction and retention strategy.”

This article was written by Lydia Dishman from Co. Exist and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The post The Overlooked Benefit Gen X Workers Need appeared first on Engage.

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I knew that engaging employees in benefits was a pain point for many employers. But a recent conversation with Brian Marcotte made me realize just how serious the problem is.

“What keeps employers up at night is engagement,” said the president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “It’s engagement in all these benefits and tools — the full scope of resources that employers make available. How do they make these available at the time employees need them, and how do they maximize them and achieve their goals from a health and wellbeing perspective?”

Because employees often ask their employers for more benefits — calling for paid leave, student loan benefits and other perks that make them healthy and happy — it doesn’t always cross my mind that there already are a number of workplace offerings that often go unnoticed and underutilized by employees.

The reason for the problem is nothing new: Benefits are complex and confusing, and communication isn’t always prioritized. And let’s face it, employees have other things to do besides feverishly researching their employer’s benefits roster — unless it’s at a time when they really need help. As Mike Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, told me, the focus on putting the employee in the middle, making workers the center of these decisions, hasn’t turned out to be the best strategy. “I don’t think it’s working the way it’s intended,” he said.

What seems to be missing from the equation is more education and continual support for workers.

One solution, as Thompson pointed out, is a streamlined approach, where one vendor leads the way and guides employees to all the other resources available to them, as opposed to having a whole array of vendors and expecting employees to navigate the maze.

Other answers are evidenced by the companies who made EBN’s recent list of the country’s biggest 401(k) plans. Some of the nation’s largest employers are automatically enrolling employees and automatically increasing contributions in their company’s retirement plan, taking away some of the guesswork and engaging workers in a meaningful benefit right away.

Yet another solution is found in a new study from WorldatWork and Korn Ferry, which discovered that a number of employers are increasing personalized, progressive health benefits in an effort to reach an always-on workforce.

Offerings such as telemedicine and access to a 24-hour nurse line shot up by double-digit percentages in the past year. They are being touted as a way to get employees access to care when they need it most, even on weekends and after hours. Likewise, stress reduction (offered by 65% of employers), weight management (70%) and smoking cessation programs (84%) can be accessed 24/7, improving behavioral changes in a positive way for employees and employers. (See more here.)

It’s a smart idea: There’s more to engagement than letting employees know certain benefits exist. It’s also about designing them in such a way that employees are able to use them.

Employees aren’t 9-5 anymore, so we can’t expect our benefits to be, either.

After all, what’s the point of having a robust benefits package if employees aren’t taking advantage of it?

This article was written by Kathryn Mayer from Employee Benefit News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The post Why Benefits Engagement is Employers’ Biggest Problem appeared first on Engage.

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When employees feel valued and respected by peers and leaders, team creativity increases, a recent study found.

The way workers see their status as part of a team can affect the interactions between team leaders and members, according to the study, “From Empowerment to Multilevel Creativity: The Role of Employee Self-Perceived Status and Feedback-Seeking Climate,” published March 5 in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.

Using the relational fairness theory, which states that people are more willing to cooperate when they feel a social group values, respects and fairly treats them, the study concluded that leadership empowerment behavior, or LEB, raises employees’ self-perceived status, which leads to other benefits. For example, at the team level, LEB has a positive effect on creativity by encouraging members to seek feedback. LEB includes letting employees’ use their discretion, asking their opinions in decision-making and recognizing their work.

“It can help employees find meaning, develop competence, have self-determination, and feel the importance in their work, which can increase their perceived relational fairness,” the study found. “A good relationship with authorities may generate the feeling of being valued, being fairly treated, and having high status in the group, which in turn motivates employees to respond favorably.”

Researchers also applied status theory—or how people view themselves—to examine LEB’s effects. Because relational fairness theory puts a premium on social groups as a source of self-validation, interpersonal treatment during social interactions informs people of their status, the study states.

That self-perceived status is a key motivational driver for individual creativity, the report adds, and shows how important status can be in linking leadership behaviors to employees’ desirable outcomes. For instance, high conflict about status may hinder team building and decrease employees’ trust in and cooperation with one another.

Additionally, the study, based on data from 84 teams with 392 employees, found that team status conflict affects the relationship between LEB and a feedback-seeking climate. When status conflict is low, LEB has a positive correlation to feedback-seeking.

“The mediating effect of the feedback-seeking climate helps us further understand the mechanism by which the work environment may be optimized by LEB so that team creativity could be better delivered,” the report states.

This study differs from other research into workers’ behavior because it looks at what it calls discretionary cooperation rather than mandatory cooperation. It paves the way for future examination of team leader and member exchanges through the lens of cultural differences and for research on perceived relational justice instead of fairness.

“In general, instead of just pushing for new ideas, making employees feel that they are fairly treated and are working in a feedback-welcoming environment would be a better strategy to spur creativity,” the report concludes. “In addition, in the empowering process, leaders should avoid potential conflicts around status that would undermine the feedback-seeking climate and cause a reduction in team creativity.”

This article was written by Stephanie Kanowitz from FierceCEO and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The post Fairness, Solid Feedback Foster Employee Creativity, Report Finds appeared first on Engage.

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The best place to work in America isn’t Google or Costco. It’s Michelin, a tire manufacturing company headquartered in France with 19 plants across the U.S.

That’s according to a new ranking published by Forbes, which partnered with Statista, a market research company, to survey thousands of employees to determine the best employers in America.

Companies like Google and Costco — both known for their positive workplace cultures and benefits — still ranked in Forbes‘ top five, along with Trader Joe’s and Principal Financial, an investment management company. But Michelin’s meteoric rise to the top of Forbes annual list comes as it encourages employees to volunteer and fosters career development initiatives.

“I sum it up with two words: We care,” David Stafford, chief human resources officer of Michelin North America, told Forbes. “We offer a purpose-driven career with a purpose-driven company. That really resonates today, because people want to be part of a company that stands for more than just business.”

The company, which is also known for its coveted Michelin star honors for restaurants, is also dedicated to reducing C02 emissions through its membership with United Nations Global Compact, according to Forbes.

Indeed, Michelin isn’t one of the most expected companies to land this top spot. Forbes said it rose 33 spots to claim the title this year, and the company hasn’t appeared in top spots on other lists from Fortune or by Glassdoor, which appear not to include companies headquartered outside of the U.S. Similar lists from LinkedIn include tech powerhouses like Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Uber among its list of the 50 best places to work.

Forbes and Statista surveyed 30,000 employees across the country about how much they would recommend their company to others, among other questions.

Other studies — like this recent one from Indeed — have measured more specific qualities that make a workplace desirable. At Costco, the Indeed report found, employees are the most satisfied with their compensation and benefits than those at other places of employment.

This article was written by Jennifer Calfas from MONEY and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The post A Tire Company Was Just Named America’s Best Employer — Beating Google and Facebook appeared first on Engage.

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In 2015, when the race to offer paid parental leave benefits was heating up, leaders at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation asked themselves if their policy aligned with their mission to support healthy families as an organization.

In a matter of weeks, the Gates Foundation’s top brass approved a policy that took the program from 12 weeks to up to 52 weeks of paid time off for mothers and fathers in the first year of a child’s birth or adoption. Those parents already on leave when the announcement was made were also eligible for the extended benefit. With the exception of Netflix, not many other companies (for-profit or not) were giving workers (of both genders) a chance to take a full year off to be with their new babies.

In the absence of a federally mandated paid leave policy, some states and cities have implemented their own, while private and public companies also created their own policies.

Fast Company has reported on organizations one-upping each other to extend their leave offerings (in an effort to be more inclusive and attract talent) that range from 12 weeks to six months to make up for the fact that the U.S. can’t compete with other countries on offering paid parental leave to its workforce. The U.S. is the only country among the 42 developed nations analyzed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that does not have any federally mandated paid leave policy. And this interactive map shows how far behind we are compared to the rest of the world.

[Image: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation]As the Gates Foundation soon discovered, extending workers that much time away isn’t without challenges. With more than two years of experience with the 52-week parental leave—and 222 new parents (66% women and 34% men) participating out of a staff of 1,546–the Foundation’s chief human resources officer Steven Rice tells Fast Company what the investment brought the organization, and what still needs work. His responses are lightly edited for clarity.

Challenges: “This Is A Work In Progress For Us”

It puts pressure on the leadership team when they have an individual leave. The management team, while they appreciate the intent of the program, have a hard time understanding, “How do I still get work done when I have a key individual key contributor out for that length of time?”

Managers are now learning how to quantify the work that needs to get done, how to reset goals and expectations across the team, how to train a backfill individual that’s going to be there for 12 to 18 months. We have toolkits. We do learning sessions and focus groups for the management team.

The other component for that manager is, “How do I reintroduce the individual that’s coming back into the organization?” Like any dynamic organization, a year is a long time in terms of how many changes or shifts happen. So we’ve actually had managers do a new hire orientation to bring the individual back in. We weren’t anticipating the depth of how much that work was going to be for the manager. So those are the two areas that we underestimated, and probably where we still continue to do a lot of our work.

Fathers: “They Need Some Additional Coaching Or Guidance”

Men who are in leadership roles feel a different type of stress or pressure on needing to want to take some time off but get back into the job. They probably hang onto the work much more strongly than a man in an individual contributor role. So we’re working on how can they actually delegate work and responsibilities, still feel supported, and feel that their re-entry would be managed.

Disconnecting: “It’s Case By Case”

We’ve had to be extremely prescriptive that the individual going on leave is the person who actually describes what connectivity looks like. Before someone goes out, we spend a lot of time with them, asking what good and bad connectivity looks like. We don’t want to prescribe that it has be zero offline.

We have a lot of type A personality folks here who want to stay connected. Through that conversation, we’re pushing a lot of their strongly held beliefs that they need to call in every month, or they need to be reviewing email, or still want to be in staff meetings. I’ve had three individuals on my team say, “I would like it if I can get a phone call with you for 30 minutes every three to four months,” and I say, “It needs to be what you view as being a positive connection back into the organization.”

The intention of the program is for them to spend as much quality time with their newborn, so we’re going to draw a line. If they continue to push back, we’ll consider removing connectivity and doing other things, but we don’t want to do that. What’s interesting is that once their child is either adopted or they give birth, we just find the connectivity drops dramatically.

Benefits: “We Contribute To A Healthy Family”

We see that as a significant benefit. The second benefit is that those individuals who have participated in the program are committed, highly productive, and aligned to the Foundation. We now have an individual that is going to drive even harder on behalf of the work that they do at the Foundation.

Bonus: Opportunity And Engagement

I never anticipated how we were going to manage backfills [to replace employees on leave] when we launched this program. We now have a website that shows all the opportunities popping up through the organization, and we now have people applying for these backfill positions as stretch opportunities for them to grow in their career and experiment and experience new parts of the organization that they wouldn’t have experienced previously.

One team was going through a reorganization when a person was going out on leave. Prior to that, they were on our high potential list. As we’re looking at the reorganization, we wanted her back in a leadership role, so we let her know that [position would be open for her when she came back], and so she was promoted while on parental leave.

Leaving After Leave

We’ve actually had two individuals decide to make a life change [and leave the company to stay home with their child], and we were happy about and supportive of that. We asked them to join the alumni network, and at any point in time when that decision may shift or change, we want them back. We’ve now had a small handful of individuals that have come back, and then within a year have gone back out on parental leave, so they are now on their second child. And the program doesn’t shift or change.

How To Replicate The Program At Other Companies

Invest the time. I can’t underestimate the amount of time or the approach with helping leaders to have productive conversations with individuals who are going out. I do think that reflecting on all of your people practices and policies that reinforce that you going out is not something that should be seen as negative, or should impact your ability to progress in your career in the organization, no matter the size of your organization or how much leave you actually provide.

Stay positive. There is a productivity component if you think about it as a positive versus if someone abuses it. It’s up to the organization to create a compelling environment where people want to work and do their best work. If I leaned into this from a fear perspective, we wouldn’t see the benefits that we are seeing. Look at this being a glass-half-full opportunity on getting better engagement, having people love the organization, and wanting to do even better work when they come back.

Make parental leave mission-critical. We felt it would be disingenuous if we’re out talking about creating healthy families as well as having children thrive if our internal people practices didn’t align and support that. From an HR perspective, all of our work is aligned to who we are: Outside needs to be reflected on our inside.

This article was written by Lydia Dishman from Co. Create and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The post How The Gates Foundation Makes 52-Week Paid Parental Leave Work appeared first on Engage.

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Owning a piece of the company pie has become part of the financial picture for millions of American workers as equity compensation programs grow in popularity. The advantages of equity compensation plans extend to employees and employers alike. For the former, it can be a critical tool for building long-term wealth, and for the latter, it can foster greater employee loyalty and longevity.

While equity compensation plans are growing in terms of availability and adoption, a new Schwab survey of workers who participate in such plans uncovered a striking gap between how much employees say they value this benefit and their likelihood of taking action. Though three-quarters of workers view equity compensation and employee stock purchase plans as part of their long-term wealth strategy, only a quarter of participants have ever actually exercised or sold their shares.

The primary factors behind this inaction are fear and uncertainty, with nearly half of workers saying they are worried they would make a mistake if they were to exercise the benefit. It can be a missed opportunity if participants don’t take advantage of their plan at key moments in their financial life, so it’s important for plan sponsors to understand and address what is hindering employees from putting it to use.

Fear is a natural instinct, especially when it comes to making decisions about money. By understanding the root of these concerns and providing the right guidance and education, however, plan sponsors can help participants overcome their anxieties.

The top reasons participants hesitate to exercise their benefit are because they’re waiting for more favorable market conditions, are concerned about the potential tax implications or are waiting for their equity compensation to fully vest, according to the survey. These worries, coupled with the fact that nearly one-fifth of respondents say they just don’t know how to exercise or sell their equity compensation, suggest that participants recognize there are consequences to mishandling their equity compensation and that they need help to deploy it properly.

Breaking down barriers: Where to help

Participants are open to receive help on making the most of this resource. Although only half of participants reported confidence in their ability to make the right decisions about their plan on their own, the vast majority (80%) say they would be extremely or very confident with the help of a financial professional, according to the survey.

To offer effective advice, it’s important to know the specific areas in which participants want help. Half of those surveyed said they want to better understand the tax implications of their decisions. The implications of the new tax policy, as well as existing tax rules, will vary based on each employee’s specific situation, such as their income level and marital status. As a first step, employers should talk workers through any potential tax consequences that could incur.

Many participants are also thinking long term, and plan sponsors should consider shaping advice accordingly. Participants want specific advice on how to use the benefit to help prepare for retirement. For these participants, conversations should focus on the pros and cons of deploying equity compensation for shorter-term financial milestones, such as making a down payment on a house, rather than longer-term investments that will play a role in retirement.

Transforming fear into confidence

So how can plan sponsors put these insights into action? For one, it can make a lot of sense for employers to offer advice specific to equity compensation — ideally including a consultation with a financial professional — as a part of their holistic workplace financial wellness programs. These programs are not offered in vain: In fact, Schwab’s survey reveals that two-thirds of employees who are offered a workplace financial wellness program take advantage of it. Of those using such a program, nearly all found it helpful when making equity compensation decisions.

Another important tactic to consider is tailoring guidance by generation. A baby boomer, for example, has vastly different needs than a millennial, based on factors like personal and family financial obligations and the length of time to accumulate wealth. Employers should encourage millennials to keep an eye on the bigger picture and help them understand the role equity compensation can play in both short-term scenarios and long-term plans, but advise older generations to center on the role it can play in retirement.

Interestingly, among those surveyed, boomers and Gen Xers report lower confidence in their ability to make decisions about their equity compensation than millennials do. Therefore, these generations may need to be armed with age-appropriate guidance to help them feel more confident in their investment decisions.

A win-win for employees and employers

Though employees say they value their equity compensation plans, their actions call into question how well they understand and receive the value that sponsors intend. Thus, there is an industry-wide need to close the gap between appreciation for the benefit and putting it to use. The right suite of tools and advice may help employees overcome their fear of making a mistake and move toward a more secure financial future.

The benefits don’t end with employees, though. A third of workers surveyed say their employer’s equity compensation plan is the reason, or one of the main reasons, they took their current job. It’s clear, then, that equity compensation plans can serve as an effective recruitment and retention tool, attracting top talent and engendering a sense of commitment among current workers.

This article was written by Marc McDonough from Employee Benefit News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The post How to Help Employees Realize the Full Value of Equity Compensation appeared first on Engage.

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It should be no surprise that the way people work is evolving, due to an increasingly dispersed workforce, a proliferation of non-desk workers, the rise of Millennials (and soon Generation Z), and the explosion of workplace technology. On top of this, the way people consume information, in and outside of their work lives, is also changing. Combined, these trends demand a new recipe for effective employee communication. With over 600 customers, who leverage our software to further their employee communication, we’ve seen a lot of different approaches. Here are three characteristics that the most successful efforts have in common:

  1. They provide a payoff for the employee early on.

First impressions make a difference, and creating a valuable experience for employees early on can significantly impact communication effectiveness over time. You need to create content that has the audience leaning in to engage. This could mean beginning a campaign with an inspiring message that creates an emotional connection with the employee, or it could be a clear statement of what the employee stands to gain from the initiative or program at hand. Employees who get a good feeling up front are going to be more motivated to give their attention or take an action later on.

  1. They’re ongoing.

Whether the goal of your communication is to drive better decision making about compensation, stimulate more frequent check-ins between managers and employees, or ensure that workers internalize and live out your organization’s mission and values, ongoing communication has the best chance of getting you there. One-and-done communication may reach employees, but the message will rarely stick with them for very long. Continual reinforcement and strategic repetition have proven to be hallmarks of effective communication. Successful communicators promote their message over time to keep it top-of-mind and ensure information is retained.

  1. They’re dynamic.

Just because employee communication is ongoing doesn’t mean that it should be static, or something that you set and forget. Strong communicators plan their campaigns in short increments. For example, they may start the few weeks or months using best practices and data about their workforce’s preferences, schedule times to measure how things are going, and make changes based on what they learn, improving the effectiveness of the campaign. Even if a campaign performs strongly in the beginning, it’s likely that changes will be needed down the line, as anything that stays the same for too long can quickly fade into background noise in today’s over-stimulated world.

Tip: Frequency is your friend and helps you learn and iterate more quickly. If you adopt a new communication approach but only send messages monthly, it’s going to take a lot longer to know if it’s working than if you’re communicating on a weekly basis.

While other factors come into play—like policies and norms within your company or influences outside your company— these three guidelines provide a solid foundation for success to seed and grow your efforts. Provide an ongoing, versatile, and valuable stream of information to employees, and watch their engagement with your programs increase. For more tips, check out this ebook on building an employee communication campaign.

The post 3 Characteristics of Effective Employee Communication appeared first on Engage.

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