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When corporate leadership and employees are asked to define their workplace culture, they often have trouble articulating a cogent response. Because workplace culture is the character or personality of a company, it isn’t hard to understand why it can be difficult to put into words. The personality and character of a company are largely dependent on the actions or behaviors of those within the company. At corporate giants like Amazon, it’s easy for team members to repeat the CEO’s assessment of the culture—for instance, Jeff Bezos’ description of Amazon’s “gladiator culture.” But what about smaller companies? What about your organization?
Culture Is in the Eye of the Beholder
An exercise I commonly perform is to sit down with leaders of small and medium-size organizations and ask them to define their company’s culture on a sticky note. It isn’t uncommon to collect as many different definitions of the company’s culture as there are people in the room. Culture can be a hard thing to pin down at many companies. So if you don’t know how to define your company’s culture, how can you have an effective leadership style that reflects your culture?
In today’s work environment, Millennials are starting to drive the culture. If your culture isn’t currently attracting and retaining this generation into your workforce, in the not-too-distant future, you will struggle to create a corporate culture that attracts Millennials. One of the most common traits among Millennials is their need for collaboration at work. So where do you begin?
You must to be able to define your company culture clearly. Take a look around at the workspaces inside your office. What do they say? If you claim to have a collaborative culture but employees are closed off from one another, are you really that collaborative? What do your common areas look like? How often are they used by groups of employees? If common areas aren’t being utilized, your culture may not be as collaborative as you think.
Collect Employee Feedback
To improve your workplace culture, you may have hung some trendy sayings on the walls or placed a couple of mission statements around the workspace. But do they really define how your employees feel about working at your company? As a leader, you must sometimes ask tough questions like “How do you describe working here to your family?” Or “Would you recommend this as a place to work to your friends?” You may even muster up the courage to ask, “If you were offered the same pay and benefits from another company, would you leave?”
If you aren’t usually open to feedback, you may need to get creative to collect it. A successful way to do that might be to send out a pulse survey that promises complete anonymity. That way, you’ll get the honest answers you seek, not necessarily the ones you want to hear.
A word of caution: Be careful about claiming to have a culture that doesn’t exist at your organization. You’ll only succeed in developing negative feelings among your team members. For example, don’t claim to have an open-door policy, but open your door to employees only when it’s convenient for you. Don’t check e-mail or look at your phone while a team member is trying to utilize the open-door policy. And don’t say you have a culture that encourages honest conversations if you tend to interrupt employees or dispute every idea they bring you. We’ve all sat in meetings at which leaders end up being the only ones speaking because we don’t want to bring up ideas that are likely to be shot down.
It’s important to have a clear understanding of your culture so you can lead your team more effectively. If you’re feeling bold, pass out sticky notes during your next meeting and ask each person to define your company culture.
When we talk about start-ups and start-up culture, many imagine a collection of smart and driven individuals fulfilling business goals. What’s missing from this picture is the team management ensuring that it all runs like a smoothly oiled machine. Without good team management, the future and success of a start-up can be short-lived if no one is looking after long-term strategy and steering the team. Below we look at some of the reasons why team management is important and how to improve yours.
The Importance of the Team
The success of a new venture doesn’t just lie with the founders and their vision. It’s only when those founders attract a great team around them, bringing in more experience and a diverse range of skills, helping to drive the founders’ vision forward, that long-term success will be possible. Good team management will identify any weak spots present with the intention of providing support until it can be resolved. Start-ups with a willingness to adapt, learn, and take on new ideas whilst implementing tangible changes should something be proved to not work are more likely to survive and thrive in a competitive market environment.
Speaking of steering and team management, it must be noted that start-ups don’t have the luxury of misreading the market like Microsoft did when they dismissed the mobile computing revolution as a fluke. However, start-ups do have the advantage of being more responsive to market demands. Good team management is all about analyzing the market from all the possible angle, making tweaks to business plans and strategy, before the business enters any particular market segment.
How to Best Manage Your Team
Identify weak spots: as mentioned before, all start-ups should evaluate the state of the team to see where extra support is needed. There should be a good balance of different skills to evenly cover the diverse needs of a business starting out.
Use tech to help: if your start-up is quite small, it can be tempting to not implement internal processes until a mythical ‘later’ date when the team or business grows. But doing this from the start will benefit the team in the long run and instill good working habits. Manage team resources with a tool like Resource Guru, ensure no one misses a meeting with GoToMeeting, and get daily activity reports with Team Colony.
Implement training: start-ups attract talented individuals but that doesn’t mean they don’t need training or further development. Invest in your employees through scheduled training, helping learn from each other through skill sharing, talks, and more.
Delegate: learning to delegate successfully is an art that needs to be practiced from the start. It’s easy to take on too much and feel that it’s all too important for someone else to complete. Instead, delegate early and trust the people around you to get things done well.
Understand different personalities: the kind of people who gravitate towards start-ups are likely to have similar dispositions. Nevertheless, simply holding that assumption won’t work; get to know every employee and their personality to best understand the kind of approach that will bring out their best qualities.
The term “teambuilding” often elicits groans and eye rolls from employees. Many workers see them as unwelcome interruptions in already packed workdays, thinking that these feel-good activities have little value and serve no real purpose.
While you can’t help that people may have these perceptions, you can help show them that their thoughts on teambuilding may be misguided.
Savvy leaders realize that collaboration and effective communication are essential if a group is to work well together, which is precisely why teambuilding should be anything but a dirty word among Human Resources (HR) professionals.
Benefits of Teambuilding
Each department or company is made up of diverse groups of individuals with highly specialized skills. Teams everywhere—from accounting and HR to sales and marketing—are often so focused on their own tasks that they don’t have a full understanding of what others do and how they all work toward common goals.
Teambuilding activities remove these blinders and place people in a new environment, where they can get to know one another better and learn about one another’s jobs and work styles. This is important for any type of group but especially if your team is multigenerational. Teambuilding also tends to increase morale and company pride—key components of a happy, motivated workforce. What’s more, when done properly, these sessions can overcome the groans and eye rolls and really be quite fun—and something your employees actually look forward to.
Getting Your Staff into It
Not all teambuilding events are created equally. Do you have a staff of introverts? They might resist any activities that involve acting silly in front of their peers. Is your team made up of more boisterous individuals? A 3-hour lecture from a motivational speaker might not be the ticket. So, the first step in getting your staff excited about teambuilding is to figure out what will and won’t work for the individuals in your department.
Next, make the teambuilding active, either physically or socially. That doesn’t mean you can’t have movie nights or theater outings as a department, but try to add a more dynamic component, such as postshow drinks and discussions.
For the greatest engagement, hold teambuilding activities off campus. If employees are in the office, their minds will be on all the things they have to do—but aren’t getting done. Going outdoors can be invigorating, but any non-work space will help your team disconnect from their daily tasks and engage with the activity.
Finally, document the results of the activity, and reference them during group meetings in the weeks and months to come. Was the goal of the activity to improve problem-solving skills? The next time your team triumphs over a sticky situation, acknowledge their good work, and reference a relevant session. As your employees begin to appreciate the value of teambuilding, it’ll become a cherished part of your company culture.
Ideas for Teambuilding Activities
Check out these examples of real teambuilding activities that leaders have implemented at their companies.
“We play office trivia as a team.”
“Our department watches a movie together every month.”
“We celebrate birthdays and company anniversaries.”
“We hold chili cook-offs.”
“We instituted ‘Take Your Dog to Work Day.’ It creates camaraderie among employees.”
“We invite employees to family-friendly company picnics.”
“We organized a monthly bowling trip—and it turned out great.”
“We formed a company softball team.”
“We participate in activities such as basketball, pool. and laser tag.”
“We host an event for new hires that includes activities like wall climbing.”
“We invited all employees to a baseball game.”
“We went out for a go-kart race with all our employees.”
“We offer workshops to help develop skills like effective communication, team coordination, and problem solving.”
“We plan an annual staff retreat to talk about upcoming events and discuss strategies and goals.”
“We played a blindfold game, which helped build trust on the team.”
“We invite motivational speakers to present to employees.”
“We competed in an escape room challenge.”
“We took a tour of the World Trade Center.”
“While at a national meeting, we broke into groups and composed songs and then performed with local country musicians.”
“We went zip-lining.”
“We participated in a water rafting trip.”
Activities that give back to the community:
“Employees participated in a 12K run to support a good cause.”
“We volunteered to help build a home.”
“We hosted a banquet fund-raiser to help students go to college.”
“Our team came together to help feed the hungry in our community.”
Teambuilding can be a powerful addition to your management strategy. But to make the activities work, you have to put some thought into them rather than just following the latest trends. Tailor the activities to your specific group and a specific need, and you’ll have less eye rolling and more enthusiasm for collegiality.
Diane Domeyer is the executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms. Robert Half, parent company to The Creative Group, offers annual Salary Guides, which contain salary information for a range of positions that you can adjust for your local market.
There are different factors for businesses to succeed, one of which is by learning how to fully maximize your team members. To do this, you must be able to learn the importance of delegation.
Source: TarikVision / iStock / Getty
Delegation is a skill that is groomed over time. And once you get the hang of it, doing it will be a breeze. As a business, you know that there are a lot of sacrifices involved—like personal savings, rest, and relaxation, among others. However, you can avoid sacrificing too much of yourself by delegating. It is a science as much as it is an art!
Learning the importance of delegation can help you avoid experiencing decision fatigue—a scenario wherein your decision-making powers are overworked and you become reactive instead of a proactive thinker.
Another thing delegation can help you with is empowering your team members and preventing them from burning out—an important aspect if you want to keep your turnover rate at bay. Empowered employees may stay longer than those who are burned out and can be useful in hitting your yearly business objectives!
These are just surface details about the importance of delegation. Check out this infographic from Scaletime to see a deep dive on the benefits of delegating tasks to your team members to help your business succeed in its area of expertise.
When I talk to HR leaders, they often mention how frustrated their employees are by how difficult it is to get timely answers to simple questions about corporate policies, benefits, workplace amenities, and other everyday issues.
Source: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty
In the past, addressing these concerns might have taken a backseat to hiring, training, and other “traditional” HR functions. But in today’s competitive labor market, it is no longer possible to ignore this feedback from employees.
The unemployment rate is at an 18-year low, and job openings are at a record high. In order to attract and retain talented workers, HR leaders need to take responsibility for the full breadth of employees’ experiences at work.
But where do you begin? By focusing on the easier, higher-volume tasks that often feel too complex and unstructured for employees, HR leaders can take a bold step forward on the path to transforming and modernizing employee experiences across their enterprise.
Employment-verification letters, which people typically need when they buy a house and for other life events, provide a great example. When employees ask for one, they usually need it right away. Yet it can often feel like the request disappears into a black hole—an e-mail hole, to be exact. Employees usually don’t know who’s responsible for issuing the letter or how long it’s likely to take.
Onboarding is another area where far too many companies come up short. I recently spoke with a young worker who, on his first day at work, had no computer and nowhere to sit. He was anxious to meet his team and get started in his new role, but the lack of preparation on the part of his new employer made it seem as if no one else shared his excitement. It set the wrong tone from the beginning, and after a few months, he quit.
In these cases and others, technology can help turn a slow, unstructured manual process into one that’s less costly for the company and produces a better experience for employees. And, indeed, the smart application of technology is quickly becoming one of the main factors that separates the best-run HR departments from the pack—allowing them to create an employee experience that’s designed to drive deeper engagement, higher productivity, and better business results.
Take the employment-verification letter example. I recently visited a company that produces an average of 200 of these letters a week and has two people employed full-time to create them. If this process, or even part of it, were automated, these people could work on more strategic tasks like talent development, accelerate turnaround time, and give employees better visibility into the status of their requests.
One of the common misconceptions about technology is that it takes people out of the equation. In fact, in many ways, it can help put the “human” back in human resources. Automate those processes where the high-touch factor is of little importance and team members will be able to have more face-to-face interaction with employees and candidates when it matters most.
My company, ServiceNow, recently interviewed more than 500 chief human resources officers (CHROs) and found that many now see the technology-enabled employee experience as a new way to win the war for talent. Nearly two-thirds of CHROs in our survey said it’s their responsibility to drive corporate performance. More than half said the ability to create a digital, consumerized experience will define their roles during the next 3 years.
To get started, the best first step is to think about what processes would look like in your organization with the EMPLOYEE at the center, not HR. You could begin by identifying the guiding principles for the employee experience you want to create. How do you want employees to describe their experience? What are the attributes of each guiding principle, and what measurements will help you determine if you are on the right track?
For example, one guiding principle may be that your employee experience must be trusted: Employees trust that the information they get from HR is accurate and that the company is protecting their personal information. Bring together people from across your organization to help you define your guiding principles. Each company will have different priorities based on its business needs and culture. From there, everything you do should align with your principles.
While the technology options available to HR leaders today are vast and very intriguing, it is absolutely critical to start with process before technology when embarking on a transformation initiative. Too many HR organizations do it the other way around, investing in some big system and then modifying the way they work. This approach rarely leads to successful outcomes. Automating an overly complex process will only get you to a bad result faster. Ask the tough questions: Do we need to do it this way, and is this process even necessary?
By implementing these few simple strategies, HR can lead from the front rather than chasing business outcomes that may or may not positively impact the employee experience. An employee-centric business case that incorporates the thoughtful use of technology can lead to an environment where employees seldom have to ask “Why does everything have to be so difficult?”
Jen Stroud is an HR Evangelist and Transformation Consultant at ServiceNow. In her role, Jen communicates the HR service management value proposition to HR leaders and is a trusted advisor to the company’s community of HR customers. She comes to ServiceNow from TeleTech where she spent 10 years in HR and most recently was the Executive Director of Human Capital Services
People know a great leader when they see one. Yet, if you ask 10 people to describe the characteristics of a strong leader, you’ll probably get 10 different answers. True leadership is an evolutionary process in which successes and occasional failures have helped develop leadership abilities in equal measure. No two leaders have the exact same background and experiences, but, quite often, great leaders are made up of the same qualities.
erhui1979 / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty
How to Identify Leadership
Leadership qualities can be hard to identify in jobseekers, especially college grads entering into the job market for the first time upon graduation. Without years of work experience, examples of leadership are often not as obvious on an entry-level résumé.
How, then, would you know that a political science major, who was a performing cellist in college and whose only work experience is working as a restaurant server, is a gifted leader? Obviously, it’s more than just asking “Are you a leader?” The key is identifying the skills that true leaders possess.
We’ve had more than 20 years to observe and study college graduates on the job hunt, and based on thousands of interviews and monitoring their progress after hire, here are five attributes we believe most leaders have in abundance.
Leaders Solve Problems
Because they are high achievers who understand the value of a “well-oiled machine,” strong leaders look to find ways to improve systems, processes, and procedures. They are adept at analyzing problems, thinking critically, and offering solutions.
Leaders Have a Strong Sense of Initiative and Urgency
Time is money. Leaders understand how to prioritize work, utilize resources, and deploy teams/people to efficiently and effectively complete projects. They often have an innate ability to recognize and seize opportunities, capitalizing on quick action and decision-making.
Leaders Listen and Communicate Effectively
Leaders speak from a place of understanding, authority, and direction. First, they are active listeners. They seek to understand, asking questions, accumulating information, and gaining insight. Leaders are direct, thorough, and clear, leaving no room for misunderstandings or confusion on expectations. And perhaps most importantly, leaders are respectful and thoughtful in their communications.
Leaders Have Courage
Leaders know that you can easily lose ground, customers, market share, etc., if you aren’t always pushing to grow and progress. It’s about seizing opportunities and being able to foresee the outcomes of taking calculated risks. Yes, this comes from experience and having great business sense, but it’s also about making tough decisions, trying new things, and always learning from every situation.
Leaders Motivate People
This one’s big. Everyone’s different and is motivated by different things. Leaders get this. They know the universal truths: Set clear goals and expectations, create positive work environments, and foster teamwork and collaboration. But beyond that, great leaders know that whether it be professional development, leadership opportunities, competitions, or bonus pay, finding the right mix of motivators can drive productivity, reduce turnover, and increase employee engagement—all good things.
Consider each of these tenets when interviewing prospective hires. For the new grad with no professional work experience, look to real-life experiences; ask open-ended questions that allow the candidate to cite real-life examples in each area where he or she has exhibited leadership behavior.
Surprisingly, you might learn about how a candidate identified a problem with long wait times at the restaurant he or she worked at during college and created a solution that both decreased wait times and increased sales. Or, you might find out about the time a candidate rallied his or her basketball team to push through what looked to be a losing season to make it to their division playoffs through his or her ability to effectively motivate the team.
Leaders aren’t made in the classroom. Important innate skills are developed and honed through a series of life experiences unique to each individual. As a hiring manager, finding the diamonds in the rough is challenging but rewarding work. The trick is knowing how to mine them and then giving them an opportunity to shine.
Brian Weed is CEO of Avenica, the leading U.S. recruiting firm exclusively focused on placing recent college graduates into entry-level, career-track positions. Learn more about the process, or find the right entry-level talent for your team here.
Summer is often a busy time with vacations, and it’s also a great time for teambuilding and an opportunity for employee engagement. Here are five ideas.
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With the warmer weather comes vacations, temptations to be out of the office, and countless distractions. Yet many businesses continue to operate at full speed (it might even in their busy season) during the warmer weather. For managers, it can be a challenge to manage expectations, keep the team productive, and pause for a moment to celebrate the summer. If your team is stuck in the office this summer, here are five ideas to help take a moment for fun.
Plan one long weekend: Not long ago, a director I spoke with said she gave her entire department a Friday off. The whole team took the same weekend in August and could do what they wanted—vacation with family, hobbies, head to the beach, or stay inside and recuperate. The only rule was that from Friday to Monday, no e-mails or work could be done.
Host a family-friendly event: Another way to encourage your team to engage is to sponsor a family-friendly event. It could be a lunchtime picnic or an evening outdoor cocktails event for staff and a guest. Create time for your team to bond, and include the people closest to them.
Sponsor a themed lunch: Getting out of the office even for a short period of time can be a great way to enjoy the summer. A catered lunch with a summer theme can reward your team and help make a week interesting. Consider a picnic, a BBQ, or another summer-themed meal one day during the summer.
Hold meetings outside: Are you having a one-on-one meeting with a member of your team? Consider holding a walking meeting outside. Can you schedule a strategy call or brainstorming session outside? This won’t be appropriate for every day, every meeting, or even every employee. But when the conditions align, and everyone is happy to do so, going outside is a great way to enjoy the weather even when work beckons.
Spend time teambuilding: Teambuilding activities get a bad rap. But they’re worth doing, and summer can be a great time to diversify your options. Play an outdoor sport, get out on the water for a cruise or boating afternoon, or simply go for drinks to a restaurant with an outdoor patio after work.
Summer can be tough when you have a heavy workload. But leaders who find a way to engage their teams and take advantage of the summer can keep their teams happy, productive, and connected.