We know that starting a new job can be a bit overwhelming and mistakes can made, especially in the first month when new hires are still getting the lay of the land. And whether or not it’s fair, judgements are made about new employees—often very quickly. So, if you’re new to your role or you know someone who is, here is an onboarding checklist of 10 mistakes to avoid.
1. Not showing up early enough
Arriving late for work sends an immediate negative message and warning sign to your manager and coworkers, but showing up right on time can often mean cutting it close to being late. A best practice: why not show up early for your first couple of months, which will broadcast that you are reliable, eager to be there, and you’re are a team player? Showing up early also affords the opportunity to get to know your new coworkers more quickly, both on a personal and professional level.
2. Isolating yourself
As the “new employee on the block,” you might be struggling to adjust, but it is important to resist the urge to keep to yourself. It’s very important to proactively get involved as much as possible at the beginning of a new job. Make it a point to have lunch with your new coworkers, regularly switching it up to meet and get to know new people. Be friendly and helpful and let them see the real “you.” By doing so, you will both accelerate your learning curve and get to know your new coworkers. Special and meaningful relationships will result.
3. Being afraid to ask questions
Let’s admit it: no one knows everything. Especially not new employees. Thus, there is absolutely no reason for you to start a new role and feel like you need to immediately prove that you were the right person chosen for the job; you did that during the interview process. It’s much better to dive in and ask questions. Seek the advice, answers, and opinions of those who are more experienced. This is how you learn. One of the smartest people in history, Albert Einstein, once said: “The day you stop learning is the day you start dying.” Nothing could be truer.
4. Being negative or engaging in gossip
Bringing positivity to the workplace is an awesome way to assimilate to a new work environment. Make an active effort to avoid negativity and the archetypical malaise and gossip around the water cooler. The last thing you want to be labeled as is as one of those actively disengaged employees.
5. Failing to ask your boss how to best communicate with him/her
All bosses are different in how they prefer interaction with their employees. So why not ask them up front? Do they prefer email, voicemail, instant-messaging, a weekly meeting, or the always healthy in-person drop by? Do not assume you new boss communicates like the other managers you had before. Ask.
6. Taking on too much work
There is an enormous gulf between trying to impress your new coworkers and burning yourself out with work volume. Relax. Rome was not built in a day. It’s much better to focus on work quality, than quantity. After all, the number one reason people quit their jobs is stress/burnout. Your company wants an employee for the long term!
7. Ignoring corporate culture
This is a big and very common error that can negatively affect the impression you make on your new colleagues. Rather than fall victim to culture blindness, actively seek to discover the following aspects of your new workplace culture:
– What are the organization’s beliefs, values, goals, and strategic mission?
– How do things get approved?
– How do people dress?
– What are the office politics? (Often difficult to identify without the help of a trusted coworker or boss).
– What are the unwritten “policies” that you would not find in the employee handbook?
– What are the organization’s policies vis-à-vis social media and the internet?
– How about the policies and expectations regarding personal cell phone use?
– What are the organization’s policies on being able to work remotely, as well as having flexible work hours?
– What are the absolute “No Nos” of the culture or the acts and behaviors that are highly discouraged?
– What are the most common roadblocks to getting things done, as well as the corresponding workarounds?
Discovering the answers to these kinds of topics will hyper-speed your assimilation to a new work environment, delivering you to profound success.
8. Not writing things down
When onboarding new employees, companies shower them with a waterfall of information, from new names and faces, to tasks, assignments, technology, and even your boss’ preferences. It’s hard to remember everything, but having to be told the same things multiple times will make new hires look bad.
Numerous studies have shown that writing things down creates better retention of information, so it’s smart to take notes on everything during your first few weeks. For complex instructions, it’s always good to have notes you can refer back to later anyway. Writing things down also demonstrates extra effort to your new coworkers and boss that you are engaged and care about doing a good job.
9. Talking too much about your last job
You definitely do not want to be the person who is referencing their old job repeatedly. Simply put, the re-hashing of your old job to your new coworkers becomes stale pretty quickly. People might also interpret your remembrances as longing to have your old job back, which is obviously not the message you want to send.
10. Failing to take initiative
There are always ways to go above and beyond what is expected. If you aren’t showing that initiative from the very beginning, it’s a missed opportunity to make a positive impression on your new boss and coworkers. Start before you start. For example, prior to your first formal day, proactively ask your manager for recommendations on how you can prepare for your first day. Ask for reading materials about the company, its products and services, and employee communications such that you can prepare to onboard (e.g., notes from town hall meetings, employee newsletters, annual reports, a new hire checklist, etc.).
Once you start the new job, be quick to offer help to others. If meetings are optional, such as town halls or brown-bag lunch and learns, make it a point to attend. Seizing learning and development opportunities is an awesome way to establish yourself as a go-getter and accelerate your career and personal growth.
Onboarding new employees is hard for companies, but it’s even harder for new hires! Whether you’re about to start a new job or you have no plans on leaving your company, bookmark this onboarding checklist so you have it just in case! Being aware of potential pitfalls makes it much easier to avoid them.
I recently had the honor of giving the Opening Keynote at The Doolittle Institute in Niceville, Florida. In their words, “The Doolittle Institute has the privilege of providing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education to thousands of underserved students, many of them military personnel. These hands-on programs include robotics, coding, computer-aided design, managing job stress, time management, and others. One of our primary goals is to inspire and educate our country’s future workforce.” About half of my audience were in uniform. Needless to say, I was inspired to bring my “A game” and deliver a kick-ass keynote speech.
This interaction with some of our nation’s serving military got me thinking about a key, and often forgotten, driver of employee engagement: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR is getting more and more management attention, primarily because it is a key driver of engagement for the two youngest workforce generations, Millennials and Generation Z. In fact, 9 out of 10 Millennials would switch jobs in order to work for a cause or charity.1 And 94% of Gen Z believe companies have a responsibility to address social and environmental issues.2 Companies are realizing that charitable-giving can help attract and retain top talent and also lead to improved productivity, employee engagement, reduced turnover, and higher profitability. As such, U.S. companies gave about $20.7 billion to charitable causes worldwide in 2017, up 8% from 2016.3
During my speech, and in the spirit of “giving back,” I offered all attendees free career coaching with me after the presentation. Five of the service men and woman took me up on that offer, and I will continue to give them advice on their career and/or help them find a career that they could become more passionate about than their current role.
Here are 6 great ideas on how you can leverage the power of CSR and show your team members that you are indeed “giving back” to the communities served by your organization:
1. Offer cost-free services to the communities you serve.
2. Provide a free volunteer day to each of your team members at the charity of their choice, so they can give back without losing a day’s pay.
3. Plan a team volunteer day where the whole staff takes the day off work to volunteer together. Volunteering at Habitat For Humanity and/or at a local soup kitchen are employee favorites.
4. Offer pro bono career development help to local high schools and/or universities. Just two weeks ago, I gave a speech to the Business Leadership class at my daughter’s high school, New Trier, in Winnetka, Illinois. It was not only rewarding to teach these aspiring business people, but I fielded some questions I’ve never been asked in my nine years of doing keynote speeches. Interacting with these young people also helps keep you young.
5. Establish a charitable giving matching program. Shockingly, only 18% of companies have a gift-matching program.4 Needless to say, this represents a huge opportunity for improvement.
6. Give your employees a greater say in your charitable giving. Many employees are yearning to express their personal values at work, so give them the opportunity vis-a-vis charitable giving. And by matching their contribution, you are showing them that you endorse and support their choices. Importantly, when doing your annual “State of the Company” address to your employees, make sure you include a listing of all of the charities to which you matched employees’ contributions. You are likely to see people tear up since many of those gifts positively impacted a friend or family member.
While I was selling my company about nine years ago, I knew the sale would ultimately lead to me receiving a significant sum of money. (This is known by investment bankers as “a liquidity event,” which is just a fancy way of saying someone is giving you a shitload of money for the company you built from scratch.) I wanted to share my success with others and continue giving back, even though it wouldn’t be through my company anymore.
I was mulling this over on the Sunday before the sale of my company, while I was reading the newspaper. I came across the Parade magazine insert, and it featured the Actor Gary Sinise, who of course, brilliantly played “Lieutenant Dan” in the movie Forrest Gump. Sinise expressed that it was an enormous honor to play this disabled vet, and he made a commitment to always pay for military service members’ meal and drinks when seeing them in an airport. He thereby gave me a gift as I was searching for a way to give back after my liquidity event. I made the same commitment to always pay for military personnel’s drinks and meals while traveling and thank them for their service. Doing this has repeatedly warmed my heart.
Years later, I realized that helping veterans with their careers is another way I can give back. If you are a veteran who is in need of career development help, I’d love to speak with you. Whether you need advice with job interviews, developing certain skillsets, or finding a position that better leverages your talents and interests, I’d love to help. Please contact me directly.
Whether it’s through your company or on your own, the greatest gift you can give to yourself is a gift to others.
During one of my recent keynote speeches, a member of the audience asked me to share the funniest or most unusual story about Human Resources management I had ever heard in my 35 years as management consultant. I included one below, but I thought it would be fun to invite my newsletter subscribers to share their funny HR stories. If you need a good laugh, these stories won’t disappoint!
I was doing employee survey feedback sessions for a company in Michigan and I met with the third shift of the manufacturing operation who scored very, very, low on the Human Resources Policy survey dimension. I asked the group why they scored so low on the HR dimension, somebody put their hand up and said “Oh, that was Cheryl’s heart attack.” I said what does a heart attack have to do with human resources policy? They went on to explain that they had a fellow employee, Cheryl, who thought she’s having a heart attack and the whole group carried her to an ambulance and she went to the hospital. Three hours later she returned to the grave shift (pun intended). Upon her return, she announced the great news that it was not a heart attack, but simply indigestion. Despite all that, her supervisor, who by the way, actually helped carry Cheryl to the ambulance, wrote her up for an unexcused absence. I expressed disbelief and asked, “is that actually true” and lo and behold, in the back of the room a woman raised her hand and said: “Yes, I’m Cheryl and that did actually happen.”
Case 1 – I worked for a mid-size manufacturing company who hired H-1 VISA engineers to unskilled machine operators. The culture instilled and created by HR, was high performing teams. This resulted in employees having pride in all their jobs no matter what position they held. Our janitor’s cleaning cart became a unit of sanctuary.
One of our employees attended a fundamental, Pentecostal church and experienced a religious conversion. So of course, being reborn, she wanted to share her beliefs with everyone. This resulted in a group of employees attending the Pentecostal worship. The employees started to brag during lunch who had stronger gifts bestowed upon them by God. One woman claimed vehemently she could sense evil in people. Wait, this gets better. She put her hands on a machine to sense if the operator had evil intent in performing their tasks. She knelt down next to the machine to pray. Of course, there is accommodation for religious beliefs, but this doesn’t fit the bill. So the group started praying and chanting on the manufacturing floor. Non-Pentecostals thought that the group cursed the machinery and wanted an exorcism to rid the floor of bad karma. One half of the floor was on their knees while the other half was huddled together in fear. I was called. The supervisors froze. I entered the second floor manufacturing operation and asked if the religious group could come in my office. I attempted to explain how although it may seem honorable to witness their faith, it could not be done at the work place. I further explained our workforce is comprised of multi-cultural, diverse personnel of many faiths. The leader raised her hands and knelt and seemed to go into a trance. She was so convincing, the HR Business Partner in my office whose job was to witness my conversation ran out of the office alleging that the woman was possessed. I looked at the women with such a stare and she said, “Don’t worry, I was told you are OK.” I ended and said, it is not OK if you continue to witness your beliefs. This woman slowly accused everyone of being evil, similar to the Salem Witch trials and soon the group turned on her and she left our employment.
Case 2 – There was a short Hindu man who worked on second shift as a machine operator. Everyday around 6:00 p.m. he would walk to my office to say hi. He was so pleasant. He ate the same thing every day, an apple with a yogurt. He was such a nice guy. He died suddenly. So along with the Director of Manufacturing I attended his wake. I was never at a Hindu wake. I entered and both myself and the Director of Manufacturing knelt next to the coffin. I remember there was a toothpick in his mouth with an herb attached. The religious significance was to allow the spirit of this extraordinary man to leave his body and be reincarnated. Well there was a line of all men. As I entered and knelt, a woman with her head covered ran up to me and said you defiled my husband. I turned and all the women sat is a separate chamber with covered heads. Here I was in the men’s area with my head fully exposed. Two of my employee’s brothers walked me to the women’s section. Each woman stared at me and the grandmother was just ready to spit on me when the Director of Manufacturing held my hand and we left.
Case 3 – All offices have that one employee who knows everything. The type of personality that just gets under your skin. Well a group of us were congregated near the water fountain. As this conceded, obnoxious women came out of the ladies’ room I saw employees stand from their desk like a domino effect. Laughter started to escalate. As she walked by, I noticed that her skirt was raised and stuffed in the band of her nylons exposing her entire posterior. She proudly walked wiggling her posterior not knowing it was fully exposed.
Case 4 – At a summer, company sponsored picnic, pets and employee’s children were allowed to attend. One of the men who was a rude supervisor dived in the pool. He was an executive. It was a gorgeous day with incredible weather. Well because he was in the pool not too many employees wanted to jump in. He arose from his dive and there was something on his head. Another executive, mindful of his position said there is something on your head. He pointed and the rude supervisor stuck his finger in the soft plop and screamed. A dog shit and the poop was floating and when this rude supervisor came out from under the water, he came out at the right time and the right angel. A humbling experience.
I was an HR Representative and Benefits Specialist for 13 years before changing careers and entering the safety field. I love the employees I work with. There was one interaction with a highly intelligent employee that makes me smile every time I think about it. This employee was a top salesman and technical advisor in animal nutrition but he had a unique relationship with his wife. They did not live in the same household but it seemed to work out well for them. One year, during open enrollment for benefits, he contacted me because he wanted to change his beneficiary for his life insurance policy. At the time it was his wife who was the sole beneficiary but he had recently set up a trust but didn’t explain any details to me. He asked if he could change the beneficiary to himself! I tried to be as tactful as I could and told him that he could not name himself as the beneficiary but if he wanted to name the trust he could do so. He said it would be a better idea if I just let him name himself. I explained that he would not be able to collect the proceeds and he said, “why not?” I didn’t want to insult his intelligence but I was getting a little tired of the conversation so I blurted out, “because you will be dead.” He said okay, let’s go at this from a different angle, what if I leave the beneficiary designation as blank? I said then the insurance company will see if you have a legal spouse and if so it will go to her, if not they will look for natural children, step children, parents, etc. if none of those survive you it will go to your estate and the state will determine who gets the proceeds. He said, “See, that’s why I should name myself!” It was one of the strangest conversations I’ve ever had but also one of the funniest.
I was on campus to interview for full time positions within our CPA firm. Often with student candidates, there is a wide range of interviewing experience and resulting comfortability in the interview so I’ve learned to meet candidates where they are. This candidate was particularly fidgety, rubbing his temples often and closing his eyes in the way I can describe as what I assumed was “deep in thought.” I finally stopped the interview and said “Hey, it’s okay to be nervous, but I want this experience to be enjoyable for both of us. Would you like to take a second and stand up and shake it out or look at your notes and gather your thoughts and then we can continue?” He looked up with complete relief asking “are you serious?” to which I responded “yes of course, no harm no foul, let’s hit reset.” The candidate proceeded to lean forward and pull out his glass eye, blowing hot air on it and shining it up on his suit jacket. No sooner than I was able to realize what was happening did he toss the eye back into its socket and smack himself upside the head to align it and said “wow thank you I feel so much better, where were we?”
I used to work for a staffing agency in Richmond, VA. I was responsible for recruiting contract Customer Service Representatives for a large contract with a local company. I hired an employee that was supposed to start the following Monday. Prior to her start date I received a voicemail from her stating that she couldn’t start because her Grandfather died and she had to go to a town 60 minutes away for his funeral.
A week later she calls and says she is still interested in the job and I wouldn’t believe it, they revived her Grandfather! How much you want to bet that her Grandfather had never died in the first place.
In the island of Jamaica, certain benefits are not available as they are in other jurisdictions. One that comes to mind, is two days in a new job as HR Manager, another department head stopped by to ask when the pay increases would be ready. I advised her that my immediate concerns were renewal of health insurance plans and executing the company’s annual awards event, both of which had to be done in less than 6 weeks. She responded that she had just returned from Maternity leave and was expecting to be paid more as her family had now grown to 3 (she was a single mom and this was her second child). She was quite put off when I told her there was no obligation on the part of the company to pay her more just because she had become a mom for the second time! She thought the purpose of HR was to ensure things like that happened… I had to laugh when she left the office.
One of my most unusual encounters I had with Human Resources management was a while back when I was working for a vision company doing lots of work on computers with lab orders for glasses and giving out members benefit information and all the normal everyday information that would involve working in an office environment for a vision company we had great benefits for vision hence I was working for a vision company and our production was going smooth and everything was working very efficiently. After about 2 years are HRM decides they are going to remove our vision benefits and take on more work. Low and behold our production began to drop and the numbers just were not where they used to be and they could figure out why are workers were producing at a slower rate and everything was delayed. As the employees we stated to HRM that we are no longer provided the proper tools to do our job, it makes zero sense that you’re a vision company and every day in the workplace you emphasize how important your vision is to being successful at anything you do in life but then you go and take away the number one tool that allows us to be successful in our workplace. It was very unusual and to make a long story short due to the decline in production the company was never able to rebound from the setbacks and was bought out by another company. Very unusual they couldn’t “see” this happening.
I was the chairperson for a hearing where the staff member was accused of theft. It was an interesting case in that she had “permission” slips to remove the items from the premises. The more her proof stated to unravel the more agitated she became. She clung to her hand bag on her lap like it was a lifesaving device. When the case was really closing in on her, she took a sip of water and the next thing drop a hand full of pills down her throat. I nearly died on the spot! Never did I think someone will attempt suicide in a hearing. So next followed a circus of events, getting a wheelchair and rushing her to the EC. Luckily we work in a hospital. Only after three months of medical and psychological care did the hearing commence and she was dismissed.
How about this one. My manager created a phone tree to review possible closing due to weather in the morning (since the Bomb Cyclone shut down the city yesterday). She took 3 hours to create a document with who needs to call whom based on distance from the office) and held up the office for an hour so she could have a meeting about it. How about a group text next time???
We had an individual hired for a controls technician role. The company we worked for at the time did pre-hire background checks and drug testing. This was a hair drug test and the candidate knew that so he went for the drug test but had no hair on his head. Next they look at the eyebrows, arm and keep going lower. He said he just shaved last night (his entire body) but I can go home and get the hair out of the garbage can. Needless to say offer was retracted and he did not get hired.
I was working at a translation and localization company. We had a new receptionist who thought she recognized the voices of the spouses, including mine. One day I was in a meeting in my office with two program managers who were also friends. My line dinged, it was our receptionist announcing that my husband was on the line. I said thanks and said to my two PM friends “watch this” – then in my sexiest voice I answered the call with “what are you wearing?…..” –-dead silence, for what felt like an agonizingly long period of time. Finally, a male voice on the other end of the line that DIDN’T belong to my husband said, “I’m looking for Kristin Dagg,” I said, again in my sexiest voice. “please hold.” (I’m losing it at this point). By this time my friends were on the floor in absolute hysterics. I walked to the receptionist, and asked if she confirmed that call was my husband, she said no, she recognized his voice. I went back in, my friends are still laughing, I pick up the phone and in the most country western twangy accent I can muster I say, “this is Kristin, what can I do for ya?” (again, my friends are in hysterics). I continued to talk in a western accent but ultimately had to come clean because we hired him. I never did that again!!!
I referred the wrong candidate to the wrong company for an interview one time and the guy got hired.
I had a candidate take his dog to the interview because he couldn’t find anybody to “babysit” the dog.
I had a candidate fall asleep right in the middle of an interview with the employer.
I had a candidate that accepted a job from one of my clients on Friday. He called me on Monday and said that he could not accept the position because he had a vision from God over the weekend that he was supposed to go to Brazil and become a missionary. He and his family did just that. They went to Brazil for a year, where they were missionaries. He returned and called me to see if the company that offered him a job would still be interested in speaking with him.
I am a Talent Recruiter and interview several people a day. One individual I interviewed answered a question with the most honest, but off-putting answer.
To start the interview, he answered the phone with “Hello, this is…” After I introduced myself he said, “Can you hold on one sec?” I was confused but answered “sure.” He then continued a conversation with his spouse that I assumed he was in the middle of when I called during our agreed upon interview time.
The rest of the interview went okay at best. My final question was when I heard an answer I never had heard before. I asked, “What about you is different from others who may be interested in this position.” To which he answered with a laugh, “I am so tired of interviewing!!!” I was silent with shock…but let out a nervous laugh as he continued to attempt to answer the question.
Needless to say, he did not move forward in the interview process of course and I was able to offer him some feedback. I will never forget this interview!
I was working with a communication agency that had no HR Department. My boss invited me to lunch. After we were seated at the restaurant, he said, “I suppose you know why I asked you here.” “No,” I replied. Now my mind was racing. What had I screwed up that he couldn’t speak to me about at the office? “It’s time for your six-month review,” he said. “Oh?” Now I was really feeling unprepared and nervous. I took a deep breath to control my racing heartbeat. My mouth went dry.
I tried to keep my voice calm. “How am I doing?” “Fine,” he said, picking up a menu. “What would you like to have for lunch?”
That was the first and only performance appraisal interview I received at that company. Then I left and started my own business—so it turned out to be my last!
At a previous company, I was sitting with the CEO and COO at the conference room table. The windows overlooked the parking lot. While discussing a few serious operations issues, the three of us watched one of our female customer service representatives go out to an overnight delivery truck (company name omitted). She got into the passenger seat and she and the driver went at it hot and heavy so much so that she was partially undressed on top. They then proceeded to climb into the back of the truck where it was very evident the truck was bouncing around somewhat. The COO said nothing; however, the CEO (quite hot-headed) started screaming to me (not at me) to go out and get her out of the truck because she took more time than her 7-minute break. It was quite the show but all he was worried about was her extended break. I found it hilarious.
According to Harvard Business Review, 40% of the existing worldwide workforce are virtual workers (people who work remotely). This is trending upward and will continue for several important reasons. First, a remote work policy facilitates a powerful way to attract top talent, especially Millennials and Gen Z, the two generations who value autonomy and scheduling flexibility the most. To quote Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changing,” and organizations need to change with them. Given that reality, the business case for remote work becomes even more compelling. Second, flexible work hours and allowing employees to work remotely makes clear and fundamental business sense. The statistical ROI-based research illuminates that working from home makes sense for both employer and employee. Simply put, the business case for remote work has been proven.
Having good virtual work policies is highly correlated to:
• Best-in-class status. In fact, 82 percent of Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For already have remote work policies.
• Higher productivity, largely due to the fact that virtual employees work an average of four hours more per week than people who go to a company site.1 In addition, 81% of employees who have worked remotely report that they were more productive than when they worked at a company site.1
• Avoiding the thief of workplace productivity: interruptions. According to a 2018 Basex Research study, the average on-site office worker is interrupted 60 times each day. Furthermore, this study revealed that after being interrupted, the average worker gets back to the task at hand only 40% of the time. This means that after the interruption, the remaining 60% must start whatever they were doing all over again. Check out this blog post for more info on workplace interruptions:
• Better talent attraction and retention, largely due to eliminating geographic restrictions on the talent pool.
• Enhanced recruitment capabilities and lower recruiting costs.
• Cost savings from the reduced need for renting or buying physical working space and eliminating many overhead costs to maintain onsite facilities.
• Higher customer satisfaction due to better coverage across different time zones.
• Increased insight into other markets by having your workers all over the country, or even all over the world. Employees become keenly aware of local preferences, dislikes, and opportunities, leading to important innovations, new products, customers, and ultimately, higher profitability.
• Lower absenteeism and higher engagement. Gallup’s 2017 State Of The Global Workplace Study proved that these virtual workers are more engaged (32% versus 28% engaged for onsite employees). Absenteeism costs the average American employer $3,600 per hourly employee, per year.2 Additionally, it costs the average American employer $2,650 per salaried worker, per year.2 Even the small percentage increase on engagement can result in significant cost savings, especially for larger organizations.
• Eliminating the stress of commuting to work. Job stress is the number reason why employees resign.3
• Cost savings for the employees, since costs for gas and train/bus fares are reduced or eliminated.
• Improved reputation and good PR from being a “family-friendly” employer.
• A reduced carbon footprint, which highly engages Millennials and Gen Z due to their desire for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
• Higher innovation and creativity. According to a May, 2014 Wall Street Journal article, only 10% of workers believe they do their best thinking at work, versus 39% who believe they do their best thinking at home.
• Greater work-life balance, which is highly prized by Millennials, the fastest growing generation in the workforce.4
Each year, the population of remote workers grows, and observing this pattern contributes to the belief that remote work is here to stay. In fact, Harvard Business Review also reported that by 2020, over 50% of the world’s workforce will be remote.
To remain competitive in this increasingly distanced world, the decision for your organization to move toward more virtual work should be an easy one. Share the business case for remote work with your management team and see if you can better leverage this opportunity!
On a side note: I am available to help coach “old-school” managers into believers in remote work and flexible work hours. Please call me if you need help in this regard!
1 Gallup – 2017 State Of The Global Workplace Study.
2 Forbes Study, June 6, 2018.
3 HR Solutions, Inc and Gallup Studies.
4 February 1, 2018 Frisco Style Publication.
Leaders in all industries are constantly wondering how to improve company culture. There are myriad benefits to achieving world-class culture, not the least of which are: higher profitability, improved customer service, enhanced talent attraction, and superior talent retention. Below are six of the most unique and proven means of achieving a best-in-class organizational culture. Three of the six secrets were discovered by noticing three consistent commonalities among the thousands of best-in-class organizations (top 10%) with whom I worked in my 35 years as a culture and employee engagement consultant.
Empower your employees to accept ownership for their own engagement. The full engagement solution does not rest solely on the shoulders of management, but rather, actively includes the employee in the solution. So many organizations have yet to employ this sage tactic. Try sharing this quick assessment with your employees, to help them discover their own level of job engagement, and receive tips on what they can do to find more meaning and satisfaction at work.
Find supreme excellence and alignment during the recruiting process. The fact that 59% of all new hires are gone within a year1 underscores the single greatest mistake organizations make vis-à-vis engagement: they hire the wrong people. During my career as a culture and employee engagement consultant, I noticed a consistent commonality among our best-in-class clients: they all applied great scrutiny to evaluating each job candidate they interviewed and never “settled” by overlooking candidate flaws or red flags during the interview process. In short, they took the advice I gave thousands of clients over the years: “If you are going to spend the time, money, and energy building a magnetic culture, you should only let magnetic people in.” Yes, be selfish. Be wonderfully selfish. You and your team deserve it. Another related shortcoming is that there is no concerted effort to find alignment or “a match” between your culture and the job candidate’s values, beliefs, and preferences. Many organizations make the mistake of not openly sharing their culture with job candidates. Do not “hide” your culture. Instead, open the kimono. Let the job candidate see your organization’s culture, values, beliefs, and purpose, and encourage the candidate to do the same. In doing so, both parties can quickly determine if there is “a match,” which in the end, could save everyone a lot of time, money, and energy. For tips on refining your recruiting and hiring best practices, check out my blog post “Hiring Right: Fine Tuning Your Recruiting Efforts to Avoid Mis-hires.”
Embrace Workplace Flexibility. As an employee engagement keynote speaker, I am very surprised to field questions on how to coach an “old time senior leader” on letting go of rigid workplace policies and work hours. Premier cultures prize offering flexible work hours, as well as work-from-home benefits. Given that job stress/work life imbalance is the number one reason employees resign2, affording workplace flexibility is a strong enhancement to culture. This tip is also a best practice given the expectations the two youngest generations of workers, those being Millennials and the generation after them, Gen Z. Telling these two generations that they have set work hours and that they are not allowed to work from home is their definition of a workplace prison. If some members of your team need convincing on the value of workplace flexibility when it comes to company culture, read my blog post “Have a manager who is opposed to virtual work?” and use it to convert them; it well illustrates the immense benefits of workplace flexibility, virtual work, virtual employees, and virtual teams.
Nurture Diversity & Inclusion. Any workplace culture that eschews diversity & inclusion (D&I) is a doomed one. The world is as diverse as it has ever been, and great organizations proactively initiate efforts on cultural diversity to reflect that reality. Multiple research studies have reported a proven linkage between diversity & inclusion and employee engagement. Thus, if you care about talent attraction and talent retention, which are synonymous with employee engagement, you better also care about D&I.
Expect More. This is another proven secret when you’re trying to figure out how to improve company culture and performance. Raising the bar on oneself and one’s workforce is the second of the aforementioned three commonalities of best-in-class cultures and organizations. The CEOs and management teams of world-class cultures consistently raise the bar on themselves and their teams. Typically, when I presented an organization’s employee engagement survey scores to them, I could tell them they scored in the 97th percentile (top 3%) and invariably their CEO would congratulate his/her management team and then announce “But we are not done yet. We want to be at the 99th percentile next year.” Great cultures do not shoot for average. Instead, they aim for the pinnacle of excellence, and ultimately, they achieve it.
Have Fun. Recognizing again that the single greatest reason people quit is job stress, what better medicine for that than fun? People love to have fun and share some laughs when they’re working, but sadly, hundreds of millions toil through sad, stressful, and torturous workdays. Day, after day, after day. Sadder still is the fact that most of these people accept this drudgery as a reality that they must accept. We spend so much time at work so don’t we deserve to have more fun while we work? We most certainly do! And yes, you guessed it: leveraging fun is the third commonality among best-in-class organizations. So why not shake up your workplace culture with some fun, laughter, and levity? To learn more about the power of bringing fun into your workday, check on my blog post “Fun: The missing driver of employee engagement and recruiting.”
When you understand how to improve company culture by focusing on employee engagement, it’s much easier to find actionable ways to move the needle and make a real impact. Even stepping it up on a couple of these options should make a difference at your organization.
I just returned from an amazing 30-day cruise of the Indian Ocean, which included ports of call in 12 different countries. While at sea one day exercising on the cruise ship deck, and prompted by a sunlight reflection off the water, I spied a sealed bottle floating on the surface of the ocean. It immediately made me wonder if there was a message in the bottle, and if so, I pondered what the odds were that the message would ever be read.
So many organizations are mistakenly using “messages in a bottle” to communicate to their employees. As a result, these messages become “lost at sea” and never reach their intended recipients. This new year presents an opportunity to revisit your workplace communication strategies, especially since communication is the seventh most impactful driver of employee engagement.1
When I was the owner of an employee survey company, two of my favorite survey questions were:
Where do you prefer to receive your information?
Where are you currently receiving information?
Respondents were given answer choices like: email, your coworkers, the company newsletter, payroll stuffers, and your manager. Of the over 3 million people surveyed on these two questions over three years, 52% of the respondents preferred to receive information and updates from their manager and yet only 32% of the respondents said they were receiving the information/updates from their manager.1
Needless to say, many employees feel that they are not hearing enough from their managers. Remarkably, over my 35 years of management consulting, not one organization I worked with inverted that communication gap, where employees would essentially say “we hear way too much from our manager.” Not one client out of roughly 10,000 clients.
If you want further evidence that managers under-communicate, carefully watch your managers’ default actions at the end of management meetings. Most managers’ default is to simply go back to work, as opposed to holding a “huddle” with their employees to share the news and information from the meeting.
Knowing that the aforementioned manager communication gap is the primary employee complaint about workplace communication, you should remind every manager on your team to take the message out of the bottle and deliver it in person to their employees.
On a closing note, while the exact history and origin of the “message in a bottle” placed in the sea is not definitively known, here are a couple of fascinating discoveries published in 1976 by the Reader’s Digest Association:
The longest bottle voyage on record was a bottle known as “The Flying Dutchman.” It was launched in 1929 by a German scientific expedition in the Southern Indian Ocean. Inside was a message, which could be read without breaking or opening the bottle, asking the finder to report where he/she found it and throw it back into the sea. The bottle surfed an east-bound current which carried it to the southern tip of South America. There, it was found, reported, and thrown back into the ocean. Eventually, it moved out into the Atlantic Ocean and then back into The Indian Ocean where it remarkably passed by the exact spot where it was originally dropped. Its final resting place was on the shores of Western Australia. The bottle traveled an amazing 16,000 miles in 2,447 days (a little over 6.5 years). Certainly a very respectable journey.
In 1953, a bottle was found in Tasmania 37 years after it had been dropped overboard by two Australian soldiers on a troopship bound for France. Astoundingly, this bottle was found by the mother of one of those Australian soldiers, who instantly recognized the handwriting of her son who had been killed in action in 1918. Remarkable.
Source 1: HR Solutions Employee Engagement Research Study.
Let’s face it. The holiday season is a very stressful time, both at work and at home. Great managers will be looking for ways to make the holidays a lot less intense for their team members. Here are six basic ways of doing just that:
Eliminate the pressure of “Secret Santa.”
First, ask your employees if they want to discontinue this age-old tradition that often ends up being harder to execute than people expect. Explain how forgoing Secret Santa gives the “gift of time,” since everyone will have one less gift to buy and wrap. And don’t worry about being perceived as Ebenezer Scrooge because you “killed Secret Santa”—it will definitely be a relief for some people. You might even consider replacing it with making a donation to a local charity chosen by the employees themselves.
Another added benefit of eliminating Secret Santa is avoiding the awkward moments when the “Santa” gives the absolute wrong gift. For example, years ago I was someone’s Secret Santa who I knew was traveling to Mexico over the New Year’s break. Que bueno! For an entire week, I secretly left a Mexican-themed gift on his desk. Day 1: A Fodor’s travel guidebook to Mexico. Day 2: A map of Mexico. Day 3: A six-pack of Dos Equis beer and a lime. Day 4: A six-pack of Corona beer. Day 5: Another lime. Day 6: Mexican sea salt. And drumroll for Day 7 please: A bottle of tequila!
I assumed my thoughtful secret gifts for him were perfecto, until I found out that he was a recovering alcoholic who was wearing an ankle bracelet monitor for a DUI. Yikes!
Consider pushing the Holiday Party to January.
Most employees are already busy with other parties in December and some just flat out despise having to attend an office party. Again, empower your employees to make the decision by letting them vote on their preference.
Schedule an afternoon “off” for desk and/or workplace clean-ups.
Removing clutter provides a natural stress relief and also helps employees feel like they are beginning the New Year with a fresh and unencumbered start. Schedule an all-staff clean up for a couple of hours in early December. Encourage employees to bring their leftover Halloween candy to the event, but also buy some nice holiday cookies and other festive treats as well. Amp up some holiday music for employees to enjoy while they clear their inboxes, clean their desks, delete old computer files, and organize their calendars.
Try to prevent scheduling big deadlines for the end of the year.
The fact that the year is ending already naturally brings a multitude of deadlines. Moving other goals and deadlines into the new year significantly reduces holiday stress. Of course, some of the pre-holiday work crunch is inescapable, so managers may want to consider hiring interim or temporary staff during this period.
Give your employees time to shop.
A perfect way of doing this is to allow your workers an hour or so to cyber-shop on Cyber Monday, on company time. While many employees will enjoy this shopping time allowance, know that the majority of employees (65%), say they would prefer to have a paid day off on Black Friday, according to Robert Half Technology. Either way, encouraging your team to get their shopping out of the way early can help them focus on work as the holidays get closer.
Do everything in your power to accommodate employee holiday leave requests.
Holiday time is family time. By allowing time off during the holidays, you are sending a clear signal to your employees that you are a family-supportive employer/manager, while simultaneously helping lower their stress levels.
And don’t forget to enjoy your own time off with your friends and family. Happy holidays!
The #MeToo movement has shined a powerful spotlight on the gender gap in the workplace. Not only did it reveal the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, but it also highlighted the continued persistence of gender inequality.
A recent survey by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org provides clear evidence of how men and women come into the working world in roughly equal numbers, but women immediately fall behind. (And these plummeting career ladder numbers are even worse for women who are minorities.)
Women’s share of jobs at the following steps “up” the career ladder:
Entry Level: 48.1%
Senior Manager/Director 34.1%
Vice President 29.4%
Senior Vice President 22.7%
C-Suite Executive 22.4%
Why is gender equality still an issue in 2018, when we pride ourselves in having modern talent management policies? Because people can’t let go of their biases. Most of the time, people probably don’t even realize when their biases cause them to overlook critical problems in the workplace. For example, one in five women notice that they are regularly the only woman in meetings, and that number skyrockets to 40% for women in Senior Management. In terms of inclusion, that’s a big red flag. But people are so used to being in male-dominated meetings that it frequently goes unnoticed.
The gender wage gap is also a huge issue that has become so prevalent it’s almost like an accepted norm. When I wrote my New York Times Best Seller in 2011, Building A Magnetic Culture, the gender wage gap stood at 20 percentage points, with women making just .80 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. While some of this differential can be explained by men choosing more physically-challenging jobs, such as working on oil rigs, high power, etc., it is sad to know that there has been absolutely no progress on the gender wage gap in the last nine years. Women are still stuck at .80 cents on the dollar. One would think that there might have been at least some improvement during those nine years.
One thing that has changed in that time, however, is the spotlight on sexual harassment in the workplace. More than 1/3 of women report that they have been sexually harassed in their careers. Within technical roles, the number escalates to 45%. And for women who advance up the career ladder to ultimately have more power in their roles, harassment becomes even more likely. Shockingly, 55% of women in Senior Management positions say they were harassed at some point in their career.
How are companies handling these disturbing issues? Men and women seem to hold different opinions on this. Only 25% of women feel that harassment incidents are rapidly addressed by their company, versus 40% of men.
As you can see, women have a much harder path as working professionals than men, and we are still a very long way from solving this issue.
Luckily, there are things you can do to fight gender inequities at your organization:
1. Initiate special efforts to get more women in your organization’s C-Suite. By getting more women into your Senior Management ranks, it will not only give them a greater and more uniform voice, but they can also serve as examples to inspire other women at your company.
2. Have both men and women in your executive ranks serve as mentors for less tenured women at your company. If you turn this into a formal program, you can create mentorship connections between people who wouldn’t otherwise have gotten to know one another.
3. Make sure your Diversity & Inclusion program gives special attention to eradicating workplace gender disparities. An employee resource group that supports the career advancement of women is recommended, even for smaller organizations.
4. If not already in place, set up a Corporate Hotline for employees to confidentially report workplace harassment. (The key here is CONFIDENTIAL. Employees must feel safe using the hotline or it won’t be effective.)
5. When collecting salary survey data, make sure your provider addresses the wage gender gap. Some companies have found that even when the gender wage gap is addressed and corrected, it reappears within a couple of years. The best practice is to analyze gender differences in pay on a regular basis, rather than considering it a “one and done” exercise.
6. Continue to conduct confidential employee surveys, which easily discern whether certain groups of employees feel less supported, as well as other signs of discontent. Obviously, code the survey by gender so you can see how women feel versus men on each survey item.
7. Role out more training for the leaders at all levels of your company on how they can build more inclusive teams, especially for women and minorities that they manage.
8. When conducting succession planning for senior positions, make sure female candidates and minority candidates are considered for open positions. It might take longer to find a diverse group of candidates because there are fewer women and minorities in senior roles, but it is worth the effort.
Don’t be afraid to suggest these changes in your workplace. It takes courage to help people, and even small efforts make a difference.
Please forward this blog to as many people as possible, such that we can make a real difference and bring more equity for women in the workplace.
2018 McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org Study of 64,000 North American Employees in 280 companies.
Millennials, Millennials, Millennials. Very much in line with Millennials’ insatiable desire for recognition, it seems like the last ten years of articles, videos, and speeches, were all about Millennials.
As the first surge of Generation Z enters the workplace, organizations may be surprised at how different they are from Millennials (also known as Generation Y). Organizations, human resource leaders, and managers will need to learn about, and fully understand, this unique generation especially since they may be the solution to the never-ending talent attraction and talent retention challenge. Thus, employers will need to also adapt and bring a whole new way of working to the workplace to win over Gen Z.
Who are they?
Most commonly referred to as Generation Z, there are many other monikers given to this generation, including Digital Natives, Globals, Post-Millennials, Millennials-On-Steroids, iGeneration, Plurals, The Homeland Generation, Centennials, and Delta Generation, or Deltas. MTV has labeled them The Founders. The fact that there are so many names floating about for this generation illustrates the general lack of understanding them. The rough consensus on what years they were born is from 1995 to 2014. They are the children of Generation X. Native-born American members of Generation Z number roughly 60 million, just outnumbering their endlessly dissected Millennial elders by one million, according to Susan Weber-Stoger, a demographer at Queens College.
Lena Dunham photo – CNN. Kylie Jenner photo – The Independent
(Born 1980-1994) (Born 1995-2014)
TV Icon: Lena Dunham Kylie Jenner
Music: Lady Gaga, Beyonce Lorde
Social Media: Facebook, Instagram Snapchat, Whisper
Web Star: PewDiePie, YouTube Lele Pons, Vine
Style Influencer: The Olsen Twins Tavi Gevinson
Clothes: American Apparel Shop Jeen
First Gadget: Walkman, CD player, or iPod iPhone, iPad
So what makes Gen Z different, and specifically what will companies need to do differently to attract and retain them?
They have an even greater desire for the most up-to-date technology than Millennials.
They have strong preferences for immediate access to information and want their employee experience to fully integrate with, and match, their customer experience.
They care more about money than the last generation.
Having lived through the Great Recession of 2008, they value financial security more than other generations. Having seen their parents laid off during the recession, this left a lasting impression on Generation Z.
They are far more loyal than Millennials and do not plan to “job-hop” like Millennials did.
Again, Gen Z’s sensitivity to financial and job security will make them appreciate their job, pay, and employer, far more than Millennials did. This loyalty transcends into their church attendance: 41% of Gen Z attended church during their young adulthood, compared to 18% for Millennials at the same ages, 21% of Generation X, and 26% for Baby Boomers.1
They are far more socially conscious than their older brethren.
In fact, 82% of Gen Zs consider Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) a major factor in deciding where to work.2 In addition, 66% of this generation would take a pay cut to work at a more socially responsible company.3 In fact, it is not unheard of for Digital Natives to walk out of a job interview if they see the company still uses plastic water bottles and straws, most of which wind up in a landfill.
They yearn for career development and a job that provides meaningfulness and purpose.
While Gen Z values money more than Millennials, they also value learning and career development. In fact, 81% of Gen Z believes that a college degree is necessary to obtain one’s career goals.4 Furthermore, Gen Z is far more prepared to focus on their careers at a young age than Millennials have been: a 2016 Annie E. Casey Foundation study revealed that Gen Z had 40% lower rates of teenage pregnancy, 38% lower drug and alcohol abuse, and 28% higher graduation rate from high school, than Millennials.
Gen Z are bargain-hunters.
Gen Z cares much more about prices and getting deals than Millennials, mostly because they came of age during the recession of 2008. Sixty-seven percent of Gen Zs said they would go to a website to obtain a coupon for a deal, whereas only 46% of Millennials would due the same.5 A large part of this price sensitivity gap is explained by the fact that Millennials were the sons and daughters of the richest generation in American history, while Gen Zs watched their parents get laid off, lose stock & real estate value, and suffer overall economic hardship.
They would very much like when social media is used to attract, recruit, and interview them.
Specifically, Gen Z would love to see both digital and virtual reality instruments used throughout the recruiting process. Companies will find the need to alter their recruiting from in-person interviewing to online messaging and platforms that are tailored to this generation. This includes texts, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube so they can use their phones.
Gen Z is less focused.
Gen Z lives in a world of continuous update and information downloads. In addition, Gen Z processes these updates and information faster than other generations, largely due to apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine. Thus, organizations need to deliberately channel and challenge them to the task at hand.
Gen Z are better multi-taskers.
Although Gen Z can be less focused than their Millennials peers, they are highly individual and self-starters, creating work on their computer, while doing related work or research on their phone or tablet, at the same time making notes on a notepad, and then completing the work on their tablet while FaceTiming a friend. With many consistent and continual distractions, they are very efficient at handling work and play, often at the same time.
Now that is multi-tasking!
Employers should consider how this trait could redesign how work is performed in their organization and its effect on culture.
Gen Z is much more diverse than former generations.
In fact, according to the U.S. Census bureau, almost half of Gen Z identify themselves as Non-Caucasian. Thus, companies will need to fortify and re-examine their messaging and commitment to diversity & inclusion. If they don’t, they will never be able to attract, engage, and retain Gen Z workers.
Gen Z is more global.
As more of the world comes online, Gen Z has and will become more global in their thinking. In fact, 58% of adults worldwide above the age of 35 believe that Gen Zs have more in common with their global peers than adults in their own country.6
Smart and forward-thinking organizations will adapt and find new ways to attract, engage, and retain this wonderful new generation of workers and reap the myriad benefits of doing so, not the least of which is higher profitability.
On January 10th of this year, I lost my Dad to this dreadful disease.
Alzheimer’s is a form of progressive dementia, where the brain cells gradually stop functioning or die. The disease usually occurs in adults over the age of 65. This used to be past the typical age for retirement, but that isn’t true anymore. Largely due to the 2008 recession, 62% of all employees between the ages of 45 and 60 have planned on delaying their retirement. That means we have an older workforce that is more likely to experience problems with Alzheimer’s in the workplace. In fact, according to The Society for Human Resource Management, 35% of Human Resources staff have experienced employees showing signs of the disease. According to DailyMail.Com, so far in 2018, over 6 million Americans have been diagnosed with the affliction. Researchers anticipate that by 2025, 7.1 million people will be living with Alzheimer’s. The disease has no cure and the current treatments can only slow its development.
As such, employers can look for the following 7 signs that their employees are suffering from it:
1. begins repeating stories.
2. repeatedly loses things or does not follow up on assignments.
3. exhibits a loss of performance and/or motivation.
4. consistently misses meetings or shows up late.
5. repeatedly misses job-related deadlines.
6. has trouble finding the right words to express in conversations.
7. is frequently absent.
Even if people notice themselves exhibiting this behavior, they often rationalize or ignore it. Here are the most common reasons why:
– Denial. It is especially common for men to dismiss the signs of illness, refusing to see a doctor.
– Stigma. Simply put, many people abhor being associated with the disease.
– Fear of employment termination.
– Worry about discrimination against them.
– Confidentiality. People are worried that others will find out their condition and that perceptions could impact their social status, salary, job, and health insurance.
It’s hard to address the potential onset of Alzheimer’s directly with employees, but there are several things you can do to prolong their employability:
1. Show compassion for employees and their families.
2. Eliminate less meaningful job functions to enable focus on more important priorities.
3. Encourage employees to seek assistance through their Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
4. Provide additional training time for those who need it.
5. Post written or visual instructions for using workplace equipment.
6. Use color-coded written instructions to indicate the work tasks level of importance.
7. Provide clear checklists.
8. Supplement written instructions with voice-recorded messages.
9. Encourage employees and their families to review their rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
10. Arrange employees’ materials in the order in which they are used.
11. When possible, give simpler tasks to employees who begin struggling with tasks.
12. Reassign employees to a job position that better matches their current skills and abilities.
If you can keep valued employees working, it can be a win-win.
And what if this blog post is resonating on a more personal level with your current experience at work? Here are helpful hints:
1. Go see a doctor.
2. Get tested for Lyme disease. It has similar symptoms and different treatment options.
3. Use memory aids to help you organize the details of your job.
4. Talk to your employer and physician about leave of absence choices if you feel you are not keeping up with the job at hand.
5. As referenced above, review what options are available to you under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
6. Regularly exercise your brain with games and puzzles such as Sudoku, Jigsaw Puzzles, Scrabble, etc.
7. Consider supplementing your diet with the following 5 herbs that are proven to help with memory loss: turmeric, ginkgo, salvia, ginseng, and Chinese club moss.
If someone in your life is starting to exhibit the signs of Alzheimer’s, I urge you to be direct and try to help that person. It can be an uncomfortable but necessary conversation. The sooner people are diagnosed, the sooner they can begin treatment that will improve their quality of life.
On September 15th, I did the Chicago Walk to End Alzheimer’s. If you want to contribute to the effort to eradicate this terrible disease, please donate.