Bad Bosses

Repairing the damage done by bad bosses

If you’re entering a leadership role after your team has suffered the ill effects of a bad boss, you’ve got a list of important tasks ahead of you to repair the damage. You may find your employees discouraged and unproductive in the wake of poor management, and you will need to introduce an entirely new climate for team operations. While this is a tricky task, it’s an important one, because you’ll be making the workplace a much more pleasant and productive place for everyone.

Encourage employee feedback

There are different kinds of bad bosses, from the micromanagers to the inept, to the disconnected and the downright mean. Find out what kind of damage control you need to do by asking employees to submit anonymous, written responses to a few questions. The anonymity will provide a sense of safety and encourage people to be honest, and open-ended questions such as, “What changes would you like to see in our operations?” allow the real problems to surface. Follow up this input with face-to-face meetings dedicated to creating a new team atmosphere. On an ongoing basis, make clear that feedback in your organization goes in both directions: Explain that supervisors and managers will continue to seek feedback from direct reports.

Build positive team relationships

You and your direct reports can set the tone for a productive workplace environment by using a multi-pronged approach:

  • Transparency: Share department goals and strategy openly with all members of your staff so that everyone feels that they have a share in working toward those goals.
  • Employee Wellness: Encourage workers to take their vacation days and get plenty of exercise, so they can recharge their energy.
  • Better Work-Life Balance: Introduce options for flexible scheduling and working from home, to ease pressure on employees with family caregiving responsibilities.
  • Employee Recognition: Give workers a boost by recognizing them when they put in extra effort on a project. Noticing and rewarding individuals who show dedication is an essential part of building employee loyalty.

“Chase the vision, not the money.” This quote, from Zappo’s uber-successful CEO Tony Hsieh, points out that the most important element to long-term success is building an organization where people love to work. It’s not easy to alleviate the disruption and disillusionment that bad bosses create within a team, but with focused effort, it’s very possible. The outcome is happier workers in the short term and a stronger department in the years to come.

Employer branding

How to attract job candidates with excellent employer branding

The availability of skilled workers was named as a significant concern by 73 percent of CEOs, according to a recent PWC survey. In today’s competitive hiring ecosystem, high-quality “employer branding” is key to attracting top talent. Because millennial workers don’t build lifetime careers at a single company the way their parents did, they are always checking to see if the grass is greener over at the next corporate campus. To attract and hold the best of this skilled group, you must make sure that your employer branding is competitive. Here’s some context for you to work from:

What exactly is employer branding?

Your employer brand is your reputation as an employer. This is separate from the reputation of your products, although the two can overlap. If you’re known as a stellar employer, some customers will feel motivated to buy your products just for the sake of supporting your good policies. Harvard Business Review points out that employer branding in the age of social media has become far more transparent and far more potent, because employees will share impressions with their entire social networks.

How does your employer brand affect recruiting?

Today’s top workers can pick and choose among opportunities, and company marketing departments find themselves pressed into service to make the company appeal to prospective job applicants as well as to customers. Long-term recruitment needs are the primary drivers behind employer branding, according to CEOs and HR directors surveyed about hiring strategies. 61 percent of these executives have created an “employee value proposition,” listing all the benefits that their company offers to employees. The fact is that if you’re competing for limited talent resources, good employer branding is a necessity. Furthermore, once you’ve snagged a few excellent hires, they’re likely to sing your company’s praises and attract other high-level workers to apply in the future.

Conversely, there is no way to simply skip the task of employer branding. In today’s connected world, every company has a reputation that is abundantly shared and discussed. If you don’t pay attention to creating a positive employer brand, your omission may result in your having a negative one.

Tips for enhancing your employer brand

Here are a few guidelines for establishing an enticing reputation that will generate more high-quality job applicants:

  • Identify external and internal perceptions of your company: The first step to improving your employer branding is to discover the problem areas. Make an effort to learn how your company is viewed by reading ratings on Glassdoor and other hiring forums, and also ask for anonymous employee input.
  • Tell your company’s story: People naturally gravitate toward stories, and potential employees are looking for roles in an appealing narrative.
  • Engage the CEO and senior managers: Top talent is attracted to organizations that have a clear mission statement and philosophy. A round table discussion with company leaders is helpful for setting the tone of the company culture.
  • Draft brand ambassadors: Your current employees are your best channel for attracting good job applicants. Their advocacy (via social media or in person) will be trusted by potential hires far more than any official company communications.
  • Hire a branding expert: Even if you have an in-house marketing department, you can benefit from the expertise of an independent employer branding consultant. This person is well aware of how to give you a competitive edge.

Building a stellar employer brand is more reliant on focused attention than on major investment. Each business has a unique story and some one-of-a-kind characteristics; you simply need to clarify these unique qualities and broadcast them effectively.

Continuous Delivery and the Iron Triangle of Software Delivery

Continuous Delivery and the Iron Triangle of Software Delivery

The lords of software delivery have always told us that we can pick two out of the three sides of the iron triangle: good, fast, or cheap while building and deploying software. Continuous Delivery helps us by never having to make that choice again, deliver on all three and in fact continuously improve on each of them.

Continuous Delivery is the key philosophy, but its foundation is the better-known Continuous Integration (CI). Continuous Integration is the first step of the Continuous Delivery pipeline, it means that every developer keeps their work-in-progress continually integrated with every other developer. Typically this means every developer checks into the mainline at least once a day.

Continuous Integration

Continuous Integration (CI) is a development practice that requires developers to integrate code into a shared repository several times a day. Each check-in is then verified by an automated build, allowing teams to detect problems early. The main goal of CI is to prevent integration problems by merging code into the main branch more frequently. It is best used in combination with automated unit tests written through the practices of TDD: Test Driven Development. At Achievers, CI has been implemented using the concept of a Pipeline. A pipeline consists of a chain of processing elements (processes, threads, co-routines, functions, etc.), arranged so that the output of each element is the input of the next. We use Jenkins, a cross-platform, continuous integration, and continuous delivery application to build jobs to run on a schedule or trigger, as well as thread a number of these jobs together to form a pipeline.

Continuous Delivery

Continuous delivery (CD) is a logical evolution or outcome of Continuous Integration and is a software engineering approach in which teams produce software in short cycles, ensuring that the software can be reliably released at any time.[1] It aims at building, testing, and releasing software faster and more frequently. The approach helps reduce the cost, time, and risk of delivering changes by allowing for more incremental updates to applications in production. A straightforward and repeatable deployment process is important for continuous delivery. Developers used to a long cycle time may need to change their mindset when working in a CD environment. It is important to understand that any code commit may be released to customers at any point. Patterns such as feature toggles can be very useful for committing code early which is not yet ready for use by end users.

Over the years, Jenkins has become the undisputed ruler among continuous integration (CI), delivery and deployment (CD) tools. It, in a way, defined the CI/CD processes we use today. Software goes through various phases (build, test, deploy) and interacts with a multitude of tools (junit, sonar, nexus etc) on its way to production. Jenkins is the orchestrator that drives the entire pipeline and interacts with each of these tools. Jenkins’ strength is that it has 1200 plugins that let you interact with any of the tools that are in your organization.

Software Life Cycle

At Achievers we have implemented the Jenkins 2.0 pipeline to help us build, integrate, test and deploy to production every day.

Achievers Jenkins 2.0 pipeline process

This blog post here describes in detail the need for a Jenkins pipeline and why it is the best at what it does.

If you are looking to ship code every day and automate the whole thing, look into Jenkins and what it can do for you.

Amit is a technology leader at Achievers and is helping build the next generation Employee Success Platform. We are aggressively changing the way the world works and are always looking for great technical talent to help us build our service while being part of an awesome team.

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Click here for career opportunities.

Performance Improvement Plans

How to handle performance improvement plans without causing disengagement

If employees have been underperforming, performance improvement plans are sometimes the best option. This process can be awkward for managers as well as employees, but the right approach can reduce everyone’s discomfort and contribute to better employee alignment. Here are four tips for increasing the chances that your employees will react constructively when you have to put them on a PIP:

Provide specific factual documentation

To keep the discussion focused and avoid sidetracking into argument, it’s important to cite exact dates and descriptions of problem episodes. The most concise format for documentation includes a description of the behavior or product that was expected, an outline of what the employee actually did, and a list of the consequences of the employee’s actions. In addition, if any earlier remedy or consequences were put in place as a consequence of that episode, it is important to include a notation of those.

Schedule face-to-face meetings

No good manager relies only on written communication for such a sensitive interaction. You should speak to your employee in person to inform them about the fact that you will be putting them on a PIP and then send them initial written documentation. After they receive the documentation, it is imperative that you schedule a face-to-face meeting in which you can have a two-way conversation about the issue. Following your conversation, you can confirm what you agreed on in a document that you both sign.

Ask employees what they need

In some cases, an employee’s sub-par performance is the result of insufficient resources, training, tools, or other support. Even if you’re feeling frustrated, it’s helpful to come into the PIP meeting with an open mind rather than with an assumption that the employee is entirely culpable. A productive PIP meeting should be based on the attitude that you and the employee are collaborating on finding solutions for a problem.

Develop an action plan together

While you may enter the discussion with some clear requirements in mind, it’s important that the employee have a voice in developing the action plan. If additional training is one of the items on your action plan it may be beneficial to ask the employee exactly what skills they would most like to improve. The key to a successful PIP is having employee alignment and buy-in.

Handled properly, a performance improvement plan can turn out to be a positive experience for a struggling worker. If you seek input from your employee and approach them with the sense of solving a problem together, the PIP can be a bridge to a more productive working relationship.

Tuition Reimbursement Policy

Do companies really benefit from giving tuition reimbursement?

Have you considered paying some of your workers’ tuition to continue their education? In an era where employee engagement is a top priority for businesses, tuition assistance is a much-sought-after company benefit. But it also has the potential to be a burden on your bottom line, so you must determine whether it ultimately provides a good return on your investment. The following points will help when developing a tuition reimbursement policy for your company.

Business investment or just another perk?

The opportunity to subsidize your employees to further their education requires careful decision-making. If your only reason for this offer is simply to increase employee engagement, you may want to consider other popular options such as flex-time or remote work opportunities. These options tend to improve employees’ work-life balance while being less expensive to implement.

On the other hand, if you do want to support your employees’ careers by helping them acquire specific skills, your organization has the chance to benefit from their improved knowledge and abilities. Furthermore, you will also build a strong employer brand and benefit from attracting top talent in a competitive marketplace. Remember that you may be able to offer up to $5,250 tuition assistance per year per employee and deduct it as a business expense on your taxes. Be sure to read the fine print on the IRS instructions regarding this tax break before you proceed.

ROI may be diffuse

Training Magazine highlights the 125 companies each year that excel in employee training. This eminent list includes some of the nation’s largest and most prestigious companies, and 99 percent of them offer tuition reimbursement. These businesses have determined that employee education is a worthwhile investment, however the true return might come in the form of lower employee turnover, greater productivity, better job candidates, and greater worker loyalty.

Roll out tuition benefits thoughtfully

If you do decide to offer a tuition program, you may wish to limit it to workers who have been with your company for a specific length of time. You can also specify the GPA that the employee has to maintain, and you can limit the areas of study to those that will directly pertain to the skills your company needs. Further, you may want to spend time talking with a worker who expresses interest in enrolling in school to learn how he or she will balance the commitments of job, class time, and homework.

By offering a well-considered tuition reimbursement policy, you will be partnering with your employees to build their success. At the same time, your company can benefit from their improved expertise and develop strong employee loyalty.

 

Business Travel Tips

7 ways to make business travel easier on your employees

Employee wellness should be a priority for all organizations, and in the mobile workplace that wellness extends beyond the office. Business travel is an essential part of most companies’ success: Harvard Business Review research shows that for every $1 invested in business travel, a company earns $2.90 in profits. However, it’s important that those profits not come at the expense of your employees’ wellbeing. Use these business travel tips to help your employees stay healthy and sane on the road:

Health hazards of frequent business travel

There can be substantial health risks associated with regular travel. Jet lag can lead to impaired immune system responses, higher likelihood of cardiac disease, short-term memory impairment, and even more rapid aging. If the body’s circadian rhythms are interrupted, that can lead to mental health issues. Many people find it difficult to get adequate exercise out of town and find it impossible to cook their own healthy meals. The combination of low activity levels and a reliance on high-fat, high-salt restaurant foods can cause weight gain, fatigue, and a host of other negative side effects.

7 ways to reduce your employees’ travel stress

  • Book your employees in hotels with gyms. If you run step competitions within your organization, be sure that your remote and traveling employees are eligible to participate.
  • Consider offering reimbursement for exercise classes employees take while traveling.
  • Allow employees to schedule an additional night in their hotel so they can rest before or after work meetings.
  • Offer a travel gift pack including face mask, earplugs, and travel pillow to facilitate a restful flight.
  • Use a streamlined travel expense app that allows for automatic expense entry. Harvard Business Review found that post-trip paperwork can be the most stressful part of the trip.
  • Offer assistance with trip planning that prioritizes direct flights to minimize stressful layovers. If connecting flights are necessary, encourage the employee to avoid tightly scheduled layovers that will create worry.
  • Avoid booking redeye flights.
  • Provide employee education programs on stress management and healthful strategies for business travel.
  • Make sure employees have a portable wifi device so they have the freedom to work while they’re traveling and can rest and recuperate as soon as they arrive at the hotel.

When your employees travel for work, they willingly putting their health and well-being on the line for the benefit of your business. Employee wellbeing and employee engagement go hand-in-hand; by making business travel easier and healthier for your employees, you can see better productivity and better business results.

Disengaged Employees

How to rehabilitate disengaged employees

Disengagement in the workplace is a problem that’s all too common these days, and disengaged employees have a negative impact on both their coworkers and businesses as a whole. A Gallup poll found that fewer than 31 percent of American workers felt engaged in their jobs, while 17.5 percent were “actively disengaged.” Because these workers can wreak havoc on productivity and morale, you need to be able to recognize the signs of disengagement so you can address it as it happens.

Signs of disengagement in employees

  • Withdrawal from participation: An employee who suddenly begins to miss meetings, starts leaving early, or takes extra days off may be disengaged. Likewise, a significant withdrawal from normal work conversations may also indicate a problem. As a manager, you should watch for changes that stray from an employee’s long-standing behavior or routine.
  • Undermining and gossiping: Employees who feel disconnected from their workplace can also develop grudges against coworkers or managers. They sometimes engage in gossip that undermines company goals, and they may even intentionally spread misinformation.
  • Apathy and poor follow-through: Disengagement typically results in employees who are no longer aligned with organizational goals. For this reason, you may notice that they don’t care about the quality of their work and that they substitute excuses for task completion.

How to rehabilitate a disengaged employee

Start by reaching out to a disengaged employee to see how they’re feeling. They may be facing issues or obstacles that you can help solve. Human resources and team leaders can work together on this goal, interviewing the employee to discover their concern, be it a family need that makes a current schedule unworkable or a conflict with an immediate manager. Active listening is crucial here, and so is a willingness to make changes. Team reassignments, flexible scheduling, extra training opportunities, and other types of reorganization should all be on the table when mitigating issues with employee motivation.

While individual employee concerns can be specific and situational, proactive solutions to employee disengagement require an awareness of demographic trends. An extensive report on disengagement by AON Hewitt notes that the leading aspects of job engagement for millennial workers are career opportunities, good manager performance, company reputation, pay scale, and good communication. That means that the engagement programs you’ve had in place for one generation of employees might not be as powerful for a different generation. Determine what kinds of company-wide systems you need to have in place to reduce disengagement, whether it’s more manager training, better onboarding, employee recognition and rewards, or a more meaningful company mission.

Create a magnetic company culture with recognition and great data

by Sarah Clayton, Communications and Campaigns Specialist 

A Magnetic Culture is one that draws talented employees to the workplace, empowers them, and sustains an environment in which they are less likely to leave.

– Kevin Sheridan, Employee Engagement & Virtual Management Expert

At Achievers, we love to get like-minded people together, so we have been hosting regional events to discuss engagement and recognition strategies with our local clients and others in the business community. We recently co-hosted a breakfast seminar with our client partner, Discover, to discuss the impact of having a magnetic culture.

The speakers gave thought-provoking presentations that sparked insightful discussions around a key element of company success: recognition. People are a valuable resource: when you invest time in your people, you will see that investment reflected in their work. Our motto at Achievers is “Change the way the world works”, and that means providing our clients, and prospects, with the tools to effectively invest in their team through recognition. To that end, we have summarized some focal points from the seminar and their connection to the Achievers platform.

Alarmingly, nearly two thirds of the workforce is defined as “ambivalent employees”: a delicate group who lie in limbo between engaged and disengaged. If addressed correctly, members of this group can be converted to productive, engaged employees. The alternative is that they remain ambivalent (the ‘quit and stay’), or that they progress toward disengagement, neither of which are attractive options for a company or culture. Thus the question begs: how do you engage an ambivalent employee?

There’s a saying that “you can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.” Data helps you identify, analyze, and solve problems, so we made it a priority to have an abundance of data accessible through our platform. It provides insight into engagement levels, the impact variables or events have on engagement, and workplace trends (to name a few).

The most valuable aspect of the data we provide is that it is real time, so you can react promptly to the needs of your team. When a company has agile response times to employee behaviors, it goes a long way to build trust and grow engagement. For a company to thrive in the Information Age, external expectations of real-time information exchange and reactions must be integrated into company practices.

In order to realize the full potential of a resource, it’s integral to understand how to leverage it — an idea that is especially relevant with a company’s human capital. In conjunction with the data we provide, the unique employee profile that is generated through platform activity provides managers insight into the skills and behaviors of their team members.

An employee profile is a valuable tool for employee development because it acts as a centralized collection of their recognition moments, awards, milestones, and interactions. It streamlines the process of performance reviews, and the continual collection ensures no accomplishments are missed. The exposure a profile can provide into interdepartmental relationships and traits valued among colleagues presents a strategic opportunity to help develop career paths. When managers can show an employee that they are actively invested in their future with the company, the employee is more likely to reciprocate through engagement.

High usage levels across the platform are indicative of strong employee buy-in: we’re presenting them with a communication channel they want to use. The ability to voice their opinions through recognition not only fosters engagement, it creates a sense of empowerment.

The historic practice of reserving recognition for management contributes to a hierarchical role divide that is not conducive to a collaborative work environment. With organizations becoming progressively flatter, power that was once centralized at the top is being disseminated across employees. To successfully navigate structural shifts, power needs to be given an outlet — and recognition is a popular choice. It facilitates cohesion between company values and employees, and it helps employees shape the work environment they want to see.

Employee engagement is an output that is derived from multiple inputs, with the end goal being a magnetic culture. The Achievers platform provides several tools that can be leveraged according to trends and strategic company goals to develop a culture that resonates with employees.

 

Sarah Clayton

Sarah Clayton is the Communications and Campaigns Specialist at Achievers, where she focuses on generating content to drive desired recognition behaviors and engagement on the platform.

National Employee Benefits Day

National Employee Benefits Day: An article roundup

Today is National Employee Benefits Day!

Providing your workforce with a competitive and comprehensive set of benefits is an essential element of employee engagement, retention, and talent acquisition. Many modern employers are finding themselves in a “perks war,” fighting for job candidates with an escalating series of add-ons that extend well beyond standard programs like health insurance and 401ks. This benefits-centric culture is adding a new set of challenges to benefits administrators who have to balance the desires of current and prospective employees, the expectations of the executive team, and the constraints of their budget.

In the face of these growing challenges, benefits administrators and total rewards managers truly deserve some recognition: you help make your organizations great places to work.

In the spirit of celebrating benefits, we’ve rounded up some of our most popular perks and benefits articles from the past year:

How to convince employees to take vacation time

4 ideas for celebrating employee anniversaries

Which company perks attract the best talent?

Do dogs at work actually improve employee engagement?

Make employee training a perk, not a chore

3 cool employee perks for the hot summer months

Annual bonuses: How much do they actually incentivize employees?