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Open Office

Thinking of an Open Office? Read This First

Companies are trying to find a workspace setup that increases employee productivity. Meanwhile, the employees are hoping that they will be allowed to concentrate or collaborate as needed and still escape unnecessary distractions. Getting the design of an office right can be hard – it is clearly a moving target. Let’s take a look back at the history of office design. In 1964, a Herman Miller executive, Robert Propst, came up with the idea of the office cubicle. It was a reaction to the open office setups of the 1950s which were felt to be too noisy and lacking in privacy.

1960 officeA 1960s escape from the vast open office layout.

The office cubicle found huge adoption in the following decades, giving workers an office layout that was often an immense field of cubicles as far as the eye could see – as was so effectively lampooned in both the movie Office Space and the comic strip Dilbert.

office spaceRon Livingston, David Herman And Ajay Naidu take their revenge on their nemesis, the office  fax machine in a scene from “Office Space”. Source: Getty Images.

To break away from the office cubicle layout, companies started moving back toward a variation on of open-plan offices taken from the 1950s. Open-plan offices have become increasingly popular and make up approximately 70 percent of all offices. Understanding the history behind these changes to office design can help businesses make informed choices about what to implement in their own setup, and how the physical space of the office affects employee happiness and engagement.

open officeFed up with working in an open-plan office? You’re probably not alone. Source: Photofusion/Rex Features.

The good, the bad, and the ugly of open office layouts

The good:

An open office layout can help increase the amount of day-to-day communication. Instead of having a meeting or walking to another cube, one desk occupant can simply talk across to the next. Beyond being able to hear the neighbor, one can also see if they are (1) at the desk and (2) if they are likely to be available – not on the phone or in a conference.

The flexibility of an open office helps to break down the barriers between departments and hierarchies. With more chances to interact, teams can grow closer organically. Spontaneous lunch outings become more common, which can increase employee engagement and overall happiness. Familiarity in a non-work setting helps to build trust in coworkers and communication across departments. In an extreme example from my personal experience, a software company I worked at would stop work Friday afternoons to allow the entire staff to play games or just hang out. The open office and companion culture at this company helped developers, marketers, and even C-levels communicate better as a team.

The bad:

On the flip side, what if an important report has to be done by 5pm on a Friday while the other 20 people in the office are laughing and carrying on? The noise becomes a problem without sound barriers provided by cubicles and closed doors.

In an open office, sometimes every phone call becomes anathema and the guy who used to be the water cooler pundit is always too loud and too close. A survey by Oxford Economics on open office plans said that 53% of those surveyed were less productive when they could hear ambient noise. Another study took this further and found that noisy offices can impair your ability to recall information or do basic math.

The ugly:

The look of an office separated into cubicles is great if you love that grey and drab with bad lighting aesthetic. However, you have that physical and sound barrier between you and your coworkers. The open office layout removed those barriers allowing you to see and collaborate with your coworkers. This is its main selling point, well, that–and it often gives the office clean, trendy lines. The introverted and those sensitive to sound will quickly notice the drawbacks to all this openness.

There are always trade-offs

Pro: You can see the colleague you want to engage with

In one open office layout I sat directly across from the COO and very close to a Director in another. It’s nice to be able to see them and talk to them quickly without having to find their office and knock or wait for the door to be open, which makes you feel like another task in their project management software. The playing field does seem a bit more level without closed doors and formal meetings.

Con: You might hear or see something you’d rather not

However, there are some times when privacy is necessary. In a phone-free workplace, I would need to take my cell phone call somewhere else. Also those managers would need to find a location for their reviews and interviews to maintain the privacy of their meeting and save the other workers from that extra noise. “And for introverts, an open office can be an especially dark place. Constantly interacting with other humans can be exhausting.” In her popular TED talk on how our workplaces are designed for extroverts, Susan Cain, author of Quiet, explains this powerfully. She notes that “modern offices have the collaboration element well taken care of, but they’re neglecting the concentration and the contemplation.”

Office layouts depend on your culture

“People feel more connected to a workplace where they have the ability to shape their work environment and decide when and where they’re going to work. This freedom increased the likelihood that workers were happy with their jobs by 12 percent and increased overall job performance.” – Nicole Coughlin of Knoll Activity Spaces 

The real key to designing the right office layout is understanding that all your employees are different. Each will have slightly different needs and work styles. If you decide to move forward with an open office you should try to make it balanced with a number of offerings for privacy and quiet. Here are some office suggestions:

  • Work-a-Day Normal Desks: Give employees the option to move around the office if need be, whether it’s a sitting, standing or adjustable desks.
  • Large Tables: Let employees gather together and work at one large table together. This can encourage collaboration and team building.
  • Conference Rooms: Sometimes all it takes is a closed door to give some much needed privacy.
  • Phone Booths: Private booths are a great alternative for conference calls or recorded trainings.
  • Couches: Who doesn’t like a comfortable couch to change things up? Let employees kick their feet back while they get work done.
  • Multiple Lighting Options: Some employees don’t like overhead lights and some do. Have the option of lighting up one zone with and another without.

Choosing between an open office or a layout that provides a little more privacy doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Remember to think about what works for your company, its culture, and the amount and types of engagement you want among your employees. Defining these pieces before redesigning your office setup will ensure you choose the office space that works for your team.

Are you delivering an unbeatable employee experience? Discover how to engage your employees with personalization, the missing link in employee experience. Access Achievers’ white paper to learn more.

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About the Author
Steve Medeiros Steve Medeiros is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com. He has an extensive background in technology, software, and customer support. Find him on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

 

fundamentals of employee engagement

The Fundamentals of Employee Engagement

There is an international employee engagement crisis. According to a Gallup survey, 85% of the worldwide workforce feels disengaged. On the bright side, this issue can be prevented with the use of initiatives that recognize employees the right way. This finding offers an opportunity for employers to address the need to add value to their employee’s work experience. After all, employees spend over 40 hours per week in the workplace making it practically a second home. You want to make sure they look forward to coming to work every day.

The good news is we have the power to change the culture of an organization from the executive team to frontline employees. Focusing on employee engagement and delivering a strong company culture ultimately impacts customer happiness, employee productivity and your bottom line.

Start with the 20:60:20 Model

What is the 20-60-20 model and how does it apply to HR? The 20-60-20 model should be applied when a company reviews its current human resources strategy. Overall, it means 20% of employees will accept new changes, 60% of employees will be neutral about change, and 20% will be resistant to accepting change in the organization. The good news is 60% of employees will be open to providing feedback and participate in employee engagement initiatives. As a result, the remaining will follow if the new programs are receptive and relatable to employees.

Focus on Career Development Programs

A reason why employees feel disengaged at work is that there is no effort on developing the skills of workers. Employees want career development opportunities to get that next promotion, potentially transfer to a new department where their talents can be fully utilized or receive in-depth feedback on their performance. I appreciate how my manager one time went out of the way to teach me about (ATS) Applicant Tracking Systems used by human resources to track words in a resume to select candidates for an interview. I once worked at an organization with a career development program that I found extremely impactful. Some of my favorite aspects of the career development program were the following:

  • Career Plan: Include realistic action steps to complete employee goals, education or activities.
  • Career Tools: Offer the right tools for employees, whether it be full access to online educational videos or other niche services that can help them succeed.
  • Department Cross-Over Opportunities: Open up the opportunity for employees to assist other departments outside of their own; encourage their curiosity and interest.

Provide a Successful Onboarding Experience

The Society for Human Resource Management stated, “new employees who attended a structured orientation program were 69 percent more likely to remain at the company for up to three years.”

Most companies have a dull onboarding program with a new hire filling out forms on the first day. As the month’s pass, the employee must figure out the company culture on their often. It can be an isolating experience which increases turnover rates of new hires in the first 90 days of employment. Here is a list of onboarding tips I recently discovered:

  • Share the history of the company
  • Send employment forms electronically before the employees first day
  • Introduce the new hire to executives and management
  • Sit the employee near the desk of a potential mentor

When a new employee goes home, the conversation about your company to family and friends should be positive because it will be beneficial for your community to think highly of the company from an employment perspective.

Get Executives Involved

The Muse stated, “90% of leaders think an engagement strategy have an impact on business success but barely 25% of them have a strategy.” Human resources and management can be excited about employee engagement, but if executives are disinterested or not visible, it will not help a company long term. Executive involvement means the CEO attending a work event, and introducing themselves to every employee. It includes executives attending team meetings to introduce themselves to frontline staff. If there is an extracurricular activity being offered to employees outside of work, it might be a good idea to encourage your executives to participate; this increases trust in leadership and enhances the employee experience.

When it comes to the employee experience, don’t let your employees simply receive documentation, sign forms and receive employee benefits. Instead, be an organization that embraces work culture from the top down.

Ask for Feedback from Employees

As an employer, think of employees as a customer; create engagement programs that support their career goals with options to improve their health. Most onboarding strategies include providing a survey asking new hires what they want and how their onboarding experience was. Make sure to ask for feedback from employees – they provide the answer on how to effectively boost employee engagement at your organization. Here are a few questions to ask them:

  • What do you want to see more at the workplace?
  • Do you feel valued at work and how can we improve?
  • How do you want to be recognized and rewarded?
  • Does your manager support your career goals?
  • What events or employee programs do you recommend?
  • How can we be better?

The questions should be open-ended to receive clear responses and encourage honest feedback without limitations.

Recognize Your Employees

Never forget to make your employees a top priority. One way to show your appreciation for employees is through frequent recognition and rewards. When you recognize your employees more, you will reap in the benefits of employee engagement. After all, 69% of employees cited Recognition and Rewards as a motivation to stay at their current job in 2018. Appreciate your employees on a daily basis and watch employee engagement rise.

To learn more about how to increase employee engagement through recognition, check out this eBook: Employee Recognition: More Than Just a Day. 3 Ways to Make Recognition an Everyday Event.

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About the Author
Makeda Waterman is an online media journalist of 4 years with blog features on CNBC Make It., Huffington Post, Glassdoor.com, Elite Daily, Fast Company, among others. She is passionate about helping people improve the quality of their career.

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Build an Engaging Office Culture

4 Steps: How to Build an Engagement-Driven Office Culture

The importance of employee recognition and engagement cannot be overstated. Companies everywhere are shelling out billions every year for HR programs designed to enhance their office culture and improve employee productivity. Yet, according to Gallup’s 15-year study, the percentage of American workers that are “actively engaged” at the workplace remains fairly stagnant, with an average of just around 32%.

Gallup StudySource: Gallup

This begs the question: why are some employee engagement programs working while others aren’t?

Designing an engaging office culture requires more than just planning birthday parties or patting a worker on the back for a job well done. Engagement strategies can’t be forced; they need to be implemented carefully and encouraged in order to make an impact.

So what should you do to get your workforce more involved?

If you’re looking to build an engagement-driven office culture, check out these four common traits of successful culture initiatives.

  1. It All Starts with Leadership

Teams look to their leaders to set examples of proper behavior. The effect management has on employee engagement and motivation is astounding. According to Gallup’s State of the American Manager Report, leadership has the strongest impact on employee engagement levels in a workplace. Management is responsible for 70% of the variation in employee engagement levels, and workers who had proactively engaged managers were nearly 60% more likely to be engaged themselves.

There is no denying that managers are largely responsible for the office culture of their organization, and therefore, it is up to them to make the necessary changes for improvement and become employee engagement champions. When they strengthen their leadership practices and become more hands-on, teams will likely follow suit.

One practice that leaders must absolutely do away with is abusing company talent in any way, shape, or form. Only about 20% of office workers feel that management motivates them to do their best. Mismanagement, poor job design, or unfulfilled expectations are some of the leading causes of employee disengagement. Many workers feel that managers misuse their skills in the office by not providing opportunities to use their key skills. Underutilization or overworking employees are both major mistakes that can cause frustration, disengagement, and eventually, higher turnover rates.

Leaders with poor communication skills, micromanaging tendencies, or other negative traits can quickly discourage employees and create negative behavior among the team. In order to push for a more engaged environment, leadership must first establish a set standards and examples for others to follow.

  1. Focus on Culture Fit from the Start

We all have a desire to fit in with our peers, and it can be very frustrating and disheartening to new hires who just don’t quite mesh with the new company culture. In fact, IBM’s study found that 20% of workers left a position because they did not fit in with the company culture.

IBM Study Source: IBM

Culture fit is critical to employee engagement and happiness, especially when it comes to new hires. By focusing more on culture fit from the very beginning during the recruiting process, employers will find it easier to boost employee engagement levels while simultaneously decreasing turnover and increasing retention.

HR technology plays a huge role in employee engagement, and it can simplify the tedious process of finding new talent that are great culture fits. If you really want to be more accurate at finding employees that fit your culture, you can incorporate more data-driven insights into your hiring process. For example, there are certain HR tech platforms out there that can track applicant’s personality traits, problem solving abilities, and even professional values.

  1. Get Everyone Involved in Team Decisions

When you think of companies with great employee engagement programs, one that probably pops into mind is Southwest. The low-fare airline has really set the bar for employee enthusiasm and satisfaction levels by finding new ways to get the team involved with the company. When the business decided it was time to redesign company uniforms in 2016, they allowed employees to select the colors, fabrics, and details. All employees were then able to vote for a final decision.

The airline’s founder, Herb Kelleher, understands the importance of building a business that values everyone’s opinions and participation.

The things you can’t buy are dedication, devotion, loyalty – the feeling that you are participating in a crusade.” – Kelleher

Collecting honest feedback and suggestions is the key to building an office culture of innovation in which everyone can feel open to participate. An engaged employee often feels connected to their organization because they understand the unique role they play in its success.

  1. Encourage Interests Outside of the Office

69% of the healthiest and happiest organizations in the country offer programs for professional skill development, proving that a little extra motivation can make all the difference. Encouraging employees to work on things they are passionate about not only provides satisfaction, but also helps them achieve their fullest potential.

Innovative workplaces that encourage employees to get involved with passion projects will build an office culture that thrives. Google is famously known for encouraging employees to pitch their own business ideas and even pursue personal projects to fuel innovation and engagement.

Finding ways to support non-profits or good causes is more than just a nice thing that businesses can do. Fortune reported that up to 59% of respondents to a survey agreed that they would prefer to work for a company which supported a charitable organization over one that didn’t back any, and many were more likely to buy products from such businesses as well. More and more businesses are urging their employees to get involved with charities. Tom’s of Maine is a great example – they require employees to spend 5% of their paid work time volunteering.

Employee engagement shouldn’t just run from Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. It must be practiced beyond the office, too. Keeping everyone inspired to develop, grow, and improve, even after they’ve clocked out, can help everyone in the business aspire to be something better.

Over to You

Businesses that prioritize employee engagement will create more enjoyable office cultures for everyone. Leaders must set the standards, but it is also important to build a strong team from the bottom up. Getting every single person involved by listening to their opinions and encouraging personal interests can help keep the momentum going.

Building an amazing company culture takes time, but the rewards are well worth the wait!

To learn more about the importance of strong culture, check out this white paper on The True Cost of Disengagement

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Start building an engagement-driven culture with Achievers and Limeade. Watch this short video to see the partnership in action.

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Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author
Lori Wagoner is a market research consultant. She advises small businesses on new ways to find local and national business. She’s an avid blogger and writes for sites such as Small Business Can, Tweak Your Biz and Customer Think. You can catch her on Twitter @loridwagoner.

 

Wellness and Company Culture

5 Ways Wellness Programs Can Enhance Employee Engagement

Look up from your computer and take stock of the colleagues working around you, they might not be at their desks much longer  A recent Gallup study reports that approximately 51% of them [U.S. workers] are either actively looking for a new job or keeping an eye out for openings.

Some say it’s a people or a hiring problem, others chalk it up to the natural employee lifecycle. However, this career transience can be more properly understood as a consequence of poor company culture.

While companies spend billions of dollars and thousands of hours working on enhancing their consumer-facing brand, they spend a fraction of that on their employer brand.

Companies often neglect their “employee value proposition,” meaning they don’t spend enough time thinking about how to differentiate themselves from other companies in a job market that has seen increased competition for talented employees.

For a company to differentiate itself in this increasingly competitive market, it needs a laser-like focus on its employees. More than the just good of the company, your employees are interested in achieving work-life balance and seeing to their own personal well-being. They want to work for a company that values those things as well.

Work and life aren’t easily distinguishable from one another these days because every employee, from CEO to the newly hired intern, carries things with them from their personal lives into the workplace. The personal and the professional exist in symbiosis, neglecting one is doing a disservice to the other.

Invest in your team holistically. It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to make your team feel cared for in the place they spend nearly one third of their lives. Making this effort can increase employee retention, engagement, and attract new talent.

An investment in the well-being of your employees as individuals is an investment in the company itself. One of the best ways to show that your company is committed to its people just as much as it is to its customers and profits is by building a well-functioning wellness program.

Establishing an employee wellness program impacts more than just the individual, it creates a more productive, motivated, and engaged workforce. Don’t believe me? Here are five examples of how wellness can turn your company culture around, creating real business impact:

1. Goals

light bulb

Wellness programs are an effective tool to align company goals with the health and well-being of your employees. They clear a path for employees to incorporate their personal well-being into their work, as opposed to handling work and wellness as separate entities.

One of the main reasons that people don’t participate in wellness programs is because they don’t believe they have enough time (as many as 51% of employees according to an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Study). However, it only takes a little creativity to align wellness goals with productivity goals, and this small effort will ultimately impact the business in a big way.

Starting with an easily accomplished task, such as setting reminders to break up screen time by taking a short walk, can establish momentum that will help build efficiencies into the work day and ultimately help to reduce burnout.

2. Morale employees working

It’s not a leap to suggest that the way an employee feels about their job directly impacts how they perform on the job. Morale and engagement are intertwined.

Around 70% of U.S. workers report not being engaged at work. In thinking about the colleagues I referenced in the opening paragraph, seven out of ten of them aren’t being utilized to their full potential. That’s disturbing.

Wellness initiatives can strengthen the commitment of the individual to the company. It’s a reciprocal relationship; employees who feel cared for are likely to match that feeling in commitment to the company – not to mention engaged employees perform 20% better than their counterparts.

If your office morale is low, don’t be afraid to get creative and try some out-of-the-box morale boosters.

3. Stress

employees

The presence of high amounts of stress in the workplace can make or break the relationship between employee and company. While a manageable amount of stress is healthy and motivates people to succeed, it can easily become overwhelming.

Stress presents itself in two forms, eustress and distress. The former pushes people to reach their goals and the other stifles production and growth. The root cause of stress for 80% of employees is work.

A wellness program that takes this into account and provides resources or activities to deal with high and sustained-stress situations can help identify and address negative stress before it becomes a problem. If stress does become a problem, it can lead to increased absenteeism and decreased productivity.

4. Relationships

employees

Fostering friendships in the office is beneficial both on a human level and as a good business decision. The Gallup study referenced above shows that about 20% of U.S. workers report having a best friend at work, which in itself isn’t that interesting. However, if employers could get that number up to 60%, the study posits that the resulting bonds would influence higher customer satisfaction and a 12% increase in profits!

The difference comes from a sense of being part of a team, rather than feeling isolated. Your employees will carry a greater sense of responsibility and purpose because they won’t perceive their work as only impacting them as an individual, but how it impacts the team, and company as well.

Offering activities that bring your team together outside of work can help foster closer relationships. Something as simple as sponsoring a company kickball or softball team can lead to seven times more engaged employees, and a more robust bottom line for the company.

5. Culture

laptop

A commitment to wellness is a commitment to building a strong workplace culture, and it follows that caring for your team means caring for your business. A strong workplace culture impacts more than just your employees, culture seeps out into the interactions employees have with customers, partners, and the community. Engaged employees are also your best resource in attracting talent, they’re the ones most likely to be extolling the virtues of your company culture on sites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

Your company’s biggest asset is the people that have bought into the company’s mission. Ignoring the needs of the people that keep the ship afloat is dangerous and might leave you swimming with your head just above water.

Has your company invested as much in its people as it can or should? If not, what do you think you can do to change that? Leave a comment and start the discussion!

For more information as to how wellness can impact employee engagement, click here.

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About the Author
Barron Rosborough
Barron Rosborough is a seasoned digital marketer and writer from Los Angeles, CA. He writes on topics ranging from wellness to leadership (and everything in between). He is currently the Digital Marketing Coordinator at SnackNation, a curated healthy snack subscription service for offices and homes.

 

 

 

 

the value of coaching

Why Millennials Want Coaches, Not Managers

Your workforce is increasingly made up of millennials; this is unsurprising – they’re the ones with the most contemporary skills, and with each passing year they become a larger percentage of the working world. With close to 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, millennials now represent the largest subset of America’s workforce. Approaching these younger workers with the attitude and expectations of a coach, rather than the antiquated characteristics of a traditional “boss,” is key to maintaining their engagement. Here’s how a coaching style differs from the approach of a traditional manager, along with a few insights about why this shift in managerial style is so important.

Coaching responds to failure with empowerment

A manager who behaves in the classic “boss” tradition is likely to take a disciplinary tone after an employee fails or does a poor job on a project. Getting “chewed out” by the boss is a familiar trope in the stereotypical work environment. Coaching, on the other hand, takes an entirely different approach. If a player on a sports team does badly, the coach may feel frustrated, but he or she is well aware that scolding and criticizing the player is not likely to yield better results in the future. Instead, a coach views failure as a sign that the player needs more training, support, and encouragement.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) describes the behavior of award-winning college coach Mike Krzyzewski after a player’s carelessness caused his team to lose. He took the whole team out for an ice cream sundae party, emphasizing encouragement and team-building, and then he held an extra practice to help everyone come together again.

Millennials want more frequent feedback

When you picture a coach guiding a team to victory, you probably imagine lots of feedback was involved. The coach is on the sidelines, shaping the choices that the players make and shouting encouragement or suggestions. After the event, the coach probably holds a video session and works together with players to identify areas that need improvement. It’s all very hands-on.

Now, contrast that leadership style with the annual employment evaluation that typifies an old-school manager’s pattern. An employee is called in to the boss’s office and given an evaluation containing praise and criticism that might be outdated, perhaps even a year old. A coach wouldn’t have a successful team if he or she only gave feedback once a year.

Furthermore, millennials want the high-touch guidance of a coaching culture. A global survey finds that overall, millennials want feedback 50 percent more often than older employees, with most of them preferring feedback on a weekly or monthly basis.

Employee success depends on rewards and recognition

While frequent feedback is a proven method for increasing employee engagement, the quality of that feedback is equally important. An effective coaching approach is based on recognizing each person’s individual strengths. Best practices include creating a company culture that emphasizes positive feedback and employee appreciation. Positivity is necessary in every workplace, but it’s especially crucial when you’re leading a team of millennials.

A recent Gallup report noted, “Only 19 percent of millennials say they receive routine feedback. An even smaller percentage of millennials (17 percent) say the feedback they do receive is meaningful.” This same report states that fewer than 15 percent of millennials ask for the feedback they really want; so it’s up to leadership to establish these employee recognition best practices.

Managers are an important source of professional learning and development

Forbes states that most millennials identify their manager as their main source for learning and developing skills, but only 46 percent of those surveyed believe their deliver on this hope. These numbers are helpful because they indicate a direction you can take with your management style. One millennial worker quoted in the HBR article states, “It’s very important to be in touch with my manager, constantly getting coaching and feedback from him so that I can be more efficient and proficient.” And to further illustrate how much millennials crave learning and development, it’s been reported that 62 percent of executives say millennials will consider leaving their jobs because of a lack of learning and development opportunities.

Coaching takes the whole person into account

Though today’s cutting-edge companies invest serious effort into making sure their employees have a good work-life balance, they also realize that this new approach looks at employees as whole people, not just a drone carrying out a task with little to no thought. A great deal of research has gone into the psychology of coaching and the need to consider the “inner game,” but this mindset is still very new to the corporate world.

As more managers realize that helping their employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance will result in more highly engaged employee, they will likely change their style of supervision to emphasize encouragement. It’s all part of a more holistic approach to talent management; a recognition of workers’ inherent humanity and a step away from viewing them only as cogs in the wheel of a production assembly line.

It’s all about performance

Of course you want to treat your employees well for their own sake, but you also want to be an effective business person. You want to manage your team in such a way that productivity increases, both now and in the future. This often means understanding the unique needs of your millennial workers.

A coaching approach, versus a top-down “I’m-the-boss” approach gives you an incredibly powerful tool for increasing employee engagement among your younger team members. These workers will respond with higher performance and greater loyalty, bringing sustainable growth to your bottom line.

To learn more about how you can effectively introduce employee recognition to your millennial team, download our white paper, “Sink or Swim: How to Engage Millennials to Ensure the Future of your Business.”

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High Performance Employer

Designing a High-Performance Work Environment

In our previous posts, we focused on Pivotal Habits (ones that prepare us to perform by making us healthy, happy and secure) and Work Habits (the ones that make up our jobs).

We discussed the critical role these habits play in creating superior performance for employees and competitive advantage for companies. We explored why habits are frequently missed by businesses as the fundamental driver of performance, and recognized that adopting new habits is in some sense hard for people to achieve, and challenging for employers to create.

In this final post, we will explore how employers can approach the design of their businesses to ensure high employee performance, while also making sure that employees are engaged in and loyal to the business.

Understanding the foundational role of habits, we can frame the employee performance challenge for employers as a design problem:

How do you effectively design your workplace to make it easy, natural and enjoyable for employees to practice their Pivotal and Work Habits, in a way that not only has them perform optimally, but that leaves them thrilled with the experience, grateful for the support and highly engaged with you as an employer?

In solving this design challenge, the first thing to notice is that there are many things that make up the “workplace.”  It is the sum of all things that “surround” employees while they work, and these things are highly influential over how they think, feel and act. We can bucket all the things that make up the surrounding elements into four categories that we call Contexts, and they are vitally important to solving the design problem. Why is this?

A fish swimming in water (the Context for the fish’s life) is completely influenced by that water in everything that it does. So too are humans highly influenced by the Contexts of their life, and just like the fish we tend not to notice the influence of Contexts until they’re not there.

Perhaps this explains why most employers focus on employees when trying to solve productivity problems. We see the lack of performance and we typically associate the issue with the people.

We don’t notice, and therefore don’t act on, the surrounding Contexts that influence people in their daily work. In fact, the nature of Contexts (that they are unnoticed by most people, yet highly influential over our actions) is precisely what makes them so important to business designers.

The Contexts for workplace design

There are four Contexts we need to understand:

Physical Spaces: The physical environment in which employees conduct their work, which increasingly includes the home office as well as the more traditional office and factory floor environments. Designing high-performance spaces is more than just ensuring employees have the tools to do their jobs and requires us to understand the ways that physical design choices affect us psychologically.

Workplace Systems: The policies, procedures, business processes or, more simply, the rules (written and unwritten) that employees are expected to follow make up this context. Some of these rules leak into the workplace (like the laws of the land or the fact that we drive on the right side of the road) and can influence how we behave as well. So, it’s important to not only design our own rules but to understand how they will interact with rules that exist in the wider world.

Social Influence: The people that we work with every day. The day-to-day interactions with work colleagues and customers via live conversations, emails, shared experiences, and at events all strongly influence how we work, and what we achieve. We like to think we make all our own decisions, but at least 60% of the actions we take are highly or completely influenced by the people around us.

Individual Self: Our individual experiences, opinions, beliefs, knowledge and other filters through which we interpret the world. The stories we tell ourselves about the experiences we’ve had in the past hold the power to influence us in the present, which is why storytelling is such an effective influence method for employers. It can help employees to rewrite their personal stories in a way that helps to align their actions with the vision and mission of the business.

Each of these Contexts can be designed by an employer seeking to influence the experience employees have while at work. These experiences in turn affect the actions we take, the habits we form, and the way we feel about where we work.

Creating new habits by design

Understanding that designing Contexts is the most effective approach to establishing new habits still does not explain HOW to proceed.

To guide our thinking, we need to ask: What does it take to create a new habit? Or rather, is there a formula for creating new habits?

It turns out there is. Contexts influence us by creating forces that nudge us towards or away from certain actions. Just like the Contexts, there are four forces that influence habit creation.

Two forces that help us adopt a new habit are Compulsion and Capability. Compulsion is the urge to do something and it is a stronger feeling that mere motivation. For example, simply being motivated, or desiring something (like losing weight) never gets the job done. It’s the actions we take that make the difference, therefore we need to be compelled into action.

However, without the Confidence that we can succeed, we’re unlikely to take the first step and without Competence (knowledge and skills) we’re likely to fail even if we are confident. Competence and Confidence together make up Capability and, combined with Compulsion, help us to take new actions and adopt new habits.

Of course, life gets in the way sometimes. We run out of time, we get distracted, or we are derailed by last minute requests or family emergencies. These life events represent the two forces acting against us, either as static impediments to change (Barriers) or as active antagonists that draw us away from the actions to which we’re committed (Temptation).

The formula for new habit creation

The formula for creating habits says that if we’re Compelled and Competent enough to overcome Barriers and to resist Temptation, we’ll take new actions. If the forces stay in our favor over time, those actions will turn into habits. Thus, our habit change formula can be written as:

If (Compulsion + Capability) > (Barriers + Temptation) over time, new habits emerge.

The catch is that the formula needs to be true in ALL FOUR Contexts at the same time, and this explains why creating new habits can be such hard work.

We can use a series of Influence Methods, which are the many and varied ways in which an employer can ensure that the habit creation formula holds true, when designing all four Contexts. Applying these Influence Methods is the art and science of designing workplace Contexts and, when focused on the right habits, the well-spring of higher performance.

Achieving sustainable competitive advantage

In our Behavior Research Lab, BRATLAB, we’ve researched, discovered and applied over 80 distinct Influence Methods that not only support employees in practicing new habits of performance, but do so in a way that leaves them thrilled with the experience, grateful for the support provided by their company and highly engaged with their work and their employer.

Going to work on employee habits is a strategy that will remain hidden from competitors, but one that is massively powerful in producing results.

Employers that wish not only to future-proof their businesses, but to create a difficult-to-copy, sustainable competitive advantage, must learn the value of designing Contexts, and the many ways in which the array of Influence Methods can be integrated into those Contexts to ensure that employees perform at their best, and love working where they do.

This is how, at Habits at Work, we’re reinventing the world of work so employees thrive and companies flourish.

Professional speaker and founder of Habits at Work and BRATLAB, Andrew Sykes will talk about How to become a High-Performance Employer.

During Andrew’s webinar he will:

  • Explore why employee habits are the fundamental unit of corporate competitive advantage and why they’re often overlooked by leaders and managers.
  • Share research from the Behavioral Research Applied Technology Laboratory (BRATLAB) on which habits really matter, and how to design a business that makes it easy and natural for employees to sustain high performance over time.
  • Tell stories about the work of Habits at Work helping employers from a variety of industries to put their money where their mouth is when they say “People are our most important asset.”The stories of challenge and failure serve as cautionary tales of what not to do. The stories of success provide guidance on why design thinking is the key to future-proofing your business from competition and the pathway to becoming a high-performance employer.

Andrew’s webinar represents a brief summary of his upcoming book: Habits at Work: How to Create a High-Performance Employer, due for publication Fall 2017.

The webinar will cover a lot of ground in a fast-paced, lively and entertaining 1-hour session. Prepare to learn a lot, leave with food for thought and a new view on the future of the world of work.

https://www.achievers.com/blog/2017/02/designing-high-performance-work-environment/

 

 

About Andrew Sykes
Andrew Sykes
For more information, contact Andrew at Andrew@habitsatwork.com or read more online at www.habitsatwork.com or www.BRATLAB.com