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Assess Company Culture

5 Simple Ways to Assess Company Culture

Leadership structure, office environment, core mission and values, interpersonal relations, team engagement and communication style—these are just some of the many organizational details that shape company culture, something that is becoming more and more important to businesses of all kinds. A strong company culture improves:

  • Identity of the organization
  • Employee retention
  • Corporate image

What’s more, more people rank “workplace well-being” over monetary or “material benefits,” according to the Harvard Business Reviewand that well-being is created through a positive company culture.

This is why it’s important to assess company culture, just as you would your finances or sales process. If you’ve never done so before, use these five action-steps to critique—and ultimately improve—the culture of your organization.

  1. Evaluate the Onboarding Process

If your goal is to recruit people who are innovative, competent and dedicated to your mission, then it’s crucial to earn their loyalty and respect in the hiring and onboarding process. If the process is unorganized or they’re waiting around for someone to meet with them, they expect the organization to follow suit.

Consider if your training methods are outdated, monotonous and derivative—such as reading a company manual—or if the approach is personalized, engaging, creative and participatory. New hires are eager to learn their positions and acclimate to the team, but if the onboarding process doesn’t “provide the resources and tools they need to ramp-up, they can end up stagnating,” suggests SaplingHR.

Show a strong company culture from the beginning, with an onboarding process that’s as engaging and interesting as it educational.

  1. Gauge Openness Within Leadership

It’s important that you foster a culture of embracing change, especially if you want to be seen as relevant and accessible to young professionals. A recent headline in Harvard Business Review confirms this, Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate. The authors explain why this can be challenging:

“Innovation demands new behaviors from leaders and employees that are often antithetical to corporate cultures, which are historically focused on operational excellence and efficiency.”

When assessing company culture, determine whether leadership has the ability to be agile and fluid. Are they stuck in the “9-to-5” mindset, which can be stiff and resistant to change? If so, the next question is: how can our culture evolve despite hesitancy among executives? There may be the need for change at the top or a board meeting with those who have a say in the direction of the company.

  1. Look at Incentive Programs (Or Lack There-Of)

The act of praising and incentivizing employees who perform well or provide value to the company is critical—but you don’t have to break the bank with bonus checks that are taxed at an extremely high rate.

Instead, make this aspect of the company culture more personal. Take into account each employee’s interests, lifestyle and hobbies, and find ways to reward them with these personal details in mind. For example, if someone loves cooking, show appreciation with a gift certificate for cooking classes.

Conversely, you can give employees an option for how they want to be recognized with something as simple as gift cards, suggests Jason Mauser, VP of Sales at Hawk Incentives. They’re are ideal for satisfying a “diverse group of recipients” because “they’ll appreciate the ability to make their own decision.”

  1. Observe Team Interactions

The strongest and most sustainable company cultures are forged on relationships and human connections. As you assess culture, analyze the dynamics between co-workers and notice how they communicate or collaborate with each other.

  • Do they respect one another’s ideas and opinions?
  • Do they relate on an interpersonal level?
  • Do they function cohesively as a team?
  • Does the setting promote a free exchange of dialogue and unique perspectives?

“In a teamwork environment, people understand and believe that thinking, planning, decisions and actions are better when done cooperatively,” suggests Human Resources expert Susan Heathfield in an article for The Balance.

If there aren’t strong team connections, consider adding more team outings to the roster. These give employees a chance to get to know each other outside the stresses of the office, while you show appreciation for their hard work.

  1. Determine Attitudes from Answers

The right questions will elicit the most valuable insights about your company culture.  Instead of asking directly about culture, gauge how the current climate is affecting attitudes by asking about the success and challenges of the business. If negativity is coming through in answers, you know a change is needed to steer the ship back toward calmer waters. Certain topics may also elicit the same response company-wide, which can also be telling in terms of how the organization is handling a specific issue or challenge.

Here are a few questions to try from Lessons Learned in 29 Powerful Questions to ask in the New Year:

  • What didn’t go so well last year?
  • Were there any cringe-worthy moments?
  • What is the one thing your organization was worst at last year?
  • What did we learn from our mistakes?
  • What lessons can our company leverage?
  • What could our organization do differently over the next 12 months?
  • What break-through moments did we experience last year?
  • What is holding our company back?
  • What can each of us do to be more helpful to the team?

Assess Company Culture—Regularly

The culture of your organization impacts everything from productivity and engagement to retention and growth. While there isn’t a “company culture 101” blue print for every business to follow, you can assess on a regular basis to uncover the unique culture pillars of your organization. Use these tips to do exactly that, slowly creating a company culture that retains top talent and facilitates success.

If you don’t regularly assess your company culture and pay attention to what your employees want, you risk facing the high cost of employee disengagement. To learn more, download this white paper: Is HR a Cost Center? The True Cost of Employee Disengagement.

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Find out more about your employees’ needs and expectations by downloading this report: The Retention Epidemic: Why 74% of the North American Workforce Plans on Quitting.

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Are you ready to improve your work culture? Learn how to enhance your culture and increase employee engagement by attending Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) 2018 in Toronto, October 23-24. Get the early bird rate and save $200 off the regular rate today. Buy now here.

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

About the Author
Jessica ThiefelsJessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a professional blogger and freelance writer. She spent the last two years working tirelessly for a small startup, where she learned a lot about running business and being resourceful. She now owns her own business and has been featured on Forbes. She’s also written for StartupNation, Manta, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 or connect on LinkedIn.

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managerial tips

5 Ways Managers Can Transform Themselves into Leaders

A quick search on Amazon.com indicates that there are more than 187,000 books with “leadership” or related words in the title. That’s a lot of content written on a single topic.

However,  the word “leader” has been applied to so many different areas of activity that it has become meaningless. Apart from political and military leaders, we have business leaders, market leaders, industry leaders, thought leaders, and so on.

The concept has become so overused that we’ve lost a true understanding of exactly what leadership is. As a result, today’s employees don’t trust their leaders like they used to. And because of this, many areas of the business might suffer, like employee engagement and employee retention.

That said, earning the title of “manager” is one of the greatest professional milestones a contributor can achieve. It means you’ve been deemed capable enough in your current job to be directing others to do it.

Even though this is a leadership role, actually being seen as a leader is no easy task. It takes a great deal of devotion, stamina, and determination.

A manager is someone who keeps operations running smoothly and ensures tasks are completed to meet the defined criteria. A leader, on the other hand, pushes the envelope and drives innovation.

“A genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus, but a molder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King

Make no mistake, both managerial and leadership roles are essential in business. However, leaders are the ones who tend to be remembered and cement their legacies in the history (and self-help) books. Here is what you can do to be one of the crème de la crème…

1. Exhibit Emotional Intelligence

An emotionally intelligent leader can be defined by five major components:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation/passion
  4. Empathy
  5. Social skills

Plain and simple, business is about people, both internally and externally. A good leader is well-aware of this and uses these components to pick up on the sensitivities of those around them. They can see the big picture and acknowledge opinions in the correct context of how they fit into it. Even more, they can anticipate reactions and proceed appropriately on instinct.

In terms of emotional intelligence, perhaps the most valuable trait of effective leaders is their ability to listen critically and observe neutrally. In addition to understanding what others are saying, they also take mental notes of the emotions behind the words. In many cases, these are much more important than the words themselves.

Leaders are visionaries. They know how to work with what they are given and inspire others to collectively achieve long-term goals. Speaking of vision . . .

2. Commit to Your Vision

Managers are committed to an organization and its goals. Their loyalty is to the company, and they have the reliability and inflexibility typical of the “good soldier” in that commitment. They’ll ask staff to push ahead, chasing the company’s aims. But their primary duty is to the organization.

By contrast, leaders are committed to their vision. We hear a lot about how leadership goes hand-in-hand with disruption, but unless you’ve worked with a true leader you don’t necessarily realize that disruption starts at home – in the leader’s own organization. Managers want to keep the show on the road. Leaders ask if it’s the right road, the right show, the right cast. Richard Hackman, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University and a leading expert on teams and teamwork, has this to say:

“Every team needs a deviant, someone who can help the team by challenging the tendency to want too much homogeneity, which can stifle creativity and learning.”

While managers want each day and each operation to run smoothly on well-understood lines toward predefined goals, deviants are the ones who stand back and say, “Well, wait a minute, why are we even doing this at all? What if we looked at the thing backwards or turned it inside out?”

When the Hackman deviant is just another team member, not a leader, they can be shouted down or frozen out, especially by over-organizing managers. But when they’re the one in charge, the whole team is moving toward innovation.

If you want to be a great leader, expect – and cause – the ground to shift under your feet in ways no manager would ever want. Change your vision of commitment before you commit to your vision.

3. Get Your Hands Dirty

Most great leaders have a common trait: their subordinates trust them and demonstrate unflinching loyalty to their cause. To achieve this, you must prove that you are willing to put yourself in the trenches and not delegate any task that you wouldn’t do yourself.

In other words, you must practice what you preach and not be afraid to jump into the thick of things. Working side-by-side with your subordinates will give you a better idea of exactly how things run on the ground level as well as working knowledge of the tools and methodologies your team uses to complete their tasks and streamline job management.

At the end of the day, demanding respect won’t give you the results you want. To actually earn it from those around you, one of the best things you can do is exhibit an all-for-one and one-for-all attitude.

4. Build People Up

When looking at the concept of people management, there are two major theories to consider.

The first one is Theory X. Managers who fall under the purview of Theory X are more pessimistic and generally assume subordinates do not like their job, avoid responsibility, and must be constantly controlled. These managers are typically known for stifling ideas and not focusing on the unique value each person offers. When this is the case, employees can easily lose motivation, resulting in a high turnover rate. In fact, a study by Gallup found that the odds of an employee being engaged are only 9% under such circumstances.

On the contrary, Theory Y is the one most often adopted by respected leaders. These managers live under the assumption that their subordinates are self-motivated and can work on their own initiative. When the work environment of an organization assumes and provides for such a culture, employees feel fulfilled both personally and professionally, and are motivated to do their best work.

Ultimately, it’s much harder for an organization to develop when managers tend to hold people back. A good leader encourages others to speak up and be meaningfully involved in completing the mission, rather than just following orders. Essentially, leaders coach and mentor, managers give commands.

The key to becoming a “Theory Y Leader” is by promoting transparency in the workplace. Make it a point to encourage open communication. Ask for honest feedback and value everyone’s opinions. This is how company cultures evolve and employees feel more engaged.

5. Challenge the Status Quo

As previously stated, managers keep operations running per usual. Leaders are known to break the mold and take risks. Bill Gates dropped out of college to start Microsoft. Alexander the Great marched a tired but undefeated army on and on. The best leaders are not remembered for playing it safe when opportunity arose.

To establish yourself as a leader, you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone, without being intimidated by the idea of failure. While you should always take appropriate precautions and “manage” risk, remember that leaders embrace change, even if there is nothing wrong with the current status quo. Great breakthroughs don’t happen without a significant risk factor.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

Leadership is about finding new and innovative ways to improve the norm. When you take risks, you are not judged by the extent of your success or failure. You are defined by the thought process underlying your approach, how you reacted throughout the execution, and what you did with the outcome.

Over to You

It’s important to note that leadership and management are not mutually exclusive roles. Leaders are managers by nature, and vice versa, in many instances. There will always be a need for someone to keep operations going steady. But for a business to see significant growth and development, managers must strive to push boundaries and claim new territory. The impact of a true leader is profound and influences the way people work and live. Ultimately, true leaders are those who make the world a better place.

Check out The Ultimate Guide to Employee Recognition to see how leaders can effectively engage, align, and set their employees up for success.

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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.

 

Encourage Time Off

Why More Vacation Time Will Make Your Employees (and Your Company) Healthier

Do you encourage employees to take vacation time? You should. Taking time off is the secret to increased productivity. If you ask a job candidate about his or her biggest flaw, chances are good they’ll say that they tend to work too hard. This isn’t just a convenient way to elude a difficult question; it’s probably the absolute truth. Furthermore, even though it might seem like this excessive diligence will contribute to your company’s productivity, the truth is that such excess work habits are harmful to employee happiness and to your company culture as well.

The Surprising HR Statistics on Work Habits

You’re very accustomed to seeing statistics focused on the fact that American employers in general provide much less paid time off than employers do in other countries, but there is a more puzzling set of figures that bear looking at as well. Even when American workers are given paid vacation time, they barely even use half of it. On average, workers in the United States use only 51 percent of their available paid time off, and 40 percent of these workers leave unused vacation time on the table. This is true even when those vacation days are lost for good, and don’t roll over into the following year. Moreover, 61 percent of workers in the same survey report that when they do take vacations, they continue doing at least some work remotely.

When you examine the reasons behind this puzzling tendency to leave a valuable resource on the table, the problem is clarified. Read on to understand why you need to enforce your company’s vacation and break time if you want to build your employee retention and facilitate the safety and wellness of your workers.

Many Employees Skip Vacations Due to Fear

When researchers dug deeper than the surface statistics and worked on finding out what was preventing employees from taking time off, the main reason that surfaced was not employee engagement — it was fear. Many supervisors and managers don’t give any encouragement to their employees to take holiday breaks or other out of office time. A survey published in MarketWatch found that two-thirds of American workers report that their company says nothing at all about the importance of taking all their available employee holiday time, and one-third of supervisors acknowledge that they never bring this topic up. The same survey found that there’s a lot of anxiety among workers: 40 percent of respondents say that if they take time off, they’ll return to an unmanageable “mountain” of work, and 35 percent feel that the organization simply won’t be able to function if they’re not present.

Human Resources Departments Should Lead the Way

It’s not that managers don’t recognize the emotional perks and benefits of their workers having some time off: 93 percent of managers found that taking time off results in better employee motivation, and 84 percent stated that they saw a productivity increase after an employee break. However, the illusion that more hours result in better employee success still attracts many supervisors, and 17 percent say that they feel employees who take all their allowable time off are showing that they have less dedication to their jobs. HR professionals and HR technology both have a role in creating the company-wide message that the organization’s mission and values center on physical and psychological health.

Better Management Includes Facilitating Delegation of Tasks

Good leadership includes proactively reassuring every worker that they can feel free to take their allotted time off without having to worry that they’re creating problems by handing tasks off to co-workers. A primary management goal must be to make sure that coverage is adequate within each team, so that work gets done even if an employee needs to take some time away. Cheryl Rosner, CEO of hotel bidding site Stayful.com, also advises managers that “it’s super important to model the behavior you want to see, and we want people to get out and take their time off.” Furthermore, FastCompany’s Lisa Evans noted that 82 percent of small business owners find that they perform their duties with more energy if they take some time away from work.

Build a Work Culture Around Work Life Balance

Say you’ve successfully facilitated teamwork to cover each person’s functions, and you set a personal example by not overworking yourself. Is there more you can do? The answer is yes, and it centers around employee incentives. Rosner’s company offers employees $200 in hotel credits when they take time off work and go traveling. Sometimes it takes rewards and recognition to bring about a shift in perspective, and offering rewards for taking time away from work is one of the lesser-known employee recognition best practices.

Encourage Teams to Give Employee Appreciation

Many workers fear that taking time off will upset their colleagues. In some cases, this fear is even stronger than the concern that the boss won’t like it. When HR technology offers an easy channel for peer recognition and rewards, it sends an unmistakable message to co-workers that their colleagues support a culture of personal health.

An important benchmarking report on human capital strategy highlights the benefits of an employee rewards program that targets healthy habits. This extensive research points to the advantages your company can enjoy in recruiting and hiring, because millennials in particular are focused on maintaining a full life outside of work. Your company’s success will be strengthened when you equate your employees’ health and well-being with that of your entire company.

Hurry and take action to ensure your employees are taken care of and happy to come to work every day. Start by accessing the eBook Recognition Culture: The MVP of Employee Experience.

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Engage Millennials in the Workplace

6 Easy Ways to Make Your Team Millennial-Friendly

With a steady increase in employable candidates, and the continued exodus of baby boomers, millennials are now in a position to have a major influence on their workplaces. But according to a recent study by Gallup, only 29% of millennials are engaged at work. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; millennials make no secret as to what they feel makes a workplace engaging. They want challenging, rewarding work in a team-oriented culture. Based on the knowledge above, it doesn’t hurt to ask: Are you actively molding your team dynamics to meet millennials’ expectations? Are you working on the transition from a ‘command and control’ structure to a network of cooperative and inclusive teams?

If the answer to the questions above is “no”, don’t fret, you don’t need a full overhaul of your business model to improve employee engagement and sense of fulfilment of your impact-driven millennial employees. Here are 6 easy ways to make your team millennial-friendly.

business employees

1. Empower small, agile project teams

In today’s fast-paced, global business environment, maximizing value streams is key to maintaining a competitive edge.

To do so, organizations often prioritize increasing their margins through best practices and efficiency. However younger employees tend to derive value from innovation and continuous results.

But it is possible to be cost-efficient and millennial-friendly at the same time. To do so organize work into small projects owned by agile, flexible teams.

Agile teams operate in a low-cost environment. They quickly address problems with solutions by bringing together business improvement concepts with customers and senior level colleagues.

By operating in project-mode, you create an ecosystem that meets 3 millennial needs:

2. Adopt transparency in communication and leverage popular mediums

In a world where work can be done anytime, anywhere, accurate and fluid communication can be a challenge for any organization.

Your young, socially-connected workforce expects information to be widely available in a timely fashion. For them, transparency from top to bottom creates a sense of collaboration.

Collaborative discussions and open-feedback loops will be helpful if you want to make your team millennial-friendly. Another efficient way to build trust across the organization is to bring strategic messages closer to employees.

Video technology allows executives to share a strategic message directly with their teams. Why not create a short “welcome” video from your CEO for new hires? Or take advantage of live video and share short messages in real-time?

3. Flatten organizational structures

A well-known contributor of employee engagement is a sense that an individual’s contributions have influence on the success of an organization as a whole.

A good way to achieve this is to give your millennials the freedom to be part of the decision-making process. If your organizational structure doesn’t allow a collaborative process for decisions, you risk deflating your young talents’ sense of leadership.

Take the Swedish company, Spotify, for example: Spotify creates engagement by balancing autonomy and accountability.

Spotify’s core organizational unit is an autonomous squad of no more than eight people, […] accountable for a discrete aspect of the product […] Several squads (are) linked together through a chapter, which is a horizontal grouping that helps to support specific competencies […]. Leadership within the squad is self-determined, while the chapter leader is a formal manager who focuses on coaching and mentoring.”

Spotify’s horizontal structure redistributes decision-making across employees, in contrast to traditional top-down, hierarchical models. This results in faster response times while simultaneously holding employees accountable for their ideas.

Not ready for a full overhaul? Not to worry, it’s still possible to reinforce your employees’ sense of responsibility and autonomy without undertaking a total business transformation. Small changes in your operating model can indicate that you value cross-functional collaboration over typical management control.

For instance, you can empower teams to discover best practice methods, and encourage adoption of these approaches from the bottom up. Or ask team leaders to embrace a coaching mindset that aligns with millennials’ need for regular feedback.

Employee Coffee

4. Change the focus of your meetings 

With the always-connected nature of millennials, massive amounts of information is consistently at their fingertips. And with the expectation that this information is to be digested and distilled into valuable bits to present to a team, establishing a well-defined focus for team meetings can create an environment ripe for actively exchanging ideas. According to the 2016 Deloitte millennial survey, the ideal millennial workweek includes 4.6 hours spent discussing ideas and new ways of working.

An easy way to make your team millennial-friendly is to carve out some time for “thought showers”; open discussions on lessons learned and continuous improvement. Alternatively, you can increase their sense of contribution by giving your young talent a spotlight to share their perspectives on a topic or cause they’re passionate about, or a cause they care strongly about.

5. Rethink flexibility

Flexibility is often seen as ‘flexi-time’ and work-from-home practices. These are elements of a culture of trust, and known factors in talent retention.

But flexibility can, and should, go far beyond this. What about encouraging flexibility of ideas, and diversity of thought?

An “open-door policy” towards new ideas embeds a culture of collaboration, innovation, and equality. At the same time, mentoring programs encourage cross-pollination of skills across generations, making employees more adaptable to rapidly changing business objectives. Promoting cultural intelligence within global teams brings various creative perspectives together.

A millennial-friendly team is flexible in the way it operates, and in the way its members think.

6. Make the team work for a higher cause

Team building significantly helps to retain talent, according to 79% of millennials polled by The Go Game.

But for a young workforce that takes pride in contributing to wider causes, team building activities must go to the next level. 76% of millennials regard businesses as a force for positive social impact. 

You can make your teams millennial-friendly by organizing charity days, or better yet, offering ‘volunteering leave’ so employees can partake in people-centric activities (e.g. involvement in LGBT or corporate responsibility).

By supporting such initiatives, you show that the team is, first and foremost, a group who share similar human values.

Mobile work

A small set of actions is all it takes to get started making your team millennial-friendly. Initiatives that connect directly to your young talents’ sense of purpose are easy to introduce but highly rewarding. These include improving collaboration across teams, fostering a sense of contribution, encouraging millennials to take responsibility, and enhancing transparency at all levels of the organization.

Now, what if you want to take employee engagement to a deeper level? Young generations want their values to be shared by the organizations they work for. So involve your millennials in office culture improvement, by giving them the freedom to find creative ways to internally promote your set of core values.

Want to create a magnetic culture? Access this webinar recording.

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About the Author
Coralie SawrukCoralie helps global organizations create efficient team dynamics. A people-person at heart, she believes the ultimate competitive advantage is created by the right talents working hand-in-hand, cheerfully. Coralie provides Strategic Business Transformation services across the globe, and mentors ambitious talents who want to become role models. Visit Coralie’s website or get in touch on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Ways to Boost Employee Morale

Are you one of those bosses who feels their employees should simply be happy to have a job at all? Unfortunately, some supervisors really do feel this way, particularly when the job market is tight. However, it’s an expensive point of view to maintain, especially in an economy that is nearing full employment: Discouraged employees are 87 percent more likely to quit, and you’ll spend a minimum of 21 percent of an employee’s annual salary on a replacement. To avoid this unnecessary expense, follow these five simple tips on keeping employee morale high:

1. Ask for input on special events

Have you ever had a bright idea for a company party or celebration, only to find that no one seems to share your enthusiasm? To avoid lackluster celebrations that don’t do anything to boost morale, encourage your staff to anonymously submit suggestions for the venues and types of employee appreciation events they’d like to see, and then encourage everyone to vote on their favorites. Employee retention depends on giving workers the sense you care about their priorities and that you seek their input on matters that impact them.

2. Encourage honest feedback

Seek genuine opinions from your workers, and don’t be afraid to  apply changes based on their feedback. Employee engagement will increase when you’re perceived as caring and confident enough to hear negative feedback. Winning your employees’ trust not only boosts employee morale, but it improves business results as well. The Harvard Business Review revealed that employee trust is essential to a company’s financial success. Your staff will also more readily buy-in to any changes that you make. Google uses this strategy with great results, creating “Google Cafes” in which all staff members share creative new approaches.

3. Hold yourself to the highest standard

Leadership is all about modeling hard work and dedication. Show your team that even though you have the right to leave early or delegate all the hard work to subordinates, you stay in the trenches and get the job done. Employees will feel supported and inspired by your example. Great leadership is key to employee happiness and success. Gallup’s leadership research shared, “When leaders focus on and invest in their employees’ strengths, the odds of each person being engaged goes up eightfold.”

4. Promote from your own talent pool

According to Forbes, external hires made 18% more than internally promoted employees  in the same jobs. Be fair and examine your internal talent pool before jumping the gun on bringing in an external hire. Give your employees opportunities for growth and advancement so that they will want to stick around and give you their all. If you make the effort to discover the unique skills and talents of each worker, you’ll be in a better position to know whom to promote when the opportunity arises.

5. Build employee motivation with rewards and recognition

Employee recognition is key to making your staff feel that it’s worthwhile to go the extra mile. Celebrating accomplishments through rewards and recognition lets your team know that you truly appreciate their efforts. It also builds a strong sense of teamwork when you encourage workers to offer each other public statements of appreciation. It’s a strong, positive motivator knowing your hard work isn’t going unnoticed and that you’re appreciated by your coworkers and leadership.

Snack Nation’s infographic revealed 36% of employees would give $5,000 a year in salary to be happier at work. Start boosting employee morale and happiness by following employee recognition best practices. With the right recognition program, your workplace culture and company’s bottom line will strengthen. Learn more about encouraging employee success by downloading our white paper: “The Total Package: Including Recognition in the Compensation Toolkit.”

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Inspirational Leadership

5 Keys: How to Become an Inspirational Leader

How important is it to have inspirational leadership versus average leadership? The answer: Very important. According to Great Leadership, organizations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance, quality of products and services, employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Which is why it should be mission-critical for businesses to focus on developing inspirational leaders to improve company culture, teamwork, performance and bottom-line results.

CEOs are focusing on leadership development opportunities for their workforce more than ever to maximize business performance and encourage their employees to reach their full potential. Gallup estimates that managers account for at least 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units. The same study found that managers with high talent are more likely to be engaged than their peers: According to Gallup: “More than half (54%) of managers with high talent are engaged, compared with 39% of managers with functioning talent and 27% of managers with limited talent.” With numbers like these it’s clear to see why it’s so important to foster proper leadership development, so those leaders can in turn inspire their employees, driving engagement and leading to better business outcomes.

So what exactly does it take to become an talented and inspirational leader? There have been countless books written on the subject of leadership, but the secret to being a strong leader is not in a chapter of any book, it is having a passion for leadership. Having the passion for leadership isn’t something you can just learn or pick up over time – it is built within your DNA and motivates you to get up every morning and make an impact. But there are some proven ways to bring out the leader in you.

After more than 20 years in leadership roles, I have identified what I believe are the five keys to unlocking the inspirational leader within:

  1. Find your inspiration
    Identify a role-model. For example, Bill Gates or Richard Branson, to name a couple current examples that instantly leap to mind. But they don’t necessarily have to be famous – think of any successful leader in your life who inspires you daily and aligns with the type of leader you want to be. Start exemplifying their leadership behaviors, whether it’s being more supportive, positive, fair, consistent, transparent, appreciative, or all of the above. It’s important to look up to someone – every leader had another leader to look up to at one point in their life.
  2. Lead by example
    This step sounds cliché, but is absolutely true. You should always lead by example and practice what you preach. No leader is effective or taken seriously if they can’t act on their own beliefs or practices. Leaders need to actually lead the way, versus just talking the talk (and not walking the walk).
  3. Nurture others
    Take care of your people, from hiring to training, support and development and career pathing. Your team needs to feel the love when it comes to the full employee experience. It’s not always just about getting work done – it’s about feeling valued, appreciated and taken care of.
  4. Empower your team
    First and foremost, hire the right people with the right attitude and who are passionate about what they do. You want to build a team that meshes well together and shares the same values as the company, then train them well, starting with a strong, structured onboarding program. And of course, always provide a supportive, empowering environment for your team to thrive. Allow employees to learn from failures and celebrate their successes with frequent recognition and rewards.
  5. Have fun
    It’s as simple as that! Business is business, but you have to make time to play and have fun. It makes all the difference when you enjoy what you do – people can see when someone loves what they do and your positive energy will only benefit the workplace. Also, according to the Center for Creative Leadership, 70 percent of successful executives learn their most important leadership lessons through challenging assignments. Consider taking an out-of-the-box approach with challenging assignments to make them more fun.

Not only do these five keys result in better leadership, but they also have the side benefit of increasing employee engagement. Inspirational leaders take the time to inspire, support, listen and identify opportunities for their team. According to The Harvard Business Review, developing strengths of others can lead to 10-19 percent increase in sales and 14-29 percent increase in profit.

As an inspirational leader, you can effectively engage your employees and develop their strengths for more successful business results. If you act upon these five keys with genuine interest, honesty and sincerity, you will become a more inspirational leader, foster strong and meaningful relationships and improve your bottom-line.

With 51 percent of employees reporting that they are not happy at work (see our latest infographic), companies clearly need more inspirational leaders to boost employee engagement and retain top talent. Want to learn more about the current state of employee disengagement? Download The Greatness Gap: The State of Employee Disengagement White Paper.

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About the Author

Marci Peters

Marci Peters began her 20+ year Customer Experience & Contact Centre profession in the telecom space, but she has spent the last four years with Achievers – Changing the Way the World Works. She believes strongly that customer needs shape the business and employees are your most valuable investment. She has a proven track record in tactical execution of strategic customer initiatives to transform service delivery and drive positive results. View Marci Peters’ LinkedIn profile here.

 

The Perks In A Great Development Culture

The Perks In A Great Development Culture

What makes a great development culture? Free drinks? Free breakfast? Every day happy hour? Sure, those things are attractive. But, cool perks are par for the course these days. Virtually every startup and their uncle with a round of funding have perks of some sort. So, if perks are ubiquitous, there must be more to a great development culture than perks.

I’ve been a Developer, a Team Lead, and now a Manager at Achievers. Throughout my career here, I’ve been exposed to many habits and behaviours that have really influenced my own day-to-day happiness and engagement. When writing this piece, I took a step back and really thought about what I’ve valued during my career working as a developer. From that perspective, I’d like to recommend a few ideas that I believe will help you achieve and maintain a development culture where happy, engaged teams can thrive.


Why Is As Important As What

Software developers are problem solvers at heart. Taking a problem, coding up a solution, and seeing it through into production is definitely satisfying. But, what’s even more satisfying is knowing that the solution being implemented is the best one possible.

Educate your teams about business problems, usability concerns, and feature ideas. Engage your teams in the brainstorming process. Express why a given problem is a problem and why it’s the current priority. Knowing why can inspire new and better solutions.

Everyone Is A Product Owner

If you’re working in Agile, you probably have a Product Owner for each feature or team. While the Product Owner has their own set of duties and responsibilities, I like to think of the entire team as being product owners because every individual contributes to the delivery of the final product.

Each person has their own unique set of values enabling them to think in their own unique ways. Encouraging a sense of ownership in everyone by seeking input from the team in all phases of development results in a sincere desire to improve the product, different perspectives, fresh ideas, and improved features.

Silos Are For Farmers

Frequently, teams are organized by feature or skill set. Either way, this doesn’t mean that the things they own should be the only things they do. Sometimes, a team will require a change to a feature, service, layer, etc. owned by another team. There are a few choices: delegate the work to the owning team and let them prioritize the work within their current set of priorities (or negotiate new priorities), take on the work yourself, or don’t do the work at all. All of these are viable options. But, the second is one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Taking on work you don’t normally do is a great way to collaborate, stay challenged, and learn new skills. Don’t funnel developers into silos. Give them the freedom to contribute outside of their comfort zone. They will be grateful.

Trust Your Talent

 

Trust Your Talent

Software developers are smart people. They’ve been hired for a reason. They’re experts in their domain. Let them be experts and do what they do best. Smart people need the autonomy to learn, think, question, break things, and put them back together until the right solutions present themselves. Very often, if given a little direction and time, they’ll get the job done. Developers — especially developers — don’t particularly enjoy being micromanaged.

Celebrate Success

Software is built by people for people. The end goal should be that the people you’re building your software for will fall in love with it. And, when they do, share those success stories with your development teams. As a developer, realizing the value the features you’re building are bringing to your customers can be very inspiring.

When you can get software into your customers’ hands as quickly as possible, the results are even better. Employ Continuous Delivery (easier said than done, of course) to shrink your feedback cycle and create more opportunities to celebrate success. The benefits from continuous delivery are too great to write about here, but it’s worth mentioning that seeing the code that you write go live daily is very empowering. Moving to continuous delivery has been one of the best experiences of my career.

Success is an important component, and it’s something that can be realized even before you’ve gone to market with your product or features. Take the time to allow teams to showcase in-progress work so that they can provide visibility to the challenges they’ve faced and overcome. They’ll get a chance to feel that sense of pride everyone feels when showing off a great achievement, and stakeholders will get iterative glimpses into the future value being created.

Evolve Everything

Create an environment where everything is evolving. A product should evolve, but the people building it should evolve with it. Constant learning is key to maintaining a team that feels challenged and grows.

Many developers enjoy sharing what they’ve learned in their coding journeys. Facilitating sharing by creating opportunities for developer hosted learning sessions whether through meetings, meet-ups, blogs, or presentations allows those developers to shine and grow skills within the team at the same time.

As the product and people evolve, processes grow stale and need to evolve too. Development processes shouldn’t be set in stone. Let your teams have input into what doesn’t work and work together to improve things.

Look Beyond Features

You could argue that being innovative through investing in creative solutions while developing features is innovation at its best. And, that argument is a good one. However, you’ll likely find that your developers will want more. I think that’s more than OK, and it’s actually quite healthy. Being part of a team full of developers that want to be creative is a good problem to have. Give them a creative outlet. That could be hackathons, 20% time, innovation sprints, or something completely different. You could try planning for innovation as part of the normal sprint planning process, for example. This has the benefit of continuing feature and experimental development concurrently instead of punting things down the road.

Use appropriate tools to facilitate the creative process. We use Slack quite heavily, as it’s a great way to carry on constant communication about new ideas. And, as I mentioned above, no process should be set in stone. It’s a big plus to have the freedom to innovate on your development processes as well.

Say Thank You

Most importantly, say thank you. Say, great work. Say, you’re awesome. Say it and mean it. Simple.


Happiness Is The Best Perk

Happiness Is The Best Perk

While not an exhaustive list, the above ideas will go a long way to building a culture where developers can not only provide value in many different ways but feel they’re providing value as well. Happy teams are teams that can understand why their contributions have an impact. When they can contribute to the entire development process all the way from ideation to delivery, they’ll develop a heightened sense of product ownership, and therefore feel a strong desire to improve things.

Cultivating good habits in an organization comes much easier when you have the right people on board. Speaking from my own experience, particularly at Achievers, I’m grateful to have been surrounded by great people. Working in an environment with this kind of culture has been very inspiring. Work towards living the behaviours I’ve recommended in your teams, and you’ll be well on your way to a development culture that goes well beyond cool perks.


Thanks for reading! If Achievers sounds like a fit for you, we’d love for you to apply to help us change the way the world works!

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