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Tips to better support employees with health issues

Between an aging workforce and the impacts of the pandemic, the importance of supporting employees with health issues has never been greater.

Chronic physical health issues can range from mild back pain to severe pain throughout the body. Some people with these conditions are in so much pain they can’t work, while others continue to work full-time.

Mental health conditions include (but are definitely not limited to) anxiety, depression, addiction, and eating disorders. 

Employees may have a physical health condition, mental health condition, or both. The two are closely linked – a change in someone’s physical health could trigger depression or anxiety, for example. Stress or depression can also cause joint pain.

Work can cause or exacerbate many mental and physical health conditions. That’s why it’s important that employers do what they can to support employees. You want to make it clear you’re there to assist them, not punish them, when they aren’t 100% healthy. Because, let’s be honest: who is?

All that being said, employees with health issues can be reluctant to share their condition(s) with their employer. They may believe their manager won’t support them, or fear people will treat them differently. 

It can often feel like diversity statements tagged on to the end of job postings are just paying lip service to a legal requirement, rather than something the company actually stands for and genuinely means.

The simplest way to show candidates you genuinely mean it is with evidence. Hire employees with different health issues and backgrounds and support them so that they can thrive in their roles. 

Just because someone may have difficulty walking, or struggle with anxiety, that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit your business.

Don’t make assumptions

The first thing to remember – and I’m sorry, but you’re probably not going to like this – is that chronic health issues can be inconsistent.

Some days, an employee with fibromyalgia may be able to walk for miles.

The next, they may not be able to make it to their desk. 

Such is the nature of chronic pain. It’s unpredictable.

To find the best way to help an employee, don’t make assumptions about what they need based on your personal experience or preconceived notions. 

Regardless of what health issues someone is dealing with, everyone’s experiences are different. 

Make accommodations

Many health conditions manifest differently for everyone, creating a unique cocktail based on people’s individual backgrounds, experiences, minds, and bodies.

How can you improve your office environment to better support employees with health issues?

Certain things within an office can make pain worse, regardless of what originally caused that pain.

For instance, cold temperatures, or drafts from air conditioning units, can wreak havoc on tense joints and exacerbate pain.

Loud noises, bright lights, and poor office design can also have an impact. This is particularly true for conditions like ADHD, autism, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Flexible working hours can be particularly beneficial for employees with health issues. Not being tied to working 9-5 means that if they’re having a bad pain day, they can rest in the morning, then still get their tasks done by the end of the day. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of extra hours of rest to calm chronic pain.

However, cultures that don’t trust employees to do their jobs often employ Big Brother-style practices, making everyone feel watched and pressured. Which can make any health issue worse. And create a vicious cycle.

Another option is allowing employees to work from home, full- or part-time. This option widens your talent pool as well. You won’t be constrained to only hiring people who work near where your offices are located. 

Sometimes the best person for a role lives on the other side of the country. Do you really want to miss out on someone because they can’t relocate to where you are? And have them go to a competitor because that competitor allows them to work remotely?

Reduce workplace triggers

Remote working allows employees to work in their own environment, which can be beneficial for those who find office environments challenging. 

Offices can be full of stimuli that not everyone notices, but which can trigger pain in people who have sensory processing disorder (SPD). These environments can be overwhelming for anyone who has SPD. As a result, they can’t do their role to the best of their ability, and are more likely to leave the organization.

Other, simple changes, like purchasing equipment that benefits employees with health issues will also help. This could be a sit/stand desk, so they can work in a way that minimizes discomfort.

Or maybe it’s a chair that offers more support. Chairs are often underestimated, but, as someone who had chronic back pain until changing jobs, I can attest to how much of a difference they make. 

More ergonomic chairs may be expensive, but you’ll save money long-term because employees will spend less time off work with chronic back pain. And they’ll be more comfortable working, which means they’ll get more done.

For anyone who struggles with migraines, headaches, or eye-related problems, getting a filter for their monitor to try to prevent eye strain will allow them to work for longer. Some monitors also have an eye-saver mode, which gives the screen a yellow hue (like Night Mode on phones).

Conclusion 

There are lots of small changes you can make to accommodate employees with health issues. They don’t have to be big, dramatic changes.

But those changes can have a big, dramatic effect on an employee’s ability to do their best work.

It can also help you to create and retain a happier, more productive, and more engaged workforce where everyone feels more supported in their roles. 

And let’s not forget – more diverse companies are more successful. So is there really any downside to supporting your differently abled employees?

Building transparency around your employee programs to maximize access is also a crucial part of ensuring every employee feels supported and included. Workrowd can help. Check out our all-in-one platform for managing and measuring employee initiatives across diverse workforces, or drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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5 habits preventing you from building an equitable workplace

Is building a more equitable workplace one of your organization’s goals for 2022? If so, it’s time to stop saying ‘this is how we’ve always done things’, and eliminate old-fashioned ways of operating that drive inequity.

These practices often go unnoticed, but they can significantly reduce productivity and employee happiness. As you can imagine, this can affect your culture, churn rate, and revenue.

To build a truly equitable workplace, you need to listen to what employees want, even if it’s something you’d never considered before.

Are you overlooking these common workplace practices that defeat efforts to increase equity?

Hiring

Hiring practices can reveal bias in all sorts of ways.

Recruiters and talent acquisition managers often use artificial intelligence programs to filter candidates before a human reviews the applications. These AI assistants can learn the prejudices of both programmers and end users, which can prevent the best people from getting past even the first step.

Traditional hiring practices also often aren’t as suitable for neurodiverse or disabled candidates. 

Long days can be draining for applicants with chronic health issues, meaning they’re less able to perform to their full ability.

Some neurodivergent applicants may struggle with the standard interview structure, too. For instance, they may not make as much eye contact as someone else.

Neither of these things mean someone would be bad at a job. It only means that they’re being required to fit themselves into an ableist, neurotypical hiring process.

Many businesses, such as Microsoft, have taken to adapting their hiring processes to attract more neurodiverse talent. Could you do something similar?

Quotas

Quotas are a controversial one. Many believe that they don’t work and are just a superficial measure.

But actually, a study by the London School of Economics found that quotas prevented less qualified men from getting hired. More qualified female candidates were hired in their place. 

Interestingly, more competent female candidates raised the number of competent men by 3%.

Maybe quotas aren’t so bad after all.

Promotions

A few years ago, I remember there being some buzz about how women needed to put themselves forward more for job roles and pay raises. Why weren’t we doing it? We needed to be more aggressive and confident in our abilities!

But is that really the problem?

People often see aggression and confidence as more masculine traits. Using words like aggressive in job descriptions can put females, trans, and non-binary folks off applying for roles, because many of us don’t use words like that to describe ourselves. And society encourages us not to.

Men are also more likely to overestimate their abilities. This means they’ll apply for a job even if they aren’t fully qualified.

Women, on the other hand, estimate their abilities just right.

Despite this, men are the ones who submit themselves for promotions and request pay raises more often.

Women are generally more compassionate and introverted when it comes to their roles. They’re less likely to put themselves forward for promotions when they come up, even if they deserve it. Which means they miss out.

Is there something you could do to make the playing field more even in pursuit of a more equitable workplace?

Could you have colleagues nominate someone who’s worthy of a pay raise or promotion? That way, you have an understanding of why someone is deserving, and you have evidence to prove it, rather than going based on how they come across in an interview.

Accessibility

If your employees still work in an office building, how accessible is it? Are there lots of stairs? 

If there are, do employees have access to an elevator? 

If that elevator is out of order, what solutions do you have in place for employees with health issues like chronic pain, asthma, or other conditions which make lots of stairs, or particularly steep stairs, a challenge?

Someone’s ability to climb stairs shouldn’t prevent them from doing their job, particularly if that job involves sitting at a desk all day. 

Nor should getting to their desk exacerbate chronic health issues or cause them to need to take their relief inhaler.

The main thing that can help with this is allowing employees to work from home when their accessibility needs aren’t met in the office.

If that isn’t an option, and you own several floors, could you move their desk to a lower floor? Or could you get the elevator fixed as a priority?

Office temperatures

The standard office temperature is based on an average forty-year-old, 150-lb white man from the 1960s. Which means it doesn’t consider any other gender, or people of color.

And, since there are many, many factors that can affect our metabolisms, that basic office temperature is an oversimplified solution.

You can’t please everyone. But can you find a compromise?

Women need temperatures around five degrees warmer than men for doing office work. 

Sitting under an air conditioner with a constant draft can make things feel even colder, and even worsen injuries.

Could you move employees who feel cold further away from an air conditioning unit?

Or could you change the settings on it so that it’s still filtering the air, but not pushing out such a strong draft?

Simple changes like these can make employees more productive and mean they’re not walking around feeling like they’re dressed as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man every day.

Conclusion 

These are just some of the overlooked practices that can prevent you from creating a truly equitable workplace. But hopefully they’ve given you some ideas of where to start.

What really matters is that you keep an open mind and remember that just because it’s the way something has always been done, that doesn’t mean it’s the fairest or most efficient way of doing it.

Change is an important part of running any business. Leaders should embrace changes that create a more equitable workplace just the same as changes to save costs and make more money. Why? Because these simple changes improve workplace conditions, make employees happier, and ultimately, mean businesses can make more money.

If you’re searching for other ways to build a more equitable workplace, consider implementing a platform like Workrowd. Our user-friendly suite of tools provides everyone full access and transparency to all employee programs, no matter where or when they work. Ensure everyone can get involved in your company culture, and build connections across teams. Drop us a note at hello@workrowd.com to learn more today.

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8 great ways to recognize employees and boost engagement

It’s all too easy to focus on criticizing people for doing things badly or wrong, and far too convenient to forget to comment on the positive. For a happy, productive workforce, you really need a balance of both. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to recognize employees.

Employees will be happier and more productive going forward if you focus on celebrating the positives instead of criticizing them and homing in on the negatives. Focusing on those positives will build their confidence, making them better in their roles.

According to Harvard Business Review, employees need six pieces of positive feedback for every one piece of negative feedback. Low-performing teams were found to have been given an average of three negative comments for every positive comment.

Given that we often focus on the negatives, and that positive feedback triggers dopamine—AKA one of the happy hormones—in our brains, are these stats really that surprising?

Our culture isn’t wired to celebrate the positives, though. Unless you’re a very serious optimist, you may find it hard to come up with ways to recognize employees and show just how much you appreciate them.

So here are a few simple ways you can do just that.

Give them a shout out in meetings

This is one of the easiest ways to recognize employees, and sometimes it’s all you need.

Make sure whatever you comment on is specific. Don’t just say “great job;” explain why and how they did a great job.

Being specific will help both them and their teammates to understand why what that person did worked. It will then encourage that employee, along with their teammates, to approach related situations in a similar way going forward.

Tell them one-on-one

It’s sometimes nice to pull someone aside and give them a pat on the back in person (or via video). If your team member is quieter or shyer, they might prefer this to a shout out in a meeting. 

However, if you decide to do this and arrange the meeting in advance, make sure they know you want to talk to them about something positive. Otherwise, they may start to worry that they’ve done something wrong. Particularly if previous places they’ve worked at didn’t highlight the positives in this way.

You don’t have to plan the call in advance, though. You could send positive feedback in an email or Slack message instead.

Send them a present

Sending someone a present is a simple way to show them you appreciate them. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. In fact, a thoughtful gift that shows you listen to them will mean much more than something generic.

For instance, if they’re into stationery, you could get them a pretty fountain pen, or if they’re into reading, a new book in a genre they like to read.

One thing you don’t want to do is send them something that has the company’s branding on it. This will feel generic, soulless, and like you’re only doing it to promote your own business.

Take them on a day out

A day out can be just what we need sometimes to feel refreshed and ready to take on the world. 

You could give them a voucher to go on a day out with their family or take them somewhere you think they’d enjoy. It doesn’t have to be work-related. Sometimes it’s better if it’s not, as it will offer a welcome break from the daily grind.

Pay for a training course

Your best employees are the ones you want to stick around. What better way to show them you appreciate them than investing in their future?

Ask them what skills they’d like to learn and find some courses that might help them build those capabilities.

Ask if they’d like to be a coach

Your best employees are often the best coaches because they can help others to develop the habits that made them so successful in their role. 

The more people who adopt the right mindset, the more benefits your business will experience.

If they’re unsure, you could send them on a coaching/leadership training program so that they understand what would be required from them before they get involved.

Reward the team

Most people couldn’t do their job without the awesome people around them. So why not reward everyone they work with for their win? 

It’ll encourage better teamwork and a greater sense of camaraderie. Their teammates will celebrate their win, too. When thinking about ways to recognize employees, it can be helpful to consider the larger group and not just one or two individuals.

Give them a shout out on social media

What you post on social media reflects your internal culture. So, if you take the time to celebrate your employees’ wins, it shows the rest of the world that you truly appreciate how hard your team members work for you. 

It reflects a positive, grateful culture that’s about so much more than turning a profit.

This will help to attract better candidates, shortening your hiring process and reducing the cost to hire. It’s a win for your employees and a win for you.

Conclusion 

Recognizing employees doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It doesn’t have to cost anything! 

Most of us spend more time with our colleagues than we do our loved ones. Working remotely hasn’t changed this all that much, with many of us super-glued to our screens and sometimes working even longer hours than we did before the pandemic.

And let’s not forget—just because someone chooses to work for you now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to stay. Especially if their hours have increased and they have less time to spend with their loved ones, even though they’re working from home.

Showing a little appreciation for an employee’s hard work can go a long way to retaining them. After all, they’re choosing to spend their time and energy with you. That’s a privilege that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

If you’re looking for more ways to recognize employees and build a top-notch company culture, see if Workrowd’s employee experience platform might be a good fit. Our central hub for culture, engagement, and recognition makes it easy for team members to connect and support each other. Send us a note at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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Building employer brand through social media: Our top tips

You may think of social media as a way to spread the word about what you’re doing. Maybe you see it as purely educational. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a key tool for building employer brand in today’s digital world.

59% of candidates research a company on social media before applying for a role. Which means if they don’t like what they see, you could be missing out on the best candidates. You’ll never know, because they never applied in the first place.

So, if you’re neglecting your social media presence, or it comes across as old-fashioned, you won’t attract people who can help you grow your business as much as you’d planned.

While it’s hard to avoid our personal digital reflections, it’s easy for businesses to avoid examining their online reflections. However, failing to objectively analyze it can mean you aren’t coming across how you want to. Don’t overlook this avenue for building employer brand.

You are what you share

The articles that the company, its leaders, and its employees share, will affect how people perceive the business on a conscious and subconscious level.

Consider how differently you’d feel about a business that regularly shares articles about climate change, compared to pieces on how to avoid paying tax.

One is going to come across as caring about the greater good, community, and our long-term future. The other is focused on itself and making more money.

It’s not just about the articles, though. It’s about the posts, too.

How are you talking about your business? Are you expecting employees to share what you post because you said so? Or do they share because they actually care about your business?

That caring is key. If they’re doing it because you’re running a dictatorship, the text they add when sharing your post could be lacking.

Or worse—they only share what you told them to. This is dispassionate and disconnected. Your audience will see right through it for all the wrong reasons.

If someone shares a post because they care, the accompanying text will reflect that. It will likely be full of enthusiasm and passion, something which is inspiring and contagious for your audience.

Anyone who doesn’t work for you and sees it will be uplifted by how much your employees care. It can make them want to be a part of that, too. This can then improve and streamline your hiring process because new recruits will arrive with a deeper understanding of your mission and values.

If the only social media content related to your business that your employees share is what you tell them to, it shows a lack of trust and old-fashioned ways of operating—at least in your marketing department.

But, since it’s your marketing team’s job to make your company look good, people are going to assume that what’s on your social media accounts reflects the company, even if it doesn’t. And this includes both your branded accounts and your employees’ own accounts.

Do you really trust your employees?

Some businesses still ban social media usage on work devices. But when employees can access these sites on their mobile, tablet, or even watch, what’s the point?

Instead of controlling your employees’ social media usage, you need to accept that you simply can’t. There are too many workarounds.

What you should be doing instead is educating them on how to use it effectively. Show them how to engage in a way that both benefits them and helps with building employer brand.

You can do this through your social media policy. It doesn’t have to be a boring document written in legalese, either. Employees are much more likely to engage with, and remember it, if it’s interactive and has examples.

Formatting your social media policy as a quiz with examples will also show employees how minor changes can make a big difference to what they post. And to their understanding of how social media can affect their employer.

Silence is not a good sign

Some brands don’t post on their social media. Or they post once in a blue moon. They think silence on social is better than saying something that could be construed as negative, and which could come back to haunt them.

But if you’re saying things that could come back to haunt you, chances are you’ve got bigger problems than your social media page.

With more than half of candidates researching businesses before they apply for a job, a neglected or non-existent social media presence can turn people away. In a world that’s all about community and connections, you want to show people that’s what you care about, too.

No social media presence can make people suspicious. It turns your business into a fortress, making it seem like you live in some far-off land. You’re closed off, like Elsa at the start of Frozen. Your walls are up, as if you have something to hide.

You want to be like Elsa at the end of Frozen, where you open the doors to your castle for others to see inside and enjoy.

You don’t have to give them the grand tour of everything inside, but allowing them at least into the grounds so that they get a feel for what you’re all about will reflect a more open and honest culture

Conclusion 

Like it or not, every social media post you, your business, and your employees make reflects your company culture. You can leverage this as you’re building employer brand, or you can let it detract from your image.

A compelling social media presence can help you attract more qualified customers and better-quality candidates. On the flip-side, poor or infrequent posts can turn people off who dislike the perceived secrecy or lack of engagement. 

The question is, will you seize this opportunity, or remain stuck in the past and miss out on top talent.

If you’re looking for ways to get employees talking on social media, it’s important to first get them talking internally. Having an effective internal engagement platform like Workrowd can help. Drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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Building a positive workplace culture that sticks

Most people, from CEOs to jobseekers, recognize the importance of building a positive workplace culture. But actually doing it is more easily said than done. 

It’s one thing to understand the statistics about how 86% of job seekers avoid companies with a bad culture, or how engaged employees’ performance is 202% higher than their disengaged counterparts, or that attracting higher-quality employees leads to a 33% increase in revenue.

But what does actually building a positive workplace culture look like? Here are some tips.

Encourage open and honest communication — at all levels

Effective communication starts at the top, by managers practicing what they preach. If you want employees to be open and honest with you, you have to be open and honest with them first.

This can come in the form of responding well to both positive and negative feedback. It could involve sharing your personal struggles and triumphs.

Leading by example is a big part of building a positive workplace culture. Many people will come from other jobs, families, or communities that don’t communicate openly. As a result, they may understand the theory but struggle to implement it in practice.

Open communication will look different for every company. For some, it means sharing the highs and lows of running a business with all employees. For others, it may extend to sharing those stories with the outside world, too.

You need to know where your line is—what’s off-limits and what’s okay to talk about—and focus on the things that are within those bounds.

Prioritize mental health

Despite what many businesses claim, mental health still carries a lot of stigma in the workplace.

I’ve seen people all over the world take leaves of absence due to stress. Meanwhile, their colleagues roll their eyes believing they’re full of excuses, rather than sending them messages of support.

Or worse—their boss still asks them work-related questions, forgetting that they shouldn’t be on call, since work is likely the cause of their stress.

On average, one in six people will experience a mental health issue each week.

Mental health is also one of the primary causes of disease and disability worldwide.

Which means now is the time to not just say that mental health is important, but to show it.

You could do this by having mental health professionals available for employees to talk to. This is someone they can visit if they’re struggling mentally, much in the same way they’d visit a physical health practitioner for a muscle strain.

You could also make sure that any health insurance you offer covers mental health conditions, regardless of whether it’s a new or pre-existing condition.

And, tying back to the first point, when leaders are more open and honest about their mental health conditions, everyone else is likely to be, too. 

This openness shows that they really do understand how employees might feel. It also makes them more relatable. Which means employees are more likely to share their stories, too.

Sometimes, all it takes for someone to feel better is for them to share how they’re feeling with a person they trust. Why can’t that person be someone they work with?

The more people there are within the business who share their stories, the more comfortable quieter team members will feel being honest about theirs. Ultimately, more people will feel relieved just from being in this supportive working environment.

Get your company’s leaders on LinkedIn

Or any other social media platform your employees are engaged on.

Many senior leaders are reluctant to be active on social media, either because they don’t understand its benefits or don’t believe they have time.

The bigger the company gets, the harder it is for employees to connect with the higher-ups. Doors between each level can feel closed to employees who are newer or on a lower pay grade.

Employee newsletters may feel like a solution, but they can often be long, full of fancy formatting and imagery, and take hours to put together. They also feel more one-sided, like employees are being told what’s going on but they don’t need to get involved. So why would they read it if they don’t get a say?

Social media posts, meanwhile, are quicker to put together and allow employees to be a part of the conversation, regardless of their role.

If employees have an opinion, they can voice it knowing that someone is actually going to read what they think.

The more accessible senior leaders are, the more employees will feel like they’re a part of something and not just another cog in the wheel.

Be patient and consistent

Earning enough trust for employees to mirror your behavior takes time.

Some employees will be more willing to be open and honest than others. Some may resist the change.

But you should lead as you’d want to be led. Others will soon follow suit if you’re patient and consistent with your leadership style.

And that will contribute to building a positive workplace culture that attracts better candidates, retains employees for longer, and makes employees happier in their roles.

It starts at the top

There’s no way around it: building a positive workplace culture starts at the top. You have to set an example of the culture you want to build.

If you’re telling employees they need to be open and honest, but you’re hiding in your ivory tower, nobody is going to want to do what you say. You’re not practicing what you preach. That will lead people to think you’re disingenuous and only care about yourself and your goals.

You need to come across as human. As relatable and honest. Like someone any employee, from your second in command to the person who cleans the toilets, can approach to ask a question, or even just say hello.

Building a positive workplace culture is about breaking down silos from every angle. And, just like attracting customers, that takes time.

But if you do it right, you’re going to experience the rewards for years to come.

If you’re looking for ways to open up communication, encourage connections between employees and their peers and leaders, and drive measurable progress towards building a more positive workplace culture, check out Workrowd. Our comprehensive tool suite can help you streamline communication, increase engagement, and track and analyze culture change over time.

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Employee engagement metrics you should be tracking in 2022

Tracking employee engagement metrics can help you prevent absenteeism, build your brand, reduce employee turnover, and make more money. 

It can also help you spot issues within your workforce which could turn into bigger problems if left unaddressed.

What employee engagement metrics do you need to track, though? Which are going to show you what areas need work, or how employees really feel? Let’s take a look.

Absenteeism

How often employees are out sick—and how long they’re out for—can be huge indicators of employee engagement.

Stress can weaken our immune systems, meaning we’re more susceptible to germs and infections. 

Not to mention there’s the psychological toll of stress, which can cause long-term absences.

A controlling, closed-off, and judgmental company culture can make employees feel uncomfortable sharing that they’re stressed. When employees don’t mention their concerns to colleagues, it makes it harder to find solutions.

Negative company cultures that don’t support employees’ mental health reinforce stigmas and can make stress worse.

Of course, stress isn’t the only thing that can cause employees to repeatedly miss work. There are lots of reasons, and if an employee is frequently absent, it’s worth finding out why. 

Companies often use formulas to track employee absences, but they offer a very black and white picture. You can’t compare the health of someone who’s chronically ill or disabled with someone who hasn’t had a cold in a decade.

Instead of relying on a formula, look for patterns. Are employees out after certain events? Or at a particular time of the year? 

Patterns will help you identify issues. Investigating the story behind them will allow you to make more informed decisions and accommodations.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS measures how likely someone is to recommend your business to another person, on a scale of 1 to 10. 

How an employee rates your business on this scale will tell you more than you might be comfortable with.

Especially when only scores of 9-10 count as promoters. Scores of 7 and 8 are neutral, and scores of 6 or below are detractors. 

These scores can be a real indicator of whether employees are happy in their roles or not. 

If your NPS goes down over time, it may be worth tracking backwards to see how things have changed. Investigating what measures were put into place before the score trended downward will help you turn the tide.

You can apply the Net Promoter Score approach to almost any element of your business, giving you a standardized way to compare across your employee engagement metrics.

Employee turnover rate

What’s the average time someone spends working for your company? Do they progress through the ranks, or do they leave when it’s time for a promotion? Or maybe there’s a trend of employees failing their probation period?

The longer someone stays, the happier they’re likely to be in their working environment.

Tracking turnover not just company-wide, but by department, role, etc. may expose issues you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.

It could be that some departments have a faster churn rate than others, which can be a sign of a problem within that department instead of the company itself.

Productivity

Disengaged employees are 18% less productive. So, if your employees aren’t hitting their goals, it’s time to dig deeper. 

Managers can’t fix poor productivity levels simply by shouting at employees to work harder. This will lead to more disengagement, and increased absenteeism.

Instead, it’s time to investigate why productivity has gone down. What’s missing? What are employees dissatisfied with? 

You want to ensure employees can have an open and honest dialogue with you about what’s going on in their lives and how it’s affecting their work, whether it’s a personal or professional issue. 

A wide range of things can affect someone’s productivity, and it can continue to deteriorate without the right support. Maybe they need some training, a change in their working environment, or a switch to a new department.

Sometimes all it takes is a short conversation to make employees feel heard. You never know until you ask.

Social media advocacy rates

You’ll never stop employees from using social media during the working day. How you encourage employees to use it, and what they say as a result, will tell you more about your business than you might think.

Employees are 20% more likely to stay at a socially engaged company. They’re also 27% more likely to feel positively about the company’s future.

And, the happier those employees are, the more likely they’ll be to share how they feel online. 

You’ll never get 100% of employees onboard—it’s likely to be around a third—but it only takes a handful of advocates regularly posting to speed up the purchasing process, improve the quality of candidates you attract, and build your employees’ brands within the industry.

Employee advocacy only works if employees are willing to share their honest opinions, and if they’re encouraged to do so. If businesses tell employees to repeat what upper management says, it isn’t advocacy. It’s a loudspeaker designed to draw attention to the business instead of lifting employees up and encouraging them to help their network.

This loudspeaker puts employees off becoming advocates and misses the key part of social media: being social.

Conclusion 

Employee engagement is about so much more than the stats in front of you. It’s about the stories behind those statistics, too. 

You have to dig into the trends and issues behind the statistics to build a thriving and inclusive employee experience.

Engaged employees are a sign of a positive company culture. It’s hard for employees to be happy in their roles and want to stay if they feel dictated to, controlled, or otherwise disconnected from what they’re doing. 

While putting numbers to things with employee engagement metrics makes life simpler on paper, what employees say about your company both on and off the clock matters, too. 

An engaged employee will recommend your company to both customers and future hires. They’ll be happy to spread the word about your business online and offline, attracting more of the right kinds of people and improving time to hire, reducing how long someone takes to make a purchase, and much more.

If you’re looking to supercharge your employee experience and ensure your employee engagement metrics are always just a click away, check out Workrowd. Our automated data collection and customizable dashboards make it easy to see which employee programs and events are driving engagement, and which could use some tweaking. Drop us a note at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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7 simple tips for how to have better meetings

Amidst endless Zoom calls, it’s easy to find your mind wandering to thoughts of how to have better meetings. A study by the University of North Carolina discovered that 71% of managers find meetings to be a waste of time. 65% believe meetings prevent them from finishing their work, and 61% said meetings keep them from deep thinking.

And yet, meetings are an unavoidable part of the working world.

They’re seen as an important element of business, but these stats show that they may not be as necessary as some of us might think. There may just be less stressful or less mentally draining ways of updating people. Slack, Teams, Workrowd, emails, or even a quick recording, maybe?

Let’s take a look at some simple tips for how to have better meetings, including ways to make them both shorter and fewer.

Don’t have meetings for the sake of having meetings

Some people really love meetings. Instead of sending a quick email or message, they’ll schedule a meeting to share something that only takes one sentence to explain.

This isn’t an effective use of anyone’s time. It disrupts the attendees’ days, leaving them with less time for their actual jobs.

It can also be a source of anxiety for employees if they don’t know why you want to talk. They can feel stressed even if they have nothing to worry about.

Face-to-face meetings can help you to read other attendees, and also help teams to bond, but they’re not always necessary. Especially if you’re sharing news rather than having a discussion. 

If it’s something that doesn’t require a discussion, and it’s quicker to write an email or record a video, do that instead. Because you want to…

Respect other people’s time

Time and energy are finite resources. The longer a meeting goes on for, the more time and energy it drains.

For some people, it can take even more time and energy. They may need a break to recover before returning to their actual job.

Let’s not forget that meetings aren’t technically in most people’s job descriptions. They’re just an accepted part of the working day.

If it’s a spontaneous meeting, sprung on someone when they were in the middle of something, it can be even worse. They may struggle to get back into what they were doing even if they have a deadline looming.

If it isn’t important to everyone, does it need to be discussed now? Does everyone you’ve invited really need to attend?

It’s all too common for a meeting organizer to invite an employee simply because their boss wanted them there. But then that same boss asks the employee not to speak during the meeting. So, what’s the point in them attending?

Things like business updates can easily be shared with the rest of the company via email. 

The sender can then answer any questions over email as well, or during a much shorter call. This allows employees to digest the information in their own time, instead of when their employer tells them they should.

It also ensures that nobody’s day is broken up by unnecessary meetings. 

Being transparent doesn’t mean having to invite everyone to everything. You can still share information without eating into employees’ days. Being selective about when you actually need to meet is a key element of how to have better meetings.

Have a time and space for small talk

Sometimes, the start of a meeting—or even halfway through, when people start to lag—can get filled with discussions about the latest Netflix show or a book someone’s read. 

While this is a great way for teams to connect, it’s not a great use of people’s time. 

It can drag out the meeting, reducing how much time and energy attendees have left for the rest of their days.

When employees have somewhere to actually chat about these things—like a dedicated krowd in Workrowd, or a regular book club—they’re less likely to have conversations about this stuff during a meeting. The meeting is then more efficient, and teams still get to discuss the latest Netflix true crime documentary.

Stick to the agenda

It’s common for people to discuss an idea in a meeting, then for that idea to trigger another, completely separate idea. Which turns the whole session into a different discussion. Then another idea comes up. And another discussion takes shape. This drags out the meeting, completely changing its course and purpose.

If someone has a great idea that doesn’t directly affect the direction you’re going in, jot it down and save it for another meeting/conversation. 

Just because it’s a great idea, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be discussed in person. Some ideas are just as great when talked about via email or group chat.

And the more focused your meeting is, the more efficient it will be, too.

Send the agenda in advance

When people don’t know what’s going to be talked about in a meeting, it can be harder for them to know what to say when questions are raised or when their opinion is asked for. Not everyone thinks well on their feet. 

Sending out the meeting’s agenda in advance gives those who prefer to ruminate on ideas before sharing them the opportunity to think about things. You may then find you get more employees speaking up in meetings and better ideas as a result.

Notice when someone is taking over

There’s always someone who talks more than others during a meeting. It’s important that a different person is in control of the discussion, and can rein in anyone who’s doing this. 

Having one person not just in charge of the agenda, but of who speaks and when, will help quieter attendees feel more comfortable speaking because everyone will get equal time and space to share their thoughts. 

Sometimes the person speaking too much doesn’t have anything useful to share, is repeating themselves, taking credit for others’ ideas, or changing the direction of the meeting. This drags out the meeting and can make everyone else in attendance disengage out of frustration.

Just because someone doesn’t speak without encouragement, that doesn’t mean they don’t have ideas worth sharing. It may just mean that they’re uncomfortable speaking over the loudest person in the room.

Work toward a takeaway, even if it isn’t a resolution

Another key recommendation for how to have better meetings is to ensure that every meeting has a purpose. What problem are you trying to solve?

Even if you can’t work toward a solution, if you’ve narrowed things down, that’s a win.

Forcing everyone to keep going when they’re falling asleep over their coffee will drag out your meeting and make it harder to decide on anything. Nobody has ever made a great decision when they’re mentally exhausted.

Instead, it may be more effective to have several shorter meetings on the same topic, narrowing down ideas and discussion points each time. 

Having a short, set time to talk about something can lead to more creativity and room for discussion. The shorter time frame means there’s less time to waste on small talk or segues, and the set time gives employees the chance to plan and consider ideas before entering the room.

It also avoids any rushed decisions that come from the need to solve everything in one meeting.

If you’re looking for an easier way to keep employees connected, and to cut down on unnecessary meetings, drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com. Our one-stop platform streamlines the process of sharing information with employees, and ensures they have open lines of communication with peers for both work- and non-work-related discussions.

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Communication and employee engagement: 6 tips for success

It’s easy for employees to become disengaged in their roles, especially in the current climate. The world is so unpredictable these days, that it can be difficult for employees to stay focused. This is where communication and employee engagement come in.

Jobs used to be a source of security. Now, though, with ever-changing rules and businesses cutting back or closing, that security is long gone.

This can lead to employees feeling undervalued and/or underperforming on their tasks.

It’s important you take steps to reassure them that you do value them, and want them on the team. Not doing this can lead to losing some of your top performers, increasing the strain caused by the pandemic.

Unfortunately, Gallup suggests that only 33% of people are engaged in their jobs. This has remained true even though the benefits of an engaged workforce have been proven time and time again. Caterpillar, a construction equipment manufacturer, saved $8.8 million annually by reducing absenteeism, attrition rates, and overtime in a European plant. They also increased profits by $2 million and customer satisfaction by 34%.

So what steps can you take to re-engage your employees? Here are some tips that will improve your communication and employee engagement, along with your culture, retention, and more.

Encourage open communication

Businesses talk about open communication a lot, but rarely actually practice it. This means employees won’t share with you what’s going on in their lives that could affect their work. As a result, when someone’s productivity suffers, the default is to punish them instead of supporting them.

When a company has a culture of open communication, employees feel more comfortable sharing their physical or mental health problems, or other situations which may impact their workload.

They’ll also feel more open to giving and receiving feedback, because it’s embedded in the company culture.

It may help to offer some sort of training around feedback and communication to help with this. 

Too often, people assume they’re great at listening, but then talk over the person who’s speaking. Similarly, they may think they’re great at giving feedback but only focus on the negatives. 

A brief training session—or even encouraging everyone to read a blog post on feedback or communication—reinforces that you’re serious about having a culture of open, honest communication. This is a key way in which communication and employee engagement deeply impact each other.

Make accommodations

People’s lives have changed a lot in the last two years because of the pandemic. But many changes have happened outside of Covid-19, too. 

Employees with elderly relatives may have become caregivers, or another employee may have been diagnosed with a chronic health issue. Employees rarely communicate these things to employers. They either don’t know how to talk about it, don’t think their employer will care, or don’t know what their employer can do.

If someone’s situation has changed, making simple accommodations like allowing flexible working or reducing their hours can show that you still value them and you want to support them as they adjust to their new normal.

Make them feel included in decisions

When companies make changes, they often fail to communicate them to employees in the right way (if they communicate them at all).

They simply announce the change to employees out of nowhere. This leaves employees feeling like they’re not valued and that their opinions don’t matter.

It’s impossible to make everyone happy when introducing changes. That said, it’s important to hear everyone’s opinions, even if they won’t change the outcome. 

It isn’t about involving employees in every decision-making process (although if you can include them, they’ll always appreciate it). It’s about giving them the chance to have their voices heard. 

People can get frustrated when it feels like they’re not being listened to. To remedy this, try running a survey, holding a drop-in chat where employees can ask questions, or inviting feedback via email. 

These opportunities for openness and honesty encourage a positive atmosphere within the business, as well as keeping employees engaged. Changing your approach to communication and employee engagement can transform your company culture.

Ask employees what they want out of their roles

In smaller or newer companies, job descriptions can sometimes be flexible or hard to define. Leaders expect early employees to be jacks-of-all-trades, knowing a little about everything. 

As the company expands, new opportunities become available. It’s important you offer these to existing employees as well as external applicants. It may just help you retain someone who’s great at what they do, but who feels disconnected in their current position.

Offer them the chance to retrain

If someone has been with a business for a long time, or their priorities/interests have changed, it can lead to them feeling bored or unstimulated. This can mean their performance goes down, and they may start looking for other opportunities.

However, just because someone is disengaged in that role, it doesn’t mean they’re not worth retaining or that they can’t excel in another position. 

Always make it clear to employees—wherever they are on their journeys—that they can talk to you about moving departments or retraining should they start to feel dissatisfied.

This is particularly important for areas with high turnover or little room for progression, such as customer support. 

If someone has the right mindset and their attitude is a positive influence on the company, see how you can support them, whether that’s through retraining, or helping them to move on by providing a stellar reference. 

As much as you want to, you can’t keep everyone. Offering them support to move on shows them you respect them, and may encourage them to come back in the future.

Host team building activities

Team-building activities are a great way for employees to get to know their colleagues. 

They’re even more important for remote teams, who may not get to bond with their colleagues in the same way that employees who spend every day in an office would.

Encouraging things like quiz nights, hackathons, or book clubs are just some of the ways employees can connect outside of their day-to-day work activities. Increasing interpersonal communication and employee engagement in this way can make all the difference.

Conclusion 

Keeping employees engaged really boils down to one thing: making them feel like they matter. And the simplest way to do that is to listen to them and communicate openly. 

You may not be able to offer a solution to the problem they’re facing, or have an answer for how they’re feeling, but you don’t always have to. To make people feel valued in any situation, it’s all about giving them the chance to feel heard.

If you want to provide more opportunities for employees to communicate both with each other, and with leaders, we invite you to check out Workrowd’s suite of tools. We’ve even streamlined the process of sharing and storing top-down employee communications. Paired with our automated employee engagement surveys, your workplace will have all the tools it needs to thrive. Visit us at workrowd.com or drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com.

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How to write an awesome employee engagement newsletter

Writing an employee engagement newsletter is hard enough. But there’s no guarantee that after all your hard work anyone is actually going to read it. 

Newsletters can play an important part in developing employee engagement and loyalty if done right, though.

So, how do you write an employee engagement newsletter that people will actually read? It’s time to bring out the psychology textbook and throw away your English notes, because great writing of any kind of is the opposite of what you were taught in school…

Don’t write an essay

The only time most of us are taught to write nonfiction is when we’re taught essay writing in school. 

But that writing style just doesn’t cut it in the real world. 

Most people outside of academia don’t read essays for fun. If they do, they’re essays that are relevant to them, fun to read, or—hopefully—both.

That means it’s time to put away the big words, long paragraphs, and formal tone of voice. If you want employees to keep reading, you need to make what they’re reading accessible.

There’s a reason the most widely-read newspapers have an average reading level of an eighth grader. More people can understand them because it requires less brain power to read them, regardless of their level of education.

Reading takes time and energy. You don’t know what the reading skills—or energy levels—are of your employees. 

Giving them something that’s easy to read will make them grateful you’ve put their needs on equal footing with (or even above) what you want to talk about. 

Which means they’re more likely to read what you send them, and to maybe even look forward to your employee engagement newsletter.

Embrace white space

White space is exactly what it sounds like: all the white (empty) space around text, imagery, etc., on a page.

The point of white space is to guide your reader’s eye to focus on particular words or phrases, which is why it’s common in poetry.

If you look back through this post, you’ll notice that many of the paragraphs are only a sentence or two-long. That’s me embracing white space.

Why do I do this?

Because it’s easier for you to read.

Think about the last time you read a really long paragraph, particularly on a small screen like a mobile phone. Your fingers don’t move as much, nor do your eyes. And so your eyes start to get tired. Which makes your brain tired. Which makes you start to get bored. Even if the topic you’re reading about is interesting, a wall of text simply isn’t as accessible to read on a screen. Not to mention it doesn’t look particularly attractive, either—it looks intimidating and makes people want to switch off.

See what I did there?

How far into the paragraph above did you get before your eyes started to twitch or your mind started to wander?

The longer your paragraphs are, the more readers will feel that way.

In the modern age, most attention spans are around eight seconds.

Not to mention reading on screens isn’t exactly pleasant for our eyes.

You want to make sure people’s eyes are constantly moving around the page and their fingers are always scrolling. This will help to keep their brains engaged.

Write in second person

Second person writing uses the pronoun ‘you’ to create a deeper, faster connection between writer and reader. It’s why most blog posts are written in second person.

It also makes readers feel like the content is more relevant to them, since they’re being addressed directly.

Make it relevant to them

Why do you want employees to read your newsletter? What’s the benefit for them? There should be clear benefits to them reading it beyond just ‘we’re sending it to talk about the business’.

If you don’t have anything interesting to say…spend your time writing something else.

Nobody wants to read a newsletter that’s full of bragging or navel gazing. If you’ve had a recent win, by all means share it, but don’t go on and on about it. 

An employee engagement newsletter should be about building rapport and camaraderie. If you’re just doing it to brag about stuff, employees will glance over it and have no interest in reading future installments.

Use humor 

You may feel like you work in an industry that can’t use humor. But stay with me for a minute.

You know why popsicle stick jokes are so bad?

Because we bond over how bad they are.

Comedy itself can be divisive. Everyone has slightly different senses of humor, and, particularly in larger companies, there’s no guarantee everyone will find the same thing funny.

But, if you use humor in the right way, you can deepen engagement and employees’ feelings of loyalty to your brand.

To use comedy the right way, make sure you never, ever make fun of an employee. That’s the kind of comedy that’s divisive and can be harmful. 

And steer clear of controversial topics like politics or religion. 

Instead, think about how you write about something.

Where can you bring in analogies, anecdotes, or comparisons? When did something unexpected happen that you could share?

You could even ask employees to share their funny work or personal stories to make them feel more involved. 

If you want some tips on how to add humor to a business environment, check out David Nihill’s “Do You Talk Funny?”

Be predictable

If employees know when to expect your newsletter, they can carve out time in their day to read it.

If it’s sent intermittently, they’re more likely to be in the middle of something. 

So they’ll plan to read it once they’ve finished what they were doing, but then more stuff gets added to their to-do list, the newsletter gets pushed down their priorities, and eventually it gets forgotten.

Sending your employee engagement newsletter at the same day/time, whether that’s weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or something else, ensures they know when it’s coming up and can factor it into their schedule.

Conclusion 

Writing any newsletter people want to read is easier said than done. That doesn’t make it impossible, though. 

It’s all about changing your perspective to make it about what your employees want/need to know, over what you want to talk about.

At the end of the day, putting employees first is the most important part of building a happy, productive company culture, right? Your internal newsletters can play a big role in that. 

In fact, if done right, they can encourage employees to be more engaged with your business, and maybe even inspire them to write better business communications themselves.

If you’re looking for an easy way to organize and distribute communications like an employee engagement newsletter, Workrowd has you covered.

With our one-stop platform for employee communities, it’s easy to ensure your message reaches the right audience every time. If you’d like to learn more about how we can take your communications sharing to the next level, drop by the homepage or send us a note at hello@workrowd.com.

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Managing autistic employees: Neurodiversity at work part 3

Read Neurodiversity in the workplace part 1: Why is this important?

Read Managing employees with ADHD: Neurodiversity at work part 2

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition where someone’s brain works differently than what’s typical. It can lead to challenges in social situations or with speech and language. It can also present difficulties in the workplace, including for those managing autistic employees.

Plenty of people with ASD lead normal lives, and many go through life without a diagnosis until they’re an adult. This is in part due to old-fashioned assumptions and stereotypes about autism.

There are lots of incorrect stereotypes that cause people to make assumptions and treat autistic people differently. 

But you can’t spot someone who has autism just because they walked down the street and wouldn’t make eye contact, or they didn’t understand a joke. It’s not as simple as a lack of social skills or always taking things literally.

There are hundreds of symptoms, and some are more prevalent than others. If you feel – or know – that you’re managing one or more autistic employees, here’s some advice on how to work with them, support them, and keep them happy and engaged in the workplace.

Don’t make assumptions

ASD can manifest differently in different people. The best way you can ensure you’re supporting someone as much as possible is to do your research. 

Don’t make assumptions that they can do this or that because someone else you know with ASD can. It’s not that simple or that black and white. 

ASD is often misinterpreted or misdiagnosed. Scientific research and understanding of some of the rarer or more nuanced symptoms is only just beginning to emerge.

Understanding the nuances that come with these conditions is really important if you want to be supportive when managing autistic employees. 

You may also find that some employees exhibit traits you think make them autistic, but they haven’t disclosed a diagnosis. This could be because they don’t have one, they’re unaware of their symptoms, or they’re uncomfortable sharing their diagnosis with colleagues. That doesn’t mean you can’t still make accommodations, though. 

There’s no downside to finding ways to work that empower employees to be the best and happiest versions of themselves.

Listen

Listening is an important part of people management. It’s also the only way you’ll learn what accommodations you could make to equip your employee to reach – and maybe even exceed – their potential.

Even if they don’t know what they need, recognizing the challenges they face could help you both find solutions. 

Or perhaps you’ve helped an employee with a similar problem in the past. This could provide a basis for suggestions of what could work for this individual, too.

Learn the language

The language around ASD and neurodiversity in general can be hard to understand if it’s completely new to you. There’s no reason you can’t learn, though. 

Taking the time to learn it shows your employees that you don’t just say you care about their wellbeing, you actually mean it.

Communicate clearly

Sometimes, when we’re saying something we don’t want to say, we can tiptoe around the topic, or use euphemisms. This can be problematic as the key message can get lost in the sea of everything else we’ve said.

Be mindful of how you say something, but be clear when you do speak. Everyone involved in the conversation will have a greater understanding of the key points. Plus, they’ll feel happier with the agreed-upon outcomes. 

Give specific instructions

Giving employees the freedom to make their own decisions about how they grow in their role, and what their role entails, is important to some businesses. 

But this can be challenging for neurodivergent employees. These individuals often need clear guidelines to help them know what’s expected of them and when. 

Some employees who don’t understand the instructions may feel uncomfortable speaking up about it. As a result, they can end up suffering in silence and will be less efficient in their role.

If you want to give them more freedom, ask them what they’d like to achieve. Talk to them about where they see themselves fitting into the business. 

If that doesn’t help, consider what their strengths and areas of interest are. You’ll get far more out of neurodivergent employees by playing to their strengths than by forcing them to do tasks that they find challenging, or which cause them to disengage.

Be accommodating 

You know those ice breakers that are often forced on us at the start of team-building activities but that nobody really likes? Those are even worse for people with ASD.

Instead of forcing everyone to speak in a controlled environment, find a more natural way to involve them in conversation. You could ask them for their opinion, for example. This makes them feel valued and included.

Sometimes, people need time to digest something before a meeting. So give them some time to think on big discussion topics before they come up, or let them mull it over after the meeting and before a decision is made. Not everyone thinks well on the spot.

Another way you can make them feel more comfortable in meetings is to ensure they have a pen to fiddle with, or a fidget spinner. Many people with autism ‘stim’ (i.e. self-stimulate) as a way to self-soothe, and playing with pens is a common one. 

Fiddling, fidgeting, and doodling can help everyone to engage during meetings. This makes us more likely to retain what we’ve heard, whether we’re neurodivergent or not.

Conclusion

Managing autistic employees doesn’t have to be difficult. Neurodivergent team members can be great assets to a business—if they’re allowed to work in a way that complements how they think. 

Forcing them to work in a set way can backfire and mean they disengage. This can make them less productive, unhappy in their role, and lead them to leave without ever fulfilling their potential. 

Supporting neurodivergent employees, on the other hand, can make teams more efficient, creative, and productive.

If you’re looking to build a more inclusive and supportive environment for all team members, regardless of neurodivergence, check out Workrowd. Our platform offers a one-stop shop for marketing, managing, and measuring all your employee events, groups, and programs. We make it easy for employees to see everything they can get involved in from day one, no matter where or when they work. Drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com if you’d like to learn more.