The New Analytics of Workplace Culture

Workplace cultures vary significantly depending on the workplace itself. With new technology and various ways to analyze employees' viewpoints on their workplaces' culture, new ways are being implemented to analyze and measure cultures around different businesses. Read this blog post to learn more about different methods to process employees' thoughts behind their workplace culture.


A business's culture can catalyze or undermine success. Yet the tools available for measuring it—namely, employee surveys and questionnaires—have significant shortcomings. Employee self-reports are often unreliable. The values and beliefs that people say are important to them, for example, are often not reflected in how they actually behave. Moreover, surveys provide static, or at best episodic, snapshots of organizations that are constantly evolving. And they're limited by researchers' tendency to assume that distinctive and idiosyncratic cultures can be neatly categorized into a few common types.

Our research focuses on a new method for assessing and measuring organizational culture. We used big-data processing to mine the ubiquitous "digital traces" of culture in electronic communications, such as emails, Slack messages and Glassdoor reviews. By studying the language employees use in these communications, we can measure how culture actually influences their thoughts and behavior at work.

In one study, two of us partnered with a midsize technology company to assess the degree of cultural fit between employees and their colleagues on the basis of similarity of linguistic style expressed in internal email messages. In a separate study, two of us analyzed the content of Slack messages exchanged among members of nearly 120 software development teams. We examined the diversity of thoughts, ideas and meaning expressed by team members and then measured whether it was beneficial or detrimental to team performance. We also partnered with employer-review website Glassdoor to analyze how employees talk about their organizations' culture in anonymous reviews to examine the effects of cultural diversity on organizational efficiency and innovation.

The explosion of digital trace data such as emails and Slack communications—together with the availability of computational methods that are faster, cheaper and easier to use—has ushered in a new scientific approach to measuring culture. Our computational-lingustics approach is challenging prevailing assumptions in the field of people analytics and revealing novel insights about how managers can harness culture as a strategic resource. We believe that with appropriate measures to safeguard employee privacy and minimize algorithmic bias it holds great promise as a tool for managers grappling with culture issues in their firms.

The Studies

Our recent studies have focused on cultural fit versus adaptability, the pros and cons of fitting in, cognitive diversity and the effects of diversity on organizational performance. Let's look at each in detail.

Fit versus adaptability. When managers think about hiring for cultural fit, they focus almost exclusively on whether candidates reflect the values, norms and behaviors of the team or organization as it currently exists. They often fail to consider cultural adaptability—the ability to rapidly learn and conform to organizational cultural norms as they change over time. In a recent study two of us conducted with Stanford's V. Govind Manian and Christopher Potts, we analyzed how cultural fit and cultural adaptability affected individual performance at a high-tech company by comparing linguistic styles expressed in more than 10 million internal email messages exchanged over five years among 601 employees. For example, we looked at the extent to which an employee used swear words when communicating with colleagues who themselves cursed frequently or used personal pronouns ("we" or "I") that matched those used by her peer group. We also tracked how employees adapted to their peers' cultural conventions over time.

We found, as expected, that a high level of cultural fit led to more promotions, more-favorable performance evaluations, higher bonuses and fewer involuntary departures. Cultural adaptability, however, turned out to be even more important for success. Employees who could quickly adapt to cultural norms as they changed over time were more successful than employees who exhibited high cultural fit when first hired. These cultural "adapters" were better able to maintain fit when cultural norms changed or evolved, which is common in organizations operating in fast-moving, dynamic environments.

These results suggest that the process of cultural alignment does not end at the point of hire. Indeed, our study also found that employees followed distinct enculturation trajectories—at certain times in their tenure demonstrating more cultural fit with colleagues and at other times less. Most eventually adapted to the behavioral norms of their peers, and those who stayed at their company exhibited increasing cultural fit over time. Employees who were eventually terminated were those who had been unable to adapt to the culture. Employees who left voluntarily were the most fascinating: They quickly adapted culturally early in their tenures but drifted out of step later on and were likely to leave the firm once they became cultural outsiders.

To further assess how cultural fit and adaptability affect performance, Berkeley's Jennifer Chatman and Richard Lu and two of us surveyed employees at the same high-tech company to measure value congruence (the extent to which employees' core values and beliefs about a desirable workplace fit with their peers) and perceptual congruence (how well employees can read the "cultural code" by accurately reporting the values held by peers). We found that value congruence is predictive of retention—employees with it are less likely to voluntarily leave the company—but is unrelated to job performance. We found that the opposite is true of perceptual congruence: It is predictive of higher job performance but unrelated to retention. These results suggest that companies striving to foster a stable and committed workforce should focus on hiring candidates who share similar values with current employees. Employers needing people who can quickly assimilate and be productive should pay greater attention to candidates who demonstrate the ability to adapt to new cultural contexts.

The benefits of not fitting in. When might it better to hire a cultural misfit? People who see the world differently and have diverse ideas and perspectives often bring creativity and innovation to an organization. But because of their outsider status, they may struggle to have their ideas recognized by colleagues as legitimate. In a recent study two of us conducted with V. Govind Manian, Christopher Potts, and William Monroe, we compared employees' levels of cultural fit with the extent to which they served as a bridge between otherwise disconnected groups in the firm's internal communication network. For instance, an employee might have connections with colleagues that bridge both the engineering and sales departments, allowing her to access and pass on a greater variety of information and ideas.

Consistent with prior work, we found that cultural fit was, on average, positively associated with career success. The benefits of fitting in culturally were especially great for individuals who served as network bridges. When traversing the boundary between engineering and sales, for example, they could hold their own in technical banter with the former and in customer-oriented discourse with the latter. People who attempted to span boundaries but could not display cultural ambidexterity were especially penalized: They were seen as both cultural outsiders and social outsiders without clear membership in any particular social clique. However, we also identified a set of individuals who benefited from being cultural misfits: those who did not have networks spanning disparate groups but instead had strong connections within a defined social clique. By building trusting social bonds with colleagues, they were able to overcome their outsider status and leverage their distinctiveness. These results suggest that an effective hiring strategy should strive for a portfolio of both conformists—or at least those who can rapidly adapt to a company's changing culture—and cultural misfits.

Cognitive diversity. Proponents of cultural diversity in teams presume that it leads to cognitive diversity; that is, diversity in thoughts and ideas. But the findings about whether cognitive diversity helps or hinders team performance are inconclusive. Part of the problem is that these studies use imperfect proxies for cognitive diversity, such as diversity in demographics, personalities or self-reported beliefs and values. Moreover, this line of research has rarely looked at how diversity is actually expressed in communications and interactions, which is problematic given that team members are sometimes reluctant to share their real feelings and opinions. Finally, cognitive diversity is often assumed to be static, even though we know team dynamics frequently change over a project's life cycle.

In a new study, which two of us conducted with Stanford researchers Katharina Lix and Melissa Valentine, we overcame these challenges by analyzing the content of Slack messages exchanged among team members of 117 remote software-development teams. We identified instances when team members discussing similar topics used diverse meanings, perspectives and styles, and then analyzed the impact of that diversity on performance. For example, in discussions of customer requirements, different interpretations of the desired look and feel of the user interface in some cases led developers to talk past one another and fail to coordinate, but in other cases sparked creative new ideas.

Our results indicate that the performance consequences of cognitive diversity vary as a function of project milestone stages. In the early stages, when the team is defining the problem at hand, diversity lowers the chances of successfully meeting milestones. During middle stages, when the team is most likely to be engaged in ideation, diversity increases the likelihood of team success. Diversity becomes an obstacle again toward the end of a project, when the team is deep into execution.

Cultural diversity and the organization as a whole. We've seen that there are trade-offs associated with diversity in teams, but how does it affect the performance of entire organizations? Conventional wisdom holds that firms must choose between a homogeneous, efficient culture and a diverse, innovative culture. A homogeneous culture improves efficiency and coordination, the theory goes, because employees agree about the norms and beliefs guiding work, but the benefits come at the expense of fewer novel ideas about how to accomplish tasks. In contrast, a heterogeneous culture sacrifices the benefits of consensus in favor of healthy disagreement among employees that can promote adaptability and innovation. The evidence supporting this thinking, however, is scant and inconclusive.

In a recent study, we analyzed the language that employees used when describing their organization's culture (for example, "our culture is collaborative," "our culture is entrepreneurial," and so on) in anonymous reviews of nearly 500 publicly traded companies on Glassdoor. We first measured the level of interpersonal cultural diversity, or disagreement among employees about the norms and beliefs characterizing the organization. We found that interpersonal cultural diversity makes it difficult for employees to coordinate with one another and reduces the organization's efficiency as measured by return on assets.

We then measured the organizations' level of intrapersonal cultural diversity. Those with high intrapersonal cultural diversity had employees with a large number of cultural ideas and beliefs about how to accomplish tasks within the company (measured as the average number of cultural topics that employees discussed in their Glassdoor reviews). For instance, employees at Netflix conceptualized the work culture in terms of autonomy, responsibility, collaboration and intense internal competition. We found that organizations with greater intrapersonal cultural diversity had higher market valuations and produced more and higher-quality intellectual property via patenting, evidence that their employees' diverse ideas about how to do work led them to be more creative and innovative.

This suggests that organizations may be able to resolve the assumed trade-off between efficiency and innovation by encouraging diverse cultural ideas while fostering agreement among employees about the importance of a common set of organizational norms and beliefs. Again, consider Netflix: Although "multicultural" employees contributed to the company's diverse culture and drove innovation, the culture was nonetheless anchored by core shared beliefs, such as the importance of radical transparency and accountability, which help employees coordinate and work efficiently.

Implications for Practice

How can these findings inform leaders' understanding of culture as a tool for improving the performance of employees, teams and the broader organization?

First, managers can increase retention by hiring candidates whose core values and beliefs about a desirable workplace align well with those of current employees. However, too much emphasis on cultural fit can stifle diversity and cause managers to overlook promising candidates with unique perspectives. Hiring managers should look for candidates who demonstrate cultural adaptability, as these employees may be better able to adjust to the inevitable cultural changes that occur as organizations navigate increasingly dynamic markets and an evolving workforce.

Hiring managers should also not overlook cultural misfits. They can be wellsprings of creativity and innovation. But to make sure they flourish inside the organization, managers should consider assigning them to roles in which they are likely to develop strong connections within particular social groups. That's because misfits need the trust and support of colleagues to be seen as quirky innovators rather than outlandish outsiders.

Second, leaders should be mindful that the expression of diverse perspectives in teams needs to be managed. Cognitive diversity is essential for generating novel, innovative solutions to complex problems, especially during the planning and ideation phases of a project. However, the expression of diverse perspectives can quickly become a liability when the team needs to focus on execution and meet looming deadlines. It is during these times that team members have to unify around a common interpretation of the problem and come to agreement about what needs to get done to solve it. Leaders must be adept at switching back and forth, learning when and how to promote the expression of divergent opinions and meanings and when to create a context for convergence.

An important distinction is warranted here. The term "diversity" is often used to connote variation in the demographic makeup of a firm's workforce. This has been particularly the case in recent years, as companies have tackled pernicious problems such as the underrepresentation of women and minorities in decision-making positions in organizations. In our work, we use "cultural diversity" to refer to variation in people's beliefs and normative expectations, irrespective of their demographic composition. As we pointed out earlier, demographic and cultural diversity are related, but a demographically homogenous group may be culturally diverse, and vice versa. Our research on cultural diversity is relevant to but ultimately independent of efforts to increase gender, race and ethnic diversity in firms.

Third, leaders should foster a culture that is diverse yet consensual in order to promote both innovation and efficiency. Such a culture is composed of multicultural employees who each subscribe to a variety of norms and beliefs about how to do work. These diverse ideas help employees excel at complex tasks, such as dreaming up the next groundbreaking innovation. Managers should encourage employees to experiment with different ways of working—extensive collaboration for some tasks, for example, and intense competition for others. At the same time, a culture should also be consensual in that employees agree on a common set of cultural norms—shared understandings—that helps them successfully coordinate with one another. Leaders can signal the importance of these norms during onboarding and in everyday interactions, just as leaders at Netflix do by rewarding employees for sharing their mistakes with colleagues in order to promote beliefs about the value of transparency.

A New Management Tool

Many of the tools we used in these studies are off-the-shelf products, and there is great potential for managers to use them to help solve practical challenges inside organizations. For instance, Stanford Ph.D. candidate Anjali Bhatt is working with two of us to demonstrate how language-based culture measures can be used to anticipate the pain points of post-merger integration. We are studying the merger of three retail banks, and analysis of emails has revealed stark differences in the rates of cultural assimilation among individuals. Such tools can be used diagnostically to assess the cultural alignment between firms during premerger due diligence, as well as prescriptively during integration to identify where and how to focus managerial interventions.

Yet the accessibility of these tools also raises important ethical concerns. In our work, we maintain strict employee confidentiality, meaning that neither we nor the organization is able to link any employee to any specific communication used in our studies. We also strongly advise against using these tools to select, reward or punish individual employees and teams, for at least four reasons: Accurately predicting individual and team performance is considerably more challenging than estimating average effects for broad types of individuals and teams; culture is only one of many factors influencing individual and team performance in organizations; algorithmic predictions often create a false sense of certainty in managers; and finally, giving any algorithm undue weight can have unintended consequences—for instance, exacerbating human biases that negatively affect women and members of underrepresented social groups.

Algorithms make estimates, but it is ultimately humans' responsibility to make informed judgments using them. Managers must be vigilant about keeping metadata anonymous and must regularly audit algorithmic decision-making for bias to ensure that the use of language-based tools does not have unintended adverse consequences on culture itself—for instance, by breeding employee distrust.

These important ethical questions notwithstanding, we believe that these tools will continue to generate insights that allow managers to finally manage the culture as a strategic resource, and ultimately lead to more culturally diverse and inclusive teams and organizations.

Matthew Corritore is an assistant professor of strategy and organization at McGill's Desautels Faculty of Management. Amir Goldberg is an associate professor of organizational behavior at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. Sameer B. Srivastava is an associate professor and the Harold Furst Chair in Management Philosophy and Values at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business. He and Goldberg codirect the Berkeley-Stanford Computational Culture Lab.

This article is reprinted from Harvard Business Review with permission. ©2019. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Corritore, M.; Goldberg, A.; Srivastava, S. (07 January 2020) "The New Analytics of Workplace Culture" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/technology/pages/the-new-analytics-of-workplace-culture.aspx


Summertime—and Working Ain’t Easy

Providing flexible hours during the summer months is often appreciated by employees and can help boost engagement. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM for best practices on managing staff during the summer months.


Summertime is that season when "the livin' is easy," as the famous tune by George Gershwin goes—a season when work often takes a back seat to pool parties, barbecues and beach vacations.

How do employers keep workers' heads in the game when their toes are itching for the sand? Or how do they plan for the disruption that summer holidays and vacation schedules inevitably bring? What are their best practices for keeping productivity high?

In the health care industry, patients' needs mean productivity can't fluctuate with the seasons. At Maine Medical Center in Portland, nurse manager Michele Higgins oversees a staff of 70 on an adult general medical unit.

"Summer is busy in health care, especially at a level-one trauma hospital such as Maine Med, but we continue to care effectively for patients, and we remain patient-centered," she said.

Anticipating higher patient traffic in the summer months, the hospital pushes out its June, July and August schedules as early as March. Staff view the schedules, are reminded of guidelines for taking vacation time, and plan time off around shifts or swap shifts with co-workers.

But what happens when an employee unexpectedly calls out "sick" over the Fourth of July weekend? A pool of floating in-house nurses responds to shortages. When the pool of nurses cannot meet the demand, managers ask staff to cover shifts for incentive pay. According to Higgins, a 10-year Maine Med veteran, the numbers typically work out and the medical center maintains favorable nurse-to-patient ratios. But she's always prepared to show up in scrubs and jump in as needed. "Being present is important to me," she said. "I make myself accessible and stay positive, supporting the staff and recognizing their efforts."

Higgins rewards her staff with hospital-sponsored special events throughout the summer. These include "nurses' week" at the beginning of May, when employees win gift cards and goody bags in daily raffles, participate in a book swap, and play games like cornhole. Later in the summer, senior leaders host staff appreciation lunches, smoothie breaks on the patio and an ice cream bar. The hospital also reserves box seats for each of its 23 units at minor league baseball games at Hadlock Field in downtown Portland.

"Maine Med is a great place to work," Higgins said. "But busy is the norm."

Workers Appreciate Flexibility

For employees who are parents, juggling work and school-age children who are either home for the summer, at camps or in day care can be challenging—and expensive.

Recognizing this, some employers observe summer hours so parents can start and end the workday earlier. Employees at Princeton University call it quits at 4:30 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day.

River City Dental, a dental office in Williamsport, Md., operates on an 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. schedule in June, July and August. Office manager Lori Robine reports that the employees, many of whom are parents, appreciate the flexibility of the shortened workday and increased free time.

Workplace flexibility is another benefit that can boost spirits—and productivity—during the summer months. Maine Medical Center can't tweak its summer hours, but fewer meetings are held, and they're even put on hold in July.

When summer arrives, workplace productivity doesn't have to suffer. Employers can look for opportunities to be flexible with scheduling and dress codes, find ways to recognize and reward employees, and host events that celebrate the warm months.

Michele Poacelli is a freelancer based in Mercersburg, Pa. 

SOURCE: Poacelli, M. (12 July 2019) "Summertime—and Working Ain’t Easy" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/employee-engagement-in-the-summer.aspx


Culture is what employers ‘do when no one is looking’

Second to compensation, culture is one of the primary reasons employees leave. According to a recent survey, 30 percent of job seekers left new positions after 90 days because of company culture. Read this blog post to learn more.


Employers advertise their values to attract like-minded talent, but if organizations don’t practice what they preach, they risk watching that talent walk right out the door.

Second to compensation, company culture is one of the primary reasons employees leave a company, according to the 2018 Jobvite Job Seeker Insights Survey. A good fit is so important that 30% of job seekers left brand-new positions after just 90 days because they didn’t like the company’s culture, the study said.

“It’s interesting that people think about culture in terms of what they want it to be, not what it actually is,” Mita Mallick, head of diversity and cross-cultural marketing at Unilever, said Wednesday at the Greenhouse Open Conference. “Culture is defined by what you do when no one’s looking.”

Mallick and Jennifer Turner — an HR strategy consultant at Alphabet, Google’s parent company — engaged in a panel discussion on creating an inclusive company culture during the conference. As HR professionals managing large teams, they agreed employers need to take initiative to establish healthy work environments.

“Creating an environment where women and people of color feel comfortable needs to be a priority,” Turner said. “Including their voices is how you make that happen.”

Turner recognized that some marginalized employees won’t feel comfortable speaking up about problems with company culture — especially if they have less job experience. Mallick and Turner said it’s helpful for these employees to find allies in senior level coworkers who can advocate for them.

“Early in my career, I know I didn’t feel comfortable raising my hand and saying, ‘That’s not OK,’” Mellick said. “I’m much more confident now.”

Mallick spoke about a time when she felt she needed to step up for employees who are mothers. Unilever was in the middle of planning a new campus in New Jersey, complete with a mother’s room for nursing. After viewing the plans, Mallick said it was clear the designers didn’t ask any of their female employees what they’d like to get out of the room. From her own experience as a mother, she said it would be most helpful if the room also functioned as a co-working space; the plan she was presented with didn’t have those elements.

“I asked [the men], ‘Have you ever nursed before?’ And, of course, they said no,” Mallick said. “Some of the men were getting grouchy, saying they were just trying to do the right thing. But that’s just an example of failure in not trying to connect who you were trying to serve.”

“If you don’t, it happens organically,” Mallick said. “There are people who will try to fill the culture.”

Turner spoke briefly about Google’s transition from startup to global enterprise, a change that required the company to redesign its culture. She said Google was able to bridge traditional office hierarchies with Google’s original culture by training managers to act like coaches. The founders hoped this management structure would perpetuate their original value — teamwork.

“Our founders felt uncomfortable with the word ‘management,’” Turner said. “But you need it at larger companies to organize jobs.”

Both women emphasized the importance of conducting regular employee surveys to determine engagement levels. Mellick said lower-level employees often feel more comfortable providing honest feedback in surveys. She believes this is the best way to “hold leadership accountable.”

“Sometimes there are some bad actors who continue to slip by without living by your company’s values because they produce results,” Mellick said. “It’s important to listen to employee feedback because these productive jerks can be an overpowering force that creates fear in your workforce.”

Turner said employers who are serious about their company’s core values need to conduct regular performance reviews for managers and take their lower-level employees’ feedback seriously.

“We want our leadership to stand up for us and believe what comes from their mouth,” Turner said. “If leaders don’t live by [the company’s] values, how can the culture be that way?”

SOURCE: Webster, K. (14 June 2019) "Culture is what employers ‘do when no one is looking’" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/alphabet-unilever-discuss-workplace-culture


Why your company needs a culture deck

Do you have a strong company culture? Many HR professionals will recommend that employers create strong, positive company cultures as a way to best attract and retain talent. Continue reading to learn more.


Ask any HR professional how an employer should best attract and retain talent, and they’ll likely tell you that they need to create a strong, positive company culture.

But they’re also likely to say it’s easier said than done.

Sure, you can help attract employees with salary and benefits — but any other employers with the right data or a good broker can match those enticements. However, the culture at an organization is something that is not so easy to replicate.

Building a culture isn’t done by issuing a memo. The C-suite has a clear role in building the culture of an organization, but it can’t dictate it. Instead, most corporate cultures take hold based upon the behavior of employees. No matter how much the CEO wants “empathy” to be a company value, it’ll never happen if you hire a bunch of people who aren’t empathetic. The example the C-suite sets will have a far greater impact on culture than what they say.

To shape and influence the culture, one of employers’ best tools is a culture deck — which breaks down your company’s culture, core values and mission into clear, easy-to-absorb pieces.

It’s been 10 years since Netflix published the first culture deck to the internet. In 125 slides, the company outlined its values, expected behaviors and core operating philosophy. In the decade since, it’s been viewed more than 18 million times. Many other companies have followed suit with their own versions of a culture deck.

Done well, a culture deck is a promise made among the people at a company, regardless of what role they’re in or what level they’re at. A culture deck unifies thinking around how everyone is going to behave, and what matters most to them. A culture deck can galvanize what’s already happening inside the organization, and help you chart a course into the future. It can serve as an important filter in the hiring process, as prospective employees either get excited about working in a culture like yours’ or self-select out. A culture deck can infuse your mission, vision and values throughout the company, making your culture top of mind for everyone and part of their everyday conversation, and serve as a terrific introduction during new employee orientation.

If you think a culture deck could help your company, here are five keys to ensuring the deck has a positive impact for your company.

It needs to ring true. While a culture deck must be aspirational, it also must be rooted in truth. If it’s wishful thinking, employees are going to roll their eyes and you’re not going to create much cohesion.

You need to give it high visibility. Consider that research shows people need to hear something seven times before it starts to sink in — if you communicate the culture deck once a quarter, it’ll take almost two years for people to begin to get on board. The culture deck needs to be talked about in meetings. It needs to be shown on video screens throughout your offices. This can’t be a PPT that’s posted to the intranet and forgotten.

The CEO needs to be a champion. While the CEO can’t simply dictate culture from on high, if they aren’t actively on board people will notice; the tone at the top needs to be pro-culture deck. How seriously the CEO takes the culture deck determines how important it is to employees. If the CEO brings it up in all-hands meetings, that shows how committed they are to building a positive culture.

You need other champions, too. It’s good to identify a number of ambassadors throughout the company. These folks can be counted on to talk about parts of the culture deck with their colleagues. When business discussions are happening, these are the people that will say, “There’s that section of the culture deck that we should consider in this discussion.” When people start using the culture deck as a decision-making tool, that’s when you know you’re on the right track.

Remember that your culture is about more than just the deck. The culture deck is just one tool of many. It needs to be a centerpiece of your culture conversations, but simply creating the deck does not automatically mean you’ve created a culture.

Your company is a living, breathing organism — it will grow and change over time. And that means your culture must also adapt. The culture deck is not written in stone, but is a guide that can enhance communication, help team members live the corporate values and become better employees, assist you in hiring people that fit better and thereby reduce employee churn, and ultimately to help your company thrive.

SOURCE: Miller, J. (3 April 2019) "Why your company needs a culture deck" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/why-employers-need-a-culture-deck?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


Creating a culture of recognition

Does your corporation have a culture of recognition? Companies can experience an increase in engagement, productivity and retention when employees are recognized for their work. Read this blog post to learn more.


When employees are recognized for their work, employers can see gains in engagement, productivity and retention.

But such efforts must be more than a one-time event; to really enjoy the benefits, employers need a culture of recognition, experts say. This has to start at the top and include clearly defined company values.

Live the culture you want

"A purposeful, positive, productive work culture doesn't happen by default — it only happens by design," S. Chris Edmonds, founder of The Purposeful Culture Group, told HR Dive via email.

And while HR can influence culture, a recognition culture must start at the top, experts say. And it must be part of an employer's performance management strategy.

Management can signal what's important, what it needs employees to care about, Scott Conklin, VP, HR at Paycor, said. "You have to live your words," he told HR Dive, adding that "if not seen at all levels, people aren't going to do it."

Senior leaders must create credibility for these "new rules" by modeling valued behaviors and coaching on them every day, Edmonds said. Coaching means senior leaders must praise aligned behaviors everywhere they see them and redirect misaligned behaviors in the same way. Only when senior leaders model these behaviors will others understand that these new rules aren't optional, Edmonds said.

In addition, Edmonds said, the organization must measure how well leaders are modeling the valued behaviors. This measurement often comes in the form of a regular values survey, generally twice a year, where everyone in the organization rates their boss, next-level leaders and senior leaders on the degree to which those leaders demonstrate the company's valued behaviors. Only by rating leaders on valued behavior alignment can values be as important as results, Edmonds said.

And only when everyone — from senior leaders to individual team members — demonstrates valued behaviors in every interaction will the work culture shift to purposeful, positive and productive, Edmonds said.

Create an industrial constitution

Many employers don't communicate their values well, Conklin said.

The path to great team citizenship can be clearly defined by creating an organizational constitution that includes a servant purpose statement explaining how the organization specifically improves quality of life for its customers — and defines values and measurable valued behaviors, strategies and goals, Edmonds said.

If company values don't explicitly define exactly how you want people to behave, they'll struggle to model your values, Edmonds continued. If an organization values integrity but doesn't define it in measurable terms, people won't know exactly how they're supposed to behave, he explained.

Find what works

Traditional models of employee recognition are good, but they're becoming outdated in some cultures, Conklin noted. Your recognition program has to fit your culture, he said.

SOURCE: Burden, L. (26 November 2018) "Creating a culture of recognition" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/creating-a-culture-of-recognition/542845/


Don't Mistake Perks for Corporate Culture

Are you mistaking great employee perks for great corporate culture? Too often, companies confuse employee perks with corporate culture. Continue reading to learn how to differentiate the two.


Too often, companies confuse perks and culture. Leaders think that to create a great culture, they should go purchase ping-pong and pool tables, get a keg for the office, or offer four-day workweeks. But these are all perks, not culture, which are two very different things. If a company only focuses on adding flashy perks, they may attract an employee, but they won’t retain them.

Don’t get me wrong, perks are great, but if there are beanbag chairs and no one likes each other, that doesn’t accomplish much. Allowing your employees to bring dogs to work is a perk. Texting an employee after they had to put their dog down is culture.

Culture is made up of emotion and experiences. It’s the intangible feelings created by tangible actions. It’s about caring for your people and creating a sense of community that allows employees to feel connected to something bigger than their individual role. It’s allowing them to feel comfortable to be themselves. Culture is creating an experience that employees wouldn’t otherwise be able to have. It’s spending the time to actually listen and support them in their personal lives, both good and bad. It’s about asking for their opinion and then acting on the feedback.

Perks are short-term happiness. They will attract talent, but if companies aren’t investing in professional and personal development, if they’re not willing to spend the time listening and gauging individual motivators, if there is a lack of empathy for an employee who is struggling with a personal issue, the employee will leave as soon as they are offered a higher paycheck elsewhere. It’s like a relationship: If all you get are flashy gifts from your significant other without any emotional investment or support, it will fizzle.

Culture is transparency, and that is a two-way-street. If leaders expect their staff to be transparent, they too have to be transparent with their staff. They stand up in front of their co-workers and share their mistakes that have cost money, damaged confidence and produced tears and heartache. They share mistakes to show employees, new and old, that if you are running 100 mph, mistakes will happen, but the future success will overshadow them. That you can learn from them.

What about the companies that have their core values of integrity and honesty painted on their walls, but when influential employees go against them, they’re not penalized? That’s fake. Culture is when leadership removes someone from the organization who is bringing others down regardless of them being the company’s top producer. They are dismissed because that is the right thing to do for the team.

Culture is holding people accountable. Pushing them to be better. Training them to learn how. Developing their skills and then allowing them to execute the directives. When people are challenged and pushed and they become better, you are establishing culture.

Building a culture is hard work. It’s not a one-month or one-year initiative. The truly great places to work—the ones that get all the recognition and accolades—didn’t start investing in employees for the awards. The awards were ancillary.

An employee who thinks of jumping ship can compare perks easily, but culture is much harder to evaluate. Instead of focusing on temporary benefits, leaders should focus on creating an environment which makes your company hard to leave.

SOURCE: Gimbel, T. (14 November 2018) "Don't Mistake Perks for Corporate Culture" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/dont-mistake-perks-for-corporate-culture

Originally posted on LaSalle blog.


Wanted: Female financial advisors to shrink industry gender gap

Recent studies show that just 16 percent of all financial advisors are women, creating a substantial gender gap. Do you want to close the gap?


If you want more female financial advisors, leverage the ones you already have.

That’s among the findings of the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Financial Advisor Satisfaction Study, which says that despite the fact that women control 51 percent of assets, just 16 percent of all financial advisors are women.

That kind of a gender gap is nothing to be proud of, especially since it also finds that female financial advisors are generally more satisfied and loyal to their firm than their male counterparts.

That said, female advisors have “some unique pain points” that firms looking to better their position in the industry would be wise to correct.

“The wealth management industry clearly recognizes that aligning the gender mix of advisors with the shifting demographics of investors is critical for their success,” Mike Foy, director of the wealth management practice at J.D. Power, says in a statement. Foy adds, “But firms that want to be leaders in attracting and retaining top female talent need to differentiate on recognizing and addressing those areas that women’s perceptions and priorities may differ from men’s.”

The study, which measures satisfaction among both employee advisors and independent advisors, bases its evaluation on seven factors: client support; compensation; firm leadership; operational support; problem resolution; professional development; and technology support.

Considering that even though overall satisfaction with firms is improving, women are “more satisfied and loyal, bigger brand advocates.” The study finds that female advisors’ average overall satisfaction score is 786 among employee advisors—an impressive 59 points higher than among their male counterparts. Among independent advisors, overall satisfaction among women is also higher, at 793, topping their male counterparts by 39 points.

In addition, female advisors also are more likely than male advisors to say they “definitely will” remain at the same firm over the next 1–2 years (68 percent, compared with 56 percent) and are more likely to say they “definitely will” recommend their firm to others (60 percent, compared with 50 percent).

But as far as female advisors are concerned, their firms fall short in a number of areas. Women are significantly more likely than men, the report finds, to say they do not have an appropriate work/life balance (30 percent, compared with 22 percent). And 90 percent of women who do have that balance say they “definitely will” recommend their firm, while only 68 percent of those who do not will do so.

Women are also less likely than men to say they “completely” understand their compensation (60 percent, compared with 66 percent) and less likely to believe it reflects their job performance (60 percent, compared with 68 percent). They’re also less likely than men to believe mentoring programs are effective (44 percent, compared with 53 percent).

The mean tenure for female advisors at their current firms, the study reports, is 18 years, while the mean tenure for male advisors at their current firms is 20 years.

SOURCE:
Satter, M (13 July 2018) "Wanted: Female financial advisors to shrink industry gender gap" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/07/12/wanted-female-financial-advisors-to-shrink-industr/


3 Ways to Reshape How You Communicate About Benefits with Millennials

Communicating the benefit needs amongst generations and can cause confusion when keeping up with the satisfaction of your younger employees. Ensure millennial happiness with these tips on their unique benefit standards.


As two millennials ourselves, we know what most people think about Generation Y. Many use terms like “techy,” “entitled” and maybe even “lazy” to describe our generation.

But, the reality is today’s millennials are more global, civic-minded and, though you may not expect it,financially conscious than any other generation. And, according to the Pew Research Center, we now represent 35 percent of today’s workforce.

Millennials are also now getting married and starting families. And yes, purchasing more benefits products through their employers as a result.

As we millennials grow up, it’s important to reconsider how you communicate with us about benefits—because it’s a lot different than how you’ve communicated with other employees in the past.

For example, consider your Gen X and Baby Boomer employees for a moment. When you communicate about benefits with them, it’s relatively straightforward. You probably use tools like email, in-person meetings, flyers and newsletters. And messaging probably revolves around safety, reducing risk and explaining the finer points of the benefits themselves.

But when you’re talking about benefits to millennials, things should be a little different. We’re more digitally fluent than other generations. We’re demanding more flexibility—in our work and family lives. And, we’re increasingly cost-conscious.

It’s a different approach. And, we want to talk about three key ways you can start to reshape how talk with millennials more effectively when it comes to benefits:

For millennials, it’s all about the emotion and sense of responsibility. One of the most interesting findings we’ve picked up over the last few years when communicating with millennials has been to focus messaging on making an emotional connection. Highlight the peace of mind benefits will provide. Discuss the fact that purchasing benefits like disability, life and critical illness insurance through their employer is the right, and responsible, thing to do.

In a recent survey conducted on behalf of Trustmark Voluntary Benefit Solutions “providing peace of mind” was the number one reason millennials gave for why they enrolled in key benefit areas. While this was true across all generations in the study, millennials chose “it’s the responsible thing to do” more than others as a secondary reason for purchase. That emotional connection tied in with responsibility is absolutely key when talking to this demographic.

Millennial stereotypes don’t apply. If you’re communicating with millennials, most people would think digital technologies like text messages and social media would be the way to go. However, that’s not the case. According to Trustmark research, millennials listed “meeting in person” and “calling a representative” as their top preferred channels for communicating during enrollment periods—followed by digital communications channels. Surprising, right? It probably shouldn’t be, given millennials’ desire for more personalization in multiple facets of their lives.

Value, convenience and high-level messaging are key. Through our research, we found that millennials react favorably to messaging around value and convenience—so be sure to hit on those points throughout the enrollment process. For instance, explain why coverage is needed or why an employer-paid policy is not enough. Talk about benefit policy costs in comparison to other low-cost items, like a daily cup of coffee. Discuss the value of employer contributions—and what those contributions can mean to millennials’ bottom lines. Also, make sure to share the convenience and ease of payroll deductions; how their employer is simplifying things by making the deduction and payment for them.

Finally, remember, when it comes to benefits, millennials aren’t as concerned about the details of their insurance plans. They want to understand the basics—what’s covered, how much it costs, and why they might consider a specific offering over another. Resist the urge to focus on the fine print, and keep messaging at the higher levels.

Magic number 3

One more thing that may help reshape your approach to communicating with millennials: The number three. That’s the minimum number of times you should be communicating with millennials during your enrollment process. Our research found that employees remembered and appreciated benefits more when they saw three or more distinct communications. In fact, 72 percent of employees who received three types of benefits communication rate themselves “likely” or “very likely” to recommend their employer based specifically on their benefits program.

Does that help give you some ideas for how to reshape your approach to communicating with millennials about benefits? Overall, just make sure to remember that we millennials are looking for personal and professional offerings from our employers that are unique to us—including benefits. And be sure you’re ready to talk with millennials using the right messaging, the right tools and the right cadence to ensure success.

SOURCE:
Dahlinger, M and Moser, C (27 June 2018) " 3 ways to reshape how you communicate about benefits with millennials" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/06/27/3-ways-to-reshape-how-you-communicate-about-benefi/


How faking your feelings at work can be damaging

Putting up a fake smile on Monday morning is sometimes unavoidable. There could be consequences to carrying a heavy emotional labor load to get over the Monday Blues.


Imagine yourself 35,000 feet up, pushing a trolley down a narrow aisle surrounded by restless passengers. A toddler is blocking your path, his parents not immediately visible. A passenger is irritated that he can no longer pay cash for an in-flight meal, another is demanding to be allowed past to use the toilet. And your job is to meet all of their needs with the same show of friendly willingness.

For a cabin crew member, this is when emotional labour kicks in at work.

A term first coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, it’s the work we do to regulate our emotions to create “a publicly visible facial and bodily display within the workplace”.

Simply put, it is the effort that goes into expressing something we don’t genuinely feel. It can go both ways – expressing positivity we don’t feel or suppressing our negative emotions.

Unhelpful attitudes such as ‘I’m not good enough’ may lead to thinking patterns in the workplace such as ‘No-one else is working as hard as I seem to be’ or ‘I must do a perfect job’, and can initiate and maintain high levels of workplace anxiety -  Leonard

Hochschild’s initial research focused on the airline industry, but it’s not just in-flight staff keeping up appearances. In fact, experts say emotional labour is a feature of nearly all occupations in which we interact with people, whether we work in a customer-facing role or not. The chances are, wherever you work, you spend a fair portion of your working day doing it.

When research into emotional labour first began, it focused on the service industry with the underlying presumption that the more client or customer interaction you had, the more emotional labour was needed.

However, more recently psychologists have expanded their focus to other professions and found burnout can relate more closely to how employees manage their emotions during interactions, rather than the volume of interactions themselves.

Perhaps this morning you turned to a colleague to convey interest in what they said, or had to work hard not to rise to criticism. It may have been that biting your lip rather than expressing feeling hurt was particularly demanding of your inner resource.

But in some cases maintaining the façade can become too much, and the toll is cumulative. Mira W, who preferred not to give her last name, recently left a job with a top airline based in the Middle East because she felt her mental wellbeing was at stake.

In her last position, the “customer was king”, she says. “I once got called 'whore' because a passenger didn't respond when I asked if he wanted coffee. I’d asked him twice and then moved to the next person. I got a tirade of abuse from the man.”

“When I explained what happened to my senior, I was told I must have said or done something to warrant this response… I was then told I should go and apologise.”

“Sometimes I would have to actively choose my facial expression, for example during severe turbulence or an aborted landing,” she says. “Projecting a calm demeanour is essential to keep others calm. So that aspect didn't worry me. It was more the feeling that I had no voice when treated unfairly or extremely rudely.”

During her time with the airline, she encountered abuse and sexism – and was expected to smile through it. “I was constantly having to hide how I felt.

Over the years and particularly in her last role, handling the stress caused by suppressing her emotions became much harder. Small things seemed huge, she dreaded going to work and her anxiety escalated.

“I felt angry all the time and as if I might lose control and hit someone or just explode and throw something at the next passenger to call me a swear word or touch me. So, I quit,” she says.

She is now seeing a therapist to deal with the emotional fallout. She attributes some of the problems to isolation from family and a brutal travel schedule, but has no doubt that if she hadn’t had to suppress her emotions so much, she might still be in the industry.

Mira is not alone. Across the globe, employees in many professions are expected to embrace a work culture that requires the outward display of particular emotions – these can including ambition, aggression and a hunger for success.

The way we handle emotional labour can be categorised in two ways – surface acting and deep acting

A few years ago, the New York Times wrote a “lengthy piece about the “Amazon Way”,describing very specific and exacting behaviour the retail company required of its employees and the effects, both positive and negative, that this had on some of them. While some appeared to thrive in the environment, others struggled with constant pressure to show the correct corporate face.

“How we cope with high levels of emotional labour likely has its origins in childhood experience, which shapes the attitudes we develop about ourselves, others and the world,” says clinical and occupational psychologist Lucy Leonard.

“Unhelpful attitudes such as ‘I’m not good enough’ may lead to thinking patterns in the workplace such as ‘No-one else is working as hard as I seem to be’ or ‘I must do a perfect job”, and can initiate and maintain high levels of workplace anxiety,” says Leonard.

Workers are often expected to provide good service to people expressing anger or anxiety – and may have to do this while feeling frustrated, worried or offended themselves.

“This continuous regulation of their own emotional expression can result in a reduced sense of self-worth and feeling disconnected from others,” she says.

Hochschild suggests that the way we handle emotional labour can be categorised in two ways – surface acting and deep acting – and that the option we choose can affect the toll it takes on us.

Take the example of a particularly tough phone call. If you are surface acting you respond to the caller by altering your outward expression, saying the appropriate things, listening while keeping your actual feelings entirely intact. With deep acting you make a deliberate effort to change your real feelings to tap in to what the person is saying – you may not agree with the manner of it but appreciate the aim.

Both could be thought of as just being polite but the latter approach – trying to emotionally connect with another person’s point of view – is associated with a lower risk of burnout.

Jennifer George’s role as a liaison nurse with a psychiatric specialism in the Accident & Emergency department at Kings College London Hospital puts her at the sharp end of health care. Every day she must determine patients’ needs – do they genuinely need to be admitted, just want to be looked after for a while or are they seeking access to drugs?

“It’s important to me that I test my own initial assumptions,” she says. “As far as I can, I tap into the story and really listen. It’s my job but it also reduces the stress I take on.”

“Sometimes I’ll have an instinctive sense that the person is trying to deceive, or I can become bored with what they’re saying. But I can’t sit there and dismiss something as fabrication and I don’t want to.”

This process can be upsetting, she says. Sometimes she has to say no “in a very direct way”, and the environment can be noisy and threatening. “I stay as much as I can true to myself and my beliefs. Even though I need to be open to what both fellow professionals and would-be and genuine patient cases say to me, I will not say anything I don’t believe and that I don’t believe to be right. And that helps me,” she says.

When things get tough, she talks to colleagues to unload. “It’s the saying it out loud that allows me to test and validate my own reaction. I can then go back to the person concerned,” she says.

Ruth Hargrove, a former trial lawyer based in California, also faces tricky interactions in her work representing San Diego students pro bono in disciplinary matters. “Pretty much everyone you are dealing with in the system can make you labour emotionally,” she says.

One problem, says Hargrove, is that some lawyers will launch personal attacks based on any perceived weakness – gender, youth – rather than focusing on the actual issues of the case.

“I have dealt with it catastrophically in the past and let it eat at my self-esteem,” she says. “But when I do it right, I realise that I can separate myself out from it and see that [their attack] is evidence of their weakness.”

Rather than refuting specific, personal allegations, she simply sends back a one-line email saying she disagrees. “Not rising to things is huge,” she says. “It’s a disinclination to engage in the emotional battle that someone else wants you to engage in. I keep in sight the real work that needs to be done.”

Those who report regularly having to display emotions at work that conflict with their own feelings are more likely to experience emotional exhaustion

Hargrove also has to deal with the expectations of clients who believe – sometimes unrealistically – that if they have been wronged, justice will prevail. She understands their feelings, even as she has to set them straight.

“I empathise here, as a parent, with their thought that there should be a remedy, even when I know it’s not going to be achievable. It helps me that this feeling is also true to me.”

Remaining true to your feelings appears to be key – numerous studies show those who report regularly having to display emotions at work that conflict with their own feelings are more likely to experience emotional exhaustion.

Of course, everybody needs to be professional at work and handling difficult clients and colleagues is often just part of the job. But what’s clear is that putting yourself in their shoes and trying to understand their position is ultimately of greater benefit to your own well-being than voicing sentiments that, deep down, you don’t believe.

Leonard says there are steps individuals and organisations can take to prevent burnout. Limiting overtime, taking regular breaks and tackling conflict with colleagues through the right channels early on can help, she says, as can staying healthy and having a fulfilling life outside work. A “climate of authenticity” at work can be beneficial.

“Organizations which allow people to take a break from high levels of emotional regulation and acknowledge their true feelings with understanding and non-judgemental colleagues behind the scenes tend to fare better in the face of these demands,” she says.

Such a climate can also foster better empathy, she adds, by allowing workers to maintain emotional separation from those with whom they must interact.

Where it is possible, workers should be truly empathetic, be aware of the impact the interaction is having on them and try to communicate in an authentic way. This, she says, can “protect you from communicating in a disingenuous manner and then feeling exhausted by your efforts and resentful of having to fake it”.

SOURCE:
Levy, K (25 June 2018) "How faking your feelings at work can be damaging" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20180619-why-suppressing-anger-at-work-is-bad


Top 10 health conditions costing employers the most

Conditions that impact plan costs can be problematic. Here is a look into the top 10 health conditions hitting the hardest on employers wallets.


As healthcare costs continue to rise, more employers are looking at ways to target those costs. One step they are taking is looking at what health conditions are hitting their pocketbooks the hardest.

“About half of employers use disease management programs to help manage the costs of these very expensive chronic conditions,” says Julie Stich, associate vice president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans. “In addition, about three in five employers use health screenings and health risk assessments to help employees identify and monitor these conditions so that they can be managed more effectively. Early identification helps the employer and the employee.”

What conditions are costly for employers to cover? In IFEPB’s Workplace Wellness Trends 2017 Survey, more than 500 employers were asked to select the top three conditions impacting plan costs. The following 10 topped the list.

10. High-risk pregnancy

Although high-risk pregnancies have seen a dip of 1% since 2015, they still bottom out the list in 2017; 5.6% of employers report these costs are a leading cost concern for health plans.

9. Smoking

Smoking has remained a consistent concern of employers over the last several years; 8.6% of employers report smoking has significant impact on health plans.

8. High cholesterol

While high cholesterol still has a major impact on health costs- 11.6% say it's a top cause of raising healthcare costs- that number is significantly lower from where it was in 2015 (19.3%).

7. Depression/ mental illness

For 13.9% of employers, mental health has a big influence on healthcare costs. This is down from 22.8% in 2015.

6. Hypertension/ high blood pressure

This is the first condition in IFEBP's report to have dropped a ranking in the last two years. In 2015, hypertension/ high blood pressure ranked 5th with 28.9% of employers reporting it is a high cost condition. In 2017, the condition dropped to 6th with 27.6% of employers noting high costs associated with the disease.

5. Heart disease

This year's study found that 28.4% of employers reported high costs associated with heart disease. In 2015, heart disease was the second highest cost driver with 37.1% of employers citing high costs from the disease.

4. Arthritis/back/musculoskeletal

Nearly three in 10 employers (28.9%) say these conditions are drivers of their health plan costs, compared to 34.5% in 2015.

3. Obesity

Obesity is still a top concern for employers, but slightly less so than it was two years ago. In 2017, 29% of employers found obesity to be a burden on health plans. In 2015, 32.45 cited obesity as a major cost driver.

2. Cancer (all kinds)

Cancer has become more expensive for employers. Now, 35.4% of employers report cancer increasing the costs of health plans, compared to 32% in 2015.

1. Diabetes

The king of raising health costs, diabetes has topped the list both in 2015 and 2017. In the most recent report, 44.3% of employers say diabetes is among the conditions impacting plan costs.

SOURCE:
Otto. N (18 June 2018) "Top 10 health conditions costing employers the most" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/slideshow/top-10-health-conditions-costing-employers-the-most