Employers: Make small talk with your remote workers

Working remotely is becoming a trend across many companies, and with that may come a lack of communication between employees and employers. Being intentional with communication strategies is necessary, especially to overcome different challenges that may arise within the working remotely environment. Continue reading this blog post to learn more regarding practices for managing and communicating with remote workers.


Technology makes it easier than ever to work from home, but it’s not the most important ingredient for managing a productive remote workforce.

While full-time remote work is still uncommon, employers are using the benefit to help their workforce achieve better work-life balance. Last year, 69% of employers allowed employees to work from home as needed, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2019 Benefits Survey. And 42% of employers agree to let workers do it part-time, or select days of the workweek. As this perk continues to trend, it’s crucial for employers to adopt a strategy for managing people they don’t see every day.

“As a manager, people skills are crucial when your team isn’t working in the same space,” says Melissa Marcello, associate vice president at Champlain College Online — a Vermont-based employer with a large remote workforce. “When you’re relying on technology to get the work done, you really need to be intentional about your communication strategy to be successful.”

Marcello spoke with Employee Benefit News about best practices for managing remote workers.

What are some of the challenges of having a remote workforce?

While working from home gives employees the flexibility to live wherever they want and maintain better work-life balance, it can be challenging for managers to monitor everyone. Communication has to be more proactive when you can’t walk over to someone’s desk to talk about a project. Teams also need to be more organized and set clear deadlines when team members are working in different time zones.

What strategies do employers need to manage a remote workforce?

Good management skills need to be even more pronounced when you’re managing a team scattered all over the country. Managers need to have a clear vision and set clear goals to make sure everyone on the team is successful. They also need to put effort into developing relationships with individual team members and the group.

How do managers foster relationships with remote workers?

By checking in with them regularly, whether it’s by instant messaging, video conferencing or phone calls. And don’t just talk about work; ask them about what’s going on in their personal lives and about their interests. Send them funny videos over instant messaging. None of these things are wasting time. It’s what you’d do if you saw them every day in an office setting. These are the little things that build strong teams.

What tools do you need to successfully incorporate remote workers?

You need to have a space where everyone can participate in projects even when you’re not all together at the same place, or time zone, working on something. There are many digital platforms that accomplish this; our organization has been successful using G Suite.

It’s one thing to have the tools. It’s another thing to set expectations on how we use those tools and when to provide feedback. A good manager is able to harness digital tools and set the norms for a team, even if they’re in different locations.

How can remote employees ensure they remain productive?

Creating a sacred, designated work space in the home is really helpful. Claim a room in the house where you can shut the door and be dedicated to work, so everyone in the house knows you need to focus. If that’s not an option, coworking spaces are becoming increasingly popular — and you don’t have to worry about keeping your personal life and work separate.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (10 February 2020) "Employers: Make small talk with your remote workers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/employers-communicate-with-your-remote-workers


corporate meeting

How to Manage Intergenerational Conflict in the Workplace

With there being at least four generations working together in the workplace, there can be multiple multi-generational conflicts that come into fruition. Although the success of a company should be the common goal for the workforce, it can be difficult to manage the conflict between each of the generations that are a part of the same organization. Read this blog post to learn about how to handle conflicts between multiple generations in the workplace.


When Brian Formato began working as an HR manager for Golden Books, the editorial staffers of the now-defunct publisher of children's books were mostly in their late 50s or early 60s and had been with the company for 25 years or longer.

After the company was purchased, it added more than 200 new jobs in one year, with most new hires being recent college grads. The new generation of employees brought fresh ideas but were also far more focused on immediate gratification than long-term success, Formato said. As a result, many veteran employees took early retirement because they couldn't stand by and watch the company they had devoted their careers to change so drastically overnight.

"What was left was a group of high-energy amateurs that lacked the industry knowledge, as well as the discipline, to negotiate attractive deals with the writers," Formato said. Revenues soon fell. "After more than 50 years in business, the company was forced into bankruptcy."

While this may sound like a typical clash between Millennials and Baby Boomers, it's noteworthy that this happened before Millennials were in the workforce and when most Boomers were in their 40s. However, it does highlight the perennial clash that occurs—in every generation—between newcomers with fresh perspectives and more-experienced elders.

There are at least four generations now in the workplace: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. Managing a multigenerational workforce with so many different perspectives, experiences, values and goals poses a unique organizational challenge for company leaders, managers and HR professionals. However, "generational differences" aren't always the real issue.

"Companies invest millions of dollars in training and development because of their beliefs about generational differences," said Jennifer C. Deal, a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C., and co-author of What Millennials Want from Work: How to Maximize Engagement in Today's Workforce (McGraw-Hill Education, 2015). "They do it because they believe it's true, even though the evidence doesn't support those beliefs."

Deal believes that life stage and position are better predictors of behavior than the generation a person was born into. "Most intergenerational conflicts are fundamentally about power or clout," she said. "A young person who wants more clout wants to be noticed. They have new ideas that aren't being listened to. An older person wants their experience to be recognized and appreciated. Everyone wants to be heard and respected."

We need to be careful about generational research because it puts people in a box, said Val Grubb, author of Clash of the Generations: Managing the New Workplace Reality (Wiley, 2016) and CEO of Val Grubb and Associates in New Orleans. "The key to understanding someone's behavior is to look at the individual, and the best way to find out how to motivate and engage is to ask them what matters to them."

Establishing Norms for Working Together

 

Haydn Shaw still finds value in traditional generational research, as long as it does not lead to stereotyping.

"Statistical generalizations are an aid to conversation, not a substitute for it. When it comes to understanding another person, nothing replaces conversation," said Shaw, author of Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart (Tyndale Momentum, 2013). "The greatest fear in my work is that people will try to shortcut by using the categories rather than the conversations."

To stimulate productive conversations, Shaw has identified numerous "sticking points" where generational differences tend to emerge, particularly around the use of technology, communication, feedback, time management, work/life balance and organizational structure. Managers need to start conversations at those points so they can better understand the situation.

In Tammy Erickson's experience, misunderstandings about time and place are common among team members from different generations.

"Older generations tend to be more linear and traditional, while younger generations are looser and more spontaneous around time and place," said Erickson, CEO of Boston-based consulting firm Tammy Erickson Associates. To resolve those differences, she recommends that managers determine which norms work best for the team based on collective preferences and the work that needs to be accomplished.

Preferences around the use of technology is another potential sticking point. Generally, older employees tend to prefer e-mail, while younger employees prefer texting. While preferences matter, experts say the needs and goals of the team as a whole should take priority over any individual preference.

According to research conducted by Kathryn Bartol, a professor of leadership and innovation at the University of Maryland, College Park, communication among team members improves significantly when teams match the technology to the task. While text-based media is generally more useful for sharing daily information, for example, video chats and telephone conversations are better for brainstorming, problem-solving and relationship-building.

Shaw has developed a five-part process to help resolve these differences:

  1. Acknowledge. Talk about generational differences. "You can't solve a problem if you don't acknowledge it exists."
  2. Appreciate. Focus on the "why," not the "what," and the common needs. "The 'what' divides us. The 'why' is a uniter."
  3. Flex. Agree on how to accommodate different approaches.
  4. Leverage. Maximize the strengths of each generation. For example, if an organization decides to use the messaging platform Slack as a communication tool, there will inevitably be people who are uncomfortable with a technology they don't recognize or understand. A manager or leader can recruit an older team member who is comfortable and experienced in using this technology to coach, train and mentor the novice Slack users.
  5. Resolve. Determine which option will yield the best results if flexing isn't enough.

Dismantling Stereotypes One Relationship at a Time

 

"Stereotyping is a symptom of discrimination. It's important to treat people equally but not necessarily the same," Formato said. "Self-awareness is the key to effectively managing generational differences. Managers must be in touch with their own beliefs, values and work attitudes and understand that these may be different from the people they manage."

Managers and leaders need that self-awareness to make sure their own biases are not skewing how work is distributed. "Subtle things that leaders do can undercut respect for diversity of age," Grub said. "Who do you give plum assignments to? Do you automatically assign younger employees to technology because you assume older employees can't handle it? These biases stifle enthusiasm and innovation."

In an Addison Group study of 1,000 workers representing multiple generations, 90 percent reported satisfaction with the diversity of age ranges in their workplace. However, the study also found that 35 percent feel their company's culture and processes favor one generation over others. Forty-five percent of respondents feel their employers are biased toward Millennials.

Rather than prefer one generation over another, organizations need to develop and recognize the unique value of each individual, as well as the synergy that can be created between people with different experiences and perspectives.

Formato encourages companies to use appreciative inquiry to advance that goal. Appreciative inquiry focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses by recognizing that people with different perspectives and experiences and at different life stages are all able to work collaboratively.

The leader can also help team members build positive relationships by encouraging them to get to know each other better. Volunteer programs often promote this kind of camaraderie, as do team-building exercises.

Formato uses Patrick Lencioni's personal histories activity to help team members build trust and find common ground. Each person on a team prepares a slide with photos and answers these three questions:

  1. Where did you grow up?
  2. How many siblings do you have, and where do you fall in that order?
  3. Describe a unique or interesting challenge or experience that shaped who you are.

"This activity always brings a team closer together," Formato said. "People find common experiences, and they get to know the whole person."

This can happen spontaneously as well. When the president of a small New York City foundation asked his employees to share stories about their sports activities in high school, he was delighted to learn that there was a high school fencer on his team. What he didn't anticipate is how the younger women (most of whom were administrative staff) would end up bonding with a much older female executive when she lamented how, in a pre-Title IX era, there weren't a lot of sports teams for women. This led to an equally interesting conversation about life lessons learned through team sports and other team activities.

Although the president started the conversation as an icebreaker, he opened the door to a deeper discussion about what it means to be a member of a team and how each person's personal history informs his or her participation as a team member.

Uniting Around a Common Purpose

 

When team members rally around a common vision, purpose or goal, there is often a greater sense of unity that, in turn, translates into a better customer experience.

When Formato first began working with a small software-as-a-service company in Santa Clara, Calif., the CEO and senior leadership wanted him to help the team become more closely aligned. One of his first efforts to do so was to ask the team, "What does this company do better, special or different?"

The answers were not well-aligned. After diving deeper into their successes, they discovered that while the software solution was important, what they were really selling was their knowledge and ability to manage relationships.

"They build trust with their clients and are truly focused on customer success," Formato said. He describes this as their "groove" and emphasizes that, as they scale, they must keep their focus on the customer experience. It's a reminder that, as the company continues to grow, customer retention will still be as important as new-customer acquisition.

Although each member of the team has personal strengths, weaknesses and preferences, what unites them all is striving toward a common purpose and set of goals.

"It's up to the leader to make sure they are leveraging their strengths and working together as a team," Formato said.

SOURCE: Hirsch, A. (05 February 2020) "How to Manage Intergenerational Conflict in the Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/How-to-Manage-Intergenerational-Conflict-in-the-Workplace.aspx


Wacky interview questions may help employers hire the best workers

More and more employers are asking unconventional interview questions in efforts to get to know candidates better. While traditional interview questions are a great way to open an interview, unconventional questions help a hiring manager dig deeper. Read this article for more on how unconventional questions may help hire the best workers.


The job prospect has aced all the standard interview questions, but off-the-wall questions may be the best trick employers can use to glean insight into how a hot prospect thinks.

Imagine that a candidate has skillfully answered what his top strengths and some weaknesses are. Now consider asking: "Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?" Or, what would that candidate do if she found a penguin in the freezer? Could she guess how many basketballs would fit inside the interview room?

While traditional interview questions are a great way of opening the interview and making a candidate feel comfortable, unconventional questions can move the interview beyond a rote Q&A session to an authentic conversation that can help a hiring manager learn more about a candidate.

These questions may sound like they are from some wacky game show. But they are real interview questions being asked by today’s employers. These questions aim to dig deeper and get to know the candidates better.

These questions are intended to surface information related to a candidate’s ability to problem-solve and understanding their motivations. Unusual job interview questions typically don’t have any right or wrong answers. These questions are an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate that they can think fast on their feet, show poise under stress, think outside the box, and reveal more of their personality.

This can also be a great way to assess culture fit. A question that asks a candidate “if they could be any animal, what would it be and why?” can provide insight into a job seeker’s personality and thought process. Understanding these attributes is key to determining whether or not a candidate would mesh well with company culture.

Unconventional questions don’t have to be completely off the wall. Instead of asking a candidate about their greatest weakness, hiring managers should consider asking things like, “what did you learn about yourself in your previous role?” and “what challenges did you face in this role and how did you overcome them?” Answers to these questions provide the hiring manager with visibility into how a candidate learns from different situations, as well as their ability to problem-solve.

Enhancing candidate experience is another good reason to ask unusual interview questions. Repeating the same questions through several rounds of interviews is not only tedious for the candidate, but it does not reflect well on the employer brand. Changing questions up will make the process more engaging and valuable for both the candidate and the hiring manager.

An unconventional approach to interview questions should not be overused nor should these types of questions be asked for the sole purpose of throwing a candidate off guard. Each question should be aimed at gaining a clear understanding of a candidate’s work style, values and motivations to determine if they are a good organizational fit.

While interview questions like "how would you sell hot cocoa in Florida?" or “if you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?” are certainly unconventional, hiring managers are now using this approach to elicit natural, unrehearsed responses that reveal more about candidates from how they think and how they react under stress, to their personality and what motivates them. Digging deeper and getting to know candidates with unconventional interview questions provides valuable insights that can help hiring managers make the best hires for their organization.

SOURCE: Blanco, M. (13 December 2019) "Wacky interview questions may help employers hire the best workers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/wacky-interview-questions-may-help-employers-hire-the-best-workers


6 steps to enhance your recruiting strategy

According to recent data from PwC, more and more potential employees are turning down job offers because of bad recruitment experiences. Often, when job candidates have a poor experience while applying for a job, they share the details of their encounter with friends, family and social media. Read this blog post for six steps employers can use to enhance their recruitment strategy.


Employers may be contributing to their organization’s bad reputation without even knowing it during the recruiting process

A strong labor market is presenting employees with more options, allowing them to weigh potential employers against each other, and eliminating the need to accept the first offer they get. Unique and inventive recruiting strategies are vital in attracting the right talent to your organization, but more potential employees are turning down job offers because of bad recruiting experiences, according to data from PwC.

Employers can develop some bad habits when it comes to recruiting, like dragging out the process and even ghosting candidates. When potential employees have a poor experience applying for a job with a company, they are going to share the details of that encounter with friends, family and the world at large thanks to social media.

“Job seekers today expect the hiring process to be streamlined, efficient and customized to their personal preferences, with effortless technology and sincere human interactions,” says Bhushan Sethi, a workforce strategy leader at PwC.

However, very few organizations are providing this experience, according to the PwC survey of 10,000 job seekers. Not only can a bad recruiting experience drive candidates away, it can also create lasting damage to an organization’s reputation as an employer.

“Leaders have an opportunity to gain an edge in the battle for talent by delivering a superior recruiting experience to every candidate, even those who don’t receive an offer,” Sethi says.

But there are ways to make a candidate’s recruiting experience more positive, even if they don’t ultimately get an offer. Here are six steps organizations can take to deliver a “first-rate” recruiting experience to potential candidates.

Find a balance between tech and human interaction

The human interactions candidates experience during the recruitment process makes a stronger impression than any digital experience, the survey shows. “Candidates want positive, direct human interaction throughout the recruiting process, whether that’s in person, over the phone or via email,” Sethi says. “Two-thirds of candidates said personalized initial outreach makes them more likely to apply for a position.”

Technology does have an important role to play in the recruiting process. However, recruiting technology is typically designed with the enterprise, not the candidate, in mind, Sethi says. Employers should look to utilize technology that streamlines routine tasks or makes the hiring process easier for job applicants. About 44% of those surveyed by PwC say they’re open to using automation and technology options for routine touchpoints and to get information during the recruiting process. Another 65% said they would like if an organization had an application dashboard so they could track their progress.

Communicate often and keep the process quick

More than half of job seekers (56%) said they would discourage someone else from applying for a job with a company where they had a bad recruiting experience, according to PwC data. A majority of job seekers (92%) said they’ve experienced poor recruiting practices at some point in their career. Candidates pointed out the two most frustrating behaviors by recruiters: dragging out the process by more than a month and recruiters who withdraw communication with no explanation.

“These practices are rampant: 61% of candidates said they’ve simply stopped hearing from an organization during the hiring process,” Sethi says. “And 67% gave up pursuing a role because the recruiting process took too long.”

Ask for social media details

About 50% of job seekers said they’d be willing to share their social media data with potential employers if it helps to determine a better job and organizational fit. Checking out a potential employee’s social media allows HR to understand more about the candidate. But candidates are only willing to share their social media data if the right privacy measures are in place. Recruiters can gain candidate’s trust by being transparent. About 78% of those surveyed by PwC said they expect the recruiting process to be clear on how personal data is used. About 77% of candidates said they wouldn’t apply for a job if they felt their privacy and information wasn’t protected.

Highlight the rewards potential employees most desire

Upskilling, personal flexibility and inclusion are three key aspects of workplace culture that have become more desirable among candidates than salary, according to PWC. Additionally, candidates are willing to give up 11.7% of their salary for more flexibility and training.

Give candidates a way to experience the company’s culture first hand

Today’s candidates are looking for more than a job, the PwC survey notes. They want an employee experience that provides a sense of purpose and pride.

“Culture is so meaningful that 33% of C-suite-level candidates said they’d take a pay cut to work for a mission-driven company that aligns with their ideals,” Sethi says.

It can be challenging for recruiters to provide an accurate sense of a company’s culture. Recruiters can help candidates experience this firsthand by holding networking and other social events.

Always be mindful of your reputation

When candidates have a bad recruiting experience it does more damage than recruiters realize. “It can cause lasting reputational harm and even hurt your chances of hiring the workers who are hardest to find,” Sethi says.

Almost half of candidates (49%) working in high-demand sectors like tech, banking and energy say they would be more likely to turn down a job due to a bad recruiting experience. Of those surveyed by PwC 71% say working for a company with a good reputation as an employer is more important than working for a well-known customer brand.

“That’s good news for small brands jockeying for talent with big-name competitors,” Sethi says. “You can gain an edge by cultivating and promoting a strong, positive reputation. It’s also a call to action for bigger brands: you can’t rely on name alone to attract talent.”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (9 December 2019) "6 steps to enhance your recruiting strategy" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from 6 steps to enhance your recruiting strategy


Company Gifts That Workers Hate

Gift cards, water bottles and coffee mugs are just a few examples of workplace gift ideas that employees do not want or make them feel unappreciated. According to a new survey, more than 8 in 10 employees have received a workplace gift that they didn't want. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Coffee mugs and water bottles emblazoned with the company's logo. Gift cards to stores that employees rarely visit.

These are among the gifts that companies give to workers—and that workers hate, that make them feel unappreciated, and that leave the impression that their employers are thoughtless.

So says a new survey by Snappy, the New York City-based employee engagement company, which found that more than 8 in 10 U.S. employees have received a workplace gift—mostly from managers—that they didn't want.

As the winter holidays approach, and as companies bestow gifts to show they appreciate their employees, the survey of more than 1,000 U.S. workers demonstrates that leaders may want to give more thought to workplace gift-giving.

No Logos, Please

Almost 3 in 4 workers would prefer to get a gift without their company logo on it, according to the survey, which Snappy conducted in September.

"Some employees have reported to me that they don't mind some gifts with logos, but they resent feeling like a 'walking billboard' for the company," said Paul White, who has a Ph.D. in psychology and is co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace (Northfield Publishing, 2019). "Others state that when they are given gifts that have the company's logo, the item immediately is disqualified as a gift—because the focus of the item is the company, not the recipient."

White's research into how more than 100,000 employees feel about the workplace found that only 6 percent identified gifts as the primary way they want a company to show appreciation—far below getting words of affirmation (46 percent), quality time with a supervisor or co-workers (26 percent) and getting help from supervisors or colleagues on a project (22 percent).

"Employees are not saying they do not want tangible rewards … for doing good work," White wrote. "But what the data show is that when choosing comparatively between words of affirmation, quality time or an act of service—receiving a gift is far less meaningful than appreciation communicated through these actions. For example, employees often comment, 'If I receive some gift but I never hear any praise, no one stops to see how I'm doing, or I never get any help—the gift feels superficial.' "

Are Companies Catching On?

One would think, given research and books like White's that demonstrate how people feel about workplace gifts, that companies would adjust their gift-giving practices. Often, they don't because no one asks employees what they thought about the present. Workers are in a tight spot: If they complain or don't seem enthused, they may be seen as ungrateful or demanding, White said.

In fact, the Snappy survey found that of those workers who got a gift they didn't like, 9 in 10 pretended they liked the gift anyway.

"The leader needs to be interested in what the meaning or message of the gift is, [but] most often, it is a rather thoughtless process," White said. "In work relationships, it is the thought that counts. For employees who value gifts, either giving everyone the same item or giving them a generic gift with no thought or personal meaning is actually offensive."

Cord Himelstein is vice president of marketing and communications for HALO Recognition, an employee rewards and incentives company based in Long Island City, N.Y. He said he thinks companies are paying attention to their gift-giving practices. He noted recent data from WorldatWork showed that about 44 percent of recognition programs get updated or changed every year.

"If management isn't actively listening and applying feedback in a systematic way, then there's no point in offering gifts at all," he said. "Nailing down the right balance of rewards that employees really love takes time and effort."

Best and Worst Gifts

Respondents said that some of the "worst" gifts employers ever gave them included a pin, a plaque, and a gift card to a store they'd never visited.

In fact, more than 3 in 4 said a gift card is less meaningful than an actual gift, and almost 9 in 10 admitted that they'd lost the gift card or forgotten that it had a balance on it.

"Gift cards feel transactional and impersonal," said Hani Goldstein, co-founder and CEO of Snappy. "Employers fail to realize that gift cards put a price tag on the recipient's value and make them feel like they're worth $25. Our research points to one key insight: The most appreciated gifts aren't impactful because of their actual monetary value. What matters most is what the gifts are and how they are given."

Employers should remember that things like pins and plaques, Himelstein said, "are commemorative add-ons, not whole gifts, and should always be supplemented with more substantial and appropriate rewards."

Employees also described some of the "best" gifts employers gave them, which included an espresso machine, a trip to Paris, an iPad and a television.

White noted that such expensive gifts can be impractical for a company. They may be appropriate in rare situations, White said, such as rewarding a worker who reached an exceptional goal or recognizing someone who's served long and well.

"Generally, meaningful gifts between employees and supervisors are more impactful when they are personal and thoughtful rather than pricey," he said.

Himelstein said more expensive gifts—at least those more expensive than mugs or pins—"aren't only practical, it's a best practice."

"Nobody wants a cheap gift for their hard work, and employees can always tell when the company isn't trying," he said. "Also, don't lose sight of the fact that you don't need to constantly shower employees with expensive gifts to make them feel appreciated."

SOURCE: Wilkie, D. (14 November 2019) "Company Gifts That Workers Hate" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/gifts-workers-hate-.aspx


7 Tips for Coaching Employees to Improve Performance

How do you align coaching with individual employees’ needs? Employee coaching is central to improving the performance of employees, as well as helping with employee onboarding and retention. Read this blog post for seven tips to effectively coach employees to improve performance.


Managers and leaders are critical to the success of a business, and so are effective coaching skills. Consistent coaching helps with employee onboarding and retention, performance improvement, skill improvement, and knowledge transfer. On top of these benefits, coaching others is an effective method for reinforcing and transferring learning.

While there are many important leadership skills and competencies, coaching is central to improving the performance of entire teams.

A coaching leadership style is proving to be much more effective with today’s employees than the more authoritarian styles that many business leaders operate under. Leaders who coach employees instead of commanding them are able to build a much more talented and agile workforce, which leads to a healthy and growing business.

Think back to your peewee soccer days (or any team sport, really). I bet you can think of three kinds of teams:

  1. The directionless group of kids running around aimlessly, taking frequent breaks for cookies and juice.
  2. The organized group who focused, but still had fun.
  3. The hyper-focused, aggressive group.

And how do you think these teams got the way they did? The coach, of course! The first group had a coddling coach, the second had a balanced coach, and the third had an intense coach living out his failed soccer dreams vicariously through a group of 6-year-olds.

Which seems like the healthiest group? Hopefully, you said the second one. But how do you coach in such a way that produces a healthy team?

Good coaching can be easy to spot, but hard to emulate.

First, you need to meet your team members where they’re at. Coaching isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Some people will need a lot more handholding than others, depending on where they’re at in their job role and overall career.

So before we get to our seven coaching tips, here’s a quick look at how you can align coaching conversations with individual employees’ needs.

How to Coach Employees at Different Levels

The best coaches don’t use the same coaching style for each individual team member. They’re flexible enough to adapt to the situation at hand.

There are five levels of employee performance, and you’ll have to adapt your style for each one to coach them effectively:

  • Novices
  • Doers
  • Performers
  • Masters
  • Experts

Level 1: Novice

Novices are in the “telling” stage of learning. They need to receive a lot of instruction and constructive correction. If you’re confident in the people you’ve hired, then they probably won’t need to stay in this stage very long. Also, watch out for your own micromanaging tendencies – you don’t want to hold an employee back from moving to the next level!

Level 2: Doer

Once Novices begin to understand the task and start to perform, they transition to the Doer stage. They haven’t yet mastered the job, so there’s still a heavy amount of “tell” coaching going on. But they’re doing some productive work and contributing to the team. So, there are now opportunities to encourage new behaviors, and praise Doers for good results.

Level 3: Performer

As Doers start accomplishing a task to standards, they become Performers. Now they’re doing real work and carrying their full share of the load. And they’re doing the task the way it should be done. With Performers, there’s much less “tell” coaching, if any at all. But there’s still feedback, mostly focused on recognizing good results and improving the results that don’t meet expectations.

Level 4: Master

Some Performers may continue to grow on the job and reach the Master stage. At this point, they can not only accomplish tasks to standards, they can do so efficiently and effectively. Plus, they have a deep enough understanding of what should be done that they can teach and coach others on the task. And they know enough to actually help improve standard processes.

Level 5: Expert

Experts are valuable members of the team and may become front-line team leads. Experts don’t need a lot of direction – they’re highly self-sufficient. If anything, they can provide direction to others. Experts don’t necessarily require a lot of recognition and praise to stay motivated, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want any.

7 Coaching Tips for Managers and Leaders

So, now that we’ve gone over the different performance levels your employees can be at, let’s get to what you came for – the tips!

These coaching tips will work with any of those five levels and can help you have more mutually beneficial coaching conversations that will improve overall team performance!

1. Ask guiding questions

Open-ended, guiding questions lead to more detailed and thoughtful answers, which lead to more productive coaching conversations. As a manager or leader, it is critical that you develop strong relationships with your employees. This will help you determine if your employees are curious, have the capacity to perform and improve, and what kind of attitude they have towards their work.

This is where communication skills and emotional intelligence really come into play. Managers must guide conversations both by asking questions and listening, not by giving directives. Employees learn and grow the most when they uncover the answers themselves.

2. Recognize what’s going well

Coaching well requires a balance of criticism and praise. If your coaching conversations are completely focused on what’s not working and what the employee has to do to change, that’s not motivating, it’s demoralizing.

Your recognition of the things your employee is doing well can be a springboard into how they can build from that to improve. We’re not talking about the compliment sandwich here, though, because that coaching technique often devolves into shallow praise that comes off as insincere.

Giving compliments that you don’t actually mean can have a worse effect than not giving any at all, so take the time to think about specific things that are going well, and let your employees know that you see and appreciate them!

Another aspect of this is how the employee likes to be recognized. This is a good question to ask them from the start of your relationship – does frequent recognition help them stay motivated, or is every once in awhile sufficient? Do they prefer recognition to be given publicly or privately? The last thing you want to do is embarrass someone when you’re trying to be a good coach!

3. Listen and empower

Coaching requires both encouragement and empowerment. As a manager and a leader, your job is to build one-on-one relationships with employees that result in improved performance.

Your employees are likely to have a lot of input, questions, and feedback. It’s important for them to know you care enough to listen to what they have to say, so encourage them to share their opinions.

Some employees will have no problem speaking their mind, while others will need a LOT of encouragement before they share an opinion with you openly. Once they do open up, be sure to respect those opinions by discussing them, rather than dismissing them.

4. Understand their perspective

When you’re coaching employees to improve performance and engagement, approaching things from their perspective, rather than your own, will help enormously with seeing the changes and results you want.

Everyone has different motivations, preferences, and personalities, so if you ask questions to help you understand where their “why” comes from and what their preferred “how” looks like, then you can tailor your coaching conversations to align the way they work best with the improvements you’re both aiming for.

For example, maybe you recently moved from an office plan that had lots of individual offices to a much more open-plan, and one of the reps on your sales team has shown a drastic decrease in successful calls. If you start asking questions and find out that this is someone who is excellent in one-on-one conversations, but rarely speaks up in a group setting, then you can see how they’d feel like everyone is listening in on their call, making them less confident than when they had their own space.

With that perspective in mind, you can work with them more effectively on how to get their numbers back up.

5. Talk about next steps

Coaching conversations are meant to yield changes and results, so be sure to clearly define and outline what needs to happen next. This will ensure you and your employees are on the same page with expectations, and provide them with a clear understanding of the practical steps they can take to make changes and improve.

Also, these next steps should be mutually agreed upon – talk about what is reasonable to expect given their workload and the complexity of the changes being made.

6. Coach in the moment

If an employee comes to you with a question about a process or protocol, use this opportunity to teach them something new. If you’re not able to stop what you’re doing right away, schedule time with them as soon as possible to go over it.

Better yet, keep a weekly one-on-one meeting scheduled with each employee so you can go over questions and issues regularly, while maintaining productivity. Coaching employees with a goal of improving performance means making them a priority each week!

7. Commit to continuous learning

Make a commitment to improving your own skills and competencies. If you’re not continuously learning, why should your employees? Lead by example and your team will follow.

Show that you are interested in their success (why wouldn’t you be?). Ask questions about where they see their career going, or how they see their role evolving in the company. Even if they don’t have a plan laid out yet, these questions will make them think about their career and what they want to accomplish within the organization.

Show your employees that you don’t just want them to do better so you look better, but that you’re actively interested in their career, accomplishments, and professional success.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a critical aspect of coaching employees in a way that builds relationships, boosts engagement, and improves performance. Managers and leaders can see greatly improved coaching skills by taking steps to improve their EQ – they go hand in hand!

SOURCE: Brubaker, K. (24 September 2019) "7 Tips for Coaching Employees to Improve Performance" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.humanresourcestoday.com/?open-article-id=11617247&article-title=7-tips-for-coaching-employees-to-improve-performance


Strategies for communicating with all five generations in the workforce

Did you know: Thirty-eight percent of Americans work for a boss who is younger than they are. According to the Labor Department and U.S. Census Bureau data, there are more employees over the age of 85 working than ever before. Read this article for strategies for communicating with all five generations in today's workforce.


The age gap in today’s workforce is getting increasingly wide. Just look at the Democratic primary for the nation’s highest office.

With Pete Buttigieg, 37, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78, running for president, the age range of the job applicants for the biggest job in the U.S. now spans four decades. There are also more workers over 85 working than ever before, according to Labor Department and U.S. Census Bureau data.

Here’s another fact: Today 38% of Americans work for a boss who is younger than they are, said Lindsey Pollak, author of “Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace,” at the Atlantic’s Aging Up conference on Wednesday.

“This is the first time in our country's history that we have five distinct generations in the workplace,” said Pollak, who has spent more than 10 years researching and studying millennials. “They are the largest generation in the workplace. You've heard a lot from millennials today, but all of the rest of us are here too.”

“To succeed in this environment, however you approach it, you have to think about all of those generations,” she said.

How can employers win the war on talent with such a diverse age range in the modern workforce? Pollak uses the example of a music remix to frame various engagement strategies — an idea she got based on her interview of a DJ. For example, playing a remix of a classic song at a party could entice both the younger and older generations to get on the dance floor, she said.

“[The DJ] said the trick is to play a remix because the older people at the party recognize the classic and say I know that song. And they come and dance,” Pollak said. “The younger people recognize the remix… and they come and dance. So the solution to a five-generation workplace is not either-or. We did it the millennial way or we do it the boomer way. It's always about, how can we bring everybody together?“

Pollak offered three examples of how employers can appeal to multiple generations. The first centers on recruitment. Employers should recruit from across generations. One example was a solution by a pool and beach club in Galveston, Texas, which began recruiting older workers after they experienced a downturn in teenage applicants, she said.

“[The beach club] looked around and said, who really comes and swims here every day? It's the people over 50 who want a low-impact exercise,” she said. “And so they started putting up posters saying, do you want to turn your passion into a career?”

The idea worked. Lifeguard staff became people over 55 including one 83-year-old lifeguard, Pollak said.

A second strategy involves communication, she said. Asking employees about their preferred communication style is one key way to ease multigenerational differences.

“The simple [strategy] here is to not look for the one way that everybody wants to communicate. There isn't one. It depends on your personality. It depends on the work that you do. It depends on your personal preferences,” she said.

The solution is to simply get in the habit of asking everyone at work how they prefer to communicate. Asking employees their communication style of preference — whether that be over text, a phone call or social media — can help improve communication.

Employers should look for mentoring opportunities, along with reverse mentoring experiences, where younger workers can help guide older workers on new skills, she said.

“Mentoring is an example of a classic practice that should never go out of style. There is nothing old fashioned or outdated about mentoring,” she said.

Mentoring also goes in both directions. Junior staff may be more proficient using various apps, for instance, and be good candidates to train other colleagues. To have a successful multi-generational workforce, employers should consider input from employees in a variety of age groups.

“Think of yourself as having a multigenerational board of advisers,” Pollak said. “What if you had a person from each generation who was advising you on how to look at the world and how to think about your job and your career?”

SOURCE: Siew, W. (31 October 2019) "Strategies for communicating with all five generations in the workforce" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/strategies-for-communicating-with-all-five-generations-in-the-workforce


Consider these 4 strategies to boost employee engagement

One way HR departments can boost employee engagement is by developing a holistic employee benefits package. Making sure your benefits plan suits a diverse multi-generational staff is essential to keeping employees engaged. Read this blog post for four strategies to help boost employee engagement.


The foundation of any high-performing culture is always a strategic compensation and benefits package. Employee engagement at any company requires the involvement of the HR department — and one way HR teams can boost engagement is by developing a holistic benefits package.

Creating a benefits plan that suits a diverse multi-generational staff is key to keeping staff engaged at every age and in every department. What were once non-traditional benefits are now becoming mainstream. For example, offering student loan repayment plans instead of 401(k) incentives to motivate younger staff, or voluntary benefit choices for employees with specific health issues.

See Also: 5 reasons employers should offer student loan repayment benefits

Even the way an office is ergonomically designed can benefit employees. Adding a walking treadmill or offering a standing desk option helps foster productive work, which directly leads to greater employee satisfaction.

This is a complex equation, and getting it right is challenging. We have hard, candid conversations with employers surrounding what enjoyable, relevant work means. From there, we can establish the purpose behind engagement, creating goals and strategies that offer recognition, growth and the opportunity to voice ideas.

Employees want holistic support for their overall health and wellbeing. Employers are expanding their view of employee benefits to include many more aspects of health and wellbeing — from work environment, convenience services and onsite facilities, to attendance and leave policies, flexible work arrangements and organizational discounts.

See Also: ‘Lifestyle’ choice: An emerging benefit could attract and retain employees

What do employers gain from these benefits? A healthy, adaptable and engaged workforce prepared for the future of work and ready to drive business success.

What we know works

The key to engaging employees with benefits is to apply a strategic design thinking methodology, a planning method that starts with an understanding of an organization’s specific needs.

One size fits one, not all. In the past, efforts were made to make one program work for everyone, but every staff member in the workforce now expects answers for their individual needs, concerns and health risks. Offering flexible benefits or voluntary coverage is a powerful tool — and can help employers gain a productivity boost with a healthier, more engaged workforce.

Align benefits with the whole person. Benefits should align with all aspects of employees’ lives in order to truly support health, wellbeing and work-life balance. This includes the social systems they are part of, their passions, their work habits and personal life events. Nutrition advice, health literacy training and support for personal interests are all possibilities for boosting engagement, physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

See Also: Do I Still Need Life Insurance Once I Retire? Your Questions Answered

Look at the data. Organizations have access to more health data than ever before — and technology makes it easier to analyze — but few employers are fully leveraging this information to design benefits that engage their employees. By analyzing and correlating demographic, health and employee-provided data from varied sources employers can identify which benefit programs workers truly value — and which deliver value.

Use both new and traditional channels to communicate. Organizations must actively market benefits to employees using engaging, relevant and timely communications. Companies can also communicate through technology.

When staff have access to benefits that best support their individual health and wellbeing, organizations will benefit.

SOURCE: Rider, S. (30 October 2019) "Consider these 4 strategies to boost employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/4-strategies-to-boost-employee-engagement-with-benefits


Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: 3 Steps to Active Listening

How is your HR department communicating with your employees? One of the most common complaints people hear about HR professionals is that they don't listen. Read this blog post from SHRM for three practices of active listening.


When I work with executives and managers, a common complaint I hear about HR professionals is "They don't listen. They just tell."

So when I work with HR professionals, I encourage them to adopt three practices of active listening:

  1. The period-to-question-mark ratio.
  2. The EAAR listening method.
  3. Confront, then question.

The Period-to-Question-Mark Ratio

When you're engaged in a conversation, what's the ratio of your sentences that end with periods to those that end with question marks? If you're like most people, the ratio is overwhelmingly tilted toward sentences that end with periods. This could show that you are telling people what to do more often than you are looking for consensus on how to solve a problem. When you engage in a discussion with an executive, manager or employee, keep the ratio in mind. Strive to correct the imbalance by making yourself ask questions. The fact that you ask matters more than what the question is.

People I've coached have found that keeping the ratio in mind acts as a self-regulating device to ask more questions.

The EAAR Listening Method

E: Explore

A: Acknowledge

A: Apply

R: Response

It's a sequence. Begin the discussion with an exploratory, open-ended question: "Ms. Manager, what are the reasons that led you to conclude Mr. Employee should be fired?" "Tell me more." "Please share some examples." "Help me understand."

Once you've explored the other person's position and reasons for it, move to acknowledgment. Get the person to acknowledge that you understand his or her point. "So, Ms. Manager, if I understand you correctly, you believe Mr. Employee should be terminated because of the following reasons… Is that correct?

Although critical, the acknowledge step is often overlooked. Instead of confirming the understanding, the listener makes an assumption, which often proves erroneous and leads to unnecessary conflict. The EAAR method eliminates this possibility. If the person says, "No, that's not my position," simply go back to the exploration step: "I'm sorry. Please explain what I missed."

In your response, apply portions of what the person said, even actual words the person used. Even if your response isn't substantively what the person originally sought, this approach creates optimal conditions for acceptance.

"Ms. Manager, I agree with you that Mr. Employee's behavior is unacceptable. What you described [list the employee's actions] makes a compelling case. However, because of the following reasons, I think termination now would be premature and present undue legal risk.

"Nevertheless, I'm happy to work with you on an intervention strategy. If Mr. Employee is willing and able to close the gap in your legitimate management expectations, he will do so. If not, we will be in a much stronger position to terminate his employment, and I will support you."

Many HR professionals have told me that when they've used the EAAR method, conversations they feared would turn ugly became positive. Instead of a clash of wills and arguments, the discussion became collaborative and solution-oriented.

Confront, Then Question

What if you are the bearer of bad news? You must deliver a message you know won't make the recipient happy.

The approach here is to confront, then question. Make a short opening statement. State your position succinctly and without elaboration. Next, switch to question mode.

You can think of this approach as beginning the EAAR method with a short opening response to frame the conversation.

"Mr. Executive, based on our investigation, we found that Mr. Employee in your department engaged in actions that violate our anti-harassment policy. Although we understand he has been with the company for a long time and is one of your best performers, given the seriousness of the misconduct, we believe the appropriate action is termination of his employment."

Next, go to question mode: "What do you think?" "What questions do you have?" "How do you see things at this point?"

Assuming the executive doesn't respond by saying "Great idea! Go for it!" and wants to argue his or her point, pivot to exploration and start the EAAR process at that point. "I want to make sure I understand you, so please tell me what you agree with, what you disagree with and your reasons."

After that comes your acknowledgment: "Let me make sure I understand you. You agree that Mr. Employee's behavior was unacceptable and violated policy. However, you disagree that the proper remedy is termination. Instead, you recommend a suspension and written warning for these reasons. [List the reasons.] Is that accurate?"

Now you're ready to apply. From what the executive said, extract what you can use in your response.

"I appreciate the fact that you support our investigation and finding of misconduct. Our only disagreement is the appropriate remedy. Your points about Mr. Employee's long service and stellar performance are valid. Yet for these reasons [list them], I still believe termination is called for. How do you suggest we resolve our differing views? For example, should we present them to the CEO and let her decide?"

These types of conversations can go in all sorts of directions, including ones you don't anticipate. That's OK, so long as you don't lose sight of the value of questions during a dispute.

Avoid cross-examination questions, such as "Isn't it true that … ?" Your questions should not state or imply your view. They should be curiosity-based, as you're genuinely trying to find out what the other person thinks.

The confront-then-question approach allows you to go directly to the heart of the matter. Even if you sense rising tension and hostility, the negative emotions will soon be arrested by your open-ended, exploratory questions.

When HR professionals make a commitment to active listening, executives, managers and employees become their biggest fans instead of being their biggest critics.

SOURCE: Janove, J. (9 October 2019) "Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: 3 Steps to Active Listening" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/putting-humanity-into-hr-compliance-active-listening-.aspx


Why mental health in the workplace matters — and what you can do about it

Did you know: Nearly two-thirds of missed workdays can be attributed to mental health conditions. Workplace mental health issues are more prevalent than many may think. Read this blog post to learn more about mental health in the workplace and what you can do about it.


What keeps your employees from showing up for work every day: Flu? Bad back? Car trouble?

Not if your workforce is typical of U.S. employees. The fact is, nearly two-thirds of missed workdays can be attributed to mental health conditions.

Mental health issues in the workplace are much more prevalent — and more serious — than you might think — and Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 6–12) is a great time to think about it. Mental illness is one of the top causes of worker disability in this country, and another insurance company's recent research with employers and employees on mental health in the workplace showed 62% of employees felt mentally unwell at some time in the past year. Even more startling: Among those diagnosed with a mental health issue, 42% have come to work with suicidal feelings.

This type of presenteeism — where employees try to battle through despite their symptoms — can affect the productivity, work quality and morale of your entire team. Not only are those suffering less effective, their co-workers are likely confused and concerned about the behaviors they’re seeing.

The good news is there’s a lot you and your company can do to help.

Mental illness can cover a wide range of conditions. Anxiety disorders are the most common, affecting 40 million adults. They’re highly treatable, yet only 37% of those suffering receive treatment.

Depression — one of several mood disorders that also include seasonal affective disorder and bipolar disorder — is a leading cause of disability worldwide. About 16 million people live with major depression.

But mental health concerns aren’t limited to employees who’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness. Health, finances, personal family relationships, and job satisfaction are all triggers that affect workers’ mental well-being, according to another insurance company’s survey. Even supposedly “happy” events — getting married, having a baby — can cause tremendous stress.

Many employers — hopefully, your company is one — offer mental health resources to their employees to better handle illness and everyday stresses. These can include medical care, employee assistance programs, counseling referrals, and financial and legal counseling.

So far, so good. The problem, however, is a major gap between what HR professionals say they offer and what resources employees are aware of.

For example, 93% of employers in another insurance company’s survey say they offer an EAP — but only 38% of employees realize they have this benefit. Similarly, 90% of employers say their company medical plan includes mental health resources, but only 47% of employees know that. And a quarter of employees surveyed say they’re not aware of any mental health resources at all.

One reason for the lack of understanding about mental well-being resources is the social stigma attached to mental health, and it’s not just among workers: another insurance company’s survey showed 61% of employees feel there’s a stigma in workplace, and 51% of HR professionals agree. And nearly half of both groups say the stigma has stayed the same or gotten worse in the last five years, despite national public campaigns to normalize the conversation about mental wellness.

Most employees (81%) say the stigma associated with mental health issues prevents employees from seeking help. Many of those struggling keep their issues secret for fear of discrimination, reputational problems or job loss. Sadly, more than a quarter don’t disclose their mental issue to their employer because they’re ashamed.

What you can do to help
There are many ways you and your company can open the conversation about mental well-being and provide the resources your employees need to be productive and effective.

  • Communicate with your workforce regularly about mental health resources available to them. Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 6–12) and World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10) offer great opportunities to talk about the topic. Give these resources the same promotion as your other benefits.
  • Encourage senior leaders to participate in the conversation about mental well-being. Showing top-down support helps create a more open, accepting environment.
  • Educate managers about symptoms of mental health issues and how to accommodate employees who need help.
  • Consider the full range of your benefits, beyond health care. For example, financial stress is one of the top factors affecting mental well-being. If you don’t already, consider offering financial planning services or counseling to help employees better plan for their future needs. Benefits such as disability insurance and life insurance — even voluntary coverage that employees pay for themselves — can provide peace of mind and help ease a financial burden during a stressful time.
  • Offer flexible work schedules, including work-at-home arrangements to help employees create better work-life balance.
  • Learn more about mental health issues and solutions, including more tips and best practices for your workplace. Another insurance company’s recent Mental Health Report is a good place to start.

SOURCE: Jackson, M. (7 October 2019) "Why mental health in the workplace matters — and what you can do about it" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/why-mental-health-in-the-workplace-matters