Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: Stop Tolerating Toxicity

HR departments who have a detox mission and address toxic workplace relationships can prove incredibly valuable to their organizations. Not only are employees and their well-being impacted by toxic workplace relationships, but also the organizational success and the well-being of employees' family members. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


In my prior career as an employment attorney and in my current one as an organizational consultant and coach, I have encountered numerous toxic workplace relationships. The cost of these relationships—to organizational success, employee well-being and the well-being of employees' family members—is astronomical.

And the greatest tragedy is this: Almost all of this loss, pain and suffering is preventable.

Why are toxic workplace relationships so common? And why are they tolerated?

The answer to the first question is that good people make bad decisions. Typically, employee relationships start out fine. Employees cooperate and collaborate in their relationships with their bosses and peers.

But then something goes awry. A trust gap opens. The employee does not address the problem promptly, directly and constructively, but the employees' avoidance instinct kicks in. Nothing constructive is done to close the trust gap. As a result, the problem festers and grows. Eventually, any remaining trust evaporates, and the relationship degenerates into aggression, passive aggression or both.

Note that I'm not talking about the incorrigible "work jerk," whose behavior should never be tolerated. Rather, I'm talking about people stuck in toxic work relationships producing jerkish and other negative behavior.

Managers and HR practitioners succumb to the avoidance instinct, too. Although aware of the toxicity, they don't intervene and are wary of wading into others' dysfunctional relationships.

What are the costs of tolerating toxicity?

  • Personal suffering. The immediate parties may think they have nothing in common, but they do: They're equally disengaged and miserable.
  • Work loss. Toxic relationships do nothing to improve the quantity or quality of work, customer service or on-the-job innovation. There is increased absenteeism and what Colleen McManus, SHRM-SCP, an HR executive with the state of Arizona, calls "presenteeism," in which people are at work but not focused on work, dwelling on negativity instead of doing their jobs properly.
  • Secondhand anxiety. Co-workers who witness the toxic behavior suffer, as does their contribution to the organization. They are the truly innocent victims.
  • Collateral damage. Employees affected by workplace toxicity typically bring their stress home. This doesn't reduce their stress; rather, it elevates their loved ones' stress. "So true! In the most serious situations," McManus said, "I have seen greater instances of alcoholism and domestic violence due to problems at work."

How HR Can Help

HR departments with a detox mission can prove incredibly valuable to their organizations and the people in them. It's not hard to identify toxic relationships. The challenge is taking action.

I can say with confidence that intervention is always better than tolerating toxicity. You'd be surprised how easily many toxic relationships can be reset when a skilled third party steps in. HR professionals are ideally positioned to help employees stuck in toxic relationships get back on track. Or, if there's too much baggage, HR professionals can facilitate a respectful relocation of the parties to different positions in the organization. This method is a good way to start.

Many times, a toxic relationship is rooted in an unwitting and unaddressed offense one employee gave the other. As a result, the offended party started behaving differently toward the offender, which produced more offensive behavior, and so on. "I'm always surprised," McManus said, "when I ask the parties to the conflict what a resolution looks like. Often, it's simply an opportunity to be heard."

She adds that a sincere apology goes a long way toward rebuilding trust. "They feel validated, which is important to them."

Sometimes there's a structural misfit in the workers' roles that needs to be clarified, or how the jobs interact needs to be modified. HR can help figure out how the jobs can function without recurrent friction. "This is our profession's bread and butter!" McManus said.

There may be a personality conflict, in which case the parties need better understanding of how to interact with people whose styles differ from theirs. If that can't be achieved, though, there can be an agreement to disagree and respectfully move on—whether to a different position inside or outside the organization.

An HR team that makes a commitment to identify and resolve toxic relationships is empowered by the CEO, and is supported by the leadership team will prove to be incredibly valuable to its organization and the people in it. HR team members can directly coach others to resolve conflicts and show managers how to coach their employees who are stuck in toxic relationships.

There's also a risk management, compliance and claim-prevention component. In my employment lawyer days, most of my billable hours arose from conflict caused by toxic workplace relationships. An HR profession with a detox mission will become painfully costly to my former profession.

SOURCE: Janove, J. (Sept 06, 2019) "Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: Stop Tolerating Toxicity" (Web Blog Post) Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/putting-humanity-into-hr-compliance-stop-tolerating-toxicity-.aspx


Creating High-Performance Teams

Can having a plan for more than the hiring process help both future employees and current? Having a high-performance team is essential in creating strong work environments. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM to learn more about creating high-performance teams at your organization.


Every organization needs its teams to deliver a high level of performance to succeed in today’s business environment. Author Omar L. Harris offers clear guidance on how to hire for, support, and guide high-performance teams.

What are some tips to hiring employees to fit into high-performing teams? 

My top tip for hiring employees to fit into high-performing teams is to understand the key mix of attributes that the high-performing team members possess. Look beyond IQ and pedigree and focus on more attitudinal attributes such as work ethic, passion, solution-orientation, and the maturity to productively manage disappointment and conflict.

What are the stages of forming a high-performance team? 

The stages are:

  • hiring the right W.H.O.M. (work ethic, heart, optimism, maturity),
  • effectively onboarding each team member by getting to know them on a deeper level,
  • helping them accelerate their learning curve,
  • setting clear expectations of their roles,
  • building trust between the team members by encouraging vulnerability and open dialogue, and
  • crafting a clear mission with superordinate goals that bring the team together to achieve something that no one could achieve on their own.

What are the hallmarks of a high-performing team? 

One hallmark of a high-performing team is a level of professional intimacy among the team members, meaning they know each other well both as professionals and as people and enjoy working together. A level of transparency and passion for the work being done that leads to productive conflicts resulting in better decision-making. An adherence to norms that define how every member works together. And an absolute focus on delivering results. The characteristics that make this happen are simply people who work hard, have shared passion, search for solutions with a sense of urgency, and have the maturity to overcome inevitable conflicts and disappointments.

How can senior leadership create a culture of strong teams? 

Focus on creating a team of managers who love achieving results by putting their people in their strengths zones and developing their capacity and talents.

Do high-performance teams vary across companies, industries, or geographies? 

I've had the opportunity to lead teams across the world in the U.S., Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, and people are the same all around the world. People want to be valued. They want to believe in the mission of their organization. They want to have opportunities to develop. So leaders who want to create high-performance teams anywhere in the world need to be able to tap into these commonalities and work tirelessly to create the condition for the success of their people.

How can leaders help struggling teams? 

First understand the source of the struggle. Most issues occur during the team formation and team storming stages. And then level-up their own leadership skills to respond to the challenges of the moment. The best advice I can give is to look to deepen the understanding and connection with each member of the team and by improving each members focus and alignment, you improve the team dynamic by default. Lastly, recognize if the ingredients are off and make the necessary decisions to move poisonous people out of the environment.

What are other things to remember about managing high-performance teams? 

Performance is relative and the goal posts must be continually stretched to keep everyone engaged. Also, plan for succession so as people on the team achieve results and receive greater opportunities, the next generation of team members are ready to step up and continue on the mission.

SOURCE: Harris, O. (15 August 2019) "Creating High-Performance Teams"(Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/creating-high-performance-teams

Turnover Contagion: Are Your Employees Vulnerable?

How are you engaging employees? With employee retention top-of-mind for organizations wanting to stay competitive in today's market, employers need to find ways to ensure employees are engaged and happy at work. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Employee retention is top-of-mind for any organization looking to stay competitive in today’s market. Despite swaths of technological advances, in our knowledge-based, global economy an organization’s key assets are still its employees. Considering this, substantial amounts of research have been published about potential predictors and causes of employee turnover. Most of this research can be classified into two categories: individual-level explanations (e.g., job satisfaction, person-job fit, etc.) or external and organizational-level explanations (e.g., unemployment rates, job demand, etc.). However, only having these two types of explanations ignores team-level and the inherent social aspects of turnover. Specifically, do the behaviors and attitudes of coworker's influence employee’s intentions to quit their jobs?

Quitting is infectious.

People regularly “catch” the feelings of those they work with, particularly in group settings. We’ve all been around someone at work whose sour mood set the tone for the day; their negative emotions dampened the mood of everyone else around them. Employee mood isn’t all that is affected. Surprisingly, the emotions of others influence judgment and business decisions – and this all typically happens without anyone realizing.

In a study on the spread of emotions, groups were created to judge how to best allocate funds in hiring decisions. A confederate (actor) was planted in each group and instructed to display one of four emotions: cheerful enthusiasm, serene warmth, hostile irritability, or depressed sluggishness. Not only did the emotions of the confederates spread to each member of the group but each group’s resulting judgments and behaviors were affected. In groups with a pleasant confederate, members displayed more cooperation, less conflict, and allocated funds more equitably than in groups with unpleasant confederate emotions.

In a related study, researchers looked into the contagion of social contexts on job behaviors. As it turns out, evidence suggests an employee’s decisions to voluntarily leave an organization is influenced by the attitudes and behaviors of their coworkers. They found evidence suggesting job embeddedness (how well employees feel they fit in with their job and the community) and job search behaviors of coworkers predict individual voluntary turnover. An employee’s job embeddedness is the relative strength of their organizational network; weaker bonds or links are easier to break. That is, if a coworker is low on organizational connection (e.g., fewer and weaker relationships with other organizational members) or engages in noticeable job-seeking behaviors (e.g., talking about an application or interview, expressing a desire to leave, quitting, etc.) their colleagues are more likely to choose to exit the organization. As can be imagined, this relationship is amplified when a coworker has both low job embeddedness and visible job-searching behaviors.

People leave organizations all the time. There are several reasons why employees decide to leave organizations - whether it be for personal (relocation of family member), professional (more pay, promotion, career change), or organizational (job or organization redesign). In fact, healthy businesses want some amount of turnover. However, in the case of turnover contagion, your employees are leaving simply because their colleagues are leaving. When a group of employees leave an organization in rapid cycle, it may be due to the influence of their immediate peer group and this should be cause for concern as turnover contagion is likely occurring.

The interplay of social contexts within an organization along with individual and organizational-level predictors adds more to our understanding of the complexity of employee turnover decisions. This is just one piece of the pie – and an important one. Understandably, more research needs to be conducted until just how this phenomenon works is understood, however, based on the evidence, organizations and leaders shouldn’t wait to act.

For one, it’s a tight labor market and has been for some time now. Overall, many employees are looking and leaving. There has been a cultural shift among workers where they feel increasingly less loyalty than before and are even more likely to job hop. To add to this, unemployment is at an all-time low and job growth is climbing. Meaning there are more open jobs than there are workers to fill them. It’s an applicant’s market. These factors, coupled with the sheer cost of replacing skilled employees – speculated to be a whopping 1.5 to 2 times an employee’s salary – should give pause to leaders when they suspect employees have caught the turnover bug.

On the bright side, turnover contagion can be minimized, and companies stand to reap plenty of rewards through emotional contagion. Just like negative emotions create a spiral of negativity, so too can emotions with a more positive valence. For example, leaders can use the infectious qualities of emotions to spread feelings of happiness by expressing gratitude or complementing someone. In addition, increasing job embeddedness and strengthen the bonds your employees have by building more connection with their team, leaders, and other departments can go a long way to reducing turnover.

SOURCE: Ford, A. (13 August, 2019)"Turnover Contagion: Are Your Employees Vulnerable?"(Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/turnover-contagion-are-your-employees-vulnerable


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


The unpaid caregiver crisis is landing on employers’ doorsteps

According to new data, 43 million Americans currently are tending to a family member in need, which can be both physically and emotionally taxing on the caregiver. Read this blog post for more on the unpaid caregiver crisis.


Scott Williams knows firsthand what it is like to support a sick relative. But even after spending 20 years tending to his ailing mother, he didn’t consider himself a caregiver.

“She suffered from multiple chronic conditions, but I never considered myself a caregiver,” he says. “I just thought I was a son who loved his mom.”

Williams, who is vice president and head of global patient advocacy and strategic partnerships at the biopharmaceutical company EMD Serono, realized that because he didn’t think of himself as a caregiver, he wasn’t able to take advantage of the benefit offerings his company had in place for these workers.

“Until I really started to think about it, I didn’t realize how burned out I really was,” Williams says. “I was in that sandwich generation, which is a situation that many caregivers find themselves in sometimes.”

Williams dilemma is not uncommon. There are 43 million Americans currently tending to a family member in need, according to data from LIMRA. AARP estimates that caring for a loved one can cost close to $7,000 out of pocket.

"I never considered myself a caregiver, I just thought I was a son who loved his mom.” Scott Williams

It is also both physically and emotionally taxing — 57% of caregivers need medical care or support for a mental health condition, according to an Embracing Carers survey. About 55% of caregivers say their own physical health has diminished, 54% say they don’t have time to tend to their own medical needs and 47% report feeling depressed.

The caregiving crisis puts employers in a unique position to offer benefits, policies and resources that can ease some of this stress. Indeed, there are some employers that already stepped up. For example, Starbucks launched a new caregiver benefit last year. Amgen and Brinker International, use digital tools to offer caregiving benefits to their workers.

Regardless, the need for employer-provided backup child, adult and senior care options is still largely unmet. Only 4% of employers offer backup childcare services and only 2% offer backup elder care, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management.

The breakdown of communication between the company and the worker may be keeping the majority of employees from accessing the assistance they need. If employers ignore this issue or simply fail to communicate with employees, it can end up becoming a burden that costs the company money or result in the loss of a worker.

But there are some steps employers can take. The first is to identify the responsibilities of the family caregiver so that employers can better address their needs. One of the biggest responsibilities caregivers face is the amount of time they have to spend transporting loved ones, says Ellen Kelsay, chief strategy officer for the National Business Group on Health citing recent data on the subject. These employees often have to leave work early, come in late or take off to get an ill family member to their doctor’s appointments.

“The financial impact is considerable, many of these employees are paying out of their own pocket to support the medical care of a loved one. So there is financial assistance that they need,” Kelsay says. “When you think about the impact on the employee, they [struggle from a] physical, mental and emotional wellbeing perspective.”

About half of unpaid caregivers work full time outside of their home and many have to take leaves of absence or cut back their work hours due to the demands of caring for a family member, LIMRA research shows. A significant portion of employees had to stop working in order to better care for their loved one — about 22% say they voluntarily quit their jobs, 18% had their employment terminated and 13% chose to retire early.

Unlimited PTO, remote work, shared sick time and an employee resource group are just a few offerings employers can offer staff, Williams says. For instance, EMD Serono created an employee resource group for caregivers, a peer to peer network where employers can find dedicated resources, while also having an exchange with colleagues who are going through similar situations.

But there is still more that can be done, Williams says. Training managers to be more understanding of an employee’s needs can go a long way toward bridging the gap. Another option companies should consider is enhancing employee assistance programs to include caregivers, he adds.

“One of the things we see employers doing that can really help is being able to raise the visibility of [the available] resources,” Williams says. “To really ensure that whether you’re a new employee or an established employee in an unpaid caregiving situation that you have access to them.”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (11 July 2019) "The unpaid caregiver crisis is landing on employers’ doorsteps" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/improving-caregiving-challenges-through-the-workplace


The Occupational Phenomenon Called Employee Burnout

According to the World Health Organization, "burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed". Unfortunately, workplaces are dismissing burn-out as an employee's issue rather than a workplace issue. Read this blog post to learn more.


Employee burnout is fast becoming prevalent in many workplaces and is also a recurring theme in my day-to-day conversations with people. Unfortunately, many workplaces dismiss the subject and make it more of the employee’s issue than a workplace issue.

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy.”

— World Health Organization

An organization’s culture and the work expectations in those organizations can foster employee burnout. Below are examples of situations that make employees prone to burnout:

  • Digital Culture: A digital workplace, according to Deloitte, is one where many operational activities are performed over technology devices. These days, you can access your work emails, phone and video conferencing applications, instant messaging tools, and work documents through a single device. It is even more tempting to resist the notifications that continuously nudge you to respond to work-related matters. While I appreciate the digital workplace and understand that it is here to stay, it often implies that we need to be available around-the-clock, even during weekends. You have managers or coworkers sending work requests during early or late hours of the day, leading to a work-life imbalance for the employee. When work begins to encroach into an employee’s personal life, then they are at risk of burnout.
  • Excessive Meetings: Collaboration is a skill required in many workplaces, and there’s no doubt that it is essential. However, some organizations tend to go overboard with their expectations from employees. Study shows that the average employee spends approximately six hours in meetings per week, while senior managers spend about 23 hours in meetings per week, and this increases by the size of the organization. Meetings, whether in-person or virtual, provide excellent opportunities for collaboration. When meetings become excessive and leave employees with little to no time to decompress, this can cause stress for employees and eventually lead to burnout.
  • Dysfunctional Work Environments: In these work environments, employees face issues such as bullying, micromanagement, gossip, favoritism, or microaggression from coworkers or managers. A workplace that encourages such undermining behaviors can cause undue stress, which can eventually lead to burnout.
  • Overworking Top Performers: It is quite easy for managers to overwork the best-performing employees. While the managers have the assurance of quality work, such employees become the victims of burnout because it seems like the reward for top performance is more work. Worse still, burnout is likely to occur when these employees do not receive fair compensation for the work they do.

What are the Signs of Employee Burnout?

The following are some signs of burnout in your employees:

  • Reduced drive and work performance
  • Increased absences from work
  • Frequent tardiness
  • Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression
  • Poor concentration at work
  • Increased sick days
  • Visible frustration
  • Lack of trust in the company and its leaders

If you or your colleagues are exhibiting any of these signs, you might be burned out.

Some Data

  • A 2018 Gallup report states that “two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.”
  • A Harvard Business School article reports that “the estimated cost of workplace stress is anywhere from $125 to $190 billion a year.”
  • An article by The World Economic Forum states that “the annual cost of burnout to the global economy has been estimated to be £255 billion.”
  • Research by Stanford Graduate School of Business states that “workplace stress—such as long hours, job insecurity and lack of work-life balance—contributes to at least 120,000 deaths each year and accounts for up to $190 billion in health care costs.”

The data shows that employee burnout is now a workplace epidemic. To prove the seriousness of this issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” in its latest revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

Ways to Reduce Employee Burnout

  • Create and Maintain a Positive Work Environment: You can do this by being aware of your actions and how they impact those around you. Do not bully or micromanage your employees, or gossip about them to other employees you manage. When making decisions about your employees, be fair and consistent to avoid feelings of favoritism. Also, empower your employees to apply their skills by giving them autonomy. These help to increase satisfaction and create trust in the workplace.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Plan projects ahead of time with your employees, set realistic deadlines or meetings, and be mindful of their personal commitments when assigning projects with tight deadlines.
  • Show Support: Create communication channels for your employees to share their concerns or frustrations with you. Having an open-door policy or weekly check-in meetings where they can share their concerns with you can make your employees feel supported. Listen to them and help to address their issues.
  • Show Appreciation: Recognize your employees for their contributions to your team. Recognition makes your employees, especially your top performers, feel like their work is impactful. When employees feel appreciated, they are more likely and willing to do great work.
  • Promote Self-Care: Encourage your employees to practice self-care by permitting their requests for personal time off or vacation when they need it. You can also encourage them to fully unplug while they are out of the office by not sending urgent requests. Another way to promote self-care is to remove all expectations that employees need to be reachable around-the-clock. Also, do not encourage employees to stay long hours at work.

Originally published on Osasu Arigbe blog.

SOURCE: Arigbe, O. (13 June 2019) "The Occupational Phenomenon Called Employee Burnout" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/the-occupational-phenomenon-called-employee-burnout


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


Engaging employees in healthcare — even while traveling

In 2018, Americans took 463.6 million trips for business, leaving employees unsure of what to do when they get sick or injured while away. Read this blog post for how employers can engage employees who are traveling in healthcare.


Business travel is booming. Americans took 463.6 million trips for business last year. But what happens when a business traveler gets sick or injured while away from home and how can employers help their employees in this situation?

It starts with a simple solution: Make sure you’re providing employees with a health insurance plan that includes coverage outside the state or region where the business is located. While the majority of plans provide coverage for illnesses and injuries that meet the insurer’s definition of an emergency, some plans don’t cover care for common serious, but non-emergency health problems like strep throat, migraine headaches, a sprained ankle or back pain. Employers should ensure they offer at least one plan option that includes either an extended physician and hospital network or coverage for out-of-network care.

If employees need to travel out of the country for business, employers may want to consider offering travel medical insurance, which provides coverage during the period of time while the employee is outside the U.S. and medical evacuation if needed. To ensure employees have all the immunizations they need and are aware of any health risks at their destinations, employers can offer access to or reimbursement for pre-trip visits with a travel medicine specialist.

Even when employees have health insurance that gives them access to care while they’re away from home, connecting with experienced healthcare providers can still be difficult. Some insurers offer phone support for plan members seeking care providers, although often these providers are not heavily vetted for the experience or providing the highest quality care. Health advisory services can also help employees find and connect with healthcare providers in the U.S. and overseas.

When considering health advisory firms, employers should ask how the firm vets the healthcare providers it connects employees with and whether the firm uses a set network of providers or whether it connects employees with the most appropriate providers regardless of their health system affiliation.

Make sure employees know how to find the right type of care

When an employee falls ill or gets injured while traveling for business, her or his first instinct may be to seek care at a local emergency room, but that’s not always the best option. In addition to long wait times, the cost of care delivered in the emergency room is significantly higher than other care settings.

  • Employers can help employees make better choices by providing information about the options available and how to choose the right care setting:
  • The emergency room for serious, life-threatening illnesses and injuries such as chest pain, symptoms of a stroke, serious burns, head injury or loss of consciousness, eye injuries, severe allergic reactions, broken bones and heavy bleeding
  • An urgent care center for conditions you’d usually make a doctor’s appointment for such as vomiting or diarrhea, fever, sprains, moderate flu symptoms, small cuts, wheezing and dehydration
  • A walk-in or retail clinic for minor problems such as a rash with no fever, mild flu-like symptoms, sore throat, cough and congestion, ear pain and eye itchiness or redness
  • Telemedicine or virtual physician visits for minor illnesses and injuries and advice on whether additional care is needed

The key to helping employees know which care setting is the most appropriate is ongoing communication and education, which can take the form of in-person meetings with the benefits team, newsletter articles and email blasts, and video content shared through the company’s intranet channels.

Employees who are living with chronic health conditions should take special steps when traveling for business, including ensuring they have enough of any prescription medication they take and bringing an extra prescription with them for essential medications in case they’re lost in transit.

Ensure employees can quickly share their medical records with providers

Another important part of the healthcare equation for business travelers is ensuring that when they need care while they’re on the road, the healthcare providers who treat them can get quick, secure access to their medical records. Access to these records is important for several reasons:

  • It gives a provider who’s not familiar with the employee’s medical history a comprehensive look at past and current health problems and chronic conditions, medications, allergies or adverse reactions, and treatments and surgeries. Having this information can lower the risk of misdiagnosis, inappropriate care and duplicate care or testing, which not only adds unneeded costs but can also cause harm.
  • This information can be especially important when employees are seriously ill or injured and can’t speak for themselves to share medical history and their wishes about issues like the use of a ventilator or feeding tube.

There are several online services and apps that allow users to upload medical records so they can share them with healthcare providers. Another option is to work with a health adviser who can make sure employees’ records are carefully reviewed to ensure accuracy and stored in a secure universal medical record that can be accessed in minutes by treating physicians anywhere in the world.

Giving employees who travel for business the right resources and guidance can not only increase their peace of mind, it can help make sure they have access to the care they need wherever work takes them.

SOURCE: Varn, M. (18 June 2019) "Engaging employees in healthcare — even while traveling" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/engage-employees-in-healthcare-when-traveling


Improve Talent Retention with this New Approach to Leadership Development

Leadership development strategies will not only prepare future leaders but will also improve talent retention. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Do you have an intentional leadership development strategy?

As Henry Ford once said, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”

Henry Ford’s words have never been more pertinent as organizations struggle to hang onto their top performers in this economy. And though it’s tempting to instinctively go for that new shiny penny when a new leadership role opens up, what if there was already an internal leader poised for the challenge as opposed to looking externally?

Leadership development strategies will not only prepare future leaders but improve talent retention across the organization. After years of developing wide-ranging programs, I’ve seen approaches from structured and intentional succession planning to general leadership training classes for the masses.

When evaluating your own leadership development programs and strategies, there’s only one approach that will set you apart and improve talent performance and retention – and it can be applied to any strategy you already have in place.

Customize Leadership Development for Individual Leaders

It seems like a big ask. Investing more time to tailor your leadership development strategy though is necessary to stay competitive. The generic classes and training programs that have been a product of traditional leadership development strategies are not going to cut it. You must intentionally invest in each leader you’ve identified as top talent.

Take the 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development. The learning and development model corresponds to a proportional breakdown of how people learn effectively, based on a survey asking nearly 200 executives to self-report how they believed they learned:

  • 70% from challenging assignments
  • 20% from developmental relationships
  • 10% from coursework and training

As the survey illustrates, every leader learns differently. It’s important to customize your leadership development strategy based on how a top performer processes information. Not only will this better prepare your internal leaders for their career trajectory within the organization, it’s a unique benefit that will improve your organizational retention and offer them an incentive to refuse external offers.

What does a custom leadership development program look like?

It’s not realistic to design an entire customized program for each individual, as effective as that might be. Instead, customizing your strategy should build on what you already have in place. For example, pair your top performers with a leadership consultant who can give real-time executive coaching in the moment, whether for general leadership development or while integrating into a new leadership role.

Successful facilitators provide tailored growth and development to align the functional, cultural and organizational aspirations of a top performer with the organization to accelerate performance. A leadership development strategy that offers real-time, customizable feedback and growth opportunities is also invaluable to those looking for further opportunities within the organization.

In this war for talent, your current workforce is your best weapon. Intentionally investing in each individual leader by customizing your approach to leadership development will maximize the return on your talent investment, and is one of the best ways to retain talent in this competitive marketplace.

Ginger Duncan, MA is a senior leadership consultant and executive coach with The Human Capital Group, an executive search and leadership advisory firm. She has over 20 years of experience in leadership development, coaching, facilitation and training, plus 11 years leading the talent development function in a corporate setting.

SOURCE: Duncan, G. (3 June 2019) "Improve Talent Retention with this New Approach to Leadership Development" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/improve-talent-retention-with-this-new-approach-to-leadership-development


5 Strategies to Motivate Burned-Out Workers

Looking for ways to motivate burned-out workers? An optimal way to motivate and engage burned-out workers is by rewarding team members for their achievements. Continue reading this post from SHRM for 5 strategies used to motivate burned-out workers.


Robert is a human resources director in a local community hospital who feels the heaviness of low staff morale. Employees are clearly tired, they feel like they're working at their maximum, and they're having a hard time keeping up with the patient load. In fact, due to leaves of absence from co-workers' disabilities and workers' comp, more employees have been working double shifts over extended periods of time. They are showing the classic signs of burnout. Unfortunately, Robert can't simply backfill positions because employees are on protected leaves of absence, and temp agencies and registries have few candidates to offer due to the tight labor market. In short, Robert doesn't know how to stop this apparently endless cycle of staffing shortages, excessive shift coverage, employee leaves and limited position replacements.

"Unless you've got some kind of magic wand to make these all-too-common challenges disappear, you won't have much success in terms of addressing these issues directly and head on," said Terry Hollingsworth, vice president of education and human resources services for the Hospital Association of Southern California in the greater Los Angeles area. "Yes, tightening up your recruitment cycle and opening your network to more temp agencies and registries may help, but those are Band-Aids. The real value lies in looking at the other side of the equation: employee engagement and self-motivation."

Rewarding people for their achievements, it turns out, is an optimal way to motivate and engage a team that feels like it's treading water. Allowing people to assume greater responsibilities and focus on their career development is better for them and for the organization—even when they may be feeling overwhelmed or burned out at the time you initiate the programs that follow.

1. Create a Career Development Pipeline

If your organization isn't already doing so, look for opportunities to build a succession planning program, especially among your hourly workers where career escalation is relatively easy to accomplish.

In Robert's case, the hospital's key challenge lies in finding certified nursing assistants (CNAs) due to market shortages.

"Hospital food service workers, janitors and others might want to pursue their CNA certification as a first step to formally launch their health care careers," Hollingsworth said. "Setting up onsite training classes and allowing on-the-job shadowing can be a game changer in terms of your culture and creating an environment where workers feel motivated and re-engaged. Ditto for developing a training program where CNAs can apply for their licensure to become licensed vocational nurses, the next rung on the nursing career ladder."

2. Develop a High-Po Program

"High-potential (high-po) programs focus on identifying the top 10 or 20 percent of workers in a given classification and awarding and recognizing them for their achievements, while helping them build out their resumes," said Rita Van Vranken, chief human resources officer at the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans in Studio City, Calif.

"High-pos may not be ready to promote just yet, but they set themselves apart as top performers, brand ambassadors, and potential leaders who deserve special levels of acknowledgment and development from departmental and senior management. A structured high-po program serves as an effective recognition and development tool and dovetails nicely into formal succession planning."

Identifying one person from each department or unit gives these individuals more than an opportunity to feel special. They also may, for example, attend advanced classes on leadership, communication and teambuilding; enjoy a once-a-quarter lunch with their regional manager; and benefit from individual development plans that, created in tandem with their manager and department head, will single them out for promotion when the opportunity arises.

3. Develop an Active Employee Recognition Program

"Many organizations fail to realize the importance of both formal and informal recognition programs," Van Vranken said. "More important, though, is that companies that have them in place fail to promote and publicize them. If you have [an] Employee of the Month and Employee of the Year award program that barely gets attention, scrap it temporarily." Instead, try a Shining Star or Employee Spotlight program that recognizes employees who go above and beyond their job's expectations.

"[Pilot] a three- or six-month program that generates a buzz and makes the rewards something to brag about," she added.

Just remember that these types of programs are meant to spark up the troops, and, if you're not rewarding the most-needed behaviors (e.g., accepting double shifts or coming in on weekends), you're missing the main benefit of the exercise.

"Make it real; make it pop; and make sure your messages, values, and activities are all aligned," Van Vranken said.

Don't be surprised to learn that the most dramatic and immediate change in your organizational culture stems from praising employees and recognizing their achievements. And that recognition need not be monetary. In fact, many consulting firms that specialize in reward and recognition programs will tell you that research shows public praise and recognition can be more meaningful to workers than a cash card or check in a sealed envelope.

There are plenty of simple and effective ways for leaders to recognize their employees, from employee photos in the lobby to prestigious parking spots. Whatever you decide, make sure to communicate both expectations and celebrations clearly. Encourage your team members to follow your lead in recognizing others for a job well done. Share praise openly, and consider organizing recognition events to honor bigger accomplishments, especially those reached by teams working closely together.

4. Help Employees Fulfill Their Personal Career Goals

Career development is a key driver of employee satisfaction. Your strongest performers will always be resume builders. Providing opportunities for talented individuals to do their best work every day, combined with training and educational opportunities, will go a long way in helping people achieve their career advancement goals.

Become an organization known for its commitment to professional development. Provide networking opportunities for your staffers to meet leaders from other parts of the organization over team lunch meetings. Serve as a mentor and coach to your direct reports by asking them about their longer-term goals and how you could help them get there.

"Show that you're interested in the whole person, not just the one who shows up at work," Van Vranken said. "You'll likely find that people will respond in kind to the heightened dose of positive attention they're garnering,"

More specifically, Hollingsworth said, "Ask your employees to schedule 30 minutes with you once per quarter to review their progress toward their career goals. Invite them to share their resume with you to help them make the best presentation possible and [add] their work-related achievements to their LinkedIn profiles as well. Remember that when you develop an achievement mentality where employees are adding accomplishment bullets to their resume, you'll create a high-performance culture where high-performers are far less inclined to leave."

5. Plan Ahead

All employees want some sense of job security regarding their future with the company. They likewise want to understand how their efforts contribute to the organization's larger goals, mission and vision.

Share information generously. Ensure that people understand the goals and challenges so they can tie their recommended solutions to the broader picture. Help them learn about your organization and build on their knowledge by collecting information in scorecards, dashboards and other forms of data intelligence.

Likewise, honor the annual performance review process—the one hour per year dedicated to each individual worker as the culmination of the previous 12 months (i.e., the 2,080 hours typically worked). Yes, managers and employees at times express frustration with the annual performance review process, but you'd be surprised how many employees complain about not getting formal feedback—sometimes for years at a time.

Finally, turn your team into corporate futurists: Have them research your organization, industry and competitors. Have them scour the Internet for current trends and patterns in your business, especially those that can impact their careers for the better. As an example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes its Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov/ooh. Send your employees on research missions to the BLS website to determine what the growth trajectory for their particular position is (currently measured in terms of job growth from 2016-26).

If Robert's employees take on this task, they will find career projections for medical assistants, dietitians, home health aides, nurses, massage therapists, phlebotomists and pharmacy technicians, among others. The BLS site outlines national median pay, educational requirements and the all-important "job outlook."

On the job outlook page, the hospital's workers will find a bar chart showing, for example, medical assistant jobs will grow at a rate of 29 percent per year between 2016 and 2026, relative to average job growth in the U.S. of 7 percent (all job classifications).

That's pretty motivating, but there's also an Excel spreadsheet embedded in the page that maps out job growth in particular medical areas relative to the 24 percent overall growth for the entire classification. Robert's medical assistant employees will learn that 10-year job growth projections line up as follows by specialty area:

Outpatient care centers                       +53 percent

Specialty hospitals                              +38 percent

Nursing/residential care facilities       +32 percent

General hospitals                                +16 percent

Wow! How's that for motivating employees to focus on their career development and construct a longer-term career plan to help them isolate the areas where their skills will be needed most? And who knows—Robert may be helping his front-line operational leaders realize that the ones who shine at extracurricular exercises like these just might distinguish themselves as high-pos ready to build the hospital's leadership bench.

SOURCE: Falcone, P. (12 June 2019) "5 Strategies to Motivate Burned-Out Workers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/5-Strategies-to-Motivate-Burned-Out-Workers.aspx