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


As Daylight-Saving Time Ends, Wages & Hour Problems Begin

On November 3 this year, daylight saving time will end in most states. This change presents challenges for employers who have nonexempt employees working at 2 a.m. when the clocks are set back one hour. Read this blog post from SHRM for wage and hour implications that stem from the end of daylight savings time and how to prepare to "spring forward". 


On Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, at 2:00 a.m., daylight saving time will end and in most states clocks will be set back one hour. As it does every year, this change presents a challenge for employers whose nonexempt employees are working during that time.

This wage and hour issue will affect all employers that employ nonexempt employees with the exception of those working in Arizona and Hawaii, both of which do not observe daylight savings time.

Below are some of the wage and hour implications stemming from the end of daylight savings time:

  • Employers are required to pay employees for all hours worked. However, employers whose nonexempt employees are working at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3, must pay them one additional hour of pay unless the start/end times of their shifts are adjusted in anticipation of the time change. In essence, such an employee will have worked the hour from 1:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. twice.
  • Employers whose nonexempt employees are working at that time might owe those employees overtime compensation as a result of the time change. That is, employers must include the additional hour of work in determining the employee's overtime compensation for the week.
  • In addition, employers must take this additional hour of work into account when computing the employee's regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating the employee's overtime rate.

Preparing to 'Spring Forward'

Employers also should be aware of their pay obligations at the beginning of daylight savings time in the spring. Nonexempt employees who are working on Sunday, March 8, 2020, at 2:00 a.m.—when clocks will spring forward to 3:00 a.m.—are entitled to one less hour of pay than they otherwise would have been. So, an employee scheduled to work an eight-hour shift from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. will only have worked seven hours because essentially the employee did not work from 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.

Employers that decide to pay such workers for a full eight-hour shift are not required under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to include that extra hour of pay in calculating employees' regular rate of pay for overtime purposes. In addition, the FLSA prohibits employers from crediting that extra hour of pay towards any overtime compensation due to the employee.

Employers, however, should ensure that they do not have any additional obligations under a collective bargaining agreement or state law.

Hera Arsen, J.D., Ph.D., is managing editor of Ogletree Deakins' publications in Torrance, Calif. Ogletree Deakins is a national labor and employment law firm. © Ogletree Deakins. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission. Updated from an article originally posted on 11/1/2017.

SOURCE: Arsen, H. ( 2 October 2019) "As Daylight-Saving Time Ends, Wages & Hour Problems Begin" (Web Blog Post) https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/compensation/pages/daylight-saving-time-wage-hour-problems.aspx


Why 24/7 Work Culture is Causing Workers to Burn Out

According to Dr. Michael Klein, workplace cultures that encourage employees to be available 24/7 may be causing burnout and other mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Read this blog post from Employee Benefit Advisor to learn more.


Workplace culture that encourages employees to be available 24/7 may be causing burnout and other mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

That’s according to business psychologist and workplace adviser Dr. Michael Klein, who says companies that encourage employees to work anytime and anywhere is making it more likely that burnout will occur.

“The problem now is when you have the ability to work from wherever you want,” he says. “It’s so important for general wellness to make time to exercise, time for family and to not check work email.”

In May, the World Health Organization classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” that is characterized by chronic work stress that is not successfully managed. Research shows that continued stress at work can lead to more serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

As a result, Klein predicts the next few years will see an increased need for on-site mental healthcare which could be offered through employee assistance programs. Offering EAPs, flexible work options and family-friendly benefits like onsite childcare are just some of the ways employers can reduce stress for workers.

And HR may need to take the lead. Misty Guinn, director of benefits and wellness at Benefitfocus, says finding HR professionals that can handle difficult conversations around mental health may be key to addressing the problem. But many are not comfortable enough to have those kinds of conversations.

“Most have yet to achieve that level of comfort with conversations around mental health,” she says, noting that younger generations are often more comfortable talking about mental health issues. “We’ve got to enable people, especially within HR, benefits, and management to have those conversations and be comfortable with them.”

Guinn also says that EAPs alone may not be enough to address mental health issues for workers because these programs are often scarcely utilized. Subsidizing mental health co-pays, work-life balance and PTO policies are benefit options for employers to create a meaningful difference for worker's mental health, she adds.

“Too often employers make the mistake of believing that offering an employee assistance program sufficiently checks off the mental health box in a complete benefits package,” she says. “In reality, these programs generally have low utilization because employees don’t have confidence in how confidential they are.”

Klein and Guinn agree that employers should consider more ways to support the total well-being of employees. Companies who prioritize their people will do better in the long term, Guinn adds.

“Employers need to take purposeful actions within their policies and programs to reinforce their support of total well-being for employees and their families,” she says.

SOURCE: Hroncich, Caroline. (10 June 2019) "Why 24/7 Work Culture is Causing Workers to Burn Out" (Web Blog Post) https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/24-7-work-culture-is-causing-workers-to-burn-out


U.S. Jobs Increase by 130,000 in August

According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. employers added 130,000 jobs this past August and the unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 3.7 percent for the third month in a row. Read this article from SHRM to learn more.


U.S. employers added 130,000 jobs in August, coming in below economists' expectations, and the unemployment rate held at 3.7 percent for the third straight month, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report.

July's employment total was revised down from 164,000 new jobs to 159,000. In the past three months, job gains averaged 156,000 a month after revisions.

"Today's jobs report shows slowing private-sector job growth and slowing wage growth, which—while expected this late in the recovery—is somewhat disappointing after the rapid gains of the past two years," said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at employment marketplace ZipRecruiter.

On Sept. 5, the ADP Research Institute and Moody's Analytics reported private-sector growth of 195,000 new jobs, better than economists' expectations of about 160,000 jobs.

"Despite the slower growth in jobs added, labor force participation did perk up, a sign that the healthy labor market is still drawing in workers from the sidelines," said Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao.

The labor force participation rate—which includes people who are working and those looking for work—ticked up to 63.2 percent, one of its highest readings in years. The proportion of the population currently employed is at 60.9 percent, its highest point since December 2008. And the employment-to-population ratio for workers aged 25-54 reached 80 percent for the first time since January 2008.

Zhao said that the increases signal that the tightness of the labor market is putting upward pressure on labor force participation despite an aging population pulling it down.

Michael Stull, senior vice president at the staffing and recruiting firm Manpower North America, said other positive takeaways from the report are better than expected wage growth and strong hiring in the professional and business, financial and health care sectors.

Job gains in August were led by professional and business services (37,000 new jobs), which includes many technology jobs and the nation's booming health care industry (23,900). Other industries showing gains include finance (15,000) and construction (14,000).

"Health care and professional services have both grown strongly across 2019, carrying the labor market despite weakness in the goods-producing sectors," Zhao said. "Additionally, the increase in temporary help services [15,400 jobs] is a good sign that employers are not cutting back on the most flexible parts of their workforces in the face of recession chatter."

However, Pollak noted that the BLS reported that the private sector only added 96,000 jobs, marking a slowdown from the pace of job growth over the last two years.

Industries like mining and manufacturing are struggling. Mining employment fell by 5,600 jobs and manufacturers have seen a marked slowdown in job creation, with only 3,000 jobs added in August. "In 2018, manufacturing job growth exceeded 10,000 jobs in 11 of 12 months, but this year job growth has been below 10,000 or even negative in six of eight months," Pollak said. "Trade policy uncertainty and a global manufacturing slowdown seem to have brought the 2017-2018 manufacturing boom to a halt."

The retail sector lost 11,000 jobs in August, continuing a trend of month-over-month declines for the seventh consecutive month. "Despite strong consumer spending, increasing labor costs and the rise of e-commerce are keeping retail hiring down even as we begin to enter the holiday hiring season," Zhao said. "We'll be watching the next few reports for signs that the holiday retail hiring season has slowed or that the latest round of tariffs are having a larger effect on the retail industry."

Juiced by Census Hires

U.S. jobs data is now—and will for some time be—inflated by a temporary spike in government hiring for 2020 Census workers. The federal government added 28,000 workers (excluding U.S. Post Office hires) to its payrolls in August. The majority of those—25,000 temporary workers—will go door-to-door over the next several weeks to verify addresses ahead of the 2020 count.

The Census Bureau expects to hire about 40,000 people for this preliminary duty and about 500,000 workers next year for the actual canvassing.

Unemployment Stays Low

The BLS data showed that the national unemployment rate remained below 4 percent for the 18th consecutive month. The number of unemployed people held at 6 million.

"The unemployment rate remains near its lowest level in 50 years, again signaling the strength of the labor market for workers as the number of job openings continues to exceed the number of unemployed workers," Zhao said.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) rose from 1.1 million to 1.2 million in August and accounted for 20.6 percent of the unemployed.

The U-6 unemployment rate—a broader measure capturing both the unemployed, underemployed and those too discouraged to seek work—continued its long decline and held at 7.3 percent for the second month in a row. There were 467,000 discouraged workers in August, about the same as a year ago.

"There are still more discouraged workers than we would expect, given the low unemployment rate," Pollak said. "Discouraged workers are those who are out of work but have not applied for a job in the past four weeks because they think there are none available or none for which they qualify," she explained. "If there were fewer discouraged workers, labor force participation and employment rates would be higher, and more vacancies would be filled."

Wages Inch Up

Average hourly earnings increased 11 cents to $28.11, following 9-cent gains in both June and July. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2 percent.

"At this point in the expansion, we'd expect wage growth to pick up, but it is continuing to stall," said Nick Bunker, a Washington, D.C.-based economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab. "Wage growth continues to be strongest for workers in lower-wage industries."

SOURCE: Maurer, R. (06 September 2019) "US Jobs increase by 130,000 in August" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/bls-hr-jobs-unemployment-august-2019.aspx


What would change if your employees were CEO for a day?

How is your workplace culture? New data shows that employees are 4.6 times more likely to contribute their best work when they feel like their voices are being heard. Read this blog post from Employee Benefits News to learn more about building a strong workplace culture.


When employees feel like their voices are being heard, they are reportedly 4.6 times more likely to contribute their best work, according to SalesForce data. Ultimately, knowing that the company is interested in what employees have to say builds trust and encourages loyalty among members of the workforce.

Respect is the most important leadership behavior, according to a Georgetown University survey of nearly 20,000 employees. More than merely listening, making employees a part of a two-way conversation shows that the company values their opinions.

With this in mind, we set out to develop a process to help Nearmap increase workplace communication. Along the way, we found that creating opportunities for interaction, encouraging honest participation and involving executive participation were all keys to building a stronger corporate culture.

Invite employee interaction

We recognized that we needed a conversation starter to open the lines of communication and spark a little enthusiasm. We discovered that engagement surveys work the best for our circumstances because they’re quick and easy to take, which results in high completion rates.

We like to include thought-provoking questions like “if you were CEO for a day, what is the one thing you would change?” to keep the employees engaged. At first, that particular question provided some of our most entertaining suggestions, including “free umbrellas for all,” “I would like the CEO’s paycheck,” “change my LinkedIn profile,” and “put margarita slushy machines in the kitchen.” When employees saw that the CEO responded to every answer, they realized that we were taking the feedback seriously, and that changed the tone of their responses.

Anonymity invites honest responses

It was essential to Nearmap that we collect unfiltered, honest feedback from our employees. This meant reassuring participants that their responses were completely anonymous. We believe this confidentiality encouraged authentic and candid submissions from employees that otherwise would have remained silent for fear of reprimand or judgment.

For instance, we’ve received excellent insights about driving the strategy and growth of the business, giving Nearmap valuable concepts that we’ve been able to embed into the business.

In addition, we present the survey results back to the employees so they can see how their thoughts align with those of their co-workers. We believe this commitment to being open is an excellent way to motivate honest dialog.

Executive participation leads by example

When the survey concludes, we group all of the responses under different headings, such as collaboration and communication, marketing, mission, planning, product, compensation, recognition, and general. Then, our CEO, Rob Newman, gets together with other executives to provide answers and comments on many of the submissions. In turn, those responses are shared with the employees via the HR newsletter and on our company collaboration app.

In reply to an inquiry about creating a green initiative for the company, our CEO shared a list of active programs that Nearmap was involved in to reduce not only our carbon footprint but also that of our customers as well.

While we may not know what we would change if we were the CEO for a day, we are convinced that employee interaction, honest responses and executive participation are reliable and important ways to make impactful connections with our employees and build a stronger corporate culture in our company.

SOURCE: Steel, S. (13 September 2019) "What would change if your employees were CEO for a day?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/what-would-change-if-your-employees-were-ceo-for-a-day


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


Illnesses, Deaths Tied to Vaping

New reports are showing that the use of electronic cigarettes (vaping) is believed to be responsible for five deaths and 450 severe lung injuries. Continue reading this article from SHRM to learn more.


The use of electronic cigarettes, also known as vaping, is believed to be responsible for five deaths and 450 severe lung injuries in what appears to be a nationwide epidemic, according to new reports.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated and produce vapor that simulates smoking. They can resemble regular cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pens, USB sticks and other everyday items. They do not burn tobacco, but the device heats a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals.

While most employers ban smoking in the workplace, their policies don't always extend to e-cigarette products. However, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health alert on Aug. 30 warned that severe pulmonary disease is associated with using e-cigarette products. The agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, launched a multistate investigation into the lung illnesses on Aug. 1.

"Although more investigation is needed to determine the vaping agent or agents responsible," wrote Dr. David C. Christiani of the Harvard School of Medicine, "there is clearly an epidemic that begs for an urgent response." He shared his comments in the Sept. 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, along with the preliminary report "Pulmonary Illness Related to E-Cigarette Use in Illinois and Wisconsin."

The CDC is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, states and other public health partners and clinicians to determine what is sickening users, and in some cases resulting in fatalities. On Friday, it suggested that people refrain from using e-cigarette products during its investigation.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles about this topic from its archives and other trusted sources.  

5 Deaths Linked to Vaping. Officials Are Urging Consumers to Stop. (Chicago Tribune)

How Are You Handling Vaping at Work? (SHRM Online)

More States Ban Vaping, E-Cigarette Use in Workplaces (Bloomberg)

Florida Adds Vaping to Regulated Indoor Smoking (SHRM Online)

SOURCE: Gurchiek, K. (6 September 2019) "Illnesses, Deaths Tied to Vaping" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/Pages/Illnesses-Deaths-Tied-to-Vaping-.aspx


4 Tips for Managing Organizational Change

Only 26 percent of transformation initiatives succeed, according to a McKinsey study. One thing most successful transformation efforts have in common is that change is driven through empowerment, not mandated from the top. Continue reading this blog post from Harvard Business Review for four tips on managing organizational change.


Launching major transformation efforts is a common way that business leaders try to get a leg up on the competition, or just keep their heads above water. But too many of these efforts fail. Change is difficult, and many people not only resist it but seek to undermine it. Unsurprisingly, then, a McKinsey study found that merely 26% of transformation initiatives succeed. Most successful transformations have one thing in common: Change is driven through empowerment, not mandated from the top.

In my research of transformative political revolutions, social movements, and organizational change, successful efforts not only identify resistance from the start but also make plans to overcome those who oppose  the transformation. And it’s done not with bribes, coercion, shaming, or cajoling, but by enabling others within their organizations to drive change themselves. Here’s how they do it.

Start with a small group. Typically, leaders launch transformation efforts with a large kickoff. It makes sense: They want to build momentum early by communicating objectives clearly. This can be effective if a ready consensus already exists around the initiative. Yet if the desired change is truly transformational, it is likely to encounter fierce opposition; inertia can be a powerful force, even more powerful than hope or fear. So by starting with a large communication campaign, essentially presenting the initiative as a fait accompli, you are very likely to harden the opposition of those who are skeptical of the change.

Most successful transformations begin with small groups that are loosely connected but united by a shared purpose. They’re made of people who are already enthusiastic about the initiative but are willing to test assumptions and, later, to recruit their peers. Leaders can give voice to that shared purpose and help those small groups connect, but the convincing has to be done on the ground. Unless people feel that they own the effort, it’s not likely to go very far. For example, when Wyeth Pharmaceuticals set out to drive a major transformation to adopt lean manufacturing practices, it began with just a few groups at a few factories. The effort soon spread to thousands of employees across more than a dozen sites and cut costs by 25%.

Identify a keystone change. Every change effort begins with some kind of grievance: Costs need to be cut, customers better served, or employees more engaged, for example. Wise managers transform that grievance into a “vision for tomorrow” that will not only address the grievance but also move the organization forward and create a better future. This vision, however, is rarely achievable all at once. Most significant problems have interconnected root causes, so trying to achieve an ambitious vision all at once is more likely to devolve into a five-year march to failure than it is to achieve results. That’s why it’s crucial to start with a keystone change, which represents a clear and tangible goal, involves multiple stakeholders, and paves the way for bigger changes down the road.

That gap between aspiration and practical reality was the challenge that Barry Libenson encountered when he arrived at Experian as CIO in 2015. In his conversations with customers, it became clear that what they most wanted from his company was access to real-time data. Yet to deliver that, he would have to move from the company’s traditional infrastructure to the cloud, an initiative that raised serious concerns about security and reliability. He began by developing methods for accessing real-time data for internal use, rather than going straight to customer-facing features. That required his team to engage many of the same stakeholders and develop many of the same processes that a full shift to the cloud would have required and allowed him to show some early results.

“Once we developed some internal APIs, people could see that there was vast potential, and we gained some momentum,” Libenson told me. Experian not only successfully moved to the cloud but also launched its Ascend platform based on the new infrastructure, which is now the fastest-growing part of its business.

Network the movement. All too often we associate any large-scale change with a single charismatic leader. The U.S. civil rights and Indian independence movements will always be associated with Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, respectively. In much the same way, turnarounds at major companies like IBM and Alcoa are credited to their CEOs at the time, Lou Gerstner and Paul O’Neill.

The truth is more complicated. King, for example, was just one of the “big six” of U.S. civil rights leaders. Gerstner gained allies by refocusing the company around customers. O’Neill won over labor unions by making a serious commitment to workplace safety. These examples show why, in his book Leaders: Myth and Reality, General Stanley McChrystal defines effective leadership as “a complex system of relationships between leaders and followers, in a particular context, that provides meaning to its members.”

Every large-scale change requires both leadership at the top and the widening and deepening of connections through wooing — not coercing — an ecosystem of stakeholders.

Consider the case of Talia Milgrom-Elcott, cofounder of 100Kin10. When she set out to start a movement to recruit and retain 100,000 STEM teachers in 10 years, she knew there was no shortage of capable groups working to improve education. In fact, she had worked with many people who were building myriad approaches to the issue. But they had never met one another. And so she created a platform for collaboration that brings together nearly 300 partner organizations through conferences, working groups, and networking. Today 100Kin10 is ahead of schedule to meet its goal.

Surviving victory. Often the most dangerous part of any transformation effort is when the initial goals have been met. That’s why successful transformation leaders focus not only on immediate goals but also on the process of change itself. If Wyeth had stopped at a 25% cost reduction, it would have soon found itself in trouble again. But because its employees embraced the lean manufacturing methods, the company was able to keep moving forward. In much the same way, if Experian had been satisfied with merely shifting to a new technology infrastructure, little would have been gained.

In some cases, the benefits of a successful transformation can last for decades. Remembering Gerstner’s IBM turnaround in the 1990s, one of his top lieutenants, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, told me, “Because the transformation was about values first and technology second, we were able to continue to embrace those values as the technology and marketplace continued to evolve.” After a near-death experience, the company remains profitable today.

 

SOURCE: Satell, G. (27 August 19)"4 Tips for Managing Organizational Change" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/08/4-tips-for-managing-organizational-change


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