3 Ways to Motivate Your Team Through an Extended Crisis

Another month of working remotely has passed, and many employers are beginning to flag a lack of motivation, performance, and well-being coming from team members. It's important for managers to re-energize their teams and to identify the struggles which are holding them back. Read this blog post to learn more.


As we flip our calendars to yet another month of our large-scale Covid-19 remote-work experiment, it's no wonder that motivation, performance and well-being are flagging for many. Months in, managers need new tools to reenergize their teams, to accurately identify and diagnose recurring struggles and to empathetically help employees address their problems.

A large part of a leader's responsibility is to provide structure, guidance and regulation; yet many workplace studies point to the fact that the most important gauge for a healthy work environment isn't a strong external framework, but whether individuals can foster internal motivation.

Using a well-established theory of motivation called self-determination theory, or SDT, we have identified three main psychological needs that leaders can meet to help their employees stay engaged, confident and motivated.

1. Relatedness

This means that your employees feel cared for and that you've fostered a sense of belonging. Make time to listen to your employees' perspectives and make them know that they are heard and valued. A few simple practices may help:

  • Acknowledge and validate your employees' emotions as well as their reactions. ("I know it can be tough to stay focused right now, but we'll figure it out together!")
  • Don't let people get lost in the crowd: Reduce team size and acknowledge each member's work and achievements to the extent possible.
  • When problems arise, make sure to get full feedback from those involved. This helps you identify the biggest issues and obstacles, while strengthening connection and encouraging communication.
  • Emphasize that people's contributions are unique and necessary; do not let good work go unacknowledged.
  • Communicate that you care about employees' well-being, not just their productivity.

2. Competence

This refers to when a person feels effective and experiences growth. Research shows that holding employees accountable for achievable goals can improve performance, and motivational science also suggests that trust begets trust. Try these approaches to help ignite your team's internal motivation:

  • Involve your employees in decisions where their input could be valuable. Asking for suggestions to optimize an ongoing process, for example, can help maximize a sense of empowerment, progress and ownership.
  • To demonstrate their mastery of a particular task or skill, ask an employee to explain to their colleagues what they're working on or why they chose a particular strategy.
  • Set up check-ins to regularly discuss progress on individual goals and create strategies to meet them.

3. Autonomy

Effective leaders foster internal motivation by empowering employees' sense that they are the authors of their actions and have the power to make choices that are aligned with their own values, goals and interests, as well as their team's. Leaders should encourage autonomy and be genuinely caring while also recognizing that each employee carries responsibilities for achieving team objectives. To help foster a sense of autonomy we recommend that leaders:

  • Encourage self-initiation and participation. Perhaps ask, "What part of this project can you see yourself leading?"
  • Avoid controlling language ("Get this to me by tomorrow!") and minimize coercive controls like unrealistic deadlines and constant monitoring of your employees. Instead, find ways to motivate them through encouragement and positive feedback, such as, "I know it's a tight deadline, but having your skills on this team will be so helpful to our client."
  • Be transparent by providing the rationale behind demands. People are more willing to put in their full effort when they understand why a given task is important.

A person's work environment plays a big role in whether these three channels surge or jam, so it's no surprise that motivation is especially at risk in these pandemic times. No matter what the circumstances are, we are most energized and committed when we are internally motivated by our own values, sense of enjoyment and growth — in short, internal motivation inspires us to be our best selves. By meeting the three psychological needs, leaders help employees be engaged and feel valued at work (relatedness), feel motivated by growth (competence), and feel empowered and confident in their skills (autonomy). Employees who feel unappreciated or coerced will, at best, often half-heartedly comply with a boss's orders without whole-heartedly committing to excellence. At worst, they will lose all sense of motivation and fail to meet goals and deadlines.

SOURCE: Bradford, A.; Ryan, R. (02 October 2020) "3 Ways to Motivate Your Team Through an Extended Crisis" (Web Blog Post). Received from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/3-ways-to-motivate-your-team-through-an-extended-crisis.aspx


How to Help Your Small Workplace Team Succeed

Often many small workplace teams have higher rates of productivity, due to a lesser amount of disruptions. Although there are more projects put onto single people instead of groups, it may not be a bad thing. Read this blog post for helpful tips on how to help your small workplace team succeed.


Are small workplace teams effective? Some savvy business innovators think so. After all, it was Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos who once said, "If you can't feed a team with two pizzas, it's too large."

Academia agrees. A 2019 Harvard Business Review study leans toward smaller teams. The study suggests that small workplace teams can "disrupt" conventional wisdom and get things done, according to authors Dashan Wang, a management professor at Northwestern University, and James A. Evans, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago.

"Our research suggests that team size fundamentally dictates the nature of work a team is capable of producing, and smaller team size confers certain critical benefits that large teams don't enjoy," Wang and Evans stated.

The study sought to "measure the disruptiveness" of workplace teams using "an established measure of disruption that assesses how much a given work destabilizes its field."

"This told us how the research eclipsed or made us rethink the prior 'state of the art,' setting a valuable new direction for others to follow," Wang and Evans wrote.

Why Small Teams Can Succeed

As Bezos and the Harvard Business Review study authors show, bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to workplace teams.

"Given the right resources, small teams can be incredibly powerful," said Michael Solomon, co-author of Game Changer: How to Be 10x in the Talent Economy (HarperCollins Leadership, 2020) and co-founder of 10x Management, a technology talent recruiting firm in New York City.

Solomon deploys an armed forces analogy to highlight the effectiveness of smaller workplace teams.

"If we think about the military, special ops are usually small units of highly trained, highly synchronized individuals who have prepared extensively, know each other incredibly well and are working toward a common goal," he said. "If companies can create a culture for small teams where there is a shared mission, a safe environment for constructive feedback and trust, there is little that can't be done."

For one project at his company, Solomon said, a team of between three and five people replaced a group of 35 to rebuild a product. "It was the right group of people with the right skills in the right culture, and they were able to literally achieve 10 times the result" of the larger team.

While smaller, more-nimble teams are commonplace at small businesses and startups with tight budgets, the concept can work at any company.

"Small teams can definitely be competitive against bigger teams, but the strategies are different," said John Doherty, chief executive officer and founder of GetCredo.com, a digital marketing company in Denver. "For instance, bigger teams will often have a lot more meetings and voices at the table, whereas smaller teams tend to motivate around a singular goal and focus. It really depends on what a company wants to achieve."

Getting Results with Smaller Teams: Top Tips

Team-building experts advise managers to consider these tips when building small teams:

Build an "ownership" mindset. Emphasizing ownership in a specific skill set is a great way to build small teams.

"Giving each person on a team an area of ownership helps small teams become more effective," Doherty said. "For example, I own business and marketing, my business partner owns the technology/software side, and we also have specialists on accounts, operations and finance."

Doherty's team uses Front, a business management tool, to steer tasks to the right person. "If something comes into our respective e-mail inboxes that should be handled by someone else, we can easily assign it to them and keep moving forward," he said.

Make accountability non-negotiable. Since fewer staffers are available, holding team members accountable is a must for small workplace teams.

"A smaller workplace team needs a combination of ingredients to succeed," said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, a business startup services provider in Calabasas, Calif.

Sweeney lists several traits she looks for when building smaller, efficient company teams:

  • They must own their responsibilities. "Team members must be accountable for their work and for being able to drive assignments and initiatives."
  • They should be accessible. "There must be an understanding of how to reach a team member with open communications leading to answers."
  • They must be flexible. "Being flexible is important, as things quickly change and each member of a team must be nimble enough to handle those changes."
  • They must be creative. "Smaller workplaces have fewer resources and less budget than companies with more money and team members. Creativity allows you to brainstorm ideas with your team that are cost-effective. These ideas may help differentiate your brand [from] an expensive option."

Start planning early. Waiting until the last moment to get an assignment started and accomplished is a non-starter for those managing smaller teams.

"Sometimes, starting late cannot be helped, as some assignments come through with tight deadlines," Sweeney said. "When that happens, it's critical that managers address the new priority with their teams, put a hold on existing work, and divide and conquer to quickly get the item with the most urgency completed."

When possible, managers should also encourage small teams to work ahead. "If they're caught up with one piece of their workload, have them start a piece that has been set aside for later," Sweeney added.

Curb team meetings. "With a smaller staff, I strive to avoid meetings," said Lotus Felix, founder of Flawless Content Shop, a content marketing company in West Palm Beach, Fla. "Conventionally, meetings may appear as the backbone of businesses, but there is so much your team can achieve when you slice down the frequencies of these meetings. At Flawless Content Shop, we have been able to up our monthly output by 175 percent by keeping some days entirely meeting-free."

Felix said having a full day without meetings allows his team to build incredible momentum. "This way, my staff can get fully enveloped in their daily to-do lists," he said.

Give your team flexibility, across the board. Felix strives not to "drown staffers in overbearing professionalism.

"For example, we don't have a strict dress code," he noted. "Personally, I have gone to the office in slippers. I wear ripped jeans on casual days, and most Fridays I Rollerblade to work."

Felix said he views this as "a deliberate attempt to unshackle my small team, giving them more vacuum for creative expression."

Measure performance and value. Focus on how your workplace team adds value using three measures: how they help make money, save money or reduce your company's risk.

"Keep track of your team's accomplishments and, as much as possible, determine the return on investment for your smaller team's contributions to the company," said Terry McDougall, owner of Terry B. McDougall Coaching, in Highland Park, Ill. "When you can demonstrate a positive return on investment, this is generally when C-suite leaders feel confident that increased investment in your team will result in a greater return for the company."

Let go of bad performers. Above all else, don't let underperforming team members stick around, because total team performance can suffer.

"With smaller teams, one bad apple can really destroy the culture of a team," Solomon said. "Believing that you can overlook one underperforming or difficult member of the team may be the biggest mistake managers make in running small teams."

In his book, Game Changer, Solomon talks about workers with a "sabotage impulse" who "avoid responsibility for their own actions and are very quick to blame others. No one is eager to have them around because they never feel safe with someone around ready to blame others for their own mistakes."

Too often, team leaders overlook these behaviors in hopes that the worker will rectify his or her behavior.

"In reality, these types of individuals … can be incredibly destructive for small workplace teams," Solomon said. "It's very important to remove them quickly to avoid an adverse impact on the rest of the team."

SOURCE: O'Connell, B. (29 September 2020) "How to Help Your Small Workplace Team Succeed" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/people-managers/pages/helping-small-teams-succeed-.aspx


Three Communication Tips to Raise Productivity

Communication is often the key to success especially within the workplace and during team projects. If communication expectations are laid out and shown to employees, the chance of higher productivity is more common. Read this blog post for helpful tips.


If you're looking for ways to bump productivity, rescue slumping performers or improve teamwork, start with your expectations. These subtle—but very powerful—elements of your leadership toolkit can produce lasting results.

Raising your expectations doesn't require you to adopt a perpetual cheery optimism, but it does require you to make a brutally realistic assessment of current conditions. If productivity is low, cycle time is horrible and/or quality is poor, you need to acknowledge the facts—or you'll never be able to improve performance. And part of that brutal assessment requires looking in the mirror. Perhaps, without realizing it, your underlying beliefs are contributing to the performance situations you see around you.

Three components make up the messages you send: the words you use, the way you say them and your nonverbal cues.

Words

Here are some examples of how to frame your expectations for performance improvement in three different situations.

  • If productivity is down, you might say: "Well, as we look at productivity, we can see that it's 2 percent below where it was last year. I know we can get back to where we were—and eventually beyond—because we have the horsepower right in this room to do it." In selecting these words, you've acknowledged where performance is and expressed confidence about improvement.
  • If you're making progress in an area—but more progress is required—the message might be: "While we're making progress on quality, it's still not where it needs to be. I know we can get to where we need to be by continuing our Six Sigma efforts. Let's look and see where we need to put our resources next."
  • If performance is good and you want to boost it more, the message should be: "Cycle time is good, never been better. Let's look at how to cut it even further. I know we can do it if we work together to figure out how."

In each example, your words describe the present situation in simple and direct terms and also express confidence in moving to further improvement.

Verbal Intonations

The tone of your voice is the second element of your message. Everyone has experienced situations where the words sent one message and the tone of voice sent another. When there's a conflict, most people believe what is conveyed by the tone of your voice. So, make sure that your tone matches the positive message of your words. Not only should you avoid the obvious mismatch, but also the unintentional mismatch—those occasional situations where your words say one thing and your tone of voice says another.

Nonverbal Cues

The bulk of the meaning lies here. You can say the words, and your tone of voice can match the words. But if you're looking around, tapping your fingers, shaking your head "no" or doing any one of the hundreds of other seemingly little things that say, "I don't believe in you," you're not going to get the performance you want. Here are five categories to check yourself against:

1. Body position. If your arms are crossed, your legs are crossed away from the person you're communicating with or you're giving the "cold shoulder," then you're sending negative messages. On the other hand, if your body position is open—you're facing the person rather than looking away—you communicate honesty, warmth and openness. If your posture is erect rather than slumping, you communicate positive beliefs. And if you're leaning slightly forward, you demonstrate interest in the other individual.

2. Hand gestures. Avoid tapping your fingers ("I'm impatient"), hiding your mouth ("I'm hiding something"), wagging your finger (the equivalent of poking someone with your finger) and closed or clenched hands ("I'm upset"). These gestures all conflict with an "I believe in you" message. Instead, use open hands with palms up ("I'm being honest with nothing to hide") or touching your hands to your chest ("I believe in what I'm saying"). Both of these emphasize a positive message.

3. Head. If your head is shaking back and forth or tilted off to one side, you're sending a message of disbelief. On the other hand, if your head is facing directly toward someone and you're nodding up and down, you're delivering a nonverbal message of belief and confidence.

4. Facial expressions. Smile, and keep your mouth relaxed. Show alertness in your face and act like you're ready to listen. Do these regularly and you'll have created an open communication pattern with someone who will believe in your sincerity. On the other hand, if you're tight-lipped, are clenching your jaw muscles and have only a grim smile, no smile at all or a frown, you'll send a message that says: "No way can you possibly succeed at this project."

5. Eyes. Maintaining good eye contact is one of the most important nonverbal signals you can send. It conveys the message, "I'm interested in you and when I say I believe in you, I really do." Making sure that your eyes are open wide is also helpful. Squinting can deter the recipient. Worse yet is looking around, paying attention to other things and not paying attention to the person or topic at hand.

Communicate high expectations well enough and you may even have to step aside to avoid getting run over by a team of committed players whose performance is accelerating.

SOURCE: Connellan, T. (29 September 2020) "Three Communication Tips to Raise Productivity" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/people-managers/pages/three-communication-tips-to-raise-productivity.aspx


Personalization helps meet the needs of multiple generations in the workplace

In many workplace organizations, there has been an increase in age demographics. As many generations are beginning to work together, it's necessary for organizations to cater to all generations while catering to their different needs, wants, and styles. Read this blog post to learn more.


Changing demographics are creating more age diversity in the workplace, and this 5-generation age range means employers are increasingly faced with catering to different priorities and communication styles with benefits.

When it comes to health and wellbeing, employees between the ages of 55 and 64 prioritize benefits related to physical health, while younger employees care more about social and mental health, according to a study from Optum.

“The one-size-fits-all approach to communication, benefits and services needs to evolve,” says Seth Serxner, chief health officer at Optum. “The challenges a 35-year-old woman with young kids has is very different from a boomer or an empty nester who are dealing with other issues, so the life circumstances are very different.”

Instead, employers should look towards implementing a personalized communication strategy, or even hyper-personalization of benefits related to life cycles, Serxner says.

“If you think about saving in a health savings account, for example, we like to really target these different groups,” he says. “Once we do that, we see a tremendous increase in contributions and the overall savings averages.”

Wil Lewis, a diversity and inclusion executive and head of global disability strategy at Bank of America, says that since the company functions in several different countries, it emphasizes diversity of experience, culture and generations.

“One of the things that we've done as an organization is focused on how to integrate the wisdom that comes from past experiences and be sure that we leverage some of their ideas and make decisions for the future,” Lewis says.

Bank of America is one of over 1,000 employers who have signed the AARP Employer Pledge Program, a nationwide group of employers that stand with AARP in affirming the value of experienced workers and are committed to developing diverse organizations. They have pledged to promote equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age.

Bank of America also has an intergenerational employee network, with chapters across the U.S. and other countries. The network has, among other things, created mentoring programs where employees in different generations can come together and learn from each other in person or virtually.

“It's actually one of our fastest growing employee networks inside the company,” Lewis says. “We’re really trying to drive connectivity and opportunity for them to learn from one another.”

The company aims to have a broad and comprehensive benefit range that touches on all individual generations, says Ebony Thomas, a global human resources executive at Bank of America.

“We are really thinking about where employees are in their life cycle, and tailoring services, learning, training or benefits to that life cycle,” she says. “It's really thinking ‘are we inclusive of everyone in the organization, in different stages and points in their lives?’ and how a benefit impacts them.”

The Optum data also discovered differences in financial service needs among generations. Younger generations are more concerned about debt, student tuition and how to start saving, whereas older generations may be more interested in things like buying a house, family health or retirement, says Optum’s Serxner.

Technology is another area of great discrepancy among the workplace age gap. Serxner says understanding how millennials or younger generations think about text messaging versus older generations can help employers rethink how they’re utilizing technology and what impact it has.

“There can be mental and behavioral impacts from using technology,” he says. “Employees can start to feel isolated, lonely or left out, based on the way an organization might cater to only one group, or might have a bias toward one kind of technology, whereas some people really feel it's critical to be face-to-face or on the phone.”

It’s critical employers learn and understand the makeup of their workforce, and tailor their communication strategy to their needs, Serxner says. Employers can drive up engagement and participation in their benefit offerings.

“I work with one digital company communications company that’s more than 70% millennial, and all of their outreach, benefits and promotions are phone based,” Serxner says. “I have other older energy and utility companies where they still do big pool meetings, and hand out brochures and packages, where they have individuals explaining the benefits. So the employers tend to have a sense of who their populations are, and tailor their approaches accordingly.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (08 May 2020) "Personalization helps meet the needs of multiple generations in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/personalization-helps-meet-the-needs-of-multiple-generations-in-the-workplace


How to Maintain a Professional Presence on the Phone


If you are job hunting, start thinking about how you will handle employers' responses to your resume. While some recruiters will e-mail you, others may call. All too often, this happens when you're sitting down to dinner, the dogs are yapping, the kids are yelling or you're settling into a favorite Netflix binge. Don't get caught off guard. There's an easy way to know that a call is of a professional nature before you pick up the phone.

Protect Your Image

You can manage calls that come at awkward times by adding a phone number to your smartphone or landline. Many cell and landline companies offer multiple lines on a phone, each with a distinctive ringtone. With a second line, you can have a dedicated and confidential number with a voice mail message tailored to the professional image you wish to present to the world, and you can use this number exclusively for your job search and career management activities. If this line rings at an inconvenient time, you'll know to get yourself into a space where you can switch to your "professional voice" and talk without distraction, or to return the call in a few minutes when the mayhem at home is under control. Use this number on your resume, in your LinkedIn profile and for all other business communications: This can enhance your professional image, and it also acts as a buffer between your professional and personal life.

 Put Your Extra Line to Work

Unemployment due to the pandemic has hit 30 million workers, or about one-quarter of the U.S. labor force. Record unemployment means that getting back into the workforce will require upgrading your job search and sharpening your interview skills.

In such a disrupted world, it would also be a good idea to think about a side gig that might leverage some of your professional skills. An additional revenue stream never hurts, particularly in times like these, and a side gig could even lead to full-time employment. Plus, every nickel you bring in can help ease the financial strain.

Just as it can help with your job search, your extra phone line can help you field and make calls related to your side gig. When that distinctive ringtone sounds, you'll know the call is about money, whether it's for a new job or a potential customer. Either way, you're alerted that the call requires you to answer in your professional voice.

It can take time for that side gig to start making you real money. Not all ideas take off like a rocket, but you'll learn more from your mistakes than your successes. Meanwhile, your efforts may bring in a little extra cash and keep your spirirts up.

If you've always had a dream for a side gig and you've been laid off, now is a great time to put your dream into action. If you need some inspiration, check out these ideas:

Make sure to set up a differentiated LinkedIn profile for your new business to act as a website for your side gig. Think of it as a resume written around your business's goals. With a phone number and a starter website, you have the two foundational basics for a 21st century global business.

SOURCE: Yate, M. (10 August 2020) "How to Maintain a Professional Presence on the Phone" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/career-advice/pages/how-to-maintain-a-professional-presence-on-the-phone.aspx


As Jobs Disappear, Employees Hang On to What They Have

As the coronavirus pandemic has caused many to lose their jobs, some still have been able to hold onto their job that they had prior to the pandemic. Those who have been fortunate enough to keep that job, are now holding onto it. Read this blog post to learn more.


Employees spooked by continuing high unemployment are holding on to the jobs they have at rates not seen in nearly a decade.

While typically a sign of employee loyalty, low turnover these days can also signal fear, hopelessness and stagnation. Employers can head off those negative feelings and maintain morale and energy in the workplace by communicating with empathy and giving employees more control over decisions, experts say.

"Feeling trapped in a job can create a lot of challenges, leading to employee disengagement and burnout," said Dennis Baltzley, global head of leadership development at organizational consultancy Korn Ferry. Channeling that angst into helping the company meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic can improve engagement and the bottom line, he said.

'Quits Rate' Plummets

According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, a monthly report compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees spent the past few years job hopping at historically high rates as the economy and their confidence in the future soared. Then in March 2020, the quits rate—which is the number of jobs quit that month divided by total employment—dipped below 2 for the first time in five years. It fell further to 1.4 in April, the lowest level since April 2011, when the job market was still recovering from the Great Recession.

Typically, quits outnumber layoffs by a wide margin, according to the federal data. But that trend reversed itself in a big way in March 2020, as states began issuing stay-at-home orders to counter the coronavirus pandemic. That month, 11.5 million employees were laid off while only 2.8 million quit their jobs.

In April 2020, another 7.7 million employees were laid off while just 1.8 million quit voluntarily. Meanwhile, only 3.5 million employees were hired into new jobs in April, a low for the 20-year series.

"Right now, most employees are just looking to hang on to the work they do have, rather than trying to find something better. This is particularly true of people in the retail and hospitality industries, areas that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus-led recession," according to an analysis of the data by Quartz. "The weak job market means more people are stuck in jobs that don't fully take advantage of their talents and are generally less satisfied."

Don't Assume Everyone Is Fine

Even if asked directly, employees afraid of losing their jobs aren't likely to express their unhappiness to supervisors. Baltzley recalled a chief executive who marveled at the high satisfaction scores from employees in a recent pulse survey. "I told him, 'They're not fine, they're just not telling you,' " he said. "People put on a brave face. They're going to be grateful to have a job. They will work hard to keep that job, sometimes in unhealthy ways."

To break through that fear and foster a healthier environment, Baltzley recommended that employers:

  • Give employees choices when possible to restore some sense of control. This could include the question of working from home. Employees have a range of feelings about returning to the workplace, with some eager to rejoin colleagues while others dread the thought of increased exposure. "You don't want people to feel it's a requirement if it doesn't have to be. If you give people a choice, you relieve the pressure of feeling trapped."
  • Listen and watch carefully to evaluate how employees are feeling, because they're not likely to tell you. "Are people short of patience, uncommunicative, not addressing the big picture? That could be a sign of being overwhelmed. If you're carefully listening, you can usually tell where people are."
  • Don't double down on control by monitoring remote workers. "You have a bunch of leaders who never had to manage people remotely. They might instinctively want more meetings, more reports, to be sure employees are working, but that is exactly the opposite of what you should do. You want people trying to figure out how to make things happen without you. If they're problem solving, they're more engaged. Otherwise, you will create a workforce that's waiting for instruction."
  • Project empathy, even if employees don't indicate they need it. Leaders can do this by describing what's been difficult or challenging for them during the pandemic. "During a crisis, communication is not about providing information. It's about connection."
  • Work hard to maintain the new level of trust that may have developed during the past few months of shared hardship. "This experience has broken down a bunch of barriers. You don't want to lose that."

Many Still in Survival Mode 

In normal times, the lack of potential for advancement or promotion could lead to employee resentment. But Kimberly Prescott, a human resources consultant in Columbia, Md., who works with a range of small and mid-sized employers, said it's too soon to worry about that.

Prescott noted that safety is one of the most basic needs in Maslow's five-tier hierarchy of motivation. Until a sense of security and safety is restored, most employees won't have the bandwidth to worry much about their status or feelings of accomplishment.

"I think people are happy to have a job right now, based on what I've been hearing," she said. "Job satisfaction at this point is secondary to survival. People are still kind of holding their breath. We're in survival mode: 'I'm alive. I have a job. I have food to eat.' "

To help restore a sense of security and alleviate stress on their workers, employers should go out of their way to communicate the status of the business and what they are doing to ensure the company's survival. This is especially true for employees who've been furloughed and are waiting to be called back.

"This is the time for overcommunicating," Prescott said. "People are hungry for meaningful communication, especially around next steps and business plans. You cannot communicate too much, even if you're saying the same thing week after week. Even if it's just a survey asking how you're feeling, are you able to come back to work?"

SOURCE: Cleeland, N. (02 July 2020) "As Jobs Disappear, Employees Hang On to What They Have"  (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/afraid-to-leave-job-covid.aspx


Remote Workers Experiencing Burnout

With many employees working remotely, productivity may decrease and the feeling of being burnt out may increase. As working remotely continues to draw out through many months, many employees may continue to feel this way, as well. Read this blog post to learn more.


Recent polling shows a significant share of the U.S. workforce is feeling burned out after more than two months of working from home during the coronavirus outbreak.

About half of 1,251 respondents in a survey conducted in May by job-search and careers website Monster said they were experiencing burnout. Even before COVID-19 upended workers' lives, the World Health Organization had classified burnout as an "occupational phenomenon" and a hazard.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we work, where we work, resulted in clashes between our work and home lives like we've never had before, and really has become a big stressor," said Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, a Washington, D.C.-based management consulting firm.

Binita Amin, a clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C., warned that the dangers of burnout are typically greater than just feeling stressed. "Stress is something that is resolved and has some sort of closure, and with burnout there's no real end in sight, so it's significant and chronic in nature," she said. "What happens over time is you start to see that a person's mental, physical and emotional resources are exhausted and depleted. In the work context, you can see it in terms of decreased productivity, difficulty concentrating, and certainly feelings of disillusionment or cynicism."

In a survey of 1,000 workers polled by Eagle Hill in April, 50 percent said they feel less connected to colleagues, 45 percent feel less productive, and 36 percent feel less positive about their careers.

The particular stressors brought on by COVID-19 include overworking and adapting to new ways of working; caring for children in the absence of school or day care; job insecurity; health concerns; isolation; and the lack of clear boundaries between work and home, said Vicki Salemi, a careers expert for Monster based in New York City. "People have also lost many of the ways they used to manage stress, such as spending time with friends, going to concerts and sporting events, and going to the gym," she said.

The Monster poll did find that almost three-quarters of respondents (71 percent) are making an effort to take time for themselves during the workday, such as taking a break or going for a walk. But over half of respondents (52 percent) said they are not planning to take extended time off or vacation despite facing burnout.

Salemi said that people may be reluctant to book a vacation because of financial reasons, the fear of being perceived as not being productive, or concerns about public safety. "Some people are just not ready to go to the beach, while other destinations, like amusement parks, are not really open for business," she said.

"Even if you're not going anywhere, you earned PTO [paid time off], and you should take it," she encouraged. "Using PTO doesn't necessarily mean you have to get on an airplane and fly away somewhere. It can mean taking a staycation. Perhaps people are thinking, 'Well, I'm already home, and I don't need a staycation,' but the reality is that we all need to log off."

She said there are ways to creatively take PTO, such as taking off every Monday or Friday in the month of July, for example.

Employers' Role

Employers can play a big part in helping address burnout among their employees, experts said. Affinity groups and employee assistance programs should be promoted as helpful resources, but there's even more that managers can do, according to Amin. "There's real opportunity to empower your employees to feel more sense of control over things like schedules, workload and types of work assignments, and even influencing things like meaningful connection," she said.

Lack of control is a prime factor of burnout, Jezior said. "Right now, there is a lot outside of our control. But I think one way we can help ground employees is to give them the autonomy and the ownership over how and when they complete their work."

Salemi recommended getting feedback from employees about their workload and work-from-home processes to make sure expectations are aligned and they feel supported. She stressed that managers and leadership should lead by example and encourage employees to take advantage of flexible work options.

"Make an announcement to the team or the organization that it's OK to take time off, even without having someplace to travel to," she said. "Encourage them to take time off."

SOURCE; Maurer, R. (29 May 2020) "Remote Workers Experiencing Burnout" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/remote-workers-experiencing-burnout.aspx


5 Ways to Demonstrate Your Value — Remotely

When working remotely for an extended amount of time, many employees can feel as if they are not visible to the organization. Read this blog post for helpful tips on how to show value, while working remotely.


With unemployment levels at the highest since the Great Depression, many individuals don’t have the privilege of working, and those who do feel nervous about how long they’ll have that opportunity.

If you fall into the latter category, I can appreciate your very legitimate concern. Many companies are struggling to bring in revenue, let alone turn a profit. And with remote working arrangements, you don’t have the visibility with your colleagues and managers that you normally would. When you were in the office, you might have had informal interactions with these individuals multiple times a day. Now, if you don’t have a meeting on their calendar, you may wonder if they remember your presence — and more importantly, your importance to the organization.

I can’t guarantee that your position is secure, and there will certainly be factors outside your control. But there are ways that you can make yourself and your accomplishments more visible to your organization, even when you’re not in the same building. The following suggestions are five concrete steps that you can focus on right here, right now, to increase your odds of thriving in your job during this tumultuous time and demonstrating your value while working remotely.

Do Your Work

Getting your work done is always a good idea. But especially in times where businesses and organizations are having to make hard decisions about who to keep, doing your work — and doing your work well — is essential.

As a time management coach, I’ve been working with clients throughout this time of uncertainty. (Thankfully, I was already remote!) And the sense I am getting is that there was a grace period in March and part of April as individuals were adjusting to working from home. Managers were more forgiving if there was a dip in productivity or missteps here and there. But now that it’s been multiple months of remote work, higher standards of output are returning. If you haven’t done so already, put a system in place for keeping track of your tasks and ticking them off, even if your schedule is modified because you have other responsibilities at home.

Tell Others

I don’t recommend that you give yourself a shout out at every single meeting, and I definitely don’t advise that you take undue credit for others’ work. But if you have accomplished something significant, share it. That could look like covering a few highlights of your work with your boss each week, either in your one-on-one or through email. Or speaking up in a meeting to share about what your team is doing. Or even giving a presentation on some best practices that could help other colleagues in a similar role. Focus on not only what you did but how it produced positive results for your organization. This is not bragging but simply informing others about how, even though they might not see you working, you’re getting great things accomplished. And this gives you increased visibility across the organization as people understand the role that you fill and the value you add.

Help Your Boss

Although you don’t want to overload yourself with extra work to the extent that you burn out or can’t keep your commitments, look for ways to make your boss’s life easier. For instance, turn in your work early so your manager has extra time to review it before a meeting, or be extra prepared in your one-on-one meetings so they are as concise and effective as possible. These little things help reduce the pressure on your boss, so they are not worried about whether you’ll deliver and if you’re on top of your work. And if you have extra capacity, offer to help with extra assignments or take work completely off of your manager’s plate. This shows that you’re not only someone who gets their work done but also someone who takes initiative. Although your immediate supervisor doesn’t always have a say in layoff decisions, if they do, they’ll put in a good word for you if you’re making things easier for them.

Play Nicely

With my clients, one of their least favorite ways to spend their time is in brokering arguments between people on their team. It drains energy, and they generally consider it a waste of time.

Spread Positivity

One very unfortunate outcome of this season is that it’s brought out some very anti-social behavior in people. Many people’s response to their own fear is controlling others. I’ve seen more vicious online behavior and more people yelling at strangers in public in the last two months than I’ve seen in my entire life. And since the biggest subject on most people’s minds and on all media coverage is Covid-19 — an anxiety-producing topic for most — the air has been tainted with the stench of negativity.

As a bonus, if you can be humorous, do so. Laughter and positive energy draw teams together and make people feel good about being around you. While doing good work and being a positive presence doesn’t guarantee your position will make the cut as you face layoffs, it does increase your odds because you’re demonstrating your value to the organization and the people around you.

Much of what happens with the job market and your particular job will be out of your hands. You can’t control what businesses are considered essential or not, nor can you control organizational changes and headcount. And there are many factors in place that determine the market demand for your work. However, if you follow the five pieces of advice above, you will do what you can to make the most impact and get credit for it within your current role. And you’ll make a positive impression in the process.

SOURCE: Saunders, E. (01 June 2020) "5 Ways to Demonstrate Your Value — Remotely" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/06/5-ways-to-demonstrate-your-value-remotely


How to Monitor Your Employees — While Respecting Their Privacy

A recent survey found that 55 percent of millennials that had partaken in the survey plan to leave employers that prioritize profits over people. Read this blog post to learn more.


Even before Covid-19 sent an unprecedented number of people to work from home, employers were ramping up their efforts to monitor employee productivity. A 2018 Gartner report revealed that of 239 large corporations, 50% were monitoring the content of employee emails and social media accounts, along with who they met with and how they utilized their workspaces. A year later an Accenture survey of C-suite executives reported that 62% of their organizations were leveraging new tools to collect data on their employees.

These statistics were gathered before the coronavirus pandemic, which has made working from home a necessity for thousands of companies. With that transition having happened so rapidly, employers are left wondering how much work is actually going on. The fear of productivity losses, mingling with the horror of massively declining revenues, has encouraged many leaders to ramp up their employee monitoring efforts.

There is no shortage of digital tools for employee monitoring — or, as privacy advocates put it, “corporate surveillance.” Multiple services enable stealth monitoring, live video feeds, keyboard tracking, optical character recognition, keystroke recording, or location tracking. One such company, Hubstaff, implements random screen capture that can be customized for each person and set to report “once, twice, or three times per 10 minutes,” if managers so wish. Another company, Teramind, captures all keyboard activity and records “all information to comprehensive logs [that] can be used to formulate a base of user-based behavior analytics.”

Despite the easy availability of options, however, monitoring comes with real risk to the companies that pursue it. Surveillance threatens to erode trust between employers and employees. Accenture found that 52% of employees believe that mishandling of data damages trust — and only 30% of the C-suite executives who were polled reported themselves as “confident” that the data would always be used responsibly. Employees who are now subject to new levels of surveillance report being both “incredibly stressed out” by the constant monitoring and also afraid to speak up, a recipe for not only dissatisfaction but also burnout, both of which — ironically — decrease productivity. Worse, monitoring can invite a backlash: In October of 2019 Google employees went public about spy tools allegedly created to suppress internal dissent.

Tempting as it may be to implement monitoring in the service of protecting productivity, it also stands in stark contrast to recent trends in the corporate world. Many organizations have committed to fostering a better employee experience, with a particular focus on diversity and inclusion. There are not only strong ethical reasons for having one’s eye on that ball, but good bottom line reasons as well. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey from 2019 found that 55% of millennials plan to leave employers that prioritize profits over people. Retention — which should be a priority for all companies, given the high expense of making and onboarding new hires — becomes difficult and costly for companies that don’t reflect those values. Given the risk of alienating employees coupled with the possibility of error and misapplication of these tools, it is quite likely that, for many, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.

Even so, some companies will still find it worth the tradeoffs. Justified fear of a collapsing economy reasonably drives employers to monitor their employees to ensure they are being productive and efficient. Indeed, they may even have ethically admirable aims in doing so, such as for the sake of their employees’ health and the health of the country as a whole. Furthermore, if the tools are deployed with the goal of discovering which employees are in need of additional help — more on this below — that may be all the more reason to monitor. But if your business concludes that it ought to monitor employees (for whatever reason), it is important to do so in a way that maximally respects its employees.

Here are six recommendations on how to walk this tightrope.

1. Choose your metrics carefully by involving all relevant stakeholders.
Applying numbers to things is easy, as is making quick judgments based on numeric scores spit out by a piece of software. This leads to both unnecessary surveillance and ill-formed decisions. It’s simply too easy to react to information that, in practice, is irrelevant to productivity, efficiency, and revenue. If you insist on monitoring employees, make sure what you’re tracking is relevant and necessary. Simply monitoring the quantity of emails written or read, for instance, is not a reliable indicator of productivity.

If you want the right metrics, then engage all of the relevant stakeholders in the process to determine those metrics, from hiring managers to supervisors to those who are actually being monitored. With regards to employee engagement it is especially important to reach both experienced and new employees, and that they are able to deliver their input in a setting where there is no fear of reprisal. For instance, they can be in discussion with a supervisor — but preferably not their direct supervisor, who has the authority to fire or promote them.

2. Be transparent with your employees about what you’re monitoring and why. 
Part and parcel of respecting someone is that you take the time to openly and honestly communicate with them. Tell your employees what you’re monitoring and why. Give them the opportunity to offer feedback. Share the results of the monitoring with them and, crucially, provide a system by which they can appeal decisions about their career influenced by the data collected.

Transparency increases employee acceptance rates. Gartner found that only 30% of employees were comfortable with their employer monitoring their email. But in the same study, when an employer shared that they would be monitoring and explained why, more than 50% of workers reported being comfortable with it.

3. Offer carrots as well as sticks.
Monitoring or surveillance software is implicitly tied to overseers who are bent on compliance and submission. Oppressive governments, for example, tie surveillance with threats of fines and imprisonment. But you don’t need to pursue monitoring as a method of oppression. You would do better to think about it as a tool by which you can figure out how to help your employees be more productive or reward them for their hustle. That means thinking about what kinds of carrots can be used to motivate and boost relevant numbers, not just sticks to discourage inefficiencies.

4. Accept that very good workers will not always be able to do very good work all the time — especially under present circumstances.
These are unique times and it would be wrong — both ethically and factually — to make decisions about who is and who is not a good employee or a hard worker based on performance under these conditions. Some very hard-working and talented employees may be stretched extraordinarily thin due to a lack of school and child care options, for instance. These are people you want to keep because, in the long run, they provide a tremendous amount of value. Ensure that your supervisors take the time to talk to their supervisees when the numbers aren’t what you want them to be. And again, that conversation should reflect an understanding of the employee’s situation and focus on creative solutions, not threats.

5. Monitor your own systems to ensure that people of color and other vulnerable groups are not disproportionately affected.
Central to any company’s diversity and inclusion effort is a commitment to eliminating any discrimination against traditionally marginalized populations. Precisely because they have been marginalized, those populations tend to occupy more junior roles in an organization — and junior roles often suffer the most scrutiny. This means that there is a risk of disproportionately surveilling the very groups a company’s inclusivity efforts are designed to protect, which invites significant ethical, reputational, and legal risks.

If employee monitoring is being used, it is important that the most junior people are not surveilled to a greater extent than their managers, or at least not to an extent that places special burdens on them. For instance, it would be particularly troublesome if very junior employees received a level of surveillance — say, sentiment analysis or keyboard logging — that only slightly more senior people did not. A policy that says, “This is how we monitor all employees” raises fewer ethical red flags than a policy that says, “This is how we monitor most employees, except for the most junior ones, who undergo a great deal more surveillance.” Equal application of the law, in other words, legitimately blunts the force of charges of discrimination.

6. Decrease monitoring when and where you can.
The impulse to monitor is understandable, especially in these times. But as people return to their offices — and even as some continue to work from home — look for places to pull back monitoring efforts where things are going well. This communicates trust to employees. It also corrects for the tendency to acquire more control than necessary when circumstances are not as severe as they once were.

At the end of the day, your employees are your most valuable assets. They possess institutional knowledge and skills others do not. You’ve invested time and money in them and they are very expensive to replace. Treating them with respect is not only something they deserve — it’s crucial for a company’s retention efforts. If your company does choose to move ahead with surveillance software in this climate, you need to remind yourself that you are not the police. You should be monitoring employees not with a raised baton, but with an outstretched hand.

SOURCE: Blackman, R. (28 May 2020) "How to Monitor Your Employees — While Respecting Their Privacy" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/05/how-to-monitor-your-employees-while-respecting-their-privacy


Work from home forever? Businesses are divided on that

With many businesses working remotely still due to the coronavirus, many businesses are debating on if working from home will become permanently and are even divided on that decision. Read this blog post to learn more.


The work-from-home movement is gaining steam in Silicon Valley as a flurry of companies — big and small — are embracing remote-working policies beyond the pandemic. But even as some executives extol its virtues, other tech leaders aren’t so sure, opening a growing divide inside the industry over the future of work. It’s a worthy debate.

On Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his company will start allowing some existing employees to work from home permanently. He said Facebook will also “aggressively open up remote hiring” for engineering talent in areas it doesn’t have an office, saying as much as 50% of the company’s employees could eventually work remotely within 10 years. In similar fashion, Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke said his e-commerce software company will allow its employees to work from home indefinitely, adding he expects that most of his staff will work remotely going forward. The days of “office centricity is over,” the executive posted on social media. The two companies join Twitter, which said last week it will let employees work from home as standard practice as well.

Not everyone in technology is on board. Take-Two Interactive Software CEO Strauss Zelnick said on an investor call this week that he believes sustained strong productivity will get more difficult the longer people are forced to work from home, adding that “there is no substitute for in-person collaboration and connection.” That follows comments from Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella, who expressed concern in an interview with the New York Times last week that early positive remote-work productivity metrics may mask underlying deficiencies, in terms of managing and mentoring employees. He also raised worries about potential burnout and mental-health issues. “Maybe we are burning some of the social capital we built up in this phase where we are all working remote. What’s the measure for that?” he asked.

There’s something to be said for this pushback. Sure, there are many pluses to offering off-site work flexibility — including better employee retention and the ability to hire from a more diverse talent base in other geographies — but corporations should realize the work-from-home trend isn’t a panacea. In fact, there are significant drawbacks and challenges that shouldn’t be overlooked.

As Zelnick pointed out, there are unquantifiable benefits derived from being in the same physical location. Scheduled videoconferencing meetings don’t engender the same spontaneous creativity compared to the many back-and-forth brief conversations during a typical day at an office. And nothing beats face-to-face interactions for building the relationships and trust required to persuade your colleagues on big decisions.

It’s notable that even as Facebook projects confidence and forward-looking thought leadership in its charge toward its new work-from-home culture, it is implementing the change slowly. Zuckerberg said only the company’s senior engineers with strong performance reviews will be initially allowed to apply for remote-work flexibility, adding it will be a measured transition before extending the policy to non-engineers.

To be frank, it wouldn’t surprise me to see many of these companies slow down their transitions to remote working. After all, the world is only a few months into this massive remote-work experiment. The initial productivity benefits may dissipate and significant negative consequences may well appear over time. Best not to rush into any drastic decisions.

SOURCE: Kim, T. (26 May 2020) "Work from home forever? Businesses are divided on that" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/articles/work-from-home-forever-businesses-are-divided-on-that