Leading Employees Through Interpersonal Conflict

Not everyone gets along all the time. This is especially true during times of high stress, which can turn minor differences of opinion into full-blown arguments and trigger all sorts of stress reactions.

High-stress situations and conflicts can also bring to the surface underlying biases and unpleasant reactions to women in positions of authority. Because of this, managing conflict can be a point of particular difficulty for women in the workplace, no matter how well trained and skilled they are as managers or HR professionals.

Managers need to be savvy and adjust the leadership style they employ, as well as carefully investigate the source of a conflict in order to diffuse issues. These are excellent best practices to employ anyway, but the stakes can be especially high for women, who may find more authoritative styles of leadership backfiring.

 

Digging to the Root of a Conflict

The good news is that the extra work women often need to put in to conflict resolution tends to lead to better management as a result.

Quickly and permanently resolving a conflict requires finding and addressing its cause. Otherwise the issue is likely to boil over again. There are different types of workplace conflicts, each with a different impetus. The solution to two people quarreling over differing social values will vary greatly from employees butting heads because they have too few resources for everyone to do their work effectively. Both of these are very different from conflict caused by policy violation or harassment.

The idea is simple: solve the specific problem that causes the conflict. If employees need more resources, but those resources can’t be allocated quickly, some creative solutions to how people work together might be needed. Someone may need to be assigned different tasks in the meantime, or there may be a broader cultural issue if certain people’s needs are routinely neglected. Finding other ways to keep employees motivated will help with stressful work environments.

When the cause of a conflict can be traced directly to the actions of an employee, things can become complicated quickly. Poor internal policing of harassment is a common problem in many industries, and if a harasser enjoys the protection of someone higher up on the food chain it can be extremely difficult to correct their behaviour or dislodge them.

 

Leadership Strategies for Conflict Resolution

Once you know what’s causing a conflict, you can apply the type of leadership that you feel will work best. There are a number of different leadership styles, each with pros and cons, and differing effects on different demographics and workplace cultures.

If a conflict arose due to differences in values or different interpretations of workplace culture, a more restorative and transformational type of leadership may be required. Sitting down with employees to work through their differences and seeking common ground can help them work together in the future. Issues like these may also indicate that company policy may need to be updated to be clearer about workplace goals, and re-affirm which types of conversations are not work appropriate.

If employees butt heads due to resource allocation, workload, or other stresses related to the work environment directly, then a more authoritative resolution could be disastrous for a manager of any gender. Employees may need to be reminded of appropriate conduct, but the structural issues putting stress on them in the first place need to be addressed.

Cases of harassment present a whole host of frustrations. Harassment can be difficult to prove, and firing someone without a strongly documented case against them can land a manager in legal nightmares, not to mention internal scrutiny. In many cases your hands might be tied to even make those decisions.

The two most important things about cases of harassment are documentation and supporting the victim. Accurate, dispassionate documentation is vital, especially if the behaviour dips into criminal territory and the police need to become involved. It also protects you and the company against legal action when disciplinary measures are taken.

You may need to invoke several different leadership styles to navigate the situation, to make victims feel safe, to convince other employees to tell you truthfully what they witnessed, and to handle the perpetrator of harassment according to the specific statutes, legal definitions, and workplace laws in your state.

 

Preventative Measures to Take Against Conflict

The earliest preventative measure against conflict is the hiring process. Every company has a unique working environment, policy, and culture. Hiring people only for the skills they possess might get work done, but could result in a volatile mix of differing work ethics, team dynamics, and people skills. Creating a workplace with little conflict starts from the very first hire. No workplace can be 100 percent issue free, but a candidate with the best resume but a bad attitude can cause a lot more damage than someone with less experience and an eagerness to cooperate. That’s why many companies choose to look for evidence soft skills, leadership ability and even teamwork on applications.

A robust onboarding and training process, even for experienced hires, is also a big part of helping people adjust to the ins and outs of their new environment. Assigning new hires to mentors — peers who can help them adjust and answer lighter questions — is another great way to ensure that employees come to understand the social dynamics of the workplace quickly.

Having enough employees to complete the work, paying enough, providing workplace resources and having policies that promote work-life balance are all also preventative conflict resolution. People who are happy coming to work are less likely to lash out.

There’s no catch-all answer to conflict, but many of the things you do every day to make your workplace better are also conflict-prevention strategies. Being proactive about employee satisfaction and mental health can go a long way to preventing problems in the first place. When resolution is needed, a little investigation and a firm but fair hand can keep the work environment pleasant for everyone.

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Incentive Dos and Don’ts for Your Company

Company incentive programs are intended to keep employees motivated and engage them in their own performance. However, if they are not executed carefully, the reward system can result in jealousy among staff and decreased performance.

When planning incentives for your work staff, you need to consider a myriad of factors to avoid workers ignoring safety or other corporate rules to reach unreasonable sales or performance goals. The goals should be challenging but attainable with the reward gratifying.

To maintain fairness and equity with your incentive program, set up key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate employee’s progress and valuation adequately. These metrics will help you drive the success of your program but also company milestones. Consult this list of dos and don’ts when incentivizing your staff.

Incentive Dos

The first thing to do is to know your audience. If your staff is replete with millennials, they may appreciate vintage 90s swag rather than cash rewards or extra money in their 401k. If your workforce is young, hip and the company based near water, consider giving water sports gear or ski jet rentals as incentives. Make incentivizing fun for your whole organization.

Do remember to inform all employees about the rewards program. Make sure you stick to a regular schedule and operate with fairness and equality when doling out incentives. Ensure your incentives are goal-oriented and measurable. Involve your employees in choosing rewards that are meaningful to them. Consider their input when devising the program; they may have great ideas for performance indicators and goals as well.

Make rewards frequent enough to keep everyone motivated. Instead of just an annual bonus, build in daily, weekly and monthly incentives as well. Structure the program so that you can give many small incentives with more substantial rewards less often. For example, when the team reaches a sales goal, hand out company sweatshirts, mugs or other logo-decorated swag and when a particular employee is chosen for his or her annual contribution, perhaps a cash bonus makes sense.

Base rewards on peer input and not just management-focused goals. Letting your team pick the best of the group helps to build respect and teamwork within your organization. Recognition from peers is sometimes even more rewarding than from top level management. Plus, your employees know each other much better than managers do and might be aware of performance improvements that you may not know of.  

Incentive Don’ts

First, don’t forget about the budget. When you build incentives into your company culture, factor in the cost of living and staff growth and make sure you can easily afford it. Don’t make the goals so easy that everyone achieves them, and you have to pay out, leaving nothing for the future.

Don’t offer “one size fits all” rewards — have options. Some employees might like swag and others might like an Amazon gift card instead. Variety can also ensure you are motivating your whole team, not just a select few. Don’t forget that you want your staff to work as a team so don’t create a rewards program that has everyone out for themselves. Team goals are good too, then the whole team wins the reward.

Don’t give inappropriate or unsafe items like e-cigarettes that are dangerous to your health and promotes a bad habit. Don’t set up programs based on one person’s opinion, such as an “employee of the month” where a manager chooses. Instead, use KPIs to evaluate all employees equally and know precisely what you are rewarding.

Don’t ignore your best people, be sure to incentivize them properly when they reach their goals. If everyone gets the same bonus and your top performers have been working harder than most, they will see it as an insult and feel unappreciated. This one misstep can cost you great employee assets, and it will actually hurt motivation in the long run.

Final Thoughts on Incentive Programs

You should reevaluate your incentive program each year. As the business grows, KPIs and other goals will change too, and the program should change to reflect this growth. Be careful not to use incentives in place of a proper salary.

The key to a successful incentive system is communication. Make sure all levels of management understand the program thoroughly and then have them communicate it to the rest of the staff working for them. Clearly spell out the expectations of the plan before implementing it. If no one understand the program, they won’t use it.

During the planning stages, it is important to discuss as a company what your purpose is for incentivizing your workforce. Once you know your own goals, it will be easier to devise milestones and rewards that are meaningful. Have a strategic plan rather than a vague notion of why it makes sense. Your incentive program should motivate and encourage your workers to strive to do their best.

Strategies for Greater Retention Rates for HR Managers

For an HR manager, the costs of creating and maintaining a staff can be plagued by employee turnover and disengagement. For most companies, revolving doors are a destructive force for financial growth, considering the cost to replace an employee is roughly 50% of that employee’s annual salary. An effective HR department, therefore, needs to hire appropriately, work to engage employees in the success of the business and constantly monitor observable measurements to ensure that they are on track.

So how does an efficient HR department gauge their progress and ensure best practices for employee retention? How do companies evolve past the everyday, worn-out methods of keeping employees engaged and make the work environment a place where employees can truly thrive?

Hiring Process

The trickiest part of the hiring process is ensuring that HR brings on the right person for the role to not only fill in missing personnel, but foster growth. The person needs to fit the values, short and long term goals of the company. A mismatch of skills, values, and commitment can create loss for a company. For hiring members of HR, there is a host of resources out there for hiring managers who want to maximize their hiring potential and run their small business like a larger corporation.

Primarily, hiring managers need to think about the kind of skills they need to bring into the company as opposed to simply filling a slot or replacing someone who has moved on. Is the company facing challenges? What skills would be the best counter to those challenges? A potential area of growth? It’s easy to fall back into patterns of hiring to replace, but hiring to grow benefits the company far more.

Observable Metrics

A handful of easily observable paper metrics can give HR departments an idea of how engaged and happy their employees are. Turnover is one of the most obvious metrics. If a company is perpetually bleeding employees, there is something seriously wrong. Likewise, the average length of employment can help indicate employee engagement. If most employees leave within a year, or conversely, stay for many years, these are indicators of the company’s ability to engage. The amount of sick or personal days taken can indicate an employee’s level of involvement in their job as well. Finally, the revenue per employee can help companies determine how engaged employees are on the clock.

Observable metrics are just the beginning of the story. An employee can love and be dedicated to their work, but also have a sick family member that leads to absences. When an observable metric indicates disengagement, look past the numbers into the human element. Is there a solution that would allow the employee to contribute in the way they’d like while acknowledging the issue? Would working from home allow them to care for the relative while hitting goals?

Greater Employee Engagement

Once the right employee is hired, the key to maintaining that employee’s performance and commitment is growing their engagement in the company. The best tool for engagement is communication. It’s important for management to keep lines of communication between themselves and their team open. Fostering trust and making employees feel heard helps them feel important, both to the company and as people. That level of emotional engagement is invaluable.

Help employees understand their role in the company — how their efforts aid the company’s success, and how the company’s success affects them. The ability to draw a direct line between cause and effect, both for the company and the employee, creates real stakes that encourages a better work ethic.

Goal Creation and Attainment

Realistic, attainable goals encourage greater engagement and growth of abilities, output and capability. Achieving goals can be rewarding in themselves; they can also be steps for future growth within the company. Goals should be appropriate for the company and for the employee — they should be a marriage of the interests of both parties. Is this something the employee is passionate about and finds rewarding? Is this an area of interest that benefits the company? Do they have the skills to achieve this goal, in a way that benefits the company?

For the employees, goals can include growth of current abilities, or the push to finish a project. Potential rewards for employees can include extra benefits, like a day off, the chance for a promotion (or more eligible to promotion), or a treat of some kind, like free lunch. Whenever a company uses a reward as an incentive for achieving goals, they should be clearly communicated and legitimately achievable. Carrot-and-sticking rewards like promotions is a dishonest method, and will ultimately lead to decreased morale.

Avoid Demotivation Pitfalls

Demotivation can come from many fronts. Lack of communication and transparency between management and employees creates a vacuum of information — one that is bound to be filled with speculation and guesswork. In a workplace without healthy feedback and communication, that guesswork can be powered by anxiety and untruths, which barely benefit anyone. Recognize employees, listen to their feedback.

Make sure the employee who puts her all into her job is recognized and rewarded fairly. Don’t feel the need to treat everyone the same. Follow through on commitments and promises. Show employees why certain team members are celebrated, and help the others find ways to be celebrated as well.

The bottom line is this: HR might be about acquiring and maintaining people as a resource, much like paper or computers, but remember that you and your crew are not robots. Metrics are useful, and numbers don’t lie, but everyone involved is a human. They have human feelings and human motivations, which don’t often conform to spreadsheet analytics. Address the human side of the equation to balance the metrics, and make the most of your skills as a leader to address real, human concerns to foster greater employee retention and engagement.

Tips for Successful Conference Networking

In order to do well in any industry, you need to know and have the support of the right people. No matter how independently you work, people are the key to success in every endeavor. Although chance encounters do occur, you don’t always meet the right people at the right time.

However, you can increase these chances by setting up a booth at a conference specific to your niche. With different influencers in your industry congregated in the same area as you, the odds will be more in your favor for developing these mutually beneficial relationships.

Being at the right place doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen, though. You’ll need the networking and conversational skills to back you up when you meet a potential customer or partner at a conference too (even if you’re a bit more on the introverted side). Here’s what you need to know to up your conference networking game.

Don’t Skimp on Booth Design

A lot can be said about a person by the way they design their booth. When you have a booth at a conference, how your setup looks is just as important as your own wardrobe. No one will want to start a conversation with you if you look like you put no effort in your appearance.

The same is true for your booth. If you put little work into the aesthetics of your booth design, you won’t attract many people — especially if it looks like it was made the night before or is bland in style. In order to catch people’s attention, you’ll need booth banners and a striking design to flag people down.

Remember, your banner and booth materials are an extension of your brand. If anything is incongruent with your brand image, people will be confused about who you are and what you’re doing at the conference. So double check the colors and and fonts you use match the same ones as your business and other marketing materials; you always want to be more proactive than reactive.

Keep things simple and easy to read as well by designing your booth in a way that showcases what your business is about. Don’t let your message get lost in a cluttered design. Also have your audience in mind when creating your booth and banner.

Use graphics and language that appeal to your target audience so that your setup is the one they’re attracted to the most. Look into applied psychology and color theory, too, and see which shades and hues communicate the message you want your company to evoke while still being pleasing to the eye.

Have size in mind as well and make sure the promotional materials you use are large enough to catch a crowd’s attention while still conforming to the size restrictions of your booth area. Placing your booth in a good light doesn’t hurt either by utilizing lighting equipment that accentuates your display and brings attention to areas you want people to see most.

Overall Best Conference Practices

Once you’re at a conference, it won’t do hoping for the best that the right people will come to your booth. You need to prepare and devise a plan to best utilize your time at the conference. By first seeing what the conference’s schedule is, prioritizing and managing your time for the workshops and panels you want to attend will be that much easier.

Also see which topics will be discussed and which speakers were invited so you can do further research on the two to increase your chances of forming a connection with the influencers speaking and attending. You may not be able to do everything you want at the conference, so determine which events are a priority and which can be missed if you don’t have the time.

Have someone man your booth at all times as well so that your station is not left unattended while you visit various events. It helps to familiarize yourself with the location of the conference and where each activity will occur too. Knowing how long it will take to walk to certain panels and workshops will help you determine which ones you can get to in time, and having a familiar idea of where the conference is and where you can park will ensure you’ll arrive on time.

Don’t forget to schedule in break times for rest and food yourself, either. You won’t be impressing anyone if you’re exhausted or your stomach’s growling through a whole conversation. Speaking of conversations, leave some time for exchanges with other attendees as well since the whole point of you being there is to network.

If you have questions about what you should wear, look at past conference pictures on their website to get a feel for what the dress code is. You’ll want to be comfortable since you’ll be on your feet for a good portion of the day. Check the weather as well so you can plan your outerwear accordingly. Layering up is another good idea since different rooms can be set at different temperatures.

Lastly, consider other items you will need to bring with you to the conference such as a laptop, chargers, pen and paper, and business cards.

Talk the Talk

Once you have a plan of attack, you need to brush up on your networking skills. As you can see, networking is one of the top ways agencies drum up new business.

That being said, there are a lot of people vying for the same relationships you want to cultivate, so it’s up to you to distinguish yourself from the rest. Do this by being more eager to help the other person rather than having them assist you. Showing a genuine interest in the other person will make your more noticeable than a person who only asks for what they want.

Networking isn’t a one-sided relationship. It takes the efforts of two people trying to connect with one another. So be a good listener and ask them questions about themselves. Honesty is truly the best policy when it comes to networking, so speak the truth about yourself to build a solid foundation of trust between you and your contact.

Be consistent with who you are as a person both professionally and personally as well. People have a knack for discovering inconsistencies when talking with a person. Getting caught in an untruth can seriously damage a budding connection.

Also remember to continue the conversion long after the first encounter by consistently following up with them. A true networking relationship only grows and prospers if you put in the work to stay in contact with them.

Take Advantage of Hiring Opportunities

Although you may be going to a conference to form beneficial business connections, don’t forget to network with people who want to form connections with you as well. Especially when you’re hiring your first employees, it’s important to start your hiring process right by recruiting the best and brightest first instead of ones who will just do for now.

The kind of people you hire in the beginning will ultimately encourage or halt the progress of your company altogether. Hiring has a domino effect in that the employees you hire will recommend and attract other employees like them to your company, so it’s best to give yourself a good headstart and hire the most qualified candidates you can find.

Individuals attending conferences will most likely have the qualities you want in an employee, so keep your eyes open for potential hires at these events. It’s good to think in the long-term when considering a prospective employee as well since your business will have to deal with the consequences — negative or positive — of each hire you take on.

You will have to be the judge whether or not the skill sets a person possesses will benefit you just now or many years down the road. It’s also important that you like the person you’re thinking about offering a position to. Company culture is a key part to business success.

If people are miserable with the coworkers they have to collaborate with, this will only lead to setbacks for your company. After all, why would you want to hire someone you don’t like? Employees also work their best and come up with their most innovative ideas if their work environment makes them feel comfortable and encourages research and development that way of thinking. According to HR Gazette, “48% of human resources and recruiters and managers believe that technology helps them make better decisions.” 

Even with the best intentions, many startups and companies fail — but that doesn’t mean failure has to happen to you too. Attending and setting up a booth at a conference is a great way to find lasting and beneficial connections.

However, you can’t just walk in and expect great results to happen. By investing in your booth design, putting together a conference game plan, and brushing up in your networking skills, you will form relationships that will help you and your company progress far into the future.

5 Winning Ways to Successful Key Account Management

account manager

Key Account Management (KAM) was rooted in the concept of soft-selling and is widely recognized in various fields such as banking, health and industrial domains as mutually beneficial to both companies and their clients.

Through Key Account Management, clients achieve their goals through collaboration and support provided by the company in charge and in return, these companies increase their revenues and maintain a strong and lasting relationship with their major clients, keeping them ahead of the competition. In short, it provides communal growth through partnership, therefore making it critical for every company to make their key account management strategies effective and enhance it if needed.

Unfortunately, some companies still end up wasting their key account management training investments due to unfamiliarity with the best practices. Having that said, here are the key takeaways of the infographic from Healthy Business Builder which details five winning ways to successful key account management:

  1. Select the right account!
  2. Find the best person!
  3. Insist on the very best and relevant key account management program
  4. Your account manager must be highly skilled!
  5. Patience, and the right positive attitude!

To learn more about the winning ways to successful key account management, check out the infographic below:

5 Winning Ways to Successful Key Account Management-01

The Human Side of HR: What Makes a Great Administrator?

Businesses are made up of a multitude of working parts. From upper management down to the mailroom, everyone has a vital role to play. HR managers are an essential part of maintaining a well-oiled machine; they take care of the people who work there and maintain the kind of workplace that inspires people to turn up day after day, year after year. They are the people behind the people. In order to do their jobs effectively, HR managers need to have a variety of skills in their toolbox.

Hire the Right People

Hiring is a major part of HR responsibilities. It’s important to hire the right people; you want them to be engaged, capable, and in possession of a skillset that compliments the current work goals and progress. An experienced HR manager needs to know how to hire the kind of person who fits the company culture and values, and who will assist in reaching long-term goals as well as immediate needs. The wrong person, or hiring a good employee for the wrong position, can be detrimental. The right person can not only fit into your corporate culture but can help that culture grow along with the business.

Effective Training

A good hiring manager can recruit employees with all the skills required to shape the company’s ability to succeed, but they also need to help mold the employee’s skill set into their brand and workflow through comprehensive and effective training. An employee with a wealth of talent needs to know how to apply that talent, not just for best results but also in compliance with legal and labor laws. A thorough training regimen outlines expectations, any company-specific training, as well as what the employee can expect from the company. This communication is vital to ensuring everyone, including the company, can comfortably fulfill their expectations.

Employee Retention and Satisfaction

The link between employee engagement and revenue is well-established. A skillful HR manager is the cornerstone of employee satisfaction — and employee satisfaction is the key to engagement. HR can utilize programs designed to show appreciation for employee work; anything from food to incentive programs can energize employees. Likewise, public praise and spotlighting distinguished employees as well as a culture of positive reinforcement can be effective. HR must also stay on top of employee needs, whether it be in benefits offerings or promotion and salaries. Employees should feel needed, appreciated, and like they have something to work towards.  

Conflict Resolution

One of the more complicated aspects of HR is conflict resolution. An effective HR manager should be patient, even-tempered and able to navigate employee interpersonal and professional relationships (as they apply to the job) with a delicate touch. HR should be attuned not only to the needs of the company but of the employees as they apply to a productive and effective workplace. Conflict resolution can range from small interpersonal spats to the larger legal issues, such as sexual harassment. It is important that HR managers be thoroughly educated and knowledgeable about conflicts of a legal nature, for the safekeeping of both employees and the company.  

Follow Through

Your employees rely on you to make sure their work lives run smoothly. From benefits to paychecks, they need you to make sure the company fulfils their end of the employee contract. Prompt follow-through shows your employees their well-being is important and the company is invested in making sure they are in a safe, productive atmosphere. If employees do not trust HR, they’ll be less likely to seek out solutions to any problems from HR. They will be more likely to become bitter or malcontent, grow stagnant in terms of work or look for employment elsewhere.

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An HR manager who utilizes these skills will be able to work effectively and harmoniously with their company and workforce. Their administration skills can help boost productivity and make the workplace somewhere employees look forward to turning up for a long, happy future.

Why a More Productive Workforce is Still Possible: Start by Listening to Your Employees

Author: Tracey Fritcher, Global Director HR Transformation, ServiceNow

The gains in workforce productivity in the last 15 years are numerous. But there are still many organizations today that are filled with a great deal of administrative work to get a task done – much of this work falls into the unstructured category and is a huge time waster.

What if there was a way to look at work and build some structure and automation into processes to drive more productivity? Many organizations are looking at work and finding ways to add some guided insight so people can accomplish more in each day of work.

Searching the phrase “increase workforce productivity” will return approximately 84 million results…in .57 seconds – an overwhelming amount of information about recent improvements and many predictions about future gains.

Many of the articles revolve around management practices and what leaders can do to get to that holy grail of incremental effort – the kind of commitment that fills an employee with the drive to stay up late and take care of a customer problem or come in early when two nurses have called in sick on their floor. This is great when it happens, but people have lives outside of work and circumstances prevent doing any more than what is required for the job.

Smart organizations are seeking productivity gains by identifying the biggest time wasters — the work that often falls through the cracks, is highly administrative, repeatable and many times done via phone, e-mail or still on paper. Some great examples of this type of work are tuition reimbursement, charity gift matching, or following up on a paycheck error.

Employees spend significant time just trying to figure out where to go to resolve these types of issues. Once they think they have the right place to go, the next step is usually an e-mail or a phone call which sometimes lead to an out of office or voice mail. So the next step is another e-mail or phone call and soon more than 30 minutes has evaporated and the employee is still without an answer or resolution.

Automation, intelligent workflow, and guided choices for employees to complete tasks are the keys to future productivity gains within workforces. For many workers, having immediate and direct access to answers is far more high-touch than having to call a service center to speak with a representative. Employees want the power of information and technology at their fingertips – besides, a cloud-enabled portal doesn’t have hours of operations – it’s always open and answers are instantaneous.

Recently, a flight crew from a discount airline was waiting for a hotel shuttle bus and talking about where to go for a paycheck dispute. There were six people in the conversation and each person had a different answer of who to contact. Since the high-touch, phone-answering 1-800 number was only open 12 hours a day, there were lots of work around as far as how to circumvent the often 20 or 30-minute hold time for a representative to look into the situation.

If this even happened 50 times a day, for a global 24/7 operation, the cost implications are beyond significant. In this situation, one employee had a similar issue and was on the phone for over an hour resolving a problem…and on the clock the entire time. A paycheck question is one of the easiest things to solve through automated workflow – there is one place to go and technology helps the employee find the right person for that unique question.

Listen

Smart companies start by listening to their employees and finding out what tasks or procedures are causing the greatest frustration. Once you have a short list of “pain points” of high frustration tasks for employees, the work to automate can begin. The great news is that sizable gains can be made just by making information readily available and easy to find. Most companies are looking at overall search capability to serve up answers to an employee without that person having to know exactly where to go.

A search of tuition reimbursement should bring up the policy, a list of FAQs, the link to submit grades and transcripts, a selection of where the reimbursement should go and someone to contact in case of a unique situation (e.g., think of all the recent for-profit college closings in recent years – the right person should be reachable and available to assist in that situation).

When employees are frustrated and administrative items are ridiculously difficult to resolve, the greater productivity impact is around the stories being shared about the awful experience. When an employee’s life event is particularly sudden and there are delayed responses or confusing communications from multiple parties, the result is a worker who is frustrated AND upset.

Terrible experiences with HR cannot be ignored. People share them. It’s too good not to share…and vent…and complain about – and then others hop on the bandwagon of THEIR awful work situation that was confusing and took forever to resolve.

This is all solvable by getting employees used to going one place –one platform instead of multiple systems — to have their issues resolved. When there is a strong service delivery strategy and solution in place within an organization, it really doesn’t matter what the request is – the answer is easy to find, the employee gets a quick resolution and there’s no drama over a ridiculous process.

It is easy to start small and keep building out answers that keep people focused on their actual jobs. Employees should not have to spend a great deal of time and energy to be an employee. At least some of this time and energy can then be expended on real work — like completing projects, making deadlines and serving customers.

7 Underused Brainstorming Techniques to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

Brainstorming is the age-old technique for generating new ideas, solving problems, decision making and even inspiring creative thinking. Sometimes though, it is not that easy to get the expected outcome of a brainstorming session.

When this happens, you should go beyond the traditional brainstorming techniques and adopt some new methods like the ones below.

Concept Maps

A concept map is a visual tool and can be used to structure a brainstorming session.

It helps organize ideas and illustrate relationships between them.

Put down the topic you are brainstorming at the top, and get your team to come up with any and all ideas related to it while you put them down under the main topic.

Then connect each idea with links that have labels on them to describe how each idea is connected to the other. As you complete your concept map you’ll have an overview of the issue at hand that will help you come up with a solution pretty quickly.

Concept Map Example on Concept Mapping

Brainwriting

Sometimes, when everyone is speaking at once, trying to put their own idea out there, the introverts with great ideas will shy away from participating in the discussion.

And if their idea is actually good, you’d be missing a good opportunity to arrive at a solution.

Brainwriting allows you to overcome this issue, as in this method you give everyone in the group a chance to write down their idea on a sheet of paper.

This way you will not only be encouraging everyone to share their opinion, but this technique will also give more time to the participants to come up with ideas that would never have occurred to them within a larger setting.

Rapid Ideation

This technique uses a time limit as a catalyst for generating great ideas.

In this technique, the moderator of the brainstorming session provides the necessary information on the topic, budget, deadline etc. and set a time limit for the participants to write down as many ideas as possible around the topic.

While they shouldn’t try to filter their ideas, they can use any medium to mark them down, be it on a paper, whiteboard or on Google Sheets; basically, anything that they can use to get their creative juices flowing.

The session could go on for just a few minutes, or an hour depending on the topic that is being brainstormed.

Gap Filling

This is basically to get your team to consider what you need to do to get from your current position to your goal. In this method, it is important to set a relevant and attainable goal.

During the session, get the team to figure out what resources, how much time and what methods you should use to get to that particular goal.

As you fill the gap from point A to point B, you’ll get to paint a clear picture of what needs to be done.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis helps you look into the strengths and weaknesses of your company and figure out what opportunities and threats you might be facing within the industry.

Analyzing these four conditions in a SWOT analysis example like the one below will help you come up with better-informed ideas for the issues you have at hand.

New SWOT Analysis Template 6 (1).png

Starbursting

Instead of directly finding answers, in this brainstorming technique, you get your team to ask as many questions about the topic as possible. The questions should cover the who, what, where, why and how related to the topic at hand.

Questioning an idea thus does not only help understand it better, but it also helps you ensure that there’s no risk involved in taking an action by allowing you to consider all aspects of it.

Rolestorming

Here you take on the identity of someone else, say your CEO, a celebrity, an expert in your field or even your client, and assume what they would do if they were faced with the issue you have or what they would do if they were to take action.

This technique will help you think out of the box while helping you overcome any anxiety that you may have regarding expressing an idea that you think would be not accepted. This technique is an ideal solution for those introverts in your team.

Reverse Thinking

Try to think of what everyone else in your position would do, and then do the opposite. This method, like the rolestorming method, will help you come up with unique ideas.

 

Not having a great time coming up with new ideas from your brainstorming sessions? Try these techniques out and see how they change the game for you.

Any other different brainstorming techniques that you use? Do let us know in the comment section below.

 

Employer Branding on Social Media: Best Examples

How to Build and Support Employee Wellness in the Workplace

1 in 5 adults in the US today is dealing with a mental health condition. This has a direct impact in the workplace for both employees and employers. The Depression Center at the University of Michigan found that depression is a leading cause of U.S. productivity loss with an annual cost of $44 billion to employers. The important role employers have in helping to support the mental health of their employees is more critical than ever, especially as our latest Global Employee Benefits Watch 2017/2018 research found that a concerning 64% of US employees feel that their workplace has a negative or very negative impact on their wellbeing. So how can employers better support their employees’ needs?

The need for a tailored, comprehensive benefits program

Many employers struggle to recognize the importance of their benefits offerings in fostering mental health. Companies need to evolve their benefits programs to meet the shifting needs of today’s employees. Our research found a disconnect between the support offered by employers, and the support employees actually want. This disconnect is especially pronounced in areas affecting employee wellness.

We can no longer view physical, mental or financial health in isolation. These different aspects of health all interconnect and influence employees’ sense of wellbeing. Workers who are anxious or ill are unlikely to operate at peak performance, and this can hugely impact a business’ bottom line.

Take mental health, for example: 56.5% of American adults suffering from mental health illnesses do not receive treatment. For those who sought out treatment, 20.1% reported they still had unmet treatment needs. Providing a health care plan that offers free or low-cost mental health treatment is imperative for helping to address these unmet needs.

When it comes to improving general wellness, 63% of the workforce has the goal of getting fit and healthy, yet only 30% think that their employer supports them in reaching this goal through their benefits program. That’s one of the reasons why many companies are turning to ‘wellness pots’, including us at Thomons, to give employees the flexibility to spend a set amount of money on anything that helps improve their wellness. We also offer Yoga classes on a Monday, boot camp on a Wednesday and Zumba classes on a Thursday to help promote and cultivate wellness. Getting moving and healthy together as an office has short-term endorphin payoffs and helps build and promote a culture of wellness within the workplace.

When considering which benefits best suit your employees, it’s important to consider generational differences. Younger employees in particular aren’t receiving the support they’re looking for from their employers. Traditional financial benefits such as a 401K are deisgned to meet the needs of an older workforce, which differ greatly from those of millennials. Buying a home is a goal for 74% of 18-35s – yet only 4% feel that their benefits scheme supports this. Employees who feel unsupported by their employer are less likely to engage with the business and their work. In order to avoid a lack of engagement from their staff, employers need to reassess the type of support they offer younger employees.

How to take action

To start, employers need to take steps to thoroughly understand what employees’ want in regard to wellbeing, and commit to supporting these wants through their benefits program. After the new benefits are in place, companies must effectively communicate them to their people. Employees can only engage with wellbeing benefits if they’re aware of them. Therefore, employers need to take into account whether their employees are more likely to read a text, pick-up a flyer or take part in a one-on-one chat. Finally, employers need to consider how best to encourage benefits take-up. The best way to do this is by providing a positive user experience. Mobile-first, easy-to-understand software is critical for engaging employees in their benefits plans and improving their overall perception of their employer.

With more Americans than ever before suffering from serious psychological distress, it’s clear that today’s employees are dealing with an unprecedented number of mental health issues. Employers need to play their part in addressing it. Helping improve employee mental health does not have to be a complicated task. Simply adjusting benefits in a strategic way can positively impact employees’ experiences, therefore improving how they feel and perform in the workplace.

When wellbeing is addressed correctly, the picture is much more positive. Employees who say that their benefits needs are met receive 76% more wellbeing initiatives and have 58% more life goals supported from their employer. This loyalty pays off, as these employees are twice as likely to recommend their employer to a friend, say they have a positive experience at work, and be proud to work for their company. The message for employers is clear: prioritize offering the best wellbeing benefits for your workforce, and you’ll reap rewards in employee engagement, attraction, and retention.

6 Reasons to Be a Straight-Shooting Leader

Every business in any industry will come across conflicts, strife, and problems both in and outside of their operations or processes. It’s one of the most inevitable parts of life, even in a professional setup, and not even the most meticulous owners can avoid this phenomenon. The true challenge with problems, however, often has to do with how you react to it, not the problem itself.

Even the most reluctant of entrepreneurs has no choice but to confront conflicts head-on so their business can advance and succeed. Avoiding or ignoring the problem should be out of the question, because not only will it exacerbate the problem until it blows out of proportion, but you’ll only be pushing your employees into further disengagement and strife with each other.

That’s why, as a leader, it’s your prime duty to establish and sustain a conducive and pleasant work environment, so that whenever something goes wrong, your employees are not scrambling to barely hold the company together or suffer a total relationship breakdown between each other. Not only that, but you’ll be able to cultivate the type of surroundings that will foster further growth both individually and as a whole for your employees and your company.

This is possible if you’re a straight-shooting leader. But why should be one? Here are the key takeaways from this infographic by Healthy Business Builder:

  1. To showcase your leadership skills
  2. In order to create genuine harmony
  3. To create a productive work environment
  4. To identify and put boundaries in place
  5. To better understand your employees
  6. To see new opportunities for growth

Learn more about these reasons, why they should be your greatest motivations into cultivating yourself as a straight-shooting leader in your company, and how these reasons can help you become the strongest leader you can possibly be by checking out the infographic now.

6 Reasons to Be a Straight-Shooting Leader