New Research: Hourly Jobs Are Hurting Families

New Research: Hourly Jobs Are Hurting Families

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog. 


One remediable problem is tormenting hourly workers, especially those raising children.


“Is she asleep?”

“Yeah, she finally passed out.”

“I’m sorry, Jake. I should’ve picked her up on time, like I said I would.”

“It’s not your fault, Karen. I understand. Abby’s school understands. Work is work. What can we do?”

Karen stood up to make some tea, adding a lemon wedge for her sore throat.

“I’m exhausted,” she said.

“I know,” said Jake. “Me, too.”

Around the world, hourly employees are suffering.

After studying nearly 6,000 hourly retail workers, Kristen Harknett, an associate professor of sociology at Penn State, confirmed that unpredictable, unstable schedules are bad for employee health and well-being.

Her study asserts that erratic schedules cause harm and difficulty, particularly to working parents, who lose the ability to plan ahead.

Penn State: “Unpredictable, unstable schedules are bad for employee health and well-being.” via @WorkForceSW

“If you have more advanced notice of your work schedule, then you’re less likely to report psychological distress, you’re less likely to report poor health, you’re less likely to report poor sleep quality,” Harknett says. “Simply having at least two weeks’ advanced notice is associated with all these benefits.”

Another report, by Human Impact Partners, corroborates the notion that unpredictable schedules cause “physical and mental health consequences for workers and their families.”

And these consequences are felt by employers, as well. They trickle down, affecting customers and, ultimately, business goals:

According to Gallup, unhealthy employees cost organizations $84B a year.

Gallup surveyed 94,000 workers with chronic health conditions (e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression) and found that the total annual cost of their lost productivity totaled $84 billion.

If you employ hourly workers, you’re paying into that figure.

That said, if you employ salaried people, you’re also contributing. And salaried workers cost more than the digit on their paychecks: health insurance, retirement benefits, cell phones, bonuses, trainings. That’s why corporations proactively invest in “Health & Wellness” programs, which are designed to keep white-collar knowledge workers happy, healthy and, of course, productive.

It’s a big industry, actually: Every year, companies spend about $6 billion on massages, gym memberships, Fitbits, and morning yoga classes—among other “outside” perks—for their salaried guns.

Rarely, however, do you see a wellness program aimed at hourly workers, an inequality that comes down to ROI. And that begs the question: what do hourly employees need?

A Fitbit? A fifteen-minute massage every Friday afternoon? Free snacks in the breakroom?

Sure, those are neat perks, but they’re not making it any easier to raise children. They’re not helping people sleep at night. They’re not giving employees their time and stability back, their routines back.

After all, how can anyone cultivate a routine when they don’t even know what tomorrow looks like?

Introducing: Health-&-Wellness Scheduling

Right now, around the world, a percentage of hourly workers are using workforce management software to enact Health-&-Wellness Scheduling—and it’s giving them back control.

It’s allowing them to pick up shifts when they want to, and give shifts away when they need to. It’s showing them an airtight schedule, weeks in advance.

It’s a vehicle for work-life balance.

In fact, the department store Karen and Jake work for recently started using it:

“…can you pick Abby up after school next Tuesday?” said Jake.

“I have three night shifts in a row that week.”

“Of course, I can,” said Karen. “I’ll just trade that day away—two minutes.”

Imagine that.

Seasonal Employees: A Practical Guide for Retail Managers

Seasonal Employees: A Practical Guide for Retail Managers

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog. 


7 management practices proven to promote success among temporary, seasonal hires.


“Tomorrow, our associate headcount will increase by more than a third,” said Noam, as he crossed his arms and leaned back against the breakroom’s kitchenette countertop. He was standing in front of nine managers, all of whom were his direct reports.

“They’re not going to be full-time,” said Noam, referring to the dozens of seasonal retail workers slated to join the team before Thanksgiving, “but they’re still going to be our employees, our people—and we have to treat them as such if we’re going to hit our targets through the end of the year…”

“This holiday season, retailers could add as many as 690,000 new seasonal positions.” – NRF

And that’s only in the United States…

Around the world, millions of people will accept temporary employment with large and small retailers alike, helping existing teams handle the influx of store traffic and inventory without missing a beat.

Target, for example, estimates 77,000 holiday hires. Macy’s will take on 83,000 new people.

What about your store, your department? How many additional hands do you need during the retail holiday rush? More importantly, are you prepared to hire, onboard, and manage those people?

7 management practices that promote success among seasonal hires:

Given his or her “temporary” status, a seasonal worker’s frame-of-mind will differ from that of a full-time counterpart’s. Managers who acknowledge, anticipate, and prepare for this mental shift will get the most out of their holiday hires.

If you want to be your best retail manager this year—effective, yet still beloved—keep reading:

1. Tone down your hiring process.

Don’t make a temporary employee fill out a full-time application. Don’t put them through the pressures of a typical, full-time interview, either. The effort wouldn’t be worth the return.

Keep each candidate’s hiring process relative to that individual’s investment in your company.

When it comes to seasonal hires, feel free to check only the essential boxes: fundamental skills; applicable experience; background check. This approach will help you hire your target workforce efficiently, without burning out.

2. Be honest.

If you like someone, it may be tempting to promise them full-time work after the holidays are over.

If you’re doing this solely to make the hire, don’t. It’s unethical. Be upfront and realistic with the candidate about their chances to secure a 40-hour week.

3. Design a seasonal-specific training program that scales.

Most customers don’t care if they’re speaking to a temporary worker or a career associate. They only care about their question, their issue. Therefore, it’s important to adequately train your holiday hires, exposing them to the same information as the full-time team—but in smaller, more digestible amounts.

Putting your temporary hires through the rigors of a full-time training program is overkill: the time investment, again, wouldn’t justify the return. That said, every employee should start on the same page for the customers’ sake.

A scalable training program can be achieved in-person, through classroom sessions or online, using web-based programs. Either way, don’t skip this step. Train your people, even if they’re only “your people” for a few months.

4. Help your employees communicate with each other.

A new job can be stressful and intimidating, especially if you feel disconnected.

Empower your retail associates with tools that streamline communications and enable practical actions, like shift swapping.

Empower your retail associates with tools that streamline communications and enable practical actions, like shift swapping.

5. Master your schedules.

Posting schedules with little advance notice will disengage your people, leading to late arrivals, no-shows, and sub-par customer service (especially among low-loyalty, seasonal employees).

Avoid the consequences of poor scheduling practices—during the holidays and throughout the rest of the year—by using modern workforce management software to forecast your labor demand and schedule your people.

6. Don’t neglect your full-timers.

Be empathetic. Don’t forget to consider how your full-time workers feel in the midst of a sea of holiday hires. After all, your full-timers are permanent fixtures. They’ve proven themselves to be loyal and dedicated, eager to put their best foot forward for the sake of their future with the company.

Don’t cut their hours unless they ask for the time off.

7. Keep your brand’s reputation top-of-mind.

This one’s easy to forget, to disregard, even. The urgency of holiday rush will do that. But you can’t let it. You have to fight the pressure, and you have to win. That’s your job.

You have to treat customers well, and employees even better. Because everyone that walks into your store is a potential brand advocate, including seasonal workers. Sure, a seasonal worker is only with you for a moment. But when he or she leaves, they’ll take that experience with them. They’ll share it with their friends and family. They’ll post about it on Facebook.

That temp’s message could touch thousands of people, maybe more. So be kind and courteous. Treat people fairly, with dignity and respect. Not only because your company’s reputation depends on it—which it does—but because it’s the right thing to do.

“…any questions?” asked Noam.

He was still leaning, cross-armed, against the countertop. Dan, who was recently promoted to shift manager, raised his hand.

“Whachya got, Danny?”

“Do you have any advice? I mean, is there a game plan?”

“Great question. There definitely is a plan, and it starts with toning down our hiring process…”

This is Why Your Best People are Job Hunting Right Now

This is Why Your Best People are Job Hunting Right Now

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog. 


Companies aren’t focused on training employees because people are quitting sooner than ever, and employees are quitting sooner because they want better training. It’s a vicious cycle. Here’s how you stop it.


Rodger Humbolt, CEO, leaned into his computer screen as he waited for the Google Hangouts session to load.

One by one, his direct reports joined the video call, smiling from wherever in the world they were at the moment: New York, London, Sydney, Berlin. As the heads of a global organization, they traveled constantly to be with their respective team members. This was their weekly video call.

“Looks like we have everyone,” said Rodger. “Clair, Ryan, Thomas, Elaine—how’re we doing?”

Everyone spoke at once:

“Good!”

“Doing well.”

“Can’t complain!”

“Excellent, thanks for asking.”

“Great,” said Rodger, “let’s get started. First thing’s first: as you all know, there are some major issues with our training program, which is what I wanted to discuss today.”

Everyone nodded their heads in unison.

“From a turnover standpoint,” said Rodger, “this quarter has been particularly disturbing, with 66% of our departing workers citing ‘Inadequate Development Opportunities’ among their top reasons for leaving.”

Chins continued to bob.

“In fact, I’ve personally heard employees say that our training and development program is little more than a bureaucratic exercise, an afterthought,” said Rodger. “And it’s costing us money—a lot of money."

“I’ve heard similar feedback,” said Clair Aaronson, COO. “And I agree, it’s unacceptable. It’s costing us bright, valuable talent.”

“That’s true,” said Ryan Oleg, CFO, “millennials, especially, want training and development opportunities. It’s one of the top qualities they look for in an employer.”

“But some of the managers on my team are jaded,” said Tom Cohen, CHRO. “They’re hesitant to invest in training because people are job hopping more than ever now, leaving the team high and dry.”

“And therein lies the problem,” said Elaine, “people are leaving because they feel stagnant.”

“That’s why I asked each of you to come prepared today with a concrete idea,” said Rodger. “I’m looking for suggestions that’ll help make our lackluster training program something we’re all proud of. Something modern and engaging and seamless. Something we can use to sell candidates while growing the people we already have in place.”

The team wants to create a training program that’ll make their company an employer of choice…

In order to do so, each member suggested leveraging technology to reimagine the training process, making it easier and more intuitive, smarter and more efficient. A training strategy that asks less of the employer while giving more to the employee.

Let’s explore what they came up with:

Clair: “Implement ‘real-time’ training.”

Most of us are hands-on learners. We absorb and retain information best by doing, as opposed to listening and watching, which, unfortunately, is the foundation of most corporate training classes. A classroom setting is the norm.

Real-time training, then, seeks to disrupt that normality by using the powerful computer that’s in your pocket right now. Smart phones, after all, are designed to connect us. So why not use them to connect to a live trainer—a manager, mentor, or even a more experienced colleague—when you need instruction?

This approach wouldn’t replace formal training but, rather, supplement it—as long as a culture that supports the practice of live video instruction is established.

Ryan: “Develop interactive materials.”

Everyone is different in a training setting, entering with varying degrees of knowledge and potential. So why give them materials that treat them otherwise, materials that assume everyone is on the same plane? Why give unique individuals static training materials?

By creating dynamic, interactive documents, employers are giving their people the opportunity to slow down or speed up, to revisit and reconsider. Interactive materials will give your people a modicum of control over their development, which, when coupled with the direction of an experienced manager or trainer, can be a potent and effective way to learn new concepts.

Tom: “Start gamifying.”

Apply points—or any measureable value, for that matter—to a training program, and voila: you’ve created a game. In addition to making any development program more engaging, gamification helps business leaders recognize standout employees in a tangible way, using data.

Gamification can also be used hand-in-hand with interactive materials, helping workers to understand and retain information.

Elaine: “Make it part of the routine.”

Whether your workforce is hourly, salaried, or a combination of both, it’s important to incorporate regular training time into each employee’s schedule. In other words, make it an on-going experience rather than an annual or quarterly chore.

“Whether your workforce is hourly, salaried, or both, it’s important to establish a regular training schedule for all.”

Using modern workforce management to integrate training and development into every employee’s routine can help institutionalize the aforementioned strategies, creating a system, a process that everyone can anticipate and follow. Make it easy by integrating schedules into your learning management solution.

“Will these measures help us retain people?”

“They will,” said Elaine, her tone confident and resolute. “Because the majority of people who leave us aren’t chasing a new logo, they’re chasing new skills that’ll help them advance their careers. These initiatives are designed to enable those learnings while enhancing the overall experience.”

Yes.”

“I agree.”

“Me, too.”

“Okay,” said Rodger, “where do we start?”

How to Breed High-Performing Employees

How to Breed High-Performing Employees

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog. 


Discover the simple yet potent formula leaders use to engage employees, delight customers, and drive profits.


“Excuse me, sir,” said LaShawna, a silver-haired woman in her seventies, “are you a manager?”

Adam looked up from his company iPad with a friendly, how-can-I-help-you expression.

“Sure am,” he said. “I’m actually the GM. What can I do you for you, ma’am?”

“Nothing at all,” said LaShawna, her lips curling into a smile as she motioned toward her cart. “As you can see, Ken’s already helped me!”

Adam scanned her shopping cart, which was full of gloves and bats and baseballs, all from the Junior Champs collection on display in aisle five. It was good equipment; expensive equipment.

“Kenny helped you select all of this?”

“He absolutely did! My four grandkids love baseball, but I don’t know anything about it,” said LaShawna. “Ken saw me, overwhelmed, and the rest is history. I wanted to let you know he’s a very, very good egg.”

Ken is clearly a great employee …but why?

What’s made Ken—a millennial, full-time retail worker—so exceptional at his job?

Is it simply in his makeup to be attentive and focused, driven and proactive at work? Sure, that’s part of the equation. But there’s another variable that’s contributing to Ken’s success: his Worker Experience.

What is the Worker Experience?

If the “Customer Experience” is how patrons feel after interacting with your business, then the “Worker Experience” is how employees feel before, during and after the job.

Why talk about it? Why care? Because the Worker Experience trickles down, affecting your customers and, ultimately, your bottom line. In other words, delighted customers start with happy, high-performing employees.

And how do you get those? Leaders around the world are using a formula…

The Formula That Breeds High-Performing Employees

Happy employees care more, connect better with customers, and drive higher sales—the way Ken did. Of course, every manager wants a Ken: an engaged, passionate, intrinsically motivated worker, but few employers realize their role in developing that type of standout high-performer.

In the modern workforce landscape, employers need to put as much weight behind the Worker Experience as they do the Customer Experience—and they can do so by applying the Triple-T Formula:

Treatment + Tools + Transparency = Exceptional Worker Experience

Nail each variable and you’ll be setting your employees (and your business) up for success.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each one:

1. Treatment:

This one’s easy, fundamental: treat your employees like you’d treat your customers.

Respect, dignity, and social awareness, for example, mean something to customers, who seek out these values, consciously or otherwise. Adam, our manager, knows this, which is why he lives by these principles, following them when interacting with customers and employees alike.

Ken notices this, appreciates it, and carries that energy into his interactions with shoppers, like LaShawna.

Modern tools also help companies address serious issues like employee fatigue, driving profound improvements in worker safety around the world.

2. Tools:

Providing a customer-grade experience for your employees is a potent catalyst for high performance, but it’s not enough. You also have to enable your people to help themselves, to control their own fate within your organization.

Ken, for example, has an app that enables him to swap shifts and request time-off in seconds. The same technology, then, gives Adam real-time workforce visibility, helping him reduce payroll errors and save money.

3. Transparency:

“Nice job today, Kenny,” said Adam. “I know that Junior Champs collection doesn’t sell itself.”

“Oh, thanks,” said Ken, smiling as he shook Adam’s outstretched hand.

“That was a hefty sale, Ken. It netted the business just over $800. One cart! Tremendous work.”

Every time an employee does a standout job, Adam makes it a point to validate their performance, putting a transparent number behind their effort. He also puts figures behind his employees’ mistakes, making their presence in the organization as tangible as the products they sell.

And that level of honesty motivates and spurs engagement like few other methods can.

The takeaway:

Behind every satisfied customer, there’s an engaged employee. An employee who feels respected, empowered and informed at work. An employee who understands the consequences of their effort …or lack thereof.

It’s important to remember that these people are on the front lines of customer service, support, and satisfaction. They’re at the helm, dictating whether or not a one-time shopper will become a lifetime patron.

It’s an awesome responsibility, which is propelled by a thoughtful, calculated employer approach—a formula.

Now, if you manage others, the ball’s in your court…

How to Delight Customers in Any Industry

How to Delight Customers in Any Industry

This article originally appeared on the WorkForce blog. 


Two words: domino effect.


Finally, I thought, it’s happening.

After eight delays in eight hours, the plane that was scheduled to take me back to Chicago at 6:25 PM was speeding towards liftoff at half-past two in the morning …until it wasn’t.

“Folks,” the pilot’s voice shot through the intercom, “I have some bad news: the baggage handlers assigned to this flight were late due to some scheduling glitches.”

I could feel the plane’s brakes digging into the wheels.

“The delay made us pilots miss our fatigue deadline by a couple minutes.”

The plane slowed to a crawl and started to turn around.

“I’m sorry, folks,” he said. “We have to cancel the flight and deboard.”

The lights came on. The woman next to me gasped.

“I have work tomorrow,” someone called out. “What am I going to do?”

Out came the phones. The grumblings picked up: UnbelievableThis is ridiculousNever in my life…

The moral of the story?

Schedules affect employees as well as customers.

In my case, the airline probably didn’t have real-time alerts enabled for their hourly workers. Alerts that would’ve kept their employees apprised of any schedule changes due to flight delays caused by weather, air traffic congestion, security issues, what have you.

To think: a couple minutes spelled the difference between 200 satisfied patrons and 200 irate ex-customers, who are now dead set on sharing their airline nightmare with anyone who’d listen.

Of course, airline customers aren’t the only people affected by bad, un-optimized schedules. Un-optimized schedules are those that are created without the benefit of data, which helps align employee coverage and customer demand.

Bad schedules are ubiquitous, transcending industries and job roles and service hours, creating issues in virtually every space where hourly employees exist. For example, in:

  • Retail: every time there’s a standstill in the checkout line.
  • Hospitality: every time someone eats their lunch without a fresh iced tea refill.
  • Healthcare: every time “The doctor will see you now” is heard an hour later than promised.

Bad schedules can be found across the board, which means that many employers are still ignoring the benefits that can be realized with a modern workforce management solution, one that enables true scheduling optimization…

The benefits of optimized schedules:

Optimized schedules are created using multiple key performance indicators (e.g., store traffic, POS sales data) to ensure that employers have the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

As far as benefits are concerned, the domino effect applies: better schedules create elated employees, who deliver better service, which delights customers, who buy more—all of which drives tremendous cost savings.

Let’s break these benefits down some:

1. Elated employees:

Engaged, productive, elated hourly employees know exactly when they work—and for how long—in advance. They know they can always swap shifts if they need to. They know their schedules will be created fairly, accurately, using data that ensures hours are distributed logically based on demand.

Most importantly, engaged hourly workers feel like they’re treated fairly on the job, like people, not cogs.

Consistent, responsible scheduling enables consistent, responsible people—creating trust, loyalty, and engagement along the way.

2. Delighted Customers:

Optimized schedules are lean, efficient, void of the typical kinks that interfere with an hourly employee’s ability to do his or her job. As a result, customers see better, more attentive service—and organizations capitalize on more sales opportunities.

Anne Mulcahy, the former CEO of Xerox, said it best:

“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person—not just an employee—are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”

“Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” –Anne Mulcahy

3. Cost savings:

You’re not paying people to idly stand around, to check their phones, to count down the minutes until their shift is over. If you’re paying people to be there just in case, you’re losing money.

Managers can avoid the added costs of scheduling “just-in-case” workers by knowing, beyond a shadow of doubt, how many people each shift calls for. Optimized schedules can help you do just that.

Optimized schedules can also help employers play the other side of the coin: scheduling enough people to meet a particular shift’s demand, ensuring that every customer gets the service they need, when they need it.

Scheduling shouldn’t end with a schedule.

Scheduling should end with efficiency, with proper coverage, with the satisfaction of both employers and employees. This outcome hasn’t always been possible, but today, thanks to modern workforce management software, it is.

Ready to elate employees? To delight customers? To save money, schedule after schedule?

Let’s go.

The Art of Creative Scheduling: 5 Changes That’ll Optimize Your Labor Spend

The Art of Creative Scheduling: 5 Changes That’ll Optimize Your Labor Spend

This post originally appeared on the WorkForce Software blog. 


These scheduling adjustments will save your organization money, engage your employees, delight your customers, and drive your brand forward.


“So…” said Ty, slurping his coffee. He was sitting in a big leather chair behind a big oak desk. “You wanted to talk in person …about scheduling?

“Yes, I’d like to change the way we do things at the 35th and Kennedy store,” said Yelena.

“It’s your store,” said Ty, “do as you see fit.” He took the cap off of his pen and scribbled a note, then glanced at his watch.

“Thank you,” said Yelena, “but they’re significant changes, so I came with a plan.”

Ty put down his pen. “What are we talking about here?”

“As a company, I think we have some bad habits…”

Born in Montenegro, Yelena’s parents emigrated to the U.S. before she could even speak. They taught her to challenge the status quo, to question her current state of affairs and, if necessary, to seek change. Because that’s what they did, and their lives turned out better for it.

“And these bad habits are enabled by the fact that we’re not using modern workforce management software,” said Yelena.

It’s true. Yelena’s company, a big box store with dozens of locations along the East Coast, is managing schedules the old-fashioned, manual way:

  1. Printed Excel spreadsheets hang in the breakrooms.
  2. Thousands of hourly retail workers have fixed hours.
  3. Most schedules are systematically duplicated every week.
  4. Department managers aren’t at all incentivized to cut labor cost.

“There’s so much more we could be doing with the right software,” said Yelena. “We could be optimizing our schedules…”

“What would you change?” asked Ty.

“I think we need to reevaluate the way we approach scheduling in general,” said Yelena. “Ten years ago, a shift manager’s responsibility ended when a schedule was published. But that was a decade ago. Today, a published schedule is the bare minimum output.”

Yelena’s right, of course: the scheduler’s job has changed; the responsibilities have shifted. Scheduling is no longer an administrative task. It requires experience and knowledge; it demands creativity. Now more than ever, the role calls for:

  1. Exploring new scheduling options and alternatives.
  2. Evaluating the operational and financial consequences of each schedule.

“Workforce management software is a Porsche built for Monaco,” said Yelena. “Right now, we’re doing laps around the cul-de-sac on a tricycle.”

Ty nodded his head in agreement. “I’m all ears,” he said.

“I propose these 5 changes to start…”

Yelena took out a legal pad with some notes, “and the right WFM tool will easily support these initiatives,” she said.

Ty leaned forward.

1. “Let’s move away from fixed hours.”

Optimized schedules are created based on the numbers: traffic and POS data, to name only a couple.

These and other KPIs dictate precise labor needs, which can help companies move away from expensive, antiquated block scheduling that can’t compete with the accuracy and agility of data-based forecasting.

2. “Let’s allow shift-swapping.”

Giving hourly employees the autonomy and flexibility to swap shifts will breed engagement, productivity, and on-the-job happiness.

These benefits, of course, won’t stay contained within the workforce. They’ll trickle down, reflecting positively on the brand, the store and, ultimately, the customer experience.

3. “Let’s hire flexible part-timers.”

When combined with potent, dynamic scheduling functionality, a flexible part-time workforce will systematically cut down labor costs by enabling employers to schedule only the hours they need.

Even if these hours come at a premium cost, it still beats scheduling a full-time employee to work eight hours when the forecasted demand only calls for a fraction of that time.

4. “Let’s expand break windows.”

Workforce management software helps companies be more efficient, saving them time, which saves them money. You can keep those savings, or you can reinvest a portion back into the workforce by giving your people more time between shifts.

This action, in turn, increases your stock as an employer of choice. It drives employee engagement and productivity and happiness—the same way flexibility and autonomy do—and few things matter more in the long run.

5. “Let’s incentivize scheduling managers.”

Modern workforce management software runs through millions of schedule combinations in seconds, using KPI data to automatically create a schedule that reflects real-life labor demand. It’s a task that would take one person a lifetime to complete.

That said, the software also depends on human input (e.g., data entry) and judgement (e.g., the impact of the annual music festival on traffic) to be effective. By incentivizing managers to be as much a part of the scheduling process as the algorithm behind it, companies can create an empowered workforce driven by something compelling: the desire to improve.

“Wow,” said Ty. “I never thought about it like that.”

Yelena opened his eyes to the fact that employee engagement, empowerment, happiness, and customer satisfaction – money – is all being scheduled down the pipes, week after week, month after month.

“What’s our next move, Yelena?”

I’ll set up a call with WorkForce.

Why Your Expensive Employee Just Quit

Why Your Expensive Employee Just Quit

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog. 


Why people walk away from companies, and how to avoid the extraordinary cost of every departure.


K.J. poured himself a glass of cold water and sat down, finally, to make the call.

He pressed the button. The phone rang a couple times and then he heard his manager’s voice…

“Hi, K.J.,” said Melissa. “What’s up?”

“Hi Melissa,” said K.J., eager to breeze over the pleasantries. “I wanted to let you know that Brian Lewis put in his two weeks this morning.” An uncomfortable silence consumed the line. “Melissa?”

“Yes, I’m here. Brian …from the LaSalle location? The shift manager?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. That’s bad news.” There was another pause. “Did he say why?”

“He said he got a better offer elsewhere.”

But what does that mean, anyway?

Most people hear “better offer” and immediately assume it means “more money”—and sometimes it does, but not always. Sometimes, a “better offer” has nothing to do with money and everything to do with how a person feels at work.

“Leaving for a ‘better offer’ might have nothing to do with money and everything to do with how a person feels at work.”

Either way, Brian’s sudden departure is going to cost his company a lot of money—at least 20% of his salary—which explains K.J. and Melissa’s tense conversation. Of course, that turnover expense varies by position. For example, on average it would cost employers:

  • 16% of the annual salary for high-turnover, low-paying positions (e.g., someone like the retail workers Brian managed in his role).
     
  • 213% of the annual salary for highly educated, specialized positions (e.g., someone like K.J., Brian’s district manager).

In addition to the financial implications, losing employees also dampens the overall team morale. Watching a colleague leave is disheartening, and could cause people to consider their own situation.

Therefore, preventing turnover should be a priority for all managers. But that requires a solid understanding of why it happens in the first place…

Top reasons why employees leave

According to the experienced folks at DRI, a recruiting firm, competent, valuable employees leave for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with their pay. Here’s a breakdown of five possible scenarios that drove Brian to pull the trigger.

It could’ve been that…

1. The job didn’t meet his expectations.

Fifteen months ago, Brian walked away from his interview with K.J. smiling, excited.

He was thrilled to have found a role that spoke to him, to his skills and ambitions. A role that he was uniquely qualified for at a company that aligned with his values. That’s why he accepted the offer.

But the longer he worked as a shift manager, the less he began to recognize his job. He began to see a gradual shift in his responsibilities, his goals and objectives (not to mention his hours). He felt conned by some kind of corporate bait and switch—and it made him wonder what other surprises were in store for him.

2. He felt a severe work/life imbalance.

Brian signed an employment contract that stipulated he work at least 40 hours per week, which was fine by him, especially since he’d be getting paid overtime.

But, in the end, the money wasn’t worth it: Brian missed every single Friday night football game his son played in that year.

3. He felt undervalued.

After working 55- and 60-hour weeks, Brian was anticipating a raise or, at the very least, a healthy dose of acknowledgment for his efforts—neither of which he ever received.

4. He wasn’t going anywhere.

Slowly but surely, Brian became aware of his own stagnation in the role that, once, filled him with so much pride. As his enthusiasm waned, so did his drive to deliver results, to accomplish goals, to make a difference.

He lost interest. He became disengaged, irreverent, because he felt stuck.

5. He was frustrated with management.

Brian didn’t have a personal problem with K.J., his manager. In fact, he liked him well enough. But as a boss, K.J. was rigid, unemotional. He had a hard time picking up signals, reading cues (or maybe he simply didn’t care to acknowledge them).

In any case, K.J.’s obtuse, oblivious nature frustrated Brian, who traced it back to the issues he’s been facing at work.

Why does employee turnover over cost so much?

When she heard the news about Brian’s exit, Melissa immediately began doing the math, calculating how much it would cost to find a replacement. She broke it down a couple ways, grouping the costs into two major buckets:

1. The Direct Costs

These variables are relatively straightforward and, therefore, easy to measure. For example:

  • Hiring time: how long it takes to find, vet, and interview a candidate.
  • “Tool & Tech”: computers, uniforms, key cards—these all have a dollar value.
  • Assessment: a performance grace period that demands additional attention from the hiring manager.

2. The Opportunity Costs

These variables are more layered and complex, making them more difficult to measure: For example :

  • Learning curve mistakes: every mistake uses up time (read: money).
  • Productivity: it’s going to take months for the new hire to achieve Brian’s output level.
  • Impact on customers: ultimately, every technical slip and productivity slump, will trickle down, negatively affecting the customer experience.

These outright and hidden costs are clearly worth avoiding. But how?

Drive down turnover costs by increasing employee retention

Striking a balance is critical.

If every leader in your company made it a point to balance their business needs with those of their employees, your organization’s turnover would decrease.

That’s a nice thought, you might be thinking to yourself, but it’s easier said than done.

Sure, it is—but companies all over the world are nonetheless finding success through digital workforce management which drives employee engagement, reduces stress, and increases on-the-job satisfaction. And helps you build a connected workforce with happy employees!

Curious?

Did You Catch These New, Unorthodox Trends at HR Tech 2016?

Did You Catch These New, Unorthodox Trends at HR Tech 2016?

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog. 


Actually, they’re not so much “trends” as they are tactical tools companies can use to improve employee performance.


I heard the hum as soon as I walked in.

It hit me along with the air conditioning that was being circulated throughout every cubic foot of McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America, which, for the next four days, would be home to the 19th annual HR Technology Conference & Expo.

The hum, of course, was the product of voices, people, exchanging business cards and swag, but also ideas and concepts and perspectives.

HR Tech was a place for vendors and customers to find one another. It was also an opportunity to settle into the latest trends in HCM, SaaS, social, mobile, and Big Data. From a workforce management standpoint, we expected to see some recurring themes from last year, including engagement, strategy, and analytics.

“Here are the trends we discovered at #HRTechConf that made us look twice.”

Here’s what we didn’t expect—the trends that made us look twice and think twice. Actually, they’re not so much “trends” as they are tactical tools companies can use to improve performance:

1. Systematic, organized public praise.

Remember that email your boss sent out to the team—or the department, or even the entire company—praising you for a job well-done?

How did you feel after reading it? Proud? Valued? Probably both. It was a validating gesture; a humbling reminder that people respect and appreciate your work. From an employer’s perspective, that email was a potent form of motivation, which is why some companies are working to proliferate that feeling through sponsored points programs.

These programs encourage the doling of praise, which employees can then cash-in for rewards that range from products to extra holiday time-off.

2. The intangible team model.

Sometimes, a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. One plus one equals three, so to speak.

That concept is at the center of this model, which suggests that instead of scheduling employees solely based on their skill sets, managers should take employee rapport, chemistry, history, and other factors into consideration as they schedule their shifts.

By considering these intangible elements during the scheduling process, managers can take the pressure—to be faster, better, more productive—away from each individual employee and disperse it amongst strategically selected team members, creating synergy.

Are these concepts revolutionary?

No, not exactly.

Most of the attendees at HR Tech probably already knew the emotional benefits of public praise. They also naturally understood that people who liked each other worked better together. But when it came to enabling and scaling those practices—in order to create happier, more productive, more engaged employees—most attendees would’ve been at a loss.

And that’s why they bought their tickets to HR Tech: to explore, learn, and evolve.

Till next year, friends.

What Not to Say at Work

What Not to Say at Work

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog. 


5 dismissive statements despised by employees everywhere.


Drip.

Drip.

You hear that?

Drip …drip.

That’s the sound of sweat, falling from the chin of an employee who’s heard his last dismissive excuse at work.

His treadmill gradually slows down, then cuts out with a jerk.

Drip …drip.

He gets off, taking his towel with him. He walks a few slow steps to let his legs adjust to the stable ground. He wipes off his face and checks his watch. He’s not thinking about work at all. He doesn’t care anymore and he knows it.

What not to say at work.

Unless you’d like to categorically disturb and disengage your employees (or colleagues, for that matter) refrain from ever dropping these lines at work.

Even if the phrase fits, there’s a better way to put it. A way that doesn’t do someone in, robbing them of their last shred of engagement.

Here’s the worst of the worst—as well as some emotionally intelligent alternatives:

1. “Sorry, I don’t make the rules.”

If you work for a corporation, you’re probably not lying: many of the “rules” have already been folded and neatly packaged for you—but most people who complain to you probably understand that.

They understand that embedded processes and rules can’t change overnight. They require time and effort and collaboration to amend. More importantly, most people who air a grievance aren’t expecting their managers to single-handedly fix the issue. Not at all…

But they are expecting them to listen, to think critically about their point of view.

A better alternative to “Sorry, I don’t make the rules…” would be:

“What would you suggest we do differently?”

Inciting change takes courage, which takes energy and confidence to muster. That’s why suggestions shouldn’t be shut down; complaints shouldn’t be dismissed. Not only is it demoralizing, it’s rude.

Asking “What would you suggest we do differently?” lets people know you’re listening. It reinforces the notion that everyone’s opinion is valid, because it is.

2. “You’re not here to have a good time.”

Regardless of the job, an employee’s purpose at work is to support the goals of their manager. And that manager’s job it is to supporttheir manager’s objectives, and so on and so forth, all the way up the troth to the CEO, or wherever the buck stops.

That’s how companies turn a profit: everyone does their part.

That said, greeting success with more work can be exhausting. You know this. So, how can you walk that productivity line with your employees?

A better alternative to “You’re not here to have a good time…” would be:

“What are we celebrating?”

There’s nothing wrong with playing ping pong or socializing, checking Facebook or watching a YouTube video, as long as it’s deserved.

Asking “What are we celebrating?” lets people know you’re all for having good time, as long as it’s earned.

3. “That’s how we’ve always done things.”

Playwright, George Bernard Shaw, said it best:

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

A better alternative to “That’s how we’ve always done things…” would be:

“How did you do it at your last job?”

Because processes ought to be dynamic, ever-changing. Leaders who don’t take time to objectively reevaluate how and why they do things will, inevitably, find themselves stagnant and unproductive.

Asking “How did you do it at your last job?” tells people you’re open to change.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

4. “Figure it out.”

This sweep-it-under-the-rug response puts employees in a stressful, often hopeless, position.

As a manager, it’s better to take a step back and understand the circumstances. Why is your employee asking for help in the first place? Is he or she incompetent or are your expectations unreasonable? Is he or she being lazy or is the problem legitimately beyond their scope?

A better alternative to “Figure it out…” would be:

“Let me help you.”

Helping is about more than fixing a problem. Helping is an opportunity to coach, mentor, and develop.

Helping creates a win-win scenario.

5.“That’s not my problem.”

Both cruel and careless, this statement is the antithesis of collaboration. It shows a complete disregard for the problem as well as the individual working to solve it.

A better alternative to “That’s not my problem…” would be, once again:

“Let me help you.”

Because your employees’ problems are your problems.

Can’t help in that very minute? That’s fine—just schedule a time to do so, or see if someone else can lend a hand sooner. As long as you’re receptive, eager, and engaged, you’re in the right.

Final Thought:

Behind every engaged employee is a responsive, stable manager. A manager that’s receptive to new ideas, concepts, and practices. A manager that respects each employee’s unique point of view.

Be flexible, be encouraging. Listen like your professional relationships depend on it—because they do—and expunge these statements from your rhetoric. You’ll be a better manager for it.

Create Lasting Work Relationships: A Crash Course in Emotional Intelligence

Create Lasting Work Relationships: A Crash Course in Emotional Intelligence

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog. 


An essential read for anyone that lives or works with other people.


John walked into his office, hot and exhausted from the commute.

“It’s a scorcher … again,” John said to Greg, his colleague.

“Yeah, it is, but it’s supposed to cool down tomorrow,” said Greg, looking up from his email, giving John a thumbs up and a smile.

John nodded and made for the kitchenette. Greg continued writing.

What’s this brief conversation really about?

Some people would say it’s about the weather—and they’d be wrong.

This exchange is actually about emotions, feelings. Here’s the conversation’s underlying translation:

John: “This heatwave is depressing me and stressing me out.”

Greg: “I know how you feel because I’m living through the same thing, but cheer up because things are looking up.”

And just like that, John and Greg were able to express themselves, bonding over mutual emotions without ever vocalizing them. It’s a valuable skill at work and in life, made possible by something called EQ, or emotional intelligence, which we all have in varying amounts.

“EQ makes it possible for meaningful conversations to masquerade as trivial pleasantries.”

Emotional intelligence, in part, allows people to read between the lines. It helps people pick up hints that make it possible for meaningful conversations to masquerade as trivial pleasantries. There’s no escaping it, either. We constantly use our EQ, whether we’re at brunch with a friend, at lunch with a colleague, or at dinner with a prospect.

Except, according to science, EQ is actually more important to workplace success than IQ.

Imagine if Greg did not respond sympathetically to John’s gripe. If he merely shrugged his shoulders and continued to write his email, dismissing John’s comment because he didn’t understand its true purpose: to create a subtle, yet important, connection.

Now imagine if a manager acted that way…

Effective workforce management is dependent on EQ.

Because happy, productive, engaged employees get that way by feeling appreciated and understood; connected not only to the processes that dictate their work-life balance but, also, to the leaders they’re in place to support.

Leaders constantly miss these opportunities to connect, to be flexible, to be transparent. It happens for all sorts of reasons—and EQ lapses are at the top of that list, costing companies all over the world trust equity (not to mention talent and money).

That’s why it’s so critical to understand emotional intelligence: what it is, why it matters, and how to develop it over time. Feel free to start learning all of that right here, right now…

Emotional Intelligence: A Breakdown

According to Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, EQ is “made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies.”

Here’s Bradberry’s breakdown of each:

1. Personal Competence: “ability to stay aware of your emotions and manage your behavior and tendencies.”

  • Self-awareness: “ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen.”
  • Self-management: “ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behavior.”

2. Social Competence: “ability to understand other people’s moods, behavior, and motives in order to improve the quality of your relationships.”

  • Social Awareness: “ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on.”
  • Relationship Management: “ability to use awareness of your emotions and others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.”

Those are the building blocks of emotional intelligence, which, when combined with our personalities and IQ, make us who we are…

EQ + IQ + Personality = Individuality

We are all the sum of three completely distinct attributes:

1. Personality: determined by our innate preferences.

For example, do you enjoy staying in on the weekends or going out? Do you favor dressing up or down? Do you prefer watching war epics or romantic comedies? These questions speak volumes about one’s personality, which typically remains constant over the course of a lifetime.

2. Intelligence Quotient: determined by our ability to learn.

In other words, how quickly and easily can you internalize and use the information you’ve read, seen, and/or heard? Like personality, IQ rarely fluctuates over the course of one’s life.

3. Emotional Intelligence: determined by a malleable set of soft skills (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management). Unlike personality and IQ, emotional intelligence can be changed, developed, and improved over time, which is a good thing because…

Of the three, EQ has the biggest impact on your work performance (and pay).

Emotional intelligence is the bedrock that supports dozens of important skills, most of which are essential to success at work: stress tolerance; anger management; empathy; assertiveness; trust; time management; decision-making; teamwork; customer service;flexibility; accountability.

More generally, studies have shown that higher EQ can improve a person’s healthhappiness, and humor.

“The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary,” says EQ expert, Travis Bradberry. “These findings hold true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world.”

How to develop and increase your EQ:

You can test your EQ, for free, here.

Now, let’s be clear: your score is the product of deeply ingrained characteristics, values and ideals that were developed during your formative years—not to mention your genetics. So you can’t expect to improve your EQ overnight. It’s a steady process, one that will require your commitment and concentration.

When you’re ready to buckle down, here are several ways to get the ball rolling:

1. Read: How to Win Friends & Influence People.

Almost eight decades after its publication, Dale Carnegie’s classic book about conquering social interactions is as relevant and valuable as the day it came out. That’s because the human condition is constant. Our psychology evolves, of course, but slowly, at a snail’s pace.

How to Win Friends & Influence People breaks down dozens of interpersonal adjustments that we can all make to better connect with people. It’s a fantastic start that’ll put your current emotional behavior into perspective.

Click here to read the entire book. 

2. Make time for “true” reflection.

It’s proven: humans have a hard time with honest, accurate self-evaluation.

We tend to think we’re smarter than we are. We also think we’re more pleasant than we are, more interesting, more charming, more profound. That lack of self-awareness, unfortunately is often at the center of our interpersonal conflicts, which is why setting aside time for honest, “true” reflection is necessary to spur genuine change.

“Setting aside time for honest, ‘true’ reflection is necessary to spur genuine change.”

You can do this at the end of each day by writing down at least three things you could’ve done or said differently, better. Think back to your group meetings and one-on-one conversations: what would you change?

Putting your stumbles down on paper will make them real, forcing you to evaluate them instead of pushing them back into your subconscious. But don’t dwell. Learn and move on.

3. Actively strive to change your perspective.

They say that achieving significant weight loss is the product of a lifestyle overhaul, not a mere adjustment in diet and exercise. In other words, achieving and sustaining physical change demands a big-picture change, not a simple diet-and-exercise adjustment.

The same principle applies to emotional intelligence: it requires a shift in attitude and perspective. Here are a few things to remember as you work to enable that shift:

Leaders roll with the punches. That means be flexible, especially if you’re managing a team. Gracefully adjusting to changing circumstances is the mark of a mature, emotionally sound leader. Hourly employees, for example, are often pinned between rigid schedules and life’s unpredictable moments. Emotionally intelligent leaders realize that, empathize, and strive to make work easier as a result.

Negative assumptions are destructive. By giving others the benefit of the doubt, you’re making a conscious effort to look at their actions objectively, in a depersonalized way. For example, if your colleague is slow to respond to an email, don’t assume she’s ignoring you when it’s entirely possible that she’s inundated with work.

Everyone is dealing with life. If you’re being mistreated by a difficult, unmanageable person, try to be empathetic to their reality, their issues. And if the person is a stranger, remind yourself that they may be distracted by something personal. It doesn’t excuse their abuse, but it’s a reason-why that’ll help you cope and take the high road.

Remember John and Greg?

A couple months ago, they met as colleagues. Today, they sit across from each other as friends.

Their healthy, constructive relationship is the product of countless micro-connections, made possible by their acute self-awareness and self-management; by effective social awareness and relationship management.

These are the soft skills they’ve developed and honed over time, skills that now help them work more efficiently together, with less stress. Skills you can develop by committing to some of the concepts and best practices discussed in this article.

Good luck—and remember that it’s never too late to start anew.

Minimum Wage Hikes: 3 Productivity Strategies to Offset Those Extra Costs

Minimum Wage Hikes: 3 Productivity Strategies to Offset Those Extra Costs

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog. 


If your payroll increases, don’t raise your prices or fire your hourly employees. Instead, get productive and draw the most out of your workforce. Here’s how…


Articles about the economics of minimum wage increases have been written a thousand time over, by countless political pundits and reporters in Britainin Germany, and of course, in the United States. As it turns out, the economics field has been debating the large-scale impact of mandatory minimum wage hikes for years—and the lack of consensus has proven exhausting.

“I get sick to my stomach,” said Dan Hamermesh, an economist, in an interview with NPR about the ceaseless, polarizing debate. “It just keeps on going on, so I’m bored and annoyed.”

An economist might be over it, but if you’re an employer of hourly workers…wage increases affect your business. For example, whether you personally support or oppose the Fight for $15, the results have been in since 2015: cities and states across the U.S. are committed to a hike.

(Also, heads up: after December 1, 2016, any hourly employee earning less than $47,476 a year must be paid time-and-a-half for each overtime hour they work—but that’s a topic for another article.)

What, then, are the consequences of these laws? More specifically, how will employers cover the extra money they’re being mandated to spend on payroll? That’s what this article is about.

Let’s look at several key options: the good, bad, and the ugly…

1. The Bad: Raise prices.

If operating costs go up, businesses can choose to pass them onto the consumer.

Now, although it was widely speculated that this would happen in Seattle—where the minimum wage was raised to $11 an hour back in April, 2015—it didn’t. In fact, the prices barely budged.

Unfortunately, the wage increase manifested itself in a different way: it caused Seattle’s jobless rate to climb more than a percentage point in the first 10 months following the city-wide raise.

2. The Ugly: Fire people.

“If you raise the minimum wage,” said Bill Gates in a 2014 interview, “you’re encouraging labor substitution, and you’re going to go buy machines and automate things.” And that’s precisely what many companies either have done already or are planning to do soon:

McDonalds, Wendy’s, Panera Bread, Whole Foods, and several big box stores have already implemented powerful forms of automation, including self-ordering kiosks and self-driving shopping carts designed to perform tasks that were once reserved for people.

But what if instead of automating human duties, we automated the processes that enable people to work smarter and more efficiently, to cover more ground in fewer steps?

How would that work?

Let’s find out…

“What if instead of automating human duties, we automated the processes that enable people to work smarter, more efficiently?”

3. The Good: Get productive.

Employers affected by minimum wage increases don’t have to balloon their prices or lay off loyal people to make themselves whole. Identifying opportunities that improve efficiency and productivity will allow businesses to maintain a strong value proposition, which will help them keep a competitive advantage in their space.

Before committing to any measures that could, ultimately, degrade your brand’s reputation and value, consider these proven strategies:

3a. Calculate and respect customer demand.

Every modern retail store in the world collects data. Traffic data; point-of-sale data; an array of metrics that indicate when people are shopping and how much they’re spending in a particular store.

Retailers that analyze these numbers are rewarded with a customer demand synopsis, which can then be used to calculate a store’s necessary employee count per shift.

Knowing exactly how many associates you need at any given point is fundamental to keeping payroll costs low. If you want to protect your bottom line in the face of growing wages, start with customer demand forecasting.

3b. Enable cross-staffing.

In other words, get flexible with your employee roles and responsibilities. Let’s use Erica and Jay, two full-time hourly employees at a major hotel chain, as examples.

Jay and Erica work as a team, manning the front desk, accommodating customers over the phone and in-person. They’re constantly busy, except on weekdays from noon to about 2 PM, when there’s a lull in traffic. Instead of keeping the front desk overstaffed for 10-14 hours a week, the hotel manager began moving Jay to the gift shop or the restaurant during the downtime (depending on need) to get the most out of his billable hours.

3c. Offer shorter shifts at a premium.

This strategy is all about aligning employee worktime with required workload.

Imagine, for example, that the owner of Bubba Shrubs Landscaping Co. needs his team to only work 6 hours on Monday, and not the usual 8. Instead of paying each landscaper a full day’s wage at $15 per hour ($120/employee), the owner could offer to compensate those 6 hours at a premium rate of, say, $18 ($108/employee).

It’s a simple, yet effective compromise, one that drives flexibility and, typically, leaves both parties satisfied with their end of the bargain. That said, it does present challenges, especially for larger organizations attempting to scale the process—but automation software can make that easier.

Ready or not, the hikes are coming…

At the start of 2016, in the U.S. alone, fourteen states entered the New Year with a higher minimum wage—and all signs point to the fact that a higher federal minimum wage is imminent.

Moving forward, the most successful businesses will adopt a combination of creative strategies, matching their labor to customer demand while increasing employee flexibility for a seamless transition into modern hourly wage dynamics.

Will you?

Better Than a Raise: What Today’s Employees Value More Than Money

Better Than a Raise: What Today’s Employees Value More Than Money

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog. 


How to make your employees happier, more passionate, and more productive without spending a dime on payroll.


Marnie didn’t feel like waiting for the elevator. She took the stairs.

She
made
her way
down the
steps quickly.
Two flights and a
walk-down-the-hallway later, she was where she needed to be, right on time.

Marnie walked into her manager’s office, closed the door, and sat down.

“I’m sorry, Lisa,” she said. “I have to put in my two weeks.”

“You’re resigning?” Lisa said, surprised. “Marnie, you just got a raise…”

“I know, and I appreciate it, but it’s not about the money.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

Lisa didn’t want to lose Marnie.

She received that raise for a reason…

But did Marnie want the raise?

Or did money take a backseat to other employment factors?

Was Marnie after something else, something less tangible yet equally—if not more —valuable?

Like most modern professionals, Marnie was eager for a workplace shift. Specifically, she wanted more:

1. Autonomy

Lisa was good at giving Marnie goals to achieve, but failed when it came to giving her the freedom to accomplish those goals independently, on her own terms.

Marnie resented working in a box. She resented the micro-management, the constant check-ins. It robbed her of the intrinsic drive she needed to be happy at work, engaged. It made the job less rewarding.

That’s no way to make an employee feel. In Marnie’s case, a little autonomy would’ve gone a long way. As a manager, you can provide your employees some autonomy by:

Explaining every goal’s intended value.

Although it’s often overlooked, the path to autonomy begins with this conversation.

Before asking someone to commit themselves to a goal, be sure to expound on the consequences of being successful. Intrinsic motivation, after all, is born out of passion, which can be hard to come by if you don’t understand the impact of your efforts—on yourself, your company, or even your community.

Creating a blueprint, then stepping back.

As a manager, you’re the architect. You set the parameters of each project, the deadlines and the end-goals. It’s your strategy, your vision.

Your autonomous employees, then, should be trusted to fill in the blanks any way that works for them. As long as their approach is within your parameters and accomplishes the goal, there’s no harm in relinquishing control.

Letting employees tailor a unique, individual approach to their goals.

Give your people a chance to develop their own strategies, their own approach. An employee’s autonomy will empower him or her while also providing you with a fresh perspective to inform your decisions moving forward.

“Empower your people by giving them a chance to develop their own strategy, their own approach to achieving a goal.”

2. Flexibility

Marnie, like most millennials, wanted to work for a manager that considered her work-life balance. Having a clear personal and professional divide was a priority for Marnie, who felt more productive, less stressed, and generally happier if she could “turn off” after each work day.

Working under Lisa, however, left Marnie feeling anything but balanced. The demanding, unpredictable schedule made her miserable, stunting her creativity, ambition, and potential.

That’s why, if possible, it’s important to give your employees a degree of control when it comes to when, where, and how they work. You can do this by:

Focusing on the results.

As a manager, you’re a professional communicator; you know how to clearly articulate goals and objectives to your team members. You’re the quarterback—and to be efficient and effective, you have to trust your receivers to get to the ball.

Don’t become overly concerned with how your people achieve the goals you set out for them. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter as much as the end result, the final product. Try not to worry about where they’re doing the work, either.

Instead, focus on creating a culture that values the destination more than the journey.

Breaking their 9-to-5 chains.

We’re all unique snowflakes, right? Some of us are more productive in the morning while others come alive at night. Some of us work better from home while others like the office, with its swivel chairs and free soda.

As a manager in today’s uber-connected professional landscape, it’s important to capitalize on employees’ individual differences, not suppress them. In that sense, offering flexible hours and telecommuting options could help you increase output.

Allowing hourly staff to choose and trade shifts.

Hourly workers, perhaps more than any other type of employee, fall victim to rigid, inflexible schedules. But plans change and emergencies happen—and when they do, should an experienced, valuable, engaged hourly worker be forced to choose between their life and their livelihood?

No, of course not, because it’s detrimental to both the employee and the business. It’s a lose-lose spurred on by antiquated policies that were put in place before technology made it easy to swap shifts, give them away, or bid for empty ones.

Hourly employees need workplace flexibility as much as their salaried counterparts—and managers who deliver on this need will quickly realize the engagement and productivity benefits that may have been eluding them.

Happy, productive employees get that way thanks to autonomy and flexibility, not more money.

We work to make money, and along the way, we grow. We find ourselves, slowly, almost subconsciously, through our experiences on the job. Our work seeps into us, into our daily reality, until one day, we stop thinking about the paycheck and we start considering all the other ways work affects our lives.

We consider the impact work has on our families, our ambitions and personal goals. And that’s when we begin craving more than money: we desire time, freedom, control, and choice.

Marnie, of course, is human like the rest of us—and after a certain point, autonomy and flexibility were simply more valuable to her than a raise.

Do you manage a Marnie?

“Sick” Day: Why Employees Lie

“Sick” Day: Why Employees Lie

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog.


52% of workers that call in sick are not actually under the weather. They’re suffering from something else, something you can help prevent.


Richard woke up a few minutes before his Monday alarm, comfortable and refreshed.

Twenty minutes later, he was showered and dressed, sitting at his kitchen table, drinking black coffee, grazing on a plate of fruit. Richard’s Labrador, Sam, sat patiently under the table, waiting to be walked.

“Just a second, girl,” said Richard, taking out his phone. He pulled up his work email and started a new draft to his boss:

Hi Naomi,
It’s been a miserable morning. I have a migraine. I can barely type this. Sorry, but I have to stay home again.

Richard pressed SEND and immediately looked down at Sam.

“You ready?” he said.

Sam sprung off the floor, wagging her tail and panting. By 9:01, they were at the dog park, enjoying the sun together.

Richard lied to his manager, but why?

According to Paula Allen, the VP of research at Monreau Shepell, a benefits consulting firm, about one in every two (52%) unscheduled sick days is taken by workers who aren’t sick at all.

Allen’s research says people call out because they’re stressed—acutely or chronically, consciously or otherwise. And while their stress could be brought on by many issues, it’s most commonly associated with an ongoing work-life imbalance.

Chronic workplace stress is a serious problem, as it will eventually bleed into an employee’s personal life, affecting relationships and overall happiness, which only compounds the symptoms.

Most managers, rightfully, give their people the benefit of the doubt when they call out. That said, they also know what’s going on: a Monreau Shepell survey shows that only a third of managers believe that illness is a top-three reason for calling in sick.

And trying to fix the issue using rudimentary absence management strategies (i.e., asking employees for a doctor’s note) won’t work in the long run. After a brief dip, absence rates would typically return to normal.

“About one in every two unscheduled sick days is taken by workers who aren’t sick at all."

To make a lasting difference, then, employers have to fix the core issue: stress caused by work-life imbalance.

It’s an important, even crucial effort to make because, ultimately, stress results in more than misused sick days. That’s the surface issue, the superficial layer. Employee engagement, happiness, and productivity is what lies beneath. That is what’s at stake—along with your bottom line.

10 work-life benefits designed to delight employees and temper stress

Companies across Sweden are implementing the 6-hour work day. One such employer, Swedish CEO, Linus Feldt, says the shortened hours help his staff focus throughout the day and have enough energy after work to enjoy their personal lives.

Meanwhile, the rest of world seems to be working longer hours, letting work seep into their off-time slowly, yet methodically, through tech. At first, the drive to work is spurred by responsibility, then by guilt, and finally by compulsion.

Does every country need to adopt a 6-hour work day? No. At least, not yet. There are other ways to help manage employee stress. We can all learn from the benefits offered by these progressive companies*:

1. REI: “Yay Days”

The outdoor retail giant gives every employee a couple paid days off to go outside and enjoy themselves. They’re called “Yay Days”—and Richard would be all over them.

2. Netflix: Paid Parental Leave

If you have a baby while working at Netflix, your manager will congratulate you, and then give you an unprecedented year of paid leave.

3. World Wildlife Fund: “Panda Fridays”

Employees at the renowned nonprofit get 52 Fridays off a year.

4. Airbnb: Annual Stipend

The winner of Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list gives everyone on the payroll $2,000 a year to stay in Airbnbs all over the world.

5. Twillo: Freebies

Calling all readers: this cloud comm company gives employees a free Kindle and $30 a month to spend on books.

6. Twitter: On-site bliss

Acupuncture therapy, improv classes, and three square meals a day: just a few perks enjoyed by those who keep Twitter.com the 8th most visited URL on the Internet.

7. Accenture: Commitment to LGBTQ

Chicago-based Accenture is committed to LGBTQ rights and diversity, which is why it covers gender reassignment procedures for their employees.

8. Facebook: “Baby Cash”

Mark Zuckerberg & Co. provides $4,000 to employees with a newborn.

9. Epic Systems Corporation: Paid Sabbaticals

If you’ve worked at this privately held software company for more than five years, you get a paid four-week sabbatical to do, well,whatever you want.

10. Google: Financial Security

The search king famously shares its riches with its people. But Google makes the free products and free time it dispenses seem trivial under the weight of their spousal benefit, which provides the surviving husband, wife, or partner of a deceased employee with 50% of that worker’s salary for 10 years.

Would these benefits take the weight off of Richard?

Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean Richard’s company can afford to provide them.

That said, every organization can learn from the sentiment behind these benefits: be kind, be generous, and do everything in your power to care for your most important assets. If Richard worked for a company that owned these values, he probably wouldn’t feel obligated to lie when he needed a day to himself.

“As a company, be kind, be generous, and do everything in your power to care for your most important assets.”

Fostering a transparent, positive, employee-centric environment is fundamental to developing workplace trust.

One way to do so is by making absence management an easy process for employees and their managers, which, in turn, will help your company manage workflows, stay current with the latest regulations, determine eligibility, meet due dates, and establish clear return-to-work guidelines.

Another way is to provide fantastic benefits, creating a workplace culture that supports employees’ health and work-life balance.

Should your perks be on-par with those offered by Google or Netflix or Airbnb? If you can swing it, sure! And if not, that’s okay, too: because adopting the way these companies think is a potent, powerful start in its own right.

Managers: Will Your Confidential Performance Reviews Soon Become Public Knowledge?

Managers: Will Your Confidential Performance Reviews Soon Become Public Knowledge?

This article was originally published on the WorkForce blog.


Every ‘Naked Organization’ prides itself on transparency and honesty — especially during the recruiting process — but this level of corporate candor is unprecedented.


Back in 2012, IBM’s Vice President of HR, Tom Vines, made a weird prediction.

In an interview with Workforce MagazineTom predicted that within a decade, new hires will have a say in who their manager will be. In fact, they’ll be able to handpick a manager based on his or her performance review.

A performance review that was willingly and strategically published by that manager’s company to recruit top talent.

Let’s dig a little deeper here…

Corporate Transparency 1.0

Before applying for a job, most people head to Glassdoor.com to conduct some research, as they should.

“[We wanted to] remove some of the opaqueness in the hiring transaction,” says Glassdoor CEO, Robert Hohman, “helping people make better decisions about where to go to work.”

To help in that decision-making process, Glassdoor publishes company-specific reviews, salaries, interviews, and benefits that were submitted anonymously by employees, past and current. They also put each company’s CEO on blast, openly displaying his or her name, picture, and approval rating.

Before Glassdoor.com went live in June, 2008, this level of transparency would’ve been hard to come by. Today, it’s an accepted component of the “Naked Organization,” a concept that calls for companies—big and small; public and private—to indiscriminately share their culture and values with the world.

Middle managers, however, get a pass on Glassdoor because, after all, they never signed up to be in the public eye.

That said, the rest of the internet doesn’t care.

Corporate Transparency 2.0

Two years after Tom Vines told his prediction to Workforce Magazine, Patrick Nagle, former CEO of the hugely successful RateMyProfessor.com, launched a sister site: RateMyBoss.com.

RateMyBoss lets users anonymously rate managers on their “Leadership,” “Reliability,” and “Communication” skills. Users can also leave a comment. Some comments are complementary, while others are damning, like this one:

“She has no undergraduate education or industry knowledge to back up her decisions. Striking incompetence; most decisions lack common sense. Arrogant, envious of her own employees. Doesn’t pay wages regularly, then stops paying at all.”

Anonymous employee on RateMyBoss.com

While it’s a sentiment that could derail a career, it’s also precisely the type of future transparency Tom Vines was alluding to years before RateMyBoss even existed. And today, there are other management watchdog sites for candidates to visit, including StartRating.com and eBossWatch.com, both of which promise reviewers full anonymity.

Is Tom Vines’ prediction coming true?

Logically, if third-party sites eventually commoditize managerial performance data, would it not make sense for companies to simply give it away?

Because from a recruiting standpoint, there are benefits to be gained. For example:

  1. Exposing the strengths and weaknesses of individual managers sends a powerful message to candidates about the company’s commitment to honesty and transparency.
     
  2. Allowing high-value candidates to select a compatible boss (based on personality type and experience level, for instance) can provide a launch pad for productivity and innovation.
     
  3. Accountability drives fair, responsible management styles, which makes for an overall healthier workplace.
     
  4. Taking the reins gives companies a degree of control over the applicant experience that’s lost on third-party sites.

Even so, as a manager, the notion that your confidential performance feedback could soon become part of the public domain is, at best, unsettling. As a leader, you might be wondering:

“Today, more than ever, managers have to innovate, grow and, most importantly, take their people along with them.”

“How can I protect myself?”

As a concept, Naked Organizations have altered the face of management for the better, keeping the individuals at the helm visible and accountable. Today, more than ever, managers have to innovate, grow and, most importantly, develop their people along with them.

From a workforce management standpoint, automating employees’ daily processes (e.g., time tracking and absence management) would propel necessary change. Providing workers with a degree of scheduling flexibility as well as consistent, accurate payments would also align with modern expectations.

Ultimately, in a landscape where power is shifting to the employee, a manager has to live by his or her company’s values, by its promises. Whether that’s achieved through personal habit creation or by using software tools that automate those promises, being consistent, dependable, and logical in the eyes of your people is essential to protecting your professional (i.e., public) image.

How Traditional Employers Can Start Stealing Their Workers Back from the Gig Economy

How Traditional Employers Can Start Stealing Their Workers Back from the Gig Economy

This post originally appeared on the WorkForce blog. 


“Uber for Eddie?” I asked.

“That’s me,” said Paul, my driver. “Airport?”

“Yes, sir.” I got in the back of Paul’s Camry and put my carry-on in the empty seat next me. The car was in pristine condition: it was clean and it smelled good, like pine. There was a mini water bottle in my door’s cup holder and Architectural Digest in the netting of each seatback.

“So, do you Uber full-time?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” he said, looking at me in his rearview. “It beats working for the man.”

“How do you mean?” I asked, although I already knew.

“Uber gave me my life back,” said Paul. “It’s freedom, man. Freedom…

Why are workers flocking to the Gig Economy?

As you may know, Paul is one of millions of people enjoying the freelance, or “gig”, life all over the world.

Companies like Uber and Lyft, TaskRabbit, Thumbtack, and Handy are making it easy for skilled and unskilled workers alike to work on their own terms, to be their own boss—and the response has been nothing short of profound. Uber, for example, is valued at more than $68 billion, which makes it the fastest growing startup in history.

Uber’s unprecedented success wouldn’t be possible without the legions of drivers that support the service, many of whom left their day jobs to take part in the sharing economy full-time. They left because the sharing economy gives them the freedom to choose their own hours and dictate their income.

“It’s a major step-up from my last job in retail,” said Paul, explaining that he would often be put on-call, waiting several hours for his manager to (possibly) summon him for a coveted weekend shift. The autonomy is also a welcome change for restaurant workers, exhausted after opening. And factory workers, burnt out on dangerous, unfulfilling work.

So, can traditional employers blame their people for exploring other options? Options that have been shown to support a healthy, manageable work-life balance while also paying competitively? Probably not…

But that doesn’t mean employers are powerless to do anything about it…

How to steal your employees back…

In other words, how can you become the “employer of choice” once again?

Remember, you’re competing with freedom, with choice, with independence. More specifically, you’re competing with transparency and predictability, with convenience and flexibility.

As a traditional employer, it’s a lot to promise and execute on, but that doesn’t make it an unrealistic goal…

Here’s what you do:

1. Foster an employee-centric culture.

Employee centricity boils down to actions. Don’t tell employees how important they are to the business. Show them.

One way is by creating a culture of transparency. Give them access to their schedules, timesheets, and leave balances. They’ll appreciate the transparency because it’ll give them back some predictability (which will come in handy if, let’s say, they’re planning a vacation and need to be precise with their time-off).

Typically, transparency is baked into the apps that power the sharing economy, but that shouldn’t stop you from making it happen at your brick-and-mortar stores(which, in turn, would help your workers make informed personal decisions).

2. Offer scheduling flexibility.

Gig workers love picking and choosing when they’re going to work. It’s incredibly empowering, not to mention engaging. Scheduling flexibility can even inspire people to work harder.

In fact, employees with flexible schedules are often more productive than their non-flex counterparts. They’re also happier. Empowerment has that effect on people. So, go ahead, start by giving your employees a mere modicum of control over their schedules. They’ll be more engaged as a result.

“Employees with flexible schedules are often more productive than their non-flex counterparts.”

3. Make essential tasks convenient to execute.

The gig economy is entirely rooted in convenience—for customers as well as employees.

Uber drivers, for instance, enjoy doing all their administrative tasks in the Uber app, which acts as a single, all-purpose hub. Give your people user friendly, self-service tools and they’ll use them to make their lives easier, better.

The end result: happier people reporting more consistently and accurately for their business—a true win-win.

4. Pay them accurately.

Gig employees—whether they’re collecting fares on Lyft or buying groceries on TaskRabbit—have been conditioned to expect accurate pay. And thanks to largelyautomated labor trackingyou can also deliver millions of payments with surgical accuracy. That means no more end-of-the-month surprises for you and your employees.

“Digital workforce management helps you reduce payroll errors by applying all labor policies in real time.”

“Will you ever go back, Paul?”

“Back to work at a ‘real’ job?”

“Sure,” I said. “Something more traditional, I guess?”

“Never say never, you know,” Paul said, glancing at me in the rearview. “But I’d have to see a change: either Uber has to get a lot worse or my old company has to get a lot better.”

I took that to mean that something has to give to prompt a move. I also took it to mean that companies can’t remain static and stagnant, fixed in their ways. People won’t put up with it because now, more than ever, they have options.

An Intimate Portrait of Your Exhausted Employee: 6 Signs the Job is Killing Them

An Intimate Portrait of Your Exhausted Employee: 6 Signs the Job is Killing Them

This post was originally published on the WorkForce blog. 


Every day, exhausted people walk into work at companies all over the world, including your own. Here’s how to spot those fatigued workers, so you can address the issue before it gets out of hand.


Every Monday morning, at 8 AM, Mike meets with his team in the “Southeast” conference room for weekly updates.

It’s Monday morning, 8 AM. Everyone is on time …except for Jonah. He arrives at 8:20.

“Sorry,” he says and closes the door behind him. His head casts a shadow on the projector screen as he walks past Mike to his seat. It looks like he’s tired again. The bags under his eyes are dark and heavy.

“Good morning, Jonah,” says Mike. “We’re ready for your update when you are.”

“Give me a minute.” Jonah’s aggravated tone is jarring. The room tightens up.

“Everything alright?”

“I said I need a minute!” snaps Jonah. The room goes stiff. The only sound comes from Jonah’s bag as he shuffles through it. Finally, he stops. “I forgot the drive at home.”

Clearly, something’s wrong.

This isn’t Jonah. This isn’t the person Mike hired last summer.

Jonah’s hardworking, competent, dedicated. He hasn’t missed a day in six months. His work is thoughtful, creative, and effective. And he’s courteous—people love being on Jonah’s team.

But not lately.

Lately, something’s been wrong—and the signs point to one, simple explanation: Jonah’s exhausted.

6 Tell-Tale Warning Signs of Employee Exhaustion

Believe it or not, the onus is often on managers or HR to recognize when a team member’s work-life balance is off-kilter.

One might think that in order to get back on an even keel, employees would self-identify, raising their hands when they feel overloaded and overwhelmed. But some people are uncomfortable doing that.

Fear, complacency, lack of process: these are all factors that could keep an employee from seeking relief. That’s where leaders come in. A leader’s knowledge, awareness, and action can spell the difference between a desperate situation and getting back on track.

Here’s what Jonah’s manager likely saw (and overlooked) leading up to the Monday morning meeting:

“A leader’s awareness and action can spell the difference between a desperate situation and getting back on track."

1. Out-of-check emotions

At work, Jonah has always operated with the same professional, graceful composure that he displayed in his interview rounds. He was calm and consistent. He was good in an emergency.

So when his counterpart, Alexa, left for another job, Jonah took it in stride. He was handling the void …until he wasn’t.

Slowly but surely, a rudeness began to bubble up in him. Sometimes it would manifest itself as a dismissive comment or a snap reaction. Other times it was the tone he took; the look he gave; the look he didn’t give.

2. Consistent lateness

Jonah isn’t a robot. Sometimes he’s late. Once his tire blew out. Another time there was an accident on the 909.

But since losing Alexa, the late arrivals have piled up, and the reasons why have ceased to exist. Jonah was late to every Monday morning meeting last month.

3. A cluttered work space

Jonah doesn’t clean the cups, pens, wrappers, and sheets of paper that litter his desk. He merely shifts them around, creating taller, wider piles.

It looks like he’s given up (and perception is reality).

4. Forgetfulness

When Jonah forgets to update a presentation deck, the team can tell he’s embarrassed. It’s written on his face in sweat and pink blotches. He’s disappointed in himself; he knows he let the team down…

But that doesn’t fix anything. Jonah’s forgetfulness still affects other people—their time, their performance—in ways he can’t make up to them.

5. Disregard for the team at large

And even though Jonah is embarrassed by his lateness, forgetfulness, and moodiness, his colleagues don’t care. They don’t excuse it. And why should they?

Why should they care when his behavior persists day after day, week after week? That level of consistency speaks volumes. It says, “I don’t care enough.”

6. Productivity dips despite longer hours

Since Alexa’s exit, Jonah’s been staying later—and not only to offset coming in late. He’s trying to keep up.

And on the days he does leave on time, he still comes home and cracks the computer for an hour or two. Sometimes it stays open, shining on his face until he goes to bed. But little comes from his at-home efforts or, for that matter, his late office hours. The law of diminishing returns tears down Jonah’s productivity, leaving him less healthy, in mind and body.

It’s actually a typical paradox: the more you work, the less you get done. That’s because we only have so much focus to use up at one time. It’s a commodity you have to earn back with sleep, with exercise, with fun—with anything but more work.

Final Thought:

Some people have been running late their entire lives. It’s a bad habit. Some would even say it’s a deep-rooted psychological issue. Point being, every late employee is not necessarily overworked and exhausted (even if they’re often tardy). And that goes for all the above signs: people develop flaws.

That said, if these issues come on suddenly, relentlessly, and all at once, then consider reviewing your employee’s workload. And ask simple yet implicit questions like, “Do you have too much on your plate?”

Start the conversation—and back up your concerns with the above indicators.

You can also go a step further, investing in workforce management software that helps you to prevent the issue altogether—before it has a chance to afflict your people and hurt your bottom line.

An ounce of prevention, after all, is worth a pound of cure.

A Glimpse Into Tomorrow’s Artificially Intelligent HR Departments

A Glimpse Into Tomorrow’s Artificially Intelligent HR Departments

This article originally appeared on the WorkForce blog. 


The date: Saturday, August 15, 2026.

The place: your home.

It’s Saturday, 10:00 AM. You’re late.

You opened your eyes for the first time an hour after your personal training session with Kareem was scheduled to start. You have a panicky moment—how could this happen; you set your alarm; you’re never late—and then you see the text:

Hi, it’s Kareem. The baby’s sick. I’m so sorry, but I had to cancel on you. If you woke up late, it’s because the cancellation triggered an alarm readjustment. Remember?  See you Monday at 6!

You do remember: the alarm readjustment is a function of the scheduling system Kareem uses with his clients. You smile to yourself, pleased. Then you remember your work dream—it was a bad one…

Before you know it, you’re out of bed, heading down the hall to your home office where, most days, you work remotely, overseeing your company’s HR department. As you speed walk there, barefoot, hallway sensors capture and measure your body heat, adjusting the temperature in each room to fit your preset comfort level.

The air is cool and refreshing when you walk in. As you near your oversized touchscreen display, it immediately turns on, projecting a red laser keyboard onto your smooth, plastic, white desk. Your digital assistant, Sarah, simultaneously comes to life.

“Good morning,” says Sarah, her voice is clear and even as it leaves your monitor. “As of today, at 10:06 AM, zero overtime hours have been recorded or requested. Would you like to see all of this week’s overtime recap?”

“No,” you say. “Pull up what next week is going to look like.”

Your monitor instantly goes black. The words “Predictive Mode” pulse in the center of your screen for three, two, one: bingo. Next week’s numbers are in front of you. You scan the dashboard, reading the overtime predictions.

“Thanks, Sarah,” you say, relieved. “These are the figures I was hoping for. I woke up nervous that we’d be over.”

“My pleasure,” responds Sarah. “Would you like me to pull up any other information? Next week’s engagement levels? Next month’s attrition rates? Current compliance stats?”

“No, that’s okay. I got what I needed,” you say. “Have a nice weekend.”

“You, too. Sorry your workout was canceled. Don’t forget, your next session is scheduled for Monday, August 17th at 6:00 PM.”

The keyboard disappears. The monitor goes black.

Does Artificial Intelligence scare you?

Because it scares a lot of people.

But who can blame them: V.I.KI. in I, Robot was scary; The Machines in The Matrix were scary; Skynet in The Terminator was scary. Hollywood made these AIs “scary” because it sells tickets—and our imaginations take care of the rest.

That said, we can all relax.

At WorkForce, our perception of artificial intelligence—and the role it’ll play in HR departments, specifically—is optimistic.

Are we dependent on our technology? To a degree, yes. Will artificial intelligence become more advanced, more powerful as time goes on? It will. But will AI turn against us and become our downfall? No. That’s fantastically unlikely.

If anything, AI will serve to continuously elevate humanity, making us ever more productive, efficient, and effective, especially at work. Whether you’re working individually or as part of a team, Artificial Intelligence will serve to enable and empower people.

How, exactly? Let’s take a look…

Tomorrow’s HR Departments

The smart bots are coming. We know that. And while we’re on the subject of what’s to come, we should also mention that, in the future, many HR pros will be working remotely.

Knowing that, here are a couple things you can expect your home office to be equipped with:

1. A virtual, intelligent assistant.

Sarah, the even-toned, helpful and hasty digital assistant is coming—and you don’t need to wait until 2026 to hire her. In fact, she’s currently in beta development at a company called Talla.

Talla integrates with tools like Slack, Office 365, and Google Apps, using something called Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand human speech. Think: Google Voice Search, but much, much more robust.

For example, you could say something like, “send out this employee survey and organize the feedback in an Excel document,” and just like that, it’s on your virtual assistant’s to-do list. One less thing.

If you have a HR assistant, you understand how valuable he or she is. You understand that without them, your work would suffer: stress would distract you; fatigue would bog you down. A competent assistant is a tremendous help.

Now, imagine if they had the ability to see into next week…

“If you have a #HR assistant, you understand how valuable he or she is.”

2. Software that tells you the future.

Sarah wasn’t kidding when she offered to pull up next week’s employee engagement levels and attrition rates. Thanks to something called “Predictive Analytics” (PA), she had them on-hand, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

If you’ve never heard of Predictive Analytics, or just need a refresher, here’s a breakdown:

The term is an evolution of the simple analytics most HR professionals are familiar with: large amounts of data distilled and summarized for human consumption (e.g., the results of that employee survey you asked your virtual assistant to organize). Of course, we have more data at our disposal today than at any other point in history—and the figures will only compound with time. Just think, by 2020, there’ll be:

And those machines will produce enormous amounts of data—“Big Data”—that’ll feed Predictive Analytics engines, which apply advanced statistical techniques (e.g. linear regression) to forecast what might happen in the future.

Of course, PA is nothing new. Cab drivers use it to foresee when the best fares will come. Teachers use it anticipate absences. It’s pattern recognition, at the end of the day. Except computers do it faster, more accurately, and on a grander scale than the human brain ever could—and they’re getting better at it every day.

Predictive Analytics will make it easier to hit the #HR goals you’ve set for next week, next month, and next quarter.”

In Sum:

Artificial Intelligence is a slow, cumulative technology. So if you’re threatened by the thought of life as we know it changing overnight at the hands of a robotic revolution, don’t be. AI is a leaky faucet, not a tidal wave.

That said, Natural Language Processing and Predictive Analytics will, slowly but surely, change the way you communicate and make decisions at work.

NLP will make you more efficient and productive, giving you back countless hours.

PA will make the most of your data, making it easier to hit the goals you’ve set for next week, next month, and next quarter.

Then again, if you can’t wait another minute to break free of your manual processes—much less another decade—consider the benefits that automated workforce management software delivers to HR and Payroll departments around the world, right now.

The future of AI is bright, but that doesn’t mean the present isn’t rich with powerful, automated HR tools that’ll elevate you, your people, and your business.

The Dangerous Truth about Employee Empowerment Every HR Director Should Learn

The Dangerous Truth about Employee Empowerment Every HR Director Should Learn

This post originally appeared on the WorkForce blog. 


“If we toned down our reporting standards, we could sell more,” said Erin, a sales leader at a large company. “If you make the reporting less burdensome, it would free people up to close deals. It would empower them to use their time their way.”

Erin was saying this to his recently appointed CEO—let’s call her Aleesa—during an executive off-site.

“That’s fine by me,” said Aleesa. “Let’s see where we end up.”

This scene actually took place.

The dialogue is made up, but the sentiment is accurate.

Michael Schrage wrote a piece about it in the Harvard Business Review. He explained that the company did, in fact, honor the sales team’s request to ease the reporting requirements.

Leadership saw this request as an opportunity to invest in their employees’ happiness and empowerment, while simultaneously boosting everyone’s accountability, which, in turn, they assumed would improve performance.

But it didn’t work out that way. Here’s the results breakdown:

  • The Good: sales increased for a handful of high performers.
  • The Bad: most people continued to sell at the same rate but, in the process, also hurt the Marketing and Customer Service departments by submitting subpar reporting.
  • The Awful: 20% of the team suffered a measurable sales drop.

The empowerment play was a bust.

The lesson (the truth): empowerment doesn’t work for everyone.

When it does work, it’s great: people report being happier and more fulfilled at work; people perform better. The point, however, is that giving an employee more responsibility, autonomy, and accountability is… risky. There’s no guarantee people will respond well.

Which begs: why do some fail when empowered? Possibly because it’s a big step, one that demands experience and ongoing support. It requires a solid foundation from which to push off. Therefore, before “empowering” someone—before raising the gate and stepping out of their way—managers and HR leaders should do what they can to ensure that person is ready.

How to Mitigate Your Empowerment Risk

According to Derek Irvine, a foremost expert on employee recognition and engagement, after an employee is empowered with more autonomy, “companies need to make sure that elements are in place to continue supporting employee performance.”

Below are several “elements” that he suggests will drive and guide that performance.

“These practices signal to employees what performance looks like and how it can be achieved,” writes Irvine, “aligning behavior while increasing motivation across different levels of performers.”

Here’s what you do:

1. Shape a mission-driven culture.

Talented, hardworking people are attracted to for-profit companies that also have a mission, a greater purpose. A company mission is a sign of enduring values and smart, strong leadership. Many great companies have one.

In business, money creates a logical pull. A mission, then, serves to create an emotional one. An emotional pull that fosters positivity, momentum, and loyalty. These traits give empowered workers the drive and stamina to perform. How does your organization’s success help the world? The right response to that question could move mountains.

“Talented, hardworking people are attracted to for-profit companies that also have a mission, a greater purpose.”

2. Create a “Core Values” recognition system.

Core Values are the building blocks of a company’s identity.

They’re also perennial; they don’t change or morph with the times. For example, Work Hard, Play Hard, isn’t a sustainable Core Value because, well, what if times are lean?

A company’s values should be timeless, like an individual’s character traits: Accountability; Balance; Community; Integrity; Safety; Empowerment. When you consistently and publicly reward employees based on their execution of these values, you’re sending a clear and potent message: we like what you’re doing… keep doing it. People appreciate that.

“A company’s values should be timeless.”

3. Incentivize.

Whether you’re empowering a team of people (the way Aleesa did) or a single individual, incentivizing their performance is a proven way to create traction and drive.

Salaried or hourly, full-time or part-time, employees who are rewarded for their decisions—especially ones they made independently—will continue to chase the satisfaction their progress brings.

NOTE: When designing an incentive program, be sure to keep it simple. Focus on the positive. Also, use reward points, not specific prizes, to create a program everyone can build on and eventually succeed at.”

“When designing an incentive program, use reward points.”

Imagine what could have been…

What could have been if Aleesa’s people were incentivized, recognized, and driven by mission—by a sense of purpose—rather than by hard numbers alone? “Removing the reporting burdens against this backdrop could very well have improved effectiveness on a much wider scale,” writes engagement and recognition expert, Derek Irvine.

If nothing else, it’s important to take away that Aleesa, the CEO, didn’t invest in employee empowerment, per se. She invested in employee accountability,productivity, and innovation. Empowerment is about the employee in many ways but, ultimately, the real benefactor is the employer. The benefits bubble up.

Therefore, as a leader, whether you’re in management or HR or at the C-suite table, you can’t expect to “empower” people and then just let them loose. That’s dangerous for everyone. You could lose productivity. Worse yet, you could lose talent…

Failing employees can become disengaged, which could lead to costly employee turnover. For example, a CAP study found that:

  • The average cost to replace a mid-range position ($30K – $50K per year): 20% of the annual salary.
  • The average cost to replace a specialized executive position (more than $100K per year): 213% of the annual salary!

Therefore, stay mindful of the commitment your empowered employees have taken on, and make it a point to continuously help them, support them, and empathize with them through programs, culture and, of course, technology, as well.

That’s the best insurance policy you can buy.

How to Create Brilliant HR Surveys Your Employees Won’t Be Able to Ignore

How to Create Brilliant HR Surveys Your Employees Won’t Be Able to Ignore

This article originally appeared on the WorkForce blog. 


As an HR Director, part of the job is understanding:

  1. Why people want to work for your company?
  2. What’s going to motivate employees to do their best work?

Why? Because you want your people to be engaged on the job. More importantly, you want to keep them constantly engaged because it’s excellent for business.

But how do you do that? Is more money the answer? After all, who doesn’t love a raise? Getting one makes people smile; it gives them some pep, some energy, some get-up-and-go.

But, over time, that initial “more money” rush fades in the shadow of disengagement. The feeling wears off because it’s superficial to begin with, like cover-up on a black eye: there’s no erasing what’s underneath.

You simply can’t buy true, sustained engagement. You’ll go broke trying. Thankfully, there is a proven engagement strategy: give your employees a sense of purpose.

A sense of purpose is the bedrock of a healthy work environment, as it promotes physical, emotional, and social well-being. And once those variables are in place, engagement will follow.

Of course, in order to do all that, you have to understand your people on a personal level. What are their ambitions? What motivates them? If they could change anything, what would it be?

Do you know the answers to these questions? Do you really know?

If not, there’s a way to find out…

Enter: “Pulse” Surveys.

Put your hand on your heart.

You’ve felt that sensation a thousand times: the beat is quick, consistent. It’s always with you, working for you.

That’s where “Pulse” surveys get their name.

Unlike long, tedious, traditional employee satisfaction surveys that are circulated every six months or even annually, pulse surveys are snappy—a few questions each—and occur on a weekly basis. Maybe every other week.

The short time commitment makes pulse surveys approachable, easy, and satisfying, which drives unprecedented participation. Their limited questions, meanwhile, give HR departments something specific to focus on—and that makes implementing changes a more straightforward process.

That’s the gist, but let’s break down the benefits even more…

Why “Pulse” Surveys?

HR departments can’t afford not to conduct these things…

Too much value is at stake. Value that will benefit your employees and, in turn, your company. For example:

  1. The information you get is accurate and honest.
    Surveys, in general, are reliable sources of information because they mine the knowledge and experience of those closest to your business: salaried employees. Pulse surveys, specifically, are so quick and simple to fill out that there’s little opportunity for fatigue, impatience, or any other negative variable that’s typically associated with their long, annual counterparts. This ensures the quality and accuracy of the collected data.
     
  2. The ROI is remarkable.
    Pulse surveys are ultra-specific. They typically zero-in on one particular topic or issue. This makes them potent sources of information, especially considering how little time it takes to create one. Unlike traditional surveys, which can take days or even weeks to craft, pulse surveys help HR departments focus and, in turn, deliver change in a fraction of the time.
     
  3. It casts a halo around your organization.
    Consistently engaging your employees with smart, relevant questions that make them feel involved in the company’s evolution will boost morale, especially if their feedback is acted upon.This will translate to more positive reviews on corporate transparency sites like Glassdoor.com, which can lead to a flood of quality talent.

Those are some of the benefits…

Now, here’s how to create one:

First thing’s first: you’re going to need a tool to collect information.

A fast, easy, and reliable option is Google Forms—but there are plenty more to choose from.

Once that is set up, you can begin crafting your survey using the following best practices. Be sure to:

  1. Keep it clear
    Introduce pulse surveys to your organization with a clear and concise explanation, one that highlights what they are and why they’re being used. Most importantly, explain how implementing pulse surveys will bring about more change, more often.
     
  2. Keep it comfortable.
    Ditch the corporate tone for a something lighter. These are your people, after all, so use contractions, simple words, and short sentences. Doing so will make your surveys effortless to read — and easier to complete.
     
  3. Keep it anonymous.
    You’ll only get honest answers if people trust that their input will remain confidential or, better yet, anonymous. Make it clear that this is, in fact, the case.
     
  4. Keep it employee-centric.
    Ask questions your employees see themselves in. Questions that pertain to them as individuals. Questions that impact their daily routines or their work-life balance. Most people will gladly contribute if they can envision the benefits of their input.
     
  5. Keep it short.
    Very short: two or three questions; four or five tops. Perhaps throw in a single-question survey from time to time. In any case, you want the whole thing to take a few minutes or even seconds to complete. Think quality over quantity. This will break down the barrier to entry, ensuring that you drive maximum engagement.
     
  6. Keep it relevant.
    People are more likely to answer questions that relate directly to their work environment and circumstances. Therefore, it might make sense to segment your pulse surveys by department or, if enough people hold the same title, even role.
     
  7. Keep it transparent.
    Share the anonymous results with everyone in the company—not only the leadership team. For each survey you conduct, be sure to send out a follow-up email to the participants summarizing the feedback as well as the resulting actions.
     
  8. Keep it coming
    Create a rhythm. Get your employees accustomed to seeing pulse surveys in their inbox. Being consistent—with the surveys and the actions—will compel people to incorporate the process into their routines because they’ve been conditioned to take the process seriously.

Most people will gladly contribute
if they can envision the benefits of their input.

And here’s what to do with your results:

First of all, great work. You’ve followed the best practices listed above, ensuring that people actual participate in your survey. That’s no small feat—and now you can look forward to honing this new craft.

That said, you’re also not quite done yet. You have a few more critical steps:

  1. Be courageous.
    Pushing out a survey is asking for criticism. It’s asking to be told what’s wrong with the establishment you’ve had a hand in building and maintaining. In that way, the process can be challenging for leaders. But that’s the point: surveys are intended to make us think and reevaluate. Don’t forget that.
     
  2. Commit yourself to quick action.
    Remember: it doesn’t have to be costly or groundbreaking. It just has to make a positive difference, however small. The point, then, is to demonstrate to employees that their opinions matter and that their voices can and will bring about change. If you’re not prepared to change something based on a question, don’t even bother putting it out there.
     
  3. Communicate changes simply, clearly.
    Carry the casual tone you use in surveys into your follow-up communications. Be clear, honest, and transparent. People will appreciate that.
     
  4. Compare and contrast.
    In other words, measure your progress as it relates to a specific issue. Whether it’s trivial (i.e., “Rate our free kitchen snacks: 1 – 10”) or crucial (i.e., “Rate how safe you feel at work: 1 – 10”), you should be tracking the results of your efforts over time.

Still not sold on “Pulse” Surveys?

In that case, let’s circle back and take a closer look at one of the main benefits they bring: a sense of purpose among employees, which then translates into sustained engagement.

According to research by Gallup, organizations with engaged employees deliver:

  • 27% Higher Profits
  • 50% Higher Sales
  • 50% Higher Customer Loyalty
  • 38% Above Average Productivity

An HR Researcher Explains the One Workplace Characteristic Shared by Every Great Company

An HR Researcher Explains the One Workplace Characteristic Shared by Every Great Company

This article originally appeared on the Workforce blog.


In a moment, you’re going to learn all about the one characteristic that can either make or destroy a work environment.

You’re going to learn what it is, how it was discovered, and what great companies have done to embrace and proliferate it. With some practice, you’ll also learn how to harness the energy this characteristic emits — a valuable skill that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

A skill that will help you read employees and, over time, connect with them.

Don’t worry, the pieces will all come together soon.

But first, a story. Let me take you back to the beginning…

Meet Robert Levering, HR Researcher.

He’s a real person who, for a long time, worked as a labor journalist.

Robert’s job was to report on strikes, union organizing drives, employee lawsuits, and other events that were the product of toxic workplaces. Then, one day, out of the blue, a New York publisher came to him with a request:

“I want you to write a book called The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America,” she said. And while it was an exciting ask, the topic was hardly in his wheelhouse. Robert wrote about bad experiences at bad companies, not the other way around.

He took the job anyway.

Over the next two years, Levering traveled around the U.S. interviewing more than 3000 employees from 150 companies. Except this time he wasn’t asking them what they hated about work but, rather, what made them love it? What made them happy, eager, and successful employees at their company?

The book he was asked to write became a bestseller, but he didn’t stop there. He dug deeper, continuing his research into workplace happiness and satisfaction. Levering went on to spend another two years revisiting the top 20 workplaces on his list…

His goal: to find the one distinctive feature — the common denominator — that made them all great. After a combined four years of research, he published his findings in a follow-up book, A Great Place to work: What Makes Some Employers So Good—and Most So Bad.

What he learned surprised him:

Perks, it turns out, do not make a company a great place to work. Something else does, something far less tangible. Sure, free lunches and on-site daycare are remarkable workplace luxuries, but they’ll never make a company truly special.

“What really impressed me,” recalls Levering, “was the spirit within these companies. You could feel that spirit when you first walked in the door.” He attributed this spirit, this feeling, to the way employees and their respective managers interacted with each other. He clung to this observation, diving deeper into its basis, searching for a root cause.

Ultimately, he deduced that the most distinctive feature shared by the very best companies—the ones that retained the most talented and productive employees—was… you’ve heard of it: trust.

Trust is the foundation upon which healthy human relationships—whether they exist at the office or in the living room—form and evolve. And that fact begs the question:

How can companies create trust?

Conceptually speaking, creating trust is actually fairly simple…

According to Levering, it boils down to making an employee feel less like an instrument and more like a person. Managers, executives, and HR departments can do that by giving people more than they’ve been promised—and I’m not talking about money.

Let me explain.

Take Starbucks, for example:

Firstly, the world’s largest coffee chain doesn’t refer to their workers as “employees”—they’re called “partners.” Secondly, a partner’s first day on the job isn’t consumed with paperwork and accelerated coffee-making training, as one might expect.

Instead, new hires are guided through what’s known as the “Starbucks Experience,” in which the first activity is a relaxed, casual coffee-tasting tour. Nothing intense. Just coffee. It’s actually a nice way to spend the morning—and that’s the point.

Sure, part of the purpose behind the Starbucks Experience is to boost employees’ coffee knowledge. But it’s mainly designed to encourage bonding and, ultimately,welcome outsiders into the company family. Is Starbucks obligated to treat fresh faces this way? No, they’re not. New hires, after all, have entered into a contract with the company: we give you money, you give us time. That’s the deal.

But Starbucks understood that by providing people with something extra—by doing more than they have to do—especially on the first day, they’re far more likely to create a seed of trust that, if properly nurtured, could grow into an oak of loyalty.

According to Levering, Starbucks, in this instance, is practicing “Gift-Work.”

What is Gift-Work?

After three decades of research, Levering coined the term, which he defines as:

“An interaction in the workplace where an employee or a manager gives more than is expected or required for the sake of the organization or the relationship.”

HR translation: the less commoditized an employee feels, the more he or she will trust their manager and the organization as a whole. More trust creates more personal happiness, which drives on-the-job effort, which promotes positivity, energy.

Energy that, in the hands of a skilled manager, can be molded into productivity, innovation, and growth.