EMBRACE WHO YOU ARE!

Research shows that you should be yourself at the office - BY ANNE HARDY

You often hear executives and recruiters proclaim that their company hires for culture fit. Should such a statement make you worry?

If it means that the company is hiring people who perfectly match the existing culture or people who are willing to bend to conform to the culture, I worry and maybe you should too as this signals that the company does not recognize the importance of diversity as they should.

When you encounter a company like this, what should you do?  Should you strive to fit in?  The answer is no, especially when it comes at the cost of shutting down aspects of who you are.

Stephen Cope argues that: “If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you. If you do not, it will destroy you”. When your work draws together all your faculties, you feel fulfilled, connected, aligned, and most happy. However, when your work requires that you silence parts of yourself, you will feel diminished and unsatisfied. And if that happens too frequently,  your work will progressively undermine your self-esteem and destroy you.

The takeaway is to be your genuine self!  This is best for you, your colleagues, your company and by extension everyone that surrounds you.

Some of you may be wondering who they really are? Determining the answer to this is no small feat.  We tend to know better who we are not than who we are. And trying and searching, relentlessly, is the key to being “you” as “We only know who we are by trying on various versions of ourselves.”

You ultimately want to work for companies that make it possible to search, make choices and evolve your job so that it fits you.  It’s this space that will help you find yourself and your genius.

Do these companies exist? I sure hope so!  The good news we can together build them.  
 

MANAGING TIME OFF IS A TEAM EFFORT

Most companies have vacation policies that grant employees a defined number of paid vacation days per year, which everyone can take as they want. It’s great, except that we have to make it work for everybody...

Have there been times when you freaked out when your teammates contemplated their next vacation? You’re already overworked and you know that when they go on vacation, this means that you will get to do their job in addition to yours. Similarly, have you thought about the impact of your last vacation on them?

The best teams work collaboratively. Team members trust each other and are interdependent. If one person takes a vacation, the entire team needs to make adjustments; sometimes these adjustments are difficult if they are not carefully planned — because we know that the team is already stretched thin and that something important must be delivered on schedule. 

We know that nobody can work indefinitely without taking time off to recharge. So who can say if and when is best for someone to take time off? My response is that like teamwork, vacation is a team effort that should be designed and potentially scheduled with the manager and all the team members. Your going away for days or weeks affects your team; therefore checking with your teammates and giving them a time to think about it and prepare for it, is teamwork. Your teammates, like your manager, will certainly respect your need for rest and time-off as they too will need rest and time-off.

As managers design jobs and teams, it’s key to embed breaks and out of office time within the work design. These decisions are best left to the teams. Managers should focus on observing, listening and adapting this design in order to optimize support for their team when one member goes on vacation or another one longs for one.

CAN YOU TAKE TOO MUCH TIME OFF?

Yes, extended periods of time off can impact performance and motivation - BY ANNE HARDY

 

The benefits of time-off are clear to everyone. Unsurprisingly, we need time-off and research confirm common sense.

We need time off to recharge physically and mentally. But can too much time off also affect us negatively? I am not trying to be contrarian — but I believe that the question is worth asking. Well, the answer is not simple; it depends on the job and more specifically what the job demands.    

For physically demanding jobs, the body needs regular periods of rest to protect from accident or injury caused by fatigue. Like athletes, bodies need regular rest and recovery periods. So, shouldn’t you treat your body as an athlete would? Athletes are consistent in their physical activity during any given week to ensure muscles stay strong. They also incorporate regular periods of rest to allow muscles to rebuild after strenuous activity.

For jobs that are mentally demanding but perhaps less physically demanding, you still need regular periods of rest. While you may not need to rest your physical muscles, you will most certainly need to re-energize your mind and heart, almost like if they were muscles.   

Throughout my career in software engineering,  I have spent many hour/day sitting at my desk in front of a computer. For a few years, I worked in France for a company that granted its employees almost eight weeks of vacation time per year. Although I could never take all of it in a year, I tried to take advantage of this benefit when possible, by taking three or four weeks at a time. Every time, returning to work after the long break was excruciating for me. It felt like my brain had been atrophied and needed to relearn to get back in the thick of things and be effective again. My brain almost felt like a muscle that I had not used for too long…

In short, we rarely treat our mental muscles the same way as athletes treat their physical muscles. But shouldn’t we?

TRUST CASE STUDY: WHEN DATA TELLS YOU MORE THAN WHAT YOU BELIEVE

Do your employees trust you?  Do your employees believe you listen to what they have to say?
These are critical questions that leadership needs to understand.

Let’s look at these questions in the context of a case study:

ACME company hired us to study their organizational effectiveness over a two week period. This is a company that is successful in its industry and its leadership team views employees as an essential part of future success and growth. We mapped out the ACME employee experience and researched how their employees work together towards common goals and objectives.  

During the study, employees had to respond to the question: “Do you trust management to listen to your feedback?" to which they responded yes, no or not sure.  Let’s deconstruct employee responses to illustrate the power of Workrise analysis.

Level 1 data analysis:

Here is the distribution of employee responses:
Yes - 77.42% 
Not sure - 12.90%
No - 9.68%

At first glance, the data above looks pretty good and the leadership team could be satisfied. Most executives would leave things there.

Level 2 data analysis:

There is significant benefit to digging deeper and asking the following questions: 
What is the exact makeup of 77.42%?
Why are 22.58% of  employees saying "No" and "Not sure"?

Our next step was to map the responses against the organizational structure, to analyze outliers and correlations for further investigation.  It is indeed through this deeper research that we can gain the greatest insight into the organization.

We checked if there were differences between demographic groups. At ACME, where there was an even split between men and women, we found that women represented 75% of the "Not Sure" and 66% of the "No”. What pushed women to take a more negative stand towards management? Digging deeper, the data showed that most of these women had been in the company for more than 10 years. It is not uncommon that long-tenure employees are less engaged and become more apathetic or cynical over time. Yet, numerous academic studies have found that “individuals with longer organizational tenures tend to achieve higher levels of performance” (Engage your long-time employees to improve performance - James Harter - March 2015). So time might have come for ACME to work towards re-engaging their long-tenure employees.

Level 3 data analysis:

As another step in our analysis, we mapped employee responses to feelings / emotional states. The Workrise platform typically utilizes two different indexes to illustrate the emotional state of people: the NetAffect and the U-Index. The NetAffect  is the average of positive moods minus the average of negative moods. The U-Index is the proportion of time employees spend in an “unpleasant” or “undesirable” mood. Dr Kahneman and Dr Krueger qualify the overall mood of an employee as “unpleasant” or “undesirable” when he / she is engaged in an activity in which the dominant mood / emotion is negative.

At ACME, we found that employees  who responded “Yes” to our initial question, did not necessarily have a higher NetAffect average. Similarly, employees  who responded “No” or “Not sure” did not necessarily have a lower NetAffect average. What was striking was the makeup of the 77.42%. A significant percentage of employees spent a relatively high percentage of time in an unpleasant mood (U-Index) warranting further investigation. Indeed, trust in management to listen to feedback doesn't guarantee a positive employee experience from the employee's standpoint. In other words, as managers in a company, we feel better to know that our employees trust us to listen to them, but we cannot assume that this necessarily matters to them and that it is always a relevant data point indicating that they will stick with us. Oppositely, you can have a more unexpected situation, i.e. when people who do not trust you to listen to your feedback stay with the company, which is the case of the women mentioned above...    

Take away...

Employee experience data needs to be analyzed at different levels.

  1. For ACME, results from the Level 1 analysis looked great: a vast majority of the employees trusted management.
  2. Level 2 results were worrisome: the people who didn't trust management were mostly women. Not because there was discrimination against women but because management had stopped engaging their long-time employees.
  3. Level 3 results were surprising: Trust in management to listen to feedback was not a predictor of employee happiness or unhappiness.

Data is powerful; it can be interpreted in a variety of ways. When you analyze data, it is important to step back and look at the data from different angles to ensure you are not overlooking key issues or jumping to conclusions.

If you want to measure employee experience, you have to look at data about how employees live and work, as well as data about how they feel throughout the day. All this data can then be used for rich analysis towards understanding the workplace and making it smarter.
 

A FEW EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT TRENDS

FOR A HAPPY 2018 - BY ANNE HARDY

As we begin 2018, it’s a great time to reflect what we would like to accomplish in the year ahead and how we will get there.  With this in mind, we would like to share some workplace trends around employee engagement for you to consider as you put 2018 plans together.

  • Gamification has become a powerful tool to motivate employees and drive engagement across an organization.  According to Gartner, “While gamification isn't the only path to increased engagement, businesses that leverage this opportunity effectively can drive substantial increases in revenue. The top 20 percent of major firms in terms of engagement average 250 percent higher revenue growth than their peers.”  Look to books such as Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things by Brian Burke, Gartner VP of Research to get practical advice on how to implement gamification in the workplace.
  • Many companies give employees the opportunity to work virtually, but there are clear benefits to bringing work teams together.  Working with peers in person has been shown to improve employee mood and motivation as it enables greater collaboration.  In today’s global market, working in person is not always possible, so look to exciting alternatives such as virtual reality and augmented reality which are poised to transform the workplace and increase productivity.  In the meantime, ensure you are leveraging business meeting best practices to optimize your company meetings.

  • Personal Development has been shown to yield significantly high NetAffect scores, perhaps because employees desire meaningful work.  Provide employees with opportunities to pursue one of their interests, whether it is learning a new skill, taking a training class or something less work-related.  No matter the pursuit, the new learnings and motivation will be evident at the office.

  • Employee engagement is not one-size-fits-all.  In fact it is personal and subjective to each and every employee.  This is why it’s important for companies to invest in understanding how employees live their work and what is important to them.  Without this knowledge, there is little chance for improvement to employee engagement.  This is an area where Workrise can help; to gain insight into the lived experiences of employees to then make impactful changes to the organization.

Happy New Year!

The Workrise Team

HOW OFTEN SHOULD EMPLOYEES BE IN THE OFFICE?

COMPANIES STRUGGLE TO QUANTIFY THE OPTIMAL NUMBER OF HOURS IN THE OFFICE - BY ANNE HARDY

In our competitive job market, companies continuously assess benefit packages that will attract and retain top talent.  The ability to telecommute is one of the key benefits used to entice candidates as a growing number of people seek flexibility in their workplace.  For companies, it is challenging to determine the right mix of in-office versus telecommuting hours, evident as companies continually refine telecommuting policies.

Yahoo for example made a major shift in its in-office policy when Marissa Mayer stepped into the Yahoo CEO role.  Marissa came from Google, a company which focused on employees’ creative interactions and thereby placed high value on employees being physically in the office, able to collaborate and exchange ideas in person.  Her decision came under fire, but she stood firm that an in-office policy would boost productivity and engagement.

There has been a lot of research on the optimal number of in-office work hours.  How often should employees be in the office to drive productivity and results for the company?

The advantages of telecommuting can be quite compelling, such as reduced office space costs for the company and increased flexibility and independence for employees.  For employees living in large metropolitan areas, telecommuting offers a tremendous time and energy savings by allowing them to stay off congested roads to get to work.  This means more focused time dedicated to work while being more available to family. But over time, disadvantages tend to emerge that are of concern for some companies, such as reduced engagement and collaboration.

According to Gallup's State of the American Workplace report, “Engagement climbs when employees spend some time working remotely and some time working in a location with their coworkers. The optimal engagement boost occurs when employees spend 60% to less than 80% of their workweek -- or three to four days -- working off-site.”

Workrise data shows that employee commute negatively influences what Dr William Kahn calls our psychological availability, which is our "sense of having the physical, emotional, or psychological resources to personally engage at a particular moment”.

All of this suggests that companies that offer the flexibility to work from home and telecommute can continue to have engaged and connected employees, provided the employees are given the technology, tools and management support to enable effective interaction with their team and across the larger organization.   

In the coming years, we will continue to see companies strive to offer competitive benefit packages that balance corporate and employee needs.  Ultimately, it is critical that benefit packages be closely aligned to current workforce expectations.