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What Smarter Collaboration Means in Microsoft Teams
What Smarter Collaboration Means in Microsoft Teams

In today’s global work environment, organizations and their employees must effectively communicate across different locations, time zones, and languages to drive their businesses forward. Microsoft Teams puts everything organizations need—chats, meetings, calling, and Office 365 apps—to make faster, more informed decisions in a single, intelligent hub. With Teams, every type of worker—from the frontline worker to the C-suite—is empowered to contribute their voice and take shared accountability for business outcomes. To quantify the benefits of Teams for organizations and employees, Forrester Consulting conducted a Total Economic Impact™ study of Microsoft Teams, commissioned by Microsoft. Forrester interviewed and surveyed over 260 customers using Teams in a wide range of industries, spanning financial services to education. All customers cited the following business objectives for implementing Teams:Increase employee productivity Improve collaboration across the organization Enable innovationKey Benefits: Implementing Microsoft Teams The study uncovered 11 benefits for companies to consider as they evaluate Teams as a primary communication and collaboration tool. The top four benefits are:Teams reduces the total number of meetings and their duration. Online meetings conducted over Teams are reliable and of very high audio-video quality. As a result, employees spend less time addressing setup and call quality issues, and more time interacting. The total time savings equal $6.9 million. Information workers save four hours per week from improved collaboration and information sharing. With Teams features like coauthoring, integrated file storage, and internal directory, information workers can effectively and efficiently collaborate in real-time. The potential savings equal more than $14.3 million. Information workers save more than one hour per week by not having to switch between applications. Access to third-party and line-of-business apps inside Teams from any device benefits all workers, especially remote workers. This creates better employee cohesion and a common corporate culture across locations. The total savings are nearly $4.8 million. Having resources available online in Teams reduces downtime by 14.6 percent. When resources are available in one cloud-based location, downtime is reduced and complexity is lowered, making security and compliance easier.Maximizing Value from Microsoft Teams In just the last few months, Microsft released Collaborative Notes. The new Teams’ meetings feature enables meeting attendees to work together taking notes, forming agendas, and creating action items. Meeting notes are not new to Teams, but this updated version automatically synchronizes edits to the notes across all attendee devices, offering a more efficient and seamless collaborative experience. Attendees are not restricted to a single app. Collaborative Notes will be instantly updated whether they are shared in Teams, Outlook, Loop, Word for web, or Whiteboard. How Smarter Collaborative Notes Work Attendees can add recurring agendas to all meetings while scheduling in Teams. To join a Teams meeting and collaborate on meeting notes, click the  click the “Meeting notes” pane, you can create agendas in real-time or review the agenda already provided. If you are assigned a task during a meeting, you will also be sent an email notification and the task will be automatically synchronized with your Planner and To Do. But real-time in-meeting communication means we don’t take into account the different personalities and work styles of our colleagues when we communicate. As a result, communication can often be misinterpreted, unclear, and not as meaningful and effective as it could be – which stunts productivity and connection. It also prevents the uninterrupted time that is necessary for team members to bring their full range of talents to their work, which is what makes them feel satisfied at the end of their work days.  Consider implementing a collaboration and coaching add-on to support more productive meetings and to maximize the value you get out of Collaborative Notes. A Smarter Way to Collaborate in Microsoft Teams This can begin as easily as putting personality insights at the fingertips of every employee, where they communicate most often --  think video meetings and chat. With this simple plug-in in Teams, you can give your staff the kind of information needed to better communicate and collaborate with one another, taking all of the guesswork out of it and allowing them to spend time on the work that matters. The plug-in automatically surfaces useful, customized tips for more effective communication with peers during meetings. Imagine being able to click on meeting participants and see real-time tips and recommendations for communicating, motivating, and influencing. Imagine seeing this same information in aggregate for your meeting group. Imagine knowing who best to tap on for pre- or post-meeting action items, for helping leading certain initiatives while identifying those better suited to document or support, and who might benefit from a heads up on particular messages — all of which take into account your team members’ behaviors, motivators, and work energizers in an easy-to-understand way.  As a team leader, you’re able to lay a strong foundation for more inclusive communication and belonging for team members, along with:Creating more balanced, diverse & agile teams Ensuring employees onboard or transition teams smoothly Optimizing team members’ impact by tapping into the unique behaviors, motivators & work energizers of each person. Experiencing the increased productivity that comes from improved team effectiveness. Squeezing every ounce of value out of your use of Microsoft TeamsAs a team member, you’re able to:Gain deeper understanding of one another, allowing better connection and ability to work through conflict Create deeper, more meaningful connection that translates into more effective collaborations and higher quality relationships at work Feel more engaged in your daily workIt’s important to give your employees the opportunity to thrive and do the job they were hired to do -- instead of requiring them to spend their valuable time figuring out how to work better with one another. The truth is, most people won’t take their time to figure out how to collaborate better, and as a result, connection wanes, relationships are reduced to transactions, and performance suffers. Don’t let team members go down this road when there are easier tech-enabled ways to do it. Doing so drives trust in your processes and leadership ability, and keeps employees engaged and performing at their highest levels.

7 Ways to Improve Team Communication When Your Team Is Distributed
7 Ways to Improve Team Communication When Your Team Is Distributed

The Future of Work continues to evolve, and the number of people who work remotely at least once per week has grown by an astounding 400% since 2010. In Robert Half’s survey report of more than 2,800 senior managers, companies in cities most receptive to hybrid work -- including Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Pittsburgh -- have figured out that many employees are productive no matter where they’re sitting. The next challenge? How to improve team communication when each team member sits somewhere else. These companies have recognized the value of being an early adopter of long-term hybrid work, in the form of a more engaged and loyal workforce, and in a candidate-driven job market, offering hybrid work can be a powerful way to recruit, retain, and grow great teams. Still, managers in these companies cite the complexities of supporting a distributed workforce long-term and indicate their top challenge as “communicating effectively with team members” quickly followed by helping staff avoid burnout.  So as teams begin to settle into what looks like permanently remote or long-term hybrid work models, it’s clear that effective communication and collaboration can no longer remain dependent on in-person interactions. As a remote-first organization since its inception, we asked our Humantelligence Culture Success Coaches for their short but most impactful tips for better supporting remote employees and for how to improve team communication, collaboration, and performance. Here’s what they said. Top Tips for Improving Team Communication Demonstrate empathy any time the team member expresses a problem or frustration. Use The Empathy Formula to acknowledge the team member’s feelings based on facts. Here’s the formula: “It sounds like you’re (feeling) because/about (fact). “Here’s a real-life example: “It sounds like you’re feeling overwhelmed (feeling) because of the reduced number of people on the team (fact).” Establish a new one-on-one meeting routine. Have a scheduled meeting at least twice per week over video conference. If these meetings are currently less frequent, use the same amount of overall time divided up over more meetings. Always have your camera on and ask that the employee does the same -- it’s a way to build connection. Talk to your team members every single day. If a meeting is not scheduled, call them on the phone and talk to them. Sometimes just a quick check-in call is all it takes for some days. One of the most important elements of being an effective manager is keeping lines of communication open with your team members, especially when it has nothing to do with assignments or project statuses. Important Note: Talking to the team member in a team meeting doesn’t count, nor does exchanging texts or leaving voicemails. Demonstrate your availability. End your meetings with your team members by encouraging the team member to contact you by phone or to request an unscheduled meeting. Answer the call if at all possible. Establish line of sight and continue to reinforce it. Ensure work assignments, expectations, and deadlines are perfectly clear. Break down current goals into smaller chunks that are measured on a more frequent basis. Find opportunities during your one-on-ones to talk about how the specific work they do contributes to a specific team or company objective. This is not as obvious to them as it might be to you. Do not hold hybrid meetings. Level the meeting playing field so all team members can contribute equally. This is best practice in general, and particularly important for the struggling team member. If some of the team members are in the same location and some are remote, have the onsite team members split up and join from their own computers. It equals the playing field. Leverage the Humantelligence toolkit Use Humantelligence at least once a week. You need to deepen your understanding of the team member’s motivators and behavioral preferences to best know how to help them. Once you have a deeper understanding of his/her psychometric-based Talent Profile, use the one-on-one comparison tool to go over your and the team member’s similarities and differences, which will help the team member feel seen. Uncover how team members’ unique strengths shown on their Talent Profile can be better put to work for the benefit of the team, and then tell them. Also go over the team member’s Remote Work Tips, which offers personalized tips for wellness, productivity, and effective collaboration.  In the increasingly complex world of the future of work, we have to use technology and work harder as team leaders to build person-to-person connection, so that our teams feel trusted and empowered to perform.

Rethinking Employee Onboarding: How to Create Better Human Connection
Rethinking Employee Onboarding: How to Create Better Human Connection

It's no secret...poor onboarding leads to new hires being twice as likely to seek another opportunity, with 43% of managers losing their new hire during the first month. During the current turbulent candidate market, and increased pressure on retaining talent, falling down at the last hiring hurdle isn’t an option when it comes to the employee onboarding experience. The key is creating lasting connections to help employees become passionate, productive team players. It essentially makes your onboarding process sticky. Why Improving Employee Onboarding is Important Only 17% of U.S. employees worked from home five days a week before COVID-19. At the onset of the pandemic, the percentage shot up to 44%. Very quickly, HR understood the the need to improve employee onboarding processes. We all know that onboarding and training plays a critical role in a new hire's success and happiness. And good onboarding is especially important for remote employees, since they don't have as many opportunities to integrate organically into the company culture. According to BCG, employee onboarding is among the most influential factors when it comes to employee experience. Companies that have effective onboarding processes in place achieve 2.5x more revenue growth and 1.9x the profit margin compared to organizations with poor onboarding strategies. Here, we explore some of the key building blocks -- and often forgotten components -- to improve employee onboarding for remote employees. Keeping these things in mind, you can ensure smooth onboarding even when employees are remote. As a result, you'll help increase the organization's rate of retention, engagement, and productivity of your new hires. Improving Human Connection During Onboarding Translates into Organizational Success Dale Carnegie was on to something when he said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.” People are emotional. More than ever, they want a more personal, human work experience from their employers – and that happens when people connect and feel they belong. Organizations have to get more and more creative about how they can form multiple connections with new employees, or they risk feeling alienated and are more likely to leave. The digitization of the workplace can make people more isolated and lonely, so pre-boarding is a way to ensure inclusivity and connection-building happens before a person starts. In fact, connection is the backbone of an onboarding strategy that reduces new hire attrition, accelerates time-to-productivity, increases new hire productivity, fosters trust, drives engagement – and ultimately empowers the business to deliver better for customers. Coupled with a compelling employee experience strategy, such as assigning job-appropriate “ambassadors” and a “people-first” culture of compassion and caring, this personalized approach can continue through all an employee’s life stages Here are 10 ways to keep human connection front and center during employee onboarding and to help everyone settle into your organization with confidence — whether onsite or at home. 1. Put Video Conferencing at the Forefront No surprise, video conferencing apps gained immense popularity in spring 2020. Video conferencing platforms became a lifesaver for employers and employees, serving as a means to make face-to-face connections in the virtual work world. Instead of distributing training documentation and static, pre-recorded videos for remote employee training, employers could schedule a video onboarding training session that feels a lot like meeting in the company conference room. Plus, when onboarding, you have the chance to set expectations and make sure the employee knows that interactive, camera-on meetings will be the norm. With this approach, your employees can ask questions live and have them answered immediately among their co-workers. 2. Create Opportunities for Connection Amid COVID-19, many employees understandably experienced feelings of isolation. Create and foster pipelines for interaction, such as firing up virtual social groups, keeping those channels active, or encouraging a non-social media-centered buddy system where employees call, text or email one another. This reinforces a sense of belonging for remote employees. 3. Help Employees Manage Distractions Another facet telecommuting employees might not anticipate is the endless stream of distractions. Your virtual training tips might include strategies to help employees shut out distractions to give their work the necessary focus to get it done well and on time. At the least, encourage your employees to carve out an hour a day for remote training when they can give the material 100% of their attention. Some other tried and true tips to provide remote employees to reduce distractions:Create a schedule and stick to it Take a lunch hour and frequent breaks Get some outdoor time (if possible) Keep your workspace organized Turn off desktop and phone notifications Restrict time on your phone Establish ground rules with your family or roommates Set daily goals and objectivesFor more on helping employees remove distractions while working remotely, check out these tips. 4. Invite Open Discussions on Training Questions You’re not training employees in a vacuum, and they aren’t learning in one, so keep an open line of communication to see how everything is going. Use your company intranet or another channel to solicit feedback. You can quickly and clearly clarify matters for everyone, thanks to an open forum for lively Q&A. 5. Run Online Polls for Feedback to Improve Employee Onboarding & Training When you want to gather data about remote training, run an online poll. You can provide a space for comments, questions and feedback. If you’re looking for numbers to guide your training, a poll is a quick and efficient way to get what you need. Ask questions about whether employees find the information engaging, clear, and meaningful to their daily work. This way, you're giving remote employees a way to be heard. 6. Empower Remote Employees to Become Self-Guided Learners With today’s online education and training opportunities, you can put the power of learning in your team members’ hands. Let employees know what you need from them, then allow them to explore their options. That doesn’t mean you set them loose without any guidance. Offer guideposts, such as resources your organization would use, or free access to training programs. Since workers already spend a great deal of time working remotely, it isn’t a stretch to approach learning similarly. Plus when people own when and how they learn, they tend to retain it better!  7. Create and Use Breakout Rooms If you want to schedule a mass training session for everyone before turning matters over to department managers and their respective teams, use breakout rooms to create several smaller sessions. With the right platform, everyone can easily switch to enjoy seamless strands of training relevant to their needs. 8. Offer Strong Training Visuals as Reminders In your video meetings, provide employees with strong visuals to help them understand the material, such as spreadsheets, slideshow presentations, infographics and videos that drive home your training points. About two-thirds of people are visual learners, and studies suggest that four in ten people respond better to visuals and text compared to text alone. Other research shows using visuals can help improve retention and learning by up to 400 percent, so make sure to include compelling visuals to enhance learning. 9. Provide On-Demand Training Options Inherent in remote employment is flexibility. There are times when employees can’t join a live video meeting or audio conference call, so ensure that they can catch up when they have time with on-demand options. Provide absent team members with the recorded session and any supplemental documents, spreadsheets or information they need to stay up to speed for the times they can’t make a virtual meeting in-person. 10. Focus on People Not Process to Improve Employee Onboarding How your company communicates, enables meaningful collaboration, and supports relationship building for both onsite and remote employees usually ends up making or breaking your new hires’ remote onboarding experience. That's why it's critical to focus on people not process or paperwork during this process..    These critical elements are often overlooked during onboarding, but that's where you can employ certain technologies to help. For example, Humantelligence's Smarter Collaboration surfaces emotional intelligence insights and tips directly into the tools your employees use every single day – like Outlook email and calendar, Microsoft Teams, Gmail, Google Calendar, Slack, Zoom, Webex, and more. This simple plug-in takes the guesswork out of how to better understand and effectively communicate with others so your new employees can focus on what matters most – and that’s becoming an impactful member of the team. In addition, be sure to spend time helping your new remote hires integrate into their team. Understanding how they compare in working styles and tendencies to both those with whom they work and their managers will help your new hire understand how best to contribute to the team, smooth the transition, collaborate more effectively, and accelerate productivity. Resources to Improve Employee Onboarding We hope our remote onboarding and training ideas help you feel more confident about bringing new employees into the mix, even if they never or rarely step foot in your office. Today’s technology offers a bounty of options to welcome and engage new employees or help current employees cultivate a sense of belonging and connection with their new and existing colleagues.

Unlocking the Power of Generative AI to Transform HR
Unlocking the Power of Generative AI to Transform HR

In an era marked by digital transformation and remote work, Human Resources (HR) professionals face an evolving landscape. The challenges of recruiting top talent, maintaining effective communication, and optimizing productivity have never been more critical for the employee experience. Fortunately, generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) is emerging as a transformative force in HR, offering innovative solutions to address these issues. In this article, we'll explore the power of generative AI to transform HR by reshaping practices, improving recruitment processes, enhancing communication, and boosting productivity in distributed workforces. Revolutionizing Recruitment with Generative AI Recruitment has always been a cornerstone of HR, but the process can be time-consuming and fraught with biases. Generative AI, through its natural language processing and machine learning capabilities, is revolutionizing how organizations identify and attract top talent. Here are some key ways in which generative AI is reshaping recruitment: 1. Automated Candidate Screening Generative AI-powered tools can analyze thousands of resumes and job applications within seconds, ensuring that every candidate is evaluated fairly. These systems can identify relevant qualifications, skills, and experience, streamlining the initial screening process. According to a survey conducted by HR Dive, 72% of HR professionals reported that AI has improved their ability to find the right candidates more efficiently. 2. Eliminating Bias in Hiring One of the most significant challenges in HR is reducing unconscious bias during hiring. Generative AI algorithms are designed to make decisions based solely on data, reducing the risk of discrimination based on gender, race, or other factors. It promotes diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. 3. Personalized Candidate Experiences Generative AI can personalize candidate interactions, making potential employees feel valued from the beginning. Chatbots and AI-driven email responses can answer candidate queries promptly, enhancing the overall candidate experience. You can even make these responses sound more human than the traditional chatbot. Juan Betancourt, CEO of Humantelligence and well-known executive search recruiter notes, "Generative AI is a game changer for HR. The power of generative AI to transform HR will show itself in saved time and also an improvement in the quality of candidates screened. It will make the recruitment process is more efficient and inclusive than ever before." Generative AI to Transform HR in the Delivery of Communication Across Distributed Teams Effective communication is the glue that holds remote teams together. Generative AI is playing a pivotal role in bridging communication gaps and fostering collaboration. Here's how: 1. Virtual Assistants for HR Queries Generative AI-powered virtual assistants can handle routine HR inquiries from employees, such as leave requests, policy clarifications, and benefits queries. This not only frees up HR professionals from administrative tasks but also ensures quick and consistent responses. According to a study by Deloitte, companies that use virtual HR assistants have seen a 50% reduction in HR query resolution time. 2. Multilingual Support In a global workforce, language barriers might hinder effective communication and create inefficiencies. Generative AI can provide real-time translation services, allowing team members from different regions to collaborate seamlessly. 3. AI-Powered Chat and Collaboration Tools AI-driven chat and collaboration tools can analyze conversations and suggest relevant documents, resources, or experts, facilitating information exchange among team members. This enhances productivity and ensures that the right information is always at hand. This also works for email communication and communication in virtual meetings among colleagues. For example, HR can provide employees with an AI plug in to their email provider so that emails can be rewritten and optimized for how the recipient likes to receive information. One simply writes an email and then pushes a button. The email gets rewritten instantly using AI and then tells you why that person prefers this type of communication. "It's important for the employee experience to create a more supportive and engaging environment for people to develop and thrive. AI-driven insights that help people work together better have the power to reduce turnover and boost team productivity, while keeping team cultures/dynamics positioned for the future. It’s an investment that keeps paying dividends across the employee lifecycle,” said Betancourt.  In fact, a McKinsey report found that organizations that effectively leverage AI for internal communications and collaboration are 2.5 times more likely to be top performers. Boosting Productivity Through AI-Powered Insights Improving productivity is a constant goal for HR professionals. Generative AI is providing new insights and tools to help organizations streamline processes and maximize efficiency. 1. Predictive Analytics for Workforce Management Generative AI can analyze historical data and predict future workforce needs. This enables HR to plan for staffing levels, skill gaps, and training requirements, ensuring that the organization remains agile in responding to changing demands. IBM's Watson is a prime example of an AI system that offers predictive analytics for HR. 2. Automating Routine HR Tasks Administrative tasks, such as payroll processing and benefits enrollment, can be automated using generative AI. This not only reduces the risk of errors but also frees HR professionals to focus on strategic initiatives. 3. Employee Feedback and Sentiment Analysis Generative AI can analyze employee feedback, surveys, and sentiment data to gauge employee satisfaction and identify potential issues. This proactive approach enables HR to address concerns before they escalate. HR can now focus on strategic initiatives while the AI takes care of routine tasks.  Employees also appreciate the quick and accurate responses they receive. Challenges and Ethical Considerations Using Generative AI to Transform HR While generative AI offers numerous benefits, it's essential to acknowledge and address potential challenges and ethical concerns. These include data privacy, algorithmic bias, and the need for ongoing human oversight. HR professionals must ensure that AI is used responsibly and in line with legal and ethical standards. As technology continues to advance, HR departments that embrace generative AI will be better equipped to meet the demands of the modern workforce and drive their organizations toward success in an increasingly digital and remote world. For now, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of generative AI to transform HR. If leveraged right, it can enable organizations to recruit top talent, enhance communication, and boost productivity among distributed workforces. By automating tasks, reducing bias, and providing valuable insights, AI is transforming HR practices and helping companies thrive in a digital and remote world. However, it's crucial to address ethical considerations and ensure responsible AI use to maximize its benefits. As technology continues to evolve, HR professionals who embrace generative AI will be at the forefront of shaping the future of work. If you're interested in learning how Humantelligence's AI-powered psychometric tool can improve the employee experience, let's talk!

How to Prioritize Inclusion & Belonging on Your Team
How to Prioritize Inclusion & Belonging on Your Team

If you're a people manager and find yourself asking how to prioritize inclusion & belonging on at work, we can help. At our organization, we firmly believe in the transformative power of diversity. We are committed to fostering an open, team-oriented, and positive environment that allows everyone to thrive, both personally and professionally. By embracing and aligning ourselves with practices that promote inclusion and belonging, we strengthen our culture. In fact, when teams learn how to prioritize inclusion & belonging at work, everyone wins. In this article, we share why it’s important to foster inclusion & belonging on your team and how you can do it. Why Inclusion & Belonging in the Workplace Matters It's not just a buzzword; it's a game-changer. When we talk about diversity, we're referring to various aspects, including workforce diversity, behavioral diversity, structural diversity, and business diversity. By encompassing these dimensions, we unlock a world of benefits for our teams and our business as a whole:Increased Adaptability & Better Problem Solving: Diverse teams bring a wealth of perspectives, experiences, and approaches to the table. This diversity of thought enables us to adapt more quickly to changes and solve problems with a wider range of innovative solutions. Improved Communication & Performance: Embracing diversity leads to better communication among team members. When people from different backgrounds collaborate, they learn to appreciate different viewpoints and communicate more effectively. This synergy ultimately drives improved performance across the board. Attracting and Retaining Talent: Candidates actively seek out diverse workplaces. In fact, studies show that 67% of job seekers consider diversity a crucial factor when evaluating job offers. By fostering a diverse and inclusive environment, we attract top talent and increase our ability to retain valuable employees. Increased Innovation: Innovation thrives in diverse environments. When employees feel included and empowered to share their unique perspectives, creativity soars. According to Deloitte, inclusive workplaces see an impressive 83% increase in innovation.The evidence supporting the benefits of diversity is substantial. Research shows that companies with an equal gender representation generate up to 41% higher revenue. Moreover, a study by McKinsey found that U.S. public companies with diverse executive boards enjoy a staggering 95% higher return on equity compared to homogeneous boards. Additionally, diverse teams experience a 60% improvement in decision-making, and when employees feel included, innovation skyrockets by 83%, as reported by Deloitte. By embracing diversity, inclusion, and belonging, we foster an environment where employees excel at adapting to differences and challenges. Working alongside colleagues of diverse backgrounds and perspectives opens our minds to new ideas and strengthens our interpersonal relationships. Moreover, it equips us to identify creative solutions and build stronger functional, cross-functional, and customer relationships, leading to improved business outcomes. And here are some proven ways for how to prioritize inclusion & belonging at work. How to Prioritize Inclusion & Belonging at WorkRemove Unconscious BiasUnconscious biases, or implicit biases, are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. For example, if you’re continuing to hire based on a feeling you get from a candidate, you’re likely hiring on the basis of unconscious bias. The best way to prevent yourself from succumbing to these unconscious biases is to become aware of them and take action to prevent them when recruiting, hiring and retaining employees — like leveraging unbiased data to make hiring and personnel decisions.  Tinna C. Neilsen, founder of Move the Elephant for Inclusiveness, said that “The core of inclusion is all about leveraging diversity of thought — a tough thing for a lot of people because sometimes they don’t know enough about group dynamics like group conformity. You can have as much diversity and as many different kinds of people in a team, but if you allow group conformity to dominate, then you’re not going to leverage any of it anyway.”  Regarding workplace diversity and inclusion, Nielsen advises designing interventions that motivate the unconscious mind as opposed to relying on rational thought alone. 2. Build Leadership Buy-in Some leaders might already be more bought-in to DEI. For those who are on the fence, you need to make things personal.  Start the conversation by asking your organization’s leaders specific questions like, ‘Why is DEI important to you personally…or maybe also why it’s not? How does it align with the business for you? How do you plan to hold yourself and our employees accountable?’ Having them understand why DEI is important to them and the business will create a good foundation — and reminder as to why we’re doing this. Creating that emotional connection with your leaders and making DEI personal can help you gain their long-term support. You can also actively engage your leadership in initiatives. Encourage them to be executive sponsors of an employee resource group (ERG)/ affinity group, participate in a DEI steering committee, attend regular DEI training sessions with employees, or just share updates and processes periodically at senior leadership or executive meetings. This helps everyone feel in the know and accountable for improving DEI. Keeping communication open with the C-suite can improve transparency and accountability by ensuring every area of the business feels buy-in for the success of DEI programs.  3. Actively Manage Diversity & Inclusion  The issues around a diverse workplace can be managed and mitigated if employers take active steps to ensure that their companies are recognized for tolerance and acceptance. Here are some tips for managing diversity in the workplace:Create written policies – Companies should create and include their diversity policy in their employee handbook. The policy should contain information about non-discrimination laws, the code of conduct, and the compensation and benefits policy. When it’s in writing, it’s hard to ignore. Provide sensitivity training – Employees should be provided with sensitivity training to create a better workplace culture. Sensitivity training can help employees value views that are different, understand how words and actions can cause offense, and what needs to be done if they’ve been offended. Create an accountability plan – Use regular surveys to check in on your progress, and have a plan in place for how you’re going to ensure staff uphold these policies. Address micro-aggressions – Micro-aggressions are thinly veiled, everyday instances of racism, homophobia, sexism (and more) that you see in the world.  They are defined as a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority. Examples might include commenting on how someone speaks or is dressed. Use trainings to help address and prevent mico-aggressions against others.4. Provide Resources Keep inclusion & belonging top of mind for your employees and encourage them to learn more about pressing societal and workplace issues by providing access to robust resources and self-serve opportunities to learn. Consider some of the following:Weekly or monthly newsletter digests with articles on trending DEI topics Start a #BeTheChange Slack or chat channel, where employees can share experiences, resources, and opportunities to engage in thoughtful conversations  Put a process in place to help employees form affinity or ERG groups — and have each group start and own their own Slack channels Share opportunities to donate to specific diversity-supporting organizations, with a potential company match Provide a forum for employees to present their experiences and learnings  Empower employees with emotional intelligence data so they can communicate and collaborate more effectively and inclusively with employees different from themselvesBy putting resource communication channels just a click away, employees begin talking about DEI more regularly — helping over time to reduce some of the discomfort people have around the topic and creating more organizational accountability. 5. Replace Antiquated Processes A lot of times, the processes, practices, and architecture businesses have in place are antiquated, and we don’t even realize it. Nothing is going to change unless those things change, and people don’t change just because you tell them to. They change when you enable that change. This means empowering choice around structure and architecture while putting tools and resources in front of somebody in order to enable them to do something totally different without them even realizing it.  One of the biggest and quickest levers in moving the  needle for your company culture is in processes for who you hire. Each individual you add or remove will play a part in your culture’s evolution. It’s human nature to hire people like ourselves, so it’s imperative to leverage a variety of networks and tools to support hiring based on diversity of backgrounds/ perspectives vs. simply hiring people to whom you gravitate, happen to already know, or who come recommended. This calls for reshaping antiquated hiring processes — by seeking and interviewing for culture fit/add rather than the traditional skill-based interview.  The Power of Inclusion & Belonging: Communication & Collaboration Leading companies recognize how to prioritize inclusion & belonging at work and that diversity goes beyond race, age, gender, and physical ability—it encompasses diversity of thought. By broadening our definition of diversity and embracing inclusive workplaces, we gain a deeper understanding of our employees and unlock additional solutions to challenges. To foster a culture built on diversity and inclusion, it is crucial to give every employee a voice, truly listen to them, and create an environment where everyone can participate. At our organization, we are committed to removing unconscious bias, hiring for diversity of thought, and supporting inclusive communication.  Inclusion and belonging are essential components of a positive work environment. Inclusion refers to the extent to which individuals feel valued, respected, and supported in the workplace regardless of their background or identity. Belonging refers to the sense of community and connection that individuals feel with their colleagues and the organization as a whole. When employees feel included and a sense of belonging at work, they are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and productive. Human connection in the workplace can improve inclusion and belonging in several ways. Firstly, when colleagues have positive relationships with each other, they are more likely to understand and appreciate each other’s unique perspectives and backgrounds. This can lead to increased empathy and respect for diversity, which is essential for creating an inclusive work environment. Secondly, having a sense of connection with colleagues can increase trust and psychological safety in the workplace. When individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves and sharing their ideas, they are more likely to contribute to the team’s success. A study conducted by Google found that teams with high levels of psychological safety had higher levels of productivity, innovation, and overall performance (Edmondson, 2012). Lastly, human connection in the workplace can promote a culture of collaboration and teamwork. When individuals feel connected to their colleagues, they are more likely to work together and support each other’s success. This can lead to increased creativity and problem solving, as well as a stronger sense of community within the organization. If you're interested in learning how to prioritize inclusion & belonging at work using technology, let's connect!

6 Ways to Build a More Collaborative Team
6 Ways to Build a More Collaborative Team

Strengthening your organization’s capacity for collaboration requires a combination of long-term investments—in building relationships and trust, in developing a culture in which management and people leaders are role models of cooperation—and smart near-term decisions about the ways teams are formed, roles are defined, and challenges and tasks are articulated. Practices and structures that may have worked well with simple teams of people who were all in one location and knew one another are likely to lead to failure when teams grow more complex and become distributed, so the question becomes just how to build a more collaborative team. Reasons Team Collaboration May Suffer When tackling a major initiative like an acquisition or an overhaul of internal systems, companies rely on large, diverse teams of specialists to get the job done. These teams often are convened quickly to meet an urgent need and work together virtually, collaborating online and sometimes over long distances. Appointing such a team is frequently the only way to assemble the knowledge and breadth required to pull off many of the complex tasks businesses face today. When the BBC covers the World Cup or the Olympics, for instance, it gathers a large team of researchers, writers, producers, cameramen, and technicians, many of whom have not met before the project. These specialists work together under the high pressure of a “no retake” environment, with just one chance to record the action. Similarly, when the central IT team at Hilton Grand sets out to develop sophisticated systems to enhance guest experiences, it has to collaborate closely with independent hotel owners, customer-experience experts, global brand managers, and regional heads, each with his or her own agenda and needs. Consider this though. Although teams that are that large, virtual, diverse, and composed of highly skilled specialists are crucial to addressing challenging projects, those same four characteristics can make it hard for teams to get anything done. For example, members of complex teams are less likely to share knowledge freely, to learn from one another, to shift workloads flexibly to break up unexpected bottlenecks, to help one another complete jobs and meet deadlines, and to share resources—in other words, to collaborate.  As teams become more virtual or distributed, we also see collaboration decline, unless the company has taken measures to establish a collaborative culture. As for diversity, the challenging tasks facing businesses today almost always require the input and expertise of people with disparate views and backgrounds to create cross-fertilization that sparks insight and innovation. But diversity also creates problems.  Research shows that team members collaborate more easily and naturally if they perceive themselves as being alike. The differences that inhibit collaboration include not only nationality but also age, educational level, and even tenure. Greater diversity also often means that team members are working with people that they know only superficially or have never met before—colleagues drawn from other divisions of the company, perhaps, or even from outside it. As you might imagine, team members become less likely to share knowledge or exhibit other collaborative behaviors. So how can you strengthen your organization’s ability to perform complex collaborative tasks—to maximize the effectiveness of large, diverse teams, while minimizing the disadvantages posed by their structure and composition -- that is, how to build a more collaborative team? 1. Secure Top Level Support to Build a Collaborative Team How to build a collaborative team when you aren't supported? You can't! At the most basic level, a team’s success or failure at collaborating reflects the philosophy of top executives in the organization. Teams do well when executive management invests in supporting social relationships, demonstrates collaborative behavior, and creates positive interactions with employees and colleagues. The most collaborative companies have “signature” practices—practices that are memorable, difficult for others to replicate, and particularly well suited to their own business environment. For example, when Royal Bank of Scotland’s CEO, Fred Goodwin, invested £350 million to open a new headquarters building outside Edinburgh in 2005, one of his goals was to foster productive collaboration among employees. Built around an indoor atrium, the new structure allows more than 3,000 people from the firm to rub shoulders daily. The headquarters is designed to improve communication, increase the exchange of ideas, and create a sense of community among employees. Many of the offices have an open layout and look over the atrium—a vast transparent space. The campus is set up like a small town, with retail shops, restaurants, jogging tracks and cycling trails, spaces for picnics and barbecues—even a leisure club complete with swimming pool, gym, dance studios, tennis courts, and football pitches. The idea is that with a private “Main Street” running through the headquarters, employees will remain on the campus throughout the day—and be out of their offices mingling with colleagues for at least a portion of it. To ensure that non-headquarters staff members feel they are a part of the action, Goodwin also commissioned an adjoining business school, where employees from other locations meet and learn. The visitors are encouraged to spend time on the headquarters campus and at forums designed to give employees opportunities to build relationships. Modeling collaborative behavior. In companies with thousands of employees, relatively few have the opportunity to observe the behavior of the senior team on a day-to-day basis. Nonetheless, even perceived behavior of senior executives plays a significant role in determining how cooperative teams are prepared to be. While the behavior of the executive team is crucial to supporting a culture of collaboration, the challenge is to make that behavior visible.  One way to do this is to invest in travel again. This investment in face-to-face interaction creates many opportunities for people across the company to see the top executives in action. Internal communication should be frequent and open, because the senior team’s collaborative nature trickles down throughout the organization. Employees quickly learn that the best way to get things done is through informal networks. And the most productive, innovative teams are led by people who are both task- and relationship-oriented. What’s more, these leaders can change their style during the project. 2. Have Focused HR Practices for How to Build a More Collaborative Team So what about human resources? Is collaboration solely in the hands of the executive team? Studies have looked at the impact of a wide variety of HR practices, including selection, performance management, promotion, rewards, and training, as well as formally sponsored coaching and mentoring programs. Some studies, for example, show that the type of reward system—whether based on team or individual achievement, or tied explicitly to collaborative behavior or not—had no discernible effect on complex teams’ productivity and innovation. Although many formal HR programs may have limited impact, two practices did improve team performance: training in skills related to collaborative behavior, and support for informal community building. Where collaboration was strong, the HR team has typically made a significant investment in one or both of those practices—often in ways that uniquely represent the company’s culture and business strategy. In the research, PricewaterhouseCoopers emerges as having one of the strongest capabilities in productive collaboration. With responsibility for developing 140,000+ employees in nearly 150 countries, PwC’s training includes modules that address teamwork, emotional intelligence, networking, holding difficult conversations, coaching, corporate social responsibility, and communicating the firm’s strategy and shared values. PwC also teaches employees how to influence others effectively and build healthy partnerships. 3. Support Community Building While a communal spirit can develop spontaneously, HR can also play a critical role in cultivating it, by sponsoring group events and activities such as women’s networks, ERGs, or creating policies and practices that encourage them. For example, at ABN Amro, teams rated the company’s support for informal communities very positively. The firm makes the technology needed for long-distance collaboration readily available to groups of individuals with shared interests—for instance, in specific technologies or markets—who hold frequent web conferences and communicate actively online. The company also encourages employees that travel to a new location to arrange meetings with as many people as possible. As projects are completed, working groups disband but employees maintain networks of connections. These practices serve to build a strong community over time—one that sets the stage for success with future projects. 4. Foster Collaborative People Leaders How can you expect teams to be collaborative if their leaders aren't? So it’s no surprise that the most productive, innovative, and healthiest teams are typically led by people who are both task- and relationship-oriented. These leaders change their style during a project. Specifically, at the early stages they exhibit task-oriented leadership: They make the goal clear, engage in debates about commitments, and clarify the responsibilities of individual team members. However, at a certain point in the development of the project, they switch to a relationship orientation. This shift often takes place once team members have nailed down the goals and their accountabilities and when the initial tensions around sharing knowledge begin to emerge.  Producing team leaders that have both relationship and task skills should be a core goal of team-leadership development for companies. A company’s performance-review process should emphasize growth in both kinds of skills. As evidence of their relationship skills, managers are asked to describe their peer network and cite examples of specific ways that network helped them succeed. They also must provide examples of how they’ve used relationship building to get things done. The development plans that follow these conversations explicitly map out how the managers can improve specific elements of their social relationships and networks. Such a plan might include, for instance, having lunch regularly with people from a particular community of interest. To improve task leadership, have potential leaders participate in project-management certification programs, taking refresher courses to maintain their skills over time. Evidence of both kinds of capabilities becomes a significant criterion on which people are selected for key leadership roles at the company. 5. Clearly Define Roles How to build a collaborative team without clearly defined roles? Good luck! Collaboration improves when the roles of individual team members are clearly defined and well understood—when individuals feel that they can do a significant portion of their work independently. Without such clarity, team members are likely to waste too much energy negotiating roles or protecting turf, rather than focus on the task. In addition, team members are more likely to want to collaborate if the path to achieving the team’s goal is left somewhat ambiguous. If a team perceives the task as one that requires creativity, where the approach is not yet well known or predefined, its members are more likely to invest time and energy in collaboration. Let’s look at a study of the teams at the BBC, who were responsible for the radio and television broadcasts of the 2006 Proms (a two-month-long musical celebration), the team that televised the 2006 World Cup, and a team responsible for daytime television news. These teams were large—133 people worked on the Proms, 66 on the World Cup, and 72 on the news—and included members with a wide range of skills and from many disciplines. One would imagine, therefore, that there was a strong possibility of confusion among team members. To the contrary, researchers found that the BBC’s teams scored among the highest with regard to the clarity with which members viewed their own roles and the roles of others. Every team was composed of specialists who had deep expertise in their given function, and each person had a clearly defined role. There was little overlap between the responsibilities of the sound technician and the camera operator, and so on. Yet the tasks the BBC teams tackle are, by their very nature, uncertain, particularly when they involve breaking news. The trick the BBC has pulled off has been to clarify team members’ individual roles with so much precision that it keeps friction to a minimum. 6. How to Build a More Collaborative Team? Invest in Collaboration Technology To accelerate all of these practices and with pandemic-imposed changes to business models, you’ll need to build and empower teams with the right tools. As your company grows or pivots, it’s critical to invest in solutions that can power more effective cross-functional collaboration and increase employee productivity. In a recent study conducted by real estate property technology provider JLL Technologies, 55% of office-based employees are now in a hybrid working pattern. Still, companies on average have adopted only four out of 15 recommended technologies to address the hybrid work transformation.  For its “Technology and Innovation in the Hybrid Age” study, JLL created a list of what it calls “anchor technologies” that employers should consider providing employees. They include technology that addresses remote working, in-office collaboration, workplace experience, digital connectivity and more. It doesn’t have to be a large undertaking or expensive. A cost-effective way to think of this is to create a baseline KPI, such as profit per employee. As you invest in productivity tools, your profit per employee has the ability to increase. This assumes you are growing the business. If revenue is consistent, then you would be looking at productivity solutions that allow you to reduce costs and overhead. Either way, consider implementing a collaboration and coaching solution. It’s one of the most important technology tools in the healthy team toolkit. This can begin as easily as putting personality insights at the fingertips of every employee, where they communicate most often --  think video meetings, email, and chat. You’re probably already using communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Gmail, Outlooks and more! But you’re probably not optimizing your use of those tools for your team.  With a simple plug-in, you can give your staff the kind of information needed to better communicate and collaborate with one another, build trust more quickly, and take the guesswork out of ‘how to collaborate’ – allowing them to spend time on the work that matters. For example, imagine being able to click on meeting participants and see real-time tips and recommendations for communicating, motivating, and influencing. Imagine seeing this same information in aggregate for your meeting group. Imagine knowing who best to tap on for pre- or post-meeting action items, for helping leading certain initiatives while identifying those better suited to document or support, and who might benefit from a heads up on particular messages — all of which take into account your team members’ behaviors, motivators, and work energizers in an easy-to-understand way. It’s important to give team members the opportunity to thrive and do the job they were hired to do -- instead of requiring them to spend their valuable time figuring out how to work better with one another. The truth is, most people won’t take their time to figure out how to collaborate better, and as a result, connection wanes, relationships are reduced to transactions, and performance suffers. Don’t let team members go down this road when there are easier tech-enabled ways to do it. Doing so drives trust in your processes and leadership ability, and keeps employees engaged and performing at their highest levels. That's how to build a more collaborative team. At the end of the day, most of the factors that impede collaboration today would have impeded collaboration at any time in history. However, the teams of yesterday didn’t require the same amount of members, diversity, long-distance cooperation, or expertise that teams now need to solve today’s global, increasingly complex business challenges. So the models for teams should realign with the demands of the current business environment. Through careful attention to the factors described here is how to build a collaborative team, and in doing so, companies can ultimately experience better performance across the board.

A Guide to Increasing Employee Engagement Among Distributed Teams
A Guide to Increasing Employee Engagement Among Distributed Teams

A fast employee churn rate can lead to higher training costs, low employee morale, and operational inefficiencies. Eventually, it can reduce your profits and negatively impact your bottom line. That’s why it’s important for businesses to learn how to prepare for it but, better yet, actually focus on slowing it by increasing employee engagement. Last year, Gallup reported that while the number of engaged workers held steady at 32% the number of actively disengaged employees rose to 18%. This is not good news when you consider that a disengaged employee is 2.3x more likely to be exploring other jobs! Employee engagement is a measure of employees’ commitment to helping their organization achieve its goals. It’s demonstrated by how employees think, feel, and act, as well as the emotional connection employees feel towards their organization, their work, and their teams.  Before the pandemic, engagement and well-being were rising globally for nearly a decade -- but now, they're stagnant, and most believe it’s because they don't find their work meaningful. Now is no time to take our eyes off the road when it comes to employees’ personal and professional well-being. Addressing the structural and cultural issues that create disengagement in your organization is the first step to laying the foundation for a new and better employee experience. Top Reasons for Employee Disengagement & Turnover Now more than ever, organizations are actively discussing the importance of employee engagement, but not everyone agrees on how to define and measure it. For our purposes, let’s define it as a state and behavior in which employees are enthralled by their work and devote their hearts and minds to it. Engagement like this requires true connection– connection to others, the team, and business goals. Engagement like this is founded on an organization’s and team member’s trust, integrity, two-way commitment, and communication. Here’s Why Increasing Employee Engagement Matters Employee engagement helps businesses succeed by improving organizational and individual performance, productivity, and well being. With the right employee engagement software, strategy, and leadership buy-in, an employee engagement strategy is:Quantifiable;  Can be cultivated and substantially increased; and conversely, Can be squandered and discarded.It’s no secret that companies with engaged workforces vastly outperform those without them. When people feel their work matters and that they’re valued, the sky is the limit. Employee engagement has a very real impact on organizational success. Companies with highly engaged workforces are 24% more profitable. (Gallup) Disengaged employees cost organizations an estimated $450-550 billion each year. (The Engagement Institute) 80% of employees said learning and development opportunities would help them feel more engaged on the job. (Udemy) Engaged employees are 44% more productive than workers who merely feel satisfied. (Bain & Company)The Best Ways to Increase Employee Engagement Employees can only perform at a high level when they’re set up for success, with the right tools, processes, and guardrails in place for optimal productivity. Creating an engaging, motivating, and supportive employee experience increases productivity and leads employees to being:15x more likely to recommend the company to friends and colleagues. 1.5x more willing to learn new skills and responsibilities. Almost 6x more likely to plan on staying for a full career.The good news…your employee engagement ideas don’t have to break the bank. They just need to be deliberate, thoughtful and work in unison. With these five keys, you’ll be well on your way to building a stronger internal brand, energizing employees, and promoting employee advocacy.Enable Mentorship, Learning & Initiatives   Actively Combat Burnout Recognize Employee Contributions Big or Small Make Time to Connect & Communicate Use Technology to Create a Work Environment Based on Connection & TrustAt the end of the day, employee engagement involves a person’s perception, feelings, and beliefs about the business, the people they work with, leadership, and the work itself. The drivers of employee engagement are highly personal, dependent on the company culture, and while they vary for each individual, these employee engagement ideas have proven to boost retention and coax the disengaged back into the game. Ensuring a positive and empowering working environment where all employees feel valued and connected doesn’t just help your company; it helps your people. An employee who feels connection to others is an employee who is more likely to find their work meaningful. An employee who finds their work meaningful is an employee likely to be engaged – demonstrating through their work a commitment to the overall success of the business.

4 Ways to Effectively Manage Different Work Styles
4 Ways to Effectively Manage Different Work Styles

It’s no great secret that everyone works in different ways and that diverse styles or work energizers can often clash and lead to conflict. All employees have different styles of working that draw on their strengths and weaknesses, and these different styles make up a team culture. For teams to work together effectively, they should be aware of each other's ways of working, and leaders need to be able to manage different work styles to their advantage. A well-balanced team that draws on the strength of each member’s work styles can lead to increased productivity, innovation, and efficiency in the workplace. But nothing hurts productivity and growth like a team that doesn’t know how to work together. This often translates into lost time, workplace stress, financial costs, and employee departures. Why it’s important to understand each other’s work styles We know, figuring out how to manage different work styles is tough! If team members don’t feel challenged, motivated, or heard by others on their team, they will quickly dis-engage. And, if members don’t complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll end up with a group that does too much or too little of one working style. Team members with the same work style and attitude can encounter a few hiccups. For instance, if everyone in a team thought only of strategies and end-goals without considering the finer details of accomplishing those goals (such as structure, time constraints, quality), execution rates would be low and work would fall behind schedule. Similarly, innovative, out-of-the-box thinking would be more of a hurdle if everyone preferred rigid and planned work structures. So what’s the right balance? The right balance of work styles As team leaders, we must understand and manage a variety of work styles every day to be effective. So let’s start with a quick little assessment. This test might sound a bit like you are at the eye doctor, but I promise it will be painless. Simply pick Option 1 or Option 2 for each of the following questions:When it comes to solving problems, do you tend to be more (1) Deliberate or (2) Decisive?  When it comes to relating to people, do you tend to be more (1) Reflective or (2) Outgoing?  When it comes to your work pace or level of urgency, do you tend to be more (1) Steady or (2) Spontaneous?  When it comes to processes and procedures, do you tend to be more (1) Cautious or (2) Freeform?Now count up your ONEs and TWOs. If you ended up with 3 or 4 ONEs, your overall work style is oriented toward stability. If you ended up with 3 or 4 TWOs, your overall work style is oriented toward change. If you ended up with 2 ONEs and 2 TWOs, you bring a balance between stability and change orientation. On any given team and depending on size, you may want at least two different types of work styles present. There’s a popular decision-making practice where employees assume different thinking hats. For example, one employee may be tasked with coming up with new ideas. They’re encouraged to bring unpredictable or possibly outlandish ideas to a meeting. Another employee is then tasked with being more discerning. They ask questions and assess the risks of different ideas.  By assigning team members a specific hat, at different times, for different projects it opens up for more inclusive discussions where a variety of ideas and perspectives can have a seat at the table. It’s a great way to bust dreaded group-think that often stifles innovation. This approach shows that every work style is a strength when expressed in the right situations.  So let’s walk through some key tips to keep in mind when managing people and teams with a mix of work styles. How to Manage Different Work Styles Set a clear vision for the team. Managing challenging behaviors – such as steamrolling or overanalyzing – takes planning and communication on your part. It’s important to play to your people’s strengths and direct their energy toward common goals. The tone of your workplace has a lot to do with setting expectations – and that’s your job. When beginning a project, gather the right team members together to talk about objectives and goals. How does the project support the company’s values and vision? How does each person’s role support the goals? Everyone should be on the same page, working toward the same outcome. How the team arrives at the final goal may look different to each person because of their individual work style or energizer. So, it’s up to you to focus or redirect their strengths, make sure they understand their roles, give feedback along the way, and give them the support or independence they need to do great things. Be aware of your own work style as the team leader. As leaders, we set the tone for our team. Every one of our team members can probably rattle off our behavioral traits without hesitation. When we are aware of our own tendencies and preferences, we have more opportunity to observe our own blind spots and change course when necessary. Not sure what your own behavior tendencies, motivators, and work energizers are? Take this assessment.  Harness the power of diversity of thought and inclusion. When a team can see and understand how each person brings unique work-style strengths to the team, their capacity for better collaboration increases. Measure your team’s unique culture and determine the shared strengths of the team, as well as each individual team member. Talk about how different work styles have benefited the team. Run a Team Culture Playbook Dynamics can ebb and flow and sometimes things change. To keep a pulse on your team, consider monthly team huddles that act as a temperature check on your team. Using a Team Culture Playbook, you can align culture to strategy and improve your team’s performance. It’s a three-step process to help guide you through driving better collaboration, inclusion, and team effectiveness more quickly. During these huddles, you and your team will discuss differences, strengths, priorities, and actions for the future so each member can work better together. With ongoing, frequent, and bite-sized assessment of your team’s culture, you’ll be well on your way to retaining and re-engaging team members while improving your team culture. Be intentional with your team meetings. Put your knowledge of each team member’s work styles to use during team meetings. Ensure you actively bring in your more reflective team members, as they may not readily volunteer what they are thinking. Tap into people who are wired for a specific topic. For instance, ask your freeform team members to come prepared with some new ideas. Leading team meetings with intention makes the meeting outcome more productive, and it allows you to draw on different team members’ strengths. It’s also important to meet people where they are. So, when you’re working with someone who relies on facts to make decisions, you should provide information that supports why something needs to be done. And you should expect that person will do her own research to verify your information. It’s simply how she works. However, to adapt your management style to meet a real go-getter, you’ll want to be very direct with this team member. Tell him where he stands, what needs to be done, then get out of his way and let him do it. He’s all about getting it done. This team member will appreciate knowing where he stands with you. On the other hand, when you have a very social person on your team, you can expect to spend the first 5-10 minutes talking about family, current events, or other happenings before getting down to business. Meeting each employee where they are when you interact with them in meetings will go a long way toward fostering the trust you need to execute on the vision you have set. The variety of people on a team directly affects employee engagement, productivity, and retention. Your ability to manage different work styles will impact those areas. So, it is important to understand your own and your team members’ work styles and how they influence team culture. You can then bring balance to your teams, allowing each member to do their best work. If you’re not sure where to start, we can help. Click here to request a free team culture map for up to 10 team members, and we’ll set you on the path to improved team performance.

Breaking Down Barriers: A Team Leader's Guide to Ensuring Everyone Works Well Together
Breaking Down Barriers: A Team Leader's Guide to Ensuring Everyone Works Well Together

The challenges of managing distributed teams are real, but so are the benefits. When done right, managing distributed teams can lead to better collaboration, higher productivity, and improved work-life balance for team members. However, there are a few challenges team leaders often encounter when managing distributed teams, including inevitable team friction and personality differences, issues with collaboration, and not meeting goals. With the right tools and strategies in place, you can break down the barriers preventing your team from reaching its goals. So, if you’re a manager of distributed teams, read on for strategies on how to manage distributed teams more effectively.  The Rise of Distributed Teams According to a 2020 study by Buffer, 52% of companies had at least one remote employee. This number has obviously grown, as more and more companies realize the benefits of having a distributed workforce. To save money on office space. To attract and retain top talent. To increase employee productivity. To improve work-life balance. To be more environmentally sustainable.There are also a number of challenges associated with managing a distributed team. Some of the most common challenges include:Cultural and personality differences Communication and collaboration Lack of connection Trust and accountabilityHowever, the benefits of having a distributed team often outweigh the challenges. Companies that are successful in managing a distributed team can reap a number of rewards, including:Increased productivity Reduced costs Improved employee satisfaction Increased innovation A more globalized workforceIf you're considering managing a distributed team, it's important to carefully consider the pros and cons. With careful planning and execution, a distributed team can be a powerful tool for driving business success.A study by Global Workplace Analytics found that the number of people working remotely in the United States has increased by 44% since 2010. A study by Upwork found that 57% of freelancers work remotely. A study by FlexJobs found that 71% of companies offer remote work options. A study by Buffer found that 52% of companies have at least one remote employee. A study by PwC found that 83% of CEOs believe that remote work will be the norm in the future.As you can see, the trend toward distributed teams is only going to continue. If you're not already thinking about how to manage a distributed team, now is the time to start and to get ahead of some of the key challenges that often hinder distributed teams. Problem 1: Managing Different Personalities It’s no great secret that everyone works in different ways and that diverse working styles or work energizers can often clash and lead to conflict. Nothing hurts productivity and growth like a team that doesn’t know how to work together. All employees have different styles of working that draw on their strengths and weaknesses. And these different styles or work energizers make up a team culture. For teams to work together effectively, they should be aware of each other's ways of working, and leaders need to be able to manage different work styles to their advantage. A well-balanced team that draws on the strength of each member’s work styles can lead to increased productivity, innovation, and efficiency in the workplace. Not doing so can translate into lost time and productivity, workplace stress, financial costs, and employee departure. The right balance of work styles within distributed teams As team leaders, we must understand and manage a variety of work styles every day to be effective. So let’s start with a quick little assessment. This test might sound a bit like you are at the eye doctor, but I promise it will be painless. Simply pick Option 1 or Option 2 for each of the following questions:When it comes to solving problems, do you tend to be more (1) Deliberate or (2) Decisive?  When it comes to relating to people, do you tend to be more (1) Reflective or (2) Outgoing?  When it comes to your work pace or level of urgency, do you tend to be more (1) Steady or (2) Spontaneous?  When it comes to processes and procedures, do you tend to be more (1) Cautious or (2) Freeform?Now count up your ONEs and TWOs. If you ended up with 3 or 4 ONEs, your overall work style is oriented toward stability. If you ended up with 3 or 4 TWOs, your overall work style is oriented toward change. If you ended up with 2 ONEs and 2 TWOs, you bring a balance between stability and change orientation. On any given team and depending on size, you may want at least two different types of work styles present. There’s a popular decision-making practice where employees assume different thinking hats. For example, one employee may be tasked with coming up with new ideas. They’re encouraged to bring unpredictable or possibly outlandish ideas to a meeting. Another employee is then tasked with being more discerning. They ask questions and assess the risks of different ideas.  By assigning team members a specific hat, at different times, for different projects it opens up for more inclusive discussions where a variety of ideas and perspectives can have a seat at the table. It’s a great way to bust dreaded group-think that often stifles innovation. This approach shows that every work style is a strength when expressed in the right situations.  So let’s walk through some key tips to keep in mind when managing people and teams with a mix of work styles. How to manage different work styles Set a clear vision for the team. Managing challenging behaviors – such as steamrolling or overanalyzing – takes planning and communication on your part. It’s important to play to your people’s strengths and direct their energy toward common goals. The tone of your workplace has a lot to do with setting expectations – and that’s your job. When beginning a project, gather the right team members together to talk about objectives and goals. How does the project support the company’s values and vision? How does each person’s role support the goals? Everyone should be on the same page, working toward the same outcome. How the team arrives at the final goal may look different to each person because of their individual work style or energizer. So, it’s up to you to focus or redirect their strengths, make sure they understand their roles, give feedback along the way, and give them the support or independence they need to do great things. Be aware of your own work style as the team leader. As leaders, we set the tone for our team. Every one of our team members can probably rattle off our behavioral traits without hesitation. When we are aware of our own tendencies and preferences, we have more opportunity to observe our own blind spots and change course when necessary. Not sure what your own behavior tendencies, motivators, and work energizers are? Use an assessment like this. Harness the power of diversity of thought and inclusion. When a team can see and understand how each person brings unique work-style strengths to the team, their capacity for better collaboration increases. Measure your team’s unique culture and determine the shared strengths of the team, as well as each individual team member. Talk about how different work styles have benefited the team. Be intentional with your team meetings. Put your knowledge of each team member’s work styles to use during team meetings. Ensure you actively bring in your more reflective team members, as they may not readily volunteer what they are thinking. Tap into people who are wired for a specific topic. For instance, ask your freeform team members to come prepared with some new ideas. Leading team meetings with intention makes the meeting outcome more productive, and it allows you to draw on different team members’ strengths.  It’s also important to meet people where they are. So, when you’re working with someone who relies on facts to make decisions, you should provide information that supports why something needs to be done. And you should expect that person will do her own research to verify your information. It’s simply how she works.  However, to adapt your management style to meet a real go-getter, you’ll want to be very direct with this team member. Tell him where he stands, what needs to be done, then get out of his way and let him do it. He’s all about getting it done. This team member will appreciate knowing where he stands with you. On the other hand, when you have a very social person on your team, you can expect to spend the first 5-10 minutes talking about family, current events, or other happenings before getting down to business.  Meeting each employee where they are when you interact with them in meetings will go a long way toward fostering the trust you need to execute on the vision you have set.  Problem 2: Communication & Collaboration Breakdowns in Distributed Teams Distributed teams need intentional communication because they lack the face-to-face interactions that are common in co-located teams. This can lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and a lack of cohesion. In fact, research has shown that distributed workers waste upwards of 17 hours wasted each week on issues related to miscommunication. There are a number of things that distributed teams can do to improve their communication. First, they should establish clear communication channels and protocols. This means agreeing on which tools will be used for communication, how often team members will check in, and what the expectations are for response times. Second, they should be mindful of the tone of their communication. When you can't see someone's facial expressions or body language, it's easy to misinterpret their tone. Be sure to use clear and concise language, and if you want to be safe, avoid using sarcasm or humor that could be easily misinterpreted. Here are some additional manager’s tips for intentional communication in distributed teams:Demonstrate empathy any time the team member expresses a problem or frustration.Use The Empathy Formula to acknowledge the team member’s feelings based on facts. Here’s the formula: “It sounds like you’re (feeling) because/about (fact).” Here’s a real-life example: “It sounds like you’re feeling overwhelmed (feeling) because of the reduced number of people on the team (fact).”Establish a new one-on-one meeting routine.Have a scheduled meeting at least twice per week over video conference. If these meetings are currently less frequent, use the same amount of overall time divided up over more meetings. Always have your camera on and ask that the employee does the same -- it’s a way to build connection and drive resonance.Talk to your team members every single day.If a meeting is not scheduled, call them on the phone and talk to them. Sometimes just a quick check-in call is all it takes for some days. One of the most important elements of being an effective manager is keeping lines of communication open with your team members, especially when it has nothing to do with assignments or project statuses.  Do note that talking to a team member in a team meeting doesn’t count here, nor does exchanging texts or leaving voicemails. We have to put in the work!Demonstrate your availability.End your meetings with your team member by encouraging the team member to contact you by phone or to request an unscheduled meeting. Always answer the call when possible.Establish line of sight and continue to reinforce it.Ensure work assignments, expectations, and deadlines are perfectly clear. Break down current goals into smaller chunks that are measured on a more frequent basis. Find opportunities during your one-on-ones to talk about how the specific work they do contributes to a specific team or company objective. This is not as obvious to them as it might be to you.Do not hold hybrid meetings.Being a good manager entails leveling the meeting playing field so all team members can contribute equally. This is a best practice in general, and particularly important for any struggling team members. If some of the team members are in the same location and some are remote, have the onsite team members split up and join from their own computers. It equals the playing field, and makes remote employees feel less on the outside.Leverage a Culture PlaybookUse Humantelligence at least once a week with your teams. The first step is deepening your understanding of the team member’s motivators and behavioral preferences to best know how to help them. Once you have a deeper understanding of his/her psychometric-based Talent Profile, use the one-on-one comparison tool to go over your and the team member’s similarities and differences, which will help the team member feel “seen.” Uncover how the team member’s unique strengths shown on their Talent Profile can be better put to work for the benefit of the team, and then tell them.       From here, you can then leverage the team culture playbook. Being a good manager entails taking stock of your team’s dynamics, monitoring it, seeking feedback on it, and then shifting, building, or sustaining it. The Playbook enables you to align culture to strategy so you can improve your team’s performance. It’s a simple three-step process to help guide you through driving better collaboration, inclusion, and team effectiveness more quickly. With ongoing and frequent assessment of your team’s culture, you’ll be well on your way to better engaging team members and ensuring optimal effectiveness.  Problem 3: Lack of Meaningful Connection within Distributed Teams Connection at work matters. Would you be surprised to learn that people with friendly connections at work perform better in their job? According to research, people who have a good friend at work are not only more likely to be happier and healthier, but they are also seven times as likely to be engaged in their job. In addition, employees who report having friends at work have higher levels of productivity, retention and job satisfaction than those who don’t. The feelings of belonging and purpose that friendship and connection foster are among the top benefits people are looking to get from their work. These feelings are so profound and powerful that some employees would even trade some compensation for more meaningful relationships – at least that’s what over half of the employees surveyed by BetterUp Labs found. And when connection improves, collaboration and productivity has shown to improve by nearly 25%. How to encourage meaningful connection among your distributed team A recent study from Accenture found that on-site workers were the most likely to say they felt disconnected at work. The study challenges the assumption that working only on-site makes people feel more connected. People who work on-site, in comparison with those who work in hybrid or remote workplaces, feel the least connected of the three groups studied — 42 percent of on-site workers say they feel “not connected” versus 36 percent hybrid and 22 percent fully remote.  While in-person time is vital, physical proximity that lacks leadership support, flexibility, technology or sense of purpose doesn’t necessarily translate into people feeling deeper connections to their work and to each other. It’s not about the building, the site, the campus. As with most things in this life, it’s about what’s going on inside that counts. Accenture’s Organizational culture: From always connected to omni-connected report outlines how companies can strengthen culture and connection by delivering what they refer to as “omni-connected experiences,” which level the playing field, enabling people to participate fully and have an equitable experience — growing their careers, building relationships, and creating both personal and business value and impact — regardless of where they physically work. The key to deeper connection and strong engagement is to simply enable and activate the everyday interactions between coworkers. Make sure your employees are making the most of their in-office days and that there are adequate spaces and reasons for in-person interactions. Encourage spontaneous check-ins. With fewer people around us, it’s easy just to immerse ourselves in work, but regular check-ins with others are crucial for everyone, in particular leaders who may not otherwise notice if their team is struggling.  Make sure your remote employees aren’t being overlooked for team and company events. Be mindful to create opportunities for genuine human connection. Support informal mentorships. Facilitate communication across departments and employees of different ages and experience levels so team members can learn more about each other and their areas of work, while sparking new ideas and interests.Embracing Collaboration Technology that Drives Connection For any work arrangement, whether in-office, hybrid, or remote, keeping your employees connected through technology is a must. Beyond using email, Slack, Teams, Zoom, or other collaboration software, consider squeezing more from your investment in those tools by integrating a quick add-on that gives each team member the insights needed to establish stronger relationships with another – all before they even start communicating.  When drafting an email, chatting with a colleague, or joining a meeting, this add-on automatically surfaces useful, customized tips for more effective communication that ends up helping you improve your relationships at work. Consider the use case of one-on-one check-ins. One of the most powerful and simple steps a manager can take to help an employee feel more connected and productive is to check in with the employee regularly. Learning how to check-in effectively means inviting the conversations that really matter with the employee and providing the support and encouragement they need. Now, add in a layer of knowing how best to approach that employee based on their communication, collaboration, and work styles, and your one-on-ones will be more productive than ever – and your employee will feel more seen and connected than ever. It’s a game changer for managers. Human connection builds and compounds when people have ongoing shared experiences and a mutual familiarity with one another. Anytime you create time and space for that – and enable it with technology – you’re creating just the right conditions for connection to blossom. If you're looking to improve your team's  connection, collaboration and productivity, we can help.

How to Prioritize Employee Mental Health
How to Prioritize Employee Mental Health

The workplace can be a stressful environment. Employees are under constant pressure to perform at their best and meet deadlines. Add to this the near constant state of uncertainty -- more than 165,000 people have been laid off in 2023 along, according to TechCrunch -- workers feel more anxious, depressed, and burnt out than ever before. Employee mental health impacts everyone. Mental health problems can have a negative impact on employees’ job performance, as well as their physical health. They may also lead to absenteeism and high turnover rates. Mental health problems are a major issue in the workplace, but they are often overlooked. Employers need to prioritize employee mental health and well-being in order to create a healthy and productive workplace. The Importance of Prioritizing Employee Mental Health & Wellbeing Mental health issues in the workplace can be draining, both financially and emotionally. Employees can become disengaged from their work and suffer from burnout, which can lead to decreased productivity. This can have a negative impact on the bottom line of a business.$20mn of additional lost opportunity for every 10,000 workers due to struggling or suffering employees 75% of medical costs accrued mostly due to preventable conditions $322 billion of turnover and lost productivity cost globally due to employee burnout 15% to 20% of total payroll in voluntary turnover costs, on average, due to burnoutIn order to combat these issues, employers must prioritize employee mental health and well-being. This means implementing policies that protect and promote mental health. Some of these include having regular team meetings to discuss employee mental health, offering mental health resources to employees, and providing mental health education to managers and employees. In addition, employers should strive to create an environment of openness and trust. This means that there should be a safe space for employees to discuss their mental health with managers and colleagues. Managers should also strive to create a work environment that promotes engagement and healthy work-life balance. By recognizing the importance of mental health and well-being in the workplace, employers can create a happier, healthier, and more productive environment for their employees. This will ultimately lead to increased productivity and a healthier bottom line. How to Create a Mentally Healthy Workplace And though we all probably knew this before, the pandemic has really driven home the point. Feeling happy and content at work is crucial to feeling happiness in life. It would benefit all of us to continue to find ways to help coworkers, employees, and leaders feel good. To start closing the disconnect between what employers say and what employees experience, here are seven ways to support the mental health of your employees right now. Survey your own employees about mental health in the workplace. First things first...you don't know what you don't know. Many companies implement stress management programs — and that’s a good start. But reach out to employees about what stresses they are managing while at work. When you start to see patterns, you'll be able to better gauge the energy and dynamic of your team and identify interventions that can have a collective positive impact. Help employees reduce — not just manage — stress. Once you’ve evaluated the main stressors of your population, make it a priority to address mental health at work. Consider implementing flexible hours or permanently hybrid or virtual work arrangements to help people juggle work and life. If resources are an issue, staff up, contract out, add budget, reprioritize, and put some projects on hold -- because nothing is more important than the health and well-being of your employees. Take care of your employees by watching their hours. While burning the midnight oil seems noble and can get results in the short term, the long-term result is burnout. People need to rest, recharge and connect with loved ones to stay mentally sound, so make sure long hours aren’t a regular occurrence. Make time for fun and empower meaningful connection. Whether it’s playing a game or just connecting over chat, having fun with coworkers increases productivity and builds trust. It also relieves stress by forcing a cognitive shift in how stressors are viewed and creates a positive emotional response.  When it comes to work, we can also do better to enable more meaningful connection. Whether working one-on-one or within and across departments or divisions, teams can have a deeper understanding of one another, and as a result, work together more effectively than ever before.  To do this easily and quickly, some organizations are leveraging add-ons to the communication tools they're already using every day -- think, email, chat, video meetings. These add-ons surface surface actionable communication, collaboration and inclusion tips so people can connect more meaningfully. It also surfaces key insights around influencing, motivating, and collaborating. Keep an eye out for depression. According to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, 70 percent of people with depression are in the workforce — and not all of them are aware of their condition. Nevertheless, only 15 percent of employers train managers on how to recognize depression and intervene to help with employee care. Considering that treating depression can save companies $2,000 annually per employee through improved health and productivity, learning to take care of your employees is well worth it — not just from a cost perspective, but to help employees stay healthy and happy.  Provide support and employee care. Make sure your company provides adequate benefit coverage for mental health services — from individual and couples counseling to group therapy. Offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides access to qualified mental health therapists and a variety of services to help employees manage their lives. If you cannot implement an EAP, consider compiling a resource center of apps and services for your employees to use. Bring it all together.  Consider implementing a written mental health philosophy and policy for all employees. Some organizations are creating a documented mental health policy for team members, as a way to open up the conversation and show them the support they deserve to receive from their employers. Major elements of any communication policy around mental health should include: Acknowledgment. Let the team know that it is okay to disclose (or not disclose) a mental illness at work and to ask for help. Offerings. Provide a clear and comprehensive explanation of benefits to ensure that employees know what resources are available to them. Accommodations. The policy should also detail how employees can ask for reasonable accommodations for a mental health condition and explains that their information will be kept confidential. The Benefits of a Mentally Healthy Workplace A mentally healthy workplace has many benefits for both employers and employees. It is an important factor in promoting employee wellbeing and driving productivity. Employers who prioritize employee mental health will see an improvement in staff engagement, retention and job performance. The positive effects of a mentally healthy workplace go beyond the individual employee. By providing support and resources to maintain employees’ mental health, businesses can create a more collaborative and stress-free work environment. This will boost morale, productivity and creativity throughout the entire organization. Mental health initiatives can also help businesses save costs by lowering the risk of burnout among staff, avoiding workplace accidents and reducing the potential for absenteeism. Employers who prioritize employee mental health and wellbeing can also benefit from an enhanced reputation and better staff recruitment and retention rates. Ultimately, good mental health is integral to helping businesses succeed. By creating a mentally healthy workplace, employers can ensure that their employees have the resources and support they need to reach their full potential. If you're interested in building a healthy team toolkit for your organization, we encourage to talk to one of our solutions experts.