All Articles

All Articles

2023 Better Meeting Guide: How to Make Them More Inclusive & Productive
2023 Better Meeting Guide: How to Make Them More Inclusive & Productive

During the thick of COVID, a Gartner poll indicated that 48 percent of employees expect to work remotely at least part-time after the pandemic subsides. That’s up from 30 percent before COVID-19. And now, those numbers have only gone up. Future-thinking organizations have become increasingly determined to embed remote work into workforce planning for both the short term and as part of more transformative hybrid-workforce models. But to begin doing this, it's important to start with at intersection of where all employees -- remote or in office -- communicate, and figure out how to hold more inclusive meetings.  Two of the largest challenges employers note when considering remote and hybrid workforce models are culture and communication. While not impossible to nurture culture when employees are remote, many find maintaining cultural alignment and figuring out that uniquely defining way of how the company operates become more difficult without in-person collaboration - especially for new hires.  And then there’s communication -- whether in person or not -- it’s always a complicated matter. It’s a long held belief that meetings tend to function most efficiently when everyone is together, but that certainly no longer means we all have to be in the same physical room, does it? What compounds both of these challenges in our new working reality is the issue of inclusiveness -- critical to culture and key to efficient communication. Different from diversity, inclusion is the degree to which employees feel valued, respected, accepted, and encouraged to fully participate in the organization. A company’s workforce may be diverse, but if employees do not feel safe, welcomed, and valued, that company is not inclusive and will not perform to its highest potential. So how do we create more inclusive remote or hybrid working environments? Let’s start with something we all do every single day -- meetings! Remote work is here to stay so part of the approach must lie in how we conduct meetings. What follows is a short but immediately impactful list of some of the most effective ways you can start fostering more inclusive meetings -- including tapping into one of the best-kept secrets of future workplaces.1. Inclusive meetings requiring planningPrep and send your agenda ahead of time: If you’re organizing a meeting, provide your meeting agenda one day ahead of time. By sending out an agenda in advance, you’re designing a more inclusive meeting.Why? By default, we as human beings are introspective, and it doesn’t matter if you're introverted or extraverted either. 87% of extraverts and 86% of introverts agree that they pay a lot of attention to the meaning of your own thoughts and actions. So while it may require more time to formalize an agenda, you’re also ensuring that your attendees have time to prepare and come to the meeting with more thoughtful inputs -- introverts and extraverts alike.Keep schedules in mind: In our new working normal, many of us have exchanged in-office colleagues for roommate-partner-coworker combos. Some of those new ‘coworkers’ are four-legged, non-humans and some are even mini versions of ourselves. Many parents are trying to keep their kids on track with virtual and hybrid learning while they work from home. And others might care for older family members. This could mean limited windows of quality meeting time during the day.If you’re a meeting organizer, you can try to account for these various situations. Check in with your colleagues about the best blocks for meetings and avoid times when parents on your team might need to be more hands-on with kids -- and you might find yourself with more engaged meeting attendees. 2. Welcoming one & all is at the heart of inclusive meetings Take scheduling considerations to the next level by clearly articulating an ‘All Are Welcome Here." Often, people feel the need to apologize when a child, animal, or parent interrupts or disrupts. In these situations, how you respond can make or break your meeting vibe. Based on the situation, you can foster a welcoming environment with one of the following: No need to apologize. X takes precedence.  I love having the opportunity to see X... I know that X needs your attention. Please feel free to jump off if needed or turn your camera/sound off -- whatever’s most convenient, and just rejoin when you can.Not responding in one of these ways will only make team members working from home feel less than, unwelcomed, or like they have to hide away important parts of their lives. Speaking of important parts of our lives...many video meeting tools allow users to change their display names, and as you might have seen, some people have added their personal pronouns. Begin with yourself and encourage team members to insert their pronouns, and you’ll start cultivating a culture that recognizes that you can’t assume someone’s gender, identity, or pronouns by looking at them.  When you start welcoming one and all, you’ll soon find a team that’s all for one and one for all. 3. Don’t just be open, be accessible If you’re in software or SaaS, you know how important Accessibility is for your products! Why should it be any different for how you operate internally and the tools you use with your own team? Look for video tech that can help everyone participate in meetings more meaningfully. Some video conferencing solutions offer live closed captions, which appear as someone speaks, for users who are deaf or hard of hearing. There is also video meeting software available for people who are blind/have low vision and use screen readers that turn text, images, and other elements into audio or braille. Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and BlueJeans all offer live closed captions that are created by artificial intelligence. Zoom offers live closed captioning if you type them in yourself or use a third-party service. All of these programs are also screen reader accessible. The tools you or your company select to use are important. Advocate for more accessible platforms, and you’ll be demonstrating a commitment to inclusive meetings.4. Make feedback king You can take a number of steps to make your meetings more inclusive, but don’t forget that one of the best ways to improve everyone’s experiences is simple... feedback. Just as in the many other aspects of our work, be sure to get your team members’ feedback about what’s working and what’s not. If you’re a manager, start a conversation with your team about what they think could be improved on how video meetings are run -- and make sure you're inclusive of ways to submit that feedback! Why is this important? Studies show that the majority of women in the workforce feel excluded from decision making and uncomfortable expressing their opinions. In fact, a survey from Culture Amp showed two thirds of women feel they can voice a dissenting opinion without fear of repercussion (versus 80% of men), so be sure you’re practicing inclusion with this very activity! Encourage team members to write out a few simple suggestions. While organizations are creating settings in which people feel that they can speak up freely without fear of negative consequences, such environments take time to nurture. You could use a shared “whiteboard” like Padlet, which allows people to give feedback or make comments anonymously.  You could  also deploy a survey that covers video meeting inclusivity. Afterwards, disaggregate the data to look at race, gender, and other demographics, and you might find larger quantities of feedback from particular groups, such as women of color or those who identify as LGBTQ+,  common feedback themes or specific issues among particular identities on your team.Looking at the intersections of all of this feedback can help you identify if there are pockets of people who are not feeling included in how you’re conducting meetings, and importantly, they may have suggestions that will make all the difference.5. Don’t just hold but make space for more inclusive meetings Hello quiet meeting people and those who have trouble getting a word in edgewise...this one’s for you.  As the meeting organizer, pay attention to who is speaking the most—and who keeps getting interrupted. A few different studies have found that women are interrupted more frequently than men, and that men specifically interrupt women more than they do other men. Other studies have shown how men dominate meetings, calls, and other contexts. A July 2020 survey by the nonprofit Catalyst with Edelman Intelligence found that 45% of female leaders (and 42% of male leaders) agreed that “it’s difficult for women to speak up in virtual meetings, and that one in five women reports feeling overlooked by coworkers during video calls. To hold more inclusive meetings, at some point in every meeting, say something like: Okay, let’s pause here, and I’d like to invite anyone who hasn’t had a chance to talk yet to come off of mute and share their thoughts. Not only are you opening the floor to all (as opposed to calling on a specific person who might not be prepared at that moment), you’re also demonstrating consideration to those who maybe just had a child potentially disrupt their train of thought by climbing into their lap -- it’s happening more than you think! You can also break groups up so that people who have trouble speaking in larger settings have a chance to contribute ideas with just a few colleagues. For instance, if you’re having the team brainstorm for an upcoming project, you could split them up into smaller breakout groups for a set period of time, and then have a representative from each group report back to with the best ideas.6. Take cameras and hand-raising to the next level First and foremost, use the tools and functionality you have at your disposal. Consider including a note in the calendar invite for meetings that says turning your camera on is optional. By forcing people to turn on their camera, you get a peek into their personal life that they might not be willing to share. Maybe someone lives in a more crowded household, or they might have had a hectic morning that didn’t permit them to get ready in the way they’d like. Being able to turn cameras off without fear of rebuke allows all of these people to join without feeling self-conscious or anxious about their home lives.  Leverage all of the different features your video platform has to make it easier for everyone to contribute. For example, encourage the hand raise feature, allowing someone to signal when they have something to say, which can be useful for people who don’t like to interject. The private chat function is also helpful for managers to help people who have trouble thinking on the spot. Rather than calling on someone without warning, chat them and let them know you’d like them to share XYZ in a few minutes. This will help them prepare, and they can also alert you if they need more time. As a meeting attendee, you can also use the chat feature to encourage a fellow colleague to share an important idea. Finally, and arguably most importantly, if you want better quality, more inclusive meetings, you have to get emotional!That’s right, one of the most important tools in the virtual meeting toolkit is EQ or emotional intelligence, and as we settle into permanent remote and hybrid work, it’s going to be imperative to demonstrate and help your team members build emotional intelligence and deeper human connection if you want more inclusive meetings. Becoming an emotionally inclusive and intelligent organization begins with putting such insights at the fingertips of every employee, where they communicate most often -- and for most of us now, that’s in video meetings. Do you use Slack calls, Microsoft Teams, and calendar invitations to arrange your meetings? Obviously you said yes, but you’re probably not optimizing your use of those tools by integrating emotional intelligence for your team. With a simple and easily integrated plug-in, you (and the rest of your meeting team because we’re all about including everyone!) will have the kind of information needed to better communicate and collaborate with one another in meetings.  Imagine being able to click on meeting participants and see real-time tips and recommendations for communicating, motivating, and influencing them. 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 lead the meeting, and who might benefit from a heads up on certain agenda items — all of which takes into account your meeting participants’ behaviors, motivators, and work styles in an easy-to-understand way. Some have called it “a transformational tool for remote work that allows for informed collaboration and communication.” Some might even say it’s the best-kept future of work secret that will help you and your team members better prepare for and organize meetings, understand individual and collective communication insights, and figure out how to re-energize the collaborative juices for teams who have never met in person.

Angry & Overloaded? Read This Before Your Next Email
Angry & Overloaded? Read This Before Your Next Email

Overwhelmed with Internal work emails? Yes! Too aggressive, too many, not enough, no response, or maybe just too many of the dreaded reply-all — you name it, as senders and receivers of emails, we have made ourselves miserable. People get dozens, even hundreds, of emails a day, and it’s easy to miss a thread—or just plain ignore them — not that you would! And we’ve all been there before…the premature Send of a strongly worded email that might just not go over so well. Generally, experts agree that about 130 business emails are sent and received each day per person. And with more people suddenly finding themselves working from home or in distributed teams, not only have digital communication tools been pushed to the forefront as a primary means of communication, but it’s become all too easy to hide behind our keyboards. Where you might usually speak to someone in person to organize a meeting or find a quick answer, remote working means making do with digital substitutes -- email being the number one fallback. As more and more folks enter the job market -- and new kind of workforce -- email continues to get complicated. According to Gretchen McCulloch, internet linguist and author of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, “I think it's a misconception that everyone in the modern workplace knows how to email, especially younger people.” She points out that people who got online after the rise of social media may never have emailed socially, instead becoming accustomed to the norms of other digital messaging formats, such as chat or social media posts. “People who have been online for 10 or even 15 years haven't been exposed to routine professional emails — routine emails for trying to accomplish tasks between people in a professional context." Further, in a recent study on the effects of email, a team led by researchers from the University of California-Irvine, hooked up forty office workers to wireless heart-rate monitors for twelve days. They recorded the subjects’ heart-rate variability, a common technique for measuring mental stress. They also monitored the employees’ computer use, which allowed them to correlate email checks with stress levels. What they found: The longer one spends on email in a given hour the higher is one’s stress for that hour. In another study, researchers placed thermal cameras below each subject’s computer monitor, allowing them to measure the tell-tale “heat blooms” on a person’s face that indicate psychological distress. They discovered that batching inbox checks—a commonly suggested “solution” to improving one’s experience with email—is not necessarily a panacea. For those people who scored highly in the trait of neuroticism, batching emails made them more stressed, perhaps because of worry about all of the urgent messages they were ignoring. The researchers also found that people answered emails more quickly when under stress but with less care—a text-analysis program called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count revealed that these anxious emails were more likely to contain words that expressed anger.  So when the number of emails sent and received in a day continues to rise -- only to be further complicated by varying email user levels -- your job as a sender (and receiver) becomes more challenging. The truth is that some emails are more effective—and likely to get a response—than others. Your email will be noticed and get the attention it deserves when it is written appropriately and geared to your audience. No matter what field, industry, or user level, a better email experience is imperative -- both from productivity and mental health standpoints -- and knowing how to write effective emails that achieve your goals is more vital than ever. When you’re writing an email, you want to do everything in your power to ensure the recipient sees, opens, reads, and feels compelled to act on it the way you’re hoping. Here are the email basics, some refreshers for those more seasoned senders, and a couple superstar tips for everyone! The Anatomy for an Email No matter what your email is about, they can all be broken down into the same basic components. Depending on the situation, you might not need to use all of these elements, but consider each one carefully based on your goals. Subject Line NEVER send an email without a subject line! If you do, there's a high likelihood it will remain unopened, whether the reader skips over it or it lands in their junk folder. Ideally, you write the whole email, then you write the subject line by looking at the email and saying ‘what is the three to seven-word summary of this entire email?’ This means the recipient can easily see what the email is about, whether any action is required, and how urgent it is that they respond.  Protip! McCulloch emphasizes the need to think of the other person when you’re choosing your subject line. For external emails, including their company name may be helpful for you as a unique identifier, but the name of your company will likely do more to distinguish it from other emails in their inbox. “A lot of people use search these days rather than folders to find old emails, and for search, you want to have your keywords, especially in the subject line,” she says. When in doubt or strapped for time, just be sure to clearly state what your message is about and set the right expectations. Stay away from subject lines that just say “Hello” or “Please read” unless you know the person well. The only time you don’t need to write a subject line is if you’re responding to or forwarding someone else’s message: In this case, you can just leave the existing subject line—unless you want to highlight a specific deadline or action item. Greeting You probably wouldn’t walk up to someone at work and just start talking about the report that’s due without saying “Hi” or even their name. Right? And in the new age of remote work where it’s likely you might never meet colleagues face-to-face, you probably shouldn’t do it over email either, and you definitely shouldn’t do it if you’ve never communicated with the person before. Start your message with an appropriate salutation (most commonly “Hi,” “Hello,” or “Dear”) and the recipient’s name. In most workplace communications, a first name only is just fine, unless the person works for a more formal company where using their full name might be more appropriate. Including a first or full name (if formality is warranted) is always better than accidentally mis-gendering somebody with a “Ms.” or “Mr.” For formal communications, particularly with people who have earned doctorates, it’s always a nice touch to include Dr. Body This is where you actually write the information that you want to send the person you’re emailing. Every email has a body, whether it’s a single word (“Thanks!”) or paragraphs (and paragraphs, and more paragraphs)—but please don’t make it too long! For professional emails, make sure that you keep your language appropriate for the situation and clearly state why you’re sending the message and what (if any) action you’re hoping the recipient will take after reading.  Don’t be afraid to use formatting for emphasis — colors, underline, or bolding — to call out particularly points, actions, or important dates. As we all know, CAPS are NEVER good. Now if you really want to get a response from your recipient, tailor the email! Make sure you deliver information in a way that speaks to them, in ways they learn or take in info best. How? Well, you need to know their EQ — and with a simple email plug-in, it’s right at your email-writing fingertips. See more in our tips section! Closing & Signature Your email closing is the (usually single) line before your name and/or signature. Skipping this can come off as rude or abrupt, so be sure to include one unless you’re emailing with someone you know well or you’re several emails into a thread. The most common professional email closings are “Best” and “Thanks.” Boomerang has done some work on closings that get the most replies here. But you can definitely change it up based on your preferences and the circumstances. Also, if you know your recipient well and she/he knows you well, a comedic closing -- especially for those long-winded but ever necessary novel-length emails -- is always entertaining. My go-to for my most verbose messages is always a classic: “Anyway.” When it comes to the signature, you typically end with your name as sign-off followed by your block of contact information. As recent trends suggest, always feel free to include your pronouns as part of your email signature. This helps create a culture where people can bring their full selves to work and gives people transparency into how you should be addressed. Email Tips & Reminders Here are a few tips and recommendations to make sure your emails are effective. If you want tips and trick for internal work emails -- those 1:1 colleague communications or emails to managers, bosses, departments, or company-wide -- get our quick tips in this 5-minute video on writing better emails today! Keep It Concise If sifting through your inbox in the early morning or late evening -- in between all the other work! -- you’re probably more likely to respond in the moment to something that’s a few short paragraphs at most as opposed to something that’s much longer. Keep your emails short and to the point as much as possible with a clear ask. Add a Personal Touch & Get Emotional Because you want to be concise, and written messages can sometimes lack tone, email can feel abrupt, but this is easily fixable. Being professional doesn’t mean you need to be robotic. So before you jump into the meat of your message, provide a quick pleasantry or find a common interest on which to comment...think sports, arts, family, hobbies, etc. You should also take it a step farther and flex your emotional intelligence muscle. Before you click send, take one last precautionary step to make sure your email lands just right! One of the most important, yet overlooked, tools in the email writing toolkit is EQ, and as we move into more long-term remote and hybrid work models, it’s going to be imperative to infuse emotional intelligence into your communications to optimize likelihood of response and action. With a simple plug-in, you (and the rest of your colleagues) will have the kind of communication-rich information needed to not only write better emails but also collaborate more meaningfully with one another.  Imagine being able to click on a recipient's address and see real-time tips and recommendations for communicating, motivating, and influencing them. Imagine seeing this same information in aggregate for a group meeting. Imagine knowing who best to tap on for specific asks, for helping lead certain initiatives, and who might benefit from a heads up on certain items — all of which takes into account your recipients’ behaviors, motivators, and work energizers in an easy-to-understand way. Some have called it “a transformational tool for remote work that allows for informed collaboration and communication.” Some might even say it’s the best-kept future of work secret that will help you communicate and collaborate better, understand individual and collective communication insights, and figure out how to re-energize the collaborative juices for teams who may have never met in person — and for purposes of this article, get your emails opened and acted upon!  State Your Intent In all email messages, explicitly say why you’re emailing in the first couple lines. Don’t make the reader guess at your point. At the end of your email, you might also include a call to action such as “Can you get me feedback on this deck by X day?” or even a clear statement that ‘no action is needed, just keeping you in the loop’ is helpful. Be sure the recipient comes away with the right information. Duh, Proofread! If you’re sending multiple emails a day, it can be easy to overlook this step (guilty as charged!), but you should be re-reading all (okay, maybe just the most important!) emails for spelling and grammar. This probably isn’t necessary for notes to colleagues you email multiple items a day, but for particularly important or delicate emails, it might help you catch that embarrassing typo or mistake before you hit send. Also to note, technically correct grammar and punctuation may be essential for someone working in publishing, for example, whereas people in another industry may take a less formal, more chatty approach. Regardless, correct grammar never fails. Make Sure Email Is the Right Avenue Just as important as knowing how to email, is knowing when not to do it at all. Sometimes a phone or video call is better if the topic is complex or sensitive. While a well-written and concise email is effective and allows the reader to respond in their own time, a phone call can sometimes take the place of multiple emails while getting much more accomplished and building a stronger relationship. An immediate answer might also be necessary given the situation and, because email volumes are skyrocketing, consider a direct chat. And as a final tip, emailers should always bear in mind that their messages may well end up in front of a much larger audience than they anticipated, whether through legal discovery, a leak, hack, or the dreaded un-anticipated forward. 

20 Expert Tips to Improve Collaboration at Work
20 Expert Tips to Improve Collaboration at Work

The modern workforce has adapted to several changes that have impacted the way we perform work. Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic is front and center, which resulted in many companies moving to completely remote or hybrid workplaces. These changes have also presented an excellent opportunity to find ways to improve collaboration at work. Many businesses are supported by distributed teams spread across different states or even around the world. According to a study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity and Rob Cross, the Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Business at Babson College, high-performance organizations are up to 5.5x more likely than lower-performers to incentivize individual, team, and leader effectiveness in collaboration. The study of more than 1,100 companies—two-thirds of which include collaboration as a stated organizational value—found that the difference between productive and unproductive collaboration can be summed up in one word: purpose.  It’s the purposeful pursuit of collaboration that is the primary reason high-performance organizations, such as Patagonia, one of four companies highlighted in the study, can leverage collaboration to achieve desired business outcomes. Effective collaboration results from an effective company culture that is supported by management and embraces the entire organization. Simply think about the best team of which you’ve ever been a part. What made that team work? Was it the project? The people? The interpersonal dynamics? Did you enjoy being part of it? Did it bring out the best in you? Now think about the worst team you’ve ever been on. What made those experiences different? Collaborative teams equal enhanced productivity and results. When teams work, they work in the best of ways. But teamwork takes effort, and the reality is that teams can fall apart, break down and experience disruption for myriad reasons. In this post, we’ve combed article after article in order to compile 20 of the most common and most effective tips to help you improve collaboration at work. Be Strategic About Meetings to Improve Collaboration at WorkPrepare formal meeting agendas & keep communication styles in mind. If you’re leading a meeting or part of the team that called the meeting, keep in mind that some attendees might have a more reflective communication style, so if you want your meeting to be valuable and productive, proactively reach out to those team members ahead of the meeting to share specific topics in which you'd like them to contribute.  Defining a clear agenda for each meeting and considering the role of each person who is attending will help everyone involved understand how they can participate and what individual expectations entail. Not sure how to determine communication style?  No worries, there are tools for that. Always use ice-breaker questions. Never just jump into meeting business. It comes across as too cold and transactional, which makes it more difficult to develop report, connection, and trust as a meeting team. Instead of starting with the formal agenda topics, try these ice-breaker options from Atlassian, designed to build authentic connection. One of the best ways to improve collaboration and work and instill a stronger sense of teamwork is to give employees plenty of opportunities to learn more about each other. Don’t forget about the kickoff meeting. Whenever a new team is established to work on a shared goal, it’s a good idea to hold a formal kick-off event. This not only gives team members a chance to ask questions and learn about the project, but also helps create a shared sense of ownership. While these meetings don’t need to be complicated or even lengthy, depending on the complexity of the project, it’s always a good idea to solicit feedback about the agenda from team members. At minimum, reviewing the scope of the project, the shared objective, and key roles and needs of the project should be enough.Observe and Model Best Practices for Building an Environment to Support CollaborationCollaborate on the issue of collaboration. If the company culture dictates strong teams, take a look at the organization and see who else is doing it well. Talk to other managers about team dynamics, how they get people to collaborate and the behaviors they encourage. And make sure that you return the favor, sharing your own best practices and lessons learned. Don’t forget to look outside your company as well, talking with colleagues and mentors. You’d be surprised at how similar situations seem to come up across industries. Create accountability around team performance, not just individual performance. This helps draw out the lone ranger team member and forces the team to work collaboratively toward common goals. If one person isn’t participating as a team member, the others won’t carry that person and a shift will start to take place. If there is one particular cynic, take that person aside and discover why there is conflict, too much independent work, or general derailing of teamwork. Depending on personality, you can either be very direct here or ask a series of “why” questions to get to the bottom of the situation. Prioritize the employee experience. Seeing things from employees’ perspectives can help you learn a lot about work culture and some of the communication challenges that your company may be facing. Dedicating some time to explore employee experience and finding ways to improve both digital and physical work environments can go a long way towards making employees feel more satisfied and comfortable at work. Get digital. Especially for remote or hybrid teams, it can be difficult for employees to follow and understand what their coworkers are doing. This makes it difficult for workers to forge bonds and improve the way they communicate with each other. Using a shared digital platform that fosters teamwork can help improve visibility, create connection, foster belonging, and support more effective communication. Create tech-driven collaboration spaces. Internet speeds and improvements in technology have made audio and video conferencing remarkably convenient these days. To foster more meaningful communication among employees, consider adding personalized communication insights to your meeting tools so everyone knows how best to communicate with one another. Making meetings more valuable for everyone involved goes a long way toward developing a strong collaborative work culture. Promote learning and development. Many employees desire career advancement for the chance to apply their skills to new projects and learning opportunities, all of which contributes to effective and collaborative relationship building within the company. In fact, companies that encourage mindful risk-taking and learning from mistakes often realize greater innovation and workplace effectiveness. According to the July 2021 Monster Job Index:80% of professionals don’t think their current employer provides growth opportunities.  54% of employees fear they don’t have the skills they need to thrive in a workforce that emphasizes collaboration using technology.  49% of employees expect their employer to support career growth.Check in consistently. Have a formal check-in periodically, once a month or at minimum once per quarter, to make sure relationships are developing and collaboration is growing. Especially important if you’re repairing a team, check in to make sure things are on track and to gain a better understanding of what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to be adjusted. If you start the teamwork ball rolling but then neglect the process, any progress you’ve made will quickly evaporate.How Leaders Can Improve Collaboration at WorkSet clear goals. Employees are more likely to collaborate with each other when they clearly understand their individual roles and the team goals that everyone is working toward. Well-defined goals give the entire team a sense of shared purpose and can help foster innovation and problem-solving. One clear sign of an effective team is one that can self-assess and identify issues that lead to meaningful improvements over time. Provide team incentives. “The lack of incentives and rewards is the most common and powerful barrier to effective collaboration. Yet, most talent management systems are designed to reward individual achievement, not team accomplishments,” says Kevin Martin, Chief Research Officer, i4cp. “Finding ways to recognize and reward individuals, leaders, and teams who engage in productive collaborative behaviors can pay off in a big way.” Communicate expectations for collaboration. It’s easy to be a cheerleader for collaboration, but without clear direction, it can be challenging for employees to understand what to do. From the start, set your expectation for collaboration as a minimum standard. Even better, it should be part of your onboarding process so that potential recruits know you prioritize teamwork. Employees' job descriptions should include details about their own individual roles, as well as roles they're expected to carry out collaboratively. By differentiating these, you're setting clear boundaries between what they should be taking personal responsibility for, and what they need to work on collectively. Define the company culture. If a company culture is well-designed and supported, it should truly represent the behaviors and actions of employees throughout the organization. Create a slide deck and supporting materials that define the mission, vision, and core values of the company. These points should act as a guiding resource for employees and can be especially powerful when managing communications and challenges. Celebrate wins often. Especially when dealing with long-term or complex projects, it’s not always easy for employees to appreciate the achievements they are making along the way. Teams can benefit from taking time to celebrate wins and milestones together in a formal or informal setting. These celebrations can be small, as any chance to recognize and appreciate effective team collaboration is valuable.Focus on Communication to Improve Collaboration at WorkEncourage active listening. Part of the challenge in facilitating effective workplace communication is balancing discussions among different team members. This can be particularly difficult when dealing with different cultures, personalities, and challenging topics. Helping employees, and especially managers, develop their active listening skills can help everyone feel heard and more involved. Communication format matters. When the need to communicate some information arises, think carefully about the format you use to share it. Some communications may work best as text messages, while others are more suitable for an email or phone call. Particularly important or sensitive information may also require a meeting to allow for questions and discussion to clear up any confusion and ensure everyone is on the same page. Don’t neglect asynchronous communication. Asynchronous communication involves information that is shared at different times. One example would be a post made on a company message board that others can respond to at any time. Many collaboration platforms include features that enable this form of communication. Asynchronous communication can be particularly effective for remote teams and those working across multiple time zones. Adopt hybrid communication models. One of the best ways to foster communication and enhance collaboration is to give employees a number of tools to communicate with each other. Utilizing several tools such as email, chat or messaging, video, and a company intranet will allow employees to communicate information in a way that is effective for them. And if you have plug-in tools that provide specific tips or suggestions for collaborating with particular teammates, even better! This makes it easier for everyone to share insights at any time and contribute to an individual, team, or corporate discussion. Organize next steps and feedback. When employees collaborate to develop a new strategy or review an important document, they can share ideas in a number of different ways. After the work of brainstorming and sharing is done – i.e. the meeting – set clear expectations for processing the notes and feedback to avoid creating a backlog of partially developed ideas that go nowhere. Asynchronous collaboration tools are an essential asset but need to be well-managed to get the most value out of the communications, and importantly, move the project along.On a final note, don’t underestimate the benefits of informal collaboration. You can certainly accomplish a lot in meetings and formally organized work activities, but most of the real work gets done between employees themselves. Whatever you can do to Make it easy for your team members to get together or communicate more effectively not only helps improve collaboration, but also will allow many of them to forge long-term or even lifelong relationships.  If teams are important for your organization, you need to do what you can to facilitate their effectiveness. Make sure open communication exists. Create opportunities for all voices to be heard. Connect with the shared values that unite the team. Effective collaboration is one of the biggest drivers of success in modern organizations. Following these expert tips will help you implement the right processes and technologies to enhance collaboration and incentivize effective collaboration among individuals, teams, and leaders.

Connecting Improving Emotional Intelligence at Work & Leadership Training
Connecting Improving Emotional Intelligence at Work & Leadership Training

  It isn't surprising that the workplace can spark strong emotions in dedicated workers. Full-time employees spend at least 40 hours each week managing their workload, various personalities and other potential stress factors. To handle these stressors, organizations can focus on improving emotional intelligence at work for its leaders in order to help employees feel and perform better in the workplace. Many of today's employers understand the value of investing in their employees, seeking ways to help staff with high emotional intelligence/emotional quotient (EI/EQ) further develop those qualities. One way business leaders are working to draw out this talent is through improving emotional intelligence at work. Improving Emotional Intelligence at Work is Essential to the Human Experience It's critical that employers never forget the human element of "human" resources, and a full range of emotions is a part of a healthy human experience. The most common emotions include satisfaction, enthusiasm, comfort, fear, sadness and anger. However, it is important to understand, respect and abide by the fact that there is a time and place for different emotions. Even if employees feel a certain emotion, it is crucial that they know how to manage it and avoid letting it affect their co-workers or productivity. Certain emotions and emotional responses have no place at work. Emotions such as anger, for instance, are often counterproductive and sometimes dangerous in various senses. In a daily context, people who feel fueled by low-level anger can create a negative work environment that spreads quietly but assuredly. They might exhibit their anger through body language, subtle or not-so-subtle facial expressions, sarcasm, or other verbal expressions, whether under their breath, in writing or said outright for all to hear. It is essential that your leadership personnel in HR and management can detect the full spectrum of emotions to help tame or squash the distracting ones and identify and foster the productive ones. Strategies That Drive Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Development Employees who can help control emotional situations are incredible assets to today's business leaders. Instead of feeling helpless or watching an emotional scenario unfold, employees with strong EI can sometimes defuse situations quickly, effortlessly and in a way that leaves everyone feeling better about the outcome. These employees are also prime candidates for management and other leadership positions, making emotional quotient leadership skills an essential investment. The key is discovering the qualities in these employees through measurement and assessment. Once you find out who has good baseline EQ/EI levels, you can provide them with training to facilitate their growth. Employers have used various personality tests for decades, gleaning vital information about employees, managers and consultants. However, in many cases, these companies don’t dive deeper into the EQ/EI ramifications of the results. This is what modern advanced analytics software solutions and culture management tools from Humantelligence aim to do. By exploring the results on a deeper level, you can develop meaningful training opportunities for managers and other leaders in your organization. Even better, assessment measurements can provide invaluable information to help you design leadership courses and workshops that bring out the best in your strong EI/EQ candidates. Let's look at some ways to identify, foster and develop emotional intelligence and emotional quotient so you can maintain a harmonious and productive work environment for everyone:Find and reach out to employees who bear the hallmark characteristics of strong EQ/EI. Start by noting those employees who excel at identifying and naming emotions. These employees may also be able to apply appropriate emotions for problem-solving and tend to have a talent for regulating their emotions and knowing how to help regulate the feelings of others. Look for people with strong personal and social competence. You can't rely solely on high IQ and on-paper qualifications. It's essential to look at the social makeup of your job candidates and current employees. Provide emotional intelligence training for managers and general emotional intelligence workshops for all employees. Work to infuse emotional intelligence  into your workplace culture. Humantelligence's Self-Assessment can help unlock your employees' true potential by measuring their behaviors, motivators and ideal work environment. Further, the Self-Assessment tool can help you better understand each employee's emotional intelligence and potential for improvement and leadership.When you take a closer look at your employees' personalities and EQ/EI levels, you can better understand their potential within your organization. Furthermore, doing so can help increase team communication, understanding, engagement and collaboration for your current employees.

Employee Performance Reviews: Effective Questions
Employee Performance Reviews: Effective Questions

Important elements to consider when planning for effective employee performance reviews, including when to conduct them, what kinds of questions to ask, and how to communicate more meaningfully. A new year is upon us, and for HR, you know what that means...performance review prep and coordination! Employee performance reviews are important for every business, but their effectiveness depends on how they are conducted. They can empower your employees to reach new heights – or they could drive them away. And with employee engagement at an all-time low, you'll want to be sure your performance reviews are as effective as possible. A great review helps your employees identify growth opportunities and potential areas of improvement without damaging employee-manager relations. Still, writing and conducting a strong review isn't easy. Managers often don't receive enough guidance on what an effective and comprehensive review looks like.  Compounding the problem, small businesses frequently struggle with limited resources. For example, for a company with 1,000 employees to conduct accurate and helpful performance reviews, a full-time HR staff of 14 is ideal. Regardless of how frequently or in what manner your company conducts performance reviews, these review meetings should benefit employees and managers alike.  Workers gain a better understanding of what they are doing well and where they can improve. They can ask questions, gain clarity, or provide feedback to their managers. Similarly, managers have the opportunity to communicate expectations with their team, identify their highest performers, correct issues before they escalate, and increase engagement and motivation. What to Include in an Employee Performance Review So as you prepare your team and people managers to conduct their reviews, here are some helpful reminders and tips to build into your managers’ prep plans. Most employee reviews include assessment of these skills: Communication Collaboration and teamwork Problem-solving Quality and accuracy of work Attendance, punctuality, and reliability Ability to accomplish goals and meet deadlinesAfter addressing the key areas of assessment, you'll need to evaluate and weigh each to get a picture of the employee's overall performance. The way you format and organize this information is up to you as well as your company's needs. Some organizations use a grading system of A through F, numerical scoring or percentages, or written descriptions (e.g., "most of the time," "some of the time"). Whichever system you use, make sure that it is objective and easy to understand.  Don't forget to remind your managers to set up time with employees to discuss their findings. It can be helpful to have a written copy of the evaluation to reference and keep your meeting on track. They should deliver transparent feedback, with examples where appropriate, and allot enough time for the employee to ask questions or deliver feedback. Encourage your managers to consider this a two-way conversation. Employee Performance Reviews Should Happen Frequently If you want to foster employee success, you should branch beyond the more traditional annual review. So much can change in your organization or with your employees in one year. It’s important to stay aligned and to keep communication open during those changes, not just during annual employee performance reviews. We recommend quarterly or even monthly performance conversations, paired with a year-end review of general themes, notes, progress, and next steps. This allows managers and employees to stay on the same page about goals, progress, and performance. It also helps:Employees understand exactly where they stand and what to do to improve Managers provide real-time coaching to help employees overcome obstacles Organizations benefit from a constant flow of data on individual and team performanceMany organizations are turned off by a quarterly or monthly performance review cadence because it feels like a hefty time commitment. But if you’re having frequent conversations, they don’t need to be long, robust, or comprehensive to be effective. The result of more frequent conversations is ensuring no surprises during an annual review. What Kind of Questions Should I Ask? One way to determine what makes for a good performance review question is by comparing it to Gallup’s 12 elements of employee engagement, or Q12. You may recognize these affirming statements from the well-known business advice book, First, Break All the Rules. The 12 Elements of Employee EngagementI know what is expected of me at work. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person. There is someone at work who encourages my development. At work, my opinions seem to count. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work. I have a best friend at work. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.Source: Gallup If you’re looking for a way to develop your own performance review questions, one idea is to create questions that gauge whether or not one of the twelve engagement statements is true or false. If you want more detail, or a result that you can track over time, turn a yes/no question into a scored response. Going even further, if you are seeking action items like areas to improve upon or where you can recognize achievement, ask for a response in the form of a list, or, leave the response open-ended. Best Employee Performance Review Questions These questions are for employees to answer during a self-assessment section of the review process.What experience, project, or action are you most proud of since the last review? Which of our company values did you live best in the last few months? How has your manager helped you achieve your goals during the past few months? What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What corporate/personal goals did you accomplish? Which goals fell short? What skill or knowledge do people on your team or at the company rely on you to provide? What project/goal(s) would you like to focus on in the next quarter/six months/year? How were you able to contribute to the company’s current goal of [creating a more inclusive culture, closing more sales, launching a new marketing campaign, etc.]? What would colleagues or clients say about their recent interactions with you? What attributes do I contribute that make up our culture?Best Employee Performance Review Questions for Managers These questions mirror those above but have been phrased to ask a manager about their employee. You can compare the manager’s answers to the employee’s and see if they’re aligned.Describe a meaningful contribution that [Name] has made since the last review. Which company value have you seen [Name] emulating well in the last few months? Describe how you have impacted [Name]’s ability to succeed and grow in their position. What types of projects does [Name] excel at? How has [Name] done with creating and meeting goals over the past few months? What role does [Name] have on the team and what impact have they had? What are some areas of focus/projects that could benefit [Name]? In what way(s) did [Name] contribute to the company’s current goal of [creating a more inclusive culture, closing more sales, launching a new marketing campaign, etc.]? What are some positive interactions you’ve noticed between [Name] and others?Additional Performance Management Assessment Questions Some of these are for employees or managers performing a self-assessment, while others are intended to assess the performance of an employee or manager. You can always be assessing and providing feedback to your employees using these question, when you employ a performance management system.Are you happy at {company name]? What special projects have you worked on this past quarter/year? In what ways can [manager/employee name] improve/help you? Would you recommend working here to your friends? Why or why not? How have you met corporate goals/values this quarter/year? How well have you achieved your goals this past quarter/year? What do you enjoy most about working for [manager/company name]? How do I show my focus on quality work?/How is [Name]’s quality of work? How do I show my focus on clients?/How does [Name] demonstrate a focus on client success? How do I show that I am solution-oriented and responsive in my role?/How does [Name] demonstrate that they are solution-oriented and responsive? What do you hope to be doing within the company one year from now? What about five years from now? What do you want your next position to be at this company? What is one recent project that you have made significant contributions to and how did you contribute? Looking back, how has your manager helped you improve and do your best work? Please share 1-2 examples. Going forward, what do you need from your manager to better support you in your role? Looking back, what have you done to encourage and support [Name] during the past three months? Going forward, what do you need in order to better support [Name] in doing their best work and/or achieving growth? What are your top three priorities for the next 6-12 months? What are your personal development goals (new skill, knowledge, work experience you’d like to acquire) to help you maximize your performance and potential? What training does [Name] need in order to improve? Do you feel comfortable taking risks and approaching your manager with new ideas? Why or why not? What training do you wish you had/would you like to have?Keep Feedback Flowing to your Employees In all honesty, performance reviews typically happen once, maybe twice a year, but that does not mean that feedback should be limited to those short review periods. You should encourage your managers to offer consistent assessments throughout the year. Not only does it ensure no surprises when it's annual review time, but it also helps to motivate and engage your employees. Don't catch your people off guard in a performance review. This should not be the first time that they are hearing from you that they are not performing as expected. Be clear in writing, calendar invites, and in setting expectations for the review meeting.  You should also take constant notes on employee performance – especially when there are no performance reviews on the horizon. Employees deserve a robust assessment of their work for the entire period being covered. Far too many performance reviews are based only on what the manager can remember from the last few weeks before the evaluations are due to HR. Managers have to be intentional about taking and filing notes. A great way to keep feedback ongoing is through the use of an employee engagement suite, where managers and employees can continually assess performance and improvement. Provide Performance Feedback to Top Performers Too Don't neglect your top performers. If you're only addressing issues or focusing on the employees who aren't performing, you're missing an opportunity to express gratitude to those who shape the innovation, creativity, and culture within your company. While it's true they may not need as much guidance as other employees, these individuals could lose their passion or motivation if they are not occasionally recognized.  Highly valuable employees who do their job and do it well are often not the priority of concern in performance review cycles, resulting in missed opportunities to communicate how much the organization values the drive and the results of its top performers. And no need to wait for the employee performance reviews to do it. For instance, an unexpected 'keep up the great work' email or a quick phone call or text sends a consistent signal to your employee that you are paying attention and value what they do. Communicate Effectively Finally, pay close attention to how you phrase your evaluations and communicate with employees. Meaningful and action-oriented words have a far greater impact in employee performance reviews than more standard phrases such as "good" or "satisfactory". Here are five words and expressions that will help you effectively highlight an employee's contributions, based on James E. Neal's Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals (Neal Publications, 2009).  Achievement: Incorporate this into a phrase, such as "achieves optimal levels of performance with/for... " Communication skills: Phrases like "effectively communicates expectations" or "excels in facilitating group discussions" go a long way with an employee. Creativity: Appreciating employees' creative side can make for happier, more motivated staff. In a performance evaluation, try phrases like "seeks creative alternatives," followed by specific examples and results. Improvement: Employees like hearing that they are improving and that it's being noticed. "Continues to grow and improve" and "is continuously planning for improvement" are two constructive phrases to use in a performance review. Management ability: Leadership skills and the ability to manage others are key to employee success. Phrases such as "provides support during periods of organizational change" carry weight with your employee.  Instead of using terms like "good" or "excellent" in a review, opt for more measurement-oriented language. Words like "excels," "exhibits," "demonstrates," "grasps," "generates," "manages," "possesses," "communicates," "monitors," "directs" and "achieves" are more meaningful. As an added bonus, you can take your communication to the next level by leveraging emotional intelligence data. To do it, it just takes a simple EQ Everywhere plug-in, and you have the insights needed to communicate with impact and effectiveness -- especially in sensitive situations. When you focus on how you communicate, when you provide provide, and the kinds of questions you ask, you'll find your employee performance reviews go more smoothly than ever before.

Strategies And Tools For Improving Employee Performance
Strategies And Tools For Improving Employee Performance

Each employee within a company has the power to boost a company's success. For better or worse, the inverse is also true: Each employee has the power to drag down productivity and the organization's bottom line. Business leaders have become increasingly focused on finding strategies to improve the performance of employees to better serve and delight customers. At some point, each business leader needs to devise a high-functioning HR performance improvement plan that gets results. If you're struggling to develop an action plan for non-performing employees, it's probably time to take a deeper look at the issue to discover the right performance improvement plan (PIP) for your organization. Keep reading to learn how a PIP can help streamline your employee performance improvement process. What Is an Employee Performance Improvement Plan? A PIP can become a powerful tool to help struggling employees succeed or let ambivalent employees go for immediate issues and any thereafter. You might think of it as an on-the-spot, essential performance evaluation.  When you and your managers become painfully aware of a recurring or worsening employee performance issue, you must resolve the issue quickly and effectively. More employers today are relying on performance improvement plans, which are formal template documents that feature details regarding the specifics of your employee's performance issues. Further, it gives you the opportunity to create a clear list of goals that the poorly performing employee needs to succeed and a timeline to allow him or her to reach those goals. A performance improvement plan isn't always (nor should it be) a negative experience for an employee. Many employers also use it to help driven employees determine and plan professional goals and create measurable steps to achieve those goals.  How to Determine If Employees Should Face a Performance Improvement Plan Here are key steps to take to determine whether a PIP is warranted for your troublesome employee:Analyze the various possible factors regarding if the employee is not doing his or her job or meeting your organization's standards. Remove external factors, such as an unclear job description or requirements, miscommunicated professional standards, or issues and incompatibilities with management and co-workers.Once you go through these steps to conduct evaluations, you should move forward with a performance improvement process. What Are the Benefits Your Organization Might Experience With a Performance Improvement Plan? Employee turnover is expensive. You probably want to avoid termination and searching for a new employee. A performance improvement plan can help you correct a poor attitude, behavior or performance. Your employee might be experiencing personal turmoil. A PIP can help this individual see that his or her performance and productivity are failing. Your employee gets the chance to course-correct, and you keep a quality employee on board and avoid needing to invest in a recruiting mission. What Are the Components and Requirements That Comprise a Performance Improvement Plan? Performance improvement plans include numerous steps that your employee needs to follow to improve his or her work performance. That said, it helps for you to understand and follow some integral steps:Meet with and discuss the performance issue with the employee, letting him or her know you want him or her to succeed. Create achievable goals, such as hitting a certain sales figure or contributing input during team meetings, according to a set timeline. Maintain communications with the employee during the PIP process, providing accolades for improvement and questioning any lack thereof. Ask if the individual needs additional training or other assistance to facilitate his or her success. Evaluate the outcome when the deadline arrives. Make this meeting a discussion regarding how the employee feels about the process and outcome. Prepare to continue the improvement process. If you feel the employee is unlikely to succeed, you might consider an alternative solution, such as a transfer, demotion or termination.What Steps Do You Need to Take to Create the Improvement Plan? When determining that an employee is continually experiencing issues meeting deadlines, cooperating with team members, or providing customer satisfaction, it's time to create a performance improvement plan. Here are some actions to take at that point:Review the employee's job description and expected performance. Analyze the times when the employee has fallen short and any notable circumstances surrounding the issue. Consider what might help the employee succeed, thereby creating a path to improved positivity and productivity.When Is the Improvement Plan Needed? You can usually detect when someone is struggling to fit in with the corporate culture. You might also have a gut feeling when someone has checked out and doesn't care about his or her position anymore. Nevertheless, you can't let detection and gut feelings rule your strategic decision-making. Here are some instances when you should implement a performance improvement plan:Your company has taken on the PIP process as a means of dealing with performance issues. Your organization has no detailed prescription in your employee handbook for managing performance issues. You believe your employee is worth the effort that goes into a PIP due to a history of strong performance and a positive attitude. Your employee is experiencing personal challenges, and you want to offer him or her an opportunity to improve.Humantelligence Provides a Highly Effective Three-Step Process Humantelligence will help you improve employee performance without the stress and disruption that sometimes accompanies such a task. We offer a three-step performance improvement plan process that allows you to achieve a high-performing culture where everyone gets the opportunity and encouragement to shine. Our platform is here to help you measure and manage existing employees' performance levels. With our help, you can also hire employees whose attitudes align with your company culture. Our employee performance improvement plan consists of the following:Step One: Our quick and comprehensive culture self-assessment tool was designed to uncover your employees' and prospective employees' work motivators, behaviors, ideal work styles and life priorities. Step Two: Manage and optimize your workplace culture using data meant to culturally align your employees at the team, group, functional, organizational and departmental levels. Your accumulated data can help you understand why teams do or do not perform, and help you find ways to spur them to course-correct. Step Three: Hire effectively by using our talent fit tool and team analytics to find and hire prospects faster, speeding the process by 80%. Our talent management and development tool offers strategies and analytics to help you make the right decisions at every point in the employee improvement process.Ready to turbo-boost employee performance to improve everyone's attitude, confidence, conduct and achievements? Contact Humantelligence today.

5 Ways to Create a Feedback-Friendly Team Environment & Why It Matters
5 Ways to Create a Feedback-Friendly Team Environment & Why It Matters

Whether good or bad, feedback is one of the best ways for us to know if we’re doing something right or wrong. And while it's a must for a healthy culture, still not every business has guidelines about when or how feedback is provided. A strong feedback culture welcomes feedback and uses it to foster the growth of individuals, teams, and the organization. In a feedback-friendly culture, employee voices are valued. And to become more effective and fulfilled at work, people need a keen understanding of their impact on others and the extent to which they’re achieving their goals. That’s called feedback, and direct feedback is the most efficient way for them to gather this information and learn from it. Typically, this information -- what we like to call intel on our efforts -- comes in three forms: Appreciation...recognition for great work. Appreciation connects and motivates people, and it’s vital since intrinsic motivation is one of the critical factors for higher performance. Coaching for Continuous Improvement...helping someone expand their knowledge, skills and capabilities. Coaching is also an opportunity to address concerns, feelings, or ideas, which helps balance and strengthen relationships. Evaluation...more formally assessing someone against a set of standards, aligning expectations and informing decision-making. Why a Feedback Culture is Important Even people who aren’t interested in or skilled at giving or receiving feedback will participate in the process and improve when they’re working in a feedback-rich environment. On the flip side, even the most ardent and capable of feedback champions will give up if the organizational or team culture doesn’t support their efforts. So in addition to helping your more reserved team members improve, feedback carries with it a slew of benefits. Here are just three of the most important. Feedback Saves Time, Money & Resources It’s estimated that a company of 10,000 employees spends a staggering $35 million a year to conduct performance appraisals. Yet 9 in 10 managers are dissatisfied with how their companies conduct annual performance reviews, and nearly 90 percent HR leaders say the process doesn’t yield accurate information. Moreover, the average manager spends about 210 hours a year on activities related to reviews. That’s more than 26 work days. However, when you supplement performance reviews with ongoing, real-time feedback, you can help ease the pressure and expense of the annual review. When you think about performance reviews, it’s really just an aggregation of all the feedback data an employee should have received throughout the year.  Better Performance in a Feedback Culture Now, imagine the loss in productivity throughout that year when that employee doesn't receive ongoing intel on his/her efforts throughout the year. When you save it for an annual performance review, you're missing out on opportunities where your employee could have been improving. When employees enjoy their work, understand their goals, and know the values and competencies of the job, performance increases. The link between effective feedback and productivity has been well established. One study found that 69 percent of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized. Continuous feedback helps align goals, clarifies expectations, and motivates employees. It also creates a positive workplace, one dedicated to encouraging people to be better will improve the level of performance and employee engagement. Strengthened Interpersonal Relationships Engaging in open feedback and dialogue with colleagues, recognizing efforts after a job well done, and helping employees meet their goals will help create meaningful workplace relationships. Fostering these types of relationships among employees is a driver both for improved collaboration within and across teams as well as for retention.  Once a foundation of feedback has been set, sustaining it will become easier with each feedback conversation. Here's how the experts say to do it. How to Build a Continuous Feedback Culture To foster an environment of both personal and professional growth, people need to feel safe about giving and receiving feedback. A feedback culture is a fluid, two-way exchange between employees as well as employees and management. The end goal is a safe space where employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns, suggestions, and advancement plans while employers are equally able to express constructive feedback.A healthy feedback culture is one where feedback is the norm rather than a signal that something is wrong. That means when improvements are needed, asking for change won’t come off as awkward or out of the blue for either staff or employers. Instead, you’ll be able to enhance business processes while empowering employees to excel in their roles. Here are some ways you can start embedding a continuous feedback culture into your workplace.Set and reinforce expectations during onboarding, performance reviews, manager 1:1s, town halls, and department meetings for giving, receiving, and using constructive feedback. Train people to focus on the quality of the feedback. It’s worth noting that there is a difference between good and bad feedback. Encouraging people to say "good job" isn't going to improve employee performance or build an effective feedback culture. Building a culture of feedback starts with providing meaningful feedback - that is, feedback that is behavior based (not trait-based), forward looking (instead of backward), objective, continuous, in real-time and direct. Create multiple channels for giving and receiving feedback...like newsletters, email inboxes, surveys, town halls, office hours and more. Some folks like to write it out, while others prefer vocalizing -- be inclusive of how you solicit and provide feedback. Couple feedback with recognition so that employees associate feedback with a positive form of reinforcement. It will help reinforce the kind of behaviors that are helping move the organization. Make it routine. When feedback happens routinely, it becomes expected. Hold employees accountable by incorporating feedback giving and receiving KPIs. Ensure that managers are having regular feedback conversations and check-ins with their direct reports. Moreover, encourage employees to ask and share feedback.As a rule of thumb, more frequent, directionally correct but incomplete feedback outperforms more detailed and accurate but less frequent feedback. This means that consistency and iteration are what makes feedback good. When asking or giving feedback, many refer to the 30/60/90 Feedback Framework. It states that one should receive feedback when a task is 30% complete, again at 60% complete, and finally at 90% complete. Transforming your culture into one built on continuous feedback can propel your teams to approach tasks from a different perspective and find new solutions to your company’s biggest challenges. And the first step in your culture transformation is a team culture mapping, where we’ll help you unlock the behaviors, motivators, and work energizers of your team so you can empower better performance.

Fit Recruiting: Culture Fit, Culture Add & Diversity of Thought
Fit Recruiting: Culture Fit, Culture Add & Diversity of Thought

Fit Recruiting for Culture In the world of work, there's one thing you can count on...and that's the ongoing proliferation of new phrases or acronyms. New phrases like "culture fit" and "culture add" have taken on multiple meanings and muddied the already cloudy waters of unbiased recruitment practices. To combat that confusion, this article will explore their similarities and their differences, and how using fit recruiting can elevate your recruitment practices and find you the best candidate. The term 'culture fit' has received some criticism. Some companies are even banning the phrase altogether, fearing it emphasizes homogeneity, the very opposite of its intent. At its core, culture fit, or fit recruiting, as Humantelligence defines and uses the term, actually boosts inclusion and diversity within its teams. Finding candidates that align with culture doesn't limit the existing background or experiences to be considered. Here's how we look at culture fit.We assess your current team culture, specifically addressing high and low performers, regardless of their background. Our tool provides insights into Behaviors, Motivators and Ideal Work Energizers (BMW) -- never race, religion, background, socioeconomic status or any other bias-laden factor. With the insights gained from these data points, trends start to emerge. These trends allow hiring managers to hire candidates that will have the traits of their high-performing team members.  If the hiring manager or leadership team determines that the current team is not performing well, or they are on the verge of a transformation, they can use the tool to build an "Ideal Profile" that will reflect the ideal candidates' desired BMW. What we refer to as BMW eliminates outside judgment and preconceived ideas on what the candidate should "look" like.In some instances, companies choose to use this tool for both benchmarking as well as improving overall morale. For example, Ashley Furniture could not have improved their distribution center without a tool that assessed culture fit. They were experiencing high turnover, and while not uncommon in manufacturing, Ashley wanted to better understand what kind of candidates would thrive in this environment. Using culture fit helped Ashley pinpoint their high-performers and continue hiring individuals, driven by a common goal, into a particular, normally high-turnover role.  Even before an interview, where a person can begin to create an unconscious bias, the data can be hard at work finding similarities between candidates and current employees. There is also a threshold which is set by the company. For example, company A may say, "We want potential team members to align with their future boss by 60 percent." But company B might say, "We want a very close match between manager and team member, as this person will assume the manager position in 6 months. We are striving for a 75 percent match." Defining Culture Add Similar to culture fit, culture add is the concept that a new hire should contribute to the culture, or be seen as a supplemental addition who can fill critical gaps. Both terms involve a sense of alignment; however, culture add has become more popular. Regardless, the outcomes when striving for culture add or culture fit will be similar if done properly. Accurately collecting data is key to understanding what culture means for organizations, and any new addition, if chosen intentionally, will "fit" or align with their team and the current value system. Will people of similar backgrounds and experiences gravitate toward one another? Absolutely. This is why hiring new additions need to be driven by data as opposed to a gut feeling. That's where the BMW analysis comes in -- filtering candidates long before the first interview or point of human interaction. This way, biases are dramatically minimized and the overall recruitment process will be quicker, with a more aligned candidate as the final outcome. Fit Recruiting for Diversity of Thought Another common phrase that is often heard within HR and culture conversations is Diversity of Thought. The thinking behind DoT is that a shared mindset or "groupthink" within an organization is negative and creates a shortage of new ideas; particularly from underrepresented groups. True DoT starts with organizations prioritizing diversity in the recruitment process and reinforcing its importance throughout the employee experience. Aside from the obvious benefits surrounding a more diverse and inclusive workforce, Gallup proved that inclusivity and employee engagement are actually linked to profits. It found that employee engagement and gender diversity resulted in 46% to 58% higher financial performance. And while some HR organizations struggle to plead the case for a diversity budget, the ROI is undeniable. Lever, a prominent name in the recruitment space, sites blind resume screenings as a way to combat bias in recruitment. Coupled with this, hiring for culture fit or culture add and utilizing data from behavioral evaluations can create a truly blind screening setting. What all of these concepts do is help recruiters find the best candidate, based on a team's particularly needs, involving the least amount of human error -- that's called fit recruiting and it's admirable goal. Best Practices to Implement Today Let's forget the terms for now. What employees within the organization, as well as those entering through the recruitment process, deserve is a fair and inclusive environment. A more diverse, accepting environment fosters creativity and aids in employee happiness. Teams that emphasize inclusion and belonging are also able to transform more quickly than those that are less diverse. According to Cloverpop, inclusive decision making "can drive meaningful change in months because it focuses on the inclusion of people already employed by organizations, using consistent processes combined with transparent metrics." and inclusive decision making also "leads to better business decisions up to 87% of the time. This means that building diversity into your recruitment processes and, inevitably, your teams, will lead to higher success, employee engagement, and better work overall. If you're interested in learning how Humantelligence can help you elevate your fit recruiting practices, let's connect.

People Before Perks: 10 Tips for People-centric Performance Reviews
People Before Perks: 10 Tips for People-centric Performance Reviews

A new year is upon us, and for HR, you know what that means...performance review prep - what fun! We know what you're thinking but seriously, they can be fun when managers perform them effectively. Good performance reviews put people first. They assess how employees are doing in their current roles, ensure they feel supported, improve employee/manager relations, and provide team members with clear direction when it comes to the competencies in which they need to improve. Monitoring employee performance also helps management teams identify skills gaps and learning opportunities, assign training budgets, and identify hiring needs. Employee performance reviews are important for every business, but their effectiveness depends on how they are conducted. They can empower your employees to reach new heights – or they could drive them away. And with employee engagement at an all-time low, you'll want to be sure your performance reviews are as effective as possible. The Goal of Performance Reviews A people-centric review process, similar to a people-centric onboarding process,  helps your employees identify growth opportunities and potential areas of improvement without damaging employee-manager relations. Still, writing and conducting a strong review isn't easy. Managers often don't receive enough guidance on what an effective and comprehensive review looks like. Compounding the problem, small businesses frequently struggle with limited resources. For example, for a company with 1,000 employees to conduct accurate and helpful performance reviews, a full-time HR staff of 14 is ideal -- sounds luxurious, doesn't it! Regardless of how frequently or in what manner your company conducts performance reviews, these review meetings should benefit employees and managers alike.  Workers gain a better understanding of what they are doing well and where they can improve. They can ask questions, gain clarity, or provide feedback to their managers -- without the fear or retribution. Similarly, managers have the opportunity to communicate expectations with their team, identify their highest performers, correct issues before they escalate, and increase engagement and motivation. In this article, we’ll share with you the 10 best tips for making sure your performance reviews make the right kind of impact on team members.  Tip 1: Include these Areas in Employee Performance Reviews As you prepare your team and people managers to conduct their reviews, here are some helpful reminders to build into your managers’ prep plans. Most employee reviews include assessment of these skills: Communication Collaboration and teamwork Problem-solving Quality and accuracy of work Ability to accomplish goals and meet deadlinesAfter addressing the key areas, you'll need to evaluate and weigh each to get a picture of the employee's overall performance. The way you format and organize this information is up to you as well as your company's needs. Some organizations use a grading system of A through F, numerical scoring or percentages, or written descriptions (e.g., "most of the time," "some of the time"). Whichever system you use, make sure that it is objective and easy to understand. Don't forget to remind your managers to set up time with employees to discuss their findings. It can be helpful to have a written copy of the evaluation to reference and keep your meeting on track. They should deliver transparent feedback, with examples where appropriate, and allot enough time for the employee to ask questions or deliver feedback. Encourage your managers to consider this a two-way conversation. Tip 2: Be Clear & Objective An effective performance review is a chance for managers and employees to start a two-way conversation, communicate clearly, and set tangible goals. After performance reviews, people should understand what’s expected of them and how they’re progressing in their roles. Here are a few pointers to train managers on communicating clearly:Keep language simple and clear — especially when offering constructive feedback Make development goals objective and measurable, so that employees can track progressTip 3: Conduct Performance Reviews Frequently If you want to foster employee success, you should branch beyond the more traditional annual review. So much can change in your organization or with your employees in one year. It’s important to stay aligned and to keep communication open during those changes, not just during annual employee performance reviews. We recommend quarterly or even monthly performance conversations, paired with a year-end or annual review of general themes, notes, progress, and next steps. This allows managers and employees to stay on the same page about goals, progress, and performance. It also helps:Employees understand exactly where they stand and what to do to improve Managers provide real-time coaching to help employees overcome obstacles Organizations benefit from a constant flow of data on individual and team performanceMany organizations are turned off by a quarterly or monthly performance review cadence because it feels like a hefty time commitment. But if you’re having frequent conversations, they don’t need to be long, robust, or comprehensive to be effective. The result of more frequent conversations is ensuring no surprises during an annual review. Tip 4: Make Time for 1:1 Meetings While clear and objective language is important, it can also at times come across as sounding cold. To combat this, create an environment of trust one-on-one with your team members. It may be tempting to just check in when your team is gathered together — especially if you only have a few direct reports or they all have similar goals and tasks. However, taking the time to review each employee individually is crucial because:People have different career goals and need individualized support Employees welcome 1:1 time with their managers to improve rapport Individuals may wish to speak privately about particular goals or struggles Employee strengths and difficulties vary, even if they’re on the same teamTip 5: Encourage the Following Kind of Performance Review Questions One way to determine what makes for a good performance review question is by comparing it to Gallup’s 12 elements of employee engagement, or Q12. You may recognize these affirming statements from the well-known business advice book, First, Break All the Rules. The 12 Elements of Employee EngagementI know what is expected of me at work. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person. There is someone at work who encourages my development. At work, my opinions seem to count. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work. I have a best friend at work. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.Source: Gallup If you’re looking for a way to develop your own performance review questions, one idea is to create questions that gauge whether or not one of the twelve engagement statements is true or false. If you want more detail, or a result that you can track over time, turn a yes/no question into a scored response. Going even further, if you are seeking action items like areas to improve upon or where you can recognize achievement, ask for a response in the form of a list, or, leave the response open-ended. Best Questions for Performance Reviews These questions are for employees to answer during a self-assessment section of the review process.What experience, project, or action are you most proud of since the last review? Which of our company values did you live best in the last few months? How has your manager helped you achieve your goals during the past few months? What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What corporate/personal goals did you accomplish? Which goals fell short? What skill or knowledge do people on your team or at the company rely on you to provide? What project/goal(s) would you like to focus on in the next quarter/six months/year? How were you able to contribute to the company’s current goal of [creating a more inclusive culture, closing more sales, launching a new marketing campaign, etc.]? What would colleagues or clients say about their recent interactions with you? What attributes do I contribute that make up our culture?Best Employee Performance Review Questions for Managers These questions mirror those above but have been phrased to ask a manager about their employee. You can compare the manager’s answers to the employee’s and see if they’re aligned.Describe a meaningful contribution that [Name] has made since the last review. Which company value have you seen [Name] emulating well in the last few months? Describe how you have impacted [Name]’s ability to succeed and grow in their position. What types of projects does [Name] excel at? How has [Name] done with creating and meeting goals over the past few months? What role does [Name] have on the team and what impact have they had? What are some areas of focus/projects that could benefit [Name]? In what way(s) did [Name] contribute to the company’s current goal of [creating a more inclusive culture, closing more sales, launching a new marketing campaign, etc.]? What are some positive interactions you’ve noticed between [Name] and others?Additional Performance Management Assessment Questions Some of these are for employees or managers performing a self-assessment, while others are intended to assess the performance of an employee or manager. You can always be assessing and providing feedback to your employees using these question, when you employ a performance management system.Are you happy at {company name]? What special projects have you worked on this past quarter/year? In what ways can [manager/employee name] improve/help you? Would you recommend working here to your friends? Why or why not? How have you met corporate goals/values this quarter/year? How well have you achieved your goals this past quarter/year? What do you enjoy most about working for [manager/company name]? How do I show my focus on quality work?/How is [Name]’s quality of work? How do I show my focus on clients?/How does [Name] demonstrate a focus on client success? How do I show that I am solution-oriented and responsive in my role?/How does [Name] demonstrate that they are solution-oriented and responsive? What do you hope to be doing within the company one year from now? What about five years from now? What do you want your next position to be at this company? What is one recent project that you have made significant contributions to and how did you contribute? Looking back, how has your manager helped you improve and do your best work? Please share 1-2 examples. Going forward, what do you need from your manager to better support you in your role? Looking back, what have you done to encourage and support [Name] during the past three months? Going forward, what do you need in order to better support [Name] in doing their best work and/or achieving growth? What are your top three priorities for the next 6-12 months? What are your personal development goals (new skill, knowledge, work experience you’d like to acquire) to help you maximize your performance and potential? What training does [Name] need in order to improve? Do you feel comfortable taking risks and approaching your manager with new ideas? Why or why not? What training do you wish you had/would you like to have?Tip 6: Personalize Your Communication During Performance Reviews Yes, being clear and objective is important. But all the question in the world won't make performance reviews impactful if you're not personalizing your communication. Pay close attention to how you phrase your evaluations and communicate with employees. Meaningful and action-oriented words have a far greater impact in employee performance reviews than more standard phrases such as "good" or "satisfactory". Here are five words and expressions that will help you effectively highlight an employee's contributions, based on James E. Neal's Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals (Neal Publications, 2009).  Achievement: Incorporate this into a phrase, such as "achieves optimal levels of performance with/for... " Communication skills: Phrases like "effectively communicates expectations" or "excels in facilitating group discussions" go a long way with an employee. Creativity: Appreciating employees' creative side can make for happier, more motivated staff. In a performance evaluation, try phrases like "seeks creative alternatives," followed by specific examples and results. Improvement: Employees like hearing that they are improving and that it's being noticed. "Continues to grow and improve" and "is continuously planning for improvement" are two constructive phrases to use in a performance review. Management ability: Leadership skills and the ability to manage others are key to employee success. Phrases such as "provides support during periods of organizational change" carry weight with your employee.  Instead of using terms like "good" or "excellent" in a review, opt for more measurement-oriented language. Words like "excels," "exhibits," "demonstrates," "grasps," "generates," "manages," "possesses," "communicates," "monitors," "directs" and "achieves" are more meaningful. As an added bonus, you can take your communication to the next level by leveraging emotional intelligence data. To do it, it just takes a simple plug-in tool, and you have the insights needed to communicate with impact and effectiveness -- especially in sensitive situations. When you focus on how you communicate, when you provide provide, and the kinds of questions you ask, you'll find your employee performance reviews go more smoothly than ever before. Tip 7: Acknowledge Strengths during Performance Reviews Performance reviews aren’t just for spotting what needs improvement — they’re also fantastic opportunities to give credit to your staff for their strengths and achievements, which can often go overlook or unacknowledged during performance reviews. To give employee strengths proper acknowledgment:Include strengths in your review form Give good ratings freely and avoid focusing only on areas for improvement Discuss how the employee has built and maintained their strengths Consider how the employee could transfer strengths to areas for improvement If appropriate, consider if the employee could use their strengths to encourage learning exchanges and coaching within the teamTip 8: Empower with Employee Assessments Performance reviews work best if it’s collaborative rather than top-down process. It's important to provide team members with the kinds of tools that can shed light on their strengths, tendencies, motivators, and work energizers. Consider providing self-assessments prior to performance reviews. Here’s how you can ensure employees are actively participating in their appraisals:Offer staff a chance to prepare a self-assessment so they can take stock of their progress Give employees ownership and responsibility for their own development and progression Discuss employee, peer, and management scores to get a clear understanding of their context Ask employees for their insights on how they align with their role, department and the companyTip 9: Be Aware of Biases We all have it -- biases. We need to be aware of it in order for performance reviews to be as objective as possible. While they must be personalized according to employee strengths and roles, they should still be fair, clear, and objective. Check out these tips to reduce bias in your employee appraisals:Create questions and criteria that take a long view of the review cycle (and previous cycles) rather than simply focusing on recent performance or projects. That will avoid recency bias — i.e., focusing only on recent achievements or issues. Avoid unconscious bias and work to ensure you’re not judging an employee based on your own strengths, abilities, experiences, or personal traits (even if unintentionally). Ensure you evaluate employee achievements based on work quality rather than quantity. For example, the effort they put into a campaign, rather than only results or number of campaigns launched. If you’re conducting several reviews in quick succession, avoid comparing one employee to another. Each person deserves to have their work evaluated based on individual strengths, merits, and development needs. Avoid making conclusions abruptly or without context. If an employee appears disengaged one day, that doesn’t mean they don’t care. They may have had a bad morning or be experiencing problems at home. Try not to let your personal view of the employee impact your judgment. Their performance review is about their career progression and overall skills — not your personal feelings.Tip 10: Keep Feedback Flowing After Performance Reviews In all honesty, performance reviews typically happen once, maybe twice a year, but that does not mean that feedback should be limited to those short review periods. You should encourage your managers to offer consistent assessments throughout the year. Not only does it ensure no surprises when it's annual review time, but it also helps to motivate and engage your employees. Don't catch your people off guard in a performance review. This should not be the first time that they are hearing from you that they are not performing as expected. Be clear in writing, calendar invites, and in setting expectations for the review meeting.  You should also take constant notes on employee performance – especially when there are no performance reviews on the horizon. Employees deserve a robust assessment of their work for the entire period being covered. Far too many performance reviews are based only on what the manager can remember from the last few weeks before the evaluations are due to HR. Managers have to be intentional about taking and filing notes. A great way to keep feedback ongoing is through the use of an employee engagement suite, where managers and employees can continually assess performance and improvement. Performance Reviews for Top Performers Are Necessary Too Don't neglect your top performers. If you're only addressing issues or focusing on the employees who aren't performing, you're missing an opportunity to express gratitude to those who shape the innovation, creativity, and culture within your company. While it's true they may not need as much guidance as other employees, these individuals could lose their passion or motivation if they are not occasionally recognized.  Highly valuable employees who do their job and do it well are often not the priority of concern in performance review cycles, resulting in missed opportunities to communicate how much the organization values the drive and the results of its top performers. And no need to wait for the employee performance reviews to do it. For instance, an unexpected 'keep up the great work' email or a quick phone call or text sends a consistent signal to your employee that you are paying attention and value what they do. In the end, it’s crucial to maintain momentum after performance reviews, making sure that promises and objectives laid out during the process aren't quickly forgotten. A manager should work with the employee to set up deadlines or objectives for each tangible next step — and remember to check in. Keep employees informed on what you’re doing on your side, like setting up training or finding additional hires, and be transparent about changes or roadblocks. Happy reviewing!