Archives for June 2016

A Highly Engaged Workplace Culture: Essential Elements

(Editor’s Note: This post is brought to you by Kronos, the global leader in delivering workforce management solutions in the cloud. Kronos has launched a new workforce analytics as a service offering that allows small and midsized businesses to understand how labor hours are being spent by visualize workforce data using interactive technology.)

You guys know I’m a long-time volunteer leader with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM.) One of the volunteer roles I held was chair of the HR Florida Conference. The conference theme during my year as chair was “The Art of Human Resources.” After reading the third and final study from The Workforce Institute at Kronos, it looks like there’s a little science to HR as well.

As a reminder, the last study focused on who owns culture. The short answer: we all do, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking out the data. In this study, respondents identified the 25 essential elements of an engaged company culture. Because owning culture and the elements of it are two very different things.

There are five major areas in company culture: relationships, leadership, compensation, work, and learning. There’s a lot more information in this report so be sure to take a look at the complete findings. Here are some interesting results to note:

  • HR professionals claim their organizations used to have policies against rehiring employees, but with talent wars heating up, seventy-six percent (76%) indicate they’ve become much more accepting of boomerangs.
  • There’s a major disconnect with onboarding. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of HR professionals say they have a formal onboarding process compared with 13 percent (13%) of employees.
  • Nearly 25 percent of employees say having an empathetic and flexible manager is an important part of their work-life balance.
  • Wellness programs are increasingly popular, with almost a quarter of respondents citing their importance.
  • One-third of employees say time off is the best way their organization can support their work-life balance.

The real takeaway for me was that company culture has so many elements. And those elements are dynamic – both as a single element and combined with other elements. It’s like the periodic table. The Kronos graphics team did a fantastic job of representing culture like the periodic table.

CC0226 Infographic v3


If we think about company culture like the periodic table, then we use the analogy to encourage managers to be like a chemist. The science nerd in me says this could be a new and fun way to present classic messaging about the importance of company culture. For example:

•  Create your own company culture “periodic” table. Whether it’s literally or figuratively, make sure everyone in the organization understands what makes up the company culture and how they contribute to it. This can take place on career sites, during onboarding, and at company training.

•  Use the individual elements to design formulas for success. Think back to chemistry class for some of the common compounds we learned. For example: rubbing alcohol is also known as isopropyl alcohol and known by the chemical formula (CH3)2 And laughing gas is dinitrogen oxide represented by the formula N2O. Apply the same idea to the workplace.

•  Work-Life Balance happens when managers are empathic and flexible regarding “me” time. The formula for work-life balance is WI = Em + Fx + Me.

•  Employees stay with companies when they have friends at work, are appreciated for a job well done, and receive career development opportunities. The formula for Retention is Ap + F + Cd.

As human resources professionals, we have to find new ways to communicate the same messaging to our audience. I don’t think it’s a surprise that concepts like work-life balance are important to employees. But packaging the conversation a little differently could resonate in a way that may not have in the past. Or simply add a “big bang” to a concept that’s already working.

As I mentioned, this post only scratches the surface of the data presented in the report. Be sure to download the full report from The Workforce Institute website. Also you can listen to a couple of related podcasts on “Who Owns Company Culture?” and “Kronos CEO Aron Ain on the Importance of Workplace Culture.” The culture conversation isn’t going away anytime soon. 


Reprinted from HR BARTENDER





Taking a Head, Hands, Heart Approach to Recognition

To shape leaders at all levels requires an approach that encompasses thinking, doing and feeling.When the mission is to continually transform and energize a company through talented, engaged employees, leaders look for new strategies to inspire collaboration and achievement. They search for ways to make the workplace inclusive, inviting ideation and problem-solving from diverse viewpoints. To shape such leaders at all levels requires an approach that encompasses thinking, doing and feeling.

Employee recognition, with its ability to put a spotlight on top performers, is an integral part of this kind of talent management system. Even though a 2015 WorldatWork “Trends in Recognition” study said 89 percent of organizations have recognition programs in place, companies don’t always use them to their best advantage because only 1 out of 3 employees report feeling appreciated. Why isn’t the message coming through?

Effective employee recognition programs are not one-off solutions. They’re a continuous process to engage the workforce by building and strengthening relationships. For instance, most organizations offer length of service awards; the aforementioned WorldatWork study said 76 percent reward above and beyond performance. If leaders are looking for a culture shift where collaborative leadership is the norm, they should do the following:

1. Get values into employees’ heads. An organization’s core values tell people how they’re expected to behave with each other and with customers. Any recognition-sending platforms in place should have this feature. Each time an award is sent, the recognizer should emphasize the value that’s the basis for the recognition.

2. Promote an all-hands-on-deck approach. To get more people to feel leadership potential, peer-to-peer recognition can empower and celebrate collaboration. Although the trend is growing only 48 percent of companies give teammates a way to call out great work, according to “The Era of Personal & Peer Accountability: The TINYpulse 2015 Employee Engagement & Organizational Culture Report.” These crucial relationships are make-or-break when it comes to engagement as employees say their peers are the No. 1 reason they go the extra mile.

Feedback opens up a more inclusive environment where employees don’t have to wait for managers to notice their good work, and it increases accountability as peers begin to manage sideways. It also plays into millennials’ strong team orientation and desire for feedback and praise. Sent across departments, recognition builds trust, breaks down silos and turfs, improves efficiency, and enhances problem-solving and information-sharing.

3. Go for the heart. Recognition enables relationships, connecting people to their work, to their company and to each other. That comes through in what is said and in taking the time to say it. It’s the message that matters. Employees want a functionally easy way to deliver this emotional impact, and without formalizing these efforts, the ability to measure participation and prove return on investment is lost.

Recognition both rewards and creates leaders. Telling employees the right message at the right time, inspires trust and engagement, opening the door to effective collaboration, innovation and success.


AUTHOR:  Jonathan McClellan is director of employee recognition at Hallmark Business Connections.






Beyond Lean In

The vision of a corporate boardroom table filled with equal parts men and women, or maybe even dominated by women, has mostly not been realized to date. According to the Center for American Progress, while women hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, American women still lag behind men in representation in leadership positions. Women are only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.

Some consultants and companies recommend taking a proactive approach, rather than just sitting back and hoping these numbers change. Leadership programs that focus on advancing women employees, creating internal support networks, and establishing a culture that values the contributions of all employees, including women, are a few of the reasons more women soon may find themselves at the top.

 Learning How Best to Add Value

A common frustration among women employees is that despite their hard, successful work, they’re not noticed. Or when they are noticed, they are not given promotions or development opportunities. “We hear from the women in our programs, who are high potential and seen by their organization as ready for promotion, that they are frustrated that their hard work seems insufficient for their career advancement,” says Rosina Racioppi, CEO and president of consultancy Women Unlimited, Inc. “It is true that individuals who seek to advance need to do good work. It is important to understand that doing good work (or great work, for that matter) just gets you in the game. If you wish to advance, you need to play the game, which means understanding how your work, or skills, adds value to the team, company, or customer.”

Racioppi says companies may need to be clearer in outlining their expectations for each job role, so that it is clearer what all employees, including women, need to do to achieve a promotion, or be eligible for greater responsibilities. At the same time, it helps for companies to think about how ads for job roles are worded, and whether the open positions inside the company are sending a subtle message that male employees would be preferred.

“There may be elements of the organization’s culture that create unintended barriers for women to advance,” Racioppi explains. “Some examples can be found in job descriptions when the requirements are written in more masculine terms and descriptors, providing a subtle bias against female candidates.”

Women may need to “lean in,” as Sheryl Sandberg famously advises in her book by that title, but companies also need to meet women halfway. Leaning in won’t do you any good if those with the opportunities to unlock are unreceptive to women’s efforts. “While the book provides a strong message, it gives the false impression that if a woman just leans in, she will accomplish her goals. But how do you lean in so you don’t fall over?” says Racioppi. “I have seen women ‘leaning in’ in a strong, aggressive manner that did not bode well for their career. Yes, you need to lean in, but you need to do so a way that is received positively by the organization’s decision-makers.”

She emphasizes the importance of developing women to tailor their efforts to the specific expectations and needs of their organization. “In the programs we offer, we help women assess their skills to create a development strategy supporting their career goals in their organization. It is important to understand your unique organizational context, the leadership traits that are needed for the organization’s success, and how the women’s skills meet those needs.”

“In understanding what their company values are, it’s important that women receive regular feedback that lets them know if their aims are matching with the messages they are sending to co-workers and managers,” adds John Futterknecht, president and co-founder at Optimum Associates, which recently launched a Women’s Training Program. “Probably the challenge with the biggest implications (and least talked about) is understanding power dynamics within the organization and being able to leverage power,” says Futterknecht. “Even the most progressive companies experience conflict over whether, how, and when women should exercise authority. The reality is men and women are perceived differently and have different attitudes when it comes to power and toughness.”

Futterknecht says his company’s new program is designed to help women: navigate company power dynamics; effectively promote themselves strategically; project confidence and executive presence; and take care of themselves at work and at home. These are all critical areas to help women leaders achieve their potential and advance their careers.

Learning and Human Resource professionals also can help to address these needs in their own companies, says Futterknecht, who recommends organizations:

  • Create internal mentoring and/or sponsorship programs involving senior women leaders within the organization.
  • Ensure women are obtaining constant feedback about their “buzz” and development opportunities.
  • Form support groups where women can share experiences and successes.
  • Implement training programs focused on women’s leadership, and offering individual coaching when necessary.
  • Review Biases

Men and women sometimes are not reviewed on the same basis, says Carol Vallone Mitchell, Ph.D., author of “Breaking Through ‘Bitch’: How Women Can Shatter Stereotypes and Lead Fearlessly,” and co-founder of Talent Strategy Partners. “Companies can check the performance reviews women and men receive from their managers. These reviews can play right into stereotype biases. Research for by linguist Kieran Snyder has indicated that 76 percent of critical feedback given to women was personality-related, comments such as ‘abrasive,’ ‘judgmental,’ ‘strident,’” says Mitchell. “Only 2 percent of men’s critical feedback included negative personality comments.”

Mitchell adds that research by Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research indicated that, “compared with men, women receive only half as much performance feedback about their vision and their technical expertise. They receive only a third as much feedback linked to a business outcome.”

Finding Mentors

Sometimes a high-potential woman leader can be supported to greatness by having a role model who shows her what is possible. Marcy Klevorn, vice president and chief information officer at Ford Motor Company found that having a mentor was a great help in her career progress. “For women in certain areas, such as the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers in which not as many women work, an additional challenge is that it is harder to ‘see yourself ’ in the people around you and realize that there are people just like you with similar support systems and networks who are managing,” she says.

That’s why the company’s mentoring program proved so valuable to Klevorn. The mentor did not work in the same area of the company as she did, but, she says, that wasn’t as important as you might think. “She listened to situations I was facing and gave me tools to consider using. And it ended up being helpful that she was not in my same field because she could look at the situation from another perspective,” Klevorn says. “I am grateful the company provided that mentoring.”

Today, Ford has an internal network especially devoted to women’s success, the Professional Women’s Network (PWN), for which Klevorn serves as the executive sponsor. PWN, one of several internal networking groups at Ford known as Employee Resource Groups, focuses on professional development for women, promoting an environment that attracts, develops, and retains women employees and customers. Every year, the group sponsors motivational speakers, mentoring programs, leadership initiatives, and community projects, and works on bringing together Ford’s female employees from around the world. In May 2014, PWN sponsored Sheryl Sandberg’s visit to Ford, where she presented a sold-out keynote for employees and spent time with the PWN leadership team. “This is an example of the types of activities PWN sponsors that play a strong role in mentoring and supporting women throughout the company globally,” says Klevorn.

Indeed, mentoring can be among the best help you can give women at your company. “Mentoring and sponsorship are essential leadership skills that often are overlooked, particularly for women. More women and men need to hone their mentorship skills and actively take on female mentors,” says Priti Shah, one of the leaders behind learning company Skillsoft’s Women in Action leadership development program. “Then, women need to seek out these mentors and sponsors to develop them and encourage them to take on challenges they likely never would have been offered.”

Recognize Differences in Learning Styles

Just as all people differ in how they learn, there is now evidence that men and women overall tend to learn in different ways, says Terena Bell, founder/CEO of TVRunway. “It’s important to acknowledge that women tend to learn differently from men. There are, of course, exceptions, but by and large, women tend to learn verbally and visually, whereas men are more likely to have a kinetic learning style. Women also think from a relational standpoint,” she says. “We look across multiple subject areas at once to find a solution, and tend to operate in analogies and stories more than men. So allow time in your training for questions and discussion groups. And allow more time than you think you’ll need. The women are going to want to get to know each other a little before working together, so you’ll need that extra time.”

In addition to differences in learning styles, women in corporations often find themselves challenged differently when communicating, says Caroline March-Long, vice president of Sales and Marketing at learning company Scitent. “The greatest challenge for women is avoiding the fear, or hesitation, to speak up and be forceful, in a respectful way, about what they believe is right for the company,” she notes. “We’ve had situations in which we felt that some of our women leaders needed some extra coaching on communication, finding their voice, and encouraging them to ‘speak up’ in a way that they will be heard and command respect. This can involve internal coaching, but we also have asked outside coaches to work with women within our company to help them tap into, and bring out, their strong voices.”


  • Be clear in outlining expectations for each job role, so that it is clearer what all employees, including women, need to do to achieve a promotion or be eligible for greater responsibilities.
  • Train women to tailor their efforts to the specific expectations and needs of their organization.
  • Give women feedback that lets them know if their aims are matching with the messages they are sending to co-workers and managers.
  • Create internal mentoring and/or sponsorship programs involving senior women leaders within the organization.
  • Check the performance reviews that women and men receive from their managers to make sure they are being judged on the same basis.
  • Offer women communication encouragement, and, if needed, training to be more vocal.

Reprinted from TRAINING magazine 

7 Tips for Recruiting Women

March was Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the accomplishments of women in the U.S. In recent decades, women have made tremendous strides in the realms of work and education. Despite these accomplishments, women still have a glass ceiling to break through, and a few changes to recruiting efforts can help tremendously.

Women’s labor force participation rate has increased steadily, since Rosie the Riveter first paved the way during the World War II era. Today, women account for 57 percent of the U.S. workforce. Women now earn the majority of associate (60 percent) and bachelor’s degrees (57 percent), as well as 37 percent of all MBAs, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

When it comes to the working world, women’s participation is important. “The New Business Imperative: Recruiting, Developing and Retaining Women in the Workplace,” a white paper from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, shows that companies with a higher percentage of women in top management positions have increased growth in stock prices and larger returns on equity.

Women dominate the workforce in sheer numbers, education and business performance. Still, just 22 companies in the Fortune 500 are run by women.

So why aren’t there more women in leadership roles? A number of factors impede women’s progress into executive positions.

There’s a lack of confidence among female leaders. Despite their true talent, female executives are prone to “impostor syndrome,” and may be hesitant to seize opportunities they fear they’re unqualified for.

Caring for children is still a role dominated by women. Although the number of stay-at-home dads has risen markedly in recent years (peaking at 2.2 million in 2010), caring for young children is still a traditionally female role. When a woman drops out of the workforce, it effectively derails her career. The loss of momentum can make it extremely difficult for her to get back on an upward trajectory.

Corporate America still isn’t ready. Without a doubt, our nation has made progress in terms of facilitating women’s leadership opportunities. But like it or not, organizational culture is still plagued with pervasive gender stereotypes and double standards that hold women back from rising through the ranks as quickly as their male counterparts.

Given the obstacles talented female executives still face, it’s little wonder their climb into the upper echelons of senior management is occurring at a glacial pace. Here’s how to attract more women to your leadership roles and hire who your organization needs:

  1. Assess your screening process. Scrutinize your current selection process to ensure women are not being disproportionately screened out at any stage. If you find this is the case, address the obstacles or bottlenecks that are deterring or unnecessarily eliminating talented females.
  2. Send the right message. Your employment brand has a tremendous effect on women’s application rates. Make sure that both the explicit and implicit messages your brand is sending are inclusive: We want and welcome women; women are leaders with upward career paths in our organization; women have executive opportunities in all areas of our company.
  3. Use your current female workers to recruit others. Women in leadership positions are beacons for other female talent, so shine that light. Make your female executives true recruiting ambassadors, who build your employment brand and broaden your referral network.
  4. Increase your work flexibility policies. For a number of reasons — including pregnancy, child rearing and caring for aging parents — women leaders desperately need flexibility. Remove the obstacles that impede their long-term retention and professional growth within your organization by offering telecommuting, job sharing and other forms of schedule flexibility. When you build a culture that supports the needs of female executives, more will be attracted to your opportunities.
  5. Showcase your brand and culture. Enlist your organization’s marketing, IT and recruiting teams to put your best foot forward with potential female applicants. Within your website’s recruitment pages, create a page just for women. On it, feature biographies, interviews and photos of your company’s successful female professionals and executives. Visitors will perceive your organization as one that welcomes, values and supports women leaders.
  6. Close pay gaps. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics research, women working full-time in the U.S. typically are paid just 79 percent of what men are paid. Audit pay by gender to ensure you’re paying both sexes equally for equal work. Doing so will strengthen your employment brand. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.
  7. Recruit good women internally. Your future leaders may already be working for you — you just need to nurture them. Systematically identify your promising female protégés and pair them with established female executives in your organization to fast track career growth. Alternately, consider investing in professional and/or leadership development training programs to accelerate upward mobility for women.

Women may be a bit challenging for your organization to recruit, especially in today’s employment market. But the benefits — including improved diversity, fresh approaches to management and enhanced business performance — make it worth the effort.


AUTHOR:  Allison O’Kelly is founder and CEO of Mom Corps, a national talent acquisition and career development firm with a focus on flexibility.

Reprinted from TALENT MANAGEMENT magazine


Agile Learner Personas for Instructional Design

Meet Trixie. She’s 25 years old and started her first professional job about a year ago. She uses a smartphone for texting and tweeting, but also for shopping, banking, and dating (by the way, she’s single). Trixie holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from a liberal arts college and she’ll probably go back to get her master’s, maybe an MBA, but right now she’s focusing on her position as a market analyst (her mentor speaks highly of her work ethic but mentioned that her understanding of marketing is fairly rudimentary at this point) and on the non-profit she and a college friend started to provide creative spaces to under-resourced communities.

Oh, one more thing: Trixie’s not a real person.

What’s a “persona”?

Or rather, Trixie is many, many people. She’s a combination of their educational backgrounds, position in the organization, and worldviews. Trixie is the primary learner persona for a series of marketing modules for a manufacturer with a global presence. They made the decision to start their marketing training in North America and will expand and adapt the training for marketers worldwide later. At that time, Trixie will fade into the background and Jens will get all the attention.

Jens isn’t real either, but the instructional designer on the project could describe him so well you would be convinced Jens and the ID were friends. That’s because the ID and the project sponsors spent almost half a day discussing typical learners for the upcoming marketing modules. They assigned ages, genders, career goals, technology comfort-levels, educational backgrounds, and attitudes toward eLearning. They even attributed outside interests and family and social relationships. So now the ID knows Trixie and Jens (and Bill and Sonal) well enough to suggest their favorite restaurants and order for them.

Why create personas?

And that’s the value of learner personas—they are people. The mantra of all IDs is “design for the learner,” not “design for the demographic statistics.” Putting a name and face (well, almost) to the stats makes it much easier to understand what the learners will really need. At every decision point, the instructional designer can ask herself, “What does Trixie need?” or “What does Trixie want?” and the answer will probably be pretty obvious.

Developing learner personas can be time-consuming but everyone involved usually enjoys the process. There will likely be some debate and questioning but most project sponsors get a kick out of inventing people. It’s helpful to start the process with some explanations and caveats.

Three important details

One, clear up the issue of stereotypes and generalizations. Some feel uncomfortable with the process because it can feel like stereotyping, that is assuming all members of a group will have the same traits. Comments like “Not all millennials show up to work late” or “I know many retail clerks who are ambitious” indicate that some in the group might misunderstand the process. Acknowledge that this process relies on generalizations. In fact, this process does not work without generalizations. And explain that generalizations are inferences based on careful observation and personal experiences. Where stereotypes are a list of traits assigned to all members of a group, generalizations are descriptions of a group based on its members.

At this point, some may argue that generalizations can quickly turn into stereotypes (which they can) and that oversimplified generalizations won’t lead to learner personas that are useful for instructional design. But these aren’t oversimplified generalizations, which leads to . . .

Two, you can have more than one learner persona. You should have more than one persona. So, when someone says that a particular description doesn’t apply to everyone, you can say “Great! We’ll make a learner persona for the others next.” We all recognize that just because people might have the same job description doesn’t mean they all fit the same learner persona. You might end up creating two, three, or four personas. As you develop the personas, determine how many learners each one represents. If a persona typifies less than 10 percent of the learners, it’s probably not necessary to devote time fleshing that persona out, because …

Three, in the end, the group will have to come to a consensus about who the primary learner is. Choosing isn’t based strictly on numbers, but it’s unlikely that a small percentage of outliers will become the primary learner. For example, Trixie represents about 80 percent of the company’s North American learners. The remaining 20 percent are typically a little older, have been with the company longer than Trixie, and are shifting from non-marketing to marketing roles. The project sponsors decided to choose Trixie as their primary learner persona partly because she represented such a large number. But they also decided that in meeting Trixie’s needs for marketing fundamentals, the courses would also meet the most important needs of the other 20 percent. And some of the other content that Trixie needs—developing customer relationships, cross-functional communications—might be a little redundant for more experienced learners but won’t detract from their learning experiences. Who knows? It might even be a valuable refresher.

In other instances, the numbers have very little to do with choosing the primary persona. This was the case with Jens. He represents only about a third of the company’s European workers, but they selected him anyway. Jens exemplifies the population that the organization inherited when it acquired several smaller companies about a decade ago. Jens is loyal to his products and has a valuable customer network but he’s somewhat resistant to the marketing ideas the company has adopted in the last couple years. Jens is serving as the primary learner for the next phase of training development because he’s likely to be a difficult learner to reach. If the training is designed to appeal to even the most reluctant learners, the courses will almost certainly appeal to enthusiastic learners, so the ID can focus on Jens knowing that the other learners will be just fine.

All the stakeholders benefit from personas

Learner personas aren’t just valuable for instructional designers, though. They’re useful touchstones for all stakeholders, even (or maybe especially) the project sponsors. If a project’s scope begins to creep, you can bring it back by asking whether the additions will help Trixie. Or, midway through the project, you might be struck by an inspiration and you can propose changes based on Trixie’s needs. Best of all, millions of learners benefit from the well-designed training that learner personas make possible.


Reprinted from LEARNING SOLUTIONS magazine






[VIDEO] Stop the Drama. Do the Work.

Is there too much drama in your workplace? Drama starts from a simple recipe first defined by Karpmann:  A persecutor, a victim, and a rescuer.  Learn to identify the roles, and stop the drama before it starts.  Get back to doing useful work!

A favorite at Ed Muzio’s keynotes and information sessions — you can view this fast-paced 5-minute video now.




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