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5 Pro Tips for Quickly Pivoting to a Virtual Employee Onboarding Process

The new normal of living amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic is causing many employers to adopt new business processes…and to adopt them quite quickly.

For those organizations who are fortunate enough to continue hiring new employees, one of those business processes is to learn how to correctly onboard remote employees in a distributed workforce.

A hastily created employee onboarding process will put new hires at risk of feeling disconnected from their work and organization. On the other hand, a productive virtual employee onboarding program will forge a connection between the new teammate and the organization; thereby, positively contributing to employee satisfaction and the goals of the organization despite the uncertainty and hardship attributable to our current coronavirus reality.

Are you ready to pivot to a distributed workforce? Whether virtual employee onboarding is a brand new practice at your company, or you’re just looking for ways to fine tune employee onboarding for distributed workforces, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, I’ll discuss five best practices for quickly pivoting to a virtual employee onboarding process.

1 – Create a “remote-first” pre-boarding experience

With so much uncertainty on everyone’s mind, your new hire’s interactions with your organization in the days leading up to his start date shouldn’t further increase his anxiety. Make a toolkit of digital assets to share with a new teammate to make sure he feels adequately prepared and informed on day one. Here are some ideas:

  • Provide an organizational chart listing all employee names, titles and the hierarchy of the management structure. If you are a part of a very large organization, then a chart of the new employee’s department and/or division may be sufficient.
  • Create a task list or training schedule for the new hire’s first few days on the job. Create this in a shared document (e.g. Google Docs) that can be edited on-the-fly to include additional tasks as time progresses, as well as hyperlinked resource documents. With this approach, the employee can follow links to conduct further research to acquaint himself with your company and its organizational knowledge as his schedule permits.
  • Task relevant co-workers with creating video welcome messages to be shared with the new employee in the days leading up to the first day. We use a variety of tools at ExactHire (ranging from completely free to very affordable) such as video capture on our smartphones, and video applications like Soapbox, Vidyard and Camtasia.
  • Share a short, hyperlinked list of your company’s social media profiles with the new hire, as well as expectations about whether he is likely to be bombarded by social media invitation requests in his first week (as this can be a common way for remote workers to connect with one another).
  • Make it clear what equipment will be provided by the company (and by what date), and/or whether the new hire is responsible for bringing any of his own devices to his remote workstation. Ensure that all devices are accompanied by robust instructions on how to use and/or setup appropriate security protocols for effective work within the organization.

2 – Leverage the unique onboarding resources now available to your organization

While social distancing has caused many of us to approach the work setting in dramatically different ways, it has also led to the installation of a handful of new laws and limited regulations meant to help the American working population and employers cope with this crisis. Aside from new laws such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has also recently relaxed its normal requirements for Form I-9 compliance when hiring new employees. This change will help employees who have never hired remote workers to examine and temporarily approve employment eligibility documentation with confidence.

In particular, DHS has “[deferred] the physical presence requirements associated with Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) under Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence.”

However, not all employers meet the criteria necessary for taking advantage of the option to initially virtually examine new hire documentation. In fact, only employers who have gone 100% remote for all employees may utilize this temporary flexibility in document examination. For more details on which organizations qualify and what documentation is necessary to participate, check out this recent Forbes article.

3 – Make a short list of near-term new hire expectations

To make this pivot toward remote onboarding manageable and relatively fast, focus on only the absolutely critical expectations that you need all new hires to know right from the start. In doing so, make sure you communicate that the current situation necessitates focusing on the “must-knows” initially, but that icing-on-the-cake knowledge and nurturing will be sure to follow as things calm down a bit.

Your new hire will appreciate your candor, and be more likely to establish trust in the organization early because it is helping to flesh out priorities to ensure the new hire’s success.

Here are some examples of employee expectations that may resonate with your team. Be sure to educate your new hire about each of the items below that may be important for his work.

  • Training prerequisites that must be completed before certain aspects of a job can be endeavored (e.g. safety, password security protocol)
  • Preferred methods for co-workers to communicate with each other (e.g. email, phone, Slack, text, video conference, project management tool comments)
  • Mission-critical reports and metrics that must be updated…and with what frequency

Remember that while your ability to equip your new employee with these essential bits of information can shorten his learning curve and improve outcomes, don’t forget that our normal isn’t so normal right now. In fact, it reminds me of an unidentified quote that my co-worker shared on our Slack channel today…one that very appropriately describes the current plight for many of America’s remote workers:

“You’re not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.”

There’s a place for grace right now.

4 – Communicate your culture

While company culture can be somewhat nebulous to describe to others, as it is often something experienced for one’s self in-person, there’s no doubt that remote cultures exist, too.

However, it may take longer to assimilate remote workers to cultural norms if you don’t take strides to help them take seed early. Here are some ways to make your virtual culture more quickly tangible:

  • Facilitate video introductions between a new hire and fellow department members and other key co-workers. Make sure all teammates take a turn to introduce themselves, explain their respective roles, and offer suggestions on how they interface with the new employee in his job.
  • Recognize that your organization likely has a multitude of multimedia approaches for communication in different situations. Create a “cheat sheet” of common scenarios to give your new employees a head start:
    • Protocol for out of office messages
    • Appropriate channels for different types of Slack posts
    • Frequency for co-worker video meet-ups and the purpose of each (e.g. is this a project-related call or a virtual happy hour?)
    • General guidelines on how quickly to respond to different inquiries and requests (make sure to allow for time zone differences between co-workers)
    • Location of a schedule of regular working hours for different employees
    • Protocol on whether to use one’s video camera on conference calls (is it preferred or required by various departments?)
    • Acceptable format for email signatures
    • Preferred software applications for different assignments (e.g. MS Word or Google Docs when both are available?)

5 – Implement employee onboarding software for remote hiring success

Depending on the industry in which you work, you likely use a set of software applications critical to the productivity of your business–it’s your tech stack. From CRMs to POS systems, and project management suites to ticketing portals, these varied forms of technology are essential to different industries because they leverage technology to automate and improve repetitive, and perhaps otherwise manual tasks for different employers.

While health clinics may not need POS systems, and safety equipment manufacturers aren’t desperate for software issue ticketing suites, I will advocate that all employers who are currently hiring should consider employee onboarding software.

Moreover, if you are hiring remote employees, onboarding software gives you a significant competitive advantage as you can improve the new hire user experience (aka first impression) as well as minimize documentation errors.

ExactHire’s OnboardCentric employee onboarding software can be implemented either as a stand-alone solution to meet your urgent onboarding needs; or, as a hiring component integrated with our ExactHire applicant tracking system.

As employers face constantly evolving news related to COVID-19, they are adjusting priorities and re-allocating resources on a daily basis. Our team understands the need for fluidity and responsiveness, and we’re equipped to get you up and running with onboarding software quickly.

To expedite implementation and improve your new hire experience despite the current pandemic, we recommend that you start by implementing required new hire forms (e.g. state tax forms, Form W-4, Form I-9, direct deposit, etc.) and allow us to train supervisors who need access right away.

Then, as demands on your schedule decline, our team is happy to work with you to include non-essential nice-to-have new hire forms, discuss onboarding process best practices and conduct more advanced user training with all of your hiring managers. Our responsive team is ready to work as your partner through this crisis.

Demo ExactHire Onboarding Software

Are you ready to improve your employee onboarding experience and respond to the rapidly changing hiring landscape with success? Schedule a demo of OnboardCentric today.

9 Ways to Show Empathy When Employees Take a Leave of Absence

This is an easy time of year to remember to give thanks. With all the festivities of the holiday season, we don’t have to try that hard to show gratitude and be empathetic to others’ situations when things are going well. However, have you paused to reflect on how you demonstrate empathy during other times of the year?

The privilege to always show empathy and gratitude to others has never been more clear for me…as over the past couple of weeks I have cared for a close family member recovering from a challenging life event. I’ve been humbled and overwhelmed by the numerous demonstrations of support received from family and friends…and co-workers.

Empathy in the workplace is worth serious conversation, as the degree to which it is championed varies significantly from one organization to the next. However, because we spend so much of our lives in the workplace, our organizations are one of the best venues to grow our empathy practices. One of the most practical applications of this opportunity is when employees must take a leave of absence due to their own health condition or to care for a family member.

In this blog, I’ll cover nine ways that employers may demonstrate empathy when employees take a leave of absence from work.

1 – Embrace a growth mindset

If your organization hasn’t traditionally gone above and beyond to empathize with employees who require leave, don’t fret. Your organizational capacity for empathy can improve if you and your company can create the space for that practice.

I believe most people want to be compassionate, but often things unintentionally get in the way. People become distracted with being busy to the point that they are not attuned to opportunities to align with others’ needs and make a meaningful impact. Create time to intentionally focus on empathy toward others throughout the month.

2 – Be reassuring and consistent

When an employee takes a leave of absence, it can be based on circumstances that were unanticipated. The potentially unknown duration for a leave of absence may create stress for an employee. Nevertheless, the situation does offer an opportunity for your organization to be reassuring as well as consistent with communication about leave benefits. This helps to build a foundation for trust and emotional safety from the perspective of the employee.

3 – Be specific with your offer

I’m the type of person that never wants to appear as if I am taking advantage of others by saying “yes” to non-specific offers of help. For example, I politely thank someone who says “let me know if you need anything” without ever seeking his assistance…because it may be too overwhelming to think about what that assistance would be…and whether it would be too big of an ask for that individual.

However, lately I’ve learned to say “yes,” and it’s been easier when people offer specific ways they can help. A gesture may be as simple as offering to clear a co-worker’s calendar on his behalf when he is called away to care for a loved one; or, offering to deliver a care package to get a teammate through hard times.

By articulating a tangible offer, I think it is easier for the beneficiary of the help to say “yes” because you take away a potentially distracting decision from him–that is, the decision of what type of help to seek. These gestures cut through the stress and anxiety experienced by your impacted co-worker and help him persevere. They are a partial roadmap in an uncertain time and help alleviate the burden of yet another decision.

4 – Utilize communication templates for efficiency

Have a template ready to quickly send leave administration paperwork to an affected employee when the need arises. Use technology (everything from an HRIS to a free Trello board) to create and manage leave-related touchpoints…think of it as employee onboarding for the leave process.

Make your content consistent, yet approachable, and answer questions like those recommended by Jellyvision:

  • How much time can I take off?
  • Will I be paid, and if so, how much?
  • Is my job safe…or should I worry?

Also, match and mirror the employee in terms of her preferred communication mode (e.g. email, phone, text, etc.). Be mindful of employee preferences when it comes to in-person communications during a difficult stretch. For example, know whether she would be comforted by a friendly hug or view it as an encroachment on her personal space.

5 – Designate a single point of contact

Have your HR representative ask the employee if he wishes for any updates to be shared with concerned co-workers. With the employee’s consent, ask him if he prefers a single point of contact for updates or if he is okay with other teammates reaching out to check in. Otherwise, he may find himself struggling to keep up with 50 text messages from concerned co-workers all at once.

Even if a person is active on social media with what is happening in his life, and connected to co-workers on that network, he may still appreciate a single person for communication in the workplace.

6 – Make it easy for others to help

As long as the employee has consented to the employer allowing others within the organization to help, the company can organize outreach efforts on behalf of the employee taking leave. For example, consider

  • allowing other employees to donate PTO or sick time,
  • using a site such as takethemameal.com to set up a meal sign-up sheet, or
  • organizing a sign-up sheet to ensure that a periodic visitor helps to keep the employee’s spirits up.

7 – Choose empathy rather than sympathy

While empathy and sympathy are closely related, empathy goes a bit further to put yourself in the shoes of a person experiencing an event. Conversely, sympathetic gestures often begin with a statement such as “at least you don’t have X going on.” While the intent of sympathy may be to put rose-colored glasses on a tough situation, it may not do anything to help someone through a rough spot. However, finding common ground through a similar shared experience and letting an employee know you that you’re available to provide support may prove more effective.

Truly listen to what an employee needs in a challenging moment. And, if you don’t have amazing advice, just tell her you hear her and are there to help. Active listening means you don’t think about your next statement before the other person is finished speaking. Rather, you pause and then restate what she said, and ask questions to hone in on how you can be of assistance.

8 – Train your managers

Not only is it good form for your managers to be sensitive to the emotional, physical and social stresses an employee may experience related to a leave of absence, but it’s also sound business practice to make sure your managers have undergone training to handle leave administration appropriately.

Without training, employers leave themselves open to liability resulting from “foolish” statements by uninformed managers, according to Jeff Nowak in this SHRM article.

9 – Be available for the long haul

It’s easy for an organization to be helpful in the early days of an employee’s challenge, but make sure you create triggers to check in with the employee when the initial shock has worn off, too. Recovery from challenging life events takes time and an employee’s communication and tangible needs may evolve throughout that process. For example, make it easy for an employee to understand what is necessary to extend a short term disability claim, or to see what accommodations are needed in order to return to work more quickly.

When was the last time you considered how “human” your company’s human resources efforts are when it comes to assisting teammates with challenging circumstances? In this season of Thanksgiving, let’s re-examine what we’re doing in the workplace to empathize with our employees’ life situations and lift them up when they need support.

9 Employer Strategies That Limit Ghosting

Even if you haven’t already heard the term employee “ghosting,” odds are you have still experienced the workplace trend. What is ghosting and why is it more relevant to your organization than ever?

From existing employees failing to show up for work and disappearing without a trace…to job seekers reneging on an accepted offer when a better one comes in last minute–ghosting occurs when someone you are counting on fails to appear and doesn’t give you any notice.

Why is this trend emerging now? Contributing factors may include a labor shortage, a tight job market, and younger generations’ popular preference for electronic correspondence over face-to-face conflict resolution. Not surprisingly, ghosting affects industries with a large number of hourly workers, but it’s also impacting the white collar worlds of technology firms, business services and healthcare.

Here are nine strategies to help scare off the ghosting trend in your workplace.

1 – Follow the Golden Rule

This is simple, yet worth restating with some regularity nonetheless. I frequently find myself telling my kids to “treat people the way you’d want to be treated.” And, the same goes for employees and applicants. Keep them informed, treat them with respect and be kind. For a long time, many employers got away with ghosting job seekers and interviewees, failing to respond to the messages of final stage candidates or even completely neglecting to decline them at the end of a hiring process.

Make sure your own recruiting tactics don’t include ghosting tendencies…turnabout is fair play! Recruiters can’t get away with the same bad behavior they may have had when unemployment wasn’t at the low that it is right now.

2 – Strategize the counteroffer

Considering that one of the insidious forms in which ghosting takes shape is that the employee doesn’t show up on his first day, you must anticipate job candidates receiving competitive offers–including a counteroffer from an existing employer.

Plan a strategy session with a newly hired employee at the time he accepts the offer and talk through various scenarios. Encourage him to brainstorm with you how he might fend off a counteroffer. Remind him to consider why he originally looked elsewhere and provide a template the candidate may follow to talk through his resignation with an existing employer.

3 – Leverage text recruiting

Since applicants (like the general population) rely on smartphones to screen their calls, in the age of spam robo-callers it is less likely that they will pick up the phone when you call them for the first time to schedule an interview. In my product research calls over the last year, many employers explained that job seekers they try to contact frequently don’t even have their voice mail box set up–or if they do, it’s full.

Make sure your hiring software includes the ability to text with candidates, and more importantly, ensure that incoming text message notifications to your job seekers adequately identify your organization, related job and recruiter name.

4 – Over-communicate with job candidates

Obsess about the communication piece of your employment brand. Counteract a potential eventual lack of communication on the candidate’s part with meticulous communication from the employer throughout the selection process. Job seekers will feel more informed and more engaged to reciprocate communication if they sense the opportunity may not work for them. Here are some specific communication tactics:

  • Set expectations about what the hiring process involves at the very beginning of the process (e.g. number of stages, requirements of each stage, duration of process, etc.).
  • Send updates to job seekers when target dates for various stages get delayed.
  • Invite candidates to share feedback about your process at different steps along the way–whether they are selected for the position or not.
  • Stay connected with silver medal candidates for future consideration. They are a great back-up if the gold medalist ghosts you, and more likely to come through for you in the next position if you keep them engaged in your pipeline through thoughtful messaging.

5 – Be transparent with those who refer candidates

Follow-up with referrers of candidates to thank them for their employee referral, and acknowledge your appreciation for the referral with the job candidate, too. This personal reminder puts pressure on the referred candidate not to let her friend down by ghosting the employer and risk damaging her reputation.

Not only does this practice help mitigate ghosting, but it also increases the likelihood that your existing employees will continue to refer you qualified candidates in the future. Remember–don’t ghost your own employees about referral outcomes when they take time to make a recommendation to you!

6 – Preview the employee onboarding experience

Create content that provides a thorough overview of your employee onboarding process to potential hires. This helps prevent the cognitive dissonance that they may otherwise feel about accepting an offer. If they’re excited about what to expect in their first year, then they’re much more likely to show up on their first day.

Additionally, give final stage interviewees a sneak peak into the employee experience by inviting them to do a job shadow before extending an offer. This simulation illustrates what it’s really like to work for your organization, and encourages candidates to self-select out of the process before you get to the ghosting let-down.

7 – Become a pre-boarding pro

Don’t go radio silent during the all too important pre-boarding process–that time between the accepted employment offer and the start date. This may last from a few hours to a few weeks depending on your organization and job category, but think about how to keep new hires feeling connected during this time.

Reflect on your culture and plan touch points with the new hire that make them feel welcomed to the team. Text a group photo, invite them to lunch before the start date and/or send them a swag bag at home. Ask the new hire to complete a “get to know you” sheet during pre-boarding, and then share info sheets about other employees with the new hire prior to the first day, too. This helps the new hire start to feel like a part of the team before the first day–which will make it harder to abandon the team without explanation.

8 – Flaunt your best attributes

Know your market and then understand which aspects of your compensation and benefits package and/or work schedule are highly attractive. While it is natural to highlight these attributes in detail in an employment offer, it’s a good idea to remind existing employees, too.

To help prevent employees from leaving unexpectedly for greener pastures, create a detailed total rewards summary and discuss it annually with workers to differentiate your unique value proposition from competitors. Make sure the summary highlights any continuous education opportunities, especially, so that employees not only understand their existing assets, but also their potential to improve their knowledge.

9 – Proactively thank candidates

Once upon a time, recruiters gave an edge to the candidates who sent the first thank you message (assuming all else was equal). However, today recruiters who don’t wait around, but rather proactively thank candidates following an interview are less likely to be ghosted. This follow-up is also a trigger for the organization to touch base with job seekers about timing for next steps in the process. And, as we learned in tip #4 above, over communication is a best practice.

It is unlikely that you will completely prevent ghosting despite your attentive efforts; however, the aforementioned tips are a proactive start in dramatically reducing its impact on your company.

 

How to Use Video to Engage Applicants and Employees

There’s no denying the appeal of video. When I’m doing research for a home project, planning a purchase or trying to teach myself how to play a new board game, I prefer to watch an engaging video rather than read through text or scan images. Not surprisingly, many job seekers have the same preference as they research and engage with potential employers to determine which will suit their career aspirations.

How can employers use video in the hiring process and throughout the employment lifecycle to entice job seekers to consider a position? How can video engage employees to remain employed? Consider the following tips to leverage the strengths of video throughout your employment experience.

Recruiting

Employee testimonials

Identify your true employment brand ambassadors and invite them to produce testimonials for your career site. Ask them to speak about the invigorating challenge of their work and the unique, tangible and intrinsic benefits that your organization offers to employees. Most of all, make sure they convey the specific reasons they choose to work for your organization.

Job description overview

A key aspect of successful candidate recruitment is not only selecting the right individual for the company, but also allowing job seekers to understand what they are getting into when it comes to job responsibilities.

Create a video that summarizes the key responsibilities of a position, but then go a step further and discuss what job success looks like for a new hire at three months, six months and one year of employment. These career opportunity digital assets are excellent content resources to share on company social media channels, too.

If you use an applicant tracking system to manage your recruitment process, you may already have access to easily embed videos into job descriptions and share them with third party job boards. Other ideas for video overviews include having a top ten list of reasons to work in a specific role for your company; or, a short segment on what to expect from the hiring and selection process. For example, will the candidate be asked to take any assessments and how many interview stages are involved–and with which company staff members?

Here’s an example of how ExactHire used video in the hiring process when we were looking for web developers. Make sure that the tone and style of your video aligns with your organizational culture. For us, quirky is appropriate!

You could even automate a video email that outlines next steps to send to the candidate after applying online.

Interviewing

Candidate communication

Remember that the quality of your organization’s candidate communication is being closely evaluated by job seekers. It is the first impression that will indicate how responsive and communicative the employer will likely be once a candidate is hired as an employee–it’s the perception of job seekers (and, in my experience, often the truth).

Make applicant correspondence personal by using video email to invite applicants to progress in your hiring process. If you enjoy a remote work culture, using video to facilitate interviewing is critical in moving the selection process along quickly enough that you don’t lose qualified candidates to other offers.

Even if your office isn’t full of telecommuters, if you involve multiple employees in group interviews, video conference calls can open up additional calendar slots by eliminating the need for stakeholders to buffer schedules for commute time.

Closing the deal

In this competitive market, your top candidate will often have another offer when they are considering a position with you. While compensation, benefits, and role will heavily influence the candidate’s choice, you can use personalized video messages to encourage the candidate to join your team and share examples of how your employees embody organizational culture.

Consider sending a team video highlighting a recent company potluck, holiday event or fun competition. You could even send a personalized video email from the CEO to let the candidate know that leadership is excited to invite them on board. Make sure the candidate understands that by accepting an offer with your organization, he or she could enjoy these same moments with co-workers who care, too. It is these seemingly little gestures that often make or break the deal when another offer is on the table.

Pre-boarding

While many organizations pull out all the stops to woo candidates during the interviewing process, unfortunately too many then fail to keep the momentum going with frequent connections with new hires during the pre-boarding phase. Pre-boarding is comprised of the time period between when the candidate accepts an employment offer and experiences his first day on the job.

Office orientation

Even if you previously gave an interviewee an office tour, sharing a virtual video office tour helps incoming new hires orient themselves with the location of various office items before they experience their first day. Check out MOBI’s compelling virtual tour of their headquarters building:

Setting expectations

To minimize new hire jitters for your new teammates, create videos to help identify what the new employee can expect in her first week of employment. Preview the types of activities she’ll be experiencing and consider inviting mentors or other people with whom the new hire will be meeting to have a segment in the video. Other discussion points might include information about

  • dress code,
  • location of bathrooms and gym,
  • availability of office snacks,
  • beverages and the location of the kitchen, and
  • an overview of the types and frequency of company and department meetings that occur throughout a month.

Make sure that the new hire’s supervisor engages with him during the pre-boarding phase as well. While a phone call or interactive video conference is great in this scenario, if schedules make connecting difficult then a thoughtful video welcome message from the hiring manager can serve as an attractive alternative. Leveraging video during pre-boarding may help to reduce the likelihood of new hire ghosting!

Onboarding

Once your new hires officially begin work, make sure that their employee onboarding experience excites them and prepares them to be productive as soon as possible. Effective employee onboarding involves activities that introduce new hires to teammates and the organization, allow them to become familiar with the resources they’ll need to do the job, and further set expectations about performance and pace.

Training

To support these activities, offer videos that help train new hires on organizational procedures and teach them how to use different tools necessary for their role. If you use employee onboarding software to automate your onboarding workflow, then use the platform to create employee tasks that prompt new hires to watch these videos at the appropriate time during their onboarding phase.

Video is also a great way to facilitate introductions between new hires and remote workers when an in-person “nice to meet you” isn’t practical.

Employee Engagement

Daily connections

Speaking of remote workers, my organization is quite remote friendly and therefore we have to be intentional about creating opportunities for employees to regularly connect with one another. While we used to rely heavily on email and instant messaging tools to catch up on a daily basis, in the past year we’ve started regularly doing video calls with one another for daily “stand-up” meetings in various departments. Even though these meetings often last only five minutes, the chance to make eye contact with your peers and sneak in some “water cooler” type talk has been an important enhancement to our remote work culture.

Open window

Some of our departments take video calling a step further and have weekly “open window” time when they all log in to a video chat for an hour to simulate what it would be like to sit in cubicles next to each other. They use the time to catch up, but sometimes they just work silently until someone has a comment or inquiry.

Offboarding

While the hope is that employees will be successful and engaged for an extended period of time with your organization, the reality is that circumstances sometimes call for offboarding employees. Whether it is a voluntary or involuntary termination, there are opportunities to positively support your employment brand based on how you approach the situation.

Voluntary

In the case of someone who has resigned, solicit teammates to put together a best wishes video to send off your departing employee knowing that he was truly valued. After all, you never know if you’ll have the opportunity for a boomerang employment situation in which the person returns to work in your organization at some point in the future.

Involuntary

In the event that the employment separation isn’t voluntary, a video message to existing department members can be an effective means to properly communicate the tone of the situation and assure existing employees that everything will be okay despite the seemingly sudden departure of another employee. This approach is preferable over a static email in which tone can be interpreted inconsistently by various recipients.

Video: An Employee Engagement Tool

These are just a few tips for using video in your hiring process and for employee engagement. Experiment with different video themes for your own organizational processes.

Your culture, core values and current business opportunities will guide you in a direction that aligns with the interests of your applicants and employees.

This content was originally published on Covideo’s Blog.

Tech-Based Employee Experience E-book

Improve Employee Experience by Starting a Book Club at Work

If you want to create a consistently, stellar employee experience at your organization (and why wouldn’t you?), then finding ways to foster personal and professional development should be an integral part of your plan. Implementing an optional office book club is a fantastic way to encourage employees to try something new, improve themselves and connect with one another.

We recently hosted our inaugural book club session at ExactHire and read Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I had wanted to start a book club internally for quite awhile, but the timing just hadn’t been right until now. However, one chance conversation with a co-worker about interesting books ignited a spark of interest and our subsequent plan to meet 1-on-1 to discuss our first book. Naturally, I advertised the opportunity to the rest of our small organization and…voila! Traction. Before I knew it, six of us were signed up and ready to read!

This plan fit in perfectly with my own new year’s resolution to read twenty-six books in 2019; however, I was more excited to connect intentionally with co-workers in other departments and share different perspectives on something new and something more universally safe. What do I mean by “safe?” When you can look at other companies’ experiences, successes and tribulations, then it’s easier to challenge convention and have a strong opinion because it’s someone else’s situation.

However, the great thing about a book club in which people organically contribute is that you naturally start applying the concepts from the books to your own work environment. With internal trust, you can reflect on what has worked well (and what hasn’t), as well as use the book to reference a common foundation for handling scenarios in the future. For example, it will be easier to be more “radically candid” with each other at ExactHire moving forward–as many of us have studied the approach for doing so together.

Why we started an office book club at ExactHire

There are so many benefits to reading, such as gaining new perspective and improving your vocabulary; however, these basic benefits are multiplied when you also have the opportunity to discuss books within a comfortable group setting. Even though we’ve only had one discussion so far, I’m already seeing internal advantages such as

  • climbing out of a creative rut that can strike during the post-holiday gloom that often characterizes mid-winter,
  • breaking down communication silos by inviting members from all departments to participate,
  • feeling more connected with each other considering we have a very remote-friendly workforce,
  • better relating to the perspectives of co-workers at different position levels,
  • higher participation rates in development because it is opt-in-oriented with low barriers to entry,
  • giving more people the chance to have a voice, and
  • providing the perfect opportunity to practice listening more effectively.

How to start your own employee book club

When planning your office book club, think about how your culture will impact the level of formality in your discussions, and whether you use consistent discussion questions or switch it up every time. Additionally, the size of your organization may determine whether it makes sense to have many cross-departmental groups or champion department-specific groups. ExactHire is a smaller company and so I will share the steps we took to launch our book club.

Download ExactHire Company Culture E-book

Generate interest and make it optional

The catalyst for our own ExactHire book club started with a conversation; however, yours may begin with a group email, a post to your company Slack channel or an agenda item in a company meeting.

Don’t write a novel of expectations for how it will operate at the onset (though some of you might think my invitation is quite lengthy below), but do emphasize to employees that the club is optional and should be educational and fun.

Office Book Club | Work | ExactHire

Stick with appropriate book genres

Give people a framework of what types of books should be expected and which genres would work best for a company book club. For example, titles about leadership, business, entrepreneurship, professional development and even some self-help books are all great options.

I recommend that the founder(s) of the book club select the very first book. Then, have all members vote on future sessions’ selections. Remember to keep book topics diverse and push yourself to read things that you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on your own–that’s a significant driver for many to participate in a club so that they are accountable to expanding outside the box of their typical reading preferences.

Make it easy for people to participate

The company should buy the books (or digital titles) for participants. It’s fine to encourage people to use any existing unlimited e-book/audiobook subscriptions they may have or to check their local library first, but ultimately the organization’s investment in a few books is a small price to pay for the employee development return on investment it stands to gain.

We pay for copies of our book club books, and we offer an optional employee benefit that pays for a portion of employees’ subscriptions to an unlimited online book service in exchange for their commitment to write a book-inspired blog quarterly.

And, remember that the book club itself is an employee benefit. Don’t forget to list it as such on your employment offers and the benefits list on your career website.

Make it convenient and accessible

Plan your book club discussion for a day when there are already a lot of people in the office. For example, at ExactHire we plan our book club to immediately follow the “Monthly Nom Nom” during which we all gather to share a catered (or potluck) meal together. Since many of us frequently work remotely, this is usually the day of the month with the most people in the office (serve them food, they will come)! Be mindful that the day you schedule your event isn’t already too packed with other meetings, and consider serving a light refreshment…or caffeine boost if it is immediately following a meal.

At ExactHire, we can never have everyone available to meet in person because we have teammates from Utah to Indiana to Germany! Therefore, we use Google Meet to video conference with our truly remote employees so they can participate, too. If you need to accommodate different time zones, be as inclusive as possible when scheduling the time of day for your book club session.

Finally, be intentional about the frequency for your discussions. Does it make sense to meet for shorter discussions bi-weekly to discuss a few chapters, or longer discussions that encompass the entire book on a monthly or quarterly basis? Within our book club, we’re starting with a quarterly cadence and discussing the entire book each time.

Do basic discussion preparation

The club founder(s) should lead the first discussion and should create an editable, shared document with ideas for discussion questions. This document should be visible to participants in advance of the meeting. Invite participants to throw question ideas on the document as inspiration strikes them, too. Also, remind people about the event about a week in advance in case anyone needs an extra nudge to finish the entire book on time.

Include questions about concepts within the book, but also list questions that will cause the group to take time to apply the concepts to real life examples from your organization, too. If you struggle to come up with questions on your own, do an internet search for notes and summaries on the book you are reading, and look for discussion guides that already exist online so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This approach is particularly helpful if you are designated to lead a discussion after you listened to an audiobook while driving or working out (without the ability to take notes).

Here are some question ideas to get you started.

  • What did you encounter in this book that you weren’t expecting when you first took interest in it?
  • Which parts of this book did you dislike?
  • What is one thing you are going to implement or do differently now that you’ve read this book?
  • Pick your favorite passage/story, read it out loud to the group and explain why it’s important to you.
  • What was your “aha” moment while reading this book?
  • What was missing from the book in your opinion?
  • Thinking about the concepts within the book, how have we already applied them well within our own organization. Give examples.
  • Which book concepts do we need to better incorporate within our workplace? What are the appropriate next steps for doing so?

After the first book club event, ask for volunteers to take turns leading different future sessions. Don’t force participation, but let people rise to the occasion. When people vote on future books on a survey, consider asking them to indicate if they’d also like to lead that discussion if their suggested book is chosen.

“Don’t force participation, but let people rise to the occasion.”

Encourage active participation

Fortunately, it isn’t too difficult to get a variety of people to join the discussion at ExactHire. Our first book club included comments from all participants and there was a healthy banter during a variety of questions. Of course, perhaps this was because our first book was all about candor.

If all your attendees aren’t as willing to speak up, be patient and keep discussion questions focused on the book concepts initially rather than how they specifically apply to your workplace. As confidence grows among the group, you may find that discussion naturally moves to how the concepts can be applied to your workplace. As trust grows within the group, you’ll see that more inclusive, engaging conversation emerges.

Include everyone in future book planning

At the close of your first meeting, invite everyone to send suggestions for future books to one person who will compile them into a survey so that people may vote on a winner. This person may be the designated leader of the next discussion, or a consistent point person within your organization.

I’ve already received a number of intriguing book suggestions for our next discussion in April, and I’ll be using a survey to allow employees to rank their favorites. Be sure and share your survey with the entire company for each future session in case different employees prefer to participate at different times of year. Attendance will vary based on schedules and interest in the chosen book.

There are a variety of digital tools you may use to collectively keep tabs on books of interest for future discussions as well. I enjoy gathering ideas from posts on Pinterest and podcasts and blogs. Then, I keep track of books on my “to-read” list using Goodreads–an online community of book lovers.

Happy reading!

While these steps have worked well so far for my company, don’t be afraid to experiment with different formats for your own organizational book club. Your company culture, core values and current business challenges will guide you in a direction that resonates with your own employees.

Just remember to keep it fun and leverage the events as an opportunity to foster employee development and maximize the employee experience!

cultivating-company-culture-exacthire

Weave “Why” Into the Hiring Process, Or Don’t Bother Recruiting!

Have you thought about your organization’s “why” lately? Why do you exist as an employer and is it compelling inspiration for your employees and for job seekers?

I’ve been thinking about this a ton lately, and when I kept on hearing about Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, during my weekly digest of business podcasts I decided to listen to the audiobook. I’m seven years late to the party as it was first published in 2011. Sinek was talking about this in his TED Talks even earlier; yet, this idea is still relevant today.

Many of Sinek’s business examples (e.g. Apple, Southwest Airlines) focus on how clarity around their why inevitably drove customer acquisition and retention. Customers will buy from brands that inspire them, and what resonates for one person will fall flat for another.

In the book, Sinek shared how former Southwest Airlines CEO, Herb Kelleher, championed this belief with the culture he fostered in his organization. Years after Kelleher’s death, his legacy lives on in a still powerful culture that endeavors to give everyone the freedom to fly. In fact, my nephew Andrew, a airplane mechanic with Southwest Airlines, is a prime example.

Andrew and his wife were on vacation returning from the Pacific Northwest last year when their Southwest flight was at risk for further delays due to mechanical issues. Although my nephew had never worked at that airport (which was not a Southwest hub) and was not on the clock, he realized they were short on mechanics due to an extenuating circumstance. Consequently, he informed them that he was a Southwest mechanic and volunteered to assist in the time of need. He was motivated to help his family to have the freedom to fly home more quickly; however, Southwest still had to be responsive to empower him to step in at an unfamiliar location. They did respond, it worked out and he was commended in an all company publication shortly thereafter–a public reinforcement of Southwest’s why.

Having clarity about the purpose of an organization benefits the recruitment process and employee retention, too. In fact, inspiring job seekers and employees is even more important than customers, because without the passionate commitment of your employees, your customers won’t be inspired either.

Align recruiting strategy with your why

Are you currently painting the picture of why you exist to your potential future workforce? If you’re not sure, then you may be leading with the “how” and “what” of your organization (like so many employers) rather than following Sinek’s “Golden Circle.” In the circle, why always precedes how and what.

Remember, a candidate’s experience in your recruiting and hiring process will drive whether they believe your culture is true to the expectation you set. You must craft an experience that exudes your organizational why in order to truly engage job candidates.

At ExactHire, a piece of our why is to use technology to enable flexibility that allows people to balance work and personal life. That element of championing employment that accommodates your own lifestyle is repeated in our sixth and final core value.

ExactHire Core Values

Our work to truly articulate our ExactHire why is a work in progress, which can sometimes be frustrating. Nevertheless, enrichment is often realized in the journey more than the destination. Our newer journey has led us to build a new hiring software application that embodies the piece of our why that champions flexibility in the employment experience. Its first release will especially serve employers of large numbers of hourly, relatively interchangeable positions. This is the applicant sourcing world of “Just In Time” (JIT) hiring, and if that recruiting reality resonates with you, then you already know that it demands flexibility.

Weaving our why into hiring process design

The essence of our employment experience is previewed to candidates via the structure and activities involved with our recruiting and onboarding process. We think intentionally about incorporating our why throughout our hiring process.

Hiring process stakeholders

Before I ever post a new job opening at ExactHire, internally we’ve planned which teammates will be involved at which step in the process, as well as what their objective is in participating (e.g. questions to answer, information to impart). We talk to candidates during interviews about how the trust we place in employees allows us to enjoy flexibility in our working schedules. We can instill that trust due to the careful vetting process job candidates undergo. The ones who make it have chosen not to withdraw from the process despite our consistent candor about what it’s really like to work at ExactHire.

Additionally, the technology that we develop (which we use in our own recruiting process of course) must be flexible to

  • meet candidates where they are,
  • allow them to communicate in the manner that they prefer, and
  • nurture their current engagement level (even if they aren’t ready to make a move yet).

Hiring process steps

Since our why focuses on flexibility, then our how must include regular, clear communication. At the onset of every ExactHire candidate’s recruiting experience, we describe all the interview steps involved in the hiring process, as well as how long we generally review candidates at each stage. There is nothing secret about the steps we take to hire; if we aren’t up front with what is required and our preferred time frame, then we’ll waste the candidate’s time and our time with people who can’t accommodate our needs. We treat people like adults and trust them to opt out if the career opportunity we’re serving isn’t appetizing.

We recently interviewed candidates for an additional salesperson for our team, and for this particular job, the following steps helped us demonstrate our why:

  • Short, initial employment application – While we have many questions for applicants, we recognize that they won’t answer all of them in the first step. So, we only ask a few key questions at the onset.
  • Phone interview – While this is a somewhat traditional approach to screening candidates, if we’re hiring for an inside sales position then phone presence is critical to assess.
  • Remainder of employment application – Once candidates have been engaged during the phone interview, they are more flexible to complete the remaining questions on our application.
  • Behavioral and cognitive assessment – These tools provide us with great data, but that data is only actionable for us because we know our why and which assessment scales are most critical in supporting that why.
  • Video interview – For our recent salesperson selection process, we did a video conference interview instead of an in-person interview to flexibly accommodate everyone’s schedule more easily. Video presence is also an important skill to assess given that modern technology has made it easy for some sales calls to be done via video conference.
  • Job shadow – The final step in our hiring process is a hands-on session during which the candidate experiences what it’s really like on the job and makes sure it is the right fit. He/she can experience our why first-hand.

Job description language

I support Sinek’s suggestion to be brutally honest about the realities of a job. After all, you want to hire people that want the job that you actually have, not one that you bait them with in an airbrushed job description. Here are some tips for incorporating why into your job descriptions.

Don’t hide your warts

Be honest about the thornier aspects of the role and your company. For ExactHire, that means I’ve included job listing truths like

  • our web developers work longer hours while we build a brand new application,
  • we have a 401K plan but no corporate match,
  • due to our small company size you must have a trailblazing mentality–as there is not always a precedent for situations you encounter, and
  • employees must be resourceful and seek help from our whole team–they can’t depend only on their boss.

Highlight your best features

Don’t forget to showcase your organization’s strengths, too. Focus on ones that lend authenticity to your company’s why. For us, these include

  • a relatively flexible work schedule (e.g. I don’t have to use PTO to take my kids to the dentist),
  • the ability to telecommute, and
  • the chance to impact the entire organization and be empowered to help our clients bring flexibility to their job seekers and employees, too.

Be practical

If you only focus on the why in your job title and description, then you will be doing yourself a disservice. For example, you should still use job-relevant keywords in the description because not all employers will attract the same kind of job seeker attention that Simon Sinek does when he posts a job. While your job description should inspire the right job seekers, it can inspire on a larger scale if it’s able to be found via keyword-relevant queries on search engines and job boards.

Appreciate quality over quantity

With brutal honesty in your job description and thoughtful consideration for your organizational why, know that you may not be flooded with applicants. However, the quality of candidates you receive and your potential for cultivating longer employment tenure will be much better.

If you can’t tolerate the thought of fewer applicants as a result of better articulating your why and your expectations, then you’ve either completely missed your why; or, your why isn’t compelling enough when conveyed in its present form.

Employment brand champions

No matter how pervasive your why is across the organization, some employees are better advocates for your company purpose than others. Identify these teammates and spotlight them on your careers site, in social media and print, and within your interviewing process.

Consider using video testimonials with employees telling personal stories about how they identify with the vision of the employer. Also, create blog content that paints a picture of why (or why not) certain types of people should work for the company. Authentic, employee-inspired content does a fantastic job of setting expectations with job seekers regarding their potential fit with your organization.

Engagement during pre-boarding phase

The time between when a candidate accepts an offer and when he actually begins work is a delicate phase. I’ve seen organizations stood up by new hires on day one because the new candidates were not engaged by the organization appropriately during this pre-boarding period.

Reduce new hire “buyer’s remorse” by sharing examples of your company living up to its why during pre-boarding. During our recent recruitment process, I sent a photo of the team enjoying our annual holiday event on a Monday afternoon to remind our yet-to-start new hire of our focus on work-life balance.

This type of image is great content for the company social media profiles, as well. It helps illustrate your why to additional passive job seekers and existing employees and partners.

ExactHire Team Holiday Outing 2018

Employee onboarding

Senior leaders are caretakers of the company why. They must support the vision and inspire others through their actions. Involve these leaders in your new hire onboarding process–whether they sit down and meet directly with new hires or record a video that is shared during the first week of employment.

Due to the scope of their positions with the organization, they are generally busy people and it can be hard to find time to align them with the onboarding process to help support the why. However, while their frequent focus on profits, product features or service agreements is critical, without their attention directed to a compelling why your offering may be at risk of becoming just a commodity.

Keep walking the talk – don’t blame others

Organizations should put their best foot forward to support the why during the hiring process; however, don’t make the mistake of forgetting to reiterate the why to long-term employees, too. While it is a group effort, you have a stake in supporting the vision as well. So, what should you do if you find yourself among co-workers who are disengaged or a supervisor who isn’t representing the why?

While it can be easy to blame others and try to change their behavior, your best chance of making a difference is to be the rising tide.

“If you want to change someone else, change yourself. People change because they’re inspired by someone else’s example, not because they were coerced into doing it.” – Rachel Hollis

What about when you are the one needing the lift–especially this time of year? I can relate and offer this advice. While I can’t snow bird just yet to escape the drab, bone-chilling cold of the Midwest in winter, I can fight any of my own creeping disengagement by creating opportunities for us all to be more engaged.

“If you wish to feel more engaged, fulfilled and happy at work, make it your obsession to help the people around you find more engagement, fulfillment and happiness in their jobs.” – Simon Sinek

I was inspired by a conversation with a co-worker recently to start an optional quarterly book club at work. And while Start With Why isn’t actually our first reading assignment, we have chosen Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I believe it will help us dig into better articulating ExactHire’s why and where we still need some work connecting to it.

Don’t undervalue the business why

You can’t get this part wrong. If you do, it will weaken everything in your company. While inertia may sustain the organization for awhile, eventually the most talented people will leave to seek more challenge and/or something energizing or inspiring to support.

Is Your HR Software Hurting Your Employee Experience?

Human resources technology is in a unique position to not only provide employers with employee experience data, but to also influence the quality of the employee experience, itself. For years software applications have allowed HR departments to more efficiently manage the administrative tasks associated with people management, but now through next generation interfaces, applications are enabling employee self-service in new and exciting ways, too.

From automatic prompts for new hires to schedule mentoring luncheons to instant access to an interactive, virtual organization chart, modern talent wants information on the go and on demand. But, despite the increasingly innovative ways in which automation can empower both employees and HR to process data, there should still always be a place for “actual human” engagement between applicants, employees, HR and management.

With so many options available in the HR tech space, and numerous factors impacting a successful vendor selection outcome, it’s no surprise that HR software often turns into a love-hate relationship with employers. The key to whether you have the most suitable HR software in place certainly depends on the degree to which it aligns with your people strategy, but also its ability to turn stored HR data into impactful workforce insights.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the following HR technology considerations for evaluating whether an application will have a positive impact on your organization’s overall employee experience.

  • Product implementation
  • Support and training
  • Integration vs. all-in-one
  • Employee self-service
  • Communication
  • Reporting and predictive insights

Product Implementation

You might ask how relevant the initial implementation phase is to the entire employee experience. After all, arguably it may only touch a handful of administrative users in human resources before the product is unveiled to an entire organization for use. However, how many of us have heard about painful software implementations that have taken (gasp!) more than a year!

While hopefully this is the exception more than the rule within your HR tribe, even month-long implementations can adversely impact the employee experience when you consider the hasty stop-gap plans that are used while waiting for a new product.

When selecting a technology vendor, verify whether implementation is likely to take weeks or months. Also, do research to substantiate whether this expectation has been accurate for other customers. If your plan is to implement more than one module of an application at different points in time, have a good understanding of how the vendor partner supports you in the first phase versus subsequent implementation phases (once the new client “honeymoon” may be over).

Support and Training

For many employers, the quality of the employee experience is influenced by the timeliness with which information is made available to employees upon their request. Some requests must be addressed by pulling data from HR software applications. Your organization’s ability to process these requests will depend not only on staff members’ ability to use the software effectively, but also the vendor’s responsiveness when your team needs assistance.

Take a hard look at your organization’s true support needs while thinking about the tech savviness of your own team as well as the quantity and quality of the vendor resources available. Will you be content to wait three days for a support ticket response from your vendor, or do you usually require same-day assistance? Is it easy to search for the training resources you need to learn how to use new software features? The faster you can get the information you need as an internal product champion, the faster you will be able to serve the needs of your own employees.

Integration vs. All-in-One

 

Should my organization adopt an all-in-one human resources information system (HRIS) or a series of stand-alone specialty applications?

This may be the most polarizing question in the HR technology space, and your preferred camp will depend on the needs of your employer. It may also depend on what you inherited from your predecessors when joining your organization. In fact, the chart below shows that many respondents from ExactHire’s 2018 Tech-Based Employee Experience Survey use both an HRIS and other stand-alone specialty applications. In fact, the two camps are not mutually exclusive.

  • HR Technology Product Mix
  • HRIS + stand-alone recruiting
  • HRIS + stand-alone onboarding
  • HRIS + stand-alone payroll
  • HRIS + other HR software
  • % Respondents
  • 38%
  • 8%
  • 13%
  • 22%

The following factors may help you determine which product mix is right for your organization.

Administrative pain points

Which pieces of the talent management process are taking up the most time for HR? When HR is buried in administration, “actual human” engagement suffers. If recruiting is the priority due to adding a new office location, for example, then a robust applicant tracking system may be desirable compared to a payroll company’s HRIS recruiting module. However, if hiring happens relatively infrequently but payroll is complicated, then an employer may prefer an HRIS with basic recruiting capabilities for the occasional job opening.

Data gaps and data redundancy

If end-to-end integration of data is the priority for your organization, then consider whether any sacrifices you make on features outweigh the opportunity cost of time spent on potential data export/import activities.

Or, if you plan on integrating separate solutions, understand how employees move through the virtual employment life cycle and make sure data remains accurate across systems and easily accessible.

Feature wish list

Will the functionality that applicants or existing employees expect from your organization (relative to your competitors) be available in an all-in-one system? Or, is there an application that you can use as your data change “single source of truth” that pushes information to periphery applications via one-way integration?

Growth plans

Do today’s tech needs look similar to your tech needs one to two years from now? If not, consider the scalability of any stand-alone applications and/or the ability to easily incorporate additional HRIS modules later.

Price

When evaluating different types of systems, think about what you need today and whether you are paying only for your needs today…or also for things you might need some day. Finding the balance between paying for scalability vs. paying for unnecessary feature bloat isn’t always easy. Spending more money on ultimately underutilized technology means less money available for other programs that may positively impact the employee experience.

Employee Self-Service

Customer self-service options abound in the information economy. From scanning your own groceries to using Alexa as your modern mix tape, consumers’ ability to help themselves is a killer advantage in the competition for market share. The same dynamic exists in the employment arena–employers that implement the right combination of personal interaction mixed with savvy self-service options are winners in the war for talent.

And not only does giving employees the ability to help themselves engage them, it frees HR to work on other experience initiatives. Additionally, it ensures the accuracy of HR data since it is regularly verified by the true authority on the data–the employee.

Be sure and have a clear understanding of how any software application’s self-service options may empower your own employees to do more. For example, look for applications that provide subsequent prompts for users to take advantage of other features that would be of interest based on their existing system usage or profile. By providing employees prompts to provide more information over time, software improves the user experience and avoids leaving employees feeling like they are “drinking from the fire hose” just to start using an application.

Communication

Think about your employees’ primary means of communication within the organization. Is it predominantly email, or do many conversations live in chat windows or even in Slack? Wherever correspondence lives, it probably does so because that channel is comfortable, well-established and easy-to-use.

The same must be true of your HR technology in order to engage applicants or existing employees to use communication tools to collaborate on the employee lifecycle. Consider the following questions to assess a software application’s communication tools.

  • Is it easy to email someone from the software application? And if that person responds, is his response also documented in the software interface?
  • Can users easily connect with one another and take action on pending items within the application (e.g. assign tasks, make notes, update progress)?
  • Is it possible to schedule events within the software via calendar integration?
  • Do other integrations exist between the software application, social media sites and other related third party sites?

The more your human resources technology aligns with the communication style already preferred by your employees, the better. You want the tools you make available to your workforce to enhance its productivity…not disrupt it.

Reporting and Predictive Insights

One of the most exciting aspects of smart technology is how it enables us to transform stored data into actionable information–allowing employers to spot trends and take action. Emerging HR technology goes a step further and uses artificial intelligence to analyze existing data to predict future outcomes. These predictive insights are the competitive advantage employers need to attract talent that is the best fit for the organization and retain that talent for maximum productivity.

Insights traditionally originate in the reporting dashboard of your HR software. And, the degree to which you will be able to run customized reports and use existing data to make decisions about new hires or new HR processes will vary across software applications. In fact, in the aforementioned survey, only 42% of respondents indicated they have no issues extracting the information they need from their existing HR software.

  • Reporting Ease
  • Easy to report on desired information
  • Struggle to report on desired information
  • Cannot report on desired information
  • % Respondents
  • 42%
  • 43%
  • 15%

Many HR professionals regularly struggle to pull the reports they need even though the data is stored in their system somewhere. Causes of this struggle are often attributable to

  • siloed data living in different systems that are not integrated,
  • a complex HRIS that doesn’t have an easy-to-use reporting interface,
  • redundant data between system modules that is up-to-date in one module but not the other, or
  • having access only to canned reports without the ability to build custom reports on demand.

Your software shouldn’t be holding your employee data hostage.

Best-in-class HR technology gives administrative users access to a virtual workforce explorer to pull incredibly specific data insights on their employee population. Additionally, look for more functionality to marry data from one aspect of the employee life cycle to another to make better decisions. For example, do insights about your best performing existing employees allow you to better vet applicants with similar attributes? More specifically, does your software application prompt you to easily make those correlations?

Alleviating the Pain to Improve Employee Experience

Employees’ opinions about their own experience constantly evolve, and even the smallest radar blips can cause significant declines in satisfaction and engagement over time. The good news is that human resources technology is your tool for measuring the employee experience and capturing insights on how to improve it.

If you have reservations about your current system, then use the considerations presented in this blog to begin evaluating your next steps for incorporating HR software that is better suited to your organization. In our next blog, we’ll address strategies for making a business case for new technology adoption.

 

Which is Celebrated More at Your Organization–Talent or Tenacity?

How do you know when it is time to throw in the towel on your latest project? The answer will vary from one individual to another, and perhaps it is dependent on the current environmental circumstances, too. I have to say…January in the Midwest is an easy time to be a quitter despite all the best new year resolution intentions. So many things are stacked against you…the cold, the ice, the deprivation of consistent sunlight and the post-holiday withdrawal. So what keeps some of us going despite the odds?

Well, a tolerance for bearing subzero temperatures and a lifetime of Indiana winters is probably a decent start. But when it comes to losing weight, getting that degree, earning a promotion or achieving that lofty departmental goal, what matters more: talent or tenaciousness?

I think most reasonable people would say “a little of both.” However, Angela Duckworth makes the argument that “grit” counts for more than most people tend to believe in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She comments that most people would say that being a hard worker is more important than being a “natural.” Surprisingly, though, research studies suggest the subconscious proves the opposite. For example, this study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology has shown that individuals presented with two different musicians’ profiles (one celebrating talent-based achievement and the other citing effort-based achievement) tend to pick the talent-based “natural” as the more successful musician upon hearing a musical selection–even though the two different selections are actually played by the same musician.

In this blog, I’ll share how concepts from Duckworth’s book can be applied to fostering grit and tenacity in your life and in your organization. First, let’s understand the relationship between talent, effort and achievement.

Why do we overemphasize talent?

One might argue that having a bias toward talent is a form of self-preservation. Would you rather beat yourself up for not having the swimming skills of Michael Phelps; or, would it be easier to chalk up your lack of pool prowess to the fact that Phelps was born to swim and isn’t even in the same category as you?

When we compare ourselves to genius…or even to a perceived “natural”…then we don’t have to feel bad about falling short because our relative disadvantage is out of our control. It then becomes easy to discount the long hours of practice that an expert has expended on his skill to achieve greatness.

Talent alone is not a means to greatness

But still, talent can’t be ignored, right? I mean, Michael Phelps does have a seven foot arm span which hasn’t hurt his gold medal prospects. There is in fact a place for talent. But what is worth more…talent or effort? And, what combination equals achievement?

In her book, Duckworth proposes that “with effort, talent becomes skill and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive.” And so you must start with a little bit of talent…but natural talent left unpracticed will fall short of skill honed through effort over time. In fact, she argues that effort counts twice:

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement

So, you might conclude that the more effort applied, the more your skill improves and the more you are capable of achieving even if you start with very little talent. Can you think of an example from your own life where this equation rang true?

I can. I played varsity basketball in high school and managed to be a starting forward my senior year, but my position was tenuous at times. I was decent, but less accomplished than the other starters. The one thing that over time distinguished me from the others was my ability to shoot with my weak hand on the left side of the basket. All the other players would generally practice with only their dominant right hand, but I started to see a knack for shooting–if only reasonably awkwardly–with my weak left hand when under the basket on the left side.

Seeing a spark of talent for doing so and with the encouragement of my coaches, I continued practicing with my off hand everyday until it felt like a natural move during the game. My flexibility to play both sides of the lane made me a valuable player in the starting spot and I even favored the left side because it gave me a competitive edge–particularly when I was fouled with an “and 1” opportunity rather than stuffed after shooting into a defender’s arms with my right hand on the left side.

Talent is a starting point for skill, but consistency of effort is what matters in the end. And while it might be fairly easy to examine this with the lens of your own life, it is applicable from an organizational standpoint, too. So, do the tenacious have a place at your organization?

Four elements of grit for your workforce

“A combination of passion and perseverance makes high achievers special.
High achievers have grit.” – from Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Duckworth identified four elements of grit in her book: interest, practice, purpose and hope. While the context of these was mostly focused on curating grit in individuals in her book, employers can use these same components to inspire conditions for creating gritty workforces.

  • Interest. Passion doesn’t exist unless employees enjoy what they do most of the time. While intrinsic motivation may not happen on day one, creating an environment in which employees have the opportunity to consistently develop their interests over time is a step in the right direction.
    • Encourage employees to belong to special interest groups.
    • Encourage cross-training between departments.
  • The capacity to practice. For grit to exist, there must be a drive toward skills mastery–the perseverance to continuously improve. Does your organization make it easy enough for employees to do deliberate practice of their skills–free from distraction?
    • Ensure that employees have access to quiet places to work without interruption.
    • Encourage supervisors and direct reports to work together to set stretch goals. When those are achieved, set new ones.
    • Champion a culture of timely feedback so that employees understand what adjustments to make to master their skills.
    • Train leaders and mentors to be effective coaches for employees as they practice their skills.
  • Purpose. Knowing that your work matters is powerful external motivation that can persist even longer than passion alone. Savvy employers successfully connect the work of individual employees to the energizing purpose of the overall organization. When an employee finds her purpose, it can be the difference between just a job and her life’s pursuit.
    • Challenge employees to evolve their job responsibilities to meet emerging organizational needs and satisfy their own developing interests.
    • Ask employees to seek out professional mentors that can help them connect a strong sense of purpose to their interests.
  • Hope. Hope is stick-to-itiveness–the ability to keep going when it’s tough, and be resilient enough to have a growth mindset. Does your organization empower employees to believe they have control over their own outcomes?
    • Foster optimism rather than helplessness when breaking tough news with business explanations that are temporary and specific, rather than permanent and broad, according to Duckworth’s book.
    • Train mentors and managers to be encouraging and open-minded rather than rehearsed and standardized in their approaches.

What are you doing to foster grit in your workforce?

The good news is that grit can grow. I think of it like a contagious muscle…if you surround yourselves with other gritty people it catches, and the more you exercise it the grittier you can become. Of course the opposite is true, too, so don’t fall into grit lethargy!

Start identifying activities that are gritty

With the necessity of being interested, having the ability to practice, finding purpose and having hope…it can be daunting to know which activities will catapult your employees to be, as Duckworth calls them, “paragons of grit.” She recommends starting with the “hard thing rule.”

The “Hard Thing Rule.”

Do something that is both interesting and hard…and do it for more than a year.

As I was reading this I thought, finally–justification for me running my two kids around to multiple activities such as scouts, soccer, basketball, and choir year after year! My own comment when defending my actions to others was that I want my kids to be used to being committed to and involved with something that teaches them something new….so that as they become teenagers they are used to being busy and don’t fall into the jaws of poor life decisions.

But the key to success is to let your kids…or your employees…chose their own interests/activities. To become truly gritty, however, studies referenced in the book suggest that involvement in a specific extracurricular activity must last two years. So, perhaps consider two year terms for your employer’s committees. Endurance and stamina for a task apparently count more than intensity in this context.

Create goal frameworks

What if your employees have lots of interests and goals? It might be hard for them to decide what to quit and what to focus on? Duckworth recommends prioritizing goals within a pyramid-like framework or ladder. The top level goal is an end in itself that remains unchanged for extended periods of time; whereas, the bottom level goals are minor tasks that are done to support the middle level and top level goals. The bottom level goals may be frequently replaced in the pursuit of other goals that might better support the top of the pyramid.

Organizational Tenacity | Create Goal Frameworks

So then, one might say that a gritty organization is one with a sound and well-communicated goal framework. The primary organizational goal is a big, hairy audacious one that takes some time to achieve, but that gives meaning to all initiatives below it. Less gritty organizations don’t have clearly defined hierarchical goals; or, they have a bunch of mid-level goals that compete with one another more than support a primary initiative.

Does your senior management team have passion and perseverance for big goals, as well as the capacity to lead supportive goal setting efforts throughout the organization?

Champion a gritty culture

When you hang around groups with strong social norms, then you either adopt many of the same behaviors for yourself over time or you eventually leave the group. If you want gritty employees, you need to have a gritty culture that challenges people to pursue interests, practice them over time and persevere despite setbacks.

Is there a clear breakpoint in employee tenure at which turnover significantly drops at your organization? If so, it’s probably the point at which newer employees feel as though they’ve assimilated fully into your culture–the point at which they’ve adopted your norms as their own and they identify and embrace them…even champion them moving forward.

  • What are you doing, then, to assimilate people into your culture more quickly?
  • Are you training managers and mentors to be beacons of grit?
  • Are you living your core values everyday?

Tenacity catalyzes talent

In conclusion, it is clear that you can’t forget the role talent plays in achievement. However, talent is amplified when continuous effort is applied to hone skill and lead to achievement. If you want gritty employees who have the capacity to put in the effort, then you might hire tenacious people who have demonstrated past performance of sustained effort on extracurricular interests. This can be unearthed in the interview process.

Additionally, examine your culture and workplace practices to see where you might apply the four components of grit to foster greater achievement within your organization.

Consider ATS Integration with Predictive Index

Thanksgiving Video 2017 from ExactHire

There is so much for which the ExactHire team is thankful from the past year, and one of our favorite traditions is putting it together in video format to share with you! Please watch our short 2017 video to see the highlights and you may see the script below, too. Happy Thanksgiving!

ExactHire 2017 Thanksgiving Video

Thanksgiving Video Transcript

It’s time to give THANKS for the past year,
And for what we’re thankful, well…it’s quite clear

T is for Teamwork
Tag-teaming our booth at HR Indiana
Trendy laptop stickers with core values–their bananas!

T-shirt design contests, and of course
Team photos in snazzy shirts, you guessed the source!

H is for Healthy Competition
Hotly contested Monday Fundays
Hallway chair racing that leaves us in a daze

Hidden surprises in a cling wrap ball
Holiday ugly sweater contest…Ric Flair won it all

Heartbreaking rubber band archery injuries
Humorous corn hole champion certificate, and Harrowing mini, mini-golf games please

A is for Advancement — our products, our organization, ourselves
Activating a partnership with the talented DT Starts team
Authoring new content resources from onboarding to recruiting

Augmenting involvement in SHRM conferences and associations
Attempting to achieve new skills validation via HR certifications

N is for New Beginnings…like
New members of the team, and
Noshing on some schnitzel since moving to Germany…oh the dream!

Noteworthy farewell to Jeff who remains a silent partner
Nurturing office camaraderie, and undertaking home improvement projects to make 60% of our cribs look sharper!

K is for Keeping Perspective…making time for little things that make us happy
Kicking it into gear with TRX at the gym, and
Kisses for newborn babies, her precious new little him

Knowing that it makes sense to get away sometimes
Key moments in our families’ lives that give us smiles

Knocking the rivals down a notch with a team victory
Keen YETI accessories that make a statement…look at that man purse’s stitchery!

Kilometers traveled abroad in European style
Kind new best friends to greet us at home–relax for awhile

Killer 5K runs with a mom and her kiddo…time to refuel
Keeping it cozy with our loved ones at night when it’s cool

S is for Sharing Experiences and spending time together
Searching for clues during an escape room outing
Socializing on our weekly water cooler question for some weekend activity scouting

Sweet treat exchanges during the holidays
State fair lunch hijinks…deep fried you name it, five different ways

Sunning ourselves while eating strawberries downtown
Soaking in the melodies at Symphony on the Prairie in the best seats around

Savoring the flavors of the Monthly Nom Nom meal,
Sitting with each other and catching up is what keeps it real.

Most of all we are thankful for YOU!
As you give us all the opportunity to love what we do.

Happy Thanksgiving from ExactHire!