Re-engage Your Workforce

Unemployment rates are the lowest they have been in three years! This is great news for both companies and employees. The United States Unemployment Rate for April 2012 was 8.1, the lowest it has been since January 2009, and has been slowly going down since the end of 2010. Companies are now faced with a critical opportunity to re-engage their workforce before employees leave for greener pastures.

Employees plan to explore their job options. According to Atlanta-based Randstand, one of the largest human resource staffing companies, almost half – 45 percent of employees plan to pursue new job opportunities in the coming future. In a time of right sizing, little to no raises and benefit cuts some companies have begun to think of employees as replaceable – underestimating the cost to replace star talent. Programs and budgets to support employee engagement were not a focus and many companies used the economy as an excuse to not respect their most valuable assets.

Ensure your employees feel valued and understand their role and growth opportunities within the company. One of the most cost effective things a company can do to increase engagement is to listen. Does the employee feel valued? Are they happy? What can the company do to help with their development? Two-way communication goes a long way to make the employee feel respected.

Retaining and attracting top talent needs to be a focus. In addition to encouraging management to create dialogue with employees, internal communications and engagement programs are key to retaining top talent. Depending on your companies’ culture and size, the programs can vary from a recognition program to an innovation platform to a compelling intranet that provides your employees the opportunity to connect and access training and development materials. Before initiating new programs, take the time to understand the needs and preferred communication style of your workforce. Custom programs that match your culture and objectives may take more time to develop but will likely create a larger impact in your overall engagement.

Do you understand the value in employee engagement but you don’t know where to start?  Call Tribe, we would be happy to help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Passive Recruiting: Do Your Hiring Practices Create Brand Ambassadors?

Active recruiting for top talent is only one part of the equation. Perhaps even more powerful is the passive recruiting that’s happening all the time at your company.

Engaged employees speak well of the company, both in person and online. When candidates are considering your company, they’ll reach out to current employees, through  LinkedIn, or networking events, or even friends of friends, in order to get the inside scoop.

Those candidates you reject will also be sharing their opinions of your company. In Tribe’s proprietary research with current job seekers, 87 percent of those respondents who were not hired at a particular company — but had a positive experience, such as simply being treated with respect and courtesy — said they were likely to encourage others to apply to that company in the future.

Your hiring processes can lead directly to increasing your brand ambassadors — or quite the opposite. The American Management Association recently published an article on Tribe’s approach to maximizing the power of passive recruitment through hiring practices titled “Turning Job Applicants (Even the Ones You Don’t Hire) into Brand Ambassadors.” The article also includes tips on how to make that cultural shift in your organization.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Monday Zen: Is It a Hell Yes?

Before you commit to anything, ask yourself this: Is it a hell yes? If you don’t instantly respond in the affirmative, then whatever you’re considering is a hell no. That means there’s no reason to dither about the pros and cons. You’ve got your decision and can move on.

A recent piece in the Fast Company newsletter outlines this approach. In The “Hell Yes” Approach to Better, Bolder Decision Making,” contributing writer Amber Rae describes learning this trick in her work with Seth Godin and Derek Sivers, creator of CD Baby.

As Rae says, “Hell yes or no. Those four words will change the trajectory of your work and life.” Not only do these words help you move faster, they keep you on what you intuitively know is the right path. The next time you’re faced with a decision of whether to pursue a particular opportunity, try asking yourself, “Is it a hell yes?”

This one question has been so useful to me, I wrote a book about it.Hell Yes: Two Little Words for a Simpler, Happier Life,” published by Andrews McMeel in 2009, outlines this approach in a quick read with fantastic illustrations by James Yang.

“This one simple question serves as the sharpest razor, swiftly and completely cutting away anything in the gray area.” That’s a line from the book I particularly like, because the real value of this approach is in eliminating the maybes. It immediately frees you from all the things you agree to do because you don’t stop to think about whether you really want to do them.

Sometimes we agree to something that’s not a hell yes because we feel bad saying no. We worry about disappointing the person who asked. But isn’t it a little egotistical to think that you might be the only person who could fit the bill?

If you say no, that person will just move down the list and ask someone else. And maybe the next person will say, “Hell yes!”

Summer Fun?

May arrived well before I was ready. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My college boys were coming home for the summer! What happened to all that “free” time I was going to have to do some things for my self? I guess it disappeared in the multiple piles of laundry that were deposited in the laundry room as they came in the door. I think those boys didn’t do laundry for weeks, knowing they were coming home soon and mom could do it. Then there was the bedding. I don’t think they washed their sheets the whole school year. Yuck!

That first week was tough. My head was swirling from the loss of our normal family routine. Friends were coming and going at all times of the day and night. My pantry was invaded and food kept disappearing. We ran out of Gatorade, soda, and bottled water. I now had to cook for two more young men. That means more food to make, but I never knew if they were going to be home for dinner or not. We had to start running the dishwasher more often. My husband and I would go to bed and find 12 cups, yes 12 cups, used and in the sink when we got up in the morning! I had to tell Andrew to stop playing his guitar after 10:00 p.m. because his bedroom is right under mine and I couldn’t sleep. Whew! What an adjustment!

But, I’m happy to say we’re in week three of their homecoming and things have really settled down. And we’re actually enjoying the boys and their friends! They’ve started their jobs, which have added some structure and purpose to their days. They like their jobs, which is also awesome. Their friends are taking the time to chat with us and we’re enjoying catching up with them. My house is filled with their joy and laughter. They’re coming up with silly things to do like painting golf balls glow in the dark orange so they can sneak out on the golf course at night and go putting. Or doing “Insanity” work out on my drive way at 10 p.m., a group of them, for the world to see.

We’ve settled into a mandatory Sunday family dinner. It’s so fun for all eight of us to sit around the table and tease each other and talk about what’s going on. Mother’s Day dinner was especially fun. It was a rainy evening and after dinner the kids got out a bunch of old movies of themselves. It was hilarious to see how they interacted with each other and what they had to say both in the movies and as young adults watching the movies. It is amazing how much we forget.

So, all in all, I think it’s going to be a great summer. Yes, we will be constantly filling the refrigerator with drinks and the pantry with food. Yes, I will have the extra laundry to do. Yes, things will be a little chaotic. But, summer is supposed to be fun and relaxing. I’m going to let go and enjoy them. Before I know it, they’re going to be finished with college and moving on with their lives. I want to spend as much time as I can with them while they’re still home.

Values Based Culture: Values Can Make Employees Feel Like They Make a Difference in the Workplace

When developing your company’s values, much of the subject matter will deal with the ways and means your organization turns a profit. This is fairly common and always a good idea to get on paper so people understand your company’s direction within its given industry.

However, one aspect sometimes left out of company values is how your organization interacts with the world at large. It may be through your business or through volunteer efforts, but more and more longstanding employees and potential new hires like the idea of working for a company that allows them to feel like they’re making a difference in the world and their community.

This is especially true when it comes to areas such as sustainability. People enjoy knowing they work for an environmentally conscious company that places an importance on the future of the planet. It communicates to the outside world that your company is full of caring individuals with a respect for more than bottom line thinking.

Think about it. What type of company would you rather work for? One that dedicates every second of every day towards pushing for higher profits with no concern for the effects of their procedures and processes? Or one that recognizes the organized power it has and ability to make a difference in the community and the world at large?

These may not be questions you’ve asked yourself recently, but you can be sure your employees are thinking about it. With the job market slowly opening and unemployment levels dropping, workers who have been holding tight until the rough economy blows over are starting to poke their heads up out of the sand to take a look around. If they stumble upon a position similar to theirs that also gives them the benefit of feeling a sense of pride for helping others, then they may be taking their talents and skills in another direction.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Monday Zen: Do One Thing You’re Really Bad At

You seem like somebody who has it all together. You’re probably excelling in your career, keeping yourself in reasonably good physical shape, managing your finances intelligently.

So go out and find something you’re really bad at. Something that is just not a natural strength for you. The harder, the better.

It’s easy to do the things we’re already good at. Particularly when we’re adults, we tend to spend most of our time in activities where we have mastery. We like to be in control. We don’t want to look stupid. The last thing we want to do is to put ourselves in a situation where we don’t know what we’re doing.

It will be good for your brain. Researchers say that struggling to do something new and unfamiliar can boost brainpower. It can improve creativity, memory, energy levels and even stimulate areas of the brain that have been stagnant.

It’s also helpful for the soul. When you’re not naturally gifted at something, the experience helps build humility. It gives you some perspective. And it can increase compassion, both for others and for yourself.

For example, Pilates is something I’m bad at. I tend to do everything fast and spill things a lot. Slow, precise movements are difficult for me. So right now I’m doing a Pilates lesson every Wednesday at lunch. I’m not sure if my brain is seeing results, but I’m definitely scoring higher in humility.

I Didn’t See Anything About Lockjaw When I Skimmed the Waiver

My parents shook their heads with confusion when I signed up for Muddy Buddy. They were a little more concerned when I signed up for Warrior Dash. But this year, when I announced I was registered for Tough Mudder, they were already numb to my crazy races. My mistake was to show them the YouTube video of the course when I went home for Easter. Now they’re worried and insisting I get a tetanus shot.

For those not familiar with the growing popular mud races, Tough Mudder is 10-12 miles with 25 obstacles such as running through waist high mud for a mile, running through gasoline soaked hay stacks on fire, and crawling through water and mud filled pipes. The obstacle that really has me nervous though is the electroshock therapy. Running through live wires, randomly charged, some up to 10,000 volts.

At first I thought I’d just sprint and hope for the best. After watching a few YouTube videos of people completely face planting after getting shocked, my new strategy is to make my boyfriend be my shield and run directly in front of me. Fingers crossed he goes for it.

As crazy as it sounds, the nervousness aside, I am actually quite excited. I love the energy at these events, and while I might not be having a super fun time the whole three plus hours it will take me to finish, the sense of accomplishment at the end is incomparable.

I never did get around to getting a tetanus shot, but don’t worry Mom, the risk paragraph doesn’t list lockjaw as a potential problem. Only broken bones, torn ligaments, concussions, spinal injuries, paralysis, heart attack and death. None of which a shot will prevent. Wish me luck!

Employee Engagement: Now More Than Ever

The past few years have seen article after article about the economy and the fragile state of employment. Recently however, a study by Randstad, a staffing and HR services company, revealed some data that represents a move in a positive direction. It was their conclusion that U.S. workers are feeling more secure in their positions and are less likely to sacrifice things important to them to keep their jobs. The study also concluded that 45 percent of the workers in the study plan on exploring new job options when the market picks up.

So what does this mean for you the employer? It means the battle for top talent is beginning. Now is the time to get ahead of the curve and make an investment in engaging your workforce so you retain the services of the employees you already have. And at the same time, you need to be on the hunt for star talent in search of a change. A stronger more secure economy allows people to reassess their careers and consider all of the different prospects available to them.

For companies with a goal of increasing engagement levels in their workforce, you should ask yourself: What is it about your company that will make people want to join/stay with you? Have you instituted a solid recognition program? Do your employees have the opportunity to develop themselves through internal and external resources? Does each employee feel like they’re doing meaningful work? Do they feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves?

The answers to these questions are what will help you keep your talent home, bring in new additions and allow you to build a fully engaged workforce. One full of confidence that maximizes and improves performance and productivity across the board.

The Pros and Cons of Organizational Change

Not only is change in business inevitable, it’s also unavoidable. Even a company that brags about still producing their products “just like the old days” has many different processes and procedures that surround that product’s creation and distribution. But with each change comes something new for employees to familiarize themselves with and adapt to. That “something” may be a new process that’s rubbing them the wrong way or a welcomed change they’ve been looking forward to since they started their career with your company.

One advantage of change, that’s usually the basis for it to begin with, is an increase in production. It could be the implementation of a new system that streamlines processes or new equipment employees use to be more effective in their roles. But this is also where the con of the situation comes into play. A change in operations can also lead to confusion and cause work stoppages that result in hits on the bottom line. This may be a part of the learning curve that was accounted for when the change was designed, but if not, it can be a challenging time for a company.

Change scares employees because it’s taking away something familiar and introducing an unknown. Inevitably, this leads to a certain level of resistance from some of your workforce. These are employees that don’t understand why the change is happening and want no part of it. Their opposition can bog down the change process and counteract the companywide efforts being made. The flipside of this is when a welcomed change occurs that’s embraced by the majority of the workforce. This speeds up the acceptance process and allows the change to develop to its full potential so any targeted goals are more easily reached.

The simple truth is, at one point or another, change is going to find you. It may come from internal sources or from industry pressures, but no matter what, it’s best to take a positive and open-minded approach. It takes a certain level of trust to buy-in to the research and evidence put forth by your company’s leadership team, but when you consider that they’ve brought your brand to its current level of success, it might be a good idea to offer them the benefit of the doubt.