4 Things Managers Can Do to Help their WFH Employees Celebrate the Holidays

There was a time when work would slow down so the holiday season could gear up. The regular workday gave way to office parties, vacation time and a more relaxed and congenial pace, with more impromptu employee gatherings. Spending more personal and relaxed time in the workplace around the holidays does wonders for employees’ sense of team and organization inclusion.

For many organizations, that is now a thing of the past. But the benefits of shifting from work to celebration are significant and are part of how an organization unites itself to stay energized and get ready for the start of a new year.

Since celebrating is important and its approach will be different this year, many employees will need help recreating the office celebration feelings in their WFH situations. This will require managers to help create the shift to holiday thinking, especially because employees are remote.

Here are 4 ideas to consider and try.

  1. Help employees create a gradual work slowdown as the holidays approach. Encourage employees to sign off earlier each day as the holiday approaches. Some organizations gave their employees a free vacation day to take care of the holiday preparation or to just step into the holidays in a less rushed and stressed way. Help them decide how to use that time to celebrate with other company employees or with their families. Many employees have actually worked more and longer in the pandemic. Getting them to shift out of work mode in favor or holiday and celebration mode may take some consistent guidance.  
  2. Create activities to replace the impromptu interactions that used to take place in the workplace around the holidays. Plan team activities, such as holiday Zoom background competitions, creating holiday team videos, sharing holiday tradition stories and other things that employees would do had they been still on-site. Give them a list of options to help them use their earlier shutdown time to shift to holiday preparation and celebrations.
  3. Have a recurring discussion about how the employee and his/her family are preparing for the holidays. Be interested in the details of their holiday prep and encourage them to sign off early and use the time to do things to build their holiday energy and spirit. By your interest and support, you encourage them develop a new sense of work and holiday balance.
  4. Share how you are creating time and space for celebration and holidays in your WFH approach. Seeing you doing and living the things you are guiding others to do, helps employees see that you are serious, and it gives them ideas in how to make this happen. Remember, this is new for most everyone. New things take time to try, adopt and embrace. Be a role model and employees will migrate faster to new behaviors.

Take Action
Your employees will likely need a little direction in how to shift from WFH to CFH (celebrate from home). So many of the WFH employees have gotten into a productive routine and shifting it once again, even for something like the holidays, can be a challenge. Be there to guide, support and encourage your teams to get into the holiday mood, even if they don’t have the normal workplace holiday events. (See our other ideas in how to celebrate the holidays when you employees are remote.) Not only will your employees have a better holiday, but they will come back to work recharged, energized and ready to respond to the next round of changes that now define how our workplace and world seem to move.  

By Jay Forte

This article appeared on Vistage in the Entrepreneurs and Small Business Network on November 11, 2020.

Consider reading Tips to Celebrate the Holidays When Your Staff is Remote

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Tips to Celebrate the Holidays When Your Staff is Remote

Remember setting up the office holiday decorations? Remember the potluck or catered holiday lunches and the gift exchanges? That was so 2019.

Celebrating the holidays when your staff is remote will require a new mindset this year.

Try not to get stressed or upset about something else that has to change (and might feel like more of a task than something that brings joy). All that has happened is that you need to rethink how to deliver the same feelings that last year’s traditions and events delivered. For that, you need to think clearly and creatively. You don’t have creative and celebratory energy available if you use your energy to be stressed, irritated, disappointed or anxious.

So, take a breath. You get to start a new tradition! Consider these ideas:

  • Redefine what celebration means. Reflect on the feelings and the emotions the holiday and its traditions create. They could be joy, togetherness, peace, generosity, gratitude, awe or even respect. Define what this is for you and your organization. That becomes your goal. As Stephen Covey shared in Habit #2 of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end in mind.” In other words, get clear about what you are trying to create with the holiday celebration. The parties, gifts and lunches have been the means to get to a particular set of emotions and memories. Start there. Visualize what you want to achieve.
  • Deliver the old traditions in a new way. Now clear of what you want to achieve, and aware of the limitations in today’s COVID world, start to consider what you could do to achieve the emotions and feelings that are so important. Assemble a team from your organization to brainstorm new ways to celebrate. To get you started, here are some ideas I have shared with my clients.
    • Rethink Secret Santa to include gifts that can be sent electronically (gift cards, cards, videos, etc.).
    • Have a holiday home office decoration competition.
    • Have a Zoom holiday background competition to use for all company meetings throughout the holiday season.
    • Create a Holiday Activity calendar that includes a couple of events each week during the holidays to be done virtually, whether it’s via Zoom or some other option. These activities are meant to be diverse to include everyone in at least a couple of things. These could include baking and decorating cookies, singing carols, reading or sharing holiday stories, sharing holiday recipes/working on recipes together, having teams decorate their houses together, or recording a video of a neighborhood walk to capture and share the lights of the neighborhood. Add more of your own.
  • Invent new traditions that are based on what is available in this exact moment. Traditions constantly change. Instead of regretting that some of the previous ways to celebrate are no longer available, invent something new. Technology is our friend. It has the ability to help us share our experiences in the moment. Consider how you may be able to use technology in new and dynamic ways. Here are some ideas to share with your ideas committee to get them started:
    • Have team members share their pictures to create a holiday office story, a holiday group shot or even as decorations on the company tree.
    • Work together (remotely) to create a holiday video that expresses what the holiday means to your team. Share the videos with everyone at a company “opening night” where all employees join.
    • Do the 12 days of Christmas with teams doing something (skit, song, story, gift, etc.) each day. If gifts are given, get clear about what gifts would be meaningful at this exact moment. Have employees choose a gift that matters from the company’s Giving Tree. Or you can give employees the option to donate their gift (or dollar equivalent) to someone in or out of the organization who may need it.
    • Add your ideas.

Take Action
Yes, this season will be different. Not better, not worse – just different. Focus on the message of the season, then, using what is available, create ways to help this message come through loud and clear. Involve everyone in the ideas. Not only will you find more great ideas, but you will help amplify the feeling of inclusion and appreciation that is at the core of holiday celebrations.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Remote or Not Remote? That is the Question

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Do You Have What it Takes to Be Successful Working From Home?

As the workplace continues to compete for the best talent, organizations need to consider how they think about where their employees do their work. Though there’s an increasing number of employees who want and need to work at home, organizations must define when it makes sense for both the organization and the employee. Sometimes, employees lack the skills and discipline to be effective in a remote environment. Sometimes, the organization’s business approach or use of highly sensitive information may not lend itself to be outside the building’s four walls. And sometimes, it comes down to this: getting the work done correctly and on time.

As someone who has had a home office for the past dozen years, I have learned some things that work well and other things that should be avoided to ensure effectiveness when working remotely.

If you’re thinking about working from home and need to first get permission, ask yourself two questions:

1. Does working at home make sense for the work I do, the culture of the company and my impact in my job? Just because you want to work from home doesn’t mean it makes sense for the job you have or the way work is done in your organization. Making it all about you is a great way to have your boss say no.

However, if you can assess how working remotely aligns to the work you do, and you can show how it could improve your output while still fitting within the organization’s beliefs and work approach, it’s worth asking about. Showing that you have thought about working remotely from the organization’s perspective is the way to lead in this discussion.

2. Do I have what it takes to be successful in a limited supervision and remote environment? Before you say yes (because you really want to work remotely), be realistic. Are you organized? Can you create a space at home where you can be focused, thoughtful and able to deliver what your role or job expects or requires from you? Can you create a workday in your personal space that does not have you distracted by friends, neighbors, family, pets or other things so that you can be successful with your expectations? Do you need interaction and contact with your peers on an ad hoc or frequent basis to brainstorm, solve or deal with workplace issues? Do you need resources that are best supplied in a centralized workplace environment? What is your real motivation for working remotely? Answer these questions honestly to give you a full reality-check image of what working from home could really be like for you.  

Spend some time with these questions and be sure that your reasons for remote work accommodate both your company and the way for you to deliver your best work.

Now, consider the other side of the story: you already work remotely, but you need to improve your output.

Consider the following things to improve your effectiveness:

  • Assess whether you have the talents and skills to do the job well. Most remote employees with poor performance are employees who are hired into roles that don’t align to their abilities. If you need specific talents to be effective in the role and do not have them, you will likely struggle to perform. If you are missing some skills that would improve your performance, reach out to your manager and have a plan to develop the skills. If you are misaligned in your job, either you can’t do the work well, or are just not that interested in doing it well. The outcome is the same – average performance. Focus on alignment; does your remote job fit you? If not, start to locate opportunities in the organization that better align to your core talents and strengths.
  • Look at your remote workspace and make it a successful workspace. Consider your remote space your “office.” What do you need to have in it to facilitate your effectiveness? What gets in your way that you need to modify or eliminate? It is up to you to create a space conducive to your performance success.
  • Assess your personal organization and self-discipline. If you are not organized, get some guidance in activity management or spatial organization. If you are not self-disciplined, develop a reward schedule that defines your performance expectations and the reward you give yourself the more you comply with your expectations. For example, you may create an expectation that when your office door is closed, you are in work mode. Your focus is on your work and not on other things. When the door is open, you are available to the house, snacking and other things. The door becomes your tool to improve your self-discipline. Or, consider engaging a coach or mentor to help develop your personal organization skills and self-discipline habits. Get them to the level they need to be to ensure your success.

The goal is for you to be as effective, efficient and extraordinary working remotely as if you were working locally. That means you have to be in a job that aligns to your abilities and skills, and that you have the organization, focus and self-discipline to work by yourself. Remote work is not for everyone. Assess whether it works for your organization and works for you.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Panic (until it’s time to panic)

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3 Things Every Manager Can Do to Increase Employee Engagement

There is a direct correlation between the level of employee engagement and the level of productivity, performance and retention. That means that understanding and affecting employee engagement is the responsibility of every manager.

First, I will share that engagement, defined for the purpose of this post as the discretionary effort an employee puts into their job, is not the sole responsibility of the manager or the organization. Employees have a role in expanding their self-awareness to help align themselves to roles that need what they do and like best, and to have a voice in participating in their work in a way that matters. But that is the subject of another blog.

For now, let’s focus in on three things that every manager can do to increase employee engagement.

  1. Know your employees. It seems odd to say this, but the truth is that most managers don’t know their employees’ strengths, liabilities, interests, values and what activates and diminishes their performance. Without this information, you frequently and accidentally respond in unsuccessful or unproductive ways or misalign employees to roles that need more of what they are not good at than what they are good at. Spend time with employees to help develop their inventory of abilities. Use an assessment tool to help create the practical language of their strengths and their liabilities (the behaviors that are the opposite of their strengths that need management). Get guidance from a coach for tools to help all employees learn to look inside themselves to discover their unique abilities and preferences, then to share them with you so you can better guide them to the areas that need what they do and like best. This encourages competence which activates engagement. You don’t feel engaged if you are in a role that doesn’t fit you.
  2. Make time for each employee each week. Relationships are key to trust, and trust drives engagement. Employees want to work for managers who make time for them and treat them as valuable and important in the workplace. Knowing employees’ inventory of abilities and making time for them, will help you connect more authentically and interact more successfully.
  3. Focus on employee development. Today’s employees know they need to be constantly learning and growing. Managers, when they make the time to connect with employees and use that time to help employees assess what works and what doesn’t work in their performance, make learning and growing important in the workplace. This is key in the shift from managing to workplace coaching – to guide employees to better see and assess their performance and to own any required improvements. This encourages greater performance ownership and engagement.

There is no shortage of information and statistics supporting the premise that engaged employees consistently outperform disengaged employees. It is therefore the responsibility of every manager to intentionally choose how to be and what to do to encourage their employees’ engagement.

Take Action
Three simple things can help employees show up more engaged: know them, make time for them and develop them. What are you doing today to improve your employees’ engagement?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Drag Your Feet When Hiring New Talent

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3 Ways to Win in the War for Talent

People are the hands, heart and soul of all organizations. This requires you to have a plan to attract, hire and retain the best because they are the connection to your customers and the drivers of your results.

With record low unemployment rates, many organizations are feeling the pinch for talent. Those people who want and can work are nearly all employed, leaving a small available talent pool to choose from. This, for many, means we are in a war for talent.

The war for talent isn’t as much about hiring the few people available. It is more about winning in to your organization the talented people who are disengaged in their current organizations. The Gallup Organization shares that nearly 70% of the workplace is disengaged. This isn’t because they are average employees. Rather, it is more likely that their current organization isn’t doing what it takes to attract, hire and retain the best talent. This means that today’s war for talent is more the result of a branding problem than a supply problem.

Seeing this challenge from a new perspective can help you see that many of the disengaged employees in other organizations have the interest and capacity to be amazing in your company if you are able to do these three things.

  1. Attract. Spread your story about what makes you different, unique and a great place to work. We used to think that sourcing talent meant going out and finding them. Today, sourcing talent is more about them finding you. Work hard to create a dynamic employee-focused workplace culture that values, develops and engages its employees, then share your story. Let your website host a career or job center that tells your story through images, videos, testimonials and other interactive media. Great people want to work for great companies. Get the word out that you are a great company and the great talent will find and connect with you.
  2. Hire. Commit to only hire people who fit your roles, team and culture. With an expanded amount of interest in your organization, have a clearly defined and well-followed hiring process that clearly states the tasks of each role, and the specific attributes needed to be successful in those tasks. Then, develop an interview process that uses both activities and behavioral-based questions to have the candidate share and prove their skills and strengths, to assess for fit. Be sure that your interview process can assess for team and culture fit. This helps you hire the right people who feel aligned, engaged and competent in your organization, limiting turnover and the need to hire again.
  3. Retain. Guide, support, develop and coach your employees to give them a reason to perform and stay. By hiring wisely, you help employees feel capable and competent in their roles. Then, train your managers to think and act like coaches to build stronger relationships with employees to better understand, support, guide and develop them. This encourages employees’ engagement, which is a key driver in their decision to perform and remain or to do as little as possible and seek new opportunities.

Take Action
Win the war for talent by being an employer of choice, hiring wisely and helping your managers learn how to guide, support and coach instead of direct, control and manage. Commit to getting the best employees up front by building an employee-focused workplace culture that creates a dynamic employee experience that attracts top talent to come, perform and stay.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Will Leave Your in 2019 (and What to Do About It)

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High Disengagement Rates = Challenge and Opportunity

By Jay Forte

The Gallup Organization’s 2017 The State of the American Workplace reported that nearly 70% of employees are disengaged at work.

What does that mean? Let’s break it down.

Disengagement, as defined by the Gallup Organization, means “employees who are checked-out and put neither energy or drive in their work. They get through the day by doing what they need to stay employed.”

Think about your team. Know anyone who fits this bill?

Though the thought of 70% of the workforce being disengaged is alarming – combined with the additional statistic from Gallup that nearly 51% of employees are searching for new jobs or watching for new opportunities – there is a silver lining: if most of the workplace is disengaged and is looking for a new opportunity, then most of the people you meet are open to change.

Knowing that so many people are disengaged in their work and are ready for a better fit opportunity, what is your current process to build a robust talent pipeline?

Though you do have opportunity to hire new talent, you must first understand and address your own disengagement issues. Unless these are addressed, you may lose some of your good talent to other organizations, or create a high turnover rate among new employees.

So where do you start? Some ways you can address disengagement issues include:

  • Aligning employees to roles where their talents and strengths are needed. This helps them feel competent and capable in their work. How does your hiring process focus on role alignment and job fit?
  • Creating an employee-focused workplace culture that values, develops and supports employees. How intentional and successful is your employee experience?
  • Providing employees with the opportunity to learn and grow, enabling development in their strengths area(s) and encouraging them to own their performance / have accountability for the direction of their career rather than becoming complacent. What is the quality of your feedback and focus on development?
  • Training managers to act like coaches. In this redefined role, managers work to build relationships with employees, set and manage performance expectations, host performance conversations and work to develop employees’ skills. What is your commitment to shift from managing to workplace coaching?

It’s not too late to create a New Year’s resolution for your company. Empower your people to watch for and connect with talented people who may be disengaged or disconnected from their work or employers. Train your employees to be talent scouts. And be aware of your engagement and disengagement statistics. Make a concerted effort to understand why they are what they are. Be committed to cleaning up your house before you bring new people in.

Most of your world is looking for a better opportunity. Could that be at your organization?

 

Consider reading Succeeding at Difficult Conversations

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A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn in May 2017.

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