Every day, I have the privilege of working with clients across many industries and organizations of varying sizes. While some organizations have very progressive workplace practices, others struggle to stay current with what’s important to their workforce. Recently, I was co-facilitating a workshop with a client who asked, “should I tell people to put away or turn off their electronic devices?”. I encourage you to take stock of your workplace and determine the new norm; it’s time to throw out antiquated workplace practices. To get started, ask yourself these five questions:
Do you embrace social media in the workplace?
I remember the days when HR was crafting social media policies that forbid us to access social at work and our work computers blocked us from social sites. I always found this amusing as the organization I worked for had a social presence, encouraged our customers to interact with us and only allowed employees to access social from their personal devices. Today social media is the fabric of our being. Your customers and employees leverage this channel to promote and provide feedback to your organization. Yes, our millennials will want to be involved with social during the workday and unless it’s getting in the way of them accomplishing their work, let them…
Have you added some measure of scheduling flexibility and remote work options into your workplace practices?
I continue to work with clients who haven’t embraced flexible schedules or remote options. When I ask “why”, I usually hear things like, “How can I be sure they are actually working at home?”, “If they come in later than everyone else, how do I explain that?”, “We have meetings early in the morning and into the evening and people need to be available.”. Here’s the thing; you need to trust that your employees will do the right thing if they work remotely. A lack of trust is a much larger issue… The best measurement is the work getting done. With some creativity and rigor, flexible schedules can work in most environments. Creating core hours during which time meetings are scheduled will allow for workforce flexibility. Good communication and a balance of remote and in person are the keys to a successful program.
What kind of an example do senior leaders share?
Business owners and leaders must set the example. Establishing a flexible schedule and sharing it with your organization will let your employees know that this is real. Sticking to the core hours and scheduling meetings within that timeframe sends a message to the team that you support flexible schedules. Use an email scheduling tool so that your emails are not arriving outside of business hours. There is nothing worse than waking up to an email sent at 3am in the morning. This creates a perception that we must be available 24 hours a day. Be respectful when texting as well. Champion wellness efforts by taking time to workout during the day, talk with your employees about their children and encourage them to participate in family activities.
Are you using carrot and stick motivational strategies?
Many organizations continue to motivate with the if you do this, then you will get this mentality. I call this the carrot and stick motivational strategy. I challenge you to think differently and consider that in our knowledge economy intrinsic motivation is the key. Today’s employees are inquisitive and want to develop their skills, make a contribution and balance routine work with creative problem-solving. Often performance-based rewards don’t work and can breed unethical behavior; Wells Fargo a case in point. As a fan of Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive, I encourage you to establish competitive baseline rewards and build in activities and rewards that tap into intrinsic motivation. Many organizations talk about innovating and it may even be an organizational value and when you talk to employees, they don’t feel that they can take risks to be creative and innovative; clearly a disconnect.
How do your employees express their individuality?
The more comfortable employees feel about expressing themselves, the more connected and productive they will be. Look for objective business reasons for allowing or disallowing certain “rules”. Avoid “that’s the way we always did it” thinking. When employees have tattoos or piercings and do not come in contact with customers that may find it offensive, let it go. If employees in a production environment want to listen to their playlist and it’s not a safety issue, let them. The majority of my clients have adopted a “business casual” dress code and they still struggle with employees wearing yucky dirty sneakers, faded ripped jeans and pajama tops. Consistent clear communication around WHY these clothing options are not acceptable will help them understand the norm.
Unemployment is at a 16 year low and we have Millennials and Gen Z in our workforce. Their expectations of your workplace practices and culture are very different than previous generations. Your ability to attract and retain the best and brightest is linked to your workplace practices, culture and your ability to embrace more modern ways of working.