A Toolkit for Retaining Great Employees

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Are you giving your best employees good reasons to stay at your organization? Retaining employees comes down to giving great employees a good reason to stay at your workplace over and over again, especially when they have another opportunity on the table.

Over the years, ERC has conducted a large amount of research on what makes great talent stay at their organizations and has found that retention typically boils down to four (4) key factors: relationship with the manager, challenging work/learning opportunities, a great work environment, and compensation/rewards. Based on these factors, we've developed a toolkit of checklists to help you retain great employees.
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Workplace Culture: What It Is, Why It Matters, & How to Define It

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Workplace Culture: What It Is, Why It Matters, & How to Define It

Culture is the character and personality of your organization. It's what makes your organization unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes. Here's an overview of why workplace culture is important, what affects it, and how to define it.

Why is workplace culture important?

Culture is as important, if not more important, than your business strategy because it either strengthens or undermines your business and the objectives it is trying to achieve. Culture is significant, especially because…
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The 5 Most Common Pitfalls of Performance Reviews

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Performance reviews are important tools that managers can use to boost employee performance and productivity to higher levels, but often fall prey to some common mistakes. As your organization prepares to review employee performance in the coming months, we recommend avoiding these 5 pitfalls.

 
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7 Lessons on Managing Open Workplaces

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Recently, there has been considerable research and debate on whether open work environments improve or impede employees’ performance and productivity.

On one hand, open work environments naturally encourage collaboration, teamwork, socializing, and innovation. They allow employees to move around, create discussion, and collaborate spontaneously. They lead to more informal mentoring, problem solving, rapid information sharing, and easier communication between peers, and can even decrease misconduct.

On the other hand, most organizations that move to an open work environment face challenging management issues. Open work environments can lack private or quiet space for concentration, contain loud noise levels, lead to frequent interruptions, and decrease productivity or performance for some employees.

It’s clear that in practice open work environments can enhance a workplace and improve collaboration, but also pose issues that need to be managed. Here are some important lessons other companies and research tell us about how to effectively manage the open office work environment.

The open office is not for everyone...or every business.

There are employees whose job function, nature of work, and personality benefit from private individual space. For example, mathematical and computer science jobs tend to require long periods of heavy concentration; introverts tend to be more creative and productive in private spaces; and younger employees tend to like open workspaces more than older employees. Don't assume that open spaces work for everyone's job or situation. Consider your generational make-up, types of jobs, and business climate before making the move.

Setting creative rules can help eliminate common problems.

Gather employees together to set basic informal rules and "cube etiquette." This helps alleviate common issues of disrespect and frustration with coworkers in open office settings. These rules could address how to creatively deal with issues such as interruptions, hygiene, noise, and personal business. Have employees participate in creating a respectful work environment. Don’t set the rules for them.

Organizations need to train on soft-skills.

Open work environments prompt frequent interpersonal interactions which naturally lead to more frustration and conflict. Your organization needs to be prepared to train employees and managers on the skills they need to make the environment work. Continuously training employees on soft skills such as respect in the workplace, communication, collaboration, and conflict management is imperative to keeping these interactions positive and constructive.

Listen and keep an open dialogue.

Research shows that employees generally won't come forward with complaints about their work environment or address them directly with their coworkers. Keep an open dialogue with employees – especially during the months of the transition – on what’s working and not working. It shows that you care about their response to the change.

Balance individual and group needs - be flexible.

Effective open work environments seem to provide enough accessible individual (hoteling or individual spaces) and cafe-like or conference room spaces - balancing the needs of private individual work time and space for collaboration, meetings, and open communication. They also give employees the freedom to work how and where they want and still allow employees the ability to individualize their space.

Natural separation and groupings should be utilized.

Put "like-groups" together within a larger space. Employees who use the phone frequently could be grouped in a space, while employees who don't could be grouped in a different space. Another best practice is to place employees in the same department and/or highly interdependent departments within the same work area.

Small details need to support productivity.

Light, color, amount of space, and placement of chairs or desks may seem like unimportant details, but they can make a big difference in comfort and productivity. Light levels can cause headaches or lack of focus; color can energize (or de-energize) your staff; if employees don't have sufficient space to work, they can be uncomfortable. All these things affect output and need to be managed.

Break down impediments to productivity and performance.

If you find that employees aren't getting much done, having to work at home to finish projects, that their performance is suffering, that their best ideas are coming from outside of the workplace, or that there are frequent conflicts between coworkers, your open work environment may be creating problems. Enabling performance and creating an environment where work can get done productively should be your number one goal.

Pilot a layout to test an open work environment.

Try an open layout with one department or a particular location before rolling it out to your entire organization. Observe how employees react to the new work environment.

Open work environments can be highly beneficial to an increasingly team-oriented workforce, but they need to be managed in ways that make employees feel comfortable and productive in their spaces, limit negative effects on performance, and support a respectful and collaborative work atmosphere.   

Additional Resources

Soft-Skills Training for Employees & Managers
ERC offers numerous soft-skills training for both employees and managers on a broad range of topics including communication, conflict resolution, generational differences, team-building, respect in the workplace, internal customer service, dealing with difficult people, and more. All of our courses can be customized to meet your organization’s needs. For more information, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com

Office Products & Services ERC’s network of Preferred Partners provides discounts on a range of products and services to help your organization enhance its workplace experience for employees from technology solutions to food and catering services to office supplies. 

4 Ways to Become a Manager Employees Want to Follow

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Are your managers people who your employees want to follow?  Do your managers regularly encounter resistance and wonder why they can't achieve the results they want or why their employees won't follow their lead? More importantly, are employees just following managers because they are the boss, or because they are genuinely inspired and motivated by their leadership?

"Why won't they listen and follow me?" is one of the most common frustrations managers have. Few realize, however, that it takes more than just authority, a position of power, and demands to get people to truly follow you and engage in your vision. Engaged followership is also not something that happens overnight. It takes days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years to position yourself as a trusted, respected, and emotionally intelligent leader that people take pride in following. You earn your followers with your words, actions, and attitudes.

How do you become a manager people want to follow? Start simple. Ask employees these questions on a regular basis.

How are you?

This question conveys that you care not just about the work, but about employees as people. Naturally, employees follow managers who care about them and will resist managers who show indifference to their needs and interests. Managers who take time to have intentional conversations, demonstrate an interest in the people who work for them, and learn about employees as individuals, gain followers. Care elicits trust and trust breeds followers. Here's a quick self-check to determine how well you are showing you care about your people:

  • Do you know your employees' spouses and children's names?
  • Do you know your employee's birthday? 
  • Do you know what your employee does for fun?
  • Do you know what your employee's personal goals are?
  • Do you know what your employee's personal challenges are?
  • Do you ever go above and beyond to help employees with something non-work related?
  • Do you ever call or visit employees to see how things are going at work and personally?

How can I support you?

Do you convey that employees are at work to serve you and help you reach your goals, or do you believe that you are there to serve them and help employees reach their objectives? Asking this question shows that you are focused on serving employees and their needs and not just yourself. Conversely, when employees sense that you are just trying to use them as a means to an end, they usually won't follow you.

Great managers who are followed are those that serve their people by resolving problems and going to great lengths to support their people. They view their role as servants to their followers and not their followers as servants to themselves. This mindset radically changes their behavior as managers. They become more concerned with how they can meet their employees' needs and prioritize those needs above their own.

How can I help you succeed?

People want to work for a winning team. Employees follow managers who make the right decisions and lead them in the right direction. Exceptional managers pave the way for employees' success - not their failure.  They get people from point A to point B.

In order to do this, managers must be effective at managing work and achieving results through others to gain the respect of their followers. Managers who are able to lead and coach their teams and employees with effective problem solving, goal-setting, planning, and management of the work, have team members who want to follow them.

Similarly, managers who help their employees and their teams do better gain followership. Managers who show their employees the right way to work, help them develop their skills and capabilities, redirect them when they do something wrong, and build a competent team gain followers. People follow managers that make them better employees.

What do you think?

People want to follow managers who are interested in their perspectives, suggestions, and involvement. It makes them feel important and purposeful. When invited to contribute to a new project, be involved in creating a new product/service, or asked to provide their views on an issue, employees feel empowered. Managers who consistently ask employees for their opinions, ideas, and involvement and consider a diversity of perspectives can gain lasting followers.

Don't ask these questions just once or even a few times. Keep asking them of your employees (perhaps in different ways) over and over again. They will make employees feel cared for, empowered, worthwhile, and supported -- and those positive feelings will inevitably help turn an average employee into an engaged follower.

4 Ways to Manage Employees’ Needs

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We often define quality of managers by how they make us feel – how they energize and move us through encouragement, support, and inspiration. As a manager, your role is similar to an essential energy source – feeding employees’ needs and sustaining your team’s motivation. Knowing how to energize and motivate your employees requires addressing (4) of their most basic needs.

1. Am I supporting my employees’ physical well-being?

At the most fundamental level, employees need to feel that their managers care about their well-being. Employees’ most basic physical needs, such as rest, fitness, and proper nutrition, support physical health and the energy employees need to perform well. These are all needs which a manager can support through reasonable working conditions, adequate concern for well-being, and an appropriate level of consideration for work/life issues. Managers aren’t always cognizant of unmet physical needs. Additionally, they may be unaware of their coercive style’s affect on the physical well-being of employees. Numerous studies now document the correlation between negative management relations and coronary heart disease, poor mental health, among other health conditions.

2. Am I creating and contributing to a positive atmosphere?

Employees work best when there is positive energy in the work environment to meet their emotional and social needs. Employees have a need to belong, be accepted, and feel part of a team. They need a sense of security and to feel supported and respected. What this means for a manager is cultivating an environment that encourages collaboration, teamwork, and support; and striving for minimal conflict and productive working relationships, both with subordinates and among coworkers. It also means understanding that employees need acceptance and acknowledgement from others, and providing recognition. Creating positive energy doesn’t mean not addressing problems, but does mean that these problems are dealt with in a courteous, respectful, and constructive manner.

3. Am I providing enough challenge and mental stimulation?

Next, there are mental needs, which deal with challenge, personal development, and mental stimulation. Employees have needs for continuous intellectual development and cognitive stimulation. When these needs aren’t met, employees tend to become stagnant, bored, and eventually dissatisfied. Managers can support mental needs by providing intellectual challenge and opportunities for employees to expand current knowledge and thought processes; increasing employees’ ability to work creatively and independently; and offering continuous opportunities to grow new skills. Managers who energize and stretch the minds of their employees foster higher levels of engagement.

4. Do my employees understand that their work matters?

Finally, beyond mental needs, are self-actualized needs. These needs including finding meaning in our work, feeling fulfilled and that we’re making a difference, taking pride in our work and what we do, and being able to see how it impacts others and those we serve. Sometimes employees can’t see the big picture or lose sight of the mission. For these reasons, managers need to define purpose, show employees’ how their work matters, illustrate how it makes an impact, and connect individual goals and contributions to the department and organization. Employees have a basic need to understand that their work matters and is important. This purpose fuels their motivation.

There are many well-documented adverse effects that can occur when these needs go unfulfilled in the workplace. Because these needs directly impact on the energy and motivation of our workforce, as managers, we need to understand the importance of helping employees’ meet these basic needs to energize and motivate our teams.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching.

Management & Leadership DevelopmentERC offers several courses in management and leadership development on topics related to communication, conflict management, performance management, project management, problem solving and general leadership. These courses can also be customized to your organization’s unique needs. For more information, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com.

5 Common Management Challenges

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Communication, management of conflict and performance, and management of potential liabilities are all challenges managers experience. Here are some practical ways to deal with these common management challenges and support and develop your managers.

Communicate.

Managers are frequently not aware of the quality of their communication about expectations, changes, procedures, and other work-related issues, or how their communication or interpersonal style is perceived by their employees. Help managers understand their unique communication and interpersonal style and how to “flex” this style in different situations. Provide managers with communication templates, scripts, tips, or checklists. Engage in role-play or dialogue with the manager to help them practice their skills and identify opportunities for improvement. Additionally, educate managers on common communication breakdowns and how to avoid them and encourage managers to notice signs of communication problems (misunderstandings, consistent performance problems, etc.). When all else fails, provide a personal coach if communication problems persist

Resolve conflict.

Many managers ignore problems and do not address conflicts with their employees or work team directly. Whether these are performance problems, conflicts among team members, issues of trust, or personality clashes, managers are challenged to confront and address problems head-on and as they emerge, diffuse employees’ feelings and emotions about the problem, listen to both parties’ needs and desires, derive win-win solutions that lead to more productive and positive work relations, and prevent conflict in the future by nurturing positive coworker relationships and recognizing potential for conflict or problems early.

Manage performance.

Managers must balance meeting goals, managing workloads, and motivating employees. These issues coupled with the fact that many managers are ill-equipped to provide regular and constructive feedback and may not understand the importance of documenting performance can make managing performance challenging. To support them, build on-going performance feedback into the performance management process to ensure accountability. Create an easy method for managers to document performance like a database, log, or diary. Provide support tools for managers such as rewards, recognition, training, and development to recognize and build performance. Most importantly, train managers in topics such as performance management, coaching, and feedback since many will have had no experience with these.

Handle protected employees.

Most managers are not well-versed in administering ADA, FMLA, and other laws that protect certain groups of employees, but unknowingly find themselves managing an employee that requires an accommodation, leave of absence, or falls into a protected class. These situations need to be handled delicately due to their legal nature, so make managers aware of:

  • Legal basics such as conditions or disabilities that are protected
  • How to determine essential functions and reasonable accommodations
  • Requirements associated with FMLA (eligibility, length of time, etc.)
  • Types of employees that are protected under law (gender, race, national origin, etc.)
  • Hiring and interviewing liabilities (questions to ask/not ask, etc.)

Administer policies fairly and consistently.

One of the most common challenges for managers is treating employees fairly and consistently. A manager may allow policies and rules to be disregarded by some employees and not others – or may disregard employment policies altogether. “Stretching” the rules for some employees can open up a range of potential liabilities and perceptions of bias and favoritism that have negative far-reaching affects in the workplace. Be sure to write clear policies and let managers know when changes have been made. Set clear criteria for making employment decisions, particularly where managers need to distinguish between employees (recognition, reward, development, etc.). Also, clearly differentiate between the policies in which managers have discretion to implement and those in which they do not.

Addressing these management challenges sooner then later can prevent your organization from experiencing many problems and liabilities. It’s never too early to ensure that your supervisors and managers have the skills, tools, and support to do their jobs effectively, so if your supervisor is just starting out, consider developing these important skills as soon as possible.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching. Click here to register or click here to learn how we can bring this training on-site to your organization.

Strategic Legal Update
Stay up to date on all of the most recent law and policy news with our blog

Coaching & Performance Management Services
ERC offers a full range of services to support your organization’s performance management activities. We also offer one-on-one coaching services to help your build and develop your manager’s skills. For more information about these services, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

5 Common Management Challenges (and How to Overcome Them)

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5 Common Management Challenges (and How to Overcome Them)

Trainers often get the chance to see firsthand what can happen when a breakdown in communication occurs between employees and their supervisors.

A woman once approached an ERC Trainer during a break in the training session who was very emotional and teary eyed. In her seven years with the company, not once had her boss asked how her weekend was. Her boss was a driver, with a direct, ‘Don’t waste my time, I don’t want to know about your personal life’ kind of attitude.

At a superficial level, that seems fine but employees sometimes feel they need interpersonal communication to achieve a certain level of trust. If an employee feels that their supervisor doesn’t care about them, they can become disengaged and even tune the boss out.

Maintaining good lines of communication is just one challenge managers and supervisors face. The management of conflict and performance, and management of potential liabilities can be tough hurdles to clear, too.

Failing to address any of these issues can lead to damaging consequences for an organization. Companies, though, can be proactive in avoiding these pitfalls through the support and development of their managers.

Here are 5 common challenges for managers and supervisors—and some practical ways to deal with them.

Communicate.

Managers frequently are not aware of the quality of their communication or, as the above example illustrates, how their communication or interpersonal style are perceived by their employees.

You can help managers understand their unique communication and interpersonal style and how to “flex” this style in different situations by providing communication templates, scripts, tips or checklists.

Engage in role-play or dialogue with the manager to help them practice their skills and identify opportunities for improvement. Additionally, educate managers on common communication breakdowns and how to avoid them and encourage managers to notice signs of communication problems (misunderstandings, consistent performance problems, etc.).

When all else fails, provide a personal coach if communication problems persist

Resolve conflict.

Many managers ignore problems and do not directly address conflicts with their employees or work team.

Whether these are performance problems, conflicts among team members, issues of trust or personality clashes, managers are challenged to confront and address problems head-on and as they emerge, diffuse employees’ feelings and emotions about the problem, listen to both parties’ needs and desires, derive win-win solutions that lead to more productive and positive work relations, and prevent conflict in the future by nurturing positive coworker relationships and recognizing potential for conflict or problems early.

Manage performance.       

Managers must balance meeting goals, managing workloads and motivating employees. These issues, coupled with the fact that many managers are ill-equipped to provide regular and constructive feedback and may not understand the importance of documenting performance, can make managing performance challenging.

To support them, build on-going performance feedback into the performance management process to ensure accountability. Create an easy method for managers to document performance like a database, log, or diary. Provide support tools for managers such as rewards, recognition, training, and development to recognize and build performance. Most importantly, train managers in topics such as performance management, coaching, and feedback since many will have had no experience with these.

Handle protected employees.

Most managers are not well-versed in administering ADA, FMLA and other laws that protect certain groups of employees, but unknowingly find themselves managing an employee who requires an accommodation, leave of absence or falls into a protected class.

These situations need to be handled delicately due to their legal nature, so make managers aware of:

  • Legal basics such as conditions or disabilities that are protected
  • How to determine essential functions and reasonable accommodations
  • Requirements associated with FMLA (eligibility, length of time, etc.)
  • Types of employees that are protected under law (gender, race, national origin, etc.)
  • Hiring and interviewing liabilities (questions to ask/not ask, etc.)

Administer policies fairly and consistently.

One of the most common challenges for managers is treating employees fairly and consistently. A manager may allow policies and rules to be disregarded by some employees and not others—or may disregard employment policies altogether. “Stretching” the rules for some employees can open up a range of potential liabilities and perceptions of bias and favoritism that have negative far-reaching effects in the workplace.

Be sure to write clear policies and let managers know when changes have been made. Set clear criteria for making employment decisions, particularly where managers need to distinguish between employees (recognition, reward, development, etc.). Also, clearly differentiate between the policies in which managers have discretion to implement and those in which they do not.

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