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Prime space at board meetings

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Recently, I worked in a country where board members seldom disagree. Their meetings are purposely harmonious. No voices raised or fingers pointed. They prefer courtesy over confrontation.

In the U.S., association boards embrace a different model. Debate and deliberation are expected at meetings.

The chairman is likely to ask, “Have we fully vetted all aspects of this proposal?” Directors are urged to delve into an issue before voting on motions.

Vigorous discussions may be the reason organizations develop meeting guidelines for directors. These are principles are in addition to what is prescribed in the bylaws.

Agree to Disagree

Many meeting guidelines start with, “Agree to disagree.” This encourages robust conversation in order to produce the best results.

Because boards are made up of people with diverse opinions, there is an expectation that that not everyone will share the same view. Along the way, feelings could be hurt. Volunteers are informed it is OK to disagree, while maintaining cordiality and respect in the boardroom.

A second meeting principle is, “Remove personalities from discussions while focusing on outcomes.” For example, eliminating a committee is not about the people but about organizational efficacy.

A third principle is to urge support for the decisions of the board. Directors are asked to speak up inside the meeting, expressing their opinions. Once the vote is cast, directors are expected to support the decisions of the board of directors.

Conveying Meeting Principles

Meeting principles are developed through consensus and distributed at orientation or in the directors’ leadership manual.

There is a good way to keep them blatantly in front of the board at meetings. The backside of each director’s name tent card is prime real estate.

There is minimal value to printing a director’s name on both sides of a tent card. He or she already knows their name.

Some groups use the side facing the director to convey the mission statement. Others communicate ground rules on the tent card.

Here’s a paraphrased example from the Carolinas Ready Mixed Concrete Association (CRMCA). They address risk and behavior on the reverse side of the tent card.

Antitrust Compliance — Do not discuss pricing or pricing practices; do follow all company and association guidelines pertinent to antitrust compliance; conduct all business activities within the spirit of the law; remember that antitrust violations apply to social events as well.

Disagree Constructively without Being Disagreeable — Achieve consensus, then support the decisions of the board; adhere to the meeting agenda; treat others with respect; and focus on the best interests of industry and members.

Listen and Understand — Address issues with integrity; no grandstanding nor hidden conflicts; have fun.

How does your organization make best use of the name tent cards at meetings? Thanks to CRMCA for sharing their successful practice.

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Steer clear of these delusional hiring practices

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To discuss talent, your organization’s needs, or anything you read in the article below, email Roberta at roberta@matusonconsulting.com.

I don’t know about you, but I’m growing tired of hearing leaders complain that they can’t fill jobs. When asked, they can come up with a dozen reasons why this is so. Are you guilty of this as well?

Imagine a VP of sales telling her CEO that she is unable to bring in deals. Do you think she’d be told, “That’s OK; everyone else is having a tough time selling.” No, of course not!

Yet, CEOs keep giving their teams a pass when it comes to unfilled jobs. And to make matters worse, they are looking the other way when a particular executive has a higher turnover than most.

Too many organizations are delusional when it comes to their hiring practices. They have a system in place and continue to use it, regardless of the dismal results. This is nuts!

Here are some of the more common delusional hiring practices that I see.

If you build it, they will come. Let’s say you’ve created this great company. You pay people a fair wage, and you’ve got the standard cool perks that have become commonplace these days. Your feeling is that people would be crazy not to work for your firm.

You post your jobs online, and what happens next? Nothing — absolutely nothing. OK, I’m exaggerating here. You get a few resumes from people who are responding to every post they see.

You tell a friend about your situation, and he assures you the same thing is happening to him. You both blame the low rate of unemployment in your area because let’s admit it; it’s easier to place blame than it is to find the cause.

Offering additional crazy perks.

Have you noticed that perks are getting even more insane as the labor market tightens? I’m here to tell you that all the free beer in the world won’t make employees delusional enough to stay and work for a crappy manager. Don’t believe me?

Have a third party reach out to employees who have recently left your firm and ask them why they choose to leave. (Do this even if they’ve gone through exit interviews, as it’s my experience that people are less than truthful on their way out the door.) Listen carefully to the feedback you receive and be prepared to take action.

Relying on HR to fill jobs.

By now, you’d think most companies would have figured out that if HR could fill these jobs, they would have done so already. They can’t.

You need to turn your entire team into a hiring machine. I know this works because I’ve done this with other organizations. Do this today.

We’re already spending a ton of money on recruiting and can’t afford to spend more.

I’m not suggesting you pay more money. What I am recommending is that you blow up your current approach and invest your resources more wisely.

We’re doing the best we can with the limited resources we have.

Here’s the thing. There are lots of things you can do to improve your hiring practices that don’t require additional capital. The first step is to be open to change.

We need buy-in from everyone before hiring.

Every step you add to the hiring process will slow things down. In today’s tight labor market, speed trumps perfection time and time again.

Look at your hiring process with an eye towards dramatically reducing the time it takes to make a job offer. Begin by making a list of everyone currently involved in the hiring process. Draw a line through the middle of this list. The people under the line should be immediately relieved of their hiring responsibilities.

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Randstad Sourceright discusses healthcare’s tightening talent market

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First, the good news: life expectancies are rising, 10,000 baby boomers are retiring every day (which provides jobs for other workers and gives boomers an opportunity to enjoy their golden years), and the life sciences and healthcare sector is projected to grow by 5.4% annually, outpacing global GDP.

Now, the bad news: According to Randstad Sourceright’s 2019 Talent Trends survey, 85% of human capital and C-suite leaders in the life sciences and healthcare sector say talent scarcity is one of their greatest concerns.

Causes of the workforce challenge

“A great feature of our modern society is that the healthcare industry has helped to raise life expectancy right at a time when the baby boom generation is approaching retirement age,” explains Tania De Decker, Senior Vice President, Global Client Solutions – Healthcare at Randstad.

“This large aging population is already driving up demand for innovative medicine, diagnostics and therapies across the board, to the point that companies are having trouble staffing enough workers to meet the demand.”

This sector is growing at a rapid rate, and some retiring baby boomers are leaving jobs in the healthcare sector. “And this will significantly impact those healthcare companies, including making it difficult to backfill institutional knowledge as more mature workers leave the workforce.”

New diagnostics and therapies are a large part of the sector’s growth. For example, as many widely used drugs come off patent, pharmaceutical and biopharma companies will need new products in the pipeline. Also, gene therapy will play a critical role in the treatment of cancer and other types of diseases.

Competition for top talent

A variety of roles, including clinical study managers, research associates, and regulatory managers are in high demand. “However, emerging roles, such as mathematics and analytical specialists in bioinformatics are difficult to find, but extremely important, as they can help companies accelerate the pace of discovering drug molecules and refining treatment,” De Decker says.

In addition, the healthcare sector faces stiff competition on various fronts. According to the survey, 52% of respondents consider companies operating in the same industries as competitors for talent, and 55% felt their competitors were companies with similar internal skill sets.

However, 45% thought companies operating in digitally led industries to be competitors, and 49% said companies with a visible brand presence were competitive threats for talent.

To recruit workers with digital skills, the healthcare industry will need to recruit workers in fields such as IT and communications. That means they’re competing with Silicon Valley.

“For example, Apple has received FDA approval for a smartwatch with an electrocardiogram monitor,” De Decker says. “Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are also investing in health data analytics.”

Those examples also highlight another problem in the healthcare sector. Clinical studies can span years and have to be reviewed by government agencies, while the IT and communications sectors can bring products to market at a more rapid pace. This can make healthcare less appealing to candidates choosing between the sectors.

How the industry is responding

“Some of the largest healthcare companies are already acquiring chief digital officers from other industries,” says De Decker. They’re also operating with more transparency and investing in employer branding and the talent experience. For example, some companies are touting their diverse and inclusive cultures, healthy work-life balance, and the organization’s financial stability.

They’re also approaching the talent shortage from another angle. “What we’re seeing is that companies are ramping up their workforces by leveraging more flexible talent,” De Decker says. “They are experimenting with more flexible schedules for medical professionals, researchers, IT, and support staff, hiring them on a part-time or freelance basis, and collaborating with more external partners, like contractors, to address the increasing demand.”

In fact, 46% of survey respondents project that contingent workers will make up 21% to 30% of their workforces.

“As companies fine-tune this more variated and agile workforce model, they will be better positioned to deliver on the life-saving innovation their customers demand now, and will demand in the future,” De Decker says.

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3 millennial negotiating skills to master

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For all the grief they continue to get from older generations, millennials deserve even more credit. From avocado toast to Zipcar and everything in between, the technological savvy, creativity and multicultural push from millennials has had an amazing impact on our culture.

As an HR professional, one place I truly appreciate their skills is negotiating. Here are three millennial negotiation skills we should all try to master.

Don’t blink

One of the most criticized characteristics of Gen Y is their perceived entitlement. Most often it rubs those of older generations the wrong way — coming across as immature, self-centered or sometimes delusional. However, this place where we feel the most angst to our younger co-workers is where we should try to emulate them.

Anyone who has interviewed a millennial for any type of position knows this: they have absolutely no problem asking for absolutely anything. From standing desks to Fridays off, twice the offered salary, to a new policy to allow them to bring their dog to work, nothing is off limits.

They are very clear on what they think they want and need to succeed and have no qualms asking for it. We should all be so bold.

Safety net

While millennials are facing unprecedented amounts of student loan debt and are often criticized for returning to live with their parents, this is yet another cause of consternation that deserves a closer look.

Instead of criticizing their parents for bailing them out or judging them for moving back in, we should take a look at the support network they have created. Millennials leverage their strong ties to family and friends into security that can allow them to take risks, explore opportunities and do things that many of us would only dream of doing in retirement.

Collective impact

Similarly, their support network plays a big role in their decision-making. Gen Y has and continues to be in more open and constant contact with family and friends. Older generations see this inability to decide without first seeking consensus as immature or weak.

While this could be considered an inability to cut ties, it should also be looked at as a willingness to seek input from other sources. When negotiating, it is often the friend who is candid about her benefits and salary and the parent who is still in the workplace and knows the ropes who end up providing amazing advice to millennials when they negotiate.

Thus, even though many of us older folk have the networks, knowledge and experience we often do not leverage them as well as our millennial overlords.

Instead of judging them for all the ways they seem different, we would be better off if we took a page from their book and tried asking for what we think we need to be successful; setting up a safety net to afford us the ability to seize opportunities now instead of someday; and leaned on our networks for more candid advice.

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Why great leaders must be great detectives

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Great leaders know how to find and leverage the brilliance in their organization. They know how to go beyond the “usual suspects,” and bring out the best work from people who may not be seen, “popular,” or outspoken. They are the hidden geniuses.

Are you missing the hidden geniuses in your organization? Who are these hidden geniuses?

They are on the down low; their brilliance and creativity go unrecognized. They are potential game-changers, innovators and revolutionary thinkers once discovered.

They are the employees that don’t look like you, sound like you or think like you. Perhaps they once tried to share an idea or provide feedback and were ignored by louder voices, or they were considered too different to be credible.

According to research by Avner Ben-Ner & Amit Kramer from the Carlson School of Management, “People act more favorably towards persons who share with them an important attribute of their identity compared to persons who differ significantly.”

That’s tragic! Think of the money, ideas and resources you may be losing every day because you are not tapping into the unseen, unrecognized and hidden geniuses.

Most of the time, we’re not even aware that we’re doing this. But as a great leader, it’s up to you to become aware and notice who’s not being heard or recognized.

If hidden geniuses remain unrecognized and unacknowledged, there is a high probability they will stop trying, be hired away by your competitor, start their own businesses and become your competitor.

What can you do to bring out the brilliance of your diverse workforce and be the great leader you’re mean to be?

Become aware. Here are four clues (symptoms).

1. People in your organization have no place or time to share ideas for new products and services unless they are on the product development team or one of your “go to” stars.

Even if you have a diverse workforce, if people don’t have opportunities to be creative and do their best work, they will never feel included or achieve the highest level of success.

2. Unorthodox solutions are not given a chance. Cross-functional problem solving is not encouraged, and people “stay in their own lane.”

3. You talk about diversity, equity and inclusion but you’re resistant to change and think it’s for everyone else. You stay in your comfort zone with people like you.

4. People at all levels are in silos and don’t have the tools, knowledge or cultural permission to find ways to bring out the genius in each other.

Three ways to uncover hidden geniuses in your organization

1. Encourage unconventional solutions through your words and behavior. Solicit ideas from people who don’t always speak up. Consciously seek out people who are different than you, with whom you may not feel comfortable, or haven’t engaged. I call that LBO: “look behind the obvious.”

“Deputize” employees. Ask for their help find other colleagues who may not be as visible but who have potential to add great value. Give recognition to the “hidden genius,” and to the person who recommended them.

2. Share challenges and best practices with leaders in other organizations and industries, and determine what you can apply.

Allow your mind to be stimulated. Get out of the office. Talk to customers and users of your products and services and ask them what new products, services or add-ons would keep them loyal for life and make them “brag” about you.

Expand your perspective and open possibilities for new markets by getting feedback from people in different segments about what would appeal to them. Hopefully, you already have these people in your organization.

3. Form cross-functional innovation teams that span as many dimensions of diversity as possible and use different types of design thinking that are inclusive.

Begin with a facilitated process for people to get to know each other and get comfortable. Learn and teach everyone how to access diversity of thought so everyone can contribute in different ways.

Don’t let hidden genius stay undercover. Taking a little bit of extra time and being willing to be uncomfortable at times can result in great rewards, create business breakthroughs, and a loyal workforce that ensures your positive legacy for years to come.

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How to fast-track your strategic plan implementation

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Within minutes of adjourning, the planning retreat the directors scattered, returning to work after volunteering for a day or weekend to create the multi-year strategic plan.

Back at the association office, staff were playing catch-up. There was temptation to put the new document in a file with other older strategic plans, or to put the plan in a notebook to collect dust on the bookshelf.

The retreat is like planting a garden. Ideas, strategies and priorities must take root. Without nurturing or attention, the plan may die.

“There is nothing more inspiring and rewarding than seeing a strategic plan come to life! It is a living, breathing document that deserves our diligent care. It enables us to remain focused on our purpose, goals and values, and nimble enough to adjust our efforts as issues and trends change,” said Linda Jay, RCE, and CEO at the Bakersfield Association of REALTORS®.

A plan that lingers without taking action will lose momentum. The leadership team has to be resourceful to implement their new plan.

A strategic plan used as a “plate” for popcorn.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is true for strategic plans. If it does not hold the attention of the board, committees and staff, it is dead at the starting block.

Here are three methods to fast track implementation by integrating the staff, committees and members. Do all of these within 60 days of the board’s retreat.

Staff Retreat

Staff are integral to implementation.

If they are excluded from the planning retreat they will be eager to learn the results and how the plan impacts their roles. The board’s meeting often causes unfounded anxiety back at the office, “Will I still have a job?”

Shortly after the board’s retreat, convene staff for a huddle of their own. The staff need to understand aspects of the plan and the rationale that drove decisions.

Discuss the board’s priorities for the years ahead. Spread the plan over three years; don’t attempt to achieve everything in the first year.

Performance measures should be added to the plan to give it traction. While a board might not know such details, the staff can project timelines, growth margins, profitability and retention rates, for instance.

To track progress, create a spreadsheet identifying who is responsible for what and when. Maintain it as a shared document that all staff can update and monitor progress.

Committee Engagement

Committees supplement the work of the board.

The new plan sets innovative programs and projects that will be delegated to committees. Use task forces, quick action teams and micro-tasks to engage volunteers.

If committees don’t agree or understand, problems will arise. After the planning retreat, assemble committee chairs to discuss how their efforts fit. If they have initiatives underway or recommendations, discuss how they will align with the plan’s new goals and strategies.

Committees should be aligned with the goals. If there are goals without the support of working groups the plan may fail.

Convening all the committees allows for an exchange of ideas. They should collaborate rather than work in silos; not knowing who is doing what. For greater impact, regroup and assess progress six months later.

Joe Fonseca, founding chair of Adapt and Triumph Foundation in Oregon said, “We created our plan to help veterans and challenged athletes. We realized we needed more volunteers and committees to advance the goals.”

Member Awareness

To members, the plan should communicate return on investment (ROI). They’ll judge whether or not the board is serving their needs and making best use of resources.

Transform it into marketing pieces. Reduce the high-level details to an information card that can be shared with members and prospects. Create a brochure describing the association’s goals for use with membership recruitment and renewal.

Create a PDF for the website or to distribute to members. Build a PowerPoint to introduce chapters to the plan.

To add emphasis, make it a signature quality document. Have directors sign the plan for members to know who set the direction and takes responsibility for advancing the mission and goals.

There are many techniques to increase the success of a strategic plan. These three can fast track implementation when scheduled within two months of the boards retreat.

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How to convert customers on social media

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For most businesses (70%), their top goal for social media is to raise awareness, according to the 2019 Sprout Social Index. Driving sales and generating leads came in a close second, though.

It helps that 90% of marketers found that investing in social media has a direct impact on their revenue.

But as you invest more in social, how can you ensure impact to the bottom line by moving customers down the funnel?

Read on for data-driven tips from Sprout Social about what customers want from you at each step of their buying journey.

What Platforms People Want You to Be On

Unsurprisingly, most consumers (66%) follow brands on Facebook, while 41% follow companies on Instagram. After that, 35% of people follow brands on YouTube.

The rest of the networks account for a much smaller part of the pie.

  • 32% follow on Twitter.
  • 17% connect with brands on Pinterest.
  • 14% follow companies on Snapchat.
  • 13% use Messenger to communicate with businesses.
  • 6% follow companies on LinkedIn.

Go where your people are! For most companies, that means reaching a wide audience on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

From there, see if the audiences on the networks with more niche followings align with your target demographic.

Why Customers Follow You

As you’re planning your editorial calendar, mark the goal of each piece of content. You want to ensure you’re delivering the types of content that your followers want most from you.

People primarily follow brands to learn more about their products or services. From there, they want to be entertained. Sprinkle in some company news when it’s relevant.

Of course, feel free to share about promotions or discounts as people are always keen to be the first to know of a good sale!

If you’re ambitious, inspire, educate and find ways to connect your followers.

Content that Converts

The good news is that 84% of people are more likely to buy from a brand they follow on social. But that doesn’t mean you’ll win them over right away!

53% of people who follow brands don’t buy anything from them at all. Instead, they’re just there for the content you create. 46% want inspirational posts, while 41% are there to be entertained.

61% said a discount post would encourage them to make that first purchase while 45% said more details about the product would convert them.

It’s fine a line, though. Too many promotional posts are one of the top reasons people unfollow you. So, be sure to sprinkle in content that can convert.

Most of your content should focus on entertaining, educating and inspiring. And if you need a bit of inspiration yourself, people are also keen to see more live videos, user-generated content and Instagram Stories from brands this year.

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5 ways to alienate your project team

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The role of project manager isn’t always viewed kindly. Some team members may think you don’t do any real work or that you’re creating extra work for them.

To fight against those stereotypes, consider the following ways you could accidentally alienate your team and take a different approach instead.

1. Schedule lots of meetings

You’ve probably seen the memes about a meeting that should have been an email. Meetings are notorious for being inefficient and unproductive. With that in mind, only schedule meetings when necessary.

When you do schedule a meeting, include a detailed agenda and just invite people who need to be there to add insights or make decisions. Also, if you have a weekly team meeting on the calendar, feel free to cancel it if it’s not needed that week.

2. Constantly pester them about deadlines

Project managers get tagged as being “professional nags” since we’re continually trying to get status on various tasks. While that’s part of our job, if we hover over team members and ask each day about a specific assignment, that’s not going to go over well.

Instead, ask team members to update their tasks within the project management software you’re using (this requires software that’s cloud-based or on a central server). If someone doesn’t update their tasks in that system, then it makes sense to send an email reminder or stop by their desk to get an update.

Don’t ask for updates any more than once a week unless it’s an emergency.

3. Don’t support them with upper management

Sometimes you need to go bat for your team. Maybe they hit an unexpected issue and need more time or a bit more money. Get the details so you have a full understanding of what happened, why it occurred, and various options for addressing the issue.

If you feel confident that this issue isn’t due to negligence by the team, then advocate for the team to upper management. I’ve had to do this to get a deadline extension and more money for a project.

It takes extra effort to investigate the problem and provide management with options, but the team appreciated my efforts and we got what we needed to complete the project.

4. Never acknowledge their hard work

It’s rare to have team members whose only job responsibilities are to the project. They usually have their regular jobs to do with this project added onto that list. Keep this in mind when you schedule meetings, ask for status updates, or wonder why they’re not done yet.

Sometimes you’ll have to push the fact that deadlines are approaching. When you do, make sure they know you recognize this isn’t the only item on their to-do list.

That recognition doesn’t solve the time issue, but it should help you maintain a healthy working relationship with the team.

5. Bury them in paperwork

At different points in the project, you’ll need team members to fill out purchases requests, sign off on test results, and more. I’ve run into team members who thought project managers were simply “paper pushers” and didn’t do much else.

To avoid feeding that narrative, keep the paperwork to a minimum. Do what’s required within the company and by law, but don’t add to that list.

For paperwork related to project management, such as the project charter, handle that yourself as much as possible. Create the draft and meet with those who should have input into the document, then present it to the team for their input before finalizing it.

Creating a healthy working relationship within the project team and between the team and yourself is no small feat. By avoiding these alienating actions, you’ll foster more goodwill and better communication with the team.

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How will US manufacturing be affected by the trade war with China?

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The U.S. trade war with China has heated up, and now there is much speculation about daily life for American manufacturers and their employees. What obstacles do manufacturers face and what happens to jobs in such an unstable climate?

While many trade war theories circulate, an overvalued American dollar is said to be the root cause of the problem — and thus is not likely to be addressed anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the U.S. agricultural sector is taking a special hit as state exports are down almost 50%. In 2017, the U.S. exported $19.6 billion in agricultural products to China.

How tariffs impact domestic manufacturing is another significant issue, as one of President Trump’s key election promises lingers: more manufacturing jobs.

The logic is that higher tariffs on Chinese goods will increase trading with non-tariffed countries, and even better is Trump’s “best idea” of higher tariffs resulting in a logical move to buy American.

We are quickly reminded that it’s not so simple to do that. Why not?

For one, it’s difficult to find products made with solely U.S. parts: “…products made in America can contain parts sourced from all over the world,” writes Alana Semuels for Time. Because of this fact, an abrupt change in parts availability, produced by increased tariffs on Chinese imports, “plays havoc” with supply chains that U.S.-owned companies depend on. This comes at a time when supply chains are altered by Brexit talks, leaving the European Union and the U.S. in an anxiety-ridden state.

Then we have nuts-and-bolts production issues to consider like raw material costs. Since 2015, U.S. steel prices doubled amidst increased domestic supply demands.

Because of these increasing prices, some want the U.S. to lift steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico while the new NAFTA — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — inches toward a congressional vote. In fact, as of May 15, the U.S. appears closer to lifting these tariffs, which would be a move toward more local stabilized relations.

But stabilized relations remain elusive under a bipolar trading strategy that pays lip service to broadening cooperation while enforcing culturally chauvinistic trade restrictions that undermine this purported cooperation.

Restricted trade effects a range of markets, from bikes to beer, and no greater impact is felt than in the U.S. automotive industry. Already we have seen the U.S. auto sector downsize, with General Motors closing traditional plants in favor of cleaner energy electric vehicle production.

For some politicians, the trade war provides a legislative context for increased domestic sourcing of minerals, like lithium and graphite, used to make electric vehicles.

Last year, 50 percent of 48 different minerals used in auto manufacturing were imported. This increasing dependency on imported minerals has led the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to begin crafting bipartisan legislation language that will rebuild “the mineral supply chain.”

This focus on critical mineral extraction will be some people’s answer to the inevitable job loss accompanying the trade war climate. Mineral extraction after a careful national study of reserves will produce jobs, but manufacturing employment losses are estimated to be far greater than that offered by any new domestic mineral extraction plan, or electric vehicle production strategy.

Alienating China, Mexico, Canada and other trading partners can prove detrimental to the U.S., which cannot extricate itself from its dependency on global trading partners. Not just markets, but entire national economies are intertwined in production and distribution chains. Simply digging for more domestic minerals, or buying American, are not strategies viable enough to prop up entire employment sectors.

Manufacturing jobs remain unstable, and the cleaner energy transition to new markets, like electric vehicles, remains mired in the same old dead end extraction game.

Besides, China leads in electric vehicle production anyway, serving as a reminder of the fundamental economic interdependence of nations — even as trade battles continue.

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Millennials present communication, engagement challenges for HR

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Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, and, according to a recent report, they’re also the hardest group to engage. A new Speakap study, “Technology’s Role in Managing and Retaining Employees,” reveals that millennials present a unique challenge to human resources. (Note that Gen Z workers also pose a challenge, but they’re not the majority of the workforce and they’re not quite as hard to engage.)

According to the study, which targeted HR professionals in retail, hospitality, entertainment, construction, consumer goods and other industries, respondents said their biggest challenges were as follows:

  • Recruiting and retaining top talent;
  • Ensuring the onboarding process is smooth and informative;
  • Creating a positive, tolerant, trusting work environment; and
  • Helping employees achieve professional goals and advance careers.

When asked to rank the specific HR communications expectations of millennial and Gen Z workers, these were the top expectations:

  • 46% of HR respondents said their millennial and Gen Z workers want an employee communications platform with a similar functionality and experience to social media.
  • 47% of HR respondents said their millennial and Gen Z workers prefer to have questions answered in real time.
  • 56% of HR respondents said their millennial and Gen Z workers are less likely to disconnect after working hours.

Why millennials are the hardest group to engage

The findings are not a surprise to Erwin van der Vlist, co-founder and CEO of Speakap. “This age group has grown up with technology and mobile devices in their hands from an early age.” He says meaningful experiences are more important to millennials than products, their views tend to be idealist, and on both a personal and professional level, they are searching for personal fulfillment.

“Whether it’s a customer experience or an employee experience, they have high standards and don’t like subpar experiences.” Taken together, he says it’s easy to see how they’ve gained a reputation for job hopping.

HR challenges in managing and retaining employees

The employee experience is a major challenge for HR. “When you talk about the employee experience, it’s important to remember that an experience encompasses the entire journey — from the time an employee finds information about the company online, to the interview process to the onboarding stage, to the long-term process of communicating and engaging with employees,” van der Vlist says. And he doesn’t believe the communications process gets the level of attention that it should.

“Another challenge is that so many businesses struggle to tackle and reduce high turnover because they often take a very simplistic and singular approach to it.” But there’s isn’t one reason that can define high turnover. “It’s the accumulation of multiple factors — and those factors can change depending on the profile of each employee, not the entire workforce.”

Relationship management is another contributing factor. “The truth is that there will always be some division between employees and management, but if proactive steps are taken to forge stronger digital bonds, interact in meaningful ways, and create more transparent access to the management team, companies will be on their way to reducing turnover,” van der Vlist explains.

Using technology to improve communication

If we don’t know anything else about millennials, we know how much they value social networks — and companies can use this to their advantage. “One way to communicate with millennial workers on their terms is to encourage them to share, interact, and engage with content posted on enterprise social networks by their fellow colleagues, teams, regions, managers, and even head office, to reduce the high turnover rate within your organization,” van der Vlist says.

In addition, companies can use the social intuitiveness of enterprise social networks to provide ongoing learning and develop content. “This will help their millennial workforce not only improve their job-related skills, productivity and performance, but it will also make them feel personally fulfilled in their roles and more satisfied with the company.”

To address turnover, companies can gain insight from people analytics and data. “HR teams can integrate survey tools, such as Hyphen, SurveyMonkey, and Qualtrics, into their employee communications platform to make it easier, quicker and more efficient to survey employees in real time about their job satisfaction, culture alignment, and overall employee experiences,” van der Vlist says.

Feedback is an important part of improving the communication process and can also help the company bridge the gap between millennials and management. “HR teams can also use the data to understand key HR/employee experience challenges, trends and areas for improvement, both for individual workers and the entire staff as a collective group.”

To recognize and reward employees when they reach milestones, et cetera, consider using an employee communications platform. “This not only increases employee morale, but it also makes millennials feel more valued, supported and appreciated,” van der Vlist says. “All of these result in happier and more engaged employees in the long term — and that means they will be less likely to hand in their notice.”

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