As one of the most prominent leaders of the past century, there are many lessons we can learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on leadership, courage, and adversity.

martin luther king leadership

In celebration of Dr. King’s birthday on January 15th, here are a few ways you can embrace his spirit of leadership all year round:

Embrace Fear

Unmistakably, one of Dr. King’s greatest attributes was his courage. Facing extreme adversity, He always stood up for what he believed in and never wavered in his passion. Even after his death, his legacy lived on to fuel the Civil Rights Movement in America. While your dreams may not evoke the intense opposition that Dr. King faced, you can still retain your passion regardless of any adversity that may come your way. Don’t let fear of what others might say keep you from speaking out and working towards your goals.

Dream Big

The four famous words from Dr. King inspired a nation to stand behind him: “I Have a Dream…” While our dreams may not change the course of human history, we should still continue to have them. Dreams are what inspire and motivate us to continue. You’ve probably made a lot of plans for 2017. But this year, remember the reasons why you want to accomplish your specific goals, and let that push you to go further. After all, having a plan is nearly as exhilarating as having a dream.

Communicate Clearly

An excellent communicator, Dr. King spent his life influencing others through his words. Although a conference room presentation might not invoke the same emotion and response as Dr. King’s famous speech, it is still important that we communicate clearly and effectively. After you’ve clearly assessed your vision and dream, remember to spend time focusing on how to communicate this to others. Empower them through your words and take time to understand their perspective.

There are countless ways Martin Luther King, Jr. has continued to inspire us, even generations later. Let’s follow his example of embracing fear, dreaming big and communicating clearly in 2017.

It should be no surprise that among the top trends for 2017 in human resources is improved wellness programs. The combination of an increased desire for a healthy lifestyle and more involvement from upper management has put wellness at the forefront of the human resources department. 

Needless to say, we have work to do. In fact, the Flex + Strategy Group blog noted that 25% of employees do not have the option of a wellness/wellbeing program at their workplace. However, 20% said that although they do not participate in a corporate wellness program (either for lack of interest or opportunity), they still pursue wellness programs on their own. Evidence that there are not enough, and certainly not the appropriate, opportunities available in the workplace, paving the way for needed improvement in 2017.

Here are a few ways we see wellness programs advancing in the upcoming year:

Competition vs. Rewards for Wellness Initiatives

wellness initiatives 2017

With the EEOC’s Final Rule on Employer Wellness Programs we expect to see a decrease in the amount of financial incentives for wellness programs and a trend towards more friendly competition in the workplace. 91% of employees said they would engage in healthier behaviors if they were rewarded, according to a survey from Welltok, which proves there is still a need to incentivize behavior. But with the rise in wearables and other technology, we can anticipate more Fitbit challenges and competitions in our future.

A Focus on Mental Health

wellness initiatives 2017

Mental and behavioral health conditions cost employers around $104 billion each year, while only 41% of employees say their employer helps them meet mental health needs. As wellness programs become more holistic, we find a trend towards more engagement in the mental health realm.  Helping employees take control of their mental health not only improves retention, but productivity as well. Whether it’s implementing more mindfulness practices or on-site counseling, there are many opportunities for employers to engage employees in this way.

Highlighting Financial Wellness

wellness initiatives 2017

Many employers made the headlines last year for offering student loan repayment and tuition assistance. However, this is not financially viable for all companies. However, we do anticipate more education being provided around financial wellness for employees. According to Aon Hewitt, nearly 89% of employers plan on implementing tools to expand their financial health focus. The main reason? “To increase employee engagement”.  From budgeting classes to debt management, expect to see more financial education in the workplace this year.

 

2017 should bring some exciting changes to the workplace as employers work towards a more comprehensive program. How is your company improving wellness this year? What new programs are you implementing?

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2017 HR Trends to Watch

2017 hr trends watch

As little as ten years ago Human Resources was primarily defined as the department in charge of payroll and benefits. Thanks to technology,  these more administrative functions have been automated, making room for more innovation and putting the focus on the “human” aspect of this department.

As we await for the ball drop and the ringing in of the new year, here are a few HR trends we can look forward to in 2017:

Recruitment

In 2016, 60% of job seekers reported a poor candidate experience and 72% of these candidates shared their experience via Glassdoor.com or other employer review services. Companies like Virgin Media are paving the way for an improved candidate experience. When Virgin discovered they were losing an average of $7 million in revenue due to weaknesses in their recruitment process, they began to analyze what they could do differently. They created a better candidate experience and in turn, improved ROI. We expect to see more of this in 2017 as employers seek to create a reformed experience for job-seekers.

The Gig Economy

The blended workforce is becoming increasingly more common in the modern workforce. With 93% of companies hiring freelance workers alongside full-time employees, we expect to see an even greater increase in 2017. In fact, a staffing industry report shared that total spending on the U.S. Gig Economy is close to $800 billion. With our economy becoming even more contingent on these workers, this presents new challenges for the HR professional as they seek to make these employees more of a focal point for employee engagement.  

Generation Z

2017 marks the first year Generation Z will enter the workforce. These Centennials will bring a new culture with them, known for being more diverse, resilient and open than their Millennial counterparts.

While 37% of Centennials fear they will not find a job that fits their personality, this presents a new challenge for human resources professionals to understand this new demographic and reach them with strategic content that is relevant to them.

Retention

CareerBuilder’s 2016 Candidate Behavior study found “Although 76 percent of full-time, employed workers are either actively looking for a job or open to new opportunities, nearly half (48 percent) of employers can’t seem to find the workers they need to fill their job vacancies.” Employers also stated it takes anywhere from 26-34 days to fill an open position. In a world where time is money, it’s certain more employers will be taking more measures to decrease the amount of time and energy spent to find qualified candidates.

Wellness

A study by Willis Towers Watson, showed that while 75% of U.S. employers believe stress is their number one health and productivity issue, employers and employees can’t seem to agree on its cause. Alleviating stress has become a top concern for many companies. The American Psychological Association, however, reports less than half of workers say their organization supports their well-being, with one in three reporting chronic stress while on the job.  Evidence that we still have a long way to go in creating a more relaxed, stress-free environment in the workplace.

What are the trends you’re looking out for in 2017?

employee engagement during holidays

For many employees, the holidays invoke a myriad of emotions. Some relish in the memories shared with close friends and families. Others are overwhelmed and stressed by gift lists. Meanwhile, a small few may be dealing with heartache and loss that comes to light this time of year.

Beyond the potluck meals and holiday celebrations, there are many ways we can engage employees in a meaningful way during this season.

Communicate Expectations

The only thing worse than working on a holiday is unexpectedly working on a holiday. Set the stageahead of time for any additional hours employees may be expected to work beyond the norm. And if they are having to work during the season, ensure you are providing recognition and post-holiday recovery time. If your company is not particularly busy this time of year, make sure you communicate office closures with plenty of time for employees to make their travel plans. Take this opportunity to highlight your workplace flexibility to ensure employees use this time wisely to recharge and come back re-energized in the new year.

Prioritize Goals

As you wrap up the year, it can be tempting to squeeze in those last-minute projects to reach your year-end goals. But often it’s better to wait until the new year to start new projects to ensure they receive the quality attention they deserve. The holidays are fraught with distraction and can be a difficult time to accomplish even everyday tasks. Make sure any extras you’re piling on their plates are 100% necessary and you’re enabling employees to complete these tasks to the best of their abilities. By prioritizing only the necessary, you’ll be doing your employees, and yourself, a major favor.

Consider Perspectives

The most obvious struggle for human resources, office managers or just workplace party-planners is finding the balance between festive and offensive. From the office decor to the tunes playing in the background, it can be difficult to please everyone. Remember to keep an open mind and listen to what employees want and how they want to celebrate the season. Every workplace is different so try surveying your employees to get a feel for what makes this time special to them.

Celebrate Thoughtfully

While we generally think of this season as a “jolly” time, for some people this year may be the toughest. Remember to navigate the holidays with sensitivity for those who may be dealing with a hard situation. Maybe it’s highlighting in-house grief counseling or sending a small note to someone to let them know you’re thinking of them. Each situation is different and every relationship unique. Let them know you recognize what they’re going through and provide a safe space to talk about it.

Year-end celebrations are a wonderful time to reconnect with your employees and revel in all you’ve accomplished this year; just remember to treat this time with sensitivity, respect and, of course, have fun!

human resources internal communications strategy

This week PerkSpot joined a panel discussion along with fellow HR experts hosted by the Illinois Technology Association. While the panel largely focused on employee perks, a natural side effect of the conversation revolved around communication.

HR professionals are in the business of people. And we all know nothing is more valuable in relationships than communication. You can have the best mission statement in the world, but if none of your employees know it… how valuable is it? What about that new perk you decided to roll out that no one is using? Why pay money for perks and benefits if no one is going to use it?

As you strive to promote culture in your organization, here are a few ways to develop a strong internal communications strategy:

Understanding Expectations

Before you can communicate well, you have to understand your audience and their expectations. Generational differences are among some of the great challenges organizations face in communicating effectively.  

When you develop your plan, ask these questions first:

  • What generation am I targeting with this message? Millennials, Baby Boomers, A combination? Consider gender, socioeconomic status, and any other factors that may come into play.
  • How does this audience prefer to receive information? Through technology or with a face-to-face meeting?
  • What does the audience already know about this offering? Have they requested this particular perk or is it totally new to them?

Packaging Communications

In the modern-day workplace everyone is a communicator. Whether that’s at the water cooler or in a formal conference room, the fact of the matter is that employees talk. While we can’t always ensure everything employees have to say is in favor of the company, we can play a role in how we disseminate the information in the first place.

One interesting perspective at the panel discussion came from the moderator, Laurence Marx, CEO and Co-founder of EmphasisHR, who likened a specific perk to Apple’s iPhone. So much of what made the iPhone such a phenomenon was the branding and marketing strategy they used to communicate all its added benefits. As we seek to circulate information among our companies, we can also recruit our marketing staff to help us package the perk in such a way that engages employees and provides a natural way for them to talk about it. As Marx stated on the panel, “put it in a cool wrapper”. Make your messaging as unique as the perk you’re offering.

Navigating Changes

Another issue arose as we talked around this idea of communications and HR. What do we do when we need to make a change to our current offering? For example, let’s say you’re developing a new benefits plan and you need to communicate the changes to your employees. Your goal is to make the information as clear as possible, while also addressing any concerns they may have with this new change. You should outline the new plan and how it aligns with your company’s overall goals. For example, maybe this new benefits plan offers a discount on gym memberships, which aligns your company’s wellness values as a whole.

Maybe you’re rolling out a new perk that employees have been requesting for a while, but you’re unsure of how effective this will be or how long it will be possible to sustain. Try setting the expectation ahead of time that this perk might not be permanent. “We’re trying this out for a year…” By communicating with honesty and transparency, you’re less likely to deal with disgruntledness down the line.

Reviving Constants

There are so many companies out there offering amazing incentives for their employees. In fact, some of these have been providing perks for over 10+ years. This brings us to our final question – How do we incentivize employees who are used to all the perks that their company has to offer?

This again goes back to the idea of your packaging. Make sure you’re not communicating with the same flier today that you were using in 1997. Find new ways to package the information to make sure it reaches employees in the right place and time.

Still not seeing results? Remember that all perks are not created equal. Evaluate your offerings to make sure they’re still relevant. Another great idea came from Margaret Hermes, Senior Manager of Benefits at Groupon who shared with the room that they’ve created Employee Resource Groups specifically focused on different demographics. They use these groups to gather information and make sure everyone’s voice is heard and valued.

In a recent survey, 36% of employees said they would give up $5,000 a year in salary to be happier at work.  By using these insights to develop a strong, clear communications strategy around our perks, we can increase employee happiness and in turn see a significant increase in ROI.

At PerkSpot we know that one size does not fit all when it comes to your total rewards package. That’s why with our clients we value personalization throughout every stage of the process. With over 500 diverse discounts and counting, there truly is something for everyone.

One of the greatest challenges for leadership today is keeping up with the rapid changes in their industry. As communication tools and cultural norms begin to morph, it can be difficult for leaders not only to keep up with the necessary changes, but to implement them in a way that is healthy for the company.

When we approach change in our organizations, there are three guiding principles we should follow.  

Clarity

change management tips for human resources professionals

There’s nothing worse than being faced with a big decision or new change and not understanding why it’s happening. Getting employees involved in the decision is key to ensuring its success. In fact, Torben Rick, an operational and change management expert, says the key to implementing change in a successful way is to tell a compelling story. Rick states “before leaders can get buy-in, people need to feel the problem. People aren’t going to consider anything until they are convinced there is a problem that truly needs to be addressed.” Provide clarity on what problem this new change is solving and offer insights into any other possible solutions you may have explored before landing on this one. You may find that employees not only support your decision, but become change agents themselves.

Transparency

change management tips for human resources professionals

This goes hand in hand with clarity, but it’s also important that you don’t just talk about the benefits this new change will bring, but also the challenges. The sad truth is that 70% of all change initiatives fail. As a leader, explain why this risk will ultimately bring rewards. As a basic guide, your conversation around changes should include answers to the following questions:

  • Why is this change necessary?
  • What actually is going to change and how does this affect each of us?
  • When will we introduce and implement this change?
  • How do we communicate this change?
  • What will determine that this has been successful?
  • What challenges will this change bring?
  • How can we motivate and support people during this change?

Beyond these questions, offer to address any specific concerns employees may have, and follow through on that promise. Transparency offers the opportunity to shape the conversation into a more positive and exciting tone that could otherwise be one of confusion or fear.

Humility

change management tips for human resources professionals

Someone once said “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”. We don’t often pair humility with great leadership, but we should! Understated, but incredible valuable, humility is a quality that every leader should possess. Humility drives leaders to think about how others might be feeling in a certain situation and empathize with their concerns. This is especially important when dealing with new information or even a shift in the organization. However big or small the change might be, by practicing empathy, we can ensure our employees feel heard and understood. In fact,  what they’re trying to tell you may surprise you.

Have you dealt with a large change in your organization? What are the hurdles you overcame? Share your advice in the comments!

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We all want the best for our businesses, which includes the best employees. But what happens when you just can’t afford to pay big bucks for the best candidates? How can you recruit without the enticement of a fancy corner office or large salary?

recruitment-without-a-big-salary

Here are three things to consider:

Celebrate Your Culture

It should come as no surprise that employee engagement really pays off (literally). In fact, a Gallup survey reported that 54% of workers who are disengaged would leave their company for a 20% raise or less, while only 37% of engaged employees would make that same decision. Your company may not have a multitude of resources, but there’s one currency that’s undeniably valuable – your people. When interviewing for a new position, don’t forget to highlight your culture. There are many ways to educate interviewees about your culture, but it all starts with asking the right questions and highlighting what makes you unique. You’ll end up finding someone who not only is excited about the role, but is a fabulous culture fit to boot.

 

Promote Your Perks

Salary is only one piece of the puzzle. Does your company offer an above average vacation plan? What about work from home policies? No business is created equal so be sure and highlight the added perks that a new hire would receive. Maybe you’re even saving them money with exclusive discounts. Whatever the case may be, studies show that happy employees are better employees. Win-win.

 

Invite Their Input

In a recent survey, 80% of millennials said they want regular feedback from their managers, and 75% yearn for mentors. Highlight this in your interviews and you’re guaranteed to stand out among the crowd. 85% of everything we’ve learned comes from listening. Which means, if we want to know how to effectively lead employees well, we need to provide a platform for them to speak. Do you offer performance reviews every quarter? What about a weekly touch base? However you provide opportunities to listen and learn, showcase this in your recruitment efforts.

 

What are some other ways you highlight your company culture to potential employees?

 

Whether you’re reading this as a manager or an employee, chances are you feel the same way: Performance Reviews are the absolute worst. In fact, a report by the Society for Human Resource Management dove into the success of performance management. Their findings showed that more than half (53%) of human resource professional grade their organization between a C+ and a B, another fifth (21%) chose a C, and a mere 2% gave their management an A.

performance review tips

 

A key to making performance reviews successful is ensuring this isn’t just happening once a year, but that you provide consistent, valuable feedback. In addition, the review should strike a balance between evaluating the past and setting goals for the future. These three components are essential to a healthy, successful performance review that both managers and employees can stand behind.

Consistent and Quantifiable Feedback

SHRM reported that 72% of performance appraisals were done on an annual basis. However, a study by Globoforce reported that 71% of employees prefer to receive feedback ASAP. While this doesn’t mean you should totally eliminate the annual performance review, it does mean you should find ways to provide ongoing feedback throughout the year. Perhaps this means tracking goals in a spreadsheet, or maybe it means writing down current projects and their outcomes every quarter. However the team functions, it’s important to track and record successes and failures and ensure you’re giving feedback immediately and not waiting until the end of the year.

Concrete Evaluation of Previous Performance

The most important thing to remember is that evaluating past performance does not mean focusing on the negative. Studies have shown that positivity has a major impact on work performance. In fact, psychologist Martin Seligman reports that Optimistic salespeople sold 37% more than their pessimist colleagues, who, on the other hand, were twice as likely to leave the company during their first year of employment. Take some time before you meet with the employee to evaluate which goals they’ve met and which you need to revisit. If you’ve been tracking these all along, this should be pretty straightforward. Encourage employees in the areas where they have been successful and challenge them in the areas where they struggled. You may be surprised at the results.

Clear Goal-Setting for the Future

A huge success factor for performance appraisals is tying the employee’s goals with the company’s mission and goals overall. According to Globoforce, 70% of employees say the point of performance reviews is to help them develop and grow. By tying their personal achievements to company successes, this helps to not only give them clarity around their responsibilities, but also increase motivation in the future. These goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Encourage employees to write down their goals and put them in a place where they will see them throughout the day. After all, goals are pointless if you forget what they are.

Need help getting started? Here are a few useful phrases to ramp up your performance reviews.

Mindfulness, as defined by Merriam-Webster,  is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”.

promoting mindfulness at work

While the Eastern hemisphere has practiced mindfulness for years, the Western world is slowly coming around to the idea. Perhaps with the increase of technology and constant distraction, mindfulness is becoming more important as a practice. In fact, a recent report showed how schools have implemented mindfulness as a replacement for detention and the results have been staggering. We’re also seeing yoga and meditation rooms popping up in offices and airports all over the U.S.. What was once confined to monasteries is now flowing into our everyday lives.

Practicing mindfulness can change your perspective, your leadership, and your mind:

Mindfulness changes your perspective

A fascinating article by Psychology Today goes through the various ways that mindfulness molds the mind. From making us more empathetic and compassionate to decreasing fear and anxiety, mindfulness can truly change your point of view. Instead of fixating on the problems that surround you, mindfulness gives you the opportunity to clear your mind and think more positively. By stopping, breathing and focusing on more positive things, you can turn your whole day around.

Mindfulness makes you a better leader

To lead others well, it’s important to first take care of yourself. Maybe that’s why companies like Google, Ford, Target and Goldman Sachs have all initiated programs to promote mindfulness. As leaders sit down to empty their minds, they are able to make better decisions. Don’t just take our word for it. Mindfulness can help leaders de-stress and focus on the tasks at hand. And studies show that happier leaders, lead to happier employees. Want to engage your employees? Try mindfulness on for size.

Mindfulness is great for the mind

It’s no surprise that mindfulness also impacts our mind. Inside the brain is a region known as the hippocampus which is composed of grey matter that is essential for our functions of memory, learning, emotions, and motor skills. This grey matter is largely affected by our age, drug use, and even poverty. While all of these “stress factors” are known to reduce the amount of grey matter, practicing mindfulness has been proven to have the opposite effect. In a Harvard study, participants who engaged in an average of 27 minutes a day in meditation, showed an increase in grey matter in just eight weeks. Who knew getting smarter was so easy?  

Want to implement more mindfulness practices into your office? Here are five tips for where to start.

 

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When you think about leaders who inspire you, chances are you aren’t thinking about their job title or their corner office. You think about the inspiring words they spoke when you needed to hear it, the efforts they took to make a change, and the lives they impacted.

leadership-beyond-office

I recently spoke with the Director of Human Resources for a start-up located here in Chicago. She shared insights into what makes their office culture truly unique and hands-down it was the leadership. In fact, part of their on-boarding process for new employees includes a goal-setting session with the CEO. While this might not seem out of the ordinary, the goals are not strictly professional. With a strong financial background, the CEO helps each employee set savings goals such as taking a vacation with their family or paying off student loans. With a high percentage of part-time employees, many do not have the ability to hire a financial planner and chances are, have never received financial advice from an expert. By understanding their needs and using her skills, their CEO helps employees achieve things they never thought possible.

 

From the human resources department to the CEO to the marketing managers, every leader in an organization is tasked with an overwhelming responsibility to make a difference in their employees’ lives. So while not all of us can become financial advisors, there are plenty of ways we can lead well no matter your job title or area of expertise.

Learn.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
– John F. Kennedy

True leaders never stop learning. It’s easy to be mediocre, only absorbing information as we need it, but great leaders know that “knowledge is power”. With humble attitudes, they are proactive in seeking out advice and expertise. It can also be said that great leaders should push their employees to seek out knowledge as well. By offering a continuing education program or professional development courses, you and your employees can learn more, together. In fact, many companies offer a “Lunch and Learn” each month where employees get together to learn something new over a meal. They bring experts on everything from financial advice to html coding to business skills. Leading means learning, and pushing others to do the same.

Listen.

When people talk, listen completely.
– Ernest Hemingway

One of the most obvious ways we can lead people well is by listening well. It’s easy to assume as leaders that we know best, but every person has a unique story and perspective. By taking time to first understand and get to know their personalities, their struggles and their strengths, we can push them to be the best version of themselves. Leadership expert, David Marquet, describes listening as using “not only your ears, but your eyes and heart as well.”

Lead the Change.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
– Martin Luther King Jr.

We have unlimited vacation days at PerkSpot. I know what you’re thinking, “But do people actually use them?”. The answer is yes and the reason is our leadership. While many offices claim to have great employee perks, what makes the difference at our company is that our executive team lives out these values. We take vacation days because the leaders do, we participate in charity because our leaders volunteer, and we congratulate each other on successes because our leaders model this behavior. It’s nothing new and nothing crazy, but having leaders pave the way  makes all the difference.

Let Go.

The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.
– Ronald Reagan

Great leaders are the ones who are okay with relinquishing control. While many feel that giving up control is a sign of weakness,  it actually is a great testament to the strength of your leadership. “Control is about power – not leadership. Surrender allows a leader to get out of their own way and focus on adding value to those whom they serve.” Again, humility is key to being a successful leader. By focusing more on who your employees can be and what they can accomplish and less on making a name for yourself, your team will grow to respect you and your authority.

 

This is true leadership. We should go beyond the walls of the office or the boundaries that exist and start helping employees become the person they want to be.

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