The madness is starting. Today marks the official beginning of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and according to global outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, this year could cost employers over $2.1 billion in productivity. They also estimated that approximately 23.7 million workers are filling out brackets… most likely on company time.

So does the old saying hold true, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”? Or should we put a stop to the madness?

march madness doesn't have to kill productivity

A survey by Office Team reported that 57% of managers feel that while they don’t encourage watching games or participating in office pools, they are ok with these activities in moderation. 32% said they should not be allowed at work and a mere 11% actually encourage this behavior.

Let’s be honest, though. Would you rather work with these 11% of employers who embrace the insanity of March or with the 32% that shun this type of behavior? Odds are you’re in favor of the former.

But, March Madness doesn’t have to kill productivity. Here are a few ways to have your cake and eat it, too:

Embrace the Competition

A great way to celebrate March Madness at work is to embrace the competition. This can be awesome for team bonding and office morale. Keep pool minimums low or consider offering a “free pool” option where you give away company swag or other small prizes to the winner.

Keep it Playful (and Respectful)

While some friendly competition can be great for office morale, it can also get into slippery territory when office fanatics find themselves facing a losing streak. Make sure to manage expectations around the office and keep conversations light-hearted. Smack talk is fun but can turn into bullying quickly. Steer clear of anything that could be offensive or disrespectful.

Manage Expectations

While streaming the games during lunch may be totally acceptable, there still needs to be an expectation of office performance during these crazy few weeks. Make sure expectations are clearly communicated during this time. Consider offering extra incentives for high-performers by letting them leave early to catch a game or providing some team gear. By celebrating wins both on and off the court, you can enjoy the season while still reinforcing productivity standards.

You can make the most of the Big Dance while still staying productive by preparing strategically and being transparent about the impacts of the tournament. Celebrating and staying productive is easy… picking your winning bracket is not.

Today is a day to celebrate the women in our lives and in our businesses and acknowledge both their accomplishments and challenges.

We are thrilled to celebrate the women at PerkSpot and to see so many of our clients supporting Women’s Day through their own efforts.

Here are a few of our favorites:

H&M

h&m international women's day
H&M is raising money at their registers for Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation which supports education, health and safety for girls in developing countries.

Southwest Airlines

southwest airlines international women's day
Southwest has been supporting women all month long by supporting various non-profit organizations geared toward women. Ellen Torbert, VP of Diversity & Inclusion for SWA, states “Many of the nonprofit organizations we work with provide women the resources and opportunities necessary to achieve their career goals. Through education and leadership, Southwest, with our nonprofit Community Partners, is building a pipeline of talented women with bright futures in career fields of their choice.”

Snapchat

snapchat international women's day
We all love those snap filters. Snapchat is celebrating International Women’s Day with filters of Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, and Rosa Parks. Time to get your game face on.

Spotify

spotify international women's day
Support women all month long by listening to the Women’s History Month playlist on Spotify. They are also running banners where listeners can donate to Girls Rock Camp Foundation at the click of a button, which goes to support girls developing their musical and creative abilities.

There are so many ways to get involved so wear your red and say thanks to a woman who has made a difference in your life!

Today is Employee Appreciation Day!

To commemorate this special day, we’re giving you a few ideas on how to appreciate your employees and introducing you to a few of the PerkSpotters who make the office a better place to work.

Celebrate Birthdays

celebrate birthday employee appreciation day

Not only is today employee appreciation day, but it’s also this guy’s birthday! Dan currently holds the record for most years at PerkSpot (and most push-ups). He is the ultimate idea man, always cooking up a new way to make us better and keep the office exciting. So today, with breakfast sandwiches and candles, we’ll celebrate Dan and let him know that we’re glad he was born 21 years ago (don’t worry, DB, the real number is our little secret). If you’re thinking about celebrating birthdays at work, we say GO FOR IT! Here are a few things from our friends at SHRM that you’ll need to know before you roll out a birthday program.

Share Their Story

share stories employee appreciation day

Hands-down one of the hardest working PerkSpotters is our Client Service Lead, Karla. From bestowing exotic treats on us to filling the office with her laughs to completing more customer service calls than we thought humanly possible… Karla is basically superwoman. Actually, she’s so awesome, we thought everyone should know. So when the Chicago Tribune approached us to highlight an employee, we immediately thought of her. Being able to celebrate her life in a major outlet was such a thrill for us and a great way for Karla to see how much we value her contribution to our team. She’s kind of a big deal, and we thought the world should know.

Embrace Life Changes

embrace life changes employee appreciation day

So much is changing around the PerkSpot office, including introducing our first PS baby into the world. We were so excited to congratulate Anthony on the birth of his daughter. He recently rejoined our team after three weeks of paternity leave and we were anxious to hear how he filled his time with his family. Anthony is a major force behind the PerkSpot wheel, bringing in new and exciting clients, so it was an easy choice to give him the well-deserved break from office life to embrace this new change. Plus, Fast Company studied California organizations implementing paternity leave and saw that 89% reported increased productivity and employee morale and a decrease in turnover. So while being out the office was not only great for Anthony’s well-being, we’re also excited to see what he brings to the table with his refreshed energy. Welcome Back, Anthony!

 Allow for Flex Schedules

work from home policies employee appreciation dayOne of the biggest perks at PerkSpot is the ability to flex our schedules and work from home. Our masterful designer, Evan, graciously takes on so many projects for us and we all know Wednesdays are Evan’s day to work from home. We are so appreciative of the attention to detail and creativity that goes into each of his designs. Thursday he comes back with incredible work to show for his time spent away from the office distractions. In fact, we think he might have magic pajamas. Magic pajamas or not, a Stanford University study reported a 13 percent performance increase in workers who had the ability to work from home one day a week versus not at all. This could be the easiest employee appreciation tactic for your company to boost morale and get ahead.

Treat Them to a Night Out

work perks employee appreciation day

Our master appreciator, Leia, is constantly spending her efforts at PerkSpot recognizing others. After planning our anniversary party last fall, Leia definitely deserved some R&R. Boss’s orders were to take a week off and enjoy a nice dinner on the company. Just a small way of saying we see all the many, many things she does to make our office a better place to work. Whether it’s a gift card to their favorite restaurant,or just a day of rest, small tokens of appreciation mean more than you might think.

What makes your employees worth celebrating? Consider ways to recognize them today!

Stop Saying Culture Fit

Culture Fit is so last year.

We recently read an article that resonated with us about the idea of culture fit. The author explains the tension between finding a candidate that “fits in” and is able to hit the ground running, while still fulfilling the need for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Coining a new phrase “culture add”, she states “you are looking for candidates to bring in new ideas, a different point-of-view, and bring out different traits in others in a collaborative, positive way.”

As you look to hire new people this year, consider these few things before begin conducting interviews to ensure you find candidates that don’t just fit in, but who add value and a new edge to your culture.

culture fit

Start With the Basics

When hiring any candidate, the first thing you should do is go back to your mission and vision as a company. Consider where you are and where you’d like to be, and determine how this particular role will enable you to get there faster.
Here are a few questions to consider:

  • How does this role tie into the mission and vision of the company as a whole?
  • Be as specific as possible about the job function and how this fulfills your mission. If your job description is functioning as it should, this should be fairly obvious.

  • Attribute their future responsibilities and past experience with your company values.
  • For example, at PerkSpot, one of our values is people, so for a customer service role we would be looking for a candidate who has experience demonstrating how they consider others, whether clients or colleagues, when performing specific tasks.

Examine Current Strengths

Think about your current culture. We don’t just mean looking around and seeing what race, ethnicities, or genders surround you. Instead, consider where most of your employees come from, what they like to do in their free time, and any natural “cliques” that might have formed. By examining your current culture, you’ll get a great idea of your strengths and weaknesses.
Consider these questions to help you get a feel for your culture:

  • Are most of your employees thoughtful or more aggressive?
  • Does your company sway with having more doers or thinkers?
  • Are your employees more aspirational or pragmatic?

You may even want to take it a step further and do personality tests at work to see which personalities are currently represented and which ones you may be missing. Plus, it will help your current teams work better together by understanding what makes them tick. Win-win.

Determine Areas of Growth

Once you’ve determined how your current culture is leaning, this should give you a good sense of where you need to grow. Take what you’ve learned and think about where you want to go.
These questions can help you get started:

  • What viewpoints are currently not being represented (or underrepresented)?
  • Are there any types of experience you are missing on your team? For example, if most of your employees have worked at a large corporation, maybe you could benefit from hiring someone from a start-up environment.
  • Are there any client demographics you are struggling to reach and how do they compare to your office culture? This is huge for not only improving your culture, but increasing revenue as well!

Create Your Process

Once you’ve determined what you’re looking for, it can be easy to fall into the hiring bias trap. Make sure that you conduct interviews in a methodical way that levels the playing field for candidates. By having a set of five to ten questions that you ask each candidate, this ensures you’re giving everyone a fair chance to express how they fulfill the needs you’re looking to meet. Here are a few staple questions to include:

  • What about their previous company culture did they like or dislike?
  • What are some ways they’ve dealt with problems in the past and how did they come to a solution? This gives great insight into how they process information and develop solutions based on personality and past experience.
  • What most excites them about the role and the company?

Hire Well

Hiring isn’t about finding your new best friend or a clone of your most successful employee. Every candidate has unique experiences and backgrounds, and it’s important to find the one that can add the most value and meet your needs. Don’t just hire for culture fit, hire someone who will push you and your team to step outside your comfort zone and see the world through a different lens.

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 resource professionals to understand this new demographic and reach them with strategic content that is relevant to them.

Here are a few things HR needs to know about this new generation of workers:

The Perk Generation

Gallup recently released a report on the State of the American Workforce. In the report they state that “the benefits and perks that employees truly care about are those that offer them greater flexibility, autonomy and the ability to lead a better life.” Millennials are more likely to change jobs due to perks, and the Centennial generation is no different. They are seeking out more independence and flexibility as the world becomes more mobile.

The Entrepreneur Generation

Along the same lines of independence, it should not surprise us that Generation Z is also more entrepreneurial. In fact, 37 percent of Generation Z said they are interested in starting their own company. This could be due to the Millennial generation paving the way with startup technology companies popping up left and right, plus an increased access to educational resources on sites like Udemy, Skillshare, and more.

The Happiness Generation

Millennials have been known to seek growth opportunities over salary. As Generation Z enters the workforce we are finding the same trend. A staggering 77 percent see job satisfaction as equal to or more important than salary. Again, this ties into perks and an overall compensation package that includes more than just the standard healthcare and retirement packages. Centennial employees want a place that makes their life a little easier.

The Mentor Generation

A surprising fact about Gen Z is that they don’t always prefer to communicate via social media and other technologies. 51 percent actually say they prefer in-person communications with managers as opposed to emailing or instant messaging. This also ties into their need for mentors. While they don’t want a micro-manager breathing over their shoulder, Generation Z does have a strong need for leadership and mentorship. They seek opportunities for growth over salary increases, craving feedback and direction from their managers. If they don’t find these opportunities, well, then they are not motivated to stick around.

Generation Z and the Millennial generation may not be all that fundamentally different, but finding ways to appeal to their needs and wants will ensure your company has the competitive edge in the war for talent.

It’s officially February. Which means, most of us are officially OVER winter. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is real and it affects workers all over the U.S.. In fact, one Chicago teacher filed a discrimination lawsuit against her school district in 2009 when they refused to accommodate her Seasonal Affective Disorder.

working with seasonal affective disorder

When temps are below freezing, most of us want to stay in the comfort of our own home with a hot cup of coffee, which makes going to work not so fun.

If the season’s got you down, here are a few ways to fight back against SAD this winter.

Exercise

There is arguably nothing better for your mental health than exercise. When the winter blues kick in, hit the gym or take a yoga class. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has found that people who regularly exercise have lower levels of tension, more stable moods, and even sleep better. Plus, you might even shed a few pounds while you’re at it. Win-win.

Invite Distractions

One of the best ways to combat SAD is to stay busy. Make plans with friends to work out or grab dinner after work. By having something to look forward to, you’ll distract your brain from thinking about the winter weather and focus on all the fun you’re having. Plus, plans with friends mean you have someone holding you accountable to get up and get out of your sweatpants.

Upgrade Your Environment

If your work space feels a little drab, consider ways to liven it up. Add some greenery to your space or pick up a light box to revamp your work environment. Planning a vacation? Print out pictures to keep you motivated and remind you that these few months are only temporary.

Consult a Professional

While these hacks might work for most, if you find your symptoms aren’t going away, it could be time to speak with a professional. In fact, one in five Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, while less than half of these are actually seeking help for their condition. No matter how mild your depression may seem, if it isn’t showing signs of fading, consider speaking with someone so you can get back to being your best self.

Are you finding ways to fight SAD this year? Tell us about it in the comments or subscribe for more insights!

Previously on the PerkSpot blog we explored the upcoming trends for 2017. Among these, and quite possibly one of the largest we’ll see sprouting up next year, is an improved candidate experience. More and more companies are realizing the importance of their recruitment process – not just for potential employees, but potential customers as well.

Give the candidate a great experience, and they’ll hold your brand in high-esteem. Reject them with a standard email, and a social media rant might be in your future.

Whether you’re a company of 10 or 10,000, here are some keys to improving your candidate experience in 2017:

Step One: Respond.

Ok, so you might be recruiting for 30 different positions and your inbox is out of control. Whether it’s a standard auto-reply or a personalized email, make sure you provide some guidelines for when the candidate can expect to hear back from you, when it’s ok to follow-up, and any next steps for the interview process. While it may be acceptable to ghost someone after a bad date, it’s not ok to do it to your job candidates. Need some help with what to say? Trello does this really well.

improve your candidate experience perkspot

Step Two: Show, don’t Tell.

Most interviews consist of round after round of intensive questioning. Take your interview process to the next level by giving candidates a “guide” for the day. This person will give them a tour of the office, introduce them to current employees, help them find the bathroom and something to drink, and anything else they might need to know. Ensuring the candidate feels comfortable will help them perform their best and also give you insight into how they’ll function in your office on a day-to-day basis.

Step Three: Provide Feedback

Spare your candidates the “We’ve decided to go in a different direction” email. Provide concrete reasons why they weren’t a great fit for this position. Be delicate and let them know where they fell short. If you don’t give them specific feedback, they’ll never know how to improve. In fact, 70% of employers don’t provide candidates with feedback. How you decide to let them down will arguably have the greatest effect on your brand. Let them down easy, but transparently.

improve your candidate experience

Step Four: Ask for Feedback

What better way to gauge how you’re doing than from someone who has walked the walk? At this point, you’ve given the candidate your feedback, so make sure you provide them the same opportunity. Give them an anonymous survey to complete detailing their experience with your company. How was the recruitment process? Was there anything unexpected? What did they like about the interview process? How could it be improved? Make sure you share their feedback with everyone involved in order to improve your process in the future.

How will you improve your candidate experience in 2017? Let us know in the comments!

transparency inclusion executive team

Right after college, I stepped into a role at an international company with thousands of employees. Given the size of the company and its various locations, there was a major divide between the executives and the entry-level employees like myself. The CEO was someone I had only seen from a distance in a boardroom with other executives.

Coming to PerkSpot, the interaction between the executive team and other employees is drastically different than what I had previously experienced. Transparency is a value we promote and work to make a part of our culture and it was evident from day one. At PerkSpot the CEO is no longer this distant figure, but someone who knows each of us on a personal level. The Executive team is not a group that spends time in secret meetings behind closed doors, but who gathers input from employees in order to make informed and inclusive high-level decisions. Transparency is part of our everyday life here, and it makes all the difference.

After experiencing the difference transparency makes, I know firsthand how important it can be. But, this isn’t unique to my personal experiences. In a 2014 report by the American Psychological Association, one out of three employees stated that their employer was not always honest and truthful with them. The need for transparency is obvious.

Here are a few reasons why transparency should become a part of every culture:

Transparency Solves Problems

Whether your company is undergoing a major change or looking to improve performance, transparency can help you solve problems faster. Transparency around the issues you face help employees learn to trust their leadership and gain ownership in solving problems. Forming a more inclusive culture brings a fresh approach and a new set of eyes. Therefore, leaders solve the problem faster than if they had just kept the facts among executives.

Transparency Makes Things Personal

Nothing brings people closer together than solving problems. As the world becomes more interconnected through digital media, this is becoming increasingly more important. Employees want leaders who will connect with them beyond the professional and into the personal.  By providing opportunities for executives to interact with other members of the organization, relationships can form authentically.

Transparency Improves Culture

A 2016 survey of more than 1,200 employees, managers and executives discussed a major chasm in company culture. It discovered the more seniority a person has in an organization, the more positively they viewed company culture. This proves how vital it is that the various levels within the organization are interacting. It’s important not only to uncover any negative feelings the employees may be harboring, but to also reveal the positive outlooks senior management may have due to a greater access of information.

As Generation Z enters the workforce this year, transparency is becoming all the more important. Whether you’re the CEO, a manager, or an intern, find ways to be more transparent about the problems you’re facing.

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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