You’ve heard it before: office friendships can make a big difference when it comes to employee happiness and engagement. But what happens when friendships turn into cliques?

office culture too cliquish

On Ask a Manager, an HR blog/advice column, a reader writes about her experience with a former employee who didn’t seem to meet this manager’s understanding of a “culture fit”. The employee eventually left the department due to cultural problems and overall what she described as a very exclusive environment, including Snapchat silos, brewery trips, and inappropriate relationships. The manager blamed the employee’s lack of belonging on not being a good fit for the team, but it seemed that she was prioritizing social connections over professionalism and inclusivity. In fact, Ask a Manager posted an update just last week stating the manager had been fired for bullying (mocking the former employee on SnapChat) and not meeting the company code of conduct. Definitely a case of culture fit gone wrong.

We’ve explored this misunderstanding of “culture fit” before and came to the conclusion that HR should just remove those two words from their vocabulary. Too often and too easily we fall into the trap of hiring people who talk like us, think like us, and even dress like us. But what about diversity and inclusion? And how do we prevent “cliques” from happening… or should we?

Here’s what we’ve learned:

1. Friendships can, will, and should happen naturally. There was one thing this manager actually managed to do well and that was encourage friendships within the office. Embrace the natural connections that happen within the office as long as they are not occurring at the expense of other employees or crossing any lines.

2. Friendships are never mandatory. The biggest mistake this manager made was thinking that friendships were a necessary part of the office life. While friendliness is obligatory, friendship is not, and these are not the same thing. Some personalities prefer to come to work, do their job, and leave. Just like you wouldn’t force a friendship in other walks of life, don’t do it in the workplace.

3. Friendships, unfortunately, will exclude someone. We aren’t in third grade anymore where it’s mandatory to invite the entire class to attend your birthday party. Friendships, by nature, will exclude certain people. The important thing to note here is that you are considerate to those outside your circle by keeping inside jokes to a minimum and outside plans, well… outside. Your friendship can’t take priority over someone else’s feelings inside the workplace. Managers, pay attention to isolated employees. Make sure they’re choosing not to participate versus feeling excluded.

Are there other ways you can keep your culture from becoming “cliquey”?

sunday night blues

An awesome article in Fistful of Talent recently discussed the “Sunday Night Blues”. Well-written and well-researched, the author describes the misery many people experience before returning to work on Monday morning. He dives into why this might be true of the 76% of Americans who say their Sunday Night Blues are so bad they want to look for a new job.

While you can read the article for a more in-depth view of the “Sunday Night Blues” and their sweep across America, let’s discuss a few ways we can conquer the blues by providing employees with a better place to work in the first place.

Give Them Something to Look Forward To

Think about your team and the weekly activity they enjoy doing the most. Maybe it’s a meal you share together or a fun team building activity. Whatever it is, try moving it to Monday to engage your staff right from the get-go. Start incorporating a daily stand-up as part of your Monday routine to encourage your team by celebrating wins and highlighting star performers. Just make sure to save any constructive criticism for later in the week when morale is higher.

Take Advantage of Fridays

When the end of the week rolls around most of us check out for the weekend. But often that can make Monday even more painful. Ending your Fridays well and setting you and your team up for success is essential for a productive and pleasant start to your week. The Muse provides a helpful worksheet for ending your week by celebrating accomplishments and assigning tasks for the week ahead. Using this sheet can help you feel more successful and less overwhelmed on Monday morning.

Let Them Flex Their Schedule

One of the greatest benefits at PerkSpot is the ability to flex our schedules. This could mean working from home when it’s storming out or working later hours to catch up on some Zzzzs. Providing flexible schedule opportunities for employees can help improve productivity and has even made a difference in closing the gender pay gap. Telecommuting is becoming all the more popular, so it will not only satisfy your current employees but also help you stay competitive when recruiting new hires.

Lead by Example

Nothing is worse than walking into the office on Monday morning to hear your supervisor or coworker moan and complain. On the other hand, Gallup reports that “Positive leaders deliberately increase the flow of positive emotions within their organization,” and can lead to greater engagement and improved performance. If the leadership is not staying positive, it’s highly unlikely their employees will maintain a positive attitude.

Combat the “Sunday Night Blues” by providing a better workplace for our employees, starting with our own attitudes.

A new company recently emerged on the scene that had the PerkSpot office murmuring: Brandless.

Brandless sells consumer goods from groceries to household and office supplies. What makes them unique? Everything is completely generic and only $3. In their words: “Better stuff, fewer dollars. It’s that simple.” By eliminating the costs associated with a name brand, they are able to increase quality and decrease price.

This got us thinking.. What would happen if we eliminated the brand stigma when hiring candidates? What if resumes came without company names like Facebook or Google? Would we still be hiring the same people?

brandless employees

Here are few lessons we learned when we began the search for “Brandless” Employees:

1. Go Brandless to See Talent for Talent:

One of the greatest risks to hiring employees based on where they’ve previously worked is that we might not truly evaluate their work experience. For example, is a managerial level candidate at Facebook really as valuable as a VP at X company? Even job titles can be tricky, so don’t let that sway you either. Focus on job performance and ability to perform the necessary tasks, not just the flashy titles they slap on their resumes.

2. Go Brandless to Remove the Paradox of Choice:

Have you ever walked down the cereal aisle of your grocery store and just stood there dumbfounded? There is one thing we love in America and that’s options. But sometimes too many options can leave us paralyzed and in fear of making the wrong decision. When sourcing candidates for a position, we can often come across the same problem. Simplify your search by only looking at candidates who meet your top requirements. Stick to your guns and don’t settle for less.

3. Go Brandless to Stay Transparent:

No matter what you plan to purchase at Brandless, everything is just $3. By knowing the price in advance, it makes shopping for what you need super simple. In the same way, we should be transparent with our new hires about our budget for compensation. Whether it’s putting a range on the job description or asking candidates their preferred salary, start the conversation early so you don’t waste your time or theirs.

How could your hiring efforts benefit from removing brand bias? What other ways do you see this affecting your recruitment?

Horrible Bosses

If you’ve been in the working world for some time, you’ve probably experienced the pains of a horrible boss. Poor listening skills, arrogance and just plain rudeness generally characterize these Michael Scott rivals. But whether this is a current reality for you or you are fortunate enough to have moved past that situation, there are many things we can learn from these horrible bosses.

The Micromanager

horrible bosses perkspot culture

For some bosses, “control freak” doesn’t even begin to explain the horrors of their management style. If you’ve ever experienced micromanagement, you know that it can be frustrating and leave you wondering why they even hired you in the first place. The lack of trust and need for control isn’t doing anyone any favors. But if there is one thing we can learn from the micromanagers of the world, it’s attention to detail. While it may seem obnoxious in the moment, and definitely is not an approach we would condone, you can still find ways to benefit from this not-so-pleasant experience. Micromanagers often help us think through all the details that can take a report, spreadsheet, or article from good to great. You never know, attention to detail may be the key to landing that big client or getting your long sought after promotion.

The Constant Critic

horrible bosses perkspot culture

Remember that famous line from Bambi? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” Maybe you have experienced a manager who could have benefited from this piece of advice. Unfortunately, sometimes the easiest thing we can learn from bad bosses is what NOT to do. Regardless of whether you’re in management or not, we could all be better at encouraging others. Before you think about criticizing a coworker’s work, find something positive to say as well. While there are still benefits to constructive criticism, if the negatives tend to outweigh the positives, it might be time to reevaluate your approach.

The Bad Listener

horrible bosses perkspot culture

There’s quite possibly nothing more disheartening, not to mention annoying, than a boss who simply doesn’t listen. But great bosses know the importance of listening, before speaking. Learning to listen is a skill that’s often overlooked. But, it can make a major difference in your professional and personal life. Michael Taft for the Huffington Post says “Learning to listen means learning to actually pay attention to — to concentrate on — what other people are saying. Listening to their words as if listening to a favorite song, with your mind focused on what they are saying and what it means.”

In a world full of social media distractions and iPhone obsessions, it is refreshing to be around someone who looks you in the eye and repeats back what you say. Take what you experience from having a boss that doesn’t listen and be more sympathetic and understanding, not just hearing but actually listening to what others are trying to tell you.

Have you ever had a horrible boss? What was your experience like? What did you learn? Tell us in the comments!

While we operate like a start-up, we actually celebrated TEN years at PerkSpot last year. With this longevity came a need to reward and challenge our employees who have been around for the long haul. That’s why this year PerkSpot decided to offer sabbaticals to our more tenured employees.
sabbaticals

What is a Sabbatical?

Sabbatical comes from the word “sabbath”, which means “rest”. A sabbatical is a paid leave granted to an employee after they have fulfilled a set number of years in service at their company. In our case, this begins with a two week paid leave after an employee has been with PerkSpot for three years and is increased to three weeks after five years.

 

What is the Purpose of a Sabbatical?

There are many reasons behind taking a sabbatical. In addition to giving employees some much needed time off, a sabbatical should also be focused on personal and professional development. Each employee is encouraged to spend the time away pursuing their “hopes and dreams”. Oftentimes we find ourselves so caught up in the daily grind, we forget about those bigger goals and aspirations we want to accomplish. This could mean perfecting your Spanish with lessons in Cuba or discovering artifacts on an archeological dig (yes, these are real PerkSpot sabbatical plans). While these experiences may not directly relate to our jobs, they can enrich our lives and in turn make us better individuals and employees.

 

Making the Most of a Sabbatical

If you’re considering taking a sabbatical or offering this option to your employees, here are a few things to consider:

1. Make It Challenging: A sabbatical can be relaxing, but it should also stretch you. It provides the perfect opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and discover something new. These are the moments where we truly grow. If you’ve never been outside the country, consider traveling for your break. Or if you’re a travel nut, maybe you decide to stay local and spend the time reflecting. Whatever you decide, just make sure it’s pushing you to greater heights.

2. Make It Relevant: While we’ve already said that a sabbatical doesn’t have to directly apply to your career, it should help you master new skills, improve upon existing ones, or provide an opportunity to improve relationships with clients, employers, or colleagues. Use this time to generate experiences that will help you in the future.

3. Make It Last: The experience shouldn’t stop when you get back to the office. Bring along a journal to document what you’re learning. You’ll be more likely to retain the information and have something to reference when looking back on your time spent away. If you’re not a writer, maybe document your experiences through photos. Your Instagram account will thank you.

 

We love to hear about our employees’ sabbatical plans. If you took a three week sabbatical, how would you use your time away?

We’ve said it before and it’s no secret – Millennials get a bad rap. Many have characterized this generation as selfish, entitled and lazy. But there’s one word that perhaps summarizes them better than the others and that we don’t often hear:

Resilience.

millennials resilient generation
From 9/11 to Katrina to Sandy Hook, the Millennial generation has not had it easy. In “Managing Millennials for Dummies”, the author states “In response to all of this bloodshed and uncertainty, Millennials, despite the typical rhetoric, have become resilient…They’re determined to make the best of the here and now and, in the face of change, roll with the punches the best they can.” And while tragedies and hardships aren’t strangers to previous generations, the inundation of social media has changed how this affects us on a daily basis. “Older generations were able to some degree, to disconnect from the news and all the atrocities flooding the media… For younger Millennials, the news is always there and always in their face (or in their pockets).”

As Millennials become more resilient to the increase of violence and hardship, there are many ways this plays out in the workplace:

  • “You Only Live Once” is the motto of this generation. They want to make the most of every moment and are quick to move on if they are unhappy or unsatisfied in their work. With tragic daily news, millennials are faced with the reality that life is short and should not be wasted.

 

  • Millennials seek to make a change in the world and desire to have meaning behind their work. They pursue ways that businesses can affect the social and political issues they face.

 

  • Millennials have a more personal relationship with their managers. Consequently, they desire a coach or mentor relationship versus one of power and position. They need to know their boss has their best interest at heart.

 

  • Millennials are more innovative and quick to try something new. Because they’ve become resilient in the face of failure, one mistake or downfall does not leave them defeated. They can quickly pick themselves up and try again.

 

  • Millennials need to unplug and recharge. They deal with news on a constant basis, while checking emails or browsing the internet. This constant connectivity means it’s more important they have time to get away from office stress.

 

Whether you work with Millennials, manage Millennials, or are a Millennial, find ways to acknowledge their (or your) resilience. It’s no small thing to bounce back from the hardships we’ve all experienced over the last 10-20 years. Let these experiences empower us to be better and do more.

 

We’re all familiar with branding as it relates to marketing, but what about how it relates to recruitment? If you think about popular brands like Lyft, Southwest Airlines, and Starbucks, you probably have a good idea of what it’s like to work for these companies. That’s because they’ve integrated branding not only into their marketing strategy but their recruitment strategy as well.

 

An employment brand is the prospective candidates have of what it’s like to work for an organization. According to Glassdoor, 69% of Americans wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation, even if they were unemployed. This goes to show that reputation is everything, not just for consumers, but candidates as well.

building employer brand

Make your employer brand stand out with these 4 tips:

1. Focus on your audience.

First things first, consider the type of employee you’re looking to recruit. While diversity is important for an organization, there should be common denominators that unite your brand, such as creative thinking, innovation, and flexibility. While some thrive in a corporate setting, others may perform better in a more flex environment. Consider what makes your company unique and what unifies your current employees. Draw on your strengths to attract new talent.

2. Showcase “A Day In the Life”

When I was applying at PerkSpot, the job description really stuck out to me because it detailed what I could expect my first six months on the job. When candidates are looking for a new position, they need to be able to picture themselves on a day to day basis performing the tasks at hand. There are so many ways you can showcase what daily life is like at your company. From testimonials to videos to the job description, make sure you’re painting a picture for these prospects so they can visualize themselves working for your brand.

3. Incorporate leadership into the process.

A great way to build company culture and a strong employment brand is by getting the CEO and other executives involved in this process. When leadership takes ownership over the recruitment process and the message you are conveying to candidates, this can humanize the organization and build a stronger brand. In fact, according to Employer Branding International, this is one of the top factors in shaping a strong employment brand.

4. Make your message consistent.

If you’re working for a larger company, it can be difficult to create a consistent message across the board. Conduct employee surveys to gauge the current view employees have of your company. Incorporate the mission and values of the company into each department’s function. For example, if innovation is a core value, make sure every department from tech to marketing knows how this value is expressed in their job function. When everyone from the intern to the CEO can list your core values, you have a strong employer brand.

What are some ways you’re building your employer brand? What are the challenges you’ve seen? Let us know in the comments!

benefits of stand up meetings

There is one routine we can always count on here at PerkSpot. The Tech Team’s daily stand-up meetings.

 

What is a Stand-Up Meeting?

Also called a Scrum, a Stand-Up Meeting is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Usually between 5 to 15 minutes long, the team discusses the day’s most important tasks while standing to remind them to keep it short and sweet.

 

Why hold a Stand-Up Meeting?

There are so many benefits to stand-up meetings, but here are our top five:

1. Encourages Collaboration: A great benefit to these meetings is that they encourage employees to work together to finish projects or solve problems. They can also produce follow-up conversations that can be a jumping-off point for further collaboration.

2. Eliminates Roadblocks: Oftentimes projects stall because we don’t have the time to brainstorm solutions with our teams. By communicating daily on various issues you may face, it can diminish problems by allowing the entire team to collaborate and problem-solve together.

3. Improves Communication: The most obvious perk of stand-up meetings is that they improve communication among the team. Instead of wondering the status of certain projects or who is responsible for a particular task, the entire team stays up to date on basic information, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

4. Defeats Hierarchies: One of the possible benefits of a stand-up meeting is that it puts everyone on the same level. Directors can hear from interns and vice-versa. It’s a rare opportunity to let newer employees shine and more senior participants share their wisdom.

5. Saves Time: You may think having a daily meeting would create inefficiencies and headaches, but when done correctly, these meetings actually save tons of valuable time. Some employees may be waiting on quick responses that can be addressed in the meeting without stalling projects. As communication and collaboration improves, projects will run smoother and problems are solved faster.

While stand-ups might not be right for every team, if you find yourself struggling to communicate efficiently, consider incorporating a daily scrum into your office life.

One thing we love about Chicago is that the city really comes alive in the summer. Patios open up and flood with people, baseball season is in full swing, and weekend trips to the beach are an absolute necessity. But with warmer weather and longer days, it can be hard to stay motivated behind the four walls of your office.

perkspot seasonal office changes

That’s why many companies are offering perks that change with the seasons. From cutting down your hours to taking a day off to volunteer, here are a few of our favorite ways office leaders can help employees stayed engaged and productive, while still finding time to enjoy the sunshine.

Flexible Hours

While this is not the newest trend out there, summer fridays are still amazing for boosting office morale. Chances are your employees are daydreaming out the window around 3pm on Friday afternoon anyway, so why not reward them for hitting their sales goals or nailing that project by allowing them to head out early. Plus, there are tons of reasons why flexible hours are great for company morale and ROI.

Seasonal Events

Summer is a great time to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether it’s a beach day or heading out for a baseball game, grab your employees and head outside for some seasonal fun. Last year at PerkSpot, a few of us participated in a 5k together. It really brought the team together for a great cause and motivated us to stay in shape!

perkspot 5k seasonal office changes

Spice Up Your Recognition

Looking for a new way to recognize and reward employees? Summer can be the perfect time to pre-purchase tickets to concerts or sporting events to give to your company’s overachievers. Not sure what to offer? Take a survey to see what events your employees are planning on attending this summer to make sure your prize offerings are relevant and truly incentivizing.

Do Good

There are so many volunteer opportunities available in the summer. From building a house with Habitat for Humanity to serving at your local food pantry, explore options to give back with your office while the weather is warm and your employees are itching to get outside. According to a survey of corporations that encourage employee volunteering, employees who volunteer are 60% more likely to feel loyal to their company than those who do not.

Sun’s out, fun’s out. How is your office incorporating the summer season into your corporate perks?

should hr use personality tests

According to SHRM, about 60 percent of workers are now asked to take workplace assessments. These personality tests help boost understanding and improve collaboration among teams. We do the same here at PerkSpot, but a recent colleague brought to my attention that specific personalities don’t always dictate how you work. Using her as an example, Alissa is an introvert through and through. However, when it comes to her work, she enjoys building relationships with new people and engaging with clients over the phone and in person. Being an account manager is not a typical role for most introverts, but Alissa shared how this experience has been challenging and rewarding, while also being a natural fit for her. Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar within your own organization. Maybe an extrovert is great at crunching numbers and heads-down work, while your introverts thrive in sales roles.

Does this mean we are overestimating the power of personality? Should we allow personality tests to dictate how we collaborate on projects? Are they still valuable to the hiring process?

Mixed Reviews

Some of the most common tests include Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, StrengthsFinder and DiSC. HR professionals hold mixed views about the accuracy of personality assessments and how seriously we take the findings. Some of the positive results include gaining a deeper understanding of a candidate’s (or colleague’s) strengths and weaknesses, their communication styles, and how these play into their overall role within their team. While personality tests are great at viewing commonalities among personalities, but remember that these tests should be taken in broad scope, just as you would a horoscope. The flip side is that they often don’t take into consideration motives, values or even working styles. The way a person interacts inside the office could be very different from how they function socially. It will take more than a piece of paper to prove that.

Get Personal with Personality

If you’re on the fence about whether a personality test might be right for your team or as a new addition to your hiring process, consider what other pieces of the puzzle might be missing. Personality tests are great, but they cannot stand alone as a tool for assessing candidates. When hiring, look for candidates who not only fulfill your requirements, but also add value. When assessing a team member, use personality tests alongside other team building exercises to understand how each person functions on an individual level. The key is to get personal with personality and treat each person as an individual, not an answer to a quiz.

Do you currently use personality tests in your hiring process or among your team? Share your experience in the comments.