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Using Clear and Open Communication to Build Better Business


Thought leaders, motivational speakers and executive strategists alike continue to stress the crucial importance of quality communication for business success, regardless of industry. But at first glance, it looks like they’re just advocating for the obvious; after all, who
really needs a guide on how to communicate? If there’s anything that comes natural to us, it’s the ability to communicate what we’re thinking and feeling to other humans, right?

 

Multi-colored transparent heads engaging in close communication

 

Well, yeah. But when we put communications in the context of massive operations spanning dozens or even hundreds of corporate employees, things can get a lot more complicated, very fast.

The most important thing to remember about quality office communication is that more meetings does not equal better communication. In fact, the opposite is true; the more concisely you are able to express your ideas to the rest of the team, the more clear the final message will be. Don’t  just set up dozens of meetings with every employee or invite everyone to technical meets where most won’t have anything to contribute; instead, seek to partition employees into areas where their specific strengths and experience can be leveraged, and only bring them into the loop when their insights will provide some momentum to the larger conversation. To avoid falling into the trap of scheduling meeting after meeting to communicate your intents, remember the three E’s of employee communications; Explain your motivations, manage your Expectations, and lead by Example. 

The Three E’s

Explaining your motivations seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget in the heat of meetings! Even though a plan might be perfectly clear in your mind, employees can’t figure out what you’re thinking unless you tell them. If you have a specific vision in mind for an element, it’s essential that you clearly explain that vision right off the bat; don’t just tell your employees that you need a flier, explain how you envision it being used and what audience you want it to hit. Remember that just because you see things a certain way doesn’t mean that everyone else will have the same assumptions!

Managing expectations is the second key step of fostering quality communication. Although it’d be nice to be able to perfectly communicate exactly what you need on the first pass, every time, it rarely works out like that in reality. If you’re returned something that doesn’t match up with your expectations, it’s important to not get frustrated. Instead, try to identify what exactly it was that the other party misunderstood; often, small differences in envisioned use can create significantly different final results. By pinpointing the miscommunication, you identify the root cause of the issue rather than trying to provide touch-ups to the minute details.

Finally, you should strive to lead by example. Making visual aids or other active resources can help enormously in presenting a unified vision on a project, or offering employees a skeleton framework for ideation will keep them tethered to the core concepts you outline. By actively involving yourself in the process in these ways, you can reduce miscommunication enormously and course-correct through showing – rather than telling at a barrage of circular meetings.

Building Effective Communication Structures

Clear and precise communication is also part of what makes PerkSpot such a breeze to use. As a one-stop discount platform, PerkSpot communicates on your behalf to your employees, making them aware of and engaged with their benefits. To learn more about how PerkSpot’s discount program can help boost morale and benefit employees, request a demo and find out! 

Hopefully with these tips in mind, you can help make your workspace a less confusing and more productive environment. As long as you remember that honest, open communication is key to any successful business, you’re sure to see the results.

Why Managing Isn’t Necessarily Leading

If you’ve been in the workplace for a decent amount of time, you’ve probably noticed that all managers are not necessarily leaders. In fact, sometimes the strongest leaders in the office are not in management at all. Why is that? What are these hidden characteristics that define leaders versus managers?

These are the five ways managers are different than leaders:

1. Leaders inspire others with vision.
2. Leaders practice humility.
3. Leaders trust others to carry out tasks to completion.
4. Leaders are confident, but not overbearing.
5. Leaders think larger than their own point of view.

1. Vision

One differentiating factor between a manager and a leader is that leaders inspire others with their vision. Management requires only that you mandate tasks and ensure that your team is completing them quickly and efficiently. Leadership, on the other hand, means you inspire others to think beyond the task at hand and focus on the overall mission. They inspire employees not just to do the work, but to love it by casting vision passionately and articulately.

2. Humility

Quite possibly the most important trait of a strong leader is humility. That’s why it’s one of our core values here at PerkSpot. We believe a great workplace cannot exist without it. The strongest leaders are ones who aren’t afraid to admit when they’re wrong. They possess the humility to share the spotlight with others, recognizing their achievements and pushing them to be the best version of themselves.

3. Trust

It’s 2019. No one micromanages anymore, right? Unfortunately, micromanagement is still alive and well in our workplaces. Leaders, on the contrary, do not micromanage. True leadership means trusting others to carry out responsibilities. In fact, the best workplaces are those which empower employees to use their strengths. Even the best leaders can’t be good at everything. That’s why it’s important to build a strong team around you and trust them to work together towards your mission.

4. Confidence

Confidence is a common trait among leaders, but not every assertive person in the workplace is a great leader. Any manager can be confident, but leaders are careful not to exhort their confidence over people. Instead, they speak their mind while also listening to other opinions. This trait goes hand in hand with humility, as it takes the perfect balance of both to create great leaders.

5. Perspective

Many managers get lost in their own personal point of view, or even their team’s. Great leaders are able to step outside of their own agendas and look at the greater good. They are able to (confidently and humbly) unify everyone towards a common goal. This is perhaps the most difficult trait to learn, but it’s what truly differentiates a manager from a leader.

Do you manage a team or are you working on your leadership skills? Tell us what you think makes a great leader in the comments.

6 Everyday Employee Engagement Tips

Today’s world of HR focuses a lot of time, effort and money on fancy employee engagement systems. While obviously it’s important to develop a clear strategy and invest in your employees, there are also simple ways to focus on employee engagement right now.

Here are six everyday employee engagement tips:

Revise Your Onboarding Strategy

Employee engagement starts on day one. Maybe you work in a small company (like PerkSpot!) that doesn’t have a full-blown onboarding program for new hires. For many employees, stepping foot into a new office can feel like stepping out of a plane into a foreign country. Be sure to include them in team activities, cross-departmental meetings, and explain any concepts that may be unique to your business or brand. This will ensure they feel included and as a result, engaged!

Listen and Respond

This is a complete no-brainer, but so many times we go through the motions without stopping to take a moment to listen to our employees. Think about the last time you had a one-on-one with one of your employees. If it’s been over two weeks, it’s time to schedule another. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s super important to keep up with your employees. Whether it’s a five-minute check-in or an hour-long chat at the nearby coffee shop, take time this week to learn how you can serve them a little better.

Talk About Something Other Than Work

As managers or HR officials, it’s often difficult to engage with employees on a more personal level, but when it comes to employee engagement, this might be the missing key. We aren’t telling you to spill your deepest, darkest secrets to your employees, but maybe take a moment this week to ask them about that movie they saw recently or that restaurant they just visited. Spend time getting to know them. You may find yourself understanding more about their work habits as a result and they’ll appreciate your interest.

Recognize Their Efforts

Again, a complete no-brainer when it comes to employee engagement, but why is it that only a third of U.S. employees say they’ve received recognition in the past week? It’s easy to forget to say “thank you” or “job well done”, but it’s so important. Consider ways to recognize your top performers this week and show your appreciation.

With PerkSpot, we make it easy to acknowledge employees with real-time recognition and rewards.

Be Transparent

Do you sit on a board that receives inside information? Are you part of the C-Suite? If you’re privy to info that the rest of the company might not know, consider opportunities to share these insights with your employees. Obviously, some information is sensitive and can’t be shared, but where there are opportunities to be transparent, make sure you are taking advantage. Share different challenges leadership is facing or exciting new directions where the company is looking to grow.

Evaluate Responsibilities

One of the quickest ways for employees to get burnt out or bored is to fill their lives with checklists, not responsibilities. In the chaos of work, it’s easy to get lost in millions of to-dos, without taking time to be strategic. Consider ways your employees can step up and own projects, not just simple tasks. Give them ownership and responsibility and find ways to push them to grow. This will ensure they stay engaged and motivated throughout their career.

What are some ways you’ve found to keep your employees engaged every day?

What Culture Is (and Isn’t)

We throw the word around a lot but many of us don’t really spend time thinking about what company culture really means. You may think of unlimited vacation days, ping pong tables, outings with coworkers, or fun office events. These things may be a part of your culture, but is that all there is to it? What makes a company culture good or bad? How do we define what culture is (and isn’t)?

Culture Is… the Feeling Before Work in the Morning

We all get the Sunday Scaries so we’re not talking about a total escape from the actual work aspect of your job. But, the way you feel before work in the morning does speak a lot to your company culture. Do you dread seeing people when you get to the office? Are you overwhelmed with pressure from your boss? A great company culture knows how to motivate you to be your best and gives you work that challenges you in the right ways. It means waking up in the morning with an excitement for what lies ahead and anticipation for your future at the company.

Culture Isn’t… All Play and No Work

Sure, ping pong tables and beer on tap are great and can be a piece of your culture, but they aren’t the true meat behind what makes a company a great place to work. Perhaps you notice that more people seem to be extending their lunches but the number of new projects is slowly dwindling. If that’s the case, you might be in danger of having a sinking culture. What started off as an opportunity to motivate employees has become a distraction and there may be something deeper going on beyond the surface. Maybe these perks are nothing more than workplace traps.

Culture Is… Freedom to Express Ideas and Concerns

True company culture values transparency and honesty in the workplace. You should have open forums to discuss ideas and opportunities to ensure employees are heard. Great company cultures don’t pretend like everything is going well when it isn’t. Great cultures embrace the challenges and find ways to create solutions. They know how to include employees in solving problems and moving the business forward.

Culture Isn’t… Meaningless Perks

There are some crazy perks out there. From breast milk shipping to helicopter rides, not all perks are created equal. That’s why it’s important to provide benefits and perks that will apply to every employee. Culture doesn’t mean adding to your long list of (unused and unwanted) company perks. Provide perks that matter to everyone. Because 48% of employees are worried about their current financial state, providing an employee discount program that puts cash back in your employees’ pockets is a great way to add perks that make an impact for any employee.

Culture Is… Saying Thank You

One of the best ways to create a great company culture is by saying two little words: thank you. In fact, 80% of employees said they are more motivated to stay at a job longer and work harder when they receive appreciation for their work. Cultures with built-in recognition programs know how to reward employees the right way.

How would you define culture and what makes your company culture great?

Managing Up

This summer, we’ve held weekly “Lunch and Learns” with our interns where one of our executives chats with us about their career journey: their current role, their past mistakes and everything in-between.

Yesterday, our VP of Sales shared some great advice about “Managing Up”. He spoke to the importance of aligning your projects with your manager’s goals. No matter if you’re an intern, a Human Resources Manager or a VP of Sales, this advice rings true for all of us.

Let’s unpack what “Managing Up” looks like:

Know Your Mission and Values

A great way to know if your goals are aligned with your manager’s goals is taking a step back and focusing on your company’s mission and values. Examine if your priorities reflect your business objectives. If it’s not, it might be time to re-evaluate.

Your Manager is a Person, Too

Sometimes it can be easy to think that your boss is a cog in the machine. But your manager is a real person with real life stressors and emotions. By understanding even a small portion of how they tick, what’s happening in their personal lives, or even their educational or professional background, you’re more likely to develop a positive working relationship.

Know Their Goals, Anticipate Their Needs

This is both spoken and unspoken. Ask your manager what their priorities are for the next month, 3 months or 6 months. Make sure your goals are aligned with what they’re trying to accomplish and touch base to see how you might be able to problem-solve or push past obstacles that are standing in their way. This is a great way to take ownership, prove your dedication and show your initiative.

Teach Them How to Manage You

Your manager will never know your hopes and dreams unless you tell them. Dying to work on that project? Tell them where you can add value. They’ll be thrilled to have someone fill in gaps and work on tasks they may not have time to do. You’ll get the experience you’re looking for all while adding value and marking things off your boss’s to-do list. Win-win.

Whether your boss is amazing or a textbook micro-manager, “Managing Up” can do wonders for your career and help you maintain a great working relationship as a direct report.

What Gen Z Wants

Out with the old and in with the new! Generation Z is entering the workforce, and it is time for organizations to be prepared for their many needs compared to millennials. The next group of young adults is a tech-savvy and inquisitive group of talent, born in a time when political and socioeconomic polarities impacted society (think: economic crash, Sandy Hook, etc.).

If you’re looking to redefine your employee appreciation language for the next generation of workers, consider this.

Who Are Gen Z

Generation Z are born after 1995 and have major respect for personal engagement at work and technology to balance work productivity. These employees will travel the world in order to pursue the career of their dreams. Most are highly intelligent and curious, asking questions on the job to develop ideas for operational improvement initiatives. Unlike millennials, they have realistic expectations for their employers and are vocal in presenting their ideas, despite their lack of work experience.

What Gen Z Wants

As you review a student resume, it is important to search for the skills of your ideal employee that can add value to the team. Try searching for action words such as “invented”, “developed”, “organized”, and “achieved” when creating a shortlist of candidates. Generation Z’s experience will primarily be in committee work on campus, volunteering, internships, and classroom projects, which offer transferable skills that can be used in the workplace. Their lack of experience is an advantage because their perspective of the outside world and discussions with their parents can result in unconventional ideas that can potentially help a company grow.

Salary Expectations

Generation Z grew up when the economy started to recover in North America. If the economic downfall didn’t impact their parents, someone in their circle of friends has a story. This age group, unlike millennials, does not expect to be guaranteed a high salary after graduation. Most realize that the starting salary can start at less than $36,000. According to Fast Company, “Among young college graduates, average wages are $19.18 per hour—only 1.4% higher than in 2000.” Nonetheless, there is an expectation that with experience and time also comes an increase in income before retirement.

Open Discussions with Management

Technology is second nature to Generation Z, but a face-to-face connection with their manager is still vital for career development. It is important to foster open communication. When employee’s feel heard, this adds value to their work experience. These professionals aim to work at organizations that will guide their career with regular performance evaluations.

Workplace Cultures

Flexible workplaces are here to stay for Gen Z with an emphasis on an area for employees to relieve stress and focus on work-life balance. The CEO should project this type of culture down to management.  This helps the group flourish in a company that genuinely practices these initiatives.

Here is a list of flexible work options to consider:

  • A gym in the building
  • Room for employees to destress (i.e., game room, TV room, sleep room)
  • Options to work from home (i.e., once a month)

In addition, well-being programs and personalized healthcare benefits for employees are additional examples worth implementing at your company.

Acknowledged and Taken Seriously

There are many common misconceptions about Generation Z. They do not respect authority, are glued to their phones, lack social skills, and do not want to work hard.  The truth is, Gen Z has an entrepreneurial spirit. However, this also comes with its own advantages. Gen Z isn’t afraid to work longer hours and benefits from how their work positively impacts a company. This group values the opinions of their superiors and working alongside seasoned professionals in their department. They have the confidence to socialize with executives in meetings and share their ideas about customer experience improvements.

As you begin hiring Generation Z at your business, consider what these employees want, the strengths of this generation, and the desired benefits in your decision-making process.

Building Your Network

If your January was anything like ours, your resolutions might have already gone out the window. But wait. Take a deep breath and start February off on a better foot.

You might have a million goals you’re hoping to accomplish this year, but there is one thing we’re putting at the top of our list. So, if you do nothing else this year, do this.

Network, Network, Network

Too often our goals revolve around being more productive, finishing a project, or asking for a promotion or raise. While all great things to reach for, there is one thing that can set your career off on the right foot like nothing else can – meeting new people. More importantly, meeting the right people. In fact, 80% of professionals, according to a LinkedIn survey, said that networking is important to career success and another 70% were hired at a company due to their connections.

Whether you’re hoping to move up the ladder or find a new position elsewhere, here are five ways to conquer networking this year:

1. Get over yourself.

Yes, networking is awkward. Yes, you’re going to be tired and not want to put on your happy face. But chances are you’ll never regret bumping elbows and learning something new. Some people struggle with the idea that they’re inconveniencing someone, but remember that most people are GLAD to help and will be flattered at your outreach (if you do it the right way – here are a few tips).

2. Be genuine.

Don’t just go into every conversation thinking about what you can get out of it. Remember that these are real people and engage them just like you would at any other social event. Be personable and authentic, asking them questions and… LISTEN. Absorb what they’re saying and repeat it back to them. Plus, if you do it right, you might even make a new friend along the way.

3. Follow up.

This is key to making the most out of every connection. Send a follow-up email. If they were interested in an article you referenced, send them the link! Or maybe they told you about a friend who was struggling with something similar at work… ask them to connect you! If they were helpful in person, they should be more than happy to follow through, so don’t be afraid to ask. And of course, don’t be afraid to help either. Find ways to thank them for their time or assist them in something you may have discussed over coffee or a drink.

What are your favorite tips for networking? We’d love to hear from you!

Holiday Office Guide: Gift Exchange 101

Should I get my boss a gift? Do I have to participate in my company gift exchange?

We’re continuing our Holiday Office Guide. If your office is hosting a gift exchange or you’re answering questions about holiday gift etiquette, here’s your guide to keeping things appropriate:

holiday office gift exchange

Should I get my boss a gift?

Generally speaking in the office gifts should come from upper management and not the other way around so you are absolutely not obligated to get your boss a gift. Of course, if you and your boss have a great relationship and you want to show your appreciation, it’s not inappropriate to give something small and meaningful like a card or homemade treats.

Do I have to participate in my company gift exchange?

Gift exchanges are generally optional, although highly encouraged. If you’re opting out because of budget constraints, consider creative ways to participate like baking homemade treats or offering to take over kitchen duty for someone else (this is a real thing in our office, and trust me, that gift would be a hit).

Can I spend more than the spending limit for the gift exchange?

Buying a gift that’s over the spending limit is frowned upon. There are limits for a reason and giving an overly expensive gift can make others uncomfortable. Stick to the limit.

Is giving alcohol or gag gifts inappropriate?

This totally depends on the office. Because some offices crack open beers on Fridays, giving a six-pack wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary. But if your office doesn’t usually engage in activities that involve alcohol consumption, you might not want to go that route. Same with gag gifts – it depends on your culture and your work environment. But, no matter where you work, make sure your gifts cannot be seen as obscene or derogatory.

How does your office handle gift exchanges? Leave us a note in the comments!

Holiday Office Guide: Party Etiquette

Oh, the holiday party. Everyone’s favorite time to make HR cringe.

It’s week two of the Holiday Office Guide and we’re discussing answers to your favorite holiday party questions.
holiday party etiquette

Do I have to go?

First of all, yes, it’s completely legal for companies to require you to attend an event outside of office hours, so if your holiday party is mandatory, it’s time to put on your party pants.
For you optional attendees, it’s not required but definitely encouraged as a way to network and boost company morale.
Dreading it? Here are some tips for surviving.

Should I bring a date to the holiday party?

If you’re given a plus one and you want to bring a date, go for it. Bringing someone is a great way for your co-workers to learn more about you and for your significant other to learn more about your work. Just be prepared to ask questions about your date after the party as people will likely assume you’re serious. Although, you reserve the right to keep the answers to yourself.

Do I have to show up on time?

This completely depends on the event, but anything past 30 minutes is probably not a good idea. This isn’t your brother’s frat party. It’s still a work event and you’re still expected to be there on time.

What should I wear?

Again, depends on the event. Pay attention to the dress code and make sure you stick to it. Cocktail party? Keep it classy and steer away from anything too revealing and consider leaving the jeans at home. At PerkSpot, bowling has been a tradition in years past, so casual tends to be the way to go. But of course, casual doesn’t mean a license to wear your sweats. Keep it appropriate for the workplace, and don’t forget your socks!

Leave us a comment with your favorite holiday party stories or questions!

Holiday Office Guide: Vacation Requests

It’s time to deck the halls and prep for those holiday questions that often leave us stumped. From gift exchanges, party etiquette, and PTO, the holidays are full of HR conundrums that leave us wondering, “What Do I Do?!”

Over the next few weeks, we’ll discuss the most common questions surrounding the holidays and how HR can address these issues without (hopefully) stepping on any toes.

Handling Vacation Requests

How should I handle holiday requests? Should we base it on seniority or first come, first served?

handling holiday vacation requests

The holidays are an emotional time and this especially gets tricky when it comes to the coveted week off between Christmas and New Year’s. When planning for holiday vacations, there are a few different ways you can address this.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. The most important thing to do when it comes to holidays or PTO is to communicate with plenty of notice. Let people know in advance when they are expected to be in office so they can plan accordingly. Setting expectations are the first step to ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  • Ask employees to submit their PTO preferences, including first and second choices. This is a great way to eliminate all or nothing situations when you need to make tough decisions about who stays in the office.
  • Be a human. As frustrating as this time is, remember: your employees are still real people who probably look forward to this time all year long. Be compassionate, empathetic and understanding when denying requests for PTO and ensure them that you’ve done your best to accommodate them.
  • Bring the holidays to the office. If people are forced to work during this time, make it as enjoyable as possible. Shut down early if you can or allow them to work remotely. When you’re stuck in the office, have someone order snacks, lunch or holiday treats to show your appreciation. A little bit goes a long way.

Are you dealing with a PTO crises? Tell us your stories in the comments!