Yikes…summer flew by and it seems that we’re careening into fall. Now that we’ve cleared the hurdles of Back to School and Labor Day and are about to switch thermostats from cool to heat, wouldn’t it be a relief to actually be able to check something important off of your to do list?
If the speed in which the seasons are changing is any indication, the holidays will be upon us soon and things will only get more intense as the fourth quarter approaches.
Employee Holiday Gifts – Planning Now Is The Smart Strategy
By planning ahead, your own holidays may just be a bit brighter and less stressful. (The Mayo Clinic offers some helpful suggestions on reducing holiday stress.)
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to spend time with your own family and friends without the worry looming that you haven’t completed your employee holiday gift purchasing?
Perhaps you’ll even be able to slow down enough to curl up with a blanket and a book about hygee, the Scandinavian pursuit of coziness and the celebrating life’s simple pleasures.
(more…)Building a happy workplace is a priority for many employers. It starts with doing the fundamentals such as diversity, equality and fairness well. Embrace these and you’ll have the foundation needed for building a great workplace. Add a commitment to employee appreciation and you’ll create a happy, productive and loyal workforce.
Inequality Breeds UnhappinessWhy is that even when, in general, we are more prosperous, we are less happy? Jonathan Rauch explores this issue in-depth in a New York Times op-edIn America (and also in other countries), an impressive postwar rise in material well-being has had zero effect on personal well-being. The divergence between economic growth and subjective satisfaction began decades ago. Real per capita income has more than tripled since the late 1950s, but the percentage of people saying they are very happy has, if anything, slightly declined.Rauch, when conducting research for his book, The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50, learned that happiness is local and relative.Although moral philosophers may wish Homo sapiens were wired more rationally, we humans are walking, talking status meters, constantly judging our worth and social standing by comparing ourselves with others today and with our own prior selves.Rauch further explained, “…people will tolerate and sometimes even embrace inequality if they believe the system is fair and lets them get ahead.” He described a witticism that is often attributed to Gore Vidal, “it is not enough for me to succeed; others must fail” as being “uncomfortably accurate.” Rauch cited a striking experiment, in which certain households in Kenyan villages were the random recipients of large financial windfalls. The lucky households were happy, but their neighbors experienced increased unhappiness because they felt as they had fallen behind.
Why are people in some countries happier than others? What factors contribute to happiness and how can we improve happiness at home and in the workplace? We can apply lessons from the happiest countries in the world on how to be happy.
Listen and LearnFreakanomics recently released a podcast “How to be Happy” addresses those questions and does a deep dive into Denmark’s consistently high happiness ranking. It’s definitely worth a listen (or a read since it’s also been transcribed). It includes engaging interviews with: Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen; Jeff Sachs, economics professor at Columbia University, special adviser to the UN Secretary General on the Sustainable Development Goals and co-editor of the World Happiness Report; and Helen Russell, journalist and author.
What are the Happiest Countries?
The U.N.’s World Happiness Report, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels and 117 countries by the happiness of their immigrants (and also serves as an antidote to our unhealthy obsession with Gross Domestic Product), is typically topped by Nordic countries. In 2018 Finland took the top spot as the happiest country. The rest of the top ten in order of overall happiness were Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, and Australia.
The U.S. ranked 18th, dropping down four spots from last year. Sachs explained, “The U.S. happiness ranking is falling, in part because of the ongoing epidemics of obesity, substance abuse and untreated depression.”
On September 3, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, will launch a new online course, “The Science of Happiness at Work.” Based on the center’s hugely popular free course “The Science of Happiness,” this new course will teach attendees why it matters so much to promote happiness in the workplace and how to do it. As the center puts it:
People who are happier at work are more committed to their organization, rise to positions of leadership more rapidly, are more productive and creative, and suffer fewer health problems. More and more, research is suggesting that happiness should not be an afterthought for workplaces; it should be an essential goal, entwined with the kinds of 21st century skills that are key to individual and organizational success today.
And a key element of happiness in the workplace is gratitude. In fact, gratitude is a key element of happiness anywhere, according to decades of research on the subject. As researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky — author of the bestselling The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness — explains in this short video, gratitude does a number of things to pave the way for happy feelings.
Thinking about building an employee wellness program?
They’re still quite popular with businesses looking for perks that will benefit both workers and leadership. Per HR Dive, in a 2017 study by Virgin Pulse, 85 percent of employers surveyed said their wellness programs were good for employee engagement, recruitment, retention, and overall company culture. More than just offering exercise- and diet-related options, these programs are increasingly incorporating mental-health components as well. That shift has proven popular with employees, 85 percent of whom say they want help managing stress.
That said, employee wellness programs are far from a magic bullet. Further research reported by HR Dive reveals that while 56 percent of employers think building an employee wellness program has made their employees healthier, only 32 percent of those employees concur with that assessment. And in another survey, 55 percent of employers claimed to offer wellness programs, but only 36 percent of employees said they were aware of those programs.
If your company is interested in building an employee wellness program, you’ll want to think hard about what kinds of wellness are most meaningful to your workers. You also want to design a program your employees will actually use and that has practical benefits for the company as a whole.
As National Friendship Day 2018 approaches on August 5th, it’s the perfect time to reflect on how companies can cultivate workplace friendships and why workplace friendships are important.
In an article about workplace friendships for L & D Daily Advisor, writer Lin Grensing-Pophal cites a Gallup Q-12 employee engagement assessment tool which asks the questions, “Do you have a best friend at work?” Why ask that question? Well, research by Gallup indicates that having a best friend in the workplace correlates with higher job satisfaction rates AND a reduction in the likelihood that an employee will depart to find a different job.
Sadly, a New York Times opinion piece by Adam Grant indicates that the number of employees who say they have a friend (not even a best friend) in the workplace is declining.
When It Comes to Employee Perks, Trendy Is Out.
What kind of employee perks are you offering?
A study from Oregon State University, cited in HR Dive, has found that at least one trendy workplace “extra” probably isn’t doing recruiters much good: Companies that tout in-office happy hours and other opportunities to drink alcohol can turn off certain job candidates.
And those candidates who are fine having drinks on the company tab don’t care enough for it to make a real difference in whether they take the job. So unless there’s good reason for drinking to be a significant part of your corporate culture, there’s little benefit to plugging alcohol among your employee perks.
In fact, research in general has shown that most job candidates aren’t interested in flashy, hip, or faddish employee perks. The savviest candidates — in other words, the ones you may well want working for you — see through the hype. Wellness programs, another fashionable perk, are often more popular with employers than with the employees who are supposed to take advantage of them, another HR Dive post notes. The post suggests that customization — finding ways to mold perks more closely to employees’ individual needs — is key.
Indeed, what both current workers and job candidates want are employee perks that demonstrate an employer’s appreciation for them. As we’ve mentioned, appreciation is about seeing people as individuals and treating them as more than just their job titles. Really, your whole hiring process should be designed to show appreciation for candidates, HR Dive points out:
If a recruitment process lacks personal interaction, applicants may assume that, once hired, they’ll be just another cog in the wheel. And that’s not a great impression to give if you’re looking for employees who can stand out.
And the employee perks you offer should be in line with that philosophy, as well. Rather than trendy, your perks should be aimed at recognizing that employees have a larger life beyond the time they spend working for you.
As a leader you’re probably getting pulled in a million different directions and your time is in short supply. But the time you spend really being present in a sincere, mindful and purposeful way when interacting with your employees and recognizing them for their efforts and contributions is time well-spent.
With a bit of effort you can break some bad habits and start embracing some new practices and ways of thinking that can help boost morale (and ultimately your bottom line). Read on for straightforward ways to maximize employee recognition time.
Being a Good Citizen Is Good for Employers and Workers
Being a good citizen is good for business — in more than one way. Last year, Harvard Business Review reported on the beneficial effects when employees engage in “citizenship behaviors.” That’s another way to say going above and beyond: “helping out coworkers, volunteering to take on special assignments, introducing new ideas and work practices, attending non-mandatory meetings, putting in extra hours to complete important projects, and so forth.”
Research has found that employees who voluntarily demonstrate citizenship behaviors tend to find their work more meaningful. They also perform better and improve their companies’ performance, as well. For all of these reasons, smart employers want to encourage being a good citizen at their companies.
HBR’s recommendation is to promote “citizenship crafting,” or offering workers the opportunity to figure out how their own strengths and preferences can best be utilized to add value to the business. The idea is straightforward: When employees can help in ways they find personally satisfying and that align with their own values and goals, the help will be better and come more frequently. This is also a relief for managers, who don’t have to push so hard when extra help is needed.
But we know that being a good citizen matters to employees in the more literal sense, too. HR Dive cites two different studies showing that workers overwhelmingly want to work for companies that make a positive difference in the world. Sustainable Brands shared similar findings in a 2016 post:
Nearly three-quarters of employees (74 percent) say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided with opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues – and seven-in-10 (70 percent) would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to important issues. Corporate responsibility (CR) is also a significant consideration for candidates when deciding which job to take:
- 58 percent consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work
- 55 percent would choose to work for a socially responsible company, even if the salary was less
- 51 percent won’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong social or environmental commitments
Employers can use the same basic idea behind citizenship crafting to motivate employees to get out and serve their communities, too. By encouraging them to find their own ways of being a good citizen, and giving them the necessary time and support, you can enable your workers to help in places beyond the office — leading to greater satisfaction with themselves and with you. And for many businesses, summer is the perfect time to start thinking in this direction!
Shared experiences among co-workers are instrumental when it comes to building strong and effective teams. Don’t forget to include remote workers when communicating, collaborating and creating shared experiences – they are an important part of your team too!
In an article on shared experiential learning on HR Dive, author Tess Taylor explains the basics:
Employees benefit from having a common experience during the learning process. This social interaction helps individuals digest new concepts and gives them an opportunity to learn from each other.
When employees have shared learning experiences, this can create a common experience that generates conversation and learning even after the event has passed.
Shared experiences give people a chance to learn about each others norms, emotional cues and working habits. Apparently experiences that combine the right balance of meaning and stress seem to be the most effective. For example “light meaning” and “light stress” events like a happy hour can produce small increases in bonding while others with “high stress” and “high meaning” like boot camp can quickly achieve exponential affects in bonding.
Activities like team dinners, intense workout classes, improv classes and volunteer events can help team members learn about each other’s personalities and break down some of the awkwardness of working together. An engaged team is a strong team. They understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and can problem solve more effectively.
On the flip side, shared experiences that are high stress with little meaning like hazing are negative, not appropriate and should be avoided.
July is the ideal time to throw an employee thank you party (and not just because it’s National Picnic Month). The key to making your company event genuinely fun so it generates both good times and goodwill is your authentic appreciation. By clearly communicating a message of employee appreciation and making employees feel valued, you’ll promote happiness and loyalty. Both keys to a successful workplace culture.
Why Summer Parties Rock
In a blog post on Special Events’ website about why Fortune 500 companies are opting to host summer parties, Nicole Lavin points out:
Companies are recognizing that their employees’ hard work should be celebrated all year-long–and they’re hosting exciting summer events to prove it…
With a “Christmas in July” mind-set, companies are planning off-site corporate events to get their employees out of the office during the hottest time of the year. By hosting corporate events in July and August, companies can enhance employees’ year-round satisfaction and, in turn, increase employee retention.
With Small Workplace Gifts, a Personal Touch Matters
Gifts don’t need to be large or expensive to be meaningful. Small workplace gifts can express your gratitude and make employees feel appreciated. But you need to give them in the right way. As a Balance Careers post on gift-giving etiquette explains:
Adding a personal touch can give a small gift a much bigger impact. For example, if you hand-deliver your gift … instead of sending it in the mail, your gesture will give that present much more meaning. A card with a personal message and handwritten signature is more meaningful than a pre-printed card …
With small workplace gifts, this personal touch is key. Of course you want your employee to value the gift itself, but often it’s going to be something they could afford on their own. What they should remember is that they felt recognized and cared for. And the best way to communicate that feeling is to put in a bit of extra effort.
For starters, think about the intended recipients of your gifts. If your employee picks up coffee every morning at the cafe down the street, even a $5 gift card is going to be a treat for her. On the other hand, no matter how good your home-baked cookies are, they’re not a good fit for an employee with a gluten allergy. As we’ve noted before, the best workplace gifts of any size will bring meaning into the recipient’s life. A small gift they can use or share — or that they just treasure for its uniqueness — is a gift they’ll love.
(more…)People tend to think of recognition and appreciation as the same thing, but knowing the difference and focusing on genuinely appreciating the employees working for you can impact morale, engagement and satisfaction in the workplace. So don’t (just) recognize employees, appreciate them with your sincere gratitude!
What is the Difference?
In an article for Ladders, Paul White described the reasons why employers should stop recognizing employees and start appreciating them. White shared that too often he has encountered employee recognition programs that not only don’t seem to be working, but are in fact generating apathetic, sarcastic and cynical reactions from employees. White believes this is because recognition is different from authentic appreciation.
One of the most powerful things you can do for your employees is communicate in a sincere and heartfelt way that they are valued. And one way to do that is with Corporate Turkey Gift Certificates by gThankYou during the holiday season.
When given with gratitude, the gift of a holiday turkey is a deeply meaningful gift that reminds staff they’re part of something bigger. Employees feel taken care of when they receive a thoughtful gift, and know they matter to you and the business. That’s important. Research by the American Psychological Association found a clear link between feeling valued at work and employees reporting better physical and mental health.
But beyond that, the gift of a Thanksgiving or holiday turkey is imbued with ritual that’s associated with gratitude.
The gift of a turkey has been a beloved and honored holiday gift for employees for over a century. Turkeys are closely associated with the annual rituals of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter that celebrate family and friends, warmth and goodwill.
These holidays revolve around the rituals of a special meal — and employees will be thankful for the gift of the centerpiece of their holiday meal to share with family and friends.
For many, even the act of going to the grocery store to choose the turkey centerpiece for their family celebration is an important and meaningful ritual. With gThankYou! Turkey Gift Certificates, recipients select the turkey they want, any brand, size and preparation, at the grocery store they want to shop. All gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude are accepted at major grocery chain stores nationally.
As the Harvard Business Review reported in 2013, rituals make us value something more. How? The researchers “found evidence to suggest that personal involvement is the real driver of these effects. In other words, rituals help people to feel more deeply involved in their consumption experience, which in turn heightens its perceived value.”
Nothing says ‘Thank You’ like the gift of a Thanksgiving turkey. Click here for “10 Reasons to Give Employees a Turkey for the Holidays” for a useful 2-page document to share with your management team.
Companies with a giving culture are more successful.
They say it’s better to give than to receive. It turns out it could be way better!
Beloved Wharton School professor Adam Grant’s 2013 bestseller, Give and Take, used groundbreaking research to show that giving can have a revolutionary positive effect on all kinds of businesses. Givers are employees who help others regardless of whether they’re getting something in return. And the best-performing employees and leaders inevitably turn out to be givers. By taking steps to foster a giving culture, companies can significantly improve their productivity and efficiency, and their employee engagement and loyalty. One consulting firm estimated that implementing a giving culture saved it more than $250,000 and 50 workdays. A pharmaceutical company credited its giving culture with saving over $90,000 and 67 days of labor.
Boiled down, Grant’s discovery is simple enough: When people give freely, the co-workers they help want to reciprocate. Over time, givers amass a network of helpful colleagues and peers — in other words, givers inspire others to give. And in a giving culture, people are more apt to speak up and contribute. (The culture is critical, because it can be embarrassing to give if no one else is doing it.) Consequently, in workplaces with a giving culture, things get done faster by employees who are more personally invested.
Summer is an opportune time to cultivate workplace community by volunteering in the community as a team. Just in the month of June alone there are two officially designated dates that you can celebrate: The United Way’s Day of Action 2018 which occurs on (or around) June 21 and United Nation’s Public Service Day on June 23. It’s always great to recognize the good work that your staff does in the workplace, but doing good outside the office is likely to boost happiness, improve engagement and build workplace spirit.
Why Volunteering As A Team Is Valuable
A Huffington Post article exploring how workplace giving and volunteering can drive employee engagement explained that “prosocial” behavior, doing something for the benefit of someone else, positively affects the individuals participating in it, and in return, their workplaces.
Employee Incentives Aren’t Just a Nice Extra Anymore
Do you take employee incentives seriously? Or do you just treat them as a “nice to have”? More and more research demonstrates that successful companies will do the former.
In a recent blog post, the employee recognition experts at Achievers summarize how the conventional wisdom on employee incentives has evolved over the last century-plus. When research first began on employee incentives, workers were typically paid for what they produced, rather than the time they spent on the job. In fact: “When the innovation of pay by the hour or day was introduced, it was controversial. A widespread fear existed that if you paid workers only according to the time they spent, that they would ‘take it easy’ and not try as hard.”
Later, it became common to offer employee incentives that depended on one worker outdoing their colleagues. But that kind of heated competition produced its own problems — for instance, it can lead workers to focus more on winning than on serving customers properly. And research found that “pitting workers against each other for rewards often causes team-minded players to scale back their efforts in order to equalize things.”
Today, businesses have learned that employee incentives need to be thoughtfully designed — they must reward workers for going above and beyond, and also for effectively executing the company’s mission and values. While this kind of incentives program takes some time to put together, the evidence shows it will also have a clear positive impact on a company.
National Smile Power Day is June 15th, but every day is the perfect day to fuel workplace kindness with more smiling! Studies have revealed the ways that simply smiling more can transform us and those around us. Smiling can help create a culture of kindness at work (and beyond).
The Science Behind Smiles
There is real scientific evidence recognizing the benefits of smiling. A Fast Company article explored how smiling alters our brains (in a good way). A Penn State University study revealed that smiling people are perceived as more courteous, likeable and competent. All attributes that are valued in the workplace by employers, co-workers and clients.
Smiling has the power to improve your mood and reduce stress – it’s hard for people to frown around smiling people (researchers at Sweden’s Uppsala University found this to be true). But why is this? Turns out that our brains actually track our smiling which can then break our natural tendency to think negative thoughts. If you smile often enough, you end up rewiring your brain to make positive patterns more often than it does negative ones.
Engaging Remote Workers Is Increasingly NecessaryThanks largely to technology, more and more people — full-time employees, part-timers, and freelancers — are working remotely more and more often. One estimate from 2018 says that 3.9 million Americans now work from home at least half the week, or almost 3 percent of the country’s workforce. That’s great news for many employers and employees — remote working arrangements offer flexibility that can mean a lot to your team, as we’ve noted before. But engaging remote workers also takes some extra thought and effort. As HR Dive noted last year:
Remote workers need to be kept in the loop. Although working from home or some other location might offer work-life balance, remote workers can feel isolated from the office hub of activities, events and information-sharing. More importantly, remote workers can miss out on critical announcements concerning their employment, including their benefits.
Helping Businesses Learn About Creating a Culture of Appreciation With Art
Gapingvoid Culture Design Group uses art and design to help businesses change their corporate cultures. In the company’s own words, its mission is “to make work more meaningful; helping people love what they do.” So how exactly does Gapingvoid go about doing this? And how can your organization start creating a culture of appreciation with art?
The Gapingvoid story began when blogger and artist Hugh MacLeod created a doodle — “the Blue Monster” — for a friend, Microsoft executive Steve Clayton. Alongside the monster were the words “Microsoft: Change the world or go home.” MacLeod wrote a post about the cartoon on his blog at gapingvoid.com, joking that Microsoft leadership in Redmond, Washington could drop him a line if they had feedback.
As it turned out, the Blue Monster did indeed strike a chord at Microsoft. Clayton used the doodle at a presentation to senior executives, and the ensuing discussion got employees at the multinational corporation talking and thinking differently about their work and what it meant. The Blue Monster became an unofficial mascot for Microsoft. One employee even got himself a Blue Monster tattoo! Building on that success, MacLeod turned Gapingvoid into a whole company focused on creating a culture of appreciation with art and design.