The Williamson Difference: HR Answers That Work

The News Is Part Of Your Employment Brand

August 13, 2019

By Sharlyn Lauby

I ran across an interesting article in The Manifest titled, “How Do Employees Act When Faced with Unethical Company Behavior?” The article talks about how candidates want to work for companies with ethics and will choose not to accept offers of higher pay at companies with a history of unethical behavior. I’m not sure this is a surprise. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

What I did find interesting was that 79 percent of employees will not accept a job with a higher salary from a company that failed to act against employees who were involved in sexual harassment. We know that harassing work cultures inflict damage on a company’s workers and its bottom line. In addition, there are times when employees who report workplace sexual harassment are at risk for social isolation, retaliation, anxiety, and depression. Despite these hardships, most employees feel a need to act against unethical behavior that directly impacts them or coworkers.

In addition, employees will not consider accepting a raise from a company if they find the company selling or using customer data without consent (76 percent), creating environmental problems (72 percent), and paying female and minority employees less than others (71 percent). 

Finally, The Manifest article said that when employees decide whether to accept a raise, they are most likely to tolerate companies that give political donations to candidates they personally dislike (54 percent). Overall, it appeared from the study that employees are more likely to tolerate disagreeable company behaviors that are driven by politics or economics, instead of ones that directly impact coworkers or them.

My takeaway from the article is that the company’s employment brand is influenced by all of these things: harassment in the workplace, employee retaliation, data security, sustainability, equality and yes, even politics. Where do we hear about these topics? Yep, in the news.

What the media says about our organizations' matter. If they say the company is a respected employer, people hear that. And when the media reports that unethical behavior was pervasive within the leadership team, they hear that too. Obviously, the way to impact the news about your organization is to do good things for all of the right reasons. Remember the PESO Model (paid, earned, shared, and owned media). This is a clear example of earned media. Organizations need to have an earned media strategy. Because it matters.

This article was enlightening both in terms of the behaviors that employees will (and will not) tolerate as well as the reminder of how the news can impact a company’s brand. Organizations can’t simply assume their own brand messaging is sufficient. Employees are looking for resources like former and current employees AND the media to get confirmation that what a company is saying about themselves is accurate.


Sharlyn Lauby is the author of HR Bartender, a friendly place to discuss workplace issues. When not tending bar, she is president of ITM Group Inc., which specializes in training solutions to help clients retain and engage talent. She can be contacted on Twitter at @HRBartender.

How To Unlock Remote Workforce Engagement

August 13, 2019

By Shane Metcalf

Working remotely has previously been an exception few companies were willing to make for their people. In fact, up until the early 70’s, telecommuting was unheard of. Office optics determined how you were perceived by your manager and co-workers, and being “absent” meant you were not contributing. But new companies are now rethinking their remote workforce policies along with other cultural and performance strategies. In 2019, the exception is now becoming the rule. 

By 2020, just a few months from now, Gallup predicts that 50 percent of employees will work remotely. As employees increasingly demand flexibility in their jobs and younger generations of managers are more willing to support working from home, the tide is already beginning to shift. 

Over half of millennials (69 percent) say they would trade other work benefits for flexible workspace options. And, as employers compete to hire and retain the best talent, they are taking note of this trend and offering telecommuting capabilities or hybrid options with their employee benefits. What a time we live in, where advances in our understanding of human development, coupled with communication technologies are allowing companies to extend unprecedented trust to their people. 

I recently hosted a webinar with other leaders from Owl Labs, Blueboard, and Donut to discuss the most successful best practices and programs your company can implement to increase your remote workforce engagement: 

Leaders must be intentional in developing a culture that binds employees into the fabric of the organization, improving retention, increasing workforce engagement, and decreasing the risk of burnout. This intentionality is essential when an employee works onsite, and even more so when an employee works remotely. 

Although many employees desire the flexibility of working remotely, it comes with its own set of challenges, including feelings of isolation away from the main office. When remote workers are not included in the company culture they won’t feel connected to the company’s purpose. And those remote employees who feel disengaged are more likely to quit.  

But by focusing on communication, managing performance, culture building, and the effective use of technology, leaders can ensure that working remotely is a positive experience.

Essentials of communication

In an office environment, it’s common to pull an employee into an impromptu meeting or ask an ad-hoc question when you run into a co-worker in the hallway. When employees are dispersed, it can seem inconvenient to interrupt their work day with a phone call or text, but this type of on-the-spot interaction is conducive to keeping that employee feeling involved. (One caveat here is that people need uninterrupted times during the day to perform deep work.)

Remote employees don’t have the same opportunities for casual conversations, and may miss out on information that may not be “mission critical.” To ensure remote team members feel included, it’s better to over-communicate. 

While you should be respectful of remote workers’ time zones and work schedules, make it a habit to connect with them via video call when an issue or priority is top of mind. This creates more opportunity for the free flow of information and is essential for maintaining remote workforce engagement. 

Meetings can be one of the most frustrating aspects of working as a remote employee. In many organizations, those onsite meet in a conference room and the remote worker dials in, watching the meeting from a small camera placed at the end of the conference table. Unfortunately, those in the meeting often dominate the conversation making it more difficult for the person who has dialed in to interject. 

When conducting video calls, leaders or facilitators should be conscious of everyone who has dialed in. If remote employees are not talking, proactively invite them to share their opinions or knowledge with the group. 

Some companies have all meeting participants dial in, whether they work remotely or not. This practice gives everyone the same perspective and opportunity to be involved. Rather than have one person feeling disconnected, staring at a conference room full of people from their monitor at home, everyone is on a level playing field.

Workforce engagement from afar

How do you engage a remote employee? Well, much like you would with an onsite employee, but with a heavier emphasis on consistent communication. Without the structure of weekly meetings, holding one another accountable to check-in will become harder and harder. 

If your performance management process already includes continuous feedback, you’re at an advantage. Frequent 1-on-1 conversations, such as weekly check-ins give you and the remote employee chances to get ahead of roadblocks before they arise. 

When frequent communication is open enough to allow for open feedback, it is seen as encouragement, not micromanagement. Establishing a habit of regular interactions alleviates the inevitable stress that comes when having the conversation about performance and can improve overall workforce engagement. 

These 1-on-1’s also provide opportunities to have continuous career conversations. No matter where your employees are in the world, they have the same desires as onsite employees to grow and develop in their roles and with their company. 

Building a culture of unity

We can fall into the trap of dividing employees into two categories: those who work remotely, and those who work at home. But that division only weakens the organization. Instead, create rituals that promote belonging and inclusivity to help focus on achieving your organization’s mission.

Every employee’s journey begins with an onboarding process, even for remote employees. The more the organization grows, the more necessary it is to have a structured program. This will set the precedent for a positive  workplace experience and can play a huge role in how long you retain your remote workers. Another way to immerse remote employees in the company culture early on is to offer opportunities for individuals to get to know their co-workers.

In a typical day, remote employees don’t get the same kinds of opportunities to connect with co-workers that onsite employees may experience regularly. Usually, when a meeting with a remote employee begins, everyone jumps into the topic. But small talk is a vital conduit that helps employees build relationships that in turn builds culture, creates workforce engagement, and fosters a more human experience at work for everyone. 

Take time to find out about employees’ families, weekend, or vacation. Buddy systems or a mentoring program also help remote employees get to know people besides their direct manager.

Human nature provides for more understanding when we know a person’s story. When the ability to work remotely isn’t a company-wide policy but determined by the department, it can be difficult for employees to be empathetic with co-workers they don’t know. Encourage onsite and offsite employees to get “virtual coffee” so that every interaction isn’t strictly dedicated to work. 

Even if a team is not physically close, you can build psychological closeness by celebrating individual and group wins. During meetings, ask your employees to share a positive experience or something interesting they’ve recently learned. This sharing allows the space for people to open up and be more vulnerable with each other.

Use technology to connect

Allowing employees to work remotely without offering adequate technology support won’t yield much success. At the very least, remote employees need to have frictionless access to the Internet, including video capabilities. Many companies use Slack so teams and individuals can have quick conversations. 

A video platform, like Zoom or Owl Lab’s 360 video conferencing camera, are invaluable for more extended discussions or for groups. Donut, a platform that works with Slack, enhances an employee’s onboarding experience by helping employees quickly connect across the company.

Blueboard makes it easier to appreciate employees, with a platform that can be used across the company. When employees are onsite, it is easy to provide public or private kudos, but when team members are remote, it is essential to intentionally recognize their accomplishments. 

As new software platforms evolve, consider which ones will help your employees enhance their connections and relationships. These platforms shouldn’t cause more confusion but should aim to alleviate common pain points that your employees are actively facing. 

When managing remote employees, continue to experiment with new ways of interacting. Making use of up-and-coming technology will help your workforce develop healthy relationships with one another, no matter where they are located in the world.  These relationships will help grow an organizational culture that brings out the best in your people.


Shane Metcalf is Chief Culture Officer at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360°reviews. Shane has spent his career studying organizational & human development, which now translates into the high performing 15Five culture. This article was reprinted with permission and originally appeared on the 15Five blog here.

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence at Work

August 13, 2019

By Stijn De Groef

Emotional intelligence is crucial in the modern workplace. It’s the secret to happier, more engaged employees who work better together. Which means it’s the secret to higher performing teams that drive fast n’ furious business growth.

Improving emotional intelligence in the workplace isn’t some fluffy, sounds-nice people goal. It’s a business-critical strategy that helps unlock maximum value from your biggest competitive asset – your people.

But emotional intelligence comes more naturally to some folks than others and improving your workforce’s EQ is easier said than done.

But the following eight ways to improve emotional intelligence in the workplace will put you on the path to get the most from your people. 

#1 – Define what emotional intelligence in the workplace looks like

Your people can’t be more emotionally intelligent if they don’t know what emotional intelligence looks like.

Here’s the textbook definition: ‘EQ refers to someone’s ability to perceive, understand and manage their own feelings and emotions’ (Chignell, 2018).

That’s all well and good but textbook definitions and real-life understanding can be two very different things. What’s more useful is sharing examples of emotional intelligence in the workplace, so your people can understand how the concept relates to their day-to-day.

Like...

People with high emotional intelligence are attuned to colleagues’ moods, empathize and offer compassion where appropriate.

So, say Jane’s colleague, John, snaps at her. If Jane has high emotional intelligence, she notices that something’s wrong but understands John’s snappy behavior reflects on him, not her. Instead, she recognizes he’s having a bad day and asks what else she can do to help.

Or...

People with high emotional intelligence are good listeners, who recognize everyone’s need to feel heard. They’re comfortable accepting and expressing conflicting opinions and have constructive, positive disagreements.

So Katie and Kanish are debating whether they should hire the person they just interviewed. High emotional intelligence means they listen attentively to each other without interrupting, react sensitively to the other person’s opinions, and share their own opinions in a balanced, non-aggressive way. 

Share examples relevant to your own workplace to model the emotionally intelligent behaviors you want. That’s a much more powerful tactic than sharing lifeless definitions.

#2 – Make space for creativity

Sometimes emotional intelligence in the workplace can be a chicken and egg question. Take creativity.

Workplaces with high emotional intelligence are creative hotspots, where imagination knows no silos and good ideas come from all angles. That’s fantastic for the business because it means you solve problems and innovate faster. 

A workplace like that might be the natural outcome of having lots of highly emotionally intelligent employees, sure. Hyper-creative people will find ways to be creative without your help.

But you can also reverse engineer it. Because for one hyper-creative person, you might have ten kinda-creative-but-also-a-bit-reserved people. Setting up your workplace to empower those people means you unlock and encourage their creativity. To improve their emotional intelligence.

Ask yourself:

  • Where can we loosen-up our policies and processes?

  • How can we encourage employees to add ideas across silos?

  • What other opportunities for collaboration are there?

  • How can we boost diversity, so we get different perspectives?

  • Do we have a micromanagement problem, and how can we fix it?

  • What else can we do to support experimentation?

  • How can we communicate that failure is OK?

Build a workplace that promotes creativity, and your people will have a better framework to express themselves authentically. And that’s a crucial part of emotional intelligence.

#3 – Offer diverse social events (not just ones you like)

Another chicken and egg example, your workplace social scene. If your workplace has high emotional intelligence, your people have strong relationships which likely means they spend time together socially, inside and outside work.

Like with creativity, if your employees already have high emotional intelligence this probably already happens. But you can reverse engineer it too, by creating opportunities for your people to socialize, and strengthen their bonds.

Think inside and outside work, within and across teams, catering to the diverse spectrum of your employees.

Because Sally might love a cocktail but Mesut might not drink. Or Suvish might struggle to find childcare while Sam can’t wait to escape the kids.  

So hold the team night out, sure. But also hold the family BBQ, the company activity afternoon, the sponsored walks, the bowling evening, the painting class, the cookery lesson, the lunch date, the brunch date and the charity blowout gala.

So everyone in your workplace finds something for them, where they can form bonds and improve their emotional intelligence.

#4 – Encourage flexibility

Flexibility is a crucial aspect of emotional intelligence.

Managers who adapt their management style for different team members, for example, have a high EQ. And they’ll be better managers because they’ll get more from those team members than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Also, people with high emotional intelligence seek out (and perform best in) flexible environments, because they feel their unique needs are understood and accommodated.

Which means cultivating flexibility in your workplace empowers your people to act with higher emotional intelligence. And it’s how you create an emotionally intelligent workplace that attracts more emotionally intelligent people. Win, win.

Think about how you can introduce flexibility into your business, so people can work in a way that best suits them. Like focusing away from strict processes onto results, and offering remote working or flex-hours options. 

#5 – Run an EQ workshop (but make it fun)

Improving emotional intelligence in the workplace shouldn’t be a chore. So, sure. An EQ workshop could be a great idea but for everyone’s sake, make it fun and actionable.

Nobody wants to sit through a day’s dry box-ticking lecture about the definition, history and theory of emotional intelligence. 

Instead, think about ways you can bring emotional intelligence in the workplace to life. Think role plays. Quizzes. Videos. Debates. Collaborative discussions. Games.

An engaging, inspiring and memorable EQ workshop is much more likely to drive change.

#6 – Hire and onboard for EQ

To improve emotional intelligence in the workplace, you need to work with your current workforce.

But you also need to make sure the people you’re bringing into the business reflect this new emotionally intelligent vision. And you need to make sure your workplace empowers them once they’re there, so they don’t leave. 

That means hiring and onboarding for emotional intelligence. 

Some pointers:

  • Don’t over-rely on personality tests to assess EQ. Only a person with high emotional intelligence themselves can accurately assess emotional intelligence.

  • Design interviews to specifically assess emotional intelligence. Group interviews and behavioral questions are both worth inclusion. Plus check out these six questions from HubSpot.

  • Get interviewees to meet prospective team members, so you get a read on how they’d work in their new team. Interviewees with high emotional intelligence are likely to make a good impression fast.

#7 – Communicate your purpose

Emotionally intelligent people tend towards intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation. That means they’re more driven by personal rewards (like feeling a sense of achievement) than external rewards (like salary). 

Like...

Say Thomas attends training because he needs the certificate to be eligible for a promotion. That’s extrinsic motivation. But say Juliette attends training because she relishes the challenge and wants to improve. That’s intrinsic motivation and a sign Juliette likely has higher emotional intelligence than Thomas.

Or another example...

Ferencz joins your business because you offer a 5% salary raise over your competitor. But Victoria, on the other hand, joins despite taking a 5% salary drop because your mission and values resonate with her. Long-term, Victoria is the better hire. Not only because she represents a salary cost-saving, but because she’s a brand evangelist who loves what you stand for. So she helps boost your brand, cement your culture and she’s much less likely to jump ship for a competitor offering a raise.

Because when you stand for something, you’ll attract other people who stand for the same. And they’re the emotionally intelligent employees you want in your workplace.   

#8 – Level-up your workplace support offering

To improve emotional intelligence in the workplace, you need to build a culture where you empower emotionally intelligent people to thrive. Or they’ll leave, and the bucket will keep emptying even while you’re trying to fill it.

That means creating a workplace where employees are empowered to handle stress. A workplace where employees have access to the support to overcome personal and professional challenges. A workplace where employees have a voice and trust that voice will always be heard.

Don’t just say “we’ve got an open-door policy”. Think about actionable ways you can create a transparent, emotionally intelligent culture. Like...

  • Mentor schemes

  • Buddy schemes

  • Anonymous feedback

  • 360-degree reviews

  • Community spaces

  • Mental health support

  • Mental health days off

  • Forums and discussions

  • Radical transparency

Over 70% of hiring managers value EQ over IQ, and 75% would be more likely to promote an employee with high emotional intelligence. Plus, 90% of top performers have high emotional intelligence. In other words, boosting workplace EQ is a massively important business strategy – not ‘just’ a people strategy.


Stijn de Groef, a passionate HR professional, entrepreneur, cyclist and CEO at Talmundo. Prior to starting his own HR tech company, Talmundo, in 2012, Stijn worked in senior Talent Management roles at EMEA and Global level at multinational companies like Swarovski and Goodyear. Stijn now travels the world spreading the word about Talmundo's employee onboarding software and the strategic importance for businesses to get onboarding right.

How Leaders Can Fix Feedback

August 13, 2019

By Mervyn Dinnen

Feedback has a branding problem. The very notion of it worries people and raises our defenses. Our brains are often not ready to hear it or give it. Words and context are crucial as sometimes feedback can hurt or give offense, and often doesn’t seem very helpful. Ultimately much of this comes down to the individuals who are giving and hearing the feedback. This is one part of performance management that definitely needs a makeover.

At Workhuman® Live 2019 there were a number of sessions that dealt with feedback. Many looked specifically at the role it plays in performance management, where continuous two-way conversations help with the coaching, mentoring, and enablement of employees. But there were also many keynote speakers who inadvertently touched on it when discussing leadership, management, respect, and humanity.

For example, Kat Cole, COO of Focus Brands North America, said: “My job isn’t to make everyone happy. My job is to help everyone do their best work. I would be failing you if I didn’t make it happen.”

I think this can only be achieved through a culture of constructive, helpful, and enabling feedback – a culture which starts at the top of the organization. This was corroborated in a session on “Rebooting Feedback” by Tamra Chandler, CEO of PeopleFirm LLC and author of two books on performance management and feedback. She said, “feedback determines how you are seen as a leader, by concentrating on the strengths of your people.”

Reasons for feedback’s image problem

Tamra outlined three reasons why feedback has an image problem:

  1. Too many have a misguided belief that brutal frankness is necessary.

  2. Feedback has become something dumped on us once a year.

  3. Through a tendency to turn it back on the giver, we are in effect “drunk on negativity.”

Her research showed that development-oriented feedback was a top driver in engagement and inclusion, giving employees a belief that what they do matters. It can also give them the feeling that their leader or manager sees something in them that they haven’t seen in themselves, a challenge they can rise to and achieve.

Encouraged to think back on negative feedback experiences, some attendees at her session said they had been left feeling isolated, and that the negative parts of what they heard had registered more strongly than the positive. One interesting perspective was the feeling of having to prove the value of what you had done, rather than find out how to improve as an individual. When reflecting on positive feedback experiences, most people said it made them feel energized, enthusiastic and trusted.

So, how can we fix feedback?

From Tamra’s point of view, it’s a case of managers and leaders wiping the slate clean and rebooting their approach. “If you’re engaging with feedback without the intention of helping people, then stop. Look at the future, help them move forward,” she said.

Developing connections and building trust are key to creating an environment, and relationships, in which feedback can thrive. The foundations of this are fairness, focus, and frequency, and can be achieved by entering into two-way conversations rather than just giving feedback. In this respect, framing is all important.

If your feedback is based on things you’ve noticed, then it can be received as help, however, if the delivery is more a judgment of what the employee has done, then trust might disappear, and the relationship dynamic becomes more defensive.

A way forward

One helpful way of adopting a new approach is to reflect on three roles in feedback – being a seeker, a receiver, and an extender. “The power lies with the seekers. Build an army of seekers,” Tamara advised. She also said that seeking for feedback was the ultimate trust generator.

I like these personas and believe that they can help us understand how to improve feedback.

  • Seekers look to improve and have a clear idea of the type of feedback they need and how they want to hear it.

  • Receivers seem more passive and are likely to take feedback more negatively, sometimes becoming defensive.

  • Extenders have to check that they are truly noticing what people are doing and that their assessments are grounded in fact and observation, rather than judgments or assumptions. They also need to be clear on their own intentions in giving feedback and understand if it’s the right time.

As with so much of the narrative around performance management, it is a question of whether the culture of your organization can help these personas develop and allow constructive feedback to thrive as a way of enabling better performance, rather than leaving employees feeling isolated and disengaged.

If we are looking at organizational culture, then we have to begin with the leaders, and the role they play in setting the tone. Kat Cole urged leaders to take responsibility when she said, “Instead of assuming that a failure or mistake on the part of an employee is his or her fault, ask yourself if there is something in your business or structure that caused it.” Author and keynote speaker Brené Brown advised, “The mythology that leaders have all of the answers is so dangerous. The best leaders have very few answers and amazing questions. The best leaders ask the right things.”

Creating a culture in which we can fix feedback, end its image problem, use it to enable both employees and managers to achieve their best work, and thereby help the organization achieve their business goals, can be hard. It needs to start with brave, visible, and honest leaders, setting the tone in creating a culture in which recognition, appreciation, and respect can thrive. As Brené said (to much audience applause): “Brave leaders are never quiet about hard things.”


Mervyn an HR & Talent Analyst, researching the emerging trends that impact hiring, development, and retention. He is the author of the book 'Exceptional Talent' and of the forthcoming book 'Digital Talent.' This content originally appeared on the Workhuman Blog.

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