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Employee Benefits: How to Keep Up and Stand Out

Traditional employee benefits have long been the cornerstone of benefit packages. While traditional employee benefits will remain a staple, their power to “wow” prospective employees is becoming overshadowed by more outside the box benefits.  As you strive to  keep up and stand out in the employment market, the impression of your benefits package will be mostly defined by the unique benefits you offer.

When considering how to invest in employee benefits in a way that helps you attract and retain great people, it’s important to start by considering what your target employees truly value. For example, Millennial workers are more open to paying high-deductible health plans and likely to appreciate the value of Health Savings Accounts. On the other hand, they are not likely to put emphasis on long term disability.

At various stages of life, people appreciate things differently. In my experience, the prevailing soft benefit among people is flexibility. It comes in many forms depending on organizational structure and culture.  The knowledge that an employer will extend whatever flexibility it can to help employees balance life situations with work is an important foundation.  Families with young children are seeking more flexibility in order to balance the demands of childcare. Likewise, other families face concerns over elder care which may come with the same or greater demands. Studies have also found that 35% of millennials would take a pay cut in order to work remotely.

In my company, we start our annual business planning by asking employees to list their top 10 goals for the year.  We’ve even extended that conversation into the interview process when it makes sense. I remind people that we are working to live, so it makes sense to start with life goals when creating the goals and plans of the business.

Consider your employees or prospective employees situations. How can you add value to their lives?  I see more companies offering employee benefits including unlimited time off, hiatus, remote working opportunities, and various wellness programs including financial wellness like student loan repayment and mortgage programs.  No one company is the same so it’s important to know your people and what is important to them and then customize a benefits package that serves them best.

I’d love to hear about your most outside the box employee benefit! Join the conversation or email me at

The 3 best strategies for motivating your employees, according to psychological research

53954832 - busy business people working.The psychological concept of self-determination theory has been widely studied and practiced in academics and science, but it also has several useful strategies to offer leaders in the workplace. In a nutshell, self-determination theory refers to the three fundamental psychological needs that humans need fulfilled to be motivated to perform.

Since motivation should be a concern for any employer or manager, here are the 3 best strategies for improving your employees’ motivation and determination to perform their duties as efficiently as possible:

Let Their Competence Shine

One of the first components of self-determination theory is that of competence, or feeling passionate and qualified to perform a given task. Competence involves nurturing your employees’ intrinsic motivation, which refers to a psychological drive grounded in a person’s genuine enjoyment of something, as opposed to feeling forced to do something by external factors (e.g., a micromanaging boss, fluctuating deadlines, overbearing colleagues, commissions, etc.).

To help your team feel more competent in their roles in the workplace, be sure to praise them on occasion (instead of never-ending demands), acknowledge moments when they bring up good ideas, and encourage them to use their critical and creative thinking skills when developing new solutions to problems faced by the company or your customers.

Relate to Them

The second psychological component of self-determination theory is relatedness, or feelings of affiliation between an employee and their employer. Relatedness comes from the human connection between a supervisor and their subordinate, where they feel as though you genuinely care about their needs and goals in the workplace.

To establish greater relatedness between yourself and your employees, focus on being more empathetic when mistakes happen (zero tolerance for small errors will likely lead to higher turnover rates), socialize more with your team outside of working hours to foster a tight-knit professional family, and thank them when they help out, even if that’s an expected part of their job (people like to feel appreciated!).

Give Them Greater Autonomy

The final component of self-determination theory involves autonomy, or the feeling of independence and control over one’s own assignments and tasks. Bosses who micromanage everything are likely to drive employees away from the company, create a stressful workplace climate, and decrease their employees’ willingness to try potentially more efficient solutions in fear of deviating from the standard way of doing things.

Alternatively, you could help your employees feel more autonomous by encouraging them to use their own judgment to make smaller, less consequential decisions without always referring to you and check in less frequently with employees who consistently perform well without much external pressure.

Altogether, the 3 fundamental psychological needs – competence, relatedness, autonomy – are crucial for workplace leaders to develop for both themselves and their teams, so don’t ignore the potential benefits of enacting the principles of self-determination theory in your own office.

Balancing the needs of parents and employees without children

47107742 - woman working from home with baby on lapIt’s not easy trying to accommodate two vastly different groups of people, but when it comes to working parents and child-free employees, you might find their concerns and desires more similar than you might expect. While child-free employees sometimes feel cheated by a system that seems to accommodate parents’ concerns (e.g., leaving work early to pick up children from school), it is possible to address both groups of employees without hindering your team’s productivity or your workplace’s family-friendliness. Here are some useful strategies for managing both working parents and childless employees:

Equalize the Flexibility Factor

This is important for working parents and child-free employees alike. For working parents, flexibility is crucial because life happens. Sometimes, kids get sick or injured, schools have emergencies, and a screaming toddler who doesn’t want to get dressed for preschool one day prevents even the most patient, dedicated parents from getting to work the minute they’re supposed to be there. Child care is also expensive, and many child care facilities have rules about dropping off kids too early or picking up kids too late (some centers charge a fee for parents who arrive late!), so harping on employees for infrequent incidents or leaving on time instead of staying late to complete a project isn’t a wise move for any manager who wants to maintain employees’ job satisfaction and team morale.

On the other hand, employees without children might have outside concerns that warrant similar levels of flexibility, such as care for an aging parent, emergency trips to the veterinarian for a old or sick pet, unexpected housing repairs, car break-downs and other issues. To improve relations between working parents and child-free parents on your team, it’s important to offer the same level of flexibility to all employees when it comes to mishaps, unexpected incidents, and general desires to spend more time with their loved ones.

Develop Family-Friendly Policies for Your Workplace

To make your workplace more family-friendly, consider possible telecommuting options (even if it’s just working from home one morning or one day each week). As a manager, this might be more of an HR issue or company policy matter beyond your control, but you can still advocate for change on behalf of your employees. You can also try planning more family-friendly events so that employees who are parents can participate with everyone else.

Should you encourage employee advocacy in your workplace?

74833052_MDid you know that people rate employees as more credible than the CEOs of most companies? Many Americans trust what employees say about a company than what company’s leadership says. What does this mean to you?

It’s your job as a leader to strive for and promote the company’s goals to your team and other people beyond the company. That’s why you’ll want your team to be employee advocates, favorably representing the company online and beyond. Employee advocacy is an increasingly popular business strategy that helps companies boost their marketing efforts and increase revenue through largely word-of-mouth efforts. If you’re wondering whether employee advocacy is something you should look into, here are some ways managers can encourage their employees to become vocal company advocates:

Encourage social sharing. The first step to increasing employee advocacy is to encourage your own team to let others know on social networks what’s great about the company they work for. That could include sharing photos of philanthropic efforts or re-tweeting or sharing a company post. Just be sure to establish a thorough list of rules for employees interacting with others on social media to ensure that employees reinforce the company’s brand.

Brainstorm content ideas with the whole team

Why should marketing be limited to a single department within the company? Even if you’re not involved in the marketing side of the company, you can still work together to offer the marketing team greater insight for the blogs and social posts they produce. For instance, you could schedule a monthly meeting with the marketing team to give your own team the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas for new pathways to driving up your web traffic, converting more web visitors into paying customers, and building relationships with existing clients. Rather than simply hoping the marketing department is fully aware of all the wonderful things going on in your company (and what the company is doing for the community and its current clientele), your team might have awesome ideas that the marketing pros might not have considered yet. Giving your team a voice in the process will inherently motivate them to become active employee advocates because they’ll feel more personally and professionally invested in the company’s success in all facets of the business.

When it comes to setting goals, it pays to get SMART

41147439 - businessman thinking aspirations goals contemplating conceptGoal-setting isn’t just for New Years’ resolutions. Setting goals in the workplace is crucial to motivating employees to perform at their best in their positions. If you’re not actively helping your employees set and track their goals at the moment, here are a few reasons why you might want to Get SMART.

The best way to empower your employees with goal-setting is by using the SMART strategy for setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound. Specificity refers to goals that are not vaguely worded (e.g., “I want to make more money”) and instead offer a clear finish line (e.g., “I want to increase my own sales by 50%”). Measurability refers to goals that can be quantified, so you can clearly determine whether the goal was met or not (e.g., decreasing time wasted on checking and responding to emails by 60 minutes per day).

Attainability refers to goals that your employees can reasonably accomplish. While some managers argue they should set impossible expectations for employees in order to push them to try their best, psychological research generally agrees that attainability is more empowering because you’re not dooming your employees to fail if goals are attainable.

Relevancy refers to goals that are specific to the employees’ jobs and current struggles in their positions (rather than a meaningless goal that’s set just for the sake of having a goal to strive towards). Finally, timebound goals refer to those that have a specific deadline. Instead of setting goals with indefinite time frames, it’s important to encourage your employees to set deadlines to hold themselves accountable.

Increase Self-Motivation and Job Performance

By adopting the SMART goal-setting strategy in your workplace, your employees will likely feel more self-motivated to succeed (rather than externally pressured to perform) and their performance on-the-job will likely improve as a result. Employees that are self-motivated typically stay with their employers longer and are more productive because they genuinely enjoy their work, compared to employees who feel coerced into performing by harsh managers who set unattainable goals and deadlines that doom employees to failure.

Increasing employees’ motivation is integral to efficiency in the workplace as well as increasing rates of employee retainment. While the drill sergeant strategy of high-pressure and minimal praise might work for some employees, you’ll be better off using the SMART strategy to propel your team to success on their own terms.

Setting and tracking goals with your employees doesn’t just improve their own job satisfaction and performance, it also builds camaraderie between you and your team because active goal-tracking demonstrates you care about them meeting their goals. As opposed to a “set it and forget it” approach to goal-setting, assisting employees with their goals (including suggestions for tweaks and new pathways to achieving those goals along the way) increases the likelihood they’ll accomplish those goals and feel more positively about your role as their manager as you show your dedication to their success in the workplace.

Four strategies for managing a team of telecommuters

26657635 - overworked businesswoman looking at a clock. shoot at workplaceEmployee productivity is a major concern for any manager, but it can be especially difficult to keep an eye on when some or all of your team works remotely. If you’ve experienced a drop in productivity among your telecommuting employees, then try out these strategies for increasing efficiency on your team:

Use Time-Tracking Software and Organizational Apps

A common concern managers have with remote teams is the lack of accountability when it comes to tracking hours and staying on top of tasks. Fortunately, there are several time-tracking software programs available to streamline your team’s time sheets, and organizational apps can help you delegate tasks to other members of the team, make comments along the way, and adjust deadlines whenever necessary.

You won’t be able to maximize your team’s productivity by leaving everything to chance and traditional email communications. Apps and software programs can be a tremendous help.

Set Manageable Goals

Having high expectations isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but excessive demands – especially when communicated via email or text – can be seriously demotivating for your team. Your best bet is to strike a balance between maintaining a heavy enough workload and enough flexibility to account for assignments and tasks that might need their deadlines extended. Manageable goals are significantly more motivating for employees because they get to experience small successes along the way, as opposed to stressing out over one huge goal that could be months away from attainment.

Make Yourself Available

One of the biggest issues with telecommuting workers is the disconnect that can occur on time-sensitive projects. Since you can’t simply walk across the office to a coworker’s desk to ask questions whenever they arise, team members need to be readily available during their working hours to ensure there are no out-of-control fires spreading under the radar.

However, forcing employees to check their emails whenever a new message appears in their inbox can also be a productivity killer. This means that you as the manager should set up a system for categorizing issues of importance and communicating errors and questions based on your system. For instance, you might tell your team to call you whenever a serious issue crops up, but less important or time-sensitive matters should be relegated to emails. Additionally, you should encourage your team to reach out to the next person in the chain-of-command if you’re unavailable because efficient delegating is one of the best ways to minimize problems and maximize productivity.

Ask for Daily or Weekly Summaries

This might seem cumbersome for remote employees to adjust to in the beginning, but daily or weekly summary emails are fantastic ways to get a fuller glimpse at what they accomplished during the day, any issues that arose, and what’s left to do. These recaps also help communicate any questions or concerns to you in one comprehensive email (instead of clogging your inbox with questions emailed separately).

Do workplace romances hurt your team’s productivity?

55663297_SAccording to recent studies, at least one-third of employees have likely engaged in workplace romances. Although employers generally disprove of workplace relationships, they’re still bound to happen since employees are together for the majority of their days.

Workplace romances among your team members (especially between superiors and their subordinates) could present a significant problem if you’re not prepared to deal with the possible consequences. While some companies may include clauses in their employment contracts forbidding workplace relationships, the possibility of two colleagues dating nevertheless remains.

Be sure to have a policy in place to deal with potential problems that could arise from in-office relationships. Romantic relationships are more prone to intense conflict than say, a casual acquaintanceship among coworkers. While some couples do excellent jobs of keeping their personal and professional lives separate, others unconsciously blend their two lives together, which could lead to significant problems for your office climate.

Workplace romances are tricky to navigate but oftentimes inevitable consequences of people spending a great deal of their time together. As a leader, this can be especially difficult because you have multiple employees’ needs to consider. On one hand, an unobtrusive workplace romance (one you wouldn’t know exists based on the two parties’ neutral interactions) is not likely to be a cause for concern. But it’s always important to plan ahead and be prepared for situations that don’t work out the way everyone involved had hoped.

Three tips for managing introverted employees

46737933_S-300x200It’s estimated that one-third to one-half of the world’s population is comprised of introverts. Yet research shows that many leaders have difficulty effectively managing and leading more inner-oriented employees. Here are three ways to adapt your management style to work with introverts:

1. Know your employee’s preferences. Introverts may prefer e-mails over face-to-face meetings in many instances. Many introverts also don’t like being called on in meetings unless they have had time to prepare what they plan to say. They also aren’t as likely as extroverts to highlight their own accomplishments and speak up with their own opinion and beliefs. Get to know the individual members of your team and tailor your leadership style to bring out the best in each one.

2. Give them space. Introverted employees typically thrive when left alone to complete their tasks. They also are more likely to find interruptions taxing and may do best in quiet areas of the office. Sometimes, giving an employee a choice in where they work in the office can be a tremendous help.

3. Don’t force them into socializing. Not all employees want more office parties or team bonding activities. Socializing with colleagues can be beneficial for team cohesion, but for significantly introverted employees, being forced into these activities could be more detrimental than helpful. Accept that not all employees want to socialize with others for fun, and let your introverted members of the team decide if/when to participate on their own terms instead of goading them into it.


Is your workplace suffering from tech overload?

46626512 - black and white business people working together at small officeHave you fallen into the habit of sending e-mails to communicate with our employees — even if they are just a few steps away from you? Perhaps it is time to rethink your reliance on technology to communicate with your team.

Although most people assume Millennials prefer texting and emailing over face-to-face communication, research has shown the opposite is true. In fact, many employees reportedly prefer interpersonal communication in the workplace over more tech savvy modes of communication. Why is that? Possibly because technology is prone to communication gaps, whereas nonverbal communication such as facial expressions and instantaneous feedback in a one-on-one or group meeting offers greater clarity and immediate responses to any issues or questions that arise.

Technology can have drawbacks in other areas, too. Research also has shown that humans are terrible multi-taskers. Whenever we try tackling multiple projects in one sitting, efficiency actually decreases compared with an approach that tackles projects one at a time. The reason is simple: our brains cannot handle the amount of information required to process many different assignments at the same time. We’re cognitively limited to maybe 2-3 mental tasks max and once we push that boundary, our productivity will suffer. What this means for you and your employees is that you should stop relying on technology so much because it tempts us to engage in multitasking (e.g., having several web browsers open at a time), which promotes inefficiency, despite popular (and mistaken) beliefs that we’re more productive this way.

If you’ve been in a college classroom lately, you might also have noticed most students on their computers, presumably taking notes. However, if students don’t perceive the lecture material to be valuable to their studies, then they might wander off to Facebook or other social media sites during class. Similarly, employees in meetings might be more prone to distractions if allowed to take notes from tablets or computers compared to the good old fashioned handwriting method.

Ultimately, a company culture built on primarily digital means of communication could lead to lower rates of employee satisfaction and greater inefficiency. Alternatively, reducing your team’s over-reliance on technology could build a more connected culture.

Two signs of a toxic workplace environment (and how to fix it)

46636958 - mature businessman arguing with his two co-workers in officeWhile no workplace environment is perfect, there are some companies that have toxic cultures. A toxic work environment can severely impact productivity, zap motivation, and significantly reduce employee retention. Not surprisingly, company leaders and managers have a great deal of influence over workplace culture. Here are two signs of a toxic workplace environment — and some steps to take to fix it:

Poor communication. Communication is one of the biggest issues companies struggle with, both in the workplace and in their personal lives. Business leaders must make a commitment to communicating effectively and often to their employees. Yet some companies provide little information to their employees on a daily and weekly basis. In good times and bad, employees need to understand their company’s mission, their individual roles in their companies, their company’s current condition and where their company is headed. They also need to get constructive feedback regularly — each employee deserves to know what they are doing right and wrong — not just at their annual performance review. An employee should never have to guess whether how they are doing.

Favoritism. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to succeed. Leaders can experience unconscious bias just like anyone else, which might entail favoring some employees over others for reasons other than pure achievement and dedication to their jobs. For instance, unconscious gender bias is still common in workplaces, where women are sometimes perceived to be less focused in their jobs due to children or more likely to leave their jobs in the future when they want children. As a business leader, it’s your job to make sure that employees aren’t under the impression that only a select few favorite employees are liked by management and get opportunities to advance.