Among actively disengaged workers in 2021, 74 per cent are actively looking for new employment in search of better work culture.

Keeping employees engaged and motivated has gained importance in Covid and post-Covid era fostering a positive trend in the corporate sector, according to a report released by a global employee benefits provider, Advantage Club.

The report focuses on the impact of employee engagement and appreciation on the tenure of association of an employee with the organisation.

As per the report, 90 per cent of the companies are willing to drive employee engagement to keep employees motivated. Around 45 per cent of employees are likely to stay longer at a workplace with greater engagement and appreciation.

“In today’s competitive environment, employee engagement has emerged as a vital driver of business success,” the report said.

“High levels of engagement encourage employees to stay with the company, foster loyalty and boost organisational performance and stakeholder value,” it said.

Among actively disengaged workers in 2021, 74 per cent of the workforce is actively looking for new employment in search of better work culture.

“Organisations are now implementing new-age technologies to keep the employees engaged and motivated. Motivation and recognition go hand in hand and more recognition leads to higher motivation,” it added.

However, only 14 per cent of organisations provide managers with the necessary tools for rewards and recognition.

Top corporations that introduced employee engagement programs have seen employee satisfaction (ESAT) scores of 98 per cent, the report added. For the year 2021 - 2022, attrition has been reduced by 45 per cent among Advantage Club’s engaged employees.

Sourabh Deorah, Co-Founder & CEO, Advantage Club, said, “We firmly believe that management needs to put out well-thought plans and strategies for employee engagement and retention - it may include benefits, perks, bonuses or even a timely recognition of high performance. This report highlights the significance of such programs for every business that aspires to grow exponentially in years to come.”

This article was originally published in Hindu Business Line.

Most organizations have some type of corporate values document. But too often, those values are fun little blurbs that sound nice but lack the detail to direct employees’ daily performance.

Perhaps one of your core values is teamwork; does it sound something like, “We achieve more and build better when we collaborate and work together”? That’s a great overarching corporate value, but ask yourself honestly, does it truly help employees understand the specific behaviors they should exhibit on a daily basis?

It’s not your fault that there are lots of employees who don’t know how to implement your core value. Consultants have always told executives that values should be lofty and pithy. But what those consultants didn’t know was that people in the real world want clarity; they don’t want slogans, they want direction.

In the new Leadership IQ study, Why Company Values Are Falling Short, only 24% of organizations have detailed what specific behaviors are necessary to live their company values. But for the companies that have truly detailed those behaviors, their employee engagement is literally 107% higher than the companies that have not done that work.

As compelling as that sounds, however, it begs the question of how to detail those specific behaviors. Word Pictures is a technique whereby you paint a clear behavioral verbal picture that tells employees exactly what the behaviors accompanying a core value look like, broken down into three levels: “Needs Work,” “Good Work,” and “Great Work.” Those three levels teach employees exactly what behaviors they need to exhibit in order to live that value and what behaviors will violate that value.

Let’s take the teamwork corporate value. The typical boardroom version reads something like, “We achieve more and build better when we collaborate and work together.” But with the detailed behaviors specified in a Word Picture, that teamwork core value will now be much more detailed and could include the following specifics:

If you’re an employee, which is going to help you exhibit more teamwork: Being told that “We achieve more when we collaborate,” or having specific behaviors that you should and shouldn’t exhibit?

Imagine how quickly you could eliminate bad teamwork if you could teach employees that they shouldn’t pay more attention to their phones than to their colleagues, or that they shouldn’t say things like, “You guys can decide, I don’t care.”

And consider how much faster you could coach people on teamwork by teaching them that they should seek ways to show respect for others’ viewpoints, perhaps saying, “Let’s work together to come up with a solution,” or “Would you be willing to share with me privately?”

Parenthetically, if you’ve ever considered embedding your values into performance reviews, it is exponentially easier once you’ve detailed specific behaviors ala a Word Picture.

How you define the specific behaviors is up to you, as long as they help employees understand the nitty-gritty behaviors necessary to live the core value of teamwork (or anything else). One of the tests as to whether you’ve adequately defined your core values with a Word Picture is whether you could quickly grade your own behavior.

I’m quite sure that everyone can read the Needs Work description and think of a few instances where we’ve exhibited undesirable behaviors. Relatedly, I’m sure that everyone reading this article can also find instances where you demonstrated Great Work behaviors.

If you can dissect your corporate values into specific behaviors that every employee can use to govern their daily actions, you’ve positioned yourself to achieve 107% higher employee engagement. It’s incredibly painful for employees to spend hours guessing what teamwork or integrity or accountability means. But if you can turn those corporate values into specific behaviors, you will have achieved a level of transparency and candor that nearly all employees crave.

This article was originally published in Forbes.

If the same results can be achieved in fewer days, why keep a five-day workweek?

There’s been a lot of talk about the potential benefits of working a four-day week instead of a five-day week. Making 32 hours the norm instead of 40 can lead to improved well-being for workers without a loss of productivity for businesses.

A number of studies have shown that at some point, productivity decreases as the number of hours worked increases. Forty-hour workweeks may be wearing people out needlessly.

A number of companies worldwide have pulled off a four-day workweek for a year or more, and Japan’s government has recommended it as national policy.1 It’s not a new idea, but it seems to have come under greater consideration since the COVID-19 pandemic generated a broad reevaluation of how we work, including a great work-from-home migration and hybrid office implementation.

What Is a 4-Day Workweek?

A four-day workweek is, ideally, a 32-hour workweek with no loss in productivity, pay, or benefits.2 Depending on the company and the industry, everyone might work Monday through Thursday and have Fridays off. Other possibilities include allowing each employee to choose their extra day off or having a company-wide policy of a different third day off, such as Monday or Wednesday.

There are pros and cons to each choice. For example, keeping everyone on the same schedule increases opportunities for collaborative work but leaves a company unstaffed on days when most others are working. A flexible third day off may be better for individual employees but harder for teams.

The Origins of Working Less

The idea of getting more work done in less time to increase time off is not new. We all have Ford Motor Co. (and the Industrial Revolution) to thank for our current five-day workweek instead of six days. What began as an experiment at some plants in July 1926 became company policy by September that same year.

A federal law called the Fair Labor Standards Ac (FLSA), passed in 1938, mandated a minimum wage of 25 cents per hour, a 44-hour workweek, and overtime pay of 1.5 times a worker’s regular pay. The act provided for a 42-hour workweek in 1939 and a 40-hour workweek in 1940.

Henry Ford had been contemplating the idea of a five-day workweek since at least 1916 before implementing it in 1926.

Experiments with a four-day workweek in the United States have been taking place since at least the 1990s.9 Another experiment took place in 2004, when the government of Spanish Fork City, Utah, implemented a schedule of four 10-hour days for city employees.10 Utah’s state government experimented with a 4/10 schedule from 2008 through 2011.11 And the idea was picking up steam even before the pandemic, with more job openings offering it in 2018 and 2019 than in 2017.

How Many Hours Are We Really Working?

Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the average annual hours worked by employed people in 2020 were lowest in Germany at 1,332 (25.6 per week). Americans work an average of 1,767 hours (34 per week), while Canadians work 1,664 hours (32 per week). Among other places experimenting with four-day workweeks, those in the United Kingdom work 26 hours per week, Spaniards work 30 hours per week, and the Japanese work 31 hours per week.

When you look at these numbers, it would seem that the average American who is age 16 or older already has almost the equivalent of a four-day workweek, and workers in some other countries have even more free time.

But if you look at the U.S. data more carefully, you’ll find that high school- and college-age workers pull down the average. In 2021, 16- to 19-year-olds worked an average of 25 hours per week, and 20- to 24-year-olds worked 34.8 hours per week. Individuals ages 25 and older worked 39.6 hours per week on average.

Benefits of a 4-Day Workweek

The fundamental goal of a four-day workweek is to improve workers’ quality of life. By working fewer hours overall and having three full days off, people have more time for personal priorities like these:

But there has to be something in it for employers, too. Companies that truly put their people first are the exception, not the norm. (By one count, there are only 82 as of this writing—with criteria that include diversity/inclusivity, flexible schedules, remote work, and a 40-hour-or-less workweek.

These are the benefits that employers might expect from giving employees more control over their time:

Challenges of a 4-Day Workweek

A four-day workweek doesn’t always mean that employees maintain their pay and benefits. Some organizations have reportedly used a four-day week as a cost-saving measure, like Stanley Black and Decker and the Los Angeles Times, which managed to trim 20% from payroll costs for three months.19 And short-term trials that demonstrate success with a four-day workweek can differ from long-term outcomes.

Treehouse, an online coding school, implemented a four-day workweek from the get-go in 2013. Its CEO, Ryan Carson, had used the strategy from 2006 at his previous company. As late as 2015, he was publicly praising the compressed week’s benefits, from improved productivity to a more balanced life.

But in 2016, Carson reinstated a 40-hour workweek at Treehouse and had to lay people off. He said the 32-hour week created a lack of work ethic in himself that was fundamentally detrimental to the business and its mission.21 In 2018, he said he was working 65 hours a week under a regimented schedule beginning at 4:30 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m. with early morning breaks for exercise, breakfast, and time with his wife, but no breaks from 8:30 a.m. on.

A four-day week that requires people to work 10-hour days can be incompatible with wage regulations or prove too grueling for employees, failing to either improve productivity or save the company money. In the 1990s, a number of organizations found this to be the case and went with a 9/80 schedule instead, where people work nine hours Monday through Thursday and eight hours every other Friday in exchange for getting alternate Fridays off.

Not all individuals like the idea of a four-day workweek, for a number of reasons. For example, they may enjoy the social aspects of their jobs or find their work so engaging that they don’t want to do less of it. And some workers might find that a compressed week gives them a constant pre-vacation-type pressure to get more work done in less time—a level of stress that’s unsustainable.

Indeed, based on the results of a poll conducted in March 2020, Gallup concluded that while individuals working four-day weeks reported lower levels of burnout and higher levels of well-being compared to people working five- or six-day weeks, the percentage of actively disengaged workers was lowest among those who worked five-day weeks.

Gallup found that for employee engagement, the quality of the work experience was more important than the number of days worked. Simply shortening the workweek is not enough to improve employee engagement in a poorly managed organization. Still, workers do place a high value on schedule flexibility, which can lower stress levels and help them manage other aspects of their lives more effectively, allowing them to be more engaged at work.

Then there’s the question of industry. It’s relatively easier for jobs that rely on knowledge work to move to a compressed schedule compared to jobs that rely on service work.

We wouldn’t want to see customer service or tech support, let alone hospitals and fire departments, take three days off per week with zero coverage―though allowing individual workers to have four-day weeks could be possible.

In addition, it may not be possible to increase productivity enough in service or logistics jobs to achieve the same results in fewer hours just by working smarter. There’s a physical limit to how many items Amazon Warehouse employees can pick per hour or how many delivery locations a UPS driver can hit in a day. However, one study did find that call center agents became less productive as their hours increased—it took them longer to handle calls.

There are also practical and cultural barriers to working fewer days. If working five days a week (or seven in some industries) remains the norm, then the companies that have a shorter workweek may cause frustrating delays at the companies that work longer weeks. It takes a mindset shift to accept these delays, knowing that they are supporting workers’ well-being.

A 4-Day Workweek Myth

You may have read that Iceland has successfully adopted a four-day workweek. Anthony Zeal, an adjunct professor in the business school at the University of Technology Sydney, explains this myth in an article for The Conversation, an independent, nonprofit news organization whose articles are composed by university scholars and researchers with expertise in the subjects that they write about.

What has actually happened, Zeal writes, is that major media outlets have misreported the findings of a June 2021 study in which 2,500 government workers in 66 workplaces in Iceland tried moving from a 40-hour week to a 35- or 36-hour week. Most of the workplaces ended up cutting back by only one to three hours a week, though they were able to maintain their productivity and provide the same level of service. The experiment did result in a nationwide decrease in hours worked, but only by 35 minutes in the private sector and 65 minutes in the public sector.

A 4-Day Workweek Success Story

Wildbit, a small software company founded in Philadelphia in 2000, experimented with a four-day workweek in 2017 and made it permanent.26 The company’s emphasis on outcomes rather than volume, and on focused, deep work rather than hours logged, has allowed it to succeed with this policy.

Wildbit’s four-day workweek is part of its people-first philosophy, which holds that work enables life and that providing good benefits while prioritizing the well-being of the business over its workers is not the right approach.28 The company is also remote-first and provides location-agnostic pay.

Recent Developments to the 4-Day Week

The four-day workweek appears to be gaining traction across the globe, including in the U.S. California state Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat introduced a bill that would implement a four-day workweek in Dec. 2021. Although unlikely to become law anytime soon, the bill (which would require companies to pay overtime for hours worked above 32 hours in a week) is still a key step toward getting businesses to reconsider the 40-hour workweek. The coronavirus pandemic has also helped push more employers to consider remote work and the four-hour workweek.

In mid-2021, Iceland published the results of its pilot four-day workweek program, running from 2015 to 2019. The results showed that workers were less stressed or burnt out while having more time for family activities.

Several trials are being conducted on the four-day workweek, including by Spain, where the government said it would pay companies to try it out.32 Unilever in New Zealand ran a year-long four-day workweek program that ended last year.

The U.K. is launching a four-day workweek trial from June to December 2022 (a six-month period where participating employees will see no loss of pay).

U.S.-based Kickstarter will also run a four-day workweek trial in 2022. The company will be part of a pilot program in the U.S., called the 4 Day Week U.S.35 Buffer, the social media software company, started implementing a four-day workweek in 2020.

The 4 Day Week Global is still looking for other potential target companies.

What Strategies Have Companies Used to Succeed With a 4-Day Workweek?

What Are Some Companies That Have Tried a 4-Day Workweek?

The list is extensive, but here are 13:

Who Is Promoting Wider Adoption of a 4-Day Workweek?

Where Can I Learn More About How to Succeed at a 4-Day Workweek?

Try these books:


Also, try these online resources:

Many companies and workers have succeeded with a condensed workweek and enjoyed benefits such as increased productivity and more time to pursue personal interests and goals. However, a four-day schedule does not work for all industries, businesses, or individuals. Furthermore, it won’t fix a toxic workplace or an unpleasant job.

The reevaluation of work forced upon the world by the COVID-19 pandemic has driven increased interest in the idea of a four-day workweek. But making it the new normal will require making a cultural and mindset shift that deemphasizes work; taking a hard look at work activities that can be automated, deprioritized, or dropped; and overcoming discomfort and inertia around change.

This article was originally published in

Don’t wait for an exit interview to talk to employees — the ‘stay’ interview helps retain them in the first place

Over the next six months, Intercom, a tech communications platform with more than 800 employees, wants managers to hold special meetings with each of their team members. The goal? To encourage staff to stay at the company.

“The market is hot, it’s an employees’ market now,” says Liz Sweet, head of global talent, adding that it can be hard to keep a “finger on the pulse” of employee sentiment. These conversations, sometimes dubbed “stay” or “retention” interviews, also help to humanise the organisation after so many months of remote working.

They should also help forge morale and esprit de corps, says Lily Valentin, head of operations for North America at Adzuna, a job search site. “What we’re seeing globally is that Covid has accelerated burnout. Employees have lost coping mechanisms.”

Such conversations will increasingly form part of employers’ tool kits to retain staff during the Great Resignation. Companies are deploying anything they can to keep people from leaving, says Brian Kropp, chief of human resources research at Gartner, the consultancy. “They can’t keep people from quitting and can’t hire people fast enough.”

While stay interviews are not new, they are far less familiar than exit interviews, which in terms of retention are too late and not especially insightful. “You get an edited view of the world,” says David D’Souza, membership director at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the UK human resources trade body, “as they [the leaving staff members] don’t have much stake in the organisation.”

By contrast, stay interviews could head off an employee’s desire to leave, as well as allowing the company time to make a counter-offer. They also encourage managers to understand the worker, their values and career aspirations.

Such discussions can be symbolically significant, says D’Souza. Organisations and leaders are not always great at providing recognition and showing that employees are valued. “The very act of asking the questions shows that they care. If you sit down with a manager and discuss how to improve things, how long are you going to stay, most people will welcome that conversation.”

If you sit down with a manager and discuss how to improve things, how long are you going to stay, most people will welcome that conversation

David D’Souza, CIPD

LinkedIn conducts stay interviews. Jennifer Shappley, vice-president of global talent acquisition at the professional networking site, says the conversations can help employees crystallise what they want from their jobs and their values. For many, she notes, “work-life balance” is increasingly important, though a recent survey by the Pew Research Centre found that low pay topped the reasons workers quit a job, alongside a lack of opportunities for advancement.

Sweet is not going to impose a rigid structure for stay interviews at Intercom but wants all employees to have a conversation with their manager over the next six months. The priority will be to talk to those the company deems a “flight risk”, but she wants the exercise overall to be proactive.

This requires investment in training managers to coach, listen and ask “thoughtful, probing questions” to find out “what would cause [an employee] to leave, what are the compelling reasons to stay”, says Sweet. It also requires sales skills. “You have to do a bit of selling to show what the opportunity is,” she adds. “How do you talk about all the great things about career growth?”

Jonny Briggs, group head of talent acquisition at Aviva, the insurer, is wary about expanding the responsibilities of managers. According to a survey by the Chartered Management Institute last year, just under half of managers reported their mental health worsened due to the pandemic. “We need to be conscious about how much we put on our leaders,” says Briggs. “Good managers already have the habit of a friendly word once a week.”

Stay interviews are separate to performance reviews, which are traditionally a look back. “They tend to focus on skills training and what behaviours [an employee] needs to exhibit to get to the next step,” says Sweet. “Stay interviews can get a bit more philosophical, ‘What would your next job be outside Intercom? What would make your job better?’” Money should be part of the conversation, she says. “A huge reason people leave is due to compensation.”

Valentin says that the pandemic has stopped people from travelling and spending time with relatives, while also making attitudes to work locations more flexible. “We’ve come to realise that some want to spend time overseas to catch up with family, or parents not wanting to miss out on dinner time. It comes at very little or no cost.”

While these conversations should be beneficial to the employee, they might not be straightforward. Annette Reavis, chief people officer at Envoy, a workplace platform, says: “The hardest part is if the person is not engaged with their manager [who] might not have the emotional intelligence to deal with it, is too aggressive, or the employee doesn’t feel able to be honest.” After all, the principal reason an employee might leave could be a poor relationship with their manager.

Beyond personal issues, a manager might be preoccupied with their own short-term objectives or lack insights into different parts of the organisation. The focus of a stay interview, says Kropp, is not “should you stay in this job but [should you stay] in the company. There’s not a lot of managers that have the maturity to have the stay interview.”

And the process will not work unless the manager is accountable, says Reavis. “I’ve been lucky enough to get people to stay but I have made efforts if they want to work on a different team, or learn something new. The opportunity is to solve everything that’s in your control.” Valentin agrees: “You can’t just take the notes and do nothing with them.”

Michael Parke, assistant professor of management at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, says: “If nothing happens, it is worse than not having the conversation in the first place.”

Ultimately, stay interviews are part of a broader employee engagement strategy. Sweet sees them as a complement to employee surveys. Intercom’s last survey attracted 1,700 comments but nonetheless, those comments are “static”, Sweet says. “A month later, everything could be completely different. These conversations have the potential to indicate where we need to invest.” She says that too many companies use employee engagement surveys just to “check the box . . . You need lots of different ways of trying to understand your employees.”

What questions are useful for a ‘stay’ interview?

What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?
What do you like most or least about working here?
What keeps you working here?
If you could change something about your job, what would that be?
What would make your job more satisfying?
What can I do more of or less of as your manager?
What might tempt you to leave?

Source: The Society for Human Resource Management

Employee engagement is challenging enough when it is local. Introduce the complexities of finding and engaging employees in far-flung locales, and it can seem downright scary! But it doesn’t have to be that overwhelming. Most humans have the same basic needs, so there are a few key practices that can get you past cultural or geographic barriers and vastly improve the global employee experience.

We all know that having a good company culture with engaged employees leads to happier employees, but employee engagement doesn’t happen automatically. We work for it. At our company, we are on the front lines of managing global employee engagement, partly because our own team is so multicultural and dispersed, and partly because we spend so much time assisting our clients with managing their global teams.

Here are five ways we communicate internally to build our company culture and keep our team engaged.

  1. Over-communicate

The “rule of seven” is one of the oldest concepts in marketing. It says that a prospect needs to see or hear your message at least seven times before they act. To make an impact on your employees, apply the rule of seven to your global workforce. It isn’t nagging; research proves messages are more effective when repeated. At our company, we share and repeat company news internally via emails (with or without images), monthly all-hands meetings that everybody dials in to, team meetings, our company’s internal website, and we have an internal podcast to share company updates and highlight different team members weekly.

  1. Video On, Always

In the 1970s, psychology professor Albert Mehrabian deduced that communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% verbal. That’s important information for people who rely on the written word to communicate — but it’s even more important when you’re communicating with someone who doesn’t share the same first language. Our company has employees in 20 different offices spread over four continents with dozens of languages spoken, so we use video. A lot.

Global organizations should invest heavily in video communications technology. Whether an employee works at one of our primary office locations or remotely, everybody on staff has video conferencing capabilities so every meeting can be done face to face. Video enables our global team to connect regularly and more effectively regardless of location. We also took this to the next level and launched an internal “get to know your co-worker” video series. These videos help us get to know our teammates’ personalities, especially the parts missing from email like laughter, gestures and expressions.

  1. Break Down Barriers Through Effective Onboarding

Some companies go out of their way to avoid global hiring because it’s intimidating to effectively onboard and manage employees internationally. This is a huge barrier to international business. International business is extremely complex, and international ventures must prove their effectiveness quickly, so new hires must engage and learn fast. It’s important to standardize onboarding processes worldwide to ensure everyone has the same strong start, but you also need to understand local practices. Equal isn’t always equitable, and an onboarding practice that is helpful in one culture might be harmful in another. Take the time to study local practices that will set employees up for success wherever they are.

  1. Find Reasons To Celebrate

When people ask me how we maintain our company culture in 20-plus countries, I tell them that my team is great at celebrating each other, and a celebration helps people feel more connected, listened to and engaged. While video helps break down barriers, we also have an internal website for employees. We love to use our internal newsfeed to celebrate each other’s successes (with weekly shoutouts from/to employees), life events (from weddings and birthdays to cute pets and great vacations), holidays and traditions.

Diversity, creativity and gaining global perspectives are some of the greatest benefits of being part of a global workforce. So, embrace it all and celebrate it!

  1. Define (And Redefine) Success

If you want employees to engage with your values and thrive in your company, communicate what “good” looks like, and reinforce it. When it comes to how we treat each other, respect, dignity and kindness are at our core. We take every opportunity to show our employees these values matter, reward them for exhibiting them and find new ways for employees to practice them from day to day. Be sure all your employees understand what you stand for. It will make them feel more successful, and that success will keep them more engaged.

I built this company on the premise that you can have a highly profitable, scalable business while treating employees well. We define our success by what I call the triple bottom line: happy clients, happy employees and happy shareholders. Engagement is critical to our success. We can’t afford to leave anyone in our company, anywhere in the world, out in the cold.

In the end, we are proof that being global isn’t a barrier to engagement. A high-growth, highly profitable global team can have highly satisfied clients and highly engaged (happy) employees. We love what we do, and we find that treating people well, no matter where they are located, will always pay off in dividends for the long-term success of a company.

This article was originally published in Forbes

Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) were among the most impacted by the pandemic. While large corporations saw their share price decline and even get caught unable to cater to demands due to supply chain constraints, the SMBs had their own battle to contend with.

The pandemic showed them the need to be resilient and a new survey shows they are getting there faster than previously anticipated. The fifth edition of the “Small and Medium Business Trends” report shows how SMBs are deepening their trust with customers and employees. The report based on responses from more than 2,500 SMB owners and leaders paints a true picture of an industry preparing to fight the pandemic and stay competitive after the pandemic.

Insights from 2,500+ small and medium business owners and leaders worldwide

The Salesforce Small and Medium Business Trends report is an annual report that draws insights from small and medium business owners and leaders worldwide. For the fifth edition of the report, Salesforce analysed the responses of more than 2,500 SMB owners and leaders around the world to determine how SMBs have drawn support from local communities and are using technology to grow.

The survey was conducted online on behalf of Salesforce between June 21st, 2021 and July 12th, 2021. The responses from 2,354 SMB owners and leaders of age 18 years or older in North America, Latin America, South America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, were analysed to draw conclusions. The participants were employed full time, part-time, or self-employed, and owners or senior executives at businesses with 2–200 employees and annual revenue of less than $1 billion or the local equivalent.

SMBs prioritise customer and employee engagement

One of the big revelations from the report is how SMBs are putting more resources towards customer and employee engagement. The report shows that nearly one in five SMBs furloughed employees during the pandemic, but nearly 49 per cent of them have rehired those they furloughed.

The report further shows that growing businesses are more likely to have rehired furloughed employees than stagnant or declining SMBs. Workforce changes during the pandemic also saw more than two in five SMBs offer flexible working arrangements to employees. The report shows that 15 per cent of growing SMBs and 13 per cent of stagnant or declining SMBs gave employees a zero-hour schedule.

“We believe this trend of providing more flexibility to employees will continue as we see more and more companies adopting a ‘work from anywhere’ mindset. With more people working from home, companies need a digital infrastructure that supports that. A lot of companies have become more dependent on digital channels, not only to serve their customers, but also to serve their employees,” says Michiel van Vlimmeren, Senior VP & General Manager at Salesforce Netherlands.

During the pandemic, SMBs also introduced changes to employee benefits. The report notes that the majority of SMBs have held their benefits steady during the pandemic while stagnant or declining SMBs had to reduce their perks. In a nutshell, the report shows that 12 per cent of the SMBs expanded benefits while 58 per cent held them steady.

”The pandemic certainly increased the awareness that employees are the number one stakeholders for organisations and that as employers they need to create an environment for greater employee commitment and engagement,” adds van Vlimmeren.

As the pandemic continues, SMBs are seeing their employees voice expectations for new safety measures at work. The top five employee expectations were flexible schedules, mask usage at work, daily sanitisation of workplaces/materials, social distancing at work and the ability to work remotely.

Earning employee trust takes precedent

After layoffs and furloughs due to the pandemic, SMBs are taking actions to win back employee trust. They are now communicating transparently, responding to personal needs, asking for feedback and leading with empathy in a significant change to employee engagement.

The report largely shows that SMBs could not have avoided the need to lay off or furlough employees but SMBs do acknowledge the government and community that helped them stay afloat. “SMB’s were struggling to maintain their revenue, that is very clear. The study showed that almost two-thirds (69 per cent) of SMBs say government support has been important to their company’s survival, and the same goes for community support (67 per cent),” explains Michiel van Vlimmeren.

In a nutshell, Salesforce’s Small and Medium Business Trends report shows that SMBs are now increasingly acting like digital tech startups. “It’s fair to say that the pandemic and its economic impact forced many SMBs to digitise. They had to make sure their employees could communicate, collaborate, and do business safely in a changing world,” notes van Vlimmeren.

Customers have greater expectations

The report also highlights that the resilient comeback of SMBs and their growth trajectory has resulted in customers now having greater expectations than before. The Connected Customer survey by Salesforce shows 90 per cent of customers connect the way a company acts during a crisis directly with their trustworthiness.

This is in line with Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, which showed that 83 per cent of customers expect to engage immediately with someone when contacting a company. In order to meet these expectations, SMBs have reportedly adopted new practices with nearly 47 per cent being more careful about their customer communications.

The change in customer expectation has also resulted in SMBs adopting automation for various functions such as customer service and HR operations. “Our findings show that 42 per cent of companies with growing revenues in the past year have accelerated their tech investments. These SMBs reported that they mainly increased their investments in their customer service, sales and marketing operations,” adds van Vlimmeren.

SMBs still face significant hurdles

The pandemic has seen SMBs adjust and innovate at a scale never seen before but they continue to face significant hurdles. A growing number of SMBs reported “roadblocks to meeting customer expectations” from March to August 2020. The report also shows that SMB leaders continue to experience challenges.

These challenges include “customer engagements, responding quickly to inquiries, engaging customers on preferred channels, and providing a connected experience.”

Michiel van Vlimmeren says, “SMBs have been accelerating their tech investments, not only to leverage technology as a differentiator to survive, but also to meet customer expectations. 72 per cent of SMBs have increased their company’s online presence over the past year and 41 per cent of SMBs have accelerated their investments in customer service technology over the past year.”

E-commerce presence grows among SMBs

The report shows that 63 per cent of SMBs have e-commerce now with 33 per cent saying they have had e-commerce for more than 12 months. The report also shows that 31 per cent added e-commerce within the past 12 months while 14 per cent acknowledged their plans to add within the next 12 months. Only 23 per cent say they have no plans to add e-commerce function within the next 12 months.

Almost 71 per cent of the SMBs leaders say that their customers expect online transactions. The SMBs also acknowledge the security concerns that are part of embracing digital technologies. 90 per cent of the SMBs say they are focused on data security and taking action to ensure their customers’ information is safe. For SMBs, keeping up with the demand remains a challenge.

“The supply chain problems definitely have an impact on being able to keep up with the demand if you look businesses, reliant on materials and the sourcing of products. However, in general, we see customers are more and more demanding when it comes to customer experiences,” Michiel van Vlimmeren explains based on the report.

He adds, “Research has shown that approximately one-third of your customers get higher expectations from other companies when they have had one excellent customer experience. Meaning that the companies that already had a strong digital infrastructure give new meaning to what it means to have a good customer experience.”

Upskilling and growing the workforce

The report shows that maintaining perks or offering flexible work hours are not the only actions that SMBs have taken during the pandemic. In order to stay resilient, they have also embraced the idea of upskilling their employees.

“We’re in a new all-digital world and that means everyone needs the digital skills to participate in it. In our view, it’s a responsibility for the employer to work closely with governments and community stakeholders, to ensure that training and recruitment scales up to match digital demand and it also asks for an active learning mentality of employees,” says van Vlimmeren.

You can find the original article from Silicon Canals published here.

Businesses often track progress and results at the end of each month. But we focus too much on the numbers, forgetting about the value behind them. Each result is a set of actions and initiatives that led to it. Behind each number is an employee who puts in effort to achieve it. If we can connect the result achieved with the actions taken to accomplish it, this may help us better understand what worked, whether it was a good thing (something that led to growth) or a bad thing (a bottleneck or challenge to overcome).

Last year, I received a promotion and a team to fulfil company goals. I was looking for a framework that would help me to keep my squad focused, involved and motivated — and I found it in coaching.

I wanted to see if the same approach I use in individual coaching sessions — techniques to help increase self-awareness, resilience and confidence in the coachee — could also be used to improve the organizational culture. Spoiler: They did.

In six months, colleagues became more aware of their input and chronic stress decreased. And we’ve been able to solve a lot of issues as a result of new ideas from employees we did not expect to speak up. All of this helps us to prevent occupational burnout and gives each team member the opportunity to be heard and feel involved.

We have now made this approach a core part of the strategic sessions at the beginning of each month. Here are the four questions you can ask monthly to help increase employee engagement and performance:

  1. What’s something new you have personally learned about the industry in the last month?

Each of us works with tons of information while going about our daily routine. But we all see it from a different perspective. Our marketing managers are more focused on sales points and offers, while copywriters are focused on putting the right words together and creating stories, and the SEO team is eyeing up competitors and looking for ways to improve our search engine reputation. If we do not synchronize the knowledge we own, we lose insight into what is happening around us. In sharing personal knowledge, we empower better business results.

  1. What made us, as a team and business, stand out last month?

As a team, we have wins and failures. Some projects give us super results, while others don’t always turn out how we hoped. It’s important to take a moment to reflect on points of pride and celebrate the wins before jumping in to dissect the failures.

  1. What were our limitations?

In our October strategic session, my colleague pointed out a truth that I did not want to see: “When we take too many projects on, we lose ideas.” I realized we had started too many projects; exaggeration should be managed.

Consider your limitations — both as a team and an organization. Did you collaborate effectively with other departments? Can you make your processes smoother and more efficient going forward? After each monthly session, we identify some small improvements that can save time and help the squad cooperate more effectively.

  1. What can we try in the upcoming month?

This is my favorite question because we get to share our dreams and ideas. During one of our sessions, we came up with ideas on how to improve our corporate LinkedIn. Three months have passed and we doubled our visibility among our target audience of IT managers. We have started to use hashtags wisely, invite more peers to follow and post more up-to-date news.

The point is to ask each team member for their ideas. Why? To find commonalities, hidden gems and bottlenecks. Each friction point acts as a limitation; each pattern could be simplified to make success in scale.

Connecting the dots between the action taken and the result, we see what exactly works and how. This leads to personal growth for each employee involved and the team in general. It sounds like coaching — and it is.

This article was originally published in

It used to be all about the customer. Enhancing the customer experience (CX) has long been touted as the key to organizational success. But recent changes in work patterns have caused some to believe that it is now all about the employee: The employee experience (EX) is becoming the new CX.

How did this come about, and what technology tools can be used to enable a better EX?

What Is Driving EX?

A number of factors are coming together to make EX the new CX. First, there is immense pressure on staffing. According to the Skillsoft Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report 2021, 76 percent of IT decision-makers experience critical skills gaps on their teams, a 145 percent increase since 2016. Further, 54 percent have been unable to fill at least one position, and 38 percent have three or more positions unfilled. International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2022, the monetary losses resulting from IT skills gaps will be $775 billion worldwide.

In parallel, business initiatives such as digital transformation, work-from-home and the continuation of the move to the cloud are disrupting the way people work. Not only do they not come into the office every day, but when they do come in, they might have to sit at different places each time, deal with a rash of new cloud-based applications and be subjected to regular changes in the way business is done—all in an effort to evolve to some undetermined "new normal." Hence the Skillsoft survey notes that 55 percent of decision-makers say the skills gap's greatest impact is increased stress on employees. That, in turn, leads to difficulties in meeting quality objectives, decreased ability to meet business objectives and longer project durations.

"In the 2010s, leading firms focused on becoming customer-obsessed; en route, they discovered that employees were a crucial, often underutilized asset for meeting customer needs," said James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. "Employees have better information, more options and many avenues for communication—leading them to have higher expectations of their employer than before."

The Value of EX

One study by Deloitte University Press found that almost 80 percent of executives rated EX as important or very important. Another study by the Academy of Management found that companies listed as the top places to work in the U.S. gained up to 4 percent higher stock returns annually.

EX has value. But what is it? Programs such as casual Fridays, bean bag chairs and office parties might contribute to it, but that would be a narrow view.

Think of it like CX: The customer experience encompasses the website, e-mails, all interactions with sales and service, upselling, marketing programs and more. Similarly, EX takes in all employee work experiences including with colleagues, HR, the immediate boss and top management. It also takes in the software applications chosen, project management and customer interaction.

"Your employees are the most important asset you have to help you serve today's customers while adapting to tomorrow's customer-satisfying processes and technologies," McQuivey said. "Only 24 percent of information workers strongly agree that their manager is concerned about the welfare of the people who work for him or her."

McQuivey noted that the turbulence of the last two years has placed employees in a different state of mind with higher expectations about their place of work and careers. According to Forrester, 48 percent of large organizations in the U.S. have a dedicated program for EX. That number will rise to 65 percent as more executives watching their monthly quit rates continue to climb will suddenly become EX advocates of the highest order, he added.

"Prepare for an onslaught of emerging employee experience challenges," McQuivey said.

Technology Aids in EX Preparation

But how to prepare exactly for this new wave of EX challenges?

"Providing staff with the right technology and equipment will go a long way toward attracting and keeping strong talent," said Laurie McCabe, co-founder and partner at SMB Group in Boston.

She suggested areas such as software as a service, unified communications as a service and desktop as a service. They provide a way for companies to gain the latest technology and tools without the upfront investment or the need for in-house talent to manage these applications.

But the choice of technology must be done wisely. According to Gartner, 60 percent of workers are occasionally or frequently frustrated by new software. Fifty-six percent said they wished management would bring back the old systems.

But new technology is coming whether workers want it or not. Gartner's annual top trends review heavily stressed the deployment of AI and business intelligence (BI) to aid management and employees in decision-making. AI and BI tools should be deployed in conjunction with an enhanced EX. If they are done only to provide management with better metrics, EX will suffer. A recent visit to Walgreens, for example, found disgruntled employees slowed down by a new point-of-sale system. Such errors in software deployment cannot be tolerated if a good EX is to manifest.

HR systems and human capital management solutions are other opportunities to improve EX. Some of these systems are being moved to the cloud. Add AI and analytics capabilities that can help to manage EX. Oracle and SAP, for example, both offer such features.

Communications platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and GoToMeeting can help, too. In many cases, they were rolled out without employee feedback. If the company currently has more than one video meeting platform in use, a user survey would be a smart action. Find out which platform is preferred and why. Centralize on it and gather other advice from staff on how these platforms can better aid workflows.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer in Clearwater, Fla., specializing in IT and business.

This article was originally published HERE on

Global research* has identified five main HR challenges in today’s organisations. Addressing each of these will allow businesses to better prepare for 2022, moving out of crisis towards stronger and more resilient workplace cultures. The challenges are highlighted in O.C. Tanner’s 2022 Global Culture Report  which involved lengthy analysis of the perspectives of over 38,000 employees, leaders, HR practitioners and executives from 21 countries around the world, including over 2,500 from the U.K.

Here are the top five challenges that HR professionals must address:

  1. Adapting to a hybrid model of work

Much of the new workplace is hybrid. Organisations that refuse to allow at least some remote work will watch talent walk out the door. How can workplaces adjust to this new model? And what does a hybrid environment mean for things that are typically done in-person such as collaboration and leadership development?

  1. Creating meaningful employee experiences

 Whether employees are returning to the office, staying remote for the long-term, or have worked in the office throughout the pandemic, their employee experiences have changed. Which of those experiences should stay, and which should continue to evolve? How can organisations create positive experiences that meet employee needs whether they’re physically in the office or elsewhere?

  1. Improving employee interactions

Before the pandemic, important aspects of the employee experience typically took place face-to-face, from recognition through to training courses. But how should they look now? How can employers help employees to feel seen, valued and looked after, especially when interacting at a distance?

  1. Keeping people connected but not ‘always on’

Zoom calls and Slack channels do not always adequately replace in-person interactions. The range of technologies that help us stay in contact are also contributing to employee burnout. Leaders must rethink how they use such technology and be more intentional about creating opportunities to connect people to organisational purpose, accomplishments and one another.

  1. Replacing ‘employee engagement’ with work output

Employee engagement has been a dominant metric for the past decade. But organisations are beginning to question its true value. In fact, over the past 18 years, engagement (as tracked by Gallup) increased from 26 per cent to 34 per cent, an average of less than half a point each year. So perhaps it’s time to replace engagement with different metrics. After all, engagement can be more to do with the employee’s disposition than anything else, and does it directly translate into better business outcomes? HR needs to focus on the work itself to better predict results – quality, quantity and efficiency. This is because work output is a far better metric than worker sentiment, and increasing it yields far greater individual, team and organisational results. Of course, focusing on new measures rather than the more simpler measure of ‘engagement’ might prove daunting for HR professionals, but it’ll be worth it.

Robert Ordever, MD of O.C. Tanner Europe, comments, “We’re in a new era for HR professionals. The pandemic has highlighted the real value of HR and their place as key influencers – It’s time for them to address the pressing issues of our time. They’re absolutely key to businesses by creating powerful employee experiences and strong, thriving organisational cultures.”

*Research by The O.C. Tanner Institute – the research arm of O.C. Tanner

Originally featured in ‘The HR Director’

Annual performance goals that feel purposeful and attainable to employees can be a great motivator. But too often, goals set at the start of the year become obsolete by midyear. "No one wants to work on a goal that is no longer relevant," said Lisa Chui, vice president of people at San Francisco life sciences company Dascena.

Here are six ways managers can help employees set meaningful goals for 2022.

Show employees how they can have an impact.

Present the company's key objectives for the next six months and ask your team members how their expertise and interests can help the company reach these goals, Chui said. "Without tying goals to the company's overall strategy, it can feel like employees are just doing something for the sake of doing something," she said.

Managers should refrain from creating goals for employees, Chui added. "You can dictate the objective but not the goal," she said. "It's best if the employees come up with the goals themselves."

Find common ground between employee and company goals.

Encourage employees to talk about their personal goals, and help them see how working toward these goals can also support the company in achieving its objectives, said Jennifer Tardy, CEO of Jennifer Tardy Consulting LLC, in Bowie, Md. During an end-of-year, one-on-one conversation, ask employees to consider how they can use an interest or a skill they're trying to develop to fill a gap on the team. "Give them the freedom to brainstorm where their interests might fit in at work," Tardy advised.

Managers can help by finding where the employee's personal goals intersect with the company's goals, said Anne Shoemaker, a women's executive coach in Greensboro, N.C. Invite employees to talk about their unique skills, what they are good at and what is challenging to them, and then set goals that allow them to optimize the skills they have and develop new talents, Shoemaker said.

Consider new possibilities.

Use experiences from 2021 to help employees consider what they could have done differently at work, and then develop goals to address those issues, said Kym Harris-Lee, an executive coach in Atlanta. Ask each employee, "If you were able to make changes, what would you have done differently?

Harris-Lee also suggests helping employees set goals that will get them to collaborate with colleagues in other departments. "This will give them the opportunity to learn something new, increase their visibility and help them form new relationships that have the potential to advance their careers," she said.

Give goal setting a new name.

Two years ago, leaders at Grant Thornton began calling goal setting "expectation setting" to put more emphasis on the conversation and less focus on the process, said Wendy Wright, senior director of learning and organizational effectiveness at the accounting firm. "The process of goal setting had gotten a negative slant because of the focus on documenting goals," she said.

Under this new concept, managers talk to employees about what is expected from them based on their role, job level and projects from three angles—what the firm expects, what the team expects and, finally, how the employee hopes to grow in the coming year, Wright said. The employee's personal expectations become the goal, she said. It might be a promotion or a lateral move, or it could be becoming an industry expert or mastering a new technology.

Help employees achieve their goals.

Give employees time to reach their goals. Perhaps employees take a half-day every Thursday to work on their goals, whether that means taking online training, meeting with a mentor or thinking through a stretch project, Harris said.

Work with employees to break their goals into bite-sized achievements that can be celebrated, she added. "Building in milestones is a win-win. If you don't achieve the entire goal, at least you hit a milestone and we're still more ahead than we were before."

If a goal isn't achieved, don't just add it to next year's to-do list. It's important to understand why a goal wasn't met and talk about how to adapt the goal so it becomes realistic, Chui noted.

Show employees the benefit of reaching a goal.

Ask employees to think about how attaining that goal would improve their lives, Shoemaker said. For instance, perhaps they would become more confident, learn a new skill or earn a bonus. "Help your employees to see the goal as not just an end, but as the beginning of something else that could be new and improved in their lives," she said.

Lisa Rabasca Roepe is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.

This article was originally published on the SHRM website

Founded in 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa, Olympia Engage provides companies with a highly advanced, yet simple to use performance management system to help engage, inspire and reward their people. Get everyone performing at their best and reap the rewards with Olympia Engage!
Olympia Holdings
The Vineyards Office Estate, Manor House, 99 Jip De Jager Road, Bellville, Cape Town, 7530, South Africa
envelopephone-handsetcrossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram