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Employee-led learning & why a bottom-up approach works

Employee-led learning has a lot of potential benefits; is your organization taking advantage of them? From catering to different learning styles to lowering the burden on human resources and learning and development departments, this alternate approach to the more traditional, top-down processes can revolutionize how your organization reaches its training goals. Why limit these benefits to just training, though? Employee-led learning can help with engagement, retention, and more, but how about empowering your team members to grow a wholly employee-led culture?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll definitely say it again: the transition to hybrid work represents an incredibly exciting opportunity to transform the way workplaces work for people. Rather than returning to ‘business as usual’, we can instead imagine a new way of doing that delivers a world-class employee experience to every worker, no matter where they’re based. Shifting more of our processes to be employee-led rather than top-down can help us get there, and quickly, too. In the following sections, we’ll outline what’s been demonstrated so far around the outcomes of employee-led learning, then discuss ways to encourage more employee-led efforts throughout your organization.

How employee-led learning can help you achieve your training goals

Way back in 2017, McKinsey estimated that 375 million workers (14% of the global workforce) would have to change their occupations or acquire new skills prior to 2030 due to advances in technology and automation. In the early, pre-pandemic days of 2020, they further reported that 87% of executives were already experiencing skills gaps or expected to within a few years. Unfortunately, at that time fewer than half of the respondents had a plan to address the problem, and the pandemic has only accelerated the issue.

During the pandemic, employees had to adapt to a lot of new changes virtually overnight. While some companies engaged in extensive training to ensure that everyone was up-to-speed, many employees had to self-train on a number of fronts. Although live walkthroughs can help, employees who had to use new software every day in order to complete job functions that previously occurred in person had to learn as they went along in most cases. Essentially, remote working has been hailed as “an overwhelming success for employers”, and much of the learning process was employee-led as workers retreated to their homes and sorted out the logistics on their own. We already know this can work, and with asynchronous working expected to become the norm post-pandemic, live, company-wide, in-person training is really no longer viable. That’s where employee-led learning comes in.

As a final point, the recruiting firm Hays surveyed 23,000 respondents and found that while many are certainly seeking specific knowledge and expertise, the top skills employers are looking for are soft skills. This was true as far back as 2018, though. When LinkedIn Learning published their 2018 Workplace Learning Trends Report, their findings showed that the most in-demand skills were leadership, communication, collaboration, and only then role-specific skills. Unsurprisingly, training for these soft skills was the most important focus for talent development efforts as well.

From the employee side, the data also showed that 68% of employees prefer to learn at work, 58% of them prefer to learn at their own pace, and 49% prefer to learn at the point of need. In other words, employees want to learn, and they want to be able to direct their own learning so that they can learn what they need when they need it. This makes sense given that 94% of employees say they would stay with an employer longer if the company invested in their career, but their main reason for not learning as much as they’d like is that they don’t have the time. Converting to an employee-led learning approach meets all of these employee needs and empowers team members to work on difficult topics like soft skills in an environment in which, and at a time when they feel comfortable.

How to integrate more employee-led initiatives into your post-pandemic workplace

Now that we’ve explored why employee-led learning makes sense, all that’s left is to find the right systems to enable it at your organization, right? That may be the best choice for you at this point however, why not consider taking things a step or two further? Why should learning have all the employee-led fun? Below, we’ve listed a handful of other ways you can integrate employee-led efforts into your employee experience.

  • Employee resource groups/affinity networks. ERGs are one of the most obvious employee-led efforts you can integrate into your strategy. This employee-led approach dates all the way back to the 1960s, and can confer a wide array of benefits. ERGs are typically part of an organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, but affinity networks in general can be expanded to encompass many different employee needs and interests. By empowering employees to form groups around identities, interests, or needs that are important to them, you can deliver a more tailored employee experience that meets more employees’ needs without increasing your overhead. Employee-led communities can help better support working parents, assist with mental health needs, or just provide social and/or recreational opportunities with colleagues, so they can create a great deal of value across the organization.
  • Innovation. Companies like Google understand that if you give your employees space to innovate, your organization will ultimately come out on top. Their ‘20-percent time’ policy, in which employees are allotted 20% of their workweek to focus on projects they believe will benefit Google, has spawned such advances as Google News, AdSense, and Gmail. Innovation is crucial to staying on the cutting edge of any industry, and if you’ve hired well, you likely have an untapped brain trust languishing amongst your employee ranks. Make the most of that resource! In addition to employee-led learning, employee-led innovation efforts can supercharge your company’s products and services and help you succeed in the long-term. If Google’s approach seems like too much to start off with, consider giving employees one day per month to work on bottom up innovation projects with their colleagues. Still too daunting? Even running hackathons once or twice per year for employee-led innovations can make a radical difference in whether your company remains a leader, or falls behind.
  • Social impact. As we recently discussed on this blog, social impact is extremely important to employees, and even more so after the pandemic. Why should you invest time and money in top-down fundraising or service activities though, when many employees may not be interested in the cause you chose? Instead, empowering employee-led impact efforts can ensure higher levels of team buy-in alongside greater payoff in terms of engagement and retention as employees get to support organizations whose work they are truly passionate about. Plus, your company will benefit from a significantly stronger employer brand boost as employees post and talk about the great charity work they get to do as part of their jobs.
  • COVID-19 safety. Returning to the office in whole or in part represents uncharted territory for every company. Why not involve your employees in your planning and execution to ensure your return is a success? Taking an employee-led approach to COVID-19 safety entails asking employees their opinions on when and how to return, integrating them into the work of deciding on processes and policies, and having volunteers ready to help out on the ground as employees come back on site. You’ll need employee buy-in to make this effort a success either way; you might as well involve them in all aspects of the process to lighten some of the burden on you.

Employee-led learning has been around for years, and it’s because it offers a flexible framework within which every team member is given the tools they need to succeed. As we envision a whole new world of work though, why wouldn’t we apply this intuitive framework to more initiatives such as diversity, equity, and inclusion; innovation; social impact; and more? It can be daunting to imagine putting more power in the hands of employees, but it can also be liberating as it frees you up to spend your time on more pressing matters. If you’re interested in exploring the employee-led approach but would like to start off with some guardrails, we invite you to check out Workrowd’s platform. We’ve got a central hub for all the initiatives employees can get involved in, but we’ve also included straightforward administrator settings and on-demand analytics so you can always monitor how things are going. If you’d like to learn more, drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com; we’d love to hear from you.

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Starting an ERG – how to build a strong foundation

Starting an ERG can be daunting if it’s your company’s first resource group. Even if your organization already has a handful of groups, if there’s no documented process for starting a new one, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Luckily, a lot of brave ERG leaders have come before you and paved the way for more companies to launch these crucial initiatives. If your organization is exploring the idea of starting an ERG for the first time, we want to congratulate you on this exciting step. There’s a reason why virtually every Fortune 500 company currently offers employee resource groups: they’re a crucial component of an effective diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy. By learning more about starting an ERG, you’re demonstrating a commitment to advancing DEI at your organization, which will pay off for both your people and your bottom line.

Employee resource groups, commonly referred to as ERGs, are employee-led collectives of colleagues oriented around shared identities, needs, interests, or other commonalities. Most frequently, you’ll see these associations organized around attributes like race or gender, but they can also support groups like parents and caregivers, veterans, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ community members, and more. Whether you already have a sense of which ERGs you want to launch first, or if you’re still at the stage of figuring out what sort of ERG(s) to begin with, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll lay out some of the foundational steps to starting an ERG to help you get acclimated and set your group(s) up for success. Don’t forget that the Global ERG Network is here as a resource for you as well, with free templates and events available on our website in addition to the members only content and sessions we provide.

Useful data points to help you make your case for starting an ERG

As with any business effort, you will likely be asked to make your case as to why starting an ERG is a worthwhile decision for your company. The impact of ERGs can vary widely depending on how the groups are run and what their goals are, so there’s not currently a massive body of evidence around the direct effect of employee resource groups on companies’ bottom lines. Luckily, we know simply from human psychology that effective ERGs are key drivers of diversity, equity, and inclusion; engagement; retention; and more, so we can look to statistics from these areas to make the business case for starting an ERG.

On a more foundational level though, we can see why ERGs make good sense for employees’ wellbeing. Throughout life, people seek out groups of peers who share similar interests, needs, identities, backgrounds, and more. Consider afterschool activities, university clubs, and community groups as examples. Translating these communities into the workplace can only confer benefits as people feel more included and empowered to bring their full selves and full array of talents to the table. In the absence of these safe, inclusive spaces, employees from underrepresented communities have no support system in the face of daily episodes of exclusion. As these episodes mount, employees often internalize them as trauma, preventing them from doing their best work. Epigenetic coach Rajkumari Neogy states, ‘Every single time [employees are excluded], interrupt[ed], or dismiss[ed] in some way, you are shutting down the part of their brain that is making you money.” Inclusion should be a top priority for every executive, and starting an ERG (or several) is a direct route to increasing inclusion for underrepresented employees.

What’s more, ERGs are key recruitment and retention mechanisms, and not just for minority talent either. A survey found that 70% of respondents would be more likely to apply for a job at a company that offered ERGs, and 50% said they would remain at a company that had ERGs rather than leaving for one that didn’t. This is crucial as diverse companies see 2.3 times higher cash flow than their competitors. Diverse companies are also 70% more likely to capture new markets. The financial case is clear. Employee resource groups increase diversity and inclusion, which in turn boosts revenue. Starting an ERG should be a no-brainer, but if you need more justification, check out our post on diversity and inclusion statistics here, or send us a note at hello@workrowd.com and we’ll be happy to share more information.

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5 foundational steps to set you up for success when starting an ERG

Now you should have a solid basis for why starting an ERG makes sense for your company, so that you can make a strong case to your company’s leadership. The next step is to look at your implementation plan, because while the ‘why’ is important, your colleagues are likely going to want to know about the ‘how’, too. Below we‘ve listed the first five steps you should take when looking towards starting an ERG. If you think we left anything out, let us know in the comments!

  1. Poll your colleagues. ERGs are typically employee-led, so it’s crucial that you engage your colleagues from day zero. ERGs are not something that should be launched at employees, but instead something that must be launched with employees. If you decide what group(s) you’re launching without engaging employees first, you’re already setting your ERG up for a reduced likelihood of success. Talk to employees. Put together a survey with a list of potential ERGs to find out how many people would be interested in joining each one. Don’t deliver the news that you’re starting an ERG from the top down, but position it as a whole company initiative, where anyone and everyone can get involved.
  2. Identify your employee champions. Once you understand which ERGs have the most interest and how many you want to begin with, find your evangelists. Your fledgling ERGs need employee buy-in to get off the ground, and the best way to cultivate interest is to have promotion efforts come from fellow employees rather than from HR or the executive team. You may already have a culture champion or two in mind, or you may want to make an announcement that you’re looking for launch team volunteers. Alternatively, you can include a request for volunteers in your survey from step one to find people who are interested. A key point here though is to make sure that you’re only involving true volunteers. Don’t pressure your employees from underrepresented backgrounds to take on the emotional labor of starting an ERG if they’re not interested. It is not their responsibility. It is your responsibility to remember that they already have a lot on their plates and you cannot and should not ask more of them than what they are genuinely interested in doing.
  3. Get executive buy-in with a committed sponsor. Even if you’ve already made your case to the executive team and gotten their endorsement, you still need to take one more step to ensure they remain engaged and prioritize the success of your ERG: secure an executive sponsor. Executive sponsors deliver several points of value to your ERG: 1. They advocate for your needs with the executive team and ensure you have access to the resources you need; 2. They offer a networking benefit to members through direct access to a very senior-level colleague; 3. They build credibility for your ERG throughout the rest of the organization. Things to look for in a sponsor include an interest in the focus of your community, the ability to commit time each quarter to supporting your efforts, and a genuine belief in the value of your ERG. An engaged executive sponsor can make a huge difference in the level of success your ERG achieves, so choose wisely.
  4. Share the news. You’ve laid the groundwork, now it’s time to let everyone know that you’re starting an ERG! One of the goals of employee resource groups is to increase inclusion, so make sure that you’re spreading the word in inclusive ways and reaching everyone. You should distribute the message through as many channels as possible, and encourage those interested to join. It can help to explain a bit about the high-level goals of your group and the type of programming you may offer in order to convince people why they should become members. Don’t forget to leverage the champions you identified in step two to amplify your message. Consider putting together a Google form or similar tool for collecting interest so you know how you’re doing and where you might need to focus your recruitment efforts more intently. Additionally, this will start to build your email list for easy follow-up with your members.
  5. Draw up your group charter. Now you’ve got your group(s) identified, your informal employee leaders in place, your executive sponsor on board, and the beginnings of a member list; it’s time to formalize. Assembling a group charter is a crucial step to ensure that your group survives employees and executives coming in and out. Your charter is where you codify your leadership committee structure and members, identify your short, medium, and long-term goals, detail how you will track and manage your group, outline the transition plan if and when leaders leave, and more. It’s important to have these objectives and expectations established from the outset, so you’re not scrambling when something changes.

Starting an ERG can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’d like templates, toolkits, activity guides, and more, we encourage you to check out Workrowd’s ecosystem. For those looking to streamline their ERG marketing, management, and measurement in-house, our user-friendly platform makes it easy to fulfill all three of these objectives under one roof. Our platform offers a central hub for all your ERGs to promote transparency and connection for every employee no matter where they work, plus straightforward administrator settings for easy oversight. What’s more, Workrowd comes equipped with templates and activity guides to support your employee leaders to succeed, as well as automated surveys and real-time analytics so you always know how each ERG is performing.

You can also take a look at our cross-company learning community, the Global ERG Network (GEN). GEN aims to prevent employee leaders from having to constantly reinvent the wheel by providing best practice templates and toolkits, monthly virtual events, and 24/7 networking and knowledge-sharing with peers. It’s a turnkey solution for offering employees more support on important diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, and is suitable for organizations at any stage of building their ERGs. Our member base is growing rapidly, so there’s no reason to wait; visit https://www.globalergnet.com today for more information.

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How to empower employees to make hybrid working a success

After more than a year of mandatory remote working, reopening offices is now an option for many organizations. The good news is that four out of five companies plan to offer employees some degree of flexibility around how frequently they have to be on site. While this is a great decision in terms of employee experience, the downside is that the transition to hybrid workplaces may be even messier than the whirlwind switch to home offices. New legal concerns seem to crop up each day, different teams want different policies, and many of the traditional pillars of culture and engagement are now off the table. Luckily, there’s one approach that any company can take to overcome these obstacles and thrive in the era of hybrid work. By learning how to empower employees, organizations can tackle challenges not just from the top down, but from the bottom up as well, drastically increasing their likelihood of success.

Figuring out how to empower employees may sound daunting, but it can actually be achieved in a handful of very straightforward ways. What’s more, now is the perfect time to transition to a more employee-driven culture, given that you’ll have to establish new cultural norms anyway as team members return to the office in various configurations. A number of your employees may be meeting for the first time, and many will have to re-meet each other after being apart for more than a year. Plus, your entire employee population is changed since the beginning of 2020. We’ve all been through a lot, some more than others, and you cannot expect people to just show up in the office and pick back up as if nothing happened. In other words, resuming ‘business as usual’ isn’t an option no matter how you cut it, so you might as well seize this opportunity to figure out how to empower employees for maximum benefit.

What does it mean to empower employees

The traditional workplace model is not designed to empower employees. In fact, many aspects are designed to actively disempower employees. Consider factories where workers are assigned to do a small task over and over, or are charged with churning out a certain number of products in a certain timeframe in order to retain their jobs. These workplaces are structured to keep employees anxious and isolated so that they won’t protest their treatment or substandard conditions. In part, this is what contributed to the rise of the Labor Movement in the U.S.

While the days of factories full of violations may seem long gone, we have seen similar dynamics exposed in office work as part of the transition to remote working. Recent studies show that at least 20% of companies are using software to monitor employees as they work from home. Even today, many organizations operate in an extremely top-down manner, where employees are not trusted or given autonomy to do their best work. These issues can occur at any level of the organization, from the C-suite on down to line managers, and they create an environment where employees are actively disempowered.

Employee empowerment means equipping every team member with the tools and resources they need to succeed, and having the confidence that they will get their work done in a timely manner and to a high standard. The results speak for themselves. Empowered employees are 67% more likely to put in extra effort on the job. What’s more, 70% of employees rank empowerment as being important to their ability to remain engaged and productive. In fact, highly empowered employees show engagement levels in the 79th percentile, while disempowered employees fall into the 24th percentile. Empowerment means setting your employees up to learn, grow, and make a difference at your company. Wouldn’t you rather get the most out of your talent, rather than limiting them while also wasting time and money on making sure they don’t break out of their cubes?

How to empower employees as we navigate the new world of hybrid work

Now that you know why it’s in your company’s best interest to empower your team members rather than micromanage them, it’s time to talk about how to empower employees. What are the actual steps you can take as you look towards reopening offices? Below we’ve listed some of the top strategies for empowering employees and transforming your culture from the inside out:

  1. Solicit input early and often. Employees who feel that their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work. If your boss never asked for your input and dismissed any feedback you tried to provide, would you feel like you were able to make a difference in your organization? Soliciting feedback from employees as frequently as possible, and actually taking their suggestions into account is crucial to empowering your workforce. Returning to the workplace presents a key opportunity to ask for employees’ input on what they’re comfortable with, what they would prefer, and how the company can help. Once you’ve made a decision, be sure to also explain why, including how employee feedback may have factored into the process.
  2. Offer ample opportunities for growth. If you’re not providing ways for employees to grow and learn, they won’t feel they’re able to reach their full potential with your organization. With the transition to a hybrid workplace, this includes offering trainings on how to stay at your best while your team is distributed and other relevant topics. As you settle in, ensure that your learning opportunities are accessible to all team members, no matter where they work. This way, every employee will feel valued and empowered to utilize and expand upon the full extent of their skills.
  3. Empower managers and teach them how to empower others. Managing people is hard. Managing people through a pandemic, then into a whole new world of work is even harder. Make sure your managers have the tools to succeed. This means teaching them how to ensure that things are equitable across their team, especially if some employees are on-site while others remain at home. Have them discuss how team members prefer to receive feedback, both positive and negative, and train them in the best ways of having these crucial conversations. Emphasize that they should be empowering their employees, and mirroring strategies used in their own trainings to spread this dynamic throughout the organization.
  4. Create dedicated spaces for serendipitous connections. Employees can’t live up to their full potential if they’re stuck alone in their home offices with no way to interact with colleagues outside of meetings and beyond their own teams. Now that you can no longer rely on passing interactions in the hallway and/or the ability to drop by someone’s desk, you need to make a concerted effort to develop company culture in a space that’s accessible to all employees. This inevitably means going digital, but it has to be in a separate space than where your team members are getting hit with infinite stressors. Create a digital water cooler, and consider orienting it around employee communities so your people can drive key outcomes for you on issues like social impact, innovation, diversity, equity, and inclusion and more at the same time that they’re building key relationships. Empowering your employees to drive culture and engagement from the ground up will pay off in spades across loyalty, productivity, employer branding, and more.
  5. Back off. Let your employees do their jobs. Don’t try to set up elaborate monitoring and oversight schemes to make sure they’re doing their work. Establish strong relationships between managers and team members where there’s a clear and regular reporting structure, and ensure lines of communication are open at all times. Then, trust your employees to get the job done. Nothing facilitates disempowerment faster than showing employees you either don’t think they can do their job, or don’t believe that they will without hand-holding. Adopt an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ mentality where you assume employees will deliver until they demonstrate otherwise, and you’ll find that the majority will meet and even exceed your expectations. Those who don’t might not be players you want on your team anyway, so it’s better to find out the easy way than to try to force a fit where none exists.

Most workplaces were intentionally designed to disempower employees, but we’ve got a golden opportunity right now to change the game. Learning how to empower employees and designing your post-pandemic workplace around that ideal can do wonders for your team members, your company culture, and your bottom line. If you’re looking for tools to assist you in this effort, look no further than Workrowd, a dedicated employee empowerment platform. Enable your team members to connect seamlessly across business units, and spin up new events and programs that drive business outcomes. Drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com if you’d like to learn more.

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3 reasons why it’s important to celebrate Pride at work

As you look around at all the rainbows popping up this month, you may be wondering why so many companies embrace this occasion and show up to support the LGBTQIA+ community, at least on a superficial level. It’s a good question, especially when there are myriad other issues that companies don’t endorse in nearly as public of a manner. There are many factors behind this dynamic, some of which are grounded in deep, systemic issues within our society, and others of which vary from company to company. Ultimately though, regardless of their reasons, every organization should recognize and champion their employees from underrepresented communities every day of the year and especially during these designated months of visibility. LGBTQIA+ folx continue to be persecuted each and every day around the world, so the more companies that openly celebrate Pride at work, the better.

Making the decision to celebrate Pride at work isn’t just good for the LGBTQIA+ community, though. While many big name companies have already made their stances known, there are many more who may still be unsure whether or not they should speak out and/or plan events for their employees. For those organizations in the latter camp, we strongly encourage you to do so. Taking steps to celebrate Pride at work, even in a small way, can pay off in droves for your employees and your brand alike. Here we’ve assembled our top three reasons why you should celebrate Pride at work.

What it looks like to celebrate Pride at work

Despite the bright colors of the Pride flag, celebrating Pride at work doesn’t have to be a flashy undertaking. You don’t have to ask people to wear rainbow clothing or hold an over-the-top event. If you’re looking to celebrate Pride at work, you can focus on more understated, but meaningful acts, such as educating team members about why and how to use pronouns, and updating your company email signature template to encourage people to specify which pronouns they use. You can also spotlight team members who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, not for their affiliation, but for all their achievements and interests regardless of that piece of their identity. Highlighting the incredible diversity of talents among those who identify as LGBTQIA+ can help shift the focus away from tokenization and towards true inclusion.

All that said, if you do want to hold an event, there is a multitude of ways to engage. From organizing a contingent from your company to attend a local Pride event together, to holding your own celebration in-house with rainbow treats and activities to help individuals learn about the LGBTQIA+ community and so much more. As always, don’t hesitate to consult your colleagues to get their input on the subject, and if you have employee resource groups, be sure to bring them into the conversation as well given their key role in driving workplace inclusion. Consider hosting a screening of an LGBTQIA+ show or movie with a discussion afterwards as an easy way to get both remote and on-site employees involved.

Another, sometimes overlooked opportunity is to focus on social impact. Pride month can be a great time to develop a partnership with a local (or national) nonprofit focused on supporting the LGBTQIA+ community whether through advocacy, direct service, or other approaches. Scheduling volunteer shifts, organizing fundraisers or supplies drives, and/or simply assisting employees to connect with charities they may be interested in can go a long way towards raising awareness and helping LGBTQIA+ people in need during Pride month. Whether you decide to go with a big event with a lot of fanfare, or a more understated approach, celebrating Pride at work can make a big difference for your employees, including in the ways outlined below.

3 reasons why you should make it a priority to celebrate Pride at work

While some businesses simply may not be inclined to address any issues that don’t directly relate to their core business services, and that’s their prerogative, there are actually quite a few potential benefits companies can gain from standing up for the LGBTQIA+ community. As with anything though, your efforts have to be authentic and go beyond making empty statements in order for you to reap the benefits. For instance, some companies have been accused of ‘rainbow washing’ for trying to capitalize on the financial goodwill from changing their logo to a rainbow version while allowing environments that are exclusive or outright discriminatory towards LGBTQIA+ community members to proliferate inside their organizations. Below are some reasons you might want to skip the ‘rainbow washing’ and take true steps to celebrate Pride at work in support of the LGBTQIA+ community:

  1. It drives inclusion. Approximately 4.5% of the U.S. population identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Odds are, depending on the size of your company, you likely have employees who identify with this community currently working for you. You may not know it though because nearly half of all LGBTQIA+ employees are not out at work. One in five LGBTQIA+ folx has experienced discrimination when applying for jobs, and 70% have been sexually harassed while at work. These are dire statistics that make it all the more important for your company to step up and take a firm stand in support of LGBTQIA+ rights. Going beyond the rainbow logo to actually celebrate Pride at work in a real way can be a step in the right direction towards encouraging everyone, LGBTQIA+ or not, to bring their whole selves to work at your company. Making space for different voices and lived experiences can go a long way towards building inclusion for every employee.
  2. It’s good for your customer and employer brand. A 2021 study found that 86% of the general population believes that companies should speak out publicly on social issues. If your company isn’t aligned with consumer and employee expectations, it will be difficult for your brand or your team to thrive. Buyers want to know that your company stands in solidarity with them and their friends and family, employees want to know that you have their backs no matter their identity, and on top of all of this, using your power to fight for those who are powerless is simply the right thing to do. In other words, stay silent or continue to actively oppress underrepresented communities at your own peril. On the flip side, many companies have seen far-reaching financial and exposure benefits due to their decision to celebrate Pride at work. The choice is yours.
  3. It’s important for recruiting top talent. As we stand on the precipice of the anticipated ‘turnover tsunami’, star players are going to have more opportunities than ever. You’ll have to make an incredibly strong case as to why they should choose your company. If you can’t demonstrate legitimate ways in which you support employees and help drive broader social progress, you’re going to lose out on talent to companies that do. Of course, the organizations with the best and brightest, the most cohesive teams, and those truly dedicated to driving the company’s success are the ones that will see their profits flourish, so it’s incumbent upon you to take the necessary steps to come out on top.

As attitudes and ideals continue to shift, it’s increasingly to companies’ benefit to take a bold and authentic stand on making the world a better place. This includes seizing the opportunity to celebrate Pride at work as a way to build inclusion, support broader social change, and ensure your employees know that you value and appreciate them for who they are, not just what they do for you. If you’re looking for ways to build inclusion on a daily basis, and not just during Pride month, we invite you to check out Workrowd, the employee experience platform that serves both people and profit. You can also drop us a note at hello@workrowd.com to learn more about how integrating an employee-led approach into your culture and engagement efforts can help you meet and exceed your goals. Happy Pride!

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Corporate social impact is a priority for 2021 – here’s why

Corporate social impact has been a topic of discussion for decades now, but as with diversity, equity, and inclusion, there’s been a lot more talk than action in many circles. As we remain at crisis levels across climate change, nuclear weapons, and COVID-19, and with the wealth gap widening for 70% of the global population, there is certainly no lack of work to be done. It’s time that companies stop simply paying lip service and instead empower their teams to drive real change around corporate social impact and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG).

Developing an effective corporate social impact program isn’t just good for the world at large, though. Increasing your company’s work in this area can greatly improve your bottom line through attracting and retaining top talent, driving positive employee outcomes such as higher engagement and productivity, and boosting sales by establishing a compelling and socially-oriented brand. Your corporate social impact strategy can also be integrated with your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, helping accelerate your progress on these two crucial initiatives. Read on to learn why corporate social impact is more important than ever and what you can do about it.

Why corporate social impact is more important today than ever before

Corporate social impact has long been considered a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘need to have’. In today’s world though, as both consumers and job seekers become increasingly concerned with what companies do and what they stand for, failing to prioritize important societal issues can be costly. In business, the axiom of ‘nice guys finish last’ no longer applies. Take a company like Patagonia, for instance. Patagonia has a strong environmental focus, and encourages employees to pursue their passions and work towards a cleaner, greener planet. As a result, they have just a 4% turnover rate as compared to the average in their sector of 12-13%. Similarly, when they took a strong stance discouraging people from buying Patagonia clothing they don’t need and being transparent about the true environmental cost of their products, they saw sales increase by 30%.

Consumers and employees both want to support companies that mirror their ideals. In fact, more than 70% of buyers overall and more than 80% of younger generations prefer to purchase from companies that align with their values. The key takeaway here is that if you and your competitor offer a similar product but your competitor speaks out about causes that matter to consumers while you remain silent, your bottom line will suffer the consequences. If you’re concerned that taking steps to make your company more socially and environmentally responsible will be costly and not worth the investment, consider that younger generations increasingly support companies raising prices in order to prioritize people and planet, and their buying power will only expand in the coming years and decades.

Similarly, your organization’s corporate social impact is important to employees as well. Two-thirds of jobseekers consider a company’s stance and work on social and environmental issues when researching potential employers. Moreover, 55% would take a pay cut if it meant working for a more socially responsible company. Younger generations are even more concerned with the corporate social impact of the companies they affiliate themselves with, so as the workforce continues to shift, this issue will only become more crucial as part of your talent recruitment and retention strategy.

What steps to take in 2021 to increase your corporate social impact

Now that you’ve read a bit about why corporate social impact is so important, what can you do about it? Luckily, there are some relatively straightforward ways to boost your efforts without breaking the bank. We’ve outlined a few high-level strategies below, but as we always say, your first step should be to consult your employees. We can pretty much guarantee they’ll have some great ideas for you, but if you need some tips, check out this list:

  1. Take a look at your supply chain. A crucial first step in examining your company’s impact on the world beyond the people you directly employ and the revenue you generate is to check out what you’re endorsing across the entirety of your supply chain. If you say that you want to be an upstanding global citizen, you need to determine where you’re actually doing more harm than good. Are your products derived from sustainable sources? Are you working with vendors who align with your values and goals? At every point in your supply chain, seek to minimize your carbon footprint, engage with underrepresented sellers, purchase sustainable and local supplies, and whatever else makes sense with your values and broader ESG goals.
  2. Empower your employees to advocate for what they believe in. Those monolithic days of service most companies run aren’t serving anyone. One-off engagements are rarely worthwhile for resource-strapped nonprofits, many employees won’t be passionate about the chosen cause, and often all it does is generate a few forced photos for the Careers page. Instead, consider enabling employees to drive smaller impact efforts around the causes that are actually important to them. Equip them with tools to be able to organize volunteer shifts with their colleagues, launch fundraising challenges, and consider offering matching funds to ensure employees know you support them. You’ll be able to do more good through these smaller scale campaigns, and you’ll reap vastly more benefit from this tailored approach to employee programming.
  3. Form community partnerships that align with your values. That said, it is also important to have some sense of company-wide identity and investment. Consult your core product or services as well as your values to determine what causes are most relevant for your company. Next, research organizations that target these issues. Forming strategic partnerships with nonprofits and NGOs will boost your employer and customer brands, give you additional publicity, and support important work that’s aligned with your offerings. For instance, if you’re a financial institution, it might make sense to partner with a financial literacy organization. If you’re focused on transportation, you can connect with entities working to reduce carbon emissions, or to increase mobility for underserved communities. Bring employees to the table for these conversations, and you’ll be bound to come up with some great potential partnerships to pursue. Reach out to the identified organizations, and make sure that however you decide to collaborate is truly mutually beneficial. If the partnership is only helpful for your company, current and prospective employees and consumers will see through it quickly, greatly reducing the business benefits of your efforts.

Corporate social impact is a crucial topic in today’s world, with increasing effects on companies’ bottom lines. Make sure that your company comes out on top by prioritizing your corporate social responsibility and environmental, social, and governance efforts. Feel free to make use of the high-level tips above, and don’t forget to empower your employees to get involved early and often. If you’re looking for an easy way to equip employees with the tools to make a difference, and which also provides analytics and oversight for you, come check out Workrowd or drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com. We’d love to learn more about you and help you do the most good for your business, your community, and the planet.

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5 easy ways to improve your employee experience in 2021

As it becomes increasingly clear that we simply won’t be returning to the ‘normal’ of old, many companies are beginning to search for new ways to improve their employee experience. The pandemic has tested employers on many fronts, and the impending ‘turnover tsunami’ is painful proof that not every organization rose to the occasion. For those looking to make up lost ground, or simply stay ahead of the many upcoming curves, we wanted to pull together a list of low-lift solutions that can make a big impact for your employees. Plus, since we’ve got a flexible software platform designed to help companies of all sizes improve their employee experience, it only made sense to orient those solutions around Workrowd’s functionality.

That said, we know that not everyone has Workrowd at their disposal (yet!), so these ideas can all be implemented without the help of the platform, albeit with a bit more prep on the frontend and ongoing legwork. Don’t let that dissuade you, though; investing in ways to improve your employee experience is one of the best things you can do as team members start to return to the office, or settle into non-pandemic remote working for the long haul. Many of these ideas came up in conversations with Workrowd users or prospective users, so trust that there are a lot of brilliant minds behind the ideas on this page. Read on to learn why it’s so crucial to improve your employee experience, and check out our top strategies for doing so.

Why it’s more important than ever to improve your employee experience this year

Delivering a quality employee experience is crucial to ensuring your organization can recruit and retain top talent, the biggest factor in contributing to your company’s success. According to Deloitte, 80% of HR and business leaders say that employee experience is “important” or “very important” to them. Of these respondents however, only 22% feel that their organization is “excellent” at creating a differentiated employee experience. This is especially critical at a time when employees have an array of options available to them.

More than 80% of employers are already hiring or plan to hire during 2021. What’s more, 76% of companies believe that the demand for talent in 2021 will near or exceed pre-pandemic levels, which is good news given that more than 60% of full-time U.S. workers plan to look for a new job this year. What’s more, 3 million women have left the workforce since the pandemic began, and it’s unclear how many will return in 2021, or at all. As if these compounding elements weren’t enough to stress how important it is to improve your employee experience, the gig economy grew by 33% during the pandemic, providing yet another bucket of opportunities you could lose your top talent to as part of the ‘turnover tsunami’.

Beyond the recruitment and retention piece though, you also need the talent you have to be productive and engaged while they’re at work in order for your organization to be successful. Unfortunately, in addition to the aforementioned ‘turnover tsunami’, experts are also predicting a ‘mental health tsunami’ as we begin to emerge from the clutches of pandemic lockdowns. According to the American Psychiatric Association, employees living with untreated depression experience a 35% reduction in productivity, at a cost to the U.S. economy of $210.5 billion. Ensuring that support for your team members’ mental health is a part of your efforts to improve your employee experience will go a long way towards helping both your people and your bottom line thrive as the economy bounces back from the prolonged, pandemic-induced downturn.

Our top 5 ways to improve the employee experience in 2021

Now you know why you should invest in improving your employee experience, so how do you do it? There are many strategies you can pursue, but the most important thing you can do is to start talking to your employees. As with any effort to develop a product or experience consumers love, you have to begin by listening to the intended buyers themselves. Your current and prospective employees are the customers of your employee experience. If it’s not one they find attractive, you’re going to struggle in the impending war for talent. Additionally, this post doesn’t address compensation and benefits, but this is another make or break element of a world-class employee experience, so make sure your packages make the cut.

Once you’ve collected employee input via both surveys and conversations, here are some programs you might want to consider launching or increasing your investment in as part of your employee experience revamp:

  1. Professional development. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees say they would stay with a company longer if it invested in helping them learn. Professional development can come in a number of different forms, and focus on a number of different topics. While self-study environments can be great for some, others learn better in groups. Plus, by enabling employees to learn together, you can double your potential benefits as you’ll be strengthening relationships between colleagues at the same time that you’re upskilling your workforce. One easy and inexpensive way to get started is to support employees to launch professional development groups such as Toastmasters at your company. Fear of public speaking can restrict wages by 10%, and inhibit promotion to management by 15%, so there’s really no downside to helping your employees improve their presentation skills.
  2. Employee resource groups. In case we haven’t said it enough yet on this blog, we’ll do it again: employee resource groups are a massively underutilized tool. Every organization that has grown to the point where everyone doesn’t personally know each other should offer employee resource groups. These associations are not just crucial for driving diversity, equity, and inclusion, but they can do a lot to surface and solve unreported employee needs before they start hurting your business. Employee resource groups don’t have to be difficult to start, either. In fact, the Global ERG Network makes it extraordinarily easy to get them up and running with best practice templates and toolkits, monthly virtual events, and 24/7 networking and knowledge sharing with peers. There’s no reason to not start or ramp up your employee resource groups this year.
  3. Social impact programming. Approximately three-quarters of the working population believes that companies must advocate and work on social issues. This represents a dramatic rise in recent years, and it does not appear to be slowing. Helping your employees to feel that they’re part of something larger than themselves and be proud to represent a company doing good work in the world is a key way to improve your employee experience. Rather than running one of those monolithic days of service that no one really likes though, empower employees to champion the causes that are important to them. Colleagues will learn about each other, they’ll appreciate that your company is supporting important efforts, they’ll build new skills as part of their charity work, and the positive branding opportunities for your organization won’t hurt either.
  4. Wellness initiatives. As mentioned above, we’re standing on the precipice of a widespread mental health crisis. If you don’t take steps to get out ahead of it, your employees and your bottom line will suffer the consequences. Wellness initiatives can include things like yoga and meditation courses, but they can also encompass things like childcare to help working parents manage their many responsibilities, inclusive access to therapy and mental health services, and an environment that encourages people to ask for help when they need it. Making it clear that it’s okay to not be okay will help ensure your employee experience fosters an environment where team members can move beyond just surviving, to truly thrive within your organization.
  5. Intrapreneurship. Last but certainly not least, give your employees the ability to change the game at your company. Many employees want the opportunity to use their whole skillset, beyond just the elements they utilize in their day-to-day jobs. Making time and space for intrapreneurship, where employees get to innovate on new ways of doing things, new products or services, and new approaches to the industry, can do wonders for both your employee experience and your company’s prospects in the market. Consider organizing a hackathon to start off with, start an employee innovation group, or you could even go so far as launching an internal incubator. Intrapreneurship has done wonders for companies like Google and 3M, so what’s stopping you?

Improving your employee experience should be a key focus for your company during the second half of 2021, no matter where you’re starting off from today. Not only will it help you succeed in recruiting and retaining top talent, but the impact on your employees will drive increased productivity, engagement, and more. If you’re interested in pursuing any of the ideas listed above, drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com. We’d love to chat about ways to support you in your efforts, whether it’s sending over some free resources or discussing how Workrowd’s platform can help you launch, manage, and measure the impact of your programming. You can learn more on our website, but whether you decide to chat with us or not, we encourage you to reimagine how you’re approaching your employee experience in order to provide the most benefit to employees as we begin to process the full extent of the pandemic’s effects. Your colleagues and your bottom line will thank you for it.

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4 ways to build workplace culture without a workplace

In a turn of events that could never have been predicted in March of 2020, more than 80% of employers now plan to allow their team members to work from home at least part of the time in perpetuity. While this is great news for most employees, 92% of whom want to work remotely anywhere from 1-3 days per month all the way up to 5 days per week, it represents a significant change from the old ways of doing things. Prior to the pandemic, 75% of workers had never worked from home so workplace culture revolved around the office. Accordingly, the question now becomes, how do you build workplace culture where there is no physical workplace?

Ultimately, the reality is that workplace culture was never actually about the office to begin with, so many of the same tactics that worked in the old world of work will work in the new one. The problem is that many organizations were looking to build workplace culture through ineffective mechanisms in the past, and having employees organically building real culture in the office is the only thing that saved them. Now that that safety net has been removed, companies will have to do a better job of actually taking the necessary steps to drive an authentic workplace culture, rather than simply defaulting to superficial efforts. In this article we’ve outlined some of the key strategies companies can employ to ensure a great employee experience no matter where team members work.

Why culture matters even more for remote workers

The pandemic has drastically altered circumstances for most employees, so for this post we looked back to 2019 for statistics on the aspects of remote work that are most challenging for employees who are not in the office. According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2019, the biggest challenge remote workers face is unplugging after work. Approximately 22% of respondents cited this as being a struggle, and a lot of this ties into culture. If there is an expectation to be ‘always on’, employee wellbeing and the bottom line will suffer. Findings suggest that the expectation to be working 24/7 makes workers 40% less productive, and 1/3 less engaged.

The next biggest bucket of what remote workers struggle with, at 19%, is loneliness. Loneliness has been estimated to shorten a person’s lifespan by 15 years, the same as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes every day. If your company culture only exists in the office for those team members who happen to be in that day, you’re risking severe health outcomes for your workforce. It’s crucial for the wellbeing of your hybrid and remote employees that you strive to transition your culture to support sufficient interactions to keep every worker socially engaged.

The last bucket is collaborating and/or communicating at 17%. While some of this comes down to what tools your company equips employees with and how they use them, it also draws back to your workplace culture in many respects. If your culture doesn’t prioritize collaboration/communication and discourages open and honest conversations, your remote workers will likely fall behind on projects as they’re kept out of the loop. Similarly, without strong connections between departments, your business units won’t be able to work as parts of a cohesive whole, especially with workers scattered across the globe, significantly limiting your company’s prospects of success.

4 keys to driving workplace culture no matter where employees work

Driving workplace culture without a workplace may seem like a counterintuitive concept for those accustomed to relying on happy hours and holiday parties to boost engagement. Luckily, culture actually has very little to do with events and much more to do with how your company treats employees and how employees treat one another. Below are four key tips for ensuring your workplace culture thrives in, out, and beyond the workplace, to support all employees.

  1. Prioritize respect. Respect is a crucial component of workplace culture even if none of your employees work from home. Building respect into your all of your interactions and initiatives ensures that every employee will feel valued and appreciated. Nothing kills a workplace culture faster than people not feeling respected. This can come in many forms including respecting employees’ time by not sending unnecessary requests after hours, respecting employees’ effort by acknowledging them for a job well done, and respecting employees’ backgrounds and opinions by striving to build an inclusive environment. Train managers on respect to ensure this crucial component of a healthy workplace culture is modeled from the top, and incorporate it into your communication strategy by being transparent and consistent with employees at every opportunity.
  2. Make space for whole people. Recognizing that your employees aren’t just drones there to do your company’s bidding will go a long way towards helping build a workplace culture that works for all employees, regardless of location or workspace. This includes ensuring employees are supported in their lives outside of work so they don’t have to spend business hours feeling anxious about things like healthcare, childcare, etc. Design your benefits package to meet employee needs so they can focus fully on their work during their scheduled hours. On that note, don’t expect employees to work around the clock, or saddle them with unmanageable responsibilities. Creating the conditions for employees to burn out is a surefire way to set your workplace culture up to fail, so be sure to manage expectations about when employees should be working and when it’s not urgent to answer right away. Enabling employees to make time for the other things in their lives will ensure they can give their all when they’re working and will help your culture soar.
  3. Invest in making your values a reality. In addition to the items above, it’s also crucially important to practice what you preach. Without being in the office, it’s easy for employees to become disconnected from your company’s core values and lose attachment to the organization as a whole. It’s critical that you work to infuse your values throughout all projects and processes. Your company values are what binds your employees together as a team so if ‘everyone’s voice matters’ is one of your values, make sure that calls and meetings aren’t disadvantaging remote workers. If one meeting attendee is remote, consider requiring that the entire meeting be held virtually. Ensuring that your values are carried out in everything that you do will guarantee that your workplace culture translates seamlessly between all offices, whether home or corporate.
  4. Keep employees connected. Last but certainly not least, employees are the driving force behind your workplace culture, whether or not they work in an office. If you don’t take steps to keep your employees engaged and connected with each other, your culture will be nonexistent at best, damagingly negative at worst. It’s crucial to give employees a dedicated way to stay connected and build camaraderie separate from all the work stress. Without a ‘water cooler’ space that spans across in-office and remote employees, your workplace culture won’t have a space to exist. Ensure that employees have a convenient way to build genuine connections with each other including exploring digital tools that can help.

Building a positive workplace culture is difficult enough as it is, and the transition to hybrid and remote work has only exacerbated those challenges. Rather than try to make up ground later on, it’s important that you prioritize your workplace culture from day one of your hybrid work setup. If you’re looking for tools to help ensure that you can fulfill the steps listed above and develop a thriving workplace culture for all employees whether on-site or remote, we hope you’ll give Workrowd a look. We’ve got a full suite of tools to build and support company culture for every employee, no matter their setup or schedule. Drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com.

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The benefits of ERGs and how to best leverage them

Employee resource groups (ERGs) have long been a mainstay of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. These employee-led collectives are organized around elements of identity, whether race, gender, military status, etc., and are designed to help better support their members in the workplace. More than 90% of Fortune 500 companies have employee resource groups, highlighting the clear value of these associations. That said, it’s one thing to know ERGs are valuable, while it’s another completely to figure out how to build them effectively at your company. It’s important to first know the benefits of ERGs and what you’re looking to get out of them in order to chart a clear map for success.

Although every company will be different, there are some important steps that all organizations can take to position themselves to capitalize on the full benefits of ERGs. This is also why we built the Global ERG Network, in order to help every company move forward faster on diversity, equity, and inclusion by optimizing their ERGs, BRGs, and Diversity Councils. Read on to learn more about how to build your ERGs so they’re primed for maximum impact, ensuring your team can enjoy all the many benefits of ERGs and affinity groups.

What we currently know about the benefits of ERGs

While the hard research on ERGs is a bit slim (for now), it’s easy to see how they can impact your organization by simply looking to fundamental human psychology. The largest bucket above the most basic needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy is ‘belongingness and love needs’. Everyone wants to feel that they have a community, no matter whether it’s at work or out in their personal lives. For employees from underrepresented backgrounds though, they may be the only person with that identity on their team, making it easy to feel alone and potentially even excluded. Having the opportunity to connect with others who share similar backgrounds across the organization through an ERG can make a big difference towards helping them feel at home in the company.

This increase in interpersonal inclusion and belonging is certainly one of the key benefits of ERGs, but there are also a number of positive outcomes from the company standpoint as well. For instance, by building community and spearheading events and programming, ERGs can help to drive employee engagement, a chronic challenge for most companies. In addition, they can increase retention by adding the prospect of losing this community to the list of reasons why employees would stay. ERGs can help companies to recruit more top talent from underrepresented backgrounds by clearly demonstrating that people who share their identity make up a significant and valued part of the company.

Last but certainly not least, we know that the benefits of ERGs extend into the realms of professional development and innovation as well. ERGs can provide much needed career support and development opportunities to members, ensuring that employees who might not have access to the same chances to advance receive an additional boost through dedicated programming. Similarly, they can drive business innovation by offering crucial insight into business plans and new opportunities. For instance, an ERG catering to people with disabilities might help ensure a new product is accessible before launch, or a Latinx ERG might help their company enter into a primarily Spanish-speaking market where they previously had no presence. The potential benefits of ERGs are many, but as with most efforts, what your company gains will ultimately come down to what you put into it.

How to ensure your ERGs succeed and confer the maximum benefit

Now that you know about the potential benefits of ERGs, how do you go about ensuring that you obtain them for your company? At a high level, it really comes down to just three key steps:

  1. Ensure your ERGs are built on strong foundations. Don’t leave your ERGs up to chance. Create a template charter for all of your ERGs so that they start off on the right foot. As part of the charter process, your founding ERG leadership team should establish their mission, vision, and values; set out short, medium, and long-term goals; decide on meeting schedules and the types of events or initiatives the group will hold or participate in; and develop a transition plan so that when a founding team member leaves, the entire group doesn’t fall apart. In addition, they should also create any membership requirements and/or expectations. By developing a clear plan from day one, it will be much easier for your ERGs to stay on track and ensure they’re driving real impact.
  2. Give them the tools and power to drive change. ERGs that aren’t empowered to act within their companies often end up being merely social organizations that arrange happy hours and other one-off gatherings. While there is certainly still value in events like these, if you truly want your ERGs to deliver on business outcomes, it’s crucial that you give them the tools and power to succeed. On the tools front, ERG leaders are at extremely high risk of burnout, so don’t make their job any more difficult or time-consuming than it has to be. Ensure they have access to a streamlined way to manage and track the success of their group, whether it’s through a dedicated system like Workrowd or an internal system that doesn’t require them to fumble across multiple different spaces. This will also help with member engagement and increase visibility for employees looking to join new groups. Similarly, make sure they have the authority to actually do things. If you don’t allow your ERGs to schedule meetings during work hours, advertise through work channels, or otherwise take up space, you severely cripple their ability to drive impact. Give your ERGs the power to do what they need to do, then support them on their road to success.
  3. Involve them in your business decisions. Don’t forget to leverage your ERGs when it comes to actual business efforts, too. As mentioned above, ERGs can be crucial tools to promote cultural competency and innovation in your business. ERGs help encourage diversity across your organization, and companies that report high levels of diversity are 70% more likely to have captured a new market in the past year. Firms with higher ethnic and racial diversity also report two times more innovation revenue. While some of this will come naturally from having more diverse teams throughout your organization, inviting ERG members to assist on strategic initiatives to ensure a wider diversity of perspectives is essential if you want to unlock the full benefits of ERGs.

Making the most of your ERGs is critical if you want your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to drive real outcomes in 2021. In order to access the full benefits of ERGs, take steps to prioritize the tips listed above, and make sure you’re not sidelining these powerful collectives. Having thriving ERGs is a great way to boost your employer brand, so if you’re looking for new ways to recruit and retain top talent, look no further than employee resource groups. The Global ERG Network has best practice templates and toolkits if you need them, and we encourage you to explore what other external resources might be available to you. Lastly, if you want to equip your ERGs with a full suite of tools to manage, monitor, and measure their success, drop by our site and check out Workrowd. We’ve got everything you need to supercharge your ERGs and then some.

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Corporate alumni networks – 3 reasons to start one today

Experts are warning of a ‘turnover tsunami’ poised to hit the U.S. in the coming months as businesses reopen and the economy rebounds. As part of this shakeup, employers will lose a wealth of institutional knowledge, but may have the opportunity to acquire some new skills they found it difficult to recruit for prior to and during the pandemic. One thing that’s for certain is that many employers will have to say farewell to some star players. This goodbye doesn’t have to be forever, though. The opportunity to rehire some of these individuals may present itself down the line, especially if the company invests in a corporate alumni network.

Just as community and communication are absolutely critical for current employees, keeping former employees connected to colleagues and company news is similarly important. Corporate alumni networks are the easiest way to achieve this, and you may even find that employees have already built one or more informal communities that you can tap into to get started. Read on to learn more about the benefits of corporate alumni networks and the first steps you should consider when looking to start one.

3 reasons why starting a corporate alumni network is one of the best decisions you can make this year

Recruiting top talent is an expensive endeavor. Estimates suggest that the cost to hire a new employee can stretch from the mid-four-figures all the way up into the tens of thousands of dollars. Accordingly, it can be quite a blow when a star player chooses to leave your organization after all the time and money you’ve invested in bringing and keeping them there. As mentioned above though, all of that work doesn’t have to go to waste. You can leverage a corporate alumni network to keep your top performers in the company loop so that when it’s time to make their next move, you’re the first place they think of going.

If former employees maintain strong relationships with current staff, and frequently see exciting updates about your company’s progress, they’ll be much more likely to tire of being on the outside looking in and want to return to the team. In other words, corporate alumni networks are a great way to build FOMO, or a fear of missing out among those who have left, in order to passively encourage them to return. Approximately 15% of employees say they’ve boomeranged back to a former employer, and 40% say they would consider it. This number is heavily skewed towards younger generations, with 46% of Millennials saying they would consider boomeranging back to a company they previously worked for, while just 33% of Gen X-ers and 29% of Baby Boomers reportedly said the same.

Bringing back top talent after they’ve been with another employer for a period of time has numerous benefits. You already know they can be successful with your organization, so it greatly derisks the hiring process. Furthermore, while they may have been stars when they were initially with your company, they’ve now had the opportunity to learn new skills and systems, so they’ll be even better equipped this second time around. They’ll also likely need less training because they’ll already know how a lot of things work at your organization. Last but certainly not least, they’ll likely appreciate all the great things about your company culture more than ever after having seen what else is out there. While every situation will differ, from a high-level perspective there are almost no downsides to bringing former colleagues back onto the team. Running a corporate alumni network helps ensure that you keep in touch with these employees to help facilitate their return, no matter what they do next.

Another benefit of keeping former employees involved through a corporate alumni network is for employer branding purposes. More than 60% of GEN Z jobseekers prefer to hear about opportunities directly from a current or former employee. When looking to recruit from this demographic, the more employee ambassadors you have on the ground, the more successful you’ll be. Sharing positive company updates with former team members will ensure they keep your company in mind when speaking with potential jobseekers, and will set them up to make a strong pitch.

How to get started with building a corporate alumni network

While it can confer many benefits, launching a corporate alumni network doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it can be pretty straightforward. Follow the steps below and you’ll be off to a great start:

  1. Update processes to collect the necessary data. In order to cultivate a robust corporate alumni network, you’ll need email addresses for employees after they’ve left the company. You may choose to ask employees for their email address as part of the off-boarding process, or you could even set up a system to provide employees alumni addresses as many universities do. In theory, you could also keep the email address the employee originally applied to your company with, however that may have changed in the time since they started. Regardless of which method you choose, having a way to contact employees after they’ve left is key to your corporate alumni network’s success.
  2. Ask employees about existing networks. Former employees may have already assembled somewhere whether over WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Slack, or elsewhere. Tap into these networks, and if it makes sense, explore potentially formalizing them. In other words, if there is already a solid base of alumni congregating on LinkedIn, then it probably doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel. Just put some power and time into ensuring consistent activity in the LinkedIn community, and you can ramp up much more quickly than if you started from scratch.
  3. Pick your platform. If there isn’t an existing community you can tap into, then you’ll need to decide where you want to host your network. The options above are a start, or there is even dedicated corporate alumni network software you can purchase. Workrowd can actually fulfill this use case as well, by simply having a private krowd where you invite past employees to join with their non-company email addresses. Whatever you choose, make sure that it’s flexible to meet your needs, and above all, user-friendly. If your platform is clunky or difficult to use, former employees won’t make the time to learn it.
  4. Identify your manager. Few communities actually run successfully on their own, so you’ll need to dedicate at least part of an employee’s time to managing and maintaining the corporate alumni network. This individual should be in charge of inviting new employees as they leave, making sure they get signed up, updating information and ensuring everything stays fresh, etc. Without someone whose job it is to keep the community running, these spaces can stall and grow stagnant quite quickly, so don’t overlook the importance of assigning someone this role.
  5. Invite former team members. Last but certainly not least, reach out to as many former team members as you have contact information for in order to start building up your network. While you may not be able to reach everyone, and not all of those whom you do reach will be interested if it’s a long time after they left, starting with a solid base of members will help set your corporate alumni network up for success.

Staying in touch with employees after they leave is an important piece of the talent management puzzle in today’s economy. If you’re not keeping star players connected to your company’s ecosystem, you’re wasting crucial dollars between the investment you made to bring them to the team in the first place combined with the money you could save by rehiring them down the line. If you’d like to explore Workrowd’s solution for a corporate alumni network that you can manage in the same place as your communities for current employees, drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com. We’d love to hear from you.

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From diversity, equity, and inclusion statement to action

Just as it’s important for organizations to have a mission statement that guides their work and decisions, it’s useful to have your company’s stance on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) written out for both internal and external parties to view. In today’s talent market where nearly 90% of job seekers say that diversity is important when evaluating prospective employers, it’s crucial to be clear and upfront about how your company approaches DEI. Solidifying a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement is just the first step however, in an essential, ongoing process to drive real impact on DEI within your organization.

With statement in hand, it’s time to move towards action. Words only go so far, and if your employees and recruits find out that your statement has no teeth behind it, your company culture and employer brand will suffer the consequences. Developing an effective DEI strategy can be challenging though, and the steps required will vary depending on where your company is starting from and where you want to go. Despite that, there are some broad commonalities, so we’ve assembled a list of 3 best practices every organization can utilize regardless of circumstances to help move their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts from statement to action.

How to craft an authentic diversity, equity, and inclusion statement

As with so many things that tie into a company’s employer brand, developing a strong diversity, equity, and inclusion statement starts off with examining your organizational culture. For instance, while it might make sense for a direct to consumer tech startup to use slang or other more casual language in their statement because that’s how their brand interfaces with employees and consumers, a law firm might take a more formal approach. Consider what makes sense based on your company’s norms, and don’t try to force it. Presenting an inauthentic diversity, equity, and inclusion statement has the potential to be more damaging than not posting one at all.

Next, take a look at your values. Hopefully if you’re here you already understand the far-reaching benefits of diversity and inclusion work, so perhaps DEI is already explicitly included in your values. If so, leverage that in your diversity, equity, and inclusion statement. Let everyone know that DEI is baked directly into your guiding principles and explain how that drives your approach to making sure everyone feels that they belong. Similarly, if one of your values deals with respect, consider noting that as part of your goal to respect everyone, you strive to be inclusive and respectful of all people, regardless of background or circumstances. Grounding your statement in your company values will ensure it is well aligned with your culture and operations, and will prevent it from ringing hollow.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, be sure to include your ‘why’. It’s great to say that you are inclusive of everyone, but people want to know what’s driving your focus on inclusion. Explaining your motivation also helps boost the level of authenticity your statement conveys, and makes it easier for people to feel connected with it. It may be related to your product ‘e.g. we build our products to democratize access to XYZ, so we’re committed to that same level of access and inclusion in everything we do’; it could be related to your people ‘e.g. the diverse perspectives of our employees are what keeps our company at the forefront of innovation, so we actively seek out and support people with an array of identities and lived experiences’; or it could just be that you want to be a part of creating a better world. If you don’t know your ‘why’, figuring that out should be your first step.

Once you’ve checked in on your culture, values, and ‘why’, it’s time to get writing. Don’t do it alone, though! In order for employees to truly buy into your diversity, equity, and inclusion statement, you have to practice what you preach and include them in the process of crafting it. Bringing your employees into the conversation will help ensure your statement is something that the whole company is committed to executing on, and leads nicely into our next section: translating your DEI statement into action.

3 key strategies for moving from diversity, equity, and inclusion statement to action

Diversity, equity, and inclusion statements are important for letting current and prospective employees and customers know your stance on these crucial topics. While writing one is a valuable first step though, it’s not enough to convince most people unless it’s backed up by real action. In order to help you transition from talking about DEI to actually succeeding at DEI, we’ve collected the following suggestions:

  1. Set measurable goals. While your diversity, equity, and inclusion statement should summarize your blue-sky vision, in order to come anywhere near achieving it you’ll need to set concrete goals. Moving the needle on DEI is a marathon, not a sprint, so it can help to start off with a medium to long-term goal, then break it down into more bite-sized pieces. Consider what you want to achieve during this year, or even this half of the year, and identify metrics to help measure your success. It’s also crucial that you don’t get discouraged and give up if progress isn’t coming as quickly as you would like. The only way you’ll ever reach your goal and deliver on your diversity, equity, and inclusion statement is if you keep putting in the work on an ongoing basis.
  2. Identify your employee champions. Succeeding at DEI is an example of an effort where it truly does ‘take a village’. DEI isn’t something that can be decreed or enforced from the top down; it has to be cultivated from the bottom up as well. While realistically, driving DEI should be the responsibility of everyone in the organization, it’s also useful to identify those employees who are particularly passionate about it so that you can empower them to share their enthusiasm with their colleagues. These people may already be spearheading efforts including leading employee resource groups or other networks, or you may need to look a bit harder or simply ask for volunteers. Having a ‘street team’ to be the eyes, ears, and voices of your DEI efforts on the ground can truly make the difference between initiatives that energize employees, and ones that fall flat.
  3. Invest. You wouldn’t expect to scrimp on your sales budget and still bring in massive deals, so you shouldn’t assume that approach will work with DEI, either. You have to invest early and often in DEI in terms of both time and money in order to be successful. Given that companies with gender diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to see above average profitability, and those with ethnically diverse teams are 36% more likely, the business case is strong to make and maintain these investments, even during downturns. It’s a classic case of ‘you have to spend money to make money,’ and this is clearly an investment that’s well worth making. From recruiting and retaining the best talent, to fostering a strong company culture, to maximizing employee productivity, diversity, equity, and inclusion work can pay off in spades, but you have to put in the effort first.

Writing a compelling diversity, equity, and inclusion statement for your company can seem daunting, but it’s certainly achievable, especially with the tips included in this post. When you’re ready to start putting your statement into action, give us a shout at hello@workrowd.com. We’ve got tools and templates to help you make the most of your efforts, and lessons learned at other companies we can share to help you supercharge your progress. If you’d prefer to be connected with other companies directly in a community dedicated specifically to DEI and employee resource groups, we encourage you to drop by the Global ERG Network website and take a look around. We’ve got best practice resources, monthly live events, 24/7 networking and knowledge sharing, and much more, some of which is free to the public, so check it out today!