Category Archives: Culture

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5 Tips to improving workplace conflict resolution

Workplace conflict is unavoidable. Eventually, when you put people together, even in a virtual space, friction happens. Ensuring that your team can communicate and disagree in healthy ways is crucial to ensuring teams work well together.  To some extent, a healthy amount of conflict is even good for the team and good for your organization. As long as it’s about work, it’s a good sign that your employees are engaged and passionate about what they do.

However, resolving conflicts and working through them in a healthy way can build relationships, can build teams, and can help you to create a healthier and more productive work environment.

With that in mind, these 5 tips to improving workplace conflict resolution in your teams can get you started – whether people are working in the office or remotely.

How to improve workplace conflict resolution

Offer emotional intelligence training

Emotional intelligence has taken off as a tool for leadership. And, largely that’s a good thing. Being aware of your own emotions and of those around you can help team leads, managers, and even the CEO better understand and allocate the company’s most important resource, its people. At the same time, the same traits that make people good leaders make people good at working together. The ability to notice, identify, understand, and manage your own feelings and those of others is critical when you come into conflict with your teammates. Ensuring that leadership has those skills to step in and delegate when friction occurs can help.

Offering workshops and courses to ensure that teams can recognize those emotions in each other, can see where their opponent is coming from, and can understand the emotions their teammates are experiencing can help teams to resolve conflict for themselves. Even when matters are personal.

Invest in your team design

There are plenty of tools to help leaders create teams based on personality, communication styles, and culture. These range from personality assessments to DISC workshops and assessments. All of them allow you to see how people react, how they work together, and how they compare with other people. That allows you to match people based on their ability to communicate and to do so well. Some people will always be opposites, some people will never match work styles.

That’s important as even mismatched work styles can create considerable conflict. For example, putting a self-driven person who wants ownership of their work in a team with someone who needs delegation but is good at doing quality work is asking for trouble. You’d want to divide those people up based on the work they’re doing, the people they’re working with, and their leaders. Simple DISC assessments and team building guidelines can help you get started. However, it eventually falls to your leaders to ensure that information is utilized and put to work.

Encourage communication at all levels

Eventually, many of the causes of workplace conflict relate to poor communication. Expectations are not set or are not met, favoritism is a problem, leaders don’t communicate well, people don’t pull their weight, they pull too much of it. Or, family and personal drama comes to work from home.

Whatever the cause, leadership is often responsible for recognizing, diagnosing, and putting a stop to that drama. For example, if colleagues are showing visible friction, leaders should be able to stop and communicate about that. Doing so and getting honest answers means having an established rapport with the team.

If you haven’t yet, work on building trust, being a reliable leader, and creating consistent touchpoints enabling communication. That can take a long time to build, and it may require offering coaching and mentoring to leaders who aren’t yet good at communication.

Share your conflict resolution policy

You know that conflict eventually happens. So, it makes sense to create and share a conflict resolution policy. Sharing this with teams, before they experience conflict, means that people know what to do, what next steps are, and how to react in case of a conflict. While that doesn’t mean people will take those steps, it means they have the options available to them. What does a conflict resolution policy include?

  • Both people should sit and listen to each other, giving the other adequate time to voice their opinion without interruption or displays of emotion
  • Both parties should be polite and non-violent. The goal should be escalation of conflict over winning
  • A clear line of escalation in case either party breaches code of conduct
  • A clear line of escalation in case this is a work matter, with team leads and accountable parties willing to step up and to intervene
  • The option of arbitration. E.g., HR may be willing to mediate. In other cases, teams themselves prefer to sit together and have a conflict resolution meeting. This might involve discussing problems as a team. It might involve making hard decisions, like asking a team member to move to another team. However, teams have to know they are empowered to have these types of meetings and to make these types of decisions.

There’s no perfect way to handle conflict. Unfortunately, good decisions almost always depend on the situation at hand. However, you can create policy to ensure people are protected, that they have outlets, and that there’s a clear line to ask for help.

Offer third party arbitration in case things escalate

Not every employee can work out conflict on their own. Not everyone is emotionally mature enough to argue well. Workplace bullying, arguments, and conflict can escalate. It will get in the way of morale, productivity, and the kind of company culture you want to build. You have to have the option to arbitrate, to escalate, and to take measures up to and including letting people go from the company if they are not willing to work within company guidelines or to resolve conflicts.

Of course, the goal of arbitration should always be to resolve conflict in a humane and positive manner. Helping people to work through differences is always better than deciding one side is right and the other is wrong – unless one side is clearly being harmful. However, making those decisions requires insight, judgment, and good leadership.

Conflict is unavoidable, but good practices, good communication, and humane approaches make it easier for everyone.  Hopefully, these 5 tips to improving workplace conflict resolution help in your office.


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4 Crucial personality traits for cross-functional teams

While the functions of each of your departments may be inherently distinct, their ultimate goal should be the same. If your company departments do not have consistent goals, you may find your organization struggling to stay afloat as it’s stretched thin across various resources with conflicting aims. The solution? Implement cross-functional teams within your organization.

Cross-functional teams are groups consisting of people with different functional expertise (for example: marketing, sales, supply-chain and finance) working together to achieve the same goal. By bringing people from different departments together your organization can pursue your company goals more effectively. 

In order for you to get the best results out of your cross-functional teams, it is worthwhile considering the impact personality has on team performance. By understanding which personality traits are crucial for the success of cross-functional teams you can set your organization up for a future of success.

What are the advantages of a cross-functional team?

Building a cross-functional team may seem daunting at first. However, the potential advantages make it worthwhile. 

One advantage is that cross-functional teams can result in increased innovation for your business. As individuals with different perspectives and expertise are brought together as one team, their shared knowledge and insights bring new levels of innovation.

Further to this, cross-functional teams can help to improve team relationships which in turn can positively influence employee engagement and job satisfaction levels.The process of cross-functional teamwork will also give your employees the chance to learn new skills from their teammates, build positive team spirit, benefit from diversity and to develop effective leadership skills.

What are crucial personality traits for a cross-functional team?

Good team players will often be described by their personality traits. To help you get the most out of your cross-functional teams, we’ve devised this list of 4 of the most important personality traits needed in order for your cross-functional team to be successful.

Using the Big Five personality model, various researchers have identified key personality traits that are imperative for cross-functional team performance.

The Big Five personality framework consists of 5 overarching personality traits: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience.

When developing a cross-functional team, you should look to include individuals who hold various traits within these personality factors.

Building a group of individuals with different yet complementing personality traits will allow you to create a well-rounded team.

Openness to experience

Within your cross-functional team, it is beneficial to have an individual who scores highly on the “Openness to Experience” factor within the Big Five personality framework. This individual that has a high level of openness to experience could be considered to be the analytic person within your team. 

Team members with high levels of openness to experience are likely to be solutions-oriented, multi-directional and explorative. These factors are beneficial for encouraging team members to be willing to learn and try new things in order to achieve your company goals.

Further to this, research states that teams that are diverse in openness to experience are most likely to have high levels of creativity.  This highlights the importance of having a mix of individuals who have low and moderate levels of openness. 

Agreeableness

An agreeable team is going to be far more successful at working together than a team who doesn’t cooperate with each other. An individual with agreeableness can be described as cooperative, unselfish, reliable and friendly.

The person in your team who is agreeable will likely be the one who helps bring your cross-functional team together by encouraging others to contribute and supporting the unique perspectives of other members in the group.

Research has found that agreeableness is one of the strongest personality predictors of team performance with high agreeableness being indicative of increased team performance.

When building a cross-functional team it would be beneficial to choose individuals who have similar levels of agreeableness. Studies have shown that diversity in agreeableness among teams can increase task and relationship conflict. As a result, this increased conflict could negatively impact team performance and satisfaction levels.

Conscientiousness

When bringing individuals from different departments together, it’s important to be organized. Having someone with high levels of conscientiousness in your cross-functional team could help bring order and organization to the group.

Having high levels of conscientiousness implies an individual is committed to doing a task well. Conscientious people take their responsibilities seriously. Moreover, conscientious people tend to be efficient and organized. 

When compared to the other Big Five personality factors, conscientious employees tend to have higher reported levels of job satisfaction. Therefore, if you want to create a cross-functional team that is happy, it would be advantageous to make sure your team features conscientious individuals.

Extroversion

High levels of extroversion may not be suitable for all departments within your organization. For instance, Sales employees may need a high level of extroversion as their job means they will spend a lot of time in social situations. Meanwhile, your finance employees may not necessarily need to have high levels of extroversion as their job performance doesn’t rely on them being sociable.  

However, having an extroverted individual within your cross-functional team is important for raising team spirit and encouraging the team to achieve their goals. Extroversion can be characterized as being ambitious, sociable, outgoing, high energy, talkative and loud-spoken.

If all of your cross-functional team members are extroverts, it could cause conflicts within the team. On the other hand, research has also found that cross functional team members with low levels of extroversion were less likely to perceive themselves as having a distinctive skill or uniqueness. With this in mind, it may be beneficial for all of your team members to hold a moderate level of extroversion to ensure they are aware of the skills they bring to the team whilst also making sure that they are able to cooperate without conflict.

Other important personality traits for cross-functional teams

These Big Five personality factors were initially developed to understand the relationship between personality dimensions and performance on the job making them a useful metric for analyzing your employee performance.

However, the Big Five personality framework isn’t the only model used to identify different personality types. Outside of the Big Five personality model, there are many other personality frameworks which can be used to identify personality traits that are harmonious with team performance and effectiveness. 

If your team consists of highly-motivated individuals with strong communication and listening skills your team will be far more likely to achieve their goals than a team without these traits. Furthermore, engaging team members who are supportive of one another and do not have conflicting personal goals will also be beneficial to your team performance.


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5 Tips to Build Good Teams in Remote Environments

As remote work becomes more and more common, recruiters are faced with the prospect of building teams that might seldom or even never meet each other in person.

Data from Stanford University suggests that 42% of Americans worked from home in 2020 and that number is likely to remain static for some time. Building teams in this environment means paying extra attention to recruitment, team engagement, and how individuals work together, because they won’t have the benefit of face-to-face contact.

These 5 tips to build good teams in remote environments focus on shifting hiring away from looking at individual strengths and towards building a team structure and processes that facilitate team strength.

Start with Team Structure

Remote team structure is essential to creating a solid team with clear goals and responsibilities. While structure is a standard part of team building, it’s more important when you need it to hold the team together.

Structure ensures that everyone works towards a single goal, rather than disparately doing tasks assigned to them from a higher up. Team structure defines how, what, and why a team exists. It should highlight the following.

Mission

Why does the team exist? What is the work the team was made to do? What does team success look like? What does successful work do for the organization? How will the team measure that success in an ongoing way?

Missions should always apply to ongoing work, never to specific projects. E.g., (good) “To develop new features and contribute to the value of the product for the customer” versus (bad), “Building the new invoicing feature in the application”.

Goals

Goals take the mission and break it down into real targets they can work for. Team goals constantly change. In most cases, goals shouldn’t extend out over more than a 6–12-month period.

You can use any goal system you want but S.M.A.R.T. is a popular one. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

In the context of the above-stated mission, that might look like: 

  • Specific – Build the new invoicing feature 
  • Measurable – Satisfy customer requests for invoicing in the tool 
  • Achievable – (The team would have to contribute to this) 
  • Relevant – Building the invoicing feature adds to value for customers because they’ve been requesting it 
  • Time-Bound – Within 6 months 

Roles and Responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities have something of a “chicken and egg” issue, in that you need roles to assign responsibilities, but you need responsibilities to assign roles. If the functions in your team are completely new, you can consider using a pre-built responsibility matrix for the field and tweaking it over time to better suit your needs. If you already have similar roles in the organization, check those to ensure they are relevant and copy them over.

Increasingly, teams are using team responsibilities rather than role responsibilities, so that they can delegate those responsibilities out among themselves. However, it’s still crucial to have a final signoff on items such as quality, direction, etc., so that the team moves forward even if they cannot agree on specifics. The important thing is that you can hand a set of responsibilities to the team and allow them to delegate and remain responsible.

Use a Team Building Matrix

Different personalities can clash a great deal. That’s easy enough to resolve in person, where people have to see each other every day, but much harder in an online environment. Here, communication is often hampered by the fact that text loses the inflection the writer might have intended, leading to more miscommunication.

Building teams around communication means creating a balanced team with different types of team players so that everyone can seamlessly communicate with at least one other person.

DISC is one very popular team building matrix. Here, you use personality assessments to determine how individuals work, communicate, and interact together. DISC then offers recommendations for matching different types of personalities into teams, so that they communicate and work well together.

Why is this important? If one person wants to be left largely alone to do their own thing while someone else is very outgoing and wants to spend work time in calls to ensure ongoing validation, both team members will suffer. If you know how each individual communicates, you could better put person A into their own team with other loners and person B into a team built around quick response times and communication.

Establish a Communication Process

Lack of clear processes around communication can be detrimental to a remote team. This is especially true if your team works in different time zones. It’s crucial to define how work should be completed when it should be completed, how work is carried out, what is good communication, and when communication is allowed.

Most teams already have at least some communication worked into their processes. Remote teams should further work out details like:

  • When are team members allowed to talk to each other?
  • What does delegation and hierarchy look like?
  • What times are teams allowed to message each other?
  • What channels should teams use/not use to talk to each other
  • Are interruptions allowed? Are side conversations? Are chats allowed during calls?
  • How and how often video and voice calls should be used and why
  • How long do team members have to respond to email and chat?
  • What constitutes respectful behavior towards other team members?
  • How should you resolve conflicts?
  • Who makes the final call on each responsibility?
  • What does good communication look like? Is communication training, like emotional intelligence, provided as part of the team?
  • What does documentation look like? How do team members keep other team members informed of progress, tasks, and current responsibilities?

The shorter team communication processes are, the more likely the team will actually use them. Still, it’s important to answer basic questions and create ground rules so that individuals have a structure to work inside of without alienating each other or risking basically working on their own.

Integrate Team Engagement as Part of Work

Maintaining team engagement has remained a top priority for organizations over the last decade. At the same time, it becomes more challenging for remote teams. Individuals who cannot see each other and have fewer mechanisms to collaborate and interact will be less engaged. It’s critical to work engagement in to the work process. This can take many forms.

For example, some organizations leverage a combination of tools to engage teams in their work and with each other:

  • Integrate goalposts and tracking into work, so teams have goals to work towards and to motivate themselves with
  • Directly link work to output and results so that teams understand their work is meaningful
  • Link quality of work to performance bonuses and make bonuses team-based rather than individual-based
  • Use tools like 360-feedback to put individual performance review in the hands of the team
  • Use Agile work methods, so teams have ownership of their own work
  • Use Agile budgeting, rather than “use it or lose it” methods
  • Integrate regular video calls into the work process, so that people frequently see and talk to each other.
  • Offer paid team-building exercises. An hour of paid digital game night a month will go a long way towards ensuring that your teams can have fun together.

Essentially, teams need to have ownership of work, they need to know where they are at in that work, and they need to know how it contributes to goals.

Additionally, it’s beneficial to shift performance review away from individual production and towards team performance as a whole, with mechanisms like 360-feedback to ensure that teams can mention when someone isn’t performing.

Integrate Processes into Tooling

Good processes allow teams to function well without relying on good communication. However, processes have to be visible and usable to be effective.

Here, the most effective thing you can do is to integrate processes into tooling. This might take the form of delineating work processes and communication into Kanban boards. It might also mean using software that integrates into Jira or Slack, so users can share work as part of the tool. If processes aren’t part of daily work, no one will use them.

Remote work complicates team building. At the same time, integrating strong processes, good structure, and building teams around their ability to communicate and work together gets over many of these issues.

If you follow up by ensuring that teams stay motivated with clear goals and team purpose, by linking work to value, and by giving teams ownership of work, there’s no reason why remote teams cannot be every bit as engaged and productive as those in an office together.


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Build Brand Ambassadors: How your team can be your best marketing

It’s no secret that word of mouth marketing is one of the most effective forms of marketing you can come by. Satisfied customers sharing their positive experiences will always be viewed as the most genuine message consumers can receive. It’s for this reason almost exclusively that influencer marketing has taken the world by storm. But what about your team?

When your team is highly engaged, productive, and happy at work, they’re more likely to seek out products and services from your company, but they’re also more likely to tell those positive stories to their friends, family, and professional networks. By shifting your focus to recognize team members as your very own, built-in influencers, you can further grow your business by leveraging your team’s strongest suits.

Your employees are connected to ten times more people than your brand, and companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%. Can you afford not to be focused on engagement?

Perhaps you’ve noticed the new trend of companies referring to employees as “owners.” In 2016, nearly 10,000 companies in the United States of America had become substantially or wholly employee-owned. This switch has been credited with decreasing employee turnover, increasing company growth, and boosting satisfaction among employees.

While it’s not necessary to offer stock options to employees to reap the benefits of ownership mindset, it is up to leaders to create positive change and a culture of empowerment by recognizing, fostering, and nurturing internal brand ambassadors.

What is a brand ambassador?

A brand ambassador is someone who speaks highly of your business. Today, most people associate brand ambassadors with highly paid celebrities acting as the face of a brand. But, brand ambassadors have traditionally been individuals who are hired by companies to help entrench the brand into the community by leveraging already established networks and market the brand through word-of-mouth tactics.

Since we’re not looking to hire someone as a specific brand ambassador, it’s time to identify your potential brand ambassadors.

Who are your internal brand ambassadors?

To identify potential internal brand ambassadors, look for team members who:

  • Ask questions aimed at discovering new ways they could be more effective or helpful
  • Talk about the brand and may engage with internal branding experts or managers to ensure they’re on the right path
  • Share their thoughts and ideas on how the company could improve
  • Think about your company and/or their role even while they’re not at work
  • Arrive at work each day inspired to do their work and share their thoughts
  • Advocate for the organization online such as by sharing content related to your brand initiatives on their personal social networks

Now that you know who to look for, it’s important to understand how to encourage these qualities in your team on a large scale. As you identify the employees already demonstrating their enthusiasm, curiosity, and engagement, it’s important to support them to help them flourish.

Start with proper on-boarding

From the moment you make a new hire, all efforts should be made to welcome your new team member and engage with them – from the time the offer letter is sent to the time s/he walks through the door on their first day.

  • Make a good first impression
  • Make an excited introduction to the team
  • Create a buddy system so new hires have support through the early days
  • Get feedback
  • Ask about their professional goals

Keep your team in the loop

Your employees can only be as engaged as you let them. For this reason, keeping your team close to the action and ensure they’re informed about the business, how it’s doing, and the ways their work ladders up to the strategic priorities and goals of the organization. One of the simplest ways to do this is to clearly communicate your vision.

How employees can be your best marketing

study on employee activism revealed that, on average, 50% of employees share photos and videos on social media about their work, and a third of them do this with no encouragement from their employer. If your employees are already singing your company’s praises, how can you leverage their networks without being heavy-handed?

The answer is pretty simple: Provide them with the tools and resources that make it easier to promote your brand. Create a Brand Bible, if you will, that clearly explains the vision, mission, and history of your organization. Give your team training on the company’s “elevator pitch”. Make brand promotion part of your corporate culture.

Engaged employees are more likely to refer talent to your organization when openings arise, meaning Human Resources gains access to better talent pools with fewer resources spent. Simply leveraging an employee referral program can help you attract – and retain – the best possible talent!

At the end of the day, the effort to support your team will always be worth it

Fifty years ago, the expectation of working at one company until retirement wasn’t unrealistic but in today’s world, the likelihood of spending one’s career with a single company is low. But that doesn’t mean companies should sit back and watch as people come and go.

By engaging your employees and creating opportunities for them to flourish through Brand Ambassador programs, you can extend the longevity of your employee’s careers within your company along with the enjoyment they get from working with you. Although happy customers will always be your greatest brand ambassadors, happy employees will rapidly close that gap.


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How Team Dynamics Change When You Don’t See Each Other Every Day

Organizations have resisted digitization and the move to flex and remote work for years. Many claim the need for personal contact for collaboration and teamwork. IBM is a clear example, with its 2017 reversal of a flex work policy, citing that employees needed to see each other to collaborate effectively. Others have embraced that change and adopted flex work policies as quickly as those options became available. Organizations like Google, Dell, Humana, and Sodexo all offer flex work. Today, most office-based organizations are forced into it in one way or another. Adapting to that change can be challenging, especially as you begin to notice changes in teams and dynamics.

Flex and remote work can be hugely beneficial to many companies. In fact, Dell reports saving over $34 million in costs since implementing flex work in 2014. Flex and remote work have noticeable and measurable benefits for businesses and their employees. People get more free time, spend less time on commute, and are better able to manage their home and work life together. Organizations see happier, more loyal, and often more productive employees. But, what happens to teams when they don’t see each other every day? And how can you work to improve team dynamics when most employees see each other a few times a week at most?

Distance Creates Isolation

Teams shifting away from working together in a single room and towards working from home face severe challenges with isolation. Here, the largest fear is that teams stop collaborating and talking to each other and instead shift to performing top-down tasks handed to them by managers. Without proper communication tooling in place, this is a valid concern. People need to see each other to communicate and collaborate.

If teams are working from home every day of the week, it’s important to establish standardized lines of communication. Most can benefit from tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, with individual channels for teams to share and talk to each other. Others may want to use a less traditional approach with Discord or another voice-chat tool, so teams can join in on group calls and literally talk to each other “across the table” like they would when working normally.

Here, cloud tooling is also essential. Teams working together in the same documents, apps, and cloud folders see what the other is doing, can collaborate, and can engage. That’s a far cry from the lone developer coding in his office by himself used as the common picture of the remote worker.

Personal Differences are Less Important

Teams working together in person are much more likely to experience clashes related to personality and ethos. It’s harder to dislike the person who never shuts up in the morning when you’re getting coffee if he’s not there. This can, to some extent, improve how your teams work together.

At the same time, it becomes more important to ensure that teams have the opportunities to build and foster the trust and interdependency required to create strong teams. Some organizations rely on team building exercises to solve these issues. Others allow time and working together on large projects to foster these relationships. And, if teams are moving to remote work from working together in-office, the problem won’t be building trust but maintaining routines and communication.

Problematic Dynamics Become More Evident

Many teams face major issues relating to team dynamics. Leaders want too much control. Everyone wants top down leadership. Everyone follows group consensus. A few people don’t get along. Fostering good leadership and building balanced teams becomes even more critical when those teams lose the ability to collaborate in person.

Solving these issues may require restructuring your teams into smaller, more balanced units. A team analysis report can help you identify issues and move forward. It’s also important to look at leadership methods and their suitability for transitioning to flex work. Remote leaders need high levels of emotional intelligence, flexibility, and ability to delegate not just tasks, but goals.

Teamwork Relies on Standardized Processes, Not Hierarchy

Remote teams are completely reliant on their ability to adopt standardized processes across the team. Flex and remote work teams cannot rely on top down commands from a single team lead because that person may not be available when work is being completed and therefore becomes a bottleneck.

Instead, it’s critical to introduce processes for communication, collaboration, work creation, and work submission. This might mean shifting work to outcome roadmaps rather than feature roadmaps, introducing agile work methods, and organizing all work in a single tool. You need oversight, accountability, and group collaboration to prevent one person from becoming a bottleneck.

  • Where, how, and when does communication happen?  Designate a tool for communication and set times when it’s okay/not okay to message others.
  • How is work done? Does the entire team have a single process? Are processes integrated into tooling?
  • How do teams collaborate? What measures are in place to ensure people are talking and sharing ideas?
  • How is work kept visible across the team? Is everyone working in the cloud?
  • How are work goals and objectives set? Is responsibility and accountability defined?
  • Who’s responsible for each step of work? Are there bottlenecks? Is some work not assigned?

This normally means delivering training, new tooling, and group introductions to standardized processes when switching to remote work. In one 2017 study by Deloitte, only 47% of remote workers surveyed claimed they’d received any sort of training. Yet, 53% of people who did receive training for remote work suggest they’ve actually improved communication and innovation.

What can you do? Implement training sessions for new tools as a baseline. It’s also important for team leads or managers to implement positive feedback. Data shows that teams given several sessions of positive feedback, where they are asked to discuss positive outcomes of their team, new working conditions, and work completed, show increases in positivity, trust, and collaboration.

Setting up weekly sessions to discuss how remote or flex work went, focusing on praise and positive aspects of doing so, and setting positive goals for the next week can be an important part of establishing and reinforcing flex work as a means of improving work.

Remote Work Can Actually Improve Collaboration and Productivity

While modern office trends have pushed towards working together and large, open, creative spaces, these can actually hurt team collaboration and creativity. One study by Harvard shows that open offices decrease focus, overexpose individuals to the people they’re working with, and create feelings of a need for privacy and the ability to work alone.

Giving people time to themselves, such as when working in a remote or home office, reverses this trend. When people do see each other, either over a video call or in person, they’ll be much less over exposed and much more able to work together.

Dell, following a 6-year experiment with flex work, says that 80% of their employees believe they’re actually more productive when they work from home for some or all of the week.

Eventually, remote work can be beneficial for everyone involved. While it forces organizations to create structure with processes, flex work allows employees to take more control over their personal lives and their work. Remote work does require building teams that work together, follow strict processes, and maintain regular communication. However, it also offers freedom, reduced commute, and better work-life balance for many.


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Nature or Nurture: The Effect of Workplace Culture on Employee Personality Traits

Businesses today understand personality – including soft skills like empathy, attention to detail, and conscientiousness – vastly impact an individual’s performance, productivity, and ability to work well in teams.

Many organizations spend vast sums on assessing those personality traits, organizing them, and utilizing them in recruitment, leadership, and development programs. But, for many, establishing desirable traits is difficult, if not impossible, thanks to the many large variables in how and why people act the way they do.

Soft skills are almost impossible to teach, but they can be encouraged, not just on an individual but on an organization-wide basis. Workplace culture is increasingly seen as one of the most significant factors influencing how people think and behave at work, and for good reason.

Why Workplace Culture?

People do as people do. We don’t quite “follow the herd”, but we certainly imitate the actions and behavior of those who are more successful or likeable than ourselves. This is established through the theory of memetics, established by Darwin. It’s further elicited in theories like conformist bias and prestige bias, which show that humans are more likely to do as others do, and more likely to do as successful, attractive, and well-liked people do.

What does that mean? If you’ve ever been in a grocery store shopping for an item and have the choice of two brands, one of which is almost sold out, one of which is hardly touched, you’ve likely experienced conformist bias in a measurable way. Most of us will go for the more popular option if we’re unfamiliar with one or both options.

And one only has to look at the popularity of using influencers, whether celebrities or Instagrammers, to sell products to understand that prestige bias is very much a thing. While the basis of this lies in the fact that it’s simpler and more efficient to use heuristics to determine that something is likely to be better if it’s either popular or is used by someone who apparently makes good decisions (they’re successful after all), memetics have deep and meaningful implications in the workplace.

  • People are likely to follow the example of leaders, CEO and Leadership buy-in is a must for culture-change initiatives.
  • If everyone is doing something, everyone else will do it too. You can’t “roll-out change” without isolating individuals receiving coaching.
  • Introducing new people into a dominant culture will change the people, not the culture and vice versa.

Microsoft’s Culture Shift

In 2014, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer stepped down and Satya Nadella took his place. This was the first step of one of the most aggressive and effective culture-change missions in a Fortune 500 company. Microsoft (Then a 130,000-person company) was stagnating, no risks were being taken, and in Nadella’s own words, they had become a “Know-it-all” company.

This was, at least in part, because of the leadership style of Steve Ballmer, who punished mistakes and faults harshly and rapidly. No one would take on risk or admit to being wrong (resulting in mistakes and more risk) because they were afraid of loss of stature, privileges, or their job.

Nadella began by taking simple steps to create large, visible changes to how management operated. He famously purchased a copy of “Nonviolent Communication” for every member of senior management. He integrated new rules relating to innovation, required individuals to spend time innovating, and visibly changed performance measures and goals away from perfection. And, in a massive symbolic gesture, recruitment has shifted away from primarily focused on talent, towards soft skills.

Satya Nadella himself spends over a week each year on “Talent Talks” programs, where he sits down to discuss up and coming talent, development opportunities, and potential with the heads of each branch. All of this is part of Nadella’s switch to a “growth mindset” culture, where he hopes that employees will shift to the soft skills needed for innovation, continued growth, and admitting to what they don’t know.

6 years later, that shift is far from complete. Microsoft’s employees claim that culture shifts are incredibly noticeable and growing. People are more open, more able to make mistakes, more able to innovate, and less divided against each other, because people act as teams rather than harshly punished as individuals.

Those shifts have shown marked changes for Microsoft, which had a stock value of $37.82 in March of 2014 when Nadella took office and saw an all-time high stock value of $188.70 on February 10 of 2020. This growth has noticeably been pushed by innovations in cloud services (365, Azure, Intelligent Cloud), many of which would not have been possible without the innovations pushed by Nadella. And, tellingly, Microsoft now employs over 140,000 people.

Setting Up Culture Shift

Creating a culture shift requires a significant investment into training, personal development, or hiring. It requires a massive, organization-wide shift which requires leadership buy-in and a strategy, complete with measurements, transparent goals, and visible gestures for employees.

  • Break employees up into smaller cultures. You don’t want silos, but you do want to be able to influence cultures in a feasible way. Microsoft uses Orgs of about 100-150 people. Spotify uses Tribes.
  • Gain buy-in from leadership, as well as influential people across the organization. An organizational network analysis will help you identify which key people influence their teams and the people around them.
  • Talk to people to truly understand why and how they act. Competency and behavioral management frameworks may be key.
  • Update performance management to encourage the desired skills wanted and needed. Use this to flag high vs poor performers. Eventually, you will have to fire key people to relieve negative pressure on the culture.
  • Consider establishing teams of people with the “right” behaviors. When you onboard new people – hired to reflect desired company culture – you can implement them into spaces that won’t introduce “bad” traits and behaviors.
  • Remain consistent, consider daily measurement and tracking, and implement measures to visually remind employees of desired changes. Microsoft implemented “Growth Mindset” posters across the organization.
  • Ground changes on goals and purpose. Nadella linked this to growth and remaining market viable. Link change to something achievable, measurable, and definable to every employee asked to change.
  • Implement diverse rollouts, with training, team activities, hiring, and other shifts.

Workplace culture will dramatically affect how people think and act. If your organization needs change, tackling that culture is likely the first place to start. Doing so effectively means identifying consistent behaviors across the workplace (this is your culture), looking for root causes, and reacting to that.


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Behavioral approaches to improving net promoter score

Net Promoter Score or NPS has become the gold standard by which companies judge their interactions with customers. NPS was first designed by Fred Reichheld in 2003 and published in an article in the Harvard Business Review. It uses a single question, “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague” with a 1-10 scale. Most importantly, that number gives organizations a simple way to track customer loyalty and behavior.

While the NPS system has come under criticism, it remains true that customers who are willing to recommend your organization to others will grow your business. An NPS score increase of 7% typically tracks to a business growth of 1%. At the same time, initiatives to improve NPS only work if you actually understand what impacts NPS.

In most cases, a high NPS score tracks to high customer satisfaction, quality customer service, accessibility of information, and ease of service or product use. A surprisingly large number of these factors are impacted by internal company culture, or employee behavior. Why? Behavior impacts how people treat employees, how the product or service is created and delivered, and how the organization presents itself.

Encouraging Empathy (EQ)

Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quota, is important in changing how people react and respond to each other. A highly emotionally intelligent person is able to recognize their own and the emotions of others, respond to those emotions, and keep those emotions in mind when making decisions that relate to other people. Encouraging EQ normally means testing for it and then implementing workshops and training to develop EQ where it’s lacking.

For most teams, customer service and customer assistance are the most important for this behavior. However, emotional intelligence improves productivity and collaboration across the organization, which will eventually improve performance and results, which also impact customer satisfaction and NPS.

How much does emotional intelligence impact NPS? Cowry Consulting worked with Aegon B.V. to improve NPS through customer contact center interactions. Cowry identified issues relating to lack of human depth, lack of advisor understanding of how and why customers make decisions.

Cowry implemented training to help assistants understand why people make decisions, rewrote scripts to make them more human, and redesigned how information was presented to ensure it appealed on an emotional level.

Aegon also shifted internal policy to assigning a lifetime contact to a customer, so they always connected with the same person when calling. The result was an over 36-point increase in NPS, with a 68.5% increase in sales conversions.

Build Teams that Work Together

Your teams ultimately impact everything the customer is able to get out of your organization. Building smoothly functional, productive, and collaborative teams is essential to providing a good experience and a good product.

Healthy teams communicate, work together, aren’t afraid of disagreement, let each other be heard, and consistently work to improve. Achieving this can involve a set of behavioral training, matching personalities, and changing policies to allow people to work in efficient and healthy ways. Let’s look at some examples:

Marketing and Sales

Are teams setting the right expectations during lead generation or are they simply generating as many leads as possible? Is marketing following up with sales? Is sales closing with information connected to development? Are customers pushed through the sales process as quickly as possible to raise sales numbers? Most of these problems relate to expectations set around maximum sales and maximum lead generation. They don’t result in happy customers. It’s often a result of:

  • Poor performance and compensation systems (linked to quotas, not behavior and score)
  • Competition
  • Lack of empathy or concern for the customer

Product and Design

Are people focused on how the product or service offers value? Or simply on putting out new features? Is UX a concern? Are problems checked for and removed before they reach the customer? Is quality assurance involved in every stage of the process>

  • Assess how teams are connected to customers
  • Assess how teams are put together and how communication, management, and interpersonal styles line up

Customer Service and Support

Does customer service put the customer first? Are they looking at how and why customers are making decisions? Are hold times long? How does customer service treat customers? Does support make customers happy or just fix issues and move on? What are responses when there’s no clear solution?

  • Create policies that ensure teams have room to make empathetic decisions
  • Train support professionals in communication styles, EQ, and recognizing different types of personalities
  • Implement customer personas to help support professionals learn to recognize different communication styles and needs

You also want to look at how personalities link together in each team, ensure that teams actually collaborate, and that communication styles line up.

Building Internal Motivation and Buy-In

It’s difficult or even impossible to improve Net Promoter Score without encouraging employee buy-in. This broad term encapsulates motivating employees to engage with their work as well as with the customer, because, eventually, they mean the same thing. Teams have to fully engage with their work and believe in what they are doing. While many issues here are operational (management, work processes, lack of communication relating to short and long-term goals), many also relate to behavior.

Here, it’s important to understand employees. Using personality tests, EQ assessments, and behavioral frameworks can help you to map how individuals communicate, how leadership communicates, and how you can best fit that together or improve what you have through training and communication. Healthy teams engage with work, communicate better, and eventually produce better work – resulting in happier customers and a higher Net Promoter Score.

While there are many aspects to improving NPS, behavior and behavior management is important. The more you understand how people work and work together, the more you can ensure internal and external teams behave and collaborate in ways that add value for the customer.


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7 Ways Employers Can Reduce Stress In The Workplace

What are the Effects of Work Stress?

Work-related stress occurs when an employee’s demands at work exceed how much they are able to cope with.

Research shows that 83% of workers in the US suffer from work-related stress. If left untreated, work stress can have serious mental, physical and emotional effects for employees.

The effects of stress include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with workload
  • Feeling depressed
  • Feeling anxious (especially in regards to work)
  • Lacking energy and feeling tired
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains or chest tightness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Drinking alcohol, smoking or other negative coping mechanisms

Workplace stress can also be a burden for your company. Work stress can lead to a drop in productivity and performance, increased employee sick leave or resignation and can end up costing your company a significant amount of money.

As an employer, it is your responsibility to make sure your employees are happy, healthy and stress-free at work. Ensuring your employees are free from stress will have positive benefits for the success of your team and company. This article highlights seven ways employers can reduce stress in the workplace.

7 Ways You Can Reduce Stress In The Workplace

1. Help Employees Manage Their Workload

Juggling lots of tasks, wearing lots of hats and working non-stop can wear down your employees. Your employees need to be able to effectively manage their workload, otherwise they will burnout and suffer from work-related stress.

You can help employees balance their workload by fairly distributing the workload among the team and frequently checking in with your team members to see how they are progressing with their workload. Make sure you offer reasonable work shifts and ensure employees have enough time to rest in between shifts and don’t work too many hours at once.

2. Better Understand Your Team With Employee Assessments

Using employee emotional and personality assessments like the Everything DiSC assessment, you can better understand your employees and how to improve your workplace to suit their needs, personality and learning type.

Employee assessments allow you to learn which communication and management strategies work best for each of your employees. By being able to tailor your management style to the people you are dealing with, you can improve the working relationship and help combat stress in the workplace.

3. Improve Communications At Work

Communication plays a crucial role at work. When employees are able to effectively and positively communicate with their co-workers and managers, it increases performance and reduces work-related stress.

If you don’t already, schedule weekly meetings with your team so you can share ideas, work-wins, updates and feedback. Giving your employees a chance to speak up and be heard can work wonders for employee wellbeing.

Other ways to improve communication at work include encouraging open communication, keeping employees updated about organizational changes, having one-to-one employee reviews and asking your employees for feedback.

Non-verbal communication is always important for managers and employers to master. Your body language can have a huge impact on your employees and co-workers so be sure to communicate with positive, open and approachable body language.

4. Make Wellness a Part of Work Culture

There’s no denying that small changes like exercising more or eating healthily can reduce stress. By introducing various wellness programs into your work culture, you can help resolve stress in the workplace by making your worksite a happy, healthy place to be.

As an employer, you could offer employees a free/discounted gym membership as a work perk or host weekly yoga sessions in the office to help get those endorphins flowing. By hosting weekly yoga or meditation sessions you can encourage employees to embrace mindfulness which, in turn, can help reduce stress.

You can easily promote healthy living habits at work by providing free healthy snacks in the break room and by encouraging employees to take regular breaks, get away from their work station and stretch their legs. A 10-minute break can decrease stress, encourage productivity and improve work performance.

5. Recognise Your Employees Contributions and Successes

When employees feel valued at work, it can reduce their likelihood of work-related stress. Job security can play a huge role in workplace stress. So, it’s important to communicate with your employees that they are a valuable member of the team.

By recognising your employees specific contributions and successes in the workplace, you can improve their morale and make them feel like a valued part of the team. Offer employee incentives for reaching milestones, have an employee recognition board or employee-of-the-month program and congratulate them when they do a good job, no matter how small. Showing employees that you value their contribution will help reduce work stress and increase work morale.

6. Offer Flexi-Time and Remote Working Options

By having control over their work schedule and being able to fit work around other life commitments, remote working and flexi-time can reduce employee stress levels.

We know that remote working doesn’t suit all industries or businesses. However, if your company is capable of offering employees the chance to work remotely, it can really help to boost employee positivity.

Offering flexi-time or remote working options has been proven successful at increasing company morale and profitability. It’s a great way to combat workplace stress and allow your employees to have improved work-life balance.

7. Effectively Resolve Workplace Conflicts

Whether you manage a small close-knit team or a large-scale business, conflict at work is inevitable due to people having different personalities or opinions. Effective employers are able to take workplace conflicts or disagreements into opportunities for growth and development.

Resolving workplace conflict will encourage a supportive, productive workplace and reduce employee stress, absenteeism and future conflict.

You can use employment assessment solutions to understand the causes of workplace conflict and how to effectively implement a conflict management strategy to provide conflicts from escalating and negatively impacting on your organization.

As you can see, there are a number of steps employers can take to help reduce stress in the workplace. It’s important to have a strong, supportive employee network and to offer your employees a comfortable, positive working environment. There are many benefits to reducing stress in the workplace.

To better understand your employees and how you can tailor your work environment to reduce employee stress, talk to us today to learn more about the employee assessment solutions we offer.


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How to look after your employees’ mental health

This is a guest post from Alicia Christine. Alicia is a human resource professional with expertise in employee experience and wellness. She writes for BestTechie and Techie Doodlers, and shares how businesses can be better to maximize their potential of helping better their communities and society as a whole. Find her on LinkedIn.

The discussion about employee wellness and mental health is becoming more and more important all over Asia. In fact, the Department of Labor and Employment in the Philippines issued guidelines for employers on how to ensure good mental health and well-being in the workplace just last February. This is in line with the spread of the occupational phenomenon known as burnout.

The World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. This often results in exhausted workers, reduced productivity, and an increasing apathetic attitude towards one’s job. Now, what do you do if you’ve been noticing the same things with your employees in the workplace?

Don’t fret, you can still turn all of this around. Read on to know more about how to look after your employees’ mental well-being.

Open Up the Discussion on Mental Health in the Workplace

One of the best things you can do to address mental health issues is to provide an environment that is open and receptive to your employees’ struggles. In most cases, employees will never come out and discuss these issues with their employers, as they may be seen as a liability to the company. This will then lead to the problem worsening and negatively affecting both the employee and the company as a whole.

One way you can address this is by opening up the conversation on mental health. This proactive approach to employee wellness will certainly improve the way your workplace handles these issues. A great way to do this would be to educate your managers, team leaders, and supervisors on mental health issues through seminars held by professionals. This way they’ll be able to determine the signs of mental health issues and address them appropriately.

Promote Work-Life Balance

Another thing that’ll go a long way in promoting a healthy workplace is a focus on work-life balance for your employees. The thing we have to remember here is that employees that are physically and mentally healthy tend to work better than those who are not. So while it may seem wise to praise employees that overwork themselves, it may eventually lead to their undoing due to burnout.

So how do you promote work-life balance in the workplace? Well, one thing you can try is a flexible work arrangement. Pain Free Working highlights how flexible work hours allow employees to live more well-rounded lives. They’ll come to work, execute, and then will be free to do whatever they want with their spare time. This will do wonders for their mental health, as they’ll have more time to invest in other things aside from work. In turn, this makes them more productive as they’ll come back to the workplace fresh and recharged making this a true win-win situation.

Bots for Mental Health

Lastly, another way you can push for an overall improvement in your employees’ mental health is through the use of the right technology. Technology has often bridged the gap between society and its needs, and mental health is no exception. Various apps have sprung from the growing mental health crisis that, for the most part, have done an adequate job of curbing the issue.

In the corporate setting, one piece of technology has been surprisingly effective. Fast Company highlights how the use of chatbots make it easier for employees to talk about their issues. This is mainly because the AI is geared towards addressing these issues. Couple this with the fact that the discretion that comes with talking to someone who isn’t a person and you’ll find that you’ve created a safe space for your employees.

Make Use of Assessments

Lastly, one thing that you have to consider when things are going awry is if your employees are in the right roles. While it’s easy to put the blame on the employees or the systems that you’ve put in place, sometimes it’s really just a matter of whether or not something is the right fit. Inc highlights how being in the wrong role often leads to disengaged employees.

One way you can alleviate this problem is through the use of assessment tests. These will give you a good grasp on whether or not someone is in the right role by seeing if their skills and personality are up to par with their current role in your team. Another way to do this would be to just ask your employees whether or not they think their current role is right for them.

If you want to learn more about how to make your workplace one that values mental health and safety, check out this article on 5 Ways to Deal with Workplace Conflict!


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5 Ways to deal with conflict in the workplace

This is a guest post from Jamie Costello. Jamie is a legal assistant based in Manchester, UK. The topics he writes about varies from business law to dispute resolution. He uses his knowledge from education and working alongside internal commercial litigations solicitors within his role to help collate his articles.

Tension in the workplace is not avoidable. Even in the best cultures, the best teams and even in the happiest office, you will find some form of conflict is unavoidable.

And an office conflict can lead to a lot of bad things for your business;

  • Loss of productivity
  • Loss of motivation
  • Absence
  • Reduced teamwork
  • Poorer work quality

So, as a leader in a workplace it is important to deal with conflict in a set way, which can include some of the following tactics.

5 Ways to deal with workplace conflict

1) Timing

Stepping in and dealing with conflict successfully relies on several factors, not least of which is timing. Leave an issue too long and it can fester; becoming almost impossible to resolve. As a leader, your responsibility is to step in at just the right time to avoid any ongoing issues.

Don’t move into the situation, taking sides and backing one claim over the other without hard evidence by any means. But, it is important that you step in and let both sides know you are dealing with the issue. The outcome won’t be clear at this point, but it does showcase that you are dealing with the issue promptly.

2) Establish Boundaries

Conflict can quickly become unmanageable if both parties refuse to a level of civility. Whatever the issue, it is your responsibility as a leader to establish what each party’s boundaries are during the conflict and ensure they are respected.

In most workplaces, complete avoidance is unavoidable/not practical. But you should be able to establish a basic framework to ensure work can still be done even during the conflict.

3) Confront Issues, Don’t Ignore

One of the biggest failures of a leader during workplace conflict is to ignore the fact that it is happening. Burying your head in the sand may make your Monday morning easier, but it will lose you both employees as well.

If you ignore a conflict between your employees their work can deteriorate, tensions can make their working relationship irreparable, and you may ultimately lose them both. And the blame may be laid at your feet to boot. Primarily, for failing to deal with or acknowledge that there was a problem to begin with.

A good leader needs to understand conflict is natural and work to ensure it has no long-lasting effect, not dismiss it entirely.

4) Mediate

One of the easiest ways to ensure you deal with a conflict is to mediate between the two parties. Having an open, frank, discussion of the issue and what went wrong can be incredibly important–and resolve the issue much better than most other methods.

Of course, if an issue has developed so far that people are too angry to talk civilly during mediation it can be a real issue. At this point, you may need to actively consider a way to solve the solution by moving/transferring employees where appropriate.

Or, if a party is actively causing the issue and there is hard evidence, then termination may be appropriate in some cases. The fact of the matter is that you have to attempt the mediate and then solve the issue if it presents itself.

5) Listen

The worst thing you can do as a leader during a conflict is to fail at listening. It teaches those under you that you don’t care, even when in most cases you probably care too much. So it’s important to ensure that at the very least you are proving that you care about the situation and how everyone is handling it in that sense.

Listening is one of the key steps to ensuring that you have the respect and understanding of your staff. So, make sure that you have an ear available for any situation.

Overall Thoughts

Conflict is a normal part of everyday life. We have conflicts as part of every life and it is hard to avoid, even in the workplace. The fact of the matter is that as a leader, you need to effectively manage and understand conflicts in your team.

Listen, manage and resolve the issues. That way, you can keep your team in place, hopefully, without any long-standing issues. And you then can continue to resolve similar issues in the same way.


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