Category Archives: Motivation

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Employee motivation: The keys to improve workplace productivity

Employee motivation is a major component of employee engagement as well as one of the most important metrics for a successful business. Motivation directly impacts individual productivity, whether on a single project, professional development, or even onboarding. 

That’s why many organizations spend millions on employee motivation strategies. Google’s 20% rule is a famous example of that, where employees are expected to spend 20% of their time on their own projects and ideas. This encourages creativity and innovation so the company keeps ideas fresh and employees excited to work.  

The importance of employee motivation

The benefits of motivated employees include increased productivity, reduced business costs, and more. By understanding the reasoning behind employee behaviors and actions, and using those results to motivate them, you can improve business performance. 

According to Gallup, unmotivated employees can cost the U.S. as much as $350 billion in lost productivity each year. Therefore, learning how to motivate your employees is crucial to reducing your business expenses. Motivated employees will also be more engaged, which will result in higher employee retention, productivity, and company sales.

The good news is focusing on employee engagement can reduce employee turnover. When employees are motivated, they’re far less likely to leave their job. They’ll also feel a stronger connection to the company, which can result in them being more productive and successful within their role.

A study by Harvard Business Review revealed factors like role design, organizational identity, career ladders, community, resource planning, and leadership were all more important than compensation. Governing processes and performance reviews built around helping people to improve were also found to contribute to employee productivity.

Knowing the importance of motivation in the workplace, here are some ways you can nurture self-motivated employees:

  • Commitment – People who are motivated to work for the company are committed to it. They enjoy their work and are willing to do their best. That pays off in the long term through the volume and quality of their work. 
  • Employee satisfaction – People who enjoy their work are less likely to quit, more likely to engage in projects and assignments, and more likely to achieve. In turn, that yields reductions in turnover and interpersonal disputes. 
  • Personal investment – Workplace motivation inspires personal motivation, such as furthering their career or expanding their skill set. Whether they take on training and new roles, bring innovative thinking to a meeting with colleagues, or provide fresh ideas and solutions to managers, your employees will contribute in new and interesting ways, offer insight, and bring value to the organization. 
  • Productivity – Motivation inspires people to work well and be productive. Instead of dreading work, they’ll get started right away, saving time and completing assignments within their expected deadlines. 

What impedes employee motivation? 

Motivation killers in the office can lower productivity, employee satisfaction, the quality of your product or service, and your ability to attract top talent. Keep an eye out for the following motivation killers that could hinder your business and talent from achieving peak performance.

Inadequate tools

Give your employees the tools to do their jobs well. This means reliable office equipment, a clean space to work, and access to a restroom and whatever else they need to perform. For example, if you hire a graphic designer, provide image editing software and a computer with plenty of memory.

Poor communication

A lack of clarity about one’s job responsibilities can be a huge motivation killer. Poor communication leads to misunderstandings, oversights, duplicate work, and overall decreased productivity. The ability to communicate effectively is the mark of a good leader and the backbone of a functioning office. Make sure your teams understand their duties and how they keep the company in operation.

A lack of learning and development opportunities

Show your employees you’re as invested in their development as they are in the company’s growth. Motivate employees by offering them a chance to learn how to do their jobs better and further their careers. Since businesses and industries constantly change, it’s also important to train your teams to stay on top of trends, new developments, and discoveries.

A lack of positive reinforcement

Praise is a powerful motivator and a great way to explain to employees what you expect of them. Instead of getting angry when an employee does something wrong, offer praise when they do something right. This not only teaches your workforce about high standards, but also shows them their best efforts are noticed.

Vertical management

Vertical management is a top-to-bottom management style that leaves little to no room for collaboration. Top management makes decisions that their employees have to follow with no say in the matter. This type of leadership style makes it hard for employees to invest themselves in work because their insights and ideas are ignored.


Many people assume the more time you spend at your job, the more work you’ll complete. This belief is incorrect, and in fact, spending more time can reduce productivity, as seen in presenteeism, where employees are physically present but not mentally “there.” Presenteeism occurs due to illness such as a cold or flu, chronic illness, stress, sudden disasters or an emergency, or emotional turmoil like heartbreak. It’s a significant problem that costs U.S. businesses an estimated $150 billion in lost work productivity each year.

Understanding types of workers 

Knowing the difference between a maker and a manager, and where your employees fall on the spectrum, can impact your company’s productivity: It helps determine how they should structure their days, handle meetings, and approach collaboration. 

What is a manager?

A manager is a leader whose responsibilities include project management, organization, and keeping clients happy. They perform most of their work in meetings and through delegation. The biggest concerns of a manager include getting deliverables to clients, making sure the company is profitable (revenue versus costs), and ensuring continued business success.

Best schedule for a manager: Managers can divide their day into segments and still be productive in meetings. Their day isn’t thrown off if they take a break.

What is a maker?

A maker, also known as a technician, is responsible for creating deliverables. They’re writers, designers, developers, and anyone else who creates the products or services your business sells. If you run a PR agency, for example, your makers would be the people who write press releases and land placements.

A maker’s biggest concern is creating quality deliverables within a deadline that meet the client’s expectations.

Best schedule for a maker: A maker needs uninterrupted periods of time to finish their work. Meetings are disruptive to their days, since it breaks up their periods of continuous productivity.

Whereas managers can hop from a meeting to a task and remain productive, makers tend to get into a workflow that should be left undisturbed. If a maker has to attend meetings, try to schedule them on one day of the week, or get them out of the way in the morning. Having a meeting loom may disrupt their creativity and focus.

Workplace productivity best practices

Motivating employees involves creating healthy workplaces where communication, personal comfort, professional development, and growth opportunities are all present. 

However, it’s also a good idea to figure out where your lack of productivity and motivation stems from before implementing new processes. Some things to look into include: 

  • Team structure and personalities within teams
  • Interpersonal conflicts 
  • Management styles across the organization 
  • Emotional intelligence across the organization 
  • Workloads and deadlines (e.g., if your organization is constantly overworked and running from emergency to emergency) 
  • Tool and solution availability 
  • Skills and job role fit 

If you have existing, pressing problems, you should tackle those first. However, the following best practices will also help. 

Invest in good work-life balance 

Encourage employees to maintain balance in their lives. Similarly, eating healthy and exercising is tied to an increase in workplace productivity, getting more sleep helps employees earn more, and meditation promotes divergent thinking. As an HR professional, you’ll need to build a case for wellness in the workplace and demonstrate the ROI of having happy, healthy employees to your executives.

Improve communication

Good communication means having leaders who are emotionally intelligent, able to communicate in different ways, and can establish connections with employees. It also means making people feel heard. For example, implementing emotional intelligence training for leaders and teams can significantly improve communication 

Other tactics like planning stand-up meetings, creating retrospectives where people can honestly share what went well and what didn’t in the previous sprint, or setting aside time during meetings to relax and talk to colleagues can all serve to motivate employees. 

Another important aspect of communication is being able to make friends and connections. For example, one study by O.C. Tanner, a global employee recognition company, showed 72% of people with good friends at work are satisfied with their jobs versus 54% who don’t, and 75% of people with a good friend at work feel they can “take on anything at work” compared to just 58% without that friendship. 

Establishing good communication requires organizations to make time for non-work-related activities, encourage employees to build friendships, and foster social connections. That can look like giving time for employees to have lunch together, taking part in sports and off-site activities together, and providing other bonding opportunities.

Limit meetings

The Harvard Business Review revealed the average office employee has 23 hours of meetings per week – taking up more than half their time. Limiting meetings to the mornings or a few days a week frees up time, reduces frustration, and allows people to focus on critical tasks. If you do experience a communication gap because of too few meetings, you can look at efficient ways to fill it, like working collaboratively in a room rather than having a meeting. 

Recognize achievements and success 

Recognition is one of the most effective motivators for humans.

Even something as simple as saying “good job” on completion of a project can motivate people to continue their work efforts in future assignments. However, you can recognize individual achievement through other means, such as a shoutout in an internal newsletter or an award for exceptional work.

Maintain a positive attitude

Failure is inevitable. While it’s understandable that leaders and managers are under pressure to be successful, it’s important that they keep a cool head when things go wrong. It’s important to maintain a positive and proactive attitude and look for what went wrong and how to resolve it rather than assign blame. If managers fail to remain calm and rational, employees will feel disheartened and unmotivated, focusing on the failure rather than looking forward to success. 

Ensure skills and roles match 

According to a study by Achievers, about 70% of employees feel only an average level of engagement at work. While there are multiple reasons for this, one of the most important is a mismatch between skills and the tasks assigned.

Each person has different strengths, and a good manager should recognize these talents and assign tasks accordingly. Ask people how they feel about their current job, what kinds of tasks they’re most interested in, and what they think they can do best. Proper task assignment will boost employee engagement and have a positive impact on their work.

Tip: Use employee assessment tools to help you match skills and talents to roles before and after hiring.

Give constructive feedback

Both positive and negative feedback are important to employee success. Positive is needed to encourage people to maintain good performance, and negative can be used to learn from mistakes and point out possible improvements.

Feedback should also be clear and actionable. For example, you can say, “Great job with these presentations. I especially liked how well you visualized the data and the way you formulated your arguments.” This shows people their strengths and offers motivation to nurture them.

Tip: Negative feedback is not meant to sound like blame. Point out the specific areas that need improvement and advise on the best ways to fix them or offer help (e.g., training or a course).

Establish transparent communication

Efficient communication between you and your employees is crucial for everyone to be productive. To promote open expression, follow these principles:

  • Always keep in mind the goal of communication is to find the best solution, not to decide who’s right and who’s wrong.
  • Everyone has the right to a voice and deserves to be heard.
  • Even a seemingly crazy idea may turn out to be brilliant. Encourage the free sharing of thoughts.
  • Don’t punish employees for saying something that you personally disagree with.
  • Respect each other and treat people the way you want to be treated.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and teach your employees to do the same.

Follow these guidelines to build trust in your employees, encourage honest communication, and .

Assign tasks at the right time 

Picking the right days and times to get people into projects is a minute but impactful tactic. One study of over 300 Canadian resource managers found Tuesdays are the most productive days of the week. If you want to roll out a new project or have employees come into work on a certain day, look at when people have the most energy in your workplace. Often, Monday is spent answering emails and catching up on meetings, and Tuesday is when the real work happens. 

Understand values

All personnel need to know the company values because they’re what your brand stands for. For example, if you value transparency, your sales department should adopt an open and honest approach to their tactics.

Values tell your team how to act professionally and align the decisions in their role.

Define overall goals

Your company’s “big” goals can be considered your mission statement. These are vital to keep the business defensible, unique, and sustainable. When the entire company knows and strives to hit your company goals, it drives overall success.

Defining goals ensures every action your employees make pushes the company further towards their main goals. It also shows how each team member is vital for reaching those goals, which creates a sense of purpose. As such, it’s crucial to align day-to-day work with those values and goals; if people can’t see how their work contributes to overall objectives, the goals are meaningless. 

Optimize performance management 

Every organization needs some way to track how and when work is completed. However, deadlines and goals need to be reasonable and achievable. Many companies are increasingly turning to OKRs to set ambitious goals that encourage productivity rather than hitting a goal and then stopping. 

Whatever productivity metric your organization uses has to be specific, measurable, and based on real data. It’s helpful to invite employees who’ll have to meet those goals to take part in setting them. That means having teams discuss creating their own milestones, goals, timelines, and assessment of whether the total workload – including time for unexpected but inevitable emergency situations — is realistic and achievable. 

Putting people under too much pressure reduces motivation, but failing to give them a challenge does the same. Here are a few tips to find the right balance:

  • Set deadlines earlier than when work is actually due. If you can do so without creating too much pressure, it increases performance while leaving room for things to be late if necessary.
  • Break large milestones down into plateaus or smaller goals. People will see ongoing productivity and progress, which is incredibly motivating. 
  • Create a culture of establishing deadlines as a tool to manage work, not to control submission dates.

Demonstrate accountability 

Asking people to be accountable for their work means giving them ownership of those processes. That includes setting expectations, communicating responsibilities, and providing a channel to ask for help. It also requires you to let employees work according to their preferences to achieve their best results. Having personal ownership over their work can make people feel: 

  • Valued — Providing expected outcomes and allowing employees to complete assignments as they see fit induces feelings of value in them. In addition, this freedom lets them leverage their expertise and thus produce a better result. For example, Gallup found that employees whose managers involved them in goal setting were 3.6 times more likely to be engaged in their work than other employees.
  • Challenged — Having ownership of a process, task, or role means tackling the ups and downs, planning, strategy, timelines, and technical aspects. That introduces opportunities for employees to challenge themselves and expand their abilities. 
  • Proud — People who hold themselves accountable for their successes and failures feel proud of their accomplishments, and that desire can motivate them to work hard. When they can see how they contribute to the business, their team, and business outcomes, it creates motivation to continue making a difference. 

On the other hand, when things go wrong, there should be consequences and responsibility, such as having to stay and fix an issue, forgo a productivity bonus, etc. 

Make people feel heard 

It’s important to listen to your employees. If someone voices a problem or concern, it should be acknowledged and raised during meetings to look for a solution. If someone communicates in different ways, they should have a means of speaking up and feeling heard. 

Offer communication and emotional intelligence training to employees and especially leadership to foster this type of environment. This can also include celebrating success, highlighting where people did well, and using words and spoken appreciation. 

Invest in the future

Besides a positive workplace, you also have to offer employees stability, security, and future growth opportunities. Integrate resources like internal jobs boards, training programs, professional development plans, coaching, and opportunities for promotion into managerial or senior positions can motivate employees to perform well in their day-to-day tasks and boost their company loyalty. Training, re-training as old skills become obsolete, and promoting development will ensure you keep top talent while unearthing hidden talent you didn’t realize you had. 

For example, Google experienced a dip in productivity in the early days of the 2020 pandemic. The company resolved this issue by implementing coaching, listening to people, and offering avenues to change roles where people were no longer functioning well.

Leverage your resources

Different departments have different resources at their disposal. Each team member should know what those are to keep them well equipped, knowledgeable, and capable of doing their jobs well.

For example, if someone is working on your ads team, they should have ready access to their budgets, software tools, and any consultants your company uses. To ensure employees make the most of what’s available to them, take action such as: 

  • Promoting tools and apps across the workplace
  • Adding external people and consultants to Slack channels
  • Creating a central repository of knowledge
  • Introducing searchable databases 

Create team goals

Team goals and achievable tasks boost productivity by giving individual employees something to work toward. It’s important to set goals at several levels, starting with high-level targets for total performance.

These targets should be based on data, such as productivity you achieved last year or what you have to achieve to reach a minimum viable income. It’s also important to ensure your sales team has the manpower, information, and resources to achieve those targets.

Once you’ve created your goals, you can break them down into smaller, more achievable milestones. However, avoid setting daily requirements, as this can be demotivating if employees regularly fail to complete them.

Instead, set goals around benchmarks and past performance. You may want to introduce weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals that allow teams to make small achievements each day. 

Introduce team-based performance rewards

It’s often a good idea to avoid individual performance rewards because they create income disparities within teams. However, rewarding the team as a whole for achieving goals helps motivate everyone to continue to achieve.

Upgrade technology

Obsolete technology frustrates workers and hinders their productivity. To unleash employee potential and increase productivity, businesses need to adopt modern technology such as virtual collaboration tools like Slack or Teams, which let cross-functional teams connect, collaborate, share files, data, and expertise, all in real time and from anywhere in the world. 

Innovative workplace technology will also put an end to those seemingly endless company email chains. With solutions like Quip, chat is built into documents so your entire team can write, edit, and discuss them in real time. It’s a great example of how advancing your technology helps employees work faster and smarter. 

Through these practices, you’ll encourage motivation in your employees and boost productivity throughout your organization.

How to improve office space to encourage productivity 

Anyone who’s worked in multiple offices throughout their career knows some are more conducive to productivity than others. An employee who performs well in one office may complete significantly less work over the course of a day if their office doesn’t provide the resources they need.

This is important to remember when designing a workspace, whether it’s an all-in-one coworking space or a traditional office setting. You can send employee surveys to better understand what elements the average worker needs in an office to maximize their productivity. The following are some of the more important features commonly cited.

Climate control 

A study by Chron found the ideal temperature in the workplace is between 69.8 and 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That recommendation is backed by OSHA, which has a wider range of regulations. Keeping a cool, comfortable office space enables focus, keeps people comfortable, and impacts alertness and energy. Too warm, and people become lethargic and irritable; too cold, and they’ll be too chilled to focus on work. 

The “two pizza” rule 

Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously created the “two pizza” rule, which states you should never have meetings where two pizzas couldn’t feed everybody in the room. It’s based on the idea that too many people can make meetings less productive. Meetings can sometimes be time-consuming disruptions, so look at your approach to meetings and analyze whether they help or hinder your productivity. Think about who needs to be in attendance and list the objectives at the beginning so everyone is clear about how they contribute to the meeting’s goal.

Introduce a little nature

Having potted plants not only livens up an office, but also provides better air quality and up to a 12% increase in productivity, according to a study from Washington State University. Let plenty of sunlight into the office to help indoor plants thrive, as plants have been shown to boost productivity in busy offices. 

Add a lounge

Provide a space in the office where employees can get work done in an environment other than their desks. Sometimes a change of scenery is needed to inspire new ideas and help employees get away from their daily routines to focus completely on a new project.

Invest in comfort 

Obviously, an employee’s desk should offer enough space for any items they use regularly, like a computer, writing materials, a phone, and files. Just make sure you don’t prioritize functionality so much that you neglect comfort.

It’s also important to focus on the ergonomics of the chairs your staff will be sitting in when planning an office design. Physical comfort can have a major impact on productivity, so it’s important to choose models that keep everyone comfortable.


Providing employees with the tools they need to work is an obvious requirement, but you also need to offer amenities that make the office a more appealing place to be. As previously stated, research shows happy employees are more productive. Offering coffee, tea, and designating areas where people can socialize will help workers feel satisfied on the job.


Make sure the office design isn’t so cramped that cleaning it regularly is a difficult chore, as a messy office will dampen a worker’s mood. Additionally, if you can’t regularly sanitize the office, workers are more likely to be exposed to bacteria and get sick, which greatly reduces company productivity. 

Access to fun

If you’re still deciding where your office should be located, keep in mind that workers also report wanting easy access to restaurants or bars they can visit after work. Being able to unwind and socialize at the end of the day can significantly impact employee satisfaction. If the area also offers abundant parking and easy access to public transportation, even better.

Natural light

A well-lit office makes getting work done easier than in a dim space. However, don’t rely solely on artificial light; install large windows to let in sufficient natural light. In fact, studies indicate that exposure to natural light can boost productivity.

An office space unique to its culture

A physical workspace that’s comfortable and inviting has a lasting effect on employees. A study revealed evidence that elements of office design have a great influence on the productivity and well-being of the people who work there. So, employers now recognize the value of outfitting office spaces with details like warm LED lighting, windows that provide sunlight and views, desks that can be adjusted to sit or stand for comfort, and dedicated mindfulness areas that help employees rejuvenate. 

Build stronger teams 

Many businesses rely on teamwork to succeed, but with an increasing number of companies doing business worldwide, workforces are becoming more diverse. In this new global environment, navigating cultural differences to promote team spirit can be daunting, but it is possible.

Get to know team members as individuals

Team leader’s need to become familiar with their members not just as professionals but as individuals. Getting to know people on an individual level builds connections that move past cultural differences. These bonds create and sustain team spirit by making employees feel valued and appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the team.

There are many ways to foster relationships between team members, such as ‘water cooler’ talk, team-building exercises, and volunteer work. Create opportunities for team members to learn about their coworkers, their cultures, perspectives, and lifestyles to foster a healthy work environment and encourage open-mindedness.

Remove any company culture barriers

Company culture can improve team spirit, but it can also unintentionally lead to discrimination. However, you can build successful multicultural teams without undermining or compromising company culture. One way is to ensure it embraces diversity and establishes norms that include practices from all cultures on the team. The more diverse your staff, the easier it’ll be to build a multicultural team with innovative ideas and strong team spirit.

Keep open communication

Miscommunication is a huge barrier to cross-cultural team spirit. A great way to counteract that is to leverage technology and implement employee self-service software. This software can manage several aspects of the team, including schedules and deadlines, and prevent misunderstandings between team members.

Deal with conflict immediately

Regardless of a team’s cultural makeup, conflict is inevitable, but it can be magnified in multicultural teams. When conflict arises, address it immediately. This ensures small issues don’t spiral out of control. A good team leader needs to understand cultural perspectives and be mindful of them to minimize conflict.

Map personalities

Understanding individual personalities on a team is important for ensuring teams align on communication style, emotional intelligence, work ethic, work method, and social needs. The MBTI, for example, measures 16 basic personality types, each with unique idiosyncrasies. As such, team conflicts may stem from simple issues relating to different methods of communication.

For example, a team lead might communicate using strict, pragmatic instructions to a team made up of mostly creative people who need freedom to work in their own way. This will stifle creativity and lower morale. 

Understanding team member personalities can also help improve performance across the organization. Team composition based on personality is increasingly regarded as important to performance and individual happiness, as a mix of personalities functions better, is more creative, and can collaborate in ways that a silo of similar personalities won’t.

Most team frameworks are based on personality assessments like the MBTI or the Big 5 and will help you see where different people complement or clash with each other.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, emotional quotient, or EQ, is increasingly seen as crucial to how people function together. It’s a measure of how well people recognize their own emotions and those of others, use that information to guide behavior and thoughts, and manage or adjust emotions and thoughts to other people and to achieve goals. 

Measuring EQ with assessments like the EQ-I 2.0 can help you understand how well people communicate, which is an important contributor to productivity and motivation.

People who have low emotional intelligence can come off as rude, impolite, and hurtful, and leaders lacking in it can deeply damage subordinate morale. Like other soft skills though, EQ is a learnable skill, and there are workshops, courses, and books on the market to help teams develop those behaviors.

Ask questions

Sometimes, dysfunctional behavior builds up over time, typically in relation to a few unresolved incidents. What starts as a single toxic person can snowball into a dysfunctional team with poor performance. This type of behavior is difficult to assess without asking questions and seeing how the team works firsthand. Swapping leaders, implementing behavior coaches, and implementing workshops are helpful methods of identifying and addressing negative behavior.

Resolving dysfunctional behavior

It’s difficult to assess a team and immediately recognize their problems. In some cases, they stem from processes and bureaucracy. Other times, it’s simply teams failing to work together or poor leadership. It’s important to be open-minded and unbiased, which may require a third party to conduct the assessments.

Problem — Disagreements are not addressed but are problematic

Team members frequently disagree but feel unable to discuss problems. This can lead to unhealthy interpersonal conflict and dropping morale. This will hurt team collaboration, as individuals won’t ask for help or feedback, won’t utilize the skills or strengths of others, and, in short, won’t be part of the team.

Solution – Review why teams fail to discuss problems and implement solutions to fix those issues. For example, if teams feel they aren’t heard, providing EQ workshops may be a good solution.

Healthy debates should be encouraged, even if encouragement involves creating team-building exercises and working to resolve negative behaviors. Getting over this type of issue may require acknowledging and working on specific instances in personal histories.

Problem – People talk about each other behind their backs

This issue can lead to silos, “cliques,” and “us versus them” mentalities.

Solution – Assess root problems, implement workplace ethics training, and hold workshops on having healthy, up-front discussions where people feel free to share constructive criticism to each other. Feedback should always be given directly to the person, not to anyone else on the team.

Problem – Not everyone contributes

Healthy teams discuss things together. Dysfunctional teams typically rely on one or two people to do all the work. This can stem from people not being heard, the leader feeling like they have the only voice, or people simply not feeling like they can speak up. In a worst-case scenario, people will remain silent or pretend to be on board with ideas they disagree with.

Solution – Introduce team-building exercises such as role-swapping, create mandatory speaking roles for everyone in the team, and have leaders specifically call out individuals to ensure everyone contributes. Discussion and debate lead to productive creativity and collaboration. Teams have to acknowledge that a certain degree of conflict is productive.

Problem – Teams lack direction

Often, this means the communication style doesn’t line up with how projects are discussed and how teams prefer to work. This can result in teams overanalyzing and wasting energy, lacking confidence, or feeling stifled by too much structure.

Solution – Assess how people communicate and work to match leadership, project, and team styles as much as possible. Most organizations have space for every type of leader, so assessing team types and matching leadership to that team is the best way to solve this issue.

Dysfunctional teams are everywhere, but the causes of dysfunction are often multifaceted. It’s important to analyze company culture, including leadership, employee interactions, and individuals to determine potential issues. Then, you can implement the right solutions to create healthy teams.

How to use digital learning to increase employee engagement

Digital learning makes professional development fun and accessible for your workforce. With it, you can improve employee engagement for your organization while growing their skill sets. 

In today’s age, employees value learning and development opportunities. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, an incredible 93% of employees stated they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. 

Developing an ongoing digital learning strategy within your organization can significantly boost employee engagement. Research shows engaged employees are happier, and increased employee engagement can lead to higher attendance, performance, service quality, safety, and employee retention. 

What is remote learning?

Remote learning allows your employees to learn new skills and expand their knowledge using an online platform. This virtual format offers employees the flexibility to learn from the comfort of their home or while in the office at work.

From mobile-based learning to live webinars, digital courses, and virtual educational activities, there’s a wide range of options available to suit your employees’ remote learning styles. The choice and flexibility digital learning provides can work wonders for your employee engagement.

1) Gamify corporate training

Gamification in corporate training isn’t a new concept. Games have an amazing ability to capture people’s attention for a long time. Moreover, video games have been shown to improve cognition, creativity, and sociability. These benefits of gaming can be equally beneficial for the workforce. 

Gamifying online education helps create a more engaging learning experience for your employees. Using gamification methods such as scoreboards can make employees feel a greater sense of ownership and purpose when engaging in tasks. This can also help organizations attract and retain top talent, build a high-performing workforce, and reduce the costs associated with employee turnover.

Large corporations have incorporated gamification into their business model and training processes. McDonald’s, for example, used gamification for till-training exercises. As a result, employees reported having a deeper understanding of the new till system, improved performance, and they felt more engaged. The implementation of this game also resulted in an increase in business performance and average order value.

In a more digital application, Salesforce employed gamification techniques to drive user adoption of their CRM system after customers reported employees were not using the platform as often as desired. This gamified approach, called Trailhead, allowed users to gain badges for achievements, compete with colleagues, and win prizes as they progressed through various stages of the learning process. 

By gamifying the learning and usage of their digital system, Salesforce was able to increase the customer’s total log-in percentage to 84%, and users reported feeling more engaged and empowered.

2) Interactive video content for employee training

As effective as online tasks are, sometimes your training needs live interaction. With 50% of YouTube users in the U.S. admitting to using the platform to learn something new, it’s clear video content can be beneficial for corporate learning. Many organizations have recognized the positive implications of video content usage in business, especially short, engaging, and interactive video formats.

According to Forrester Research, employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than read documents, emails, or articles. So, if you want to encourage your employees to engage with your training program, incorporate video format to make it more interesting.

Videos are versatile and can be used for a variety of business training and development purposes. From introducing new services to employee onboarding, demonstrating how to use a new system, or assisting employee development, video content can be implemented across various employee development initiatives.

Providing employee training via video could help increase employee engagement rates for your organization. A recent study found that 94% of employees enjoyed having at least one event live streamed. Live-streamed video content allows for authentic and impactful communication among employees.

With screen-sharing and recording capabilities, you can save your video training sessions for attendees to refer back to at a later date. Recording your video training will also produce evergreen training materials that you can use for future employee learning programs.

3) Self-directed learning 

Self-directed learning is when the responsibility of learning is transferred from the instructor to the learner. This transfer of responsibility gives the learner, or employee, the opportunity to make the decisions about their learning, allowing them to adjust the program to suit their needs and enjoy greater freedom. This increased autonomy can further increase their interest in and motivation for professional development.

Examples of online self-directed learning in organizations include letting employees set their completion dates for assessments, allowing them to complete online courses in their own time, or having an online training platform where employees can choose the modules that most interest them.

Autonomy is essential for employee engagement: Effectory discovered that 79% of autonomous employees felt more engaged and thus more accountable for their work, and they performed better as a result. Therefore, you can boost employee engagement by giving employees autonomy over their online learning.

Next time you review your employment training initiatives, consider the potential benefits of digital learning. Incorporating online learning into your employee development programs can be a great way to increase employee engagement.

Remote employee motivation

Allowing employees to work from home can increase productivity by up to 47%, if done correctly. At the same time, it’s important to manage people and ensure they receive the support they need to be productive and motivated at home. 

Below are a few tips you can use to encourage remote productivity and motivation:

  • Ensure everyone uses the same technology to communicate (e.g., a dedicated Slack channel)
  • Adopt work management platforms like Asana or Jira 
  • Track productivity by assignments completed, not hours worked
  • Use central data repositories, where everyone names and tags data using the same schemas 
  • Establish communication protocols so managers don’t contact people in other time zones when they won’t be at work 
  • Promote apps and solutions company-wide 
  • Allow employees to bring their own devices and invest in home-office equipment such as a desk, printer, computer, webcam, microphone, and reliable internet connection where necessary 
  • Hold regular employee social events. Asking employees to spend an extra hour on a Zoom call to have fun won’t be much fun. Instead, set aside time during regular meetings to chat and be social 

Hybrid work schedules are becoming the norm. However, it’s not without its growing pains, in particular concerning how to keep your employees engaged and motivated. Without face-to-face contact, it can be difficult to stay focused on work projects, especially if you add pets, housework, children, and a myriad of other distractions into the mix. Now more than ever, a human resource management system is an essential tool to ensure proper workflow and employee happiness.

With the right tools and processes in place, you can keep your employees engaged in their work and feeling like they’re still part of the team no matter where they are. It’s all about creating new rules for a new way of working.

Morning check-ins 

It’s important to start the day off right. Many people who are new to working from home think they can stay in their pajamas and sleep in, rather than sticking to their regular work routine.

By setting up a recurring video conference with your team each morning, every employee will feel the need to get up, get dressed, and get ready for work on time. This helps put people in the right frame of mind to complete a full day’s work and can be an excellent motivator.

They also give your employees daily face-to-face interaction with their colleagues to help maintain connections. It can be lonely working from home, so seeing people (even virtually) each day provides a little pep that can help them make it to the end of the day.

Cloud data storage 

When you’re in an office and need information from someone, it’s a simple case of walking to their desk and asking for it. In a remote setup though, this can be complicated because files need to be requested and then emailed, and this can cause delays. So, it’s important to store information in a cloud-based solution so people can access it whenever they need to.

Your solution also needs to be collaborative. This way, people can work on the same document online and no individual changes will be lost in the process. You can also check version histories to see what changes were made, when, and by whom.

Offer tech help 

Change and adjusting to new situations work best when it starts from the top. As a manager or boss, it’s important to show your employees how you cope with the new work-from-home setup. Make sure you’re always on time and properly prepared for each video conference, especially the morning check-ins. Additionally, if you can show your employees how to set up their home workstations, they’ll have confidence to do the same in their homes.

Encourage your employees to set up a workstation that’s free from distractions. It should be for work only — not close to a TV or where other people in the house go to relax. Keeping those areas separate will help remote workers stay focused on tasks and clearly delineate workspace from homespace.

Do social things 

If you like to do after-work drinks in the office on a Friday evening, stick to it. If the whole team has lunch together on a particular day, keep up the tradition. If you don’t have any traditions, now’s a good time to start.

All of these activities can be done virtually through video conferencing. It won’t be the same, but it still allows people to chat about non-work topics with their colleagues and lets everyone feel a connection to one another.

Keep in mind that if you work in different time zones, drinks should be avoided. And, if they’re keeping someone from logging off and enjoying their weekend, they won’t be as appreciated as you thought. Instead, try to work social things like board games into working hours that fit most everyone’s time zones. 

Check in 

It’s the senior officer’s responsibility to make sure all of their employees feel happy and that their grievances are heard. This is trickier to accomplish remotely because you can’t see people’s faces all day in the office and spot problems before they become larger issues.

Create a roster of your employees and check in with at least one person each day one-on-one. Schedule a video call so you can see their face to forge a stronger connection. By going through a roster, you can make sure no one is left out and take notes on any concerns that crop up so you know who to watch.

Invest in performance motivation 

Increasingly, younger generations are moving away from performance management toward performance motivation. Here, employees solve their own problems, create their own aspirations, and set their own expectations. Finding outcome framing tools is a good first step for this approach. Additionally, host yearly, bi-yearly, or quarterly sessions where teams sit down, discuss goals, purpose, and ambitions, and set sights on where they want to be at the end of the period. This can contribute greatly to employee motivation. 

Similarly, integrating goals into personal development and promotions can be extremely helpful in motivating people to work toward those goals. 

Other tactics HR can integrate performance motivation into everyday work include using impact descriptions — what impact does this role have? What will your impact be? — alongside job descriptions, employing self-evaluations as part of performance management, and leveraging individual development plans for every employee rather than for leadership only. 

Motivation around the holidays 

Maintaining motivation around the holidays can be difficult, even if you have a strong team that loves their work. When people anticipate vacations, it induces lethargy and mental “brain drain” that cause motivation and productivity to drop. However, you can use the below tips to help keep your people on track. 

Reserve the holiday party for the last day of work

Once you have your company celebration, your team will switch to vacation mode. That means you should expect little work to get done after they’ve had the company “end of the year” party. Save it for when it’s truly the end of the year, after all the important tasks are complete.

Offer extra holiday perks

Free coffee in the mornings or holiday-themed snacks in the afternoon can give your employees something to look forward to during the day instead of dreaming about their upcoming vacation plans. Provide even a small surprise for coming into the office to keep employees motivated.

Use positive reinforcement

Remember to thank your employees for their hard work, especially during the holidays. Highlight what they’ve achieved and recognize all employees for their successes. You can do this through an email, physical notes, or stopping by their desks and saying thank you. Positive recognition goes a long way toward keeping motivation up through the end of the year, as it reminds employees you appreciate what they do.


Highly motivated employees are engaged, productive, and invested in their jobs. They want to work, look forward to their roles, take pride in completing tasks, and seek to improve how they work. That pays off through more productivity, a higher quality of work, and increased employee retention. But generating greater motivation is often a balance between enabling employees to work well with training, good tooling, and good management, and building a culture that invests in people, robust processes, and rewarding achievements. 

Often, you can gauge the state of employee motivation by checking if employees: 

  • Contribute ideas and suggestions 
  • Feel confident their feedback and concerns are heard and addressed 
  • Socialize with colleagues and have friends at work
  • Are willing to take responsibility for their work and problems
  • Rate working at the company well and recommend others work there
  • Feel satisfaction upon completing work 
  • Feel rewarded and recognized when they put in extra effort
  • Feel involved and valued 

Good employee motivation starts with refined business processes and effective management. From there, culture fit or culture’s ability to adapt to the person, robust work processes, and open communication will do the rest. 

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How to use competency frameworks for business success

Competency frameworks effectively define the skills, behaviors, and soft skills an employee needs to succeed in a specific role and the organization. These frameworks are some tools your HR can use for people-driven performance management, hiring, and team building. But, with their focus on capabilities, they’re also one of the most important.

Competency is the sum of skills, knowledge, abilities, attributes, experience, personality traits, and motivators. Once your organization maps the competencies a position needs, you can use them to find stronger hires, make more informed development choices, and deliver the necessary training to fill skills gaps in current or future roles. These frameworks integrate into hiring, leadership, performance management, and much more.


What is a competency framework?

A competency framework defines abilities and masteries that contribute to an individual’s ability to do their job well. This framework should exist at both organizational and individual job levels. It should also enable your recruiters to identify people who are a strong fit for specific roles while giving your managers the tools to assess behavior and productivity, set goals, and make organizational decisions.


How do you define a competency?

Competencies are specific behaviors or traits that contribute to a person’s ability to do their job well. Underlying qualities can predict behavior in tasks and skills, such as the ability to analyze situations quickly and perform well under stress. These include characteristics, related knowledge, skills, and attributes, all of which play a role in job performance. For example, competency frameworks typically answer questions like:

  • What are the job’s expected outputs?
  • What behaviors will lead to the expected outputs?
  • What knowledge, skill(s), and ability(ies) will lead to the expected outputs?

A competency framework can be at an organizational level with broad competencies or at a role level with specific competencies.


Organizational competencies

Organizational competencies are core masteries that define what the organization requires of its employees to succeed and how it expects them to accomplish overall goals.

Most companies define 15 to 25 competencies about how they expect their people to act and the common traits everyone needs to flourish.

Common competencies in this include:

  • Agility
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Integrity
  • Customer centricity
  • Strategic perspective
  • Resilience
  • Innovation
  • Teamwork
  • Personal leadership

These traits define a company culture of behavior and mastery that allows employees to meet the organization’s expectations.


Technical and behavioral competencies

Individual competencies are defined on a role level and applied to individuals. They map the skills and behavioral traits necessary to succeed in specific positions. They are technical and behavioral competencies.

Technical competencies are what a person can do, including hard skills and specific know-how. For example, an IT role would need someone with a strong knowledge of system security, specific software or platforms the organization uses, etc.

Behavioral competencies express how an employee performs in their job. For example, the same IT role might need attention to detail, empathy, quick thinking, problem-solving, and excellent memory to perform well in their position. You can also split these into interpersonal competencies.

Defining competencies and how they apply to the role and the organization is crucial to developing a competency model. Ensure that you categorize individual competencies as technical and behavioral and that organizational competencies apply to everyone across the company.


Why use a competency framework

The main benefit of implementing a competency framework in your organization is to improve performance. A framework outlines the skills and behavioral traits an employee needs to excel at their job, making it easier to identify the correct attributes, skills, and behaviors for particular roles.

These things allow you to define what “good” work looks like at every level of the organization and highlight how the company works and how employees can meet the needs of their roles. More importantly, a clear competency framework lays out what your people should be able to do and how to do it.

A good competency framework also enables HR to hire the right person for the job based on core behavior traits, which increases hiring accuracy, reduces job turnover, and boosts performance.

However, creating and integrating competency frameworks can be intimidating, time-consuming, and costly. But the benefits are immense. From recruiting and assessments to performance management and succession planning, competency frameworks play a significant role in the businesses that employ them.


Success defined

Competency frameworks allow you to define success in a role and your organization. Highlight the behaviors necessary to make significant achievements to streamline hiring. Outlining what success looks like in each organizational role and function can improve performance management. In short, you create a map for job expectations, career paths, and metrics by which you can measure, reward, and promote workers.


Improved processes

The outline helps hiring, internal processes, and succession planning become smoother. Any employee-based program is automatically based on the existing framework, assisting you in setting targets, establishing goals, and better defining candidates. It also speeds up processes because you have already set what you need from a candidate each time and got leaders to agree on targets.


Big-picture mindset

Hiring with a competency-first mindset instead of a drive to fill a position or some other sense of urgency means filling your company with highly qualified team members who fit in it. These people will be valuable to you as your organization grows and changes. This results in fewer hiring mistakes and helps you create a team that can see the big picture.


Qualified hires

Competency-based HR pays special attention to the best-fit talents for the job and catalogs their characteristics and behaviors. This leads to more qualified hires because you know the mastery and behaviors proven to do well for a role.


Enjoyable workplace culture

Competency includes workplace professionalism and the ability to remain calm and communicate well. Since you consider attitude, you’ll find yourself working in a team that you interact with joy.


Better problem direction

You’ll also build a team with good problem-solving skills, such as resolving internal conflicts, project issues, and client complaints. Competency-based HR actively searches for candidates with the best problem-solving skills compatible with the challenges your organization commonly faces. This results in better-informed decisions and fewer escalating problems.


Set clear expectations

Using a competency framework allows you to clearly outline employee expectations—which helps improve communication and performance. By defining competencies, you can:

  • ensure training and professional development are target-based and productive, 
  • offer employees a way to measure and improve their competencies while expanding mobility,
  • track employee and competency growth,
  • improve communication between management and the workforce by clarifying job standards and establishing channels for constructive feedback, and
  • set clear expectations for employees while producing a mechanism for recognizing high performers.

Competency frameworks aid in recruiting and correctly managing people to make them stay where they are needed and grow professionally. These frameworks can tie into every aspect of recruitment and performance management, as well as succession and pipeline planning because you have the tools to measure, reward, and improve upon the successes of your best employees.


Pros and cons of competency frameworks

Your reasons for adopting an organizational competency framework can influence the success of your people. For example, it can be easy to underutilize a competency framework or use them as traditional performance management.


The pros of using a competency framework include

  • making it easy to communicate to your employees your performance and behavior expectations,
  • giving you a more convenient and skills-focused appraisal and recruitment,
  • support recruiters in assessing and identifying skills based on performance,
  • allows HR to link specific skills and behaviors to performance over time,
  • establishing more transparent and, therefore, fairer assessments,
  • standardizing processes like leadership and development based on behaviors and competencies,
  • clearly distinguishing between team performance and individual performance, and
  • a stronger understanding of what to look for when hiring, promoting, and training.



Competency frameworks are not fit for every organization. Their cons often relate to poorly developed or poorly utilized frameworks such as

  • they can unfairly focus on past competencies and so have to be assessed and updated regularly to be fair,
  • it can be grueling to understand and use,
  • sometimes training is required to make performance improvements, and
  • they can’t replace performance management, but HR sometimes tries.



Streamline recruitment with a competency framework

Hiring new employees is often a balance between opting for the hard skills and knowledge to perform well in a position and the personality and behavior to fit into an organization. Traditionally, recruiters create a profile of who they’re looking for and match potential candidates against that profile. Unfortunately, this process heavily focuses on technical skill and formal learning, often overlooking competencies such as attitude and behavioral patterns, which can be equally important.

Competencies show not only what an employee can do, but also how well they utilize the resources at their disposal (i.e., tools, skills, knowledge) to complete their jobs. Using a competency framework as part of the recruitment process allows you to streamline this process by identifying those factors to make better hires.


Improve interview accuracy

Competency frameworks allow you to set up a structured interview in which recruiters use standardized, behavior-based questions to determine how candidates handled previous real-life or theoretical situations. That permits you to score talents based on how well they respond rather than using unstructured models.

It also identifies role-based competencies for the position you’re hiring for and improves the accuracy of hires for current and future roles. Creating a competency framework typically affects reviewing existing employees to determine which factors make them successful in a job—including their behavior, decisions, and actions—alongside technical skills and knowledge.


Richer candidate feedback

With competency frameworks, you can create and offer clear, rational responses when refusing candidates. It makes the hiring process smoother by communicating with applicants rather than leaving them in the dark. It also helps recruiters better define what they’re looking for according to candidate characteristics not suited for the position.


Reduced turnover

Hiring candidates whose behavior doesn’t fit a specific role often results in high turnover rates. For example, even an experienced person with the right technical skills for a position may not do well if they hold to tradition and prefer to move slowly even though the role requires a fast-paced, fast-adapting individual. This friction will produce a hostile work environment and inevitably drive the employee away. Identifying the specific behavior competencies that allow candidates to excel in a role can improve job satisfaction and performance.


Lower costs

Looking for specific behavior parameters on top of technical skills and knowledge improves the accuracy and efficiency of candidate selection and reduces total costs. Competency-based recruitment is results-oriented and measurable, allowing you to create a direct return on investment in the recruitment process.


Stronger candidates

Competency frameworks give recruiters a map of what success looks like in a role to match candidates to specific behaviors rather than looking for a generic profile. In turn, it speeds up the recruitment process, improves personality and behavioral matching, and increases the chances of finding a good fit.


What are competency-based human resources?

The core concept of competency-based human resources (HR) is to hire for roles based on the identified role competencies.

When you implement competency-based systems, the employee benefits from a clear blueprint of a role and a definition of success. They receive transparency regarding recruitment, succession planning, expectations, and evaluations. Employers benefit from reduced turnover, high team competence levels, suitable skill matches, and elevated efficiency.

Competency-based human resources

  • structures internal employee mobility,
  • creates a framework for open, honest feedback,
  • clarifies success in a job for employee reviews,
  • provides direction for needed skills,
  • sets goals and benchmarks for professional development, and
  • gives employees the tools they need to initiate and further their competencies.

Combining HR and business planning will allow your company to work comprehensively to achieve your mission and vision. It will align your team with your resources and goals and ensure your personal, team, and departmental strategies work toward the same purpose. It’ll also reveal any gaps you need to fill with additional training or planning.


Competency frameworks and performance management

The competency frameworks model is invaluable for selection, as you can vet candidates based on hard skills, behaviors, and responses to determine if they’re capable of a job. However, it’s also crucial for performance management and end-of-year reviews.

Knowing what makes a role successful, you can more easily judge when and why an existing employee performs well in their role when they outperform, and how to improve their performance.


Managing performance as a culture

Many organizations manage performance at one or two points throughout the year, but not daily. Integrating competency frameworks allows you to determine if individual behavior contributes to a role.

For example, if a person in customer service is routinely short, rude, or uncommunicative—they are not fit for the role and will likely be moved or fired. However, we rarely apply those same behavioral considerations to other positions. A manager must be open, willing to invest in the success of their team over themself, and act as a teacher and leader. If they fail to demonstrate those behaviors, is the manager truly performing well in their role?

A well-designed competency framework will clearly define organizational values, focus on job and career trajectory, assist employees in managing job satisfaction, and encourage personal development.


Competency is not performance

Recognizing that someone is capable and seeing them perform are separate things. A person may have all the required competencies but still perform poorly in a role. So, performance management must be isolated from competency frameworks. Competency relates to performance and can see how people work (and how well).

At the same time, motivation, drive, and commitment play a big part, so a highly competent person may become demotivated and underperform, while a less capable individual may outperform. You can gauge how employees work using competency frameworks, but you still have to judge what they do separately.

Competency-based performance management is a good solution when combined with traditional performance management. Competencies give you more tools to measure how employees work and how they’re contributing. You can look for success according to the metrics you set and measure accordingly. But it’s not the only factor: physical output and production still matter. You need both, and each is complementary to the other.


How to build a competency framework for your organization

A competency framework comprises a matrix that maps behaviors and skills to roles and tasks inside your organization. Building your own requires you to map it to your organization, which takes time and research. Or, you could purchase a competency framework, but you’d want to customize it to your organization’s specific needs and roles.

Defining necessary competencies across your organization allows you to hire and train for those skills, measure them, and determine which other abilities contribute to job success.

Competency frameworks give you the tools to gauge an employee’s ability to perform well in a role based on behavior, personality, and hard skills—allowing you to go beyond what’s on paper to determine how people accomplish their responsibilities. While undeniably valuable, many companies struggle to determine what’s needed and why. And crafting a competency framework can require months or even years of research to get it right, leading many to outsource the work instead.

Outsourcing or creating your competency framework has pros and cons, so you must consider more than costs when deciding which route to take.


Outsourcing competency framework design

Outsourcing the building of a competency framework requires you to connect with an external organization that already has a significant amount of benchmarked data, an established process, and “fill in the blanks” data that they can quickly and easily tailor to your unique organization. Many have industry-specific solutions, which you can update for your organization at a lower cost. You will then get a competency framework you can establish quickly and at minimal expense.

Developing your own competency framework

Many organizations choose to develop competency frameworks internally, either using existing benchmarked data or starting from scratch. This involves considerable internal research mapping competencies to roles, determining objectives, sourcing an organizational and management framework, and ensuring ongoing improvement.

First, you align business, sourcing, and strategy to create an objectives list. Then, you identify competencies, map existing competencies to success across teams and roles, develop a framework for teams and departments to foster collaboration and ensure individuals with specific skill sets and abilities are available where needed, and establish a process for monitoring performance and effectiveness.

Develop internal resources to

  • analyze existing job roles and what makes them productive,
  • interview leaders and workers and compile data,
  • structure how competencies contribute to end goals,
  • define how each competency contributes and why, and
  • choose the best solution for your organization.

Once you successfully handle internal research and analysis, it will be beneficial to build your competency model from the ground up. However, most organizations benefit considerably more by bringing in third-party research and perspective. Outsourcing allows you to adopt studies compiled across your industry, then have them modified to meet your organization’s specific needs. Because that covers the bulk of the work, you can readily identify what applies to your organization, create management and leadership frameworks around it, and adjust as time goes, rather than starting with nothing.


Starting with a standardized framework

Most organizations list the same basic skills or competencies as others. Even if you have heavy customization requirements, buying a standardized framework will likely reduce budget strain considerably. Most competency frameworks include skills frameworks and role mapping. You can also choose a skills-only framework that simply maps skills to roles, giving HR a good idea of what they need and what hiring managers across their industry are looking for.

Once you have a basic framework, it’s important to personalize it by making adjustments to fit your organization’s specific jobs, and to ensure the framework integrates into performance management, hiring, and training. Popular frameworks include SFIAOECD, and IAEA. In most cases, it’s a good idea to go over options with your talent or assessment provider to ensure you have a good fit.


Define where and how competencies are employed

Leaders will use competency frameworks to assess candidates for hiring, managing performance, professional development, and career planning. They must understand this and how those factors affect them and their careers before they begin to use it.

For example, a common misunderstanding is that competency frameworks only come into play during end-of-year reviews. However, a good framework integrates into daily behavior, specific task management, and guiding employees on how they should perform at their job.

Introducing new performance measurement tools will almost always be met with resistance, even from leadership. The most transparent path to success is to ensure everyone involved has the information about what it’s for, how it works, and what it will do. Providing adequate training and information also provides everyone with the opportunity to get on board.


Measure work and performance

Employee assessment and performance management is a crucial role for HR—that impacts business performance, goal achievement, and leadership development. Traditionally, factors such as individual output and performance tie appraisal and employee assessment. However, recent models are replacing simple productivity assessments with more complex ones capable of measuring how an individual’s behavior impacts their team and the productivity of their team or those under them.

Competency frameworks are extremely valuable for these determinations, as they measure soft skills, behavior, and factors such as emotional intelligence. A well-implemented framework can positively impact recruitment, talent management, performance management, and leadership development.

Chances are, your organization already conducts yearly or even quarterly performance reviews. In this case, you collect data to see what everyone’s doing. It’s critical to look at actual production and output and total team performance concerning creativity, collaboration, etc.

If you don’t have a performance review or only collect limited data, you’ll likely have to start by talking to team leads and managers to identify the key and lowest performers in each role.

This step is more consequential if you’re working towards a competency framework, but it is also valuable for skills. A simple DISC performance analysis can help you fill gaps if you don’t have work data on hand.

Most competency frameworks include several layers of competencies, such as core competencies for the organization and then layers of competencies applied to employees in different leadership levels or technical positions. If you want to utilize competencies for employee assessment, whether in hiring or performance management, ensure that role-based competencies are also in place.

This means working with an employee assessment organization to determine which competencies contribute to success in individual roles or teams. Here, you want to look at how individual performance impacts productivity and team productivity and which factors enable success in the role (such as communication, EQ, etc.). And then, map competencies to success inside jobs based on factors such as actual work performance required collaboration level and external communication, and so on.


Measuring core competencies

Managers need a competency framework in place to measure employee effectiveness. It must work at an organizational and an individual role level, identifying knowledge, skills, and behaviors that contribute positively to the organization.

The basis of recording competency data is that managers, their superiors, and other higher positions must record performance during significant incidents, average day-to-day behavior and performance, and total behavior, including positive and negative reactions. Creating role-based competency frameworks thus allows managers to map individual behavior to ideal targets.

In short, this involves:

  • observing how people work and what they do to complete the work,
  • interviewing people with competency assessments to see what competencies top performers are displaying, and
  • using questionnaires and interviews to see what people think contributes to their job.



Observe your employees objectively and without bias so that you only record their specific actions and behaviors. Most competency measurement begins with noting average behavior, then settles on recording behavior during crucial moments, such as during large projects, moments of stress, etc., and then any marked deviations from standard behavior. Providing managers with a template or program to record this data is essential.


Measuring significance

It’s crucial to measure the significance of incidents and behavioral changes. For example, if an employee is performing poorly but has recently been in an accident or lost a loved one, the difference could be due to trauma and not an actual personality shift. You can also map the significance of behavior changes according to the impact that behavior has on output, other parts of the organization, and customers.



By learning the commonplace behavior of individual employees over time, you can benchmark their data to establish standards based on these tendencies. This will allow you to identify over- and underachievers inside the same role, pinpoint personal improvement in individual employees, and mentor and improve others to reach the same standards.

Measuring core competencies allows you to better assess and develop individual performance by defining how work is successfully completed. This, in turn, enables you to recognize, evolve, and reward that behavior, producing a positive loop.


Conduct interviews across your organization

The easiest way to see what people need to perform is to ask them. For most organizations, this means

  1. grouping roles into types,
  2. identifying specific roles across the organization, and
  3. prioritizing roles (where to start and why; some will serve as bases for others, some should be finished sooner for hiring purposes, etc.).

In most cases, the more people you interview for each role, the better your eventual framework will be. Different people see their positions in distinctive lights, explain their roles in various ways, and even take on more aspects of a role than another person.

  • What skills does the person use in their daily work?
  • Which do they use occasionally?
  • How do they rank those skills?
  • How do managers and team leads rank their skills?

You can also sit down with a team to discuss roles, including what they see as the most important aspects and skills for specific positions. Group perspectives can be just as valuable as input from the person in the role because you learn what tasks others rely on that person to do and why.

You also want to look at

  • what skills—if any—do people in those roles think are missing,
  • what skills leadership thinks are missing,
  • if skills are in place to meet changing role requirements (even if those haven’t happened yet),
  • if roles are changing, and if so, how much, and
  • any input the people in those roles have to offer.

Eventually, you’ll end up with a general list of skills for the role, which you can prioritize based on importance. Prioritization allows you to improve hiring for skills because you know what’s necessary and what’s nice to have.


Mapping skills to productivity and performance

Pay attention to people who perform well in performance reviews. It’s also important to interview people who perform unsatisfactorily. Monitoring poor interviewees enable you to map skills based on performance to see if gaps contribute to performance gaps. In many cases, performance gaps are related to stress, mental health, and competencies. You need to take all these factors into account.

  • What skills, or soft skills, are present in high performers that aren’t present in low performers?
  • What skills gaps exist in the organization? Do they affect performance?

Mapping skills to productivity and performance will help you determine which ones are important for the role, which are not, and which actively impede performance when missing.

It’s helpful to look at people who have been with the organization for a long time, who are in roles that have evolved over time and so may not have the skills needed for it. You also want to look at hired people without the necessary skills and learned (or not) those skills while on the job.

This research type will give you a clear picture of what’s impactful for hiring, what you need to teach to improve performance, and what your overall strategy should be.


Assembling your framework

Once you’ve completed your research, put it all together. Often, that involves using a competency framework as a base or a competency management tool. However, it should always include the following steps:

  • group skills into categories such as “manual skills,” “strategy,” “interpersonal,” etc., and use that to prioritize specific skills, 
  • organize prominent skills groups into three to four sub-groups to map sub-groups and broader skills to roles,
  • identify and name competencies logically, and
  • link those named skills to specific roles based on assessments, using broader categories or individual subgroups.


Integrating a leadership competency framework

Excellence in an organization often starts from the top down. If your leaders, including managers, board members, CEO, and other top staff, do not behave in a way that benefits the organization, you can’t expect the rest of the workforce to do so. Leadership competency frameworks allow you to integrate new standards at the top, first integrating and adjusting leadership, then onboarding the workforce.

While leadership competency frameworks should never stand alone or become separate from the overall competency framework, creating competencies for leaders first lets you introduce and streamline the process where it matters most—with the people guiding the rest of your workforce.


Providing training

A leadership competency framework gives leaders a template for their behavior, showing what is effective and what isn’t inside their roles. However, switching to new management styles is rarely a smooth transition. However, providing training and learning opportunities permits everyone to adapt and learn new things. This, in turn, gives those struggling with the new model the chance to recognize where to adapt to keep up.


Define how to use competencies

Recruiters and interviewers should know what questions to ask and what skills and characteristics to look for. They should be able to pick out desirable behaviors on a resume and know what to ask in the interview to prompt candidates to reveal their behaviors.

Management also needs to have the tools to use company competencies. They should know which behaviors foster mastery and high performance and which do not. Rewarding positive behaviors and taking the initiative to offer training and development to those who show promise are also mandatory abilities.


Foster incorporation and engagement

Hiring and evaluating employees based on a competency framework requires adoption and buy-in from every member of the management and recruiting teams. They should understand why you developed the framework and how to use it, as well as how to update it and how they can change it to meet individual circumstances:

  • Link competencies to business objectives
  • Connect competencies to personal growth and success, not just to business performance
  • Establish policies that reward the behavior and competencies you want to see
  • Offer coaching and training where needed
  • Communicate the whole process openly and honestly
  • Ensure managers and employees understand how data is collected and why
  • Create a privacy standard for behavioral evaluation

The biggest challenge with competency-based HR is adoption. However, once the organization accepts the framework, it’ll produce a culture of competence critical to success.


Identify skills gaps

Every organization will experience competency gaps. Here are a few ways to identify them before they become a bigger problem:

  • Conduct a performance review on a team and individual level.
  • Identify behaviors each person should display in their role.
  • Highlight missing competencies, and identify which you can teach and which you cannot.
  • Allocate resources when closing gaps to save costs and time by restructuring or training employees where necessary.

Identifying and closing gaps requires managers to understand the organizational and role competencies and why they matter, so you must get management onboard.


Identifying future gaps

Companies regularly lose highly qualified talents—which can be due to retirement, moving on to new roles, or promotion. Unfortunately, with no steady pool of competent replacements, many of these roles remain vacant for months before new employees fill them—who will then have to learn the organization and its culture before they can be effective.

Gap analysis can predict where skills disruptions will appear based on projected departure, retirement, internal promotion, and unexpected losses.

Once you’ve identified where you’ll likely experience gaps, you can take measures to fill them. This involves identifying critical roles inside your organization that can’t be left empty and are prime candidates for succession planning.


Creating a talent pool

Once you’ve identified behaviors and competencies that contribute to success in critical roles, you can begin to develop a talent pool. This means pinpointing employees with high potential, reviewing their strengths and weaknesses, and working to create strategies so they and others can close those gaps and prepare for their potential new roles.

This pool of employees should receive leadership development, training, and even organization-sponsored education to prepare them to step into higher roles.

To produce a readily available employee pool, most consider

  • behaviors that contribute to success,
  • education level/qualifications,
  • years within the organization, and
  • willingness to learn and develop themselves.

Many companies also benefit from offering a broader employee development program open to everyone in the organization and empowers self-motivated individuals to pursue learning and transition to new roles. This removes some of the need for advanced evaluation and interviewing to qualify candidates for development programs but may cost the organization more overall.

Once you have your talent pool, you can score their competencies based on what you need for future roles. Mentoring programs, developmental assignments, stretch assignments, formal training, and action learning are substantial in development planning.

A competency framework gives HR the behaviors and competencies to look for in candidates. This helps you put together comprehensive training to develop those with desired qualifications and behaviors so that they’re well qualified when a role becomes available. In this way, organizations can ensure employee loyalty, lower total costs, and reduce time lost due to gaps in crucial roles.


Mapping behaviors that contribute to success in new roles

With a competency framework in place, you can identify the factors and behaviors that contribute to success in a role that will soon be empty. This will let you target unlearnable or difficult-to-learn behaviors—such as honesty, creativity, flexibility, problem-solving, people skills, etc.—and then identify candidates inside your organization who already have those skills. But, unlike traditional hand selection and grooming, a competency model allows you to share what success looks like inside a role so that each individual knows what to learn and master to be promoted.


Clearly communicating expectations

Many organizations are ambiguous about what’s expected from competency frameworks simply because they can translate information in many ways. Allowing individuals to interpret competencies according to their situations can be a double-edged sword. Take the time to identify and clarify points of confusion to ensure understanding and adoption. Offer clear examples of good behavior to let leaders know their role expectations.

Using behavioral statements, anecdotes, studies, and even case studies of desirable behavior inside the organizations can be extremely helpful for conveying a point. For example, if you can say, “Remember when X employee did this and achieved Y? What if X employee had done Z instead, a behavior many of you do every day. Would Y have still been achieved?” Additionally:

  • link expected behavior to outcomes and production,
  • make sure leaders understand why competencies exist (what’s the end value?),
  • provide examples relevant to your work culture and environment, and
  • ask leaders to come up with their own instances to ensure understanding.


Developing targeted employee training

Training employees deliver value by building internal resources and capabilities, increasing workforce productivity, and improving employee loyalty to reduce turnover. Training programs can also close gaps, prepare existing employees to change roles, and ready candidates for succession.

Competency frameworks refine this process by identifying goals and target behaviors and which learnable behaviors and skills impact roles. This process is known as capability building, wherein you introduce and manage employee development as part of workforce planning.


Changing focus from activity to efficacy

Traditional employee training and retraining modes rely on activity. However, these models often fail to evaluate learning and development since they lack performance targets and data.

A competency framework identifies the behaviors and actions that contribute to success in a role and allows you to track them against success. This way, you know what skills need to be taught, when training is successful and when it contributes to positive business outcomes.


Targeting learning where it matters

You can also focus learning objectives with competency frameworks by meeting specific learning and development needs rather than introducing a single broad course. For example, you could target particular employee roles for specified training while letting others study something more valuable to their job. Standard competency framework-based training includes:

  • employee development,
  • skills development with systematic exposure to work experiences,
  • orientation and training activities,
  • continuous learning for employees to maintain relevant skills,
  • employing experienced workers in the role of mentor or coach,
  • offering lifestyle development such as stress and time management to improve productivity and behavior,
  • aligning new initiatives with organizational planning to ensure employees are change-ready,
  • breaking down cultural barriers to improve cross-organizational communication, and
  • building training around business applications rather than the classroom.

Target individual training based on current and future competencies desired in specific roles to benefit both the organization and the employee. This could include training an IT team in a new software the organization is integrating before it’s introduced or educating customer service on customer relationship management. As a result, their skills become more relevant, increasing their value and improving the organization’s total output and productivity.


Creating an environment that encourages learning

A competency framework creates a system that can accurately gauge what employees need to learn. It also allows you to measure the success of training and learning, not through employees passing tests but through measurable changes in behaviors that actively contribute to the organization.

This means learning should encompass not just hard skills but also leadership (personal and others), values, attitudes, behaviors, hard skills, and internal systems and processes.

Training based on a competency framework can target goals and desired outcomes for individual roles to bring groups of people where they need to be to meet the organization’s needs. This includes delivering specific skills in a brief time and slowly developing candidates for larger roles over longer periods.


Competency frameworks, employee monitoring, and quality assurance

Competency frameworks are increasingly integrated into organizational performance management to measure what employees do and how they do it. This same data can be integral in fostering a management and quality assurance culture by defining what success looks like. This gives managers the tools to shift focus away from procedure and tradition towards efficiency and meeting quality standards.

While this requires a certain level of competency from leaders, it also allows you to take steps to measure and verify the quality of completed work using information already at your disposal.


Using competency frameworks for monitoring

An organization should develop a competency framework around the skills and knowledge necessary to complete tasks for a role, as well as the behavior and attitudes required to perform well in it. Actual monitoring is typically a three-part process of watching and observing, benchmarking and actively using data and offering feedback. More specifically, this looks like the following procedure:

  • Assign managers to monitor worker behavior consistently over time.
  • Benchmark data to establish performance norms for individuals and roles (you can use this to identify high performers, when performance goes up or down, and target those struggling within the organization).
  • Focus on noting behaviors in significant situations, such as during decision-making, learning, meeting deadlines, or offering real-time feedback and goal-oriented motivation.


Good behavior leads to quality work

The core of any competency framework is to improve productivity or the quality of productivity. While some organizations lose sight of tying competencies to direct outputs like organizational goals, production, or performance, you need to lay out those traits and behaviors that directly contribute to organizational goals, including quality, and tie them together. In your definition, be sure to:

  • tie competencies to performance (otherwise, they won’t help the organization),
  • establish competencies that directly affect quality control (such as asking for help, focusing on producing quality work, being technically skilled, seeking feedback and constructive criticism, being flexible, establishing comprehensible work processes, etc.), and
  • monitor performance output alongside competencies to verify they line up with the quality of produced work.


Create processes to maintain your framework

Once you’ve created your framework, it’s important to establish processes to ensure its ongoing maintenance and validation. Chances are, you hire an external team to handle interviews, craft a framework, and customize results for your organization. This is mostly internally unattainable unless HR suddenly has a lot of free time or you’re willing to bring in freelancers.

Whatever the case, you’ll have to establish an ongoing relationship with those teams to update work as your organization and technology change or implement internal processes to ensure proceeding work maintenance. To determine what you need to do, ask:

  • Who is responsible for maintaining and updating roles and skills?
  • How does HR know when technology used in teams changes? (E.g., if the organization moves from Ruby on Rails to Python, job descriptions have to change with it.)
  • How does HR validate skills? Can skills be mapped to performance during reviews? Can progress be mapped to validate teaching new and existing employees’ skills?
  • Are programs in place to close skills gaps?

Your skills framework will quickly lose value if you lack internal processes to maintain and validate it. Most organizations change fairly rapidly with new tools, roles, and teams regularly introducing change. HR must be able to keep track of it all, update the skills framework as needed, and continue to hire and train for the skills the organization needs.


Implementing feedback

Integrating competency frameworks into employee assessments requires a feedback loop where you can continuously improve the framework, scoring methods, and the test itself over time.


  • Who is handling employee assessment? What are their responsibilities?
  • Are roles and responsibilities in assessments clearly documented?
  • How is assessment data used, who collects it, and who interprets it?
  • Is third-party feedback (such as from a manager or colleagues) included in the competencies assessment? How is this managed?
  • Are employees involved in the process? Can they offer input? Are they fully aware of what’s being tested?
  • Are relationships between competencies and role performance validated by data? Do you have a program in place to continue this validation?

Roles change over time, which means required competencies can change with them. The easiest way to manage this is to create a feedback loop where competencies correlate to performance data, employees can give their input on the competency validity, and the competency assessment quality prevents bias.


Using competency models to make better hires

Making good hiring decisions is a crucial component of HR and one of the reasons competency and behavioral models exist. Hiring managers should look for behaviors that align with the role, core organization values, and desired engagement and productivity.


Cultural match

Every hire has to adapt to your organization’s culture to prevent clashes that produce friction, dissatisfaction, and, ultimately, higher churn.

For example, if a new hire is accustomed to working with a waterfall method and is hired into an agile organization, they may struggle without the structure of direct managerial guidance.

Defining your cultural values and selecting individuals who can fit in quickly and smoothly will increase the satisfaction and productivity of the new hire.


Core values

Core values can be part of your culture but are often a separate entity. For example, if your organization is dedicated to reducing waste and improving efficiency, but your new hire has little regard for sustainable practices, they’ll clash with the organization’s core values and may bottleneck or reduce efficiency for their team.

While some may adapt to new core values, many don’t or take a long time to do so. Core values relate to intrinsic work patterns (such as lean waste management or agile self-sufficiency) and morals and values like eco-friendly practices.


Motivation and career path

Hire the right people for the right reasons. For example, someone stuck in a job they hate and wants out will likely have no real personal motivation or investment in your organization.

It’s essential to seek out the specific motivation for your organization, even if your work is relatively straightforward. For example, a fashion store hiring a clerk may ask why they applied to that store instead of another (unskilled) labor job such as a fast-food chain worker. This kind of questioning unveils their specific motivation.

Understanding that motivation and desired career path increase in importance as you move into roles where career development and succession planning (or organizational growth) are more common. But they’re valuable components for nearly any position because someone without personal motivation for the position is unlikely to perform well or innovate beyond just doing their job.


Pairing personalities with teams

Often, a company makes a great hire and adds them to a team, but they quickly lose motivation and disengage or even leave. Why? The issue is often that the individual doesn’t personally agree with the team, its work methods, or even the team members.

Working with competency models allows you to define the key characteristics and traits required to fit into a team, demonstrated by individuals on the team, so you can hire someone more likely to integrate into the team smoothly. While diversity is valuable and critical in teams, establishing desirable traits helps you avoid pairing people with groups or individuals who may clash with their personalities.

Competency models make defining an ideal fit for a specific role easier by going beyond responsibilities and into personality characteristics and core behaviors. This, in turn, will reduce churn and increase engagement by bringing on new people who show active engagement and interest in the role.


How to put together an A-team with competency frameworks

Your competency framework will enable you to develop a highly competent team capable of adding measurable value and contributing to organizational performance in a meaningful way.


Create the right framework

For effective team building, you must tailor a competency framework to the organization and the job role depending on whether your brand uses organizational competencies, role-level competencies, or both. In either case, the framework must reflect the organization currently and as it moves forward.

This means defining

  • behaviors that contribute to the success of the role in its current and future incarnations,
  • behaviors that contribute to current and projected organizational goals, and
  • hard and soft skills that contribute to success in the current and future environment.

The framework would not be valuable if competencies are irrelevant to the role. Most organizations save time by using a predefined, broad list of competencies. But it is important to customize this to meet specific needs using an outside consultant with internal HR.


Determine how to look for behaviors

Oral interviews, presentations, assignments, and reference checks are the most common methods of settling on competencies. For example, interviews are indispensable since candidate expectations include sharing past work examples and answering behavioral questions.

However, competency frameworks should extend to current employees as well. You need an effective way to assess, maintain, and monitor the competencies of your existing team. By identifying specific behaviors and skills each role needs, you can make the best hire, but also identify gaps in existing employees and plan for training, which will improve the strength and competency of your team.


Use your competency framework

Once you’ve adopted a competency framework, you must incorporate it, educate recruiters and interviewers on it and why they should use it, and implement it straightforwardly.

For example, in the hiring process, creating a list of words and phrases to look out for that exhibit the behaviors you want is a helpful tactic. Similarly, listing qualities you no longer find important, such as having a degree from a prestigious university, can also be conducive.

Incorporating a competency framework enables you to strengthen your current team while ensuring new members display the competencies that let them succeed in their roles. This, in turn, benefits the organization as a whole.


Promoting corporate entrepreneurship with competency frameworks

The world is increasingly dynamic and flexible, with technology changing rapidly. Organizations also have to be just as flexible and fast-paced to keep up. This is evident in the success of edgy entrepreneurial corporations like Uber and Bonobos, who went from nothing to major corporations poised to take on the most traditional organization. Corporate entrepreneurship is the process of promoting internal entrepreneurship so that employees have the freedom and confidence to create efficiencies and new working methods for themselves—therefore improving the organization as a whole.

Competency frameworks allow you to recognize and promote the behavior and freedoms contributing to this behavior.


Identifying and implementing entrepreneurial competencies

Competency frameworks identify specific behaviors that contribute to entrepreneurial thinking. For example, you could highlight where behaviors—like risk-taking, trying new things, adaptability, and creative problem-solving—come together to generate new solutions and ideas.

By highlighting what contributes to a corporate culture of entrepreneurism, you can encourage, reward, and ensure employees have the operational freedom to change how they work. This also requires self-motivation, a willingness to learn, and the ability to adjust and take small steps.


Failing forward

Failing forward is the idea that you have to fail before you can succeed. By allowing employees to fail without severe repercussions, you foment a culture of constant, small failures leading to big successes. For example, allowing teams to try new things, even when they don’t necessarily succeed, allows everyone to take small steps and experiment in a safe space, which reduces risk.

This risk-taking behavior can be immensely beneficial in a controlled environment because developing new work methods, tools, and processes is increasingly important for organizations to keep up with the competition. This requires an increased level of risk-acceptance behavior on an individual level so employees can try new things without risk of reprisal if they fail (provided they get approval first) and look forward to a reward if they succeed.


Measuring success

While many HR tactics have been used to build corporate entrepreneurship, many of those lack a concrete way to measure success. When you allow failure, what does success look like? Competency frameworks let you define the behavior, attitudes, and product that lead to success. How? A person who takes risks and tries new things doesn’t necessarily do so with the benefit of the entire organization in mind.

By identifying the factors that play into success—such as keeping in mind the total impact on the entire organization, focusing on day-to-day work and long-term goals (a person spending all their time optimizing a process isn’t performing their job), and self-improvement, including the ability to accept and give constructive criticism, you can determine what makes this behavior work.

Risk acceptance and encouraging individual contribution are the two primary factors playing into successful corporate entrepreneurship, and competency frameworks give you the tools to encourage, measure, and quantify risk-taking behavior, motivation, self-improvement and development, and the behaviors that add to total employee contributions to the organization.


Using competency frameworks throughout the employee life cycle

Once you implement a competency framework, you can utilize it at nearly every stage of the employee life cycle. That includes competency-based hiring, development, and retention. Understanding employee competencies gives you better insight into where an employee fits and works best. It also reveals how much each employee has grown or changed since entering your organization so that you know which employees invest in personal growth and development and which don’t.

That insight into talent life cycle management can prove invaluable. But it starts with managing competencies, utilizing ongoing assessments, and offering development opportunities.


Perform regular competency assessments

Integrating competency assessments into the yearly performance review can be a great way to ensure that competency profiles stay updated. Here, you’ll likely want to use a combination of skills assessment, 360-review, and leadership review. Assessments and personality assessments can help by getting actual input from the people others work with is critical.


Map competencies to development programs

Mindfully employing competency frameworks can pinpoint and close skills gaps. It’s also invaluable for identifying people with competencies suitable for leadership roles who to upskill if necessary. Aligning development with competencies also allows you to measure outcomes from development through regular competency assessments.


Map leadership to competency

Once you’ve defined competencies for roles, including leadership, you can establish clear developmental goals for people who want to move into higher positions. Having a transparent map of required behaviors and skills for growth offers clarity and motivation for people to work towards where they want to be.


Wrapping up: Use competency frameworks to elevate your business

Although a relatively simple concept, competency frameworks map the skills and behaviors your organization needs. They can also improve many aspects of hiring, development, leadership, and long-term role management. At the same time, you must integrate these frameworks into the organization, introduce them to employees, and work them into business outcomes. It’s not enough to develop one; implement it, ensure its adoption, and continuously update it as roles and their associated skills change.

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A Guide to Building a Career During Tough Times

This is a guest post from Michael Deane. Michael has been working in marketing for almost a decade and has worked with a huge range of clients, which has made him knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has recently rediscovered a passion for writing and hopes to make it a daily habit. You can read more of Michael’s work at Qeedle.

The Coronavirus pandemic has flipped our world upside down. In just a couple of weeks, people around the planet have faced social isolation, illness, and even death. The economy took a hit too, and many businesses are struggling to stay afloat.

The changes are taking place fast and hard. Therefore, it is completely natural to feel anxious and scared as you’re watching your career dreams, hopes, and plans coming to a halt.

How does one go about building their career during these tough times? Don’t worry – the following tips should help you get back on the track.

Secure Your Current Job

Network with your coworkers beyond work-related social services. To protect yourself against layoffs and stay visible at work, build strong internal relationships.

Give yourself an edge by investigating your current employer and understanding key company issues. By doing this, you will have a realistic overview of the situation. You may even find opportunities that will help you secure your job, such as key projects that you can support.

Furthermore, try to become a high-potential employee by showing your interest in different things and demonstrating your learning agility.

Providing additional value to the company is something that can make you indispensable.

Network, Network, Network

Networking means connections and opportunities.

Meeting new people allows you to use their skills to your advantage. You will, however, have to give something in return – your money, your knowledge. People with successful careers network a lot. Their goal is to create profitable, long-lasting relationships.

Use the downtime created by the pandemic to reach out to teachers, mentors, college friends, as well as current and previous colleagues. Ask them how they’re holding up during these challenging times, share your situation, and try to help them in any way you can.

Having a web of connections will help you find lots of career choices and opportunities along the way.

Investigate New Industries

Was your industry hit particularly hard by the pandemic? If it was, recovery may take a long time. Consider switching to another industry. Those that grew during the chaos are obviously the best choice.

Start your research by identifying a couple of target companies. Read through their websites. Your ultimate goal should be to learn as much as possible about a particular company. Study their growth plans, financial stability, as well as products and customers.

Thorough research will be of great assistance when it comes to interviews.

Map Your Skills

Besides researching different fields, think about jobs outside your current scope. Jot down the skills you’re using in your current role.

For example public speaking, design, writing, programming, sales, reception, system administration, project management, data analysis, and others.

Once you’ve completed the list, find jobs that overlap with the skills you wrote down. Are excel skills only a small part of your job? Consider moving to a position where they’re more important, such as analyst of Big Data for a marketing company.

Add Remote-Friendly Keywords to Your Resumé

As you already know, telecommuting is at an increase. Many managers expect workers to show that they’re capable of remote working. Therefore, it’s vital to show your experience and aptitude at it.

In your LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and resumé, make sure to mention document-sharing tools you’re familiar with. Moreover, cite your familiarity with video technologies you have used.

Mentioning how you worked remotely is just as important. For example: “I was a leader of a remote team consisting of 10 workers spread across multiple time zones.” 

If you have any relevant soft skills, such as written communication or time management, highlight them too. These will demonstrate that you’re more than capable of being productive as a remote worker.

Brand Yourself

These days, it seems like nothing is as important as branding. Big-name companies spend tons of money to make themselves look like the market’s “big dogs”. Branding creates your image in the marketplace – it’s an ancient business strategy that still works.

To build your career during these challenging times, brand your name and services. Start doing this by creating a social media profile, a blog, or simply by offering awesome services.

Raise Your Standards

Finally, keep in mind that there’s one factor that separates the successful from the non-successful. It’s your standards – they are responsible for how you behave, believe, and think.

In case your standards are high, you will never be pleased with less than you can achieve. Individuals with high standards are typically more successful.

Take a moment to reflect upon your values. Give your best to improve them. By being the best version of yourself, you’ll succeed in building your career even in these trying times.

Building a successful career requires patience, effort, and time even in the best of circumstances. The tips listed above should help you make the best out of the current situation.

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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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When to Let Go of Poor Performers in the Workplace

Performance reviews have long been under-fire for practices of ranking individuals into top, middle, and bottom tiers. However, these tiers or other setups showing individuals who consistently perform under set standards can help your organization to improve and succeed. Traditionally, individuals who consistently underperform are simply let go, as they are either fired or do not receive contract renewal.

Modern HR practices typically require a much more human-friendly approach, where you should offer opportunities and tools to improve. Understanding these tools and approaches will help you to understand both how to improve performance and when to give up and let go of someone who simply is not responding to efforts.

Poor Response to Coaching

Coaching and mentoring can greatly improve performance for many. Here, leaders can simply step in to determine what’s gone wrong and why. This may result in the individual being moved to a more suitable team. It may result in their roles changing. It may result in them being pushed into personal development or training to improve specific factors.

Poor performance can result from myriad factors such as stress, poor home-life conditions, poor work-life balance, overwork, a bad manager, a poor fit with team, lack of crucial knowledge or skills, lack of motivation, and other factors. Coaching can help with any of these.

No matter what direction coaching takes, it’s important to monitor results. If someone fails immediately, it may be the fault of the coach. However, if the coach is good, there is a certain point when further investment is likely futile or no longer a good investment. Here, you should set a budget based on the cost of hiring and onboarding a replacement to the same or a higher level of performance and work within that.

No Interest in Development

Individuals who do not respond to or show interest in personal development cannot improve or change. This is important because most remediation efforts for poor performance eventually result in development. Individuals who lack skills for their current role have to be trained. Persons in a role that is changing outside of their ability to perform have to be trained. Individuals who can’t communicate well have to be trained as well.

If someone is not interested in learning and improving themselves, they cannot increase or improve performance. You can typically gauge this before development begins but should do so as it proceeds as well.

Lack of Personal Motivation

Personal motivation is the key to self-improvement and it is one (hard to measure) factor that will make or break the success of any initiative. Without motivation, an individual cannot respond to coaching, cannot push themselves through development, and will not be able to engage with or become passionate about work. You can take on several strategies to boost motivation through empowerment, stress reduction, training, and offering opportunities, but it is up to the individual to respond.

Like with coaching, motivation training should stop at a certain point when it becomes clear that the cost of doing so will exceed the cost of replacing the individual altogether.

Most people will train, develop themselves, and strive to do better when given the opportunity to do so in an understanding environment. People respond well to coaching, are able to make changes to their schedules and work methods and can learn new skills to improve performance. On the rare occasion that individuals do not respond to these methods or the cost of delivering them far outstrips the cost of hiring a new employee, you should let poor performers go.

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How to Follow Up on HR Assessments and Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are a crucial element of most company cultures. At the same time, HR assessments and performance reviews are in the middle of a massive overhaul. Most organizations recognize that old-school performance reviews are more harmful than helpful and many offer little value, only demotivation.

While some of this demotivation surrounds the natural process of being tested and the possibility of being found wanting, most of it relates to what is tested, how, and why. Most organizations don’t have processes in place to actually use performance reviews for positive improvement. At the same time, these processes both add to the value of performance reviews and reduce the negative reactions surrounding them, because employees at every level get something back from their participation.

So here are a few ways to bridge the gap, and follow up on HR assessment discoveries and performance reviews (both good and bad).

Recognize Performance

“Old-school” performance appraisals force HR to categorize a certain percentage of employees into top/middle/bottom categories, with some offering more room for nuance. At the same time, it’s important to step back, look at performance holistically, and recognize where individuals have succeeded and have improved. Doing so will allow you to acknowledge individuals and offer positive feedback.

Understand Failure and Its Reasons

Most people don’t underperform for no reason at all. If individuals are performing poorly, it’s crucial to step back, look at their team, their role, their personality, and, when possible, family and personal life. Here, poor performance often relates to factors such as:

  • Poor role/team fit
  • Poor culture fit
  • High levels of personal or work-related stress
  • Poor management / aggressive management
  • High or low levels of responsibility (boredom/overwork)
  • Poor skill fit (under/over-qualified for a role)
  • Personal disagreements/conflict inside the team or with management
  • Lack of personal motivation

Each of these factors can take an otherwise highly effective and high-performing individual and dramatically reduce their performance. This will result in flagging performance, flagging quality, and changes to the individual’s personality and disposition. If you can identify a reason behind poor performance, especially when it extends to a team or group of people, you can work to improve that performance by correcting the problem.

Improving Role Fit

Some individuals do not fit into certain types of teams, management styles may not fit their work styles, or there may be an excessive amount of interpersonal conflict inside a team. Here, issues may stem from problems such as the individual is over/under-qualified for their role, the individual doesn’t get along with others in the team, or so on. Solving this issue can be complex, but typically relates to moving someone into a better fit, working to improve management styles for that team, or otherwise changing facets of the role or team to improve.

While your actions here can impact just the individual or the team as a whole, those decisions must depend on the performance and behavior of the rest of the team.

Offer Development

Many people struggle to adapt to change, new leadership styles, new tooling, new role responsibilities, and so on. Others are over-qualified for their role but don’t have the necessary skills or behaviors to move up. Recognizing this gives you the opportunity to offer development, so that anyone who is struggling in their role can learn the necessary skills to excel or to move on.

While these types of development initiatives can be costly and require that you conduct behavioral assessments and understand job profiles and individual teams, they will pay off in terms of improved performance, improved motivation, and a happier workforce.

Poor performance in the workplace is rarely as simple as employees who don’t care about their jobs, but it can be. If that is the case, your reaction to a poor performance review should be to increase motivation. In some cases, individuals will show no improvement and should eventually be let go or cut from a team, but the cases where they cannot improve and likely excel in a role where they struggled before is rare. Acting on these motivations and taking steps to improve role and culture fit for an individual will improve performance.

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