There’s a handwritten sign on the door of the fast-food restaurant that shares a message with entering customers: “Short staffed! Please be kind to those who showed up today.”

If you’ve seen that image circulating on social media recently, you already have some understanding of the dilemma many managers are currently facing. The amount of work that needs to get done hasn’t changed, but on some days a manager’s team of 10 may actually be a team of seven, five, or even less. This is something we have seen happen during the last recession.

It’s easy to turn to those who are working and expect them to pick up the slack, but this approach is now more likely to backfire than succeed. The pandemic has led to a new kind of working culture and employee expectations surrounding work performance, compassion, loyalty, and trust in the workplace.  

What changed?
The pandemic created a unique confluence of factors that led many mid-career employees to reevaluate their priorities. Confronted with the feeling that their literal lives were on the line, many people started questioning their loyalty to work. The short, precious nature of humanity decreased their tolerance for burnout, and remote work gave many people a sense of what’s possible with more ownership of their time, like being more present with family or using a side hustle to pad their savings. During this time many new and younger workers sought entrepreneurial opportunities or joined the creator economy, starting their careers by working for themselves and failing to “buy in” to traditional workplace culture.  

This shift is reflected in another social media trend garnering notice in recent weeks: the concept of “quiet quitting.” Except it’s not actually quitting at all, but a term coined to represent employees coasting by on the bare minimum, refusing to put forth any effort beyond what’s absolutely required.  

Now, with employee loyalty and trust deeply eroded and leaders facing unprecedented demand for compassion, managers are stuck in the middle. It falls to you to provide the balance between leaders whose primary motivator is the company’s success (in the eyes of stakeholders like board members and shareholders) and employees whose primary motivator is, increasingly, their own wellbeing.  

How to Improve Work Performance
The good news is that managers can adopt compassionate tactics that rebuild positive relationships with employees while also creating a culture of high work performance. Being compassionate doesn’t mean you can’t hold boundaries; it means there are clear expectations and open conversations that take place within a result-oriented work environment. 

  1. Make learning and demonstrating compassionate tactics a priority.
    Building a compassionate work environment that will improve work performance requires ongoing education and trial and error. “Build in public” and let employees know you’re specifically working on better understanding how to compassionately meet their needs. 
  2. Don’t make assumptions about what matters to your team.
    As a part of that learning, make an effort to have individual conversations and collect assessable data about what actually matters to your team. Don’t just assume you know what compassion means to them, or you could end up making unilateral moves that are a sacrifice on your part and don’t even make your employees feel seen and heard in the right way. 
  3. Collaborate with individuals to create solutions that work for everyone.
    When you have an employee in a difficult situation, the best way to offer a compassionate response that drives their best work performance is to create a solution together. Rather than pushing a basic work performance plan, sit down and really talk to that person. Understand what their needs are, present the needs you have to ask of them, and figure out the way forward together. 
  4. Acknowledge your own humanity, and you will foster honesty and transparency in return.
    If you don’t know the answer, or aren’t sure of the best way to handle a situation, be open about  that rather than pretending or blustering. Revealing your humanity to your employees in appropriate ways builds an environment where they feel like they can be transparent in return. And if an employee tells you something difficult or lets you know about a personal hardship, ensure you offer a compassionate response that makes them feel rewarded for being open with you rather than keeping things secretive.

Becoming a more compassionate leader requires managers to strike a cautious balance between care for the employee as a person and commitment to institutional goals. While driving high work performance may be challenging, it is possible with the right training and approach, and worth it for the rippling benefits it brings to leaders, employees, and companies alike.

There’s been a lot of hype about Gen Z. As they join the world of work, they are questioning existing norms and resetting expectations. What does this mean for the future of work?

Even if we may not always want to admit it, each generation has different priorities and expectations that feel disruptive to prior generations. This disruption has the potential to make us all better. Instead of criticizing each new generation, we can ask ourselves how to leverage and how to learn from them.

Let’s first look at what is top of mind for Gen Zs when it comes to their career:

  • They lean on values when making career decisions: 49% of Gen Zs are guided by their personal ethics when choosing the work they want to do and the companies they want to work for.
  • Wellbeing needs to be the norm, not a perk: Nearly half of the young adults have experienced a decline in their mental health during the pandemic, impacting their ability to interact and relate with others. 66% of Gen Zs want a culture that considers mental health and wellness. 
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) are front and centre: Gen Zs are the most diverse generation yet: 48% of Gen Zs are non-white and 1 in 5 Gen Z adult identifies as part of the LGBTQI+ community in the US.
  • Career development is a priority: 76% of Gen Zs believe that learning is key for a successful career and is one of the top two reasons they would choose to stay with their current company.

How can companies build a positive work environment that supports the needs and expectations of their young talent?

Set your new hires up for success: According to Gallup’s onboarding report, employees who have a positive onboarding experience are 2.6x more likely to feel satisfied with their workplace and to stay. One way to effectively onboard your Gen Zs is by connecting them to a buddy, coach and/or mentor during their first year. This helps new employees integrate into the culture of the company. 

Provide engaging learning & development opportunities: Gen Zs are in the early stages of their careers and are eager to learn. 43% of Gen Zs prefer a self-directed and independent approach to learning. They want something that supports them based on their personal situation and goals. Providing personalized development resources has a higher impact. 

Find ways to connect: With many having to work from home during the pandemic as they were starting their career, it is not surprising that this generation is feeling disconnected. Working remotely can limit opportunities for team bonding and professional development. To mitigate that, you can organize networking events that allow Gen Zs to build their professional network. 

Take a bottom-up approach to culture: 32% of Gen Zs complain that decisions are top-down and companies often fail to act on feedback. Gen Zs want workplaces to be inclusive and want to have more agency in shaping culture. To be more inclusive and drive a sense of belonging, listen to your employees across all levels, and take steps to act on their feedback. 

Support their wellbeing: Fostering wellbeing at work goes beyond one-off initiatives, programs or policies. Companies should provide support that helps their people bring their healthiest self at work. This could mean having flexible working policies, which 77% of Gen Zs prefer.

Gen Zs are paving the way for change. They want to do work that is meaningful, at a company that makes a difference and provides them with a positive environment where they can thrive. By being empathetic to their needs and priorities, companies stand to benefit from Gen Zs’ fresh perspective and new and innovative ways of working.

Many companies today are implementing initiatives to build a culture of inclusion but progress has been slow. Data from a BCG study shows that current inclusive team culture initiatives benefit only about 25% of underrepresented employees.

This poses a big challenge for companies because:
Employee expectations around an inclusive culture at work are increasing. Millennials and Gen Z, who make up the majority of today’s workforce, want their leaders to embrace their diverse needs and identities. If companies want to hire and retain talent, they need to do more to build and sustain inclusive cultures.

There is a heavy cost to employees feeling like they don’t fit in. According to a Mckinsey report 51% of employees cite lack of belonging as a reason for quitting their jobs. This increases your costs since replacing an employee is 1.5 to 2 times their annual salary.

Having policies on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is not enough to shift culture. It is each employee’s everyday actions that drive inclusion and belonging. Accountability at all levels, not just the top, is vital in driving change and contributing to the success of DE&I initiatives.

Here are some ways we can all take ownership and help build a culture of inclusion and belonging:

Senior Leaders:
When senior leaders show their authentic commitment towards DE&I, they set a positive example for everyone to also do their part. A study showed that teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report high performance, 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions, and 29% more likely to work collaboratively. A few things you, as a senior leader, can do to champion DE&I:

Set the tone: Demonstrate your commitment both through words and actions. Transparently communicate your vision for building a culture of inclusion, what you will be doing to support it and the outcomes you want to achieve.

Leverage Data: Metrics are key. Collect feedback across the company and analyze the data to evaluate where you currently stand with DE&I. This will also help you identify and set the right goals, drive accountability and consistently measure progress.

Check for bias: Inclusive leaders acknowledge that unconscious biases can come up in everyday interactions and can impact decisions like hiring and promotions. This might keep certain people from advancing through the ranks, and the company misses out on leveraging the potential of all employees. One way you can take action to mitigate bias is by setting objective criteria to evaluate people for hiring and promotion decisions.

Managers:
Managers have a strong influence on their team’s day-to-day experiences at work. They play a critical role in implementing large scale cultural changes, including DE&I initiatives. Research shows that creating psychological safety is key to unlocking the benefits of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It also helps build an inclusive environment that drives a sense of belonging. A few ways you, as a manager, can do this:

Model openness and vulnerability: Be open about your own challenges and failures and encourage candid conversations from team members. This inspires trust and members feel safe opening up about their experiences and needs.

Value every voice: Ensure meetings and informal discussions are inclusive, where everyone has the opportunity to participate. This helps you unleash everyone’s creativity and benefit from diverse perspectives.

Check-in to prevent check-outs: Every team member wants to feel seen and heard. Conduct regular one-on-one check-ins and employ a coaching style of management to more effectively support your team.

Colleagues:
Colleagues play an important role in building a culture of inclusion and belonging at work. One way you can be an inclusive colleague is by showing up as an ally. People with at least one ally at work are twice as likely to feel satisfied with their job and feel like they belong. A few ways you can do this:

Identify your privilege: Being an ally requires acknowledging the advantages, opportunities and power you automatically have, that others may have been denied. This is important as it helps you understand how you can use your privilege to advocate for and support your colleagues with lesser visibility.

Learn: Take time to educate yourself about your colleagues’ experiences by observing and truly listening. This will help you understand and be attuned to your colleagues’ unique experiences and perspectives.

Amplify: Openly acknowledge accomplishments made by your colleagues. Amplify ideas and solutions that your colleagues present during discussions, especially those who may not speak up very often – “Sarah had an interesting idea…”. This ensures that perspectives are not only shaped by a few people and everyone’s views are taken into account.

When employees don’t feel included, they leave their authentic selves at the door. This stifles engagement, productivity and innovation. To build and sustain a culture of inclusion, employees at all levels need to take ownership and be part of the solution.

Employee disengagement and turnover cost US companies US$1.35 trillion last year.

Employee disengagement and turnover cost US companies US$1.35 trillion last year. To address this, last year, companies spent US$ 357.7 billion globally and US$167 billion in the US alone because professional learning & development is the number one way to engage and retain employees. Companies also invest in wellbeing initiatives that have an important but limited impact on performance and employee engagement. Given the scale of the problem, it is obvious that companies do not spend enough to enhance their employee experience and/or do not spend it well.

The key challenges with the current learning and development programs offered are that 1) they are not used, and 2) they fail to have the desired impact on employee engagement and retention. Most of a learning and development budget goes into training programs. With traditional training programs, only about 20% of the information is retained after 30 days. Training fails to account for the differences in experience, learning style and development needs of people. This reduces its impact as people may not be able to personally apply the learnings to their own work.

What needs to change?

L&D programs tend to have a one size fits all approach. The key challenges with this are:

  1. Today’s workforce is more diverse than before, including more diverse learning needs and preferences. 
  2. 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace
  3. People are focused on continuous learning, not one-off training sessions. 
  4. The opportunities just aren’t there – 94% of employees would stay longer if their company met their learning and development needs

The most impactful L&D program is one that is hyper-tailored, taking into account both the employee’s unique characteristics and the company’s objectives. Until recently, hyper-tailored learning was viewed as expensive and difficult to implement at scale. Technology and business model innovation has now made this possible.

What are the benefits of hyper-tailoring learning and development programs in the workplace?

Improve performance
70% of employees feel they do not have the necessary skills to do their job.  In response to this, 2 out of 3 companies are looking to bridge the skills gap through development initiatives. Hyper-tailored development can more effectively target the skill gaps of each employee. It is also a quicker way to get results, directly impacting your company’s bottom line.

Boost retention
Employees want more than just a paycheck. Lack of career development opportunities is the number one reason why people leave their job. A tailored L&D program helps target every employee’s unique development needs, making them more inclined to stay.

Address diverse learning styles
People have different preferences when it comes to learning new skills. Some might be visual learners, while others may be auditory learners. Visual learners may better understand and retain information presented through video, and auditory learners get more from podcasts. Tailoring learning to adapt to these different preferences helps make resources more impactful, and more likely to be used by employees.

Fuel Agility
In today’s fast-paced world, skills can quickly become redundant. New skills have to be continuously developed, so companies need to foster a continuous learning environment. Tailored development opportunities ensure that employees have access to truly relevant learning resources, which means that people will actually use them.

Here are some ways companies can hyper-tailor their L&D program offerings:

Make it data-driven
Effective data analytics is key in tailoring L&D. Collecting and analysing data using a variety of metrics will help companies better tailor their development offerings to their employees’ and company’s needs.

Offer coaching
One-on-one coaching is the Rolls-Royce of professional development. It is a self-directed process where people identify their own objectives and work with their coach at their own pace to problem-solve and develop. Technology innovation has made it possible to provide coaching from your intern to your CEO. Sama works with elite coaches globally, vetted by industry and coaching professionals, to provide coaching at scale.

Facilitate mentoring
Mentoring provides highly personalised and effective development. Mentors provide advice and feedback catering to an individual’s specific development needs and goals. 

Go digital
Digital learning can help employees tune in to resources, whenever and wherever they want. As the world of work becomes increasingly digital, it’s essential to adapt learning and development offerings. 

Empower your employees to own their development
Over 40% of Millenials and Gen Z want employee-led learning. Give employees the ability to shape their learning and development. One way of doing this is to ask employees for their feedback on learning programs, through company-wide surveys or focus group discussions. This can help you provide offerings that are more impactful.

Learning is key to thriving and creating competitive differentiation. Disrupting the traditional approach to L&D programs for one that puts employees more in control of their learning is a sure way to engage employees and create a future-ready workplace.

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
– Peter Drucker

You can be a great manager, but are you good at being an effective leader? Have you ever thought of what kind of a leader you would like to be?

What is the difference between leading and managing?

A strong manager successfully plans, coordinates and sets up processes and structures that help their team accomplish specific goals. Being a strong manager is different from being a leader. Leaders go beyond managing day-to-day tasks and “hitting the numbers”. Generally, we think of managers as being task-focused, driving action through a plan. Leaders drive people to action through a compelling vision. Leaders align their teams towards a common vision, empowering and inspiring their teams to unlock their full potential. This leads to high performance, creativity and innovation.

With the right mindset anyone can develop effective leadership styles at work. Here’s how you can:

Build empathy
Studies show that empathy positively impacts innovation, engagement and boosts retention. Empathetic leaders invest in building relationships with their teams. They are interested in learning what is important to their team and what sets them up for success. Take steps to understand your team’s motives. What influences them to behave in certain ways? Give people the opportunity to share their perspectives and backgrounds by asking questions and genuinely listening. When you take the time to engage with people and give them the space to share thoughts and experiences, it makes them feel heard, valued and establishes strong bonds.

Evangelise
Leaders are driven by a higher purpose. When you become an effective evangelist, you don’t just promote the work you and your team does; you explain how the work makes a positive difference. Being an effective leader means inspiring your team with a common purpose. This makes their work more meaningful and motivates them to take action. One way you can be a successful evangelist is by developing and communicating a coherent message of purpose – both within and outside the company. Seize opportunities to spread awareness of what your team and company do, and the positive impact it can have.

Recognise and celebrate your people
A study by BCG found that the number one factor of happiness at work was feeling appreciated. Research also shows that social rewards such as being recognised and appreciated for your work have the same impact as financial rewards. Being an effective leader means recognising people for the value they bring, as it motivates them and reinforces the positive behaviours that lead to successful outcomes.

Bring out the best in your people
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, posits that leaders must shift from a “know it all” to a “learn it all” mindset. Being an effective leader means you value the importance of learning and development – for themselves as well as for their colleagues. One solution is to give your team the opportunity to own their learning and development. Ask your team for their input on skills they would like to build or resources that could truly support them. This will allow you to offer impactful development tools that will be used.

Free up your time – and mind
As a leader who juggles multiple tasks and responsibilities, it is easy to get roped into day-to-day tasks with no breaks. This might leave you feeling overwhelmed, with little time for creativity or strategising. Studies suggest that when you free up time and let your mind wander, it boosts creativity. Being an effective leader doesn’t mean you don’t feel stress or anxiety at work, many leaders experience this, too. Be disciplined about carving out time daily to create some mental space by, for example, meditating, taking a walk, or journaling.

Embrace ambiguity
Leaders recognise that ambiguity is inevitable and constant because of the complex world we operate in. To successfully embrace ambiguity, start by acknowledging your own limitations. Being intentional in reaching out to your network of experts for their perspectives can help you enrich your knowledge and better navigate ambiguous situations.

Most managers develop their own style of leadership based on factors like experience and company culture, as well as the unique needs of their company and its organisational structure. Being an effective leader doesn’t mean fixating on just one leadership style. There are various effective leadership styles that result in increased employee happiness, engagement, and retention rates. By consciously taking steps to shape your mindset, empowering and inspiring your people, you can become an impactful leader that builds a team that works with you, not for you.

How team performance can supercharge your company’s growth.

Have you ever wondered what highly successful teams look like? How do they come together and work in ways that maximize companies’ growth?

Building high performing teams means bringing together individuals with complementary strengths and skills. Such teams are committed to a common purpose and share accountability for a set of objectives. This leads to better problem solving, innovative ideas and increased productivity.

How can you create teams that are greater than the sum of their parts? As a leader, you have to ensure that the right elements are in place to enable team members to reach their full potential.

How to build a high performing team

Align your teams around shared values and purpose
When building high performing teams, align your teams around shared values and purpose. Characteristics of high performing teams include being united by their company values and purpose. Shared values and purpose help teams adapt and thrive in uncertain situations. To create alignment, first identify, define and agree on the core set of values. Then consider how behaviours will follow the values you establish. Continuously recognise and celebrate behaviours and actions that demonstrate the values and bring you closer to fulfilling your purpose, both as a team and organisation.

Set SMART objectives
The most effective teams are able to translate their overall purpose into specific team performance goals. Setting SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound – are a great way for teams to achieve both big and small wins that help them pursue their broader purpose. SMART goals help facilitate clear communication, keep track of progress and hold each team member accountable. You can also include some stretch goals that drive teams to accomplish more than they initially set out to achieve, which sets the stage for high performance.

Focus on continuous development
Gallup’s research shows that companies that invest in developing their teams report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their employees. One-on-one coaching, which takes a hyper-tailored approach to development, is the most powerful resource that you can provide to your teams. Coaches engage with team members to help them map out their unique strengths and improve their self-awareness. This results in better team collaboration, communication, engagement and performance.

Set up shared leadership
Shared leadership is when every team member is empowered to make decisions and take actions that impact their own work as well as their team’s. Influence and power are distributed across the team. Research has shown that teams where leadership is shared, rather than vested in the hands of a few, have improved performance. There are a few ways you can lay the foundations for shared leadership. One way is to give your team members enough autonomy on how they plan and work on their tasks. Another way is to cultivate a climate where people feel free to take initiatives. Empowering people to take ownership of their work creates a greater sense of commitment and increases performance.

Make open dialogue the norm
In order to perform at the highest level, teams should feel safe to express their ideas and views candidly, and to constructively challenge one another. Cultivating psychological safety is key. Research shows that this promotes creativity and constructive conflict which leads to innovation and better performance. As a team manager, you are responsible for creating a safe space where your team feels comfortable with conflict and debate. You can create a climate that is safe and conducive to high performance by ensuring that every team member has value and a voice, and that differences of opinions are shared respectfully.

Foster personal connections
Fostering personal bonds at work helps team members establish deep connections that make your team more cohesive, engaged and collaborate better. Studies suggest that high performing team members spend time exchanging on personal interests and non-work related matters. There are a few ways to encourage your teams to build authentic connections. Schedule team-wide breaks or lunches during the week to come together. If your team is remote, schedule regular virtual bonding sessions.

Building high performing teams can provide a powerful competitive advantage. You can lay the foundations of building such teams by uniting members through a common purpose and goals, introducing and promoting a culture of healthy dialogue, fostering deep connections as well as committing to continuously developing teams. This inspires high team performance and motivates the team to continuously succeed.

Innovation at work is the foundation of a company’s competitive advantage.

Companies that spend time and effort in creating value through more effective products, services or processes are in a better position to adapt to a changing market. Those that are committed to continuously improving and innovating tend to appeal to creative and entrepreneurial employees enabling them to to attract and hold on to their best talent.  

Companies can encourage and teach employees how to innovate at work in a variety of ways. Here’s how you can embrace innovation at work:  

Flatten the hierarchy
Successful innovation at work requires effective collaboration with leaders and across different teams. These interactions are a catalyst for sharing knowledge and achieving successful breakthroughs. A flat structure allows employees at every level to be empowered to take action and decisions are made faster.

Leverage diversity
Diversity can push employees to be innovative at work. People with different backgrounds and perspectives bring different frames of reference to a problem. This sparks a dynamic exchange of ideas – a prerequisite for innovation which thrives when you hire for diversity and commit to building an inclusive environment where everyone has a voice.

Create time and space for innovation
Be intentional in giving people the space and time to work on innovative ideas. Physical and virtual spaces that provide people with the necessary resources to collaborate will also really help. Companies should also give employees designated time to innovate. Google follows the 70-20-10 model of innovation. Employees spend 70% of their time in day-to-day work, 20% of their time on work improvements and 10% of their time on experiments and innovative projects. By formally freeing up chunks of time for experimentation, employees are encouraged to think of innovative ideas. 

Nurture psychological safety
Studies have shown that a psychologically safe environment allows team members to take calculated risks, speak their minds, and be creative – leading to breakthrough ideas. To cultivate a psychologically safe space for teams, team managers should normalise being vulnerable. When managers are open about their own setbacks and learnings, team members can feel more free and safe to experiment, fail, and try again.

Embrace experimentation
Innovation is a trial and error process. Companies that empower their employees to experiment and take risks are in a better position to learn and innovate. One way of doing this can be by dedicating a few days every quarter to experimentation and innovation at work. Companies can put together teams of people with different expertise who work together towards specific goals and cross-pollinate ideas.

Create constraints
This might sound counterintuitive but it can help! Research shows that constraints can in fact improve innovation at work by motivating people and helping them focus. On the other hand, little to no constraints breed complacency and hinder innovation. There are many ways companies and managers can create constraints that lead to innovation. For example, they could cap resources or provide product or service guidelines.

By creating a space where employees can put across their diverse points of view, experiment, learn from failure and are empowered to take actions, companies can really make a difference to their innovation programs within their work environment.

Demanding work environments and the impact of the pandemic have skyrocketed the need for employee wellbeing programs. A recent survey showed that employees of all generations rank wellbeing as one of their top three needs from their companies.

In Gartner’s 2020 employee wellbeing survey, they showed that 46% of US companies increased their budgets in 2020 from 2019. Despite that, the engagement with these programs have been low. For example, only 23% of employees use emotional wellbeing support – such as access to therapists – offered by their company.

This highlights the big disconnect between a company’s wellbeing initiatives and what employees actually want. Why spend money on wellbeing programs that go unused?

Successful employee wellbeing frameworks have a positive impact on employee health, engagement, and retention. Companies that are able to do the most to promote successful employee wellbeing programs have lower turnover to those that put in least efforts towards such employee wellbeing initiatives.

So what are employee wellbeing best practices and how can we increase access to and engagement in the programs that are created by companies?

Assess employee needs and get feedback to measure the impact

Before coming up with a wellbeing program, companies should understand the needs and goals of their employees. Running a company-wide survey or conducting focus group conversations can give employees the opportunity to share their current challenges and the elements of employee wellbeing that are most important to them (physical, emotional, financial etc.). Additionally, measuring impact is crucial. Creating employee wellbeing metrics that are measurable and attainable should be part of any employee wellbeing program. To measure these metrics, a simple pulse survey run over time can help get insights and feedback on how people are doing.

Increase awareness on benefits of employee wellbeing

For a program to be successful, employees need to be aware of it. Too often, employees forget the benefits they have access to. Companies can remind employees of the programs available and increase knowledge of the wellbeing efforts by leveraging the influence and connections of their team managers. Managers have greater access to their teams. Through regular check-ins, they can also get insights about their team’s wellbeing needs, and help personalise the available offerings.

Personalise

This is a great way to empower employees to own their wellbeing! When employees find tailored solutions to their unique challenges, they can be more motivated to utilise the offerings. One-to-one coaching for employees is a powerful tool to enable this. Coaches provide a safe and confidential space which honors the individual’s strengths and helps them successfully navigate through their road-blocks and unique challenges.

Create space and time to participate

If employees are always busy with work, they are unlikely to have the time or energy to participate in any company initiatives. By integrating wellbeing into everyday practices, companies can increase employee participation and help them reap the benefits of such efforts. One way of doing this is to incorporate company-wide or team-wide breaks into employees calendars to participate in the company’s employee wellbeing offerings.

Normalise seeking support

Even with good employee wellbeing programs in place, people may not want to access them for fear of being judged. Leaders should walk the talk, share their own experiences and challenges around wellbeing, as well as participate in the offerings themselves. This will empower people to have open and honest conversations around employee wellbeing and participate in such offerings.

Companies can boost engagement in employee wellbeing programs by incorporating their employees’ needs, proactively demonstrating the benefits of such initiatives, and empowering them to own their wellbeing.

Cognitive diversity – the differences in how people think, process information and solve problems – is crucial for high functioning teams.

Teams with cognitive diversity are able to solve complex problems faster, perform better1, as well as exhibit more creativity and innovation2.

Teams that have diversity of thought and ideas are able to tackle new and uncertain situations more successfully. To date, companies have predominantly focused only on demographic diversity – such as age, gender, orientation and ethnicity. These are certainly facets that can enable diversity of thought, but companies should do more to include diverse perspectives in their teams. Without this, companies and teams can fall prey to “groupthink” – where people strive for agreement and harmony. Groupthink can stifle critical thinking and innovation, necessary to survive in today’s competitive landscape.

Here are a few ways companies can foster an inclusive environment that promotes and celebrates cognitive diversity:

Build psychological safety
Psychological safety is the belief that you will not be judged or punished for expressing your ideas, concerns or mistakes. Without behaviors that create and maintain a level of psychological safety in a group, not everyone fully contributes and the power of cognitive diversity is left unrealised. One way to create psychological safety is by normalising vulnerability. When leaders openly talk about failures and share their experiences – both positive and negative, it helps open up a non-judgmental space for honest and open communication, and people feel safe expressing their authentic selves.

Hire with diversity of thought in mind
We all have unconscious biases. These biases can affect hiring decisions. Companies have to be intentional in seeking out and hiring team members with diverse styles and approaches. One way to do this is to recruit and hire for talent that have strengths and skills that are not strongly represented in the current team. Hiring people with different educational backgrounds, specialisations or industry experience can also bring in unique perspectives and problem solving skills that increase performance.

Assess your teams
Assessments that help measure and understand people’s natural preferences, unique strengths and behaviours can give companies and managers insight on how to best leverage the talent of their teams . This can be a great way to create and benefit from a cognitively diverse team. For example, getting insights on people’s strengths can help managers create teams with complementary strengths and skills that lead to high performance and better problem solving.

Normalise conflict
In order to truly benefit from diverse perspectives, companies and managers should create a collaborative and stimulating environment that welcomes different opinions. Managers of diverse teams should be encouraged to re-think the idea of conflict and shift their perspective from seeing differences in opinion as a problem, to viewing them as constructive. A well-managed diverse team is encouraged to engage in constructive conflict that questions assumptions, pushes creative thinking, while upholding the end goal of coming up with the best solution to problems they are trying to solve.

In a work environment that is rapidly changing, promoting diverse thinking styles is key to building an innovative and agile culture. Supporting a cognitively diverse environment takes strong company leadership that is not afraid to re-think and question assumptions, empower their people and as a result, stay ahead of the curve.

1 Reynolds, A. and Lewis, D. (2017). Teams Solve Problems Faster When They’re More Cognitively Diverse. [online] Harvard Business Review.
2 Torchia, M., Calabrò, A. and Morner, M. (2015). Board of Directors’ Diversity, Creativity, and Cognitive Conflict. International Studies of Management & Organization, 45(1), pp.6–24.

As discussed in our previous article, “The Great Resignation” is plaguing companies.

We highlighted that this phenomenon is at its highest when employees are not engaged and listed a few key causes, including lack of development opportunities, increased levels of burnout, and the shift in overall mindset towards prioritising a life of purpose. The economic environment also provides for more opportunities and gives employees a sense that if they resign something better will be available.

Compensation is certainly not the main reason for people leaving their company. Studies also show that high levels of employee engagement can reduce turnover by up to 65%1. Thriving cultures provide for an environment that fosters strong bonds, gives people a sense of belonging and positively influences engagement.

So, if you want to keep your talent, does it not make sense to cultivate a culture where teams are highly engaged and feel committed to their work and company?

Check-in with your employees

Scheduling one-on-one interactions with each team member to check-in on topics work related and not, helps people feel a sense of connection. Whether you are in a virtual set-up or on-site, team members yearn for the opportunity to be heard and seen. Managers should create a dialogue where both parties are at ease to share their experiences, concerns and vulnerabilities.

This helps relate to team members’ situations, in other words, to be empathetic. By understanding a team member’s unique needs, wants and expectations you can shape the actions that make them feel supported, allow them to show up authentically and feel accepted.

Normalise purpose at work

A Mckinsey study found that 63% of employees want their employers to provide more opportunities to find meaning and purpose in their work2. Understanding what drives each of your team members will help you be a more efficient leader. Give your team opportunities to craft certain aspects of their work, to align with their unique strengths and values.

Be generous in your praise

Recognition is a powerful way to boost employee morale3. Employees want to feel that the work they do is meaningful and it ties back to the overall company’s success. High-recognition culture companies have been shown to have 31% lower voluntary turnover compared to companies with a poor recognition culture4. One way to do this is by encouraging and creating a space for peer-to-peer recognition. This is an inclusive way for companies to encourage employees at every level to participate in cultivating a supportive culture.

Prioritise learning and development

In it’s 2020 study, the Work Institute found lack of career development opportunities as the most popular reason to leave a company5. Since employees are key to their own learning, take a collaborative approach and empower them to drive their own learning and development. One-to-one coaching can be a great solution. It provides employees with a completely tailored safe space to supercharge their career.

Offer flexibility and control

The prevalence of stress and burnout during the pandemic has pushed people to strive for a better work-life balance. A study has shown that employees are 43% less likely to experience high levels of burnout when they have a choice in deciding what tasks to work on, when to do them as well as how much time to spend on them. Another survey shows that 54% of employees would consider leaving if they didn’t have flexibility in where and when they worked6. Companies need to be responsive to the needs of their people and make flexibility and control a part of their new return-to-work strategy.

The pending resignation wave is an awakening for companies to take a proactive approach towards fostering engagement and building a culture defined by meaningful work, support and deep connections. This puts them in the best position possible to retain their employees and prevent the effects of “The Great Resignation”.

1 Sorenson, S., 2021. How employee engagement drives growth. Gallup.com.
2 Dhingra, N. et al., 2021. Help your employees find purpose–or watch them leave. McKinsey & Company.
3 O’Flaherty, S., Sanders, M. and Whillans, A. 2021. Research: A Little Recognition Can Provide a Big Morale Boost. [online] Harvard Business Review.
4 Deloitte Insights. 2015. Becoming irresistible: A new model for employee engagement. Deloitte [online]
5 T. F. Mahan, D.A. Nelms, Y.Jeeun, A.Jackson, M.Hein, and R.Moffett., 2020 . 2020 Retention Report: Trends, Reasons & Wake Up Call. Franklin. TN: Work Institute, 2020
6 Work Reimagined Global Employee Survey – Key findings and implications for ICMIF. 2021. [online] Ernst & Young.

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