Cultivating Intelligence Around Hiring, Maintaining, and Sustaining Employees
Categories: Worker Wellness
October 29, 2022
Post-COVID Series: Re-finding Workplace Norms and Establishing New Norms
After a long, uneasy 2+ years of facing the pandemic, work is in flux. Workplaces are flustered to adapt to the expectations of employees who have lived and adjusted to unprecedented times, and while some industries came to a halt in the height of lockdown, they are now back in full swing, navigating a new normal. With change comes angst, and if the pandemic has not opened up new vulnerabilities, it has shone the flashlight on those pre-existing workplace gaps and pressures which, after so much suffering and uncertainty, seem less tolerable.
This is the final piece in a series of five spotlights on the experience of the worker and the employer post-pandemic, with an emphasis on mental health and wellbeing.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Business Strategy
The focus of this week’s worker wellness series is creating a positive employee culture. The hectic summer season has passed and the holiday season is ahead, but for now, you’re in a sweet spot, the quiet reflection of Autumn. It’s a good time to think about what’s working in your business, and what could work better, but you don’t want your thoughts to spin you out. How can you get to a place where you can focus on your business goals. You need to move away from working in the business and start working on the business. To do so, you need to build a team. It’s that infrastructure that will give you leverage.
What are the Traits of a Top Employee?
If you’re going to lead the charge as an excellent employer, you’ll have to know what qualities it takes to lead an effective team. And for CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, that starts with knowing the science behind hiring well. Cook says there are four traits that stand out when it comes to hiring new talent. He shared this secret with a management class: it’s important for your employees to care about the world around them and to have a desire to leave the world better than they found it. You might be surprised, but these simple employee characteristics have an astonishing impact on the wellbeing and growth of a company. It’s an inspiring sentiment and it’s not always top of mind when you’re hiring a line cook or a front of store manager. But maybe it should be.
If you look closer at Cook’s system, he is interested in employees who have collaborative traits, creativity, curiosity, and expertise. Why?
For starters, collaboration is what makes a shift go smoothly. If you choose employees with a collaborative mindset, they’ll consider one another’s strengths and weaknesses, and they’ll build off of each other to improve productivity, develop new and more effective processes and take interest in business outcomes. When shift work becomes more about the team, with less emphasis on the individual, it improves morale, deepens connection, and increases motivation. It helps the wellbeing of your employees to know that they’re not competing with their colleagues, but instead they can count on them and this social connection drives how they feel about the workplace. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be hiring all the same type of people, but your team can support each other’s blind spots, and creatively problem solve from different angles.
And that brings us to creativity–another Apple must! Cook speaks to this trait which gets to the heart of what he means by creative problem solving. He reflects that a lot of people get stuck in the kind of thinking that keeps a problem in spin but when you can come at it with a different inspiration or analysis, you form solutions. This is why creativity - though often underrated - is on the top of Cook’s list.
Curiosity might not have come to mind as a trait to look for in the hiring process. However, curiosity enables people to ask questions they might keep to themselves, and through showing an interest in all the aspects of the business, what goes on during a shift, and how it can be improve, you’re employee becomes an active participant in shaping the business. A curious worker might ask about why things are done a certain way on shift, why a task comes in a particular order, or whether the result serves the customer and this can help you reinvent processes to improve your business.
Last but not least, there is expertise. A barista who has the smooth touch on the espresso machine is going to ensure the highest level of satisfaction in your customers, so it makes sense to hire individuals who possess the skills that serve your roles. And there you have it, the Apple formula for hiring a successful employee:
What Makes your Employees Tick
Now that you’ve got the hang of how to select great talent, you’ll want to know how to keep them happy, so that you have strong retention. It helps if you know the factors that tend to keep employees motivated on shift. So what are those factors? It might seem transparent, but pay is top of mind for a lot of employees and it helps to understand why. Employees want security more than anything and since the first job of the frontal lobe (the big front section of the brain responsible for thinking, planning, and judgement), is to look after primary needs like food, water, shelter, and warmth, when these needs are not secure, the brain can’t focus its energy on other things. It might sound simple but if you want to free up space for problem solving and creativity, you’ll need to compensate your employees fairly, so that they aren’t managing fears about their livelihood. Compensation, benefits, and flexibility are a good place to start. They make your employee feel seen and valued and since trust is the bedrock of a good relationship, you’re creating an important foundation.
What Can You Do Beyond Compensation?
Many employers are under the impression that compensation is the only way to show their appreciation to their employees, and while it is well received, there are many other ways to show your team that you are invested in their growth and that retention and culture are a priority for you. Here are 5 things you can offer to show your employees that you care beyond offering a bonus or a raise:
Ok, let’s get into it. Responsibility can get a bad reputation, but it’s a sign of trust. By giving your employee responsibilities, you show them that you see and identify their talent, and you are invested in their development. As for respect, it’s the simple things. Tell your employee you liked their work, that you were impressed by the approach that they took on a task, or take interest in some aspect of their personal life. Next, you can tie part of your employees’ wages to the company’s performance and this enhances their engagement, as well as motivating creativity and innovation. Next, you might consider introducing rewards and before you think of money, there are many ways you can treat your employees: social events, lunch with the boss, handwritten notes, or baked goods. This can boost company morale. Last but not least, prioritize relaxation, which can take the form of paid sick leave, vacation time, parental leave, or understanding around mental health can make a powerful difference in your employees ability to power through shift. Just knowing they are well cared for will give them the motivation to keep up their energy and discipline.
Making Space for Purpose on Shift
Purpose can feel abstract but not if you hone in on your mission. Imagine you were the captain of a ship and a storm overtook the deck. You started to sink but you held out hope that if the crew came together, you could make it to shore. What would you do to motivate the team? A wise captain will remind the crew of why they came on in the first place, of the future ahead of them, and those waiting for them. Purpose is largely about why you do what you and what you do it for. While it looks a little different for each job seeker and worker, reminding your crew of the mission can help them re-connect to their purpose. Think about how you deliver the narrative to your team? How do you instil the core values of your organization and its mission or impact in the wider world? Chances are, if you practice this story until it feels authentic to you, it will motivate your team.
As we reflect on the great resignation, it’s clear that employees felt that their well-being was not being acknowledged or cared for in a time of acute stress, and this led them to change their course or find a position where they felt their well-being was taken into account. It can affect retention but it can also impact the day-to-day running of your business—your team morale, productivity, and whether you meet your targets. For many employers, their focus is on customers. It can seem like the quickest route to expanding business, but the truth is that when you pay attention to the many aspects of your employees’ well-being, you empower your employees to creatively problem-solve toward enhanced customer happiness. It’s a change in emphasis that goes a long way.
Uncertain of the Times? Invest in Your Employees
You’ll notice by now that your business hinges on the well-being and engagement of your employees The industry is evolving with environmental influences like covid and the market, as well as ethical changes related to how workers feel about their place in the workforce, and it is an innovative advantage to care for your business by putting your employees first. Your employees are the driving source of diversity, ingenuity, passion, and energy in your business and by practicing a leadership style that models appreciation, your team is well equipped to not only meet the emerging demands of the marketplace but to go beyond expectations.
Protect Your Employees to Preserve Them
Now, that you’re thinking about employee wellbeing, here’s a subject that could change your profit margins and might not have made it onto your radar before: design. If you’re customer facing, you know that covid has led to a spike in anxiety, frustration, and at time, anger. You’ve seen it day-to-day in grocery stores, at shopping malls, and while making a lane change, so it’s time to interrupt it. What would it take to protect your frontline employees? Here’s some of the things that experts bring to mind:
Empathy and language training
And last but not least, learning when to fire a customer.
This can be a hard pill to swallow in an industry where the customer comes first, so let’s take a look at why it’s in the best interest of your business. A survey showed that burnout is especially prominent in frontline workers, up to 50% reporting that they are thinking of leaving their job and feel under appreciated. Beyond that, 63% of frontline managers said they were thinking of leaving their positions. The pressure is real and it’s costly. Without the healthy mindset of your team, it’s almost impossible to truly care for the product innovation and the client experience. Here are our top tips for how to design your space to ensure employee wellbeing:
Design your space to empower customers to solve their own problems, and engage in self-service.
Use signage to simplify the experience, share your brand story, and reduce tedious repetition for your employees. Signage can also humanize your employees.
Make sure you have the right number of staff to support fluctuating seasonal needs. Otherwise, you haven’t taken the steps to set yourself up for success.
Provide your workers with the technology they need to expedite services, solve customer problems, and engage seamlessly with their managers.
Expand your empathy and language training to help your employees deal with complex problems rationally, defuse, and get out of fight-or-flight mode.
If a customer is harming the wellbeing of an employee, show your alliance to your teammate. You’ll win another customer that way.
How to have the Conversations that Count
While you grow, you’re bound to stretch. As you strive to reach company goals, you may have to push employees to grow, or address any tensions in the team or employee-manager relationship. As a leader, here’s something you can ask yourself: is it discussable? If it is, plan well for the discussion and if it doesn’t feel discussable, think about why and if there is a way you can pivot so that it does feel discussable. After all, if it’s discussable, you can work through it. No one looks forward to tough conversations but they can provide clarity, resolution, strengthen connection, and pave a way forward. Having the tough conversations in a straightforward, clear, and open way can help you unlock the talent and passion in your employees, as well as execute your strategic vision. So, let’s talk about how to do it and do it well. We have some key tips to take you through the process smoothly.
The first step is to prepare yourself for the conversation. It may sound simple enough, but if you enter into a tough dialogue after finishing a bunch of tasks while in the first part of your shift, taking a phone call, or firing off an email, you may not be in the right headspace. Give yourself the chance to feel some of the tensions, or anticipate difficult emotions in advance. You can also pre-think boundaries. The benefit of boundaries is that they can help you create separation, so that you don’t take the conversation too personally. And don’t be afraid to envision the conversation going well! Before you share your side or version, take a moment to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You would be surprised how much this changes your approach. Take the time to write down the things that you want to say. It may seem like overkill but it’s easy for a conversation to meander and you want to make sure you achieve your goals while connecting. When you take the time to sketch your points, you also soften the experience of the other person. It’s easier to be a part of a well-planned conversation, and talking to someone who knows where the conversation is going to start and where it is headed can put your nerves at ease. A roadmap is the place to start.
That said, don’t get too stuck on your version. It can help to role-play some opposition and you might want to do this with a friend or family member. Think through some of the places the conversation could go off track. This is another exercise in empathy because it helps you think through the other person’s point of view. Your feelings and agenda won’t be the only ones in the mix. It sounds simple enough to say that it’s useful to stay calm and respectful while conversing, but emotions can flare up quickly. The feeling that overtakes the moment is usually powerful, but remember the working relationship, the ultimate goal, and how you’ll feel afterward.
Now for the ending; end on a positive note. Then, be sure to follow up and talk about the next steps, or re-cap the conversation. This can be useful because if the other person has been drawn into emotion, it can stabilize their version of the conversation. Maybe they took away that you were angry or disappointed, but a re-cap tells a different story. More than anything, they have purpose, action steps to bring onto the floor during their shift, or to reflect on in personal time. You’ve had days or weeks to think about the conversation, so give your team member time to catch up. Their thoughts might take time to settle or percolate, and that’s ok. Check in with yourself after the meeting, ground yourself in your space and physical sensations and check in with another member of your team or someone close to you to de-brief. These kinds of conversations can take big energy, but they can also move your team and your working relationships forward in a way that seriously benefits the business.
You’re the kind of leader who can assess what change is needed, pick the right talent and protect their needs, stay ahead of the trends, and have the tough conversations when they count the most. We have no doubt you’ll thrive.
We’re just getting started on our deep dive into the worker experience, so stay tuned for our next series: What New Canadians Can Bring to Your Business. FindWRK is on the front lines, listening to the stories of workers and employers, tuning into your needs, and innovating the next-best in all things hourly employment. We’re here for you, so check back with us any time for resources, support, or to find your next role. We think it should be simple, so we’re on a mission to make it that way.
Fortune. Time Cook says he uses ‘a very good formula’ to look for Apple employees-these are the 4 traits he seeks out. Retrieved October 6, 2022 from https://apple.news/AFSoMptO0R1OI8bt2KWl1BQ
Forbes. Inflation and Employee Engagement: The 5 P’s of Leadership. Retrieved October 6, 2022 fromhttps://apple.news/AY-uumjoERHy8sgwuumSyog
Forbes. In an Era of Change and Uncertainty, Employee Development is Crucial to Corporate Success. Retrieved October 6, 2022 fromhttps://apple.news/AAaUsli41RMqyCwgnqW_IlQ
Forbes. 6 ways to Protect Frontline Employees with Better Experience Design. Retrieved October 6, 2022 from https://apple.news/AkYV7lvQ3T7OdwhRloNhNBg
Entrepreneur. 8 Tips for Tough Conversations with Employees. Retrieved October 6, 2022 from https://apple.news/Aa3Vgz4oQSoyY5oiyECylkQ