What’s in a Woo

To “woo” is a sentiment as old the ages. Originally used to describe chatting up the opposite gender, it appeared as a sharp play-on-words making fun of mispronouncing “woe” as “woo” in Romeo and Juliet. Somewhere along the lines of history, “woo” has become a celebration, and appears in diverse settings in popular culture. From Blur to Homer Simpson to How I Met Your Mother, the “Woo” has become a cultural zeitgeist and is almost synonymous with excited white girls in their twenties. On WooBoard, the word “Woo” symbolises thanks or praise or the celebration of a win. When you send a Woo you are publicly recognizing one of your colleagues for their efforts.

It all starts with people feeling valued

We all want to be recognised for doing a good job, it’s a fundamental to being human. When we receive praise for our efforts, it reinforces the fact that other people care about us and our contribution to the team. This makes us feel good about ourselves, as well as those around us. When authentic praise is exchanged consistently between employees it builds a positive and enjoyable team environment, and engages and motivates your employees to be more productive in the workplace.

The Cost of Doing Nothing about Employee Engagement

You can do nothing about engagement. This can seem like a minor cost saving on the bottom line. However, choosing to avoid the simple implementation cost of an employee engagement program can cause the costs in employee turnover rates to blowout. The first six months in a new employee’s time is crucial, with 90% of newly recruited employees making the decision whether to stay in an organisation within this period. According to the Gallup report, only 24% of employees in Australian workplaces are engaged, whilst 16% are actively disengaged. This costs the Australian economy $54.8 billion annually.

The Simple Answer is in Company Culture

Your internal brand, and how you implement it, is key in recruiting and retaining effective employees. Bersin found that companies with effective recognition programs had 31% lower voluntary turnover, and that engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their jobs. Conversely, 55% of employees stated they would leave their company to join a company with a strong culture of recognizing their staff.

Companies don’t give enough recognition

The majority of managers do not consistently recognize their employees when they do great work. And while 90% of business leaders think that a recognition strategy will improve business success, only 14% of organizations provide managers with the necessary tools for recognition. Additionally, 67% of employees rate recognition as the top motivator for performance.

How WooBoard can help

The recognition game is changing. WooBoard is an innovative solution built for today’s workforce. It’s a fun, simple and lightweight solution that drives meaningful recognition and increases engagement.

“Making engagement happen will be the single most important business challenge of the next decade and the focal point of the war for talent”

Aon Hewitt

Trends in Global Employee Engagement (2014)

 

Inclusive workplaces: how to make your business LGBTIQ friendly

While Australia acknowledges at-risk queer youth with Wear It Purple! Day, Glassdoor.com is currently running an article on why now is the best time to make your workplace LGBTIQ friendly (1). I would argue that this change is probably long overdue, with even Australia now having passed same-sex marriage. Despite this, if you haven’t already thought about it, it is important to ensure your policies are up to date. Chances are, you’re a liberal manager and there is nothing overtly discriminatory about your business. However, you may not have realised the ways in the which your business can be positively aligned with the values of your LGBTIQ employees more explicitly. Follow these simple steps to engage your employees and make your workplace inclusive.

 

Affirm LGBTIQ identities

There are number of measures you can undertake to affirm the identities of your LGBTIQ employees, from environmental surveys (ensuring the office environment is affirming), competency training and resource groups. Resource groups are particularly useful to ensure your LGBTIQ employees are well represented in every level of the corporate environment. One example is to establish an Ally network, which incorporates both LGBTIQ- and heteronormative identifying employees who support and are inclusive to the needs of the community (2). Competency training, support network meetings and fun and inclusive events become a feature of these networks and can lift the overall office environment to improvement engagement levels across the board.

 

Benefits and incentives programs

It is vitally important to ensure that all benefits and incentives programs are diversified to be able to be accessed by all employees, particularly thinking about using non-gendered language to ensure same-sex couples can access parenting benefits, for example. These are key priorities in appealing to new recruits who are increasingly focused on job environment in addition to salary, and a significant proportion of the job market is taken up by LGBTIQ individuals who would be unintentionally excluded by non-inclusive language.

 

Support transgender employees

As the visibility of transgender-identifying persons has increased in the LGBTIQ community, it is also vitally important that managers support their transgender employees. There is a unique set of needs and considerations that transgender-identifying persons are affected by, particularly when going through transitions. Being generous with sick leave and ensuring a welcoming and supportive environment in the workplace are some of the gestures you can do to support your transgender-identifying employees as a manager. Human resources can play an important role by training and being educated as allies to effectively support transitioning employees.

 

Employee engagement

Ultimately it is up to you to be on the front foot when supporting your employees from any minority background, to ensure an inclusive and engaging workplace. These steps, and many more, that Glassdoor has to offer are important measures in the battle against employee disengagement. See the full guide in the article for a comprehensive overview of how to support your employees from the LGBTIQ community.

 

  1. https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/become-lgbtq-inclusive/
  2. https://www.monash.edu/student-diversity-inclusion/lgbtiq/the-ally-network
  3. https://library.glassdoor.com/c/how-to-create-an-inclusive-culture-empowering-lgbtq-employees?x=y9fUVX

 

“Flow-thinking” states: how to encourage your employees to be at one with their work

Daniel Kahneman’s revolutionary new work, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” examines the psychological convention of splitting thinking into two systems, which can be manipulated in the workplace to drive up productivity. System 1 is the set of assumptions we carry with us about the world to help us understand patterns. It is also in some learned skills such as reading, driving or in very accomplished musicians, for example, playing piano. System 2 is the more deliberate thought stream which is concerned with computation and problem-solving from first principles. You can imagine which of these is fast, and which is a slower process.

Limitations of the systems

They both have their limitations, however, system 1 is involuntary so it is impossible to turn off. It is also biased and may answer simpler questions than it is actually being presented, leading to both visual and cognitive illusions, such as the Müller-Lyer illusion pictured below.

System 2 has its flaws when asked to pay attention – this will cause temporary blindness to other aspects of the situation: the so-called “missing the bigger picture for the finer details”. This is illustrated perfectly in the “Invisible Gorilla” video (1).

It is also entirely impossible to use these systems simultaneously. Try jogging and doing long multiplication at the same time. You will find you have to stop in your tracks while you figure out the problem.

“Flow-state thinking”

This however doesn’t mean that System 2 thinking always must be slow and deliberate. Tasks become cognitively easier the more it is liked or enjoyed by the individual. This leads to what was described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as “flow-state thinking” which is the state of being in complete harmony with work, an uninterrupted “flow” of creativity.  You can sit for hours without breaks applying yourself to whatever challenge you put in front of you when in “flow”. It is incredibly useful to productivity at work, and as a manager you can harness the power of “flow-state thinking” to engage and encourage your workers’ productivity. The portal to the “flow-state” is positivity and enjoyment; when one enjoys work more, one can focus more easily. You should consider the best employee for certain projects based on their strengths, weaknesses and interests, to ensure the “flow-state” has the right environment to flourish.

How to harness the “flow-state”.

The key to utilising the “flow-state” in employees is to do it transparently and intermittently, directly explaining to employees to try this technique. “Flow-state thinking” should be used sparingly, on important projects only, as it comes at a cost. You can make key mistakes during the “flow-state” as it is an elevation of System 2 thought into an automatic stream, and system 2 has biases. This will lead to increased mistakes at the cost of creativity. Therefore, using a “flow-state” should be followed by a critical appraisal of the work performed. As the manager, you are best placed to perform this role, by editing or giving feedback.

  1.      http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/videos.html#tryit

 

Non disclosure agreements: For better or for worse?

 

Recently Google faced an important lawsuit in regard to pay and conditions of their employees. Employees anonymously compared salaries and benefits in a spreadsheet which enabled female employees to discover they were being paid significantly less than their male peers. This lack of transparency cost Google millions in back-payments and bringing contracts up to match a standard of equality. As a result, we can draw the conclusion that the usual culture of keeping salaries and working conditions private doesn’t benefit employees, only the companies that employ them.  Glassdoor.com, for example, has developed an extremely successful business model around just this fact: to provide anonymous reviews made by employees for job seekers.

 

Pay contracts vs Non-Disclosure Agreements

A similar business concept to transparency in pay contracts is the privacy with which Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are conducted. These binding agreements are made to protect company interests from being disclosed to competitor parties by their employees.  But what about the employees who make these NDAs? How can the conditions of an NDA advantage or disadvantage the employees who uphold them?

 

Employer benefits

The benefits to employers of NDAs are obvious: they protect the company’s share of the market. The profit margin can be effectively retained by keeping competitors out of the loop of development processes utilised in production.  Disclosure agreement also guarantees a return on investment for research and development costs. Without NDA’s, research and development become a costly process which does not offer any competitive advantage, as the process will be readily available to all involved in that same field of the market.

 

The problem with Non-Disclosure Agreements

However, due to the nature of non-disclosure agreements,  they also cause problems for employees. If there is a problem with a particular software of process involved in production,  the employee, be they an engineer, scientist, or project manager, may not be able to easily find a solution. This could be costly in terms of hours of productivity lost  as a result of information not being publicly available, leading to that employee having to “reinvent the wheel”.

 

The verdict on NDAs for employees

On balance, however, this unique situation forces that employee to use creativity and experience to come up with a novel work-around to the problem at hand. This is why retention of these talented and experienced staff is so important in the workplace, and employers should take many measures to ensure their continued loyalty. In addition,  this forced creativity causes further innovation, exploration and company development, which should always be encouraged.

 

A company: an organism made up of its individual employees

There is no doubt that there is a massive incentive for a business to protect their share of the market with a Non-Disclosure agreement . Ultimately, however, a business is made up of its employees and therefore the overarching incentives of the business should matter to each and every employee to ensure their ongoing happiness and job security. It appears the non-disclosure agreements are different to pay contracts in this way.  You should feel secure in the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements to protect your share of the market and not impact the overall happiness and productivity of your employees.

The Cleveland Browns: How to prevent miscommunications at work

The Cleveland Browns are statistically speaking, the worst NFL Team in history. Despite having one of the most dominating decades in all of sport, lead by the NFL immortal Jim Brown, The Browns have failed to capitalise on any talent they have been able to muster since the inception of the NFL in the 1970s, and have famously been through an almost unbelievable amount of Quarterbacks and Coaches (in the double digits) since the turn of the decade.

Above all else, the Browns seem to suffer from one key error, that results in their consistent losses in the NFL extending far beyond what could naturally be expected of an average team.

This key error is miscommunication. Even when the Browns manage to reach an advantageous position, they are unable to capitalise upon it due to the effects of their terrible communication, causing mistakes in the teamwork left, right and centre. So how do you stop this from happening at your workplace?

You need a quarterback, and you need a coach

For most companies, having a manager and a 2IC is very typical in any given team. In project teams, this will often be a Project Manager and a Business Analyst. For Product Teams, this may be a Product Owner and a Product Manager. There are loads of examples to choose from, and you’ll probably find yourself in a team where a Manager will decide what to do, and a Second Manager will focus on the execution.

A quarterback and a coach are no different. The Cleveland Browns have lacked a consistent Quarterback and Coach over the past decade, and thus have lacked two fundamental components of any well managed team; a decision maker and execution manager.

Without either of these people, your team is destined for failure. Without a decision maker, the message cannot be clearly defined for the execution manager, and without an execution manager, the message cannot be clearly delivered to the team members. Communication in itself is the one area in all of business that is absolutely necessary, and the success or failure of the business rests upon it.

Definition and Execution

In order to build an effective team, above all else you need definition and execution. To define what needs to be done, and what is the expected outcome is to make a clear decision on the direction of the team. In doing so, you can build a clear idea as to what is needed to build a truly competent team, instead of a team of highly skilled individuals.

Following definition, the execution matters the most. The hardest part of creating value in a company is deciding how to manage the right tasks to be executed in the right order, in doing so building the right way forward.

This is where the Cleveland Browns are lacking. The Browns themselves don’t have the best method for recruiting coaches and quarterbacks either, which doesn’t do them any favours. With their most recent recruit at quarterback, the Browns may have found their execution manager, and along with their coach, have found a way to win (or at least not lose as much).

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

When Life gives you lemons: A guide to dealing with negativity in the workplace

Negativity in the workplace can often be difficult to deal with. When it comes to building a positive workplace, negativity can be the antithesis of all the hard work you put in to influence a positive culture.

A negative attitude can lead to toxicity, and once toxicity sets in, the amount of work it takes to get a toxic environment back to a positive one is enormous. If the downward spiral takes hold, performance drops, and if performance drops due to negativity, it can hurt the bottom line significantly. The only way to stop negativity from setting in and become “the rot”, is to build a “positive counter mindset”.

What is a positive counter mindset?

A positive counter mindset is what happens when your organisation develops a series of statements to counter a negative situation. The most common example is the statement “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”. This type of positive spin lets people remove or mediate that initial reaction of frustration that occurs when something negative or unpleasant happens.  A positive counter mindset is what happens when an organisation builds into its culture the idea that nothing is ever as bad as it seems.

“As it turns out”

One of the most famous examples occurs at Apple.

Apple, like any company goes through some rough times. Though problems may arise left, right and centre, Apple has found a way to deliver negative information with a positive mindset. The way it controls the “positive counter” is by delivering information with the phrase “as it turns out”. Though issues may arise in the day-to-day running of the business, by delivering the information with a slightly positive spin, Apple is able to reframe problems to find a solution.

The phrase might not seem like much, but with enough repetition it can curb the slippage into a negative mindset, which saves the culture in the long run.

How do you reframe problems? Make lemonade!

A positive countering statement such as “as it turns out” is a great way to be able to build into your internal vocabulary with a positive spin. The positive countering to “life gives you lemons” is the term “make lemonade”.

For your internal communications to be able to reframe problems with a positive spin, start by making a list of things you may say to each other to reframe information that is presented in a negative light. “As it turns out…” is a great example of a statement that can soften the blow of any specific problem.

A good way to find one of those statements is to start by understanding what sorts of problems you may encounter in your day-to-day working environment. For sales focused departments this may be a lack of deals flowing through for the month, or for technology focused companies this may be the presences of technological bugs.

The next step is to find an all encompassing statement that lets you both reinforce your company culture and internal brand, and reframes the problem statement to suggest a positive spin.

The rest is up to you!

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Make decisions, not suggestions

Decision making is one of the most sought after traits in modern era of business. For instance, there are new techniques in hiring that are aimed to form bias around decision makers.

One such method is for recruiters to ask their candidates what they want to order over coffee. The recruiter will then make a suggestion, and observe how the candidate reacts in the situation. The speed at which the candidate and decisiveness at which the candidate makes the decision forms the basis for the science known as “decisioneering”.

What is decisioneering?

Decisioneering is the psychological processes that a person goes through to reach a given decision. If you’re in a management role, at a certain point you’ll start to make decisions that involve greater inputs and more uncertainty the higher up you go, which consequently means your process of reaching a decision within yourself will need to be refined.

How an organisation makes its decisions can drastically change the outcomes of the decisions that it makes. By firstly understanding, and then refining the decision making process within your company, you can ensure that your organisation can not only make better decisions, but you can personally make better decisions.

Make decisions, not suggestions

The first way to make a decision is to recognise that you have reached a decision point. A decision point is a moment in time, when all suggestions end. For a decision point to be reached, you may have gone through the following phases:

  1. Idea/Problem recognition 
  2. Research
  3. Suggestions 
  4. Decision

Ideas are easy to come up with. For most companies, people are coming up with new ideas all the time, and it’s easy to recognise if there’s a problem within an organisation just by speaking to a few people.

Research is more difficult, as it takes both time and money to conduct a feasibility study to ensure an idea is in fact possible to implement. For a company to do this well it would need to find a way to effectively understand the breadth and depth of the problem it is trying to solve.

Next comes the suggestions, which is the purgatory of all projects. Suggestions come from either of the following: A company doesn’t understand the true nature of the problem that it is trying to solve, it doesn’t believe it can feasibly go through what is required to create a solution.

Find the real problem

More often than not, the decision relies on a decision maker. The decision maker will usually have external influences that weigh in on the decision, and in turn create a decision paradox, whereby the person must do what is right by consensus but also what is right the data, which will often be different.

To make better decisions, make sure you understand who you are making the decision for.  By understanding your audience, and the depth of the problem you are trying to solve, you may be able to make better decisions, and remove yourself from the glut of suggestions that come your way.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.