What’s in a name? The importance of naming

Classically, Shakespeare questioned the relevance of names by declaring: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Yet, the research is very clear, names matter. This is because names signify a lot of information, gleaned instantly upon first utterance; they convey gender, social class, ethnicity and may even connote personality characteristics such as kindness or morality. In yesteryears, a surname even described one’s occupation. But ultimately, the simple fact of one name being easier to pronounce over another can land an applicant a job, an employee a promotion, and even just mean you are more likely to befriend one person over another. When looking at new recruits, or workplace relations, it appears we are subjectively skewed to favour people with easily pronounced names, both first and last names. This effect goes beyond race, with surnames like “Smith” rating more favourably than “Urquhart”. How then does this impact the workplace, and by extension, how should you name your company?

Individual careers

A classic article in the New Yorker in 2013 described a famous study where researchers sent fake resumes to various employers where the only difference was a “white- or black-sounding” name, such as Emily Walsh and Greg Baker versus Latisha Washington and Jamal Jones. They found that one-in-ten “white-sounding” names receive a call-back, whereas only one-in-fifteen “black-sounding” names also received a call-back. This effect has also been seen in the classroom, where names associated with low socioeconomic-status or certain cultures, influence the expectations of the teacher for different pupils. As a result, the opportunities available vary considerably, and tell us that names really concretely signify certain attributes which affect interpersonal relationships. This is hard to avoid, as it is mostly the result of subconscious bias, but one approach could be to de-identify resumes prior to assessment. Furthermore, being aware of these subconscious biases and make an effort to correct them. After all, it may lead to recruitment of the most talented and effective workers.

Naming a company

Not only do these differences matter in terms of an individual’s career, but how you name your company can have a significant impact on your brand. While creativity is important for ensuring that people remember your company name, it is also important to have an easily pronounced name. Furthermore, you can associate your company name with certain feelings to influence your brand, such as use of the word “apple” to signify fresh new ideas, “google” to make you think of oggling pages as you search, or even simply “bing” the onomatopeoia that signifies the exchange of information and receiving of information. The name used has a powerful impact on the brand clients associate with your company, and may even have something to do with the favourability of “Chrome” and “Firefox” over “Internet Explorer” (speed of downloads aside).

Shakespeare had it right.

Ultimately, think carefully about names. Juliet might not have thought they mattered in Elizabethan times, but we are certainly not disillusioned about their relevance in modern society. Ensure you take care not to bias your selection of new recruits based on their names, and think long and hard about the name of your company in terms of catchy, easy to pronounce and associated with the right context. 

 

Employee recognition in the Hotel Industry

Anyone who has worked in the hospitality industry knows that it can be lacking in terms of recognition. This is a job that most work on the pathway to other careers, but hospitality is a massive industry. Practically every social interaction that we have depends on this industry, from first dates, to birthdays, to work functions and the hospitality we receive can have a huge impact on the relative success of these events. Without recognition, it is hardly surprising to note that the hospitality industry reports the lowest statistics for employee engagement. But this trend is surprisingly not followed in the Taj Hotels group of resorts and palaces in India, where recognition and engagement of employees equals the delivery of exemplary service to its guests in 109 luxury facilities.

So laudable are the employees of the Taj group, that they have heroically acted in the interests of their guests in more than one terrorist incident. This excellence has been attributed to the particularly effective service training that the hotel group employees undergo. There is a lot to be learned from the Ordinary Heroes of the Taj, and the lessons in terms of gratitude and engagement can be applied to not only the hospitality industry, but also all workplaces in general.

  • Expressions of gratitude should come from immediate supervisors

Immediate managers are key in determining how employees feel about the company, and therefore any engagement or recognition program needs to start with front line managers. Ultimately, engaging your managers will help them to engage your employees. Ensure your managers frequently hold briefings with their employees and ensure you check in with them regularly. Additionally, though immediate supervisors are so important, they shouldn’t be the only ones to give feedback to employees. Taj hotels employees can accumulate points from compliments from guests, compliments from colleagues and their own suggestions. Appreciation from peers is extremely powerful and should be factored into the broader system of employee engagement.

  • Recognition should be immediate and frequent

It seems that many managers save up and hold their recognition until a later time, typically until the annual review. But it is known that even financial rewards at the annual review are too little too late. The best thanks is an immediate thanks, and acknowledgment and recognition are more important than financial incentives.

  • A recognition system is necessary

Finally, Taj Hotels have a Special Thanks and Recognition System (STARS) which links customer satisfaction to rewards. Ultimately the particular system is not the important factor, but the fact that they have a system for employee recognition. Their system is also reviewed daily to ensure employee recognition is a daily occurrence. It is crucial to ensure employee engagement by employing a robust employee recognition program which pays dividends regularly.

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.

On-site corporate childcare options for employee engagement

This blog has gone into the importance of employee engagement and how to improve it many times. But it really cannot be understated how important it is for employees to be engaged in their work, both for their job satisfaction, and for the bottom line, employees are much more productive when effectively engaged. In the modern workplace, where women are increasingly represented in teams, it is important to consider specific needs to ensure your female workers are well engaged also. As a female writer, I somewhat grit my teeth as I say that an issue important to women is their children. This is because I know it shouldn’t just be a woman’s problem, and that childcare should be the responsibility of men just as much as women. But in reality, society still places the majority of the burden of childcare on the mother. It follows then, that a really effective way of ensuring productivity of your female employees is to ensure they can look after their children.

 

Marissa Mayer of Yahoo

Traditionally, a popular strategy is to job-share or to work from home. But ultimately, there is some downsides to this idea. Not being in a work environment and not being physically present to assist the lines of communication between coworkers and ensure effective teamwork can certainly hamper employee engagement and put detract from productivity. This is why the female CEO of Yahoo took the controversial step to ban remote working. For her, however, she did not see this as a problem in terms of her other parenting responsibilities, as she set up her own personal nursery in her office.

 

On-site childcare

Since then, more and more companies are offering the option of onsite childcare to satisfy the needs of their female workers, and keep them engaged in their roles. London-based investment banking firm “Goldman-Sachs” opened up their first internal corporate office creche as early as 2003. In addition, they offer subsidies and provide free-of-charge childcare in transitional times when parents return to work from taking parental leave. This has been so successful that they have rolled out the program to their Tokyo and New York offices, and they find a local childcare to subsidise if they can’t provide a local facility.

 

The business case for office-based childcare

Ultimately, onsite childcare is a fantastic driver of recruitment and retention. People want to work somewhere where they feel their family-life will be supported. Not only that, but the cost of replacing employees due to family commitments is exorbitant, especially when the employees are competent, with a good knowledge of the company processes and clients.

 

The Australian example

As yet, most Australian companies are not on board with this initiative, though it makes a lot of sense. The costs of running these facilities is certainly prohibitive for some smaller companies. One solution to this issue is being spearheaded by KidsCo Australia.  This start-up offers “pop-up” creches provided in office spaces during school holidays in whatever environments are offered to them by companies. This solves the problem of the mismatch between school holidays and annual leave at least. With this program, parents can be put at ease, knowing their children are well taken care of during the school holidays, and there is no extra drop-off and pick-up time.

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.

Therapy dogs in workplaces: the answer to worker stress?

In our postmodern, technology-driven, socially-isolated world the incidence of stress is on the increase. As we live in this stress-rife environment is it important to note that stress is not always a bad thing. In fact there is a physiological purpose for stress, that is in the situation of perceived threat of danger to either react by fleeing or striking up the resources to defend oneself, the so-called “fight or flight” mechanism. So how is stress useful in the modern world?

How to stay relaxed in a stressful environment

If you are in what we call the productive “stress-zone” your stress motivates you to achieve more than you would if you were completely relaxed. People who say they have no stress, are generally not interested in what they’re doing at all! It is when levels of stress skyrocket that we run into a problem. At this point stress de-motivates and causes us to “freeze”, so that nothing can actually be done. It is this unhealthy level of stress that all the modern techniques attempt to target.

But some techniques are better than others. The latest zeitgeist is the so-called “therapy dog”. This really is a no brainer; who could feel stressed when looking at that positive, happy and energetic face? The evidence also backs up this seemingly obvious strategy, showing that workers are much less stressed when therapy dogs are in the office. So convincing is this evidence, that therapy dogs are becoming increasingly popular additions to many workplaces. Recently, weekly therapy dogs are visiting call centre workers in NSW ambulance triple zero centres to help relieve the stress of the abuse these workers receive. The article even quotes one worker stating that “they’re just lovely to have around and it’s a great distraction from a busy environment”. It makes sense that workers in these extremely stressful environments have access to these weekly visits, but this worker has identified one potential issue with bringing the furry friends into every workplace.

Optimum Stress Relief

The optimum stress-relief technique has two characteristics. Firstly, it must be effective in making the user tranquil and at peace, which therapy dogs certainly fulfil. The second goal pertains to the aforementioned idea that stress prevents us from being productive. Therefore, an effective treatment for stress improves productivity. A dog requires a lot of attention: feeding, petting, exercise. From the words of the worker at NSW Ambulance, therapy dogs are distracting, and don’t lend themselves to productivity.

Unfortunately, there is another reason you may not be able to have a therapy dog in your workplace. Allergies are a common ailment affecting many, and more and more allergies are starting to affect many more people, for unknown reasons. If even one person on your team has allergies, the possibility of therapy dogs is completely off limits. Therefore, more inclusive, more effective strategies are needed to relieve stress in the workplace. The gold standard is mindfulness, a calming, tranquil strategy which clears the mind and allows one to be more focused. Read more about mindfulness on smiling mind here (2).

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.

Maximising employee efficiency through creating a fun working environment

Positive and vibrant company culture has become an increasingly sought-after attribute. Not only are employees in the search of a company that will develop their skill-sets,  challenge them professionally and remunerate them accordingly, employees are on the hunt for companies that can promise a vibrant team of like-minded individuals. Companies which can offer this strong positive company culture enjoy many benefits from investment in this principle. Company culture has significant implications in all other areas of company performance, leading to efficiency and productivity by employees at work, through increased engagement. Furthermore company values can extend into the brand which consumers associate with your company name, making your product more attractive and competitive on the market. One only needs to think of companies like Google,  Apple and Twitter, and immediately positive emotions of fun and enjoyment spring to mind. This is what creating a fun and vibrant culture can do for you!

Promote Fun

Don’t lose sight of the need to create opportunities for fun and enjoyment in the workplace. Take note of the general office vibe, and if it is suffering, ensure to give employees a break for a chance of some enjoyment. The team will be friendlier, more connected, and more engaged with their work. This doesn’t have to be difficult, it can easily be achieved by incentivising goals with prizes or footing the bill for happy hour occassionally.

Have a clear direction

One simple action to avoid a lot of frustration for employees is to ensure that the overall company direction is clear. The negative effects of a lack of clear direction have wide-ranging consequences such as decreased motivation and general unhappiness. As a leader, create a clear set of goals and ensure they guide both your decisions and those of your employees. This will create a more cohesive team, and provide a source of motivation and pride in the company values.

Encourage autonomy

This may seem contradictory to my last point, but in fact, greater autonomy for employees breeds greater motivation and greater productivity of the company in turn. Allowing employees autonomy does not mean that your company will be anarchy. If employees have a clear sense of direction of the company goals, they will use these to define their decisions, and they will make decisions as if leadership made them. Do you want one brain in control of the company and a bunch of mindless drones?  or do you want a team of highly engaged, thinking, motivated employees who are all using their intelligence to better the company? I think you know the answer.

Engender a culture of recognition

One further aspect of a strong and positive culture is a focus on recognition. It is well known that incentivising company goals makes productivity increase dramatically. But one way to make productivity reach even higher extremes, is to recognise your employees’ achievements publicly in front of their coworkers. Even better is to encourage your employees to acknowledge their coworkers good works by having a weekly shout out, or allowing employees to gift each other free coffees via workplace chat apps like slack.

Through creating a culture of fun, recognition, and free-thinking, Your employers would be more motivated more engaged and more efficient at work. Achieve success through a culture of fun, facilitated by recognition and affirmations.

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.

The “Glassdoor” Phenomenon: How to put your company culture in the best light

In contemporary society, decisions are simply not made without visiting a review site. From Yelp to Trivago to iSelect, there is an app or a website to help you make any decision you might possibly want to make. This has now extended into the job search market, with the review website glassdoor.com becoming quite a force to reckon with. This billion dollar company not only gives an anonymous platform for employees to review the salaries they make at certain companies, it also gives opportunities for review of the work environment including culture, favorability towards the CEO and professional development options. This platform not only speak to the need for transparency by employers,  it also highlights the importance of investment in culture rather than just providing the bare minimum in terms of employee benefits. Love it or hate it, this style of review website is here to stay, so it is wiser to get ahead of the curve and invest in culture for a great review, rather than ignoring it or becoming frustrated about it’s presence.

 

“Glassdoor” angst

Glassdoor.com is now rating higher for internet traffic than any career site, including those who actually offer jobs. For many employers this spells disaster, as transparency is something  that makes them incredibly uncomfortable. The aspect which allows a stranger to rate a CEO publicly is particularly stressful for those in these positions of power. But having access to this kind of information, i.e. what people say about you behind your back could really help you to understand your brand and actually improve this based on real time advice.

 

What has glassdoor.com taught us?

Essentially, through this website we have found that culture is key. Those companies to rate highly overall overwhelmingly also rate highly in terms of culture according to the website. Even factors such as location and cost of living are not such highly impacting factors as company culture when considering motivation of potential employees to choose one company over another. Feedback received by the website from employees finding their dream job using this service shows that this kind of transparency about culture actually enhances the ability of employers to find the “right fit” for their company. Having a strong culture and Company values will help your future employees to self-select themselves for appropriateness of the role. Reducing “bad fit” of employees can be extremely powerful, as it inevitably reduces employee turnover, which if high, can be exorbitantly expensive in terms of cost of hiring and training.

 

So what can you do?

The important thing to do is to address the root cause of any problems. Human resources should not be seen as an entity simply to do the hiring and firing. HR Professionals are worth their weight in gold, if they can effectively mobilize social media and respond tactfully to bad reviews. Whatever you do, don’t fake good reviews. Target groups of employees have responded to these fake reviews stating that they are obvious and do not make them more likely to choose one job over another.  In fact they make it more likely for them to steer away from this company, as the fake reviews damage the trust that employees feel they can have for this organisation.

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.

Employee Salary Self-Reporting: Blessing or Curse

A spreadsheet compiled by Google employees has recently caused quite a stir,  as it recorded the salaries of a wide variety of employees across all levels of the company,  specifically comparing the salaries of men and women.

It has been used in an ongoing class action claiming that Google discriminates on the basis of gender,  and lead to Google being ordered by the court to provide more documents for evidence of pay records. Meanwhile, Google continues to insist this is a storm in a teacup, and suggests that the spreadsheet does not take into account other factors such as performance, and that it is not a representative sample.

Gender politics aside though, the current events do make an interesting commentary on the state of pay transparency in some of these major corporations. If employees feel the need to compile this sort of evidence, this suggests that toxicity has crept into the culture. This can only lead to resentment amongst employees, both towards each other, and directed towards management.

Why is pay transparency so discouraged?

The right of a worker to be transparent about their salary and wages is actually protected under American law, under the National Labour Relations Act. If it takes an anonymous spreadsheet to have pay transparency in this company, it sends a pretty strong message, that this kind of disclosure is not widely accepted within Google.

It’s a fairly widespread attitude, it’s seen as impolite to actually discuss what you earn in most of western culture, which big corporations couldn’t be more pleased about. This culture of silence is really not doing any favours for employees in the long run, however. For companies who prefer to keep employees underpaid on the lower rungs of their ladder, in favour of keeping more money in the budget for other employees or other resources, employees without pay transparency are left to fend for themselves without any ground to stand on. Obviously, for companies with this culture, pay transparency is not in their best interests.

A culture of trust

However, this culture of keeping employees in the dark about their colleagues’ pay doesn’t allow for trust in the relationship between employer and employee. Trust is vital in the workplace environment to encourage open lines of communication and maintain employee motivation and engagement.
An employee is likely to find out if they are being severely underpaid compared to their colleagues eventually,  and when they do, a great deal of resentment will be the result. While it is true to say that more money will not help employees be more engaged with their work, pay inequality is likely to lead to dissatisfaction and can lead to lots of good employees to turnover. This is much more expensive than a pay rise or bonus when you consider the costs of re-hiring and training to fill that role.

Ultimately this spreadsheet which has enabled employees to self-report their salaries has been a curse for Google, and may possibly lead to them being ordered to pay millions in compensation of unequal salaries. However, hopefully I have demonstrated that pay transparency in the first place would have been a lot less costly.  Perhaps, this has been a blessing in disguise, if it leads other companies to be more transparent in order to avoid this happening to them.

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.