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. 

 

Five fun tips for employee engagement

Employee engagement needn’t be a difficult venture. There are plenty of small, effective and fun ways of motivating your employees to be more engaged in the workplace. These simple measures are also often quite inexpensive. It is well established that the dividends of investment in employee engagement exceed initial input many times over in terms of success and productivity. With the relative ease on instituting these programs, it really doesn’t make any sense to delay it any further, put these simple ideas into place today and reap the rewards!

  1.       Free lollies

Everyone loves a sweet treat! What is even more important than the token gift of thank-you lollies, is that you can accompany them with a personalised and funny message. There are literally hundreds of options to try out in your company. They needn’t even be lollies, you can offer encourage-mints, give coffee vouchers that say “thanks a latte!”, or even give out scented candles thanking your employees for being “scents-ational!” The possibilities are limitless! Check out this Pinterest article for more options. The personalised messages will give your employees a kick of humour to break up the work day, be inspired to be more engaged at work, and the touch of personal acknowledgement will help them feel more a part of the team.

  1.       Free fruit

The provision of healthy snacks should be more regular occurrence. If you have a weekly fruit box delivered, this says to your employees that you care about their health. If you aren’t already using a fruit box delivery service, you should really take advantage of this small way of letting your employees know you care

  1.       Fitness programs

A further way to let your employees know you care about their wellbeing, is to offer free or subsidised fitness programs. Healthy employees are less stressed, and are ultimately more engaged in the workplace, with less days of absenteeism. You can subsidise a gym membership, set aside an office space for yoga classes, or even just organise a simple office jogging group.

  1.       Ice breakers

Yes, ice breakers can be the worst. Who can think of one fun thing to say about themselves? I mean who is to say what your target audience will think is fun? And what about the self-confidence that requires?  But I’m not talking about the kind of ice breaker which requires you to sit in a circle, say your name, your job title and department, and one fun thing about yourself. The best kinds of ice breakers are office games. These shouldn’t be too complex, and your box of Cards Against Humanity is probably not appropriate here. Think charades, celebrity heads and scavenger hunts.

  1.       Team activism

Getting your employees involved in a volunteering opportunity can be infinitely useful for employee engagement. It helps them socialise, feel part of a team, and feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Find a cause that your team is passionate about and sign them up! Not only will this benefit your employee engagement, you can also advertise that your team is involved and positively influence the brand of your company in the eyes of your clients!

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.

Building bridges: developing the network of communication

Bridges are amazing feats of engineering, taking enduring strength and meticulous planning to construct. They provide a means to connect one place to another, enabling transport of persons and equipment not previously possibly. Bridges therefore represent a new frontier for human endeavour.

Exciting frontiers

Similarly, creating information highways in business generates new frontiers for business development. There is a concerted effort required to generate the foundation for effective communication and business relationships at all levels, from peer-peer connections, to inter-business trade. The relationships need to be gently supported to prosper, and it requires work from both ends.

Bridges and businesses

There are striking similarities in the ways that bridges and business relationships are built. Take the Sydney Harbour Bridge: construction began in 1925 at Dawes Point in the south and McMahon’s Point to the north and graduation came together over the next five years until the structure was complete in the middle. There is something beautiful in this collaboration, in the elegant plan required to align the construction and the camaraderie and teamwork involved in the labourers putting together such a magnificent structure.

Collaborative planning

The way that an effective business relationship is developed is also beautiful. The bridge built here also needs to provide a viable business model at both ends, equally enabling each co-worker, employee and manager, and sellers and buyers to maintain the integrity. Any model which favours one party over the other results in an unstable network.

Effective planning

It is also essential for the planning to be effective to support the structural integrity required. If there is ineffective planning for capacity or for taking external factors into consideration, the bridge is likely to fail. Historically, we can learn from the lesson of the Severn Bridge, to link England with Wales which was opened in 1966. The response in increase in traffic was unanticipated by the designers and another bridge had to be constructed 5 miles upstream to compensate. What you want is to design the Bay Bridge in San Francisco built in 1934 which today successfully can accommodate 240,000 vehicles.

Finally, ensure you take external factors into account, such as market growth or compliance requirements. Ensure you don’t repeat the mistakes of the Tay Bridge in Scotland which killed 60 train passengers due to its design which did not take wind-loading into account.

Mind the Gap

Basically, you want to ensure you “mind the gap” to build a successful bridge in developing a business relationship. To do this consider three main points:

–          Build from both ends, taking both sides into account

–          Consider future growth, and ensure the relationship is large enough to accommodate

–          Ensure you design your network to be robust enough to take external factors into account

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 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.

The subtle art of getting your employees to care

You may have heard of or read the book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***” by Mark Manson. This is his answer to the extremely popular “the Life Changing Magic of not giving a F***” by Sarah Knight, itself an answer to “The Life Changing Magic of tidying up”. This new era in oppositional self-help books is taking the market by storm, and for good reasons. Sarah Knight’s antidote to perfectionism focuses on not caring what others think, while Mark Manson’s composition has some subtler messages which are more applicable to business.

Essentially, the crux of the information advises readers to find something important and meaningful in life to devote the bulk of their time and energy towards. This advice is given with profound insight in mind that everything in life has its problems associated, and that if you care about what you are doing, the pain associated with these problems will be easier to bear. Essentially, the message is the antithesis of much of what advertising tries to convince of, that you should care about less things, not more. You should also care about things wisely, making sure to only care about the things which align with your personal values.

Take home message:

The take home for business managers is this: your workers will be happier and more engaged in their work, and therefore more productive, if they view their work as meaningful and aligned with their personal values. This could be the key to the reason why most employees are not engaged, and 16% of Australian workers are actively disengaged and looking for other work. It makes a lot of sense and could point at the reason why many older workers view millennials as lazy or dispassionate workers. The truth is that millennials are not dispassionate about life in general, they are just more acutely aware of the idea that they should be searching for the things which align with their values to engender that passion.

So, in a world of apathy, how can business managers ensure their workers are passionate about the values their business stands for?

Essentially, culture is the answer. Developing a culture in which your employees can thrive, where the business values align with their own personal values, and where they can feel they have a meaningful contribution to the world around them.

Getting your employees to care:

Find out about what your employees care about and think about how the business values can align. For example, if your employees care about the environment, think about measures in which you can cut down your ecological footprint. If you have a team of people who care about giving back to their community, enrol your workplace into a volunteering opportunity. There should be a degree of individuality in this also, a worker who is more social and outgoing should be given opportunities to interact with the public on behalf of the company. And acknowledge the contributions of each of your workers, ensuring they feel valued for the individual contribution their strengths and efforts make to the functioning of the workplace. In this way, you will ensure you attract and retain the most talented and motivated workers for your individual business.

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 benefits of Casual Friday

Casual Friday is a time-honoured tradition. The once a week opportunity to dress down has been re-appropriated into many different facets such as “Hawaiian shirt Friday” and many charity groups run their fundraisers such as “jeans for genes day” on Friday to fit in with the usual office day of casual attire. Countless articles online proclaim the correct choice of clothing for a casual Friday, including Oprah, the daytime-talk Queen herself. But does casual Friday work? What are the benefits for such a deviation from the norm? Below are the reasons for allowing your employees to dress less formally once a week:

  1.       It’s a fun change of pace

Anything that promotes a break from the monotony of the usual workday can help employees feel more engaged with their work, and more motivated to achieve success in the workplace. Even something so simple as music in the office can dramatically improve productivity and efficiency. So let your employees have some fun with it. You can even run themes where employees come wearing their favourite sport colours or crazy socks or whatever you would like to do. Get creative with it! Of course, as Oprah herself says, there can be some inappropriate casual wear choices, so ensure a clear policy for casual Friday dress codes to avoid any uncomfortable situations.

  1.       Promoting team building

More casual dressing may promote more approachability, and therefore you may find that interpersonal collaboration is strengthened by a casual Friday tradition. Generally, with casual attire, there will be less stratification of work roles, and employees will feel less identified by their wardrobes and status but by their contributions. With greater cross-communication, social relationships will also be strengthened and ultimately your teams will be stronger and more interconnected.

  1.       Meets employee needs

Enabling your employees to display a sense of individuality whilst attending their work helps them to feel more like a person than just a number. Looking out for employee comfort also promotes the idea that personal needs of employees are seen to by management and that each individual is valuable.

  1.       Everyone loves a free perk

Ultimately, this is a free strategy to enhance workplace engagement. Everybody loves a freebie, and this is a win for employee motivation which literally doesn’t cost a thing. Many employees look forward to and enjoy the opportunity to express their individuality on a casual Friday.

Don’t hesitate to add this free motivating strategy to your office environment. Develop a policy on appropriate office attire, and you can put this into place almost immediately. Don’t forget to measure the impact of this technique on team strength and workplace engagement to see if it is having an effect. But according to the anecdotal evidence, this is usually a winner, helping employees feel more motivated on both casual Friday, and through the week whilst looking forward to the end of the week coming around.

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.

A good break-up with a bad employee

It is vitally important that employees are in roles that suit their strengths. An employee who is in the right job for them feels they are making a meaningful contribution to the world around them. They are highly engaged, motivated and productive members of a company. However, all too often, we have employees in roles that simply do not belong. They come into work everyday, often punctual, even diligent, but they lack creativity and motivation. At best, they will barely fulfil their job requirements, and at worst, completely miss the boat. So what can be done with an ineffective employee?

Matthew Hussey

You may have heard of this new kid on the block who gives out dating advice to women: kind of a reverse pick up artist. He has recently appeared on the channel seven show “the Single Wives” to give advice to newly single women. One of his most common lines of advice to women is to let go of men who are unwilling to invest in what they need, as this is a common plight of many women, unfortunately. Like women, bosses often hold onto people who aren’t giving them what they need. And like men, bad employees need to be let go before you waste too much time with them.

A “Good” break-up

However, while employees are like men in so many ways, they are unlike them in a way that counts. You might get called a bitch if you send a text to break up with a boyfriend, but that will be the most severe of consequences. Legislation governs when, how and for what reason you can break up with an employee. And even when you satisfy these minimum requirements, they manner in which you perform a termination can affect your professional reputation. Follow these tips to ensure the break-ups with your employees go as smoothly as possible:

  • Be positive

This cannot be understated. Don’t make it a personal attack, simply point out that the role doesn’t suit them. Stick to the facts and keep their hope up that the right role is out there for them!

  • Consider reshuffling rather than terminating

Before jumping to the result to terminate your ineffective employee, consider whether they might be useful in another role. Think about whether certain strengths that they possess could be utilised in other areas. This will promote loyalty, and you may end up with a very effective employee in a different role.

  • Give a good reference

If that approach fails to work, and you have to terminate an employee, maintain a good working relationship. Offer them a positive reference, and stick to your word. Instead of personally ensuring their mistakes haunt them, speak of their strengths in refereeing them, in the hope that they will reach their effective role in the future. Your commitment to providing a smooth exit strategy for your terminated employees will suit you much better for your Glassdoor reviews and will help the right employees for your company to respect the culture available in your workplace.

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.