Speaking in a Human Voice

Define your values. Your values guide you and represent who you are and what your company stands for. A great litmus test to determine them is when you find yourself at a fork in the road, making an important, strategic decision such as deciding whether or not to hire a key team member, your values should help you figure out what to do.

Align these values with all parts of your business. Your values should help determine everything from who you hire to how you develop and promote employees. They should dictate how you communicate to employees, customers, and business partners via all mediums (text, email, phone, and face-to-face).

Shine a light on employees who live the values. Living values is often defined as what employees do when no one is watching. For example, those times when a Lyft driver or a JetBlue crew member is going the extra mile to help a customer. To empower employees to live your company’s values, you need to celebrate, share, and communicate when you find employees who are doing just that.

 

Playing the Long Game

Value transparency diversity. If you value a diverse workforce, start analyzing your policies and practices to get an idea of just how diverse your company is. If you value transparency, have a sit-down with your business partners to discuss their values and your own. This will help ensure that their values and practices are consistent with yours.

Ask your employees. When in doubt, ask your employees what is important to them. Millennials value different things than Gen Xers, and Gen Xers want different things than Baby Boomers. Work practices may differ based on company size, geography, and whether or not your employees work on-site or remotely. Don’t waste your time or money providing a program that employees don’t want or value.

Make a human-business case. You don’t have to be Facebook or Google to implement intentional work practices or hire diverse candidates. Some programs do have an associated cost, but the cost of losing a great employee because he or she can’t work from home one day a week or take time off to care for a sick parent is much higher. Playing the long game always wins.

 

Finding The Sweet Spot Between Tech and Connect

Prioritize relationships. Anyone can say, “Yes, I prioritize relationships.” But are you actually putting your money where your mouth is? Ask yourself: Does my calendar reflect my values? How am I spending my time? Have I had lunch with a colleague in the last week or the last month? Am I calling into meetings from down the hall?

Position technology. The key to finding the sweet spot is to position technology so that it strengthens relationships. In other words, match the message to the medium. Identify your goal and think about the best mode of communication to get your message across. Send an email when you need an answer to something without much nuance, but move up the food chain and pick up the phone or walk down the hall if you need to ask someone’s opinion, do some real problem solving, or just want to connect with someone you haven’t seen in a while.

Establish protocols. To truly find the sweet spot and implement it in your company’s values you must put protocols in place. Technology allows you to automate parts of your business and reallocate those resources to enhance the customer experience. It’s important to help employees understand how to best use technology.

 

Minding Your Meetings

Know the purpose. Before you attend or plan a meeting, ask yourself: What is the meeting’s purpose? And is that purpose aligned with your goals and objectives or those of your team?Before each meeting create an agenda that outlines the purpose of the meeting and the goals you hope to accomplish at the end.

Be present. Physical and mental presence are not the same. So, if you decide to attend a meeting, be there in mind, body, and spirit. If you are leading the meeting, make sure your team does the same. True presence is a critical way to honor relationships.

Set protocols. It’s such an important topic that it bears repeating: without protocols, meetings do not serve their purpose, and that’s why we’re here in the first place! Pick ones that feel right to you and are aligned with your values and culture. Whether you choose to ban technology or set strict regulations for meeting lengths and frequency, be sure to communicate these protocols to your team.

 

Finding the Human Side of Wellness

Design. Each company is different, so be sure to design a well-being strategy that’s right for your company, aligned with what is most important to your company, your employees, and your values. Does it make sense to focus on stress reduction? Do they need to get up and moving to hit their 10,000 steps? What does your company need? And how can you best deliver?

Communicate. Once you have designed your well-being program, let employees know that their well-being is important and show them how to take advantage of what your organization has to offer. As always, match the message to the medium, and consider the range of ways to communicate your commitment. 

Measure. You trust that employee well-being is good for people and good for business. In order to measure your ROW (Return on Wellness), put solid metrics in place and make some simple observations. How many people are engaging in the program? Have absences increased or decreased? What are your healthcare costs, pre- and post-program?

 

Giving Back

Discover. The best give-back strategies are discovered, not designed. Such programs are most resonant when they are intrinsically tied to the mission of the business. And this connection may well not appear in the early days of the company. So be patient, keep your ears, eyes, and mind open, and discover a strategy that adds value and depth to what you already do.

Involve. Bringing your employees in on the ground floor of the discovery and design of your give-back strategy is a great way to get them engaged. Jessica Mah, CEO of InDinero (a software company that provides back-office solutions to small businesses), has a rotating culture board where employees weigh in on a variety of cultural issues including how to give back.

Share and listen. Don’t forget to tell the world (especially your employees and customers) about how you’re giving back. Share your company’s impact with employees and clients at meetings and on your website. Share stories about all the great ways your company and its employees are giving back to the world as part of your recruitment efforts.

 

Disconnecting to Reconnect

Lead by example. If you are a leader, leave on time, take that vacation, take an email hiatus over the weekend, and make a “big deal” out of it. Whether you “leave loudly,” send out a companywide email, or share vacation photos on social media like the execs at Food52, be sure to brag loudly and proudly about your ability to disconnect. Your employees are taking cues from their leaders, and if you don’t disconnect, no one will.

Deal with it. One of the biggest obstacles to employees unplugging is the nightmare that they are faced with when they log back on. So just telling people to take the weekend off won’t work unless there is a plan in place to deal with the digital pile-up. Like Huffington Post and Daimler, you can delete vacation emails, or assign someone else to respond to them. Does it make sense for employees to check in once a day? Or is it better to completely disconnect?

Keep track. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Giving employees unlimited vacation might seem like a way to encourage disconnection, but sometimes it has the opposite effect. Set up a system to track when employees are taking vacation, and have conversations with those who are not, and find out why.

 

Curating Connection Starts with the Water Cooler

Align. Aligning your space with your values works wonders. One Harvard study found that when researchers, whose mission is to publish and disseminate their findings, sat near each other, their work was cited 45 percent more often! It makes sense to put our bodies where our values are.

Change. Once we get our systems in place, take a deep breath, and change it up. As awesome as it is to have everything lined up and organized, rigidity will always be our ruin. Instead, invite flexibility to keep things fresh and people on their toes. After all, everything is changing anyway, so the more easily your space can respond and adapt to these changes, the better. Get feedback, be open, or maybe even host a Reaping.

Name. Once you’ve gone to all that work to line it up and mix it up, you want to be sure people actually use your spaces. One way to lure people in is to give your spaces a name and a narrative. CBRE’s office is built around what they’ve identified as “the Heart,” a bright, open space with a waiting area, a snack bar, and a concierge who makes sure employees’ and guests’ needs are being met. For CBRE, the Heart is where the home (office) is. Squarespace, for example, has one little patch of green on the roof that is called “the Hill.” And what do you know? On a sunny day, people now say, “Meet me at the Hill”.

 

Taking Professional Development Personally

Ask. We have seen that growth and development are a critical part of creating a human workplace. And without it, you will have trouble retaining your people. So how do we get started? Just ask your people what they want! Ask employees what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. If they aren’t sure, they will be thrilled to give it some thought and get back to you. Millennials and Gen Z want to bring their whole selves to work, so why not provide opportunities for them to do just that? They’ll be happier and they’ll stick around longer, too.

Receive. Your very own workforce is an untapped wealth of knowledge, skills, and insights that other people in your company will no doubt enjoy. After asking employees how they themselves want to develop, try asking them what they’d like to offer to their colleagues. Taking classes is one way to gain important skills, and teaching classes is another. By trading knowledge, you are creating a network of people all taking their professional development personally—together.

Coach. More and more companies are offering coaching to employees at every stage in their career. When people become leaders, or parents, or find themselves in a new position, the overwhelming fear can cost the individual and the company. So it just makes sense to offer people support along the way.

 

Saying Thank You

Who? Everyone. Creating a culture of gratitude is not only about a manager thanking his or her employees for doing their jobs. Peers can thank peers. Employees can thank their managers. Clients and business partners can be shown appreciation for their business. “The Hershey Company enables 13,000 employees around the globe to recognize and thank people for great performance anytime, anywhere, using a computer or a mobile app.”

When? Often. People want feedback, and they want it on a regular basis—especially millennials and Gen Z. Even if your company is sticking with the year-end reviews, you can offer thanks throughout the year.

How? Make it personal. And make it real. The best thank-yous are ones that highlight something specific that has been done on a project, or a way that someone made you feel. Take the time to find out how your employees have impacted others in very specific ways and then tell them about it. The Muse has a “shout-out board” where people can write and leave notes that thank other employees for something they have done.


Kyaw Wai Yan Tun

Hi, I'm Wai Yan. I love designing visuals and writing insightful articles online. I see it as my way of making the world a more beautiful and insightful place.