The Importance of Keeping your Company Real

Today’s topic is going to be about keeping your company authentic. For those of you who have read my previous blog postings, you know that I value companies that welcome individuality and are open to innovative ideas. Also, I enjoy companies that seem to be a little more human and a little less business. Although I’ve mentioned these values a few times throughout my writing, I haven’t fully given you an explanation of why I feel this way. This posting will let me shed some light on the subject.

Allowing your employees to be more like themselves can increase productivity. Have you ever worked at a company that had strict criteria on how the employees were to represent themselves? You need to say the right things, write e-mails with a certain professional tone, and make sure your shirt doesn’t have a single wrinkle. Of course, some organizations need this level of professionalism to gain trust from their clients but too much of it can hinder performance. If your employees don’t naturally do these things, then they have to use their mental capacity to train themselves to do it. Training yourself to be something against your nature for 40+ hours a week can be exhausting. Not to mention, the effort you’re putting towards doing that is taking away from your work.

Your employees will be happier. I’m not perfect, but neither is anyone else. To work for an organization that requires constant perfection can be extremely stressful. Life happens, we’re human, and people make honest mistakes. To work for a company that leaves no room for mistakes can cause employees to worry and doubt every little thing they do. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend a good portion of my day scared that the next thing I say or do will be my last at the company. That’s just a miserable way to go about life and eventually it will wear on them, both inside and outside of the workplace. Their unhappiness may start to reflect in the quality of their work.

Employees will feel more comfortable about offering ideas and suggestions. If your company was a little more open, a little less stuffy, and a little less strict, your employees may feel more comfortable offering contributing proposals during meetings. Creating an open and welcoming atmosphere can make employees feel better about freely expressing opinions, new ideas, and suggestions. If you don’t create this environment, employees could feel less inclined to speak up and you could potentially miss something of value.

Individualism can produce original solutions. I think some of the best companies I worked for are the ones that celebrate the individual and encouraged them to produce inventive ideas to demonstrate to the company. Employees loved the fact that they could use their personal experience and knowledge to present these suggestions. They gained a sense of accountability and became more engaged in the company’s well-being. Additionally, they found the company’s willingness to listen, consider, and offer feedback about these ideas to be motivating. They appreciated a company that offered this participative communication structure rather than companies dictating how things would be and expecting employees to follow without question.

You’ll gain trust from your employees. We aren’t robots, so it’s hard to trust someone who only communicates in an overly-formal, overly-professional, mechanical way. It’s hard to know what truly is going through that person’s mind and it’s hard to understand the meaning behind it all. Communication like that just seems closed and does not engage the other party in a useful way. Think about how you came to the point of trusting your friends, significant others, and family members. I highly doubt it was because of the “stimulating”, calculated conversations. You don’t get to know people from conversations masked with perfection. If you don’t get to know them, you also may not be able to trust them. To have an organization that employees don’t trust really isn’t going to do anyone any good. Try to keep it as real as possible.

You could reduce turn-over. If senior management is too-tight lipped about the organization, it could create a cause of concern for employees. As an employee, nothing is worse than being kept in the dark or out-of-the-loop…except being kept that way during the recession we’ve been experiencing. With layoffs, terminations, and failing businesses, it’s best to offer some honest information to your employees. This will help employees know where they stand in the company. It will also allow them to know where the company stands in the business world. Additionally, it can ease minds and lower turn-over caused by employees’ mentality of “getting out before it goes under.”

You’ll pique interest from outsiders. Think of some of the most interesting companies in business: Google, Apple, Zappos, and LinkedIn come to mind. These companies are notorious for their company culture. They celebrate and own their uniqueness and won’t conform to oppressive corporate structures other companies have had in the past. Because of the “realness” they bring to their company, candidates want to work there, employees are rating it the best place to work, and other companies want to adopt their corporate style.

I understand that business is business. I also know certain companies and jobs need to have an extreme level of professionalism. However, sometimes it can be too much and cause companies’ to be hindered rather than grow. Your employees are your biggest assets and you need to treat them as such. As I’ve said before, the companies that will dominate will be the ones that can find a way to keep the workforce working towards a collective goal but still welcome individualism and authenticity. Consider some of these points and even test them out. You may find that employee morale and productivity will increase.

Links:

Why Should Organizations be Authentic?

Companies Mentioned:

Google
Apple
Zappos
LinkedIn

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What Gen Y Wants from an Employer

Today’s topic will be about Gen Y and the workplace. I felt that this subject was important to bring up mainly because Gen Y will dominate majority of the workforce by 2025. With that being said, employers need to focus in on the characteristics of Gen Y and develop a plan to attract and retain talent. I also particularly like this topic because I am a Gen Yer and majority of my peers are Gen Yers in the workforce. Needless to say, I am surrounded by discussions regarding this generation and what they want from an employer. Here are some facts, in no particular order:

Gen Y values company culture: I’m sure if you’ve read any of my previous blog postings you can see how much I stress the importance of company culture. I’ve been placed in all kinds of work environments over the last few years, so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing good, bad, or non-existent cultures. My work ethic was affected by these environments. If I loved a company and was proud to work there, it would be evident. My performance would definitely show it and I would not hesitate to broadcast everywhere that my employer was better than your employer (:-P).

I didn’t really realize the importance of company culture until I worked at CreateSpace (an Amazon.com company). They seemed to really know how to celebrate individualism, embrace diversity, and encourage people to be openly innovative. The managers I had were great in the sense that they knew that everyone was different and, therefore, had to be managed differently in order to get the best results. I distinctly remember my Team Lead asking me, “How do you like to receive feedback?” I think my mouth hung open as I processed the fact that my supervisor actually cared enough to find the best way to manage me effectively. The leaders there also celebrated people for a job well done and knew how to make the workers feel like their contributions mattered.

Also, as I mentioned yesterday, Benefitfocus seems to hone in on the fact that culture is valued by this generation. They were passionate enough about it that they actually published a book on the subject. I’ll be receiving that soon, so there look out for future posts regarding it!

Gen Y strives to grow professionally and wants feedback: This generation relies heavy on feedback and mentoring. It’s not because they’re needy and require praise all of the time, but simply because they want to know what they do well and what they can improve on. They want to work hard, grow, and move forward in the working world. They’ll value an employer that gives them suggestions and opportunities to do so. Some of the better employers recognize this and make an effort to give regular feedback, discuss career paths, and present opportunities for employees to gain experience. For example, Apple and Google have classes so employees can continually learn and increase their knowledge. It was nice to see an employer invest so much in their employees’ educations.

Also, feedback is important for reasons other than helping employees grow. I distinctly remember a friend telling me that her company is big on the “no news is good news” philosophy. I was actually appalled by that. How could a company only give negative feedback? Needless to say, the employees of that company were extremely uneasy because they never knew if they were doing things right. Anxiety caused productivity to waver, employees to be less invested/committed in the company, and turn-over. Those who left the company told me that they’d rather be with a company that didn’t keep them in the dark than stick with a company that may unexpectedly fire them for mysterious reasons.

Feedback can help an employee see a future with the company. If no one shows them that a future is there, they’ll move on to greener pastures.

Gen Y wants workplace options: We are a technically savvy bunch which means we hope our employer can find other workplace options for us than just the typical 9-to-5-sit-at-a-desk-workplace. Although having a routine is nice, it can sometimes kill creativity, innovation, and feel like a cage. Technology and portable devices make it easy for employees to be mobile and stay connected. We hope that employers realize this so it allows more freedom: flexible work schedules; work-from-home; flexible workspaces around the workplace; and results-only-work-environments are some options that come to mind.

Although some employers are reluctant to do this for fear that employees will take advantage of these alternative work options, I think they will be pleasantly surprised to find out that Gen Y wants more responsibility. They want to be accountable for their work/contributions to the company. Additionally, they want recognition for their work. So instead of making your company feel like “Big Brother is watching”, consider other ways to measure productivity besides a punch clock. Perhaps adopt a work option that focuses more on end results.

Gen Y wants an employer that has integrity and makes a social impact: We just want you to be like our favorite superheroes. You know; the ones that do things for the greater good. Nothing is more of a turn-off than seeing a company go all “Machiavellian” and only do things that help their personal gain. If your company does good for others, your employees will feel good about working for you. I mean, who wouldn’t be proud to work for a company that somehow makes the world a better place?

Your company will seem trustworthy, which is a big thing that attracts talent. For example, candidates decided to take job offers with Salesforce.com because the company was involved in donating to a foundation and encouraged employees to volunteer and participate in community service. Who would have thought that you can attract candidates because of your social impact strategy?

It’s time to start training your leadership to change some of their practices. There are companies out there that will help you re-structure and develop your leadership efforts to help cater to the changes in the workforce. I’ve actually had the pleasure of networking with Martina Mangelsdorf via LinkedIn over the last few months. Over a course of a few e-mails and Skype conversations, I was able to learn that her company did just that. I was delighted to see that there are people out there that really understood what Gen Y needs out of an employer. So, employers, it is in your best interest to get prepared because Gen Y is coming for you!

Links to read (I apologize that my hyperlinking function isn’t working!):

Martina Mangelsdorf LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/martina-mangelsdorf/1/611/740

Leadership training for Gen Y: http://www.gaia-insights.com/

What Gen Y Wants- Time: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1640395,00.html?goback=%2Egmp_4358820

Harnessing the Power of the Loyalty Generation: http://socialmediatoday.com/davidjohnson4/563490/gen-y-harnessing-power-loyalty-generation?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Social+Media+Today+%28all+posts%29&goback=%2Egmp_4358820%2Egde_4358820_member_127717648

Benefitfocus: Winning with Culture book: http://www.benefitfocus.com/culture/

Google Classes: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-11-amazing-classes-that-google-employees-can-take-2012-3?op=1

Apple University: http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/10/06/apple_university_revealed_as_plan_to_teach_executives_to_think_like_steve_jobs.html

Companies mentioned:
http://www.createspace.com
http://www.amazon.com
http://www.apple.com
http://www.benefitfocus.com
http://www.google.com
http://www.salesforce.com

Company Branding to Attract Talent

Today’s little blog is going to talk about the importance of company branding and marketing. Although any company would give a big huge “duh” about that fact, I’m going to focus more about branding your company to attract talent. I do believe that more companies need to focus on this type of a branding for a few reasons.

1. Savvy job seekers will spend time researching a company before applying– A good portion of job seekers are getting a little crafty in their job searches. Instead of simply going on job boards and submitting an application/resume, job seekers are taking time to do their homework. A good portion of job seekers in this economy probably have dealt with unstable work environments, bad company cultures, or lay-offs. Therefore, to avoid being in a bad situation again, job seekers will take the time to find any and all information on a company to help them get a clear idea of what the company is about.

Some companies, such as GlassDoor, make it easy for employees or candidates to post information, salary, and reviews about their past, current, or future employers. Additionally, companies have taken the extra step to post on highly visible social media sites, write blogs, or even create videos posted on YouTube. For example, some local businesses by me have posted some great videos about their culture: Benefitfocus and PeopleMatter. These two companies give great examples on how to attract future employees. Their videos are engaging, entertaining, and get you really pumped up about working for them.

2. If you brand your company well, your employees will be sure to brag about how great it is– With social media today, it’s easy for people to post about how great or awful their employer is. It’s also extremely easy for people to read these posts. For example, I saw multiple employees of the following tech companies blow up my news feed about how they’re proud to be an employee of one of the 25 best tech companies to work for in 2012. Also, LinkedIn had a video of their HQ that made people completely awestruck over how amazing it is. How did I learn about this video? LinkedIn employees started posting it stating things like, “Reasons why I love working at LinkedIn.” Soon afterwards, I saw non-LinkedIn employees posting the same video with statements like, “Why I want to work at LinkedIn.” (Totally guilty of being one of those people).

Not only will employees talk about the company, but they’re also free advertisements. How many times have you heard of Apple employees talking about how excited they were for the new i(insert product name here) coming out? Not only are they talking about it, but some may even buy the product and show others. Simply put: get your employees engaged in your company/product/service; get free marketing. Not to mention, they’d be the ultimate marketing tool because they can respond to inquiries from their friends, social media acquaintances, and family in detail and in real time.

3. You’ll attract talent and create a workforce that dominates the world– Not sure how much detail I can go into this one: if you brand it, they will come. Eventually, you’ll attract a ton of talent and have a pool of candidates ready to give their left arm to be in your company. Before you know it, you’ll be like Google and be rated a top employer for a bunch of years in a row. You could even get cool enough like them and make your company have a “verb” of itself. How would you like it if your company name became part of everyday vocabulary? I’m sure Google is loving it.

Seasoned companies and start-ups should take note of this. It would be smart for any company to invest time and resources to create a company culture that they would be happy to boast about in their branding. Employees that feel like they are working for a great company will be happy to work hard for them to ensure they stay employed there. Great candidates with exceptional talent will flock to you. The business world will be yours, at last!

Links to look at:

Employee engagement: http://www.business2community.com/strategy/the-importance-of-employee-engagement-for-high-performance-results-0144924

Benefitfocus culture: http://www.benefitfocus.com/culture/

PeopleMatter culture: http://peoplematter.com/company#article-604

25 Best Tech Companies: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-25-best-tech-companies-to-work-at-in-2012-2012-6?op=1

LinkedIn HQ video: http://www.businessinsider.com/linkedin-office-tour-2012-7?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=linkedin

Companies mentioned:

http://www.glassdoor.com
http://www.benefitfocus.com
http://www.peoplematter.com
http://www.linkedin.com
http://www.apple.com
http://www.google.com
http://www.youtube.com