Guest Post By Kimberly Gladis of Steve Gladis Leadership Partners
Merriam-Webster defines being ‘grateful’ as: grate·ful adjective \ˈgrāt-fəl\: feeling or showing thanks : feeling or showing thanks to someone for some helpful act
Seems easy enough. Until you get to the office. A survey of 2,007 people for the John Templeton Foundation of West Conshohocken, PA, found that the workplace is the last place people express gratitude. On average, only 10% of adults thank a colleague each day, and worse than that, only 7% express gratitude to a boss daily. And 60% said they “either never express gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year.”
Why is this important?
Research shows that practicing positive emotions, such as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love (Frederickson, 2009) leads to greater positivity. As the leader, you need to think of yourself as the “Morale Compass” and gratitude is one of the best ways to increase happiness and positivity. In a study by Martin Seligman in 2012, a group of severely depressed people was asked to keep a list of three things that went well each day. After only fifteen days, these severely depressed people experienced significant gains in happiness.We have a morale crisis in the workplace and that permeates beyond the walls of the organization. How do we fix it? For starters, research tells us that individuals who practice gratitude are happier, healthier, and more resilient. With working professionals spending much of their waking hours at the office without the important benefits of gratitude, our employees are less satisfied and our companies are ultimately less productive and successful than they could be.
So how can you extrapolate the results of the gratitude work of Seligman and others and use it to increase positivity at your workplace? Here are a just a few ideas to consider:
- Thank You Notes/Emails – November is a great time for sending notes or emails to supervisors, peers, and direct reports to share thanks for their contributions. Handwritten thank you notes are significantly more impactful, but even an email can help. Make sure the message is short, personal, specific, and most importantly – sincere.
- Incorporate gratitude into weekly staff meetings – Allow the team to share one thing or person they are grateful for that week. Make it part of the regular agenda and it will become part of the culture. As the leader, lead by example and start the activity off each week.
- Gratitude Wall – If your team has a private intranet page or even a common bulletin/whiteboard, set up your own Gratitude Wall. Invite people on the team as well as across the organization to put up words of appreciation for their colleagues. Keep the ‘wall’ visible to reinforce the activity of looking for good things in each other.
As HR consultants, clients often approach us seeking guidance on how to manage an employee who is under performing in their current role. By the time a manager has decided to approach HR with the situation they are often frustrated with the poor performance and are seeking HR intervention. Poor performance is an inevitable part of every organization and it is imperative that supervisors and HR work together to determine the best course of action for each situation.
In many organizations you can find a progressive discipline policy within the Employee Handbook. This approach is exactly what the title indicates; a process whereby an employee is given an opportunity to correct poor performance in a process where the offender’s punishment progresses if the poor performance does not improve.
The first phase of progressive discipline is typically to hold a conversation with the employee to identify the performance issue. The intention of this initial meeting is to make clear to the employee that they are not meeting performance standards and to identify expectations moving forward. This conversation should take place between the direct supervisor and the employee; the supervisor should reach out to their HR representative for guidance on structuring this conversation and always adhere to company policies.
While holding poor performance feedback discussions, managers should consider the following:
1. Be Intentional: Before meeting with your employee, be sure to identify your desired outcome. This initial conversation with your employee should be to inform the employee of the unsatisfactory performance and provide them the opportunity to improve.
2. Maintain a Positive Nature: While the purpose of this meeting is to be clear that you are unhappy with performance, you want the meeting to be an open discussion of the issues at hand and measures that the employee can take to improve. You want the employee to view your message as an opportunity to improve and step up.
3. Be Specific: When you’re letting your employee know that they are underperforming, this cannot be a general statement. Specific examples of actions (or lack thereof) that have proven detrimental to the team, other departments, and/or the organization need to be discussed. The employee needs to understand exactly what area of their performance needs improvement.
4. Discuss Impact: It’s not always enough to say what an employee is doing wrong for them to understand the effect that one employee underperforming can have on an organization. Provide details on how their performance has impacted the team, other departments and/or the organization.
5. Ask Questions: Be sure that you are being fair to the employee and try to understand if there is a legitimate reason for the poor performance. Are there any problems amongst the team that can be addressed? Is there potentially a need for accommodation? Is there a training issue? Ask the employee if there is anything you could do, as their manager, to help them be successful. Understanding the big picture will help determine how to move forward.
6. Determine Next Steps: While you should go into the meeting with a good idea of what you would like to see from your employee moving forward, the conversation may give you a different perspective. Talk with the employee and identify specific, preferably measurable, areas of performance where you would like to see improvement. Determine what steps each of you will take to guide the enhanced performance and schedule a follow up meeting to check in with the employee in thirty days.
While it’s not always easy to provide this kind of feedback to your employee, it is imperative to address poor performance early. The above guidelines will help focus the discussion with your employee to allow for open and honest conversation in order to identify methods for improvement. Maintaining an atmosphere where employees are held accountable will lead to a successful and more engaged workforce.
Recently I was interviewed by Ingar Grev of The Strategic Business Forum. Ingar was interested to hear about what has worked for me as an entrepreneur, contributing to the success of Helios, and what advice and counsel would I give my colleagues—basic lessons learned as a CEO. How appropriate and timely as this month Helios celebrates its 12th year in business.
Launching the company from the basement of my home with just myself initially, growing by adding 1099 contractors, and then bringing W2 employees on payroll in and of itself created interesting challenges and opportunities. Moving from having our team meetings from my kitchen table to the dining room table (with more seating capacity), to moving to executive office and then a full office lease with a 5 year commitment—has also afforded learning opportunities. Through the growth of Helios and in the HR consulting we provide our clients, there have been moments and events that stand out as significant. I’d like to share a few with you in the hopes that you find them helpful as you grow your organization.
10 Accelerators in Growing a Company
- Connect with people. Connect with your clients and with your team. Create a remarkable experience for both. At the end of the day, there are many vendors that offer similar services. It’s the experience that brings people back. It’s the way you make them feel that will have them talking about you to others.
- Be authentic. Tell people what they need to know, not what they want to hear. I made a great career in corporate by sharing feedback. High performers want to improve. Only direct feedback will give them that opportunity. Recognize too, that it’s the way the feedback is delivered that will determine whether it is heard.
- Hire and develop an exceptional team. A team that is not only capable…but willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. It is willingness over skills that best determines the high performers. Surround yourself with a team that you draw energy from…not one that sucks it out of you. Find out what your team is interested in learning. Give them every opportunity to learn, develop and grow. You in turn, will be surprised at how much you learn from them.
- Avoid disruptions, danger and disease. The single most important lesson that I have learned as both an HR executive and as CEO, is that hiring and retaining the wrong team members, is disruptive at a minimum and toxic at its worst. One way to ensure you hire the right team is to be clear that you articulate what is to be expected in the role. I have seen many organizations post Mission, Vision and Values, but few who take the time to fully articulate the behaviors that those values portray. The words accountability, flexibility and resourcefulness for example, may mean very different things to people. However defining the behaviors that your culture embraces and requires for those values to be met, is the first step in ensuring alignment and fit with corporate culture.
- Know when to delegate, but not abdicate. As the CEO, or any leader of teams, yours is the ultimate accountability. We can delegate responsibility as we scale, but never abdicate accountability.
- Over communicate. Your expectations and intended outcomes to your clients and to your team. People will do the ‘what’ when they understand the ‘why’.
- Don’t underestimate the value of one on ones. Have regular one on one meetings with your direct reports and ensure they do so with their team members as well. One on ones should be used for conversations about professional development, feedback and support for your team. If a relationship is veering off track, a one on one is an easy way to catch it early on and redirect the course.
- Be intentional about your culture. As the leader you set the corporate culture. Culture is not what your tagline states; it is what your people say it is. How they define their experience—regardless of what we may intend it to be. Ensure your culture does indeed reflect your intention. And if it doesn’t, course correct and reset.
- Develop your unique brand recognition. What culture is to the internal organization, your brand is to the external world. Your brand should be uniquely yours. What is it that you bring to market that no one in your space replicates? Develop that as your brand. At Helios our brand signifies energy, impact and results. The Helios Apollo Awards have further extended our brand footprint. Ultimately, it is the energy and impact that people attribute with our brand, with our team, with their experience with Helios.
- Target where you spend your time. Washington offers a plethora of opportunity to attend and join events, meetings, associations and boards. It is far more impactful to select those relationships that you develop where you can make a contribution, an impact, than to merely show up and be seen at as many events as your schedule can accommodate.
In the end, we all have the same amount of time available to us. Yet although there are no more than 24 hours in a day, there is a higher order of energy that we can apply that propels us forward creating impact. I have found that these 10 things help ensure that energy is optimized, teams and clients are engaged, and everyone enjoys what they do.
Are you concerned about your employees’ physical and mental health? Of course you are! Have you created a wellness program? Maybe not quite yet. I know, starting a new program can be challenging and seem like a lot of work initially. There’s the chance that the program can fizzle if you don’t stick to it, you may not have buy-in, and more importantly where on earth do you find the time to get started? But I’m here to help you on this one, so let’s talk about it…
Where we are today
The reality is that obesity, stress and smoking are huge setbacks in having a healthy, sustainable and productive workforce today. Known to cause overall poor health, obesity and smoking are the top two causes of preventable death in the United States. Employees suffering from these conditions have demonstrated lost productivity estimated to be $39.3 million per year and increased healthcare costs.1 Research has also shown that employers discriminate against these workers, with obese women earning an average 6.2% less than their counterparts who have a healthy weight.2 Now let’s look at tobacco use — employers that hire smokers bear indirect costs, including more employee absenteeism, productivity losses ($92 billion) and increased early retirement due to smoking-related illness.3 And stress, stress does not do a body good! In fact, 51% of employees said they were less productive at work as a result of stress and job stress is estimated to cost U.S. industry more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity and medical, legal and insurance costs.4
Why create change
If those eye-awakening stats aren’t enough, let me share some benefits that will hopefully inspire you to create a change. Beginning in January 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, there will be increased incentives offered to companies that have wellness programs in place (30% for wellness programs and up to 50% for smoking cessation programs). Additionally, employers will see a reduction in overall healthcare costs, decreased rates of illness and injuries, reduced absenteeism, and an improvement in overall morale and productivity creating a thriving culture of wellness. For instance, Johnson & Johnson leaders estimate that wellness programs have cumulatively saved the company $250 million on health care costs over the past decade; from 2002 to 2008, the return was $2.71 for every dollar spent.5
How to Implement
If you decide to make the commitment to start a program, make sure it becomes a part of the culture and is embraced by the entire team—and stick to it! Be clear about your objectives; know what you want to see happen as a result of your efforts. Successful programs are often run by a committee that works with key groups at your organization to sell ideas and gain support. Recognize that every organization is different and everyone’s needs vary as well. Some people may want gym reimbursements while others may want a peer support group or training seminars. Your benefit broker can be a great resource on helping you to implement wellness offerings available through your insurance providers such as Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealthcare, and Anthem. They can enhance your program with essential components such as fitness training, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation solutions, etc. A recent Gallup survey recommends that employers create effective and easy interventions, such as offering safe exercise space and developing healthy food programs that will ensure access to all employees.6 Poll your employees to understand what will work long term for them and the company as a whole and most importantly, make sure you are considerate about how individual employees may react towards the push for a healthier lifestyle change. After all, the goal is to make this both a positive and productive program.
Make it stick!
On the topic of making it positive and productive, don’t forget to reward the changed behavior and make it fun for your whole team! Studies indicate that at least 75% of all companies that implement a wellness program use some sort of reward to drive participation and success.2 To further motivate your employees, try a friendly competition to leverage teamwork such as a “biggest loser competition” or a healthy cook-off and treat the winner(s) to a healthy catered lunch. Another fun camaraderie activity is a walking program where you could track miles and reward employees with a new pair of running shoes or custom pedometers. Decreased premiums, monetary bonuses, or thoughtful gifts, whatever you do, the rewards for improved health and wellness for your employees and the increased productivity should be a win-win for all.
1Get America Fit Foundation Obesity Related Statistics in America
2Huffington Post: America’s Most Obese Workers: Jobs With The Heaviest Employees
3CareerBuilder: Smokers drag down a workplace, study says
4American Psychological Association Practice Organization
5Harvard Business Review: What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?
6Power2Motivate Creating Effective Workplace Wellness Programs
Direct Holdings Global, most notably associated with the success of the Time Life brand, is a multi-channel marketer, distributor, and leader in entertainment and lifestyle direct-to-consumer marketing. In this interview, President Chris Hearing shares how they foster an environment that encourages trust and innovation. Check out the full interview below!
Helios HR: What makes you excited?
Christopher Hearing: For me, seeing a new product or a new marketing program come to life. Our business relies on a steady flow of new products each year. We typically test about 15 new products annually. Of those, usually 10 products are launched. A huge amount of preparation goes into the product development and to see it become successful is incredibly gratifying. That’s what really motivates me to come to work every day.
An example that comes to mind is an oven that we’ve developed that uses a new technology to cook food faster, similar to a microwave cook time, yet browns and cooks food like a traditional oven. We set up a joint venture with Wolfgang Puck Productions and spent more than 2 years with Wolfgang and a team of engineers here and in China to prefect the technology and to bring it to the market. Last month we finally launched the oven on Home Shopping Network (HSN) and it sold out in 23 minutes! Now we are in the process of developing a TV commercial, working with our international and retail distributors, and continuing to market the oven. Everyone in our organization has a hand in making the success happen and it’s really exciting when we see it come full circle.
Helios HR: You’ve been with the organization for more than 26 years. How has the culture evolved at Direct Holdings throughout the change over the years?
Christopher Hearing: When I joined the company as a Financial Analyst 26 years ago, I certainly never expected that I’d be running the company now. If anyone who was with us 26 years ago came back today, they wouldn’t recognize the company. Twenty-six years ago, we had 10 locations in the US, another 7 overseas, operated under Time Incorporated and then Time Warner, making us part of a very large multinational corporation employing thousands. Today, we are privately held and we’ve got the same global distribution, it’s all done from our office in Fairfax, Virginia with just 62 employees. Even with a much smaller footprint, we’re as profitable today as we were back then. I believe that part of that is because of our culture. Now as a small organization, we operate with complete control, allowing us to have a much quicker response time and move at a faster pace. Direct Holdings is nimble and flexible, adapting to change and seeking new opportunities. We also ask all of our employees to be involved in a variety of responsibilities of the organization, whether it’s part of their job description or not. We are a team that embraces change and enjoys being challenged. We made a conscious decision 10 years ago to change the company structure and culture to be smaller and more nimble and we had to focus ourselves on making that culture change happen, the habits we had developed from our experience as a large organization were hard to break. A major cultural shift doesn’t happen overnight – 10 years later we are still focusing on ways we can improve, but it is critical to our ongoing success.
Helios HR: You’ve recently created an unlimited vacation policy. What initiated this policy change and how do you create such a trusting environment in the workplace?
Christopher Hearing: We’ve always had a generous vacation policy at Direct Holdings because we believe it’s important for employees to balance work and life. In order for us to be successful with our business model, we need employees who are really dedicated, motivated, and are willing to get the job done whether it’s in their job description or not. Therefore, it’s very important for us to treat our employees the same way we want them to act. They are free to take an appropriate amount of vacation as agreed upon with their manager. Obviously, we care about their work getting done and we require that they are having open communication with their managers and coordinating their schedules but that’s really no different than a more traditional vacation program. One of our biggest resource constraints is time. Making sure our attendance records are up to date wasn’t a good use of time nor did a structured vacation policy contribute any value. So whether someone takes 10 days or 13 days off per year, as long as they are demonstrating their commitment to the success of our business, the exact number of days isn’t really important. I get asked about managing employees who take too much time off or abuse the policy. It’s actually pretty simple; an employee who would abuse an unlimited vacation policy is not the kind of person who can be successful in our environment.
Helios HR: In an ever-changing marketplace, how do you encourage innovation at Direct Holdings?
Christopher Hearing: To give you some background, there are four different business lines at Direct Holdings: we have our traditional entertainment line where we sell music, CDs, DVDs on TV, web and retail. Next we have live entertainment business where we bring our nostalgic entertainment products to life through live experiences like our Soul Train Cruise where we charter a cruise ship for a week and bring entertainers like Earth, Wind & Fire and Gladys Knight onboard to perform. We have our lifestyle products group where we produce new kitchen products such as the Puck oven, juicers, next generation grills, etc. We’ve been in the lifestyle products market for about 4 years, it’s very new and different from our traditional lines of businesses, but we use the same core competencies as our legacy business line. Lastly, our fourth product line is Cash for Gold, which is a great example of innovation at Direct Holdings. We acquired this business out of bankruptcy last November. Although it was an opportunity in an industry that we had no experience in, we were able to play off what we are good at - direct to consumer marketing. We have been very successful in bringing Cash for Gold onboard and never missed a beat. It’s contributing meaningful profits to the organization.
Over the years, we’ve morphed Direct Holdings into where it is today. When we stop innovating, we will stop growing and will eventually fade away. Constant innovation is critical to our success. What’s really important is that everyone has a voice in the organization and that we are encouraging participation across the entire company. We have a quarterly town hall meeting, where we all meet to discuss what’s going on in the organization, have questions answered, and encourage new ideas to be shared. Additionally, I host smaller breakfast meetings inviting employees of all levels and across all departments to have breakfast and an opportunity to speak up and bring invaluable ideas and feedback in an informal setting. Some of our best ideas bubble up from inside the organization and so it is critical that we give voice to everyone in the company.
It’s also important that we bring new ideas to the table from outside the organization. A recent example is the hiring for a newly created position, Vice President of Entertainment Marketing. We intentionally wanted to find someone who wasn’t in our industry, who wasn’t an internal hire, someone with a completely new and fresh perspective. This new hire was brought in from well outside our normal hiring circle to help us innovate, challenge the way we do things, and change for the better.
Helios HR: How do you hold your leadership team accountable to managing performance?
Christopher Hearing: I am a very firm believer in the power of having a well-developed goals program. It gets everyone in the company focused and moving in the same direction. It’s too easy for us to get distracted and for people to work on things that aren’t central to our success. To make sure everyone is working towards the same goals, we spend a lot of time in the fourth quarter developing 4-5 large corporate goals that we want to accomplish in the coming year. The key components and reasons why we are going after those goals are then shared across the organization in our town hall meeting. Then, each division and individual develops their goals cascading from the corporate goals to ensure that everyone is aligned with our key priorities. I review everyone’s goals to make sure they are specific and measurable for performance and we add in financial goals from our budget process. Managing performance is all about being really clear about expectations of the organization and giving constant feedback on meeting those goals. We meet regularly to monitor performance against expectations and if things aren’t on track we develop plans to get back on course.