Friendships at Work

Data Point Tuesday
Censuswide
and LinkedIn recently partnered up to explore how friendships at work impact employees’ experiences and perspectives of their workplaces. Their study, titled “Relationships @Work,” surveyed more than 11,500 full-time professionals between the ages of 18-65 in 14 countries, including the U.S, Sweden, India, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Italy, Indonesia, Brazil and the U.K. What did they find? A large percentage of professionals surveyed (46%) admit that work friendships play a role in their overall happiness, and it’s clear from the research that the amount of value placed on workplace friendships, and the level of confidence (or how personal they were) varies significantly depending on the generation. For example, while 46% of respondents stated that work friendships play a role in their overall happiness, this data point increased for millennial respondents, age 18-24, up to 57%. Respondents in this age group also felt that work friendships were motivating (50%) and made them more productive (39%).

The research also found Millennials to be much more likely to share personal details with friends at work. 67% of Millennial respondents stated that they share details of their lives such as salary, relationships and family issues with work buddies. This is a major shift from the days where mentioning salaries or details of one’s personal life was taboo. Millennials’ potential “over sharing” doesn’t seem to be rubbing off on colleagues, however; only 3% of baby boomers admit being likely to share details of their personal lives with work friends. Millennials’ casual approach to communication with work friends is also reflected in their relationships with managers. LinkedIn and Censuswide’s research found that one in three, or 28%, of millennials have texted a manager out of work hours for a non-work related issue. This is compared to only 10% of baby boomers.

global friends at workWhy are Millennials gushing to buddies at work? It may not be so much a facet of their generation’s personality, but a genuine attempt to grow and further their career. One third of Millennials versus 5% of baby boomers stated that they think socializing with colleagues helps them move up the career ladder. Note too, that 18% of respondents (all generations) say that friendships with colleagues make them more competitive in their careers, so while close friendships at work may be a greater trend for Millennials, it is not exclusively a trend of that generation. Additionally, 51% of respondents (all generations) say that they stay in touch with former colleagues, and while we can’t say where exactly the value of this comes from (friendship, mentor, resource, networking, etc.), we can certainly say it indicates respondents have a loyalty to past colleagues and work friendships. It seems that globally, too, workplace friendships have a high level of importance. In India, for example, 1 in 3 professionals say their closest work colleagues understand them better than their partners.

Overall, this data is a good reminder that everyone communicates differently, whether on an individual basis or by the larger personality of an age demographic. Specifically, though, when it comes to retaining Millennial employees, this desire for work friendships and casual communication could be an overlooked point of value for employees. As workplaces become increasing more generationally diverse, it becomes important (even vital) to recognize the different, and evolving, communication styles of employees.

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, Millennials, workplace happiness

The Urgency of Leadership Development

Data Point Tuesday
In March I discussed a few takeaways from Deloitte’sGlobal Human Capital Trends 2014” survey. After relooking through the report, I think it would be worthwhile to mention some of the other global trends for 2014. I previously discussed the need to reskill HR teams, one of the top four (out of 12) global trends that survey respondents perceived as most urgent. I did not, however, discuss the top trend perceived as most urgent by responders, that is, the need to build global leadership. Fully 38% of respondents rated this as “urgent,” 50% more than the next trend identified as “urgent.” At the time of the study, companies reported generally low levels of readiness to respond to the global trends mentioned in the report, and despite the fact that at least 60% of respondents identified these global trends as “important” or “urgent,” in all, 36% of respondents reported being “not ready” to respond to the trends. This is a significantly higher percentage than those reporting they were ready to respond to the trends (at only 16%). With us now more than half way through 2014, I’m hoping this particular statistic has shifted a bit, but we don’t have that data yet!

Deloitte urgency graph

We do know that building better leadership is a “hot-topic” trend we’ve seen repeated recently in many reports or white-papers; it’s certainly not unique to only this report. I think with trends like these it’s important to reflect on the proposed reasons: why is building better leadership perceived as so highly important now? Did we have better leadership in the past? Are leaders lacking necessary skills today, or are we simply lacking in an adequate bench of leadership? Deloitte’s study offers some insightful points. “In a world where knowledge doubles every year and skills have a half-life of 2.5 to 5 years, leaders need to constantly develop.” Consider, as well, globalization and the speed (not to mention breadth) of technological change and development, which highly fuel this need to constantly develop. Perhaps another point that highlights the reason that “leadership” remains the #1 talent issue facing organizations today is that this term encompasses leadership at every level of an organization (we’re not solely talking about developing the next CEO or the C-Suite pipeline). “21st-century leadership is different. Companies face new leadership challenges, including developing Millennials and multiple generations of leaders, meeting the demand for leaders with global fluency and flexibility, building the ability to innovate and inspire others to perform, and acquiring new levels of understanding of rapidly changing technologies and new disciplines and fields”.

According to those surveyed in Deloitte’s report, only 13 percent of companies rate themselves “excellent” in providing leadership programs at all levels—new leaders, next-generation leaders, and senior leaders. Furthermore, 66% of respondents believe they are “weak” in their ability to develop Millennial leaders (only 5 percent rate themselves as “excellent”) and only 8% believe they have “excellent” programs to build global skills and experiences. 51% of respondents have little confidence in their ability to maintain clear, consistent succession programs. In terms of skills, Deloitte’s research shows that foundational along with new leadership, these skills are in high demand: business acumen, the ability to collaborate and build cross-functional teams, global cultural agility (the ability to manage diversity and inclusion), creativity, customer-centricity, influence and inspiration, and the ability to develop people and create effective teams.

Deloitte leadership programs graph

With this data in mind, we can then ask the question how can organizations “get ready” to address the trend of building global leadership. Deloitte offers four potential starting points:

  1. Engage top executives to develop leadership strategy and actively govern leadership development,
  2. Align and refresh leadership strategies and development to evolving business goals,
  3. Focus on three aspects of developing leaders (develop leaders at all levels, develop global leaders locally, develop a succession mindset),
  4. Implement an effective leadership program.

While all of these approaches will likely involve a significant investment of time and resources along with a commitment to leadership from the board and executive team, they are doable – companies both small and large on our Best Companies to Work for Lists are a testament to this!

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, HR, Leadership, Learning/Development

Financial Stress? What Financial Stress?

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What are organizations doing to help employees manage financial difficulties? SHRM (in collaboration with Elevate) explored this question in their recent survey “Employee Financial Stress.” They found that 61% of HR professionals would describe their employees’ financial health as no better than “fair,” where 38% would describe theirs as “very good” or “good.” Organizations that had more full time hourly employees were more likely to have a response of “fair” compared to organizations with fewer full time hourly employees who were more likely to report better financial health amongst employees. 50% of HR professionals reported that the age group most likely to experience financial stress was 25 to 34 year olds, though 29% reported that 35-44 years old experienced more financial stress. This makes sense as both age ranges reflect periods of significant life changes, such as starting a first job, buying a home and having a first child.

If 61% of HR professionals would describe their employees’ financial stress as no better than fair, it begs the question as to what efforts, if any, organizations are making to help employees become more financially literate and skilled. SHRM and Elevate’s survey found that 70% of HR professionals report employees being “somewhat financially literate,” and while 17% of employees are described as “very financially literate,” an additional 17% are considered “not at all financially literate.” We can cycle back to the initial question, then, of what organizations are doing to help employees manage financial stress?

The research finds that 19% of organizations offer employees loan products from a third-party provider, and 18% of organizations offer payroll advances. Almost three quarters of HR professionals report that offering third-party provider loan products have a positive impact on employees’ overall ability to manage their financial difficulties. Slightly over one-half of HR professionals reported pay advances having a positive impact. When it comes to common services that organizations offer to employees to help manage their finances, retirement planning and consultation takes the top spot at 81% followed by financial literacy training for investing at 42%. Some, although few, organizations also offer financial services including financial literacy training for basic budgeting (25%) and credit score monitoring (8%).

financial-literacy-chart-shrm-2014

The fact that a combined 61% of HR professionals describe the overall financial situation of their employees as no better than fair (50% fair, 10% poor and 1% very poor) may hint that organizations should take a look at their financial benefits program and tailor it to the needs of their employees – for example, if an organization has a high percentage of Millennial employees, and the data suggest Millennials are experiencing the most financial stress, this could be a starting point. We can highlight too, that if this is the case, it could be a point for inter-generational workplace tension – if there are highly perceived financial differences amongst different demographic groups. Organizations might also consider some of the positively received but less prevalently used financial benefits. Understanding the personal financial stress points in your workforce will be a first step in providing meaningful support for a stressor that can derail productive employees.

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Working Parents Feel More – Not Less – Stress

Data Point Tuesday
Bright Horizons
recently conducted a national study, “The Modern Family Index” that explores what it means to be a working parent today. The study revealed some insightful points, including that working parents still perceive that their responsibilities with their family may cause them to experience significant challenges at work. Bright Horizon’s research highlights that much has changed towards how parents approach family obligations and the level of conflict they experience. But how positive are those changes when, overall, many employees still feel like they can’t be honest with their supervisors about family responsibilities?

Perhaps the most obvious example of change toward family obligations in 2014 is that work/family balance is not only an issue for mothers. Fathers report being nearly just as stressed and insecure about work and family conflicts as mothers (46% of dads say that one of their daily stressors is child care needs during the workday, vs. 52% of moms) and are likely to be just as nervous as women to tell their bosses about some of their big family commitments (63% of men vs. 68% of women). Additionally, for fathers, work/life integration ranks just as highly as other top stressors like saving for retirement and managing personal health. Additionally, telling their bosses that they need to take time off for a family matter is just as stressful (39%) as telling a boss they’ve made a mistake on a work project (36%). When it comes to flexible scheduling, one in three fathers (34%) report asking their employers for more flexibility or modification of their work schedule to meet obligations to their children (compared to 42% of moms).

While the increased balance of family obligations between men and women represents a positive trend, it’s still concerning that working parents so highly perceive that family obligations can negatively impact their career – or actually cause them to be demoted and fired. Bright Horizons Family Means Firedreports that 60% of working parents have at least one work-related concern caused by family responsibilities, and 48% admit one of their concerns due to their family responsibilities is that they could get fired! If there’s any statistic to highlight in this report, I think it’s probably this one: nearly 50% of working parents are concerned about getting fired for having family obligations! Additionally worrisome data follow this statistic, including:

  • 39% of parents fear being denied a raise because of family responsibilities
  • 37% fear they will never get promoted again, and
  • 26% worry about a demotion because of family responsibilities.

And to make sure family obligations don’t impact work time? Parents report spending 51% of paid time off dealing with family responsibilities instead of taking a trip or relaxing at home.

Bright Horizon’s research unfortunately pulls the rug out from under the belief that discussions of work/life integration and family obligations are commonplace today. Certainly they are more common than they were in the past, but this study indicates that we might not be taking the leaps and bounds that all the headlines around work/life integration suggest. Employees today remain just as nervous bringing up key family-related issues (51%) as important work-related problems (52%) with employers, and 23% of working parents (almost a quarter) admit to lying or bending the truth to their boss about family responsibilities that get in the way of work:

  • 31% of working parents have faked being sick to meet family obligations
  • 39% admit that one of the things they would be nervous to tell their boss is that they need to miss a work event for a family commitment
  • 56% (more than half!) of working parents report that one of the topics they would hesitate to ask their boss about is reducing hours, working remotely or placing boundaries on responding to calls or emails.

This would be a good time to consider what work/life integration programs your organization offers – as well as the attitude senior management has towards employees with families. Does senior management walk the talk or are family friendly policies just lip service? Make sure working parents are aware of programs that are in place to help them balance their work and family responsibilities, and, perhaps more importantly, make sure it is emphasized that it is OKAY, and expected, that working parents utilize those programs. Creating family friendly policies in one thing. Encouraging their use and ensuring that parents’ careers are not jeopardized for using them is an entirely other thing. Where does your organization net out?

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Filed under Bright Horizons, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Work Life Balance, Work/Life Integration

#GenMobile: State of Mind Not Function of Age

Data Point Tuesday

We’re at a turning point with mobile technology. For many users, tablets and smartphones are no longer a convenience or entertainment tool, but a necessary part of their working lives. A recent survey by Aruba Networks identifies these users as “generation mobile.” The research, conducted to take stock of mobility’s increasing prominence in people’s working lives, examines survey responses from over 5,000 members of the public across the USA, UK, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Several characteristics define “generation mobile,” including believing in working anytime and anywhere, and in a more connected world (from cars to clothing). And while 18-35 year olds do account for the highest mobile users, generation mobile spans all age groups.

Aruba Network’s research found that 86% of respondents owned at least two connected devices (devices with the ability to connect to the internet). Non-traditional working hours and the option of flextime were also identified as highly important values to generation mobile people. It should be noted though, that while the ability to hop on Wi-Fi and access work related materials during non-traditional work hours appeal to gen mobile, this value is not driven by laziness (45% of respondents report that they work most efficiently before 9am and after 6pm). Additionally, over half of those surveyed said they’d prefer to work from home or remotely two to three days a week than receive a 10% higher salary. This indicates that instituting flexible scheduling could not only increase productivity for employees and create a happier culture, but could be an opportunity for companies to create cost savings. Across the globe we see this move towards flexible work arrangements being reflected, with working out of office on the rise, and 37% of respondents expecting this trend to continue (with just 4.5% foreseeing a decrease).Types of Tech

How vital is your mobility? 64% of respondents report that their mobile devices make them more productive at work, and 63% (over two-thirds) think their mobile devices help them manage their lives better. Looking just at hours spent, mobile devices play a huge role in people’s daily lives: 1/3 of us spend over 1/3 of our day on these devices, and while people still value ‘disconnected’ time (63%), such devices are obviously valuable to us – I’d wager you’ve felt the sting of forgetting one of these devices before. Why, as an organization, is it important to recognize the expectations and values of this generation mobile group? Despite the fact that this group is only likely to get bigger as we continue along in this uber-connected world, as I’ve discussed in other posts, understanding the values and motivators of your employees – and conveying that you value these too, is a huge part of building a great place to work.

Employers should know that 28.9% (over a quarter of those surveyed in Aruba Network’s research), feel it is their company’s responsibility to provide them with a smartphone or a tablet. Furthermore, 29.2% report that though they would rather buy their own, they see these devices as a workplace necessity. It’s also important to note that the overwhelming majority of respondents want Wi-Fi over wired connectivity. This raises though, an important concern for employers. Organizations should make sure networks are secure and that the correct security measures are in place for employees storing company information on mobile devices.

How #genmobile is your workforce? In the quest to retain talent, do you account for these kinds of expectations? Have you spent any time thinking about how important mobile devices are to you and those around you – a little? a lot? And have you used this insight to avoid the assumption that mobile devices and the high mobility they provide are only valued by younger, millennial employees?

Turns out #GenMobile is a state of mind, not a function of age.

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Filed under Aruba Netoworks, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Mobile Devices, Work Life Balance, Workflex

I’m Not Crazy: Let’s Talk About Paternity Leave!

Data Point Tuesday

Perhaps it was the Father’s day celebrations that happened a few weeks back that sparked this week’s blog topic… a subject that stills seems rarely addressed: paternity leave, and workplace policies for new fathers. On the flip side, there are oodles of studies and piles of data on maternity leave and programs/policies for new mothers. While traditional social roles are still very influential and probably the biggest underlying factor for such discrepancies, at a time when working mothers are just as common as working fathers and gender equity is not something to strive for but a necessity in a great workplace, we owe it to ourselves to discuss paternity leave in the same light, and with the same vigor, as maternity leave. A 2014 study by the Boston College Center for Work and Family “THE NEW DAD: Take Your Leave” provides great perspectives on paternity policies at leading organizations, as well as an insightful global look at policies for fathers, incorporating interviews and surveys taken by ~3,000 dads.

When it comes to paid leave for time off directly following the birth of a child (for both women and men), the U.S is an outlier compared to nearly every other developed country in the world, offering no national policy on paid leave. In terms of paternity leave specifically, today there are 70 countries that offer paid leave in either the form of shared parental leave or paternity leave. It was perhaps most interesting to see father’s attitudes towards childcare and paternity leave. The vast majority of fathers surveyed rated their children as their top priority in life, more than 3 out of 4 fathers wished to spend more time with their children than they do presently, and more than 2 out of 3 fathers said caregiving should be a 50/50 proposition and wished to divide this evenly between spouses. When respondents were asked, in considering a new job, how important paid paternity/parental leave was in the U.S 89% indicated it was important, and more than half 60% indicated it was very important. The intensity of responses varied by generation, 93% of fathers from the millennial generation said paternity leave is extremely, very or somewhat important, Gen X fathers felt similar (slightly subdued at 88%) and Boomers felt least strongly (77%) – perhaps for obvious reasons.

The average amount of time off taken by fathers following the birth of a child is two weeks. Boston College’s study found, however, that there is a strong correlation between the supportiveness of the workplace culture and the number of weeks that fathers took off. The more encouraged new fathers were to spend time with their children, the more weeks they took off (on average). Whether leave was paid or unpaid was another big influencer on whether leave was taken. 86% of respondents said they would not make use of paternity leave or parental leave unless at least 70% of their salaries were paid, and 45% said compensation needed to be at 100%. When asked what the right amount of paternity leave/paternal leave should be in the U.S, 74% of fathers said 3-4 weeks.

Study by Boston College Center for Work and Family “THE NEW DAD: Take Your Leave”

The data clearly reflect the changing role of fathers and the expectation for men to be more involved with their children. Beyond this though, it may indicate that men have a strong desire to be more active parents, something organizations should encourage, for a number of reasons. More and more studies are acknowledging the importance of father/infant interaction. A recent paper in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry shows a correlation between behavioral disorders (the most common psychological problem affecting children) to disengaged interactions of fathers with their infants. A 2010 study cited in the Boston College report found that developing bonds with children at an early age improves the likelihood of a stronger relationship later in life. Additionally, global research has demonstrated benefits to families when fathers take paternity leave, including increased wellbeing for the new mothers. A recent study in the Journal of Business and Psychology Organizations found that men switch between four images of themselves as fathers: provider, role model, partner and nurturer and that depending on their work environment, one of these roles is always dominant. Men that work in an environment where they can talk about their children, for example, are more likely to be nurturers, whereas men who feel unable to discuss anything but breadwinning are likely to conform mostly to that role.

Organizations offering paternity leave are sending clear messages about work life integration and its values. While U.S. employers are not required by law to provide paid maternity or paternity leave, the positive impacts of these on building a culture of high trust are inescapable. As are the positive impacts on fathers, mothers and children. It gets increasingly difficult to argue against creating these kinds of policies.

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Benefits, Paid Leave, Time off, Trust, Work Life Balance

Employee Wellness: It’s All About Control

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June is National Employee Wellness Month, so let’s focus on some current workplace health and wellness stats. We know that a workplace culture based on Trust creates happier, engaged and higher preforming employees on all levels. And health and well-being should be considered an important factor towards this overall goal because employees who experience poor health and wellness are likely to (amongst other things) experience higher levels of stress, miss more days of work and experience less productivity – all important determinants in an employee’s overall engagement. With Employee Wellness Month in mind, let’s celebrate the health and wellness of those around us, and consider the wellness initiatives at our own organizations – are there programs in place? Do they work? Do employees know about them?

In “The 2014 Consumer Health Mindset StudyAon Hewitt has partnered with The National Business Group on Health (The Business Group) and The Futures Company to explore the “perspectives, attitudes and behaviors that employees and dependents hold toward health and health care as they interact with their employer-sponsored health plans and wellness programs”. When it came to respondents’ perceptions of personal health, there were some interesting takeaways, including that overall, from 2012-2013, the amount of people reporting that their “health is at least good” has slightly increased (from 87% in 2012 to 92% in 2013). However, respondents continue to fail to consider their weight when accounting for their overall health; with 59% of those reporting being in “at least good health” considered medically to be overweight or obese, up from 53%.

Wellness programs graphic

As far as actions that lead to good health, respondents ranked the most influential factor as “making smart healthy choices in my daily life”, which ranked over factors such as “getting regular preventive care,” “living and or/working in a healthy environment,” “having good genes,” and “having enough money to pay for all the care I need to stay healthy.” Those employees who do work in strong cultures of wellness, however, were more likely to say that they had control over their health. Additionally, related to culture at work, respondents ranked “work environment” as the 3rd biggest obstacle that kept them from getting and staying healthy (lack of time at 63%, affordability at 40%, work environment at 35%). When looking at health care costs over the last decade it comes as no surprise that affordability ranks amongst the biggest concerns for maintaining health – employees’ share of health care costs will have increased 125% from 2004 ($2,011) to 2013 ($4,542).

Interestingly, only 12% of respondents see health information from their employer as significantly influencing their actions (but this number is up 50% from 2012). This is interesting considering that we have seen a significant increase of companies instituting health and wellness programs as a whole; are these programs in place but just not being used? Are employees not interested in the types of wellness programs being offered? Aon Hewitt’s study states that 19% of respondents feel their employers encourage healthy behavior between a 0-3 range (on a 10 point scale), whereas 47% believe their employers encouragement of healthy behavior falls between a 4-7 point ranges. Given this, it seems less likely that companies don’t have any programs in place at all, and more likely that they are either programs employees aren’t interested in, or aren’t aware of.

So how can companies encourage employees to take advantage of health and wellness programs? Respondents indicated that two of the biggest influencers of feeling like their organization had a strong health-related culture were: that their employer seriously considers all actions that improve employee health, and that employees were actively encouraged to incorporate healthy activities during the work day. Additionally, employees want programs that they can personally relate to. 46% of respondents stated they would not participate in a wellness program that is not relevant to them or does not apply to their situation (the number one reason). Additionally, in terms of what makes wellness programs most appealing, financial rewards (even small sums like $50 or less) takes the top spot, followed by programs being easy to do or convenient. Lastly, remember that respondents perceive making independent “smart healthy choices in my daily life,” to be the biggest overall influencer on their health and wellness. With this in mind, perhaps the most successful workplace wellness programs are the simple things put in place to encourage employees to make these choices – sometimes it’s the little things. Happy National Employee Wellness Month!

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