Blog Post

3 Ways the Pandemic Could Change Our Workplaces For The Better

Jeff Miller

Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, Cornerstone OnDemand

This article originally appeared on Fast Company.com

It’s been a challenging time, but it has shed a clear light on things that need to change. The COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to reject former routines and adopt new, socially distant ones. Protests that erupted worldwide following the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans inspired calls for reform and brought systemic racism, police brutality, and white privilege to the forefront of the American psyche. Maybe—just maybe—these events could produce lasting, positive change.

It’s difficult to predict what will happen at the national level, and unfortunately, there’s historical evidence that the impacts of events like these aren’t lasting. But I see the makings of lasting change in the American workplace. What if companies are as trusting and empathetic with their employees as they were during the pandemic? And what if leaders commit to long-term plans to bring more diversity and racial equity into their workforces? There’s work to be done in the workplace (and as a straight, married white male of privilege, I have to acknowledge the work I have to do, too). Using the learnings revealed from this year’s crises, businesses can affect real change. The question is, will they?

More trust

Trust between employers and their employees has always been crucial to a team’s morale, productivity, and collaboration. So far, this year has put that trust to the test. For instance, when COVID-induced remote work began, many employers invested in employee tracking software and other monitoring tools—this despite decades of research on employee management showing that close monitoring signals distrust to employees and encourages disloyalty. Instead, the opposite approach is more effective: Trust employees and they will honor that trust—and the fact that employees have been more productive during the pandemic is evidence.

Employers will have a hard time denying this flexibility in work hours and location post-pandemic. And many employees will likely demand it. Companies that have confidence in their people will see the benefits, like greater employee engagement, innovation, and productivity.

To work, that trust needs to go both ways. Amid the recent protests and calls or reform, many companies have pledged to make permanent changes. Some have promised upgrades to diversity and inclusion programs, others have started working on leadership pipelines and bringing more people of color into their board rooms. But in order for these initiatives to actually bring about lasting change—and encourage a workforce’s trust—companies must follow through on every purported strategy. Employees’ trust is on the line if a company’s efforts stop when the protests do.

More empathy

This crisis has taken a toll on the minds and emotions of American workers, with an incurable virus in our midst, unemployment at an all-time high, protests occurring daily, and the global economy still wavering. At least one-third of U.S. employees reported experiencing symptoms of depression while living through COVID-19. Thankfully, more than half of employers have recognized these struggles and are refining their mental health benefits in the wake of the pandemic.

What’s more, employees themselves have become more connected. They all have similar concerns and are more understanding. I’ve noticed this in my teams. Now that our work and home lives are mixed, we’re learning more about each other and our lives, families, and homes. When a videoconference is interrupted by a coworker’s barking dog or crying baby, we laugh it off as just another side effect to our new normal. Employees are acting with more humanity—but when it comes time for offices to reopen, will this practice remain?

There are benefits to maintaining this practice of empathy post-pandemic. Empathy can improve employee retention, advocacy, and even lead to business success, too. But it has to come from the top: In order for empathy to spread throughout an entire organization, managers must take the lead. They must deliberately practice empathetic leadership and take the feelings and opinions of others into account before acting on something. This strengthens manager-employee relationships, fosters loyalty, and can even teach employees how to operate compassionately. Empathetic leadership styles are especially important amid workplace discussions around race and biases. If leaders aren’t invested in these efforts or don’t clearly emote their support, employees may be apathetic as well.

Continuous learning

Sustained change requires continuous learning and reflection. This is true for individuals, companies, and even countries. Without it, we lose touch with what we’ve learned and why it’s important.

Interestingly, learning became a priority during COVID-19. Employees displayed an earnest interest in using this isolated experience as an opportunity for personal growth and development. This habit will be critical to maintain. As skills gaps are widening across industries, reskilling efforts need to happen now. Companies will have to continue providing learning opportunities that are easy, effective, and can be integrated into employees’ everyday workflows.

The protests have also encouraged learning. Many white people are pledging to educate themselves on systemic racism and oppression in America. In fact, since the protests began, Black American authors have topped the New York Times’ bestseller list, and the top 10 entries on the nonfiction list have been primarily titles that focus on race issues in the U.S. Business leaders have done the same, promising to learn more about how race relations and inequalities affect their workplace.

This is important since, for too many companies, racial biases and microaggressions still go unnoticed. And these conditions not only perpetuate systemic racism, but they can slow the growth of Black employees and affect their job performance. This learning cannot end with the protests. Organizations must continue using learning and development programs, like implicit bias training, to locate and address their racial blind spots. Of course, research shows that learning initiatives alone are not enough—they must be accompanied by structural changes, like the removal of any noninclusive organizational policies. But they are still an integral part of a company’s overall commitment to antiracism that the executive team should be held accountable for.

Before society returns to "normal," ask yourself the following questions: What have I learned? What do I want to do differently? How can I make sure that I follow through on these changes? Right now, the American workplace has an opportunity to become more trustworthy, empathetic, and equitable. But it will require effort. Business leaders and employees must commit to change.

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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy

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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy

Social media is ubiquitous, and companies are using it in many different and innovative ways for enhancing their sales, marketing and customer services. So why is it then that many HR departments still fail to see social media as more than a job board? Outside of the office, the same HR people happily engage with friends on Facebook, share news and ideas on Twitter, look at pictures on Instagram and send snaps on Snapchat. But when they put their work hat on they seemingly forget why they use social in the way they (and hundreds of millions of other users) do every day, and resort back to just posting jobs (in a boring way) on social media! Of course there is nothing wrong with job posting, and it's often an effective approach to reaching an audience, but not all of the time. According to LinkedIn, only 12 percent of the working population are actively seeking new employment. So, if all you do is post jobs on your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page, you are consciously ignoring the other 88 percent of the working population who might be interested in hearing more about your company in general. Creating and sharing interesting content about your company such as employee stories or volunteer days help bring your employer brand to life. It might even trigger people to reach out to you and find out more about your job opportunities. In truth, mixing up your social media feeds with a variety of content will provide more depth and candidate engagement. Here are four ways to expand your social media strategy and engage with new potential candidates. 1) Candidate Sourcing With people using an average of more than five social networks, sourcing talent via social media makes absolute sense. Branch out from just using LinkedIn and look to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to search for and engage with prospective talent. Try search tools like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for keywords and job titles, a clever Chrome browser extension called Intelligence Search that easily searches Facebook and using the search bar at the top of Google+. They will help you identify new talent. If you are looking to build social media pipelines then try Hello Talent. It is a great free tool that allows you to build talent pipelines from many different social networks by using a browser extension. 2) Competitor Monitoring Social media is a fantastic source of information and data. By using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, you can monitor the social media activity of your competitors. Both of these tools allow you to set up search columns, where you can enter things like keywords, hashtags, Twitter names and track when any of these are mentioned on sites such as Twitter. You can use the interact or use the insights accordingly. 3) Resources for Candidates Consider your Facebook page (or Twitter channel) as a real-time customer services channel for you to engage and communicate with both new and existing candidates in the recruitment process. Provide links to your social media pages to candidates at all stages in the process and encourage them to visit the pages and ask questions about any part of the process. You can also share useful information about working for the company, including locations, employees and other relevant news. 4) Live Recruitment Events Not everyone can attend the many recruitment events happening every month. But by using social media like Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram and Snapchat, you can easily provide live commentary for these events you attend or host. Real-time video via Facebook Live and interaction via Twitter chats are superb examples of ways to regularly engage with a live audience of potential candidates. With social media firmly established in our working lives, I question how much more evidence HR departments will need to fully embrace this "new" form of candidate engagement. Photo: Twenty20

Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting

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Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting

Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Missed the Recruiting Trends conference? From the state of recruiting automation adoption, to the role that the human element still plays in recruiting, our recap covers everything you need to know. Header photo: Creative Commons

The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt

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The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt

Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with Tuition.io to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock

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