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The ReWork Editors's picture

HR Labs, DEIB Edition: Lilly Ledbetter Discusses Pay Equity

We’re thrilled to announce the third season of HR Labs, a podcast that explores how to create a better employee experience for all of your people. This season is hosted by Cornerstone’s Chief Learning Officer and VP of Organizational Effectiveness Jeff Miller and Chief Diversity Officer Duane La Bom. Through conversations with change-makers, activists, executives and experts, they’ll explore strategies for taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives from intention to action. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

One of the fundamental pillars of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is fair pay in the workplace. This week on HR Labs, Jeff sits down with activist Lilly Ledbetter—a woman whose name is synonymous with the fight for pay equity—to discuss the state of employee compensation today, what needs to change and why it's important for companies and their employees. 

A Pay Equity Icon

Lilly understands all too well the injustice of the pay gap. Her fight began 19 years into her career at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, when she discovered that she was making 40% less than her male counterparts. That moment sparked a lifelong journey of advocating for equal compensation. 

Lilly filed a sex discrimination case against Goodyear, which she won—and then lost on appeal. Over the next eight years, her case made it to the Supreme Court, where she lost again. In the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc, the Supreme Court ruled that Lilly should have filed suit within 180 days of her first unequal paycheck, despite the fact that she had no way of knowing that she was previously being paid unfairly.

In 2007, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, urging Lilly to fight back. So, Lilly fought—and became the namesake of Pres. Barack Obama's first official piece of legislation as president:  the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which overturned the Supreme Court’s decision and states that the 180-day time period for filing an equal-pay lawsuit resets with each new paycheck affected by discriminatory action.

Still, Lilly says her work isn’t done. She continues to make visits to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers and advocate for more regulation around fair pay.

“I keep getting up every day, hoping to make a difference in this because this is terribly far from justice for the American family,” she said. 

Equal Pay for Equal Work

In addition to her work on Capitol Hill, Lilly also speaks with employees and students about salary negotiation, as well as with company leadership directly, in an effort to make meaningful change in the corporate world. Equal pay for equal work ultimately helps organizations be successful, she says. A commitment to pay equity should be part of any company’s DEIB initiative, since it’s an opportunity to turn intention into action.

“Their people are their representatives,” said Lilly of companies. “The people sell their product.” 

Listen below to hear more about Lilly’s story and her lifelong fight for pay equity. 

Subscribe to HR Labs and never miss a conversation about strategies for seeing real impact from your DEI&B efforts. Tune back in on March 17th to hear Duane’s conversation with professor of sociology Don Tomascovic-Devey­ about improving diversity and inclusion efforts by better engaging white men and middle managers.

 

Ira S. Wolfe's picture

Focus on Employee Experience—Not Employee Engagement—In 2021

Modern employee-employer relationships are inherently complicated. Add a distributed workplace and a pandemic to the mix, and managing the modern workforce became exponentially more complex almost overnight. Today, leaders have to think about everything from culture to well-being to purpose and meaning—the entirety of the employee journey, known as the employee experience.

Over my four-decade business career, this conversation has evolved from discussing employee satisfaction to employee engagement to employee experience. Some might argue the difference is just semantics, that the terms are interchangeable. 

The reality is the current movement toward employee experience is much more than just a change in verbiage. By first understanding how it’s different, we can begin to understand some strategies for creating a positive employee experience—with the help of psychologist Jason Cochran.

What is Employee Experience—and How is it Different?

“Creating a good employee experience doesn’t happen by accident,” Cochran says. Instead, it’s an intentional evolution of thinking about how employees experience work—and a move beyond employee “satisfaction” and “engagement.”

Employee satisfaction infers contentment. And while 50 years ago it might have been adequate to measure how happy an employee was at their job, the days of the 40-year career path with a single company are over. 

As organizational lifespans of companies have decreased from 60 years to a mere 17 years today, competition forced companies to consider more than contentment—and employee engagement dethroned satisfaction as a result. Engagement was about treating employees as stakeholders in the company’s performance, and increasing an emphasis on things like development conversations and coworker relationships as a result. 

While the global pandemic has certainly helped spur this shift toward employee experience, it’s also an opportunity. As Sir Winston Churchill once stated, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Companies that lean in and focus on the full employee experience will keep employees happy, engaged—and more.

Understanding Employee Experience through Connection

In the spirit of Churchill’s infamous words, the challenges of the pandemic absolutely demand new, amplified efforts to maintain success through increased employee productivity and participation. Employers must pivot from the static objectives of employee satisfaction and engagement to a broader model of employee experience.

Cochran, my guest on a recent podcast, is a psychologist and employee experience researcher. Cochran has distilled over 20 years of research down to four core principles that inform human motivation and purpose from on-boarding to off-boarding—he calls it the 4 Principles of Connection™️. 

  • Connecting to Self: People want to work for organizations that help them develop as a whole person, not just in the rote skills of their job.

  • Connecting to Others: People want to work where they're accepted for their authentic selves and where they experience a level of connection with the leadership and their team that creates strong bonds.

  • Connecting to Role: People want to work where they have clarity about their responsibilities, know their importance in the company ecosystem and understand how their contributions matter.

  • Connecting to the Organization: People want to work where they know the greater whole, of which they're a part, is doing important work in the world.

Employee Experience Drives Employee Performance

According to one study, employees with more positive experiences at work reported significantly higher levels of discretionary effort—i.e. labor accomplished voluntarily by individuals passionate about their work.

“In other words,” Cochran says, “People will go above and beyond typical job responsibilities, they will go the extra mile, and you can see discretionary effort in any organization, at any level.”

This keen willingness to perform is essential to productivity, team cohesion and a company’s overall success. In fact, the same study referenced above indicates that employees are two times as likely to use discretionary effort when their experience is positive.

Understand Employee Experience in Real Time

According to Cochran, a lot of valuable data can be gained from engagement surveys. But like an annual performance review, by the time the data is received and ready to use, it’s often too late. 

“The best companies invest time and money to make sure their employees are cared for throughout their tenure at the company in real-time,” he explains.

Cochran’s advice is to create real-time feedback loops to track things like whether employees are receiving appropriate evaluation, how well employees are tracking goals and following growth plans, and their level of participation in learning and development programs. These create signals to be sent to leadership on an ongoing basis. Management needs to know more than once or twice per year what is going well and what needs improvement. 

It’s Time To Lean Into Employee Experience

Mere emphasis on employee engagement isn’t enough. Instead, companies must implement changes focused on increasing positive perceptions of workplace experiences, scrapping ineffective measures of engagement, and escalating data-driven and real-time insights to drive change. Employee experience is the competitive edge necessary in today’s rapidly evolving, uncertain world.

The ReWork Editors's picture

Graphic: Bridging the Confidence Gap Between Employees and Employers

The modern worker has been forced to adapt—and quickly, with the half-life of a skill now estimated to be about 5 years. Their very livelihood depends on acquiring new skills. But recent research from Cornerstone shows there's a major disconnect between what employees feel capable of—and what business leaders expect—in terms of skill development.

The Cornerstone People Research Lab conducted a global research survey on the progress that has been made in the last few years in the area of skills development. The survey asked company leaders and employees to evaluate how they think their organizations are prioritizing employee growth.

The research shows that although leaders understand that a balance of hard and soft skills is essential for success, a significant “confidence gap” exists: While 90% of business leaders feel confident that they are positioned to develop their employees’ skills, only 60% of employees believe that their organization could help them build their skills for the future. And, only 62% of employees feel they currently have the proper resources they’d need to succeed going forward.

The infographic below explores the “confidence gap” in more detail and suggests how organizations can work to bridge this divide. Look for additional content on ReWork and read our ebook, “Bridge the Workforce Skills Gap: 3 Key Places to Start,” to learn more about how executives, HR leaders and managers can work together to help close the confidence gap and reskill successfully. 

 

How can organizations work at closing skills gaps and improve employees’ confidence? Learn more about the challenge and opportunity for organizations to close these confidence gaps and reskill organizations successfully. Find out the next steps in our ebook, “Bridge the Workforce Skills Gap: 3 Key Places to Start.”

Terry LaBan's picture

Cartoon Coffee Break: Defining a Work From Home Policy

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 regularly for a new ReWork cartoon.

 

Even before the pandemic upended employees’ daily routines, workers craved flexibility. A 2018 survey found that almost a third of workers valued it more than extra vacation time or higher job titles. And beyond helping companies attract and retain employees, flexible workplace policies make companies more agile and save them money.

Nontraditional work setups due to the pandemic have shown that people need flexibility more than ever—and more than just the ability to work from home. Take a closer look at what flexibility really means when crafting work from home policies for your company. 

Flexibility in the Workplace Means Different Things to Different People

Not everyone is looking for the same thing when it comes to having a flexible work arrangement. Some people may want to work from a geographical location not tied to a physical office, while others might work most efficiently outside of the typical 9-to-5, or even with their hours distributed across more or fewer days per week. Others might actually prefer having a dedicated office space outside their home to visit, even if it’s not five days per week.

The need for flexibility can come from many different places. For some, it’s about remaining productive or meshing with their best workstyles—perhaps working better at certain hours of the day or in specific environments. Others might need flexibility—whether of location, hours or accomodation—in order to care for dependents or manage a disability. 

Establish Clear Boundaries Around Flexible Work

Having flexible work policies doesn’t—and shouldn’t—mean that you expect your employees to be available around the clock (or while, say, on a hike!). When considering flexible work schedules for your employees, emphasize and establish boundaries to avoid employee burnout and help them maintain a work-life balance. Encourage employees to set away messages, pause chat or email notifications or block time on their calendars when they are not available.  After all, trust is key to a strong manager-employee relationship: Focus on measuring the results of your employees’ work rather than micromanaging their daily behaviors. 

Finding the Best Work from Home Policy For Your Team

Crafting work from home policies will not necessarily be one-size-fits-all—you’ll likely have to make some exceptions. Know what factors are likely to impact your employees’ ability to complete work and where logistical challenges might pop up—such as managing time zones with colleagues or clients, or completing collaborative work. 

Ultimately, flexibility is still one of the most important factors people consider when deciding whether to accept or remain at jobs. As you develop policies moving forward, understand what flexibility really means for your company. 

Read more about how to measure productivity to find the best flexible work situations for your organization.

 

Ike Bennion's picture

Breaking Down Blockchain: Where Does HR Go From Here?

Editor’s Note: In our four-part series, Breaking Down Blockchain, ReWork explains the potential of this promising new technology in the world of HR. Check out our previous piece, on how blockchain is transforming resumes, here.

Over the course of this series, we’ve explored blockchain in HR from top to bottom. We’ve spoken to experts who’ve explained existing and promising use cases for blockchain in recruiting, hiring, learning and development—and beyond. 

We’ve learned that, so far, HR leaders have taken particular interest in blockchain for recruitment, particularly because it can simplify the hiring and onboarding processes for all parties involved. With blockchain, the characteristic back-and-forth of the traditional hiring process fades into streamlined procedure. For example, when employees’ data is added to their record just once, it can carry through to background checks, benefits and other related stages of hiring and onboarding. New hires can get to work more quickly than ever before. 

The near-instant gratification that comes with using blockchain for recruiting and hiring enables even those unfamiliar with this complex technology to conceptualize its potential. But as the HR space starts using blockchain more widely for recruitment, adoption for other applications, including learning and development, has been somewhat slower to date. So what’s standing in the way? Ironically enough, it comes down to the need for more education.  

Boosting Adoption of Blockchain

Before a company can consider leveraging blockchain to transform processes beyond recruiting and hiring, its leaders must develop a comprehensive understanding of how it works. A general familiarity with the technology—like saying you’ve heard of cryptocurrency or Bitcoin—is not quite enough to use it productively.

To get familiar with blockchain, HR professionals must first drill down to its core. Gartner sums it up well: The real value of blockchain comes down to a paradigm shift in how societies, businesses, customers, partners and individuals interact, create and exchange value. In fact, PwC suggests we take blockchain’s potential a step further: blockchain is revolutionizing the way we exchange value online—similar to how the internet revolutionized how we exchange information. In the case of learning, for example, that value exchange refers to course credits, skills, certifications—anything that equates to knowledge gained. 

Each company will have to determine the best way to apply blockchain to its business and extract that value, but adoption of this technology is not about overhauling all existing processes. Rather, it’s about finding ways to incorporate blockchain into the practices we’re accustomed to, and improving them—making them more seamless, transparent and efficient. In fact, Gartner predicts blockchain will create $3.1 trillion in business value by 2030, with most of these returns stemming from value generation and efficiency improvements in current operating models and processes.

What’s Next For Blockchain?

Last year, Cornerstone joined the Velocity Network in an effort to support research and development of blockchain technology in the HR field. The network is an open source, vendor-neutral platform governed by the Velocity Network Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to make blockchain more attainable and clearly demonstrate its value. 

Together with other HR technology and education software providers, we’ve already successfully integrated our technology with the blockchain-based Velocity Network. We are innovating diverse use cases that apply blockchain in groundbreaking ways, from integrating blockchain into our skills graph technology, to building it into our recruiting suite. But there’s more work to do. Blockchain is an unprecedented, powerful technology that’s poised to transform HR. As part of the Velocity Network, we’re committed to creating real world applications that do just that. Stay tuned.

Did you know that Cornerstone joined the Velocity Network to help accelerate the development of a universal blockchain-powered network for HR? Learn more here and follow this series for everything you need to know about blockchain!

 

Suzanne Lucas's picture

Honor Black History Month in a Meaningful Way—Through Action

February is Black History Month, a time to educate ourselves and others about Black history, raise awareness about ongoing issues that the Black community faces, and encourage change. When it comes to honoring Black History Month in the workplace, organizations often want to “do something,” but aren’t sure of the best way to actually facilitate learning, participation, and action.

To that end, Fishbowl, an app to facilitate social conversation in the workplace, partnered with Living Corporate to ask Black professionals about their experiences at work across industries in an effort to illuminate existing challenges. 

Below are three of the statements Fishbowl posed to professionals to assess the extent to which they agree with them. Not only should you consider having your employees weigh in on these, but you should also take this insight and start making changes. Chances are, Fishbowl’s findings reflect your employees’ experiences more than you’d like to admit. 

Racial Bias Can Be Anywhere

“I feel pressure to change aspects of my behavior or appearance to fit in with my work place.” 

The majority of respondents said they did feel pressure to change their appearance. In the finance sector, 84% felt pressured while 81% of Black employees practicing law felt the same. Even in the notoriously-casual tech industry, 57% felt they needed to alter how they look and act.

Bias is easy to miss, but it’s critical to identify it in job descriptions, employee handbooks and other resources to ensure language is inclusive. For example, when was the last time you took a look at your dress code? Does it call for “professional attire and hairstyles?” Do you consider traditional African American hairstyles or natural hair unprofessional? If your organization is still discriminating against certain types of styles or attire, it’s time for immediate change. 

Existing DEI Initiatives Are Ineffective

“My company’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are effective at addressing my needs.”

Despite the tech industry’s reputation for lacking diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), it was the highest performing industry—33% of Black professionals agree with the statement above. But 33% is nothing to be proud of:despite doubling down on DEI, this sector is still missing the mark. And other industries are even bigger offenders. Just 14% of Black legal professionals believed in the efficacy of their organization's DEI efforts.

If your diversity and inclusion efforts are designed to look good on Twitter and not to actually create a diverse environment for all employees, it’s time for a change. Start asking questions. Use employee surveys, start discussion-driven focus groups and conduct external research. There’s no secret recipe for DEI, and the right approach will look different at every organization. Beginning this February, investigate or research tactics that will make your organization truly diverse, and how you can help all of your people feel included. 

Racism Can Go Unchecked

“I trust my company to do the right thing if I report that I have experienced racism at work.”

Be honest—how often have you heard accounts of companies ignoring racism until it becomes public? Here’s an even tougher question: how often has it been ignored at your company?

Black professionals in technology and accounting agreed with this statement at 47% and 41%, respectively. But, law and finance? 20% and 7% percent, respectively. 

Seven percent. Seven percent of Black professionals in finance trust that their company will do the right thing if they report racism. That number is abysmal. Every report of racism must be investigated and offenders, in turn, must be punished. 

Time For Action

As Black History Month comes to a close, are you going to make a real effort to learn, educate others, and make real change? Commit to continuing your work long after February ends.

To overcome all of the challenges that Black professionals face, we need to start by understanding the history, as well as the present. Start by asking the tough questions, absorbing the answers, and doing something about it.

Want to learn more about improving DEI efforts at your organization? Tune into our podcast, HR Labs. This season, we’re exploring strategies for taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives from intention to action.

Jeff Miller's picture

At The Heart Of An Adaptable Organization Is Employee Well-Being

This article was originally published on Forbes.com, under Jeff Miller’s Forbes Human Resources Council column

Employee burnout hit an all-time high in 2020. I know I felt it. Toward the end of last year, I felt like that meme of the cat hanging onto a branch. It wasn’t unusual for me to work weekends and long weekdays. I’ve never been this worn-out — and I’ve been what you might call a workaholic for much of my career.

This year, we need to be better about fighting burnout, even as many of the same things that made last year so challenging persist. And it needs to start at the manager level. As we're working to build more adaptable, flexible organizations, much of that work comes back to ensuring managers are not just managing tasks, but managing people — and fostering their learning, growth and success. After a year as tiresome and demanding as 2020, the importance of managers in supporting employees’ engagement and well-being has only increased.

The challenge is that managers themselves have been just as burned out as their employees, making it harder for them to coach and support their teams. Doing better starts with this awareness: My exhaustion doesn’t just affect me and my health; it affects my team as well. From there, managers can focus their energy on making work better for employees by eliminating work friction, identifying and reducing the frequency of unproductive meetings and making the most out of individual check-ins. Implementing these three changes will have a ripple effect. Because employees will be less burned out, they will have more time and energy to focus on more meaningful, strategic work that will advance their personal growth — and the goals of the organizations. 

1. Reduce Work Friction

As managers, our job is to make it easy for employees to do their job and ensure they have the time, resources and capabilities to perform well. Otherwise, they confront work friction. Misaligned project goals, overwhelmed teams and rigid or outdated work processes are common causes of work friction. And according to a recent Gartner report, the amount of time employees spend trying to get around work friction generates about 3.1 million wasted hours annually.

I realized this problem in my team recently, after asking for feedback. Overwhelmingly, their responses told me that I wasn’t doing enough to control the work coming in from other departments or leaders. I hadn’t been filtering these requests or adjusting their workloads accordingly.

To reduce work friction, work with employees to outline their roles, answering questions like, “What are the deliverables, and who is owning them?” or “What is the timeline here, and is it realistic?” Don’t assume that employees have answers to these questions or that they have the time necessary to complete these projects. And always make sure to leave employees room to ask questions. Urge them to give you feedback as well. In my experience, the best managers ask their employees for feedback as often as they deliver it to their employees.

2. Be More Intentional About Meetings

Since the pandemic, the number of meetings has increased, meaning there’s even less time to tackle projects. In one small 2020 survey, about 78% of employees said their meeting schedule is always or sometimes out of control and that upper management or their direct manager is responsible for creating crazy meeting schedules. 

In 2021, think about reframing meetings and their purpose for your team. Meetings should be used to brainstorm ideas, gather other team members’ perspectives to help make decisions or reflect on completed projects to learn how they can be improved in the future. If not used for one of these three purposes, a meeting could be replaced with an email.

3. Do More With Employees Check-Ins

One meeting that managers should always keep on their calendars is check-ins with their teams. But here, the same rules apply: If you and the individual are simply using the meeting to deliver status updates on ongoing projects, that can be handled in an email.

Instead, use this time to check in with your employees about higher-level issues and questions, like their feelings on ongoing projects and personal well-being. The uncertainty and stress of the past 10 months have put many employees in survival mode — a depletive mental state that makes it harder to think logically. In this headspace, employees will complete tasks just to check them off their to-do lists without considering why they are doing them, how they could be done better or even what they like about the work. But by asking them to answer these questions in one-on-one meetings, managers can help coax employees out of survival mode.

Use these meetings to check in on employees’ mental and emotional health as well. I have a technique for this called “check up from the neck up” that I developed when teaching middle school. It involves asking my employees (or then, students) questions like “Where’s your head?” or “Are you OK?” This will bring employees’ attention back to these needs and provide managers with the information necessary to optimize their management style around any current struggles.

A 2021 With Less Burnout

Although 2020 is behind us, 2021 will likely contain many of the same challenges — meaning that, for many people, it will at times be overwhelming and stressful. If employees aren’t taking time to reset, that can negatively affect their focus, productivity and job performance. It’s a tragic, recurring spiral.

In 2021, we need to break this habit, and managers hold the key to unlocking a new way of working. They need to help employees find a better balance between work and life and develop ways to manage their workload. Then, by reducing burnout, managers can ensure employees have more time and energy for more meaningful projects that contribute to their personal growth as well as the organization’s, such as improving individuals’ responsiveness to change so they can become better at managing disruption and help build a more adaptable, flexible organization.

Want to learn more from Cornerstone CLO Jeff Miller? Read his thoughts on what companies stand to gain from infusing more positivity into their workplaces in the year ahead. 

Ike Bennion's picture

Improve Employee Performance, Drive Growth with the Cornerstone Skills Graph

How people move through their careers continues to evolve. The linear “career ladder” was replaced by “career lattice,” a more dynamic approach to employee career growth. But the lattice, which still approaches careers in terms of specific roles, is being replaced by a more modern dynamic approach. Disruption and technological innovation happen so rapidly that employees’ roles are increasingly fluid, and it’s skills—not roles—that define their development.

Today, companies are beginning to think about careers as a journey, where employees leverage their existing skills, identify opportunities to expand them, and even gain entirely new skills. It’s a more natural and intuitive way to grow.

What people are calling "roles" is constantly becoming more and more out of date—because what a role expects of you is shifting really quickly. "Skills" are a way to help break down what roles are, so that we don't necessarily have to rewrite the entire job description every time a task or a role of responsibility shifts or changes within your organization.

But this organic skills development is only possible with technology as a catalyst. Enter: the Cornerstone Skills Graph. Our AI-driven solution detects and analyzes skills from different sources to identify new learning, development and mobility opportunities. The Skills Graph allows for a clear understanding of skills associated with people, learning content and jobs—helping companies understand how to close skills gaps while also fulfilling the desire that their employees have to learn and grow. This is the “push and pull” of the Cornerstone Skills Graph: driving skills development in priority areas for the company (push) but also empowering employees to own their development (pull).

Using the Skills Graph to Find the Right Person for the Right Role

To build the Skills Graph, we combed the web to create an extensive backend library and workflow that maps out all possible skills associated with any given role. 

For example, if you were launching a new product, you would initially look for someone who has the skills to build it. But beyond that, you might consider someone who has experience in change management or project management so they can contribute to the larger project in more than one way. Using AI, the Skills Graph compares skills associated with certain projects against existing employee skills to identify the ideal candidate. The Skills Graph can also bolster that person’s development in the process by making learning recommendations to expand these existing skills during their work on the project. 

The underlying ideology of the Skills Graph is to match the multiple dimensions of a person to the multiple dimensions of a job. Instead of exclusively focusing on what someone has demonstrated they’re good at, the Skills Graph takes a much more multidimensional lens. It also considers what someone might be interested in, what they enjoy doing, and which skills they want to develop.

Employee Development—and Happiness—is Good For Business

Empowering employees to learn cultivates a supportive environment that’s more conducive to skills development and growth. We know that every employee is different, with unique skills and interests, yet oftentimes organizations can unknowingly limit growth by putting employees in boxes. 

For example, I could be a good salesperson, but if I hated it, what's the point? My heart's not in it. I'm not really looking to grow and thrive in this role, even though on paper I could do the job.

That’s why the Skills Graph is integrated across multiple suites (Learning, Performance and, soon, Recruiting)—to offer a full picture of the employee. This interconnectivity is especially useful during development moments, such as a performance review. Insight from the Skills Graph allows employers and managers to understand more about the employee, personalize their growth to their level of expertise, and work out what learning content they need access to in order to excel.

It’s essential to make learning materials readily available so employees can learn in the flow of work. Learning in the flow of work means providing learning when it’s needed—not after the fact, not separately. Not only is this approach to development good for people—it’s also good for business. Using skills as a way to  organize initiatives, learning content and resources can help organizations better deploy people in the organization to be more effective.

Skills help organizations to truly understand their people. Not only does that make it easier to pivot your people faster and match them to initiatives that drive real, quantifiable outcomes, but it also helps employees feel supported and eager to grow within the organization. Ultimately, it’s an approach that strengthens a team and boosts performance. With the Skills Graph, employers can invest in their employees’ future as well as their business’. 

For additional insights about how employees identify and develop their employees’ skills, check out our global skills report

Bobby Chua's picture

Why Effective DEIB Strategies Are Tightly Connected to Organizational Purpose

2020 was relentless. And under-served and under-represented communities suffered the most due to a global environment that lacked the engagement and understanding needed to provide them with sufficient support and resources. 

Whether it's a governing body, an organization or an individual, we all have a role to play to better support those communities.

And while many organizations are making an effort to address the systemic shortcomings that keep racial, gender, economic and other inequalities pervasive, there is still work to do. The opportunity for organizations to get their diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) strategies right has never been greater. 

The question is how can you best align your organization's strategy and activities to its reasons for focusing on DEIB?

It’s a question that needs to be answered. Because the truth is, for all the public statements from organizations to re(commit) to DEIB, the actual public isn't buying it. Almost three out of every four Americans (69 percent) believe pressure from others—not a genuine concern—has contributed "a great deal" to companies making these statements about racism. And 71 percent of people believe business leaders are incapable of recognizing racism around them. Yikes.

The people don't have faith in corporations to do the right thing for them. To address this belief,  organizations must recommit to DEIB and build more effective connections between their organizational strategy and purpose.

Making The Connection

When diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging practices are tightly connected to organizational purpose, it not only demonstrates how organizations are following through on these commitments, it embeds that commitment within your culture and aligns accountability to actions.

Right now, it may feel like many organizations are just waiting for someone else to figure DEIB out so they can copy them. But there isn’t one answer for every organization. The hardest part is personalizing a DEIB strategy to your diverse organization. 

To start building a DEIB strategy that aligns with your workforce, it’s crucial to create a strategy aligned to the specific needs of your organization and align the “why” behind your DEIB strategy to how your leaders and people will drive positive outcomes. No one organization should have the same strategy as another because each organization has a unique diversity fingerprint.

If you’re interested in learning how to create a holistic approach to your DEIB strategy, I invite you to join me and Stacia Garr, principal analyst with RedThread Research, for our February 25th webinar, How to plan a comprehensive DEI & B strategy for 2021 and beyond.

You’ll learn how taking this holistic approach will help your organization more effectively define, plan and integrate your DEIB strategy with other key priorities of your business. I hope you’ll join us.

To learn more, and to register for the webinar, click here.  

 

The ReWork Editors's picture

HR Labs, DEIB Edition: Dr. Ella Washington on Microaggressions in the Workplace

We’re thrilled to announce the third season of HR Labs, a podcast that explores how to create a better employee experience for all of your people. This season is hosted by Cornerstone’s Chief Learning Officer and VP of Organizational Effectiveness Jeff Miller and Chief Diversity Officer Duane La Bom. Through conversations with change-makers, activists, executives and experts, they’ll explore strategies for taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives from intention to action. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Motivated by the social justice movements of the past summer, workplaces in the U.S. are reprioritizing and conversations about race, equality, diversity and inclusion. For Dr. Ella Washington, an organizational psychologist, professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and founder of DEI strategy and consulting agency Ellavate Solutions, these conversations are her life’s work. 

On this week’s episode of HR Labs, Duane sat down with Dr. Washington to discuss strategies for companies to truly drive change around DEIB in the workplace. Dr. Washington said that while she’s encouraged by the number of organizations genuinely leaning into these conversations, there’s still work to be done—and addressing microaggressions is one key area for improvement.

Microaggressions in the Workplace

Microaggressions are incidents in which someone makes an offensive statement or asks an insensitive question, whether accidentally or on purpose. ‘I don’t see color’ or ‘You’re so articulate’ are a few examples Dr. Washington says are common in the workplace. 

“Microaggressions are these small things that happen everyday, and people need support in how to deal with them,” she said. 

In addition to discussing other examples, Duane and Dr. Washington also explored actionable strategies for employees and employers alike to appropriately respond to microaggressions. Dr. Washington said the goal isn’t necessarily to eliminate microaggressions from the workplace—but instead, to build a culture where addressing them is the norm. 

“Even if you talk about these topics all day every day like I do, you still always have something to learn,” said Dr. Washington. Microaggressions might not be eliminated, but employees, leadership and HR teams all have a role to play in making sure victims of microaggressions feel empowered to respond. 

Subscribe to HR Labs and never miss a conversation about strategies for seeing real impact from your DEI&B efforts. Check back with us on March 3 to hear Jeff’s conversation with fair pay icon Lilly Ledbetter. 

 

Terry LaBan's picture

Cartoon Coffee Break: The Future of The Workplace

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 regularly for a new ReWork cartoon.

In the midst of the vaccine roll-out, it’s getting easier to imagine a time when we’ll return to the office in some capacity, perhaps in 2021 or early 2022. More than half (55 percent) of 1,200 workers surveyed in late 2020 said they prefer working remotely three days a week. Whether or not companies adopt this approach, the future seems almost certain to have some kind of hybrid between in-office and remote work—and there will be a bit of a learning curve as we adjust.

HR can have a monumental impact on how this evolution plays out with a concentrated focus on communication, collaboration, safety, and flexibility. Here are two key considerations that will help ease the transition. 

1. Communicate the Office Setup in Advance

The open office concept was a failed experiment to boost productivity. Fortunately, the pandemic presented us with a chance to rethink how we set up our office space. This revamped setup will look different on a case-by-case basis, but managing expectations will be a critical step in the process. HR can equip employees with specific information—such as office layout, testing procedures, and social distancing policies—ahead of time so they can make informed decisions based on their personal preferences and circumstances. 

2. Explore Different Strategies for Remote Collaboration

Remember, pre-COVID, when one coworker was working from home and had to dial-in to a meeting? Being on the phone was never preferable to being in-person, brainstorming alongside other team members. But whenever we return to the office, it’s likely we’ll all be working from home some days. Some of us may be one of many permanently remote employees

As we transition to the hybrid workplace, reverting to old habits—where the person on the phone feels at a disadvantage—will be counterproductive at best, but detrimental to business at worst. It’s time for companies to get creative with facilitating remote-friendly collaboration. Exploring new mediums, like advanced video conferencing, and new strategies—even for socialization—will be the bare minimum. 

HR at the Helm of Hybrid

The future of the workplace depends on clear communication and an openness to new, creative ways of working. HR leaders will be tasked with guiding this transition, evaluating progress, and adjusting as needed. 

For more insights on the post-pandemic workplace, check out this piece by Jeff Miller, Cornerstone’s Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness. 

 

Suzanne Lucas's picture

Dear ReWorker: My Employees Are Experiencing Burn Out at Home. Help!

Dear ReWorker,

My employees hate working from home. They hate everything about it. They say they have  trouble having set routines, and working with kids in the home is even more challenging. Do you have any suggestions? As a manager, how can I help them in this situation?

Sincerely,

Worked up about working from home

 +++++

Dear Worked Up,

Your employees are not alone in their feelings. Nearly 70% of workers are experiencing burnout while working from home, Monster found. While many people praise remote work (myself included), it’s not for everyone. And pandemic working at home is very different from regular working at home. For one, in non-pandemic times, the kids are at school or daycare. I’ve successfully worked from home for 12 years, but having my kids home is driving me nuts.

Here’s some advice that may help transform their experience. 

Help Workers Set a Schedule

Some employees really miss their commutes and morning routines—encourage them to pick up a morning hobby to get that time back. For instance, every morning, I drink a cup of hot chocolate while I do a language lesson on Duolingo, and then I listen to a short inspiring talk—usually about 10 minutes. I do this every day, even though it might not be at the same time every day. 

Your workers can also incorporate some scheduled down-time to center and focus in the morning—listen to a podcast, do a workout, anything. Diving directly into work while wearing pajamas erases the line between home and work, and could contribute to the burnout your employees feel. 

Get Your Employees Outside

I know, there’s nowhere to go. But, depending on your weather, suggest that your employees go for a walk every day, or at least a few times a week. Better yet, have that next one-on-one check in meeting via FaceTime while simultaneously taking walks. Being stuck at home for extended periods of time can negatively affect mental and physical health—even fifteen minutes outdoors per day can help clear the mind, increase Vitamin D intake, and improve concentration, among other benefits.

Offer Learning Opportunities

Doing the same work tasks day-to-day can get repetitive and boring. Doing these same work tasks while being stuck at home is even worse. Learning and development can play a critical role in motivating employees and getting them excited again about their roles and the company at large, so provide these as much as possible. And, as workers gain new skills and confidence, learning may even drive them to explore other opportunities within the company, be it a completely new position, or simply a new project.

Create the Right Work Environment

From Marie Kondo’s approach to cleaning, to the new “Minimalist Challenge,” there’s a growing trend of reducing clutter. Working in a messy, overflowing environment can make it difficult to focus, feel creative, and be productive. Suggest a team-wide cleaning challenge, and try it yourself. With fewer things to distract them, your employees may feel a bit more relaxed and positive. 

Consider a Hybrid Office Model

Depending on where you live and the current COVID-19 cases in your area, this may or may not be possible. But, if there is potential to re-open your office and welcome employees back on a rotating basis, or in a way that keeps them socially distant, it may work wonders. 

More than half of employees say they want a hybrid model of work, where they are in the office some of the time, and at home the rest. With that in mind, a day or two in the office per week may be enough to help them overcome the burnout and frustration that has built up over months of working at home.  

Remind Employees That Mandatory Remote Work Is Temporary

Eventually, this pandemic will end, and just saying that out loud can help your employees feel more optimistic about the future. Schools will reopen, and so will offices. It will happen, and we will all get through this together. 

Sincerely,

Your ReWorker

Suzanne Lucas

For more on how to help your organization and your people adapt during the evolving pandemic, check out these COVID-19 resources for HR leaders.

 

Mike Bollinger's picture

Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development

There’s a lot of coordination that goes into a company’s learning and development programming, from identifying skills gaps and creating engaging content to scaling initiatives company-wide. And because there’s so much complex planning involved, organizations can sometimes get caught up in the details, and overlook how L&D fits into broader organizational goals. 

A recent survey—titled “The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change”—from Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that only 55% of organizations believe their L&D programs are well-aligned with their company’s overarching strategy. 

But CPRL and HCI’s survey reveals two logical ways to overcome this challenge. First, there’s a need for L&D executives to participate in strategic conversations around organizational goals to ensure that L&D planning aligns with broader business plans. And second, it’s important to share responsibility for learning effectiveness. If facilitating continuous learning is a part of everyone’s role, it becomes easier to integrate it organization-wide. 

Promote Cross-Departmental Collaboration and Responsibility

To better align L&D efforts with overarching business goals, learning executives have to participate in strategic conversations about organizational direction. For instance, when business leaders gather to discuss goals and KPIs for the coming year or quarter, HR and L&D leaders should be involved in those conversations. And the opposite is also true: Business leaders need to help direct the learning outcomes framed against those goals. 

According to the “Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change” survey from CPRL and HCI, only about half (51%) of learning leaders report being involved in these discussions. During these business planning discussions, it’s important to establish accountability, especially among people managers. CPRL and HCI found 67% of people managers report being involved in the creation of content, but only 47% are involved in the accountability for the results. By holding more people accountable to the success of L&D programs, it can be easier for a company to spot pitfalls or opportunities for improvement. It creates shared goals for measuring effectiveness, and establishes a process for making changes.  

For example, by getting people managers involved in L&D initiatives, L&D leaders can work with them to get a better understanding of a specific team’s skill gaps or what reskilling or new skilling solutions will work best for them. All leaders in an organization, in fact, should be eager to participate and own their team’s newskilling, reskilling or upskilling efforts. Ask a people manager in the IT department to reiterate the importance of learning to their team, and track the amount of time their employees spend on learning content. This approach will not only create a shared commitment to continuous learning, but can also help leaders outside of L&D and HR get a better idea of what content or formats work best for their teams and recommend adjustments accordingly. 

Continuous Learning Is Everyone’s Responsibility 

Aligning overarching business plans and strategy with learning and development efforts can improve each’s efficacy. The more cross-departmental collaboration that exists, the more information that HR and L&D leaders have about their workforce and its needs, strengths and weaknesses. And with more accountability, all stakeholders in an organization can become more involved in ensuring the successful partnership between L&D and a company’s overall strategy.

To learn more about the findings from Cornerstone’s “The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change” survey and its recommendations for using cross-departmental collaboration and accountability to help with L&D efforts, click here to download and read the full report.

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Cornerstone Partners With Microsoft to Bring Learning into the Flow of Work

Making time for learning during a busy workday is challenging. According to a recent survey, a majority of employees reported that time is the biggest barrier to their development.  

But over the course of the pandemic, and even in the years before, we’ve seen how quickly business needs—and therefore, the needs for employee skills—change. Learning is more important than ever and needs to be delivered in new ways that drive accessibility and information retention. To help companies remain truly adaptable and nimble, they need to integrate learning into the flow of work

It’s why Cornerstone and Microsoft are partnering to make learning in the flow of work possible and support employees’ growing learning needs. Both of Cornerstone’s LMS platforms (Cornerstone Learning and Saba Cloud) will be integrated into Microsoft VivaMicrosoft’s new Employee Experience Platform (EXP)to make it easy for employees to discover, share and engage with learning content without having to switch back and forth between solutions.

“Cornerstone is bringing great value to organizations by integrating its solutions within Microsoft Teams, right where employees are working every day,” said Kirk Koenigsbauer, COO, Experiences + Devices at Microsoft Corp. “The new Microsoft Viva empowers employees to make learning and development a natural and intuitive part of their daily work.”

How Cornerstone Powers Learning in the Flow of Work on the Microsoft Employee Experience Platform

Powered by Microsoft 365 and experienced through Teams, Microsoft Viva seamlessly helps your organization build human connection, foster growth and wellbeing, and drive peak business performance. And now that experience encompasses learning, including the integration with Cornerstone. 

Incorporating learning opportunities from Cornerstone’s LMS offerings into Microsoft Viva Learning makes it easy not only to access learning, but also integrate it into the flow of work. Employees using Teams can seek out, share and/or assign learning content based on their current needs. 

For example, if an employee is struggling with their workload, a manager could engage in a real-time 1:1 conversation and based on that discussion, serve up training on time management or organization skills. This way, in addition to providing real-time coaching and feedback, the manager is also able to give their employee development resources in a timely and relevant manner. In another instance, an employee that’s familiar with HTML but hasn’t used the skill for a while might find a quick refresher course—rather than spending time and energy re-learning through trial-and-error. 

For more on the power of this partnership, watch this video announcing Microsoft Viva Learning

Removing Barriers to Learning

Cornerstone and Microsoft’s collaboration will help remove barriers to learning and empower organizations and their employees to grow and adapt for the future. Our learning solutions contain training to meet employee needs across on-demand learning, compliance and career development. Through this partnership and through Microsoft, employees will soon have the ability to access learning where they are, when they need it, to power stronger individual and company performance. 

As a leader and pioneer in learning, we’ve accumulated the largest pool of learning data and insights in the world over the course of our 20 years in business. We are thrilled to share that experience, expertise and passion with Teams and its users.

Read the full announcement to learn more about Cornerstone’s partnership with Microsoft.

The ReWork Editors's picture

HR Labs, DEIB Edition: Torin Ellis Talks Beating Unconscious Bias

We’re thrilled to announce the third season of HR Labs, a podcast that explores how to create a better employee experience for all of your people. This season is hosted by Cornerstone’s Chief Learning Officer and VP of Organizational Effectiveness Jeff Miller and Chief Diversity Officer Duane La Bom. Through conversations with change-makers, activists, executives and experts, they’ll explore strategies for taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives from intention to action. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Unconscious bias in the workplace can be a fraught topic. While there’s research to suggest that some 95% of the population holds unconscious or implicit biases, some experts doubt the validity of this research. And despite more companies adopting unconscious bias training to help boost diversity and inclusion in the workplace, these efforts by themselves often fall short. 

The way forward, said Torin Ellis on the latest episode of HR Labs, is “to come at this [DEI] conversation differently.” 

Meet DEI Expert, Torin Ellis

Torin is a diversity strategist, author, and co-host of the Crazy and the King podcast. He works with companies to advance their diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives, whether that’s by optimizing the talent acquisition process or engaging leadership teams. 

Through this work, he’s seen that companies often use unconscious bias training to show their commitment to DEI initiatives—but they don’t do the necessary work that lies beyond that initial training. Training, while important, shouldn’t take the place of real action—like having difficult conversations or actually holding employees and leadership accountable for their contributions to DEIB. 

Beyond Unconscious Bias Training

In this episode, Jeff and Torin discuss what unconscious bias is as well some of the short- and long-term steps leaders can take to identify and mitigate bias in their organization at every value point— from recruiting and other talent strategies to employer brand, supply chain, and more. 

Check out the latest episode to learn more about what Torin says organizations and people can do to lift the “curtain of complacency and mediocrity” when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and how he sees our greater humanity as the true ROI of DEI.

And if you like the conversation, subscribe to HR Labs to never miss a future episode. HR Labs episodes are released biweekly: Check back with us on February 17 to hear Dr. Ella Washington and Duane La Bom discuss microaggressions.

At the ~11:53 min mark of the episode, Torin states that the Democratic Party hasn’t had a Black woman lead a committee in 40-something years. After the interview, Torin shared with us that he misquoted from an interview Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence conducted on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. In the interview, Congresswoman Lawrence states there hasn’t been a Black female in a Democratic Caucus leadership position in over 40 years. You can view that interview here: https://www.house.gov/leadership 

The ReWork Editors's picture

HR Labs Bonus Episode: Defining DEI’s Meaning

We’re thrilled to announce the third season of HR Labs, a podcast that explores how to create a better employee experience for all of your people. This season is hosted by Cornerstone’s Chief Learning Officer and VP of Organizational Effectiveness Jeff Miller and Chief Diversity Officer Duane La Bom. Through conversations with change-makers, activists, executives and experts, they’ll explore strategies for taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives from intention to action. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

You’re probably familiar with several different ways that individuals and organizations refer to inclusion initiatives. But what is DEI? Between all the acronyms and internal branding, meaning can get lost. In fact, research suggests overusing acronyms and abbreviations can actually alienate audiences—which, ironically, is the opposite of what DEIB is all about.

So before diving into our third season of HR Labs and discussing important topics like unconscious bias and pay equity, hosts Jeff Miller and Duane La Bom knew they needed to take the time to set the stage. What do diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) mean? How are they related and how are they different? And what do they look like at an organization? 

To answer these questions, they invited Cornerstone’s own Jeremy Spake to join the conversation. Jeremy is a member of Cornerstone’s Thought Leadership and Advisory Services team and, in this role, he’s spent a lot of time working with companies to advance their diversity and inclusion goals. In this episode, he shares his experiences and insight to help Jeff and Duane bring clarity and understanding to these terms. 

Listen to this bonus episode to hear the full conversation, reflect on the real meaning of DEIB, and prepare for the episodes to come. Episode one, featuring Torin Ellis on beating unconscious bias, launches this Wednesday, February 3. Subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcasts to make sure not to miss it!  

Ike Bennion's picture

Breaking Down Blockchain: Making Learning More Transparent and Portable

Editor’s Note: In our four-part series, Breaking Down Blockchain, ReWork explains the potential of this promising new technology in the world of HR. Check out our previous pieces, on how blockchain is transforming resumes and onboarding.

An embroidered patch stuck to a tiny vest is emblematic for the Girl and Boy Scouts. When a Scout picks up a new skill, a merit badge is both praise and proof. The child’s accomplishment has been verified by an authority figure, and anyone who sees the badge knows the new skill it represents.

At its core, blockchain is this system turned virtual. When adapted for use in learning and development, employees earn digital badges—nodes of data—that are stored in a transparent, verifiable and unchangeable network over the course of their careers. Be it a skill gained through a past role, a credential earned via an online training course or a formal degree, employers can easily access these bits of information when an employee shares their individual blockchain. 

There’s more to blockchain than just convenient recordkeeping, though. Not only can it help with credentialing and maintaining a ledger of past learning events, but it can also link learning to compensation to ensure employees are paid on par with their skill sets and make them more mobile within their organization and beyond. 

Digitizing Employee Credentialing via Blockchain

To date, the biggest benefit of using blockchain to keep track of on- and off-the-job education has been that these records are verifiable and unchangeable. (Read about the advantage of blockchain and credentialing during onboarding in an earlier post in this series.) But now, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart, a resource library for learning professionals, says the flexibility and dynamic nature of blockchain makes it an invaluable tool for credentialing existing employees—not just new hires. 

Employees are taking in content from many different sources—attending virtual conferences, taking remote classes, participating in webinars and more. With blockchain, Vander Ark says that employers might even be able to bypass aptitude tests and certain industry-specific requirements (i.e. coding tests for engineers or writing tests for journalists) by trusting a reliable blockchain record.  

Using blockchain as a record-keeping system, employees can accumulate verified skills from both internal and external training and development opportunities—and the record can even include informal, small learnings called microcredentials. As Vander Ark explains, most microcredentials require a demonstration of mastery in a prescribed fashion, and there are often several paths to developing and demonstrating a skill. When an employee claims to have developed a skill, an authority must assess and verify it before issuing a microcredential. “The benefit is certainty around the demonstration of the skill,” Vander Ark says.

Blockchain Can Also Seamlessly Link L&D Achievements to Compensation

While credentialing is the most obvious use-case for blockchain in learning and development, blockchain can inform compensation, too, Vander Ark says. Earning a particular badge, microcredential or certification could trigger compensation changes like a bonus or even a new pay level. If an employee qualifies for a new compensation package after having completed a unit of learning, blockchain can make this change seamless. 

“Blockchain can handle automated transactions easily,” he says. Vander Ark gives this example: a school district employee who finishes a masters degree might qualify for higher pay. That employee must first acquire a transcript, then send the transcript to the school district; there is paperwork involved, and the HR team has to notify payroll. Three months and ten hours of paperwork later, the new pay rate is in place. 

“With a blockchain record it could happen automatically,” he says. “As soon as that college verified the degree, it would trigger an increase in compensation.”

The same could apply to gig workers and freelancers who qualify for new levels of payment based on years of experience, certifications earned or the conditions of a shift they’re working, he says. And the gig economy is ramping up. “People are increasingly working from home, and more hiring and recruiting is done remotely as well. More gig economy work is happening and contractors are being hired in unprecedented numbers, especially at large Fortune 500s,” Vander Ark says.

Blockchain Supports Internal Talent Mobility

As a network, blockchain has the potential to become a ticket to mobility. By implementing blockchain and a digital badge system, employees might find added motivation to learn, knowing that their accomplishments can easily travel with them if they eventually want to move on to a new role or even a new company. Plus, this portability also fosters a more personal way of learning, because it encourages learners to pursue whatever interests them with the confidence that it’ll be documented and counted towards their career. 

“It allows employees to have some choice over what they learn, how they learn, when they learn and how they demonstrate their learning,” Vander Ark says. “It really personalizes learning because people have some optionality, voice and choice.”

For employers, blockchain makes confirming skills and credentials more straightforward when considering existing employees for new roles or promotions. When a position opens up, they don’t have to rely on an outdated resume from when the employee was first hired—instead, they can refer to a blockchain, which is consistently updated as workers gain new knowledge. And, ultimately, more potential for mobility translates into retention, because employees who are motivated and engaged are more likely to stay at a company than those who aren’t

Blockchain in learning, even in its early days, is a win-win. 

Did you know that Cornerstone joined the Velocity Network to help accelerate the development of a universal blockchain-powered network for HR? Learn more here and follow this series for everything you need to know about blockchain! 

Suzanne Lucas's picture

Why Your Business Should Consider Tuition Reimbursement as a Perk

January is a time for new resolutions—for some of your employees, going back to school may be on their list of goals for 2021. And with many colleges and universities offering primarily remote instruction for the time being, what better time to get back to the “classroom.” If you’re among the roughly 50% of organizations that offer undergraduate or graduate tuition assistance to your workers, good for you; you already understand the value of the investment you’re making in the future not only of your employees, but also your company. 

But if you’re in the other half of organizations that don’t yet offer tuition assistance, listen up—it could help close skills gaps, boost succession planning efforts, and improve employee retention. Of course, whether or not tuition assistance delivers a good return on investment (ROI) depends on several factors. 

Here are some questions to answer if you’re considering introducing tuition assistance.

Do You Promote From Within? 

There are clear advantages to developing internal employees and setting them up for growth, including promotions. It’s less risky than making an outside hire and bringing a new individual into the organization, and it tends to be more affordable, too. But developing employees means ensuring they’re gaining the skills they need for any advancement or new opportunities. While tuition reimbursement shouldn’t take the place of an internal learning and development strategy (since the latter enables your business to have more ownership over how and what your employees learn), it’s one way to provide essential training that closes skills gaps. 

For example, grocery store chain Wegmans (full disclosure: I worked there over 20 years ago) offers a scholarship to their full and part-time employees. For the 2020-2021 school year, they plan on paying out $5 million in scholarship money to workers. Why make this massive investment? 

Today, the supermarket has over 100 stores across the U.S., all of which need management employees. By paying for entry-level workers to receive training or degrees and gain the essential management skills they’re missing (i.e. earn MBAs from business schools), Wegmans isn’t just closing skills gaps. The company is also making an investment in succession planning and increasing its pool of management candidates

Five million dollars may seem like a lot of money, but with $9.7 billion in income, it’s a drop in the bucket that delivers good ROI by allowing the company to promote from within, rather than invest in external recruiting.

Do You Need to Increase Retention?

Glassdoor found that 18%  of employees would prefer tuition reimbursement benefits over a pay increase—for an employee looking for opportunities outside of your company, offering tuition reimbursement could be an incentive to stay. 

Plus, in some cases, a tuition reimbursement agreement is contingent on employees agreeing (read: signing a contract) to stay with a company for a certain period of time after completing their education, which guarantees retention.

When Tuition Reimbursement Isn’t For Your Business

It may sound like tuition reimbursement is a no-brainer, but it’s really not for every company. In reality, there are lots of jobs where a college degree just isn’t required. If most roles at your business fall into this category, it may not be worth it for you to offer tuition reimbursement. 

Alternatively, if most of your employees already have undergraduate or even advanced degrees, offering tuition reimbursement may not be a useful benefit. If you’d still like to offer a similar perk, consider paying down your employees’ student loans—or just offer better health insurance instead. After the year we’ve had, no one’s turning that down!

 Suzanne Lucas is a regular contributor to ReWork. Follow her column here.

Terry LaBan's picture

Cartoon Coffee Break: Managing the Effects of Zoom Fatigue

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 regularly for a new ReWork cartoon.

Zoom Fatigue

You’ve probably felt the symptoms of “Zoom fatigue” or “Zoom burnout": sore eyes, lack of focus, blurred vision, overall exhaustion and even migraines. Caused by too much time on video conference calls, it’s a condition that first surfaced in the early months of the pandemic. And these video calls are still wearing us out. 

In a November 2020 study, 44% of professionals in the U.S. said they have been experiencing video call fatigue since the start of the pandemic, and 26% noted that the practicality and novelty of videoconferencing has worn off. And these symptoms are being felt everywhere: According to a study from the World Economic Forum, workers around the world are fighting video call fatigue. 

Still, with remote work continuing into 2021, the time to take control of video fatigue is now. Both managers and employees can employ simple tactics to make a difference.

Managers: Fight Employee Burnout with Better Meetings

The shorter and more concise meetings are, the less time employees have to spend on video calls. Creating an agenda is a great way to keep everyone on track. Limiting the number of participants on a call can also make video meetings more engaging and productive: Only invite individuals who will have something to offer to the conversation or who have a stake in its outcome. And keep an eye out for meetings that can be phone calls or video-optional to cut down on the need to be on camera. Being on face-to-face video calls can quickly get exhausting and require more focus, since people have to process non-verbal cues faster or maintain a certain tone or expression in order to emote effectively. 

Managers can also encourage employees to create “meeting-free” blocks of time on their work calendars to try to limit the hours they’re invited to video calls. 

Employees: Prioritize More Work-Life Balance—Even in Small Doses

“Take more breaks.” Employees have been hearing this advice since the early days of the pandemic, and it’s no less important now. According to a study by BBC Worklife, taking microbreaks (just a few minutes at a time) can increase productivity and reduce work from home burnout. The study also recommends that employees step away from their computer screens every hour to move around—or, at the very least, get away from screens to rest and recharge. 

Managing Video Fatigue In 2021

Video calls are part of our “new normal.” It’s all the more important, therefore, that companies learn to recognize video fatigue and find ways to address it among their teams.

For more tips on managing remote employees in the year ahead, check out this ReWork article where Summer Salomonsen, the Head of Cornerstone Studios, shares how she learned to meet the needs of her newly-remote team. 

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The HR Labs Podcast Is Back. This Season is All About DEIB.

We’re thrilled to announce the third season of HR Labs, a podcast that explores how to create a better employee experience for all of your people. This season is hosted by Cornerstone’s Chief Learning Officer and VP of Organizational Effectiveness Jeff Miller and Chief Diversity Officer Duane La Bom. Through conversations with change-makers, activists, executives and experts, they’ll explore strategies for taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives from intention to action. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Following the social justice movements of 2020, many organizations pledged to recommit to their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. But although the business case for diversity and inclusion is stronger than ever, many organizations are still struggling to create a truly equitable and inclusive environment for employees, clients and partners. And in the wake of COVID-19, research finds that diverse populations are still struggling disproportionately: Only one in six diverse employees feels more supported now than before the pandemic.

We know that learning is a critical part of growing and driving change. That’s why we’re sourcing expert voices to share actionable strategies and tactics to help companies make good on their commitments and lay the foundation for years to come. This season, we’ll explore a range of topics—from pay equity to microaggressions to belongingness—and hear from icons like Lilly Ledbetter, specialized experts like Dr. Ella Washington, forward-thinking executives like Lorraine Vargas Townsend and many more.

Check out the trailer to hear more about what you can expect this season. And remember to subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcasts to join us for episode one, launching February 3. Together, we’ll build an informed understanding of how best to move DEIB strategies forward to create a better employee experience for everyone at work.