On Thursday, June 6th I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the Wellbeing @ Work event in New York. It was an eye-opening day filled with exceptional speakers and interesting perspectives on wellbeing were shared.
Havas was invited to talk about Meaning in the Age of the Employee and how the consumerization of the employee experience is intrinsically linked to your people’s overall wellbeing.
Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll highlight some of our top-level thinking around that subject with some key thought starters worth mulling over!
Today, I want to share a few thoughts from the day that I keep coming back to. Things that were mentioned across a few of the different speakers’ topics that I believe are fundamental to employees feeling ‘their whole self’ at work and for employers to concentrate on when looking to build an environment where their employees’ wellness is a priority.
Homogenization isn’t just about looks.
As keynote speakers go, we were extremely fortunate to have Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia kick off the day. Claude shared personal anecdotes about her journey with VaynerMedia and the steps she took to forge a career that matched her principles and allowed her to lead and build in the way she wants.
A lot of great content and advice was shared, but I keep coming back to Claude’s point about a homogenized workforce. It’s natural for a company that was founded by a few friends to grow and employ friends of those friends – then friends of those friends, but as growth increases that friend network can become very harmful to company culture, morale, and ability to innovate.
Now, if we park the inevitability that these employees will all most likely resemble one another and look at some other issues of ‘going with who you know’ we can see that all of a sudden you have a workforce that has a relatively similar profile. They have all the same reference points, they approach opportunities and problems in the same manner, and probably view the purpose, meaning and value of work in a pretty uniform way.
For a current employee, is this environment going to give them the confidence or freedom to shake things up and try something new – to be who they are, not just another version of everyone else? For a candidate, are they going to feel like they can add anything to your company, or that they’ll need to compartmentalize elements of who they are to fit in?
Essentially, it’s another way to look at the move from hiring for cultural fit to cultural add, but I would say we need to go a step further and begin to start hiring for cultural miss. What types of people are you missing in your culture, what types of skills, approaches, ways of working and thinking will unlock your people’s potential further? Every new hire is an opportunity to add a little bit of a change agent to the mix to keep pushing your culture further.
Rethinking indicative proof points for future performance.
I’ll preface this by saying, I’m not sure how many of us are ready to ditch degree requirements from our job roles, but when Annette Alexander of WP Engine and Ann W. Marr of World Wide Technology spoke in their session about removing degree requirements from a large chunk of their jobs, it made me wish that we could!
This is something that’s been on my mind for quite a while. I’ve been talking with friends and colleagues and asking them if they could do it all over would they have gone to their alma maters and studied the same subjects, gone elsewhere to learn something else, or even skipped school and just gone into the workforce sooner. Very unscientific, but these conversations have been interesting. Very few people would have taken the same path they did. Most would have gone to different schools to study different topics, but a few (like me) would have been happy to just get right into the working world.
When I was looking for a job in advertising, the thought of getting an opportunity anywhere without a degree or some internship experience was crazy to me. But in the (relatively) short time I have had a career the whole landscape of advertising/media/content has shifted. Some high-school aged students have a better grasp on branding and forging meaningful connections with people than folks who’ve spent their lives doing that work.
And this is something we’re seeing across industries. There is this massive pool of self-starters out there who are being ushered into a 2-4 year holding pattern before corporations deem them worthy of contributing. This seems like a huge waste to me. Capturing their passion for work, for creating things, for building communities bigger than themselves shouldn’t be put on hold.
Every aspect of the working world is transforming today and will transform again completely in the next decade or so. If how we evaluate people, identify who can contribute, or even where we look for the next big hire doesn’t completely change too – we’re going to be training and hiring people to enter a workforce that no longer exists!
Walking the floor matters so much
Interestingly, this point was mentioned by a handful of speakers at the Wellbeing event – and it’s something I’ve certainly heard at other events and from some of my mentors over the years. Yet, it’s so important when creating a meaningful environment where your employees can feel healthy that it’s always worth mentioning again and clarifying what this is and what it should not be. As a leader, a colleague, a new joiner, or even someone who thinks they are the lowest rung on the ladder ‘walking the floor’ is one of the greatest things you can do. It’s about stepping outside of your work for a moment and appreciating your environment, your coworkers, and your place. It’s a moment to build camaraderie, to check in on a human level, and to celebrate, commiserate and experience all the wonderful emotions that come with being a human being!
It has nothing to do with making sure people are working, are at their desks, are getting their job done. We have other ways to measure and observe that. “Walking the floor” is the opportunity to foster community, to humanize yourself and your teams. To check in and show you care – and maybe get a little care back in return. It’s building that connection between others and yourself. A chance for everyone to show they’re not just automatons working away, but that we’re all people looking for a little extra love in a crazy world.
And this just isn’t about the people you are in the same physical location as. ‘Walking the floor’ with your remote workers is just as, if not more, important. Are you checking in with them in the same way? Are they able to virtually ‘walk the floor’ If needed in other locations or departments?
It only takes a few minutes to check-in with someone and wish them well – to show them you appreciate them. It’ll take much longer to invoke that appreciation if all you’re ever doing is asking them for work or work-related updates.
Agency Director, Havas People USA
Onboarding can be a tricky task – boiling down every bit of a person’s career into a consumable experience without overwhelming them is quite a thin line to balance. Even deciding where to start can be overwhelming for the *lucky* soul in charge of the onboarding process!
But onboarding doesn’t have to be a challenging mountain to climb, so long as you stick to the three bones of onboarding:
Your new hire is coming into your organization with a unique background and experiences, which will shape their experiences and interactions with your organization. Gather information about their background and how they may apply their experiences to understanding your organization. Once you do this, it will help you position the onboarding process in a way that’s specifically relevant to them.
2. “Just in Time”
Now that you’ve boiled down a person’s career into one L&D platform with 30 hours of compliance training loaded, compiled a 100 page PDF of resources, and set up 15 meetings with key stakeholders for new hires, you’re done right?
This is way too much information for anyone to absorb, much less apply. But it’s all critical information, so what do you do? You deliver the information when it can be utilized. This method of learning is shown to be more effective – applied knowledge is stored and remembered more easily than unapplied knowledge.
Getting your team involved in the onboarding process not only takes the pressure / onus off you, but it also creates a more immersive experience for your new hire. With the full team involved in their onboarding, the new hire will feel like they’re part of the team more organically and, ideally, faster.
This also helps the team empathize with the new hire’s experience, and allowing everyone to be accountable for the new hire’s success.
These three bones are the foundation to an effective onboarding process, but there’s much more that goes into fleshing these out to build an experience that is relevant to your people.
Interested in learning more? Contact us!
Businesses require conflict to function. And conflict takes many shapes and sizes: delegating a task to a colleague, choosing who to promote, etc. These are essential to day-to-day operating functions, yet we often dread and run from conflict. This creates conflict debt.
Like most debts, conflict debt will get paid, but often it’s paid by those who don’t have the context to make an informed decision.
For example, consider that you’re a CEO for a retail company. Your CMO wants to collect demographic data on your shoppers and your CFO wants shoppers to sign up for credit cards. Instead of choosing one, you say yes to both, leaving your sales staff on the front-lines to make an uninformed decision on what to collect – they know your shoppers will not fill out a survey AND apply for a credit card. And all of this was because you didn’t want to tell your CMO or CFO that what they wanted was not a priority at that time.
Conflict debt erodes at organizations, because it erodes the trust your people have in your business. Coworkers count on each other to make hard decisions and deal with conflict. When it isn’t dealt with, it leads to higher burnout rates, greater turnover, lack of innovation, etc.
But conflict gets a bad rep. Many see conflict as the antithesis of teamwork, when in reality conflict is what makes teams. What is the point of a team if everyone is going the same way and there is no diversity of thought?
Think of a team of people pulling a tarp across a tent. They’re all trying to accomplish one thing – keep the tent from getting wet – and everyone is pulling in opposite directions to accomplish this goal. If a team member pulls too hard (e.g. is more powerful, is a loudmouth), then someone will get hurt. And people “let go” of their rope because they’re exhausted, they don’t feel heard, etc.
So how do you create productive conflict? It’s a team effort. Ask everyone on your team to identify what their unique “ropes” are:
Doing this will allow you to experience conflict as a role-based tension instead of a friction (an interpersonal experience).
For more info, read on here: https://hbr.org/2013/12/conflict-strategies-for-nice-people
March was a particularly jam-packed month for us at Havas People, as a whole host of events dropped into our calendar across the globe. And with a multitude of events, comes the opportunity of gaining further, fresh insight into the changing world of work and technology.
Our team in the UK were delighted to experience UNLEASH for the first time, followed by the annual Changeboard Future Talent Conference, while our team in the US attended both Workhuman and HR Transform. Additionally, our Managing Partner Danni Brace flew out to Singapore to complete the final leg of the Havas NextGen course - a year-long leadership journey that brings together 50 of Havas’ high potential leaders from across the globe and challenges them to become more team-centric, strategic and future-focused.
So on reflection of our particularly busy end to Q1, we thought we’d pull together the top insights that got us inspired last month. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
Using technology to embrace humanity
At this year’s Changeboard Future Talent Conference, speakers talked through their methods of using technology to support the growth of their businesses. One speaker who impressed our team was Lucy Winkett, a Rector of St James’s Church. She was inspirational, engaging and funny. During her talk, one of the questions she asked the room to consider was “who are we at work?”. She encouraged everyone to think about who they think they are, and who others perceive them to be. She then spoke about the ways in which human interactions can make our work fairer and explored how technology can help us to build a future which embraces humanity, rather than isolating us.
So what exactly does it mean to embrace humanity? Albeit from different perspectives, both UNLEASH and Changeboard reinforced the fact that we are human beings not human doings. “Who we are” is not defined by our activities but by our beliefs. Not being robots is our gift, our USP. We are not machines. People are not to be optimized but to be experienced. Quite often, we don’t need personalized experiences, we just need personal experiences. Now that we have robots we have to retrain humans how to be humans, to embrace creativity, complexity and empathy – to become less like robots than ever before because we can never be better robots than robots. We need to reinvent the value chain with people being the differentiating factor, and so people working in HR/talent have a real opportunity to be the new meaning-makers.
Vulnerability is not a weakness
Across the globe in the United States, Workhuman keynote speaker Brene Brown built on this idea of ‘being human’ as she outlined how vulnerability is a vital piece of developing a strong workplace culture. “If you set up a culture within your organization where there’s no tolerance for vulnerability, no tolerance for failure - then there’s no room for innovation, productivity, or creativity” she said. When people are in an environment where they feel they can bring their whole selves to work, they feel more connected to their organization and a sense of belonging. This sense of belonging is vital to building successful teams and businesses. It also builds trust among employees, managers and leads to better work outputs.
Engaged employees drive business success
Moreover, at HR Transform we once again heard a spin on how employees are often the determining factor between successful companies and ones that never reach their full potential. Employee engagement is driving business through human capital. Successfully building an employer brand and engagement strategy aligns a company’s culture with its brand. This creates an authentic experience and allows you to easily train employees on brand purpose and what role they play in delivering on that brand. Investing in your people is the key to business success, and if you put a promise out there, it’s vital to ensure your people are ready to deliver on it.
And it seems the final module of NextGen did a pretty great job of raising awareness of all these factors across our wider Havas community.
The module focused on leading through a disruptive and ever-changing environment with a lens on the importance of building your organizational culture and talent to drive your strategy. One quote that particularly resonated with Danni came from Vishnu Mohan; ‘Customers will not love a brand until an employee loves it’ – and at that moment there were a few ‘aha’ moments across the group at the realization of why Havas People’s specialism existed within a comms group such as Havas. If you don’t invest in creating a positive employee experience why would you think your customers are going to have a positive experience themselves – your brand isn’t a thing in isolation it is the sum of every individual you employ – if they enjoy where they work your brand is more likely to succeed.
So what has attending these events taught us? It’s confirmed that building a culture that embraces the true essence of humanity - one that puts trust in people’s strengths and supports them with their flaws - allows them to make meaningful connections with the organizations they work for. And the result of this? Meaningful experiences for your customers too, and an inevitable improvement on your bottom line. Which is exactly why we do the work that we do, across the entire people agenda, here at Havas People.
I just returned from the Workhuman conference, which is unsurprisingly about making work more human. There were numerous impactful speakers and learnings - a few of which will stick with me longer than others.
How can we help employees grow? How can we increase engagement? How can we ensure employees are happy? These were a few of the big questions Workhuman sought to address at this year's event. See below for a few of my biggest takeaways from the sessions I attended:
Have the difficult conversations
According to Brené Brown, opting out of difficult conversations because they make you uncomfortable is the definition of privilege. Difficult conversations amongst team members are necessary for team success. Avoiding them for the sake of being “nice” or not wanting to feel discomfort leads to diminished engagement, trust and increased problematic behaviors - such as passive-aggression, gossiping and backchannel communications.
Hold yourself accountable
Ultimately, all you are able to control is your own work and way of looking at things. If you are unhappy in your current position or project, you have the ability to fix your own world. It’s easy to think “I can’t change everything, so I won’t change anything,” but that is counterproductive. You should plug and play and do what you can to create your own success.
No matter how hard you try, you won’t find success without vulnerability. Vulnerability comes from the same place as shame, fear and anxiety - but it also comes from the same place as courage, trust, empathy, adaptability, inclusion, and resilience - shall I go on? Vulnerability is not a weakness, and can lead to great work.
Anyone else attend Workhuman this week? We’d love to hear other’s biggest learnings!
Team bonding – two words when put together are usually met with a cringe or a groan. For whatever reason, team bonding activities feel like a chore, disingenuous, or corny. And while I can’t argue this is true 100% of the time, it feels more accurate than not.
As someone who helps to organize team outings, I feel a tremendous responsibility to make sure that I am putting activities forward that have purpose beyond getting drinks at a bar or eating at a fun new restaurant (not the worst activities to go to).
As a small team we have the flexibility to do more non-traditional activities. That’s why this February, the Havas People NY team decided to #jointhebattle and participate in Cycle for Survival – a charity event that raises money to help find a cure for rare cancer.
When I asked the team if they wanted to participate – I received a resounding “YES”. After all, it’s a pretty simple proposition – raise money and help find a cure for cancer. Who could say no to that!
Having participated in past Cycle for Survival events, I knew what I was getting into. For my co-workers/team members I was so excited for them to get to experience four hours of inspiration, motivation and perspiration! Being in a room filled with people who have their own answers to #whyiride, but one common goal (cure cancer!) is so inspiring – I couldn't wait to get there that Friday night.
Part of the culture at Havas People is that we roll up our sleeve and we work together. And that is just what we did - As a new cycle team we have raised over $3,000 for rare cancer research!! I am so proud to work with a group of people who care about giving back to the community and making a difference – no matter how much they sweat doing it!
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Starting any new job will always include a learning curve no matter your experience level. On some stratus I knew this as I joined Havas People. Coming from a medium-size in-house ad agency that focused solely on clients in or within-driving-distance of Kansas City, I was nervous of the global agency assimilation process. But it was nothing like I had expected, and let me tell you why:
Employer Branding is a perspective
I have a considerable amount of experience in branding/brand equity. I’ve navigated many a rebrand, M&A’s, startup branding, etc, on top of the day-to-day brand guardianship that’s expected of communications professionals. But, employer branding is not a task or skill that you learn – it’s a totally new perspective of branding that I had not been pushed to consider before.
Here was my thought process before joining Havas People: “Employer branding is key to hiring more professionals and building your business, similar to how consumer branding is key to selling product/services and building your business.”
And now: “The insights that make up your employer and consumer brand are the same, and if you’re not telling that story, your brand is broken.”
I was ready to come to my first day of work, grab my key card and computer, and Google a step-by-step tutorial of employer branding. But the reality is (for all my fellow CPG peers) branding is branding and at the end of the day, putting yourself into your employees’ shoes (versus consumers’ shoes*) is a mindset and a practice.
*Pro tip: Your employees are likely to be consumers and vice versa.
Working globally is challenging
Way more challenging than I expected, and the most impactful adjustment I had to make (and yes, that includes downsizing to a 250 square foot studio in NYC): taking people for granted.
When part of your team is located in a time zone six hours ahead of you, you find you’ve taken for granted the knowledge sharing that happens by osmosis when you work desk-side with your specialized peers. And as with all challenges, I’ve grown from the experience.
I now make an effort to ask my coworkers what they’re working on, what’s trending in their respective fields, problems they’re facing and accomplishments they’re celebrating. I’m intentional in making my briefs crisper and storytelling succinct.
I over-thank to show my appreciation and build a rapport. So, while learning new things from the people around me is no longer a passive task, it has ultimately made me a better, more intentional communicator.
Have you ever gone on a date you thought went really well, only for days and weeks to go by without hearing a word from your date? This is called ghosting.
Ghosting, defined by Webster’s dictionary as “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication,” was once reserved for dating. Ghosting is now common practice in recruiting.
Attending Indeed’s annual conference, ghosting was a hot topic at a panel discussion. Numerous employers explained that feedback showed ghosting to be one of the top complaints from job seekers.
Many candidates send their application to a company they’re excited about, come in for an interview, to then wait by their phone (or inbox) and never hear a word. More than just lacking common decency, it reflects negatively on the employer’s brand and leaves a poor taste in candidate’s mouths.
Candidates don’t forget when companies don't respond or update them. Numerous studies show shunned candidates are less likely to buy from a company after being ghosted. They also are far less likely to apply at the same company in the future, and may share their poor experience online and with friends.
Communicating actively shows respect to candidates for the time invested in applying, preparing for an interview, and traveling to an interview. It’s also an opportunity to leave a positive impression - leading to potential referrals and return applicants.
Even if it is bad news, don’t be a ghost - send that email.
HR technology is an umbrella term for technology that automates the human resources function. There is automated tech for employee payroll and compensation, talent acquisition and management, workforce analytics, performance management, benefits administration, etc.
While all of that is great to know, why should you care about HR tech?
First, there are the financial benefits. HR organizations that “regularly use data to make talent and HR strategy decisions” generate 30% greater stock returns than the S&P 500 over the last 3 years.*
And then there are workplace benefits, specifically related to diversity and inclusion.
Pay equity legislation is a hot topic for businesses nationwide. Eliminating discrimination in wages is challenging – pay transparency laws restrict companies from asking about employee salary history; work loads differ for same job titles; different merits receive more compensation than others; etc.
Cue HR tech to the rescue. Technology plays a critical role in navigating these challenges and committing your organization to fair pay. Pay equity in turn leads to flourishing morale, a stronger brand (internally and externally) and a growing business – not to mention proactive protection against potential lawsuits.
One tool that offers solutions to the issue of diversity and inclusion is Syndio. By compiling data about employees (gender, years of experience, IQ, etc) with internal work information gathered from employees, Syndio is able to measure the inclusion of individuals, identify high/low collaborative groups, internally influential employees and retention risk. As it relates to pay equity, Syndio can use this information to identify compensation tiers for different positions and current employees being underpaid/overpaid.
With this information, companies are able to audit, measure and potentially fix current inclusion efforts. All of which would not be possible without HR tech!
So don’t fear the technology opportunities around us – work with the technology experts to embrace them and discover your business’ potential.
*Putting HR Tech to Work for You, Zev J. Eigen, JD, PhD