I’m sure many HR leaders are thinking about setting goals for 2018–after all, it’s that time of year when people get hyper-focused on personal improvement. (It’s also the time of fad diets and new gym memberships.) And it’s a good thing to reset goals for physical, emotional, work or financial well-being–to get more intentional and engaged in our lives.
As the CEO of an employee engagement company, I too think about how I can improve myself. This year, I’ll continue my annual resolution of making more time for mindfulness. I’ll get my finances in order and play more tennis. But in addition to my personal resolutions, I’m thinking about what I can do as a leader. Or more specifically, what I can stop doing as a leader to make life better not only for me–but for my employees.
I spent a good portion of last year speaking with CHROs, consultants, analysts and other CEOs about what’s working in the workplace and what’s not. While some workplace challenges are industry- or company-specific, several universal themes emerged. Essentially, the biggest take away is that we need to simplify–everything.
We’ve over-complicated what we’ve been doing and need to adjust for 2018. Here are the five things we can stop doing this year to help us focus our energy elsewhere:
- Ditch punitive programs: I want to examine the programs I’m offering my employees. Employee programs are one of the top ways to demonstrate that you care about your people. But this means they need to be programs that employees love and want to use. Making employees jump through unnecessary hoops or setting up programs that are more stick than carrot will chip away at trust. If you can’t trust your employees with programs designed to help them, then how can you trust them to do their jobs?
- Stop piling on solutions: With the explosion of employee programs, fitness devices, health apps and more, leaders are left sorting through hundreds of technologies and questioning which ones are right for them. (And trust me, there are many winners and losers out there.) Instead of continually adding more niche programs and trying to cobble together a meaningful experience, rely on proven partnerships and look for platforms that can deliver a seamless experience for employees. And not just one that integrates (that’s par for the course in HR tech) you need one that will inspire.
- Avoid trinkets and trash: It’s time to say goodbye to superficial recognition and hello to authentic recognition. According to Harris Group, 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences than material things. And this is translating into the workplace, which means the days of desk plaques and gold watches are numbered. Instead, we need other ways to recognize employees authentically for their efforts.
I suggest we start by asking employees. Train managers to ask how people like to be recognized and make sure they follow through. This demonstrates that you’re not only listening, but you really do care about what they’re saying.
- Discontinue surveys with no action: Listening to employees is important, but it’s meaningless if there’s no action plan to back it up. HR has been measuring employee engagement for decades and learning what to do, but sadly, employee engagement remains stagnant. Today, the notion of an annual survey is passé and pulse surveys are on the rise. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not good enough. Adopt pulse surveys to listen more frequently, implement technology that drives action and set aside the people and resources to really make change happen.
- Deconstruct silos: Silos are natural, but in today’s digital workplace they need to crumble for everyone to succeed. In 2018, we need to stop upholding the silos. With the proliferation of digital collaboration tools, robust analytics and an expectation that all systems should interact, we need to rethink how we design the employee experience. Yes, we need individual teams, but how can they effectively work together to optimize tools, share information and collaborate to drive the business forward?
In the spirit of the new year, I urge you to consider tackling one or more of these professional resolutions. What will you stop doing to be a more effective leader in 2018?