Imposter syndrome has sadly been a popular term going around recently. After having to navigate working through a pandemic and now adapting to the new normal of hybrid and remote work, many employers and employees have found themselves feeling somewhat out of their depth. A YouGov survey of 2,500 UK workers found imposter syndrome to be one of the most common mental health issues in the contemporary workplace, with nearly three in five (58%) of employees experiencing it. Similarly, a study in the US found that 65% of professionals suffered from imposter syndrome. The prevalence of this feeling in today’s world means that this is no longer something that we should label as a problem predominantly facing women.

But where do these feelings stem from? And how can employers aid those who find themselves questioning whether they deserve to be in their position?

Feeling like an imposter can be brought on by a number of things, but these can be filed under two main factors – internal and external.

Internal imposter syndrome is in reference to those who suffer from anxiety and self-doubt, sometimes on a debilitating level, that is triggered by the individual’s internalized stories. They will lack the confidence to speak up because they are constantly second-guessing themselves and their capability, and this mindset can fester and grow as time goes on. Often times, it will be newer hires who have fallen short or made a mistake upon starting, and in their attempt to be mentally tough and analyse what they did wrong, they can end up planting a seed of doubt that blooms over time.

External imposter syndrome examines the environment someone is entering. Many employers will look at hiring more diverse candidates to bring in new and fresh perspectives, but these candidates can find themselves feeling like imposters if they are entering into a culture that has been set in its ways for a while and they repeatedly find themselves being ‘shut down’. In this sense, this is a sign that the culture needs to begin evolving to incorporate new ways of thinking so that everyone can benefit from it.

Regardless of what has provoked these feelings, a growth mindset approach to both can help tremendously with combatting this ideology of self-doubt. If its internal, leaders can coach their employees who are suffering, or refer them to an external coach, who can help to recalibrate the way they perceive themselves and their capabilities – spinning the idea on its head to go from, ‘why don’t I know this’ to ‘I don’t know this yet, what can I do to accelerate my learning and development in this area? ’. The label ‘imposter’ can be a harmful one and carries heavy connotations that are not usually applicable – you are not an imposter if you don’t know how to do everything, and that’s completely fine. It can be as simple as reminding staff that they were hired for a reason, so they have already earned their place at the table. Another great way of getting this across is by regular acknowledgment of contribution and feedback – reassurance from those that work above you can go a very long way.

This same logic can be applied to external imposter syndrome. If you have hired someone to bring in a fresh perspective on a new market, for example, then naturally their ideas are going to vary. To avoid making them feel alienated from the get-go, you can explore ways to allow for new ideas to be brought forward. A few ideas include:

  • Asking all members of the team to brainstorm new options, perhaps anonymously to remove any element of bias.
  • Use de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats.
  • Or be inspired by Julia Dahr’s TED Talk that encourages us to learn from debate tactics!

This also allows time for the culture to organically adapt to changes.

It's important for any employer to recognise that anyone who finds themselves in a new position – regardless of their hierarchical position – may begin to feel like an imposter of sorts. If you ensure that you have an inclusive culture that encourages communication, then employees will feel comfortable in seeking some support for the way they are feeling. Having coached many executives who have experienced these feelings of doubt, I know first-hand how important it is to address this before it becomes embedded. If you need further guidance on how to approach imposter syndrome in your workplace, you can get in touch with me at anya@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

As we venture into this new year, none of us can be sure what the future holds. However, with ‘unprecedented’ events becoming commonplace this decade, there are sure to be more than a few surprises in store for employers over the next 12-months.

But the truth about ‘surprises’ is that very often we will have had an idea they were coming our way. So, whether it’s based on the extrapolation of an established trend or simply ‘gut instinct’ based on years’ of experience, we asked the OrgShakers to predict what will be surprising us in 2023.

  • Stephanie Rodriguez believes that many organizations will be wrong-footed by the increase in employees putting boundaries around their working hours. A significant proportion of business leaders and front-line managers still cling to the belief that staff ‘prove’ themselves by how long they work and their ability to always be available. With the rising popularity of remote working, it has become even more difficult to adhere to normal working hours due to the ability to work whenever from wherever. And so 2023 is going to see the misnomer that is ‘quiet quitting’ actually becoming a necessary step for the physical and mental wellbeing of employees. Learning to navigate this new attitude towards work is going to be a new challenge in the coming twelve months.
  • Therese Procter believes that businesses may falter due to organizational paralysis. Quite simply, the past 2-3 years have been so overwhelming that many leaders are struggling to identify a way forward. Therefore, she believes that we are going to see many more organizations reaching out to consultancies about people trends and how to navigate through difficult times. In addition, 2023 is the year of power skills for those in charge – she believes there is going to be a surge of leaders developing their emotional intelligence and empathetic skills, as this will help them to really understand the evolving needs of their team.
  • Amanda Holland believes that leaders may be surprised by the increasing importance their employees place on ‘making a difference’. The social agenda has been brought to the forefront in 2022, and now many people want to work somewhere that they believe reflects their values. Allowing employees to play their part in driving the social impact of the organization could enhance recruitment and retention result and accelerate collaboration and innovation in the workplace. She also believes there is going to be a rise in demand for remote work in the metaverse, as people seek a more realistic human connection in a virtual space.
  • Sayid Hussein agrees that there is a greater focus on the digital employee experience, adding that this may also accelerate the adoption of the four-day working week. 100 UK companies have already signed up for a permanent four-day week which he believes will act as a catalyst to propel this idea forward. Firms will, however, need guidance in navigating this new way of work.
  • Pamela Kingsland predicts that a surprise employers may encounter in the coming year is the rise of individualisation in corporate culture. The demand for flexible work schedules, tailored rewards and benefits, and personal development plans will continue to rise, as well as the emerging concept of individualised wellness. This would be data driven, and focus on people having customized gut biome treatments, individualised vitamins, and tailored exercises to a person’s specific metabolism, as well as neurological fingerprinting. Bodily health and brain health will play a big part in optimizing people to their full potential, not just as workers but as human beings.
  • And finally, one of the biggest surprises that Alisa Cardenas believes employers may see is the establishment of white-collar trade unions. There has been a significant rise in employee consciousness as we have emerged from lockdown. People have become more inclined to question the five-day, nine-to-five structure. Remote and hybrid work has introduced a new type of flexibility and being faced with a pandemic has caused a mass recalibration of what people value. We may see this begin to emerge through new unions being established in the corporate sectors.

What we do know for certain is that 2022 brought with it many unexpected surprises that had a great effect on the working world, and so as we venture into 2023, OrgShakers are ready to help employers optimize every opportunity that comes their way. To get in touch with us about your people strategy or organization dynamics, head over here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Creating the conditions which enable employees to be engaged and motivated should be a top priority for employers. Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce report, which found that only 21% of employees were actively engaged at work, sadly shed light on the fact that employee engagement is not being done effectively, or even prioritised, and the result is unhappy employees. This unhappiness will affect performance and will lead inevitably to unhappy customers and less successful business outcomes.

Employee engagement should be an important year-round focus, but we can do some things to help create a ‘reset’ at the beginning of the New Year and support our teams to reengage with their work. 16th January 2023 will be ‘Blue Monday’ in the UK, so called (and coined by a psychologist Cliff Arnall) because of people returning to work post-holiday to bad weather, debt and low levels of motivation. This does not apply to everyone of course, but how can employers help counteract this?

The end of year holiday period creates a ‘pause’ which people are often desperately looking forward to. With our ‘always on’ working lives, and what seems to have been an epidemic of overwork this year, many people are limping towards the finishing line of what has felt like the Marathon of 2022.  The joy of having some rest time with family and friends also creates time and space for people to think about their lives, the good and the ‘not so good’, and in particular their work lives, and how this aligns with their personal aspirations.

Rather than just hoping that people will come back from their holidays refreshed and suddenly regain engagement, we are suggesting that employers need to be proactive this new year and enable a January ‘reset’.

A key part of a leader’s role is to tap into what motivates their people, to carry the torch for the organisational purpose and create excitement about what they are to achieve in 2023 through their ability to create an engaging story of what might be.

We would like to suggest a few things businesses can do to enable a reset:

  • Make a point of welcoming everyone back. This may sound obvious but do we do it? The best way to start the year from a leadership perspective is to have a proper welcome back catch up with all your team members. Dedicate some time early in the year to get together, share holiday stories and discuss aspirations for the upcoming year. Not just going straight in talking about detailed task objectives but discussing what they would aspire to see happen in 2023. Human beings like to feel valuable, and feel that they belong, so these conversations are vitally important in maintaining the ‘social glue’ that ties teams together and in ensuring we value our colleagues and humanise our workplaces.
  • Restating and realigning purpose. Rather than just carrying on where we left off in December, the New Year gives you as leader the ideal opportunity to restate the organisational purpose; to reconnect your people with the ‘why’ we do what we do. You can reconnect your team members with their role in achieving the overall purpose of the organisation and remind them of their purpose and their value to you and the organisation. We often have a ‘look back’ at the end of a year but are less inclined to have a ‘look forward’ at the beginning of the New one as we throw ourselves straight into the work. Whatever happened last year, we are now looking forward and need to focus on what we can do in the future. This ‘look forward’ reminder also ensures that everyone is venturing into this new year with a clear sense of what the company is aiming to achieve, and this restatement of purpose can help strengthen team bonds as well as create alignment and improve the speed at which these goals are met.

My suggested reading for points 1. and 2. is ‘The Heart of Business’ by Hubert Joly – his personal playbook for achieving extraordinary outcomes by putting people and purpose at the heart of business.

  •  Speaking of goals…we all know it’s a common tradition to set new year’s resolutions for our personal goals, but there’s no reason why companies shouldn’t support this ethos. Asking each team member to set a motivational goal at the beginning of the year, that you and they can check in on every month or so, is a great way to engage people and have them work towards something other than their day-to-day organisational tasks. It may be to learn something new, go to a particular conference, or to shadow someone. It does not have to be part of their development plan but must be something that means something to them personally, like getting involved in the organisation’s corporate social responsibility events or supporting a particular charity or cause.
  • Prioritise wellbeing. 2022 was an arduous year for a lot of us – cost-of-living worries are following us into the new year, as well as increased stress levels and increasing levels of burnout. We at OrgShakers prioritise supporting wellbeing in the workplace, not just as a moral issue but as a key business driver. We understand that it makes sense to actively and consciously enhance employee wellbeing rather than having to keep fixing issues arising from overwork and stress. Adopting the January ‘reset’ mindset means making wellbeing a priority from the get-go. Consider as an organisation what you can do to create a culture of wellbeing, how you might change last year’s working practices to create the conditions for employee wellness in 2023 and see the business benefits that will follow this. Einstein said that the definition of insanity was ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. What can you change as a leader, and as an organisation, to create a more engaged and healthier workforce?

A strong start to your business year can make all the difference and engaging in a January reset will have big business benefits. If you would like to discuss these and other ways to create this reset, you can get in touch with me at pamela@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

The holiday bonus is carrying a lot more weight this year. With financial concerns at an all-time high, many employees may find themselves eager to receive an additional monetary gift more than ever this holiday season. And while WorkNest found that nearly a third (30%) of employers are planning on giving staff one-off bonuses, this still leaves a majority of companies who either do not have the means to offer one or have not considered it.

However, an end of year bonus doesn’t necessarily have to be money. Whether you are a small organization who cannot afford to offer gifts, or you would like to give something a little different this year, here are some fun and cost-friendly alternatives to show employees gratitude this time of year:

  1. Gift card and handwritten note – it does not have to be a high dollar value, but it will still help leaders convey appreciation for their teams. A small Starbucks gift card and an accompanying, individualized note can easily put a smile on someone’s face, especially when they treat themselves to a holiday beverage.
  2. Or even just a card – if the budget is very tight, even a heart-felt card to each member of staff helps to show the appreciation being held for them. Taking the time to write each one and add in a unique detail will demonstrate how well a manager knows their employees and will make them feel seen and valued.
  3. Get creative – Leverage your creativity and gift something handmade to your employees this holiday season. If you are a business that operates remotely, use your design skills by putting together fun, personalized backgrounds for each team member. Use the background to showcase positive feedback or accomplishments highlighting employees’ most impactful achievements throughout the year. Handmade gifts are one of the best ways to show gratitude for your team. The time dedicated to each individual’s gift speaks volumes about your commitment and appreciation.
  4. Virtual holiday party – if the budget for an end of year staff party is tight, then why not consider hosting it online? Encourage those that wish to attend to slip on a quirky jumper or ugly sweater, change their Zoom or Teams background to something from their festive beliefs and host a virtual game of Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire? to get everyone involved. Check out our tips and tricks for hosting a fun and appropriate holiday staff party here!
  5. Host an awards ceremony – Take a new twist on things. A team awards ceremony is a great activity that can be done in person or online. To coincide with awards season, why not set up your own mock red carpet? Whether you deck out with a buffet and drinks or just keep it simple, this is an innovative way of showing gratitude to your team and gives you the opportunity to have a good laugh as a team with fun awards!
  6. Or, if you do have more of a budget…there are a variety of things that can be offered in exchange of a monetary bonus that can prove to be more thoughtful and sincere, while still being relatively budget friendly. For example, planning an activity to do together, such as a curated beer/wine tasting (in person or virtual!) or something more physical (bowling, escape room). And, if you are a remote company, there are plenty of virtual experiences that everyone can take part in – this could be anything from a virtual cooking class to an interactive online murder mystery party.
  7. Make it meaningful – Those looking to give back to the community whilst providing a cheery team building experience this season should consider stepping away from the office and volunteering together. Employees can appreciate the time away knowing it’s for a meaningful cause. Another idea is using a service like Packed with Purpose, which allows employees to curate their own gift box full of a variety of goodies while supporting a variety of social and environmental causes. So, while the gift is thoughtful and individual, it is also having a positive social impact. Demonstrating the company’s alignment with personal values is becoming more attractive to talent, especially across the younger generations in the workforce. Something as simple as making a donation to a charitable organization of an employee’s choosing can go a long way, as it shows how important their social values are to you as an employer. Opting for these more meaningful gifts that give back is an excellent way for companies to demonstrate the investment that they have in their employee’s social values.

Whichever way an organization chooses to show their appreciation for their employees this holiday season, there is one key piece of advice that leaders need to remember:

It’s all about the messaging. As with any reward or recognition, the communication which accompanies the gift is very important. Ensure that any gift, activity or experience substituted for a monetary reward clearly expresses gratitude and shows how you have your employees’ interests front of mind when choosing them. Happy employees will lead to healthy business – and this is the ultimate goal.

If you would like to get in touch or need further guidance on how to approach an end of year bonus, you can contact me at alisa.cardenas@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

The holidays can be a trying time. At a time when you are expected to be jolly, you may find it shameful to feel anything but that.

And yet, the reality is that this time of year can be difficult for some of us, for varying reasons. For one thing, loneliness at the holidays is always a big concern. With all the festivities that are happening around us, especially Christmas, there is this connotation of inclusiveness and togetherness that can be a stark reminder for some of their own lack of company. The holidays have come to symbolise family, and so for those who may have fractured familial relationships or have lost loved ones, it can be difficult not to feel a sense of shame or embarrassment to have to admit to your own isolation. Research conducted by Mind confirms this, with over a third of people (36%) being too embarrassed to admit they are lonely at Christmas time.

There are also those who may be suffering with religious trauma. This time of year can be very triggering for those who have been brought up in strict religious households but have been on a journey of faith deconstruction into their adulthood. Being forced to take part in religious-based traditions in order to see their family can leave them feeling emotionally drained, and can lead to them feeling the need to pull away during this time.

And lastly, this year is particularly hard on us all financially. The commercialisation of Christmas is a consistent reminder that this is a time for giving and spending, but with the cost-of-living crisis touching the majority of us – Go.Compare Energy found that one in six UK households will not be putting up lights this year to save money – this can lead to increased feelings of stress and guilt at not feeling you are able to provide a ‘perfect’ Christmas. More than two in five people have reported feeling stressed during the holiday season, and just over a quarter of people (26%) say that the Christmas season actually makes their mental health worse, according to a YouGov survey.

Inevitably, all of these stresses and wellbeing concerns are going to leak into working life – so how can employers look to offer that little bit of extra help during the holiday season?

My biggest piece of advice would be to actively ask questions and actively listen to what your staff have to say. When in a managerial role, it can be very easy to fall into the habit of asking closed questions to staff, such as “Do you have any plans for Christmas?”. Nine times out of ten the answer will be ‘yes’ even if that is not the truth, so managers need to take it that next step further. Follow up with, “Oh, what are you up to?” – this immediately signals that you are genuinely interested and want to listen, and therefore you are now more likely to receive an honest answer.

Supporting the financial and emotional wellness of your staff can be difficult – you may already feel like time is escaping you – but placing that focus on your team members is a pillar of the managerial role. Even if you don’t have the answers, showing that you care enough to ask the right questions can make all the difference.

It comes down to taking accountability for your staff and making that effort to be self-aware during what is a potentially trying time for some members of your team. Making them feel comfortable, safe, and like they can confide in you will promote openness in your workplace culture and help ensure that performance can be maintained, as well as your staff being properly supported. Even if it is something as simple as sending out a group text or email on Christmas Day – it’s not a necessity, but one minute of your time could make someone feel that little bit less lonely amongst the festivities.

If you would like to discuss these topics further, you can get in contact with me at therese@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Often times, the mention of December will most likely be identified with Christmas – lights go up, grottos come out, employers across all sectors begin preparing for the rush of commercialism that accompanies this time of year.

But in reality, Christmas is just one of many festivities that is celebrated in December. And yet many companies will adopt this tunnel vision towards the Christian holiday and fail to acknowledge any others, despite the fact that their workforce could be made up of a diverse mix of team members who may have varying beliefs and traditions.

To be an inclusive employer, this requires recognizing that the holidays are woven with many varying celebrations. By doing so, you will be able to strengthen the interpersonal connections and increase collaboration amongst colleagues, which will create connectedness with your team as a whole.

There are many ways to start doing this – the simplest of them being fostering an environment where cross-cultural differences and similarities are regularly discussed – especially during holidays. Encouraging team members to share their beliefs means that others will know how best to greet them during this festive time.  If team members know that their colleague is Jewish, they will make that effort to wish them a Happy Hanukkah, and if they know someone is Christian, they will say Merry Christmas. Or, if there are members of staff who celebrate nothing at this time, then a neutral ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Season’s Greetings’ will suffice.

Similarly, if leaders are taking the time to get to know their team members on a personal level, their team members are going to feel seen, valued and heard, and this leads to feeling a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging is the gift that keeps on giving, and will in turn motivate team members to be talent scouts who invite those they care about to join their place of employment; the thought of quiet quitting will never even cross their mind.

Inclusivity in the holidays comes down to taking the time to know what is going on, know your team members, and making sure your team members know each other, too. December hosts Bodhi Day for those who are Buddhist, Winter Solstice for those who are Pagan, Hannukah for Jewish employees, Christmas for Christian employees and Kwanzaa for African American employees who celebrate this.

When decorating the office, there is no harm in pulling inspiration from all of these festivities – tinsel, menorah’s (although, for health and safety, not lit) and harvest baskets can make anyone celebrating feel that little bit more included, and this is a great way of keeping engagement and morale up during a particularly busy time of year for business.

It is about bridging that gap between tolerance and acceptance. Leaders do not want their team members feeling as if they are tolerant of their different beliefs, they want them to feel like they are accepted and respected in their workplace. Encouraging the team to get to know each other and ask how they would like to be greeted this holiday season will help solidify this acceptance mindset in your culture, and this will be a greatly positive force going forwards.

In the end, you will have a stronger team and an improved rapport with your people – and this can only have a positive knock-on effect for your business. If you need guidance on implementing inclusion strategies for the holidays or for the new year to come, get in touch with me at marty@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Recently, Sue Johnson, Managing Partner for Inclusion & Diversity Consulting at Odgers Berndston, and OrgShakers’ Partner Therese Procter met to discuss the vital role diversity and inclusion (D&I) plays in helping UK workers navigate through challenging times.

I think there’s a growing unrest at work that’s just bubbling under the surface,” Therese began, going on to highlight how workers are facing both a cost-of-living crisis and the need to adapt to changing ways of working after the pandemic. And while this has brought financial and mental wellness to the top of the overall leadership agenda, responsibility for addressing these complex needs is typically falling to the individual in an organisation that leads D&I strategies.

This continues a longstanding trend in D&I – scope creep – with a growing number of People issues being added to the discipline’s remit in many organisations, including workplace culture, human rights, supply chain governance, and community engagement.

On the one hand this is a positive development, as organisations become increasingly responsive to their environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. The challenge, however, is that the growing demands on D&I specialists are not being matched with the required resources.

What you’re seeing is the job being expanded…the agenda is getting broader and broader,” Sue points out. However, the person who is responsible for responding to these D&I issues “are mostly reporting at a lower level… and to really make a change you have got to be able to have a seat at the executive table”.

Also critical is that today’s D&I specialists have the right blend of D&I expertise and wider organisational experience i.e.: they understand how the business ‘ticks’. Sue reflected that all too often in the past the people appointed to D&I roles had either “limited subject matter expertise but huge business experience … or came from HR with the subject matter expertise but lacked the wider business expertise required”.

Therese added that this is why “we are at a point in time where businesses need to reflect on current issues – and reset”. A D&I ‘reset’ that requires the appointment of individuals who, as well as having subject matter expertise and organisational know how, can also make things happen at pace and scale.

You have to have such high emotional intelligence,” Sue agreed. “You need to be a good influencer, you need to be able to write strategy, and you need to be skilled in change management.

And the insights, the awareness, the training, the support, the helplines – the whole infrastructure has to be taken seriously,” Therese added. “That starts with the Board. If it’s not taken seriously and led from the top – and by the top – it will never get traction in the organisation.

If the scope of the job is broadening, Sue and Therese concluded, then its importance increases by tenfold. And this means having an in-depth and contemporary understanding of all the corners of D&I, knowing how to respond and support employees accordingly – and then being able to win the support of senior leaders and stakeholders.

And aside from an employer’s moral obligation, there is clear financial gain from appointing a D&I specialist with this rare blend of skills. A workplace that is diverse and inclusive garners a higher revenue growth, has a greater readiness to innovate, and gains access to a wider talent pool. Research conducted by Great Place to Work also found that those who believed they would be treated fairly and included were 5.4 times more likely to want to remain at their company.

Adapting to this new normal when it comes to post-pandemic work has seen many new opportunities and challenges emerge in the working world, which is why it is more important than ever to be applying a central focus to your approach to D&I.

To discuss the ways in which the expanding D&I landscape is impacting your organisation, you can get in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Optimizing the performance of teams and individuals is one of the biggest challenges any leader faces. And it comes down to figuring out the approach that your people will best respond to. Rewarding overperformance? Punishing underperformance? Or a bit of both?

But which is the way to go?

Rewarding overperformance:

The behaviourist B.F. Skinner’s operant learning theory argued that by adding a rewarding stimulus after a behaviour, that behaviour becomes reinforced and is therefore more likely to recur.

As a leader, if you make a conscious effort to reward those at work who are exhibiting your company’s values through the quality of their output, then this will likely lead to them repeating this effort because they begin to associate that standard of work with some sort of reward (and this can be anything from a monetary bonus, to an extra day of paid leave, to a ‘thank you’ note).

This positive reinforcement can have a knock-on effect – other colleagues will see that by working to a certain level, they too would be rewarded, and so will mimic this behaviour. This leads to a chain reaction of improved productivity and engagement. In theory at least.

In reality, there is a fine line that needs to be walked with this.

Although one study found that 92% of workers were more likely to repeat a specific action after receiving recognition for it – leaders must be careful not to promote the idea that working your fingers to the bone will get you rewards. This can lead to burnout in staff, as well as a noticeable downwards effect on their wellbeing, with productivity falling just as quickly as it had risen.

However, calibrated correctly, rewarding good behaviour can deliver a significant improvement in output, as well as staff that feel they are being appreciated for their efforts.

Punishing underperformance:

Skinner also created the concept of operant conditioning, which is essentially the opposite to operant learning theory and involves taking something good or desirable away to reduce the occurrence of a particular behaviour.

In corporate terms, this is most commonly translated as: if you are not meeting expectations, you will be at risk of losing your job. Some leaders opt to promote a widespread feeling of job insecurity in their workplace to foster this idea of competition and to stoke fears of job loss to motivate workers to be at the top of their game. Some commentators have suggested this is likely to be Elon Musk’s gameplan for Twitter where he has sacked half the workforce.

However, Harvard Business Review conducted a series of surveys to explore whether perceived job insecurity actually made people work better. What they found was that job insecurity drove a culture of presenteeism with workers going out of their way to look as productive as possible – but with the quality of the output waning. This is most likely due to the fact that feeling the need to always look busy can lead to stress build up and have increasingly detrimental effects on an employee’s health and performance.

But underperformance can have virus-like tendencies when unleashed in the workplace. If high-performance employees see that their low performance colleagues are not being reprimanded for putting little in, then this can lead to a domino-effect of high performers starting to work less hard because they do not want to pick up the slack of others around them. This mindset can spread like an infection amongst the office, and so it is extremely important for employers to manage those who are deemed low performers. But, the way you approach this requires a leader to be clear about what they need from this member of staff in order to help them improve – this list of top tips is a great place to start.

So, reward and punishment both have their pros and cons. The secret is knowing which to use in a given situation – and deploying them in a professional, purposeful way.

If you would like to explore more deeply the best ways to optimize the performance of your employees, you can get in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Remote work seems to be here to stay. And if that is the case, then so are the burgeoning social challenges that accompany it.

As it stands, around 14% of UK workers are exclusively remote, with nearly double that proportion in the US at 26%. And what seems to be emerging is a growing sense of loneliness and isolation amongst these workers, as well as a significant lack of social interaction.

A survey by Statista found that after at-home distractions, a lack of social interaction with colleagues and feeling isolated/lonely were tied as the second highest challenge of remote work, with 35% of respondents citing either as their main struggle.

If you delve deeper, it also becomes apparent that these issues are affecting younger workers more severely. Chargifi did a study across the UK and the US and found that 81% of those aged under 35 would feel more isolated without time in the office, and 70% of them fear missing out on opportunities to socialise if remote work becomes the permanent norm.

If the new normal is remote work, then this requires organizations to push the boundaries of what that really means and help employees find innovative ways to solve these feelings of isolation.

Here are some creative ways employers can encourage their remote workers to get the social interaction they need:

  • Public Outdoor Spaces

This is a weather-dependant option, but it is well known that getting some fresh air has many physical and mental health benefits, including giving your brain more energy and making your thinking sharper. Public parks, gardens and beaches are all lovely days out, but there’s no reason why someone can’t set up their laptop and work surrounded by like-minded nature lovers and the sound soothing waves and beautiful blooms.

  • Pubs/Bars/Cafes  

This is one of the most popular options. There is always a lively ambience in a pub or café, and many people find working in these environments much more mentally stimulating. This is largely due to the psychological effect known as social facilitation, in which a person’s performance will improve due to being in the presence of other people. For UK employers, encouraging your remote workers to set up shop in a Wetherspoons could benefit them financially, as the chain offers free refills on tea and coffee all day, and will help ease the effects of cost of living by saving on electricity usage.

  • Airports/Train Stations

A slightly unconventional place, but perfect when looking at the social facilitation effect mentioned above. The hustling and bustling of people can actually help, with ‘background noise’ known to improve cognitive function and focus. And the constant sea of new faces can reduce an individual’s feelings of isolation.

  • Fast Food Restaurants

Across both the UK and the US, the beauty of fast-food restaurants during typical working hours are that they tend not to be too loud, they offer free WiFi, and have affordable lunch options. Whether it is burgers, tacos, or fried chicken, being in an environment with other people can make someone feel less alone.

  • Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are becoming an increasingly popular option for companies that are fully remote. These comprise of office spaces that can be rented, where your staff will work alongside remote workers from other organizations and have the opportunity to interact and build relationships. It allows for the ‘office feel’ without having to actually rent an entire office block, so it is cost effective and will likely increase the wellbeing of your workers. Alternatively, encouraging employees to set up remote working hubs with friends who also work remotely allows for them to create small, sub-cultures at work where they are surrounded by friendly faces and can stimulate their socialising needs.

Remote work can very easily become lonely, and if employers are adept in responding to this then they can continue to reap the financial and wellness benefits it has to offer. As a company that operates fully remotely, we are experts in offering in-depth guidance on how to mitigate the challenges that remote work can bring, so for strategic guidance on this topic, you can get in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

The mass adoption of remote and hybrid working has brought with it concerns around a loss of company culture, a lack of social cohesion and struggles with onboarding. What seems to be emerging as the golden solution to these problems is the metaverse – the virtual reality (VR) space which allows users to interact with each other’s avatars in a digitalised office from the comfort of their home.

However, there are still many HR-related concerns surrounding the metaverse, and one such issue is virtual presenteeism.  

The belief that managers and executives will subconsciously favour those they see in the office every day from morning until evening – even if these people are not being productive – is not a new one. And it is rooted in two psychological phenomena; the first being the ‘mere-exposure effect’, which states that the more one person is exposed to someone, the more they start to grow an affinity towards them. This is strengthened by the second, the ‘halo effect’, in which if a manager gets along with a colleague and considers them a nice person, they will also assume they are a good worker.

However, even though simply being present has no demonstrable correlation with the quality of an individual’s output and their overall productivity, a survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development found that 83% of people had observed presenteeism in their workplace.

Now, flashforward to the rise of remote working. Suddenly no one is in an office, and no one is in the eyeline of management without inviting them to a specific video call. By being forced inside, employers could only judge the productivity of their staff based on what they were outputting each day, and this helped significantly reduce the presenteeism ideology.

Until the metaverse comes along.

There is no set science on how much interaction employees can and should be having with the metaverse. As it stands, the most likely approach to it will be a new hybrid model – working partly inside the digital space as an avatar and working from home outside of it in the ‘real world’. But this presents an interesting issue – will presenteeism return in the form of a virtual, avatar-based counterpart?

Naturally, there are going to be some hesitations surrounding the metaverse. A study commissioned by ExpressVPN found that employees reported feeling higher levels of anxiety, suspicion, and confusion about the new digital space. This hesitancy stems from a variety of factors, and one of the most popular is the increased opportunity for surveillance, which in turn can lead to employees feeling like there is a lack of trust being placed in them. This is coupled with general health concerns, as using VR too much can lead to increased anxiety, depression and ‘brain drain’.

So, it would not be a leap to assume that some will be reluctant to interact with the metaverse daily, and yet will this mean that those who opt to use the metaverse less will be at risk of losing out on promotional opportunities? The space allows for the recreation of the office setting in a virtual world, so those logged into it can once again be seen and interact with their superiors on a more regular basis, which may see a return to the pre-pandemic ways of presenteeism.

And with a global study by Cienna finding 40% of businesses thinking they will move to more immersive and VR-based environments in the next two years, identifying this rise of digital proximity bias now can allow employers to start working with their HR teams to figure out how to approach this problem at its root.

That’s where we can help. The metaverse is quickly gaining popularity in the working world and is making its way towards ‘new normal’ status. If you would like guidance on how to start preparing and navigating this digital world, you can contact us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

I found myself smiling recently as my lovely mum, Nora – who is 84 – declared her absolute exasperation that her doctor had not prescribed her a medication she thought she absolutely should have.

So, why was I smiling?

Her request had been for hormone replacement therapy – HRT!

As I poured us both a cup of tea, I was really intrigued as to how the conversation had gone.

She shared with her doctor that I was on HRT and that I had been free of joint pain and other menopause-related symptoms. Although I had been sceptical to try it, I now advocated it and as a result she thought she would like it too. He asked why she felt the need to try it now and she said: “Because I want to feel at my best for as long as I can”.

His response to her really warmed me. “You are a beautiful woman. You are 84. And you are a perfect example of a post-menopausal woman in the springtime of her life. You need sun, and smiles, and daily doses of whatever it is you are already doing.”

My mum was of a generation that did not talk about the menopause through both stigma and shame and never complained when the obvious symptoms presented themselves.

They just ‘got on with it’.

Nora

I love that mum is full of energy and life and no longer ashamed to talk about the personal stuff.

So, as we mark World Menopause Day, it is a missed opportunity if we ‘just get on with it’. Today should be a celebration – an opportunity to recognise we are in the springtime of our lives!

Because there is more support than ever for us to open up about how the change in our bodies impact our physical, biological, and psychological state.

I have been an Ambassador, an Ally and – so I have been told – very loud in sharing the knowledge and insights I have on the topic across boardrooms and organizations in every sector. The menopause does not discriminate, 100% of females will face it and my hope is that they will embrace it.

As an organisation, OrgShakers have taken to the topic of midlife very seriously as there is a commercial benefit to every business for doing so.

For the first time in history, one third of the global workforce is over 50! That alone is staggering when you think of the paradigm shift in thinking for the policies, processes and programs that need to support and enhance everyone to be at their best.

If you need some help on starting to support those undergoing these midlife changes at work, here are five things you can do as a leader:

  1. Develop and/or review existing policies – remembering that there is no one-size-fits-all approach as every person’s journey with menopause is unique
  2. Train your line managers in understanding what menopause is and how to recognise and support it
  3. Raise awareness – this can be done through a variety of means, whether that be having informative flyers/posters, organising educational talks/seminars, or through the use of an internal intranet forum.
  4. Introduce a menopause/midlife Ambassador
  5. Foster an inclusion mindset – this can only flourish in a workplace culture that is open, honest and makes people feel comfortable to share and seek help

And please do get in contact with me at therese@orgshakers.com to keep the conversation alive.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

5. Reduce anxiety

Anxiety is known to be harmful to the brain, but how? Some anxiety is normal in us all, but evidence exists that individuals who experience long term and sustained anxiety are 48% more likely to develop cognitive decline. This is due to cortisol, the stress hormone, which if present over the long-term damages parts of the brain involved in memory and complex thinking.

In 2020/21, depression or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health, so focusing on reducing anxiety in the workplace will have huge beneficial effects for  employees, the organisation and society. Educating staff around techniques to minimize stress or to ‘reframe’ their perception of stress and make it positive are great ways of helping to reduce angst, as well as offering subscriptions to mental wellness apps such as Calm or great online platforms such as LibratumLife.

However, it is not all up to the employee. Additionally, organisations can help reduce anxiety in their employees by creating a culture of Psychological Safety where people can speak openly; by training and developing Leaders in Emotional Intelligence and encouraging supportive conversations; and by sponsoring employees to become Mental Health First Aiders.

Anxiety and stress are at an all-time high in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, and so now more than ever helping manage anxiety should be a prime focus for employers who want to keep their workforce healthy and reduce burn-out and sickness absence.

6. Keep on Learning

The concept of lifelong learning is one that you may be familiar with. Developing new skills, learning new information and remaining curious can all help towards reducing cognitive decline. Remaining alert and interested in the world around you is one excellent way to keep the neurons in your brain firing and active.

Offering learning and development opportunities in the workplace is a great investment in your people and your business. Whilst it may be tempting to turn off the development tap at times of financial difficulty, it can be a false economy in the longer term.

There have also been many discussions about the efficacy of ‘brain training’. To date, there are many apps and other products which claim to help stave off cognitive decline. The jury is still out with most of these. MyCognition is worth a look as it has been developed in conjunction with the University of Cambridge and with support from the NHS. The best results for any brain training interventions seem to be achieved with regular usage over longer term rather than as a quick fix.

7. Ensure regular mental stimulation

Many researchers believe the key to maintaining a healthy brain is the habit of staying mentally active. This idea of more mental stimulation may seem counter-intuitive to many people already feeling mentally submerged by their current workload. However, the brain responds best to having a variety of different stimuli not just sitting on Virtual meetings or in front of a PC all day.

When thinking about mental stimulation, it can help to think of your brain as a muscle. The more you are exercising it the stronger it gets, but you need to exercise your brain as you would your body, with variety and care.

The efficacy of mental activity is improved by having a variety of different ways to stretch our brain. Making time away from work to listen to music, walk in nature, paint, play chess, or just do a crossword puzzle all stimulates our brains in different ways. Our brains need this variety to feel refreshed.

As employers, we need to be cognisant of this need for stimulation when we plan the activities of our employees. The key is giving a variety of work, giving time for rest, having adequate time to think and plan – these are great ways to ensure optimum brain health, better quality thinking and higher quality output.

Neuroscientists will tell you that the ability to multi-task is a myth as the brain uses a great deal of energy through activity switching, and that focusing on one key activity at a time is the key to quality thinking. Encouraging this kind of focused working, interspersed with rest breaks and time to let your mind wander, creates the optimum conditions for your brain to function.

As an employer, offering access to a variety of stimulating work and work which uses different ways of thinking can be really helpful. Encouraging people to take a real break and think about something else is also vital as this helps improve their brain health and can lead to them returning to their previous work task with a fresher headspace.

8. Actively seek out social contact

Social interaction can have profound effects on your health and longevity. In fact, there is evidence that strong social connections may be just as important as physical activity and a healthy diet. Strong social interactions can help protect your memory and cognitive function in several ways as you age. Research shows that people with strong social ties are less likely to experience cognitive decline than those who are alone. By contrast, depression, which often goes hand in hand with loneliness, correlates to faster cognitive decline.

Whether you class yourself as an extrovert or an introvert, having a network of people who support and care for you can help lower your stress levels. Additionally, social activities require you to engage several important mental processes, including attention and memory, which can bolster cognition.

Many people find this social contact in their community, their family and friends. But we also spend a great deal of our time working.

We are social animals for whom frequent engagement with others helps strengthen and develop our brain’s neural networks, and this emphasises the importance of promoting a sociable culture in the workplace. For those working in hybrid and remote settings, ensuring that there is time for consistent informal, as well as formal, catch-ups is a way of reducing the feeling of isolation at work.

Final thoughts…

In summary, the brain is an important organ and needs our support!

How we are working today is often unhealthy for our bodies and our minds and not in keeping with how our brains are designed to run best. We are not super computers and respond badly to being ‘switched on’ for long periods of time and to constant repetitive work which does not offer us a variety of mental stimulation.

But treated right, our brains are far superior to computers in terms of creativity, in imagining that which has not been done yet and in problem solving in the most lateral of ways.  

There are many things that employers can do to help their employees maintain healthy brains – and a great place to start is to lead by example. Cognitive decline is not inevitable and making some changes to old habits, as well as incorporating new ones, can pay great dividends in terms of productivity and quality of output at work in the longer term. To discuss how you can begin to incorporate brain health into your organization, or to learn more about Emotional Intelligence Training, Psychological Safety or any of the interventions mentioned in our two part article, please do get in touch with me at pamela@orgshakers.com

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