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    How New-Age Mentorship Programs Have the Potential to Increase Employee Retention

    The workforce is a living, breathing entity that changes with each generation. The speed of this change has never been more significant than now. There are several key factors driving this accelerated change:

    Labor scarcity faced by industrialized nations in a post-pandemic world
    The digital revolution experienced by Gen Y millennials and Gen Z Zoomers—the two generational cohorts that represent the future of the modern workforce.

    No workplace generations have been studied more carefully.  We know almost everything about them, thanks to research universities, the Big 4 accounting firms, the Big 3 management consulting firms, and think tanks. Wise employers will look to the needs of these younger generations to target their employee retention efforts.  Mentorship, career and professional development, and working for a management team that cares about them personally top the list of priorities gleaned from multiple surveys across the Millennial (45 and under) and Zoomer (25 and under) crowds.
    New-Age Mentorship
    Traditional mentorship programs still exist, of course. However, mentoring now goes beyond the traditional model, where more experienced (and typically older) workers assume the role of teacher and advisor. Such traditional mentoring opportunities were formal, hierarchical, and prescriptive in nature where the mentee was expected to listen and learn in a one-way transfer of information. That’s no longer the case in new-age mentorship programs. While the aim remains to provide guidance and support to help someone reach their full potential, modern mentoring’s goals are much broader. A few central components of modern mentoring include:

     Skill building
    Gaining greater organizational exposure
    Addressing mentees’ career and professional development needs and goals

    New-age mentorship is more collaborative, diverse, and asynchronous in nature, aligning it with today’s needs for more agile and adaptable work environments. It assumes that all generations can benefit from the mentoring relationship with the focus being on giving rather than getting, sharing values, and gaining focused training and expert insights in real-time, bite-sized chunks rather than via formal year-long commitments.
    The beauty of new-age mentorship programs is that learning goes both ways, and all participants benefit. Here’s how companies are experimenting with new-age mentoring programs and how your organization might want to consider adopting and rolling out its own program.
    Reverse Mentoring
    Reverse mentoring involves more junior members of the workforce “training up” more experienced coworkers on newer technologies, exposing them to the most current digital media platforms and the like. With so much changing so quickly, many older and more senior coworkers are sponges for new information, and the younger cohorts can thrive in sharing their know-how and expertise.
    Peer-to-Peer Mentoring
    Not all organizations have the infrastructure to assign more experienced professionals to teach earlier-career workers the important techniques and shortcuts that increase efficiency and get better results. A productive work around is to recognize individual achievement by recognizing someone’s expertise in a given area and asking that individual to mentor peers. Opportunities to mentor or serve as an onboarding “buddy” are often the first step in any “high potential” (Hi-Po) or emerging leader program.
    Team or Group Mentoring
    Group mentoring occurs between a group of mentors and mentees rather than just one mentor and one mentee at a time. It allows for a diversity of thoughts, ideas, and voices. Creating a broader sense of collective wisdom, group mentoring capitalizes on everyone’s expertise rather than the experiences of one mentor alone. In team mentoring, one individual may take on a more dominant role in overseeing multiple mentees, or the program can be reversed where a singular mentee has multiple mentors. The intentional variety of feedback and opportunity to develop stronger team alignment is core to team mentoring’s value proposition.
    Flash or Speed Mentoring
    Upskilling often relies on exposure to new perspectives, and flash mentoring allows employees to connect with a mentor for only one or two sessions. It’s all about quick and deep skill acquisition and less about career guidance. Virtual or in-person “coffee chats” allow for greater networking and organizational exposure opportunities while providing quick insights into solving common challenges.
    Digital Mentoring
    Wait, there’s an app for that!  Online mentoring software platforms are springing up as we speak and are particularly well-suited to today’s remote, hybrid, and satellite workplaces. Such apps help employees foster meaningful relationships and maintain personal connections, even while working from home or operating in different time zones. They’re intended to establish deeper connections between mentors and mentees, drive greater loyalty and connection to the organization, and alleviate much of the isolation, loneliness, and anxiety that particularly plagues the younger Gen Z workforce.
    There are other approaches that include “mentoring constellations,” “mentors of the moment,” and similar, short-term mentorship models. What these new-age programs have in common is their intended purpose of enhancing relationships, upskilling individuals and teams, and building a stronger sense of connection, purpose, and shared values.
    How to Get Started
    If you’re looking for an opportunity to introduce new-age mentorship programs to your organization, start with these three steps:

    Have your team watch the movie “The Intern” with Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway together. It’s a fun, funny, lighthearted, but touching movie that will get everyone on board with the spirit of what you’re trying to accomplish.
    Do a little research beyond this blog article to determine what kinds of new-age mentoring opportunities might work best for your organization, and bring your initial findings to the potential participants themselves for their input and buy-in.
    Launch your first program with a small group to gain traction, monitor feedback, and develop best practices and guidelines moving forward in preparation for the broader rollout.

    New-age mentorship often involves more egalitarian relationships where both parties can learn from one another. It’s about giving as much as getting. This flexible and dynamic approach to team and individual development involves elements of coaching, mutual support, networking, and skill-sharing. You can’t get a much better return on investment for your retention dollar. If all goes well, the momentum will take care of itself, the buy-in will be strong, and your program will be fully up and running in no time.
    Paul Falcone is a bestselling HarperCollins Leadership author of 17 books, a long-time columnist for SHRM, the former CHRO of Nickelodeon, and the principal of Paul Falcone Workplace Leadership Consulting, LLC in Los Angeles.
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    Why Boots’ Return to the Office is a Mistake

    Another month, another controversial move by a big company. This time, it’s Boots scrapping their two days of working from home in favour of a full return to the office. It’s the kind of swimming against the current that can make even the best of us question our direction; do they know something we don’t? From Boots to Zoom, the big names are burying their stake in the ground – but what if the devil is in the details of these statements? They are, after all, articulated by their CEOs.
    Let’s investigate.
    In its statement, Boots justifies its decision based on the perceived effectiveness of informal in-person interactions during the company’s current three-day office policy. The CEO said, ‘There is no doubt in my mind that the informal conversations, brief catch-ups, and ability to meet in groups in person have been far more effective and better for our unique Boots culture than the enforced formality of remote meetings.’
    This statement clearly fronts an executive’s view. There’s no doubt that more in-person time benefits command and control leadership, where leaders can feel like there is progress and positive outcomes because they see everything with their own eyes. But this ban on any flexible work will, at best, favour a group-think mentality and, at worst, deliver authority bias.
    The HR expert might also argue that it’s all just a thinly veiled attempt at reducing headcount in tough economic times. If this is true, what type of employees do Boots want to cut? Brian Kropp, Chief of HR Research at Gartner, says forcing employees to return fully on-site is a risk to diversity, equity, and inclusion because underrepresented groups of talent have seen vast improvements in how they work since being allowed more flexibility — and could be lost if flexibility isn’t an option.
    Boots’ statement goes on to explain that the changes only apply to a subset of office workers and that it won’t change the working model for the vast majority. In fact, it claims that since Boots frontline employees are used to being on-site, this makes it fair between knowledge and frontline workers.
    Is that what the frontline wants? Not better tools, communication, networking, career progression opportunities, or inclusion as members of the company’s mission, but less flexibility for knowledge workers? It doesn’t make sense. Office mandates don’t empower the frontline. They facilitate the creation of rules and processes in isolation, creating ivory towers where ideas and decisions are out of touch with customer issues.
    Hybrid working was the great leveller that democratised decisions and helped office workers empathise with frontline challenges through free-flowing, digital communication. Toyota, for example, is known for the excellence of its Toyota Production System, created through a culture of ‘pulling’ ideas from the frontline instead of pushing mandates from the top. Companies should follow in Toyota’s footsteps to democratise ideation, not isolate it to a physical location and time of day.
    But five days in the office means two more days of interactions and potential ideas, says Boots. Again, does it? Where is the data supporting that statement, let alone this whole decision, besides the CEO’s absolute belief? It doesn’t sound like a business decision based on new insight. Instead, it sounds like their leadership thinks interactions and ideas only occur when they’re around to see them; if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
    Maybe three days a week in the office isn’t the sweet spot for everyone, but Boots’ new five-days-in-the-office policy certainly doesn’t sound like progress. Working from home has earned its place and can back it up with data. Hopefully, the market will recognise this instead of following blindly in Boots’ footsteps.
    By Kaz Hassan, Community & Industry Insights Lead at Unily.
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    Overthinking is Not a Disorder, it’s a Superpower

    Most of us are no strangers to experiencing feelings of overwhelm and disruption caused by our own thoughts, commonly understood as overthinking. Research shows we are becoming more anxious as a nation, and it’s no wonder, given the various external factors such as the cost-of-living crisis and global political conflict that have taken place over the past couple of years.
    While a certain amount of overthinking can be constructive, it has the potential to quickly consume us and, in extreme cases, can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and work performance. Overthinking can also lead to tensions within teams, causing you to over-analyze actions of yourself or others or check up on people more frequently. Let’s face it: nobody likes being micro-managed.
    While many factors influence our individual causes of overthinking, it’s easier to stay in control when we have a deeper understanding of why we are overthinking.
    Firstly, how do we define ‘overthinking’?
    Research shows that overthinking – whether it’s in our personal or professional lives – can have serious effects on our well-being and mental and physical health. There’s a fine line between what constitutes constructive critical thinking to make more informed decisions versus overthinking. Critical thinking typically revolves around a clear purpose, driven by logic and with a clear outcome, while overthinking tends to be the polar opposite of this, with many different outcomes and possibilities that make it difficult to see the clear path.
    What causes our brains to overthink?
    Overthinking is often triggered by change and uncertainty – of which we have all experienced a lot over the past few years. And as we all continue to navigate change in an ever-evolving workplace, a whole new set of anxieties have begun to settle in for both leaders and employees. For example, an increase in virtual communication tools has removed the ability to read the expressions and body language of co-workers, leaving room for uncertainty around interpersonal relationships with co-workers.
    Outside of the day-to-day, ongoing global layoffs have resulted in heavier workloads, more ambiguity, and greater uncertainty, leaving some to obsess about all possible scenarios and outcomes beyond their control. Many leaders are now also concerned and anxious about how hybrid and “return to office” policies will impact their workforce.
    When we allow ourselves to overthink, it can feel like a weakness. Your inner critic can be harsh but is also usually trying to protect you – often from fear of failure or shame.
    How can we identify when we are overthinking?
    Understanding overthinking is key to managing it. By identifying when it happens, you can rationalize your thoughts to manage the outcome. Overthinking tends to manifest itself in three main ways: rumination, worrying, and decision-making.
    Rumination involves repetitive thinking or dwelling on negative feelings, which might result from a situation at work when made a mistake or forgot something important. The memory of this is triggered in our brains causing ‘flashbacks’ that can come through at any time of day or night, stopping us in our tracks or disrupting our concentration.
    Worrying, in the context of overthinking, is spending more than necessary time considering things that are in the future. It’s helpful when it leads to action, but most of the time, we tend to worry about things that are out of our control.
    The more practical and in-the-moment way we can overthink is when making decisions. This can happen when we want to make the best decision possible, so we exhaust all possibilities to make sure we do, causing us to overthink the details that are often insignificant in the bigger picture.
    What techniques can we use to help manage overthinking?
    If you think you’re a serial ruminator, what are your ruminating thoughts telling you that you care about? What can you do about it? For example, if you are continuously thinking about a mistake you made at work, instead of punishing yourself, try to focus on what it has taught you. Feeling remorseful is natural, and shows how much you care. This is why we talk about ‘learning from our mistakes.’
    When worrying, there are a couple of different approaches that have been proven successful. The first is allowing ourselves time to let our worries run free, writing them down to get them out of our head, seeing if we can do anything about them now, and if not, leaving them until our next “worry time.” The second focuses on the “here and now.” There are many techniques that can help us get out of the past or future, such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, and journaling – some work for us and others don’t.
    When faced with a decision, a way to avoid overthinking is to settle on an option as soon as the desired outcome is achieved. Ask yourself, does this decision solve the problem or achieve the outcome? If the answer is yes, job done. It’s not always easy, especially for important decisions that require a higher level of thought, but for day-to-day decisions, this technique can be highly effective. Forcing ourselves to be satisfied and see the positive benefits of the decision and the time saved can help us do it more often.
    Understanding what drives our overthinking and employing the right techniques to address them is an ongoing process in our personal and professional development. And sometimes, having an unbiased external party to act as a sounding board, like a professional coach, can help us reflect on our thoughts, understand their impact, and recenter ourselves for a positive path forward. It’s all about developing an understanding of what makes us tick and how to best use it to our advantage.
    By Sinead Keenan, Chief Innovation Officer at EZRA,
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    The Reskilling Revolution: How Asia-Pacific is Leading the Charge in the Future of Work

    The landscape of work is undergoing a dramatic transformation across the globe. But in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, something truly remarkable is brewing. Here, innovation, flexibility, and a willingness to embrace change are shaping the future of work in exciting ways. This article explores five key trends that will define the APAC workplace and how talent acquisition, recruitment, HR, and employer branding professionals can navigate this evolving landscape.
    1. From Routine to Revolution: The Rise of the Innovation-Driven Workforce
    Gone are the days of rote memorization and repetitive tasks. APAC is experiencing a rapid shift towards a workforce that values creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking. A McKinsey & Company report predicts that by 2040, China and India will contribute a staggering 50% of global GDP. This economic boom is pushing APAC companies to automate routine tasks at an unprecedented rate.
    The focus is now on upskilling employees for roles that require a different skillset – one that prioritizes digital fluency, analytical thinking, and the ability to solve complex problems. Singapore’s ambitious goal of achieving a 50% job transformation rate by 2025 (as highlighted by LinkedIn’s Jobs on the Rise Report) underscores the urgency for innovation-driven skill development. Leading companies like Alibaba, Tencent, and Huawei are at the forefront of this movement, heavily investing in R&D and fostering dynamic cultures of innovation.
    Actionable Insights:

    Conduct skills gap analyses to identify areas where your workforce needs upskilling or reskilling.
    Partner with training providers to offer relevant courses and workshops on topics like data analysis, problem-solving, and digital communication.
    Encourage a culture of continuous learning by providing employees with opportunities to attend conferences, workshops, and online courses.

    2. Bridging the Gap: The Rise of the Hybrid Workforce Model
    Remote work isn’t a perk anymore; it’s a reality for a significant portion of the APAC workforce. A recent M Moser Associates survey reveals that a staggering 45% of Asian employees prefer a hybrid work model, significantly higher than the global average of 37%. Companies like Fujitsu, with their “smart work” policy, and Grab, with their “flexible work” program, are recognizing this shift and proactively responding to employee preferences.
    This flexibility allows them to attract top talent in a competitive market while catering to the evolving needs of their existing workforce. However, creating a seamless integration between remote and on-site teams, fostering employee engagement in a hybrid environment, and navigating legal and logistical hurdles remain crucial challenges that HR professionals need to address.
    Actionable Insights:

    Develop clear policies and guidelines for remote work arrangements, including communication protocols, expectations around performance, and data security measures.
    Invest in collaboration tools and technologies that facilitate seamless communication and teamwork between remote and on-site employees.
    Organize regular virtual and in-person team-building activities to maintain employee engagement and company culture in a hybrid environment.

    3. The Human Touch in the Age of Automation: The Skills of the Future
    As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) redefine job roles, the need for a blended skillset becomes paramount. While technical expertise is important, the World Economic Forum emphasizes the growing importance of “soft skills” in the APAC region, particularly analytical thinking and design/user experience.
    AgileHRO predicts a rise in demand for skills like data analysis, problem-solving, and digital communication, coupled with empathy, emotional intelligence, and the ability to build strong human connections. This focus on “soft skills” positions Asian workforces to excel in an environment where building rapport and adapting to change are key differentiators.
    Actionable Insights:

    Integrate soft skills training into your employee development programs, focusing on areas like communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence.
    Encourage teamwork and cross-functional collaboration to promote idea exchange and the development of essential soft skills.
    Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate valuable soft skills such as leadership, problem-solving, and adaptability.

    4. Beyond Borders: The Rise of Borderless Talent Acquisition
    The intense competition for talent in Asia is pushing companies to think beyond national borders. With a whopping 90% of the APAC workforce open to remote or hybrid work arrangements (as per PWC Asia Pacific’s Time report), the talent pool is expanding exponentially.
    Singapore, for instance, with its diverse talent pool and thriving startup ecosystem, attracts tech talent from across the region. Companies like Sea Group and Razer leverage this advantage effectively. AgileHRO predicts a rise in “borderless talent acquisition” strategies, where companies utilize remote work flexibility and invest in reskilling and upskilling programs to attract and retain top talent from a global pool. This not only bridges the skills gap but also future-proofs the workforce.
    5. Well-being at the Forefront: Prioritizing Mental Health in the Evolving Workplace
    Compared to other regions, Asia grapples with significantly higher rates of low work productivity, anxiety, and depression. A TELUS Health report highlights this as a “growing concern” for workplace well-being in the region. With a work productivity score of just 47.2 compared to the global average of 58.2 (and significantly lower than the US and Europe), prioritizing mental health is no longer optional for APAC organizations.
    Companies that create supportive work environments that prioritize employee well-being will have a significant competitive edge. Implementing flexible work arrangements, offering comprehensive mental health resources, and fostering a culture of open communication are key to achieving this. Certis’ 2022 Employee Assistant Programme, which provides mental health resources and support to all employees and their families, serves as a commendable example.
    Actionable Insights:

    Implement flexible work arrangements that cater to individual needs and help employees achieve a healthy work-life balance.
    Offer comprehensive mental health resources, including access to employee assistance programs (EAPs) and confidential counseling services.
    Foster a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health challenges without fear of stigma.
    Promote healthy habits and well-being initiatives, such as mindfulness training and stress management workshops.

    The future of work in Asia-Pacific is brimming with exciting possibilities. By embracing innovation, agility, and a human-centric approach, talent acquisition, recruitment, HR, and employer branding professionals can navigate this transformative landscape and build a future-proof workforce that thrives in the years to come.
    AgileHRO is a leading provider of innovative HR solutions, empowering organizations to build, manage, and engage a global workforce.
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    Revitalizing Workplace Morale: Innovative Tactics for Boosting Employee Engagement in 2024

    This year it has become increasingly evident that the success of any organization hinges upon its most valuable asset: its people. As the modern workforce continues to evolve, it’s imperative that employers acknowledge the pivotal role employees play, particularly when it comes to the success of their companies. One pressing issue that demands attention and has the power to threaten profitability right now is employee satisfaction.
    Recent studies show that job satisfaction ratings are shockingly low, with nearly 22% of professionals describing their job satisfaction as excellent. This distressing figure dwindles further to 13% among non-supervisory employees. This stark contrast underscores the pressing need for employers to address the growing dissatisfaction among their workforce.
    To reinvigorate workplace morale and supercharge employee engagement, organizations must take a people-centric approach to achieving their desired results, and prioritize employee well-being and satisfaction as a strategic contribution to long term success.
    Well-Being Over Salary
    In recent years, it has become clear that people are placing a heavy importance on work-life balance. Surprisingly, well-being has taken precedence over salary as the top contributor to job satisfaction with more employees seeking balance between their professional and personal lives.
    Outdated views of traditional success, solely measured by financial compensation, are evolving and organizations that recognize the significance of fostering environments where employees can flourish both inside and outside the office are better equipped to attract and retain talent. By developing innovative policies – such as flexible work hours, remote work options, enhanced leave policies, and upskilling, reskilling programs – organizations can create more inclusive and adaptable workplace culture. These types of initiatives not only benefit individual employees but also promote a diverse and engaged workforce.
    Embracing the concept of success as a multifaceted endeavor that includes personal growth, work-life balance and skill development aligns with the changing dynamics of the workforce. As a result, forward thinking companies are not only investing in their employees’ professional development but also in their overall well-being, leading to increased loyalty, productivity and revenue.
    Redefining Performance Reviews
    Standard performance reviews aren’t cutting it as new data strongly supports creating new standards to evaluate employee performance as annual or semi-annual reviews no longer align with the pace of most workplaces. Instead, to cultivate a sense of engagement and transparency, more frequent and goal-oriented performance reviews prove more effective for both employees and managers alike. Instead of waiting months to provide feedback, organizations are shifting toward continuous performance assessments, allowing for real-time adjustments, growth, and development.
    It is crucial to create awareness of an individual’s impact on company goals and their peers. By shifting away from merely evaluating an individual’s performance to assessing an employee’s impact, you can help connect their work to strategic priorities and those around them. People who discuss their effects on overall objectives and peers are 2x more likely to rate the performance of the organizations as excellent and to feel recognized by leaders.
    Fostering Inclusivity and Cultural Harmony
    Despite being at the forefront of the larger corporate agenda for some time now, many diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives still miss the mark when it comes to creating truly inclusive environments. A glaring issue is the notable lack of focus on empathy, which can have a detrimental impact on an organization’s culture and morale.
    To have an inclusive workplace, one that emphasizes belonging, business leaders need to break down the walls that stereotypes have built. Successful DEI programs excel in cultivating a culture that fosters open, sincere, and introspective conversations. These are the types of dialogues that can amplify eagerness and motivation to collaborate—enhancing overall engagement, retention, and success. But oftentimes, it can be difficult to have these conversations. To combat this, organizations need to ensure their workplace is that of an outward mindset, one where individuals can develop a genuine appreciation for diversity and actively seek ways to dismantle systemic barriers.
    To truly change an organizational culture, leaders need to address the harmful beliefs and behaviors that hold people back. By shifting mindsets, organizations can pave the way for real change to create inclusive workplaces that embrace diverse perspectives and make everyone feel valued and included.
    Embracing Collaborative Technology
    With remote and hybrid work arrangements becoming the new norm, these changes present a need for effective collaboration in a dispersed workforce. Organizations must embrace collaborative technology that empowers employees to work seamlessly whether they are in office, working fully remote or somewhere in between.
    Tools, including video conferencing platforms, project management software, and virtual whiteboards, are essential for fostering productive teamwork across physical boundaries. As well, encouraging a culture of digital collaboration through providing training and resources is essential to maximize the potential of these technologies. Effective collaboration not only enhances productivity but can reinforce a sense of unity and engagement among employees, regardless of their physical location.
    Cultivating a Positive Culture
    More than a buzzword, crafting a positive company culture can be a catalyst for employee engagement and productivity. United by shared values, a sense of belonging, and a greater focus on well-being, employees are more likely to feel motivated and committed to their work and the organization’s goals. A sense of purpose can significantly diminish feelings of isolation, or alienation and can make the workplace a more fulfilling environment.
    Revitalizing workplace morale in the year ahead will require outside the box thinking and tactics like prioritizing of work-life balance, fostering empathy-centric DEI initiatives, redefining performance reviews, embracing collaborative technology and the cultivation of positive cultures to propel companies toward a brighter future of increased employee engagement and satisfaction. By embracing people-centric approaches, organizations can create workplace environments where employees are not only productive but also genuinely fulfilled.
    The Arbinger Institute is the innovator of leadership and professional development that empowers leaders to transform their organization’s culture to achieve lasting business results. 
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    Evolving the Workplace Through Rebellious Trends

    Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of workplace trends develop which have taken over the headlines of nearly every career website and blog. Some, like remote and hybrid work, have resulted from the natural evolution of a post-pandemic workplace. Others, like “quiet quitting,” are simply old concepts (employee disengagement) given a catchy new name by TikTok influencers.
    But still, other trends take on a different form – one of rebellion and dissension. Today’s employees have watched the workplace change drastically in a relatively short time, and not always for the better. The current strength of a candidate’s job market and the ubiquity of trending hashtags have emboldened workers to make a few changes of their own, both to their post-pandemic work routine as well as to the way things have always been done.
    As employees continue to push boundaries, employers must now choose their battles as they determine which are really necessary to retain top talent while driving growth and profitability. Let’s look at a few workplace trends that have resulted from dissatisfaction and a desire for change.
    Coffee Badging
    Over the past year, many employers that have allowed employees to work remotely since the start of the pandemic have reversed course, now demanding a return to office. Leading the charge are high-profile companies like Google, Meta, Apple and Microsoft, all extolling the virtues of “coming together” in the office several days a week. However, some employees who have worked from home for over three years are taking issue with the requirement. Their solution? Make a brief appearance in the office just long enough for security badge records to show they were there, then head out. While some may see this as a dishonest method of gaming the system, others view it as a way for employees to take back the leverage they rightfully earned while keeping companies afloat throughout the pandemic.
    Office Peacocking
    Upon witnessing the backlash to RTO mandates, some employers are hoping to quash the rebellion by doing some redecorating. After years of working from the comfort and familiarity of their homes, employees need some extra incentive to reacclimate to an office setting. Forgoing the allure of ping-pong tables and free snacks that workers now consider way too 2010, employers have opted to overhaul their offices, replacing sterile cubicle farms with inspiring décor. These redesigned workspaces prioritize collaboration and comfort through their use of vibrant colors, plants and natural light with the intention of easing employees’ transition from home back to a corporate environment.
    Hush Tripping
    Each year, millions of paid vacation days go unused. Furthermore, when employees do take time off, 29% say they feel guilty for doing so. If only there were a way to take some much-needed time away from work without burning any PTO, all while avoiding the ire of managers and coworkers who are left to cover the workload. For some, the answer is simple – pack up and go, then work remotely while enjoying vacation time that no one needs to know about. After all, as long as work gets done, does it really matter where it gets done? And if it helps prevent a disengaged or burnt-out workforce, all the better. This trend highlights the importance of work-life balance to employees, as well as the need for open communication with managers.
    For those who don’t like their jobs, there used to only be two options – keep slugging it out or quit. Now, there’s a custom flavor for every disengaged worker’s palate. For those who are willing to complete their job duties but not go above and beyond, there’s quiet quitting. For those who want to throw a wrench in the system and go out with a bang, there’s loud quitting. But somewhere in between, there are those who are openly dissatisfied with their jobs, but unwilling or unable to make a move due to economic or job security concerns. In fact, due to recent tech layoffs and the spiraling cost of living, both quiet and loud quitters may show signs of resenteeism and stick with their current roles – a distinct departure from the Great Resignation.
    Every few months, the workplace evolves, and the ease with which we’re now able to communicate via social media has accelerated its evolution. Workers haven’t been shy about voicing their concerns and frustrations, and while employers may push back on some issues, they have had little choice but to bend in order to stay competitive. The number of viral workplace trends and hashtags over the past year demonstrates employees’ dissatisfaction and desire for change. And though we’re nearly three years removed from the COVID-19 pandemic, the workforce is caught between settling into old habits and prompting the change that should have occurred years ago. Stay tuned…the next chapter is soon to come.
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    How to Improve Workplace DEI Through Payroll Management 

    Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are near the top of the list of many issues that concern employees today. ADP’s People at Work study reports that 76% of employees would think about finding a new job if they discovered an unfair gender pay gap or learned that their company doesn’t have a DE&I policy. It’s a particularly critical concern for Gen Z, who are set to make up over half the global workforce by 2030.
    This places DE&I as a top concern for employers too. Many businesses are publishing policy statements on the topic, but practical changes are far harder to implement. McKinsey observes that UK companies struggle to simultaneously achieve gender and ethnic diversity.
    Moreover, many women in tech feel, and sometimes are told directly, that they are token “diversity hires”. Others talk about not being taken seriously, even when hired or promoted on their own merits.
    HR professionals are taking all kinds of steps to address DE&I, like examining recruitment policies and wording recruitment ads in ways that appeal to women, members of underrepresented ethnicities, and disadvantaged groups. Many workplaces are investing in professional development for BAME and female employees and cultivating welcoming workspaces.
    But pay gaps remain a significant problem, placing payroll front and center for DE&I issues.
    Pay equality
    Understandably, pay equity is still a primary issue in the quest for workplace equality. The pay gap is narrowing, but it indeed hasn’t disappeared. A survey by ADP found that 60% of women think that they are underpaid for their roles, compared with 46% of men, and significantly more women than men are unhappy with the pay they receive.
    Part of the solution is to commit to pay equality, but that’s only possible when workplaces have accurate data about pay equality. Staying organized with payroll processes results in more reliable data, which can be used for pay reviews and to check pay disparities.
    Automation also helps ensure that employees receive all the pay they are entitled to and there aren’t “hidden” pay gaps. Often, overall compensation includes disparate aspects like bonuses, overtime, and paid leave. If pay is not calculated and paid in full and on time, the real-world experience of take-home pay could be very different.
    For example, if 5% of an employee’s pay is due to overtime, and manual payroll processes mean that overtime calculations consistently lag two or three months behind regular salary payments, the employee might not be receiving the full pay they expect, even if their compensation package looks great on paper.
    Pay transparency
    Without transparency, it’s impossible to achieve real equality, so this goes hand in hand with the previous point. Transparency matters a lot to employees, with a recent report noting that job ads that include salary details attract six times as many applicants, while increased pay transparency does effectively narrow the gender pay gap.
    Transparency also promotes trust in the company, which makes employees feel safe, secure, and included — the ultimate goal behind DE&I policies.
    An awareness of this lies behind the EU’s Pay Transparency Directive. While the UK doesn’t yet have similar legislation, companies that stay ahead of the game could have an edge in attracting top talent. Given that remote work is commonplace, candidates could choose to work for EU companies with more transparent payroll processes.
    Conversely, companies with opaque, confusing, and inefficient payroll processes lack transparency into who receives what compensation in actual terms. That’s particularly problematic in companies where employees commonly work shifts, overtime, and/or on a contract basis, making it difficult to compare real-world compensation. These organizations can also use automation to make payroll more reliable, trusted, and transparent.
    Pay flexibility
    Flexibility is essential to everyone nowadays, but it’s particularly crucial for women.
    Women are still more likely to bear the majority of the childcare and elder care burden. In some ethnic minorities, such as Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, families still expect that women will care for extended family members.
    When people think about flexibility in the workplace, working hours and remote work options are the first things that come to mind, but payroll and compensation play a key role. Streamlined payroll management practices make it far easier for companies to support flex work, because it lightens the burden of calculating compensation for irregular working hours.
    Automated payroll also enables companies to support flexible payment arrangements, like if an employee prefers to be paid weekly or bi-weekly rather than monthly for the sake of easier budgeting. This way, the company can accept such requests without worrying about the payroll team getting overwhelmed.
    Pay reliability
    Getting paid on time and in full isn’t often mentioned as a DE&I issue, but it’s worth pointing out in this context. According to LinkedIn’s Future of Recruiting, compensation remains the top priority for jobseekers, despite ongoing concern for work-life balance and flexible working arrangements.
    Employees from middle-class backgrounds are more likely to have enough financial stability that they won’t worry if the pay is a day late or overtime payments come through a couple of months down the road. But a delayed paycheque could be disastrous for those living under financial stress.
    BAME employees and single-parent families, which women more often head than men, make up a disproportionate percentage of employees who desperately need to be paid bang on time. They can’t afford to wait for even a portion of their expected income.
    This is where efficient, automated payroll processes come in, guaranteeing that employees receive their full pay when they expect it. With this kind of assurance, employees who are facing financial stress can take overtime or extra shifts with the confidence that they’ll be paid this month and not four months down the road when they finally finish their calculations.
    Payroll can add to your DE&I efforts
    For as long as pay gaps continue to dominate DE&I conversations, payroll will play a significant role in driving equality and inclusion in the workplace. Impressive statements and revised policies have their place, but taking practical steps to improve payroll processes and care for every employee’s financial needs speaks louder than a thousand announcements.
    By Sabrina Castiglione, Chief Operations Officer, Pento.
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    5 Ways Managers Can Help Their Teams Avoid the Dreaded End-of-Year Burnout

    According to Nuffield Health’s 2023 Healthier Nation Index, 44 percent of employees said their jobs had negatively impacted their mental health this year.
    Unsurprisingly, adverse feelings towards the workplace can ramp up as the festive season becomes a major source of stress and anxiety due to an intense social calendar, end-of-year reviews, and meeting tight deadlines.
    I’ll discuss how managers can prevent end-of-year burnout in their teams and encourage employees to protect their physical and mental health.
    #1 Get organized, early.
    If employees are feeling the weight of burnout due to excessive work demands, it’s time to reassess and reorganize your team’s project priorities.
    Consider scheduling one-to-ones or team meetings to review everyone’s current existing workload, to determine which assignments demand immediate attention and which ones can be postponed for a more suitable time.
    Additionally, when facing large and intimidating projects, it’s often helpful to spend more time together, working out how to break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
    If an employee’s schedule is overwhelmingly full, managers should support in finding solutions. This could include, for example, helping them to embrace the power of delegation. Whether employees outsource tasks to colleagues or externally, let them know seeking assistance does not mean they are failing or that they will be looked upon negatively.
    This is more helpful than risking missed deadlines or an individual becoming so overwhelmed that their productivity suffers.
    #2 Set boundaries.
    No doubt, there’ll be circumstances when you or team members have reached out to colleagues for additional support, and some of them have come back with ‘no,’ unable to help at that time.
    In the same vein, managers must be comfortable doing the same, even though many of us lean towards “people pleaser” behavior. This means it’s tempting to start saying ‘yes’ to additional work if you’ve managed to free your schedule slightly.
    Remind yourself that it is fine to say no to taking on extra responsibilities, try to set firm boundaries with yourself and your team, and let them know it’s OK to follow suit.
    Don’t just set boundaries for during office hours, either. It’s essential to do this after hours or if working remotely too. One example could be agreeing with everyone that none of you will check work emails in the evenings between certain hours so you can focus on spending time with loved ones and winding down after a busy working day.
    Other examples could be urging teams to take their full lunch periods, setting aside regular breaks, and leaving on time at the end of the day. Managers who lead by example make it easier for others to embrace their own wellbeing, too.
    #3 Encourage self-care.
    Lack of self-care is one of the most significant contributors to end-of-year burnout.  In fact, according to our 2023 Healthier Nation Index, only 15 percent of us take time to focus on self-care, when trying to support our mental health.
    Workplaces need to communicate ways for employees to prioritize self-care during the working day and when at home, and help build supportive environments that facilitate healthy behaviors.
    From inviting experts to help teams learn about the different self-care practices to researching new ideas that could potentially benefit the whole company, building awareness and positive behavior change is key to creating a workforce that makes self-care a focus.
    Small changes like five minutes of meditation or deep breathing exercises can be hugely impactful, helping employees maintain a state of calm, even during the busiest working periods. Psychological research has shown that moving and changing your environment and the stimuli around you improves problem-solving skills and mental focus.
    Encourage employees to go for a walk when they can and use their garden if they are working remotely. Ideally, actively build these activities into diaries or working practices.  More physical activity will release anxiety-reducing endorphins, which help improve mood and reduce stress.
    #4 Notice signs of chronic stress.
    I’m often asked, ‘How do we know when someone has reached ‘chronic’ stress levels?’
    The answer is if you notice stress affecting an employee’s ability to live an everyday life and perform their daily work routine.
    While this is by no means an exhaustive list, signs of chronic stress include indecisiveness, mood swings, procrastination, an increase in errors, and even increased absenteeism.
    According to a report, long-term stress weakens the responses of the immune system, because stress decreases lymphocytes, the white blood cells that help fight off infection. This means highly stressed individuals are potentially more at risk of colds and sickness than those experiencing minimal or average stress.
    You might notice those suffering from chronic stress are working more or regularly staying late to complete tasks. Ironically, people often do this because they believe it helps them avoid these feelings.
    This can also lead to leavism – employees using leave days to catch up with work. This is an ineffective coping mechanism. We end up ignoring our relationships, eliminating our social lives, eating, and sleeping poorly.
    #5 Make the most of workplace support.
    One of the longer-term side effects of staying in a heightened state of stress for too long, is that it can impact our physical and mental wellbeing. This can lead to mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. That’s why it’s so important to let employees know their mental health should always be a priority.
    If you think an individual’s mental health is seriously affected by the stresses that come at the end of the year, you should signpost them to your work’s wellbeing offerings.
    Many businesses provide support for stress and personal problems through workplace mental health support like cognitive behavioral therapy CBT, or employee assistance programs (EAPs).
    These offer direct, confidential contact with experts who can support individuals with emotional distress, from family issues, work-related problems, addiction, and mental ill-health.
    #6 And finally, kindness is key…
    Practicing kindness to others and yourself is crucial, especially at this time of year.
    Mounting personal and professional pressures in December can cause everyone to hold themselves to an impossible standard and set an insurmountable to-do list.
    Remember that no matter what level we have reached at an organization, everyone can only do their best to get everything done without compromising their emotional wellbeing.
    By treating ourselves and others with kindness and understanding, we not only reduce the risk of burnout but also enhance our ability to be present, enjoy festive moments, and engage more meaningfully with our work and personal lives, all year round.
    By Gosia Bowling, Mental Health National Lead at Nuffield Health.
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