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    How European Companies Can Kickstart Employee Engagement

    Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report found that European countries were remarkably resilient to the effects of the pandemic in 2020, but their longer-term track record of employee engagement still raised significant concern. European employees are among the least engaged in the world. However, while the scale of the issue is continental, the solution could be relatively straightforward.
    Flatlining employee engagement
    While there is considerable variation in the level of employee engagement from country to country, Europe as a whole has experienced a long-term stagnation in its engagement levels. Less than 20% of the continent’s workforce is engaged by their daily experience of work, and the situation has failed to improve for some time.
    Europe’s flatlining engagement looks even starker in light of the slow but steady increase in engagement levels across the globe: 20% in 2020 compared to 12% in 2009. In the US, for example, engagement has risen from 28% to 36% since the turn of the century. Compare this to Germany, for instance, where engagement has remained rooted to the level it was at in 2001 (see below), and it is clear that even Europe’s economic powerhouse has been caught in the doldrums.

    What makes an engaged employee?
    Employee engagement is about more than just satisfaction, though that is obviously a key component. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report measures engagement using 12 metrics, each of which has a proven link to performance outcomes. Engaged employees know, for example, what is expected of them at work and how their day-to-day activities contribute to the purpose of their organization.
    Organizations which perform well against these emotional workplace needs are more likely to enjoy positive outcomes, such as high retention rates among staff as well as increased productivity and profitability. Moreover, employee engagement becomes an even stronger predictor of organizational performance during difficult economic periods – an extremely important finding as the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt throughout the global economy.
    Engagement also has strong links with workers’ wellbeing. This may not be surprising; people who feel more heard at work, praised and appreciated for their contributions, or feel that they are playing to their strengths tend to feel better about their lives overall. On the other hand, the majority of actively disengaged employees in Europe reported feeling stressed during the previous working day. As organizations gain a greater appreciation of the need to support workers’ mental and physical health in the wake of the pandemic, recognizing this link between engagement and wellbeing could be crucial for improving the employee experience.
    Raising the bar
    Despite a decade of stagnation, Europe’s comparatively low engagement levels are by no means doomed to continue. Returning to Germany, when Gallup asked employees whether they would continue working even if they inherited enough money to live comfortably without doing so, 74% said they would still work. Some signs are promising, therefore, that European engagement can rise again.
    A simple solution is for organizations to look at the success stories and try to emulate what goes on there. Gallup’s research has found that employees have the same basic emotional needs across the globe, so European workers should close the gap on their extra-European counterparts once employers commit to fulfilling these needs. Indeed, organizations working with Gallup in which engagement is a strategic area of focus achieved engagement scores of 44%, as compared to the European average of 16% – showing that improvement is possible.
    European organizations, therefore, need to recognize that employees want more from their jobs than just a paycheque. A sense of purpose and development is equally important.
    Management matters
    Ensuring that organizations meet the needs of their employees is the responsibility of the leadership team. Analyzing organizations that have driven engagement levels up from below-average to 70% or more, the commitment of leaders to long-term change is consistently the decisive factor.
    Accounting for 70% of the variance in engagement levels, the manager is the single greatest influence on employee engagement. Organizations should therefore concentrate attention and resources on providing more comprehensive management training, which will equip managers to effectively deliver on the emotional workplace needs of their employees.
    Moreover, while 97% of managers feel that they do a good job of managing their teams, more than two-thirds of employees report the direct experience of bad management in their careers. This, of course, does not add up – and organizational performance is suffering as a result of this managerial blind spot.
    When it comes to improving employee engagement, therefore, European companies have to start from the top. Investing more in the quality of leadership is by far the most effective way to improve engagement levels, which in turn will impact positively on performance. What may at first seem like an intangible concept of ‘engagement’, is actually very quantifiable and, more importantly, incredibly valuable to European organizations.
    By: Pa Sinyan, Managing Partner for Europe, Gallup; & Marco Nink, Regional Lead in Research and Analytics, EMEA, Gallup.
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    How Remote Work Can Foster Inclusion and Psychological Safety

    People success platform leader Glint, part of LinkedIn, has published results on workplace culture that show that remote work is creating more inclusive and psychologically safe workplace experiences. The company’s Head of EMEA People Science tells us more.
    Our global pandemic-initiated shift to remote work has had many consequences, but one that isn’t called out as much as it should be is equality. In many ways, remote work has equalized opportunities for employees to be heard and seen. In a virtual work environment, every meeting looks the same, and each person takes up the same space on the screen, from the CEO to the intern.
    Virtual work bolsters inclusivity
    Glint has tracked a range of metrics about our changing workplace over the past year. Their latest trends report notes that employers that have committed to supporting remote work appear to be creating more inclusive and psychologically safe work experiences as a result. In companies that support remote working, workers feel freer to speak their minds and see their companies as valuing diversity.
    The analysis used a number of measures to derive its conclusions, including how many remote work-permitted job postings an employer puts on LinkedIn (over 275,000 adverts were surveyed from 375 organizations). Millions of Glint survey responses from over 600 organizations were also fed into the model. The analysis shows that employees at remote work-friendly firms were 14% more likely to feel safe speaking their minds. 9% are more likely to report that their leaders value different perspectives, compared to their peers in less remote work-friendly brands.
    The study shows that virtual work creates many features that can bolster employees’ feelings of inclusivity. Virtual work can provide flexibility to people with caregiving responsibilities, bypass location bias, and reduce the amount of time and energy required to conform to potentially unhelpful ‘professionalism’ standards, for instance.
    As organizations re-examine how to foster diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the new world of work, early signs indicate they’d do well to build on virtual work and expand habits, programs, and tools that help people bring their authentic selves to work.
    Culture in the new world of work
    This matters, as the survey also highlights the fact that what team members see as defining a great work culture has changed dramatically over the first year of the Covid pandemic—50% of the top 10 drivers in 2020 were not in the top 10 in 2019. Opportunities to learn and grow have emerged as the strongest drivers of work culture, shooting up eight positions.
    In the first half of 2020, employees’ sense of belonging also started to impact employee happiness, increasing by 12% to become the second most important characteristic people look for to describe a great work culture. That’s one of the ways in which work culture has changed drastically in 2020. Work culture was once shaped heavily by in-person interactions—coffee breaks, shared meals, team retreats, and the like. But when the pandemic not only stripped away physical interaction but also threatened our safety, the less tangible drivers of work culture—growth opportunities, belonging, and values—became more important to employees.
    There’s also a positive uplift here for recruitment and retention, as the research shows that employees at organizations with highly rated cultures are 31% more likely to recommend working there to peers and contacts, and 15% more likely to report being happy working there.
    Employees want more from their employers now than just a pay packet. They want to be challenged, and they want to work in a space where they can bring their whole selves.
    By Steven Buck, Head of EMEA People Science at Glint.
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    4 Tips for Turning a Job Rejection Into Career Success

    Have you ever applied for a job but weren’t hired? Few people could answer “no” to this question. In fact, our unsuccessful job applications shape our careers just as much as our successes do, as anyone who has ever experienced a job rejection would have a different work history leading up to their present role had the outcome of their initial application been different.
    The job market is more volatile than it has been in years, and spiking unemployment rates fueled by a global pandemic have turned the candidate’s market of the past few years into an employer’s market. As businesses slowly begin to reopen, some industries are seeing candidates apply to jobs in record numbers, and since most of these positions will be filled by only one candidate, all other applicants will be rejected.
    The fact that most job seekers will apply to several open positions before landing an offer shouldn’t discourage them. Though job rejections are never easy, they are a necessary part of the job search process and can become opportunities for learning, growth, and long-term career success. Let’s look at a few ways candidates can use a job rejection to their advantage.
    Ask for Feedback
    The best way to improve at anything is to request constructive criticism and advice for improvement from those who are more knowledgeable, and for job seekers, feedback from employers after a rejection can be invaluable. By contacting a hiring manager shortly after receiving a rejection, candidates can glean valuable information on how to improve their interviewing and self-promotion skills, as well as where their experience and qualifications may fall short for their desired role. In addition, they demonstrate their willingness to seek out criticism in order to learn and better themselves, while reiterating their interest in future roles with the company. Though some employers may be reluctant to share feedback due to legal liability, a follow-up feedback request provides candidates one last opportunity to make a positive impression.
    Research Successful Employees
    After a job seeker’s application for employment is declined, he or she should make an effort to find out who was selected. Though it may take some time, the person who was hired will likely update his or her LinkedIn profile to reflect the new role, enabling them to be found in a subsequent search by title and employer. Also, there may be other employees at the company with the same title, or at other companies with similar titles and job duties. Candidates should study their profiles and identify what knowledge, skills, and experience these employees possess that they lack. They may also choose to connect with these individuals in order to learn from them, network with them, and convey interest in locating and applying to similar roles.
    Develop a Plan
    Once job seekers are able to identify the qualifications and experience that have made others successful in their desired role, they can formulate a plan. What steps should be taken in order to accomplish the same, and what is the timeline for each? This may be easier said than done. If those who are successful have an advanced degree, certification, or a specific number of years’ experience, the goal becomes clear. However, if those in similar roles were hired based on culture fit, an employee referral, or some other intangible quality, setting a goal becomes more difficult. Regardless, there is always something job seekers can do to better themselves in order to improve their knowledge and skills and gain an advantage over their competitors. It’s up to them to find out what that is, then act on it.
    Refocus Your Efforts
    One of the opportunities a job rejection provides is the chance to reassess goals and refocus efforts. As mentioned earlier, the reason for rejection may be due to a lack of qualifications or experience, or the reason may be beyond the candidate’s control and it will take several applications and interviews to land a role that is a good fit. However, if a pattern of rejection persists, there may be a disconnect between the candidate’s abilities and his or her goals. Unfortunately, not every goal is accomplishable by everyone, and after multiple rejections, a reassessment may be needed to determine if the candidate’s career aspirations align with his or her strengths and skill set. Job seekers shouldn’t be afraid to ask for advice from a manager, mentor, or career counselor in order to ensure their career goals are realistic and achievable.
    A job search can be a long and difficult process, and the outcome often depends upon trial, error, and persistence. Frustration is only natural, particularly in a tough job market, and job seekers often receive advice from well-meaning friends and associates to stay positive and not give up. But persistence only pays off if goals are in alignment with abilities and there’s an actionable plan to achieve them. Employers look to hire employees who seek feedback and take direction in order to improve. Similarly, job seekers should consider rejections as learning opportunities, allowing them to refocus their goals and fine-tune their search. By turning the negative into a positive, candidates can increase their chances of landing an offer, as well as their opportunity for future job satisfaction and success.
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    A Wake-Up Call: Tackling the Employee Insomnia Crisis

    When COVID-19 struck this time last year, most employees were forced to work from home. One of the results of enforced remote working is the rise in the number of people experiencing insomnia. One in four people reported sleepless nights and Google searches for the word “insomnia” surged significantly, with searches peaking most often during the early hours at 3am.
    Whilst COVID restrictions may be lessening, a natural return to healthy, regular sleep-wake cycles is not guaranteed in a new hybrid work environment.  In this article, I discuss the future of sleep in a post-pandemic workplace and why employers need to provide workplace support for better sleep.
    ‘Coronasomnia’ – why the nation is having trouble sleeping.
    The pandemic and social isolation have unsettled daily routines that usually serve as timekeepers for our natural body clocks. Keeping track of the time, and even the day, can be difficult without our usual time “anchors” like driving to the office, going to the gym after work, or picking up children from school.
    Research shows it can take four days to fully recover from just one hour of lost sleep. So, if we are ‘missing’ the recommended 7-9 hours, over time, a sleep deficit is caused. This makes it difficult to catch up on sleep and enhances the chances of sleep deprivation symptoms.
    Uncertainty also plays a significant part in affecting sleep, as it often causes anxiety that unsettles sleep as a racing mind keeps the body tossing and turning.  When will I get my vaccine? When can I travel or see my family? How long will lockdowns last? So much was (and still is) unknown.
    The impact of sleep deprivation on employee productivity and physical and emotional health
    Continuous poor sleep has a major impact on employee productivity with it estimated to cost the UK economy £37bn a year. Studies show that sleep deprivation leads to poor concentration and slower reaction times, which can lead to accidents and costly errors. From an emotional health viewpoint, lack of sleep results in higher levels of stress hormones in our bodies which, in turn, can increase feelings of anxiety, anger, and depression.
    Even if you receive enough sleep at night, if that sleep is of poor quality it can leave you feeling tired and unmotivated in the morning with decreased energy and concentration. 1-2 poor days of sleep per week increases the risk of employee absence by 171 percent.
    Physical symptoms of long-term sleep deprivation can manifest in a weakened immune system, causing regular infections and colds. Without adequate sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively reducing the body’s immune response.
    Long-term sleep deprivation is also associated with more serious health problems like increased risks of certain cancers, heart disease, ulcers, and gastrointestinal issues.
    Will we sleep better in a ‘hybrid work environment?”
    Even as restrictions begin to ease, staff sleep patterns may not return to normal as more companies consider a ‘hybrid’ work environment. Many businesses already have a flexible working policy, but some will embrace a permanent blended’ working model, with employees continuing to work from home a few days a week.
    Although emotions such as anxiety and uncertainly may reduce, which could have a positive impact on sleep, if more employees continue to work from home, some permanent factors may continue to negatively affect sleep.
    For remote workers there is the ongoing risk of ‘leavism’, being unable to switch off or catching up on work outside of contractual working hours. This blurring of home-work boundaries can contaminate our sleep environment. For example, the bedroom doubling up as a workspace may become the norm, as more employees participate in ‘bedmin’ (finishing admin tasks while in bed).
    Supporting the future of employee sleep
    Employers can lessen some of the health and business risks associated with pandemic sleep disruption by making practical changes to employee work schedules. Avoid scheduling too many early calls and virtual meetings and frequently rotating shifts. For those who work night shifts, if they are rotating, do so in a forward rotation (morning, evening, night).
    Set expectations regarding working hours and consider the benefits of setting up an official sleep policy for your organization. Provide virtual talks and invite health experts to discuss the impact of poor sleep and how to support those experiencing sleep difficulties. For example, you could run a seminar on how exercise or management of unhelpful thinking can have a positive impact on sleep quality.
    Employers might also consider offering staff cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Whether someone already had chronic insomnia or it’s a recent onset from the pandemic, it’s a treatment that is evidence-based and has proven to be successful for a range of wellbeing difficulties including sleep.
    Providing whole of workforce education and self-help resources specifically for sleep (such as an online digital platform), will create an open dialogue around sleep concerns. This facilitates the development of effective support plans and will enable staff and managers to be aware of the benefits of setting healthy boundaries for a better work-life balance.
    By Gosia Bowling, Emotional Wellbeing Enhancement and Prevention Lead, Nuffield Health.
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    3 Reasons Why We’ll Continue Remote Interviewing Post Pandemic 

    Interviewing has gone remote. While some think this is temporary, it’s actually the future.
    When the pandemic began, businesses were focused on putting their heads down and weathering an uncertain economic environment. For many, this meant a temporary freeze on hiring. As things thawed, hiring came back; but this time, it was remote.
    A Gartner poll found that “86% of organizations were incorporating new virtual technology to interview candidates” by the second month of the COVID-19 pandemic. This mad scramble to integrate new interviewing tools was, for some, disorienting; but in tech hiring, it’s been a godsend. While we still appreciate face-to-face interaction, the digital nature of remote interviews comes with so many benefits that we won’t be whiteboarding coding challenges with candidates ever again. Here are three reasons why:
    1. Less Work; More Data
    I work in tech and love data. Tech companies evangelize harvesting data wherever possible, but before the pandemic, interviews were a data dark spot. Most of the information conveyed lived either in the mind of the interviewer or via their notes. Even if there were coding assessments that added a quantitative element to the interview, these were often done on whiteboards or pieces of paper that then needed to be digitally transferred. The result was that interviewers often spent an extra 30 minutes simply capturing what had already transpired.
    Today, the entire process is digital, which means that so much more data is automatically captured, and it’s now being put to use. We have transcription tools and video recordings that make reviewing the interview that much easier. According to HackerEarth’s State of Developer Recruiting 2020, 56.9% of recruiters said a major benefit of remote interviewing came from pair programming with a collaborative code editor, as this automatically captures and assesses a candidate’s coding skill in a collaborative, work-like environment. We even have automatic feedback generators that request performance input after specific questions. These are then compiled into an after-action report that simply needs to be edited rather than written from scratch.
    This means that interviewers spend less time writing and more time carefully weighing a candidate’s skill. Starting digitally puts all the data at our fingertips and allows us to make the most informed decision. Instead of a data dark spot, remote interviews are now richer than a resume.
    2. Geographic Flexibility
    There’s no question that tech has a talent shortage. Only 60% of all tech positions are filled. When we were dependent on in-person interviews, we constrained our talent pipeline even further. With tech roles only becoming more important over time, we can’t think locally about tech hiring anymore.
    The pandemic opened up new talent reserves in geographically diverse locations. We can now hire anyone from anywhere. According to HackerEarth’s State of Developer Recruiting 2020, 50.6% of recruiters say that remote interviews are beneficial due to their logistical flexibility. A further 40.4% said they saved significant time. Remote interviews with built-in features like pair-programming and real-time code editing, which now constitute 11.1% of all remote coding interviews conducted, have basically solved the problem of onboarding the most qualified candidates regardless of location.
    There is now a bigger pool of tech talent that can work from anywhere, and assessing them remotely has never been easier. In fact, 30.7% of recruiters said that remote hiring had actually increased their talent funnel. As the global workforce becomes even more accustomed to remote work, this means that remote interviews will be a feature of the hiring process for years to come.
    3. Reduced Bias
    57.6% of enterprises have placed extra emphasis on hiring for diversity in 2020. But as much as we love meeting candidates face-to-face, first impressions are often clouded by personal biases that can unintentionally limit diversity. Recruiters and hiring managers tend to prefer candidates that mirror their own backgrounds in what has been termed by researchers “Looking Glass Merit.” While interpersonal and other soft skills are absolutely important, face-to-face interviews sometimes overvalue them relative to hard skills.
    Thankfully, remote interviews add a layer of separation that gives interviewers input on things like body language without placing undue influence on them. While 10.2% of recruiters at SMEs say that challenging unconscious bias is still a major pain point, and 13% of recruiters are specifically choosing assessment tools that help eliminate bias in the interviewing process.
    One way to combat this problem is to mask personally identifiable information (PII) during remote interviews so a candidate’s skills can speak for themselves. This means things like their name, gender, academic background, etc. are hidden during the interview itself, so the interviewer’s impression of a candidate is solely based on their skills.
    A Remote Interviewing Future
    Even after a vaccine is widely available and things start to return to ‘normal’, we won’t be looking back at how we used to hire. We may still meet candidates for in-person interviews from time to time, but will certainly continue to use digital interviewing tools for a better interviewing experience. Pair programming is just better on a computer, and we shouldn’t want to go back to the days of whiteboards and hand-written notes.
    Today, tech hiring is more competitive and geographically untethered than ever, so we need to make the interviewing process as convenient and flexible for candidates as possible. In the end, remote interviewing saves the company and the candidate time, and more importantly, allows interviewers to limit bias significantly relative to in-person interviews. These more objective interviews are helping managers create the best tech teams where only skills matter.
    By Sachin Gupta, CEO of HackerEarth.

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    Why Visual Representations of Diversity Aid an Inclusive Work Environment

    The workplace is where we spend most of our lives. Shouldn’t it, therefore, be a place where we can bring our whole selves to work without the fear of facing discrimination based on our ethnicity, culture, gender, age, or sexual orientation? Shouldn’t the workplace include, celebrate, and represent people from all walks of life? Unfortunately,…
    Why Visual Representations of Diversity Aid an Inclusive Work Environment Undercover Recruiter – More

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    How to Hire a Data Engineer

    Data Engineering is one of the fastest-growing job roles in the tech industry with LinkedIn Talent Insights categorizing demand for these roles as ‘very high’. This means that it’s harder than ever for firms to attract and retain talent in this pivotal role. Estimates on the number of unfilled positions last year range from as much as 33-50%.
    One of the reasons for the shortage is the rate at which the discipline is moving, with tools and technologies emerging and evolving rapidly. This leads to the absence of a standardized toolset and means that the definition of the role can be dramatically different across companies.
    Based on research with 50 Data Engineers, and in conversation with Dani Solà Lagares (Director of Data at Simply Business) research from technology recruiting firm Stott and May reveals what Data Engineers are looking for, and what potential employers can be doing to increase their chances of snagging top talent. Here are the four top tips to come out of the research.
    1. Give them a clearly defined role.
    When looking for a new role, Data Engineers need to see a detailed and realistic job description. 72% testified that this was the most important factor in whether or not they will apply. If an employer doesn’t have this nailed down, then Data Engineers will pass up the opportunity in favor of an employer who has a clear idea of what needs to be done. ‘Give candidates a sense of the projects they will be working on and the stakeholders they will be engaging with,’ says Dani Sola. ‘Even more importantly, provide some narrative on the type of impact you expect key initiatives to make.’
    2. Provide the right technology stack.
    48% of Data Engineers stated that the technology stack they will be working with is the most important consideration in accepting a role. Because the technology stack has so much to do with what their day-to-day work will look like, it’s important that the fit is right. ‘Technical skillsets could vary dramatically from Kafka, Kafka Streams, Scala, Kotlin knowledge, advanced SQL, data warehousing skills, Python, the list goes on,’ says Dani. ‘It is important, however, to paint a picture of your requirements without asking candidates to tick every skillset that’s ever existed in data engineering.’
    3. Benchmark to ensure you’re offering a competitive salary.
    According to the research, 42% of Data Engineers say they are most likely to jump ship because their salary and benefits are below market rate. It’s important to make sure you are benchmarking your salaries against your competitors, and offering a competitive compensation package if you want to retain in-demand talent. ‘In my view, one of the major reasons engineers move on is that the initial value proposition of the role in that organization has not lived up to expectations,’ says Dani. ‘Don’t sell a dream and deliver a nightmare. If you’re authentic and invest in your team’s personal development that can go a long way.’
    4. Don’t wear them out with excessive interview steps.
    Data Engineers’ time is very important, so if they are being asked to jump through too many hoops, they are liable to simply look elsewhere. If you’re looking to recruit a Data Engineer, try to streamline the recruitment process as much as possible so that you can make an assessment of their fit without losing momentum. ‘Keep talent engaged during the hiring process,’ says Dani. ‘Create a sense of your culture and values. Make great first impressions as a potential employer. Interviewing should be about making the candidate feel at ease and creating an environment where they can show themselves at their best.’
    David Struth is Head of Marketing at Stott and May.

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    8 Out of 10 Employees Feel Overwhelmed and Overworked

    For most, work looks and feels different today than it did just a few months ago—and we’re not talking about working from home. A new study by VitalSmarts shows 58.6 percent of employees have experienced either a reduction or a restructure that changed the dynamic and size of their team. And the impact of these […] More