The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation

The employment market has taken the American worker on a roller coaster ride over the last year and a half. Unemployment rates hit record highs in 2020 with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Nearly a year later, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey reports new jobs have increased to “a record 9.3 million, as the economy rapidly recovered from its pandemic depths.” To add another piece to the employment puzzle, nearly 4 million workers quit their jobs in the same month, coining the term “the great resignation.” What caused this dramatic exit? Many employees were spurred to reflect on their priorities during the pandemic and identified more free time as a key factor in their employment future.

As the pandemic spread last year, workers were forced to make arrangements of all types. Those on a temporary hiatus from the office scrambled to adjust to a work-from-home setup. Others who were laid off were pushed to conduct job searches in a market where jobs were few and far between. Additionally, families were pressed to juggle childcare and remote school arrangements with little to no warning. The changes were big and hard, but between all the hustle and bustle workers adjusted to this “new normal.” During that transition, many evaluated their prior work-life balance – more specifically, what was working and what was not. COVID-culture put priorities into perspective for many.

Americans experienced burnout at record levels during this stressful time and many came out of this period with a newfound respect for putting their mental health first. As “return to office” notifications landed in inboxes, many decided they were not willing to return to the office full time. A study conducted by Prudential, a global insurance and financial services firm, concluded that approximately 33% of Americans are disinclined to work for employers that aren’t offering remote work for a portion of their week. This introspection helped many workers see that their priorities needed to be rebalanced. Many wanted to spend less time commuting and working in the office, and more time on personal interests and with loved ones. This “aha” moment, coupled with a resurgence of new jobs in the market, led many to feel a newfound sense of confidence in finding a new opportunity. And that resulted in a dramatic shift in the number of employees choosing to leave their jobs, feeling they would find roles with more flexible work hours and supportive work environments.

There is no doubt we will continue to see fluctuations as our economy responds to this newly resurgent employee market. Employers can be proactive in retaining employees who may be evaluating their current work-life balance. Managers and Human Resource staff can engage with employees early and often. Don’t wait for your employees to raise a concern about workplace flexibility – lead the charge by looking into what your company can do to support this interest.

©2021 United Benefit Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Power of Praise

The Power of Praise

Think for a minute about all you have done today. Now, from that list of tasks, how many would you say you have done well? Again, from the list of tasks you feel you’ve done a good job on, how many were you praised for by your manager or even a co-worker? We all crave approval and praise from others in our life. The workplace is no exception. Praise motivates us to do well and to improve. Praise is necessary and praise is powerful. Follow these easy steps to build an effective habit of praise in your organization.

The WHY of Praise

Before we can get into the HOW of praise, let’s touch on the WHY. According to, “Recognition for good work releases dopamine in the brain, which creates feelings of pride and pleasure.” People want to feel like others see them and appreciate them. The praise-giver also receives benefits from this exchange. By giving praise, you get the same sense of satisfaction as you get when making a charitable gift or helping others. An environment of praise-giving is one where individuals work, not just to complete a task and be done, but they work to do a good job and to please their manager with hard work that is done well. Also, in terms of employee engagement, a manager who regularly praises their team, is one who is

The HOW of Praise

Giving praise is easy and, if you follow these simple tips, it is also an effective tool to motivate and encourage those in your workplace.

Make it QUICK

When you notice something that should be recognized with praise, do it immediately. The more time that passes between the event and the recognition, the less powerful the praise becomes. Make it a habit that when you see good work or good behavior, you stop what you are doing and give praise.


Now that you have recognized the behavior or project that deserves praise, you’ll want to make the praise specific. Offering a vague compliment like, “You did good” doesn’t truly speak to the specific action that is praise-worthy. Instead, make your words of affirmation ones that point to a specific instance like, “The logo you created for the Milestone marketing project was clean and really inventive.”


You may be tempted to adopt this new praise policy and start doling out compliments left and right like a praise shotgun, but, don’t. Disingenuous praise is almost as bad, if not worse, than no praise at all. You can tell if someone is making a forced comment or one that has no thought behind it. Instead, make sure the praise is given with a genuine heart and tone.

Create a CULTURE of praise

As you fine tune the act of giving praise in your workplace, your final task is to create a culture of praise-giving. When you build this culture, and everyone is actively involved in recognizing their peers, you will find the morale and engagement in your office is lifted higher. Increased morale and engagement also increase productivity, lowers absenteeism, and lowers turnover.

Praise is incredibly powerful. Praise has the power to motivate, encourage, and build. By following the simple tips outlined here, you can unleash the power of praise in your organization and in your life and reap the benefits to both the giver and receiver.

Ways Leadership Affects Culture and Culture Affects Leadership

Ways Leadership Affects Culture and Culture Affects Leadership

There has been so much written on leadership in the last year, it’s hard to keep track of it all. Leaders should be storytellers, communicators, holistic, strategic, encouraging, creative, conservative, risk taking, ethical, competitive, inspiring and a whole host of other attributes.

There are countless books currently available on the subject, and it would not surprise me if there were close to over half a million articles on the subject. It is the bread and butter of every consulting firm throughout the world. With so much content offering thought and insight, you have to wonder why leadership still an issue?

The answer lies with culture. The entire purpose of leadership is to create a culture. In a large and well-established organization, it can be difficult for an outsider to implement a new culture. So, does leadership create a culture or does culture create leadership? The answer to both questions is yes.

Culture Affecting Leadership

“I have been here 25 years,” said the director of a large municipality. “I have outlasted three city managers so far, and I will outlast this one.” This is the attitude many leaders face, especially when they are brought in from outside organizations to run or manage large, well-established ones.

The negative cultures can especially undermine positive leadership as initiatives are actively undermined by managers who have a stake in the old culture or struggle to accept the changes inherent in the modern workplace. Whether it’s through manipulation or complacency, negative cultures can create significant challenges for change. At the same time, positive leadership can overcome negative culture and turn the tide over time. A few encouraging results and positive experiences can go a long way.

Negative leadership, however, can have a fast, dramatic effect on a positive culture. WorldCom was a telecom leader and had a very innovative culture until Bernie Ebbers took over. While squeezing every cent he could from the environment and putting pressure on employees to work harder with less, he was pillaging the company. Turnover soared and, within a few years, WorldCom was bankrupt.

Culture as a Function of Leadership

Companies reflect the ethics of the leaders who run them. We’ve seen in recent times the reaction employees and the public have to companies who fail to address their stance on social issues, harassment, pay gaps and whose political leanings go against what employees view to be the common good.

As a result, leaders find themselves having to publicly make statements condemning systemic racism, political violence and other topics that aren’t easy to talk about without offending someone or putting oneself at risk. But ultimately, the ethical stands a leader takes becomes a part of the organization’s culture.

Bob Page felt like an outsider and had to hide his sexuality. When he built Replacements, Ltd., he ensured everyone it would be a place that accepted diversity—not just of lifestyle but of thought—and would invest in building their community. Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop to build an environmentally-friendly corporation, which reflected her commitment to environmental activism. Jim Goodnight’s commitment to work-life balance is part of the culture at SAS, the largest privately-held company in the world. Jack Welch’s commitment to being the best created an environment of excellence at General Electric. In each of these cases, the ethics of the leader became a central part of the culture.

The Obstacles to Culture Change

The real obstacles to culture change are internal obstacles. False ego, fear, complacency and preconceived ideas create a negative environment. When change is introduced there is resistance, even when the change is positive. People learn different coping mechanisms to avoid the change, such as hiding behind procedures, “water cooler” talk or actively undermining the initiative.

The remote work landscape changes some of this as employee communications can be more easily monitored and there are fewer “water cooler” moments on offer to begin with. But negativity can me a bit like trying to contain water in an enclosed space. If there’s a place for it to leak through, it likely will. The question then becomes how leadership can have a positive impact on the culture of an organization?

Ways Leadership Can Positively Affect Culture

People are inspired by vision. They want to follow a leader who shows concerns and values that are important to them. A positive leader will inspire 100% effort from everybody. Here are some signs of a good leader and how the leader affects the culture:

  • Visionaries and strategic thinkers: A boss tells you what to do, while a leader inspires you to want to do it. Leaders who lay out a vision that people buy into and a strategy that they understand will create a culture of engagement. People know where the organization is headed, how it will get there and their role in helping achieve the vision.
  • Ethics that support values: People look at what you do and not what you say. Values are words, ethics are actions. When leaders demonstrate values through their actions, they lead by example and create an ethical culture.
  • Empowerment: There are three requirements for: responsibility, accountability and authority. Leaders who empower people to make decisions that affect their lives, give them the authority to act and make them take responsibility for consequences create leadership on all levels of the organization. Micromanaging means people are not entrusted to be leaders and very little gets done because all decisions need to be made by one person.

By David Whiting

Originally posted on

Virtual Holiday Parties

Virtual Holiday Parties

Building camaraderie between your employees is essential for employee engagement and retention. In fact, employees with close work friendships report 50% higher satisfaction with their work, according to Gallup. Hosting parties for your office this season may not be possible, yet they are still important. We’ve gathered some fun alternative ways to celebrate together while apart this holiday season.


Gingerbread House Building Contest

  • Mail a box of the components to your team ahead of the party date.
  • Host a video call with background music while everyone constructs their house so they can see the progress of their co-workers’ build.
  • Post pictures of the finished houses on your company Facebook page and take votes for different categories. Your team can share the page with friends and family to try to drum up votes and, in turn, your page will get some new visits! Win-Win!
  • Send gift cards to winners to online merchants.

Virtual Holiday Bingo

  • Mail bingo cards and dobbers or stickers ahead of the party date.
  • Host a video call and ask your most outgoing and beloved team member to be the bingo caller.
  • Email e-card prizes to winners.

Winter Cocktail Party

  • Mail a “mix-kit” of cocktail components to your team ahead of the party date.
  • Hire a mixologist to teach via video call how to make a couple of cocktails with the ingredients you have sent out ahead of time.
  • *Optional: take votes on a short menu of cocktails to see which ones the team is most interested in learning how to make.

Virtual White Elephant Party

  • Some people consider a “white elephant” gift to be something chosen from their home that is still in good/new condition, a cheap purchased gift, or a joke gift. Make sure you determine what type you want people to give so that everyone prepares the same.
  • Have your team prepare their gift at their home ahead of time and take a picture of their item. Each person should email the pre-designated “Santa” the picture so he/she can prepare the game.
  • Prepare a PowerPoint presentation with images of gifts and follow the instructions on this site to host the party.

General Tips

  • Mail “party supplies” two weeks early.
  • Make a party playlist and share it before the party to get people in the holiday party mood.
  • Consider mailing party food such as flavored popcorn, chips, candy, and even a meal-delivery gift card for eating during the virtual event.

Even though we are apart this holiday season, there is no need for us to be disconnected. You can still be the “host/ess with the most/est” by preparing the best party for your team. Show them you care by spending the extra time and care to keep your team engaged during the holidays.


Making the Workplace a Safe Place to Speak Up

Making the Workplace a Safe Place to Speak Up

Right now, organizations across the country are asking themselves what they can do to make their workplaces more inclusive, diverse, and equitable, particularly for Black employees. They’re hosting conversations, acknowledging areas where they’ve fallen short, and identifying opportunities for improvement.

For these efforts to be successful, employees need to be able to speak freely, offering critical and candid feedback about individual behaviors, workplace practices, and organizational policies. None of this can happen, however, if people believe it isn’t safe for them to speak up.

It often isn’t.

Employees who report harassment and discrimination, speak candidly to their supervisors, or challenge the status quo often find themselves excluded from projects, denied a promotion, or out of a job. According to a study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation. Given this reality, it falls on employers to show their employees that they can report incidents of discrimination, identify institutional failures, and recommend solutions all without fear of retaliation. Preventing retaliation is part of that. Here are a few other ways to establish a firm foundation of trust, openness, and respect:

Admit mistakes and make amends
Employees will be reluctant to hold their leaders accountable if their leaders never admit fault or acknowledge areas for growth. If, however, leaders show a willingness to be vulnerable and a desire to learn and be better, they can help put their employees’ minds at ease and more effectively solicit their feedback. For example, an employer might acknowledge that they hadn’t previously made diversity a priority for the company, but that going forward, they will strategically place job ads where underrepresented job applicants are more likely to see them, and they’ll identify ways to make the workplace welcoming and inclusive. Statements like this, when followed by action, open the door to honest communication between employees and their employer. They build trust.

Reward instead of retaliate
Creating a real sense of safety takes more than preventing retaliation. Employees need to see that providing candid and critical feedback is met with appreciation, gratitude, and action from leadership. In other words, it has to be rewarded. Employees who identify problems in the workplace or propose solutions shouldn’t fear being ostracized or having their career derailed by a vengeful peer or supervisor. On the contrary, they should be recognized as leaders in the organization (informal or otherwise), given opportunities to make a further impact, and empowered to help make decisions that elevate the workplace, its culture, and its practices. Consider shout-outs from the CEO, company awards, strategic bonuses, promotions, and career development opportunities. These show sincerity.

Tolerate no retaliation
For some employers, the hardest part of building trust will be appropriately disciplining anyone who violates it, especially if the one being disciplined is a star performer or high up in the chain of command. One instance of retaliation, if not immediately addressed, can undermine months or years of work and ruin even a stellar reputation for diversity, inclusion, and equity. Any retaliation, for any reason, no matter who does it, must not be tolerated. Fortunately, swift action to discipline the offender and prevent future instances can help repair the damage and restore trust. It shows you’re serious.

Psychological safety takes time to establish, even in companies without a history of overt retaliation. Implementing the three strategies above, however, will lay the groundwork for a culture in which employees feel safe speaking up for diversity, inclusion, and equity.
By Kyle Cupp
Originally posted on

In Depth: The Future of Work Part 1

In Depth: The Future of Work Part 1

The hardest thing about the future of work is defining the concept. The chief reason has to do with change. It’s constant with new technologies coming online at an increasing pace and changing the way people complete their work.
If the data is to be believed, what HR knows about work is quickly disappearing. Korn Ferry predicts by 2030 a global human talent shortage of more than 85 million people will exist. That’s an astonishing prediction, but changes are expected well in advance of that year. Forty percent of today’s Fortune 500 companies, according to Deloitte, won’t exist in 2025. Additionally, the World Economic Forum predicts 133 million new jobs will be developed by 2022 through artificial intelligence.
For HR, this data points to a very clear path: prepare your company now for the work of the future.
“The fact is we can guess all we want, but we can’t ever truly know what the future holds,” excites Granite Group chief people officer Tracie Sponenberg.”
Despite all the difficulty in defining the future of work and some of the concerns that come with it, Sponenberg said there is some excitement to be had. Other HR professionals agree.
“What excites me most are the new technologies that are going to support employees in making leaps in speed, agility, efficiency, productivity and overall performance,” Andrew Saidy said.
He’s the vice president of talent digitization, employer branding and university relations for Schneider Electric. As the digital transformation of HR continues, we’ve certainly seen advancements in those specific areas. Employees are using more tools that are either digital in part or completely so. Both help employees increase efficiency which leads to an increase in productivity and performance. Technology has also allowed companies to be agile in their approach to work.
GE Healthcare head of global digital learning Christopher Lind agrees with Saidy saying technology helps organizations break all the rules when it comes to connecting, collaborating and experiencing work. Even so, he acknowledges there is still some fear around technology.
“Instead of being afraid of machines taking our jobs, I believe we should be excited that machines can do the rudimentary things we waste so much time doing, so we can focus on the higher order things that really drive us,” Lind said.

Learning and Development

Despite Lind’s statement, there is still some concern around the potential loss of jobs to technology solutions — specifically around artificial intelligence and automation.
It might surprise you to know that’s not an uncommon feeling to have. There have been concerns about technology taking away jobs since the First Industrial Revolution in the early 1900s. Here we are 100 or more years later entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution and we’re experiencing similar concerns. While that’s an understood feeling, HR needs to help move the workforce away from this type of concern and focus more on skilling accordingly… what is, sometimes, referred to as future-proofing skills. That’s really the name of the game.
During this particular revolution, new industries and roles will be created. Forrester predicts robots, AI, machine learning and automation will create 9 percent of new jobs by 2025. Some of the new jobs expected to be created include:

  • Robot monitoring professionals
  • Content curators
  • Data scientists
  • Automation specialists

Naturally, some will go away. By 2025, Forrester also predicts those same technologies will replace 16 percent of US jobs. Most of the impact will be felt on office and administrative support staff roles as well as roles where workers have a low amount of formal education – the so-called “at-risk jobs”. Learning new skills and building on existing competencies will be crucial to companies wanting to remain competitive in the current climate. The challenge there lies in trying to figure out which skills your employee will need.
The data provided gives HR some indication on where to begin. With more robot, artificial intelligence, automation, and other related jobs expected in the future, employees should start building their knowledge and skill base now.
While it seems daunting, there is some good news. A World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group report says “95 percent of at-risk U.S. workers could be successfully retrained for jobs that pay the same as or more than their current positions and offer better growth prospects.”

So How Does HR Move Forward?

Taking employees off-line for weeks to train is pretty much a “no go” at this point in the game. Learning and training almost have to be conducted “on the job” in reality. This isn’t just a need. Many employees actually prefer learning on the job. Keeping up workflow and productivity is important to the continued success of the business. Different companies are using different methods to accommodate this need.
Walmart, for instance, has automated tasks at their stores such as customer checkout. That means associates have more time to train on a multitude of concepts including customer service.
The department store giant is using virtual reality to simulate different issues their associates will experience during their employment. For instance, VR is being used to simulate Black Friday rushes.
AT&T is taking a different approach. The company has instituted a program called “Future Ready”. Essentially, the $1 billion, web-based initiative includes online courses through a myriad of vendors and universities. This allows employees to figure out what skills they need and train for the jobs the company needs right now and will need in the future. Their online portal, called Career Intelligence, allows workers to see available jobs, the skills each requires, the suggested salary and whether or not the area is expected to grow or shrink in the future. It is career pathing at its best and allows employees to figure out how to get from where they are now to where they want to be and the company needs them to be in the future.
By Mason Stevenson
Originally posted on