Learn from the #IceBucketChallenge and Build Extraordinary Teams

These days, it's difficult to be unaware of the trending #IceBucketChallenge. Facebook, Twitter, and mainstream news feeds are all filled with videos of people dumping buckets of ice water over their head. Although in some sweltering cities an ice bath may be refreshing, celebrities, actors, sports stars, politicians, CEOs, and millions of other ordinary folks are not joining the viral sensation simply to cool off.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a fundraising campaign for the ALS Association, an organization that supports research for a cure to ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The challenge is simple: Take a video of you dumping a bucket of freezing cold ice water on yourself to raise awareness of the illness and then challenge three other people to do the same. They then have 24 hours to drench themselves. The campaign became an Internet sensation and, as of this week, has raised well over $30 million dollars and shows no sign of slowing (ALSA.org).

The challenge actually started with no connection to ALS. Those who joined in initially donated to any charity or organization of their choosing. The campaign became a viral sensation linked to curing Lou Gehrig's disease when Pete Frates, a former college baseball player who has the illness, challenged his friends to the Ice Bucket Challenge. The campaign quickly spread through Frates' network of supporters and the entire Boston area, multiplying exponentially across the country (New York Times, 8/17/14).

The viral sensation has not overlooked businesses. CEOs, executives, and founders of the some of the biggest global companies have participated. Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Weiner, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, Satya Nadella, Jeff Bezos, Dick Costolo, and dozens of others have drenched themselves and given generously to ALS. Why are so many business giants jumping on the #IceBucketChallenge band wagon? Because this viral campaign can teach leaders how to build extraordinary teams that not only get things done, but actually get along.

First of all, the challenge is fun. Millions of people wouldn't be participating if it weren't. It's entertaining to see people shiver, gasp, and squeal as they douse themselves in ice water. Take a look at Oprah Winfrey's challenge and try not to smile; or check out Bill Gates' video with a specially designed contraption just to soak himself. If you want to build a team that's going to stay together, let them play together . Check out "Job Talk with Anita Clew," our sister blog, for advice and ideas on how to let your teams have a little fun.

The #IceBucketChallenge has a purpose. Yes, being flooded in freezing ice water is amusing, but ultimately the campaign went viral after it was linked to curing Lou Gehrig's disease and spurred many people to raise awareness of the illness and donate to the ALS Association. The most successful teams understand their common purpose and goal. You must be sure that every single person can identify not just what they are working on, but why they are coming together and what they are working toward.

A key part of the challenge is paying it forward and calling out others to take on the dousing. Your team also needs this kind of grassroots camaraderie. A manager who commands and controls might get the bare minimum done, but group members challenging and supporting each other will elevate your team to a higher level.

Finally, great teams understand that the challenge never really ends, even if the goals are met. The ALS Association of course considers their campaign a success. But their wild victory now brings around new questions and challenges. ALS only earned $1.9 million in the same fundraising period last year. Now they've raised $30 million and counting. ALS has to decide where the money will go and how they're going to move forward. Teams must understand that even success brings its own set of challenges, which must then be met with the same enthusiasm and energy as the original cause.

Readers, have you participated in the #IceBucketChallenge? How can you apply it to team building at your company?

It’s Your First Day as Manager, Now What?

Most managers are promoted on a Friday and come in to work Monday morning not quite sure how to begin their new role. They want to gain the respect of their team and earn credibility, but they don't know what it means to "be the boss."

You won't gain total credibility on your first day as a new manager. But you can set the tone for the kind of manager you're going to be. Unfortunately, navigating your new role will probably fall mostly upon you; only 12% of organizations have formal management training programs and about 58% of new managers feel unprepared in their new role (TLNT, 04/1/14). But there are decisions you can make on your very first day that will lend you respect immediately and set your trajectory toward trust and credibility.

  1. Schedule time to talk one-on-one with your new team members.
    You won't be able to actually sit down with all of your team members on your first day, but you should reach out to each individually and get a one-on-one meeting scheduled. You might have lots of ideas for improvement, initiatives, and programs, but this is the not the time or place for those. Instead, come prepared with a list of questions for the employee about what they need to their job well, the challenges they face, their goals, and most importantly what they expect from you as a manager. This is a time for you to listen, not to talk.
  2. Establish a reporting system with your superiors.
    The best way to earn the trust of those above you is by making decisions every day that build on one another and create a reputation of competence. That won't happen on day one, but you can determine how you'll be keeping your superiors in the loop about any results, progress, or important updates for your team. Ask your direct supervisor the best way to keep upper management informed. If there is already system established, make sure you memorize it inside and out.
  3. Make a list of 3s.
    You need to come at your new role with a new mindset. You're no longer an individual contributor. You have to think more about how your team fits into the company two to five years from now, not just what you have to do today. As you examine your department with new eyes, write down a list of 3 positive things about your division. Maybe you flawlessly follow up with customers or perhaps you all get along and there is no gossip or drama. Then write down 3 things that you know must change or improve in order for your department to survive.

You create a positive reputation by incrementally proving you can be trusted. Decisions you make every day build on one another and those decisions start on your first day as a manager.

Things may be a little trickier when you've been promoted to your new position and will be managing former peers. Read what our sister blog, Job Talk with Anita Clew, has to say in "Becoming the Boss: Advice for New Managers" (AnitaClew.com, 11/27/12).

Readers, what did you do on your first day as a manager?

Giving Employees Feedback They Don’t Want to Hear

Are there employees on your team who need some tough feedback, but you dread the conversation so much you avoid it? You know who these people are. Maybe they wear inappropriate clothing to work. They might text constantly during meetings. Or regularly show up late. Perhaps they sport a snotty attitude. They may even lack personal hygiene.

Employees want feedback from their managers; 57% of them even want the negative feedback you have to give (Harvard Business Review, 01/2014). However, though they might want to hear how to improve a process or do their job more efficiently, calling out their bad attitude or confronting their unsuitable clothing choices is not always welcome.

The reality is, unless you decide to address the behavior and set different expectations, the situation will stay the same. Someone who shows up late every day will not suddenly start coming in on time. Your team member who slacks off will not magically become a star performer. And the person who doesn't meet the dress code standards will not just suit up one day.

Giving employees the feedback they don't want to hear does not have to make you queasy. Instead, if you directly address the issue while always keeping respect at the forefront of the conversation, you can talk about even the most awkward and difficult situations.

  1. Introduce the conversation. Ask the employee for a chunk of their time to talk. It doesn't have to be elaborate; a short and sweet: "Hey do you have two minutes? There's something I'd like to talk to you about" is ideal. You should always give your employee the respect of privacy and never have these kinds of conversations in front of others.
  2. State what you've observed. Lead with "I've noticed..." or "Lately I've seen..." and then describe the employee's specific behaviors. "Having a bad attitude" is not specific enough. You need to focus on what the employee is actually doing or saying. Then, outline the impact of their behavior on the employee themselves, on their coworkers, or on the company. "I've noticed that you came in an hour late three times this week. It's made it difficult for us to meet our deadlines and puts a larger burden on your teammates."
  3. Ask for their opinion about the situation. The employees are going to have a gut emotional reaction, and you should expect this. They might be angry, defensive, fearful, surprised, or hurt. This is natural; embrace it and let them explain themselves. You asked for their opinion, so let them provide it. Their emotions might come out, but you should always leave your own emotions at the door.
  4. Ask permission to make a request or suggestion. Asking for permission shows your employees respect and gets their buy-in for what you suggest. When you've outlined your thoughts, always get some verbal confirmation that they understand you. "I suggest that from now on we make our staff meetings technology-free so that we can keep them productive. Would you be willing to do that?" You might receive some pushback. "What if there's a client emergency during the meeting? How will I know about it if I don't have my phone?" The best response to any resistance is to ask the employee how they would move forward if they're not pleased with your own suggestion.
  5. End by thanking the employee for their time. Then, emphasize that he or she is a valued and important part of your team.

These five steps should only take 2-3 minutes total, and all feedback should be given in as timely a manner as possible; if your employee texted during an entire staff meeting on Monday, don't wait until to Friday to address it.

You may need to have more than one conversation about an employee's behavior. If there is no improvement, then you should recap the changes you agreed to together. And don't forget to keep affirming the person as the situation gets better. "Hey, I've noticed that you were in at 8 am everyday this week. I really appreciate the effort, and it's reflected in our deadlines too. We're ahead of schedule this week."

Managers, what is the top issue you fear addressing with your employees?

July 2014 Jobs Report

The U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in July while the unemployment rate rose slightly to 6.2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employment Situation Summary. The number of long-term unemployed persons remained little changed 3.2 million and accounted for 32.9% of the total unemployed.

Major industries with gains in July included professional and business services (+47,000), manufacturing (+28,000), retail (+27,000), and construction (+22,000). Temporary help services decreased by 33,600 in July, a typical pattern due in part the Independence Day holiday.

Manufacturing added 28,000 jobs in July, making it the industry with the second-highest job growth. Most gains occurred in motor vehicles and parts and furniture-related products. Over the prior 12 months, manufacturing has added an average of 12,000 jobs per month, primarily in durable goods industries. Other industries, such as leisure and hospitality, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and government changed very little during the month of July.

7 Management Lessons from Kickstarter

The Coolest Cooler In 2009, Kickstarter began a crowd funding site that not only provided aspiring entrepreneurs a forum to introduce their ideas to the world, but also allowed everyone else to become investors and support projects that interested them. Since then, over 66,000 independent projects have been created and individuals have given more than $1 billion to various Kickstarter campaigns (Kickstarter, About Us).

This summer, one campaign skyrocketed to success and is on track to break the record for the most funded campaign in Kickstarter's history (OregoneLive, 7/10/14). What idea inspired thousands of people to freely invest their hard-earned cash? A product that promises to upgrade the summertime staple of the cooler: "The Coolest." Coolest was a campaign started by Ryan Grepper who hoped to raise $50,000; Grepper surpassed his fundraising goal and now has over $7.5 million and nearly a month left on his campaign to go even higher (Kickstarter, Coolest Cooler). Kicktraq, which tracks the trends of campaigns, estimates that Coolest will raise around $19 million (Kicktraq).

Grepper wanted to reinvent a product that he thought needed a 21st-century makeover. His upgraded cooler includes a built-in battery-powered blender, waterproof speakers that play music via Bluetooth, a USB charging station, and numerous other perks. He rapidly gained the support of thousands of people, some of whom have pledged up to $2,000.

Grepper's is a "cool" success story to be sure, but there are valuable management lessons to review as well -- about how people decide what (and who) they'll invest their time, energy, and resources supporting.

Lesson 1: People will pledge loyalty (and take risks), but only for what they believe in.
Investors voluntarily fund Kickstarter campaigns because they believe in the project. Campaigns fund future product development, so people might invest thousands of dollars without the guarantee that the project will be completed. Investors are willing to take the risk because of their faith in the idea and the creators of the campaign. What your company produces or does should inspire the same kind of loyalty in your employees. Your staff might not be investing money, but they are investing time and energy. If they believe in what they're working toward, you'll discover unbelievable dedication.

Clear Vision and Measured GoalsLesson 2: You'll never win commitment without a clear vision and measured goals.
Successful Kickstarter campaigns specifically outline their vision, goals, and how they plan to achieve the promised results. Grepper presented his vision and outlined the engineering, manufacturing, and delivery schedule to his investors. If you want your employees to invest themselves, you first have to answer the question: Why should your employees care about what your company does and their role in the process? But it's not enough to stop there. You also need to outline the mutual goals and the steps needed to reach each one.

Lesson 3: You need to reward investment. But it doesn't have to be about money.
The Coolest offers tiered rewards for its investors, but these weren't always incentives that have to do with money. One reward for investment is having your name immortalized on Grepper's own Coolest. Grepper also offers one-on-one feedback sessions to discuss investors' own innovative ideas. As a manager, you can't ask for people's time, energy, and resources without also committing to reward their dedication. Think of compelling incentives for your employees -- and just like The Coolest, these incentives don't have to be expensive.

Lesson 4: Be honest about the challenges ahead.
The Coolest only exists today as a prototype. Grepper understood that the biggest hurdles to producing his idea would be manufacturing, product adjustments, and fulfillment. Your team's goals are going to encounter obstacles; anticipate and plan for them, while addressing them openly and transparently.

Active ParticipationLesson 5: Actively encourage questions, ideas, and participation.
Grepper encouraged questions and insights into his product. When investors asked about the location of his manufacturing, the use of recycled materials, the power of the battery in the blender, Grepper addressed their concerns. When he was able to add color options, Grepper had investors vote for their favorite choices. When one investor suggested installing a solar panel as an energy source, Grepper responded to the idea. Get your people involved and ask for their opinions; you never know who might have the next great idea tucked away in their brain.

Lesson 6: Celebrate when goals are met and continually stretch further.
The Coolest reached its first fundraising goal within 36 hours of the start of its campaign. But Grepper's success didn't make him complacent. As more money was raised, Grepper added color options, the possibility of a solar panel, and the guarantee of a one-year warranty for the product. When goals are met, celebrate and reward your team, but don't let the growth stop there. Continually look for areas of improvement and ways to innovate.

Don't Give UpLesson 7: Don't give up.
Grepper first launched his Coolest campaign in 2013, but his first attempt failed, and he did not reach his funding goal. But with a new design, new marketing tactics, and campaigning in the summer versus the winter, Grepper soared above and beyond his original goal and is on track to be the highest-funded Kickstarter campaign to date. Don't let failure deter you. Instead, let mistakes and hindrances teach you lessons about how to succeed the next time around.

Readers: Which of these lessons resonates with you the most? How can you start applying it to your own team?

Would You Risk Being Fired for Your CEO?

Market Basket employees protest their CEO's dismissal Last week, eight employees of Market Basket, a Boston-based grocery chain, were fired for protesting the ousting of their CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas. Demoulas was fired and removed from the company's board in June after an internal dispute. Over the weekend, more than 2,500 of Market Basket's employees protested the decision (Business Insider, 7/21/14), and other employees working at Market Basket's warehouse refused to deliver goods as a form of dissent until Demoulas was reinstated (Boston.com 7/21/14).

Why would Market Basket employees risk their livelihoods for their CEO? Employees' trust in Demoulas' leadership propelled their support for him, even if it meant losing their jobs. Staff at Market Basket receive strong benefits, including a profit-sharing program, and historically the company has promoted from within and rewarded hard work and longevity (Boston.com 7/21/14). Employees' positive experiences and high regard for Demoulas stemmed from their confidence in his decisions and leadership. Trust in an organization comes down to whether an employee feels they can rely on their managers. Market Basket workers were so certain they could rely on Demoulas as a leader that they risked losing their jobs to keep him as their CEO.

Elsewhere, only 43% of employees trust their CEO and only one in five people trust their business leaders to make ethical decisions (Edelman Trust Barometer, 2014). Basic trust in CEOs is rare, making this kind of public support almost unheard of. But why is this kind of faith in an organizational leader so uncommon? Most employees don't feel as if their work is recognized or that they have opportunities to grow. Only 49% of employees are satisfied with the growth and development opportunities, and only 47% are satisfied with their companies' recognition practices. Workers report having more trust in their company when the organization acknowledges employee contributions, provides opportunities for involvement, and communicates effectively (American Psychological Association, 4/23/14).

Trust is not just influenced by executives or the C-suite. Any Manager can create an impact and foster an environment of trust by following a few simple trust principles:

  1. Your team is more likely to trust you if you first extend trust to them. You can't expect anyone to trust you if you refuse to put your confidence their performance, results, and integrity.
  2. Don't keep your employees in the dark. Share critical information with them in a timely manner. Make sure your team has the knowledge they need to effectively perform their job.
  3. Pay attention and recognize good work. Don't ever assume your employees know intuitively they are doing a good job. Observe their accomplishment and recognize them... publicly. (Conversely, if you need to provide critical feedback, do that behind closed doors.)

The Market Basket employees' loyalty to Demoulas became national news because trust in leaders has become a rare sentiment. If other organizations want to garner similar loyalty, they'll first need to establish organizational trust.

Readers, do you trust the company you work for? How would you rate your trust on a scale of 1-5 (5 being high level of trust)?

Employee Engagement Starts with the Manager

Only 30% of U.S. workers are engaged in their work, according to Gallup's "State of the American Workplace" report (Gallup, 10/2013). That means only 3 out of every 10 of your employees are aligned with your organization's values and actively working toward executing company goals. "Engagement" has become a buzzword and might seem too vague or ambiguous to make much of a tangible impact, but a host of respected business resources have proven the direct correlation between engagement and productivity. Motivated employees generate 40% more profit (Taleo, 6/2012) and are more loyal to their employers. Only 18% of highly engaged employees said they were likely to leave their company within the next two years compared to 40% for disengaged employees. (Towers Watson, 6/2012).

Clearly, every company should strive to build an engaged workforce. The best strategy for enhancing engagement is by improving the relationship between employees and their managers. Managers have the single biggest impact on an employee's engagement, being accountable for 70% of variance in employee engagement (Harvard Business Review, 3/13/14). A great manager can transform an employee's mindset from "I'm willing to do the job I'm asked to do" to "I am driven to execute goals and produce results."

An exceptional manager will build a focused, productive team; a poor manager will have employees that sabotage the work or simply check out on the job. Using the 3 strategies below, managers can engage their workforce and build a staff that generates more and sticks around longer.

  1. Communicate expectations of excellence -- Setting low expectations is a self-fulfilling prophecy; if a manager expects low quality, they will probably get it. But if a manager expects excellence, communicates those expectations to employees, and involves their teams in crafting a vision and setting realistic goals, people will rise to the occasion.
  2. Focus effort on work that has a purpose -- Employees that understand the purpose behind their work find the work more interesting and desirable. Understanding why their work matters and how it has an impact will help employees fully "buy-in" to their job.
  3. Allow autonomy when possible -- Autonomy is the opposite of micro-management. When they are able, managers should allow employees flexibility in their scheduling, timing, and methodology. Granting sovereignty increases employee trust in their manager and ownership over the final results.

    Readers: How have you seen managers affect employee engagement? Have you ever seen a great manager inspire their team? How about a poor manager who de-motivates their whole staff?

Avoiding Discrimination Claims

Would you have guessed that nationwide, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had an estimated 93,727 individual filings in 2013? These discrimination claims can cover any of the protected categories, such as sex, race, or religion. This translates to extra costs, paperwork, and innumerable headaches for employers. According to Jon Hyman's column "The Practical Employer" (Workforce.com, 6/19/14), it can cost an employer up to $250,000 to take a case to a jury trial, and that doesn't include the cost of a settlement, which may be much more.

We all want to enjoy a workplace that is free from discrimination, and there are things managers can do to prevent claims. During the hiring process and on the job, the employees' protected rights should be at the forefront of consciousness. By following some of these best practices, the hassle of lost time and money due to claims can be reduced or prevented.

It should go without saying that during the interview process, managers must treat all candidates fairly. Questions that might seem harmless when making conversation might veer off and become inappropriate. Personal questions that delve into family planning should be avoided. According to "Conducting Job Interviews" (NOLO.com), asking a female candidate her plans about having children could lead her to believe that she experienced gender discrimination if she does not get the job. Even if the conversation is friendly, be mindful of the way a candidate might interpret the question.

A good policy, according to "Avoid Disability Discrimination When Hiring New Employees" (NOLO.com), is to ask questions that make sure that the candidate is able to do the job for which they are applying. These are questions that focus on abilities, rather than disabilities, or other factors. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects workers during an interview and specifies the types of questions employers should not ask (EEOC.gov).

Once the candidate is on the job, the manager should set a good example by following the laws and maintaining a discrimination-free workplace. A big step in avoiding claims is to make sure that employees are comfortable reporting issues before they escalate into official claims. Managers should not engage in discriminatory behaviors, and exercising an open-door policy is helpful to allow employees to voice their concerns. If an issue comes to light, actions can be taken to stop what is happening before it persists. If a complaint does reach the ears of the Human Resources Department, they can assist with how handle the situation before it further escalates.

Keep clear documentation of the facts, such as notes that you take during the hiring process, and honest reviews of the employees' work; this information may be needed later and should be kept accordingly. Keeping records about any incidents is also a good idea. Do not delete messages or misplace computer files that you may be called upon to provide. It is best to be organized ahead of time.

While a fool-proof anti-discrimination system doesn't exist, obvious pitfalls can be avoided. Provide basic Human Resources training to employees and let them know what is expected to keep interactions lawful. HR Training materials, either videos or written handouts, model acceptable workplace behavior. Innocent comments or conversations can be perceived differently by a person in a protected class. A little prevention goes a long way, and the sooner that managers become aware of any problems, the sooner that steps can be taken to make the situation right for everyone.

Readers: Did your company provide you with training for ensuring a discrimination-free workplace?

State of the Economy and June 2014 Jobs Report

The U.S. economy has seen tough times over the past few years, and speculation as to its health and recovery is in the news every day because Americans want to know how secure their jobs are, what they will be able to afford for themselves and their families, and what to expect for the future of their dollars. In recent weeks and months, optimism for the health of our economy has seemed to wane.

For the past two years, our economic growth rate has remained at a measly 2 percent. Economists were confident at the beginning of this year that we would finally boost that growth to 3 percent, but in mid-June, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reduced its estimate of 2.7 percent growth for 2014 to 2 percent (Bloomberg.com, 6/16/14). Although employers have added many jobs over the past few months, the long winter placed a strain on several industries, and experts are worried that climate change could present even more challenges to economic projections in the coming years.

Some experts say that the economy is doomed to never fully recover from the Great Recession in 2008. While it would seem as though the economy has rebounded greatly, the truth is that salaries and household incomes have not risen in years and many are still unemployed despite growing numbers of jobs added each month. Other economists maintain that full recovery is on its way, but will take more time than originally estimated due to the slow rate of growth (The New York Times, 6/11/14).

While this speculation, estimation, and evaluation continues among experts and politicians, the Economic Employment Situation for June 2014 had some unexpected positive news – with the economy creating a higher-than-expected 288,000 jobs and the unemployment rate falling to 6.1%, a six-year low. In addition, the May payroll number was revised upward.

Other news from the June Jobs Report included:

  • The number of long-term unemployed persons declined by nearly 300,000 and nearly 2% of the total unemployed.
  • Major industries with gains included professional and business services (+67,000), retail trade (+40,000), food services and drinking places (+33,000), health care (+21,000), financial activities (+17,000), transportation and warehousing (+17,000), and manufacturing (+16,000).
  • Temporary help services continued its upswing by gaining 10,000 jobs in June, which makes for a total gain of 216,000 over the past year.

Upon the news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke the 17,000-point barrier for the first time. Similarly, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were in the green. Some news outlets, like CNNMoney, claimed that this report was an indication "the American jobs recovery seems to have finally hit its stride" and also noted that rising pay rates, partially spurred on by some minimum wage increases in several states, have encouraged consumer and economic optimism (CNNMoney, 7/3/14).

Traditionally, the run-up to elections causes some economic uncertainty in the nation. We'll have to see if the optimism stemming from today's Jobs Report will stay high in the coming weeks and months.

Readers: Do you think the economy has recovered as much as it can already?

Hiring and Retaining in Your Company Culture

Does your company have a very strict dress code and behavioral guidelines? How about casual dress and a flexible schedule? Every company's culture is unique and there are nuances that will dictate which types of people will be comfortable – and happy – working on your team. Some employees prefer a very structured environment while for others, flexibility in dress, hours, and environment is the highest priority. Part of your duty as a manager is to communicate effectively about your company culture during the hiring process as well as manage these expectations with your team on a long-term basis.

Finding a new employee with the right skills and experience is important, but perhaps even more critical is hiring someone who will fit in. Hiring and training new employees takes time and effort, and it's hard enough knowing whether someone will be able to manage the tasks assigned to him after a few hours of interview conversation. Save yourself – and your new employee – the headache of creating additional turnover by eliminating as many of the unknowns as you can.

For example, it is easy to find candidates that would like to wear casual clothes to work every day, but what if your office wears business formal clothing every day? This is something your candidates would all like to know, and they will not often remember to ask about such details in the interview. As the hiring manager, you should be proactive about communicating these expectations upfront. Most candidates put on their best clothes for interviews but may not assume this is how they expect to dress every day. If your company requires suits and tailored dresses, mention it to those you interview when you are discussing details about the job. After all, your new employee will be spending a lot of time at the office, and some candidates will not wish to go further in the hiring process if they hear of a strict dress code.

Another expectation that should be communicated early on is the schedule and general social behavior expected of all employees. If you did not already include it in the job posting, the hours should be discussed in the interview. If your company hires those who can come into the office from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and flexible schedules are not an option, explain that early on. That way, someone who needs to leave every day by 3:00 to pick up their kids can remove themselves from consideration. Some offices also have guidelines for when to take lunches, when to speak with coworkers throughout the day, and what personal work can and cannot be done during the work day. Make this clear upfront.

Once you are confident that you have hired individuals who fit within your company's culture, take steps to ensure that they stay satisfied or else risk being blind-sided by employees leaving. One way to do this would be to take an employee satisfaction survey once or twice a year. This would allow employees to be honest about how the culture is working for them. You can even approach your higher-ups if you see trends and think some policies may be worth changing.

Another way to stay up-to-date on how your employees feel about company culture is to watch and listen. If your company wears business formal clothing, but Ted keeps showing up in sneakers or without a coat, he may be dissatisfied with the dress code even if he agreed to it early on. If he uses your conversation as a chance to complain, you could ask him if he is planning to abide by the code or if he has considered leaving over this policy. At least you would be prepared in case he decides that it is a deal-breaker. Other policies, such as the schedule, may prove more difficult for certain employees than they had originally thought. If this seems to be the case with any cultural policy at your workplace, speaking with these employees can help you and your senior leadership decide what policies may have room for improvement, or in some cases, which employees may not be the best fit.

Of course, you want high-performing staff members who can do a great job for your company, but even the best and brightest may not be happy with your company's culture. This is why it is best to be very transparent while hiring and enforce policies with your current employees equally, and if you feel your company's policies are in line, you can build a talented team that appreciates the culture too.

Readers: Would you work for a company whose culture was very different from what you prefer? What would make you overlook a culture that wasn't what you'd choose?

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