engaging workplaces

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Let’s Talk About X – and Y and Z: How to overcome a fear of age diversity

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August 17 @ 8:39 pm CDT

A friend recently posted a photo of her five-year-old daughter playing with teddy bears and Barbies, just as children have done for many decades. But there was something different about how the treasured toys were lined up and the child was holding a thermometer. As it turns out, she was playing COVID hospital. We’ve all been impacted by the pandemic. It is an unprecedented, shared global experience and a defining, historic moment. But we have not been impacted the same. What children learn and observe about the world at an early age is hugely influential to their development. During those brain-developing years behaviors, values, and attitudes are shaped. Like trees, we mature, and adapt to outside forces, but the foundation from which we start is always there. Our roots are ever-present and undeniably strong. This is how generations are formed. Shared childhood experiences lead to the formation of similar responses to those experiences. Regrettably, there have been efforts to squelch the exploration of generations, with some people believing the practice leads to stereotyping. Other pundits have referred to generational research as a waste of time, believing all people are more or less the same. While I can appreciate the intent to rid the world of stereotypes and find similarities, there’s a fatal flaw in each of these arguments: Inclusion doesn’t happen by ignoring our differences. It can only happen when we learn to recognize, understand, accept, and celebrate our differences. Here and now, in the aftermath of the George Floyd incident and #MeToo movement, conversations about race and gender have become more prominent, and equity initiatives have edged closer to the forefront of priorities for social change. But all too often, conversations about age diversity are considered too controversial and too difficult, and the perspectives of younger generations consistently end up being dismissed or ignored. Delve deeper and you’ll understand why: Young people are the personification of change. They are a reminder change is necessary and…

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How to Bring Belonging Back

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August 17 @ 8:39 pm CDT

Early in my career, I was recruited to sit on an association’s board of directors and given the opportunity to spearhead a priority initiative for the organization. I was thrilled and jumped at the opportunity to take on such a prominent role. Imagine my disappointment when I attended my first board meeting and the initiative was tabled. The next several meetings I attended, the initiative continued to be backburned. It wasn’t long before I found myself feeling frustrated, unappreciated, and overlooked. My admiration for the association and passion for the project waned. I felt like I no longer belonged. Feeling like we don’t belong is a feeling we can all relate to, yet many organizations are struggling to foster a sense of belonging – and have been for quite some time. We know this to be true because most associations have reported declining membership trends for the past decade, just as employers have reported declining levels of employee engagement. And here and now, the workforce turnover is so massive, this era is being referred to as the Great Resignation. Belonging by definition means two things: ownership and a secure relationship. We feel like we belong when we’re invited to actively contribute and share our opinions and ideas, and we are listened to, respected, and positively encouraged. In the late 1990s, belonging began to transition. From workplaces to membership associations, the same trend was observed: Young people were less likely to join/stay/engage/renew. In other words, young people were less likely to feel like they belong. Why the sudden shift? And why have so many organizations struggled to re-engage young people? I’ve spent a lot of time researching this trend in an effort to find the answers. The answer is quite complex, but here’s the condensed version: The shift in belonging is a direct result of significant social change and the era during which younger generations have come of age. Young people are wary of forging connections and…

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Leader holding a paycheck out.

The Price is Right: Why Higher Salaries Won’t Single-Handedly Solve the Workforce Crisis

August 17 @ 8:39 pm CDT

Six years ago, Dan Price, the founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, set off a media firestorm when he raised the firm’s minimum salary from $35,000 to $70,000 and slashed his own $1 million salary down to $70,000. He was hailed a hero by some and harshly criticized by others. Many analysts predicted the company would soon be bankrupt. But that has not happened; instead, the company is thriving. Six years later, revenue has tripled, the number of employees has doubled, the turnover rate was cut in half, and both the starting salary and CEO salary remain at $70,000. Here and now, wage increases are top of mind as employee turnover is skyrocketing and prospective employees are being wooed with higher starting salaries and sign-on bonuses. Undoubtedly, pay raises are needed. The wage gap is significant. According to the Economic Policy Institute, average CEO compensation is 320 times more than the salaries of their typical workers. (Six years ago, it was 265 times.) But make no mistake about it: money can’t buy love. For 20 years, Gallup has reported 70% of the workforce is disengaged, and companies have thrown money at the problem investing more than ever in perks and bonuses to try to reverse the decline. Yet, employee engagement hasn’t improved. At all. If money isn’t having the desired effect, what will? Trust. The organizations thriving and successfully engaging employees are trustworthy. Specifically, employees believe their leaders are credible, honest, and fair, and that their leaders respect them. Some people will read Price’s story and only see dollar signs. Those people are missing it. Employee engagement can’t be bought. While fans and critics alike marvel at Price’s pay structure, that’s only half the story. His team has been referred to as fiercely loyal which can only come from a trusting, people-first workplace culture. Here’s how one employee described Gravity Payment’s leadership during the pandemic:   “They didn’t do any layoffs. They didn’t raise merchant fees. They let the…

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