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Part of that journey is being willing to accept whatever outcome comes as a result. Good or bad, win, do not win, you’re willing to accept whatever has come out of that, because it’s so much more than a trophy. I say that so often. This whole process is so much more than the trophy you get to put on your shelf or the logo you get to put on your website. It’s about the journey and the process that you go to.
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice. With me is my co-host and dear friend, JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, a large HR consulting firm.
Our topic today is becoming an award-winning workplace. Listeners, if you’re like me, you may wonder what is behind all the award-winning workplace designations that are out there? It seems like a no brainer that a company would want the kind of recognition to help you attract talent, improve your reputation in the community, and enhance your employment brand. So why doesn’t every company go after these awards? Or are they going after these awards and just not winning them? To help us understand behind the scenes happenings for awards and help our listeners think through how might you want to approach pursuing one of these awards, we’ve looked for a subject matter expert to be a guest on today’s episode. Our guest today is Angie Redmon, President of Strive HR. Angie has invested more than two decades learning what makes good companies great, and it always comes back to the same thing. Companies who care about their people as much as they care about their bottom line are more likely to recruit and retain outstanding employees. Now she’s on a mission to help develop HR professionals through mentorship and cultivating strong workplace cultures. After climbing the ranks in HR with multiple companies in diverse industries, Angie has channeled her focus into helping organizations develop their people strategies and helping HR professionals develop in their career through her mentorship. Welcome, Angie.
Thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.
What do you hear from organization leaders as to why they apply for an award?
Well, the two most popular or primary reasons why either organizational leaders or HR professionals tell me that they’re wanting to apply for an award… The primary one is to attract top talent, and that has a lot to do with what’s going on in our world right now, because they know that people want to work for organizations that are recognized for their amazing workplace and their wonderful culture, and they want to work for a company that takes really good care of their employees. And the second reason that I hear a lot of – and this is more from the organizational leader side – is they want to be recognized as a leader within their local community or within their industry, so they want that recognition piece. So those are more of the primary reasons I hear firsthand, but I will tell you statistically, from an employee engagement standpoint, organizations – and this was prepared by a partner of mine called Energage, they administer the Top Workplaces survey. They have shared with me that statistically, Top Workplaces organizations say 84% of their employees are considered engaged, which is a lot higher than a company that would not be falling into that category. And then Top Workplace organizations say that 80% – I’m sorry, 86% of their organization workforce is committed to staying with the organization. So with the cost of replacement, that retention percentage is really big. And then we all know that happy employees make happy customers, so it’s really important to take that into consideration. When your employees are engaged and they’re committing to doing a good job and taking care of their customers, that definitely has a significant impact on their ROI. And over double ROI is what organizations are saying – if they’re awarded as a Top Workplace- is what they’re saying in that category. But there’s so many other benefits, even outside of what companies are telling me, and this is just from my own networking conversations that I’m hearing. From a credibility standpoint, just if an organization is willing to take pride in applying for this award and dedicating their time and their resources towards that, and also from a media standpoint, other places they’ll call it their “bragging rights.” So that’s definitely another reason why people would do it. But the retention piece and the attraction and the employer recognition definitely are big reasons why people do this.
Those are huge numbers too. And for sure, I can… I can just imagine some people listening to what you just said and thinking, like, “Oh, I’m going to go out and apply then, because I want those kind of numbers,” not realizing that, what you also inferred, there’s a lot of work that goes into winning or earning those awards. So what are some steps that an organization might take first before applying for one of these awards?
So I have three steps in which I highly recommend a company consider before doing this. And the very first one is defining an understanding your why. Why do you even want to do it in the first place? So this could consist of the leadership team, the HR professionals, both of them partnering, digging in to figure out why they even want to go on this process, why they want to go on the journey. It could be recruitment, retention, industry considerations, like we just talked about. But it also helps you to understand which of the awards you would want to apply for. And we can talk about that later – there’s so many different ones. But understanding which one you want to apply for really ties in significantly with that why. The other thing is to definitely tie it to your strategic initiatives, when you’re talking about your why, as far as you’re doing this, as well. The second thing is, is to accept that this is not an overnight thing. This is a journey. It takes quite a while to do it. It’s not a quick process. And I’m not saying that to scare people away from doing it, it’s just from a commitment. You’re willing to commit the time that takes to go through this process. And then also part of that journey is being willing to accept whatever outcome comes as a result. Good or bad, win, do not win, you’re willing to accept whatever has come out of that, because it’s so much more than a trophy. I say that so often. This whole process is so much more than the trophy you get to put on your shelf or the logo you get to put on your website. It’s about the journey and the process that you go to. And the third thing that I would suggest a company be more than willing to do is to commit to the work ahead. As I mentioned, it takes a while to do, and it’s… if it was super easy, everybody would do it and we’d all have that word on our logos or the logo on our website. But you need to dedicate resources to help, and you probably have a lot of people listening that might be the HR department of one or the HR department of two, and they have so many things that they’re trying to do already. I encourage those folks to locate what I call “influencers,” and those are people within your organization that can kind of help you through this process. The commitment to the work also entails the willingness to communicate the findings to your employees, sharing the results with your employees, possibly with your customers, with your board. So there’s a lot of work in that commitment to that communication piece that’s ahead. And just… last but not least, with that is embracing the concept of continuous improvement. Hopefully each year, you’re going to try and do this, get better each year, and then learn from what happened the year before.
I really think so. And I don’t know if there’s statistics available or just your sense of it, Angie, having worked not only in a company where you achieved it yourself, but also working with other client companies to help them. Is there an average amount of times you apply before you win? I mean, I’m sure it probably spans from people who do it the first time they apply, they win, and others never win.
It definitely spans and what I’ve also seen, the number of people that will win, unfortunately, will not win the following year, and then try it again. That number, I think, tends to be higher. As far as if you look at who’s trying to do it again, I do a look back… I do a five-year look back each year to see how organizations are doing with maintaining their status, and there’s a fair number of people that definitely – and I believe the reason for that is they’ve had the opportunity to experience the benefits of it, so they definitely want to be able to get back into that place.
Yes, I can only imagine. What type of awards are actually out there and available for companies to apply for? And help us understand, maybe, why they would choose one over another.
Most of the awards have, like, a standard set of questions. And the purpose for that is that all of your employees are answering the same types of questions, as well. If it’s an award in which you’re competing against other organizations within your community, they need to make sure that we’re measuring those… those organizations equally. So we’ll say, for example, Best Places to Work, Top Workplaces. Locally for us, those are great examples of those where everybody gets the same type of questions and then you’re… you’re being compared to your competitors within your geographic area and/or within your industry as well as questions around leadership, communication, work ethic, supervisors, there’s so many more. And then some of these will also give you the ability to add on customized questions. In addition to that, there are some awards that it… rather than it’s being compared to other companies within your same industry or within your geographic, it’s almost like a competition against yourself. And those are the ones that… where you’re becoming certified. So they have a preset standard list of questions and you answer those, and if you meet that criterion, which they have defined… Great Places to Work, put on by Fortune Magazine, is a great example of that. So they have a standard list of criteria where you can earn that seal or that stamp. One piece of advice that I definitely give for organizations is tying this back to your why. So for example, Best Companies has the local distinction, they have the industry distinction. If you are really focused around retention and recruitment, Best Places to Work would be a great type of… if you are wanting to be recognized as an industry leader, Best Companies offers best banks, best nonprofits to work for, so there’s a lot of opportunities to be recognized within your industry. Top Workplaces is one that I just mentioned, as well, they also offer the geographic and the industry distinction. They also have what they call Excellent Awards, and those are for top workplaces with DE&I practices, top workplaces for remote workers. So really, when you tie back to your why, and why are you doing this, and what do you really want to be recognized for, that really helps you kind of hone in on which one it is that you… that you might want to do.
Yeah. Angie, you mentioned earlier… I forget how you said it, but something about being prepared for the results. I think it’s important for us to know, too, that there is, in answering those questions or in going through the process, there can be a lot to learn even if you don’t win. Right? On how… How did you get scored? What were the results of your surveys? So you know what to work on, too.
Could you walk us through what the process might look like for an organization who is applying for one of these awards?
Absolutely. And I’ll take this from the approach of the idea of a company who’s never even applied. So we’ll start from the bare bones with that. After you determine your why, which I mentioned is definitely something that you for sure want to make sure you do. When you figure out which one it is that you want to apply for, you really want to communicate to your organization that you’re going to do this. You want to let them know that this is something that’s going to be an initiative in which your organization is going to be taking on. I highly encourage that message to come from a leader, because that definitely shows buy-in. It shows support. Tell them why you’re applying. Tell them that they’re going to be completing a survey and why you would like them to be part of this process. Tell them you’re willing and committed to sharing the findings of those once you have that information back. So that’s… that’s kind of the first step. That’s… that’s definitely a really important foundational step. But as far as registering for the survey, often this will be in the seat of someone in HR to handle this. Some organizations, if they don’t have anyone in HR, they might call upon someone such as myself, or maybe marketing, or someone else within the organization to help on that. Whomever it is handling that, I highly encourage you to lean on other people within the company. And what I mean by that is there may be information that IT is going to need to provide to you that you’ll need to have on the application, like email addresses and that sort of thing. Marketing is definitely somebody you’re going to want to partner with. There will be questions related to your organization, questions about your benefit package. So even though you may be one person entering that, rely on those resources within your organization. I can tell you sometimes on average, it can take 40 to 45 hours just enter the contents of that application, so the more you can rely on any other people to help you, definitely the better. Notify the employees when you’re getting ready to launch the survey. That would be the next thing that’s going to come out. And often these organizations will provide you templates and content as far as how you can best share that information with your employees when it’s coming, what they can expect, the time it’s going to take for them to do that. Some of these survey administrators will ask you to send them a copy of the email you sent to your employees, because they want to know what it is that you’re communicating with them, as well. Some organizations that will automatically withdraw you if they feel like you have coerced or encouraged your employees to do that, so they’ll want to see what information you’re sending out. So notify your employees that it’s going to launch. I encourage you to have a goal for a completion rate. These organizations will say there’s a minimum participation rate of what they expect from from your employees. In my opinion, that’s kind of low. Some of them are around 40 and 45%, and I just don’t feel that’s a good representation of the feeling for your employees, so I would suggest looking at a 75 to 80% goal. Have that be your goal, especially if it’s your first time, but telling employees, “we’re striving for this percentage of you to participate and this is why we want to hear your feedback, we want to hear what it is that you have to say about that.” And then educate the leaders within your company to be supporters. So I used that term “influencers,” and this is another job for what I would give our influencers. So they’re the line leaders, they’re the supervisors within the company, the ones working side by side. So when they hear an employee say, “oh, gosh, here’s… here’s another survey. I don’t want to have to complete this,” they can share the good reasons for why you as an organization are definitely wanting to do that. Last but not least, you can’t bribe employees to do that. Like I said, some of these places will… you can’t say, if everybody gets this completed, we’re gonna have a pizza party or a day off or something like that. You cannot bribe your employees. Word gets back. A lot of these companies automatically withdraw you for that. So once you share that with your employees, everyone has gone in, they’ve completed their survey, and they close down that survey, kind of in a sit and wait mode until you find out the results of that. And then that takes you to the acknowledgment step when you find out if you’ve won. So hopefully you have. This is where you’re going to start to get a lot of data back. And this is why I often have companies will call me and say, “Okay, these are a lot of reports, this is a lot of information, I definitely don’t know where to begin.” But that’s where that real commitment comes in. Pull up those sleeves, dig in, and that’s where you’re going to learn great content and a lot of good information. One thing I will say is what happens if you don’t win – please remember that you are striving for continuous improvement here, you’re not necessarily striving for a trophy. Obviously, when you apply for this, you’re hoping that you’re going to win, but that’s not the only reason that you did this. So if you only did it for the trophy, the positives that you were hoping to obtain are going to go out the doors definitely as quick as they got there. But if you did it because you want to see improvements, that’s when you can dig into those reports, find out how your employees feel about working there, and what type of improvements that you can make. So if you don’t win, don’t hide out, share with your employees. “We didn’t win, unfortunately, but we got information back from you, and we promised a commitment to you to dig into this, and that’s what we plan to do.” Then hopefully you can apply again for the following year.
That’s a great process. In your experience, do a lot of companies use this opportunity as kind of their annual employee engagement survey or their job satisfaction survey, or do they do those separately? Is this something they only do for the award?
I’ve seen it all over the board. I’ve seen organizations do this and then maybe do pulse surveys in addition to that. I encourage, if you’re going to do another one in addition to that, to kind of spread it out, because some of the data that you’re going to get back from here may be similar questions in other surveys, and that gives you a great benchmarking tool. So maybe you have a department that’s really tapped out at one certain time. Maybe that’s when this survey was administered. And another time throughout the year, you’re asking that same question, you’re getting totally different content and responses back. If you have that to benchmark, that gives you something that you need to dig in a little bit more, and find out, Why in this month is that department so frustrated, and in this month they’re okay? So there’s a lot of different information that you can get if you can do more than just one, which is definitely something I encourage people to do. However, the data that you get back from this, you can set goals of content, you can review throughout the whole year. So that that way, you’re not just looking at it at one point.
I love that. Thank you. Is there a time that organizations should not apply for an award?
Yes, I’ll give you three examples for that. I seem to have a series of three here going, which I didn’t realize…
So I would say do not apply if you do not plan to gather the findings as a result of the survey. That’s an indicator. I’ve had organizational leaders tell me that they didn’t even ask for the reports. And some of these, when you pay them, you will pay up front, and that’s to complete the survey and that’s to get the findings. Some do not charge you to apply for the award, and then if you want to buy the findings, you can do that separately. So the whole point of this is to find out how your employees feel and things that you need to work on and focus on for improvement. So if you’re not willing to do that, that tells me that you’re probably not doing it for the right reason. You definitely just want the trophy. So I feel like it’s an investment in your employees and in your organization, so it’s definitely something that you should do. Another thing is do not apply if you do not plan to communicate the findings back. I’ve talked with leaders who said, “Ooh, I don’t like this that our employees think that. I don’t really want to have to admit that out loud,” or “I don’t have to repeat back that that’s what they said.” The employees want to feel heard. They want to know that you heard what they said. This was a safe, anonymous environment for them to share their thoughts, so you need to acknowledge “I heard you and this is what you said, and I thank you for taking that time to share that feedback with me.” So you need to be willing to commit back to what you heard. And the third thing that I would say is, don’t apply if you don’t plan to do something with the findings. What I mean by that is, there’s nothing worse than asking for it and then saying “I heard you, but I’m not going to do anything about it. We like our way of doing it, not the way that you suggested of doing that.” You may be amazed. Your employees may have ideas and ways of doing something that you never even thought of, or it could be a collaborative effort. Wow, you thought about doing it this way, and then they added an extra thing to that, that made the program even better. So you just never know what ideas are going to come out of that. So if you’re not willing to listen to the feedback, act upon the feedback, and share the feedback, I just don’t think a company would be ready at that point.
I think that is great advice. You know, I know listeners out there who’ve never done this before are saying, “So how much do these cost?”. And I’m sure it varies, but do you have a kind of a cost of doing business on this?
A lot of them are varied based on the number of employees that you have. So for example, we’ll take – Best Companies operates a survey called Best Places to Work. We have them here in Indiana, they’re in many, many states, and they have, as I mentioned, like, the best IT teams to work for or the best nonprofit companies to work for. When you go on to their page, it’s very easy to see, you can look at the grid that shows the number of employees that you have, and if you want to do an online or an online on paper, and then you can look based on the number of employees you have what your cost would be. And there there are… other organizations will take, for example, Energage administers the Top Workplaces survey. There’s not a fee to participate in the survey, there’s a fee to get the findings back that also is based on the number of employees that you have.
Angie, do you have other advice to listeners who might be ready to get started on pursuing an award?
Don’t go at it alone. And that’s where I talked about the influencers and the resources that you have. This is a company wide effort, and it’s an a company wide initiative. It shouldn’t just sit on one person’s desk as far as responsibility goes. So involving as many people within your company as you can. You’re going to find that this process, marketing may become one of your best friends. There are so many different benefits, if you earn this award from a recruitment and from a strategic standpoint of getting employer branding notification – marketing could be a great resource, and I guarantee they would probably love to work with you on that, because they’re… because your customers are going to see it too, and that’s something they’re probably already working on anyway. So don’t go at it alone, try and get maybe a team, a project group, other people within your company. If you get to the point to where you’re overwhelmed, give me a call. I’ll be happy to talk you through and see if there’s something that I can help guide you on that. But definitely don’t… It’s too big of an initiative for one person to take on by themselves.
What was your last JoyPowered moment at work?
First of all, love the book.
“The JoyPowered® Organization,” I got that at the HR Indiana conference, so I’m so excited about that. I will say that I have had the benefit of having multiple joyful environments and experiences. And I will say that I didn’t know how great it was until later, and I wish I would have lived a little bit more in that moment. And two examples I will give you is – and neither of these organizations are in existence any longer, and I think had they have been when Best Places to Work and these awards were out there – brag moment here – I think we definitely would have been ranked at the top, because we worked so hard at a fantastic culture and engaging our employees and helping them learn how they make an impact on the organization every day and keeping the communication up. And… and I know that I’m not the only one – because I sat in the HR seat – that felt that way, because I still keep in touch with those people and we still talk about it 10 and 15 years later. So if that’s not a joyful moment, I don’t know what is.
I will say that the other example I can give is when I get the opportunity to see people that I used to work with in a corporate environment, and they’ll say “You were a fantastic mentor to me.” And I didn’t even know it at the time, and so, you know, it warms my heart, first of all, to even hear it. But I wish I knew then that I was having that big of an impact, because whatever that was, I would have continued to do more of it. So I would encourage people, if you have somebody that you feel like is… is definitely creating a moment like that for you at work, tell them so that they know what they’re doing is that impactful.
I love it.
Well, so much great advice from you today, Angie. Thank you so much for being here and sharing with us. But if our listeners want to know more or reach out to you directly, how can they reach you?
Best way is by email and it’s Angie at strivehr.net. Welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn. And then I also have a freebie for your listeners if they would have an interest. And I’ll give you the link to this so that you can put it in the show notes. And I’ve prepared “The Six Perks of Becoming an Award-Winning Workplace.” So that’d just be some general advice that they can hang on to and refer back to.
Can’t wait to read it. Thank you.
Susan, a listener wrote in with the following question for us. I work for a large law firm with over 25 locations and over 800 employees. Morale is down since returning back to the office. What are some ways or ideas that I could put together to show appreciation and boost morale?
Great question. I’m sure you’re not alone on this. First, if you’re looking for a good go-to resource, I would encourage you to look at drbobnelson.com, as Bob Nelson has written so many really good books over the years that I have taken a lot of practical ideas from. Probably the first one I read was “1001 Ways to Reward Employees,” but others that he authored are “Recognizing and Engaging Employees for Dummies,” “Work Made Fun Gets Done,” and many, many more. Ideas he offers up include simple things that companies can do, like thank you e-cards, awarding “I don’t want to get out of bed” free days, lots of fun things that don’t necessarily cost a lot of money. Secondly, because I would want to tailor whatever I did to the needs of my specific population, I would probably pull together a focus group, maybe with representatives of the various work groups, the admin staff, the associates, it may be even the partners – if I convinced them to come – to learn about the words, the actions, the deeds that really make them feel valued and appreciated. And then I would figure out, okay, so that’s what people want, how can I help deliver on it? I think thirdly, I would love for you to listen to one of our earlier JoyPowered® Workspace Podcasts – the one we launched in July of 2019 was entitled “Team Building.” We interviewed Deseri Garcia of Vida Aventura, and she shared some really good ideas that might be helpful in boosting morale. You know, we also talk about some personality work style assessments that help the organization get to know themselves and their colleagues better, and enhance how you work and communicate together. That could be just the thing to help boost your morale.
I love it. You know, one other thought on that, Susan, which you mentioned in the second comment, that might come out of the focus groups. So when you ask about what are the words, actions, or deeds that can help others feel appreciated, you know, one of those sometimes is… not to be… sounds so simple – is to just say “thank you,” right? To have that one-on-one or to encourage your managers to tell people thank you. It can all just come from you, as our listener, but do an effort corporate-wide to get people to say “thank you for this,” right? Sometimes it’s just that one-on-one acknowledgement that can really make a difference to people.
I think you’re right. I think it’s hard for some people to say thank you, and getting them comfortable doing it and just make that part of your… your language is really, really helpful.
So it’s time for in the news. In the Fall 2021 edition of HR Magazine, there was an article entitled, “Wave Goodbye to the Handshake,” by Kathy Gurchiek. Given all of our increased awareness of spreading germs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are more and more people reluctant to shake hands. JoDee, when I started out in my career in banking as a woman in the early 1980s, I really wanted to be taken seriously, so I practiced handshaking to make sure it was firm and it was dry, especially if I was nervous. And I wanted it to be enthusiastic, but you know, not too over the top. I have since then shaken thousands of hands. Here we are 40 years later, and how things have changed. I really would be content not to shake hands in a business setting ever again.
I totally agree. And it’s so… it just makes me laugh to think about practicing a handshake, right? Because we did that. I did that too. That was a thing, where you’d practice a good handshake.
Yeah. “Please take me seriously,” and you would follow up with a really firm handshake. So the article that I read affirms that you and I are not alone. Gurchiek cited a study in May of 2021 of 1,000 workers in the UK and Germany, where 72% of the respondents say they no longer want to shake hands. As business leaders and HR professionals, I think we could help normalize not shaking hands by talking about it with our teams and supporting their personal decisions on this topic. When I meet someone now, before they come in for that handshake, I say one of two things. You know, “I’m delighted to meet you. I don’t shake hands anymore, but I do fist bump.”
…or “I’m happy to meet you, and although I don’t shake hands, please know I’m thrilled to get to spend some time with you.” Now, it doesn’t always work, JoDee, because I realize someone often has their hand pointed out me before I get a chance to say anything, right? You know what I do? I just suck it up. I shake the hand, probably not as vigorously as I once would have, but I go ahead and shake their hand and then first chance I get, I go and wash my hands.
Yeah, you know, I really thought the handshake would go away, and I… I feel like it’s coming back again. Right? More and more people – of course, I’m around more and more people now – who want… seem to want to shake my hand and it’s… it can be an awkward moment if we’re not ahead of the game on it.
I think talking about it is step one.
Now it’s time for our Powerhouses segment, where we give a shout out to consultants and vendors in the people space to raise opportunities for others in our field, because we believe in abundance for everyone. This segment is brought to you by Powered by Purple Ink, the national network for people professionals. Learn more about PbPI at Powered by Purple Ink – with a K – dot com. Okay, let’s get to our shout outs. DrewMor, a small business accounting firm, helps you “know your numbers.” Paylocity is the HR and payroll provider that frees you from the tasks of today so together, we can spend more time focused on the promise of tomorrow. NFP is a leading insurance broker and consultant providing specialized property and casualty corporate benefits, retirement, and individual solutions through its licensed subsidiaries and affiliates. Best wishes to all of you as you endeavor to make work more joyful. Links will be in our show notes. And again, thanks to Powered by Purple Ink. Check out Powered by Purple Ink – with a K – dot com for more on today’s shout outs and how PbPI raises opportunity for people professionals.
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