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5 Ways to Reap the Benefits of Virtual Teams

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The concept of virtual teams in organizational settings is continuing to develop as technological advancements and solutions become available. Virtual teams allow groups of individuals separated by distance who work on interdependent task execution mostly through technology platforms (Falls, 2017). While this is one of the major benefits of virtual teams, there are additional advantages and disadvantages to consider for successful outcomes.

A successful virtual workforce with effective team management has its advantages. As Osman (2016) pointed out, researchers supporting the use of virtual teams state these units offer greater accessibility to global talent, higher productivity, flexibility, and employee opportunities. Organizations that implement virtual teams into their infrastructure benefit by lowering overhead expenses, improving scalability, and offering a full suite of services (MaRS, 2015).

While the implementation of virtual work teams has many organizational benefits, it has also received mixed reviews from researchers and organizational leaders. According to Knupple (2015), one reason for the disparaging criticism was virtual workforce management practices lacked the rigor needed for these work units to be effective. Other researchers suggest high costs for communication technology; conflict, lack of trust and collaboration; and social isolation also contribute to virtual team inefficiency (ConnectUs, 2015).

Overall, the advantages of virtual teams outweigh the disadvantages when effective strategies are established and applied. To ensure your virtual team management approach is sound, Johnson (2017) and EDC recommend using the following five strategies:

  1. Develop ‘house rules’ for communication and commit to them.
  2. Use communication tools that account for and help manage time differences.
  3. Encourage knowledge sharing to promote openness and trust.
  4. Invest in technology-based tools to facilitate communication and collaboration.
  5. Implement opportunities for making personal connections via phone or video conferencing whenever feasible.

Is your organization reaping the benefits of virtual teams? If not, EDC can help! Contact us today to find out how!

 

References

ConnectUs Fund. (2015). The disadvantages and advantages of virtual teams. Retrieved from http://connectusfund.org/disadvantages-and-advantages-of-virtual-teams

Falls, B. (2017, March 24). Leading virtual teams. Retrieved from http://talentscience.org/blog/2017/3/24/leading-virtual-teams

Johnson, M. (2017, February 13). Five tips for connected, collaborative virtual teams. Retrieved from https://www.8×8.com/blog/2017/02/five-tips-for-connected-collaborative-virtual-teams

Knupple, B. (2015, December 4). Virtual teams are growing faster than managers can learn to lead them. Retrieved from https://www.ceo.com/operations/virtual-teams-are-growing-faster-than-managers-can-learn-to-lead-them/

MaRs Library. (2015, March 13). Virtual teams: Benefits and disadvantages. Retrieved from https://www.marsdd.com/mars-library/virtual-teams-benefits-and-disadvantages/

Osman, H. (2016, February 4). Virtual teams pros and cons: All you need to know. Retrieved from http://www.thecouchmanager.com/virtual-teams-pros-and-cons/

Savelyeva, N. (2015). Bring it all together: How to better manage a virtual team. Retrieved from https://www.getapp.com/blog/how-to-manage-virtual-teams-productivity-tracker/

Navigating Organizational Change Successfully

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Change is all around us. Every day we have to figure out how to adapt to something that might change such as the weather, traffic patterns due to construction or accidents, and any other expected or unexpected situation that arises. Just as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “the only thing that is constant is change.” Given change is something we must constantly adapt to, it is interesting when it comes to the workplace, change initiatives fail more than 70% of the time (Kotter, 2008). It is possible for change efforts to succeed and employees at all levels of the organization can help make that possible. What it takes is a strategic approach!

EDC recommends 6 tips leaders and employees can apply to work towards making organizational change efforts successful:

  1. Having a clear vision. If the need for change is unclear, it is nearly impossible for anyone to understand the reason(s) change is needed, especially to those who perceive the current way of doing something works well. A clear vision helps define the need for change, setting the expectation for what will change and why.
  1. Alignment with organizational goals. Organizations need to adapt to changing market conditions in order to survive and grow. When aligning change initiatives with organizational goals, it helps establish a clear vision of the change needed as well as gain buy-in from both leaders and employees.
  1. Leadership support and involvement. It is important for leaders to set the example when it comes to change efforts. After all, if a leader continues doing something the “old” way, what reason does an employee have to change? When leaders lead by example and not the “do as I say, not as I do” approach, it not only shows the employees what the change initiative is supposed to look like but also gives employees more reason and encouragement for going with the change themselves.
  1. Employee contribution and buy-in. Every organization has far more employees than it has people in leadership roles. Naturally, the majority of the change efforts typically fall to the employees themselves. In order for the change initiatives to succeed, employees need to contribute to the change and have buy-in. In order for that to happen, it is important to involve select employees (that can also be potential change agents later on) in the early stages of the change initiative.
  1. Excellent communication. Communication is key to any organizational process and change management is no different. There can never be enough communication. Multiple modes of communication should be used such as: town hall meetings (if the change involves the whole organization), group meetings, emails, deadline reminders, even posters/flyers around the office, etc.
  1. The best way to ensure change not only happens, but also lasts, is to hold everyone accountable for the change itself. It is important to look for ways to measure the before and after change initiative. Also, ensure everyone clearly understands what needs to be done for the change to be successful by having metrics for measuring the change, and if appropriate, ensure leaders and employees understand the consequence if the change fails.

A change agent is an employee, at any level of the organization, eager and willing to change, leads by example, and helps encourage the change with others. This person is critical to any successful change management initiative. Leaders and change agents can work together using the proposed 6 tips to ensure successful implementations of change initiatives and avoid being a part of the 70% change failure statistic.

References

Kotter, J. P. (2008). A sense of urgency. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Envisionary Development Consulting. (2016).  Leading change. Pembroke Pines, FL: EDC Training Library.

Tompkins, B. (2016). How to lead change with minimal resistance. Retrieved from http://supplychainbeyond.com/how-to-lead-change/

There’s NO Diversity Without Inclusion

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diversity quote

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is one of the hottest trending topics in learning and organizational development today. A major issue with the existing development, however, is it presents D&I as a blended concept (Sherbin & Rashid, 2017). This contributes to incorrect assumptions that these independent ideas are one in the same. Researchers suggest this reinforced discrepancy in understanding is preventing inclusionary efforts from being carried out, which further indicates current practices are inconclusive and potentially ineffective.

With countless companies, organizations, and institutions claiming to embrace and implement successful D&I strategies, it may be hard to fathom inclusivity is still a work in progress (Riordan, 2014). To ensure current D&I programs are effective in real-world settings, we need to first differentiate between the two concepts and clarify misconceptions. By taking this first step, we can collectively move forward from having D&I conversations to implementing effective D&I initiatives.

Myers (2012) noted the distinction between diversity and inclusion lies in the difference between quantity and quality. Organizational leaders can highlight this difference to ensure the organization has a comprehensive D&I program that includes an action plan specifically for inclusivity. AT EDC, we subscribe to the starting points recommended by Sherbin and Rashid (2017):

  • Inclusive Leadership
  • Authenticity
  • Networking & Visibility
  • Clear Career Path

 

Leaders can use these strategic pathways to promote inclusivity, provide transparency and sponsorship, and unlock career paths (Sherbin & Rashid, 2017). The D&I research on practical applications of D&I initiatives and programs also shows reframing of the organizational approach provides more positive program results. According to the Harvard Business Review (2016), organizations with successful D&I programs offer voluntary training, include diversity managers and task forces or self-management groups, incorporate cross-training groups and targeted college recruitment programs, and supply opportunities for mentorship. Adopting these strategic approaches could be the key to guaranteeing diversity efforts in the workplace are reinforced by inclusion.

 

References

Myers, V. (2012). Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance [Online version]. GPSolo eReport, 1(11). Retrieved from http://www.americanbar.org/ publications/gpsolo_ereport/2012/june_2012/diversity_invited_party_inclusion_asked_dance.html

Riordan, C. M. (2014, June 5). Diversity is useless without inclusion. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/06/diversity-is-useless-without-inclusivity

Sherbin, L. & Rashid, R. (2017, February 1). Diversity doesn’t stick without inclusion.  Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/02/diversity-doesnt-stick-without-inclusion

Harvard Business Review. (2016, September 1). Why the most common diversity programs don’t work [Video file]. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/video/5108682441001/why-the-most-common-diversity-programs-dont-work

A Winning Organizational Culture

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organizational-culture-consulting

There is much focus today on organizational culture as ever as globalization and talent migration is reshaping the workforce as we know it. A recent study by Globoforce Workhuman Research Institute and IBM Smarter Workforce Institute (that included over 23,000 employees in 45 countries and territories) found when employees had positive work experiences, they were more likely to use discretionary effort and less likely to leave their company (Payne, 2016). Furthermore, a study by FTSE Russell discovered the companies found on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” List had three times greater stock market returns than the general market (Madhavan, 2017). As shown in these examples, having a defined organizational culture in alignment with business objectives and employee needs drives many aspects of the company from engaged and motivated employees to better working teams; creating better products and services for customers to greater overall financial successes. Given these benefits, it makes sense companies today are looking to shape their culture.

So how can your organization go about this? Here are 7 key strategies to creating, fostering, and sustaining a strong organizational culture:

  1. Assess the current culture and subcultures. This part is taking a look at what the organizational culture looks like today. What seems to be helping the business grow? Asking questions are a great way to start identifying the current state of an organization’s culture. The answers can be found through a variety of ways: individual or group interviews, surveying employees and leaders, workshops, observations. The key here is to gather information and organize it in a way to start establishing patterns and themes.
  1. Identify what the culture should look like to accomplish business strategies. Next, is to take a look at what the business wants to achieve. An organization needs to take a look at what behavior(s) is needed from employees at all levels of the organization to ensure success.
  1. Identify gaps between current and future ideal state. Once both we identify the current cultural state and what is needed to accomplish business strategies, the organization will be able to identify areas of opportunity (gaps), as we like to call them. One may notice that in some aspects the current state of the culture is in alignment with the business strategies and in other aspects, the culture is not in alignment.
  1. Changing behaviors. Changing behaviors takes time and consistency. It’s best to start with a few key behavior modifications that will yield the greatest impact towards aligning culture with the business strategies. Here, it’s not enough to tell employees and leaders how to behave but rather model the way.
  1. Utilize both formal and informal leaders. Something most organizations realize is that changing behaviors start at the top. Employees look to leaders to demonstrate the appropriate behaviors based on the organization’s values, mission, and culture. However, not all organizations realize the importance of informal leaders, those employees who are not in a leadership position and don’t have direct reports. However, informal leaders do have influence with other employees creating their own groups, even at times creating their own subcultures. It is key these individuals are involved and buy-in to the organizational culture and set the example for others. They make excellent employee advocates for change and will lead others through the process informally.
  1. Hold everyone accountable though metrics. Once the organizational cultural identity and strategy is defined and communicated to employees at all levels, use metrics to evaluate progress (or lack thereof) to hold everyone accountable for the changes. There can be an endless number of metrics and numerous ways to measure them. Some behaviors may even appear to look unmeasurable. This is where tying behaviors to business strategies comes more into play.
  1. Sustain the organizational culture. Holding employees at all levels accountable goes a long way for ensuring the culture changes but there are other tools that can be used to ensure sustainability. One method is to use a rewards system for positive reinforcement. People are motivated by a variety of reasons such as money, recognition, prizes, etc. Connecting a change with something positive that people want is a great way to ensure a smooth and sustainable transition for the new culture.

In all stages of organizational cultural development and sustainability, it’s important to have employees from different levels of the organization involved in the process, which helps create employee buy-in and ensure a smoother transition. After all, change, at times, can be difficult for most people but, communication, employee involvement, and letting people have a voice will help ease that difficulty. Of course, there will be times that even with the best communication and involvement from others, some employees (that can be in any level in the organization) will not change towards the culture an organization wants to achieve. It is at this point where both the organization and the employee should work together to asses any issues or perhaps take a look at healthy attrition.

These steps should not be considered as a one and done type of strategy. The world, people, and their wants and needs are constantly changing. In addition, businesses have different needs at different stages (when the business is starting out, in growth mode, or in maintenance mode) and what is best for the business today in terms of culture, may need to change in the future. So, it’s also important to build in times for periodic review of the culture and its alignment with business strategies. Repeating these steps periodically can be a simple way to keep up the changing business environment. This will also ensure that the business will be able to keep up with different market trends and it’s needs.

 

References

Payne, S. (2016). Globoforce Workhuman Research Institute and IBM Smarter Workforce Institute unveil a new employee experience index. Retrieved from Globoforce Workhuman: http://www.globoforce.com/gfblog/2016/employee-index-ibm-globoforce/

Madhavan, N. (2017). Good company culture, strong business results? Evidence points to a healthy bottom line, though one expert warns against tying culture solely to results. Retrieved from Workforce Magazine: http://www.workforce.com/2017/01/15/good-culture-better-results/?utm_source=MyEmma&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign =WF%20Tech

Thomas, R. (2017). Success comes from strong cultures and it starts at the top. Retrieved from TLNT: https://www.eremedia.com/tlnt/success-comes-from-strong-cultures-and-it-starts-at-the-top/

McCready, K. (2014). Organizational culture design: A service design thinking approach. Retrieved from http://culturelabx.com/organisational-culture-design/

Katzenbach, J., Oelschlegel, C., Thomas, J. (2016). 10 principles of organizational culture. Retrieved from strategy+business: https://www.strategy-business.com/article/10-Principles-of-Organizational-Culture?gko=71d2f

Weinzweig, A. (2016). Five elements of building an organizational culture. Retrieved from https://www.zingtrain.com/org-culture-steps

Gotham Culture. (2017.) Organizational Culture Consulting. Retrieved from https://gothamculture.com/services/organizational-culture-consulting/

How Effective is Your Organization’s Learning Culture?

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learning

Learning and development is one of the most commonly discussed L&OD topic trending in the workplace. Yet, many organizations have trouble establishing an effective learning culture. This is probably occurring because the importance of instilling learning and development into the organization’s practices has been put on the backend of the agenda when it should remain on the forefront.

So, is your organization reaping the rewards of an effective learning culture? If not, Nabong’s (2015) seven benefits may encourage you to consider taking a closer look at the value of an effective learning culture. The benefits Nabong outlined include:

  1. Increased efficiency, productivity, and profit.
  2. Increased employee satisfaction.
  3. An improved mindset among employees.
  4. A developed sense of ownership and accountability.
  5. Ease in succession and/or transition processes.
  6. A culture of knowledge inquiry and sharing.
  7. An enhanced ability for workers to adapt to change.

It’s clear a culture of learning in the workplace is important for maintaining a competitive edge. In a recent report, LinkedIn Learning Solutions (2017) revealed five top trends of workplace learning and several challenges today’s L&D professionals encounter. While the report indicates, organizations have forged a commitment to workplace learning initiatives, concerns with budget constraints, small team dynamics, gaps in ROI, and employee engagement present challenges. To ensure an effective organizational culture is achieved, these challenges need to be addressed.

If your organization faces any of these challenges, it’s time to reexamine the effectiveness of your learning culture. One important factor to remember is: All hope is not lost! You can transform your organization’s current learning and development culture by investing in the following five simple initiatives (Jones, 2016):

  1. Identify links between learning, performance, and outcomes using daily operations.
  2. Provide opportunities to apply what’s learned through practical experiences and coaching.
  3. Position learning as a principal strategic initiative and implement programs that encourage knowledge-sharing.
  4. Identify employees with subject-matter expert capabilities.
  5. Encourage an employee-employer partnership that promotes accountability.

In the modern workspace, according to Hart (2016), these initiatives reinforce an organizational mindset that recognizes learning as a natural part of work, appreciates the significance of individual development, values all forms of learning in the workplace, realizes the outcome of learning is the most meaningful factor, and understands the importance of learning in a continually changing workplace.

 

References

Hart, J. (2016, January 2). 2016: Rethinking workplace learning. Retrieved from http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/blog/2016/01/02/2016-rethinking-workplace-learning/

Jones, D. (2016, February 21). 5 tips for building a learning culture in your workplace. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/building-learning-culture-3878190

LinkedIn Learning Solutions. (2017). 2017 workplace learning report: How modern L&D pros are tackling top challenges [PDF document]. Retrieved from https://learning.linkedin.com/elearning-solutions-guides/2017-workplace-learning-report

Nabong, T. A. (2015, April 7). Creating a learning culture for the improvement of your organization. Retrieved from https://www.trainingindustry.com/workforce-development/articles/creating-a-learning-culture-for-the-improvement-of-your-organization.aspx

UNC Executive Development. (2016). 7 steps to creating a lasting learning culture. Retrieved from http://execdev.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/blog/7-steps-to-creating-a-lasting-learning-culture