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Published on
February 20, 2024

How do we create the best conditions for well-being and success at work?

Society is moving faster and faster and business is following suit. Companies are growing faster and making faster decisions, at a pace that only seems to increase. This places high demands on today's workers. However, there are tools we as individuals can use to improve our ability to thrive and succeed at work in this fast-moving environment.
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Ellen Hållinggård
People Partner
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Some thoughts from Ellen, consultant at Peops Relations:  

When I started working as a consultant in People Operations, I quickly realized that I needed to get better at giving myself the best conditions to succeed at work. The pace was high, the tasks new and in a variety of different contexts. It’s an incredibly exciting and rewarding job where you rarely know what the next week will bring.

However, as a person who likes to be 'on top of things', I was facing a challenge in a fast-paced, context-switching world. The feeling of not being in control of my work situation and that the tasks chose me instead of me choosing them, stressed me out. Surely there are more people who recognize this, and we all know that stress is harmful to us in the long run. Prolonged stress is not only a threat to our well-being and productivity at work, but we also risk negative health consequences such as poorer learning ability, poorer memory and a weakened immune system.

To avoid this, I started testing different ways of organising my work, and a year later I am still testing. Based on how we function as humans, what we need and what actually works, four key elements can be summarized in a model we call the PEPP model (Prioritize, Engage, Plan and Pause).

What is the PEPP model?  

The PEPP model is a summary of what research says about focus and health at work. It focuses on prioritization, planning, engagement, and physical health. It follows a number of studies that point to the importance of minimizing context switching and moving around at work, and its relationship with job performance.

Prioritize: A prioritization exercise that has helped me is to ask the question: What is ONE task that I need to get done today? At the end of this day (or week), what is it that I will be most satisfied with having accomplished? Based on that, I plan and allocate my resources. That way, at the end of the day or week, I can still feel satisfied even if the "to do list" never ends.

Engage: What gets me engaged? What is important for me to feel good and succeed at work? How often do you ask yourself this question? It's not enough to reflect on it at the annual appraisal. We ourselves need to proactively work on our engagement to understand what is important to us and actively create the conditions we need. I have tried to set aside 15 minutes every Friday to reflect on my week (what has worked well and what can work even better next week). This has helped me to understand myself better and what I need to succeed even better next week.

Plan: Box tasks in the calendar and make a plan for the week. Identify any critical days and make sure there is time for breaks. Think about when maximum focus will be required and what will give and take energy during the week. When planning, start from the previous points: what is my focus and what do I need to succeed?

Right now I'm trying a meeting-free day from home during the week to get a day where I can work undisturbed on tasks that require maximum focus - it works great for me and the tasks that require extra attention.

Pause: and get moving! Regular exercise breaks are essential to take care of your body and stay focused. I notice it clearly on the days I'm slacking off, my body is stiff and I'm more tired. On days when I work from home and know that I won't naturally walk as much, I make sure to get out for a walk during the day. During long meetings, I am the one who stands up and does yoga movements.    

For movement breaks, an exercise that works for me is to set a timer for 25 minutes and regardless of what I'm doing at the moment the timer goes off, I get up and stretch my legs. This is not only an effective method to get movement, but also to stay focused on a task.

 

We do not believe that there is a way of working that works for everyone, instead you have to try things out. Some things are fun to try for a certain amount of time, other things do not work at all. Sometimes you don’t have the energy or time to or simply forget to prioritize yourself. And that's okay. As long as we bounce back and continue with sustainable habits. Working life is long and it is our firm belief that the workplace should be a place where health and well-being are prioritized. When we feel good, we perform well. Think PEPP!  

 

 

Sources:

How Much Time and Energy Do We Waste Toggling Between Applications? (hbr.org)  

The Biggest Culprit Behind Your Lagging Productivity: You (forbes.com)  

To Improve Your Work Performance, Get Some Exercise (hbr.org)

It is well known that Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast, but if we elaborate; what does it eat for lunch and dinner?

In the last post, I discussed how culture eats strategy for breakfast, which is almost a well-accepted mantra in the business world. If I elaborate on that train of thought, then I believe we can almost certainly say that culture eats processes for lunch and dinner. Not only because processes are the consequence of a strategy, but also because we even look at the theoretic idea of a process versus the practical application of a process.


A strategy is an overarching plan for an organization on how to achieve its business goals. From the strategy, we derive tactical and operational plans and create processes to ensure that we achieve the goals of those plans as efficiently as possible.  


When we look at the general idea of a workplace, we see that the overarching framework for a lot of workplaces is very similar. People travel to an assigned geographical location, have a time that they start and finish, have colleagues they work together with, and collectively they work towards an objective. Apart from that, professions differ in a lot of different ways. A police officer has a distinctively different set of tasks and responsibilities than a receptionist or software developer. Still, they have a lot in common too. One major thing that most jobs have in common is that they must deal with a lot of ambiguity. Whether you ask a police officer, receptionist, or software developer what they do on a daily basis, a lot of the answers boil down to a variant of “every day brings new unforeseen challenges”. It is hard to describe daily activities as they can vary immensely. No day is the same. Still, each one of those people knows what is expected of them in various situations. They know how to behave, even when the situation is new to them.  


Structures & Processes


One way of dealing with this problem is to build processes that give people guidelines on how to act in different situations. These processes are good to show other organisations on how you intend to run your businesses. A prime example of this is ISO certifications. Huge amounts of documentation on how an organisation has set up its processes to be able to guarantee a certain level of standardization and quality. But even the detailed documentation of ISO certifications leaves room for interpretations and ambiguity and requires employees to be adaptive and creative. Do not get me wrong; ISO certification can be critical for organizations to improve both the quality and efficiency of their work. I merely argue that it is not the ultimate tool for guiding your employees in their everyday work. These are often sophisticated texts and process flows to guide individuals on how to deal with complex issues, hidden in manuals or quality support systems. Only a small proportion of people have read these manuals and to make matters worse the theory always slightly differs from reality. This means that we need to give our people more guidelines on how to act, even with ambiguity and ever-changing situations.


Culture to the rescue


This is where culture comes in. I have already extensively talked about how decision-making, culture, and empowerment are correlated here. But besides taking decisions, we also behave in a certain way as people. Our behaviours are shaped by motivations, that which drives us individually, and by what is acceptable in a group, that which drives us collectively. As I am not a psychologist, I will not speculate too much here on how individual motivations are shaped, but as an HR specialist, I can tell you that group behaviours form and are shaped by company culture. In other words, as a company we cannot determine the motivations of an individual person, however, we can influence the overarching culture of our organisation. The culture that we create will in turn influence group behaviours, which in turn will influence individual behaviours and decisions.  


By creating the right culture, we can create the right group behaviours which will provide guidelines for individuals on how to behave and make decisions. This is the set of guidelines that help people make consistent decisions despite ambiguity and ever-changing situations. A good example of this is the cultural value of Facebook “Move fast and break things”, which got adopted by a lot of small fast-growing companies. Why? Simple: these companies often lack the structure to properly guide their employees through their decision-making process. A company value like that shows your employees that they should not be afraid and wait too long with making decisions. They are rather encouraged to rely on their own strengths and “Move fast and break things” instead of “Going slow and steady”.  


Although I am not arguing that this is a good cultural value (Facebook had to roll back its original bold value), it is a clear guideline and message to people on how to act in unclear situations that demand adaptability and creativity. That is something that processes can never give your employees. Processes can only help you with the predictable, but culture can help you with the unpredictable – and remember it is the case for most jobs that “every day brings new unforeseen situations”.  

Line Thomson
January 11, 2023
How will Artificial Intelligence impact Human Resources?

AI is a broad term of all forms of demonstrated intelligence by machines. It encapsulates everything from simple customer-service queries to sophisticated deep learning networks. It has been around since the 1940’s and has become a real hype in the last ten to twenty years. The problem with AI is, is that it is something like the internet in the 1980’s: everybody is talking about it, little people actually know what they are talking about, and even less people are getting business value out of it. Today we find AI in: self-driving cars, chat-bots answering questions, email spam filters and more. In this blog I will try and make an attempt to belong to the second category and show you where AI stands right now in HR and where I believe it will go to.  

Firstly, let’s start off with a quick note for sceptics towards AI and their idea that robots will take over the world, as Hollywood shows us in movies like ‘I, Robot’, ‘Terminator’, and ‘The Matrix’. Experts themselves have no idea when we can achieve Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), as in the movie robots, and are guessing somewhere near the end of this century or even after that. Furthermore, they argue that it is simply impossible for us to create beings which think like us because of one simple reason: we know very little our own brain. In other words; we almost know nothing about our brains, let alone reproducing them. Now that’s out of the way, let’s see where we are today in HR.  

Where we are today

Today AI is being used within HR on a limited scale, let’s start of by looking at recruitment. There are already algorithms who help recruiters source the right candidates and there are also applications which can scan resumes and search for certain key words and sentences indicating that he or she has the right profile. Another feature of AI which is currently being used is in the first stages of contact with a candidate. You can think of automated messaging, scheduling interviews, providing ongoing feedback about the recruitment process and answering their questions in a chat function. The main idea behind these simple tasks is to reduce bias and save recruiters time which they can spend on more important tasks, such as: assessing cultural fit, holding technical interviews and finding qualified referrals.  

AI is also being used within HR as a chatbot for general HR-related inquiries (such as Una from Unilever). These bots function as first-line HR support for all your employees. Another interesting development is the use of VR (Virtual Reality) within HR. It is being used to simulate real-life scenarios and test, measure and improve behaviour. VR is and will be an integral part of training for real-life situations and how your employees will handle them. The idea behind these developments is to, yet again, relieve your HR employees from simple tasks, assignments, and recorded training sessions and let them focus on the harder tasks, such as talent development and culture building.

Finally, there are also early signs of applications which analyse the data and computer activity of employees to predict who is thinking about leaving the company and when. The idea behind it is that with big data analysis you can see which digital office behaviour indicates that somebody is thinking about quitting the company. This will allow your HR employees to take up contact with the individual to see if there is anything that can be done to change the individuals mind or if you need to think about a mutual agreement on ending the employment and start looking for a replacement. In this sense it is important because these early signs can let you be ahead of the curve so you can have a smooth transition from one employee leaving and a new one taking his or her place.  

Want to find more on where AI stands in HR today? Have a look at this article from the HR Exchange Network.  

Where we will go in the future

In the short term the abovementioned methods will become more sophisticated. So automated sourcing, resume scanning, messaging, chatbots, VR training and employee data analysis will be able to direct you towards more specific answers. We all know the frustration of a chatbot which just keeps you sending to the same general page on the topic from the FAQ, while the info you really need is somewhere else. Just as anything in real life, that on its own will take time. The AI will need time learning from the input that we give it.  

More interestingly, I believe that AI will also have a place in face-to-face contact with the first interviews. I think that companies like Future Robotics will also introduce their life-like customer service robots in the realm of HR. This can be via a digital setup or even in person. The robot will deal with the basic questions which get asked in a first interview. Algorithms will then analyse the answers given to see which candidate made the best first impression. Additionally, I also think that VR sessions can be used to test candidates on their capabilities into handling different situations. The upside here is that it takes out all personal bias from a recruiter’s perspective towards the candidate.  

Another thing that AI will bring HR is new jobs. Up until now I have only described AI as a possibility of downsizing activities and how it might replace jobs in the future. On the other hand, it opens up opportunities for HR to be a real tool to increase the productivity of your company. The future of HR will be more focussed towards behaviour, culture, ethics and values and how these can be pointed in the direction which makes sense for your business. Those areas of focus are, not unimportantly, also the main reasons of motivation on how you motivate somebody to JOIN and STAY in your company, so therefore it should be the main focus of your HR department.  

Want to find out more about present and upcoming trends of AI in HR? Have a look at this article from Forbes.  

In conclusion

For now, I am not ready to board the hype train about scientific robots who think and act like humans. I do think however that AI will clear up routine tasks for us which will leave us in HR time to deal with more important issues, such as creating the right culture, stimulating and describing right behaviour and increasing productivity. Do you not want to wait ten to twenty years until AI clears up your HR department’s time for these issues? Contact us and see how we can help you to develop the right culture, motivate right behaviour and increase productivity.

Line Thomson
December 8, 2022
Tips and tricks on how you can create a good candidate experience

In this blog I have talked about the importance of a good candidate experience and that currently most companies are not getting it quite right. This is especially important to note as each candidate can either preach for or badmouth your brand. Therefore, it is paramount to improve the candidate experience and create future ambassadors for your brand.

In this blog I will give you some solutions towards how to improve your candidate experience and fix possible problems; to find or attract the right people and to give them the best experience of your brand.

Fixing the basics

So how do you improve your candidate experience, avoid candidate backlash and become a better employer overall? Well first, let’s look at the basics and start off with the recruitment profile. The recruitment profile is, in modern day companies, maybe one of the most recycled documents. Not only in terms of layout, but often also in terms of text. Now this in and of itself does not have to be a bad thing, but try and be specific in what you are looking for and avoid general qualities that we expect all functioning human beings to have. Remember, the recruitment profile is not only important to find the right person, but it is also a profile on which you should base your communication (more on that later).

In your recruitment profile you should be brutally honest in what you need and very specific in what you are looking for, so don’t beat around the bush. Only then can you find the right candidate and can the right candidate find you. Furthermore, this has the advantage that you can always open up your scope later on if you cannot find the right candidate initially (trust us, this is better than a general profile which attracts 50+ candidates daily).

Another point here is that you might realize that you need something different than the candidates you have seen to fit the profile so far. Then don’t be afraid to change it and keep the profile as a base for the recruitment.  

Last but not least, if you want to attract new talent, then let others review the profile as well. Their insights and criticism might be crucial for something new and revolutionary. This is especially true if you need to replace a leaving employee with a new hire. In that case, you might not want more of the same, but something new and transforming.

Communication

Secondly, let’s talk communication. Marriage counsellors, salespeople, my mom and dad, almost everybody believes that the key to a good relationship is clear communication. Communication within recruitment often comes in three forms:

  1. Digital communication (emails)
  2. Telephone and video calls
  3. Interviews and in-person meetings

Therein there are two things very important: speed and clarity. As this blog shows, most candidates believe that their experience would have been better if the communication (from the employer) would have been better. This includes responding and giving updates when there is nothing to give an update on, for example; when you are waiting for feedback. Try to keep the candidate up to date with the knowledge you have up until that point even if that is barely more than you have informed them last time.

One way of doing so could be automatically triggered messages which get send to the candidate once something happens to the status of his or her application. The reason is simple; the candidate feels involved and heard. They feel that they are a part of the relationship and the process. So be fast and be clear. That is what candidates are longing for.

How you design you communication is dependent on three factors:

  1. the recruitment profile (you might address a VP of engineering differently than an intern)
  2. the form of communication (emails, phone calls or face-to-face meetings)
  3. how far the candidate is in the process (you can reject somebody in the beginning stages with an email, in final stages nothing less than a phone call is acceptable)

When in contact with candidates always show apathy and understanding for your situation. Every candidate has spent at least three to four hours on his or her application and they are very invested in your company. So, try to place yourself into their situation and treat them with care and hospitality. Understand that you are not only dealing with them, but also with their private life, preferences, values, their entire situation. It could be that a candidate had a rough day and is therefore easily frustrated, so be prepared to show understanding on a professional level. Try to connect as well besides just the job role and to create a bond with the candidate. Small things could be the weather, holidays or other events of that sort. Try to avoid religion, politics and social issues as you never know what their stance or background is on that. In that sense you have to stay professional and without bias.

This shows already that it is very hard to fit a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution and that is where we want to get at. This is not going to be an easy and simple fix, but there are solutions, which brings us to our third point: personalized standardization.

Personalized standardization

In the world of messaging there are mainly two ways of sending messages, either personalized or standardized. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Personalized messaging will create a better bond but it takes time and standardized messaging is easier to execute on mass, but it makes for a less strong bond. Therefore, I would argue to take best from both worlds.

Some (parts of) messages always remain the same “Thank you for your application”, “We look forward hearing from you”, “We are reaching out to you because of your experience at XYZ” etcetera. So, feel free to use standardized messaging, but always use a small personal twist in them so the candidate feels that you are trying to establish a better bond with them and that you are not simply copying and pasting every message to each candidate. This can be small talk about their application, something specific they wrote in their letter or CV, or something completely unrelated, just remember: it needs to be easily accessible for the candidate and politically correct. Holidays are a personal favourite of mine but try and figure out what works for you.

If you find something that works, stick with it, even if it becomes repetitive for you, because what is repetitive for you is not repetitive for each new candidate you get in touch with.

Higher integration and prioritization of recruitment

For most hiring managers recruitment is a necessary means to an end. They need somebody for their team and therefore they need to go through (the mostly unwanted) process of recruiting. That attitude needs to change.

Recruitment needs to be an ongoing part of the work of a hiring manager, even if there is no urgent position to be filled right now. At Google every employee is bound to spend 20% of his or her time on hiring (read more about what we can learn from Google here) and so should your hiring managers. Only that way you can find the talent you need. Weekly recruitment meetings need to be established wherein vacancies, candidates and feedback are discussed.

Direct feedback processes need to be created wherein the feedback does not go via a recruiter but comes from the hiring manager or reviewing expert themselves. This requires some training and practice, but yields better satisfaction as the candidate is directly getting feedback from the experts and able to ask them questions directly. This takes time of your HR employee’s hands which they then can use for sourcing better candidates and to look after their needs.

Involving the team will also create a better understanding for the struggles which accompany recruitment and makes the team also more understanding if some recruitments take longer than expected. This integration and prioritization of recruitment in your organization will ultimately affect the speed by which you communicate with your candidates, and that is ultimately the best thing one can improve according to candidates themselves.

In conclusion

Candidate experience is hard to improve, but necessary. It is an important aspect of your employer branding and requires careful planning and altering. The main points you should be focussing on are:

  1. setting up a precise recruitment profile;
  2. clear and fast communication;
  3. personalized standardized messaging, and;
  4. a higher integration and prioritization of recruitment.

If you need help with any of these aspects or if you need us to take off the entire process off your hands? Get in touch with us and see what we can do for you!

Line Thomson
July 30, 2022

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