As we close out 2022, a year where we’ve adjusted to hybrid workplaces as the new norm, tried to understand quiet quitting, navigated ongoing inflation and economic uncertainty, and faced increasing demands for compensation and employee engagement, it’s time to look ahead to see what the next year will hold for organizations and HR teams.

1. HR will have to bridge the divide. 

Companies are going to over-index on performance — and risk damaging the employee experience.

We are still dealing with a global pandemic, and on top of that, we now also have inflation and economic uncertainty to contend with. As businesses look for ways to cut costs and increase productivity, organizations have tried various tactics to get more out of their current workforce, including requiring employees to return to the office at least a few days a week or using surveillance software to track employees.

Increasing productivity is easier said than done. Gallup found that highly engaged teams are 18% more productive and 23% more profitable than low engagement teams. However, only 21% of employees are engaged at work globally, with workers in the US and Canada slightly higher at 33%, meaning the majority of employees worldwide are disengaged. Low engagement teams have 18% to 43% higher turnover rates than highly engaged teams, which is costly to the bottom line.

Disengaged employees are leaving companies, but the reasons why they’re leaving and the reasons that executives believe they’re leaving are mismatched. Executives attribute attrition to transactional elements — compensation, poor health, and employees looking for a better job. Meanwhile, employees have reevaluated what they want in a job in the last few years, and it now takes more than money to retain top talent. A Lattice survey of 2,000 US and European employees showed that younger workers are looking for a place to belong. Work flexibility has also risen in importance: Recent Lattice research showed that 59% of Gen Z and millennial employees would consider walking out of a job over a company’s remote work policy. Plus, in light of layoffs and cost-cutting efforts, employees are being asked to do more with less, which is a surefire recipe for burnout.

HR teams have the difficult job of finding the middle ground, working with executives to set realistic goals for the organization while also trying to increase employee engagement and retention in order to achieve those goals. HR teams can create or revisit their employee value proposition (EVP), which is the promise the organization makes to employees and candidates that incorporates company values, compensation strategy, learning and development opportunities, and more. Employees are looking at their work experience in its entirety and are looking for businesses that align with their values. By emphasizing deeper connections, personal growth, flexibility, well-being, and a shared purpose, employers can shift their EVP to be more human-centric to show employees that they are valued as people, not just line items on a spreadsheet.

Your employee experience doesn’t have to be at odds with your business performance. Check out How to Use Performance Management to Inspire Employee Growth to learn how.

2. Your managers are not okay.

Manager engagement and retention will be a mission-critical priority for HR and business leaders this year. 

It’s clear that employees at all levels have faced challenges these past years, and that is certainly the case for managers, who sit in the wide middle area between C-Suite executives and employees and have to balance the priorities of both. Good managers have a specific set of skills and are more than just advanced individual contributors. They lead, manage, and develop their teams and reports. The past few years of the pandemic and shift to hybrid work have made managerial responsibilities multiply and grow in unexpected ways — not only do they have to champion their employees but they’ve also had to help employees navigate an unsettling economy and potential job insecurity, and managers are reaching a breaking point.

With engagement and retention more important than ever, the brunt of this responsibility falls on the shoulders of managers. Gallup data shows that team engagement depends heavily on the manager, who can account for a 70% difference in engagement rates. Employees want purpose in their jobs, but the “who” that can drive employee engagement is a caring manager. A GoodHire survey of 3,000 American workers showed that bad managers not only impact engagement, but also retention, and 82% of workers would potentially quit their job because of a bad manager. One of the top reasons employees leave their jobs is because they don’t feel valued by their manager.

But managers are also struggling with engagement. According to Gallup’s State of the American Manager Report, 35% of US managers are engaged, and 14% are actively disengaged. With these rates, it’s no wonder that employee engagement rates are also low, as employees who work for engaged employees are 59% more likely to be engaged themselves. And it’s not just that managers are disengaged; they’re also burned out and leaving their jobs. Lattice research also found that middle managers (defined as managers who oversee teams of managers) were the most likely cohort of employees to be actively looking for new work (70% in the UK and 50% in the US). 

Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index showed that managers felt like they were stuck between managing executive and employee expectations, which often aren’t aligned. Over half of managers surveyed felt that their organization’s leadership was out of touch with employees. But managers felt powerless to create change, with 74% of surveyed managers saying they lacked the resources and influence to make changes for their team.

The role of the manager as a team motivator is more critical than ever, but managers are facing an extraordinary amount of pressure to have their teams deliver while trying to balance heavy workloads, manage people, engage employees, and maintain everyone’s well-being. Most managers do not have the resources or bandwidth to combat burnout when they’re facing it themselves. 

Companies need to find ways to support their managers, as they are a crucial part of improving engagement and company culture. That means including managers in the employee experience to get a full picture of how employees are doing, and implementing the right systems and processes to enable managers to succeed. Managers are less likely to know what’s expected of them than the people they manage, and over 40% of managers surveyed say they have competing priorities, so setting clear priorities and expectations can help managers focus on the most impactful business goals instead of trying to do it all. Organizations should provide career development opportunities to help their managers grow, as well as performance management resources (best practices in giving and receiving feedback, conducting one-on-ones, etc.) to help their teams succeed. And there should be a focus on well-being initiatives or programs to help managers combat burnout for themselves and their teams. 

Lattice’s 2023 State of People Strategy (SOPS) showed that manager training was the second highest priority for HR leaders in 2022, behind employee engagement. Investing in managers helps invest in the teams they oversee. Bad managers negatively impact engagement and retention and are therefore costly, but good managers give employees a reason to stay and perform to their best ability.

See what HR professionals around the globe had to say about this year’s priorities, successes, and challenges in The 2023 State of People Strategy Report.

3. Pay transparency is coming, and it’s going to be a mess.

Creating a compensation philosophy is only half the equation; employees want to know where they stand.

California recently passed a pay transparency law requiring all companies with more than 15 employees to list salary ranges for jobs. California joins the growing number of states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, and Washington, that have passed similar legislation requiring employers to disclose pay. The laws vary from state to state, which may be difficult for job seekers to navigate. Still, pay transparency has benefits, such as helping to counter the gender pay gap, the difference in salary between men and women in the US. Research from 2022 shows women earn $0.82 for every $1 men earn, and the gap is even wider for women of color.

Pay transparency is also in line with what employees want from employers. A Lattice survey on compensation found that 67% of US employees agreed their company should have transparency around pay policies, and over half of respondents think companies should disclose how much everyone is paid.

Companies, on the other hand, are still catching up. Lattice’s 2023 State of People Strategy found that pay transparency within organizations is still low, and even lower at smaller companies.

  • 54% of HR leaders said only HR and finance know pay bands.
  • 25% of employees know the salary band for their job level, but only 9% know the pay band for the next level up.

With 59% of companies investing in pay transparency, and 21% investing considerable effort in it, companies are making some progress. Pay transparency helps employees have trust in pay equity across the organization and can also increase engagement and retention. For example, if employees see a comparable job listing with a salary that is much higher than theirs, that information may help them negotiate during the next round of performance and compensation cycles. It can also save time during the recruitment process by weeding out candidates who are looking for a role that pays differently.

Compensation transparency can’t happen without proper planning and strategy. Businesses need to be clear on what they are going to disclose and how. To achieve that, People teams need to develop a compensation philosophy that provides clear guidelines, ties back to company values, and explains how salaries, raises, and bonuses are structured. Creating the compensation philosophy is only half the equation; organizations then need to develop a communication plan so all employees know where they stand and what the potential opportunities are for movement within the company.

Keep in mind that compensation goes beyond salary, and a compensation philosophy should factor in a total rewards package, which can include benefits, health and wellness programs, learning and development, and paid time off. These additional items may not show up directly on a paycheck but can still positively impact the employee experience. 

One way to add structure to your compensation strategy is to use a compensation tool, which can help HR teams securely share data, collaborate across teams, and implement updates as needed.

Fair compensation can improve retention, employee motivation, and overall business performance. Download How to Reward Top Talent With Pay-for-Performance to learn more.

4. We’re returning to fundamental workforce strategies.

The world of work is moving on from gimmicks like quiet quitting, productivity paranoia, or the hybrid push/pull.

Changes in work norms have led to rebranding of old trends with new terms in an effort to describe the shifts in employee expectations. For example, “quiet quitting” is simply a new term for employee disengagement, and “productivity paranoia” is when leaders are worried their teams aren’t working hard enough with hybrid work models, despite 87% of employees reporting they are productive. And even employees recognize that these are just new names for old stories: Recent Lattice research found that 45% of employees reported that they were not very familiar, or not familiar at all, with the phrase quiet quitting — and yet 36% of those same employees self-reported having “quietly quit” in the last year when it was defined as disengaging from their work. 

Neither of these trends began during the pandemic, but coining phrases for them highlighted the fact that engagement and productivity have always been organizational priorities, and HR teams have been at the forefront of navigating this new world of work. According to Lattice’s 2023 State of People Strategy, HR leaders expect some, if not all, of their workforce to be remote, and have prioritized employee engagement; manager training; learning and development; diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) programs; and performance management over talent acquisition.

As employee expectations change and organizations adapt to meet them, we’ll see a shift from The Great Resignation to The Great Recognition. Organizations will recognize that the best employees are engaged employees and that listening to workers’ feedback is not only good for employee growth, but for company growth as well.

5. “Hybrid work” is just “work” now.

Employees who have embraced it will increasingly shape where the new workforce is headed. 

For better or worse, a majority of workers have gotten used to remote work and all that it offers: no commute, comfortable work clothes, and more flexible schedules. According to behavioral economics, people avoid loss more than they seek gain, and thus they are not likely to want to give up remote or hybrid work, no matter what the additional in-office perks are. In fact, six in 10 fully remote employees and three in 10 hybrid employees said they are “extremely likely to change companies” if remote flexibility is not an option. Even though a company’s percentage of remote workers varies significantly by industry and organization size (for example, professional services and tech companies will have more remote employees than manufacturing companies), for most employees and employers, hybrid work is not an option anymore, but rather a requirement. 

Some of the early concerns with remote work were about how managers and employees needed facetime together for productivity and engagement. However, managers have become comfortable managing their teams remotely, with 45% saying they have enough facetime to effectively manage most employees and situations. Even the 26% of respondents who would prefer more facetime feel they have enough of it to handle major issues. This is consistent across companies whether they are 10% or 90% remote. HR professionals who feel there should be more facetime cited engagement and culture as their top concerns, with productivity ranking second to last.

Employees have realized that they don’t need to go to a physical office to do work and that they want increased flexibility so work can fit into their lives instead of the other way around. Smaller companies can shift to hybrid and remote work models more easily, and traditional businesses will have to follow suit to retain talent. Gen Z not only places greater importance on purpose at work, but will also be the first generation that has not been required to be in the office five days a week. Gen Z’s percentage of the total workforce will only grow over time, and as a result, as an increasing number of hybrid or remote employees move into leadership and manager roles, hybrid strategies will improve and solidify in the long term.

A shift in employee values and demographics, new and hybrid spaces where we physically do work, and an ongoing struggle to maintain employee engagement despite internal and economic pressures have all upended traditional organizational playbooks. HR teams play an increasingly important role in balancing priorities at all levels of the organization, evolving company culture to meet dynamic needs, and driving employee and business success.

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As companies begin to emerge from the uncertainty that characterized much of the COVID-19 pandemic, firms across the country are starting to reckon with a radically transformed workplace. Human Resource departments that found themselves scrambling to oversee a rapid transformation of many workplaces from fully in-person to fully virtual (with all of the technical, IT, and logistical challenges that required) have been working hard ever since, as it has become clear to many companies that the old way of doing in-person work has been permanently altered.

But the growing consensus that hybrid workplaces are here to stay has galvanized change in another area of Human Resources: compensation and employee total rewards. As both current employees and prospective candidates are taking a hard look at what employers offer, firms that want to stay ahead in the most competitive job market in years are reevaluating which benefits and perks attract and keep top employees — and which ones have lost their luster.

Below, we take a closer look at what’s out, what’s in, and what’s still under review when it comes to the perks and benefits that really matter to workers today.

What’s Out

It comes as no surprise that the benefits flagged as being irrelevant are the ones most directly tied to onsite work and office spaces themselves. “In a hybrid or remote environment, benefits like a weekly catered lunch in the office aren’t going to be as attractive as [they were] in an all in-person environment,” said Sara Bandurian, Operations Coordinator for New Orleans-based digital marketing firm Online Optimism. “While we still have plenty of employees [who] come into the office to enjoy free lunch on Fridays, there are some for whom the benefit is inconsequential.”

Add that to the list of what’s out, along with reimbursements for commuting costs or parking, onsite gyms, free office snacks or game rooms (sorry, startups), and anything else that directly ties a reward to the work location itself.

“Any [benefits] aimed at commuters or in-office perks can be a problem for hybrid workplaces because they can only be claimed by a portion of the workforce, and this could lead to resentment or disparities in engagement between remote and in-office workers,” cautioned Matt Erhard, Managing Partner of Canada-based recruiting firm Summit Search Group.

What’s In

Conversely, while the improvements and benefits tied to office work no longer move the needle, benefits that help remote employees create workspaces of their own have strong appeal for workers who need a home office some or all of the time.

“Companies need to ensure that the employee has the right equipment to work from home [and]/or in the office comfortably,” said Paola Accettola, Principal and CEO of HR services firm True North HR. “This means supplying them with a high-quality laptop, a monitor, keyboard, mouse, headset, ergonomic chairs, desks, [and any other necessary office equipment].”

Other benefits that mimic, but don’t outright copy, more traditional onsite benefits can have appeal, too, experts said. Dan Bladen, CEO and founder of scheduling software firm Kadence, cited events that bolster team-building, like online team wine tastings or monthly get-togethers, or even “allowing employees to expense their [home] cleaners or regularly get food delivered on behalf of the company” as benefits that can get people’s attention. 

Also a top perk: support for physical and mental health, and benefits that prioritize overall employee well-being. Robust health insurance options continue to be attractive, experts said, but coverage for wellness programs and mental healthcare like therapy and out-patient treatment, is something candidates are looking for, too.

“We’re witnessing a shift in what benefits employees value in the workplace, and this shift comes as a result of innumerable quality-of-life decreases caused by the pandemic,” said Tina Hawk, SVP of Human Resources at GoodHire, an employment background check platform.

But what many experts agreed was essential to employee engagement and recruiting for a hybrid work environment was building into the company culture the flexibility and workday control workers said the past year has opened up for them. Offering remote options and flexibility are beyond benefits, at this point, some argued — they’re dealbreakers. Matthew McSpadden, cofounder of IT recruiting firm Weld Recruiting, said a recent job his team looked to fill was asking for one to two days in the office — but 11 of the 16 top candidates said they wouldn’t consider the job if it wasn’t full-time remote.

Letting employees pick when and how they work has incredibly broad appeal and can help mitigate burnout, experts said. It’s attractive to parents needing childcare, anyone doing caregiving of any kind, and employees trying to strike a better work-life balance in general. 

“One could argue that flexibility is no longer simply a job perk, but rather an expectation that the majority of workers now have,” Hawk said.

What’s Under Review (It May Surprise You)

Of course, some elements aren’t so cut and dried. In fact, the jury is still out on how newly remote workers regard two of most companies’ capstone benefits: paid time off (PTO) and monetary compensation.

Paid time off — and specifically, unlimited paid time off — is a benefit on which experts were divided. Some experts said that schedule flexibility and freedom to take time off for not just vacation but mental health days, appointments, caregiving, or any other reason were table stakes for employers. But Accettola said that in her experience, workers and candidates are suspicious of “unlimited” PTO, seeing it as a bait-and-switch. “Many employees, especially younger [ones], are more hesitant to fully take advantage of the unlimited PTO policy because of the high workload and limited staff,” she said.

Meanwhile, some experts say a permanent change to the employee experience that makes more time off the norm could drive retention. “I believe the majority of companies will shift to a four-day workweek in the next 5-10 years,” said Trevor Larson, CEO of employee recognition software firm Nectar HR. “Not only will this help them attract the best talent, it also allows people to unplug more so they don’t burn out and can be more creative.”

Even compensation, and the role it has in driving employee satisfaction in the new normal, is subject to debate. To some observers, the devastating toll the pandemic took on the financial health of some workers and families, coupled with rising costs, means that money talks — and competitive compensation in the form of salary and bonuses is the difference-maker.

“Financial incentives are the most crucial part of any rewards system, particularly after such a rough couple of years,” said Zoë Morris, President of Salesforce recruitment firm Mason Frank. “You can put as much emphasis as you like on mental health days, but if you’re not paying your staff properly, their standard of living will significantly slip and they will struggle.”

On the other hand, said Hawk, companies that are offering top dollar but haven’t evolved their pre-pandemic company culture to account for a changed workforce are in for a rude awakening — employees have the power now, and they’re using it to demand a change from the old way of doing things.

“Benefits that used to make an impact, such as a higher salary, paid time off, and other monetary incentives, simply don’t engage the workforce of today like they used to,” Hawk said. “After all, if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we’re not promised tomorrow.”

Benefits packages and total employee rewards have always been a critical way to ensure your company is an attractive place to be for the candidates you want to find and retain — and that’s as true with a hybrid workplace as it always has been, experts said. What’s changed for the future of work, they said, is what workers value, and how empowered they feel to ask for it.

“Workers need to feel fulfilled in the present to see value in the work that they do — it comes as no surprise that the benefits taking precedence are remote work and flexibility,” Hawk said. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to crafting an employee total rewards package that best fits your firm, experts agreed that recognizing the shift — and reacting — will be essential.

The bottom line: ”Smart companies will embrace, and cater to, these preferences,” McSpadden said.

As a leader, you want your team to succeed. But in order for that to happen, success needs to be more than just a vague, undefined idea. To be successful, your employees — and you — need to know exactly what success means and how it’s defined. You can accomplish this by working closely with your employees to help them set professional development goals that support the success of the team, as well their own growth and development.

This is easier said than done. If you don’t know how to set professional development goals effectively, you may find yourself facing a variety of issues — including goals that are too vague, goals that don’t align with an employee’s desired career trajectory, or goals your employees aren’t excited to pursue — that can keep your employees and team from reaching their highest potential.

Below, we’ll take you through everything you need to know to set effective professional development goals with your team, including specific examples of goals for employees, so you can help your staff set the right goals — and set them up for long-term career success in the process.

What Are Professional Development Goals and Why Are They Important?

“Professional development goals are individual objectives for growth [that aim] to either improve one’s performance in a current role or advance one’s career,” explained Anne Jacoby, CEO of Spring Street, a consulting firm that focuses on culture, creativity, and organizational effectiveness.

Professional development goals are important because they “have the power to offer greater clarity, specificity, and alignment between employee and organizational values,” Jacoby continued.

That’s a win for the employee and the organization. “When a business encourages its employees to pursue professional development goals, generally both the individual and the company benefit,” said Michele Bailey, founder and CEO of brand and culture agency The Blazing Group, business speaker, and author of The Currency of Gratitude: Turning Small Gestures into Powerful Business Results.

“[This process] is great for employees because it ideally gets them focused on the skills and behaviors that will make them more successful and fulfilled,” said Jacoby. “The organization also benefits from [more highly skilled] employees who are motivated and ready to [achieve and exceed] organizational objectives.”

Professional development goals are also important because they help employees map out the trajectory of their careers. This can lead to a higher level of engagement — which, in turn, can lead to higher employee retention. “Highly engaged employees who can visualize a roadmap to professional success within the company are more likely to stay around,” noted Bailey.

Finally, prioritizing professional development is an effective way for organizations to show employees that they’re invested in their growth, which can positively impact teams in a variety of ways.

“A company that encourages and supports their employees in professional development is showcasing its commitment to its employees,” Bailey pointed out. “This commitment can have a great impact on morale, company culture, and productivity.”

Characteristics of Effective Professional Development Goals

Professional development goals are essential to success, both for employees and organizations. But in order for professional development goals to be effective — and for employees to follow through and hit those goals — they need to be crafted with intention and have certain characteristics.

“The most common and easily understood way of making sure goals are accomplished is to make them SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound,” said Bailey. “It’s important to follow this system because it gives individuals clarity, focus, and accountability for the goals they set.”

In addition to the SMART criteria, “a professional development goal should have meaning and feel motivating,” Jacoby said.

For example, say you have an employee who wants to become more tech savvy. Setting a vague, general goal like “Improve computer skills” isn’t going to give them the framework they need to achieve that goal. Instead, something like “Complete one software course in the next 90 days so I can better support my team during Q2’s product launch” would be more effective. Phrased this way, this goal hits all the markers for effectiveness:

  • It gives the employee specific details about what they need to do to achieve the goal.
  • It’s measurable (the employee either completes the course or they don’t).
  • It’s achievable (90 days is plenty of time to complete a course).
  • It’s relevant (gaining mastery over an applicable software program will help the employee perform better in their role).
  • It’s time-bound (the goal has a 90-day deadline).
  • There’s a purpose/meaning behind the goal (completing the course and improving their skills with the software will put the employee in a position to better support their team during an upcoming product launch).

5 Tips for Helping Your Team Set Professional Development Goals

Knowing what makes a professional development goal effective is one part of the equation. But you also need to understand the nuts and bolts of how to help your employees create professional development goals that make sense for them and their career goals and trajectory, and also work in the context of your team and the organization as a whole.

Here are a few tips to ensure that you — and your employees — get the most out of the professional development goal-setting process.

1. Help employees gain clarity on their goals.

Some employees will have a clear sense of what they want out of their professional development and what goals they need to set to get there. But others will require more input and guidance.

“Many people don’t even know where to start when it comes to development,” said Cabot Jaffee, PhD, CEO and President of hiring software company AlignMark. “The more the organization can do to provide assistance in formulating and creating [professional development goals]…the more likely the person will be to engage [with the process and achieve their goals]. ”

When you have an employee who isn’t clear on how they want to grow professionally or what goals they want to set, it’s your job to help them find the clarity they need. Do this by having an employee development conversation with them in your next one-on-one, or scheduling a separate meeting if necessary, where you ask them specific, guided questions to help them discover, articulate, and craft their goals.

“Ask employees to describe what being 10% more effective at their jobs might look and feel like. What skills or behaviors would they need to improve? If they’re working toward a promotion, what competencies would enable them to be successful in that new role?” advised Jacoby. “Build the vision together.”

2. Define the “why.”

When you’re setting professional development goals with your employees, you need to have a clear understanding of what they’re working toward. But if you want to help them set goals that they’ll be motivated to achieve, you have to think past the what and clearly define the why.

“Tie professional development goals back to the organizational purpose,” Jacoby advised. “Ask [them], ‘How might making these improvements accelerate the mission of the company as well as your personal mission?’”

Helping your employee define a strong “why” behind their professional development goals will keep them engaged and motivated through the process — and increase their chances of reaching these goals.

3. Make a plan.

Helping your employees set goals is important. But if you want them to actually achieve their professional development goals, you need to take things a step further and work with them to make a plan.

“A plan needs to be put in place that breaks down the steps and activities needed to accomplish the goal,” said Jaffee.

Your employee’s professional development goal outlines what they’re trying to accomplish, while their professional development plan outlines how, exactly, to get there. And the more specific you can be, the better.

“By writing down goals and specific activities [that will allow you to reach those goals], the plan is much more likely to be executed and completed successfully,” Jaffee said.

4. Break down large goals into smaller ones.

Yes, you want your employees to have big goals — but if a goal is too large or takes too long to achieve, you run the risk of your team member getting burned out before they reach the finish line.

“Rather than set annual — or even quarterly — goals, break down bigger goals into smaller, achievable micro-goals,” Jacoby recommended. “This creates discipline for tracking progress and measuring results. It also helps avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed.”

For instance, say your employee’s ultimate goal is to get a promotion and move into a management position. Depending on where they are in their career, this could take some time. But if you break down that larger goal into a set of smaller micro-goals, it will make your employee’s goal feel more achievable while also preparing them for their desired promotion.

Some examples of what micro-goals could look like in this situation might be: “Compile a list of 10 professional achievements and reasons why I should be promoted before our next one-on-one,” “Lead a team meeting before the end of the month,” and “Reach out to three managers within the organization before the end of the quarter to schedule coffee meetings or Zoom calls to discuss how they moved into management.” These smaller actions will help your employee incrementally move toward their big-picture goal in a consistent and manageable way, without being overwhelmed in the process.

Taking the micro-goal approach also provides employees with more frequent positive reinforcement. And every time they reach one of their smaller goals, it can give them the boost of motivation they need to keep moving forward. This, according to Jacoby, creates positive momentum — which can keep them on track for hitting their larger goal.

5. Be flexible — and adapt as necessary.

When you set a professional development goal with your employee, you want them to follow through and achieve it. But just because a goal makes sense for them today doesn’t mean it will make sense for them in the long run.

“Things change,” Jacoby noted. And if you want your employees to continue to grow professionally — and grow in a way that makes sense for the organization and their own careers and development — you need to be flexible and help them adapt their goals when necessary.

For example, at the onset of the COVID crisis, “it would have been demotivating for most people to stick to their original goals set in January 2020,” said Jacoby. “Instead, having the flexibility to adapt and modify goals to meet the current business circumstances gives us a much-needed reality check.” Taking all circumstances into consideration like this helps ensure that goals remain realistic and achievable, and in alignment with what’s happening within the organization and the world at large.

In order for a professional development goal to be effective, it also needs to be flexible. So when you’re setting professional development goals with your employees, make sure to review and revisit those goals frequently — and if a goal no longer makes sense for your team member, adjust and adapt it as necessary.

Examples of Effective Professional Development Goals

If you need a little inspiration to help your employees set effective professional development goals that meet all the criteria we’ve highlighted so far, here are a few examples to get you started — and why they work.

If you need a little inspiration to help your employees set effective professional development goals that meet all the criteria we’ve highlighted so far, here are a few examples to get you started — and why they work.

Goal: Read three articles on effective business communication before next month’s all-hands meeting. Then present my top three learnings during the meeting.

Why It Works:
This goal hits all the SMART criteria: It’s specific; measurable (if you read three articles, you accomplish the goal, but any less and you fall short); achievable (reading three articles is a lot easier and less time-consuming than, for example, reading an entire book); relevant (if the employee is expected to present at the all-hands meeting, reading those communication articles will not only give them content to present, it may also improve their delivery and presentation skills); and time-based (the goal needs to be completed during the all-hands meeting).

This is also an effective professional development goal because it has longer-term benefits outside of the immediate goal: While reading the three articles will help the employee with their presentation at the all-hands meeting, it will also help improve their business communication skills in
general, which will benefit their career in the long run.

Goal: Reach out to one person within the organization whose role interests me before the end of the week. Invite them for a coffee/phone call/Zoom meeting to discuss how they got to this point in their career.

Why It Works: Again, this goal ticks all the boxes for the SMART goal framework. But going a step further, it is especially effective for an employee who isn’t 100% certain about their career trajectory. By having the employee set a goal of connecting with someone within the organization who holds a role or job title they find interesting, they can gain more information and insight about that career path and determine whether it’s something they want to pursue. If it is, great! This gives them helpful information about what type of professional development goals they should set moving forward. And if it’s not, no problem — they can just repeat the goal with another person and job title until they find a person/role that sparks a real interest.

Goal: Take a professional writing course at the local college next semester. Before the course is over, ask my supervisor for at least two work-related writing assignments.

Why It Works: This goal not only fits within the SMART framework, but also has an added layer of motivation: While the core goal is to take the writing course, tying it back to the employee’s role can help keep them engaged with the coursework. And setting an additional goal to take on more writing-related assignments at work gives them a clear way to apply the skills they learn during their studies.

Prioritizing professional development goals, and helping your team members set them, can result in far-reaching benefits for both your employees and the organization. But in order for these goals to be effective and lead to individual and team success, this process has to be done with more thought and intention than just a rote, check-the-box exercise. These tips will help you avoid common pitfalls and collaborate with your staff to set professional development goals that help them reach their full potential — while contributing to the overall success of your company.

It’s a milestone that individuals and businesses have anticipated for months: the COVID-19 vaccine is finally (and gradually) being rolled out to millions worldwide.

But with daily infections still on the rise, the light at the end of the tunnel remains pretty dim. That hasn’t stopped People leaders from considering what to make of the vaccine’s arrival. Should HR teams require or softly encourage staff to get vaccinated? Is either approach even legal? If so, how do you decide who goes first?

“Lots of questions, not many answers yet,” admitted one senior HR leader.

Last month, we asked HR professionals in the Resources for Humans community to share how they’re thinking through vaccination for essential and non-essential workers. Below are some of the key themes. To join the conversation, sign up for the free Slack community here.

“Who should get it?”

While companies expecting to stay remote until the summer have time to weigh their options, the same can’t be said for those with essential staff. HR leaders from these businesses were already starting to think through prioritization.

Rita Wachtleer is an HR Generalist at Judge Baker Children’s Center, a non-profit that serves children by promoting their developmental and emotional well-being. Like many others in the RfH community, Wachtleer supports a mix of onsite and remote employees — and she understands that only a handful of them will even have access to the vaccine in the near-term.

“We have as many people at home as possible right now, including admin, finance, and other office workers. But of our many departments, one of them is a school,” Wachtleer said. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently announced that education employees would be next in line for the vaccine, behind hospital staff, senior facility employees, and those aged 75 and older.

“We’re focusing on ordering each department according to the vaccine distribution order. Right now, we’re focused on how to handle vaccine options for our teachers, facilities staff, and cafeteria workers,” she said. 

“Can we mandate it?”

Others in the community had reservations about whether a vaccine mandate was practical or worth the legal risk.

“Right now, we have no plans for the vaccine in the workplace…You as an employer can likely mandate the vaccine, but it would require a lot of administration,” said Adrienne Barnard, SVP of People Operations & Experience at AdmitHub. Citing all the other protective measures in place, she also doesn’t anticipate a mandate necessarily helping matters in the short-term, either. “I think we still have a good chunk of time before we are seeing the need to socially distance and wear masks declining,” she said.

Though the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance that companies could require vaccination, community members and HR compliance experts weren’t convinced. “You’d also have to allow for medical and religious exemptions, which is a lot of work to maintain compliance with,” she said. Determining what constitutes proof of vaccination isn’t straightforward, and asking for employee medical information the wrong way could run afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and health information privacy laws.

“Will employees take it?”

Some were grappling with possible resistance to the vaccine. One HR leader at an assisted living facility cited a survey that found less than a quarter of her industry’s workers planned to get vaccinated. Other community members considered distributing educational materials around availability and safety to put employees at ease.

Still, HR leaders encouraged peers to take an empathetic, not critical, approach to resistance. Attitudes toward the vaccine vary widely across demographics, and national polling shows that just 18% of Black and Latinx respondents believe the vaccine to be safe. History, one community leader explained, helps explain the disparity.

“I’d like to add an educational moment to recognize that most people aren’t aware of the Syphilis Study at Tuskegee,” said Morgan Williams, HR Manager at Casper. Conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service from 1932 to 1972, the study purposely withheld care from hundreds of Black sharecroppers to observe the long-term effects of syphilis. The study’s “volunteers,” told they were receiving treatment, were given placebos.

The federal government only issued a formal apology decades later. “The study is a large part of the reason there’s an aversion to vaccines within the Black community today,” Williams said.

“Should it be required before returning?”

Others noted that the matter of whether to mandate vaccines dovetails into broader questions about the future of onsite work. According to one HR leader, if your company doesn’t have a clear perspective on the latter, it can’t weigh in on the former.

“The bigger picture, in my opinion, is to clearly articulate our post-pandemic strategy around office work. If we aren’t filling our facilities, the demand may not be as high or urgent — so where do you draw the line for [mandating] vaccines?” said Laurel Ditson, Sr. Director of People Operations and Spectra Logic. Once you’ve identified your position on remote and hybrid work, you can explore more nuanced questions, like “Are you only mandating them for those who work full-time in the building? What about hybrid workers? What about our partners, such as financial auditors?” Ditson said.

After all, explaining your case to employees isn’t just a matter of pointing to the EEOC’s guidance and saying, “Because we can.” Once employees know your company’s return-to-work plans and timeline, they’ll be much more receptive to any potential vaccination request, should that be your company’s choice.

To learn how other HR professionals are adapting to the new world of work, join the Resources for Humans Slack community.

There’s no doubt about it: Asking for a raise can be intimidating and nerve-racking. It’s normal to worry that your boss will say no, or wonder if you deserve one and should even be asking. In fact, asking for a raise can be so anxiety-producing that people can be tempted to avoid doing it altogether. But the reality is that organizations are eager to keep top talent, and are willing to compensate their valued employees to make them want to stay.

Yet even those who believe that they are underpaid can be reluctant to request more money — a study found that 44% of respondents never bring up the subject of raises during their performance reviews. There are many reasons employees don’t ask for more money, including not wanting to be viewed as pushy in the workplace, according to research by PayScale. Additionally, a lack of confidence in negotiation skills or previous experience being denied when asking for a raise (leading to the expectation that this would happen again) could be standing in someone’s way. There’s probably no one single reason why people refrain from asking for a raise, but rather a complex mix of insecurities, fears, and past experiences.

But much like searching for a new job, interviewing, or giving presentations, requesting a salary bump is a skill, and one that becomes more approachable when you break it down into manageable pieces and practice. Here’s how to ask your boss for a raise — and get it.

1. Do your research. 

First, you’ll want to get a clear picture of the median salary range for your position in your geographic area. Start with online repositories of pay data, like the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’s online database, and use tools like PayScale’s Salary Calculator or Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth.

But don’t rely solely on online data and tools. Different organizations tend to have different titles and responsibilities for the same roles, which can muddy the data. Try talking to those in your network to supplement the information you find online.

Even though we’ve come a long way in normalizing conversations around pay, asking “How much do you make?” still makes many people uncomfortable. Instead, reach out to former colleagues, managers, or recruiters you’ve previously worked with and make the question hypothetical by asking, “What might you expect that someone in this position would make at your company?”

2. Be strategic about timing.

Performance reviews or work anniversaries are typical times to request and negotiate a salary increase, but these are not the only acceptable moments to do so. That being said, “Timing is everything” is a popular maxim when it comes to asking for a raise for good reason. Here are the factors you should consider as you prepare to request a salary increase.

Current Business Situation

Especially given the economic challenges the pandemic has created for many businesses, pay raises might not currently be an option. 

“Asking for a raise during economic hardship, especially when management has taken pay cuts or made other austerity moves, does not reflect well on the employee’s understanding of the business and economy,” cautioned Kent Lewis, President and founder of Anvil Media, an integrated marketing services firm.

However, it’s important to note that not all businesses suffered in the same way over the course of the pandemic, and a raise may very well be a possibility at your company. Rather than just assuming that a salary bump is or is not possible, pay attention to the circumstances around you at work. If there have been budget cuts or layoffs, you’re unlikely to receive a raise and asking for one may come across as tone-deaf. On the other hand, if business was sustained or has even grown, you’re in a better position to negotiate a pay increase.

Company Salary-Review Processes

Make sure you understand how the salary review and budgeting processes work at your organization as you prepare to ask for a raise. Otherwise, your boss may meet your request with the dreaded, “I’d love to — I just wish you’d asked earlier.”

For example, if your organization’s fiscal year begins on the first of January and merit increase conversations take place in September to go into effect in the new financial year, you’ll want to ask for your raise early in September to avoid missing the opportunity for a pay increase.

Employees should also keep in mind the culture around pay raises. If your company tends to strictly link pay increases to performance reviews, abide by this schedule and begin building your case in advance of your next review.

3. Submit a formal request in writing.

If you’re requesting a salary increase at your upcoming annual or mid-year review, make this clear in writing to your manager ahead of time. You could send them an email saying something like:

Hi [manager’s name],

I’m looking forward to discussing my performance with you at our upcoming annual review on [date]. Based on the consistently positive feedback I’ve received from you during our one-on-ones, as well as my own analysis of my accomplishments in the role, I’d like to formally request a review of my current salary at that time. I look forward to sharing with you the measurable ways I’ve contributed to the success of the company.

If you’re requesting a pay raise conversation outside of your standard review cycle, you could write:

Hi [manager’s name],

I’m writing to formally request a meeting for review of my current salary. Based on the positive feedback I’ve received on my performance, as well as my own analysis of my accomplishments in the role, I feel now is an appropriate time for us to discuss a pay raise. I look forward to sharing with you the measurable ways I’ve contributed to the success of the company.

Requesting a conversation about your raise in writing is helpful for a few reasons. One, your boss will come to the meeting prepared to discuss the possibility of a raise. They will have had the opportunity to investigate resources and budget ahead of time to determine whether this is a possibility. Second, making your request in writing creates a record of it, which can be helpful if you are denied the raise and want to appeal for a pay increase again in the future. It also helps keep your request from getting lost in the shuffle of day-to-day business operations. 

4. Come prepared to make your case.

It’s natural to feel nervous when requesting a raise. To calm your jitters, remember that managers don’t want to lose their best people. If you make a strong case and they have the budget, most managers are willing to grant your request or elevate it through the proper channels needed for approval. However, don’t just assume that because you’ve done well this year or it’s your work anniversary you’ll automatically be given a salary increase. Rather, make a strong case for yourself by presenting relevant examples of how you’ve demonstrated your value and contributed to the company’s success in meeting its goals.

“Ensure you’ve gathered data to back-up your reasons for asking for a raise,” advised Joseph Puglise, Senior Director of Executive Search and Recruiting at executive search firm JMJ Phillip. “Both quantitative [like increased revenue and decreased time-to-market for X line of business] and qualitative metrics [such as strong presentation skills and your ability to build rapport with employees and clients] are important as long as you can tie them to a positive impact on the bottom line.”

Begin your pitch with quantitative accomplishments that showcase your value as an employee. “Prepare your case with clear metrics that demonstrate why you add more value than others in the role and therefore should be more highly compensated,” said Tim Toterhi, TEDx speaker and founder of Plotline Leadership, a Human Resource consulting and career coaching firm. Prior to requesting a raise, Toterhi recommended preparing for your meeting by asking yourself if and how you: increase quantity, lower risk, add revenue, and/or improve quality at your company.

“It’s not enough to say, ‘I led the marketing campaign for X product line.’ Rather, your request will be more impactful if you can attach your actions to measurable, quantitative successes,” said Heather Spiegel, founder of Hidden Squirrel Consulting, an executive recruiting and career consulting firm. “A better, revised example would be, ‘I led the marketing campaign for X product line, which resulted in X% increase in yearly revenue.”

Concrete numbers are impactful, but qualitative success and metrics matter, too. “An employee’s impact is comprehensive,” noted Lewis. “A positive contributor creates additional value beyond financial impact, while a toxic employee can create significant negative impact on corporate culture, leading to a loss of employees and customers.”

Close out your case by sharing feedback you’ve received on your qualitative successes, like your stellar communication skills or your ability to resolve conflict on teams. This could be in the form of a thank you note from the partnerships team of another business your company recently collaborated with, or previous performance review feedback that highlights your ability to help team members bridge their differences. You don’t necessarily need to bring proof of these examples to your meeting, but rather the ability to reference specific examples on the spot will strengthen your case.

By providing both quantitative and qualitative accomplishments, and framing your accomplishments as contributing to the success of the company, you make a strong case for receiving a raise.

5. Be ready to respond.

Ideally, your boss will say yes on the spot, but this is unlikely due to the typical salary increase processes, which require cross-functional approval across the company from departments like Finance and People Ops and the leadership team. More likely is that they’ll tell you they have to get back to you. Be prepared for your boss to say this and have your response ready. You could say something like, “Great, can I plan to follow-up with you about this at our next one-on-one?”

You’ve done the hard work of building a strong case and advocating for yourself, so don’t give up now. Managers have a lot on their plates and it’s easy for your request to fall through the cracks, even if your supervisor has the best of intentions. This last step requires persistence.

You’ll also want to consider what to say if your boss denies your request. If it’s on the basis of budget constraints, one option is to ask about the potential for an adjustment to your overall compensation in the form of additional perks or benefits. For instance, you could appeal for an increase in 401K matching, a subsidy on life insurance premiums, or additional paid time off (PTO), or perks like commuter reimbursement, flexible scheduling, partial tuition reimbursement, or daycare reimbursement.

If your manager denies your request on the basis of your performance, rather than feel discouraged, use this as an opportunity to ask for feedback on what you need to do differently to be considered for a raise in the future. A good manager will be invested in your career development and want to help you succeed, and will be happy to assist you in performing at a higher level in your current role. Armed with the knowledge of what you need to do in order to become eligible for a pay increase, you can — and should — incorporate your manager’s feedback and prepare to make your request again in the future.

You may never lose the jitters that accompany asking for a raise completely. But by taking the time to prepare a strong pitch that highlights your accomplishments, as well as being strategic about when you ask, you’ll feel a lot more confident making your request. And regardless of whether your boss’s answer is yes or no, you’re strengthening an important skill that will benefit you throughout your entire career.

As an employee, you want your boss to think of you as a person they can count on to get things done. But no matter how efficient, productive, disciplined, and committed to your job you are, there’s going to come a time when you either don’t have the capacity or the desire to tackle something your boss throws at you — and when that happens, you’re going to need to say no.

Unfortunately, even though there are situations where it’s completely warranted and necessary, that two-letter word can prove challenging for a lot of people, especially when you have to direct it at your boss.

“Saying no can be difficult because people often interpret it negatively,” said Toronto-based change management consultant and business strategist Anthony Babbitt. “Often, employees do not want to appear disrespectful, and some bosses take ‘no’ as a direct attack on their authority.

So how do you get more comfortable saying no to your boss, and furthermore saying it in a way that preserves the relationship and your standing at the office? Here are five strategies to follow to help you say no with confidence, and set the boundaries you need to best accomplish your work.

1. Reconsider what saying no means.

The first step to getting better at saying no to your boss is shifting your beliefs about what saying no means about you and your work ethic. Again, most people want their bosses to see them as dependable, productive, and capable, and they think that saying yes to every task or request directed at them is the only way to achieve this.

But being a “yes person” — and saying yes when you actually want or need to say no — is a recipe for disaster. If you keep saying yes to your boss, they’re going to assume you’ve got a handle on everything and are going to keep putting more on your plate. And the more you have on your plate, the more likely you are to make a mistake, not finish a project, or let things fall through the cracks.

By saying yes to things even when you don’t have the capacity to handle them, there’s a high probability that your performance is going to suffer, and as a result you’ll wind up being less dependable, less productive, and less capable — the exact opposite of what you were striving for.

That’s why it’s important to change your relationship to the word “no.” When you say no to a task or request (in an appropriate way), it shows that you know how to set boundaries and effectively manage your time, energy, and resources, a characteristic your boss will respect and appreciate.

“Contrary to employees’ belief that their boss will like or value them more if they say yes to every request, the best bosses appreciate an employee who sets healthy boundaries and says no when the situation calls for it,” said Paul French, Director at executive search firm Intrinsic Search.

2. Give a reason and a solution.

When your boss asks you to do something, they’re asking for a reason. So if and when you have to say no, it can be helpful to let them know why, and more importantly, offer them an alternative solution to accomplish the task, advised career coach Kyle Elliot.

For example, let’s say your boss asks you to take on a new client project, but you’re already managing a large project and don’t have the capacity to take on a new client.

In that situation, “clearly articulate why you cannot take on the project,” said Elliot. “Also, attempt to identify a replacement.”

You might say something like, “I would love to take on X client, but I’m already spearheading the big Q4 project for Y client, and I’m going to need to dedicate all my time and energy to that project to make sure we really hit it out of the park. What about passing X client to Jane? She did an amazing job with Z client and I think she’d be the perfect person to lead this project.”

When you share your reasoning with your boss, it gives them insight into why you’re saying no, which can help soften the blow. And by offering them an alternative solution, you’re going the extra mile to help them solve the problem and ensure that what they need done gets done, which is what they’re really after to begin with.

3. …unless you don’t want to.

Giving your boss an explanation for why you need to say no can often be helpful. But in many situations, explaining yourself when you say no is neither appropriate nor required. If you find yourself in one of those situations, you absolutely don’t have to justify saying no.

Let’s say your boss asks you to work late, but you have plans after work. It’s fine to say, “I’m not able to work late tonight,” and leave it at that; you’re not obligated to tell your boss what your plans are or why you can’t work after your scheduled work hours.

Or say that your boss asks you to do something you feel uncomfortable with. A firm “no” is all you need to say; there’s no need to go into why you don’t feel comfortable or the reasons you don’t want to manage the task.

The bottom line is, you don’t need to explain or justify every “no,” and if your boss puts pressure on you to do so, bring it up with HR.

“There are many workplace laws that prohibit disclosures of certain information, so if a boss still presses [after you say no], you can simply say, ‘I am not comfortable sharing that information with you,’” advised Babbitt. “Anything beyond this should warrant a visit to Human Resources.”

4. Loop your boss in on your workload.

Your boss isn’t a mind reader; usually, they’re not fully aware of your schedule, your to-do lists, and all the tasks you’re managing at once. So if your boss asks you to do something that will put you over capacity, loop them in on your current workload and have them help you figure out which tasks take priority.

For instance, say your boss asks you to draft a memo by the end of the day, but you already have another deadline you need to wrap up by EOD. In that situation, you might say, “I can definitely tackle this for you, but I’ve been working on X task, which is also due by the end of the day. Which task do you want me to prioritize? Let me know and I’ll put the other task on my to-do list to tackle first thing tomorrow.”

By looping in your boss on your current workload, you put the ball in their court, allowing them to determine which tasks require your immediate attention and which ones warrant a “no,” at least for the time being.

“Throwing the ball back to your boss makes them aware of your pending tasks and time limits, and gives them the final say on what they need to be done first,” noted French.

5. Use open-ended questions to say no without actually saying no.

There’s no denying that the word “no” has negative connotations. If you want to avoid those negative associations altogether, you can use open-ended questions to say no to your boss — without ever actually saying the word.

Imagine that your boss asks you to work on a branding project, but the direction in which they want to take the project is directly misaligned with all the prior brand work you’ve done for the company. Instead of delivering a solid no, “if you disagree with the direction your boss is taking…[try responding] with open-ended, non-leading questions [like], ‘What’s the business outcome you’re looking for here? How do you see my doing X result in the outcome you’re looking for? What other options have you explored?’” advised Tyler Parris, executive coach and author of Chief of Staff: The Strategic Partner Who Will Revolutionize Your Organization.

By asking questions and opening up a discussion, you can help your boss figure out the “no” on their own, without ever having to say the word yourself.

“By giving them the space to explore what they really need to explore, you’re adding value to them, [and] getting the result you wanted [without having to actually use the word ‘no’],” said Parris.

Saying no can be uncomfortable — and it can be especially uncomfortable when that word is directed at your boss. But with these strategies, you can say no in a way that preserves your reputation as a dependable, capable go-getter, while setting healthy boundaries that protect your time and energy. Getting comfortable with the word “no” and using it judiciously will help prevent burnout and keep you energized, enthused, and at the top of your game, which will ultimately benefit you, your boss, and your company.

We’ve all hit the wall after a year of new challenges and added responsibilities. Whether you’re burned out, at a loss for time, or just shaking off the weekend, getting back on track isn’t easy. That’s why consulting firms, authors, and software providers have carved out a multibillion-dollar industry centered on productivity. But you don’t have to open your checkbook to get more out of the day. There are a few simple, cost-effective work habits that productive leaders swear by.

Feeling stuck? We asked HR leaders to share some of their favorite productivity hacks.

1. Daily “Scrum” Meetings

Software engineers are well acquainted with “scrum” meetings, a hallmark of the agile model of product delivery. In these short, 15-minute sessions, team members share their daily priorities, progress, and obstacles. Referring to them as simply scrums or daily “stand-ups,” HR leaders believed these meetings gave them structure and made it easier to prioritize tasks.

“We hold daily meetings, like a project team would hold a scrum. This keeps us connected on all things HR-related,” said Sara Whitman, Chief People Officer at Hot Paper Lantern. “We go over important to-dos, discuss how what we’re doing is mapped to our business strategy, share what we’re hearing outside of our agency from others and in HR, brainstorm, and just stay socially connected.”

2. Building Templates

While an HR career comes with its share of curveballs, that’s not to say parts of the job aren’t repetitive. For example, following up with job candidates or sending new-hire welcome packets are two administrative tasks that can easily take up much of your day. If an employee reaches out with a question that frequently comes up, you can save time by reusing past answers. HR leaders shared they had volumes of templated language for nearly every situation.

“Over the years, I’ve tried to avoid reinventing the wheel by creating templates that I can easily retrieve and refer to,” said Paul French, Managing Director at Intrinsic Search, a recruiting firm. “For example, instead of formulating a new list of questions every time I am interviewing a developer, I have a template I can simply pull out and conduct the interview. Tools like Google Drive make template creation and retrieval easy for me.”

3. The “Pomodoro Technique”

Time management has been a hot topic in business circles since, well, business. More recently, management experts — and some HR leaders in this story — have heaped praise on the “Pomodoro Technique,” an approach that mixes focus time with ample breaks. Francesco Cirillo, the time management model’s creator, specifically says professionals should:

  1. Decide on the task they want to accomplish.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on that task.
  3. Take a five-minute break.
  4. Continue with four more 25-minute cycles, or until you finish the task.
  5. Take a 15-30 minute break when you finish the task.

“For many HR professionals, time is an enemy that we seem to be in a constant battle with,” Darrell Rosenstein, founder of The Rosenstein Group, a recruiting firm. “I dedicate 25 minutes of focused, timed attention to complete an important task after which I take a short break to meditate or take a walk around the block. It’s helped me manage deadlines, keep distractions at bay, prevent burnout, and enjoy a better work-life balance.” 

4. Working Outside

We spend almost 90% of our lives indoors. For those who don’t commute to work, that percentage is likely higher. But there’s ample evidence that occasionally working outside can improve engagement, memory retention, stress levels, and your physical health. While it sounds counterintuitive, HR leaders shared that working from home has allowed them to get more fresh air — helping them reap the professional benefits.

“I’ve changed my morning routine since going remote. I still meditate daily, but now I also make sure to work out and sit on my front lawn every morning to read or write a little,” Whitman said. “It has really helped me start the day fresh. If I can’t get it in for the start of the day, I make sure I work outside as much as I can during the day. Thankfully my Wi-Fi allows me to do video and calls outside, so it’s worked pretty well.”

5. Getting Enough Sleep

We all love and often need a strong cup of coffee to perk us up in the morning. Still, you can’t gloss over the importance of sleep, something that 43% of professionals aren’t getting enough of. Several HR leaders referred to the important role sleep played in their mental clarity and decisiveness.

“Most working professionals in the HR field view sleep as something that can be powered through and caffeinated over,” said Jagoda Wieczorek, HR Manager at ResumeLab. “The truth is, you can probably get away with a couple of sleep-deprived nights per month. But if you make it the norm, it’ll prevent you from being on top of your game. I recommend using the iPhone’s built-in bedtime app that reminds you every night when it’s time to sleep.”

6. Staying Connected

People teams are at their best when they can influence business strategy and make a positive impact on employees’ lives. Unfortunately, it’s hard to accomplish either when you’re siloed — and HR departments have a history of being viewed as insular for confidentiality reasons. You’ll want to break the stereotype by making a concerted effort to get involved in other parts of the business. One HR leader shared how she does just that.

“The best work habit that’s made me successful is staying in touch with our product and services teams, and the overall business goals. That means attending product training, checking out what questions our customers ask our support reps, and occasionally joining team meetings,” said Natalie Morgan, Director of HR at CareerPlug. “HR is the bridge between leadership and the frontlines. That means our habits need to continuously put us into connection with employees.”

7. Deep Focus Sessions

Have something you’ve been putting off for a while? A deep focus session or “Cave Day” might get you back on track. These facilitated, in-person or virtual sessions involve professionals coming together and committing to getting something done in a series of sprints. Participants surrender their phones (or in virtual sessions, disable them) and then simply…work. Call it the professional equivalent of study hall.

“I’m a huge supporter of Cave Day. This community of remote workers is incredibly helpful to me for the quiet, alone time I need to think and work on big projects, but with the accountability and motivation of others to keep me moving,” Whitman said. “It’s also great external energy to hear what others are working on. It has given me some great ideas on things to incorporate in our internal meetings to give them energy and mix it up.”

8. Listening to Music

Research shows that certain kinds of music can boost your mood and productivity. If you have eclectic tastes, hopping between genres can enhance your ability to specific tasks — pop and dance music have been shown to improve data entry and proofreading, respectively. And if you’re in an office setting, wearing headphones can signal that you’re busy and would prefer not to be distracted.

“I like to listen to embarrassing music while I work, because it’s pop, and it’s fun, and it puts me in a good mood so I feel better dealing with people all day,” said Nelson Sherwin, HR Manager at PEO Compare. “I’m talking like, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Our general outlook is so very important, and I feel like my mood really improves when I have a good soundtrack going.”

For more HR and productivity tips, subscribe to the weekly I ♡ Humans newsletter.

Human Resources professionals can often be so busy helping their employees with their careers that they forget to take the time to prioritize their own career advancement. But whether you’re just starting out in HR or are an experienced veteran in the industry, career path planning is crucial to having a successful career that fulfills your personal and professional goals.

Career paths are especially helpful in this field because Human Resources has so many distinct disciplines you could pursue, like payroll, compliance, engagement, recruiting, benefits, diversity and inclusion (D&I), leave of absences, and more. Because there are so many different options, most professionals have to make a choice early on in their careers: Specialize in one core area of HR or remain a generalist.

When faced with a major career decision like this, it’s best to know all your options so you can make an informed choice and start working toward your long-term career goals. To break down the differences between generalists and specialists, we spoke to Jovanny Chonillo, MHRM, Senior Human Resources Consultant at Tandem HR, a Chicago-based professional employer organization (PEO), who has years of experience in both types of roles.

Here’s a closer look at the differences between generalist and specialist Human Resources career paths, examples of common HR job titles, and how to choose the best career option for you.

Generalist vs. Specialist

As the names suggest, a Human Resources specialist is someone who is highly skilled and experienced in one aspect of HR, like recruiting, payroll, or benefits. A generalist, on the other hand, is someone who has general knowledge and expertise across a variety of HR disciplines.

While neither option is better than the other, some organizations may benefit more from one type of role than the other. For example, smaller organizations may only need one or two generalists to handle all of their HR needs, while larger organizations might need an entire team of specialists for each HR discipline to deal with the volume and complexity of the business’s needs. 

Generalist roles are great for people who enjoy having lots of variety in what they do.

“As a generalist, you have a hand in any and everything related to HR, which means no day is ever the same and you get to work on a lot of different projects at once,” said Chonillo, who spent almost seven years in generalist roles at LabelMaster, a logistics and supply-chain company based out of Chicago. 

The downside to a generalist role, cautioned Chonillo, is that you can easily become stretched too thin.

“Oftentimes, there’s too much going on and you have to decide what you’re willing to let slip through the cracks,” Chonillo said. “When I was a generalist, I always felt like there were 50 things going on at once…I could never fully dedicate myself to a project I was working on and I never felt I was growing or making meaningful progress because my plate was always full.”

Still, even if you intend to specialize in one aspect of HR, a generalist role can lay a solid foundation for a strong career.

“It naturally creates an opportunity for you to figure out if there is one area that you do want to specialize in,” said Chonillo. “In my case, I used to want to be a teacher, so I love any role or project that lets me be involved with learning and development.”

Specialist roles allow you to play to your strengths and really invest in your skills in one particular area of HR. By gaining experience and a unique skill set, you can become a highly skilled and sought-after candidate in your space.

However, if you’re someone who needs variety in your day, you might get bored of doing similar work and projects day in and day out as a specialist. Or, should you decide to pursue a different career interest, you may feel pigeon-holed based on your specialized skill set.

When it comes to making a decision as to which route to pursue, it’s important to take into account your unique passions and interests and make sure the path you choose is suited for you. This will lead to a fulfilling career regardless of whether you decide to become a generalist or specialist, or alternate between the two.

Common HR Generalist Roles and Responsibilities

Interested in the generalist route? Using the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) resource center, we’ve compiled a brief list of popular generalist job titles and descriptions ranging from entry-level to executive-level positions.

Here’s an idea of what a career as a generalist could look like for you.

HR Assistant / Coordinator 

This is where most people begin their careers in Human Resources. An HR Assistant or Coordinator is an entry-level role that lets an individual roll up their sleeves and learn about all the day-to-day HR tasks. It’s usually a very generalized role that might help out with recruiting, benefits, payroll, employee relations, engagement, performance management, and whatever else needs to get done.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn and understand how the various disciplines of HR impact an organization,” noted Chonillo. “Plus, by gaining exposure to all the different facets of HR, employees can determine if they have a passion for one discipline and decide if that passion could develop into a more specialized role.”

This is an excellent place to start if you want to work in Human Resources, and it can be an important jumping-off point for people’s careers.

HR Manager

An HR Manager has more decision-making power and ownership of day-to-day HR processes, which, according to Chonillo, could include “ensuring you’re going to meet your 401(k) participation goals, deciding how to revamp communication during open enrollment, or brainstorming initiatives to increase employee engagement.”

“Managers still receive a certain level of oversight from their superiors, but they are more empowered to make decisions and be analytical than an HR coordinator,” he said.

As you gain experience or as the staff at your company grows, in this role you might lead a team of assistants or coordinators and be in charge of monitoring their performance and ensuring team goals are met.

HR Director / VP of HR

A Human Resources Director and Vice President are more senior members of the HR department, usually with 5-10 years of experience or more.

“Someone at this level is the owner of end-to-end process creation and the execution and oversight of every process and metric,” explained Chonillo. People in these roles help plan and develop HR strategy, create company policies, decide how to structure the department and teams, and supervise senior staff.

“They ensure what the department is doing and accomplishing is aligned with the company’s mission, values, and goals,” Chonillo said. In order to optimally perform their jobs, they must have a solid understanding of all areas of HR, including employment law, organizational planning, employee development, workplace safety, and compliance.

Chief HR Officer

Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) and Chief People Officer (CPO) are the most senior roles in HR. They typically report directly to the CEO and work closely with the rest of the C-suite and the company board to develop all company-wide HR initiatives, policies, and strategies.

CHROs usually have 15 years or more of Human Resources experience; they must be familiar with strategic planning and have proven leadership skills, extensive knowledge of the HR space and core disciplines, and the ability to inspire individuals at all levels of the organization. They oversee and coordinate the entire HR team to ensure that monthly, quarterly, and annual goals are met to advance company objectives.

Common HR Specialist Roles and Responsibilities

But not everyone sets out to be a CHRO; many people take interest in one specific aspect of Human Resources and decide to gain expertise and experience in that specific discipline. That might be areas such as payroll, recruiting, learning and development, employee engagement, or compliance, among others.

If you’re considering following a more specialized career path, here are just a few of the options available to you.


Love building robust benefits packages and finding cutting-edge perks to keep your employees happy and healthy? Then maybe a career in benefits is right for you. A benefits specialist handles the planning and administering of benefits, including health, dental, vision, short-term, disability, life insurance, and retirement plans. They work with benefits brokers to secure the best plans at competitive pricing, and they are always on the lookout for new ways to improve existing programs and evolve offerings to suit employees’ changing needs.

Common benefits job titles include:

  • HR Benefits Coordinator
  • Global Benefits Manager
  • Benefits Analyst

Learning and Development

Learning and development (L&D) departments build and oversee employee development and training programs. They help identify skills gaps in an organization and create an internal learning curriculum to teach employees new skills and improve existing ones. They’re the ones who oversee new hire onboarding, new and existing manager training, and ongoing employee development.

People in these roles coordinate the entire professional growth program and help adapt learning materials for use across online, classroom, and blended learning options. They also track and analyze employee participation rates, engagement, and performance to evaluate and measure program effectiveness and identify opportunities for continued education.

Some examples of learning and development job titles are: 

  • L&D Lead
  • Learning Administrator
  • Instructional Designer
  • Head of Learning and Development


If you love working with numbers and are known for your keen attention to detail, you might enjoy a career in payroll. As a payroll professional you have one task: making sure that every employee gets paid correctly and on time each pay cycle. But, guaranteeing the accuracy and timeliness of each paycheck is no small feat.

In addition to tracking and verifying employee hours, payroll professionals must process paycheck withholdings like state and federal taxes, and deductions for garnishments, 401(k) contributions, and benefits. They must also stay on top of all state and federal compliance requirements and ensure accurate record-keeping and reporting.

A few popular payroll job titles include:

  • Senior Payroll Specialist
  • Payroll Clerk
  • Payroll Manager

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I)

Many companies have renewed their commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce and culture. DE&I leads help set and achieve internal diversity goals, like hiring more diverse candidates and improving the internal mobility of minority employees. As well, they work to eradicate bias from internal processes, improve pay equity, and educate employees on diversity and inclusion.

Ultimately, their job is to demonstrate how important diversity and inclusion is to an organization’s overall success and strategy, identify and resolve barriers to change, and hold the business accountable for meeting DE&I goals. Crucial to their work is building a culture in which every employee feels seen, heard, and celebrated.

Here are a few examples of common D&I job titles:

  • Diversity Assistant
  • DE&I Lead
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager
  • Chief Equality Officer

It’s easy to get caught up striving for increasingly senior and impressive titles, but it’s important to be intentional about choosing roles that align with your particular interests and will help you achieve your specific career goals.

“Think more about the responsibilities and experience you can gain from a role,” Chonillo advised. “[For both specialists and generalists] job titles are usually influenced by the budget a company or hiring manager sets for a role and the responsibilities they think the role will have. The value of a role shouldn’t just be its title; it should be what you can learn from it and how it can get you closer to your career goals — whatever they may be.”

On September 16, Lattice brought over 20,000 HR professionals together for our second Resources for Humans Virtual Conference. The event featured insights from over 40 inspiring leaders and visionaries. Speakers addressed topics ranging from remote work to career growth — all within the context of the new world of work.

Want to relive the event? Below, we’ll highlight just some of the conference’s big takeaways and memorable moments. You can rewatch the sessions on demand here.

1. The “new world of work” is about growth.

This year has been hard on all of us — but especially for those in HR. People teams have been on the frontlines of the new world of work, facing and adapting to unprecedented challenges. Lattice CEO Jack Altman opened the conference by reminding us that adversity isn’t just something you push through — it’s something you grow from.

“A smooth sea never built a skilled sailor. And the challenging moments give us the opportunity to learn the hard skills to learn how to improve,” Altman said, reflecting on Lattice’s own transition to remote work. “And if things were always easy, life would be calm and we wouldn’t feel challenged, but we wouldn’t grow. We wouldn’t get the type of stress that we need to improve and to find growth in our careers.”

COVID-19 shuttered entire industries and forced many others to operate remotely. But it also made us more adaptable and thoughtful of mental health. It also built better managers, many of whom had never led distributed teams and had to start running remote one-on-ones. In short, the “new normal” isn’t about scaling back expectations — it’s about being better than we were before.

“In every difficult moment, there are opportunities, there are chances for growth. This is a year when we can transform. We can transform as individuals, we can transform as leaders, we can transform as companies,” Altman said.

2. Creative leaders know when to step back. 

What’s the secret behind the most innovative, creative teams? What makes them an exception to the rule? Catching that proverbial lightning in a bottle is every manager’s dream. Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and author of Creativity, Inc, shared what makes the legendary animation studio so successful.

“It takes a lot of people to make something work,” Catmull said. According to him, hierarchical cultures that elevate management’s voice at the expense of everyone else’s will always be at a disadvantage. According to Catmull, sometimes the best way for leaders to foster creativity is to step back.

“If we don’t recognize that it takes a lot of us and that we’ve all contributed, even though some are silent, then we actually diminish our ability to keep on doing something which is complex. You want to value the people who are helping you solve the problems.”

Catmull saw this play out firsthand while working with another innovative leader: Steve Jobs. The entrepreneur was the CEO of Pixar from 1986 until the animation studio was purchased by Disney in 2006. Jobs steered clear of Pixar’s “Braintrust” meetings, where the studio’s most creative minds would hash out ideas and critique each other’s work. “One of the rules is that the powerful people in the room are supposed to shut the hell up for the first 10 to 15 minutes. If a powerful person starts speaking, they set the tone of the room,” Catmull said.

3. Your next big HR priority? You.

HR professionals have always shouldered a lot. They’re either workplace heroes or deliverers of bad news — and this year’s pandemic only heightened the pressure. In the face of it all, People teams can feel alone and emotionally exhausted.

Garima Gupta, Director of HR at the Fund for Global Human Rights, started Your People Team Members Are People, Too with a question: “Who’s the HR for HR?” Gupta’s solo presentation gave teams actionable tips they could use to improve their mental health while doubling as a powerful group therapy session.

“The same traits that make HR professionals good at their work, the empathy, compassion for others, and tenacity, can turn into compassion fatigue,” Gupta said. “Leave those mounting emails and Slack messages for another day. We’ve internalized the idea that any time that we spend not doing something is somehow wasted time, to a point that being so busy, the status symbol, and even maybe a humblebrag.”

“So go ahead, make room for some navel-gazing, rose-smelling, and just being plain silly with your kids or dogs and detox yourself from this addiction of being busy.” Judging from attendee’s responses in the chat and on social media, Gupta’s prescription was exactly what HR professionals needed to hear.

4. Make DE&I part of career development.

When most of us think about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the workplace, employee resource groups, hiring pipelines, and inclusion surveys come to mind. Your company’s learning and development (L&D) program should be a part of that conversation.

In Making DE&I Part of Your Learning & Development Strategy, panelists shared some of the ways they were making training and career development more inclusive. 

One approach favored by Diana Jones, People and Organizational Development Lead at Plaid, is to offer standalone training that gets to the heart of the issues faced by women and people of color. A broad topic like career development lends itself especially well to this approach.

“Take your general training and offer additional, secondary sessions for specific underrepresented groups,” Jones said. “There’s a general session on career growth we make available to everyone. And then another for women, [because] we want to give them a safe space where they can talk about topics relevant to them and this aspect of their identity.”

Most leadership training focuses on coaching and performance management. But because managers are uniquely positioned to impact their reports’ day-to-day experience, they should also be equipped to have honest conversations about DE&I. That was the case made by Joanna Miller, Lead of Learning & Development at Asana. “The first thing that we really focus on is getting managers to lean in and feel comfortable acknowledging or surfacing when they noticed something happening,” Miller said.

“For example, have them ask ‘I noticed that you were holding back in the conversation, is there anything that I could do to make you more comfortable contributing?’” Conversations like these foster an environment where employees can talk openly about DE&I.

5. Don’t lose sight of your values.

In The Value of Values to Your Culture, panelists shared some of the ways they make their mission and values ring true at a time when companies’ impact on their communities has come under scrutiny.

Nicole Miller, People Ops Manager at Buffer, shared how her team’s values aren’t hollow slogans posted on the wall — they inform how companies assess current employees and potential new hires. “When it comes to hiring, we’ve always put an emphasis on values alignment before it comes to skills, personality fit, or anything else,” Miller said. “We start every hiring process with a values interview. So we want to know that people will find happiness and fulfillment and engagement here. And that really starts with a shared value set.”

Khalilah “KO” Olokunola, EVP of Human Resources, TRU Colors Brewing, urged attendees to ensure they follow through on their mission and values with the same intent they have for tracking metrics like revenue.

“You have to measure both the mission and the money, because, without the money, you can’t sustain the mission…But if we’re making money and our mission is still faltering, then we’re failing as a company,” Olokunola said.

TRU Colors Brewing’s mission is to stop gang violence and unite communities. To that end, Olokunola’s team maintains a dashboard that tracks shootings in local neighborhoods. If violence hasn’t decreased by 10% or 15%, her team views that as a failure. “Programs are great, but you need something in place that’s going to help you sustain the mission. The return on investment that my CEO looks at is going to always be money. But for me, I’m looking at the social return on investment.”

Unsure of whether your company even has a deeper mission than simply making money or shipping a successful product? Nathalie McGrath, co-founder of The People Design House, encouraged teams to dig a little deeper.

“What impact are you trying to have? And if it’s just to create a product, what do you want that product to represent, and how do you want that to happen? It’s through those conversations that we start to understand there’s usually a social justice mission,” McGrath said. “It’s just often buried under a few other layers.”

6. Trevor Noah reminds us to put people first.

Trevor Noah, comedian and host of The Daily Show, wrapped the conference with a powerful call for attendees to be more mindful of the here and now, not whatever the so-called “new normal” ends up looking like.

“I think the most important thing has been for myself and the team to acknowledge the fact that we don’t know when life will go back to normal. So we don’t live as if life is going to go back to normal…If we spend all our time thinking about what we want to do, then we won’t ever do anything now,” Noah said.

Don’t wait for the storm to pass to reach out to your peers. Being more mindful of the people you work with today isn’t just the right thing to do for their mental health, but also yours, Noah reminded us. “The thing we could spend a lot more time on is just taking a moment to connect to the human in everybody else. During the toughest times, I find that what helps me is connecting with human beings,” he said. By the nature of their work, HR teams are in a rare position to both listen to employee feedback and use it to effect change in the workplace and world.

“I think we can find a place where we start to acknowledge, and maybe not fix overnight, but just acknowledge some of the shortcomings that companies have inherited from societies. Then maybe, upon acknowledging them and understanding them, they can begin to implement ideas and policies that will change the company from the inside,” Noah said.

“If enough companies do it, who knows? Maybe they might start to affect what’s happening on the outside.”

Those were just some of the highlights from this year’s virtual conference. Rewatch the sessions on demand here.

Want to keep the conversation going? Resources for Humans is a Slack community of over 10,000 HR leaders who believe the best way to impact a business is through its humans. Together, we help each other navigate challenges by sharing resources and firsthand experiences. Click here to learn more about the free community.

When you bring a new employee onto your team, you want to make sure you’re setting them up for success — and onboarding plays a huge role in that process.

Your employee onboarding process is “an employee’s true first impression of your culture, and the foundation that everything else will stem from,” said Jane Garza, Managing Director of NOBL Collective, an organizational design firm that helps create and refine corporate cultures. “It’s the best time to set expectations around what you need from them, and without it, you miss out an opportunity to tighten the inevitable learning curve of joining a new company.”

But if you want to get your new hires not only prepared for their role, but also engaged with your organization and excited about the road ahead, your onboarding process needs to be more than just a stack of HR paperwork and a litany of trainings — you need to think outside the box. And while creative employee onboarding is always important, it’s even more important now, when a large percentage of workers are likely to be starting new jobs remotely from home.

“In a largely remote world, creative onboarding is necessary if you want to attract and retain talent,” said Betty Rodriguez, People and Culture Ops Specialist at Fit Small Business, a digital resource for small business owners. “We know that remote employees tend to be less engaged and connected to their peers. HR and hiring managers need to reinvent how they bring groups together to foster relationships without the convenience of an office space.”

Here are three creative employee onboarding ideas you can use to start off your new hires on the right foot, keep them engaged, and get them excited about their role within your organization.

Creative Onboarding Ideas to Try

1. Create an onboarding podcast.

Over the past several years, podcasts have steadily been gaining in popularity. According to The Infinite Dial 2020 Report from Edison Research and Triton Digital, more than one-third of Americans listen to podcasts monthly, with as many as one-fourth listening weekly. This listenership likely includes many of your new hires. Take advantage of this fast-growing media trend and use it for your employee onboarding process.

Putting your employee onboarding content into a podcast is an excellent way to distill onboarding information into a fun, easy-to-digest format for your new hires. Unless you have an experienced podcaster on your team, there will be a learning curve for recording and editing your podcasts. (Buzzsprout has a great step-by-step guide to help you get started.) But once you get the hang of it, you can create podcast episodes to cover general onboarding information — like background history about your company, interviews with leadership, and FAQs about HR processes — as well as department and/or role-specific episodes.

And once you create the content, you can continue to share the podcast with future new hires. “An internal onboarding podcast [is] personal, but scalable,” Garza said.

Just keep in mind that an onboarding podcast is only going to be effective if “you don’t let it get outdated, and employees are given [a] flexible [timetable] so they can choose whether they listen during the workday or not,” advised Garza.

2. Host round-robin-style sessions with leadership.

If you want your new employees to truly get acclimated with their role and the organization, they also need to be familiarized with your leadership — which is why you should create the opportunity for them to do this as part of your employee onboarding process.

Incorporating round-robin sessions into your onboarding process will ensure your new hires get the face time they need with your leadership team and vice versa from the very beginning, even if they won’t have the opportunity to interact with them regularly. “This is a key opportunity to establish connections, because most new hires will not be interacting with all of the leaders day-to-day,” Garza said.

“This can be broken up into one or two meetings per week where new hires meet with a senior leader for an hour to learn more about their interests and background, as well as their role within the organization,” Rodriguez suggested. “New hires will benefit from the one-on-one or small group sessions to speak with leaders and learn about each area of the company.”

3. Gamify the onboarding process.

There’s a lot of ground to cover during employee onboarding. Depending on how you deliver that information, it can make the process feel overwhelming — and, in all honesty, a bit boring. But an easy and effective way to keep your employee onboarding from veering into dull territory is to turn the process into a game.

There are a number of ways to transform your employee onboarding process into a game. For example, you could try “a scavenger hunt, virtual or live, that spans the course of the first week where [the new hire] must find answers to various questions, go to different locations, or meet different people,” said Tona Brewer, HR executive and founder of The Tona Brewer Group, a consulting firm that partners with executive teams to build talent strategies for growing their businesses. You might host a Jeopardy-style trivia contest to quiz your new hires on the information they learned in their training. You could even turn onboarding into a team competition, where new hires work with their team or department to complete a number of onboarding challenges, with the winning team getting a prize.

Turning your employee onboarding into a game is a creative way to make the experience more fun and engaging. And when your new hires are engaged and having fun, they’re more likely to retain the information they learn during the onboarding process, which will make them more engaged and effective in their role in the long run.

Tips for Rolling Out Your Onboarding Program

Whatever ideas you use for your employee onboarding, you’ll want to make sure the process is a success. Here are three tips to help you successfully develop and roll out your employee onboarding program.

1. Use your most recent hires to help develop the process. 

Because your newest hires have most recently gone through the onboarding process, they’re the best resources when it comes time to onboard a new cohort of team members. “Involve your most recent hires in designing it. Getting direct employee feedback is the best way to evolve your onboarding for your context,” Garza said.

2. Make sure your onboarding experience is on-brand. 

Your employee onboarding process should give your new team members insights into who you are as an organization, and what they can expect from your brand moving forward. “The really creative ideas are the ones most closely tied to a company’s context,” Garza said. “Treat your new employee like your most important client. How does your organization delight customers? How can you make your employees feel that same delight right off the bat?”

For example, if you’ve built your brand around creating an unparalleled customer service experience for your client, you need to put that same kind of care and thought into creating an unparalleled onboarding experience for your new hires. If your brand is known for creating the best digital education products in your industry, your onboarding experience should revolve around that same digital education experience.

In order for new employees to most effectively be able to advance your company, they need to fully understand who you are as a brand. Ideally that understanding should start at the outset of their employment, during the onboarding process.

3. Create opportunities for connection. 

If you’re onboarding your employees remotely, they’re not going to have the opportunity to connect with their team members or managers in person. So, if you want them to feel connected to their role, their team, and your organization, you need to create those opportunities to connect.

“The most important thing to keep in mind is connection,” stressed Garza. “Empower new employees to find moments for impromptu connection across the company.” 

Things like virtual coffee breaks and a buddy system that pairs new hires with more experienced team members for regular video calls can go a long way in ensuring your new employees feel connected to their team during — and beyond — the onboarding process.

Employee onboarding plays a crucial role in getting your new hires acclimated to their position, your team, and the organization. Especially now, when so many companies have pivoted to working remotely, extra thought and planning need to go into this process. There’s also a good chance that the system you have in place wasn’t designed with remote workers in mind, so it’s important to review and update it, taking the current circumstances into account.

With these creative onboarding ideas, you can take a process that could just be a dull series of obligations to check off a list, and turn it into something truly fun, memorable, and engaging for all those involved — your new hires as well as the team tasked with creating and implementing it.