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I stole the following from a meme or maybe a T-shirt: Introverts. We’re here, we’re uncomfortable, and we want to go home.

That about sums it up. I’m often uncomfortable around people, and even when I’m enjoying myself, I’m looking forward to being home. I like socializing, but it’s also exhausting. That’s really the crux of being an introvert. I get tired just thinking about interacting with people.

It can be hard to be an introvert at work because communication is vital in business; heck, it’s vital in life. Our work and personal relationships depend upon it. And the fact is, introverts have a lot to say, but if you aren’t asking in the right ways, it could create unnecessary problems.

There’s a big difference between managing a team of hard-charging, fast-talking extroverts and cautious, patient, meticulous introverts. If you’re managing both groups the same way, half your people are miserable. And let’s face it, it’s probably your introverts. They aren’t telling you otherwise or fighting for what they need. You’ll know someone was unhappy when they send you a resignation email. By then, it’s too late, and you didn’t even know there was an issue.

So, I’m here to speak (or rather write) on their behalf. First, we’ve established that I’m an introvert. I also manage a team of introverts, and I’m in the personality assessment business. It’s up close and personal experience at your disposal. But just so you know you are getting your money’s worth out of this blog, I also polled some introverts and asked them what they need from their managers. And while nothing came as a complete surprise, it was helpful to get their point of view. They were also kind enough to share their rationale, which I didn’t even ask for. A bonus of working with detailed, introspective thinkers, you get a lot more than you pay for, like this blog. So here we go:

  1. After their initial training, build their confidence in their own abilities and knowledge. Rather than providing the answers when they come to you, encourage them to think through the matter and resolve it independently. This motivates with a sense of accomplishment and inspires self-sufficiency. Create an environment where reasonable mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities rather than disasters; a tall column 8 isn’t going to let themselves go overboard and misuse this leeway.
  2. Cautious introverts hate having to ask questions. They’ll do it because they want to do things right, but they’ll be worried about bothering someone or that they should already know the answer. They appreciate being independent in their fact-finding, so having places they can access answers (procedure manual, shared knowledge center) is really appealing. Still, always encourage questions and be a mentor.
  3. Check-in on them to see how things are going. Cautious introverts aren’t necessarily great at proactively bringing up problems. One-on-one conversations or private emails are where they may feel most comfortable discussing issues, but only if they feel you are genuinely interested, not just going through the managerial motions. Focus conversations on tangible ways they can resolve problems; don’t simply give platitudes. 
  4. Eliminate "brainstorming" from your vocabulary. It can feel more like blindsiding. Instead, ask them to think about a question or problem and get back to you with their thoughts at an agreed-upon time. They will have more and better ideas if they think it over. This turning it over in their mind might even happen outside of their normal work hours, for instance, when they are on their evening walk. Why? Because often they are too busy putting out fires at work to do deep thinking. Introverts do not do their best thinking in spontaneous groups or amid distractions. Plus, they won’t fight to be heard over the assertive extroverts. This is not to say that you shouldn’t invite introverts to brainstorming meetings. Send an email a few days before the meeting to allow those introverts to prepare. They’ll be more likely to speak up when they have had a chance to gather their thoughts.  
  5. Many introverts like to get and give difficult news via email first to promise a follow-up call or meeting. It gives them time to process and tame any emotions. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all situations, but when possible, it’s a great way to pave the way for a productive conversation.  On the flip side, when I ask an introvert to call me or have a meeting, I am sure to include something like: “It’s nothing bad!” Column 2 and 8 introverts go straight to catastrophic thinking.  How do I know? I have an employee, who is amazing, and she once told me that every time I ask her to give me a call, she thinks she is getting fired. 
  6. As a leader, proactively manage your own stress. Be careful not to transfer it to others. If you are on edge or feeling overwhelmed, your introverted employees will absorb that energy the most, and they already tend to take things seriously, so the tension can amplify painfully. Introverts internalize stress, even if it isn’t theirs. 
  7. Let them focus. You may want to do it all right now, but resist introducing more than one new challenge at a time. Introverts tend to prefer concentration and mastery over ASAP and "good enough." 
  8. Don’t assume cautious introverts do not want to grow or move up, or that they will be fulfilled working the same support job for the next 5 years. They often want to master their work first before they feel confident taking on more or something different. The key is to find professional development goals that stretch and challenge them without overwhelming them. Sometimes they need a little push to step outside of their comfort zone and risk making the mistakes that come from learning. 
  9. Cautious, detailed introverts want to feel that what they do makes a valuable contribution.  Get good at verbalizing to your team that what they do matters. Show them how it ties into a goal or project, talk about the outcome, give status updates, and be specific.
  10. Introverts like praise, especially if they have a tall column 8. But they don’t like to be put on the spot. If they’ve worked hard on something, acknowledge their work. A group email or an email where their manager is cc’d is cool. Just don’t make them get up and take a bow. 

So, there you have it, ten ways to lead a team of supportive introverts. Here’s to making them more comfortable!

Working remotely certainly has its perks for your team members. Sometimes, doing so is a necessity. But, prolonged (or indefinite) physical separation can cause employees to feel lonely and disconnected from their work. Unfortunately, when their morale drops, so does their productivity. 

As a leader, it’s your job to make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s your responsibility to keep your group unified, high functioning, highly effective, and in good spirits. How do you accomplish this when team members are scattered across the country or even the globe?

Bonus read: Conflict Resolution for Teams Working Remotely

Virtual Team Building

Enter: virtual team building. Team building involves getting employees together so that they can feel connected and learn about one another. Done right, the process can result in a tight-knit group that communicates effectively and collaborates to get things done for your organization. For best results, it should be done regularly and regarded as a critical business activity. Virtual team building is taking this important practice online.

Here are four main principles to keep in mind as you design your virtual team building program:

Let’s look at each in detail.

Always Communicate

Clear, continuous communication is always necessary for your team to function at its best. However, it becomes even more critical when your employees are working alone in their homes. They can’t walk down the hall, pop their head into an office, and say, “got a minute?” That means they need to feel comfortable communicating with you and their team members in other ways.

So, how do you ensure that information and support flow as they should? Try implementing these tips:

Use Tools

When your team is virtual, in-person meetings are obviously out. That means you’ll need to find other ways to bring your team together and keep them on the same page. Fortunately, there are many tools you can use to make gatherings and collaboration a snap

For example, Asana and Trello can help your virtual team keep projects organized. Platforms like Slack facilitate conversation throughout the workday. Programs like Zoom allow your team to actually see each other through video chat and are great for presentations. Of course, there are countless other options on the market. Your team’s unique needs will determine which specific tools to implement.

Have Fun

Your employees are people outside of work that have their own interests and like to blow off steam. When you encourage them to be their true selves during business hours, you’ll boost their morale and gain their trust. When you provide opportunities for your team members to be themselves together, they’ll forge lasting bonds that translate to improved employee engagement and productivity.

Here are a few ways your team can do this virtually:

Grow Together

Your team members crave professional development opportunities, whether they’re onsite or remote. When you provide them with a chance to learn new information and skills, you increase their loyalty to your organization, strengthen your team's talent, and set them up for future success. From a team-building perspective, it’s vital to give your group time to grow together.

Here’s how you could do it virtually:

How Omnia Can Help

At Omnia, we believe that truly understanding your team members is the key to leading them effectively. Our behavioral and cognitive assessments reveal deep insight into each employee’s strengths, challenges, and work preferences. This knowledge can help you create the ideal virtual team-building program for your group. The information you’ll get is so good that you might want to encourage results sharing as a team-building exercise!

Final Thoughts

Team building is essential for having a high-producing, tight-knit employee group. But, when your team members are remote, you need to get a little creative to make it happen. With the right tools, some employee intel, a willingness to experiment, and a few online-friendly activities at hand, virtual team building is possible.

Tell us: Which virtual team-building methods work best in your organization?

Let's face it; sometimes people end up in a management position who might not belong in one. It happens for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, not all is lost. There are some things you can do to help a non-leader lead!

In fact, it happens all the time: You thought you had the perfect person to take charge of a team: they had enthusiastic references; they used to do the job, and they rocked at it; they managed a different department and had amazing success. All signs indicate they should be doing great, but for some reason, things just aren’t working out. You have unmotivated employees, deadlines are being missed, production is falling. What do you do?

Well, you don't have a time machine, so you'd better make the best of the situation now. It was possibly just a bad-fit hire, or maybe it was a promotion that should not have happened. Too often, top performers are rewarded for their successes with promotions to management. This may seem like the perfect prize for their contributions, but unfortunately, the qualities that make them a top performer in their current role may not be the same qualities that make a successful leader.

Let's look at some scenarios. Take Cal, a friendly, helpful, conscientious customer service rep., a top performer. As a manager, his best traits could work against him. He could be too cautious, too uncomfortable with conflict, and too uneasy dealing with situations that are not outlined by written procedures. Now take a look at Martha, a top producing salesperson who closes deals quickly and innovates frequently. In a leadership role, she could set overly aggressive goals, she may not enforce important rules, and she might not want to mentor or coach employees. While these are top performers in their fields, it does not translate seamlessly to ideal leadership.

That’s not to say top employees can never lead, or that a struggling manager can't be coached; some may need more guidance than others.

Here are 6 tips to turn things around:

1.    First off, make sure the person still wants to manage (or see if they ever did). The promotion might have seemed like a wonderful thing at first, but if the individual is experiencing daily, soul-crushing anxiety, maybe it’s time to let them step back. Make it clear that a reduction in management duties would not be a punishment, just an adjustment. And mean it.

2.    Find out where the problem is. Are employees not being held accountable, is morale lagging, are people lacking direction? Observe the situation, talk to the leader, and consider having them take a behavioral assessment to identify strengths and challenge areas. Interview the staff if necessary.

3.    Be prepared to mentor and coach, focusing on the biggest problem area first. For example:

4.    Once you figure out the problem, create a plan to correct it based on the biggest challenge areas. Check-in regularly to make sure progress is being made.

5.    Since you don’t have a time machine: Hire right the first time. Make sure you do your due diligence when selecting people to lead your teams, and offer coaching from the outset. Even natural leaders will need some time to get up to speed.

6.    Find other ways to reward your best performers if they are not necessarily interested in or suited to become leaders. Offer more responsibility, chances to cross-train, or opportunities to contribute in a natural and appealing way.

Every organization wants effective, engaged employees. In fact, employees want to feel engaged and effective in their workplace. How does one keep employees engaged and identify and address issues before they become real problems?

As you've probably experienced, employees are more likely to leave an organization when they don’t feel engaged, and they’re not comfortable performing their job. That’s understandable because disengaged workers don’t feel like a part of the organization, which causes a breakdown in communication and productivity beyond one employee.

Another common concern is if an employee finds their job too difficult to perform, they won’t be confident in their abilities, and will likely be fearful that they could be disciplined, demoted, or even fired for poor job performance issues, erodes productivity further.

However, there is good news.

When managers provide effective employee mentoring, training, and coaching, employees become inspired, motivated, and confident. It’s an obvious win-win! And it doesn't have to be difficult to get started.

According to the Harvard Business Review, coaching helps employees and companies achieve the following: Overcome performance problems; Strengthen employee skills; Boost productivity levels; Develop talent; Make better use of resources; Improve retention.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of each one:

Overcome performance problems – By identifying areas that need improvement and providing training (including demos, one-on-one or team practice presentations, and playbooks), managers can help employees improve job performance.

Strengthen employee skills – Coaching provides an opportunity for employees to learn valuable skills that will make them more comfortable performing their jobs. It also enables to coach to understand which skills may need to be improved or refreshed and enables the coach to develop a continuing education plan.

Boost productivity levels - Once employees become more efficient and proficient in performing tasks, they can assume more responsibilities, which increases their value to the organization. Regular status updates and one-on-ones can alert the coach to new areas of interest or problems to maintain momentum.

Develop talent – Creating a pool of competent employees makes them more confident to seek leadership positions. It also strengthens internal communication and bonds within teams to ensure their working together toward common goals.

Make better use of resources – Informal coaching is less expensive than formal training sessions. It can also be more valuable as it's more personal and strengthens employees' feeling of "belonging" in the company culture.

Improve retention – Coaching encourages employees are more confident and feel more engaged. They’ve developed skills that can be used in career advancement, feel that their manager and the company support them, and experience pride and satisfaction in being competent to perform their job. As a result, they are more likely to be loyal to the company.

So, where should you begin?

For coaching to be effective, you need a plan. It should include a well-thought-out process that fits the behavioral insights of your employee. That's where assessments come in.

When you understand what an employee needs to improve upon and what they want to accomplish, it's a lot easier to coach. Fortunately, development assessments can provide actionable data detailing what motivates employees to learn, what gaps exist in their natural aptitudes, and what learning and coaching formats are most effective for them. This allows you to build a customized development process for each employee that sets them up for learning success.

Behavioral and cultural fit assessments are also valuable for telling you what environments and situations are the best matches for employees. This can be especially valuable when putting new teams together because it can head off potential conflict sources and help put people in the roles where they’re most likely to be successful. The ability to provide insightful information makes these assessments critical to successful employee retention strategies.

According to Scott Williams of the Raj Soin College of Business at Wright State University, there are several steps included in effective coaching:

1.  Put the employee at ease. This is a vital first step in the coaching session, especially if the coaching results from poor performance.

2.  Discover what the employee already knows. Once determined, this can serve as a foundation for new information and correct any erroneous data that the employee may have.

3.  Present information or demonstrate work methods.

4.  Repeat the presentation of information or demonstrate the work methods again. Repetition increases the chances of understanding and retaining the information.

5.  Evaluate learning. Test the employee to determine if they understand the information that has been presented or if they can perform the skill as demonstrated.

6.  Provide feedback. Let the employee know if they have successfully learned what was presented. If not, go over what still needs some work.

7.  Correct. Provide or demonstrate the correct answers or procedure again.

8.  Evaluate job performance. Periodically check to see if they are correctly implementing the knowledge or methods. Smith recommends gradually increasing the time frame for checking on the employee, with the eventual goal for the employee to monitor their own performance.

9.  Reward. The employee should be praised or given some other reward for mastering the area that required coaching.

Coaching vs. Counseling

Coaching is not the same as counseling. Wright says that “can’t do” problems require coaching, while “won’t do” problems require counseling. Won’t do problems refer to such issues as the employee’s attitude or fears that may be preventing them from performing their task. In this case, counseling is the first step that must be taken to resolve the won’t do issues first before providing coaching to the employee.

*Updated from a 4/22/15 post.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to force more employers to shift to remote working arrangements, it’s more important than ever for managers to monitor employee performance. While a remote workplace can certainly be quite effective, the lack of direct supervision can sometimes cause accountability to fall by the wayside. This is especially true if employees aren’t accustomed to working in a remote environment.

However, monitoring performance is important, no matter where employees are located. When someone begins to fall short of expectations, it can be hard to get them back on track without creating a confrontational situation. 

Performance Matters in the Workplace

When things aren’t going great with a new (or even a seasoned) employee, it may not be fun to address their performance problem, but letting it slide isn’t doing them or you any favors. There are times when it is clear that you, as a manager, need to step in whether you’re dealing with a remote employee or someone working on-site.

Sometimes it might be a matter of behavior and accountability. Your star performer might be producing good work. Still, if she’s consistently showing up late and blowing off her manager to do her own thing, other employees might start getting the idea that if the rules don’t apply to her, they shouldn’t apply to them either when the stakes go up a level during a crisis, however, attention to detail matters. If everyone on the team isn’t doing their job to the best of their ability, producing quality deliverables will prove rather difficult.

The same principle applies whether people are working remotely or in the office. If a few employees aren’t pulling their weight and meeting expectations, everyone else is left picking up the slack or may even decide that they don’t need to hold themselves accountable either. When performance starts to slip, it can be difficult for everyone to “flip the switch” when they need to do more than “get by.” It can also lead to widespread resentment and frustration.

Addressing Poor Performance

Of course, in other cases, an underperforming employee becomes a detriment to the team. Maybe they’re unable to meet quality standards or can’t seem to make it to work on time every day. Whatever the case, when someone isn’t able to meet expectations, it’s up to their manager to find a way to address the issue quickly and effectively.

Sometimes it just takes a candid conversation to get somebody back on the right path. In other cases, they may need to be put on a performance improvement plan or be reassigned to another set of tasks that are more suited to their skills. If none of these efforts prove effective, however, leaders must then make the difficult decision to part ways with an employee who cannot consistently meet expectations.

Move Quickly and Document Actions Taken

Regardless of the work situation, the sooner you address the issue, the sooner it can be resolved. Remember, there should be no unpleasant surprises on an annual performance review. The employee should already know how he or she is doing before then. Whether they’re working remotely or on-site, you should regularly communicate expectations to employees so they have a sense of how well they’re doing and where they need to make improvements. 

Documentation is important here because it provides both guidance for the employee and a record of what actions were taken to improve performance. If an employee is still feeling unclear about what is expected of them, they can refer to a record of what was discussed in meetings and what action items were put in place to help them improve. Having this documentation makes addressing performance more productive and less stressful or emotional. It will also prove critical if disciplinary action needs to be taken, up to and including dismissal. 

7 Tips for Addressing Employee Performance Issues

1. Keep it specific, factual, and unemotional. 

Explain the goal or standard the person was expected to meet and discuss the action that actually occurred. The difference between the two can speak for itself.

2. Be thorough but don’t embellish.

If you tend to err on the “too nice” side, make sure you discuss the entirety of the problem. You don’t want the performer leaving your office thinking you just had a friendly gab session. But, make sure you aren’t making things sound worse than they are. That can hurt your credibility.

3. Don’t make it personal.

You may be upset or offended or disappointed that the person is not meeting expectations, but your feelings are not the reason for the meeting: the person’s performance (or lack of performance) is. If you need to throw a mini-tantrum before or after in private, go for it! Then pull yourself together and move on.

4. Be prepared to listen to and consider valid excuses.

If someone is falling short of key indicators, make sure the goals are realistic given the person’s training and time on the job. Is there a learning curve you need to respect? You may need to offer additional coaching and mentoring.

5. Outline an action plan.

You’ve pointed out the problem, now give the person the steps to fix it. What specifically do you need to see to know the issue is improving? Give clearly defined actions and set a follow-up date (or dates).

6) DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!

It’s worth stressing this point once again. Write it down. Did you write it down? Make sure you wrote it down. Did we mention writing it down? Check with your HR department for any rules regarding performance documentation. Also, write it down.

7. Follow through.

Check-in when you said you were going to and (if necessary) take the action you said you were going to take. It’s not enough to lay out solutions and hope things improve. You need to follow up with the employee to make sure they’re taking the necessary steps to improve performance.

Whether you’re managing a team remotely or working in a traditional on-site workplace, it’s important to evaluate whether your team members are meeting expectations constantly. Performance issues rarely get better on their own, which means it falls to you to step up as a leader and provide the feedback and guidance people need to understand what’s expected of them and how they can get better.

Also Popular: How to Deliver a Painless 90-Day Employee Performance Evaluation

Replacing skilled employees is a major challenge for any organization. In addition to the time and expense required to conduct a new search and hiring process to replace a departed employee, there’s also the lost productivity when remaining employees have to pick up the slack until a replacement is selected. That’s why having strong employee retention strategies in place is essential to building a resilient organization. When employees aren’t constantly looking for their next opportunity elsewhere, they are more engaged in their work and take a more active role in contributing to long term success.

6 Employee Retention Strategies for 2020

1. Focus on Development

There is no universal definition of employee development. Still, most companies understand it to mean a collaborative effort between an organization and its employees to improve their skills and knowledge. In most cases, this is accomplished by making learning resources available while also providing opportunities for employees to gain valuable experience. However, they’re implemented, these programs should be a central component of employee retention strategies.

Employee training and staff development can take several forms. Online learning resource libraries allow employees to learn at their own pace and fit development into their schedules. One-on-one coaching programs pair people with experienced mentors who can offer guidance and suggestions on dealing with new situations and improving in other areas related to their job. Employee training and development programs can focus on hard skills directly related to tasks and soft skills necessary to work collaboratively with others and manage teams effectively.

Investing in staff development also aligns employee career goals with the organization’s long-term objectives. By providing the tools and resources employees need to improve their skills, companies demonstrate that they value professional and personal growth, which helps generate loyalty and improve commitment. It’s no coincidence that a 2018 LinkedIn study found that 93 percent of employees said they would stay with a company longer if it invested in their careers.

2. Improve Engagement

When employees feel ignored or undervalued, they can engage in various negative behaviors that are harmful to the organization. Whether it takes the form of declining work quality, poor attendance, or a negative attitude, employee disengagement can quickly contaminate the workplace to diminish productivity and performance. 

Providing new opportunities is one of the best ways of pushing back against disengagement. When employees are allowed to improve their skills and gain new experiences, they are more likely to feel valued. Engaged employees also tend to be more productive and efficient overall, which is why companies should spend time thinking about how to emphasize development if they want to get the most out of their workforce.

3. Provide Multiple Learning Resources

While today’s employees want development opportunities, they also want them on terms that work for their busy lives and schedules. For many years, companies required employees to attend lengthy seminars or workshops. But this “information dump” approach to learning often left people without a clear idea of implementing the lessons learned (if they even remembered them all after a marathon session). Furthermore, long-duration courses are often inconvenient, either cutting into employees' work productivity or personal time. While some companies have promoted “lunch and learn” or “remote learning” programs, these approaches can create the perception that an employer doesn’t respect personal boundaries.

For many employees, micro-learning resources offer an ideal solution. These programs offer developmental resources in small increments that can be digested quickly and easily during the day. Learning opportunities can also be incorporated into the employee experience more effectively. Providing people with the chance to work on new projects outside their usual responsibilities is just one example of how professional growth can be integrated into employee retention strategies.

4. Use Assessment Tools

It’s a lot easier to help employees understand where they need to improve and what they want to accomplish. Development assessments can provide actionable data detailing what motivates employees to learn, what gaps exist in their natural aptitudes, and what learning and coaching formats are most effective. This allows you to build a customized development strategy for every employee that sets them up for learning success.

Behavioral and cultural fit assessments are also valuable for telling you what environments and situations are the best matches for employees. This can be especially valuable when putting new teams together because it can head off potential conflict sources and help put people in the roles where they’re most likely to be successful. The ability to provide insightful information makes these assessments critical to successful employee retention strategies.

5. Talk (and Listen) to Employees

While assessment data is important, it’s also good to know what employees think about their career goals. If someone is happy in their existing role but would like to improve key skills associated with it, they will require a different approach than someone who has aspirations to move into a different role. This is especially important when it comes to preparing people for leadership positions. Not every employee wants to be a leader, but those who generally want to take consistent steps toward that goal. Understanding what each employee wants will make it easier to put the data gathered in their assessments into a meaningful context.

Of course, employees may also have a lot to tell you about the organization (and the people leading it). When soliciting feedback from employees, it’s important to listen carefully to what they have to say. While it isn’t always possible to take action on every point they raise, taking the time to listen and understand their concerns and opinions makes them feel valued and supported. In many cases, their insights can expose issues within an organization and contribute to positive solutions. 

6. Encourage Employees to Create a Professional Development Plan

One of the most valuable tools for organizations and employees alike is a professional development plan. This document identifies short, medium, and long-term goals the employee wants to accomplish throughout their career. Typically developed in cooperation with a manager or HR director, the employee development plan highlights any skills, competencies, experiences, and education required to achieve each goal. It also identifies potential resources, such as directed learning materials, potential mentors or employee development trainers, and training courses that could prove useful throughout their career journey. With a career development plan laying out a distinct path forward, it’s far easier for employees to see where they need to take steps to further their careers. The plan also helps employers get a sense of an employee’s plans and how they fit into a broader succession strategy.

Organizations that neglect employee retention strategies often discover far too late that they’re actively pushing their best people out the door to seek opportunities elsewhere. When companies implement employee training programs that help people build new skills and become effective leaders, they can significantly improve retention and engagement levels. The combination of development assessments and professional development plans encourages employees to see a future for themselves within the organization.

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