employee performance discussion

When Should Employee Performance Problems Be Discussed? (Hint: It’s in Real Time)

By Kimberly Kafafian


An essential part of managing employees is addressing performance issues. I admit, even for the most seasoned People Managers and HR professionals, these are not fun conversations. These conversations are, in fact, one of the most challenging aspects of a manager’s role. Because of that, managers quite often (ok, almost always) delay having these discussions. But delaying talking to an employee about their less than positive performance is detrimental to everyone.

Monarch is located in the NY tri-state area and we often commute into Manhattan to meet with clients. Our commute puts us on trains operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA. The MTA has a slogan for commuters: If You See Something, Say Something (which was coined on Sept. 12, 2001). Good performance management is just like that: done in real time. 

All too often, performance problems are brought up for the first time during annual performance reviews. When you wait too long to raise performance concerns, you unleash a host of problems:

  • The employee may be under a false impression that they are doing a good job. As an HR professional, I all too frequently hear, “No one has ever said anything to me before about concerns with my performance.” If nothing is mentioned (and more importantly, documented), the employee’s actions may seem acceptable and then the person will see no reason to change. Plus, if you terminate after this one mention at such a late date, you open up the possibility of legal action for unfair dismissal.
  • At this point, it is often too late to fix the issues as the unproductive behaviors exhibited by the employee have become commonplace, deteriorating the manager-employee relationship. Said differently, your employee now has an unproductive habit that wasn’t kept in check.
  • You missed the opportunity to quickly correct the performance issues, which negatively impacts not only the employee’s performance, but the performance and value of the entire company. The moment you see behavior that needs correction, correct it. Let’s face it, People Managers, that’s part of your J-O-B.

Discuss Performance Issues with Employees

When they First Arise

Hoping that the employee’s performance issues will go away is wishful thinking. If no one told the employee that there was an issue, how would they know they should work on it? You need to have a discussion with the employee as soon as you are aware of the performance problem. Here are some reasons why it’s so important to do so:

  1. It ensures that the manager and the employee are in sync of what is expected.
  2. It helps the employee better understand what is needed for good performance.
  3. It provides an opportunity for the employee to correct the issue.
  4. A quick resolution leads to better outcomes for the organization overall as the issue could also be hindering the work of colleagues or subordinates.
  5. Providing regular feedback, both positive or negative, helps build better working relationships and trust.
  6. Giving feedback in smaller doses, more frequently, can help employees maximize their strengths and grow.
  7. It ensures that the feedback is current and in context, rather than out of date and irrelevant.
  8. During the annual performance review, there should be NO surprises. Both of you should be going into this conversation on a level playing field. 

Nobody likes having tough conversations, but it’s important not to put them off. And honestly, the more often you have these conversations, the easier they become. Frank and timely discussions with employees about their performance problems can help them improve, which is good for the employee, good for the employer, and good for their relationship.

motivate employees - carrot and stick image

How to Intrinsically Motivate Employees

By Kimberly Kafafian


As we head into 2022, I’d like to encourage business leaders to take a closer look at their employee engagement initiatives. Peek under the hood, if you would. With millions of workers leaving their jobs and looking for better options (aka the Great Resignation), this is the time to assess whether your employee motivation strategy is up-to-date and in line with what today’s workforce is looking for in terms of job satisfaction. Over the last several years, we moved away from “You need this job, Employee!” to “Do you want this job, Employee?”. So with that in mind, are you offering opportunities that employees want? Are you building a culture that encourages employees to learn and grow? That instills a sense of pride in one’s work? Where people are willing to tap into their creativity for the benefit of the company? Have you created a place where employees feel like they belong? 

A company’s culture plays a key role in workforce motivation. A study by Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi found that: Why we work determines how we work. To effectively motivate their workers, leaders need to uncover exactly why they are working for the company. As the Great Resignation has demonstrated, the reasons go way beyond a paycheck. Today’s workers want to align themselves with a purpose and know the work they are doing enhances their potential for advancement. By understanding why your teams are working for you, you can develop successful strategies to retain/attract talent, boost productivity, and enhance revenues and profits.

The case for building intrinsic

motivators into your strategy

In working with businesses of all sizes, shapes and industries over the years, I have found that intrinsic rewards are very closely tied to increased employee engagement. These non-tangible rewards offer much longer lasting benefits than their extrinsic counterparts. While extrinsic rewards – such as bonuses, merit increases and paid time off – are effective at driving short term motivation, what is the incentive for employees to do something beyond the scope of the work required for the reward? 

While focusing on intrinsic rewards requires greater effort, the rewards the company receives make this extra work worth it. Since intrinsic rewards are psychological and driven by the employees themselves, they vary from person to person. For the intrinsic rewards to be effective, leaders need to take the time to build relationships with their teams so they can identify the rewards that would best motivate each team member (side note, People Managers should be doing this anyway!). Intrinsic rewards are very personal, like a sense of pride, learning a new skill or feeling like an important member of the team.

Because intrinsic rewards elicit a positive emotional reaction, they tend to motivate employees to continue to improve and do their best even when no extrinsic reward is offered. I’ve found that when leaders utilize intrinsic rewards, they reap greater benefits than if they just used extrinsic rewards. They tend to see a boost in productivity, enhanced creativity, less need for supervision, stronger commitment to the company, and overall reduced labor costs.

10 Ways to Motivate Your Workforce Intrinsically


1. Give meaningful tasks

People want to know that the work they are doing matters. Talk to your team to find out what they think are the most important aspects of their job, then assign tasks that will give them a sense of purpose.

2. Allow more autonomy

By giving employees more control of their day-to-day responsibilities, leaders can empower their teams to take ownership of their work, which can lead to better project outcomes.

3. Instill a sense of confidence

By letting employees know they are doing a job well, you’re instilling confidence in their abilities, motivating them to take on more complicated tasks.

4. Create an environment where employees can see progress

Apprising people of the progress they are making motivates them to continue on towards the overarching goal.

5. Increase responsibility

Assigning additional responsibilities can indicate to an employee that you have trust in their skills, which will inspire them to take on even more responsibility.

6. Develop a culture of purpose

Employees, particularly millennials and Gen Z, want to make a difference. By creating a culture of purpose, you are motivating them to align with, and work towards, a greater good.

7. Recognize employees as key team players

No one wants to know that they are just another cog in the machine. Letting employees know that they are an important part of the team can motivate them to do more.

8. Offer training and development opportunities

Supporting career development lets employees know they are valued and that you are vested in their advancement, which in turn boosts performance. 

9. Provide a path for advancement

Recent research indicates that employees believe their companies should help with career progression. Letting them know there is a path forward for them will motivate employees to be more committed to the company and their work.

10. Use affirmation to inspire

Simple words of recognition and encouragement are extremely powerful. Just telling someone they did a great job can instill a sense of pride, which is an incredible driving force.

a remote worker

Performance Management for Remote Workers

By Kimberly Kafafian


In a magnitude of ways and for a magnitude of reasons, COVID-19 (and oh hello, Omicron variant) continues to turn our worlds upside down. Remote work, telework, working from home, working from anywhere, virtual work, and hybrid work are all real things now. But what happens when managers, business owners and employees aren’t all in the same location? Let’s face it, when you’re in the same workplace as your team, it’s pretty easy to ask them a question or provide feedback on their performance. You can simply walk right up to them and start a conversation. And not only are you able to hear their verbal response, you’re also privy to what their body language is exhibiting. Performance management is a lot trickier, however, if a team member is working remotely. When you’re not physically present in the same space together, the feedback or question may be neglected, and miscommunication can easily occur. 

Monarch has always been a virtual company. For the rest of the world though, it was rare for managers to have remote teams two years ago. And although it began to look like things were returning to somewhat normal, COVID-19 variants keep rearing their head. Companies that had set new year timetables for employees’ return to the office, have delayed plans because of uncertainties over the severity of the variant. The remote work world is not going anywhere in a hurry. And if companies want to drive growth and continue to innovate, they’re going to need to continue reshaping their performance management strategies too. What they started doing in 2021 for 2020, they can refine and calibrate for 2021 in 2022.

Managers who may have kicked the proverbial can down the road when it came to performance management for remote workers, now must figure out how to have valuable conversations, provide effective feedback, and set clearly defined goals with their remote teams. They’re going to have to discard the old concept of connecting presence with performance. This is particularly important moving forward, as employers are likely to have a mix of in-office, hybrid, and remote workers. They cannot favor one group over the other simply because of physical presence. A conscious effort needs to be made to instead focus on contribution, results and outcomes. Where performance assessment takes place doesn’t really matter as long as a company has the right assessment strategies and approaches in place.

Remote Performance Management Strategies


Ensuring that remote employees are productive and engaged hinges on having an effective plan and following through. Below are the performance strategies I recommend to my clients who have a remote workforce.

1. Set expectations and review them often

If employees are expected to do their jobs, they need to know what their parameters are. Managers should clearly define each team member’s work requirements, giving them as much information as possible. They should be apprised of project requirements, priorities, milestones and goals. Explain what their daily schedule should look like and how you plan on communicating with them. Today’s world is rapidly evolving, so it’s important to consistently review expectations and pivot accordingly.

2. Be flexible

One of the things Covid has changed is not only where we work but when we work. Be flexible with hours. If the employee is getting the work done, it shouldn’t matter if they are working in the morning, afternoon, or evenings. It is the performance that matters.

3. Schedule regular on-on-one meetings

Don’t meet with an employee only once a year for an “annual review.” One meeting in a year’s time is so far from sufficient that it’s a ridiculous concept to me. Regular check-ins keep everyone updated on progress and provide opportunities to quickly address problems when they arise. In general, employees want to do a good job, they want feedback. Frequent meetings help to enhance their performance. A lot of our clients have developed the scrum, agile and/or stand-up approach to performance management – briefly, daily check-ins that keep everyone on track, in compliance and in communication. 

4. Ask for status updates

Simplify keeping track of performance by asking for frequent updates. Daily or weekly logs keep both parties on track and allow you to quickly see progress.  The updates are also useful to review during the one-on-one meetings. Our team shares a Slack channel called #monarch-daily-check-in. At the end of each day, everyone posts 4-5 brief bullet points about the client and internal work they completed during the day.

5. Give feedback often (aka daily)

When it comes to managing remote workers, it’s all about communication. By routinely providing feedback, you keep the lines of communication open. Be clear about what is and isn’t working, but remember if you have something negative to address be sure to do that privately with the employee. You should always address any performance concerns promptly, as letting them linger only makes matters worse. 

6. Celebrate good performance

Don’t just be on the lookout for poor performance, you should also keep an eye out for great things your team members do. Celebrating successes is just as important as addressing any performance concerns. Our team also shares a Slack channel called #good-sh*t where we call out and celebrate our individual and team successes.

7. Listen and empathize

Today’s employees are juggling a lot. You need to make sure workloads are manageable. When receiving status updates or conducting meetings, really listen to what the employees are saying. So many workers are overworked right now, which is impacting performance. Managers need to have a pulse on how they are feeling (hint: your workers are still feeling really stressed out about managing work, kids, pets, partners, the doorbell, the landscaper, the need for lunch/coffee/water/a bio-break, etc. all at the same time).

8. Trust

In handling performance management for remote workers, trust is the key element. Managers need to trust that their remote teams are working effectively and efficiently. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Treat your employees like adults. I guarantee they will pleasantly surprise you. 

9. Don’t micromanage

When teams are working remotely, you can’t keep your physical eyes on them, which may raise concerns about whether or not they are working efficiently. But even when workers are in the office, you shouldn’t be constantly watching them. For your remote teams, it comes down to trusting rather than observing. Of course you need to monitor progress and performance, but you don’t need to over manage. Again, you hired your employees for a reason. Let them do their thing. (Also, micromanaging is about you, the People Manager, and not your employees. More to come on that in a future blog).

Performance management for remote workers may be a bit different, but with the right strategies in place, it can be simple. And even easy! With remote work looking like it’s here to stay, now is the ideal time to reshape your performance management processes.

intrinsic motivation on sticky notes

7 Types of Intrinsic Rewards for Employees

By Kimberly Kafafian


It’s a new year, which means new goals and objectives. And for the majority of employers right now, attracting and retaining top talent is topping the list. Businesses of all sizes, across all sectors are scrambling to keep current employees engaged and strategizing on how to draw new workers into the fold. For many leaders, their go-to tool is a reward system. After all, who doesn’t like receiving something extra for their hard work and commitment to the company? But as an HR professional, I’m always asking, “Are you using the right type of rewards to drive motivation in the long term?”

When it comes to motivating employees, there are actually two rewards categories: extrinsic and intrinsic. Understanding both will better enable you to pick the motivator that will work best now, as well as in the long haul. 

Extrinsic rewards

You’re probably more likely to be familiar with extrinsic rewards. These are more tangible rewards, like an annual bonus, commission payment, a merit increase, profit sharing, or even an additional day off. They are called extrinsic because they are external to the work itself and they are controlled by management rather than the employees themselves. 

Intrinsic rewards

Unlike extrinsic rewards, intrinsic rewards are more psychological than tangible, and they are driven by the employees themselves. They are the type of rewards that a worker experiences from successfully completing a task or project, such as satisfaction or a feeling of achievement. They hinge on the worker’s own effort and abilities. 

Foster an Engaged Workforce with

these Intrinsic Rewards


  1. Feeling of accomplishment 
  2. Mastering a skill
  3. Personal growth
  4. Pride in work
  5. Feeling of respect
  6. Gaining trust from management
  7. Being and important part of a team or the organization overall

While extrinsic rewards do work, they tend to have limited effectiveness. If a business only offers extrinsic rewards, employees may only take on added responsibilities or make an effort to go above and beyond if there is an extrinsic reward attached. Conversely, because intrinsic rewards elicit a positive emotional reaction, they tend to motivate workers to continue to improve even when no extrinsic reward is offered. 

There is value, however, to offering extrinsic rewards. In the short term, they can help boost productivity, push workers to accomplish a specific task or reach a goal, and show employees they are valued members of the business. But the benefits of intrinsic rewards far outreach those of extrinsic rewards. When management uses an intrinsic reward system to motivate employees, they’re likely to find:

  • Increased engagement
  • Enhanced innovation and creativity
  • Greater overall job satisfaction
  • Stronger commitment to the company
  • More effective learning
  • Less need for supervision
  • Reduced labor costs

If your organization is not leveraging intrinsic rewards, make 2022 the year it starts doing so. In today’s tight labor market, this just might be your best strategy for keeping current employees happy and luring new talent to take your company forward.

Like the idea, but not sure how to put it into practice? Read our blog How to Intrinsically Motivate Employees for some tips. 

an employee creating a work life balance during the holidays

Creating Work-Life Balance During the Holidays

By Kimberly Kafafian


The most wonderful time of the year is also the craziest. Crazy busy. Crazy crowded. Crazy expensive. Each and every December, I contemplate how hard it is to juggle end of year obligations with still performing our regular daily tasks. And as anyone that works in HR knows, the end of 4th Quarter is our busiest month of the year. (Quick! Let’s implement that performance management program we talked about 11 months ago!) Then add in the shopping, the wrapping, the baking, the travel, the driving of kids to and fro, and the parties. Between work, home, family, and community obligations, the to-do list grows, the calendar quickly fills up, but the number of hours in the day never changes. Every year, I wonder not only how will I get everything done, but will I get a chance to actually enjoy the magic of the season? As the mother of a ‘tween and teen, I want to be physically present and enjoy these fleeting moments in time with them. I have committed myself to creating work life balance in general (it’s a work in progress) and I make even larger efforts during this time of year.

As the holidays creep up, the anxiety builds. I totally get it. It’s hard to balance the time we must spend completing work projects with the time we want to spend with family and friends. But there are some things we can do to help prevent holiday overload. 

How to Handle Hectic Holiday Schedules


Make a must-do list

I always start by taking stock of all the activities I MUST do and events I MUST take part in during the holiday season. Make a list of both your absolute work responsibilities and personal to do’s. Once you have these items identified, you can work all the “like to do” items around them.

Prioritize your activities

During the holidays there’s so much to do. If you want to achieve a healthy work life balance during this time of the year, you need to prioritize. Of course, there will be plenty of “must dos” on your list (work projects due, holiday shopping, family gatherings), but some are more important than others, and usually there are varying deadlines. Sit down and really think about what you need to do first and what you can schedule to do later on. This will help you better navigate the crazy weeks ahead. Place everything on your calendar and re-arrange accordingly when something new pops up. Having it all in black and white – and maybe even color coded – will help you feel focused and less anxious.

Work from home or set a flex schedule

If you can still work from home, do it. You can grab some extra time in your day by cutting out your daily commute. Working remotely may even make you feel a bit more festive. Put a small tree or some twinkling lights in your office, work in your holiday PJs, make a quick batch of cookies during your lunch. Do something to help maintain your seasonal sanity.

Put in more hours before the holidays approach

If you know crunch time is coming, try to work some longer hours right before the holidays to complete those must-do projects. If you can do this, be sure to make your manager aware so they’re not caught off guard if they see you leaving early or asking for a day off.

Set boundaries

If you’ve been working from home during the pandemic, you’re probably thinking to yourself that setting boundaries has been difficult. The lines between work and home life have definitely blurred in a remote work world. But it’s more important than ever to keep the work and personal life separate during this time of year. At work, focus on what you need to accomplish there. Don’t address your personal holiday to do list during work hours. And try not to bring your work “home.” Do your work tasks during work hours and don’t check email after hours. Make your holiday out of office message personal, such as saying that you’re spending time with your kids, or that the holiday is for some rest and relaxation. Setting these boundaries will help you from becoming too frazzled.

Make a plan and stick to it

Now that you’ve identified the must-dos, prioritize your activities, created a strategy for finding extra time, and drew an imaginary line between work and home, you need to sit down and formalize all of this into a plan. I’m not saying that this plan is set in stone. Things will come up and plans will need to be revised. But you need to keep track of your time and your tasks. This will help you stay focused, and may even identify ways for you to find some extra time in your day. The important thing is to have a plan for moving forward.

Just say no

If saying yes will send you in a downward spiral, remember that you can always say no. No to another party. No to that neighborhood cookie exchange. No to more responsibilities, such as a new project that doesn’t really need to be worked on until the new year. This doesn’t make you a bad person. Saying no is a form of self-preservation and self-care. Full disclosure, saying no is really hard for me to do but I’ve been told that the more we practice saying no, the easier it becomes. This, too, is a work in progress. 

Hopefully these tips will help you achieve a much better work life balance during the holiday season : )

An employee experiencing burnout in the workplace

How to Address Burnout in the Workplace

By Kimberly Kafafian


End of year burn out. It’s real. And chances are your teams are experiencing it, especially after 18+ months of whirlwind pandemic living. Even though I take specific actions in a conscious effort to prevent my employees from becoming overwhelmed, the continuous daily grind over months on end naturally starts to take a toll. I feel it myself. Throw in the COVID-19 childcare challenges, disruptions in where we work and how we work, the fear of getting sick, and the extra responsibilities thrust upon us, and burnout this year is more intense than ever.

The annual Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org backs this up. The survey, which polled more than 65,000 North American employees, found an uptick in burnout. 42% of women and 35% of men reported feeling burned out often or almost always in 2021, compared to 32% of women and 28% of men in 2020. This is underscored by Gallop’s State of the Global Workplace 2021 report. It found that 57% of those surveyed expressed they experienced stress “a lot of” the previous day, which was an increase of eight percentage points from the year before. 

As an HR professional, I have an up-close look at burnout in the workplace. With “burnout” being a buzzword for 2021, addressing it is taking center stage in all types of human resource aspects. And I’m there in the trenches working alongside management to minimize employee burnout and boost retention – which is key in combating the Great Resignation.  Flexible work schedules allow employees the flexibility they need to keep those glass balls up in the air. The result? Less stress. Rewarding and recognizing employees keeps them motivated during a time when they might be doing the work of two or more vacancies. Result? More job satisfaction. Addressing toxic workplace behavior in real time – i.e. see something, say something – creates less workplace friction. All of this helps to minimize burnout. 

Not sure if your team is burned out? Here are some typical telltale signs.

  • Physically exhausted
  • Mentally depleted
  • Mentally distant from the tasks at hand
  • Negative feelings about their job
  • Decreased productivity
  • Decreased quality of work
  • Irritable and/or impatient with co-workers or customers
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent sick days

Chronic stress at work can cause any of these symptoms. Some key catalysts include an unmanageable workload, lack of manager support, unclear communication, and time pressures. In order to maintain a healthy workplace culture, we urge our clients’ management teams to take notice of any employees who are experiencing these symptoms and examine the possible role the company is playing in contributing to them.

What can you do to help teams overcome and prevent burnout?

To build resilient teams, managers need to invest in their wellbeing. Here’s some advice we give to our clients to ward off workplace burnout:

Build wellbeing into your culture

Let workers know that their physical and mental health is a company priority. Support a healthy work-life balance by not demanding unreasonable hours, allowing for a flexible work environment, and respecting personal time. Invest in resources that support this culture. Enhance your mental health benefits, offer mental health days off, and arrange for workshops that focus on mental health topics. 

Educate management about burnout

Leadership needs to ensure that managers understand what burnout is and can identify its symptoms. It should encourage management to cultivate relationships with employees so they can see how they are really doing, assess mental wellbeing on a daily basis, identify how company policies are impacting it, and pivot as needed to address the overwhelm while attaining goals. This may mean adjusting workload and time pressures, reassigning tasks, making sure communication is as clear as possible, and providing some recovery downtime. 

Draw a line between work and personal

Our new remote and hybrid work lives have really blurred the lines between work and personal, diminishing the time we desperately need to unwind. Help teams create this separation by emphasizing that a break from work is a true break so that there is a recovery time. Don’t send emails at night, on the weekend, or during vacation. If you do, make sure to state that if they are receiving the email outside of work hours that it is not urgent and can be addressed when they return to work. 

Make employees aware of their purpose

When the stress builds up, people sometimes begin to feel a disconnect, wondering if what they do really even matters in the grand scheme of things. Managers need to make a concerted effort to show their teams that their contributions make a difference. Tie in workers’ daily tasks with the company’s mission so that the connection is easily understood. 

Burnout results in decreased productivity and high employee turnover. While addressing employee burnout should always be a priority, in today’s hiring and retention crisis, companies can’t afford to lose their most productive and talented workers. If you haven’t been taking steps to minimize burnout, be sure to make it a priority in the new year.



holiday thank you gifts for employees

Thanking Employees During this Time

By Kimberly Kafafian


This past year has definitely been a trying one on both the work and home fronts, which for many of us has been one and the same. There’s been so much disruption, particularly related to where we work, how we work, whom we work with, and the volume of work. It’s safe to say that we’ve all been navigating uncharted waters and stretching ourselves to the max, both physically and mentally.  I keep seeing a sign hung in various businesses that reads: “The whole world is short staffed. Be kind to those who showed up.” With that said, I think it’s essential that thanking employees – those who have continued to show up and are the backbones of our businesses – for their loyalty, commitment, and hard work is more important this year than it’s been in the past.  I also know that while many businesses want to express their gratitude, they’re still struggling to recover from the pandemic’s effects and may wonder how they can afford to show their appreciation. As I frequently advise my clients, there are a variety of options and price points when it comes to expressing gratitude.

6 Ways to Show Your Employees You Care

this Holiday Season

Reward and recognition have always been central to employee engagement and retention. After the toll of the last 12 months, employees are worn out, and according to a recent survey, only half of them are happy with how their employers supported them during the pandemic. Now more than ever, businesses need to provide their employees with positive reinforcement that recognizes their support and diligence. The ideas below are all great ways to demonstrate you care and express your thankfulness for all they do to make your business better. 

  1. Thoughtful Handwritten Notes. While a simple thank you note may seem like a small gesture, it can really make a significant impact. According to the Snappy annual Employer Gifting Survey, when presented with benefits like a bonus or a raise, 52% of those employees polled said what they were most looking for was appreciation or recognition. A thoughtful note is one of the best ways to make your workers feel valued. It’s a small but significant way to let them know how much they matter to the organization as a whole.
  2. Gifts that Show You’re Paying Attention. It’s so much more meaningful when a gift truly relates to its recipient. Think of gifts that tie into what you and your team have experienced during this time. If you’re just heading back to the office after a long period of working from home, the team may not be ready for the sounds of a large space and noise canceling headphones could be a great gift idea. To recognize these stressful times, consider giving small care packages or even a cozy blanket. 
  3. Gift Cards. Do you know from where your employees like to order lunch? Have they mentioned their favorite restaurant? Do they always need their morning coffee or afternoon pick me up? Give gift cards to local restaurants, cafes and coffee shops – they’ll make your employees happy, and you’ll be supporting local businesses at the same time. 
  4. Extra Time Off. You don’t have to go with a physical gift. You can give thanks with the gift of time. It is the perfect way to show your employees that you recognize the importance of a work life balance. Give them one day of their choosing, a specified day or even the dark week between Christmas and New Year. This gift might not seem splashy, but it is one that is definitely appreciated.
  5. A Special Meal. Send a dinner to your employees at home to show them you recognize they may be tired after a long day of work. You can send a fully prepared meal that they just need to heat and serve or a fun meal kit subscription they can make with their family – even if it’s just for one meal. 
  6. Experiences. Say thank you with a carefully thought-out event. Maybe it’s a lunch or dinner outside of the office, a fun class, an in-office spa day, or attending a sporting event as a group. Think of an experience that everyone would enjoy together.

There are many ways to thank employees during this time beyond the usual bonus (although workers tend to really like cash too!). What types of holiday gifts have you given to your employees to show how thankful you are for their loyalty and hard work? I’d love to know!

upset woman with head on desk at work

The Pandemic, Gender Equality and the Great Resignation

By Kimberly Kafafian


Have you ever heard of a default parent? That’s me. I am a Mom, with a Capital M. I am the go-to. The permanent stopgap. I am Plan A and Plan B. When the pandemic hit, “it” all fell to me. In all actuality, I wouldn’t have it any other way and I know I wasn’t alone. Whenever I read that gender equality in the workplace has taken a large step backward over the last 18 months, I completely get it. Because ironically, much of it has to do with the fact that many working women are, well, mothers. Moms, like me. I’m not saying that only the careers of mothers have been affected. Far from it. Women have been disproportionately impacted across the board by the pandemic for a multitude of reasons. For one, millions of women, who are overrepresented in in-person front line jobs, lost their livelihoods overnight when shutdowns took hold. 

But being a mother has definitely impacted career paths. Working mothers like myself, who were lucky enough to retain their positions, were faced with childcare issues overnight as schools, daycare centers and afterschool programs closed. While childcare issues have impacted working fathers as well, evidence has shown that working mothers have taken on more of the childcare responsibilities during this time, unrealistically juggling work and parenting responsibilities, reducing hours or leaving their jobs to do so.

Recent research is underscoring what women everywhere already know: the pandemic has negatively impacted their careers. 

A survey by MetLife found that 48% of the women they polled align with this thought, with one in five women saying they have been pushed out of the workforce altogether.  One study by Deloitte delved even deeper into the toll the pandemic has placed on working women. It revealed that 77% of respondents had an increase in their workload and 59% reported carrying out more domestic tasks. 66% said they have the greatest responsibility for household tasks, and more than half of those with children asserted that they handle the majority of child care. This increase in responsibilities is definitely affecting mental health with only a third of women saying their mental wellbeing was “good” or “extremely good” during the pandemic, which was at 68% pre-pandemic.

Interestingly, a study by McKinsey and Lean In on the pandemic’s toll on the careers of women with white-collar roles found that while women still made strides over the last year, they are experiencing much higher rates of burnout than their male counterparts. As a result, they are questioning if they even want to remain with their current companies and on their planned career paths. They feel their work is going unrecognized and unrewarded – and that is something employers need to be concerned about.

With organizations of all sizes, across all sectors, now facing the Great Resignation, it would behoove leaders to take particular note of what women are saying – especially since 56% of the women in the MetLife survey said they have thought about a career change and 57% of those in the Deloitte poll said they plan to leave their current job within two years.

So, what should an employer do to keep its valuable women talent and attract new workers? 

The Deloitte and MetLife surveys give some good insight on how organizations can make their companies more attractive to women right now:

  1. Step Up Support. Only 35% of the Deloitte respondents felt their employer supported them when it came to work/life balance and only 39% felt their company’s commitment to women since the start of the pandemic has been sufficient. The women in the MetLife survey indicated that they want employers (present and future) to provide not only economic incentives, but tailored benefits, upskilling opportunities, and diversity/equity/inclusion programs. As a leader, ask employees how they are doing and what you can do to assist them at this time. Make sure to define clear boundaries between work and personal time. Take a real interest in the wellbeing of your team.
  2. Be Flexible. Women have been juggling, A LOT. They are looking for increased flexibility (78% are according to the MetLife survey). Offer flex schedules or hybrid work arrangements. Reassess your paid time off, as well as paid and unpaid leave policies. Be as generous with time as realistically possible. 
  3. Offer Career Progression Opportunities. A whopping 73% of the women in the MetLife survey are looking for career development support from their current or future employer. Take a vested interest in your workers’ careers. Have authentic conversations with team members to identify and understand their career aspirations and help them devise a plan to achieve them. Offer trainings and educational opportunities, as well as create a mentorship culture. 

As a result of the pandemic, women are evaluating their career paths in a new light. They want to work for organizations where they feel supported and appreciated. To retain and attract women workers, companies need to understand the impacts COVID-19 has had on working women and take actions to address their shifting expectations and demands.

employee career development discussion

Career Development Discussions with Employees

Smart Strategy Against the Great Resignation

By Kimberly Kafafian


Anyone that’s recently dined out and/or stood on line at a retail store and/or tried to get a customer service representative on the phone and/or needed to get their car serviced can attest to our rapidly thinning workforce. A quick Google search will tell you a record 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in August. Anthony Klotz, an organizational psychologist at Texas A&M University, coined this ongoing phenomenon as “The Great Resignation.” He thinks that the pandemic has made workers reevaluate what they are actually getting out of their jobs. So what is a company to do? For starters, I suggest asking employees what they want to get out of their jobs, while you still have them as an employee. Proactively taking a role in the career development of employees, just might be a company’s best – and least costly – strategy for keeping its workforce in place. According to a recent survey by Lattice, more than 50% of the 2,000 employees at mid-to-large companies in the U.S. polled said they are looking to change jobs. Why? The reasons appear to be strongly connected to the lack of career development opportunities.

Professional development and employee retention

A staggering 76% of respondents said they would be somewhat or very likely to leave a company because they were dissatisfied with career progression opportunities. And with 43% reporting that their career progression with their current company has completely stalled or significantly slowed down, along with 47% saying they are actively looking for a new job that provides the growth opportunities they need for the next step in their careers, employee feelings about professional development can’t be ignored.

Career development conversations appear to be even more relevant when it comes to younger employees. The Lattice survey found that 37% of Gen Z and 25% of millennials are currently looking for a job that offers career progression transparency. In other words, they want to know exactly what the company offers in terms of opportunities for growth.

Looking at these numbers, effective communication with employees around job paths and skill development is clearly a strong offensive strategy in addressing today’s hiring and retention crisis. But what exactly does “effective communication” mean in regard to career development?

Here are some of the conversational strategies I recommend to managers:

1. Customize the discussion.

Every conversation about career development should be uniquely tailored for the employee you are speaking with. When it comes to forging a career path, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. These discussions are supposed to help you gain greater insight into who your employee is and how you can support them. Ask them questions that will uncover ambitions and provide you with the right information, such as:

  • What projects are you most proud of?
  • What job activities motivate you?
  • What do you think your talents and skills are?
  • What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
  • What projects would you like to be part of?
  • What skill development or training may help you progress toward your career goals?

2. Focus on the employee’s aspirations.

While it’s helpful to share about your career path and the wisdom you’ve learned along the way, the focus of these conversations should be on the career aspirations of the employee. Let them tell you their ideas about moving their career forward. Your role is to help them find the path that best fits their existing skills and how to enhance skills for advancement.

3. Develop a plan for moving forward.

As the manager, you have the knowledge to help the employee create an actionable plan that breaks down the overarching career goals into smaller steps. To help them successfully navigate this plan, introduce them to key people in the organization and assign projects that will propel them forward.

4. Initiate conversations on a regular basis.

Have discussions with employees on a regular basis, not just yearly or even quarterly. You should be routinely touching base so that you can monitor progress and provide additional guidance as needed. And don’t roll in a discussion about career development into the employee’s yearly review. The focus of these discussions should be around career aspirations, not performance. By engaging in conversations on a routine basis, you can stay informed as to where the employee is on the path and how you can best support their next steps.

When you invest in your employees, you are investing in the company. It’s a win-win for all involved.

demonstrating career development using chess pieces

Career Development and Employee Engagement

Companies Can’t Afford to Ignore the Connection

By Nicole Martin


I worked with a company that is pretty amazing: from their mission to employee benefits to how genuinely nice the people are, it would be difficult to find a reason not to work there. The leadership team, however, heard murmurings of unhappy employees because they did not have any career guidance for growth. In fact, very few of the employees understood how to advance their career or even what their next job might be. If you put yourself in their shoes, it would be very easy to imagine another opportunity enticing them to leave. 

To stop today’s revolving door of employee turnover, companies should focus their efforts on cultivating an engaged workforce. The evidence is clear that engaged employees stay in organizations longer. And with the cost of replacing one employee being between one-half to twice that employee’s salary, retaining your workforce is imperative in today’s challenging economic environment. This, plus the other benefits engaged workers bring – such as increased productivity and revenue – makes investing in the job satisfaction of your employees a no brainer.

While there are many factors that can drive engagement, according to recent surveys, a current top driving force appears to be career development. 

  • The 2021 Talent Index, which surveyed 5,000 U.S. and UK workers, found 83% of employees think their company should help with career progression. 
  • This is underscored by a recent Lattice survey in which a staggering 76% of respondents said they would be somewhat or very likely to leave a company because they were dissatisfied with career progression opportunities.
  • Making the career development / employee engagement connection even stronger is Gallop’s The American Upskilling Study in which 61% of workers polled said upskilling is extremely or very important when weighing the decision to remain at their current job. 57% indicated they are extremely or very interested in participating in an upskilling program with 63% of those saying they are motivated to do so to advance their careers
  • Although the Gallop State of the American Workplace was pre-covid, its findings are also worth noting: 
    • Of those looking for jobs, 52% said their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them leaving. 
    • Only 3 out of 10 employees said someone had spoken with them about their progress in the last 6 months.
    • Only 3 out of 10 felt someone at work encourages their development.

Retaining the Talent in Which You’ve Already Invested

Employees want opportunities to help them hone existing skills, upskill, explore new avenues, and progress toward leadership positions. They want to see that there is a path forward for them. Demonstrating authentic interest in their professional advancement through mentoring, developing career plans, education/training opportunities and upskilling fosters engagement, retention and a better bottom line. Plus, by investing in skill building initiatives, you can look in-house to fill gaps created by emerging technologies.

Additionally, think about how much money you’ve invested in your current workforce. Consider the expense associated with hiring, onboarding, and training, as well as the hit your organization would take if it lost knowledgeable talent. The cost of attrition together with the benefits engaged employees bring to your company significantly outweigh the financial investment associated with career development initiatives. 

Taking an active role in the career development of your existing workforce is a win-win for all involved.

Career Development Initiatives Can Entice New Talent

Your career development policies will not only help prevent your current employees from seeking job satisfaction elsewhere, they can also give you a leg up in today’s hiring crisis. As mentioned above, 76% of workers said they would be somewhat or very likely to leave a company because of career development satisfaction. So, it would seem that those individuals would be considering professional development initiatives when weighing job offers. Gallop’s The American Upskilling Study also found that 65% of workers believe employer provided upskilling is very important when evaluating a new job prospect. 

People want to work for organizations with a culture that emphasizes and supports learning and development. Providing education, training, upskilling and re-skilling opportunities is an attractive selling point for your organization because it lets potential hires know that you are committed to helping them progress in their careers. 

Career development is a must-have for both existing employees and potential new hires. Given how it can help attract and retain talent in today’s Great Resignation, leadership needs to make it an employee engagement priority. The company I mentioned at the beginning of this article recognized this and committed to doing everything they can to retain the talent in their organization. While much work needed to be done, they started with simple conversations with employees to understand everyone’s career desires. They then clearly defined the various roles and levels of management, which creates transparency with internal career opportunities. This is an ongoing project but once this development strategy is broadly communicated, they will truly become the greatest place to work.