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I am a proud parent of a sixth-grade middle school scholar who was recently inducted into the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS). This is an important accomplishment in her educational career as she prepares for wherever life's journey takes her by teaching life skills and helping her find her purpose. The social-emotional skills being developed are grounded in social awareness and responsibility. She has the opportunity to be a leader and role model to others by having a greater impact on school activities and community service thus highlighting her character and skills strengths.
As I reflect back on the past school year it was a bumpy road with its challenges of starting at a new school, class rotations, new and changing friendships, the ever-changing Covid-19 safety protocols, the loss of a grandmother and mental health concerns. I am thankful she asked for help to navigate her anxiety and lean on the support structures available to us. Through all of these challenges, her academics thrive. This experience made me wonder what type of workplace allows an individual to bring their whole self to work? How can leaders of an organization create a work environment that accepts the whole person?
I wanted to learn more about the National Junior Honor Society following the induction ceremony. I found that the NJHS recognizes that no two educational journeys are the same because they value the whole person as an individual. The NJHS has five main purposes: "to create enthusiasm for scholarship, to stimulate a desire to render service, to promote leadership; to encourage responsible citizenship, and to develop character in the students of secondary schools."
There are workplace similarities to having purposeful leadership, healthy work environments and the opportunity for every individual to thrive. Here's how HR leaders can examine their workplaces through the lens of these five pillars:
1. Everyday Scholarship
In the workplace, employees want a commitment from their leaders to invest in learning and development on an individual level to support their career path. How do employees learn to grow the skills needed in a role today and in the future? If an organization does not have an internal learning and development team, are there opportunities for mentorship stretch assignments, leading a project or lateral moves? What external partnerships are available with member associations, industry chapters, webinars and conferences? Does your organization have a tuition reimbursement program for degrees and/or industry certifications? How can you encourage and support a learning culture where employees apply what they learn and share their knowledge with others to improve both individual and organizational performance?
2. Everyday Service
Employees today want more than a paycheck. In a 2016 study by Cone Communications, 75% of Millennials said they would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company, and 64% said they'd pass on a job offer if they felt a company didn't have strong corporate responsibility practices. Having a volunteer time off (VTO) paid benefit can be a competitive advantage to attract and engage talent. VTO benefits can be offered by providing employees opportunities to partner up with nonprofit organizations or by letting employees choose an organization independently. What is your organization's brand to create a culture of caring? How can employees feel they are making a difference, gaining new skills and strengthening relationships with colleagues? Can they feel good about where they work?
3. Everyday Leadership
Leadership does not need a title. Everyday leadership in organizations is where employees take intentional action every day to nurture connection, communication and community. What is your organizational culture? Does it have a clear vision everyone is working together toward? How are employees empowered to make decisions and encouraged to do their best work? Do your employees feel trusted and appreciated? What are the daily actions that can contribute and have an impact on the company's long-term success?
4. Everyday Character
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) must be a central part of every talent management process to provide all employees with fair opportunities to attain their full potential. How inclusive is your organization? How do you meet people where they are at? Do employees feel they belong and are valued for their contributions?
DEI efforts have an impact on employment policies. When reviewing and/or implementing employment policies, ask yourself: Are these policies written in a neutral way that is easy to understand, including terms' intended meanings, with examples of behaviors, conduct and/or actions by using an equity lens? How can the tone of policies be changed from compliance to employee engagement and motivation and provide consistency when dealing with individual situations?
DEI efforts can be extended with benefits offered to reach people beyond the workplace. How are you looking at benefits with an equity lens for what is valuable and accessible to different population groups? The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for mental health resources and wellness. How can mental health and wellness benefits be added without increased cost? How do your employees and their beneficiaries understand the benefits offered to make the best-informed choice?
5. Everyday Citizenship
This is when employees take the initiative to go beyond their job description and perform positive actions that impact a colleague or the organization. How does your workplace drive organizational citizen behaviors (OCB) that are not expected to be rewarded or required? Are your employees expected to do the right thing? Do employees feel the work environment is healthy and that behaviors reflect what is valued to be a high-performing team? Rework conducted research with Google and identified five common categories of OCB: altruism, conscientiousness, sportsmanship, courtesy and civic virtue. OCBs demonstrate how civility can be achieved in the workplace, which is needed more than ever with the current social climate.
In summary, similar tenets to the NJHS pillars could transform workplaces today and in the future. Leaders can prepare for the future of work by having purposeful leadership, creating and sustaining equitable and healthy work environments, and ensuring the opportunity for every individual to bring their whole self, be supported and thrive.
This article was written by Sherry Martin from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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