How to Create Belonging for Remote Workers

MIT Sloan Management Review
Fri, 08 Feb 2019 15:44:14 +0000

What does workplace culture mean to the growing number of people who work from home or as freelancers? We spent the last three years studying the science of emotions on the job for our new book, No Hard Feelings. One of the most common questions we get asked by leaders is how to ensure the growing number of remote workers feel connected to their work and to their colleagues.

Feeling a sense of belonging, which is when we feel safe and valued for embracing what makes us different, makes us happier and more productive. We’re also healthier and better able to cope with job stress. Not belonging, on the other hand, is among the strongest predictors of turnover.

The task of creating a sense of belonging among remote workers can seem daunting for organizations and managers. Laura Savino is an iOS developer who lives in Seattle and works remotely for companies based around the world. When we spoke with her, Laura was up front about the biggest drawback to her career: Because she rarely gets to know her colleagues outside of work, she sometimes feels isolated and invisible. “One company scheduled a weekly 30-minute video teatime for all employees.” This type of gathering, explicitly social, helped to bring her team closer together.

Liz's Hierarchy of Remote Work Needs

Source: Liz and Mollie

These kinds of virtual watercoolers help remote workers connect and build empathy within teams. Employees at social media management company Buffer, whose 75 employees are distributed across the world, share personal snippets of their lives on Instagram Stories. Buffer director of people Courtney Seiter told us, “Now I know what my colleague’s day is like and what her workspace looks like. I get to see my coworkers making cookies and walking their dogs. It’s the things you would never share on a conference call, but seeing them helps you understand each other.”

Another isolating factor that remote employees may encounter is the issue of recognition. The “out of sight, out of mind” trap makes it more likely that remote workers receive less praise than their non-remote counterparts. When we work with our colleagues in person, we compliment each other after meetings, in the hall, or over drinks. Remote workers have fewer chances to receive this kind of informal feedback. “Many remote workers receive assignments, deliver them on time, and hear back only when their managers need more work done on these assignments,” explains Kristen Chirco of E Group. Making sure to point out in public (whether in a Slack channel or on a team video chat) when a remote team member has done a good job will go a long way toward building a sense of belonging and recognition for them.

iSpy: Videoconference

Source: Liz and Mollie

The best advice for making remote workers feel like they belong: Make their experience as similar as it can be to that of coworkers who see each other in person every day. From a management perspective, the following tips are especially helpful:

Once they’ve earned it, trust them. Because you don’t see them working, it’s easy to assume any lull in communication means remote workers are twiddling their thumbs. The nicest part of working remotely is that you can easily build blocks of uninterrupted, concentration time into your day. Set clear expectations for remote workers as to what communication best practices look like at the company, but don’t worry if you don’t get a ping from them every five minutes. Be mindful of time zones. To help people in all time zones feel included, strive to delay decision-making until you’ve heard from everyone who should be involved. And if you occasionally need to ask a colleague to join a meeting outside of their normal work hours, we recommend skipping video. It’s much easier to jump on and participate if they aren’t expected to be camera-ready. Send them physical packages! When Liz was working remotely as a consultant, one of her clients had a cake delivered to her apartment on her birthday. Another sent her paychecks in illustrated thank-you cards. When everything is digital, a physical package (think company swag, books, snacks, or handwritten notes) is delightful. Help remote workers meet each other. This can be done by setting up virtual lunches, teatimes, or what Buffer terms “pair calls”. For pair calls, Buffer employees opt in to be randomly paired with someone else at the company once a week. Calls have no set agenda; coworkers get to know each other by talking about their families, hobbies, and favorite shows.

Creating belonging for remote workers doesn’t have to feel like a daunting task. It simply requires carving out small moments for employees to connect digitally on a personal level.
3 Daily Habits of Highly Successful Content Marketers
Fri, 08 Feb 2019 06:46:00 -0800

If you’re going to work as a successful content marketer who brings about effective results, it’s essential to adopt and maintain positive daily habits. This goes for anything in life, but especially for work where there is usually a staggering amount of competition and lots to be accomplished in a short period of time.

The most successful marketers have a plan for how they organize their time to be their most productive. They do things for themselves on the daily that keep them focused, energized and ready to tackle that day’s workload. Research by the Content Marketing Institute found that 53 percent of marketers have a small or one-person content marketing team for the entire company. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a single person, so streamlining your daily habits is essential.

As a content marketer, it’s your goal to create content that people want to gobble up and consume every day. You want to give them insight and value, and it’s difficult to do that if you don’t have healthy daily habits in place to organize your work life and help you reach success. Here are three you can adopt to become a better content marketer.

1. Reading

If you’re going to create content that results in conversions, you have to be able to know about the latest news and what the business and industry trends are. It also allows you to brainstorm content topics and ideas so that your blog never runs out of insightful content to share with visitors.

Successful content marketers keep up not only with other blogs and content they’d like to emulate, but they keep tabs on what their competitors are doing as well. This keeps them one step ahead of the game and allows their own team to form a content marketing strategy that increases revenue and attracts organic traffic.

Create a swipe file of all your favorite websites, news sources and industry blogs. This is a file or folder where you collect ideas, snippets, articles, images, and more of your favorite and most useful content. When it’s time to read your daily news or gain inspiration for blog topics, your swipe file is your handy tool that keeps everything in one place for the ultimate organization.

2. Batching tasks

It’s too easy for humans to get distracted, even if what they’re doing is of great interest to them. That’s why it’s so important to create a system where you’re able to maximize your efforts and your time by organizing it accordingly.

The best way to avoid wasting time and get work done in a timely manner is to batch tasks. Let’s say you’re curating ideas for article topics and then you get a notification that you’ve received an email. It’s common practice to stop what you’re doing, check your email, and then get lost browsing for the next hour while your tasks pile up. With a strict system in place, this won’t be a problem.

Batching your work means creating time to work on one task -- and only one task -- for a period of time, say an hour or 30 minutes. You group together similar activities and get them done in one chunk so that you aren’t going back and forth between tasks, getting frustrated, and losing focus.

3. Tracking progress

You can’t possibly know how your content is performing on the outside if you aren’t measuring your success. Hitting ‘Publish’ isn’t enough to gather traffic and create happy, engaged readers. You need to do a lot more if your content is going to rise to the top and get noticed.

To track progress, you first need to establish specific, measured goals called key performance indicators (KPIs). They will tell you how well you are or aren’t reaching your goals so you can optimize your strategy accordingly. It’s important to track user engagement and promotion to see how your content is performing.

Some examples of KPIs for your content marketing could include:

Social shares Views Engaged time Conversion rates for CTAs Leads generated from X content Time for new customers to convert

Being a content marketer isn’t easy, but adopting healthy daily habits will greatly benefit your work life and give you more balance and peace of mind. Read on your industry trends and topics so you can keep up with competitors and plan your content ahead of time. Batch important tasks so you aren’t flipping back and forth and wasting time where it shouldn’t be spent.  

8 Ways to Handle Unsolicited Advice and Opinions
Fri, 08 Feb 2019 08:00:00 -0800

Unsolicited advice can be a blessing or a curse. It either comes from a source whom you trust to guide and direct you through wisdom and experience, or it may originate from someone who only shares to benefit their own self-esteem and feeling of importance.

The trouble with advice is that those giving it often expect you to act upon what they suggest, whether you like it or not. Everyone has opinions, and most people are happy to share theirs when asked. It's when you don't ask, and they still offer, that tensions often arise.

When you're the recipient of someone's unsolicited opinion, it is easy to become offended or defensive. Your response is key to maintaining – and even growing – that relationship moving forward. How you respond to their ideas can make or break your ability to influence them in the future, as well as their willingness to help when you genuinely need it.

Here are eight ways to handle others’ unsolicited advice and opinions:

1. Listen.

Ignore your urge to stop someone short of sharing their advice. Allow them to finish their thoughts and express their ideas. Make eye contact with them and show a genuine interest in what they have to say. Acknowledge their ideas by nodding your head. Maintain a receptive posture by keeping your body at a neutral stance with legs and arms uncrossed.

2. Keep an open mind.

Don't get lost in your thoughts or inner dialogue the moment someone starts to share an unsolicited opinion. Instead, hear what they have to say. Ideas can often be gleaned from the simplest thoughts or from a perspective that's not our own. We can typically guess what those closest to us would have to say when asked, but those offering unsolicited advice may have an unexpected interpretation.

3. Be willing to learn.

Some people offer opinions because they like to hear themselves talk while others share because they have experience in that topic. Before writing off their idea, learn where their advice originates. See if they reference their own previous experience that perhaps you didn't know about. Learn from their mistakes or lessons before embarking on your own.

4. Avoid getting defensive.

Some personality traits thrive on the feeling of power they experience when sharing opinions and ideas. If a know-it-all speaks up, don’t get defensive. Just let it go. Don’t allow their reaction, advice or arrogance to frustrate you. It's not worth it. Contemplate where their advice originates. Perhaps it's a personal insecurity or an apprehension for risk-taking. Attempting to comprehend why they interject can help you understand why their advice provokes your emotional reaction.

5. Identify advocates.

You never know if someone is giving you advice because they truly care about your success and idea. When you keep an open mind and listen intently, you can spot advocates whom you never knew you had. These individuals may become mentors or peers whom you may someday trust to give honest, open feedback when needed most.

6. Respond politely.

When you disagree with their opinion, acknowledge and respond without saying, “Thanks, but no thanks!” Simple phrases – “I’ll consider that” or “That’s an interesting perspective” – help transition back to your idea without creating unnecessary tension. It gives you an opportunity to acknowledge what they said without committing to their idea.

7. Consider the relationship.

Before you write off someone's opinion, consider your relationship. If you're an entrepreneur searching for funding, rejecting a venture capitalist’s advice is likely not wise. On the flip side, if you're in a position of authority with bigger issues at stake, accepting input from someone with a limited perspective can be unwise. Decide how that person relates to your decision before you dismiss their ideas. Maintaining your relationship and ability to influence is vital to your continued success. 

8. Use discretion.

Everyone encounters those individuals, either personally or professionally, who always have something to say about everything we do. If you find yourself conversing with someone like this, use discretion before sharing your latest ideas. Expect that you'll get an opinion in return, so use your best judgment before indulging them with the details.

Before you reject any unsolicited advice, consider these eight tips first. Take a moment to listen and keep an open mind. You never know what you may learn or how your positive response can influence their future decisions.

Snail Mail Will Rescue Your Digital Campaigns from Tech Uncertainty
Fri, 08 Feb 2019 09:00:00 -0800

For years, marketers have relied heavily on Facebook and Google to do the heavy lifting in their digital sales funnels. In fact, these two platforms now accounts for an estimated 73 percent of all digital advertising.

While these platforms are undeniably effective, their near-total market domination makes many marketers nervous. What many marketers don’t realize, however, is that certain analog marketing methods, like printing and direct mail, function effectively when combined with digital marketing campaigns.

Direct mail is often viewed as an expensive and inaccurate method most people ignore. In reality, direct mail can serve as a highly-targeted and cost-effective lead-generation source that can be easily integrated into a broader digital marketing campaign. When used correctly, printing can even take a large portion of the sales funnel load away from platforms like Facebook and Google and reduce marketers’ reliance on these digital behemoths.   

Editor's note: Need a direct mail service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

Where Does Printing Fit in a Digital Sales Funnel?

A traditional digital sales funnel uses targeted advertising — usually from Facebook or Google — to drive traffic to a campaign landing page. There, users would either take an action or be slated to receive some kind of remarketing message.

Facebook and Google ads are effective because the two companies possess vast amounts of demographic data about their platform users. Many direct mail list providers have equally impressive demographic data allowing marketers to send highly-targeted messages to potential new customers.

In this new hybrid funnel, marketers use targeted printed marketing materials alongside Facebook and Google ads as lead generators which direct consumers to a campaign landing page. In the same way marketers use Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) tags to measure digital campaign traffic, marketers can use personalized URL’s, called PURLs, to measure response to a direct mail campaign. PURLs give marketers the ability to measure response and conversion rates for a direct mail campaign and can also be used to create custom audiences for remarketing purposes.

These new measurement techniques reveal just how effective direct mailing can be. Marketers who use printing as a component of their digital campaigns find their cost-per-acquisition is much lower when compared to channels like Facebook or Google. In fact, some marketers have seen such impressive results from their direct mail campaigns that they’ve cut their digital marketing budgets in half.  

5 Direct Mail Best Practices

To get the most out of the printed components of your digital marketing campaign, it’s important to follow a few best practices.

Choose the Right List Provider: Effective marketing is about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. To do this, marketers need the best information possible. Once you’ve determined your campaign’s target audience, choose the mailing list provider that can deliver your message to the people you want to reach.

Commit to More than One Mailing: A one-and-done approach just doesn’t work in direct mail. Data shows that response rates go up with the second or third mailer. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend more money. What it does mean is that you’ll likely get a better response by mailing 500 people 3 times than you would by mailing 1,500 people once.  

Research Mailing Costs Before Starting Design: With mail, a small difference in size and construction can have a huge impact on postage costs. For example, one-eighth of an inch could be the difference between postage for bulk standard letter rate or bulk flat rate postage, which would increase your postage costs by as much as $0.40 cents a piece.  This can add up to a lot of money. Good printing companies have resources available and can walk you through your options and explain their impact on your mailing budget.

Include an Exclusive Offer and a CTA: Your campaign offer and calls-to-action (CTA) should be compelling for your potential customers and consistent across all your marketing channels.

Use PURLs: Personalized URLs are the key to measuring and retargeting your direct mail recipients. So invest in PURL tracking software and use the results to inform future marketing campaigns.

Once you’ve set up your direct mail campaign using these best practices, you’ll be ready to unleash the power of printing as a vital component of your digital sales funnel.

IKEA has used it to make decisions about its business model.


Headhunters need to find new ways to create value.

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