Featured in today's briefing:
- The role of volunteer opportunities in hybrid work.
- Gen Z’s salary expectations gap.
- How to tap the value of internal networks.
The Macro Context
- Just 12% of Russell 3000 companies’ quarterly earnings calls mentioned the word “recession” in the fourth quarter of 2022, down from 45% the previous quarter, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis.
- Worldwide, inflation-adjusted wages last year fell below where they were in 2019.
- The pandemic’s “legacy of weirdness,” as J.P. Morgan Asset Management global chief strategist David Kelly put it to CNBC, continued last month, with employers laying off around 103,000 US workers while adding more than a half-million new jobs.
- Some 1.2 million Americans joined the ranks of part-time workers in December and January, with 857,000 of those employees working part-time by choice.
Focus on the Culture Boost from Volunteering
Research studies have linked company-sponsored volunteerism to higher worker productivity and engagement, a greater sense of purpose among employees, increased collaboration, and even heightened interest from prospective job applicants.
At PayPal, employee participation in the company’s community impact program grew significantly over the course of the pandemic, with the number of annual employee volunteers increasing by 63% between 2019 and 2022. To understand why volunteer engagement increased—and how it led to a greater sense of community even as workers spent less time in one another’s presence—we spoke with Franz Paasche, PayPal’s SVP and chief corporate affairs officer. Here are excerpts from our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity:
It feels counterintuitive that employee engagement in a workplace volunteering program would increase during the pandemic. What’s behind that?
We were thinking about, how do we build culture and community and an environment where so many people are not in the office? We were in an interesting position as a payments company, as a company that provides access to capital, that enables people to transact business from home during the pandemic—and our employees wanted to find ways to help. We found that online volunteering and getting people involved in mentorship programs and helping entrepreneurs, coaching high school students—our employees really were engaged in this work, and it brought them together at a time when a lot of things were keeping people apart.
Since the pandemic, it's only grown, because now we both do online volunteering and team volunteering. The work-from-home environment is one of the reasons why we saw a surge in additional volunteering, because it became seamless. You can volunteer on your own time and work on your own time. And people were able to find ways to integrate in a way where they could fulfill all of their work obligations but also have time for volunteering. There's a generally supportive view in the company that for people who are committed to volunteering in general, they find ways to make this work with their work obligations. We don't see a disruption of the workplace or of our productivity. We see an enhancement. Our teams and employees and sites make it work.
And we have increasingly focused on skills-based volunteering. Our employees feel this is a way to work together to support the community, but it's also building their own skills and it's part of their own development as professionals. There's a whole set of synergies around these programs, and we're seeing them just continue to burgeon and grow in a way that also creates a sense of community, a sense of culture, a reinforcement of the mission and values. It leads to a more inspired employee base at a time when I think a lot of companies, including us, are looking for how do we connect with each other in this environment?
How does the skills-based focus connect to culture?
It empowers our employees to see the connection between the skills they're building as employees of PayPal and the social impact that they can have. There's professional development that occurs in the context of skills-based volunteering that I think is inspiring for employees, but also connects them to the work they're doing every day as a finance person or an engineer or a communications person or a brand person. It connects them to the mission of the company, because they can participate in having an impact on their community. It also connects them with other people who have those skills. And we found that has enhanced the sense of community that people feel at the company.
What information did you use to pinpoint that connection?
We know how many of our employees are volunteering, because they submit and track the time they use. And like most companies, we have impact surveys where we are surveying employees on how connected they are, all the different indices of how employees are doing. We're seeing that volunteering and community impact and connection to the mission is an important part of what motivates our employees. I wouldn't say that we can break it out to the specific volunteer activities, but we can see that the increase in volunteer activity and community activity and social impact work contributes to our employee's sense of mission and sense of inspiration.
One theme that’s come up in our reporting on culture is that what gets recognized is what gets reinforced. How has employee recognition factored into this?
We are not a company that devotes a lot to internal prizes or awards, but we do make sure that our volunteers feel appreciated, are thanked, and that the social impact is recognized. So we’ll have articles that feature social impact on our internal website. We have an employee newsletter where we will highlight different volunteer activities. We create video content which we share at our global all hands where volunteer activities are recognized. We have different recognitions of our global volunteers that we will post on LinkedIn or on our newsroom site. So it's in the air and in the water, and our employees appreciate each other.
One of the takeaways is that the goal here is to build culture and build community. If you get it right, the culture of the company reinforces and recognizes the value of community impact, the value of social impact, and the value of volunteering. So you need recognition, you need ways of making people aware of the work, but the most important recognition is the recognition between and among peers, and the sense of connection to the company and the mission of the company and how we live our values as a company.
What Else You Need to Know
Companies that participated in a four-day workweek trial are overwhelmingly keeping it, citing benefits to revenue, retention, and employee mental health.
- The study cohort included 2,900 workers across 61 organizations in the United Kingdom, and the trial lasted from June to December 2022. Of those organizations, 56 have committed to maintaining four-day workweeks, two are still considering a permanent shift, and three dropped out of the study.
- Companies reduced their working hours while maintaining productivity by reining in meetings, reducing distractions for employees, and increasing efficiency across the organization. (Read our recent interview with Juliet Schor, the lead researcher for the trial, about how to best implement these practices in your own workplace.
Gen Z women are entering the workforce with a salary “expectations gap.” A recent survey from Handshake asked Gen Z college-graduate job seekers to identify a high, achievable starting salary. On average, Gen Z women expected $6,200 lower than Gen Z men.
- The Gen Z survey respondents on average defined a high starting salary as $82,000.
- Currently, the gender pay gap stands at $0.82 earned by women to every dollar men earn.
- The report’s authors advocate for pay transparency policies to narrow both the expectations gap and the salary gap itself. (You can download Charter’s guide to implementing pay transparency policies here.)
After-school care shortages are making life harder for working parents. Unmet need for after-care programs, which bridge the gap between when school lets out and when typical full-time working hours end, reached a record high last year, according to research from the nonprofit Aftercare Alliance.
- Due to high costs and few available spots, some 24.7 million children who would take advantage of such programs were shut out of them. As more employers call their workers back to an office, a growing number of parents are left scrambling to assemble a patchwork of child care.
- In an Afterschool Alliance survey of around 1,500 parents of school-aged children, 87% of respondents in families without a stay-at-home-parent said that aftercare helped parents to keep their jobs.
- Public funding for these programs is sparse, with just $1.3 billion of federal money going to after-school programs last year. Relatively few have received Covid relief funds.
- Cost is the most commonly cited barrier to access, with the average family who pays for aftercare paying $100 weekly.
Fewer organizations are planning substantial pay increases for the coming year. Some 80% of employers in a recent Payscale report said they intend to raise base pay in 2023, down from 87% who said they would in 2022.
- Some 56% said their 2023 increases will be greater than 3%, compared to 53% who said the same last year, though the share of employers who plan to offer more significant raises (above 5%) fell from 18% to 11%.
- Payscale, which surveyed around 5,000 organizations in the fourth quarter of last year, also noted in its report that low compensation was the most commonly cited factor in employee turnover.
Return to workplace speed round:
- Several states’ tax codes require workers to return to office in order for companies to receive tax breaks. In New Jersey, certain tax programs require workers to be in office 80% of the time, while one Texas program requires workers to work in person 50% of the time.
- Commercial landlords are increasingly defaulting on loans on office buildings as occupancy rates remain low.
- A leaked Salesforce memo reveals plans for a mandated return-to-office, requiring three in-person days per week for “non-remote” roles, four days per week for “customer-facing” roles, and 10 days per quarter for engineers.
- Since February 17 when Amazon leadership announced that employees would be required to return to offices a majority of the workweek, thousands of employees have joined a “Remote Advocacy” channel on the company’s Slack and have begun challenging the RTO order.
- Disney employees submitted a petition to CEO Bob Iger this week, asking him to reconsider a return-to-office mandate that would require four days in offices each week beginning in March. The petition garnered 2,300 signatures, approximately 1% of the company’s staff.
- During the past three years, Yelp’s fully remote workforce has moved away from office locations in San Francisco, New York, Washington, DC, and Chicago, while the number of Yelp employees located in Florida and Texas has quadrupled.
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- Ask, “What do you think could help you?” The question strikes a balance between micromanaging and being too hands-off, allowing employees to exercise autonomy in solving their problems while allowing managers to offer guidance and assistance as needed.
- Draw hard lines around your communication channels. To make information easier to find, consider keeping your internal and external communication methods separate, using Slack or another messaging platform for all conversations between colleagues and email only for external messages.
- Use employee focus groups to inform office design updates. The best way to make sure you’re creating a workspace that meets employees’ needs? Ask them directly how to do so, for both larger office overhauls and lower-lift changes to the way space is used.
- Reactivate your internal network. If a reorganization has you feeling unsure about your role or your path forward, reach out to your weak ties within your company, such as former teammates and managers, old mentors, or colleagues from other departments. These looser connections can offer advice, new perspectives, and potentially new internal or external opportunities.
Life imitates art (and so does ChatGPT). In a scenario that could have been ripped from its own pages, the science-fiction magazine Clarkesworld announced that it’s no longer accepting submissions after being flooded with stories written by generative artificial-intelligence tools.
Sounds like the chatbot won’t be invited to happy hour. Some call-center employees are chafing at the missteps of their AI “colleagues,” such as serving them irrelevant scripts and sending callers to the wrong department.
- One employee told the Wall Street Journal of his employer’s mistake-prone AI-powered virtual agent, which the company had named Charlie: “We’re taking up a collection to get Charlie a hearing aid.”
- While some organizations are pushing AI on their workers, others, including Verizon and JP Morgan, are taking the opposite approach, restricting or blocking employee use of ChatGPT.