The Strategic People
Creating a Positive
In the Digital Age, technology has completely shifted the
world of work as we know it. People don’t merely work
to live anymore; they work to learn new skills, feed their
passions, and become better humans.
This change in employees has triggered an even bigger
shift in the workplace. To provide an environment that
attracts and retains employees and brings out their best
performance, companies must focus on providing a
uniquely impressive and holistic employee experience.
But providing an excellent employee experience isn’t a
quick or easy process. 15Five’s spot on Inc. Magazine’s
Best Workplaces list and Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work
weren’t earned by implementing generic, one-size-fits-all
plans; we took our years of performance management
experience and paired it with evidence-backed data to
create a successful strategy and we help our customers
do the same.
This comprehensive guide can be used as a model when
developing your own strategy, and tailoring it to your
people’s unique needs. Below, we share proven methods
and best practices for designing an extraordinary
employee experience, along with insight into how each
individual contributor has the power to impact your
company’s bottom line.
Equinox Partners Ltd
Metro City Business Center
51, Alexander Malinov Blvd
+359 899 826 714
Table of Contents
THE CURRENT STATE OF THE WORKPLACE
THE COST OF A DISENGAGED EMPLOYEE
DATA REVEALS OUR BIGGEST PAIN POINTS
BRINGING YOUR WHOLE SELF TO WORK
THE POWER OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
UPSKILLING YOUR EMPLOYEES
CONDUCTING EFFECTIVE 1-ON-1S
TIPS FOR GUIDING YOUR NEXT 1-ON-1
THE IMPACT OF EMPLOYEE LOYALTY
NEXT STEPS: CREATING AN EXPERIENCE THAT
BRINGS OUT YOUR BEST SELF
HOW 15FIVE HELPS ITS CUSTOMERS
In recent years, the percentage of engaged employees
within the U.S. and Canada has stayed stagnant, hovering
in the lower 30s with no jump in either direction. While
the percentage of actively disengaged workers is at
an all-time low, still, an astounding 13 percent of U.S.
workers claim to be miserable in their role. This leaves
a significant percentage (53 percent) who are not
engaged, and instead showing up to work simply going
through the motions.
This data tells us that an overwhelming majority of people
don’t feel an innate connection to their role or company,
putting most companies at risk of high employee
The newer generation of employees require more than
a pat on the back to show up to work day-in and day-out
to perform at their best. Businesses are now feeling the
pressure from this group and have begun recognizing the
importance of work-life synergy and modifying their
learning and development efforts to fit. This can include
online learning offerings, personal and professional
development stipends, and services to help people
manage stress, such as guided meditations.
Work-life balance, while nice in theory, is a myth. It’s safe
to say that, for many, work occupies about half of our
waking hours, but work and personal life are not easily
compartmentalized. To balance work and life implies the
separation of the two, but new technology and evolving
workplace environments are conflating business and
pleasure. Instead of work-life balance, modern workers
have subscribed to the idea of work-life synergy.
Technology, flexible working hours, and office design
have made progress in reaching these needs—
management styles, however, have not.
The current state of the workplace
Work-life synergy is a mutually beneficial relationship
between your personal and work life, where both
complement the other. When a person is fully
supported to be their whole self, and do work in
alignment with their strengths, they feel engaged and
empowered in other aspects of their life.
Would you be relieved if
you heard your manager
32% would be.
Do you believe you
could do your
manager’s job better?
Almost half of the
respondents think so.
When a culture change is needed in an organization,
HR is often expected to lead the charge. Although
many of these moves intuitively feel right, HR leaders
need more to convince the C-suite, employees, and
even themselves that the ROI from the change will be
A Gallup study found that a positive employee
experience led to higher profitability, productivity, safety,
quality, and customer ratings, and decreases turnover,
safety incidents, shrinkage, absenteeism, and patient
Studies also examine the cost of not investing in the
employee experience. Disengaged employees cost
organizations $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary
and cost the American economy as much as $350 billion
each year in lost productivity.
$350 BILLION EACH YEAR IN
$3,400 FOR EVERY $10,000 IN
THE COST OF DISENGAGED EMPLOYEES
At 15Five, we wanted to fully understand where companies are falling short and how we can better serve
companies to fill those gaps, so we conducted a data study of what we call The Next Generation Workplace.
We surveyed 1,000 full-time U.S. employees and 500 U.S. managers to capture insights about the
landscape of today’s workplace.
We asked questions that helped us further understand the support requirements of workers, their
relationships with their leaders, and their plans.
HERE ARE A FEW EXAMPLES OF QUESTIONS WE ASKED AND THE ANSWERS WE FOUND:
Would you like your company
to offer more leadership and
manager training opportunities?
Three quarters of managers say
How honest do you think your
direct report(s) are with you
during your check-ins?
Almost half of managers believe
their employees withhold some
sensitive or negative feedback.
The cost of a disengaged employee
Data reveals our biggest pain points
Companies can empower work-life synergy by offering
benefits like flexible work arrangements, family leave,
support for mental and emotional wellness, or an à la
carte menu of options that allow employees to tailor
benefits to their needs.
As part of this integration between personal and
professional lives, employees increasingly want to work
for companies where their values align. But feeling
that alignment can be difficult when only 2 percent
of employees can name their companies’ top three
At 15Five, we use OKRs (objectives and key results) in
performance management to set individual, department,
and company-wide goals. This process helps employees
tie their work directly to the company mission, which
helps them feel more embedded in the organization.
Our research found that when leaders check in with
employees in 1-on-1s at least once a week, employees
have more confidence in leadership, are more
transparent, feel their suggestions are heard, and are
more likely to ask for help when needed.
Opening the line of communication paves the way for
more honest and vulnerable conversations. Having these
meaningful discussions at work not only break down any
previous silos, but can allow employees to show up as
their whole, authentic selves.
Within the last few years, we’ve watched millennials’
share of the workforce increase dramatically. This
generation of workers has now taken the spot as the
largest living adult generation, and many have already
worked their way up into leadership roles. With more
boomers retiring each year, millennials are on track
to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2030 and
continue to heavily influence employee
Businesses seeking to motivate employees in their
work will now have to tailor their employee engagement
strategies to this group. Research suggests that they are
driven by open communication, a great work culture,
involvement with causes, and achieving purpose and
fulfillment. Despite the flack they receive from previous
generations, millennials are enthusiastic about learning
and thrive in collaborative work environments that value
This paradigm shift in organizations’ people management
practices doesn’t just benefit one generation of
employees. While millennials perform at their peak when
given regular feedback, flexibility in how they work, and
growth opportunities, these practices have been proven
to unlock engagement no matter when an employee
As the newer generations come into roles of leadership,
they are redirecting focus onto the people that make up
their companies, and the cultures they co-create
Creating a culture of engaged, loyal, and productive
employees begins with a hyper-focus on the individual.
Tending to the specific needs and wants of your people
can be the difference between scraping by or excelling.
To successfully do this, you must understand the whole
employee. When a company hires a person, they aren’t
just hiring a set of skills; they are hiring a human being—
one who has positive and negative traits.
When companies embrace the whole person, that
employee feels a deeper connection to the organization
and their role. They become more comfortable speaking
up, sharing ideas, collaborating with team members,
and being creative—necessary actions for companies to
succeed in today’s business world.
Bringing your whole self to work
Psychological safety is a shared belief that the
team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. It can
be defined as “being able to show and employ
one’s self without fear of negative consequences
or self-image, status or career.”
Creating a deep sense of belonging with each employee
isn’t achieved through company offsites or generous
PTO, it’s a commitment from the leadership team and
each manager to focus on the specific needs of every
employee and empowering them to learn, grow, and
Fortunately, the desire to learn is strong. Employees of all
generations want career growth, with millennials valuing
the learning of new skills most. One study found 72
percent of millennials look for these opportunities, versus
52 percent of boomers and 64 percent of Gen Xers.
The desire to learn isn’t limited to entry-level employees;
seventy-five percent of managers surveyed state they
want more managerial and leadership training. But this
means there is a significant need still waiting to be met.
Making personal and professional development a
priority in your company can greatly improve employee
experience, productivity, and retention. While there is a
financial cost of providing these types of opportunities,
the cost of not doing it may be higher.
A Bridge study found that 67 percent of millennials
would leave a job that didn’t offer growth or development
opportunities. According to Gallup, when an employee
quits, it can take upwards of 2x of their salary to find
a replacement. Given the average turnover rate of
26 percent, for a company of 100 employees with an
average salary of $50,000, it can potentially add up to
$2.6 million a year to replace workers.
LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report found that
more executives than ever (82 percent) are championing
employee engagement through professional
development. L&D professionals are now proactively
seeking skill gaps in various ways, such as conducting
internal assessments and making room in meetings with
As the progression of technology speeds up, new
pathways for personal development in the workplace
begin to take shape. Because of these opportunities,
more dollars are being shifted to online learning
solutions, according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace
Learning Report. Nothing can fully replace the value of
face-to-face learning environments, but no one can deny
the benefits of online learning tools. They are quicker,
more personalized, and fit into any schedule.
At 15Five, we make full use of our incredible resources,
both on and offline. Not only do we offer them to our
employees, but take measures to ensure they are using
them consistently. Some examples are:
The power of professional development
75% OF MANAGERS
SURVEYED WANT MORE
GENERATIONS LOOKING FOR CAREER GROWTH
GEN XERS | 64%
BOOMERS | 52%
MILLENNIALS | 72%
A wellness stipend is given to every employee
that allows them to use it on anything from a gym
membership to a massage appointment.
A personal development activity allowance so
employees can seek out any personal growth or
learning they desire.
A Genius-Styles Analysis, which is a two-hour
private coaching session helping individuals
discover innate talents and develop custom
strategies to unlock their full potential.
Although employees want their companies to provide
development opportunities, employees will look for
their own opportunities for growth. We’ve already noted
how development is critical for retention, but nearly
60 percent of millennials say that career opportunities
are a factor during the recruiting process. In recruiting
sessions, employees often ask about L&D programs, so
providing those programs can influence your ability to
attract top tier talent.
While it’s refreshing to know many employees are
seeking ways to improve themselves, in an Udemy
survey, 84 percent of U.S. workers still believe there is a
skills gap among employees in the workplace. Allowing
upskilling is necessary for two reasons; your company
won’t keep up with its competitors, and employees are
demanding it. The same Udemy survey found that at
least 51 percent of people say they would quit a job that
didn’t provide additional training.
Upskilling isn’t just the act of completing a new
certification; it’s promoting a growth mindset, the quest
for continual learning and evolution—and creating the
right behaviors to match.
Allowing employees to take charge of their own learning
path can give a new sense of confidence and autonomy,
which can improve the employee experience. Still,
managers must provide guidance so that employees
know where to focus their development.
The thought of a 1-on-1 meeting with an employee can
strike anxiety in even the most seasoned managers.
The problem is that most people don’t know how to
lead productive conversations in these moments. Most
managers aren’t trained on how have this discussion
and make it useful, so they lean on the ones they’ve
experienced, perhaps basing their conversations on
unsatisfactory examples from their past.
A 1-on-1 meeting is one of the most important tools
managers has available. This time with an individual
employee provides an opportunity to build a relationship,
establish goals and check progress, discuss any stumbling
blocks or opportunities, and provide valuable coaching.
Unfortunately, as powerful as 1-on-1s are, they are often
one of the first meetings to get canceled during busy
weeks or months. Since employees are more likely to
leave a company because of the manager, having
regular 1-on-1s can build a connection that increases
retention, streamline work processes, and boosts the
employee’s overall experience.
Keep in mind that 1-on-1s are dynamic; they’re not one-
size-fits-all and will depend on many unique factors, such
as how the other person prefers to receive feedback and
the level of trust and transparency that is developed.
It seems counterintuitive that spending time will free up
time, but that’s exactly what these meetings can do. 1-on-
1s help managers avoid overwhelm by making sure that
every employee focuses on the most impactful tasks.
Taking a few minutes to coach employees frees up your
time to focus on your work with the confidence that you
won’t be putting out fires later.
Upskilling your employees
Conducting effective 1-on-1s
The Growth Mindset, which was coined by Carol
Dweck, is the belief that you are a work in progress
and, with enough focus and attention, you can control
things like I.Q., competence, and so on. This view
creates a love of learning and a resilience that is
essential for great accomplishment.
In your 1-on-1s with your employees, ask them specific
questions regarding their interest in learning and
development. “What hard skill, if improved, would make
the biggest difference?” Knowing what drives your
people can allow you the chance to connect with them.
Through this connection, you can begin linking ways to
incorporate their passions into their work to offer the
opportunity to flex their strengths.
ESTABLISH A REGULAR CADENCE.
Make sure that conversations are consistent. Try
30 minutes once a week to start
ENCOURAGE TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION.
Discussions are only effective when both parties
are engaged and participatory
PREPARE AN AGENDA.
Use time effectively by having a concept of the
conversation flow before meeting
DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
Come with talking points, objectives and
priorities gathered from the previous week
BEGIN BY TOUCHING BASE.
Get a pulse on how both of you are feeling.
Building trust will encourage honesty
END WITH ACTION ITEMS.
Assemble key takeaways from the conversation
as objectives for the next 1-on-1
Tips for guiding your next 1-on-1
1-ON-1 MEETING CHECKLIST:
Numerous studies show that a positive employee
experience increases loyalty and retention. The key to
keeping your rockstar talent is giving them opportunities
to grow, not only within the company but as an individual.
By paying close attention to your employees’ personal
strengths, you can help them create an aspirational
job description that fully aligns with their passion and
keep them highly engaged, productive, and loyal to the
When new employees are onboarded into their new
role at 15Five, we provide them access to a Gallup
Strengthsfinder assessment. This online survey is the holy
grail of talent discovery and can help you uncover what
you naturally do best. We also encourage each employee
to take the VIA Character Strengths test, created by
the father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, and
backed by years of scientific research to help you find
your unique positive personality traits.
The impact of employee loyalty
By creating the space and offering the right resources
for people to discover their natural talents, those at the
top can help to develop leadership strengths on every
level. Unfortunately, companies often fall short of actually
utilizing the strengths of their people because they aren’t
taking the time to discern their personal talents. Some
organizations focus on the shortcomings of their people
instead of seeking out their best traits. They do this as a
way to “fix the bad” rather than to grow the good.
When this is the case, an employee’s sense of satisfaction
at work can take a steep decline. It turns out that
employees are not motivated to improve themselves by
fixating on what is wrong. They are deeply encouraged
by the strengths they already have and using them to
create real, positive change.
Those in leadership positions have the unique
opportunity to discover and understand the strengths
of their employees and apply them to create better-
performing teams. Yet, occasionally, employees still leave.
But when they do, they can take their loyalty and become
brand ambassadors, touting the power of your company
for years to come—both to prospective candidates and
The reality is, of course, employees will come and go.
But by establishing a memorable employee experience,
you will create a community of alumni that support your
business no matter where their passions take them.
This long view is valuable in an environment where
employees increasingly job hop. Managers may question
the viability of developing the workforce when employees
may leave in a few years. It is inevitable that once we
invite employees to bring their whole selves to work
and encourage them to explore their passions, some
employees will discover that their path is no longer with
the company. This doesn’t mean the manager’s support
or employee’s development was wasted.
Instead of focusing on the employee’s departure,
recognize that by creating a positive employee
experience, you’ll gain unwavering loyalty that can bring
rewards for years to come.
At 15Five, we are on a mission to help you unlock
the potential of every one of your employees. We
aim to achieve this through the use of our Best-Self
Management methodology, Best-Self Kickoff, and
Best-Self Review. Our primary focus is on the individual,
ensuring that each employee’s needs are fully met and
that their passions align with the work they produce.
Through this understanding, we are able to help you
build better manager/employee relationships and create
a workplace that supports learning and development on
Creating an experince
that brings out your
Our Best-Self Management is a philosophy and
methodology that allows you to address the hidden
factors that stimulate sustainable growth and
development in each employee. In turn, this level of
personal development can help your employees become
far more creative and productive than you ever thought
possible. Because today, what organizations need most
are people who tap into their greatest gifts and strengths,
who are passionate, committed to the mission, and able
to express genius-level performance through their work.
These people are anything but easily replaceable.
First, it’s about creating a culture that brings out the best
in who your people are today, and second, it’s about
supporting people in learning, growing, developing,
evolving, and becoming their best over time. We’re all
works in progress. We all have a unique set of talents,
passions, and perspectives. When we take the time to
understand what those are and allow someone to align
their work with those talents and passions such that
they’re able to make the greatest contribution possible,
they can’t help but grow quickly.
By helping your employees develop a clearer vision
of who their best self is, you can more easily create
actionable plans to achieve that vision.
Each people manager must understand what the biggest
priorities are in their employees’ lives. Being your best
self doesn’t start and end within the walls of the office;
therefore, Best-Self Management focuses on the whole
employee, not just the parts that fit a job description.
IF YOUR DIRECT REPORT IS HAVING TROUBLE
PAINTING THE PICTURE OF BEST-SELF, TRY
ASKING SOME OF THESE QUESTIONS:
-- When do you feel at your best?
-- What does being your best self mean to you?
-- What conditions or resources do you need to be
your best self?
Our Best Self Kickoff is a guided two-hour meeting
between an employee and their direct manager
designed to clarify expectations, strengthen their bond,
and to understand each other’s needs.
The Best-Self Kickoff’s bread-and-butter is a clearly
defined job description. Role clarity paves the way for
psychological safety in the workplace, which is a major
factor of high performing teams. Leaders can further
create environments that are psychologically safe
by asking the right questions regularly and applying
actions to those insights. The Best-Self Kickoff is a way
to jumpstart this process and create a strong foundation
from the get-go.
It begins with each person filling out a worksheet
before the meeting, and using it as a guide during
the discussion. It can also be used with existing team
members to confirm or reset expectations and is
particularly useful when roles or teams have undergone
The Best-Self Kickoff aims to give clear benchmarks
that guide the employee’s growth in the role. Without
this outline, employees will work towards a path they
can only assume is correct. Often, these insinuations
turn into misalignment, and employee development can
For the employee, this kickoff provides clear instructions
for which skills they should leverage, the expectation
for how they will spend their time, goals they must
accomplish, and more. In essence, this discussion
defines what success looks like for their role. These can
ease any sense of anxiety and give peace of mind to all
parties involved. For managers, the Best-Self Kickoff is
an upfront investment for future excellent performance.
Role clarity paves the way
for psychological safety
in the workplace, which
is a major factor of high
COURTNEY BIGONY, DIRECTOR OF
PEOPLE SCIENCE, 15FIVE
Next, the Best-Self Review fills the gap between
infrequent, tactical weekly check-ins, and annual
reviews, and by creating a quarterly cycle of strategic
performance assessments. The focus of this meeting
is to realign and intention set. By asking meaningful
questions, you can help employees further capitalize on
being and becoming their best selves.
Backed by science, and incorporating this strengths-
based philosophy, the Best-Self Review is a 360
degree performance management practice that
gathers feedback from the employee, manager, peers,
and others. The result is a well-rounded view of your
employee’s impact and gives the basis for a development
According to Gallup, employees who use their strengths
every day are 6x more likely to be engaged, 8 percent
more productive, and 15 percent less likely to quit their
jobs. Supporting the development of your employees’
strengths in and outside of the workplace will allow them
to build on their most beneficial traits and create a more
efficient, cohesive work environment.
This kind of focus and attention on the individual can
lead to a company made up of better collaborators,
strong executors, and influential leaders. By establishing
a foundation for strengths-based development in every
Best-Self Review, you can help each employee become
the very best version of themselves.
A person’s best self is ever-evolving and means different
things at various points in time. Consider your best-self
a moving target; this requires frequent realignment and
introspection. While this process is a vastly different way
of managing people than many are used to, it allows both
the employee and their manager to personalize a growth
track together that furthers personal and professional
15Five’s Best-Self Review
15Five is a people management solution dedicated to bringing out the best in every single employee. Uniquely aligned
with the science of human thriving, 15Five holistically improves performance, engagement, and company culture
through a continuous focus on personal strengths, business objectives, and valuable feedback.
Our customers have used 15Five to improve different facets of their employee experience.
When Credit Karma wanted to broaden its service beyond consumer credit score
reporting into a new lending service, without sacrificing quality, they turned to 15Five to
change the way performance reviews were conducted. With a regular cadence of check-
ins and communication, Credit Karma achieved its focus on ensuring employees felt part
of the team.
Pendo, a product cloud, wanted to maintain its company culture through its rapid
expansion. They used 15Five to help communication and transparency as all employees
shared their goals. As a bonus, Pendo used custom features to get feedback on topics,
which allowed the company to identify a hidden quality issue.
Hunter Warfield, a revenue recovery agency, wanted to improve its performance review
cycle and revive its extraordinary culture. 15Five’s continuous management solution made
reviews simpler and more focused, so they were conducted regularly. This improved
employee engagement metrics, created greater visibility into company goals, produced
higher quality 1-on-1 conversations, and increased positivity levels with peer recognition.
How 15Five helps its customers
HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES:
We are passionately
dedicated to bringing
out the best in every
SHANE METCALF, CHIEF CULTURE
The dynamic changes in employees and the way they work require new
ways of communicating, developing, and supporting them to create an
environment where they will thrive. Ensuring these changes can improve your
company’s bottom-line significantly by creating a culture with genius levels of
productivity, loyalty, and passion.
There are virtually endless possibilities for how your company can create
robust employee experiences for each individual. The most important thing to
do is to keep your people top-of-mind. Always. Designing a positive employee
experience that inspires creativity, connectedness, and growth will pay off in
more ways than one.
Ready to put
15Five is a continuous performance management solution that not only guides employee growth and development
but empowers people to become their best selves. Through strategic weekly check-ins, 15Five delivers everything a
manager needs to maintain visibility and impact employee performance, including continuous feedback, objectives
(OKR) tracking, recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360° reviews. Over 2,100 forward-thinking companies use the solution to bring
out the best in their people, including Credit Karma, WPEngine, and Spotify.
TO LEARN MORE, VISIT 15FIVE.COM
LET 15FIVE HELP JUMPSTART YOUR
COMPANY’S PATH TO THRIVING TODAY
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