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Why We Insist on Being Thoughtfully Candid

At Launchways, we believe in doing something radical in the business world: telling the truth. We have seen clients succeed and fail based on their ability to foster a vibrant company culture and engage their people power. And we have found that honesty, transparency, and respect are the keys to positive business outcomes.

We have taken this experience and ingrained it into every part of our business. Our people-powered approach to HR and benefits requires deep honesty and respect between our team members, with our clients, and between our advisors and our clients’ employees.

So, one of our fundamental core values is being thoughtfully candid. We think we’ve hit upon something special with this value and the way we live it in our day-to-day work. Here’s what we have to say about being thoughtfully candid:

  • What it means to be thoughtfully candid
  • Why we value thoughtful candidness
  • How being thoughtfully candid helps us be better

What Does it Mean to Be Thoughtfully Candid?

What does it mean to be thoughtfully candid? Well, you can break it down into its two parts: candidness and thoughtfulness. Being candid boils down to honesty and transparency while being thoughtful encompasses empathy and respect. Let’s take a look at each part:

Being Candid:

The principle of candidness is simple enough: just be honest. But putting it into practice is a lot more complicated because it goes against what many of us may have been taught.

That’s because we tend to think that honesty is, in some way, bad. The truth hurts. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Ignorance is bliss.

But what we’re really saying is that we don’t trust the other person to handle our honest opinions. The misconception is that it’s better to pretend that we agree with them or that they are doing a better job than they really are just to spare their feelings or avoid conflict. But at the end of the day, this simply isn’t a good way of doing business.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should be outright rude or mean. And by being thoughtful, we can make sure that the truth doesn’t hurt. But, even without being thoughtful, being candid is still the best approach.

Take this example: imagine you get called into your manager’s office tomorrow. You walk in expecting praise for your work. After all, they told you how well you were doing when you asked them only last week. But instead, they tell you that you are being fired because of your poor performance. Were they doing you a favor by sparing your feelings until your performance became a serious issue? Or would it have been better for them to come to you as soon as there was an issue so that you could improve or address underlying issues?

What does candidness look like at work? The key to candidness is giving and receiving truly honest feedback and opinions without taking them personally or trying to spare (or hurt) coworkers’ feelings. It means giving your honest opinion in all cases, knowing that people will respect it as such and will respond with equal honesty.

With absolute candidness, there’s no room for passive-aggressive behavior, backstabbing, and office ‘drama’. In their place are open communication, mutual respect, and radical problem-solving. But candor is most effective when it is paired with an equal emphasis on thoughtfulness.


When you are being candid at work, it’s important to remember the humanity and intentions of the people you are working with. And to bring your humanity to bear when forming and sharing your opinions. For your candid input to be accepted and to foster a productive, energetic workplace, it has to come from a place of respect and empathy for your coworkers. If you want them to succeed and be happy, and they know that to be true, then they will welcome your honesty rather than seeing it as a threat.

So that’s the first aspect of thoughtfulness: empathy. Knowing where coworkers are coming from when they share their opinions and feedback, and thinking about their challenges and best interests when forming your own. Empathy is the basis of mutual respect, and it is also the key to developing strong, productive relationships with your coworkers.

But there’s more to being thoughtful than being empathetic. Thoughtfulness also requires that you act intentionally and with an open mind. We don’t just give our honest opinions: we give our considered opinions. We think before we speak and try to make sure that our positions are both correct and truly the honest reflection of what we believe in. This stops haste from causing miscommunications and gives us even greater trust in what our coworkers say to us.

We also try to keep as open a mind as possible. Because everyone is being honest and operating with good intentions, there’s room for real compromise, consensus, and understanding. There’s even room for people to change their minds!

Why We Value Thoughtful Candidness

At Launchways, we know that sustainable business success is built on the success of each employee. Helping our employees become the best, most productive versions of themselves is just good business.

In our experience, people want to be challenged. They want to grow and add to their value as an individual and as an employee. Which sometimes means pushing them to improve and equipping them with the skills and knowledge to become better employees.

When we come up with a business strategy or initiative, our first step is to identify the challenges and issues that we are trying to address. Without an honest evaluation of the status quo, we cannot develop an effective strategy. And without honest review of the initiative’s progress, success or failure are impossible to measure and progress is significantly stifled.

We believe that employee careers and personal growth should be approached in the same way. An honest appraisal is also necessary for our employees’ professional growth. It’s the only way that they can discover what they need to work on and get the advice they need to effectively address any issues or skill gaps.

Being candid allows our executives, managers, and team members to talk to each other honestly, enabling valuable feedback on all levels (we want our new hires to be just as candid with our CEO as our managers are with their team members) and empowering our employees to encourage each other to succeed. We believe that it is not just the morally correct way to conduct our business but that it is also one of the main factors behind our rapid success.

And we believe that thoughtfulness is just as important as candidness. Being thoughtful in our interactions fosters deeper connections between the people who make Launchways special. It allows us to trust that the candid feedback and opinions coming from our coworkers come from the best of intentions and are meant to help us grow as professionals and do our jobs as effectively as possible. Mutual respect isn’t just an ideal: it is a reality of life at Launchways.

How Being Thoughtfully Candid Helps Us Be Better

As one of our core values, thoughtful candidness shapes just about everything we do at Launchways. It makes us a stronger team and helps us develop innovative solutions for our clients.

Being thoughtfully candid begins with our weekly roundups every Monday morning. We start the meeting by giving genuine shout outs to coworkers we think did an exceptional job the previous week. We then go around and have each team member share their goals and projects for the week as well as their roadblocks that they need help on.

These meetings allow us to celebrate each other and share our projects and challenges. They set the tone of thoughtful candidness and set up spin-off conversations throughout the week in which we share ideas to help solve roadblocks and accomplish projects collaboratively.

Of course, being thoughtfully candid is also especially important to our review and feedback process. Our culture of openness and respectful honesty allows consistent feedback. That means that everyone knows where they stand, reducing stress, increasing engagement, and creating consistent opportunities for improvement.

There’s no simmering resentment or fear of secretly falling down on the job. If there’s an issue with our performance, we find out right away. But we’re just as quick to share strengths and successes, so we’ll also know if we’re doing a good job and feel genuinely appreciated for it. And being thoughtfully candid allows us to give more than qualitative feedback: it lets us genuinely help each other succeed rather than focus on raw performance. Honesty lets us get to the root causes of our challenges and successes.

Best of all, being thoughtfully candid lets us collaborate more meaningfully. We can work together to solve not only our own challenges, and those of our coworkers, but also develop better solutions for our clients. We make realistic plans, execute them more effectively, and track our progress to create the best possible outcomes. And our clients respect us for our honest approach and open communication with their internal teams. These collaborations make our work more meaningful and more successful.

Key Takeaways

Being thoughtfully candid is integral to how we do business at Launchways. It is one of our five core values that guide our decisions and culture. As we’ve laid out in this article, being thoughtfully candid means:

  • Being honest at all times, but also having respect for coworkers and coming from a place of empathy and considered positions
  • Open communications between coworkers, managers and team members, and leadership with employees
  • Consistent feedback, personal and professional growth, deeper relationships, and productive collaboration

We think that our way of doing things makes our work more enjoyable, meaningful, and productive. If joining a team based on thoughtfully candid communication sounds interesting, check out our career page for current openings!

The Real Value of Company Values

I’ve been building, managing, and supporting strong, functional teams for two decades, and while I get lots of great questions from emerging leaders and HR professionals every day, so many of their concerns boil down to two key questions:

  • How can I center my team to make sure they’re doing great work that’s consistently done our way, not just their way?
  • How can I show off what my great team’s all about in a way that builds enthusiasm in the public and aids in recruiting?

Believe it or not, those two questions are actually quite closely connected. Even though one is an internal/operational concern and the other is an external/marketing concern, they both have the same answer: an organization aligned behind clearly articulated organizational values.

Your company’s identity is incredibly powerful. It dictates the flow of talent, the volume of inbound business, and how your partners, competitors, and the general public engage with your brand.

In this post I’ll explore:

  • Why well-articulated values are so useful
  • How corporate values should be structured and focused
  • What a real-life example of strong guiding values looks like

The Value in Values

Remember when you were in school and that one teacher spent an entire week doing icebreakers and “getting to know you” games before they dove into lessons? It might have seemed silly or pointless at the time, but that educator was actually attempting to do something much bigger than communicate facts – they were trying to turn a room of individuals with varying degrees of comfort and familiarity with each other into a thriving, upbeat community.

That same teacher, even if they were fun and free-spirited, probably seemed to have a tremendous zest for going over classroom rules and procedures as well. You might’ve rolled your eyes at the time, but through an adult lens, what they were doing was very purposeful: they were establishing expectations and establishing the rigid, non-negotiable elements of the classroom culture.

So why all the education analogies? Well, frankly, teachers are some of the smartest problem-solvers in the world when it comes to generating buy-in and engagement, and that’s what your organization’s core values are all about.

An organization’s values give them two-way benefit just as those early-year classroom activities do. Both the teacher and the employer gain a level of clearly articulated authority and identity that set the tone for the work, while also humanizing the experience in a way that invites the employees, to get involved and get excited.

Values Set the Tone

Your corporate values set the tone both for how your brand interacts with the world around it and how individuals within the organization interact with each other and outsiders. Businesses that get that right set themselves up to build a great team and get a lot done. Businesses who lack articulation or don’t meaningfully honor their values can’t maximize their potential in the same way because they’re not establishing expectations fully or giving the individual members of the team something to believe in that’s bigger than themselves.

Great articulation means great engagement, and great engagement means great work.

Crafting Your Company Values

Every organization, large or small, should have an established set of values to guide the vision, dictate the tone of business, and aid in meaningful business- and community-based goal setting. Generating those values should be the collaborative responsibility of senior leadership. HR, marketing, and representatives from other key teams or departments should have a voice in the process, but the values must flow from and reflect leadership.

That doesn’t mean your values are all about “what the bosses care about,” though. Those brainstorming sessions must be guided by a clear understanding of how those values will connect to, motivate, and engage your current employees, leading talent in your industry, and the community and world at large.

Sticking to the Core

One of the most common mistakes organizations make when they set about the work of articulating values is, well, articulating too many values. A company’s values should represent the most relevant and overarching aspects of their approach to work and their place in the world, not every little thing they think is important.

When it comes to corporate values, three to five is the ideal number, as it ensures you’re building an identity that’s supported by multiple strong pillars that you can focus on and truly honor without so many values that the message becomes diluted.

Values are Real, Not Aspirational

The other big mistake organizations make when they create corporate values is that they try to give “the right answers” rather than actually focusing on the ideas that are closest to their work and most relevant to the uniqueness of their own workforce. That often leads to a lot of lofty goals and minimal follow-through.

To work as part of an employee culture, talent attraction, or marketing campaign and meaningfully support an organization, corporate values must be real, must be honored, and must be rooted in the daily challenges, triumphs, and guiding lights of what makes both day-to-day work and “the work” on the whole special at that business. A lack of follow-through will only undermine the potential gains of articulating values and working to establish a culture in the first place.

Launchways’ Core Values

Now that I’ve laid out all that theory on why core values are so important and what businesses need to do to get them right, let’s transition to looking at a real-world example.

At Launchways, we recently established a new set of company values to help flesh out our core identity and set the tone for our work moving forward. Each value was carefully discussed and debated by our leadership team, and the result was a powerful list that made the entire team feel great about our present and even more excited about our future.

Let’s explore Launchways’ five core values one at a time:


We are a resourceful organization. We take initiative, we own the challenges that are set before us, and we embrace the work of finding solutions, no matter what it takes.


We are a driven enterprise. We’re passionate about what we do, and we strive to always go above-and-beyond for our clients and for each other.


We’re a disruptive business. We’re unafraid to do things different, especially when we think it can yield better results. We’re confident in our ability to improve the industry.

Thoughtfully Candid

We’re a reflective and honest brand. We value constructive conversation and believe that difference of opinion can make conversations and businesses stronger.


We’re a community-minded team. We’re always looking for new ways to support members of our Launchways community while also engaging with the greater Chicago community.

Key Takeaways

Establishing core values is an extremely important process to get right. A few key takeaways I’ve learned in the process include:

  • Articulating and documenting your business’ values make it easier to establish a clear direction for your business
  • Values should both set the tone for and reflect your organization’s culture
  • Values need to be real, not aspirational; values that aren’t honored will undermine the process
  • Businesses should stick to five or fewer core values or principles to avoid diluting the message

Are You Overspending on Benefits Your Employees Don’t Need or Want?

As we approach 2020, businesses are more concerned than ever with being scaled and built for profitability. Teams are leaner than ever, superstar talent carry greater workloads, and businesses that aren’t built for sustained growth are disappearing fast.

In that quest to trim the fat, controlling employee benefit overspend should be a major goal for all growing businesses. Even with responsibly scaled salaries, employee benefit offerings that aren’t well-selected can cause an organization’s compensation costs to balloon, significantly eating into opportunities for profitability.

Moving forward, we’ll explore:

  • How benefit overspend can happen to any organization
  • Why monitoring benefit overspend is especially relevant for growing organizations
  • How to understand which benefits are actually beneficial
  • How to bring finance, HR, and senior leadership together to make benefits work for everyone

Why Benefit Overspend is Such a Common Problem

Employee compensation is one an organization’s strongest tools when it comes to talent acquisition and retention. That means that the quality and value of your benefits program is indeed crucial to building a great team that’s fit, happy, and productive.

Unfortunately, however, scaling and aligning those benefit offerings is a complex task. In fact, compensation plan design is probably one of the most difficult tasks HR has to manage. That intimidation factor, paired with the fact that human resources professionals don’t always have the background in finance they need to correlate the direct connection between employee benefits compensation and the bottom line, is why benefit overspend happens in so many organizations.

More is Better, Right?

The biggest mistake businesses (especially new businesses) make when they design a benefits plan is trying to include every form of inclusive coverage and access to any valuable program. In the increasingly competitive war for talent, that kind of an approach can be attractive at face value, but year-to-year, it can become a burdensome anchor on business profitability.

Both benefits professionals and individual consumers frequently make the mistake of assuming benefits are like a stockpile of food for emergencies: it’s maintained in case you need it and provides peace of mind, but it’s not a part of your daily, weekly, or monthly life. If that’s your paradigm, then of course you’re going to assume more is better.

Here’s the truth, though: Impactful benefits programs aren’t the emergency food in the basement; they’re the dry and canned food in the pantry – they’re there for use in a pinch day-to-day. True “benefits” are the offerings that provide value, security, and convenience to employees’ and their families’ everyday lives.

Once you understand that, it quickly becomes clear that bigger isn’t better; usefulness and accessibility improve benefits programs.

Over-Emphasis on Industry Competition

One of the most common ways new or growing businesses fall into benefit over-spend is over-reliance on industry benchmarks to help guide their benefit plan design. While benchmarking is a great tool to help you understand and plan relatively fixed expenses like base salary, benefits packages must be scaled to the individual business and workforce.

Without an incredibly deep and granular understanding of your competition or goal competition’s complete financial picture, you can’t reasonably predict that their employee benefit practices will translate to success in your organization.

Studying the competition’s benefit offerings certainly has value and can inform your planning, but if it’s the main guiding light for your benefits program, you’re making the classic mistake of focusing on the competition rather than yourself. Finance, HR, and overall leadership must work together to articulate a vision of the business, its blueprint for success, and how benefits can be scaled to make that happen.

Lack of Understanding Means Lack of Alignment

Another classic mistake businesses of every size and sector make is that they create their benefits plans for a hypothetical team of theoretical employees instead of letting the real needs of their actual employees shape the process. While that can be quite difficult at outset, after a year or two of benefit program usage, you should have enough data available to create a rich understanding of what people within your organization need to build that daily health and security we’ve discussed.

If you’re not working to optimize your offerings to what people actually use, you’re likely creating or fostering overspend. At the same time, however, your benefits program must also answer and scale to finance goals. In just a minute, we’ll explore how you can leverage HR and finance help create that alignment.

Why Benefit Overspend is a Potential Pitfall for Growing Businesses

Early-stage businesses are incredibly dynamic, but that also means there is the potential for vulnerability. A disappointing quarter or behind-schedule development project can quickly erode a business’ profitability, and without the secure cash holdings of an established company, bloated employee benefits spend can turn into a big red number for a given financial term.

In order for an organization to grow continuously, with an expanding staff and increasingly complex human capital structure, an employee benefits program must account for not just costs at the program’s launch but of the way those costs might balloon, expand, or creep as the company grows. That means benefits plans aren’t just about the design that will land talent right now, they must be plugged into and built with short- and long-term financial and organizational plans in mind.

When benefits are well-scaled and well-aligned, they support an organization’s internal team, maximizing their ability to do great work while also maximizing the organization’s chances for profit as well as their ability to make informed financial projections. Finance leaders, HR leaders, and CEOs must come together to create that robust, clear vision, or they’re not really thinking about or planning for growth.

Defining “Benefit” in a Way that Makes Sense for Everyone

Increasingly, employers and employees alike are aware of the fact that employee benefits are actually an opportunity to create mutual benefit. The old way of thinking was that businesses offered benefits to be competitive and benevolent. Now, however, the cards are on the table, and people understand that part of the benefits game is keeping employees present and productive.

That doesn’t mean the pendulum has swung back and benefit plan design can be all about making the books look good, however. Medical care, prescription drugs, and hospital visits are only increasing in cost, and more people than ever have complex, potentially expensive medical needs.

Creating an approach to benefits that works for everybody and supports growth truly requires finding a balance between the needs of the actual people within your organization and the financial needs of the organization as a business. You can’t serve either purpose exclusively and expect to solve the problem in a satisfying way; both sets of values must be accounted for.

Understanding What People Really Need

As we’ve said before, one of the best ways to understand your actual organizational healthcare/benefit needs is to understand your employees’ actual healthcare/benefit needs. There are two main ways to do this: by asking them using surveys or other tools or by reviewing your carrier’s usage reports. The best approach involves using and weighing both.

Too often, employers are scared to talk to their team members about benefits because they’re scared all they’ll hear is that the programs aren’t good enough. While there’s sure to be a certain degree of that feedback, the discussion can also provide the best-possible understanding of what people actually want, need, and value. If you can get the buy-in you need to build an authentic data set, a lot of your most important questions can be answered for you definitively.

Those usage reports from your carrier will fill in the quantitative data to help you understand which offerings are most accessible and well-used (which, remember, means “valuable”). You can also build a very strong understanding of where the dead weight in your benefits program might be.

Understanding What the Business Can Bear

Once you have a strong grasp on your human needs, the next step is to determine what kinds of plans and packages your organization can reasonably offer. Obviously, the goal is to create packages that deliver consistent, satisfying offerings while still leaving yourself the best chance to predict and achieve business growth.

If identifying and eliminating overspend is your primary goal, this is really the most important point in the process. HR needs a clear picture of the finance goals so that they can create plans accordingly. At the same time, finance requires HR’s understanding of day-to-day employee needs in order to do their work in an accurate manner. Bringing those two data sets and approaches together can seem incredibly challenging at first, but it’s actually your best chance to get benefits right in a way that works for everyone.

Embracing the Push-Pull

The intersection of HR and finance can be tricky to navigate because both sets of professionals come from very different backgrounds and come equipped with what some might say are competing sets of values. With that said, they share the most important common ground of all: they’re responsible for setting up operations for success.

Getting your employees the benefits they need while keeping the business lean and scaled for profit and growth is a tall task, and frankly, no one person can make it happen. It takes a major commitment from leadership and a willingness between finance and HR to work together, plan together, and commit to seeing things through each other’s lenses (at least some of the time).

When your organization can articulate an approach that makes HR, finance, and the executive suite or boardroom happy at the same, that’s how you know you’re onto something really great.

Key Takeaways

Employee benefit overspend is rampant across business, and part of the problem is that many organizations don’t understanding how or why their approach to benefits isn’t aligned with their employees’ needs or business goals. In order to create impactful benefits packages that delight your team and drive business, it’s important to remember:

  • More is not better when it comes to benefits because overspend can be devastating to potential profitability
  • In early-stage or growing businesses, benefit overspend can be especially damaging
  • Overspend usually happens because organizations either lack a strong understanding of employees’ actual needs or feel the need to offer exhaustive benefits in the name of competition
  • To truly be “beneficial,” offerings must be impactful and see actual use
  • When it comes to determining which benefits are actually essential, ground-level employees (and their usage data) are your best resource
  • Part of getting benefits right is learning to manage the dance between humanistic priorities and business priorities

How Leaders Can Create an LGBTQ-Inclusive Workplace

A Williams Institute study in 2018 found that 4.5% of the U.S. population self-reported identifying as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender). The real number is probably much higher, as diversity and inclusion expert Stephanie Huckel’s work suggests as many as 46% of LGBTQ professionals feel compelled to hide who they truly are in the workplace, which means any formal study probably skews quite low in terms of representation.

Any successful HR professional or C-suite executive knows that no team member, no matter how intelligent, focused, and driven can truly do their best work in an environment where they don’t feel safe to be themselves. Maximizing productivity and buy-in from LGBTQ employees and their allies requires creating an environment where people are valued and protected in a way that’s both inclusive and transcendent of their sexuality or gender identity.

Moving forward, we’ll explore:
• The unique legal position of LGBTQ professionals
• Why LGBTQ-inclusive policies build a stronger, better organization
• Some general guidance for creating LGBTQ-inclusive practices

Addressing the Additional Stress on LGBTQ Professionals

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender professionals have disproportionately felt the pain of discrimination in hiring, firing, and promotion scenarios and continue to deal with explicit or exclusionary workplace harassment, even as it has universally unacceptable to target other protected groups in similar ways.

Some HR leaders and organizations find it hard to understand why their policies and procedures need to contain explicit language about LGBTQ non-discrimination or contain specific guidance about potential issues like homophobic harassment or gender transition procedures. The unfortunate current state of affairs is that LGBTQ professionals receive only patchy, implied federal protections, which means that unless their employers take a strong, proactive, supportive stance, their employment status can feel extremely vulnerable.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects individuals from gender or sex discrimination, but only conventional interpretation extends those protections beyond the definitions of “sex” and “gender” that were understood in 1964, when the law was written. While there have been efforts to expand the language of Title VII to create explicit protections for LGBTQ individuals, that work is currently stalled.

Those prevailing interpretations mean that LGBTQ professionals can file harassment or discrimination claims with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission), but that is a long, expensive process that often draws out the agony of harassment and can potentially negatively impact the victim’s future career prospects.

That inconsistent or just-implied federal support leaves an incredible spectrum of different professionals feeling like they have less agency and recourse in the workplace than their non-LGBTQ peers. With that said, almost half the states in the country have created laws that protect against gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination for both public and private workers.

Western States with LGBTQ Workplace Discrimination Protections: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico

Midwestern States with LGBTQ Workplace Discrimination Protections: Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois

Eastern States with LGBTQ Workplace Discrimination Protections: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C.

Businesses operating within any of those states are held to a reasonably high standard for LGBTQ inclusion, with a framework in place for wronged individuals to gain the protection of the court system and punish businesses for discriminatory practices or creating a culture of normalized harassment.

With that said, even in those states, the existence of a legal framework for recourse does not mean the non-existence of harassment or discrimination. Preventing those initial hurtful episodes still falls to each individual employer or workplace, and the businesses who master creating a fully-inclusive workplace will win over the trust and gain the ability to leverage the incredible skills of the LGBTQ workforce.

On the other hand, for LGBTQ citizens of the other 29 states, there is incredible need for either public or private protections. Some counties or cities have passed local non-discrimination laws to provide protections for their LGBTQ workforce and residents, but that means job hunting for many involves using a map of potential landing places that looks like Swiss cheese.

In areas where no public protections exist, LGBTQ professionals must rely on their employers to create, maintain, and enforce their own policies and procedures to prevent harassment and eliminate discrimination. Given both the historic struggles of the LGBTQ community and the historic struggles between employers and workers, it’s easy to see why many feel extremely cynical or insecure in that position.

With that said, businesses in those areas with no public protections who forge meaningful, inclusive policies that invite LGBTQ workers to be themselves, feel comfortable in their work space, and get powerful back-up from their employer have the opportunity to get first pick at an incredible pool of business-driving talent.

Why Proactively LGBTQ-Inclusive Policies Benefit Everyone

From an organizational perspective, LGBTQ inclusion is much bigger than the basic decency of protecting employees from discrimination and harassment. It’s about creating an environment where assessments of someone’s proficiency, abilities, and strengths or weaknesses are made based on performance data and demonstrated results, not assumptions. It’s about fostering a community where everybody’s insights, perspectives, and strengths are leveraged to the maximum through positive interdependence, shared goals, and empathy.

When businesses do that right, they set themselves up to win big in a few different ways. Let’s pause to explore how LGBTQ-inclusion is a matter of best practice.

It’s the Right Thing to Do
Profit has historically been valued above “doing the right thing” for businesses, especially large ones, but that’s starting to change culturally. In the current atmosphere, it’s more important than ever to consumers (and therefore the bottom line) that businesses operate in an inclusive manner.

Directly aligning a business or brand with strong, progressive values is no longer seen as a boat-shaking move that could scare off customers; on the contrary, numerous large businesses have seen themselves called out by consumers and advocacy groups in recent years for failing to articulate inclusive policies.

By being proactive about LGBTQ inclusion, a business shows their employees, prospective employees, investors, competitors, consumers, and the market in general that they’re concerned with talent, not exclusion.

Building Authentic Buy-In from Workers
Given the high percentage of LGBTQ workers who do not feel comfortable sharing their status in the workplace and the number of employees who do not report incidents in which they’re made to feel uncomfortable, it’s impossible to truly quantify how much productivity, innovation, and morale are lost each year due to inclusion gaps. With that said, any number is too high.

By creating a strong, supportive environment where inclusion feels like a true value and not just a legal concern, organizations can invite workers to feel both more invested and safer in a way that leads to better work and a healthier environment. When employers feel like allies and not just bosses, there’s more incentive to invest in the work and succeed together.

Equipping Leadership with the Tools to Solve Problems
When businesses aren’t proactive about policy, they often find themselves dealing with problems they don’t really have the tools to solve. On the other hand, proactive planning means that when a negative scenario (such as a problematic employee) does present itself, there is a procedure in place by which the problem can be handled and removed in a way that is richly-documented and will hold up in court.

Staying Ahead of Regulation
Depending on the outcomes of upcoming elections, significant increases in federal and local protections for LGBTQ professionals could be on the horizon. Businesses that have already articulated internal policies and created a strong, inclusive environment will be able to transition smoothly into whatever new framework might be created, while organizations that lagged behind get into dragged into accountability and regulation leave themselves vulnerable to potentially costly and reputation-damaging disasters.

In the world of business, it’s always important to be perceived as an innovator on the cutting edge. In the new talent marketplace and culture, being a human rights innovator is just as important as being a financial innovator. Inclusion is just one more way that a business can be ahead of the game in the quest to connect with talent and maximize organizational reputation.

Guidelines for Creating an LGBTQ-Inclusive Environment

Building a company that wins through inclusion requires long-term commitment, vision, and strategy, but here are a few tips to help guide organizations looking to articulate LGBTQ inclusion policies and procedures:

Policy creation
• Nomenclature: It’s important everybody in the workplace uses appropriate, professional terminology. Company policies should spell out acceptable and unacceptable terms and establish clear guidelines for workplace conversations. Furthermore, guidelines for appropriate pronoun use should be created and enforced for transgender and non-binary workers.
• Clearly articulated harassment/discrimination guidelines: As we said before, in order to create a strong, inclusive environment, businesses need to give themselves the tools to enforce the culture of inclusion and weed out bad apples in a richly documented, legally appropriate way.
-Reporting process – It’s not enough to say, “discrimination and harassment are bad;” it’s essential to have a well-organized, transparent, and trustworthy system that employees know how to use to report issues.
-Staffing for support – Policies need to be backed up by human faces who are dedicated to inclusion, equality, and building the best possible workplace culture. Working with a trusted HR partner such as Launchways can connect your team with actionable equality policies while mitigating the need for your business to hire an in-house support person.
• Ensuring there are no employee benefits gaps for LGBTQ professionals
-Comprehensive healthcare coverage that connects transgender, non-binary, or intersex professionals with the doctors they need is essential to keep the workforce healthy and provide equality.
-Transition support programs for transgender individuals must be available.
-Life insurance and other policies that account for non-binary identities and non-heteronormative concepts of family must be available.

Employee Training
• New Employee Orientation must introduce LGBTQ inclusion policies and hold hires accountable for knowing them.
• Allow for an evolving world by having a dedicated HR professional stay up to date on emerging themes and issues of LGBTQ inclusion and providing on-going professional development or training as needs are identified.
• Authenticity is required for employee education to really work. Meaningful role play and powerful, relevant speakers are required to make laggards take these issues seriously.
• Documentation of training creates a strong framework for accountability.

Fostering an Inclusive Culture
• Show organizational dedication to LGBTQ inclusion by adopting a relevant cause, raising money for a relevant charity, or raising awareness of LGBTQ issues in your local community.
• Create a welcoming, positive environment where people are treated as human beings with dignity and valuable assets with potential and skills.
• Make HR a driving force in pushing both leadership and rank-and-file workers to make inclusion, diversity, and LGBTQ rights key values.


LGBTQ inclusion is one of the most important issues facing businesses in the current climate. In order to connect with and retain great talent, organizations must demonstrate their commitment to fully supporting each individual worker in their professional journey, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. With potentially increased regulation looming, the businesses that are proactive will be the ones who articulate the best policies and align their corporate cultures with the winds of change.

Key Takeaways:

• LGBTQ professionals current receive patchy federal and state protection from workplace discrimination
-This can make the workplace a place of increased stress and anxiety, which means workers can’t be their best selves
• Regardless of local laws, businesses who proactively adopt LGBTQ-inclusive policies set themselves up to win with talent and build a future-facing organization
• Policies must be articulated clearly and explicitly designed with the needs, challenges, and support of LGBTQ professionals in mind in order to truly make a difference

Cash Bonuses Can Make Good Performers Become Top Performers: Here’s How

Businesses are only as good as their best assets. It may sound like a greeting card sentiment, but it’s absolutely the truth.

Hiring the right people shouldn’t be your only concern. In any industry, growth and success are only possible when top talent is fully bought-in and authentically motivated. That means that maximizing business returns requires an intentional strategy to ensure that smart, talented professionals see the incentive in working up to their superstar potential on a yearly, quarterly, and daily basis.

Cash bonuses are a classic way to reward and motivate employees around the holidays or at end-of-year, but they can also be incorporated as part of a regular employee engagement and retention strategy that helps top talent buy into your culture and maximize their work hours to deliver business-growing results.

In this article we’ll cover:
● Why cash bonuses are so powerful
● Why cash bonuses aren’t just for big, established companies
● Ways businesses can create an effective, fair cash bonus strategy

The Power of Cash

Cash is a powerful motivator. At the end of the day, it’s why most people go to work. Unfortunately, though, life gets in the way, and thanks to bills and other financial obligations, very few professionals feel like they’re ever able to fully enjoy the salary they earn.

More than ever, young professionals with impressive talents are also managing impressive debt. For many 35 and under, getting the right qualifications and building their skill set required $100,000 or more in student loans. That’s why, unlike any generation before them, rising millennial executives and top Gen Y talent often live bill-to-bill and paycheck-to-paycheck in a way that was previously associated with blue collar work.

Cash-strapped anxiety among white collar professionals isn’t limited to young talent, however. Increasingly, senior executives and professionals beginning to eye retirement must choose between today and tomorrow, finding themselves forced to either wear the belt tighter than ever in the closing years of their careers or risk outliving their retirement savings.

Most HR directors have recognized these emerging trends over recent years, but few businesses have articulated a strategy for alleviating these stressors. Salaries cover the bills, but can employees really be expected to do their best, biggest, most impactful thinking and work when they’re just covering the bills? Can innovation at the business or national level continue when people feel like they’re barely scraping by?

Pushing talented professionals at both the leadership and individual level requires genuine incentive, and in the current climate, cash is the greatest possible incentive.

Cash bonuses invite employees to make the purchases they want, not just the purchases they need, and get a direct, powerful snapshot of how their effort and hard work directly result in money and buying power. Whether it’s upgrading the TV, pulling together a down payment for a house, or planning a family vacation, a cash bonus at the right time can provide a significant lifestyle upgrade or a major weight off the shoulders.

While salary, benefits, and even equity show employees how they are valued in the talent marketplace, bonuses help them see how they are appreciated by their current employer. A timely cash bonus illustrates both company satisfaction with current performance and commitment to the worker’s long-term fluidity. This helps build the degree of buy-in that pushes brilliant minds toward innovation and profitability.

In the current climate, top talent is presented with more chances to switch teams and explore new opportunities than ever before. Maintaining a strong, highly motivated team requires providing compensation that doesn’t just work for employees but actively makes them feel good at what they do and the culture of the place in which they work.

Too often, people have mischaracterized cash bonuses as “buying loyalty,” but the fact of the matter is that in a diverse, competitive talent market, it is the employer who needs to demonstrate loyalty in order to maintain their top rising talent and motivate them to grow with the business.

When faced with the option of continuing at a company that offers cash bonuses, moving to a parallel role at a new employer that does not offer cash bonuses, or transitioning toward freelancing/consultation, there’s simply no question which situation the compensation-minded employee will choose, especially if they have a TV, house, or seat at a private school for their child that a bonus helped them afford.

Aren’t Cash Bonuses Just for Big Companies?

While many employers provide informal holiday or end-of-year bonuses, few have a clear, consistent cash bonus strategy. That’s in part due to the misconception that in order to offer employees a lump cash sum above their salary, you need a Fortune 500 bank account. In fact, lots of small and medium-sized businesses have never even considered offering regular cash bonuses because they’re not sure they can afford it.

Actually, well-scaled cash bonuses are one of the most effective ways small and medium-sized businesses can push their top talent to achieve and make themselves stand out compared to the competition. Bonuses feel especially impactful on a smaller scale and help employees feel bought-in in a way that pushes people to work in an innovative and company-centric manner. It just requires a little more creativity to get there.

The most classic way smaller firms can provide bonuses without obliterating cash funds is to spread that bonus out over a term. For example, a hypothetical $1,000 bonus could be paid out with $500 up front and an extra $100 per paycheck for a set number of terms.

This kind of partially deferred bonus is beneficial for both talent and the employer, as the employee receives both an impactful short-term bonus and, essentially, a short-term raise, while the employer avoids depleting their cash reserves, especially in a scenario where an entire team or department is being bonused. Practices such as these can help small businesses close the cash gap and offer competitive, rewarding bonuses.

Cash bonusing is also ideal for start-up owners who prefer to maintain as much of their equity as possible. A regular, achievable cash bonus framework empowers employees to see real returns faster than in a vesting scenario, making a bonus-powered business more appealing to talent compared to similar organizations that are asking potential employees to take a five-year bet.

Anchoring a Bonus Strategy

Here’s the thing with cash bonuses: they have to be fair, transparent, and grounded in carefully measured KPIs. One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that bonuses come from a black bag of discretionary money that leaders can use to reward their favorites. Building a culture in which cash bonuses are a valuable incentive and motivator for everyone means obliterating that preconception and presenting a clearly articulated approach to bonuses that gives employees brass rings to reach for and shows them that hard work is truly rewarded.

For each asset within the organization, bonus opportunities should be tied directly to expectations laid out in their individual job description and their performance on on-going projects and initiatives. That means strengthening the connection between leadership, accounting, payroll, and HR to ensure that there’s a clear vision for each position in the company and an understanding of what adequate and outstanding performance look like in each scenario.

Ideally, employees should sign on knowing what kind of bonuses they can qualify for from the outset and what kind of data gathering and analysis leaders will conduct in order to determine their eligibility. For organizations unveiling a new bonus strategy, it’s absolutely crucial that existing employees understand which aspects of their work and KPIs are tied to bonuses and what they can do to ensure they qualify. Regular check-ins from supervisors and leaders can reinforce the company-wide culture of working toward bonuses and keep individual team members bought into the system.

When rolled out correctly, a cash bonus incentive system can give long-time talent the push they need to make it to the next level while attracting new potential superstars. On the other hand, if rollout is fumbled or articulated poorly, a seemingly unclear or unfair system can actually hurt workplace culture.

Scheduling a Bonus Strategy

Given that clarity, transparency, and fairness are so crucial to using a cash bonus system as an employee motivator and attraction/retention tool, organizations must articulate from the outset how they will schedule bonuses. Traditionally, bonuses are given on a yearly, quarterly, or project-based schedule. Let’s quickly look at each of those approaches to discuss how they differ:

Advantages: Yearly cash bonuses have been traditional in the workplace for several centuries. Businesses can plan financially to bonus everybody at once. Workers get a large lump sum.

Disadvantages: A year is a long term, which means assessment is complex for leadership and bonuses are fewer and further between for workers.

Advantages: Business planning and accounting is typically conducted in quarters. Quarterly business metrics can most directly inform bonus decisions. Quarterly check-ins with employees regarding goals and company culture feel appropriate and unobtrusive.

Disadvantages: Assessing goals and tracking KPIs for all workers on a quarterly basis is a job unto itself, potentially for more than one person depending on company size.

Advantages: Milestone-based bonuses reward assets directly for getting work done. They provide a timely reward and a pat on the back.

Disadvantages: It’s easier to quantify and articulate bonus qualifications for some positions (e.g. project manager, sales professional, etc.) than others (e.g. graphic designer, service technician, etc.). Mindful planning must be employed to ensure fairness in terms of assignments.

Individual vs. Group bonuses:
One theme that we see across all these bonus scheduling strategies is that businesses must be mindful about whether they want to create an approach in which a large number of employees are potentially getting bonused around the same time or try to stagger assessments to provide massive cash pay-outs in a small time frame.

For smaller businesses and startups, spreading those payments out is preferable in most situations. That means staggering assessment quarters across the workforce, potentially deferring bonus payments out over a longer term, and calibrating bonus goals to be attainable but adequately lofty. All those concerns again speak to the necessity of extensive planning (both in terms of articulation and financial allocations) in the months before rollout.

Key Takeaways:

● Cash bonuses are especially relevant and attractive in a climate where many professionals are wrestling with debt or trying to secure retirement.
● Cash bonuses both attract new talent and provide current assets with the push they need to take their work to the next level.
● Businesses of any size can offer cash bonuses if they commit to a program and get creative. In fact, cash bonusing can be a good way for start-ups and smaller companies to protect equity.
● In order to work as employee motivators and attractors, bonus programs must be grounded in practices, schedules, and KPIs that are clearly codified and administered as part of a transparent system.

Are you interested in learning more about how to effectively leverage cash bonuses at your business? Don’t miss our upcoming webinar:

Everything You Need To Know About Executive Compensation