Best to Work For?

We’d all like to say that we are the best company to work for or an “Employer of Choice”. The reality is that the only way to really know or find out if you are is through open communication, employee engagement surveys, and a constant dialogue with your team members.

Communication

You must first build a trust with your employees. In my opinion this always starts with communication. That can mean via an intranet for the staff (provided they all have access to it); a monthly or bi-monthly all-staff meeting; departmental meetings with supervisors, managers, and directors passing along information, goals, and accomplishments; or group email announcements (again, the employees must have access).

If you have diversity in your organization, English will most likely be a second language and need to be taken into consideration when creating an article or group emails for all-staff distribution. You must be sensitive to all employees in the organization.

Meat and Potatoes

The next items are the intrinsic and extrinsic values the employees need to have in order to feel safe in your workplace. We have covered these meat and potato items before but a short list here doesn’t hurt to repeat.

  • Compensation
  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Recognition

Mission and Vision

Does the organization have a clear mission and vision that could be stated by any employee in the company at all levels? If not, then that should be your priority. It shouldn’t be more than a sentence or two and should be verbalized and demonstrated from the executives through the entire management team. You must model the behavior you wish t see from your team.

This mission and vision statement is the foundation of your culture. Look at the tenure of your employees. Are you tapping into their knowledge of the organization? It is very likely that they were here before you and have a lot to say. Give them a safe place to say it.

Recognition

Recognition is a key component towards a good culture and a great place to work. Don’t use it as a tool to tame the troops. Recognition has to be genuine and I have recently read a book on the five “love” languages of recognition in the workplace. Not all of your team members are going to appreciate a gift card. Especially since they will have to taxed for it.

Some employees just want you to personally say “Thank you” to them. Others might appreciate a nod in a staff newsletter or department meeting. Knowing what your team members appreciate is part of the solution to being a great place to work. It means you are paying attention and are invested in them. They see it. They see almost everything you do or at least their perception of what you do.

Employee Engagement Surveys

The best advice I can give is to really make the survey as easy and anonymous as possible. You don’t want your team to answer the questions the way they “think” you want them answered. You want them to give you real, straight feedback. The Good, Bad, and the Ugly. It might sting a bit but this is how an organization that is truly committed to culture change will find out the best they have to offer and the worst. This will make you an employer of choice. Suck it up and do it right.

Total Rewards in a Nut Shell

Are Your Total Rewards in Check?

Imagine a candidate has multiple offers on the table. Why should they choose your company to work for? The short-term reason is the monetary aspect but that only gets you so far.

The long-term reasons include a variety of intrinsic and extrinsic values that you want to be sure your organization has and be competitive with.

Compensation Strategy

This is the jumping off point. Be sure you have a set but flexible compensation plan that allows for brand new and seasoned employees while maintaining pay equity. I know that’s a mouthful. However, if you have pay grades and you put specific positions into each grade, then you have the flexibility I’m speaking of for all your employees.

Make sure if you offer incentives, such as bonuses or commissions they are specific to a position or level of management and keep them consistent across the board.

Sales and Marketing typically receive commissions based of of monthly or quarterly sales. Directors or Department Heads usually receive an annual incentive bonus for reaching preset goals.

Professional Development and Training

Employees want to feel like they matter in an organization. One way to do this is to invest in development and training so they grow in their roles. If they feel your are investing in their education at the workplace, their reasons for jumping ship to another organization will diminish.

There are several types of training and development.

  • Seminars and Conferences: These are usually specific to their position i n the company like HR, Marketing, Executive Leadership, and Sales.
  • Tuition Reimbursement Programs: You can either assist in their further education by paying for it or you can offer to pay for certificate or license testing fees. You may even do both.
  • Annual Required Training: If you have this type of training because of a license or state required mandate, be sure that your professional development for this group of people is in addition to this already mandatory training.

By being fair and consistent to all of your employees, you will benefit from their newly acquired education that ultimately give the organization the push it needs to reach the yearly goals set by leadership.

Retirement Plans and Benefit

401(k)’s or 403(b)’s

Today’s retirement plans are easy to administer if you have the partners. Your financial adviser and record keeper. These two entities are there to assist you and your team members.

Financial advisers should be knowledgeable and have the ability to communicate with the employees to educate and guide them through to retirement.

The record keeper should have an employee portal or website that is easily navigated and gives the employee a snapshot on their front page of how much money they have saved to date, the percentage or dollar rate of deferral they are currently using, the funds they are investing in, and a retirement calculator to see how they are doing and what they need to change in order to reach their retirement goals.

The website should also be user friendly for making changes online, requesting loans, or taking distributions. The investing funds should be listed including a Pre-tax and Roth option. Make sure you don’t have too many options. Employers have a fiduciary responsibility to make it the best plan it can be at a reasonable cost to the employee.

Benefits

To compete in the market you need to have the standard benefits such as Medical, Dental, Vision, Life, and Accidental Dismemberment. Some organizations offer short-term and long-term disability as a paid benefit where others have it as a voluntary program.

What other benefits are available that you can add to your total rewards package to give you an edge?

  • Pet Insurance
  • Voluntary Life Insurance
  • Voluntary Accident Plans
  • Voluntary Cancer Plans
  • Bus passes – either payroll deduct or employer funded
  • Wellness Plans – giving a cost break to employees for reaching certain health goals.
  • On-site Child care
  • Additional Holidays
  • Discount Service Memberships
  • Gym Memberships – either on-site or employer funded

These are just a few of the options you can add to your total compensation package.

Work-Life Balance

This provides employees flexibility in their schedules including non-traditional work hours like a 4-10 or 3-12 work week.

Opportunity during the year to take a paid volunteer day so that the employee can use their time to volunteer for causes that are important to them or their families.

Employers should make sure, no matter how busy they are to give the mandatory break and lunch periods to their team members. People need “brain breaks” to re-focus, decrease stress, and refresh. Encouraging your employees to use their vacation or PTO time gives them the rest and relaxation they need. I don’t have to remind you (too late), that you don’t want your employees working while on vacation either. That’s not really resting now, is it?

This may not seem like a work-life balance suggestion but purchasing the technology that will make the work portion of your employees days much easier and efficient will help to keep stress at a manageable level.

Organizational Culture

Without diving down the rabbit hole of company culture which is an entire topic on it’s own, let me just state that is is a powerful recruiting tool. A great company culture attracts people who want that type of environment in the organization they are potentially spending forty-plus hours a week at. Culture can inspire employees to be more productive and can decrease turnover. That in itself should be enough reason to make it a priority. I will restate here that organizational culture does not just lie within human resources. It is a company-wide initiative and must have buy-in at all levels starting with the CEO.

You’ve Got Style

I am pretty sure we have all read about the seven leadership styles. What I would like to do is pick one or two and see if we can dissect them a bit to see how effective they may or may not be.

Seven Styles:

  • Autocratic
  • Democratic
  • Coaching
  • Strategic
  • Transformational
  • Laissez-faire
  • Charismatic

We’re going to chat about three of them.

  • Coaching
  • Transformational
  • Democratic

Coaching

The Coaching Style offers hands-on advice to problem solving. This type of leader believes that people come before profit. So, If you put the professional growth of the team first, then the profit will follow. They should not be confused with a coach, but do have coaching skills. This is done by receiving and providing valuable feedback and having motivating conversations with their team members.

This style is popular because it can level the playing field, it builds confidence, promotes individual and team excellence, develops strong commitment to common goals, and produces valuable leaders.

Big Picture Thinking

Coaching leaders show how the work fits into the overall goal by encouraging employees to try new things on their own. This shows them how they have the different pieces to put together into the final product. Coaching leaders use their empathy and self-awareness to encourage each person on the team to develop their individual strengths even though they assign challenging assignments. The key is providing them with the tools for their success.

Transformational

The Transformational leader boosts morale, motivation, and performance by creating a singular sense of identity and purpose for a project. In it’s ideal form, it creates valuable and positive change in the followers with the end goal of developing followers into leaders.

Having a vision is the starting point. Then through inspiring the employees with influence, motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration the team makes sacrifices for the good of the whole.

Is this you?

Have you ever taken control of a group situation by explaining the end goal, conveying a clear vision and a passion for the work? If you did and then energized the rest of the group to get you to this goal, then you might be a Transformational Leader.

Democratic

This leader makes decisions based on the input of each team member. The leader with make the final decisions but each team member has an equal part of the project.

This is an effective style because it allows the employee to exercise authority at different levels. Something that they will use later on in their careers. Everyone is given the opportunity to participate, ideas are freely exchanged, and discussion is encouraged while the democratic leader is there to offer guidance and control.

How do you compare?

Many people believe that the Democratic style is the most effective style and works well in organizations that desire innovation. Using this style you get the reward of group member participation, high productivity, and more ideas and creative solutions.

How do you develop your own leadership style?

It is important to be yourself, authentic, and always professional. Think about your natural way of being and use those skills to show authority in your own positive way.

Having flexibility in situations will require you to access different types of leadership approaches but this will allow you to be sensitive to the needs of the team members you are working with while attaining your goals.

Don’t be afraid to try something new or different. Ask for feedback from your senior leadership team and really listen to how you could have approached a situation differently than you did.

Why is all of this important?

It goes back to my previous article on employees not leaving their jobs, but leaving their managers. Leaders have people follow them. Managers have people work for them. Leaders inspire and engage and create of vision that their people (followers) turn into reality. They make people become a part of something bigger than just reaching a goal. When this happens, you receive employee engagement, higher morale, and higher productivity. Turn over decreases and you have the basis of a positive company culture. You can sell a good company culture. Your team members will talk about it and people will want to work for you because of it.

It’s Time for the In-house Interview

So you have phone-screened your candidates and you pick a lot to come in and meet the team. Today is the day. What will happen?

You decide that you can spread out the three candidates in one day. Make sure you and your team are fresh all day. Each candidate deserves your complete attention without distractions or fatigue

Types of Interviewee’s

All of these candidates are coming in hopeful, energetic, and a bit nervous at the same time. Let’s take a look at what could happen and what you can do to counteract it.

  1. The “One word answer” candidate. What should you do? Well, obviously the interview will be shorter but let’s see if you can get the person to open up a little. If you have asked all of the pertinent questions for the job, ask the person what they are passionate about. The person may surprise you and start blabbing about their passions. This is when you can see the real deal. The person behind the fear.
  2. The “Can’t stop talking to save my soul” candidate. These ones are hard for me because I want to keep on schedule and when someone just keeps rambling on, it is really hard to concentrate. This person is usually this way all the time. It’s not nerves. Let’s be real. You may love it or not, but it is hard to listen to. Of course we don’t let that get in the way of seeing if the person is qualified for the job, but it does go to “fit” within the organization.
  3. The “Confident Interviewer” candidate. I feel a kinship to these types of candidates. I have been in my field long enough that I am confident in my skills and abilities and at a certain level, the employer should be understanding that the position they are hiring for the person they speak to has the education and skill level they are looking for. Sometimes we are wrong. I know this. However, the majority of the time it is true. So this interview goes by smoothly and someone on team feels that the candidate is cocky or conceited. Is this really true? Or…is it the fact that confidence can make others uncomfortable if they are not as confident in their own roles.

I know I sound like a head shrinker in this case but be aware that this may happen. We don’t want to lose a good candidate because someone on the team is threatened. We also want to make sure that we are not basing this decision on gender too. If a man is confident, they are seen as go-getters. If a woman is the same, she is seen as a bitch or conceited. Let’s make sure we are providing equity in the workplace and not allowing this to happen.

Pick the Final Two

Of these three, who would you pick to come back? Only you and your team can decide. You know your culture, what the job entails, who they have to work with, etc. Make sure you decide on the person based on their skills and abilities and then fit for the organization. Don’t just pick someone because everyone liked them. Make sure they can do the job.

Also, a person may surprise you when they get hired and they have the pressure of being “on”. They might relax and show you their personality a bit easier. Yes, this can backfire. Let’s concentrate on the good for a while and play that this has a great outcome, shall we?

The Last One Standing

Here is your winner. You have had all of the interviews, you have asked all the questions and answered some too. Congratulations on picking your new team member. There is nothing in HR as satisfying as giving someone a new job. I love the feeling of it and I love seeing their face on the first day!

Utilizing Your Employees’ “Other” Talents

Do you know what your employees do off the clock?

I’m not talking about personal things that you don’t really want to know about. I’m talking about talents they have that may be useful at work.

  • Does your team member know how to write and you have a writing project you could use some help with?
  • Do you have a budding photographer on your team that can take some pictures for your social media page or your marketing brochures?
  • Is there a member of the group that is a semi-professional organizer and can help you clean up that office supply closet you are always avoiding?

I know there are some restrictions with using employees on a contract basis, but I am looking at this more from a team building angle than a business venture. If your photographer is willing to take some shots for the social media page on the Halloween party you had, then let them enjoy what they do and share it with the rest of the team. This and other ideas are types of things that can motivate your team and show them how invested you are in them.

Transfer of Skills

I had an administrative assistant come to me and ask if there were any projects she could help with in the “writing category”. She had experience writing articles for a newsletter at another organization she worked at. It just so happened that I was starting a monthly employee newsletter the next month. I worked with her manager to see if this would affect her workload and we worked out a schedule for her to help me with writing some fun and interesting articles about after work activities in the different neighborhoods around town. She also researched the annual summer fairs and posted the dates for our employees which they appreciated for things to do on the weekends. I was happy to have the help and she was happy to be writing again.

Make Me a Movie Please

Another example is when I wanted to create a short video for our recruiting page and I found out that one of my employees did documentaries on the side. They were excited to film the video for me. It was very professional and we posted it on our social media site and hired several employees off it.

Sharing is Caring

Maybe try a “Vendor Day”. What is this? Well, on one day of the month, maybe a Friday, set up a table at work and let people bring in a sample of what they do. I realize there are non-solicitation policies out there but you can stipulate that the team member can only bring a sample and some business cards so they can sell their homemade gifts and treasures outside of the work schedule.

If not a vendor day, you can definitely do a talent show as a team building event if you have the chance to go on a team retreat.

Team retreats are great for working on the next years goals and at the same time get to know your team mates as people, not just workers. I would love to hear about team building ideas you have done or skill transfer breakthroughs you have had on your teams. Please put a comment below for consideration!

I’m Back From Vacation!!!

Don’t Work While You Are On Vacation!

Stop right there, don’t say it. I already know what you’re thinking. There is NO way I can’t do some work while I am on vacation otherwise my desk and inbox will be full when I get back and I don’t want to deal with it. Well, I say try harder!

It is so relaxing to not do work on vacation. I was gone for a week and hardly thought of this blog. Yes, I said “hardly”. I’ll admit how hard it is to completely go off the grid from work. However, I feel so much more relaxed and rejuvenated.

We’ve Already Discussed PTO

Yes we have, but only the difference between PTO and Vacation. Not the actual process of using it. Not only for ourselves but our team members too. We want you to encourage your team members to use their time. Everyone needs rest and relaxation. If your department is stretched, try to give people a 4-day weekend or an extra 3-day weekend when applicable. If you don’t have those types of concerns, then make sure you check in with the team and find out their vacation schedules early so you can put them on the team calendar so everyone knows when people will be out. This is a great tool for everyone so they know when they need to pick up the slack or when it’s their turn to get out of Dodge!

Cashing Out Time Instead of Taking it.

Please don’t allow this to happen. All you are going to get out of it is a burnt out staff and higher turnover. When you encourage your people to take time off you are effectively telling them that you genuinely care about them and their well-being. Their job will be here when they come back because frankly, you don’t want to do it for them for an extended period of time anyway.

Vacation Season? Is There One?

Generally speaking the summertime is the busiest time for vacations because kids are out of school and it is nice. If you can spread out the vacations during this time then the rest of the team won’t always feel like there is a lack of bodies for a three month period and get burnt out waiting for their turn. Do you have on-call staff that can cover? If so, this will prevent too much overtime for the people that are still in the building. They won’t have to pick up the extra work for the vacationing team mate because you have this built in already.

Some Slack Should be Given upon Return

Now if you have a desk job you know what that inbox looks like when you return from vacation. On the first day back for your team members, set the expectation that the first day back is going to be a catch up day. Try not to schedule them for back-to-back meetings on this day. They will appreciate it and you for giving them the time to catch up on correspondence.

Wineries, Family, and Fun

For me, I spent a glorious week with my family and toured some wineries and ate some fantastic food. Notice how I put wine first! You know!

It filled my heart with joy to reconnect with my cousins and just enjoy life for a bit. After all, why do we work so hard if we can’t enjoy it now and again?!?

Stay Interviews

How Important is Employee Retention?

If you want to keep good employees in your organization you need to ask your team how they are doing. Don’t just rely on the annual performance review for your communication. You should be speaking to your team at least quarterly and I like to work with my managers and supervisors on conducting “Stay Interviews”.

What is a Stay Interview?

It’s a conversation that increases employee engagement and retention.

These structured questions are asked in a casual manner and usually take only about thirty minutes. Here are some examples:

  • What makes you get up and come to work each morning?
  • What keeps you home pressing the snooze button?
  • Do you believe your work here is meaningful?
  • Have you ever considered leaving this job for another opportunity?
  • What can I do as your manager to make your work experience better?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would it be?
  • What motivates you?
  • What might tempt you to leave?

Hey, Wait a Minute…You Asked if they Would Leave?

Yes, I did and you should too. This is not used as a means to punish people and there definitely should be NO retaliation for any answers you receive. This is an information gathering meeting so you may retain the employees that are doing the best job for your team, department, and organization. Remember, that stay interviews are conducted to help managers understand why employees stay with the company and what might cause them to leave.

Communication is a Two-way Street

Make sure you give the employee plenty of warning for this meeting so they have time to prepare and feel comfortable asking you questions during this one-on-one time. In fact, encourage them to come with questions and suggestions.

If you stay on a regular schedule with these interactions your teams will be increasingly engaged and come to expect them. That would be an incredible result! These are only a sampling of the questions that you can ask your team.

Remember these Simple Rules

Never promise something you can’t deliver. This would be a raise, bonus, or promotion. Keep asking them what you can do for them. You are bound to find one or two things you can do for them.

The second thing to remember is to keep these meetings short and sweet. Thirty minutes is the maximum. If the conversation is great and you are both communicating in ways you haven’t before then by all means don’t cut them off, just remember you have other people on your team and want to be fair and consistent.