Change Your Life and Relationships By Listening

Deep down, everyone wants to be heard, acknowledged, accepted and included. Do you know anyone who doesn’t have these universal desires? Being heard helps people, businesses, communities and our world.

When was the last time you felt really heard? Did it feel like you were connecting with someone, that the person cared for you and what you were saying, that they respected you?

Listening has taken a backseat
Listening can save a person’s life, solve a business’s issue and improve communities and the lives of people in them. Truly listening can bridge differences in our world. Listening can be hugely impactful. Yet, many people don’t listen. Why?

• Think we know what you’re going to say
• Don’t value others’ opinions
• Have physical hearing issues
• Are distracted with our own thoughts, worries, fears
• Don’t agree with your point of view
• Would rather talk
• Don’t think you’re interesting
• It’s not easy to do

Some of these may be valid reasons but it doesn’t account for the fact that distracted listening has become the norm in our society.

What is listening?
Listening is more than hearing someone talk. Deep listening is absorbing what the person is saying, watching their face and body language, looking for their heart’s message and connecting with what they are saying even if you don’t agree with a point of view. When was the last time you really, truly listened to someone, to their voice, their message, their heart, their body language? Listening deeply can give you more information than you would expect.

When I was working inside the corporate world, I benefited greatly by developing my listening skills. I watched the person speaking for their body language, I looked for their passion and I observed the reaction of others “listening.” Frequently, I picked up much more about what was going on by fully listening. I believe it was one of my strengths and helped me reach the level of success that was important to me. Good listening is a part of one’s emotional intelligence level.

What you can do right now to become a better listener

• Put away devices and other distractions.
• If your current situation isn’t conducive to actively listening, then plan another time to talk and listen openly.
• Concentrate on what the person is saying.
• Look into the other person’s eyes. It’s hard not to hear what someone is saying when you’re looking into their eyes.
• Don’t assume you know what the other person is going to say.
• Don’t think about what you’re going to say.
• Ask questions.
• Allow some space between the person finishing their thought and you commenting.
• Show engagement with excitement, empathy, agreement.
• Be open minded.

What do you get from listening?

• Personally, you get to know a person and their motives better.
• The speaker may have information that you can use now or in the future.
• You could be saving a life.
• Listening to an employee could help uncover a potential flaw.
• Listening to a customer could provide you with your next big product or a solution to a current one.
• Listening to your family builds understanding and strong connections that can’t be broken. (Most family rifts happen because one or another person doesn’t understand something that did or did not happen.)
• Listening to your own heart’s messages helps make better decisions.

Listening to someone is powerful. It saves families, lives, businesses, cities and countries. I challenge you to spend 15 minutes a day to listen more deeply and thoughtfully with your ears, eyes and heart.

Susan O’Connor is owner of Paradise Workplace Solutions and coaches clients to connect their personal values and passions to their business goals

Stop Controlling Your Employees If You Want To Increase Engagement

Employee engagement is a popular topic.  The money and attention companies give to engagement may be a superficial band aid that ends up backfiring if they aren’t spending their efforts on employees’ engagement with the work.  Keep in mind, 85% of employees are disengaged according to a Gallup Poll.1

What are leaders trying to accomplish with a focus on employee engagement?  In brutal truth, at the core, business leaders want to improve productivity, so that their businesses are successful.  Yes, most aspire to have a workplace their employees like coming to but ultimately, they’re in business to make money, solve problems or serve people.  They shouldn’t be shamed into acting otherwise.

 

Are you killing productivity?

Many leaders are trying to balance “engagement” with getting the job done.  You can have employees who like each other, celebrate successes and are given rewards but what happens when they get back to their desks?  Do they eagerly engage in their work?  Many disengage as soon as they sit down.  Why?  Because their WORK is not engaging them.

Many company’s cultures have been set up to control when and how a job gets done.  Flex time permits employees some leeway on when to arrive and leave but it’s still controlled.  American businesses are headed in the right direction but how motivating is it to be controlled, held within specific parameters?  What happens to creativity?

 

What can leaders do to improve engagement?

Get a picture in your mind.  Think about the most highly motivating time in your career or business.  What was it about that time that made you want to get up every morning and accomplish your goals?  Who was telling you what to do and how to do it?  How were you rewarded?

I experienced my most engaging times when I worked at companies that were growing and I’ve experienced that same in my own business.  Why?  Because no one had predetermined rules in how to accomplish what needed to be done. I was eager to learn, prove to myself that I could do whatever I set my mind to.  I was able to use my creativity.  My work was acknowledged by others and I was rewarded intrinsically by feeling good about my accomplishments.  None of my engagement had anything to do with receiving monetary rewards or parties in the hallways.

Let’s acknowledge that systems and rules need to be in place for very routine tasks, like expense reports and assembly line work.  However, allowing employees the autonomy to complete their work in a way that allows them to tap into their creativity and self-motivation can be more engaging.

 

Autonomy is motivating

Daniel Pink talks about the four essentials of autonomy in his book Drive published 10 years ago and still holding true today.2  Time, task, technique and team are ways in which autonomy can exist.  Not all people are motivated by each one equally.  The goal is to find out which motivators work best for each employee.

Time—getting results instead of focusing on the time it takes to get work done.  Many companies are now looking at getting results by allowing employees more freedom in when they have to produce results.  Obviously, some jobs are based on time-determined outputs and don’t allow employees freedom from time constraints.

Questions to ask yourself:  What jobs do we have that we can remove time obligations?  What could the benefits be if we tapped into our employees’ creativity in getting results?

 

Task—selecting certain aspects of what we do.  For example, employees see many opportunities for improvement in your business all the time.  Allowing them the independence to work on these opportunities for a portion of their time can be rewarding because there is no roadmap.  They can use their creativity and solve problems on their own.

Questions to ask yourself: How often do my employees see ways to make improvements or come up with new ideas that are getting left behind because we’re controlling the work they do?  What would happen if we experimented with allowing some employees to work on projects they create?

 

Technique—allowing employees to figure out how they will get their work done.  There are some organizations that permit customer service employees to work from home, for example.  They choose how they want to set up their home office and how they will accomplish their goals.  Technically, there is no reason they need to be in a physical call center, all together following rote scripts.  That’s a controlled environment that stifles their creativity.

Questions to ask yourself:  Are we losing by not allowing employees to come up with how to accomplish their tasks?  Can we gain efficiencies and produce more or better products?

 

Team—choosing who you work with on certain projects.  Self-directed improvement projects are a good example in which a person can choose who he/she wants to work with.  Allowing a team to come together by choice can produce great results.

Questions to ask yourself:  Who can I ask in my business to select a project and team to test out this theory?  Am I willing to give up control to see if there is a better, more motivating way to get work done?

 

What can you do today?

If you truly want to engage your employees, start looking at ways in which you can reduce control and compliance and increase autonomy and creativity.  There are many published examples of autonomous workplaces and theories.  Do some reading on motivation and use your business to do some experimenting.  Keep what works and refine what doesn’t.  Be ahead of the curve.  Your high performers will appreciate it.  And your bottom line may see a bump up.

 

1 Building a High-Development Culture Through Your Employee Engagement Strategy, Gallup, Inc. Washington, DC, 2019.

2 Daniel H. Pink, Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,  Riverhead Books, New York, 2009.

 

Paradise Workplace Solutions, LLC works with business owners to improve productivity and profitable growth by aligning people strategies to the company’s business plan.

What Motivates You To Go The Extra Mile?

Motivation can be energizing.  Do you remember a time when you were inspired or you motivated someone?  Do you remember what it felt like?  The thrill of the spark igniting within you, or helping a child, friend or employee help themselves and seeing the ember catch fire.  The energy is contagious.

That same energy is in your organization, namely your people.  You know you’re likely to put in more effort and care when you are motivated and feeling good about what you’re doing.  Your employees are the same.  They will put in extra effort if they are engaged and feel appreciated.

Increase engagement, increase profitability

In a recent global Gallup poll on employee engagement with 82,000 teams, the results showed 21% higher profitability for those organizations in the top quarter compared with those at the bottom.  Shockingly, 85% of employees are disengaged or actively disengaged.1 That’s a lot of people who need motivation and a good deal of profit that never makes it to the table.  Obviously, there’s a great deal of work to be done globally.  Yet, it’s your business we’re focusing on now.

You probably think about motivating your employees with salary, benefits and a nice work environment.  Those incentives are a given in the current labor market.  You need to do more.  The good news is that you can and it doesn’t have to cost you much.

Start motivating your employees today

  • Be authentic when you praise a job well done. Acknowledge good work but don’t dilute your compliments by praising all the time.
  • Find out what motivates your employees individually. People are inspired by many different factors.  Observe and ask what motivates each person.  Then, acknowledge them in the way they prefer.
  • Work with employees who are causing problems or not meeting expectations. Your employees are watching how you handle someone who is not performing.  Don’t ignore or downplay the problem.  Your employees are impacted and want you to step in to handle the situation. Be honest and helpful to the person who is struggling.  Find out what he/she needs to be successful.  If you don’t see improvement after making a good effort to support them, you will likely have to let them go.  Sometimes, an employee doesn’t fit with a company’s culture or have the skills to do the job.  Be supportive and fair so your employees know that you treat everyone fairly.
  • Talk to your employees about their development. What work fuels their passion?  Is there an area they want to explore?  Providing a safe environment for employees to discover new talents can keep them inspired and engaged.  Share in their discovery.  Acknowledge their abilities and support them in strengthening their weaknesses.
  • Hear what your employees are saying. Listening to your employees is the most cost-effective way of acknowledging and engaging them.  And you could learn something you didn’t realize about your business and the people who keep your business running.

Uncover what motivates your employees

Here’s a simple way to get specifics about what motivates your employees.  Ask them! Let them compile a list of options for recognition for a job well done.  Some examples of both monetary and non-monetary items could be

  • Time off work to participate in a community or non-profit event; like Habitat for Humanity
  • Opportunity to take on additional responsibility
  • Breakfast or lunch with a more senior employee or company executive
  • Development class, seminar or conference that is of interest to the employee and the company
  • Time off; an extra vacation day or a few hours on a Friday afternoon
  • Gift card or small cash award
  • Public recognition among peers; like at a department meeting
  • Trophy or award certificate
  • Tickets to a sporting or cultural event of the employee’s choice
  • A small token of appreciation, like a food gift basket, sent to the employee’s home so that his/her loved ones can see the company’s appreciation.

Talking with employees about how they like to be recognized and motivated is an opportunity to communicate about performance, expectations and the value of your employees.  Always connect any recognition with performance and the value an employee brings to the business.  Reinforce the behaviors and skills needed to make your business successful.

Below, share some ways a company has actively engaged you?

1 Building a High-Development Culture Through Your Employee Engagement Strategy, Gallup, Inc. Washington, DC, 2019.

Paradise Workplace Solutions, LLC works with business owners to improve productivity and profitable growth by aligning people strategies to the company’s business plan.

Balance New Business Development and Customer Work to Avoid Dips in Growth

Earlier this year, I attended a conference of small business owners and decided to do an informal survey of the biggest obstacles they’ve had to overcome. Most owners responded that initially their challenges were focused on getting business. Then, they spent so much time on their customers’ work that they let go their efforts on new business development. The result almost always created a gap in bringing on new work creating a temporary dip in revenue, workload and morale for employees. So, instead of stressing yourself and your employees, let’s talk about an appropriate balance of new business development and current work.

Fatal inflection point
In most small and mid-size businesses, you, the owner, typically invest your time in bringing on new business. Once work comes in, you’re still putting on most of the hats of a business owner but your focus has turned internal to the client work and you may put aside your lead generation hat. Often, it feels like there’s no time for developing new business when you can barely meet your current clients’ demands. This is the fatal inflection point.

When I asked my colleagues at the conference how much time the owner should spend on business development the response was a surprising 40-50%. How do you do it? Overwhelmingly, owners said to make it an everyday practice and stay committed to new business development even if it’s only 10% of your time. Find that time. It’s not as easily said as done but here are some suggestions.

Open up your time

  • Look for the common aspects of the work you do for clients. Can you streamline and package it instead of doing the same thing over and over again for every client?
  • Delegate. Start training and trusting those who work for you. If you’re a solopreneur look for other ways to get help. Barter with others whose expertise you need and who need what you have to offer.
  • Consider virtual assistants who provide support through the internet, usually from their homes. A virtual assistant can coordinate your schedule, keep you organized, plan your business development activities and keep you accountable.
  • Hire employees. This is scary because owners in young businesses may worry about hiring too soon. Look into hiring college interns for a specific period of time and give them defined projects in which they can excel. Train them well and they may become your next ready-to-onboard employees.
  • Decide how you want your business to grow. What are YOUR expectations of the business? Plan out how you’re going to get there and work your plan every day.

Best ways to reach and get new business
Now that you freed some time on your calendar here are some ways to reach new customers.

  • Ask current customers for referrals. This is obvious but often overlooked.
  • Go to networking events before or after work. Select how often you need to go to networking events and go. Talk about your business. Then follow up with the people you’ve met.
  • Develop strategic alliances. Get to know the person who has similar customers to yours. If you like him/her then work out how you can share the contacts you have and make introductions for each other. Your strategic alliance may never become a customer but may put you in contact with many new potential clients.
  • Be a thought leader. Share your insights publicly and make them easily available on line. Write blogs.
  • Speak at events, conferences, meetings. Your business is based on some expertise or passion you have. Figure out a way to share it with others on a large scale and be seen as an expert in your field.
  • Do surveys your customers may be interested in and share what you learn. The surveys don’t have to be difficult. Look at the informal survey I did at a conference and got good information worth sharing.
  • Scour newspaper articles for people mentioned that you could reach out to and share what your business offers.

You can start at least one of these activities anytime. Current business and customer satisfaction is critical to your success but so is bringing in new business consistently. Set goals that you know you will bring you energy. Make the time every day even if it’s 60 minutes and you will see the results.

Paradise Workplace Solutions, LLC works with business owners dealing with disappointing business results get on a path to improved productivity and profitable growth by aligning people strategies to the company’s business plan.

It’s Personal: An Employee In Crisis Can Build Up Or Tear Down Your Company’s Culture

I didn’t have any intention of writing this article until I woke up this morning. After seeing all the news and reminders about breast cancer month I was compelled to talk about how a health scare created an employee/employer bond that can’t be broken.

It’s time for me to own up. Not many people know that I went through breast cancer and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment two years ago. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that I didn’t talk much about it.

I pride myself on helping others and was surprised by my reaction to the diagnoses. I didn’t let many people help me. I was overwrought with emotions. I put a cocoon around myself and went deep within to deal with the cancers. I told only those who absolutely needed to know and I asked them not to discuss it with me or anyone else unless I brought it up. I realize, without a doubt, that was very difficult for family, friends and co-workers who love and care for me. Yet, everyone respected my wishes.

What does this have to do with company culture? How employees are treated every day is part of your company culture. An employee in crisis can magnify aspects of the culture either good or bad.

Build your culture and help an employee at the same time
I was working for a large corporation at the time and was naturally nervous about what cancer would mean for my life and career. I was worried that I wouldn’t be considered for a promotion or plumb assignment if they thought I couldn’t handle it physically or if my future was uncertain.

Fortunately, I had a manager and employer who respected my wishes and helped me through my treatment. Their handling of my diagnoses also demonstrates the culture they want for the company. They value their employees; plain and simple. Here is how my situation was handled and how helping employees when they’re “down” can help build a culture of mutual admiration.

Six actions to take to help an employee through a crisis

  1. Listen, listen, listen.  This is the single most important action any manager can take during a difficult situation.  Listen for what your employee is saying and not saying.
  2. Ask how you can help.  Find out what they would like you to do or not do.
  3. Respect the employee’s wishes.  If the employee wants support from his/her team, help them get it.  If they want to keep it on the down low, abide by their decision.
  4. Look out for ways you can alleviate their stress.  This can be in the form of easing their workload, setting up a system that will allow your employee to attend to any necessary appointments without having to ask, or providing them with additional resources.
  5. Check in.  Their needs may change from the initial discussion and you want to make sure you’re helping them throughout the process.
  6. Give them time to adjust to their new reality. Continue to view this employee as an active contributor who will come through their situation to be the same or better employee.  Other employees are watching closely to see how you’re handling the situation.

My outcome
I am healthy and free of cancer. I was loyal to my employer and co-workers before my health scare. Their approach to my situation made me double down on my commitment and demonstrated to those closest to me at work how a compassionate manager and employer can make a difference.

Since my treatment, many aspects of my life have changed. I was promoted to a position I always wanted two months after returning from a short medical leave. Six months later, I made some difficult and dramatic changes because I realized that I didn’t want to put off dreams I had for my future. My husband and I moved to Florida from New Jersey and started our own business, Paradise Workplace Solutions.

I made sure before leaving that someone was in place, up to speed on leading my group and that there was a smooth transition. I wanted the company to know that I appreciated everything they did for me and that I had no intention of leaving them in a lurch.

After my leaving the company, the manner in which I was treated remains a part of the culture they are building every day. My commitment to my former manager and employer is still strong. I cheer for my former co-workers and company from the sidelines and advocate for the work they are doing. I am a staunch supporter and make sure I refer only the very best potential employees because I want their culture to be the best it can be. That’s the least I can do for the co-workers, manager and company who helped me through the most difficult time of my life.

Click here to talk with us about people strategies.

Paradise Workplace Solutions, LLC works with business owners dealing with disappointing business results get on a path to improved productivity and profitable growth by aligning people strategies to the company’s business plan.

Grow Your Talent, Create Value For Your Company

Your employees are your number one investment. Their actions, skills and knowledge are going to help your grow your business or sink the ship. Assuming you would choose the former, now is a good time to take a look at how your people match up with the future growth of your company.

Most likely, your employees’ performance can be bucketed into three categories. Some are still not up to speed in their current role, others are comfortably meeting your expectations and some may be outperforming. It’s important to know where your employees are in their development because you and they need to come up with a plan for their growth to keep them energized and engaged in supporting your business.

Various stages of performance
The new or struggling employee
Obviously, employees not performing up to standards in their current work need to focus on the skills to do their job, enhance their knowledge or change behaviors. It’s their manager’s responsibility to identify those undeveloped skills and get them the training they need. They will need a development plan to get them on track. Make sure your expectations fit the development need. Sending someone to outside training that has a skills deficiency is like trying to row a battleship with an oar; it’s not going to happen. The real development of the skill or ability comes with combining the outside training with perfecting the skill on-the-job. Repetition, coaching and feedback are the real ways that employees enhance skills.

Your consistent, dependable employee
Employees who are meeting your expectations are golden because they are helping to sustain your business. This is a good time to find out their development goals. Do they want to stay in their current role or do they want to learn a different part of the business? Take the time to point out other positions or work they can do to contribute to growing your business. Match them up where you expect to need strong consistent team members in the near future. This group of employees can be your strong core. They can move through various positions to get a solid understanding of your business and customers. They need a plan that encourages them to grow through being successful and satisfied with their work.

The overachiever, high performer
The outperformers have likely already told you their development goals and are actively pursuing them. High performers need to be challenged to keep them engaged. Look at these employees to see if they have the skills for higher level roles in the organization either now or in the future. If you believe an employee can meet the requirements with some additional training, come up with a development plan that aligns with your business plan. High performers’ plans may include going elsewhere to achieve goals or gain experience but at least you’re aware of the person’s desires and can plan for it so your business is not disrupted.

It’s most important to have development plans for everyone, including yourself, so you know that your employees are working toward goals that will improve and increase your business growth.

People development plans
No matter which level of development is needed, a plan contains relatively the same components below.

• Identified skills, knowledge or behavior that will be the focus
• Actions the employee will take to learn
• Opportunities to apply the learning (practical application with repetition, coaching and feedback)
• Success measures

Each area for improvement should have a SMART Goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Many organizations make SMART goals mandatory because they clarify the goals and get everyone on the same page. Peter Drucker is known for coming up with the criteria for SMART goals and George T. Doran for formalizing it back in the early 80s and still universally used today. You can find an abundance of information by looking up “SMART goals” on the web.

Hold your employees accountable
One of the most important points of a development plan is that the employee owns the plan and their development. You can help identify areas for improvement, fund training programs and provide opportunities for development but ultimately, the employee is responsible for their growth. As the business owner, you are responsible for opening pathways for them to meet their growth goals and provide feedback along the way.

Developing your people is just one aspect of a people strategy that aligns with your business plan and goals. A people strategy will benefit your business because your people are going to propel you to meeting your business goals.

Next up: People strategy

5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Employees’ Understanding of Change

Did you ever think that leading a business would involve so much talking and explaining? You talk with your managers, employees, customers, peers, vendors, the mailman, the cleaning crew and on it goes. It’s no wonder, then, when an employee says he/she doesn’t understand a change you want to make that you question if anyone has heard you.

Many important business decisions are well thought out and communicated with managers and employees. Yet, employees still don’t make the changes you need. This isn’t uncommon. How people adapt to change has been well studied in various situations from grief to business. There’s a process that people go through before they can truly act on implementing any change.1 Resistance is normal and should be expected when you begin to think about making a change. Still, how can you help employees through it?

Overcoming resistance to change
As a business owner, you spend a good deal of your time developing plans and finding solutions to problems. Your time is consumed by many different issues. Once you’ve solved one problem, another pops up to demand your attention. This is the point at which a change can begin to fail and you could be missing out on the most important factor in making your business successful—ensuring employees understand what you need from them. I’m not talking about knowing what the change is. I mean truly UNDERSTANDING and being a part of the company’s success.

Having spent most of my career in employee and leadership communications, I found that a company is always evolving to flourish. In stark contrast, many employees fear the very actions that will ensure the longevity of the company and their own future. Basically, they want their work experience to remain the same or want to make part of a change. How often have you heard team members say that they like the way the company was before more employees were hired or challenging market dynamics affected the business? Each employee has his/her own preference and degree of comfort with change.

Change is inevitable
Change IS happening more rapidly and businesses need to adapt or suffer. So, if companies are changing regularly and rapidly, shouldn’t we expect that employees would “get used to change”, adjust quicker and get on with the work that needs to get done? The number of experiences employees have with change doesn’t help them adjust. It’s the quality of how they have been included and understand the change that helps them adapt more quickly to what you need from them.2 Employees’ needs around the change must be met in order for them to be able to focus and get the job done.

As the owner of your business, you’re continually looking for ways to make improvements, increase your profits, become leaner, satisfy your workers and customers and reduce costs. You can’t do all that without occasional disruption. The question becomes how to continually improve your business while keeping your employees productive and satisfied working for you. The answer is to involve them in your business issues and improvements.

How to involve your employees

  1. Have conversations about your current business plans with your employees. Let them ask questions, probe your thoughts and rationale.  Include the naysayers.  Make sure your managers can articulate your plan and have conversations with their employees.  Do this as often as it feels comfortable.  Rotate the employees you’re having conversations with to get different perspectives.
  2. Set up environments that allow open, unstructured dialogue to occur. Coffee or lunch sessions with you or their manager.  Let employees know that they can ask you anything and you will answer to the best of your knowledge.  Most importantly, listen with no expectation other than to hear what they say.  Afterwards, take what you’ve gathered and think on it. Incorporate what you can and keep other ideas socked away until you see a pattern of similar issues or ideas.  Then act on those improvements.
  3. Ask your employees regularly how business or their work can be improved and what can be done differently. Employees are the experts on your business and know what your business needs.  Talk to employees who directly interact with customers.  What are your customers asking for that the business isn’t providing?  This is where your next new business development idea may originate.
  4. Write down what employees say and who made the recommendations. Follow up with one-on-one conversations or get a group of people with similar ideas together to discuss.  Engage them in coming up with ideas or changes.  Then have them help explain the change to others.
  5. Recognize employees for contributing. Give them credit when possible.  Use stories that include them when talking about new business ideas or changes that will make the business run better and more efficiently.

Here’s what you can do today

  • Talk to your leadership team about involving employees at all levels in discussions on business direction and improvements.
  • Set up a lunch meeting with 5 or 6 trusted employees to discuss how you want to get more worker input. Then set up another lunch meeting with 5 or 6 naysayers.  Ask them if your approach will work in your company’s culture.  Ask what would concern other employees about contributing more and owning the changes that will result.  Then begin implementing consistent, timely discussions with your workforce.

If you haven’t involved employees in solutions and business development previously explain what you’re doing and why, what you expect from workers and how you’d like this new approach to be part of your culture. The larger your business becomes, the more insights you will need from employees. It’s never too late to start including your employees in growing your business.


1 Managing resistance to change, www.prosci.com, August 5, 2019.
2 Joseph B. Fuller, Judith K. Wallenstein, Manjari Raman, Alice de Chalendar, Your Workforce is More Adaptable than you think, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2019, issue, p. 118-126.

Look for our upcoming blog on:
Enhancing your employees’ skills through training and development

How The Labor Shortage Could Impact Your Business

For decades now, we have heard that there was going to be a labor shortage coming to the US labor market where there would be more jobs available than people to fill them. The shortage is here and it may impact your business.

Some of the headlines coming from the US Department of Labor recently include, Unemployment Rate Near 50-year Low,  7.3 Million Job Openings and 17thStraight Month Unemployment Rate Is At Or Below 4%.

On August 6, the US Department of Labor announced that for the 16thstraight month, the number of open and available jobs exceeded the number of job seekers.

Impact on your business

As a business owner, the most important asset your business has is your employees. But what happens if you don’t have enough employees or the people with the right skills? Here are just a few resulting issues that might impact your bottom line.

  • Missed customer order deadlines
  • Additional cost for overtime to existing employees
  • Expense for hiring temporary employees (if they’re available)
  • Quality errors because your employees are rushing to complete orders
  • Overworked employees can lead to more accidents and safety issues
  • Higher absentee rate from burnout and frustration

What can you do right now to mitigate the crisis before it hits your business?

Look at your employee engagement through employee retention, turnover rates and data. Are your good people leaving? These ‘keepers’ are the lifeblood of your business now and in the future. Simply stated you need to retain your star employees.

What can you do to assure you keep your solid contributors working for you?  One way is to have ‘Stay Interviews’ with your high performers.  The answer may sound simple, but will take time, thought and effort. 

Stay interviews

Stay Interviews help leaders and business owners engage in dialogue with employees they don’t want to leave the business.  The interviews uncover what keeps your strongest employees coming to work everyday and will help identify issues in your business that may be alienating these team members. You then have the opportunity to make changes and improvements—all to benefit your business.

5 steps to keeping your star performers

  1. Determine who your ‘keepers’ are. You and your managers should be able to quickly list them. These employees are those that not only deliver results, but they do so in a way that exhibits the culture of your business. These employees probably work collaboratively, conscientiously, diligently and carefully.If you suspect that any of them may be ready to leave, make them your priority.
  2. Schedule one-on-one time with your high performers to have the stay interview discussions. First, tell them that you want to hear their opinion on what’s working in the business and what needs to be improved.  Assure them this is a casual, friendly conversation and you will be setting up time with them.  The meeting should not be a tag-on to another one, but a special meeting to discuss issues they may have and to give you feedback on how your business is running. It also should not be done during a performance review discussion, unless it is as a follow-up to previously held discussions on the topic.
  3. Be prepared. Give some thought to what the employee could say. You need to be prepared for anything. Also have pre-arranged questions that you can ask to get to the heart of any issues. Be prepared to write down what they say, questions that you may need to get answers to and follow-up activities that might be necessary.  Click here if you’d like to request our stay interview questions.
  4. Have the discussions. Try to have the discussions in a ‘neutral’ environment, free from distractions. A small break room would be great. Try to avoid sitting behind a desk in a typical manager/subordinate situation. Level the playing field. Give the employee an environment in which they can be comfortable.
  5. Follow-up. Depending upon the outcome of the discussions, you should follow up on some action items. Be sure to circle back with the employee to assure that both of you are fulfilling any commitments made.

While stay interviews are one way for you to show you value your ‘keepers’, don’t look at it as a one and done.  Be sure to re-engage with your star performers.  Let them know that you thought through what they said.  Ask specific questions to get more information.  Invite them to participate on teams outside of their area of expertise to show you value their input.  Let them know you want to hear what they have to say.

Click here to request a copy of our Stay Interview questions.

Look for our upcoming blogs on:

  • Ensuring your employees understand the changes you want to make
  • Enhancing your employees’ skills through training and development

Human Resources Demands Eat Up Business Owners’ Time

We’re seeing trends with our customers that show business owners spend more of their days managing human resources-related demands than they should.  Their time is continually interrupted or consumed with trying to meet the people needs of their business.  Let’s take a look at why that is and what you can do about it if you’re in this situation.

You vs. global corporation resources

HR demands grow as the number of employees, benefits and laws change and you introduce new clients or products.  There’s a good reason global corporations have large Human Resources departments to handle employee relations issues, benefits, compliance, talent management and organization design, employee engagement and employee communications.  As you grow, the business and employees generate more challenges.

If you’re the only one handling HR you must be overwhelmed. We typically find in businesses with more than 100 employees that you and a few other people may be dealing with all these issues as only one of your responsibilities.  The amount of time you spend on these activities has likely grown gradually and now you find yourself absorbed with HR work that is critical to the business but is taking you away from growing your business and revenue.

What’s at the root of the problem?

We’re seeing that focus and skill level of the people responsible for HR activities are predominant reasons for the flow of work coming to you, the business owner.

Some likely causes include:

  • The people you have doing HR work may not be knowledgeable enough about the areas you’re asking them to cover.
  • They aren’t trained Human Resources professionals.
  • These employees are likely distracted with other responsibilities if they are only partially dedicated to HR activities. They may be as overwhelmed as you are with the amount of HR demands.
  • Decisions are raised to you for approval because your people are unsure of their level of decision-making responsibility.
  • You don’t have an “People” strategy that you’re following.

In all these situations, something needs to be done to alleviate the demands on you and your employees while ensuring you’re not putting your business in jeopardy.

Solutions

It’s time to take a hard, close look at the resources you have dedicated to human resources activities and map out what you need now and in the future.  This is a good time to look at your business and revenue goals for the future. Setting your organization up now to meet your future goals will prevent you from falling back into this situation.

Here’s what you can do today:

  • Evaluate the HR demands and what you’re asking your people to do. Do you have enough people focused on HR?  Are their responsibilities so diverse that they have to jump back and forth between “jobs”?
  • Assess the talent you have doing the work. Do they have the right skills?  Are you overworking a skilled HR professional with routine HR responsibilities that someone at a lower level can handle as a development opportunity?
  • Determine what your future needs will be based on your business goals. Do you have the number of people with the right skills to do the work to meet your expectations?
  • Develop a plan to address these needs.

Help is out there

If this becomes overwhelming considering your other responsibilities, there are companies that can help you.  Paradise Workplace Solutions can work with you to diagnose your company’s issues and develop an implementation plan to get you on course to developing your business and growing your revenue.

You certainly don’t need the level of resources required by large corporations.  The ultimate goal is to get you off the HR hamster wheel and focused on meeting your customers’ expectations, keeping you in compliance and ensuring your employees’ needs are met.

Click here for more information.