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4 tips on energizing your workforce post-holiday

Are you ready for the first week of January? For many businesses, the last two weeks of December are slow to say the least. With customers, vendors, and employees taking time off for the holidays, some companies shut down completely between Christmas and New Year’s, or operate on a skeleton crew. When people arrive back at work after the 1st, there’s usually a bit of a lull as people transition back to ‘work mode’. This can be a golden opportunity for you to set the stage for a productive and profitable New Year. Below are some tips for business owners to re-engage your workforce following the holidays to increase productivity, morale, and profitability.

  • Have an official Welcome Back ‘event’. I put event in quotes because I don’t mean a big expensive THING. It can be as simple as a morning meeting with doughnuts (or kale chips if you’d prefer) a bbq lunch, or something similar. The idea is a gesture from management to let employees know the holiday chapter has closed and the New Year chapter has begun. It goes a long way to tell employees you appreciate them and let them know some of the things you’re excited about for 2018. Because of the way our minds are wired, clear lines of transition like this help people get out of ‘holiday-mode’ and into productivity.

 

  • Share Vision – Many of the smaller businesses I work with don’t always have formal mission/vision/values built out, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a clear and compelling vision for your company. To reference Simon Sinek, your vision is your ‘Why’. It’s why you’re in business and ultimately how your business will change some small (or large) piece of the world by being there. Your vision is what will unite the different departments, get you through hard times, and help people ‘care’ about their jobs beyond their piece. It’s worth the time to think about this Why, and definitely to share it with your people, and get their input.

 

  • Goals – Every business has goals, whether they’re written out or not, but structured goal-setting is a powerful way of making sure you achieve those goals. If you haven’t got your goals spelled out yet, it’s probably unrealistic to try to have something done by the time work starts up on Tuesday, but that’s okay. Participative goal-setting with your managers can be very effective as well. Whether you announce it during your Welcome Back meeting, or some other time, make sure to let your teams know that they will be involved in setting the road map for the company over the following weeks. This is exciting, so make sure you communicate that!

 

  • Training – One of the nice things about January for many businesses is that everyone’s back at work but it’s not too busy yet. This can be an excellent opportunity to provide some training. Many of the businesses I work with see a need for their managers to brush up on skills like interviewing, dealing with performance problems, holding more effective meetings, or delegation. Having the time to pull everyone together for training is often a challenge for businesses, so it’s nice to take advantage of some downtime this time of year. An added bonus to company-provided training is that it shows employees that you value them enough to invest in them.

 

These are just a few ways you can rally the troops after a holiday slow down and prepare for a busy and exciting year ahead. I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the things you’ve done to set the stage for the New Year for your employees?

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Business Management Leadership Development management systems New Managers organizational development

Why great employees quit and what you can do about it

After being in the Human Resources arena for more than twenty years (does that mean I’m officially old? Eeek!) I have seen employees quit for a variety of reasons. When the employee is a high potential, high contributing one, or a well-loved manager, it can be a devastating blow to the company. If the employee is non-performing or toxic to the culture, it’s not but shame on you for not addressing it before they resign. Here are the reasons I’ve been given for why great employees quit:

  • I didn’t see any opportunity for growth here
  • My manager doesn’t care about me
  • My manager doesn’t know what they’re doing (I’m not saying this is true, I’m saying this is what I’ve been told)
  • The company doesn’t care about me (or the company owner doesn’t care about me)
  • I haven’t received the training I was promised
  • The job isn’t what I was told it would be
  • I am not being compensated what I’m worth
  • I’ve been here X years, and have never even gotten a review
  • This is a really negative environment
  • I’m expected to work so much that I never see my family anymore. I need balance
  • We’re having/have had a baby/small children, and want to make a change so we can be home with them
  • I thought I could stand the commute but I can’t
  • My spouse accepted a transfer, so we’re moving

All of these reasons, with the exception of the last two (possibly three but I think there are some improvements to make here), are completely avoidable. The problem is, by the time someone is ready to quit over these things, there’s really nothing you can do to keep them except to desperately offer them more money, which I’ve never seen work long-term.

Retaining an engaged workforce of high-performing employees does not happen by accident.  In my experience, this only occurs when you have a comprehensive performance management system in place. Some employers try to circumvent this by implementing perks without getting to the core issue. I liken this to putting beautiful buttercream frosting on a liver pate cake (or a custom paint job to a car without an engine if baking analogies don’t work for you). It looks nice and might fool people for a minute, but won’t stand the taste/drive test. Additionally, these interventions cost money without adding to the bottom line. Some examples I’ve seen are:

  • Foosball or pool table in the break room
  • Free food
  • Unlimited PTO (that hardly anyone takes because they think it’s a trap)
  • Awesome employee benefits
  • High-above-market pay
  • Employee BBQs (Potlucks if times are tough)
  • Monthly birthday cake for employees (or cards signed by everyone in the office)
  • Bring your pet to work (if you do this, please have a plan for poo patrol)

I’m not saying any of these are bad. I think they’re great. I’m just saying they don’t do anything to retain great employees if you don’t have a robust performance management system in place.  So what does that look like?

  • Accurate documentation of the job details as well as the knowledge, skills, and ability needed to perform the job
  • Clear and accurate understanding of what behaviors lead to team and department accomplishments that lead into desired revenue and profitability goals
  • Behavior-based training for employee and managers detailing HOW to perform the job and not just what is expected
  • Correctly functioning equipment as appropriate to perform tasks
  • Clear, articulated explanation of the company goal, mission, and how each job support that
  • Accurate individual performance metrics provided weekly to employees to give them feedback on how they’re doing
  • Contingent positive reinforcement for performing tasks at or above expectations
  • Regular goals to promote job achievement, and growth
  • Personal development plan to support employee’s and organization’s growth plan
  • Ensuring struggling employees are coached and supported, and ultimately removed from jobs in which they can’t or won’t be successful

This is relatively simple, but not easy, and it’s a lot to navigate with all the other pressing business items to manage. If you’re interested in learning more about setting up a performance management system, click here to set up some time to walk through a complimentary overview of a proven performance management protocol. Or just reach out directly to carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work. 

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The 6 MUSTS of employee engagement

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of the most common frustrations I hear from leaders and company owners is that people don’t care about their company as much as they do. Sometimes these folks engage me to help make their people care more. Once we establish that short of providing stock options (and even that’s debatable) employees will never care ‘as much’ as the owner, there are things that tend to elicit far more employee engagement and good stewardship and usually when company owners are frustrated, they tend to do less of these things so it can be a vicious cycle. There are a lot of ways to increase employee engagement. The magic bullets used to be ‘empowerment’, ‘accountability’ and ‘communication’…well, they still are, only they’re not magic and you actually need to do things differently to produce the effects call ‘empowerment’…etc. and not just tell people they are empowered.

Here are some behaviors I have found have been highly successful to draw a team together, enhance unity and elicit good stewardship of company resources.

Trust: If your people truly trust you and each other, you will be amazed at the collaboration, innovation and honesty you will see. We all know that it takes much more effort to lose trust than to earn it and that simply telling people to trust is not effective. Trust takes time and is built on a foundation of shared experience, honored commitments and integrity. The more vulnerable people are with one another, the more trust will develop. Although this is not something that can be forced, it can be modeled and it starts from the top down.

Respect: When you don’t respect people, they can tell, and it does not bring out the best in them While trust needs to be earned, respect is best given freely. If you treat people like brain-addled children or larcenous miscreants, there is no way you will get a committed work force. Yes, we need accountability measures and security, but you probably shouldn’t have people in your employ who you don’t trust. If you don’t trust anyone on general principle, management and leadership might not be the best and most fulfilling role for you.

Communication: Many leaders think of communication as telling people just what they know to perform their task. This is a necessary component of employee engagement but far from sufficient. People by nature need to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. You build this by sharing your vision of where your company is going. You also do this by sharing the bad news as well as the good. I don’t mean causing panic and disruption by scaring people within impending doom, but assuming you have hired responsible adults they will appreciate the opportunity to be part of the solution. But more than telling people things, communication is also listening and hearing. Ask your people if there are things they need from you. Ask if there are better ways of doing the job. And implement what you can.

Contingency: This isn’t talked about much but is absolutely essential to building an engaged workforce. You need your balance of consequences to favor the things you want in your company. These things might differ but some examples are hardworking employees, innovation, and extra-role responsibility. If you want these things, reward them and for goodness sake don’t punish them. Not too many people intentionally punish good behavior, but it happens in subtle ways when you load up your superstars and when you tolerate under-performing employees.

Appreciation: It is not a sign of weakness to sincerely thank employees for doing their job. I have heard more managers than I can say question why you’d need to thank people for doing what you’re paying them to do. Yes, you’re paying them. Understood. And if you want a motivated and engaged workforce, you also need to thank them. This is really not debatable. To paraphrase an amazing transformational coach I know, the desire of every person is to contribute to the best of their ability and to be recognized for their contribution.

Mount Everest: Finally, if you want to build an unforgettable team, you need an (almost) insurmountable obstacle. Think back to the most amazing team you were ever part of. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that your example includes going through a storm together or accomplishing the nearly impossible. Don’t worry, there is no need to manufacture a crisis to gel a team, they are plentiful in today’s climate. Instead, use setbacks to work together to find new solutions.

If you are being intentional about doing these things now, congratulations! You probably are experiencing some amazing contributions from your employees. If you realize that your intentions are outpacing your actions, don’t worry…this is something you start any time and get results. And of course if you need help, that’s what leadership development coaches are for!