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Small Business Leaders; Here are 10 Reasons to be Grateful.

In honor of Thanksgiving and the upcoming Small Business Saturday gratitude and all of the love for small businesses is in the air. To reinforce the benefits small business leaders enjoy, as opposed to their counterparts running massive organizations, here is a list of reasons to be grateful for leading in a small business.

 
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10 Reasons Small Business Leaders can be Grateful.

#theexceptionalworkplace #smallbusinesssaturday

 
  1. You know all of your employees by name, their family, and you might even know their dog's name too!

  2. Your entire leadership team can sit around one table.

  3. Making a business change to ebb and flow as needed is like steering a kayak, it takes some effort but your hard work will pay off, versus captaining a large vessel.

  4. You have a significant influence on what's happening in your workplace. Awe, the sweet feeling of good ol' American independence.

  5. Team building, with your entire team, is possible! Try this one --> Portraits of Appreciation

  6. Calling a morning huddle in the lobby or conference room doesn't usually require calculating time zones and video conferencing.

  7. A dozen (or two or three) Blue Star Donuts makes for a sweet snack for your afternoon all staff team meeting.

  8. As a leader you can share your vision in 1:1 dialog to ensure that everyone is engaged.

  9. Some fantastic tools are free to small businesses under a certain number! Officevibe (employee engagement tool) is one example.

  10. In times of significant excitement or significant sadness for your business or team, your whole workforce comes together to support and encourage.

Bonus: Small business leaders know their workforce well enough to realize that enrolling team members in a "Jelly of the Month" club is not a good holiday gift (a la the movie Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase).


Love practical tips for creating an exceptional business? We’ve got loads more in The Exceptional Workplace! We help small business leaders (CEO, Owners, HR, Controllers) cultivate exceptional workplaces through strong HR and people practices. 

Employee Appreciation Day Plans

Life can be hectic, let’s not be plagued by the preparation for Employee Appreciation Day, which will be here in a few short weeks, March 2nd, 2018. Let’s brainstorm some options to help you show big appreciation to your team.

And, if you’re hesitating STOP.

This is about creating culture, helping employees develop a love for your company, giving your team members a reason to tell others about their delightful workplace (hello, instagramable workplace). This is not about you giving more. It’s about you caring about your team.

 

EMPLOYEE APPRECIATION DAY IDEAS --->

 
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It's not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.

Mother Teresa

 

SERVICE:

The idea of taking care of those people who are in service to you is such a lovely act of kindness. This, aside from all other acts, can go a long, LONG way. Why not flip things upside down for a bit and serve your team members?

How about a waffle bar with the CEO as the main server? Another spin on this is a nacho bar or a car wash.

SURPRISE + DELIGHT:

Some employees will be overjoyed with a little bit of surprise on this day of appreciation. Take for example a conference room that is filled with balloons, each with a sharpie-written note of appreciation for individual team members, “Charlotte your customer service skills are exquisite. We are lucky to have you!” What fun it is to find your balloon and read your note. Order lunch in and give them a coupon for an hour (or more) of flexibility in their workday in the coming month and you’re all set.

Have a whiteboard in your office? Cover the whiteboard in notes of appreciation for your team. Big, bright words telling them how grateful you are that they are part of your team. The bigger, the more of an impression it will make. Add a dessert buffet to the conference table and a small gift. Well done.

PRACTICAL:

Looking to add to your office perks to attract and retain talent? This is a great day to reveal the additions to your team.

  • Extra holidays - World at Work says that the average business observes 9 paid holidays per year

  • Enriched PTO Plan - Average PTO plans start at 16 days per year for new employees

  • Add a 401k if you don’t already have one

  • Implement a flexible workplace policy

Offer this along with donuts and coffee in the morning and a handwritten note from the team leader and you have a solid employee appreciation day.

 


Love practical tips for creating an exceptional business? We’ve got loads more in The Exceptional Workplace! We help small business leaders (CEO, Owners, HR, Controllers) cultivate exceptional workplaces through strong HR and people practices. 

5 Things to Know About Your Workforce…If You Want to Keep Them

This might seem like one of those posts you can pass by — because c’mon, of course you know your workforce. If your business is small enough, then chances are you were the one who hired them!But actually, studies show that there’s often a huge disconnect between the management and the workforce of an organization. And if you’re not connected with your workforce, it’s only a matter of time before you start having serious problems.

The good news is that you can avoid so many issues with just a little bit more knowledge about your people. So if you’re starting to wonder if maybe you don’t know your workforce as well as you thought you did, ask yourself, do you know:

The #1 Gripe Going Around the Office

If you do nothing else after reading this post, I’d really encourage you to find out the #1 thing that’s bugging people in your workplace. It might be an easy fix that you’ve never even thought of simply because of your position in the company — by knowing what it is and addressing it, you’ll show people that you’re actively invested in making work better for them, which will go a long way to inspire loyalty and improve productivity.

As an example, a client in Portland recently upgraded their workplace coffee, water, and snack program to the absolute delight of their employees. Perrier sends a message of class, high-end, and engagement while tap water might send the message of unremarkable, ho-hum and unimportant. Every workgroup is different so it’s important to ask, and ask more than once.   

 
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Even if it’s something that you can’t fix right away, you can at least let your team members know that you hear them and the lines of communication are open, which goes a long way towards easing tensions. Besides, there’s a good chance that this issue is related to the second most important thing to know about your workforce:

Why People Leave

You probably have some sort of idea of your turnover rate already — and if you don’t, you need to get on that ASAP. But it’s not enough to know that people are leaving. You need to know why people leave, and especially why your best people leave, otherwise you could be needlessly hemorrhaging talent and knowledge capital. Is it more money, better career opportunity, workplace culture, are they burnt out?

How do you figure this out? By asking and observing. Make it a point to include questions about this sort of thing in every exit interview, and make it clear that you really do want to know to improve, not to harp on people or defend the company. If you are afraid that employees will not be honest with you to the extent that you need have an HR Consultant or another key leader in your company conduct the Exit Interview. In the digital age, exit interviews can even be conducted electronically.

Why People Stay

Similarly, you need to know why people stay in your workforce, both the things that keep the great employees and the things that keep the not-so-great ones. That way, you can keep doing those things that encourage the people you want to stay, and stop doing the things that encourage the underperformers.

The best way to find out why people stay is to conduct Stay Interviews. Here are some great Stay Interview questions taken from the book, Hello Stay Interview, Goodbye Talent Loss.

  • What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning?
  • What makes you hit the snooze button?
  • If you won the lottery and resigned what would you miss the most?
  • What can I do to keep you?
  • What would entice you away?

Have you ever heard an underperformer say that they like your company because they are on easy street while a top performer likes your company because of the rigor? This insight is valuable. The solution here is to balance the rigor with the goal of losing underperformers and attracting and retaining top performers. Hint; 1:1 meetings and mid-year reviews are a great way to balance the rigor keeping tabs on each team member's performance.

The Ambitions of Your Key People

You may already get a sense of this as you’re finding out why people leave and stay, but make sure you really get a good sense of the ambitions of your key people. This allows you to support them in achieving those ambitions (which is a very important part of leadership, and one of the top intangible things employees want from companies). This alone may keep you from getting caught off guard by one of your key people leaving to pursue an ambition you knew nothing about. You may even be able to keep them if you can find a way to support that ambition while still having them work for you!

An example of this is when a client of mine found that their right-hand gal had aspirations of working in the medical field in an auxiliary role. My client pursued clients in that industry, which satisfied the curiosity of her employee. Small businesses have a way of being nimble to meet these needs. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Something Personal About the People You Work With

So you already know that people are not widgets or computers … but it can be hard to remember that when you’re head down in paperwork, schedules, and payroll. The truth is, most employees work to live, so make it a point to find out what they’re living for outside of work, and ask them about it! It doesn’t have to be a big production; something as simple as “Claire, how was your hike to Mt. St. Helen’s?” works just fine.

Doing this keeps you connected with the pulse of the workplace and makes people feel well cared for and not just as one more number on the payroll, both of which are characteristics of an exceptional leader. (Not to mention being crucial for a happy, productive workforce.)

 


 
 

Love practical tips for creating an exceptional business? We’ve got loads more in The Exceptional Workplace! We help small business leaders (CEO, Owners, HR, Controllers) cultivate exceptional workplaces through strong HR and people practices. Learn more here.

 
 
 
How to attract and recruit great talent to your team
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Well, for one thing, if you get this wrong, you’re going to be completely out in the cold when it comes to attracting great talent. Worst case scenario, you fail to innovate in this area and you become unable to offer an attractive compensation package to potential prospects. Or, even worse, you lose your current workforce as they go somewhere that is offering them the compensation and perks they want.

That all sounds pretty grim … but it can be much easier (and cheaper) than you think to make your business stand out from the competition.

Start by looking at the competition.

What are other companies in your industry sector offering? What about benefits and perks? If you don’t already know, and you’re not sure how to find out, there’s one very easy thing you can do: ask.

Ask candidates where they’re currently at in terms of compensation, ask new hires about their benefits, nose around at networking events and ask people what the latest hot perk is. And don’t forget to ask your staff — they won’t be shy in telling you what they would love to see at the company! And failing all that, you can always do some careful Googling to see what’s happening in your pool of competition.

Once you have an idea of the kinds of things going around, it’s time to look inwards.

After you’ve gotten a good understanding of what your competition is offering and what your workforce wants, then you should start to think about how to position yourself correctly in the marketplace. You can always look at traditional compensation changes, but there are also loads of non-traditional perks that can be really powerful, including:

1. Flexibility

As in, flexible scheduling, the option to telecommute, or creating a results-oriented workplace.

2. Opportunities for Growth

Including things like a professional development budget, succession planning, or access to an executive coach or mentor.

3. Vacation/Paid Time Off (PTO)

If you can, think about providing a generous vacation/PTO policy. World at Work reported that they average PTO plan starts at 16 days per year and that average employers offer 9 paid holidays annually. Here are the paid holidays that I recommend:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • 4th of July
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day
  • 3 Floating Holidays (for any use such as Good Friday, Christmas Eve, the day after Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, etc.).

If you can’t swing that, then try for something like paid time off for volunteering.

4. Food and Beverages

This is one of the easiest things you can do to make your office a better place to work, so think about things like having an office coffee and beverage program, providing snacks (like this one), or doing something like a team lunch provided by the office on Fridays.

5. Health and Wellness

This is also an extremely popular area for perks, so consider getting an office gym membership, bringing in masseuses for in-office chair massages, or even offering wellness classes or lunch and learns.

At the very least…

OK, so maybe the in-office chair massages are outside of your budget for now. But at the very least, you should consider adding something to your perks to stay ahead. Some of the perks I listed above are very low cost and provide a huge return on investment. For instance, flexible hours and telecommuting.

Remember, when you’re treading water in a pool of sharks, your total compensation can make a great bite proof cage — that is to say, you’ll find it much easier to attract, recruit and retain your workforce when your total compensation is elevated. So take a look at your current compensation, benefits, and perks, and see what you can do!

Talent is one of the biggest predictors of your business or team’s success. But in the increasingly competitive labor market, it’s becoming harder and harder to attract and retain top performers. This whole setup sends a lot of small businesses into a tailspin. After all, when you’re small, how can you possibly create a compensation, benefits, or perks package that can compete with the bigger companies, so why even try?

 

Love practical tips for creating an exceptional business? We’ve got loads more in The Exceptional Workplace! We help small business leaders (CEO, Owners, HR, Controllers) cultivate exceptional workplaces through strong HR and people practices. Learn more here.

Amy McGeachy, PHR is an HR Consultant specializing in cultivating exceptional workplaces for her clients who are mostly small + medium businesses. Amy is the founder of The Exceptional Workplace which provides premium HR and people practices content for small business leaders. She is a certified HR Professional (PHR) through the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and a Certified Coach through the Coach Training Alliance (CTA) and a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Amy works with businesses in the areas of training, recruitment, employee relations, and strategic HR.

Phishing Scheme Targets HR

Dearest blog reader,

I don't normally report on bad news or scary things but this is worth sharing - it's scary. I have been told that identity theft is hitting companies hard with a clever phishing scheme targeted at HR and accounting.

 
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It would be devastating to find out that someone from your own team unknowingly turned over all of your valued team members W-2 information to a crook. This is what is happening in businesses. Yes, it's absolutely happening and the emails the crooks send are extremely clever. The nightmare of it all, and the long-term impacts on everyone is what is driving me to send this message.

None of my business clients have been hit, thankfully, but I hear it is rampant. Below are two links to the FBI that will help you understand the phishing scheme and what you can do to protect your company.

PLEASE share this with your HR team, accounting team and employees. 

Building a Digital Defense - Part 1

Building a Digital Defense - Part 2

Stay safe my fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders.

~ Amy McGeachy

 


 

Don't miss another important HR and small business eLetter like this, sign-up for The Exceptional Workplace. We help small business leaders (CEO, Owners, HR, Controllers) cultivate exceptional workplaces through strong HR and people practices. Learn more here.

What are you grateful for at work? [Team Builder]

Supplies: Whiteboard or large post-it paper (for virtual teams a shared Google doc will work) and markers (colorful markers are best)

Participants: Any number

Time: Unlimited (could run Monday - Wednesday of Thanksgiving week)


Team Builder Gratitude at Work - McGeachy Consulting

Gratitude is contagious and most often it doesn't cost anything. Grab the post-it notes and start decorating your office!

 

This team builder can be kicked off at a regular staff meeting or even via email. In the spirit of Thanksgiving and being grateful, have participants share on the whiteboard or post-it paper what they are grateful for at work. The goal is to have employees reflect on what is great about the workplace and build a bond among the team as everyone collectively takes this time to reflect. There is no limit to how much each person writes; one person might write a word or multiple words while another might write a sentence.

Start with a whiteboard or large post-it paper and put it in a prominent location in your office. A location where people walk by often is the best. Write in the center, “What are you grateful for at work?” A bucket of colorful markers will help liven up the team builder.

Every workplace will have a different end result, some might be full of words while others may even have icons or pictures drawn. Encourage creativity.

Results: The individual and collective group reflection about what makes your workplace a great place to create a bond among the team. It’s simple and collectively effective at drawing out insights into your workforce.

Take a picture of the final product. Perhaps send the picture to your team expressing your own gratefulness or keep it for yourself for a rainy day to remind you of the synergy you've created. And if you want to brag about your workforce send me a picture of this masterpiece. Nothing makes me happier than a grateful workplace.


 

Love practical tips for creating an exceptional business? We’ve got loads more in The Exceptional Workplace! We help small business leaders (CEO, Owners, HR, Controllers) cultivate exceptional workplaces through strong HR and people practices. Learn more here.

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Simple Halloween Inspired Spirit Booster [Team Builder]

As featured in The Exceptional Workplace - an eLetter for conscientious business leaders. Sign-up to receive bi-weekly team builders and much more.

Supplies: Photos from team members, tape or pushpins

Participants: This is a relaxed spirit-boosting team builder for both small and large teams (3+)

Time: 10 to 15 minutes

Have team members bring a photo of themselves in a Halloween costume. They should secretly give it to you prior to the next staff meeting. All photos must be workplace friendly! Prior to the staff meeting, post all of the photos on a whiteboard (or wall). Let the team try and guess who is who. The person with the best-disguised costume (the hardest one to figure out) is the winner. This may be arbitrary! Give a pat on the back or a candy bar to the winner, your choice.

Results:

A fun stroll with your team down memory lane. Some employees may choose to bring a photo from their young childhood while others may want to bring something more recent. Either is acceptable as long as it’s workplace appropriate.

 


Love practical tips for creating an exceptional business? We’ve got loads more in The Exceptional Workplace! We help small business leaders (CEO, Owners, HR, Controllers) cultivate exceptional workplaces through strong HR and people practices. Learn more here.

5 ways to get your team back on the same page

When a team is working well together, it’s like nothing can go wrong — everything runs smoothly, projects end up better than you could have hoped, and any setbacks you have seem challenging, but doable. But when a team gets out of sync … everything goes downhill fast. Things start to get lost in the shuffle, communication breaks down, important tasks slip through the cracks, and before you know it, you’re struggling with total chaos. Sound familiar? Try these 5 things to get your team back on the same page fast.

  1. Create a clear vision

You know what your vision is for the company, team, and project, but your team won’t unless you tell them. So start by getting very clear on your vision and the real reason you do what you do.

For instance, if you have a financial services company, you’re not just selling financial services. You’re giving people peace of mind about their retirement. If you have a catering company,  you’re not just providing food — your services make or break important events. Knowing this big why makes it easier to keep employees engaged with their projects, and it helps them love your company. And as one of my favorite quotes from Simon Sinek says, "Employees must love the company before the customers ever will.”

Once you’ve figured your why out, it’s time to break your vision down into specific goals and communicate those to your team. Break it down so it’s clear what part each team member plays in meeting those goals, and answer any questions that come up. This way, you’ll be able to get everyone heading in the same direction, towards the same goals, using the same road map.

  1. Work together, play together

It’s rare to find a team where everybody naturally pulls in the same direction. But you can foster that sense of teamwork by having people work on non-work projects together. It can be something that contributes to the community, like building a house together for Habitat for Humanity or working a water station at a local marathon; or it can be something a little lighter, like playing a game together. One client even had their team visit the Portland Escape Room — they had a blast and came away a stronger team.

Want a really easy way to implement? Try doing a team builder at the beginning of your team meetings. it will get everyone focused, and will help the team work together. Here is an epic list of great team builders.

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  1. Schedule regular team meetings

It sounds archaic, but team meetings can be a lifesaver if you know how to manage them properly. Make sure you set an agenda before the meeting, and pre-schedule meetings in intervals that work for your business so your team can count on them happening. This is the ideal time to reinforce the vision and focus on team building.

And remember, your meeting doesn’t have to look like a stereotypical, hour long, talking in circles team meeting. Some teams only meet for 15 minutes every Friday, others meet for an hour every month. You could set a timer to ensure your meeting ends on time and is efficient or have a standing meeting - standing meetings are always efficient. Figure out what works for your team — and stick to it!

  1. Appreciate the good stuff

In so many businesses, the only time employees really hear from their leaders is when things go wrong. But this is discouraging, and it sets up an adversarial relationship between teams and leaders.

So make sure you take the time to appreciate what’s going well with your team, especially if it’s on par with your vision. This could be as simple as saying “thank you” when someone does a really good job, or you could go with something more tangible, like giving Amazon gift cards for a team that’s really knocking it out of the park. One important thing to remember: when you do give positive feedback, make sure it’s specific, timely, and grounded in an example. (More on this here.)

  1. Communicate

Your team needs to hear from you regularly, so decide how often and in what ways you’ll communicate with them. For example, you may decide to send out a regular Monday morning email to your whole team setting out the goals and agenda for the week, and then have a quick Friday afternoon email, video message, or conference call to wrap up the week.

Or you may decide to base your communication around projects, with a call to start the projects and weekly email check ins. It’s all up to you — but remember, be strategic, not tactical about your communication plan. You don’t want these particular communications to get bogged down in back and forth or detailed discussions. This is more about high level leadership than day-to-day troubleshooting.

Love practical tips for creating an exceptional business? We’ve got loads more in The Exceptional Workplace, an eletter for conscientious business leaders! Sign up here.

Strengths is Our Superpower - Team Training
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Imagine with me for a minute what it would be like going through life, or even a day, using only your non-dominate hand to write with during your daily activities. Sure, we don’t write as much as we use to, but the exercise remains relevant. Think about this, you’re making your to-do list for the day, taking notes during a meeting, editing a report, writing a note to your partner, creating your grocery shopping list and you can only use your non-dominate hand. What would it be like? People report that it is “difficult”, “not as easy”, “I really have to think when I write with my other hand”, “it doesn’t come naturally”, and “my handwriting is horrible”. This is precisely what it is like when at work you focus predominately on overcoming your weaknesses. Now, imagine using your dominant hand for those daily handwriting activities. It feels “natural”, “easy” and people report, “I’m good at this”. This is the same feeling you get when you focus on and capitalize on your strengths. Things come easy, natural and you’re good at them. Using strengths-based leadership is like creating a certain Zen in the workplace. It’s how things are meant to be. You and your team are working “in the zone”!  

In Q4 of 2015, I invested in Gallup’s Strength-Based Leadership materials for trainers/consultants.

About Strengths-Based Leadership

Nearly a decade ago, Gallup unveiled the results of a landmark 30-year research project that ignited a global conversation on the topic of strengths. More than 7 million people have since taken Gallup's StrengthsFinder assessment, which forms the core of several books on this topic, including the #1 international bestseller StrengthsFinder 2.0.

In recent years, while continuing to learn more about strengths, Gallup scientists have also been examining decades of data on the topic of leadership.

(SOURCE: www.strengths.gallup.com)

Gallup has 50+ years of researching that has given me a deeper knowledge base so that I could train and facilitate more strengths-based programs with my clients. I believe in this approach, and the results it delivers, thus using Gallup’s tools has become a focus of my practice. Did you know that leaders who focus on their teams’ strengths increase the chances that their team is engaged eight-fold?

Strengths at Work

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In January I conducted a Strengths is Our Superpower training for a client. The 24 participants began the training by taking the StrengthsFinder Assessment to identify their top 5 strengths. Based on what they learned they participated in a fun exercise to show the benefits of knowing and using their team’s strengths. Strengths is Our Superpower is built to help participants gain a deeper understanding of their top 5 strengths.

Participants worked in teams to build a structure out of uncooked spaghetti, string, tape and a marshmallow. The goal is to build the tallest freestanding structure using only the supplies provided. Teams were given time to plan as a group how they would build prior to actually executing the construction of this structure. Then they had 10 minutes to build. Some teams building process or execution didn’t go according to plan and they had to adjust their plan on the fly. Teams that leveraged their members’ strengths proactively had better and quicker results than those that did not take this information into account or only considered their strengths reactively after initially experiencing failure.

Team Strengths Grid

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Beyond understanding strengths individually, having a strengths grid for the overall organization, can be a powerful tool. At the recent client training, we mapped everyone’s top 5 strengths, to show where employees had similar and different strengths. For this client, executing is what they do. It’s not surprising then, that many of the strengths fell within the executing domain. It makes sense. For leadership teams, having a strengths grid ensures alignment between people resources and current business goals. Looking to the future the strengths grid is a tool to understand any gaps in your organization’s skill set in order to more effectively recruit and hire in a purposeful manner for the future.

Knowing and understanding your individual and organizational strengths is a super power.

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Are you looking for ways to invest in and super charge your workgroup? Contact Amy to learn more and/or schedule Strengths is Your Superpower™ for your team.