Creating a Year-Round Culture of Thankfulness
During the Thanksgiving holiday season, it’s nice to hear others speak about what they appreciate in life, and it feels good to share in the ritual and take a moment to thank your employees and teams for their hard work. It feels easy and natural to watch the changing leaves, bundle up in sweaters, and share the joy of the season with those in the workplace. But how can you keep the spirit of generosity and gratitude awake in your teams all year long? How can you keep the warmth of the holiday going when February rolls around and the dark days take their toll and tempers get short? Keep these tips in mind.
Thank you notes may seem old-fashioned, but they certainly still have a place in the professional environment. Like resumes, they came into style generations ago and they just haven’t gone out, despite the rise of technology and shifts in cultural mores. Write thank you notes by hand and deliver them to your employees, and when they write similar letters to coworkers and clients, let them know that you approve.
Encourage outside friendship.
Make it easy for your teams to meet up and spend time together outside of work hours. Something as simple as a long lunch or a company sponsored happy hour can spark connections that can lead to weekend get-togethers. Employees feel more engaged and loyal to an employer when their boss and coworkers feel like friends and family.
Turn every day into Employee Appreciation Day
Every day, look for at least one or two opportunities to celebrate one employee’s personal victory or publicly praise another employee for a job well done. Show thanks and gratitude for those who show up and work hard, and show special appreciation for those who go the extra mile and produce above average results. If your budget allows, offer a general token of your appreciation on a regular basis, regardless of sales numbers or deals closed. For example, offer a pizza lunch in the break room once a month for no reason at all.
Always distribute credit
When praise, awards, new contracts or appreciation fall on the company in general or you personally, don’t take the credit for yourself. Immediately hand it off to those who support you by doing their jobs. Turn to the people who spend their days moving the company forward and making you look good; they’re the ones who make such successes possible, and they should know it.
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For help on bringing in the right employees to build the culture you want, turn to the top recruiters in Scottsdale and contact the ACCENT Hiring Group.
Managing Contract Workers Requires Specific Feedback
When regular employees are brought on board, the terms of their employment are understood at the outset and the relationship between employer and employee is defined and — unless otherwise stated — permanent. Expectations, job descriptions, and standards for performance are typically part of the equation.
But relationships with contractors and contingent workers aren’t as defined. Contract workers tend to join the company on an independent or project-by-project basis, and they aren’t governed or protected by the rules and guidelines that serve this purpose for regular employees.
So, if you’re managing a team of contract workers, your methods for coaching and incentivizing may be limited. You can’t offer the same rewards, punishments, privileges, or warnings that apply to regular team members. How can you motivate them to give their all and correct them when they go astray? Here are a few simple tips that can help.
Don’t be afraid to give feedback.
Feedback — as with regular employees — should be frequent, low-drama, honest, and clear. But too often, employers withhold difficult feedback because they fear they may be misunderstood or they may drive contractors away. But if problems persist, they may eventually reach a breaking point, and at that time it may be too late to salvage the project or the relationship or both. Polite silence helps no one, so if you aren’t getting what you need, speak up.
It goes without saying that compassion and respect should influence all of your interactions with everyone, both inside and outside of the workplace. But contingent workers require extra consideration when it comes to criticism. Help them feel like part of the team, and trust that they understand the nature of their jobs. Before attempting to change an aspect of their personality or their work, make sure you’re asking for something that’s reasonable and necessary.
If something goes wrong and your contingency employee simply isn’t a fit, the arrangement can be severed much more easily than an employment relationship. So there’s no need to panic or become heated; just get to the heart of the matter (or speak with the person’s agency/manager/supervisor), and explain the issue. The next time you engage with a contractor, remember what went wrong and be extra clear about your needs and expectations.
Provide a quick but formal training program.
Before you send your contract off on an independent project, provide them with at least one paid training session so their questions can be identified and addressed.
Pay them fully and promptly.
There’s no faster way to undermine a contingency relationship then by allowing hassles, disputes, and hold-ups regarding payment. Set clear payment terms at the outset when it comes to rates, methods and payment frequency, and stick to these terms.
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An experienced and established staffing agency can help you navigate every one of the items above. To learn more, contact one of the top staffing agencies in Scottsdale and work with the experts at the ACCENT Hiring Group.
Variable Compensation for Employees: What Does the Data Say?
If you’ve ever managed a team — or spent time working as an exempt employee — you know that a salary offer doesn’t always provide a complete picture of an employee’s total annual compensation. In addition to base annual salary for exempt employees and hourly rates for non-exempt workers, by the end of a given year a typical employee may receive compensation in the form of insurance benefits, a hiring bonus, a performance-based bonus, or team incentives that have yet to be determined as the year begins. Variable compensation means two employees who make the same amount on paper can take home wildly different amounts of money by the end of the year.
Is this a good thing for the company? Anecdotal responses are mixed; some say variable pay generates motivation and increases productivity, while others believe the practice inhibits transparency, perpetuates bias, and undermines company culture. If incentives are offered for subjective or undocumented reasons, if they’re offered unfairly, or if they’re offered and then withdrawn, the concept of variable pay can easily become a source of resentment and a driver of turnover.
In an effort to see past opinions and gather clear data on the subject, Payscale conducted research and published its 2017 Compensation and Best Practices Report, and the results were revealing in some areas. Here are a few key takeaways from the report.
Variable pay is a prominent aspect of modern compensation. 74 percent of the companies that participated in the survey report offer some form of variable pay.
Variable pay practices are more likely to take place in larger companies and less likely among small companies and start-ups.
Variable pay trends show increasing frequency during the year. Instead of one end-of-year bonus, companies are more likely than they were a year ago to offer quarterly or monthly bonuses.
Among surveyed companies, 64 percent offer individual bonuses, the most common form of variable pay. 25 percent offer team incentives, and 46 percent offer spot or discretionary bonuses.
A growing number of companies are providing bonuses and performance-based incentives to non-exempt workers. Top-performing companies are more likely to do this.
Individuals and non-exempt workers often don’t recognize their impact on team goals. Variable pay based on team performance can help these individuals align their goals with those of the company.
Contact the team at the ACCENT Hiring Group to learn more about the study and find out if variable pay is the right move for your growing company.
Your Workplace Culture: Create More Innovators and Entrepreneurs
Could your workplace culture use a boost? When you look at your divisions and teams, would you like to see an increase in engagement, ambition, and idea-sharing? Even if your teams generally get along and enjoy their jobs, you may still see room for improvement and you may still benefit in looking for ways to cultivate your employees’ self-drive and sense of investment.
According to workplace science experts at Gallup, the primary difference between mediocre workplace cultures and strong, engaged cultures can be found in the knowledge and skills of team leaders. So if you focus your efforts on honing your existing leaders, you’ll begin an upward spiral; better leaders will mean more engaged employees, who will develop their own leadership skills, and eventually all the boats in your workplace will rise with the tide. Even those who have no official authority or direct reports (entry-level workers and those in support roles) will become leaders, innovators, and self-driven forward thinkers.
So what can you do to spark this spiral of improvement and this pervasive sense of ownership and leadership? Start with these three concepts.
Development matters. While most talented employees are interested in improving their knowledge and skills, they’re also occupied by the tasks of the moment. And without guidance and direction, even the best intentions might not result in practical learning and skill development. So take control, provide structured growth opportunities, and encourage your employees to take advantage of them. Establish classes and training courses in specific, measurable and practical skills that can be applied to the company mission. Then make it easy for employees to take advantage of these courses. Hold them during regular work hours and offer incentives for course completion (or simply makes training and development sessions mandatory).
At any given moment, any person in your workplace should be able to answer these questions, if asked: What are you doing? Why are you doing it? How does this small action support larger actions which support the company as a whole? Too often, employees can’t really answer these questions or they don’t know exactly why they’ve been tasked with various assignments, and this can undermine their sense of purpose. Bring everyone into the loop whenever possible, stay transparent, and make sure everyone knows how their contributions support the enterprise.
Strength Based Coaching
Every employee steps into your workplace with a certain set of strengths, which include hard-earned skills, natural talents, or just positive ingrained personality traits they’ve possessed since birth. These “strengths”, if cultivated and encouraged, can help employees unlock the full power of their innovation and self-drive. Focus on finding the inherent strengths in every employee and bringing them forward for all to see.
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Workplace Friendships Make it Harder for Employees to Leave
As a manager, you may or may not decide to invest heavily in the shifting tides of employee relationships and workplace gossip. You may decide that these fluctuations have nothing to do with you, and if bonds form between friends or misunderstandings strain once strong relationships, these events don’t involve you in any way. If the work gets done, your employees are adults and they can sort out their own affairs…right?
Maybe. Friendships come and go, and the workplace is simply a microcosm of life in general. But if you do decide to invest in what’s happening around you, you may be surprised by the benefits that come your way. Encouraging employee friendships can elevate the culture and quality of your workplace and it can reduce turnover by strengthening ties between your workers and the company. And if you help employees resolve their differences and see the best in each other, they’ll respond with respect and goodwill. Here are few moves to try.
Just pay attention.
Two friends were on the outs last week, but now they’ve patched things up. Steve admires the new guy and his best work friend is a little jealous. Sally ignored Sarah’s contribution during the status meeting and accidentally hurt her feelings. Sam and Amy disagree on the direction of the project, but they don’t want to argue in front of the rest of the team. You don’t have to act on any of these things if you choose, but it’s a good idea to take mental notes and keep up.
Encourage personal time together.
Organized events (mini-golf tournaments, company-sponsored banquets, formal happy hours, etc.) may be fun, but they aren’t always the best way to foster friendships outside of the workplace. In addition to these things, encourage your teams to talk to each other elsewhere. Allow and encourage them to hold meetings at coffee shops, call each other at home, meet on the weekends, and get to know each other.
Be a “therapist” when called upon.
When two friends have a difference to resolve and they turn to you, don’t immediately extricate yourself. Encourage them to see each other’s point of view and give each other the benefit of the doubt. You don’t need to license to practice couples counseling; you just need some patience and good intentions.
With permission, share announcements of good news like weddings, births, and non-work-related accomplishments. Make personal events into community events.
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Where Can You Learn About a Job Candidate Outside of Your Work Environment?
The most professional and efficient way to assess your candidate’s readiness for the job is trusted and traditional: Schedule a formal job interview. But unfortunately, the job interview format comes with a few limits. Candidates are often intimidated by the setting, and they may have a hard time showing their true personalities. Some candidates may be so nervous they fail to highlight key points that could help them make their case. And some interviewers also come across the wrong way in this context: too rigid, too impersonal, and not willing to share the downsides of the job (which can mislead the candidate into accepting a job that isn’t right for them.)
As a result of these limitations, some managers like to extend the getting-to-know-you process beyond the boundaries of the workplace. If you’d like to invite your candidate for a few drinks, an offsite lunch, or even an afternoon of ice cream and mini-golf, keep these tips in mind.
Don’t go alone.
Once you exit the office, you leave some of its formal protections and policies behind. For example, dress codes and behavior restrictions don’t apply when you’re meeting elsewhere as independent adults. So don’t risk a potentially awkward conversation or misunderstanding that might negatively impact your job or your company. Bring along at least one co-worker or supervisor in order to maintain a social tie to the workplace. Ideally, invite your entire team so they can also get to know the candidate who may work side-by-side with them later on.
Take advantage of your non-professional setting.
You may feel inclined to police your questions and conversation as if you’re conducting an interview, but if you’re offsite, there’s no need. Allow the conversation to become as personal as you like — WITHOUT crossing dubious boundaries by asking about the candidate’s protected status, which may include their ethnicity, religion, family status, or sexual orientation. Ask about favorite activities, food, movies, or travel experiences. Feel free to joke and connect with the candidate as long as your conversation does not stray into these inappropriate areas. (Again, having co-workers and managers present can prevent this from happening while still cultivating a warm and relaxed interaction.)
Write down what you learn.
Immediately after your interaction ends, write down the important details that surfaced during the evening or afternoon. You may not remember them reliably later, and taking notes in the moment can change the tone of an otherwise casual conversation.
Be clear and honest.
If you invite your candidates out for a relaxed social event, don’t let them assume that the selection process is complete — You haven’t yet made your decision and you’re likely to be observing their words and behavior with the job in mind. Don’t suggest otherwise.
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Build Goodwill with the Candidates You Don’t Hire
During your interview process, you may become exhausted and frustrated with a lack of quality candidates…But if you’re like most hiring managers, you’re more likely to experience the opposite: more great candidates than you can ever reasonably bring on board. If you only have one open position, you’re probably going to face at least two applicants—and possibly several more — who you’ll have to turn away, even if you’re impressed with their qualifications and personalities. So, what can you do to make the rejection process a little easier — for both of you? How can you say goodbye but still leave your excellent applicant with a feeling of positivity and goodwill that might carry over into a potential working relationship at some point in the future? Keep these considerations in mind.
Cut quickly through paperwork bottlenecks, HR hassles, overlapping vacations, and other workplace priorities to reach your hiring decision quickly. An efficient, expedient process and a timely decision demonstrate respect for the candidate. Drawing things out will breed resentment, and rightly so. Your candidate has important decisions and plans riding on this outcome, just like you.
Provide feedback if you can.
If an applicant asks for an explanation, it’s okay to keep your cards close to the vest, since too much sharing can open your decision to scrutiny and your company to potential legal action. But if you have harmless, positive feedback to offer, the benefits of sharing can outweigh the risks. For example, if your candidate was highly qualified but the next in line had an additional degree and a few more years of relevant experience, explaining this can put potential resentment and self-doubt to rest.
If you’d like to keep the relationship open, say so.
If you have no further interest in maintaining a relationship, that’s fine. But if you’d like the rejected applicant to keep checking your website and applying for future opportunities, make this clear. Most applicants won’t do this unless they’re invited. Open lines of communication are a two-way responsibility, and after applying in good faith and being turned away, potential employees will typically close the door. If you’d prefer to stay in contact or you’d like to keep the candidate’s resume on file, let them know.
Give them something.
The strongest possible gesture of goodwill may come from the offer of a small gift or token that shows genuine interest, appreciation, and respect. Providing a discount on the company’s products can sow positive seeds, and so can signing the applicant up for a subscription or service that supports their job search, like a series of online interview tutorials.
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Why Do Employees Quit: No Room for Growth
Earlier this month, we discussed a few of the key reasons why seemingly happy and thriving employees submit resignation letters. Some of these reasons come with plenty of warning (unaddressed complaints, rejected requests for a pay increase, or a hostile workplace culture), but sometimes they appear seemingly out of nowhere. This week, we’ll address one of the most common reasons for an unexpected departure: no room for advancement.
Employees who are trying to climb the industry ladder and grow their careers tend to be hard working individuals and they also tend to develop their strategies and career plans privately. They probably won’t tell you if they’re feeling restless and ready to search for work elsewhere, and you may not know what they’re doing until the day they accept another offer and give notice. But you can head off this day if you make an effort to clear an upward path for them within your walls, so they aren’t tempted to leave. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
When employees request promotions, they aren’t kidding.
Employees don’t tend to request promotions just to test the waters or solicit praise. They aren’t asking for a pat on the back; they’re asking for a new job, and when you say no, you aren’t just hurting their feelings. You’re standing in the way of their plans and, in a sense, holding back their growth and forcing them to seek other options. So think carefully before rejecting an employee who requests more responsibility. Make sure you have a valid reason and be ready to lose the employee if you can’t provide her with an alternative.
If you really can’t advance your employee to the next level, explain why, and provide her with some incentive to stay. For example, offer a clear and measurable set of goals that she’ll need to meet within three months before she can take this step. Then be ready to follow through after these goals have been completed. You can also offer a few substitutes which many employees will happily accept in lieu of promotions, for example, a salary increase or change in title.
If you hire a promising candidate by suggesting that she’ll have an opportunity to step into a management role within two years, make sure that role is available within two years. If you expect the current occupant of the role to leave and he doesn’t, what will you do? How will you reshuffle your organization or workflows to accommodate the promise you made (or implied)? Part of your role as a manager includes cultivating your employees and supporting their career growth, so if you can’t hold up your end of the bargain, don’t expect your new hire to stay.
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Why Employees Quit: Too Much Stress
In previous blogs, we’ve discussed the first two reasons employees typically cite for walking out of the workplace: Long hours and low pay. This week, we’ll take a closer look at a third obstacle that arises between companies and their workers: stress.
Day-to-day stress can be a powerful motivator in the workplace, and it can serve a valuable purpose in the right context and at the right time. For example, stress can keep employees engaged. It’s hard to be bored or daydream about other opportunities when you’re constantly rushing from each task to the next. And employees who are new—both to the workplace and the industry in general—often find a certain element of satisfaction, or even glamour, in a stressful workday because a little stress can heighten our sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. But when does stress become a genuine demotivator? And how can you reduce stress before it pushes your best workers out the door?
First, overload employees at your own risk.
There are only so many hours in a day, and a full plate is a full plate. Employees often hesitate to reject new projects when they’re maxed out because they feel that saying no might make them look weak, or they feel that if they just work a little harder, they can make more bandwidth magically appear. Since employees can’t be trusted to say no when necessary, it’s a manager’s responsibility to recognize and keep track of who’s working on what. Don’t push more work onto an overloaded plate, regardless of your employee’s response to the request.
Second, listen and observe.
Just as they sometimes struggle to say no, some employees have a hard time expressing or admitting when they’re stressed to the breaking point. But again, the signs are there if observant managers are paying attention. A sudden increase in sick days, a depressed attitude, an increase in exhaustion-related mistakes, and social withdrawal can signal that an employee needs a little help. Redistribute the workload and encourage teamwork.
If you aren’t sure, just ask.
Sit with each of your direct reports for a one-on-one chat at least once or twice a month. Ask them how they feel about the work they’re doing and what resources you may be able to provide that could help them. When they answer, listen and act. If you can’t think of a solution, ask them for suggestions.
Recognize when it’s time to add more hands.
Nothing comes for free in this life, and if your current employees are maxed out and there’s still work left undone, it may be time to expand your teams. If you can’t afford the cost and commitment of opening full-time positions, investigate the possibility of part-time staff or temporary help to get your team back on level ground.
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Why Employees Quit: Low Pay
Hiring an employee may — at first — seem equivalent to investing in a machine or piece of equipment. Newer and inexperienced managers often slide inadvertently into this analogy, and they often assume that if a piece of equipment is designed to do one thing, and a cheaper unit can accomplish the task just as well, the cheaper unit must objectively represent the better choice. For inexperienced managers, rejecting a higher priced applicant (or dismissing a more expensive employee) in exchange for a cheaper one might seem like a no-brainer.
But as they gain experience and industry knowledge, smart managers and leaders recognize that this analogy just doesn’t translate into the realm of human employees. In the world of management and staffing, cheaper is rarely better — if ever. Here’s why.
Quality Employees Insist on Respect—and Compensation.
Far too often, promising start-ups are derailed and promising companies go under simply because their managers fight employees for every dollar. These companies play hardball during salary negotiations, resist minimum wage legislation, and squeeze employees for every hour of time on the clock, believing that this stance will have no impact on employee motivation, loyalty, or retention. The bitter truth: It certainly does have an impact. Employees who feel they must fight for every raise receive a clear message: Their work is not valued. And eventually, they respond the way anyone would: They leave. When they go, they take their institutional knowledge and their years of experience and training with them.
Sometimes the appearance of a grasping company culture can cause more harm than low salaries themselves. Companies that are (or appear to be) generous and loyal to their employees can gain more ground than those who brush off raise requests or quickly resort to layoffs when they need to cut costs. Studies show that employees will tolerate low pay if their employers appreciate them and value their contributions. But the right attitude only goes so far; employees still have to pay their bills.
Low Salaries Don’t Attract Applicants
If you aren’t willing to provide competitive compensation, don’t expect a large pool of excellent applicants. Those who have more options will apply elsewhere, and applicants who appear qualified, or overqualified, will likely use this low paying job as a stepping stone to something else. Again, when they leave, they’ll take the cost of hiring, onboarding, and training with them as they walk out the door. Turnover can be much more expensive than fair offers and regular annual raises.
In most traditional employee-employer relationships, money isn’t just money; It’s a stand-in for respect. In this way, little overlap exists between people and mechanical equipment. When it comes to your most valuable resources (your human resources) cost-savings are rarely what they seem.