Mind-numbing presentations

Yesterday I walked out on a presentation I was invited to about changes in technology. This is not the first time I have done this. I have come to the conclusion that I have only so much time and power in my batteries and I won’t waste it on a boring and lack-lustre presentation. So what drove me out the door? The presenter spent most of his time talking to the screen effectively reading the script of the presentation to his audience. There was little interaction between him and his audience. He spoke in a monotone and just rambled on. The problem is that many workshops and seminars I attend look and sound like this. If you are going to spend financial resources on planning these kinds of events to attract new clients why not put the additional effort to captivate them by building a presentation that disseminates information in a way that uses humour, drama and gets the participants involved in the presentation. When you get in front of an audience and just read the deck it says you really didn’t prepare or you really don’t care that much. That’s a terrible message to send out to you audience. When choosing the member of your staff to give a public presentation pick someone who is confident and speaks well in front of people, not someone who is introverted and uncomfortable in public situations. You only get one opportunity to make a great impression and these kinds of interactions can work to attract to new business or send potential customers running in the opposite direction. I am sorry to say that more often that not I underwhelmed at the seminars and workshops I attend. People start putting more time and effort into your presentations.

You don’t have to spend big to train your employees

Employees also seek companies that support their growth. In a recent survey, PwC Global asked millennials what they look for in an employer. “Opportunities for career progression” was the number-one response, followed by salary and financial incentives. Excellent training and development programs ranked third on the list.

A strong workforce, combined with on-the-job education, can make training less intensive and time-consuming. It doesn’t always require formal seminars or workshops. And it responds to individual needs, which can dramatically slash costs. Here are a few ways to empower your employees to learn and share knowledge without breaking the bank.

HIRE SLOWLY AND SELECTIVELY

Venture-backed companies often use hiring sprees to scale up fast. But if you have the choice, take your time. Look for people who share your values. Watch for kind, curious, knowledgeable applicants—even if they don’t possess every hard skill on your wish list. Hire for attitude, then create internal programs to nurture talent and fill in the gaps.

For example, all our new hires answer at least 100 customer support requests during their first month on the job. We want them to understand our users intimately, what they need, how they struggle, and how we can better serve them. This hands-on training also immerses them in our culture and ensures they’re prepared for any role in the company.

ENCOURAGE IN-HOUSE MENTORSHIP

Effective collaboration can move mountains. According to research from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, organization-wide collaboration—which crosses functions, perspectives, or levels—can boost energy, creativity, and productivity, and lead to happier, less stressed, and more engaged employees. Drawing different people together also keeps knowledge out of silos.

On a tactical level, pair junior team members with more experienced staff, either on a per-project basis or for a set period each week. We call this “copiloting,” and we’ve found that it has helped employees solve problems and hone skills.

Make sure that you check in regularly with your mentors to ensure they’re not overwhelmed and can still tackle the work they love. You still need to make sure that you empower them to say no, direct people to online resources or fellow team members, and minimize unexpected disruptions.

FORMALIZE KNOWLEDGE-SHARING

In addition to off-the-cuff learning, standardized processes can increase training opportunities. For example, we hire at least 100 interns every summer—many of whom become prized employees who know our organization inside and out.

We also offer a New Grad Training Program, where employees who are just beginning their careers spend four days a week doing support tasks and one day working with a mentor. Participants receive homework and feedback as they gain practical skills. Every six months, they can re-interview for any position in the company.

No two organizations are the same, so you need to assess your training needs and look for creative ways to fulfill them. Once you step out of the traditional “training” mindset, you can begin to see new structures and systems that don’t necessarily come with hefty price tags.

SERVE INDIVIDUAL NEEDS

Instead of investing in broad, company-wide training efforts, consider a more responsive approach. Send employees to niche courses, sessions, or events. Bring in specialized consultants to work with a core team. Afterward, ask attendees to share what they’ve learned through presentations or project-specific collaborations. Offer training that serves individual needs, but reinforce and reward a culture of cross-pollination.

“Train people well enough so they can leave,” said Virgin founder Richard Branson, “treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” 

 

You Can’t Do It All or The Reason TO Delegate

In my role as a leader and member of a non-profit organization I wear many hats, but I have also come to the realization that sometimes I take on too many tasks. I am not superhuman, I have some skill sets and I do some things well and others just okay. There are others on the board that possess knowledge and abilities in areas that I just don’t excel at. In recognition of this I have learned to step back and either asked them to step up and do what they do best for the good of the organization of the people we serve. Sometime they just offer to take on a project or task without me or someone on the executive requesting their expertise. In thinking about the positive effects of this kind of interaction and process it is two-fold. One it reduces the stress on the leaders of the group as it frees up some of their time to spend on other initiatives. Second it creates a feeling of trust and positivity in the group as team members are given the responsibility to take on major tasks and use their talents and skills in the areas where they excel. At a recent event our organization planned and executed that went exceedingly well, I stood at the back of room and just enjoyed the moment knowing that it was total team effort that had created magic that had unfolded before my eyes. I know as owners or executives we crave control, but we must learn to trust in the skill and talent of our team and let them make important contributions to the success of our organizations.

Keeping Your Employees Happy Isn’t Always About Higher Pay — Here Are 6 Alternatives

It often takes a small fortune to find someone who’s truly great at what they do.

Yet, many business owners make the mistake of not treating their employees right — and then they pay dearly for it.

There are many reasons why employees leave their companies. Maybe they are overworked, or maybe they can’t stand being micromanaged, or maybe they simply don’t feel challenged enough. One way or another, a valuable employee leaving incurs a tremendous cost, since then you have to spend resources on finding and training his or her replacement. So, how can you ensure that this doesn’t happen to you?

Below you’ll find six ways to show your employees your appreciation and keep them happy.

Verbal praise

fascinating experiment was conducted by Dan Ariely in an Israeli semiconductor factory. Workers were told productivity targets and then allowed to choose between a voucher for free pizza, a $30 cash bonus or a compliment from a boss in exchange for hitting their goals. Which group turned out to be most productive? The one that received a compliment as a reward!

It sounds counterintuitive, but it seems that a lot of employees prefer verbal praise over gifts and cash, which means that it should be your go-to employee recognition tactic. How often do you verbally acknowledge the great work that your employees are doing?

A lot of managers feel weird about giving compliments and avoid praising their employees, which leads to problems. Think about it: If you don’t acknowledge the good things, but tell people off for their mistakes, how does that make them feel? Employees who feel unappreciated are much more likely to leave your company than ones who feel valued and respected.

So, next time someone performs well, give them some praise. It’s even better if you acknowledge him or her in front of the entire team (remember, praise in public, scold in private!).

Non-monetary gifts

Another interesting takeaway from the previously mentioned study is that people seem to prefer non-monetary gifts over cash bonuses. Seriously, who could have guessed that employees would be more motivated by a pizza voucher than by $30, with which you could buy two pizzas?

But, it shouldn’t be so surprising. There’s plenty of research showing that cash bonuses don’t really work.

And people are indeed more motivated by gifts. A study by Swiss and German researchers revealed just that. “The researchers found that gifts were far more motivating to short-term employees than unexpected cash bonuses, effectively paying by themselves with productivity,” explains Ray Fishman in the Harvard Business Review.

So, use gifts to show your appreciation. They don’t have to be expensive. Things like pens, stationery and books make great gifts. Or, if you want to spend a little bit more, watches are still a popular choice.

It also doesn’t have to be a physical thing, either. You can always use services like Tinggly to give an experience (which allows you to gift experiences from making gelato in Italy to exploring a volcano in Hawaii). Or, you can gift someone software or digital products by giving them an AppSumo gift card (AppSumo is like a Groupon for entrepreneurs and features discounts on various tools and resources). This is especially useful when your team is remote and gifting intangible gifts is easier than shipping physical items.

Constant challenge

Have you considered that the reason an employee might be underperforming might simply be that he or she is bored?

You want smart people to work for you, right? Well, here’s the thing about smart people: They need constant intellectual stimulation. It’s great when an employee constantly breezes through the tasks that you assign to them. But, have you considered that they might be getting bored after a while?

How can you provide just the right amount of challenge? So, make sure that you set goals that are realistic but still make your team stretch a little bit. That way, you’ll prevent your employees from twiddling their thumbs, and keep them constantly engaged.

Optimal work environment

Have you ever wondered why companies like Facebook and Google spend millions upon millions of dollars on their work environment?

A shabby work environment can really be a demotivator to even the most motivated employees. Your employees probably spend at least eight hours a day in their workplace. What are they surrounded with?

An easy way to show your employees that you appreciate them is to provide a work environment that is pleasant to be in: clean, comfortable and with plenty of opportunities for recreation.

Is the office clean? Are their chairs comfortable? Do they have all the tools that they need? Are the computers up to date? Is there a kitchenette? Are there snacks? Is there a recreational area? You get the idea.

It has also been shown that employees are happier in a workplace environment over which they have some degree of control. For example, at Facebook, employees can adjust their own desks based on personal preference, and teams can use whatever workspace layout they see fit for their project. All this leads to higher work satisfaction, so don’t hesitate to give your employees more autonomy when it comes to their work environment.

Company retreats

Did you know that Buffer organizes company retreats three times a year and one year Buffer spent $111,874 on a company retreat in Sydney that hosted 26 people?

You might be wondering why a company that prides itself on being lean would spend so much money on something that is seemingly non-essential.

Well, in a company blog post entitled “Why The Buffer Team Goes on Multiple International Retreats Every Year,” Buffer co-founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne explains that, among other things, it allows them to meet each other in real life: “There’s something magical that happens when you meet in person. In a retreat setting it’s even more powerful. We have casual meals together and do activities on off days. We can learn about what makes each other tick and what our true passions are.”

Company retreats are a great way to get some work done while also relaxing, getting to know each other better and doing fun activities.

All this helps employees bond with each other and promotes a positive social environment and a company culture where people are not only coworkers, but also friends. Plus, a company doing something fun like that makes employees feel more appreciated!

Promotions

According to a study from Korn Ferrry, 63 percent of employees would prefer to get a promotion with no raise than a salary increase with no promotion.

Your employees need to feel that they have a direction and that they are advancing in their careers. Are you promoting your employees on a regular basis based on their performance?

When employees are aware that their efforts are being monitored and rewarded, they will be much more likely to go that extra mile. So, make sure that they know that there are opportunities for those who work hard and produce results.

Ask yourself, would you want to work in your company? Would you be happy with the workplace environment, social atmosphere and career opportunities? Would you feel that your efforts were recognized and your contribution appreciated?

You have to treat your employees right if you want them to stay. Make sure that they feel valued and appreciated. Then you’ll have happy employees — and happy employees are productive employees.

A Few Simple Strategies for a Complex World

Over the years I have attended workshops and read books and articles about the complexities of doing busy in our modern and fast-paced world. Every once and a while I step back and take a deep breath and ponder. Sometimes I think we just overthink and create complex models and structures on how to achieve exceptional results. In many instances business is based on human interactions. The need to resolve client issues, to improve client interactions, or to revise product offerings can be facilitated through the simple act of regular and open communication with clients. Too many businesses don’t follow a regular course of talking with their clients on a regular basis to find out how they are faring in the clients’ eyes. They also fail to simply ask what else can we do better or provide that we aren’t doing currently. People want to be consulted and they want their input to be considered. We get caught up in the latest business models and buzzwords, but in essence at the core of every business is the human element. I am not casting aside the importance of business research, I am saying that we often overlook the human element at the core of every business no matter how big or small. The communication between one or more people in a positive and meaningful way can truly be the difference between a successful business or one that fails.

4 Ways to Build a Company Employees Just Don’t Want to Quit

When an employee quits, you don’t just lose the time, money and effort you invested in that person. According to an article published by Vocoli, you also threaten to overwork the remaining staff and lower the productivity of your team. Further, you then need to allocate more funds towards interviewing potential replacements and training them.

To bypass the headache and hidden costs associated with the departure of an employee, take preventative measures by tweaking your hiring strategy, benefits packages, and culture. Here are four tips on how to reduce employee turnover and improve your company culture.

1. Be selective.

Before even thinking about how to retain your staff members, start by imagining what kind of people you want working for you in the first place. Picking the right talent for the job is imperative to facilitating long-term growth for the employee and stability for the company. But what should we look for in the screening process?

Anthony Tjan, CEO of venture capital firm Cue Ball, suggests focusing on character instead of skills or pedigree. He writes, “While skills can be learned, it is much harder to cultivate attitude and character. There is no doubt that over time, institutional character and culture is the simple by-product of individual people.”

By hiring individuals with the best chance of being happy performing their duties on the job, you increase the chances of employee retention and cultivating a positive work environment.

2. Offer stellar learning opportunities and benefits.

Once you have the best talent on your team, make sure you can add value to their careers. Offer professional development via conferences, workshops, classes and team-building excursions. Providing relevant out-of-office opportunities for growth will allow your staff to bring fresh ideas and a sense of camaraderie back to home base.

Additionally, make sure your team’s fringe benefits are fair and up-to-date. Towards this end, utilize your human resources department to its fullest capacity by making sure your employees’ benefits packages get reviewed yearly and updated as needed. Also, consider creating personalized perks for the staff to increase morale and promote better company culture.

3. Establish an employee-oriented culture.

A culture deeply-rooted in employee feedback and two-way communication fosters a collaborative environment where everyone feels they are a part of the bigger picture and not cogs in a machine.

Willis Mushrush, a University of Missouri business development specialist, notes that companies with an employee-oriented culture tend to experience low turnover. Furthermore, they “solicit input and involvement from all employees and maintain a true open-door policy, avoiding closed-door meetings as much as possible. Employees are given the opportunity for advancement and [are] not micro-managed… Employees must believe they have a voice and are recognized for their contribution.”

In addition to promoting transparency and honesty, being employee-centric also means being flexible with your staff’s working schedules. Breaking out of the 9-5 grind and allowing employees to telecommute has been shown to lead to better health outcomes, increased happiness and higher productivity.

4. Stick to your values.

Perhaps the most important thing about developing good company culture is to stay true to your values and consistently lead by example.

On building a business and being a leader, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, said, “Chase the vision, not the money. Passion will get you through the tough times, rub off on employees and have a ripple effect on customers, suppliers and business partners.”

Identify your core values and what your company stands for first and foremost. Sticking to those principles through thick and thin sends the message that you are dedicated to the cause. Your team will then pick up that working for your company means sharing that same gritty attitude, persevering through hard times, and challenging each other to accomplish more.

Don’t Get Stuck In A Rut

Sometimes we just get comfortable with our routine and the systems we use and the way we work. I have had a dose of reality with some long-time clients. I have a process of review meetings to discuss the trends of the usage of their employee benefit plans and once year we meet to review the proposed rate increase or decrease of their benefit programs. I normally give my clients sufficient notice and optional times we can meet. This has worked relatively well for many years. Recently I have noticed it doesn’t work for all off my clients because some of them of them are project driven and if I catch them at a time they are overwhelmed by project submissions and deadlines they simply don’t have the time or desire to meet with me face to face. I have had to accept that although I have worked hard to both negotiate on their behalf and put together an analysis of what has transpired over the past year with their benefits program at the time I would like to meet with them I am simply not a priority item for them. Although I prefer a face-to-face meeting it does not work for them. I can’t take it personally it is about their business and priorities not mine. I have had to learn to do business in ways that work for my clients. Sometimes you simply have to get out of your comfort zone and learn to adapt. I was caught in a rut and was comfortable doing business in a routine that worked for me. Change is inevitable, embrace it.

Hybrid of core coverage, personalized benefits touted as future of health plans

What’s the future of health benefits in Canada? A hybrid model of core coverage and personalized benefits is a likely scenario, speakers at an event in Toronto said on Wednesday.

“Our vision is really a hybrid model, where you have this traditional benefit program there to support your employee should something happen, something unpredictable that could have a big financial impact on their life, but combined with this broader view and their well-being,” said Julie Duchesne, a partner and leader of Mercer’s health business.

Duchesne made the comment as she and colleague Brian Lindenberg presented their insights at the Toronto instalment of Mercer’s second-annual series of events on the future of health care at the Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Last year’s event featured seven predictions for the future of health care by 2025. They included an estimated 130 per cent increase in health-care costs and the rise of personalized medicine like pharmacogenetics.

“It was an eight-year prediction window, so we’re year one into our predictions. We actually feel pretty good, generally speaking, about our predictions. We feel we’re kind of on track and as the future unfolds, it will unfold in a way that’s consistent with what we’ve predicted,” said Lindenberg.

One prediction that missed the mark, he noted, was around public health-care reform and pharmacare, which Lindenberg said in 2017 would never happen in Canada.

“Clearly, we might have missed a sign. But in our defence, a lot of people missed that same sign. Clearly there’s an increased enthusiasm for implementing the national pharmacare program,” said Lindenberg.

Speaking to the need for personalized benefits, Lindenberg referenced the issues of rising costs and the war for talent, both in terms of attracting and retaining employees.

“The game is clearly changing. In order to win that war for talent, we strongly believe you need to engage your workforce in a different way. You need to acknowledge the individual preferences of each of your employees and future employees. You need to leverage technology and what’s happening in terms of the vendor landscape to deliver a more personalized approach to your employees within the context of the age of the individual,” he said.

According to Duchesne, gathering data is key to developing a personalized approach and implementing targeted benefit programs. Targeted programs are essential to meeting the needs of multiple generations of workers and setting organizations apart, she said.

According to a global survey by Mercer conducted in 2016, 96 per cent of employers collected data but only 45 per cent used it in support of decision-making processes. Duchesne noted there are many different forms of data in the benefits field, including information about disability, use of wellness and employee assistance programs and demographics.

“The first opportunity we see is making sense of all that data through what we call data analytics. This is really important in order to better understand your workforce, your demographic and where you should invest in order to best control your costs over time,” said Duchesne.

According to Lindenberg, an important data set for plan sponsors and employers is around what employees want, need and feel they’re receiving. He noted a recent survey that suggested employees value health more than wealth or career progression.

“Close to 50 per cent of your employees would like to see you invest more in workplace wellness. That’s what they need. However, your employees are also skeptical. Thirty-seven per cent of your employees don’t expect you to invest a whole lot more within the next two years and only 19 per cent think you’re investing enough,” he said.

Noting the disconnect between what workers need and what employers are offering or able to deliver, Lindenberg said knowing where to invest in wellness goes back to data, understanding cost drivers and risk factors and then putting the information into the context of employee needs and wants.

“Once you know what the strategy is . . . you can figure out how to leverage some of those new vendors and that new technology in terms of making your workplace wellness strategy really sing,” he said.