Management Success Tip #176: Volunteering: A Surprising Way to Recruit and Keep Those Sensational Hires

VolunteeringYou’d think that time spent by your employees in anything other than either doing their work, or attending classes and seminars to do their work better, would be a total waste. If anything, water-cooler time has to be tops on your “most annoying” list.

And yet . . . sometimes employees doing something entirely unrelated to their work, but doing it together, has surprising benefits for the company.

For example, giving your employees an opportunity to volunteer, by actively organizing, supporting and giving them the time to volunteer, has great benefits in attracting and keeping great employees.

Xactly Corporation, is a pure-play, SaaS company that provides cloud-based enterprise software and services, among which tools to allow for sales performance management, sales effectiveness, sales compensation, and employee engagement. The company created a volunteering program called “Xactly One,” in which small groups of employees, including leaders, are organized to volunteer at a local school or food kitchen–on company time! Their success in recruiting and retaining excellent employees is evidenced in the following: Fortune named Xactly among the 50 Best Small and Medium- size companies to work for in 2014. Xactly Corp. was also named one of the Top 10 Coolest Companies to Work For in the San Francisco Bay Area.

People who share a common purpose or mission, tend to be more engaged, individually and collectively. Let purposeful volunteering be yet another way to find and retain the very best employees.

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Management Success Tip #170: Agree Upon Goals, Expectations and Standards for Maximum Employee Productivity and Company Success

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Your employees want to perform well. They want to be productive. Yes, they really do, despite the fact that it sometimes (often?) may not seem that way.

Or at least employees want to do well when they actually know what they’re supposed to be doing! Too often, managers assume that workers should know what they’re supposed to do, how to do it, how often, and by when (and you know what the informal definition of “assume” is). All this because the employees were told once or twice. Or it’s in the job description. Or worse–in the employee manual (updated every decade or so).

That’s mistreatment of a potentially great employee! Instead, take the time to set agreed-upon goals and expectations. Not just your goals, your expectations, but those you sat down with your employee and together, figured out the hows, whys, whats and wherefores thereof. Fancy talk for if you don’t spend the time to make sure you and your employee are on the same page with what is needed, it won’t happen.

Similarly, don’t leave your employees in the dark as to what are the standards set to earn a bonus or other reward. An employee may think he or she has done stellar work, and fully (and rightfully) expects some sort of recognition, only to find out that whatever-it-was had to be completed during the first quarter of the year to qualify for a bonus. Aargh! Major disappointment, unhappy employee–their performance tanks, no big surprise.

Clarify goals and standards. Discuss these with your employees. Write down whatever you’ve agreed on. Both your company and your employees will benefit tremendously.

Management Success Tip #165: Work From Home Programs: One Size Does Not Fit All

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There is an extensive body of case studies on individual firms that have adopted WFH (Work From Home) programs, and they tend to show large positive impacts, both in terms of increased productivity and decreased absenteeism.

Despite the clear evidence from such studies, WFH programs scare many managers half to death: What if you end up with a bunch of slackers? Or, if you don’t end up with slackers, what if you end up with work that doesn’t get completed, or done well enough? Or a majority of slackers with a few dedicated workers carrying the load of the whole department? Workers who will soon get burnt out, dispirited, and quit! What if the mice really do play when the cat’s away?

These worries kill most WFH programs before they ever get started. However, there is a way to find out if these dire prognostications are fact, or if all those studies have some truth to them . . . start small.

By that I mean, run an in-house experiment. Offer to those employees who are interested a two or four week trial of working from home. Preferably not during your company’s crunch time! That’s it. No big deal, just a couple of weeks or a month at most. Accumulate data on what gets done. Or doesn’t.

Review the work results at the end of the trial–preferably with everyone involved as well as the requisite higher-ups. Also review with your WFH employees what they thought of the plan. Did they like it? Not like it? Why? Why not? What could make it work better? You might discover that a more flexible “some days WFH, some days at the office” is the best solution for your company.

Once you’ve thoroughly debriefed both the plan itself and your employees’ reactions, if you’re pleased with the results–go for a longer trial period. If not, dump it. No harm, no foul.

You’ll never know if your fears are founded or unfounded unless you give WFH a try. Go for it! You have little to lose and much to gain.

Management Success Tip #153: A Little Education Goes A Long Way- Give Some to Your Employees!

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There is a thirst for education among today’s workforce that far exceeds that of the workforce just a few decades ago, for the simple reason that increasingly more education, especially targeted to certain career choices, results in better jobs.

In response to this trend, Starbucks, in association with Arizona State University, offers free tuition to their employees to earn an online degree, with few conditions – none of which are the reimbursement of the educational expense, nor does Starbucks even require employees to continue to work for Starbucks once their degrees are obtained.

This is not charity. This is smart business. A better educated workforce is usually a more motivated workforce, which can contribute better ideas, ways and means of doing things. Your specific pick of hires within a better educated workforce is likely to improve the quality of your team.

What is good for the employee becomes what is good for the company.

Now, you will say you are not Starbucks and don’t have the means by any stretch of the imagination to give such benefits to your workers. Not a problem! Whatever you can give to your employees in the way of advanced education will be appreciated – as long as you don’t limit such education to subjects or training that are company-specific. That tilts the scales too far in terms of benefit to the company with very limited benefit to the employee.

With the plethora of online courses, a little research will turn up possibilities which are fiscally manageable. And who knows, you might be able to partner on a limited basis with an online University – to the benefit of all concerned.

Management Success Tip #142: To Perform At Your Peak, Get Some Relief: Meditate!

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The demands on managers – let’s rephrase that – the demands on you, whether you’re running a department, a line, a team or an entire business, are intense. The explosion of technology and social media, with the transformation of how we do business, has multiplied your daily to-do exponentially. Not to mention your monthly, quarterly and annual goals and deadlines.

Somewhere in this, you need relief. Because there’s no way you can do what it takes to make your employees happy, if you aren’t enthused yourself. And you can’t possibly drum up enthusiasm when you’re tearing your hair out.

Try meditation. Mindfulness. Reflection.

It works. Just a few minutes of deliberate calm, of breathing, of internal quiet, goes a long way in producing focus and clarity, two essential ingredients to dynamic leadership.

Don’t take my word for it, here are some examples, as reported by Bill George:

With support from CEO Larry Page, Googleʼs Chade-Meng Tan, known as Googleʼs Jolly Good Fellow, runs hundreds of classes on meditation.

General Mills, under the guidance of CEO Ken Powell, has made meditation a regular practice. Former executive Janice Marturano, who led the companyʼs internal classes, has left the company to launch the Institute for Mindful Leadership , which conducts executive courses in mindfulness meditation.

Goldman Sachs, which moved up 48 places in Fortune Magazineʼs Best Places to Work list, was recently featured in Fortune for its mindfulness classes and practices.

Meditation and mindfulness are not just for full-time New Agers. On the contrary, they are powerful instruments for your well-being and success.

Management Success Tip #125: ROWE and the Small Business: Amazing Real-World Results!

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Nothing speaks louder than real-world results.

Study after study has shown that a results-only work environment (ROWE) works amazingly well, both in terms of employee satisfaction and company success.

But many smaller businesses shy away from implementing ROWE, thinking that allowing employees to work when and where they please will just lead to lazy, sloppy work, diminished performance and rotten productivity. Or, if convinced of the worthiness of ROWE, will decide that the inevitable variety in hours and locations will take too much technology to integrate all of it and be financially sound.

Neither is true.

JA Counter & Associates, an investment and insurance agency base in Richmond, WI has 14 employees who have been in a ROWE since 2008. Since then, their expenses are down 23%, and net income has increased 94%! Not only that, before implementing ROWE, the agency was 15% behind the industry average. Since adopting ROWE, they are 4% and more ahead of the industry average.

Employees have control over their time, which facilitates a healthy work-life balance. Meetings are purposeful and planned, with those who prefer to attend remotely calling in. Even the agency’s receptionist has control over her hours, working them out with back-up personnel. No new technology was required.

ROWE and other such flexible employee arrangements are not just for major corporations. As JA Counter demonstrates, any size business can benefit from a results-oriented flexible approach.

Management Success Tip #123: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!

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“Feel the fear and do it anyway” is a powerful phrase, generally attributed to author Susan Jeffers. Make no mistake about it: fear is powerful.

Fear is what prevents your employees from suggesting new projects or processes. Fear is what stands between your employees and their willingness to point out what isn’t working in the resources they’ve been allocated. Fear is what keeps your employees performing at levels below their best.

You, their manager, are not their therapist. It’s not up to you to go rooting around in your employees’ past or present lives for how various fears arose. Fortunately, you don’t need to.

What you do need, is to provide your employees with the antidote to fear: courage.

Courage is the ability to face the world, a situation, or a person, with confidence.  Courage is what enables your employees to speak up, speak out, and do what it takes to up the level of their contribution.

You instill courage in your employees by encouraging them. To encourage is literally, according to dictionary.com, “to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.”

Simply put, you applaud your employees’ efforts, you notice the work done right, you never dismiss an idea as ridiculous or irrelevant, you make it not only safe, but desirable for your employees to come to you with new ideas, helpful criticism, in a word – their truth.

Then indeed, despite the fact that there maybe always be that slight tremor of fear in the face of the new, your employees will be able to “Feel the fear and do it anyway” to the increasing success of your business.