I was engaged once. It was 1988 and in between a course of sweetbreads and lamb at the Millcroft Inn in Alton, Ontario, the blue-eyed guy across from me popped the question. I looked at the ring, and I looked at him, and I said, “yes”. In other words, I said (on the inside), “I find you very attractive, I have no idea how this story might end, but yes, I think there are good odds here and I’m game to give it a shot”. After all, we were very young, we had no money, but we had high hopes for the future. We set a date.
During engagement, you buy an expensive dress you’ll never wear again, and you fuss over the strange details of a hopefully once-in-a-lifetime ceremony. You drive your friends and family crazy. Then once the engagement is over and you’ve settled in, you find true happiness.
I’ve thought about this as it relates to the workplace.
Do we need engagement? Or do we need that sense of settling in and happiness?
I think it is the latter.
I’m not sure we are at our best during the engagement. There are reasons why there are TV shows about bridezillas. There is frenzied anticipation and many, many details. There are a lot of things to balance, with time always seeming to be at a premium. Our goal is to have a lovely wedding. We fret at not being able to see much beyond that day. It is when the engagement is over that we have a routine and new goals and a longer-term outlook. We fall more deeply in love with our spouse. That’s happiness.
I fully realize that not everyone on the engagement bandwagon agrees with me. They argue that an engaged employee is not necessarily a happy employee and they argue that a happy employee may be happy because their work isn’t challenging, which doesn’t benefit the business. Ok, fair enough. That said, perhaps I’m being overly technical but the definition of engagement does not include the word motivation (in fact, appointment is a synonym for engagement). Ultimately, motivation is another positive side effect of being settled in to a role where you have confidence. Again, during engagement you are not settled in yet.
So how can you achieve a workplace full of happy people? Try these strategies:
- Find ways to include your employees in long-term planning. So often we set short-term goals in our planning without thinking about how this contributes to the big picture. The more employees can see themselves in your organization 3, 5, 7 years down the road, the more likely they will contribute in ways that will ensure the organization is sustainable.
- Love your organization. Love your employees. I’m talking to you HR. Some of the best organizations out there have amazing programs not only for current employees but also alums. Make it a family atmosphere full of positivity and mutual respect by focusing on programs designed to be supportive of the whole employee, at 24 and 64. The workplace should feel safe and a place to find your centre. This can’t happen in a place where there isn’t an environment of mutual trust.
- Lessen the distractions. People focus best when they aren’t surrounded by a myriad of distractions. They’re happy when the details are set. If that means organizing central pick up for dry cleaning, providing access to a concierge service or being more flexible about work arrangements, go for it.
If you think of your employees after the engagement, the onboarding, all that preliminary stuff, and make the workplace feel like an extension of home, you’re well on your way to achieving workplace happiness.
About the author: Bonni Titgemeyer is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. She has been in human resources for 20+ years and works in the international HR arena. She is the recipient of the 2012 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award. You can connect with Bonni on Twitter as @BonniToronto, often at the hashtag #TEPHR.
When you have a team that’s running on all cylinders, it feels great. Your business hums along and everything is easier. But when you have that one employee who is just not performing, it can put a damper on everything. It’s harder to get momentum going for your business. Your confidence as a leader drops, which means you don’t close deals like you used to. It affects everything.
So what do you do? How do you handle that underperforming team member? We asked several business owners to see what their approach would be.
Assess the Situation
“I like to sit down with the employee to establish what the situation is. I point out the problem, offer words of encouragement, and let them know the business is counting on them. We are interested in their success and want to help, not just drive their performance numbers. I ascertain if there is something more they need from us and give them time to remedy the situation. Finally, I make a decision one way or the other. Prolonging this situation affects the morale of other employees.”
- Jim Newton, Philip James Salon
“It depends on the employee. First, we would look and try to see why they are not performing. If it is because they do not understand what is expected of them, their manager would review what is expected of them. Sometimes an employee needs a review and they become an asset to our company. Sometimes an employee does not work out in one department, but can work somewhere else, so if that is the case, we will give them a try answering phones or working in the store. If all else fails, sometimes an employee is just not a good fit for the company. If that is the case, it is better for both the employee and the employer to part ways sooner rather than later. Although it is not pleasant, eventually, it is better to do the right thing for your company and for the employee.”
- David Cohen, Moshells
Ensure They Have the Tools to Succeed
“My first inclination is reflection…have I provided the employee with the proper orientation, training, information to achieve the objective? If not, I make every effort to rectify the situation. If this isn’t the case, I speak opening and candidly with the employee, set dates with deliverables and monitor progress.”
- Mary Rownd, Interactive Project Manager, HIMSS
“Coach them. When someone is not performing, my first question is always to myself. “Have I trained them, given them all the tools and time to be successful?” Only after I have satisfied these questions will I consider a performance plan to set targets to help get them back on track.”
- Jeff Purtell, Chief Operating Officer, Acquirent
“Communication between employees and supervisors is always key in having a solid working relationship; doing it well gives the manager an opportunity to inspire and lead a team. At InterCall, we have a workforce that is all over the world, so oftentimes, employees and their supervisors are not in the same office. We use tools like audio, video and web conferencing, along with web cams, to put faces to names and voices. It really helps to establish and build a rapport, which enhances performance and allows you to do more coaching.”
- Rob Bellmar, Senior Vice President, Conferencing and Collaboration, InterCall
So, there are several approaches to handling an underperforming employee from business owners across industries. How do you handle it? What’s been effective for you?
About the Author: Brad Farris is the founder of EnMast, a community of business owners committed to being better leaders and growing better businesses. He is also principal advisor of Anchor Advisors, with experience leading businesses & business owners into new levels of growth and success. Through his work with over 100 Chicago area small businesses he has experience in guiding founders and business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Connect with him on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Given the amount of advice available on how to be an effective leader, one would think that those who lead would have it down to an art. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to parse through the wealth of sometimes paradoxical information, and I’m sure we all encounter leaders that believe that doing anything to get their own way is the only way to lead. While everyone has a natural leadership style, the potential leader may not know how to deliver this style effectively or compassionately. I’ve found that the following five attitudes, in addition to being easy to remember, help those tasked with the charge to be in charge get in touch with their inner leaders and exercise their skills towards achievement and outer peace.
1. Meditate. I’m not necessarily talking about literal meditation here, but establishing a daily practice can help you achieve the self-awareness that is at the root of genuine confidence. Simply paying attention to your breathing for merely five minutes a day can boost your ability to focus on both the task at hand and the way you present yourself to others. Self-awareness is one of the most desirable qualities in a leader because you need to know your strengths and weaknesses in order to build a team that best complements your skillset. Of course, there are other ways to get to know what kind of a leader you are, such as personality tests, 360-degree assessments, and journaling.
2. Concentrate. A focused leader is an effective leader. Concentration, while supported by practices like meditation, is much more than just tuning out distraction while you work—it also involves believing in a cohesive, coherent vision. Effective leaders know what their goals are, and are able to articulate what they need to achieve that end. Leaders often fail when their main motivation is to be liked or be everything to everyone, and a failure to set boundaries will allow the execution of your vision to become diluted. For instance, if you have an employee that you feel consistently takes projects in her own direction to the detriment of their completion, take the time to respectfully listen to her ideas but be able to restate your clear goals. Be willing to tell your employee how she can best serve these, and what the consequences will be if she does not follow through.
3. Relate. Nevertheless, it is important to treat your employees as people, not pawns in achieving your clear, stated goals. Effective leaders listen and make an effort to understand behaviors and reactions that may not appear to make sense on the surface. Even habitual lateness may have its roots in something understandable. Just as you are motivated by things that are unique to you, others—your employees, your clients—have their own unique life circumstances and deserve to be treated with compassion and respect. People who feel seen, heard, and understood are much more likely to see, hear, and seek to understand when you communicate how they can help you achieve your goals.
4. Communicate. Especially when you find that you were wrong or that you need to change course, be open and honest. Share your vision or strategy with your team, and be clear about what your plan is to see it to its completion. Too much secrecy may make those you work with feel disconnected from your mission and less likely to meet your expectations (especially if they don’t know what those expectations are!) Additionally, it is helpful to establish a standard for communication. Know how you will communicate with those you lead, and stay consistent. This will keep everyone on the same page.
5. Motivate. Provide tangible rewards for your employees’ efforts. People are much more likely to feel like they’ve made a positive contribution if they have something to show for it. Incentives can come in many forms, such as awards, lunches, or even monetary bonuses. It is also helpful to remember that it is motivational to offer five positive comments for every piece of negative feedback, not because you’re sugary or a pushover, but because we’re more likely to remember the negative. Both negative and positive feedback can motivate those you lead towards greater self-awareness. Positive feedback and tangible rewards will let your employees know that you appreciate their willingness to participate in a larger vision.
About the Author: Anna McCarthy is an HR specialist who writes primarily on topics ranging from business relationships to employee satisfaction for Able Trophies, a supplier of glass awards and acrylic awards. She spends her free time going on weekend hikes and writing short stories.
Photo credit iStockphoto
One year into my HR career I hired my first direct report. I formed the job description, posted it on a jobs site and reviewed resumes as they came in. I felt like it was a stepping stone for me professionally, and I looked forward to having someone to develop and mentor.
After interviewing candidates I ended up hiring a referral from a co-worker that was an ideal Specialist to assist my HR Supervisor role. I could delegate a project with general guidelines and know it would be a success.
Fast forward several months, and due to a restructuring I inherited another direct report that didn’t turn out to be as easy to deal with. Daily life in the office became a challenge, and since I was still fairly new to having direct reports I went to my manager for advice. For the most part I felt that we were on the same page, but when another member of the team brought to my attention possible wrongdoing by my direct report, I was surprised to learn my manager and I didn’t agree on next steps. Having been provided supporting documentation to the suspected violation, I was ready to investigate the issue and further discuss with my direct report. My manager, however, did not think it needed to be investigated at the time and suggested waiting to see what came of the situation.
After thinking it through and discussing with another trusted colleague I decided to go against my manager’s advice and address the issue at hand. Feeling that my own credibility was on the line if didn’t look into the matter, I was proud that I stood my ground and did what was right to acknowledge the problem.
You may find yourself in a similar situation where you are at odds with professional advice you were given. Take it into consideration, but also ensure that you fully research the topic at hand to ensure you have all necessary information. Discuss with your network to hear several other viewpoints, and if appropriate, consult your company’s policies and procedures. Trust in your analysis of the case, and go forward with confidence in your decision on how best to handle.
About the Author: Heather Rose, PHR is an HR Professional with over 6 years experience supporting top organizations’ HR functions. In addition to her career in HR, Heather enjoys writing about her life adventures, reading and traveling. You can connect with Heather on LinkedIn.
Photo credit iStockphoto
When it comes to maintaining order in the workplace, negotiating employee discipline can seem like a high wire balancing act. On the one hand, we need to retain authority and some modicum of control over subordinates, but at the same time, dealing with personalities is an inherently touchy issue. After all, especially in the case of a non-fireable offense, the point is rehabbed behavior and not resentment, right?
Moreover, in this day and age of rampant lawsuits and claims of workplace discrimination, even if you have at-will employees and independent contractors making up the majority of your workforce, you need to handle discipline delicately to ensure a safe and functional work environment for everyone.
So here are some things to keep in mind when navigating the potentially murky waters of maintaining order at work through employee discipline.
Keep the issue on a “Need to Know” basis
In high pressure environments where time and money are at stake, emotions run high. Accordingly, if you believe an employee is taking advantage of the company or otherwise not living up to his end of the bargain, it can be easy to fly off the handle without taking a step back to assess the situation.
Likewise, if an employee is approached from a place of accusation or similarly confronted by multiple parties, your actions can trigger a defensive reaction rather than a willingness to engage in a calm, problem-solving discussion.
Accordingly, do not discuss your concerns about your employee with anyone else before ensuring their involvement is absolutely essential or their knowledge of the situation is necessary. You cannot un-ring a bell so don’t sound the alarm lightly.
Stick to the current, relevant facts
Yes, that means you should incorporate all three when you address your employee:
- Current: Don’t bring past issues up that have been dealt with before, unless they are prior examples of the same type of behavior.
- Relevant: Keep the discussion centered on the task at hand and avoid incorporating unrelated information that has no bearing on the current situation.
- Facts: This is the most important aspect of your disciplinary action – do not mention feelings, thoughts or emotions at this point. You need to tell her what she has factually done or not done to warrant “the talk” and be prepared to back up your position with actual proof if necessary.
Once you have set the stage for the discussion, allow your employee to fully respond to the current, relevant facts you have presented.
Perception may be reality but that doesn’t make it true
It is often said that there are 3 sides to every story: mine, yours and the truth. Unfortunately, most of us stop the investigation after we mentally process our own perception of an event – what we see is what we believe is actually going on and we make assumptions about a person’s motivation for acting in a certain way.
However, one of the most important things to remember is that the way we perceive an event is not the whole story and we need more facts to truly, accurately and fairly judge a situation. Be willing to listen and do not enter into a discussion with your mind made up one way or another.
As a final note, by establishing clear and unambiguous guidelines and expectations up front, you can avoid many issues and misunderstandings before they develop into full-blown problems.
What are some of the ways you have effectively handled employee discipline?
About the Author: Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), a leading provider of custom and promotional pens and other promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison regularly contributes to the Promo & Marketing Wall blog, where she provides actionable business tips.
Being a leader is much more than organizing resources, executing on plans or knowing where to squeeze out the latest profit. A person responsible for positional leadership has the arduous task of managing their team’s contribution to overall profits and sustainability while supporting the roles and individual needs of their employees. If you’re doing it well, it shouldn’t be easy. In fact for most of us it will be a role that we never quite master, we will always be a student on some level. Along the way though, we can observe other leaders, learn from personal experiences and discover our own genuine way of navigating the work days of the teams that have been entrusted to us. Hopefully in turn, we will pass on what we know, like being part of a sharing community. As you think about your leadership role, here are some concepts worth contemplation:
Don’t Let Profits Be Your Sole Driver
Doing anything solely for profit is an empty pursuit. It leads to compromised business decisions and a bad case of burnout for both yourself and your employees. Going into business exclusively on a profit based agenda isn’t sustainable. It will cause you and your employees to eventually wonder what you’re really working for. Instead, let purpose and meaning drive you. These elements will give you the required endurance and camaraderie you need when times are tough.
Keep Your Promises
If your employees can’t rely on you to be true to your word, their natural default is to question all of your actions and motives. Just think about it, when was the last time you felt immense respect for someone you couldn’t rely on? Don’t make promises to your employees or partners that you can’t keep, and when you do make promises, do everything in your power to be true to your word. Not doing so kills your credibility, making it harder for people to respect you. As a leader you can’t operate business effectively without trust and respect.
Be Competent, Be Committed
The job of today’s leader isn’t to place oneself in a distant, hierarchy based position. People want to believe in the person they report to and we know that one can only truly believe in what they know or understand. As a leader, we owe our employees three main things:
1) Competency in our role
2) Commitment to relationships with our folks
3) A communicated vision for what our teams are working toward
Remember, your job is to protect and serve your employees so they can be as productive as possible. Keep a “people first” mentality and your employees will remain hard working for you and for themselves.
Focus on Development
Everyone is capable of continuous growth – even leaders. Hopefully for all of us, the day we slow down learning about our profession or business is the day we retire. There is nothing that will benefit you, your employees, and your company more than a focus on development. The key consideration here is to provide a variety of options and opportunities for learning. The more varied the offerings, the more likely your success rate will be. Some folks would love a lunch and learn on one of your new product offerings, others would prefer a book study and still others would like seminars or certification courses. Point being, you want to do everything you can to get your employees revved up about their professional and personal development. It’s another way to show you care, and that you are truly invested in them as an employee and an individual.
Of equal importance is your own development. Don’t ask folks to stretch and grow if you are unwilling to do so yourself. When you show that you are committed to your personal betterment, your employees will be likely to do the same.
Do Not Wait For Feedback
Don’t wait until one angry employee finally shows up at your desk with a list of complaints. By the time your employee has reached your desk, you can bet that the poison of poor morale has been permeating your office for weeks or months. Instead of being reactive, choose to be out ahead of it. Ask your employees what they think of you, the direction of the company, office politics, etc.
Keep the doorway to communication open. Expect respect while allowing for dissenting views and opinions. Sometimes that’s where the healthiest outcomes and decisions derive from. You want your team to understand that their input isn’t an effort in futility, but rather a respected opportunity for them to express their creativity and problem solving abilities. You are not bound by a contract to implement every suggestion or solution, but you can show you are committed to listening with an open mind. Granted, this kind of cross-status communication takes a lot more effort on the part of the leader. But, your willingness to explain your business rationale, to listen to others perspectives and deal effectively with differences allows you to reap the benefits of having a more genuine work life and relationships. And after all none of us, leaders included, wants to park their personality or opinions at the door. We all want to be heard.
Continually learning as you lead can mean the difference between mediocrity and excellence. Leaders of substance propel their businesses and engage their employees. They realize that they are meant to serve their folks, not lord over them, and because of that mindset they can rally an entire workforce around their purpose and brand. Leaders of substance aren’t just born; they are taught and actively work to train themselves. If you want to lead a company, and do so as effectively as possible take the time to help build your employees up. Perhaps Lao Tzu sums it up most eloquently, “A leader is best when people barely know she exists, when her work is done, her aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” If you ask me, that’s something really worth striving for!
About the Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans — Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors, serving employees in diverse work settings, focusing on environment and behavior in the workplace. Connect with Amanda on Google+.
Photo credit iStockphoto
Days, weeks, and months of leading a team can prove to be very exhausting. People are always asking things of you and while you love to give, the cycle of take-take-take can leave your well running dry.
A vacation is a great way to break out of that cycle and refresh your attitude. Think back to your last vacation. Did you feel relaxed, joyful, fulfilled? Did you gain a fresh perspective and perhaps return to work with an ignited flame of creativity?
Not only will you return from a vacation as a better version of yourself, relaxed and ready to reenergize your team, but your absence could also provide room for some serious growth. Here’s how…
Organize and Tie Loose Ends
Have you ever left on a vacation with your house is disarray? After days of relaxation you come home to a dizzying and depressing mess that literally pops your blissful bubble. The same fundamentals apply to your work demands; the only way you can truly capitalize on the rejuvenating benefits of a vacation is if you prepare yourself for a clean and smooth return.
Accomplish this by tying up all loose ends. Put in the extra time before your vacation to get ahead and push all formal follow-ups to a few days after your return. Regardless of your vacation’s destination, plan for a return jet-lag day where you don’t necessarily have to dive into anything, instead you can lightly skim over the week ahead, acclimate yourself, and organize some more. In short: work through your lunch breaks and put in the late nights pre-vacation, so that your Zen feelings can keep lasting upon your return to work.
Delegate Deadlines, Duties and Follow Ups
It is a good idea to formally notify your team of your planned time out-of the-office. Reemphasize their duties on ongoing projects and understand that it’s OK for deadlines to take place while you are way. It will be your team’s responsibility to follow-up with you however you see fit. The whole point of a vacation is to take a break from work, so consider a suggestion as simple as a Friday follow-up email. This way each team member can still feel accountable while giving you some quick updates on their progress.
If you want to savor your time away, then comfort yourself by appointing a person who can answer questions and make real-time decisions in your place. Obviously pick a person who is trustworthy and, almost more important, pick someone who displays your similar style of leadership and execution. Give this single person your emergency contact information (only after describing what truly constitutes as an emergency).
Believe In Your Team
One of the main hesitations for a leader to take a vacation is that he or she thinks the team cannot function without them being there. (Guard your egos, management: this is not true.) While your unique leadership style and encouraging attributes keep your team organized, it also can stifle them into some stiff routines.
Allow your team some space to breathe while you are way. Let them know that you consider this time as a chance for people to test out their own styles while proving themselves. When you return, discuss with your team the differences they experienced in your absence. Perhaps the freedom allowed them to discover a more productive approach to work that is both functional and inspired. You never know the new directions your employees can surprise you with; utilize your vacation as a canvas for them to both breathe and explore.
Regardless of your overall approach, it is important for every leader to protect their right to live. Whether you are hoping to reconnect with your family, save yourself from burnout, or maybe even make some unique and friendly business connections, a vacation serves multiple needs.
Life is short and work is long. Commit to refreshing yourself and your efforts every now and then with a vacation that you not only deserve- but you really need! When done correctly it can reconnect you with your work and creativity, all while affording your team time and space for professional growth.
What other tips can ensure that leaders will have a great vacation?
Photo credit iStockphoto
[Editor's Note: Many of our Women of HR writers also maintain their own blogs. Please enjoy this post from Kimberly Patterson, originally posted on Unconventional HR.]
When I hear folks speak about how proud they are to be a loyal employee I want to cringe. Be loyal to yourself, your partner, close friends, family and your pet. Do you think your loyalty will be reciprocated when your company is facing tough times and has to review numbers and headcount for a RIF?
It’s not realistic for employees to be loyal to companies or for companies to be loyal to employees. And it’s not a bad thing — here’s why…
If you’re an employee and believe that your loyalty will be remembered by your employer when it’s time for the tough decisions, my question to you is, “why on earth would you place your career decisions entirely in the hands of someone else?” Not only will working at one place for too long make you stale, you’re giving up the control of managing your own career. What if your manager retires, transfers or gets a new gig outside of the company? So much for all of those years of loyalty. Do you think your manager is going to present a succession plan for you on their way out the door? Avoid being naive and recognize the excess of “dog eat dog” attitudes in Corporate America.
I’ve seen business owners in smaller organizations be loyal to employees by making sure they receive salary increases and bonuses every year — for basically showing up for work. That’s okay, only to a point. Is it because companies don’t want to go through the pain of hiring new talent? Can business owners and leaders honestly say that this employee who has been working for them for the last 15 years is continually growing and that growing is positively impacting their business? Or does having an employee come in on time, day after day, equal loyalty? For many business owners it does. And good for them. Or is it? I believe that business owners are doing themselves, their employees and their company a disservice by not embracing fresh eyes and new talent.
Here’s how employees can be considered loyal:
- Do your job and do it well — that’s being loyal to yourself.
- Take pride in your work.
- Never stop learning and advancing in your field.
- Don’t take risks at work to prove your loyalty to anyone for any reason — it may come back to bite you.
- Never believe someone who says, “I’ll take you with me.” That’s just stupid.
Remember that as quickly as decisions are made in organizations is just as quickly as those decisions can change. You should always have your Plan B tucked away in your back pocket because no one else will.
Here’s how companies and managers can be loyal:
- Don’t stifle employees. Let them grow and encourage them to seek out new opportunities.
- Keeping employees under your thumb is comfortable but puts laziness over progress.
Once you bring fresh eyes and new talent to your business, you’ll wonder how you ever got along doing the same old thing day after day.
Kimberly Patterson is the founder of Unconventional HR. An HR pro turned consultant, she has 25 years of progressive experience as a strategic HR and business leader in a variety of industries. Her hands-on and innovative approach allows her to create and deliver HR solutions to meet business challenges and needs by managing human capital, talent acquisition and technology. Connect with her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kimberly_patt, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Telecommuting policies save organizations thousands of dollars in overhead and facility costs annually while maintaining high standards of productivity and efficiency. An integral component to this winning equation is efficient management. Whether you have years of experience running a remote workforce or you are new to overseeing a geographically dispersed team, these top tips for managing a telecommuting team will help you get the most out of your staff:
Communicate your expectations upfront. If your expectations are not clear from the beginning, you will struggle with holding your team members accountable when deliverables aren’t met. Openly communicate performance goals and desired results early on so your team members know exactly what is expected of them and what will happen if they fail to produce.
Set deadlines. Proper time management is essential to effectively managing a telecommute team. Achieve this by setting deadlines for all assignments. If a project is particularly large or complex, make it more manageable by setting easily attainable or by setting smaller benchmark goals within the master plan.
Stay organized. Whether you use customer relationship management software, create a tracking spreadsheet, document everything in Word, or jot down notes in Evernote, it’s important to find an organizational system that makes sense to you. You will likely have to try a few different approaches before you find one that works, but once you do, ensure that you stick to it. Creating an organizational system is the easy part, keeping it updated is the hard part. Be diligent with your tracking system – it will help you maintain structure and ensure that tasks and telecommuters aren’t neglected.
Avoid a unilateral management approach. No two telecommuters are alike. While it is expected that you will have general guidelines for your entire team to follow, your management approach should not be a unilateral one. Within reason, tailor your management style to accommodate the personalities, learning styles, and work ethic of your team. Doing so will lead to greater productivity and job satisfaction for your team members.
Establish standard hours for communication. Similar to a professor setting office hours for students, as a telecommute manager you should establish standard office hours of so your employees and freelancers have access to you when needed.
Over-communicate. Communication breaks the rule of “less is more.” It’s better to over-communicate than to leave your team wanting for information. Nothing slows down progress faster than unclear or confusing directions.
Get to know your team. Virtual teams don’t have the option to chat around the water cooler or go out for lunch, so it is especially important to maintain friendly working relationships with your staff. Demonstrating that you are invested in the well-being of your employees makes them want to be invested in their jobs.
Be flexible. Telecommuting necessitates flexibility, and as a telecommute manager you should have it in spades. Being malleable to scheduling hiccups, sick days, and project revisions is a necessity. Just be mindful of team members who try to take advantage or your accommodations; if you detect abuse, firmly but gently address your concerns to get staff back on track.
Keep your tech in check. Technology is the lifeblood of a telecommute environment. Regularly update anti-virus programs, maintain a reliable high-speed Internet connection, and ensure that your cloud storage systems are in proper working order.
Continue training. Don’t be afraid to update your policies and adopt new procedures. Continual training with your virtual team will help you stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends and keep you and your team interested in your work.
Trust. Frustrating as it may be, you cannot monitor every activity of your telecommuting staff. It is absolutely essential that you recruit trustworthy employees and contractors whom you can trust to complete assignments and handle their own levels of responsibility.
How do you manage your telecommute team? Share your stories, suggestions, and strategies!
Kimberly Back is the Social Media Strategist and Senior Writer for Virtual Vocations (http://www.virtualvocations.com), an online job service that helps job-seekers find legitimate telecommute opportunities while also providing useful and educational resources.
Photo credit iStockphoto
“High employee engagement is imperative, even amid a turbulent economy”. This was the indisputable fact that Gallup once again revealed in its 2012 study of 1.4 million employees worldwide.
Business units that scored in the top 25 percent of their organizations according to employee engagement showed:
- 37% lower absenteeism
- 22% higher profitability
- 21% higher productivity
- 10% higher customer metrics
- 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
- 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
- 28% less shrinkage
- 48% fewer safety incidents
- 41% fewer patient safety incidents
- 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
But here’s the comedown. According to Towers Watson, almost two-thirds or 65 percent of the workers who participated in their 2012 Global Workforce Study did not show high engagement.
Employee engagement refers to the conditions under which workers make an emotionally-based choice to be loyal to a company. So what is at stake with employee engagement? Essentially everything, as low engagement costs the US economy alone $370 billion year after year.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to increasing employee engagement; what works for Google might not work for Gillian’s Bakery. In saying that, here are 10 ways to keep your workers engaged:
1. Honesty and transparency win. Always.
Public and private organizations can take a few tips from their voluntary counterparts. According to CIPD’s latest Employee Outlook survey, the voluntary sector showed an increase in employee engagement this quarter. Around 55 percent of voluntary workers reported feeling engaged at work, compared to only 37 percent and 33 percent of private and public workers, respectively. This is even more remarkable, considering the layoffs hounding voluntary staff nowadays. According to CIPD, voluntary workers love their “open and honest management teams” who perpetuate “positive communication practices” and “cultures of mutual trust and respect.”
In engagement as in other aspects of life, honesty always seems to be the best policy. Employees tend to feel disposable when orders are barked without explanation.
2. Compensate fairly.
It goes without saying that you get what you pay for. To get excellent work, you need to offer commensurate wages. Explore the possibility of cash bonuses and stock options for employees too. And if you can’t increase salary, give employees prospects for advancement if you want them to play the game to win.
3. Money is not everything. Get personal.
A wad of cash can only go so far in fortifying employee engagement and performance. Sometimes what employees need is not pecuniary: Knowing that you personally care for them might be enough. Workers who see their leaders as real people often exhibit high engagement.
4. Be a transformational leader.
A transformational leadership style appears to be the most conducive to employee engagement. According to researcher Bernard Bass, transformational leaders are supportive managers who offer individualized consideration to followers; supportive management is directly proportional to employee engagement.
5. Understand the value of one-on-one conversations.
One important trait of a transformational leader is the ability to attend to individual needs, i.e. the ability to lend a listening ear. Hear your employees’ ideas and feelings out. In return, give them constructive criticisms and due praises, not just once a year, but regularly.
6. It’s all in the environment.
Employees love commuting to a workplace that is aesthetically pleasing. Take a look at how the SAS Institute took this knowledge one step further. They built a branch in France in an opulent castle no less, enclosed by a cherry-lined garden and a forest with walking trails. They have even splurged on an office nursery, so that mothers in their employ never have to leave their young kids at home again. Result: low absenteeism and turnover.
7. Trust workers enough to let them telecommute.
Sometimes even castles are no substitute for the conveniences and comforts of working at home. Provide flexibility in working. Also, make sure to grant telecommuters access to documents, tools and resources they would otherwise have in the physical office.
8. Move meetings and coursework online.
According to Cisco manager Kim Austin, online events and trainings are much clearer, since the same, unadulterated information is disseminated to employees, whenever, wherever. Furthermore, 53 percent of organization leaders surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit support the notion that video communications enrich relationships with employees.
9. Consider wellness programs.
Wellness programs, or basically those that lead to a healthy and productive workforce, affect the bottom-line positively. To illustrate, Johnson & Johnson reported returns of $2.71 for each $1 dollar invested in these programs. Healthy employees do make highly engaged workers, after all.
10. Help the company be the employer that people respect.
No one likes leaders of ill repute and dubious ethics. When former Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher’s dalliance with an employee led to a media firestorm, airline workers became so self-conscious that they refused to wear their uniforms outside the workplace. People want to work for organizations that they can be proud of.
Photo credit: http://www.kaleidoscopeconsulting.com.au/wp-content/themes/kaledoscope/images/High%20Performance%20Management.jpg
This guest post is written by Lisa Baker from www.kaleidoscopeconsulting.com.au. Since 1994 Kaleidoscope has delivered solutions to individuals through business coaching and with leaders and managers in HR consulting projects.