Tag: management

Why Small Businesses Fail

They don’t really care about their Employees

Let’s be honest, small business owners and entrepreneurs, most of them, have little experience managing and leading.  They have ideas, they have a passion, they have conviction.  Small businesses don’t grow and don’t succeed because they don’t inspire and manage employees to share the passion of building something.  There is little to no time spent on the basics of management such as organizing files on employees, setting up objectives, showing how these relate to strategy, compensating on results and vision, hiring properly, legal compliance … and providing the direction that comes with the guidance of experienced HR management.

It’s all lip service.  It may be more fun to work at a small company where responsibilities can be more and the pains of bureaucracy less.  But, large businesses do invest in their employees – training, development, benefits, proper legal management, creating an environment free of sexual harassment and other discrimination.  Big businesses think about having some fun and including employees in idea creation and developing better ways to deliver in their markets.

Small businesses are always running, to the next crisis or the next opportunity … why? Because we think that’s what it takes to succeed.  And we are wrong!  Dead wrong!!  Companies grow because they have employees that care about the success, get guidance and accountability … and they create success by resolving problems on their own, delivering great customer service on their own, implementing a way for the company to save money on their  own.  But, that can’t be assumed, it must be nurtured and MANAGED.

I’ve worked at big businesses that really cared about development of employees and we’ve flourished.  I’ve worked at small companies and we don’t have the time.  That’s nonsense and short-sighted.  Financial ownership rarely understands the importance of this too and can become conflicted with these priorities that don’t appear to impact this quarter’s bottom line.  My advice, get some help, it’s not your expertise and you won’t ever make it a priority on your own time.

Money Makers Through People Management

All good businesses seek ways to improve efficiencies and GREAT businesses seek efficiencies through effective people management.  Yes, you can be profitable and even “successful” without a true people-focus, but you will never realize the organization’s true full potential unless you effectively manage the people aspect of your business.   Being people-focused isn’t a feel-good, nice-to-have core value, but an actual business strategy that is well thought out, customized to fit your business and brings real value to your bottom-line AND top-line.  When you truly have the realization that people make a difference, you will invest significantly in your people just as you do for marketing, sales strategy and technology.  You must have consistent investment, policies, programs and process.

Every business should consider the HR basics below as they plan and prioritize their people initiatives.  Well planned and implemented HR practices, processes and programs will enable your organization to realize its full potential.

Top 10 Money Makers and Savers For Small Businesses Through People Management

1.  Standardize your hiring process.

2.  Implement a performance management system.

3.  Develop and distribute an employee handbook.

4.  Create an employee communications program.

5.  Reduce use of legal counsel for basic workplace questions and issues.

6.  Hire HR experts (consultants or employees) to design HR programs.

7.  Appropriately document programs, issues and actions

8.  Implement salary structures tied to job levels and performance.

10. Develop and document basic human resource policies and practices.

Have you reached your potential?

Who Fills Your Q-tip Container?

This past weekend I found myself doing a little home maintenance.  You know, the little things that no one else does or even think about:  The toilet paper holder was empty and needed to be reloaded (toilet paper roll was on the counter), the liquid soap dispenser was almost out of soap and needed to be refilled and the Q-tip container in the bathroom was down to the last cotton swab.  I thought to myself, “Am I the only one who notices these things?  What would they do without me?”  Well one thing is for sure, they would have poor hygiene and these things would be less convenient.

So how does this relate to the business world?  It made me think of workplaces where so many employees do simple things everyday and we take it for granted that it will be done.  We don’t think it’s a big deal because it’s a convenience and not a necessity.  For example, the person who always puts on a fresh pot of coffee, the person who always pushes in the desk chairs of others, the person who picks up the piece of litter on the walkway in front of the office.  These little things can make a difference and without them you would be subject to the wrath of the coffee addict, the office will look unkempt and the outside would be dirty and unwelcoming.  It is the actions of someone thinking and participating in the greater-good of the workplace community.  It is paying attention to details and thinking of the impact to others.

Now, go one step further with me and let’s tie this to business operations.  I thought of some of the past teammates that I worked with and the little things they did that made a difference.  For instance, I worked with a customer service rep that made it a point to at least touch base with a customer within an hour to let a customer know she was working on their issue.  I knew a project manager that always volunteered to take on the unexpected “extra” work to meet the customer expectations for the better of the team (and yes he had family commitments like others).  I knew a receptionist that called me regularly to ask if I needed any help because she had capacity to do more and she didn’t even report to me.  None of these things were in their job descriptions, it was just thoughtfulness.  These are little things that often get overlooked, but should be recognized.  When someone cares enough to do these things, you should care enough to say “Thanks!”  The heroes are obvious; the employee who gets the big sale, solves a major customer issue, or steps in when there is a crisis.  But the person who is an everyday hero as a result of reliably, consistency and thoughtfulness can often be overlooked.  I know we would all agree they provide value to workplace and/or to the customer experience.

Recognition can take on many forms including big bonus checks, lavish gifts and luxury vacations.  However in tough economic times, some of these may have been cut back or simply don’t make sense.  Remember the power of a simple thank you.  Appreciation is more than a gift, it is an expression of sincere thanks and the words alone can be enough to motivate and create loyalty.  I have been a part of several organizations where employees just wanted the senior leadership team to acknowledge the work they did and that was more important than a recognition gift.  Tell employees you appreciate them.

Of course your company can survive without some of these little things that people do, but perhaps it is these little things that make your workplace better than others.  Perhaps it is these little things that make your customers’ experience great versus good.

Just take a moment and think about who is filling your company’s Q-tip container without being asked.

Now, go thank them. 

Time Is Running Out – So Take It!

The end of the year is fast approaching and it always seems that there are employees who have yet to request time off.  Some companies have “use it or lose it” policies and others allow employees to carry over all or some of the unused time. But don’t let the policy be the manager, as leaders of your organization, you need to think about the following:

  • Have your employees taken or scheduled their vacation?
  • Will employees have unused vacation at the end of the year for which they will want to be compensated in cash?
  • Can the company afford to cash out unused vacation?
  • Do you have a vacation carry-over policy and is the policy clear on how unused, earned vacation is handled?

Having employees with a unused vacation time at the end of the year is not an advantage to the business.  Quite the contrary.  If you don’t have a carry-over practice, employees will be disgruntled at the loss of time off.  If you do have a carry-over practice, then you as the employer will have to carry the financial expense onto the books for next year and your business operations will have to absorb even more time off in the daily operations.  It is better to proactively manage employee time off.

Now is a good time to take a look at what time employees have remaining and encourage employees to schedule and/or use their vacation to avoid an end-of-the year rush that may interfere with business operations.  Your encouragement will let your employees know that taking time off is important and that you care about them and their well-being.

I am a firm believer that vacations are for taking and that work-life balance is a benefit to the workplace.  Sure, there will be unusual circumstances that may cause an individual to miss or reschedule some or all vacation, but it should not be a regular occurrence.  If this is a regular occurrence, the management team must investigate and fix this problem.

Carryover can be a great way to allow flexibility for employees but as stated earlier, the employer carries the cost onto their books for the next year.  If an employee couldn’t squeeze in the two weeks this year and you make them feel good by allowing them to carry it over, how will they get the four weeks in next year?  The employer needs to be able to support a carry-over policy within the parameters of its business operations.  If carry-over becomes systemic it will, sooner or later, demotivate employees or you will find yourself issuing large lump sum checks.  In some states it is mandatory that employees be compensated.

Employers can support their employees by helping them plan to take time off.  Nothing is worse than getting to the end of the year with remaining vacation days and then being told that you can’t take them when you want.  Also some employees deliberately don’t use vacation if they can get a big payout at the end of the year.  This doesn’t support the practice of time off for work-life balance.  A little bit of organization, encouragement and management from their direct supervisor will keep the operations running smoothing and will assure all employees are getting the time off they deserve under the guidelines of your vacation policy.  Employers and managers will be rewarded with refreshed and invigorated teammates.

What Not To Wear

Do you ever wonder what you should wear to work?  It is not an easy task in today’s business world.  The days of requiring men to wear suits/ties and women in skirts suits with hosiery are gone; and I expect for good.  That shouldn’t mean anything goes or that it doesn’t matter what people wear at work.  It does.  What employees wear is a direct reflection of them and it is their responsibility to look respectable.  Likewise, when an employer dictates what employees must wear (or not wear), it is a reflection of the company culture.

Casual dress at offices is now widely accepted.  It certainly seems silly for employers to impose unnecessary dress code requirements.  I ran across this post on KNOWHR and the associated comments (warning some of them are not censored).  I agree with pressing HR and management regarding unnecessary dress code requirements but I couldn’t forget the days at a former employer when we started casual Fridays (jeans).  As in every other organization I have been in, some employees pushed the limits or just ignored the dress code all together.  Some employees started wearing inappropriate clothing such as graphic tees, flip-flops and tank tops.  The environment was a customer support office so there was no excuse of getting dirty or working in extreme heat.

Some may ask “Who cares?”  I DO!  It is not professional to wear flip-flops, tank tops, tee shirts and short shorts to work.  I do not want to look at or smell your ugly, stinky feet, or read some silly joke or adult innuendo on your tee shirt and most certainly I don’t want to see any part of your butt, shoulders, breasts or stomach.

I logically understand the IT guy who is saying “Why does it matter if I wear sandals, shorts and tee shirts to work when all I do is programming?”  But the reality is that he is part of a larger community of professionals and some basic dress standards are helpful.  I did say PROFESSIONALS and while I don’t think a tie should be required, being a beach bum or a slob is not appropriate for any office environment.

So I say “YES!” to a dress code.  As an employer you will have defined your expectations and that is always good.  However, I caution you to be reasonable, focus on what is necessary to perform jobs and what is considered as main-stream decent and appropriate in the workplace.


I received a call this past week from a former colleague.  She is in the HR profession and she told me her boss had left the company and she wanted to be considered for the position.  We reviewed the responsibilities of the position and I whole-heartedly agreed that she was qualified and would be a great fit for the position.  What intrigued me was that this very skilled and confident HR professional needed affirmation that she was good enough.

As our conversation continued, I learned a new GM had joined the company a few months ago and he would be responsible for hiring the HR Manager to support his organization.  He had specifically told her that he wanted to consider external candidates in addition to any internal candidates.  Of course, this immediately made her doubt her qualifications, skills and experience.  Interestingly, I had to remind her of all the great work she had done when we worked together and the positive impact she had on the business.  How quickly she forgot in the wake of doubt!

The reason I am writing this, is because I can’t help but wonder if the GM realizes the impact he had on her?  Imagine if he had approached her differently or even if he had explained why he wanted to consider external candidates.  Perhaps she would not have started to doubt herself and would have understood the business reasons.  The good news is that she quickly got herself back on track by utilizing her professional support group.  But what about those people who are not outgoing enough to reach out for perspective or those that may not have a support group?  They could be a great fit for the job too but missed out on some extra encouragement.

This really made me think about how influential senior executives can be even in the simplest of interactions.  It made me remember that senior executives can be intimidating just because of the position they hold and not even their actions.

This is just something for business leaders to think about as they communicate with employees.  Don’t “over-egoize” yourself remember employees will read into everything you are saying; be thoughtful about what you say and how you say it.  I don’t have any articles to quote, just my recent experience offering a dose of encouragement to a confident, skilled and outstanding HR professional.

Focal or Anniversary Review Date – Does It Matter?

As we approach the fall of the year, it is a good time to assess how your organization is performing and to review how you administer your employee performance evaluation process.

If you are like most companies you either do performance reviews on the anniversary of an employee’s last review or on a common date for all employees (typically called the common review date or focal review date).

Most companies are moving toward a common review date.  The literature indicates that over 80% of companies have moved away from the anniversary system.  There are pros and cons and the transition can be tedious but the advantages of a common review date outweigh the costs in my opinion.

A common review date allows for simple, more focused management of the process.  Business related performance periods rather than arbitrary anniversary based intervals are achieved and employee expectations are better managed.  Additionally, a focal review date gives an organization a sense of measurement and accomplishment with regard to specific objectives.  Management can evaluate success during a specific time period and communicate common time-based objectives for all employees, thus leading to shared objectives for the entire organization.

I ran into a good summary of the pros and cons as well as conversion methodology.   In addition to this information, HRInsights can help you customize the transition plan that best fits your culture.

Whichever you choose, make sure you are diligent, thoughtful and timely.

How Do You Define Success?

At a time when the recession has impacted so many people leaving them jobless and looking for new careers, many are reevaluating what is really important to them.  Ironically, making top dollar doesn’t seem to be the top priority.  Many folks have worked for years and climbed the corporate ladder and then reached a point where the ladder fell over or they decided the air was too thin up top.

In Eve Tahmincioglu’s recent article, she specifically addresses women who have shifted their definition of successes by working flexible hours, part-time and job shares.  They are finding their professional lives rewarding and still being able to prioritize personal aspects of their lives.

Some people voluntarily reshape their definition of success while others find themselves redefining their careers as a result of job loss.  Being out of work unexpectedly does cause hardship, fear and uncertainly, but it can force people to reevaluate what is REALLY necessary and important.  As a result, both voluntary and involuntary exit from a job offers the opportunity to re-balance personal and professional priorities.

It is not different for employers.  As businesses continue to make difficult decisions and changes (staff reductions, budget cuts, program eliminations, no pay increases, hiring freezes, pay cuts, benefits cost increases to employees, etc.) they will need to also create new priorities for ways to attract, optimize and retain top talent.  That means thinking of new ways to appeal to existing employees and applicants.  It means a new way of defining success.

Sometimes employers find themselves resistant to creating flexibility.  Often they wait for employees to offer up flexible solutions rather than taking a proactive approach.  When the employer is proactive, it is less likely viewed as favoritism.  I have had executives tell me it makes them feel like they don’t have control when they allow employees to work at home, part-time, or flex hours/schedules.  I challenge them to rethink.  If employers set clear expectations and measurable objectives, employees will be appreciative of the flexibility, leading to higher morale and productivity.  The result is greater success.

Employers shouldn’t waste time fighting flexibility, but rather invest time in creating flexible work solutions that fit their business environment.  Redefine success for the business and each job.  Not every job can have the same flexibility.  To assure fair treatment to employees, all employees doing the same job should have the opportunity for the same flexibility.  If there is a requirement to limit flexibility to only some employees in the same job, establish clear guidelines based on non-discriminatory criteria.

Being flexible, doesn’t mean giving up anything, it may mean actually getting more.  In fact, flexibility could be your new definition of success.

Employee Recognition- Not Just A Feel Good, But An Effective Business Tool

Most small to mid-sized businesses make the mistake of not implementing a well thought out employee recognition program. Managers think it’s just a “touchy feely” HR type thing and fail to recognize the high impact a well run recognition program can have.

Employees need to be noticed and told they are important contributors to the company’s success. Having a statement on your web site that says your employees are your most important asset is not enough. Business managers need to put their time and some small part of their resources toward recognizing those employees that stand above the crowd and should be held up as role models.

A recognition plan does not have to be complicated or time consuming but it should have two major components tailored to the culture, pace and general nature of your company. Those components are simply a short term/immediate way to recognize a particular employee, team action or behavior that merits recognition and a longer term more significant recognition that holds an employee up as an example of the vision or culture you are trying to embody in the company.

The short term recognition programs should be something that stands out as special, particularly noteworthy, innovative or above and beyond what you would expect. The award should be inexpensive, easy to administer, and recognizable to others. Things such as a badge, hat, certificate, etc. will due. Some companies couple the recognition icon with a small gift card or other minor monetary award. The point of this quick and easy recognition is to, “catch someone doing something right” and say a public thank you.

The longer-term recognition programs can be quarterly, semiannual or annual in nature. It should have specific guidelines that allow employees to be nominated for consistent, extraordinary behavior that exemplifies what you want your company to represent to customers, vendors, peers or all of the above. The award itself should be noteworthy. A dinner, trip, special in house recognition or other such awards are a few award examples. The award icon should be relatively permanent (plaque, trophy, picture) and should be something that all employees would seek.

Don’t neglect this important part of your day-to-day people management responsibility. Taking the time to say “thanks” and “well done” to your best employees will pay dividends across your entire organization.

FEEDBACK – If You Say It, Own It!

I recently came across a feedback tool called Unvarnished and a related blog written by Tim Gould. Tim, your perspective is spot on. I couldn’t help but offer a few comments of my own.

A place where people can make comments about others and not take accountability or responsibility for what they write or say is RIDICULOUS. I am not sure why anyone would spend the time or money on something that will just end up being a cesspool of personal opinion and personal attacks. That is not productive for any business and could be very distracting. It is LOADED with HR nightmares. I don’t mean HR inconveniences; I mean very real nightmares that could result in serious defamation and misconduct issues – just based on allegations because someone is ticked off.

It is more worthwhile spending time and money coaching/teaching managers and employees to give and receive feedback. In general, I am not a fan of any completely anonymous 360 feedback tools. In order to fully understand the feedback, you need to know who (at some level) provided the comments and from what context they are providing the information. For example, do you really think an employee who was just disciplined by the manager for significant job performance issues will have anything good to say? However, if negative feedback came from an employee who is an outstanding performer, it could have significant impact. There are many criteria that can influence (and should influence) the way feedback is received and eliminating the context of who is providing it diminishes its meaning and impact.

If you really have constructive feedback (employees or managers), there are always various ways to provide that feedback. As an employee, if you don’t feel like anyone in the company will listen without reprisal, then you should really consider finding a new company. If you are a manager and do not feel comfortable giving feedback to employees, you should seek coaching from your manager or HR. If this is something that you just can’t do, then you should not be a manager.

One thing is for sure, IF YOU SAY IT, OWN IT! Don’t hide behind anonymity.