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14 Posts authored by: Inc.

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Keeping good employees helps your bottom line. You’ll pay less for training and recruitment. And long-term employees have higher productivity rates. You’ll also be able to keep the most talented employees rather than losing them to your competitors.


People keep their jobs when they’re happy with their work environment. Offering a competitive salary and benefits package is the first step.  But how do you keep your employees happy without breaking your budget?


Here are some easy — and FREE — ways you can reduce employee turnover:

  1. Hire the right employees – In addition to being qualified for a position, new hires should have a personality that will mesh well with his or her coworkers.
  2. Be flexible – While structure is good, you should be understanding of your employee’s personal needs. Give your hourly employees more freedom to schedule their own hours. Or, if possible, allow employees with a long commute to occasionally work from home.
  3. Give praise – It’s easy to only give special attention to others when they do something wrong. But remember to focus on the good, too. Send a simple email or card when someone is doing a good job. It will go a long way.
  4. Set clear goals for career paths – Your employees want to know they have the opportunity to advance in your company. Be straightforward, and let them know exactly what steps to take toward a higher position. And, as always, keep your promises.
  5. Get to know your employees – People enjoy work more when they feel a personal connection to their coworkers and managers. Ask your employees about their lives. Playing a monthly “get to know you” game is a great way to break the ice.




Learn more about Aetna insurance solutions


The Wall Street Journal. Apr. 7, 2009. How to Reduce Employee Turnover. Available at: Accessed May 6, 2014.
The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. N.D. Increase retention and reduce turnover. Available at: Accessed May 6, 2014.

Aetna is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Aetna group of subsidiary companies, including Aetna Life Insurance Company and its affiliates (Aetna).


©2014 Aetna Inc.

by Suzanne Lucas


A bachelor's degree is now required for jobs that used to be held by high school grads. Could this actually hurt your business?

There's an idea that the person with a degree is "better" than a person without one. Indeed, The New York Times recently reported on the relatively new phenomenon of companies hiring people with college degrees for jobs that historically didn't require college degrees. Are you doing this in your business?


If so, I have to ask, better for what? Yes, having a four year degree does show a degree of dedication. You have to pick a major, take class after class, write paper after paper and work on dreaded group projects. (Which, in my humble opinion, should be banished off the face of the educational earth unless the professor is willing to act as a proper manager, which most are not.) But, anyway, in theory you learn some things and you demonstrate that you have stick-to-itiveness. This is worth something.


But what? You also have to assume that no one enrolled in college, shelled out fantastic amounts of tuition and studied for hours to memorize the philosophies of 40 different dead people with ambitions of becoming an administrative assistant. No, they had other goals.


So, why are you looking for an administrative assistant among college graduates? This is a challenging role that is best filled by someone who wants that role. That is, someone who is not just biding time while waiting for an analyst spot to open up, or who is trying to earn money before gong to law school. What you want is an expert administrative assistant (who are hard to come by, by the way, which may explain why people are settling--yes settling--for degree holders to do the job).


Now, part of the problem is that hiring managers feel that students with high school diplomas are not as educated as they should be and, are not capable of performing these jobs. They need the maturity and extra knowledge that a four year degree brings. Which means that jobs that used to be reserved for the holder of a bachelor's degree are now given to those with a master's degree. So, in order to get the good job, you now have to shell out more money and spend more time in school.


Are you really getting higher quality employees this way? Or just more educated ones? Is your turnover at an acceptable level, or are you losing people quickly when they land something more in line with why they went to college in the first place? Granted, if you run an accounting firm and need people with CPA certifications, you need to find someone who has the degree and has passed the exam. If you need an engineer, it's likely you won't find someone who can do the work without the degree. (But you might!)


It's very easy to add a degree requirement to a job description, but stop and ask yourself it it's really necessary. And if it is, what degree is necessary? A bachelor's in a specific subject? Or are you only looking for someone who has completed a program--anything from a degree in animal husbandry to zoology will be fine? Does the work require someone with a master's degree? Why? What additional skills did this person gain in this second degree that will help your business?


You should always look to hire the best person for the job. And that may not always mean the person with the most letters after his name. It means hiring the person who is most likely to excel in that job. If possible, you want to hire someone who would be better at that job than you would, yourself. That's why you're hiring someone and not just taking the tasks on yourself.


So when you write that job description, think about the skills needed. Don't give into the trap of only hiring people with certain degrees. It takes longer, of course, to find the best person and not just the person that some university has stamped as acceptable. And, I'm certainly not advising you to not hire people with degrees. Just that you hire the right person, not the right degree.


Article provided by ©Inc.

by Eric V. Holtzclaw

Pay bonuses based on your company's overall financial success, and get your employees pulling in the same direction.


As a business owner or manager, one of the most difficult things to oversee is compensation and expectations at employee review time.


Initially we at User Insight did the same thing most companies do: a review after an employee's first six months, with annual reviews every year after that. Along with the review usually came some type of bump in an employees' base pay. But as a consultancy, we have the added complexity of ebbs and flows in the amount of work we are servicing. Inevitably, employee review times would be fall during the slowest periods of the year.


This caused several issues. As a business owner, it's difficult to increase overhead at times when business is slow. Even if you know you're just in the down part of a regular business cycle, it still makes your judgment more conservative. So, we found once a raise was in place, business would inevitably heat up, and an employee wouldn't experience a financial impact that was in sync with his harder-working performance. He didn't directly feel a reward for his work. In fact, I often heard groans when we signed a big round of new business.


To resolve these problems, we sought to tie a large portion of our employees' compensation to the performance of the company. Our operations manager at the time, Rachel Walsh, proposed how it would work.


Here's how:


1. We now conduct quarterly reviews.


2. As a company, we set a revenue target each quarter.


3. We take part of the money we had budgeted for raises and instead pay it out on a quarterly basis tied to company performance.


4. Each employee is given a goal that is a percentage (about 10%) of his or her salary.


5. As the company achieves the quarterly goal, each employee can achieve the equal percentage of his or her individual target.


6. We allow the achievable percentage to rotate above 100% if the company outperforms expectations for a given quarter.


Though these tactics were hard to adjust to at first–not having a known dollar "number" was frightening–we put the program in place. And it has been very successful. Conversations about compensation are now rare at User Insight, and only when an employee takes on a substantial new level of responsibility.


We've had times when bonuses have been paid out at more than 150% of expectation, but that worked because the company was doing well and employees had stepped up to deliver the work that was needed. Likewise, when the company is not mapping to goal, we save money on overhead.


The quarterly reviews have also been very helpful. The results allow us to look at the organization overall on a more frequent basis, determine what's going well, and discover ways to improve. We have a better understanding of how we're doing as a company. We regularly release the percentage of revenue target we have achieved, so employees know right away if we are ahead or behind.


The best thing that changed: Now everyone cheers when we sign a new deal.


Article provided by ©Inc.

by Steve Cody

Let's face it: A healthy company is a productive company. And mine needed a boost. Here's how I created a friendly competition to get everyone thinking about fitness.


I'm one of those entrepreneurs who subscribes to a work-hard-play-hard ethos.


I push myself, and my firm, to relentlessly pursue strategy, creativity and innovation. But, I also know how critical it is to maintain a balanced life.

So, in addition to the usual sorts of physical fitness pursuits such as running and cycling, I do Kangoo, practice boxing, and climb mountains.


Each of these physical activities challenges me in new and unique ways, and leaves me refreshed, recharged, and reinvigorated. I think achieving that clear-headed state leaves me in a better, healthier place. And that helps me accomplish all I need to in running my company.


I must admit, though, that I'd become increasingly worried by the unbalanced lives among many of my 100-or-so co-workers. Sure, there were a few who made my fitness regimen seem like a stroll in the park, but there were many more whose dietary habits and sedentary ways looked like they could use some,


Knowing how important corporate wellness is to productivity and bottom-line success, I'd suggested several options over the years, but none took hold.


That was, until I began boxing with Eric Daniels.


The Inspiration Behind a Wellness Program

Eric told me about his six-week wellness program for companies like mine. It combines nutritional counseling, personal exercise instruction, and group workouts. It was the latter feature that got my attention.


Peppercomm employees are incredibly team-focused and do a lot of bonding outside the confines of the office (so, I knew they were already hard-wired to do things in packs). Secondly, I'd just read an article in about the benefits of group exercise. In the piece, Lynne Vaughn, chief innovation officer of the national YMCA, said, "Working out in a group provides support, accountability and structure. People don't want to let their buddy or group down, which is terrific in terms of adherence to an exercise routine."


I felt she was describing my firm's work culture. And, that's when I decided to introduce Peppercomm to Eric Daniels.


Creating a Tailored Plan

I spoke to Eric, and arranged for him to meet with Elysa Torres, our human resources manager and Sara Jane Whitman Ramos, our chief culture czar. Together, they formulated a six-week program specifically tailored to our business (i.e. our people don't work a traditional 9-to-5 workday and they travel a great deal).


Now all we needed were the participants.


I sent an agency-wide e-mail telling our troops I'd cover 50 percent of the $200 per-person program cost for the first four people to volunteer. That did the trick. Soon enough, we had eight employees enrolled in the program.


Their competitive juices immediately kicked in and the "great eight" formed two teams of four employees each. The goal: to see which team could adhere to a new diet and exercise regimen that Eric would design for them, shed the most combined weight, and trim the most inches off their bodies by the end of the six-week period.


The Real Results

I'll let our employees tell you about the results:


Nicole Hall said that she is now "…more aware of the need to increase my activity level and watch what I eat."


Maggie O'Neill said the group dynamic was key to her success. "The group workouts were a great motivator," she said. "They got me out of the office and into the gym on days I ordinarily wouldn't have. Plus, I think the eight of us really bonded over our common goal."


Mari Abe said she was excited to have the opportunity to learn from a personal trainer. "I'd never even considered a personal trainer before because it's so expensive. So, the opportunity to have both individual attention and workout with my peers was huge. I've learned so much about my diet and exercise needs as a result."


The initial group has become our best brand ambassadors for a fitter and healthier Peppercomm. We've already announced a second, six-week program with Eric and are setting up the teams.


Wellness & Your Bottom Line

The bottom line here is the bottom line. As a result of what Daniels calls The Corporate Wellness Challenge, employees can afford a personal trainer and learn how to begin living a healthier life. At the same time, the organization's health improves thanks to reduced stress, increased productivity, and better morale. We're the better for it, and we're not going back!

Article provided by ©Inc.

by Vanessa Merit Nornberg

When it comes to sourcing the right interview candidates, I've never been keen to use recruiters. But I recently changed my mind.


Recruiter_Body.jpgMy company, Metal Mafia, has an excellent candidate screening process, a super training program, and a very successful team of employees to show for it.


But hiring has always been a difficult task for me because each time I get ready to hire, it takes me forever to find the right type of candidates to even get the screening process started.


Despite the fact that I carefully consider where to advertise for candidates--I try to maximize the search dollars and get a good mix of potential applicants--it always takes me a long time to find people suited well to the company, and therefore, even worth interviewing.


I've tried everything from placing ads on large job boards like, to smaller specialized job boards that cater to sales hires or fashion jobs, to local university boards where I can post for free (or close to it). Each time, I experience the same slow crawl toward finally finding the right person. It has taken me up to five months to find the right kind of hire in the past. So in November when I decided I needed to think about hiring for the new year, I was not optimistic.


Recruiter_PQ.jpgFor me, recruiters have traditionally been out of the question because I figured they would be a waste of time and never be as good at sending me the right people for the job as I would be in reviewing resumes myself. They're also too expensive for my small budget. But as I got ready to place my job ads again, one of my senior staff members came to me and offered me the name of a fashion recruiter she knew and thought could help. I was skeptical, but I called her anyway, figuring listening would cost me nothing.


The recruiter convinced me she would do a thorough job, but I still hesitated because of the price. I do not have large sums of money to devote to the hiring process, and by my calculations, when all was said and done, using the recruiter was going to cost me three times as much as my usual techniques. On the other hand, the recruiter would only charge me if she found someone I decided to hire, which meant I was risking nothing, and could always come back to my original methods. I bit the bullet and signed up, reminding myself "nothing ventured, nothing gained."


The recruiter sent me the resumes of 10 entry-level candidates. I screened six by phone, met three in person, and found the right hire--all in a month. The cost suddenly became much less, because I saved so much time in the process, and because I got a pool of applicants who were decidedly better to choose from than in the past. Even more interesting, perhaps, was an insight the right candidate shared with me during the interview process. When I asked why she had chosen to work with a recruiter rather than post on job boards, she said "because recruiters make sure your resume gets seen, while submitting via the Internet is like sending your resume into oblivion."


If most people these days are thinking like my new hire, the recruiters will clearly have the best selection of candidates every time. Looks like I've got an essential new hiring strategy.


Article provided by ©Inc.

by Samuel Wagreich


A new survey reveals the best oddball questions that your interviewee has never heard before.


A good interview question can give you insight into a potential hire's critical thinking process, communication skills, and ability to think and execute on their feet.


But with the the amount of prep they do these days, there's a good chance that your candidate has probably already heard just about every question you're about to ask them during their job interview. recently compiled a list of the top 25 oddball questions that big businesses, including Amazon and Trader Joes, ask during their hiring interviews.


Here are 10 that will put your interviewee on their toes and hopefully give you a chance to see if they can think outside the box.


1. "If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?"  Asked at Forrester.

2. "What song best describes your work ethic?" Asked at Dell.

3. "Jess Bezos [or, our CEO] walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea.  What is it?"  Asked at Amazon.

4. "Name 3 previous Nobel Prize Winners."  Asked at benefitsCONNECT.

5. "If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?" Asked at Trader Joe's.

6. "My wife and I are going on vacation, where would you recommend?" Asked at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

7. "Calculate the angle of two clock pointer when the time is 11:50." Asked at Bank of America.

8. "Have you ever stolen a pen from work?" Asked at Jiffy Software.

9. "If you had turned your cell phone to silent, and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me?" Asked at Kimberly-Clark.

10. "On a scale from one to ten, rate me as an interviewer." Asked at Kraft Foods.

Article provided by ©Inc.

by Paul Spiegelman

Stay off any lists of the worst companies to work for. Here's how.


Most of us are focused on learning and improving as leaders.  Whether we've been at it for a year or 20, it is good to get some validation along the way.  While that typically comes in the form of revenue or profit growth, we often look to other measures, like making certain rankings, or pride-generating awards.


But there's one list you don't want to wind up on: America's Worst Companies to Work For. These bad companies to work for have several things in common. According to 24/7′s research, which centered on an examination of employee reviews on the job site, these companies generally rank poorly in customer satisfaction surveys, they don't offer training or development, and their employees complain about low pay as well as a lack of a promotional track or raises. In some cases, customers even complain about employee mistreatment.


The simple reminder here is that happy employees create happy customers and that is reflected in the perception of your business internally and externally.


Here's my five simple "Ps" to generate employee happiness and stay off of any worst-companies-to-work-for lists:


1. Purpose

Employees must have a sense of purpose that is bigger than the job they're doing.  If they're just clocking in and out for the paycheck, you're losing a huge opportunity.  Create a set of core values they can trust and believe in.


2. Pay

You've got to pay your people competitive rates.  You don't have to be the highest in the market, but paying below market or having substandard benefits shows that you care more about your bottom line than your employees.


3. Prepare

Most every one of your employees wants to grow and develop.  You have to find a way to train and give them a path toward advancement.


4. Promote

Titles are cheap.  And, in many cases, new titles, roles, and responsibilities can have greater impact than a bump in salary.  They make your employees feel good about themselves and their place in the organization.


5. Phun

Have a good time!  Find ways to connect family and the workplace--it works wonders--and you'll have a simple, cheap way to strengthen an internal community.


No one wants to make a Worst Places to Work list.  It is much more enjoyable (and profitable) to make a Best Places To Work list--and have people knocking down your doors to come work for you.

Article provided by ©Inc.

by Geil Browning

Genuine appreciation goes a long way. Here's a guide to get the most out of a brief note, no matter who you're thanking.


The other day I was given the challenge to recognize 30 people by writing each one of them a note, which got me thinking about the amazing implications of recognizing employee's contributions. It shows you are paying attention. It shows you care. It makes people feel valued. And as business guru Tom Peters notes, "People don't forget kindness."


The analytical readers among you are already thinking this article is entirely too touchy-feely, so let me add that there is also a self-serving aspect of thanking people. When you recognize the contributions of others, you reinforce the kind of behavior you want to see again. People who feel their efforts are noticed, and their work makes a difference, are more likely to go the extra mile in the future. Leadership is about empowering others to realize their own abilities. Communicate your belief in your people, and watch them rise to meet your expectations.


Some of you are now thinking, 'How am I supposed to find the time to write personal notes when I have [insert important obligations]?' Well, I can show you how to thank someone appropriately in eight words or fewer. You can do that. Also, you don't want to be that boss who has her assistant order flowers once a year on each employee's birthday. Save your money. Everybody knows someone else did it for you.


When you thank your employees, be prompt. Recognize the kind of effort you want to see again soon. And be spontaneous. Don't wait for a holiday or company-wide event to thank your employees. Of course, be specific, too.


Our research at Emergenetics indicates that most employees would enjoy a personal thank-you note, but they want it customized to them. For example, to say, 'You're doing a good job,' is fine for a "social" thinker, but a "structural" thinker doesn't trust you unless you add a specific task he has accomplished.


So how can you most effectively thank and recognize your employees, based on their individual personalities and traits?


Here are 10 tips, according to brain research:


1. People who are at the gregarious end of the "expressiveness" spectrum use their gift of gab as a work asset. You might write to them: 'I celebrate how you share your enthusiasm,' or 'Thanks for keeping the lines of communication open.'


2. People who are on the quieter end of the "expressiveness" spectrum appreciate one-on-one contact with you. You could say: 'Mary, I prize your well-considered solutions,' or 'I appreciate your respectful attitude toward everyone.'


3. Those employees who are forceful in terms of "assertiveness" especially appreciate the prompt response from you. You could let them know: 'Thank you for keeping the momentum going!' or 'I appreciate your decisive action.'


4. But those who are more easygoing when it comes to "assertiveness" want everyone to get along. You might say: 'Thank you for helping to keep the peace,' or, 'I appreciate your amiability more than you know.'


5. When it comes to "flexibility," staffers who are change-seekers don't get flustered easily. You might write: 'I recognize your easy resilience' or 'Thanks for how you handled [difficult client].'


6. On the other end of the "flexibility" spectrum is people who are focused and have strong opinions. You might jot down: 'I depend on your support,' or 'I honor you for your convictions.'


7. Analytical thinkers value intelligence and individual, rather than team, recognition. To them, you might note: 'I appreciate your penetrating questions,' or 'I respect the depth of your knowledge.'


8. Structural-minded folks want to hear details. You could let them know: 'Thank you for transferring all that data perfectly,' or 'You always meet your deadlines--impressive!'


9. Since social thinkers want to please you, you ought to write them: 'I am so grateful for your teambuilding skills,' or, 'I couldn't have done it without you.'


10. Those on your team who are conceptual by nature want to feel unique. You could let them know: 'Your solution to the XYZ problem was stunning,' or 'I treasure your creative long-term views.'


The power of sincere thanks cannot be overestimated. And when you become a master of employee recognition, you can start thanking your clients, too!

Article provided by ©Inc.

by Jeff Haden

You ask a ton of questions. Your process is exhaustive -- and exhausting. And that might be your problem.


When you're hiring a new employee, focusing on evaluating the “total candidate” is the last thing you should do.




Think about your hiring process. You work hard to find and select the right candidate. Not only do you evaluate skills and experience, you ask a lot of questions to determine if the candidate possesses qualities like attention to detail, interpersonal skills, leadership ability, problem-solving skills, etc.


Your process is exhaustive and, well, exhausting.


Still, while many of the people you hire turn out to be good employees, sadly few of them turn out to be what you really need: great employees.

Why? You took the job description approach to hiring.


Think about most job descriptions. They list a wide variety of qualifications the employee should possess. Typically, attributes like “self motivated,” “able to work with minimal supervision,” “able to prioritize and handle multiple tasks,” and “able to work well alone or as a member of a team,” are included.


So what do you do? You evaluate candidates with those requirements in mind. The candidate that ticks the most boxes is usually selected—and you hire good when you need great.


Now think about the great employees you know. Some are well rounded, some are not, but all have at least at least one incredible skill. They do at least one thing, one critical thing, so well that people are willing—even happy—to overlook some of their deficiencies. They may not “take a collaborative approach to problem solving,” but boy do they make your fulfillment facility sing.


In short, a great employee has what you really need. All other attributes on the job description, while important, still pale in comparison.

Next time you hire an employee, set the job description aside and take this approach instead.


1. Determine what you really need. Forget about finding a “well-rounded employee” (whatever that is). If you could only pick one or two attributes, what are the most important skills or qualities you need?


Keep in mind those attributes will often change depending on your current needs and the skills your other employees possess. Ignore the job description. Get a blank piece of paper and write down what you really need the employee you hire to do.


2. Decide what you really don’t need. When you’re ticking off boxes on a list of qualifications it’s easy to forget that you simply can’t live with some attributes, regardless of how solid the candidate otherwise appears. Complete this sentence about a theoretical employee: "I don't care how great she is, I would still let her go because she ________." Those are your no-go attributes. Never lose sight of them.


3. Do a first pass. Set aside any candidate that doesn’t have what you really need. Don’t be tempted by the, “Wow, she really has a wide range of skills,” candidate. If she doesn’t bring the one or two attributes you really need, she’ll be a good employee, but she’s not likely to be great.


4. Conduct highly focused interviews. Spend 10 percent of your time assessing general qualities and 90 percent of your time ensuring the candidate truly has what you need. Dig in. Ask for examples. Ask lots of follow-up questions. Write everything down.


Then check references and use your notes to help you ask specific questions. Sure, some companies won’t provide any information, but many—especially small businesses—will. (Many will say they are not allowed to give out information about previous employees. When that happens, say, “I understand. I’m just really worried I might a mistake. Can you just say, if you were me, whether you would hire him?” You'll be surprised by how many people will want to help you out with a whispered "yes" or "no.")


Then, if two or three candidates are still in the hunt...


5. Assess the “total employee.” If a few candidates appear relatively equal in terms of what you really need, then decide which one best meets your other, more subjective criteria. Conduct a second interview if necessary. Or let other employees interview the remaining candidates.


At this point you can afford to evaluate “nice to have” qualities because you’ve done everything possible to identify candidates that have the attributes you truly need.


Article provided by © Inc.


Confused About 401(k) Plan Fees?

Posted by Inc. Nov 19, 2012

You're not the only one. A new study reveals that a majority of small business owners do not understand the costs of 401(k) retirement plans.


by Kathleen Kim


The bulk of small business owners have trouble evaluating the fees tied to 401(k) retirement plans, reveals a new study.


A majority of the 500 owners surveyed by ShareBuilder 401k, which sells online retirement plans to small businesses, said they were confused about the costs of their 401(k)plans. Eighty-three percent had questions about all the associated fees they and their employees pay for them.


Additionally, 45% of owners deemed 4% a reasonable 401(k) plan fee rate, a Reuters article states. But according to a 2011 study by Deloitte Consulting and Investment Company Institute, the average fees paid by small businesses with less than $1 million in assets ranges from just .99% to 1.83%.


In an effort to help workers fully grasp their 401(k) plan fees, a ruling by the U.S. Department of Labor now requires employers to provide documentation of the fees their employees are charged.


But ShareBuilder 401k's study notes that while 92% of small business owners claimed to be aware of the new rules, only 60% recalled receiving those explanatory documents. Sixty-eight percent admitted they were not prepared to answer questions from employees about the plans.


"Our survey results suggest many small business owners are still in the dark when it comes to their 401(k) plans and costs, demonstrating our industry has more work to do in disclosing fees transparently and in ways that are easy to understand," said ShareBuilder 401k's president Stuart Robertson.

Article provided by © Inc.

by Jeff Haden


The more questions you ask, the more you learn about a job candidate, right? Wrong. Here's a better strategy.


Eventually, almost every interview turns into a question-and-answer session. You ask a question. The candidate answers as you check a mental tick-box (good answer? bad answer?).


You quickly go to the next question and the next question and the next question, because you only have so much time and there's a lot of ground to cover because you want to evaluate the candidate thoroughly. The more questions you ask, the more you will learn about the candidate.


Or not.


Sometimes, instead of asking questions, the best interviewing technique is to listen slowly.

In Change-Friendly Leadership, management coach Rodger Dean Duncan describes how he learned about listening slowly from PBS NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer:


Duncan: He urged me to ask a good question, listen attentively to the answer, and then count silently to five before asking another question. At first that suggestion seemed silly. I argued that five seconds would seem like an eternity to wait after someone responds to a question. Then it occurred to me: Of course it would seem like an eternity, because our natural tendency is to fill a void with sound, usually that of our own voice.


Lehrer: If you resist the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer, you'll discover something almost magical. The other person will either expand on what he's already said or he'll go in a different direction. Either way, he's expanding his response, and you get a clear view into his head and heart.


Duncan: Giving other people sufficient psychological breathing room seemed to work wonders. When I bridled my natural impatience to get on with it, they seemed more willing to disclose, explore, and even be a bit vulnerable. When I treated the interview more as a conversation with a purpose than as a sterile interrogation, the tone of the exchange softened. It was now just two people talking...



Listening slowly can turn a Q&A session into more of a conversation. Try listening slowly in your next interviews. (Not after every question, of course: Pausing for five seconds after a strictly factual answer will leave you both feeling really awkward.)


Just pick a few questions that give candidates room for self-analysis or introspection, and after the initial answer, pause. They'll fill the space: with an additional example, a more detailed explanation, a completely different perspective on the question.


Once you give candidates a silent hole to fill, they'll fill it, often in unexpected and surprising ways. A shy candidate may fill the silence by sharing positive information she wouldn't have otherwise shared. A candidate who came prepared with "perfect" answers to typical interview questions may fill the silence with not-so-positive information he never intended to disclose.


And all candidates will open up and speak more freely when they realize you're not just asking questions--you're listening.

Article provided by © Inc.

by Marla Tabaka


Letting go of an employee is one of the hardest things a manager can do. But there's no use making excuses.


You know it's time to do something about that employee whose performance is consistently lacking. But, well, dealing with it feels like more trouble than it's worth.


If this sounds familiar, I have a challenge for you. Keep track of the time you spend resolving issues, correcting mistakes, and soothing the frazzled nerves of your other employees, all stemming from one underperformer. This exercise will open your eyes to the reality--it's time to pull out the chopping block.


But more often than not, small-business owners don't want to upset the apple cart. They will endure incredible amounts of frustration and hassle instead of retraining or replacing a problem employee. Of course, this simply creates more problems, because poor performance and negative attitude reach to the core of your company. It affects profit, damages reputation, and takes you and your key performers away from critical goals. It also sends a negative message to your stronger employees; superstars resent having to pick up the slack. They may even see you as weak because you haven't taken steps to change the situation.


Imagine going through an entire week without having to compensate for someone else's poor performance. And how would it feel to no longer risk conversations between this unhappy employee and a customer or prospect? Remember, bad attitude extends beyond your four walls; it reflects on your brand.


Have you been dragging your feet for too long? Alright then, stop making excuses! If any of these common excuses sound familiar, it's time for a reality check.

Excuse No. 1
I don't have the time to train a replacement.

Reality check
This belief usually stems from lack of systems and documentation. With job responsibilities outlined and step-by-step instructions in place, training becomes less time consuming and more foolproof. It also takes your business one step closer to being a turnkey operation, which adds value to your company. Have all employees create documentation as they work so you can put together an operations manual. Training will be 10 times easier, and errors and misunderstandings will decrease.

Excuse No. 2

I don't know how to find the right person.

Reality check
Your confidence will rise once you have a solid job description and documentation in place. When you understand exactly what skills and qualities are needed for the job, it makes the search less overwhelming. Word of mouth is a powerful ally. Other entrepreneurs, business groups, church communities, social media groups, friends, and neighbors are all great resources. If these don't pan out and time is short, you can even hire a consultant to locate and interview candidates for you.

Excuse No. 3
She's been with me since the beginning. I just can't let her go.

Reality check
A start-up operation often includes the next-door neighbor, a friend or family member, and some faces that you simply become accustomed to. The operation grows, and maybe that friend doesn't, the problem becoming more apparent with each passing year. How can you deal? Simple: You must separate business from your personal feelings. Most often your friend-employee is ready to move on and wants to spare your feelings as well. Open these lines of communications; you may be surprised at what you find.

Excuse No. 4
He may cause legal problems if I fire him.

Reality check
If you're not familiar with state law regarding firing employees, you should be. This is the perfect time to contact your attorney or accountant and learn the facts. When you follow the guidelines, you minimize the risk. Knowledge is more powerful than fear.

Excuse No. 5
She might take clients or confidential information with her and create competition.

Reality check
There are many opinions out there about the effectiveness of non-compete and nondisclosure agreements, but if intellectual property and client lists are involved, every employee needs to sign these documents. Most individuals don't want to risk a lawsuit when they leave a company, so they won't set up direct competition. And if you don't trust your employees, the very foundation of your business is weak. It's time for a change.



Article provided by ©Inc.

At some point in the life-cycle of any business, the owner needs to consider a change in leadership. To that end, it often makes sense to tap someone already in the company—an employee senior enough and familiar with operations to take the reins so that there is a smooth transition with little disruption. Even before that transition, having a healthy pipeline of talented employees who are leadership-ready can give your firm a distinct competitive advantage.

One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when it comes to leadership development is to assume that someone who has made his or her numbers is automatically a high-performer and has the functional and technical depth to be a leader in the company. That’s often not the case, says Lisa Crawford, founder of The Crawford Group, a San Diego, California leadership consulting firm. She likens the search for internal talent to finding diamonds in the rough—you may have to dig a few layers down in the organization, and apply some techniques to shape and polish these future leaders.


While there are many assessment tools and programs on the market today, fast-growing companies may not have formal mechanisms for identifying and developing leaders, says Kelly Botto, a partner in Camden Consulting Group, a leadership development consultancy in Boston, Massachusetts. In such cases, finding high-potential candidates could be as simple as gathering company leadership with the goal of discussing performance and potential. In addition to identifying candidates that may be somewhat obvious, it’s also quite possible that other company leaders are unaware of other employees exhibiting potential. These are candidates for leadership development, as well, possibly filling new roles or being developed for promotions within the company.

As potential leaders are identified, there are a number of proven strategies that companies can incorporate to help bring them to the level of knowledge and experience they need to reach in order to take on more responsibility, says Crawford. When companies begin to use these tactics on a regular basis, the company’s leadership practices will be grounded in a solid base.

  • Shadowing. Employees are paired with someone more senior in a role that employee may someday fill, and the two spend time together as the more senior person fulfills his or her responsibilities. Botto says that, during shadowing sessions, the employee should be watchful, taking in the actions and decision-making of the supervisor, but should also feel free to ask questions when appropriate in order to better understand what is being done and why.
  • Mentoring. Mentoring programs aren’t just friendly once-a-month lunches, says Crawford. When creating a mentoring relationship, there should be goals. The high-potential candidate should be discussing projects, performance, and goals with the mentor and getting his or her feedback about improvement. And that feedback needs to be more than superficial praise.  “It has to be more specific than ‘attaboy’ or ‘attagirl’, she says. It has to be specifically about the behaviors and performance for it to be meaningful and part of the leadership development process,” says Crawford. 
  • On-the-job training. Some high-potentials are given tasks that stretch them beyond their current capabilities. Such on-the-job training requires access to more senior personnel for guidance and answers, as well as a method of check-in to be sure that appropriate progress is being made, says Botto. This is not a case of sink-or-swim, she says. Instead, leaders should be watching closely to see how the high-potential candidate reacts to a “stretch” task and how he or she works to complete it.
  • Continuous feedback. High-potential candidates going through leadership training are often subjected to continuous feedback, also called 360-degree feedback, from supervisors, peers, and direct reports, which helps them quickly understand the actions that need improvement and adjust accordingly. However, says Botto, those who have never been through a continuous feedback process before need to be prepared and supported.  “You can’t just do a 360 and not do anything else, otherwise, you’re just lobbing all of this feedback over the fence and the poor person doesn’t know what to do with it. It can be very dangerous and have the opposite effect, of disengaging the employee,” she says.


These powerful tools are an excellent foundation for an organization to begin building a full slate of leadership-ready employees. However, the most important factor in any organization’s leadership development program is senior management itself, says Crawford. These messages need to come from the top down in order for the company leaders to inspire their successors.

Article provided by ©Inc.

by Hilary Johnson


The idea of unionization can be a scary one for small-business owners, but those fears may be misplaced. Here are things to keep in mind.

The very idea of a union
could cause some small-business owners to shiver in their shoes. Such a reaction stems from the fear that a union's collective power may force higher wages, delay work in the case of a strike, and ultimately damage the bottom line.


Several small business organizations, in turn, are outspoken in their opposition of unions.


Union-PQ.pngThe National Federation of Independent Business, for example, opposes the stalled Employee Free Choice Act, or so-called 'Card-Check' Act in Congress, which would make it easier for employees to form unions by allowing them to simply show their employers that a majority of employees favor union representation. As it stands, an employer can insist on a secret ballot election.


To be sure, small businesses have less to fret about than they did in years past. Just 7.2 percent of private sector employees identified themselves as members of unions in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares with 9 percent in 2000, and healthy double-digit numbers 40 and 50 years ago.


However, some industries showed a slight uptick in union membership between 2008 and 2009, namely in nondurable good manufacturing, and management, administrative, and waste services. And small businesses can be a fertile ground for unionization, experts say, because they often provide a more collegial environment in which to get employees together.


Still, as a small-business owner you may never have to deal with a union, but here are some things to know and keep in mind should you ever face the prospect.

What You Should Know About Unions: The History

It's worth remembering that unions weren't formed just to be obstructionist. Many of the protections we all take for granted, and employers now willingly provide in the workplace, stem from the efforts of unions. Before workers banded together and demanded fair treatment and better working conditions, some employers shirked on important safeguards, and worked employees literally to death.


For example, 146 immigrant workers, mainly women, were killed in March 1911 at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City because they could not escape from the building, in part because owners had locked the firedoors.


The tragedy brought national attention to workplace safety and set in motion many important reforms, among them the 40-hour work week, restrictions on child labor, and unemployment insurance.


And, in 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act, which gives employees the right to unionize and governs how union workers interact with employers.


'You have to cast your mind back to remember why we needed unions, and what it was like for people back then,' says Philip Dray, author of 'There Is Power In A Union: The Epic Story of Labor In America.'


The fact that unions have lost some clout these days is more a product of poor marketing on their part, rather than evidence that they've outlived their usefulness, insists David R. Levinson, an employment law attorney in Washington, D.C.


'Frankly, it's gotten to the point where a lot of people don't understand what a union does. But they provide a valuable service, in giving employees legally enforceable rights, rather than employment at will,' he says. 'People like to have a say in their jobs, and unions are a very effective way of doing that.'

What You Should Know About Unions: The Law

Even if you're sure unionization is unlikely to occur within your small business, it's critical to know the governing law, so you won't misstep should your employees approach you about it.


The National Labor Relations Act, enforced by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), states that an employer can't interfere with the process of unionization once employees have begun it. That would be considered an unfair labor practice.


Other examples of unfair labor practices include threatening employees with firings or reduced benefits if they join or vote for a union, or participate in the process of forming or joining one. Employers also may not threaten to close the company if employees unionize.


Employers should be careful not to question employees about union support, or treat pro-union employees any differently.


If you start to hear scuttlebutt about a union, it's worth talking to your lawyer about what to do, and what not to do.


There are plenty of examples of employers who may have tried to prevent unionization, sometimes to their chagrin.


Consider Regis Corp., an operator of about 10,000 hair salons based in Minneapolis. In late October, the NLRB brought charges against the company, alleging that executives forced employees to sign pledges promising that they would not sign union cards in the future, threatening them with blacklisting if they did so.


The directive allegedly came not only from managers, but from the chief executive, who issued the warning through a DVD. A hearing on the case is pending.


Other parts of the National Labor Relations Act restrict unions, stating that they cannot force employees to take up the cause, and they may not discriminate against certain union members who are critical of the union, or those who refuse to join.


An employer has the right to ascertain that the union that is coming forward for recognition truly represents the employees, with a minimum interest of about 30 percent. Under current law, employers have the right to refuse to acknowledge a presentation of union cards, and to insist upon a secret ballot election, which is intended to ensure that no employee is coerced into joining the union.

What You Should Know About Unions: Contract Negotiations

If a small-business owner decides to recognize the union immediately or if the process of unionization moves along as a result of a secret ballot election, negotiations between management and employees must take place, so that a contract can be agreed upon.


By law, the negotiations must consider the terms and conditions of employment, including wages, benefits, and working conditions.


However, in part because unions are less powerful than they used to be today, union reps are now far more likely to work with management to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement when it comes to the details of working conditions, and what type of employee does what sort of work, for example.


'It's more and more common these days for unions to be flexible and willing to work with companies to create a better workplace,' said Richard Hurd, a professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University.


Also, remember that depending on the business you're in, the union you deal with may not be the behemoth you imagine, but a decentralized, small organization. And, there are many flavors of union negotiations and contracts; it doesn't have to always be adversarial, according to Eve Weinbaum, director and associate professor at The Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


'People talk about unions as if it's a monolithic entity, and it's really not true, all the more so if you're talking about small business,' Weinbaum says. 'There's a huge range. A contract can really mean whatever you and the employees want it to mean.'


Once a contract is in place, it usually has a term of about three to five years, but that term is up to negotiation, as well.


When renegotiations come around, they are a 'fairly standard process,' says Cornell's Hurd, 'with both sides reviewing what happened under the existing agreement, and looking for places where they might want to make changes.'


When there is a conflict or grievance, especially at a small business, the issue is usually handled rather informally, with discussions with the person who has the complaint, the union representative, and management.


Especially with small employers, management is 'likely going to have some personal interaction with the representative, to find a way to work things out,' Hurd says.

What You Should Know About Unions: The Trade-offs

If you, as a small-business owner, are approached by a union, large or small, recognizing it might not be the worst thing for your business. There are trade-offs – the cost of doing business may go up, but in addition to keeping employees happy, you may be able to appeal to a whole new target client: the broader union and union supporters.


Some small employers have found it's worth the trade-off in expense to know that employees are content and feel listened-to.


'When unions are formed, what is most likely to happen, is it reduces conflict in the workplace,' Weinbaum says.


Management may also find that the structure helps set in place clearer thinking about jobs and responsibilities.


A small-business owner 'may well become better at management,' Hurd says. 'It forces them to become more systematic. Unions can be a burden, but they can actually also encourage employers to be more careful abut how they organize work.'



Article provided by ©Inc.

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