Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One door closes, 15+ doors open up!

While it is certainly an old cliche, "Everything happens for a reason," is definitely a vague, yet true thought to keep in mind.  Does everything always work out for the better and therefore happen for a reason? I think it does - it just depends on your frame of mind.

I was recently engaged by a client to provide outplacement services for one of their ex-employee's.  She was actually a great employee -- she just didn't fit the future of the company anymore and they decided that in addition to the severance package they would also offer her support to help her in the next stage of her career.

Upon our first meeting, she was still very wounded by the decision.  She never dreamed that she would ever leave the company, never mind have them ask her to leave.  She was angry and upset and truly, underneath it all, she was embarrassed.  "I've never had to go seek a job before, they've all kind of landed in my lap."  I knew that feeling - that thought process of, "Where do I begin? How do I begin? What do I do now? How will survive?"  But simply put - it's EASY and you WILL survive.

First and foremost, dust off that resume!  If you don't have one, there are great templates on the web.  In my opinion, your resume should change with each job you're applying for - don't rely on a static resume.  The qualifications the company is looking for should match the qualifications you have right in the first paragraph of the resume (or in my case, first bullets on the resume).  That way, if a computer generated program is screening your resume, it will catch the key words with great success.  As well, make sure you keep formatting consistent through out your resume.  I have literally looked at a million resumes - the ones that jump out at me and allow for focus of more than 10 seconds are the ones that are pleasant to my eyes.  Also, explain the company and the business they did -- chances are, no one really knows who they are what they do.  This is important to explain because it gives even more insight into who you are and the experience you could have possibly gained, without necessarily writing every single detail down.

Second, use social media.  It is definitely becoming the newest way to get interviews.  LinkedIn is great because you can upload your resume, get recommendations from previous positions and stay in touch with business colleagues.  It's the adult version of facebook and way more credible.

Third, get a good understanding of who you are.  Take a Myers Briggs or Kiersey test.  The better you know yourself, the better you will be in an interview.  No matter what, you have to be confident in an interview (but be careful not to be cocky).  Sometimes getting let go from a position shakes your confidence.  But it needn't. It was obviously the time for you to go and find another great opportunity.  Remember, "Everything happens for a reason."

Finally - while there is a ton more advice I could give (and if you want more, be sure to send me an email), be prepared to put yourself out there.  Trust me, it's almost like falling in love.  You have to be vulnerable, take some risks for the best opportunities to come back at you.  And if you truly commit to this, you won't even need to knock at those doors, they'll just be open to you to walk on through.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Experience 21st Century Leadership September 13 to 19

There are literally thousands of courses available to attend when it comes to the area of leadership.  Some are great, some are okay and others leave people with the feeling, "I missed work for this!?!?"  That said, if you are attending or are sending your staff to attend one leadership course, I think Twenty First Century Leadership is THE course to attend -- and an opportunity for you to see a real return on those investment dollars!

Situated in the Seattle Area, on a bay with some of the most amazing sunsets, with an incredible couple facilitating everything from early AM to late PM -- this course brought me to my extreme core and helped me to get excited about my life again.  From building confidence, to public speaking, to learning to be accountable on all levels (including every day language) this course gave me a new beginning and something to really strive for -- and I'll bet it would do the same for you or your staff.

In my opinion, it is intense.  I've been to it twice, plus 2 follow-up workshops.  The material and the experiences did not differ immensely but what I learned from others in each course was invaluable.  I have a stronger understanding and purpose for my life which has helped me to become the strong leader I am today.

If you would like more information about the course, please contact me at michelleb@elevatedhr.com People from all walks of life have attended the course - from CEO's of multi-million dollar companies to students looking for a new direction.  I left inspired, motivated and excited to get going and I would love for anyone reading this blog be able to experience the same!


Friday, August 27, 2010

Absenteeism - how you deal with it is up to you!

Do you remember that girl in junior high who hated to participate in gym because she had everything from bad cramps, to sore legs, to a broken heart?  Unfortunately she AND he (his excuses were somewhat different of course) still exist in the job market.  The biggest problem - they can be really good at their job WHEN they actually show up...

Small business owners and managers of small departments struggle with a chronic absent employee the most.  Clients are affected, which means repeat business is affected which means the revenues are affected which means you're asking "Is there a reason why I'm keeping this employee? Is there a return on investment?"

Well as the quote says (somewhat paraphrased here),  "When you keep doing the same thing and expect different results -- that's the definition of insanity!"  My biggest advice in this case is "Deal with the behaviour immediately."  And when I say "deal with it", it's not just a chat and hoping for things to change.  The things you need to discuss very clearly are:
  • What is the behaviour you are currently seeing (you've been excessively absent - here are the dates)
  • How do you want the behavior to change (you can no longer be sick more than once per month and must provide a doctor's note when you are sick)
  • What are the consequences of the behavior not changing (termination)
And then the most important point - you as the manager or business owner have to follow through on the above.  It's like raising children - if they know they can push you, they will.  Why change if there is no consequence to the behaviour? Ask for the doctor's note and when they don't, write them up (a rule of thumb, is usually about 3 warning letters in a span of 6 months...this seems a bit unfair, but termination for cause is a tough thing to do!)

Finally, while a verbal discussion is good, get in the habit of documenting your conversations and providing formal warnings in writing.  This little piece of paper could definitely save you and your business down the road and will definitely support your case IF you have to go down the road of termination.

One other point - you can also try and reward those employees for good behaviour! For example, those that aren't absent in a 3 month span could be rewarded with "store bucks" and could use it to purchase something within the business.  I'm a fan of promoting good behaviour rather than always looking at the bad.  If it's motivating enough, employees may actually see a reason to change their own behaviour without having to be threatened of their job.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Investing in your employees? Ensure you have clawback measures in place!

Investing in your employees, specifically with external training, is a great way to motivate, engage and essentially retain your staff.  However, time and time again, I have ran into business owners who are frustrated. "I just spent $1,500 on a course for X and now they've handed in their two weeks notice and they are leaving!"

While sometimes it feels like you have no choice but to let them go, a smart business owner should always ensure they have some measures put in place that at least makes the employee "think" before they go and look for other opportunities.

For example, in most of the companies I have supported I have created a form that each employee signs off on before attending any type of training.  If the training is less than X dollars, they must stay for a minimum of 3 months.  As the cost of the training goes up, so must the time they stay.  If they choose to leave prior to the end of the term, they need to pay back the course in full (and I'm a hard-ass, I don't even pro-rate the amount...a deal is a deal in my books!)  And when they leave, I take it off their final pay (after taxes). 

Another idea is to give them an increase in salary after they have taken the course and have implemented the training for 3 months.  Now that you have provided them training, in essence their external worth IS indeed more.  I don't necessarily believe in giving a raise once training is done - but only after you've actually seen the results of the training.  There is nothing worse than to cram a bunch of stuff into an employee's head and then for them to think it's okay to not use it in the future. 

Just remember, you do have a choice as to how deal with investing in your employees.  I don't recommend saying yes to training just for the sake of training - make sure it's going to do what you need it to do and always ensure it's going to motivate, engage and retain the staff member.  Otherwise you're just making it that much easier for the competition.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Employment Agreements - Do you need them?

One day over dinner, a friend and I were talking about his business. 

He had 3 three employees and he happened to mention that he was having problems with one of them.  The employee had been there well over a year, and while performance wasn't awful it also wasn't something you could characterize as good (or even average for that matter).  The culture of his business was starting to be affected (the other two employees couldn't stand to be in the same room as him) and clients would often say the sales process was great, but the installation tech on the other hand didn't seem to have any manners.  The work itself was good -- but all those other things that make a business great just didn't match up.

My first question was, "Why are you keeping him?"  He said, he thought he had no other choice.  He was certain that he would go to court if he let him go.  I replied by saying, "Don't you have a termination clause in your employment agreement?" His response was, "Employment agreements?"  "Oh boy!" I thought.

Employment Agreements in general not only protect you and your company, they also lay out expectations, so both you and your employees operate from the same position.  In addition to that, if your employee will have access to sensitive information such as your customer lists or methods of operation, you should consider having a written employment agreement before you hire the employee.

The employment agreement usually addresses many legal issues important in the employer-employee relationship including:

  • Term of employment (is the employment for a fixed time period or is it for an indefinite time period?)
  • Amount of compensation (salary / pay) and any included benefits such as automobile, vacation or health plan
  • The duties, tasks and responsibilities expected of the employee
  • Right to terminate the employee for cause if certain events occur (eg. theft)
  • Right to terminate the employee without cause if certain events occur (eg. poor performance)
  • Confidentiality of information to prevent employee from disclosing to others any confidential information after the employment ends
  • Non-competition restrictions during and after employment with your company
  • Non-solicitation restrictions to prevent the employee from attempting to solicit your customers/clients and other employees
  • Clarification that the employer is the owner of the customer lists, contact information, customer records, business methods, copyrights, and patents (if any)
  • Details of any office procedures and policies
  • Any other issues specific to the employment situation
As long as your expectations are clear and well within the law, a termination would be possible (provided you give notice as per the contract).  In addition, this keeps any small business owner from being sued and they can move on to build the business they want to.

If you'd like more information on how to build employment agreements contact me at michelleb@elvatedhr.com


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How do I hire an HR Manager?

The other day I received an email from an old colleague of mine.  He was recently promoted and was now going to be in charge of hiring a new HR Manager for his team.  He saw the value in HR (to a degree...at least it would get his employees off his back...or so he thought), but felt he didn't have the skill set to hire an HR Manager on his own.  In the interview process he asked if I could give him a task for an HR Manager to perform and then test him or her on.

While this is a very good idea (ask people to perform in the interview so you can get a taste of their abilities in real time), for HR it doesn't quite work the same.  I explained that HR as opposed to Marketing isn't really task oriented - instead it's process oriented.  So in the interview process, I explained that you should ask them what their process would be for interviewing (in their ideal world) and/or performance management or ideas/recommendations they would have for communicating to staff.  That way you can see how they think, analyze whether or not their ideas would fit into your culture (and if not, could it enhance the current culture). 

One thing to always keep in mind when hiring an HR Manager - they need to show they are flexible.  I've yet to meet one person who is exactly like another.  And simply put - people aren't made from cookie cutters, so to use a one size fits all approach to any solution isn't smart.  The same goes with policies and procedure manuals - you need them to support you, but it doesn't mean you apply each policy to each person without carefully understanding the person and the situation first.

All companies need an HR Manager who will provide value.  If they can't think on their feet fast or be ready to adapt to any situation that flies their way, that's not the type of HR person you need.  They are there to support the people, but also the managers.  They have to carefully weigh the pros and the cons before choosing a direction.

So while HR managers are amongst the best interviewees out there, my main advice always is: before walking in to the interview, have an idea of what you want.  Then, carefully analyze whether their answer matches yours.  If it does - great - you two will probably work together well.  If it doesn't - did he/she convince you that maybe you need to get off of your position (because that's not always a bad thing either!) but if it's not the answer you want or looking for - move on to the next candidate.  HR has to fit you and support your company needs and desires...not the other way around!


Monday, August 23, 2010

Positive Reinforcement - Can you compensate for a lack of compensation?

Without fail, I have always managed to meet a line manager who felt he or she could not compete with other organizations because the organization we worked for paid too little.  And over the last 2 years, not being able to increase salary, not having bonuses, and in some cases, decreasing salaries meant managers felt even more pressure to try and keep staff engaged (it's not that they were leaving necessarily, but just because their body showed up did not mean their head or spirit was into it). 

That said, it doesn't matter if we are in a down economy or an inflated economy - salary is not the only thing that keeps an employee motivated or retained for that matter.

Positive reinforcement, a term often associated with the process of behavior modification, is quite honestly the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to ensure you keep your staff fully engaged.  It can be as simple as a verbal "Thank You - I like how you did X", to pointing out the individual in a team meeting, to an email that clearly outlines the behaviour you liked and how it made an impact, to a hand written note indicating same.  The trick - provide the reinforcement almost immediately after you see the behaviour you like occurs.  The chance of the behavior repeating itself is enhanced, the employee learns what you appreciate and in return, the employee stays engaged and continues to find new avenues of reinforcement.  It's all about being creative, being in the moment and following through with some positive actions of your own!  Salary can't compare to a positive environment!