July Business eNewsletter

Welcome to our July business eNewsletter focused on culture in the workplace.

Quote of the month:
“Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion. – Brian Chesky, Co-Founder, CEO, Airbnb

In this Issue…

Supporting Positive Company Culture as Your Small Business Grows
By Sonia, Hub Manager, Co-Ordinator and Facilitator of the Nexus Smart Hub

Company culture is an invaluable element of your business that can contribute to creating a positive working environment. However it’s not always easy to cultivate and manage. As for any type of business, boosting your culture can be a challenge when you’re a rapidly growing small business without the resources of a large enterprise. Yet paying attention to your business culture could enhance everything from productivity to customer satisfaction. So, what can you do to create stronger business culture as you scale up?

What’s company culture and why does it matter?

Experts define culture as a guide for discretionary behavior, helping employees make hundreds of decisions as part of their job where employee handbooks, specific policies, and direction don’t specify. It can also be understood as the personality of a company, helping define the work environment and encompassing things like the company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals. Types of culture can include team-based cultures, formal and more hierarchical cultures, and casual workplaces with fewer rules and regulations.

Culture can help with creating productive, enjoyable working environments, and it can also be used as a recruiting tool:

    • Productivity and creativity – Culture can boost creativity and productivity in employees by improving employee satisfaction, engagement, and relationships with colleagues.
  • Attract and retain – A positive company culture could help you attract and retain valuable customers. Awareness of your culture can also help you hire and keep staff who fit in with your business.
  • Growth and profitability – Culture could support growth and profitability by driving productivity and enthusiasm.

Strategies to drive positive culture in your small business

Entrepreneurs are aware of the vital role culture plays in an organization, and research suggests nearly 89% of small-business owners believe culture is an important contributor to business success. However, as little as one in three are satisfied with their current company culture. The good news for small businesses is you don’t need the budget or resources of a multinational to create a great organizational culture. So, as a small-business owner, what can you do to improve your business culture as you expand?

1. Hire employees who fit your culture

Hire with regard to attitude as well as aptitude. You might have a perfect candidate as far as skills and experience, but if the individual doesn’t fit into your organization’s culture and causes friction in the workplace, they can disrupt the productivity of other team members. Hiring qualified employees who have the right attitude and collegiality can be a significant driver of positive culture in your small business for the long term.

2. Reinforce culture through your employees’ tasks

Find ways to reinforce your company culture through your employees. Supporting them in understanding the business culture is vital. Use every opportunity to broadcast your values, mission, ethics, goals, and expectations. Provide new employees with a comprehensive induction so they can settle in quickly.

Link everyday goals as well as long-term projects back to your business culture. For example, if your small business is focused on providing exceptional IT development work for SMEs, communicate your daily and weekly targets in terms of quality and customer satisfaction. Use visual and IT tools, such as your intranet whiteboard and posters, to make your culture more tangible for employees.

3. Encourage contribution of ideas

Positive organizational cultures are usually inclusive and the best ideas can come from any team member. So take the chance to consult with your team members and involve them in decision-making processes. Seeking feedback and input is an excellent way to build a collaborative, cohesive working culture while leveraging your employees for innovative ideas. As your small business grows, you’ll want to prioritize this and avoid the common trap of growing businesses limiting employee freedom and involvement. Keep asking your employees for input and encourage them to stay engaged and happy.

4. Value employee satisfaction

As your small business grows, find ways to accommodate for your team members and keep them happy at work. Small perks, flexible hours, casual Fridays, and complimentary gym access could be ways to boost productivity and satisfaction at work. These measures can improve both culture and business performance, as happy workers tend to be more productive and creative. You’ll be more likely to retain employees for longer and have team members who are natural ambassadors of your business. Positive culture trickles down to your employees to customers.

5. Lead by example

You can’t expect your employees to engage with a positive organizational culture if you and rest of the leadership team don’t reflect the values you communicate. Your small business’s culture isn’t limited to your employees; it includes you, the owner and the managers. Make sure everyone in the organization acts and speaks in alignment with the culture. Leading by example is a powerful way to communicate and reinforce your organizational culture, especially as your business grows and changes.

6. Regularly share goals and vision

Provide regular updates on your business goals and vision, especially when your business has new projects to complete. Team awareness of your business’s goals can result in a stronger business culture, motivating your staff to greater engagement. Your employees should know your company goals and vision as well as you know them. By focusing on the stated goals, your team can work cohesively.

7. Keep refining your culture

Culture isn’t a static thing and it requires maintenance and continuous changes as your small business grows. Keep your culture well-defined and regularly reassess your current culture and where you want it to be. Seek feedback from employees to assess engagement levels and their understanding of your culture. As you continue to define your culture, keep sharing your goals and vision and reinforcing your cultural values.

Create positive company culture in your small business today

Having a positive company culture can drive stronger employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and bottom line. Having a clear strategy for building and managing your business culture allows you to communicate it clearly to employees. You can also reinforce your culture by enhancing employee understanding and leading by example. With an effective cultural policy, you could successfully grow your business and stay ahead of the competition.

Read this article Nexushub.com

Can Awkward Conversations Make for a Stronger Corporate Culture?

You make a joke in a meeting and nobody laughs… Your sister posts an unflattering teenage photo of you on Facebook… A work discussion veers into heated politics… Most of us spend a lot of time trying to avoid cringeworthy moments like these. We want to appear perpetually in control of ourselves and our lives.

“Normal people are really uncomfortable with awkwardness,” noted Wharton management professor Adam Grant at a recent Authors@Wharton event. Then he turned to the three speakers joining him. “But you all are not only comfortable with it, you seem to relish it. Like it’s joyful.”

The speakers were Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, also the New York Times bestselling author of The Talent Code; New York magazine senior editor Melissa Dahl, author of Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness; and CNN political commentator Sally Kohn, author of The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity.

The books all involve taking a fresh look at awkwardness, vulnerability and uncomfortable truths, ranging widely over business, psychology and politics. Embracing the small moments that make us squirm, the authors say, can offer surprising benefits for our companies, our communities and our personal lives.

Showing Vulnerability at Work

“Think about the best team you’ve ever been on; the most cohesive, cooperative, deeply connected team,” Coyle asked the audience. Maybe it was a sports team, a family event, or a summer job, he said. How did it feel to be together, to be connected to something bigger, to kind of “lose yourself?”

He called this feeling the most powerful business asset on earth, likening it to a strong corporate culture. “CEOs have sleepless nights thinking about how to build that feeling you just created in your head.”

To illustrate the value of corporate culture, Coyle talked about a 1992 Harvard study in which researchers tracked a large group of firms over 11 years. The businesses that had a strong culture enjoyed a staggering net income growth of 756%. Those that didn’t grew only 1%.

Coyle said there’s a widespread belief that an exceptional company culture can’t be achieved intentionally; that it arises organically, part of a firm’s special DNA. He disagrees, saying that building a strong culture is a skill that can be learned and developed.

He did an experiment with the audience. Everyone paired up with a partner for an exercise in which they would both ask and answer a question. Participants on the left side of the room were asked to describe the last pet that they owned. On the right side, partners were asked to discuss, “Is there something you always wished you could do, and why haven’t you done it?”

After the exercise, Coyle noted that the pet-describing group had started talking right away. The “something you wished you could do” side was more hesitant at first, but once their discussion got going, they became visibly more animated and energetic in words and gestures than the first group.

In a 1992 Harvard study in which researchers tracked a large group of firms over 11 years, businesses that had a strong culture enjoyed a staggering net income growth of 756%.

He explained that there was a key difference between the two questions. “‘Describe the last pet you owned?’ I got that: Moby, 15 pounds, cockapoo. I could talk about it all day long. But, ‘Is there something you haven’t done, and why haven’t you done it?’… That’s hard. That’s a moment of disclosure.”

Coyle said that if the audience had then been asked to play a challenging game with their partners, the side of the room that had to open up about themselves would achieve higher scores, according to sociological studies. Moments of vulnerability like that group had experienced create closeness, trust and cohesion, he said.

Coyle said that for his book The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, he spent time with organizations known for their exceptional culture: Pixar, the Navy’s SEAL Team Six, the San Antonio Spurs, IDEO, Zappos. He said what they have in common is that they have “operationalized” the moment of vulnerability. “They’ve turned it into a habit, almost like a cultural calisthenic, where they perpetually circle up and tell each other uncomfortable truths.”

According to Coyle, business leaders can learn to “dial in” to the behaviors – moments of vulnerability, safety and purpose – that create an extraordinarily effective culture.

The Importance of Being Cringeworthy

Waving back at someone who it turns out wasn’t waving at you. Showing up to a meeting with spinach in your teeth. The way you feel while asking your boss for a promotion. These are all situations most people find cringeworthy, said Dahl.

But there’s more there than just discomfort, she said. “We’re seeing a difference between the version of ourselves we think we’re presenting to the world and the version of ourselves the world is actually seeing.” We like to pretend those two things are one and the same, said Dahl, but that isn’t always the case. Dahl’s Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness is filled with accounts of her own cringeworthy moments, some self-induced: reading aloud from her middle-school diary to an auditorium of strangers; taking improv comedy lessons; accidentally responding to a group social media message as if were sent to her privately.

But how much are other people really noticing the embarrassing things we do? Psychological studies have been somewhat contradictory, according to Dahl. On the one hand, there is the “spotlight effect,” the tendency to think more people are noticing what you do than there actually are; on the other hand, there’s the “invisibility cloak illusion,” which refers to the fact that although you might spend a good amount of time watching others in public places, you unconsciously assume that no one’s doing the same to you.

“Even when people see your screw-ups, they aren’t judging you as harshly as you think.” – Melissa Dahl

She offers some good news for the overly self-conscious: Research has found that :even when people see your screw-ups, they aren’t judging you as harshly as you think.”

Dahl said the feeling of cringeworthiness is worth understanding, with the goal of becoming more comfortable with it. It may also yield valuable knowledge. “You can use this information to become a little closer toward the person that you think you are.”

She noted that cringeworthiness appears to be universal, describing a 1969 study in which anthropologist Edmund Carpenter spent time with the Biami tribe of Papua New Guinea. Carpenter believed the Biami had never seen images of themselves or heard their own voices played back to them; they had no mirrors, cameras or recorders, and the local rivers were too fast-flowing to catch a full reflection. He brought an array of modern devices with him.

When tribe members first saw their full-length reflections in a mirror, Dahl said (quoting Carpenter), “they ducked their heads and covered their mouths, and their stomach muscles betrayed great tension.” What struck Dahl was the familiarity of the physical response: “It sounds like exactly what I do when I cringe at myself for doing something stupid.”

Cringeworthiness shows us how much we have in common, said Dahl. “It highlights the sheer absurdity of the human experience.”

Is Hate Only Coming from the Haters?

After 15 years as a community organizer working on issues including immigration reform, criminal justice reform, and LGBT rights, Kohn was approached to become a TV pundit. She recounted how before her current gig at CNN, she spent nearly three years at Fox News representing the liberal point of view.

When she was offered the Fox job, she said, “I called my friends and said, guys, am I making a deal with the devil? [But] they gave me their blessing and said ‘There’s going to be some liberal on there, and you’ll stand up for what we all believe in.'”

Candidly describing herself as a “lefty lesbian,” she said that unsurprisingly there was no one else like her at Fox. But it was her experience there that inspired her to write The Opposite of Hate.

Kohn said she had assumed everyone involved with the network – on-air, behind the scenes, and all of its viewers – would be “hateful monsters.” Not only would they think a lot of terrible things about her and the communities she cared about, she said, but they would be “mean to me personally, just nasty, maybe foaming at the mouth… I’m not proud to say this, but that’s what I expected.”

While she still found many of their positions and beliefs unconscionable, she also found areas of agreement. She noted that people were kind personally, and more complicated as human beings than she had unconsciously assumed. “They could care about my family; they could be supportive of my career, of my interest in the company.” She also came to realize she had been bringing her own hatred to the table.

“We have a history and a present-day habit of demeaning and dehumanizing certain groups of people,” she stated. While she is primarily concerned with “our nation’s ugly, vast and still persistent history of racism, sexism, homophobia and classism,” she found that the tendency to dehumanize can play out in other ways, such as her preconceived notions about what her co-workers would be like. We have to address hate in our institutions and our policies, but also in ourselves, and take responsibility for our piece, said Kohn.

“We have a history and a present-day habit of demeaning and dehumanizing certain groups of people.” – Sally Kohn

The Power of Difficult Moments

The panelists agreed that discomfort in human interactions will never be eradicated – it’s in the nature of being human – but that we should recognize the power that lies in difficult moments and conversations. Kohn sees the potential of this for improving our national sociopolitical dialogue. She said America is reluctant to reckon with the negative aspects of its history.

“I don’t think it needs to be so uncomfortable,” she said. “I think we should be able to acknowledge the reality … not get laden down with guilt, because that’s a narcissistic navel-gazing thing anyway.” Instead, we need to be active and solution-oriented, she noted.

Coyle talked about how some of the most successful organizations hes studied have significant problems but confront them instead of sweeping them under the rug. For example, he said, the Navy SEALS have a great culture, but “a lot of psychopaths join them. They do really well, but it’s a huge problem [they’re dealing with].” He noted that Pixar was also grappling with a major issue currently, “involving #MeToo.”

“The idea that we’ll change our culture and get to some higher plane where all friction will go away is not true,” said Coyle. “The friction is your friend. Excavating that tension and facing into it is where you want to go.”

Read this article Wharton.edu

Tips to Put Your Best SMB Brand Forward for Recruitment
By Syed Balkhi

For small and midsize businesses (SMB), competing with large brands to recruit new hires can feel like a climb to the top of Kilimanjaro.

If you think your brand is too small to attract top talent entering the workforce, consider the words of recruitment marketing consultant Cathy Taylor, who said, “Small businesses may not know they have an employment brand, but they do.”

How does a small business compete with brands with the budgets and resources to launch multichannel campaigns? Focus on what makes you stand out, like the ease of agility.

For instance, it doesn’t take a committee, months of planning and an extensive budget to create an innovation space within a small business. It can be as simple as redefining the current layout, buying a few Cooper lounge chairs from Urban Outfitters, and painting a wall with dry erase paint. Voilà! You have a space that fosters collaboration, creativity and community – features that young people with entrepreneurial mindsets have come to expect in their work environments.

However, if you believe the “Field of Dreams” quote, “If you build it, he will come,” you may be waiting a while. You must do more than build it. Driving people to your door requires spreading the word about your perks and programs through compelling brand stories

Related Article: Building a Culture That Attracts Gen Z

SMBs Deliver the ‘Me’ Experience

Before you start crafting a narrative, there are a few things you need to know about the candidate pool. The job market is filled with diverse, talented, highly-skilled candidates. Knowing who’s best for a particular position helps a company tailor stories that connect those people to the brand.

With graduation season upon us, let’s use what we know about millennials as the example. Here’s an insider view of the audience and what appeals to them. The good news? What millennials want in a workplace is right in the SMB sweet spot.

SMBs have a lot to offer newly minted graduates. A 2016 survey by Future Workplace and Beyond (now Nexxt) found “58 percent of millennials want to work for a small or medium-size company.” They’re looking for the “me” experience which is something SMBs have the capacity to give.

3 Tips to Attract the Right Candidates

Here are three ways small businesses can get the most bang out of their efforts to reach millennial job seekers.

Brand Reviews

It’s common for consumers to read product reviews prior to making a buying decision. Many job seekers do the same for potential employers, according to Monster.com, which reports (pdf) the number three reason people apply to work at a company is based on a brand’s reputation. Millennials label companies by what they discover when they research companies, and that research only takes seconds.

Here’s why it matters: Brands with low review scores are less likely to attract top talent. A 2012 Allegis Group Services study for Corporate Responsibility Magazine found 69 percent of job seekers said they wouldn’t take a position at a company with a bad reputation – even if they were unemployed.

Transparency and a stellar reputation are two vital components of brand management. Responding quickly to questions and concerns while closely monitoring social channels can help reduce negative ratings.

Small businesses don’t need a social media village to manage their reputations. Find an employee with social media savvy and give that individual tools and guidelines to monitor social channels. Make sure to include a plan of attack to deal with negative information.

Showing you care about an audience goes a long way toward developing your brand’s story.

Related Article: How to Build a Company Worthy of the Next Generation

Employee Advocacy

Building a brand story can be as easy as capturing viewpoints of the happy people within your company. Ron Piccolo, chair of the department of management at the College of Business at the University of Central Florida, said, “Millennials will happily amplify the great things your business is doing through their own social media platforms.”

Potential candidates want firsthand perspectives on a company’s work-life balance prior to making a commitment. These days, workplace culture takes center stage in recruitment. Employees’ authentic stories offer job hunters insight on a level that lists of perks and benefits just can’t.

Cultivating employee stories requires planning. Most importantly, make it easy for employees to contribute their stories. First, create a collaborative infrastructure – like Trello – for them to document (and build on) their stories.

Next, get their creative genius flowing by generating a list of questions to spark ideas, define values and touch on topics that appeal to the type of candidates you’re trying to reach. Workology.com has a list of “10 Employee Survey Questions to Use in Your Employment Branding Campaign” to help you get started.

Finally, build a multichannel strategy for deployment. This is where you get to steal like an artist. SMBs may not have the resources to build the type of campaigns large companies do, but they can learn from their bigger competitors and borrow their successful ideas. Here’s an example: Microsoft’s “Microsoft Life” page on Instagram. It’s a creative, fun look at the life and team behind a mega brand.

Related Article: Tech Talent Wars: Retain Talent By Doling Out Your Trust

Mobile Presence

A 2011 study by McCann Worldgroup found over half of millennials surveyed would rather lose their sense of smell than one of their devices. Moreover, a 2017 comScore report found users spend on average 69 percent of their digital media time on mobile devices, and 80 percent of social media time is spent there too. What that means is you better have a strong mobile presence.

A mobile strategy is twofold: You have to understand how an audience consumes information and offer an engaging mobile experience.

For example, prior to leaving for college, my niece expanded her social presence to include Snapchat. Her rationale was that her school, Bowling Green State University, communicates important messages through the app. Kudos to the college for understanding the importance of knowing where an audience navigates for information. BGSU’s Snap game is so strong, it offers students the opportunity to #TakeOverTuesday as a way of cultivating fresh stories and “showcasing campus life through a unique student perspective” once a week.

And don’t forget about your website. Millennials are looking for quick and easy interactivity across all of your brand’s platforms – which includes a responsive mobile experience on your website. Have you been to Zappos.com lately? The jobs link on the mobile site transports users to stories and stats any job seeker would be interested in reading.

With a little research, you can uncover a lot about the social habits and goals of people actively looking for a new opportunity. Match those to the defined qualities of your desired candidate and create a compelling story to highlight what makes your brand unique to attract the right candidate for the job.

Do you have a great brand story to tell? Don’t be shy, share!

Read this article at the CMSWire.com

Scams and Your Small Business
By Rosario Méndez, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC

At the FTC, our mission is to protect consumers, including small business owners. That’s why, when we see scammers taking money from small businesses, we step in. Today, the FTC announced Operation Main Street: Stopping Small Business Scams, a coordinated law enforcement and education effort with state and federal partners, as well as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), to stop scams that target small businesses.

What did those scammers do? The law enforcement actions in Operation Main Street involved defendants that tricked businesses into paying for materials they can get free – or paying for expensive license renewals that were not due. In other schemes, the defendants sent unordered merchandise and intimidated employees to pay for office supplies that no one in the business had ordered (or wanted). In one FTC case, the defendants used robocalls to contact business owners, claiming to be affiliated with Google. The defendants lied, saying the business would not show up on Google searches unless it paid for the defendants’ so-called services.

Because education is critical to spotting and avoiding scams like these, the FTC today also announced a partnership with the BBB to help alert small businesses about scams and how to avoid them. The BBB’s new research report gives data about the frauds that are directed at small business, and helps empower small business owners and employees to speak up and report fraud. Those reports help law enforcers tackle scammers, and can lead to cases like the ones announced today.

So what can you do to protect your own business against scams? Training your employees is a first step. Share with them our new publication, Scams and Your Small Business. Order it free at FTC.gov/bulkorder. Then, stay up to date on new scam and business advice by signing up to get our business blog at FTC.gov/subscribe. Encourage others to do the same.

Read this article at the Consumer.FTC.gov

The views and opinions presented in this newsletter do not necessarily represent those of SpiritBank.
Property of SpiritBank. 2018.