October Business eNewsletter

Welcome to our October business eNewsletter focusing on a great workplace.

Quote of the month:
“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” – Anne M. Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox

In this Issue…

Four Keys To Transform Your Organization Into A Great Place To Work
By Stephen Childs

How does an organization become a great place to work? Many companies aspire to that, but few have clarity around all the work that needs to be done to make it a reality. For the last few years, my HR strategy has been a pretty simple one: create a place where people want to work. It is much easier said than done. It takes a lot of work and commitment to make the necessary changes, which can be painful.

In a previous article, I stressed the need to spend time mapping out the desired culture of the company as the key to being a great company to work for. These are the four key areas to focus on as part of your journey to creating a great place to work.

1. Culture

The first focus area is a clearly defined culture. You want your people to come to work because they want to, not because they have to. It is critical to identify and brand the mission, vision, values and behaviors of the company. This culture model shapes what is encouraged, discouraged, tolerated and rejected. The defining of a culture needs a lot of care and attention. Once defined, it needs to be part of the company DNA. As we started to take action on the behaviors we said we wouldn’t tolerate, trust was formed, and the employees started to take personal accountability in making sure behavior issues were visible. A 2018 Harvard Business Review article identifies eight culture styles and is a good place to start your process.

2. Performance Engagement

Changing the ways you drive performance and build trust is critical to developing a high-performance workforce and engaging your employees. I have spent a great deal of time researching best practices in performance management, and one of the top resources I found is the NeuroLeadership Institute. Its research shows the best way to drive performance and engagement is to improve the quality of the conversations between manager and employee.

The move from the traditional annual rating process to regular check-ins is a great start to the shift toward what’s called performance engagement. We simplified our processes, with fewer forms, no ratings and no intrusive oversight into the process. We focused our time on training our leadership on how to get the most out of these check-ins.

3. Candidate Experience

As part of the defined culture, a strategy for candidate experience needs to be a high priority. You can learn a lot about your candidate experience online. If your candidate experience is poor, it has a dramatic impact on your company’s overall brand. If you haven’t, take a few minutes to explore your company’s online reviews and ratings. An internal survey we performed at Panasonic found that more than 80% of candidates looked at Glassdoor.com before interviewing – so you’d better know what social media is saying about your organization.

If you are not happy with your rating, what should you do? Take action on what you learn from the online feedback. For example, we dramatically changed the way we communicated with candidates to ensure we stayed in touch with them throughout the entire interview process, and turned our interview processes into high-touch, VIP experiences. This doesn’t mean you should turn to high-cost hotels and limousines, but rather lots of communication, follow-up and feedback. Ensured the candidates who are not selected for a position are treated just as well as those who are. Complete surveys during and after the process to ensure you know what additional gaps there are in your processes that need further attention.

4. Diversity And Inclusion

At Panasonic, we also believe that an inclusion and diversity initiative is key to becoming a place where people love going to work. It is with the many voices of individuals from unique backgrounds, mindsets and experiences that we can truly influence a company culture. As part of your diversity and inclusion strategy, invest the time to develop recruiting strategies, build internal community groups and a diversity leadership program to not only recruit for the gaps that you have, but also to retain the top, diverse talent once you hire them.

I am sure you noticed that I didn’t focus on things like free coffee, massage chairs, happy hour, fitness centers, great benefits, development/training or competitive pay. All of these things have their place, and employees enjoy these perks, but when we asked our employees what keeps them coming back to work each day, these things were not high on the list. What was high on the list was having a great culture, their personal experiences working with their bosses, how we engage them as a leadership team to improve their performance and the programs we have in place for diversity and inclusion.

Don’t just aspire to become a great place to work – commit to the hard work and dedication that it takes to see it through. Focus on defining the desired culture of the company, and then start living it. Simplify the performance engagement process, and ensure it is focused on building relationships between the manager and employees so that rich and meaningful conversation are had. Take action on the negative feedback that might exist on your recruiting and interview process so you can improve your candidate experience and employer brand. Drive diversity and inclusion strategies that bring unique backgrounds, mindsets and experiences into your organization. Become a place where people return to work each day because they want to, not because they have to.

Read this article Forbes.com

Tips on Becoming a “Best Place to Work”
By Jennifer Barnes

Being acknowledged as a Best Place to Work is an esteemed distinction for any company, and getting there is more straightforward than you’d think. I’ve been fortunate enough to witness our company be named a Best Place to Work by multiple publications. In this article, I’ll share a few steps you can take to achieve similar results.

It starts with cultivating the right vision, workplace atmosphere, and team. A vision shows a team where they can go. Positive company culture fosters the values that guide actions. The right team executes successfully.

When employees feel engaged and motivated, they’re more likely to go above and beyond for customers. When your customers consistently have good experiences with your company, it leads to long-term satisfaction and referrals. Put simply, emphasizing people over profits leads to success, and that goes for your employees as well as your customers.

Using this approach, Pro Back Office was ranked at #892 in 2017 on the Inc. 5000 ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in America. During the same year, we were ranked #40 by the San Diego Business Journal in the category of fastest-growing companies. The same publication ranked Pro Back Office a Best Place to Work, an accolade seconded by the San Diego Union Tribune.

Not bad for a company founded in 2011.

Here’s what you can do to become a Best Place to Work:

Lead by Example

What constitutes effective leadership in the workplace?

Great leaders create a compelling vision, then inspire their team to follow them. Successful leaders are able to empower the right people, developing skills and building a strong community filled with purpose.

There are many benefits of leading by example, and it’s important to encourage others to do the same. This means rolling up your sleeves when necessary and taking responsibility but also delegating when necessary and promoting a balanced culture. Becoming a good role model shows your team that you intend to do the job right, and that they should, too.

For further reading, I recommend Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf and also Give and Take by Adam Grant. Both books explore how building strong relationships is a great long-term strategy.

Communicate Effectively

Communication involves much more than conveying your ideas and objectives to employees. Yes, communication helps ensure that our goals are understood and shared, but it’s vital to reflect on employee feedback to make progress. Did you know that 64% of workers think that leadership makes decisions without listening to them?

Improve work processes around your organization and increase engagement by listening to employees. Facilitate open communication by having the right tools in place to receive feedback, from technology to open team forums. Keep your team’s trust by following through on what you communicate and acting on feedback.

Be sure to gather relevant information, and listen before acting. Instead of jumping to conclusions, I make sure to get all sides of a situation. Rather than emailing a message like “Why did you do that?” or “Didn’t I tell you to do XYZ?”, now I say “Help me to understand the situation” or “Please clarify this in a little more detail”.

Don’t Let Growth Make You Sloppy

It’s difficult to establish and maintain the right company culture when you’re growing and bringing on new employees at a rapid pace. In the case of Pro Back Office, we brought on board 28 new employees in 2017, along with 125 additional clients and new offices in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Orange County.

To create your desired culture, it’s crucial to optimize the hiring and onboarding process. It’s important to find out early on what kind of person a potential new hire might be. Even though you may be growing quickly, take the time to make the right decisions. Jumping quickly into hiring people without the necessary due diligence and testing is a recipe for disaster.

In Good to Great, a widely-celebrated manual on successful business transitions, author Jim Collins emphasizes the importance of these hiring decisions:

“A company should limit its growth based on its ability to attract enough of the right people.”

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator test is one good way to assess personality before hiring, and with 80% of all Fortune 500 companies using it, you’ll be in good company. Consider skill assessments, aptitude tests, and a DISC or other behavioral type of assessment. Making an upfront investment in recruiting and hiring will help ensure you keep retention high and hire people who make your culture great.

Offer Benefits that Focus on a Work/Life Balance

A flexible schedule is one of the components of workplace satisfaction that is nearly universal in its appeal to workers. According to research conducted at the Georgetown University Law Center, approximately 80% of workers said they would be very glad to work flexible hours if given the opportunity. Of workers who already telecommute, nearly half said they were more productive working at home than at the office full-time.

Flexible scheduling is an important part of the Pro Back Office culture, with 65% of our team working 24-32 hours a week. We also encourage team members to enjoy a Volunteer Time Off policy that pays them up to eight hours a year for the time they spend volunteering time to a non-profit.

“The leadership team treats employees with respect and always has employees’ best interest in mind. The flexibility allows for great work-life balance.” – Kevin Driscoll, Accounting Manager

Recognize Your Team

In The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook, Bob Nelson and Dean Spitzer chronicle the importance of recognition in the workplace and how it can motivate employees to go above and beyond the call of duty. Their research, based on American workers, discovered that 84% of all managers were convinced that recognizing employees in the workplace contributed to improved performance as a consequence.

Systems such as one offered by Bonusly, where employees can be recognized and awarded points for doing great work, help tremendously to show appreciation for exceptional performance and create an atmosphere of engagement and job satisfaction.

The Pro Back Office staff has become very engaged with Bonusly and frequent recognition. It’s improved teamwork, communication and motivation. Since much of our team is onsite at our various clients’ offices, they don’t have as much opportunity to spend time together regularly, like a normal office does. A recognition program where people can interact and be rewarded even when they aren’t physically in front of one another regularly helps employee engagement.

Each employee is given 150 Bonusly points per month that they can give out to coworkers for good deeds or for going the extra mile. Management can give out points to people on their team for going above and beyond or for any reason they feel is worthy. Employees are also recognized on their work anniversary, for attending a staff meeting, for bringing in a new client, for kind words or testimonials by their clients, and for other reasons we deem appropriate.

Nominate Your Company as a Best Place to Work

There are a number of organizations and lists where you can get your company recognized on as a Best Place to Work, and most of them require some minimum threshold of responses from employees in order to be ranked. Often these are focused on a geographic area or specific industry.

Most major cities have their own Best Places list, and it’s usually not hard to find out who’s doing it in your area. Make sure that you communicate to your team why the award means so much to you, and ask for ways that you can improve. Be clear about what they can expect in the survey, and assure them that it’s completely anonymous and not required!

Gather Employee Testimonials

Getting ranked on local or national Best Places lists is one sure way to find out whether you’ve created the ideal work atmosphere at your company while enjoying PR that could win you new customers. Getting real examples from your team on why they love working for you is also an amazing recruiting tool.

Companies like Glassdoor are a great avenue to get feedback from your employees and it’s a surefire way that your future team will feel confident that you are a best in class employer.

Here is an example of one Pro Back Office review, submitted by an appreciative employee:

“Pro Back Office has created a work environment that is extremely welcoming, professional and enjoyable. From the company outings to the flexible work schedules, Pro Back Office has proven why it was rated one of the top places to work in San Diego.”

Consider also using an annual employee engagement survey to monitor progress.

We’re happy to be known as a local Best Place to Work, but we also know it’s no time to sit on our laurels. Evolving our company as it grows, as technology changes, and as we expand our offerings requires constant attention. Our people are our greatest strength, and I hope you’re inspired to accomplish similar results!

Read this article Bonusly

4 Ways To Create Work Environments That Nurture Inspiration
By Jodi Goldstein, Contributor

Now that Labor Day is behind us and the start of fall only a few days away, organizations across many industries are just beginning their busiest season.

Universities are in full swing during the academic year’s first semester, corporations are working against their end-of-year key performance indicators (KPIs) and trying to meet or exceed goals, and startups are doing everything from raising money before the December slowdown to prepping for holiday product launches.

During the fall, it can be tempting for leaders to think there isn’t time for their teams to do anything but focus on the tasks at hand. But in all of my roles over the last 25 years, I’ve come to believe leaders must provide employees with experiences that motivate new or creative thoughts year-round. Or, to put it more simply, create environments that help people innovate.

There are hundreds of insightful pieces about how to encourage innovation at companies, from Tendayi Viki’s piece on innovation culture to Robert Tucker’s recent article about traits of successful innovation teams. Here, I’d like to focus specifically on how to help inspire people to approach problems with a new or different perspective.

Nurturing inspiration, which Merriam-Webster defines as “something that makes someone want to do something or that gives an idea about what to do or create,” is a key first step in building an innovative product or service. Even if you’ve never considered creating an environment that sparks inspiration at your organization, here are a few ways you could do so this fall and beyond:

Create opportunities for people to focus on something other than their immediate work

More often than not, inspiration strikes when engaging with a topic outside of your industry.

There are quite a few ways you can make this happen at work, from inviting guest speakers from different industries for lunch and learns, to creating programs where a percentage of staff’s time is spent on projects unrelated to their regular tasks. Even for startups with limited time and resources, you can start or attend a meet up focused on topics that are outside of your immediate focus area, or occasionally attend lectures or events on topics that your staff does not consider on a daily basis.

Many companies do these types of activities during slower times of the year, but put them on the back burner during their busy seasons. I’d argue that periods of intense work are an even more important time for these types of activities. Not only will they leave employees feeling more inspired to approach their work in new or different ways, but they can also help to mitigate employee burnout.

Meet and exchange ideas with people outside of your field

Related to my first point, encourage your team to meet and engage with people who don’t have a job or field of expertise in common.

At bigger companies, you could explore ways of getting people from departments who don’t often interact to talk to each other. A program as simple as offering to buy lunch once a month for people from different departments can help facilitate these interactions.

For businesses big and small, volunteering is a great way of engaging with different people. Your company can join volunteer groups where people from different organizations come together to work on a project. These projects can help your team to build relationships with the community, and learn about what other people are working on.

You can also consider hosting networking events with companies or groups that work near you, but may not necessarily be in your field. A great example of this in Boston is Mass Innovation Nights, a monthly event where people come together to learn about entrepreneurs and what they’re working on. Over the years, this event has been hosted by businesses across Massachusetts.

The possibilities for how you can encourage your staff to meet people in different fields are endless. But the more you get your team to do the types of activities outlined above, the more often they will come back to work with new and creative ideas.

Plan company outings that take people out of their comfort zones

This time of year is often when organizations are thinking about holiday party preparations. Instead of planning a typical office party or dinner out, consider doing something that will push people to experience something new, and perhaps a little bit out of their comfort zone.

Over the years I’ve helped organize outings that range from go-cart racing to kayaking expeditions and group cooking classes. Whichever event you choose, try to find one that the majority of your staff hasn’t done before, and one that encourages collaboration. You’ll find that many employees will come back to work with a fresh perspective on the problems they’re working on.

Use meetings as a time to share personal stories that inspire

One unlikely place your employees can find inspiration is during regular company meetings. I’ve found they’re more often than not used to discuss what’s happening in the business, and what needs to happen in the coming week or month.

I suggest taking a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting to encourage employees to share stories about a lesson they’ve learned, or positive experience they’ve had since the last meeting. This practice may feel awkward for the first few weeks, but if you lead by example in sharing personal stories, you’ll see your team open up in ways that build comradery, and help spark new and interesting ideas.

These are just a few of the many ways you can create an environment that nurtures inspiration. If you have ideas for others based on your experiences, please share in the comments section.

Read this article at the Forbes.com

7 Common Traits of the Best Small Businesses to Work For
By Annie Pilon

Glassdoor just released its annual list of the Best Places to Work for 2018. The report includes 50 small business workplaces ranging from tech startups to automotive companies. But while the companies on the list are diverse, there are a few qualities that many of them have in common.

The list is part of the annual Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards, which includes lists for the top workplaces in a number of different categories. The small and medium sized business list includes businesses with less than 1,000 employees. And Glassdoor compiles the lists by looking at reviews from employees.

So for other small businesses that are looking to recruit the best possible candidates, it can help to look at some of the qualities that employees look for in a workplace.

Sarah Stoddard, Glassdoor Community Expert said in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “Today’s job seekers are more informed about their workplace than ever before, given the plethora of information available online, including on sites like Glassdoor, about company culture, career opportunities, pay and so forth. So, by leveraging common themes among the Best Places to Work, and understanding what employees are expecting at highly-rated companies across industries, employers can evaluate their own recruitment processes, company cultures, leadership strategies, etc. in order to best fit their employees’ needs and create the best possible experiences for them to stay interested and engaged in their jobs long-term.”

What Makes a Small Business a Great Place to Work?

Here are some of the common traits that the best small business employers have in common.

They Have Open, Relaxed Working Environments

One of the factors that employees value in a workplace is the culture. Specifically, they tend to value open communication and a family atmosphere.

Big Switch Networks is one of the companies on the list praised for this quality. A system engineer said of the company in a Glassdoor review, “Good and open culture. People are recognized at highest level on a regular basis when they go above and beyond. You can see the impact of your contributions right away (small company culture).”

They Value Collaboration

Workers also seem to love collaborative environments. They want to know that their ideas can make an impact and that they have the opportunity to work alongside other people with great ideas who can help the company grow.

Robinhood is a stock trading company on the list that offers this type of working environment. A manager for the company said, “The company really values employees. It’s really easy to pitch ideas and get them implemented. You’re part of an incredibly fast growing company.”

They Have Great Team Members

For that reason, employees also care a great deal about the other employees they’re surrounded by on a daily basis.

A company with high marks in this area is customer review platform Podium. A director for the company said, “Podium is an organization where you find yourself surrounded by people smarter than you but those same people are willing to step in and coach, contribute, and drive you to be your best.”

They Make Leaders Accessible

Leadership can also have a major impact. Employees want to work at a place where the leaders are accessible and open to new ideas.

LogicMonitor is a SaaS company that was recognized by employees for this quality. A software engineer said of the company, “Great company to develop healthy habits on. High degree of autonomy to work. High degree of access to the company’s high leadership. Working with the founders is a big plus.”

They Value Work-Life Balance

Not all of the qualities that employees value are directly related to their actual work. They also want to have fun at work and have some flexibility to enjoy their lives outside of work as well.

An account coordinator for healthcare software company CoverMyMeds said of the working environment, “This is easily the best job I have ever had. The company truly believes in what they preach and follows through – transparency, dedication, workplace happiness, work-life balance, fun, laughs, BEER, compassion. It’s all there, believe the hype :)”

They Offer Great Perks and Benefits

Of course, employees also care about tangible things like pay, benefits and other perks.

A software engineer for email delivery service SendGrid described why working for the company is a good thing, “Great perks like free lunch with a growing variety of options, snacks on snacks, many different stipends, and increasing clarity around role definition and career growth opportunities. Company is very in tune with feedback and makes real effort to change and grow.”

They Make a Positive Impact

Employees also seem to value working for companies that have a clear mission and where they can make a positive impact on the world. These initiatives can be directly related to the company’s offerings or tied to other social or charitable efforts.

Illuminate Education is an educational platform that encourages its employees to get involved in social issues. An illuminator for the company said, “We are encouraged to pursue our passions. Equity, house builds in Mexico, anti-bullying efforts, robotics … we are supported by our CEO to be socially responsible. And by doing so, each of us work that much harder at our jobs to make a difference both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Read this article at the SmallBizTrends.com

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