INSIGHTS BLOG

Discover how to help your employees achieve personal success.

  • Tips for Getting Back to Work After a Break


    Getting back to work after the holidays or a vacation can be really difficult for leaders and employees. Even with the best of intentions, it can be easy to lose valuable time after returning to work from any type of break or vacation. This is one of the reasons that many employees do not enjoy taking time off. In fact, 55% of Americans do not take all of their allotted paid time off. Returning can be especially draining, making it feel like the time off wasn’t really worth it.deathtostock_meticulous-09

    A recent article on Forbes.com gives some tips to avoid this feeling, allow you the maximum benefit from your time off.

    Expect to be slow, and plan accordingly: Don’t expect to be at maximum productivity when you return from a break. Be generous when you schedule time to complete projects, knowing that it may take you a few days to get back into your groove. Easing back into work and setting realistic expectations for yourself will help you avoid feelings of failure after returning from time off.

    Proactively hold off chatty co-workers: When you have gone several days without seeing people that you are used seeing every day, it can be easy to get caught up in long conversations about what happened while you were away. Schedule time in to talk to co-workers, but make sure you set boundaries. If you are interrupted while you are working on something that requires your full attention, plan a response such as, “I had a great holiday and I can’t wait to hear more about yours after I finish up this project. Can we meet in the breakroom for a cup of coffee in about 30 minutes?” Then set a time limit for your break and stick to it.

    Commit to smaller blocks of time: Rather than scheduling yourself an hour or two before taking a break, on your first day back, schedule small chunks of time. Set a timer for 20 or 30 minutes and take a short break, even if the project isn’t complete. Stand up and stretch if nothing else. This will give you the energy you need to get through the day.

    Commit to easier tasks: Don’t tackle your biggest project as soon as you get back into the office. Ease yourself in by taking on short, easy projects first. This will help you feel accomplished as you see your to-do list dwindling. Then once you’ve moved those shorter projects put of the way, you will be able to focus on the larger ones with your full attention.

    Confirm immediate and immovable tasks: In order to commit to shorter, easier tasks, you need to understand which upcoming projects have immovable deadlines. Keep a list of these in plain sight so you don’t lose track of them. Try to pare anything that has to be done immediately into smaller tasks in order to keep them moving forward.

    Start early or end late: Get a jumpstart on your week by committing to arriving early to staying late your first day (or few days) back. Spending a little extra effort for a few days, could allow you to get caught up and back to your normal productivity level even faster.

    Share these ideas with your employees, especially those that seem to be struggling upon returning from breaks. This can be a great coaching opportunity.

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    A Plus BenefitsTips for Getting Back to Work After a Break
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    Simple Things You Can do Today to be a Better Leader


    Being a small business leader can be overwhelming. Putting out fires while wearing multiple hats leaves little time for leaders to work on their professional development. A recent article from Inc. shares some simple things you can do to be a better leader. Here are some of our favorites. Don’t try to do them all at once. That is a recipe for burnout. Instead, try picking just one to focus on each week.

    young business people group have meeting and working in modern bright office indoor

    young business people group have meeting and working in modern bright office indoor

    Develop your skills– Pick one skill you would really like to improve and create a plan to make that happen. Maybe you would really like to be better at public speaking, or conflict management, or having difficult conversations. There are lots of free resources available.

    Admit when you are wrong– This allows your peers and employees to trust you. They will also be more willing to come to you when they make a mistake.

    Learn how to spot talent– Recruiting great people is the key to running a successful company. Take a look at some of your best employees. What characteristics do they share? Fine-tune your ideal employee profile for your key positions to help you find the very best fit. Check out our Recruiting Toolkit for more ideas.

    Give credit where its due– Don’t take credit for the work of others. Allow others to be the hero when they came up with a great idea or did a majority of the work.

    Be a mentor, not a preacher– Guide your employees rather than telling them exactly what to do. Avoid micromanaging and generously delegate. This will help your employees advance and grow in their careers.

    Invest in people– You want employees who are happy, engaged and loyal. To accomplish this, you have to be willing to invest both time and money in your improving employees’ experience at your organization. Looking for ideas? Our experienced Human Resources team can help.

    Give freedom and be flexible– Give space for your employees to work at their best. This will require you to be a little flexible and allow some freedoms for employees to determine how they do their best work.

    Be quick to praise– When someone does a great job, let them know immediately. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of only providing negative feedback. Focus on providing genuine, positive feedback to employees regularly. Check out our Employee Recognition Toolkit for some ideas.

    Get out of your office– Come in early to get a head start on your early morning tasks so you can mingle with employees as they arrive for the day. This will make you a more approachable and accessible leader.

    Have fun– Take opportunities to have a little fun with your employees. Recognize that these individuals spend a majority of their waking hours at your organization and may need some time to let loose and have some fun. Some ideas that work great this time of year include an indoor snowball fight, an ugly sweater competition, cookie decorating or a soup cook-off.

    Hold people accountable– Clearly define your expectations and hold people accountable if they don’t meet them. Holding people accountable will help your company meet its goals. It also demonstrates to employees that you value hard work. Don’t let those who miss deadlines or show up late to meetings get away with it.

    Give trust to earn trust– If you want your employees to trust you, you will need to show that you trust them as well. Make sure your employees know you have confidence in their abilities.

    Show compassion and care– Remember that your employees are human. They have lives outside of work that will sometimes have an impact on their energy and emotions. Try to find ways to balance their needs and the company’s goals.

    Lead with passion– Explain to your employees what motivates you to get out of bed each morning. Help them understand where your passion for what you do comes from. This will be contagious.

    Share these ideas with your leadership team. Ask each of them to focus on one item each week for the next three months. Hold each other accountable for reporting on the area being worked on and how that is going. Then when the three months is up, take a moment evaluate how far the team has come in that time.

    If you give this a try, we’d love to know how it works for your organization. Email us at marketing@aplusbenefits.com and let us know.

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    A Plus BenefitsSimple Things You Can do Today to be a Better Leader
  • Growing Leadership from Within Your Organization


    Promoting employees from within your ranks to leadership positions has so many benefits. According to a Forbes study of America’s largest companies, 86% of their CEOs were hired from within. The ability to develop future leaders from within the organization is not something that has to be reserved only for large companies. Small companies can also have a huge competitive advantage when they follow practices. A recent article from Forbes gives some ways that all businesses can grow future leaders.grow-781769_640

    Empower employees through mentorship and delegation: This can be especially important in smaller businesses where there may not be a lot of leadership positions available. Give great employees who want and need this type of challenge an opportunity to head up a committee or act as a trainer for new employees. Also, allow these employees to learn from the leadership at your organization through mentorship programs. Encourage your leaders to get employees who show leadership potential involved in problem-solving and decision-making.

    Avoid the bait and switch: If your company emphasizes the importance of promoting from within when hiring employees, don’t lose confidence in the employees you are grooming and then hire someone from the outside. This will cause employees to lose trust in your development program. The opportunity for employees to grow in their career is important to employee engagement and satisfaction.

    Be patient: Building your leadership team from within will take some time. If you are searching for a someone to fill a leadership or management position in your organization today, and you haven’t already done many of the things above, you may have to look outside. Not everyone will develop into a leader at the same pace. In fact, you may see the potential long before the employee expresses the desire to move into leadership and that is ok. Start today and keep your eye on the long-term gain for organization.

    Are you looking for cost-effective ways to build the future leaders of your organization from within your employee team? A Plus benefits has great training resources. Contact Elizabeth Burt today to learn more at eburt@aplusbenefits.com or 1-800-748-5102.

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    A Plus BenefitsGrowing Leadership from Within Your Organization
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    Boosting the Energy of Your Workforce


    This time of year can be especially draining for employees. Colder weather, stress from the holidays and the end of year time-crunch all contribute to this. The good news is that positive energy is contagious. An article from Harvard Business Review gives a few simple things you can do to boost the energy in your organization starting today:lightning-399853_640

    Build genuine relationships with employees. Encourage leaders at your organization to get to know employees better. Creating high quality connections builds relational energy. Find common ground with employees that doesn’t involve work. This will help you better understand what motives and energizes your employees.

    Create energizing events. The holidays offer s fun time organize some employee events that can add some fun and energy to the organization. Get employees involved. Ask for volunteers to brainstorm and coordinate some fun holiday activities that can be done right inside the office. Make sure your leaders attend these events enthusiastically. It is important for employees to experience this.

    Promote a giving culture. Encourage and reward employees who help one another (Looking for reward ideas? Check out our Employee Recognition Toolkit). Also create opportunities for employees to give back to the community when possible. Encourage employees to coordinate a food drive, clothing drive or volunteer their time. Helping others creates a buzz of positive energy.

    Measure relational energy. Start to ask yourself after each interaction with an employee whether you feel more or less energized. If you feel less energized, consider if there something you could have done differently to make sure that you and the other employee felt more energized? Examine the language you use to talk about work. Is it positive or negative?

    Just as in most things in the organization, leadership can have great influence on the energy in the organization. If you feel as though your company is low on energy, consider what your leadership could start doing differently today to boost that.

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    A Plus BenefitsBoosting the Energy of Your Workforce
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    Company Rules That Make Good Employees Quit


    Deciding on the rules for your company and your employees is an important part of shaping your company culture. Communicating these rules to your employees show them what is important to the organization. But are there some rules that could actually be turning good employees away? A recent article from the Huffington Post gives examples of some rules that may actually be hurting your company more than they are helping.referee-1149014_640

    1- Waiting periods before a promotion. Some companies will put into place waiting periods that require employees to work in their position for six months (or sometimes more) before being eligible for a promotion. This rule is short-sighted and could cause a rock star employee to leave rather than waiting it out. It could also cause you to keep an employee in an ill-fitting position too long, causing performance and morale issues. Allow managers to make these decisions on a case-by-case basis rather than placing a time limit.

    2- Ridiculous rules for time off. Companies that require documentation for time off due to illness or a death in the family send the wrong message to employees. If you want your employees to trust leadership, you will need to offer them a bit of trust as well.  Requiring a doctor’s note or proof of a death for a day or too off is a bit much.

    3- Detailed dress codes. Creating extensive do and don’t lists for your employees will not end well. Consider what is necessary for a safe, professional work environment in your industry. Allowing employees to retains some level of self-expression is important. Does it really matter if your employee who only contacts customers on the phone has blue hair, tattoos or piercings?  Probably not. Don’t push away potentially great employees who may be a little creative with their appearance.

    4- Restricting internet use. Again, you have to decide what is best for your company, but being overbearing is likely both a waste of time and potentially turning good employees away. Find the right balance between security for your company network, employee productivity and employee satisfaction. For more on this, check out our blog about Cyber Monday.

    5- Bell curves for measuring performance. This old-school view of human performance is in desperate need of an update. Ranking people in this way makes them feel like they are just a number. It also unfairly pits employees against one another. Instead judge each individual on their own work and performance.

    6- Banning cell phones. This is another rule that unless safety or security requires such a ban, just sends the message that you don’t trust your employees. Find places where you can give a little leeway.

    7- Overbearing email policies. This again comes down to trust. If you can’t trust your employees to use company email properly, why did you hire them. Providing training and setting realistic expectations for use is better than having extensive rules.

    Having clearly communicated expectations for employees is important, but we recommend that you find a balance between creating a rule for everything and having a free-for-all, neither of which will be very successful. If you want to attract and retain the best employees, you need to decide what is really important to your organization and let the rest go.

    If you have questions, please reach out to one of our human resources experts at 1-800-748-5102 or humanresources@aplusbenefits.com.

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    A Plus BenefitsCompany Rules That Make Good Employees Quit
  • Revised I-9 Form Must be Used By Employers Starting Jan. 22, 2017


    Earlier this month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a revised version of the I-9 form used for employment eligibility verification.

    The new version of the form dated 11/14/2016 must be used by employers no later than January 22, 2017.

    writing-828911_640Until then, employers are able to use to use the version dated 03/08/2013 or the new version. A Plus Benefits is working to revise our new hire packets both online and in print to comply with this change by the end of the year.

    Here is a copy of the new form if you are interested in seeing the changes.

    Please note that this new version only needs to be used for newly hired employees. You do not need to have current employees complete a new I-9 form.

    If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our HR team.

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    A Plus BenefitsRevised I-9 Form Must be Used By Employers Starting Jan. 22, 2017
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