Small Business

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Coaching Employees to Keep Them Engaged


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Employee turnover is a huge concern for businesses of all sizes and there is a good reason for it. Statistics show that over half of employees are not engaged in their work and would be open to finding a new job opportunity. The good news is there are a few small things every business leader can do to help ensure their best employee talent sticks around long-term.

Engage all employees in one-on-one discussions
Often company leaders will only offer one-on-one coaching to supervisors in executives in their organizations. To keep employees at all levels engaged, conduct one-on-one meetings with everyone. These meetings give you the opportunity to address any employee concerns early on and offer meaningful, ongoing feedback. You can determine how often these discussions need to occur; weekly, bi-weekly or at least monthly.

Help employees find fulfillment in their work
Take advantage of your time in these one-on-one discussions to discover what motivates your employees. What are their true passions? Do they have untapped skills that their current role doesn’t allow them to utilize? Really get to know your employees and help them find ways to be fulfilled by their work.

Take time to evaluate the ROI of your one-on-one coaching
Make sure this time with employees isn’t just you checking a box on your to-do list. If it is, and you aren’t taking full advantage of this time, you won’t see the kind of improvement you are looking for in employee engagement and satisfaction. Make sure you are investing time in the preparation for these meetings and actually acting on the feedback you receive from employees.

Looking for more ideas? Check out our free Coaching Toolkit and Employee Engagement Toolkit.

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A Plus BenefitsCoaching Employees to Keep Them Engaged

Increase Productivity by Doing These Three Things at the End of Each Week


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Small business leaders must wear many hats. They are also tasked with doing more with less. This often means they are strapped for time and resources, and always looking for ways to be more productive. One of the best ways to ensure you have a great week, is to prepare each Friday. A recent article from Fast Company suggests that you set an appointment with yourself, and don’t move it or cancel it. During this time ask yourself these three questions:

Are my activities aligning with my goals?

Do a quick gut check at the end of each week to make sure that the places you are focusing your energy are those that are getting you to your goals. If that is not the case, make a plan to change that for the next week.

Where am I at with my “someday” goals?

We all have things we’d like to get to “someday” but we haven’t actually set a deadline for. Take time each week to review just one of these goals and decide if you are ready to get more specific with making it happen. Doing this helps ensure that you don’t let these things sit on the back burner forever.

What loose ends need tied up?

Review your to do list and see what things you can tackle immediately to get them off your plate. Clean up your email inbox. Check your calendar so you know what is coming up next week. Clear off any loose papers on your desk, so you can start the week out with a clean work environment.

Ending your week on a positive note is a great way to make sure you can enjoy your week and get your next week off on right foot. Share these ideas with the leaders in your organization and encourage them to give it a try.

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A Plus BenefitsIncrease Productivity by Doing These Three Things at the End of Each Week

5 Ways Millennial Employees Positively Impact Your Company


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You most often hear negative stereotypes about millennials. They are lazy. They want more pay for less work. They are entitled.  They lack communication skills. They are job-hoppers. Hearing these and so many others shared all the time both anecdotally among business leaders and in articles found in every business publication, it can be difficult to get excited about the next generation of employees. But just like every generation that came before them, Millennials bring positive and negative things to the workplace. For now, we want to focus on the positive and a recent article in Entrepreneur does just that. Here are five ways that Millennial employees can positively impact your organization:

They have a disruptive mindset.
You have likely heard the buzzword “disruptor” many times in the business world. It usually refers to a product, person or company that changes the way we think about an industry. They are usually start-up companies that manage to unseat the giants in their industry due to their innovative ideas.

Millennials are natural disruptors. They question the status quo and are constantly wondering if things could be done better. There is likely a great source of new ideas bubbling right beneath the surface of your Millennial employees. To gain access to their insights, all you need to do is ask. Encourage employees to share their ideas and provide guidance and support to vet these ideas and move those that are most valuable into action.

They value experiences.
More than any other generation they understand the importance of the customer’s experience with your brand. Allow Millennials to share their thoughts on how you can improve the user experience with the product or service.

They are digitally savvy.
Most Millennials grew up with technology all around them/. Most have computers in their homes and schools and cell phones from a very young age. Use this to your advantage when you’re looking at ways to improve your products, services, or even your internal processes with technology. You can also implement a reverse-mentoring program, where younger, more technically-savvy employees help those employees that may have a harder time getting up to speed on a new piece of technology.

Millennials also grew up in the age of social media. They likely have a keen understanding of the platforms and how you might be able to best reach your customers there.

They care about your purpose.
Millennials aren’t really concerned with having fun at work as many might think. What really creates staying power for most millennial employees is having a purpose at work. Understanding the impact that one’s work has on their company, community and the world is important to them. You know why you went into business, so share that with your team often and allow them to spread that message.

They want leadership.
The stereotype of Millennials being lazy or lacking focus presents a great opportunity for business leaders. Though they may have lacked this in their childhood and young adult like, they really do want structure and accountability. Set high expectations for all employees and hold them accountable. Lead by example. Set high expectations for yourself and hold yourself accountable. Fairness matters greatly to Millennials, so make sure that you fairly assign work and communicate clearly what it takes to succeed.

There is no avoiding the fact that Millennials will soon be taking over the workforce, and in many industries, they already have. Rather than have a negative attitude about that prospect, we hope that small business leaders will see the opportunities that Millennial employees bring to the organization.

Want to learn more about this important part of our workforce? We have a webinar coming up on Thursday October 12, 2017 at 11:00 am (MST) about Unleashing the Power of Millennials with special guest speaker Ben Galvin (PhD), Assistant Professor in the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University who has done extensive research on leadership, management and unleashing the power of millennials. You can register for the webinar here.

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A Plus Benefits5 Ways Millennial Employees Positively Impact Your Company

6 Simple Strategies to Motivate Your Employees


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In preparation for our Fall session of HR Boot Camp, we asked participants what their biggest HR challenge is. One of the things we hear often is what challenge it is to motivate employees to perform at a high level. Each individual employee may be motivated differently, creating a challenge for small business leaders already strapped for time and other resources. A recent article from Entrepreneur provides six strategies for motivating employees.

  1. Promote purpose. Companies that clearly communicate and demonstrate their purpose to employees have higher levels of employee engagement. This allows them to attract and retain the best possible employees. Unfortunately, according to research by Gallup, only 27% of employees say they can apply the company values to their individual job. There is a reason you chose to go into business. Share that with employees. Tell them what motivates you to come to work each day. Help them find purpose in their work.
  2. Actively listen and ask open ended questions. Engage in two-way communication with your employees. Ask them what motivates them and really listen to what they are saying. Find out what they are passionate about (inside or outside of work) and then ask questions about why that drives them. Use that information to help employees plan for their own career development to reach their goals.
  3. Catch a motivational wave. Take advantage of times when individuals are already motivated. Maybe it’s the beginning of the year, when people are setting New Year’s resolutions, or right after attending and industry conference or corporate event. Ride that motivational wave and keep the momentum going.
  4. Stop with the bribes. Rewards only work when they are handled strategically. Have a reason for rewarding and recognizing your employees. Doing it for no reason can lead to a lack of appreciation and a feeling of unfairness in the workplace.
  5. Lead by example. Make sure you are motivated as well. If your heart isn’t in it, others will notice., You must lead by example by pushing yourself to perform at a high level.
  6. Be vulnerable. Solicit positive and negative feedback from your employees. Share with them both your successes and your failures. This will increase the level of trust your team has in you as a leader.

These strategies may not all work for all employees, but they should give you some ideas of where you can improve the motivation of your team. Once you implement one or more of these ideas, we want to know how it goes. Drop by our Facebook page and let us know.

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A Plus Benefits6 Simple Strategies to Motivate Your Employees

5 Ways to Build Strong Relationships with Your Employees


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We get it. Leaders of small businesses are burdened with so many tasks, that often building employees relationships is the last thing on their mind.But maintaining positive work relationships is important to employee engagement and overall business success. Research by Gallup shows employees are more likely to be fully engaged in their work when they maintain good relationships with leaders and peers. With 70% of the workforce not fully engaged, this can be a real game-changer. The truth is, people are looking for more than just a paycheck from their job. They want to find meaningful work they actually enjoy. Here are four simple things from a recent blog on Talent Culture that leaders can do to get the ball rolling:

Celebrate the good times
Take the opportunity to celebrate with your team whenever possible. Bring in a cake once a month to celebrate everyone who has a birthday (and/or work anniversary) in that month. Get the team together to celebrate when company or team goals are reached.

Find creative ways to communicate internally
Don’t rely on just one method of communication. Be sure to use a combination of email, face-to-face, phone and even text communication to connect with employees. Also consider whether using an internal instant messaging program like Skype for business or a software program like Slack could help you connect with your team in another way.

Encourage feedback
Encourage employees to provide feedback to you and to one another. Ask employees for feedback on your leadership skills. If you see someone doing something awesome, tell them! Create a culture where feedback is welcome and rewarded. To make this happen, provide some training and guidelines for peers to provide feedback to one another. Emphasize the importance of providing a balance of positive and negative feedback at all times.

Emphasize shared values
Employee engagement is the highest when a company clearly ties the employee’s work to the company’s shared values and goals. Everyone wants to know that their work has value. Keep you values and mission statement at the forefront of everything you do.

The great thing about these suggestions is that they don’t take a lot of time or money. Simply building these into your routines will allow you to build meaningful relationships with your employees. Do you have great ideas for connecting with your employee? Share them with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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A Plus Benefits5 Ways to Build Strong Relationships with Your Employees

6 Productivity Tips for Small Business Leaders


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Have you ever wished you had just a few more hours in the day? What a silly question. Of course, you have. As a small business leader or entrepreneur, you are used to long working hours and having never-ending to-do lists. What would you do with a little more time in your day? Being more productive with little tasks throughout your day can help you accomplish more. Here are a few of our favorite tips:

Start with the least desirable task first
Sometimes this is called “eating the frog.” Starting with the least desirable task each day allows you to feel accomplished quickly and move on to more enjoyable tasks. It also prevents you from putting it off to the next day, only to dread it all day again.

Hold “No Meeting” Wednesdays
It doesn’t have to be Wednesday, but set aside one day each week where there are no scheduled meetings. On this day, employees can focus on important tasks with large blocks of uninterrupted time.

Bundle similar tasks together.
Grouping similar tasks together can help you do many things at once instead of bouncing around physically and mentally from place to place. Do you have a list of phone calls to make? Do them one after the other. Do you have multiple tasks using one piece of software? Complete them back to back. One thing that often disrupts work is checking email. Setting aside specific times during the day to read and address emails is another great tip.

Make your workspace comfortable
Having a workplace that you are comfortable in makes it easier to work. We spend most of our days at work, so why not make it enjoyable? Changing lighting such as adding a lamp or adding a foot rest can make your workspace more comfortable allowing you to focus and get more done.

Take 15 minutes to plan the next day
Taking a couple extra minutes at the end of each day to plan can help you prioritize your work for the next day. This helps to begin working immediately and not waste time figuring out what to tackle first. Making lists also helps to make sure you don’t accidentally forget an important task, potentially throwing off your day.

Get ready for Monday on Sunday night
Being prepared and not feeling rushed in the morning will energize you on Monday and get you ready to start the week strong. Set some goals for your week. Get your cup for coffee out and next to the coffee maker. Put your keys, bag and shoes by the door. These small things will help you start off on the right foot.

Share these ideas with your employees, especially other leaders in your organization. Saving just five minutes each day really adds up.

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A Plus Benefits6 Productivity Tips for Small Business Leaders

Does Your Company’s Vacation Time Need to be Revamped?


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It’s hard to believe that summer is already winding down. Kids will be back in school soon and your employees will likely be scaling back their time off requests. Summer is typically the most popular times for employees to take family vacations, so it’s likely you had the opportunity to observe your time off policies and procedures in action over the past few months. Now can be a great time to review that and start making plans for what you might want to change for next year. Here are some simple steps you can take to begin that review process.

Analyze your compensation and benefits strategy
Most companies (91% in the US according to SHRM) offer some paid time off or vacation time to employees. That is pretty much a given at most organizations. But how you structure your vacation policy is an important piece of your overall benefits strategy. Decide what you hope to accomplish and what you hope to communicate to employees through your time off policy.

Keep long term viability in mind
It is important to find a balance of what your company can afford in terms of productivity loss and compensation for employees along with examining what competitor companies are doing to determine if you are more or less competitive from that standpoint. It is much easier to add additional benefits than it is to remove them from employees. Only commit to what you know is sustainable for your organization moving forward.

Plan the structure of your policy
Time off policies are often as unique as the companies they come from. You really do have a lot flexibility in your plan design. Here are some of the important questions to ask yourself:

  • How much paid time off will employees receive?
  • How many hours per week must an employee work to qualify for paid time off?
  • Will employee receive a lump sum, or will it accrue over time?
  • What will happen to accrued paid time off when an employee terminates? (check your state laws)
  • Will employees have a deadline to use paid time (use it or lose it)? (check your state laws)
  • Will hourly employees receive the same amount of vacation as salaried employees?
  • Do you need a bona fide leave bank for salaried exempt-level employees?

Plan and communicate your implementation strategy
Almost as important as your plan structure, it is important to plan for the actual implementation of that policy. Develop an employee vacation tracking and planning system to help you plan business needs and employee schedules. You will also want to determine how employee vacations during peak business times or during employee absences. Having a plan in place and clearly communicating that to employees prevents future issues.  Some questions to consider include:

  • How will employees submit requests for time off?
  • Will you do a first come first serve basis when employees request time off, or will seniority be considered?
  • Who will determine whether time off will be approved and how will this be communicated to employees?
  • Will you have deadline for vacation requests or blackout dates during busy business periods?
  • How will you divvy out employees’ duties during employees’ vacation periods?
  • Will you offer incentives for employees who work during peak vacation periods?

Once you have a plan, this needs to be communicated clearly to employees, so they understand the benefit and the process by which to use it.

Consider other types of leave
While you are considering your vacation policy, you may also want to take a look at other types of paid and unpaid leave. Other things to consider besides just a vacation policy include:

Setting up a vacation policy that will best fits your company culture will help ensure your employees are healthy, happy and feeling they are being fairly compensated. If you aren’t sure what types of leave are important to your employees, ask them. This can help you gain insight to how employees really feel about the policy and make them feel included in the process. If you would like assistance with creating a written time off or other type of policy, contact one of our HR experts at humanresources@aplusbenefits.com.

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A Plus BenefitsDoes Your Company’s Vacation Time Need to be Revamped?

5 Ways to Increase Employee Autonomy Today


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The workforce is changing and employees are now expecting more autonomy than ever before. Employees want to have more power over how (and often when and where) they perform their jobs. Research by Gallup has repeatedly found that employees highly value flexibility and autonomy in a job. If you are striving to attract and retain the best employees, you’ll need to move your company in that direction. Here are five ways you can increase employee autonomy in your organization beginning today.

Hire the right people.
Increasing employee autonomy requires a great level of trust. This must begin at the very start of the relationship. Ask questions during the job interview that help you begin to build that trust early on. Some examples are:

  • Tell me about a time you managed a project with little to no oversight or direction.
  • Have you ever been in a situation where your role or responsibilities haven’t been clearly defined? What did you do?
  • Can you give me an example of a time you went above and beyond the call of duty to help either a customer or co-worker?
  • Tell me about a time when you felt you needed to immediately address a difficult situation with your boss or supervisor when others wouldn’t.

Focus on quality training.
This begins on day one with a strategic onboarding process. Provide new employees with the information they need to begin making good decisions early on in their employment. Reward and celebrate early wins in this area and redirect employees who may be off track. We also encourage employers to set up a mentorship program for new employees. This allows current employee to model good behaviors for new employees.

Help employees to “Ask for forgiveness, not permission.”
Empower employees to make decisions rather than requiring management approval for every decision. This requires a certain level of transparency with employees as they will need to understand the goals of the organization as well as relationships with stakeholders. Set clear boundaries and then allow employees to solve problems their way. Role play difficult situations and encourage employees to practice quick, thoughtful decision making. As with anything, your employees will become better the more they practice.

Openly discuss career plans.
While we are on the topic of transparency, discussing development options with employees helps improve their autonomy as well. Leaders should have weekly one on one meetings with employees that help to push the employee forward. Ask employees what they hope to get out of their role and where they see themselves going in the future. Small businesses often feel disadvantaged in this area, where there are not many roles that an employee could move into. Career planning doesn’t have to mean switching roles or getting a promotion. There are plenty of ways employers can encourage development without those things. Perhaps they could improve existing skills or learn new skills through an online course. Or maybe they would be interested in joining a professional association and attending trainings and conferences with peers in their industry. Ask your employees to find out what is important to them.

Provide employees with more choices.
Whenever possible, increase the number of choices your employees are allowed to make. Perhaps you can improve their benefits options, allowing them more options to choose from. Maybe you could add flexible working schedules where employees could choose their start and end times. Anytime you can allow an employee to choose what is best for them, you will reap the rewards for employee autonomy.

Increasing employee autonomy not only increases employee engagement, but also frees up your managers for more important strategic planning and execution. It is a win-win situation for everyone. Demonstrating you trust your employees by giving them flexibility and choice also makes them trust your company and your leaders. Looking for more ideas? Reach out to our HR experts at humanresources@aplusbenefits.com

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A Plus Benefits5 Ways to Increase Employee Autonomy Today

3 Simple Questions You Can Ask to Increase Employee Retention


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Employee retention is one of the things we hear most often when we ask businesses owners what their greatest challenge is. National statistics are right in line with that. Research from Future Workplace and Kronos, found that 87% of employers felt that improving retention is a critical priority for their organization. Retention doesn’t have to be that difficult. Here are three simple questions from a recent article in Inc. that your leaders can ask employees today to immediately improve retention.

Do we have a high level of trust?
Trust is a critical part of any relationship, including an employment relationship. You need to trust that employees will do the work they have been hired to do and your employees need to know that you will fulfill your promise to compensate them for their work and treat them fairly. Earning and keeping trust requires work. If you find that trust is lacking with any of your employees, your next question needs to be, “how can we rebuild trust and continue to work together?”

Do you feel like you have space to voice your concerns and be heard?
This is one of the ways you can earn trust from your employees. Providing them with opportunities to express their concerns gives employees a sense of security. Employees need to be able to tell you if they think your expectations are unrealistic. One way to ensure this opportunity is not missed is for leaders to have weekly one on one meetings with each employee they supervise. Set the expectation that the employee owns this meeting and that it is a time for them to share their ideas and concerns in addition to sharing their accountability report. Spend most of your time in this meeting listening to understand and get to know the employee.

What can I do to help you be more successful?
Great employees are usually great because they push themselves to keep getting better. High performers want opportunities to learn and develop their skills. Asking this question not only shows your employees that you care and are invested in their development, but also provide s opportunities to have conversations about the things the employee might like to do moving forward. Especially in a small business, where career advancement opportunities may be scarce, offering professional (and personal) development opportunities can give employees the growth they need to stick around.

Asking these questions does very little if leaders do not act upon what is learned from the conversations with employees. But taking a few minutes each day and 30 minutes a week to check in with employees and ask them a few simple questions can help your leaders learn what is important to employees, aiding in employee engagement and retention long-term.

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A Plus Benefits3 Simple Questions You Can Ask to Increase Employee Retention

Help Employees Destress to Reduce Employee Burnout


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We all have times where we feel stressed, because of personal relationships, work, or other obligations. Stress isn’t always bad. It can sometimes be positive. Research suggests that a moderate level of stress that can be overcome often helps an individual feel stronger and more productive. Stress becomes a problem when it impedes our ability to be productive and reduces morale.

There are many things that can cause negative levels of stress in the workplace. Poor communication, lack of accountability and distrust are just a few.

 

You can evaluate the level of stress you may be adding to your team by asking yourself these simple questions:

  • Are my employees working in careers that have high depression rates? If so, what help can I offer to help them minimize stress?
  • Are my employees overworked? Do we have a high turnover rates? Do we have fair compensation?
  • Do I trust my employees and in turn do they trust me?
  • How often am I communicating one on one with my employees about not only their careers by their lives as a whole?
  • Am I holding m y team accountable for their work?
  • Am I treating employees fairly?
  • Is my management style adding or reducing to my employee’s stress?

We cannot control all the stress our employees experience. Employees may have problems outside the workplace that increase their stress levels. This makes finding ways to minimize stress in the work environment even more important to improving employee productivity and morale.

Here are some stress-reducing activities to try with your employees:

  • Get out of the office and go on a walk
  • End the day doing ten minutes of meditation
  • Create a game area for your employees to hang out and build personal relationships during breaks
  • Take your team to lunch away from the office
  • Find ways to recognize employees or departments for their hard work or accomplishments
  • Do a fun service project to help everyone get engaged and give back

What ideas have you implemented to help employees destress? We would love to hear about them on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/APlusBenefits.

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A Plus BenefitsHelp Employees Destress to Reduce Employee Burnout