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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

7 Things Employees Need if You Want Them to Stick Around


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One thing we often hear from the small business leaders we work with is how challenging it is to retain good employees. This is especially true in competitive job markets where skilled workers may encounter new job opportunities at every turn. Keeping employees around really boils down to one thing; having great leaders. According to research by Gallup, managers account for up to 70% variance in employee engagement. It is often said that employees don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses.

Leaders in small business often have so much on their plates, they have little time to improve their leadership skills. Providing little bits of information leaders can immediately use can be incredibly helpful.

A recent article in Inc. shares seven things employees need in order to stick around. Share these with the leaders in your organization to help them better understand their teams.

  1. Safety– Employees need to feel secure in their job. This means understanding what is expected of them. Leaders should ask employees about their future goals and help develop them along their career path.
  2. Recognition– We all like to hear when we are doing a good job. Working hard without anyone noticing is discouraging. Leaders should get into the habit of praising employees often. Check out our Employee Recognition Toolkit for ideas.
  3. Understanding– Employees want to know that their manager hears and understands them. They want to be able to come to their leaders with concerns and not be brushed off. The best leaders listen and validate the thoughts, concerns and feelings of their employees.
  4. Purpose– Everyone wants to feel like they are part of something bigger and better than just their individual work. Help employees discover how their work impacts the goals of the organization. Then help them see how the organization has a positive impact on your customers and your community.
  5. Communication– Employees want to feel like they are in t eh know. They don’t want to be in the dark about what is going on in the organization. Open communication and transparency increases the trust your employees have in your leaders. It also helps them feel safe and secure in their job.
  6. Value– Employees want to feel like they matter not only to the organizational as whole but to the leaders as well. Encourage leaders to really get to know their employees. Understand what is important to them and what motivates them.
  7. Love– This may seem a bit out of place for the work environment, but the truth is employees spend a large portion of their lives at work. They need to develop positive relationships in the workplace, including relationships with their supervisors. Feeling like someone at work cares about you drives employees to show up and perform at a high level each and every day.

Improving employee engagement and retention doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. Helping your leaders understand these seven things that drive employee engagement and loyalty will immediately help get your company on track with retention.

Looking for more ideas? Contact our HR experts at 1-800-748-5102 or humanresources@aplusbenefits.com

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A Plus Benefits7 Things Employees Need if You Want Them to Stick Around

Recent Changes to State and Local Minimum Wage Across the US


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Although federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 and has not been changed in over 10 years, many employees are entitled to a higher minimum set by state and local laws. Some changes to these laws have taken effect as recently as July 1, 2017.

Here are some of the most recent changes:

Chicago: $11 an hour.

Cook County, Illinois: $10 an hour.

Emeryville, California: $15.20 an hour for businesses with more than 56 employees, and $14 an hour for businesses with 55 or fewer employees.

Flagstaff, Arizona: $10.50 an hour.

Los Angeles: $12 an hour for businesses with more than 26 employees, and $10.50 an hour for businesses with 25 or fewer employees.

Maryland: $9.25 an hour.

Milpitas, California: $11 an hour.

Montgomery County, Maryland: $11.50 an hour.

Oregon: $10.25 an hour. (Exception: $11.25 an hour in the Portland metro area, and $10 an hour in some counties designated as “non-urban.”)

Pasadena, California: $12 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees, and $10.50 an hour or businesses with 25 or fewer employees.

San Francisco: $14 an hour.

San Jose, California: $12 an hour.

San Leandro, California: $12 an hour.

Santa Monica, California: $12 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees, and $10.50 an hour or businesses with 25 or fewer employees.

Washington, D.C.: $12.50 an hour.

If you have any employees in these locations, it is important to take a look at wages and make sure you are meeting the state and local minimum wage requirement.

Questions? Contact one of our HR experts at 1-800-748-5102 or humanresources@aplusbenefits.com

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A Plus BenefitsRecent Changes to State and Local Minimum Wage Across the US

Successful Onboarding Helps Retain Those Employees You Worked Hard to Recruit


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We all know how time consuming and exhausting it is to read through hundreds of resumes and interview candidates day after day. After all of that hard work, finding a new employee who fits the company culture and has great work experience is so rewarding. That feeling of euphoria though can turn to panic when you newly-hired employee turns in their resignation just a few weeks later.

Keeping employees is one of the biggest challenges we hear about from the small business leaders we work with. Improving your onboarding experience by helping the new employee get up to speed quickly and making transition a positive experience will help you retain more of your new employees.

Here are a few tips to help you get started immediately:

Improve your onboarding experience

  • Ask your current employees (especially those that started within the last year) how long it took for them to feel like they were a part of the team. This will give you an idea of how much your current onboarding system needs to be improved.
  • Have employees who will be working closely with the new hire contact them before they start, just to introduce themselves and welcome them to the team.
  • Connect with the new employee on LinkedIn and encourage their coworkers to do the same.
  • Make sure the new employee has a reviewed a copy of their job description so they know what will be expected of them.
  • If you have not already done so, introduce the employee to their direct supervisor and provide them with contact information such as phone and email.

Get the new employee up to speed quickly

  • Provide the employee with an idea of what they can expect on their first day. Where should they come when they arrive? Who should they ask for? What should they wear? Will they be provided a lunch?
  • If you have an employee newsletter or even some marketing materials that explain a little about your company, send those to new employee before their first day.
  • Help the employee understand some of the jargon associated with your industry you’re your company. New employees may not be familiar with the way your company communicates. Providing them with some of these common terms helps them understand and communicate better early on.
  • Make sure the employee has the tools they need to perform their job.

Extend the onboarding experience beyond the first day week or even month

  • Remember there is no set time for how long an employee is fully assimilated in their new position. It could take up to a year if the employee is new to the company and has a challenging position.  If an employee is taking on a new role, it may only take them six months.
  • Check in with your new employee frequently to make sure they are not overloaded with work. This will also help you give and receive feedback in real-time.

Research shows that being more intentional and structured during the on-boarding process can help stave off early turnover. A case study by Corning Glass Works, for example, found that  employees who attended a structured orientation program were 69 percent more likely to stay with the company for three years. That’s probably because good onboarding sets clear expectations for employees and equips them for success, which means they’re less likely to encounter surprises that cause stress and dissatisfaction in their work.

If you are looking for some additional resources improve your onboarding experience, check out our Onboarding Toolkit. Also register for our upcoming webinar, Why Are Your New Hires Leaving So Soon?: Improving Your Onboarding Experience.

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A Plus BenefitsSuccessful Onboarding Helps Retain Those Employees You Worked Hard to Recruit

Eight Simple First-aid Tips That Could Save an Employee’s Life


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Thousands of employees are killed or suffer serious injuries at work every year. Yet, a staggering 58 percent of employees are unfamiliar with their organization’s health and safety practices, according to a study conducted by international safety barrier manufacturer, A-SAFE.

Review these eight simple first-aid tips with your employees to ensure that your whole team is capable of providing aid to co-workers if necessary:

  1. Unresponsive and not breathing
  • Check breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths.
  • Call 911 as soon as possible.
  • Place the victim on his or her back on a flat surface. Make sure the person’s airway is clear.
  • Place the heel of one hand over the center of the chest, and your other hand on top of the first. Using your upper body weight, forcefully push straight down on the chest at a fast pace. Continue compressions until paramedics arrive (unless instructed differently by medical personnel over the phone).
  • If you are well-trained in CPR and feel confident in your abilities, you may alternate two rescue breaths for each set of 30 chest compressions (unless instructed otherwise by medical personnel over the phone).
  1. Unresponsive and breathing
  • Check breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths.
  • Move them onto their side and tilt their head back.
  • Call 911, as soon as possible.
  1. Choking
  • Stand behind the choking person and wrap your arms around his or her waist. Bend the person slightly forward.
  • Make a fist with one hand and place it slightly above the person’s navel.
  • Grasp your fist with the other hand and press hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust.
  • Repeat this procedure until the object is expelled from the airway.
  • If you must perform this maneuver on yourself, position your own fist slightly above your navel. Grasp your fist with your other hand and thrust upward into your abdomen until the object is expelled.
  • Call 911, if necessary.
  1. Heavy bleeding
  • Using a clean dry cloth, put pressure on the wound to stop or slow down the flow of blood.
  • Call 911, as soon as possible.
  • Keep pressure on the wound until help arrives.
  1. Burns
  • If the skin is not broken, run cool water over the burn for several minutes.
  • Cover the burn with a sterile bandage or clean cloth.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever to relieve any swelling or pain.
  • Do not place any creams or ice on the burned area.
  • Seek emergency treatment for more serious burns immediately.
  1. Broken bone
  • Have the person support the injury with his or her hand, or use a cushion or items of clothing to prevent unnecessary movement.
  • Call 911, as soon as possible.
  • Continue supporting the injury until help arrives.
  1. Shock
  • Call 911, as soon as possible.
  • Have the victim lie down on his or her back and elevate the feet higher than the head. Keep the victim from moving unnecessarily.
  • Keep the victim warm and comfortable. Loosen tight clothing and cover him or her with a blanket.
  • Do not give the victim anything to drink.
  • If he or she is vomiting or bleeding from the mouth, place the victim on his or her side to prevent choking.
  • Treat any other injuries appropriately.
  • Begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if victim is not breathing.
  1. Nosebleed
  • Have the victim sit or stand upright to slow the flow of blood in the nose. Do NOT tip the head back.
  • Gently pinch the nose with your thumb and forefinger for 10 minutes, maintaining pressure. Have the victim breathe through the mouth during this time.
  • Seek medical care if bleeding lasts for more than 20 minutes or if the nosebleed resulted from a broken nose or head trauma.

Reminding employees about the importance of safety and looking out for one another should be a regular practice. Visit our Risk Management Toolbox website for more resources to make safety a priority at your organization. If you are interested in formal first aid training for your team, please contact our Safety Director Reed Balls at rballs@aplusbenefits.com. Keep each other safe.

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A Plus BenefitsEight Simple First-aid Tips That Could Save an Employee’s Life

Providing Health Insurance to Employees is Good for Business


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Being a small business owner is not easy. Small business are severely disadvantaged when it comes to the time, money and resources needed to compete with large corporations. Finding the best places to spend and save money is crucial to success. We often come across business owners who believe they can’t afford to offer health insurance to their employees, or that the ROI for offering benefits just isn’t there. A recent article from the Harvard Business Review makes a great business case for offering benefits to employees.

Regardless of your opinion on this issue of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or your political stance, you can;t deny that right now there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to health insurance. Especially for individuals relying on Marketplace plans. If you are not currently offering a group health plan to your employees in favor of them obtaining their own coverage on the exchange, you likely have some anxious employees. The stability offered by an employer-sponsored health plan has a number of business benefits.

Health insurance is linked to lower stress
Research shows that employees who have health insurance are less likely to be stressed. This is easy to imagine given that the medical debt is the source of the majority of collection agency calls. Stress can be detrimental to your workforce. Employees who report high levels of stress are more likely to burn out and less likely to be high performers. Stressed employees negatively impact your bottom line, and anything you can do to alleviate that stress will improve it.

Health insurance improves long-term decision making
Employees who are struggling to make ends meet often have a difficult time making log-term decisions. Often these individuals are so focused on getting through the next week or the next pay period, that they lack the attention to long-term goals needed to be a high performer. Reducing an employee’s financial stress helps them be a better long-term decision maker and offering health insurance is way employers can do this.

Not having health insurance hinders cognitive ability
When financial stress weighs on a person’s mind, they are less likely to be able to pay attention to much else, including the work they do for your organization. If you are looking for innovative, bright employees, you need their focus and attention on their work. And is not just about the “what if” scenarios. Over 1/3 of employees have chronic ongoing medical issues that don’t just go away. The peace of mind provided to employees who know they will be able to go to the doctor or get the medication they need, allows them to perform at higher levels in your organization.

The uncertainty in the current healthcare market makes this the perfect time to consider whether offering health insurance may be what you need to take your company to the next level. Not only will you be able to attract and retain the best employees, but you will also get higher levels of performance out of your employees who are able to focus their attention on their work.

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A Plus BenefitsProviding Health Insurance to Employees is Good for Business

Six Simple Steps to Immediately Improve Your Meetings


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Holding meetings is necessary in almost every company regardless of size or industry. Many people would consider them a “necessary evil.” But meetings don’t have to be painful. There are ways to structure meetings within your company to make them productive and even enjoyable. A recent article from Harvard Business review gives six simple things you can do immediately to improve the meetings in your organization:

Focus on being present. Whether you are the one who called the meeting or you are just an attendee, as a leader you must set a good example by being 100% present. Take a few minutes to prepare before the meeting so you are relaxed and in the right mindset. Running in directly from another meeting may leave you distracted or still thinking about the previous meeting.

Eliminate as many distractions as possible. Avoid checking your phone. If you have your laptop out to take notes, shut down automatic notifications that may distract you, such as emails.

Demonstrate empathy. People want to know that you care. Being present will allow you to really pay attention to other individuals in the meeting, which is necessary to demonstrate empathy. Observe others, listen to what they say and ask thoughtful questions to show you are actively engaged in the discussion.

Set up and manage the conversation. Communicate your expectations for the meeting. You being present is a good start, but to the maximize efficiency of your meetings you need the other participants in the meeting to be present as well. Set guidelines for using phones, ask that technology that takes away from the discussion be put away and encourage people to ask questions.

Include enough time for each topic. Planning ahead and having an agenda is vital to a productive meeting. When you create your agenda, make sure to set aside enough time to cover each topic. Be mindful of the agenda throughout the meeting to keep the conversation moving so each topic gets adequate attention and the meeting ends on time. If you’re looking for a sample agenda, check out the template in our Effective Meetings Toolkit.

Slow down the conversation to include everyone. Take a moment to consider who has been participating in the discussion. Gently invite anyone who hasn’t had a chance to share their thoughts to speak up.

Choose specific times to pause and check in. Plan time for pauses and questions in your agenda. Take the time to ask if anyone has any questions or comments, especially when transitioning to a new topic. When you ask a question, allow people time to digest before expecting a response. Pausing shows that the topic is important enough to wait for a response.

Share these ideas with your team to help increase the effectiveness of your meetings immediately. It is about showing respect for the participants and taking advantage of time you have carved out to actually get things done. Have you tried this out? Let us know at marketing@aplusbenefits.com.

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A Plus BenefitsSix Simple Steps to Immediately Improve Your Meetings