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It’s Not About Selling Software

The COVID-19 pandemic has required that ExactHire, like many other companies, move to a mandatory work-from-home model. ExactHire has always offered remote work as an option to our employees, so this change has minimally affected our operations. Obviously, the same cannot be said for the pandemic’s impact on our business.

Our software is designed to create efficiencies for HR professionals and allow them to focus on their people. We believe that people are an organization’s greatest asset. So as soon as news of the pandemic hit, and prospective clients began cancelling demos and breaking off communications, we knew why. Their only concern and focus was on their people.

Within our organization, our team has worked quickly to discuss how we can take care of our people–our families, our team, our clients, and human resources professionals. This is not about selling software, it’s about the safety and welfare of our community. There is nothing more important today and in the days to come.

Our Families

As mentioned, ExactHire has always offered remote work as an option. Those who’ve felt “a little” sick have been encouraged (sometimes told) to work from home. Additionally, members of our team with children are empowered to work from home when a child is ill, allowing them to flex their time if they choose. The pandemic has made these “options” mandatory, but our team has not missed a beat.

We know that our team is at its best when they and their families are safe and well. Yes, this means that some work calls may include barking dogs, ringing doorbells, and toddler talk. But it also means that our clients and community are working with an organization and people who care. It’s not about selling software.

Our Team

Challenges are usually a source of energy for our team. And while this pandemic is likely the biggest challenge we will face, our team has not blinked. Collectively, we’ve worked through questions and solutions related to our own health and safety, current and future needs of our clients, and how we can leverage our resources to help our community.

We’re part of the ExactHire team because we believe that we can help people. We help business owners, HR professionals, employees, job applicants, and job seekers. That’s what has kept our team together and positive during this time–the belief that we can help others. It’s not about selling software.

Our Clients

A month ago, HR professionals across the world were dealing with a completely different set of problems than the ones they have today. Even now, employers are uncertain of what the future may hold. Despite the hourly changes in what the pandemic could mean to our world, a prevailing sentiment is emerging–things may be different, but we will move forward.

Our VP of Client Success, Randi Doerr, recently created a video message to our clients. In it, she explained that while we as a software company cannot solve the many challenges that they face, we stand ready and willing to do what we can. It’s not about selling software.


Our HR Professionals

Helping others is usually easiest with those whom we are the closest–we know their needs and the offer of help is more likely accepted. However during times like these, we all must reach further to help one another and accept help from wherever it may come.

Our team has developed countless articles, ebooks, webinars, and guides to help HR professionals. This content includes topics such as:

  • remote working,
  • company culture and employee engagement,
  • HR change management, and
  • leadership.

We’ve compiled the best of these resources all in one place on our website. We know that these resources cannot possibly solve all the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, but it’s our sincere hope that they do help in at least some small measure. It’s not about selling software.

Our Future

As a small business, we’ve experienced the ups and downs that all growing companies must endure. Our team has never backed down from a challenge; we don’t intend to do so now. But we do realize the serious threat that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to our world. And so we’re doing what we can to take care of our people.

We believe that if everyone continues to do the same, we will not only emerge from this current emergency stronger, but perhaps better too.

Sincerely,

 

Harlan Schafir

 

 

Harlan Schafir
CEO, ExactHire

 

Reignite Your Leadership Skills

The world is full of leaders. Some are easy to identify; they may hold political office, run successful businesses, minister at churches, command troops, or quarterback their teams to victory. Surprisingly, however, these highly visible leaders are but a tiny fraction of the women and men who lead. The vast majority of leaders are leading without title or wide-spread popularity.

In fact, title and popularity are not reliable indicators of effective leadership. This is because leadership is a skill and, like any skill, improves over time with practice–or withers without it. Everyone, regardless of title, has the ability to grow as a leader if they choose to practice the skill consistently over time. But sometimes we lose the choice to practice.

Losing the Leadership Path

It can be difficult to practice leadership consistently when dealing with unexpected life events. This is especially true for individuals who mainly exercise leadership through their profession. Changing jobs, unemployment, starting families, illness, or the death of a loved one can all suddenly and swiftly interrupt the practice of leadership.

A few days or weeks of not practicing leadership is harmless; however, when weeks become months, the effects become more apparent. Confidence levels decrease, decisiveness weakens, and work knowledge may slip. This can all lead to confusion and negative outcomes. For those already in a leadership role, this could even mean losing their position. 

Reignite Your Leadership Skills

The negative effects of failing to practice leadership are not character defects. Confidence, decisiveness, knowledge, and clarity will all increase upon returning to practice. The problem for many, though, is that they don’t know how to begin practicing leadership again. This is especially true for someone who has lost a leadership position or taken an extended leave of absence.

Getting back on the leadership path is not always easy, and it’s not something achieved overnight. It requires disciplined action and an open mind. The goal should be to get back into the practice of setting and achieving goals, teaching and learning from peers, and experiencing success. And rather than making a snap decision to jump back into a leadership role, it’s helpful to first consider what opportunities currently exist. 

Finding The Right Leadership Opportunity

To begin practicing leadership after a long hiatus, the first step is to find the right leadership opportunity. Since this might be outside a chosen profession, the opportunity could be *gasp* uncompensated. However, by taking the perspective that the end (improved leadership skills) is worth the means (uncompensated work), motivation and progress can be maintained.

Often times there are leadership opportunities at our churches, our child’s school or sports leagues, or at our favorite non-profits. When an open leadership role exists where we already spend time, taking on the role becomes easier, and the expectations are clearer. Here are a few areas where leaders can grow their skills outside their primary profession.

Volunteer Leadership

Volunteering often involves manual, monotonous tasks. In fact, many institutions need volunteers to free up the time of full-time professionals so that they can focus on more strategic, value-added tasks. But even the most mundane volunteer role can offer an opportunity to practice leadership skills.

For instance, leaders often look for ways to improve outcomes by optimizing processes. So when a volunteer role is tied to an inefficient process, suggesting process improvements to the volunteer leader can be helpful. This could help the organization become more efficient and, ultimately, more successful.

Part-time Leadership

Part-time jobs that may not offer a career path or much prestige, can provide structure and valuable challenges. Professional titles help orient an organization’s employees and customers, but these titles are not the only sources of leadership. Those in part-time roles can lead too.

Just as a volunteer can suggest improvements, so too can a part-time employee. Furthermore, a part-time employee will have enough experience and knowledge of an organization to provide ideas for improving work culture, hiring, and training. If the fit is right, a part-time employee might have an interest and opportunity to move into a full-time leadership role.

Contract Leadership

For those looking to practice leadership on a flexible schedule and with compensation, contract work might be the right leadership opportunity. Of course, this often requires that the individual has a specific skill set to offer a client. Contracts usually arise because an organization lacks the internal expertise or bandwidth to complete a project.

One of the benefits of working as a contractor is that you are given ownership of a project and a degree of autonomy in its completion. Successful contract work can lead to full-time employment with the contracting organization or help build an impressive resume that highlights leadership qualities such as adaptability.

Mentor Leadership

One of the best ways to practice leadership is by sharing what we know. It’s not uncommon for leaders to undervalue their past experiences as they look ahead to new opportunities and challenges. However, it’s likely that there is someone one out there–an aspiring leader, perhaps–who could learn from those experiences.

Mentoring is a form of leadership that takes place on a one-to-one basis. This is ideal for those looking to get back on the leadership path because it removes the complexity of leading multiple personalities, skill sets, and needs. Additionally, the mentor-mentee relationship creates a tighter feedback loop, which can help accelerate the practice of leadership for both.

Take Action

Again, leadership is a skill that must be practiced. It cannot live by itself in thoughts and good intentions, or in title and popularity; it must be put into action. After deciding which leadership opportunity to pursue, the next step is simple: act.

Leadership in action is proactively securing the opportunity, learning the expectations, setting goals, and organizing resources to execute and succeed. Depending on the leadership opportunity, the impact of the work will vary; however, the main concern should be the effective practice of leadership toward ultimate success. With each instance of leadership practice and success, momentum will build and reignite dormant leadership skills.

 

7 Tips for Embracing the 80/20 Rule With Employee Talent

I’m sure you’ve heard of the 80/20 Rule before, but have you ever thought seriously about its impact on your talent management initiatives? Whether you like it or not, the Pareto Principle (another name for the rule) is likely at work within your workforce. Therefore, as few as 20 percent of your employees are driving about 80 percent of your productivity and success.

I started thinking about this principle after attending a very engaging program from my local SHRM chapter, IndySHRM, this week. The topic, “Total Rewards for a High Performing Culture” was jointly presented by Susan Rider and Karl Ahlrichs of Gregory & Appel Insurance here in Indianapolis. I enjoyed their presentation, and one of their slides discussed using a normal distribution (aka “Bell curve”) to segment the productivity of your workforce. This isn’t a new concept and has historically aligned with forced ranking performance management systems that assigned numerical ratings to employees grouped into three basic buckets–below average, average, and above average.

Taming the Long Tail of Performance

I support the idea that above average producers produce more per person than your large bucket of average producers, but it wasn’t until I came across this Josh Bersin article in Forbes that I thought about the “Power Law” distribution (aka “long tail”) as more accurately representative of the spectrum of employee productivity. And in my opinion, it is easier to support this because it optimistically suggests that everyone can move to being a “hyper performer” if they are in the right role. It doesn’t force the organization to have a set number of below average “1” ratings (on a scale of one to five for example). And, unlike a Bell curve, there aren’t an equivalent number of people above and below the mean.

 

Bell Curve Power Law Distributions

One of the hottest trends in human resources over the past few years is to rethink the performance management process and abandon the forced ranking systems of old. The good news is that the long tail distribution model supports that move and won’t disillusion people who have great potential by forcing them into the lackluster “average performer” bucket because there can only be a certain number of “above average” performers.

The bad news, however, is that your true top performers…your “hyper performers” as Bersin calls them…may impact your organization’s success to an even greater extent than you thought before.

You Must Treat Hyper Performers Differently

Does the header of this section make you feel uncomfortable? As an individual charged with human resources, talent management and/or business operations in your organization, you understand the necessity to value, engage and respect all employees…both from a legal and company culture-enriching standpoint. However, equality and equity don’t mean the same thing.

If you challenge, recognize and reward all of your employees equally, then your best ones (the left side “head” of the power distribution) will leave and your below average ones (the right side “long tail”) will stay. Then what happens to your productivity?

Long tail distribution head | ExactHire

So how do you disproportionately engage your hyper performers and your high potentials (i.e. on their way to being hyper)? If you don’t take action, then as Karl Ahlrichs said in the IndySHRM presentation, beware the sounds of smartphone pings in your office. They will be the precursor to your top talent leaving as recruiters engage them on LinkedIn.

Consider the following seven tips for motivating your most critically important high-performing employees. While many of these practices are good ideas to adopt for many groups of employees, their thoughtful application to the hyper performing group will reap the lion’s share of benefits…my estimate is around 80 percent, in fact!

1 – Understand motivators

When looking at your small group of hyper performers, don’t make the mistake of assuming that since they are all uber-productive, that they have the same long-term goals. One person may be purely driven by compensation; whereas, others might live for the flexible working arrangement you offer or the student loan debt assistance benefit you just rolled out.

Make strides to understand what motivates each unique person by using one or more of the following tools:

  • Have him take the StrengthsFinder assessment to unearth his five most prominent strengths. Then, try to align his opportunities with his strengths to bring him even deeper intrinsic satisfaction with his work.
  • If you used a behavioral assessment during the hiring process, such as the ProfileXT which shares primary interest categories for the individual, then double check that your employee has the opportunity to create…if one of her interests is being “creative,” for example.
  • Look back through notes from your employee’s interview or past 1-on-1 discussions to jog your memory on comments he made about what motivates him. Many organizations ask motivation-related questions during the hiring process and so you may already have the data at your fingertips. NOTE: Remember that a person’s motivators can change over time based on their current life experiences…so it doesn’t hurt to just ask, too.

2 – Conduct stay interviews

In lieu of an annual performance review, introduce the “stay interview” with the high performers in your organization. According to The Stay Interview by Richard Finnegan, employees–not supervisors–should set the agenda for these performance development meetings.

While the manager can get the discussion ball rolling using questions like “What are you learning here?” or “Why are you staying here?”, these are just conversation openers. As an employee answers these questions, the manager should ask follow-up questions to probe for additional insight in order to reveal the emotions or challenges at the core of the initial question responses, according to Finnegan.

3 – Communicate with context

My eight-year-old son recently reminded me that his elementary school has been studying Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People this year. The fifth habit is to “seek first to understand, then be understood.” The key to understanding the motivators of your top talent is to be a good listener and probe for additional information instead of just rattling off the next question on your list. In fact, a stay interview is a great time to do this exercise.

While listening is an essential part of communication, once you’ve heard your employees it is important to work with them to mutually discover how their interests may align with the overall objectives of the organization. When areas of synergy are identified, plan opportunities for additional development.

4 – Provide new learning experiences

With the 80/20 Rule in mind, consider the potentially high ROI on additional training for your best performers. These exceptionally productive employees may be hungry to learn new skills or be exposed to additional insights and perspectives; however, before you assume this note their motivations!

For the employees who do express interest, look for opportunities to send them to relevant conferences and courses. Involve them in the succession planning process and identify them as high potential candidates for specific roles. However, don’t tell an employee he is the shoe-in candidate as it can create entitlement and be counterproductive, according to a recent The Joy-Powered Workplace Podcast.

Gauge your hyper performers’ interest in a mentorship program. They may enjoy learning new skills while serving as a mentee to a more senior person in the organization; or, they might be motivated by the chance to help train other newcomers and up-and-comers within the organization. If you don’t yet have a formal mentoring program, perhaps one of your hyper performers would like to take that on as a special project.

5 – Offer stretch assignments

Speaking of special projects, your best performers may be at risk of becoming bored if they aren’t regularly presented with new challenges. Brainstorm with your senior management team, as well as your high performers, about any potential stretch assignments that could create a new efficiency and/or revenue stream for the organization, as well as give your best performers exposure to new skill development opportunities.

These individuals will appreciate the chance to explore new ideas, people and/or areas within the business, and it can be a good chance to feed their need to excel. At a minimum, this type of assignment can give them a chance to reinvent themselves and avoid burnout/boredom that may eventually seep into their daily work routine.

Additionally, being selected for a special stretch assignment is a nice way to award recognition to these exceptional individuals who are trusted to innovate for their employer.

6 – Customize recognition

We’re all hard-wired differently. While an extroverted, competitive salesperson may live for an unanticipated public mention of his name during the monthly staff meeting, an extremely introverted and stability-minded systems analyst would be quietly mortified to experience the same form of recognition.

If you’ve taken strides to understand your employees’ unique motivations, then your next step is to create customized recognition opportunities that will be welcomed by each individual on which they are bestowed. Maybe your systems analyst is a die-hard fan of chai lattes? Great, have your next 1-on-1 meeting at the local coffee house as a treat for her recent accomplishment.

7 – Disproportionately reward your stars

Consider this statement from the Bersin article:

“Just think about paying people based on the value they deliver (balanced by market wages and scarcity of skills) and you’ll probably conclude that too much of your compensation is based on tenure and history.”

Does that statement describe the state of compensation in your organization? If so, then you may have some work to do to keep your stars with your organization long-term. If your hyper performers, the 20 percent of them producing 80 percent of your company’s success, come to realize that length of employment is the most significant factor in improving their pay, then you’ve just crushed their motivation to work for you.

So what’s the answer? Why not recognize the substantial achievements of your most important talent with variable pay opportunities? While your fixed pay grades may limit you on salary increases, there’s room to get creative with one-time bonuses for important goal achievements that move the company forward (and arguably…pay for themselves).

But remember, not everyone is motivated by pay. So consider allowing your hyper performers to choose their own goals and corresponding bonus opportunities. A bonus could very well be a lump sum payment or additional paid time off; or, it might be the ability to enroll in a course (on the company’s dime) in which the employee’s been interested for some time. Involving the employee in the selection of goals and rewards allows her to take on a level of risk that suits her motivations as well as have a stake in her own reward outcomes.

A word of caution: with the privilege of selecting specific goals and rewards comes the responsibility of carefully measuring success and mitigating unintended consequences. Be sure to avoid creating an incentive for these unintended cobra farms (see #7 at this link).

Now that you’re equipped with some ideas for connecting with your best performers with the goal of keeping them productive for your organization, your next step is to reach out to them and better understand what makes them tick. While you hopefully already have a general sense of this for various high potential employees, you might be surprised by what you learn, too. Good luck!

cultivating-company-culture-exacthire

Lack of Leadership

HR is into acronyms. Whether self-created, representative of the latest certifications or handed down by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDL), HR professionals swim in a sea of acronyms. So as SMS texting language emerged over the last decade, HR was better prepared than most.

However, there is one acronym that HR simply cannot (and should not) tolerate: “LOL.”

No, not “Laugh Out Loud”–though HR does, indeed, LOL when applicants use BTW or FYI in their resumes. No, this is a different type of LOL… “Lack Of Leadership.”

Organizations Lacking Leadership

One of the biggest challenges that a Human Resources department may face is to operate within an organization that has weak or poor leadership. An organization that lacks leadership will also lack vision. Without vision, employees will lack strong purpose. Without purpose, employees are only motivated by their pay. And, finally, employees who are only motivated by pay will find it hard to remain loyal to an organization when better paying opportunities present themselves.

In short, organizations that lack leadership will fail in both attracting new talent and inspiring loyalty in current employees. This is the perfect environment for high employee turnover and poor hiring–an unvirtuous circle.

Why HR Is Not Laughing

The reason this becomes an obstacle for HR is that they own the metric and outcomes for employee turnover and hiring. They must be accountable for both. However, in the presence of poor leadership–or worse, a complete lack thereof–HR has little real control over those areas. They have responsibility without control.

Sure, there are things that HR professionals can do to mitigate the effect of weak senior leadership, but ultimately it’s the leaders themselves who hold the power to affect change. And the change that is required to roll back bad hiring and employee turnover begins with them.

“In the presence of poor leadership–or worse, a complete lack thereof–HR has little real control. They have responsibility without control”

IMHO

In my humble opinion, senior leadership must be held accountable for the outcomes of every department. This does not mean that they are responsible for those outcomes, but that they need to understand and be transparent in how their actions impact results across an organization. This approach to leadership is the hallmark of a good leader, and so for “LOL organizations,” change must be enacted by someone other than that leader.

Enter HR

Although HR can easily see the effects of LOL on hiring and retention, they may not always be in the best position to improve organizational leadership. The “seat at the table” is still elusive for many promising HR leaders. However, HR must be prepared to draw connections between leadership and poor HR outcomes.

This, of course, is no easy task. It requires not only the right information, but the ability to present it tactfully. First, let’s look at the information needed.

Employee feedback can quickly illustrate whether or not leadership is lacking at an organization. This feedback should be collected regularly throughout the employee lifecycle and cover a broad range of topics. There are a number of ways to do this, but what’s most important, for the purpose of measuring leadership effectiveness, is that it answer questions like:

  • Do you feel valued by leadership at this organization?
  • Do you find purpose in your work?
  • Do you feel that your work makes an impact on the organization?

Answers to these types of questions speak directly to the effectiveness of leadership. The insight gathered from them can improve not only leadership, but the employer brand as a whole. Next, we must present this evidence with tact.

A good way to begin a conversation with senior leadership on the need for leadership improvement is to provide compelling evidence that improvement is actually needed, then move to how it can be accomplished. So to begin, HR should focus on the bad HR outcomes and how they hurt the organization. This might be painful for HR, but it will get the attention of leadership.

Then, with a need for improvement clearly established, move the discussion to changes that may improve the outcomes. This is where feedback from employees will be critical. Without evidence that employees perceive a LOL, any suggestions that change begin with leadership will be badly received.

Once leadership recognizes the drivers of bad HR outcomes (uninspired, unempowered employees) they will be motivated to change them–even though they still might fail to realize that they are causing them. This is fine because it will begin a new discussion on how to inspire, empower, and value employees. It’s at this point where HR suggests that leadership take a leading role (imagine that).

TL;DR

Although senior leadership is ultimately responsible for the overall health of an organization, HR is in a vital position to improve it. With a process to collect employee feedback and a little bit of tact, HR can provide senior leadership with the insight required to become more effective.

Don’t have time to collect, analyze, and present all that feedback? ExactHire provides hiring software that saves HR professionals time, allowing them to focus on new initiatives that enhance hiring and reduce employee turnover.

Going Digital – How Small To Medium Businesses Are Winning With Cloud Solutions

The cloud is one of the best business tools to be developed in recent years. It has freed companies from the constraints of their locations and endless paperwork, and helped them to become more robust, flexible, and cost-effective.

Research in 2015, stated that 37% of all small businesses had adopted cloud computing, and by 2020, this could rise to 78%. The cloud computing industry is currently worth $55 billion.

Those that aren’t adjusting to the new cloud environment could begin to struggle in the future and feel that they’ve been left behind. So just how are small- and medium-sized businesses winning with cloud solutions? How can your business use the power of cloud technology to ensure you are at the forefront of business operations?

1. Increased Reliability

Cloud computing technology is often more reliable than on premise IT infrastructures, especially if the equipment is getting older. The biggest challenge for businesses is that they have limited resources and this could mean they don’t have the financial backing to employ the best, or enough IT professionals to support in-house IT solutions.

Cloud computing companies, on the other hand, can and do employ specialists. These people will be better at spotting IT solutions and quicker at troubleshooting. Therefore, small, and medium businesses can be quicker to recover from IT failures when using Cloud computing than with an on-site solution.

2. Reduced Cost

The cost for local IT infrastructure can be very expensive. Your small business might need to buy servers, routers, load balancers and storage equipment. All of this is expensive and eats away at your financial resources, limiting your potential for growth.

However, with the cloud system, the only IT equipment you need is the output and input devices (computers, printers, etc.). Another expense that can be saved is the hiring of expensive IT staff.

Some cloud applications are even free at a basic level, and the costs go up as and when you require additional features or services. Therefore, your organization can save significantly on the operational costs of your computing power.

3. Less Risk

Research shows that half of all IT projects failed before cloud computing. Just under three-quarters of senior professionals stated this was because there were insufficient resources for the proposed project. With the cloud, you are getting tried and tested solutions that can be adapted to your business with limited cost.

Therefore, the risks associated with new computing ventures is significantly reduced, the financial resources associated with your new investment are safer, and you can continually upgrade to ensure your business is at the forefront of HR.

4. Upscaling

Onsite IT infrastructures are incredibly hard to scale up. Your business still needs to operate but while upscaling, systems would need to be taken offline which would disrupt operations, productivity and possibly morale with your staff.

Also, adding to an existing system can cause several challenges including:

  • Conflicts between the upgrades and the original infrastructure.
  • Planning when the upgrade will happen.
  • Collecting the resources to complete the upgrade.

With cloud computing solutions, upgrading your systems takes moments, and you shouldn’t notice any disruption. You can also do it as soon as you need it and reduce services if you no longer need them in the future – this makes it perfect for businesses that see seasonal peaks and troughs with demands in their products/services.

5. Security

Security is a significant concern for small and medium businesses. Just under half of all cyber-attacks are against small businesses and the campaigns against them can be far ranging. Some of the most prevalent ones include:

Advanced persistent threats (APTs): Long-term attacks that attempt to break into a network over an extended period to avoid detection.

Distributed Denial of Service: A server is intentionally overloaded with requests. The goal is to make a website or internal server inoperable.

Malware: A program installed onto a computer that causes damage or allows unauthorized access to the system.

Password Attacks: Attempts by unauthorized people to gain access to a computer system by guessing the right password.

Phishing: Collection of sensitive information, like login credentials and financial details, through legitimate websites or emails.

Some of these attacks can be severe. Some small companies have had hackers gain access to their systems and encrypt their information. They then demand money for the information to be decrypted.

Cloud solutions are great for your business’ security. For starters, these companies are responsible for your data security, so they will regularly update their security and monitor attempts to access data. Secondly, because data is stored offsite, it is harder for data to be corrupted by infected computers.

However, that doesn’t mean you are completely safe. Remember your passwords could be stolen, and access gained that way.

6. Collaboration Between Teams

One of the best benefits of cloud solutions is that your teams at different locations or in different departments can work simultaneously on projects and documents. For instance, some cloud solutions, like Google Documents allow numerous users to access the same document simultaneously to make changes. This helps to speed up the completion of work and allows for fewer communication errors to occur within the business.

The same information can also be used by different departments but only be inputted once.

A good example would be the sales figures of an off-site sales team. The team leader inputs the sales figures for the team at his site, the HR department can use this for payroll for the month as well as feedback performance trends to senior leadership and the sales team leader.

The information can also be used by the accounting department to predict future income and financial trends for the business, and the marketing team to track the success of campaigns.

Because the information is only entered once, stored in a central location, and then used by numerous departments, the information used by each department is the same, so inconsistencies are eliminated and mistakes reduced.

Conclusion

Your small- or medium-sized business has the chance to excel. Part of that success can be achieved through the adoption of cloud technology which offers your business many benefits. One of the major benefits is the lower cost of developing, implementing, and running the solution throughout your organization.

This will help you to redirect financial resources to other areas of your business to support growth.

Have you adopted the cloud in your business? What is holding you back if you haven’t?

Let us know in the comments below.

11 Small Business Tips for an Epic Annual Meeting

I enjoy working in the small- and medium-sized business (SMB) space–it’s easy to relate to challenges and opportunities for these employers because I work for an SMB, myself. Having access to impact the entire business from wherever I stand within the organization is an empowering benefit, too. One of my favorite instances of this benefit is the annual ExactHire company meeting. While we do meet as a team on a monthly basis, the annual meeting enables us to retreat off site and do a deep dive into the state of the organization, our long-term product road map and our business strategy.

Having at least six of these yearly meetings under our belt now, I can say we’ve definitely improved our efficiency and meeting outcomes over the years. In this blog, I’ll share our tips for holding an epic annual company meeting to help propel your business forward.

1 – Location is everything

The easy, predictable thing to do is to just have your annual meeting in your own conference room. However, there is something exciting and liberating about changing your venue and assembling in a new space. Yesterday, we were lucky enough to occupy an ultra cool space at the Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery in our hometown, Indianapolis. It was my first time there and it was an excellent space for getting our brainstorming juices flowing and stepping outside the box.

ExactHire Company Meeting Distillery 2016

Hotel Tango was a great, unconventional space – don’t mind Christa’s angelic illumination!

When you select a venue for your meeting, be sure and consider the needs of your employees when it comes to things like accessibility and atmosphere. Do you want somewhere quiet or somewhere full of action and visual stimulation? When I stepped into Hotel Tango, I was reminded of the grain bins and silos on the farm where I grew up…but in a good, nostalgic way. Of course, that’s par for the course at a distillery! Additionally, we took breaks here and there to allow the distillery staff to attend to their spirits and open up the garage door to operate the forklift. Nevertheless, the shiny copper pieces on the stills and the illuminated string lights within the exposed brick building provided creative ambience for our session.

2 – Provide an agenda and assign some homework

What you get out of your corporate meeting will be dependent upon the amount of effort you put into preparing for it–and not just the organizer, the whole team, too. Our Co-Founder, Jeff Hallam, sent a thorough agenda of meeting topics more than a week in advance of our meeting. Additionally, he assigned the entire company the “homework” of thinking about how to answer three primary questions that were tied to our overall short-term objectives of growing revenue and improving profitability.

Agenda Questions Productive Company Meeting

By asking your team to think about solutions in advance, they are more engaged with the discussion topics and likely to be prepared to contribute to the discussion during the meeting. Remember to keep your homework assignment short–having too many to-dos not only dilutes the effectiveness of any one potential solution, but will also most certainly guarantee that you run out of time during the meeting.

3 – Don’t forget the coffee

And snacks are good, too. Our meeting ran from 9am – 1pm, so while people had the opportunity to eat a normal breakfast at home, we still provided fruit/dip and plenty of hot coffee, creamer and sugar. The coffee was of course key to not only our mental stimulation, but also a source of warmth for a few of us while the distillery garage door was open to allow forklift entry. We stayed cozy though!

Also, be sure to take into account any dietary restrictions present among your team members. For example, have some gluten free and/or meatless options available, if applicable, for your organization’s employees.

4 – Make a ruling on electronic device access

At ExactHire, we live on our electronic devices which comes as no surprise since we are in the SaaS product space. I can’t remember the last time I actually printed or filed something in a cabinet. However, having everyone glued to their laptops and/or tablets during a team meeting isn’t always productive as it becomes easy for people to be distracted by email, caught up in IM, etc. It really depends on the purpose of your meeting and whether you need to collectively view or update items electronically during the meeting.

NOTE: It is a good idea to have access to a projector so that everyone can look at a screen together to discuss items.

5 – Designate an official note taker

Especially if you decide that the majority of people will not be using their computer during the meeting, make sure that one person is the official recorder of all important discussion topics and action items. The last thing you want is for all your glorious ideas to be forgotten a week after the meeting.

The notes should be sent out promptly (within one business day) of the conclusion of the meeting. I was our note taker for yesterday’s meeting and opted to bold some of the more compelling team ideas, as well as highlight specific action items (and their owner) in yellow on the notes.

6 – Encourage a variety of presenters

Because annual company meetings tend to be longer than the average monthly update, it would get pretty tedious for the same person to speak the entire meeting. While Jeff and Harlan (our other Co-Founder) did speak quite a bit at the start of the meeting, they also called on many other teammates throughout the discussion to provide a deeper explanation of their own projects.

The extent to which this is successful in your organization will depend on the personalities of individuals (are they comfortable speaking in front of a large group), as well as the extent to which candor is valued within the business. While everyone cannot provide an overview, many can ask questions and probe for greater context within a culture that challenges assumptions and welcomes inquisitiveness.

7 – Have a parking lot…literally and metaphorically

While nearby parking is ideal for your meeting, what I mean by “parking” is designating topics that get into the weeds as something to table and discuss later–put them in the “parking lot” to handle at a future date.

To do so, add them to an easel chart, whiteboard and/or shared file and assign an owner to make sure they aren’t forgotten later. To avoid hurt feelings when one person’s passionate about hashing out a topic, set expectations at the start of the meeting that, at times, some items will have to be put on the back burner in order to get through the entire meeting agenda in a timely fashion. Pass the conch shell, if you will, and move on to the next item.

8 – Don’t forget to order lunch in advance

It’s a nice gesture to order your team lunch during the annual company meeting. We enjoyed some delectable dishes from Chilly Water Brewing Company during our retreat yesterday…conveniently located right next to Hotel Tango.

In past year’s meetings, we didn’t always have the foresight to order our meals before or early on during the meeting, and therefore found ourselves scrambling to figure out food options right at lunchtime. This resulted in waiting a long time to eat and delaying the meeting.

9 – Take pictures

Especially if you head to an eclectic off site location, be sure and snap some memorable photos of the team and what you accomplish during the day. Photographs of events like these are great for inclusion on your branded company careers page, on company social media profiles, around the office and maybe even in an annual holiday video. They just might inspire a blog related to company culture and procedural effectiveness, too.

10 – Respect everyone’s time

Significant, every great once-in-awhile company meetings are typically long already. Make sure you don’t extend discussion beyond the official stop time. If you do, you not only may delay employees’ ability to make other engagements already planned (e.g. sales demos, picking up kids, etc.), but you also will likely forfeit the attention space of those that remain–even with coffee.

Speaking of respecting time, make sure you start your meeting on time, too. A prompt start time is key to a prompt stop time. If this is a struggle within your corporate culture, set the expectation clearly in the agenda email that is sent in advance.

11 – Post-event check in

The work will have only just begun at the conclusion of your corporate meeting. Even when the notes are sent and action items are marked, your leadership team should be sure and schedule milestones to check in with the team and make sure that each task owner is accountable to moving his/her action item(s) forward. This is a great opportunity to offer assistance, vet new questions and schedule follow-up discussion for items that were placed in the parking lot, too.

I hope these tips help you plan an invigorating annual company meeting. While you can’t anticipate every single need or detail, you’re already ahead of the game if you are providing a special opportunity to engage your team and move the business forward–together.

Is improving your company culture a priority in the next year?

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Employee Retention – How To Keep Your A+ Employees

Ah…employee retention. The topic of conversation that swirls around every HR networking event, conference and seminar. And…turnover–the subject of most leadership meetings and one of the biggest challenges facing every industry and company. Businesses that succeed and survive are typically led by adaptable problem solvers able to tackle some of the biggest challenges they face. So why is combating employee retention and turnover still such a problem for so many employers?

People–that’s why. Plain and simple, people. Since no two individuals are the same, no single retention strategy can work for all. Sure you can do standardized things that will keep some employees engaged and employed just a little while longer, but an ultimate end will ensue if you don’t customize.

All too often leaders involved in tackling the retention problem are blinded by their own idea of retention, their own personal motivation to stay. The problem is, most likely, this motivation is not the same for anyone else. Engagement and retention are personal topics and everyone has their own drivers and motives. To tackle the challenge on a one-to-one basis you must be able to grasp the motivations of each individual.

This involves a focus in two key areas:

  1. First, you must know the wants, needs and desires of each of your employees. Then, you must decide if you are willing to accommodate those items. Hopefully, if you did your job in the hiring process, you have already identified the fit. An applicant tracking system can leverage technology to make it easy to gather the answers you need from employees to assess their potential job fit during the hiring process.
  2. The second step is to provide the feedback and environment an employee needs to continue to grow and be successful. Both of these tactics require taking an individualized approach.

Retention is About Meeting Needs

All humans have basic needs. As such, all employees have basic needs. If you analyze Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs you can see how they apply to the workplace as well. Employees who are able to fulfill their needs are more engaged, happy and willing to put forth discretionary effort to succeed and further the business. Likewise, you are more likely to retain them.

Why We Work

Our basic physiological needs drive us to work and provide for ourselves. Fundamentally we work to earn money, pay bills, buy food and acquire shelter. Employers have the least influence on fulfilling this need as trading time for money can be accomplished in any organization, industry or career field. At this level, employees are only compliant; doing what is required to sustain a paycheck in a safe manner. You will retain an employee only as long as you can meet their compensation needs within a secure environment.

What We Do

After the basic needs are achieved, we look to contribute and belong to a community. We select a career that satisfies this “need to belong.” This is the basic premise of why people chose to do what they do. Engagement now increases as employees are doing what they want to do with desirable peers. If they can no longer achieve this need, they will go somewhere else to achieve it.

Where We Work

This is different for everyone! You’ve chosen what you want to do, now you want to do it in the best possible environment. You want the best possible support and resources to do what you love to do. We have many choices in deciding where to work. Ideally we all want to work where we feel that we can be successful and most able to build our sense of self–our esteem. At this level employees are highly engaged; doing what they want and where they want.

Why We Stay

The need employers struggle to fulfill the most, is the need for continued growth and fulfillment. This need is so individualized that there has to be a perfect match with an employee. Companies that crack this code have much higher retention rates than their peers. Employees who have achieved this level are fully engaged and more likely to put forth a greater amount of discretionary effort. An organization must take a customized and individualized approach in addressing this need.

The more of these needs you can meet as an employer, the more likely an individual is to remain with the company. So how do you work to meet these needs? It’s a simple process, really. It starts with sitting down and having an open and honest conversation with employees about their needs and what motivates them. Identify their drivers, with them, and then work together towards achieving them.

Retention is About Facilitating Growth and Success

Let’s face it, today’s workforce does not have loyalty to an employer, nor loyalty to a particular industry or career field. The term “career” is defined much differently than in the past. The traditional definition of a career was working for one company your entire life–either doing the same job for 30 years or climbing the ladder. Today’s career is more loosely defined relating to intertwining paths one would like to take which may involve multiple employers, industries and disciplines.

Some would categorize today’s workforce as full of “job hoppers.” In reality, they are “experience hoppers.” Consequently, continuous growth and development opportunities continue to rank above compensation in employee exit interviews and engagement surveys.

So what is an experience hopper? Employees will work somewhere as long as they can continue to get the growth, development and experience they need to support their defined career path. If they can’t get it at their current employer, they will go elsewhere. When today’s employee stops learning and growing it marks the point at which he starts looking for a new job.

So how do we anticipate this pivotal point and work to accommodate an appropriate growth environment to circumvent it? Two ways: constant communication and constant feedback.

Constant Communication

Employees need to feel valued and appreciated. More importantly they need to feel that you care about what they are doing and are genuinely interested in what they are doing. Nobody wants to feel like a number or a commodity. Frequent meetings with employees to discuss their work will go a long way in keeping them engaged and feeling good about what they are doing.

Constant Feedback

A core requirement for the continued growth of employees is constant feedback. Today’s employees require frequent commentary on their performance to stay motivated. In fact, most put this ahead of a paycheck. You can no longer take the approach that no news is good news or in this case, no feedback is good feedback. That’s not going to fly anymore. Withholding feedback will kill an employee’s motivation. And, only giving negative feedback will send them running for the doors.

 

In the end, retention is really about building a relationship with your employees. This isn’t the same as a friendship, but rather a relationship that fosters an environment of open communication, support and feedback. Which, when done correctly, will foster an environment of engagement and retention.

Maximize job fit

Leverage affordable applicant tracking technology to better assess candidates’ potential job fit. See an estimate of what your organization would pay for HireCentric applicant tracking software.

 

 

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New Hire Onboarding Success with a SWOT Analysis

The purpose of a SWOT analysis in the business planning process is to make sure you’ve identified all the possible strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business.  Only then can you create a business plan taking into consideration all these aspects and setting your business up for it’s best chance at success.  The new hire onboarding process should be no different.

Some aspects of the SWOT analysis are designed to act upon.  For example, you want to make sure you capitalize on and take advantage of your strengths and seize your opportunities.  Other aspects are for you to be aware of.  You must be aware of your weaknesses and competitors in the market place.

If you really think about it, doing the same type of analysis for a new hire should be no different. To a new employee, changing jobs is a “new business” operating in a new environment with different conditions. Extremely savvy job seekers will do their own SWOT analysis on the company before joining.  Why?  They want to make sure they are setting themselves up for the best chance at success.

Your analysis of your new employee should occur over the course of his/her onboarding and should be a critical part of the employee onboarding process.  Ideally you would have done most of this during the hiring process.  However, it’s not an exact science and you may have missed some items. Hopefully, at a minimum, you determined the new hire should have a seat on the bus.  Now you just need to figure out what that correct seat is.

It’s not uncommon for individuals to be hired for a certain position then find themselves in another. This happens quite frequently in organizations that focus their hiring efforts on the type of person and their strengths and abilities, more so than technical knowledge and experience.  You can only gain this much clearer understanding of the best fit for the individual once she is on board and you have had a chance to analyze her capabilities against various positions.

 

Strengths

 

This is the single most important aspect of an individual’s SWOT.  If you do nothing else, make sure you thoroughly assess strengths and figure out how to apply them appropriately. Getting a new hire aligned with his strengths is the best way to set him up for success in his new role.  

To properly identify strengths, you must allocate the proper time and training.  Just immersing someone in a new role will not yield the results you need to identify his core strengths.  Step one would be to have a simple conversation with the individual and see what he thinks his strengths are.  Consider a tool such as the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment to assist in this endeavor. Then have him work through various aspects of his role (and other roles if possible) to see where he naturally excels with the least amount of direction.  By doing this, you can identify where his best opportunity for success may be.

 

Weaknesses

 

Awareness of weaknesses will avoid early failure and miss-steps for a new employee.  It is critical that he be given every opportunity to succeed, build confidence in his new role and gain confidence of his coworkers.  This doesn’t mean you don’t want to challenge him, but you want to make sure you are challenging him utilizing his strengths.

Once you’ve identified potential weak points, note them and work to avoid them.  The last thing you want to do is try to change someone or improve his weaknesses.  It’s much easier to focus on the strengths.  There’s also a tough leadership decision in this step of the process.  If it so happens that his weaknesses actually need to be his core strengths for the position, you will have to find this employee another seat on the bus — or another bus.

 

Opportunities

 

This is the fun step.  After your analysis of strengths and weaknesses you should have a pretty good idea of the direction(s) the individual can go within the organization after his onboarding.  These are his opportunities.  By the time you get to this step, the individual has probably started to see his opportunities as well and may have expressed some desire towards those.  

Don’t forget to have this important employee development conversation.  This will likely be the difference maker between an engaged long-term employee or a short-term employee.  Most employees will look for their next opportunity within the organization fairly quickly and if they don’t see one they’ll plan their next move — out of the company.  Your job as a leader is to make sure the opportunities they are seeking within the organization align with their strengths and avoid as many of their weaknesses as possible.

 

Threats

 

Typically addressing threats in a SWOT analysis takes into account competition.  We don’t want to think of competition in terms of an individual’s employment SWOT.  Rather, you want to look at what potential roadblocks stand in the way of his success.  The roadblocks you should try to identify are resource issues, process and procedural issues and potentially other individuals.

Ever wonder why they sweep the ice in front of the stone in Olympic curling?  They are grooming the ice and creating the best possible conditions for the stone to travel further and straighter.  As a leader you must continue to sweep the ice in front of an employee to ensure his optimal onboarding experience and continued success.  What you are doing is eliminating or mitigating the threats you know will stand in the employee’s way.   

 

If you’ve properly integrated a SWOT analysis into the new hire onboarding process you will be setting the stage for initial and continued success for the employee and your team/company.  It takes a little bit of discipline and practice to master, but really isn’t that difficult.  The most difficult part is evolving to the point where you only focus on aligning his strengths within the role, or a different role, and completely avoid any assignments that will draw on his weaknesses.

Done correctly, and applied correctly, a SWOT analysis will ensure a business stays on course, remains competitive in the market and services customers profitably.  This directly correlates with the same success of a new employee, his level of engagement, productivity and length of retention.

Looking for tools to improve your employee onboarding process? Contact ExactHire to learn how our employee onboarding software can automate your new hire paperwork and workflow.

 

5 Ideas for Making Work and Home Life More Meaningful

One hundred thirty-nine days into 2016, I reflect on what I’ve accomplished so far this year…and what I’ve totally missed, arguably due to priorities that stack up for family, work, community organizations, kids’ sports, church groups and social engagements just to name a few. I at least know that it’s the 139th day because I have somehow managed to fulfill one of my New Year’s resolutions so far–taking a photo for every day of the year and sharing it to Flickr and Facebook. It’s been a rewarding habit to form because it has forced me to be more observant. Observant despite the demands that distract me (and all of you I’m sure) on a daily basis.

Yesterday I had a chance to practice my improved observation skills while attending the RESOLVE Conference at the NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis. The purpose of this event was to unite Indiana executives and HR professionals for a common purpose: “achieving meaningful experiences for their employees.” While this focus lands right in my interest wheelhouse anyway, I especially appreciated that so many of the presenters shared personal stories and imagery in order to inspire ideas about improving company culture and employee engagement. As an unexpected bonus, I’m able to transfer many of these ideas into action items in my family life, too. In this post, I’ll share my five takeaways and how I hope to apply them to both ExactHire work culture and my personal life.

1 – Make time for learning

In your workplace, do you encourage individuals to continuously learn by reading business and personal development books, following blogs and/or participating in peer strategy groups? It sounds like a great idea, and if you’re like me you have the best intentions with an inbox full of messages marked “to read” or a never ending Goodreads list of bookmarked titles for future enjoyment. But unfortunately, the best of intentions often get saved for an appallingly rare Friday afternoon when I finally frantically take time to clean out my inbox or catch up on suggested blogs in my Feedly app.

Santiago Jaramillo, CEO and founder of Bluebridge, gave a presentation at RESOLVE that was about moving the smartphone from a device of distraction to a workplace differentiator. During his talk, I was inspired by an old photo he shared of he, his father and his brother building a tree house. He remarked that he read Robinson Crusoe at a young age and then resolved to build his own tree house. The story made me think about how likely my seven-year-old son will be to read Robinson Crusoe when he is a few years older. I decided that the prospect is pretty unlikely unless I more intentionally encourage the behavior now. The same holds true for your employees. Do you advocate for employees using work time to make time for reading, study, research and self-development?

I had the pleasure of seeing the prolific author John Maxwell speak at the HR Indiana Conference in 2015. One of his childhood experiences that he described was an epiphany for me, though admittedly, I still need to implement it in my own household. As a kid, his parents didn’t pay him for doing chores around the house. Rather, they paid him for reading books. Regardless of whether you measure by books, minutes or pages read, think about the potential impact that could have on a young person’s life…particularly if you choose some of the classics and other books that offer powerful lessons and insights! It’s a compelling strategy for rewarding the behavior you desire until it becomes a habit, and way of life for someone. A habit that sets one up for new opportunities for far-reaching success.

2 – Lead at every level

Throughout the conference, multiple speakers referenced the fact that U.S. employee engagement hovers around just 30%. And while the buzz word “employee engagement” has different definitions, I’ll suggest that it measures the degree to which one feels that his/her work is personally rewarding and impactful in a positive way to an organization. Being passionate about small business, I especially correlate employee engagement to the ability for one to see how his/her individual contribution affects the culture and bottom line, and to then be recognized for that contribution.

RESOLVE speaker Martha Hoover, owner of Patachou, Inc., espoused the importance of enabling leadership at every level of an organization. While there is generally a figurehead or group of owners/senior leaders at any company, having a culture that empowers all employees to lead some degree of change and innovation is an enviable advantage. Corporate culture has everything to do with whether employees will have the confidence and support to present and enact their own solutions to challenges in their areas and across the business.

Admittedly, I’m a compliance-oriented person and our household has a clear set of expectations and rules when it comes to what we will and won’t allow our kids to do. My husband jokes that I’m always acting like a “project manager” with regard to big initiatives affecting our home life, too. So when it comes to thinking about how I can teach my kids to lead at every level, it’s a good exercise that gets me out of my default mode. From challenging them to spend their pocket change responsibly to equipping them with opportunities to brainstorm how our family can stay healthy together, parenting is a leadership development exercise everyday!

3 – Wear clothes that fit

No, I’m not talking about your dress code…though I would encourage appropriately-fitting attire for any workplace, of course. Tiffany Sauder, President and founder of ElementThree, indicated during her RESOLVE presentation that a critical component of cultural authenticity is whether the organization’s leaders have adopted a culture that is supported by values that come naturally to those same leaders. Are the leaders wearing clothes that fit the image they are trying to present?

This idea was one of the most compelling points of the day for me. ExactHire is an amazing place to work for those who like wearing multiple hats in a fast-growth, people-oriented, small company. We have a great culture that has even more room to flourish as we scale; however, it’s time for us to get really intentional about where we go from here. While many of us have come from strong cultures at previous employers, we can’t always take what worked elsewhere and cram it into our daily work life expecting immediate success. We must call to attention values that are already present (even if not explicitly named yet) in all that we do. Then, we must integrate them into our client prospecting and support, internal messaging, behavioral interviewing, performance management, learning development and rewards programs.

The clothes must fit at home, too. As both a mom and a competitive person by nature, I unfortunately tend to compare myself to other families and examine the supermom-esque feats that other children are seemingly afforded.

  • Why didn’t I spend hours making fondant-decorated Minecraft cupcakes for my son’s birthday?
  • Why don’t I make it to my daughter’s preschool class every Thursday to do stations with all the kiddos?
  • Why are there more clean clothes in laundry baskets than in dressers and closets?
  • Why do I consider it a personal victory if I manage to clean the fridge only once per year?

But alas, the cultural clothes suggested by the above questions don’t fit me as well as I might like. Instead, I embrace the jeans that I can actually zip up and teach my kids to multitask and to be confident meeting new people and participating in lots of new experiences/organizations!

4 – Be radically different

During her session, Tiffany Sauder indicated that she wholeheartedly believed that today all products and services are commodities. If so, how will your organization differentiate itself amidst a sea of competitors with similar offerings? Be “extreme” she said. Coincidentally, the same idea of being radically different was a significant point in Martha Hoover’s presentation, as well. So, pick a few things that you will do in a dramatically unique way relative to others, and incorporate those activities or beliefs into your values.

Speaking of values, don’t pick vanilla, predictable cliches. That’s not to say that “trust” and “giving back” and “respect” aren’t admirable values…but make them yours if you use them. Further define them (or whatever values you select) so that they are unique and incredibly descriptive of your business, alone.

Reflecting on this session, I asked myself how my family might be radically different. Of the five takeaways in this post, this is the one that I struggled relating clearly to my home life. I don’t think our family is particularly unique in terms of what we value relative to our peers; however, this line of thinking did prompt me to consider whether our kids will grow up with a clear vision of “written in stone” core principles on which they can reflect as they face decisions as they mature.

Martha Hoover and her RESOLVE co-presenter, Matthew Feltrop, spoke of the recently formed Patachou Foundation which aims to serve wholesome meals to youth and educate them about healthy food choices and wellness. One of the educational activities is to provide children with conversation starter cards to model ideas for productive, engaging conversations with others. What a fantastic, yet simple idea. Not radically different, but perhaps radical in that today we must focus on it more intentionally in the age of smartphones; whereas, it used to happen more organically when I was growing up with fewer electronic distractions.

5 – Make culture accessible

If anything is clear about culture, it’s that you can’t force it to turn out a certain way. However, you can nurture its growth and nudge it in a positive direction by making it a central focus for your organization. Or, you can let it languish and risk a negative environment by ignoring it.

Given that the theme of RESOLVE was to create more meaningful employee engagement experiences, many of the presentations discussed culture at length. In particular, from a panel of senior leaders at a diverse set of locally-based businesses, came the notion that successful organizations will make culture more accessible by creating it, and then “giving it away.” My interpretation of that statement was that while owners and upper management need to foster and be attentive to the development of company culture, in order for it to flourish they must enable employees at all levels to participate in its evolution.

While the core values and principles of doing business may already be in place at your organization, in what ways do you empower your staff to decide how your daily work reflects and celebrates those values?

A former co-worker once told me that while she was baking a cake with her young son, she thought he could be mixing the batter more productively. So, she tried to show him how to do it more efficiently her way. In response he commented, “Mom, there’s more than one way to stir batter.” Indeed. Sage advice for all of us.

Image credit: Sunrise by uditha wickramanayaka (contact)