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6 Considerations for Sharing Bad News

What do you want first: the good news or the bad news? We’ve all faced this question before, and depending on who it came from, we’ve answered with an anxious smile or an indifferent shrug. Our reaction was based on an immediate calculation–just how bad could the news be?

From the perspective of the person delivering the news, the offer of “good news or bad news first” is a way of softening the bad news. It’s a small expression of empathy for those receiving the news. Unfortunately, it’s also a tired cliche that, when used to share bad news, can undercut a leader’s professionalism and integrity–especially when there’s little, if any, good news to be shared.

But while the “good news/bad news” line is best kept on the shelf, organizational leaders should still have a plan for sharing bad news effectively. Here are six considerations for doing just that:

Prepare to Share

Bad news has the tendency to arouse bad feelings. Anger, jealousy, and disappointment are all feelings that can cause individuals to react negatively to bad news–and to those delivering it. Leaders can better manage these reactions by preparing to share bad news, which includes:

  • Having a complete and solid grasp of the facts surrounding the bad news
  • Understanding the scope of the bad news and possible implications for the future
  • Anticipating questions that will be asked, and having the answers to those questions
  • Scripting key thoughts and responses

Take a Step Back

Sharing bad news is never easy. This is true whether it impacts one, several, or hundreds of employees. So while preparing to deliver bad news should be taken seriously, leaders must also keep the news in perspective. Consider the following to help relieve the stress of sharing bad news:

  • It’s unlikely that you are the first person to share this type of news
  • The news must be shared, and it’s your responsibility to share it
  • Sharing the news, rather than hiding it, will produce better outcomes

Stay Detached

With good preparation and the proper perspective, most leaders will be in a position to mitigate conflict that may arise from sharing bad news. Of course, as the great philosopher, Mike Tyson, once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Or, to put it in less violent terms: having a plan is always necessary, but not always sufficient.

Once a leader begins to actually share the bad news, any number of things can happen that could derail even the best plan. Leaders need to understand that this is possible. Then, they must be able to detach from an emotionally-charged conversation, and remain calm in the face of conflict.

This leads us to our next consideration, stick to the relevant facts.

Stick to the Relevant Facts

When a conversation becomes charged with emotions, it can very quickly move into an open argument. The best way for leaders to avoid an ugly argument is to maintain a focus and emphasis on the facts, specifically the facts that are relevant to issue at hand.

Once a leader strays away from the facts and begins making emotional appeals, or addressing unrelated issues, all advantage gained from planning is lost. This also largely precludes a leader from gaining closure on the original bad news. In short, a leader who is led into an emotional argument…isn’t really leading.

Provide Vision

It’s not enough for leaders to simply share the facts when conveying bad news. After all, effective leaders should inspire positive action and loyalty in their employees. This can be achieved by providing employees with a vision for the future that moves past the bad news of the present.

Importantly, a leader’s vision shouldn’t ignore realities or downplay potential risks, and it should be flexible enough to provide employees with options. It requires taking an honest look at how the bad news will impact the future of the organization and its employees. Bad news can rattle employees, but a strong vision for the future can provide them with tools to overcome challenges and flourish.

Close with Strength

Finally, a strong closing to the conversation will instill confidence in employees and further support the leader’s vision. It’s common to open the floor to questions at this point if they have not already been asked. As mentioned above–and perhaps more important here–leaders should answer only relevant questions, and the answers should be fact-based. 

The closing should be brief. Leaders must not hesitate to name some questions as being outside the scope of a conversation or decline to answer other questions. Ultimately, if the bad news has been communicated effectively up to this point, there should be very few relevant questions.

Good News or Bad News?

At some point, all organizations will have to share bad news. And although conflict can be almost certain, an organization’s culture and leadership will go a long way in determining whether the news will cause damaging conflict. Organizational leaders who have a plan for sharing bad news can mitigate conflict, calm emotions, and provide a path forward. In this way, bad news can inspire employees to raise their performance to new levels. And that is good news.

 

Transparency in Leadership

Increasingly, people in all areas of society are seeking transparency in leadership. We want to know the “why,” “how,” and “who” of decision-making, especially when those decisions affect us. Furthermore, we want to trust that decision makers are taking our interests into account when arriving at decisions.

The desire for transparency is so strong that many leaders may feel pressure to vet, check, and double-check every decision with every stakeholder. Of course, this is impractical, if not impossible.

We know that there are some decisions that can be made with little input, and others that require extensive discussions and long consideration. However, as is often the case, it’s the area in between those extremes that can create problems. This is where leaders must practice transparency in order to maintain the trust of stakeholders.

Leadership Transparency in the Workplace

Suppose the executive leadership of an organization decides that it is necessary to reduce work hours for its employees. The leadership group has not spoken about this to managers outside of the group, and they anticipate that this change will be a surprise to everyone. Still, the leaders believe that it’s better to implement this decision sooner rather than later.

A Top-down Decision

No matter how the news is communicated, the decision will not be popular with employees. So rather than beat around the bush, one lucky member of the leadership group is asked to simply communicate the decision. This spokesperson for the leadership group anticipates the following questions:

  • Why are we reducing hours?
  • How was this decision made?
  • Who was involved in the decision?

So the leader provides the answers to these questions in her announcement, and she is hopeful that the employees will be understanding and take the bad news in stride. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Blindsided

Managers outside of the decision making process immediately began receiving questions and complaints regarding the reduction in hours. They had no good answers for the employees. This greatly damaged trust and respect between the managers and their reports.

The managers resented leadership for making such a quick decision without their input. They felt blindsided and unfairly set up to fail in managing their teams. Just like the other employees, they lost trust and respect for the executive leadership team.

Very soon, news reaches the leadership group that employee morale is tanking. What happened?

Part-time Transparency

Although the leader built understanding around the context of the decision in her announcement, the managers and other employees felt almost tricked by the sudden reduction in hours. The leadership failed to communicate any information beforehand that would have led the employees to anticipate this change. For many employees, the news was bad, but the sudden announcement and surprise were worse.

Transparency in leadership cannot be part-time, and it cannot only accompany official announcements or appear on the backend of an important decision. It must be proactive, constant, and sincere. It must be part of an organization’s culture.

A Culture of Transparency

A strong, positive organizational culture will not often materialize without the presence of effective leadership. Leaders create a compelling mission and vision, and then determine the organizational values that will advance both. Taken together, these are the foundational elements of organizational culture.

An organization can profess to hold numerous values, but successful ones will whittle these down to 4 or 6 values. The result is a set of core values that inform workplace behaviors. An organization that wants to embrace transparency in leadership, then, must ensure that its core values encourage this behavior.

The behavior of transparency in leadership can be described in many ways, but a helpful description would be: the timely, frequent sharing of information and the invitation to provide feedback or enter discussion in regard to this information.

Timely and Frequent Sharing

As previously mentioned, transparency in leadership is not seeking and considering input on every decision, and it is not sharing every piece of information on every decision. The right frequency of sharing information, then, is a frequency which ensures that employees are kept aware of:

  • the status of ongoing issues, and
  • the possibility of emerging issues.

This can be thought of as simply “keeping people in the loop.”

Timely sharing of information is seeking to achieve the above, while also considering whether there is a need to know the information at a particular time. For example, interrupting work on a time-sensitive project to hold a meeting where the topic is a new snack program….that is not timely sharing.

Feedback and Discussion

Of course, simply sharing information is not enough to create transparency in leadership. A one-way street of top-down sharing  would cause most employees to feel as if they were only receiving a long list of dictates and decrees. An organization that values transparency must go further and give every employee the ability to influence decisions by seeking their feedback.

Feedback can be collected through surveys, but individual or small-group discussions are often the most effective vehicle. This provides an opportunity for all parties to gain clarity in understanding. Additionally, discussions often uncover new perspectives that the decision makers may not have considered previously. 

While seeking feedback is important, leaders must also convey sincerity in seeking feedback. Employees must feel that their thoughts and perspectives will be taken into consideration by decision makers, and they must see evidence of this when decisions are announced. Few things hurt employee morale more than the constant request for feedback that is never considered. 

Transparency Mitigates Conflict

The leadership group in our workplace scenario created conflict when making the announcement to reduce hours. Specifically, the conflict was between the employees anticipating a certain amount of hours and the leadership’s decision to reduce hours. From the organization’s perspective, the conflict was unavoidable; however, an organization that values transparency understands that while a conflict may be necessary, it doesn’t have to be damaging.

A damaging conflict is most likely to occur when there is unequal access to information that, when revealed, moves one party to resent the other. Transparency in leadership, then, prevents damaging conflicts by ensuring that all employees have access to important information at the right time.

 

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.

 

Build Your Bottom Line: Accountable Culture in 6 Steps

Top-performing companies understand just how critical the workplace culture is to their success, so they’re intentional and systematic about how they create, drive, and describe their cultures. They know that culture is the “enabler”—or the “hobbler”—for new strategic plans and directions. The companies with the highest-performing teams and most robust bottom lines make accountability the centerpiece of their culture. Their slogan, no matter their business, is the equivalent of “We deliver!”

A culture that embraces accountability fuels employees to deliver every day, all day, and all year. Employees who are accountable are more engaged: they show up for work each day and work hard while they’re there. Accountability helps to reduce absenteeism, lower turnover, and minimize time wasted on activities such as social media and office gossip.

Your culture may be the culprit if your organization is not meeting goals and growing. How can you turn things around and start building an “accountable culture”? Here are six steps.

1 – Add accountability to your core competencies.

Competencies are the skills, behaviors and/or core values that set apart your company from you competitors. Include accountability as one of your core competencies for all employees in all positions and promote the competencies throughout the organization (e.g., on your website, on bulletin boards, in employee communications). This will help employees see just how important accountability is to the company.

2 – Hire for accountability.

Ask behavioral interviewing questions to elicit scenarios about job seekers’ experiences with accountability. Hire candidates who make accountability a habit. For example, ask

Tell me about a time when others abandoned a task or project, but you knew that it was important to complete.

Then, dig for additional context with these follow-up questions:

  • What was the situation? Did this happen previously?
  • What did you do, and how many others were involved?
  • What was the outcome?

In many cases, past performance is the best predictor of future success.

3 – Onboard for accountability.

During onboarding, be sure to focus on the skills and behaviors expected across the organization and send a clear message:

Accountability counts in this company!

Here are some ideas:

  • Tell stories about the lengths to which one or more employees have gone to ensure that projects or tasks were completed on time. To ensure the stories are passed down consistently and efficiently, consider creating a video series starring existing employees that future new hires may watch on demand.
  • Talk about the rewards and recognition available for those who are accountable.
  • Let new hires know that it’s a minimum performance standard. Do so by sharing job success factor documentation as a part of your standard employee onboarding workflow.

4 – Build accountability into your performance management.

If accountability is indeed a core competency, you should evaluate employees on how well they demonstrate it. Have managers address accountability during regular performance reviews and work with employees to continually improve accountability measures.

5 – Train managers to model accountability and to manage fairly to that outcome.

Micromanagement may deliver outcomes in the short-term, but managers need to learn how to delegate successfully so that they and their direct reports operate daily with an accountable mindset—no micromanagement needed!

But don’t just tell your managers to model it! As an employer, be accountable to providing regular management training that includes role playing scenarios in which successful delegation takes place.

6 – Reward accountability.

Being consistently accountable is demanding work! Lift up as examples those employees and managers who go above and beyond. Encourage those who demonstrate strong accountability with monetary or other rewards (extra paid days off, special parking privileges, a gift card, etc.).

As you build a culture of accountability, rate your people on a 1-10 scale in terms of the percentage of goals met well and on time. Year after year, work to move employees up the scale. What would happen if the average employee moved from a 6 to a 9? Your expenses wouldn’t change, but the increased productivity would translate into more profit!

If you intentionally raise the bar by defining accountability in your culture, incorporating accountability into your talent management programs, and providing manager and employee training around accountability, your highly engaged employees will likely sell more, deliver better customer service, produce higher-quality work, and solve problems faster and more effectively. All of these factors directly impact the bottom line.


Nancy Ahlrichs
Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an author, columnist and national speaker. She is Chief Talent Officer at United Way of Central Indiana where accountability is a core value along with courage, respect and excellence.

Which is Celebrated More at Your Organization–Talent or Tenacity?

How do you know when it is time to throw in the towel on your latest project? The answer will vary from one individual to another, and perhaps it is dependent on the current environmental circumstances, too. I have to say…January in the Midwest is an easy time to be a quitter despite all the best new year resolution intentions. So many things are stacked against you…the cold, the ice, the deprivation of consistent sunlight and the post-holiday withdrawal. So what keeps some of us going despite the odds?

Well, a tolerance for bearing subzero temperatures and a lifetime of Indiana winters is probably a decent start. But when it comes to losing weight, getting that degree, earning a promotion or achieving that lofty departmental goal, what matters more: talent or tenaciousness?

I think most reasonable people would say “a little of both.” However, Angela Duckworth makes the argument that “grit” counts for more than most people tend to believe in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She comments that most people would say that being a hard worker is more important than being a “natural.” Surprisingly, though, research studies suggest the subconscious proves the opposite. For example, this study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology has shown that individuals presented with two different musicians’ profiles (one celebrating talent-based achievement and the other citing effort-based achievement) tend to pick the talent-based “natural” as the more successful musician upon hearing a musical selection–even though the two different selections are actually played by the same musician.

In this blog, I’ll share how concepts from Duckworth’s book can be applied to fostering grit and tenacity in your life and in your organization. First, let’s understand the relationship between talent, effort and achievement.

Why do we overemphasize talent?

One might argue that having a bias toward talent is a form of self-preservation. Would you rather beat yourself up for not having the swimming skills of Michael Phelps; or, would it be easier to chalk up your lack of pool prowess to the fact that Phelps was born to swim and isn’t even in the same category as you?

When we compare ourselves to genius…or even to a perceived “natural”…then we don’t have to feel bad about falling short because our relative disadvantage is out of our control. It then becomes easy to discount the long hours of practice that an expert has expended on his skill to achieve greatness.

Talent alone is not a means to greatness

But still, talent can’t be ignored, right? I mean, Michael Phelps does have a seven foot arm span which hasn’t hurt his gold medal prospects. There is in fact a place for talent. But what is worth more…talent or effort? And, what combination equals achievement?

In her book, Duckworth proposes that “with effort, talent becomes skill and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive.” And so you must start with a little bit of talent…but natural talent left unpracticed will fall short of skill honed through effort over time. In fact, she argues that effort counts twice:

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement

So, you might conclude that the more effort applied, the more your skill improves and the more you are capable of achieving even if you start with very little talent. Can you think of an example from your own life where this equation rang true?

I can. I played varsity basketball in high school and managed to be a starting forward my senior year, but my position was tenuous at times. I was decent, but less accomplished than the other starters. The one thing that over time distinguished me from the others was my ability to shoot with my weak hand on the left side of the basket. All the other players would generally practice with only their dominant right hand, but I started to see a knack for shooting–if only reasonably awkwardly–with my weak left hand when under the basket on the left side.

Seeing a spark of talent for doing so and with the encouragement of my coaches, I continued practicing with my off hand everyday until it felt like a natural move during the game. My flexibility to play both sides of the lane made me a valuable player in the starting spot and I even favored the left side because it gave me a competitive edge–particularly when I was fouled with an “and 1” opportunity rather than stuffed after shooting into a defender’s arms with my right hand on the left side.

Talent is a starting point for skill, but consistency of effort is what matters in the end. And while it might be fairly easy to examine this with the lens of your own life, it is applicable from an organizational standpoint, too. So, do the tenacious have a place at your organization?

Four elements of grit for your workforce

“A combination of passion and perseverance makes high achievers special.
High achievers have grit.” – from Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Duckworth identified four elements of grit in her book: interest, practice, purpose and hope. While the context of these was mostly focused on curating grit in individuals in her book, employers can use these same components to inspire conditions for creating gritty workforces.

  • Interest. Passion doesn’t exist unless employees enjoy what they do most of the time. While intrinsic motivation may not happen on day one, creating an environment in which employees have the opportunity to consistently develop their interests over time is a step in the right direction.
    • Encourage employees to belong to special interest groups.
    • Encourage cross-training between departments.
  • The capacity to practice. For grit to exist, there must be a drive toward skills mastery–the perseverance to continuously improve. Does your organization make it easy enough for employees to do deliberate practice of their skills–free from distraction?
    • Ensure that employees have access to quiet places to work without interruption.
    • Encourage supervisors and direct reports to work together to set stretch goals. When those are achieved, set new ones.
    • Champion a culture of timely feedback so that employees understand what adjustments to make to master their skills.
    • Train leaders and mentors to be effective coaches for employees as they practice their skills.
  • Purpose. Knowing that your work matters is powerful external motivation that can persist even longer than passion alone. Savvy employers successfully connect the work of individual employees to the energizing purpose of the overall organization. When an employee finds her purpose, it can be the difference between just a job and her life’s pursuit.
    • Challenge employees to evolve their job responsibilities to meet emerging organizational needs and satisfy their own developing interests.
    • Ask employees to seek out professional mentors that can help them connect a strong sense of purpose to their interests.
  • Hope. Hope is stick-to-itiveness–the ability to keep going when it’s tough, and be resilient enough to have a growth mindset. Does your organization empower employees to believe they have control over their own outcomes?
    • Foster optimism rather than helplessness when breaking tough news with business explanations that are temporary and specific, rather than permanent and broad, according to Duckworth’s book.
    • Train mentors and managers to be encouraging and open-minded rather than rehearsed and standardized in their approaches.

What are you doing to foster grit in your workforce?

The good news is that grit can grow. I think of it like a contagious muscle…if you surround yourselves with other gritty people it catches, and the more you exercise it the grittier you can become. Of course the opposite is true, too, so don’t fall into grit lethargy!

Start identifying activities that are gritty

With the necessity of being interested, having the ability to practice, finding purpose and having hope…it can be daunting to know which activities will catapult your employees to be, as Duckworth calls them, “paragons of grit.” She recommends starting with the “hard thing rule.”

The “Hard Thing Rule.”

Do something that is both interesting and hard…and do it for more than a year.

As I was reading this I thought, finally–justification for me running my two kids around to multiple activities such as scouts, soccer, basketball, and choir year after year! My own comment when defending my actions to others was that I want my kids to be used to being committed to and involved with something that teaches them something new….so that as they become teenagers they are used to being busy and don’t fall into the jaws of poor life decisions.

But the key to success is to let your kids…or your employees…chose their own interests/activities. To become truly gritty, however, studies referenced in the book suggest that involvement in a specific extracurricular activity must last two years. So, perhaps consider two year terms for your employer’s committees. Endurance and stamina for a task apparently count more than intensity in this context.

Create goal frameworks

What if your employees have lots of interests and goals? It might be hard for them to decide what to quit and what to focus on? Duckworth recommends prioritizing goals within a pyramid-like framework or ladder. The top level goal is an end in itself that remains unchanged for extended periods of time; whereas, the bottom level goals are minor tasks that are done to support the middle level and top level goals. The bottom level goals may be frequently replaced in the pursuit of other goals that might better support the top of the pyramid.

Organizational Tenacity | Create Goal Frameworks

So then, one might say that a gritty organization is one with a sound and well-communicated goal framework. The primary organizational goal is a big, hairy audacious one that takes some time to achieve, but that gives meaning to all initiatives below it. Less gritty organizations don’t have clearly defined hierarchical goals; or, they have a bunch of mid-level goals that compete with one another more than support a primary initiative.

Does your senior management team have passion and perseverance for big goals, as well as the capacity to lead supportive goal setting efforts throughout the organization?

Champion a gritty culture

When you hang around groups with strong social norms, then you either adopt many of the same behaviors for yourself over time or you eventually leave the group. If you want gritty employees, you need to have a gritty culture that challenges people to pursue interests, practice them over time and persevere despite setbacks.

Is there a clear breakpoint in employee tenure at which turnover significantly drops at your organization? If so, it’s probably the point at which newer employees feel as though they’ve assimilated fully into your culture–the point at which they’ve adopted your norms as their own and they identify and embrace them…even champion them moving forward.

  • What are you doing, then, to assimilate people into your culture more quickly?
  • Are you training managers and mentors to be beacons of grit?
  • Are you living your core values everyday?

Tenacity catalyzes talent

In conclusion, it is clear that you can’t forget the role talent plays in achievement. However, talent is amplified when continuous effort is applied to hone skill and lead to achievement. If you want gritty employees who have the capacity to put in the effort, then you might hire tenacious people who have demonstrated past performance of sustained effort on extracurricular interests. This can be unearthed in the interview process.

Additionally, examine your culture and workplace practices to see where you might apply the four components of grit to foster greater achievement within your organization.

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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

10 Steps to Rolling Out Core Values at a Small Business

There are many reasons that organizations choose not to craft a core set of values. Sometimes, senior management doesn’t think core values are a big deal because they think every employee already knows how they are supposed to act to succeed. Or, key employees may have had a bad experience with values at a previous organization that were essentially meaningless. Moreover, not having any recognized values relieves any obligation for an employer to deal with employees who would not live up to a set of corporate values.

If it’s too easy for your organization to find an excuse not to commit to forming a relevant, celebrated value statement, then your business will never reach its full potential. It’s just not possible when conditions aren’t in place to align a workforce with the principles that an employer holds sacred.

At ExactHire, we only very recently rolled out our core values. While the company has been in business since 2007, our management team had some of the same objections that I initially mentioned. However, when we first decided that it was time to make a change and embrace the value process, we made the classic rookie mistake of involving everyone. As you can imagine, it resulted in a hot mess of groupthink…complete with vanilla platitudes that can only result from trying to be everything to everyone. And not surprisingly, the trite single-word adjectives we selected were quickly forgotten.

The Better Way to Craft Core Values

However, after some frank internal banter and a commitment to make our values amount to more than just a framed wall poster, we embarked on a mission that led us to G.E.C.U.S.P.

ExactHire Core Values
While we’re extremely happy with these new core values, we fell a little short on a catchy acronym. But hey, there’s only so many ways to rearrange letters. In this blog, I’ll share our process for creating, unveiling and embracing the ExactHire core values that truly represent our small business.

1 – Owner ownership

We were fortunate to learn, with only a minor hiccup, that you can’t involve everyone if you’re going to capture the true values of your organization. Keep your values “discovery team” small, and ideally comprised of only your founder(s) and perhaps certain long-tenured senior managers. The values of the organization should reflect the values of the founders, and so owner ownership of the process is essential. They are the ones that will model the behavior to the rest of the organization.

2 – Give context and get buy-in

Especially when members of your values discovery group are skeptical about the potential impact of spending time on core value development, you must set clear expectations. Talk about what will be different this time compared to their past experiences and get their feedback. Discuss ways in which the values will be woven into daily work life beyond the initial announcement. Assign stakeholders to own various values initiatives.

Then, consider announcing to the rest of the company that you are creating values and that it is a process that is taken very seriously. Then, when the eventual values are announced later, employees will know that they were formed with careful intention and not just copied from some business book.

3 – Brainstorm independently, but with parameters

Each member of the small discovery team should come up with a list of values on his/her own. If you’ve selected the right core group of people (e.g. founders, key long-time employees), and they are being honest about how work is really done at the organization, then their separate lists should have many similarities.

However, to start them down a productive path, clarify the following:

  • They are to list actual core values, not aspirational values. As Patrick Lencioni details in this Harvard Business Review article, aspirational values may be necessary for the company’s eventual success, but are not representative of the traits that the company can honestly claim today.
  • They should avoid one-word overused “no duh” adjectives like “innovation” or “integrity.” At ExactHire, our team focused on short phrases.
  • They are welcome to look at values from other organizations that they believe have a similar culture to get the creative juices flowing.

4 – Collaborate to edit and refine

In our experience, we knew we were on the right track–as when we gathered to compare notes–our lists were about an 85% match. That reassured us that we were on the right path, and then the process of rephrasing statements and combining categories to come up with a succinct list was relatively painless.

During this process, we honed our list by asking questions like these:

  • Are these actual or aspirational values?
  • Are there any obvious outliers that won’t seem authentic to employees?
  • Is the language gritty enough to represent how we do business? Does it make our priorities clear?
  • Are these values complementary to our employment brand? Strategic planning process? Performance management process?

5 – Simmer

Once we were content with our final values list, we knew that we had to give it some time to make sure it really fit the organization. We tabled the process for a couple of months in order to let them sink in to ensure their credibility before announcing them to the rest of the organization.

6 – Plan a big reveal

The definition of “big” will depend on your organization’s size. However, no matter the size, don’t just send out an email or make a quick announcement that your new values are posted. Plan a reveal that will be memorable and engage employees to quickly learn the values.

At ExactHire, we planned the announcement during our monthly company meeting, and took time to explain how we approached the process and why we involved a very small group of employees. Prior to the unveiling, we designed a logo that incorporates color and different fonts to make it easy to remember our G.E.C.U.S.P. However, we knew that employees wouldn’t necessarily take it upon themselves to periodically glance at the logo. So, we ordered die-cut laptop stickers (from my new obsession Sticker Mule) and presented them to employees during the meeting.

ExactHire Employees Core Values Stickers

Tom, Jess and Darythe showing off ExactHire core values!

Now, many of the laptops you see around our office proudly sport our values and make it easy for them to be top-of-mind. While stickers may be the norm for a software company, if mugs, water bottles or magnets are more your speed–go for it! The point is to select an item that is frequently close to your employees and reinforces the values visually on a daily basis.

In our meeting, we also handed out the unabridged internal document that defines our values…complete with bullet points that clarify what each short phrase means.

ExactHire Core Values Bullet Detail

7 – Cultivate employee values engagement

To add to the excitement of our initial roll-out, we wanted to keep the momentum going in the early adoption phase by giving employees the optional opportunity to participate in a t-shirt design contest. We had been meaning to get company t-shirts for some time anyway (what cool tech company doesn’t have an employee picture in matching shirts after all?), and this seemed like the perfect chance to meet that need while getting teammates excited about incorporating values into an aspect of our culture.

We passed out this contest rules flyer during the company meeting, and employees were invited to select the winning t-shirt design via anonymous survey a week later.

ExactHire Core Values Tshirt Contest

And the winner is…

ExactHire Core Values T-shirt Winner

NOTE: We haven’t produced them yet at the time of this writing…hence no cool team picture in matching outfits yet–stay tuned!

While our contest rules didn’t stipulate that the new values had to be explicitly represented on the t-shirt, I was pleased that the majority of the submitted designs did actually incorporate the values anyway…a sign that we were on the right track. If employees don’t believe you’ve selected the right values, they won’t want to wear them!

Here are some other values engagement ideas:

  • Plan book club discussions about books that are based on some of your selected values.
  • Challenge employees to self-identify how they can better align their own work and behavior to core values.
  • Invite employees to blog about how they see values represented at the organization from their own perspective. This is a great way to promote your values to the external world in a very authentic way, as well.

8 – Share your values externally

Don’t stop at blogging when it comes to sharing your values outside of your organization. Organizations that walk the talk will be more attractive to job seekers, potential customers and business partners. Consider the following ideas:

  • Include your values graphic on your company’s “about” page.
  • Weave values into your jobs portal or applicant tracking system. Include a link to information about your values in job descriptions. This is a great tool to get some less desirable applicants to self-select out of your hiring process.
  • Create a slide deck about your core values that can be embedded in social media posts and web pages.
  • Invite employees to do testimonials that talk about how each of your values impacts their work life. These can be in written and/or video format.
  • Use your values as a basis for selecting organizations with which to partner for charitable donations and volunteer hours. When contributing silent auction items to noteworthy causes, choose items that can be easily tied to your values.
  • Creatively display your values in your working space, especially in places where customers, partners and job candidates will visit.

9 – Live your values everyday

Don’t fall into the dreaded cliche of rolling out values and then forgetting about them the next day. Build in triggers to live them. For example, if you are in Human Resources, a department that helps champion work culture and supports senior management initiatives, set periodic reminders to intentionally think about values and how recent events can be correlated to them. For example, if a customer sends in a “happy note” about the service he received, then have a founder forward the note to the entire company with a comment that ties it back to a specific core value being positively represented.

Other ideas for reinforcing core values:

  • Make them the deciding factor on company decisions.
  • Use them to inspire internal traditions like Monday Funday.
  • Evaluate whether your performance management process appropriately accounts for employees’ embodiment of core values.
  • Revisit your interview process and incorporate questions that give you an opportunity to discuss core values with job candidates.
  • If your organization is large enough, consider a quarterly prize that recognizes individuals who have done something that specifically reinforces a certain value. Document these employee stories and share them with incoming employees to build a tradition of celebrating value alignment.

10 – Re-evaluate your values periodically

It’s important to be vigilant about engaging employees to your core values, as well as ensuring that senior management models them appropriately. Additionally, while core values would rarely (if ever) change for an organization (assuming founders remain involved), there may be times when an additional value is warranted.

Conduct employee pulse surveys from time to time to ask questions that will help you take the temperature on whether the organization needs to be doing more to promote value alignment.

I hope that the lessons we learned during the value formation process for ExactHire can help inspire action for other small- and medium-sized employers. We’re still in the learning process, too, as we look for more ways to reinforce them everyday…but we’re heading in the right direction.

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.