Posts Tagged ‘Human resources’

Improve Your Customer Service–By Letting Us See Your Tats!

2-20 tattoos at work smallResponding to tens of thousands of employee requests, Starbucks recently announced sweeping changes to its tattoo policy, now allowing customer-facing employees to exhibit them everywhere except on the employee’s face. (Previously, employees had to hide tattoos under long clothing, which as you can imagine made things uncomfortable in a long day working over hot steam.) Dress codes, too, have been loosened to allow more expression in accoutrements, scarves, and the like, and piercings have been significantly deregulated.

Are these sensible, bottom-line minded moves Starbucks is making, and that you should consider for yourself as a leader and businessperson? I would argue that the answer to both questions is yes.

Customers are searching for the genuine, the authentic

Today’s customers have a well-developed sense of the genuine, and "genuine" is something that they look for from a brand.  I find as a customer service consultant that my clients who allow their employees self-expression on the job–in language, clothing, and, yes, tattoos–are better able to deliver a genuine customer experience that connects with the customer.

Letting employees express their personal style, tats and all

In other words: letting employees revel in their own style is a way to project how genuine you are as a brand to employees and to the customers they support. Your customers—including the important millennial generation that will soon be the dominant breed of consumer in the marketplace—project their own style through their clothing choices, tattoos, and hairstyles, and by and large they're fine with your employees doing the same. As fellow customer service designer Tim Miller expressed it to me recently, in a customer-facing business you should strive for a visible symbiosis between the people working at your establishment because it fits their lifestyle, and the customers doing business with you because it fits their lifestyle.

Choosing the best employees, not just the ones without tattoos and piercing

The second reason is even more important: Employees with the potential to be great all share certain key personality traits (Warmth, Empathy, Teamwork, Conscientiousness, Optimism [WETCO] is my list),  but what they don’t share is a particular look. And as an employer, what you’re looking for, praying for, dreaming of, are great employees. Not necessarily Darien-bred or Oxbridge-accented employees (in fact, sometimes these are exactly the kinds of employees you want to avoid in the service industry, if they come with an attitude to match), but employees with the potential to be great in all the empathetic and creative ways that a customer-facing employee needs to be great.

This principle is epitomized by a front-of-house service professional in Bermuda named Nick DeRosa, about whom I've written before.  Mr. DeRosa is head doorman at the Fairmont Southampton and one of the greatest front-of-house employees you’ll ever meet.

DeRosa has a tattoo on his neck, all capital letters that says “NICK” so large and visibly that his much-smaller name tag serves pretty much as decoration rather than identification.

Based on an appearance checklist, Nick would hardly be the likeliest candidate to be chosen as the first person guests encounter at this grand luxury hotel, yet they selected him anyway, based on his personality and smile, and it’s clear it’s one of the best personnel decisions the hotel has ever made. Not only is his own performance stellar but he is an inspiration to the employees who work for and with him to up their own game. So I hold the example of DeRosa out to you and ask you this: Why lose a potentially great service person who made a questionable (to you) stylistic choice earlier in their lives—or even made one last night?

Get over your hiring inhibitions

You may get some pushback from whoever your pushbackers are, saying that some studies do show that, all things being equal, an untattooed, unpierced employee is viewed more favorably by mainstream customers than one who is decorated in the modern fashion. But all things are never equal. All employees are not equal. And I would argue that you want the tattooed employee if the tattooed employee is otherwise a future star for you.

Revise your HR guidelines

So: Are you reluctant to (and/or do your hiring guidelines prohibit you to) employ otherwise-qualified candidates who sport tattoos, weird hair, cheek piercings, and the like?

Well, if so, I do understand. I really do. But I want to challenge you to consider that, perhaps, your thinking is out of date. Anachronistic. Please evolve as quickly as you can, for the sake of your employees, your customers, and your bottom line.

How Bosses Can Deal with Smartphone-Addicted Employees

Group of friends all using smart phonesSmartphones have become more than communication tools. As phones have evolved to include email, internet browsing, and social media connectivity, consumers have begun increasing their screen time each day. These devices have gone beyond being a way to make phone calls to becoming a lifeline for most people.

As The Washington Post pointed out, the modern smartphone is a way for people to protect themselves, allowing people something to do. But mobile devices too often take priority over the people in the room with someone, which is problem enough when it happens in social settings. In business meetings, it can be disruptive and insubordinate. In a world that seems to be increasingly tech-addicted, how do bosses handle employees who can’t seem to go five seconds without texting, tweeting, or checking email? Here are some things leaders can do to deal with distracted workers in the office.

Set Policies

As restrictive as it can be, employers need to set boundaries when it comes to tech use in the workplace. An across-the-board ban against personal cell phone use in the workplace isn’t reasonable in today’s environment. But it’s perfectly reasonable to ask phones to be turned off in meetings, especially if they’re with clients.

The problem comes in when employees are checking work email in meetings. Important work emails could be missed during a no-phones-allowed staff meeting, yet it’s often impossible to differentiate between company-related interactions and personal.

Address the Problem

As with any personal technology use in the workplace, it’s often easier to address the real problem than the symptoms of that problem. In other words, if someone wastes an untold amount of time texting throughout the day, he’s likely not getting his work done. If he is, it might be time to determine whether he has enough to do. A co-worker may be overloaded with work that could be shifted over to a smartphone-addicted colleague, solving two issues at once.

If an employee’s work performance is suffering as a result of his device use, begin documenting missed deadlines or failure to meet standards. Use this documentation to discuss these standards with the employee and state what he needs to do to improve. In some cases once an employee realizes his job is at stake, he’ll spend less time on the phone and more time working.

Offer Help

While it may sound extreme, technology addiction is such a problem there is now a name for it: nomophobia. Instead of taking your employees’ vices away, consider offering help. You don’t have to send them off to rehab or enter them in a 12-step program. Instead, bring in an expert to speak to employees about how they can break their smartphone addictions and get more done in a day.

If a workshop isn’t helpful and disciplining employees for poor performance isn’t successful, it’s likely time to directly address the problem. As long as your discipline is consistent, without showing favoritism, you may reduce workers’ disruptive smartphone use and have a more productive, collaborative workplace.

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Ways to Make Your Employees More Productive

12-30 Office Environment smallThe holidays are the season of giving, so since we’re just days away from the New Year, why not think about ways to give your employees a more comfortable workplace in 2015? This might sound frivolous, but in reality a comfortable work environment has been shown to make employees more creative, productive and happier with their jobs. That type of “gift” can’t help but translate into better interactions with customers!

Here are five ideas for ways to improve your employees’ work environment.

  1. Seating: Ergonomic desks and task chairs have become very affordable. Try letting workers pick the options they want on their own chairs (within a certain price range), such as with or without arms, with different back levels and with height-adjustable options.
  2. Lighting: Natural light is best—it helps keep employees alert, happy and engaged. If your office space doesn’t provide much natural light, look into getting light bulbs that mimic natural light. Also consider creating a break space outside so employees can get some sunlight during their downtime.
  3. Air quality: Since most office spaces don’t have windows that open, keeping air quality high is vitally important. Make sure your business’s air ducts are cleaned regularly so employees aren’t breathing polluted or allergen-laden air.
  4. Heating and cooling: In general, cooler temps are better for keeping workers alert and energetic, but you don’t want it so cold that people have to wear gloves at work or that they start bringing space heaters, which can be a fire hazard. Work with your team to find a comfortable level, and make sure your HVAC system is well maintained.
  5. Variety: Who does their best work in a beige box? Add life to your office with indoor plants, framed artwork and colorful carpeting or paint on the walls. Offering variety in seating and working arrangements can spark creativity and energize workers. For example, a few comfy couches or chairs scattered in inviting areas will encourage employees to chat, which might lead to informal brainstorming and innovations for your business. A cozy break room will get people to hang around work at lunch instead of leaving the building; that means less likelihood of late lunches and more employee bonding.

By implementing these five simple changes, you can create a more inviting workplace where people are happy to spend time and feel “fired up” to do their best. 

4 Tips for Handling a Disgruntled Employee

12-26 disgruntled employee smallManaging employees is a necessary part of running a business, whether a company has only a few employees or a few thousand. Ideally, a company will hire the perfect worker the first time, then retain that employee for decades without a single issue. That rarely happens, however, especially as a business’s team grows.

Occasionally, a manager may be tasked with handling an unhappy employee who isn’t afraid to let others know about it. Mitigating the situation may be tricky, especially if other employees are aware of the worker’s negative attitude. Here are some things you can do if an employee is miserable and looking for company.

Separate the Employee

As soon as you notice an employee’s behavior is problematic, it’s time to take action. Never make a scene in front of other employees. Instead, pull the employee aside and have a private discussion about the matter, possibly with someone from human resources present. Let the employee air all grievances and promise to address those that are legitimate. If the issues can’t be repaired, explain this to the employee and make it understood that these bad habits can’t continue.


In many cases, a disgruntled employee simply wants someone to hear his complaints. By letting a disgruntled worker know that he can come to you whenever he has an issue, you may be able to confine the drama to your office, rather than taking the risk of it spreading throughout the organization. Most importantly, listen closely to what the employee is saying and consider whether there could be a grain of truth in what he’s saying. In some cases, an employee’s complaints could highlight a problem that needs to be addressed.

Limit Access

Once an employee has made his unhappiness public, it’s important to consider the many ways the employee can damage your company. The FBI recently cautioned businesses about the rise in data theft from disgruntled employees. Conduct an inventory of all of the systems the employee accesses and consider limiting his access to information like customer credit card and social security numbers. If dismissal becomes necessary, make sure access to your systems is cut off instantly.

Begin Discipline

If efforts to manage the situation prove unsuccessful, you’ll likely have no choice but to dismiss the employee. For that reason, you should maintain careful documentation of each incident and note all discussions you hold with the employee. Offering the employee an opportunity to resign rather than be terminated can be beneficial, especially if the worker is angry and might possibly file a lawsuit. Since the employee is already making his displeasure known, you may also find it worth your while to offer a severance package in exchange for signing a confidentiality agreement. This will keep negative postings off of social media and sites like Glassdoor.

A disgruntled employee can cause great harm to an organization, lowering morale and distracting team members from their daily tasks. By addressing the issue professionally as discreetly as possible, a manager can maintain peace and keep the organization moving forward.

The New Leaderboard: How Gamification Can Motivate Your Team

12-19 leaderboard smallIn traditional sales environments, managers would often keep leaderboards as a visual representation of employee performance. Achieving the top spot on the leaderboard gives employees something to aspire to, igniting the spirit of competition among team members.

As the business world has become increasingly mobile, however, it’s less common to have all employees in the same physical location. This eliminates the possibility of a traditional leaderboard, but the benefits of such a visual tool still remain. For businesses with multiple workers, an automated leaderboard is a great way to motivate employees and achieve better results. For that reason, gamification is growing in popularity among sales teams across the country. There are a variety of uses for gamification in an organization. Here are three ways this tool can be put to use in your small business.

Time and Attendance

Showing up for work every day should be a given, but as many business owners know, reliability can be a real problem for some employees. Perhaps taking a lesson from schools that issue certificates for consistent attendance, some software providers are incorporating gamification into their HR efforts. Kronos’s Workforce Central 7 has a points-based rewards system that provides positive reinforcement for activities like perfect attendance, timely approval of timecards, bonuses for overtime, and more.

Customer Support

Many companies are finding ways to improve customer support processes. However, healthcare company OmniCare learned through experience that gamification should be customized to the type of employees. After unsuccessfully deploying a leaderboard with cash rewards for its helpdesk, the company realized that its technology-oriented workers felt overly watched instead of motivated. After adjusting the program to one that more adequately motivated its helpdesk employees—one that issued challenges and gave non-cash rewards—OmniCare saw a dramatic improvement in its helpdesk performance.


Gamification is perhaps most popular in sales departments, since companies so often rely on sales teams to bring in revenue. Sales tools like Hoopla,,, and Salesforce’s offer incentives to employees through performance rewards, leaderboards, and countdown clocks. Like,, and, Hoopla can be incorporated into Salesforce and handled along with a manager’s other responsibilities. Rewards aren’t simply badges and virtual awards, either. Businesses can build in real rewards like gift cards to make hosting contests easier for managers.

Before choosing a gamification program, however, it’s important that businesses understand which incentives appeal to the team members in question. In 2012, Gartner documented this issue, predicting that by 2014, 80 percent of all gamification programs would fail due to poor design. This hasn’t happened, however, due in part to the evolution of Big Data. Businesses are interested in measuring performance and improving operations and gamification is a way to incentivize employees to do things differently.

How can gamification be used in your organization? Only you know. But there are many tools available to help you reach out to your employees and make them excited to come to work each day. One of the best things about gamification is that it challenges employees and makes work fun, which tends to get better results than repeated staff meetings to remind workers of their objectives.

Four Crazy HR Ideas To Ignore – And Six Guiding Principles To Follow

Boutique: Owner with Help Wanted SignWrongheaded, even crazy, HR advice tends to be delivered emphatically, as if passed down from Moses, but that doesn’t make it any truer for the delivery.

Misinformation–myths–about how to hire (or “select," which is the term I prefer) and treat employees can destroy your attempts at building a rich and sustainable corporate culture and can make a hash of your leadership. Here are four of them in particular that I urge you to reject:

1. Snappy but utterly insane advice like “hire slowly, fire quickly.” Try this sometime. Or better, don’t. "Hire slowly" certainly has its good points, but "fire quickly" applied to those who aren't immediately successful means you're throwing away human potential in a way that is completely cruel:  a blip on a resume and wasted resources for your company, not to mention the shockwaves felt by those left un-fired.  In my experience great companies certainly don't ignore the failures of initially unsuccessful employees, but they engage in the more difficult "coach quickly," "make adjustments quickly," and "amp up the training" rather than the kneejerkish "fire quickly."

2. Advice like, Go on your gut.”  If people went on their guts, they wouldn’t hire, well, let’s see:  people of different ethnicities, people of different ages, people of different religious backgrounds, single people for the CEO job. And no way in Helsinki would they hire tattooed, pierced, possibly hoodied Millennials, no matter how great their potential.

3. Advice like, “Turnover is inevitable.  You can manage this fact, but you’ll never transform it.”  (This is especially dangerous advice to take as gospel when employing younger workers (millennials), since it fits with the generational assumption — to some extent true — that millennials don’t expect to work with you forever.  If you consider anyone disposable, you increase the chances they'll live up to/down to your expectations. )

4. Advice like, You can’t work successfully with a union:”  Clearly, people who say this ignore companies like Southwest Airlines — the most unionized airline in a unionized industry—who have great employee relations, with management actually striving to learn from the “other side” at each negotiation, Fairmont Hotels, Host Marriott… The incoming workforce of Millennials, by the way, are the most pro-union generation in quite some time.  Even if it is largely theoretical for them, the anti-union rhetoric isn’t going to win you points with them.

Six Guiding Principles 

Fortunately, there are tested approaches, antithetical to all this idiocy, that help companies thrive every day, while the naysayers nay. The model I use in my corporate culture consulting draws not only from my own experience but from the model of superior service-focused companies like Mayo Clinic, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, USAA Insurance, Marriott, Auberge Resorts and others, as well as the work of a few true visionaries in the field include the creators of the Ritz-Carlton Hotels And Resorts and the work of  Brad Black of HUMANeX Ventures.

1. Hiring — “selecting” – employees has to be systematic. Your approach to whom you select to work in your company, and in which position you place them, needs to be based on science, not on hunches, politics, whims.

[Quick Refresher: Here, speaking broadly, are the underlying personality traits that make for a great customer-facing employee. They spell “WETCO”):

• W is for Warmth: Simple human kindness
• E is for Empathy: The ability to sense what another person is feeling
• T is for Teamwork: An inclination toward ‘‘Let’s work together to make this happen’’ and against ‘‘I’d rather do it all myself"
• C is for Conscientiousness: Detail orientation, including an ability and willingness to follow through to completion
• O is for Optimism: The ability to bounce back and to not internalize challenges. Optimism is a necessity in customer-facing positions.

Similarly, your approach to getting recruits from whom to choose needs to be relentlessly systematic: As Brad Black puts it, "ABS: Always Be Scouting";This allows you ultimately to be able to choose from perhaps the top 1% rather than forced to make do with the top 10% of those who apply.

2. You need an integrated approach to employee development: Great hiring is never enough. In everything else related to employees, you need to be systematic. You need a system of HR. Not just in hiring, but in reviewing your talent for advancement (and lateral moves): you need an integrated approach

3. Go overboard with the onboard:  Onboarding—orientation and the first weeks of employment— matters.  Make sure employees are welcomed, and oriented by a power in the organization, and onboarded by the team they will be working with.

4. Employees need design input and performance leeway: Employees need to have input into the design of, and leeway in the  performance of, their work — and you as an employer need them to have this input and leeway.  (Fill this in with info from high-tech high-touch on both a) design input and b) autonomy

5. Employees need a purpose to their work – and you as a leader need them to have a purpose, in order to get the most out of them.

6. Employees are an asset, not just an expense. Don’t just hire and then try to minimize turnover.  Select and then maximize potential of your asset.  It requires more forethought and dedication, but ultimately it's vastly more effective and sustainable.

3 Tools to Help Bosses Show Employee Appreciation

12-11 rewarding employees smallAs the economy continues to recover from the slowdown of the past few years, many employees have worked for years without pay raises. Attracting and retaining good employees will become increasingly hard for small businesses, who now face competition from larger employers who can offer perks. There is one way small business owners can gain an edge, though, and it won’t cost as much as an annual salary hike or Christmas bonus.

Employees want to feel as though their bosses respect them. Yet despite data showing that employees who feel respected report 89 percent greater job satisfaction than those who don’t, half of all employees surveyed reported they don’t feel respected by their bosses. The simple act of regularly showing respect for underpaid, overworked employees can go a long way toward cultivating a happy, healthy workplace. But how does a time-strapped business owner find time to regularly show respect? These technology tools can help.

Regular Performance Evaluations

When handled correctly, performance evaluations have the ability to motivate and inspire employees. One research study found that performance evaluations can be especially beneficial if a worker knows what the evaluation will cover. During this process, employees should be given feedback on how they’re performing, as well as information on what they can do to improve.

Several software solutions can automate the process of creating and providing performance appraisals. These include not only rating employees and offering written feedback, but also automating approvals to make the process as paperless as possible. Even if the system is automated, though, employers should set aside time to have a face-to-face meeting with the employee and discuss areas where improvements can be made, as well as praise the employees for his accomplishments.

Make Praising Employees Fun

In today’s technology-minded environment, gamification can be a big motivator. Instead of simply giving an employee a pat on the back, employers can use tools like Salesforce’s to motivate employees. Using badges and rewards, employees are acknowledged for completing various business tasks, with those awards displayed on their Salesforce profiles.

By creating leaderboards, businesses can ignite the spirit of competition among team members, with specific activities being linked to Salesforce activities to automatically update. If an activity is being measured in Salesforce, the system can be set up to automatically acknowledge accomplishments, including closing big deals, marketing success, and positive comments from customers.

Give Rewards

If badges and virtual rewards aren’t enough, YouEarnedIt offers tangible rewards that really put employees in the competitive mood. Not only can employers thank employees in front of the entire staff, they can attach gift cards or products from the YouEarnedIt catalog. Companies can customize rewards to fit their unique culture, including offering nonprofit and charity gifts, mentoring opportunities as gifts, and customized experiences that mean more to some employees than monetary prizes would.

By finding ways to acknowledge and reward employees, bosses can keep morale and productivity high. As the job market continues to improve, it’s becoming more important than ever that a small business find ways to attract and retain good employees and these tools can help.

Where to Find Your Next Employee

12-11 Looking for employees smallSix years after the Great Recession, national unemployment is finally dropping. At 5.8 percent, it is the lowest since 2008. This poses a problem for small business owners who need to find the best people to fill open positions at their company. Unfortunately, posting jobs on various sites like Craigslist or Monster can bring in a lot of unqualified people and be expensive. For most small businesses, hiring a recruiter that collects 25% of the first year’s compensation is out of reach. The key is to find those individuals that have the required skills and the cultural fit at a reasonable search price.

Here is the best way to do it:

  1. Ask current employees. People socialize with other people like them. If a company wants to find more similar employees, ask the current staff. Pay a $250 to $1,000 bonus for any employee that refers a candidate and stays for at least 90 days.
  2. Post openings on the website. Many candidates are doing job searches through Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Posting job descriptions with the appropriate search keywords will get the opportunity found by those who are looking.
  3. List the opening in every employee’s email signature. Use a simple sentence and link in the signature of every outgoing email from the company. For example, “We are growing! We need sales and marketing superstars. Check out these opportunities”. Then add the appropriate hyperlink for the website.
  4. Search employees at competitors on LinkedIn. Find competitors who have the employees that your company is looking for. Get connected to them and see if they are interested in making a switch. Some websites even list key employees. Alternately, competitors can be called to find out the names of people who hold positions that could be candidates for your company.
  5. Niche job boards. Look at the smaller job boards that focus on a specific job candidate. For example, HealthCareJobsite is for health care positions and Hoojobs for PR. The more niched the job board, the better the quality of applications you will receive. Fifty more niche job boards are listed here. A company may even find a candidate at freelance sites like Elance and oDesk.  
  6. Ask social media. Post weekly (or as a tab on the company’s Facebook page) the types of job candidates that the business needs. This will allow followers to spread the word as well.
  7. Search trade shows or other industry events. Many of these have job boards. In addition, see who is speaking on various panels to source higher level positions. I also saw one company executive once at a show wearing a button that said “I am looking to hire you.”

Where do you find your best employees?

Don’t Do This! 5 Mistakes You Can Avoid When Handling Your Staff

I’ve hired and fired enough people to know what works and what doesn’t in terms of managing staff.  When you’re dealing with people, things can be unpredictable, but I’ve learned a few lessons that always hold true.  Here’s my top list of things you should NOT do when you’re dealing with your staff.

  1. Expect the same dedication you bring to the office.  Your company is your baby.  It’s your dream, your vision, and your potential payoff.  Your staff – even the most vibrant, engaged employees – are in it for the paycheck.  They don’t stand to gain as much as you do if you succeed, and they don’t see the same value you do in sacrificing their energy, free time, and income.  If you expect your staff to give up their lives in service of your vision, you’re asking too much, and you’re certain to be disappointed.  Be realistic about what you can expect from your staff.
  2. Give a lofty title to a rookie.  In the absence of tons of free money, entrepreneurs sometimes have to be creative when it comes to rewarding their staff.  Don’t attempt to compensate your staff by giving them titles they haven’t earned.  If you hire on an admin to handle your corporate Facebook and Twitter account and put “Chief Marketing Officer” on the new business card, you’re setting yourself up for problems.  If your new Chief Marketing Officer learns that his title usually comes with a much higher salary out in the marketplace, he’s likely to become disgruntled and feel like he’s undercompensated.  Give your staff authentic titles.
  3. Not handling reviews on time.  Your employees know their start dates, and you should too.  Not only do formal, regular reviews give you a chance to address any problems, but they also give your staff valuable feedback on what they’re doing right.  Don’t overlook an opportunity to praise your staff.
  4. Train and pray.  It’s expensive to hire and fire staff, and one of the most commonly made mistakes in the way business owners handle their staff is to skimp on the training.  If you send an employee out with inadequate training, not only are you running the risk of disappointing your customers, but you’re also fostering uncertainty in your new hire.  Let your staff know that you care enough about them and your clients to train and support new hires properly.
  5. Messing up the first day.  Your new hire starts forming an impression of you and your company the second they walk through the door on the first day on the new job.  You can either impress your new employee with business cards, formal, supportive training, and a schedule for the first day, or you can put them in a corner and let them fill out paperwork.  Start your staff off right – thoughtfully, deliberately, and with a warm welcome that lets your employees know you’re glad they’re there.

Hiring and firing employees is time consuming and can be very costly.  When you add in the immeasurable value of great staff, you’ll realize right away that making a conscious effort to handle your staff properly will pay dividends.  You’ll be able to retain great staff and continue to give your customers great value, and you’ll also free yourself up to develop new business, rather than dealing with staff troubles.

10-24 handing employees small

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