Posts Tagged ‘Team Building’


How Tech Tools Can Bring Your Remote Workers into the Office

Woman working from homeThe internet has made it possible for businesses to work with talented professionals located on the other side of the world. Instead of filling an office with employees, you can either hire salaried employees or contract workers who work directly from their own home. Even your field workers no longer have a need to come into the office every day, freeing them up to go directly from their homes to their daily calls without stopping by your building.

The move toward remote workers has presented a challenge for businesses, however. Keeping all team members involved in day-to-day activities is difficult when only some of those employees are on site. Fortunately, the same technology that allows you to work with employees wherever they are can also keep them actively involved in your team.

Instant Access

At one time, it might have been easy for remote workers to feel disconnected but the many technologies available today have changed that. In fact, in one study 80 percent of respondents said they felt more connected to their co-workers while working offsite. Those who had access to unified communications reported a higher feeling of inclusion than those who solely communicated by videoconference or phone. Using tools like private group chat, instant messaging, and project management solutions, a business can facilitate conversation between employees whether they’re in the office, working from home, or on the road.

Social Collaboration

Both consumers and marketers utilize social media to communicate with friends, family, and customers. That same technology can be employed privately within an enterprise to encourage ongoing communication between team members. Using enterprise-level collaboration tools, teams can brainstorm ideas, post project status updates, share and work together on files, and even post polls to vote for the best location for this year’s Christmas party. Since information can be updated on an ongoing basis using smartphones or PCs, these collaboration tools are often more effective than in-person meetings or videoconferences.

Electronic Staff Meetings

The growing popularity of telework is redefining the traditional staff meeting concept. Instead of gathering teams around a table once a week, entrepreneurs must rely on email and phone chats for status updates. For businesses with multiple remote workers, video-based staff meetings eventually become more effective. Many of these tools now include the ability to share your screen for conducting presentations or updating spreadsheets while the rest of the team adds their thoughts. Consider hooking up to a projector in your conference room so that on-site employees can interact with those who are attending by phone for a more team-building experience.

With more businesses using remote workers, it’s important to find ways to find ways to encourage team member communication. With so many collaboration tools available for enterprises, business leaders can set up a way for employees to work together, even when they’re separated by many miles. If it’s possible to occasionally get all remote workers together for retreats or conferences, business should, but technology makes it possible to simulate a face-to-face meeting without incurring travel expenses.


5 Tips To Building a Successful Team for Your Small Business

??????????????????????As a solopreneur, you can only do so much. But as your business grows, you’ll need to expand your staff. Finding and hiring the right people will help your company become more successful faster. Here we look at five tips that will not only help you find quality talent but also nurture them so they feel vested in your company and want to help it thrive.

1. Know What You Need

Pinpoint exactly the skillsets you need to fill to round out your team.  Each person should have a slightly different background and experience so that they complement one another. But really drill down into your needs. Do you need to hire someone who has skills in social media? What specific social sites do you need help with? The more you know about your needs, the better fit your hire will be.

Also consider what types of employees you need. Not every addition to your team needs to be a full-time staff member. You can hire part-time, intern, or freelancer if your needs in one area are less than full-time.

2. Look to Your Network

Before you hit the job boards to find your next employees, ask your network for referrals. They’re cheaper to hire, faster to get on board, and have a retention rate of 46% after being at a company a year. Ask your colleagues, friends, employees, family, and business contacts if they know of talent that would be a good fit for your company.

3. Set Up Your Onboarding Process

The more training materials and processes you have set up, the faster a new hire will feel acclimated to your company and start being a productive member of your team. Have general training materials for your company, as well as those specific to the role you’re hiring for.

If you plan to work with a freelancer or agency, give them access to all the documents, login info, and details they need to be successful at helping you.

4. Foster Team Activities

Hiring one person is a small success. Integrating them into your team is another. Make sure your team is apprised throughout the hiring process so they feel vested and connected to this new addition. Encourage communication among team members, and consider setting up a team-building activity, like attending an event together or even having dinner after work.

Even if you as the business owner aren’t involved in the day-to-day with your team, you want to leave them to be able to build and foster their own relationships with one another.

5. Check Back In Often

A month after you’ve hired a new team member, check back to see how she’s doing. Get open feedback from her, and do your best to remove any obstacles she might be experiencing that keep her from being 100% productive.

Once you’ve done this successfully, make it your road map for future additions to your team.


Mondays with Mike: The 8 Female Values Every Male Leader Needs

Stocksy_txpc96af066We9000_Small_285956I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some spectacularly smart and strong women throughout my career, and I’m frequently reminded of the values that these women have displayed – things I’m working hard to implement in my own business.  Whether you believe that gender differences are the result of nature or of nurture, don’t miss out on the lessons you can learn from successful women.

  1. Self-worth derives from community service.  Some men tend to be trophy hunters – racking up accomplishments and money in an attempt to demonstrate their value to the world.  Women tend to see their relationship to their community – and the vital ways in which they are connected to their community – as the hallmark of success.  Keeping in mind that we are part of our community and that it is our interconnectedness that makes and keeps us relevant and necessary can help us focus on strengthening ties rather than creating distance.
  2. Presentation matters.  Women have been judged by their appearances to a much greater degree than men have, and it’s worth remembering that we only get one chance to make a first impression.  Make sure that you present yourself as organized, neat, and capable … every time.  And hey – stylish doesn’t hurt either!
  3. Balance work and home.  While no one gets it perfect every day, women tend to make the effort to flourish in their careers, while still making time to spend time with their families.  It’s important to maintain the vital support of our home lives – the support that will actually help us succeed in business.  Don’t devote all of your time to your career at the expense of your partner and your family.
  4. Tolerate pain.  Running a successful business is hard work – much like the labor that precedes a delivery.  Women are masters as gritting their teeth, settling in for the long haul, and getting the job done.  Growing a business is a struggle, and it’s never painless.  Entrepreneurs can’t afford to be wimps!
  5. Multitask.  Women tend to be much more adept than men at juggling multiple tasks efficiently.  While there is something to be said for a single-minded focus, sometimes concentrating on just one task is a luxury we don’t have.  When you’re faced with many things all competing for your attention, observe some women working on multiple tasks and see if you can improve your multitasking abilities.
  6. Ask for help.  We joke about the man who will drive around forever and never stop to ask for directions, but the joke hits close to home for some men.  Realizing that you’re not an expert in everything and that asking for help is actually a sign of strength lets you avail yourself of the expertise that’s all around you.  You don’t have to be the best at every task that keeps your business running, and asking employees or mentors for advice or assistance shows your confidence in them.
  7. Use social skills.  Women are master networkers.  They use their ties to the community as a powerful asset, and nurturing those connections will put you in contact with more clients and more collaborators.
  8. Collaborate.  As fields become increasingly specialized, we’re going to find more tasks that require us to collaborate with other experts.  If you’re focused on producing the very best products and services, that goal will nearly always be more easily achieved by collaboration.  Look around you for folks who can make you better.

In listing these values that I’ve seen in so many successful women, I’m not guy-bashing.  I work hard to keep an open mind about techniques for improving my abilities to run my businesses, and I’ve learned that success had no gender.  It’s available to us all.


How Small Businesses Can Give Back without Breaking the Bank

Major U.S. corporations are notorious for their philanthropic works across the globe, but how often do their efforts touch your local community? When small businesses reach out to help others in the area, they can witness the effects of their assistance, even as they build long-term relationships.  You don’t need a big-company bank account to make a real difference to your community, express gratitude to the major players in your business’s success and gain a little well-earned notoriety.

Here are four affordable ways your company can bring major benefits to the community.

?????????????????????????????????Sponsor a Worthwhile Cause

If you’re looking for a low-cost way to improve your community, sponsor a cause that has a local impact.  For example, your entire company can get some fun in the sun by adopting a local roadway and keeping it well-maintained.  Or perhaps consider sponsoring a youth sports team.  Depending on the team’s needs, you may initially view sponsorship as an expensive proposition.  But your net cost may be lower than you think.  Providing a great opportunity for the kids is a relatively inexpensive marketing investment that increases awareness of your business and loyalty to boot. Check with your accountant to see if you can get a tax write-off as well.

Involve your Employees

When the stresses of work start to take a toll on employee attitudes, many companies look for ways to release the pressure.  A nice summertime picnic may provide a pleasant interlude for your employees … well, except for those who suffer from severe allergies.  And I can’t even begin to describe the complaints that I heard from one non-sports fan I know who was forced to attend a pro baseball game every year.  Why not do something that makes everyone feel good, instead?  Involving your employees in charitable giving can offer the flexibility to meet individual needs, while providing workers with an opportunity to have fun as they experience the satisfaction of helping others.

Some companies ask their employees to choose a charitable event that they can work on as a team.  Others allow employees to select their own individual activities, perhaps offering a half day off to volunteer or prizes for the top three employee-volunteers.  If your company has only a few employees, consider encouraging employees from other local businesses to participate in your cause.

Take Collections

The spring cleaning season entices people to de-clutter their homes, but for anyone with a basement or an attic, restoring order is an ongoing concern.  You won’t have to ask twice to encourage employees to bring in toys for needy children during the holidays, gently-worn clothing or coats or pet food for a favorite shelter.  If you have a store-front business, keep a collection box where customers can see it.

When natural disasters strike, your employees might also welcome an easy way to make a monetary contribution.  But, you may need to do a little homework to make sure that the money goes to a reputable organization.  A review of charity evaluation sites such as Charity Navigator or Charity Watch can go a long way toward ensuring that your employees’ donations are used as intended.

Mentor a Local Student

With upwards of 27,000 public high schools and more than 4,200 community and four-year colleges and universities in the U.S., there is a good chance that many young people in your community are looking for some form of work experience.  Offering internships can be a low-cost way to offer training and experience to add to their resumes (plus a recommendation on their LinkedIn page or a personal reference).  You also gain by adding the extra hands needed to keep up with your workload. 

Just as important, today’s intern can become tomorrow’s valued employee.  I know one college computer sciences student who began a summertime internship with a software company nearly 20 years ago.  The company and its people have gone through many changes, but he remains with the major players to this day — as Chief Technology Officer!

Charitable Giving Benefits Everyone

Even if you can’t make huge monetary donations, you can find many ways to help people in need and be recognized as a local philanthropist who is dedicated to the betterment of your community.  Your efforts can help put your company name in front of the public, while building new relationships with other local entrepreneurs.  But the biggest benefit is how great it feels to pay it forward.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Tips to Motivate Your Part-Time Employees

If you’re like many small business owners, you have more part-time employees now than you did in the past. As employers seek flexibility in hiring and the ability to staff up or down as needed, part-time workers can often be the most cost-effective option.

But financial cost-effectiveness can come at a different cost. It’s often harder to manage and motivate part-time employees. They may not feel as connected to the company as full-timers with salaries and benefits, and for many of them, the job is short-term.

How can you motivate part-time workers despite these challenges? Try these tips.

  1. Show them where they fit in to the company’s structure and goals. It’s easy for part-timers to feel divorced from the “big picture,” especially if their work schedules vary from week to week. To create consistency, training for new part-timers should include an overview of the company’s organization chart, getting to know all the employees they’ll be working with, and how their job adds value to the company. By showing part-timers they’re not just random people who shows up on alternate afternoons, but instead are essential to your business’s success, they’ll feel more connected to your company.
  2. Know what they value. Different part-timers value different things, so it’s important to treat part-time employees as individuals. For instance, a mom working part-time may value consistent hours so she can spend after-school time with her kids; a senior working part-time may value social interaction with customers and co-workers; and a high school student working part-time may value flexible hours that give her time for school activities and a social life. Motivate each employee by ensuring they get what they value the most.
  3. Match them with mentors. Pairing part-timers with full-time mentors can ensure they’re kept in the loop about developments at the company that happen when they’re not there. It also gives them someone to ask questions of or express concerns to. In addition to helping with training and development, the mentor should also keep an eye on whether the part-timer seems happy and socially engaged as a member of the team.
  4. Plan for the long-term. Some part-timers are in it for a season, others want to work for you for the long haul. Show part-timers there are long-term opportunities at your business, and give them tasks that help them stretch and grow. For instance, if you hire a college student part-time during the summer, let him or her know if there are full-time job opportunities available after graduation.
  5. Use contests, rewards and incentives. Full-time employees have salaries and benefits to provide incentive, but you have to work a little harder with part-timers. Providing monetary rewards such as cash prizes for surpassing quotas or fun awards and recognition can make a big difference. For instance, has one of your part-timers excelled handing customer service calls? Then recognize his or her accomplishments at your weekly staff meeting, and perhaps offer a cash bonus or gift certificate. Get creative and think of rewards that match your corporate culture and your staff’s personalities.

Stocksy_txp48a0fbc2Es8000_Small_202916


Mondays with Mike: Experts and Minions

????????????????????????????????????????????????????While entrepreneurs strive to staff their companies with superstars, we all know that there’s usually one person who stands out – you know, the person that everyone (including you) calls when you’re stuck and need expert advice.  Since cloning people isn’t legal – and probably not cost effective, either – it’s easy to feel frustrated when there’s simply not enough of your expert to go around. 

After all, an expert can only be in one place at a time, right?

Wrong!  The solution to your expert cloning needs is to provide your experts with minions.  Here’s an example of how it works:

Let’s say that you own a security company, and you provide installation and monitoring services to your clients.  You have technicians who work out in the field doing the installation and making service calls when something goes wrong.  These technicians are trained, but you’ve got one guy who can always troubleshoot any problem and devise intelligent solutions.  But he’s only one guy.

You can’t send him out on every service call, but what you can do is keep him in the office.  No, I haven’t lost my mind.  You keep your expert in a single location, and you set up a way for him to communicate with everyone out in the field.  When a technician encounters a problem, he gets on the phone with the expert, and the expert talks him through the solution. 

The single most important component of this model is a consistent, reliable, and flexible means of communication, because if your communication goes down, the system falls apart.  Many VoIP (Voiceover Internet Protocol) providers offer all the services you’ll need.  My team uses Skype, but there are other companies who provide similar services.

So your minions can connect to your expert via phone, but if they need to share files, Skype also facilitates that.  If your minion has a particularly sticky problem and needs to show the expert what’s going on first-hand, Skype lets you use a webcam to virtually put the expert on-site.  Think about it … if your minions are connected to your expert, then your expert can be virtually anywhere.  You’ve essentially cloned your expert.

The hidden benefit of this model is that while your technicians are out in the field, relying on the expert for support as needed, they’re also getting additional training when they implement your expert’s solutions.  They have a model for troubleshooting that they can begin to implement in their own work.

This model is surprisingly versatile, as well.  Any business that has to send trained staff out to work with clients occasionally has employees who encounter unexpected circumstances and find themselves out of their comfort zone.  Whether you make service calls to repair copiers, or whether you have a team of sales reps in the market, you never know when your staff will need quick answers from your expert.  Setting up an expert-minion structure and protocol ensures that you have enough staff to get out to your clients, without the expense of hiring a dozen experts.


Using Internet Monitoring Software to Increase Employee Productivity

Stocksy_txpe4825224HV7000_Small_184198Small business owners used to be able to walk around their offices to see the work that their employees where doing. But as organizations are have become increasingly virtual, it is now impossible for a manager to accomplish this since work is now done at client sites, coffee shops, and homes. As a result, many small business owners are up at night wondering if employees are working or just playing video games during the day.

Productivity is being impacted. A 2013 salary.com survey showed that 58% of employees waste up to 60 minutes per day on non-business related websites during the work day, not including lunch or break times.

One solution to this problem is to use an internet monitoring software service for employees. Web monitoring and filtering is traditionally installed to block adult content, phishing sites, or to reduce time wasted on shopping and social media sites. One company, Rawstream is a cloud-based web monitoring and filtering product that helps employees spend their time online productively, profitably and safely.

This tool shows the exact amount of time a user spends looking at a particular website. It gives managers the visibility to see what employees are working on in real time no matter where they are via the application dashboard and report generation function. It also allows managers to see what files are being put into sharing apps like Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, and Cubby. The software shows who is using the content sharing apps and lists any files shared that break company policy to protect against the sharing of files containing sensitive data such as credit card numbers. More importantly, employees have access to their own web usage reports, so they can examine their own habits and learn to use their time on the internet more effectively. Managers and employees can also set time limits to access to sites or block certain sites.

There are several benefits for small businesses to use web filtering solutions. Company production can increase when employees are not wasting time on websites that have no business value. Additionally, managers can have more confidence in allowing employees to work off site, giving employees the flexibility to work in an environment they can be most productive.

Too “Big Brother” for you? Remember that just letting employees know that the company is using an Internet monitoring tool will actually boost their productivity.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Declare Your Employees’ Independence

???????????????????????????????The best thing the owner of a growing business can do is give his or her employees their independence. No, I’m not talking about firing your employees; I’m talking about giving them the freedom to make their own decisions about how to get their work done.

As you undoubtedly know by now, it’s pretty much impossible for a small business owner to single-handedly do everything that needs to be done. That’s why you hire employees, right? Then why do so many of us refuse to let employees do their jobs, instead micromanaging them until they (and we) are miserable?

Here are four steps to giving your employees their independence.

  1. Provide training. Of course, you don’t want employees to totally wing it. Provide training in how to do the job, and give them direction in terms of what you want the results to be and what the overall goal is.
  2. Step back. Once employees know what you want and how to get there, step back and let them get from Point A to Point Z without offering your help (unless, of course, they ask). Who knows? Your employees might figure out a better way of getting things done.
  3. Empower decision-making. Customers hate it when employees have to “ask a manager” about every little thing. Provide parameters within which employees can make their own decisions about customer service, such as offering $X amount of comped food in your restaurant or refunding a certain amount of money with no questions asked. When employees feel trusted, they feel valued.
  4. Plan for the future. Discuss with your employees where they want to go in your company and how they can get there. When employees feel you have a stake in their future, they’ll give the business their all.

By giving your employees their independence, you’ll also gain freedom—the freedom to focus on what really matters in your business instead of sweating the small stuff. 


Coaxing Great Service Behavior from your Employees

About this series: This series of articles from Nextiva will help you grasp of the essentials of customer service: the principles and guidelines that will serve you well in any era, regardless of trends, changing technology, and a constantly evolving customer base. Our guide is Micah Solomon, customer service and customer experience consultant, author, and speaker. 

Coaxing great customer service behavior out of your employees is one of the most important elements of providing a great customer experience. Let’s take a look at what’s involved and how you get this done.

The waiter with no peripheral vision

I could give you examples from any high-tech, low-tech, or moderate-tech industry.  But since everyone goes out to eat, let’s look at two contrasting waiters.  These guys will be familiar to anyone who has ever eaten out.

Waiter #1: A skilled waiter [could be a waitress] never drops a tray, never reaches across you, brings out all the food accurately to his section. 

However, he’s also immensely skilled at ignoring any and all gestures and glances from anyone trying to get his attention who is outside his section or even who is within his assigned section but interfering with the order in which he was planning to go about his waiterly tasks.

Waiter #2: Equally skilled, but this one’s a master of using his peripheral vision, and even his peripheral hearing, to jump to the assistance of any guest, anywhere in the dining room — in or outside his own section — who needs his attention, who has dropped a fork, who has a question…

What makes the difference?  Stay tuned…

Purpose vs. Function

Let's assume your hiring process ensured that both waiters come to you with equal natural levels of empathy. The difference in their performances is due to one simple factor:  One waiter knows and understands his purpose in your organization, and the other one doesn’t.

Every employee has a job function, and a purpose in (and of) the organization. The function is what’s written, in detail, on the employee’s job description.   Or, to put it another way, it’s the technical side of the job.  Take orders.  Deliver food.  Process credit cards. 

An employee’s purpose is something different.  The purpose is the reason you’re doing all those technical things, and sometimes stepping out of your technical role to do whatever it takes.  A purpose for a waiter, and for everyone else working in foodservice or hospitality? Something along the lines of “you’re here to provide a pleasant, safe, and memorable experience for our guests.”  

Ritz-Carlton do not disturb sleepy image-copyright micah solomon micah@micahsolomon.com

(c) Micah Solomon

Get this purpose across right away, starting with orientation, and you’ll have to deal with fewer cases of employees who have mysteriously lost their peripheral vision.  You’ll have people competing to go the extra mile. Because they’ll understand, that this is what they’re paid for. The great Horst Schulze, who founded what we think of as the modern-day Ritz-Carlton, made sure to be at the opening of every hotel, personally doing the orientation.  He didn’t talk about the technical aspects of the job:  ensuring there are no water spots on the glasses, and so forth.  He talked about something else:  every employee’s purpose at the hotel.  He would introduce himself, letting them know “I’m President of the hotel.  I’m a very important person.”  Then he’d say “and you’re an important person too”— you control the impression the guests have of the hotel more than he, as president, ever could!

He’d go on to spell out their purpose, starting with: “the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.”

The Mayo Clinic, one of the most extraordinary hospital groups in the world, functions in a very technical, regulated, exacting fields: healthcare.  Yet what do the new employees here, from day one, over and over and over?  The incredibly untechnical, incredibly straightforward, seven word purpose they are assigned:  “The needs of the patient come first.”  They are given to understand, from the very beginning of their orientation, that they are to put the needs of the patient above anything they may think they’re “supposed to” be doing at that moment—if the two are in conflict.

Of course, its not quite that easy.

There’s certainly more to coaxing the most out of your employees than saying a mantra over and over.  But it’s a very good place to start.

What else helps?

  • Reinforcement.  Daily if possible, weekly if not. Hold a brief (5-10 minute) meeting where you reinforce your company purpose and discuss ways to achieve it.
  • Positive Peer Pressure.  We think of peer pressure as something negative, by and large.  Kids don’t decide to light a stick of tobacco on their own; they see other kids do it first.   But peer pressure can be a powerful force for good as well.  It’s the reason Disney parks are so famously spotless:  You see your peers picking up stray trash, so you do it as well. 

For our hypothetical waiter, he’ll see his co-workers rushing to replace a dropped fork, continually scanning the rooms for eye contact from guests outside as well as inside their station, finding additional ways to be helpful before being asked.   And he’ll figure out that he’s expected to do the same.

  • Standards.  Everything that is done on a regular basis in a company is worth developing standards for:  answering the phone, replying by email, running a credit card charge, opening a service ticket, whatever it is.  But you need to design these standards in a way that explains the reason for the standard and makes clear when it may make sense to deviate from it. Otherwise you’ll have standards complied with in a robotic way by embittered and ultimately sabotaging employees.
  • Employee empowerment. This goes hand in hand with standards. Employees need to be empowered to do what’s right for their guests.  Period. They can’t be nickeled and dimed (or houred and minuted) to death for what they didn’t get done because they were tied up doing what’s right.  They’re late coming back from their lunch break because they were jump-starting a guest’s car in the parking lot?  This is something to celebrate, not something to be disciplined for. 

© 2014, Micah Solomon




 
Nextiva Logo

phone-icon Sales phone-icon Support
Nextiva is the leader in Business VoIP Services. Copyright 2014 Nextiva, All Rights Reserved,
Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, Patents, Sitemap