Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Applying Cookie-Cutter Business Practices to Improve Employee Engagement Doesn’t Work —- Just Being There Does

With all the talk, hype, suggestions, practices, and training that goes into employee engagement, I believe it is important that we first understand what is meant by employee engagement and from that starting point we can identify how our organization can improve this business concept.  In a nutshell, an engaged employee is one who is enthusiastic about his work and strives to do what is best for the organization.  We all want employees who are engaged and who work to serve the interest of our business, but what does it take to get employees not just engaged, but on fire at work?   There are three things your organization can do now to begin stoking a fire in your employees.

These three steps are simple, but often overlooked.  That is because many business leaders are looking to identify a problem with their employees when the first step should be to look inwardly.  Taking ownership of the responsibility for employee engagement is the basis for motivating employees to be engaged and setting your team members on fire.  

1.) Let your light shine.  A recent Gallup survey revealed that 70% of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” and are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.  Currently, 52% of workers are not engaged, and worse, another 18% are actively disengaged in their work costing the US between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.

How about you?  Are you engaged?  Does your work energy exude a sense of engagement?  Leaders that walk the walk doing what they say their values are and working in line with what they say the company’s mission is, are more likely to have engaged employees that follow in their path.  

Look inward and see if there are areas of your work where you are not fully engaged.  Find out why.  It could be a lack of belief in one area of the direction of the business or a faulty understanding of the organization’s mission and vision.  Take the necessary steps to get back in the game.  Your team members are watching you.

2.) Talk about it.  Leaders that assume that their actions alone should be enough to inspire employees end up frustrated.  The smart players will talk it up with the troops taking every opportunity to discuss the direction of the company, various successes, and interesting challenges.  

In order to fan the flame of enthusiasm in your employees, it is necessary to communicate on a regular basis your vision for the future.  Weekly meetings, company parties, one-on-one meetings, and company-wide correspondence are just a few examples of tools you can use to help get your employees more engaged.

3.) Brag a little.  Don’t be ashamed to use peer-pressure to your advantage.  When you become aware of an employee’s success in a project or a customer service situation, broadcast it to the troops.  Share with everyone what that individual or team did to propel the organization forward.
The psychology behind this boasting session provides results that are twofold:  First, when others see what can be accomplished, and the positive reactions and consequences surrounding the outcome, they too want to strive for the same; and second, the team members being doted on now have internal flames that are burning all the more.  Acknowledging people is another way to ensure that your employees become more engaged in their work everyday.

These three steps are all controlled by you.  They are not a “formula of the day” to get employees  on fire and engaged in their work.  It is a foundational application that comes from within and one you can use to build upon.  Application of these three key points, that come from both the gut and the heart, will work in any workplace setting.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Exercise Your Mind

"You are your greatest asset. Put your time, effort and money into training, grooming, and encouraging your greatest asset."   --- Tom Hopkins

In the hustle and bustle of running a business, a lot of things can get overlooked--- some of them intentional and some just because there is never enough time to cover everything.

One of the most commonly overlooked, and that results in one of the most destructive actions, is omitting our own personal development plan.

This can be a costly mistake because of all the people in the organization, we are looked to for answers and are expected to provide direction and leadership.  This can be difficult to do if we are not at our best.

In order to stay sharp and at our finest, there are three things we can do on a regular basis to feed our minds and increase our leadership knowledge and skills.

1.) Be a Reader.  If you are not currently a reader or read only occasional magazine articles, consider upping your reading materials.  You may have heard it said that good leaders are good readers.  It could be that you feel you don't have the time to sit down and read a book, but you may be surprised to know that simply 15  minutes of reading per night should put you through a handful of books per year.  

Pick up some good books on leadership and begin applying tips and strategies that will help you to become a better leader.

2.) Connect with Other Leaders.  Pick one or two Meet and Greets in your area or visit a Chamber meeting to connect with leaders in your community. Those events are a good place to start, but if you are like me, you may find it more beneficial to have one-on-one meetings with another leader to foster a long-term relationship.  These meetings help you gain new insights and perspectives that you might have overlooked.  Your feedback can do the same for the other leader as well.

3.) Share Your Leadership Skills.  This tip doesn't seem like it will be too helpful on the surface, especially since you are trying to improve your skills, not share them.  However, sharing what you've learned helps to solidify your knowledge and provides a platform to analyze your knowledge and skills as you share with others.  There are several ways you can do this:  You can become a mentor to someone either within or outside of your organization; you can join a trade group or other gathering where you can be the guest speaker sharing your knowledge; you can offer your insights in written form by getting published in newspapers and magazines; or you can volunteer for a charity organization using your leadership skills.

Sharing your leadership skills and knowledge is a great way to expand your learning and hone your skills, talents, and abilities.  You will learn what works and doesn't work and you may even find that what you once believed about leading an organization no longer applies.

Try implementing all three of these strategies this quarter and begin feeding your mind.  You will find these tips will provide you with a refreshing new way of looking at leadership and what you have to offer to your company.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Using the Written Word to Attract Customers

"Without promotion, something terrible happens... nothing!"  --- P.T.  Barnum

Nobody knows your business like you do.  You live it everyday.  It is yours to cuddle, feed, grow, and nurture.  Part of the growth plan is yet another aspect of the people side of business, and that is the promotional side.

For some it is difficult to toot the horn of a business and to promote the positives, but it is a necessary component toward building and maintaining success.  One of the many tools available for doing this is in the form of the written word.

Several variations of use of the written word for promoting your business exist and not all may be right for your business.  Let's look at three that you can incorporate into your marketing campaign beginning today.

1.) Bios and Profiles.  Creating a bio and profile for key members of your team is a great way to communicate to your market the attributes of the people leading the business.  This creative write-up allows you to showcase the credentials of team members and helps the reader to better understand the "brains" behind the business.  This gives your prospects and customers an introduction to the leadership team and an appreciation of how and why the business operates the way it does.

2.) Advertorials.  An advertorial is an article that is either about your business or your business is included in the piece.  Here is one about Google Glass that highlights the accomplishments of a particular business.  The piece is informative for the reader while providing great exposure for the business.

Your can do the same with you business both online and in print publications, focusing on publications that reach your particular market.  Publishing advertorials on a regular basis gives your business exposure as well as seen as an expert by your audience.  Most publications are hungry for content and willingly accept advertorials as long as they don't read like an advertisement.

3.) Press Releases.  Press releases are great tools for promoting your business and practically any change in your business constitutes a reason for publishing a press release.  A recent promotion, a change of location, a new product or service, a change in pricing policies and awards are recognition are all great reasons to create a press release.  Press releases are easy to construct and can be distributed by various PR companies for a reasonable fee.  Here is one I created for a augmented reality software company that has received tremendous exposure.

Using the written word to your advantage with these three vehicles is a great way to promote your business and gain momentum in acquiring new prospects and customers.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hotel Supplies

Running a business requires not only assembling the greatest team of employees possible that provide the best customer service imaginable, but also having all the necessary supplies of materials and product offerings available.  When it comes to running and managing a lodging resort or hotel, running out of supplies can be disastrous for the business.  Hotel bar supplies along with the necessary glasses, equipment, furniture, and concessions is critical to providing exceptional customer service.  Thankfully, there is a place that makes getting all the items that you would need for your hotel easy and affordable and with simple access to all hotel supply online.

At PeachSuite Hotel Supply, practically everything that is needed for the hotel business can be purchased.  This Atlanta hotel supply company provides quality items that include everything from appliances such as blenders, irons, and toasters, to linens, toilet paper, to coffee machines and pizza ovens.  It is a one-stop shop for all hotel needs.  The company even offers food baskets, champagne flutes, coin changers, and crib mattresses.  There is really no reason not to bookmark PeachSuite Hotel Supply and rely on the folks there for dependable service with great prices.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Providing Outstanding Customer Service

" Southwest Airlines is successful because the company understands it's a customer service company.  It also happens to be an airline."  --- Harvey Mackay

Our businesses depend on great customer service.  It seems so obvious stated here, but the concept escapes even some of the most seasoned business leaders.  It is as if after the business is up and running that providing great customer service takes a back seat to getting orders filled and out the door.  It becomes forgotten and left behind other priorities such as closing the sale, completing the project, and collecting on accounts.

All of these processes are important and necessary and in defense of business leaders that tend to lose focus on customer service, employees were hired to fill a role of providing for the customer.  Because of this the business leader is usually the last to know that the business is falling short in the customer service department. 

Unfortunately, if, and that is a big "if", a customer takes the time to complain about poor customer service, it is usually too late.  The customers that were upset have long since left and have told the world about
their bad experience.

Thankfully, in most businesses, it only takes a little bit of training and a lot of focus to get the team up to providing great customer service.  Here are three things a business leader can do to ensure that customers are being taken care of:

1.) Be the customer.  This means that you will need to take time to set up some role-playing scenarios to teach your employees how a customer is to be treated.  It is not that complicated.  Either you or someone you appoint plays the role of a customer.  Begin by having the customer be extremely polite and ask general questions.  In the next scenario, have the customer be a little bit irate and demanding.  Then, gradually, with each scenario, have the customer become downright vulgar.  Examine how employees handle the situation and review and critique each exercise.

2.) Ask a customer.  Invite a customer that you've met (or even one you haven't) and ask them to sit in on a meeting to discuss how employees could treat him or her better.  Make the event worth the customer's time by providing lunch, discounts, etc.  Solicit feedback from the customer and have your employees make note of what the customer likes and dislikes.

3.)  Love your customer.  Pick a day to have a customer appreciation day and invite a few customers to the event.  Have your employees plan the event and handle all the arrangements.  Put the ball in the employees court and let them love on the customers.  This will give your team members an idea of what it means to treat customers well and will also enhance customer loyalty.  Before and after the event, talk to your team about the importance of customers and that without them, the company will suffer.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Obama Scare

" Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.."  --- Charles Stanley

Papa John's is cutting the hours of its employees.  The CEO of the company, John Schnatter, says that the new healthcare program will cause him to raise prices $.10 to $.14 per pizza. 

A franchisee of Applebee's, Zane Terkel, stated that he will be cutting back the hours of his employees to avoid the costs of implementing the new program.

Dennys, Hobby Lobby, Darden Restaurants, and several others are taking steps to avoid paying more in health care costs for their employees, including filing lawsuits against the government.

No, this is not an Obama-bashing session (although if you feel that way, you are welcome to post your comments on our blog: HRVitamin), but an attempt to ease some of the fear we hear from business leaders about the new plan.

ObamaCare, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is scaring small businesses.  Some are fearing the unknown because many business leaders have never read the Act, and others are confused because it is unclear even to those implementing it.

Here are three steps you can take now to prepare your business for the upcoming PPACA challenges:

1.) Take time to understand PPACA.  Start a Obama Care or PPACA folder and begin gathering all the information that you can find.  Warning: Do not get the information from mainline news, but go straight to the source.  Begin here at the Department of Health and Human Services to review what the Act is all about, and continue here to get more detailed information that is applicable to your business.  Also, find out what politician is for or against the Act and go to their sites to get both sides of the argument.  Additionally, your current healthcare provider for your business is supposed to be up to date on the latest information.  Tap this source as well.  Of course, you can also read the entire Act if you have the time.

2.) Start now preparing your team for healthcare changes.  Your employees are watching the news and reading about the upcoming changes.  They are sure to have questions and concerns.  Set up regular bi-monthly meetings to keep them up to date and assure them that you are doing all that you can to provide in the way of health coverage.  If you are not currently providing health coverage, let them know your plan (please put together a plan now) and what they can expect when the Act is implemented.

3.)  Don't freak out.  There are more important business issues on your plate and changes in the healthcare system should not rank at the top of your list.  Here is why: There are so many "holes" in the Act that there will be a lot of fixin' going on for quite some time.  Already, there are extensions proposed by Senators and other politicians and business leaders are pushing for more time to figure out what the Act is all about.  In the meantime, stay informed, prepare as much as you can, and relax.  Don't let fear hamper your business's success.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Great Business- As Well As Life-Sense

Prior to reading The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant, I had heard great things about the book. However, just like when friends rave about a movie they've seen, I didn't want to dive into the book with expectations of being wowed. I've done that before and ended up being disappointed. Instead, I waited to find the right quiet moment (back patio with great view and good coffee) to open this book as if I've never heard of it before. I was quite pleased with the style of writing, the pace of the story, and most importantly, the lessons learned. In fact, there is a great deal to glean from The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant. I won't give a recap of the story because it is better read than summarized, but I will share some pointers that are worth remembering. Here are just a few I walked away with:

1.) Work Hard and God Will Prosper You. This is not one of those, "if you think it real hard, it will come to you," kind of advice. This is down-to-earth living that is so needed in our society today. In other words, work is more a gift than a curse. Like I heard it said one time, "the harder I work, the luckier I get."

2.) See Challenges As Stepping Stones, Not As Obstacles. This nugget of advice works for all works of life whether in business, in dealing with an illness, in raising children, etc.

3.) Be Meek Before God But Bold Before Men. In other words, just because the world stereotypes Christians as wimps and Milquetoast, doesn't mean it should be true. Great advice for today's whacked-out view of right and wrong.

There are plenty more words of wisdom in this book that should be a must-read for all ages---especially those in high school getting ready to go into adulthood.

Highly recommended read!
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