I know it’s only the beginning of March, but college and university students have been lining up their summer internships as I write this blog. On the surface, many small business owners consider interns, particularly unpaid interns, a great way to get those unwanted tasks completed in the office. However, interns can help a small business but only in certain situations. In this blog, I will discuss those situations where an intern may or may not be beneficial to your business.
Do You Have the Time To Train an Intern?
An intern may be a great option for you if you have a specific project that you haven’t had time to do, or a new customer relationship management (CRM) tool you haven’t had time to research. However, before you jump on the intern bandwagon, consider more than the “low-cost extra help” viewpoint, and look at an intern as a training opportunity for them. This will require you or a dedicated experienced staff member to be available to train the intern, and the special project should have defined goals and measurable outcomes for interns to complete. You’ll need to ensure internships are relevant to the students’ career interests and that supervisors and mentors will be available to provide regular feedback and evaluation. To make the most of the experience for both your business and the intern, clear directions and proper training need to be provided. This is particularly the case if the intern is being provided through an educational institution.
Need a Fresh Set of Eyes?
Interns are typically young and eager to learn and therefore usually are bursting with ideas. They approach the job with a more open mindset, rather than someone from another department with set habits and preconceived ideas on how to do certain tasks. Be sure to include the intern in brainstorming sessions and encourage them to speak up in meetings, as their fresh ideas and approaches can be great for your business. However, implementing their ideas may be best suited for your current staff as they have a better understanding of the businesses processes and protocols and accountability.
What are Your Business’ Long-Term Plans?
If your business also has long-term plans to expand, an intern might be the first step in that process. Consider any recurring projects that are about 12 weeks in duration, or your regular use of contractors for overflow projects or tasks; these could all be completed by an intern. When you consider adding an intern, a person who is bursting with new ideas and is plugged in to the latest technologies, who knows what they may come up with – perhaps an idea that changes and improves the way you do business!
Determining if your business needs could use an intern can be challenging for many business owners, and one I often see as a business advisor with TAB. If your business would benefit from the guidance of other business owners who have “been there”, as well as an advisor who has “done that”, contact me to see how I can help!
As a small business owner, it’s so important to find the right people for your team. I have spoken with small business owners who are thrilled to see their employees go above and beyond to improve the business. They say they never knew that an employee was so dedicated, or that someone exceeded even their highest expectations. But sometimes, and more often than you’d expect, businesses hire the wrong person and end up suffering certain consequences, which include:
- Lost time and lost productivity – We’ve all heard the phrase “time is money,” and hiring the wrong person will cost a business both in training time, and in restarting the hiring process again once they’re gone.
- An unhappy team and workplace – A difficult employee can put pressure on the rest of the team, who must pick up his or her slack, and deal with extra work and stress that they might find unfair.
So, how do we go about dealing with a bad hire? I always try to keep some important questions in mind:
- Is the employee in the right role? In some cases, the person just isn’t a good fit for their role, but they may still be a good fit within the business. Consider speaking with the employee and changing their role, as that may lead to a happier and more productive employee and team.
- Are problems arising from simple mistakes, or cutting corners? Mistakes are part of the learning curve, especially for new employees. It’s possible that the employee has made correctable errors, rather than demonstrate a character flaw.
- Does the employee fit with the company culture? In the end, if the employee is not a good fit within the workplace, it’s best to let them go. Cut your losses early with a bad hire, so that you can save your time and money on finding a better fit, and a more productive employee.
Now that you’ve dealt with a troublesome hire, how do you go about finding the right person? Here are some tips you may want to consider when reviewing possible candidates:
- Do your research. It’s a given that you do your research on each candidate beforehand, but take a closer look at their resume, LinkedIn profile, and references. Note any gaps in employment or any ambiguous points on their resume, and check their online presence on websites like Facebook and Twitter.
- Go beyond the obvious. Ask the candidate questions that go beyond their resume and cover letter. Their answers may reveal more about their personality, and the rapport you build with them may show if they’re a good fit within your company culture.
As a small business owner, hiring is one of the many tasks you have to dedicate time to, and though it may be tiring, finding the right team members will be best for your business in the long run. If you’d like to learn more from other small business owners on hiring, and many other strategies, contact me today!
As a business owner, you dedicate much of your time to communicating with your clients. While this is crucial for your business, equally important is communicating with your employees. Internal communication touches every aspect of your business from announcing the onboarding of a new client, to introducing a new product to your business line. No matter the size, industry, or type of company you own, I recommend having an internal communications process embedded in everything you do.
An internal communications process allows for the exchange of information between all members of your organization, which will save you time and money. In fact, companies with effective internal communications processes experience 47% higher total returns than those that are not effective at communicating.
I’ve outlined below 3 key elements to help you establish an effective internal communications process.
- Have the Right Mechanisms in Place to Keep Employees Informed
Your internal communication mechanisms must be strategic, in order to be targeted and the most beneficial. Consider your company’s current mechanisms, from the methods of communication it uses, to the way your company engages with and seeks feedback from your staff, to the way it measures if the mechanism is successful and identifies any issues for future change.
Choosing what mechanisms to use depends on your size and budget. If your company has multiple locations, you may decide to invest in passive, large-scale communication options to disseminate information. Creating an intranet (a private network only available to a company’s staff) is one great option. If your business is smaller, consider using more conventional communication channels such as an internal newsletter, e-blast, Director’s blog, or notice board. I have even seen some companies benefit from using social networking sites as their primary means of internal communication. More directed options could include Breakfast Briefs for front-line staff, a monthly Director Communications Day, scheduled Director Q&A drop-ins, or Lunch & Learns.
No matter what mechanism(s) you choose, the bottom line is that employees have access to a platform where they can receive important company information so they stay abreast of the information they need to do their job.
- Creating a Two-Way Loop
Having great communication mechanisms in place is vital, but ensuring that they consistently generate engagement between management and employees is a key step. It is imperative that business owners and managers actively respond to feedback received and ensure a loop is created, as opposed to a top-down form of communication. By acting on the honest feedback reported by employees encourages more of the same – staff telling it “like it is”.
- Measuring the Mechanisms
To ensure that the communication mechanisms you choose are working effectively, incorporating measurement indicators, such as scheduled weekly face-to-face meetings with actionable items reported for follow-up, anonymous employee surveys offered at quarterly or annual company all-staff meetings, or through specific activity surveys through the intranet, could help identify gaps, what is or isn’t working, and what methods of communication work best for your employees.
Regardless of which avenues you choose, the main goal is to ensure employees have several effective paths available to them where they can communicate with senior management and feel heard.
Communicating with your employees is essential for the productivity of your business. Does your company have an internal communications process in place?
As a business advisor I see the issue of poor performers come up all the time. If you’re a small to medium-sized business owner you want to be out there growing and developing your business, not mired in staffing problems. Without big human resources departments and manuals of policies and procedures to follow, I know you often don’t have a roadmap on how to deal with poor performers. The reality is that regardless of the size of your business or your particular industry, at some point you will have to deal with this issue.
What are the causes of poor performance?
Poor performance can be the result of many things including:
- Not understanding expectations
- Lack of ability
- Lack of motivation
- Not a team player
- Chronically late
- Bad attitude
- Personality issues
- Non-work related problems
- Health issues
Why is employee performance so important to your business?
Employee performance affects organizational performance. A poor performer can create a toxic environment in your workplace, dragging down your entire team.
How can I avoid poor performers in my business?
Here are a few measures that I feel may help you to avoid the problem of poor performers.
- The hiring process: Choosing the right employees is crucial to a successful business but it’s not easy. If upon re-evaluation, you’ve discovered that you’ve hired several poor performers, perhaps you should consider outsourcing the hiring process to an external agency. The money you pay to the agency may actually save you money in the long run.
- Job expectations: Be clear about exactly what the job entails and what your expectations are.
- The onboarding process: Onboarding helps new hires acclimatize and orient to your business so that they can quickly become productive, contributing members of your organization. Have an onboarding plan in place for new hires and make sure that the tools they need to do their jobs are in place on their start date. E.g. workstation, computer, security pass, etc.
- Regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings: One-on-one meetings between employee and manager can potentially head off problems. Speaking about issues as they arise or have the potential to arise is always better than leaving them to fester and grow.
What can I do if I have a poor performer?
In my experience I’ve found it valuable to try and ascertain the root cause of poor performance before any action is taken. If the reasons are personal or health related and have nothing to do with the job, perhaps a leave of absence is in order. If an employee is lacking in ability, perhaps upgrading their skill set or transferring them to a different department is the answer. If the problem is attitude or motivation perhaps setting performance goals will inspire the necessary change. Try instituting quarterly performance reviews to address any performance issues and monitor improvement. If all else fails, you may have no choice but to let the employee go.
As a first step, I suggest that you review poor performance issues you’ve had in the past or are dealing with now. Evaluate what action to take in order to rectify the present situation and what changes you can make going forward in order to avoid the issues of poor performers.
Many business owners feel that mentoring their employees is part of their job, particularly when hiring millennial junior staff, but I caution you against doing this as it can have detrimental effects on your business. When you are in a position of power, and responsible for hiring, evaluating, disciplining, and firing, if you blur the lines of this employee-boss relationship into a mentoring relationship, you give up this power and therefore must live with the consequences if something was to go wrong.
When you need an employee to perform for you, how can you possibly mentor them? A mentor, as I outlined in my last blog, “is a trusted “go-to” person with decades of expertise and a deep interest in helping you succeed. They take a personal, active, and thorough interest in your growth and work in partnership with you to provide the support you need.”
Although many owners provide guidance and business expertise, it is to help their staff learn their job and to familiarize them with the industry. It is, in fact, to help them grow in their role and with your company.
I discuss employee mentoring all the time with business owners because it can have serious consequences to your business. I have outlined a few myths about mentoring employees that I hope will provide you with some insights to help you better understand the issue.
Myth #1: As a business owner, mentoring your employees helps them perform better, improves morale, and can help your business succeed. The opposite is true because an employee you mentor begins to see you more as a mentor (there to help them) rather than a boss who is there to teach them, ensure they perform well, and also discipline them if something goes awry.
Myth #2: Being a supportive boss is a type of mentoring. Being a supportive boss is a fantastic managerial style, however, do not mistake this style with mentorship. There always needs to be a clear line between an employee and an owner. If the relationship becomes too casual, you could run the risk of favouritism, or providing biased critiques, and this could lead to performance issues and profit loss.
Myth #3: My staff needs a mentor to show them the ropes. A mentor does not show employees how to do their job; rather, they encourage them to reach their career goals. If you need your staff to learn the ropes, then what they need is a good manager, or senior staff to job shadow.
Myth #4: I know what my employee needs to succeed. As an expert in your field, you may have some insights as to what your employee needs to succeed, but your role is to help them succeed in the job for which you have hired them. If, for example, their career goal is to work overseas, are you willing to help them meet this goal as a business owner when it runs counter to their employment with you?
Myth #5: The best bosses are mentors that help an employee grow. Being a good boss with a supportive management style will help your employee grow. As a business owner, you can help your employee grow by reaching their goals of the job, and challenging their boundaries to success; a mentor helps employees grow their careers, reach external goals (e.g. moving overseas), and support them regardless of performance in their current role.
As a business owner, if you want to mentor someone, then I would suggest looking at external opportunities. If you want mentoring to take place within your organization, then I’d suggest you could hire an external business mentor or ask your senior staff if they are interested in mentoring some of your junior employees. If you hire an external business mentor, they could also mentor your senior staff.
There is no doubt that mentoring offers huge rewards to everyone involved, but as a business owner you need to be clear when and where you should be mentoring because you could be setting yourself up for blurred lines that impact communication, discipline and ultimately loss of respect.
As a business owner, have you mentored your employees? How did this help or hinder your business? I look forward to a lively discussion!
Employee turnover can be challenging, and for many business owners, an ongoing issue. As difficult as it is to terminate an employee, we often forget how difficult it can be to find ways as a business owner to retain good employees.
Business owners know they must offer competitive compensation packages, benefits, incentives, and bonuses in order to attract strong performers. Retaining them will require some creativity. Here are some suggestions you can use in your business to keep one of your greatest assets from leaving:
Today, particularly with millennials, there is a need and desire to have a sense of being part of a community. Make your office an open and inviting one. Make sure you host regular meetings, ask for input, share good stories, applaud good work and allow them to work collaboratively. Give them a sense of belonging and nurture that with open communication
Share Your Plan
Make sure your employees understand the big picture, and the purpose they serve in your business. Set aside time to set goals and expectations with them. If your employees understand your plan and know where their future is headed in this position, chances are they will be motivated to stay and reach the goals you’ve set. By doing this, you are showing them opportunity and giving them a role to play in creating the future of your business.
Recognize & Reward
To recognize and reward your employees does not mean doing so just once a year at their annual review. It means continually recognizing achievements by calling them out in a team meeting, sending them a personal letter or card or taking them out for lunch. If you know that employee is a huge concert-goer, make a point to buy them tickets to a concert they’d like to attend. Communicate your gratitude and never let hard work go unnoticed.
A flexible work schedule, and creating a ‘fun factor’ could also prove a beneficial incentive for your employees. Every workplace is different, so discuss with your team some ideas of what they would like to have as a fun factor and then you can decide which idea is feasible and appropriate for your business.
Do you have any other tips for employee retention you would like to share? How important have you found a sense of community to be in your office?