Benefit Hacks

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President of Resonance, LLC  

Most small businesses are not required, or financially equipped, to provide certain benefits to their employees. With an overwhelming number of the U.S. population being employed by small businesses (seriously, it’s nearly 100%), that means that a huge percentage of people aren’t being offered benefits like health insurance or 401(k)s by their bosses.

Just because your company may be in this same boat doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to differentiate your business and show your employees the appreciation they’re due. All you need is a little creativity and the willingness to invest some amount of money and time into giving back to your team.

By recognizing that your business would be nowhere without your employees and showing your gratitude, even in small ways, everyone wins: your crew will experience higher job satisfaction, increased company loyalty and accelerated engagement, which leads to better turnover rates, higher productivity and increased customer satisfaction.

Here are a few examples:

  • Lunch and Learn: everyone gathers once a week to spend the lunch hour together and one employee is responsible for giving a presentation. That person can talk about anything: new training experiences and what they learned, the project they’re working on, or perhaps challenges they’re facing and asking for suggested solutions. This is great for team building.
  • Fitness: hiring a fitness instructor to come in at least once a week to lead an aerobics or yoga class that’s free for all employees to participate in. If it’s affordable, another great idea is to purchase a gym membership for all employees (make sure you ask for a volume discount, though!) Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and promote healthy living.
  • Company Picnics: Take a field trip to a local park and fire up the grill! Employers provide the main dishes and employees bring a side dish to share. Several companies have found that this becomes a beloved tradition and plan one every spring and fall. What a great way to bring the team together and include their families.
  • Small Packages: you know what they say – good things come in small packages. A few times a year purchase novelty items, wrap them up and leave them on everyone’s desk. It can be as simple as a coffee mug filled with chocolates or as nice as a bottle or wine or crystal paperweight. It won’t really matter what it is, that unexpected surprise will start everyone’s day on a good note.
  • The Getaway: you can really start some excitement by having a free getaway that one random employee can win. Have gift bags filled with tissue paper and maybe some goodies (this way at least everyone gets something) and ask all the employees to pick a bag. The employee whose bag has a sticker on the inside bottom wins an overnight stay somewhere awesome, and the day off to go. It doesn’t have to be an expensive trip, you can purchase a one-night stay at a local bed and breakfast or a nice hotel at the nearest beach.

Everyone wants to feel appreciated; it’s just human nature. By finding simple ways to show your employees that you appreciate them, you’ll find the benefits are immeasurable.

Pick Your Poison

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President of Resonance, LLC      

I read something recently about how even if your most productive employee is toxic you should cut them loose because in the end they are worthless to you. As someone who has spent too much time around people with toxic personalities (not by choice, I assure you) my immediate reaction was total agreement.

After some thought, and a taped conversation about employee engagement, I had a change of heart. I agree that toxic personalities can bring down an empire; that toxicity cannot be contained and will spread until everyone around that person is unhappy or uncomfortable.

While the natural reaction, when you encounter a toxic person, is to run far and fast; what should you do if you’re the boss? You can’t ignore it, you can’t let it affect your other employees or your customers…and truly, you can’t just fire someone without proper cause.

There are, however, several things you can do, some even if you aren’t the boss:

  • Determine what it is, specifically, that makes this person toxic. Are they constantly negative or nasty? Are they lazy and have a habit of wasting other people’s time, too? Are they slovenly, making everyone feel uncomfortable being in close proximity? Sometimes just identifying the problem more clearly can help alleviate it.
  • Try to have a friendly (but professional) conversation with the person to find out if there’s something in their personal or work life that perhaps they need help or resources to deal with. It may be as simple as needing a friend. I can remember one instance where a woman was brusque anytime someone asked her for anything. We worked in the same department; avoiding her was not an option. After a while as she became more comfortable chatting with me she revealed a family tragedy that she’d never quite gotten over. Talking with her and gaining her trust helped her to at least have a better relationship with me and may have made her a little softer around others. If I had been her boss, however, I would have taken it one step further and offered grief counseling referrals and paid time off to go to the sessions.
  • Sometimes it’s the job, alone, that can cause someone to turn toxic. Many people wind up in jobs they don’t enjoy; they stick it out because they need the paycheck, but mostly out of fear they’ll never find anything else/better. Giving someone like this extra challenges that help another department in the company can sometimes accidentally reveal a hidden talent or passion. I once found out an employee I had was happy as a clam with a dust rag in her hand. She was always good at her job, but allowing her to spend time wiping down walls and scrubbing the nooks and crannies of the moldings in the building was all she needed to feel better about her environment and become more pleasant to be around. (It didn’t hurt that the place started to shine as a result either!)
  • And sometimes you just have to lay down the law. This means implementing or enforcing company policies. If you don’t already have one, write a dress code for your office – or update it. Make sure everyone’s employee reviews have been performed, citing policies and goals and other measures to help assess each employee’s value and to have documented how some employees are detrimental. Also write and implement a policy on what happens to employees who receive less than stellar reviews.

 

In the end, what’s important are the people in your company. Don’t lose sight of the fact that even your most toxic employee is a human being, but also be aware of how each person’s personality and actions affect all the others who are trusting you to protect the environment in which they spend so much of their lives. Respect all of them by making the difficult decisions; but do so with intention, kindness, and fairness.

Employee Morale

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

 

It’s amazing to me how many places of business continually suffer from low morale. These are typically the companies that also provide low levels of customer service and either extremely high or low employee turnover rates. What I don’t understand is how the owner or upper management is completely blind to it.

 

What it really boils down to is a breakdown in the company culture. It isn’t that upper management is blind to it, it’s that they’re the ones who created it.

 

Have you ever noticed the difference in how people interact with you (or avoid you) when you’re in a good mood versus when you’re down in the dumps? That’s the affect owners and managers have on their staff, and over time it’s what creates what we call corporate culture.

 

When owners and managers have positive attitudes, are efficient workers, empower those around them to make decisions, allow their employees to make mistakes, regularly show appreciation and generally treat people fairly it creates a positive corporate culture.

 

When owners and managers are negative, expect more from others than they are willing to do themselves, demand that everything be done their way and are quick to criticize, it creates a negative corporate culture.

 

There are many more factors, however, that can affect corporate culture and thus employee morale.

 

What’s worse is that it began with the leaders, and although they may notice that their staff isn’t happy or behaving the way they would like, they don’t know what to do and ultimately wind up behaving in a more unsatisfactory way themselves. It’s a vicious cycle.

 

Sometimes the problem is that the person at the top is too removed now to notice. Sometimes they don’t have the authority they feel they need to make the decisions they think will change things.

 

So how you can turn bad morale around? Well, like everything else, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

 

One easy way is to invite someone you know will be completely honest with you to basically just wander around your place of business, strike up random conversations with employees, make observations, and ask absurd questions. Retail and restaurant businesses do this all the time, they call the spies ‘secret shoppers’.

 

Another way is to hire consultants who provide services that include keywords like employee relations, change management, process review, or human resources/relations. These consultants can offer data driven reports to help put the problem into perspective for absentee owners, removed boards, or oblivious managers.

 

Once the report is digested, it’s time to make a plan. Those same consultants can likely offer recommendations, best practices, implementation plans and strategies, and other assistance.

 

What can you do if you’ve noticed bad morale in your workplace but you have no authority? You could request a closed door candid conversation with your boss, you can take notes and make a report of your own that you share with the “powers that be” at your company, you could locate consultants in your area who may be able to help and find a way to discreetly introduce them to upper management, and ultimately you could decide to leave in search of a job in a better environment. But do me a favor? On your way out, tell them the truth about why you’re leaving. It could just be the wakeup call they need.