A new software for small business owners is called “17 hats” – and I think this accurately reflects the roles of a small business owner. You are chief everything officer (sales, people, operations, marketing, accounting, customer service), cheerleader and spokesperson, and as my family says “chief bottlewasher!” (if it needs to get done, you will do it.)
So it is no wonder you feel like you don’t have time to coach your team members monthly (much less weekly).
And no doubt some people on your team are easier to coach than others, so you tend to procrastinate in delivering feedback or talking about what would challenge and motivate them.
The data is clear—employees don’t just want daily task discussions (called “Managing by Wandering Around” by Tom Peters)—
Employees want to know how they can contribute, what is the purpose of their work, feedback on results, and that there are opportunities to develop and maximize their strengths at your organization.
This means you need a development plan for each person, coupled with regular two-way discussion on their aspirations and challenging assignments that meet their desired career path. (That is what we mean when we say “coaching.”)
If all of your conversations center around “what are you working on today” then they feel ignored, and will lose interest, commitment, and engagement in your job. (Reminds me of the joke – “I feel like a mushroom, left in the dark and fed manure.”)
Ultimately these unnoticed people will seek employment elsewhere where they can feel appreciated, a sense of accomplishment and contribution.
Or worse, stay in your job as “actively disengaged” working against your team. (Read my article—Want Employees to Tune Out? Ignore Them to find out the huge cost of the disengaged).
Every small business owner or manager can be a motivational, positive, and appreciative leader and implement a rhythm of weekly coaching conversations.
You just need a blueprint and training, and the willingness to learn and get outside your comfort zone to start having real conversations with your staff.
The beginning of a new year and also that time of year when employee thoughts turn to… (well on the East Coast everyone is thinking wistfully of spring) “When am I going to get a pay increase?”
Thanks to 50 years of prosperity and a small dose of influence from union contracts, the American worker has been conditioned into thinking (expecting) that they will get a regularly schedule raise in pay in January. The legacy of 20 years of consistent pay practices lives on.
I don’t need to rehash the economic news of the last 6 years, but pay increases since 2008 have been well below the former 3% standard set by the prosperous years, and wage freezes and 18-24 spans between increases are fairly common.
If you are smaller employer or one who has limited profits to continually raise your payroll budget 3% every year, how will you possibly attract great people and retain your top performers?
The good news is that you actually have 12 non-financial ways to reward your employees. Here is a list with some possible solutions.
1. Voluntary (employee paid) benefits—many employers now offer the option for employees to purchase additional benefits at their own cost. The employee typically receives a lower cost for the coverage and it may have tax advantages.
Solution- insurance plans- dental insurance, long term disability or life insurance
2. Work itself– the number one factor in job satisfaction is a sense of achievement. Ask employees how you can improve their work with more variety, sense of purpose or meaning, and challenging assignments
Solution- give your high potential employee a project to manage
3. Autonomy— show of hands- who likes to be micromanaged? Anyone? If you train someone and give appropriate guidelines you can trust the work will be done as needed.
Solution: consider the last 5 questions that someone “ran by you” – is there nugget of wisdom you can share so that you do not have to be consulted or are you just being the chief problem solver?
4. Work load— are you overloading your best performer because she will always take on more and get it done? Does this sound like a recipe for burnout?
Solution: ask your busiest person what you can take off their plate, and then create a plan to do this immediately
5. Resources one of the top reasons people leave their job is because they do not have the tools to do the job properly
Solution: have a meeting to list out hassles and pick the biggest time waster to that inexpensive resources or tools will improve
6. Reliable coworkers– If you have ever worked with someone is who not pulling their weight, then you know how this can make you hopping mad. People have one of three responses: work harder and put up with the slacker, work less so that you don’t feel taken advantage of, or look for another job. If you allow lower contributions you are actually driving out the good performers. And then you are left with the lowest ones.
Solution: If you know who is your weakest link do not wait to have a crucial conversation (see feedback below). Sometimes you have a sense someone is not doing their best but others cover for that person so you don’t know the full extent of the gap. Also allow confidential opportunities to get this feedback from your team.
7. Performance discussions- Yes everyone hates the “performance review,” but on the flip side employees want the opportunity to talk about their role, aspirations and to be appreciated for all their hard work.
Solution: change up your process- stop focusing so much on putting a numerical rating on last year, and more about how the last year provided insights for how to reach goals for this year. I when I say goals I mean how the employee can reach his/her goals within the job.
8. Feedback- Employees expect you to tell them right away if they are not meeting expectations. And they should expect that you deliver this feedback in a positive and constructive manner.
Solution: If you are not comfortable delivering constructive feedback then I suggest reading a few books (101 Tough Conversations is a good start) and then starting small. Trust me, your other employees will thank you for finally have those crucial conversations.
9. Recognition- Timely and targeted public praise is only the cheapest and most powerful reward tool a manager has. If you don’t know what to recognize then you need to sit down and make a list of what behaviors will reach your organization’s goals this year.
Solution: Be on the lookout for a person that did something terrific that is on your list of things to recognize, and publicly praise in your weekly team meeting (you have one, right?)
10. Training and development– Most people want to feel that we are “good” at our job and will be frustrated or demoralized if something is too difficult. A lack of challenging work is also a main reason people look for another job, so you may want to continually upgrade the knowledge and skills so that people don’t get bored. It’s a win-win- employees feel valued and broaden their knowledge and capability, and now you have an employee who can contribute and perform more.
Solution: employees may not be open about their so you want to ask find out what training would dramatically improve performance or if they want a new challenge.
11. Opportunity for Advancement– Surveys show that about half of employees feel there is not a chance for promotion at their employer. For the generation Y who will comprise almost half the workers in the US, a clear career path and opportunities to advance is the top reason for job engagement.
Solutions: If you want people to be loyal, committed and willing to go above and beyond (aka engaged), identify and share the “next” job (not necessarily in management), the change in duties and responsibility, and a training plan to develop into that role.
12. A great boss (I mean coach)- as the saying goes, people leave supervisors, not companies. If you feel unappreciated, criticized, or just plain frustrated by your direct manager you will consider looking for a new one. Coaches are clear about the goals, deliver feedback and train in a positive supportive and appreciative way, and focus on improvement.
Solution: There are so many books and training on how to be a coach and not a boss, but it might help to ask some of the employees you trust where you should work first. We all have blind spots and perhaps a few key changes will dramatically change how you are perceived and the impact you make.
Want to learn more about how to use Total Rewards to attract, engage and retain your best teammates?
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Our prior article “What Drives Engagement?” listed the top 10 engagement drivers.
Three areas impact employee perceptions of available development and career opportunities (category 4):
1. Enjoy challenging work assignments that broaden skills
2. Improved my skills and capabilities over the last year
3. Have excellent career advancement opportunities
Many people are comfortable and happy in their current job and do not wish to take on additional responsibilities.
Others crave challenging work and the opportunity to learn and grow. A key component in keeping the second group of employees at your organization is to figure out how to meet these needs.
If you are small business, you usually do not have a “career paths” or a training department. However, you have many informal opportunities for additional development—these include cross-training, job enrichment, project assignments, and team lead opportunities.
It is always best to have a “back up” for each role– and developing someone as a backup cross-trains another team member and gives a sense of skill development. Job “enrichment” means learning a bit deeper or broader on current tasks, such as increasing knowledge of accounting principles or equipment repair. We can always learn more about the work we do.
Even if your organization does not have “layers of management,” some employees are interesting in a newly emerging role of team leader. Team leaders are the “go-to” people who peers ask for help or to get another opinion for a decision. They often assist managers with routine supervisory tasks such as scheduling, assigning specific work, compiling reports, and side by side skill training. You may have someone now that is informally in this role.
Three steps you can take NOW to improve employee perceptions of development opportunities
- Think of one project or ongoing task that would be a stretch assignment for a team member, and delegate to someone with the competencies to accomplish.
- Spend 30 minutes one morning each week meeting with a team member to discuss “What skills or knowledge do you want to develop in the next year? How can this be accomplished?” Then create a timeline and action plan to achieve.
- Identify and start developing a team leader: If you have a great performer with interpersonal skills and a desire for additional responsibility, start with delegating a routine team task (scheduling, weekly project report, train new employee). If this person continues to grow in this role, create a team leader position with specific responsibilities and coach to achieve.
Two articles for more reading
For a source of stretch assignments, read our People plan article: “Too busy to delegate”
Inc Magazine article How to Tell If Your Employees Are Bored
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The Corporate Executive Board Company (CEB) analyzed performance based on information from more than 20,000 managers and their employees (40 organizations across the globe).
They found 10 competencies differentiated and identified “high performers” able to succeed in our volatile, changing “new work environment.”
These competencies can be categorized into three key areas – adapting to change, working collaboratively, and applying judgment:
Adapt to Change
• Organizational awareness
According to their research, these competencies are found in about 5% of the working population. They also suggest that “The competencies essential to strong performance in the new work environment are best developed through on-the-job experience with a single company over time.”
What can your small or mid-sized organization due to develop at least part of your staff into high performers by focusing on these skill sets?
Read the full report at:
Identifying and Enabling the New High Performer
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I have the spent the past few weeks having conversations with senior managers in a variety of small and mid-sized organizations, ranging in size from one with 7 employees to one with over 700.
These conversations focus on how we can work together to assist their people to help these organizations achieve 2013 goals, but often the conversation turns to how to develop the staff they have.
These managers like their staff and want to see them grow and contribute more, as well as be more connected to the organization and more fulfilled in their work. They want to retain these team members and to provide meaningful rewards.
Many managers and organizations seem to be challenged by the prospect of how to develop employees, such identifying what skills are needed and how to accomplish this when there is “no time for training.”
A recent book (Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni) may provide some answers, and challenges some of the myths that prevent smaller employers from focusing development efforts on their team (if they grow they will leave us, the employee is responsible for her own career, it’s about the money, development plans are for the Fortune 500 or just senior managers).
According to Kaye and Giulioni, “Career development is as important as it’s ever been (maybe more). In today’s business environment, talent is the major differentiator. And developing that talent is one of the most significant drivers of employee engagement, which in turn is the key to the business outcomes you seek: revenue, profitability, innovation, productivity, customer loyalty, quality, and cycle time reduction.”
One insight is that employee development can be accomplished with informal, brief, focused “10-minute conversations” that uncover an employee’s aspirations and goals and matches to learning opportunities.
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