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Can Your Workforce Stay at Home?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 12/16/2009

Have you considered keeping your workforce at home?    Allowing employees to work from home can be a benefit to both the company and worker.  Consider the cost benefits for the employee:

  • The average worker spends around $650.00 per month in transportation costs going to and from work
  • In some cases employees have to pay to park – this could easily exceed $300.00 per month.
  • Employees with children can spend anywhere from $400.00 to $1400.00 per month on day care.
  • The average worker spends 45 minutes to 90 minutes every day commuting.
  • Eating lunch at home is cheaper than preparing meals and taking them to work.
  • People who work at home are less likely to get sick and less likely to spread illnesses when they are sick. (getting sick costs money)
  • People who work at home don’t need to spend as much on clothing.
  • Despite some employer’s fears, recent studies indicate the people who work at home are more productive than their “on location” counter parts.
  • There are some interesting tax benefits for people who work out of their home.

In many cases someone who works at home could take a fairly healthy pay cut while actually making more money.  In other words, both the employee and employer could save money.

Other benefits from the employer standpoint:
  • Less facility costs – office space, lunchrooms, parking lots, desks etc all cost money – work at home employees should save companies considerable expenses even if businesses reimburse workers for home expenses.
  • Less clean up – people make messes.
  • Less Sick Time– many times people who may be sick enough to not come to work, or more than well enough to work at home.
  • Personnel issues such as work place conflict, abuse, petty jealousy, sexual harassment, etc all go away when the majority of your workforce works from home.
What are some downsides?
  • Many people miss the social element of work – not having daily people contact can be a major drawback.
  • Communication can be more difficult
  • Creating engagement without face to face interaction can be more challenging.
  • For some employers, not being able to actively monitor employees can be an issue (even thought studies show work at home employees are more productive.

What should you do to promote engagement in a telecommuting environment?

  • Make sure that you hire people that would thrive in that environment Use Pre-employment assessment to help identify the best people to work at home and be productive.
  • Have more social events that can bring people together.
  • Use technology to help with communication – web conferencing, web cams, chat rooms, social networking sites and more can be used to enable engaging and productive communication throughout your workforce.
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Can You Fire Someone for a Facebook Post?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 12/08/2009

Are you coming to terms with social networking and your workforce?  Many companies are enacting policies regarding time spent surfing the internet, but very little is being done on what an employee can post on social networking sites.  

Some say it’s a personal issue and a freedom of speech and what someone posts on Facebook when they are away from work is none of your business.  Consider the following scenarios:

  • An employee of a health care organization posts malicious comments on elderly patients.
  • A restaurant server posts clever (but derogatory) comments about the sanitary conditions at her workplace. 
  • A disgruntled worker posts a “photo shopped” image of his supervisor in a compromising situation.

All of these posts can damage a businesses reputation; even good natured jokes can cause loss of business.

Employers have the right to make and enforce policies regarding what their employees may post on their sites.  Even though most networking sites are “private” and only seen by their “friends”,   what is seen by a few friends can be re-posted to other friends.  In my view, a post on a Facebook page is the same as placing a want ad in the newspaper.  In the age of “going viral”, any business has a right to protect itself. 

Of course enforcing such a policy is another thing, you probably would never find out about most of these posts and any aggressive investigation actions on your part may breech privacy rights.    So what can you do?

Going around spying or threatening is the worse thing you can do to promote employee engagement.  You have to trust your workforce.   The best bet is a well thought out policy regarding content on social networking sites.  Make it clear to the workforce that any content that could damage your businesses reputation can be grounds for discipline. 

Hopefully you will never have to fire someone for a Facebook post, but having a clear policy that is consistently enforced will help you deal with these issues and avoid wrongful termination lawsuits.

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Recognition can be a Double Edged Sword

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 10/22/2009

The Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Barack Obama has certainly stirred some controversy.  Reactions range from embarrassment and anger to elation, depending on what your ideology is.   Personally, I always viewed the award as more of a symbolic gesture (with one million in cash), but I was still surprised.  I guess I thought that something tangible needed to be accomplished to win the Nobel Prize. Reaction from previous winners was mixed; some thought it devalued the award when no clear accomplishment could be identified.  Al Gore and Jimmy Carter (previous winners) praised the choice.  Most people agreed that Barack Obama seemed uncomfortable with receiving the award.

Recognitions and awards can be two edged swords.  While the intension of the giver may be to inspire and motivate, the actual results can be bitterness and divisiveness.  This is especially true at the work place.  While there is probably nothing similar to a Nobel Peace Prize at your workplace, not a day goes by where recognition (given or not given) is not affecting your employee performance. Undeserved recognition is as bad as no recognition at all.  The biggest mistake a company can make is to put in a performance appraisal system that is inconsistent or unfair.  While no employer intentionally creates an unfair system, many times a poor system is put in place.   What are some of the common elements of a poor performance system?

  • Subjective criteria.
  • Inconsistent evaluation periods
  • Inconsistently applied throughout organization
  • Lack of management follow up

Having a poor performance appraisal system can reduce productivity.  On the other hand, having a comprehensive, well thought out system with management follow through can improve productivity and accelerate leadership development.  Setting up a good system takes time and should involve an experienced knowledgeable resource. 

Let us know if we can help you set up and administer a performance management system.

Employee Engagement during a Recession

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 09/15/2009

While many are saying that the recession has “bottomed out”, most experts also believe that the unemployment rate is not going to improve soon.   Your employees are probably feeling fairly lucky to have a job, and they aren’t going to leave on their own anytime soon.  With employees more anxious about keeping their jobs and with little threat of them looking elsewhere, one might think that productivity should not be a concern.  However keeping your employees engaged could be a bigger problem than you think.

Employees may be experiencing a variety of fears and emotions today.   Most of your employees have not gone through anything like this economic time.   Not only are they afraid of losing their job, but they also know that today’s job market is tough and getting another job could take months.  Even if they like the job they have now, they still may feel trapped; this could cause additional stress or resentment.  Fear, resentment and, frustration are not emotions that are conducive to high engagement. 

It is as important now as it ever was to work on employee engagement.  These economic times are presenting some unique challenges and deciding to do nothing could backfire.  Here are some constructive things that could improve engagement and productivity.

  • Timely and honest communication should be a priority.
  • Promote a feeling of “we are in this together”.  Make sure the workforce knows that you understand and emphasis with their concerns. 
  • Focus on critical business goals:  This can help give your employees a sense of control as they can direct their efforts to improve business performance and give them more security.
  • Additional Training: Training opportunities will focus your employees on empowerment rather than helplessness. 
  • Have some fun:  A pizza party once in awhile or some other fun activity can be inexpensive, but a great way to keep moral up.  Having fun with your employees is a great way to improve engagement.

Actually when you think about it, the above items are good to do all the time.   Employee engagement is a year round effort; don’t take time off because there is recession.

Is Your Leader a Bully?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 08/05/2009

While supervisors who bully are far less tolerated today than a few decades ago, they are still out there.  They tend to be found more in middle management than toward the top, and they are abundant in small companies.  This may seem silly to ask, but why don’t you want to have bullies in your organization?  Here are some common sense answers:

  • While some bullying techniques may occasionally get short term results, you are at best getting compliance.  The workers motivation is primarily to keep their boss happy or off their back.  Lost will be any emotional attachment to company performance.  In the long run, productivity stagnates.
  • A bully’s motivation is not usually aligned with business performance.  They are often on ego power trips trying to prove their importance.  So even if employees are 100% complying with their supervisor’s wishes, the results may not benefit your business.
  • Bullying creates resentment and often results in backlash behavior, employees lose all emotional attachment to company success – they become disengaged.
  • Eventually you will lose your talent as they will not tolerate working in a “bullying” environment..

Leadership behavior is critical to fostering engagement in your organization.  It is vital that you develop, cultivate and choose leaders whose leadership style is consistent with your business objectives.  

Bullies are far more prevalent in small businesses than large corporations, probably because small businesses do not have the professional resources and sophistication in-house to deal and monitor with leadership behavior. What can small businesses do to thwart and remove bullies from their organization?

A good leadership development program will assess your current leadership styles, identify undesirable behavior patterns and establish programs to correct problems and develop behaviors that foster engagement in your organization.  MG Assessments has some on-line programs that will fit a small business budget.  They have been implemented with great success in thousands of small businesses.   Contact us or go to our leadership development program section on our website.

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What makes a good leader? (Part II)

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 07/16/2009

The ultimate measure of leadership is results, long term and short term.  Successful leaders as a group, have a wide variety of personalities and nuances, but most good leaders possess or develop the following traits.

Vision:  Good leaders have the ability to formulate a concrete image of a desired end state.  They can eloquently communicate this end state and discuss the gaps that need to be filled.  The vision may not be extremely detailed, but it is constant and clear.  The leader has confidence in that vision and is willing to stay on course, even during difficult times.

Pragmatic:  While setting “stretch goals” and lofty end states is admirable and even necessary, a good leader has to understand the every day practical elements and constraints of the organization.  If there is only a focus on the glorious end state and no direction or understanding of the practical elements needed to achieve the vision, the organization will only get flustered and lose faith.

People Oriented:   This is a little like saying that water must be wet, but leaders need to connect with people, and people need to connect with the leader.  The leader should be able to inspire and motivate and be compassionate and caring.   People need to like their leader, but not necessarily like everything that the leader is pushing for. 

Ethical:  Good leaders hold themselves to high standards in terms of integrity and honesty.  If you can’t trust your leadership, you aren’t going to follow.  Sometimes leaders are faced with challenges and dilemmas.  Leaders who are perceived as being less than totally ethical will rapidly lose the engagement of the organization.

Knowledgeable:  The expression “leaders are readers” was popular a while back.  The leader should not be the subject mater expert with all work related items, but good leaders have a well rounded knowledge base that extends beyond the immediate business.  A good leader spends time reading about a wide variety of subjects and is open to learning new things.  This knowledge base helps give leaders balance and judgment. 

Humility:  A good leader understands that she isn’t perfect and is not afraid to admit her short comings.  A good leader will be open to feedback (sometimes very negative).   Good leaders will seek council particularly in areas that they know that they are weak in.  Good leaders are constantly striving to develop their leadership skills and are willing to assess their strengths and weaknesses.

Leadership is something that can be objectively assessed and developed.  For more information on this area see MG Assessments leadership development program.

Can Your Front Line Leaders Lead?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 06/11/2009

I remember talking with a VP who was let go because of operations performance.  His self assessment was pretty interesting.

                                                          

 "There were an unusual number of circumstances that we were dealing with – the company lost 40% of its core business to China and we tried to make up for that gap by bringing in new types of business.  The company struggled because our organization needed to make a transformation, but it did not have (in my opinion) the front line leaders to enable that process."

 

"My front line leaders were “homegrown” people who were promoted up through the operator ranks.  These people were intelligent and knowledgeable about the product, but really had little idea on how to lead and manage.  When I was hired to head the operations, I felt that something needed to be done, but I put this issue on the back burner, because as long as the status quo was being maintained, performance was okay.  But when the business was suddenly faced with this crisis, the leadership issue was exposed.   I tried to upgrade our leadership while making significant operation changes; this proved to be too much to effectively manage.  The struggles affected the bottom line and subsequently ended my career at this company."

 

 Let’s summarize some lessons learned from this person’s experience:

 

  • Your front line leadership is vital. 
  • Creating top notch leaders should be your highest priority.
  • You need to start NOW.  Waiting until you really need it is too late.

 

Developing your leaders should never be "put on the backburner."  In today’s economy, organizations need to be continually evaluating and changing to maintain competiveness; are your leaders up to the challenge?

 

Objective assessment and development tools for leadership are readily available; let us know if you need more information on leadership development.

MG Assessments, LLC | 13701 Duluth Drive |Apple Valley, MN  55124 | Phone: 612-810-1293