About Workforce Echoes

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Employee Motivation and Budget Cuts

As I review the business headlines each day, and read my various human resources magazines and newsletters, I am beginning to see a theme. It seems that since the economy is bad, businesses are figuring out all the possible ways to suck the joy from employee’s jobs. Layoffs are requiring additional work for many. No bonuses this year, pay cuts instead of raises, no training, no conferences, and no Christmas parties. I have even read about some businesses that now count the number of pencils each employee is given. If you need more than 3 in a month, bring your own.

I am a business owner too, and am well aware of the need to tighten the budget, buckle down and do what we need to do to make it through bad times. HOWEVER, don’t forget the value of motivated and satisfied employees. You might tighten the budget so much that productivity takes a nose dive along with the economy.

Most people are motivated by many factors other than money. Find those free or inexpensive methods to help employees feel appreciated and keep that motivation high to weather the storm. Is your training budget cut down to zero? This is a good time to start an in-house mentoring program. No money for bonuses? Give everyone an extra day off. No money for the annual Christmas party? Have a potluck dinner in the office.

Check out our guide on putting enthusiasm back into the workplace. It is filled with no cost or low cost ideas for adding fun into the daily work day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Realize Your Great Idea!

We all have those occasional great and creative ideas. But how often do they go nowhere? Often we’ll start trying to sell our idea before we’ve actually thought through all the details. Then everyone begins pointing out all of the obstacles and why your idea won’t work. Next time, try something different. Keep the idea to yourself a little longer. Research it a bit. Put together a short presentation and think ahead about how to work around potential obstacles. Think of every possible "NO" and find the answers that will make it a "YES." A well planned persuasive, inspiring and informative presentation, even if very short, may get your further than a half thought out idea mentioned over lunch. Use stories, they are more memorable than facts. Use pictures rather than wordy slides and bullet points. Also, don’t forget to REHEARSE! At Workforce Echoes we develop executive presentations for our clients and have found rehearsal to make the difference between selling your idea and stumbling through a presentation.

If you want to learn how to build inspiring and memorable presentations, check out the PowerPoint Live conference in October in Atlanta. We highly recommend this conference.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Speaking of Innovation!

What’s all this talk about innovation?

Is YOUR company innovative? We hear more and more about this topic because today the world changes more in a year than it used to change in 50 years. Technology, medical advances, communication, science and other areas are developing at exponential rates. It used to be that being creative and innovative helped your business stand out from the rest. Now it is the difference between surviving or getting run over.

Given our poor economy, many businesses prefer to look for quick solutions, low risk solutions, or the “low hanging fruit.” Leaders become risk averse. I read a great book related to this topic, “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Kim and Mauborgne. The authors contend that too many industries compete in over-crowded territory. The key is to find uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant. Think about all the huge corporations today that didn’t even exist 20 years ago. Cell phones, social networking, Ipods, and a long list of other once innovative thoughts have changed the way we live and communicate. Innovation is about seeing the opportunities in a problem rather than just the obstacles. Are bookstores going out of business? Not if they think outside the box, find opportunities, and change the way they do business. “We’ve always done it this way” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

What's your strategy and goal for your business, school or association over the next 3 to five years? How do you want to be positioned in the marketplace? Are you paying attention to the trends in your industry, the met and unmet needs in your customer base?

Begin by encouraging new ideas and thoughts from all employees; then act on the best of those ideas. Hold a brainstorming session, evaluate the ideas, then put plans in place to turn the best ideas into action.

You can find Blue Ocean Strategy on www.amazon.com.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

You Should Have Listened To ME!

Do you ever feel this way? Like, if everyone would just LISTEN to you, the world would be a better place. The subject could be politics, religion, family matters, or how to run a business. I do sympathize with you and know that indeed it is exhausting to always have the answers but not the power of persuasion. You might like one of George Carlin’s quotes:

“The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.”

Let me make a suggestion that might help you out. I’ll start by admitting that I don’t really have all the answers. Actually, I’ve realized that the more I learn, the more I think I need to learn.
George Carlin’s quote seems just perfect for many situations. But every now and then, try something new. Consider Stephen Covey’s famous quote:

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

One of the keys to communication, including persuasion, is to LISTEN. Often, there is not one best answer. I know it often seems like there is only one answer, but this mindset shuts down communication., and that won’t help you much at all. What seems “right” depends on your perspective, assumptions, experiences, skills, personality, family background etc. etc. You already know what YOU think. Trying being quieter and asking questions. Listen, really listen, rather than search for weaknesses in their argument. Instead, let your goal be to understand. The understanding and information you gather will help you formulate your own comments that will greatly increase your power of persuasion. If you truly practice the art of active listening, you might even alter your opinion on the topic. Maybe not! But, it’s a possibility. You will also have made the other person feel heard and hopefully understood, which makes them more open to listen to YOU.
Remember also that famous saying:

Wise men (and women) are quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

Check out our communication and conflict management courses

Friday, August 7, 2009

Jerks At Work, Good, Bad, Or Both?

Have any of you ever had the unfortunate experience of working with a jerk? Robert Sutton has written a book on this subject that is receiving a lot of attention. The problem with jerks is that often their abrasive personalities are tolerated because they seem to “get results”. We measure their sales for instance, but don’t measure the costs associated with this “jerkish” behavior. Customers are lost. Good employees leave. Other employees hate coming to work because they have to deal with the jerk.

Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, in Time Magazine, defends jerks at work. See her article at this link:

She asks what American Idol would be like without Simon?

“Good point” you might think. But the American public loves tuning in to watch Simon and most respect his opinion. He makes about a hundred gazillion dollars a season for all those associated with American Idol. The benefits clearly outweigh the costs and I doubt there are many on the American Idol staff that want to see him leave. This is not your typical “jerk at work” story.

What do you think? Our suggestion is to identify and focus on specific unacceptable behaviors rather than telling the employee to stop being a jerk. We also highly recommend dealing with unacceptable behaviors immediately, before being a jerk becomes contagious in your organization. This isn’t to say that all jerks are lost causes. By focusing on specific behaviors that need improvement, perhaps you’ll get lucky and turn the jerk into a star employee.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What is the purpose of coaching?

What is the purpose of coaching? Can we define that for the world, or should each business define the goals of their coaching program and strategy? I think the later. A recent article titled “Coaching, does it add value” by Maurice Duffy seems to offer an opposite point of view.

Duffy believes that too often, coaching is implemented “to address specific personal development needs, and becomes a 'soft' patchy interaction that meanders for months, making the coach money and the individual happy” but producing no measurable benefit.

Perhaps your coaching program was put into place in order to address personal development needs; assuming these needs meet the needs of the organization. Perhaps it is put into place to improve “soft skills” such as interpersonal communication. While I believe Duffy takes too harsh of a viewpoint on coaching, it IS important to fully define the purpose of your coaching program before investing a dime.

Read Duffy’s full article at: http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2009/07/14/51419/coaching-does-it-add-value.html

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Budgets Cuts Are Taking A Toll On Employee Engagement

A survey released today by Marquette University’s College of Professional Studies and The QTI Group found that Milwaukee-area companies are concerned that recent budget cuts in travel, employee training, educational reimbursement, and charitable contributions are taking a toll on employee engagement and recruiting efforts. Did we really need a large scale survey to find out this information? By now it should be common sense. The problem is that some people still want to see additional data showing that investments in employees truly pays off.

"Companies and organizations who recognize that their employees are their only truly sustainable resource will add value by continuing to offer education and professional development opportunities. The smart organizations will be well positioned for the coming economic upturn with an educated workforce," commented Dr. Robert Deahl, Dean of the Marquette University College of Professional Studies.

See the article at: http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Article=166201