11 Resolutions for 2011
Small Resolutions Can Yield Big Results
Eve Framiñán TPO, Inc.
Benjamin Franklin once said, "Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” Good advice for the New Year. It can be applied to business as well. Small resolutions or changes in the way you do business can yield big results.
Take some time to sit back and review the previous year. What did you accomplish? What did your organization wish to accomplish? Where did things go off track and why? Once you've got your creative juices flowing, jot down the answers to some of these questions. The following ten resolutions can help you address those concerns and more.
1. Start employees off on the right foot. Your organization is only as good as your employees. Review your employee orientation program. Does it convey company culture such as how you conduct business and how things work at the company? Do you describe what the job entails and what good performance looks like? Are benefits information and policies and procedures shared? Does your orientation communicate a welcoming and respectful environment? First impressions are lasting and if your new employees feel animosity or disrespect, they won't be very productive, which can be transferred to your customers. Additionally, don't stop at the orientation process. Solicit feedback from new employees at their one month anniversaries to find out how things are going.
2. Make expectations clear to all employees of your company. In addition to the specific tasks and duties of positions, have a clear vision of how you want your employees to work together and what results you expect. Be as specific as possible when you share your expectations. More importantly, lead by example and hold them accountable for the results. For example, if as a company you need to continually improve and update technical skills, try and attend a workshop to enhance your skills. If processes need to be more structured than in the past, be sure you are following the new procedures even when it's inconvenient. When the inevitable happens, someone does not meet your expectations, address it as soon as possible to avoid lowering the bar. If an employee sees a peer getting away with underperforming, they are de-motivated to do their personal best. After all, why should one person do all the heavy lifting while their peer skates by? When you don't address a performance issue, that's the message; it's OK to not meet expectations.
3. With the improving economy, focus on retention. Small businesses must employ good people in all positions; there is nowhere for a mediocre person to hide. Regardless of whether the unemployment rate is zero or 10%, good people are always in demand. As the economy warms up, your best people will have options to work elsewhere. Focus on employee retention techniques by creating an engaging environment, recognizing good performance, giving benefits and rewards, and promoting mutual respect. Demonstrate your respect for employees by treating them like adults. It is easy to over do policies and procedures or assume the worst and accidentally disengage your best employees. For example, if everyone in the office knows one co-worker is abusing the leave policy and getting away with it, it's tempting to put in a heavy handed policy like all unscheduled absences the day after holidays are unpaid. This actually worsens the work environment because now the abusers have punished the entire team. Top performers want to work with other good employees so spend your time and resources on your best workers rather than the bottom few.
4. Build/foster good customer service skills. In this economy, businesses need to maintain the customer base and rely heavily on customer referrals to grow. This means maintaining a positive, helpful, caring demeanor with every customer, every time, no matter what. Model it yourself and insist on it from your team. Internal customers, our co-workers and employees, are sometimes over looked. Somehow we figure we can let our guard down internally or that they will understand if we are short or ill-tempered with each other. Remember culture is what employees see and feel at work so a strong customer service culture has to be pervasive.
5. Embrace family-friendly policies. Want a surefire way to attract and retain good employees? Foster a reputation as a family-friendly company. Ask five people what their New Year's resolutions are and you'll hear at least a few say, "Spend more time with family.” Some policies that are low cost yet high impact include flex-time options, job sharing, Flexible Savings Accounts for health and dependent care, time off for parental or family demands, and support for volunteerism.
6. Involve employees in the decision-making process. When you listen to employees' needs, concerns and suggestions, you'll see morale, motivation and productivity rise. Think about it. It makes sense. Shouldn't you solicit feedback from the very people who are in the trenches day in and day out? Incorporating their opinions and ideas is a major boost to the overall health of a business.
7. Encourage your employees to develop at least two goals to help them grow and develop as a more achievement-oriented employee. Stagnation is the kiss of death in today's economy. If costly outside training courses are not an option, consider cross-training between positions or using peer mentors to expand an employee's skills. Facilitate learning from each other; hold lunch and learn sessions to swap real life experiences and lessons learned. And personal development contributes to an achievement culture. If an employee wants to learn how to train guide dogs, or meet a personal challenge like improved physical fitness, you can encourage that too. It is important to let the employee share his or her goals (especially if they are personal) to ensure commitment and improve success.
8. Encourage your employees to assess their daily routines. Let's face it. We all do it. We check our email and voicemail countless times. We face numerous interruptions throughout the day. Challenge everyone to streamline their daily routines. Perhaps it's as simple as checking email every three to four hours as opposed to every hour. It will save plenty of time throughout the day. Compartmentalizing activities can free up some of the mental nagging about incomplete tasks. For example, if you carve out a specific time to make those personal calls that have to be done during standard business hours, you can spend less time trying to remember them and worrying about how to squeeze them in between other tasks.
9. Nurture real lunch breaks – with co-workers. Taking a break during the workday is a good thing for both managers and employees. In doing so, you will be reenergized and have a fresh perspective to tackle a problem or revisit a project. As an added bonus, camaraderie among staff will increase. Did you know one of the key indicators of employee work satisfaction and engagement is whether they have a friend at work? You can't make employees become friends but you can create opportunities. If you eat alone at your desk or recognize staff that work through lunch as "hard workers”, you might be unintentionally preventing friendships.
10. Strive for specific goals each day. Even God didn't create the world in one day. Focus on the important tasks (not just the easy ones!) and spend a few minutes at the end of each work day creating a prioritized to-do list for the following day. Cross off items as they are completed. It will give you a feeling of accomplishment. Remember to cut yourself some slack if you don't finish all the day's tasks. Some actually may be resolved on their own.
11. Show your appreciation. Last, but certainly not least. Your employees want recognition. It costs so little yet means so much. However, the key to a successful show of appreciation is to poll your employees about what motivates them and what makes them feel appreciated. Your understanding of gratitude and motivation might not be their idea. If you have an introvert on your team, he or she might cringe if you make a public display of your appreciation. Take the time to develop a well-planned, well-run appreciation program and your employees will express their appreciation ten-fold.