Pulse Surveys

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Pulse Surveys can be called many different name, employee satisfaction surveys, employee engagement surveys, employee experience surveys, etc.  One of the reasons I like PULSE, is because they are truly designed to measure the pulse of the employees and of the organization, as a whole, at a given point in time.  Not all employees who take them are satisfied or necessarily dissatisfied, nor are they engaged or disengaged.  However, all employees have an opinion, and when give a chance to air it, usually do not disappoint.

Pulse surveys take on three primary forms- Annual Surveys, which may measure a broad level of employee satisfaction, Weekly check ins that might tackle a topic or two and Reaction Surveys, which measure the employees reactions to a certain initiative.

 

Annual Employee Surveys

Annual Employee Surveys are common amongst employers pursuing an Employer of Choice philosophy.  They provide management with the knowledge and tools to build positive employee relations and a corresponding positive work environment. Employee attitudes, burnout tendencies, engagement, loyalty and workplace environment are key indicators for employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity.

Effective businesses focus on creating and reinforcing employee satisfaction to get the most out of their human capital. Properly constructed employee satisfaction surveys provide the insights that are foundational to creating and reinforcing productive work environments. These surveys can address topics such as compensation, workload, perceptions of management, flexibility of schedules, teamwork, appropriate resources, etc.

 

Weekly Check-ins

Weekly Check-ins provide management insight into a particular topic or issue that is important in the near term.  Frequently organization will adopt Guiding Principles or Corporate Values and choose to focus their efforts around one of these initiatives per quarter.  Guiding Principles are principles that guide an organization throughout its life in all circumstances, irrespective of changes in its goals, strategies, type of work, or the top management.  These can be quick questions, maybe just one or two, that give an organization directional guidance on that particular topic.  These can also be useful for a department when you don’t necessarily want to check in with the organization in its entirety.

 

Reaction Surveys

Reactions surveys are just that.  They test the reaction of employees to a specific initiative.  You may have rolled out copious communications on a a particular initiative and yes, when it goes live, you hear a rumbling through the grape vine that not everyone is happy, there are misunderstandings.  Reaction surveys give everyone an anonymous voice.  Both Survey Monkey and CustomInsight offer employers a free vehicle to use to create these surveys and analyze the data collected.

In all cases, once you have collected and analyzed the data, give the feedback and have a plan of action to present an implement.  Collecting data and not acting on it is worse than not collecting the data in the first place. Use this as an opportunity to show your employees that you really do care and you will be rewarded with their honest thoughts and opinions going forward, helping you, as an employer, to create a truly great place to work.

What do most start-ups have in common?

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There are as many types of start ups as there are investors to invest in them but most have a few things in common.  Knowing what these are, in advance, will help you to stay one step ahead of your investors, your market and your competition.

 

VC’s are an impatient bunch

Venture Capitalists, commonly referred to as VC’s,  are those that invest dollars in multiple start up business enterprises with the hopes of hitting it big in 1 out of 10, in my experience, although different VC’s may tell you otherwise. Various VC’s play in different niches established by the stage of the business.  For instance, idea generation, proto-type product, mature product, revenue, growth and profitability.  However, they share at least one thing in common which is impatience.  Impatience to get a product to market, to show profitability, to attract later stage investors at higher valuations and to make a very profitable exit.  

Fail fast is a fact worth remembering.  You are less likely to burn investor bridges with $1M in when you determine that your idea or product has little chance of success than after you have $10-20M in.

Don’t underestimate the marketing spin

No matter how good your product is, whether it be software, SaaS, or shoes, it needs to be marketed effectively.  What will you brand around and how will you differentiate in the marketplace should be the first questions you ask yourself and your team.  Keep your head in the sky and think about the ways you want people to “feel” when they hear about your product.  Stay away from long lists of functionality.  People buy, for the most part, on emotional reactions.  

Shelter your employees

Start ups are volatile and not everyone needs to know every brutal truth.  There will be times when you are putting payroll on the execs credit cards, but you don’t necessarily need to share that with everyone in the company.  Trust me, I have been one of those execs floating 1,000’s of dollars for a couple of weeks before funding closed.  Some who join your start up will be true entrepreneurial types and for those the uncertainty will not matter.  Others, however, will be employees looking for stability, with families to support.  You don’t want to shrink your candidate pool any further than is necessary.  Portray a positive, stable and growth oriented environment.  

Act bigger than you are

Allocate a few dollars into presenting a professional image.  Maybe that is the receptionist in the lobby who doubles as the AP specialist.  Maybe that’s a phone system where you can look like you have lines for a variety of different functions.  To some extent, it follows the old adage of “Fake it till you make it.”  If you have 20 employees and someone asks the response is still truthful if you say “we are still under 100” but send a very different signal to a potential customer.

Start ups are, by their very nature, challenging in many respects.  Knowing a few of the most common pitfalls can help to guarantee yours is that 1 in 10 that everyone is looking for to hit it big!

Performance Management Systems

Ideally your performance management system should support an already robust relationship between your managers and their subordinates, not create or replace it. It should help to focus your efforts on actually improving performance and managing the development of your employees. Well chosen, a system will support what you are trying to build in your organization and will be viewed as a part of a seamless approach to creating a valued workforce, as well as allowing your organization to streamline the performance review process online.

Organizations today are very interested in measuring and improving their workforce and their performance and productivity, or their ability to create value at speed.

Customer Service

Do your research.  Call the customer service center at all times of the day. Night weekend.  Many companies today are using Call Centers in India and, need I have to say this, that can lead to a very frustrating experience for the user.  Do they understand HR or only their system?  What kind of training is done for the employees in the service center?

Administrator level of Difficulty

Unless you are fortunate enough to have a systems admin who is solely dedicated to bringing up your Performance Management System, you will want to fully understand what is involved in setting up the back end.  Some performance management systems do much of the work for you, others, Like Cornerstone, expect that you will architect and set up the entire back end.

UX

To borrow a term from the development world, UX, cannot and should not be underrated.   The user experience should be pleasant, not frustrating and the flow of the process should be intuitive.  If your managers have to hunt for buttons or try and figure it out, it’s not designed well.

On- the-Go

Is it accessible on the go.  Does it utilize responsive design, that allows the systems to perform the same on a mobile device as it would on a laptop?  Much of our world is mobile now and your workforce will expect that they should not have to be tied to a desk in order to work with your Performance Management system

Demo it

Allow your managers to demo the top 2-3 selections and choose the one that they feel best meets their needs.  You will have immediate buy in and advocates throughout the organization.  

In summary, spend the time up front to truly evaluate the systems that will best meet your organization’s needs.  You will likely live with the approach for quite some time, so make sure it is one that will actually create efficiencies and not additional work for you and your team.

Spending Wisely in the Startup Phase

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Startup culture has been known for being a bit more extravagant than traditional business environments. The culture of fun, free breakfasts, and happy hours has as much pull for potential employees as the promise of making it big when the startup finds huge financial success.

But, there is a huge responsibility of the founders to make the proper spending decisions for the health of their business. Every business requires different upfront investments, but these are a few of the things that all startups should consider when budgeting out the money from their initial rounds of funding.

 

Investment in a solid business plan

If you’re at the stage where your business has already received funding, it’s likely that you have established a great idea for a business. But, before you move forward with growth, make sure that your business plan is fully flushed out. A good business plan will detail the specific lines of action and objectives that you are looking to carry out within your business. The research that goes into building your business plan will also provide insight on your market and what needs to be done internally to operate successfully within that realm.

Market Research

Spending some upfront cash on market research is hugely important to the viability of your business and is closely related to the building of your business plan. You may be deeply attached to a certain aspect of your business, but in-depth market research may prove that the industry isn’t interested in it. Research will help you to understand your industry and help you to fine tune your target audience.

Get An Accountant (& CFO)

Many startups are hesitant to make an early investment into hiring “the finance person”. But, getting someone analyzing your numbers sooner rather than later may very well save your business in the long run. In an environment where it may be tempting to go bigger or faster, your business will benefit from having an individual whose one and only job is to hold you accountable for spending. An experienced accountant and CFO will be able to provide insight on the return on investments and put your business’s financial health into perspective.

A Customer Support Team

No matter what industry you’re in, a customer service team should be hired and built out the moment that you sell your first product. Nothing is perfect, and it is inevitable that your customers will have questions and/or concerns. It is essential to have someone(s) equipped to answer any incoming inquiries from your clients or customers. In the early stages of any business, dissatisfied customers can be the end of your business before you even get your feet off of the ground.

Social Media

There is a bit of a divide in the industry as to whether or not startups should be spending money on social media advertising campaigns. Some thought leaders feel like social media activity should remain free and organic. But the truth is that social media marketing is the future of marketing. Your competitors are spending money on social media, and you should be as well. In the early stages, your social media spend does not have to be huge. Budget a few hundred dollars a month towards promoting facebook posts and tweets; make sure the spend is highly targeted to get the most out of your money. (That’s where the previously mentioned market research comes in handy.)

For sources and more information, check the following articles: Inc. , TechCrunch, Entrepreneurs, Forbes

Stereotypical Startup Culture Can Be Detrimental – Part 2

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Last month, I started to explore the ways that the stereotypical culture may be detrimental to a business’s overall health. This is not to say that there aren’t benefits to the fun, laid back atmosphere that everyone associates with startups.

However, I do believe it is important for entrepreneurs that are looking to grow their companies to consider these points when developing the plans for their company culture. We already touched on how many startups spend too much money and face the issue of unclear boundaries between superiors and subordinates. This month we’ll touch on a few more company culture decisions that may not reap the positive results that they are expected to reap.

 

The “Hands Off” Approach is Not Always Helpful

Many companies live and breath the low-key “laissez-faire” approach to management and culture. When hiring “cultural fits” is the focus of the recruitment process, the mindset is often that the new hires will fall into place. Many startups feel that it’s easier to just let the new hires adjust and discover things on their own, rather than forcing them into endless meetings and orientations when they start the job.

The problem with this approach is that the lack of engagement leaves the new employees’ development up to chance. If employees aren’t explicitly informed about the work quality and cultural expectations, they are never given the chance to develop according to the company’s intended standards. Company culture, standards of work, and the overall environment may begin to suffer over time as the lack of direction starts to take its toll.

 

Charisma Isn’t Everything

This is probably the most controversial point in this series. The reality is that many startups will hire based on culture fits, and the expected culture for startups is “fun, charismatic, people-persons”. This will undoubtedly make for a very pleasant place, full of employees who can easily make friends and create beautifully intune work.

But, it’s extremely important for startups to look beyond the perfect culture-fit and to also hire employees that have the skillsets and work ethics to build the startup into profitability and greatness. A business cannot be successful if everyone is fun and personable, but no one really has the skills that are necessary to build and innovate.


 

For more ideas on startup culture, check out the Entrepreneur articles that inspired me: here & here