Workplace Giving

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There are a number of ways that employers can support employees in their desire to give back, especially during the holiday period.  Employers themselves, can, of course, contribute to a charity directly, but, in the spirit of engagement, it is more special to allow employees a say over how the dollars or donations are being distributed.  Some employees will want to give to a specific charity that supports a cause near and dear to them.  Others will want to give to a specific person who they know is in need over the holidays.  Below is a description of the many ways that employers can facilitate the spirit of giving.

Workplace Giving through Deductions

If you work for a company, organization or the federal government, chances are you’ve had the opportunity to participate in a workplace giving program. Workplace giving is an easy and efficient way to make tax-deductible donations to the charities you care about with donations taken directly out of your paycheck. 

This type of giving can be set up through payroll and can be a one-time gift or can be set up as per paycheck deductions of either a percentage or dollar amount.  Many organizations will choose to match, at least to some degree, the dollars that employees contribute.

Employer Provided Donations

Some employers give their employees each a certain amount that they may contribute to any charity or person of their choosing.  The employers only ask, in return, is that the employee share what they choose to use the dollars for.  This can yield especially heartwarming stories of how the employee “spent” the money and what the surprised recipient’s reaction was.  Sharing these throughout an organization can spur others to think about ways they can actively better the life of another.

Non-cash Donations

Certainly not all contributions need to be in cash.  Opportunities abound over the holiday period for employees to bring in food for food drives.  Numbers of organizations will welcome the extra set of hands if groups of employees are available to help sort, shelve and package food items for delivery.  Some services, such as Meals on Wheels will allow the delivery of the food baskets also.

There are wonderful opportunities to make a child’s holiday bright be buying an extra gift or two as you are shopping for others on your list, to brighten a deserving child’s holiday.  Large organizations such as the Marines run annual campaigns like Toys for Tots, but smaller neighborhood organizations run gift drives as well.

Organizations may choose to set up an Angel Tree where an employee picks the name of a family or child and on the back is a description of the wants/needs of that family.  Companies can provide ornaments to replace each card that is chosen until the whole tree is filled with beautiful ornaments, a reflection of what has been given back.  

These are just a few ways that each and everyone one of us can feel what the true meaning of the holidays is all about- giving freely of our time and love to those around us.  

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.

Mergers and Acquisitions Terminology

Whether it’s a first car, a first house or a first job, there is always a first.  The same holds true for mergers and acquisitions.  You will likely always remember your first M&A activity regardless of whether your company was the acquirer or the acquiree.  You might, however, remember it more fondly if you were a part of the acquirer as often job losses can occur if you were part of the aquiree company.  You will hear a number of terms tossed around that everyone in the room seems to understand.  Below are a few of the basics that are part of most M&A activities.

Acquisition of Assets– also known as an asset sale- A merger

or consolidation in which an acquirer purchases the selling firm’s assets.  The can purchase all of the assets or only a select few and are not required to accept the liabilities.

Acquisition of stock or a stock sale-A merger or consolidation in which an acquirer purchases the acquiree’s stock.  This means they purchase all of the assets and all of the liabilities

Letter of intent or Agreement in Principle–An outline of the understanding between the two companies, including the price and the major terms.

Deal Structure–The nature of the fee paid by the acquiring entity in a merger transaction. Typical deal structure may include stock, cash or other valuable.

Due Diligence–In the process of an acquisition, the acquiring firm needs to see the target firm’s internal books as well as to audit their systems, processes and salaries. The acquiring firm does an internal audit. Offers are made contingent upon the findings of the due diligence process.  Most due diligence processes go on for at least 90 days, but can last up to 6 months or more in complex situations

EBITDA–Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

Restructuring–This can be as simple as selling off an unprofitable or unwanted division or as complex as re-structuring the entire way the new entity does business and is branded.  This is especially important when there is vertical or horizontal integration required.

Synergy–When the two companies are properly integrated and functioning, an output is achieved that is greater than the output obtained when the parts function independently

Human Resources should always play and important role up front in any due diligence process, as well as in the process of the actual merger of the two entities.

HR Financial Due Diligence– assessing HR financial risks, liabilities, and plan structures of compensation, benefits, and pension plans, workforce dynamics.

Human Capital Due Diligence assessing Human Capital aspects including culture, organizational structure, performance management, and workforce development approaches

Time spent up front will ensure that there are less unpleasant or unexpected surprises as the M&A activity draws to a close.

Why Internal Bid Programs Yield the Best Candidates

pexels-photo-70292 (1)Internal bid programs have long been considered to be one of the best sources for hires and promotions.   In fact, some sources indicate that existing employees make up over half of all successful candidates that filled positions in 2016 in some of America’s larger companies.

Even though the average posting may only attract 4-5 internal candidates versus an average of over 200+ external applicants, (or 1000’s if your ads are not written correctly) those internal candidates are far more likely to be successful as the final candidates.

So, doesn’t it makes sense to have a formal internal bid or internal mobility plan in place?  Well, yes it does, although one poll found that only 28% of Fortune 500 CHRO’s actually had a well-defined plan.  

Well defined would include:

    • Well thought out- put some real time into what type of plan will work best for your organization
    • Documented- get it down on paper, so to speak.  Make sure the steps make sense and that you have the technology to support it
    • Communicated- plan different communication mechanism- an employee newsletter, published posts on your intranet form employees who have bid and been accepted, announcements at your monthly stand ups
    • Adhered to- nothing is worse than putting a plan together, communicating it and then not following your own plan.  This means that EVERY position must be posted.  Nothing will derail your success faster than publishing some but all your positions
    • Promoted- find fun ways to promote the internal bid process- highlight the employees who have been successful.  Tie balloons to the cubes, hand out congratulations cupcakes.  Anything to bring attention to your program!
    • Tracked- ensure that you are tracking your metrics from the start and that you can report on your success.  Tracking your metrics will also tell you if certain teams are accepting more internal bids than others and allow you to focus your continued efforts in the right places

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The number one reason job seekers reported looking for new opportunities in one 2016 poll? Lack of advancement and promotional opportunities. Stated another way, what you don’t retain, you replace.

Recruiting is an expensive proposition no matter how you cut it.  In fact, almost 20% the dollars spent by an employer every year go toward the costs of recruiting and onboarding backfills.

So, well run internal bid programs not only make sense from an employee morale standout, but from a very real dollars and cents standpoint as well.

Doling Out Dollars

sherriesuski_dollarsIt’s merit increase time again.  “How hard can doling out dollars be?”, you think.  The budget is 3%, just give everyone on your team 3%, right?  Well, maybe, but let’s talk about a better way to evaluate and incentivize your team members.

Compensation is a blend of a science and an art.  Let’s talk about the science part first.  Done correctly, there should be salary ranges for your organization and sometimes multiple sets of salary ranges, depending on the physical locations in which you operate. These salary ranges should have been created by knowing your overall target market percentiles and the value of each job that you are slotting into your ranges in the market. It is often helpful to create a matrix for your managers to use when considering merit increases.  The performance rating should be on one axis and the quartile position in the salary range on the other axis. Keep in mind that the matrix is usually only a guideline.

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As employees move through their salary range, their salary growth should slow.  Someone who is performing at a 4 level, fully competent in their position, and in the 1st quartile, should receive a greater percentage increase than someone who is performing at the same level but is already in the 4th quartile.  Don’t be afraid to be open about this with your subordinates.  Compensation should not be a mystery.  Employees have a right to understand how their merit increase was calculated.  This can also open the door for conversations about career growth and additional responsibilities they could take on to move to the next salary grade.

Aside from merit increases, there are usually two additional types of increases that can happen.  One is a promotion, which is simple enough.  Someone is moving into a different position in a higher salary grade or is moving to a more senior position within their same job family.  The second type of increase is the market adjustment.  Perhaps the most misunderstood type of increase.  A market adjustment is not a way to give your employees more money without going over your merit budget, as many new managers believe.  A market adjustment is specifically used for an employee who is performing competently in their position, but is very low in their range.  Many organizations will restrict market adjustments to employees who are performing at a level 4 or 5 and are in the first quartile of their salary range.  This increase, in addition to the merit increase should bring the employee to the 2nd quartile or as high as the midpoint of the salary range.

The last topic is a merit increase that is called lump sum or one time merit increases.  There are pros and cons of implementing lump sum increases.  

These types of merit increase are reserved for employees performing at a level 4 or 5 and at the very top of their range.  The theory is you are already paying these employees above the 100th percentile of the market and do not want to continue to increase their base salary. You do, however, want to continue to reward and incentivize them.  If you decide to implement lump sums, they are usually given at about ½ the amount of a regular merit increase and paid all at one time at the beginning of the year.

So, now you know, doling out the dollars, can be a little more complicated than just giving everyone 3%, but, done correctly, you can continue to incentivize your best employees!

Raising Funds For Your Startup – Without Investors

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You’re an entrepreneurial spirit; you have an idea and you know it has potential, but you’re just not sure what to do next.

Well, one of the first things you’re going to have to do is get some money. That’s the hard and fast truth; it’s incredibly difficult to get a business off of the ground without at least a little bit of financial capital to work with. But for some, the idea of fundraising is appalling, and finding funds through an investor seems even more daunting.

The good news is that there are ways to build funds for your business in its first phase that don’t involve pitching to potential investors. So, if you’re an investor who wants to avoid the standard path to fundraising, explore some of these alternatives:

 

Back Yourself

This is probably the most difficult (and scary) option to wrap your head around, but honestly, if you really believe in your business, you should be ready and willing to invest yourself fully into your idea. Depending on how financially established you are, you may have a few options that you can tap into. Look at your savings, and determine how much you can reasonably put towards your business. If you have a mortgage you may be able to refinance / make use of your home equity.

Remember, no one is going to want to invest in a business if its founder isn’t willing to put a bit of their own money on the line.

 

Partner with the Correct People

This really comes down to networking and networking well. If you have people in your network that believe in both your business idea and you, you may very well have the co-founders or investors you’re looking for right there within arm’s reach.

As an entrepreneur, you should always be working your network, and your network’s network to build connections. You’ve probably already researched the various channels you’ll need to access when growing your business (distributions, supplies, clientele, etc.), and made connections with people in all of those realms. Don’t be afraid to look for investors within those channels.

One of the most important parts of your business will be the people that you build it with. If you can get an existing supplier to invest in your business, you’ll not only have an investor….you’ll have the supplies that you need.


There are a few other ways that you can get around the investor pitch. Check back soon for more ideas!

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