Four Steps To A More Dynamic Workplace At Your Startup

Working on a new venture can be an inspiring and intensely rewarding experience. However, whilst you’re starting up and trying things out, efficiency may suffer. Every little helps, so Peter Ames from Office Genie is here to help with a few tips that could boost productivity.

Start-up workers at a Herzliya accelerator (Photo credit: Times of Israel)

 

Go paperless

Invest in a cloud-based document storage system such as Google Drive or Microsoft’s Skydrive (both are free in their basic packages – so it shouldn’t be too much of an investment). In addition to allowing you to store all your data and documents digitally in a free online drive, with both of these you can also share documents between staff.

This is a real bonus, it means you may not have to print off reams of paper before a meeting; everyone can access notes online, something that also makes collaboration that bit easier. In addition, going paperless, with the help of one of these apps, give you the chance to make your business a little greener in its early stages, when such things are easier to implement.

Go remote

One of the further benefits of going paperless, and particularly of using a cloud-based document storage system, is that it can make working remotely much easier: You can access all your documents from anywhere with a good internet connection. It makes working on the move or out of the office much more convenient.

There are whole host of ways remote-working can benefit a startup and make staff that bit more productive:

  • You can have a smaller office space if you don’t have to house a full team. Save some money and pump it back into the business.
  • Some tasks just aren’t suited to an office. If you’ve got editorial staff let them work from home every so often where they might find relief from ‘the office buzz’.
  • Even a simple change of scenery can stop things from stagnating and keep staff inspiration flowing.

Do more with your to-do lists

Of course, one step to a more efficient business is to get staff to keep to-do lists. If increasing numbers of your employees are working from home, it makes sense to have them keep to-do lists they can access from anywhere. This is where apps such as Evernote or Wunderlist comes into their own.

They’re a note-taking apps that let you access your notes (i.e. your to-do lists) wherever, whenever and on whatever device. Both have an app for pretty much all major devices and operating systems. You can also share notes over email; making these a handy app to have open in a meeting!

And whilst we’re on the subject of to-do lists…

Look into an online tool such as Basecamp. On the face of it this is just another to-do list app, albeit a particularly useful one that allows you to create any number of lists and sub-lists and tick tasks off when they’re done. The real beauty of Basecamp is the collaborative nature of the tool. When you’ve added a task, you can assign it to a fellow member of staff and add comments as the project progresses.

It’s also worth considering alternative such as Workzone, this offers you most of the key collaborative features of Basecamp with the addition of things such as ‘Time tracking’ and ‘Workload reports’ so staff can make sure they’re not focusing all their energy into one task.

Peter Ames writes on behalf of www.officegenie.co.uk, a site where you can find desk and office space in the United Kingdom

 

Innovation and Employee Retention

source: Futurestep

source: Futurestep


Innovation has long been cited as a driver of  long-term revenue and profit growth in organizations.  However, studies are now showing that there is also an increasing relationship between innovation and employee retention.

In a recent study published by talent solutions provider, Futurestep, the more than 4,000 skilled employee respondents seemed to be sending companies a very clear message: that innovation seen in strategies for recruitment, employee development and employee retention greatly impacts the employee relationship.

According to Futurestep CEO, Byrne Mulrooney, the study defined innovation as change, improvements and forward-thinking.  Employees were seen to be looking for innovation from the very first encounter with the organization during recruitment. Then they expected to continue seeing it in the organization’s employee development plan. And finally, it was equally important that they saw innovation in the company’s retention programs as well.

Of the respondents, only 36% thought that their current companies were innovative. And in another survey done on over 800 HR professionals, over 74% said that they believed their organizations could do more to foster innovation for them to attract and retain talent.

The demands on innovation may seem particularly high. But not taking this message to heart could have huge detrimental impacts to the total organization. In recruitment, innovation is more likely to create a successful impact on a potential recruit.  Even happy employees are not immune, with 55% saying they would consider leaving their satisfying jobs if they were approached with innovative recruitment methods.

In development, 44% of employees say that they will leave their jobs if they see no innovations in store of them.

And don’t forget that all human to organization contact points that perceive innovation has a bearing on the overall company brand.  Employees and recruits are possible consumers too. And they can advertise so much by the virtue of word of mouth. So an organization’s innovation or lack thereof, can give either a benefit or detriment, respectively, to your company’s total image as well.

For a slight counterpoint, see this post on the danger of employment branding.

You can download the full report from Futurestep here.

5 Ways to Become an Extraordinary Leader

Boss vs. Leader

Some people are born leaders. They always know the right things to say and what needs to be done to achieve their goals. Naturally influential, they easily attract the respect of their followers and colleagues, able to motivate others to work towards a greater objective. But how do they achieve this? And how can others, especially those just beginning to take on a leadership role, emulate their success?

If you feel that you have been unsuccessful in gaining the respect of your employees, have been failing at motivating them, or just simply could not charm your way out of a paper bag, here are 5 ways you can improve yourself as a leader.

1. Do

Do rather than dictate. Just because you are a CEO, a supervisor, or manager, does not automatically make you a leader. Telling everyone what to do and making demands while you sit behind your desk is less than inspirational. Being active and involved in a project, actually getting your hands dirty, will show your employees that you know what you’re doing and that you care about the project. Rather than micro-managing or attempting to control your employees, be one of them. Work alongside them. Just as with team sports, seeing your team captain out there taking hits and putting his heart in the game will inspire you to play harder. Be an example of what you want them to be.

2. Listen

A lot of the time, following your gut and listening to your instincts can be extremely effective. But other times, what you may think is the best solution might not be. Before you make an important decision, get the opinions of others and open your mind to other ideas. What is pressing them? What works for them? What issues are they seeing that you are not? Not only is listening helpful to getting a better handle on the bigger picture and recognizing the existence of other factors, but it also shows your employees that their input matters to you. It shows that you care, and that you are not just out for your own personal interest. Working as team is important, and you must remember that not only are you leading a team, but you are part of that team.

3. Recognize

One of the best ways to bolster productivity and earn the respect of your employees is by showing that you respect them and appreciate the work they are doing. Effective employee recognition begins with finding meaningful and creative ways to make someone feel like the work they are doing is valuable to the company. You don’t have to be their best friend. Just show that you care. Realize that your employees are people who are trying to earn a living and have everyday struggles just like you do. Say thanks, and mean it.

4. Be Positive & Stay Calm

All too often I have dealt with Debbie Downer managers. People who have taken on so much responsibility that they become nervous wrecks, stressing out over anything and everything and taking out their frustrations on their employees as a result. I understand that work can be intensely consuming and overwhelming. With all the fires that need extinguishing, it is easy to forget about the feelings of others. Take a moment to realize that negativity can quickly permeate a room. If you are expressing yourself in an unpleasant way, others around you will might end up feeling anxious too. They will also be less likely to want to be around you or seek your advice. If you want people to follow you, and want to follow you, make it a positive experience. Don’t stress the little things, make yourself dependable and accessible so that others will give you the support you need. That way, everyone wins.

5. Be Extraordinary

As a leader, you are supposed to stand out. The greatest leaders are not just any Average Joes, but people who appeal to a crowd because they offer a new, exciting perspective that people want to be a part of. They are so passionate that they want others to share in it. They are inspirational because they demonstrate confidence and offer something that’s real. People should feel that, under your guidance, they can accomplish anything they strive to accomplish. And they can, as long as you truly want to share your dreams of success with them. Engage them. If you are extraordinary and allow others to be extraordinary, then extraordinary things will most certainly happen.

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” —Douglas MacArthur

Water Fights, Karaoke and Scrapbooks – 6 ways to make employees feel special on a budget.

Sunset High Five

Photo Courtesy of johnwiechecki on Flickr

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou, Author

Making others feel good is not just a nice thing to do, but it makes you feel good too. Showing your employees and coworkers that you appreciate them inspires motivation and improves morale and productivity within a company. Giving worthwhile recognition is not dependent on the amount of money you spend, recognition is about sincerely appreciating the hard work others do and really meaning it when you say “thank you”. You can’t put a price on memories.

Here are a few Low Cost Recognition Ideas, as well as a Recognition Playlist to get you inspired and spreading the love.

1.  Greet employees every morning, reinforcing the message “I’m glad you’re here.”  It may sound corny, but that’s okay – your job isn’t to win popularity contests, its to make your employees and coworkers feel special.

2. Organize a department-wide water-gun fight in the parking lot in their honor. It’s unusual, it’s fun, employees will remember it for a long time.  Super soakers for employees, tiny water guns for managers – think about it.

3. Let them park in your parking space for a week.  Often times, it’s the little things that make people feel special.  Don’t have a parking space? Buy them a weekly pass at a nearby garage.

4. Put together a scrapbook of memories for an employee who is celebrating a milestone anniversary. Give each person on the team a blank page to fill out with stories or pictures of their experiences with that employee. Then, after the public recognition moment, the individual has not only a treasured award from the company but something from their coworkers that captures their feelings.

5. Create a homemade fun award that is appropriate to what is being recognized. MeritShare provides a fun way to give out virtual awards to your employees and peers that can be humorous yet meaningful.  Customize an award to your company culture, make it fun for people to give and receive!

6. Gather co-workers to sing a light-hearted rendition of a song such as “You Light Up My Life,” “We Are the Champions,” etc.  We put together an employee recognition playlist for you.  If you do this, be sure to record it and put it on Youtube – then send us the link.  Seriously. 

Recognition Playlist:

Building a Company Culture: Live Your Values

protectculture

With the emergence of the Information Revolution and significant advancements in technology, the 21st century arrived with exciting promises of new opportunities for intellectual as well as professional growth. Unlike previous generations, the wage earners of today, many of them Millennials, are more likely to switch careers rather than stay at one job as more rewarding prospects are presented. So what, then, motivates an employee to remain with a company? What provides more satisfaction than the promise of a fatter paycheck?

Jay Wilkinson, president of Firespring, offers an answer.

In the mid 1990’s, Wilkinson launched a company that developed websites, one of the first to do it at a commercial level since the invention of the Internet. Along with a few friends, he started from the bottom and climbed his way to the top, eventually receiving money that allowed him to improve the company and expand into ten more cities around the country. Unfortunately, as tensions arose from infighting and as the economy “tanked” after 9/11, Wilkinson was removed as CEO of his own company. After years of planning and “lean[ing] very very heavy” on the people in the company, he eventually regained control of the company. Now the company has upwards of 70 employees, 3,000 customers in 12 countries, and was named one of 2011 Inc. Magazine’s top 50 Small Company Workplaces. Wilkinson attributes all of this success and the company’s redemption to the way they have built their Company Culture.

What is a Company Culture, and why is it so important to the people working a company? A culture is defined as a set of values and principles shared by members of the group. Some companies have generic values, while others seek to exercise values that coincide with the interests of their employees. People like to be involved, to be recognized, and to feel that the work they are doing is worthwhile. Just offering free coffee and snacks is not enough to make someone feel appreciated. Employees like to feel like they are part of family, all striving towards unity in a goal that benefits everyone.

At Firespring, there are 3 steps they use to “design a sustainable company culture”.

  1. Define your values- Instead of coming up with a predictable list of values, think of values that really resonate with your employees. Get them involved and see what inspires them.
  2. Hire your values- You don’t want just anybody working for your company. You want the people who are passionate about the same values because it adds to the unity of the workplace; everyone working towards one goal. It is more beneficial to a company to hire someone who shares the same mindset as the rest of the crew rather than someone who just has a lot of skills. As Wilkinson says, “Don’t hire the haters”.
  3. Live your values- “Create fellowship” among staff. Show employee and peer recognition. Offer an environment for your employees to grow, work hard, and learn while also providing a fun culture. Being serious all the time was never fun for anyone.

It is evident from Wilkinson’s presentation that Firespring has become a tight-knit community of people who love what they do and love the people they work with because of the culture they have created. They work together, learn together, and have fun together. If you are a company struggling to compete in today’s fast-paced society, it is important to remember that it’s the people, the cogs in the machine, who make a company great.

A Millennial Mindset: Expand or Get Left Behind

Jenn Ballard, Marketing Specialist at MeritShare

Jenn Ballard, Marketing Specialist at MeritShare

This is the first post by Jenn Ballard who is a marketing specialist for MeritShare and helping the team adopt a Millennial mindset.

Now that I am nearly a quarter of a century old, I have accumulated a solid amount of work experience. Looking back at the variety of jobs I’ve held and all of the people I’ve worked with, I’m now noticing the increasing age gap in the workplace and the drama it can lead to.  The recent Forbes article by Jeanne Meister about adopting a Millennial mindset greatly resonated with me.  I was surprised to read that one third of US workers say their boss is younger than they are (according to a recent study by CareerBuilder).

In competitive work environments, where stress runs high as demands increase and employees struggle to make ends meet while desiring recognition for their hard work, it can be difficult to accept that someone younger than you is achieving more success. The injustice of it may even add fuel to the fire.

This is why the Pew Research center created a quiz to illustrate how instead of battling these Millennials, making an effort to adopt a similar mindset could actually relieve some tension as well as improve your performance and the performance of your workplace as a whole. The fact is, by 2020, Millennials will comprise nearly half of the USA workforce and, by 2030, 75% of the global workforce! The Millennials and what they accomplish will help determine our future, so it is important to understand them and work with them. Millennials move faster and think faster, constantly using social technology to connect with others and receive information. The Pew quiz suggests “building” social into your life, such as using social media like Facebook or playing social games instead of watching TV. This just amplifies your options of communication, and opens your connections to diverse groups of people. It is important to be digitally literate and connected to one another, because that is the way we invite others to be open to each other and accept people of all cultures.

Times are different now than they were then and the workforce is constantly increasing in diversity. I will be looking to those with much more experience for advice and I hope they might learn something from me. Everyone has something they can teach others, no matter how old or young they are. The workplace will always be changing and expanding; expand with it so you don’t get left behind.

The 3 Key Forces Behind Motivation

It’s not about money.

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, best-selling author Dan Pink reveals the 3 key principles that drive motivation  – Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose.  The need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. In a interview with Harvard Business Review, Pink says  ”As for recognition, the diaries revealed that it does indeed motivate workers and lift their moods. So managers should celebrate progress, even the incremental sort”.  HBR adds, “recognition is a form of feedback which is essential to achieving mastery”.

If you have not seen this video by RSA Animate using Pink’s popular TED Talk, you need to.  Pink provides an undeniable case based on extensive research and studies including the work of Mihalyi Czentsmihaly on flow.

Do you work with people who have mastered an area, skill or characteristic?  If so, let them know with a public kudos and acknowledge their mastery and professional reputation on Linkedin and online.

 

Make Work Better: Hire Millennials [Infographic]

As the baby boomers to hit retirement age, they will be replaced by “Generation Y” or “Millennials,” who number almost 80 million.  This talented and diverse group of employees  want to learn and grow with their company.  Millennials are motivated by having a sense of accomplishment.   As this infographic shows, 80% of Millennials prefer on the on the spot recognition and real-time feedback.  You can now go online and instantly thank a co-worker with the new way to give kudos.  Millennials are tech-savvy social media enthusiasts.  You don’t have to friend them on Facebook or follow on Twitter, but at the minimum, connect with them on Linkedin and build out your own professional network of fresh talent.

geny-in-the-workplace-infographic-mba-at-unc

 Infographic by UNC

Related Post and Infographic: Millennials are super-savers