Archive | May, 2013

If Something is Worth Doing…

22 May

8912598-italian-girl-with-pizza-and-wineI’ll bet you think you know what words are coming next; but you’d be wrong.

About twenty-five years ago I was working for a company where the CEO was a wild man. I don’t mean a Robinson Crusoe, beard down to his belt, living on a tropical island-kind of wild man; I mean a guy who expressed some great ideas in the most unexpected ways. And among my favorite of his expressions was the following:

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.”

Now on the surface of it, that might not seem like a terribly wise business mantra. But let me give you some background as to when and where I initially heard it said.

It was in a technology company; it was the late 80s or early 90s and I had just joined their marketing department. The timing of my arrival just happened to coincide with the early planning stages for a major trade show we were to attend. And the topic of conversation was how we were going to present ourselves at this conference.

Now keep in mind – this was “back in the day” when if someone said “computer”, the name that popped first into everyone’s head was IBM. And tradeshows were serious affairs; “doing something bold” at your booth usually meant that you opted for a yellow tie instead of a red one to go with your blue suit. In fact, at my preceding job I had once had the gall to ask the marketing manager there “what color suit” should I wear at an upcoming conference and received the helpful answer “Any color you like – as long it’s blue”.

That answer didn’t sit well with me, and I bided my time until I was in a position – at a different company, of course – to try to do something about it.

So when I realized that my arrival at this new company – in a position of some influence – coincided with their planning for an upcoming event, I couldn’t resist the temptation to suggest that we try something a little daring at the upcoming show. I suggested that we arrange our booth – and staff – to look like an old-fashioned, neighborhood Italian restaurant. Bistro tables. Red-and-white checkered tablecloths. Menus instead of the usual product data sheets. And booth staff dressed up like waiters and waitresses.

The reaction was phenomenal. Everyone hated it.

Well – almost everyone. The CEO, normally a very active participant in corporate discussions, was surprisingly quiet. He was listening to everyone else in the conference room telling me why my idea wouldn’t work. Heck – “wouldn’t work” was how the nicest of my new colleagues were phrasing it; others were openly questioning my sanity, my employment, and the very distinct possibility that I was overly self-medicating.

And yet when I started listening – really listening – to peoples’ comments, I realized that it wasn’t the “restaurant theme” that everyone objected to. It was that fact that everyone felt that we couldn’t do justice to that theme. The objections ranged from “we can’t actually serve food or wine”, to “we don’t have time to change our existing booth graphics” to look like restaurant menus.

That’s when our CEO uttered those unforgettable words:

“Well you know . . . I kind of like the whole restaurant approach, and I think that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.”

Needless to say that broke the tension in the room pretty well and it was a good two or three minutes before all of us regained our composure . . . not to mention our chairs. And then some poor soul asked our CEO:

“You mean you want us to do a bad job?”

And that’s when our CEO explained what he meant. Many organizations shy away from bold new initiatives because they are afraid of failure. That’s nothing new. But our CEO explained that in his experience, many organizations chose not to try something new because they were afraid that they weren’t going to be able to do as good a job on it as they’d like to.

That’s right – there’s “fear of failure” and then there’s “fear of incomplete success” – and it’s the latter of these that our CEO was talking about. You see, nobody wants to undertake a project thinking that he or she will be able to get it to only 65% (or so) complete. As humans, we are trained to envision the end-result of a project and that end result vision is rarely, if ever, imperfect or incomplete.

But that’s exactly how we should envision many of our business initiatives.

Because — when it comes down to choosing between a project imperfectly done and a project not attempted at all, it’s better to try and partially succeed rather than to not try at all. A project attempted can be evaluated, improved upon, or even abandoned. As long as you set your expectations so that “imperfection is acceptable”, your finished project will be good enough to fairly evaluate its current success and its potential for even greater success in the future.

So – the next time you have the opportunity to try something new but are concerned that you might not have all the resources to “do it right”, go ahead and do it anyway. After all, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.

(Oh yes – and we DID end up doing the Italian restaurant theme at the show that year and it was a huge success.)

Today’s guest post comes from Don Farber. Don writes frequently for the Employer Solutions blog and is a leading spokesperson on the value of business activity monitoring. Don has over 25 years’ experience in the front-office and back-office software industry and is co-founder and Vice President of Vineyardsoft Corporation. Don is a frequent speaker at industry events and author of numerous white papers on such subjects as identifying support rep burnout, enabling organizations to become more ‘data-driven’, and cost-effective compliance.

Is Your Workplace Negative?

20 May

Negative WorkplaceToday’s guest post comes to us from Brandon Smith. Therapist, professor, consultant and radio host, Brandon brings an upbeat, witty approach to the challenges of workplace health and dysfunction. Brandon is the founder of – a resource dedicated to eliminating dysfunction at work, improving workplace health and restoring optimism and focus in the workplace. Brandon also currently serves as faculty at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School where he teaches and researches on topics related to leadership, communication and healthy workplace dynamics.

My Work Place is Negative

I get it. The last several years have been tough. “Do more with less… there won’t be any raises this year… you are lucky to have a job… we may have to close our doors tomorrow…” Working day-in and day-out under these conditions can get to anyone. A therapist colleague told me a story that I think captures this sentiment perfectly. Several years ago he had a client who was in a highly toxic, negative and abusive relationship. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get her to change her perspective. One day he finally came to a realization. Here’s what he told her, “I’m a very healthy person. And yet, if I were in the relationship you are in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I would be just as broken-down, lost and as negative as you are.” Workplace negativity can get to us. To that point, here was a question I received over the past week from a reader that I think sums up many of our collective feelings of frustration at the office:

Where we work, the morale is terrible. Everyone is overworked, frustrated with our demanding customers and generally burned out. As a result, we are handling stress in negative and unhealthy ways. What specific tools can we use to change the negative and unhealthy ways we are handling stress? For example, I would like to put a punching bag in the back so we can hit it as a way to vent and then hopefully go about our business a bit happier.

To feel so stressed and frustrated that the idea of hitting something sounds like the perfect cure truly says it all. And to the reader’s question, what is the right solution? Is a punching bag in the back room the answer or is it something else? While a punching bag may sufficiently empty out the negativity from our veins, it doesn’t resolve the core issue. Negativity has infected our workplaces and unless treated, no amount of punching bags are going to fix the problem.

Stomping Out Negativity At Work

Below are a few different treatment options for eliminating negativity at work. Feel free to take them in combination. Daily doses are recommended.

  • Leadership needs to declare war. A critical starting place for eliminating negativity at work is for leadership to take a stand and declare all-out war against any forms of negativity at work. This can be the boss or a team decision. Regardless, those who lead need to announce that negativity is no longer welcome and they must be prepared to confront it at every turn. What does this mean? I’ve seen leaders who are serious about fighting negativity send an employee home when they become “infected.”
  • Make it a game. A second treatment option is to turn the negative moments at work into positive events by reframing them. In other words, make it a game. For example, I worked with an insurance company several years ago that had developed an interesting way to combat negativity at work. During the week, customer service reps would take a beating with disgruntled customers. At the end of each week, reps would meet and share their most difficult customer interactions. Whoever had the most difficult or challenging encounter won the “crazy customer” trophy. A huge oversized trophy, the “crazy customer” trophy would live at the desk of the rep who won it until the next week when more stories were shared. Games and fun competition can take a negative event and create a more playful team experience.
  • Throw out all the bad apples. Sometimes negative work environments are the product of a bad apple – an employee who is so negative he / she is poisoning everyone else. If there is a bad apple coworker in your midst, inviting them to leave is a necessary first step.

There you have it – strategies for eliminating negativity at work. Feel free to combine any of the above remedies. Take regularly and often.

Of course, if nothing else works throw up the bag in the back and wear it out. Who knows? You might find you have a future in the ring.

Get Informed Before You Switch Payroll Processing

17 May

For businesses in today’s economy, there are more payroll processing options than ever before, and deciding what method will work best for your company can be daunting. If you’re thinking about switching how your payroll is processed or are curious about what is currently available, taking action on the following steps is a good place to start.

Making the First Step
If you are a seasoned business and are considering a change to your payroll processing system, before you make any decisions or put a plan in motion, you must first begin the evaluation process. At this stage in the game, the more questions you ask, the better. What compensation structure works best for your employees? Monthly? Bimonthly? How do you track employee hours? What about overtime? Paid time off? Health plans? Income taxes? Payroll taxes?

You’ll want to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your current workforce and identify the best person or team most capable of facilitating the switch. If you cannot identify a suitable person, consider hiring an experienced payroll processing professional as an independent contractor to help you make the transition. Payroll administration requires a high commitment to detail and accuracy and regardless of which route you take; any efforts must be comprehensive and dedicated.

It’s also in the best interest of the company to assess the timing of your payroll change, paying close attention to current economic conditions and growth trajectory of the firm. For example, a recent and robust expansion in business may make it a good time to reconsider your payroll processing—especially if there are plans to boost hiring significantly to maintain your growth.

What may have worked for you with just 50 employees begins to be strained by the demands of 200+ employees. In addition to this consideration, many common mistakes and errors in payroll processing become more visible and potentially dangerous to operations when you increase the number of employees.

Functionality a Determining Factor
Upon sketching a rough outline of what business factors will influence what payroll processing options to pursue, it’s then time to transition to the subject of functionality. After all, payroll processing doesn’t just need to work for the company, it needs to work—period.

Many companies that choose payroll processing software often do so without accounting for the range of capabilities and features a solution must possess in order to improve the business and save it time and money. Before you approach a vendor, determine what functions you’ll need or desire to be included in the processing software.

Again, asking yourself questions on what is needed from a solution is the best path to reaching an optimal selection: How frequent are tax updates sent through? What security checks are in place? Can we integrate existing data into the new platform? What payment options exist? How does it prevent fraud?

Besides ensuring a solution effectively addresses and takes care of standard compliance issues, it’s good practice to investigate what other added value such a service can provide. For example, many payroll processing software vendors offer deduction and earning codes, shortcuts that enable automatic and accurate deductions from employee paychecks regarding health insurance or child care. If your company’s pay structure is more complex, you’ll want to pursue vendors that can allow you to customize your own codes. Other features to look for include direct deposit, employee garnishments, and piecework pay codes that assign and track employee pay based on work completed.

It’s also worth examining the basic features of payroll processing, like electronic tax filing, which is paramount in any payroll software. This feature allows you to fill out and submit tax forms electronically and eliminates the need for printing out forms, organizing them, and mailing them out to the appropriate office—which can result in huge time savings!

It’s also crucial that employees have sufficient access and interaction with the system. Opting for a solution that can seamlessly allow for employees to view documents and pay stubs is important both to HR compliance and employee engagement.

Making a Choice and Implementing the System
After pegging down what payroll processing solution your business needs and what features and accommodations it should have, it’s time to research the market. Spend time closely evaluating all vendors, and consider their reputations and relationships with past clients. Pay close attention to how vendors service clients, price their solutions, and ensure their networks are secure.

Finally, once all has been said and done and a solution has been decided upon for implementation, you’ll need to ready your operations for the change. The most important function when readying the business is making sure you have the hardware needed for installation. It may also behoove the organization to solicit the services of an implementation team. But that’s only the half of it. Once in place, businesses must still conduct routine check-ups into how the solution has performed and what benefits it has provided or how it has streamlined operations.

After determining who can help facilitate the change, when the ideal time is to switch, and what functions your business needs out of payroll processing software. Evaluate which vendors most closely align with your values, budget, and business needs. Then it’s easy. Make the switch and reap the rewards!

Need more information about changing payroll processing? Visit our library of Human Resources Best Practices and Tools to download white papers like “The 15 Factors to Consider When Changing How You Process Payroll” or “Stay In Control: The Benefits of In-House Payroll Software.”

How to Develop a Sound Telecommuting Policy

15 May

Technological innovations have played a crucial role in shaping the work environments of modern offices. While HR software solutions have streamlined processes and freed up resources, advances like mobile communication and video conferencing tools have enabled more workers than ever to craft their own schedules and work from outside the office while still being connected with coworkers and others every step of the way.

The trend in a mobile-enabled workforce is gaining steam among businesses in surging numbers. A recent survey by Challenger, Grey & Christmas found 80 percent of HR executives said their organization extends telecommuting options to employees in some capacity. Other findings indicate telecommuting isn’t a passing fad, but an increasingly essential aspect to a talent management strategy: 97 percent of respondents that offer telecommuting options said they had no plans to cease such benefits.

Yet for all the popularity and growing acceptance of telecommuting, such policies have become a lightning rod for controversy recently. The most notable example of this contentious issue was the refutation of work-from-home options by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who ordered company employees to stop telecommuting. In the process, she ignited a debate on the merits and detractors of telecommuting. Through it all, at least one insight was gleaned: Telecommuting, no matter the personal opinions of a select few, is here to stay.

As such, HR professionals and company management need to address the issue of telecommuting by developing a strategy that is aligned with talent management aspects and employee needs. Policy-making is essential to maintaining a beneficial telecommuting position, and below are a few steps to take to ensure organizations reach that goal.

Keep Data Security in Mind
While new technology has been a boon to businesses and employees, it has also been a revelation for less scrupulous individuals. The issue of privacy and data security must be a primary concern for any firm that allows telecommuting.

To ensure data security is addressed, the first step is requiring employees who use personal devices to access company and client information to lock their devices with passwords. While that may seem like a simple enough function, it’s important that firms require alphanumeric keywords to lock personal devices. Consisting of capital and lowercase letters and numerals, such passwords are the hardest to crack and are needed to safeguard private data.

It’s also important for companies to weigh the pros and cons of storing information on public cloud platforms. Such channels for data storage are susceptible to breaches, and firms may do better to store and allow access through a virtual private network with a more secure connection.

Formulate Policy so Benefits Aren’t Diluted
One common problem that businesses run into when crafting a telecommuting policy is balancing the benefits of working from home with the needs of the office. Ensuring productivity is not lessened, while still maintaining a level of freedom, is paramount to a successful policy.

To do this, it’s critical that HR decision makers do not limit the aspects of telecommuting that make it attractive to workers, like requiring employees to check in on the hour. Instead, it should be sufficient that an employee is simply available through online messaging or video conferencing if others need to get in contact.

Additionally, the inherent flexibility of telecommuting needs to be protected under the policy to have it work toward better employee engagement. Having a schedule of planned work-from-home days is neither constricting nor hurtful to the effectiveness of a policy. Rather, it keeps everybody on the same page.

Why Onboarding Could Be the Most Important Process for the Success of Your Organization

6 May

Before employers can even begin to think about putting a new hire to work, it’s essential that they run an onboarding program to help newbies get acclimated to their work environment.

However, it’s crucial that businesses don’t equate onboarding with mere orientation training. While the latter provides new hires with the most basic of details on their new surroundings and job requirements, a true onboarding program accomplishes much more with an eye turned toward the long term.

An effective and refined onboarding strategy may prove to be one of the most integral factors that go into securing company success, generating a positive return on employee investment, and ensuring the workforce is knowledgeable and motivated.

The key to implementing a beneficial onboarding program lies in understanding the needs of new employees and balancing that with what the company wants to achieve through greater employee engagement and talent management. While it may seem like a banal chore to employers, with consideration of the talent gap in mind, advanced onboarding strategies have never been more important.

Components to a Successful Onboarding Program
Even though onboarding programs have evolved to become a more valuable employee engagement tool, recently, the basis for such initiatives is still drawn from fundamental introductory steps that employers have taken for ages.

These include simple actions like familiarizing new employees with coworkers and colleagues they’ll interact with on a daily basis, ensuring they have completed vital HR and employment verification documents, and raising awareness about company benefits. Creating a drop-in schedule to check in on progress during the hire’s first days, week, and month with the organization can also help.

But these are common steps to take that HR can do in its sleep; while they constitute the basic workings of an onboarding program, they do not represent the crux of a successful one. That added value lies in the strategic elements employers incorporate into their existing onboarding regimen.

For example, two guiding principles to a tactful onboarding program are folding the new employee into the corporate culture in order to foster talent development and utilizing the transition as a means to generating a return on employee investment that benefits both employee and employer in the long term.

There are several different ways in which that objective can be accomplished, like introducing the employee to the brand in an informal and educational manner. In order for employees to strengthen their brand through work, they must first know it like the back of their hand. By simply discussing brand image, integrity, profile, vision, and mission, employers can engage new hires and sufficiently immerse them in the brand and prepare them for meaningful work in the field.

New Tech Strategies Boost Onboarding Effectiveness
HR software solutions that automate payroll and other functions aren’t the only technological advancements that have spurred innovation in onboarding; increasingly, employers have turned to social media in order to welcome new hires and familiarize them with the company, its people, and its culture.

Especially considering the influx of millennial generation talent into the workforce, social media has become a primary channel for onboarding at forward-thinking organizations.

The benefits of social media-integrated onboarding structures are many. Employers and employees are afforded an interactive, personable, and casual environment in which to interact and build relationships with one another. Social media use also helps streamline processes and communications and makes new hires feel welcome and appreciated, which primes them to deliver to their fullest.

“If you want to enable those new hires to make a difference as soon as possible and fit into the culture of the company, go social: Give them the kinds of communication tools they are already using outside work,” Karie Willyerd wrote for a recent Harvard Business Review article on social and onboarding.

Onboarding Still Needs to Approach Greater Company Goals
Even though the onboarding process may be dismissed as a routine training program or taken lightly because of the honeymoonesque feel to it, in order for onboarding to be successful, it must reflect the goals and aspirations of the company.

This new and improved onboarding has become a major strength to employers, which have seen results when aligning onboarding with organizational objectives.

A recent investigation into the process of advanced onboarding published in the MIT Sloan Management Review outlined some of the ways companies can engage employees through onboarding while still focusing on the company as a whole.

For instance, connecting with employees and discussing their own identity and strengths and skills as people can benefit both employer and employee. The latter is happy because he or she feels valued as a talent asset and not a mere cog in a machine, while the former benefits from gleaning greater insight into the employee’s abilities and motivation, which can be applied in future initiatives.

Research, experience, and just about every sign there is point to a new age of onboarding wherein employers and employees are holistically more supportive and interactive. Better onboarding leads to better recruiting, retention, and return on employee investment. Advanced onboarding strategies are proven tactics, ones increasingly important to the overall success and well-being of the business and the employee.

The Rewards of Training Incentives

3 May

Offering employees incentives for heightened performance or for reaching a sales goal are common talent management strategies employers take to motivate their workforce or improve employee engagement.

However, while most of the focus in compensation revolves around the standard fare of incentives, meeting quarterly goals, or selling a product the firm wanted to push, organizations can benefit from utilizing a less hyped bonus program: training incentives.

Considering consumers can now access the limitless product and brand research tool that is the Internet with a swipe of their finger, firms are increasingly finding that it’s not so much about how much an employee sells, but how much he knows.

Yet as more companies engage in training incentive initiatives, many are finding difficulty in running such programs. It all boils down to knowing what motivates employees, what incentives will produce results, and how closely businesses can align those incentives with corporate goals.

Where to Start
The first thing to know about training incentives is that they aren’t commonly used to incentivize basic training regimens employees must undergo to grasp the rudimentary skill and requirements of the job. Instead, such incentives are primarily used to spur employees into seeking advanced training that expands their skill repertoire, educates them more thoroughly on product and company details, or prepares them for another job within the company.

For example, SHRM recently profiled the training incentive program run at Maryland-based Hudson Trail Outfitters—which employs some 300 people across five locations—and how it uses training incentives to motivate and educate. The Hudson Trail programs consist of training employees on how to size backpacks, skis, shoes, and bikes. The company typically hosts 30 product training clinics a year, with invitations going out only to high-performing employees.

What Motivates Employees
When running incentive programs, the natural inclination for employers is to offer cash as a performance or training bonus. But organizations should know money usually isn’t the be-all and end-all for employees. In fact, the training programs researched by SHRM rarely relied on cash payouts.

For instance, compensation efforts at Hudson Trail range from rewarding employees with pins they can display to co-workers to VIP nights, where selected employees are invited to a high-scale event sponsored by vendors complete with food, prizes, and presentations. Doling out cash bonuses is inefficient, costly, and in many cases, not what employees value the most.

According to a recent infographic assembled by Salesforce, 50 percent fewer employees are motivated by money as compared to five years ago.

More than anything, employees have gained an appreciation for perks outside of monetary rewards. Whether they are presented with a plaque or a heightened employee discount on specific merchandise, there are myriad ways organizations can go about instituting training incentives without having to constrict resources by paying out cash each time.

“Our people respond better to gear incentives than they do to cash,” Sandy Cohan, Hudson Trail general manager, told SHRM. “We’ve tried everything when it comes to training incentives, and we found that our people work twice as hard and get twice as jazzed when they earn a free jacket as opposed to a bonus check.”

Have you thought about providing additional HR and leadership training to your staff as an incentive? Sage makes it easy by providing a carefully selected and well-balanced library of over 70 courses to meet your organization’s training needs, including 29 courses that are HRCI certified. Take a moment to view the HR Essentials Library now.

Signs Your Boss Is Not Listening

1 May

payattention  Today’s guest post comes to us from Brandon Smith. Therapist, professor, consultant and radio host, Brandon brings an upbeat, witty approach to the challenges of workplace health and dysfunction. Brandon is the founder of – a resource dedicated to eliminating dysfunction at work, improving workplace health and restoring optimism and focus in the workplace. Brandon also currently serves as faculty at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School where he teaches and researches on topics related to leadership, communication and healthy workplace dynamics.

Is your boss listening? Do you feel heard?

Before we start down the path of how to be heard, we need to assess the situation. How bad is it and is it the boss that’s the problem or is it you? Consider the following telltale signs that your boss is a poor listener. Any of these signs by themselves are indicative of poor listening habits, however in combination the results could be disastrous. Note how many behaviors you see from your boss.

  • Your boss never asks your opinion
  • You meet with your boss less than once a month
  • Your boss never does what he / she agrees to doing in your conversations
  • When your boss paraphrases what you said to him / her, they almost always get it wrong
  • When your boss asks you a question and you answer it, they ask it again as if your answer never happened
  • When you talk, your boss does any of the following: stare at you blankly, type, check their phone, simply get up and walk away
  • Your boss talks and talks and talks… at you

Signs You Don’t Feel Heard

Equally important is how you experience this behavior. To what degree is this behavior affecting you, your performance and potentially your career? Note the following “costs” of having a boss that is a poor listener. The more statements you answer “yes” to, the more likely your mild frustration will turn to feelings of not being valued, cared for or seen. Deep stuff for certain.

  • Your ideas go unrecognized or unacknowledged
  • Your are only seen a certain way in the organization (your job / role… not what you are capable of)
  • Your career progression has stalled
  • You don’t think your boss cares about you

Looking in the Mirror

Now that you have assessed your boss’ listening skills as well as your own experience of being heard, there is one last question to ask yourself: Is it your boss that’s the problem or is it you? That’s a complicated question but an important one. It could be that there are things you aren’t doing to get heard and as a result you are really to blame for this dynamic. Or perhaps you are projecting historical patterns and beliefs onto your boss. In other words, do you have a life pattern of no one listening to you? As one client shared with me, “I grew up with stable but disconnected parents that never really listened to me. They never put forth the effort to get to know me as a person and what I thought. On top of that, I was the youngest of six children so my siblings never listened to what I had to say. As a result, I walk in the world doubting any one really wants to listen to what I have to say. Believe me, it has caused me more than one problem at work particularly with bosses.”

How do you tell if the problem is really you? Simple. Look around. If you co-workers have the same issue with your boss, it’s probably not you. However, if you seem to be the only one struggling with being heard by your boss, look in the mirror. The culprit may be staring right back at you.

Do you think there are some signs that I missed? Let me know via Twitter by mentioning @theWPTherapist.