New Employee Orientation in CA: Why a Formal Process is a Good Idea

Employee Orientation in CA: Why a Formal Process is a Good Idea Ah California. It’s amazing the stuff I didn’t know about California law before I moved here. I’m thankful now I never landed a CA client while living in the Midwest because the truth is, there is a lot about the law I wasn’t aware of.

But nearly three years and a slew of clients later and we are almost experts. I say almost because not even the lawyers in CA call themselves experts – way too many changing laws to ever fully feel confident you know everything in this state.

One of the things that is different in CA than most states is the requirements around onboarding and offboarding of employees. Not only does the state require that certain documents be given out, but with the various unique laws in this state, hello meal period penalty, businesses will want to prove they have shared everything necessary with new employees.

This is why a thorough orientation (and onboarding for that matter) program is necessary. Orientation programs are held the first day(s) of a new employee start. There is a difference between orientation and onboarding which you can read about here. For this article we are just going to focus on orientation.

Because I believe all orientation/onboarding programs should be more than just paperwork, I’m going to highlight both the legal and soft touches that should be included in orientation. While the legal aspect is specific to CA, there is no reason why a business in any other state couldn’t consider this as a guideline as well.

So many times we bring new employees in, sit them down, shove new hire paperwork in their face to have them fill out and then sit them at their desk to figure things out. This isn’t a fun way for anyone to start. The first thing a new employee should experience is introductions. Introductions to the team, the leaders and anyone else they will come in contact with on a regular basis. Allow the employee a few minutes to share about themselves and key players to do the same.

One on One Supervisor Time
I’ve heard stories of how some employees do not meet with their new leader until their 3rd or 4th day or even later. New employees and their leaders need to immediately start to build trust and rapport. You can’t do that if you are a ghost for three days and then pop in for a drive by. Leaders should sit down with their newly hired employees on day one and go over high level expectations and what they think the employees first 90 days will look like (this is where the complete onboarding program comes in).

Legally Required New Hire Paperwork
Of course, there are those legal documents employees must fill out. In all states the minimum paperwork is the Federal tax form and the I-9. State tax forms may be required in some states. In CA, state tax forms are required only if the withholding differs from the federal withholding. Also in CA, there are other documents that must be provided to employees as well. SHRM just did a nice write up about this and I hate to re-invent the wheel so you can read about all of those documents here. I encourage employers to have a document that new hires sign stating they received these documents just as extra proof they handed them out.

Employees can typically be left alone to fill these out without help from HR or their supervisor, but someone may want to be nearby in case they have questions.

Non-Legally Required New Hire Paperwork
All businesses typically have other documents that they want new hires to sign as well. This could include benefit paperwork, non-disclosure agreements or equipment lists. An employee handbook should also be given to employees during orientation. When providing these documents, I encourage a member of HR or the leader to walk through these documents with the employee to explain why they are being asked to sign them.

In CA, there are laws specific to the state that are usually outlined in an employee handbook. Things like meal periods and penalty, preventing sexual harassment and pregnancy leave are unique to the state. I encourage California employers to highlight these specific policies and any procedures around utilizing them that employees need to know. And in all states, I encourage employers to receive a signed statement from every employee stating they received the handbook.

The Soft Touches
One thing that can often be overlooked during a new employee orientation are those soft touches. Things like who may take the employee to lunch or having their desk ready with supplies and a name tag. Anything that makes the employee feel as though you were anticipating their arrival and are happy they have joined the team.

I’ve heard leaders say they don’t want to spend a ton of time or money getting a workplace setup for an employee in case they don’t show up on day one. The flip side is the employee who does show up and then has to wait three days to get a computer setup with email. It doesn’t take too much time or money to get the basics setup and then invest in more once you know the person actually starts. Plus, if you are constantly worried about your employees not showing up on day one, something is broken in the recruitment process which is a whole other blog post.

The goal of orientation is not just to get the legally required documents you need, although that is important. The goal is to make the new hire feel welcomed and appreciated from the start. First impressions are made so quickly and it is hard to overcome a negative impression within the first 90 days.

Think about how you would like to walk into a new role and then do everything possible to make sure a new hire gets the same treatment.

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3 People Related Leadership Challenges Small Businesses Face

3 People Related Leadership Challenges Small Businesses FaceStarting a small business is tough. A founder has to figure out all the in’s and out’s of running a business while somehow keeping themselves afloat financially. From offering a viable product or service to finding customers to finding the right systems, every aspect of a small business has to be considered and dealt with quickly.

And then you hire employees.

At times more stressful than the customer side of owning a business, is the people side. Hiring, motivating, training, paying and sometimes firing employees is draining on even the most organized and skilled among us. In our work with startups and small businesses who are experiencing growth that creates a need to hire, sometimes a high volume of candidates, we have uncovered three people related challenges that seem to pop up over and over.

Hiring First, Thinking Later
I’m a big fan of this philosophy and follow it in most areas of my business. Jump first, build the parachute on the way down. It serves many of us well as entrepreneurs. Until it comes to hiring people. Founders find themselves needing help and leap before they think. They will hire a family member or someone they think can do the job without thinking about how it should work out. And by work out I mean both the basics around how they will get paid and what laws have to be considered as well as the more advanced around hiring structures and performance management.

Too Many Layers
The amount of instances in which this challenge creeps up is astounding. A 20 person businesses does not need three layers of managers. It doesn’t. I will fight to the death on this one. This typically happens because a family member or friend was hired and wanted an executive title. Then someone decided they needed a team and that team needed a layer in the middle. Before you know it you have a whole lot of “managers” who really aren’t managing anything. This leads to so many complications such as pay disparity, general lack of continuity and ego based decisions.

Here is what I have seen work best. Everyone reports to a founder(s) until the founder(s) can no longer effectively manage everyone, then another leader(s) is hired or promoted. Only adding leaders as necessary and being very clear in the division of duties when new leaders are appointed. Beyond that, layers are only added after intense discussion and when everyone agrees that it makes the most sense. Leaders shouldn’t be added because someone thinks they need a leadership title. They should be added when it makes business sense.

Not Thinking Long Term
I have a new client from another country who is bringing their product to the US for the first time. During our first call they asked me what types of activities we could do around culture and building the type of environment they felt was important. Before we talked about a payroll system or the vacation policy, we talked about culture.

From the moment a business hires it’s first employee, it is creating an environment for employees to work within. The business can either be deliberate about it or let what happens happen. Either way, 3 years from now an environment will have been created. If a founder gets caught up in today and doesn’t at least think about a few months and years down the road, something may be created that they aren’t happy with.

And undoing that can be nearly impossible.

There are many other challenges that businesses face, like growing too fast or not dealing with issues swiftly, but these are the three that seem to hit small businesses on a regular basis. The people side of the business should be taken as seriously as the customer side. It should be as well thought out and planned as the product of service you are offering. Leaving people matters to chance may work for 1 in a million new businesses. Not sure that’s a chance I would be willing to take.


What is on Employee’s Minds While at Work? Hint: It’s Not Work

What is on Employees Minds While at Work?Acacia HR’s Christine Kopp is taking over the blog today. Enjoy!

Do you know what your employees are thinking about while they are on the job? Here’s a hint, it’s not work.  We all know that employees come to work each day with their personal baggage. Whether it is a personal struggle, childcare issues or financial stressors it comes through those doors on a daily basis and impacts efficiency and engagement.  The latter topic is what I want to focus on today by looking at your employee’s financial well-being.

Financial well-being is nothing new, but it is gaining more traction as something small businesses need to focus on. Most Americans don’t have $500 in their savings accounts and the amount of debt people are living with is staggering. Many come out of high school and even college with just the basic understanding of finances and even more live paycheck to paycheck. In the highly competitive business world we must have our employees on the top of their game and not distracted with how they will afford their car payment. But that is exactly what they are thinking about while at work. Financial stressors are making your employees less efficient because they are so distracted with their financial baggage they aren’t giving their all.

So what is a small business supposed to do with likely a small budget? Here are a couple of ideas to get your organization helping employees with their financial well-being:

Get it on your wellness calendar

Many of us have been doing walking challenges, biometric screens and focusing on healthy living for our employees for quite some time. Why aren’t more companies focusing on their financial well-being? Make a financial literacy month and focus a newsletter specifically on the basics of financial literacy and promote any benefits your company offers like 401(k).  Once you have made the commitment that you are going to focus on financial wellness get it on the calendar!

Look for financial well-being services you are already paying for

That’s right, some of these resources are already being included in your Employee Assistance Plan or 401(k) plan and even your medical plan. At the company I used to work for, our EAP gave us a specific number of instructional hours… for FREE! Since we focused so much of our well-being initiatives on the health aspect, we would set these hours up at our locations and have employees sign up for classes like ‘Living on a Budget’ or ‘Financial Planning 101’.

Your 401(k) provider is also a great avenue to explore what resources they have available. You are paying those commission fees right? Well put them to work and check and see if your plan allows onsite financial planning and set employees up with 20 minutes.  If these aren’t viable options, set up a Finance Fair in the break room and have some reputable financial planners come out on site.  There are also many great training options you can purchase and have your employees sign up for or you can develop your own.

Hopefully these ideas will get the ball started on creating a financial well-being program that will not only benefit your employees greatly, but you will see the results in a more happier and productive work environment.




There is a Candidate for Every Environment

There is a Candidate for Every EnvironmentIn May at the WorkHuman conference, my friends Robin Schooling and Bill Boorman did a talk on recruiting. One thing that Bill said that has stuck in my mind ever since is that when it comes to fit, there is a person for every environment. There are people who are willing and able to work in even the most toxic environment.

He’s right.

Last month I filled an Office/HR Manager position for a very challenging environment. The hiring managers interviewed 8 candidates. During both my pre-screen and the onsite interviews with the candidates we were very honest about what this person would be walking into. While not a toxic environment, one that was very demanding in a culture that is very direct and could be perceived as aggressive. For some of the candidates, the truth about what they would be facing was enough for them to say that it wasn’t the right place for them.

For others, and ultimately for the person who was hired, that type of environment was refreshing and invigorating.

The lesson I learned while recruiting for that role made it very clear that there is a candidate out there for most any environment. The key is being honest in the recruitment process and asking very targeted questions to ensure you are finding the right one.

If the environment is challenging for one reason or another, be honest.

If the CEO yells and there is no changing that, be honest.

If the leadership doesn’t really put an emphasis on employee development and just wants people to come in and do their job, be honest.

If the hours are long and the work is hard, be honest.

If the company is in a transition phase and need to get over a tough hurdle, be honest.

Whatever it is, bumps, lumps and all, be honest.

But then you have to be honest about the good. What would make someone want to work in all of this? Is it the chance to get in on the ground floor of something that will be amazing in time? Is it the chance to work with some of the smartest minds in your industry, even if they are jerks? Is it the chance to eventually build something that is far different than what it is today if everyone can just get through this part?

I often hear from HR leaders who say they struggle to hire or retain hires because of the environment they are in. Usually I find this to be because they are not completely honest during the process and then the hire sees the reality they are facing and feel duped. That is not a way to start a new job.

It may take a little longer to find the right person when your environment isn’t one that would land you on a Fortune Best Places to Work list, but that doesn’t mean the right person isn’t out there.

It’s a weird truth to comprehend, but that doesn’t make it any less valid.

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Should Your Small Business Have an Unlimited Vacation Policy?

Should Your Small Business Have an Unlimited Vacation PolicyIn our work helping small businesses build HR infrastructure, we often spend a bit of time discussing time off policies. For the record, I have never had a business decide not to offer time off, but have certainly had businesses go back and forth for some time trying to decide which policy is right for them. There are many options.

Paid Time Off (PTO) – where all time off hours are in one “bucket” and employees can take them as they choose.
Gifted Time Off – where employees are gifted their year’s allotment of time off at the start of the year (or their employment) and can take as they choose.
Accrued Time Off – by far the most popular, where employees accrue time based on hours worked.
Unlimited Time Off – the policy that has risen in popularity in the last few years where, as the name suggests, there is no tracking of time off and employees can take as much, or as little, as they want. This is the policy we will discuss today.

An unlimited vacation policy in one where employers do not give guidance on how much vacation time can be taken and can not discipline for taking too much time. If an employee is taking too much time and their work is suffering, they can be disciplined for performance, but not for time off. The policy truly is an open policy where employees are in control of time off. Leaders can enforce black out periods or deny requests, but there should be definitive business reasons to do so.

In recent months, I have had several clients who started their business with accrual based policies consider switching to unlimited policies. After consideration some have switched and others haven’t. The decision comes down to a few key points that each business has to evaluate for themselves.

Before I list those steps let me say that for my clients in California, we are extra careful. With the labor code as it is in this state, we want to be sure we are not violating any law that could allow employees to feel they need to seek legal recourse. The point of an unlimited policy should be a benefit to employees and California in particular is extra strict about making sure they are in fact, a benefit.

The first point that needs to be discussed around an unlimited vacation policy is whether or not the culture of the business supports it. My business, for example, is perfect for unlimited vacation. My employees can work from anywhere, anytime. They have no set schedule and do not have to report into me on any given day. They have work to do and as long as it gets done I don’t care how or where. They don’t need to tell me when they are taking a day off, they only need to make sure the work is complete. While not all businesses can be this relaxed, many can do some variation of this and those are perfect for unlimited vacation policies.

If your business demands that people be in your location on a very consistent basis and vacations that aren’t planned months in advance will hurt productivity then an unlimited policy is probably not for you.

Employee Base
Most of the employers who I know either have these policies or are looking at implementing them are made up of mostly exempt employees or are considering offering it to only exempt personnel. These individuals are already in the mindset of having control over their schedules. They are used to independent work and know how much or how little they need to work in a week to accomplish what they should.

State Specific Law
As mentioned, California and other states have stricter laws in their labor code that make unlimited vacation policies tricky. First, mandated sick leave laws require employers to prove they are providing so many hours of sick leave per hours worked. In these states, I always encourage employers to have a separate sick leave policy in accordance with the law and only make the vacation time unlimited.

Further, employers have to be very careful of doing anything that seemingly caps the unlimited vacation or tracks it in any way. The minute this time is capped or tracked, it is no longer unlimited. This is the one policy where the required record keeping is minimal and actually discouraged.

The Transition
When transitioning from an accrued policy to an unlimited one, it is always advised to have a specific end date of the old policy and start date of the new one. Employers should pay out any accrued vacation. I have heard of companies who have given employees a window of time to use their accrued vacation before moving to the unlimited policy, but if employees aren’t able to do so they are legally required to pay it out anyway so it may be easier to plan to pay it out. Employers should have a clear communication plan on how vacation will be handled, how employees can request time off and if there are any restrictions or blackout periods.

It has been argued that unlimited vacation policies result in less vacation time for employees. For this reason, I prefer employers to build in a way to encourage employees to take time off. It could be that you offer a free flight to a destination of their choosing or something along those lines. It should be something tangible rather than paying out time as that could be misconstrued as an accrual system.

One final thought. I have had clients who have switched to unlimited vacation policies only to switch back. The reasons are varied but sometimes employees and leaders end up not liking them as much as a more structured system. It certainly isn’t for everyone. Before transitioning to a system like this, it would be beneficial to talk to employees and leaders and get their thoughts before proceeding. The last thing you want to do is implement and then find out everyone hates it. Time off policies are supposed to be rewards for work well done, not policies that make things more difficult.

If you are considering moving to an unlimited vacation policy and want to talk through the implications for your team, we would be happy to help.

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Employment At Will Doesn’t Equal Fire At Will

Employment At Will Doesn't Equal Fire At WillOn a regular basis, I have a conversation with a CEO around employment at will. They have an employee who is not performing and when I tell them they need to start documentation they always respond with the same question. “But we employ at will right? So I can fire anytime.”

Not exactly.

In technical terms, sure. You can fire at will. In legal terms, employment at will doesn’t defend you from a lawsuit. Even if the lawsuit is bogus, it certainly won’t protect you from the cost to defend the suit. Courts may still side with an employee if they feel they were discriminated against because of any protected class or if they were harassed, even in an employment at will situation.

But Sabrina, what about probationary periods?

Sorry to say that those don’t really mean anything. Probationary periods started as a milestone for new hires to receive certain benefits, like healthcare or 401(k). Make it past your 90 days and we’ll give you this or that type of deal. While they were adapted to say that either party could terminate employment within the first 90 days with or without cause, the previous paragraph still applies. Just because you terminate within a probationary period does not mean you are not susceptible to potential litigation.

So what is an employer to do? Well allow me to beat my drum for a moment while I sing you the song I sing to clients every single day.

Hire Right
Have a hiring process in place and follow it consistently. Think about the characteristics that are necessary to be successful in this job and ask the right questions to find out if the candidate in front of you possesses them.

Often times the interview process is rushed, or there is no real process and poor decisions are made resulting in performance that is less than stellar rather quickly. Regardless of how quickly this shows up, documentation is key to supporting a termination.

Document, Document, Document
I know operational leaders get sick of hearing this from their HR team, but the reality is documentation is key to mitigating any legal risk. After my post last week about email, a conversation on Twitter started about how email can be used in legal cases. That isn’t to suggest that we use email as a way to document performance, but it is to say that lawyers and courts love documentation.

Any performance issue should be well documented especially if they lead to termination. Unfortunately, there is just no getting around it.

Check Your Leadership
I don’t want to say bad employees are caused by bad leaders, but sometimes, bad employees are caused by bad leaders. It could be that the manager has high and unreasonable expectations or that they are just a bear to work for. There have been a number of times in my career where seemingly high quality employees turn into performance issues and sometimes it has stemmed from a poor leader.

We are often quick to defend our leaders, but it is at least an important point to check.

So while most are “at will” employers, firing at will doesn’t come without it’s risks. No termination process is 100% risk free from litigation but following the steps above (especially point number 2) can help mitigate that risk and make sure your termination process is as succinct and maybe more importantly, humane as possible.


Employee Email Pitfalls Small Businesses Should Avoid

As much as we all lament it’s existence, email is still a primary tool for communicating in the workplace. At least once a day I get asked for my email address by someone wanting to send me information. It is the one tab that is open the most on my web browser. Even though I have other outlets to communicate with my clients, it is still the most used (although text is a close second).

It is the double edged sword we can not live without….yet anyway.

If there were ever a place where you think email could be used less, it would be in small businesses. A small group of people could surely get by communicating face to face, in text or via a social channel like Slack right?

While I do find these other channels being used more and more by my smaller clients versus my larger ones (and large in my world means 200+ employees), email is still King when it comes to employee communication. Because of that, and because I am often copied on said emails, I have a few employee email pitfalls I see leaders falling into every day. See if any of these ring true in your workplace.

Not Knowing How to Use Email
One of the most common pitfalls I see is leaders not knowing which conversations are appropriate for email and which would be better suited for face to face (or at least phone) conversation. This often stems from leaders feeling uncomfortable having difficult conversations verbally. Some of the time however, it was just that email was convenient at the time or the leader wanted to get communication out right away and wasn’t able to do it face to face at that moment.

Important communication, direct feedback and changes to how someone does their work should always be communicated in person. If documentation is necessary, communicate in person first and then follow up in email.

Too Many Emails
We all have that one person in our career who relies on email a little too much. We wake up in the morning to have numerous notes from them only to proceed through our day receiving many more. Most of these emails were unnecessary – when I email thanks, you do not have to respond with you’re welcome, you just don’t. Some should have been conversations (see point one above) and others are infuriatingly micromanaging, which is exactly the type of leader I see falling into this pitfall the most.

Too many emails that spell out what you want an employee to do, how to do it and then following up on whether they did it is not only frustrating from an inbox standpoint but from a work environment one as well. Check the number of emails you are sending employees in a day and see if you might be guilty of too many messages. You either trust your people to do the work, or you don’t. And if you don’t, more email will not solve the problem.

Not Checking Your Tone
I have this habit of receiving a text or email from my husband and immediately responding with “are you being shitty?” I’m happy to report that 90% of the time he responds with no. We’ve been married for nearly 15 years, sometimes it is a definite yes, but I digress. The point is that even after 15 years of marriage I still can’t discern his tone 100% of the time if he is communicating electronically.

If I can’t always tell my husband’s tone, your employees can’t tell yours. Re-reading emails is crucial to seeing if there are words that could be misconstrued or a tone that you may have not meant when writing it. Of course, if there is a chance that no matter how you change it up it could still be misunderstood, then again I point you to the first pitfall above.

We are all guilty of replying and hitting send before we ever actually think about what we want to say and how we want to say it and that creates a lot of unnecessary miscommunication.

Letting Email Conversations Go On Too Long
This one is my pet peeve. I have said for years and years that is an email conversation takes more than 3-5 emails to resolve, it’s time to get everyone in a room and have a face to face. Going back and forth in email is ripe for miscommunication and someone dropping the ball. People are going to check out of the conversation, agreements or next steps may never be fully addressed and eventually, people just get so fed up with the process they react angrily to whatever is being said.

As a leader if you see an email conversation going on too long, it is on you to get everyone together face to face or on a call to resolve the issue.

Email isn’t going away. It will be a high traffic mode of communication for many years to come. It doesn’t have to be a painful process or a thorn in everyone’s side if we all become a little more mindful of how to use it properly.

What is your biggest email pet peeve?

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Why Challenging Employees May Be Good For Them

Why Challenging Employees May Be Good For ThemAs most of you know SHRM17 is happening this week in New Orleans. I am missing it for the first time in years and have a serious case of FOMO. To ease my jealousy a bit I have been religiously following the Twitter stream. If you aren’t following along and you are in HR, you are missing out. Period.

One of the speakers I was most disappointed to miss was Kat Cole. I have followed her for a while and anytime I get a chance to read something she has written, watch an interview or just generally learn more about her I do. So naturally, I was starting at the computer yesterday focused on gleaning the best tweets filled with her wisdom.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

After her session I asked attendees what stuck with them the most from her talk and this tweet was one that came back.

It’s rather powerful no? Here’s why.

A call I get at least once a week from leaders in small businesses centers around the fact that they have to challenge an employee, ironically enough it’s usually a leader on their team, and they want to know how to approach the conversation. This challenge isn’t always negative feedback about that employee’s performance. More often than not, it’s challenging the way they are thinking about their work, a decision they made for their team or their individual leadership style.

Let me give you an example.

Last year a CEO who had given her leaders a very loose leash when it came to making business decisions for their individual team had a leader go a little rogue with compensation. She felt, and so did I for that matter, that he had been making compensation increase decisions based on his affinity towards a person rather than true performance. He had also been a bit all over the map when offering salaries to new employees, presumably based on his personal affinity towards them.

Not only was this affecting the crazy range of compensation on his team, but it was affecting how he worked with employees and how he allowed other leaders to interact with them. If another leader had constructive criticism for one of his “favorites” a rather angry discussion would ensue where he would defend their actions or words. His behavior was creating a divide among his peers and alienating the “not so favored” members of his team.

His work performance was on par. The discussion that needed to take place had nothing to do with how he worked, but more a slippery slope that his CEO and boss saw that he clearly didn’t. I wish we had Kat Cole’s statement back then because it is perfect for this situation.

The reality is tough conversations are never easy. Challenging someone on something is not fun. Sometimes though, that challenge has to happen to make them better. Especially when we are talking about leaders. Especially, especially when we see someone going down a bad path that they may not recognize themselves.

We have to be confident in our ability to do this as leaders. We can use Kat’s approach and explain that we are challenging because not doing so means we are failing you. However we approach it, we have to approach it.

As I read through the tweet stream, one thing that is clear is that there is a ton of pressure on leaders to do lots of different things, communicating often and appropriately being chief of them. That communication can’t always be positive. Much of the onus on leaders when it comes to communication is sharing the good and the not so good.

It may be exactly what your employee needs to hear.

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Lack of Brand Awareness – The Small Business Recruiting Killer

Lack of Brand Awareness-The Small Business Recruiting KillerMany of my friends are at HR Tech World this week. During the first day, I think before the main part of the actual conference kicked off, I saw a post from a friend that shared this stat, “Candidates follow your company for 7 months prior to every applying for a job.” This post didn’t have a source for that stat so I have no idea where it came from or it’s accuracy, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume it’s true.

And if it is, that is one more nail in the coffin for small business hiring.

A few weeks ago I spoke at the PIHRA South Orange County breakfast. My topic was Getting Ahead of the Recruitment Curve. During the talk I mention small businesses and how many times they face an uphill battle not only because they may not be offering competitive pay and benefits, but because no one has ever heard of them. Moreover, their marketing engines aren’t firing on all cylinders yet so if candidates are spending 7 months lurking before applying, small businesses are completely missing out because they don’t have anywhere to lurk. Candidates never hear of them, can’t follow their story and therefore do not know who they are until they see a job opening. I would venture a guess candidate’s are way more leery of applying for a job with a company they have never heard of over one they have.

It is for this reason I encourage all of my clients, from startup to established small businesses, to start thinking about their employer branding early. To utilize social media and technology to the extent that their time and budget allows to get their name out there and start sharing a bit about who they are.

And one of the most crucial parts of my advice is that they do it even if they aren’t hiring. Even if they don’t anticipate hiring for a year, it’s important to start putting information out there now. I firmly believe that for small businesses with little to no budget for recruitment efforts, social media has to be a firm part of the recruiting strategy. It isn’t the entire strategy mind you, but a firm part of it.

One of the stories I urge clients to share is their origin story. For a startup, I think great employer branding campaigns follow the journey from startup to profitability. It isn’t always pretty, but it’s real and those willing to take chances on working for a startup expect real. For small businesses who are more established, I think looking back to your roots and sharing the story of how you came to be to the place you are today is a great way to get people engaged in your brand and excited to learn more about you.

The goal is to get people to see a job ad and say “oh yeah, I know about that company” and if the stat shared above has any truth to it, you need to get ahead of your job openings by 7 months to make that happen.

It isn’t just something to pass of and think it isn’t relevant to you. If you are a small business who will eventually need to hire staff, it is relevant and the time to start thinking about sharing information about your company is now.

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Dealing with Big Personalities in Small Environments

Dealing with BIG Personalities In Small EnvironmentsBefore I get to today’s post, I wanted to share a link to an interview Christine recently did with Vocate.

Now on to it…

Small businesses come with all types of unique challenges. Ensuring the product or service is viable. Securing the level of funding needed to develop the product/service. Actually getting it to market while making payroll each week and of course, turning the business into a profitable endeavor.

And all of that is the easy part. Because in order to do all of that effectively, you have to navigate the people side of the business. Hiring, training, developing and dealing with all the different personalities.

And when some of those personalities are big and the work space is small, new challenges are presented.

I received a call last year from a founder who was renting space in a local WeWork office. He and his team of 22 were interchangeably working from this office space and remotely. Meaning, on some days certain ones were in the office while others worked from home and then on other days, they switched. He explained that he had a few “big” personalities on his team that were making the tight quarters feel a bit claustrophobic. He asked if I could come in and observe and then give him some advice on how to proceed.

From the moment I entered, before the founder even needed to tell me, I could identify who the big personalities were. There were two of them, male and female. They introduced everyone, rather than let everyone introduce themselves. They took the initiative to tell me everything that was happening at the business, what they were working on and what they thought needed to happen next. They thought I was there to give feedback on how to conduct more effective meetings so they proceeded, unprompted, to tell me what they thought could be done better.

Now let me be clear. There is nothing wrong with big personalities. These two employees were highly valuable employees with which the business could not move forward without. Their expertise was crucial to getting this company’s products to market. In any business however, and especially at a leadership level, people have to learn how to adjust their style to accommodate those around them. Alienating everyone makes team work rather difficult.

In the meeting that I observed, these big personalities talked over others, answered every question asked before others could, and backed each other up when anyone disagreed to the point that the opposing party would just give up. A better word for these big personalities would be dominant. They were confident, which was only fueled by their respect of each other, and direct to the point of making others, including the founder uncomfortable.

It’s important to note here that this is not an extrovert vs introvert thing. One of these individuals was a definite introvert. We can have dominant personalities too – just ask my husband.

It’s also important to note that this isn’t always about ego. I don’t think either of these individuals had insanely large egos or were narcissist. It was more that they were passionate about their work and wanted the launch to be perfect in their eyes. The problem is that their passion was coming off as abrasive and angry at others.

So here were my suggestions. First and foremost I told the founder that he had a responsibility to set the tone. In the meetings I observed, he tended to open the meeting, but then let these two take over. Stuff got done and the meetings were productive, but the tone was often off-putting to others. I told him that if he wanted everyone to have a chance to speak he was going to have to make sure it happened. He may even have to go as far as telling the two big personalities that he appreciated their input but wanted to hear from others.

Next, I told him that he was going to have to make it safe again for other employees, who may have an opposing view, to speak up. This meant he was going to have to expressly solicit opposing views and then praise them publicly for sharing another side. This was going to be uncomfortable at first, but there were a few people in the room who I felt like would push back if they felt like he had their back. This doesn’t mean he had to agree, but support them in raising different viewpoints.

Finally, I suggested some coaching for the employees with big personalities as well as getting to know you exercises for the whole team. We did two very distinct things there. First, he shared with the two employees, as well as two others, that he was starting to look at how leadership roles would play out as the business grew. He wanted the four of them to be involved in a leadership development program with him. In this program he would be laying out the culture he wanted to build and the type of employer he wanted to be. They would help him design a process for getting there. Second, since everyone in the company knew their MBTI profile, we did some getting to know you discussions around the different personality types and how to work together.

While all of this is a continual work in progress, because leadership always is, I’m happy to report that the things we put in place made a difference. Talking out loud about what shuts people down versus what encourages better teamwork is always a great starting point. Being consistent about reminding each other of those personality traits helps it stick in the long run. It’s constant work, but work that must be done to overcome those personality traits in some employees that are completely alienating others.

Have you dealt with this in your small business? What did you do to overcome? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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