Three Ways to Show Employees You Care During the Holiday Season

Discover Three Ways on How to Recognize, Engage and Show Employees You Care in the Workplace.

The holiday season is upon us. I have no idea where January through October went, but alas, here we are. The holidays bring a mixed bag of emotions. For some they are a joyous occasion of family and relaxation. For others they are a dreaded time of loneliness, bitterness or heartbreak. While it might be preferable for workplaces to gloss over the holidays and continue on as though it were any other time of year, it isn’t practical.

One thing the holiday season does for all of us is give us an opportunity to show our appreciation for the good in our lives. For small businesses, that appreciation is often centered around the employees that have worked so hard in the preceding months to help the business get where it is. Or, those employees who have stuck it out even though the preceding months have been less than desirable. This time, maybe more than any other in the year, allows small business leaders the opportunity to show appreciation and that you really do care about your employees as people, not just cogs in the wheel.

Showing employees that you care doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. Often gentle, subtle reminders are best. The goal is to be deliberate about the fact that the holidays mean something different for everyone and that you as a leader, are empathetic to whatever that is for each employee.

Here are a few ways that leaders can show they care during the holidays with examples from our current client groups of businesses between 9-75 employees.

Help Them Hold Their Traditions
One year a client invited me to a Thanksgiving lunch with he and his executive team. During the lunch, he asked his team members to go around the table and share their most treasured holiday traditions that they share with their family or friends. Each had fun stories of Christmas morning breakfast or driving around looking at houses lit up for the season. These stories not only helped the team to get to know each other on a personal level, but as the leader could he would recall these stories and do his part to ensure that team members were able to keep them. For example, one team member talked about Christmas Eve breakfast and how the entire team pitched in to help make one thing to serve and then they all sat around eating. The leader recalled that last Christmas Eve he had called this team member during what was likely this breakfast time to talk about a client issue that had come up. After realizing that, he asked his executive team to consider what they would do this year to avoid calling this team member during his Christmas Eve breakfast.

He did this for his entire executive team. For each, he found ways to make sure they were able to honor their long held traditions without the worry of being interrupted by work.

Remember Thanksgiving and Christmas Aren’t the Only Two Holidays
I’m guilty of this one. There are so many holidays that happen in November and December outside of Thanksgiving and Christmas. As our workplaces become more of a melting pot of cultures, our employees are more likely to celebrate things that the business doesn’t shut down for. Traditionally, small businesses shut down for a day or two at Thanksgiving and the same for Christmas. Yet, some employees may not celebrate either of these holidays and would prefer time off at a different time. Last year a client with the most diverse employee population of all of our groups asked what they could do to accommodate everyone. I suggested that rather than state that an employee had to take off Thanksgiving, give employees a day to use anytime between Thanksgiving and New Years. Of course, their work allows for that and not all environments do. For them it worked brilliantly. The leader went to his team and told them that they all had 6 days to use between Thanksgiving and New Years that would be considered paid holidays. Employees who celebrate the traditional American holidays took two days at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, but the others were able to take the days around holidays that meant something to them. It worked beautifully and let employees know that the leader cares about all of the holidays and his employee’s ability to celebrate them.

More WorkFlex
I have clients who shut down between Christmas and New Year’s while others encourage employees to use built up vacation time to extend their time off. Many businesses face a slowdown during the holiday season making it the best time to encourage employees to take a break. Other clients do not necessarily encourage more time off, but they do soften the rules around telecommuting during this time. One client needed one tech support person to work Christmas Eve on the off chance there was a call. The first few years it was a fight for all employees to figure out who was going to be that person who had to be the only person working on that day. Eventually, the leader invested in the technology needed to allow the employee to work Christmas Eve from home. Now, the employees rotate and even when it’s their year they really aren’t too upset because they can be at home with their family and still be available to take a call if one comes in. This added workflex arrangement has made working on this day much more bearable.

All of these are simple things that can be done at little to no expense yet they go a long way towards letting employees know you care about them. For a time that is supposed to be filled with peace and joy, the added impact of feeling that from an employer can create a sense of loyalty that will be hard to shatter.

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New Ideas & Examples for Conducting Performance Reviews

Discover new ideas and examples for effectively conducting employee work performance reviews and appraisals.

This time of year brings thoughts of family, turkey, pumpkin spice everything and hopefully, a little time off to relax. This time of year is a joyous occasion for most and an opportunity to reflect. For many companies across the nation, part of that reflecting happens in an effort to complete annual performance reviews.

The bane of many a leader’s existence.

While there has been much talk for years about doing away with the annual performance review, many companies are holding on. Our HR services caters to small businesses and most of them are doing some form of annual reviews when we join their team. For the most part, they are what you expect from annual performance reviews: lengthy, hard to measure and lack the real ability to change behavior or performance.

The alternative that seems to be gaining momentum in many companies, such as Netflix, is real-time, ongoing feedback. A continual loop between supervisor and employee that eliminates the need for formality and offers a better opportunity to really move the needle forward. This approach is ideal in my opinion, but not always practical for small businesses. You may think it would be easier to deliver ongoing feedback in an organization where you only have 25 people. If you’ve kept that organization relatively flat however and you are wearing multiple hats as founder, it isn’t. Virtual workforces and the everyday stress, especially in a startup environment, can make this idea of a continual feedback look difficult to execute.

It can be done and to the leader who can be deliberate about it, I encourage them to go for it. We have set up several performance programs in small businesses that are centered around a continual feedback process. Again, I think this is ideal, but know that it isn’t practical for everyone. So for those small teams I have a few different ideas that might make the process more thorough while still allowing for the annual process to take place.

Involve Peers in the Process
There are multiple relationships in the workplace. Relationship between employee and supervisor, employee and company, and of course, employee and co-workers. Yet, annual performance reviews are always taken from the viewpoint of only one individual, the supervisor. If an employee interacts and works with multiple people, then their performance feedback should, at some level, include information from those people.

Facebook allows employees to pick three to five peers to review them. A client of mine, with 15 employees, allows every other member of the team to weigh in on the performance of others. There is something about the accountability to one another when you know every person you interact with is going to provide feedback.

It’s important to ensure that peers are providing feedback on relevant components and that subjectiveness (I don’t like her so I’m going to give her a low rating) is removed, but when done well, utilizing peer feedback in a review can be a tremendous step in improving performance.

Dial it Down
Last year I was hired by a company of 47 employees to restructure their performance review process. They wanted to keep their annual review, but wanted to update it and then look at how they could include more ongoing feedback sessions throughout the year. I always start this process by looking at what they were currently doing and was a bit shocked to see the form they were currently using to conduct reviews. It was 8 pages long and extremely labor intensive to fill out. Leaders had to leave extensive comments, explanations and examples for each category, of which there were many. This meant leaders either spent hours and hours filling out forms or didn’t put full effort into it. Either way, the performance feedback was not effective and highly unproductive on multiple levels.

We took their current form and modified it into the categories that were really necessary to impact performance. What was 8 pages that required extensive information, was decreased to 2 pages of highly impactful feedback. The form still accomplished its intended goal, but in a much easier to process format.

With performance reviews, more is not necessarily better. In this case, more often means least productive method.

Consider the Milestones Along with the End Goal
One of the most effective changes I have seen in a performance review process came a few years ago with one of my first clients. Their performance reviews were typical up to that point. Every employee had a list of goals and at performance review time they essentially received a pass or fail grade (ranking) to that goal. If they passed, they got a raise. If not, they didn’t. After reviewing the work that employees were doing, I made an observation. The goals assigned to many employees took a long time to accomplish. Some couldn’t even be accomplished in a year. Essentially, employees were tasked with goals they knew would take a long time and they would receive no reward until the task was completely finished. Further, due to the nature of the business, that goal could be one to two months out from completion and, through no fault of the employee, be eliminated. Imagine working on something for nearly a year, having it be a part of your formal review process and then have it be eliminated right before completion. Not very motivating.

We decided to build in milestones for the longer range goals that allowed employees to be rewarded for meeting smaller goals along the way. This accomplished several different things. First, it gave the employee incentive to make it to the next milestone knowing they didn’t have to wait until the project was completely finished before seeing any recognition. Second, it allowed leaders to keep better track of projects which prevented more projects from being cancelled closer to completion. Third, when projects did have to be cancelled, employees didn’t feel as bad because they had been recognized for the work they had done to this point and weren’t left hanging after doing a ton of work and no reward.

Sometimes goals take longer than a review period. Other times a goal wasn’t accomplished, but the progress towards the goal is just as important. Performance reviews that give a flat pass or fail grade without considering all factors are missing the motivation mark.

I believe the reality for most companies is that the review process is not being as effective as it could be. For true performance motivation and improvement, continual feedback that flows freely between supervisor, peer and employee is needed. In environments where that is not possible or not supported, making a few tweaks to the current process can make a huge difference in effectiveness and efficiency. Two things all small businesses need more of.

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Get Your Employees Excited and Engaged About Open Enrollment

Get Your Employees Excited and Engaged About Open EnrollmentAcacia HR’s Christine Kopp is getting you ready for Open Enrollment in today’s post.

That’s right, the title says get your employees EXCITED and ENGAGED about open enrollment this year. I know it’s August, but now is the time to start planning for open enrollment. Hopefully you have already met a time or two concerning your plan performance with either a broker or TPA and you likely are in wait mode until you get your final quotes in.

So instead of waiting until the last minute to plan everything, start putting together a strategy. I know I probably got a few eye rolls on the engaging part but it’s true. Instead of passing out the proverbial memo or sending a bunch of emails that no one is reading, make open enrollment something employees can get excited about. (Even if there isn’t much to be excited about these days)

With the ever-changing climate of Healthcare Reform and the Affordable Care Act’s future, employees are more engaged in their benefits than ever. Use this to your advantage to really sell all that you do for your employees around their benefits. Its also a great time to make employees feel like you are listening to them, even if listening is all next years budget allows for- and trust me I’ve been there! Here are a few ways that you can make this year’s open enrollment smooth and engaging:

Get ahead of the changes- good and bad

So maybe your plan experienced high claims and your renewal is out the roof.  The company can’t take on more cost so something has to give, hello rate increases and plan changes. Employees may not like it, but they will understand if you explain to them the why part. Understanding the why behind the changes is especially important with the millennial bunch, but really, who doesn’t want to know why the changes are occurring.

Take the guess work out of what is changing by putting together a comparison sheet that explains the changes to co-insurance or co-pays.  People will get upset no matter what, but explaining that you started with a 40% increase to the premiums and got it down to 15% by making changes at least helps people understand that you weren’t some heartless HR person who doesn’t care about employees. (okay, maybe that was just me called that) Don’t let open enrollment disengage employees, instead rally your message about we are in this crazy open enrollment thing together.


Yes, you must talk to your employees and even if you have less than stellar news to share, please, I beg you, do not hide in your office all of open enrollment!  You laugh, but I would have HR generalists who would call out sick most of open enrollment or sit behind locked doors on conference calls the entire day and people would be gathered around the door!  I know your other duties aren’t stopping because it’s open enrollment.  If you can’t handle large crowds outside your door schedule time to hang out in the break room to take questions. Just be sure to cover all shifts.

Don’t forget to make sure the communication is consistent and often. Most employees feel like they don’t have enough information to make an informed decision during open enrollment. I used to put together a communications plan including exactly what, when and how we were going to communicate to employees. Share this plan with  your management and operations teams. Define the key messages about the changes and how you want questions handled. I always preferred them to be sent to HR but if you are an HR department of one that might not be an option, so get your managers answering questions how you want them answered.

If you have a communications team, use them. I don’t know about you but I am hardly creative. To me typing something in Comic Sans MS constitutes a fun communication to me. If you use a brokerage firm, see what services they offer, don’t forget, you are paying them commissions.  Smaller broker firms may not offer much else but larger ones may be able to help you draft some communications. And finally, If none of those are an option, there are companies out there who specializes in employee benefit communications. The possibilities are endless.

Make it fun! 

So I promised you that we would talk about getting your employees excited for open enrollment.  I had some employees who couldn’t wait to get into the employee portal and review and make changes. Some call them early adopters… or but to me they were my favorite employees. But not everyone is this enthusiastic about open enrollment, and if you are dealing with a lot of changes that could be perceived as negative you would want to take more of a empathetic tone. You are dealing with many types of employees who want to receive their information in different forms so give it to them. Some want videos, some want one on one time and others just want a newsletter and left alone. Offer lots of variety to keep them engaged.

If you are looking for some fun ideas, try playing some games like benefit bingo during a meeting or watch some funny (yet appropriate) videos that go with your open enrollment theme. If your employees don’t have much use for fun you can still make information interesting and engaging.  If you are sending out a newsletter put in some extra credit questions hidden in it. Then instruct employees to submit their answers to HR and be placed in a drawing for a semi-fabulous prize to see if they read it.  If you have group chats send out one to two sentences about a specific benefit, SMS texting works great for this too. And don’t forget the visual. Posters, postcards are all great, but if you are trying to be more green, change your company screen savers with some information about open enrollment.

Hopefully this post will get you thinking about doing a couple of new and engaging things to refresh your open enrollment. Remember this is a time to showcase what you do offer your employees. Make them excited about the good stuff, have fun where you can and most importantly help them understand why there are changes.




Sometimes #WorkHuman is Simply About Remembering the Fundamentals

Sometimes #WorkHuman is Simply About Remembering the FundamentalsA few things have struck me while attending the WorkHuman conference this week in Phoenix. First, let me say this team knows how to put on an event. Hands down one of the best conferences I have ever attended. Second, I wonder if we aren’t guilty of over-engineering just about every aspect of the employee – employer relationship.

And I mean every one.

At the end of every Q&A with keynoters the question of “what does working human mean to you?” Chaz Bono’s very simple answer, “how else do you work?”. Julia Louis-Dreyfus ended her session stating that kindness wins the day. Every time. In every way. Kindness wins. So while we spend hours upon hours trying to think about programs and events that will make our work more human, we are overlooking the very basic principles with which we know to be effective.

My son is very well mannered. Maybe that’s a brag, but I don’t really care. From the time he could speak, my husband and I have drilled proper manners into his brain. Please. Thank You. Bless You. Hold the door. Don’t interrupt. Don’t say unkind things. Show affection and appreciation to those who matter. Do nice things for people even if they didn’t ask for them.

My husband has been a true force in drilling this into our little man’s head. Now, at 7 years old, we are constantly told how polite he is. How he has the best manners of any boy his age many people have ever met. How he is so considerate and empathetic to others. When I went in for a parent teacher conference this year, his teacher assured me I would never have to worry about behavior problems with my kid as he is the most well-mannered kid she has ever encountered in 1st grade.

As I think about our workplaces and the words we use to describe what working human means – engagement, empowerment, culture, I wonder if we aren’t overlooking the fundamentals that make such a difference. At the influencer dinner Tuesday night, my table mates and I were talking about all of the airline debacles in the news lately and specifically about how the crew handles these types of things. Someone noted how important tone is in these situations. The airline employee may be absolutely right in doing what they are doing, but the tone in which they do it matters. The way they say it. The words they use. The tone.

Basic communication fundamentals.

I have a client right now that is in a tough spot. They are working on second round of funding. They are in a push to get their product to market and the work is really hard. The hours are long and the work environment, because of what they are building, is dirty and hot and no fun at all. When the CEO hired me to help him figure out how to attract people to this business, because once they get passed this stage, everything changes, I asked him what he could offer perspective employees. His answer exemplifies exactly what I’m talking about.


He said, “I can’t give them top dollar right now. The work environment sucks, even for me and it is going to be maybe a year before it gets better. They are going to go home dirty, tired and wondering if it’s worth it. But they will be respected. They will know that they work in a place where their leader respects them as human beings and as experts at what they do. It may be all I can give them right now, but I can give them that.”

When he said that, I wondered if it would fly. It did.

I can’t tell you how many applicants who I’ve shared the reality of the work environment with and then tell them that what they will receive is respect, tell me it’s worth it. They either don’t feel respected where they are currently or have worked in an environment like that in the past and feel that respect is worth it’s weight in gold.

And respect isn’t some newfangled idea. It’s a basic fundamental of human interaction.

So while I love all the ideas around building a more work human culture, I encourage us to remember the fundamentals. The oldies are still goodies in this case. Respect, manners, kindness. In the end, they all win the day.


Why Small Businesses Should Offer Sick Leave Now


In April, the Los Angeles City Council overwhelmingly voted to pass an ordinance that would require businesses operating within the city limits to offer six days of sick leave. This law will affect every business although businesses with 25 or fewer employees will have a year to implement.

And those over 25 employees will likely only have a few weeks.

Any business in Los Angeles not offering paid sick leave should implement now.

But it isn’t just Los Angeles employers that this post is written for. If it were I could stop here. The reality is that the sick leave discussion will continue until, I’m sure, it is mandated on all local levels if not at the federal level. Executive Order 13706 already implemented paid sick leave for federal contractors and states, such as CA and NY have passed similar laws.

So it really is only a matter of time.

But I don’t want you to do it just because the law says so. I want you to do it because you are an employer who cares about your people. I want you to do it because you realize reasons such as, offering sick leave will only encourage employees to miss work are unfounded. I want you to do it because you have done your research and know that in city after city where businesses pushed back that it would increase cost, evidence shows that it didn’t actually happen. I want you to do it because you realize an unproductive employee for one day, is much better than an infected employee coming to work and making everyone else sick. I want you to do it because you realize your employees have families and many, small children or elderly parents, who need them to stay home from work on a Wednesday because someone needs to take care of them.

And they need to be able to do that without fear of losing their job.

Paid sick leave is a moral booster. It improves engagement which improves productivity. In my experience, employees rarely take all that is given to them, but the knowledge that the days are available should they need it reduces stress levels tremendously. And less stress, leads to higher engagement which leads to….well we’ve already been down this road.

If you aren’t already looking at your sick leave policy and thinking about including some level of paid leave, even if just a few days, I encourage you to think about it. Think about it for all the reasons above.

And if none of those strike you, do it because it will probably be law soon and you’re going to have to do it anyway.

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The Red Pen Leader


I was reviewing a document with a team member last week that was completely marked up with changes. This was a process document I wrote and then sent to a leader for review. My team member commented that it must have hurt my feelings that he marked it up so much. I laughed and said that I expected it each and every time.

Because he’s a red pen leader.

It doesn’t matter what I send. It doesn’t matter how perfect the copy is. He will always, always send it back with changes. Lots of them.

I will admit that the first few years of my business, this would hurt my feelings a bit. Or, at the very least, make me feel like my writing must have been way worse than I thought it was. But over the years, as I’ve reviewed those changes, I’ve realized that some leaders are simply red pen leaders. They can’t help themselves.

I asked my team member to take a closer look at some of the changes the leader had made and tell me what she saw. After a few sentences her draw dropped and she said, “in some of these markups all he did was re-order your words.” Exactly.

A red pen leader.

One who needs to make changes to make themselves feel like they contributed, not because your contribution was really bad. In fact, as we reviewed the document in in’s entirety, we only found one sentence that he had completely changed, admittedly for the better. Everything else was really just a re-ordering of words or a substitution of words that really made little difference.

Except making him feel better.

There is a red pen leader within the leadership team at everyone of my client offices. A leader who I know is going to send back whatever I send over with tons of markings that change very little. Ironically, it is never the CEO, but almost always someone who reports directly to him or her. If the document is sent to five people and four respond saying the document looks good, I can still count on the red pen leader to mark it up as though it was a disaster.

Like death and taxes, the red pen leader never fails.

This may be because of the niche I am in and the nature of the work the majority of my clients perform, but this person is often in an engineering or financial type of role. Builders, designers, number crunchers, those who think with a different part of their brain.

Those are the ones who enjoy the red pen.

I’m not convinced that the red pen leader causes any harm other than being highly predictable and annoying. I do think it’s interesting that they choose to use their time marking up documents just by moving words around, but if it makes them feel they’ve contributed then I guess that is ok. If that red pen usage turns into micromanaging, then of course that may be a different story.

I don’t think red pen leaders even know they are doing it. I don’t think they intentionally mark things up just for the sake of doing so, I think they just like the way they would say things better, even if it means just moving a word or two around. Overall, I just find them interesting and have learned to roll with it.

And that really is the lesson. Because we work in human environments, among other humans, the red pen leader is just one personality quirk that we are going to encounter. If we try to fix everyone, let everyone get under our skin or assume only the perfect leader can be successful, we are going to walk away frustrated and disheartened.

We all have our quirks and this is theirs. Sometimes it’s easier to figure out how to work within those quirks than try to fix them.

Which is why when I get a page marked up from a red pen leader, I review it to make sure their order of words does make sense, click accept all changes and move on.

I have too many other things to focus on.

Have you worked with a red pen leader? How did you deal with them? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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My #SHRM16 Schedule….So Far


I’m doing something I never do. Seriously. In nearly 10 years of attending the annual SHRM conference pretty regularly, I have never done this before.


As of the writing of this post, I have actually taken a little time to review the session descriptions for SHRM16 and have earmarked a few I want to attend.

I’m planning ahead.

I am the girl who plans her outfits, places to see in the city she’s visiting and other important aspects like food, but never have I planned what sessions I’m going to. I look at the session booklet a few days in advance mostly to see when I might be able to sneak in a nap, but never do I decide what session I’m going to attend until 30 minutes before when I start scrolling through the app until something pops out at me. But this year is different.

I have had several blog readers tell me that they can not attend this year and are counting on my blog and social feeds to keep them updated on all the happenings. Some have even asked me if I can attend sessions specific to topics they are interested in (that may interest me too) and report back.

Something I’m more than happy to do.

I thought I would go ahead and lay out a few sessions I have already marked as a must attend for me. If you aren’t going and see any sessions you think would be interesting, send them my way. If they make sense for me and my readers I may just attend them and share any insight I can to make you feel like you were there with us.

Obviously I will attend all of the keynotes, but I’m most excited about Sal Khan. I’m experiencing a little political fatigue during this election seasons so while I’m sure the point-counter-point session between CNN and Fox correspondents will be entertaining, I’m most interested in hearing how Sal came up with the idea for his non-profit and his vision for how it will change our education system.

Master Series:
Is it weird that I have never attended a Master Series before? I think maybe the time commitment has always freaked me out a bit or maybe a title just never captured my attention. This year is different. Following my talk at DisruptHR OC on Use Your F*ing Words where I talk about having open and honest conversations even if they aren’t nice, I’m anxious to hear Sheila Heen’s take on that same topic. The session title: Thanks for the Feedback (Even When It’s Off-Base, Unfair, Poorly
Delivered, and Frankly, You’re Not in the Mood), spoke to me and I think those two hours will fly by.

Mega Session:
Obviously I will be hitting up my friend Scott Hamilton’s HR 2020 mega session. I already talked about that one here. I also like the title of Ryan Estis’s session: Rethinking HR: The Future of Work and HR. I’ve heard him speak before and his sessions always prove informative. Also, I wont’ be attending this one, only because I’ve already heard it, but if you haven’t heard Jennifer McClure speak, you are missing out. She’s super smart.

Concurrent Sessions:
So this is where I still need some work. I have to review again (and probably again) because there are so many to choose from. I really like the title and description of this one: Dumb Things Well-Intended
People Say: How to Effectively Improve Diversity Skills and Competencies and I’m building training around that now so the more info I have the better. I also like this one for reasons that are likely obvious: A Business Case for Hiring Veterans: Designing and Implementing a Veteran Hiring Program. I will likely attend at least one on California law specifically because it tends to give me a headache and confuse the heck out of me. I may also attend a Dept of One presentation or two, but I’m not sure yet.

So that’s where I am right now. If you are going, what sessions have you planned to attend? If you aren’t, look through the session guide and see which ones you might recommend to me.

One thing that occurs to me every year is that we have so few seated practitioners speaking at these events. Speaking as a consultant who speaks, I get why it’s heavy on the consultant side, but as I was looking through I was hoping to find a few more sessions from seated practitioners who were going to share what had worked at their workplace. Maybe I missed them.

I’m getting excited for DC. My sister, Ashley, will be joining me. My former board members at ILSHRM and SHRM’s own resident bookstore goddess, Andi Cale, says she looks just like me so maybe I’ll send her in for a session or two so I can get that nap in.

Will I see you there?


Preparing Your Business for the Minimum Wage Increase


What does a picture of an Olympic skater have to do with minimum wage increases? Simple. They both require preparation. And not just the day before the deadline preparation, but planning and execution months before.

And if you think I’m only talking about California, you are in denial.

In 2016, thirteen states and our nation’s capital all enacted minimum wage increases with effective dates of either January or July 1st. While this is a larger amount of states than we normally see, I predict that it is a trend that will continue. As pay issues across the board continue to receive a high level of attention, minimum wage will always be top of mind.

Minimum wage increases affect companies with a large amount of entry level hourly workers the most. If 90% of your employee base is made up of entry level, hourly workers, a minimum wage increase could equal a big expense.

Which is why it’s so important to plan in advance.

Here are a few things I encourage small business owners to do in order to prepare for any potential minimum wage increases.

Know Thy Finances:
I’m amazed at how many business owners (including the “smart” one typing these words) aren’t completely up to date on their financial situation. They aren’t sure what they can truly afford or what is going to break the bank. It will be important for companies with employees to understand every aspect of their bottom line to know the amount of wages they will be able to afford.

Get Creative:
Can you adjust hours, use automation or increase prices to consumers now and incrementally that will help you pay for the minimum wage increase? You may have to increase wages, but can you also find cost savings elsewhere to offset. Start playing with scenarios now to help you have a plan of attack when it actually happens.

Hire Right:
Paying someone a $15/hour minimum wage may not impact your business as much if that person is producing consistently, efficiently and effectively. Out of all the people who looking for $15/hour jobs, some of them are better workers than others. Put a hiring process in place that ensures the best hire, every time.

Don’t overlook this point. Few things are more important in business (actually maybe nothing is more important) than hiring the right people.

Invest in Your People:
It can be extremely frustrating to work in a company with a revolving door of employees. It’s frustrating for employees and leaders at the same time. If you are going to have to raise wages with your, hopefully, well hired employees, then make an investment in them after the fact so they stick around. You may even find that paying higher than minimum wage and training them at a higher level allows you to hire less employees who produce at a higher level.

The point is simple. If small business leaders assume that the only thing they can do about a minimum wage increase is close their doors then they are missing a real opportunity to make creative changes, invest in employees and build an even stronger business. It is a setback? Sure, it could be. But one thing small business owners are notorious for is being tenacious in the face of adversity. Why would a pay increase be any different?

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Are Somewhat Satisfied Employees Good Enough?

somewhat engaged

One of my issues with employee engagement is that I think it is really hard to get an accurate measure. Because the word engagement means different things to different people, getting a true read on whether someone is engaged or not proves difficult. When you ask someone if they are “satisfied” at work, they could interpret that as happy or fulfilled or content which are all different.

At least that’s what I think.

If others share my view, it certainly doesn’t stop them from trying to measure employee engagement. A recent Forbes article sited a late 2015 survey conducted by SHRM stating that American workers are “the happiest they’ve been in years”.

The survey (which questioned 600 random people) states that 88% of respondents stated they were overall satisfied with their job. Indeed this is up from year’s past, but here’s the catch. If you keep reading you see that only 37% said they were truly satisfied. The other 51% said they were somewhat satisfied.

Somewhat satisfied.

Is that like sort of pregnant?

Do somewhat satisfied employees make an impact on the workplace like highly satisfied individuals do? Are we ok with the majority of satisfied employees really only being somewhat satisfied? Does it matter if the things that make them unsatisfied are really big and the things that make them somewhat satisfied are small?

I have so many questions.

Am I overthinking this?


Here’s what the survey does show. American companies are making strides in the right direction. And do you know how? Not with new fancy benefits or bring your dog to work day, but with respect. Year over year the number one contributing factor to how employees feel about their workplace is the “respectful treatment of employees at all levels”. Proving that effective employee engagement programs do not have to cost much. They simply require building a workplace that encourages communication, trust, empathy, transparency, accountability and respect.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it every time someone asks me about good employee engagement programs. The best employee engagement programs are leadership development programs.

Because leaders, more so than anything else, have the ability to move somewhat satisfied employees to highly satisfied.

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On Holiday: Returning January 4, 2016


It’s been an amazing year with lots of life and work changes for me. In an effort to process it all, refresh before 2016 hits and just enjoy time with my family, I am taking the next two weeks off from blogging.

I would still love to hear from you though. If you have topic ideas you would like me to cover in the new year please leave them in the comments below and I’ll add them to the lineup.

Happy Holidays from me to you…..

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