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April 2013

Tuned In and Turned On

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Is your staff tuned in to what your customers need? Do you ever worry about losing your top performers? Is your ratio of low performers outnumbering the good ones? How do you know when to take action? To feel confident that you’re managing your team better than your competition is managing theirs, read on. 

Knowing your turnover rate is a good place to start. Besides increasing your costs related to recruitment and training, high turnover rates mean that your workforce likely lacks experience which translates to less efficiency and an increased number of mistakes, at least for a while. Your staff turnover rate also tells part of the story of what is going on with your workforce. 

To calculate turnover, consider the last calendar year. Divide the number of employees who have left the organization by the average number of employees during the same period and multiply by 100. For example:  if four employees out of 35 left in one calendar year, then the annual turnover rate is 11.4%. 

You might be thinking that counting someone who leaves the organization due to a decision to stay home with a new little one, to return to full time post-secondary education or to move out of the area might not be a good reflection of your company’s turnover or level of employee engagement. And you may be right. In calculating your assessment it’s okay to omit those departures, as long as you make a note of the exclusions to avoid comparing apples to oranges in the future.  

The rate should be compared to that of the industry, if possible. Ask colleagues what their turnover rate is to help you understand how you compare. If your rate is higher, consider how you can achieve better results by understanding why the employees made a decision to leave. Do you use exit interviews with departing employees to really understand their motivation for leaving? Be brave enough to ask, “what could I (or the company) have done differently?” Then, be prepared to shift your thinking if a pattern emerges.  

Turnover rate is a reflection of employee engagement and employee engagement is the catch phrase that thought leaders and coaches are talking a lot about these days. But what exactly does it mean? In a recent blog by Michael Brenner on the American Society for Training and Development website, engagement is described as: The extent to which a person chooses to apply their talent, energy and care toward any effort.”[i] 

Every employee brings talent to the employment relationship, but whether or not they bring their energy and care to work may be a different matter. Some people just bring it, others don’t have it to bring, but there are those who may be in the middle ground. This is where your leadership skills can be particularly influential. 

Leaders have to help other people get what they want out of life. Try to understand how you can help individual employees progress towards accomplishing meaningful work. If you can do that, both you and your employees will get what you want, both for the company and personally. It’s a beautiful thing to develop your employees’ talents to the point of making yourself obsolete. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes for a moment. If you want to grow and develop, they likely do too. It’s not a bad thing for a business owner to have the freedom to do other things and let his or her staff step up and take charge. 

Getting a handle on employee engagement is more than calculating turnover, it’s all about knowing your workforce and how they are motivated to perform. Aligning your company’s goals with the employees’ goals brings value beyond the numbers.

Make Day One a Good Day

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The first day on a new job is a bit like the first day of kindergarten. Feelings of anticipation and excitement, mixed with sheer terror. After all you have a new route to travel, new people to meet and a new physical space to get used to. To top it all off, you have a new boss. Now you need to figure out how to stay in his or her good books. Likewise, your boss needs to plan to make your first day a good day. 

If you’re the new employee, it’s important to find out a few things before the big day. You need to know what time to show up and what attire is appropriate. Are safety shoes required? What is your travel route? What time do you have to leave home to get to work with 15 minutes to spare? Where do you park? If you are taking the bus, determine the timing of the bus route, and how to navigate to your new place of work from the bus stop. If possible, check it out over a couple of days, so you can review traffic patterns and watch for bottlenecks that might slow you down. 

Before the big day, review the research you did on the company during the recruiting process and be aware of recent articles that may have been added to the website or that have appeared in the newspaper, or relevant industry journals. This can help you make a strong impression. Finally, if you don’t know what to expect to do for lunch, prepare a brown bag lunch for the first day.  

When you arrive at your new job, announce yourself with a smile and a genuine greeting. A simple, “Hi, my name is Pat and today is my first day,” can be an easy conversation starter. Usually, a colleague or the manager will collect you and take you to your new space. This journey signifies your entry into the clan–an already formed group of people with a common goal. Soon, that will soon be your goal too! 

You’ll be meeting lots of people, so pay attention to names and titles. You`ll be given lots of information, such as passcodes, voice mail protocol and information from HR, so it’s a good idea to bring a small notepad that you can jot down notes to refer to later. It makes a good impression if you come in the second day and remember Susie’s name from payroll. 

While you’ve been preparing for your new role, your new manager has been preparing for your arrival. No doubt he or she has been working behind the scenes work to ensure you have a workspace, a desk and chair and has sent out a communication to let your colleagues know that you will be joining the team. Your computer has been set up and your phone voice mail is cleared and ready for you. Your manager may have assigned a mentor to help you settle into the work environment. An appointment has been set up to assist you with filling out government tax forms, emergency contact information forms and setting up your payroll account. Now the manager and you have some quality time together. Be ready for a tour of the facility, evacuation options, introductions, and a sit down meeting to review the details of the company handbook, specifics related to your new job, and/or your rights and responsibilities related to health and safety.  

If you are lucky, you will have an opportunity to meet a senior manager to review the company values and expectations of conduct. Pay close attention to these; values are the foundation of an organization and living those values is an important part of success in your new job. With planning and an open mind, the first day can set the tone for a long and productive work relationship.

On-boarding Checklist

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Onboarding Checklist
The “recruiting process” doesn’t end after the “locate, identify, interview and hire” steps. It is really a continuous and ongoing activity each and every day to continuously re-engage your workforce. Well organized on-boarding of new employees is a critical step in ensuring their success and engagement.

Help Your Staff Succeed

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Many small business owners, managers and supervisors inadvertently sabotage their staff’s ability to succeed. They often do it by neglecting three basic things: job descriptions, the employee handbook and annual performance reviews. In small workplaces, these items may seem like mere formalities, but they are critically important to helping employees excel both as individuals and as a team. If you haven’t already taken action on these items, here’s why it’s important and how you can start.

Have Written Job Descriptions
Simply put, a written job description is the only common language an employer and an employee have for communicating what, how and when work is to be done, what results should be achieved and how success will be evaluated. Without a written job description, your employee is left to guess what you actually expect. This uncertainty often translates into a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” mindset on the part of the employee. If even one member of your team is subject to this kind of daily uncertainty, it can lower the morale of your entire staff and prevent them from sharing their ideas or taking initiative.

Preparing or updating a job description with the employee(s) involved can be a good opportunity to better understand how your organization functions and make any changes that you both agree might be required. Don’t worry if the specifics of a particular position need to evolve over time, work with the employee(s) involved to develop an initial job description and agree to revisit it in six months time.

Have an Employee Handbook
The employee handbook further outlines the parameters of the relationship between your organization and its employees. It is the best way to convey information about policies pertaining to time off; vacations; sick days; overtime; use of company computers and property, phones, faxes and other equipment; access to and use of customer information; whether or not personal mobile phones are allowed in certain areas of the workplace; safety and security procedures; facility opening and closing checklists; workplace policies stipulated by the government, etc.

The employee handbook is important from the perspective of ensuring that all employees are treated equally with respect to the basic rules of the workplace. If you run into a situation that isn’t covered by the handbook, you can always add it in. Be sure to schedule an annual update of this important document and that all employees are aware of its contents. In the event of a dispute, this will help prove that your organization has done its due diligence with respect to compliance with the Employment Standards Act.

Have Annual Performance Reviews
Imagine how you’d feel if you had been working hard for a year or more, trying your very best and then, out of the blue, your boss told you that you were so far off-base that you were being disciplined and/or your job may even be in jeopardy. For both the employee and his or her coworkers, the experience can be absolutely devastating, undermining both their self-confidence and trust in management for months (or years) to come.

Conducting a formal, documented annual performance review for each employee based on the evaluation criteria outlined in the job description provided to them. prevents this from happening. It also allows you and any employee who may be missing the mark to work together to improve job success through increased communication and additional training or other supports. For the employer, annual performance reviews offer other important benefits -they help reduce the need for and expense of progressive disciplinary action, and offer a major source of insight into factors in the work environment that may be undermining the performance of a number of employees, or even the entire staff team.

If you require assistance with job descriptions, employee handbooks or developing a system for annual performance reviews, consult a Certified Human Resources Professional and look for the designation CHRP after the consultant’s name. Only CHRPs and lawyers are recognized by the Province as being qualified to provide professional advice about achieving and maintaining compliance with employment legislation such as the Employment Standards Act.