If you’re an entrepreneur like me, the scenario of employees asking for a pay raise sounds familiar right? Well, the complete opposite happened to me right when Covid-19 hit.
It wasn’t just one or two employees. It was a line-up of employees asking for a pay deduction. Right outside my office in the morning!
Grateful yet shocked, I asked, “Why would you do that?”
“We don’t need the money as much as some of these people do,” they said firmly.
They just wanted to make sure that all employees had enough to pay their bills and that the business would stay strong through the pandemic.
That wasn’t just a moving moment for me. It’s a leadership lesson that I’ll never forget as the founder of a 400-employee, $100M+ business:
Culture is at the heart of your business.
Now, I know that culture is often thrown around as a buzzword. Here’s how I define culture: Show people that you care. Show them that there's love. That you’re looking out for them. That you will go out of your way to help them.
Want to show your employees that you care? Here are a few of our tested and proven ways.
1. Pay 10% better than your competitors.
I learned the 10% rule from a multimillionaire who owns car dealerships, an industry that has a high turnover rate. That’s how he has attracted amazing people to work with him and stay with him. Now, why is that important? Based on our years of hiring and training, we’ve found that great employees get more done and become advocates for your business.
Here’s the thing: A-players have loads of options. They are usually in a job they’re happy with and/or they have a few offers on the backburner.
The most direct way to show that you mean serious business is paying above market rate, or better than your competitors. People want to know that you acknowledge them for the quality of their work or talents. As I’m writing this article, I verified this with Adam, my COO: We actually pay more than 10%, and it goes way up for high achievers who want to increase their income (with performance pay and incentives.)
2. Forget about meetings. Do 1-on-1s with your employees instead.
Team meetings still have their place. But the real winner for me has been 1-on-1 sessions with our employees. Even with 400 employees, I still do 1-on-1s! It’s how you connect with your people on a much deeper level.
I’m currently planning to take an hour each day to reach out to 15 employees — roughly 75 calls per week — so that I can celebrate them for their work. It’s as simple as saying “I’ve only got three minutes, but I just want to let you know that this stuff that you’re doing is standing out to me!”
Of course, this needs to be a company-wide effort. Every month, we do 1-on-1 goal-setting sessions, so that we make sure each employee is performing according to their KPIs and has the support they need to succeed.
Now, how do you do this systematically as your business scales like ours? You don’t need a U.S. memory champion’s brain. You just need a CRM to keep track of employee performance.
3. Focus on continuous training, not just one-time training.
Most companies train their new hires intensively for the first week to a month and then they just leave their hires to figure things out. In other words, they do sporadic or, worse still, zero training.
And that’s a tragedy! Why? Having trained several hundred technicians who have made thousands of sales, here’s why I put so much importance on continuous training: The better you train, the less likely fires will happen in your business, and the longer your best employees will stay. And remember, it costs a lot more money to hire a new employee than to keep an existing one. Especially if they are an A-player!
To train your employees continuously, here’s what you can offer:
• Operating manuals and checklists: These go hand-in-hand to make sure that your employees know what to do and how to do things every single time. If you want to scale, your entire business needs to be able to deliver quality consistently.
• Group training sessions: Every morning, we do what we call a Morning Mojo call, where we align on priorities, roleplay different sales strategies and celebrate wins as a team.
For your employees, paying better, doing 1-on-1s and continuous training all point toward one thing: recognition.
Culture is ultimately about creating a structure for your employees to succeed and to be recognized for their successes. Every single day!
After all, most of us spend over eight hours a day at work. We might as well work with people who genuinely care about us.
And that’s what I said to my employees that day: “We’re gonna make it through this. We’re a family. We’re gonna stick together.”
How do you keep your employees safe and happy while also keeping customers satisfied and your business thriving? Here are key guidelines.
Many leaders are concerned about workers' "great resignation" in every industry and at every level, from hospitality and restaurant staff to corporate workers still absent from their physical workplaces. In addition, as a result of the current health crisis, employees are reexamining their priorities and leaving jobs that don't meet those needs.
However, it's very likely this shift was always meant to happen, given the pace of technological development is reshaping what our workplace looks like. Consider how different work today is from the workplace of 50 years ago. The workplace as we know it is changing beyond the point of return – this isn't the first time and it won't be the last time leadership faces employment crises on a massive scale.
As leaders consider the future of work, even as the current health crisis faces escalated threats in the coming months, how do you keep your employees safe and happy while keeping customers satisfied and your business thriving? Based on my nearly 30 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur, here are several guidelines I think will be key:
1. Listen and take care of your people and their families
Your employees are the front lines of your business, regardless of sector or industry. Especially in times of crisis or change, focus on taking care of your people first. If you take care of your people, they will take care of your clients, which will take care of your top business needs.
For example, Silicon Valley companies created campuses with full amenities to encourage employees to feel at home at the office and stay more focused on work. In the context of the current health crisis, this could mean leaders plan for new in-office resources and safety measures or provide childcare resources for employees who are parents and who may have a more challenging time finding childcare. My team sponsored a vaccination clinic for employees and their families at our office in India when vaccine access was a challenge, and we found that this was extremely effective in uniting and reenergizing our staff.
Employee care can mean something different at every company, so survey your teams to get feedback on their current needs, whether it's bonuses, flexible office setups, various technology tools, or more perks.
Early surveys and studies show clear generational differentiators that dictate employees' desires for their future workplace. For example, a June survey from The Conference Board found that 55% of millennial workers question the wisdom of returning to the office, a more significant proportion than older generations.
A clear trend is emerging: Older employees are excited to get back into the office and return to their familiar routines, keeping work and life in separate spaces. Younger Gen Z employees are also eager to return to the office – they want to learn on the job and be part of the mentorship connections that naturally happen more easily in the workplace. In the middle, the generation of employees in their mid-life and mid-career stages largely relished working from home during the past 18 months. Many are parents of young children who enjoyed the extra time gained from no work commuting.
A successful future of work plan should meet the needs of all three of these constituencies. Hybrid work plans, which many (but not all) companies have gravitated towards, can make it easier to meet the needs of each generational group. Yet, each workforce is different and these groups are weighted differently. Think critically about your people and figure out the right balance.
2. Make culture, innovation and community a return-to-work priority
It's undeniable that employees have proven themselves to be very productive remotely in many workplaces, and innovation has kept pace. Remote communication tools have made leaps and bounds in the past year and companies were forced to address digitalization plans, whether they were ready or not.
Keep that momentum to maintain your culture and high level of innovation in your return-to-office plans and beyond. Human connectivity is essential to keeping your teams engaged and coming back excited about work. Many large companies have internal interest groups, from special industry focus groups to committees to discuss race or gender at the organization or within a specific industry.
As a leader, allow cultural moments at your company to happen organically and encourage them to become even bigger with leadership buy-in. When offices reopen, it will be just as important to create space and time for employees to connect — and reconnect. Allow your teams to re-form interpersonal bonds and properly welcome staff that joined your company entirely remotely. These seemingly minor moments of human connection make a significant impact on your team's longevity.
3. Lead with agility
"Agility" has been a big buzzword over the past several years, but what does agility mean in the context of evolving corporate cultural trends?
Leaders need to approach internal goals and benchmarks with the same speed and intensity as their business goals, and break these goals down into smaller, simultaneously operating chunks.
Meet with stakeholders at all levels of your company and define what those goals are. Then, if employees need something, build it for them.
If you can't start with agile leadership within your own company, employees will struggle to get on board with pushing for strong agility goals for your customers and clients. In other words: if you don't walk the walk, you can't talk the talk.
4. Be intentional about your future culture
Leaders need to be thoughtful about approaching times of change to have the best success at keeping teams — and customers — steadily on board with your company, product or service.
Maintaining your team's culture and level of innovation comes easiest when you can bring people back to the office as soon as possible. But first, listen to your people, show you're listening with intentional actions and put people's safety above everything else.
As the leader of a growing business, you might be tempted to set your goals high and hold your employees to meeting them. You and your team likely have a ton of great ideas and are eager to pursue each of them, but aiming too high can actually be detrimental to your business's growth and success.
Rather than setting unattainable standards for yourself and your employees, take your time when developing your business and each worker's path to ensure sustainable, measured growth. Below, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council shared ways to set realistic business goals that will still stretch limitations and build your team’s skills.
1. Review Your Historical Numbers
Forecasting is an absolute art. Setting high forecasts that you can’t hit will be demoralizing to your team while setting low forecasts won’t push your team enough. Finding the balance is hard. Historical numbers and growth rates are the best way to get back into reasonable KPIs for your 2022 year. If your revenues have historically grown 30% YoY, but you have recently doubled your sales team, perhaps predicting 60% might be reasonable. No matter what assumptions you use to build your business goals, make sure to let everyone know that KPIs and OKRs must be malleable and should be reviewed quarterly to make sure they’re in line and achievable. - Cooper Harris, Klickly
2. Monitor And Scale Back As Needed
Err toward aggressiveness in the beginning, and communicate that to your team. That way, if they hit the original goal, they’ll know they really knocked it out of the park. Monitor progress on the goal over time and scale it back a bit if necessary. That way, your employees will know that you’re aware of the progress toward the goal and are smart enough to know that it needs to be tempered back a bit. That will improve employee growth and they’ll most assuredly reach the secondary goal. - Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
3. Start With Your Customers’ Needs
Referring to your customers' needs is a solid way to set up business goals. Start by looking at your audience's pain points and what you need to offer to solve them. Then make a rational assessment of your skills, resources and the time you need to meet your audience's needs. In this way, you can come up with realistic goals that will keep you on your feet. Also, any business that is customer-focused will never run out of ideas or goals that challenge it. There are always ways to improve your product features, onboarding, communication, customer support and more. Just listen to your customers on social media or ask them directly for what they want using feedback forms. Their feedback and pain points will give you fresh goals that will push you to do better. - Blair Williams, MemberPress
4. Road Map Regularly
Regular road mapping is an excellent way to set clear, measurable goals that align your team with your long-term vision and mission. By breaking your road maps down into monthly, quarterly and yearly road maps, you can break lofty goals down into clear steps that can be achieved with the proper resources. In addition, building a road map with key contributors enables you to brainstorm, find and implement the best ideas to reach and exceed your goals. With key contributor buy-in, you're able to ensure your team is on the same page and ready to work toward lofty goals. If the plan isn't working or could be improved, the regular interval road map check-in allows for plenty of room to adjust strategy and keep you on track to reach or exceed your goals. - Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC
5. Break Goals Into Smaller Steps
To set realistic business goals that push you in the right direction, it's important to break them down into smaller steps. This makes them more achievable as looking at the end goal can make you feel exhausted and overwhelmed. When creating your goals, it's also crucial to make them as specific as you can. Following SMART goals is an easy way to create specific, measurable goals that help you grow a successful business. - Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
6. Allow Ownership Over Goals
Don't set goals for the sake of setting goals. Goals help give an organization and its workers an aim and direction. They are a good way to improve employee performance and that's that. This means goal setting isn't a completely rigid process. When executing, things change, and goals should account for that. Also, goal setting should involve employees as well. If you hope to develop talent with goal setting, then managers and employees have to be actively involved in setting them. People tend to perform better if they feel ownership of their goals and the means of achieving them. Add to that that individual goals of employees and departments should be aligned to an overarching company goal that helps everyone feel like they and their work matter. It's all about executing at the end of the day. - Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS
7. Understand The Purpose Behind Each Goal
What is your purpose in coming up with the goal? Ask yourself who will benefit from the goal. If the goal will benefit just you, check your heart for if the goal can be changed to benefit more people. Come up with goals based on the data you have at the moment and not just wishful thinking. The goals should be realistic and guaranteed to happen and ready for a possible crisis in case of an emergency. They should also be rewarding for everyone and have a bit of riskiness to encourage more people to put their hearts and souls into accomplishing them. At the end of the day, it should be a mix of having unselfish goals and encouraging more people to push their limits to aim for having the best of both worlds. - Daisy Jing, Banish
8. Do A SWOT Analysis
Complete a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. This will help you identify your challenges before you start setting goals. When you know your challenges, it’s easier for you to think strategically and come up with realistic goals that can help you solve your problems and overcome your challenges. - Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite
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