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Wednesday, 06 February 2013 02:00
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Sure, you can get your own life relatively balanced--but what about managing an entire start-up full of workaholics?

As employers, we all know that the New Year causes our employees to rethink their priorities. This is especially true in small companies and start-ups, where the "life" part of the work-life balance is often malnourished.

But you are a good boss: You want to be known for the stellar treatment of your employees. Maybe you dream of a day when GlassDoor names your company as one of its "Best Places to Work." Before you enact that telecommuting policy, start offering flexible hours, or buy that combination table tennis-foosball-pool table for the break room, here are five things that you want to consider:

1. Make it official.

Don't just haphazardly start bending rules. Enact a formal work-life program or policy. Do this by first considering what kinds of work-life benefits would really be recognized as a benefit to your employees. Examples of work-life program components include things like flexible work arrangements (such as flexible hours or a compressed work week), allowing part-time schedules, offering telecommuting options, permitting "shift-swapping" (for companies with around the clock work shifts), or providing discretionary leave, such as paternity, educational, community-service or a "sabbatical."

2. Make it legal.

Understand that not all work-life programs "work" in all states. For instance, it is very difficult to offer a compressed work week (such as 10 hours a day for four days a week), without running afoul of wage and hour laws regarding overtime. A work-life program that is properly planned and evenly implemented can provide employers a competitive edge in attracting and retaining a diverse, highly productive workforce. Otherwise, these programs can backfire, and become a source of legal risk and low morale.

3. Understand and manage the risks.

Although these policies are enacted by the higher-ups in a company, they are often left to be executed by those in direct management. A typical process has the employee approach her or his manager with a specific request to take advantage of a work-life program. Then the manager decides to grant approval or not--approval is not guaranteed. This can lead to inconsistencies across managers and leave a company open to claims of foul play or favoritism. An employee and a clever plaintiffs' lawyer can always claim that denial was in fact discrimination based on a protected class (provided one exists, of course). My advice is to have a central place where such requests are made (like the HR department) and have them keep track of approvals and denials--so they can ensure fair application of program guidelines.

4. Keep good records.

One way to reduce the risk is to keep accurate documentation that clearly articulates the reasons why a work/life program was authorized or not authorized. This will allow you (or your HR Manager) to make sure that the rules are being applied fairly. If a problem comes up, then be sure to investigate and take appropriate action based on the result. Be sure to train or reprimand managers that fail to keep accurate records or fail to apply their discretion consistently.

5. Recognize the FMLA or ADA.

Some requests for a work/life program are actually veiled requests for a protected leave. If an employee wants to work part-time to take care of an ailing spouse or a sick child, this should be treated as a "demand" for FMLA leave (Family and Medical Leave Act) and not a "request" for a flexible schedule. Likewise, if you suspect that an employee is requesting a flexible work arrangement because of a medical condition, be sure to first analyze the request according to the definition of "reasonable accommodation" under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Even though work/life programs offer real advantages to employers and employees, it is necessary to understand the risks that are associated. his is especially relevant when it comes to employment law--an area where the law is both state-specific and always changing. Be sure to work closely with employment counsel to reduce your risk to a lever that is right for your organization. The time to do this is not after you get in trouble--so be sure to get legal review before you launch the program, and get advice during program implementation. Then you can be safely on your way to that coveted "Best Places to Work" list.

Tuesday, 05 February 2013 22:00
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Four tips to find your flow and stay focused longer.

Tuesday, 05 February 2013 17:40
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looking-over-cubicleOne of the biggest reasons that employees underperform or leave their new roles within the first three months is because they don’t know what to do, they are unclear of expectations and the business they are joining has not integrated them in to the team culture. Ensure that the time you invest with your new employees’ results in improved employee performance, productivity and profitability by implementing an informative and helpful on- boarding programme.

While an on-boarding programme is usually a mix of generic (about the company expectations) and specific (what the employee is expected to do in their role), the length and nature of it depends on the complexity of the job and the background of the new employee.

What are the benefits of an on-boarding programme?

  • Lowers turnover
  • Improves employee morale and motivation
  • Reduces recruitment costs
  • Lowers training costs
  • Makes understanding the job, the team and culture easier for the new employee
  • Reduces anxiety for the new employee
  • Increases productivity

With so many benefits why wouldn’t you put a new employee through an on-boarding programme?
Often it simply comes down to time and arguably if you are inducting a new employee, you can’t perform your normal role of running your business and this means reduced productivity. However, given the benefits, committing a few days to ensure that the new employee is welcomed in to their new team and shown the ropes is vital to their success and ultimately the success of your business. Time spent at the onset will save you time and money down the line.

Who should do the on-boarding training?
Arguably, the business owner would be preferable as they know the business already and can give greater insight into the culture. Though you need to ensure that they ‘understand’ intimately the requirements of the job – which means that often the line manager may be more appropriate, which often is also the business owner!

Alternatively, if you a have high volume of new recruits or simply do not enjoy training, you could devise a programme with an external HR consultancy (like Pod Consulting) who could run the programme for you, thus enabling you to focus on your core business. This way you can ensure that the skills sessions, theory and any case studies and role plays are undertaken in the class room setting with experienced trainers before the new employee does the ‘on the job’ training with you (the business owner or manager), putting the theory into practice.

It is also a good idea to get the rest of the team involved in the on-boarding process i.e. the receptionist to outline the administrative procedures and how to answer the phone; a peer whom the new employee could observe ‘on the job’, the business owner to give an overview of the strategic direction of the business and explain how the employee’s role adds value to the business objectives; the accountant to explain how the employee gets paid and any financial expectations etc. Do remember however, that you need to get competent, conscientious and high performing employees involved in the process, it will not help your business to get those with poor attitudes or the poor performers involved.

Schedule
Remember to focus on what is really important in the early days and set a timetable. It will take a while for your new employee to full assimilate all the new information that they are being introduced to in their first days with a new business.

Ongoing training
Once the on-boarding programme has been completed, the training goes on… and on… it is your job as business owner or manager to check regularly that the new employee is settling in and getting to grips with their new role. It is during weekly catch ups that you informally discuss how the employee is getting on, what work they are doing and any areas of concern. During monthly catch ups (follow ups should be for three months and on the monthly anniversary of employment) you should review the job description and highlight the areas that the employee has mastered (green), the areas that they are gaining an understanding of (amber) and the areas where they are not performing well (red). The traffic light system gives you early warning signals to potential performance issues and/or to alert you to where additional training is needed.

At Pod Consulting we create on-boarding plans to enable your business to quickly utilise the skills and experience of your new employees, while helping them to fit in to your business, the team, the culture, and role.

Tuesday, 05 February 2013 09:00
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Industry watchers are hopeful that entrepreneurship is on the rise.

Tuesday, 05 February 2013 07:30
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Decoded Fashion's hackathon builds technology to change the way designers create clothes and consumers purchase them.

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