Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Lori Kleiman, @LoriKleiman. Lori’s HR mantra comes from her innate no-nonsense approach and 30+ years of experience as a Human Resources consultant and entrepreneur running human resources departments of all sizes. Through her company, HR Topics, she helps HR departments of all sizes better manage the many responsibilities they have and teaches them how to position themselves and the human resources department into a more vital strategic element of their organization. Learn more at www.hrtopics.com.
SmallBizLady: What is different about employees today?
Lori Kleiman: Employees today want to be involved in problem-solving and decision making. The employee of the current workforce has options. They aren’t afraid to make a change to a new organization if the current one doesn’t meet their needs. Community involvement and social responsibility are expectations that employees have of their employer.
SmallBizLady: What contributes to employee satisfaction at work?
Lori Kleiman: Employees want to be trusted to handle situations and make decisions in the best interest of the business. Respect is a key element in the relationship between employee and employer. Job security is critical, and they feel they can get that with ongoing feedback to know where they stand in their manager’s opinion. The ability to use their skills and ability – and be trained to add to their current base of knowledge.
SmallBizLady: Why is the employee’s happiness the manager’s responsibility?
Lori Kleiman: Businesses are short staffed and the war for talent is fierce. Most businesses are trying to do more with fewer people, and engaged employees will give you 38% more productivity. There is a direct correlation between happy employees and client retention. We know that the bottom line drives the future of business success, and engaged workforces have a 27% higher profitability level then non-engaged workplaces.
SmallBizLady: Is it mostly the millennials we have to worry about?
Lori Kleiman: Absolutely not! This is a culture shift of the American worker. All workers are stretched thin. Baby boomers today are taking care of elderly parents, helping their children and their loyalty is stretched thin. Millennials are now the majority of the workforce – and many of them are managers. We need to see them as the worker – not an odd bird.
SmallBizLady: How do we determine who we should be engaging with?
Lori Kleiman: Evaluate which of your employees are critical to the short and long term success of the business. Not every employee has to be engaged in the same way – look at your top talent first. Consider those employees that have a great attitude and take initiative to ensure your projects are completed. Look at the long-term potential of those newer to your team, if you are spending time and resources on training they better be engaged.
SmallBizLady: Where do we begin the employee engagement process?
Lori Kleiman: As soon as you write a job ad and recruit new people to your team. During the first two weeks on the job. We know many employees decide to leave your team in their first 30 days! When you are reviewing job descriptions, allow the employee to identify what they are excited to do – and what they’d love to give to someone else. Consider formal cross-training during the initial orientation of employees.
SmallBizLady: Is it better to let employees shine individually or part of a team?
Lori Kleiman: Employees want connections, so the more they can work in productive teams the better! Individual recognition is also key – but a simple, public “Nice Job” or “Thank you” from a manager can do the trick. Employees want meaningful work, that can be as important as whether they are part of a team or on their own. And the teams don’t have to be side by side. Virtual teams are just as effective in connecting employees.
SmallBizLady: How can employees get engaged with the company mission?
Lori Kleiman: They can have a cognitive focus, where they understand the mission and how their work is aligned with success. Emotional connection is critical – employees should understand why being on the team makes it easier for their co-workers to be successful. They have to physically have what they need to go the extra mile and make your success possible. Employees want to be advocates for your products and services. Allow them to be ambassadors and represent your organization.
SmallBizLady: What are some ways to communicate culture to employees?
Lori Kleiman: Start with a clear ethics and culture statement. Be specific about how people are to be treated in your organization. Publicize expectations throughout the organization including your handbook, on business cards, posters in break areas, etc. Walk the walk and talk the talk. There is nothing more damaging to the culture than for employees seeing leadership act completely differently.
Think Seeing, Hearing, Doing and embrace culture into as many opportunities to touch employees as possible.
SmallBizLady: What are some strategies that encourage teamwork?
Lori Kleiman: Recognize employees for helping one another – even if it doesn’t impact the bottom line. Emphasize learning new tasks from one another and encourage employees to initiate cross training on their own. Create and track team goals – and demonstrate how they impact the bottom line. Celebrate small goals often and publicly.
SmallBizLady: If development is a key component to engagement, what are some alternatives beyond just sending people to classes?
Lori Kleiman: Employees want to be connected, so having a mentor in your organization can help growth, development, and retention. External mentors are a great avenue for employees to have a sounding board without feeling they will be judged for “silly ideas.”
Mentors can also be groups of experts. Consider mastermind or peer-to-peer learning groups for your top performers. Mentors can be essential for highly engaged employees to use as a resource for long term career growth.
SmallBizLady: How does mentorship enter into engagement?
Lori Kleiman: Modify their current position to take advantage of technology for clerical tasks and allow them to be more critical in their completed work. You can also allow the employee to engage in new projects that are a stretch and highlight their skills outside the department. Also effective is to provide a small budget for self-directed learning, possibly to purchase books, online webinars or coaching. Participation in external networking opportunities such as local chapter meetings, chamber of commerce events etc.
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