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PANDEMIC UPDATES – WHAT’S NEXT

One year down, what’s your next consideration?
Vaccinations
Many of my clients and other businesses are trying to decide what to do about vaccinations. Should you go to mandatory for everyone? The EEOC announced last year that this was possible under the laws they administer so long as companies complied with the disability and equal opportunity laws. They deferred to the CDC for further guidance which has not come.
Legal advice has been confused, to be polite. There are firms which say it is legal to make it mandatory, others say it is for certain types of work, and those which say it is not. The negative view is tied to the way the vaccines were approved – under emergency use authorizations, which prohibit anyone from being forced to take them. There are a few lawsuits against employers for mandating the vaccines but these will take a long time to yield answers you can use. There is also legislation pending in several states either to allow it to be mandatory or to forbid it. I tend to think that it may be illegal under federal law, but as usual most small organizations will not be targets.
If you are still considering this topic, ask yourself these questions:

What is the business case for mandating vaccination?
Does this apply to all employees or only certain categories?
What do your values and culture support?
Will you encourage vaccinations if you do not mandate it?
How will you explain the need and either decision to your staff?

Encouraging employees and their families to get vaccinated does help if you do not mandate it. This will make returning to work easier if you have people who are not currently there. It supports the goal of getting the US […]

By |April 5th, 2021|Business planning, Communications, Small Biz, values|Comments Off on PANDEMIC UPDATES – WHAT’S NEXT

IMPROVE COMMUNICATIONS FOR SUCCESS & EFFECTIVENESS

I recently attended a Zoom roundtable where our reactions to pandemic-caused changes was the topic. The facilitator started by asking how we were all coping and handling our mental state. No-one spoke so I offered that for me one sign of increasing difficulties was when normal stuff started really bothering me visually. Before I even finished, I was being told to scan all my papers into my computer and go paperless so I could search them easily, to watch some videos on one’s ‘clutter personality’, and so on. I thought I had been clear about one sign that was a warning to me that I needed some self-care and could be a suggestion to everyone to pay attention to their own triggers. Obviously I had failed in my communications. And worse, I found myself blaming the responders for not listening to me.
Yet such failures, on both sides, are common. With the impact of the pandemic, clear communications are even more important. And if you work in any virtual or remote work situations, communication problems are magnified. Thus each of us:

needs to be very clear in both verbal and written communications, and
must learn to improve our listening habits.

Sounds easy. Usually it is not. And that is when the difficulties begin.
Here are some basic ideas. Some are obvious yet few people do them well. In fact, most people think that they communicate far more effectively than they actually do. So brush up your skills. Create some new habits.
Communicating Clearly
If you are communicating something important, take the time to prepare. A new company service, a new policy or procedure, or changes in company direction or organization all take considerable thought in advance.

What is your objective? Are you […]

By |February 17th, 2021|Communications, culture, Smart practices|Comments Off on IMPROVE COMMUNICATIONS FOR SUCCESS & EFFECTIVENESS

HIRING Part 3: When You Are Hiring More Than One

Many small employers hire rarely. Others hire multiples regularly due to the nature of their business or during growth. When hiring increases significantly or repeat hiring is common, networking and employee referrals alone may not be enough to meet your needs.
When that happens, you need to build a sourcing process and network.
Here are some common sources of potential employees for you to consider. Evaluate those that meet your needs most effectively and develop relationships to sustain the process.
High Schools: Local/area high schools often have people looking for internships, part-time jobs, and eventually full-time work. Most have someone on staff dedicated to helping employers and potential employees connect. High schools are a great resource for all those jobs which do not require additional training or specialized education. You may also find great help for projects and short-term needs, such as: design and maintain your website, develop social media programs, and to support administrative needs.
City/local area Foster Children programs: In most states children are not allowed to stay in foster care beyond 18. There are a lot of people aging out of these programs even in smaller locations. These young people need jobs, apartments, and almost everything our families help with when we start out. Connect with your local foster care program to see how they can support your hiring needs.
Job skills programs: there are a wide range of non-profit programs designed to help specific populations increase their job skills. Look around for these in your community and learn what they offer. These include:

The Salvation Army, Goodwill, VOA, Melwood
Non-profit local organizations supporting specific populations – such as women returning to the workplace, returning citizens from jails and prisons, victims of abuse, those with disabilities, refugees, older […]

By |November 13th, 2020|Business planning, hiring, Small Biz, Smart practices|Comments Off on HIRING Part 3: When You Are Hiring More Than One

HIRING Part 2: Develop a Process

Hiring is tough work and often stressful to fit in among all the demands on your time. Here is the basic process for your use. Flesh it out with what works in your situation. Then keep a record of it for future hiring which will save time and help improve your ‘batting average’ for better hires.
Step 1: Define the Need
What goal are you achieving by hiring someone? Based on the goal, do you need full-time or part-time support? Or would a temporary, contract individual, consultant, or outsourced service provider be the smarter move?
Create or update a position description. This should include the reason for the position, the major work which it will include, and the minimum qualifications to succeed in the role.
Keep your description at a high level, do not go into details about each possible bit of work that might be required. This reduces your need to update the description repeatedly. It minimizes the complaints of individuals who might focus on ‘its not in my job description’ when changes occur.
Look at the minimum qualifications carefully. Do you really need a degree to do the job or are you using that as a place-marker for quality or maturity? Think in terms of on-going technology change – is the need for someone who can manipulate spreadsheets? Then do not ask for only one software type – someone who knows one usually can be up to speed in another quite quickly. Skip the cliches – everyone wants a self-starter, a customer-oriented person. Instead of saying ‘ excellent communications skills’, be specific.
Step 2: Define Who Will Do What
In hiring, you need to source people (see part 1, 3) obviously. But how will you treat those who apply?
Who […]

By |November 12th, 2020|Business planning, hiring, Policies and Practices, Small Biz|Comments Off on HIRING Part 2: Develop a Process

HIRING Part 1: Finding Quality Talent

If you have been hiring – or, more likely, trying to hire – people, you may wonder why hiring is so hard. One in three small business owners have open jobs. One in four say they have no or very few qualified applicants.

Many hiring managers in all size companies expect that it should be easy now to hire, given the pandemic’s impact. There are a few reasons that is not true. First, the pandemic devastated certain industries – hospitality, restaurants, retail – far more than others. Hiring managers do not often understand which skills in those areas might translate well to meet their needs. Job seekers often do not know how to show such transferable skills either. Second the labor market has been shrinking for decades. The Boomers are still retiring at high rates, on average at age 60. Men’s labor participation rate has been declining for 60 years and now hovers around 70%. Women’s rate has dropped for 20 years and now is about 58%. Immigration has been dropping for 30 years. The US has a very low birthrate. Worse yet, the pandemic’s impact on women has been far worse than on men; hence many women are dropping out of the workforce to keep their kids on track in virtual school and manage all the family demands.

In areas like Metro DC, where unemployment was already very low, the unemployment rate is still low by historic standards.

How To Find the Quality Candidates You Need

If you are under about 50 employees and do not hire a large number each year, the costs in time and money of using most online job boards or a recruiter are very high. Yet, many lower cost methods often result […]

By |October 22nd, 2020|hiring, Smart practices|Comments Off on HIRING Part 1: Finding Quality Talent

Coronavirus: The ‘Messy Middle’

Here we are in the ‘messy middle’ – you have survived the shock of the coronavirus and have accepted that we do not know when or how it will go away. Now you need to decide what to do about short-term and mid-term issues. A vaccine will not be a quick fix since it is estimated to take two full years to vaccinate the US once approved and we do not know how many will get vaccinated or how effective any vaccine will be yet.
Whether you closed your office completely or not at all, you need to pay attention to your office and employee needs in this difficult time for everyone.
If you closed your office in full or in part, you may be struggling with planning the return. I am seeing lots of organizations planning for a return Jan 4, 2021 – often after planning for earlier dates. They and others also have multiple employees who want to come in some days each week now. What will you allow, how will you manage it?
A late June Gensler survey showed 44% of employees want to return full time and another 26% want to be there the majority of the week. A separate study in late August puts that total at 83%. At the same time, you will have employees fearful of coming into the office whenever you return. You must think now about what you will plan for and allow.
Human Fatigue
Many people are dealing with anxiety and fatigue from the changes to their lives during the pandemic. This includes founders, leaders, and managers in small businesses.
Here are some ways to help your staff and yourself cope:

Talk to people about how they are, instead of discussing […]

By |September 10th, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Policies and Practices, productivity, Small Biz, SMB|Comments Off on Coronavirus: The ‘Messy Middle’

Good Trouble

I first heard of John Lewis when I was in college. Not from his speech at the March on Washington, which I did not hear. When he crossed the bridge in Selma and was beaten and then said that the President should send in the military to protect marchers seeking to vote (protecting voters – sound familiar?) I did hear that. My teen years were full of civil rights issues. Early on it was for school integration – and suddenly Americans everywhere saw in magazines, newspaper, and TV – the screaming crowds, their faces contorted by rage and hate and fear fighting against small children going to school. We saw the ‘colored’ signs on doors and water fountains and more.
Between the courts ruling for integration of schools in the 1950s and then Congress and LBJ reacting to the pressure of the demonstrators, the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.
By my mid-late teens the demonstrations were for voting rights. Same visuals plus police beating and turning almost rabid-looking dogs on men and women dressed in their Sunday best who were peacefully marching. Murders. violence, arson, and more murders – of little girls, Freedom Riders, and local blacks and the whites who joined them in attempting to enroll voters. John Lewis was there with MLK and Medger Evers, CT Vivian (who also died yesterday) and many more. Peaceful was the watchword and they were, the whites in view were often not. While there was plenty of discrimination in the North, these scenes in the South were most shocking to us. These marches and demonstrations and the reactions to them helped LBJ get the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. (Something we need to do again.)
The […]

By |July 23rd, 2020|culture, values|Comments Off on Good Trouble

More Re-Opening Issues

As you plan to re-open your offices or bringing more people in, employees may be concerned about returning. If you already have a telework plan, does it need any changes now? If you do not, now is the time to develop one. While most employees want to work in the office at least part-time, nearly a third are interested in full-time remote work. You need to assess what you want to offer in advance and make that clear early. As soon as you have a basic policy on telework, communicate it. Do the same with your re-opening plan.
There are also some legal issues to be aware of in your preparation and in talking with your staff.
FFCRA
You may remember the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in March. If you have not thought much about it, now is the time. The considerations under FFCRA run until the end of the year. More employees may be asking for added time off as you re-open your office or reduce telework options.
FFCRA covers all small employers (under 500 employees.) If an employee is unable to work or telework, it provides options for paid leave.
Sick Leave:
Up to two weeks (80 hours) at an employee’s regular rate of pay to a max of $511 per day and $5110 in total over the two-week period where the employee:
1) is quarantined and/or is experiencing Covid19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis, or
At a rate of 2/3 regular pay up to a maximum of $340 per day
2) because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or
3) care for a child, under 18, whose school or childcare provider is closed due to Covid19
Up to an additional 10 weeks […]

By |June 29th, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Policies and Practices, Small Biz|Comments Off on More Re-Opening Issues

Re-Opening: Offices

Wherever your organization is now, you need a plan for what is next. My clients range from those whose business kept on as essential, those who moved all to remote work from home (WFH), to those with 1-2 people left. Your plan needs to look ahead across various options. What has already changed, what other possible changes may be likely? What are you going to do now? Over the summer? In the fall? If there is a second spike, as predicted, this fall?
No-one knows how many ‘phases’ we are likely to go through to any ‘new normal’. Some think the ‘new normal’ will be pretty much the same as the past, while others see a whole new world of work evolving.
What does ‘back to work’ mean for your organization? How do local or state restrictions and regulatory compliance affect you? How will you incorporate your culture and values into your planning?
Infectious disease specialists think that wearing masks and maintaining social distancing will be with us until a vaccine is available to all. How does that assumption impact your planning? HR people are discussing all sorts of office redesigns, staggered work-days or shift work, more remote workers, core hours, limiting meetings and travel, extra cleaning, and more.
RISK MANAGEMENT
What will you consider in terms of Covid-19 testing? Are you required, by state or local agencies, to do anything specific? Some businesses are considering daily temperature checks and routine testing. Temporary Federal regulations allow you to ask if an employee has Covid-19 symptoms and ask for a doctor’s certification.  You may require sick or quarantined employees to stay home
The EEOC allows temperature checks and Covid-19 testing – through the end of 2020 – as long as they […]

By |May 28th, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Small Biz, Smart practices|Comments Off on Re-Opening: Offices

Employees, ‘New Normal’: A Framework for Planning

This framework outlines employment considerations in planning a return to more normal operations. It is organized in building blocks. Section A applies to all employers. Other sections define issues based on levels of business impact.
In general, you should begin or complete:

Preparing your facilities
Developing new policies, as needed. (i.e. telework, safety)
Creating a physical distancing plan
Controlling access for safety and health issues
Increased cleanliness, reduced touch points
Enhanced employee communications

Many professional and industry organizations have specific return-to-work guidelines too. Check for those in your arena.
A. ALL EMPLOYERS
1. Strategic review
Impact of current/planned business changes on employment and employeesChanges due to states of emergency impact plus 2-5 below
2. Community Preparedness needed to support for return to work

Schools/daycare open
Public transportation – normal schedules
Medical care available
Food services

3. Building/Office Preparations

Increased sanitation and air-handling building-wide
Office cleaning services enhanced
Physical distancing/barriers for employees and visitors
Need for personal protection equipment (PPE), if any
Common space changes (i.e. closed kitchens, conference rooms)
Employee responsibilities and cleaning resources for desks, work area, hygiene

4. Employee Concerns
Consider a survey to determine individual needs and concerns
Vacation/Paid-time-off, if offered:     Fiscal year ends in Jun – Sep and you cap carryover, what changes are smart?     FY = CY, will you need restrictions on use through Dec 2020 to meet business needs?
5.Safety
CDC Guidelines    Guidelines for Business
The EEOC is allowing some medical checks or self-reporting for coronavirus symptoms or exposure. Will you require any checks or self-certification on health each day? If so, how will you maintain required confidentiality? How implement?
6. Legal Issues
All employers:     OSHA – requires provide safe workplaces     HIPAA – treat medical information as confidential     FFCRA – requires paid coronavirus-related leavePaid Leave FAQs
Over 15 employees:     EEO – requires non-discrimination in treatment (e.g. retention, medical checks)     ADA – equal […]

By |May 12th, 2020|Business planning, Smart practices|Comments Off on Employees, ‘New Normal’: A Framework for Planning