The business press, consulting firms, and survey folks provide a different people issue to worry over daily, it seems. Surveys and more surveys – each with different numbers for a topic. Consider the “Great Resignation – depending on the source 40-75% of all employees were going to quit. Yes, a lot did resign in 2021, but it was 18% for men and 20% for women. Incidentally, many who changed jobs want to come back.
Quiet quitting is another ‘hot’ topic. At its heart this is old wine in a new bottle – it means people are doing their assigned job but are not volunteering for extra work or projects. Remember ‘work to rule’?
Think a minute. Properly, you hire a person to do specific work that you need done. If everyone on your staff is already doing all that is included in their job, you must be doing something right! That is your first, most basic performance management step.
If you are like many business owners, you hope the employee will contribute more and more over time. Many employees want to do that. How are you encouraging and supporting them? Some options:

Do you demonstrate your values and how they tie to the work so that people can see the alignment with their own goals?
Do you connect the work to a sense of mission? Employees often want a sense of purpose, a mission larger than just day to day actions.
Do you offer training or development support in any form?
Do all managers understand the importance of 1:1s on a regular basis? Of developing a human connection with each employee?
Do you recognize those employees who go ‘above or beyond’ via a recognition program, bonuses, larger pay increases, promotions, or other […]

By |December 15th, 2022|Business planning, culture, Policies and Practices, retention|Comments Off on HOT TOPICS

Oh What a Time (1)

Change may be the only constant in the past three years. Most of us have found it difficult to live in a period of continuing noticeable change.  We say we like change – but mostly we like change we can control.  Research shows many people are suffering from mental health issues, driven in many cases by the lack of control individuals felt over their lives. Business owners are at very high risk of burnout. Employees are rethinking their work and career choices. Besides reminding my readers to care a bit extra for themselves now, here is some info to help.

An American Psychological Association 2022 study indicates that workers want more mental health support at work. Workers define this in many ways: respect for time off, flexible hours, remote and hybrid work options, four-day work week, and more support from their managers for their needs.

Many organizations in the Metro DC area (and across the country) are looking at wellness programs. These include a pretty wide range of things:

If you offer health insurance, be sure employees know the mental health coverage which is included.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) can be purchased separately – they offer assistance, counseling information, and support via telehealth or telephone.
Organizations are now offering complete closures for a full week – usually between Christmas and New Years as paid leave.
Some add 1-3 ‘mental health days’  to paid time off programs or are trying 4.5 day workweeks all year long instead of summers only.
Some provide information for validated on-line training programs related to mental health.

You may also want to make your employees aware of the mental health services available:

National Suicide Hotline number is 988
Domestic Violence hotline 800.799.7233
local […]

By |October 20th, 2022|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Oh What a Time (1)


If your organization sent people home at the beginning of the pandemic – as 70% of the economy did – the return plans have probably changed a dozen times. Confusion remains for those organizations which have not fully returned to work.
Less than 20% of all employees worked from home (WFH) or remotely when the pandemic hit. Organizations reacted swiftly. Currently nearly 50% are still working from home. Many who do now are college graduates in white-collar jobs. Many more employees lost their jobs as retail, hospitality, and travel basically closed down. Women in all occupations were particularly hard-hit, especially as elder and child care options closed down too. Lower income and minorities were hit harder than Whites.
Companies say that productivity of WFH/remote workers is about equal to past productivity now. However, studies show that such workers are averaging three additional work hours per day. Worse, 65% of such employees feel less connected to their work and coworkers. This is usually a predictor of turnover increasing.
A recent McKinsey survey of CEOs indicates that going forward 40% expect employees will be on-site 21-50% of the workweek and another 40% expect 51-80% on-site time. Yet surveys of workers show almost a third want to work remotely full-time.
Employees are confused and often upset as well. Many, especially in big tech, felt promises were made that they could work remotely long-term. Others still do not have child or elder care options or worry about health issues. Some feel that their needs and concerns are being ignored in any planning. Others faced sudden, unexpected demands to return to the work site with little notice. Two-thirds of employees surveyed say they have not had any information on return plans or only […]

By |May 31st, 2021|Business planning, Communications, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on PANDEMIC RECOVERY: NEXT STEPS


One year down, what’s your next consideration?
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


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