Communications

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’

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

Covid-19: New Law and Tips

How are you managing the impact of Covid-19 on your organization? Now that we are a few weeks in and have at least another month to go in stay-at-home and other restrictions, it is a good time to give yourself an hour to think. What is working reasonably well? What needs to be fixed?

If you need loans or grants to help your organization stay afloat, do contact your local Small Business Development Center. They offer expert advice, information resources, and other help to navigate old and new options.

New Law

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act goes into effect today, April 1, 2020. This law offers new paid benefits for employees and their families during the rest of 2020 which you must understand. While there is a proposed exemption from parts of it for small employers – 50 or less including all employees – the implementing instructions for exemption are not yet clear. More guidance is available in these FAQs. The info in numbers 4, 58, and 59 specifically address the small employer issue.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act FAQs

The law requires you to provide a poster for each work location which should be placed in an area where all employees will see it. If you are currently having all employees work from home or regularly have some telecommute, you must provide each such person with a copy by April 1. Here it is:

FFCRA Poster

Communications

One of the biggest issues in times of uncertainty is effective communications. Your employees – and you too – are wondering

if they will get sick,
if their families are in danger,
how long this will last,
whether their job and paychecks will continue to exist, and
how to move forward.

Clarity on what […]

By |April 1st, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Smart practices|Comments Off on Covid-19: New Law and Tips

Covid-19 Ideas and Tips #3

While bills to support small businesses are still being debated in Congress, there is help through the SBA’s loans for disasters. This program is in high demand but it is worthwhile to get yourself into line now if you may need such help. More information on the Small Business Disaster Loans and other Covid-19 info via Alexandria’s Small Business Development Center –
Aleandria SBDC Covid-19 info

Working from Home (WFH)

Many organizations have gone to full work from home operations at least temporarily. Others may have a blend, depending on the field they are in. Some have had to close and lay-off almost all employees.  Support your local restaurants and retailers if you can.

If you have people working remotely but it is a new method for many, you need to consider how to support your staff in teleworking effectively. Twitter has provided a lot of ‘epic fails’ stories to laugh and cry over – naked spouses in the background, kids and animals interfering, and so on.  Few of us want to be ‘that guy.’

Many smaller companies and associations are holding all-employee meetings each morning. If you want to do something like a regular ‘all hands’ or ones by function, think carefully about the planned time – what family demands may some employees be facing? How long will it be? Short is always better – for focus, effectiveness.  Periodically add in some time and actions to help employees feel connected. Although I cringed as a recent daily list of what one organization was planning which featured some time each day where one day everyone had to be in costume and another showing animal pictures, the concept behind them was good. Make sure yours are tailored to your culture. […]

By |March 23rd, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Small Biz|Comments Off on Covid-19 Ideas and Tips #3

More Covid-19 Ideas and Answers

After my first blog on this last week, I have gotten some questions and concerns. Here is additional information to assist in your business planning.

A recent Paychex survey indicated 59% of small business owners have a disaster plan. 54% can accommodate remote work if needed. Yet on HR forums, many small employers are still trying to figure out such issues.

Business Planning and Employee Issues

Do you have an Emergency Operations Plan? Does your structure change in such conditions? Who knows how that will work? What training is needed?

Have you assessed which functions are critical and must be maintained? Which may have less critical aspects which could be delayed or reduced if needed? What is non-critical, hence can be eliminated? These assessments form the basis for decisions about employees and customers/clients who will need notice of changes and timing.

Whatever type of small employer you are, you may face decisions on having to close your organization or an office. Closure may result from a lack of demand, a lack of employees, or a government order. How will you address this?

What about remote work? Do some or all of your functions lend themselves to telecommuting? Do you have the equipment and services to make that work? Have you had a ‘practice day’? Some small organizations are already having employees take their work laptop home each night, just in case there is an emergency closure.

Could you institute ‘social distancing’ at work? Would using meeting or conference rooms allow you to spread employees out so that no-one is sitting too near another person? Should you have a sign on your door or shop entrance saying it is a ‘no handshake’ zone?

Many small employers have already cancelled travel to meetings or […]

By |March 11th, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Compensation|Comments Off on More Covid-19 Ideas and Answers

It Can’t Happen Here….Sexual Harassment

From Ailes to Weinstein, across the military, and in far too many organizations, sexual harassment is a significant problem. And no, your small business is not exempt!

Such harassment is sadly, maddeningly common. You have seen the recent news, the social media storm over #MeToo. So first some basic facts:

Sexual harassment is not about sex, it is about power.
Whether it is verbal or physical, it is abuse and a form of violence.
Women are the most common targets, but men are also sexually harassed.

Such harassment represents a real threat to your organization now and in the future. It directly impacts productivity and morale. It erodes trust. It increases turnover. And it can result in both legal and reputation risks.

What Do You Do?

The first step is to create a workplace culture that encourages trust and respect.

This will support many good things beyond dealing with harassment issues. And it does make identifying and dealing with harassment easier. You need policies, practices, and leadership to create trust and respect within the work place. A good basic policy of how you expect everyone to respect and work with each other, your clients or customers, vendors, and others you work with is a good start. Be clear about your intent. State how the policy works in everyday activities.

The harder step is to live up to what you expect others to do. Plus you must communicate your policy and intent regularly. And you must take action when anyone, in any role, does not fulfill the policy and your expectations.

Second, you must be very clear that you will not tolerate any harassment or discriminatory behavior.

When you reach 15 employees, you have legal requirements related to equal opportunity which […]

By |October 29th, 2017|Communications, culture, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on It Can’t Happen Here….Sexual Harassment

SPRING PREPARATION #1

Have you updated the I-9 form you need to use to ensure all employees are eligible to work in the USA? If not, the new form became effective in January:    I-9 form

It is also smart to take a look at your federally required posters. While updated versions are available from several sources, you do not need to spend that money as you can just download these directly.

Not sure which posters you may need? Start with the ‘e-laws’ help section which asks about the number of employees you have and what sort of business you are in to help show the posters you may need. http://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/posters.htm

Here are the most commonly required posters for small organizations, check for others if you have more than 49 employees.

Equal Opportunity
https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/posters/pdf/eeopost.pdf

Fair Labor Standards Act
https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwageP.pdf

Occupational Health and Safety
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3165.pdf

Military Service Rights (USERRA)
https://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/USERRA_Federal.pdf

Polygraph (yes, really even if you do not have anything to do with such tests)
https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/eppac.pdf

 

State Posters

VA
http://www.vec.virginia.gov/employers/Required-Posters-for-Virginia-Employers

MD
https://www.dllr.state.md.us/oeope/poster.shtml

DC
https://does.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/does/page_content/attachments/EMPLOYEE%20INFORMATION%20AND%20EMPLOYER%20POSTING%20REQUIREMENTS.pdf

 

You can put a copy of these posters onto a bulletin board or hang them on a clipboard.  Hang them where employees can see them,  use your kitchen or break room or other space open to all employees.   Keep it simple.

By |March 3rd, 2017|Communications, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on SPRING PREPARATION #1

Communication Tips – Listening Skills 2

An effective listener must direct and guide many discussions including performance management, dealing with customers, interviewing job applicants, among others. One aspect of better listening is learning how to gather information via smarter questions. This is the second on major aspects of listening skills. See also http://shrinsight.com/communication-tips-listening-skills/

Requests for Information

A major type of questions are requests for information. The six common types are:

the invitation to talk
open-ended questions
fact-seeking questions
comprehensive questions
probing for specifics
encouragers

An invitation to talk is a statement rather than a direct question but it invites the person to talk about a given subject. For example: ” I’d like to hear about the goals you have for this year”. Invitations to talk feature:

It focuses attention on a specific topic but gives a wide range of options to the person responding.
Its use keeps your views from influencing the response you will receive or tipping your hand about what you want to hear.

Interspersed with direct questions, it can keep a discussion or interview more comfortable and less like an interrogation.

Open-ended questions are good ways to start a flow of information because they call for an extended answer and cannot be answered “yes” or “no”. They give people room to respond and communicate that you are interested in the response.

For example: “Do you like your job?” can be answered yes or no and is closed-ended. Rephrased as “What do you like most and least about your job?”, it communicates that you really want to know details and their ideas.

Fact-seeking questions are designed to elicit very specific or factual information. They are questions with a narrow, more precise focus. Here are some examples:

What did you do to resolve the customer’s complaint?
How do you want our current policy changed?
What training have […]

By |February 8th, 2016|Communications|Comments Off on Communication Tips – Listening Skills 2

Communication Tips – Listening Skills

Listening, really hearing what someone else is saying, is a skill. Why are listening skills so important? Listening skills are critical to many aspects of managerial work including interviewing for open positions, coaching and counseling, gathering data, customer service, working effectively with others, performance management, and so forth.

Many, if not most, people tend to have an inner monologue going on when they are ‘listening’. This may be a disagreement with what is being said, preparing the answer, or worrying about something else entirely. Not effective, but common.

Exercise

Think for a moment about a person you worked for who was not a good listener. Try to clearly see in your mind’s eye what happened in a discussion. What made the person a poor listener? What did s/he do or say that communicated the message “I’m not really listening” or “I don’t really care about your ideas”.

Now think about how you felt. What effects did the poor listening skills of the person have on you?

 

What are the benefits you can derive from good listening skills? Here are some:

You show the person that you are interested in and concerned about their needs and interests, not just your own. This is especially useful in interviewing job candidates, counseling, and customer interviews.
You find out why an individual did what they did, how they made their choices or decisions, and attained or missed goals. This is useful in resolving problems, coaching, and job interviews.
You give the person an opportunity to be heard and feel understood so that they will reveal much more information.

These tips are designed to help you learn more about listening effectively. Good listening skills can be acquired with practice. They provide real benefits in your professional and personal life. […]

By |January 27th, 2016|Communications|Comments Off on Communication Tips – Listening Skills