Smart practices

Why You Cannot Ignore Cybersecurity

For many enterpreneurs, solopreneurs, and non-profits, even thinking about cyber-anything is frightening. You know there are dangers but who can keep up, how can you understand the problems you face? Still, you must. Small businesses and individuals are targets for hackers, fraud, and other efforts that require some understanding and actions.

These risks are real and they can seriously hurt you and your business if ignored.  You know that but what to do…

Recently Elizabeth Moon of Focus Data Systems and I did a webinar on common issues you need to understand and address. We talked about the issues and trends in cybersecurity and how you can work to minimize risks at every level. If you have employees, we covered some of the major issues we have seen in what and what not to do with employees to enhance your organization’s security.

Watch and listen – Small Biz Nightmares – Cybersecurity

By |June 17th, 2018|Business planning, culture, Small Biz, Smart practices|Comments Off on Why You Cannot Ignore Cybersecurity

Should ‘death cleaning’ be a Business Concept too?

Does it seem to you as if you see a lot of articles about decluttering your home? Have you seen articles for Boomers about the concept of death-cleaning done early and often? Or those about decluttering your business – usually around the new year? Still, few of us deal with our files and storage and stuffed desks unless forced to do so. I just spent some time watching a small business forced into such a ‘clean up’ by an unexpected relocation. It was tough and it was painful. Who knew that there were files from 10-12 years ago in so many places?

Disorganization costs you time – and money.

Sure, it is hard to take the time to fix your systems. This is not exciting work but it can be critical. Get it scheduled a little at a time and move forward.

Computers:
You need a solid filing system, automatic back-ups, and some external resources to cover your data and info if your system fails. I know that, you know that. But several years ago my own system failed and the back-ups were old and I did not have the data for my online software subscriptions handy.

Do it yourself or hire some help to get your systems organized. Install those malware/virus programs and set them up to run regularly.

Finances:
Be sure to talk with your accountant soon, if you have not already, about the many new tax law changes which will impact your business this year.

Every business, however small, needs a system, whether a simple book-keeping application or a more complex one. But you also need to understand and use it. Go for training. Or hire someone to help you set up your own chart of accounts and understand […]

By |June 12th, 2018|productivity, Smart practices|Comments Off on Should ‘death cleaning’ be a Business Concept too?

Future of Work: What do Longer Lives Mean?

My grandparents were born not long after the Civil War and lived into their mid-60s to mid-70s. My parents and their siblings lived into their late-70s to mid-90s. The Boomers have made ‘60 the new 40′ and millennials are likely to see passing 100 years old as pretty routine.

Have you thought at all about what this means for business? For your own future?

I suspect many people have not. When I speak about longevity, current audiences are almost as likely as those 15 years ago to assume they will retire in their 60s. Investment companies regularly report that retirement savings are not adequate for living beyond 10-12 years of retirement.

A recent book, THE 100-YEAR LIFE: LIVING AND WORKING IN AN AGE OF LONGEVITY by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, offers ideas and insights for our future. Businesses which begin to adapt now will have an advantage. Longer lives also mean different patterns of working and education. Yet most of us still build our business practices around some three-stage life notions of education in youth, 30-40 years of work, and then retirement.

The recent Great Recession brought some changes as more people worked into their late 60s and mid 70s. Retirees returned to the workplace in temporary, seasonal, and lower-skilled jobs. Today there are more people working past 55 and into their late 70s than at any time since before WWII.  But companies have not fundamentally changed their practices.

No-one can really save enough to retire for 30 – 40 years in a 35 – 45 year work life, especially now that pensions have become so rare. One of the early illustrations in the book is a scary look at this point. Someone born in the early 1970s, […]

By |March 19th, 2018|culture, non-profits, Smart practices|Comments Off on Future of Work: What do Longer Lives Mean?

Developing Employees

Developing the skills and knowledge of your staff is critical to your business success and to retaining top quality people. Still, many small business owners do not see the options available to do so at low cost. Like taking vacations, you also need to invest in your own development as well. Here are some ideas to support development.

1. Ask employees what their professional development goals are and how they relate to your organization.

This encourages people to think about their needs. Many will have goals you can assist with at little to no cost. These might include:

skills that other employees have and can teach the person,
ideas for new approaches or projects which will also benefit your organization,
support for volunteer work, and
more traditional education or training.

Offer to assist with those which make the most sense to your business.

2. Involve employees in organizing meetings, events, and new hires.

Your first line supervisors and those staff you feel have potential can learn from helping to organize staff meetings, presenting a training topic at all-employee meetings, and/or arranging other events you provide or sponsor. You need to provide clear guidance upfront about what is needed and any resources; then step back and let the person do the work. Be available to answer questions without imposing too many controls.

If you bring in a new hire or have summer interns, select an employee to be their guide. This person could be tasked with ensuring all needed equipment or space is ready, explaining any specific equipment or access procedures, training the new person on your basic practices and security, and making sure that there is someone to lunch with regularly during the first few weeks.

3. Ensure employees have an […]

By |May 21st, 2017|culture, Smart practices|Comments Off on Developing Employees

Politics, Fraught Employees, and Management Actions

You have seen the big uptick in hate crimes locally and nationally. Perhaps you have read articles about the impact of political divisions on work activities. I remember when I was a kid that racial and religious slurs were common language – and cringe every time I hear someone decry political correctness when what they mean is freedom to say such things again. The SHRM magazine even has a cover this month on “The Age of Rage.”

Are you seeing evidence of employees arguing more or ignoring each other instead? Have you had any incidents of harassment or discrimination in your workplace? Have you felt a need to address these issues but wondered how to do so?  Are you just hoping to avoid this topic?

First, the laws have not changed. If you are covered by EEO laws because you have 15 or more employees, you may wish to remind all employees of the harassment and discrimination rules as a part of an employee newsletter or meeting. Tell them also that diversity has been shown to improve business success and profitability which helps them keep their jobs.

Most importantly, your values have not changed. If your values include respect, ethical behavior, communications, trust, a positive workplace – or many others – remind staff of these values and how you expect people to demonstrate them at work. Pushing a political viewpoint on others or ignoring/harassing those who disagree with one is not a behavior you want to allow in the workplace. Harassing people who are different from one is another area you want to make clear is unacceptable.

If you are not sure if you have a problem, listen to your staff more. Ask a trusted employee about any […]

By |April 24th, 2017|productivity, Smart practices|Comments Off on Politics, Fraught Employees, and Management Actions

GROW! Personal and Professional Development Tips

A new regular feature covering articles and resources which can help you grow your skills, develop others, and grow your business. Recommendations welcome!

The toll of incivility on employees and morale:
http://blog.hreonline.com/2016/08/11/getting-incivility-under-control/

Employee productivity, morale and email outside work hours is covered in this article.  Note: if you have non-exempt (under the Fair Labor Standards Act) employees and they are checking email, you will need to compensate them for the time too.
http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/9241-check-email-after-work.html

Meetings, we all hate meetings -but most organizations need to have some. Good article with useful checklist at end!
http://www.performph.com/hidden-costs-company-meetings/

Increase your success – interesting infographic for every small business owner

Successful People: Working Less and Getting More Done [Infographic]

Worried about employees leaving? It is likely that you will lose people but there are some good retention ideas here.

Why Employees Plan to Leave Their Jobs at Small Businesses

Need to hire? Check out some common hiring mistakes and see which you may need to correct.
https://www.fastcompany.com/3059758/3-hiring-mistakes-most-companies-dont-realize-theyre-making

 

Also, the new rules for overtime pay go into effect December 1, 2016. Here are the annotated slides from the webinar I did for the Virginia SBDC Network.
http://alexandriasbdc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/OvertimePresentation624.pdf

The Alexandria SBDC will offer special HR Consults on this topic on October 26th, contact Gloria Flanagan if you want an appointment to discuss your issues.

By |September 27th, 2016|Small Business Development Centers, Smart practices|Comments Off on GROW! Personal and Professional Development Tips

Successful Internships and Your Business

Many small businesses hire interns, both during the school year and over the summer. Internships offer students and career changers a great way to learn more about how business works and what a potential career is like. They offer your company an additional worker and perhaps insights into a different generation or technologies.

However, too many companies think they can just have an intern do some work and not have to pay them. Most internships are paid. Unpaid internships come with very stringent rules. You need to understand the differences to reduce your legal risks.

There are six criteria which must be met to qualify as an unpaid internship. The most important factor for most private sector employers is the similarity to training in an educational environment. Thus if you have an intern who is getting course credit for the work with you and the university/college has specific requirements of you, that often means you are likely to comply with the unpaid internship rules. You still will need a specific agreement with the school or professor and the student to cover the basics.

If you are not hiring an intern as part of a university program for course credit, here are all the federal Department of Labor criteria you must meet:

the internship must be similar to training in an educational environment
the internship experience is for the intern’s benefit
your company derives no immediate benefit from the intern’s activities and may even have your operations impeded
the intern works under close supervision and does not displace employees
the intern is not necessarily entitled to a job following the internship
the intern and your company both understand it is an unpaid internship

Clearly in a case like this, a written agreement on what the […]

By |April 5th, 2016|Smart practices|Comments Off on Successful Internships and Your Business

Veterans, Veterans Day, & Your Business

Locally there are many official and area celebrations of Veterans Day and many military installations, so it may mean more to us than just another ‘sales holiday’.  Obviously, it means more to me.  But what could it mean to your business or organization?

It could mean that your business thrives by hiring veterans as well as providing services or products to them. There are many local resources to help you in attracting and hiring veterans. Veterans offer you:

a wide range of technical skills,
ability to deal with high-change environments
experience in demanding and fast-paced environments,
commitment to your mission and values, and
in-depth training and experience in supervisory and interpersonal skills.

Military spouses and family members also form an excellent labor pool to draw from. You can work with the family center offices at area military bases to attract both veterans and spouses. These include both the Employment Readiness Program and Transition Assistance Program at the centers, named as below
Army: Army Community Service
Navy: Fleet and Family Support Center,
Air Force: Airmen and Family Readiness Center,
Marine Corps: Marine Corps Readiness Center, or
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Work Life.
These programs usually accept job postings. Many run employer days and job fairs. Contact the installations closest to you.

The US Department of Labor has an excellent guide to help you in the process of developing your ability to hire transitioning military effectively – “Hiring Veterans – Step by Step Toolkit for Employers”

An excellent toolkit for hiring veterans, based on extensive private sector research, is available from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

In Virginia, ‘Virginia Values Veterans’ is a training and certification program on hiring veterans available here

Maryland also offers support for employers seeking to hire veterans  here .

So this year, when the anniversary […]

By |November 8th, 2015|Business planning, hiring, Smart practices|Comments Off on Veterans, Veterans Day, & Your Business

Managing Performance 3: Delegating Work

Delegation involves entrusting the work and goals of your unit to others – a passing on of authority. While simple tasks are included early on, effective delegation also includes work that involves independent action, decision-making, and the ability to change as the situation demands change without referring back to you.

This means you must ensure that the person you select to do a job:

knows what you want
has the authority to achieve it
knows how to do it

To do this requires, first, that each team member has all the relevant information flowing in as needed. Second, you must allow them to exercise control on your behalf which means you must train your staff to apply the standards you do.

Delegating successfully depends on knowing your team members well. You start small with tasks which can be done by the person with a little ‘stretch’ and then add tasks as the person achieves success. This presents the person with the opportunity to use their knowledge more and to increase their knowledge and skills in a supportive environment. Further, you must set up a progress reporting process at the onset so that you have the knowledge you need to provide support and feedback – as well as to keep you comfortable enough not to destroy the process.

When you delegate, you need to be clear on what results you expect. While ineffective, many managers delegate a task and then expect the person to do it exactly as the manager would. This does not usually result in effective delegation since it does not allow the person to develop their skills or learn from the process. In fact, your way may not always be the most effective way either. So be clear about […]

By |July 17th, 2015|Performance Management, Smart practices|Comments Off on Managing Performance 3: Delegating Work

Managing Performance 1: What’s the Process?

The goals of any performance management process or system are productivity, continuing improvement, and accountability. If you are hiring effectively, most employees want to contribute and succeed in their work! Founders, executives, and managers play key roles in ensuring that individuals have the skills, tools, support, and knowledge to do so.

Performance management is an on-going work routine designed to help ensure that each person becomes and remains a highly productive, effective contributor. It is a cycle which includes action from orientation through termination.

There are nine discussions which have been shown to have a major impact on productivity. These are:

Orientation to the work unit
Initial work assignment discussion
Orientation follow-up
Agreeing on work assignment plans and measurements
Career coaching
Recognizing consistent progress
Recognizing above-average performance
Counseling and correcting substandard performance
Regular,on-going performance discussions

Note that some of these are relatively formal, scheduled discussions.  Others can be ‘catching the person doing something well’ and saying so, on the spot skill coaching or advice, or other less formal communications.

New employees want to know about the overall business and where and how they fit in. Providing the information they need to succeed, as in the first three above, helps convey your expectations clearly and provides a blueprint for success.

Discussing and agreeing on work assignments affects the individual’s sense of positive involvement. It gives both of you an opportunity to address issues and clarify expectations. When work plans in whole or in part are developed jointly, the risks of misunderstanding and poor performance are reduced. Realistic standards are more achievable. So is success for you both and for your company!

Career coaching involves providing information and feedback. It includes ‘how to succeed here’ talks, discussions of the individual’s goals, as well as future plans of the organization so that an […]

By |July 5th, 2015|Smart practices|Comments Off on Managing Performance 1: What’s the Process?