Want to Build Confidence? Adopt a Client First Perspective.

Confidence. It seems to be lacking these days. We don’t have confidence in our organizations, our government, or even in the truth. It’s no wonder consumer confidence is down as well.

In this kind of environment, it can be easy to simply lie down and accept defeat, to throw up our arms and excuse ourselves from lagging sales and negative growth. 

It’s also easy to opt out of aggressive business plans that might turn these things around.

And because so many of your competitors will choose to do just that, this is exactly the right time to take control and build confidence. Yes, there are many factors beyond your control, but all that means is that it’s more important than ever to take control where possible. Specifically, to take control over those factors that should be a source of confidence. 

There is nothing more important to your personal or organizational success than confidence. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by all of the potential sources, or all of the potential things that are working against you. Instead, focus on a few critical areas that will provide the greatest return.

1. A client focused sales approach

To be successful, you have to believe in the product, service, or model you’re offering. It’s also just as important to have confidence in your sales process. To build consumer confidence and trust, your sales process MUST be client focused. It must also be replicable and provide value.

Quit thinking about what you have to sell, and start focusing on what your prospects need and want to buy.

Start by identifying where your customers have needs, opportunities, and pain points you can help with. To be truly client focused, you will need to have a thoughtful sales process that listens more than it speaks. By asking the right questions and listening to the answers, you will be able to give your consumers a fresh/new/clear understanding of their own needs, as well as the perfect solution.

2. A commitment to providing value 

Doing more with less: It’s the reality of the business world we live and compete in. If you thought that getting someone to give you their time, money, or loyalty was difficult in the past, you’re likely well aware that these challenges have become exponentially more difficult.

The thing is, it should be a challenge. We should all be protective of our time and resources. As a business, you should have to earn the opportunity to be the product, service, or partner of choice. This means being able to articulate and show the potential value you can bring if you do business together, as well as providing value to a potential customer during their buying journey, even if they choose not to work with you at the end.

This may be the biggest challenge yet, because you have to provide value without giving too much away.

Ask yourself: Are the prospects who never became clients better off after interacting with your company and your brand? Did they get value from what they saw, heard, or learned? If you can’t confidently answer this with a resounding yes, then I challenge you to re-evaluate your sales processes. If the process is client-focused, they will leave the interaction with positive feelings. Perhaps you provided some helpful information, a new idea, or a great collaboration. Perhaps you simply gave them a smile.

But maybe, just maybe, you also gave them a little bit more confidence. In themselves. In your organization. And in what you have to offer.

When you operate from a client-focused point of view, you’re not just helping people solve their problems. You’re building consumer confidence in your business and your brand. Which, in turn, will help increase your confidence as well.

Now that’s what you call a win-win.

 

Photo by xtock

The Powerful Recruitment and Retention Benefit You’re Not Offering

Employers who want great employees are having to work harder and harder to find them, and to get them to stay.

This has many innovative organizations and Human Resources departments re-thinking their employee benefits strategies as a way to attract and retain talent, which is good. But there can often be a disconnect when it comes to perceptions about what employees really want. And too many employers are missing the elephant in the room.

Crushing Student Debt

The elephant metaphor works all too well here. Student debt is a huge issue that weighs heavy on your employees. And yet few employers are recognizing the extent of the problem.

Many people associate student debt with a particular subset of the workforce, namely fresh college graduates and junior employees. But a riveting study by CommonBond tosses those ideas out the window.

The reality is that student debt affects a huge portion of your employee base. Of 1,500 workers surveyed:

  • 72% reported currently having student loans or having had student loans in the past
  • 59% of employees aged 22 – 44 currently have student debt
  • 21% of employees over the age of 45 currently have student debt

But that’s not the end of the story.

  • 21% of respondents said they plan to take on debt in the next five years to finance someone else’s education.
  • And 10% of respondents said they are carrying their own student debt, plus that of a friend or family member.

With the total U.S. student loan debt sitting at 1.4 trillion dollars, there are far reaching consequences, both for your employees and your business.

Debt rolls downhill

Employees starting their careers with massive amounts of debt are less willing and able to “put in their time,” “work their way up,” or “take one for the team.” It’s not that they don’t see the value in some of these things. They simply can’t afford to do them. The days of “paying your dues” are over. For today’s workers, it’s all about paying your loans.

If you’re wondering why job hopping seems to be the new normal, it’s all related. Research shows that the best way for an employee to get a significant pay raise is to get a new job. In this kind of employment environment, those with sizable loan debt won’t think twice about accepting a more lucrative offer somewhere else.

Debt-ridden workers in all stages of their careers are delaying important life decisions because of student loans. For many employees, things like getting married, having children, buying a house, and retiring are concepts that seem far out of reach.

In the meantime, their debt is seriously stressing them out. Between 46 and 53 percent of workers with student debt reported worrying about their personal finances “most of the time” or, worse yet, “always.” If you think this isn’t affecting workplace productivity, you’re still not seeing the elephant.

Here’s the deal

Your employees took out loans to improve their skills and make them more valuable to employers. Now that they’re employed, they want financial stability. But their student loans are getting in the way. And they need help.

And it’s not just recent graduates who feel this way. The CommonBond study showed that the vast majority of employees want to see their employer offer student loan benefits.

Here are the percentages of employees who have (or plan to take on) student debt that want their company to offer student loan tools and resources, broken down by age:

22 – 34            81%

35 – 44            77%

45 – 54            75%

55 +                 65%

But it doesn’t end there.

Across every single age category, these numbers jump significantly when those employees were asked if they would be more inclined to stay at their company if they were receiving student loan repayment benefits:

22 – 34            87%

35 – 44            88%

45 – 54            83%

55 +                 78%

If you’ve been searching for that magic employee attraction and retention tool, look no further. It’s right in front of you.

But you’re not offering it

SHRM research has revealed that only about 4% of employers are offering some kind of student loan repayment benefits. With demand being what it is, this seems downright silly. Especially in a tightening labor market.

One reason that helps explain why student loan benefits aren’t more common is that employers haven’t quite caught on to the fact that this is a top concern for their employees. Perceptions of company leadership and HR are often quite different from those who are actually working within the organization, on everything from what motivates them to what attracts them and makes them want to stick around.  

If you want to attract and retain the best employees, you need to start thinking like them.

  • What kinds of things are they looking for in an employer?
  • What values do they care about?
  • What issues are they struggling with?
  • What’s holding them back from being the best employees they can be?
  • How can you help?

Still not sold? Here’s one more statistic for you:

The American Student Assistance survey found that with all else being equal, if a prospective employer offered a student loan repayment benefit, 80% of respondents said it would have a considerable impact or be the deciding factor in the decision to accept the job. Talk about a hiring advantage!

If you haven’t thought about finding ways to help your employees with student loans, now is the time. The sooner you get on board, the more you can differentiate yourself as an employer of choice. And start helping your employees become, more productive, more financially stable, and more likely to stick around.

 

Photo by  Elnur Amikishiyev

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook 

Better Engagement Starts With Better Vision

Employers say they want their employees to be engaged. But engaged to what?

Does your team understand where you want to take them and what your ultimate goes are? Can they feel your excitement? Can they see your vision?

Engagement is a two way street. In order to create an environment full of actively engaged employees, you have to give them a reason to care. And that means tying the vision of the company to the employee experience.

Seeing is believing

Your leadership team may have the most amazing mission, vision, purpose, and values in the universe. But if nobody knows about these things, they may as well not exist. Because they aren’t inspiring anyone.

For your business to be at its best, everyone in it should be able to see and understand what drives the company and where it’s going, as well as how and where they fit into the big picture.

Unfortunately, organizations or leaders often have no real idea of what that vision is, much less how to communicate it. Or connect it back to employee roles and performance. To make this happen, you need to do some soul searching. And some homework.

Start by asking and answering the following questions:

  • What is important in our organization?
  • Where are we heading?
  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • What results are needed to hit our goals?
  • What resources and actions are required to achieve our objectives?
  • How can we tie each of these things back to every person on the team?

Only after you’ve created a vivid picture of your company vision can you make it come to life for your employees.

Start by understanding the goals of the organization. This is what drives the subsequent objectives and tasks your employees perform. Goals tend to focus on profitability, employee satisfaction, client satisfaction, and/or growth. An example here could be for the company to create a minimum of 20 percent annual, organic growth.

Once you have your goals set, you can define your specific objectives. These are the results you want your employees to achieve. They are based on the goals of the company, and will involve specific tasks. Tasks are the daily activities for which an employee is responsible, and are usually included in the job description.

The key is to connect the dots with all of these things and tie them back to the organizational vision— and your employees.

Communicating your way to success

Now that you’ve done all of this work, it’s time to incorporate it into your employee communication and processes.

For leaders, managers, and supervisors, this means sharing the overall vision with everyone in the organization. And this isn’t a one-and-done event. Your vision needs to be constantly communicated and reinforced.

One key way to do this is by having a weekly or monthly one-on-one meetings with each of your reports. If you’re communicating regularly, these check-ins should last no more than 10 or 15 minutes. The purpose isn’t for an all-out performance review, but rather to review progress, challenges, and feedback for the last week or month.

As a supervisor and a steward of the company vision, it’s your responsibility to constantly communicate the vision and provide guidance on what employees can and should be doing to help make it a reality. You’ll also want to recognize individuals for what they have already accomplished, and problem solve to reduce any barriers that may be holding them back.

If you’re not currently doing this, having regular one-on-one meetings may sound daunting. But these sessions are key to connecting and engaging with your employees, and your time investment will reap rewards at year-end, when the annual evaluation becomes simply one more review session. Because you’ve been continuously monitoring, reviewing, and adjusting performance metrics and processes throughout the year, there should be no surprises for anyone here.

Have you shared your vision lately?

If you want your employees to be connected to you, you need to connect with them. You’ve got to give them some reasons to get excited, to care, and to want to do their best.  

Yes, it takes time. But with a little planning and a lot of communication, you can make it happen. And you’ll all be happier for it.

 

Photo by  crazymedia

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook

Are You Showing Your Customers Who You Really Are?

Your company brand is a funny thing. Some people are convinced it’s all about the logo. Or the website. Or the marketing materials. But in reality, your brand is the reputation you have in the market. And that’s not always up to you.

What do people think and feel when they hear your name? What ideas come to mind when they see that logo?

You may think of your brand in one way – from your internal perspective of what you feel it is and what you want it to be. But people on the outside may see it and experience it differently.

But despite what you may want your audience to see in you, it’s their actual experience that will determine the brand they associate you with.

Fortunately, you have the ability influence and alter what they experience.

Benefits of branding

Your brand, and the communication of that brand, is your opportunity to prepare your customers in advance to start looking for the things that make you different and special— before you ever have a single interaction.

If you get this message across correctly, you will have laid the groundwork for the expectations and experiences that will follow.

When people are able to see, hear, and understand your message clearly before they meet with you, work with you, or purchase from you, you’ve already built a significant level of trust. This trust will allow you to bring them into the relationship expecting to be pleased with the outcome. And this is exactly what you want.

By effectively communicating the things you’d like your audience to know about you, you’ve given them an opportunity to recognize and focus on the things they like about you. Things like what makes you different, where you align with their values, and how you can help make their lives and/or businesses run better.

It may sound a bit intuitive, but the truth of the matter is this:

If you don’t let your customers get to know you ahead of time, they won’t know what to expect when they finally do choose to do business with you. This can easily add a level of unease or anxiety to their decision and increase the chances of them being disappointed or disillusioned by the experience. And this is exactly what you don’t want.

Be true to your brand. And your customers.

There are two things that are absolutely critical to creating and maintaining a successful brand. Get them right and you are well on your way to happy, satisfied clients. Get them wrong and it won’t matter what you do or say. Your brand will be out of your hands.

1. Be consistent

There’s one place your brand messages need to exist. And that’s everywhere.

Your website. Your blog. Your social media. Your advertising. Your Yelp reviews. Your press releases and news articles. Your charitable causes. Your hiring practices. Your storefronts. Your offices. Your customer service philosophy. And anything else you say, do, allow, or decide.

Your brand has to be true and consistent to the very core of your mission and your organization.

You can’t do one thing this week and another thing next month. You can’t claim to love your customers but maintain unfriendly business practices. You can’t say you care about your employees and then treat them like crap. You can’t proclaim your love for your community but never give back. These things will not go unnoticed. And they will work against you.

Define your brand and then let it shine in every single thing you do.

2. Follow through

Even if you manage to get your brand messaging picture perfect, it will all be for nothing if you don’t follow through with customer interactions that deliver on that promise.

Defining your brand internally is one thing, but it all hinges on the actual client experience. Those cumulative customer interactions, both large and small, are the experiences that will ultimately determine your brand in the eyes of your target audience. If you constantly reinforce the messages you communicate, your brand will continue to become more deeply ingrained in the minds (and hearts) of your customers.

If your actions are in conflict with your message, your brand will eventually become whatever your consumers perceive it to be, whether or not it’s actually true.

Make it stick

Great brands are built one customer at a time. Make sure your company culture runs deep and that your brand is a natural outcome of your shared values. If your employees love their organization and their work, your customers will feel it. And when your customers are feeling the love, they’ll give it right back to you. And shout if from the rooftops.

Which means you’ve done it right.

 

Photo by  Deyan Georgiev

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook

Why Your Vacation Policy Sucks

All you want is an organization full talented people who work hard and are in it for the long haul. Is that too much to ask? Not if you’re taking care of them.

Your employees can’t be “on” all the time. And there’s this little thing called life that demands their attention on a regular basis. Giving your employees what they need to be successful includes giving them enough time off to manage the demands of work and life. But in far too many cases, this isn’t happening.

Sure, you have a vacation policy on the books. But is it equitable, reasonable, or sensible? Just because a policy exists doesn’t mean it’s good.

Too little

How much vacation do you give your employees? Do you start them off with a set amount or make them work an entire year before banking their first 5 paid days? Expecting someone to happily and effectively work for a year without vacation may seem reasonable to some employers, but ask any employee how they feel about that and you’re bound to get an earful.

Do you increase available vacation time the longer people stay or do you give everyone their two weeks when they start and continue that until the end of time? It’s nice to have a minimum standard, but as people move up in their careers, they expect to take on more responsibility. And they expect that additional responsibility to come with more trust, more flexibility, more money, and more time off. 

Is your sick time super generous but your vacation time fairly slim? Yes, there are employees who need more sick days, and they should be able to take them. But healthy, reliable employees shouldn’t feel like they are being penalized for always showing up. Knowing you have chunks of paid time off sitting around that you can’t actually use feels a bit punitive.

Too much

No such thing, you say? We beg to differ.

Do you have an unlimited vacation policy? Is it so vague and misunderstood that no one ends up taking any? This isn’t going to win you any points.

Is your vacation time based on seniority? Do your long-time employees have exponentially more vacation days? And are they snapping up all the coveted dates before anyone else even gets a shot?

Yes. Vacation in October is still vacation. And they say New England is lovely that time of year. But once your up-and-coming employees figure out they won’t be able to take time off over spring break or the 4th of July until their kids are out of college, this is going to be a problem.

Too late

You may think paid vacation is a small thing, an extra that your employees should be grateful to have at all. And if you’re comparing your vacation policy to what it was like for your great grandfather, you might be right.

But life is very different now. And so is work.

  • Many families are dual income, which means there isn’t anyone at home to just “take care of things” as they come up.
  • Working adults are often responsible for aging parents as well as young children.
  • With the cost of living continually rising, many people can’t afford to take unpaid time off.
  • Workplace stress is on the rise, and more and more individuals are struggling with mental health issues.

If your paid time off policy doesn’t give your staff the time they need to take care of business and themselves, they will become less satisfied, less productive, and less inclined to stay.

Fix it!

The nice thing about your company policies is that you have the power to change them.

Ask your employees what they like and don’t like about your current policy, and listen to their feedback. Little changes can go a long way toward making your team feel valued, appreciated and supported.

Not sure where to start? Here are some quick ideas:

  • Ditch the old sick day vs. vacation day mentality and move to a paid time off (PTO) system. Your employees need time away from the office. Period. Don’t make them get sick (or tell you they’re sick) in order to take it.
  • Give all new employees at least some usable PTO when they start. If they already have a trip planned when you hire them, honor their plans and their time. Don’t make anyone work for you for an entire year to prove they are “worthy” of a little rest and relaxation.
  • Create a vacation policy that rewards longevity with increases over time, but still gives less senior employees time off when they want and need it. Consider closing your office down for a week around Christmas, the 4th of July, or any other time of year that is particularly slow for your industry. Chances are good that many of your customers and clients are also out of the office. You could also consider incentives for people who work peak vacation times, a rotating holiday schedule, or even a lottery system. A little creativity can go a long way here.
  • If you decide to go with an unlimited vacation policy, make sure to spell out the process clearly for everyone. How much notice is required? Are there any blackout dates? Is there a maximum number of days? Better yet, is there a minimum? A common problem with an unlimited vacation policy is that many people are afraid to use it, either because it’s too undefined, or because they feel guilty about taking the time. They may also not know how to manage their workloads if they do use it. Put systems in place to support people who are out of the office and encourage them to take time off regularly. If you see employees going a year or more without taking vacation, meet with them to find out why.

Happy, productive employees don’t just magically happen. Employers who take the time to discover and deliver what they need will be the ones who come out on top. 

 

Photo by Juergen Faelchle

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook