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

Structuring your Flexible Workplace Plan

It’s no secret that today’s employees value flexibility. And with healthcare costs continuing to skyrocket, workplaces that allow employees to balance the demands of work, family, and health are becoming increasingly important for employers as well.

If your company hasn’t looked into ways to attract and retain talent by offering a variety of work and scheduling options, you’re falling behind the curve.

But you can’t just throw any old program together. Your flexibility plan needs to have a solid structure behind it.

What makes sense?

Depending on what kind of organization you’re running, the level of flexibility you are able to  offer will vary. Things like telecommuting, variable hours, and job sharing can work really well in some situations but be nearly impossible in others.

Even if you are really excited about the idea of being more flexible as a company, you’re going to need to examine just exactly what you can and can’t do.

Questions to ask:

  • Do flexible work arrangements make sense based on the type of work your staff performs?
  • Are their departments/positions where it could potentially work well?
  • Are there certain areas or locations where it just isn’t feasible?
  • How will you manage that difference?

Remember that flexibility comes in all shapes and sizes. If you can’t offer remote working options, perhaps you can be more flexible with hours and shift schedules. Or your paid time off policy. Or your dress code.

Evaluate each department separately to see where you can flex and where you can’t. If you’re not sure what your employees want, ask them. A simple employee survey can be very enlightening. Maybe all they really want is a new coffee machine in the break room and an extra ten minutes to enjoy it.

Once you’ve decided where you can be flexible, you’ll need to put a plan together that makes the can-dos work and the can’t-dos clear.

How will it work?

Offering to be more flexible without setting clear guidelines will only cause confusion for employees and frustration for you. You’ll need to create a well-defined structure and details for how your new policies will work.

Consult with department managers and supervisors to flesh out your ideas. Tell them what you’re thinking and brainstorm any issues that might arise, both with the implementation of the policy and the subsequent management of it. Work together to design a policy that mitigates any potential negative consequences while focusing on the benefits.

As you put your plan together, think about how offering alternative working arrangements can benefit your organization as well as your employees.

  • Could offering remote working options help your company reduce operating costs?
  • Would providing shift flexibility improve your recruitment and retention efforts?
  • Might altering your appearance and/or experience requirements open up a whole new applicant pool?

Being flexible in your processes isn’t just a way to do something nice for your employees. Being open to different ways of doing things can facilitate new opportunities for everyone involved. Including your business.

What happens when it doesn’t?

Even with the best laid plans, there will no doubt be instances where things don’t go the way you envisioned.

Whether it’s an employee who is taking advantage of his newfound flexibility, a remote worker who isn’t pulling her weight, or someone who discovers a loophole in the new policy, you’ll be much more prepared to deal with these situations if you’ve got clear procedures in place.

Develop strategies for how to address issues like absenteeism and poor performance, then put them in writing. Best case scenario, you’ll never need to use them. Worst case scenario, you’ll be glad you took the time to document them.

Keys to success

Employees want flexibility. And employers want happy, healthy, productive employees. Offering strategic alternatives to old-school, rigid workplaces can help you build a better team— and a better business.

Here are some ways to maximize your chances of success:

Do the research – Look at what other organizations are doing and talk with them about ideas and implementation. Take advantage of their hard-earned wisdom, and learn from their mistakes and successes. Keep in mind that every industry, business, and workforce will have different needs and solutions.

Get buy in – If your leadership and managers aren’t on board, it will be much more difficult to effectively create, implement, and manage these changes.

Empower employees – Involving staff in the process will ensure you’re giving them the benefits they truly value, instead of offering random perks you think they might want.

Set parameters – Make sure you have systems in place for when things go awry. Your policy should include clear and specific procedures to address employees and/or situations that clearly aren’t working.

Strong but nimble

Today’s employees want to be able to balance the many demands of work, life, and family. Finding ways to provide that kind of environment will give you a serious edge when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to bend over backwards. Take a careful look at your organization to see where and how you can offer employees the options they crave. Then, put some structure behind your willingness to flex.

Building a solid framework for your new policies will help support your efforts, your staff, and your business.


Photo by Prostock-studio

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook

Millennials Workers Are All Grown Up. And They Are Leaving You.

When you think of millennials, who comes to mind? Those lazy, entitled kids fresh out of high school or college?


Millennials aren’t kids anymore. Nor are they a small percentage of your employee base. Falling between the ages of 24 – 35, these “kids” comprise over one-third of your workforce. Oh, and one more thing. They are sick of your crap.

Millennials are tired

So very, very tired.

They’re tired of watching company execs getting huge payouts, while working for stagnant or shrinking wages, with little hope of ever owning their own homes or paying off their student loans. Tired of seeing their employers ignoring the big-picture issues they care so much about. Tired of seeing powerful corporations exploiting employees, polluting the environment, and only pretending to care about diversity.

In short, they are sick and tired of working for businesses who prioritize profits above all else. And they aren’t planning on sticking around.

Time for a corporate reality check

The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey provides some grim facts for employers.

Turns out, the perceptions Millennials hold about employers is changing drastically. And not in a good way. The same goes for up-and-coming Generation Z.

The message they sent was loud and clear. If you think you will be able attract and retain employees without appealing to their core values, you’re in for a big surprise.

Let’s take a quick look at the numbers:

  • Only 48% of millennials believe that corporations behave ethically. (This is down from 65% in 2017)
  • 75% of millennials view businesses as focusing on their own agendas rather than considering the wider society. (Up from 59% last year)
  • 2 in 3 respondents believe leaders are only paying lip service to diversity, and that only formal legislation can truly advance workplace inclusion

And the values behind them:

The vast majority (83%) of millennials overwhelmingly feel that business success should be measured in terms of more than financial performance, such as:

  • Making a positive impact on society and the environment
  • Creating innovative ideas, products and services
  • Providing good jobs with career development that improve people’s lives
  • Putting an emphasis on workplace diversity and inclusion

They see your potential

But they also see you’re not delivering.

Three quarters of Millennials surveyed said they believed corporations have the potential to help solve society’s economic, environmental, and social challenges. But they also said they didn’t see it happening in their workplaces. This values disconnect is making them eager to jump ship, with 43% of millennials reporting that they expect to leave their current employer within two years.

If this sounds like a scary statistic, you’ll want to make sure you’re sitting down. Because that number jumps to 61% for Generation Z employees.

According to the Deloitte study, this year’s data show a “dramatic, negative shift in millennials’ feelings about business motivations and ethics.” Survey respondents expressed disappointment that corporate priorities aren’t aligned with their own, and their employer loyalty has retreated.

And only you have the power to change it

The more respondents felt their employers were prioritizing innovation and societal improvement, adopting flexible working practices, and having diverse senior management teams, the more likely they were to see themselves sticking around. 

When values are aligned, millennials perceived their employers to be more successful, have more stimulating work environments, and do a better job of developing talent.

Now is the time to take a good, hard look at your business model and priorities. Do you want to position yourself as the faceless corporation that puts profits above your employees, your environment, and community?

Or do you want to be a well-respected employer of choice, committed to using your power not just for profit, but for the greater good? The choice is up to you.

Just remember: Your future employees also have a choice.


Photo by Vadim Guzhva  

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook