Three Ways to Think About Workplace Safety

According to an analysis by Liberty Mutual, the two most expensive causes of workplace injury are overexertion and falls. These two things alone cost employers nearly 23 and a half BILLION dollars last year. But that’s not the only reason to think about raising your workplace safety game.

Workplace safety is a concern for many people on a variety of levels. Employees expect to be provided with a safe place to work. Customers expect to have a safe experience in the places they frequent. Banks and insurance companies want to work with companies that aren’t being unnecessarily risky. And business owners have a whole other set of worries:

  • What happens if an employee gets hurt?
  • Who will cover shifts if an injury causes someone to be out for an extended time?
  • How will an accident affect our operating costs? Healthcare? Business insurance?
  • What about expensive fines, penalties and litigation?
  • Are we even in compliance?
  • How can we protect our employees and ourselves?

These are all very valid questions and concerns. Let’s talk about how to keep your company and everyone in it as safe as possible.

1. Think big

Safety is about more than just checking the boxes required to comply with Federal and local regulations. If your company is doing the bare minimum to meet workplace safety requirements, you’re going to get the bare minimum when it comes to results.

If you really want to put safety to work for you and your business, you need to think bigger. Create a culture of workplaces safety. Don’t just make it a priority, commit to making it one of your core values. Weave it into your infrastructure, your operations, and your daily reality.

Here are a few quick ways to get started:

  • Make time for it. Move safety to the top of your to do list and keep it top of mind.
  • Include workplace safety as a critical part of all business decision-making processes.
  • Train staff and leadership thoroughly from a safety-first perspective.
  • Communicate about safety openly and often.
  • Put your money where your mouth is. Invest in a safer workplace.

There’s a big difference between talking about safety and actively working to create a safe environment. Employees can tell the difference between an employer who says they care about safety and one who truly does. Be on the right side of that equation.

2. Think small

While you’re building your strong foundation for safe practices, don’t be tempted to let the little things slide. When it comes to workplace safety, little things matter. Workplace safety often lies in the details, where little things can become big things in an instant.

A loose cord, a slippery floor, or a cracked pair of safety glasses may not seem like a big deal, but in the wrong set of circumstances, it could be.

If an employee comes to you with a safety concern, no matter how large or small, take it seriously. Better yet, be proactive about finding potential unsafe areas, equipment, and practices. Do a safety audit to determine what tools and processes need to be fixed, replaced, or thrown out entirely.

Not only will this keep your workplace safe and your business protected, it will show your employees that you care enough to invest in their wellbeing.

3. Think smart

Everyone wants to work in a safe environment. That’s a no-brainer. So how come so many businesses don’t do what it takes to actually get there?

Perhaps they think that fully committing to workplace safety sounds way too:

  • expensive
  • complicated
  • time consuming
  • unnecessary
  • paranoid

If you’ve run into some or all of these objections at your company, now is the time to refer back to the Liberty Mutual study, which found that disabling workplace injuries cost employers over $55 BILLION dollars last year. That’s right. Billion. With a B. Now which strategy sounds more expensive?

Focusing on workplace safety is smart business. It’s not just good for the health of your employees. It’s good for the health of your organization. And that’s good for everyone.

 

 Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

 Photo by Michael Simons 

Business Risk Comes in All Shapes and Sizes. What’s Yours?

Are you one of those people who has an “if only…” section of your closet? You know, a designated spot for those things you loved to wear back in the day and might like to wear again at some point— if only you could figure out how to make them fit?

The same concept is also at play when it comes to risk management. Many companies are hanging onto their “if only…” strategies when it comes to mitigating risk.    

One size does not fit all

As companies grow and change, so do the various risks they face. A small business just getting off the ground, with a couple of employees and no location to speak of will have very different concerns and exposures than a multi-national corporation with offices around the world.

Part of your job is assessing and managing your business risks not just once, but repeatedly as your organization continues to develop over time. You’ve got to be able to tell when the “if only…” risk management are no longer a good fit. This will allow you to embrace the “what fits your business today” strategies.

There are several types of business risk you’ll need to consider, identify, and manage.

Strategic Risk is associated with your business plan, model, direction, and environment. Even the most well-thought out strategies and plans don’t always work out as anticipated. Sometimes the market, the economy, or some other factor can cause your business model to become weak, unsustainable, or obsolete.

Operational Risk comes from the hidden dangers inherent in the day to day process of running your organization. These could be issues related to system failures or breakdowns in policy or processes. They could also be external events such as theft, fire, or natural disasters. Anything that interrupts your core operation is considered an operational risk.

Compliance Risk refers to your exposure to legal fines and penalties resulting from failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations that pertain to your industry, business, and operations. This encompasses a wide spectrum of issues, including misclassification of employees, safety and environmental violations, discrimination claims, privacy issues, wage and hour violations.

Human Risk is caused by the people who run your business. Humans are not always consistent or predictable. Employees can create risk for your business in a variety of ways: Errors and mistakes, poor management, unsafe practices, inadequate training, theft, fraud, harassment, etc. The more employees you have, the greater the risk. But even if you’re a sole proprietorship, you’re still only human. At some point, you could put your own company at risk.

Technology Risk is associated with the technological systems your business relies on. Power outages, software failures, security breaches, cyber-attacks, and other technology issues can cause anything from minor interruptions to major catastrophes. The same technologies that help you run your company more effectively and efficiently can also wreak havoc on your organization.

Financial Risk is anything that interferes with the ability of your business to maintain positive cash flow. Financial risks can be internal or external and include things like market fluctuations, interest/exchange rates, inaccurate projections, clients who default on payment or internal theft and embezzlement. It can also be as simple as poor budgeting, bad financial decision making, and mismanagement of debt.

Reputational risk has to do with how your business is perceived by potential customers and the public. Things that affect organizational reputation include lawsuits, product failures and recalls, political issues, customer incidents, negative reviews, and social media. Positive business reputations take time to build, but they can be lost in a second. If your company reputation takes a hit, it can result in a significant loss of customers, partnerships, sponsorships, and ad revenue. You may also find it difficult to maintain company morale and attract and retain talent.

Getting on the right side of your risk

Even if your business is still in its lean days, you’ll want to think about what factors could negatively affect your finances, operations, and overall success.

If you’ve already outgrown your startup phase, you’ve probably also outgrown your initial risk management assessment and plan. And maybe even your favorite t-shirt. Which means it’s time to take another look at how you’re running your operations and managing your risk.

Identifying and mitigating potential threats isn’t a one-time job. It’s an ongoing endeavor that’s critical to the health and survival of your organization.

Once you’re committed to evaluating your business risks on a consistent basis, you’ll be able to take your risk management plan from “if only…” to “Looking good!”

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by ninamalyna  

How to Create a Better Client Experience

Providing great client service is a claim that nearly every business makes. However, being able to provide that great service, versus just promising it, is dependent on a number of things being in place.

It begins with a definition of what great service means to your company, which depends on what you want your customers to experience every time they have an interaction with your organization, which depends on… well… let’s just take a closer look at how this works.

Defining the company

Purpose| Starting from the top, the purpose of your business must be clearly defined so everyone knows why he or she works so hard every day. What goals are their efforts intended to achieve?

If it’s just to put more money in the owner’s pocket, it’s not a very good motivator for treating clients well or understanding what to help them with beyond selling them a product or answering their basic questions.

If it’s to help clients solve their specific problems, that’s a different story. Knowing that your goal is to help clients achieve their goals allows your team to proactively make suggestions toward that end.

Values| Next, the organizational values must be clearly defined. Values are used to help shape and direct behaviors. When the values are known, everyone can use consistent ideas in treating clients and making decisions. Without defined values, everyone is left to use their own set of decision-making criteria, which might not produce the results your company wants or expects.

Culture| Everyone needs to clearly understand the cultural expectations of the company, and leadership needs to actively reinforce them. It’s important to promote and reward appropriate behaviors as well as reprimand ones that don’t reinforce the cultural expectations. Without this, the culture becomes a fractured grouping of behaviors and doesn’t promote consistency across the organization.

Some say you can’t define a culture, that it just develops naturally. To some degree, this is true. Culture is a naturally developing personality of any organization. That said, clear expectations should be firmly in place as guide rails for good, consistent decision-making and behaviors.

Customer Experience| After you have your company values and behaviors defined, describe what you want a client/customer to experience when they interact with your organization. In order to deliver great service, you and your team must know what your definition of “great” is.

Processes| Determine what processes and procedures must be in place to deliver on your company purpose and client experience. This means having the right people performing in roles that play to their strengths. They need to be given responsibility and authority to make decisions and deliver on good service.

Having defined your purpose, values, culture, and client experience, the team should be well equipped now to deliver consistent service that reflects the best intentions of your company.

Follow through on the details

Skill Gaps| Once you’ve determined what the roles are to effectively deliver on the service you’ve defined, there will be some training gaps to fill in. Maybe it’s technical skills, new content skills, proficiency of tools, or even good personal relations. Consistency in training will help reinforce those key, consistent behaviors needed to deliver on your promises.

Communication| Leadership must regularly communicate and reinforce the organizational purpose, values, and expected behaviors. Using multiple forms of communication is important, but even more so is demonstrating it through behaviors and actions.

And as you create these collective definitions, be sure to take an honest assessment of where your customer service is today. Is everyone in the business actively working to “Wow!” clients and make them exceptionally happy? Or is it a more reactionary culture that focuses more on answering client questions, meeting minimum expectations, or putting out fires?

Without clear company definitions and ongoing communication so everyone on staff knows and understands them, any claims of “great service” are sitting on uncertain ground.

Based on individual life experiences, everyone has his or her own ideas of what good, best, and exceptional look like. Don’t leave the success of your company up to chance by simply hoping your definitions match those of each of your staff members. The clearer you make it, the happier everyone will be.

Including your clients.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by sirinapa

 

Strategic Planning: How to Do it Right

Many businesses have jumped on board the strategic planning train, which is great! When done right, strategic planning can help you focus your time, energy and resources, develop your team and processes, and achieve your organizational goals.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of business leaders who embark on their strategic planning adventure without much thought or intention.

  • Some don’t actually know where they want to go or how they might get there.
  • Others will start the journey and then decide to go in a totally new direction halfway through.
  • Many will commit to a particular destination, only to jump off early— or let themselves get distracted by every shiny thing along the way.

Should your organization create a strategic plan and put it into action? Yes! But only if you have a clear direction and are committed to riding it out through the end.

Keys to effective implementation

For our purposes, we’re going to assume you’ve already put a significant amount of time, effort, and energy into defining your company purpose and vision. Let’s also assume you have a big-picture strategy for how to achieve these things. If that’s not the case, you’re getting ahead of yourself here. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. And don’t even think about talking tactics.

Go back and start at the beginning.

Once you’ve gotten your key leaders together to figure out and document who you are as an organization, where it is you want to go, and how you’re going to get there, you can move on to the next phase: creating a detailed, tactical plan and actually following through with it.

After developing a solid plan outlining your vision and strategies (think of these as your big-picture ideas), it’s time to begin the tactical phase of your planning.

1.) Consult with your inside experts

Share the strategic plan with your team and give key players the opportunity and authority to help determine which tactics to employ for best results. In other words, let them help build the roads that will lead to the ultimate vision.

This should be done collaboratively, but with a level of autonomy and respect for the knowledge of each discipline. Allow them to be the experts, but ultimately answering back to the company vision.

Involving your internal pros in the process will provide much needed insight as to what is possible and achievable— and sometimes what isn’t.

2.) Set your goals

Think of your goals as the bright, yellow bricks that will pave your road to success. Have your company and team leaders work together to lay them out clearly, and in a way that makes them easy to follow.

Random targets and objectives that pull you in a million different directions aren’t going to move you forward. Off to the side, maybe. But not ahead. Your goals should help you transfer your carefully crafted strategy into purposeful action.

To be effective, your goals need to be:

Specific – Want to be a bigger player in the industry? That’s great! But it’s way too vague for strategic planning purposes. Try something like “Expand service into defined Target Market A” instead.

Measurable – Increasing brand awareness may be something you’re very interested in achieving, but again, how will you know when you’ve made it happen? Deciding you want to achieve 10% growth in website visits will make it much easier for you to tell whether or not you’re succeeding.

Realistic – Goals that aren’t actually attainable are sure to get your team fired up. But not in a good way. Increase production by 150%? Do you have the staff, equipment, and financial resources to make that happen? If so, go for it. If not, scale back.

Consistent – If you have one goal to increase sales by 20%, and another goal to decrease your sales support staff by half, the only thing you’re setting yourself up to achieve is supreme disappointment. With a side of decreased morale.

Flexible – Only time will tell if your goals are achievable. No doubt you’ll need to make some adjustments along the way. Being too rigid with your numbers and metrics is a recipe for frustration.

3.) Make it happen

Planning without action is just as bad as action without planning. Even worse, if you take into account all of the wasted time and resources. Creating the plan is a fantastic first step, but if you don’t take the next steps toward implementation, everyone is bound to lose faith. Including you.

Implementation timelines will vary greatly by organization. The process will be largely dependent on your leadership, your sense of urgency, your company culture, and how ambitious your plan is. The important thing is to keep your energy and momentum going so you don’t get stalled.

To keep your implementation phase on track:

  • Make sure leadership takes ownership, leads the charge, and stays engaged.
  • Communicate the vision, plan, and progress clearly and often to everyone on the team. Integrate these things into the daily workings and the very core of the organization.
  • Assess staffing levels and resources to make sure goals and milestones are achievable.
  • Hold leadership and teams accountable to the vision and the plan.
  • Resist getting caught in the weeds. Keep an eye on the big picture.
  • Meet regularly to review progress toward your goals.
  • Be willing to admit when things aren’t working, and flexible enough to change course when needed.
  • Celebrate successes and reward your team for their hard work.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Fear based management stifles creativity, innovation and success.

A good strategic plan can focus your efforts, motivate your team, and take your business to new heights. A bad strategic plan can be a demoralizing dust collector.

Which one will yours be?

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

For more on this topic, check out Is Strategic Planning Really Necessary?The Strategic Planning Process: Wise Investment or Waste of Time?, and/or Hate Strategic planning? Tips to Take Away the Pain.

 

Photo by Ion Chiosea

Word of Mouth Marketing: Are You Giving Them Something to Talk About?

It used to be that marketing consisted of things like TV and radio commercials, billboards, and print ads. And while these things still exist, it’s in a world where countless other marketing tools and outlets are available simultaneously. In this new marketing reality, customers have enormous amounts of information literally at their fingertips.

They also have access to an another extremely powerful sales tool: other people.

Online sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Glassdoor exist for the sole purpose of providing peer-to-peer customer testimonials and feedback. These sites are frequently used by consumers as decision making tools to help them determine everything from what to eat for lunch, to where to buy a car, to which employers are worth pursuing. And they are not taking these reviews lightly.

The power of peer-to-peer marketing

A few quick facts:

  • Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business.
  • 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars.
  • 91% of 18-34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Need to make a purchase? It’s very likely your first move is online.

A quick Google search will instantly reveal online reviews, testimonials, and ratings for just about any product, service, or business. Questions thrown out on social channels will instantly result in numerous comments from friends and family who are all-too-willing to share their personal opinions and buying experiences.

But this isn’t just how you operate. It’s how your customers operate as well.

Potential clients are hopping online to research your company website, Facebook page, and professional LinkedIn profile. They are also seeking out sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, and their own social accounts and then using this feedback to make buying decisions. And all of this is often happening long before they’ve tested your product or interacted with anyone in your organization.

As a business, you can’t ignore this powerful influence your customers have over your business. You must provide a customer experience worth talking about. In a good way.

  • What makes you different?
  • What do you offer that no one else does?
  • What is it about your company that makes people want to recommend you to friends, family, and total strangers on the internet?

In other words, what are you doing to get people talking? And listening?

Customers make the best salespeople

You can sing your own praises all day long, but when it comes down to it, you will never be as effective at marketing your business as your biggest fans are. If you’re not taking advantage of word of mouth marketing, you’re ignoring a huge opportunity for organic growth.

You can have the best website in the world and the perfect marketing plan in place, but if you aren’t inspiring your customers to speak on your behalf, you’re missing out.

Yes, you need a quality marketing team, but you don’t need them to do all of the work. Happy customers will gladly take on some of that heavy lifting. All you have to do is give them an amazing experience— and one that they want to share.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by gpointstudio