Month: March 2015

Qualifying for a Loan as a Small Business

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How to Make Sure Your Small Business Qualifies for a Loan

Small Business LoanRunning a small business isn’t cheap. First you have to come up with the money for start-up and initial operating costs. After you’ve been in business for a while, you may want to expand. That costs money, too.

But it’s not easy to get a small business loan, especially in the post-recession world, where lenders are examining borrowers’ credit histories more closely than ever. Like many small business owners, you may be considering funding your expansion, or other small business needs, with merchant cash advances or business credit cards. But these lines of credit can come with costly interest rates that can put a crippling repayment burden on your business.

Bank loans are the way to go, and there’s a lot you can do to make your small business more likely to qualify for a bank loan. Pay down debt, keep solid financial records, pay your taxes by the book, and keep an eye on your business credit score. Your business will be more likely to qualify for a loan if you’ve been operating profitably for a while. When you speak to the loan manager, emphasize your experience, and try to sell yourself as a savvy business owner who will make great use of the bank’s money.

Clean up Your Business’s Credit Rating

The first step toward qualifying for a small business bank loan is finding out what your business’s credit score is. Although there are plenty of circumstances under which your personal credit score can influence your small business credit score, your small business credit score is different from your personal credit score. It shows your history of business transactions, any debts your business may be carrying, and any payments your business may have defaulted on.

Ideally, your business credit score will be good. You’ll have kept your personal and business credit and bank accounts completely separated. Your business won’t be carrying a lot of high interest debt, and there won’t be any unpaid bills or items in collection.

If you have any outstanding bills, pay them. If you’re carrying a lot of high-interest debt on business credit cards or merchant cash advance lines of credit, you’ll need to work on paying those debts down to improve your chances of qualifying for a small business loan. A bank will consider your business’s financial obligations to other lenders — the amount of money you already owe — when deciding whether or not your business seems likely to default.

Keep Solid Financial Records

Your business’s books hold most of the fiscal information banks are looking for when they decide whether or not to lend to your small business. The better your books look, the better your chances of qualifying for a small business loan.

Your financial records should communicate your business’s financial history and projections, and should be easy to understand and generally well-kept. This will help banks get a real grasp of your character as a small business owner, your business’s assets and debts, the collateral you have to offer, and your business’s overall track record. You’re best off hiring an accountant to handle this aspect of your business administration for you.

Pay Your Taxes

Don’t be tempted to underreport revenues and over-report losses in order to slash your business’s tax bill at the end of the year. Not only will you get caught and have to pay IRS fines or face other legal repercussions, it will also make it harder for you to get a small business loan. Tax liens and fines count against your business’s credit worthiness.

Accurate reporting, on the other hand, shows banks that you’re honest and law-abiding, and also gives both you and any potential lenders a much better picture of your business’s financial condition. If your tax responsibilities are overwhelming, it’s cheaper than you might think to outsource payroll services.

Small Business LoanHave Experience

This might go without saying, but the longer you’ve been in business, the more likely you are to qualify for a small business loan. Most small businesses fail within the first five years, so if your business has been operating for two or more years, you’re more likely to qualify for a loan — especially if you’ve been turning a profit or at least breaking even. The longer your doors have been open, the more history your bank has to draw on to decide whether or not your business will likely survive long enough to repay the loan.

Not to mention, a longer business history shows you have experience in your industry. Banks aren’t going to want to loan you money so you can learn your business; they want you to already know what you’re doing when you get the money. When you apply for a small business loan, it’s important to present yourself as an experienced professional and be able to tell the bank exactly what you’re going to do with the money and, perhaps more importantly, how it will influence your business’s financial future.

Running a business isn’t cheap, and getting a small business loan isn’t easy. But it’s not impossible, either. Look after your business’s financial health and credit score, and you’ll find that most banks will be happy to loan your business money when you need it.

Hiring Reliable Freelancers

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How to Find & Hire Reliable Freelancers Who Won’t Let You Down

Hiring FreelancersFreelance workers can provide top-quality work for a fraction of the cost of full-time employees. That’s because most freelance workers are experts in their fields, with talent and technical skills in areas like writing, graphic design, programming, and consulting. You only pay freelancers for the work they do, and you don’t need to offer them health care or retirement benefits or pay Social Security or Medicare taxes on their income. Freelancers are ideal for short-term projects and projects that can be completed off-site.

The Internet has made it easier than ever to find people advertising freelance services, but it hasn’t made it any easier to evaluate whether a given freelancer is as reliable and skilled as he or she claims. Where do you find freelancers, and how can you tell if they’re reliable?

Look for experienced experts who can show a portfolio of work, and consider giving the freelancer a smaller trial assignment before trusting him or her with the entire project. Steer clear of the lowest prices, and be wary of freelancers who ask for payment in full before any work is completed. Don’t be afraid to Google freelancers to learn more about their reputation and skills.

Look for Freelancers Online and in Your Local Community

There are generally two places to find reliable freelancers — online and in your local community. You can find freelancers on marketplaces like Elance, ODesk, Gun.io, Authentic Jobs, ProBlogger, and Folyo. Just post your job requirements and wait for the cover letters to roll in. Make sure to ask for CVs, samples, links to social media profiles, and other information that might help you evaluate the freelancers’ skills and qualifications.

You might also find qualified, skilled freelancers in your own backyard. Maybe you have some former co-workers who would be willing to take on a side project that can be completed at night or on the weekends. Maybe your neighbor has a friend who knows someone. Ask around; word of mouth is still a great way to find the resources you need.

If you hire a freelancer in your local area, you’ll be able to meet with the person face-to-face. It’s not that you necessarily need to meet the freelancer, but meeting someone in person is still the best way to get a read on his or her personality, and that can be invaluable when you’re hiring a freelancer for the first time.

Check CVs, Samples, and References

The relationship between a freelancer and his or her client is a little different from the relationship between an employer and an employee, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to do your due diligence during the hiring process. You might not call the freelancer in for a round of interviews, but the hiring process can still be complex. Many entrepreneurs are surprised by the number of applications they receive when they advertise a freelance position; you may need to ask for help to go through all the resumes.

Just as with a normal job applicant, a freelance candidate should send you a cover letter and CV. You should be aware that freelance CVs can be much longer than normal resumes, especially when the freelancer is in a creative field like writing or web design. You should also ask the freelancer to send some samples of previous work. Feel free to ask for as many samples as you need to get a grasp of the person’s abilities. It’s not unusual to ask for two or three samples initially, then ask for several more once you’ve narrowed the playing field to a few very qualified candidates. Just be aware that you can’t claim any rights to the samples your freelancer sends, and you shouldn’t ask the freelancer to create any new samples to your specifications unless you’re willing to pay for them.

Don’t be afraid to ask for references and call them — most reliable freelancers can and will put you in touch with former clients. You can also learn a lot about a freelancer’s reputation by Googling his or her name. If an alleged professional has cheated clients before, it’ll be online.

Hiring a FreelancerDon’t Hire the Cheapest One

It can be tempting to go with the cheapest freelancer you find, especially when many overseas professionals are offering their services for pennies on the dollar compared to domestic contractors. But you should be wary of hiring the cheapest freelancer you can find. Very cheap freelancers often produce very cheap work, and if you end up hiring an overseas professional, you could encounter significant issues involving language barriers and time zones, to say the least.

Just as with most other products, you’ll get the best results from a mid-price freelancer. Of course, if you can afford to hire the best, most experienced, and most expensive professionals, go for it. But since the freelance market tends to drive prices down, you’ll probably get good value for your money even if you pay a little more.

It’s not unusual for freelancers to ask for some portion of the payment up front; they’re just as wary of you as you are of them, and it’s definitely not unheard of for freelancers to get ripped off for work they’ve done. If your freelancer wants an upfront payment or wants milestone payments, especially on a big project, you shouldn’t let that fact alone deter you from hiring him or her — not if everything else looks good. But if the freelancer wants payment in full up front, that’s a big red flag.

Freelancers can be an affordable source of expertise, especially when it comes to short-term projects and creative work. Finding and hiring a reliable freelancer can be daunting, but it’s more than worth it. The right freelancer can become a trusted associate who learns the ins and outs of your business and provides long-term service for a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee’s salary.

 

Managing Millennials

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5 Things You Need to Know About Managing Millennials

Managing MillennialsBy the year 2020, Millennials — the generation born between about 1980 and the year 2000 — will make up 46 percent of the workforce. These young people are ambitious, educated, and like most workers, eager to find their place in a meaningful career. But if you’re a Gen-Xer or a Baby Boomer, you might be feeling the generational divide when it comes to managing these optimistic and tech-savvy, if inexperienced, young professionals.

It’s true that most Millennials grew up with doting parents who constantly told them they were capable of doing anything they set their minds to. Most members of this generation spent their childhoods in structured activities, instead of simply going out to play as members of previous generations did. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to offer their employers, as long as you keep in mind that Millennials are very different in their attitudes and perspectives than Baby Boomers and even Gen-Xers.

Millennials like a flexible working environment, because they typically have very busy lives. They like structure and guidance, but they also have tech skills that can be valuable to older workers. They appreciate chances to grow professionally and build skills through formal training. Above all, they like variety and are always ready to rise to a challenge.

1. Millennials Need a Flexible Working Environment

If you spend any time getting to know your younger workers, you’ll soon find that they’re pretty busy. They like to make time to spend with their families, time to socialize with friends, and time for volunteer work and hobbies as well as time for work. As a result, they may blur the lines between work time and personal time — a Millennial employee may think nothing of answering personal emails or sending personal texts while at the office, but he or she will also think nothing of sending work emails or taking work calls while at home.

Nevertheless, work-life balance is of the utmost importance to Millennials, who don’t see the point of working 60-hour weeks like their parents did. Millennials will appreciate perks like flex time and telecommuting — but so will your older workers, who also have personal lives to live. Younger workers expect their employers to offer them great benefits, and while they’re loyal, they won’t hesitate to use their Web and networking skills to find another position if they aren’t happy with their current company.

2. Millennials Need Guidance and Structure

The majority of Millennials had childhoods filled with structured events, and they got more attention from their parents than any previous generation. As a result, they need and want a great deal more feedback, structure, and guidance from their managers than you may be accustomed to giving older employees. While older workers may be happy with a “no news is good news” situation, Millennials — especially the younger, less experienced members of the generation — want frequent feedback about the quality of their work. They want to know what key business skills they should develop, and how they can develop them. They want meetings, corporate events, and deadlines to occur on a regular schedule. Most of all, they crave mentoring from older coworkers.

Managing Millennials3. Millennials Want Formal Training

Millennials are among the most highly-educated professionals in the workforce, but they have the fewest opportunities for additional formal professional training once they enter the working world. Formal training in hard skills can help these younger, often inexperienced workers to succeed.

Many of them can also benefit from learning soft skills, as can their older co-workers. Formal training in soft skills can help every member of your team improve.

4. Millennials Love a Challenge

If there’s one thing you can say about Millennials, it’s that they’re confident in their abilities and optimistic about the future. They’ve always been told that they can do anything, and they definitely believe it. Your Millennial workers will multitask all day long, and they love variety in the workplace.

Make sure they’re always working on something different; they’ll be happiest and most productive if they’re not bogged down in repetitive tasks. Don’t be afraid to challenge them — they’re always looking forward to the next challenge.

5. Millennials Have a Lot to Teach You

Your Millennial employees may be young and inexperienced, but they’re the first Internet generation, and they know a thing or two about computers and networking. You can leverage both of these skill sets to your advantage. Pragmatic managers set up reverse mentoring programs whereby Millennial employees can show Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers the ropes of using text messaging, Skype, and social media to stay in touch with traveling colleagues, recruit new hires, and network with other professionals. Millennials are the perfect employees to take charge of company social media profiles and recruit new employees.

Millennials already make up more than a third of the workforce, and they’ll soon make up the majority. If you’re like many older managers, you’re baffled by these young workers’ attitudes and lifestyles. But once you take the time to understand what your Millennial employees need, expect, and want, you’ll be in a much better position to bring out the best in these desirable young workers.

 

Firing a Problem Employee

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The Sooner You Can Fire a Problem Employee, the Better

Firing a problem employeeOnce you realize that one of your employees is no longer a good fit for your business, it’s best to let that employee go as soon as possible. The longer you let a problem employee remain with the business, the more likely that his or her bad habits may rub off on other employees. A bad employee who isn’t fired soon enough can cause better employees to feel resentful and disgruntled, and can lead to strained relationships with clients, vendors, and partners, as well as lowered productivity in general.

Of course, you shouldn’t jump the gun and fire an employee at the first sign of trouble. Everyone makes mistakes, and you should go ahead and give employees the chance to fix theirs. But when an employee doesn’t take steps to improve his or her performance and continues to perform poorly despite being reprimanded again and again, it’s time to let that employee go — and the sooner you divest your organization of a problem employee, the sooner you can all move on. Firing poor employees promptly protects your company from the far-reaching damage to morale and productivity that a single bad worker can do.

One Employee’s Poor Performance Can Rub Off on Others

When one member of your team isn’t performing well, that can affect the whole team thanks to motivational synchronicity, a phenomenon in which motivation — or lack thereof — spreads from one person to another. Scientists at the University of Rochester have found that putting study participants in the presence of a very motivated individual improved their motivation and performance after just five minutes of contact.

However, they also saw that when study participants were placed in a room with an unmotivated, negative person, their own performance suffered as their motivation dwindled. This remained true even if the people involved never spoke or interacted, but merely worked on their own tasks while sharing the same space.

That’s why it’s important to make sure that everyone on your team is motivated and driven. Allowing a less motivated employee to remain on the team will only drag down your high performers, and the effect could quickly spread throughout the company.

Morale Suffers When a Poor Employee Isn’t Fired

While you should always try to work through issues with an employee before firing him or her, there comes a point when a bad employee’s poor performance just puts a strain on other workers who are trying to do well at their jobs. When one employee doesn’t do his or her work in a timely fashion or is frequently late, others must pick up the slack.

Not only can that make their performance suffer if the situation goes on too long, it can also make them resentful. If you drag your feet when it comes to firing a bad employee, other employees will think you haven’t noticed the behavior or don’t care about it. They’ll also think you don’t really care about their needs or feelings. You could find yourself scrambling to fill multiple positions as your good employees jump ship to find jobs where they feel more valued.

Firing a problem employeeOne Bad Employee Can Irreparably Damage Corporate Relationships

Chances are that a poorly-performing employee is one who isn’t happy in his or her job, and an unhappy employee is one who’s likely to take out his or her frustration on clients, partners, or vendors. It doesn’t take much to sour even a longstanding corporate relationship.

A single bad employee could alienate a loyal customer with a single incident of bad service or a rude remark. The same goes for vendors, clients, partners, and others with whom your organization has a valued relationship. Keeping a bad employee around for longer than necessary can add up to lost profits and permanent damage to your company’s reputation.

Things to Consider When Firing an Employee

Although you hope that you can resolve problems with an employee’s performance without firing him or her, you need to be prepared for the possibility that a termination may be necessary from the moment you first talk to an employee about performance issues. Document any talks you have with an employee about his or her performance, even if they’re only informal ones. Give a problem employee no more than two or three warnings before moving ahead with the termination process. When you outsource HR tasks, you can get help with reprimanding and firing employees while still adhering to labor laws.

Firing a problem employee promptly is only half the battle. You’ll also need to be prepared to hire a new employee. Take some time with this process. The better you’re able to vet a new employee, the less likely you are to end up in the same situation again, with a new hire who turns out to be your next problem employee. If you think you’re going to have to a fire an employee, you may want to get the hiring ball rolling in advance. You should also come up with a plan to distribute the employee’s work in the meantime. You may find that other employees’ roles evolve to handle the new tasks, so that you don’t need to hire a new person at all.

Allowing a problematic employee to languish in your company while you continue to hope that his or her performance will miraculously improve isn’t going to do you, or your work force, any favors. One poor employee can drag down the entire company. Weed out poor performers as soon as you detect them, so your company can continue to flourish.

Who’s a Good Fit For Your Company Culture

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How to Hire a Candidate Who’s a Good Fit with Your Company Culture

Company CultureSkills and qualifications are important, but they’re not all that goes into making the perfect job candidate. A new hire could have several impressive degrees and many years of professional successes and experience, but if he or she isn’t a good fit for the company culture, it isn’t going to work out.

Each new employee can potentially change the company’s culture through the influence of his or her own values and business practices. If you want your company culture to remain strong — and your new employee to feel happy and satisfied in the position — then you need to make sure that his or her values align as closely as possible with the company’s. However, it’s not always easy to assess whether or not a candidate is going to fit in with your company culture during a brief interview process.

First, you need to have a clear idea of what kind of culture exists at your company and promote your company on the basis of that culture. Then, you can determine what personal characteristics and traits you’re looking for in a candidate, before taking steps to vet candidates for those traits.

1. What Kind of Culture Does Your Company Have?

Does your company value fun and camaraderie, or are you more formal? How do colleagues in the office have fun together? What are meetings like? How do employees at your organization work — collaboratively, or individually? How are the offices laid out? Do coworkers generally get along or does everyone keep to him or herself?

What forms of communication are most prevalent at your company? How are decisions made? What kinds of people thrive at the company? How is the organization structured? Does your company allow flex scheduling or telecommuting? How do people in the office dress?

The answers to these and other questions will help you learn exactly what kind of company culture you’re cultivating, if you weren’t already sure.

2. Make the Company Culture a Selling Point for Job Candidates

One easy way to attract job candidates who will fit in well at your company is to talk up the company culture and make it a big selling point for potential new hires. People on the job market seek out companies they think they’d enjoy working for.

Use Twitter, Facebook, your company blog, LinkedIn, and YouTube to promote your company’s culture to potential job applications. Upload recruitment videos to YouTube, engage with job candidates and customers on Twitter, share photos of your company’s social get-togethers on Facebook.

3. Decide What You’re Looking for in a Candidate

If you want your company culture to remain largely unchanged by the presence of the new hire, you’ll need to look for someone who’s a good fit for your company culture. Decide what personal traits and qualities you’d like in a candidate. Should he or she be fun-loving? Serious? Collaborative? Independent? What communication and work styles do you need from a new hire?

Remember that when you recruit new candidates, you’re not looking to guarantee that everyone in your office is a carbon copy of one another. This isn’t a science fiction novel; you can’t hire a bunch of clones, and you wouldn’t want to. Each of your employees should bring a unique and complementary set of strengths and weaknesses to the table that can help keep company culture balanced. For example, if one employee has great creative vision but lackluster communication skills, you may want to consider hiring a less visionary person who knows how to talk to people.

Company Culture4. Assess Each Candidate’s Personality and Character

It’s hard to really get a firm grasp of a job candidate’s personality and character, because people don’t generally put things like “nice to waitresses, trustworthy, good sense of humor” on a resume. Even if they did, some of them would be lying.

You can vet candidates for education, qualifications, and experience before they every step foot in an interviewing room. While you should definitely talk about the candidate’s professional history during the interview, also ask questions that help you get a sense of the person’s character, like:

  • What do you do for fun?
  • What was your favorite job and why?
  • What helps you get along with a co-worker?
  • What did you like the most about your last workplace?
  • What did you not like about your last workplace?

Make sure that as many people as possible in your organization interact with the candidate and report back to you — if he or she is rude or dismissive to lower-level employees, or to customer service staff at a lunch meeting, you may want to reconsider. Look for opportunities to spend time with the candidate in a less formal setting, like lunch, or invite him or her to sit in on a meeting so you can get a better grasp of his or her behavior.

Many candidates won’t show off personality traits like a sense of humor, kindness, or flexibility during a job interview, because it’s difficult to display those traits in that setting. A less formal setting will let your candidate’s hidden character traits shine.

It’s not always easy to tell whether a job candidate will be a good fit for your company culture, but it’s a crucial part of the hiring process nevertheless. If you hire a candidate who doesn’t fit in at your organization, he or she won’t be happy — and neither will you.

Managing Remote Employees

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3 Ways to Manage Remote Employees — Painlessly

Working RemotelyRemote working is getting more and more popular as technology has advanced to the point where it’s easy to stay in touch and share data with staff members around the country and the world. But even though the 2010 census report indicated that 13.4 million Americans work remotely at least some of the time, many managers and small business owners are still leery of letting employees work remotely. They worry they’ll have problems communicating with remote workers, or they fear that remote workers won’t be as productive without a supervisor keeping an eye on them.

However, evidence suggests that remote workers are more productive than their office-bound counterparts, and that’s just one advantage of letting more — or even all — of your employees work remotely. You’ll save money on office space, utilities, and supplies. Remote workers are happier and stay in their jobs longer. They spend more time at work and take fewer days off than their office-bound peers, because their flexible working arrangement allows them to handle personal responsibilities, like doctor’s appointments, that on-site employees would need to take time off for.

Managing remote workers isn’t that much harder than managing on-site workers, especially since they tend to be more engaged than on-site workers. You’ll find that most remote workers repay your trust with increased commitment to getting their work done. You can use email, instant messaging, and videoconferencing technology to stay in touch with remote workers. Cloud technologies allow remote workers to access the same data and files that workers in the office use. If you can, bring the whole team together for a teambuilding event at least once a year.

1. Leverage Technology to Stay in Touch

Communication is one of the biggest concerns many managers have about handling remote workers. They imagine that it must be inherently difficult to keep a distant worker in the loop, especially when there are other workers in the office who can be communicated with the old-fashioned way. But thanks to technology, we now have more communication options than ever before, making it possible to work with people in different cities, states, or countries. A PEO can help you recruit remote workers and deal with the regulatory implications of hiring across state lines.

Email is one way to communicate with remote workers, and it’s good for assigning and checking on day-to-day tasks. If you need to coordinate communication between several people, an instant messaging service like Campfire can help. Just because some or all of your team members are working remotely doesn’t mean you can’t have meetings — you can use videoconferencing technology like Skype or Google+ to have meetings. Videoconferencing is also a solution if you worry that too much non-verbal communication could be lost to email or other text-based services.

Working Remotely2. Use the Cloud

Your remote workers will need to be able to access all the same documents and data that your on-site workers have access to. They may also need to digitally share the results of their own efforts with their office-bound colleagues. You could spend a lot of time and money setting up a network of servers to store this information and pay an IT staff to maintain it. Or, you could use the cloud to swap and store necessary files and information.

Use cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive to give your remote workers access to the files and data they need to do their jobs. When they have files to share with you, they can upload them to Dropbox or share them with the relevant colleagues using Google Docs. Just make sure you organize everything into a system that makes sense.

3. Meet Face-to-Face When You Can

On the surface, it sounds like meeting face-to-face defeats the purpose of having remote workers. While remote working is one of the best job benefits you can offer an employee, there’s really no substitute for meeting up with your co-workers face-to-face and forming relationships with them. Try to host a yearly team-building event where everyone, even your remote workers, can have a good time together.

Maybe you can’t host such a yearly physical meeting for whatever reason. Your remote workers might be too far away to feasibly bring into the office, or maybe your business is too strapped for cash to pay for everyone’s travel. You can still do your best to foster a sense of company culture using videoconferences. Suggest an informal, after-hours Google+ Hangout in lieu of the traditional Friday evening happy hour drinks among co-workers, for example.

Remote workers can bring a great deal of value to your organization. They’re often more productive and happier in their jobs than on-site workers, and since you don’t need to provide them with a work space, they come cheaper, too. If you’ve never managed workers remotely, you’ll find that it’s a lot easier than you think — so don’t be afraid to jump on board with this growing trend that will likely become even more normal in the years ahead.

Managing Creative Employees

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5 Tips for Managing Creative Employees

Managing Creative EmployeesCreative employees, and the innovation they foster, are the lifeblood of many organizations. But it’s not easy to manage creative types, especially when they happen to also be difficult types. Creative employees need the space and freedom required for experimentation and risk-taking, but at the same time, they need to be gently encouraged not to get too attached to their work or to take criticism too harshly. Creative employees need to be surrounded by the right kind of people — teammates who will support their ideas, but who can also help them pay attention to the mundane details. Make sure your creative employees feel that they’re doing interesting work, and don’t pressure them to conform.

1. Give Creative Employees Freedom

Creativity and innovation require risk-taking, experimentation, and sometimes, failure. Get the most out of your creative employees by giving them the freedom to fail once in a while. Sure, allowing your creative employees to fail sometimes will cost the company money. Don’t worry about it. You can find much better ways to cut costs. In the end, the value of your creative employees’ innovations will far outstrip the costs of their setbacks.

2. Don’t Let Them Get Too Attached to Their Work

Even though your creative employees will be creating for the sake of your business’s bottom line and not for the sake of art or their own personal fulfillment, you’re still going to find that they care about their projects and get emotionally invested in the outcomes. That’s a good thing; that passion is what makes creative employees worth their salaries. But for the sake of workplace harmony, productivity, efficiency, and the collective mental health of your creative people, it’s a good idea to gently discourage them from getting too attached to their projects or the outcome of their work.

You can encourage a culture of detachment by putting your creative employees together to work in teams, so that no one person is responsible for the outcome of the project. If you only have one or two creative employees, that’s okay; you can team them up with less creative employees who are nevertheless open to entertaining even the wackiest of the creative ideas. When an idea is rejected or needs revisions, present it as a problem that the whole team can solve together, to protect individuals from feeling criticized. Encourage creative teams to push through concepts quickly; creative employees are less likely to become deeply invested in a piece of work that they spent only a day or two working on.

Managing Creative Employees3. Surround Them with the Right People

Too many creative people working together can be a recipe for disaster, especially if one or more of them are of the “difficult” subcategory of creative types. However, you don’t want to team your creative employees with teammates who are too staid and conventional to support the more creative employees’ ideas. Research shows that teams made up of people from diverse backgrounds foster creativity, as long as the team members are open to taking one another’s perspectives. So surround your creative employees with others who may be less creative and innovative themselves, but who are willing to support the creative employees’ ideas and collaborate with them to improve upon those ideas.

These less creative team members can also help the team handle the less interesting, more mundane tasks that may bore many creative types. They can, for example, make sure that proper procedures are followed, templates and formats are respected, and details are attended to.

4. Keep Them Interested

Of course, you need to pay your creative employees a decent salary and offer them competitive benefits, just as you would any other employee. But creative types aren’t just motivated by external rewards like money; they do the work they do because they enjoy the process of creation itself. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that the work you give them is meaningful and inspiring. Don’t give your creative employees busy work. They’ll get bored and may start to think that another organization might appreciate them more.

5. Don’t Pressure Them to Conform

While a certain amount of conformity is necessary in most corporate settings, creative types need flexibility at work in order to come up with the great ideas you’re paying them for. Try to give your creative employees a little more freedom to seek the novelty they crave. Offer them flex scheduling or let them telecommute. If you can’t do that, at least make sure that you don’t micromanage their tasks; give them an idea of where you’d like them to arrive, and then let them figure out on their own how to get there.

Your creative employees may be among your most valuable, since they’re capable of fostering the innovation that could put your organization at the head of your industry. Care for your creative employees properly, and give them the environment they need to put their creative skills to good use. When you see the great ideas your creative employees come up with, you’ll be glad you did.

Bullying in the Workplace

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How to Keep Bullying Out of Your Workplace

Bullying in the WorkplaceWorkplace bullying is a serious issue in the U.S., one that 13.7 million Americans are currently dealing with. One survey, which asked 2,283 people about their experiences with workplace bullying, found that a shocking 96 percent of workers have experienced bullying at work. Eighty-nine percent of workplace bullies have been bullying for over a year, and 54 percent have been doing it for over five years. Most workplace bullies don’t just stick to hassling one person; 80 percent have bullied at least five, if not more, people.

There are several kinds of bullying that can occur in the workplace. Workplace bullying can include sabotaging a co-worker or damaging his or her reputation. It can also include threats, verbal or physical intimidation, insults, browbeating, and assault. In some cases, workplace bullies even hit or kick their targets.

Bullying in the workplace isn’t illegal – yet. But that doesn’t mean your company shouldn’t have a policy in place for dealing with workplace bullies. If you don’t yet have a company anti-bullying policy, create one and make it a part of your employee handbook — it’s the first step toward making your company culture one of courtesy, civility, and respect. Know what constitutes bullying, and don’t be afraid to address any issues right away. It may be necessary to reprimand a workplace bully in some way, especially if the behavior is repeated a second or third time. Keep potential bullies out of your workplace entirely by paying attention to the characters and personalities of job candidates as you interview them.

Implement an Anti-Bullying Policy

If you don’t already have an anti-bullying policy in your company, it’s time to create one, especially if you’ve already noticed bullying behavior or one of your employees has complained about being bullied. It’s okay to write an anti-bullying policy even if bullying appears to be a new problem in your organization. A written policy will help you be consistent in your dealings with all future instances of bullying. Make sure there’s a way for bullied employees to come forward without worrying about suffering retaliation at the hands of the bully.

Know What Bullying Is

Some behaviors that can constitute bullying in the workplace include:

  • Berating or browbeating an employee
  • Insulting or calling names
  • Using sarcasm
  • Dominating meetings
  • Screaming and temper tantrums
  • Repetitive behaviors meant to undermine another employee
  • Interrupting
  • Verbal abuse
  • Professional sabotage
  • Public humiliation

Bullying in the WorkplaceOf course, just because a person interrupts someone during a meeting or has a big mouth doesn’t mean that he or she is a bully. It’s important to remember that bullying lies in the way an employee’s behavior makes others feel. You might see behavior that looks like bullying, only to discover that the employee at whom that bullying was apparently directed saw nothing wrong with it at all. On the other side of the coin, behavior that doesn’t bother one employee might deeply disturb another.

If you’re not sure whether an employee is being bullied, don’t be afraid to ask some open-ended questions like “How are things going?” When employees know that there is an anti-bullying policy in place and that they can lodge complaints without fear of retaliation, they’ll be more likely to open up. Take all bullying complaints seriously; if an employee complains about bullying and you don’t do anything about it, he or she will probably stop complaining, even if the bullying continues or escalates. Instead of lodging fruitless complaints, the bullied employee will most likely look for another job.

Address Bullying Right Away

The sooner you address bullying, the sooner you can stop the behavior, while minimizing any harm to the bullied person. Take the bully aside and speak with him or her privately, calmly and without being confrontational. Identify specific instances of behavior that were problematic. Say things like “You rolled your eyes and interrupted someone at the meeting,” or “You called someone a fool” instead of making vague pronouncements like “You’re not acting very nice.” Remember to separate the person from the behavior; it’s the behavior you want to change, not the person. But do make it clear that the behavior must stop. If this is the second or third time the person has bullied someone, you may want to take decisive action, like issuing a written warning, sending him or her to anger management counseling, docking his or her pay, or even letting him or her go.

Avoid Hiring Bullies

When you hire new employees, it’s important to vet their characters and personalities during the hiring process to make sure you’re not hiring someone who could turn into a bully. Ask your receptionist and other low-level employees to report on how job candidates treated them during any interactions that may have occurred. Check references, and ask if the person has had a history of bullying or having a short temper. Ask the candidate how he or she handled a frustrating experience on the job, and pay attention to whether or not he or she blames others. Don’t be afraid to ask outright if the candidate has ever had problems interacting with other employees. Get written permission from candidates to check prior performance reviews.

For too many Americans, bullying doesn’t end when they grow up and leave school. Workplace bullying remains a serious issue, and it’s up to managers and corporate leaders to stop it.

 

How to Have Healthier Workers

by National Peo National Peo No Comments

How to Have Healthier Workers

How to Have Healthier WorkersWorkplace wellness initiatives can save your company money. For as many as 74 percent of American companies, lowering health care costs is a primary motivator for workplace wellness programs. But that’s not the only way wellness initiatives help your bottom line. Healthy workers have more energy, take fewer days off of work, and are more productive. Workers who feel that their company makes their health a priority are more likely to stay in their jobs, and they have better morale.

You may not have the resources or the staff to implement a full-fledge workplace wellness program. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t support your workers in becoming healthier, happier, and more productive. Small gestures, like making it easier for your employees to exercise, offering them flu vaccines, and educating them about healthy eating and stress management, can go a long way toward preventing serious illness among members of your work force.

1. Teach Your Employees About Healthy Habits

Many of your employees would be happy to practice stress management and eat healthier meals, but they don’t know how. One way to teach your employees about nutrition, stress management, and exercise is to offer them regular, brief seminars on healthy eating habits and other pertinent topics, like how to manage and reduce stress, how to stay healthy when you’re travelling, and how to cook delicious, healthy meals. Offer some kind of incentive to encourage attendance — for example, employees who attend a certain number of seminars may earn an extra day off, or a further discount on company health insurance plans.

Healthier Workers2. Make It Easier for Employees to Exercise

Most adults with full-time jobs and family responsibilities struggle to find time to exercise regularly. If you don’t have the space for a full-service gym at your company, there’s still plenty you can do to save money on employee benefits by encouraging your workers to be more active.

You can offer secure bike parking for your employees who wish to cycle to work. You can start a lunchtime walking club, or bring in a fitness teacher to teach lunchtime aerobics or yoga classes, and offer employees participation incentives. You could even offer discounts on local gym memberships for employees and their spouses — choose a facility that’s close to your office so employees will have time to work out before coming in to the office or after leaving for the day.

3. Subsidize Flu Shots

Flu vaccines are one of the easiest ways to keep employees from calling out sick for days or even weeks in a row. They’re also a good way to protect employees’ families, since young children, elderly people, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions are more likely to develop serious — even life-threatening — complications if infected with the flu. It’s easy enough to bring in some pharmacists and have every member of staff vaccinated against the flu — or at least, you can offer to reimburse employees for flu shots they obtain on their own time, if your company’s health insurance policy doesn’t already do so.

4. Offer Healthy Snack Options

Most employees will want a drink or snack once in a while, and if you want your workers to be healthy, then it’s up to you to make sure their snack and drink options are healthy, too. Pull the potato chips and candy bars — or at least some of them — out of the snack machine and replace them with nuts and other healthy snacks. Offer your employees a basket of fresh fruit in the break room. Fill the drink machine with sparkling water and fruit juices instead of soda. If your company has a cafeteria for workers, make sure there are plenty of nutritious and healthy options on the menu.

5. Support Stress Management

Many Americans these days don’t feel they’re managing their stress well — in the 2013 Stress in America survey, 35 percent of American adults said they felt more stressed than they had the year prior, and 53 percent said their health care providers offered them little or no advice on how to cope with stress. Many of the most stressed-out workers are Millennials, those aged 18 to 34.

By helping your employees manage stress, you can help protect them from high blood pressure, heart disease, and insomnia. You can also protect your company from the damaging effects of employee stress, which include absenteeism, reduced productivity and efficiency, and low morale. Offer regular seminars on stress reduction. Consider implementing some sort of employee assistance program so that workers who are struggling with problems — be they financial, family, or mental health related — can get help to cope with stress. Encourage stressed-out employees to take regular breaks, especially if they can take a few minutes to go outdoors.

A workplace wellness program can help your employees be healthier, happier, and more productive, and can improve your company’s bottom line in multiple ways. You don’t need to be able to provide your employees with a full-service gym or a dedicated workplace wellness staff in order to promote your employees’ health. All you have to do is give your employees the tools to live a healthier lifestyle, and they’ll do the rest.