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Tag Archives: Management

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How companies can accommodate working parents during the pandemic

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Our current pandemic has caused shifts in many industries. One of the most prevalent is the necessity to move to remote operations — around 66% of workers are currently functioning in this way. It’s worth acknowledging that working from home can be the ideal scenario for many employees. It allows them to operate in the space they’re most comfortable, cut out their commuting time, and achieve a better work-life balance.

However, it has not been entirely positive for all employees. Parents who work from home have been faced with additional challenges. The closure of schools has meant they have to care for their children during their work hours, with few alternative childcare facilities available. They also have to juggle homeschooling activities with their career responsibilities. This additional pressure, alongside the stress of the pandemic, can be a recipe for burnout.

Let’s take a look at a few of the key areas that human resources (HR) professionals can best assist parents in this situation and influence the positive direction of remote operations.

Flexibility

One of the most important ways in which your company can accommodate working parents is to allow flexible practices. The effect this can have on efficiency and productivity, as well as the impact on the rest of a team, will naturally inform your decision-making here.

However, you must explore where your company can adjust procedures in order to give at least a little space to maneuver. Showing a willingness to adapt while getting other employees on board can be key to demonstrating the respect and camaraderie that can improve happiness among the workforce.

Working hours are the most obvious area for consideration here. This could be applied in a few different forms. Putting in place protocols that allow parents to adjust the days they work, or even their start and finishing times each day can help them to more effectively arrange co-parenting with a spouse or partner that is also working from home. It could also take the form of providing options where you shift the structure of the day, in order to allow parents to take longer, more regular breaks from their work.

It’s helpful to understand, too, that the nature of childcare during this pandemic is very different from normal circumstances. While there are some group facilities open, many parents are having to rely on at-home strategies while they’re working. This includes keeping their children occupied with independent play and educational activities, having family members over to help watch the children, and more. However, these are generally most effective in short periods.

Therefore, it’s important to offer flexible options around working practices that can keep parents from being able to provide direct supervision of their kids longer than an hour or so. Minimize the number of meetings to attend, record those that parents aren’t required to attend real-time so they can watch later, and consider strategies for keeping required meetings brief and infrequent.

Resources

Adjustments to working hours and practices are a good start, but your business should also consider what resources it can offer working parents at this time. These may include:

Mental Health

One of the defining characteristics of this pandemic is the detrimental effect it is having on people’s mental health.Companies should be looking into how they can best serve employees and their families on this basis. For example, free or subsidized counseling can be a vital lifeline for workers who are parents, especially at a time when they can feel particularly isolated and under stress.

Information can also be useful. Give them a list of contacts for local mental health services and charities. Don’t forget that these workers may also be trying to help their children who may be struggling at this time, too.

Ensure you provide resources that help them to recognize the signs of mental illness in children, and how this can differ from adults — difficulty concentrating on schoolwork, fear, and withdrawal are among the tell-tale symptoms. Always couple this with advice on where to obtain help, to prevent them from feeling too overwhelmed.

Care Packages

Businesses should also help boost employees’ morale and wellbeing. It can be too easy at the best of times for parents to ignore their own self-care in favor of the needs of their children or their employers, so make efforts to show that you are considerate of their needs and you care about them by occasionally sending them care packages.

These don’t need to be expensive or complex. Every so often, provide healthy treats that they can snack on during the day, perhaps a complimentary lunch delivery once a week. Don’t forget to include the kids in this — mail out activities that the family can engage in together and accommodate them with time to enjoy this together. These are just small efforts, but they can make an impact.

Support

It’s important to remember that people are not just workers, they are human beings. As such, you should be implementing methods of ongoing emotional and operational support that may seem intangible but can help working parents to feel less lost at sea.

Most importantly, HR personnel and management should be building a culture of empathy. At a time when there is a great deal of uncertainty in business, it can be easy to just consider how parents’ needs are inconvenient or contrary to what the company has to achieve. However, meeting those needs allows workers to be more productive and prevents costly turnover.

Whenever requests for flexibility are made, or targets aren’t immediately hit, consider how the situation is affecting the employee involved. Come from a perspective of how you can best help them, rather than apply additional pressure.

This leads us to one of the most vital elements of support in this climate: good communication protocols. When working away from the physical office, workers can feel disconnected from the business, projects, and colleagues.

Ensure that there are tools in place that allow for video meetings, audio calls, and text chat options. Encourage staff to use these regularly in their work, to provide mutual support for one another, and just to casually chat and maintain their social bonds. Management should also be regularly checking in with staff to ensure their needs are met and any issues can be addressed.

Conclusion

With many staff members moving to remote operations in the pandemic, this can present problems for parents who will also be juggling additional childcare responsibilities. Companies should be making efforts to understand where the challenges lie and seek to allow flexibility when needed. Alongside providing resources and support, your company has the ability to both help working parents and ensure positive outcomes for the business.

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How and where to invest in Africa: The next investment frontier

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America: the land of opportunity… right? The world is changing — innovation is everywhere around the globe, and it’s time to set our sights on a new land of opportunity — Africa. Chances are, you attribute tech unicorns to Silicon Valley, but consider that Africa is on the financial rise. In the year 2019 alone, the five fastest-growing economies in the world were in Africa (Ghana, South Sudan, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Cote d’Ivoire) — and were expanding at a rate of more than double the worldwide average.

Large technology companies are also flourishing on the African continent — everyone from Google AI Lab, Facebook, and Microsoft have been developing significant investments into Africa. What’s more is that Flutterwave is now valued at over $1 billion — several African unicorns already exist and more are likely to be on the way.

Technology isn’t the only industry undergoing a renaissance in Africa. Industry standouts are happening in everything from agriculture and healthcare to education, energy and finance.

Not sure where to start? Check out the following infographic on how and where to invest in Africa with meaning at Empower Africa:

Infographic courtesy EmpowerAfrica.com

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How to achieve customer service excellence with social listening

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Businesses are using social media as part of their marketing strategy more and more, helping build brand awareness and boost sales. Leveraging your social channels has become even more critical as it seems working from home is here to stay.

Customers crave engagement and interaction. Since most of our shopping is now done online, you must create a customer experience (CX) that’s personalized and connects to users. Take it a step further and amp up engagement by incorporating social media customer support into your strategy with social listening.

What is social listening?

Social listening is the process of monitoring and tracking your social media channels for mentions, keywords, or comments related to your brand and industry. Simply put, it’s all about listening to conversations and knowing when to engage — and this means going beyond just listening to your own brand. Listening to your competitors is also a great way of understanding your market and what you can do to improve.

But why is it so important?

Social listening is crucial because it helps you understand customers better, thereby creating a better CX by building on feedback and comments. It gives you insight into what questions, queries, and complaints customers are making, enabling you to formulate better solutions and features for your products.

To help you incorporate it into your strategy, we’ve compiled a list of the top five ways you can achieve customer service excellence with social listening.

Image: Pexels

1. Choose the topics and channels to monitor

Adding social listening to your e-commerce customer service strategy will go a long way to building brand awareness and loyalty — customers will feel more valued if you take the time to engage with them across all platforms. Before you can begin listening, it’s key to set up a brief plan that outlines the topics and channels you’ll be monitoring.

Research which of your social media channels gain the most traction, sticking to the most popular for the time being. Perhaps your Twitter and Instagram accounts have the most followers? Your best bet is to listen in on platforms with the most conversation happening — that way, you can get the most insight from your customers.

Include the topics you’ll be monitoring, too, everything from brand mentions to industry keywords. Some ideas could include:

  • Industry keywords
  • Competitor keywords and updates
  • Brand mentions
  • Service names

2. Set up social listening systems

The next step is to set up social listening systems that will do all the hard work for you, monitoring any brand mentions or keywords you want to focus on. Instead of manually searching those keywords, social listening tools will automate the process and enable you to find brand mentions that you haven’t been tagged in. Reducing the time it takes you to sift through all that big data means you are free to spend more of it engaging and interacting directly with consumers.

Some good systems to consider include:

  • Google Alerts
  • HootSuite
  • Tweet Reach
  • Brand Mentions

Image: Pexels

3.Respond to customer queries and complaints

A great way of showing customers you value them is to respond promptly to their queries as they arise. Gone are the days of the apology letter— greater numbers of consumers are starting to turn to social media to voice their concerns, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to connect.

The key is to respond speedily; most users expect a response within an hour. Using listening tools will help update you of any issues in real time. An example of great customer service would be to respond within a 10-minute timeframe, addressing the user directly and asking them to DM you to resolve the issue personally.

4. Engage with positive feedback

As well as responding to complaints, always engage and interact with positive feedback. Whether it’s simply leaving a like or posting an acknowledgment comment, engaging with positive reviews shows consumers that you value them and keeps you up to date with their journey.

More than building a sense of loyalty and connection, engaging with consumers will maximize word-of-mouth referrals. The more you acknowledge positive feedback, the more likely customers are to share their future experiences with your products on social media — leading you to win more clients!

5. Monitor competitor channels

Rather than just focusing on customer feedback about your brand, zone in on what people are saying about your competitors. Monitor their brand mentions, user comments, and any updates they post to their channels. Not only will it help you gain an insight into what you could improve on or features you could implement; it can also assist you in your consumer journey mapping.

While understanding what your consumers say about your brand is essential, knowing what your entire target audience is talking about is key to getting into your potential customer’s shoes. This will inform you of how you can improve your marketing strategy, whether you operate B2B or direct to consumer.

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Want employee engagement? The key is companywide training

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If companywide training feels like overkill, consider what happens when training is reserved only for the rank and file. I can give you a glimpse of what happens, based on my years as a university career counselor, and later getting hired by organizations to teach professionalism to their new-college hires.

As a career counselor, I saw a steady parade of lackluster job postings, often with typos. When was the last time an employer advanced a candidate with a lackluster resume? Or a cover letter with even one typo?

I am not saying employers should lower the bar — but the double standard here was on full display.

In a similar way, my heart broke for the student of mine who worked hard to land the (unpaid) internship of his dreams. He gave full effort, including nights and weekends — all for the privilege of gaining experience in his field.

When it came time for him to graduate and seek full-time employment, this same internship site interviewed him, led him to think he was the one, then proceeded to ghost him. Ghosting, too, was more common than you might think.

I could go on and on — about hiring managers and HR staff who insisted their candidates had 4.0 GPAs (why?) and established professionals who hired me to train their young team — all while modeling the exact opposite behaviors from what they expected from newcomers.

Here’s the point: As a leader, you cannot expect better conduct from your employees than you are willing to demonstrate yourself. In fact, whatever standard you expect from your team, hold yourself to a standard of conduct one level higher.

This is how you engage the minds and hearts of your team — by holding them (credibly) to a higher standard than they thought they could attain. Cue Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time.”

Which Skills and Attributes Make the Biggest Difference?

While the list looks different for every organization, here are seven areas that tend to transcend industry and location:

  • Boundaries in the workplace
  • Communication
  • Empathy (this includes self-awareness, as the two go hand in hand)
  • Good judgment (thinking strategically, making sound decisions)
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Self-management

If you model all seven of these, you might not need training — or to the same extent as, say, a new-college hire. Yet if you don’t model these areas, sending your team to training without going yourself could easily turn into a source of resentment or rebellion.

I have seen this happen.

For example, in a focus group I conducted for a company in the Midwest, one participant blurted out, “The company says one of our values is respect. They need to respect our time with this training!”

See the disconnect?

Suppose you do set a good example. Shouldn’t that be enough to bring your team on board? Probably not.

Employees need to know the specific standards to which they’re held, and the reasons these things matter, i.e., the natural consequences when someone violates workplace boundaries. Or what it means to problem-solve in the moment and act decisively.

For your team to be able to model your expectations — with you and with each other — something more is needed; the mindset, yes, but also the skill set — and a safe place to develop that skill set.

Giving Training Its Due

When done well, employee training brings multiple benefits for an organization and for you as a leader:

  • It communicates the standards to which all employees are held, which in turn builds engagement, productivity and accountability
  • It makes your life easier as a leader, because you’re not having to manage or micromanage
  • It defuses drama, because you’ve equipped your team with productive ways to handle difficult situations (or difficult people)
  • It creates an environment where people look forward to coming to work and giving their best — this in turn raises the bar and has the potential to reduce employee turnover

Yet for all of these benefits, I must add a word of caution. Please don’t reduce employee training to employee entertainment, a checkbox, or something anyone on your team can supposedly do. Like anything else worthwhile, training that gets results requires caring, competence, and a specific skill set. Ask any parent who has struggled to teach their child at home.

Incidentally, the best employee training is entertaining – but not for its own sake. Likewise, if the goal of the training is simply to say, “We had a training session,” I would ask you to look at the wider benefits and think beyond the quick, one-hour, so-called solution.

Finally, the best employee training is built around behavioral objectives set by leadership and modeled at every turn.

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How to finally solve employee engagement

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This article first appeared in Real Leaders.

Businesses today are rightfully concerned over the crisis surrounding employee engagement. The situation has become pervasive: Employees are not engaged! They don’t care about their work! They’d rather be at the beach! Wouldn’t we all? But engagement goes beyond companies’ PTO issues.

We toss around the word “engagement,” but what is it? High employee engagement has a few standout elements: genuine connection, commitment to one’s role and workplace, and a willingness to go the extra mile to achieve the mission.

High employee engagement is a great aspiration, but the first step to fixing the engagement problem is realizing it can’t be solved by changing the workplace into something more similar to leisure time. Ping-pong tables and free lattes aren’t the solution to a disengaged workplace culture. In fact, disengagement isn’t even the core issue. Disengagement is the consequence, not the problem.

You can’t fix the consequence of a problem without fixing the problem

You don’t increase engagement by setting out to increase more engagement. You can only increase engagement by increasing trust.

When a workplace dynamic involves unclear strategy or communication, polices that lack compassionate, inconsistent follow through, or unethical behavior, of course disengagement will result! These issues are all part of a low-trust culture.

Without trust, employees won’t feel safe enough to share new ideas. Without trust, employees aren’t motivated to be loyal or to bring their best to work. Without trust, employers take advantage of remote work. Increase trust and innovation will thrive. Increase trust and output, retention and productivity will go up. Increase trust and you will gain a culture where employee flexibility can be mutually beneficial.

Higher engagement is the natural outcome of a high-trust culture

The most common reason people give for wanting to work for an organization is trusted leadership. Unlike the nebulous “engagement,” trust is simply the result of consistent, intentional behaviors repeated reliably over time. Trust is a learnable and immediately actionable skillset.

While certain aspects of trust are built over time, you can start the process any time and the impact will be felt immediately. Every time you make and keep a commitment, you increase trust. Every time you make an authentic connection, you increase trust. As trust levels grow, engagement will automatically follow.

3 strategies to kickstart trust

Start by implementing these three practical strategies to begin to build a foundation of trust in your organization:

1. Confront reality. The biggest barrier to solving the engagement problem is that most leaders don’t realize that a problem even exists. The first thing leaders need to do is confront reality, and then help their team to do so as well. The reality is that everything is a trust problem.

Your accountability problem? It’s a trust problem. Your lagging sales numbers? Also a trust problem. And engagement? Definitely a trust problem. Consider starting by measuring trust as the leading indicator with a tool like the Enterprise Trust Index™. Recognize for yourself and your people where the real problems lie.

2. Identify the root cause. Learning the root cause of an employee engagement breakdown can be painful. If you think you have a leadership problem, think about where, at the core, a lack of trust might have caused the leadership problem. Dig down to see how trust directly relates to your key issues by diagnosing where it started and which aspect of trust (from the eight pillars below) was lacking.

3. Build upon the 8 pillars of trust. Since the root cause of a problem is always a trust issue, you need research-based, actionable tools and frameworks that are applicable right now. Focus on building these eight pillars in your work and life to see a measurable change in engagement: Clarity, compassion, character, competency, commitment, connection, contribution, and consistency.

Imagine your people performing at their best, getting measurable results, and taking pride in their work. A high-trust culture gains genuine, lasting employee engagement and establishes a business that makes a measurable impact.

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Link the strategic plan to the budget

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It is said if you can read a budget, you know an organization’s priorities. A strategic plan should be closely tied to the board-approved budget.

A budget is a forecast of income and expenses. A strategic plan is a multi-year roadmap for leadership to deliver value.

There are several ways to link the strategic plan and the budget.

First, goals require allocation of financial resources. Before agreeing to new ideas, leaders must consider economic consequences.

Second, some goals generate new revenue. For example, increasing membership will impact income.

Third, the strategic plan communicates value to members. Thus, members will judge the leadership on how they funded the programs and priorities. This supports the adage, “put your money where your mouth is.”

Income

When leaders recognize the link between planning and budget, they seek out opportunities that create revenue. Planning should not be like throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks.

To demonstrate the connection, create a table of the strategic goals. In the boxes below each goal, align the revenue from the budget.

For example, under the goal of “Professional Development,” list the budgeted income items from the annual conference, educational seminars, and certification. The template aligns priorities and income, or lack of income.

Expenses

Members ask about return on investment and “what does the organization do for me?” The answer is revealed and explained in the strategic plan and budget.

After the planning retreat, the treasurer, finance committee or CEO will make budget adjustments. For example, if the strategic plan sets “Advocacy” as a goal, but nothing is budgeted for lobbying, issues management, and influence, it’s not likely to be successful.

Some organizations reconfigure their budgets to reflect the strategic goals. Most plans have 4 to 6 goals. For instance:

  • Membership Services
  • Advocacy and Government Relations
  • Marketing Outreach
  • Education and Events

To carry out the programs requires administrative costs such as insurance, rent and staffing. In a strategic plan this is often stated as “Organizational Excellence.”

When members ask about value, share the strategic plan and the pie chart depicting how the leaders have aligned resources.

The quote of James Frick, former VP of alumni affairs at Notre Dame, says it best, “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”

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Board evaluations: The argument for a shorter, more targeted evaluation

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A high-functioning, strategic board requires the ability for it to be introspective and capable of self-reflecting on its overall performance. It is by no means an easy task to accomplish regardless of the board’s size or composition.

Let’s consider the difficulty staff often encounter when conducting self-evaluations during annual reviews; this is compounded when trying to evaluate a large group as a whole. An evaluation tool is one of the most effective ways for a board to reflect on its impact on the organization as a whole.

Recently, working with an organization during their annual board evaluation, it was evident that there was an unspoken tension in the air before reviewing the survey results of their evaluation. Year after year, the evaluation always ended in conflict and strife, comments were personal, and there was a large discrepancy in how others were reviewed.

The survey they used was 80 questions and focused intensely on individual behaviors. When reinventing this strategic tool, it was reduced to six targeted questions on the overall functionality of the board. After completing the process, there was a general feeling of positivity in the air. Everyone there felt valued, heard, and understood. Most importantly, there was great consensus on what areas the board should focus on improving over the coming year.

The new tool developed by the board focused on identifying their core expectations. It also asked simply if the board was meeting those expectations, and to identify areas for improvement. The areas that the tool focused on were:

  • Is the board meeting their three legal duties of care, loyalty, and obedience?
  • Is the board strategically focused?
  • Does the board contribute to a positive organizational culture?
  • Is the board effective in its role?
  • What are the areas of growth for the board?
  • What are areas of success or areas the board has grown this year?

Each question laid out the shared expectations that this board had identified. As part of that, each question shared clear examples of what the expected behavior and outcomes of the board should be. From this, the board evaluated and provided comments. The result was the board identified some key weaknesses and celebrated their successes and areas of growth.

As observed in this example, a board assessment must be strategically targeted in order to be effective. The following elements should be considered when designing an evaluation tool for an organization:

Outcomes: What is the desired result of the evaluation? This does not refer to the ultimate scores or responses, but how does this cause the board to grow. Does the evaluation tool direct boards towards becoming more strategic or more tactical? Organizations that evaluate using tactical questions will have a more tactical board rather than a strategic board.

Create Alignment: The evaluation should align with the expectations of the board. If there is a misalignment between expectations of the board and the evaluation tool, it will send asymmetric signals to the board. The evaluation tool needs to center around an organization’s mission, vision, and strategic plan. As a result of centering the evaluation on these core items, the board’s actions will more naturally align with fulfilling these essential components of the organization.

Build Leaders: Does the evaluation tool lead to conflict year after year? If so, the tool is likely to blame. Including questions that set things up for interpersonal strife, the tool is more likely to push leaders away than cause an organization’s volunteer leaders to improve themselves.

Drive Accountability: Ultimately, any evaluation should identify both strengths and weaknesses. A well-designed tool should create clear expectations and cause individuals to reflect on whether they contribute to the organization’s health and forward progress.

Ownership: A board needs to feel ownership over their tool. If there is a lack of ownership in the evaluation, it will not push a board to be introspective. Engaging the board in creating the evaluation tool and reviewing the purpose and questions can drive ownership and ultimately empower them to make the most efficient use of the results. Consider examining the evaluation tool annually with the board before use to ensure understanding and relevancy.

Every organization needs a unique tool that will generate targeted outcomes. An organization will benefit significantly from viewing the board evaluation tool as a precision instrument. Through focusing on the core areas, you will drive growth in leadership and develop a more strategically focused board. Have the board consider the outcomes of their current evaluation tool and ask if they can benefit from one that will drive momentum in the organization.

In the end, a board is only as strong as its ability to evaluate, reflect and strategically plan for growth. For a free board assessment tool, please follow this link and use coupon code assess2021.

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7 lessons for the new manager or supervisor

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Congratulations! You’ve just been promoted to lead a department in which just yesterday you were a contributing member of the team. Now what?

Yesterday Just One of the Team, Today its Supervisor

Being a first-time manager or supervisor can be a very scary time, indeed. The confidence you had in performing every facet of the job as one of the team now seems to abandon you as you ready yourself for your first day as the new supervisor.

A little pep talk with yourself in the car on the way to work settles things a bit. But now, as you enter the department, it seems as if every eye is on you, expecting.

You smile and warmly greet your team, though your mouth feels as dry as a cotton ball. You think, “What have I gotten myself into?”

Here’s one thing you were totally unprepared for. Although you are genetically the same person you were yesterday, before your promotion as announced, you cannot help noticing that today people are treating you differently.

They seem less at ease and a bit more guarded around you. Then you realize that today you are the person who makes the decisions, so your every word and expression suddenly seems to have more meaning.

Let me pass along some advice I received from Dennis Burgraff, my supervisor as I moved into my first managerial role, “When you become manager, your staff will give you a 75 percent effort because you’re boss. If they think you’re competent, they may give you 80 percent. And if they really like you, they’ll give you 85 percent. But if they truly believe you have their best interests at heart, they’ll give you 110 percent.”

What you do as their new supervisor, especially in your first week and month, will say a great deal about whether or not the people you work with believe you have their best interests at heart.

Here, in no particular order, are seven lessons that will serve you well as you transition into any new managerial or supervisory role:

1. Ask Questions Instead of Making Statements

When you were one of the team, you likely thought about what you’d do differently if you were in charge. Perhaps there’s a policy you’d to end, or a new program you’d begin. You may even have mapped out a first 100 days plan as part of your preparation for the promotion.

However, before you tell people what you plan to do, you really need to gather facts and their opinions. Nobody ever learned anything new by making statements, but a new supervisor can learn a multitude of things by asking smart questions.

If you know a particular area well, ask opinion questions of team members, such as, “What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of how we currently do X?” or “What changes (if any) do you think we should make to X, and why?”

Even if you know what you want to do differently, resist the urge to tell people before you gather their perspectives. If you know an area less well, similar questions can get staff members talking and their answers will help fill in your knowledge gaps.

Asking questions, then listening intently to what others say will tell people you value them, their opinions, and their viewpoints. This goes a long way towards making people more comfortable with you being in charge.

2. Get to Really Know Your New Staff

Not the person on the surface, but the person underneath, the one who will decide whether or not you are worth following. How can they trust you unless they feel you know them and have their best interests at heart?

As their new supervisor you haven’t yet earned their trust. Most people aren’t going to divulge their inner person right away. Consider using a behavioral assessment such as DiSC or MBTI, to give you scientifically-proven insights into the inner person.

Link this to a shared learning experience about the assessment and you have an excellent team building opportunity to forge lasting relationships with your new team. Then use the assessment findings to adapt your own approach to what works best with each member of your staff.

3. Extend Trust

You cannot expect to be trusted if you first don’t extend trust. So extend it. People value trust and are more willing to follow someone who trusts them.

This is not to say you should extend trust blindly. You’ll need to observe performance and stay informed by asking questions to learn how things are going in the area(s) in which you extend trust. “What is working well?” and “What isn’t working as well as you’d like?” are two excellent questions to begin a discussion about how things are working out.

By asking questions instead of giving opinions, you’ll learn what each team member is thinking, and demonstrate that you value them. That, in turn, will increase your trustworthiness. A highly recommended book on developing workplace trust is from Stephen M.R. Covey, “The Speed of Trust.”

4. Clearly Define Outcomes, Then Ask for a Plan

What specifically is it that you want to see happen as a result of your assigning someone a project or task? Answer these five questions to define the specific outcomes you desire:

  1. WHAT is wanted in terms of quantity and quality?
  2. WHY is the assignment important (to the organization, its customers, you, and the team)?
  3. WHEN is completion needed (what is the time frame for accomplishment)?
  4. WHAT are the resources available to him/her (such as budget, information, and support)?
  5. HOW and WHEN will his or her progress be measured (what’s the schedule)?

Notice you haven’t told people HOW to do it. That would be micromanaging, which is a fast and effective way to reduce someone’s trust, creativity, and ownership of an assignment.

Instead, ask him or her to develop a plan to accomplish the assignment. Have him or her present the plan to you prior to commencing work on it, which makes this his or her first assignment deliverable. This is also a meeting to schedule for Step 5.

5. Get Real, Stay Realistic

If you came up through the ranks, chances are high that you were an exceptional performer. Your staff already knows this and doesn’t need you to remind them of it. As a staff member, it never feels good to be reminded that your new boss could do your job better than you do it.

Which brings us to being realistic in your expectations. If you were an exceptional performer, it is probably not realistic to set that performance level as the department’s new standard.

Instead, what does good performance look like in terms of defined outcomes, quantity and quality metrics? Good performance should be a stretch, but realistic. Just as you communicated outcomes to the team, similarly communicate your expectations of the standards (using steps 1 to 3 above). Then encourage them early and often in their progress.

6. Avoid Hiring Solely in Your Own Image

You may think that because you were promoted, your own set of skills, talents, and knowledge should be replicated in every new hire.

Team strength (achieving more as a team than the sum of individual contributions) comes through utilizing a diversity of skills, talents, and knowledge. Team blindness is usually caused by a lack of diversity of the team’s skills, talents, and knowledge.

In order to mitigate team blindness, seek to add team members with different skills, talents, and knowledge than other team members have, which are also the right ones for their specific role on the team.

7. Never Lose Your Sense of Humor

Laughter, a sense of playfulness, and appropriate good humor all reduce tension. Studies show that tension and stress have negative effects on motivation, energy levels, work safety, absenteeism, and employee tenure.

People are put at ease around a supervisor who laughs easily and encourages playfulness and banter. When someone is characterized by good humor, there is more willingness by team members to focus and get serious when the situation calls for it.

Finally, don’t forget to remind your face (often) that its expression is its humor monitor!

Bottom Line

Stepping up to supervise or lead a new team is a time of great risk for team members, the organization, and the new supervisor or manager. Mastering and applying these seven essential lessons will have a significant positive impact on your career, and help springboard the organization to a more successful future.

The most effective supervisors recognize that a managerial role is not the end goal, but the beginning of a new period of continuous learning, so they commit to staying green and growing (not ripe and rotting).

Visit my blog at http://www.boyermanagement.com/blog for timely advice on job searching, career development, leadership and management, sales, and more. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love my Leading Through People™ leadership development series, taught via virtual classroom and live.

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5 steps you should take to ensure website security

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If websites are separate properties partitioned as part of a planned city, the internet is the network of roads linking all these properties together. Websites rely on the internet in order to reach billions of people situated all over the world, and just like a city, the internet generates a lot of traffic.

However, just like a large city, the internet faces a number of security concerns. At any given time, someone is trying to steal your data and exploit it for their own gain. Whether it’s customer bank details, company secrets, or even your own personal information, you need to keep your website data safe and secure from cyberattacks.

The impact of cyber attacks

You might have heard of companies losing data to hackers in the news. Some cyberattacks, especially those that target financial and healthcare institutions, result in billions of dollars of losses in the form of identity theft and securities fraud.

Even if your membership site does not see much traffic, cybercriminals will try to find a way to hijack it and gain access to your data. Your business stands to lose more than just money in the aftermath of a cyberattack:

The largest impact cybercrime can have on your site will be on your reputation. If your subscribers don’t feel their data is with you, they will likely choose another service provider that offers better security. You will also spend a lot of time and resources trying to clean up the mess that the hackers have left behind.

Here are some other losses you might incur as a result of a website security breach:

  • Theft of corporate or financial information
  • A diminished brand perception
  • Legal costs associated with lawsuits from dissatisfied users

While you cannot discourage hackers from trying to break their way into your site, you can implement different measures to reduce their impact and make hacking your site not worth their time.

5 ways to bolster your website’s security

It’s never too early to take several steps to keep your website safe from different kinds of cyberattacks.

Install security plug-ins

One study shows that a typical website faces 44 attacks every day, which means you need to implement solutions that track and repel malicious activity in real time. A safe and easy way to shore up your defenses is by installing and using a competent security plugin that offers the following benefits:

  • Advanced DDoS (distributed denial of service) protection, which shields your site from hackers that try to cripple your site by sending multiple requests
  • Powerful password enforcement and management
  • Two-factor authentication for added security
  • Email notifications of security breaches in real-time
  • Information and resource backups
  • Spam protection in places like the comments section

Security plug-ins like Sucuri, WPScan, and Google Authenticator are examples of all-in-one solutions that manage website security and keep your data safe.

Use HTTPS

Ever wondered why your website URL includes the characters “http://” in the beginning? This stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, which allows computers to load web pages through the internet.

Most secure websites use HTTPS, which is a modern iteration of that protocol. The “S” at the end indicates a focus on security. A website that uses HTTPS encrypts the data it sends and receives so that it cannot be used by anyone who manages to intercept it.

Example of HTTPS Encryption

HTTPS is commonly used in situations requiring people to log in in order to access sensitive data. Online banking platforms and client management platforms use it heavily to keep customer data, such as usernames, passwords, and personal preferences, secure. To know if your site can use HTTPS, ask your hosting provider.

Ditch commonly used passwords

While tech experts tell us to choose passwords that are hard to hack, we’ve all encountered people who use “password” as their password. Even the most inexperienced hackers can easily guess this type of password.

Image: IDDP

When you create login credentials for your site, choose passwords that are complex and hard to guess. Using a mixture of numbers, uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and symbols will make it hard for cybercriminals to hack into your account, and using a different password for each app login will make it even harder for them.

Pick a hosting provider with outstanding security features

Many hosting providers skimp on security to cut costs and offer low-priced hosting packages, which makes them very attractive to site owners. However, signing up for these services will mean that your website infrastructure will be unable to handle heavy traffic.

If your site can’t handle heavy traffic you will be vulnerable to DDoS attacks. Hackers can also easily break into your databases, taking away sensitive information, including customer login credentials, bank details, and marketing funnel data. We discuss these types of problems on Hosting Foundry.

Reputable hosting providers offer advanced DDoS protection, two-factor authentication, scheduled backups, and real-time traffic monitoring systems. While these features cost money, your site needs them to keep your data and customer data secure.

Keep your website and other associated properties updated

Older sites are easier to hack because they lack the advanced safety features that are common among newer sites. In fact, backdoors and other age-related vulnerabilities allowed hackers to gain entry into 47% of the websites affected by cyberattacks in 2019. These backdoors are usually caused by the continued use of outdated website properties like plugins, extensions, and frameworks.

Websites built on a CMS such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, or Magento are particularly at risk because of the sheer number of users. However, your CMS will alert you to any mandatory security updates that will fix any loopholes that leave your site open to attacks.

Bottom Line

More customers are choosing to do business transactions online. If your goal is to establish a steady online presence, the first thing you should do is to boost your website security. This keeps your site safe from cyberattacks, keeps your data and customer information secure, and improves your site performance.

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These are the non-insurance perks that workers want

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Next to wages, insurance is probably the most important perk to workers. In fact, for some employees, health insurance is more important than pay.

But workers also want other, non-insurance perks as well. Some companies boast that they offer ping-pong tables and pet-friendly offices, but these benefits aren’t really that popular. So, what do workers really want? Well, it tends to vary by generation.

A study by Unum reveals that, overall, the top three non-insurance perks are as follows:

1. Generous paid time off (35%)
2. Flexible/remote working options (27%)
3. Paid family leave (24%)

Rounding out the top 10:

4. Fitness or healthy lifestyle incentives (19%)
5. Financial planning resources (18%)
6. Professional development (17%)
7. Employee assistance program (17%)
8. ID theft protection (15%)
9. Gym membership or on-site fitness center (12%)
10. On-site healthy food options (10%)

Rob Hecker, vice president of Global Total Rewards at Unum, says he’s not surprised by the top three perks, especially when considering how the pandemic has affected the work environment. “The sudden shift to virtual work caused a lot of anxiety with workers, and providing more flexible working conditions is a great way to relieve some of their stress.”

(And Hecker says Unum’s workforce has been just as productive with increased flexibility in hours and locations.)

For three years in a row, paid time off has been the most-wanted perk in the annual survey. “The pandemic has reinforced for employees the value of stepping away from work to recharge mentally and physically, or to perhaps care for someone who’s become ill.”

And he says employees are recognizing more and more the value of paid family leave. “Even before the pandemic, 1 in 6 workers were providing caregiving duties, and maintaining performance and attendance at work is one of the biggest challenges for these individuals.” Whether it’s caring for a sick family member or bonding with a new child, Hecker says companies can help alleviate work pressures while providing a steady income for these employees.

Generational Preferences

The top perks vary among generations. For example, almost half (47%) of baby boomers and Gen X list generous paid time off as the top perk, compared to just over a quarter (26%) of millennials. But among Gen Z, it’s not even in the top three — in fact, generous paid time off is in the fifth spot with 17%.

Flexible remote/work options placed second on the list among baby boomers and millennials, and third for Gen X. However, it’s not in the top five among Gen Z.

One benefit that is consistent across generations is paid family leave. It placed second among Gen X and Gen Z, and third among baby boomers and millennials.

Financial planning resources was fourth among baby boomers and millennials, but not in the top five for Gen X and Gen Z.

Fitness/healthy lifestyle incentives made the top five for every group but baby boomers.

Only Gen X listed professional development among the top five, while only Gen Z included student loan repayment benefits.

Interestingly, the top perk among Gen Z was identity theft protection, and baby boomers listed it as the fifth most desirable perk.

The Gen Z Factor

“In many aspects, Gen Z preferences most resemble the boomer generation,” Hecker explains. “They experienced the impact the financial crisis had on their parents and tend to be focused on financial stability.”

And it’s no surprise that Gen Z would consider student loan repayment benefits a desirable perk. “Student debt now tops an estimated $1.6 trillion in the U.S. and studies suggest rising debt hurts people’s overall well-being,” Hecker says. “Student loan repayment benefits are designed to help reduce financial stress and anxiety.” Hecker says 30% of his company’s workforce has student loan debt, and the company introduced a Student Debt Relief Program. “In 2019, it paid $528,000 on behalf of the 428 employees who signed up for the program.”

Fitness/healthy lifestyle incentives also rank higher among Gen Z. “This is indicative of a generation just entering the workforce who care about their emotional and physical well-being.”

And he’s not surprised that identity theft detection would be the single most important benefit to Gen Z. “They’ve grown up in a connected world where shopping, communicating with friends and family, and entertainment can all be done online or through an app.” Since their world is digital, protecting it is important.

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