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Working Late Vs Efficiency: What Policy Works for Your Company?

Rashmi Agarwal March 12, 2014

There’s no doubt that in a battle between working late and efficiency, the latter would definitely win. Whether we need we have important things to do or not, time for ourselves, family, friends etc really do matter. After all, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” Staying late at work once in a while during assignments is perfectly fine. You get to know more about yourself and the nature of your work under pressure. If your work is also something you love doing, then why not work late on such occasions.

Anyways, here are a few tips and tricks to avoid working late and bringing in more efficiency:

Power-packed mornings
When you just arrive at work in the morning is when you can finish most of your work. Set a target and finish it by lunchtime. If you manage to do so, half your battle is won.

Inbox & call back
Once you’ve finished your lunch break, it’s time to make sure you’ve replied to all those queries and appointment calls. Keep the mails and calls to the point and straight forward and mention everything you need to. This way you don’t have to deal with unnecessary interaction to “confirm missing details”.

Get off that computer every once in a while and stretch. Improve your circulation, drink water, take a bathroom break etc. After which remind yourself of your target once more and focus again. Ensure that your breaks are short.

Talk to your boss
If your boss gives you a load of work just when it’s time to leave or is being unfair by asking you to work late too often, talk with him. Explain your other priorities to him and how you manage your time well and finish your work on time and efficiently. Ask him to submit assignments to you in the mornings instead. Work out a schedule with him/her.

Final check
When there’s about an hour left to go, check what is left to do. If you have finished most of your work in the morning, you probably will have much less to do in the last hour. Reply to the last minute emails. Also, set a rough target for the next day if you can, it will simply make you worry less about work when you’re home.

Finally, when it’s time to leave, don’t take your work home with you no matter how much you love your job. Take a break sit back and relax. Not only is time for yourself very important but you will also be fresh for the next day. Stop worrying, start working and eventually, you will finish on time.

To turn working late into something habitual is merely foolish, both on your part and your superior who asks you to do so. The stress of working too late builds up over time, and you will end up turning you into an irritable monster by staying back past your regular working hours.


Employee Orientation Programs: Know the Onboarding Process and Checklist

Rashmi Agarwal March 12, 2014

For an organization, employee orientation programs are more of an investment than just a basic introduction and learning course. These onboarding programs help your employees understand their work better, and they know what is expected from them. New employee orientation programs avoid unwanted confusion about the job profile and save the superiors in charge of handling the new employees much less to worry about.

Employee Orientation Programs
Employee orientation programs should include the technical aspect of what the employee needs to do. If your employee is clear about what he/she needs to bring to the table, half your battle is won. Training your employee in other aspects such as managing deadlines, handling stress, and eradicating any social problems that may occur in the work place is another important aspect of new employee orientation programs.

Onboarding employees is another way of making your employee feel welcome. We all remember how nervous we were on the first day of school. Moreover, a bad experience when an employee is new to an organization can tarnish their image of the organization and cause an irreversible hatred for the job itself. Onboarding employees is a process where you help your new employee feel welcomed and appreciated. Through a formal introduction, lunch with all the employees together, asking your existing employees to make the newbie feel welcomed is very crucial. A first experience is just as impactful as a first impression has the potential to be.

Onboarding Process & Checklist
What a firm needs to know and remember about the onboarding process is that the basic purpose of the orientation should always be kept in mind. Your checklist? Remember what you need your employee to learn from the program and make sure you find the simplest way to teach it to them. Once the technical aspect is understood, the next part of the employee orientation process is teaching the new employee to handle work on a rainy day. Thirdly, one must conduct onboarding to help the employee like the organization. If your employee likes the organization, they will love their work and in the long run you will have hired one of the best resource for your organization.


How to Setup Company Social Media Policy for Employees

Rashmi Agarwal March 12, 2014

A social media policy for employees, especially in startups and SMBs, should be the one that covers all grounds. All employees should follow it to avoid legal, ethical, and other such blunders.

Here are a few ways how you can setup a company social media policy for employees:

Set up technical norms
Set up a list of rules that adhere to legal ethics, religious / political sensitivity, vulgarity, discretions regarding client and company private matters, etc. Hire professional legal help if you need to and make sure you have an all-points bulletin.

Sensitive issues
Whether it is current affairs, religion, race, politics or sensitive issues of the past, steer clear of them. Train your employees to not mention sensitive issues on social media sites. If they need to, instruct them to ask for your approval before publication of any sort.

Address the rules
Especially to the new employees, the rules should be addressed. Orientation about the rules they have to follow is a must. This will help them tailor their work in accordance with these norms. So, ensure you address the rules in your company social media policy for employees.

Focus on clients
Every client will probably have a different set of wants and rules. Whenever there is a new client or a new site your employee has to work with, send out a memo outlining the new rules. While one client may prefer apples, the other may prefer oranges. Teach your employees that every client is different and so are their wants.

Avoid self-opinion
Train your employees to focus on the brand and the message needed to be conveyed on social media. Using the employee social media policy, guide them to write based on requirements and not opinions. This will probably help avoid any future controversy.

Be respectful
The employee social media policy should prepare an employee to be respectful of people’s emotions, to respect the client’s wants etc. If they are respectful of such things, it will be easier for them to do honorable work.

These criteria should be kept in mind while framing company social media policy to conduct better employee management.


5 Best Ways to Create a Great Office Atmosphere: For Startups and Small Businesses

Rashmi Agarwal March 12, 2014

A guide to create a great office atmosphere should be followed in order to attain better employee engagement and more output. Here are a few pointers:

Honest communication should be carried out amongst your employees, and between you and your employees. Don’t encourage them to lie and avoid being dishonest to get more work done. Dishonesty in the work place and lack of communication won’t help you and your employees be alert about work. The better the communication the better the awareness of what is going on in the work place.

Understand your employees! Whenever they ask you for a leave or make any mistake, hear them out. Put yourself in their shoes and understand what they’re going through. This will help them be honest with you and avoid intimidation. There will also be less or no animosity in the work place.

Be alert
Be alert about your employees, their work, and behavior. How they feel should be reflected in their work and behavior. If any employee is undergoing any problem at work or otherwise, try to help him/her out. On the other hand, if any employee is complained about too much, look into it. Don’t let a rotten apple spoil the bunch.

Clean, green, and character
It cannot be stressed enough that an office needs to be de-cluttered and clean. Get your employees to clean up regularly and recycle if possible. Office plants sooth the environment too. Also, allow your employees to add character to their desks and cubicles with pictures, figurines etc. This will help them lighten up the work place and avoid a drab feeling.

Time outs
Give your employees the occasional holiday or half day if they need it. They too need a break and have important things outside of work. A well-deserved break will do wonders and may even help them work better after a hiatus.


5 Characteristics of Leaders in Startups / Small Businesses

Rashmi Agarwal March 12, 2014

More than any other point in business, the startup is when the business and the employees most need their leaders. To carry them with ease through the instability and uncertainties, an exceptionally brilliant leader will become a firm’s guarantee to achieving success in a competitive marketplace.

Dynamic Leader
A business needs to be led by a leader who possesses the ability to inspire people. He/she should be an exceptional personality with the ability to turn heads and ‘wow’ people with their dynamism and persona.

The word visionary and leadership go hand in hand. A leader in a startup and small business should possess clarity of what he/she wants. When a leader knows what they want, working on it becomes easier, and fishing out irrelevance that doesn’t aid goals and targets is easily accomplished. A visionary, inevitably, will be a brilliant leader.

Rational & Logical
A good leader needs to be practical, and needs to be able to weigh out options as well as pros and cons to make rational decisions. A sensible leader emits prudency in his/her decisions and how to go about doing the business.

Ethics & Goodwill
Brilliance is a quality that burns bright in a leader. One can’t shine with the brilliance of a star without being ethical. Doing business with motives and means that are unethical is most certainly not a quality a brilliant leader possesses. Goodwill in a business leader aids goodwill in business.

A leader in a startup should be open to new ideas. He/she should not only underestimate an idea but also never underestimate where or whom the ideas come from. Even if a subordinate were to come up with an idea, a good leader should consider it. If not accept an idea, he/she should be patient and encouraging to the person supplying it.

A brilliant leader in a small business or a startup should possess these five qualities and emit nobility in their personality and style of handling their work.


Employee Retention Strategies: The New-age Way to Attract & Retain Talent

Rashmi Agarwal March 12, 2014

Let me begin by quoting the infamous words of the CEO of Johnsonville Sausage, Ralph Stayer from the book, Flight of the Buffalo:

“I learned what I had to in order to succeed, but I never thought that learning was all that important. My willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed is what fueled Johnsonville’s growth. In 1980 I hit the wall. I realized that if I kept doing what I had always done, I was going to keep getting what I was getting. And I didn’t like what I was getting. I would never achieve my dream. I could see the rest of my business life being a never-ending stream of crises, problems, and dropped balls. We could keep growing and have decent profits, but it wasn’t the success I was looking for.”

The CEO observed how uninterested his employees were in their work. They followed the same mundane routine of coming to work and then back home without taking any ownership for their work. The business was thus becoming volatile and vulnerable. In a meeting with Lee Thayer, a communications professor, Ralph was told how it was imperative for him to encourage and motivate his employees to follow their passions and unleash their potential. How he should make the employees want to listen to him rather than him forcing them to do so. He realized what he needed was a higher level of employee engagement and satisfaction to achieve his organizational goals.

Organizations place a huge importance on making the most profit and generating maximum output from their business. Of course, anyone who runs a company knows that success can be achieved mostly by attracting, motivating and retaining top talent in the workplace. Well, “attracting and motivating” are definitely easy tasks but they’re still manageable with the advent of technology and incentive structures but “retaining” your best employees – that’s where all hell breaks loose. It may be comparatively easier to bring in new people and give them motivating speeches (most are just happy to be there in the first place), but it’s a whole new story to keep your employees interested, engaged and enthusiastic towards their work.


Why Performance Management is important in a small business?

Rashmi Agarwal March 7, 2014

For a small business, there are many priorities that range from getting new clients, managing cash flows, maintaining customer satisfactions, and more. However, the very hallmark of a small business is its unique workforce culture that makes employee count. In a large company, there may be buffer resources but that is not an option for smaller companies – in such an operation, managers should look to optimize every asset, including people. Clearly, small businesses need to get the most out of their people by motivating and engaging with them.

Although most employers are aware that systematic performance management enhances employee morale, many small businesses still think of such initiatives as nice to do activities.

Does initiating a performance management activity mean more overheads? Not really. Automation and more defined measurement metrics can actually drive better business results and small companies cannot afford to ignore any kind of performance enhancement initiatives.

The main benefit of using a performance management solution is tying employee efforts to overall business strategy. In small companies, it is possible to match individual goals to larger business objectives and a performance management solution helps identify employee capabilities more clearly. By setting individual goals, employees can work out how to prioritize work and which jobs require more focus. In addition, by indicating how each job is connected to the overall business strategy, employees become more purposeful and are motivated to work harder.

After clearly defining expectations for both employees and managers, the performance management system helps provide frequent and constructive feedback. This will help smaller companies understand how goals need to be achieved and whether an employee needs further coaching or support to achieve their goals. This kind of approach would also help employees feel valued and know what is expected.




Is your Performance Management a mere Ritual?

Rashmi Agarwal March 7, 2014

Preface: Many a time HR processes are introduced with a business purpose but end up as a mere formality. There is a need, therefore, to verify if your ‘Performance Management Process’ is meeting your business needs or has turned, over the years, into a glorified ritual.

Review the Purpose of your PMS – The purpose of introducing performance management of employees in your organization could have been one or more of the following:

  1. Aligning individual performance to organizational objectives.
  2. Managing promotions/career growth of employees.
  3. Developing competencies and skills of your workforce.
  4. Planning annual increments of employees.
  5. Managing Variable component of remuneration.
  6. Identifying talent and arresting attrition.
  7. Managing habitual non-performers.
  8. Utilizing feedback for Succession Planning.
  9. Using performance management as part of the business excellence needs of your organization.

Validate your Approach to Deployment – Having identified the purpose of your PMS, examine if your approach to its deployment did consider some or most of the factors listed below:

Aligning individual performance to organizational objectives

  • A top – down approach that links the Goals of the MD/CEO to those of his/her direct reports, and of all others down the reporting chain.
  • Loading these goals on employee ‘Goal Sheets’ after defining the KPIs and frequency of monitoring achievement for each goal.
  • Tracking performance as per the laid down frequency.
  • Applying correction through regular counselling and maintaining counselling notes.
  • Monitoring the process on dash boards which provide updated information to managers at different levels and to the MD/CEO.

Managing promotions/career growth of employees

  • Viewing the total (past and current) profile of each employee to check eligibility for promotion.
  • Maintaining a year wise record of employee goal-based performance, training profile, competency levels, exposure to different jobs etc, and mapping these to the JDs of higher level job positions, to enable promoting the most competent persons.

Developing competencies & skills of the workforce

  • Obtaining TNI inputs from employees and their managers.
  • Conducting a competency gap analysis to create employee development plans.
  • Creating a training calendar for the organization and detailing employees on different programs as per their development plans.
  • Capturing data pertaining to self development initiatives taken by employees to enhance their qualifications and skills.

Planning annual increments of employees

  • Carrying out normalization of performance across the organization to remove the aberrations caused by harsh and lenient ratees.
  • Obtaining recommendations pertaining to increment from Heads of Departments/ Functions after performance normalization of employees in their jurisdiction.
  • Mapping increments on available salary budgets for each department/function and permitting downsizing based on performance of employees.

Managing Variable component of remuneration

  • Having a well defined process that links monthly/quarterly payment of ‘Variable Pay’ to the actual achievements of targets for the goals assigned to an employee.
  • Variable pay calculations take into account relative performance of people in a team-based environment. Have you clearly defined your approach to relative ranking of team members?
  • Since the entire process has to fit into the budget allocation for the Variable component, the actual pay off to employees may have to be optimized after many iterations.

Identifying talent and arresting attrition

  • What is the definition of ‘Talent’ in your organization and how its identification is being linked with performance?
  • What is the existing attrition rate of talent & what process your organization has evolved to contain it? Have you ever checked the attrition rate of non-performers?
  • Is your PMS providing sufficient data, year after year, to carry out factual analysis of the attrition of talent?

Managing habitual non-performers

  • How does your system identify habitual non-performers? After attrition of high performers over the last five years, you may now have only low performers managing key positions. What are your checks and balances to ensure that you are not in this trap?
  • What is the likely financial, legal and cultural impact of managing the exit of habitual non-performers?

Utilizing feedback for Succession Planning

  • What are the number of ‘Key Positions’ in your organization and is the CEO involved in their identification?
  • Do you maintain a pipeline for each of these positions?
  • What are the criteria for entry and exit of employees into/from these pipe lines?
  • Does ‘performance’ and ‘potential’ constitute the vital attributes of these criteria?
  • Are you utilizing a 360 degree feedback to evaluate Leadership competencies for succession planning?

Using performance management as a part of business excellence model of your organization

  • Which Business Excellence model (Malcolm Baldrige/TBEM/TQM etc) is your company following?
  • How is your HR strategy aligned to the business strategy?
  • Which all HR processes have been integrated as a part of your HR strategy?
  • In what manner does your performance management process link with other strategic HR processes?
  • How is the annual audit of the deployment of your business excellence model carried out and what are the audit highlights of your PMS process?

Employee Onboarding – Make it better than ever

Rashmi Agarwal March 7, 2014

In every Company there are people who quit while at the same time there are many people, who join the organization. Employee onboarding happens at regular intervals – you may have heard your HR colleagues talk about an induction program that they had to take as part of the onboarding process. But have you ever wondered if these programs are actually effective? Most importantly, do these programs help in any way?

A study by a survey states that new hires who went through a structured, effective on boarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization for over three years. Now, is that a number you expected to see? An Effective onboarding program can also help the company understand its new recruits – their strengths, ability to grasp and growth areas. Ineffective on-boarding on the other hand can result in higher attrition rates, and that is something that the company management is constantly trying to curb.

And now, the big question. What can be done to make the entire on-boarding process better than ever? Well, taking a look at some cool onboarding practices could be the first step. Online shopping portal Zappos gives its new recruits a compilation of testimonials of each of its employees. Facebook has an online portal to keep its employees up-to-date, not to mention a six-week bootcamp. To make your company’s onboarding process better you might want to look at a few simple but important aspects:

  • Is your onboarding process spread across at least a period of two to three months?
  • Does onboarding start before the very first day of a new hire?
  • Does the concerned business unit take ownership of the onboarding process?
  • Is the newbie acclimatized to your culture in the onboarding process?
  • Do you have icebreaker activities?
  • Do you have a way to measure onboarding results?
  • Do you have an informal onboarding strategy setting up informal meetings, designing games that will get the new recruits familiar with the place and people?

These are a few questions that need to be asked while looking at effective onboarding. If your answers are yes to these questions, then rest assured that you are on the right track.


Does Optimism alone Lead to Success? Or is there something more?

Rashmi Agarwal March 7, 2014

All of us have heard the common idiom “Is the glass half empty or half full?”. The idiom is commonly used to explain how we perceive events and objects around us. An optimistic person would always see the glass as half full and a pessimist person would see the glass as half empty. In other words an optimistic person would see opportunity in every difficulty and a pessimist person would see difficulty in every opportunity.

But is it so simple? Can you simply judge a person a pessimist if they see problems in a given situation and label a person an optimist if they show a can-do attitude? In reality the people who keep trumpeting about the benefits of positive thinking ignore the fact that just by dreaming about a thing does not make it achievable. If positive thinking alone can ensure a success then I would be an Olympic swimmer today like Michael Phelps, who makes butterfly strokes look easy, but when I tried the same, found it virtually impossible.

Studies have shown that overly optimistic people may fail in achieving their goals too. But then, isn’t optimism a good thing? Yes it is ! Optimism and confidence that you have in your capabilities will certainly help you achieve your goals. However, to be successful you need to be realistically optimistic.

It is necessary to see all problems realistically that might come your way in challenging situations. While optimist leaders set audacious goals and inspire their teams to achieve monumental success, the realistically optimistic leaders not only set audacious goals and inspire their teams but also do not ignore the magnitude of the challenges and difficulties that lie ahead and plan ahead. This leads to a greater chance of success.

Realistic optimism is a significant trait of great leaders, which keep them distinct from the rest of the crowd. It allows leaders to find a balance between their passion to achieve results and realistically evaluating the potential of doing the same in a balanced way.

Some tips that you can use to be realistically optimistic are:

  • Set achievable goals: Do not set goals that are too difficult to achieve. Do not try to be perfect to begin with and try to improve iteratively. Step back occasionally, measure your progress and reset the targets if required.
  • Develop a problem solving attitude: The realistically optimistic people keep their calm and balance in difficult situations and try to address the issues with a determined and problem solving attitude. Divide and conquer. Break down year long targets to monthly or weekly achievements. Rome was not built in a single day either!
  • Be realistic: The realistically optimistic people see things as they really are and not how they want them to be. They evaluate each idea, consider the pros and cons associated with it and then reach a conclusion.
  • Communicate relentlessly: Successful leaders not only set goals for themselves but they involve all stakeholders and communicate the goals and their achievements with them on a continuous basis. They have weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual feedback sessions to measure progress and align everyone.
  • Learn continuously: The realistically optimists see an opportunity of learning in every situation. They constantly measure the outcomes and use inputs for self improvement and re-orientation.

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