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Managing Staff

Want to Nurture Creativity Among Employees? Assign Crazy.

Unless you’re a solo entrepreneur, you probably didn’t build your business on your own.

Matthew Toren

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Nope, I’m not referring to President Barack Obama’s incendiary remarks that recently ruffled some feathers in the small-business community. I’m talking about employees.

If you dream of building another Google or Patagonia one day, you’d do well to not only accept input from employees but actively seek it. Creativity doesn’t just happen. If you’re ready to really embrace the kind of culture where creativity and innovation may thrive, here’s how to get started.

1. Leave space. This goes for both physical space and time. Have meeting spots available for people to congregate informally. Include white boards or even computerised boards so that ideas can be written down. Even flip charts will help. Make sure your team has some free time to think and come up with new ideas. If their work keeps them too busy when do you expect them to be creative?

2. Encourage risk. Creativity is about trying something different and experimenting. If your employees are afraid to move left of centre, you won’t get anything but the status quo. Think about rewarding those who take chances, even if their ideas don’t succeed. Let your team know that thinking creatively will make the company better.

3. Talk the talk. At your staff meetings, introduce examples of people and organisations that take chances. Recognise unusual approaches, and don’t settle for the first solution to a problem. Have your team brainstorm around decisions, and work cooperatively toward a good choice. Leave options open for your team to step up with new ideas.

4. Walk the walk. Are you letting your creative side show through? What new things have you tried lately? Have you shared your unusual perspectives with your team and asked for their insights? Do you reward creativity in others? If not, start now.

5. Bring in creativity enhancers. This is a grown-up way of saying have toys in the workplace. Crayons, paints, odd little plastic frogs and snakes, Slinkys, paddle balls and whatever else looks fun and interesting. Scatter these across desks and on top of file cabinets. Put a Ping-Pong or foosball table in the cafeteria. Playing wakes up the creativity inside all of us. After all, when we were kids we were naturally creative. Toys will shake that old perspective out of mental mothballs and back to the surface.

6. Think outside your industry. Some of the most creative solutions come from adapting ideas from one industry to another. Subscribe to magazines from other fields, encourage team members to check out Neatarama, subscribe to Brain Pickings or look out for other sources of unusual information. The process will help expand employees’ minds and add new thinking to your environment.

7. Assign crazy. You may need to jump-start the creativity process through unusual non-work projects. Think about buying tickets to a circus, festival or some other event. Have your team attend and return with at least one idea that could apply to your business. Bring in artwork or a poem and have everyone comment on what they think. Host a chocolate or cheese or other type of tasting and encourage everyone to describe the flavours in non-traditional ways.

8. Set boundaries. Creative can quickly move to crazy if people don’t know where the lines are. Be sure to stay focused on goals and performance expectations – those don’t leave when creativity arrives.

9. Be patient. Apple wasn’t built in a day and your team won’t move from mundane to exciting in a few weeks or even months. Once everyone understands that business as usual is now business unusual, people will either join in or select out. This will leave you with room for adding more creativity with your new hires.

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.

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Managing Staff

How To Avoid People Leaving Your Company

How can entrepreneurs ensure a better business model to limit the impact of high staff turnover in these environments?

Joel Stransky

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If your business requires a call centre or service centre environment the chances are that you will find yourself faced with a high staff turnover (attrition rate) versus other departments in your business.

The main reason is a generational issue as these environments are increasingly being staffed by members from the Generation Y cohort, also known as Millennials, with digital natives from Generation Z looming on the horizon.

How can entrepreneurs ensure a better business model to limit the impact of high staff turnover in these environments?

Related: 11 SA Entrepreneurs on What They’ve Learnt About Managing Staff

Understand why staff turnover is high

Firstly, technology innovation regularly introduces new skills and competencies that staff is required to learn, while also creating some degree of uncertainty with regard to what the future holds in terms of job security.

Secondly, the call centre or service centre environment is often considered a stepping stone to other career paths, and is seldom viewed as a long-term job prospect.

Thirdly, the perceived lack of career opportunities, coupled with other challenges such as low levels of stimulation; a tough sales-based environment, and hierarchical management structures1, all make the call centre a unique and complex environment where staff has a short lifespan.

Talent acquisition

As an entrepreneur, anticipating and proactively addressing talent issues requires a focused acquisition strategy. Finding ways to better predict performance alongside traditional methods of assessing candidates has become a top priority. And it is not only about whether new hires have the skill-set to perform in the role but also do they fit into your company culture.

Traditional assessments such as psychometric testing can deliver some insights about potential employees, but the reality is that these tests only accurately measure between 16 to 20% of key performance predictors.

Related: How To Keep Your Sales Staff Focused On The Future

In addition, the skills required in a modern multi-channel call centre are varied as staff need to engage via various mediums such as social media and email, not just over the phone.

Companies therefore need the ability to match core competencies/skills with the job role, while also ascertaining both written and verbal skill sets.

As such, it has become increasingly complex to assess which candidates will be a good fit for the call centre environment when relying on traditional assessments alone.

Understand your talent to manage staff turnover

Once hired, the ability to understand your employees and track their talent lifecycle can help to identify early warning signs of discontent and consideration of leaving, which is highly beneficial to your business.

There are technologies today which allow you to do just this. By understanding your employees better you can intervene to hopefully address their concerns and secure their continued service, or plan for the attrition to ensure a smoother transition by finding a replacement before they leave.

It is important to limit the financial impact that empty seats in a call centre can have on your bottom line as it limits the risk of sales targets not being met, and helps ensure that customer engagement and satisfaction goals are not compromised.

Related: How To Know If You’re Focusing On The Wrong Types Of Staff Skill Enhancement

Boost performance

By better understanding call centre employees, your managers will develop more robust strategies to boost both workforce performance and job satisfaction, which is of particular importance to Millennials.

By understanding employees better, career planning and progression can also become more focused by aligning skills or helping to identify weak areas that require improvement. This personal development will help employees feel like they are growing and advancing.

Today entrepreneurs have access to technology, specifically Artificial Intelligence (AI) that are being used to support a stronger talent acquisition and staff development business model.

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Managing Staff

These 4 Types Of ‘Nightmare Managers’ Are Scaring Employees Away

You don’t have to drive to the local cinemaplex to see “It,” to see monsters in action. Just check your workplace.

Andre Lavoie

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Things that go bump in the night, monsters hiding under the bed and terrifying clowns called “It”: These are the things nightmares are made of. But for some employees, the scariest part of their day isn’t a movie; it’s dealing with bad managers.

While no one sets out to be a bad manager, this scenario happens and all too often. In fact, one in two employees surveyed by Gallup in 2015 said they had left jobs to get away from a bad manager.

Since managers are the main sources for employee motivation, productivity, happiness and retention, one who’s a “nightmare”  can wreak more damage than just unhappy employees. Even with today’s technology and resources, managers continue to make major mistakes – and that can hurt the bottom line at the same time it costs companies quality employees.

The solution? Be aware of the habits that could make your managers a nightmare, and don’t get tangled in that web to begin with.

Related: Fighting Sleep Is A Losing Management Strategy. Let Your Employees Take Naps

Here are four examples of managers who haunt employees long after the workday has ended – and how to avoid becoming one:

1The poor “people” person

A manager who doesn’t interact well with people sounds like an oxymoron, but these individuals exist. When someone who doesn’t work well with others is in charge of a team, the entire company dynamic becomes derailed.

One of the biggest things that suffers is free-flowing communication. OfficeVibe’s August State of Employee Engagement report found that 31 percent of employees polled wished their manager communicated with them more frequently.

Unfortunately, however, a manager categorized as a “poor people person” may actually be uncomfortable communicating and dealing with critical employee situations.

For some managers, this type of bad management style will be easy to avoid. However, others will have to overcome their natural tendencies to stray away from social situations. This means that leaders have to assess personality types and understand which people skills that certain managers lack may need improving.

The best place to get information is from your current team members. Because they may feel they’re being put into an awkward situation, you might offer an anonymous survey. Ask how frequently your employees would like to speak with management and in what format, and whether they feel management is opening up and communicating with them on the level they need.

2The self-involved manager

Quality managers have a knack for motivating their entire team toward one end goal – the company’s mission. While this is accomplished by setting and pursuing personal and company goals, good team leaders know how to invoke passion from employees and help them succeed on every front.

The self-involved manager, on the other hand, has no awareness of anyone’s goals but his or her own. This is why the incidence of managers taking credit for their team’s hard work and not empowering employees happens all too frequently.

Self-involved managers may seem successful due to their ability to hit goals and make the numbers move, but that’s all they’re interested in.

For managers who want to improve, a good place to focus on is the greater good of the company. In this regard, managers need to know exactly where employees stand with their individual goals, the nature of their personal missions and where they picture the company moving to.

Ignoring this kind of detail about employees may make managers seem self-involved, and employees will quickly lose trust in their leadership.

Sit down for weekly meetings or create an online chat room where managers and employees can come together. Make this a safe place for all to share their personal goals or discuss where they hope to see the company in a few years. Offer advice, step-by-step guides or continuing education courses to help employees reach their greatest potential.

Related: To Have An Innovative Company, Let Your Employees Take The Reins

3The overly involved manager

This type of manager often wears a mask of popularity and is frequently involved in a small company or startup. “Overly involved” doesn’t simply refer to the micromanager who has to be in on every project, opinion and decision. Overly involved managers take things a step further and try to meddle in every aspect of their employees’ lives.

While it is important to care about team members as more than just employees, there is a fine line between being a caring manager and becoming a close friend. Going beyond that point can make employees uncomfortable and even make it difficult to manage them.

Employees, meanwhile, may appear to like this type of manager, but his or her inability to successfully lead and manage will eventually cause the team to feel stagnant.

Rather than focusing on getting employees to like them, managers should look at what boosts those employees’ productivity, motivation and passion. Knowing what makes them tick inside and outside of work will help bosses lead their teams to victory. Remember to keep things professional in order to maintain employees’ respect for management and the company.

4The indecisive manager

These managers are infamous for being hard to please. From their perspective, they’re simply putting the company’s best foot forward and perfecting employees’ projects and tasks. But being unpredictable makes for a scary workplace situation. Employees are left feeling uneasy, apt to second-guess themselves and overly critical of co-workers.

Related: What Are Your Employees Doing When You’re Not Looking?

Once indecisive managers become known for their lack of predictability, morale and creativity get thrown out the window. Employees need to feel safe in their working environment, especially with the person who is reviewing and assessing their final products.

So, loosen the reins a bit and have employees take control of their projects. When necessary, post guidelines in a shared drive, like Google Docs, to offer direction when employees need it, and don’t forget to always be available for questions.

It’s okay to make small changes to these guidelines, but don’t jump in and change them too frequently. Let team members know they can always expect a supportive and guiding hand from management when needed.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Workplace Evolution 2.0: Are You Ready For The New Era?

Much of workplace change is driven by technological advances and ongoing evolution of workplaces and the workforce will continue to be the new norm for some time to come.

Wits Plus

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Multi-generation collaboration

Generations X and Y work together with Millennials and baby boomers, and Generation Z (born after 1998) is just starting to join the workforce. It’s a multi-generation mix that provides a collaborative ecosystem where innovation and problem-solving could thrive.

But how do companies ensure multi-generation collaboration across these multi-generations?

Related: 3 Ways Workplace Gamification Can Backfire – And How To Avoid Them

Automation of more tasks

Understanding the activities most susceptible to automation from a technical perspective could provide an excellent opportunity to rethink how workers engage with their jobs and how digital labour platforms can better connect individuals, teams, and projects.

The biggest challenges are the workforce and organisational changes that leaders will have to put in place when automation upends entire business processes, as well as the culture of their organisations.

Improving culture and workplace wellness

Companies are using wellness programmes to lower absenteeism, attract talent, and save on healthcare costs, while employees themselves become more health conscious. This type of investment in staff creates an environment where people want to work and where they feel valued.

Spaces and dress code promote culture

workplace-environment

Many workspaces (also known as ‘open plan’) have been designed for extroverts and their need for lots of stimulation. However, it is important to accommodate both introverts and extroverts in the workplace, so mobile and flexible workspaces are becoming the order of the day!

With the increased presence of younger generations, and more employees working remote, there’s no doubt that the workplace dress code is increasingly casual.

Related: Purposeful Work: The Six Barriers To Fulfilment In The Workplace

Augmented and virtual reality to improve recruiting and training

Gen Z and Millennials want their companies to incorporate virtual reality into the workplace and the technology that employees are experiencing outside of work naturally influence them to desire the same tech at the office.

Virtual and augmented reality can help close the experience gap for job seekers and allow employee training to be more engaging, less expensive and free of distractions.

Prepare yourself with the flexible part-time and online study opportunities offered at Wits Plus!

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