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Increasing Productivity

3 Reasons Why Your Employees Should Quit Their Jobs for 2 Weeks

Sometimes new work creates the best work – and your employees need a break from the routine once in a while.

Entrepreneur

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Here’s an idea for 2016 – tell your employees to drop all their projects cold turkey for two weeks. No more meetings, status reports or fixing production issues.

Tell your employees that they have two weeks to work on something totally different.

The only two requirements are that they learn something new and that the project be somehow (or someday) related to the company’s business. Other than that, it’s totally up to them.

Why is this a good idea? About a year ago, we started a program at Bandwidth where employees take two weeks off to work in a totally different department or on a special project, an opportunity for team members to take a break from their day-to-day jobs to work on a new project that will help to grow the business, solve a problem or save money.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Treat Your Employees Well – They Are Your Best Brand Ambassadors

Our team says that this kind of time away from their regular jobs is one of their most rewarding experiences. It’s an experience I’d encourage anyone to take part in if they get the chance, and I’d recommend any company consider it.

The benefits of temporarily taking on a new role extend far beyond those two weeks – both for employees and employers alike.

Sound too good to be true? Maybe for some folks, this type of break doesn’t feel like a break after all.

Yes, you’re still technically at work but doing something completely different is a great way to recharge batteries or transition out of a staid way of thinking.

In my experience, it’s been an ideal way to encourage creativity, develop new skills and even turn new ideas into revenue.

1. Encourage creativity

It’s all too easy to get caught up in nine-to-five monotony. Attend this meeting, answer that email, fix that bug, etc.

Employees oftentimes have really creative ideas for new products or enhancements to existing systems that will make them more efficient.

The problem is that everyone is so busy trying to support the current product, or building features for the next one, that nobody has time to devote to an experiment that may or may not succeed.

Two weeks of paid time to work on a new project is the perfect way to let their creativity fly.

It gives employees the freedom to work on something related to their specific interest areas, getting them excited about work again and igniting that spark for what they love to do.

When they’re back at their desks after two weeks, everyone around them experiences a new energy as they incorporate fresh ideas into daily routines.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: 5 Standout Ways to Transform Under-performers Into Superb Employees

2. Develop new skills

It’s great to become an expert at what you do, but not if that becomes the only thing that you do.

It is easy to become the guy or the gal for testing, or deployment or databases. However, if that is the only thing you do every day, other skills may begin to get rusty.

Employees need to always be learning something new to stay relevant in their field. These special assignments offer employees the chance to sharpen rusty skills, or learn entirely new ones.

The small group setting allows them to compare notes and solve problems with others who bring unique perspectives.

This alone can help them learn more in just two short weeks than they might learn in two months working their day-to-day jobs. Expanding their skill sets makes their jobs more enjoyable – and makes them even more valuable to their company.

3. Turn new ideas into new revenue

Not every two-week break will turn into a new product, service or feature – but it just might.

When Bandwidth’s two-week special assignments end, participants present their work and findings to a group of their peers and senior management, making the case for their ideas to move forward.

The sessions, which are typically set up as lunch-and-learn format, give participants the opportunity to present what they learned during their two weeks, show a demo of the project prototype and gather feedback from the broader team.

One of the best parts of the programme is that some of the company’s special projects go on to become real features in existing products. Even if they don’t, the programme is an ideal opportunity for employees to switch gears away from the day-to-day and try something totally new.

This special assignment presents an opportunity to turn a creative vision into reality.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: (Infographic) How Much Time Do Your Employees Spend Doing Real Work? The Answer May Surprise You

There will always be tasks that must be accomplished – and they’ll be waiting for your employees when they finish. But the creativity and skill sets discovered in this timeframe cannot be learned in a standard work environment.

If our businesses are about disrupting markets, then we need to equip our employees with the time needed to develop the skills to do so.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Keep Up The Momentum 

The year has kicked off with a whirlwind ride and already the first quarter is done and dusted. It’s important not to lose the momentum. 

Uwin Iwin

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Motivational programmes that offer staff incentives have proven highly successful. They can generate a positive, productive atmosphere.

A powerfull driver

The statistics here are unambiguous and speak for themselves: Research shows that companies with motivational programmes outperform those that don’t by 30% to 40%. This figure is not to be overlooked. Increased productivity will mean, at the very least, lowered costs in production and improved profit margins.

Related: Have Your Incentive Scheme In The Palm Of Your Hand

The role of employee motivation is a significant element in the chain of value production. There are various means to increase drive, and ‘progression’ is one of the strongest among them. It’s important to note that ‘progression’ doesn’t only imply change, but the movement towards a target. This means that progress needn’t be confined to upward development: Instead, a manager may set up goals that an employee will find rewarding either in terms of:

  • Learning,
  • Personal development, or
  • Tangible returns.

This last element is where incentives come to the fore. Incentives provide recognition and material reward to those who have earned it.

As an incentive solution company, Uwin Iwin has the necessary experience in achieving the optimum results.

Stagger the awards

It has been a long few months since the Christmas bonus and January, February and March are traditionally ‘lean’ months. It might be a good idea to have quarterly award payouts to just keep employees motivated to perform.

Increasing normal rewards

There is nothing that destroys motivation as quickly as boredom. Instead of the normal incentive programme, introduce competitions and make it fun. Increase normal incentives by 50%, for example, to motivate sales channels to perform at the highest levels possible. Keep it interesting and you will keep the employees’ interest.

A targeted approach

When it comes to deciding on targets, realistic goals need to be set. Goals must be achievable and fair, and the best way to determine them is to ask staff members to suggest their own. This means that their commitment to achieving the target is greater because they take ownership of it.

Related: Why Incentives Are A Must For Your Business

Businesses should not concentrate on rewarding top achievers in their workforce, but ensure the programme is designed to engage and improve performance across the whole team.

Reward categories could include Performance of the Month, Biggest Improvement, Best Comeback, to name a few.

Appropriate rewards

The challenge that many businesses face when planning their reward strategy is what type of reward to give. Cash is appreciated by most employees, but runs the risk of being an ‘invisible reward’ — forgotten once it hits the bank account and likely to be spent on day-to- day necessities.

Money uploaded onto a gift card that can be used anywhere is much more rewarding. Uwin Iwin has the perfect solution in the Kudosh card (www.kudosh.com) that offers exactly that — cash on a branded card accepted by any vendor that accepts MasterCard.

Rewards beyond gift cards

Out of the ordinary rewards can be a very good incentive. One option that works nicely is earning days off (increased leave) that can be used outside peak seasons. Sending out questionnaires to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to preferred rewards will give you great insight into possible solutions.

Communication is key

Communication about the incentive scheme is especially pertinent. Regular emails, SMSes and even hard copy pamphlets outlining the increased rewards serve as a constant motivation. The trick here is make the communications so powerful that they keep the momentum.

Incentives are an extremely powerful tool that business owners and managers can implement to assist with motivation and performance. It has to be done properly though, which is why investing in a professional platform is an imperative.

Ask Uwin Iwin to help you relook your incentive programme. We will come up with the perfect solution tailormade for your company. For more information, visit www.uwiniwin.co.za, phone +27 (0)11 557 5700 or email info@uwiniwin.co.za

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Increasing Productivity

5 Characteristics Of A Culture That Develops And Executes Breakthrough Ideas

Innovation happens by design. Build it in to your company, and it will show through in your results and relationships with customers.

Sonia Thompson

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Peter Drucker, the father of modern-day business management, noted that a business has only two functions: marketing and innovation.

Companies that have wholeheartedly embraced innovation – Amazon, Apple and Tesla among them – garner admiration, sales and additional marketing in the form of earned media.

And while businesses of all sizes know innovation is an important lever that will fuel their long-term success, many struggle to do it effectively. They get stuck in a rut of doing “what we’ve always done.” Others hop on the latest trends when they are forced to do so, rather than becoming pioneers in the space. No bueno.

Jeff Bezos credits a major part of Amazon’s massive success over the years to its people’s willingness to innovate. In his 2015 letter to shareholders, he explained the source of the $100 billion dollar company’s ability to innovate: “One area where I think we are especially distinctive is failure,” he wrote. “I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organisations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”

If you want a business where innovation is the norm, you’ve got to create the right environment – one that’s conducive to change and diversity of experience as well as opinion. No matter your history, you can build a company that delights your customers with your products, services and experiences on a consistent basis. Here’s how.

Related: 3 Ways To Find Ideas For A New Business

1. Create a culture of experimentation

Articles, books, and other resources give the same account: Failure is a precursor to success. When you accept failure as a part of the learning process that helps you achieve your goals, you get more comfortable with this concept.

The key to making failure work for you is conducting experiments that are small enough you won’t be left shirtless if things go south. Creating a company culture that experiments on a regular basis thrives only when you’ve also developed a consistent feedback loop. This crucial communication tool ensures you’ll have the clues needed to iterate and produce something remarkable.

2. Make idea generation a habit

Innovation begins with an idea. And to exponentially increase the odds of producing a winning idea for your business, quantity trumps quality. Of course, not every idea will be a great one. But a large arsenal of thoughts from which to choose makes it easier to refine your understanding of what your customers want from you.

Whenever I write a new article, I generate 25 potential headlines. Pushing myself to generate more ideas forces me to think beyond the obvious and stretch my mind to come up with more creative options.

Work to make idea generation a habit in your business. Encourage team members to bring forth their own suggestions, and create a system to catalog what is presented.

3. Diversify your experiences

diverse-experienceWhen it comes to innovation, realise that homogeneity is a liability. Steve Jobs knew this to be true. It’s why he encouraged others to branch out to take the road less traveled. “If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative … you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does,” Jobs said in 1982, as he accepted the “Golden Plate” award from the Academy of Achievement in Washington, D.C. He was 26.

Make it a point to step outside your comfort zone. Accumulate new experiences for yourself both professionally and personally. As you look to build a rockstar team, be intentional about seeking talent that brings to the table diverse backgrounds, experiences and ways of thinking.

The observations, skills and expanded frame of reference you obtain as a result will prevent you from being satisfied with the status quo.

Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!

4. Encourage dissent

Want to improve the quality of your ideas? Encourage others to tear them down. A capable team of people whose opinions you value will generate constructive criticism to help make your idea better. You’ll produce a much better product or offering than you ever could have done alone.

Research backs up this principle. Data from UC Berkeley demonstrates that conflict improves the ideation process. A team whose members cosign everything you say can’t help you or your company become more innovative.

Consider setting up regular team meetings to solicit input on how to take an idea from good to great. Create an environment that assures team members their opinions are valued and welcomed. Once you do, they’ll feel comfortable enough to be more vocal about using their expertise to raise the quality standard for whatever your business delivers.

5. Obsess over your customers

Your business exists to serve your customers. The more value you provide, the more they will reward you with their loyalty. When you focus your efforts on knowing your customers intimately, you’ll gain a tremendous amount of insight into how to solve their problems like none other.

Talk to your customers every chance you get. Take the opportunity to walk a mile in their shoes so you can develop a deeper empathy for their issues. Seek out pain points at every step of their customer journey and brainstorm ways to improve the experience for them.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

Employees, Not Consultants Or Executives, Are Your Best Innovators

Hungry for the fresh ideas that come from a collaborative, team-driven approach to innovation? You’re ready for an EDIT.

Tania Fiero

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The insurance industry gets a bad rap as outdated and inefficient. But one insurance firm, CSAA Insurance Group, is bucking the stereotype with a strikingly modern approach to innovation.

This American Automobile Association-affiliated insurer caught the attention of the Harvard Business Review last August due to its all-hands-on-deck innovation strategy. As the article described, CSAA had harnessed the brainpower of its 4,000-person employee base to encourage systematic improvement at all company levels.

The results were astounding: Underwriters analysed the company’s call data to improve voice prompts and reduce misplaced calls… by 40 percent. Other employees jumped in to streamline online claims, improve the issuance of insurance cards – and more.

But CSAA’s approach wasn’t innovative just for the insurance industry. Top-down innovation has been tried over and over, and it just can’t hold a candle to the alternative: employee-driven innovation teams being used by companies like CSAA and my own human resources solutions company.  We like to call these teams EDITs.

Why an EDIT philosophy works

Industry insight and creativity aren’t exclusive to the C-suite, nor are they best purchased from industry consultants. In fact, they can be found in every employee, from the part-time package handler right on up the corporate ladder.

Related: Your Employees Are Your Greatest Asset – Manage Them Well

Sarah Miller Caldicott, author of Midnight Lunch (and great-grandniece of Thomas Edison), has been trying to tell this to the business world for years. So when I heard her speak at a conference a few years ago, I couldn’t help but try an EDIT at my own company.

All EDITs begin with a call from a leadership team sponsor who brings a business problem to the table. That person then invites volunteers to form teams of around eight employees each. Teams choose their own leaders, who then hold the rest of the team members accountable and ultimately deliver proposals to the executive team.

EDIT does more than make us a better company. Team members develop cross-departmental friendships; help boost everyone’s morale; and grow their own leadership, presentation and executive consulting skills. Rarely do non-managers have the chance to shine in leading roles the way they do with EDIT.

Another upshot of our EDIT? We began a new HR project, “Extending the Culture Beyond Our Walls,” in which we’re expanding our employee culture to our clients, contingent workers and broader community through employment branding.

The only down side? We wish we’d done this sooner.

Ready, set, EDIT

If you’re hungry for the fresh ideas that come from a collaborative, team-driven approach to innovation, you’re ready for an EDIT. Here’s how to get and keep the EDIT ball rolling:

1. Make the problem and ideal solution as concrete as possible

call-to-actionEvery EDIT begins with a problem outlined by someone from the organisation’s leadership team. Think of this like a call to action. What’s the problem or opportunity, and what type of action, process or technology will solve or capitalise on it? Be sure to also describe what resources the EDIT will have to work with, such as budgeted funds, fixed assets and subject matter experts.

The Arizona Department of Transportation, for example, was looking last year for faster ways to reopen Phoenix-area freeways after closing them for repair. ADOT workers designed a reverse stencil that protects painted surfaces from an asphalt finishing spray. For materials, they used just scrap metal and two trucks,

Now, a scrap stencil may not have been what leaders first envisioned as their “future perfect” solution, but ADOT’s employees certainly made smart use of their resources.

Related: 10 Ways To Make Your Employees 10x More Productive

2. Give diversity and inclusion space at the table

An EDIT is only as strong as its members are diverse. In other words, don’t assemble a team entirely of marketers, salespeople or denizens of any other one department. A study from Holton Consulting noted that people tend to come up with more interesting, exciting and unusual ideas when they’re not thinking about their own area of expertise.

Don’t worry if one EDIT has four people and one has 10. Team size doesn’t matter nearly as much as the diversity of backgrounds, departments and skill sets. With that said, do your best to not exclude willing participants. To this day, our company has never turned away someone who wanted to contribute to an EDIT initiative.

3. Provide structure, but avoid rigidity

Give your EDIT space to work, but don’t let it fly blind, either. Have the EDIT take its cue from agile development or the scientific method, whichever its members are more familiar with. Encourage the EDIT to hypothesise solutions, test them, iterate and then evaluate them against the “future perfect.”

When our company’s EDITs meet for the first time, they always begin with a brainstorm. From there, they test ideas in low-risk, low-resource experiments. For example, a team suggesting a casual dress policy might survey or visit other companies with such a policy: The point would be to see whether changing acceptable workplace attire affected productivity.

The goal? To get real-world feedback on potential solutions, narrowing them down until the only top performer is left standing.

In our industry, there’s no greater cliche than “Your employees are your greatest asset.” But nothing has driven that point home for us, like EDIT. The soon-to-be-released enterprise-resource planning system that our employees spearheaded is proof that these people are, indeed, our strongest innovators.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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