Reflecting on the Year
Wow, December 2023. Who would have thought it would be here so quickly and yet still take so long to get here.
As we reflect on the year and send love to our friends, family, clients, and colleagues take a moment to send love to yourself.
Love what you have accomplished and release the feeling of guilt when you think of the things you didn’t get to this year.
Take a minute to really reflect on your year.
- How have you changed?
- How many bad habits did you leave behind?
- How many new habits or hobbies did you begin?
- What was your most challenging project / situation / person?
- What was your biggest breakthrough?
- What is your best memory?
- Who was your favorite person? New friend? Rekindled friend?
- What was the best thing you read or watched?
- What song did you have on repeat?
- Most awesome event you went to?
- What was your word for 2023 and how did it appear in your life?
When you take the time to reflect, truly reflect, you gain an overall picture of your self-improvement and accomplishments. It helps you plan your next year with strategic intentions. It helps you celebrate the wonderful person you are!
In this holiday season, take time to celebrate you and the person you are.
Happy Holidays and Let’s ROCK 2024!
Most people I have met, managed, and worked with want to be appreciated. They want to be appreciated for their hard work, for hitting a production goal, or for contributing to the company’s success, for showing up on time, and for being a decent person. Even the person who says they don’t want the trophy, or the public recognition, wants to know their hard work is being noticed, and is appreciated.
The fast-paced day to day life many small business owners and HR Directors keep doesn’t always allow time for recognition. We get caught up in the hustle, the chaos, or the myth that you don’t need to reward people for “doing their job.”
I want you to consider recognizing your employee’s dedication if you want them to continue to work hard for your company. I can’t tell you how many times in my corporate career I heard people gripe about working their tails off and how no one seemed to notice. This gripe quickly turned to resentment against the corporation and the hard work stopped. It is not difficult to end that toxic attitude before it begins. Recognizing your people doesn’t take as long as you would think. And it isn’t as difficult as you’ve worked it up to be either.
Things to consider about recognition:
- Create a program or a strategy with parameters, rules, and guidelines for every award and reward. One of the fastest ways to damage your employee’s morale is for someone to think the recognition is subjective. You like “them” better than “me” so that is why they are now your favorite. Having a strategy can eliminate that perception.
- What is worthy of a reward? Rewarding specific behavior can encourage and motivate your employees to continue to act / behave / produce the way they have been. It also sets the “winners” up to be role models for other employees.
- Recognition programs are a great tool to help your company engage and retain your employees. Align the awards /rewards / praise with your company’s vision and goals. This will encourage your people to be part of the company’s success.
- Tenure strategies. Recognize the employees who have dedicated years of their lives to your company. Acknowledge them and their tenure and let them know how much you appreciate their commitment.
- Empower your direct managers. Typically, HR is responsible for administering the recognition program but empower your managers, who work side by side with their teams, to nominate, suggest, and drive the rewards.
- It doesn’t always have to be about the cash in pocket reward. There are other options such as small gifts, gift cards, stickers, paid time off, and the list goes on and on. One of my most successful reward prizes was the UGLIEST trophy ever. It was awarded to the highest producing team and my teams fought over that UGLY thing. I didn’t get it; this thing was hideous. But they all wanted to showcase it proudly in their space. Not sure where to start? Ask your staff what is important to them. They may give you ideas you never would have thought of.
- Remember not everyone in the office loves public recognition. Some people may be very shy or feel awkward when you thrust them center stage. Part of your strategy should be to ask everyone at their next one to one how they feel about recognition and public praise.
Whether you have a quarterly staff meeting where you hand out trophies, or monthly production award meetings, or weekly huddles where everyone gets a sticker – create a program that fits into your business structure, acknowledges the habits and behaviors you want them to continue to do, and makes them feel appreciated.
Want some ideas? Reach out to me or follow me on LinkedIn for ideas.
In today’s competitive, diverse, and fragmented workplace, conflict happens.
Different people, with different work styles, personal and professional needs, are bound to clash about what to do and how to get it done.
There’s no need to fear conflict, resolved effectively, conflict and its resolution can lead to personal and professional growth, and a more resilient workplace.
Before you go into any difficult conversation, regardless of the cause, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the purpose of this conversation?
- What do you hope to accomplish?
- What would be the ideal outcome?
- What assumptions are you making about this person’s intentions?
- What “buttons” of yours are being pushed? What about the employee’s “buttons?”
- Are either of you more emotional than the situation warrants?
The bottom line is you need to prepare. Yes, sometimes these conversations happen “on the fly” but you can still take 30 seconds to figure out at least one of the above questions.
Once you have a clear understanding of what you are looking to accomplish, and once you remove the emotion from the situation, you are able to look at the situation through the eyes of a leader and work towards a solution.
And above all, don’t ignore the situation. That is never healthy!
Want to prepare for a difficult conversation? Need a fresh perspective? Give me a call and let’s figure out the next steps!
If there is one thing the last few years taught us, it is how to be flexible. Now when someone has to reschedule it isn’t a big deal – we accommodate and make the adjustments. For us introverts, sometimes it is a blessing, sometimes it is putting off the inevitable. Either way we, dare I say, Pivot? If we are this flexible now with our calendars, why are so many people still resistant to change?
I think it is fair to say, there are many different types of personalities, working styles, and generations in today’s work force. Some employees thrive in a chaotic work environment that changes daily. Others are more productive with a continuous or repetitive environment. If someone tells me they work in a “fast-paced” environment, I often assess if that “fast-pace” is because the work environment is chaotic and unorganized, or if the work itself is pressure filled. The bottom line is “fast paced” should be translated into “change is the only constant.”
To be fair, that “fast pace” is often a natural change as businesses grow and change. Business needs can (and should) change. The office and its employees need to implement changes to accommodate this business growth. It is ideal if your employees are flexible and encourage the necessary growth and change – instead of fighting it.
Changes can be as simple as a change in procedures, or changes can be a shift that has a profound impact on the structure of the business and workplace. As your business changes and evolves, how can you go about encouraging flexibility and shift a process, procedure, or guideline internally without creating havoc?
Here are some quick tips for leaders to remember when making changes in the workplace.
- State your vision. Be clear and articulate about what vision you have for the change. What does success look like in this (new) situation?
- Be willing to explain the “why.” Employees will be more receptive to changes if they understand the bigger picture and why this change needs to be implemented.
- Lead your employees. Lead them into the change, don’t demand it. Be flexible as they adjust to this change.
- Ask for collaboration. Employees are more flexible with change when they feel they have a say and helped create this pivot.
- Lead by example. Model the behavior you want to see. If you have changed your policy to 100% in the office, then YOU as the leader need to be 100% in the office.
- Proceed in small steps. It is a reality that some people have difficulty with changes. Take small steps. Give your employees time to adjust and help them through the process.
Looking to make some adjustments to your business? Have you created a management strategy for the change? Do you have a goal that you are reaching for? Creating a strong office environment during the changes can help ensure employee retention and a more team-oriented workplace.
Want to work through your change management strategies? Give me a call and let’s figure out the next steps!
The Great Resignation brought on by Covid-19 and new expectations of work-life balance have drawn greater attention to a perennial problem for legal entities and business owners, particularly small businesses—how to maintain institutional knowledge in the face of record turnover.
In the April 2022 Gartner Business Quarterly, Linda Ruel writes that 71% of the CEOs Gartner surveyed expect to continue to lose workers in 2023, workers they won’t be able to replace easily. These extended losses will not only continue to disrupt their businesses, but the resulting brain drain will wipe out generations of institutional knowledge. This challenge particularly affects smaller companies, such as law firms, which may not have had the resources or scale for formal institutional knowledge retention in the past.
Beyond retaining more of their critical employees, how can firms preserve institutional knowledge? By making it a priority and having a plan.
What is Institutional Knowledge and Why is it Important?
The editorial staff of Indeed defines institutional knowledge as “the collected understanding and ability of the institution’s workforce.” Such knowledge, also called organizational memory, can be tangible—the documentation of procedures and training manuals, for example—or intangible—the practical wisdom of seasoned employees.
Retaining tangible institutional knowledge takes some work but is fairly straightforward—document processes and procedures and digitize them in an easily accessible format. Intangible knowledge is more difficult to preserve. When experienced employees leave, they take with them their best practices—their cheat sheets and rules of thumb, their key relationships inside and outside the company, how things truly get done and who does them.
The accretion of employees’ memories builds the organization’s collective memory, enabling the business to function. Long standing employees pass along this intangible wisdom informally, often by word-of-mouth. If best practices exist only in the employees’ minds or scattered on sticky notes, the chain of knowledge is irretrievably broken when they leave, especially if the exodus is massive and sudden, as with the Great Resignation.
This loss costs companies money, time, and efficiency.
How to Retain Institutional Knowledge
Workforce turnover is a natural, even a necessary, aspect of a company’s growth. Different phases of a firm’s life cycle require different skillsets. Strategic turnover prunes the deadwood and keeps the firm nimble and adaptable to market changes.
Turnover becomes a challenge, however, when it is no longer natural, when it comes as a tsunami rather than a predictable ebb and flow. In the face of such vast and unexpected change, organizations default to a reactive mode, patching the levees holding in their institutional knowledge with sandbags that will inevitably be washed away. Instead of throwing sandbags at the problem, companies should build better levees. By being proactive and strategic in combating institutional knowledge drain, organizations can minimize the risk of unprecedented workforce attrition and keep their companies from going sideways. How? By creating a culture of knowledge sharing and the systems to support it.
This proactive strategy puts the CEO and business owner back in control, and it won’t take a complete restructuring of your current processes to do it. It merely requires a renewed dedication to making institutional knowledge just that—institutional rather than individual.
Let’s explore seven methods to make that happen.
- Identify, Prioritize, and Educate
To preserve institutional knowledge, all employees must understand its importance. Create a company culture that values information sharing across the enterprise and has formal systems to support that sharing—information systems, data analytics, training systems. Avoid information silos and turf wars.
Examine all levels of the business and identify the value and volume of existing institutional knowledge. Then identify the key components and processes every team member should know, and prioritize what to capture and share. Think creatively. Do you only want to capture skill-based information or project management tools as well? Technology hacks or past strategic initiatives? Once you identify the knowledge you want to preserve, put systems in place to do so.
- Involve All Employees
Holly Walters, Chief Operations Officer of Shapiro Law Team, a personal injury firm in Phoenix, Arizona, has implemented firmwide practices to safeguard information and keep their cases moving. “We want to ensure that everyone in our firm, from the receptionist to the managing attorney, knows what each team is responsible for.” Walters believes it is vital that all teams understand the important stages of any case from onboarding to settlement as well as the proper digital screens to complete to keep the pipeline moving.
The Shapiro management team works with each of their teams to create checklists, training courses, and desk manuals. “The desk manuals, whether physical or online, are step-by-step guides for each team member and are set to be updated frequently,” Walters explains. She not only shares these tools across teams but requires all new employees to cross-train with each team manager—new attorneys train with onboarding, new paralegals train with settlement, and so on. Walters makes it clear that this is a management initiative and gives the leaders ownership of the process development and information gathering. Not only do these practices encourage knowledge sharing, but they make for higher quality client service. When employees leave, the transition is seamless.
- Cross Training and Transparency
The goal of cross-training—shadowing colleagues and learning other roles—is not to add to the employee’s workload but to expand their knowledge and engagement with the organization and create transparency about the demands and requirements of different roles. Transparency results when everyone’s duties are no longer shrouded in mystery and the culture is based on performance and collaboration, not competition.
Make cross-training a priority by incorporating it into the employee’s performance review. Create a quarterly goal with specific timelines, departments, and partners, and discuss what they learned. Such conversations let you know how well the firm is adopting the information-sharing culture.
When Holly Walters implemented transparent cross-training at Shapiro Law Team, the firm saw less competition and greater collaboration among departments along with more efficient knowledge sharing—and increased productivity.
- Mentorship Initiatives
In any organization, mentors—veteran employees who help newbies learn the ropes—are often the ones passing down institutional knowledge. The problem is, most mentorships are ad hoc and informal. The answer: make them formal. Create a program that pairs veteran staff with less-seasoned employees.
Harleigh Jones, the former Firm Administrator of Christian Dichter & Sluga, a women-owned law fim serving the Southwest U.S., developed[MP1] [WM2] a training program that relied on veteran employees. “Having a mentor training system reduced barriers to the firm’s knowledge preservation as it became a natural training tool,” Jones explains. Veteran employees pass along what they know, eliminating the temptation to hoard information that wreaks havoc on smaller firms.
For a mentorship program to succeed, it must be part of the job description, not an add-on. Make it a structured program. Create rewards and incentives for the mentors to do a good job, such as bonuses, extra PTO, recognition. Implant the value of mentorship in the DNA of every role.
- Learning Libraries
Create a learning library. Encourage employees to build spreadsheets, folders, and drives thick with lists of processes, contacts, providers, referral sources, white papers, power points, articles, email chains, videos, and so on. Encourage employees to update the information as a matter of course.
Not sure where to begin? The line workers always know. Start by asking your employees what resources they need. You’ll be amazed how many workers have their own cheat sheets already set up. Create a general location for these lists and encourage people to use them.
To curate and disseminate the firm’s institutional knowledge, establish the role of Knowledge Librarian as part of the training team. This is a critical function in the Information Age.
- Implement Succession Planning
Most firms have some version of succession planning at the C-level, but it is often overlooked at the employee level. At all levels, succession planning is an important strategy not only for replacing workers but also for passing on knowledge and skill sets. When applied to line workers, this strategy is a valuable tool for identifying and developing new leaders.
Harleigh Jones faced this challenge when she scheduled a long-deserved three-week vacation. “I needed to know who could take over for me at any given moment. I began looking at their strengths and weaknesses and distributed my workload accordingly.” Implementing this strategy in a formal way enables more seamless coverage for PTO, internal promotions, and turnover.
When a worker is promoted, for example, give them the time to train their successor. They’ll be happy to share their tips, tricks, and efficiencies to leave the role in better shape than they found it. Likewise, when an employee leaves the company altogether, have them train their replacement. Sometimes, though, for legal reasons, this isn’t possible. That’s why promoting a culture that requires an ongoing documentation of work processes and best practices is critical. If someone leaves the company today, their replacement should be able to review the documentation and get up and running by the end of the week.
- Capture it with Video
Digitally archived written records are a valuable resource for retaining institutional knowledge, particularly in its tangible forms. But in the Visual Information Age of YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and the like, more people learn by visual media. When you need to change the water filter on your fridge, you look up a video. The same concept applies to institutional knowledge. Video preserves intangible forms of knowledge more effectively than text because it allows for demonstration as well as explanation.
According to Forrester Research, 75% of employees would rather watch a video than read an email or manual. Recording key project discussions, strategy meetings, and tutorials not only captures a team’s processes and[MP3] [WM4] agendas, it conveys the hidden context and nonverbal communication between the lines.
Companies can incorporate video technologies into many of the other six methods outlined here. As an element of succession planning, for example, you can create an “Ask the Expert” forum in which retiring employees discuss their roles and best practices. Video records can also support cross-training initiatives without interrupting busy colleagues.
Grow or Wither—It’s Your Choice
Like human memory, organizational memory can grow or wither. Creating a strategy for preserving institutional knowledge not only makes your business more resilient when employees move on, it strengthens your business’s long-term innovation and growth, leading to greater engagement and less turnover. By engaging your employees as active participants in developing and capturing institutional knowledge, you not only preserve and build that knowledge, you encourage your employees to stick around.
This article was originally written for the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) magazine.
During my years in Corporate America, I didn’t give it a second thought when my offices had a birthday party for a team member. As my offices grew, we changed the ritual to once a month (from everyone celebrating individually), but the balloon, cake, and card were “normal” office policy. I learned the hard way celebrating a birthday isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a company standard.
To begin with, not everyone likes to celebrate their birthday. I know the extroverts out there may be shocked by this statement, but the fact is true. Not everyone enjoys celebrations and the thought of everyone knowing their personal details are not appealing.
Here are some tips to help your office be inclusive, fair, and celebratory.
- Any office environment should NEVER make celebrating birthdays mandatory. Make all celebrations optional and allow employees to choose for themselves.
- Not everyone has disposable income to buy gifts. Do not take office collections to buy people presents, cards, or fancy lunches. It is presumptuous to assume that everyone has income to spare or wants to participate in a gift exchange.
- Consider allergies and dietary restrictions. I will never forget the year that some coworkers brought me cupcakes for my birthday that had nuts in them. It left me in a super awkward predicament. If I didn’t eat them, it would hurt their feelings or if I confessed, I would make them feel awkward.
- If your office does choose to celebrate birthdays, I recommend doing a large cake, for the entire office. Eating the treat is optional and each team member can choose if they want a piece or not.
- We recommend having a group party, once a month. This way no one person is singled out. I worked in a large office that had 17 birthdays in November. The simple “Happy Birthday” on the cake we had the first Friday of the month covered anyone who wanted to participate.
- Ask your staff if they want to be acknowledged via email, on the cake, or with a party. There is no judgment on their decision, you are information gathering. Then, armed with this information, choose a company standard and stick to it – for everyone.
- Try methods of celebration that aren’t about group food. Try electronic greeting cards, gift cards to food establishments or local stores (paid for out of office funds), a lunch out with the manager, or decorating their desk space. I used to grant a “personal holiday” and allowed them to stay home (paid) on their birthday.
Choose the celebration that works best for your employees but be consistent about the implementation to ensure that no one who wants to celebrate, gets left out.
It’s February, time for lacy Valentines, roses, and heart-shaped candies. It’s also time for overbooked restaurants, ditched New Year’s resolutions, and Girl Scout cookies.
I’m feeling the stress, how about you?
For businesses, February is the time to reach out to your leads and see how they’re doing, to re-visit former clients to see what they need now. Talk about stress. I can’t tell you how often this month potential clients have told me: “Yes, we want to move forward, but not right now.” REALLY? Putting off hiring or HR issues aren’t going to make them go away. Here’s my rule of thumb—if you know you need something done, you likely should have done it yesterday. But today’s good, too. Let’s get it done now.
These delays got me thinking about my own business. Am I delaying as well? What are my current business needs, and how am I getting in my own way?
Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating love, which reminds me that one of my goals for the year is to fully love where I am and celebrate my accomplishments. I call this business love. So why don’t you do the same? Take a few moments (or more) to celebrate what you love about your business. Not only will this temper the stress, it will reignite the spark while reminding you why you got into business in the first place.
Here are three steps you can take to shift into gratitude and refocus your February frustrations into business love:
- Set boundaries. This can mean many things, but the most important is to own your business, don’t let it own you. Set call hours on your electronic calendar, take Saturday and Sundays off, block off time to work those long-term projects you keep putting off. Whatever you decide, make it right for you – and stick to it!
- Treat your business as a client. Speaking of long-term projects, give your business one or more hours a week to work on the big picture. Maybe that means creating a marketing strategy and calendar, working intensely on your billing, or creating processes and procedures to automate your business. Whatever you need that week is what you focus on. And no matter what, keep the appointment with your business. You would never dream of canceling on a client, so don’t cancel on yourself.
- Embrace the scary. I have news for you. You are never going to be completely 100% ready to take that next move. There will always be a degree of fear. Is this the right decision? Did I just ruin my business? Run with the fear rather than away from it. Think of it as that “Oh my gosh, here we go” feeling you get in the pit of your stomach at the top of a roller coaster. Instead of holding your breath, closing your eyes, and hoping for the best, throw up your hands, scream at the top of your lungs, and enjoy the ride. Then give your business the love we’re talking about when you reach the end safe and sound.
This Valentine’s Day I wish nothing but love and abundance to you all. Here’s to reigniting the business spark.
As we ring in the New Year, it is a perfect time to reassess where you are, where your business is, and if everything is in alignment with your core values. Here are 5 ways to align your 1st Quarter 2023.
- Revisit your core values. What are 3 principles that you live your life, and run your business by? There are some great core value exercises out there and my favorite is Brene Brown’s. I visit this exercise every couple of years to make sure my goals and action steps are in line with what truly matters most to me.
- Take an honest look at the last year. Review what worked and didn’t work for your business. Cut yourself some slack if necessary. Remember strategic plans are living documents, and at their most effective, they change, evolve, and grow with your business as the year progresses. Strategic Plans are not chains holding you down but wings to launch your business as high as you want to go.
- Review your company’s policies and procedures. Start with the employee manual. Do you have one? Is it updated? Every business, regardless of the number of employees, should have an employee manual. These manuals are not just a list of rules and regulations. They are an opportunity to create and record the business culture you truly desire. Updating your manual is an opportunity to revisit your mission and value statements and share them with your staff.
- Re-visit your expectations and reflect on whether they are still relevant to your business. Are they in line with your core values? After you reflect on them make your expectations clear and put them in writing. And make sure your staff is brought up to speed with any changes.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek guidance. Maybe you aren’t sure if your expectations are clear and well-understood, and you need an objective outside perspective. Structure for Success is here to help! We specialize in bringing you that outside perspective. We take a look at your employees, your processes, and your culture to make sure they are in sync with your goals and expectations.
Don’t let fear paralyze you. Change can be good. Now is the time to set the pattern of excellence for the New Year.
Contact Wendy at Structure for Success to schedule a time to discuss your how to establish your goals and aspirations for 2023, and how to translate them into actionable business expectations for your company.
Why You Need HR in your Business
The nature of business is competitive. What are you doing to put yourself, your business, your product, and your employees above the others in your same market?
I have been in HR long enough to grow a thick skin – and to know that the average business owner does their own HR and doesn’t see the need to outsource it. I also know the average employee has experienced one, if not more, scary encounters with an HR professional. I started my business to prove that HR doesn’t have to be that way.
As your HR professional, I am the unofficial psychologist, teacher, career planner, detective, and peacemaker for your business. I do more than make sure your policies are compliant. I help with business development, employee advocacy and development, change implementation, and problem solving.
HR, and its execution, doesn’t need to be scary or spooky. We take the fear out of HR, we put the human back into HR, and we prove HR doesn’t have to suck!
Want to know how we can help you? Click here to book your appointment with Wendy
This time of year people are beginning to think about pumpkin spice, Halloween costumes and year end performance reviews. Oh you aren’t? That’s just me? And here I thought I was “normal.”
I am a huge Pumpkin Spice fan, but that isn’t what I want to talk about. Year-end performance reviews don’t need to be scary or spooky. They are a year-round process, and they begin with your regularly scheduled one-to-ones.
One tried and true leadership strategy is to focus on your people. I HIGHLY recommend you host one-to-one meetings every quarter at a minimum. Make it a priority. Not the weekly huddles, but the deeper “what do you want to do with your life” type one-to-one meetings. These meetings help you prepare, and stay on top of, the annual performance review process. They keep you in touch with your employees, and where they are in their job duties, their careers, and their goals.
Reminders for one-to-one scheduling:
- Schedule them. Put them on your, and your employee’s calendar.
- Not without warning though. I had an employee freak out once because I added a “coffee chat” to his calendar without his knowledge. He obsessed over if he was in trouble for days before he got up the nerve to ask me what the meeting was about.
- Do not reschedule them, unless absolutely necessary.
- You want your employee to know they are a priority, to feel heard, and to know you respect them, and their time. Constantly rescheduling the one-to-one meeting is an action that speaks louder than anything you could say.
Still a skeptic as to why you should hold them. “I mean I talk to my people so why do a special meeting?” Here are some benefits to holding one-to-one meetings with staff members.
- The one-on-one time creates a safe space for the employee to vent, celebrate, and problem solve.
- The airing of grievances. By being able to meet directly with you, employees can address concerns they have with other employees and not have it overheard.
- Airing their grievances in private can often be enough for employees to feel their concerns are being addressed.
- Established time to help struggling employees create achievable goals.
- Ask the questions the leaders need to know. Some of my favorite questions include the following:
- Does the employee feel significantly rewarded, supported, and valued?
- What is their preferred method of communication?
- Do they have the resources they feel they need to do their job duties well? If not, what would they add?
- If they could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing they would change?
- What is the best thing about their job, the company, you as a leader?
Hosting one-to-one meetings with your staff can, and should, be a sharing opportunity. These meetings foster strong communication, they help you keep your pulse on what is happening in your office and allow for a growth opportunity (if they provide feedback that stings). Running a small business can have its challenges. Some are fun, some are painfully excruciating. These one-to-one meetings should not be painful but an opening for you to learn about your people, elevate your business, enhance your communication skills, and most importantly improve your leadership abilities.