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5 Ways You Can Increase Employee Productivity

Are you the type of boss that wants to walk into an office with happy and energetic employees? Do you want to be certain that your staff members are meeting deadlines and contributing their fare share to the workload? Do you want to increase profits and take over the market share in your industry?

All of these objectives are only possible for companies that have truly productive employees. If you feel that your team can use some help in this area, utilize the 5 ways listed below.

Prevent Burnout

Employers highly rely on their highest performing employees with the most tasks as well as leading other team members. However, did you know that one in five of the top employees feel highly burnt out on the job?

Burnout leads even the most invested employees to become extremely stressed out, tired and disengaged. Although you want to make sure your staff members are working at optimal levels, it’s important to review the hours they spend in the office each week and make adjustments for extremely busy schedules.

Productivity Tools

Using technological solutions to promote productivity amongst your employees is extremely advantageous. For example, software such as Slack allows users to streamline communication through video-calling, file-sharing, direct messaging and notifications all in one platform. This saves time because one no longer needs to search in the inbox for lost emails, and all forms of communication are stored on a single channel in a message-forum format.

Performance Reviews

In order for your team members to be motivated to work hard, they need to know that management is aware of their efforts and appreciates it. Even the hardest working employee is likely to slack off if they feel that no one is watching.

Conducting regular performance reviews is an excellent way to work together with each employee to set individual and group goals, monitor performance and give your feedback. This way, the top performers will get positive feedback, encouraging them to persist in their work efforts, while others can get help and mentorship to improve in their weakest areas.

Contests

Healthy competition can do wonders to encourage even the most unproductive individual to improve. There are many ways you can create this in your corporate culture, from an employee of the month program to a simple contest specifically for each department.

Why not offer a $200 gift card to the top selling customer service rep for the month of June? Another great idea is offering a paid day off to a CPA who can file the most tax returns in a quarter.

Room for Growth

If you would like your employees to do their best for you, you must recognize and reward their efforts by helping them. A company that places a lot of value in helping their employees advance in their careers by promoting from within will have the best results in productivity improvement.

When the people that work for you know that when they work hard they will gain more responsibility and a higher paycheck, they will be more invested in their jobs.

There are many more ways that you can promote productivity in your office. The main thing to remember is to be involved in the daily operations of your company and motivate your staff.

 

How to Reward Employees Without Breaking the Bank

Us humans are driven by incentive, and modern leaders understand the importance of rewarding high-performing employees. While typical ways of doing so include bonuses and pay raises, oftentimes small business owners can’t afford to reward their employees monetarily. If you are in the start-up phase of growing your business, you don’t have to forego rewarding your staff members; instead you just need to get creative in rewarding them without breaking the bank.

4 Great Ways to Reward Your Employees Without Money

Simple Recognition

If you want to make your employees feel appreciated, oftentimes all it takes is to voice your  gratitude. If one of the members of your team just turned in a well-researched project, or another one handled a customer service issue in an appropriate manner, simply acknowledging their efforts and saying thank you can be enough of a reward for your employees.

If you want to take your appreciation a step further, you can send out a departmental or company-wide email recognizing the efforts of one of the staff members. Alternatively, you can set up an “Employee of the Month Program” where you choose one employee who has gone above and beyond that month.

Although none of these initiatives will cost your company one penny, they will make your employees feel noticed and appreciated for their efforts, and will encourage others to some friendly competition for recognition.

Time with the Boss

Most bosses are incredibly busy, and don’t have a lot of individual time to dedicate to each of their team members. However, it is extremely important to your employees to spend that time with you, which will help you create a meaningful relationship and a bond that will encourage them to be loyal to your organization.

One way to reward your employees is to dedicate some one-on-one time to a different high achiever on a weekly basis. You can take this person out to lunch; but if this is not within your budget, you can simply take a walk together or even meet in your office.

Dedicating this time to your employee will show them that you care about them, their thoughts and opinions and plans for the future. Make sure to spend that time focusing on the employee; however. This can be a time for mentoring or giving valuable advice that can help them grow in their positions.

Best Parking Spot

Parking is a hot commodity in many metropolitan areas, and many employees need to pay for their own spot, park far away or forgo driving to work altogether. As a reward for a top-performing employee, why not give them the best parking spot your company has? Even if you only have one dedicated spot that you use, that could be a great incentive for your employees that will not cost you a dime.

Ask Them

If you’re not sure what is the best way to reward your employee, why don’t you ask them about what they prefer? Some may choose a paid day off, while another one may want to reassign a project that they’re not interested in on another colleague. Within reason, letting your employees choose their own rewards will make them feel valued and important.

If your employees have truly gone above and beyond and have shown how much they are committed to the team, you may consider investing in giving them financial rewards. After all, that is a way to stay competitive within your industry and keep your employees loyal to your company.

IOU Financial is dedicated to helping you with this goal. Contact us today to find out about our quick and easy small business loans of up to $500,000.

 

Smarter Offices: Tips to Automate and Update Your Workplace

What is your organization willing to do for a more efficient workforce? You can’t log on to the internet without seeing the impact of chatbots, AI or the Internet of Things (IoT) that make our devices and appliances even smarter. Some corporations are issuing Segways and microchipping employees to provide easier access to everything from building entry to snacks. Let’s take a look at what else is in store for the future.

Smart Offices Are Among Us

With technology that once seemed only the purview of sci-fi flicks, modern gadgets are now replacing the physical boundaries of traditional business with virtual pathways and surprising innovations. This phenomenon extends past the physical barriers between your company’s employees and clients; it encompasses solutions from the use of convenient websites with helpful chatbots to incorporating tech in the physical equipment of your office.

Check out these examples of a smart office:

  • Internet of Things: IoT is a network concept that can power your office with smart lights, virtual reality cameras, thermostats, speakers, and other tools to help employees feel more comfortable and concentrate better on work, even from remote locations.
  • Interconnectivity: Smart devices like relays, dimmers, and smart switches can be set up to power the office efficiently and conserve energy. Sensors detect and control UV light, temperature, and ambient light levels to operate smart windows that keep out radiation while maximizing natural light. Apps activated from wearable tech can provide instant access to Slack and similar communication-and-convenience apps so employees can order snacks or coffee from their desks.
  • Machine learning: Knowledge management and leadership tools area already taking advantage of machine learning. You can seamlessly integrate technologies that automate meeting management, file management, and interoffice communications. Employees can answer emails in a fraction of the normal time with accurate voice-to-text tools and explore other ways tech can help them concentrate on the tasks at hand.

Tech for Employees

Whether employees are looking for easier commutes or sitting/standing desks for a healthier workplace experience, there’s plenty of tech available to help make it happen. Check it out:

  • The use of standing desks and sitting/standing desks is gaining momentum in the office. When you alternate standing and sitting, you avoid back pain and remain more alert throughout the day. GeekDesk, Uplift Desk, UpDesk, VariDesk, and Humanscale are models that help employees stay healthy and productive.
  • Self-driving vehicles, like the Tesla Autopilot, are already out there. However, Volkswagen has announced plans to roll on autonomous vehicles on a much larger scale. Starting the workday while still on the commute could eliminate lost hours on the road and allow for fewer hours in the office.
  • Modern offices feature open, inviting spaces that put dark cubicles in the past where they belong and encourage collaboration and productivity.
  • Millennials and Generation Z are children of the digital era who love working with cool gadgets, like taking calls with Echo Dot, a compact speaker that connects to Google’s Alexa voice control. This kind of connectivity can help your youngest workers avoid the stress of unplugging that many of their generation suffer.
  • These young workers also use digital apps to address any task they can — for instance, calculating taxes via smartphone, warming or cooling homes remotely, or feeding pets long-distance. Make sure you’re offering digital options available to shorten workers’ wait times and to-do lists in the office.
  • Smart tools can also prevent repetitive stress injuries that cause carpal tunnel and similar conditions. Voice-activated gadgets and voice-to-text functionality embedded in office applications help reduce the amount of typing needed and give fingers a break.
  • Technology has changed conference and boardrooms, too. Many companies have implemented AI tech for conferencing that orders the tech needed for a video call with colleagues around the world, or for webinars with clients. These smart systems are self-diagnostic and can report any issues they’re experiencing as well as collect data to streamline future operations. Amazon’s Alexa for Business is a forerunner in this area, but future applications will enable workers to multitask through voice or typed commands to connect to digital tools seamlessly.

Tech for Customers

Customer and client applications will greatly benefit from the latest tech, too.

  • Customer service and client communication will also benefit from new technologies. Chromecast and Apple TV, small network appliances that can receive digital data from multiple sources, are already ideal for conferences and PowerPoint presentations. Zoom is a video call tool that only requires a 9-digit number to join.
  • Chatbots improve customers’ experience by answering simple questions on demand, collecting client information to offer personalized recommendations, and providing expanded pathways for marketing and sales.
  • Three Square Market administrates mini-markets in hospitals, hotels, and businesses. To use the market, customers have microchips implanted under their skin, which allow them to make purchases with the swipe of a finger.

Smart office tech still comes with a large price tag; however, those costs can be expected to come down, thanks to economies of scale, as more businesses join the movement. With Generation Z and millennials becoming increasingly dominant players in business and commerce, most of these trends aren’t just likely to become widely adopted — they’re inevitable. Get a head start now on improving employee and customer experiences through smart tech, and you’ll find your business in a position to thrive in the future.

Guest Post: About the Author

Laura Gayle is a full-time blogger who has ghostwritten more than 350 articles for major software companies, tech startups, and online retailers. Founder of www.BusinessWomanGuide.org, she created her site to be a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms. She has written about everything from crowdfunding and inventory management to product launches, cybersecurity trends, web analytics, and innovations in digital marketing.

 

10 Onboarding Kit Ideas to Make Your New Employees Feel Welcome

So, you’ve hired some new team members, but how do you give them the warmest possible welcome? For many smart companies, the answer is to shower them with branded swag on day one! And it’s not a bad strategy—surprising new hires with welcome kits is a great way to instill company pride from the get-go and to encourage a positive work environment. As long as you make it creative, personal, useful and (perhaps most important) welcoming, you can be sure your brand-new co-worker will be glad he or she took the leap to join your organization. Here are some awesome onboarding kit ideas to make new hires feel right at home.

Include Something Personal

No matter how many logo hoodies, pens and sunglasses you throw into a given kit, nothing says “we’re glad you’re here” quite like a personalized note. Before the first day, pass around a welcome sign or card to the entire team to sign, with personalized notes, signatures and tips for brand-new hires. If you already know a little something about the newbie—maybe she’s an athlete, a music lover or a foodie—try to tailor a goodie bag to suit her personality.

Include Something They Can Wear

At the end of the day, employees are representatives of your brand. And if they believe in it, they will share it with everyone they love, acting as natural (and free) promoters. Thus, keeping employees proud and happy is key to solidifying a good Glassdoor review and reputation within the industry or community. Allow new hires to show their company pride with an onboarding kit that includes promotional apparel, like custom hoodies and tees.

Include Something That’s Useful

What do the welcome kits of the most forward-thinking companies have in common? Uber, Randstad, Facebook, IBM and eBay all give new employees the same single piece of branded swag: a branded notebook. The truth is that logo items simply get more use when they’re useful, so you can trust that they’ll stay in the game for years to come. Consider adding custom mouse pads, pens, planners and sticky notes to your onboarding kit for a practical appeal.

Include Something They Can Eat

You’ll be the onboarding hero if you add something sweet to your welcome kits! The idea is to pair valuable, branded items like apparel with affordable yet crowd-pleasing extras, such as candy, beverages and snacks. If your new set of hires has relocated for the position, make sure to give your onboarding kit a local flair with regional sweets and treats that welcome employees to the area and your company.

Include Something You Sell

If you have the ability to give every single employee your best-selling product or service, do so. This is more than just a perk for new hires; it’s also a way for them to get acquainted with the things they’ll be working with or using every day and to provide real, usable advice to potential customers, family and friends. Of course, if your service is an intangible—such as software or an app—be sure to offer all new hires the premium or top-tier version for personal and work use for free.

Include Something They Can Share

Again, your employees serve not only as the scaffolding of your business, but also as promoters and believers of what you do. In this spirit, it helps if you encourage your new hires to spread the word about your business with their closest family, friends and colleagues, and they’ll be much more likely to do this if they can hand out stickers, pens or buttons. Be sure that you don’t put pressure on this (especially if promotion isn’t their job), but simply mention that sharing is caring!

Include Something to Carry it All in

If you love the idea of creating a super neat, self-contained welcome kit for new employees, consider tying it all up in a pretty little package that serves dual purposes, like a custom promotional bag. These carry-alls serve as personalized gift bags and swag in their own right, so they’re pretty much guaranteed to check all your branding and welcoming boxes! Opt for something you know will get use, like a custom tote bag, drawstring bag or backpack.

Include Something in Your Company’s Spirit

Don’t choose onboarding kit items at random. Piece together swag and gifts that celebrate the essence and vibe of your company. Say, for example, your company is a fitness tracking app. Your employees will surely be interested in staying fit, so consider welcoming them with company water bottles. If your company is all about the high-tech, then a custom wireless speaker is a great option. All about the cool factor? Obviously, it’s got to be custom sunglasses!

Include Something Industry-Specific

Not everything in your welcome kit needs to be branded. Mixing in useful, iconic and industry-specific extras will give your swag kits a big-picture feel, helping to honor the history or importance of your work. For example, a limited-edition version of a significant book—Gray’s Anatomy for medical pros, The Elements of Style for writers, etc.—will always delight passionate employees!

Include Cool Finishing Touches

The devil’s in the details, as they say! Some of the most memorable and unique onboarding kits we’ve seen perfectly honor a brand’s spirit with special unboxing experiences, beautiful packaging and messaging and colors that honor a company’s branding and culture. Tie it all together by creating a new hire welcome basket that newbies will want to share on social media!

When designing your employee onboarding kits, make sure that they’re three things simultaneously: personal, inspiring and creative. The goal is to make your new hires feel like they’re part of the team—and part of something overall positive and inclusive—and to encourage them to build loyalty and pride so that they work hard and stay with your company well into the future!

Guest Post: About the Author

Lee Becknell serves as the Digital Marketing Manager for Pinnacle Promotions. She oversees digital marketing from the Atlanta, GA headquarters. Lee has been with Pinnacle for over six years.

How to Improve Internal Communication in Your Small Business

A vital component in being a successful business is effective communication. While that may seem like a simple concept, poor communication strategies seem to be a common theme in all businesses, no matter their size. Improper communication practices can create problems and pitfalls for teams working to accomplish their goals, and can even impact your business’ bottom line. So, where do managers and business owners start? By implementing tools and improving internal communication frequency to create a more unified business.

Communication Tools

In this digital age, we are able to access news and information almost instantly with our many devices. We expect the same in the business world; becoming a workforce that expects information to disseminate instantly. To keep up, it is essential that small businesses empower their workforce to communicate in a fast and timely manner. In other words, businesses need to empower their employees to communicate. Here are some examples how:

  • Implementing the use of an instant messaging platform can provide every employee direct access to one another. Tools like Google Hangouts Chat can connect employees no matter where they are. Whether in the office or working remotely, questions can be asked and answered instantly. These messaging platforms allow for constant communication among peers. Each employee has the ability to manage and monitor multiple discussions at one time. Additionally, teams can utilize this chat ability to set up a virtual room with the team in its entirety. This type of communication channel promotes more frequent knowledge transfers, the desire to collaborate, and serves as a knowledge bank of archived conversations; allowing employees the ability to refer back to previous conversations and eliminate redundancy in workflow.
  • Providing employees with the opportunity to have face to face conversations is another avenue for enhanced communication. This is especially relevant for any small business that employs remote workers. Utilizing telecommunications applications like Skype can bridge the gap between employees in the office and off location. Messages can sometimes become lost in translation through text, so having the capability to video chat can further ensure that teams remain on the same page. Not only does it allow those working remotely a seat at the conference room table, but it also facilitates the ability to read facial expressions, be aware of body language, and form real connections with their peers on the receiving end.
  • Another option for consideration is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service in exchange for a traditional landline. This means that instead of dealing with traditionally hardwired phones, you’re able to make phone calls over the internet. There are three different VoIP service options in use today: ATA, IP phones, and computer-to-computer. Each VoIP method converts analog audio signals and turns them into digital data that is transmitted over the internet. VoIP phone services can both save your company money and effort by streamlining all communication efforts to one service.
  • To further set your employees up for success, consider utilizing Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) to support all of your diverse communications systems. 8×8 offers cloud based unified communications that combine instant messaging, video conferencing, and VoIP services into one suite; further streamlining your business efficiency by uniting all of your current communication tools.

The continuous development of strong communication skills will further strengthen all aspects of your business. While these tools impact things like timeliness, and the ability to share information instantly; you are also facilitating more opportunities for collaboration. The more that employees are able to work together, the stronger their work relationship becomes resulting in more productivity.

Guest Post: About the Author

Steven Maxon, is a communication advocate dedicated to helping businesses make integrated communications decisions.

Why Companies Need Corporate Wellness Program Apps

Taking care of the wellbeing of your employees shows more than just your corporate culture, it’s also a signal that your company cares for its own future and prosperity. More and more companies include different wellness programs in order to enhance the health status of their workforce. These programs rely on various tools and activities that track and maintain the health status of the working people. Let’s take a more detailed look at all the benefits that wellness apps bring to companies.

Easier implementation of the wellness program

First and foremost, wellness apps facilitate the implementation of your wellness program. Conducting these types of programs is never easy, especially within companies that include a large number of workers or remote employees. Automation, provided by mobile and desktop apps, makes the implementation of the program much easier and brings in a few extra features that would otherwise be difficult to carry out.

Reduced Absenteeism

Absenteeism is a large issue for any company in the world. The productivity drops every time you have a person on sick leave, no matter how capable your team might be when it comes to covering for the absent co-worker. The best way to reduce the number of workers that turn in sick, is for a company todo whatever it takes to improve the well-being of its employees. Using wellness program apps within your company allows your employees to keep track of their health status, which further increases their chances of preventing any future health issues.

Keeping a high level of productivity

According to research, productivity depends, in a large measure, on the physical and mental status of your workforce. Wellness apps provide food recommendations, fitness instructions, track vital signs, all of which can reduce the chance of sickness. Workers that maintain their physical health status, feel better and more eager for work, which is essential for company productivity. Furthermore, as we already stated, even if the rest of your team is able to cover for their colleague, heavier workload and the need to perform faster leaves room for mistakes, which have to be fixed so more time gets wasted.

Apps allow wellness program improvement

Without comprehensive feedback, it’s difficult to improve a wellness program that your company implements. Apps, allow you to conduct surveys and get all sorts of analytics that could show which parts of your wellness program need improvement. It’s important for the success of your program to know which aspects don’t show desired results, which ones take too much time, and where you need to put in an extra effort to make the program work seamlessly.

Ability to create healthy dining options

There’s an old saying “we are what we eat”. Rather than suggesting that I’m a bowl of pasta, this piece of wisdom means that our mental and physical state depends on the food we place on our tables. Wellness apps allow you to create healthy dining menus and suggestions for various types of food. For instance, you can have your employees check in to see what gluten-free options they have, which vegan courses are available, or simply learn how to make a new tasty dish.

This way, your employees avoid the risk of heart diseases, cancer, digestive problems, and other health issues that both you and your workers want to avoid.

Conclusion

A company is doing well as long as the people that contribute to its success are doing well. Therefore, business owners should invest in the wellbeing of their workforce if they wish to maintain a high level of productivity. Moreover, the companies that show care for their employees build a positive image, which is important for business expansion and recruitment of talents. Wellness apps automate and simplify the implementation of your corporate wellness program, making it more efficient and reliable.

Guest Post: About the Author

Becky Holton is a journalist and a blogger at ProEssayWriting. She is interested in education technologies and is always ready to support informative speaking. Follow her on Twitter.

Looking to implement a wellness program in your corporate structure? IOU Financial can help with up to $300,000 in as little as 24 hours.

Benefits of the 401k Retirement Plan for Small Business Employers and Employees

Today’s employees are looking for more than just a salary—they want benefits. Millennials and those from Generation X, especially, are more financially invested in their future than previous generations and are committed to saving for their future.

A company that wants to both recruit top candidates and keep their valuable employees loyal should consider offering a 401k plan to their staff members. Although this is not a terribly big investment for small businesses, it can go a long way in showing that they care about their team members and their future.

What is a 401K?

401k is an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the most popular of its kind in the United States. Employees are able to defer a portion of their salaries to this retirement plan, which is used to invest in mutual funds primarily, as well as stocks and bonds.

This is a defined-contribution plan where the amount of funds the employees invest and the performance of the funds they invest in determine the balance of the account.

Although they are not obligated to do so, some employers choose to contribute to the employee’s plan, often matching the contributions up to a specific percentage.

This plan does come with certain legal limitations, such as an investment cap of $19,000 for individuals and $56,000 for joint contributions for employers and employees for 2019. Individuals who are 50 years of age or older can contribute an additional $6,000 individually and $62,000 as joint contributions.

Another limitation is the ability to withdraw funds from this plan, which is only allowed upon the age of 59 ½, when the employee changes jobs, retires, becomes disabled or passes away. Some plans allow for withdrawal of funds during a certain hardship as well. If the funds are withdrawn prior to the allowable time, the funds will be counted and taxed as ordinary income and will be charged a penalty.

The plan calls for required minimum distributions (RMDs), which are mandatory withdrawals once the account holder reaches 70 ½ years of age.

Benefits of the 401k for Employees

The 401k is qualified by the IRS, so the funds transferred are eligible for tax benefits. The advantages of the 401k for the employees include a tax break on the contributions deferred to the account as well as a reduction in taxable income.

Let’s say an employee earns $10,000 per month, and contributes 5% of that amount to the 401k plan. That monthly $500 will be transferred to the retirement account tax free, and the employee’s taxable annual income will be reduced from $120,000 to $114,000.

Benefits of the 401k for Employers

The 401k also offers tax breaks for employers for the contributions they add to their staff’s retirement plans.

In additional to the financial savings, offering an employer-sponsored retirement plan will help companies attract and retain top talent. In the current climate, where 55 million Americans do not have a retirement savings plan, and the number is larger in employees of small companies, this benefit would be a big advantage for staff members.

If you are interested in offering this benefit to your employees but need financial assistance in doing so, contact IOU Financial. We work with small business to help them finance their goals. We offer easy and fast loans of up to $300,000.

Are You Interviewing Wrong?

When a valuable employee has moved on from your organization, or there is a need for additional manpower to handle growing responsibilities, management may want to fill that position as soon as possible. However, it is imperative to give this process the time it deserves in order to hire a candidate that would fit all the criteria needed to make a valuable addition to the team.

It’s frustrating when a new hire doesn’t work out, and this can negatively affect the team’s productivity and company culture. If your department doesn’t seem to be able to hold onto new hires for a reasonable time, it’s time to consider if you may be interviewing wrong. Learning better strategies to this process will help you choose the right candidate from the get go.

Interview Mistake #1: Choosing Someone You Like

As people, we tend to gravitate towards people we like, typically those that are similar to us. You may bond with a person because they are from your hometown, or like the same sports team. While it’s important to like your colleagues, you must strive to use objective criteria instead of subjective criteria during the interview.

It may be advantageous to utilize a job screening assessment when recruiting new employees. This is a test that evaluates a potential candidate’s knowledge and skills in a specific area. Whether you choose a computer test or a paper test, the answers will give you a comprehensive view of the person’s expertise in the area, and a preview of how valuable they could be to the team.

That being said, it’s also not a good idea to hire someone when you have no gut feeling that they will work out. If a person seems rude, arrogant or simply disinterested, don’t hire them just because they aced their job assessment.

Interview Mistake #2: Not Asking for Input From Multiple People

Most employees don’t meet their new colleague until their first day on the job, which is too late for them to provide their input. Instead of single handedly selecting a new employee, utilize the peer-to-peer interviewing technique, which allows existing employees to interview potential candidates on a one-on-one-basis.

This provides several benefits to both the interviewer and the interviewee; your staff members can evaluate their potential new coworker and ask questions to see how they would fit into the team. The interviewee can use the opportunity to ask questions about the working hours, management style, and typical day on the job which they may not have been comfortable asking leadership.

Improving your interview process with simple adjustments can help you make a better decision about bringing on the right candidate. Remember to discuss the criteria most important to the team, and focus on assessing whether the individual meets those criteria.

Guest post: About the Author

Grace Ma is a Managing Director at Ex-Consultants Agency (ECA). ECA is a specialized executive search firm that focuses on placing former management consultants into project-based and full-time roles. Before joining ECA, Grace worked as an Engagement Manager at Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company) and VP of Strategy at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Parental Leave and Small Business – How to Do What’s Best for Your Business AND Your Employees

Small business owners have come to realize that allowing employees to take parental leave is a good policy despite its costs.

It’s a great way to recruit and retain good employees, plus provides these benefits to you:

  • Employees are more likely to return to work after taking time off after having a baby
  • You have the opportunity to cross-train other employees to fill in for a person out on parental leave
  • You can train junior employees to take on new responsibilities
  • It’s an opportunity to take a fresh look at how you distribute responsibilities within your company
  • Generally, employee morale will be higher if you offer parental leave, a fact than can save you money by helping you to avoid frequent turnover

If your company has 50 or more employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires you to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. Parental leave is optional for companies with fewer than 50 employees, at least from the viewpoint of federal law. However, your state might have parental leave laws that apply to you. These laws provide job protection for a specified number of weeks when parental leave is needed.

Parental leave is indeed popular – 80% of employees at small companies would take advantage of it, according to the Family and Work Institute. Of course, any paid portion of the leave will only serve to increase its popularity. An interesting statistic is that 91% of small businesses that provide paid parental leave report no noticeable effect on performance and profitability, according to ThinkGrowth.

It makes sense for your company to devise a parental leave policy that meets your needs and those of your employees. Your policy should be included in your employee handbook so that all the terms are understood by all.

The policy should spell out features like:

  • Scope: Under what circumstances can employees take parental leave – maternity, adoption, accepting a foster child, etc. – and whether it applies to both parents.
  • Benefit: How much leave time can employees take, and whether they will be expected to work from home.
  • Pay: How many leave days, if any, will be paid.
  • Notification: How far in advance must an employee request parental leave.

When an employee requests parental leave, a manager or the owner should review the employee’s duties and methods with other employees who will be filling in during the leave period. It’s important not to overload other employees, which might require the hiring of temporary workers. The review process should encourage brainstorming to see whether more efficient methods are available.

It’s a good idea to build relationships with freelancers or staffing firms so that a ready source of temporary labor is available during parental leaves. While employees appreciate the opportunity to take parental leave, they don’t want to be burned out by assuming the work of employees on leave in addition to their own workload.

Employee abuse appears to be rare. Employers should require some sort of documentation for non-obvious (i.e. other than maternity) situations. Employers can add flexibility to parental leave by allowing employees to use saved up vacation days and sick time to provide some paid time during the leave.

How a Business Owner Can Take a Vacation Like a True Boss

Many people aspire to be the boss so that they can control their own schedule and take off as much time as they want. However, the stark reality is that many owners don’t take vacations at all, year after year.

According to a recent survey, half of small business owners take an average of three days off per year, while 70% work on holidays, including Thanksgiving. The main excuse for lack of time off is that business owners don’t feel like their companies can survive or thrive without their presence and input.

However, not taking any time off leads to extreme stress, feeling burnt out, loss in productivity and a creativity block. In fact, lack of vacations can lead to depression, cognitive decline and even heart disease!

There are ways for all business owners to take a vacation with these tips:

Start Small

It’s probably not the best idea to take a two-week cruise where you will be fully inaccessible if you haven’t taken more than a day off in recent years. Instead, start small and train your staff and yourself to run the business without you little by little.

Start by giving yourself half-day Fridays when work permits, and leave after lunch to see how your staff does without you. If all goes well, take an entire day off, followed by a mini-vacation for just a few days.

Assess how your employees are able to handle responsibilities on their own, and how much they need to contact you to make decisions before taking a week off or more.

Designate a Leader

They say that when the cat’s away, the mice will play. This especially applies to the workplace, where employees feel they can give themselves luxuries they would never dream of when their boss is at the office.

This is why it’s vital to designate a leader in your absence who will be responsible for overseeing the workplace. Choosing a proven and trusted colleague will help you rest easier, and will let your employees know that work will resume as usual.

Limit Checking In

Although you may force yourself to get on a plane and jet to a new destination, you may not be as relaxed as you would expect when you return. That is because the majority of business owners can’t abstain from constantly checking in with their staff while on vacation.

It’s hard to lay on the beach or take an excursion when you’re constantly checking emails or  are on the phone. Plus, the more you make yourself available, the more your staff members will feel like they can reach out, even for non-vital matters.

Make it clear to your staff that you will only check in once every 24 hours, and that they can only defer to the leader if an emergency occurs and you need to be contacted sooner.

This will allow you to take true time off, while empowering your employees to make decisions without your input.

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