Tag Archives: Employee

Does it Pay to Share an Employee? Four Points

Situation: A company has an excellent bookkeeper. However, during slow seasons cash is tight and the bookkeeper is not occupied full time. The CEO contacted a friend at another company, and that company has hired the bookkeeper for 10 hours / week. This is working well for both for both companies. Are there downsides to doing this? Does it pay to share an employee?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If you share an employee, share at your cost – your fully burdened cost per hour. For the company using a piece of your employee, this may be a significant hourly cost, but is much less expensive than a consultant and lower risk than bringing on an unknown individual.
  • Keep a short term perspective – once the economy improves you will want the individual back full-time. Make sure that this is well understood by the other company.
  • Make sure that this is not a burden on your bookkeeper. Ask whether the individual can handle two bosses. It helps to fully segregate the individual’s time with time rules – for example, by day or half-day with clean break points in time worked for Company A vs. Company B.
  • Overall, the apparent benefits of this situation outweigh the challenges.

How Do You Counteract the Dog Days of August? Three Ideas

Situation: A CEO knows that his employees have been working hard and have been productive all year. Now that we’re coming to the end of the summer, he’s concerned that in the past he has seen an energy drop every August. What can be done to increase the voltage? How do you counteract the Dog Days of August?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Anoint a “Champion of Fun.”
    • The Champion of Fun should be an employee – not management.
    • This may be a team of two people who focus on different things – one for small, day to day activities, and one for big events, like a Habitat for Humanity day.
    • Provide a budget for the Champion. Allow discretion to create excitement around the office or workplace. This includes posters announcing events and other ways to make the most out of each event or activity planned.
    • If out of office activities are anticipated, encourage employees to involve family members if they wish. Maybe a picnic and softball game at a local park, or an early evening of go-kart racing.
  • Create a sense that your employees have some control over their environment. This adds energy.
    • Circulate an Office Depot catalogue and give each employee a budget that they can spend to dress up their space.
    • It’s amazing how much a small investment like this can rejuvenate people and the overall atmosphere.
  • Bring in lunch as a surprise a couple of times during the month. Take some extra time and let people enjoy each other’s company. This is for deepening personal connections, not for lunchtime business discussions.

How Do You Hold High Performers Accountable? Five Guidelines

Situation: A company has a key employee who is a high performer; however the company has not developed a good accountability structure to direct this person. The CEO wants to add additional accountability to cover everyone, both current employees and new people as they are hired. The system should be fair and apply to all. How do you hold high performers accountable?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • High performing employees are essential assets to a company. They thrive on meeting and exceeding expectations. However they need to recognize and accept accountability for the inevitable mistakes or misjudgments that will occur.
  • Lay out the challenge, and ask your high performing employee, and this individual’s manager, to help design the system for monitoring accountability around results.
  • Within position descriptions, include not only the role and expectations within the description, but also expected progressions for development. These should be objective, measurable and based on specific skills or capabilities within the development progression. Gather input from current employees as you create position descriptions, so that they reflect the experience of employees rather than idealized generalities.
  • Set your expectations for new employees appropriately. Expect perhaps 60% of optimal performance early on. As new employees gain understanding of the company and their roles, coach and expect them to increase their performance over time. Provide training to assist their development.
  • James Fischer, in Navigating the Growth Curve, argues that expectations, for the CEO, management and employees, change as a company grows from start-up to a large firm. If a company is small, it doesn’t want the same structure or processes required to operate a 250 person company. Too much structure stifles creativity and growth if applied to small, nimble companies. Institute a level of structure appropriate to the size and stage of the company.

Who Do You Serve – The Customer or The Company? Six Thoughts

Situation: A company’s motto is that they serve the customer first. As an unintended consequence company projects get lower priority and action than customer projects. Frequently, the CEO finds that company projects are only half completed. What have you done to make company initiatives a priority? Who do you serve – the customer or the company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This is a great question. Clearly serving the customer has to be top priority. However, you also have to complete company projects, particularly those which are critical to company function or which will enhance your ability to serve your customers.
  • Define the company as a customer for important projects. Call this “billable hours” to the company and credit them as such on these projects. Accompany this with employee training on how to prioritize “company” versus “customer” projects when priorities conflict. It may take time to work through this, and for the message to sink in.
  • Add completion of company initiatives to the company kudos list. LInk company award eligibility to completion of company initiatives. For mission critical projects, grant double credit for completion of company projects. Adjustment of incentives will help to get the message across.
  • In employee communications, include updates on company projects along with customer projects and give equal or greater emphasis as appropriate.
  • Have you defined your “ideal customer”?
    • Include internal customers within your definition of ideal customers.
    • This will help to clarify and prioritize opportunities and shift the mindset.
  • For mission critical projects hire additional personnel or contractors.

How Do You Manage a Reorganization? Five Ideas

Situation: A company is preparing for a reorganization. The CEO plans to hire a new manager to in time become General Manager of the company. He also wants to terminate two current employees. How do you manage a reorganization?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Develop a 90-day integration plan for the new manager, including his/her top 3 to 5 objectives, and have the individual develop and execute the plan to achieve these objectives.
  • Use an early project to schedule working sessions with each department in the company during the new manager’s first week. This will help the new manager and current employees learn to work together and develop trust in each other.
  • In addition to providing broad objectives for the new manager’s first 90 days, clearly establish behaviors and outcomes that are unacceptable.
  • One of the employees to be terminated is a long-term employee who reports to the CEO but has not performed to expectations. The CEO should take the lead in terminating this person, and offer them a suitable severance package.
  • A junior employee who is not performing to expectations reports to a supervisor. However, the junior employee has repeatedly tried to work around his supervisor by approaching others in the company with his suggestions and complaints.

o    First, make it clear to everyone that the employee’s behavior is not acceptable and that he has to work through and with his supervisor.

o    Then let the supervisor determine whether or not to eliminate the employee, and support the supervisor’s decision. This includes offering a suitable severance package should the supervisor decide on termination.

How Do You Motivate Hourly Employees? Five Suggestions

Situation: A company pays employees based on skill level. Raises are given as an employee learns additional skills. In some cases, when they give an employee a raise, productivity drops. The company has tried other approaches including bonus systems and profit sharing but did not find these effective. How do you effectively motivate hourly employees?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Before trying a new motivation scheme, find out what matters to your employees. It may not be either bonuses or profit sharing.
    • Develop and send out a questionnaire listing different factors – revenue sharing, bonuses, creativity, doing quality work – ask what matters to you? Get their feedback.
    • People work for respect – many studies have shown that as long as the payment offered is fair, salary is secondary.
  • Hire an advocate for your employees – a part-time HR person. An important role for this individual will be to determine what motivates employees, what they want from their jobs, and how improvements in both processes and the working environment can boost productivity.
  • What is the real issue: employee motivation, employee productivity or cost reduction?
    • If material waste is more expensive that labor – create metrics and rewards to reduce waste.
      • At companies that use the Toyota Production System employees receive points for process improvements. At the end of the year they receive a cash payout based on the points earned during the year.
      • Employees are rewarded publicly. The incentives are cash, recognition and respect. These companies find that recognition and respect trumps cash.
    • Depending upon your cost structure, it may be more productive to focus on scrap reduction. Bring in someone with experience who can find the sources of scrap. The effort will pay for itself rapidly.
  • During the hiring process, require educational attainment as evidence of the individual’s commitment.
    • Look for skills experience – machinist, etc. Match skills and experience to your needs. This will lead to faster learning curves and will help to reduce waste.

How Does a Small Company Build an HR Function? Four Thoughts

Situation: A small company has no formal human resources, pay scale or performance review systems. The CEO wants to create a structure to address these gaps, as well as to encourage employee feedback. How do you build an HR function for a company with under 20 employees?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Many small companies outsource HR services. There are a number of firms who provide outsourced HR services, and through them much of the HR activity can be conducted online. Examples include ADP, Administaff, Express Employment Professionals and PayChex.
    • These systems cover all of the mechanics of HR, and help to assure that the company is in step with changing regulatory requirements.
  • There are also a host of individual consultants who put together HR systems for smaller companies. These are most easily found using locally-focused Internet searches.
  • Employees in small companies are used to wearing many functional hats. Hire or assign a manager to create an HR system and implement it once it is set-up. This person will be in charge of the personnel review schedule, changes to regulations and contact with outside HR resources.
    • One company’s HR Manager has a one hour conversation with the company’s lawyers once a year to make sure that the company is up to speed on any regulatory changes.
  • Hire a Director of Operations and include HR in this individual’s responsibilities. This person can research options for discussion by the leadership team. Empower them to bring in resources that will meet the company’s needs.

How Do You Set End of Year Owners’ Comp? Three Thoughts

Situation: A company is a C Corp with several owners. As it is the end of the year, there is an active debate on owners’ compensation. The CEO has looked at a number of options, but would like the advice of others in a similar situation before making a decision. What do you see as the pros and cons of various options for end of year owners’ compensation?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • In one company, profits are split among owners according to stock ownership. This is similar to a public corporation where dividends accrue according to stock ownership. The pro is that it is equitable; the con is that smaller owners who may have made significant contributions during the year don’t necessarily receive the recognition that they may believe they deserve.
  • Another CEO varies owners’ compensation according to company performance. In good years, there is the option to be generous through enhanced bonuses, etc. In slim years it is more important to conserve cash, and quite frankly company performance didn’t justify significant bonuses. The pro is that this offers the CEO more flexibility than the first option to recognize significant contributions; the con is that the recognition of some may seem arbitrary to others.
    • In response to the latter observation, a third CEO sees this as acting like a good father – sometimes you just have to declare your prerogative if employees squabble about your decisions or push too hard for unreasonable requests.
  • The CEO who originally asked the question followed with an additional question – how do you present your compensation decisions to owners or staff who may think that they deserve more than their stock position or company performance over the year allows?
    • This is a facts of life situation – once the final determination is made it is not negotiable.

How Do You Boost Shareholder Value and Liquidity? Five Ideas

Situation:  A company wants to create a liquidity event every 3-5 years. The objective is to increase shareholder value and also create opportunity for employees. How do you boost shareholder value and liquidity?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • What are the important considerations in evaluating different options?
    • Seek partners or investors with whom you have synergy and who will improve business prospects. There must be more than just their ability to provide cash.
    • What is the role of key management and employees post deal? For how long?
    • Are there timing aspects that help to maximize your own valuation? For example, if your business is cyclical, is there a time of the year when the financial picture is optimal?
    • As you evaluate alternative deals, evaluate the M&A fees around each option. Could these funds be used differently with greater impact on liquidity?
  • Technology spinoffs can increase liquidity while keeping the core company whole. Jack Stack describes this process in The Great Game of Business. This is also simpler and cleaner than many collaboration options.
  • Considering collaborating with or purchasing a complimentary company with an office in a desirable geography.
    • If an opportunity appears synergistic, dig to find the depth and value of the synergies.
    • Consider timing options. Are there prerequisites which will increase probability of success?
  • Roll-ups are doable but risky. It is hard to find examples that work. Challenges often come from of cultural issues and lack of compatibility.
  • Look at the experience of similar companies as benchmarks for what you might anticipate from various options.

Do Balanced Scorecards Aid Decision-Making? Three Factors

Situation: A company is investigating Balanced Scorecards as a management tool.  They want to get the perspective of others who have used Balanced Scorecards on how these are used and where they are effective and ineffective. Do Balanced Scorecards aid decision-making?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • To make good decisions in times of uncertainty one needs readily available up-to-date information on the key drivers of the business. Balanced Scorecards answer four important questions:
    • How does the customer view us? (Customer metrics)
    • At what must we excel? (Key Performance Indicators and Internal Business Processes)
    • How do we continue to improve and create value? (Learning/Growth & HR metrics)
    • How do we look to our investors? (Financial metrics)
  • To effectively use Balanced Scorecards employees must be empowered to make necessary changes, and there must be an effective system for prioritizing efforts – so that when a company has multiple opportunities they can decide what to do first, second, and so on.
  • Empowering people to make a necessary change
    • To improve project estimating systems, identify those who are best at estimating project timelines and costs. Have them develop a template of their process, focusing on how they complete projects on schedule. Implement this template across your estimating function.
    • To improve project on-time completion, shift the development focus to calendar and, if necessary, narrow specs to hit the deadlines.
    • To focus scope of work issues, decide test procedures up-front then work on deliverables that will determine whether requirements have been met. From this, develop project assumptions and budgets. Create a template that focuses on internal best practices and clones these for other projects.
  • Queuing Systems & Priorities
    • Define the vision of success. Then drill down to what’s most important. Look at impact of different options on the organization and performance. Finally, force this issue – if we can only do three projects what will they be?