Tag Archives: Environment

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 Set Appropriate Expectations? Four Suggestions

Situation: A CEO asks: How do you help people appreciate the difference between where they want to be verses where you need them to be? How do you help them understand the realities of career and financial potential that have been set for your company? What do you do to help your employees understand what has to happen before they get to the next step? How do you set appropriate expectations?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The current labor market has yielded a different employment environment compared with 20 years ago. Many new hires are either:
    • Young – without long term expectations or perspective;
    • Possess an entitlement mentality;
    • More seasoned and possibly looking toward retirement; or
    • Have personality challenges.

 This is just current reality and will last until the next contraction.

  • If you have a clear policy on compensation and promotion you are way ahead of the game because you can communicate this clearly at onset of employment. If you don’t have this, create it and make sure that it is communicated consistently to new employees and during all employee reviews.
  • Once you have established and communicated a clear policy on compensation and promotion the question becomes, on an individual basis, whether an employee “gets it” or not. If they don’t, perhaps your company is not for them.
  • Is there value to stock options as a bonus?
    • If you are a public company, they have value because stock options are tradable within legal guidelines.
    • If you are a private company it’s a different matter. Other than as an emotional boost, without a liquidity event the stock has no value except for possible periodic distributions against shares held.

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.

Are Your Folks Getting Offers from Others? Five Thoughts

Situation: A company’s employees are increasingly getting offers from other companies. They believe that they have a good team, a good work environment and offer a competitive pay and benefit package. However, they are concerned that the job market in Silicon Valley is heating up. How do you keep your employees on-board when they start receiving offers from others?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Make sure that your wage and benefit scale continues to be competitive. The Silicon Valley Index, published by Assets Unlimited in Campbell, is the best local survey covering Silicon Valley and the San Francisco technology market.
  • Survey after survey finds that compensation is basically a hygiene factor – it has to be good enough so that needs are satisfied, but it isn’t one of the more important factors in retention. The Gallup Organization has determined that respect, challenging responsibilities, and personal recognition are much more important factors in employee retention. Be sure that you are actively involving your key personnel as leaders in formulating and updating your processes, and that there are plenty of opportunities for recognition and celebration for your staff.
  • If you are generating a profit, share this with the employees as an incentive. This may well be better spent in fun and team-building activities like a weekend in Tahoe for a team, or supporting their creative needs by sponsoring their efforts in engineering design competitions. Whatever is appropriate for your company, involve your employees in setting company performance goals and give them a voice in determining how achievement should be rewarded. Making them part of the process builds better long-term loyalty.
  • On the sales side, establish a reward incentive structure for bringing in new business for the company to prompt field personnel to develop and exercise their business development skills.
  • Whatever you and your team decide, be sure that your choices support your overall strategic plan.

How Do You Build A High Performance Environment? Three Steps

Interview with Paul Limbrey, CEO, Elkiem USA

Situation: Leaders who are successful in the long-term have figured out how to build high performance environments. This enables them to continually produce breakthroughs by stimulating the performance of others, and to rise above their competition. What are the factors involved in building a high performance environment?

Advice from Paul Limbrey:

  • Our work is based on 20 years of research into high performance in individuals and organizations. First one needs to understand the dynamics that stimulate high performance in people.
    • Our research indicates there are several elements that combine to form a system that stimulate improved performance in populations. These elements include concepts addressing Direction – Achievement, Failure and Strategy, providing Status of current performance, and Motivation – reason/purpose plus reward/consequence. The final unifying element is the culture or guiding philosophy in an environment.
    • On a company level, the first task is to understand these dynamics as you have created them today. This enables you to see where you need to tweak your environment to better stimulate high performance.
  • How consistent is high performance across difference fields of human endeavor?
    • We find that all elements that encourage high performance exist in all environments.  However the potency of each element varies with the particular environment.
    • For example in some environments the Goals are more potent (Sales groups or athletes). In others culture is potent (the Military or companies like Southwest Airlines). In others the reward systems are most potent (Investment Banking) or the potential for failure (airline pilots or first responders).
    • Any of the elements can stimulate performance improvement.
  • How does one go about matching the right system and solution for a particular company?
    • Start by focusing on the potency of each subsystem – Directional, Status and Motivation – in your particular environment. How critical is each in shaping decisions and action taken?
    • Take the example of a CEO who has no vision for the future of the company. The result is inconsistent decisions day to day or week to week. The organization can’t focus on effective execution. The solution is to focus on Direction.
    • What about the CEO who is concerned with complacency. This is best addressed by looking to define what represents sub-standard more clearly for the organization.
    • If you have an “excuse rich” environment or desire greater accountability, look to your status or “exposure” systems to provide more accurate performance status first before looking toward your consequence systems.

You can contact Elkiem at usa@elkiem.com

Key Words: Leadership, Strategy, Performance, Environment, Success, Goals, Compensation, Measurement, Values, Behavior

What Is Changing The Game in Network Security?

Interview with Philippe Courtot, CEO, Qualys

Situation: Companies experiencing security breaches and data theft are regularly in the headlines. Those launching these attacks are increasingly well organized and very creative. What is changing the game in network security and how can you respond?

Advice from Philippe Courtot:

  • The movements from enterprise software to Software as a Service (SaaS), and from mainframes to PCs to mobile devices increase the challenges of protecting enterprise environments. Therefore, a cohesive technology platform is imperative.
  • Companies are sensitive to the possibility of attack at any time. There are three principal attack vectors: breach through web applications, breach through email and browsers, and breach by device. Between PCs, iPhones and Android devices, the PC is the most closely linked to the corporate intranet while often the most vulnerable because users are lax about updating their systems and applications.
  • Attackers often target a company executive or high level administrative assistant to access the user’s profile and passwords.  In one type of attack called spear fishing, the attacker creates emails tailored to the person targeted appearing to come from a colleague or friend. When the target clicks on the email, a small piece of code is inserted in the computer, which can give control to the attacker. Another way to gain control of a computer is through physical access. An attacker can learn about a pending vacation via Facebook or twitter, providing an opportunity for home invasion. Once the attacker has access to the computer, they can plant a control program on the system. When the user returns, the attackers can make fast, brief forays inserting additional code or taking data from the enterprise network. They may use the information themselves, or sell it to others.

Given these new realities, how does a company prevent attack?

  • First, the company must thoroughly analyze and understand their vulnerabilities which are all potential entry points for an attacker. Once vulnerabilities are mapped, work on a schedule to remediate them.
  • Second, you must educate all users about the threats. This is especially critical for any personnel who have access to secure company data.
  • Third, invest in and build additional defenses to shield all remaining vulnerabilities. Make sure that employees are drilled on the defenses and that they are used. One growing trend is the use of two factor authentication, requiring employees to carry token generation devices with them to use in addition to their password. These tokens can be delivered by smart phone.

You can contact Philippe Courtot at pcourtot@qualys.com

Key Words:  Network, Security, Breach, Data, Theft, Response, Mainframe, PC, Mobile, Enterprise, Environment, Criminal, Government, Attack, Vector, Social Network, Email, Browser, Web, Application, Device, Spear Fishing, Executive, Assistant, Profile, Password, Vulnerability, Educate, Defense, ID

How do you Manage a Multi-generational Staff? Nine Suggestions

Situation:  Employee pools are now multi-generational, with Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Echo-Boomers. Each group may have different expectations for work environments and careers. How do you connect with different generations? How have you set up mentoring programs?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • People may be of different generations, but they are still individuals. Ask what drives or motivates them, and what they would consider an ideal reward for hard work.
  • Some companies offer a sabbatical after several years of employment – the opportunity to work on hobbies, go on an adventure or use the time as they wish. This attracts employees and encourages retention.
  • Some employees don’t seek promotion but are good contributors. They may prefer an extra week of vacation over a promotion.
  • One company gives employees budgets to spruce up their work space – allowing them some control over their work environment.
  • What are good tips on working with younger employees?
    • Coach them to communicate thoughtfully and carefully – instead of shooting from the hip without considering impact or consequences. Younger managers may find that they need more patience communicating expectations to older staff.
    • Establish individualized performance metrics and enable them to monitor progress on their computers.
    • Bring them into the process; don’t tell them to wait. Let them start as an observer. Listen when they have questions or suggestions. Ask their opinion.
    • Break down job tiers into additional levels with more achievement incentives. Allow them to reset expectations frequently.

Key Words: Multi-generational, Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, Echo-Boomer, Expectations, Environment, Career, Mentor, Motivation, Reward, Sabbatical, Incentive, Communication, Performance, Expectations