Criteria for Selecting Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For

Workforce Watercooler

Fortune Magazine just released it’s 2012 Best Companies to Work For.  The new rankings haven’t changed drastically from those of 2011, with Google, SAS, BCG, Wegmans, and NetApp remaining among the very top.

How does Fortune select these companies? Well, the companies are actually evaluated by The Great Place to Work Institute, using an interesting model which you can see here.

The model says that what’s most valuable to employees are the following criteria: Trust, Credibility, Fairness, Pride, Respect, and Camaraderie.

What do companies do to facilitate this trust, credibility, fairness, pride, respect, and camaraderie?  If you look at the descriptions for each company, you’ll find that they reward them financially, communicate, and boost morale (for more on how to do these things, click here).  Basically, they value their employees and they show them through their actions.

What other specific qualities make a company a…

View original post 5 more words

The Radical Idea of “Musical Chairs”…with Your Employees

Changing jobs often is becoming increasingly acceptable. According to an article published this January by Fast Company contributor Vivian Giang , job hopping every 3 to 4 years is beneficial to not only the employee, but the company as well. The benefits include renewed perspective and fresh, innovative ideas as well as increased skill development and resourcefulness. The longer an employee stays stagnant in a position, the more likely they are to become disengaged and comfortable in their work.

Insert the idea of “musical chairs” with your employees. Let me give you a visual…the music is going and going and everyone is going and around and doing their job. The music stops and everyone scrambles to “their seat”. In this game of musical chairs, none of the seats are actually taken away rather you are not allowed to return to the comfort of the seat you are used to. How fun would the game be if you knew, as soon as the music stopped (even with your eyes closed) you would return back to your original seat? At some point, would you cease to even get out of your seat?

The idea is to leverage job hopping internally with your employees to not only cross-train, but to discover the magic combination of talent to positions to reach (and exceed) business objectives and foster continuous growth.

The benefits to such an idea are as follows:

Employee

  • Develop additional skill sets
  • Enhance current skill set
  • Leverage old knowledge or currently unused knowledge/skills
  • Increase ability to adapt and adjust to change faster
  • Increased sense of value to the company

Employer

  • Increased organizational efficiency
  • Reduce costs by leveraging internal talent
  • Maintains productivity for absentee coverage
  • Staffing becomes more strategic
  • Boost motivation and loyalty by investing in employees’ career growth

 

Employees are essentially cross-trained to either perform a variety of tasks in multiple roles within the organization or at least possess the knowledge of internal processes/departments to better serve the customers and clients. Overall, the practice is essentially creates competitiveness by design and inimitability through talent and service.

 

Need help with developing your team? Diamond Strategic Management Design can help. Contact us here

Read This Before You Consider Firing Your Problem Employee

Have you ever had or been that employee that just couldn’t get it together? Constantly late? Seemingly unhappy with the job or company? At the time, it may seem that the only resolution is to part ways. But, wait…

First, realize that the dissatisfied employee is not alone. As a matter of fact, they are part of the majority. According to the 2016 State of the American Workplace Gallup poll, 67% of those surveyed either hate their jobs or are completely disengaged. Sadly, that number hasn’t budged much over the past decade and a half, remaining between 67 and 72 percent since 2002. Why is that? The key is in the answer because it is estimated that lost productivity, stolen goods, and missed days of work cost the U.S. nearly $500 billion each year.

The troubled employee is either displaying passive aggressive behavior or outright complaining about his/her job or the company. Why shouldn’t you fire the employee? They have valuable information! Only they hold the true key to unlocking this mystery and with the statistics above, firing them may only result in a twin replacement. As a manager, executive, or business owner it is your job to find out if their unhappiness is personal in nature or if there is some substance displeasure that warrant a closer look and strategic action.

If they are in fact passive aggressive or have not expressly stated their issue, the best place to start is by asking why they are unhappy or what is the problem? That may sound simple and easy enough, but if they are already unhappy and disengaged, it may take some investigation and creativity to get them talking (or writing). Once they do, BE OPEN and LISTEN. A shocking, 96% of people do not voice complaints to the company involved, most of them simply walk away and never look back. The danger in them walking away is that you may never know the reason, how to fix it, and with whom they will share their experience. If you don’t know, you can’t adjust, adapt, or grow.

Approach the employee and issue with this in mind: When an employee is engaged and their needs (basic needs, individual needs, teamwork needs, personal growth needs) are met, they are emotionally and psychologically attached to their work and workplace. Subsequently, their individual performance increases and they drive their team and organization towards improved critical outcomes. It is guaranteed that the dissatisfaction lies in one or more of their needs not being met.

Out of your dialogue with the employee or employees you may glean an opportunity for individual coaching or a fresh look at some necessary changes. Do not be afraid to address the elephant in the room! If at the end of the conversation it is determined that the employee and the department or organization are not a good match, then be willing to admit it, help the employee understand it, and help them to find something else that fits. Ultimately, the key takeaways should include lessons learned and an action plan for both parties.

Is Customer “Service” Dead?

With the majority of businesses knee-deep in automation, the Internet, and technology, it is no wonder why customer service comes into question. Take the supermarkets for instance, it appears that nearly half of the lines are self-check out. The others are split between cashier and “express”. Sure, self checkout may be more convenient and somewhat faster. But how many times have you almost punched the machine because you scanned an item and placed it in the bag, only to be asked to remove your item and scan it again? Or your coupon didn’t work? Or you scan an item twice by accident? And the list goes on and on…. The point is that the technology is ideally more convenient, efficient, and cost-saving, but there is still need for human interaction and assistance.

Automation, Kiosks, Online, Outsourcing are all great ways of streamlining processes and better serving the customer. The transition seems to blurred the focus on the customer. The push to constantly become “faster”, “better”, “stronger” has removed us far from the personal touch customer service once had.

There is still hope! Business has transformed, therefore the approach to customer service management (CSM) must follow.  Enter the era of customer experience management (CEM). The customer experience engages a unique combination of the five senses and technology creating a lasting memory for the customer, leading them to return again and again. Invite customers to see, touch, taste, smell, and hear your business. An experience is more memorable and sensory than “service” (it’s a deeper connection).  According to Forbes contributor, Stephen Diorio (2016), successful customer experience strategies are inclusive of physiological, physical, or environmental tools.

Chick Fil-A, Disney, Starbucks, and Marriott are regularly praised for their attention to detail and creation of exceptional customer experience.

Here is the difference between good customer service and lasting customer experiences:

CUSTOMER SERVICE  

 

VS

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
“Hello, I’m Susan. How can I help you today?” “Hello, I’m Susan. May I call you Mrs. Jones or is there another name you prefer to be called?” “Ok. Mrs. Jones, I see you were having trouble with X on our website, is that why you are calling us today?”
Customer stands and waits for meal to be ready. “Order 154”. Order placed on counter for customer pick up. As customer awaits order, he/she is offered a seat and complementary beverage or small appetizer as they wait. “Joan, your order is ready. See you next time. Have a great week.”

 

The above examples are simple things that can make a big difference. Are you creating a customer experience or simply providing customer service? Start with a thorough review of where in the process your business can not only add value, but increase the customer experience. Then, create a corporate culture of exceptional client/customer experience and tolerate nothing less. You won’t end up out of business but, you will end up with talent who want to be there (for more than just a check) and those who are there to serve your customers.

In answer to the leading question, “Is Customer Service “dead”…The short answer is no. Customer service is not dead. Customer service is the caterpillar that has transformed into the customer experience butterfly!

Thinking about your business or industry, what can you do to keep that personal touch and ramp up your customer experience?

 

Looking to create an experience that will make your customers tell all of their friends and keep them coming back? Contact Diamond Strategic Management Design here.

Breakfast with a Side of Feedback

As a process improvement and customer service enthusiast, inefficiencies stand out to me like a marker in a haystack. I like to call these inefficiencies “opportunities”. Unfortunately, when opportunities and feedback are presented in the business setting, they are sometimes ignored.

Here’s my recent experience:

A few weeks ago, on early on a Sunday morning, I stopped in at my local IHOP restaurant to grab takeout for my all day meeting. It was around 9am so it wasn’t super busy inside (ikely because church hadn’t let out yet). There were a few wait staff scurrying around, a hostess, and an associate at the checkout counter. I was greeted by the front desk associate and offered a menu. I  placed my order, sat down, and observed as I waited.

The counter associate was taking telephone calls, telephone orders, and walk in orders as well as cashing out checks. I watched in awe as she was a jack of all trades. Business quickly picked up during my 20 minute wait and the line stretched to the inner entrance door. The look on her face screamed “help me, I’m overwhelmed!” Unfortunately, no one came to her aid. Finally, a very frustrated customer standing in line spoke up.

“Is somebody going to come and help her? This is ridiculous. She’s answering the phone, taking orders, and cashing us out. I mean, look at this line. You got waiters standing over there patting their heads and then you’re just standing there!” – Angry Anonymous Customer

This customer expressed her frustration to the hostess, whom I actually think may have been the manager on duty. The hostess simply stood behind the podium and indicatedthat there was nothing anyone else could do, “only one person can use the register.” I continued to watch in amazement. I understood everyone’s frustration. I was also appalled that no one did anything to relieve the line or the team member. The circus continued on as I grabbed my food and left.

The opportunity to recover the customer experience right way was lost in the moment. I left there with the impression that the team is disjointed and fail to support each other in crucial times. There was very valuable and crucial information in that angry customer’service feedback. To me, it screamed “where is your teamwork? Do you care about me? Do you hear me?” Managers and team members, treat your customer feedback as if it were a diamond. It is!

What are your thoughts? Have you been the customer or team member in a similar situation? How did you handle it?

5 Signs Poor Management is Ruining Your Team

Teams are made up of a diverse group of people, all with their own unique set of values, talents, and experiences. With that, there is no surprise that issues may arise. There are many reasons that the team dynamic could be off, but could management be one of them. How do you know if management, or lack thereof, is the reason your team is fizzling? Look for these five signs…

Communication

In any team, communication is the key to being a well-oiled machine and getting things done. It is often said, communication is a two-way street. Although cliche, it is very true. In instances where team members refuse to communicate with each other or are only communicating via email/text, the message can become distorted. Email and text communications have no emotion, no voice inflection, and no body language to help the reader understand the meaning. At the first sign of a communication breakdown within the team, there should be measures taken right away to address or correct the issue. If the team cannot “self-correct” this issue, a communication issue should never be ignored. It is the managers’ job to intervene, pinpoint the underlying issue(s), and facilitate a resolution.

Other communication issues include mixed messages and gossip. As yourself: Is the team receiving mixed messages? If members of the team interpret the same message differently, the answer is yes. The most obvious team communication issue is team members speaking negatively about each other behind their backs.

Why is this a management issue? Because, whether or not team members are able to openly and clearly communication with each other is reflective of the manager(s) above them. For example, if the manager is regularly in their office with the door closed, it would be hard to notice or even address any communication issues. As previously mentioned, these types of issues should be addressed right away. Avoiding or ignoring them, like the elephant in the room, will only give them more time to snowball into bigger issues.

Micro-management/Do-overs/Double-work

A manager should not be performing any tasks that are the responsibility of anyone else on their team. Unless, of course, the team member is out and the manager is covering for them. Roles and responsibilities should be clear to everyone on the team. All team members should be clear on their role and responsibilities as well as accountable for such. The manager should not feel compelled to assign a task and then complete it themselves or go back over it to do it their way. This is not only micro-managing and double-work, but it creates an air of distrust, showing the team or team member that they are not trusted. Management should ensure that there is clarity on directions and deadlines for assigned tasks and follow up only after the deadline has passed. Otherwise, be clear that the team members are encouraged to reach out should they need help or wish to give updates.

If a manager finds that they are wasting time (yes, wasting) micro-managing or re-doing work, there may be opportunity for individual or group coaching. First, the manager may need to do some reflection to see if these wasteful practices are self-inflicted or an indication that some processes need improvement.

Burn-Out

Yes, burn-out is a poor management concern. Both Forbes and Harvard Business Review have identified employee burn out as a company issues and not an employee issue as once believed.

An excerpt from HBR states: “The psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees, which cost an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the U.S., are just the most obvious impacts. The true cost to business can be far greater, thanks to low productivity across organizations, high turnover, and the loss of the most capable talent. Executives need to own up to their role in creating the workplace stress that leads to burnout—heavy workloads, job insecurity, and frustrating work routines that include too many meetings and far too little time for creative work” (Garten, 2017).

Aside from creating unhealthy team members, the team is also at a greater risk for losing team members completely.  Teams and team members suffering from burn out or severe stress are a sign that roles and responsibilities need to be realigned, processes need to be improved, and/or the team is understaffed.

Singled-Out

The word team indicates togetherness and a common-goal. With that in mind, no one team member should feel singled-out. Nor should cliques within a team be acceptable (or overlooked). Cliques and loners create a divide in the team and often an “imaginary” hierarchy.

Again, departmental or work unit culture comes into play. When management becomes aware of these types of disconnections, critical conversations and creative solutions to get the team aligned are key.

Inefficient Processes

Process improvement should be a regular occurrence in every department, work unit, and business. Process improvement helps to eliminate waste, increase efficiency and effectiveness, and create best practices. Everyone on the team should be trained to recognize opportunities for process improvement, how to report them, and document recommendations.

Inefficient process in a team indicate that the team manager is either not as vigilant as they should be, the team is not properly trained on process improvement, or the team is not empowered to improve their own work processes.

 

Ultimately, these five team issues are reflective of poor management because the manager sets the culture for the work environment. If you are on a team or managing a team that is displaying any of these issues, take some time to assess the underlying causes and a plan to realign. It is never too late to regroup, however the longer these issues linger, the harder it may be resolve them and get back together. Even losing “problem” team members and adding new ones won’t fix the issue.

 

What are your thoughts on Poor management and Team issues?

 

Are you having team issues and looking to rebuild or realign? Diamond Strategic Management Design can help. Reach out via my Contact page or at http://www.diamondstrategicmanagement.com

How to Run a Successful Business (SHOCKING Answer)

document-428338__340

 

As I continue to research and immerse myself in all that is business, there are multiple facets to and varying opinions on the best way to run a business successfully. Not surprising of course. The quick and dirty answer to the very vague title of this article is DON’T! (insert abnormally long and deep gasp here). Right, I said it, don’t run your business. Those in leadership positions (senior, executive, and mid-level managers) get so caught up in numbers, organization, systems, and traditions that stepping outside-of-the-box is out-of-the-question. This is especially true in large organizations.If black represents you running your business and white represents your business running you (into the ground), there is a huge grey area that represents the happy (less insane) medium.

You don’t have to do everything or know everything. Even if you founded the company from the ground up and are the mecca of all SME’s in business, you are not expected to know everything. Unless you are a robot running on solar power with backup batteries (and not food and coffee), then you shouldn’t be doing everything either. Outsource and delegate. Assuming that you have hired the staff you have working under you and under them and so forth and so on, you have a high level of trust and faith in them to get the job done. If you have anything less than a high level of trust and confidence in them…we’ll get to that in the next paragraph. Let those you have hired to do a job, do the job. Empower them to make decisions and changes within in scope. Sit down with them and define to which extent their powers go. If they fail to perform, over and over….we’ll get to that in the next paragraph as well. Micromanaging only annoys the hell out of your direct reports and stresses you out even more. If you are a solo-preneur or one man army, technology, interns, apprentices, and virtual assistants are your saving grace.

Don’t be afraid to shake things up. I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ recent podcast episode featuring the fascinating Ricardo Semler, radical businessman and CEO of Semco Partners. Semler discussed how and why he went into his newly gifted company and fired 60 percent of the managers. To make a long story short, he transformed the company from struggle to success. For those employees that do not uphold their duties and responsibilities and can’t handle seamless decision-making, let them go. Another, more radical, alternative is to find them a position in the company that better fit their knowledge, skills, and abilities. The move may save some ill-feelings and increase their loyalty and performance. Regarding processes, there’s a saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix”. Completely wrong. Just because you have been satisfied with a certain process or way of doing things, does not mean it is the most efficient or effective method. I will repeat, don’t be afraid to shake things up. Processes and goals should be evaluated at minimum bi-annually. Evaluations should be taken seriously.

Don’t avoid change. Change equals growth. Now, I know what you’re thinking…”Megan, how the hell does change equal growth if it fails?” Great question. Here is the thing, in business, we are sometimes so scared of failure that we will remain stagnant to avoid the disappointment. My advice, get over it. You may fail. You may not. But you will not grow if you do not change. You find a business “sweet spot” and just stick to it. The world around your business, your market, your products, your competition, your systems, your talent pool, your employees…I could go on and on, but you get the point. All of it is in constant motion. Your business must be able to quickly adapt and change to remain competitive and relevant. So look change in the eye and tell it you are going right through it! Change your systems and processes, develop your talent and hire new talent, and look at your products or services from the customer/client perspective. If the change(s) result in failure, great! Get up, brush your shoulders off, and learn from it!

So, my final question to you is….how do YOU run YOUR business? Share your thoughts and comments below.

Thoughts on Motivation, Entrepreneurship, and Implementation

“Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” – Guy Kawasaki

Searching for some inspiration this morning, I came across this quote. I took it at face value kept going. Then I started thinking more on it and its (almost) dual meaning. First, (literally) it is effortless to come up with ideas. Take dreamers for example, they can have tons of ideas about how to do things, change things, fix things, create things, how to make the world a better place, and even  what they want to be/do with their life. The problem lies in the motivation to actually do any of it.
Doing (implementation) is NOT effortless at all. It takes work, time, planning, and (sometimes)financial investment . I fully understand those that are not interested in being entrepreneurs because if you aren’t dedicated from the start, lack the drive,  and don’t have a strong WHY (motivation – doing it for the right reason) your implementation and follow-through will suffer. Realistically, everyone is not built for entrepreneurship.
And that is OK! My second take on this quote,   pure entrepreneurship at its best. If you are a dreamer or “ideas” person, but you are not good at implementation or don’t have the passion to carry it out, sell the ideas! You can sell them right out or for royalties. All ideas and no implementation!
A step further, if you have the financial means, it may be worth the investment to going into venture capital too.
That’s my 2 cents for the day…Share your thoughts, I’d love to read them.

8 Key Areas Companies Should Continue to Evaluate for Waste

In any business, waste is costly. The last thing a business owner or leader wants to do is find that they are wasting time, money, or resources. In the spirit of being thankful, mindful, and strategic, here are 8 key areas that leaders should continually evaluate for waste.

Inventory

Often times, when we hear the word “waste” in reference to business, we think of inventory. Each piece of inventory (purchased, stored, or manufactured) has an associated cost. Are you ordering too much? Are you ordering the wrong products? Do you have very low turnover rates on a certain material? If so, these are wasteful inventory practices. You have identified wasteful inventory practices that should be reassessed and adjusted to eliminate waste and increase efficiency. I would suggest starting with making a list of the underutilized equipment, slow moving products, expired supplies or products, and products or equipment that moves too fast or not at all. Search for alternatives, but do not sacrifice quality for cost.

Talent

Talent waste can be present in several forms: (1) under utilizing a person’s skills, abilities, and resourcefulness; (2) misunderstanding regarding roles and responsibilities; (3) delegating or assigning tasks without adequate training or resources; or (4) failing to obtain and leverage ideas from those connected to the work. Talent waste is risky because not only can it cause bottlenecks in the workflow, but it may also foster other forms of waste. Talent waste can be a contributing factor in employee turnover or result in companies losing some of their most talented and loyal employees. Try engaging with your employees about where they want to go in their careers as it may present an opportunity for you, the employee, and the company. Aside from merely having staff meetings and annual (or semi-annual) performance reviews, have individual annual discussions to specifically discuss individual personal development plans (i.e. skill development), succession planning, or career development. Also, try small work-groups that focus on the efficiency of processes in the department or work unit.

Motion

Bending, turning, reaching, lifting, up, down, back, and forth. Motion waste is any excess movement, by employees or machines, which does not add value to the process, service, or product. For example, your office is on the 7th floor, the printer is on the 4th floor, and the fax machine is located on the 3rd floor. How much motion and time is moving from floor to floor? Congratulations on the extra exercise, however the extra motion is unnecessary and the space between the three areas does not add any value to the work that needs to be completed. Take note of the most used or necessary items, note their distance apart or from your workstation, and rearrange them accordingly. Repeat this evaluation at least semi-annually. If you cannot rearrange the placement of these items, this could be a business case for change.

Waiting

Do you spend countless minutes or hours on hold? Or even waiting for someone to provide you with an answer via phone call or email? Time spent waiting for parts, information, next steps, instructions, people, or equipment is a waste. The end result isn’t the waste, it is the time spent waiting because that time could have been used to complete the project or ship the equipment. The wait can also create unwarranted stress on the person(s) waiting (the customer or the employee). This bottleneck can also be the cause of monetary waste or loss. If you are the manager or executive, have employees track their most common sources of stoppage. If you are the employee, take the initiative to track these blockages and present them to your manager with alternatives or solutions.

Searching

I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve been asked for a specific person’s contact information or the name of the person assigned to a specific position, only to spend hours trying to locate the correct information online or by calling around because there was not a readily available employee database or organization chart to refer to. This is a classic example of wasted searching. If a customer poses this question, do you have the resources or information available to provide the answer or point them in the right direction? The time and energy spent looking for misplaced or misfiled materials, information, equipment or people is searching waste. In your work, where do you find yourself searching? How can that be fixed or at least reduced? Are databases (internally or externally) needed? Should a point of contact be established as a subject matter expert? Maybe the solution is the implementation of a new workflow to reduce searching.

Defects/Rework

In the manufacturing industry, defects can cause damage to not only to the brand’s reputation, but also the consumer. Incomplete or sub-par components overlooked or passed along the process can snowball the impact of the initial defect. Examples include General Motors’ ignition glitch, Toyota’s bake recall, and Takata’s airbag recall. In other industries, how a customer is treated along their journey can also be considered defective. For example, a customer calls into the help line and is handled poorly by the representative. This customer is then passed along to another department and treated poorly again. What message is being conveyed to the customer? The time and resources it may cost to rework, scrap, or correct the documentation for these products, services or processes that do not meet expectations or needs, may save lives and the reputation of the company. Clearly define the standards of quality for your product or service. Ensure that all employees are adequately trained to perform the service(s) or manufacture the product(s). Additionally, prepare employees with the education and tools to be able to quickly identify, report, and/or correct defects.

Variation

How consistent is the work or services being output by your department or work unit? Is there one consistent way to perform a specific task? Lacking a consistent way of performing work that should be standardized or processes that yield varying or unpredictable results is waste in the form of variation. Collaborate with those that do the work to identify best practices. Evaluate these practices for efficiency and effectiveness. Align those best practices with the goals and objectives of the department or company. Implement the new process and train employees.

Over-processing

Over-processing is simply doing more than what is needed or expected in a process. Often times this is a result of the creation of multiple versions of the same task (variation) or ill-designed processes.

Think about your company or department. Look for the following:

• Poor communication

• Excessive or duplicate reports

• Numerous signatures

• Re-entering data/replicated data

• Insufficient or lack of standards

• Misinterpretation or misconception of customer needs

All of the above increase the use of your time, resources, and (most importantly) costs. Draw and analyze your processes (try using a Fishbone diagram or something similar). Standardize procedures and workflows, and empower employees. Also, consolidate or eliminate excessive documentation, sign-off procedures and meetings.

Overall, waste, in its various forms, can hinder a company from being able to achieve their objectives because it limits resources (including time and money) and does not add value to the overall goals. Take the time to comb through processes, obtain input from those that perform or are affected by the work, and implement necessary changes.

Welcome…

For many, this cup would be filled with piping hot coffee or tea to get the day started. There’s even a popular meme that says “put your hair in a bun, drink some coffee, and handle it”. It’s actually my Screensaver. The irony is that I don’t actually drink coffee. So, the above cup is actually more representative of how I start my day; with the nutrients I need to “handle it”. Nothing more, nothing less.

This cup is also metaphoric. The cup is your business. Are you weighing it down with unnecessary filters? Coffee, sugar, and thick buttermilk pancakes. Empty calories. These are processes, products, services, or people that don’t add value. On the contrary, is your business lacking the depth or adequate resources or talent to flourish? Is it stagnant or stifled because you’ve filled your “cup” with tea and toast? Furthermore, did you make note of the saucer and table that this cup is resting upon? Look at the size of the saucer and texture of the table. Is the table empty?  If you can’t or don’t  regularly think outside of the box and evaluate internal and external characteristics, you are not leveraging key opportunities.

Your cup may runneth over, but are you getting burned or simply picking up the few small pieces that got away and moving on?

Food for thought…

I welcome your perspective in the comments.