Productivity Hacks for Small Businesses

Create a healthy company culture Counter to outward appearances, an employee who is diligently hunched over his or her computer screen is not necessarily a productive employee. Many people accomplish more quality work throughout the day when they take breaks and prioritize their mental and physical wellbeing. As a small business owner, you can encourage this behavior by creating a company culture that emphasizes health and happiness. Stock the break room with healthy, energizing snacks or beverages. Provide your employees with standing desks and hold walking meetings outside. Create comfortable collaboration spaces throughout your office building where employees can convene to share ideas. Not sure what healthy hack to implement first? Try setting up a ping pong table in an unused office or in the corner of the break room. It’ll bring employees together, which will lead to employee bonding and, hopefully some idea generation. Use digital tools Streamline your workflow with powerful digital tools. Here are a few to get your started. Asana Asana allows you to organize tasks, projects and conversations. Users can be grouped into teams—i.e., sales, marketing, and development—and each user can see assigned project and tasks. All tasks and projects are stored in one place with clear due dates, benchmarks and assignees. If you just want to give it a try, you can download the free limited plan for 15 people. Slack Slack is a messenger service that will streamline in-office communication. At its most basic, it is an instant messenger in which employees can chat directly or in groups. You can also create communication channels organized by topic using hashtags. Slack is great...

Three ways small business owners can save money

Go paperless The cost of endless printouts can add up, so explore ways you can go paperless. Internal handouts, receipts, and other documents and communication can all be digitized. Not only do digital files cut down on paper costs, but they are easier to store and organize long-term. Rethink your marketing Having a small budget for self-promotion doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing your marketing efforts. You just have to be smarter about how you spend your ad dollars. With new technology and communication platforms constantly emerging, there are plenty of opportunities to spread your message far and wide at little to no cost. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are entirely free for businesses to use. You can put a small advertising budget behind social media posts to ensure they reach a wider audience, but you can accomplish the same goal organically simply by creating high-quality content on a consistent basis. Think of your small budget as a blessing in disguise, because you can’t simply rent out a roadside billboard or produce a cheap television commercial. But you can write blog posts, speak at local events, start a podcast, or populate a company YouTube channel with videos shot on your phone. And in utilizing these free communication outlets, you’ll establish your business as a relatable, helpful industry thought leader rather than a stuffy, glossy brand. Automate when possible Time is money, so make sure you’re using your time wisely by automating tasks whenever possible. You can automate certain aspects of your digital marketing, like social media posts and emails. You can also automate parts of your customer service,...

Improve your employee training by following adult learning principles

What do you take into consideration when designing your employee training plan? You probably analyze the needs of the company and the specific position first. However, to ensure your employees get the most out of their training, you must also build a program that aligns with principles of adult learning. Applying these principles, known as Adult Learning Theory, will greatly improve the effectiveness of your employee training curriculum. The differences in how adults learn versus how children learn have been extensively studied. Malcolm Knowles’s Theory of Andragogy outlines the way in which adult curricula should be designed, centering around five adult learning assumptions. Self-concept When possible, adults should be encouraged to direct their own learning, because they are at a mature development stage. Past learning experience Adults have decades of experience on which their new knowledge can build. Readiness to learn Adults are more likely to view learning as an opportunity rather than a chore, because they’ve experienced the value of knowledge in their careers and daily lives. Practical reason to learn Adult learning should be goal-oriented because adults return to learning for specific reasons, such as gaining skills to progress their careers. Internally motivated While children are driven by external motivations such as punishment or reward, adults are driven by an internal desire to gain knowledge. Based on these assumptions, Knowles states that adult curricula should be designed following these principles: Because they are self-directed and self-motivated, adults should be given some say in the process and content of their education. Adult curricula should take into account past experiences, and build on that prior knowledge. Curricula should focus...

Tips for handling time-off requests around the holidays

With the holidays approaching, employees are planning their trips to catch up with distant family members or escape to tropical destinations. While it’s completely understandable to want time off between Christmas and New Year’s Day, if every employee leaves town that week, there will be no one left to keep the business running. So, when the time-off requests start trickling in, it’s up to human resources personnel to manage these requests in a manner that’s fair to both the company and its employees. As an HR manager, you want to grant every time-off request that comes in, because you know firsthand that taking time away from the office to spend with loved ones allows you to recharge and be more productive when you return. But it’s always not feasible to give every employee the precise time off they request, so here are some tips to handle these requests fairly. Ensure the company’s time-off policy is understood Make sure all your employees are aware of the company’s time off policies, and the manner in which time-off requests are granted. You can inform employees of this when they’re hired, but it’s not a bad idea to send out an annual reminder via company memo. That way, when the holidays approach, employees should know to plan ahead and comply with the company time-off policies. Grant requests in a fair manner The best approach is usually to grant employees’ requests in the order in which you received them. If seniority does play a role in receiving PTO, make sure this is known by all employees, so no one gets the impression that you’re...

Tips for Onboarding and Training Remote Employees

Digital and technological advancements have greatly improved remote communication, and therefore made it possible for employees in different locations — or even time zones — to work together seamlessly. The ability to hire remote employees improves your workforce by allowing you to bring on the best person for the job, regardless of his or her physical location. Follow these tips to correctly onboard and train remote hires. Consider creating a remote-hire package If you have multiple remote employees, it might be best to put together a resource package for remote hires containing relevant contact information, passwords, names and titles, and anything else they might need to work with one another each day. This will avoid back-and-forth communication and, thus save time in the long run. Arrange an in-person introduction, if possible If the employee lives reasonably nearby, arrange for him or her to come to office headquarters for a few hours or a half-day prior to starting employment. Remote employees can feel disconnected from the business and its mission, so letting them tour the facility and meet their coworkers in person will help them feel part of the team. Your remote employee will get an impression of the company culture, as well as other employees’ communication styles and personalities, which will then greatly help future collaboration. Plan a video call if the employee can’t meet in person If logistics or distance make it impossible for the employee to get acquainted with the team in person, schedule a video call to facilitate that necessary meeting. Introduce each member of the team to your new employee, but don’t make it too...

6 Steps to Creating a Quality Onboarding Process

Hiring new employees requires a lot of time and resources. And when these new employees leave, it makes a big impact on your bottom line. This is why it is important to onboard new hires methodically and resourcefully. New employees leave for various reasons, but many potential issues can be prevented by setting new hires up to succeed with effective onboarding. Here are six steps to creating a quality onboarding process. Plan for Pre-boarding Reach out to your new hires before their actual start date. If new hires aren’t hearing from you between accepting your offer and starting, you’re already getting off on the wrong foot. Whether it’s an email from the HR department or a quick but welcoming call from the manager, make sure there is some sort of introduction before they walk through the doors on the first day. Give them a structured schedule. Make sure your company is prepared for the new hire. Scheduling their entire first week or two in advance has many benefits. It gives them the impression that you care and you are an organized company. They also won’t be wasting time at their desk all day wondering what to do next. While they don’t want to feel micro-managed, they need a push in the right direction.  Use a shared calendar to create a daily schedule with tasks, and as they start to feel more comfortable in their new position, slowly make their calendar less rigid. Set expectations now. Now is not the time to be vague. Be clear and set expectations early and often. Set well-defined role responsibilities and required performance goals...