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,...

Six New Year’s Resolutions for your Small Business

Just as your resolution to eat more green veggies can lead to a healthier body, resolutions to improve your company’s practices can lead to a more successful business. Keeping these business resolutions through the year, in spite of the major tests to your willpower that you’re bound to experience, will not only inspire success, but it will lessen the blow when you inevitably fall off the kale and broccoli wagon. Develop company culture Company culture is your business’s personality, and is defined by the environment in which your employees work and the ethics and goals that your business represents. Culture is key to recruiting and retaining talented, motivated employees, but it is also a quality that must be actively nurtured and developed by you and other members of management. You can create company culture by encouraging inclusiveness, kindness and enthusiasm. Lead by example in promoting company ethics and attitude. Define a mission that your employees can align themselves with, so that they’re not just punching the clock but working towards a larger goal. Set goals Use that company mission to set some specific short- and long-term goals. Use the acronym SMART to guide your goal-making. SMART goals are specific (clearly defined), measurable (milestones have been identified), attainable (realistic and manageable), relevant (aligned with your business model and mission), and time-based (given a hard deadline). Define best practices First, make sure you’ve outlined the processes and methods that your employees should use to help your company succeed. Then, make sure every person affiliated with your business knows and utilizes these best practices. For specific tasks, outline a clear order of...

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...

Debunking three myths about HR managers

HR are the Office Enforcers Yes, it’s the job of the human resources manager to police many aspects of the office, but that doesn’t mean they spend their workdays lurking in the shadows of your cubicle, waiting to catch you in the act of rule-breaking, or actively searching for disputes to regulate. It’s more accurate to compare their regulating role to that of a sports referee, whose job is to step in only when needed to ensure the game continues to run smoothly. Enforcing office policies is a small part of an HR manager’s role, anyway, and they’re often very busy with the other facets of their position. HR can help you negotiate your pay While your human resources department often plays a part in payroll, promotions, hiring and firing, the individuals working in HR don’t exist to help you negotiate these touchy subjects. Don’t discuss how much of a raise you seek or how generous of a severance package you deserve. Of course, they’re constantly working to ensure these issues are handled fairly, but they can’t share and freely discuss these details with individual employees. Human resources just hires and fires Human Resources does have a role in choosing new hires and letting employees go, but they also fulfill many other duties that keep the company running smoothly. They help interview potential employees, handle payroll, make sure all state and federal employment guidelines are being met, and meet with managers to find out employee needs. It’s also their job to design and manage employee training. This is a crucial part of their job because if an overseeing organization,...

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 organizing the corporate Halloween party

Falling leaves, shorter days and chillier mornings signal the onset of autumn and the approach of the season’s sweetest holiday: Halloween. It’s an occasion for assembling a creative costume and indulging in candy—and why should children have all the fun? If you’re in charge of organizing your company’s office parties, you’re probably in the midst of planning some sort of Halloween celebration. And while these festivities can provide a morale-boosting diversion from the typical workday, it’s important, when throwing company-wide events, to ensure that the fun is good-natured and inclusive. Here are a few tips for throwing a Halloween party that’s both lively and workplace-appropriate. Specify costume guidelines Creative getups are an essential part of Halloween, and, therefore, most Halloween parties. Just make sure all employees are on the same page about what sort of costumes, if any, are expected at your company Halloween party. No employee wants to be the killjoy who doesn’t dress up. But it’s equally horrifying to enter the office decked out in full costume while everyone else is in business attire. Avoid confusion by sending out a company memo outlining the nature of this Halloween celebration. Tell employees there will be prizes for the most creative costume, the most colorful costume, or the best homemade costume, to provide parameters for their costume selection. Schedule a start and end time for the party so everyone knows not to schedule client meetings during this time. Use your best judgment to help employees avoid offending their coworkers with their costume choice. Every company culture is different, but it’s better to be overly cautious and specify ground rules...

Three common scenarios that require employee training tracking software

If you occupy a role in upper management or human resources, part of your job entails ensuring all employees are properly trained as well as managing the repercussions if they are not. You and your business will, at some point, encounter one of several scenarios that not only require that all employees meeting training requirements, but that you are able to provide proof of that training. Tracking employee training with powerful software instead of spreadsheets and documents will allow you to navigate these scenarios more smoothly. In the case of an accident In certain industries, workplace accidents are inevitable, and they can cause impacts and complications that are potentially damaging to your company. Even if employee negligence or company practices aren’t to blame for such accidents, providing standardized employee training can mitigate the chances of accidents occurring. If an accident does occur, having documented records of that training can protect your employees and your business. If legal issues arise due to an accident, you will be able to prove that your company did everything within its power to ensure that employees were correctly certified and trained to industry standards. In the case of an audit Many industries require employees to meet certain training standards as outlined by the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA standards require employers to train employees in the safety and health aspects of their job, to   ensure workplaces are free from serious recognized hazards. New employees must complete this training within the first few weeks of being hired, and refresher training must be completed annually. To ensure businesses comply...

How Employee Training Improves Office Culture

The most obvious results of investing in Conductor’s employee education training tracking software are the skills and knowledge your employees will gain from the program. But equally important are the emotional benefits which, in turn, boost overall office moral and culture. Here are several ways employee training creates a more positive office environment. Hire the right people If you don’t list your employee training as a perk when advertising open positions, you should! Many adults get caught in a cycle of completing their daily tasks and rarely have time to devote to learning new skills, so they recognize the value of an employer who will offer free education that is also directly related to their respective field. Not only will you attract more applicants, but you’ll attract the right kind of employees: those who view education as a valuable opportunity. These people are naturally curious, proactive, and motivated — soft skills that will help them to not only excel in their daily tasks, but also motivate fellow employees to do the same. See confidence rise Employees thrive when they know what is expected of them and feel they have the knowledge to fulfill those expectations. Standardized training makes them feel prepared for situations they might encounter during the workday, and that feeling of preparation boosts their mood and confidence. Improve in-office communication Every person in your company has a different background, and therefore a unique skillset and knowledge base. Overall, this is advantageous, because it gives your team a greater variety of tools and approaches to solving problems in order to fulfill company needs. But it helps to first...

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...