Company CultureGuest Post

A successful business is based on a positive team culture, where every member of the company is looking in the same direction. On the flipside, a business can be brought to its knees by a toxic team culture that divides rather than unites. Here are four things that might be sabotaging your company culture today — and how to fix them.

Your hires and fires

The foundation of your team culture is made up of who you hire. When you employ a new recruit, you’re not just adding a new skill set to your team — you’re also introducing new personality traits as well. Your team is made up of people, so you need to make sure that any new members will work seamlessly with your existing team.

But your company culture is also about who you’ve already hired as well. If even a single employee doesn’t gel with the rest of their team, it can create blockages and conflict that will not only impact your work, but your culture as well.

How to fix it

To avoid this, you should hire personalities, not just experience. While a potential recruit’s skills are certainly an important aspect you should consider, it’s equally crucial that you consider who they are as a person. During interviews, don’t just focus on their past experience. Ask them about their hobbies or their extracurricular activities, simply engaging them in natural conversation to gauge who they are as an individual.

It’s also worth reappraising your existing employees to identify any toxic personalities that might be dividing your team. To move forward as a team, everyone has to be moving in the same direction. If someone is pulling away from the pack, then you should take steps to resolving it before it becomes an issue.

Communication breakdown

When a business doesn’t have an open channel of communication, and its direction and internal machinations aren’t publicly disclosed, team members can feel alienated and even paranoid. This can encourage rumours to spread, which in turn can create a highly toxic work culture.

The key to a positive team culture is transparency and openness. But true transparency acknowledges both successes and shortcomings. By publicly communicating with employees how their business is developing, managers can create a single line of communication that informs every member of the team.

How to fix it

To implement this in your own team, hold regular meetings in which you discuss openly and with candor the direction that your business is heading. And while it’s important to highlight where your employees can do better, it’s equally important that you acknowledge your own mistakes as well. This helps to create a safe, democratic environment in which everyone can speak their mind.

As a manager, communication should be your highest priority. If your employees don’t feel like they’re in the know, then the team dynamic will break down, impacting your work culture considerably.

Expecting too much of your team

Even the most exceptional employees can only manage a finite amount during the working day — some people handle workplace pressure better than others, of course, but everyone has a limit. And beyond productivity limitations, you have unavoidable knowledge or comprehension gaps. If you rate your staff as highly-competent, that’s ideal, but don’t expect them to be polymaths ready for anything you throw at them.

As such, if you ask too much of your team — whether pushing them too hard for unrealistic levels of productivity, or tasking them with projects they’re not equipped to handle — it will inevitably lead to employee fatigue and burnout.

And the problems might not stop there, because such situations are often exacerbated by the presence of different expectations for different staff members. If an employee is often asked to stay late, but frequently sees their manager heading home early, it can lead to a build-up of resentment and even detachment from their work.

How to fix it

As a manager, you will naturally be required to ask members of your team to stay late on occasion — extra hours can be necessary for growing businesses. But regularly expecting this from your employees can have a negative impact on their wellbeing, in turn affecting your team culture. To avoid this, set a rule that prohibits using work devices outside of usual business hours. A mandatory switch-off lets your team separate work and home, giving them some vital downtime.

 

Here are some other general tips you should consider following:

  • Encourage your employees to tell you if they’re getting overwhelmed. Let people know that there’s no shame in feeling swamped and that they needn’t fear for their jobs, then find ways to help them. If necessary, redistribute projects entirely, or arrange collaboration to take the pressure off.
  • Use automation tools where possible. In ideal circumstances, it would be 100% necessary for every piece of work assigned to your team to be handled manually. Eliminate as much work as possible through using automation tools, whether in your security procedures, your design process, your HR, or your general communication.
  • Provide comprehensive training. Software may be more intuitive than ever before, but the digital learning curve hasn’t been eliminated (forget the myth of the plucky entrepreneur shooting to success courtesy of a simple webstore creator and an afternoon of work). Don’t leave your team members to figure everything out themselves — step in to provide training and make sure they learn correctly.
  • Offer additional workplace perks. To raise morale and relieve fatigue, consider introducing regular workplace massages. These are proven to help reduce stress and improve muscle tension and mental wellbeing, in turn enhancing your team culture.

Expanding your business too quickly

When your business expands, it can be easy to focus purely on its expansion rather than on your team. Between focusing on new clients, finding a new office space, and seeking to rapidly bring overheads down, you can end up leaving your employees by the wayside. When a business expands, managers are often required to hire new recruits in bulk. If time isn’t taken to integrate them sufficiently with existing employees, it can create an us-and-them situation that divides your team.

Your employees are the gears that keep your business growing, and it’s important that you spend some time ensuring your team culture is growing along with it.

How to fix it

As your business grows, you should pay attention to how your team is evolving. As new employees join your business, it’s vital that you integrate them seamlessly into your existing team. A good way to do this is through team-building exercises that encourage cooperation and participation.

Many companies shun the usual forms of team-building in favour of more collaborative exercises, tasks that foster a personal investment in their workplace. For example, instead of clichéd corporate retreats, you could encourage a team project. By sharing out the various aspects of the project, you can encourage collaboration in a natural environment that creates a more bonded, positive team culture.

Don’t let your business suffer from a negative company culture. Follow the advice above and create a positive, collaborative team that works both for the business — and for each other.

Kayleigh Alexandra writes for Micro Startups, your source for everything business. From startups to SMEs, Micro Startups is committed to sharing advice, insights, and industry news to entrepreneurs everywhere. Get micro started today and find us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

Company CultureGuest Post

Pop quiz: does your company provide HR or payroll services or both?

While this question comes across as a very dull and obvious one, it is one that more companies should ask before embarking on their HR transformation journeys. This question is more relevant than ever before as most companies are spending a significant amount of time and money on projects, with the hope to ultimately transform their employee experience (EX).This employee experience is significantly impacted by HR services and systems that employees interact with and while not limited to just HR and payroll, they are a peek into the company culture. It can say a lot about your company, and can tell your employees whether they should expect a compliance based culture or one that empowers a partnership culture and engagement where trust is the true social bond between employees and employers and not just a piece of signed paper.

So what’s the big deal and what does it have to do with HR systems?

HR systems are fast evolving from compliance and transaction based databases to ones that are truly focused on EX. In many companies, HR systems are clustered together and words like HRIS, HRMS or HCMS are used as a bracket term that include payroll, in fact the names have continued to evolve leaving everyone confused. While there is no right or wrong answer as far as naming goes, there is a marked difference between systems that are purely for record and process transactions like payroll versus ones that are truly designed to represent services offered to support the EX ecosystem. Systems like HR Partner focus on HR Services that are expected from the employee lifecycle best demonstrated by the Social Workplace by Elizabeth Lupfer.

While paying people accurately and regularly is a hygiene factor, it is not one that is related to EX directly. Elements of paying people accurately do comprise of transactions like applying for and approving leave and timesheets but the mechanics of payroll systems do not have any direct bearing on the employee’s experience of the digital workplace. This is where separating your HR systems supporting your HR service delivery from payroll systems is crucial. And integrating these systems will significantly enhance the employee experience!

Bringing your HR services to life via a digital and clean system user interface tells the current and future employees that you believe in a partnership culture. The digital HR services will definitely bring to life an easy to navigate and social user interface, ease of accessing advice on recruitment, onboarding, policies, culture and engagement polls, and the more transactional elements like leave and timesheets coupled with electronic signatures and cloud document management.

However, there is a word of warning before starting your next HR systems project, if you haven’t mapped your HR service offerings for now and in future, your new HR systems may just become a reflection of payroll transactions that add no value to your employees or their experiences and engagement. And a reminder, users will not shy away from telling you about their experience, a good interaction with systems like HR Partner can generate positivity, whereas a not so great one will perhaps generate greater publicity!

Company CultureEmployee RetentionGuest Post

We’ve all had days at work where we’re stressed. Where we can’t concentrate, and we worry, and our employees and colleagues irritate us and our workstation feels like the worst place to be.

Mental health problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, and many more can have terrible effects on motivation, productivity, and general wellbeing. Mental health problems can also lead to increases in employee absence.

Fortunately, there are many little ways you can relieve some stress, and reset yourself to conquer your next task and feel a little better about yourself while you’re doing it.

1. Deep breathing

Taking some deep breaths while sitting in your chair is quick and free.

Keep your back straight, and inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth and feel the air—and your negative feelings—leave your body. Do this for a couple of minutes. Keep each breath slow and steady. Try to focus on each inhalation and exhalation.

You’ll feel calmer as the stress seeps out of you.

2. Consider a less intense dress code

Sometimes we all just want to wear our comfortable clothes and not worry about working in a pristine formal outfit. Introducing a relaxed dress code in your workplace can reduce stress by granting employees the opportunity to express their personalities through what they wear.

Make sure you canvas opinion from all of your staff to review your current dress code, and accumulate ideas for designing a new one. You might want to consider jewellery and tattoos, too. Many employees will appreciate not needing to hide their ink.

Always make sure your dress code does not discriminate against any persons or groups. And ensure that you keep all policies in your company handbook. Whenever you update a policy, email staff so that they know.

3. Exercise

You could hire a fitness trainer to come in and deliver a fitness class to your staff each week—yoga can be particularly re-energising.

But you could also introduce short breaks into your workplace. The afternoon time following lunch but before employees go home can often be the point in the day when productivity drops. Employees start to feel tired, their bellies might be full, and they’re beginning to check the clock more than they did in the morning, often in anticipation of being able to leave.

To combat this, a 10-minute walk outside in the fresh air could help people refocus their minds for the final hours of their day. If they take their walk with a colleague, a little non-work conversation can really help to distract people.

4. Laugh!

It’s difficult to feel angry, sad, anxious, or even jealous during the exact moment you’re laughing. Laughter soothes tension, helps employees form relationships, and it increases the amount of endorphins that your brain releases.

Laughter’s really good. Having a joke book in the office could be a trivial way of accessing some quick quips. Or, if you feel you need a chuckle to deflate your stress balloon, find the most amusing employee in the office and engage them in a quick chat.

5. Time with your employees and colleagues but away from the office

Perhaps your building has a bar, or there’s a local watering hole nearby. Once work finishes, there’s no harm in a beverage (doesn’t even have to be alcoholic) with your colleagues to wind down, talk about your progress and outside matters like sports, hobbies, and more.

You’ll laugh and learn more about the people you work with while you’re at it.

6. Embrace your creativity

Some of us paint, write, play music, draw—some of us do one, all or none of these.

If you’re a creative person, then keep a notepad nearby. A quick two minute doodle or scribbling down an idea for your next story can really help you to take your mind away from stressful work for just a few moments. After a couple of minutes, you’ll feel lighter and ready to tackle your next task.

7. Music and work?

Some employers let their employees put their headphones on and listen to their music while they work. For many people, listening to their favourite tunes or even a podcast can help them drown out the distractions of workplace chatter and ringing telephones.

Of course, certain employees simply won’t have the opportunity to put their headphones on and block out the world—so perhaps some speakers in the office quietly playing some ambient music instead?

8. Reading

It’s tempting to spend your lunch period replying to text messages and checking the latest news—but you’re surrendering to more screen time.

Get yourself a book. Fiction, a self-help book, a biography, whatever takes your fancy, and aim to read at least five pages while on your lunch break.

You’ll be focusing so much on the escape of another person’s world that you won’t even remember being stressed. And who knows, you might enhance your vocabulary while you’re at it!

9. Ensure you have a healthy lunch

An intense workload is going to cause stress, and clotting your body with unhealthy, sugary food might seem like great instant gratification. However, most jobs provoke a sedentary lifestyle, and a healthy diet will help you keep your weight down, your skin feeling clear, and even promote hair growth.

Not to mention, preparing a healthy lunch can be an exciting activity the night before! Many people find themselves stepping into cooking for the first time when they’re making tomorrow’s lunch.

10. Plan your day

It’s easy to jump from one task to another and make progress without actually completing anything. Create a to-do list every morning, or the night before if you think it’d work better for you, and list the tasks you need to get done during your next shift.

Make a list of realistic tasks, and supplement it with bonus tasks that can wait until another day. If you finish the realistic tasks, move onto your bonus list.

But remember to be aware that stress happens, often without you realising. Take breaks, breathe deeply, listen to your favourite songs, and pack a healthy lunch.

 

Editors Note: This is a guest post from our friends over at BrightHR in the UK.

time tracking solutions
Guest Post

The following article is a guest post written by our friends over at TimeCamp.

Time tracking is one of the many ways to optimize your company’s time management process.  

When implementing time tracking in your company, it is important that common questions are addressed, as it can sometimes raise doubts in your employees. Questions like, “Why is our company installing time tracking software on our computers? Do they not trust us?” This is just one of the concerns employees may have.

Below we’ve presented ten key ways to correctly implement time tracking software at your company and quell any fears your employees may have.

Explain to employees why it is important to implement time tracking software

During the course of everyday work activities, it is easy to forget that monitoring takes place. This can cause employees to lose sight of project budgets, decreasing productivity in the process.

Time tracking reduces the risk of going over budget. As a manager, business owner or employee, it’s critical to be up to date on time spent on each project. Time tracking software does this automatically and increases project efficiency.

Explain to employees how they should monitor short activities.

When I go out for a coffee, should I clock out?

When I have a 5-minute phone conversation, how should I monitor it?

I often help my colleagues with their problems at work, but how can this be measured?

If people in the company do not know how to report these activities (or their superiors have no idea how to), the time spent on particular tasks may differ from reality.

One of the simplest ways to manage this time is to select appropriate tasks from the desktop application automatically. This makes switching between them incredibly simple.

Ultimately, however, the manager is responsible for determining what activities should be registered for relevant projects or tasks.

For consistency, only let managers create projects and tasks.

Over the years, we have identified a common problem among many companies that use time tracking.

Businesses often have trouble with accurate time reports for individual tasks or for a variety of different projects.

This problem typically occurs when employees create their own job titles. Because of this, it’s a good idea for businesses to limit the number of people who can create tasks, e. g. have managers do it, who would then communicate these task names to employees.

Communicate the importance of monitoring time spent on each project.

If you want to measure your employees’ working time, consider providing them with an easy-to-use tool (such as TimeCamp).  This makes it easier to get accurate time tracking readings from all employees.

You should also explain to them that failure to properly monitor time spent on each task could cause greater confusion and more work for them later on.

Assign people to enforce time reporting.

In some companies, especially in those where everyone is their own “boss,” making the switch to time reporting will likely cause a bit of irritation for employees.

It wouldn’t be surprising that, after a few days or weeks, some employees fail to report their time. To make sure your reports are accurate, consider ‘promoting’ a team project time manager who enforces this new requirement. You’ll see more accurate reports if you do.

Follow the company’s work monitoring rules.

Every day there should be one person who spends a few minutes, sometimes seconds, to make sure the application is being used correctly and that timesheets were filled out on the previous day. This prevents inaccurate reporting across the board.

Streamline the process.

Before you start implementing time tracking, it’s a good idea to hold a meeting where you answer any questions your employees may have about the process. If you later find that the tools aren’t being used properly, you can then adjust your strategy accordingly.

Streamlining this process begins with proper time tracking, but a key component is communication. Keep your team up to date to gain the greatest benefits of this new strategy.

Show employees the value of time tracking.

Correctly implementing this time management strategy benefits your entire team. Be sure to reiterate how awareness can increase productivity and ultimately, lessen their workload.

Discuss how budgeting time for projects can make their job easier, and demonstrate it with readily accessible time reports.

Once employees understand the value of this new strategy they’ll be more likely to pull their weight.

Make it clear why you’re using the application in the first place.

A manager’s responsibility is to define the outcome of any changes they propose. Employees too must justify their objections.

Time management and monitoring should be more than just another ‘rule’ they have to follow. It should be embedded within your company culture itself. Focus on the profits and outcomes of better time management and you’ll see better results from your employees.

Facilitate your HR department.

The right time-tracking strategy should eliminate or reduce your HR department’s role in keeping track of time spent on holidays, overtime, and special projects.

For many companies, Microsoft Excel remains the primary time tracking tool. There are many other applications that allow HR departments to export data to Excel (including TimeCamp) so be sure to explore all options for the best results.