Expert Advice for Small Business: Susan, Michael, Sabrina

Exclusive insights, analysis and advice from the brightest minds in small business.

Susan Solovic is THE small business expert. She’s an award-winning, serial entrepreneur, media personality, and a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today bestselling author. Solovic has spoken to thousands of small and mid-sized businesses around the globe and helped build multi-million dollar businesses.

Straight from Susan—
Right now, no matter the type of business you’re in, or the size of your organization, your company is at risk of becoming irrelevant. Why? Business owners and leaders get stuck in their current business models and fail to keep pace with changing markets.

How do you avoid this pitfall to protect your business and maintain a competitive edge?

You need to build innovation into your company's DNA. Your business should be agile and flexible with an ability to adjust in real time.

Tapping into the creativity of your company's team is one way to help you identify new opportunities and initiatives. However, if your staff members all look and think the same way, it's difficult to unleash real creativity. Diversity is critical to an organization's ability to innovate.

A Harvard Business Review article notes a body of recent research that says nonhomogenous teams are smarter. When you work with people who are different from you, you’re challenged to think in different ways. You shed your stale ways of thinking and are pushed out of the autopilot habits that have limited performance. We’realways talking about thinking “out of the box”; it’s impossible to do if everyone a t the table thinks alike.

Additionally consider this, a 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean. And those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

There is one more important element to consider in today's changing workforce— generational diversity. Millennials (born between 1982 and 2000), now out-number Baby Boomers according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This change in demographics is having an interesting impact on the workplace.

Millennials and Baby Boomers often clash when working together. Baby Boomers view Millennials as unmotivated slackers, while Millennials see Baby Boomers as rigid and out-dated. But each group can bring much to the table, learn from each other, and help your organization become more innovative and creative. The bottom line is, Millennials are the future of business.

We're always talking about thinking "out of the box"; it's impossible to do if everyone at the table thinks alike.
Susan Solovic
THE Small Business Expert

4 tips for building a diverse team that gives you the edge

  1. Hire for life
    You can’t build a great, highly performing business if you don’t make the right hiring choices from the beginning. Having the wrong people on your team comes with a significant profitability cost. A high turnover in personnel can result in significant costs and can cripple your business. Solution? Make the right hires and give them a reason to stay.

    Provide incentives for them to work hard and contribute to the company’s vision. Make employee satisfaction one of the key factors you measure in your business. Companies with a competitive edge hire for the long-term not just for an open position. They want someone who will perform well over time.
  2. Looking for a good cultural fit (not just skills)
    Technical skills can be overrated. Prisons are full of criminals who are proficient technically.You can teach skills. By the time men and women are adults, it’s virtually impossible to teach character and values. Every organization needs employees who mesh with its core values because values drive business decisions. Employees who do not adhere to a company’s values end up diluting them. It’s important to screen your job candidates for a good cultural fit. The CEO of Zappos says he will fire someone regardless of their job performance if they aren’t living up to and subscribing to the Zappos values.
  3. Give real-time feedback
    Business leaders in highly functional companies today are providing real-time feedback to employees. Regular one-on-one meetings allow for the setting of priorities, a discussion of achievement and some coaching and development. Additionally, peer performance review is scheduled regularly in an open environment. While some team members may be reluctant to participate, strong business leaders train employees for those “hard conversations” by explaining their importance to the company’s growth.
  4. Encourage and reward creativity
    Once you have the right players on your team, you want to give them the best opportunity to succeed. That means they need time to think. It's critical for innovation. If you have too much on your plate, there is no room for creative ideas.To make sure team members have inspiring work, Google provides an allowance for 20 percent “free time.” This program is responsible for some of the company’s most innovative products Including Gmail and Google Suggest. Disney established the Clear Blue Sky initiative that gives funding to staff members so they can develop their own ideas.

Michael Parrish DuDell is an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and bestselling author. He has been ranked as one of the top three most popular business authors by and named “one of the nation’s leading Millennial voices” by IBM.

Straight from Michael—
As technology flourishes and the workplace grows increasingly remote, collaboration and cultural challenges will only continue to mount. But where there’s challenge, there’s also opportunity. In a 2014 survey, 86% of American employees and executives cited a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication as the primary culprit for workplace failures.

The 3 top strategies for fostering intergenerational collaboration

  1. Start building 360-degree mentorship programs
    72% of Millennials want to be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss, 79%would want her to serve more as a coach or mentor.
    The Intelligence Group
  2. Embrace flexible work policies
    Some people scoff at unlimited vacation days, but I could put up a pretty strong fiscal argument that allowing your employees to take unlimited vacation days can save you money as a business and earn you more respect from your employees.
  3. Use tech to improve the feedback process
    In 2016, IBM introduced Checkpoint—a platform that allows people within the company to give feedback to other employees across the organization.

Meet the newest generation of workplace collaborators — Millennials

  • There are more than 40 million in the workforce today.
  • They’ll make up more than 75% of the workforce by 2025.
  • The average tenure for a Millennial employee is roughly two years.
  • 87% of Millennial workers took on management roles in the last five years.
  • The average Millennial will have more than seven jobs before she turns 29—a third of which will last less than six months.

From hiring and training to growth and development, this new breed of employee is thinking about their careers in uncharted ways. While much has been written about this cultural shift, perhaps the most important take away is the reconceptualization of work in a more fluid, project-based environment. For many, the chasm between personal and professional is beginning to narrow, and the result is a worker who views her job as more than just a paycheck but as a fundamental extension of identity.

A recent study by Capstrat—a leading strategic communications firm—found that 72 percent of Millennial employees are willing to sacrifice a higher salary for a more personally and professionally fulfilling career.

Additionally, a report from Deloitte Global found that 60 percent of Millennials chose to work for their current employer partly because it offers a "sense of purpose.” Not surprisingly, this unique approach to professional success has created a plethora of complications for organizations that are used to abiding by more traditional metrics, set forth by Baby Boomers and Generation X. It’s also creating friction for managers who are being asked to recalibrate in real-time, often resulting in a fractured culture and higher employee turnover.

This, of course, poses a significant challenge for companies of all sizes and can greatly affect the bottom line. Recent estimates suggest that the costs associated with replacing a mid-level employee equate to nearly 150% of the worker’s annual salary.

But where there’s challenge, there’s also opportunity.

Recently, I hosted a webinar with ShareFile designed to help business and leaders create truly collaborative companies that traverse the barriers of age and experience. From how to create self-sustaining 360-degree mentorship programs to simple strategies for applying legacy leadership principles in an increasingly remote workplace, you’ll learn the tools, tips, and tactics that anyone can use to empower high-performing teams and organizations.

It used to be that adulthood was the end of all foolish things, like living your dream. But Millennials don’t want financial obligations to stop their pursuit of happiness.
Jeffrey Arnett
Clark University

Sabrina Starling, PhD, PCC, BCC is The Business Psychologist™ and author of “How to Hire the Best.” She specializes in transforming life- and cash-sucking businesses into highly profitable, great places to work.

Straight from Sabrina—
If you struggle to attract qualified applicants, you're not alone.  But as a small business, you may be able to offer the one thing top-tier talent wants more than anything else— true work/life balance.

What do the best employees want?(Hint: It's not always about the money)
If you've been assuming it's "better pay," you may be surprised to learn that's not the only way to attract and keep great people. In fact, money only goes so far as an incentive.

Small businesses are much better positioned than larger companies to meet the work/life balance needs of their employees.

Why? Small business owners can flexibly address work/life balance with their employees. Larger organizations tend to take a one-size-fits-all approach to this issue, which is very frustrating for employees.According to Stewart Friedman, professor of Management and the founding director of the Wharton School's Leadership Program, "It's not an uncommon problem in many HR areas where, for the sake of equality, there's a standard policy that is implemented in a way that is universally applicable - [even though] - everyone's life is different and everyone needs different things in terms of how to integrate the pieces. It's got to be customized."

Many of the successful business owners I have interviewed for my book, "How to Hire the Best", are doing just that, but not in a formalized way. It's just who they are. They care about their employees when various circumstances arise in the lives of their employees.

If this is something you are already doing,it's time to "toot your own horn" and make it more widely know that this is a benefit of working for you.

Did you know nearly 70% of employees are not fully engaged?

3 secrets for hiring top talent:

  1. Clarify the one result
    Before you hire a new employee, ask yourself “if this person can only do one thing in a given day or week, what is that one thing?” Next, get crystal clear about how that one thing ties into the profitability of your business.
  2. Envision your ideal employee
    The # 1 competency that you need to hire for is resourcefulness. That is what differentiates the A-player from the rest of the employee population.
  3. Build an employee referral incentive program
    A-players always hang out with each other. Reach out to your current A-player employees and ask who they know who fits the personality traits and core values you’re looking for. Offer an incentive program to them, not your warm bodies.
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