INSIGHTS

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How To Encourage Creativity In Your SME Team

Innovation (or it’s close-cousin, creativity) is a key concern of businesses in the SME world, with the BIS (SMEs: Key Enablers) finding that those who invest in this area have significantly higher growth rates than those who don’t.

Yet many report that they are unable to fulfil their potential due to internal blockers. Here we examine how you can go about releasing some of these barriers with your internal team:

Change the scenery

I find I have some of my best ideas when I’m on holiday – and I doubt that I’m that unusual in this respect. Because at this point, my brain is roaming freely. Unhampered by lists with items such as  ‘Kids mufti day on Tuesday’, ‘Pay VAT’ and ‘Order no.2’s passport’…

But assuming you’re not making the latest Guinness advert, sending everyone off to a desert island to let their creative juices flow is probably not on the budget list. So instead, change the scenery and check out Hirespace to find somewhere unusual and cost-effective that will help everyone see things from a different perspective. Because if you are going to spend some time reflecting on how you could do things better, take time out in a place where people don’t normally work. 

Offer encouragement

People are more likely to come up with ideas if they think they will be welcomed. I’ve avoided using brainstorming sessions in this list as I’ve never found them that useful myself, but the principle of having ‘no-judgement’ on any ideas offered is a good one. So encourage others by thanking them for their suggestions, maybe asking them to work it through a bit more and giving them praise for doing so.

But don’t try and incentivise them with the reddies

Whilst I am sure that if you told people you’d give them a tenner for every idea they came up with, the list may be long (and of questionable quality), research has proved that for complex cognitive tasks, incentives can actually drive worse performance on these kind of tasks. So ditch the cold hard cash on this one and instead reward people with a memorable experience for their contribution instead.

Mix your team up a bit

Diversity encourages creativity and innovation and discourages group thinking (the type you get when all the people in the room have similar backgrounds, schemas etc). So the case for inclusion in terms of the people you actually include in your team to drive ideas is strong. This can be difficult to change overnight (for more information on how to actually go about this in your business, take some tips from the blog post, The Unusual Suspects: How To Do Diversity In An SME) but how about including your customers in the process if they are willing and able? As prime beneficiaries of any new product or service, I am sure many would be keen to be able to input if it had benefit to them. Plus you get to build up a better relationship with them in the process.

For more great tips on how to grow your own skills as an SME leader, in our FREE eBook : Leadership 101: Your Ultimate Step by Step Guide To Being An Inspirational Leader

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Photocredit: The Shopping Sherpa Soft Pastels

10 Ways To Help Your First Time Managers Become Superheroes

When someone steps up in their team and changes their role from that of a technical specialist to managing a team, it’s a really special moment for them. One that can be a wee bit scary sometimes too…. But definitely exciting. There are definitely those who take this change in role in their stride, who seem to possess the innate talents needed to help motivate their team, be able to gain their respect quickly and manage situations with diplomatic aplomb. But for most a little help is needed to get them on their way….

Aside from sending them on a training course to learn about ‘management techniques’ (and a word of caution with these, if choosing this route, make sure you find a provider whose public courses share your style of management culture as otherwise, attendance can have the opposite effect to that desired!), there are plenty of ways in which you can use your expertise and experience to set your new team members up on the path to success, which will help your manage your business better and free you up to have more time focussing on the strategic parts of your business. After all, you wanted to delegate, right?

  1. Be clear to them on what you expect from them in terms of management style and content: from what reports, stats and updates you expect through to how often you want to meet with them to have 1-2-1’s. Your actions here will help define how clearly they manage.
  2. Establish and articulate clear your goals: you have your company vision, you have your company values and goals. But don’t expect your new managers to be able to communicate these well to the team if you haven’t done so first!  Communication of your aspirations from the top level to the tiniest level will only enhance the magic for your team.
  3. Encourage them to spend time with their teams really getting to know what they want: they may already know the team from being a peer/ side by side on a project, but spending time finding out what their long term career goals are, is probably unlikely conversation from by the water-cooler and worth the time to find out.
  4. Let them know that management is not about them: they may be desperate to prove how great they are in their role as manager, however ultimately, if you are managing people, it’s all about the team. “A great boss takes all the credit for any mistakes made and none of it for the successes”, is what I was once told…
  5. Provide them with tools and resources for them to manage: if there is budget for team building, make it clear on what it is. If there is no budget for any team building, make that clear too.
  6. Keep the door open: give them time to talk through situations as they arise, making clear your door is always open and that there sometimes will be situations that arise that are better dealt with two-heads than one
  7. But recognise that someone might not make the right call in any given situation and don’t come down on them too hard when they do!
  8. Provide regular, quality informal feedback: you can do this by regularly checking in with the new manager and feeding back to them what’s great and what they can improve on.
  9. Encourage them to seek ideas and feedback from their own teams: a team with a new manager might be a little nervous however nerves and fear of change can be eliminated if they are encouraged to be ‘part of’ that change.
  10. We are the Champions!: Make sure that every person has got a champion for their career in the business to help them to discuss their own career aims and development goals. If you don’t have enough internally and your budget will stretch, find one externally to provide this support.

If you want to find out how TheHRhub can help your new managers get to grips with their new role without flailing, then book in here  for a no-obligation chat. You’ll walk away with a clear idea about what you need to do next and how this can help your business immeasurably.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

Photocredit: Superheroes

How To Motivate Your Sales Team (Without Just Focussing On The Money)

We all know that a motivated sales team is critical to the success of any business. The relationships they build with your clients and customers create the foundation of your business — not just in terms of individual sales, but also your overall reputation and growth.

So how can you motivate your sales team without just focussing on money? There are many different ways to motivate a sales team. Some companies use a traditional sales structure with set targets and commission paid in line with reaching these. Others go the “fun” route with contests, trips, tickets, dinners and other innovative rewards. All of these things are great and have their place but in my experience sales professionals need more than gift cards or event tickets: they also want to succeed in their chosen profession by climbing up the ladder whilst having a fun and dynamic environment to work in.

In the past traditional rewards of lower base salaries with a commission structure sitting alongside it (typically based on number of sales) have been commonplace. The majority of salespeople are used to a system that rewards only the top sales performers, however the tide is turning (and arguably has already turned). More recent trends show that employers are becoming much more savvy and imaginative when it comes to rewarding their sales teams.

Some companies are now following the trend of using reward systems that reward the individual that tries the hardest. Dan McGraw, founder and CEO of Fuelzee, said that one of the best ways his company learned about motivation was by rewarding the sales team for ‘no’s. “Every time someone got a ‘no’, we tracked it in our system, and the person with the most ‘no’s received a $100 gift card every week”, McGraw said. ”This might sound crazy, but you get a lot of no’s when doing sales. The more no’s you get, the closer you are to getting a yes. The prize of getting a yes is way larger than $100, so you still wanted to get there. This nearly doubled our outbound calls and motivated the whole team.”

You might think that a scheme like this could detract from your biggest sellers, but don’t worry, managed properly it won’t and it will simply act as a motivator to those who have the potential to get to a top spot in your business by providing them with recognition as they progress through the business.

Create a fun working environment. For some salespeople, the ability to have a little fun during work time is as much of a motivator as money (remember that your salespeople are working long hours and are in the office for a large proportion of their week) Common rewards for reaching sales goals or benchmark include leaving work early, attending a happy hour or maybe giving a trip to reward success over a long period of time.

Fun in small spurts can be just as rewarding as the financial rewards you offer. Rick Hanson, VP at Hewlett- Packard has said that his company uses Fantasy Sales Team to award points to “players” (sales reps) for carrying out their daily tasks, like increasing a pipeline or closing a deal. The unique twist is that the reps don’t just compete as individuals, Hanson said: they build teams just as in fantasy football. “Reps earn points for their FantasySalesTeam based on the performance of their chosen peers and friends, and this creates an environment of encouragement and pressure amongst the players” he said. “To win the game, they must rely and push on each other to perform. Even more exciting is just how many reps in our sales organization can, and want to, participate”.

Personally in businesses where I have worked you ‘hear’ when a sales representative succeeds. For instance, a closed deal results in the playing of a song of the salesperson’s choice, and sometimes a subsequent team dance (!).

Create Competition and take advantage of your team members’ natural competitiveness as a way to engage your people, boost morale, and make work more fun. Competitions are also excellent for improving performance during slow periods. Focus on a strategic business goal that you all need to meet. Devote a wall in the office to the contest, and post news about wins, display real-time updates and standings, and celebrate achievements. To make it more interesting and valuable, offer a small prize or reward.

Ask your team members what they would like to receive, or use your own judgment to come up with something creative and remember that it doesn’t have to cost the earth!

Take time to celebrate the good times and recognize success publicly. Jeremy Hudson, director of sales at Logic Supply’s motivational secret is “When the wins come, we celebrate them. It can be as simple as a shout- out on the sales floor, an email message to the whole company to recognize the efforts, or on occasion I will request that the CEO take them out for lunch.” Getting the ‘big dog’s’ involved in some of the rewards and incentives can work wonders as your sales team are likely to value some dedicated face to face time with a Director.

Career progression is a simple cost effective way to motivate your sales team too. Although the fun and financial rewards often work, for some sales employees, the ultimate reward is the opportunity to get ahead in their careers. Intrinsic motivators such as development and personal growth play a huge part with a competitive sales team and so don’t underestimate the power of offering training, and development opportunities, showing that you are supportive of allowing them to develop their skills to help move them to the next level or win that promotion (download our complimentary E-book on rewards for more information on intrinsic and extrinsic here).

The simple things can also have an impact on your sales team’s motivation. The majority of employers now offer table football, ping pong tables and similar activities to their staff. And although you might not think that a Ping-Pong table for the office would push people and drive behaviours, I would recommend that you try it, from my experience these types of incentives can make a real difference.

Try to think outside the box and try simple, one off recognition schemes. Colleen Stanley, president of SalesLeadership Inc., believes that email is nice, but a handwritten note is much more meaningful because it shows you’ve taken time to find a card and write a personal note. “I have seen cards sitting on a salesperson’s desk, however, have never seen an email propped up.”

You could also consider sharing content across your sales team. If you have intellectually curious salespeople on your team share with them a cool book, podcast, video or blog – something that you have personally found helpful and really enjoyed. Just be sure to pick topics that are relevant to the jobs or your industry to keep it ‘on point’!

When it comes to understanding how to motivate your sales team there is no simpler approach than asking them. You can do this via a survey, face-to- face or through team meetings but make sure that they understand that by giving their suggestions does not mean that you will put the reward in place. Gather ideas and suggestions and consider what works best for your business, employees and your culture.

These are just some of the ideas you can use to motivate your sales team without just focusing on money. Try to keep things fresh in your business and consider what your employees want to see and use this as a basis to generate new innovative ideas. By offering a variety of rewards, you stand a greater chance of having a motivator for every personality type on your team and developing all of your salespeople into top-tier team players. When your goals and their goals align, only the best things can happen.

For further information or advice and support on motivating your sales team join us at www.thehrhub.co.uk.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Work Placement

The idea of giving young people the opportunity to get a taste of the world of employment can be an appealing one, for many reasons: it can strengthen your reputation; give you an immense amount of satisfaction; ensure that you’re playing your part in creating a skilled workforce for the future. Not to mention give you an extra pair of hands.

But it can be a complete minefield. I recently went to take on an apprentice as was shocked by the sheer bunch of paperwork I had to complete to do this properly. When you get down to the nitty gritty though, it can become tempting to ditch the idea completely. The process traditionally involves a ton of red tape and jumping through hoops, so however good your intentions, it can sometimes just seem like too much hassle.

Things are changing though, and many business leaders can see the value of creating opportunities for young people. Here, we explain what you need to know to move forward.

Step outside the notion of a one-week placement

Back in the day, work experience would involve young people taking a week out of formal education to work a 9-5 role with a local employer. Nowadays, things are much more flexible.

Could you offer site visits to schools? Could you, or a member of your staff, offer mentoring? Could you offer evening or weekend opportunities? Thinking outside of the box could prove to be better for your business, and for the young people who you’ll be working with.

Think beyond making the tea and collecting the post

No one’s expecting you to hand over the running of your company, and throwing your placement right in at the deep end could prove to be overwhelming. Ease them in gently, but be sure to give them real opportunities and challenges to get their teeth stuck into during their time in your business.

Keep in mind that a young person can bring a fresh perspective to the table, as well as energy and enthusiasm. You might just stumble upon your next big business idea.

Draw up a plan

It makes sense to think about how your young person will spend their time when they’re in your business. Of course, they’ll need to know what hours they’re working and where they need to show up on the first day, but thinking a little wider than this can set you up for success.

How will their time be filled? Can they shadow various members of staff? Can they get involved in different projects? Is it possible to offer them an element of choice, so they can learn more about the areas they’re interested in? Be flexible, but be sure to have at least the bare bones of a plan.

Communication, communication, communication

Communication is always important in the workplace, and if you want to offer a successful placement, then it’s absolutely essential. Start by having an initial conversation with the school so you understand what they’re expecting.

On the very first day of the placement, arrange an informal chat with the young person so you can understand what they want to take away from the process. On the final day, provide them with feedback. And of course, invite them to share their own feedback about the experience. You could take away some really valuable insights into how your business is operating.

At this stage, you may well have questions about how all of this could work for you. Perhaps you’ve got unique challenges that you need to overcome, or you’d just like to chat with an experienced professional about getting your work placements right first time. Book here to get in touch today for a no-obligation chat.

You’ll walk away with a clear idea about what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

 Photo credit: Olu Eletu

Could You Be Guilty Of Ghosting Your Customers?

I had several run-ins recently with a business provider I’ve been using for a couple of years now: changes to my account not made, incorrect invoicing issued multiple times, threats to cut my service and the final nail in the coffin…….deafening silence to all communications.

I have been a staunch advocate of their business. I’ve even recommended them to several other businesses. But I’m actively searching for a replacement as the value I get from them has been outweighed by the lack of value I feel in return. I don’t want to do this particularly: it’s a pain for me, it’s time consuming and it will impact on my own business short term.

I believe that the people who collectively have provided this terrible service are all very nice individually. And I have nothing against them personally. But their business is a prime example of what can happen as your business grows and you don’t take customer service seriously or pay attention to what can fall between the cracks and how this impacts on your customer’s journey.

Most leaders would probably be quick to say that it isn’t a problem in their operations & that for one or two small customers to be upset is one of the things you have to suck up when you’re growing fast. But is that a wise thing to bank on? Can you honestly say that you couldn’t make some improvements? Working on upping your game in this area is the type of activity that could have a quick and tangible impact on your reputation, not to mention you profits – so it’s worth taking some time to pinpoint potential issues and get a handle on them.

If you’re experiencing issues in your customer service and aren’t sure where to start fixing it, then take a look at the following areas and wade right in….

Your staff don’t know what good service looks like

First of all, ask yourself whether your team even know what’s expected from them. In your mind, you no doubt have a clear vision of how you want your team to handle queries and sales. But have you communicated this to the right people, and have you created accountability? Accountability is different to a rigid hierarchy: you don’t need one to have the other. But it’s vital that your teams fully understand what outstanding service looks like, and when they’re hitting the mark. You might be amazed by how easily problems can be avoided when you take the time to share your expectations.

You haven’t invested in training

Training isn’t about talking your staff through some PowerPoint slides, or sharing some broad theory about how things should be done. It’s about giving your team the practical skills they need to deliver results. If it’s been awhile since you offered customer service training to your workers, then you could have identified your main problem.

Your staff don’t care about your overarching aims and objectives

Let’s take a step back for a second. Perhaps you feel confident that your staff understand what good service looks like, and you know that you’ve offered quality training, If problems still exist, then you need to consider the possibility that you have some deeper cultural issues that need to be addressed. Having your staff onboard with what you’re trying to achieve in the broader sense is essential if you want to continue to grow.

When you know that changes need to be made, the road ahead can seem daunting. You don’t have to do it on your own though. It makes sense to work with a professional with a proven track record. After all, don’t you want results as quickly as possible?

So when it comes to fixing the problems that are holding back your workforce, get in touch with us for an initial chat about how we might be able to work together: hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048.

You’ll walk away from your free consultation with a clear idea about what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

Photo Credits: Tom Margie

HR Surgery: How do I manage expectations for pay and progression in an SME?

The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer: pay and progression are not the same thing and are not even always linked. One of them (pay) needs to be satisfied at a basic level to make sure we all pay the rent/ mortgage , eat, buy clothes etc ( the ‘hygiene’ factors let’s call them). And the other ( progression) needs to be satisfied in order to motivate us.

As a general rule, people want to see growth and progress in all areas of their lives, but particular in their jobs. And often with this progress comes the expectation of some recognition for this growth. Normally pay of some description springs to mind, but this is often just the most obvious way to show it in absence of anything else.

Structuring progression up the salary ladder within a smaller business can often seem like hit and miss affair, linked to not-so-subtle hints dropped about how many recruiters have called up your team to tell them how much they could get if they jumped ship. But if you listen to most recruiters, it is rarely the salary they push when they are doing their job to go out and find people, but the progression that people want to feel in order to thrive.

The creation of salary bands, job grades and titling conventions might seem a world away to SME business leaders who don’t have the access and expertise on tap (& possibly inclination??) to undertake something like a benchmarking and job evaluation exercises to show the team different levels of role to aspire to. But the principles of showing your team how to progress within your business is one which any sized organisation should pay attention to.

So here are some tips to bear in mind with your team before conversations about pay and progression become a bit icky:

Be transparent over your pay structure

If you don’t have a pay structure (normal for many), then tell the team what your salaries are based on ( e.g based on market rate) and what they can do to progress in the business. Often this is about spelling out your company values and the kind of projects and tasks which will get them recognised internally.

Define your roles

Defining your roles doesn’t mean asking them to sign a job description with the expectation that they never deviate from that, except by written agreement: it means being clear to your team about what you expect them to deliver, what they’re going to be accountable for and then giving them the autonomy to get this done.

Benchmark them

Pay might not be a motivator, but it sure can be a de-motivator if someone thinks (or knows – remember, people talk!) they are being paid less than someone else is for the same role. So benchmark your salaries (you don’t need to be scientific about it but a quick google search is exactly what your team members are going to do….) and try where you can to pay the going rate for a role.

Evolve job titles

I used to get quite precious about this. I mean: why should we be changing someone’s job titles when really we’re not big enough to support several layers of employee type? Plus, don’t you just end up with a team full of Directors and Heads of and no-one actually doing the work on the ground?? Nowadays I am more relaxed as I realise that it really matters little to anyone else but the uptight HR person who is managing your grades. See? I know that you need to show people progression. And job titles are just one way of doing so. Not the fluffy type which are just changed because someone is peeved that their mates have got flashier business cards than them (for a start, who uses business cards anymore FGS ??) . But the ones which are changed to show that someone has progressed and does indeed know more than they did three years ago when they hired them.

Let your team showcase (and even show off) their new found skills in public

I remember how proud I was when the Brown Owl gave me my very own badge to show how great I was at ‘Housework’. Yep seriously. I didn’t know it then but that was my first foray into the world of competencies (although unfortunately for my family, was also my last into demonstrating any skills relating to housework!) and of achieving and completing a number of tasks in order to tick the box to say I could do ‘it’.

So be clear to your team on the skills, behaviors, and attitudes that your team need to do their jobs well (aka. competencies ) and which you want to see demonstrated in each role within the business & at each level and then find a way to recognise this internally to show progress made.

You don’t need of course need to give actual badges for your team to wear on their sleeves (or chest – remember there’ s a reason why one of the most successful companies on this planet uses stars to denote competence…) when they’ve demonstrated something new, but by all means borrow from their principles and nab yourself a few brownie points whilst you’re at it…..

For more tips and tricks on reward and recognition that really works download our free ebook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME

Photo credit: Girl Guides of Canada