Tips to Save Yourself From being
Laid off or Fired From Your Job

Downsizing

“You do your best work if you do a job that makes you happy.”

~ Bob Ross ~

Client Lindsey Asks: Lately I’ve had a funny feeling at work. I’m apprehensive because I don’t think things are going well. I’m doing my job, the same as always, but I seem to be left out of the loop. I’m not invited to meetings but later I find out through the grapevine that people have made decisions that actually affect my work. Am I about to get fired? This isn’t exactly my dream job, but it’s been a good job and in this economy, I don’t want to lose it. I’m feeling very scared.

Coach Joel Answers: There are several clear signs that you’ve fallen out of favor with your boss and your job may be in jeopardy. You’ve already mentioned one of them. If you suddenly find that you’re no longer in the loop about things, that’s typically a bad sign. It’s often the first and most subtle sign that your time may be short. When you’re being kept out of decisions and new information that you normally would have been involved in, that’s a red flag. And if you’re seeing a reduction in your responsibilities, it could mean you’re being phased out.

A more obvious sign that your job is on the rocks would be overt criticism from your boss, or a poor performance review. Often companies will “build a case” for letting an employee go in order to avoid a potential wrongful termination suit. This case building typically includes documentation of performance issues, as well as written warnings and documented disciplinary actions. It may also include mentoring or coaching from your boss. This could have one of two purposes: it could either bring your performance back in line with the company’s expectations or it could serve as more documentation to support firing you.

Other obvious signs include: seeing a job posting or ad that matches your job description; being notified of a pay cut, or being moved into a position with fewer or no employees reporting directly to you.

What can you do to turn things around? What can you do to turn things around? First, decide if this is the job you really want. You mentioned that this isn’t your dream job. Would being terminated open the door to new opportunities?

If, however, you really want to hold onto this job, you need to take immediate positive action.

If you know your performance has been sub-par and you feel like you’ve fallen out of favor with your boss, talk to him or her. Explain that you’d like to make an immediate course correction and really become a valuable member of the organization. Ask what specific changes s/he would like to see and write them down. Then develop a written plan based on what your boss has said and have it on his/her desk within 48 hours.

Keep your enthusiasm high and your attitude positive. Schedule a follow-up meeting with your boss to discuss your progress. Assuming that the decision to let you go hasn’t been written in stone yet, your actions could give you a second chance to turn your situation around.

Assuming you want to stay where you are, make a list of things you like about your job. Make another list of specific tasks or areas where you think you could improve. Within the next week, schedule a meeting with your boss to work out an improvement plan.

Talkback: Have you ever been almost fired? What actions did you take to avoid it? Share your story here.

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Good News on the Salary Front:
More Companies Plan Increases

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“Asking what I considered an impossible salary when I didn’t want to work for someone has boosted my pay again and again.”

~ Ethel Waters ~

Will has been working the same job for three years without any raise in pay. Due to the downturn in the economy, his company claims that it just can’t afford to pay more to its employees.

I’ve got some good news for Will and for everyone else who has been working longer hours and hasn’t been rewarded with a bonus or an increase in salary.

That might be changing, according to Mercer, a worldwide consulting firm.

In their annual “employee attraction and retention survey,” Mercer found that more companies plan to focus on money – that’s right, cold, hard cash – as a way to retain and engage the right talent.

Because budgets have been tight during the recession, many employers relied on so-called “non-cash incentives.” These were such things as communicating the value of total rewards to employees, work-life programs, formalized career paths and special project opportunities.

But as the economy recovers, 25 percent of respondents say they’ll rely less on these types of rewards.

Instead, they will focus on base salary increases, short- and long-term variable pay and training and career development to retain and motivate their best people.

So as your employer’s purse strings begin to loosen, now is the time to proactively demonstrate your value to your organization. If you are like Will, still waiting for a long-overdue raise, I recommend doing the following.

1. Make yourself indispensible.
Volunteer to high profile projects that have the potential to affect your company’s bottom line.

2. Align your priorities with key company goals.
Focus on things that matter – to your boss, to his or her supervisor, to company executives and to your shareowners.

3. Eliminate or reduce your time spent “non-essential” work. 
Write down your top 10 priorities. Develop strategies to free up more time to spend on the top three and less on the bottom two-thirds.

4. Quantify and communicate your accomplishments. 
At the end of each week, write down your key accomplishments and try to assign a dollar amount to your specific contributions.

5. Capitalize on training or personal development opportunities. 
Continue to develop your skills and capabilities. That way, when your company begins to expand, you’ll be in a more competitive position (and your resume will be stronger, too, if you decide to venture outside your organization).

6. Don’t shy away from self-promotion. 
Think of ways to promote your personal “brand” at the office. There’s a difference between grandstanding and presenting the facts in an objective way.

Someone is going to benefit from this shift in employee compensation and it might as well be you!

Even if salary increases aren’t currently being offered by your employer, valued employees can find ways to negotiate for higher pay. Read Joel’s book, Get Paid What You’re Worth, to find out how you can negotiate a salary increase or a higher starting salary in a new position.

Talkback: Last time you asked for a raise, were you successful? How long will you wait before trying again?

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Attract & Retain Your Valuable Employees

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“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”

~ Anne M. Mulcahy ~

Felix is a supervisor of engineers at a nuclear power plant. His goal was to attract and retain his valuable employees. “The money invested in training new engineers is astonishing,” Felix said. “I wanted to keep my people.”

There are three supervisors over three divisions of workers. Felix noticed that one supervisor, Max, had a very large turnover in workers— nearly 100% annually. And the other supervisor, Madison, had almost no turnover.

“I was in the middle,” Felix said. “I had some turnover. More than I wanted, but a lot less than Max.”

Felix saw some of the reasons Max couldn’t keep his people. He was a workaholic and demanded the same of his employees. He was critical and demeaning.

“I wasn’t like that,” Felix said. “I thought I was a fair boss. But still… I had this attrition.”

Felix researched and found a study by John Kammeyer-Mueller of the University of Minnesota called Support, Undermining, and Newcomer Socialization. “It gave me three key pieces to help me support my new hires and make them more likely to stay for the long haul,” Felix said.

1. Management Matters

The study showed that the support of management outweighed support from co-workers.  Support from co-workers did make the new hire feel better. But the praise, encouragement, and help from supervisors had greater impact.

That support—in the early days—made workers more likely to stay even months or years down the line.  It helped establish their overall view of the company and the job.

“We have a really high learning curve,” Felix said. “Sometimes, I think, we just point them in the right direction and say, ‘Good luck.’  I realized we needed to do much better than this.”

Rather than thinking you could start the engineer on the training path and leave it to others to help out, Felix realized part of the success of his job was to be more involved.

2. Build Connection into the system

“I watched how Madison interacted with her employees. She didn’t taper off the contact after the first few weeks,” Felix said. “She really had a more involved approach. She had an open door policy. She gave specific feedback—both positive and negative—but in an easy-to-take way.”

Felix realized he needed to have greater interaction with the new hires even after the first few weeks. That was not long enough for them to be nearly up to speed. Some of them felt abandoned and then got unhappy or discouraged.

“I realized my feedback and support was vital not just in the beginning, but for months into the employee’s job,” Felix said. “And even after that, I needed to be more involved.” He scheduled time for his own open door policy. He took lunch with the engineers for a more casual time to chat.  He tried to be more open with praise.

3. Attracting Valuable Employees

“I was surprised that even just supporting my current workers made a difference in new hires,” Felix said. “I overheard one new engineer talking to a friend just graduating. He was telling him to apply here. It was a great place to work.

“It kind of made my day. I realized I was doing it right. And it was attracting the kind of engineers I wanted.”

Felix realized that a happy work environment was where his engineers felt supported and encouraged. It then resulted in a word-of-mouth call for engineers who would fit well into that situation.

Overall, Felix found that his attrition dropped off and he retained his valuable employees longer. “I think the continued support and interaction of management made the difference,” Felix said. “We can’t just hire people and turn them loose. The more and longer I set up good work support, the happier my engineers became.”

Looking for ways to get your management more encouraging and supportive of your key workers?  Contact Joel

Talkback: What are some ways you have found to attract and retain key players?

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Setting Work Performance Goals
with Your Employees

Goal setting

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”

~Jim Rohn~

Setting Work Performance Goals with Your Employees

If you are in a leadership position, you are constantly faced with the challenge of keeping your employees motivated and productive. Most companies use work performance goals as a means of evaluating employees. However, from the employee’s point of view, they are often looked on as an arbitrary and rigid means of doling out raises. That is because many organizations fail to use goals properly.

Goals are most effective when the individual expected to meet them has a part in setting them. As a manager it is important to put yourself in the place of the employee and ask yourself these basic questions:

  • What kind of goals would motivate me in this position?
  • What sort of goals would make me happier and more productive in this position?

With these two questions in mind and with the help of the following pointers, employees will no longer view goals as mere management tools but rather as they should be: personal motivators for success that can help your employees succeed.

1. Include employees in the process

But give them guidance along the way. As their manager, you know best what they need to achieve in order to meet company objectives. But having them contribute to their own goal setting in a meaningful way will also help motivate them to meet the performance goals for their jobs. Failing to reach a goal we set for ourselves is always harder to swallow than failing to reach a goal we think leadership arbitrarily set for us. On a side note, having the employee help set goals will give you valuable insight into what motivates each individual.

2. Set deadlines

Open-ended goals promote procrastination. Many companies employ quarterly goals in conjunction with long-term annual goals. However, short-term goals will also provide an ongoing metric of the employee’s progress.  Deadlines should also be set according to the rhythm of the metric they measure. For example, if you are servicing clients on monthly contracts then the goals should naturally have a monthly deadline. In such a case, weekly or bi-weekly goals will help the employee keep on track with reaching their objectives.

3. Make goals measurable

For goals to work they must be tied to some quantifiable data. That way when the deadline arrives there is no question whether the goal was reached or not. If you are unsure of how to measure success, enlist the help of your employee.

4. Give feedback

Regular feedback is vital in helping your employees reach the goals set for their work performance.  When speaking to them, look for opportunities to give encouragement. But don’t allow the feedback to be one-sided. Listen to any concerns or suggestions the employee may have. Open communication may make the difference between a goal that is simply reached and one that is blown out of the water.

5. Reward success

Make the reward worth the work needed to obtain it. Again, consider what the employee will value. Some employees respond to cash incentives, extra time off, or gift cards. Others may prefer the public recognition of receiving an award. Who wouldn’t like to display an art glass award on their desk? Allowing the employee to help determine the reward will motivate them to work toward achieving it. Get creative and change rewards frequently so they don’t become routine.

6. Tweak as needed

Some goals will remain the same as long as the company is in business. These strategic goals reflect the core values of the company. But many goals are dynamic and should reflect the changing responsibilities and talents of the employee. Pin job performance goals to areas where the employee can improve. Finally, as the employee gains experience and additional responsibilities, make sure their goals grow with them.

 A note on failure:

If an employee fails to meet their goals, it is not the end of the world. Of paramount importance is the attitude of the employee. Did their failure result from a lack of activity, or did they give their best but simply come up short? If an employee has put forth noticeable effort and still failed it would be counterproductive for a manager to humiliate or punish them. Failure from inactivity is what should be punished.

Performance goals are a benchmark of success. As long as an employee continues putting forth effort to reach them, they should continue to receive support from their managers. If you are having a hard time with this idea, consider some of the great failures in history. These would include the likes of Einstein, da Vinci, and Michael Jordan. Although known for their successes, these individuals had greater failure rates than their peers. But they kept striving toward their goals and eventually reached them.

 Dennis Phoenix is a human resource specialist and avid business writer. He writes primarily on topics ranging from business relationships to employee satisfaction for Able Trophies.

Talkback: How have you increased the effectiveness of your employees work performance goals? List your ideas below. 

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4 Ways to Utilize your Finances
for Employee Retention

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“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

~St. Francis of Assisi~

Client Sarah Asks:  In this economy, money has to work very hard for us.  We want to retain our best employees.  How should we allocate our finances to maximize our retention?

Coach Joel Answers: That’s a great question, Sarah.  Your company has a number of options—different ways to spend your money.  To best motivate your workers to stay with you, you first need to understand them.

Not all workers respond the same way.  Some of your options have tax consequences that might matter to your top talent.  Others may perceive one or another of these choices as more prestigious or of greater value to them.

So your first step is to know your key players.  Assess them.  Find out what is most enticing and likely to keep them working for you.

Then choose from these four methods those that will work best for you, your employees, and your company.

1. Competitive salary. This is the first rabbit most businesses pull out of the bag.  And for a very good reason.  It is effective.A salary that pays market value means there’s no financial incentive for your worker to leave.  They can’t expect a better offer elsewhere.  And when you pay a little above average, workers may feel they are being paid extra for any small inconveniences that come with the job.

2. Bonuses.  Sometimes companies need to see how their finances play out before they can reward their employees.   They may give workers an average salary with the promise of a bonus if the company does well.

This has the added advantage of offering motivation.  Each employee sees their salary more connected to the success of the company.  They may make that extra effort to help the company succeed.

The benefit to you, Sarah, is that the company keeps its bottom line lower in difficult years, but can reward employees and keep retention up by promising bonuses in good years.

3. Fringe Benefits. Top talent may be motivated to stay with the company for certain perks.  The choice corner office.  Company car. Use of the company jet. Pizza Fridays. A nice company gym or offering child care.

Some fringe benefits offer prestige and status that is more enticing than money alone. Some may fill a compelling need of your workers.

Here is where you really need to know your employees.  What kinds of fringe benefits connect with them?  Is this something that makes financial sense to the company?  Perhaps birthday recognitions are low cost, but highly satisfying to your workers.  That leaves money on the table for other retention methods.

4. Stock options or company ownership. When employees are vested with company stock options or a chance to buy into the business you strengthen their commitment to their job.  They are much less likely to leave.

You need to decide if this is a financially viable option for employee retention.  Does it make sense in your business model?

Sarah, you are wise to consider the best uses of your company’s finances to increase worker retention.  With the cost of hiring and retraining, it makes more sense to invest in keeping workers satisfied and happy.  You gain the benefit of experienced workers. And happy employees are more productive.

To understand your worker’s motivations and develop a retention plan designed for success, contact Joel.

Talkback: What has your company done to retain employees?  What has been most successful?

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