Is your organization suffering from the wrong workforce?

Is your organization suffering from the wrong workforce?

Clipart - Meet the StaffIs your organization suffering from the wrong workforce? Here are several ways you can overcome the problem of getting the right people to do the work.

Organizations—business, non-profits, and government—need the “right” people to do the work required to achieve successful outcomes. Some have the name recognition, reputation, and monetary resources to attract candidates from far and wide, and hire them rather easily. Others don’t—their relatively unknown, their budgets are tight, and the labor markets they can draw from are often restricted. Not everyone is Google, after all, so getting the “perfect people” can get a bit tricky. Many organizations end up settling for people with less-than-ideal skills and experience, because they’re available and willing to work for a reasonable compensation package.

Unfortunately, the impacts of settling can be… well, unsettling. Most notably, the work that’s necessary either doesn’t get done or it isn’t done up to standards. Sometimes, when it becomes obvious that an individual can’t perform particular tasks, they get foisted on other staff who have at least an inkling of what to do, even though they are by no means “experts.” When someone can’t do what they’re supposed to, the entire organization can suffer. Performance metrics aren’t met, morale deteriorates, and motivation declines. Not to be too harsh, but the “wrong” people are at best an obstacle, at worst a cancer—they can slowly destroy the organization from within.

With all of their constraints, it may seem like “getting it right” is impossible, and that many organizations are doomed to under-perform unless they get extremely lucky. Of course, this isn’t true—after all, if it was, why would I be writing this blog post?! There are several things you can do if you find yourself struggling to find who you need!

  1. Know what you need. This may seem obvious, but it’s shocking how many organizations don’t know. You need to lay out specifically what you need a person to do, and what skills and experience you think are truly required to do it effectively. This is the foundation for good hiring! It’s often helpful to benchmark, or get others knowledgeable about the job’s subject matter to review what you lay out, to make sure it’s an accurate depiction of what’s necessary, and that it’s realistic (i.e., such a person actually exists somewhere).

  2. Explore your labor market. Even if there are people who match your requirements, that doesn’t mean they exist where you want to find them. Whatever labor market you’re drawing from, you need to make sure there are accessible sources for the requisite talent. If there aren’t (and you can’t expand your market), you’ll need to adjust your expectations. This may mean isolating key functions, skills, and experience, and finding other ways to accommodate what’s left over. Effectively, you’re splitting the job in two (or three, or four…).

  3. Find out what it will cost. It helps to know going in what compensation someone who can fulfill your exact requirements is going to be looking for. That special person may be available, but they may be priced beyond what you think you can pay. If the individual’s salary demands fit your budget, great – go get her! If not, however, all is not lost. You may have some options—you’ll just have some analysis to do and some decisions to make. You may not get the “ideal” person, but that doesn’t mean you have to “settle.”

  4. Examine the options. So you’ve done your homework, and the person you want seems too expensive. What do you do? There are several alternatives to consider:

    • Hire that person anyway. Yes, I said that. Pay more than you have. Why would you do something like this? Consider it an investment, if the job is one that has an impact on either revenue generation or operational cost-efficiency. For example, a good Business Development Director might return far more than someone less experienced (and less costly). You need to think about the job’s urgency and impact, consider the risks, and act accordingly. It may just be the right move!

    • “Hire down.” This may sound like your “settling,” but if you do this right, you’re really not. If you can afford the time to get a new hire “up to speed,” you can look for the essential skills and then develop the additional knowledge the individual needs. When I say “do it right,” though, do it right. This means having a clear development plan, and the resources available to provide the necessary training. If you hire down and don’t develop, you will be “settling,” and that’s not good.

    • Split the work. Why hire one person when you can hire two?! Grouping functions, skills, and experience into realistic parts and seeking two candidates may be less costly than hiring a single individual to do all of the work. Of course, this isn’t without it’s challenges—you may need to adjust your structure, processes, etc. to accommodate a different set-up. But if you can hire two “right” people instead of settling for one “wrong” person, isn’t that better?

    • Use a contractor. Specialized skills can be very expensive. If you can remove them from the job and outsource them, you may be able to get the right person for the remainder and augment their skills by outsourcing. Contracting has to be done judiciously or it can break the bank, but if you can limit what you need to “subject matter expertise,” it may make sense to look outside to help your new hire. Even better, let her soak up knowledge over time, and make the contractor obsolete!

    • Go “part time.” It may not be necessary for you to hire a full-time resource, depending on the nature and volume of the work. Assessing this means envisioning performance to see if there is likely to be “down time.” If so, a part-time job may be the answer. There are challenges, without question—part-time work may further restrict the labor market, since not everyone is looking for this kind of arrangement. It won’t work in every case, but it just may work in yours.

    • Share a resource. Non-profits, I’m looking at you specifically, but businesses may also be able to do this in certain circumstances. If you don’t need someone full-time and the market doesn’t support part-time hires, you can try to forge relationships with other organizations that have the same need, and share! Of course, this has its logistical challenges, but if you really need a certain set of skills, the effort may be worth the reward. Remember, you’re probably not the only one looking!

    • Blow them away with other stuff. Lastly, if you can’t pay, try “killing them with kindness.” Offering things like telework, advancement opportunities, professional development, bonus potential, etc., and/or emphasizing the impact of the work can tip the balance in your favor, especially if your labor market competitors can’t say the same things. Know your strengths, and know your candidates’ interests—if you can match the two, you may attract the right people with “intangibles.”

See? It’s not hopeless! You don’t have to “settle” for Jimmy when you need someone with Mary’s skills and experience. Jimmy’s probably going to do more harm than good, and you can either get Mary or you can find ways to get people who will deliver just as well. Your specific conditions will dictate what you can do, but the one thing you shouldn’t do is panic—there are lots of options. The key is to be realistic, informed, and creative. If you do that, you won’t have to live with the consequences of taking less than you require. It isn’t always easy, and there’s a lot of thought that goes into it, but the potential is there. Find the right approach, and you’ll find the right people!

For more information, please contact Snowflake, LLC at [email protected]. We’ll be happy to discuss your situation and work with you to find the best hiring strategy for your situation. We’ll even give you a one-hour consultation for free! 

Should Your Business Be Using Video Content?

Should Your Business Be Using Video Content?

“Social Media Times, They Are A-Changing”

Social MediaJust when we think we’ve figured out how our digital presence is performing, things change… again. The innate nature of digital media is that it has the ability to pivot and adhere to the ever-changing confines of accepted use on the internet. Gone are the days when we started every Facebook post with “Meg Kerns is…” In their place stands a preference for posting articles, value added content and updates with blog-like acuity. Businesses wouldn’t dream of posting an ‘is’ update on Facebook for fear of being labeled ‘digitally inept.’ So that begs the question, why are they fighting against the next trail?

Is Video Here to Stay?

Video is assumed to be the next bandwagon effect of digital marketing. If you look deeper, we’ve pointed toward video since the birth of the digital sphere. Books such as The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage have taught us much. Highlighting the ability for digital media to move forward as our greatest advantage in learning and growing. Utilizing video as a means of storytelling and relationship building from a business perspective is almost obvious, so why the push-back? Put yourself in the shoes of a current business owner. They hear that they must have a digital presence, use photos and curated content of a visual sense and now their primary focus should be video, they may be understandably burnt out. A significant number of business owners are planting their feet behind their own lines in the sand and refusing to incorporate video. This being to their ultimate detriment.


The Case for Video

YouTubeA business’ followers are finding content primarily on their home feeds when they scroll through Facebook. It is the job of the business to create content that causes the user to pause. They then hope to digest the content ultimately leading to some sort of positive action. Originally, businesses were using wording along with colorful, eye-catching images to gain the attention of followers and potential clients/customers. Look at the feed of the majority of Facebook’s users, one might notice an abundance of colorful, eye-catching content. This overabundance makes most people immune to its certain charms.

Enter video; Facebook has the advantage of automatically setting videos to begin playing. This forces the user’s eyes to momentarily pause in order to register the moving images. That may be all it takes to make a decision in continuing through the video’s entirety or scrolling past. If a business’ video is entertaining or interesting enough they’re hooked. They’ve captured their audience and can then request a call to action that is favorable to their goals. Without this video engagement, business posts are relying on the follower entirely instead of pushing them toward a specific action.

If given two options, a stagnant yet well-crafted image versus a mediocre video, the video will almost always outrank the image in terms of engagement and visibility due to the platform’s preference for video content.

In the end, if a business wants to remain relevant, transparent and authentic they need to begin utilizing video or risk burial under the myriad of content being pushed out every minute vying for attention.

So, let us ask again- why aren’t you using video?

If you’d like to learn more about using video as a business, please jump over to YouTube and check out the Business BootyKick Series! I look forward to answering any of your questions and offering you a free social media diagnostic to get started!

4 Ways to Prevent Disaster When Firing an Employee

Employee terminations are one of the ugliest parts of business ownership. Whether it’s from a financially-driven layoff, a reorganization, or a performance issue, it’s never a good day at the office when there’s an involuntary separation. Terminations are expensive, costing the company about 50% – 60% of the terminated employee’s salary to refill the position.

Employers always take a short-term bottom line hit when there is a termination, especially if the employee files for unemployment or files a wrongful termination suit.

For highly visible situations, the fallout can be even worse. Fired employees can easily become damaging whistleblowers, as ex-Volkswagen employee Daniel Donovan demonstrates.

When a company terminates a volatile employee, they are potentially unleashing a poisonous can of worms. I’m not suggesting that companies retain toxic employeesout of fear for retaliation. However, it’s essential that business owners anticipate the damage an irate ex-employee can cause, and move swiftly to contain it.

Before The Termination

Terminations are rarely knee-jerk reactions for the employer, and if they are performance-based, they are rarely surprises to the employee. Prior to terminating an employee for performance, follow this HR process to legally protect the company:

  1. Document as much as you can. I’m a big fan of conversation recaps and email trails. Expect that an employee will have a much different perspective on how you arrived at your decision to terminate.
  2. Know the job description well. The job description is an essential tool in the termination process. You can not fire for performance if you can’t reach back to mutually agreed upon expectations.
  3. Provide coaching. This demonstrates your commitment to the employee’s success, and shows you are willing to do whatever is possible to salvage the situation.
  4. Provide written counseling of what is going to happen if performance is not improved. This is a form letter that the employee must sign. It spells out the problem, what the company has done to address the problem, and what the next steps will be if performance doesn’t improve.

In addition to protecting the company legally, the company must protect itself from a data breach. Immediately prior to the termination, put processes in place to shut off access to the network and to email. The IT department and HR department must work closely together to ensure all bases are covered.

During the Termination

  1. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I learned while runningInformation Experts for 15 years was from our outsourced HR Director Jennifer Brown, CEO of PeopleTactics: Always have a witness during a termination. The third party will eliminate a he-said-she-said scenario, which can sometimes lead to a lawsuit.
  2. Always keep the termination as professional as possible. “We’ve eliminated the position” is the safest termination clause. Keep the conversation focused on the steps ahead. Terminations are emotionally charged conversations, and it’s best to resist being drawn into a defensive dialog. The less an employer says, the better.
  3. Present the employee with a termination letteroutlining the reasons for termination, what they can expect moving forward, and any legal restrictions on them, including slanderous or damaging behavior.

After the Termination

  1. Be proactive with communications to all stakeholders (employees, customers, partners, etc.) as soon as possible, with simple messaging you’ve created prior to the termination.
  2. Activate a plan to have other employees be customer points of contact if the employee was customer-facing. This should happen immediately. For very large customers with a high strategic importance, the CEO should reach out personally.
  3. Don’t discuss the details of the termination with anyone. Other employees will watch to see how you handle it, and some will likely inform the terminated employee of what is happening in the office. Former employees often stay friends with current employees long after their termination, especially in the social media era. Your conduct as a leader will definitely be discussed.
  4. Don’t engage in an online war with an ex-employee. You will lose. They will likely post disparaging comments about the company, and maybe about you. Handle it privately, and remind them of their legal obligations to protect company information.

The tighter you can contain a toxic employee with preemptive processes and legal documentation, the more quickly the drama surrounding the termination will dissipate. It gets easier with every termination when we remember that our decisions ultimately serve the greater good of the organization.

9 Leadership Behaviors That Lose Employee Trust and Respect

Leadership is hard, and all leaders screw up. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Even Steve Jobs made some colossal mistakes. Occasionally, we all show that we’re human, that we are sometimes winging it, and that we don’t have all the answers.

One of my favorite leadership experts, Seth Godin, explains that for leaders, it’s uncomfortable to say, “I want to go over there, and I’m going to be responsible for getting us over there, and no one has ever been over there, and I’m not sure how to get over there, but let’s go.” To make our visions a reality, we have to gain the trust of our followers.

Since we’re so dependent on others to move forward, it’s important to recognize the behaviors that will disengage and alienate your supporters. Here are the 9 most polarizing, destructive behaviors leaders can exhibit.

  1. Inauthenticity.

Authentic leaders stay true to what they believe. According to  Harvard Business School professor and authentic leadership expert Bill George, authentic leaders remain true to their values and mission even in the face of difficulty.

They don’t waiver simply because it would be easy to do so. They can be entrusted to show up in the same way, every time, because they operate from a place of total honesty. Employees know when leaders are faking it.

  1. False promises.

Leaders must be careful about the carrots they dangle to motivate their employees. If a leader makes a promise, his or her employees have every right to expect follow-through.

So often, leaders share ideas in the heat of a conversation, not realizing that employees are taking every word to heart. Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There explains that when leaders offer suggestions or ideas, employees hear them as commands or promises.

Failing to deliver on a promise — no matter how large or small — will violate the trust of employees.

  1. Ambiguity.

Employees require specificity when it comes to communicating direction. Ambiguity signals two things: 1) lack of clarity regarding direction, and 2) secrecy.

Both of these impressions drive mistrust and skepticism. The clearer you can be regarding your vision and direction, the quicker you will engage others.

  1. One-way communication.

In traditional, hierarchical organizations, information flowed from the top down, through a tightly controlled funnel. Employees simply did their jobs, and received the precise information that leadership wanted them to have.

Today, employees have a powerful voice. In healthy cultures, they are empowered to contribute ideas and observations. Employees have valuable feedback and want to be heard.

There are many ways to create a culture of two-way communication, including routinely soliciting anonymous feedback, and addressing it in Town Hall meetings. Your employees are your single most valuable resource for insight into what is happening in your organization.

  1. Personal agendas/ego-driven leadership.

Leaders require thick skins to power through setbacks and negativity. They also require strong self-confidence because of the non-believers who question their abilities, and would find pleasure in seeing them fail.

However, leaders have to check their egos at the door, and ensure they subjugate their own personal agendas to the greater good of the organization. This may be one of the most difficult behaviors to eliminate because it requires a lot of self-awareness and honesty about personal motivation.

  1. Anger.

There is no place in leadership for uncontrolled anger. It conveys fear, disrespect, lack of control, and lack of concern for those who are on the receiving end.

It is true that the stresses that accompany the leadership journey are intensive and potentially debilitating. However, it isn’t our employees’ responsibility to be our emotional sources of support, which is why it’s essential to seek out healthy options and communities of support to release or share our frustrations.

  1. Refusing to delegate/empower.

Leadership is a team effort. When employees join your organization and support your vision, they bring experience and skills that can move your strategy forward. It can be difficult to release control, knowing that others may not do things exactly as you would.

However, one person — or even a team of leaders in a growing organization — can’t complete all tasks.  Effective delegation enables you to stay focused on what you do best, and what you love most.

Delegation not only expands your ability to get things done, and creates redundancies within your firm; it also tells your employees that you trust them. Employees want to know they are making impacts and contributions. They want to feel needed and empowered.

  1. An attitude of superiority/lack of appreciation.

Employees see their bosses and the C-level community very differently from they way they see themselves. In companies, there is a line of demarcation between leadership and the rest of the company, even if they leaders don’t intend to create such a division.

As our organizations grow, it’s easy for us to get disconnected from our employees. We have to be intentional about  creating appreciation strategies. It takes the entire system to make the company function well, and we must constantly be re-recruiting our talent internally to keep everyone engaged through gratitude and appreciation.

  1. Playing favorites.

One of the most demoralizing leadership behaviors is favoritism. While every organization has “linchpins” who are essential in holding the company together, ideally organizations should aim to be “process-centric” rather than “hero-centric.”

When companies revolve around a handful of heroes, the remaining employees can begin to feel that they are disposable. To minimize dependency on heroes, companies must invest in the creation of processes so that if key people leave, there is minimal disruption on operations.

In summary…

Every leader, in the course of their leadership, will invariably display one or more of these behaviors at some point. After all, we are all human, and leadership is hard.

The most important aspect of continuous improvement as a leader is self-awareness. The more self-aware we are, the more successful we will be at recognizing these destructive behaviors and correcting them, so that we may build our best organizations, and live our best lives.

Our Employee Benefits are Great!  Wait, Are They?

Our Employee Benefits are Great! Wait, Are They?

So you’re a small business that has implemented a benefits package for your employees.  Congratulations, that’s a big step – one that sets you up for competitive growth and attracting top talent!   More than likely, your open enrollment period is coming up shortly.  Or perhaps you’re not currently offering employer-sponsored benefits to your employees but want to ensure they are taking proper steps to protect themselves and their families.

That’s all there is to it, right?   Not so fast.   Even with a suitable employee benefit package on offer, the likelihood that there are significant unmet needs and risks for your employees is high.  What does that mean?    There are many risks your employees (and most adults) face that benefits often do not or cannot fully cover on their own.

  • Risk of Healthcare Expenses:  Medical Insurance can cover the vast majority of out-of-pocket expenses for medical bills and prescriptions, but increasingly the benefits offerings from employers are building in higher deductibles and copays to mitigate the ever-increasing premiums.  Can employees handle the higher out-of-pocket expenses (often upwards of $4-6,000/yr per family member) if they have unexpected needs?  Often the answer is “not without struggle.”   However, there are voluntary products available to employees that can help to address these unintended expenses without breaking the bank.
  • Risk of lost income from missing work due to disability: Many employee benefits plans include medical insurance, often dental and vision care, but do not provide for the risk of lost income and the impact of a lengthy disability.  Many benefits plans do provide this valuable benefit, but often with limits that cap their benefits well below their actual earnings, do not provide protection to replace important bonus/commission income, have very stringent and “hard-to-satisfy” definitions for when you’re considered eligible for benefits, and do not go with them if they move on to another employer.   If you’re not a high-income earner, and you become totally and completely disabled/bedridden, then you’re probably okay but what if your income is higher and/or your disability isn’t total?  According to the US Social Security Administration, there’s over a 25% chance that a 20 year old will become disabled at some point during their working career.  It’s vital for employees to have personal protection against this risk, and easy for employees to consider supplemental disability coverage if they are already covered.
  • Risk of lost income to the family due to death:  Everyone is familiar with what kind of financial impact a death can have on a family, especially to a primary breadwinner or full-time parent of a dependent child.  Most employee benefits programs include a very token amount of “free” life insurance ($50-100,000), if anything at all.  This is barely enough to pay for final expenses in most cases.  Other benefits plans offer the ability for employees to purchase additional life insurance (in multiples of their income) at prices that are adjusted annually and increase sharply as you get older to the point where they become unaffordable right when you need it the most. In virtually all cases the life insurance disappears completely if they leave the employer.   It is recommended for most breadwinners to have anywhere from 8-12 times your annual after-tax income in life insurance, though that number can certainly be lower or higher depending on your circumstances (# and age of children, outstanding debt, other assets, etc), and to have a plan that covers them, not “them only so long as they’re employed with the same company”.

There are other areas (such as long-term-care, dependent benefits, etc) that are also often not addressed by employer group benefits. So… while you’ve given your employees a great start and a foundation to begin to protect themselves and their families, there’s one more very important benefit that you can provide to them – and the great news is that it’s 100% free to you and will make you look good.

Gather your employees together for a lunch, sponsored by an insurance representative (which can be your existing benefits advisor or another representative specializing in working with employers and their employee’s individual needs), which is purely informational and highlights the specific areas in which their benefits program covers them full, and the areas in which it falls upon them to make sure they and their families are secure if the unexpected happens.   Your employees will appreciate it, their families will appreciate it, and you’ll be providing them the most important benefit of all – a trusted advisor that help them to gain the ultimate peace of mind.     And there’s no better time to do it than in the context of their annual benefits elections most often occurring in the fall.


Michael S. Feinberg, ChFC is an experienced, hardworking, and trustworthy advisor to small businesses and their ownership.   Michael’s experience and thorough process provides significant value to his clients while ensuring the long-term success and survival of his clients’ businesses. Please call me at 703-637-4339 or connect by email at [email protected] with any questions or to schedule a consultation or employee meeting.  I look forward to hearing from you.