Hot Button Employee Issue #1: The Absent Employee

Over the past year, Michaela has taken 12 weeks of job-protected maternity leave, 2 weeks of personal leave to care for a sick child, and has just requested a leave of absence for herself to undergo wrist surgery. These larger chunks of leave do not include a day or two of sick time here and there, or the need to stay home or leave work early in the event of an emergency or unexpected event. While she has been predominantly able to cover her leaves with accrued vacation and sick leave, Michaela’s continued absences occasionally causes her to fall behind in work, resulting in her coworkers having to pick up the slack.

An issue that negatively impacts small business owners in particular, absent employees (regardless of whether or not the leave is job-protected) has the potential to disrupt business operations and productivity. While there are many situations that are incredibly unfortunate and outside the employee’s control (such as needing to care for a sick child), a balance between taking care of your employees and ensuring business needs are met has to be a top priority.

Flexible Schedules/Telecommuting – Depending on the situation and the industry, many employees can work from home when they are recovering or temporarily disabled (e.g., a reduced/flexible work schedule). For example, a part-time work from home schedule may be an ideal balance to ensure tasks are completed while providing your employee with the opportunity to take care of themselves or a family member.

Sharing Duties and Workload – Talk with your staff and other members of the department and see if they are able to take on some of the duties while your employee is absent. Having a strong, supportive team at work often means they are willing to step up and help when needed.

Reiterate Expectations – In any instance of excessive time off, regardless the need or reason, it is important to communicate and reiterate company policy. Making certain that your employees are aware of what is expected of them helps hold them accountable and ensures that your generosity is not taken advantage of.

Especially in situations when a key or high performing employee is met with a situation that requires them to take a leave of absence (or multiple), working with them and other members of your team can ensure that business operations are maintained and don’t spiral out of control. Employees are often more than happy to reach a happy medium with you, and your commitment to working with them will in turn ensure loyal, long-term relationships.

Follow along the rest of the month as we discuss two other hot-button issues employers are faced with and present mutually beneficial solutions to those problems.

Your Manager’s Top 10!

Rose has been working with Scott for nearly seven years. Their organization has undergone a number of changes over the past few years, including changes with hiring/firing other employees, losing and gaining clients, and transitioning from one area of practice to another. Rather than leaving when things shifted out of her comfort zone, Rose opted to roll with these changes, taking advantage of the opportunities Scott gave her to cross train and learn new skills. Rose continued to present a willingness to do whatever it took to ensure the company, and her manager, succeeded.

Not all employees are like Rose, though every manager hopes they eventually hire and retain such employees. Scott’s willingness to provide Rose with the resources she needed to ensure personal and professional growth made her decision to stick around for the long haul easy. Relationships in a professional setting have to be two sided to succeed, and while there are a number of things that employees desire from their managers, managers want mutually beneficial relationships that promote loyalty and engagement.

Expanding on our previous post, here are the 10 ten things that managers look for when recruiting and retaining star employees:

Trustworthiness – Managers cannot do everything themselves and having trustworthy employees to manage smaller, daily tasks or to safeguard client matters and uphold confidentiality is crucial.

Loyalty and Fidelity – Employees who are loyal, dependable, and constant are some of the most sought after. They stick around for the long haul and are willing to work through any trials or hard times relationships or the organization may go through.

Taking Initiative – Stepping up when things go awry, more importantly doing so without having to be asked, is a key trait managers look for.

Ability to Adapt – A variety of changes can affect any business with or without warning. Employees who quickly adapt to these changes and do so in a helpful and optimistic manner eases these transitions.

Desire to Develop – Not only are key employees able to adapt, but they should also possess a desire and willingness to develop and grow in whatever direction their position or their industry requires.

Positive Attitudes – A given, employees with friendly, upbeat attitudes improve morale, help with motivation and engagement, and are simply more pleasant to work with (both with coworkers and clients).

Personable Personality – A positive attitude is one thing, but possessing the ability to engage and interact with others in a genuine and empathetic manner is crucial in building and maintaining relationships.

Positive Image – Furthermore, not only do you want employees who can develop and maintain relationships with coworkers and clients, your employees should be able to promote your company’s image in a productive and effective way.

Ability to Delegate – A skill any professional should have, employees who are able to delegate duties (as needed and appropriate to the position) are efficient with time management and understand the level of importance of certain tasks.

Strong Communication – Poor communication skills can kill a relationship, not to mention important tasks and duties can get overlooked and important items can get pushed to the wayside. The ability to communicate effectively is simply one of the most important skills a professional can possess.

What Does Your Manager REALLY Want?

At the beginning of the year, we discussed what employees want from their employers/organizations, including perks such as flexible schedules and the opportunity to telecommute, autonomy in work and recognition, and opportunities for growth. These non-monetary benefits can be a game changer in keeping your employees motivated and engaged and can promote a sense of loyalty that encourages long-term relationships.

On the flip side, what do employers want from their employees? Relationships in any capacity (be that professional or personal) have to be two-sided to thrive and the majority of employers want a mirrored, mutually beneficial relationship. If they are willing to provide their employees with the perks and accommodations they need to succeed, they desire something similar in return:

Dependability and Self-Motivation – If the position allows and if it is possible to allow flexible schedules and options for working remotely, having employees who are dependable and self-motivated is of the utmost importance. Many individuals struggle with the distractions that can come from working from home. Having dependable employees who are able to motivate themselves and are able to focus and manage time accordingly is crucial as these employees won’t have a manager physically checking their work and communicating face-to-face on a daily basis.

Team Players Who Step Up – Being able to balance individual and team success is something we all work on. We all want to grow and prosper in our own careers and positions; however, understanding that our individual successes are also achievements of the team and contribute to the bigger picture is important. Additionally, knowing when to step up and pitch in, and doing so without complaint, is imperative in promoting positivity and camaraderie.

Positivity and Promotion – Ahh positivity. The best of us go through periods of pessimism and negativity, but the best employees can snap out of that toxic mindset when faced with difficult situations. Not only are employees who maintain a positive attitude more pleasant to work with and promote high morale, but those are the individuals that you want representing your company and promoting your brand. These employees understand what is at stake and are invested in exhibiting a positive image.

These three factors are vital in establishing solid working relationships with employees. Communicating what these expectations are is crucial when laying the groundwork for long-term alliances. Though these traits are incredibly important to employers, there are so many other qualities that employers seek and value in their star employees. Follow along in our next post as we outline the top 10 things that employers look for most when recruiting and retaining individuals.

A Compromised Reached: Tip Pooling

On March 23rd, Congress passed their Omnibus Spending Bill which included a few components that impact the restaurant industry, particularly an amendment which addresses the highly debated topic of sharing and equally distributing tips. Tip pooling, when the servers’ tips are shared with non-tipped employees such as dishwashers or kitchen staff, has been prohibited since a federal rule was passed in 2011. This regulation stated that all tips given by patrons are property of that employee, even if the employer claims a tip credit (a portion of the employee’s tips that are used to cover the employee’s minimum wage).

Most recently, last year the Department of Labor proposed a rule that would allow restaurants to establish tip sharing, also permitting employers from keeping some tip money for the organization, so long that each employee made at least the full Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. This proposal resulted in heated backlash, with workers’ rights groups and advocates arguing that tip sharing would significantly lower the pay of those employees who depend on their tips for income.

After years of going back and forth and countless changes, the new amendment states that “an employer may not keep tips received by its employees for any purposes, including allowing managers or supervisors to keep any portion of employees’ tips, regardless of whether or not the employer takes a tip credit.’’ Additionally, the bill rescinds the parts of the regulations that prohibited employers from requiring their tipped employees to share their tips with non-tipped employees.

To sum up the results of the bill, a compromise was reached in which tip sharing among employees is permitted so long as the employer does not take a tip credit. This happy medium will hopefully help employers reach the goal of creating wage equity amongst all employees who all work as a team to provide wonderful customer service.

A Push in the Right Direction

As a manager, motivating your employees and encouraging them to be productive and meet the expectations of their positions should be a top priority. Productive employees are typically happier and have a higher sense of morale, contributing to a more pleasant work environment overall. However, this isn’t always easy, particularly for those employees who struggle with self-motivation. How do you motivate and engage these employees who need that extra push to steer them in the right direction?

Communicate – If your employees don’t know specifically what you want out of them, how can you expect them to perform at a satisfactory level? Communicate your expectations, whether that be the functions of their job, performance standards, or behavioral factors that they can work on. Communication should always be a two-way street. Give and receive feedback in a way that is productive and mutually beneficial.

Lead by Example – The “Golden Rule” applies to the workplace just as much as it did to the schoolyard as children. The simple concept of treating others as you would like to be treated means so much when applied in a work setting. Work on creating this kind of environment for your employees. Put yourself in their shoes and work in a way that would make them want to give back and put forth a genuine effort.

Be Fair and Consistent – Everyone likes a fair, unbiased boss. Apply policies and procedures the same across the board, and try not to play favorites when administering rewards or discipline. Many employees get discouraged when treatment is unequitable and when favoritism abounds. Really focus on how inequitable treatment affects others and be deliberate and unbiased with how you assign tasks and deliver praise and criticism.

Provide Opportunities for Growth – Many employees will respond well to an opportunity to obtain training. Use training and other learning opportunities as incentives for fine work. Select your most diligent or outstanding employees to attend outside seminars and conferences where they can pick up new job skills and spend time mentoring a dedicated employee for an hour or two a week as a reward for excellent performance.

Always keep in mind that each employee is a unique individual and what may work for one person won’t necessarily work for the other. Be observant and learn what makes them tick. Some employees are motivated by power and praise, another may just want some respect and to have their voice heard. Take the time to learn what you can do to help each employee succeed and reap the rewards of more engaged, productive, and an overall happier team.

Self-Motivation: Escaping the Heat

Here in Oregon, we are currently experiencing a record-breaking heat wave, with temperatures ranging between 100 and 110 degrees for the majority of the work week. A state notorious for rain and dreary weather, Oregonians are certainly not used to working and playing in the oven in which we find ourselves in.

When all we want to do is find a way to beat the heat, (whether that be playing hooky and heading to the coast, heading to the mountains to go for a nice, cool swim, or planting ourselves on the sofa to binge watch a show on Netflix, sequestered in a house with air conditioning) it can be incredibly difficult to stay motivated and focused on our work.

Self-motivation is key in times like this. At the end of the day, it is not our boss’ job to keep us on track when all we want to do is put the computer to sleep and head out (honestly, they would probably love to do that as well). That responsibility falls on us. So how do you do it? How do you motivate yourself to stay professionally stimulated during these waves of discouragement?

  • Maintain a Positive Attitude – When there seems to be more factors working against you than not, it is critical to stay optimistic. Try to see the positive in the slew of bad and put forth an effort to place an emphasis on those variables; what you have and what is good versus what is lacking and seemingly going wrong.
  • Set Small Goals – For most of us, these phases are short lived. As such, set short, easily attainable objectives during these funks to help you succeed. Working on projects and goals to get you through these motivational humps, and establishing a reward for when you accomplish those goals, keeps you focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Reach Out a Helping Hand – Helping others stay motivated is a great way to hold yourself accountable. When you see how well others are doing, it is easier to follow suit. Additionally, when we help others with their work, or with achieving their own goals, those feelings of self-worth help boost our own levels of self-esteem and confidence in our own abilities.
  • Give Yourself Breaks – On the flip side to keeping busy, make certain you factor in some breaks and time for self-care. Especially in times when we feel our motivation faltering, one of the worst things we can do is push ourselves too far to the point of a major burnout. Take 15 minutes to read or go for a quick walk, meet a friend for lunch, or do something that you enjoy that rejuvenates your spirit.

Particularly when there are a million other things you’d rather be doing, making it a point to stay focused and motivated at work will positively impact not only you, but your colleagues and coworkers as well. Staying positive, helping others, establishing short goals, and making time for revitalizing breaks are all ways to help you stay on track during the lulls of summer.