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7 Common Employee Onboarding Mistakes

Posted on 24 February 2016

While most small businesses spend a great deal of time and effort in finding the right employees, they often fail to capitalise on their newly hired talent by ceding the onboarding process to HR or neglecting their responsibility entirely. From long waits for workspace, equipment, or training to an overly negative recitation of 'don't do these things or you will be fired,' employers consistently miss the opportunity to inspire new contributors and set aggressive performance standards.

Before you bring on your next new hires and leaving them to languish in the lunchroom filling out paperwork with an HR representative, consider the following 7 common onboarding mistakes made by small businesses.

1. Letting human resources lead

While it's important for newly hired employees to fill out their tax forms and enroll in benefits, this process should not take the place of new-hire orientation. Rather than waste valuable time on paperwork, send new employees a package of documents, or give them a link to apply online before they start their first day of work. There is nothing more demotivating than spending four hours alone in a room filling out paperwork you could have easily done at home. On their first day, an employee should be greeted by their direct supervisor who spends at least a half-hour with them to begin building a relationship.

2. Focusing on negatives

While it's important to clearly discuss expectation early in the onboarding process, focusing on a list of negatives that could result in termination detracts from why you hired the person in the first place. While it's important to address ethics and accountability, a newly hired employee needs to be encouraged to engage in the work they were hired to do rather than focus on the top 10 ways they could get fired.

3. Failing to prepare workspace and equipment.

There is no excuse to leave newly hired employees without workspace or equipment. It would be far better to delay the start date of an employee rather than leave him or her in a conference room without a workspace or equipment to do their job.

4. Failing to provide an agenda

All newly hired employees should be supplied with a training agenda prior to their start date. The agenda should list the type of training they should expect to receive, the name of the trainer with a short bio, and an expectation of when they will be finished their training and start work on their own. If there is a competency test prior to the start of work, this should be noted in the agenda as well.

5. Failing to introduce co-workers

Co-workers are an excellent resource for newly hired employees. While companies often focus on introducing their most productive workers and managers, it is often useful to introduce new hires to other recently hired employees who can more easily empathise with their needs. If possible, considering hiring new employees in waves rather than individually as this can often build relationships and lead to a more cohesive team.

6. Failing to provide comprehensive training

Training provides a critical foundation for ongoing success in a company. Not only does a well-trained employee perform better, but the employee will also have more confidence when interacting with customers, and will be far more likely to succeed in their role. If your organisation has a high churn rate within the first 6 months, chances are that poor training is the culprit. Untrained new hires often become disillusioned with an organisation that lacks structure, training, and follow-up. During the first 90 days of hire, an employee should have enough training to be self-sufficient for at least a week at a time, regardless of the position they hold.

7. Failing to provide knowledge resources

Not all employees learn at the same rate using the same methods. Make sure new hires have access to training material in various formats. This includes training handbooks, training videos, and employee shadowing. Rather than force a particular format, concentrate on the results needed to excel at the position. Make sure to give feedback on a regular basis throughout the process.

For a new employee, their first day on the job should be a day of promise and inspiration, not a window into dysfunction. Since first impressions matter, consider specifically alerting everyone in the organisation that a new employee has been hired, and make sure to supply a biography. There's nothing more gratifying to new employees than to be enthusiastically greeted by the co-workers who have taken the time to find out who they are and how they can contribute.

Posted in: Business Advice   0 Comments

12 Essential Tips for Delivering Effective Training Courses

Posted on 17 February 2016

It's easy to believe that the key skill in giving a presentation is making sure you say the right thing, but studies have shown that 55% of your message comes from non-verbal cues and people remember more if they see something than if they just hear it. This article looks at the eight areas you need to focus on to make the most of that 55%.

Your Natural Style

Making an objective assessment of your natural style will help you identify what's good and bad. For example, a tendency to be flippant will not help your credibility but enthusiasm will help you sell your ideas.

Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact with your audience helps build your relationship with them. Be inclusive, vary the people you look at and look at someone when they ask questions. Don't save your eye contact for your notes; make sure you know your topic well enough that you only need them as a quick guide.

Fidgeting

Everyone fidgets when they're nervous, often without realising it. Keep your hands out of your pockets and remove coins or other noisy items. Don't hold a pen if you have a tendency to click it on and off. Hold on to something relevant to your presentation, like your notes, if you need to keep your hands occupied.

Appearance

Don't wear anything too distracting or uncomfortable. Think about where your audience's eyeline will be: if you're on a podium they could be looking straight at your hemline or socks. Don't forget your hair, especially if you have a fringe; you'll appear more credible and trustworthy if they can see your eyes.

Posture

The way you stand can reveal a surprising amount about your emotions. Do you look scared, aggressive or bored? You need to appear confident and engaged.

Gestures

Many people 'talk with their hands', using them to emphasise a point or illustrate size. Gestures can also reveal your state of mind, whether you want them to or not. If you're prone to arm waving then make sure you have something to hold on to. Practising in front of a mirror can show you if this is something you need to address.

Sitting Or Standing

Most presentations are given standing: it gives you more authority and confidence, allows you to maintain better eye contact with your audience and is more formal. Sitting may be appropriate for smaller or more informal groups such as meetings. Whichever you choose, make sure you can be seen by your audience.

Location

The audience has come for your presentation, so you need to be where they can see you clearly, not hiding behind the audio-visual equipment. Take care not to wander too much or the audience will start to get tired or distracted watching you.

Improving the Good and Reducing the Bad

Practising in front of a mirror will help you identify the good habits you want to nurture and the bad ones you want to eliminate. It will also give you confidence that will help you overcome the worst of them. Delivering a presentation can be nerve-wracking, no matter how much experience you have, but if you look confident, remember your presentation starts from the moment they see you and let your natural self show through, you can't go far wrong.

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9 Things You Need to Remember While Negotiating Contracts

Posted on 3 February 2016

There are several aspects of business that can only be learnt through actual experience. One of them is negotiating contracts.
Several people fear the negotiation process because it is an intrinsically uncomfortable process. Asking for more money or making personal demands doesn't come naturally to everyone. But with the right toolkit, you can breeze through contract negotiations. And you'd better get used to it, because you'll have to handle a lot of contracts whether you're a business owner or a company employee.

Having the right mindset is critical to contract negotiations. You have to believe that you are going to get your way. Bring a positive attitude and a smile to the table. You're not signing contracts with the enemy. The people you're negotiating with are going to be your business partners in one capacity or another.

Let's take a look at some things you need to remember when you're in the process of negotiating contracts.

1. Be patient

Don't rush to get a contract signed. Rushed contracts usually leave one or both parties dissatisfied. It's understandable if you want to get the negotiation done with, but taking the extra time to examine your contract will benefit you tremendously in the long run.

2. Involve an expert

You might know what you need from a contract in terms of an overall business output, but you could get trapped by the legalese. Get a lawyer you trust on board to frame the wording in a way which protects your overall interests. Even if you're good at negotiation, involving an expert is always a good idea.

3. Don't forget term sheets

Term sheets are basically a broad overview of the terms of your contract. Before you get into the specifics, it's a good idea to make sure all parties involved agree on the big picture.

4. Take it one step at a time

 Negotiating a complex and lengthy contract is an inherently tedious process. In the beginning, make sure you've got the basic details agreed upon. Making some headway is crucial to the overall success of the negotiations. After you've established a rapport with the other party, you can dive into the deeper, more difficult issues.

5. Think about the specifics

The flowery language on a contract might make for good reading if you're of a certain leaning, but you need to understand what it translates to in the real world. How much will you be making?

6. Use the phone

Emails are notoriously difficult to decipher at times. You aren't aware of the body language of the sender and sometimes people can word things in a confusing manner because they don't have the best command over the language. If you're unsure about certain things in your contract, pick up the phone and have a conversation. It will help sort things out.

7. Don't fret too much about the first draft

The first draft of your contract is just a starting point. Don't be alarmed if there are certain things in there which aren't to your liking. It's called a 'negotiation' because you will be changing certain aspects of the contract.

8. If you can't make the tough calls, get someone who will

If you're not a naturally assertive person or find it difficult to be demanding when the situation calls for it, ask for help from someone who is capable. It could be your business partner or even a spouse.

9. Do your research

You don't want to make outlandish demands that the party you are negotiating with simply can't afford. Take some time and do your research. See what similar services or products cost in the industry. Ask some experts for advice.

Negotiating a contract is like a very slow game of chess, except both parties need to come away from the table victorious. Before you begin the process, figure out what your short and long-term goals are. If you have a clear vision, it will help you navigate the tricky waters of contract negotiation better.

Posted in: Business Advice   0 Comments

Creating an Effective Performance Target: 7 Key Questions to Ask

Posted on 27 January 2016

It's essential for any business to have a robust set of performance targets for its workforce. These will drive employees to achieve in the areas that are critical for success. Therefore, it's important to ensure that the targets are calibrated correctly in order to realise the desired results. Before introducing any new target, make sure you've answered the following seven key questions:

Is it specific?

A target is no good if it cannot be clearly understood. The parameters for success must be expressed in unequivocal terms, with no room for subjectivity. If a target is left open to interpretation, it will quickly become unmanageable. It will also lead to frustration and confusion in the workforce.

Can it be measured accurately?

The target must be based on something that can be measured. If there is no data available from which to derive reports, how will managers or employees know if targets are being met? Therefore, it's essential to ensure robust mechanisms are in place to measure performance before any target is launched.

Is it fair?

The business will leave itself open to challenge if a target is found to be unfair. It's critical to ensure that all those being set a target have the same chance of achieving it. If not, you may be discriminating against a particular type of employee, so always consider the impact of a target on different groups before rolling it out.

Is it meaningful?

It's important that a target aligns with the core aims of the business and the individual objectives set for an employee. If it doesn't directly align, you should question its relevance, as you can be sure employees eventually will. Worse still, if the target is at odds with responsibilities described in an individual's job description, it will make no sense at all!

Is it achievable?

A target must be achievable or it will be consistently failed. That will not look good on performance reports. It will also be demoralising for employees, particularly if a bonus or other incentive is linked to achievement of the target. Equally, the target should not be too easy to achieve, or it will be useless as a measure of performance.
 
Can it be exceeded?

It's important to include a "stretch" factor in a target, so that there is a way to exceed the expectation. Without this, you have no way to differentiate between employees who are just doing the bare minimum to hit the target, and those that are going the extra mile. The only exception to this is a target with no varying degrees of achievement, where the options are only met or not met.

Does it drive desirable behaviours?

onsider what effect a target will have on an individual's behaviour, and whether that is desirable or not. A target that introduces some healthy competition is good, but not if that comes at the expense of employee relations or other wider business objectives. For example, it wouldn't be advisable to introduce a target that drives behaviours that are detrimental to customer service or one that has negative environmental impacts.

Being considerate of these questions when designing a performance target will guarantee you don't create a monster. The target will be challenging but achievable, aligned with individual and business objectives, and clear to understand and measure. The result will be a workforce who feel inspired and empowered to achieve.

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Investment Basics - Understanding Your Gains And Losses

Posted on 20 January 2016

When you're reviewing your investments, it's important to remember that income and returns come from two main sources, Capital Gains and Interim Income.

Capital gain (or loss)

This is the difference in the overall value of your investment between when you purchased it and now (or the date that you sold it.) You can work it out as:
((Current or sale price per unit - purchase price) * number of units) - fees and taxes

For example, let's assume that you purchased 100 shares of Amazing Blue Widget Co. for $50 each and then sold them for $80 each. You had to pay $10 to buy, $10 to sell and 15% tax on the profit, this would work out to: (($80 - $50)*100) - $20 - $450 = $2,430 or a return of 48.6% on your original $5,000 investment.

Interim income (dividends, interest etc.)

This is the amount that you've received in interim payments over the life of your investment. It's calculated as:
(Interim % * value of investment) - taxes

You would need to work this out for each interim payment that you receive.

For example, let's assume that you've held 100 ABWC shares for three years, and that they paid dividends of 3% a year; in the first year the shares were $50 each, in the second, $60 each and in the third $80 each. Your return would be: 3% of $5,000, $6,000 and $8,000 less tax; this works out to: $485.

Your total return

This is equal to your capital gain (or loss) plus your interim income. You can then compare this to your original purchase price to understand what percentage gain or loss that you've made.
For example, your purchase price of ABWC shares was $5,000; over three years, you've made $2,430 in capital gains and $485 in interim returns (dividends) for a total of $2,915. That's an increase of 58.3% over three years, or 19.4% a year - Not bad!


You should compare your total return to your targets and life goals. This can help you decide if you should keep your investments, or if it would be wise to sell them.
 

Posted in: Tax   0 Comments
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