When Does It Make Sense to Hire an Intern?

k-11_dsc4360_palm-bwI know it’s only the beginning of March, but college and university students have been lining up their summer internships as I write this blog. On the surface, many small business owners consider interns, particularly unpaid interns, a great way to get those unwanted tasks completed in the office. However, interns can help a small business but only in certain situations. In this blog, I will discuss those situations where an intern may or may not be beneficial to your business.

Do You Have the Time To Train an Intern?

An intern may be a great option for you if you have a specific project that you haven’t had time to do, or a new customer relationship management (CRM) tool you haven’t had time to research. However, before you jump on the intern bandwagon, consider more than the “low-cost extra help” viewpoint, and look at an intern as a training opportunity for them. This will require you or a dedicated experienced staff member to be available to train the intern, and the special project should have defined goals and measurable outcomes for interns to complete. You’ll need to ensure internships are relevant to the students’ career interests and that supervisors and mentors will be available to provide regular feedback and evaluation. To make the most of the experience for both your business and the intern, clear directions and proper training need to be provided. This is particularly the case if the intern is being provided through an educational institution.

Need a Fresh Set of Eyes?

Interns are typically young and eager to learn and therefore usually are bursting with ideas. They approach the job with a more open mindset, rather than someone from another department with set habits and preconceived ideas on how to do certain tasks. Be sure to include the intern in brainstorming sessions and encourage them to speak up in meetings, as their fresh ideas and approaches can be great for your business. However, implementing their ideas may be best suited for your current staff as they have a better understanding of the businesses processes and protocols and accountability.

What are Your Business’ Long-Term Plans?

If your business also has long-term plans to expand, an intern might be the first step in that process. Consider any recurring projects that are about 12 weeks in duration, or your regular use of contractors for overflow projects or tasks; these could all be completed by an intern. When you consider adding an intern, a person who is bursting with new ideas and is plugged in to the latest technologies, who knows what they may come up with – perhaps an idea that changes and improves the way you do business!

Determining if your business needs could use an intern can be challenging for many business owners, and one I often see as a business advisor with TAB. If your business would benefit from the guidance of other business owners who have “been there”, as well as an advisor who has “done that”, contact me to see how I can help!


Four Tips to Deal With Conflict on Your Team

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 10.10.03 AMEvery business owner has had some amount of conflict on their team, whether it has been the slamming of doors, a screaming session, or someone walking off a job site. No matter when it happens, or who started it, as the owner you’ll need to address the conflict and provide resolution as soon as possible.

How you approach resolving the issue is a question on the minds of many business owners because conflict resolution can disrupt the momentum you’ve set as an owner, your team dynamics and possibly your entire company. We all know how important it is to confront the issue directly before your workplace becomes toxic. I’ve outlined below four tips to keep in mind when dealing with conflict.

Pick Your Battles

When your staff work alongside each other every day, it’s inevitable that small disagreements will arise, so let these small issues work themselves out. However, when there is hard proof that an employee is causing conflict, it is an ongoing conflict, or other employees are being negatively impacted by this conflict, then it is time for you to intervene. More often than not, your staff is waiting for you to resolve the issue and if you wait too long, it can put your leadership reputation at risk.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

As owners, we are often too busy to create formal roles and responsibilities, but by not creating these documents, it can leave your employees unsure about what is and what is not part of their job. This ambiguity can often lead to one employee blaming another for issues on a project. The best way to ensure any role conflicts do not happen is to create and define each role and responsibility by clearly defining task objectives and expected outputs, and ensuring their job descriptions are up-to-date and reviewed regularly so their role’s purpose and duties are clear.

Don’t Take Sides

Just as there are low-performing employees who can irritate their coworkers, there are also high-performing employees who insist on doing things their way. Sometimes in a small office, we might even have members of our team who we get along with more, but it’s critical as a business owner to ensure that all employees feel heard and understood, and know that their manager is willing to step in and help solve an issue, rather than “side” with an employee who is liked or valued more.

Keep Things Private

Effective and supportive communication is often all that’s needed to solve conflicts in the workplace. Find a private setting, or maybe go grab a coffee with the employee so they feel supported and feel they can speak freely without judgment or embarrassment. They need to feel they can trust you to help resolve the conflict. Trust forms the foundation for every important relationship at work and typically, workplace disputes should not be discussed with the entire team unless it becomes necessary.

Conflict is an issue that you can minimize in the workplace and by doing so, can help you to build a more supportive, welcoming and productive environment. If you’re a business owner dealing with issues like this, don’t face it alone – contact TAB to find out how to become a member, or contact me today.

As a Smaller Business, Are You Prepared for Marijuana in Your Workplace?

herbal-3122362_640There really isn’t too many Ontarians that aren’t aware of the new legislation about to be passed in July regarding the legalization of marijuana. There are copious articles on how big business is planning on dealing with this. However, what has many of my clients, owners of smaller businesses, asking me is will this impact their business and if so, what do they really need to know to be prepared?

I’ve outlined below a few of the key areas of concern for smaller business owners, as well as a few tips on how you can prepare your workplace for the effects of legalized marijuana.

A 2017 study of over 650 Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) members reveals that almost half of employers do not believe their current workplace policies adequately address the potential new issues that may arise with the legalization and expected increased use of marijuana. Many owners want to know and need some direction about:

  • How to accurately test drug levels (with no reliable test of THC)
  • What constitutes use, and how to adjust internal policies to reflect medical vs. recreational usage
  • Possible increase in poor performance, decreased productivity, reduced attendance, and safety issues

Many owners feel this new legislation will not impact their employees or workplace, but I am recommending you take a look at the following tips, because every business owner who hires staff must be aware of how this could impact their bottom line:

  1. Create/Update Your Policies
    Review your drug and alcohol policies, if you have them, and add in a line or two about marijuana usage. If you have legal counsel, have them take a look at the language. This way, you are covered from a legal and optics perspective. If you don’t have policies, take time to think about drafting one (there are some templates available online).
  2. Be Sensitive
    Detecting possible impairment of your employees in your office must be approached and handled very carefully, particularly when signs of marijuana use are apparent. You’ll need proof to make a case for a clear connection between substance use and a drop in productivity.
  3. Watch Behaviours
    Start noting (not tracking) your employee behaviour. This may be easier with a smaller team, but if you can have someone in your office (e.g. main reception, EA) dedicated to simply noting current employee behaviours, then once the new legislation is in place, if there are any outliers (e.g. employees are late, taking more sick days, or their performance has been slipping), you’ll need to meet with them to go over this and put steps in place, with timelines for improvement.

We are entering fairly new territory with regards to policies on marijuana, so right now there are no hard and fast rules on this, but making a few small changes will help you navigate.

Is your business ready for marijuana legalization? Contact me to help you navigate these waters.

When Is Hiring A Contract Worker A Good Idea for Your Business?

shutterstock_189811220As a business advisor, staffing has to be one of top issues that business owners need help with, particularly whether to hire more employees and what type of employee. You may have read in recent media coverage that a growing trend for 2018 is the increased hiring of contract workers by small businesses. We know that a contractor is someone who works for your business on a defined basis, and they can sometimes be referred to as freelance workers or consultants. But it’s very important to remember that contractors are independent businesses, working for you. They can help your business through periods of growth or difficulty, but they are not full-time employees.

Initially, some business owners may focus on the bottom line and think of the hiring of contract workers as a way to save costs. I’ve outlined below some of the key factors you might want to consider when determining if hiring contract workers makes good business sense for you:

  • Your business has turned down major projects due to lack of resources
  • You’re preparing for a seasonal change in business and demand is uncertain
  • You’re trying to remain lean but your budgets are a concern
  • Your business needs someone to hit the ground running
  • You are considering testing out an internal need without a serious commitment
  • The project requires a specialized skill that your company lacks, or as a business owner, you don’t plan to specialize in
  • If you are in an industry that is a fast-growing, such as technology, you can hire a contractor faster than a full-time employee to keep up
  • If you have a virtual office or small space, a contract worker can work offsite

Create a Network
You can hire independent contractors for one-off projects or even long-term business functions such as I.T. or payroll, to help you manage workloads during peak periods. This is why it is so important to create a network of contractors that you trust, so that your business can say “Yes!” to more projects. Being able to hire reliable and available contractors on an ad hoc basis can be a good strategy for growing your business.

Determining your hiring needs and making informed decisions is an area that can be challenging for business owners, and one I see often as a business advisor with TAB. If your business would benefit from the guidance of other business owners who have “been there”, as well as an advisor who has “done that”, contact me to see how I can help!

Hiring Decisions: What To Do If You’ve Hired the Wrong Person

k-158-pom-2068As a small business owner, it’s so important to find the right people for your team. I have spoken with small business owners who are thrilled to see their employees go above and beyond to improve the business. They say they never knew that an employee was so dedicated, or that someone exceeded even their highest expectations. But sometimes, and more often than you’d expect, businesses hire the wrong person and end up suffering certain consequences, which include:

  • Lost time and lost productivity – We’ve all heard the phrase “time is money,” and hiring the wrong person will cost a business both in training time, and in restarting the hiring process again once they’re gone.
  • An unhappy team and workplace – A difficult employee can put pressure on the rest of the team, who must pick up his or her slack, and deal with extra work and stress that they might find unfair.

So, how do we go about dealing with a bad hire? I always try to keep some important questions in mind:

  • Is the employee in the right role? In some cases, the person just isn’t a good fit for their role, but they may still be a good fit within the business. Consider speaking with the employee and changing their role, as that may lead to a happier and more productive employee and team.
  • Are problems arising from simple mistakes, or cutting corners? Mistakes are part of the learning curve, especially for new employees. It’s possible that the employee has made correctable errors, rather than demonstrate a character flaw.
  • Does the employee fit with the company culture? In the end, if the employee is not a good fit within the workplace, it’s best to let them go. Cut your losses early with a bad hire, so that you can save your time and money on finding a better fit, and a more productive employee.

Now that you’ve dealt with a troublesome hire, how do you go about finding the right person? Here are some tips you may want to consider when reviewing possible candidates:

  • Do your research. It’s a given that you do your research on each candidate beforehand, but take a closer look at their resume, LinkedIn profile, and references. Note any gaps in employment or any ambiguous points on their resume, and check their online presence on websites like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Go beyond the obvious. Ask the candidate questions that go beyond their resume and cover letter. Their answers may reveal more about their personality, and the rapport you build with them may show if they’re a good fit within your company culture.

As a small business owner, hiring is one of the many tasks you have to dedicate time to, and though it may be tiring, finding the right team members will be best for your business in the long run. If you’d like to learn more from other small business owners on hiring, and many other strategies, contact me today!

Employee Retention: How to Help Your Employees Find Work-Life Balance

startup-593341_1920With constantly improving technology and 24/7 access to email, it may seem like your employees are always available to keep your business moving forward. But have you ever wondered if this might be putting too much pressure and stress on your employees? I have worked with many business owners throughout the years and the topic of employee retention seems to come up often.

Every employee will differ depending on what provides them the most happiness on the job, whether it’s compensation, benefits, or office perks; however, studies show that there are many benefits for firms that take measures to improve work-life balance, like increased productivity and greater recruiting abilities.

To implement positive change for both your employees and your company’s bottom line, I’d like to share with you a few tips to improve work-life balance in your organization:

  • Set realistic project goals, and discuss them with employees. It’s important to discuss timelines with your employees before starting a task. Depending on their role, they may have competing project deadlines and making adjustments to their schedule could mean the difference between having to work overtime and spending time with their family.
  • Offer flexibility. Giving your employees the option of adjusting their work hours or occasionally providing the option of working from home can make a huge difference to them. Providing variations in work hours that work best for them will allow your employees to be more focused, less stressed, and much more productive at work.
  • Review your benefits package. It may be in your business’ best interest to offer group health benefits, or cover the cost of some medical expenses. While this may seem like a benefit reserved for larger companies, from an employee recruitment and retention perspective, offering benefits can serve as a unique competitive advantage. A well-structured benefits plan can offer security and peace of mind, and further motivate your employees, particularly if there is an issue affecting numerous employees.

There’s no denying that Canadians are career-driven and hard-working, but overworking your employees can lead to more harm than good for your business. But with a great work-life balance, your employees will be happy, motivated, and productive in their jobs. If you’d like more advice on how to improve your company’s bottom line, check out how TAB can help!

Employee Relations: Social Media In and Out of the Workplace

28011015990_8ff191ee0f_bEven though I know some small business owners still have not embraced social media in their business, but in 2017, there is no denying that social media is now pervasive in our culture. When used wisely in the workplace social media is a powerful tool that can connect individuals, increase productivity, enhance sales and marketing efforts and create brand champions. However, social media also has a dark side. Inappropriate social media used by employees can cause serious damage your company’s reputation, leak sensitive information and/or leave you libel for cyber bullying or harassment. With social media use at an all time high and still growing exponentially, it’s more important than ever for every business to have a clearly defined social media policy.

How many Canadians are using social media?

  • 73% of millennials use social media daily (Statistics Canada)
  • More than 14 million Canadians check Facebook every day (Miller Thomson)
  • More than 400 million tweets are sent daily (Miller Thomson)
  • LinkedIn has over 8 million Canadian users (Miller Thomson)

What is a social media policy? A social media policy is a code of conduct that establishes clear guidelines and expectations for your employees. It clearly defines which social media sites employees may access and what is and is not appropriate for employees to post about their company on these sites. Typically they include restrictions on disclosing confidential information, trade secrets, financial information and/or potentially offensive material. A social media policy will also clearly state the consequences for breaking the rules. 

Why is a social media policy so important? There used to be a clear distinction between your private life and your work life, but social media has blurred all that. People post on social media anytime and from anywhere, often without too much forethought. Millennials, also referred to as the social generation, are notorious for sharing everything, including the minutiae of their lives, without a filter for what is private or work related. “Any company, big or small, needs a social media policy to protect their reputations,” says Aliah Wright, author of A Necessary Evil: Managing Employee Activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…and the Hundreds of Other Social Media Sites. “Even if their company has no social media presence, their employees may be creating one by virtue of their actions online.”

7 tips for creating an effective social media policy:

  1. State the purpose/objective of the policy
  2. Clearly define what constitutes social media. Is it social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? Does it include blogs? Online forums? Videos?
  3. Decide who is responsible for managing and participating in social media – everyone involved in your company’s social media should know who is responsible for the different tasks
  4. Establish guidelines for overall conduct and be clear about what is considered unacceptable behaviour – releasing confidential or proprietary information, offensive language, cyber bulling, airing grievances online…
  5. State the consequences for breaching the policy? Disciplinary action? Termination?
  6. Make sure that your employees understand the social media policy and provide training sessions if necessary.
  7. Monitor social media usage to ensure that the policy is being followed

Does your company have a social media policy in place? Want more advice on social media policies, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!