Tuesday, October 16, 2012

5 Rules for Training Employees

This article was written by Geoffrey James, in Inc. Magazine, October 5, 2012, reprinted by permission

Companies spend billions of dollars a year on training. Unfortunately, a lot of that training is simply wasted effort, according to sales guru Duane Sparks. A while back, he gave me a set of principles or rules for training employees. Our conversation was mostly about sales training, but it applies to any kind of training. Here are those rules:

1. Teach Skills Not Traits

Rather than trying to change the personality of the individual, focus on training skills that can be taught and learned.

For example, suppose you're responsible for a field engineer whose duties entail going on customer calls. If she is naturally introverted (a trait) don't try to convince her to be more extroverted (a trait) in order to help you sell. Instead, train her how to listen actively (a skill) and how to use terminology customers will understand (a skill).

2. Teach the Appropriate Skill

Only teach employees skills that you're certain will produce tangible results, within the context of that employee's job.

For example, if a sales team consists of hunters (who find new business) and farmers (who develop existing accounts), it's wasteful to train everybody on the team on cold-calling techniques. Limit such training to the hunters and provide training in other skills (like account management) to the farmers.

3. Reinforce and Support the Skill

Whenever you train a skill, provide multiple opportunities to check on how well that employee is executing that skill and provide coaching as necessary.

Learning a new skill entails making it into a habit. Unfortunately, doing so usually involves overcoming existing habits, which is inherently difficult. Coaching allows you gradually reinforce the skill and overcome the habits it replaces.

4. Implement Skill-based Metrics

There are no truer words in business than "What gets measured gets done." If you really want employees to integrate a skill into their day-to-day performance, you must, must, must measure the results of the application of that skill.

For example, if you're providing training on some aspect of your sales process, you should measure the conversion rate at that stage of the sales process, rather than just measuring the total revenue that's booked at the end of the quarter.

5. Consistently Measure Progress

If you do all of the above, you should be able to watch the metrics improve as the new skill becomes second nature. If you don't get the expected improvement, there's something wrong. Either you've been training the wrong skill or not providing enough reinforcement and coaching.

Can This Business Be Saved?

This article was written by Tory Johnson, in Success Magazine, November 2012, reprinted by permission

With 2012 about to end, one big regret has been expecting business to come to me instead of finding strategies to build awareness of what I offer. I’m committed to getting exposure, but if I can focus on only five things—and have a limited budget—what should I pursue?

I’m glad you are honest about analyzing what went wrong and are thinking now about how to dramatically improve results in the months ahead. Keep in mind, however, that planning alone won’t generate sales; only taking action will. I can give you tried-and-true ideas, but if you don’t execute effectively, none will work.

Getting your name “out there” won’t necessarily result in sales, but it brings your ideal prospects closer to you. Pursue opportunities in these areas to put yourself in front of your target market, which is different from being in front of just any warm body. Focusing will give you a greater bang for your buck.

1. Solicit media coverage.

Every week I feature small businesses on Good Morning America. If you have something perfect to pitch, let me know at SUCCESS.com/Tory. Otherwise, start by identifying local media outlets (print, radio, blogs and TV) that serve your target market. Study what they cover and connect with the reporters and producers who have the greatest interest in your topic. Craft a short pitch that’s not self-serving; your content must greatly benefit the audience more than it benefits you.

2. Enter contests.

Competitions, which exist in nearly every industry, offer extensive exposure—among other prizes—to the winners. An online search can help you identify contests that apply to you based on business type, geography, and even age or gender. You could receive priceless promotion as an active participant.

3. Host teleclasses.

Every couple of months I host a free 20-minute teleclass through FreeConferencing.com in which I offer advice on a specific small-business topic that showcases my style and expertise. I promote the call to my database and through social media.

During teleclasses I provide valuable tips and tricks, no strings attached, as an ideal way to stay connected to my followers and expand my reach. Some participants are impressed by what they hear, so they ask for ways to work with me. For more details on hosting a successful teleclass, search SUCCESS.com with keywords “Tory publicist.”

4. Pursue cross-promotions.

Think of the companies or organizations that share your target market—and reach out to them for cross-promotional opportunities. My Spark & Hustle programs are promoted by groups serving women entrepreneurs, including Make Mine a Million, Crave and Little Pink Book. Instead of viewing one another as competitors, we see the value in championing one another’s success. Reach out now to three groups in your line of work and discuss win-win cross-promotions. Don’t ignore organizations or companies that are significantly larger than you. If you have a solid pitch delivered with confidence, even the big guns will want to play ball because they also want to reach new prospects.

5. Secure speaking gigs.

When you speak authentically to an audience interested in your expertise, you have the opportunity to attract partnerships, referrals and sales. Find groups you can serve with your message, then deliver value that allows listeners to know, like and trust you, which is the first step in generating a sale.

You can identify potential gigs several ways. For instance, look at the websites of leaders in your field to see where they’ll be speaking and then reach out to organizers about becoming a speaker yourself. You also can do online searches to find industry associations and private conferences in your field; contact them to inquire about their speaker selection process. If you’re just starting out as a speaker, stick to more modest venues close to home. If parents of young kids are your target market, then you might contact elementary schools’ parent-teacher groups about presenting at a meeting.

Social Media and Your Small Business

clip_image002[1]This article was written by Rieva Lesonsky – CEO, GrowBiz Media

How are you using social media in your small business? If you’re like most small business owners, you’re spending more time and money on social media and accepting that it’s not a fad, but an essential part of your marketing mix. So say the results of a recent Vocus survey of 400 small and midsized businesses (SMBs) and their use of social media.

Vocus partnered with John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing to analyze the data and here’s some of what they found:

Spending More

The average SMB uses three different software tools to manage social media and spends $845 per month.

Spending is set to rise, with 84 percent of SMBs reporting plans to increase their use of social media at least a little in the future.

Help Wanted?

Slightly more than one in five (22 percent) SMBs use a consultant to help with their social media marketing efforts.

However, the majority (73 percent) of SMBs have simply added social media to the existing duties of a marketing person.

Value Plus Frustration

SMBs recognize the value of social media; 77 percent say it currently accounts for 25 percent or more of their overall marketing efforts.

However, there are still challenges in marketing through social media. The study didn’t pinpoint one outstanding problem, but says that “many smaller nuisances add up to overall frustration.”

What Are They Measuring?

SMBs are looking for tangible results from their social media efforts, and are capturing lots of metrics to measure this. The most common metric was increased traffic to a website, which 76 percent of SMBs regularly measure.

What do they want from their audience? While 40 percent of SMBs want a smaller but highly engaged audience, 27 percent say they’d rather have a huge following with little engagement.

Where Are They Socializing?

While Facebook is still the top social media currently used by SMBs, the study suggests it may be saturated. When SMBs were asked about future social media plans, Facebook ranked second to last.

In contrast, while 44 percent of SMBs now use Google+, that site and Instagram topped the list in terms of future plans (14 percent).

What’s It Mean?

I was heartened to see how many small businesses are already using social media, and interested to see their plans for the future. As an avid social media user, I can relate to the challenges involved. Social media can be overwhelming, especially since it’s often portrayed as “free” and easy.

Whether you need help getting your feet wet in social media, or would like some input on your future social strategy, SCORE mentors can help. If you don’t have a mentor, visit the SCORE website to get matched with one and get free business help 24/7.

Requirements for Religious Holidays

This article was written by Keisha-Ann G. Gray

Question: We employ people of many different religious faiths. With a lot of religious holidays coming up, are we as employers required to give our employees days off for their religious holidays? If so, do we have to give them paid time off?

Answer: Employees often request days off for religious observances/holidays. Although there is no federal law that requires an employer to give employees days off for religious holidays, employers may not treat employees more or less favorably because of their religion affiliations, and employees cannot be required to participate or refrain from participating in religious activity as a condition of employment. Specifically, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), employers have an affirmative duty to provide a reasonable accommodation to employees for religious observances, such as requesting a day off to observe a religious holiday, unless the employer can demonstrate that providing such a reasonable accommodation would result in an "undue hardship" on the employer. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j). Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2)(a). Title VII defines "religion" as "all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee's or prospective employee's religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business."42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j). Many states and local laws also include requirements for employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for employees' religious observance.

Reasonable Accommodation for Religious Holidays

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines "reasonable accommodation" as "[a]ny adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to comply with his or her religious beliefs."See EEOC Compliance Manual, "Section 12: Religious Discrimination," at 46. However, a reasonable accommodation is "subject to the limit of more than de minimis cost or burden." Id. First, an employee must notify his or her employer regarding a request for a day off for religious observance for the employer to recognize that the religious observance will conflict with work. The EEOC has recognized that an employee's need for an accommodation frequently arises as related to work schedule, and the "[e]mployer's duty to accommodate will usually entail making a special exception from, or adjustment to, the particular requirement so that the employee or applicant will be able to practice his or her religion." See EEOC Compliance Manual, at 46. The EEOC Guidelines ("Guidelines") provide examples of methods employers may use to accommodate employees' religious observances as related to work schedule. 29 C.F.R. § 1605.2(d). Some examples include:

*"Volunteer Substitutes and Swaps -- reasonable accommodation without undue hardship is generally possible where a voluntary substitute with substantially similar qualifications is available. . .the Commission believes that the obligation to accommodate requires that employers and labor organizations facilitate the securing of a voluntary substitute with substantially similar qualifications."29 C.F.R. § 1605.2(d)(i).

*"Flexible Scheduling -- . . .[t]he following list is an example of areas in which flexibility might be introduced: flexible arrival and departure times; floating or optional holidays; flexible work breaks; use of lunch time in exchange for early departure; staggered work hours; and permitting an employee to make up time lost due to the observance of religious practices."29 C.F.R. § 1605.2(d)(ii).

An accommodation will not be considered "reasonable" if it "merely lessens rather than eliminates the conflict between religion and work" unless the employer can demonstrate that eliminating the conflict would result in an undue burden. See EEOC v. Ilona of Hungary, Inc., 108 F.3d 1569 (7th Cir. 1997) (employer who refused to grant employees' request for day off on Yom Kippur, but offered other day off instead, failed to provide a reasonable accommodation because accommodation would not eliminate the conflict between the employees' religious beliefs and their duties). Ultimately, reasonableness is a fact-specific determination. EEOC Compliance Manual, at 53.

"A refusal to accommodate is justified only when an employer or labor organization can demonstrate that an undue hardship would in fact result from each available alternative method of accommodation. A mere assumption that many more people, with the same religious practices as the person being accommodated, may also need accommodation is not evidence of an undue hardship." 29 C.F.R. § 1605.2(c)(1). In very limited circumstances, employers have been able to demonstrate the existence of an undue burden that would excuse it from providing a "reasonable" accommodation/day off for a religious holiday. Indeed, to demonstrate an undue hardship, an employer must show "more than de minimis cost or burden." See, e.g., EEOC v. BJ Servs. Co., 921 F. Supp. 1509 (N.D. Tex. 1995) (finding that employer demonstrated an undue burden by showing that cost of employee's requested accommodation to take a day off for religious observance was more than de minimis when it required co-workers to assume plaintiff's share of the hazardous work); compare Opuku-Boateng v. California, 95 F.3d 1461 (9th Cir. 1996) (finding that complaints by employee's co-workers did not establish an undue hardship on the employer, and employer failed to reasonably accommodate employee's religious observance where employee offered to switch schedule as employer did not demonstrate hardship on other employees or more than de minimis cost).

In New York, for example, the recent enactment of the NYC Workplace Religious Freedom Act in 2011 makes it much more difficult for an employer to demonstrate undue hardship resulting from requests for religious accommodations. NYC employees, in particular, must show more than a de minimis expense in order to avoid being required to provide religious accommodations.

Religious Holidays and Pay

Granting an employee time off for religious observance, with or without pay, is a form of reasonable accommodation. Employers are not required to give employees paid time off for religious observance. Specifically, pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. 201 , et seq.), an employer is not required to pay non-exempt (hourly) employees for time off on a holiday. An employer is only required to pay hourly employees for time actually worked. On the other hand, exempt employees (salaried employees who do not receive overtime), who are given the day off, must be paid their full weekly salary if they work any hours during the week in which the holiday falls.

Normally, simply giving hourly employees the day off without pay will usually suffice as a reasonable accommodation. Courts have found that employers were not acting unreasonably if they gave the employee time off for religious observances, however, refused to compensate the employee for such time off. For example, in Ansonia Bd. Of Educ. v. Philbrook et al, 479 U.S. 60, 70 (1986), the Supreme Court found that a school board policy requiring a teacher to take unpaid leave for a holy day observance that exceeded the amount allowed by his collective-bargaining agreement constituted a reasonable accommodation. 47 U.S. 60, 70 (1986) ("The provision of unpaid leave eliminates the conflict between employment requirements and religious practices by allowing the individual to observe fully religious holy days and requires him only to give up compensation for a day that he did not in fact work."). However, employers must be aware that unpaid leave for days off cannot be discriminatorily applied, and "[u]npaid leave is not a reasonable accommodation when paid leave is provided for all purposes except religious ones." Id. at 71.

Therefore, although Title VII does not require that the employer accommodate an employee's religious practices in a way that spares the employee any cost whatsoever, employers should strive to reasonably accommodate employees' requests for days off for religious holidays, unless they can demonstrate an undue burden.

Keisha-Ann G. Gray is senior counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department of Proskauer in New York and co-chair of the Department's Employment Litigation and Arbitration Practice Group.

One Size Does Not Fit All

This article was written by Stephen Shapiro, in Success Magazine, October 2012, reprinted by permission

For business innovation, embrace contrarian views and listen to and observe your customers

Every company knows the importance of innovation, but few know how to make it a reality. For 25 years, Stephen Shapiro has helped hundreds of Fortune 500 corporations and countless individuals innovate. He believes innovation happens only when divergent points of view are brought together in an efficient manner. The following discussion reveals some of his guiding principles.

Q: Stephen, what would be your one piece of advice for a small-business owner or entrepreneur who wants to be more innovative?

A: Ignore all advice. They may think otherwise, but most people have no clue about the real reason they are successful. More important, even if they did know, what worked for them may not be appropriate for you. Unless you know the context for a given practice, you won’t know whether it applies to your situation.

There’s a reason my latest book is called Best Practices Are Stupidclip_image001. Everyone wants to be more like Apple, Amazon.com or 3M. But each company that tries has failed miserably. Competitors that attempt to replicate market leaders are constantly playing catch-up. Besides, every business has its unique culture, financial situation, industry position, brand and more. Although it is useful to learn from others, don’t replicate what they do without healthy skepticism and rational thinking. When listening to advice, consider your situation, your needs and your aspirations, and apply only what feels right to you.

Q: Why do you believe expertise is the enemy of innovation?

A: Innovation requires “fresh thinking.” You need to look at challenges and opportunities from different angles. Unfortunately, when you’re an expert and know a topic well, it’s difficult to examine it from a different perspective. As a result, the best breakthroughs are often found by connecting with entirely different areas of expertise.

Airlines reduced plane turnaround times after studying Indianapolis 500 pit crews. Hospitals improved check-in processes by consulting hotels. Oil transmission companies found better ways to seal cracked pipelines once they examined the self-healing properties of capillaries. Medical device manufacturers better understood how angioplasty balloons expand and contract in blood vessels by analyzing automobile airbag deployment.

Experts are great at finding incremental improvements that build on past successes. Instead of their best practices, we need “next practices” for new challenges.

The issue is depth vs. breadth. Depth is useful for incremental improvements. But breadth is often needed for breakthroughs. Or as Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is having enough dots to connect.” Experts focus deeply on one dot. You’re probably an expert at your dot; you know your business better than anyone else. But that makes it difficult for you to look at your business with fresh eyes.

How can you add more breadth to your experience so you can see different perspectives? Here are three suggestions:

- Try new things. This may seem obvious, but the more experience you have, the more “dots” you have to connect. One tip: In addition to reading trade journals from your industry, read different and unrelated magazines.

- Ask, “Who else has solved a problem like this?” Consider looking outside your industry for solutions. A boat rental company, for example, developed a successful model like Netflix’s DVD subscription service.

- Connect with people who think differently. When working on a problem, bring in people from different, but related, industries. What can a dentist learn from a chiropractor? Or consider crowdsourcing and open innovation [ideas from sources outside your business] to gather ideas from a broad group of people with varied backgrounds.

Q: So why should you work with people who are not like you?

A: Conventional wisdom says opposites attract, but irrefutable scientific evidence proves that in relationships, opposites repel. Look at our political system: If opposites attracted, Democrats and Republicans would hug in the aisles. Simply put, we prefer to be around people who are similar to us. In business, this means we’re apt to surround ourselves with those who think and act as we do.

Working with people who are like us improves efficiency and makes relationships easier, but the commonality destroys innovation. Innovation occurs only when different and divergent points of view come together in an efficient way to create something new of value. In other words, collaborate with individuals and organizations that complement your style and address your innovation inadequacies.

To help organizations do this effectively, I developed a card-based system called Personality Poker. Here is a simplified version to help you pinpoint your style. Identify the set of words below that most resonates with you and best describes you:

A. Intellectual, knowledgeable, philosophical, logical, realistic, rational, skeptical.

B. Adventurous, spontaneous, flexible, creative, open-minded, insightful, curious.

C. Goal-oriented, driven, decisive, competitive, disciplined, organized, systematic.

D. Diplomatic, sociable, gregarious, popular, nurturing, empathetic, compassionate.

The list that best describes you is your primary innovation style (people have more than one style). A’s tend to be more data-driven and analytical, B’s like new ideas and experiences, C’s like to plan the work and work the plan, and D’s are into people and relationships.

But who you are NOT is more important than who you are. Look at the word lists again: Which are the opposite of your style? Which are traits you don’t possess? You may find that people having those attributes can rub you the wrong way, that their differences irritate you. But these differences can round you out, making you more successful in business and innovation.

I am creative, spontaneous and people-oriented. While heading a project years ago, I chose a co-leader with a similar style. It was a disaster. We never accomplished anything because we were too enamored with having a good time and doing cool things. Learning from that misstep, on my next project I selected a co-leader who was an organized, results-oriented planner—my opposite. At first I found him to be annoying, but what we ultimately created exceeded all expectations.

The next time you tackle a complex problem, seek someone who is different, someone who has attributes that are the opposite of yours. Appreciate their contribution. This will be the key to your success.

Q: Besides complementary differences, what should someone look for in partnerships?

A: Consider which relationships will create the most leverage, which goes way beyond doing more with less. It is a mindset for generating disproportionately large returns with a minimal investment. Which partners can help you accomplish that?

This month’s issue of SUCCESS focuses on selling. If you want to sell more, traditionally you identify your prospects, create sales and marketing materials, and then email, call or mail your potential buyers. This is a linear strategy. If you make a sale, it is one sale.

To create exponential growth, think differently. Most businesses operate as though they are B2B (selling to other businesses) or B2C (selling to consumers). For leverage, I treat my B2B business as a B2B2B business. Instead of trying to gain access to potential buyers directly, I build relationships with businesses that already have these connections. One partnership through the right distribution channel can lead to hundreds or thousands of sales.

And I’m not just talking about creating leverage within my sales channel. I also want partners that can develop and deliver as well as distribute. This gives me maximum leverage. For example, I’ve forged a partnership with a major training company that licenses my content. This company has an excellent distribution channel because it is positioned in nearly every major U.S. corporation. But it’s also developing, delivering and funding a completely new training program from my intellectual property. In this case, each sale puts money in my pocket without any extra effort.

Think about your business. If you are a restaurant, for example, working with Groupon or Restaurant.com is a great way to generate sales. But if you go a step further, you could find a catering business that licenses your recipes and brand. They do all the work while you get a chunk of the revenues.

I understand that with these kinds of partners, I’m choosing to forgo potential revenue—unlike business deals in which I book and deliver all of the work myself, doing 100 percent of the work and retaining 100 percent of the income, less costs.

Leverage is getting exponential results from minimal or no effort. Others can help you accomplish this. But to do so, consider following my personal mantra: “Before you can multiply, you must first learn to divide.” Before you can really grow your business, you must be willing to give others a slice of your business. When their success depends on your success, you will have built an effective partnership and an exceptional leverage point for growing your business.

Q: Is innovation always about creating products and services that are better and faster?

A: We are in a world of too much to do, too little time and too many distractions. Chances are your customers and employees are overwhelmed and have short attention spans. Because of this, simplifying your products, services and processe This means that casual users must wade through a sea of complexity to do what they want. One reason for Apple’s success is it hid complexity from users.

To serve your customers, can you simplify what your business offers? How can you make yourself easy to do business with? When communicating, simplify your message. Businesses are notorious for using jargon and making things sound overly complicated. Prospects want you to get to the point. Keep your website simple, with few distractions and limited navigation.

Simplification is the best innovation.

Q: What is the No. 1 cause of innovation failure?

A: Studies find that the main cause of innovation failure is an inability to meet customer needs. Detroit car manufacturers learned this the hard way. For years they ignored the needs of customers, believing they knew best. And even when U.S. automakers thought they were listening, they ignored what they didn’t believe to be true.

Our brains are designed to hear what we want to hear, not what is really being said. Our biases and beliefs cloud our ability to truly listen.

Although you gladly accept positive feedback, are you equally happy to receive criticism? If you see negative Yelp reviews, do you assume customers were wrong? Or do you embrace their feedback as a contribution? What about lost customers? Are you willing to hear and proactively seek their negative perspectives?

Biases not only affect what you listen to but to whom. I’ve seen executives dismiss brilliant ideas proposed by employees. But when consultants said the same things, they were considered geniuses.

Even if you are a master at listening, you must remember that customers don’t always know what they really want. So it’s vital to take things a step further. Leave your desk and observe your customers to discover some of their unarticulated needs and wants. Whirlpool developed pedestals and storage units for its Duet washers and dryers by observing a woman who placed her dryer on cinderblocks so she could load and unload without bending. A drugstore learned the difficulty in opening its prescription bottles by watching a woman use a hacksaw to cut into one. Customers never provided this feedback during focus-group sessions and surveys.

Bottom line: Innovation is about connecting the dots: applying solutions from different industries, partnering with people who think differently, building relationships that give you greater leverage, and connecting with customer needs. Only by looking at the world differently will you be able to stay ahead of your competition.