Three Strategies to Steal from Google for a Happier WorkplacePeople often spend more time at work than at home. If a workplace is not fun or, at the very least, pleasant, people can dread it. Happier workers are also more productive, or so conventional wisdom holds.

Companies try all sorts of ways to boost morale. In fact, we talked about how to keep your team motivated, here on this blog as well.

Google is known to be a great place to work. It was named the best company to work for by Fortune for the seventh year. Employees get free haircuts, onsite doctors and laundry, shuttle buses, and more.

While your company may lack the abundant resources Google has, staff writer Laura Entis, shares a few key company practices that can still be applied to your business.

Act Like a Scientist

Entis suggests you have employees fill out surveys to collect data and if it challenges current company policy, investigate and find a better solution.

For instance, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin presumed you could run a company where no one was the boss of anyone else.

Feedback from company surveys indicated the opposite, and now Google understands the value of middle managers.

Have a Reason for Perks

Don’t just give employees perks. There should be a reason for each one.

For instance, Google noticed many women were leaving the company, which affected their bottom line because of the costs associated with hiring and retraining employees, according to a Slate article.

When they looked into the problem, they discovered it was a new mother problem. Women who had recently given birth left at twice the average departure rate.

To help with this problem, Google changed their maternity leave to five months off with full pay and full benefits. New mothers are also allowed to split up that time however they wish. Google also offers seven weeks of new parent leave to its workers around the world.

Little Things Can Have a Big Effect

Something as simple as the length of the tables in a lunchroom or the amount of time you spend in line (if you’re company has a cafeteria) can have a big effect.

Entis says researchers hired by Google found the ideal lunch line wait should be three to four minutes, which is long enough for people to talk and make new connections, but short enough to minimize wasted time.

A longer lunch table enables you to branch out more than a table that seats four people. “Small, inexpensive changes can have a big effect on employee satisfaction,” says Entis.

In general, workplaces that make us feel included, valued, and cared for bring out our best efforts. Any workplace can be fun, but it needs to come from the top. It takes a little creativity and effort, but it is worth it in the end.

What are some of the biggest stressors you meet in your workplace? How do you get past them?

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How to Keep Your Team MotivatedAfter a long, hard day at work, the prospect of doing it all again can be daunting. When the expectations of your company are high, it can cause your team anxiety and burnout because they want to do their best.

“Maintaining employee motivation when expectations are high is an extremely challenging thing to do,” says Michael Olguin, contributor to Inc.

He offers some suggestions to help lead your team back to balance, clarity, and renewed energy.

Challenge Employees

Work needs to stimulate your employee’s intellect. They want to learn and have daily successes so goals need to be tough, yet attainable. Olguin says it’s important to challenge your employees to analyze their job and the company overall and encourage them to intellectually improve the organization through greater efficiencies, processes, or service offerings. “When individuals feel like their intellectual contributions are being realized, they are more invested in the company and committed to their jobs,” he says.

Offer Opportunities

Olguin says one of the best things you can do as a leader is to continuously offer your employees opportunities to take on new responsibilities, challenges, or projects. This will validate your confidence in them and provides them with experience in areas they may never have had a chance to face.

Give Constructive Feedback

It’s never comfortable to communicate to an employee on how they can improve, but constructive feedback can motivate employees to want to improve. When criticism is handled with finesse, it can promote growth and improvement.

Encourage Breaks

Encourage your employees to step away from their desk or work environment, even if for just a few minutes.

“Fresh air, sunshine, and idle chatter about anything other than work can be incredibly valuable in invigorating employees, which will ultimately ensure better quality work,” says Olguin.

Work Smarter, Not Longer

Train your employees on time management skills so they can better manage their days. Longer time in the office could demotivate employees. They may feel like they don’t have a life other than work. Employees need to have a balance between their personal and professional lives.

A lack of motivation on the job is a common problem. It can lead to dissatisfaction and even greater unhappiness. There are many reasons employees suffer from a lack of motivation: Maybe they had a long day on the job, their work doesn’t challenge them, they aren’t in their dream job, or it’s hard to get passionate about the work. Whatever the reason, as leaders, we need to find ways to motivate our team and renew their energy.

How do you motivate your employees?

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Eight Tips to Improve Your Hiring ProcessKnowing you need the right people on your team and finding them are two different things. That’s why one of the toughest challenges for businesses is to recruit qualified candidates. You need a solid hiring process in place to find (and hire) the best people for the position.

Vanessa Merit Nornberg, founder of Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company, has learned some tricks about hiring since she opened her business in 2004.

In an article in Inc., she offers tips to refine the hiring process and get more ROI on your recruitment efforts.

Give the Hiring Process Six Months

When you hope to fill an open position by next week (or even next month), it puts you at a disadvantage from the outset. To do things right, Nornberg advises, allow three months to search for and screen applicants, one month for your new hire to give notice to her current employer, and at least two months to train the new person.

Use the Job Post to Describe Your Company

“Believe it or not, you don’t want to emphasize the qualities you need in a candidate in a job description,” Nornberg contends. Instead, use this opportunity to describe your company—what makes it unique, why it’s the right place to work for the right type of candidate—thus upping the odds you’ll hear from people “who are the right cultural fit.”

Build Several Steps Into the Process

Add more than a one-click submission to ensure you’ll hear only from candidates genuinely interested in your position. Lesser-motivated job-seekers will just move on.

Identify Five Essential Qualities

Pick the five most important qualities for the position, and create interview questions to help you determine whether a candidate is actually worth consideration.

Use the Interview for to Ask More Than Questions

The interview is an opportunity to observe the way a candidate handles themselves in situations which can resemble actual workplace experience. “For example, if she will be organizing data for your company, give her data to classify and pay attention to the way she does it,” Nornberg suggests.

Add Others to the Recruiting Process

Any genuinely promising candidates should be evaluated by at least two members of the team (in addition to you). Your gut may tell you this is just the right person, but “having someone to talk about the candidate with can help you get clarity when it matters.”

Customize the Training Program to the Candidate

A training program that accurately reflects the tasks of the new hire will accelerate To accelerate the person’s learning curve, provide a training program that accurately relfects the tasks a new hire will be expected to perform.

Be Honest About the Candidate After the Decision is Made

Sometimes, despite the best efforts, you come to realize the person you hired isn’t right for the position. Nornberg advises swift action: “If you make a hiring mistake, don’t waste precious time and money hoping it will eventually turn out okay. It won’t. Let the candidate go immediately.”

Recruiting takes time and effort, but the pay-off is worth it. When you add great people to the team, your business gains new skills and competencies—and with them, an opportunity to attract new customers.

What are your secrets for hiring the right candidate?

turnaroundIn 2008, the restaurant chain Bennigan’s declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy. That might have been the end of the story, as it is with many chains that file for bankruptcy. But Bennigan’s is growing again under new leadership.

In an article for Fox Small Business Center, Michele Hieles outlines the “lessons learned” from this experience, courtesy of its current president and CEO Paul Mangiamele.

According to Mangiamele, Bennigan’s didn’t falter because of a lack of consumers. Instead, the culprit was what he calls “brand drift".

Brand drift occurs “when the brand moves away from the many elements that made it successful in the first place,” he says. To be successful, “You need to constantly reinvent yourself so you don’t lose relevance.”

As part of the turnaround effort, the plan is to “respect the Bennigan’s legacy” while launching such elements as a “chef-driven menu, a refreshed drink line-up, updated training methodologies, and forward-thinking marketing initiatives.”

Mangiamele is also overseeing efforts to invest in the “fractured” franchisee system. “All of us together will always be smarter than one of us,” he says.

Here are Mangimele’s turnaround strategy tips to franchisees of all industries.

Turnaround Strategy Tips 

Know your mission, vision, strategy, tactics, and culture. Start with a solid mission and vision statement. Then put together a team, develop strategies, and determine tactics.

Initiative development is another critical factor, as illustrated by these five initiatives fueling the resurgence of the Bennigan’s brand:

Put together a team of “business athletes.” Mangiamele firmly believes the most important characteristic to look for in an employee is attitude. There’s no way to force an employee to smile or to feel genuine enthusiasm for your brand. Instead, you can “find team players that have a 25/8 work ethic—employees who can help not only achieve your objectives, but also exceed them.” The A+ team must consist of dedicated workers “who will make sacrifices to contribute to the team objective.”

Go ABCD. To achieve success, Bennigan’s must create a “legendary experience”—and the only way to do that is to go ABCD—“Above and Beyond the Call of Duty”. Mangiamele expects everyone in the organization (“from executives to busboys”) to forge an emotional connection with their customers. This approach is reinforced by programs that recognize and reward stellar employees. Best of all, “ABCD-type performance is contagious.”

Get out in the neighborhood. “Given the competitive marketplace, you can’t open your doors at 11:00 a.m. and just wait for people to come,” Mangiamele says. Instead, focus on what he calls “neighborhood marketing”—a system designed to promote your business within a five- to 10-minute drive from your company’s front door. Get out and introduce yourself and your business, making “emotional connections” with neighbors within that 10-mile radius.

Today, Bennigan’s operates nearly 100 domestic and international restaurants, with agreements to develop many more in the coming years across the U.S., and in Mexico, El Salvador, Panama, Cyprus, Korea and the United Arab Emirates. It looks like the company’s turnaround efforts are paying off.

What have you done to turnaround your brand?

How to Empower Your Employees to Become LeadersIn the rush of day-to-day operations, it’s easy to lose sight of factors that encourage fresh thinking from the people who know the business best—your employees. Many employees have the potential to grow and become leaders, another plus for your business.

Heather R. Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, gathered insights on employee empowerment from a variety of business leaders and shared them in this article in Smart Blog on Leadership.

Seven Ways to Empower Your Employees to Become Leaders

1. Listen to what employees say. When employees raise an issue relating to business processes or customer service, management should listen and take action on these issues. When employees see those issues addressed, they’ll continue making useful suggestions.“Soon these employees will become leaders in the workplace because they know the organization values their contributions,” says Josh Tolan of Spark Hire.

2. Encourage thinking that takes risks. It’s vital to create a culture where employees feel confident it’s OK to ask questions, suggest out-of-the-box ideas, and even take actions that might fail. “Out of that failure will come knowledge and longer-term success,” says Lynne Dixon,

3. Deploy clarity and trust. A company that seeks to empower its workforce must provide clarity to ensure employee actions are aligned with business goals. It must also work to establish trust with employees. “Clarity without trust produces inaction,” says Adam Robinson, CEO of Hireology. “Trust without clarity produces wasted effort.”

4. Establish and enforce strong workplace policies. When clear-cut, enforceable policies are in place, there’s no longer a need for micromanagement. “Workplace policies give employees the parameters they need to be creative, productive, successful, and happy at work,” says Clara Lippert Glenn, president and CEO of The Oxford Princeton Programme.

5. Create an inclusive workplace. Do you see leadership potential in your employees? If so, encourage them to offer their opinions and insights—and show you value their input. In a more inclusive environment, employees can grow as leaders. Such an environment “acts not only as a resource for management to help grow business, but also to promote employee growth as well,” says Shirley Engelmeier, CEO of Inclusion/INC. “Everyone wins!”

6. Make it OK to fail. In a more traditional workplace environment, employees believe if they take risks and fail, they’ll soon be out of a job. Empower employees so they know they have authority to fail. “Risk takers, by definition, gain followers—when successful—and having followers it's the definition of a leader,” says Bruce Hurwitz of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.

7. Lead with a sense of balance. In an empowered work environment, success is a journey, not the destination. Management leads with a sense of balance—“giving challenges but offering support; accepting failure but holding individuals accountable for success; and trusting their people while expecting respect in return,” says Russell Schramm, vice president of talent acquisition for the Americas, Philips.

These CEOs and top executives agree: Empower your employees and your business will quickly overtake its competitors and gain a stronger foothold in the marketplace.

How do you empower your employees?

The phrase "company culture" is often misunderstood. The problem is that people tend to view the desire for a great company culture as a touchy-feely component of business. A non-essential.

That's largely because a great company culture is intangible. It's not a product. It's not as easy to analyze as a profit and loss statement. Company culture isn't even as concrete as the office decor.

That said, building a great company culture is incredibly important. In fact, I would argue building and nurturing a great company culture is key to long-term success.

Learn from the Zappos Culture

“If you want to build a company that attracts and retains loyal employees and customers, creating your own unique culture needs to be a top priority,” says Marla Tabaka, contributor to Inc. According to Tabaka, the online retailer Zappos exemplifies the power of a great company culture—and it's not just because they offer free employee lunches and a nap room.

In an Inc. article, Tabaka shares tips from Zappos and from Dr. David Vik’s latest book, “The Culture Secret: How to Empower People and Companies No Matter What you Sell.

Rewards and Incentives Can Improve Poor Employee PerformanceEvery workplace experiences poor employee performance at one time or another. You may have a stable of high-functioning workers, but it seems there’s always one or two who constantly struggle or fail to live up to expectations.

What can you do about them?

Design an effective reward and incentive program to encourage employee performance, says Jennifer Vecchi in an article for Talent Management Magazine.

She offers several tips to jump-start a lagging employee performance through the use of enhanced communication, and a personalized approach to “fixing” the situation.

Get to the Root of the Problem

You need to know what issues the employee has before you will be able to figure out how to correct them. Is the problem related to a lack of training or the absence of skills needed for his or her specific job duties?

See How the Employee “Fits In”

Successful employees are good at finding their place within their company's culture. Poor performers may experience difficulties because they fall outside what Vecchi calls the “core demographics”—resulting in a lack of engagement with the business environment, other employees, or both.

“Continuous training and interoffice gatherings, social or business related, can help alleviate feelings of not fitting in with peers,” she says.

One-Size-Fits-All Won’t Work

If several employees aren't performing up to standard, a “one-size-fits-all” approach to rewards and incentives will likely fall flat.

Instead, gather information about each employee’s particular interests or hobbies. Do they enjoy camping or water sports? Do they read a lot?

As Vecchi notes, “By matching rewards to their interests, (you) can create a more personalized approach to demonstrate caring and motivate employees.”


Sometimes even the appeal of a reward isn't enough on its own to fully correct poor performance. “For some, the prize may seem too far from reach,” Vecchi says. “Remind employees that their small, daily efforts can have a huge impact."

It’s important to keep the lines of communication open and help chart progress toward the goal.

Consider an Alternate Solution

There will be times when the reward and incentive program just doesn’t work because an employee has become too bored or complacent to change. In this case, one useful alternative is offering them a different role, “Perhaps one featuring newer experiences to remind them what they liked about the company in the first place,” says Vecchi.

As unpromising as this may sound, Vecchi reminds us it’s a lot less costly to reposition an employee, rather than replace him or her outright.

Sometimes Employee Performance Isn't There

If employee performance does not improve for an individual and he or she can’t be motivated by a reward or incentive, you run the risk of allowing their negative attitude to infect the rest of your team. An individual like this probably should be terminated. It’s the best action to take for both the unmotivated employee and the good of your team.

Employee rewards and incentives are one method you can use to motivate employees to change work habits. When employee performance improves, so does your business.

What reward and incentive program for employee performance works for you?


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