Leftover Vacation Days and the Impact on Your Business

Americans did not use 658 million vacation days last year. For the first time ever, more than half of Americans (55%) did not use all of their days off, according to a study done by Project: Time Off. We are becoming the “No Vacation Nation.”

While Americans used to average three weeks of vacation a year in 2000, in 2015 they only took 16.2 days. That represents a loss of almost one week in 15 years.

Why would people essentially volunteer a week of their time every year for their company? The two biggest factors cited in the study were fear they would return to a mountain of work (37%) and that no one else can do their job (30%).

Unlike other developed countries, in the U.S. employers are not required to give employees paid time off. Employees in the European Union get a minimum of 20 days a year.

While a business owner or CEO may appreciate that their employees didn’t take their allotted time off, research shows their productivity may actually be lower when they don’t take breaks.

Studies show that when employees take time off, their productivity increases. “There is a lot of research that says we have a limited pool of cognitive resources. When you are constantly draining your resources, you are not being as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, we see performance decline. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks,” said Allison Gabriel, an assistant professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University in the article “The Secret to Increased Productivity: Taking Time Off.”

In a Wall Street Journal blog, Dr. Kathleen Potempa wrote, “In addition to mental and physical stressors, long periods of work without vacation can lead to reduced productivity, diminished creativity, and strained relationships. Americans seem to believe that logging more hours leads to increased output, but respite deprivation can actually increase mistakes and workplace animosity—in addition to prompting or exacerbating stress-related illnesses.”

CEOs and business owners should look at their own calendars and clear time for vacation as well. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, takes six weeks a year. “I take a lot of vacation and I’m hoping that certainly sets an example. It is helpful. You often do your best thinking when you’re off hiking in some mountain or something. You get a different perspective on things.”

COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg says she was able to write her best-selling book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” because she took all of her vacation days. (I’ve written a book, and would be on the side of people who argue that’s not quite what I’d call a vacation.)

Tony Schwartz, the president/CEO of The Energy Project and author of “Be Excellent at Anything” says at The Energy Project they teach “the greater the performance demand, the greater the need for recovery.” Feeling burnt out one year, he went on vacation and completely disconnected from digital distractions. “By the end of nine days, I felt empowered and enriched. With my brain quieter, I was able to take back control of my attention. In the process, I rediscovered some deeper part of myself.”

Mark Douglas, CEO of the marketing and advertising company SteelHouse, recognized the need for his employees to take vacation and offered them unlimited vacation when he founded the company in 2010. But perhaps due to the reasons stated above, people weren’t taking much.

So he decided to pay them. To take vacation. He pays his employees $2,000 a year to go anywhere in the world. They can split up the money for more than one trip, or use it all at once. Employees who request the money in the form of a bonus are turned down. They must spend it on a vacation.

As a result, his turnover rate is extremely low. Out of 250 employees, only five people left the company in a three-year period, with three of them leaving for reasons unrelated to the job.

So if you are feeling a bit anxious when you see all the empty desks and email vacation notices at your company over the holidays, think of it this way: they are recharging their batteries and will come back more productive than ever.

Take some time off yourself. And enjoy.

My book “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes,” is now available as an ebook.

 

What Business Are You Really In?

 

He started as a book salesman in the late 1880s. To entice people to buy his books, David H. McConnell gave away free perfume samples. Those proved so popular, he abandoned the books and founded the California Perfume Company in 1886. That company eventually changed its name to Avon in honor of Shakespeare’s hometown. Last year, Avon’s revenue was $1.6 billion.

That’s just one example of successful companies that were founded with one business model, then pivoted to a different business. They thought they were in one business, but the market led them to change their business, either by choice or because their potential for increasing market share vanished.

Nokia started as a paper mill in Finland.

Nokia started as a paper mill in Finland.

Twitter is an example of a forced pivot. It started as Odeo, a network for people to find podcasts. It was a bad day for Odeo when iTunes announced it would include a built-in platform for podcasts in every one of its iPods, pretty much obliterating their business overnight. So, the company got to work, hosting hackathons to come up with a new idea. The concept for a microblogging platform was hatched, and Twitter was created in 2006. It’s now worth over $10 billion.

One of my favorite pivot stories is about the American food company Wrigley. William Wrigley Jr’s father was a soap manufacturer, so as a teenager William became a soap salesman. To encourage shop owners to stock his soap on their shelves, William offered free gifts. Baking powder was the most popular, so he dropped selling the soap to focus on that. In 1892, as an incentive, he began offering two packages of free chewing gum with each can of baking powder. Once again, the giveaway was more popular than the actual product he was selling, and he moved to selling chewing gum. Wrigley sold to Mars in 2008 for $23 billion.

Did you know Nokia started as a paper mill in Finland in 1865? It moved to creating rubber goods and telecommunications devices, and a mobile phone in 1992. That year the company sold off all its other divisions to focus on mobile devices. Sadly, it failed to make a successful transition to the smartphone industry, and sold its devices and services division to Microsoft in 2013.

We associate the name Nintendo with Super Mario Bros, Game Boy and Wii. The company was founded in 1889 in Japan by Fusajiro Yamauchi to sell playing cards. Unsuccessful expansion attempts by his great-grandson in the 1960s included getting in the taxi business and “love hotels.” Then one of their engineers began developing electronic toys, which led to video game development, and its large market share of the mobile gaming space. While profits had been in decline, Nintendo seems to be on the upswing based on the potential of the value of its intellectual property.

In addition to knowing how to maximize profits for your company, knowing what business you are actually in allows you to expand and grow in the right direction.

When you aren’t clear what business you are in, efforts to innovate and expand can go astray. As Ty Montague writes in inc.com, “The lion’s share of innovation mistakes still come from companies funneling their efforts into extending the life of some existing platform, instead of spending time getting clear on what business they are really in and then constantly looking for opportunities to apply that definition to new technologies and new markets. Companies that do this will grow robust businesses that can be hard to describe in conventional terms.”

An example he gives is Tesla, which he says isn’t in the car business, but rather in the electric mobility business, so in addition to building cars, it builds infrastructure to support the mobility of electric vehicles.

Every business goes through a metamorphosis of product lines in response to marketplace pressure and technology, and a smart CEO needs to continue to monitor that so he can remain in business by moving forward.

Take a step back and think about your own business. What business are you really in?

 

The Top Trait Every CEO Must Have

You can’t run a successful company without it. I can’t do my job turning companies around without it. And once it’s lost, it can be almost impossible to get it back.

I’m talking about credibility. Every CEO must have that – with his employees, his board, his customers, his investors and his employees. And he must guard and protect it as a valuable asset.

As Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

I urge every CEO I work with and every company’s senior management to maintain a high level of credibility. The consequences if they don’t can be catastrophic.

I once replaced a very smart man, who was CEO of a company that manufactured electronics parts. Despite the fact he had a PhD, he wasn’t too smart when it came to running his business. Upon reviewing his numbers one day he found some cost accounting discrepancies and realized he was selling his primary widget under cost. Instead of having a $1 million profit as anticipated, the company actually had a $2 million loss.

Rather than admit his mistakes, he just adjusted his prices. His customers weren’t thrilled with the unexpected and unexplained 50 percent price increase he put on that widget and fled. Faced with more losses, the bank soon noticed he wasn’t able to repay his loans and gave him the boot as well. We were brought in late in the process, and were able to sell the company and repay the lender and creditor. But the business lost $8 million in equity.

Had the CEO come clean about the mistake, been honest with his bank and his customers, he could have avoided the losses his ego cost him. He wasn’t. And he didn’t. His credibility was shot.

Through no action of my own, I almost suffered the same fate at a company I has hired to assess prior to becoming the director of reorganization. The president of that company didn’t like the fact I was doing an assessment of the company and wanted me to keep out of his business. So he decided to destroy my credibility.

How did he do that? The chairman of the board gave me specific people to speak with about certain issues. So the president told senior staff members I had already made up my mind about how I would restructure each of their divisions. That was untrue, of course, as I always speak openly with people and listen to their thoughts before making any decisions. But in their minds I was just wasting their time.

Thankfully, with the help of another senior staff member, I was able to salvage that situation.

An article in Forbes, “The Three Qualities a CEO Must Have to Success” addresses the issue of credibility and how critical it is to success.

“CEOs who lose credibility can never regain it. When you communicate, do people believe that you are telling them the objective truth? If they do, then you have credibility. To maintain credibility, you have to tell the truth 100 percent of the time. Telling the truth 90 percent of the time is not much better than telling the truth 10 percent of the time. It only takes a few instances of delivering non-credible statements to totally lose your credibility. Once you lose your credibility, you cannot lead successfully.”

My book, How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEO’s Mistakes, is now available as an ebook.

5 Tips to Maximize Your Company’s Most Valuable Resource

 

You may be watching your company’s financial situation with an eagle eye, being careful to budget wisely and cut out waste. But what are you doing to maximize one of your company’s most valuable resources, one that is often overlooked on the balance sheet?

I’m talking about time. More specifically, time spent in meetings. Research has shown an organization spends about 15 percent of its time in meetings every year. According to “How Much Time Do We Spend in Meetings? (Hint: It’s Scary)” people in upper management can spend up to 50 percent of their time in meetings.

Here are a few scary facts from that article:

– There are 25 million meetings in the US every day

– More than $37 billion is spent on unproductive meetings

– Executives consider more than 67 percent of meetings to be failures

You may be reading this in a meeting right now, as 92 percent of people surveyed said they multitask during meetings.

So how do you stop wasting your company’s time and make those meetings more effective?  Here are some tips for making meetings add to your company’s bottom line, not take away from it.

  1. Make sure you need to meet in the first place

Does this communication need to be in a meeting, or can it be adequately handled with a group email or text? If you’re just looking for a status update or feedback on a project, you probably don’t need to meet. Have a clear purpose in mind. What do you want to accomplish with a meeting?w150317_saunders_shouldholdmeeting

  1. Always have an agenda

To keep meetings productive, focused and on track, always have an agenda. Decide what your goal is and what input you need from attendees to accomplish that goal. Send the agenda far enough in advance to let the attendees have time to prepare if necessary.

If you find the meeting getting off track, reign it back in by moving back to your agenda and tabling important issues that are raised for a separate discussion or follow up.

This step can actually help with step #1. If you are trying to create an agenda and find there isn’t much you need to meet about, cancel the meeting and send an email.

  1. Make the meeting the right size to accomplish your goal

Only invite people whose attendance is necessary. Ask yourself who will have the input necessary for you to achieve the stated goal of your meeting. Who would be most affected by its outcome? Who do you need to implement the decisions you make?

You can also invite people to the meeting if their input is needed for just one part, then allow them to leave when that section of the meeting is over.

Some people use the 8-18-1800 rule to decide how big a meeting should be.

  • To solve a problem or make a decision, invite no more than eight people.
  • For brainstorming, go as high as 18 people.
  • If you need status updates, and everyone present is providing an update, go as high as 18.
  • If you’re meeting for a pep talk or morale booster, bigger is better. Go for 1,800 or beyond! 
  1. Phones down, heads up

You’ve carefully determined your goal, planned your agenda and invited the necessary people to the meeting. But now everyone has their heads down, looking at their phones.

Consider asking all personal devices be switched off and put away. Sounds drastic, I know, but you need people’s full attention and concentration.

  1. Follow up with key decisions made and action items.

We’ve all attended a meeting and started a discussion only for someone to ask, “Didn’t we already make a decision on that? Who was following up?”

To make sure the meeting is productive, have someone send a follow-up email with what key decisions were made and what is going to be accomplished by what date and who is doing what tasks.

That email will serve as documentation of the decisions you made and hold people accountable for what needs to be accomplished.

 

 

5 Reasons CEOS Wait Too Long to Address Problems

The worst cases in my career in the turnaround industry are when I work with businesses that could have been saved. If only we had been called in earlier. Those are the ones that really bother me, because these business failures didn’t have to happen. Had we been brought in earlier, we could have determined where the problems were and had many more options to fix them.

But often we are like firefighters who are called in after a home is in ashes, rather than at the first sign of smoke. Then all we can do is sift through the ashes.

Sometimes the best we can do is to get the most for a business in bankruptcy or through a fire sale, pun intended. And I always think, “If only they had called us earlier.”

The saying we have is “If the alligators are snapping, it’s too late to drain the swamp.” You have to pay attention when things are going wrong and fix them early on, before they become larger problems later, possibly even insurmountable.

If you catch a problem early, you have options. You can drain the swamp. But if you wait too late and the alligators have moved in, well, now you have to face them head on. Those alligators aren’t going to just relocate and find food elsewhere.

So why do CEOs and business owners wait until it’s too late to ask for help? Here are five reasons:

  1. Hoping the situation will change

Your sales manager isn’t meeting his quota and he is experiencing a lot of turnover in his department. He keeps promising he’ll hire more sales reps and “we’ll exceed our quota next month!” But he doesn’t and the competition is taking over your accounts. He should have been fired or refocused and now your competition is taking your accounts.

  1. Thinking you can fix it yourself

When I get time, I can focus on the problems in our accounting system, you think. It’s not working correctly and you aren’t getting the financial information you need to make the best decisions for your company. If you could only take a day to focus on where the problem is and what you need to do to solve it. Every day comes and goes, each with its own set of priorities, and you never do get around to focusing on the issues with accounting. And your business is suffering.

  1. Not wanting to admit mistakes

Sometimes with big jobs comes big egos. And an unwillingness to admit that you’ve made a mistake. Larry, the CEO of seminar company, hated change and would not admit to mistakes. He firmly believed that people were more likely to respond to the hundreds of thousands of mailings he sent if they were posted from their home states. So he had trucks driving hundreds of miles so mailings would carry a local postmark, to the cost of around $400,000 a year.

Fortunately, I was called into this company in time, and despite the fact their EBITDA was -$4 million, I was able to pull off a successful turnaround.

  1. Reluctance to ask for help

Some people see it as a sign of weakness to ask for help. As reported in the article “Why is Asking for Help So Difficult” in the New York Time, “There is a tendency to act as if it’s a deficiency,” said Garret Keizer, author of ‘Help: The Original Human Dilemma.’ “That is exacerbated if a business environment is highly competitive within as well as without. There is an understandable fear that if you let your guard down, you’ll get hurt, or that this information you don’t know how to do will be used against you.”

  1. Denial of the problems

It’s the head-in-the-sand tendency. “Calvin and Hobbes” creator Bill Watterson said, “It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.”

The sooner you accept your reality, the quicker you can get help. You don’t want to come face to face with those alligators.

5 Business Lessons from Olympic Athletes

Earlier this week Bill Murray tweeted “Every Olympic event should include one average person competing for reference.” It’s true – when those divers leap off the diving board, gymnasts fly through the air or rowers zip through the water, they make it look almost effortless.

If you take a closer look or read their stories you’ll see how much work, sacrifice and mental energy went to achieving that level of success. Although we may never compete in the Olympics ourselves, here are a few lessons we can learn from these top athletes.

  1. You have to set goals and be focused on them.

No one achieves a high level of success without setting a lot of goals for themselves, both short-term and long-term. That’s how seven-time gymnastics Olympic gold medalist Shannon Miller claimed she reached her ultimate goal of competing in the Olympics. “It’s great to have the ultimate goal, but regardless of what that long-term goal is, you have to set short-term goals. Think about what you can do each and every day to make that long-range goal happen.

As Usain Bolt, three-time Olympic gold medalist and fastest person ever said, “Dreams are free. Goals have a cost. Time, effort, sacrifice, and sweat. How will you pay for your goals?”

  1. You have to surround yourself with people who make you better.

Top athletes are smart enough to hire the best coaches. Look at the women gymnasts. They nicknamed themselves the “Final Five” in tribute to their coach, Martha Karolyi. She and her husband have been training gymnasts for five decades on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, Texas.

As I mention in my book, “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes,” I hire people who are smarter than me. Many business people like to think they know it all. No one does. When you need help, reach out to others to provide that help.

  1. You always have to be on the lookout for competition.

No matter how successful you are or how unique your product may be, you will face competition. Failure to take competition into account can be disastrous. In my book I talk about what happened with Q-Zar, initially a huge success in the laser tag field. But the company didn’t pay attention to the competition that came in the form of big-box stores selling laser tag sets for home use. That failure, coupled with massive fraud in the company, led to its demise.

You don’t have to wait for competition to come to you. The late Norwegian marathon runner Grete Waitz said, “You’ve got to look for tough competition. You’ve got to want to beat the best.”

  1. You have to persevere when the unexpected occurs.

It was heartbreaking to see Annemiek van Vlueten, the woman cyclist from the Netherlands, who was minutes away from winning a gold medal, crash on the wet pavement, and rather than taking her place on the podium, wound up in the hospital.

You’ve worked hard for years, your business is doing well, then bang. Something unexpected and unpredictable happens to derail you. You uncover massive fraud in your company. Or as happened with one of my clients, your biggest client asks to revamp your manufacturing capabilities. You spend millions to do so, then one day, the client cancels the order.

What do you do? You keep going. Olympic track athlete Brenda Martinez knows how to keep going. During the Olympic trials for her best event, a runner behind her tripped and knocked into her, throwing her off and killing her chances of getting an Olympic slot in that event. She just focused on her next event, and came in third, securing that coveted spot on the team. “The track doesn’t care about your feelings,” she said. “You’ve just got to move forward.”

  1. You have to keep your cool under pressure.

It’s hard to imagine the level of pressure these athletes feel. Many of them are just teenagers, but are carrying the weight of the expectations of their families, teammates and their entire countries as they perform superhuman feats. They have all found a way to deal with it. Gymnast Gabby Douglas said, “For the most part, I’m kind of used to it, because it has been a part of me for my whole life. I’m trained to deal under those circumstances—at the gym we do pressure sets.”

CEOs and business owners have to learn to deal with and perform under extreme pressure as well. As Mike Myatt wrote in “6 Ways to Conquer Leadership Pressure,” “How leaders deal with pressure is often the difference between catapulting an organization towards success, and contributing to its demise.”

3 Reasons You Want Employees to Take Vacation

In France, taking days off is considered a national birthright. The standard for an average worker is 30 days paid leave a year. One company, the utility EDF, has a policy that if you work more than 35 hours a week, you get an additional 23 days off every year. That’s on top of the company’s standard 27 days. Yes, that means 50 days of vacation a year – 10 weeks.

Pretty much the entire country takes two to three weeks off in July or August. In fact, the French people are divided into two camps and they even have names for them: Those who vacation in July are called Juillettists and those who chose August are called Aoûtiens.

In case you are wondering, yes, there is a massive traffic jam every year around the last weekend in July when the Juillettists are returning home as the Aoûtiens are just setting out. There’s even a name for that too: it’s known as the chassé-croisé. So here’s your warning: don’t try to travel on the highways in France that weekend.

We do take vacation in the U.S. although the average worker gets just 15 days a year. And even with that amount, some people have to be forced out of the office. But CEOs and business owners would be wise to make people take time off. Here are three reasons why:

  1. It’s better for their health
  2. It makes employees more productive
  3. It can give you a chance to detect fraud

For more on the topic, please refer to “Why You Want Your Employees to Take Vacation.”

4 Ways to Attract Millennials to Your Company

 

Today I am happy to introduce a guest blogger. Chris Butsch is a Millennial Happiness Expert, speaker and the author of the upcoming book The Millennials Guide to Making Happiness.

Millennials now outnumber Gen Xers and Boomers in the workplace, and with the improving economy, they have unprecedented choosiness in who they’d like to work for. And make no mistake, Millennials like to shop around. The average job tenure in 2014 was around 4.5 years, the lowest since the 1970s. For Millennials, it’s less than half that. And as the Boomers and Xers retire, a company’s survival will depend on its ability to attract America’s next working generation.

While interviewing dozens of young professionals for my upcoming book The Millennial’s Guide to Making Happiness, I took the time to understand why they love their current employers, or what they’re looking for in their next venture. What’s the #1 most-desired perk? What are the red flags? Around 65 percent of employers report struggling to hire and retain Millennial talent, so here are 4 ways to join the 35 percent.

1)   Have a Clear Purpose and Mission Statement

As children of the digital age, we Millennials are obsessed with Impression Management. Our jobs become part of our identity, so we’re naturally attracted to companies with missions we can get behind. Ninety-five percent of us say a company’s reputation matters strongly to us, so it’s unlikely we’ll work for a company whose Google search reveals images of Communism on the first page, like Comcast.

Having a clear, concise mission statement not only helps Millennials understand your company’s goals, it gets us excited to help you. Ensure your mission statement is broadcasted everywhere, not just your website. Which brings us to tip #2.

2)   Know Where Millennials Are Looking Online, and Be There

While Millennials spend less time researching each employer (12.4 hours compared to the 25.9 older generations spend), we tend to look in more places and for different things. Most companies have online information ready for the scrutinizing Boomer (i.e. health plan and 401k), but few are truly prepared for the investigative Millennial.

We’ll go to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see if you’re there, and if you are, what kind of content you post. These platforms are a way for companies to show off their work culture, and companies who post a couple of times a week content like updates, employee praise, or helpful articles, win Millennials. For good accounts to model after, visit the Facebook pages of The Nashville Entrepreneur Center and Carvana.

Millennials will also see what former employees are saying about you, and our forum of choice is Glassdoor. We make up just over a third of the workforce, yet account for nearly half of Glassdoor’s traffic. We’re reading and writing thousands of reviews for each other, and Millennials considering one company as an employer are sure to come across this one:

Good reviews on Glassdoor are crucial to recruiting Millennials.

Good reviews on Glassdoor are crucial to recruiting Millennials.

When I interviewed for my first job at Epic Health Systems as a Project Manager, I felt nervous about the alarming number of Glassdoor reviews citing poor work-life balance. I actually printed some off and showed them to my interviewers to ask their honest opinions, which they graciously offered. I got the job, but had Epic scored lower than a 2.5 on Glassdoor, I honestly wouldn’t have flown up for the interview.

If your company has no Glassdoor reviews, consider reaching out to former employers who are likely to leave you positive words.

3)   Update Your Technology

Millennials live on the cutting edge, constantly optimizing our lives with apps, trackers and gadgets. We’re the most likely to order an Uber on a SmartWatch and get excited when a wall socket has a USB outlet.

“Millennials don’t think of technology as an extra,” writes Art Papas in Forbes. “They expect to be able to use it in all aspects of their lives.” As such, we love employers who also keep up. Productivity software, the latest Microsoft Office, and fast internet beckon tech-savvy Millennials, while aging beige monitors and fax machines make us question the company’s forward momentum. But above all, Millennials love laptops at work because they often come paired with another item on our workplace wish-list: flexibility.

4)   Pay in Dollars and Freedom

On average, Millennials get married seven years later than our parents did in the ‘70s. We place huge value on international travel, and are the least likely to own a car or a house. Surely part of our changing mindset is due to our tepid economic predicament, but mostly we wait to “settle down” because we value our freedom.

According to Fast Company, Millennials place more emphasis on work-life balance than other working generations, and Bentley University found that 77 percent of Millennials believe flexible work schedules boost our productivity. We’re not asking to work less; rather, we just want to get more done in the same time or the same done in less time.

And according to Ellen Ernst Kossek, author of CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age, we might be right. “Research shows that employees are healthier, experience less stress, and are more productive and engaged when they effectively make choices about how, where and when they work.” Which explains why more Millennials look at the 9-to-5 and ask: why?

As for vacation, my friend from Switzerland once asked me, “How much vacation do you have?” When I told her 10 days, she balked. “Only 10 days left? Wow, where all have you been traveling this year?” Thanks to globalization, more and more Millennials are picking up on our country’s deplorable standards for time off. And since we highly value freedom and travel, we’ll work hard for companies with forward-thinking strategies.

Virgin, Best Buy, and Netflix offer unlimited vacation time, while startup powerhouse Evernote offers a bonus to employees who take at least an entire week off. While these policies sacrifice in-office time, they boost retention and employee happiness, creating a clear return on investment.  Research shows that prolonged work-a-thons atrophy our productivity and ability to cope with stress, so Millennials especially are more likely to burn out of jobs that don’t provide adequate time off.

Plus, affording your employees more vacation time and flexible work hours creates a quieter office, so you’ll kill two birds with one stone.

Want People to Work for You? Make Them Feel Heard

They have 14,000 employees. And more clamoring to come on board.

Under Armour was recently included on LinkedIn’s U.S. list of Top Attractors, the top 40 companies at attracting and keeping the best employees. In an article referencing the inclusion, “To Thrive at Under Armour, You Have to Answer Kevin Plank’s Three Questions,” I found out one of the reasons why more people want to join the ranks at the sports clothing and accessories company with close to $4 billion in revenue.

The three questions management is encouraged to ask after every meeting or conversation are:

  • This is what I heard
  • This is what I think
  • This is what we are going to do

The goal of the questions, Kevin said, is to make sure you heard and understood what people said. With this method you don’t waste time on miscommunication, you facilitate buy-in and people feel their ideas have been heard, a huge factor in employee morale and retention.

My favorite method for clear communication is the whiteboard. I’m a huge fan of the whiteboard, even writing a whole chapter on its use in my book, “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes.”

For more reasons I love the whiteboard, please read my post “The Value of the Low-Tech Whiteboard in a High-Tech World.” Good luck with your new and improved communication.

 

Qualities of Millennials and How to Work with Them, Part Two

This is the second of a two-part series on working with millennials. The first post introduced three qualities of millennials in the workplace. Part two will examine how to embrace these qualities and use them to retain quality employees and contribute to the success of your company.

Building a motivated, dedicated workforce. That’s one of the most critical components to the success of your business, as I mentioned in part one. As Principal of GlassRatner in our restructuring and bankruptcy practice, I see so many instances where a company may have many of the basics covered, like having a good product and effective distribution channels, but are struggling due to a high rate of turnover and the lack of a productive workforce.

Qualities of millennials include being tech savvy, not being motivated only by money and being used to working in teams to find creative solutions. Here are some ways to embrace these qualities to enhance the success of your business and retain those employees:

1. Leverage their knowledge of tech by instituting a form of reverse mentoring.

While older generations may have decades of knowledge in their field, millennials tend to keep up more with social media and changes in technology. They are the first generation to grow up immersed in tech. So ask their advice, give them a seat at the table if you’re discussing how to incorporate social media into building your brand. They will feel appreciated and valued, and your business will benefit.

The Wall Street Journal article “Mentor Your Boss” mentions a website founder who made a 21-year-old intern their expert for social media. Stacy DeBroff said, “There are so many changes and so many technologies coming alive, and twentysomethings, who have ‘grown up’ using social-media sites, tend to find solutions quickly.”

2. Make their work feel meaningful.

More than once I’ve had employees leave, either with no other job or with one that paid significantly less. And it’s not just happening to me.

A 2012 survey showed 56 percent of millennials would take a pay cut to to work somewhere that is changing the world for the better. Think about that for a second. More than half your workers may leave, for less money, if they felt they’d found a more meaningful place to work. And 91% say that a company’s social impact efforts are important when they are considering which companies to work for, according to the article “Study: Millennials’ Work Ethic Is In The Eye Of The Beholder.”

So take a look at your business. How is it helping people and helping the world? Focus on that narrative about your business and share it. Make your millennial workers feel proud to work for your business because they are working to make the world a better place.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal in “Helping Bosses Decode Millennials—for $20,000 an Hour,” the consultant Lisa McLeod helps companies “set a ‘noble purpose’ to strengthen young employees’ connection to their work.” And share stories of how your company benefits the world with stories rather than statistics, as they find those more compelling.

chart13. Incorporate more brainstorming and teamwork into your business.

In a 2013 survey conducted by IdeaPaint on millennial workplace trends, millennials were asked to complete the statement, “My favorite place to generate big ideas is ….” More than 86 percent responded by saying either collaborating with a small group of colleagues (2-3) or brainstorming with a large group of people.

Millennials feed off the energy of others in the workplace. Give them the opportunity to work collaboratively by forming teams and holding brainstorming meetings during which they are encouraged to share their ideas and they feel their opinions are valued. Create collaborative working spaces.

Making changes in your workplace to embrace the differences that millennials bring will pay off. As this article in Fortune, “How tech-savvy millennials humanize your workplace” pointed out, “The so-called “millennial” has become more than a demographic age group; it is a mindset. A way of looking at the world and, regardless of age, declaring, ‘there has to be a better way.’”

You want that mindset working for you and your business.