Setting Goals for 2015

After writing 100 blogs in the last two years, I don’t like to be too repetitious.  So, I will leave you with one idea that I think will help everyone that exercises my suggestions below.

If you aren’t establishing goals for yourself (personal goals) and your company (monetary goals, expansion goals, staff and increased sales) you and your company aren’t being as effective as you could be.  Also, if you aren’t challenging your employees to establish their own goals, change that immediately.  They may ask you what their goal should be but don’t give them advice on this.  If you give them a goal to accomplish, it suddenly becomes your goal, not theirs and you will be held responsible for their failure.

As far as your own goals, I would include personal goals in a different section of your company goals.  Plan as much as you can based on financial goals from past history with a goal to increase by a percentage  of what you think is within your realm of achievement and a little more for good measure!

Make sure you share the goals, as a percentage of increase unless you already share actual dollar goals with your staff.  If it was me, I would show goals as a percentage of increase, rather than in dollars, especially if you don’t share expenses and budgets with employees.

I have been wanting to complete my goals for a month and haven’t made the time to accomplish the project yet.  It is not a chore but an exciting task to really plan out more solutions and goal increases.  Rather look at it as a project that you want to finish quickly so you don’t have to dwell on it anymore.  Trust me, review these goals at least monthly, take a short sabbatical and make plans on how you will achieve all the goals you are planning.  Sit down once a month minimum and compare where your goals are and where you wanted to be.

If necessary, make sure you spend some of these goals improving your staff as well as your services.  You won’t regret it!  Happy New Year!

There Are Leaders Among Us!

In today’s employment environment, in North Dakota, why are we not developing leaders in our organizations?  I don’t mean to generalize, because some of you could very well be breaking the mold and creating leaders!

****Flash News Report****

In the last two weeks, I have run into some great leadership as well as knowledgeable customer service with a smile!  I would love to mention names of these companies and employees but I never get that personal should someone disagree with me.  I don’t want people to take it out on the people that know what it takes to run a customer friendly company.

One small restaurant in town may be small in space but not small in taste and service.  Great food, reasonable prices, great service and five employees asked how everything was.  And by the way, IT WAS WONDERFUL!  Keep it up!

Another great experience was with, of all places, a cellular service retailer.  One gets so used to horrible service in this industry, you don’t think that there is a phenomenal cell service that knows what they are doing.  For a change in this industry, this retailer was very helpful!  They gave features, functions and benefits that may affect you or your phone.  Not only did they sell me what I needed, but saved me money as well.  They also explained things that even a non-techy person could understand.

My hats off to these vendors!  Not only are you adding value to the community but you both should continue to do well in the future.  Thank you for all you do!

PEP Offering Hiring Seminars & More

As I read back on my last months’ worth of blogs, I wondered what ideas could spring forth that would help the average business owner the most in their near future.  What I found that could help local businesses the most would be to attend a hiring seminar.  This will help you place the right staff and grow your business’s success sooner rather than later. 

I truly believe that  business owners need another leader in place to be successful and limit burnout, which could lead to an unproductive crew.  I also offer a free leadership seminar to business owners that truly want to move forward and minimize the burnout for the owner.

I have several oter seminars that I think would belp overworked business owners get back into the position of creating ideas and leaders.  Stay with us the next few weeks as we describe some of the seminars we will be rolling out. 

If you have ideas that you think would help as well, please let me know and we can try to work those in too.  Give me a call anytime, (701)751-1500.

Merging Millennials & Baby Boomers in the Workplace

As the largest group of the workforce (known as the baby boomers) approaches retirement age we find that many of us will actually continue to work until age 70 and beyond.  Why?  Either we just like to stay productive and/or we still need more spending money before we retire 100% comfortable with our new cash flow.

I know many employers complain about Millennials (these are younger people that started reaching adulthood in or around the year 2000).  They differ from Boomers to some extent but if we are aware of the differences we can mix and match  Boomers and Millennials to come up with more talent and happier clients.

I hear employers complaining about not only the above mentioned group but also the greatest generation, the silent generation, generation X and Generation Y.  Each group has its strengths and weaknesses.  The secret is to intermix the different generations and make sure each group is passing on their strengths to the other coworkers.  We also need to ensure that everyone is either cross trained or at the very least understanding each other better.  Use the various generations to teach one another about their strengths and try to bury any weaknesses to increase service and communications with clients.

I won’t go into details on the various generations but go to our website,, and find the June 12, 2013 blog, Different Generations and Different Traits Can Equal a Cohesive Team.  You will be learn how to integrate generations and create a team that all clients and customers will love, since this team should have numerous personalities and talents that they need to fill their needs.

This won’t happen overnight.  Lay out a plan and keep on track and you will not regret this move in the least.  Give Professional Employment Practices to give you the nudge you might need, (701) 751-1500.

Re-Evaluating the Employee Shortage

Over the last six months, we have been hearing more and more about the critical employee shortage.  As I drive by some of the businesses the signs state, “labor shortage.”  This isn’t something new as the economy waxes and wanes.  I have seen this many times in the 30 years I was a retailer.  However, it is more serious now than any other time in the last thirty years.

As I drove by some of these businesses yesterday, I suddenly realized that there may not be as much of an employee shortage as we think.  Am I calling everyone a liar?  Absolutely not!  However, if after thirty years you are still trying to run the business in the same manner as you did in 1984 that is where the problems may lie.  Changes have been made in almost all industries in the last thirty years.  Most retailers aren’t ordering on order sheets and mailing anymore.  Computers are capable of ordering stock now.  In hotels and motels it is possible to be using  robotic vacuum cleaners to free up staff.  As was my experience in San Antonio where employees greeted guests with a smile.  If I looked confused the employees asked me where I was trying to go and gave me directions.  I rarely see that service anymore in that industry!  What I am getting to, is if we haven’t progressed to improve efficiencies in 30 years, we probably are short of employees.  If you have read my past blogs you would see that I have spoken of cross training.  Again, if you aren’t doing that then currently start TODAY!

Every time I moved to take over a different retail store, you would be amazed  at how often I would invariably hear , “we have always done it this way” when it came to why projects were completed a certain way.  I would explain, if it doesn’t improve profits, make it easier for the clients to make a purchase or save us time and effort then it needs to be changed immediately to accommodate these factors.

Think about it.  We may not be as short on employees as we think we are.  We may just not be taking advantage of current employee talents, using technology when it makes sense and starting an employee development system that emphasizes team work, great client service and adds dollars to the bottom line.

Try it, you may never go back to the old way!

Huge Advantages of Cross Training

I was in a big box retail store last for thirty minutes.  Why so long?  Because some employees were in little herds talking amongst themselves.  Were they solving another clients’ problem?  Maybe, but if so, there seemed to be no sense of urgency.

I finally was able to flag down the only apparent employee that was actually working with a visible client and seemed to know what he was doing.  He not only helped me but he was also knowledgeable and polite.  Then, as I approached the register, I noticed that no one was manning the register.  The employee that had originally waited on me ran (yes, ran!) over to ring up my sale.

Why would this scenario even happen in a 40, 000 square foot store?  The “Super Clerk” apologized and said they were short-handed  that day.  With as many employees disengaged, yes I said disengaged, this should not have been the case.

The manager needs to be kicked into shape and give expectations to the team that customer service is first and foremost in a retail store.  If they were truly short-handed, was this issue ongoing for just a couple of hours or a full day affair?  Whatever the reasoning, I don’t think we should be so unprepared not to be able to recover from only 50% or less of the employees on the playing field.

How do you offset some of the needless mistakes in the store that day?  You have heard me talk about this in the past.  Cross training is designed to make sure you have numerous employees in the building that can still operate and sell throughout the building and be a backup in other departments.  This not only pleases customers and improves sales but if your team should experience employee turnover, you have other employees that can step right up to the plate and takeover said department.

Is it a lot of work to cross train?  It is if you don’t have an existing plan in place as well as multi-talented employees that understand what the entire process includes.  Properly done, in time you will have employees that are now ready for promotions and can train current and future employees that will usually be more informed than the last department heads.  And, you have also now developed an impromptu leadership program, that could blossom into one of the best things you have ever done to keep your company at the height of great information and client rapport.  You now have other experts where you need them other than just relying on yourself constantly.  Doesn’t this sound great?

Give us a call at Professional Employment Practices and we can show you how to take the next step, (701) 751-1500.

Is Your Company Creating a Staff Development System?

I heard another series of stories about businesses whose customers said there weren’t many employees visible on various shifts.  Obviously, service was not only slow but far from optimal.  I think in many of these cases there is more than one issue creating the problems.  Most places are blaming the workforce deficiencies; lack of motivated employees, prospects expect too much pay, and/or high school students no longer want to work.  I don’t think these comments are anything new.  I have heard the same things for twenty years.

This tells me that we as employers are not spending adequate time finding the diamonds in the rough and looking for people skills when we are interviewing prospects.  If we aren’t using the same interview form and asking every applicant the same questions at the minimum, there will be no way we can truly be able to find the right applicant.  Again, are you calling references?  Many employers claim they don’t get honest feedback on references.  I have not found this to be true in most cases.

Are you giving expectations to each employee?  There will be some expectations that are the same for all employees.  There will, however, be some expectations that apply to different job descriptions and duties.  Are you also explaining to all new hires the following:  company history, how clients’ are treated, and how to give the best service.

You also need to know who the leadership is within your facility (you can’t do it all by yourself).  These leaders need to be coaching new hires and troubled employees.  Your leaders should be complimenting employees; praise in public and coach in private.  After designated training periods are you giving employees’ responsibilities and holding them accountable?

And last but not least, are you paying a competitive wage?  It is important to give raises for good reasons and recognizing employees that are doing well.  I bring up wages last because in most surveys, wages are way down on the list of complaints unless you are far below the market average.

The question needs to asked, do we keep blaming the workforce for our misfortunes or do we work to create a Staff Development System that will continue to grow with the company, employees and clients?  Will this system give you an edge over the competition when it comes to hiring the best employees?  It all starts with consistent systems and dedicated, committed leadership.  These issues can’t be corrected overnight but if you don’t start making corrections now the problems will continue into your future.


Hiring New Employees the Right Way

Again, I walked into a store and the cash registers were full of clients emphasizing that they were short of qualified candidates.  In their search for qualified candidates, I would surmise, that many of these businesses are not using the same questions to all candidates.

Why is this important?  How can you possibly interview multiple candidates without asking a minimum of the same questions to all applicants?  It is necessary to do this to actually find out which applicant is truly the best candidate  for the job that you are currently hiring for.

I will also bet that most employers are not even calling for references on candidates.  Many employers have never called references.  They seem to think that input from someone who knows the candidate won’t share information.  I have found that at least one of my questions would almost always get input from the reference which either made me happy because the input was good, or the references would bare their soul to me and provide me with information that which saved me from a bad hire.

If I were to venture a guess, leadership is a prime reason that many quality employees will not stay at a place of employment.  If the employer doesn’t have consistent leadership that educates, encourages, and mentors employees as needed.  It is also of utmost importance that these leaders lead by example or your staff will never be top notch in your industry or community.

If you are interested in learning more on hiring in today’s economy?  We will be offering hiring seminars this fall.  Currently we are offering these hiring seminars at no charge.  Take advantage of this and join us to pick up hiring pointers.  Our seminars are small group (10 employers max) to allow for more interaction and idea sharing.  Call today, 701-751-1500.


Matching the Right Applicant to Your Job Opening

The easy part many times when looking ahead to the next year for your company is forecasting sales.  This entails looking at the previous year sales, expenses, and net profits while working on improvements to surpass the previous year in profitability with your employees being a large part of that success.  The hard part when looking to the coming year is matching the right person with their personality, background and experience to the correct job.  Let me clarify so there are no doubts of what I am saying.  You need to think ahead and hopefully have a current job description in place.  DO NOT rush into hiring the first warm body that applies for this position.  During the interview, keep track of the applicants personal traits, their motivation and use their resume to discover if they had a similar position in the past.  Take your time, call references and call them in for a second interview if you like what you see.

As you interview candidates for the job opening envision how the prospect comes across to you.  Are they chipper and truly excited about the job?  Are you asking the right questions?  Has the candidate actually had a job that is very very similar to a former job in their past?  If the person applying for a receptionist job is scowling constantly and doesn’t sound pleasant then don’t hire them.  Do not make a bad hire and fire them three months down the road because you didn’t observe the applicants mannerisms, interaction with other people or you didn’t hire properly by giving the effort that all new hires deserve.

The next thing on the new hire’s agenda should be to meet everyone on staff, touring the facility they will be working in, sharing the company’s history and giving the new hires their position’s expectations.  Don’t skimp on training new hires.  If you do, you would have been money ahead to not hire anyone at all.  Once you set up these systems you will continue to improve on hiring and training techniques and you will suddenly see why it pays to spend a little more time selecting your future employees.  You will find that time is well spent and your customers will notice and appreciate your establishment even more.  You will not only brighten your days but your entire staff’s as well.  Try it and if you don’t agree with this statement call and we can add value to your efforts, (701) 751-1500.

The Value of Thinking Ahead When Hiring & Training

I really think, now more than ever, especially if your business is in the state of North Dakota, it is imperative that employers just don’t hire the first warm body that applies for any position.  Even with the shortage of qualified employees right now, I still can’t justify adding a “just” a body.

I know I have watched retailers promote the sales person to Store Manager.  These two jobs require two different skill sets.  One would hope that a Store Manager is a fine sales person so as to not only keep sales on target but also train staff members on how to close a sale with plenty of confidence and product knowledge to keep the customer satisfied.

Every business owner needs to have a hiring strategy and we must continue to cross train employees so you are never short of experts in your business.  This is especially critical for what you may see as a future manager in your organization.  Work now at developing key employees in your organization to make sure you are never in a bind in the near future by either having a lack of help or worse yet, lack of experienced help.

Any time I hired a new person for either an existing position or for a newly created position I would access each of my employees abilities and try to anticipate what employee needs the next twelve months would bring if we were to upgrade our staff.  Remember, you should always be striving to improve or eliminate the worst 20% of your staff for continual improvement.

I don’t know many employers that like hiring staff members.  What is not to like?  You are hoping to bring in employees that will fill a needed position or maybe even change your company’s culture.  I am not just blowing smoke!  From 1987 to 1998, I trained 17 out of 19 trainees successfully enough that they were promoted at least twice in their positions.  Most of these future managers came with no management experience but did have a desire to be a successful manger in their career.  I would make sure that these trainees worked in every segment of the business.  Many people say, managers only need to manage staff.  Really?  If management doesn’t know procedures, equipment operation and how to keep staff productive, motivated and happy, your business will not continue to flourish in the future.

I hope you can see the advantages of actually planning ahead to create a staff and management team to keep customers satisfied and coming back for more.