Stop wishing your employees were clones

If you’ve ever said, “I wish there were ten of me to help in my business,” this article is for you.  Entrepreneurs often take the next step into being employers and run into some serious barriers.

If you’ve been an employer for more than a day, you’ve learned that employees make some really dumb judgement calls.  Employees don’t perform at the level you want nor as quickly as you hope.  Employees are sometimes dishonest or unethical.   Employees are sometimes problems rather than solutions to the problems your business faces. It’s easy to think that these issues exist because employees aren’t you and they don’t have the perspectives and qualities that have brought you so far.  You need to change your thought process just a bit.

As an entrepreneur and an employer, the solution is never to have a bunch of clones made. Here’s why:

Your employees are the lifeblood of your business and having 10, 20, or 100 copies of yourself doing things exactly the way you want is going to cause your business to fail.  Having different people in your business can be the reason it succeeds and it is vital to growth.

As you’ve noticed, you’re just one person.  Your ability to be creative in all the ways that a business needs is limited to your perspectives.  This means you as a small business owner have to be your businesses’s expert in Finance, Accounting, Marketing, HR, Operations, Supply Chain Management, Shipping, Conflict Management, Risk Management…etc.

Creativity, however, is the reason most businesses succeed–and grow.   According to Forrester Research  Inc, creative companies have the following benefits:

  1. Achieve growth and increased revenues (at least 51% compared to 20% of non-creative businesses)
  2. Have greater market share
  3. Win recognition as good places to work (think big names like Google).

Having multiple perspectives to contribute to all the needs your business has means growth, change, improvement, and yes, mistakes on the path to your success.  It is not possible for one person to do everything–and it is not possible for one perspective to compete with multiple perspectives.  It takes a team. When you have a team of people, you learn from them just as much as they learn from you.

Now, having the wrong people on the team is a legitimate concern. There are certainly times when an employee may not be a good fit for your business–and there’s a lot you can do up front to make sure you don’t hire that person in the first place.  See  5 Ways to Keep From Hiring the Wrong Person.

Remember, one of the best things for your business is a competent and well-trained employee who contributes positively to the product and culture of your company. The good news is, you can create this employee right in your business.  Just not through cloning.  If you’re interested in learning ways to creating a winning team, check out this article 6 Ways to Increase Your Team’s Productivity




Forrester Research Inc. (2014). The Creative Dividend: How Creativity Impacts Business Results.

6 ways to increase your team’s productivity

Employees are people.  First and foremost, they have lives and needs–and often these lives and needs distract good employees from doing their best work. Employers need to realize that getting what they want from their employees involves helping employees get what they want.  If an employee is getting what they want out of a job, then they are going to be less likely to leave and a lot more motivated to produce work.

There are many things that motivate employees. Below are 6 things you can do as an employer that help any employee to concentrate and work hard.  Thus, increasing your team’s productivity.

  1.  Clean work spaces.  The human mind concentrates better with clean work-spaces that are well-organized.  Clutter=distraction.  So, provide clean workspaces and try implementing a clutter-free desk policy so that your employees are free from this distraction.
  2. Good lighting.  Have you ever tried to work in a under or overly lit room?  You are going to be scrunched up and have a lot of trouble concentrating.  Often, poor lighting leads to headaches as well due to eye-strain.  So, make sure your lighting is bright enough for work, but not so bright that everyone needs to bring sunglasses to the office.
  3.  Warm Temperatures. A study from Cornell University  tracked productivity by showing how the number of keystrokes a person made on a computer increased and decreased (as well as the number of errors they made changed) as the temperature changed.  The results? The lowest number of errors as well as highest typing rates fell at a temperature of right around 76 degrees Fahrenheit (or 24.8 Celsius).  This is warmer than most office buildings–and means a loss of productivity for those who are not keeping temperatures around this level.
  4.  Allowing for breaks. While this may seem counter-intuitive at first, it is important to allow employees to take breaks.  They need to be able to stretch, grab coffee, use the restroom, and reset their minds throughout the days.  No employee is 100% able to have limitless focus and work production.  So, allow times throughout the day for breaks.
  5. Limit Interruptions.  Interruption is the silver bullet to productivity. “A measly three interruptions per hour could cost you half-an-hour in wasted time” (Forbes). Interruptions don’t just stop work, they stop the thoughts and processes of the task at hand.  For deep-concentration based tasks, this means that work is repeated just to re-focus and get back into completing the work.  The higher the concentration,the more loss an interruption causes.  This can mean allowing for scheduled “work-only time” where phone calls and emails are not answered.   This can also mean limiting meetings and requests to certain days/times so that employees spend more time at their desk and less time in meetings.  It must fit your particular work-space and company, so customize productivity tactics to suit your business.  Also, don’t be afraid to set different interruption schedules for different employees:  A secretary’s main job is to deal with interruptions so giving them quiet work time makes very little  sense–but a programmer should be spending the majority of their time developing for your business so giving them the same expectations as a secretary to be responsive is bound to limit productivity.
  6. Affirmation of key behaviors.  So far, we’ve talked a lot about limiting physical distractions.  However, productivity is also increased through internal employee motivation.  Being motivated internally comes from the desire to achieve for the sake of achievement.  This desire can come from feeling as if the work we do matters enough for us to try.  This is where affirmation comes in. It is a communication to an employee that tells them what they should and should not be doing.  If an employee is performing poorly, you don’t want to reward that behavior.  But, if they are doing well, you want to let them know it is appreciated.  That will increase their knowledge of how to do a better job and for most employees will increase their performance.  Remember that you as an employer must be honest and sincere in your appreciation.  Patronizing an employee will tend to make them bitter.  Affirming an employee needs to take the form that means the most to the employee in order for affirmation to be most effective.  Taking time to understand what is meaningful to the employee when being thanked for doing well will allow you to be more effective in increasing team productivity.

Three dangerous interview questions employers should never ask

Employers face many issues when hiring employees. No shows, quitting without notice, quitting with notice, actions that warrant disciplinary write-ups, poor performance, workers comp claims, unemployment…you get the point.

The long list of things that an employer must navigate when hiring other people to work for them is long and full of potential mistakes. These risks start even before you hire your first employee. According the EEOC, “It is illegal for an employer, employment agency or union to take into account a person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information when making decisions about job referrals.”

Even before beginning the process of hiring someone, you should make sure that you are compliant with EEOC regulations.  Failure to do this can cost you anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands. During an interview, there are some key questions that can trip employers up. See below for the top three job interview questions employers should never ask.

Below are some of the key questions you should never ask a person in an interview.

1. Do you go to church/are you religious?
“Questions about an applicant’s religious affiliation or beliefs (unless the religion is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ)), are generally viewed as non job-related and problematic under federal law.” ( Generally, it is illegal to make hiring decisions based on a person’s religious beliefs. There are exceptions to this rule: when a religious belief specifically relates to the job. According to the EEOC, there is only one circumstance when you can ask someone if they are religious. That’s if you are doing hiring for a church or religious organization in which case you are exempt from this requirement.

2. Do you have children/Do you need childcare? Asking about children or making reference to children is a no-no. These questions can be viewed as an intent to discriminate when asked of male or female applicants (although these are ok to ask once the individual has been hired–just make sure you’re asking for a job-related reason.)

The EEOC has the following to say:
“The following pre-employment inquiries may be regarded as evidence of intent to discriminate when asked in the pre-employment context:
Whether applicant is pregnant.
Marital status of applicant or whether applicant plans to marry.
Number and age of children or future child bearing plans.
Child care arrangements.
Employment status of spouse.
Name of spouse.”

3. How old are you?  Age discrimination for anyone over the age of 40 is illegal. “Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older” (EEOC).   While this federal law does not provide protections for individuals under the age of 40, asking age-related questions is a bad practice and should not be used to make hiring decisions. On top of the fact that age has very little to do with an individuals’s qualifications, many states have protections for individuals under the age of 40.   In general, avoid this question.  The exception to this rule is if you have a job-specific requirement, for example, only being able to hiring people over the age of 18 for a bar-related employment.  Even then, only ask the individual if they are over the minimum required age–because that’s all you need to know.