Recruiting in Rural Communities

Recruiting in rural communities has many benefits. Rural communities are an excellent resource for skilled labor. They are primary locations for tech schools and career colleges. Additionally, rural communities are full of individuals who lack decent job opportunities.

These communities also come with a very special set of challenges.

Unwillingness to travel.

Within these small communities the lack of career opportunities can stagnate the local economy. As a result, many individuals do not have the ability to travel. Those that do have the ability to travel may remain because they have family obligations.

So, finding people that will travel may be difficult. To solve this challenge, it’s important to ask about a candidate’s willingness and ability to travel. If a good candidate is willing to travel, but unable, then the company has a choice: Dismiss a great candidate or find ways to make travel possible.

Reduced or limited access to technology.

In rural cities, your ideal candidates may not connect to traditional recruiting mediums. This is especially true for skilled laborers. You will need to use a process of trial-and-error to recruit these candidates. In some cases, traditional job boards may yield excellent results.  In other cases, you may find you need to go to local community organizations for results.

Aging populations.

When a city is not economically growing, the population will naturally decline.  This is because working-age residents will consistently be leaving in search of lucrative opportunities. So, most rural communities will have individuals who have decided to retire and are past the years in which they want to work.

Skilled labor often requires heavy manual labor. So, some individuals that still want to work may be interested, but then find that they cannot keep up with the physical demands of the position. REMEMBER THIS: There will always be exceptions.  Be open to having a lot of great older candidates.

Also, be open and honest about the job expectations . Many candidates will hear about the level of physical work required and decide they cannot take on this heavy work. As long as you communicate realistic job expectations, the candidates that take on the labor will likely be able to perform the work, regardless of their age.

Complex social infrastructure that provides barriers to making contact with candidates.

This challenge is actually a huge benefit to the recruiter. In most cases, rural cities are small and close-knit. This means that a candidate will be difficult to reach, unless you go through the appropriate social mediums. Take some time to feel out the social atmosphere where you are recruiting. You may find that the fastest way to recruit is by going to a networking event or holding open interviews, rather than sending emails.

So, beyond facing these key community challenges, there are tips and tricks you can use to get ahead in the recruiting game.

Don’t forget these extra nuggets when you recruit in rural communities:

1. Contact the educational centers and tech colleges.
2. Treat your newly graduated candidates well.
3. Hold open-interviews in community areas.
4. Be willing to advertise with unconventional tactics: bars, gyms, local agencies, churches, and strategic community partners.
5. Always check to see how word-of-mouth travels and use this knowledge to your advantage.
6. Go to festivals, social clubs, and networking events.
7. Be transparent about what the job requires: set realistic expectations for all candidates.
8. Look for entrepreneurs.  These individuals have gone into their field because they intended for it to be a lifestyle.  If your goal is to find people who won’t leave your company because they got a “cushy” office job, then you want to look for people that are committed to the work they do.
9. Be ready to help with travel expenses for those that can’t travel, but are willing to travel.
10. Prepare retention strategies in advance: contracts, incentives, and flexible scheduling.

The 4 stages of a restaurant business

Growing up, I dreamed of launching a restaurant. Actually, I dreamed of growing an empire. When I actually launched my first restaurant: there were a lot of surprises. One thing I learned is that there are 4 major stages a restaurant goes through on its way to success. The life-cycle of a restaurant is similar to the tech trend Hype Cycle. However, the Restaurant Life Cycle follows some different patterns.

Phase 1. The launch phase.
The launch phase is the exciting time in which you open your doors to the public, put forth your advertising, and test your idea. It’s the critical time in which your first customers come through your doors, you will make a lot of mistakes and work constantly during this phase. You will be surprised by the employee mistakes and the harshness of customer expectations. The best thing to do here is be as prepared as possible–and then expect problems to arise. Respond quickly and always consider the long-term ramifications of your choices. What will you choices today say about your brand tomorrow?

Phase 2. Hype-Phase. This phase kicks in right within the first 6 months of most restaurants opening. This is the time when your sales are at their highest. You hit what’s called a critical mass: enough people have heard about your business that they come and try to it out and there’s also just enough word-of mouth for your business to feel viral. During this phase, many restaurant owners get stars in their eyes, picturing themselves as wildly successful with scores of chain restaurants under their belt. This is actually a time to be carefully monitoring your customer’s satisfaction and listening to what they want. Do you get a lot of complaints about your best seller item? Do folks like your environment? Is there one thing that literally everyone asks for you don’t have yet? What’s the “vibe” that your customers are getting from your business? The reason why it is especially important to ask these questions is that during this hype-phase, the biggest number of your customers are figuring out what they think of your restaurant. If they don’t like it: they’re not coming back. You won’t be able to keep everyone coming back, of course, but you do want to make sure your product is something that brings a lot of your customers back through your doors.

Phase 3. Down-Cycle/Trough of Disillusionment
Your sales will start to drop dramatically. This is a sign that the hype is over, the brand of your business is established and understood by the general public. You will see your sales drop dramatically and may have to make adjustments to make sure your spending doesn’t overrun your sales. During this period, it is important to recognize it is a stage. A lot of restaurants don’t leave this stage because they get discouraged and quit. This down-cycle usually hits between 8-10 months of opening and lasts an average of 3-6 months. It often comes with a seasonal slow-down, the opening of a new rival business, or the natural slow-down that comes with the exciting “newness” of your business being over. This is also the point in which many staff will leave and turnover/performance issues can become a problem.

Phase 4. Stabilization/Seasonal Cycles

This final phase is only reached once you see a sustainable sales pattern emerge. It takes most businesses around 3 years to fully establish a good flow to their sales and an understanding of their natural seasons. Stability results in a slow, steady growth of business with seasonal drops based on the year and location of your restaurant. At this point, many restaurants will add in new products to re-start the “hype” phase, or cycle in an additional service. The key risk during this phase is a major disruption or a slow decline rather than slow growth. A major disruption can through your business through an additional down-cycle and if you don’t have the capital that disruption can cause you to close very quickly. A slow decline means that for one reason or another your business isn’t growing. In this circumstance, you have a two options: 1. Figure out how to change the slow decline or 2. Close your doors.

There you have it: the 4 stages every restaurant goes through to success. While any restaurant business is risky, it is also an exciting way to get your entrepreneurial feet wet and to teach many business lessons to you along the way. If you’d like some help figuring out where to start on your planning, check out our free resources page.

The average employee wastes 70% of their work day

The average employee only performs real work for less than half of their scheduled shift.

What are your office employees doing instead of work? A whole lot of time-wasting activity, according to a study . A survey of about 2,000 office workers reveal employees spend the majority of their workday on the following activities:

Checking social media – 44 minutes (spent doing this during working day)
Reading news websites – 1 hour 5 minutes
Discussing out of work activities with colleagues – 40 minutes
Making hot drinks – 17 minutes
Smoking breaks – 23 minutes
Text/instant messaging – 14 minutes
Eating snacks – 8 minutes
Making food in office– 7 minutes
Making calls to partner/ friends – 18 minutes
Searching for new jobs- 26 minutes

The actual time spent working is only about 2.5 hours. of an 8.8 hour work day. This means that nearly 70% of potential productivity is wasted on non-work activities in your average office building.

This shows a lack of engagement and great opportunity to improve. With payroll being the top expense for most businesses, it only makes sense to not continue wasting 70% of the time you pay employees to work for you.

Want to see how your office measures up to the average? Download our free job time assessment and get looking at what tasks take the most time.

To get started reclaiming the work day for your business, check out this article on free time-management tools.

Free time-management tools

The best workplaces are a mix of work and play. An employee who is utterly miserable will not perform quality work on a consistent basis and a workplace full of bean-bag chairs and smoothie machines may inhibit the actual work-day.

A good happy medium? A solid set of goals and benchmarks to make sure your business gets its business done, an accountability system to prevent “ghost employees,” and enough flexibility and freedom to allow employees to squeeze in enough fun to make their workplace worth returning to.

To set these goals and benchmarks, you’re going to want the right time management and productivity tools for the job. The Little Fish Team has used some of the following to increase their productivity, and wants to share them with you.

Todoist

Getting started on Todoist is simple with a bright and user-friendly interface. Lists can be made in the form of “Projects.” Projects can be shared between multiple people and added/edited as needed. You can set recurring tasks and synchronize due dates with a calendar. The price is right too: Free. Todoist also offers a full-feature version which allows commenting and more tasks per a project. Little Fish has gotten along well just operating on the free version and we’ve found our productivity increased by about 20% just using this program.

Slack

Slack is all about communication and sharing. It’s like a mini-social media for work. Share files, set meetings, and schedule phone calls. It’s a great place to one-stop your communication and the free version allows small teams to really connect. Be careful though: this great communication tool can easily turn into a time-waster if its not utilized properly.

Doodle Poll

Doodle is a must for the Little Fish Team. On large projects or when working with multiple client’s departments and team schedules, it is nearly impossible to get a meeting set up through email. The best free solution we’ve found has been Doodle’s schedule software, allowing our team to set a list of available meetings and then allow the rest of the attendees to narrow down their availability. The result? Meetings get scheduled in half the time and nobody says that they need a different schedule.

How to change a toxic work-culture in 5 steps

Employers have the joy and pain of being responsible for the culture of their workplace. When culture becomes toxic, it is on the head of leadership to find fixes. Most leaders would prefer to hear otherwise, but here’s the tough truth: your work culture may or may not have been created by you, but it is up to you to change it.

So, where do you start?

1. Asses the current culture of your company. A company assessment can take various forms: a survey, a meeting, an anonymous reporting box. Whatever the method, it is important to find ways to ask questions that will give you an understanding of the underlying realities of employees’ lives at your company.

Ask questions of yourself and others like:
What’s a common trait among employees?
Why do employees continue to work for you? Why do they leave?
What’s the thing that helps employees “get ahead” in your company?
What are the biggest strengths of the organization? What are its weaknesses?

The answers to these questions give you a baseline for where you’re at right now and help you to plan your next moves.

2. Evaluate your findings. Once you’ve collected answers to the above questions, it is time for you to begin looking at the results. What trends and patterns are you seeing? What responses are equal? What trends are missing that should be there?

3. Plan your next moves. Once you’ve got a picture of your organization’s current state, you can begin planning the way forward. Set your goals and the clear vision for the future state of the organization. Consider what you would like the organization to look like. What kind of productivity goals will you have for your organization? How many employees? What roles will you create? Do any need to be eliminated? This step must not be settled on lightly. The goal, once set, should be extremely difficult to change. Making changes in the middle of the pursuit of the cultural change, can slow your progress and cause confusion. Additionally, introducing multiple or conflicting goals can breed change-exhaustion and contribute to both toxic workplace culture and change-resistance. Set a goal that is long-term, achievable, and important enough to warrant the effort you are going to put forth to make a real change.

4. Set timelines. Setting realistic timelines cements your goals and helps to ensure that you’re going to make a change happen. Setting timelines involves planning how much you can achieve within the time allotted and also involves making sure that everyone who is integral to driving a workplace change is on-board and ready to make that change happen.

5. Be consistent and rally the team. As you work towards your goals, be consistent in your communication and messaging. When you settle on a timeline, make sure that everyone involved knows about the timelines and understands their roles and responsibilities. Assign tasks carefully and don’t hesitate to make sure they are achieved. Check in with your team to monitor benchmarks and consistently remind your team of the vision ahead. Communicate with pictures and graphs that show the long-term vision. Celebrate the small achievements and progress along the way. Re-adjust the steps if you find that it is absolutely necessary, but do not change the goal.

One of these mistakes can cost you $10k+

One of the more complicated aspects of business are the employees you hire to manage tasks that you don’t have the time to do yourself. When you hire your first employee, you get access to skills that can compound your business’ effectiveness. However, you also face new rules and risks and must be sure to make sure you don’t make any of these expensive mistakes in your business:

1. Discrimination in the workplace. Annually, the EEOC investigates hundreds of claims of discrimination in the USA. I see a new report coming in every single week to my inbox of a new lawsuit. Lawsuits can easily be $85,000 or more when people discriminate at the workplace. It may not even be something you as a business mean to do: employees or managers that act improperly can sink the business.

2. Paying employees the wrong rate of pay. Per the Fair Labor Standards Act, each year there are federal minimum wage standards. However, many states mandate a higher minimum wage. Employers that don’t take care to pay a fair minimum wage will be liable for the difference when–not if–the mistake is discovered. In some states, this will be included with extra fees.

3. Not paying overtime. One of the most common wage errors comes from the belief that any salaried employee is exempt from overtime and minimum wage requirements. In order to be exempt, an employee’s job duties must fall within one of five categories: professional, executive, administrative, outside sales, or some computer technologies. The truth is: just because you give an employee a salary doesn’t mean they don’t receive overtime as well. If an employee fits into the “exempt” category, then have no fear, you can pay employees salary and not worry about the repercussions. However, if your salaried employee is “non-exempt,” and you haven’t been paying them for their hours of overtime, you are liable to pay up for all those missed hours.

What employers need to know about toxic workplaces

The concept of a toxic work culture is prevalent in a world where employees expect their jobs to be a fulfilling part of their lives. Their logic runs something along the lines of, “I’m going to be spending the majority of my life at work, so it needs to matter to me.” They aren’t too far off.

Today, switching employers is relatively easy and top talent can find other options that meet their personal and professional goals.

As an employer, if your employees are leaving constantly, it’s not just chance. There is a reason. We refer to this as a “toxic” work culture and we believe this goes beyond just negativity in the workplace. We believe this term refers to and describes turnover cultures.

Toxicity is defined as “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation.” In financial terms, it means a high-risk investment that is likely to default and can’t be sold. Employers benefit from looking at toxic workplaces from a this perspective: after all, your employee is hired to fix a problem for you. They are an investment you hope pays off. If they are at a high risk of leaving you, there’s an investment that has gone awry.

A toxic culture can be caused by a handful of things:

1. Bad management that goes unchecked.
2. Work environments that destroy productivity
3. Positions that are high-risk
4. A disgruntled employee or group of employees
5. Fear culture in new and/or long-term employees.
6. Outside influences that attack one group of employees.(This can be especially true when you notice just one group has high turnover).

Depending on your case, you may be dealing with a combination of toxic influences that are leading to your current turnover problems. Remember though, that leadership has the responsibility to fix the toxic workplace problem. This task is one of the joys and pains of being an employer. You as the employer must be the one to move your company away from a toxic culture.

For free resources, contact us today! Our consultants send you in the right direction and make suggestions that actually make sense for your business. we’re trained to be problem solvers–not sales people.

Resources:

Merriam-Webster. Toxic. Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/toxic.

Photo Credit: Mark Oakly. “Clown Poison” Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrmoaks/8060756409/in/photolist-9mgdMd-C3CZb-W61rLT-fs4rJu-25Vj4Fc-buGHVP-dhiu3M-YCzFLW-WSJwAX-24kxThj-FGEzqc-RkFjuX-SLnrPL-aqyQ1Q-8N3t3h-9Ti9K-fJvguc-9PNxnS-6eS1mW-8Ksn2V-o2td7-7yg1Q-chkDFG-He6eHW-7L8U7h-LjqAWj-PEzPrs-EpfBxh-4ppVwQ-GQnD5-LLFrPo-RJaaCA-FjEBau-FcPUeU-ETHA76-rupYs3-ruxwc2-Qeucwm-BpRoMc

What is “HR”?

The Human Resources department is the (often unseen) hand that keeps business processes running. While the role of an HR department does vary from company-to-company, there are tasks commonly assigned to the HR Department. They monitor business areas like: employment law compliance, payroll, benefits, work leave, hiring and on-boarding, training, disciplinary actions, policy and procedure writing, and personnel development.

Ideally, HR is the part of the company that is available to employees when they need assistance with their career. This can include career development and career conflicts. HR is the department that should be responsible for enforcing workplace safety and helping employees excel at that workplace. Additionally, HR is the go-to for many sexual harassment and discrimination complaints. It is the HR department’s job to mitigate the risk of these issues occurring, and to investigate and report circumstances if something does occur.

By the time that a company begins hiring even 20 people, it is helpful to have an HR professional on staff to protect the business and employees simultaneously. This role needs to be handled by an individual—or a team of individuals—to truly be done well. While almost anyone can run payroll, fill out forms, and collect gallons of paperwork: a true HR professional develops and improves strategic processes, manages administrative tasks, and aligns employees goals with the company’s objectives. Having the ability to take on this tall order and should be handled by professionals that have dedicated themselves to human resources skills and honed their abilities. Think of it this way: you don’t want an electrician to manage your IT department and you don’t want a secretary to fulfill the role of an HR department.

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

 

 

Sources:

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.