A Six-Step Interview Framework to Build Your Dream Team

To begin today’s newsletter, we’ll start with a reflection exercise: regardless of the number of years it has been, consider your last job application process. What was it like? How did the organization make you feel throughout the process? Were they responsive and communicative, or did the process drag on incessantly? Assuming you were selected for an interview, did you feel the employer understood your value at the end of the process?

Too often, the answer to these questions is not what you’d hope for.  Candidates are left wondering about their application status, not communicated with, and if they’re interviewed, may not feel satisfied with the information that was requested following the process. Two or three years ago, we may have felt the need to explain why it was important to have a proven interview strategy designed to identify individuals that will stick with your team. Now, it seems to be stating the obvious.

With remote jobs still continuing to expand and job-seekers enjoying a global market of job openings to choose from, employers need to be better recruiters than ever to hire and retain top talent. Plus, according to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), the average cost per hire is $4,700 – though some employers estimate 3-4x a position’s salary.

No matter what the cost, it is money most organizations don’t want to spend more often than they have to – especially given the additional cost of unfilled positions.

Today we’ll cover a proven process to ensure you’re well-set for your next search by discussing both what you need to include in your interviews, and the tools you should have in place to ensure your overall interview process goes well.

First, we’ll detail a framework for the actual interview. There are six sections to an interview that should never be skipped.

Interview Component One: The Introduction

While it may seem obvious that the introduction is the first step to an interview, it is important to adequately prepare for it and consider it of equal importance to the remainder of the process. Be sure you are setting aside time in your interview process to build rapport, allowing time for the candidate to adjust to the environment.

Remember that the candidate is likely nervous. They’re in competition for something very desirable, and know that they’re about to have to answer unknown questions to strangers to try to validate their own worth for the position. While this comes naturally to some, it does not to all – and that does not always mean an individual is not well-suited for your position.

The more comfortable you allow your interviewee to become, the better results you are likely to get – but be sure to not cross personal boundaries that the candidate may regret sharing. Small talk may help a candidate relax, but after a candidate has disclosed personal details about young children or family plans, they may wonder if they were disqualified for personal reasons rather than professional ones. You can’t stop them from volunteering information, but avoid asking these personal questions if possible.


Interview Component Two: Work History

Begin with open-ended questions that allow the candidate to choose the details they want to share with you from their work history. This will accomplish multiple needs:

    1. It will help you learn your candidate’s professional history.
    2. It will help you understand how your candidate prioritizes his or her professional accomplishments, and which results they view as most meaningful and relevant to this position
    3. It will help you gauge the candidate’s communication style without specific guide rails to keep the conversation within.

As the candidate tells you his or her story, be sure you are actively listening! Take notes to ensure you’re prepared to follow up when needed.

Interview Component Three: Competency-Based Interview Questions

Use behavioral interview questions to assess the competencies and skills the candidate will need to be able to use in the position. Start by reviewing your posted job description. What competencies will be necessary to complete the responsibilities completed by the individual hired? Write these down – these are the competencies you need to measure and assess in the interview process.

Then, draft a list of behavioral interview questions designed to measure those specific competencies. A simple Google search should help you find examples for these. Behavioral interview questions require a candidate to answer questions based on past experience, rather than hypothetical answers. For example, if you are hiring an accountant, a competency required may be data analysis. A behavioral interview question to gauge this skill may ask the candidate to tell the interviewer about a time when they had to make a complex decision with many competing priorities, and to explain the data they used to make the decision.

When taking notes on the candidate’s answers, listen for the candidate to provide you information on the situation they were in, the behavior they personally had to employ to navigate the situation, and the impact of their behavior. This will help you to know where to probe for more information if one of these pieces is missing. (Pro tip: Situation-Behavior-Impact is also a well-studied framework for delivering tough feedback!)

Interview Component Four: Understand the Candidate’s Inputs

Next, ask the candidate about their “inputs” – or how they have prepared for this role in particular. This could be a variety of different things, and you can get some clues on where to start from the candidate’s resume and work history responses. For most candidates, their largest inputs will likely be past employment or education. However, candidates may have many ways they feel they have gained experience that is relevant to your posted position that they’d like to share, including life experience, micro-courses or credentials, self-taught skills, etc.

Interview Component Five: Gauge the Candidate’s Attitude

Our last two sections of the interview, attitude and career fit, do certainly have questions that can help you gauge a candidate’s effectiveness. However, they’ll also be areas that you’ll be listening for throughout the full interview process.

For example, you may be able to gauge a candidate’s attitude the moment they walk into the door – both for better and for worse. In most cases, though, it will likely be more nuanced, and you’ll have to do some probing. You may ask questions around how they’ve handled feedback in the past that there was something they needed to work on to see whether they’re the type to persist and improve or hesitate after setbacks.

Interview Component Six: Aligning Career Fit Expectations

Gauging a candidate’s career fit is not as cut and dry as you may think – this does not imply that every candidate needs to aim to be your organization’s next CEO. In fact, you’d probably have serious culture issues if that were the case.

It is perfectly appropriate for your organization to have a blend of high achievers and strong contributors – what is important is ensuring they are well-placed within their roles and across the organization. Before beginning a search, consider the role you are hiring for. Who do you need for this role? Is it a role where you hope to have a rising star who will develop through the ranks of the company, or would it be beneficial to hire a veteran who likely won’t promote, but hopefully can be retained?

Be sure you’ve considered the type of individual you want, so that when you ask a candidate about their 5-year plans, you can make sure it aligns with your own.


Now that we’ve covered the interview itself, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the challenge that can be associated with the logistics of the interview process. Managing interviews can be a feat, and if your team is not well-organized, you may lose your best candidate due to wasted time or a poor experience. Be sure that you implement tools and processes to help deliver a smooth and efficient process.

Managing the Interview Schedules

Ensuring your schedules are held in advance will help to ensure a better experience both for the candidates and for your evaluation team. Identify your evaluation team early, and explain their roles in the process. Then, as soon as this is complete, hold times on their calendars to accommodate the number of interviews needed. This will make scheduling the interviews much easier, and much less stressful for the interview committee once the times begin to be confirmed.  Having blocks of time held in advance will also help to ensure that your evaluation team is able to be fully committed to the process with distractions eliminated.


Using Templates for Consistent Communication

Use templates for communicating with the candidates when possible – but most importantly, ensure their communication is frequent and transparent. If you are able to use an applicant tracking system, automate messaging where possible to ensure standardized practices are in place from candidate to candidate. If not, ensure there is an individual who is accountable for keeping in touch with each candidate and keeping them updated throughout the process.


Preparing Your Interview Committee

Provide an interview packet to each member of the interview committee to ensure they are all receiving consistent information, across the committee and for each candidate. The template should include each candidate’s resume and cover letter, a copy of the interview questions, and an evaluation sheet.

You can also set your interview committee up for success by scheduling debriefs in advance. At the same time that the interview time blocks are held, hold times for scheduled debriefs with the full evaluation committee, as soon as is practical following the interviews. This will help to ensure you provide the committee with active time to complete any necessary paperwork (handing in interview notes, completing evaluations, etc.), but will also ensure that you’re assessing the candidates as a group while the interviews are still fresh in mind.

With these tools to manage the logistics, and a well-defined interview framework planned in advance, you’ll be well on your way to hiring your dream team

Newsletter: Four Things You Risk When You Can’t Let Go at Work (and How to Do it)

Today’s newsletter starts off with a quick pulse check: how is your mental state at the end of the day? Do you feel accomplished, as though you’ve completed your primary priorities, or is your mind still busy scrambling across the list of things you didn’t quite get to?

In 2007 I went to work for a hi energy founder CEO. This guy was a hard charging, was the epitome of the hustle culture, and expected everyone to work as many hours as he did. The company ramped from $0 to $95 in less than 5 years. What was the problem then you ask?

This founder/CEO, for all his strengths and ability, had one habit that ultimately led to the destruction of his company. This CEO could not let go, allow his team to function and felt the need to be involved in everything. As the company grew to over 300 employees, his inability (whether by choice or sub-consciously), to let go, he could not keep up with everything.

He consistently worked 16 hours a day, never took a vacation, and ultimately started making very bad decisions. As his # 2, I watched all of this unfold and watched the decisions he made turn the company from a profitable, growth oriented company that provided careers for over 300 people, to a shell of a company that eventually folded. One of the hardest parts of my professional career was to close down this company and lay off some very talenetd people that did not deserve this crash landing (this was the pivotal point in my life where I decided to start my own company).

A $95M company down to $0, all due to the inability to let go…..

Leaders today are faced with more pressure than ever. Oftentimes short-staffed, leaders are picking up the responsibilities of others while continuing to ensure the operation moves forward smoothly. The to do list piles on as stress continues to grow.

While adding efficiency into operations to reduce administrative burden and stress is a long-term effort, there is one thing that you can do for immediate impact on your own level of daily stress (and your team’s): find a way to take a step back from minute details that do not require your attention. To put it another way: let go. To many, this may be easier said than done, so before we discuss the critical reasons for why this is important, we’ll discuss a few tips for how to do it.


Letting Go Strategy One: Assess your routine, and delegate

For one week, keep a rough list of your activities. At the end of the week, read through them. Consider a few things:

      • What are you doing that doesn’t add value? Stop doing them.
      • What are you doing that someone on your team could do? Delegate them.

Think through who on your team is interested in promoting. Provide them a stretch assignment to help them develop and prepare for their next role. Be sure to follow up with recognition and feedback. You’ll be streamlining your priorities, and simultaneously building your bench.

Letting Go Strategy Two: Schedule regular status update meetings, and rely on them

Schedule meetings and build in tools to get status updates from your team. Rely on those consistent methods, as they will be your go-to for getting necessary updates for projects and regular operational needs. Remember: you hired a great team! If they need your input on an urgent item, they know how to reach you. Beyond that, allow them to make decisions and run their projects or units as they see fit, and know that you’ll get updates at the regularly scheduled time. No need for in-between check-ins.

Letting Go Strategy Three: Reduce unnecessary approval steps

Certainly, some business transactions or decisions require approval from you or other members of your leadership team. However, take a moment to review your business processes. What approval steps add value? What steps do not?

If you are not truly adding value (identifying mistakes, disapproving decisions, etc.), is your approval necessary? Similarly, if you are identifying mistakes or disapproving decisions, what training opportunities are there to correct the root cause rather than simply approving every transaction? Take the time to think through the full business process and the ideal state of the scenario – consider what it would take to get there, if you aren’t there yet.

Once you’ve taken a step back from some of these day-to-day details, not only will your team feel more empowered, you’ll likely feel more confident in the operations of your business and less inclined to think your involvement is necessary in every aspect of the organization.

For many people, of course, this is a challenging proposition. However, it is truly a critical effort to make for your organization. Both you and your business will sacrifice if you cannot let go – we will cover just four things at risk, though the comprehensive list is much longer.


Risk One: Stunted Team Growth

With a micromanager leader, any team is likely to experience heightened turnover. Especially among higher levels, you’re hiring skilled employees who want to be trusted to make decisions and run an organization. Over a decade ago, Daniel Pink had already popularized the concept of autonomy, mastery and purpose being driving factors of intrinsic motivation. If your leaders don’t have autonomy, and don’t have the ability to continue excelling because you’re in their way, they’re likely going to go elsewhere to find those intrinsic motivating factors. Or, perhaps even worse, they’ll stick around, but with little motivation to truly excel.

Beyond that, if a top-level leader is taking on assignments that others could effectively handle, they are creating both logistical and developmental challenges within their teams:

    1. They are likely creating a bottleneck in workflow, assuming that the leader likely has more on their plate than those at lower levels, and
    2. They are taking away a good developmental opportunity from a different employee, prohibiting their growth.

The more a leader gets unnecessarily involved in minute details and decision making processes, the less ability there is for team cohesion and dynamics to effectively form. The team itself is prevented from truly developing its own culture and process when it has a leader who overengineers workflows and micromanages assignments.

Risk Two: Stunted Personal Growth

In the realm of personal growth for the leader in question, a big dilemma is time. A leader that hasn’t learned to let go – who is micromanaging his or her team and hyper-involved in day-to-day decisions – has overcommitted their time. The time spent on these tasks cannot be spent on other, more fruitful tasks, that would allow the leader to truly grow.

Similarly, a leader may be working all hours of the day and night to complete their to-do list, determined to “make it all work”. However in this case, they are likely to burn out – a surefire way to prevent personal growth. Additionally, the leader may be burning bridges or exhausting resources by micromanaging their team. Instead of gaining allies and a strong network by empowering and supporting their staff, they are sending a message that their staff is not trusted. This eliminates an opportunity for support when working towards the leader’s own personal growth.

Risk Three: Stunted Organizational and Company Growth

As you can see, the risks continue to get larger in scale and gravity as we truly consider the consequences of a leader who cannot let go at work; the effects of each sacrifice compound on one another. The risk of company growth becomes inevitable once we consider the risks already discussed. In an organization with a leader who micromanages and over-involves his or herself in decisions, teams are prevented from growing, and the leader is prevented from growing. Naturally, there will continue to be downstream consequences to the company as a whole.

On a more granular perspective, depending on the role of the leader, the processes implemented by the leader may also prohibit company growth. For example, if the CEO personally is the one failing to let go of the details, there may be overly bureaucratic or regimented systems and processes in place that prevent the company from being nimble and agile. In today’s marketplace, this can have truly grave consequences if the company cannot compete at the necessary pace of change.

Risk Four: Unprotected Mental Health

The hints of mental health implications have already been sprinkled throughout our discussion today – the potential for burnout, the stress a leader might hold at the end of the day – but truly, it is a probable enough, and consequential enough of a risk that it must be mentioned separately.

A leader who involves his or herself in the day-to-day operations beyond what is required is risking their own mental health. At the beginning of this article, we discussed the constant train of work-related thoughts and priorities retained in your brain after leaving work – of course, this can be considered perfectly normal. However – where is the line drawn when it escalates to a problem? Eventually, it may increase to constant pain and fatigue, and burnout. Then, it may lead to anxiety or depression.

Having a balance between work and life, and a clear line of the priorities in each area is critical for protecting your mental health. If you are concerned that you may be putting yourself at risk in this area, it is always a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional.

Letting go is hard. Whether you are a founder or a high-level leader, it is of course true that you are essential to your organization. However, it is also essential to remember that your organization has a team of individuals who are skilled and competent, and can advance your organization without your involvement in every decision.

Take it slow – but be mindful of the importance of this strategic change that is necessary for your organization. Remember that the consequence of not letting go can be drastic – and while it may be a challenging transition, your personal well-being (and that of your team) will be improved in the long run.

Five Ways to Collect Honest Feedback from Employees

Five Ways to Collect Honest Feedback from Employees

Five Ways to Collect Honest Feedback from Employees

Think back to the last time you had a boss, or an organization, that was not receptive to feedback. What signs were there that you were in this situation? Perhaps mistakes were treated as something that should be covered up as quickly as possible. Perhaps when executives came to meetings, they bee-lined to the conference room with no interaction with team members on their path. Perhaps it was standard practice for most leaders to work with their doors closed, and only accept visitors by appointment. These cultural signals send messages to employees that their feedback is not welcomed by leadership.

If you were in this situation, how did it feel? Were you engaged? Did you feel inclined to put in 100% effort in your role, knowing that your organization likely wasn’t concerned about your thoughts about the place you spent so much time? If a project required extra effort outside of your typical core role or working hours, were you likely to give it? The answer to many of these questions may have been no.

On the contrary, think about an organization where you felt valued and respected by its leaders. In this situation, you may be more willing to put in a bit more effort when its called for, given that you know your leaders care about you as a person beyond just your productivity and work output.

This blog is meant to help you as a leader build that second culture – where your team feels comfortable providing honest feedback, using constructive, actionable tools.  These tools can be used standalone, or even better, layered, to allow multiple opportunities for feedback from team members. As these strategies become truly integrated into your culture, your team will come to expect them. And more importantly, as they see you act on the results and make meaningful changes in your organizational culture, your team will feel compelled to continue providing constructive feedback in an open and honest manner.


Tool One: Create a Culture of Positive Feedback

We alluded to this already, but our first “tool” is really the goal of all of our remaining goals, as well: to create a culture of positive feedback. However, if you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you’ll know we’ve discussed this in the past. Previously, we’ve discussed how to boost accountability in the workforce. If you haven’t read the post already, take a look – but we’ll sum it up as well.

In the blog, we discuss six steps to boost accountability:

  1. Get comfortable having tough conversations by learning what good feedback looks like – we provide some examples in the post.
  2. Provide feedback consistently – this gives you an opportunity to follow-up regularly, which should give many opportunities to praise employees for their successes (in addition to fast feedback on opportunities).
  3. Encourage leadership to lead by example by asking for feedback themselves.
  4. Implement peer feedback loops – both through performance review processes, and as a regular part of the culture.
  5. Use 90-day, forward-looking conversations to discuss and plan performance.
  6. Conduct regular check-in conversations.

Once your team is used to the idea of feedback being sought and given regularly, it becomes much more normalized and integrated into the culture.


Tool Two: Use Technology such as Pulse Surveys

Different than more traditional annual employee surveys, pulse surveys are typically short, more frequent surveys delivered to employees to take a “pulse” on the culture in an organization or a particular subset of an organization. Third party vendors can assist with development of a survey and implementing and rolling out a survey across a team. Of course, even with a third party partner, there are still several steps an organization will have to take to prepare.

  1. Determine the audience
  2. Determine the information sought
  3. Determine the appropriate question set to best deliver results
  4. Determine a communication strategy with your team
  5. Deliver the survey
  6. Analyze the results and develop an action plan
  7. Communicate the results and action plan


Tool Three: Ensure Regular Implementation of One on One Meetings

Quick pop quiz: are your leaders all engaging in regular 1:1 meetings with their direct reports? With what frequency?

Chances are, depending on the number of leaders in your organization, you may not know the answer. Without a set policy or best practice around 1:1 or developmental conversations, that is perfectly fair – most leaders wouldn’t be able to speak about such practices organization-wide. However, hopefully you did at least feel confident answering that they are happening on a reasonably consistent basis.

If the frequency is uncertain, or the completion in certain areas is uncertain, it is worth checking in. Check-ins between a supervisor and their direct report are absolutely vital for so many reasons – and in the example of this particular reason, the frequency is of particular importance. If conversations are infrequent, they’re likely to be packed to the brim with agenda items and business needs to discuss. Also, a personal relationship with comfort to disclose information may not be present. One-on-one conversations must be occurring frequently enough that the supervisor has time to check in on how the direct report is doing, and whether there is anything that could be improved. The more frequently this question is asked, the more likely they are to get a genuine response.


Tool Four: Develop Truly Anonymous Feedback Channels

Again – utilize technology to your advantage here. There are plenty of tools to allow employees to submit feedback anonymously. For example, an anonymous email account could be set up that allows employees to submit feedback forms with masked information. Or, free services like Free Suggestion Box allow organizations to request information and receive anonymous results.

The benefit of having an anonymous option – especially to start – is that it allows employees to gain comfort with the process of providing feedback and see the end-to-end process all the way through. Again, this reiterates the importance of follow-through. As your employees provide their anonymous feedback, it will be essential that you analyze the results and create an action plan that is not only used to drive results but communicated back to the employees. This way, the employees see that their feedback was used for something, and they’ll feel much more inclined to continue providing feedback in the future.


Tool Five: Execute Custom Employee Surveys

Of course, the traditional approach in many ways is traditional for a reason – it works. Custom employee surveys take time and effort, but if those resources are available, they do offer a wealth of information about the culture within a team. One critical piece to effectively developing and executing a custom employee survey is ensuring resources are available not only to develop the survey, but to track the participation rate of the survey. Employees will need to be repeatedly communicated with throughout the survey time period to continue to drive participation up to the goal rate. It can be quite challenging to reach a participation goal in lengthy employee surveys but if the goal is reached, there is typically a great pay-off.

Once again, an essential component is following up with an action plan and communication. The more consistently your team can see progress following the survey, the more likely they will be to participate in the future, and in future feedback requests via other tools and strategies.

These five strategies may sound resource-intensive – but remember, you don’t need to do them all at once. While they can be stacked, you can certainly choose the strategy or strategies you think best fit your organization for a first implementation – and then make a plan for additional efforts in the area as you gauge the team response.

While the resources required may be high, the pay-off will be too – and at a time when the need has never been higher.

The Benefits of Automating Your Accruals

The Benefits of Automating Your Accruals

What Are Accruals?

In the HR world, accruals refer to time off, sick leave and vacation time that ‘accrues’ as an employee works for the organization. For example, a company may offer four days of paid leave per quarter. When the employee has worked six months, they have accrued eight days of paid leave and continue to build up a bank of time.

Paid Time Off (PTO) is time employees take off during normal working hours for which they are paid. Employees either earn PTO as they work their regular schedules or receive a set number of hours at the beginning of the year. Businesses generally measure the time in hours.

Note: Accruals can also refer to unpaid leave that accrues according to FMLA or state family leave laws.


How Is PTO Different Than Traditional Paid Leave?

Traditional paid leave is categorized as sick days, personal days, and vacation. In contrast, PTO refers to leave that is uncategorized and employees can use as they choose. Some employers have a combination of PTO and sick time.


What is a PTO Policy?

The foundation for accruals tracking is a carefully designed PTO policy. When creating a paid leave policy, there are many considerations:

  • How will leave be awarded? Accrual, allotment or unlimited?
    • Will you front load a set number of days at the beginning of the year, or will they accrue based on time worked?
  • How many employees can be off at a given time?
    • Does the number change throughout the year?
    • Will there be blackout periods when nobody can take time off?
  • How will employees request time off?
    • How will you handle overlapping requests?
    • How far in advance do employees need to submit requests?
  • Will unused PTO roll over into the new year?
  • What state or local laws affect your PTO administration?
  • How will your policy affect your financials/balance sheet?


Why is it important to track all of your employee’s accruals correctly? 

Vacation time that is accrued (or even front loaded for that matter) is a key benefit. Earned vacation time is also considered compensation.

Imagine that your employer does not have a system in place to properly track your accruals. You then decide that you want to take a two week vacation to check off your bucket list trip of fly fishing in Alaska. You believe, based on your own tracking of accruals, that you have two weeks of paid vacation in the bank. You proceed to put in your vacation request and find out you only have 5 days of vacation in your bank.

You talk to HR and they tell you to look at your paycheck stub because your available vacation time is on the stub. You never look at that line item on your stub so you did not relaize that a discrepancy existed. Now you have to reconcocile your vacation accruals to show that you have accrued the two weeks of paid vacation time.

Unfortunately, the framework of this story comes from a real life example. The company opted to track vacation accruals on a spreadsheet. The bookkeeper assigned to this task fell behind, then was out on leave, and all of the company accruals fell behind and become inaccurate.


So the importance of accurately tracking accruals is –

  • Employees that end up with incorrect accruals will start to doubt the company they work for.
  • The company has to spend time and money to review all of the accruals and make sure they are updated and correct.
  • The manual process of tracking accruals is inefficient, lends itself to human error and is a direct cost on the P&L. The person in charge of tracking accruals manually can focus on other more productive tasks once you automate your accrual tracking process.

Automating your accrual tracking creates efficiency, reduces liability, gives employee the confidence their records are accurate, and positively impacts the P&L by removing the manual labor associated with manual accrual management.


What Are the Different Types of Time Off Policies?

Let’s look at the most common types of leave structures used by U.S. employers:

  • Traditional Leave—categories may include:
    • Vacation
    • Sick Time/FMLA
    • Federal or State Holidays
    • Floating Holidays
    • Jury Duty
    • Emergency Leave
    • Bereavement Leave
  • PTO (Paid Time Off) Banks—Employees can use the time as they choose
  • Unlimited PTO—Employees can take as many days as they want
  • PTO Purchase Plan—allows workers to buy and sell vacation days
    • The ‘currency’ is their regular salary–this type of policy is often included in a cafeteria (or flex) program
    • Employees can use pre-tax earnings to purchase benefits of their choice, which may include health insurance, life insurance, supplemental insurance, and flex spending accounts


Automated PTO System Simplify Leave Management

The method for tracking PTO is as important as the actual policy. Many small businesses don’t have an automated tracking method. Some use spreadsheets or Google Calendar. Employees submit requests verbally and it’s up to the manager to keep track of them, determine how they impact schedules and approve or deny.

Manual PTO tracking takes a lot of time and persistence to keep track of employee requests, treat everyone fairly, and ensure business operations aren’t impacted when employees take time off.

In contrast, inexpensive automated PTO tracking software makes it easy to manage leave. The most powerful systems sync with Timekeeping, Payroll and Employee Scheduling.


What Are the Benefits of Automated PTO Tracking?

  • Ensures equitable PTO for all employees
  • Provides a standardized way for employees to request time off
  • Helps managers keep track of employee vacations
  • Syncs with timecards and scheduling to avoid shift coverage gaps
  • Gives employees access to their PTO balance without calling HR


When researching PTO systems, make sure they can accommodate your policy. If you have anything more involved than a basic policy, you’ll need a provider that offers custom scripting and there are few in the small business space.


Accruals Reporting

Another advantage of an automated PTO system is ease of analytics. Employees and administrators can run reports (for any time period) and see accruals by date and which hours have been deducted from the employees’ balances. This helps business owners administer leave policies and evaluate their effectiveness. Utilizing an automated system for PTO management gives you data that can be used to make forward looking decisions.

Automating certain HR administrative functions is not just smart business, it also improves the P&L. Download our free e-book on How to Manage Employee Paid Time Off.


If you have questions about our cloud based HRIS solutions, please feel free to email us at proactivehr@scaleocityworks.com!

How to Overcome the Anxiety of Delivering Tough Feedback

How to Overcome the Anxiety of Delivering Tough Feedback

Delivering feedback… for some readers, just clicking the title of this blog post may have been enough to give you a slight trickle of anxiety. While some leaders naturally feel comfortable giving direct, honest feedback to their direct reports, that isn’t the norm. Most managers actually prefer to not give corrective feedback, even though as we’ve previously discussed, employees favor receiving it.

Think about the last time you had to have a conversation that you knew had the potential to go poorly due to challenging feedback you were delivering. How did you feel beforehand? What did you do to prepare? How did it go? If you felt like your nerves got the best of you and prevented a strong delivery of your message, you’re not alone.

Luckily, like all things, the skill of delivering feedback is like a muscle, and the more you flex it, the stronger it gets. Practice and preparation can help to ensure a productive and positive conversation. This post will provide a 6-step process to help you deliver constructive, actionable feedback in a stress-free manner.

Step 1: Plan in advance

This strategy can help with many situations you may be nervous for – prepare your thoughts in advance and ensure you have a plan for how to proceed. Outline the conversation, including the major topics you want to ensure your employee understands. Leave room for flexibility, but anticipate some potential outcomes to plan your response.

Within your key points, come up with a list of facts and examples to illustrate your point. Avoid providing a laundry list of endless negative feedback, but do provide specific examples that will explain to the employee the behavior that requires correction. Also, provide examples of the outcome you would’ve preferred to have seen. Finally, review your list to double-check for opinions or extrapolations – this should purely be behavior-based, factual representations of gaps in performance.

Step 2: Reframe the conversation mentally

Now that the conversation is planned, prepare yourself mentally for the conversation. Reframing the conversation in your own mind can help to reduce your anxiety, and help you enter the conversation in the best mindset for a productive conversation.

There are several “affirmations” or reframing thoughts that you can remind yourself of prior to beginning the conversation. Read through them all, but focus on the one or two that resonate the most with your specific situation:

1. Your ultimate goal is to help, not hurt, your employee. Providing this feedback is in the best interest of both your employee and your team overall.
2. Your team member will appreciate your honesty. They may be unaware of their performance gap, and hearing the feedback will help them to take steps to correct it and improve.
3. It is your job as a leader to provide feedback if a team member is not performing. This helps ensure that all team members are treated equally, and that the team can count on each other to pull their own weight.
4. You cannot hold someone accountable to something you’ve never told them. Delivering feedback the first time is a first step to continued follow-up and measurement of progress to ensure accountability over time.
5. Everyone has the potential to operate with a growth mindset, and as a leader, you can lead your team with this mindset. Individuals with growth mindsets believe and understand that they are capable of change and improvement, not stuck in a predetermined set of traits that can’t be changed.
6. Offering feedback provides a chance for continued follow-up, which will result in an opportunity for positive recognition.

Step 3: Start the conversation by asking questions

Start the conversation with a temperature check by asking the employee questions first:
● If the feedback is related to a specific task or project, ask them how they feel it went.
● If it is related to their job performance overall, check in on how they’re feeling about their current responsibilities and role within the team.
This will help you to gauge whether the employee has a sense of awareness of their performance gap. Listening to your employee’s perspective will also help you to provide better, more balanced feedback.

If the employee indicates a gap in their performance, and provides some examples of where they haven’t met expectations, it will be easier for you to add on with your own examples and talk to them about potential reasons for the challenges. However, be aware that the employee may not indicate a gap in their performance. There are multiple possibilities for this:
● The employee may have their own anxiety about admitting to their mistakes or failures
● The employee may truly be unaware that they are not meeting expectations. However, note that a study by leadership development consultants Zenger/Folkman found that 74% of employees who received constructive feedback already knew there was a problem.

In either one of these scenarios, it will be helpful for you to recognize their unwillingness to identify their performance gap prior to initiating your feedback delivery, knowing that you may need to be very direct in providing examples while also ensuring sensitivity to their perception of the feedback.

Step 4: Set expectations and provide specific feedback

When you begin providing feedback, set expectations for the conversation early on. Provide specific, direct feedback based on the behaviors you’ve observed and the list you created in Step 1. As you discuss, check for understanding by asking questions to ensure the employee understands what you’re describing.

Ensure that the employee understands not only what you are saying, but what you are not saying, to ensure that the employee is not overemphasizing the negative or catastrophizing the scenario. For example, reiterate to the employee that you feel they have not been performing to their potential, not that they lack the ability to meet expectations.

Step 5: Work together to action plan

Ensure that the meeting includes time for creating an action plan that helps the employee feel they will be able to be successful. Work on this action plan together, but allow the employee to take the lead as much as they seem capable to do so. The action plan will be their responsibility to complete, so they should be comfortable with what goes into it.

However, do offer resources, including your own time and expertise, to help within the action plan as needed. Ensure the employee is adequately supported to improve. Your action plan should have built in follow-up and metrics for reporting improvement. This will allow you a simple mechanism for accountability and ensuring your employee is progressing as you’d hope and expect.

Step 6: Check for understanding

Before concluding, ask your employee for their main takeaways from the conversation. This serves a few purposes:

1. It ensures they understand the feedback that you delivered, and the action plan for progressing.
2. It ensures the employee hasn’t catastrophized the conversation into a worst case scenario.
3. It level sets the employee’s understanding of next steps and potential for improvement, and provides you a chance for course correction or refinement as needed.

While this process may not turn tough conversations into your favorite activity, it should help to alleviate some of the anxiety from the situation, and ensure that your conversations are productive and actionable. For even more progress and comfort in delivering tough feedback, build a culture of accountability in your organization, and ensure you’re accustomed to providing feedback to your team quickly. Once feedback is the norm, it will feel less uncomfortable both to deliver, and to receive.