Category Archives: May 2017

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How to Recharge in 5 Minutes

When days get busy, you can find yourself low on time and high on stress. Here are some quick ways to recharge at the office when you only have 5 minutes to spare.

5 Ways to recharge in 5 minutes or less

Do eye exercises

It’s good practice to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes to prevent eye strain from looking at a screen all day. In addition to that, doing some eye exercises is a good way to take a productive break from what you’re doing.

Clean your screen and workspace

Keeping your workspace clutter-free helps with focus. If you need a quick refresher at work, take 5 minutes to clean your computer screen, wipe down your keyboard, organize your desk, and sanitize your mouse.

Do a breathing exercise

A breathing exercise can help you calm your mind and refocus. Try this: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth 10 times.

Relax your muscles

Sitting at  a desk for long periods of time can strain muscles throughout your body, like your shoulders. Start by focusing on the top of your head, down to your eyes, facial muscles, neck, shoulders, and so on, relaxing each area as you go.

Sip a beverage

Making yourself some hot tea on a cool day, or an iced coffee on a summer day gives you something to stop and enjoy while you work. If you find yourself needing a quick break, make yourself a beverage and enjoy it at your desk or in the break room before getting back to your desk.

Do you have a little longer than 5 minutes? Here are a few ways you can disconnect to recharge, from being out in nature to waking up a little earlier every day to give yourself a few hours of silence and meditation.

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5 Popular Work-Life Friendly Policies

Finding the ideal balance between work and personal life is a common struggle among many employees, and contributes to employee retention and satisfaction. It’s something that concerns your top employees, which means it’s something you should be paying attention to as well. Here are 5 popular work-life friendly policies that you should consider adopting in your workplace in order to retain your team members.

5 Work-life friendly policies

1. Offer flexible schedules or job sharing

Offering flexible schedules allows your employees to fit life in where it happens. For example, if you employ a parent who has to pick up kids from school, they can go pick their kids up and then head back to work when they can devote 100% of their attention to it.

Flexible schedules are great for work-life balance because it allows your employees to demonstrate their time management skills and work when they’re most productive. You can give them a weekly hour requirement, or only require core hours (ie. 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. for meetings and to touch base) and give them the responsibility to get the work done if it goes past that time.

In addition to flexible schedules, consider allowing them to work from home a day or two every month. Studies show that remote employees are more productive than their in-office counterparts. Having a few days they can schedule to work from home allows them to make important events or take trips (or stay home with a sick child), with the understanding that they’re responsible for keeping their output and quality of work consistent.

2. Utilize time tracking

Time tracking gets a bad reputation, because it makes it seem like employers don’t trust employees enough with their time. However, time tracking is a great tool to understand when someone is working too much, or spending too much time on a particular task.

If you use a time tracking solution, you’re able to see at a glance who your most productive employees are so you know who to hold on to and who to put on a performance improvement plan. Your top performers will thank you for cutting the team members who don’t carry their own weight (we’ve all had those group mates who didn’t do anything). Plus you’ll be able to help employees avoid burn out by giving them well-deserved time off when they’ve been putting in extra hours.

3. Make time for physical and mental health

Work so often takes priority in life, even at the expense of your employees’ health. To avoid having a team who focuses so much on work it takes a toll on their mind and bodies, promote health initiatives. You can sponsor gym memberships or discounts, provide healthy meals, and even have monthly fitness-centered culture building events like a self defense or yoga class. Some companies have sponsored sports teams, and others take their teams on optional weekend hikes to get out of the city.

What works best for other companies may not work best for your particular team, so spend some time getting to know your employees and what type of health initiatives they’re most likely to take part in.

4. Encourage learning and development

Learning and development programs allow employees to continue to grow their skillsets, but you can use some of this budget as an opportunity to foster hobbies among your team as well. If you notice some employees struggling with what to make for office lunches, offer a healthy eating and cooking class, or bring in someone to teach a quick course on nutrition.

Making sure your employees are engaged and always learning new things goes a long way towards both retention as well as maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

5. Provide paid time off (PTO)

Paid time off can replace paid sick leave, personal days, and paid vacation. General paid time off means you trust employees to spend that time wisely, and allot it where they want. Employees won’t have to worry about how to classify the time spent off, or what requirements are needed to qualify for a sick day (ie a doctor’s note or prescription).

Giving PTO encourages employees to take a certain number of days off a year, giving them an opportunity to rest and rejuvenate. Like flexible schedules, PTO also allows your employees to handle life events such as birthday and graduation parties, any family emergencies, or handling illnesses.


Keep in mind that it’s important to lead by example if you want your employees to treat PTO as true time off. When you take time off, set up an autoresponder for your email that says you’re out of the office so your team understands it’s okay to leave their inbox alone while they’re on vacation–just make sure their autoresponder explains who to contact in case of an emergency.

In the end, there is no cookie-cutter solution that will fit every company. Consider your options carefully, know your team, and select the policies that are most likely to benefit your employees the most when it comes to work-life balance.

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How to design a great employee experience: Tools and culture

In this article on designing a great employee experience, we go over best practices when it comes to the tools they use and company culture you build. If you haven’t already read our installation on onboarding and strategy, find some tips in our previous article.

Designing an employee experience


Top performers bring many things to your company; ideas, fresh perspective, innovation, and even some better ways to do things. They bring skills and experience, plus a great work ethic that contributes to your bottom line.

However, the company has to bring something more than a salary to the table. You need to equip your employees with the tools they need to succeed; this includes software and hardware, as well as a benefits package that will help them remain healthy and productive.

Questions to ask:

  • Do they have a computer that suits their needs? Is it quick enough, virus-free, and portable if needed?
  • Do they have access to all the software they need to operate well? Is it the most efficient, effective, and reliable software available?
  • Do they have a quiet workspace available where uninterrupted work can get done?
  • If their job requires regular meetings with clients or other team members, do they have a professional and equipped meeting space?
  • Do they have access to quick and reliable Internet?
  • If they’re required to interface with clients via the phone, do you provide a phone and phone plan with unlimited minutes?

Also good to consider:

  • Do they have a means to get to work? If many of your employees commute, can you provide bus passes? If they drive, do they have a convenient place to park?
  • If their job requires long hours at a desk, do you provide a gym stipend to ensure good health?
  • If your employees stay late, do you provide dinner or healthy snacks?


When you’re building a company, culture helps to ensure all of your team members have the same values and work ethic. Culture defines the employee experience as part of their day-to-day operations as much as the daily work.

Defining and fostering company culture is a challenge, and there’s no definitive guide to building company culture that’s perfect for your unique company. However, here are some things to get you on the right track;

  • Ask the right questions. Asking the right questions can reveal what your employees are uncomfortable with at work, if there’s anything that the company could be doing that’s low-cost and high-reward, and more.
  • Have occasional team-building activities.
  • Reward your team for jobs well done. If they got a big project finished early, consider getting them lunch or letting them have the afternoon off.

For more in-depth resources on building company culture, check out Kissmetrics’ article on The 4 Elements That Make Great Company Culture, Entrepreneur’s The 8 Essential Steps to Building a Winning Company CultureHow To Build A Great Company Culture on Forbes, and 8 Tips for Building a Great Culture on Inc.

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How to design a great employee experience: Onboarding and strategy

Designing a great employee experience takes time, effort, and attention to every aspect of an employee’s journey. In this series, we’ll be breaking down some best practices for designing a great employee experience to enhance productivity, motivation, and retention.

Designing an employee experience


Your employee’s journey begins even before they’ve been accepted into the company. It starts with how you found them (are they a good fit in the first place?) and how they’re treated during their interview process. Do you respect their time? Do you let them know about your decisions promptly? Do you ask the right questions?

To give you a place to start, here are some resources on finding the right fit to join your team.

Once you have your candidates picked out, interviewed, and hired, it’s time to work on your onboarding checklist. Successfully onboarding an employee is the first step to a good employee experience, as it sets the stage for their success.

Provide proper documentation of all the processes they will be handling. This includes how-to guides, training videos, recorded screenshares, and on-the-job training. Beyond that, here are a few keys to keep in mind for an especially helpful onboarding.

  • Don’t use yes/no questions when asking if they understand. Prompt questions with questions, such as “what do you have questions about?” and “what concerns you the most so far?”
  • Check in regularly while they’re learning the ropes, and have someone who was recently in their position train them. It’s likely they had some of the same questions.
  • Ask them to write down anything they don’t understand from their onboarding, and use those questions to improve your process.


A key part of your businesses employee experience is understanding of your company strategy. They should know the why of what you do. Start by crafting a one-page strategic plan, refine it, and share it out.

It’s important to keep this short to ensure your team reads and understands it. It’s good practice to have a comprehensive strategy document that’s also succinct enough for any shareholders to review and understand.

Tip: If your business is technical, ie. SaaS or a web app, be sure you train all your team members how to use it, even if they won’t be interacting with your software directly on a regular basis.

Check our blog for the next part of this series!

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HR Metrics: What you should be tracking

To manage a team effectively, you need to utilize data to recognize trends, identify best practices, and understand what isn’t working. Here are a few HR metrics you should be tracking and what they mean.

HR metrics to track

Cost per hire

How much does it cost your business in time and money to hire one person? This includes the cost of putting job ads out, the time/money cost of all the people who need to interview a candidate, any assessments and testing purchased, and how much it takes to onboard them.

Cost vs revenue

Look at how much one employee costs to maintain versus the overall revenue of the company. This would include salary, but also overhead costs such as office rental fees, electricity bills, hardware and software they need, and any transportation fees.

How long does it take to onboard a new employee

Beyond the simple monetary fee, take a look at how long it takes to efficiently onboard a new employee. Measure how successfully each employee is brought up to speed, and how long it takes at minimum to most effectively onboard someone.

Average response and issue resolution time

When someone lodges a complaint with HR, take note of how long it takes for your team to respond and resolve the issue. Your goal is to get response time as low as possible, meaning your team answers promptly and effectively. You should also aim for quick resolution time. If they’re taking too long to address an issue, find out why.

Offer acceptance rate

This metric could indicate how well you’re selecting good candidates in the first place. If someone who isn’t a great fit doesn’t take a job offer, that isn’t on them–that’s on your HR team for not finding out they’re a poor fit candidate earlier in the process.

How many people were fired within their first year

This metric shows you whether you need to reevaluate your hiring or onboarding process. If multiple new hires aren’t successful and are fired within the first year, there’s something wrong with HR. Either they are recruiting poor candidates in the first place, or aren’t equipping new hires properly for success.

Where your best and worst candidates come from

Are they referrals, from a particular job site, or applying directly on your website? Look at where your best and worst candidates are finding you, double down on your high-value channels, and eliminate or reduce effort into your low-value channels.


This metric is important because each day an employee doesn’t come in costs your team in productivity and efficiency. Even if you dock pay for unapproved leaves, the people left in the office may be stuck waiting on something from the employee who’s absent, and clients could be left hanging.

Job satisfaction

How happy are your employees with their work, work environment, management, benefits and compensation? Measure how satisfied your teams are, and identify areas for improvement.

Turnover and retention rate

Look at how many employees quit within the first year, and overall. Break it down by star employee retention rate, and low performer retention rate. Despite the belief that overall retention is desired, you should aim to retain your top employees and put processes in place that will weed out poor fit employees. In other words, if someone isn’t great for the company, you shouldn’t aim to retain them.

Salary increase vs revenue increase

Analyze salaries of your employees versus your company’s overall revenue, as well as how much revenue one employee brings in on average. Look at any trends and correlation between the two to find the salary sweet spot.

Cost to terminate employees

It costs time and money to hire and onboard a new employee, but also to terminate them. Measure the resources it takes on average to fire an employee, from dealing with a knowledge transfer, conducting an exit interview, any severance pay needed, or other factors.

Key indicators of a top performer

Learn what makes your top employees your top employees. You can do this by evaluating their work ethic, behaviors, values, skills, and education. HR professionals can also talk to their supervisors, colleagues, and teams they manage to identify what they’re doing right. You can also opt to use benchmark assessments to compare your top performers and see where they line up.

Advancement opportunities

Does your company offer enough opportunities for advancement to keep your team engaged? If your employees can’t see a future for themselves there, retention rates will fall.

Effectiveness of HR tools

This includes assessments, internal help desk software, and any rewards programs you provide. Take note of how effective they are and the return-on-investment for them.

Succession planning

Look at how many employees successfully were promoted to management level. Does your team do better when leadership is promoted from within, or brought on externally? You should also take a look at the key indicators for a good leader on your team, so you can plan accordingly.

What HR metrics are you tracking?

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Check all your boxes: How to conduct an exit interview

When someone tries to quit, it’s better to let them go instead of trying to convince them to stay. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from their experience to improve your employee retention.

Conduct an exit interview with every employee who leaves your organization–even the ones who didn’t leave voluntarily. It’s important to identify anywhere your company’s weaknesses are and where you can improve.

How to nail exit interviews

Ensure honest answers

Your goal for an exit interview is not to be reassured that nothing is wrong. You want to get to the bottom of why someone is leaving, the good, bad, and ugly. Ensure honest answers by clarifying this, and asking non-leading questions.

Make it clear that you’re looking to hear their complaints, in addition to what went well. Provide a safe environment for them to voice their concerns, and conduct the exit interview in confidentiality. Make it clear that no negative consequences will come to them if they share poor reviews of their managers, or are brutally honest with their complaints.

Make it worth their time to participate

Making an exit interview mandatory is one option, but it’s also important to make it worth their time. Show that you appreciate them taking their time to give you full answers, instead of rushing through the exit interview, by providing snacks and coffee or providing lunch. If you’re operating in a startup, and a manager or founder conducts the exit interviews, you can also take the former employee out to lunch after their exit interview.

Questions to ask

Below are some sample questions you can ask in your exit interview.

  • When and why did you begin looking for a new job?
  • What are 3 things you didn’t like about working here?
  • Did you feel well-equipped to do your job with us?
  • Did you share your concerns with anyone else in the company? What was their response?
  • How would you describe our company culture?
  • Why did you decide to take the job offer at your new company?
  • What could we have done differently?
  • What was your relationship with your manager like? What about your peers?
  • Would you ever consider coming back to work with us? What would have to change?
  • What do you like about the company?
  • Did you get enough feedback about how you were performing?
  • Would you recommend us as a place to work?

Tip: Ask them if it’s okay to follow up, and if so, capture their personal email address.

Use what you learn

Finally, it’s important to use what you learn from your exit interviews to improve.

What are some ways exit interviews have shown you an area for improvement?

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How to Work with Academics to Improve Your HR Department

Do you have questions within your HR department that you just don’t have the time or capacity to test and answer? Some of the questions could include when the best time to promote someone is, what is helping and hindering your retention rate, and how to improve your hiring process.

You may not have the time to create reports on all of these, but you can work with academics in an academic HR collaboration. They’ll be able to access original data, and you’ll get access to their research and findings. You can also consider collaborating with a graduate student so s/he can craft a thesis paper around your HR team.

Questions you could use for an academic HR collaboration

What are the most common reasons employees quit?

Some of your former employees may be willing to be contacted and answer a few questions on why they left. If you conduct exit interviews, you can also give your academic research partners access (but keep them confidential) so they can evaluate reasons for leaving.

What’s the impact of using assessments on our hiring process?

Take a look at which employees were hired with the use of assessments, and which employees were hired with just an interview process. Your academic partners should be able to interview them, gauge their success with your in-company success metrics, and analyze whether the use of assessments has helped you hire more top performers or not.

What’s our average employee life-cycle?

Understanding how long the average employee stays by department, position, and the impact promotions have can help you plan in advance. It will give you a chance to curb resignations, figure out what needs to be done to keep an employee longer, and find the ideal time to promote a top performer.

What causes the most stress at work?

This one is a question that may seem obvious, but it varies between companies. Your academic partner can team up with multiple companies to see if there are trends for work stress, but personalized results will go far to answer this. For example, many of your employees may be stressed out by their morning commute, whereas a different company may have employees who are stressed out by a poor manager.

What are the biggest indicators of a good manager/leader?

This is a big question for succession planning. You need to know how to predict who will make a good leader for your company, and your academic partners can do a paper on the best indicators for successful managers. By allowing them to test your first-time managers, leaders who were promoted into their positions, and managers who were hired directly into the c-suite, you’ll get some great insight into whether it’s better to hire a leader or promote them, as well as other key data.

What other questions do you want answered at work, but don’t have the time or capacity to research?

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Succession planning advice: Hire future leaders

Succession planning is something every manager and leader should keep in mind. It means you’re preparing for the future, setting up the company for continued success, and planning for any contingencies. Our best tip for succession planning: Hire future leaders in the first place.

When you’re looking to fill job vacancies, view your candidates both for what they can do now, as well as their potential for growth. If you see a candidate you don’t think will grow with your company, don’t hire them. It isn’t in the best interests for your business or the candidate.

How to hire future leaders

Here are a few tips to hire future leaders for your successful succession planning.

Look for drive and ambition

You can plan for an employee’s growth as much as you like, but if that employee wants to stay where they are you won’t be able to get him or her to rise to the occasion. When in the hiring process, look for drive and ambition to indicate who can be future leaders. These will be the candidates who ask questions about growth opportunities, have demonstrated the desire and ability to manage teams, and who have been promoted in past jobs.

Look for candidates who have been challenged

Those who have been tested and then rose to a challenge have demonstrated their ability under pressure. Ask about their biggest successes and listen to how they came about; did the candidate have to go through challenges to get to where s/he is?

The ability to grow and thrive under pressure is necessary for leaders, to ensure they continue being effective leaders even in times of crisis.

Look for well-used intelligence

When you describe an employee as smart, it’s usually synonymous with capable. They apply their intelligence to be great at what they do. When someone is smart and knows how to use what they know, they show the ability to use their skills and abilities well. This is key for a good leader, and something you need to look for in succession planning so that you have someone capable at the helm.

Look for humility

Although you need to find someone with drive and ambition, your future leaders must be humble. A good leader credits his or her teams when something goes well, and takes responsibility when something goes wrong. Employees who are humble know that they are stronger with a team behind them, and don’t assume they can do everything on their own.

Humility is critical in a leader because it plays a big role in retention and high performance. Humble leaders build trust, share information, seek input, learn from their mistakes, and are approachable. These are all valuable to growing and managing an organization, and should be fostered early in an employees career.

What else do you look for when you’re doing succession planning? How do you ensure you hire future leaders at your company?

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