Category Archives: Talent Management

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The pros and cons of working with freelancers in 2020

The Internet gives companies a wonderful opportunity to communicate with people all over the world. For business owners, it not only means a wider audience reach, but also a wider talent pool.

Over the years, freelancing has been gaining popularity and has now become an integral part of the business environment. But is working with freelancers recommendable? Are there any hidden stumbling blocks that you may not know about?

Let’s take a look at the possible pros and cons of working with freelancers.

The pros of hiring a freelancer

Freelance can bring many benefits to your business. Here are the most popular reasons for hiring a freelancer.

High level of expertise

Freelancers sell a certain skill that they have mastered for years, and they tend to be true experts in their field.

While a development agency can offer a full range of services, there is no guarantee that the employees’ skills will be above average. With freelancers, you can check out their portfolio and make sure that their level of skills and expertise is suitable for your needs.

Availability of skills

This benefit relates to the point above on expertise. Because there are millions of freelancers all over the world, there is a 100% chance you will find the exact expert that you need. Working with freelancers gives you access to a vast talent pool, while your local candidates may be lacking the required skills.


While it’s true you get what you pay for, many freelance partnerships are more cost-effective than hiring a full-time employee, especially when you don’t have enough work to fill a full-time role. You pay for deliverables, without other expenses like insurance or overhead. Freelancers are a great option when you want something laser-targeted and done well.

In case you have a complex long-term project, you could look into working with a freelancer long-term or combining an agency and one or two freelancers. A good example would be a software development agency that has an in-house development team and works with a freelance designer or copywriter.


Collaboration with freelancers is usually very flexible. You can get in touch with them any time you want and they usually respond in a timely manner. You can also agree on a preferred method of communication that’s comfortable for both of you.

Freelancers also tend to be very reliable when you need something done as soon as possible, although it most likely comes with a rush fee. Most freelancers are very understanding and act fast in case of emergencies.

Finally, you can always choose the priority of tasks and set necessary deadlines, which freelancers will follow. This will give you more control over the project and eliminate the risk of any unexpected issues.

The cons of hiring a freelancer

By now, you might be thinking that work with a freelancer is a dream. However, there are a few things to watch for that might hurt your project if you ignore them.

Poor communication

Because freelancers are usually not in the same city (or country) where you are, this might be a bit of a challenge.

The biggest issue is probably a time zone shift. When there is a 12+ hour difference and you need to contact the freelancer right now, things can prove difficult.

You cannot monitor freelancers the way you do with your employees. Be sure to confirm any expectations, from reports to meeting frequency, and establish good communication practices to keep you aware of the project status.

Lack of loyalty for the company

Loyal employees understand the company’s values, and this is usually displayed in their work.

Freelancers, on the other hand, are completely independent. They manage multiple projects at once and your company may be the 10th on their list of clients.

So if you want some special attention to your brand or want all employees to share the company’s vision and values, a one-off freelance project may not be your best choice. If you’re looking for loyalty, try to go with a long-term freelancer with a history of keeping clients for years.

Risk of disappearing

Because you communicate with freelancers over the Internet, you never know where they are at the moment. And there is never a 100% guarantee they will not disappear.

Unfortunately, it happens: a freelancer may simply disappear once you’ve transferred money to their account. Of course, this is not a frequent case (otherwise, freelancing would not be so popular) but still, you can never be sure.

Tips on choosing a freelancer to work with

Hiring a freelancer is a perfect option when you need to get a specific job done. Many companies collaborate with freelancers for years and that’s a really good practice if you have some ongoing specific tasks.

Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for a freelancer:

  • Always ask for a portfolio, as this is what helps freelancers sell their skill
  • Ask to do a test task so you can access their skills and see how well they suit you
  • Communicate with them before getting down to work; you should be comfortable working with this person
  • Negotiate on communication method so you can monitor the project status
  • Discuss your tools, and whether you will be using Google Drive, Trello, Slack
  • Don’t forget to have them sign an NDA, when relevant

Good luck!

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5 Ways to Motivate Employees in 2020

As an employer, you should strive for motivated employees who are interested in their work. After all, happy employees equal great results.

However, some employers don’t think about employees’ needs. They look at the competition, come up with “Friday pizza day” or think that a fair salary is enough to keep someone enthusiastic about their job.

It’s true that people work for money – no one can deny that.  But it takes more than that to turn your employees into true brand ambassadors that will be happy to stay with the company long-term.

And for that, one needs to know all the intricacies of motivating employees. Ready to learn how to create a healthy work environment and make people happy? Let’s start!

Explain why they matter

Nothing works better than recognition of achievements and success.

Employers should point out mistakes or things that can be improved, but how often do they thank their employees for work or recognize their contribution to the overall success?

Start by explaining how each individual task contributes to the success of an overall project and the company. When people know that they make a change with their work, they will be ready to go the extra mile to ensure everything is done.

Another important thing is recognizing achievements. Do you see that somebody on the team shows stellar results? Approach them and let them know you’ve noticed their hard work.

Why it works: appreciation helps employees understand their significance and role in a company. This, in turn, is the driving force behind exceeding the set goals.

Keep a positive attitude

One of the worst nightmares for the majority of the employees would be the failure of the project and the proceeding outrage from the employer’s side.

But we can understand the manager too. When you are responsible for the whole team of people and the whole project, you will be double-worried if anything goes wrong.

Critical situations show whether a person can be a good leader. When something bad happens, an efficient manager will keep up a positive attitude and focus on solving the problem instead of yelling or finding whom to blame. The employees, in turn, will feel that the situation can be fixed, stop panicking and come up with brilliant ideas.

Why it works: negative reinforcement simply doesn’t work. A poor attitude doubles the stress and spreads to employees. If people see that their manager is self-collected and calm, they will be able to problem-solve with a cool and collected mind.

Be approachable

You want people to ask questions, share their ideas, and freely talk about their thoughts and feelings. For that, you need to establish an atmosphere of trust in your company.

If a boss is too arrogant, cocky, or cannot listen, people will simply stop approaching him or her. Instead, they will avoid asking for advice and struggle to solve issues by themselves, which takes longer and is less efficient.

But you are here to help them. And how can one help if people are too afraid or hesitant to even say hello?

Analyze your behavior on whether you seem approachable or not. You could be sitting with an open door all the time and people still avoid it. So how do you fix that?

Show genuine interest for your employees and prove that you care by asking questions. Do not hesitate to share your past failures and mistakes – this will help them see you as a person who once stood in their place.

Why it works: people will trust you more if they see that you care about them and treat them as peers, not just as a valuable asset.

Ensure the matching of skills and tasks

About 70% of the employees do not feel very engaged at work, according to the study by the Achievers. While there may be different reasons for that, one of the most important ones is the mismatch between the person’s skills and the tasks assigned.

Each person has different talents. The task of a good manager is to recognize these talents and assign the tasks correspondingly.

For that, ask people how they feel about their current job, what kind of tasks they are most interested in, what do they think they can do the best. Proper task assignment will not only boost employees’ engagement but will also have a positive impact on work.

Tip: Using employee assessment tools help you match skills and talents to roles, before you even hire.

Why it works: when the person feels that they are making a difference with their work, this serves as an immense motivator and boosts self-confidence.

Always give constructive feedback

First, you should give both positive and negative feedback. Positive is needed to encourage people to keep up good work and negative can be used to learn on mistakes and point out the possible improvements.

Second, the feedback should never be vague. For example, you can say: “Great job with these presentations!” However, you can go a bit further and say: “Great job with these presentations. I especially liked how well you visualized the data and the way you formulated your arguments”.

Let people know about their strengths – they will be motivated to grow further!

As for the negative feedback, do not make it sound like blame. Just point out the specific moments that need improvement and advise on the best ways to fix them or offer help (i.e. an opportunity for learning).

Why it works: when people know about own strengths and weaknesses, they will better evaluate themselves and know what is needed for further growth, like getting a salary raise.

Establish transparent communication

It is crucial that you and your employees can efficiently communicate with each other. For that, follow these principles:

  • Always keep in mind the goal of communication: to come up with the best solution, not to decide who is right and who is wrong,
  • Everyone has a right for a voice and deserve to be heard,
  • Even the craziest idea may turn out to be brilliant: encourage free sharing of thoughts,
  • Do not punish the employees for saying something that you personally do not agree with,
  • Respect each other and treat people the way you want to be treated,
  • Take responsibility for the actions and never lie – teach your employees the same.

Though obvious, these principles are often neglected or forgotten.

Why it works: a lot of problems can be avoided by clearly communicating thoughts and ideas.


In 2019, we celebrate diversity, including the diversity of talent, skills, ideas, and mindsets.

For the employers, it’s time to change from being a boss to being an inspiring leader who understands this diversity. In order to achieve set goals, one should invest a considerable amount of effort to nurture a healthy work environment with an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.

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Practical Tips For Hiring, Managing (and Retaining) Millennials

This is a guest post from Allison Hail. Allison is a freelance writer from Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. A passionate writer and also a self-confessed foodie who adores devouring ideas from the latest baking recipe books with a steaming cup of coffee. Watch out for her newest articles on Tumblr.

Millennials.  The often misunderstood generation of people aged 20 to 35.

They are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force today. According to a 2017 report by Pew Research Center, millennials make up about 35% of the workforce.

However, they’ve received some less than positive attention since they’ve hit the work scene.

Each generation has its own work values and work ethic. One isn’t better than the other. It’s simply important to understand how each generation performs in the workplace.

It’s vital that HR (and management) personnel understand the motivators of millennials.

Follow these practical tips for hiring, managing (and retaining) millennials.  We will reveal the motivators that will help you maximize productivity, performance and engagement in the workplace.

The Secret to Attracting and Hiring Millennials

Millennials bring a fresh perspective and youthful enthusiasm to the workplace.

But how do you attract the right millennial talent?  During the hiring and interview process, look for the following soft skills:

  1. Leadership skills
  2. Communication skills
  3. Problem-solving & critical thinking
  4. Accountability

This short video explains what to look for in a candidate.

Managing and Retaining Millennials

A 2016 Gallup report of employed millennials revealed that:

  • 21% declared they’ve changed jobs within the past year
  • 60% are open to new job opportunities

This indicates they are the least engaged generation in today’s workforce.

Gallup found only 29% of millennials are behaviorally and emotionally connected to their company and their job.

What can you do to change this?

Engaging Millennials in the Workplace

1  Provide a Sense of Purpose

A mission, purpose and meaningful work is what drives millennials.  Not just a paycheck. Allow them to take the initiative with projects.  Show you value their input.

2  Be a Coach (Like a Boss)

Millennials value a manager who can coach, not command and control.  Someone who helps them understand what’s required of them, and helps them strengthen their skills.  Ensure to provide ongoing feedback and nurture leadership qualities.

3  Support Flexibility

Millennials don’t want to be tied to an 8-hour office schedule.  Their job is their life. They are efficient multi-taskers who expect autonomy and a healthy work-life balance.

How do you put this into action? Begin by engaging millennial candidates during the hiring process.  This will increase your chances of retaining them as employees.

Use our practical tips for hiring, managing (and retaining) millennials to guide you through the process.

Before you know it, you’ll have more engaged, valuable and productive employees.

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Informational interviews: Whom and how to ask

Informational interviews are a relatively new interview format where the main goal is not to get a job, but rather get valuable insight into a particular position.

Though seemingly easy, informational interviews have their own intricacies and rules to follow in order for both the interviewer and the interviewee to benefit.

While informational interviews are often overlooked by the job seekers, they bring immense benefits, like expanding your network or pinpointing certain skills that you can improve.

In order to gain value from an informational interview, you need to know whom and what questions to ask.

Informational interview benefits

The first thing to remember: an informational interview is not a job interview and should not be approached as one.

In a job interview, a candidate wants to get hired, has a certain position in mind, and talks to an HR manager and the future manager of the department. Job interviews can be stressful and are to determine whether the candidate is a good fit.

Informational interviews are a different sort of interview. Their main goal is to help a person gain insight into the position, company, and industry as a whole.

Informational interviews are relatively stress-free, as there is no assessment – only the goal of gaining information. During such interviews, the interviewer is typically the one in a junior role, and asks questions about specific tasks and duties in a role, internal processes, possible pitfalls, and opportunities for professional growth.

The benefits of the informational interview include:

  • Significant network growth: During the interview, you can ask for valuable contacts that can help you with advice
  • Deep insights on the position that you want to fill: Such insights include the description of the role in the company, duties, attitude of the executives, company culture, etc.
  • Advice for future growth: You can learn which skills you need to work on and how to qualify for a desired position

Your first step towards conducting an informational interview would be to choose the right person and prepare a list of questions that you are going to ask.

Choosing the right person and writing down the right questions

You want the interview to bring you a certain value. For that, you need to do a bit of groundwork.

We recommend outlining the goals that you want to get from this interview: do you want to know how to become a professional in the chosen sphere or are you interested in this specific company and wish to work here?

You should choose the person and questions based on your goals.

Choosing who to interview

As said above, define your goals – they will serve as a base for the interview.

If you want to learn about a specific position, try to find a person who already works in a company in the same or similar position. If you want professional advice, you can try meeting an executive or a manager who can recommend the best methods for self-improvement.

Here are a few ideas on where to find the right people:

  • Your personal network: Maybe the needed specialists are already there
  • LinkedIn: Search among your existing network or look specifically for certain people
  • Your family and friends: Ask whether they know anyone who can help you

And remember: always be professional! An informational interview is still a professional exchange, similar to a regular interview or networking at a conference.

Send a message or an email, introduce yourself and politely ask to arrange a meeting. By acting in a professional manner, you will earn trust and respect, and can increase your chances of getting valuable insights.

Questions to ask during the interview

Once you are clear with your goals and chose the right person to conduct an interview, time to outline the questions that you are going to ask.

One of the best strategies is to first ask a person about their career: how it started, what led to the person getting this job, and how they feel about it.

People typically enjoy talking about themselves, so you could gain more insight than you expect. You may also think of extra questions while listening.

Some of your possible questions for the informational interview may include:

  • What are your daily duties?
  • What kind of skills and knowledge do you need for this position?
  • What are some of the benefits and darker sides of the industry?
  • How do you find this company, culture, and management?

After the interview, thank the person for their time with a follow-up note. If you aren’t already, don’t forget to connect with them on LinkedIn.

An informational interview is a great source of new connections, valuable advice, and even new opportunities. If you act in a professional manner, prepare in advance, and make use of the obtained information, you will significantly speed up the process of getting your dream job position – so give informational interview a try. In the 21st century, information is immensely valuable, so use it to your advantage.

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How to brand your company well among your employees

Internal branding is a big deal.

While companies invest overwhelming sums of money into external PR campaigns, they seem to ignore internal PR and no zero effort to brand the company among their own employees.

And this is a critical mistake. Numerous studies show that 92% of people trust the opinion of their friends and family much more than they trust advertising and paid marketing campaigns – and guess who stands behind this word-of-mouth marketing?

That’s right – your employees. When they talk about their company outside of work, they can speak about your products and services with admiration or disdain. Loyal employees tend to genuinely support their company, and internal branding is a great way to inspire that loyalty.

But internal branding is not something you can do overnight. Same as external PR, it takes some time and effort to cultivate a sense of loyalty and trust towards a company.

The importance of internal branding

Some company owners may ask: why would I need to invest in building the loyalty of my employees if I already pay them a decent salary?

A good company should strive to build a long-lasting relationship with its employees, understanding that salary isn’t everything for everyone. Treat team members as skilled contributors who can help your company grow and exceed the set goals.


Loyal employees can incite plenty of word-of-mouth marketing, which can be extremely beneficial for your company.

When an employee talks about the company’s product, believes in it,  and isn’t just trying to sell something, it motivates others to check it out too.

Increased retention

If an employee is happy at their workplace, s/he will most probably enjoy staying there as long as possible.

If your company sees a low retention rate and an alarmingly high turnover, it’s time to check out what’s wrong with your company policy and how you can improve the situation.

The better your retention, the less time you’ll spend hiring and training new team members (which can get expensive).

Increased motivation

Many company owners expect employees to be self-motivated without giving them any particular reason to get excited for work. This is another critical mistake.

In order to retain employees, give them a valid reason to stay – and by that, we mean solid company culture, clear values, and atmosphere of trust.

How to turn your employees into brand ambassadors

Now that you understand the importance of internal branding, the question is how you will actually implement this strategy.

Below is a step-by-step guide on building your brand with your employees and keeping them engaged with the company.

Define your value and mission

This might sound like a cheesy line from any company’s description written by some PR specialist, but defining your internal values and mission is important for keeping team members on the same page.

If you clearly understand your purpose, your employees will begin to notice, and it’ll be easier to implement internal branding that feels natural.

Pick the right moment

If you make big changes, try to pair them with something else that’s going on in the company. If you combine a positive event or change (like a new office) with something you want to implement for your internal branding (like a campaign), it helps when employees associate them both as positive things.

For example, if you have a new CMO coming onboard, you can also start promoting a new approach to the company’s values. This will help people embrace the change in the right mood.

Talk to your employees

Before making a change, you first need to know what needs to be changed. For that, talk to your employees – the people who will be directly affected by that change.

Conduct surveys to learn what can be improved and ask for the feedback. Invite employees to openly share their ideas with you, and make sure that good ones get implemented.

A big mistake that many companies make is conducting surveys and then not doing anything with the data. This leads to great mistrust towards the company and can lower employees loyalty if they feel they aren’t being heard (especially after putting in the effort of answering a survey).

Offer incentives

An incentive is a great way to boost loyalty and help visualize the company’s values in physical form.

According to your company and its products, you can offer employees T-shirts, books, pins, or even money for behaving in accordance with your mission. For example, if your company values sustainability, you can offer employees 1$ for every 5 plastic bottles that they recycle.

The main idea here is not to bribe the employees, but to support your mission with actions, not just words.

Notice the employees’ contribution

If you ask employees to share their ideas and thoughts, make sure to listen to them and thank them for their contribution.

Many companies ask for employees’ opinions for the sake of appearance. As a result, employees lose trust in the company and won’t want to share anything with it in the future.

So if you really want to engage employees with certain activities, keep your word and deploy the best ideas. This will significantly boost the motivation and show employees that you care about their opinion.

Turning your employees into brand ambassadors is a long-term investment in your company’s growth and development. Before taking any action, double-check that your company has a clear mission and then start building your internal PR strategy around it.

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When to Let Go of Poor Performers in the Workplace

Performance reviews have long been under-fire for practices of ranking individuals into top, middle, and bottom tiers. However, these tiers or other setups showing individuals who consistently perform under set standards can help your organization to improve and succeed. Traditionally, individuals who consistently underperform are simply let go, as they are either fired or do not receive contract renewal.

Modern HR practices typically require a much more human-friendly approach, where you should offer opportunities and tools to improve. Understanding these tools and approaches will help you to understand both how to improve performance and when to give up and let go of someone who simply is not responding to efforts.

Poor Response to Coaching

Coaching and mentoring can greatly improve performance for many. Here, leaders can simply step in to determine what’s gone wrong and why. This may result in the individual being moved to a more suitable team. It may result in their roles changing. It may result in them being pushed into personal development or training to improve specific factors.

Poor performance can result from myriad factors such as stress, poor home-life conditions, poor work-life balance, overwork, a bad manager, a poor fit with team, lack of crucial knowledge or skills, lack of motivation, and other factors. Coaching can help with any of these.

No matter what direction coaching takes, it’s important to monitor results. If someone fails immediately, it may be the fault of the coach. However, if the coach is good, there is a certain point when further investment is likely futile or no longer a good investment. Here, you should set a budget based on the cost of hiring and onboarding a replacement to the same or a higher level of performance and work within that.

No Interest in Development

Individuals who do not respond to or show interest in personal development cannot improve or change. This is important because most remediation efforts for poor performance eventually result in development. Individuals who lack skills for their current role have to be trained. Persons in a role that is changing outside of their ability to perform have to be trained. Individuals who can’t communicate well have to be trained as well.

If someone is not interested in learning and improving themselves, they cannot increase or improve performance. You can typically gauge this before development begins but should do so as it proceeds as well.

Lack of Personal Motivation

Personal motivation is the key to self-improvement and it is one (hard to measure) factor that will make or break the success of any initiative. Without motivation, an individual cannot respond to coaching, cannot push themselves through development, and will not be able to engage with or become passionate about work. You can take on several strategies to boost motivation through empowerment, stress reduction, training, and offering opportunities, but it is up to the individual to respond.

Like with coaching, motivation training should stop at a certain point when it becomes clear that the cost of doing so will exceed the cost of replacing the individual altogether.

Most people will train, develop themselves, and strive to do better when given the opportunity to do so in an understanding environment. People respond well to coaching, are able to make changes to their schedules and work methods and can learn new skills to improve performance. On the rare occasion that individuals do not respond to these methods or the cost of delivering them far outstrips the cost of hiring a new employee, you should let poor performers go.

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How to Preserve Institutional Knowledge and Prevent Brain Drain

Brain drain is a situation where organizations are faced with older staff leaving and retiring at a faster rate than new employees reach equivalent levels of skill and expertise. This can be a problem in organizations of all sizes.

While especially relevant to fast-scaling startups who often outpace their own ability to onboard effectively, brain drain impacts even massive companies with tens of thousands of employees.

Preventing knowledge loss often means creating preventive strategies, effectively onboarding people, and hiring to incorporate new expertise while retaining existing knowledge.

These tactics will help you preserve institutional knowledge across your organization, so that the workforce remains productive, valuable, and capable of delivering on strategy and vision.

Implement Succession Planning

Succession planning is one of the most valuable strategies to prevent brain drain, because it ensures you always know who will take the place of existing skilled or valuable persons. This often means developing a matrix to highlight your most value-added or key employees, using competency frameworks and job profiling to determine why they add value and how to replace them, and then generating succession planning based on predictions of their likelihood of leaving the role within x amount of time.

This strategy approaches brain drain from the idea that it will happen, you have to plan for it, and you have to have people ready with the right knowledge, skills, and behaviors, to prevent drops in performance when key people do leave.

Create Mentoring Programs

Lack of proper onboarding is very common in new and old companies alike. Here, new people are often hired on, very quickly introduced to their roles, and then left to be productive under a manager or Scrum leader with no real follow-up or intensive mentoring.

When more experienced individuals do leave roles, these new people are left with very little idea of how or why things are done the way they are, no idea of backlogs, and no real way to add value without changing processes, reverting items, or making a lot of mistakes.

Introducing mentoring programs as part of onboarding helps subvert this issue by ensuring existing employees always pass their knowledge, documentation, and organizational insight on to new people. While most people don’t want to make time in their role for mentoring, it is an important part of a role. The faster you’re hiring, the more time experienced people should be making for mentoring.

Focus on Employee Retention

While replacement strategies are important, employee turnover is still one of the most crucial contributors to skill loss. If you slow down how quickly employees leave, you slow down brain drain, giving your other strategies more time to take effect.

Here, you should focus on employee satisfaction, employee empowerment, fitting individuals to their roles and teams, and creating an environment people want to work in. While you’ll always have individuals who don’t fit, employee retention will make it easier to reduce losses in other places throughout the organization.

Brain drain will slow productivity, decrease profit, and force the organization to change direction or focus as individuals with crucial knowledge leave an organization. Adopt strategies to share knowledge throughout the organization to prevent losing key employees as quickly, and have a plan in place to replace key individuals when they’re ready to move on.

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How to set the right KPIs for your employees

“Business! Business! Numbers!”

This quote from “The Lego Movie” reflects the idea of KPIs perfectly.

In order to keep the business growing, everyone on a team should know what’s going on in the company right now and what has to be done next. But if a manager says: “We have to do better next month!” it can be understood in a dozen different ways.

Should we do better in terms of motivation? Does it mean a higher percentage of sales or less negative reviews about the company? Or maybe the manager meant something else?

In order for the whole company to be on the same page, managers need to identify clear goals and then set the right key performance indicators to track the progress and help people navigate through work.

But what exactly are the KPIs, and how do you set the ones that will bring you profit? Let’s have a look.

The importance of KPIs

Key performance indicators are the measurable values that help you track your progress and evaluate whether you are doing everything right.

However, there are no KPIs without a goal – the end result that you want to reach. Different goals will call for different KPIs, and you need to define them all in order to reach the desired result.

Because KPIs are usually visible and understandable for everyone in the company, they aid in eliminating blind spots and guesswork. Once everyone on the team understands where they are heading, the work process skyrockets and the progress will not be long in coming.

Another important aspect that KPIs impact is employee motivation. If the person does not know whether their work matters and how it affects the company, this employee will not strive for excellence. On the other hand, if a manager explains how exactly the work of every team member affects the company and what they can do to help the company grow, chances are high the employees will be willing to stretch to meet and exceed expectations.

Now that we are clear about the role of key performance indicators in your company’s development, let’s look at a step-by-step guide on defining and setting your goals.

Setting the right KPIs

There are no KPIs without setting your business goals first. And this requires a thought-out approach.

Choose your goals

Your business has four main areas that demand attention:

  1. Customers
  2. Employees
  3. Revenue
  4. Process

A well-balanced company takes care of all four areas equally. However, most companies tend to focus on one or two areas only, leaving the others behind. And to be honest, just how many times did you check the revenue growth versus the psychological comfort of your employees?

So before getting down to the KPIs, first set a goal (or few) for every area. For that, ask the following questions:

  • Are my customers happy?
  • Are my employees motivated and productive?
  • Are all our strategies and offerings aimed at growing the revenue?
  • Are all our process well-aligned and organized?

By answering these questions, you can easily identify the problem areas and set the corresponding goals to fix them.

Define the right KPIs

A goal can be non-definite, i.e. a revenue growth or increase in employees’ motivation.

A KPI, on the other hand, is always a definite value that can be measured: 10 closed deals per month, 12 hours to get in touch with the customer upon request, etc.

With the help of KPIs, you set a certain goal for a team or a person and help them move in the right direction. And considering the fact that KPIs are aimed at boosting the company’s performance, the accomplishment of the KPIs will definitely make an impact.

You can set KPIs for a single person or a whole department, depending on your goals. Here are some tips on choosing and setting the right KPIs.

Follow the SMART pattern

Any KPI should be:

  • S: specific
  • M: measurable
  • A: attainable
  • R: relevant
  • T: timely achieved

The SMART concept is great when you define the right KPIs for your team. It is important that the KPI will bring value for the company (relevance), can be measured and delivered in a specific time period (measurable + time) and can actually be attained.

Never set unrealistic KPIs! It would be better to set a smaller goal and achieve it rather than set up an unrealistic big goal that everyone will quickly realize is unattainable.

Double-check whether you chose the right goal and KPIs

One of the biggest mistakes that companies do is measuring the wrong thing or assigning the wrong person for a certain KPI.

Let’s see an example. A manager sets up a KPI for a copywriter that says: “Achieve a 20% higher visibility of blog posts in 3 months.”

On the first sight, it all seems relevant: a copywriter creates content for the blog so he is the one responsible for the content.

However (unless your copywriter is also an SEO pro), this KPI is not right, and neither is the person assigned to it.

A company wants more people to see the blog, explore it and then navigate to product pages. If you increase the blog’s visibility, it will not guarantee the conversion rate growth, as people can just visit the blog then leave. So it’s the responsibility of an SEO specialist, not the blog writer, to optimize key pages for search.

Track progress

Perform regular audits to check whether your KPIs are being achieved and how things are going. Usually, companies do these audits every quarter but you can tailor the frequency to your specific company.

During the audits, check if everyone understands what they do and why, whether the goals are achieved and what the possible reasons for failure may be.

Such an analysis will help you adjust your strategy and identify any issues that harm your progress.

Learning how to set the right KPIs for your company is crucial. Start by defining your goals to find the right KPIs to measure, and then track your progress quarterly.

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Recognizing Top Talent with Benchmarking and Performance Models

Recognizing your top employees allows you to improve your hiring and selection process, recognize which factors contribute to individual success, and train for those factors across your organization. However, recognizing what constitutes success can often be difficult, especially in large organizations where teams often succeed as a whole.

Identifying top performers inside your organization means establishing a system of benchmarking and performance modeling, so you can recognize what counts as success, and track who meets or exceeds those requirements.

Implement Benchmarking

Benchmarking is an easy way to establish baselines for performance. In most cases, benchmarks should be a combination of internal and external data, based on existing performance and performance standards for your industry. If you don’t have this data, you do need it. Your internal benchmark should be based on:

  • What does performance production look like in measurable output?
  • What is median performance?
  • What is minimum performance required to meet goals?
  • How does that performance compare to other similarly sized organizations in your industry?

If you can draw a line in the figurative sand to indicate where performance should be, you can measure how and when people meet those expectations.

Performance Models

Performance models take a deeper look at what people are doing, why, and how. This allows you to judge performance and talent based on more than simple production. Why? Production can be misleading as a measure of desired output. For example, if your team lead is producing a great deal, he’s probably not doing his job.

Similarly, if a communications head is turning around a lot of copy, he’s probably not doing his job. In both cases, the actual job for the individual isn’t about technical production, it’s about helping others to do their jobs.

Performance models allow you to identify other factors that contribute to organizational performance in that role, including soft skills like communication or self-motivation. This allows you to track who’s simply doing their job and who’s actively contributing to future success by exceeding it.

A good performance model requires having benchmarks or performance standards in place. Afterwards, you can communicate expectations, establish tools and training for individuals to meet those expectations, and set up processes to monitor how people meet or do not meet those standards.

Performance models include profiles of expected or quality performance, rank everyone against expected performance, and make it very easy to see who excels and how. For example, if two people are excelling in the same role for completely different reasons, you can collect that data and see how it impacts the individual and their ability to perform.

Identifying top performers allows you to look at the traits, behaviors, and qualities that allow them to succeed. You can then utilize that data in recruitment and selection processes, when training and working on development, and when promoting individuals into new roles, because you already know what success looks like in that role.

It also allows you to better identify who is a top performer in your organization, so you can reward, promote, and continue development for those individuals.

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4 Tips on Getting Actionable Employee Feedback

This is a guest post from Ashley Wilson. Ashley is a digital nomad and freelance writer from San Diego, California. When she is not busy baking cupcakes, Ashley loves writing about business, digital marketing, and finance. Connect with Ashley via Twitter @ashleygwilson.

Most businesses understand the value of getting customer feedback, but many are missing out on a much more valuable source of actionable intelligence: their own employees. While customer feedback is important, it often says more about your employees than about your business.

Your employees may treat your customers well in spite of how they themselves feel treated as employees. If you are not careful, however, you can quickly lose the very employees that may inspire great customer loyalty. Conversely, if your customers aren’t happy, it’s a fairly safe bet that your employees aren’t happy either.

In some cases, if you want better customer satisfaction you actually need to improve employee satisfaction.

Getting actionable feedback from employees, however, is not quite as simple as getting it from your customers. While your customers may not hesitate to give an honest review even if it is negative, your employees may not be so eager.

Your customers have little, if anything, to lose from their criticism of your business, but your employees are in a much more tenuous position. Here are 4 tips for getting actionable – and honest – feedback from your employees.

1. Offer Both Anonymous and Face-to-Face Opportunities

Both anonymous and face-to-face feedback have their drawbacks. Overall, feedback given anonymously may or may not be as trustworthy as feedback given face-to-face. Honest feedback is much harder to get, however, when employers know where it is coming from. Anonymous feedback also makes it much easier to vent in a fit of pique or even maliciously slander someone because there is little threat of repercussion.

One way to encourage honest face-to-face feedback is to make performance reviews a two-way street. By choosing to receive an employee evaluation at the same time as giving one, you are more likely to get honest feedback from an employee who is also looking for the same thing.

2. Make Sure Feedback is Solicited from All Employees

As telecommuting and remote work become more common, it is also common for businesses to forget about their remote employees in company matters.

Your remote employees will actually be affected by corporate culture just as much as your on-site employees, but they often have even less of a voice than your on-site employees. Not only is it important to solicit feedback from your remote employees, it is also important to take extra measures to try and help your remote employees feel like they are a real part of the team.

With remote employees, you have to be especially careful and aware of the preferred communication style. This means you should offer feedback in the time of day and using the tools (email, phone, video call etc.) the remote employee will be receptive to. As in any other case, paying attention to your tone and body language as well as making sure you listen, answer and clarify any questions and comments is of utmost importance.

3. Make Feedback Protocols Clear – and Adhere to Them

If employees believe they can be fired or even punished for giving negative feedback, they are unlikely to give it. While everyone loves hearing all the things they are doing right, the truth is what you are doing wrong will be most detrimental to your business. That is actually the feedback you need the most.

It is important for employees to understand exactly how any feedback will be handled and perhaps most importantly, what protections they can expect for giving it. It is also important to respond appropriately to negative feedback and let your employees know they have been heard and you are taking their feedback seriously.

Chances are good you will have to deliver negative feedback to your employees, so this is a good opportunity to set an example of how to receive and handle negative feedback maturely and professionally.

Basically, oftentimes higher levels of job satisfaction, better job performance, trust and motivation depend on the emotional intelligence of both parties. It all starts with you.

4. Handle Explosive Revelations With Care – But Do Handle Them

The Bill Cosby scandal may be one of the most important lessons for businesses. The more widely respected, loved and revered an individual is, the more difficult it may be to believe anything negative about them. Your most efficient manager may actually turn out to also be embezzling thousands of dollars in company funds.

Any time there is a major scandal of any kind, it invariably turns out someone knew what was going on and in many cases tried to tell someone. The problem was that no one listened or believed them.

Yes, employees may always err on the side of believing they are overworked, underpaid and not treated fairly. That does not automatically mean they are wrong, however. Just because an employee makes an accusation does not automatically mean it is true, but it also doesn’t mean it’s untrue just because it is unbelievable.

It is very important to investigate any and all allegations that may come to light by whatever means they are delivered.

It Flows Both Ways

Almost all businesses, employers, managers and employers will have to deliver negative feedback to their employees at some time, and the truth is, employees generally expect it. In order to have a truly healthy business dynamic, however, it is important for honest evaluation to flow both ways.

Receiving negative feedback is hard and it is easy for business owners, supervisors and managers to simply close themselves off to receiving it. Those that do, however, may do so at their own peril.

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