Monday Mornings with Madison

Yearly Archives:
2016

The Down Side of an Instant Gratification Culture

We live in an increasingly Faster-is-Better world. We want what we want… and we want it now. Waiting has become a cardinal sin. Waiting more than two seconds for a web page to load increases bounce rates. Waiting for pedestrians to get out of a crosswalk makes drivers dangerously antsy. Waiting on hold more than a minute for a company to provide service causes customers to hang up and go elsewhere. Speed has become so important that businesses have sprung up focused on providing faster service. Walmart, eBay and Amazon are all offering same-day delivery in many locations. Uber’s business model is built on ensuring that a person who needs a ride can get one at a moment’s notice anywhere. Drive-through windows have sprung up for everything from groceries to medicines. Some furniture stores now also offer same-day delivery. Even the world of entertainment has begun catering to the increasing demand for instant results. Companies like Netflix are now offering an entire season’s worth of programs all at once to feed the desire to “binge-watch” without having to wait for the next installment. This demand for “immediate” has seeped into every corner of life – both real and virtual.
Some see this growing trend toward haste as progress and impatience as a quality shared by highly successful people. If – as the saying goes – ‘time is money’ and wasted time equals lost revenue, then the desire for instant results makes sense. What’s more, the value placed on immediacy is creating businesses and jobs. Client demand for “now” is driving innovation. It could be said that the insatiable thirst for instant gratification is pushing – or should we say shoving — companies to be more customer-service oriented. And most would agree that that is a good thing. But there is also a saying that ‘haste makes waste.’ So is there a problem with this increasing need for speed? Continue reading

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Focus on Conclusions… Not Resolutions

As the end of the fiscal year draws near, businesses hurry to finish deals, take inventories, close out books, and develop plans for the future. Grand goals are set to double sales, triple territorial reach or quadruple orders in the year ahead. People also look ahead; setting goals and preparing resolutions on how to become more successful and happier. Some make resolutions to quit smoking or lose weight. Others set lofty objectives such as start a business, write a book or run a marathon. The sound of the clock ticks louder and a feeling of urgency pushes everyone make plans and think ahead.
While all of that may sound good – and there is certainly nothing wrong with planning ahead — perhaps it is the exact opposite of what we should be doing right now? What if, instead of looking to the future, we use this momentum to look back? A look back might reveal a lot of ideas and plans that were begun but never finished. Projects that were started but never completed. Ideas that hit a road block and fizzled out. Tasks that were begun but not done. So many loose ends; so little time. Perhaps what businesses and employees should do with the last few days of the fiscal year is to make a list – not of Resolutions – but of Conclusions! Here’s how. Continue reading

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The Business Benefits of Bilingual Employees

Language – written and spoken — is the primary tool people use to communicate. While babies are not born speaking, they begin to acquire language skills relatively shortly after birth. By about one year old, babies are babbling and saying some words, and by two years of age most toddlers are learning new words daily and starting to form sentences. Based on the results of over 2 million people testing their vocabulary on www.testyourvocab.com, by age 9, the average American test-taker already has a vocabulary of 10,000 words and most American adult test-takers have vocabularies ranging from 20,000-35,000 words. That is for Americans learning one language: English.
It is generally believed that a person with a large vocabulary is better able to communicate with others, and that is usually a sign of intellect. If language is tied to intelligence, then it stands to reason that someone with the ability to speak more than one language would thus have an even larger overall vocabulary and would be even better able to communicate with others. Yet, there has been a great deal of debate in the U.S. over the years regarding teaching and speaking “English only”. Indeed, only 19.7% of Americans speak more than one language, versus 56% of Europeans. Looking at this issue strictly from a business standpoint, it appears that having bilingual or multilingual employees is good for business. Recent research shows that being able to speak more than one language is not only useful to businesses in places with a lot of diversity, it also makes for better – as in more talented – employees even in places where everyone speaks English. Continue reading

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Business Etiquette: Agreeing to Disagree

The political scene that unfolded in the U.S. in 2016 brought into the spotlight how deeply people disagreed on key issues. Disagreements became confrontational, aggressive and uncivil. Private discussions and social media posts spilled into open public forums, rallies and protests. It was particularly divisive and distasteful.
Disagreement can happen in any setting, from the political arena to the business environment. But in a professional setting, there are rules and boundaries for how to share diverging viewpoints. That is because impertinent, disrespectful and aggressive communication is counterproductive to teamwork and can undermine the creativity and efficiency of any organization. When handled correctly, intelligent people can share ideas, disagree totally and still be able to work together effectively. Here are some tips on how to handle disagreements. Continue reading

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Preparing an Annual Marketing Plan

It is a lot of work to prepare an annual Marketing Plan.  After all, a company’s Marketing Plan should itemize — in great detail — all of the company’s goals, the objectives to reach those goals and the strategies to … Continue reading

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There is So Much for which to be Thankful

At this time every year, Americans spend a day “giving thanks” for their many blessings. Rightly so. The New York Times recently published an editorial that said that “In many ways, there has never been a better time to be alive.” The article acknowledged that, while there are certainly still many problems in the world, today “fewer among us are poor, fewer are hungry, fewer children are dying, and more men and women can read than ever before. In many countries, recognition of women’s and minority rights is now the norm. There is still much work to do, of course, but there is hope and there is progress.”
The article goes on to observe how people in struggling and violent parts of the world want to immigrate to richer, more peaceful nations such as the U.S. That’s understandable. Indeed, the U.S. has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world amongst capitalist countries. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the U.S. ranks 9th in the world. And when the United Nations combined physical capital (machinery, buildings, infrastructure and so on), human capital (the population’s education and skills), and natural capital (including land, forests, fossil fuels and minerals), the U.S. ranked #1 as the richest nation on earth.
And yet, a Gallup poll this year showed that 71% of Americans were dissatisfied with the U.S. economy and 8 out of 10 felt the country was going in the wrong direction. Those who live in the safest, most prosperous country on earth were feeling great uneasiness, bordering on hopelessness. Why such anger and discontent in the world’s most affluent country? What might account for the huge disconnect between America’s prosperity and the dissatisfaction most Americans feel? Perhaps it’s a matter of gratitude?
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Meeting Etiquette: Rules of the Road

Meetings cost organizations a lot of money. Consider the hourly rate (wages plus benefits) of each person at the meeting. Then add in the expense of bringing everyone together, if some of the participants are at different locations. It can add up. Yet, in all likelihood, most employees will attend dozens or hundreds of meetings throughout their careers. And most employees loathe attending meetings. That’s because meetings take up valuable time that a person could use to “get their work done.” To add insult to injury, not only do meetings eat away at productivity, they often feel like a waste of time. That’s because so many meetings veer off topic, devolve into entire conversations that have no place in the meeting, have numerous interruptions, and/or drag on way past their scheduled time, resulting in the need for another meeting.
Notwithstanding, meetings cannot be avoided and are surely not going to disappear from the business or professional world any time soon. There is no telling the boss “this is not the highest and best use of my time.” So how does an organization deal with the problems and pitfalls of meetings and ensure that meeting results warrant the cost? There are a number of steps that can ensure meetings are productive and focused … on point and on time! Here’s how. Continue reading

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Capricious or Cutting-Edge: When Should a Business Make Changes?

It’s been said that “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.” The point is that sometimes you have to break routines and try new processes, products, systems or strategies to find better ways of doing things. Innovation usually leads to improvement, and refusing to ever try new things is futile and foolish. Consider the Luddites. The Luddites were 19th-century English textile workers and weavers who, fearing the end of their trade, protested against newly developed labor-saving technologies between 1811 and 1816. New inventions such as the stocking frames, spinning frames and power of the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace Luddites with less-skilled, low-wage laborers, leaving them unemployed and obsolete. The Luddite movement culminated in a region-wide rebellion in Northwestern England that required a massive deployment of military force to suppress. So famous was their rebellion that today the term Luddite has become synonymous with anyone opposed to industrialization, automation, computerization or new technology, in general.

Of course, there is also an argument to be made that a business that is always changing processes, products and strategies may find itself wasting both time and talent. It can be expensive to constantly be shifting gears and updating systems. Learning new software or revamping procedures takes time and can be confusing – and even frustrating — for employees. So change for the sake of change can also be counterproductive and costly. It is important for businesses to evolve, but it should be done carefully and thoughtfully to ensure it causes the least amount of disturbance, distraction and distress internally and externally. Continue reading

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Top 10 Reasons Employees Stay with their Employer, Part 2

It is well-established that employee turnover is both costly and wasteful. High employee turnover is, in fact, one of the biggest impediments to positive business growth, no matter the industry. In the majority of instances, the cost to recruit, hire and train new employees and the additional workload that the process puts on management and existing employees adds no value to the business. When good employees leave a company by choice, it is just a loss. So employee turnover has a huge effect on profitability. For that reason alone, companies with high church should work hard to reduce the employee turnover rate.
However, if the sheer cost of employee turnover is not reason enough, managers should consider that cohesive teams are much more productive and creative than workplaces where the people are learning to work together and don’t really know or trust one another. A department in which employees come and go – like a revolving door — will have more confusion, communication breakdowns and mistakes than one in which all of the people have been working well together for a long time. It is human nature that people get to know and understand how others on the team work and are able to work more harmoniously and intuitively. Turnover also causes loss of memory of vital information. Learning from both mistakes and successes helps employees find better solutions to challenges. Reports or other people’s recollection only offer a snapshot of that information. Workers have to actively experience and remember losses and gains in order to be influenced by them. And, business contacts and deeper networks of connection are lost if new department heads or salespeople are lost, NOT because of promotions from within, but because the company is hemorrhaging workers.
Another good reason for companies to focus on reducing employee turnover is reputation. Companies with high employee turnover get a reputation for churn. In every industry, there are companies that everyone knows have a “high churn and burn rate.” These are firms where management is quick to both hire and fire. Those firms are unlikely to attract top talent, unless that talent is specifically being brought in to fix the “churn and burn” problem. Companies that cannot attract top talent are unlikely to disrupt a market, revolutionize a field or become industry leaders. All of these reasons should motivate companies with high employee turnover to tackle the issue? Thankfully, there are ways to improve employee loyalty and reduce turnover and many of them don’t cost a cent. Last week, we looked at five reasons employees stay with their employer: compensation, mentoring, challenges, promotions and involvement. Here five more reasons. Continue reading

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Top 10 Reasons Employees Stay with their Employer, Part 1

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employee turnover is highest in industries such as hospitality, banking and finance, healthcare and the service sector. Turnover also seems to vary by wage and role of employee. For example, employee turnover of salespeople is often particularly high. This should be of critical importance to businesses because turnover is a huge expense. According to a study conducted in November, 2012 by the Center for American Progress, the estimated average cost to replace an employee in the U.S. was 16% of annual salary for high-turnover, low-paying jobs (earning under $30,000 a year), 20% of annual salary for mid-range positions (earning $30,000 to $50,000 a year), and up to a whopping 213% of annual salary for highly educated executive positions. That means the cost to replace a $10/hour retail employee would cost a company on average $3,328, while the cost to replace a $40k manager would be $8,000. But the cost to replace a $100k C-Suite exec is a whopping $213,000. Keep in mind that the cost to recruit, hire and train new employees and the additional workload that the process puts on management and existing employees add no value to the business. It is just a loss. So employee turnover has a huge effect on profitability.
If employee turnover is so costly and generates no value, then it should be every company’s focus to keep employee turnover as low as possible. But how? And what is the right amount of employee turnover? Given how costly it is, what should the target rate be for this “wasted” cost? While zero employee turnover is ideal, it is certainly not realistic for any organization that isn’t family-owned and operated. So what is the bulls-eye on staff retention? Continue reading

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