You promoted a superstar employee to a supervisory role. She now manages the people who were once her peers, and while she exhibits strong leadership potential, she’ll likely need guidance along the way.
This change in the power dynamic can be awkward, and even problematic, for employees and the newly anointed supervisor. There are common pitfalls that, if avoided, can promote a smoother transition and a healthy working environment.
Here are five tips to ensure your new supervisor successfully navigates this unfamiliar terrain while avoiding mistakes that can stymie team productivity and cohesiveness.
1. Remind them it’s a marathon, not a sprint
An inexperienced supervisor may feel inclined to make immediate, drastic changes and implement a strong rule of law.
While improvements to processes and productivity are encouraged, stark change can be jarring for people.
Instead, encourage the new supervisor to ask the team for input on how to improve processes and the overall team dynamic. Remind them that it’s their job to support, challenge and motivate team members in any way they can. Help the supervisor communicate shared goals to the team.
Then, they can make changes incrementally. This allows everyone time to adapt to the new way and to work out any kinks that may arise.
It’s as simple as: No one wants to work for a tyrant. That’s why it’s important for first-time supervisors (and experienced ones as well) to solicit feedback, be inclusive and take things one step at a time.
2. Encourage them to be an even-handed leader
New supervisors must shift from being a team member to being a leader. This change can be tough, given prior relationships.
It’s likely they built friendships with certain team members. They may even have participated in office gossip at some point as an employee. Their new supervisory role, however, requires them to unify, motivate and coach the team.
This shift could cause tension if one employee feels another is receiving preferential treatment due to an existing relationship.
It’s important that the supervisor leave personal feelings at home, and wear the manager hat at work. Everyone should be treated equitably, meaning that all team members are getting the same opportunities and developmental feedback.
Remember, there may come a day when the supervisor will have to discipline a friend who’s now a direct report. That’s when separating their social life from their professional life becomes ever-more crucial. The rest of the team will be watching for preferential treatment.
3. Teach them to delegate
When an employee becomes a supervisor, they assume responsibility for developing and executing a plan to help the team complete its goals and assignments.
Coming from a background as an individual contributor, they may struggle to delegate tasks and best utilize each team member’s talents. This can lead to the supervisor taking on all the work.
Instead, supervisors should get to know each of their direct reports, and find out exactly what they do in their roles and how they do it best. Then delegate tasks accordingly.
They should also try to uncover what motivates each individual contributor to do their best work. Encourage them to schedule one-on-one meetings, lunches or even team activities. Any opportunity for new supervisors to get to know team members will help them learn how to play to the strengths of each contributor.
For example, the supervisor might learn that one team member is a really strong communicator. Rather than presenting the team’s work to a client themselves, they could ask this person to step up and facilitate the presentation instead.
The better the supervisor knows the team and their individual strengths, the more trust can be placed on team members to execute the task at hand.
This is an easy trap to fall into, and it might not be a conscious decision. The micromanager likely just wants to establish control over the process to help ensure the quality of the final product. The result is usually the opposite.
The team is underutilized and can feel overwhelmed or overworked. Instead, a strong supervisor not only delegates tasks but delegates authority, which instills respect and trust that the team is capable of completing the job.
If you notice that a supervisor unreasonably asks their direct reports for several updates per day, then provide constructive feedback. Be ready to give specific examples of their behavior and how they might approach the situation differently in the future.
For example, you could help your supervisor set better goals and expectations for their team, eliminating the need for frequent check-ins. Constant interruptions are a product of micromanagement, which can lead to lowered overall productivity and morale.
5. Keep coaching them
As a leader, make sure you’re coaching your supervisor along the way, too.
Occasionally join meetings led by your new supervisor to get a feel for the team dynamic and their leadership skills or deficiencies.
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to their team and ask for feedback.
For example, you might say to a team member, “How is everything going? I know there have been some changes, and I just want to make sure everything is going well for you.”
You probably wouldn’t want to directly point out that you’re seeking feedback on the supervisor, as this might inadvertently undermine the supervisor’s authority, but this provides an opportunity to discuss any challenges the team member might be experiencing.
Once you’ve gained insight through observation and team conversations, have a coaching conversation with your new supervisor, and share any feedback you received from the team members.
Sandwich the good feedback with the areas that need improvement. We’re all humans, and a little praise and reinforcement of positive behaviors can go a long way.
The way we work has changed tremendously over the last 10 years, and out of necessity HR has changed with it. Gone are the days when human resources was largely an administrative, paper-pushing department that served as the gatekeeper for job applications and benefits enrollment.
HR has evolved into a fundamental asset for any successful business, one utilizing sophisticated resources and technology to help companies operate more efficiently and strategically.
The change was quick, and it can be easy to overlook the catalysts of this HR revolution and the resulting positive impacts on businesses and employees. Here are the most influential trends that have impacted human resources over the last decade:
Younger employees, who didn’t live through the economic downturn of 2008, may not understand the difficulties of job markets during a recession.
Ten years ago, hiring freezes, pay freezes and widespread layoffs meant companies could extract concessions from workers, often lowering pay and reducing benefits. Turnover slowed to a snail’s pace since there were few, or no, options if you didn’t like your boss or were ready for more responsibility.
Conversely, a rapidly expanding economy often means a plethora of new career opportunities. Amid strong economic conditions, companies often can’t find enough qualified workers. This leads to businesses increasing pay and offering a wide variety of benefits to attract and retain staff.
It’s important to remember that the economy works in cycles. The good times never last, but neither do the bad times.
Self-service HR technology
Advances in HR technology mean that employees can change their own address, enroll in and change their benefits, and perform other functions that once required an HR specialist to handle the paperwork.
Self-service HR technology allows companies to increase headcount without necessarily needing to add HR staff. It also leaves HR personnel free to handle more advanced work, such as training and development, compliance management and data analysis. A reputable HR services provider should have the technology resources to help you with this.
Evolution of social media
Ten years ago, most companies had firm rules and technology in place that limited or forbade employees from shopping online or accessing social media during work hours. How things have changed.
Gradually, businesses recognized that employee social media activity was something to be harnessed for the company’s good, and social media policies began to change.
Today, most companies encourage employees to share the company’s social media messages on their personal accounts to help magnify the company’s reach. Businesses recognize that employees can help recruit job candidates and bring legitimacy to a company’s brand through their participation in the company’s social media activity.
In another sign of change, businesses are also adopting workplace productivity applications, such as Slack and Jira, to improve team collaboration and efficiency.
Targeted online recruiting
Remember the good old days of trying to find job candidates by posting print or online “help wanted” ads and then waiting for the résumés to flow in?
Now, recruitment strategies include scanning LinkedIn for prospects, managing internal databases to track the résumés of current and past employees, and collecting hundreds of résumés for each job – thanks to online job boards such as CareerBuilder and ZipRecruiter.
Specialty online job sites also make it easier for companies to find and hire engineers, nurses and others with specialized skill sets.
A decade ago, few employees could easily work from a remote location, whether that was home, a client’s office or a coffee shop. Now, technology makes it easy for remote workers to securely and efficiently perform their jobs from pretty much any place with a Wi-Fi connection.
In fact, offsite work has become such a part of the business landscape that many companies are implementing shared desks, reducing square footage devoted to offices and partnering with co-working spaces.
Another advantage to the increase in remote work? Companies have the option of hiring employees who live outside their local area, vastly expanding their ability to fill difficult-to-hire positions.
Interactive multimedia training and development
Technology has swept out the old static PowerPoint presentations delivered to big groups in classroom settings. Left in its wake is easily accessible, online, self-paced learning.
These days, large chunks of knowledge can be divided into more manageable portions in a process called micro-learning. This allows employees to absorb and use just the information required for their job at that moment. Training has become immediately relevant to the individual needs of both employees and their companies.
Other advances, such as the gamification of education, have helped make professional learning more fun, while virtual reality helps employees improve their job skills in life-like situations.
As a result, companies are changing the basics of people management, from the way performance reviews are handled to incorporating flexible work arrangements.
Another challenge for HR? For the first time in modern history, most companies have four to five different generations working together at once, including the silent generation, baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and now Gen Z.
All have their own generational personalities and expectations that must be acknowledged, appreciated and managed so that companies are able to continuously improve performance and leverage the creativity and experiences of their entire workforce.
Circumstances of the last decade have necessitated what is probably the saddest change in human resources: the frequent necessity to support employees after a tragedy.
Whether the event is weather-related devastation or a mass shooting, HR teams everywhere have to be ready to provide near-immediate assistance to affected staff members.
Many HR departments keep email and web page templates up to date that can be posted at a moment’s notice should their workforce need reminders about security procedures, employee assistance programs and opportunities to help fellow employees or their community.
The trend of hiring temporary and contract workers continues to grow and change the way companies and HR departments operate. Also called contingent workers, such self-employed contractors generally work on a per-project basis.
These employees reduce the company’s staffing expenses but don’t necessarily relieve HR of any duties. There are still contracts and non-disclosure agreements to be managed and secure access to company IT systems to be authorized.
Regulations from federal, state and local governments continue to grow year-over-year, creating new compliance concerns for companies. Whether a new rule governs pay, health care benefits, sexual harassment policy or safety, human resources must respond and help their company remain compliant or risk penalties, business disruption and bad publicity.
Emerging trends to watch
It’s worth noting that five of the top 10 trends listed are a direct result of advances in technology. And technology, government oversight and demographic changes will continue to shape how HR operates. Some emerging trends to watch over the next few years include:
Blind hiring: Employment laws such as ban-the-box and blind hiring practices that shield names and salary histories from hiring managers continue to grow and change recruitment practices.
Workplace civility: Ridding the workplace of bullying and unconscious bias are new frontiers in workforce management. As businesses face ever-tougher competition, the winners will be companies that find a way to help all employees feel respected and safe.
Data analysis: HR professionals increasingly need data skills to help their organization leverage the information gathered about employees and their productivity. Data will help companies improve everything from recruitment to health and safety to team performance.
The stigma associated with mental health issues can be challenging to deal with in the workplace. Many people carry subconscious biases toward mental illness that can lead to serious workplace issues such as discrimination.
Additionally, those suffering from mental health issues might choose to keep their personal challenges to themselves out of fear of being labeled weak or incompetent to perform their job duties – which can stand in the way of them seeking help.
But the truth is that mental illness is no different than any other illness and should be treated as such.
Here are five steps you can take to effectively deal with mental illness in the workplace.
Educate your workforce
The numbers of people who will experience mental illness – which can be anything from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia – in their lifetime is more common than you may think.
1 in 5 (or 43.8 million) experience mental illness in a given year.
1 in 25 (or 10 million) experience a serious mental illness.
1 in 100 (or 2.4 million) live with schizophrenia.
6 percent (or 6.1 million) have bipolar disorder.
9 percent (or 16 million) suffer from severe depression.
1 percent (or 42 million) live with anxiety disorder.
90 percent of those who die from suicide have an underlying mental illness.
When you consider these numbers, chances are likely that someone in your workforce may be suffering from mental health issues. If that’s the case, it has the potential to not only affect the employee in question – but also your business.
Train managers on how to spot signs of stress, fatigue, anxiety or depression.
Have an open-door policy for employees to share when they’re going through a difficult time at home or are feeling overwhelmed.
Work with managers on how to help their employees balance their workloads and embrace a healthy work-life balance.
Include information on how to deal with mental illness in the workplace in your employee handbook.
Treat it as any other illness or health concern
We’re all aware that we have choices when it comes to our health. To proactively protect ourselves, we’re consistently encouraged to get free flu shots, stop smoking, eat healthy – the list goes on and on. Mental health and wellness should be no different.
It’s important to be proactive for mental wellness, too. By addressing mental wellness in the workplace as you would any other health issue, you can help open the door to productive solutions. Talking openly about commonplace mental health issues is an important part of a healthy work environment. Don’t sweep it under the rug.
Here are some things to consider:
People who suffer from mental illness are no different from those who face any other health condition, such as cancer or heart disease.
Many types of mental health issues are brought on by challenging life events and are not permanent.
Employers who are knowledgeable and open with their employees about difficult issues, create an atmosphere of trust (which ultimately leads to happier employees and greater productivity).
Businesses that encourage work-life balance, and make it a priority, not only reduce the risk of employee burnout but also experience lower turnover rates with fewer sick days reported.
Don’t make assumptions
Stress can manifest in many different ways, so it’s important not to jump to conclusions about someone’s mental health. If you are concerned about an employee or peer, it’s best to start with an honest conversation without making assumptions or labeling the behavior.
For example, you might say, “I noticed you yelled at Mary during the meeting and left the room abruptly. Is there something going on that you can tell me about?”
A good starting point is to suggest they ask themselves these questions:
What is causing my stress?
Do I feel that it is temporary?
Do I need to ask for a change in my workload or schedule?
Where is this coming from?
Should I seek help?
If they indicate that they need additional help, be open to their suggestions about what they need. Be supportive and nonjudgmental. Let them know there are resources to help them, and put them in contact with your HR professional or EAP. Remember that mental health issues are to be kept confidential.
Create a culture of trust
Your employees are your greatest asset, and they need to know they’re valued and supported. Nothing communicates this better than creating a balanced culture where people feel that they matter.
When you have a strong company culture, you’ll foster an atmosphere of grace and mutual trust within your business that reinforces the importance of mental wellness and acceptance.
Employees who feel valued are more likely to have open, honest conversations and genuinely care about each other, their work and your business.
Here’s what you can do to nurture a supportive company culture:
Have an open door policy.
Let your employees know how their work contributes to the greater good of your business.
Realize your words are powerful; they should be intentional and well-thought-out.
Demonstrate your culture from the top – lead by example.
We all face difficult times in life and could encounter mental health issues at any time. Being proactive and making sure your employees have the support they need at work can be a big part of their successful recovery.
Developing strategic alliances is a proven way for businesses to run better, grow faster and make more money. By leveraging relationships with other organizations that are aligned with your target markets, your small or midsize company can gain sales momentum and outperform the competition.
But how does an organization go about creating those critical strategic alliances? What should be done? What steps are essential? Below, you’ll find answers to these important questions.
What is a strategic alliance?
Companies seek to establish long-term relationships that build their businesses in much the same way that countries form alliances based on mutual interests. A strategic business alliance creates a long-term relationship that is mutually beneficial and creates value for both parties. The more value created, the more strategic the affiliation.
In these mutually beneficial and strategic business alliances, both organizations can win through what’s known as authority marketing. Authority marketing allows your company to dramatically amplify its ability to communicate with a specific audience (and convert sales) by positioning your organization as a go-to resource in the marketplace.
Examples of such alliances can vary to fit your company’s size and offerings. But, in general, formal alliances tend to be more common among companies with 25 or more employees.
So, while a small business with a hyper-local service could become a “preferred vendor” recommended by its city’s chamber of commerce, a strategic alliance is more complex than that.
One example of a true strategic alliance is when a company partners with an industry-specific association to reach a target market. Through the alliance, the business shares thought-leadership content that helps establish the company’s expertise and keeps it top of mind with important decision-makers.
When considering and planning for new strategic alliances, there are five steps for developing this critical strategy to turbo-charge your sales, marketing and business development efforts.
1. Align and prepare
The first step to developing a strategic alliance requires that you identify key industry influencers and determine if a joint value proposition exists. In other words, what is the measurable benefit for you, your prospective partner and your shared customer base that will come from the alliance?
As you evaluate the joint value proposition, you’ll need to make sure your alliance execution model aligns with your corporate development plans, desired market influence, revenue goals and sales targets.
Successful alliances will help your company generate and expand its influence in key industries. Client acquisition plus consistent, predictable and incremental growth comprise the holy grail of any successful alliance.
But a word of caution: Do not build the alliance solely on sales metrics. Focus instead on bringing value and the opportunities to generate incremental revenue.
Hiring for an alliance mindset
Once you’ve got your basic strategy in place, you’ll need to identify which of your employees are right for the job of helping you manage your alliances. Or you may need to consider hiring a person (or team) with the right mindset if they don’t already exist internally.
First and foremost, your strategic alliance managers must be strong negotiators and problem-solvers who enjoy fostering innovation in the workplace. People in these jobs are in a constant state of negotiation, both internally (with cross-functional teams) and externally (with partner leadership teams).
In order to get a strategic alliance off the ground, you’ll need a strong, optimistic leader with equal amounts of people skills and business acumen. This key position needs to be someone who builds trust and rapport while striving to extract results that address both organizations’ fundamental business objectives and interests.
This manager should be someone who:
Has strong interpersonal skills
Remains as open as possible when dealing with others
Can be tough on issues and soft on people when facing difficulties
Perhaps most of all, this leader needs to be comfortable operating with a certain amount of uncertainty. As this person works to design and implement new pathways for your company to gain clients, they will be working between the two organizations, people and ideas.
2. Invite and commit
Steps one and two are the time to explore market analytics and business intelligence to make sure you’re making alliance decisions on actionable data.
During the second step of developing a strategic alliance, you’ll reach out to industry groups you’ve identified as prospective partners and open a dialogue. During this time, your business will begin to outline the processes, tools and activities you’ll use to identify and build an alliance with this other organization.
For example, if your business specializes in insuring data centers, you might seek to form an ally with a trade association whose membership comes from Silicon Valley and Boston’s Route 128 technology corridor.
You might negotiate for your company to host a quarterly webinar on a relevant topic or consider building an elaborate engagement plan to position your company as an authority within a targeted industry community. In return, the association may receive an incentive package to ensure your products and services are promoted to its constituents.
3. Design and build
Step three is the time to decide upon specific terms and sign contracts. You’ll set goals for both organizations individually and jointly, decide on your measures of success, and begin to outline roles and responsibilities in the alliance. This is also known as a governance model.
Think of your governance model as your roadmap for mutual success. This requires that both organizations in the alliance consolidate the key structural elements of your engagement program to ensure cross-functional team alignment.
This is the stage where you solidify the joint marketing plan, create a process for developing high-value content, and determine the appropriate campaign framework and marketing cadence.
This phase also requires partner alignment and team coordination. A great method for achieving this alignment is known as the agile process.
Be prepared for this phase to require the most work of any stage since what’s been theoretical up to this point now becomes reality.
4. Go to market
Once the alliance framework is finalized, you’re ready to build an alliance engagement plan and go to market.
Your ultimate goal is to reach groups of industry influencers and decision-makers, and to do that you must first design a marketing plan with a variety of tactics to go to market with your alliance.
At this point, your company may close a few quick deals and fill your sales pipeline. Regardless, now’s the time to take steps to ensure your internal team is prepared to handle rapid company growth.
5. Sustain and deepen
Once you and your strategic alliance partner have the program up and running, you’ll need to continue to work to sustain the momentum.
This is the phase when you’ll deepen your collaboration by:
Expanding even further into the industry
Tweaking offerings to better align with customer needs
Discovering sub-groups within your target market that need specialized products and services from your company
As you solidify your alliance, you should be able to refine the exchange of customer data and design new, innovative ways to reach your ideal client. Throughout this process, your cost of acquisition for new clients should always trend down.
As the alliance proves to be a revenue-generating juggernaut, you’ll learn how to quickly identify new markets with other partners and replicate your success.
Finally, you’ll know you’ve institutionalized the program when the revenue generated from your program starts to appear on your alliance partner’s financial statements and budgets. That’s a sure indication that both organizations are mutually dependent and joined at the hip for future success.
There’s an old saying that explains the inherent benefits of succession planning best: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
However, when your business is chugging along, and the economy and your financial future looks secure, it can be hard to stop long enough to consider what might happen to your company if you suddenly weren’t there.
The problem with failing to create an orderly plan for succession is that change happens fast. Your company may not get a second chance if it fails to adapt quickly after a key player leaves the company.
After all, you can’t plan for disasters, but you can plan what to do should a disaster strike.
While succession planning may seem like a time-consuming process, these plans can significantly benefit your organization. Below, we uncover a few of the many benefits of succession planning.
Many business owners get so busy with the day-to-day operations of their company that they fail to make succession planning a priority. These leaders may think they’re too young to be hit with a serious illness. Or they forget that a key player (or several) could be lured away by another company that needs their skills and is willing to pay top dollar for them. Any of these scenarios can leave a business uniquely vulnerable.
Succession planning is simply another step in your senior leadership’s strategy to protect the company – whether you are physically there for its long-term success or not. Think of it as business continuity insurance that requires grooming employees.
2. Identifies your most-qualified future leaders
Formal succession planning requires your company to:
Identify those positions most critical to the future success of the company. These might not all be C-suite positions.
Identify internal candidates with the values, skills and desire to take on those critical jobs.
Talk to potential candidates about their interests and career plans.
These crucial steps in succession planning lead to several benefits. First, a thorough look at your org chart helps your leadership better understand potential vulnerabilities, and can bring a sense of urgency to cross-train key employees in certain roles.
On the other hand, if there are truly no internal candidates who seem right for leadership positions, then you know to begin an external search early on.
Most importantly, succession planning lets ambitious, less-experienced internal candidates know their hard work and skills have been noticed and appreciated enough to be considered for advancement. This can be an incredible retention tool and motivator for junior managers and subject matter experts who want to advance their careers into management.
3. Creates structure for training and development
Once your company has identified that Sally, Bob and Bruce are interested in moving into senior positions, you can identify any competency gaps and begin grooming them for their eventual succession.
Some of the employee’s professional development may come in the form of coaching, mentoring, job shadowing or a gradual increase in more advanced responsibilities. Other positions may even require the candidate to go back to school to get additional education or professional certification.
By tapping potential successors early, you give employees time to acquire the skills and experience they’ll need to perform well in their senior roles. You also let employees know that you’re willing to invest in their growth as well as the company’s.
4. Keeps extra eyes on a job
Once your top prospects are being groomed, your company has a chance to reap perhaps its best tool to grow and thrive. This happens when a junior manager is sitting and talking with their senior leader about why they’re doing things a particular way.
The simple process of explaining the status quo helps reveal weakness in processes and procedures, uncovered sales opportunities and opportunities for positive change. This natural process allows your company to keep an extra set of eyes on its senior roles and encourages questioning of the corporate norms that may have become dated or inefficient.
Conversely, when retiring employees leave, they can act as a sounding board for questions and concerns, troubleshoot customer problems and more. This helps to smooth the transition.
5. Maintains brand identity
You frequently hear news of CEOs who come into a company from the outside with great promise, only to fail in a short time. Sadly, such disastrous hires often damage the company’s reputation and long-term growth along with them.
This usually happens because the outsider CEO doesn’t understand the fundamental values and mission of their new company because they haven’t “grown up” in it, so to speak. Wanting to put their own stamp on the business, or failing to grasp customer needs, they move the organization away from its core brand.
Succession planning helps your company avoid this. By identifying and grooming an internal successor, your company ensures it will be led by someone who shares its values and deeply understand the company’s brand promise, its customers and its employees because they’ve lived it themselves.
6. Helps the company plan for the long-term
Change happens fast. When your company knows where it’s going, your team can plan for the future.
If you position succession as part of your company’s overall growth plans, you create a path for retiring employees to hand off their years of hard-earned knowledge and transition important working relationships before they leave.
A succession plan can also help your company grow with intent as you identify and build plans for vulnerabilities in other areas of the business. Other benefits to succession planning include providing help in ascertaining which areas require innovation, setting realistic goals for growth and planning for future talent needs that may result from that growth.
The shorter work week approach to business has been gaining more and more attention. But some companies are still on the fence about whether or not it could provide real benefits.
Well, imagine this scenario: It’s 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday. Dinner’s done, the kids are in bed, and Linda is just settling in for a good night’s sleep.
But for most working Americans, a more realistic scenario might be: It’s 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday, and Linda is up and about because she just got the kids to settle down. She’s also making a checklist of everything she has to do on her lunch breaks this week.
Plus, Linda must figure out when to schedule a vacation day so she can use the time to take the kids to their doctor’s appointments. Not to mention, she’s getting up at 5 a.m. to get the kids ready and off to school before she starts her hour-long drive into the office for an 8 a.m. arrival.
This is a snapshot of the daily struggles many Americans face when working a typical 8-to-5 job, Monday through Friday.
But could a shorter work week be the answer? Explore the positives and negatives of a shorter work week to find out if it’s right for your business.
What exactly is a shorter work week?
The five-day, 40-hour work week has been around longer than most of us can remember. First introduced in the automotive industry in the mid-1920s, it has simply become accepted as the American way, right?
Well, times are changing.
In recent years, compressed work schedules have become popular not only among shift workers, but also with many office workers in corporate settings. As the name suggests, a compressed work schedule “compresses” 40 hours of work into fewer days over a weekly or biweekly period.
For example, with a 4/10 compressed schedule, employees might work 10-hour days Monday through Thursday, with Friday off. Or, they could work a 9/80 schedule with nine-hour days for eight days straight, followed by one eight-hour day, which gives them every other Friday (or other weekday) off.
Either way, they’re still working a 40-hour work week; they’re just distributing the hours worked each day a little differently. But what if they could work fewer hours each week and get just as much (if not more) done?
That’s the thinking behind a new approach many companies are exploring: shorter work weeks where employees work fewer hours, typically 32 hours spread over four days.
So, unlike compressed work weeks, a shorter work week actually requires less time on the job. By providing employees with more flexibility and time for themselves, many businesses believe they may be able to improve employee productivity and reduce employee turnover.
But not everybody’s a fan.
Some opponents of the idea don’t think it’s realistic. They believe it will cause more stress on their employees since they may feel pressured to do more work in less time.
How does the work get done?
Most people can agree that, just because someone is on the clock for eight hours, they aren’t necessarily productive the entire time. Common factors that can affect how much employees produce during the work day include:
Distractions – Let’s take an eight-hour work day. Employees are most productive around four to six hours of that day. The rest of their time, they are probably distracted with meetings or making small talk with coworkers. And once they’re distracted, it can take about 15 to 20 minutes to get back on task.
Multitasking – Most people think multitasking is an asset, but oftentimes we aren’t as productive as we think when we try to juggle several things at once. In comparison, when we truly zone in and focus on just one task, we are generally more productive and can then move on to the next task.
When you pull the curtain back, you realize employees don’t produce exactly 40 hours a week but still usually hit their goals and deadlines. So, if this is the overall consensus, why do companies push back against fewer hours per week?
Shortening your work week could result in numerous benefits for your employees as well as your business. Let’s look at five of the most common.
Think about it. If you were to tell employees they only had to work 32 hours a week, with a full weekday off every single week, it would most likely make them extremely happy.
And happy employees tend to be more creative, motivated and engaged. Plus, they’re less likely to take sick leave, enabling them to tackle deadlines more consistently and accomplish goals.
Less stress, more efficiency
Many employees become highly focused on their work and are more efficient in a shorter week. They take fewer breaks and zero in on getting work done because they know they have additional time to do what they want or need to do on their off day.
The incentive is already built in. At the end of the day, an employee who says they can’t get their work done in 32 hours is likely the exception, not the rule.
Employees feel more in control of their destiny when they have shorter work weeks. The constant balancing act between work and life is minimized.
For example, if the work week ends on a Thursday, it’s easy for people to plan errands, doctor’s appointments or even weekend getaways to enjoy time with their loved ones. In addition, longer weekends provide the option for more downtime, allowing employees to come back to work refreshed.
When Monday comes, they’re more engaged, accountable and responsible – which is what you want from your employees.
Giving employees an extra day for personal time minimizes the likelihood of them calling in sick or taking an unexpected day off.
When they don’t have to worry about rushing around, jamming everything into an evening or weekend, they appreciate it. Plus, they’re more likely to actually start work as soon as they get to work, instead of checking social media or chatting at the water cooler first.
5. Greater loyalty
A shorter work week is attractive to employees and provides them with lots of flexibility. Flexibility is something many employees won’t want to give up, resulting in a boost in employee loyalty.
It could be debated that the more common, compressed 9/80 or 4/10 schedules also provide flexibility. And they do. But only after the employee has put in a much longer work day.
Companies that offer a shorter work week are still pretty rare, making it a great perk or incentive for employees and a solid employee retention tool for business leaders.
What are the negatives of a shorter work week?
Although there are several reasons to offer a shorter work week, it’s not right for everyone. There are some variables to consider before making a big business decision.
If you’re a business leader who comes from the “clocking-in-and-out” era, times have certainly changed. For instance, not too long ago, the thought of people working remotely seemed extremely unimaginable.
Changing mindsets can take time. And when it comes to working a shorter work week, you may still struggle to embrace the idea.
But take, for example, how natural disasters used to bring businesses to a halt for long periods of time. These days, many companies are still able to run their businesses with minimal interruption even when their office is damaged from a natural disaster. How? Because their employees are set up to work remotely.
It’s all about empowering employees to do their best work.
You’re paying them to produce, not just be a warm body at the office. Do you have employees who are accountable, reliable, show pride in what they do and care about customers? That’s what’s important when it comes to the real value of an employee.
So, if Susan logs in for work at 8:05 a.m. (instead of 8 a.m.) on a particular day, don’t let it discount the fact that she’s getting her work done – and quite well. This is not to say punctuality doesn’t matter, but it’s just not beneficial to focus solely on the clock.
What matters most is what Susan produces by the designated deadline.
2. Adjusting management styles
If the shorter work week sounds intriguing, you still have to face the fact that you may have to change your business’s management style. And this can be unappealing to some.
First, you’ll need to retrain your supervisors. It’s important for them to know how to manage their people under this new structure and become better at holding their employees accountable.
It’s going to require your supervisors to be much more in tune with what’s going on in their department – and with their people – than they probably had to be before. Supervisors will also need to look at how to do performance reviews, re-set criteria, and be better at helping employees identify goals and objectives.
Figuring out if your business is a fit
As leadership, you’ll need to make the decision about what’s best for your clients. For example, if having employees work every day is essential to your business, then that’s what you have to do.
Yet, if you’re still eager to implement a shorter work week, you may consider staggering employees. This means some team members will have Fridays off and others will have Mondays off. As a result, someone is available five days a week and clients never experience a gap in service.
It’s up to you to decide how you run your office and if a shorter work week makes sense for your business.
Although employees may work a short week, some never feel comfortable unplugging from work.
If a shorter work week is something you want to bring to your team and you’ve outlined things so employees can honestly take off, then it’s up to them to decide if they keep working. Just make sure they understand they’re not required to.
How do you structure a shorter work week?
Depending on your company and the nature of your business, you can structure your short work week in many ways.
For instance, you may choose a Monday through Thursday schedule. Or you might start the week on a Tuesday and end on a Friday.
To take it a step further, you may not want to give employees a full day off. Instead, you may want them to work every day. However, you allow them to work fewer hours in the day, making it clear they’re not to exceed 32 hours for the week.
It all comes down to a reduction in hours.
Is a shorter work week right for you?
While a shorter work week has many benefits, it may not be the right fit for every business. The needs of your customers, your industry, and the way you choose to run your office are all important factors to consider.
However, if you’re considering going this route, a professional employer organization (PEO) or employment law specialist can provide invaluable advice. Done right, shorter work weeks just might lead to an increase in employee productivity and prove extremely beneficial to your business and bottom line.