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2015 November

What About the Other 10 Months? Employee Appreciation and Satisfaction

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Don’t get us wrong, seasonal beers, presents, time out of the office, and gluttonous amounts of comfort food are all things we can get behind. What we can’t get behind, is when companies use the holidays as their employee appreciation alarm clock. “It’s November again, we need to acknowledge these people…who’s gonna take care of this?”

Disingenuous, contrived appreciation is almost worse than none, and gift cards do not a satisfied employee make. Most employers don’t realize just how closely employee appreciation and engagement are linked.

Culture Matters

Whether it was purposefully and thoughtfully crafted, or you’re not even sure what it is, every organization has a company culture. Is employee appreciation part of yours? If you were to ask an employer if they appreciate their employees, you would likely get a genuine “yes”. However, if you were to ask their employees if they felt appreciated at work, the answer would likely be very different.

According to a Kronos survey, almost 60% of employees who have thought about searching for a new job in the past year reported feeling unappreciated or somewhat appreciated at their place of work. Appreciation has to be part of the culture, not simply a seasonal initiative.

Burnout is Real

Sure, most places offer PTO, sick days, and even unlimited vacation policies are becoming popular. So what’s the problem? We still haven’t addressed the real issue. People aren’t taking time for themselves and their personal wellness out of fear -fear of being replaced, fear their peers will judge them, fear of their work ethic being challenged.

Especially in the software development industry, burnout is a real issue. At Volano, we don’t simply offer PTO, we encourage our employees to take it. Don’t wait to see signs of burnout, it could be too late. Instead, create an environment where pressing the reset button and taking time off is encouraged. We choose to let employees know we consider it in everyone’s best interest for them to take time for themselves. Satisfaction isn’t compartmentalized; satisfied people make satisfied employees. Respecting your employees’ personal lives is one of the most effective ways to offer appreciation for their professional efforts.

All Work and No Play…

You want your employees to have fun and you want them to bond -that’s a given. So what do you do? You make a monthly, mandatory after work event! Wrong…so very wrong. These initiatives should be on your time, on your dime. Workplace satisfaction benefits everyone, don’t work against yourself by making your initiatives a burden or inconvenience to employees.

Here’s a clue, when you announce an after hours event and the only replies you get are what your employees will have to do to make their schedules accommodate said event, they aren’t stoked about it.\

Dedicate just 1-2 hours per week for fun. This is where you pull up your calculator and figure out how much in labor this will cost you. Put the phone down and reflect on what you already know about the ROI of employee engagement, satisfaction, appreciation and the importance of positive work relationships. That’s your return, not to mention a better environment to be in 40 hours of the week.

So, at 4 on Fridays, we break to have a beer, play some darts and unwind together. It’s not mandatory, employees can leave early if they want to, but most of us stick around because it is a really uplifting part of the week that sets us up for a positive release for the weekend.

Employee facing company values are just as important as your customer facing values. Although this is a relatively new concept in business, it is an evolution that we feel strongly about, here at Volano. In fact, “Be Fun” is one of our 5 company values and if you work here, you might just be lucky enough to be on the Fun Committee. They’re the folks who help plan parties, order the kegs pizzas, and call a quick break for a game of bags.

We usually take this time to reflect on what we’re grateful for, but how about a twist on that tradition. How about considering if what you do as a leader will wind up on that list for someone else.

Everyone at Volano wishes you a happy and entirely unhealthy Thanksgiving Day.

Knock It Off With These 3 Archaic Business Practices

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We simply don’t do business like we used. No one sticks around for 20 years for the gold Rolex despite a rigid schedule. Skilled employees won’t put up with a company culture that doesn’t make room to accommodate and appreciate their personal lives. Clients won’t stay loyal because you sent them a ham and a handwritten card. Things have changed, has your organization?

Work/Life balance?  Sounds like a “You” problem.

By 2020, 46% of US workers will be Millennials. As we all know, each generation comes with general characteristics. In the workforce, Millennials are known for working to live, not the way around. Meaning, they have jobs to support their personal passions. If that job should get in the way, they will either move on to another company, or start their own. Entrepreneurship, freelance work and part-time work are all on the rise.

Is employee work/life balance starting to sound more like an organization problem now? It should, because it is. As business owners, even we believe, if you can’t take time for yourself at your current job, you should find a new job. It’s not worth it!  At Volano, we tell everyone they shouldn’t miss a kid’s performance because of work.  That’s really why we have flex time – so people have the flexibility to prioritize everything they have going on.

Quick Stat: Research company, CompData did a 2014 survey of over 30,000 organizations across a myriad of industries and found the average total turnover rate was almost 16%.

Stop micromanaging.  Instead, foster accountability.

Not only does micromanagement drive employees off by the droves, we truly believe that empowerment and accountability result in a better product and service. Take Zappos for instance, their success was widely driven by their customer service, and they took a unique approach in this area to get that rep.

Instead of putting a middleman between the customer service agent and the customer to make just about every customer care decision or action, they empower their employees to make these decisions on their own. Who wants to be put on the phone or a chat with someone who has zero power or authority to do virtually anything for you? No one. We have a very similar business model between our developers and our clients, by eliminating the middleman, which in our case would be a business analyst or project manager.

Here’s what we suggest to replace micromanagement with accountability…

  1. Set expectations.
  2. Define what success looks like.
  3. Let go.
  4. Measure success.
  5. Give feedback to those accountable.

Everyone is Replaceable.

Not only is this archaic attitude detrimental to employee engagement and morale, it’s not a safe place to put your organization. The level of impact having someone leave your team – and you must think that everyone will someday leave your team – will vary. You might not experience so much as a hiccup, or you could lose a major client that requires that unretained employee’s skill set.

We recommend cross-training as not only a safety net for the organization and clients, but also as an employee incentive and investment. We also favor consulting groups over independent contractors as a way to ensure that when someone leaves, the transition will be as smooth as possible.

This week we took a break from software and workflow talk, and we’ll do that from time to time. We’re not only concerned with the systems and processes that drive your success, we want to be a resource for our community when it comes to the issues you might be facing as a business leader.

Meet Your Software Developer

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We’re kind of like the Chandler Bing of companies. No one ever really seems to understand what we do, until they see it in action. So, our product is aptly named, Action Card. Action Card’s mobile and web-based solution eliminates time-consuming paper reviews adding efficiencies to field visits. It helps users identify, track and reconcile action items critical to compliance and brand standards.

This is the perfect example of what we do, except we do it on a totally customized level. We take flawed, inefficient processes and make them flow. We don’t just see kinks and fix them, we take a holistic view of vital workflows, and figure out how technology can make those processes smooth, efficient, and automated from start to finish. It’s not only our products and services that are unique, we also offer a very different client experience. One client said,

“Volano has a unique management style that I learned only after contracting with them and getting to really work with their team. Rod is one of the persons who organized the scope of the project for us where he also introduced us to the actual programmer who would be doing the work, so I felt like there was a real coherence and consistency among their team. But it really helped me understand that this wasn’t going to be the typical development project where an organization got me to an 80% solution, but got me to a 100% solution.”

Catch this client testimonial in a short video, here.

In your typical development project, there is usually a project manager and business analyst stuck between the developer and the person using the software. Our software is aimed at creating more effective processes, so it only makes sense that we set out to find the most effective process to do exactly that. So, we took out the middle man and chose to emphasize support and accountability. Now, the person using the software is working directly with the person developing it. This creates a bond that encourages transparent communication.

Our developers don’t hear about the client’s needs second- or third-hand, they visit, talk and ask questions to find out where the pain points are. We don’t buy-in to the notion that software developers want to be head down, earbuds in, and void of client contact. That’s a stereotype that Volano developers gladly demolishes on a daily basis.

On the contrary, at Volano, our developers revel in that moment when a client says, “Yes, this is it, this is exactly what we need!” We believe that these such gratifying experiences are a driving force behind what makes our team different. It’s motivating when you’re present for that “Aha!” moment. It encourages Volano developers to invest in clients, in a way that doesn’t happen when roadblocks and go-betweens are standing in the way.

Like our client said, most projects end with an 80% solution. That last 20% is where a lot of the back and forth and trial and error take place. By eliminating the middle-man, we can get through that 20% with the client. 5 phone calls turn into 1, 5 meetings turn into 2. By offering a more efficient process, we can offer a more effective solution, and that’s exactly what we would like to do for you.

5 Reasons Spreadsheets are the Worst

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The ever dreaded spreadsheet. Even though we hate them, they’re our go-to for sales management processes. In a recent survey conducted by Daptiv, it was revealed that 76% of IT organizations still rely on spreadsheets for critical decision-making purposes. At Volano, we’re all about helping organizations improve their processes; so we’re going to tell you why we think spreadsheets are actually the worst.

 

  1. They take forever. It stands to reason if you’re using a spreadsheet to track compensations, competencies and professional development, you’re probably spending a lot of time finding and filing all of that information as well; manually entering all that information might as well double your workload, leaving less time for the the things that matter – engaging with, educating and retaining your clients as well as your team…oh yeah, and using that data.

 

  1. Mistakes… mistakes everywhere. With all that manual entry involved in creating a spreadsheet, mistakes are bound to happen. Afterall, we’re only human, right? As your business grows, this problem is only going to grow. By ditching the spreadsheet and switching to a custom software program, you can also ditch all that human error. Spreadsheets also provide very limited insights into data (data that may have been entered incorrectly with one flawed keystroke) and because of that, they definitely should not be used as the foundation for significant business decisions.

 

  1. It is hard to develop accurate spreadsheet models. With a custom software program, you can rest assured knowing you’re getting a software that has had extensive time invested in developing agile methodologies, frameworks and tools to improve the quality of your project management tool. Whereas with spreadsheets, you simply do not get this as there has been minimal work in improving spreadsheet modeling, leaving much to be desired from the spreadsheet user.

 

  1. You can’t integrate performance with development. Professional performance and development are two things that should work in tandem. Because spreadsheets are very one dimensional in nature, it can be difficult to create a spreadsheet where you can plan all your requirements and tasks and allocate resources. Doing all this in a spreadsheet makes for awful collaboration, making it tough for everyone on the team to have the latest version of the plan while making sure prioritized tasks are being worked on; impeding performance and development. Basically, there’s zero transparency; no one knows where any one person is at in a project. The same people that use spreadsheets as a project management tool are probably the same people that keep asking, “Where are we with that?”.

 

  1. They don’t allow for growth. Like we’ve mentioned, if you think you’re spending a lot of time manually entering information into spreadsheets, imagine the paperwork you’ll have when your company really starts growing. The right custom software will ensure you can manage more employees and projects and efficiently, something spreadsheets just aren’t cut out to do. Simply put, spreadsheets do not make work flow.

 

With our custom software, we bring together proven practices and technical expertise with your specific challenges and goals to improve how work flows through every area of your business. Our all-encompassing approach connects marketing to sales to operations to accounting, and to any other department within your organization; something that spreadsheets simply cannot do.