Understanding the Crisis of Disengagement

February 15, 2017

By Andrew J. Sherman
Seyfarth Shaw LLP

The Crisis of DisengagementMy latest book, The Crisis of Disengagement, discusses the multifaceted workplace dilemma — disengagement. It examines how apathy and complacency effects leadership and governance, company culture, fellow peers and team members, and lastly, the individual itself.  Layer by layer, I uncover the impact disengagement has on innovation, creativity, productivity, and profitability within an organization and in our communities.

At the America’s SBDC Annual Meeting in Orlando in the Fall of 2016, I gave a “Small Talk” sponsored by American Express where I discussed the impact of our nation’s current levels of disengagement on small business, innovation and entrepreneurship.  Small companies are struggling to compete for recruitment and retention of a qualified and motivated workforce and cannot withstand the financial and productivity consequence of a small group of workers who are not engaged. They also face the challenges of the “gig economy” and “the free agent nation” where nearly a third of all U.S. workers are independent or self-employed, with no loyalty on engagement towards a particular company, creating a modified set of expectations, relationships, and workplace norms.  (more…)

Help Employees Save with myRA®

October 21, 2015

It’s National Save for Retirement Week – Help Employees Save with myRA®

October 18 – 23 is National Save for Retirement Week and it’s a perfect time to help employees establish their retirement goals and take the first step toward meeting them. If you have employees who don’t have access to a retirement savings plan – including part-time, temporary, and contracted workers – you can help them start saving with myRA (my Retirement Account). 

What is myRA?

myRA is a new retirement savings account developed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to make saving for retirement easy for the millions of people who don’t have access to a retirement savings plan at work or lack other options to save. It costs nothing to open a myRA account and there are no fees. Employees can choose to save an amount that fits their budget1, and the account carries no risk of losing money. In addition, savers can transfer or roll over their savings to a private-sector Roth IRA at any time.  (more…)

Mastering the Art of Management

October 13, 2015

mastering-the-art-of-mgmt-google-blog-postMany small business owners are masters of their industry, but when it comes to managing a company, a new and different set of skills is necessary. According to the US Census, 38% of small businesses have 5 or more employees. That’s more than two million businesses that rely on strong leadership and employee relationships to keep their companies running smoothly. This month, in honor of National Boss’s Day, we’re taking a look at what it takes to be a great leader for your small business.

Make the right hires.
Laszlo Bock, the SVP of People Operations at Google and the author of Work Rules, has said the key to a company’s success is to “hire amazing people, give them more freedom than you’re comfortable with, provide targeted real-­time coaching, and forgive failure as long as people learn.” When hiring, look for people who not only have the necessary skills but also share the same vision and values as you.

Invest time in your employees.
In our Boss’s Day Q&A last year, we talked to a manager-employee pair at Google who admitted that the biggest challenge in building a good working relationship is making time for each other. One suggestion is to schedule a weekly or bi-weekly check-in, which can be used to talk about projects but also to catch up and get to know each other as people.  (more…)

Four ways to make employees your greatest asset

September 8, 2014

By Cindy Bates –

Your employees have the potential to be the greatest asset to your business. Developing loyal, skilled employees with a passion for the business doesn’t happen on its own and requires a concerted effort. Here are four ways you can start investing in what could be your business’ greatest asset:

1. Create champions. Identify areas of the business that employees are passionate about, like marketing or customer service, and let employees “champion” that part of the business. Have them take responsibility for developing ways to improve their respective areas, and empower champions by providing opportunities to work together across teams. Make sure champions set quantifiable goals – that way you can track success.

2. Get flexible.If the nature of your business allows it, consider allowing employees to work remotely. Research shows that when workers have more flexibility, they’re happier, better able to perform and more likely to stay at a job for longer periods. Job satisfaction is also improved by eliminating the anxiety caused by traffic and daily commutes. This could be a regular occurrence, such as “Work from Home Fridays,” or something that’s permitted on an as-needed basis. Leverage a tool like Office 365 so employees can maintain productivity and collaboration from anywhere.  (more…)

Industrial Iron Man: Ekso Aims To Power Superhuman Workers

October 28, 2013

Max Scheder-Bieschin, CFO of Ekso Bionics, just comes right out and says it: “We want to create Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit.”

Looking around his company’s warehouse in an industrial section of Richmond, California -– the same warehouse that 75 years ago produced many of the tanks and Jeeps used in the Pacific theater — it’s hard not to take him seriously.

The bionic suits, which look closer to those worn by Matt Damon in the upcoming movie Elysium, are overrunning the place. Over here, one hangs from an industrial-strength gurney while a technician welds circuitry into its knee joint. Over there, another marches in place without a human inside, indefinitely automated for stress tests (an eerie fixture for the last person in the office at night, staff admit.) At the far end of the room, suits painted with military fatigues sit half-assembled. And that’s to say nothing of what goes on in The Tent, a 20-by-20-foot pup assembled in the corner to conceal Ekso’s most confidential projects from anyone — employees included — not on a need-to-know.  (more…)

Could We Do This in a Team Meeting?

August 6, 2013

I spend a lot of time in my seminars imploring leaders and managers to spend more time with their employees: “You need to spend time every day with your direct-reports providing guidance, direction, support, and coaching!”

Often, managers will raise their hands and ask, “Could we do this in a team meeting?”

Team meetings are great. They are critical to any leader/manager’s repertoire. But team meetings are really only useful for four purposes:

  • Creating a feeling of belonging and togetherness. (This reason should be used sparingly. Maybe once a quarter).
  • Sharing a bunch of information to a bunch of people in the same way at the same time.
  • If there is an open question/problem with multiple constituents so the various constituents may discuss together; hear what each other says; respond spontaneously to each other; and move together toward a common solution.
  • Because team meetings so often make it clear that certain one-on-one huddles are necessary and must immediately follow the team meeting!


Do You Trust Your Employees to Work Remotely?

June 26, 2013

Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer unleashed a firestorm of commentary throughout the business world with her recent announcement that remote working was off the table for the tech company’s staffers, who will now be expected to show up in the office every day.

The move goes against the grain at a time when everybody from the federal government to tech startups is embracing the flexibility and cost savings of working remotely.

As someone who initiated working remotely for my team back when I was an employee, I’ve got a lot of experience with what works – and what doesn’t.

At bottom, the work-at-home issue all comes down to trust. In a recent Regus poll of more than 24,000 global workers, a whopping 88 percent say that managers need to be more accepting of flexible work arrangements, and 85 percent feel their bosses need to show more trust in remote employees. (more…)

How Much Should Business Owners Take As A Salary?

May 8, 2013

Business owners are compensated with equity in the company, but they still need a salary to live on. Setting a salary can be tricky as you’ll want to be compensated for your work, while also not taking away from the future growth of the company. How should you set your salary?

Setting your salary

There are a few different ways to determine the appropriate salary for the business owner. The first and most important method is based on company specific financials. If you’re boot-strapping your business, then you’ll need to determine how much net income is available or cash on the balance sheet. Then, you’ll need to identify the amount of your personal monthly expenses. If the cash flow on your balance sheet and expected monthly cash flow exceed your monthly personal expenses, then you can at least pay yourself some sort of a salary. Still, how much should you be paid in salary? (more…)

Why Your Small Business Has the Motivational Edge

March 20, 2013

Are you looking to hire employees this year, wondering how you can keep the employees you do have from heading off for greener pastures, or struggling for ways to keep them motivated?

Sometimes it seems like small businesses are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to hiring, motivation and retention, compared to big corporations that can offer higher salaries, posh benefits plans and luxurious settings. But a recent article by McKinsey (targeted, ironically, at big companies) points out the advantage small businesses have that they may not realize.

McKinsey looked at how business leaders can develop and encourage top performers in their workforce and found that, while both IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence) are important skills for bringing out the best in your team, what truly matters is the “meaning quotient” (MQ) – in other words, offering them the chance to do work that’s meaningful to them. (more…)

Protect Your Business Against Final Pay Issues

January 18, 2013

The end of employment isn’t always the end of your involvement with an employee. If you make any of a number of common mistakes when an employee leaves, or is asked to leave, it could result in liability for your company and, in some instances, liability for you. Final pay, or paying out whatever the now-former employee is owed (while not paying more than is due) can be a minefield.

Below are some of the most common questions about ending employment and answers that will help you protect yourself and your business. Bear in mind that employment law exists at both state and federal levels. Each state has its own statutes and regulations governing at least some, if not all, of the issues in the questions below. It is critical that you understand your state’s requirements. Also note that while employment law is not contract law — not unless there’s an employment agreement — there is this similarity: you can’t arbitrarily change the rules on an employee.

For final pay purposes, does it matter if employment ended voluntarily or involuntarily?

Maybe. In some states, a company’s final pay obligations might differ depending on whether you are reluctantly bidding adieu to a good employee, or gleefully showing a bad one the door. For example, in Connecticut an employer is required to pay a fired employee his or her final paycheck no later than the next business day. (more…)