Whether it has been consciously designed or not every business has its own unique culture and you can always tell what that culture is by simply spending some time inside the business.
Regardless of any values you’ll find written on the walls or championed on the website, the truth will out.
Culture is an atmosphere. Culture is a feeling. It cannot be hidden, and it cannot be cheated.
Even the most inspirational cultures find themselves under constant threat. Threats from targets not being met, threats from competitors, threats from growth. Yes, growth is a serious threat to any culture, for it often leads to new people entering the workplace.
With new people, come new dynamics and consequently new challenges.
So how do we navigate the risks involved with bringing new people into your business?
Whilst CVs have proven themselves to be ideal for understanding a candidate’s experience and skills, embellishments aside, they offer little insight in terms of what really makes a person tick.
That’s why we have interview processes, as ultimately we are looking to answer one simple question with any new hire: can we trust them?
Trust them to deliver, to fit in, to add value, to take the business forward.
Most people wouldn’t get married to someone after the first date, so how do we establish enough trust to make a decision to hire?
Today, most businesses try to adopt a ‘hire slowly, fire fast’ approach to recruitment, getting to know candidates better before making a decision, yet so much of our hiring processes are built to establish reliability, not trust.
And even the ‘fire fast’ aspect can create some accountability problems for a business. Imagine for a moment that you were unable to fire at all. What would your recruitment process look like as a result?
It may sound crazy but Next Jump has adopted such an approach. A job for life. Their attitude to hiring can be found on their culture page which simply states: “We don’t hire employees; we adopt family members. We don’t fire… we coach.”
Whilst this approach may not suit everyone, there is much to learn from their approach to hiring and talent development and it all starts with values.
Just as culture eats strategy for breakfast, values trump performance. Values are the currency of trust.
So, why values? Taking the literal meaning, values are “principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life”. Sounds pretty simple, right? So all we need to do is ask people what their values are and we will know if they are a fit for our business or not… not quite.
Values only manifest themselves in our behaviours, which in turn determine the actions we take and the results we achieve.
This is true not just in business, but in life.
What do values come from?
So, how are values formed? Our experiences in life inform our beliefs, which in turn shape our values. Once established our values rarely change and provide us with an operating framework, guiding all of what we do. It is for this reason values are critical to the success or failure of any new hire.
Just as culture eats strategy for breakfast, values trump performance. Values are the currency of trust.
So how do you hire to values? The law of attraction will play a big part in this process, so try not to make your company, or a role within it, appealing to everyone or chances are you will fail to attract the people you really want.
Start with a wish list, but along with skills and experience spend equal time thinking about ideal personality type and behaviours.
What characteristics are you not willing to compromise on?
Consider every point of engagement as a potential filter to eliminate those who do not match your wish list.
Once you know the type of person you want you’ll need to create a job description, but don’t limit that description to tasks. Take the opportunity to convey the experience of working in your business. What does an average day in your company really feel like?
Every touchpoint with a candidate is an opportunity to demonstrate your culture and express what makes your business unique. Think about how you want your dream candidate to feel when they read the job description – you never get a second chance at a first impression.
Equally, consider every point of engagement as a potential filter to eliminate those who do not match your wish list. Don’t be afraid of putting people off. The more unsuitable candidates you can eliminate at this stage; the more time you can spend getting to know those who do possess the qualities you are looking for.
Crafting interview questions
Next, you’ll need to think about your interview process and technique. I would suggest always setting some form of challenge to respond to. This can be something relatively simple that’s designed to test a candidate’s attention to detail or you can ask them to prepare a short presentation to gain the first-hand experience of their approach to problem-solving.
The way we approach one problem is typically representative of how we approach all problems, so this exercise can be very insightful. You should also look to include focused, open-ended interview questions to encourage storytelling, whilst mixing things up with the occasional high leverage question to gain insight into how they see themselves.
Storytelling questions such as ‘tell me about a time you did x or y’ can be related directly to your company values and will encourage candidates to draw from real-life experiences. High leverage questions are designed to provide maximum insight with minimum effort and again can be linked to your values.
Storytelling questions can be related directly to your company values and will encourage candidates to draw from real-life experiences.
A great example of a high leverage question comes from The Luck Factor by Dr Richard Wiseman, which argues that people who see themselves as lucky are generally happier and easier to work with than those who don’t. The question, in this case, would be: ‘how lucky are you on a scale of naught to 10?’
You should also include questions designed to see beyond a candidate’s response to the role on offer. Asking them about what their ideal job would be can expose hidden skills and talents which your company may later benefit from.
Finally, think about how you accept a successful candidate into your business. Acceptance is another opportunity to make a lasting impression, so make it memorable.
Also, be sure to say no to those candidates who are unsuccessful.
Not only will they value hearing from you, but your brand reputation will get a boost from treating every candidate like a human being.
Of course, the process doesn’t stop at saying ‘yes’ – in reality, that is just the beginning. Your induction process needs just as much thought and attention as your selection process.
7 Reasons Why Its Important to Have a Niche
A niche is a focused, targetable segment of the market. You are a specialist providing a product or service that focuses on the specific needs of an identified client group, which cannot or are not being addressed in such detail by the dominant providers in your industry.
But it is important to understand that there is, in fact, a difference between your identified niche and your target market.
Your target market is a specific identifiable group of people you work with, e.g. women in the city, technology start-ups, creative agency owners, small and medium businesses in a particular revenue range.
Your niche is the service you specialise in offering to your target market.
For example, standing desks are aimed at professionals who work in front of a computer for long periods of time. This is a well-defined niche.
Here are 7 reasons why it is important to have a niche:
To avoid spreading yourself too thin
Instead of the risk of spreading yourself too thin in saying that ‘everyone’ is your potential client, niche marketing will help you to focus on a specific grouping of people, and particularly on what their needs and wants are.
You will unlikely to be able to serve everybody, so it is important to focus on what you do best and aim it at a specific group of people who will likely buy what you offer.
It is important to find out what is important to them, what blogs they read, their beliefs and attitudes, who the main influencers in that network are.
Having these insights means that you can develop products or services specifically aimed at this group, based on your thorough knowledge and understanding of what they are interested in.
It’s easier to identify and target potential clients and partners to work with
As the pool of people that exists for a niche is smaller than its mainstream equivalent, it will be easier to identify potential clients and partners to work with, as you can be much more targeted and laser-focused with your marketing efforts.
It’s easier to become an expert and well known in your niche
Niching means it will be much easier for others to understand ‘what you do’ and ‘for whom’, which will make it easier to position you as an expert in your field. As this group is more targeted and of a smaller size, you can rapidly become well known within this group of people.
Your profile and overall visibility will increase within this group. It is a small world after all!
More and better referrals
Since it will be easier for others to understand what you do and for whom, it, in turn, becomes much easier for them to refer more and better quality clients to you that fit the profile of your ideal client, as you have built up trust, credibility, visibility, and it is very clear as to what your specialism is.
The more unique you are, the less competition you will have
There will be less competition, as you will provide the specific services or create the specific products for the specific people you are seeking to help in a specific way that meets their needs. The BIG advantage of becoming more unique is that usually it can’t be easily replicated by your competition!
Marketing becomes much easier
Effective niche marketing should really help with your marketing, positioning and branding as you will attract the ‘right people’ much more easily and quickly. People with similar interests tend to behave and are attracted to similar things. This means that many of your clients will do all the hard work for you as they will refer you more and more because your profile, credibility and influence are readily apparent within your tribe.
More repeat business
As you are able to provide an increasingly better service or product, based on your specific client’s needs, it is likely that you will get more repeat business – people will come back for more, and as an added benefit will often start spending more with you as your relationship grows with them.
4 Things That Are Slowing Down Everyday Business Processes
A modern business needs a lot of things to be successful.
High-quality products that capture the attention of your target market are an excellent first start. However, you also need robust marketing strategies, a strong team of dedicated workers, and a plan for continued growth and evolution.
A good company is like a well-oiled machine. One cog turning out of time could bring your entire enterprise grinding to a halt. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the things that are slowing down your crucial processes and preventing your company from reaching its true potential.
Today, we’re going to be looking at some of the things that could be hampering your everyday business processes, so that you can make a valuable change.
How many people in your business are wearing multiple hats?
The chances are that if you’re a small and growing company, you have endless executives and employees rushing from one task to another. You may even be asking your team members to take part in activities that aren’t closely connected to their job roles.
While it’s fine for everyone in your organization to pitch in a little extra at times, it’s important to make sure that this doesn’t give way to constant multitasking.
Research proves that multitasking kills productivity and reduces the quality of the work produced. That’s because when you’re multitasking, you’re continually forcing your brain to switch from one thing to another, so you can’t truly focus on anything.
If multitasking is a common problem in your organization, then it might be time to reassess your workflow and see where you can create more focused teams. Try to give the right task to the right people to prevent inefficiencies.
Maybe allowing your senior leaders to delegate more of their work will make them more successful. Perhaps taking extra jobs away from lower employees and keeping everyone focused on their areas of expertise will help.
The last thing you want for your business is that your employees don’t have time to do the job they were hired for.
If you have to switch employees between different tasks frequently and it’s slowing down work progress, maybe it’s time to add a new employee to your team. Alternatively, look if some processes can be outsourced to a company or a freelancer.
#2 Inefficient Meetings
Increasingly, companies are beginning to feel as though most meetings are nothing more than a waste of time. For years, we relied on face-to-face interactions in boardrooms to make sure that everyone in our team remained on the same page.
However, by now, we have learned that this kind of disruptive activity is no longer necessary.
Although the occasional meeting can be useful to connect your employees and bring people together in a more intimate environment, most of the time, you can switch a meeting out for broadcast on a collaboration app.
You could even consider allowing your employees to dial into a video meeting so that they don’t have to leave their office.
Pulling your team members out of their workflow so that they can take part in meetings when you could have shared the same information in an email is a dangerous waste of time.
The next time you’re planning a meeting, ask yourself whether it’s necessary to bring people together in a conventional sense. If it is, ensure that you’re only inviting the most relevant people to the room.
Once they leave the meeting room, everyone should know exactly why their input was required and what are the next steps they need to take.
#3 Lack of Insights
Let’s face it – data makes the world go around. We’re living in an era where information is everywhere, and it’s crucial to making our companies more effective.
The good news is that the majority of today’s companies have systems in place that allow them to capture intelligence information from everything from their sales calls to their marketing campaigns.
The bad news is that most organizations simply don’t know how to use their insights to improve their business operations. If you’re not taking advantage of the benefits of real-time and historical data analysis yet, it could be the perfect time to get started.
Sit down with the other leaders in your team and figure out some goals that you want to accomplish. From there, you can determine what kind of information you need to reach your goals.
For instance, if you want to make your marketing campaigns more successful, it makes sense to look at the marketing initiatives that have worked for you in the past.
You might also want to tap into information about your target audiences and their pain points too. This data could help you identify areas that you can improve to offer your customers an excellent experience at every touchpoint with your business.
#4 Preventable IT Issues
Finally, another thing that we’ve come to recognize in the digital era is that IT can either be your friend or your enemy. In many cases, the right technology in your company’s landscape can accelerate growth and generate new opportunities.
Knowing how to make the most of the assets at your disposal can significantly improve daily business operations. Implementing some new solutions can help you get there, too.
AI and machine learning are no longer terms out of science fiction novels. People have taught robots to interact with each other and with other people, and solve problems in the process.
For a great example of how this achievement can speed up daily business operations, just look at chatbots. Chatbots can drastically reduce the time it takes to answer repeat customer questions and queries. Your employees could spend this time on more important tasks and projects.
Also, chatbots can work around the clock. There’s no denying that having a 24/7 customer service is a great asset to your business. However, due to the high costs of maintaining a contact center, in most cases, it’s not a viable solution.
In such scenarios, chatbots can step in, respond to simple queries, and redirect more complicated issues to a human.
Chatbots enable you to reduce time, money, and human labour, which you can then reallocate into growing your business.
If you have enough people on your team, offering live chat is another way to bypass long workflow procedures and ticketing systems that might be annoying to your customers. An agent can handle more than one chat at a time and still give the customer a personalized approach.
The list of benefits of a live chat for a business is long. It boosts customer convenience, satisfaction, and loyalty, helps your business respond to their pain points faster and opens another channel for upselling.
However, there’s also a chance that poorly-managed technology could slow your business down and stop your team from completing their goals. Remote working trends or bring your own device trend (BYOD) are especially sensitive to these issues.
While it’s always possible that IT issues might happen in your workforce, you can put strategies in place to protect yourself from any major downtime or disruptions.
For instance, teaching your team members how to manage work equipment on their own, and providing them with the knowledge to troubleshoot any issues they face means that you can keep your organization running smoothly.
At the same time, this frees up time for your IT employees, who can focus on finding ways for you to use technology to accelerate your business growth, rather than just responding to the same old preventable problems.
Time to Speed up Your Business Growth
A company is a dynamic and ever-changing thing. Unfortunately, it’s also very fragile. When something as small as a single process doesn’t work properly for your company, you begin to see negative repercussions everywhere.
The good news is that taking the time to examine your business workflow and figure out areas where systems can be improved can make your venture more efficient and successful.
From working on preventable IT issues to reducing the number of meaningless meetings your team members are exposed to, there are plenty of ways that you can make your company into the well-oiled machine that it needs to be.
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