Monthly Archives: September 2016

Employee Exit Surveys: Extremely Valuable Tools

I used to work for a blog advertising firm, and while it was an exceptionally small and close-knit company, the CEO used to go through occasional periods of attempting to act like we were bigger than we were.  During one of those phases, he decided to conduct an employee exit interview with  a recent hire who left shortly after taking the position in order to accept a job with a larger company.  She described the entire process as being extremely awkward.  I suppose even after you make plans to move on to greener pastures, it can be difficult to tell your old boss what he did wrong.

However, after that employee left, the exit survey became standard process for everyone who resigned.  Our boss must have found it valuable even if it did make our former-coworkers uncomfortable.

Of course, in larger companies, employee onboarding and exit surveys are standard practice.  They’re usually fairly discrete, and they give both new and former workers the opportunity to share their opinions.  Managers and other leaders can then use that information to implement changes that improve business practices and pave the way for happier, more productive employees.

While answering questions in an employee survey may feel awkward, it’s really important that you be honest.  Companies that conduct these interviews do so because they want to make things better, so you can expect them to take your suggestions and concerns seriously.  Retaining high quality professionals is a huge challenge for businesses, and the insights given by exiting employees are very valuable.

The moral of this story is:  If you’re running a business and you feel like you’re losing good workers, consider asking them for their honest opinions about what your company did right – and wrong.  You may discover room for improvement where you never expected!


Living In My Car

Over the past several years, I’ve made some jokes about living in my car.  Though I was of course joking, it’s true that my children go to school an hour from home, my previous job was an hour in the opposite direction, and my current job is three states away.  I spend a lot of time in my car.  In fact, I log enough miles that when I purchased a new vehicle in June, I had to “do the math” for the salesman – he didn’t believe me!

That said, since I’ve been spending so much time on the road, it’s become especially important to me that my car is well maintained on the inside and out.  I eat in the car, sometimes I work in the car, and I may even watch a television show or two waiting for some activity or another to finish up for the day.  My car needs to feel like home, even if it isn’t.

One of the best things I decided to do last month was to purchase an auto detailing package so that my car gets cleaned up on a regular basis.  This way, I have to take a few minutes to remove all my personal things from the car, and someone else takes a few hours vacuuming, scrubbing, washing, and shining to make my vehicle look new again.  In the end, my car will look nicer for longer, and my life will be a little bit more organized (something this full-time mom and marketer really needs).

It sounds silly, but regular car washes really do make all the miles I log much more bearable!

Why Stores Remodel, and What Online Businesses Can Learn from Them

Last weekend, I decided to bake a cake for my friend’s birthday.  We were planning a small, belated celebration at her house, and I thought it would be fun to make a cake depicting a character from her favorite television show – Doctor Who.  Of course, the grocery store wouldn’t have the supplies I needed to decorate a bright red Dalek cake, so I decided to visit my local craft store for decorator’s icing, dye, and other details.

I suppose it had been awhile since my last visit.  Right away, I noticed that the entire store had been remodeled.  Nothing was in its usual place.  Rather than sitting right out front where they had been, my cake supplies were nowhere to be seen.

At first, I was annoyed.  “Why would they do this?” I whined internally, “No one likes having to figure out a store all over again!”  Grumble, grumble.

It’s true.  Having to get reacquainted with a remodeled store is never any fun, and it often turns a quick trip into a laborious process.

However, once I completed my shopping trip (with a little help from a few sales associates), the marketing professional in me took over.  Stores have many reasons for remodeling or remerchandising, and most of those have to do with marketing.  Even temporarily frustrating their customers can seem worthwhile if it means improving their overall experience.  For example, part of the remodeling at my craft store created more defined check-out lanes with one main queue feeding into them.  Instead of having to wait and forever feeling as though I’d chosen the slowest line, I sped through check-out with much more ease.  Stores that remodel may also make it easier for customers to pick up convenience items, or they may rearrange to give more space to popular products.

In short:  when your local retailer shakes things up, his goal is (usually) to make your life easier, not harder!

Since most of my work is done online, I started thinking about how this logic applies to website design.  Often, a business may be afraid to remodel for fear that their existing customers will have trouble with the new site.  But, just like brick and mortar stores, websites can also benefit from a fresh look now and again.  In fact, a new, custom web site can achieve the following:

  • Improved user experience:  A new look can make it easier for customers – new and old – to find the information they need on your site.
  • Increased sales:  Maybe your existing customers are comfortable with your current design, but prospective clients are turned off by the old-fashioned look and feel of your site.  Draw them in with a fresh appearance.
  • Better technology:  Web design technologies are changing daily.  New trends – like user-friendly content management systems (CMS) – can make it easier for you to update your site with new information on a regular basis, giving your visitors access to everything they need to know about your products or services.

My local craft store wasn’t afraid to remodel.  Your online business should have the guts to do the same!


Reflections on Being a Remote Worker

For the past eight years, I’ve worked mostly from home, “visiting” my companies’ offices by phone or video conference as needed and commuting in person just one day a week.  Overall, it’s been a really positive experience, but my friends and family members often ask me how it really works, as if maybe I’m not working as much or as hard as they are.

Now that more and more people find themselves telecommuting as companies strive to hire the most qualified individuals regardless of location, I thought it would be a good time to compose a post on must-have technologies and tactics that keep remote workers happy and productive.

Video Conferencing Technology:  Naturally, one of the hardest things about working from home is the inability to communicate face-to-face with one’s coworkers.  However, with the right equipment, you can have telepresence even if you lack physical presence!  It’s quick to set up a video chat, and with technology like Go-to-Meeting and Google Hangouts, a remote worker can get in touch with her supervisor, colleagues, or clients in minutes.  I’d say it’s every bit as easy as walking down the hall to a shared conference room!

Distraction-Free Workspace:  When I first started working from home, I had small children and it took some time before they understood that I was “at work” even though I was right there with them.  Heck, even my friends had some trouble understanding that I wasn’t able to get together at random or accept their unplanned visits.  One thing that really helped was setting aside a physical space for my work so that my loved ones could see me there and immediately recognize that I was busy.  Right away, this space helped to reduce distractions so that I could get my tasks done.

Scheduled Breaks:  When you’re working at home, it might seem harmless to throw in a load of laundry, grab a snack or coffee, take the dog for a walk, or answer a personal phone call.  That’s debatable.  While you don’t need to be rigid in your routines to get things done, it definitely helps to have set break times.  Otherwise, it’s very easy for one quick chore to lead to another, and another, until an hour has passed.  Then you’ll find yourself working late into the evening in order to catch up.  Think of the breaks you might take while in a corporate office, and set a timer so that you duplicate those breaks at home.  Not only will you stay focused, but you’ll have something to look forward to throughout the day!

If you’re new to working from home, give yourself some time to work out the details.  Don’t be afraid to remind your family that although you’re present, you have an obligation to your career.  And make sure to take advantage of the many solutions designed to make your life easier.  Things like online planners and calendars, organizers for your office, and webcams or video conference equipment can make your new life as a remote worker immeasurably more productive!

Can you think of any tips that I missed?  Share your ideas in the comments!