Keeping the Team Focused as the Temperature Rises

It’s natural. Every spring, winter begins to loosen its grip and the sun sets later each evening making the days feel longer, more relaxed. You probably see your employees taking more time to get outdoors for lunch or leaving a bit early to catch a baseball game or end-of-the-year school event. While this spring shift may appear to detract from the business at hand, it’s actually a prime opportunity to increase your staff’s commitment to your organization’s success.

Rather than ignoring the natural change in attitude that comes with spring, take the time to let your staff know you’re sensitive to it by incorporating some easy “attitude enhancers.”

• Introduce a bi-weekly all-company ice cream or coffee break. Offer free frozen treats or premium coffee drinks twice a month during mid-morning or mid-afternoon and invite everyone to spend a few minutes away from their desks with their co-workers. This simple but effective tool gives everyone a chance to reconnect or build relationships with colleagues in other departments and sends them back to their duties with a positive, refreshed attitude. Create excitement around the event by holding a bi-weekly drawing for motivational mugs or water bottles imprinted with an inspiring message along with your logo.

• Institute Casual Dress Fridays or add an additional casual dress day to your existing program. While simple to administer, this time-tested, low-cost program allows co-workers to see each other in a different light and often leads to improved working relationships.

• Announce a “Beat the Rush” policy. Allow everyone to leave work an hour early on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. By giving them a much-appreciated jump on one of the busiest travel days of the year, your staff will focus more clearly on their responsibilities throughout day rather than dreading the gridlock they’re sure to face at 5 o’clock.

While acknowledging the seasonal attitude shift is important, keeping your organization’s broader goals in mind is also key. Consider these effective approaches.

• Organize a softball or volleyball team to compete in a local recreational league. The camaraderie and teamwork that is built outside of the building is carried back into the workplace, creating strong bonds between individuals and departments throughout the organization.

• Encourage innovative thinking. Often, when we’re more relaxed, we’re able to see things in new ways. Spring is the perfect time to tap into the innovative ideas that are sometimes hidden below the surface. Keep the big ideas flowing by developing an email suggestion box. Offer a dream-themed motivational print along with a certificate for a free day off for the best new suggestion submitted each quarter.

• Use Free Lunch Gift Cards as instant recognition. This dual-purpose perk should never be underestimated. A gift card to a local restaurant provides instant gratification for the recipient and encourages everyone to do their best at all times. Along with each gift card, present your recipients with a motivational lapel pin, medallion or mini award for even greater impact.

With competition for talent increasing and workers actively seeking out businesses that recognize the importance of work/life balance, it’s important to show your staff that you appreciate the significant seasonal shift that occurs each spring while keeping employees focused on the success of the organization.

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Award Reinforces Teamwork Culture at Best Buy

Challenge: Tom Pitzen, Best Practices Manager at Best Buy headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, needed a unique and meaningful way to recognize members of a cross-functional process improvement team.

What role does recognition play in Best Buy’s corporate culture?
We use recognition daily through a variety of programs so that people are continuously receiving positive reinforcement for their contributions. It has a tremendous affect on what we’re able to achieve.

How did you reward your process improvement team?
We recognized nearly 400 associate members of the team by giving each of them an Essence of Teamwork desktop framed print. We also treated them to a favorite team event—a local baseball game.

Why did you choose a desktop framed print to recognize the team members?
I wanted an award that is visible and symbolic of our accomplishment. The print has a lasting affect, unlike a pen or monetary award, because people see the desktop piece again and again throughout the day.

The Essence of Teamwork summed up the substantial combined effort that was required for our project to be successful. The quote is perfect for a cross-functional team because it speaks about differences that exist among team members, and the common goal that they share. It serves as a constant reminder of what was achieved through teamwork.

What did the team members think of the award?
The response was great. People proudly display the piece on their desks as a symbol of their participation on the team.

Would you use the piece again?
As a matter of fact, we’ve had others ask how they can earn it. However, we’ve “retired” it in honor of that team. We’ll choose a new image that is meaningful to future projects.

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Teamwork in tough economic times

Get maximum results from every employee with minimal investment.

The effect of extraordinary individual effort on an organization can never be underestimated. Focused and driven employees are essential to success. In a challenging business climate, however, it’s vital to engage every member of your staff and bring out their very best work every day.

That’s where the power of the team comes into play. Led by your top performers, teams allow your brightest stars to shine and to raise the level of expectation and performance in every member of the group.

Build your business by building consensus

The first step in creating an effective team is assuring that every member understands and feels invested in the broader goals of the team, their role in the group and, most importantly, their responsibility for the team’s success.

  • Emphasize your commitment to teamwork by revisiting your organization’s mission statement. Incorporate and highlight the important role every individual plays in the long-term success of their team(s) and in the organization as a whole. Underscore your commitment to company-wide teamwork by distributing framed desktop prints featuring inspiring teamwork-themed images and messages. If your budget allows, customize your prints with your new mission statement for maximum impact.
  • Formalize your focus on teamwork with an interactive all-company meeting where everyone gets re-introduced to, involved with and energized by their individual teams. Search the web or contact a motivational meeting planner for new and exciting activities to engage and strengthen your teams. Pass out themed mugs, pens and notepads to each attendee to keep the significance of the day’s lessons in mind throughout the year.
  • The printed word gives weight and meaning to your message. Stock break rooms, conference rooms and common areas with quick-read business handbooks that reinforce the responsibility of the individual and the importance of shared goals. Many inspiring paperback titles are available for under $10.

Team support ensures no one has an “off day” and every success is acknowledged.

Even your star contributors can have a tough day – a day when things aren’t quite falling into place. By taking responsibility for each other’s success, providing support during challenging times and recognizing special contributions on a regular basis, the team ensures a consistent level of excellence is maintained day in and day out.

  • Develop a buddy system within each department. Assign each person a partner they can turn to when they need a “second opinion,” technical assistance, or backup on a particularly busy day. This team-within-a-team approach helps everyone achieve their individual goals while creating a we’re-all-in-this-together environment.
  • Spread the responsibility for recognition throughout the group. Twice a year, give every member of your organization an affordable instant recognition “award” and ask them to present it to a fellow team member in recognition of above-and-beyond efforts. Recognition pins and gem awards make a big impression at minimal cost.

“There is little success where there is little laughter.”

When everyone is watching the bottom line and results are all-important, don’t forget the value of fun and its positive effect on morale and team building.

  • Encourage groups or departments (or your entire organization) to take a short afternoon break as a team once a week. Let them know it’s okay to put aside the “shop talk,” relax and re-focus. Off-the-clock interactions like these create strong bonds and allow the group to connect as a unit.
  • Following a big success or a tough deadline crunch, deliver a novelty desktop game or puzzle with a motivational spin in every mailbox. You’ll get the whole team talking, energized and ready to take on the next challenge. For serious team bonding, pass out a scrambled motivational Rubik’s Cube® to the leader of each team and give each group one week to solve the puzzle. Offer a special prize for each member of the team(s) that completes the task. A gift card for the nearest coffee shop is an inexpensive and always appreciated choice.

During tight economic times, every organization needs to get the most out of every individual and every dollar spent. Investing your time and a small portion of your budget into strengthening teamwork pays big dividends in the form of increased productivity, efficiency and morale. Tap into the power of the team today!

Have a team-building event or success story you’d like to share?
We’d love to hear about it!

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Ten Unique Time Management Tips

We’re heading full speed through the 1st quarter…and that means it’s time to focus and invigorate everyone on your team for the busy months ahead. And it’s also a great opportunity to organize your team and make sure everyone is managing time wisely.

We’ve put together 10 unique time-management tips. Incorporate these simple steps into your workday and share them with members of your team. You’ll find these easy changes can truly make a difference:

1. Have a plan. Each morning, make yourself a to-do list. As each task is accomplished, cross it off your list. It’s a nice reminder not only of what you need to do, but also of what you’ve already accomplished.

2. Plan for the Unplanned. Don’t fill your entire day up with meetings and tasks. All it can take is one unscheduled phone call or a small emergency to throw off your entire day. Give yourself room every day to answer e-mails, make phone calls and to deal with unexpected tasks.

3. Tackle the Big Stuff First. Our tendency is to put off the big or difficult tasks for later. But studies have shown that most of us are more alert and productive in the morning. And accomplishing the major assignments first will energize your afternoons.

4. Take the 10-Minute Challenge. Is your desk filling up with papers? Put aside 10 minutes every other day—you may even want to set a timer—to go through and file, pass along or trash those piles of papers. A clutter-free desk can add some much needed calm and makes other tasks seem less frenzied.

5. Make big tasks small. Here’s another use for the timer: when you have a large task, break it up into 10- or 15-minute increments of work. Set the timer, and just do that amount of work. You’ll find that, like small amounts of exercise, small amounts of work make any task less intimidating.

6. Learn to negotiate your time. Every project has a deadline, but if you need more time, ask for it. Communicate your needs with the project manager and work with them to get the time you need to complete the tasks at hand.

7. Lend a helping hand. If you have some extra time, share it with a co-worker. Even if it’s just to make copies or get them some coffee, that little helping hand can make all the difference.

8. Respect other’s time. If you have a meeting scheduled for 10 am, be there at 10 am. If you’re meeting is only suppose to last a half hour, do your best to stick to 30 minutes. Don’t abuse other people’s time, and hopefully they’ll respect yours as well.

9.Make work fun. It may seem like there can’t possibly be time for fun, but that’s when you need it most. Take just five minutes a day to free your mind of work and just relax. Take a short walk, learn to juggle, share a joke of the day—you’ll return a little more refreshed.

10. Reward yourself (and others!). Celebrate your accomplishments—big and small. Give yourself a snack break, take a short walk or literally pat yourself on the back. Also make sure you acknowledge other members of your team that work with you to get the job done.

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Strengthen Your Internal Brand

Strengthen your “internal brand” with an integrated motivation program.

Just as marketing and advertising strive to create a deeply ingrained awareness of a company’s brand through a series of integrated initiatives, many human resource departments are recognizing the value this same strategic approach has in the promotion of their core values within their organizations. This “internal branding” method instills the company’s guiding principles in employees from their first day on the job and seeks to reinforce those principles in varied and inspiring ways each and every day in order to leverage the power of the workforce. Curt Coffman, co-author of the best-selling book on management, First, Break All The Rules, stated in a recent interview with The Gallup Organization that the keys to creating a highly engaged workforce are to “set clear expectations, give employees the right materials, focus on the employee, and recognize your best performers.” A well-executed internal branding program addresses all of these elements through the implementation of four distinct initiatives, each of which plays a vital role in the process.

Introduce core values to new employees.

  • Begin establishing your company’s emphasis on its core values from their first day on the job with motivational reinforcements they’ll encounter each and every day. Affordable desktop accessories including mugs, pen caddies, notepads and other items imprinted with your mission or values provide new hires with a basic guideline on which to base their actions and decisions.
  • Exhibit a strong commitment to your values by giving a gift of a framed desktop print with a motivational message or artwork personalized with your logo and mission statement. Options are available for every size work area.

Provide ongoing reminders throughout the workplace.

Surround your employees with visual motivational reminders that reinforce your core value message throughout the workplace.

  • Reception areas: Greet your employees each morning with a personalized banner or framed mission statement print reminding them of the core values they should use to guide their decision-making throughout their day.
  • Conference rooms and hallways: Eye-catching motivational wall art provides constant reinforcement of key messages. Tailor your art selection to each workspace. For example, stress the importance of goals or focus in a conference room, the value of determination or perseverance in offices, work stations and hallways, and the significance of work/life balance or perspective in a cafeteria or lunchroom.
  • Individual workspaces: Taking the opportunity to reiterate your values in each employees’ “personal space” helps to encourage ownership in those values. Framed desktop artwork, personalized desktop accessories and stress relievers are excellent choices.

Use rewards and recognition to further define core values.

Expand your awards program beyond the traditional once-a-year award ceremony with frequent and diverse recognition opportunities. This on-going approach helps to define your core values by publicly recognizing specific performances and behaviors that clearly support them.

  • On-the-spot recognition provides instant affirmation of contributions that exemplify core values. Effective and affordable pins, medallions and keychains help keep core values top-of-mind and create positive energy through an awareness that recognition can come at any time.
  • Progressive award programs have been shown to enhance the performance of both recipients and their co-workers. A monthly award plaque sets the bar for excellence by establishing top performers as standard bearers for the core values. The visibility and frequent regularity of a perpetual award creates an on-going focus on excellence and offers an inclusive opportunity for every employee, even the newest hire, to earn recognition.
  • Year-end awards are powerful tools for establishing your internal brand. When reserved for key contributors in each department who consistently exemplify your core values, they provide a definitive clarification of your values that all employees can follow. An official presentation ceremony underscores the company’s commitment to those values and to those individuals who commit themselves to upholding them. With thousands of customizable award designs available, be sure to choose one that matches your corporate values.

Offer personalized reinforcement.

Management’s direct support of your core values strengthens and personalizes your internal branding initiative.

  • Acknowledge special contributions, holidays or personal milestones with notecards reinforcing core values through both inspirational imagery and messaging. Personalize them with your company logo, name and/or unique corporate message. A handwritten card or note can have a significant impact on the acceptance and internalization of your corporate values.
  • Create a company-exclusive annual award that specifically reinforces your core values while providing personalized recognition of on-going dedication to those values. Presentation of the award by a key executive helps to underscore the importance of both the award and the core values.

Administered individually, each one of these initiatives can have a positive effect in the development of your organization’s core values. Aligning all four of these methods in a strategic promotional approach, however, puts you on the path to creating an intrinsically understood “internal brand” that will guide your employees to higher performance and your company to greater unity and success.

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Why Customer Service Matters

Why Customer Service Matters

Get The Facts on Customer Service:

Fact: Customers spend up to 10% more for the same product with better service.

Fact: Customers tell anywhere from 9 to 12 people when they get good service.

Fact: When customers receive poor service, they tell up to 20 people.

Fact: Studies have shown that it takes a customer as little as ten seconds to pick up on the attitude (bad or good) of the person they are speaking to!

Creating a Customer Service Culture

When people think of customer service, they think of the front-line workers, the ones that come in direct contact with the customer. But the truth is, everyone in your company has an impact on the customer experience: The receptionist who greets visitors, the IT worker who maintains the systems to take orders, and the marketing staff that communicates information about your products. Everyone touches the customer in some way. This is why you must develop a customer service culture — from the top down.

Here are some simple steps you can take to create a Customer-Friendly Organization:

Communicate to every level the importance of customer service and the behaviors you are looking for regarding that service.

Recognize employees when they demonstrate positive service behaviors, both formally with awards and informally with certificates, medallions and hand-written notes of thanks.

Constantly give specific examples of good customer service.

Emphasize the concept of internal customer service. And treat your employees well! The quality of service they offer your customers is directly related to how the employees are treated themselves.

Empower your employees to make decisions and break the “rules” to satisfy a customer.

Train your people—all your people—on this customer service-based culture from the moment they are hired.

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