The Power of a Flexible Workplace

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“47 percent of people actively looking for new positions say company culture is the main reason” — Hays.com

Does this make you wonder if you might have some work to do around your office?

A couple of weeks ago, we started a series about simple strategies to improve your work culture.  I’m going to share some of my experiences with the companies who are finding success in creating a great culture. 
#1 – Providing Feedback
(If you missed it, check out the link HERE)

#2 – Providing a Flexible Work Environment
33% of employees would change jobs for one that allowed them to work WHERE they want at least part of the time.  Gallup Survey, It’s the Manager   

So, flexibility is KEY!  What does it mean to have a flexible work environment?  Two things…

  • Flexible Time – Time is the new bargaining chip. People are as interested in more free time as they are in money – especially our millenials! Do you offer a way for your team to work 7am-3pm or 9:30am – 5:30pm? Work 4 ten-hour days instead of 5 days per week? Just allowing this flexibility – and allowing them to shift it when their life changes (not every week – but once in a while) – will make you a valued and appreciated employer and put you ahead of almost every large company in town.

  • Flexible Location – While 100% virtual teams are very difficult, allowing team members to work from home 1-3 days per week has been proven to IMPROVE productivity. People will also actually stay in their jobs totally engaged for longer (and today this means something). From Gallup’s book, "It’s the Manager," “the highest engagement falls in a sweet spot of working remotely three to four days a week." Yes, it is important for managers to be trained on how to manage workers when they are remote, (this needs training and is not easy). It is also important to set expectations for employees and only allow this for employees that have proven to be trustworthy. But for great employees who have a good track record, this can be a win-win scenario. The company gets greater productivity and an engaged worker, and the employee gets to have a day or two without traffic – working in their pajamas with coffee.

Owners who think “I can’t trust my employees. They will be at the movies,” might need to realize that this new way to work is coming – whether you choose to adopt it or not! The old school mentality of requiring everyone to be onsite during the same hours will soon mean that your workplace is dated. “Currently, 60% of companies offer their employees telecommuting opportunities.”  2016 SHRM Benefits Survey.

And, if you choose to be Inflexible, you will have a hard time hiring and retaining top talent. You will be able to get employees, just probably not the BEST ones. Many large companies are still not embracing flexibility, so small employers can beat big employers in the race for great hires just by marketing their FLEXIBILITY!
Maybe you and your management team need to take 15 minutes in the next couple of weeks to determine how you could employ a more flexible work strategy. 

Shorthanded, but Reluctant to Hire?

Do you need help from an additional staff member but do not want to take a financial risk?  Reading this recent AJC article, it is understandable why small businesses are sitting on their needs for more staff, and choosing not to hire. 

“A hoped-for boom in small-company hiring never happened because owners haven't wanted to take on the added risk and expense of more staffers.”  

Has this happened at your company? We understand. We are a small business too! 

A great solution for you may be to hire ON THE INNOVATIVE OUTSOURCING PAYROLL. That is right – we can hire your extra set of hands, and we take on the risk. You just pay hourly for the hours worked. You get the help you need without the long-term risk.  Part time is where this works best, but full time might also be an option depending on the job description. 

For example: 

  • Controller - 10 hours/week

  • HR person - 8 hours/week

  • Bookkeeper - 25 hours/week

  • Executive Assistant to CEO - 20 hours a week

Do any of these sound like something you need?  If so, now is the time! Contact us to get started.

The Power of Feedback


“47 percent of people actively looking for new positions say company culture is the main reason” — Hays.com

When you read this statistic, does it scare you or make you feel confident about your company’s employees? Is it strange to you that corporate culture is the main reason for employees wanting to make a change? Does this make you wonder if you might have some work to do around your office?
For the next few weeks, we are going to start a series about simple strategies to improve your work culture.  I’m going to share some of my experiences with the companies who are finding success in creating a great culture.  And don’t worry - by culture, I don’t mean ping pong tables and free snacks (although those aren’t bad).
#1- Providing Feedback
The first (and cheapest) strategy that helps to create a better culture is… PROVIDING FEEDBACK.  Professionals want to know that they are valued!  There are two very easy ways to do that. 

  1. Verbal Feedback – Are you taking the time each week to go up to your employees and let them know that you are thankful for something they have done? Your direct reports should hear a verbal thank you or praise at least once a month. And that should happen IN PERSON if possible. This is where walking around with coffee in the morning without an agenda is an incredible tool. Stopping by offices and cubes can make a world of difference to your employees. If you don’t have an office – a once a week check-in call just to say hello with no agenda is critical.

  2. Written Feedback – When was the last time you sent your direct reports a hand-written note to thank them for something that they exceeded expectations on? When did you write a note just letting them know that you know that they could choose anywhere to work and you are thankful that they chose your workplace? Have you done this EVER? Setting aside 15 minutes a week to encourage your employees is a great, no-cost way to radically change the culture in a really quick amount of time in your company. If your response to this suggestion is to tell me there is nothing great to say to them, then you probably should call us to help you find some new team members. Gratitude and encouragement FEED our employees – they want to feel appreciated and valued.

As you sit in your office thinking right now, “She’s wrong! I don’t have time for that”, consider this statistic: “69% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated.” – Socialcast  
Hmm. It looks like setting aside 15 minutes each week to show some appreciation is a good business decision and will not only help to reduce turnover, it will also likely impact your bottom line.

A Billionaire wants to mentor YOU!

Imagine this! You just received an invitation to meet weekly for coffee with one of the 100 wealthiest people in the world, a billionaire investor and philanthropist. He is taking a special interest in you, and he wants you to fully grasp all the important things he has learned in his 68 years of life and work.  He will mentor you by tracing his footsteps and missteps, his successes and his failures.  When your mentoring sessions are completed, you will be equipped to carry that spark as a blazing torch, enlightening your personal life and your business.

While it may not be an actual “talk-over-coffee,” Ray Dalio’s #1 New York Times bestseller Principles: Life & Work is the ONE must-read book this year, both for your business and your personal growth. Even if you are not a “book” person, there is just too much great stuff here to let this one slip by another day.

RAY DALIO is the founder and co-chairman of the best performing hedge fund in the world.  He’s made the list of the most influential people in the world by Time and Bloomberg Markets. Even if you have not a stiff of interest in hedge funds or investing, the stories he tells and the life principles he shares will keep you hanging on his every word.   

There are two overarching themes that ooze through the richness of Dalio’s wisdom.  

  • Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of work and life, so identify and use your principles as a measuring stick for all you do.
  • In applying these principles, be radically open-minded and radically transparent.  This will assure that you learn quickly, and that you don’t get hung up on what things “should” be like, but what is reality.

It is impossible to highlight the favorite parts of this book, but from a staffing perspective, let me jump right to Part III where Dalio hits the very heart of building a business based upon solid work principles.  Because there is just so much rich information, Dalio does us a tremendous service, and begins this section with a summary and table of these principles, indexed to the pages where each topic is covered in more depth.  He begins by saying, “An organization is a machine consisting of two major parts:  culture and people.” Then he proceeds to itemize how to get the culture right, and how to get the people right.  These are not pie-in-the-sky ideas, but instead he outlines specific steps.  For example, to support his principle that you need to create a culture in which it is okay to make mistakes, but unacceptable not to learn from them, Dalio provides five specific steps any business leader can follow to assure this happens. 

After learning how to get the culture right, my favorite section explains how to get the people right:

  • Remember that the WHO is more important than the WHAT
  • Hire RIGHT, because the penalties for hiring wrong are huge (then he adds eight steps to assure you succeed in this)
  • Constantly train, test, evaluate, and sort people (and he gives you very specific strategies to accomplish this)

As a reader and a business leader, you are challenged to manage your business like someone operating a machine to achieve a goal. Just as a machine operator knows the components that produce the product, “…know what your people are like and what makes them tick, because your people are your most important resource.”

Ray Dalio admits that he is no different from you. "Whatever success I’ve had in life hasn’t been because of anything unique about me—it’s because of principles that I believe anyone can adopt."

So grab a cup of coffee, open the book, either hardcopy or audio, and enjoy a few moments each week as Ray Dalio fills you with the inspiration and wisdom that may make you think differently about your life and work.  Oh, and Part III of Dalio’s book — that’s our sweet spot, so Innovative Outsourcing would be honored to come along side you to put these principles in motion as you build your team at your company.

Listen to Ray Dalio’s Ted Talk 
Watch the Animated Series (30 minutes divided into 8 short episodes) 
Book Summary Outline 

Take it from the hens!

Business Culture:

  • It's what makes your best employees choose to stay with you or take another job offer.
  • It's what makes some companies 12% more profitable than their competitors
  • It's what creates a line outside your door “just in case you have an opening”.  
  • It's what good small businesses spend time maximizing
  • It's what small business owners usually have no idea how to create.  
  • It's what you are creating (good or bad) even if you don’t know you are - THIS SHOULD MOTIVATE YOU!

Take a look at this Ted talk.  The health of your business may depend on it. 

Do you know what your culture is in your company?  Is it positive, negative or neutral?  Are you sure?

IO considers culture incredibly important as we help you hire and retain your best team.  We have a new product that can help you determine what your culture is and the things that you must do to create the culture that you want.

If you are interested, please contact Matt Filer, mfiler@innovative-outsourcing.com, 404-259-6449.

Image Credit: http://www.wildhenfarm.com.au/

Book Buzz: Killing Marketing

You’ve grown a successful business based upon sound marketing principles. So what if you came to realize that all you know about marketing could actually be holding you back? Marketing is on the brink of change, and those businesses that can successfully pivot their marketing strategy now will reap the rewards, as those businesses less progressive scramble to play catch-up.

Killing Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, provides a new and shocking perspective that could change how you market your business. Through the insights of these authors, you may consider how actually “killing marketing” as we know it could be the start of a whole new way you grow your business. These two authors are the world’s top marketing experts of our age, and they begin this book with an alarming realization. Over the past two decades, we have seen a dramatic shift in both B2B and B2C buying and brand loyalty, yet the way we market has remained the same. 

Book Buzz: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

What if you took a “crazy idea” and made it one of the most successful brands the world has ever known? What if you had no idea how to do something but surrounded yourself with the right people to reach that dream? This is what Phil Knight did as he took a love for running shoes and created one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

In his autobiography Shoe Dog, Nike founder Phil Knight weaves an inspiring tale of what began as a “crazy idea” for a class at Stanford and developed into a worldwide apparel bonanza. This compelling story of a young man with a passion to change the status quo and do what he loves is simply inspiring. In this book, Knight weaves his journey of how he turned a $50 loan from his father into a company with annual sales topping $30 billion. The reader is inspired to learn how Knight achieved the improbable, building a wildly successful company from scratch out of his parents’ garage in Portland, Oregon.

The three essential themes Knight outlines in this book can serve as guideposts and inspiration to all types of business leaders:

Four key parts to a great performance review

Cindi Filer, CEO of Innovative Outsourcing shares helpful advice you can use. Second message in a three-part series on performance evaluations.

Performance reviews are important to your business. Over the past few weeks, we have investigated why this is critical, and then also underscored the importance of a great job description as a precursor to the performance review. Now here's how to set the stage for a purposeful and productive meeting.

In your mind, imagine the perfect 45-minute employee meeting. Now fast-forward to the end of that meeting so you can now work backwards to achieve the best structure. Here is how that time should ideally be spent:

  • 18 minutes –  Encouragement
  • 9 minutes –  Improvement points
  • 9 minutes – Development needs (What do you think they need. What do they think they need.)
  • 9 minutes – Self-reflection 

Your past performance reviews may not have followed this ideal 40%-20%-20%-20% strategy, but this should be your goal. Here is how to make that happen:


Why should encouragement dominate your performance review time? Surveys find that the primary reason people leave their jobs is because they do not feel appreciated. While we need to give encouragement often, a performance review is a GREAT time to tell your employee what he/she does well, attitudes you like, and skills they possess USING EXAMPLES. (Recognize the time they helped retain a client, or notice the extra time spent on a result-producing project.) When you share these key examples, even if they are small “wins,”  it sets the tone for a productive review.


"Everyone has room to improve." Begin this segment on a positive note, immediately following your encouragement message. Focus on measurable improvement areas. If something is not quantifiable, (for example, their temperament when things don’t go their way), make sure that you communicate this by providing specific examples. Jointly agree upon a goal for improvement and an expected reevaluation date. If you fail to set and follow though on reevaluating, you may as well not discuss improvement points at all.


Next, discuss what the employee perceives they need most, and include what you feel that they need. Perhaps this includes leadership training, skills training, or being mentored by an experienced colleague or outside source. Following the same improvement points strategy, development goals need to be specifically outlined with expected completion and reevaluation dates. By devoting time and money in training, even inexpensive training by webinars, it shows that you are investing in them. You send a two-fold message: "I want you to succeed professionally, AND I value what your continued development brings to the company."  


Prior to a review meeting, the employee should complete a self-assessment which will likely mirror many of your thoughts. This self-reflective process is a learned skill equipping the employee to possibly correct future issues even before it comes to a manager's attention. If you need assistance creating an evaluation tool like this, Innovative Outsourcing offers a full range of customized employee evaluation services.  If you are designing your own form, consider a section requesting their perspective on overall company performance, what they would do if they were “king for a day,” and how they could be part of an improvement strategy. The responses you receive could be your company’s best “free” consulting advice!

Let’s review:

  • Performance reviews are important.
  • It all begins with a good job description.
  • Plan your performance review time proportionately between these four key areas.

Next time, we will talk about who should conduct the reviews and the best timing. In the meantime, I’d appreciate your feedback or questions on this topic. Email me at cfiler@innovative-outsourcing.com.

Critical first step to a great performance review

CPR 17 0315 BELLCURVE.jpg

Cindi Filer, CEO of Innovative Outsourcing shares helpful advice you can use. Second message in a three-part series on performance evaluations.

While some may feel that the performance reviews are a thing of the past, I have expressed my case for why this is still a relevant and critically important practice.

Now that we have established the “why” in performance reviews, you may assume that the next step is “how.” But wait! There is one very important step, and the success of your performance review strategy hinges upon this. Effective reviews first begin with a great job description. If you haven’t objectively communicated to your employee the measuring stick that will be used for evaluation, then you are setting yourself up for an ineffective performance review.  And the benefits of having functional job descriptions for all your employees adds key benefits that transcend reviewing performance. (Here are more reasons small businesses need job descriptions, and you may have never considered #5!)

What should an effective job description include? To be used as a springboard for evaluation, both the employee and the manager must a have a reference including concrete parameters of performance expectations.  

Are you feeling overwhelmed already?  Here is a step-by-step strategy that will work:

First, list the employee’s top six action items or requirements.

Next, assign a percentage of time they should work each month to fulfill each of those requirements. Here’s an example:  

  • 35% - Answer telephones, forward calls, and take messages to assure no dropped calls and no caller waiting for more than one minute on hold without being successfully transferred or speaking to you with an update on their anticipated wait time.
  • 30% - Complete accurate data entry of visitor information within one hour following their arrival.
  • 20% - Greet guests at the door, ensuring they are comfortable, they are offered a drink, and keep them updated on the anticipated wait time.
  • 15% - Perform office housekeeping and restock guest refreshments.

Lastly, the job requirement should also include a section for required education and prior experience necessary for the job. (This is a whole exercise in itself which we won’t cover at this time.) For the review process, the action item list and assigned percentages will become the basis for your performance review.  

Once you have this type of job description completed, then you have the foundation upon which your performance review can be based. In my message next week, we will use this as the springboard for planning the actual review.

Begin now! Identify who will be your company’s “owner” of the reviews. I have found that in many cases, CEOs are not driving reviews because it is too far down on their “to-do list.”  If this is that case, then consider assigning one manager that you trust to be the driver of this process.  Maybe it’s an outside consultant. (This is actually a service Innovative Outsourcing can provide.) One thing that stands in the way of an effective performance review strategy is making this a priority, and as a company leader, that initiative can begin with you.

In the meantime, I’d appreciate your feedback or questions on this topic.  Email me at cfiler@innovative-outsourcing.com.

Why evaluate employee performance?

Cindi Filer, CEO of Innovative Outsourcing shares helpful advice you can use. First in a three-part series on performance evaluations.

The small business community is abuzz now, debating this hot topic. Is it still correct to do employee performance appraisals?  Some argue that leaders should have “evolved” past this fossil management tool.  I’m going to make an argument that they are still relevant and actually, critical.

Over the next three weeks, look forward to receiving some practical advice on why and how to successfully implement performance appraisals.

Why do performance reviews? Let’s boil it down to these four critical reasons:

  • To INFORM employees – “Where do you stand with your boss?” If I asked your employees that right now, would they know how to answer? 
  • To INCREASE productivity – Studies show that when you regularly evaluate employees and they know that they are being evaluated based upon a measurable standard, their productivity increases.
  • To RETAIN staff - According to the research by Direct Recruiters, Inc , feeling undervalued and lacking feedback are two of the top seven reasons why an employee quits. Both of these issues can be addressed by using employee reviews.  For millennials, this is even more crucial.  They need reviews at least quarterly and perhaps more informally. They crave feedback, and will perform much better if provided appropriately.
  • To be able to FIRE with less risk - You have heard this from me before - document, document, document!  Performance review records document that your poor performers have regularly been coached and given deadlines for improvement.  Without this, when you call me for advice on letting someone go, I will likely say that you are in a position of RISK. Employee reviews mitigate this. 

Designing the best performance review is critical, or you could fall into the trap that has given traditional performance reviews a black eye. The key for small business is to make this tool inspire instead of deflate, and make it simple enough that both the employee and the manager find it a valuable use of everyone’s time. Next week, we will investigate the critical task you must accomplish prior to your performance appraisal. In the meantime, I’d appreciate your feedback or questions on this topic.  Email me at cfiler@innovative-outsourcing.com.