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The easiest ways to keep remote workers engaged & connected

(BUSINESS NEWS) Do you manage remote employees or an entirely mixed team? These tips will keep you on the right track to avoid communication breakdown.

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Not every workplace has all its employees in the same place. Different office locations, business trips, and freelancers mean your workforce may be geographically scattered. So how do you effectively communicate from home base if your team is remote and widespread?

First things first – invest in the best virtual meeting platform technology you can work into your budget. If you can’t all be in one place, the next best thing is regularly scheduled virtual meetings. Everyone should have a camera so employees get a chance to know who they’re talking to and put names to faces.

Sure, you may not want to see yourself on camera, but your coworkers will appreciate seeing who they’ve been collaborating with and emailing.

If video conferences aren’t relevant to your business, make sure employees at least have some way to get in touch with each other, like Slack, Skype, or even a private Facebook group. Have at least one platform where employees can engage, communicate, and share information with each other.

Foster connection among employees, allowing them to engage and build work relationships. Provide opportunities for non-work related connections to show your employees you know they’re people, not just workers.

If possible, organize small group outings for those in the same city. Even if that’s not feasible, you can still be the connector that brings people together remotely.

Create “water cooler” moments by calling out important events, like birthdays, marriages, or someone completing an important goal. Get to know your employees, and engage in small talk whenever possible to get to know them. This shows your employees you value them and care about their lives.

Sending care packages can go a long way to show your employees you want them to feel included. Is your next meeting being catered at the main office? Order something for your remote employees too. Everyone deserves bagels.

Make sure you also set clear communication expectations about when you can and can’t be reached. Virtual employees need to know when they can expect a response from you and their colleagues since informal interactions are hard to come by remotely.

When managing remote employees, strive for inclusiveness. Be a connector who promotes engagement by knowing your employees, giving them an avenue to communicate with you and each other.

Take time to get to know your employees on at least a semi- personal level, and ensure everyone feels welcomed even if they’re working remotely. This will lead to better coworker relationships, employee retention, and performance.

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Business News

The one customer service mistake all businesses should avoid

(BUSINESS) Customer service is paramount for every business, but this one mistake handicaps so many and can be fixed so easily.

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As both an entrepreneur and business coach, I’m cursed with the proclivity to recognize areas for improvement in any businesses that I visit – even as just a customer. I wait in lines, stay on hold and watch mistakes happen, all the while dreaming of how I’d create a better customer service experience.

Case in point: I recently accompanied my girlfriend, Pam, on a trip to a car dealership – and what should have been a simple transaction turned into a nightmare, all because of customer experience.

Throughout the entire experience, I witnessed from the sidelines numerous small mistakes that, if resolved, could widely improve the processes of that car dealership and grow its business. But it wasn’t these small mistakes that did the most damage. Because of just one critical error, they will never know what they did wrong.

With over 180,000 miles on her current car, Pam knew that the time had come to replace her trusty and reliable vehicle of many years. She liked her current car, so she decided to simply replace it with a new version of the same model and brand. The only change would be a new color. To make the transaction even easier, she sold her old car to a friend and she didn’t need financing, opting to use her local bank for financing or pay cash.

Based on the above, I assumed that the car shopping experience would be extremely quick and painless. We contacted several dealers in the area and gave them the exact specifications of her new car and asked them to respond with their best price. Simple, right?

After receiving responses from three dealers in the area, Pam made the decision to go with the dealer closest to her house. They had the exact vehicle she wanted, although it was at another location, so it would take a few days to receive. And their price was almost identical to the lowest price received. They even said they would match a 0% interest financing offer that another dealer had offered to attract her business. Her next step was to head to the dealership and fill out the paperwork. We decided to do it on the way out of town for the weekend, because it was going to be so easy.

Upon arrival, she was told that she had to meet with the financing person and there was one customer in front of her. She was reassured, “It will be a short wait…” It turns out their definition of a “short” wait was several hours.

Multiple times, she asked what could be done to shorten the wait. Surprisingly, even if she decided to pay cash, their process required that she visit with the finance person. As she later found out, that was because the finance person’s goal was to upgrade her on insurance, financing, warranties and other add-ons – despite the fact that she clearly told her salesperson upon arrival that she did not want any of those add-ons.

Her only request was a quick experience, which they failed to deliver.

Upon finishing her paperwork with the finance person, my girlfriend was approached one last time by the salesperson as she headed out the door. He said it was “really important” that he go over one last detail of the transaction in his office. He proceeded to review the survey that she would receive from the manufacturer about her car-buying experience. He handed her a pre-filled out version of the survey with certain areas highlighted with the exact score he wanted her to provide so he could get his “full commission.”

He explained in great detail that his pay was directly related to the score on the survey. He even bribed her with some all-weather floor mats she noticed earlier in the day but decided were too expensive. He said the mats would “magically” be in her car when it was delivered – a small token of his appreciation for filling out the survey per his instructions.

All in all, the customer service experience was less than satisfactory and was riddled with mistakes. But, it was the salesperson’s mistake that most seriously hurt the business. Can you spot it?

As I watched the conversation about the floor mats unfold, that desire to help businesses improve struck me, and I realized that the incentive structure put in place by the dealership was going to prevent them from getting the real information – the true survey results – they needed to improve their business. (Which is too bad, because they really need to improve.)

A lesson that I always share with the businesses and leaders I work with day to day is: Incentives are a powerful tool to motivate team members, but if they get in the way of honest feedback or inspire teams to chase “rewards” instead of true business success, they can also have unintended consequences which put the brakes on the growth of organizations.

After a few additional hiccups in the process, my girlfriend finally received her new car… with the all-weather floor mats. She’s very happy with the car, but disappointed with the car-buying experience.

And unfortunately, because of the dealership’s decision to connect pay incentives to the survey, the dealership and manufacturer will never know the truth.

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Business News

Beware: The biohacking obsession is attracting scammers

(NEWS) Biohacking is finding ways to gain a competitive advantage, while excluding the medical world. It’s great to increase your output, but be cautious when picking your poison…

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Wanna live better or longer? [Insert biohack here] will solve all those pesky problems. In all fairness, it’s human nature to seek improvement, especially in our jobs or academics — you know, the things that demand a constant, high performance.

Of course our ears will prick up at the slightest mention of attaining that elusive edge. Remember Aderall in college?

Biohacking isn’t a new topic. The term refers to a wide range of activities to affect the body’s biological systems.

The objective is to optimize health, well-being, and focus. If we are able to effectively manage what we put into our body, our output can increase. It’s not inherently evil.

But social media influencers are key in promoting the latest products/diets/supplements/oils, often doing so for money, not to improve others’ lives. And, there’s a darker side of drug use, both prescription and illegal, leading to potentially dangerous and abusive situations.

The misleading aspect of biohacking is that every body is different.

Regardless of social media promises, people should be wary of ingesting additional products.

Despite the fancy names one can give it, biohacking has the same objective of medicine, but product development typically excludes medical practitioners.

Legitimate medical practices take huge amounts of funding and research to figure out and insure safety, and they’re heavily regulated by the federal government.

A random word of mouth promise about some obscure herbal supplement is not the same thing.

There are no shortcuts to improving one’s health.

And biohacking doesn’t necessarily mean making life more complex. It’s important to start with the basics before jumping to elaborate diet regimens, powders, pills, etc. Simple steps like routine exercise, 7-8 hours of sleep, and healthier meal choices may help get you on track.

It’s amazing to realize what you can change about yourself before joining some random Thought Cult you found on Instagram. And in the case that your health needs a modern, helping hand, do the proper research before falling into the dark internet hole.

Or better yet, consult your doctor.

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Business News

Did Ohio *really* just accidentally legalize marijuana?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Should cannabusiness investors rush to Ohio, or are the headlines about legalized marijuana in the state misleading? The situation is pretty complex.

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Hemp growers and pot smokers alike may benefit from a recently passed Ohio law intended to legalize hemp, but which has also made prosecuting marijuana charges significantly more difficult, if not impossible.

Although many news sources are blasting the headline that Ohio has “accidentally legalized weed,” the truth is slightly more complicated.

On July 30, Ohio legislators signed into law a bill that legalizes the growth and sale of hemp, but not marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species of plant, but while hemp is mostly used for its super strong fibers, marijuana is cultivated to contain high levels of the psychoactive compound THC.

It’s not easy to detect the difference between hemp and marijuana with the naked eye. Connoisseurs might argue that if the bud looks dry, green, and hairless, it’s probably hemp.

But there’s no way to prove it definitively during a police stop or search. Sure, an officer could take a toke and see if it makes him feel funny, but that would hardly be appropriate; the typical protocol is to test the plant material in a lab to determine the percentage of THC.

Green with less than 0.3 percent THC is considered hemp; more than that is considered marijuana.

The problem is that none of Ohio’s city or state level crime labs have the technology to make this determination. The current lab equipment available can detect the presence of THC but can’t tell the amount.

Louis Tobin, the executive director for Ohio’s Prosecuting Attorney Association, calls this recent law “the de facto legalization of marijuana,” not because the bill explicitly make marijuana legal, but because “there’s no way for law enforcement to tell what’s legal and what’s not legal.”

Apparently Tobin and other prosecutors had raised this concern while the bill was being debated, to no avail.

Now police officers and prosecutors are getting mixed signals about how to proceed.

Says Tobin, “There are statues on the books that say you should enforce marijuana possession but another law takes away your tools to do it.”

Ohio’s Attorney General, Dave Yost, sent a letter to prosecutors encouraging them to postpone marijuana indictments. The Office of the Attorney General in Ohio’s capitol city of Columbus announced that they will temporarily cease prosecuting marijuana misdemeanors and will drop all pending cases.

Meanwhile, in Hamilton County, prosecutor Joe Deter is encouraging police officers to go ahead and investigate marijuana-related crimes, and to confiscate anything that looks like it could be either hemp or marijuana. The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation has already been allotted funds to purchase and set up the testing equipment needed to measure percentages of THC. Prosecutors who wish to follow up on marijuana crime cases will just have to cross their fingers and hope that the equipment becomes available before the statute of limitations kicks in.

Even when the right testing equipment gets set up, some suspect that the recent legal change could have a long-lasting effect on how the city prosecutes marijuana misdemeanors. It may prove to be inefficient and costly to prosecute small-time dealers and individuals possessing small amounts of the drug.

Nonetheless, it’s probably too soon for cannabusiness to start investing heavily in Ohio – but it’s a state worth keeping an eye on.

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