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Close of Biz: Productive Thinking

Close of Biz: Productive Thinking …From the pages of South Jersey Biz…

Why you should be continuously motivating your employees.
To us, dress for success isn’t just a thing of the past – the age-old definition still holds true today. It’s just as important as ever to dress for the role you aspire to hold. – Alexis Wolfson

Keeping your employees engaged and focused is not always an easy task. At the risk of burning out your staff, a good leader knows when to push the right buttons. We asked some local executives for their advice on the best ways to keep morale high and productivity even higher.

JIM DAVIS, President/CEO, Hire Edge Logistics Personnel


ANGELA VENTI, Assistant Vice President, Investors Bank


ALEXIS WOLFSON, Human Resources Director, Conner Strong & Buckelew

QUESTION 1: Does dress for success still mean what it used to mean?
JIM DAVIS -- I believe it is just as important today as it was in years past. Traditional business people feel that it portrays a sign of respect for the work you do and the people you work with. It leads others to think of you as credible, respectable, and a leader in your craft. Just as important as “what’s on the inside” is what’s on the outside.

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ANGELA VENTI -- I believe that, in our industry, how you dress is still very important. We are always out meeting new people and potential clients. They say the first impression is made in the first seven seconds, and nonverbal communication is so important when it comes to someone’s impression of you, so appearance can definitely make a difference.

ALEXIS WOLFSON -- Dressing the part helps individuals command respect and also improves self-confidence. That said, casual Fridays are great for morale, and we have our own spin on them. We turn our casual days, called Jeans Days, into a company-wide philanthropic initiative. Employees who donate a minimum of $5 to that day’s designated charity can wear jeans to work.

QUESTION 2: Are employees more productive when they can dress comfortably and participate in events like casual Friday?
JD -- I look at this as two separate components, our personal lives and our business lives. We prepare our work day by getting dressed for a professional setting (if you are in that line of work) and then into casual attire once the work day is over. This ability to differentiate becomes clouded and less important when each day is casual day. I think the happy medium is allowing for casual Friday where employees feel comfortable and the perfect lead in to the weekend.

AV -- I think there is a time and a place for being relaxed and dressed casual. We do many community events—parades, an Earth Day event, soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity, etc.—and for these, we dress comfortable and appropriate for the work we will be doing. I personally do not associate being more productive with being casual; however, I know our employees love when we do a fundraiser or dress down day to raise money for a cause. I also believe that because we do it only a few times a year, it has that motivational effect.

QUESTION 3: What are some unique ways you inspire your employees, whether through team building exercises or otherwise?
JD -- When you think that most people spend at least 40 hours each week with their “work family,” it is critical to the health of any organization for there to be some sort of bonding experience or social event. On any given day you will find a high percentage of people engrossed in their work and eating lunch at their desk. We decided to have company paid lunches every Friday where we all push away from our desk and eat together in the conference room. This promotes great camaraderie and conversation amongst everyone in the company and helps create that feeling of community. The atmosphere is always upbeat and animated which provides a springboard of enthusiasm through the end of the day.

AV -- Our company does a Quick Start every day. It can be a motivational video, a game, an exercise, or a personality test that sheds some insight into your Emotional Intelligence (EQ). These huddles in the morning are a great way to get everyone laughing and building connectivity on the team.

AW -- Keeping employees inspired plays a huge role in achieving business success, and we engage our employees through a number of employee perks. Some employee favorites are our Employee Appreciation Days; Friday Jeans Days; 10 paid company holidays; and scheduled flexible working days, including summer hours, holiday shopping hours and early closings during long holiday weekends. Community Day, a program we rolled out in 2013 is also a great team-building day where our employees come together to volunteer at community organizations in our community. And, as an insurance and benefits brokerage and consulting firm, offering top-notch benefits is a top priority, and we provide our employees with extensive benefit plan options, company 401k match, traditional wellness programs and financial wellness programs.

QUESTION 4: How can you tell if an employee needs motivating?
JD -- This can be a multi-faceted problem for business managers and one not always easily recognized. What can appear to be an unmotivated employee may be that they are simply lost or caught in a performance slump. The feeling of frustration and failure take over and they fall into the proverbial rut. Helping this person experience one small success at a time may be all it takes to have them recharged and motivated once again. Generally speaking, you can usually tell if an employee needs to be motivated by body language, their engagement in the workplace, attitude, and overall contributions to the team.

AV -- We have many forms of measurement that can help if someone seems to have lost sight of our goals. We have customer surveys, reports that let the employee know how the customer experience is being perceived as well as internal goals that we are focusing on. When we see any of these items going off track, coaching is provided to help keep everyone moving in the right direction.

QUESTION 5: How often do you engage your employees to get a sense of morale and the current state of business?
JD -- I believe this is an ever evolving process. Being around employees on a daily basis in various settings should provide managers with a sense of intuition and insight that one of their team members are struggling or having a difficult time. Meeting with employees on a regular basis (weekly, biweekly, monthly) can provide a wealth of information on the status of that individual as well as the team. In a secure environment, people tend to open up with honest feedback and candor. The key is to use the information gathered and make the necessary changes or adjustments in the workplace. Honest appreciation can make the even the worst situation less harsh and confrontational.

AV -- There are weekly calls that give an overview of the company’s successes. We have quick starts daily. We have a monthly meeting in the office to cover compliance information, current goals, areas of concern, etc. We also do one event a month outside of the office, which builds our relationships in a different way, and this carries right back into the office.

QUESTION 6: How have you had to adapt your approach with regard to this over the years as times have changed?
JD -- Employees are all individuals with different personalities, values, and behaviors. What works for one person may not work for another in terms of motivation and disposition. Having the insight to recognize the salient or individual characteristics is having won the battle. It is difficult in a team environment to treat people differently as it contradicts that concept; however it is absolutely necessary at times to preserve the integrity of that element of the business. Once you have identified a person’s likes and dislikes and what they are passionate about, it is easy to move them along at the speed necessary to be productive and a contributor.

AV -- The culture here is very different and has definitely shown me outside the box ways to motivate my team. This attitude and spirit is not a small, localized policy—it is companywide and starts with our President and CEO Kevin Cummings.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 5, Issue 2 (February, 2015).
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Author: Editorial Staff--South Jersey Biz

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