Monday, April 22, 2019

Dealing with Disagreements in An Open Office

Dealing with Disagreements in An Open Office

Open floor plans and shared office spaces are the newest trends in building a sense of community and culture in the workplace, but with no tangible personal space and coworkers that don’t respect (or understand the concept of) boundaries, tension and arguments are almost certain to happen.
Instead of letting frustration fester or spending your lunch hour on a venting session with your spouse, address the issues and hash out your differences.
Understanding where communication breaks down and how to mend disagreements sooner than later protects productivity and is the key to creating healthy relationships at work.
Marshall shares a few mindful tips to help support you in creating an efficient and pleasant environment in your open office. 
In any working space, disagreements are sure to happen. When addressed constructively, open and respectful discussions about opposing positions or opinions can lead to stronger collaborations and increased workflow. Whenever possible, affected employees should engage in calm and collective conversation to resolve their differences.
Start by identifying why you’re upset. “What happened or didn’t happen?” “Is this about a mood or internal offense or something specific and actionable?”
Once you are clear, determine whether you communicated your expectations plainly and decide if you want to address the issue. If so, approach your co-worker calmly, walk through the situation, discuss what happened and what could have been done differently. The objective is to pinpoint the breakdown so that you (both) are able to create a solution and talk about how to handle it going forward. 
Note: Remain professional. Try to see things from their perspective and show them yours as well. Whether or not they are able to see from your point of view is out of your control. Remain solution focused.
I want to let you in on a little secret. Things often go wrong. When they do, avoid the temptation of separating yourself and placing blame. “It’s easier to blame because you don’t have to do anything – it isn’t your fault,” says Lisa Marshall. “Finding the culprit and washing your hands a situation is low-level behavior in professional settings. Be responsible for your actions, as well as, your reactions. Remember, if a train gets derailed, no one is getting to their destination.” The main objective when a problem arises is to solve the problem. Acknowledge your own actions that may have caused or fueled an issue and ask how you can make it right or assist in making it right – starting now. 
When you’re a child, the world revolves around you. We never really grow out of it. If somebody doesn’t respond to your cheerful “good morning” as you pass each other in the hall, you might think they don’t like you and are avoiding all interaction with you- when it probably has nothing to do with you. You never know what another person is going through internally that is causing them to show up in a less than stellar manner.
Practice saying this to yourself: “this has everything to do with them and nothing to do with me”. Taking yourself out of the equation allows you to release the personal offense and see the miscommunication or breakdown for what it is.
Give them the opportunity to share their perspective by asking these two questions: “Is everything ok?” “Did something happen to upset you?” This may get the dialogue started and if not, respect their stance and gracefully keep it moving because there is work to be done.
“If you never want to get into a disagreement, don’t ever say a word. ” Communication is a beautiful thing, but it has the potential of creating conflict, so we often avoid talking about disagreements for the sake of peace. In any relationship, avoiding communication is one of the fastest ways to destruction. If left unchecked, resentment will soon follow and darken our view, but communication is the light at the end of the tunnel. Keep the lines of communication open. Be upfront instead of sitting on your feelings.
Listen up- eight hours a day may seem minimal but consider this: Within your lifetime, you’ll spend rough 90,000 hours at work and at an increasing rate, the lines between work and home life are becoming blurred.  For many people, the biggest roadblock between them and their dream job is their mindset. When you’re feeling good, you’re able to focus and accomplish work at a higher rate, which in turn fuels continued success but the work begins with you. Be the example of the type of person you would like to work with and share those expectations out loud. You’d be surprised how freeing that honesty can be and you never know who you could be inspiring along the way.

Organizational Skills

Being Organized is a skill that most people can agree is key in the workplace. It is a skill that encompasses everything from the arraignment of your daily schedule to the items on your desk. The way that you choose to organize yourself can affect your focus, proficiency, and execution of work, as well as attitude and frame of mind.

Organizational skills can look different for different people, but detailed below are some helpful tools, suggestions, mindful practices that will assist in finding what would best help you.
Setting Goals and Objectives
SMART Goals are an excellent way to think strategically about goal settings. SMART stands for:
              S:       Specific
State exactly what you want to do. Use verbs, rather than statements. For example, writing “monthly meeting agenda” is different than writing “plan the monthly meeting agenda” or “email the monthly meeting agenda”.
              M:     Measurable
Give yourself some form of metrics to evaluate your task. (e.g. finish 50% of an article, complete 2/3 emails)
              A:      Achievable
                        Be realistic in setting your goals. Do not plan for more than you are able to complete.
              R:      Relevant
Ask yourself questions like: Is this goal in your work scope or your related job functions? Does this directly relate to what you need to accomplish?
              T:      Time-Bound  
                        Give yourself a completion date or time that you can stick to.

Defining your goals in this way is an excellent step to achieving task organization. And keep in mind that it is easy to become overwhelmed with the volume of work that needs to be completed. When that happens, keep this in mind: The Pareto Principle suggests that only 20% of your tasks produce 80% of your results. The majority of your attention should be focused on a small amount of your work.
Creating a Daily Plan and Focus
Create a plan than schedules your most important work first. Give these priority tasks the time and attention needed before scheduling others. Keep your focus the tasks at hand. Blocking time is an excellent way to keep focused. Pick a set amount of time to stay focused on one task or batch of work. Work for 25 minutes on one assignment or set of assignments and then take a simple break – no more than 5 minutes. That break can be changing gears to check emails or checking in with a co-worker. The idea of chunking your time helps keep your work at the center. Bringing like tasks together in the same space of time is also helpful. You will be in the same frame of mind when working on these tasks. In the same respect, responding to emails and phone calls can also be done in batches.
Multi-tasking is a killer when it comes to completing tasks. Your attention is being pulled in many directions and when you switch tasks, it can take your brain a full 64 seconds to refocus on the task at hand. If you are switching between 2 tasks every 10 minutes, you’ve lost at least 10% of your time trying to re-center your thoughts.

Track Your Success
Every time you accomplish something, think about what went right. What helped move you forward and make this successful. Did your success help achieve the most essential deliverables of the day? If you can answer “yes” that makes it easier to let go of any non-essential tasks that were not completed for the day.

Create your goals, make your plan, stay focused, and track your success. Creating habits is different for all people. But the only way to make something feel like second nature is to begin.

Gender Expression is a Protected Class!

Gender Expression is a Protected Class!

Effective February 24, 2019, New York state’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) made it unlawful for employers to discriminate against workers based on their actual or perceived gender identity or expression or transgender status. In the past, the NYSHRL (New York State Human Right Law) prohibited discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation but courts have not interpreted this category to extend to discrimination based on gender identity or expression. With the passage of GENDA, the NYSHRL prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression, extending significant protections to transgender and gender variant individuals across the state.

What is Gender Identity or Expression?

GENDA defines gender identity or expression as “a person’s actual or perceived gender-related identity, appearance, behavior, expression, or another gender-related characteristic regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth, including, but not limited to, the status of being transgender.” With this new addition to the NYSHRL, transgender employees across the state will receive additional protections against discrimination like those available under the New York City Human Rights Law, which already prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

What Protections do the NYSHRL offer?
The NYSHRL prohibits discrimination based on age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, marital status, or disability. Gender identity and expression is now included as a category. Discrimination occurs when an adverse action, such as discipline, termination, failure to hire, or refusal of services, is taken against an individual because they belong to one of these categories. The protections of the NYSHRL prohibit discrimination by employers, labor organizations, places of public accommodation, educational institutions, and housing establishments. The NYSHRL allows individuals who successfully establish discrimination to recover damages such as lost wages, emotional damages, and attorney’s fees.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Oh, how time flies

Oh, how time flies! Most business owners and working professionals are in full swing, claiming their 2019 business goals and the human resources department is no exception. The human resources department is busy throughout the year with a variety of duties, responsibilities and compliance requirements. To support your team in achieving their goals and staying on track, here is a month-by-month HR Compliance Checklist for 2019. Enjoy!

Tax season is steadily approaching! You’ll need to distribute employee W2s by the end of the month. The compliance deadline January 31. Partnering with your payroll department or payroll provider will ensure you meet this goal. Also, keep in mind that employees may have moved, changed bank accounts or gotten married, so the top of the year is a good time to remind employees to verify their contact and personal information.

Be sure that you have the most up-to-date taxation information from your employees, especially the IRS Form W-4. This form is critically important, as it determines how much taxes are withheld from your employee paychecks.

With the year-end is behind us, we can now shift gears from HR compliance and payroll to company culture and employee engagement. Spring is on the horizon, so now is as good as a time as ever to creatively support employees in shaking off the winter blues. Company lunch and learns are the newest trending perk that offer benefits for both employers and employees alike but the good ole’ fashioned happy hour on the boss is always an office hit. Both are sure fire ways to lift spirits and build employee morale.

April tends to be a quieter time for HR and payroll professionals. Why not kick off the 2nd Quarter with thorough review and reflection of last year’s major initiatives. Could your onboarding process use some tweaking? Could year-end have been smoother? April is also a great time to do some strategic planning for the rest of the year. Schedule one-on-one time with the boss and dig into the data.

Mid-year is the perfect time to have a close look at your performance management processes. There are a variety of performance review cycles on the market for use so spend time researching different models before deciding on the best option for your company. Follow up with management training that help your employees in supervisory roles provide effective feedback to their direct reports.

Tis’ the season for “fun in the sun’ and employee vacations, but have you done an audit of your Paid Time Off (PTO) Policy?  Examine employee PTO usage and determine whether or not your current policy is supporting a better work life balance and keeping employees refreshed and engaged. Summer is a great time to bring on interns, especially when full-time employees are traveling or working reduced hours.

The year is more than half over, so it’s a great time to get a read on how employees are feeling. Making your employees feel valued is important, helping you to build a strong workplace culture that makes your business a great place to work. Send out an employee engagement survey, and set aside time to tackle new initiatives that address employee pain points—such as commuter benefits, wellness programs, or unique perks. Remember, good feedback is the key to improvement.

In final days summer, turn your assessment inward. Carve out some time to focus your current skillset and career goals. Do you want to study for a new HR certification? Assess your career goals, and identify a few ways to get there. The key to getting your employer to pay for your education is convincing management of the benefits to the company that will result from the new skills and knowledge you will acquire.

Ah, that crisp fall air! Invite employees to come together for a company sponsored Day of Health where employee will participate in an outdoor physical activity, win prizes, and eat themed foods. And if you're looking for help with ideas to would attract the most employee engagement, send out an office survey!

For many companies, now is the time to deep dive into open enrollment. The key to a successful benefits plan roll-out is clear, concise and informative communication. Gather next year’s benefits offering and start highlighting major policy changes, key deadlines for enrollments and trends in the benefits space. In the spirit of health and well-being, don’t forget to encourage sick employees to stay home as the temperature begins to drop.

The holiday season is around the corner, so get ready for an spike in time-off requests. Putting a tracking and communication process in place for management, such as a shared master time off calendar, will allow your managers to be on the same page.  An office memo reminding employees to consider a satisfactory coverage plan for their departments is an added plus and fosters a community of collaboration.

The end of the year is a perfect time to thank you employees for their year of hard work! How do you show your appreciation? Holiday Party? Bonuses? Reward programs? Whatever you choose, ample employee recognition encourages employees to kick the new year off with a bang!

HR Note: Once again, HR should have accurate and updated information on all employees. Bear in mind that employees may have married, moved or changed banks, which could affect direct deposit. Remind employees to verify their contact and personal information with HR before the end of the year.

Time flies when you’re being productive! Next year will be here before you know and it’ll be time to start setting your new year's business goals. Until then, use this HR checklist to stay organized, remember compliance deadlines, and crush the rest of the year!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Accounting Check List and Timeline by Ashish Pamula

Like a human fingerprint, every business is unique in its own way. However, one of the common threads that allow every business to survive relies on the maintenance of its accounting processes. Keeping updated records and reviewing that information through the Balance Sheet and Income Statement helps establish the fiscal health of the organization. The business owner will then be able to act on this information and formulate better decisions as to the next steps in the development of the business. The following is a list of bookkeeping responsibilities that the accounting team or business owner should be on top of in order to keep a healthy set of books:

  • Chart of Accounts – Organizing the chart of accounts should be the first thing that is done prior to accounting for anything. The Balance Sheet and Income Statement are both made up of line items that make up your chart of accounts; Balance Sheet including assets and liabilities while the Income Statement includes income and expenses. The business owner along with the accounting team should review each line at the beginning of the year in order to ensure that they will be properly tracking the necessary items against their goals, as changing the chart mid-year can spoil historical information and consistency.

  • Cash on Hand – Knowing how much cash is in the bank account can give you a quick answer on how to plan for upcoming expenses. If checked daily, can also give an idea of the burn rate.
  • Record Daily Transactions – Many organizations lag behind on their daily accounting and are forced to throw together numbers that may not be trustworthy. Recording transactions (bills, invoices, checks, donations, etc.) as they come up is always the best option, and accounting software such as QuickBooks can help streamline the process. Additionally, keeping digital or paper records of all receipts associated with any transaction is also extremely valuable in classifying income or expenses.
  • Review Accounts Payable & Receivables – Any vendors yet to be paid for their services will accumulate in the Accounts Payable schedule while the Accounts Receivable schedule shows invoices that the organization has yet to receive the cash for. Evaluating these schedules will allow the organization to communicate with the vendor/customer on outstanding payment terms and keeping documentation of these transactions eliminates any miscommunications,
  • Process Payroll – Payroll can be handled through a third-party service or by the business owner, but both must be reviewed to ensure that applicable taxes are being withheld at the proper times (federal, state, social security, Medicare, etc.)

  • Reconcile Business Account – Many transactions flow in and out of the bank account on a weekly basis and reconciling the account can assist in catching any erroneous entries. This process is usually done at the end of each month once the bank statements are released but can be done as often as necessary.
  • Review Income Statement vs. Budget – The Income Statement and budget comprise of the same income and expense lines; the statement shows how much was actually earnt and spent for a certain period while the budget shows the planned numbers. Reviewing these two financial statements against each other can emphasize which areas are being over/underspent and need to be revised for the next budget.
  • Review Balance Sheet vs. Prior Period – Assessing the balances of asset and liability accounts against its prior period balances aids in showing how effectively these accounts are being managed. For example, comparing the current balances against the balances from two months ago will display any significant increases and allow the business owner to drill down on irregularities.
  • Compliance – Apart from accounting for payroll taxes and filing yearly tax returns, there are other steps to be taken in order to remain compliant with IRS. At the end of the year, W-2s are needed to report earnings of all full-time employees and 1099s need to be sent to all independent contractors who were compensated more than $600. The business owner should review all filing and tax deadlines, or at the very least connect with an accounting professional who can help prepare a compliance checklist.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Get Closer to a 10% Overhead Rate

In 2005, while working as a consultant to nonprofits, I learned of the ten percent rule that most nonprofits were striving to achieve. The ten percent rule was a theoretical limit on how much funds a nonprofit should spend on Administrative costs. The tagline at the time was “ninety cents out of every dollar donated went to serving the community.” Smaller nonprofits believe that this was the cause of them not getting the funding they needed because this percentage rule was almost impossible to attain. Smaller agencies began to assess that they were not efficient enough or that because of their size they could not reach the economies of scale needed to hit this mark.
The reality is one of two things, either most large nonprofits did not even try to hit this mark with most hovering around a thirty percent administrative rate. Or they managed to label costs and positions in a way that made them seem more program centered that they were.
The ten percent rule while not a practical policy still holds an ideological truth to all businesses. How do you, a business leader, reduce the cost of the administrative work so that you can spend more resources on the core mission of your business. There is essential work for every company; accounting, human resource management, marketing, administrative support. All these are not just wishful thinking items, but instead, they are critical to the survival of your organization. But too many leaders think the cost is a deterrent and end up suffering the painful truth that lack of this work is the cause of most businesses failing.
One way of avoiding this painful truth while also getting the most out of your limited resources is to outsource some the work.  A cost-effective and efficient consultant should be able to fit into one of four categories.
1.      Consulting: Find an agency that can help you develop the structure and guidance on business systems
2.      Training: Find an agency that can give you a formal understanding of how to manage items internally
3.      Support: Find an agency that can assist you in some tasks when you are not ready to outsource the functions
4.      Management: Find an agency with qualified specialists that will do the day to day administrative work leaving you with time and resources to invest on your core mission.
 Utilizing one or all of these categories will strengthen your ability to focus on your core mission, increase you and your company’s effectiveness, and get you closer to the ten percent rule.

Business Resources

The fact is that most small businesses including non-profits fail because of lack of resources. The issue is that most of the time when people refer to the lack of resources they are talking funding. But take a deeper look at that the funding was going to cover, Infrustrure, capacity development.  Businesses fail they are not able to allocate their limited resources correctly.  Leaders should lead and concentrate their efforts on the core mission of the organization and leave the business aspects of their business, accounting, HR management, and marketing to trusted external experts.

Dealing with Disagreements in An Open Office

Dealing with Disagreements in An Open Office Open floor plans and shared office spaces are the newest trends in building a sense of co...