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Employee Scheduling Trends that Deserve to Continue Even After the Pandemic

trends to continue after pandemic

It’s been a long time since you could assume that the majority of your team is at it from 9 to 5. The “global village� means that work doesn’t end when the sun sets or markets close in your time zone, and the rise of flexible working patterns made it even more complex to coordinate employee schedules.

The best employee scheduling strategies consider employee preferences as well as employer needs and consumer demands, but the enormous number of moving parts – operational needs, budget, regulations and compliance – can make it all very difficult to manage.

COVID-19 has only exacerbated the situation in many industries. Employees who are high risk may be unable to work, or can only take shifts with little contact with the public or when only a skeleton staff is present. Workers grappling with unpredictable childcare needs and unreliable transport can cause even more last-minute changes than usual.

Scheduling conflicts can cause bad feeling in a company, but it doesn’t have to be that way. New advances in tech and better communication between employees and managers help enterprises get employee scheduling right, which improves employee experience and in turn pushes up employee retention and satisfaction.

The exigencies of COVID-19 pushed new trends in employee scheduling, which may be worth continuing even when the pandemic fades into memory. Here are a few scheduling trends from 2020 that are worthy of sticking around.

Scheduling is becoming more flexible

Scheduling that is more flexible is also more complex, but flexibility is crucial for a happy, motivated workforce under pandemic conditions. Employees with more flexible scheduling arrangements report higher wellbeing, more engagement, and more effectiveness at work than those stuck in inflexible scheduling.

For example, mothers working remotely with flexible, efficient schedules that match their availability are three times more likely to have positive wellbeing than those with inflexible, inefficient scheduling.

Although employees may be coping, everyone has their own challenges. “In driving new mindsets and behaviors (such as adapting to a new virtual-working model) at scale, it’s important to engage employees in a continual two-way dialogue that takes into consideration their specific needs, allows them to configure their own journeys,� says Jonathan Emmett, associate partner at McKinsey. Even people who love their jobs need accommodation for whatever else is going on in their lives.

Self-scheduling software invites employees to choose their own shifts, make last-minute changes, book vacation days, and check their schedules independently and remotely. This helps employees to feel more in control, which is especially important during such unstable and uncertain times, increasing employee engagement and satisfaction.

AI is bringing intelligence to scheduling

AI is stepping into many more HR use cases. Now managers can use AI tools to predict changes in consumer demand, and plan ahead to meet altering workforce needs.

For example, surging customer numbers in the winter holiday shopping season can require more retail assistants; a sunny day could tempt more diners to a cafe in the park, needing the addition of more waiters; rolling out a new product version might prompt you to increase customer service agents to answer user questions, etc.

With AI and machine learning, HR teams can analyze employee strengths and weaknesses to understand which employees work best together. With these insights, you can construct the strongest possible on-schedule teams for every situation and place the right person on duty at the right time.

Employees expect remote and mobile scheduling

Managing employee scheduling manually, even with an Excel spreadsheet, has long been a joke, but today, employees and HR managers simply can’t live without remote and mobile access to cloud-based scheduling tools that sync automatically to allow use anywhere.

The COVID-19-driven shift to WFH only underlined the importance of cloud-based systems for scheduling. We live our lives on our phones, from ordering dinner to taking out a mortgage, so it’s understandable to assume that scheduling software would include a mobile app.

“You want to make it easy for your staff to access their schedules from anywhere. This isn’t possible with desktop software,� writes tech expert Neil Patel in his scheduling tool drill-down. Beyond mobile-friendliness, he continues, “The best tools will also have shift swapping, employee self-service tools, HR features, labor cost management, leave management, attendance tracking, team messaging, overtime control, time clocks, etc.�

In today’s dynamic work environments, HR needs the ability to respond to scheduling changes on the fly, ensuring that they don’t cause your entire month-long schedule to fall apart, and requesting that someone else to step in without breaking your own rules or creating a sense of injustice among your workforce.

Employers are upping the ante in communication

Employee scheduling flows more smoothly with excellent communication that increases trust relationships, creating a virtuous circle where efficient scheduling itself raises trust.

Employee trust is high at the moment, with “my employer� as the most trusted institution and 73% of workers agreeing they trust businesses to protect them by adapting scheduling and sick-leave policies as necessary. But you can’t take this for granted.

Employers need to keep up and even improve employee communications. “Given the present state of low trust, business will have to fill a further void, that of credible information,� says Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman Holdings. “For CCOs, it is time for you to initiate regular briefings for employees by your chief scientist or medical officer, to provide trustworthy content that can be shared with employee families or community.�

Enterprises should continue communicating around scheduling, asking how employee needs may have changed (e.g. working parents may prefer a night shift now) and accommodating them as much as possible.

Encourage employees to share their concerns; create more channels for communication between employees and managers and among employees themselves; and open up the conversation around mental health and anxiety, to reinforce trust and improve your understanding of factors that may influence scheduling.

Not all scheduling changes prompted by COVID-19 should fade away

Employee scheduling has never been easy, and with more moving parts, increasing globalization, and the new stresses of COVID-19, it’s only gotten more complex. But necessity is the mother of invention, and so we’ve seen new tech and trends emerge of using AI for intelligent scheduling, supporting scheduling on the hoof, enabling flexible scheduling, and building communication into schedule planning.

Holding onto these new best practices after the crisis of coronavirus has passed can make companies stronger and more resilient in the long term.

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4 Partners that Have the Biggest Impact on Your Business

partners impact

No business is an island unto itself — companies need strong partnerships to survive. Every contract you sign, and every hand you shake represents the beginning of a relationship, one that can have an immense impact on how you do business. 

It can be difficult to know ahead of time how a certain partnership will affect your company. While you may never be able to know for certain whether or not a partnership will be symbiotic in the long-term, you can start by identifying the partners most crucial to your operations. While every company is different, they all need a key group of allies to survive, such as:

1. Accountants

You may make money, but accountants are the ones who help make that money work for you. Considering the key role that accounts play in making businesses work, far too many leaders don’t feel their trusted partners are doing enough. According to a report published by payroll services company OnPay, only 61% of small business owners are delighted with the range of services their accountant provides. If you want that partnership to work, you need to find an accountant ready to meet your needs.

Businesspeople tend to think of accountants as a homogeneous group, but this is far from the truth: up to one-third of accountants now consider themselves specialists, with even more on their way to becoming ones. Don’t feel the need to settle for the first accountant you come across; do a thorough search for an individual with specialties that match the way you do business.

2. Vendors

Your company needs stuff, and your vendors get you the stuff you need — simple, right? As most business leaders know, the reality is far more complicated than that. Working with vendors means managing logistics, costs, and establishing a healthy rapport, sometimes with dozens of different companies at once. It’s no wonder that, according to a survey done by TechRepublic, 57% of IT departments are now spending more time on vendors than they did just two years ago.

Working successfully with vendors means finding the right fit early on. While you may be tempted to jump on a good deal when you see one, you’ll have to work closely with a vendor for what may end up being years into the future — not even the best prices can save a doomed relationship. Ensure that other factors like location, company size, and client number all check out; the result will be better procurement for you in the long run.

3. Lawyers

While corporate spending on outside lawyers may be plummeting, most small and many mid-sized businesses simply can’t afford to have an in-house legal team. If you’re forced to have your legal work done outside the office, you know that the right lawyer can do wonders for your company — and the wrong one can hurt big.

Lawyers are even more likely to be specialized than accountants, so there’s no excuse not to find someone fully capable of taking on any challenge you may throw at them. Because most charge by the hour, you can also have several different lawyers, each prepared to take on whatever challenges they’re best suited for — whatever makes the most sense for your business.

4. Property Management

Never before has the importance of having a good relationship with your property manager been so clear: 25% of small businesses have not paid full rent on time since March, according to referral network Alignable. In times like these, having the right property manager is the difference between operation and eviction — a difference that can mean the whole world for some companies.

As with vendors, never choose a location based on price alone: you may be able to afford it now, but what will things look like if you have to delay payment for a couple of months? Connect with a property manager interested in more than just on-time payments; if you can find someone invested in your company’s mission, you’re bound to have a better relationship in the long run. 

If you can learn a lot about a person by meeting their friends, you can learn more about a business by researching their partners. The agreements you enter into will define your company for years to come, so be sure to choose them carefully.

Image credit: fauxels; Pexels

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How Can a Startup Compete with Big Companies

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Entering the market flooded by well-known companies is quite a challenge. Yet, not for those who know the market rules and turn them into their advantage. If you’ve founded a startup and aren’t quite sure how to make a way among your renowned competitors, you’ve got to the right article. There’s something you can do. Let’s take a look at how startups can compete with big companies.

Create strong positioning

So why should customers choose your brand? Understand what you offer and who you offer it to. If you don’t see what is so special about you, believe me, your clients won’t see either.

What you really need is a precise and catching positioning. It can be challenging for a small company, but here are some practical tips to start with:

  • Study your clients. Make short interviews with your clients. Outline your Ideal Customer Profile. Here’s a simple guide to help you move with it. You need to understand what made them choose you over the big guy. Gather all the answers into one pool and outline your strong sides.
  • Learn your competitors. Conduct research of your 10-15 nearest competitors. Examine everything they offer: their services, USPs, clients’ reviews (don’t forget about negative ones, you can overrun them here). Think about your niche. It can be either wide or super narrow. Our reality creates new opportunities for new niches. You always can try to make the most of the situation. In the wake of Coronavirus, there are also new directions and niches to jump in. Just dig through some recent trends, statistics, or articles.
  • Word your USP. Having analyzed your competitors and clients, create a unique and most appealing product offer. It shouldn’t be written on 5 pages, rather short and precise.
  • Brainstorm ideas with your team ― there is no need to invent a bicycle again, just find a new way to ride it. If you feel that you need external expertise, outsource a marketing expert or business analyst to help you create a strong positioning.

Use great storytelling

When you compete with big brands, good storytelling is essential. Tell stories that impress, charm, and win your customers. Stand out with creativity and a nice brand story. Here’s some inspiration from startups that have done it:

  • Let’s look at the Dollar Shave Club ― a company that delivers razors and other personal grooming products to customers by mail. They’ve used the power of storytelling to create an ad that got over 26M views. The startup got more than 12,000 orders in the first 48 hours.
  • Another case is the Death Wish Coffee company. It uses great storytelling on its website to stand out in a very busy coffee business niche. Just imagine, how can a startup distinguish itself in the coffee industry? But they did it.
  • The Saddleback Leather Co. developed a great legend behind its brand with a 100-year warranty. Just look at their slogan ‘They fight for it when you are dead’. The company sells all sorts of leather goods, including a reusable toilet roll for $1,000,000.

Be convincing. You have to be 100% in love with what you’re doing to make others love it, too. Tell your story with passion, advertise your products with enthusiasm, be proud of what you offer. It’s not only important to attract customers but also to engage investors in supporting your business. Although there are tons of various “investor hunting” guides (fulcrum dot rocks) useful and explicit articles, communication is still the most effective instrument.

Go mobile

Everybody is going mobile. It’s a fact. Small companies need to adopt newer technologies faster than the big guys. So, catch the trends. Develop a fault-tolerant, smart, new mobile or a web app. Make it as fun and interactive as you can. Don’t overthink it but use the popularity of mobile apps for your benefit. Think through the features your app needs to impress the clients, calculate approximate costs, start developing it.

How can a startup compete with big companies through an app? Huh, in many ways. After all, it depends greatly on your niche. A really good app enables you to provide extraordinary customer service. It allows you to communicate with your clients and turn them into brand advocates. Finally, a popular app can always bring you additional money through advertising and cooperation models.

Your app shouldn’t be generic. You can add crazy filters, animations, Easter eggs ― anything to make yourself stand out from the staid and boring big companies who are too scared to be creative. It’s a win-win solution.

Be an underdog. It’s cool

We watch movies about underdogs all the time. Everyone roots for little guys. For instance, Rudy, Forest Gump, and the Karate Kid have had us digging deep for the unexpected hero, the one who punches above their weight. In the modern world, underdogs rule.

Thus, Harvard Business School even offers two key factors which help underdogs to win:

  • A position that looks like you’re at a disadvantage. As to the study, this seemingly disadvantaged position in the marketplace is critical for business growth ― people do want the underdog to succeed.
  • Showing your passion and determination. Being more determined than others about your goals, not giving up, and hitting obstacles along the way gives people hope and shows that success is still possible in a challenging environment. That’s why they are more likely to choose an underdog over a big player who had it all way easier.

What’s more, Harvard Business School has created a series of studies that have tested how effective an underdog biography can be for a business to increase purchase intention as well as brand loyalty. So, take a look and catch some inspiration from there.

Go extra mile

Offer your clients extra in everything you do: your product, your customer service, etc. When clients feel that you care about them, they will not just return to you, they will recommend you to others.

Here are some simple and quite obvious tips on how to compete with big brands through your service:

  • Always attend to your customers quickly. Set up a quick auto-response for the customers’ inquiries or make sure to hire a 24/7 customer support specialist.
  • Make regular audits to check the quality of your products and services. You can use the help of your already existing clients. Make a short query asking them what they like and don’t like about your startup. By this, you will do both: find out your gaps and show the customers that you care.
  • Meet and exceed your promises. Set up high-quality service standards and define your added values. Added Value means something extra to add to your product or service. Study what your clients have to say ― what is the thing they like the most.

Establish a strong Content Marketing strategy

Whatever online strategy you use, your Content Marketing is going to have an impact on every other part of your plan. It’s possibly one of the most important pillars of your Marketing.

Start building your strong content marketing strategy, make sure that you:

  • Use a well-planned SEO strategy to get high Google rankings for the customers you want. If your keywords are too competitive, try to use longer ones (LSI Keywords). Here’s a 9-step guide to help you with building the right SEO strategy.
  • Take advantage of the power of Google Ads to increase your audience. PPC (Pay per Click) campaigns are a good way to raise awareness about your startup as well as to attract potential customers.
  • Don’t underestimate social media. Nowadays it’s a good tool to promote your business. So, harness your social media marketing to engage more customers and develop your brand awareness.

Having good content marketing can be a relatively cheap way to market your brand, but it’s essential for startups because it’s a way to show off your expertise and become an authoritative voice in your industry. In general, digital marketing should not be underestimated before. Not it is becoming one of the strongest sides of your overall marketing strategy. To understand why so, make sure to read this brief yet informative piece.

Wrapping up

Competing with big brands isn’t an easy task, but it makes the game all the more interesting! After all, famous brands don’t have your creativity, your bold ideas and courage.

The success of your business is in your hands, not sitting in the clutches of your biggest competitors.

So, here’s just one more reminder of things you need to get done:

  • Work on strong positioning of your startup
  • Attract everyone’s attention with your storytelling
  • Invest in a fault-tolerant, mobile/web app
  • Go extra mile for your clients

My best advice for you is this: Don’t second guess. Don’t wait. Don’t be hesitant. Do it.

 

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