While carefully selecting employees can help prevent human resources issues, your small business might still find it has hired a staff member who isn’t a good fit.
A number of issues may justify termination of an employee:
- Sub-par performance
- Disruptive or abusive behavior
- Repetitive tardiness
- Excessive or unapproved absences
In some circumstances, a warning, coaching, or amended responsibilities might correct the problem. Depending on the nature of the issue, however, you may find the best course of action is to part ways. Keeping employees on the payroll when they’re not measuring up to expectations could thwart your business’s growth, create a stressful working environment, and do permanent damage to your reputation.
In most states, an employee may be fired “at will”—at any time for any or no reason. However, there are limits and exceptions. For example, federal law prohibits employers from terminating employees for reasons of race, gender, age, religion, or a disability. Nor can you legally fire employees for complaining about illegal activities, health and safety violations, or discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Other exceptions may exist in your state as well.
According to SCORE mentor and human resources expert John Wojtecki, “Documentation is imperative. One must be consistent to document behavior, action, and results. Are there witnesses? Has there been a performance improvement plan developed and communicated to the employee? Make sure to have the employee sign that the plan has been communicated. It is always good to review with an attorney prior to the termination.”
If you believe you need—and have legal grounds—to fire an employee, document your reasons, all incidents that demonstrate them, and disciplinary measures (if any) prior to the termination. Having this information on record will give the employee an understanding of your decision, and it can help protect you against any claims of discrimination.
Plan to break the difficult news to the employee in a private setting with a witness present to observe the conversation. If you have concerns about the employee becoming violent, consider having security personnel nearby.
“In breaking the news to the employee, one should be straight and to the point,” suggests Wojtecki. “There should always be a witness to the discussion. Upon termination, the employee should be escorted to their workstation to collect their possessions, and escorted to the exit.”
Either during the meeting or in follow-up to it, you are required to inform the employee of eligibility for unemployment and any applicable optional continuation of benefits (such as health insurance). Also address any entitlement to accrued vacation pay or sick leave, outstanding commissions and bonuses, and not-yet-reimbursed company expenses.
Because of the potential legal ramifications when terminating an employee, make sure you do your research and consider consulting a human resources professional or attorney who can guide you. Also consider reaching out to your local SCORE chapter to talk with a mentor who can offer input, feedback, and guide you to knowledgeable resources within your community.
Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.
The etiquette of doing business abroad
Every facet of U.S. business abroad depends upon its international relationships. As a result, it’s vital that business professionals understand what is expected of and from him or her when visiting a foreign country on business.
According to Business Etiquette International, research and retain as much as you can about the specific region of the country you are visiting. Learn the cultural nuances of the area, and–at a minimum–be able to use the local words for “Yes,” “No,” “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Help.” Clients truly appreciate the visitor who is trying to speak their language, if only in a few words or phrases.
Keep in mind that etiquette has no uniform set of standards around the globe. A gesture or remark in the U. S. may have the opposite meaning in other cultures and countries.
Business relationships cannot be overstated in international business etiquette. How you meet and greet residents in a foreign country is probably the most important part of your visit.
Behavioral studies show that, in the U.S. and abroad, most people judge your social position, economic, educational, and success levels within 30 seconds of introduction. In the next five minutes, they also form their opinions about your intelligence, reliability, friendliness, and compassion, among other traits.
Be sure to rehearse your meeting in advance and dress for it in a manner reflecting the culture and your client’s expectations. Establish clear objectives for your meeting, communicate politely, and be upbeat.
The more you know and understand about the nation’s culture–and local language–the deeper your relationships will become.
The secret of telecommuter etiquette: communication
According to Commpro, definite etiquette factors are involved in being a responsible part- or full-time telecommuter.
Because the manager and co-workers don’t see the telecommuter every day, and his or her work may not be as visible or discussed, fitting into a workplace and the rapport so necessary to professional interaction and loyalty is often difficult to acquire and maintain.
Fortunately, the answer comes down to a single word: Communication.
Since the MIA remote worker is an employer’s worst nightmare, here’s how to stay in touch with the boss and co-workers as well:
1. Learn the communications equipment and apps and keep them in working order. It’s rude to fumble with the communication app when it’s part of your job.
2. Prepare for the worst. What if the power goes out? A generator might be helpful.
3. Appear at video meetings well-groomed and prepared.
4. Send regular updates about your availability.
5. When someone else schedules a virtual meeting, be on time, every time.
6. Maintain work hours. Working from home doesn’t mean you get to sleep late every day.
7. Don’t complain if you must go into the office and be prepared to do so regularly.
Three tips for showcasing soft skills on your resume
By defining your skills on your resume, you’re letting employers and recruiters know why you’re going to succeed in the job they’re trying to fill. While it’s important to list your hard skills — technical proficiencies you likely learned in school or in a prior position you held — it’s just as essential to showcase your soft skills — personal traits that indicate how you interact with others. Here are three tips for effectively presenting soft skills on your resume.
1. Only include relevant soft skills. Carefully look over the job posting and see which of the sought-after soft skills are ones you can lay claim to. You should also infer which additional soft skills are valued by the company or are relevant to the role by studying the job description, looking at the company website and researching the specifics of the position.
2. Set apart your soft skills. If you have an ample number of both hard and soft skills, present them in separate sections, which you might label respectively as “technical skills” and “additional skills.” This way, busy employers will see them when doing an initial scan of your resume.
3. Demonstrate your soft skills in action. Make sure to also weave your soft skills into the descriptions of your previous jobs. It’s easy to say you have a skill: illustrating that you have it is far more persuasive.
Once you’ve fine-tuned your resume, you can start thinking about the interview. Be prepared to elaborate on the skills you listed in your resume and think of supplementary ones you might mention.
What the best administrative professionals have in common
Administrative Professionals Day takes place this year on April 24 and Administrative Professionals Week occurs during the last week in April (April 21 to 27). The annual event strives to be a reminder for businesses across the country to acknowledge the devotion and hard work of administrative professionals.
These days, many businesses have entire teams of multitasking administrative professionals that keep their offices running smoothly. Administrative positions vary and those that have them may be office managers, executive assistants or secretaries. However, regardless of their exact position, administrative professionals must demonstrate core competencies that include the following:
• Computer skills. Not only do administrative professionals need to be quick with a keyboard, they also need to be computer literate. Creating spread¬sheets, word documents and presentations are all in a day’s work.
• Time management. It’s not uncommon for a secretary or administrative assistant to have many different tasks on the go at one time. The best will be able to prioritize and get everything done without breaking a sweat.
• Communication. Often working on the front line for an entire company, an administrative professional needs to be able to communicate with everyone, from CEOs and interns to suppliers and clients.
If you have an executive assistant, secretary or administrative assistant in your office that does an outstanding job, make sure you show your appreciation for the work they do this week and throughout the year.
This year, show your admin team you value their work with the gift of professional development. Consider sending your superstar administrator for training or to a conference to inspire them.
Successfully re-entering the workforce as a senior
Are you a retiree who’s looking for work? You’re not alone. There’s a growing trend among today’s seniors of returning to the workforce post-retirement. But to find a job in your golden years that’s gratifying and meets your financial needs, you’ll need to leverage the skills and knowledge you’ve built up over your lifetime.
Identify your assets
Before you put yourself out there, take a bit of time to pinpoint your skills and abilities. Consider proficiencies that you gained from your work experience as well as more general ones like time-management, leadership and communication skills. And don’t forget the life skills you’ve developed over the years in other areas such as in your role as a parent or mentor. You can even look to your hobbies and interests as a place to mine for hireable skills.
Consider a new career path
Consider the job market
Sometimes it happens that the primary skills you possess have become unmarketable due to advancements in technology or a change in your health or physical capacity. In such cases, it’s best to fall back on secondary knowledge and skills you’ve developed over the years.
Begin your job search online
If you’re looking to venture into the workforce, a good place to start is by scouting online job search sites such as Indeed and Monster. You may also want to build a public profile on the professional networking site, LinkedIn.
Legal issues crucial when forming small business
Entrepreneurs are busy people. They’ve got a ton of things on their mind from marketing and advertising to customer service and phones forever ringing to business appointments – and more. Unfortunately, legal and technical issues have to be attended to at the same time.
According to Entrepreneur magazine, small businesses need to take some basic steps as they grow.
- Set up the proper business structure. There are sole proprietorship’s, LLCs, S corporations, C corps, and partnerships. Choosing the correct one means learning the advantages and disadvantages of each. For example, as a sole proprietor, the business owner and the business are considered as one in the legal system. If your company is sued, all your personal assets are at risk. Corporate structures and LLCs offer protection of personal assets, although this protection isn’t a guarantee. Talk to a lawyer and accountant about the structure you need.
- Set up and follow customer service policies. When you access company websites, especially those that provide services of some sort, you’ll usually see a Terms and Conditions agreement. Included in this agreement are all the specifics for the use of your products or services and the customer’s obligations in that use. If you do not have this policy in writing and a box for a customer to check before a purchase, you are wide open to inclusion in a lawsuit should that customer become a defendant.
- Set up accounting and tax systems. Is your business subject to sales/VAT taxes? When must you file your business income tax returns? Do you need to make quarterly payments? Business tax laws are complex. You need a good business accountant–or at the very least, proven accounting software–to keep accurate records and file your taxes on time.
- Obtain appropriate and complete contracts with outside vendors. When you use the services of, or purchase raw materials from someone outside of your business, demand iron-clad contracts. Never agree to anything with a contractor without a legally-binding agreement with the terms and language set out clearly and properly.
- Get the proper documentation on employees. At minimum, before hiring, document and verify past employment. After hiring, document work hours, complaints, responsibilities and attendance issues such as sick days, personal days off, and vacation.
Be sure to specify, in writing, work expectations – including whether work can be done remotely.