4 pre-pandemic habits to leave behind when going back to the office

Office workers stock
Leaders should consider leaving behind office “norms” that no longer fit into the post-pandemic structure.

  • Work and the workplace office structure has evolved as a result of the pandemic.
  • Leaders should consider making changes post-pandemic to be more supportive of employees.
  • Long meetings, long commutes, and pressure to work when sick should be left behind.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the pace of vaccinations accelerates and states loosen mask-wearing and social-distancing restrictions, employers are spending a lot of time determining how to safely bring people back into the office. But health and safety measures aren’t the only aspects of workplaces that need to evolve. Leaders should use this opportunity to part ways with office norms that no longer serve their employees – and maybe never did.

While it’s natural to want to return to “the way things were,” instead of harping on nostalgia and what will be missed, you need to think about the long-term changes you can make in how your office works rather than temporary changes driven by the pandemic.

Here are four things I believe will make the office better if we leave them in the pre-pandemic era:

1. Hosting long and laborious meetings

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the number of meetings per person has risen by 12% since the pandemic, yet the average length of a meeting has declined by 20%. That means that despite people’s calendars getting booked more often, there’s a bigger appetite for bite-size meetings over the longer 60- or 90-minute sessions.

While COVID restrictions may force us to rethink meeting rooms, I’d challenge us to rethink the meeting itself. Let’s make better use of our time and energy by sending a pre-meeting memo and using our time together to align on actions and decisions. Or, rather than spending 30 minutes walking through updates, consider a Loom video and allow folks to react and respond asynchronously.

2. Scheduling after-work events

Before the pandemic, there was the notion that bonding and networking only happen in person. And those opportunities often happened after 5 p.m. Whether you’re a caregiver, have hobbies outside of work, are an introvert, or just want brighter lines between work and fun, we need to be more intentional about creating meaningful connections with our colleagues while still allowing folks to keep their work-life balance.

Instead of defaulting back to in-person, after-work events, I’ll be looking to add breaks within the workday where teams can connect and socialize that don’t start super early or end late so that everyone can attend whether they are in the office or working remotely.

3. Coming into the office when you’re sick

We’ve all felt the existential dread of walking into a conference room with someone who is coughing and sneezing. The only way we can return to working from an office is to learn from the past year and err on the side of caution when it comes to health.

My hope is that after a year of normalizing the concept that work isn’t just a place, employees will be more comfortable with staying home when feeling under the weather. It simply isn’t worth putting other employees and teammates at risk. For managers and leaders, the end of the pandemic shouldn’t mean the end of encouraging people to avoid the office if they aren’t feeling well.

No one should be expected to show up and tough it out, and no one should be rewarded for doing so.

4. Sitting through painful commute times

The average American worker spent 225 hours, or well over nine full calendar days, commuting before the pandemic. Seventy-five percent of Americans typically travel by car to get to work, which also has a negative impact on carbon emissions. There are definitely advantages to a commute, including separation between work and home and time to think or read, but for many people, commuting for hours at a time is something they would like to avoid doing every single day.

Providing options for employees to work when and where they work best will continue to be the best strategy for hiring and retaining top talent, and create less congestion on the road in the process.

While some have been counting down the days until they return to the office, there are a lot of people who are nervous about what that will look like and what’s expected of them. As business leaders, the return to the office is an opportunity to rebuild what worked and rethink what didn’t. Regardless of what you choose to keep or leave behind, your strategy should be rooted in empathy, clear communication, and a mission to create a better workplace than the one we left.

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5 employee retention strategies to keep working mothers – and all caretakers – from feeling burned out

Working mom
The flexibility to work from home is one great way to keep mothers and caretakers on staff long-term.

  • The pandemic has upended how we work, and employers have found creative ways to retain hard workers.
  • Parents and other caregivers need more flexibility to manage their jobs and their families at the same time.
  • Employers can help by looking at their employees’ lives holistically and making adjustments.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

During the depths of the pandemic, business owners had to get creative about keeping their best employees – especially moms, who were more likely to have to quit their jobs to care for school-age kids and sick family members. Now, with a light at the end of the tunnel, many entrepreneurs have no desire to go back to 2019.

Their pandemic-era strategies, devised to help hold onto parents, are helping them retain valued employees, recruit talent, and often, work more efficiently. Here are the parent-friendly strategies that entrepreneurs are employing for the long haul:

1. Keep working from home, mostly

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has had lasting effects on attitudes about remote work. While only 13% of companies say they’re giving up their offices for good, only 17% plan to go back to the office full time. And a number of entrepreneurs say this sort of flexibility is exactly what working parents need.

Gita Bhargava, the cofounder of outsourced HR and payroll services provider Global Upside, always thought the best way to bring new employees up to speed was to have them sit next to her. However, that’s not always practical. Her company has 500 employees in 170 countries, each with its own complex legal and regulatory requirements.

“The pandemic has opened my eyes,” she said. “I have changed my mind completely.” She used to think it was difficult to hire people with the experience she needs; now, she hires for fit – regardless of location – and trains new hires to do the work. “You can be working anywhere in the world,” she said. “And if you are working at home, I will be calling you to tell you not to burn the candle at both ends. The sky will not fall because you didn’t answer your email today.”

At Upside, an 85-person corporate travel company, the onset of the pandemic coincided with the expiration of the company’s lease. (Travel company Upside is unrelated to HR company Global Upside.) Its CEO, Scott Case, who was also the founding CTO of Priceline.com, decided the company would go fully remote, for good. Aside from the real estate savings, he wanted to give the parents on staff a bit of certainty at a particularly uncertain time. Those with families far away could move closer to them to get child care support, without having to worry that they’d lose their jobs once it was safe to go back to the office. A handful of people, said Case, left the company, saying they counted on having some social interaction at work. Case said he’ll get the staff together, maybe once a quarter, when it’s safe to do so. “We could have a really great party with the money we’ll save on real estate,” he said.

Talia Goldstein, the founder and president of matchmaking service Three Day Rule, ran a fully remote company before the pandemic. Her matchmakers never would have been in the office anyway, since their job was to meet potential matches for their clients.

Now those same interviews are conducted via video, and Goldstein said her company is never going back. Her team saves on travel time this way, she said, but that’s not even the biggest advantage. In interviews, matchmakers are asking people about their dating history, their family life, and other personal topics. Now, they’re finding those conversations are flowing more easily.

“Maybe people were a bit nervous because at a coffee shop, there are people around them,” she said. “They are much more comfortable divulging information on video. That part is so much better.”

2. Stay flexible with schedules and time on the job

For many families whose school-age kids are suddenly at home, 9-to-5 is no longer the peak productive time for work. Strongsuit, a 15-person company that provides families with a tech-enabled chief of staff, already had a customer service team that was fully remote. But in the spring of 2020, those employees started asking for various changes in their working hours. When plan B didn’t work either, employees would ask for yet another schedule – and likely, yet another change after that. Founder Lindsey Michaelides realized her staff needed total flexibility, even though her customers were accustomed to near-instantaneous response times.

Michaelides started by trying to reset customer expectations, letting them know that any message not marked “urgent” might have a 24-hour turnaround time. As a company that was started to support parents, she explained, it needed to make this change to support the parents on its own staff. “The customers were amazing,” said Michaelides. “We got applause.” It’s a relief for the employees, too, said Michaelides: “It gives them total control.”

In some cases, even total control wasn’t enough. Strongsuit has allowed its employees to reduce the overall number of hours they work, if necessary. Customer service staff were supposed to commit to at least 30 hours a week; now, some work just 15 hours a week.

3. Work smarter, with batch processing and asynchronous communication

Colugo, an 11-person Philadelphia-based company that makes baby gear, also found it had to offer flexible hours so its employees – eight of whom have young kids at home – could try to deal with both parenting and work. But the company also realized it needed to work smarter. One answer: batch processing. If a customer needed a refund, a team member used to see that request in Slack and respond right away. Questions about inventory were handled similarly.

But cofounder Christy MacGregor realized the inventory and refund requests weren’t actually urgent. So why not handle them all at once?

“A lot of this can be batch processed more efficiently,” she said. Now the person working on the last shift of the day will do all the inventory work in one go. Refunds get handled similarly. “The pandemic has forced us to become more efficient and find better ways to work,” said MacGregor. “We definitely want to continue that.”

4. Limit meetings

Employees who need maximum flexibility often find that meetings are the bane of their existence – or at least of their calendars. So Strongsuit’s Michaelides is on a quest to get rid of as many meetings as she can. The company’s daily standup now takes place on Slack. Instead of asking everyone to dial in at the same time, every day, a Slackbot programmed by one of the company’s developers walks them through a series of questions: How are you showing up today? What are your top three priorities? What are your needs of your teammates? What are you grateful for today?

All-hands meetings went from weekly to biweekly to quarterly. Team meetings, which used to take place weekly, are now every other week. “Do we need the all-hands meetings?” Michaelides wondered. “Or can we keep up the cultural health of the organization if we move it to Slack?”

5. Support mental health days

A few founders said they are reinforcing the idea of mental health days. Even with so-called unlimited vacation, they say, employees are reluctant to take time off. So they’re assigning everyone mental health days, often once a quarter, on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. All staffers are expected to take them, which helps remove some of the stigma that employees might feel if they’re perceived to be struggling.

“How do I have a conversation where I can say, look, you’ve had a lot of crazy shit going on. Maybe you need to take a day,” said Upside’s Case. The goal of the quarterly mental health day, he said, “is to help normalize that conversation.”

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What to do during a new hire’s first 90 days to increase retention and job satisfaction

young workers in office
Note your new hire’s passion and find a way to have them align it with your company’s vision.

  • A company’s onboarding process should ensure new hires stick with the company for the long haul.
  • In the first 90 days, new employees should shadow veteran colleagues to acclimate more seamlessly.
  • Build trust with new hires by allowing them to manage projects as part of their onboarding process.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When you consider the financial loss and productivity impact of employee turnover, bringing on top talent committed to your company matters.

Effective employee onboarding ensures that your team members remain with your company for the long haul. That said, here are the four steps to take within the first 90 days of an employee’s time in the office if you really want them to stick around.

1. Have a shadow period

On day one, you don’t want to spoon-feed your new hires, nor should you feed them to the wolves. Implement a shadow period during which new hires meet with and work alongside ideal colleagues. During this time, they can learn the intricacies of the company without bearing full responsibility.

While it may be tempting to push them into the deep end and see whether they sink or swim, that is a surefire method to drive new employees away and leave them feeling undervalued and unsure. You might need their help immediately, but practice patience. View your onboarding process as though you are planting a seed to grow, not replanting an already grown tree. When you hire, build in this 90-day period when you don’t place tremendous expectations on their contributions to the immediate needs of the business.

2. Instill the company vision

Before their first day on the job, employees at my company know the company’s mission and values. Our onboarding process actually begins during the interview itself. I encourage hiring managers to share the company mission documentation within an interview and then asking the potential hire where and how their role fits into this vision. This way, they walk into the company knowing where they can contribute and how their efforts will make a difference.

Employment is a two-way street, so be sure to marry your company values to your employees. One of my newest hires has a very clear drive to help people and values the mission to make the world a better place. I made note of this and have been using her expertise on the projects that directly impact our community. When you understand where your employee’s values align with your company’s vision, it becomes clear how to bring the two together and, in turn, create dedicated employees.

3. Unleash opportunity

When hiring or searching for top talent, my focus lies on how somebody works versus what they have accomplished previously in their career.

I allow employees to fully own a project and communicate that they have access to every resource I can make available to them. This provides them with an immediate sense of trust, which leads employees to feel empowered to take action based on their knowledge and instinct. This project not only empowers them, but also reveals how resourceful they can be, how willing they are to explore and support alternative options, and how capable they are of making sound decisions.

4. Assess their standing

Once the 90-day window winds down, have a performance review scheduled in advance. Use this as a conversation to see what is working and what isn’t. Leverage this time to help build their foundation within the role and better understand gaps or areas where the onboarding can be improved for the future. Remember, every new hire is an opportunity to build your team and improve your processes.

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ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia on how her Indian American heritage inspired her to create a $1 billion business

Bollywood Dance Group
Payal Kadakia launched ClassPass as a service to search for fitness options, but it has expanded into much more.

  • Payal Kadakia is an entrepreneur and founder of ClassPass, an app and subscription service for fitness classes.
  • Growing up she says she thought she had to separate and hide her dual identities – American and Indian.
  • She was inspired to create a space to celebrate both of her cultures, and it became a billion-dollar business.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Payal Kadakia launched ClassPass in 2013 as a service to search for fitness options. Today, it’s an international membership booking platform for classes and services, from Pilates to haircuts to, recently, Covid-19 vaccinations – and is valued at $1 billion. Prior to founding her company, Kadakia was a Bain & Company analyst with a passion for Indian folk dance, which she began practicing at age 3. Her parents immigrated in the late 1970s from Gujarat, India, raising her in a rich culture – though she felt ostracized from her broader community at times. The duality she cultivated and later broke away from shaped her entrepreneurial journey.

– As told to Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

I grew up in Randolph, New Jersey, where I was one of the only Indian girls. We were one of the only Indian families. People didn’t understand who I was, or where I came from. I definitely got made fun of. People didn’t want to be around the person who was different. When you’re a kid, that makes a very big impression on you.

I had been bullied for so long I tried to hide my cultural heritage.

For example, I was a cheerleader. And I would have Friday night football games. There was a huge Indian festival called Navratri, which is my favorite festival of the year. The whole next town nearby would get together. And we would dance until two or three in the morning. I literally rushed from the football game and changed in my car into full-on Indian garb to go to the festival. This was the duality I lived with.

In a town down the road, there was another Indian community. There, I started doing Indian folk dance, and I found a group of people who were like me. I found a place in this community where I could connect with people because they looked like me and understood me. My cultural heritage had been so positive at home. Seeing how my mom and dad lived their lives, being in a country where they didn’t always understand everything, had been inspirational. My mom never took the idea that she couldn’t do something just because she didn’t understand it. She worked the night shift, and my dad worked during the day, because they couldn’t afford childcare. There was never a dead end.

When I went to college, a beautiful thing happened where I started really feeling OK in both skins.

I began seeing other people who were Indian – who kind of fit in. Dance was a huge part of it for me. It allowed me to care about who I was even more. I stopped feeling like I was different and started owning who I was.

I started a dance company called Sa Dance. I was inspired by watching Alvin Ailey, one of the greatest African-American dance companies in the world. I saw that the messages of your people can be represented through dance. Art is such a beautiful way of sharing messages of culture. Let me show you the beauty of it, the richness of it, how ancient it is, who my ancestors are. I started feeling like I was creating and leading and communicating about my culture. Dance became a vehicle for my coping.

When I started working on ClassPass, simply by building a company in fitness, I was in a roomful of men, most of the time.

Investors didn’t really know what I was talking about. I was just so unique in so many of the rooms I was in. But I’m also 4-foot-11. I’m a very petite Indian woman. I didn’t look like anyone I was ever in a room with. It took me three years to get my product right. When it worked, all of these investors and individuals who I had talked to in the previous three years were all of a sudden saying, “Hey, let me give you money!” And I’m thinking, “Why didn’t you bet on me before?” That’s the conversation that I sometimes have with myself about it: I didn’t fit their mold.

One of the biggest reasons I became an entrepreneur is I felt like I never fit into those environments – even my job in corporate America. Part of it was my cultural background, part was because of my artistic background. I needed to create an environment where I knew I could be like all colors of who I am. We obviously see this problem in the female-male dynamic that’s happening right now where capital is being deployed. But it’s the same thing when it comes to messages of culture.

I remember needing to hide. I remember needing to hide dance, being scared of sharing that part of myself with people. I realized over time that it has made me only stronger in everything I do. But other people need to have that ability to be their whole selves as well. In the press, people who look like me are not always represented. I didn’t see Indian people on the cover of magazines or on billboards. This is America, you know what I mean? We are a part of the population! And I think we’re really proud of who we are, and we’ve accomplished a lot. I want people to know that.

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5 ways to make your marketing and branding more memorable

marketing and advertising
Marketing should be exploratory and dynamic to capture the interest of the new generation of customers.

  • Modern customers respond better to marketing that’s more personalized and interactive.
  • Customers tend to advocate for brands they have great relationships with via positive experiences.
  • This type of marketing helps businesses build loyal and recurring customers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As a business consultant, I often have to remind small-business owners that their marketing needs to be more interactive, versus the traditional “push” model, where you broadcast your message to as many people as possible.

New generations of customers respond better to the “participative” approach, where they get to provide input via social media and the internet.

It started a few years ago with email satisfaction surveys after an online purchase, but now includes interactive internet ads, as well as custom requests for input on the design of future products and influencers on social media. It seems that everyone these days wants an experience and a relationship, and is willing to become your best advocate via word of mouth.

Some call it a move from always “hunting” for new customers in the wild to “gardening,” or nurturing loyalty and value from the ones you already have.

In any case, the new approach is important to all businesses, and embodies some new marketing rules that you need to focus on and learn:

1. Make your marketing exploratory and dynamic

The days of big-bang long-term campaigns that never change are over. You should be constantly trying new approaches via social media and online, and asking for feedback and input from influencers and customers. Scale quickly on good feedback, and move on if you get little engagement.

A step in the right direction is to take advantage of the new tools available at very low cost, including sponsored podcasts, blogs, visibility in online communities, and Twitter influencer support. Sometimes it’s as simple as updating your website format and videos.

2. Use experiments versus designing the ideal ad

Trends and customer interests change quickly, so use small experiments to find something that works today, and use innovation to push the envelope, before your competitors can copy and overrun you. The key is to be able to measure your return, adapt quickly, and learn from your efforts.

According to the Harvard Business Review, e-commerce companies that conducted ad experiments saw 2-3% better performance per experiment run. An advertiser that ran 15 experiments in a given year saw a 30% higher ad performance.

3. Motivate customers to participate and engage

Reward customers for their advocacy and engagement with discounts and coupons, keep the interaction dynamic, and encourage their return. This requires a sense of urgency on the part of your team, and a culture of accountability and focus on the customer. Marketing must be everyone’s top priority.

For example, Dunkin’ Donuts did this through a photo contest, rewarding discounts to those who submitted a photo with the brand’s handle and hashtag. Other companies highlight live experience and happy videos, submitted by customers, on their website and promotions.

4. Partner with others to create blended offerings

A very successful marketing effort created by a restaurant near me during the pandemic offered a carryout from multiple sources – to combine flowers with food and drinks, all from different establishments, packaged creatively together. Everybody wins, and it spread quickly on social media.

People remember and endorse you as the primary brand that created the blended offering, as well as the other “endorsed” brands. The hybrid approach is also effective as an experiment if you are exploring ways to expand your own brand into new segments.

5. Market solutions as an experience or an event

Advertising more features, or even a lower price, is not as memorable to customers today as a great experience or a unique event. These may be live or immersive online experiences. Use social media to build anticipation and highlight successes, to get people talking and coming back for more.

The message here is that big blockbuster campaigns and big marketing budgets are no longer the key to results in the new customer environment, where participation and relationships are key.

Now is the time to ask your customers and partners for participative ideas, do some experiments, and scale up the ones that work. Be prepared to make frequent updates as trends change.

Marketing is no longer a one-way conversation, whether you are a startup or a legacy business. How long has it been since you changed your marketing strategy? Are your costs going up and the returns going down?
Try listening and learning, more than talking and pushing.

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How to attract investors and raise funds for your business during the pandemic, according to an angel investor

Woman in flower shop talking on the phone
A founder may go through various iterations of their business, but it’s their determination that sets them apart for investors.

  • Active angel investor Heidi Zak says early-stage investors are still making deals during the pandemic.
  • A founder’s business needs to make sense for investors to get on board; dedication is key.
  • Before trying to raise money, show that your business model is profitable and sustainable.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In addition to being the CEO of ThirdLove, I am an active angel investor – predominantly in consumer-focused women-led startups. As an angel investor, I am always receiving inbound pitches from founders looking to raise their pre-seed, seed, and Series A rounds.

Despite what the pandemic has done to businesses, the economy, and society as a whole, there has been no slowdown in deal flow for early-stage investors. If anything, the general consensus in the entrepreneurship community is that now is a terrific time to start a company – because there are an abundance of problems still to be solved in the world.

That said, just because a lot of entrepreneurs want to start a business doesn’t mean they all receive funding.

As an angel investor and someone who has built and is still running a company that is scaling, there are a few things I look for in every founder and startup I invest in. So if you are starting a business, thinking about starting a business, or already well on your way and looking to raise your next round, here are a few things I encourage you to do to build excitement and successfully raise funding.

1. Make your business easy to understand. Do one thing, and do it extremely well.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. One of the biggest reasons entrepreneurs struggle to raise money is because they can’t decide which one of their ideas is their “core competency” and, as a result, try to build them all.

What this does, however, is make it very difficult for customers, investors, and even employees to get a firm grasp on what it is the business actually does. What’s the goal? What’s the one thing the business will be known for? What’s the problem, what’s the unmet need, and (in a single sentence) what’s the solution? Bam, bam, bam.

If you can’t explain what problem your business solves, how, and why, in a sentence or two, then chances are you aren’t quite sure either. And if you aren’t 100% sure of what problem your business is solving in the world, investors aren’t going to know what they’re investing in.

2. Become close to profitable before trying to raise money

Almost all the investments I’ve made over the past few years have been in companies that were profitable or very close to profitable.

This isn’t true for every angel investor (there are plenty of investors in Silicon Valley who bet on companies knowing they won’t be profitable for many, many years). But since I primarily focus on consumer businesses, I expect the founding team to have already made a bit of money before seeking additional investment. The reason is that, in 2021, it has never been easier to beta test consumer products, gather feedback from customers, and start generating revenue on the Internet.

Once that milestone has been reached, and the team has gathered some data around their unit economics, customer acquisition costs, and so on, the business becomes much more investable – because now, as an investor, I know my money is being used to accelerate something that’s already working.

3. Show you have the energy and dedication to build a meaningful company

At the end of the day, angel investors bet on founders and founding teams.

I have certainly made a few investments that bet much more on the founder than on the business. I call these types of founders “hustlers,” because something about their energy tells you they are willing to do whatever it takes to build a business. They might need to go through a few different iterations to get there, but they are determined to get there.

A few signals I look for:

  • The founders have great energy, and a true passion for what they are building and how they are helping consumers.
  • The founders have some sort of unfair advantage, such as access to other influential people, a large social media following, a unique combination of skill sets, etc.
  • The founders are good listeners, they are curious, and they showcase grit.

That said, at the end of the day, your business needs to make sense for investors to get on board. Very few angels will “take a chance” on someone just because that person is excited about entrepreneurship (and those angels are almost always family members or family friends). The real way to determine whether or not your business is investable is if you share what you’re working on with someone and they immediately say, “I love it. How can I help?”

That’s a sign you’re on to something, and your business is ready to move to the next level.

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Use these 3 lessons from the pandemic to build a stronger crisis plan for your business

frustrated man working on laptop computer at home
During a crisis it is important to communicate with your employees first.

  • Business crisis plans are important for unforeseen circumstances such as this pandemic.
  • Being forced to change routines exposed a lack of preparedness in many institutions that needed to pivot.
  • Keeping abreast of new technology and communication techniques can help strengthen future crisis plans.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When I help a client communicate during a crisis or unforeseen issue, the client will often say something like, “We aren’t sure what to do, because this isn’t in our crisis plan.”

Then came 2020, and virtually all business owners could say that a pandemic wasn’t in the plan. Now we’ve been working, living, and (in some cases) schooling for a year as the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. While we may never again witness another unprecedented – aren’t we all tired of that word? – global event like this one, this experience can help us prepare for other unforeseen events and issues.

When you write or rewrite your crisis plan for your business, consider adding these three lessons and implementing them before something you hadn’t planned for strikes again.

1. Staying up to date on technology pays off

For a year or so before the pandemic, I had it on my to-do list to get to know and make better use of videoconference apps like Zoom and Skype. But I never got around to it. In March 2020, we all – and I do mean all – got a crash course in Zoom. While there has been some Zoom fatigue, being able to videoconference has been a game-changer for companies, and it’s so much more efficient than traveling to in-person meetings.

While I can’t wait to see colleagues and clients in person again, I plan to keep using Zoom, too. And I plan to research what technologies and apps I need to get to know next. Why wait until a crisis to find an app or software that can help my business right now?

2. Pivoting opens up new possibilities

I didn’t pivot in my business. But many business owners did with virtual offerings, new product lines and entirely new businesses. For example, “ghost kitchens” made it easier for some entrepreneurs to enter the food service industry. Without the pandemic and our so-called new normal, that idea might never have been dreamed up.

I didn’t have to pivot. I was already working from home, and thankfully demand for communications and PR services stayed consistent. However, I often think about what a pivot would look like for me and my business. The pandemic has made it clear that we can’t always count on things to always stay the same. I’m going to keep challenging myself to think about what pivoting could look like for me: “If x happened, I would…”

3. Communicating effectively is everything

I can’t tell you how many times in the last year I’ve heard someone say that it all comes down to communication. And usually it isn’t because a company or organization is doing a great job at it. Communication really is everything. When it comes to communicating during a crisis, it’s important to start from within.

You can’t communicate effectively with your customers and the rest of the outside world if you aren’t first to communicate with your employees. They are your ambassadors, your frontline. How you communicate with your own team members – in good times as well as challenging times – can make your people feel incredibly connected and valued or just the opposite.

How do you want current and past employees talking about you in the world? The news you have to share might not always be what people want to hear, and people get that. But it’s important to deliver your message in a timely and transparent way.

When clients come to me for crisis communication advice, I always ask first about their employees. How are you communicating with them? I’m of the opinion that if you are drafting a media statement, employees should probably know about it before they hear or read about it in the news.

And from now on when clients come to me for crisis and issues management, I’m going to remind them that we’ve got this. Remember 2020?

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4 ways businesses can better attract and recruit new talent

Job interview
Recruiters should go beyond LinkedIn to source potential employees.

  • Office culture is important to people in their job search, says employee engagement and diversity expert Bernard Coleman.
  • Businesses can attract new talent by proving they care about what matters most to future employees.
  • Coleman believes recruiters can source better talent by expanding their search pool and engaging with those that’s right for their company.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

When it comes to recruiting well, it is an art as much as it is a science. Unfortunately, many organizations aren’t unlocking the full power of recruiting, and are settling by using outdated processes.

To attract the best and brightest, you need to make sure your recruiting strategy and team are up to the challenge and are up-to-date for what the future of recruitment will look like. So if your organization really wants to succeed, your recruiting needs to level up, and fast. Here are four essential ways to supercharge your recruiting.

1. Change where you look for talent

A lot of recruiters look for talent in the exact same places: the same universities, the same companies, etc. Instead, sourcing should be like fishing: Cast a wide net and go where the fish are. Because if every recruiter is sourcing from the same places, they are effectively overfishing and creating a perception of scarcity.
 
The perception of talent scarcity typically comes from a combination of three elements: overtaxed pipeline, lack of knowledge, and speed over precision. All three elements are solvable.
 
First, expand the search to find more talent by looking in new places. If you normally recruit at schools, change it up and choose new alternatives like historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) that match your general skills and needed criteria. Second, study up on the type of talent you’re seeking and find where they congregate. Simply put, go where the talent hangs out virtually and in-person to build presence and relationships.
 
Further, deploy more complex Boolean searches to achieve richer results on websites like LinkedIn. The greater specificity, the better. Finally, proactively build pipelines to create evergreen channels instead of reactively starting new searches.

2. Better define your employee vision proposition

Talent naturally wants to know what it’s like to work at your company. They’ll look at the company website, read Glassdoor and other places that convey the culture so the employee value proposition (EVP) needs to be crystal clear. Talent needs to know what the company stands for, what the company is committed to, and they want to connect to the mission beyond the boilerplate language.

People are interested in diversity and inclusion, in what office culture feels like, how people treat one another, to know they’ll be engaged and set up for success. Overall they want to know the entirety of the employee experience. That’s why the EVP must be clearly understood in words but also in actions. Organizations have one time to make a great impression.

3. Go beyond LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a powerful tool. But used in isolation, it is an incomplete plan, and over-reliance on any one tool is a limiting strategy. Great recruiting requires a differentiated approach. You should use different tools because all talent isn’t listed on LinkedIn.
 
Try using Twitter lists, where you can follow certain industries like technology and sub-categories to find different ways to connect to candidates. Leverage Slack and explore the numerous communities to informally source and start up conversations with passive candidates.

Using all the tools, you can have improved outcomes and find talent that’s off the beaten path.

4. Gatekeeper versus door opener

Recruiters have a great deal of influence and should lean into how they can maximize the recruiting experience. Recruiters are the first people talent meets and should act as door openers to opportunity, as opposed to gatekeepers.

Roz Francuz-Harris, director of technical recruiting at Zillow and host of the podcast Y’All Hiring, put it well when she said to be mindful of your impact on job seekers at one of their most vulnerable points in life. When you act in a way that is either elitist or not fully transparent, it creates an image of a gatekeeper. As a recruiter, you want to be talent advisors to clients, add value, and be an asset to the business.

As much as you are interviewing the applicant, they are interviewing you and gauging the acceptableness of the culture. At the end of the day, as the saying goes, you’re not just recruiting employees, but are sowing the seeds of your reputation.

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How to choose between an in-person, hybrid, and remote work model for your business post-pandemic

Remote work
Companies can decide to have employees work entirely remotely or predominantly in person.

  • The pandemic has forced organizations to rethink the office work structure.
  • Post-pandemic, many leaders will have to decide what’s the best work model for their businesses — in-person, remote or hybrid.
  • The future of work requires careful planning for both business leaders and their employees.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

After about a year of working remotely and making changes due to the pandemic, many leaders are confronting the same crucial question: What does the future of work look like in my organization?

As a leader, you must decide what workplace model you want to use, considering the needs of your business and your employees. Generally, organizations will have three options: entirely remote, predominantly in person, or a hybrid of the two.

Before you decide, it’s important to know the merits and drawbacks of each model. Here’s a quick rundown:

Predominantly in person

Before the pandemic, many organizations had nearly all employees in an office most days, and some feel an inclination to return to this workplace model. Some organizations have struggled to create a fully collaborative environment while working remotely, and Netflix CEO Reid Hastings spoke for many detractors when he called remote work “a pure negative.”
 
Companies that have encountered remote work challenges may want to go back to simpler, pre-pandemic times. If you’ve led a highly successful in-person organization, it’s natural to want to regain that degree of organizational success, collaboration, and camaraderie.
 
But companies must know that while many employees cannot wait to return to the office, others have decided they prefer remote work and have even moved far away from their former office. Freelancing and hiring company Upwork found that 23 million Americans plan to relocate in response to increased remote work opportunities. These employees may decide to pursue a new job if coming back to the office is mandatory.

Before returning to a purely in-person model, get a sense of what people want by either having managers collect intel or distributing an anonymous survey. If your employees predominantly want to continue working remotely, it may be worthwhile to listen.

Fully remote

While some companies have struggled remotely, many prior skeptics have embraced remote work in the pandemic. Companies as large as Twitter have even told employees they can work from home forever.

The benefits of a fully remote model are apparent – being completely virtual allows companies to save on office space and in-office technology, such as remote friendly conference rooms and office servers. In addition, remote work can give employees the flexibility they didn’t know they craved, allowing them to set a better schedule for themselves, be more productive without the distractions of an office, and be more present outside work.

However, companies shouldn’t be replicating all their in-person workflows, meeting routines, and management approaches in a newly virtual organization. Instead, the best remote companies help their employees engage and collaborate while working from home, share strategies to help their people manage a remote workday, and invest in employee necessities by offering laptops, office supply reimbursements, or high-speed wireless subsidization.
 
That said, be aware of and think of ways to accommodate the people who were looking forward to coming back to the office and won’t be excited to find out there isn’t one.

Hybrid

It’s crucial to know that creating a hybrid work environment requires a careful strategy in and of itself; it’s not a way to avoid setting a clear course. Leaders of hybrid organizations must create an environment where employees are consistently available and every team member is engaged professionally, even if they rarely come to the office.

Hybrid organizations have one clear advantage: They give every employee an opportunity to work however they want, whether that means coming to an office consistently, working from home every day, or something in the middle. Hybrid organizations also have the benefit of a ready-made office space for in-person meetings, training, team building, and more.

However, hybrid organizations need to ensure everyone is integrated into their work environment, regardless of where or how they work. There must be clear expectations and norms about when employees can work remotely and when they should be in the office. Leaders must plan in-person meetings and collaboration carefully, rather than abruptly calling employees into the office for conferencing. Most crucially, they must ensure that employees who work from home frequently are not passed over for advancement and recognition, and don’t fall into social isolation.

Companies should weigh these three workplace models carefully, and not thoughtlessly gravitate to the style that is closest to what they’ve always done. You should also be ready for a healthy percentage of your workforce to opt out of the model that you choose, as many folks are discovering new preferences for how they’d like to work.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Choose your strategy, support it, and be honest with the people in your organization about where you are heading – knowing many of them might choose to head in a different direction after their own experience over the past year.

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7 key strategies for scaling from a solo entrepreneur to a successful business leader

colleagues in work meeting
Teams thrive when they have a higher purpose and long-term goal.

  • Entrepreneurs should adjust the mindset of doing everything solo to building a team to grow their business.
  • A culture of learning from failure is key to becoming a successful business leader when scaling a startup.
  • Fine-tuning the business’ purpose is important for entrepreneurs becoming team leaders.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As an adviser to many startups today, I still see that most of you entrepreneurs see yourselves as the sole driver of your new solution, and the key driver of your new business.

That’s not all bad in the beginning, but as you scale, every business has to build a team to keep up with the wide range of skills needed, fight new competitors, and respond to changes in the marketplace.

For many, it’s hard to make the switch from that top-down, order-giving culture, and it’s hard to find the time to recruit and coach the new team members you need to scale the business to success.

Many new businesses fail at this stage because they don’t build the required team culture to keep teams engaged and committed, and founders burn out trying to do too much.

Based on my own experience in large companies, as well as small ones, here are seven key strategies I recommend for building the teams and culture that will drive business success:

1. Admit to yourself and others that you need help

Don’t let your ego and passion prevent you from building a team around you, listening to others with complementary skills, and delegating decisions as far down as possible. We all need to be humble and recognize that what we need to know about technology and the market changes daily.

2. Identify a business purpose and goals that motivate any team

Today, modern teams are engaged by a higher purpose, such as improving the environment or helping the underprivileged, more than just money and profit. You need them to make a personal commitment to customer service, improved quality, and change to improve the future.
 
Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms Shoes, set a goal of donating a pair of shoes to the needy for every pair sold, and maintains team commitment by providing international trips to assist partners in distributing shoes in interesting places, including Nepal and Honduras.

3. Encourage your team to make decisions and take action

Many teams I know are frustrated by never-ending debates and constant requests for more analysis by management. Satisfaction and commitment come from choosing a path to move forward, evaluating results and customer feedback, and learning from all their best efforts.

4. Keep teams small, diverse, and collaborative 

I find that teams with more than eight or nine people often get bogged down in internal politics and have trouble sharing data effectively or reaching consensus. People all need to trust each other and be able to recognize the value of diverse perspectives. Avoid long and never-ending projects.

As an example, CEO Jeff Bezos at Amazon is known for his two-pizza rule: No meeting or team should be so large that two pizzas can’t feed the whole group. He is convinced this assures maximum productivity and that no one’s ideas get drowned out or ignored.

5. Practice active listening and open team communication

As the size and number of your teams grows, the amount of time you spend listening and communicating must also grow. Resist the urge to limit what teams need to know, interrupt negative messages, or jump quickly from listening to a solution. Promote the sharing of ideas and feedback.

6. Foster a culture of constant learning, even from failures

Many new business leaders can’t wait to implement fixed team processes to improve productivity and minimize risk. While productivity is important, the bigger risk is not learning from customers and the market and falling behind. Reward new ideas, experiments, and critical team feedback.

7. Be the model of customer focus for the team

Too many business leaders I know retreat further and further from the customer as their business scales. Make sure you schedule time for regular customer visits, and make sure your team understands that providing value to more customers is your definition of growing the business.
 
As your business grows from a startup to a sustainable business, you too have to grow from an entrepreneur to a business leader. Of course, if your interests and passion don’t lean in this direction, you can always bring in an outside CEO who already has the skills, or you can merge or sell your startup to another enterprise and move on to start a new venture.

Just be aware that a winning team makeup and culture won’t happen by default. It takes recognition of the need and effort on your part. I urge every entrepreneur to take a hard look at their own situation – you may be a key part of the problem, or the driver of the next unicorn business solution.

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