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SMALL BUSINESS | Differentiate Yourself from the Rest Become an A+ Employer, Differentiate Yourself from the Rest: In the not too distant past the best employers were able to offer their employees lifetime employment in exchange for good work. Few (if any) employers have that luxury today. In a competitive marketplace it would be difficult for one employer to pay significantly more than the competition or offer significantly better traditional benefits and remain competitive. Given these constraints, what can you do to become an excellent employer, differentiating yourself from the rest? You might be able to offer more flexible working conditions, more interesting work and the opportunity to develop professionally. Flexible working conditions. To offer appropriate flexible working conditions, talk to your employees and understand their needs. Your employees might desire and you might benefit from: • Employees eager to work longer hours some days and work fewer days, enabling the business to be open longer hours. • Having employees work mornings and evenings taking time off in the afternoon for students returning from school, increasing employee availability during morning and evening rush hours. • Employees doing some or all work from home reducing office overhead expenses. Interesting work. Doing the same work repetitively makes a boring day for many people, increasing accidents, encouraging errors and employee turnover. You can make work more interesting by rotating assignments amongst employees, encouraging employees to constantly be thinking about ways to bring in more creative work, work in a more interesting and/or more productive manner, and allowing some variation in the way the work might be done. Additionally, some employees appreciate cash incentives, employee profit sharing and competition to make work more fun. Taking these extra steps should reduce boredom, thereby 30 RISBJ | rhode island small business journal improving business results. Develop your employees. Having more skilled employees should yield improved business results and more satisfied customers. It should also yield having more loyal employees. While larger companies may have teams of people responsible for creating new ways to develop employees and measuring the success of the development efforts, even a small business with only one or two employees should be a learning business. Consider one of your important business objectives to be developing your employees to help them learn new skills, develop personally and professionally in a systematic way. Here is how to do it. • Prepare a development plan. Meet with each employee (including yourself) quarterly or have your management team do this (if your business is large enough to have a management team) to understand and document the employee’s professional goals. If they do not know suggest goals and get their agreement. Help the employees figure out what the first/next steps are to achieving the goal. Write those down. Determine how you can help them to achieve these steps within the next three months. Write these down. Once a month check on progress towards the quarterly development goals. Corrective actions need to be taken when sufficient progress is not being made • Have a development discussion before/after each job or day at work. The discussion can be very brief, perhaps only a minute or two. Outline the new things to be learned at the beginning of the job or day. Review the things learned at the end of the job or day. • Assign work to develop employees. Rotate work amongst employees so that everyone is learning how to do a new task periodically. If you think that you have run out of learning assignments, your business may be turning stagnant. Think of new and better ways to do work or new projects which you can take on. • Online learning. Help your employees to find reading, talks, games and activities which may help them to learn new skills that would be useful on the job. • Bring a learning program to your company. Schedule a speaker to come to your business and offer a

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