Landrum Human Resource Companies Blog


Business Etiquette – A Requirement, Not a Nicety

post written by: Elizabeth Oakes,SPHR
Human Resources Manager, Landrum Professional Employer Services

When you think of etiquette, you may start thinking of Miss Manners and remember things like when to place your napkin in your lap or what fork is used for which course of the meal. Business etiquette is so much more encompassing than just table manners, and can make or break professional relationships. Saying or doing the wrong thing can be more than just a nuisance; it can result in an insult that does irreparable damage to your company’s reputation.

While I will concede that some of the etiquette blunders we see can be attributed to laziness, many mistakes are made due to fear of embarrassment. Fear of doing or saying the wrong thing is one of the most common sources of stress in a business or professional setting. Some of the different areas of etiquette that can affect your business are appropriate introductions and small talk, professional appearance, dining, and (more recently) telephone and emails.

Have we met?
Many employers view skills used for introductions and small talk as only needed by the company’s top executives. I propose that everyone should be capable, but most certainly your front line employees need these skills most. Greeting customers and finding their needs is a form of small talk. If you look closely at your employees who excel at customer service, they typically are excellent at small talk and use the information gleaned to endear your customers to your brand. Being able to introduce other employees to a customer is a wonderful practice that shows your customer that you respect them and their business. One of the best ways to help give your employees the ability to utilize small talk is to role play and practice the skill.

Iron, meet clothes
I hear the most etiquette complaints about employees not coming to work looking professional and appropriate for their job. The complaints run the gamut of wrinkled uniforms to the absence of deodorant. Your best defense as an employer is to develop a detailed dress code policy and ensure it is consistently applied to everyone in the organization. When developing your policy, be sure the guidelines are appropriate for the business you are in and for your location. Do not hesitate to tackle sensitive issues like makeup, body art, perfume/cologne, or body hair.

I think you have something in your teeth
My own impression, originally, was that business dining etiquette was nothing to be concerned about. Truthfully, I felt the mentality of going out to dinner to impress the boss was an antiquated practice. After a little thought and some Googling I found this to be a real concern for employers and employees alike. I have been to a number of events with the leadership members of Landrum and owners of client businesses that included a meal of some kind. I am eternally grateful my mother focused on table manners so stridently as I was growing up. The benefit of those years of blood, sweat, and tears is that none of my actions during those meals drew attention away from my professionalism or the message I was delivering. I regularly recommend to employees that they learn basic table manners, even if they do not feel they will use it in their current role. After all, you never know when your supervisor will invite you to lunch. Speaking with your mouth full or using bad manners may cast a shadow of doubt over your capabilities and judgment, and that can make all the difference in a promotion or pay raise.

Can you hear me now?
With the good comes the bad. The ever-expanding world of technology helps us do what we do faster and better. With the benefits, though, come the pitfalls. I can’t think of how many times I have been called in to mediate a situation where someone interpreted someone’s tone in an email to be aggressive, when the original intention was humor. Training your staff on what is acceptable in emails is a great way to keep up with the technological times. It allows you to inform your staff what forms of digital slang are allowable and what types of technology is “off limits” during working hours. Regular training and role playing over the phone are other ways you can reinforce appropriate behaviors with your staff. One item worth mentioning is that it is okay to turn off your cell phone. It won’t self destruct, I promise! If you are working with a co-worker or client, they deserve 100% of your attention. Anything less and you’ll create less than that good first or second impression. In all likelihood it could very well be your last impression.

The best advice I can give you is that your employees learn most effectively by seeing the example you and other supervisors set. Showing employees the types of actions that are appropriate allows them to work within your expectations, and will definitely result in greater etiquette with your customers.

Landrum’s Professional Seminar series offers a training class “Business Etiquette-Ms. Manners in the Workplace”. For more information about this and other professional seminars offered by Landrum click here.

Elizabeth Oakes, SPHR

Elizabeth currently practices as a Human Resource Manager for Landrum Professional Employer Services in Pensacola, Florida. In this role she ensures that Landrum’s clients are in compliance with all local, state and federal laws that impact on human resources. She assists, as needed, with hiring, terminating, counseling, and training. Elizabeth also advise business owners and employees on the potential resolution of work related issues and consult with employers on the implementation of best human resources practices.
Elizabeth is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) through the Human Resource Certification Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management.



Team Building: How Do You Get to Bobby Bowden Field?

post written by: Jim Guttmann, SPHR
Human Resources Manager, Landrum Professional Employer Services

A Training Facilitator stands before a group of 30 managers in the conference room of a business located in Tallahassee, Florida. The managers are given an assignment to imagine there is a Florida State University football game that day and that he’s going to the game. The only problem is that he’s never been to Tallahassee before and has no idea how to get to Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium. Their assignment is to come up with instructions on how to get there and where to park.

This group is divided into two smaller groups. One group scurries off to another room and begins to plot out the precise route. No detail is left out; someone records the names of various streets on which to turn, key crossroads are noted, significant landmarks along the way are noted, and the terrain changes and areas to avoid are noted. They even explain how to know when a wrong turn is made! Their work is completed within 10 minutes. Feeling good about what they’ve accomplished, they can’t help but notice the sound of laughter emanating from the other room.

The conversations seem to have run amuck with the other group. As they finish up, this group is talking about good eating places, fraternities and the best place to party after the game. In fact, it sounds like a party has already started! The facilitator sheepishly informs this group of renegades that they never quite came up with a suitable answer. Of course that remark is met with snickers; however, to their credit, they did discuss how to get to the stadium:

• “Don’t you have a cell phone with GPS?”
• “Don’t you have a friend going to the game? Call her!”
• “You want instructions? Why don’t you just follow the crowd?”
• “You want instructions? Just drive until you can’t go any further. If there is no parking space, get out and leave your car on the side of the road.”
• “By the way, what food do you like?”
• “Are you going to a party after the game?”
• “C’mon, there is no way you can miss it!”

Once order is restored, the Facilitator gathers himself and explains the purpose of the exercise. The groups were divided up between those who have a preference for the sensing function and those who prefer intuition. The difference between the two groups centers around preferences on how information is processed. Sensors typically pay attention to detail and are methodical in making certain that all steps are followed. Once the course is set, they make certain that things keep moving along in the correct manner. On the other hand, Intuitive people often get easily bored with the details. As visionaries, they are far more interested in determining if the goal is the right one to begin with and what future possibilities lay ahead. They are okay with leaving the details to others.

Discussion ensues as to how this relates to working relationships. Personal stories are told of how instructions from the top were not clear enough at times and, as a result, the end product did not meet expectations. Other stories are told of how senior leadership does not want to sift through the details of a proposal. They want it to be clear, concise and succinct. If they want the supporting documentation, just have it available if they ask. As this exercise is completed, the participants come to realize how each orientation brings value to the organization. As a result, what they may have previously found frustrating with others unlike them is now replaced with understanding and appreciation.

What’s just been described here is a true story. It accurately portrays one facet of a retreat using Myers Briggs Personality Type Preferences as a means of exploring how we differ as individuals in terms of where we get our energy, how we process information, make decisions and choose to live our lives. Most importantly, how an understanding of these differences can improve how a team works together and how relationships (in both professional and personal life) can be improved.

With this enlightened way of viewing ourselves as individuals and members of a team, there is no doubt that we can all find Bobby Bowden Field or any other place that we would like to go together.

Jim is certified in the administration of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for Personal, Professional and Team Development in the workplace. To learn more about this and other training resources offered by Landrum Human Resources click here.

Jim Guttman, SPHR

As a Landrum Professional Human Resources Manager, Jim is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has over 20 years of HR generalist experience for a large government contractor and Fortune 500 Company. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida State University and is an active member of the Greater Pensacola Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (GPCSHRM), previously serving as their Vice President of Information Services and Chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee. Jim is also certified as a County Mediator and in the administration of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).



Do We Have To? The Basics of a Training Program

posted by: Elizabeth Oakes,SPHR
Human Resources Manager, Landrum Professional Employer Services

By now, I’m sure I have heard every excuse in the book when it comes to putting off properly training employees. The excuses have ranged from time constraints to statements like, “they learn best when you just throw them in there and let them try it out.” On occasion, I have even heard an employer state that the person who would be most successful with their group would be the employee who just knows how to get the job done. That falls into one of those categories of dreams, wishes, and hopes for supervisors. While it would be nice to not have to spend time on training, not to mention the cost associated with non-producing hours, it is just not realistic or in your best interest.

The most successful employers are those who recognize the importance of having an effective training program. When I say “effective training program”, I am referencing those programs that incorporate training in the orientation of a new employee, ongoing training throughout an employee’s tenure, and the effective sharing and passing of knowledge to others in the organization before retirement or termination.

The orientation is such a crucial time in an employee’s career with your organization. This is a small window of opportunity for a company to effectively describe the culture of the organization, as well as show what types of behaviors are appropriate for your group dynamic. Keep in mind that training is not just showing an employee how to physically do the duties of a job, but also to explain what is expected during employment. Organizing your orientation and having a checklist can be very helpful. It allows you to go over the orientation in an organized manner and will keep you from giving too much information in too little time. Be careful not to rush the orientation training period. Many of the complaints I hear from employees are that they did not receive adequate training and were just “thrown into the fire.” It is understandable for an employee not to meet standards if he or she were not given enough time to assimilate to your organization. If you need help developing a timeline, you can always contact your Human Resource Manager, or you can work with your employees who are newest to your organization. Ask them what they appreciated learning and what they wish they had been told in the beginning. Be mindful, when developing your orientation, to include items such as your expectations on customer service, general policies like dress code, and even your organizational map.

Ongoing training is when I tend to see employers slack off due to lack of time, money, or even being short-handed. Training during the employee’s career with you is useful on a number of levels. Cross training is a method of ongoing training that allows your employees to train each other on their duties. This is helpful in the case of pandemic – when an organization has a high number of individuals out of work due to illness. This ensures that your organization can continue running with a small number of individuals until the sick employees are able to return to work. This advantage can mean the difference between closing your doors for a few days or weeks and beating out your competition that had to close their doors. It is also a good way to avoid hearing statements like “it’s not my job,” which I know grates on every employer’s nerves. Cross training your employees also gives them an appreciation for each other’s workload. This helps to build camaraderie among coworkers that will become obvious to your customers. Another option in ongoing training is to send your employees to offsite training. While the company benefits from the added knowledge brought back from the training, it also builds loyalty with the employee you sent to the training. The message you send is, “I see value in you, I want to continue developing you and I am willing to invest money into your growth.” This is a great way to build morale and can be relatively inexpensive.

Last but certainly not least is your succession planning. Many organizations believe succession planning applies only to senior management employees, but that is a misconception. You need to plan and train for the unexpected to ensure the strength of your organization. If your most versatile employee were not returning to work tomorrow due to illness, sudden termination, or death, how would your organization continue on? Would that individual have knowledge that only they carry, and would your organization miss out because that information was not shared? When developing your succession plan you will want to ensure that no one employee carries the weight of the organization solely, and that includes the owner or CEO.

Changing your training program does not have to be painful or all at once. It can be a slow progression that brings your group towards a common goal of working together effectively and efficiently. The best training programs I have reviewed included all the employees in the development of the program and started as small as surveying employees for their training needs. I wish you luck in your training endeavors and I hope I have rendered a few of those earlier-stated excuses useless.

Elizabeth Oakes, SPHR

Elizabeth currently practices as a Human Resource Manager for Landrum Professional Employer Services in Pensacola, Florida. In this role she ensures that Landrum’s clients are in compliance with all local, state and federal laws that impact on human resources. She assists, as needed, with hiring, terminating, counseling, and training. Elizabeth also advise business owners and employees on the potential resolution of work related issues and consult with employers on the implementation of best human resources practices.
Elizabeth is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) through the Human Resource Certification Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management.



Training in a Difficult Economy

posted by: Elizabeth Oakes,SPHR
Human Resources Manager, Landrum Professional Employer Services

After reading the newspapers, watching the daily news and dreading my 401k retirement statement, I can definitely understand how some employers are not even open to discussing training. Many small to medium businesses see training as a luxury during the good years. I hear a lot of statements like “When we can afford to go,” “There just isn’t any time left in my day,” or “How can I send someone for training when I’m looking at doing layoffs?” While these are all viable statements, I believe that during an economic down turn corporations cannot afford to put off training.
The unfortunate reality is that many of you have had to do layoffs within the last year or two. Your organizations are running lean and there are days when you are just trying to keep your head above water. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regularly posts statistics on the number of employment charges they receive in any given year. The total charges in both 2008 and 2009 were up almost 13% above the highest years in the last 13 years. This significant increase highlights the need for employers to ensure supervisors are adequately trained on how to legally and effectively deal with employment situations. Supervisor training should include basic knowledge of employment law, management of a safe working environment, and annual training on harassment and how to work within the organization’s progressive discipline program. These types of training can be utilized through a myriad of training services, but can also be performed on-property by anyone in your organization who specializes in a specific area. Fortunately it doesn’t have to cost the organization more than the time it takes to do the training.
There is no need to stop your training at the supervisor level. Many of your employees are doing the work that was once done by three or more employees. They are feeling just as overwhelmed as you are and may benefit from some functional training. Are your employees fully utilizing your software systems or are they working with the few functions they used for previous projects? Could we be making them more effective with a little more education? Many organizations are taking a co-op approach during the economic downturn and working with a training organization to receive the information to a mixed group of employers. This offsets the cost and allows the organizations a little more flexibility to coordinate a date and time for training.
It is also important to continue your annual training plan for your whole group on items such as harassment, open door policy, introduction to new policies and procedures, and customer service. These small items of stability become something to look forward to in such turbulent and uncertain times. Consistent training also helps your employees know that while the economy is in fluctuation, it is your intention to persevere and come out successful on the other side.
So while training admittedly does take time, money, and effort; it is an effort that does not go unrewarded. Training has shown to improve morale in tough times, help companies become more efficient, help groups work more effectively together, and greatly impact the bottom line. Who knew a little training could do so much?
To view Landrum’s 2010 Professional Training Seminar schedule click here.

We are also able to tailor our seminars to meet the specific needs of your business. For more information, hrseminars@landrumhr.com.

Elizabeth Oakes, SPHR

Elizabeth currently practices as a Human Resource Manager for Landrum Professional Employer Services in Pensacola, Florida. In this role she ensures that Landrum’s clients are in compliance with all local, state and federal laws that impact on human resources. She assists, as needed, with hiring, terminating, counseling, and training. Elizabeth also advise business owners and employees on the potential resolution of work related issues and consult with employers on the implementation of best human resources practices.
Elizabeth is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) through the Human Resource Certification Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management.




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