Why Business Owners should help employees find their next job

Fresh Air Educators is a small company with a tight knit team. Turnover is low, but over the past 15 years we have had our share of layoffs.

Most businesses that operates long enough will eventually be in a situation where a team member is let go. Lay offs are a relatively rare occurrence for us and it’s not something we are particularly good at doing. Every situation is different and very stressful.

A decision to lay someone off usually comes after weeks or months of deliberation and after looking at all possible alternatives. It’s hard to do and we hate doing it.

We generally give a good severance package to give the employee more time to land on their feet (selfishly, it also helps relieve the feeling of guilt in letting them go). We also give letters of reference and offer to help in anyway we can.

But we are not great at pro-actively finding them a new job.

We often unconsciously think: “We gave them a good severance package, we gave them a good reference, we reached out to our contacts, now it’s up to them. Our job is done. Our responsibilities to the employee are done.”

Not quite. I believe that our responsibility to the employee isn’t done until they find their next job or career. When an employee leaves, we should proactively help them find their next job.

Besides being “the right thing to do” here are some specific business reasons why this is a good idea:

  • Build goodwill for future opportunities: Your past employees will have a more positive attitude towards you and your business if they feel that you genuinely did your best to help them. They are less likely to hold a grudge and more likely to help you in the future when an opportunity presents itself.
  • Strengthen relationships with current employees: Current employees will look to how you treat your past employees as an indication of how they will be treated when they leave.
  • Reduced risk of harm to the business: The faster a past employee finds a new job, the less likely they are to get into a desperate financial situation, and the less likely they are to do something for financial gain that is against your best interest.
  • Reduces the risk of violating a non-compete or non-disclosure agreement (NDA):  If you help a former employee find a new job, the risk of them working for a competitor is reduced (since they already have a job). No need to try and enforce strict non-compete or NDA’s in place.

If you are a business owner and are laying someone off, consider going the extra mile to help that employee find their next job — I think it will have long term benefits for your business.

Creative XMas Presents to Delight Your Staff

Over the past few years, we’ve made it a tradition at Fresh Air Educators of giving unique Christmas gifts to our staff for the holidays (this is in addition to a great Christmas party and 2-3 additional days off between Christmas and New Year’s). Here is a run-down of some of the gifts we’ve given in the past to give you some inspiration if you are currently trying to think of a good gift for your staff.

2007 – First Gen iPod Touch

This was very cool and well received as the iPod Touch had only been released in September of that year and it was still a ground breaking product when we gave it to all our staff 2 months later just before our Christmas break.

1st Gen Apple iPod Touch

PROS:

  • Cool Factor
  • Cutting Edge Technology

CONS:

  • Becomes obsolete relatively quickly

2008 – Canada Goose Parkas

Ottawa, Canada is a cold place in winter. What better way to keep our staff warm by giving them an iconic (and stylish) arctic parka by Canada Goose.  This gift had/has great longevity — come winter time our office turns into a Canada Goose showroom.

Canada Goose Chilliwack Parka

PROS:

  • Awesome top quality product that our staff will continue to use for years (if not decades)

CONS:

  • Tricky to get the right sizing for everyone while still keeping the product a surprise

2009 – Bose Headphones

This gift was a little bit low on the wow factor, but the utility factor was high, as most staff continue to use these daily at work to drown out coworkers around them, as well as used for watching movies while on the plane.

BOSE Noise Cancelling Headphones

PROS:

  • Useful at work to drown out noise from co-workers

CONS:

  • Lack of WOW factor
  • Not everyone will use them

2010 – First Generation iPad

This gift was definitely a bit of a recycling of our 2007 gift, and lacked a bit of the wow factor because the iPad was already available since April, but it still made a great gift (in particular, since our mandate was to make our products more mobile friendly, and putting an iPad in everyone’s hands was a good start).

1st Gen Apple iPad

PROS:

  • Cool Factor
  • Cutting Edge Technology

CONS:

  • Becomes obsolete relatively quickly

2011 – DNA Art / Canvas Prints

Our friends at DNA11 / CanvasPop helped hook up all our staff with either a unique DNA portrait or allowed our more artistic staff to take their own photographs/digital artworks and print them on canvas.  A very cool, unique, and conversation starting gift.  Although this gift received mixed reviews (as it was much less utilitarian than our previous gifts) it was still well received and supported/encouraged arts and creativity.

DNA Art and Print to Canvas by DNA11 / CanvasPop

PROS:

  • Unique conversation starter
  • Supports art & creativity

CONS:

  • Not inherently “useful”
  • Some staff did not see benefit of “art”

2012 – Google Nexus 7

Each year it becomes tougher and tougher to come up with new ideas. This year is a bit of a recycle from previous ideas (similar gift to the iPad) but we have moved away from Apple and exposed our staff to the Android OS (and it is a mini tablet which seems to be the cool “in” thing these days).

Google Nexus

PROS:

  • Cool Factor
  • Cutting Edge Technology

CONS:

  • Similar to previous gifts
  • Not everyone is familiar with Android

The 4-Day Work Week

A few years ago Fresh Air Educators performed an HR experiment: We offered all our full time salaried employees the option to pick between 2 work schedules:

  • Status quo: 5 days @ 7.5hrs at current pay
  • 4-day work week: 4 days @ 7.5hrs – Every Friday off
    Work 20% less but take  a 10% pay cut

Here are some of the learnings:

Myths

You Will Be 20% Less Productive

Working 20% less DOES NOT mean 20% less productivity.  The 80/20 rule kicks in: The most important things will still get done while the 20% dropped will be the least important things (which probably only account for 5% of weekly productivity). By only working 80% of the time, you will still reap 95% of value.

Lazy Friday Afternoons
become Lazy Thursday Afternoons

One challenge I thought we would have is lazy Friday afternoons shifting to lazy Thursday afternoons. In our case, this does not appear to have happened.

Benefit

Obvious Employee Perk

Offering an optional 4 day work-week to your employees is an obvious perk which leads to the following benefits for your business:

  • Easier to hire of top talent
  • Less employee turn over
  • Optional cost savings: If you are looking to save costs, you can offer the optional 4 day work week in exchange for a 10% pay cut.  (Employees work 20% less, but only take a 10% pay cut – so they are coming out ahead by 10%)

Happier, more rested, more productive staff

Your staff will have a long weekend every weekend.  That’s 52 extra days off a year.

Remove Yourself as the Bottleneck

As the business owner, you will receive 20% less requests and e-mails to answer.  Which means that your staff will be spending less time waiting on you.  Although *you* should really also work a 4 day work week,  your 5th day can be spent catching up and doing longer term “quadrant 2 activities” that you normally can never find the time to do.

Negatives

No Work Gets Done on Friday

This applies more to specialized departments like Customer Service, QA, etc… Ie: If a bug is reported late Thursday afternoon, and QA does not have the time to fully investigate it, then we will often get delayed until Monday mid morning before the bug is officially reported to the dev team.

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