Monthly Archives: September 2013

Icebreaker: Mad-Lib Resume Builder

For an icebreaker, this is great fun and does much to encourage idea building and camaraderie. 

 1. To start have everyone fill in the blanks below.   


Keeping it G-rated, I have done some crazy things in my life.  I’ve A. __________.  I’ve B.__________, and I’ve C.__________.  I’ve always wanted to D.__________ but never got around to it.  At my very first job, I worked as a/ an E. __________.  I left that job because F.__________.  When I was a kid, I wanted to be a/an G. __________ because I really loved H. __________.


2.  Now pass out the form below and have them fill in the blanks with their answers above. 


I left my last job because F. ___________. I applied when I saw you were interested in H. __________. I think you should give me the job because of my experience as an E.__________.  What will set me apart from the competition is that I’m highly skilled at C. __________ B.__________, and A. ___________.  Of course, I will have to call in sick so I can D.__________.  But don’t worry, I’m perfect for this position because of my experience as a G. __________.


3. Read aloud. 




Keeping it G-rated, I have done some crazy things in my life.  I’ve flown upside down in a Bi-plane.  I’ve driven across the country by myself with hardly any money, and I’ve been married four timesI’ve always wanted to be on Jeopardy, but never got around to it.  At my very first job, I worked as a stained-glass maker.  I left that job because I was fired for constantly cutting my fingers and breaking glassWhen I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress because I really loved attention.   


I left my last job because I was fired for constantly cutting my fingers and breaking glass.  I applied when I saw you were interested in attention.  I think you should give me the job because of my experience as a stained glass maker.  What will set me apart from the competition is that I am highly skilled at flying upside down in a bi-plane, driving across the country by myself with hardly any money, and marrying four times.  Of course, I will have to call in sick so I can go on Jeopardy.  But don’t worry, I’m perfect for this position because of my experience as an actress.


Keeping it G-rated, I have done some crazy things in my life.  I’ve swum next to a whale.  I’ve ridden a horse backward, and I’ve gotten lost in ParisI’ve always wanted to own a candy store but never got around to it.  At my very first job, I worked as a McDonald’s cook.  I left that job because I got acne.  When I was a kid, I wanted to be a weather girl because I really loved. a trophy I got for a weather-related science fair project.


I left my last job because I got acne.  I applied when I saw you were interested in a trophy I got for a weather-related science fair project.  I think you should give me the job because of my experience as a weather girl.  What will set me apart from the competition is that I’m highly skilled at getting lost in Paris, riding a horse backward, and swimming next to whales.  Of course, I will have to call in sick so I can own a candy store.  But don’t worry, I’m perfect for this position because of my experience as a McDonald’s cook. 


6 Ways to Motivate Your Staff (Little Freaky Monkeys Feast Red Peppers)

Recently, one department manager asked me for some methods to motivate her employees and improve workplace performance.  Should she use an incentive program?  Which one?  Should she change her managing style?  Good questions, all.  The answer, however, leads us to another question.  What does motivate people to work harder and do their best? 

It boils down to six driving forces:  love, freedom, money, fear, revenge, or power; hence, the mnemonic above.  Before you consider what motivates your staff, examine yourself.  What motivates you? 


You give your best work when praised, acknowledged, and working with people you generally like and who like you back.  You have cried at work more than you’ll admit over hurt feelings and grapple to control your sensitive nature.     


You give your best work when trusted with completing and spearheading projects.  You might even have your own business on the side and find yourself singing aloud to “Freebird” every time it comes on the radio.  As long as people “leave you alone to do your job,” you’re happy. 


You would quit a job you enjoyed tomorrow if someone offered you more money for a job less satisfying.  Your career decisions are based primarily on compensation packages and bonuses. 


You follow all rules, whether logical or not.  You are never late and sizzle with contempt when others are.  You like a leader who goes by the book and understand and appreciate consequences for breaking policy or not following procedure.  You tend to have a lot of insurance and plot how you’d get out of the building during a fire or disaster. 


You will work and study until your eyeballs bleed to prove some naysayer wrong.  Whether consciously or not, you track what you perceive to be slights and wait for an opportunity to rid the company of those who’ve done the slighting. 


You thrive on being the decision maker and wilt in positions in which you have no control.  You are proud of your title and become irked when others forget to introduce you as Director So & So or Manager of Whatnot.  Furthermore, you like to be CC’d on all communication. 

Now that you’ve identified yourself, consider your employees.  You might wonder if it’s even possible to motivate such a range of needs.  Well, here are a few ideas:

For Love:  Praise, thanks, a quick response to a question or concern.  A thoughtful gesture or identification of a special personal skill always works, too.  For example, “Gee, Mary, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the way your office looks so clean and bright and inviting.  It’s important to have such an inviting space for our customers!”  Saying “you have a clean office” doesn’t work with Mary.  But using her name and associating her clean office with “bright” and “inviting” makes it seem like you’re complimenting her character, which love-folks thrive on.  KEY WORDS:  Thank you!

For Freedom:  Freedom folks are easy if you have a skilled person in place.  Give them the gist of what you need and let them run with it.  Check in on their progress and repeat how much you trust them to handle matters.  You can actually motivate this person by giving them additional responsibilities, which is definitely a win-win.   Micromanaging a capable freedom-driven individual will have them looking for another job within minutes.  In fact, they’ll make finding another job their job.  Or perhaps that part-time business on the side will become a full-time business.  KEY WORD:  Trust

For Money:  This one’s obvious.  Pay `em, and pay `em well.  Incentives must be in the form of cold hard cash.  Money-folks will definitely give you back what you give them, meaning you will get what you pay for.  It’s as simple and as complicated as that.  KEY WORD:  Compensation

For Fear:   Stick to the rules and avoid gray areas with these individuals. Communication needs to be continuous and clear.  Provide lots of structure and a clear path forward.  You can also motivate them with a rich benefits package and retirement plans.  KEY WORD:  Structure

For Revenge:   This might be the trickiest employee to motivate because the last thing you want to do is get on their bad side.  However, you can actually tap into this trait fairly easily.  See, this employee loves to overcome obstacles and be the person who accomplishes a goal others glean impossible.  When you assign a task or project to them, say, “Sarah said we wouldn’t be able to do this, but I’d like to see if you can figure out a way.”  You’ll be surprised at the positive and innovative results achieved.  KEY WORDS:  Overcoming Obstacles & Problem Solver

For Power:  This person likes to throw around the word “respect” so much you’ll feel like you’re trapped in the Aretha Franklin song.  That said, power-people are easy to motivate.  They want the title, the corner office, that sort of thing.  Simple.  So let’s say they aren’t in a leadership position, you could still give them a title—make one up!  More than the title, however, they must be empowered.  To thrive, they must be able to make at least some decisions even if they aren’t heading a project or leading others.   So get their input and include them on changes.  Put them in charge of something in the office, be it the water cooler or copy paper or something more creative, like Chief Customer Liaison.  KEY WORD:  Empowerment

The manager seeking advice left with more than she bargained for.  Indeed, like any good manager knows, people are complex and varied, so you must do two things to successfully motivate your employees.  First, adapt your leadership style to diverse personalities.  Second, use more than one motivational method.  But it can be done. 

Considering what motivates your staff and acting on those motivations will undoubtedly generate a stronger, more satisfied and productive workforce. 


6 Recognition-Based Incentive Programs that Work to Motivate Employees

1.  Super Superlatives

Everyone remembers the yearbook page that identifies students as being the “most likely to…” or the “best…”  Pictures of these kids would show them in poses or with costumes and props identifying their special skill. 

This program recognizes not just the employee but also the employee’s special skill.  And the more specific your recognition, the better results you’ll have.  “Employee of the Month” programs are something you do when you can think of nothing else.  Super Superlatives is a newer form of this program that assesses the specific qualities or skills your staff. 

STEP ONE:  Come up with a list of skills expected for your business.  Here are some general examples, but you are encouraged to be as specific as possible, choosing skills relevant to your particular industry and business. 


        Problem solver


        Report Preparer


        Technical whiz


        People leader

        Guest service provider

STEP TWO:  Write down several qualities that make your business a better place to work.  Be creative. 

        Making coffee in the morning

        Filling the copy paper


        Time Manager

        Sense of humor

        Bagel bringer

STEP THREE:  Choose the best five from each category and how often you will be awarding your superlatives.  It could be quarterly or even monthly.  Monthly can be difficult to maintain and sustain.  If you do it quarterly, you can hold a staff meeting to announce the winners and take photographs, as described below in Step Five. 

STEP FOUR:  Who will determine your superlatives?  You could assign leadership, or you could make it a peer-based committee, changing the committee membership for each time you award the superlatives.  One excellent method is to assign the prior superlative winners as committee members. 

STEP FOUR:  To announce the superlatives, do what the yearbooks did.  Use the company newsletter to post photos of those Most Likelys or Bests.  You could even use props if you’d like.  This adds whimsy and humor to the recognition program. 


2.  Thank -You White Board 

As managers, we are always trying to stay under budget and increase revenue.  This program is peer-based and a simple way to recognize good work.  Moreover, your budget will feel nothing but a pinprick.    

STEP ONE:  Purchase a big white board and colorful markers.  Hang this white board in a visible and reachable area.

STEP TWO:  Write “Thank You” at the top of the board.  At this point, you could officially communicate your purpose to employees, which is to recognize each other for good work.  Or, depending on your business, you could allow them to simply start writing on their own.  If management adds one or two comments, it will encourage others to do the same.  Here are some examples of real comments: 

          “Beth came in early to make sure new hires didn’t have to wait in the hall.”

          “Victor was able to calm a very disgruntled guest on a busy Saturday night.” 

          “Seth brought in a healthy tray of fruit for Tuesday’s staff meeting.” 

STEP THREE:  Take a picture once a week then erase and start over.  Frame these photos or pin up on a cork board next to the white board.  


3.  Lunch with the Big Cheese of Your Choice 

Career development is key in keeping star players employees motivated.  This program assists your best employees in meeting their career goals by awarding them the opportunity to have lunch with the Big Cheese of their choice. 

STEP ONE:  Announce the program and its purpose.  The idea is that they will choose to dine with a certain leader so as to understand more about that person’s expertise.  It is not to simply be seen with leadership or have a decision-maker to complain to; it is to further one’s career and learn about the steps one needs to take to reach certain career goals. 

STEP ONE:  Choose something measurable (for example:  performance reviews/ evaluations) to determine who’s given this opportunity.   

STEP TWO:  Allow the employee to choose any leader in the company to lunch with based on their own career goals.  For instance, perhaps they are interested in finance but aren’t quite sure how to go about furthering their careers.  They might want to lunch with the CFO.  All leaders should be encouraged to participate, as this is an excellent opportunity for them to connect with staff. 


4.  Surprise Party

 Recognition for the individual and his or her merits is crucial for incentive programs.  However, the occasional group recognition after a successful team effort can strengthen bonds between employees and assists in creating a culture of goodwill and a clear esprit de corps.   This incentive is not necessarily a “party.”  It’s a surprise celebration for a job well done. 

STEP ONE: Leaders wait until everyone has left for the day and then decorate the office with banners / streamers / balloons, etc.  Also, goodie bags are distributed. 

STEP TWO:  Leaders should come in early, and as people come into the office, they can shout “surprise.” 

STEP THREE:  A brief meeting is held during which the leader thanks the team for their efforts and lets them know how much they are appreciated.  You can have bagels, donuts, fruit, or a breakfast spread. 



5.  Bean Counter

This is a simple, fun, and competitive incentive program invented to meet a specific goal or to improve an area of weakness. 

STEP ONE:  Determine your goal based in your industry and needs.  Some examples include:

  • Improving customer service
  • Selling more of a certain product
  • Improving profits in a certain area
  • Speeding up response times

 STEP TWO:  To everyone involved in meeting this goal or improvement, distribute equal sized jars.  They can be in one place or set on each participant’s desk. 

STEP THREE:  For every goal met, drop a bean in the jar.  This could be a jelly bean or a pinto bean.  Bear in mind, some employees might be tempted to eat the jelly beans!  For example, if you have decided you need to sell more of something, drop a bean in the jar of the person who made the deal. 

STEP FOUR:  Here are several variations for rewards. 

  1.  The person who fills their jar first gets a cash reward or a day off with pay
  2. You could vary the number of beans based on your goal.  For instance, employees may get 10 beans for selling such and such but 20 for selling something else. 
  3. You could have ½ jar prizes, too, or even a bean exchange program.
  4. You could not only reward the person who filled their jar first; you could then guess the number of beans in the jar and give a prize to the employee who guessed closest.



6.  Potluck for Profit

 Potlucks are popular for special occasions, but you can use them as an incentive, too.  This is a great way to build team camaraderie and give employees something to look forward to. 

STEP ONE:   Designate a slow day to hold your PFP. 

STEP TWO:  Invite participating employees to cook their best dish and bring it in anonymously.  This keeps employees from bringing the standard chips and dip or soda.  And employees who are maximizing performance in the kitchen can bring this same winning attitude toward their performance at work.  

STEP THREE:  Participating employees are to taste all dishes and vote on their three favorites, in order of 1 to 3.  This vote could be done anonymously or on a white board to make it easier.  Even e-mail works for the voting process!

STEP FOUR:  Determine the top three dishes overall and reward these employees with a reward—be it cash, a company product, a pre-determined prize, or a paid day off.


 Do incentives work?  As a Human Resources Professional, I’ve been asked this more times than I can remember.  And the answer is yes.  If you look at the 2013 Forbes 500 list of the best companies to work for, profits are at an all-time high.  So what makes these companies the best places to work?  Employee incentives, that’s what.  All types, too. 

At the best companies, incentives range from traditional profit sharing and bonuses to subsidized massages and gourmet cafeterias.  Other perks include on-site organic farms, playground slides to get from one floor to the next, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, time off to volunteer, gift cards, letters of commendation from the chairman, fishing tournaments, 100% coverage on health care premiums, wellness programs, stipends to decorate workspaces, free vacations, bagel breakfasts, and even bring-your-dog-t o-work days. 

If your workforce feels rewarded and recognized, productivity soars.  If you think a paycheck is thank you enough, your talented employees are probably already on the hunt for another job.  Plus, outside talent won’t be knocking on your doors.  What this means is that you’ll be left with the dregs of your employee pool.  This doesn’t just affect you now; it will affect you for years to come because the managers who stay won’t be of high quality, and they’ll hire personnel cut from the same cloth.  You’ll be left with a nosebleed turnover and a workforce that does little to boost the bottom line.  

Finding and implementing incentives, however, isn’t easy.  You need to consider why, what, who, when, where, and how.  In that order.  


All you’ve read above should inspire you to give incentives.  But there are other business specific reasons.  For example, what are you trying to achieve?  Can this goal be reached through training instead?  Is it a specific goal needing timely results or involving quotas?  Or is it more generalized?  A specific goal would require timely results, revenue, or quotas.  A general goal could include improving a company’s overall culture and values—such as morale and customer service. 


Who will receive this incentive?  What position?  Exempt?  Non-Exempt?  Also, who will administer the program?  Who will track delivery and receipt?  Who will document the return on investment (ROI)?  


Now that you know why and who, choose what by examining which incentive would work best to meet your goal.  Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether your program is recognition or monetary based:

        How much can you spend? 

        Is it labor intensive? 

        Can you afford to sustain the incentive long enough for it to be effective? 

        What resources do you have to implement the incentive?

        What type of industry are you in? 

        What policies and practices do you have?  (Certain rules and practices will limit which incentives you can provide) 


Decide on an exact start date and make sure to communicate thoroughly beforehand so as to have the most impact on staff.  Moreover, you want to decide on whether this will be an ongoing incentive program or something short-lived to meet a specific goal.  If your intention is to sustain the program, make certain you have the resources to achieve longevity.  There’s nothing worse than starting something like an “employee of the month” program and then ending it two months in.  This will result in demoralizing the staff rather than encouraging them. 


Simply put, where will you be distributing the incentive?  Is it public or private? 


This is your step-by-step administration process.  Map the way from start to finish.  Anticipate questions and possible problems and have solutions in place.


What is an Esprit de Corps?

An Esprit de Corps is a shared spirit of enthusiasm and pride that unites a group of people toward reaching a company’s vision and goals. It’s the company culture. Its morale.

You’ve heard the saying, “Some work to live. Some live to work.” And sure, a smattering of employees still work to live. This site, however, is designed for the majority of modern professionals who live to work.

Think about it. What’s the first question we ask when meeting someone new?

What do you do?

And the conversation goes from there.

In our modern world, we define ourselves and each other by our work. And we expect this work to be satisfying, interesting, and challenging. If it’s not, the most talented and skilled among us will move on until we find work that meets the above expectations. Whether we know it or not, we live to work.

We do.

Here, you’ll find workforce solutions that challenge business leaders to build on modern trends and challenge old and tired ways of managing employees. We’ll seek out ways to maximize employee performance by creating business cultures for the modern world.

HR, a Eulogy

What can I say about HR, once an acronym for Human Resources?  I could start by saying HR sure loved its acronyms, a secret language that worked well to transform a group of well-intended pro-people individuals into a process factory.  Who didn’t enjoy listening to the sweet sounds of FMLA, COBRA, EAP, FLSA, EEO, DOL, ADEA, LOA, OE and PPO?  O, how this secret language will be missed!  Even the original acronym, HR, became secretive.  Did it stand for Hidrotic Reglementation—regulation that makes you sweat?  Did it stand for Hobbish Requiem or Hibernal Rejectamenta—clownish laments for the dead or winter excrement?  What about Ham-fisted Rejects?  Who knows?  In the end, HR was as unsure as the rest of us.

In the beginning, HR was there for the people, to ensure the organization oozed with talent, and performance was maximized.  But with increased government regulation, business hierarchies, a gloom and doom recession, immigration, healthcare reform, and litigious former employees, HR settled into its day-to-day life of processing.  They didn’t find talent; they processed new hires.  They didn’t encourage and give people the tools for success; they processed terminations.  They didn’t encourage wellness and health; they processed benefit plans and signed people up for FMLA.  They didn’t train and develop; they required mandatory compliance courses.  At least that was the perception.  And, as everyone in HR knows, perception is reality.

On its last day, a few HR professionals screamed for mercy.  They took to re-naming themselves a number of clever monikers, coming up with Talent Management, Employee Services, People Department (Southwest Airlines), Internal Customer Unit, Employee Support or Talent Center.  Alas, nothing could revive its purpose, which was to hire the best people, keep them safe from bad bosses and bad practices, upkeep and curate a culture of nosebleed morale and goodwill, develop them to their fullest potential and finally, as professionally and kindly as possible, set them free if they were not good ambassadors for the company brand.

What’s ultimately heartbreaking about this loss is the chance HR could have been saved.  Perhaps in the eleventh hour someone needed to change—and not just on paper—what HR stood for.  Humanistic Reform?  Harnessed Remedy?  Heroic Revisionist?  Human Recovery? Hallway of Renegades? Human Reawakening? Maybe Heroic Revitalization or Reinvention?  That never happened, or did it?  The coffin behind me just moved.  I swear it did.  Maybe HR does stand a chance.  Maybe it has a Heart Rate after all.