Ideas for weekly company updates

Even though we are a relatively small company, where everybody has plenty of opportunities to interact with anyone in the organization and to ask questions, we always want to identify ways in which we can increase transparency. For instance, we have several Slack channels in which we share pertinent information, such as #customer-shareable-news, #product-happenings, #customer-success, and #praise. In our weekly company meetings, the departments take turns presenting pertinent updates, projects, goals, and initiatives. We also experimented with dashboards that we projected in the office. Another thing we’ve been doing for a long time is weekly updates, which I write and share via email and Slack every Friday. It’s a narrative of notable developments and achievements in the past week and intended to provide context instead of just projecting KPIs. The format and the content continues to evolve, as it should. Currently, the updates contain the following components:

Positive news of any kind

I enjoy starting the update with some positive news, whether it’s a new customer coming on board, a milestone that has been reached, a milestone “Hannoversary, the birth of a child, or a pet having gotten adopted by a team member. 

Department updates

I summarize the main notables by department. Since each team member posts their daily updates on Slack, there’s no need to rehash what each individual accomplished. Instead, I mostly speak in the first person plural and talk about our main accomplishments, such as a new release, newly created content, and demos or training sessions completed. In addition, it’s helpful to outline any new initiatives or changes, including the reasons for those changes, and challenges that either a department or the company as a whole are experiencing. Upcoming events, such as webinars, conferences, community service, or celebrations also tend to be shareworthy. 

Shoutouts

Good work needs to be recognized, whether it’s something tangible like the implementation of a new feature or a glowing testimonial or praise from a customer for helping them with the rollout of their new site, or something less tangible, such as when an employee went above and beyond to help another team member or made a significant positive contribution to the company culture. 

Calls to action

Weekly updates are a good way to remind your team of things that they need to do, such as completing their benefits selections during open enrollment or submitting their engagement surveys. CTAs can also include any type of help you or another team member is looking for, such as “If you come across any recent client examples of intranets, please share them with X”.

Content you might find interesting

I curate three articles per week and share them in a section entitled “Content you might find interesting”. They generally cover a wide array of topics, including, but not limited to customer service, time management, life hacks, user experience, product roadmapping, productivity, and relevant technologies. Note that it doesn’t have to be limited to articles and blog posts. You can mix it up with podcasts or videos, such as Ted Talks.

Customer news

Our customers are changing the world, as they shape and educate the minds of generations, by building and improving communities, fostering the arts, and spearheading technological and medical breakthroughs. We always think about them in this way, and we give them our utmost support and effort to provide them with the products and services that they deserve. It’s important for us to know what’s going on with our customers, so each week, I include three stories in my updates. 

KPIs

Since the company’s success and well-being is everyone’s business, I share KPIs around revenue, such as total revenue to date, monthly recurring revenue, and net retention. Be sure to include the goals for each metric as well. 

Question of the day

It’s fun to end the weekly updates with a question and encourage communication, especially on a Friday. The question can be anything at all. Here are some recent examples: “What’s your favorite meal in the summer? Feel free to share a recipe!”, “If you had to compete in the upcoming summer Olympics, which two sports would you pick? Bonus question: What would you make an Olympic sport in order for you to be a fierce competitor?”, “What have you read recently that you would recommend?”

What about you? What would you recommend including in weekly updates?

7 signs that a candidate is not prepared

The result of a successful interview is not necessarily a new hire. It’s knowing if a candidate is or isn’t a good fit for your company. Since better interviews lead to better hires (as you’re weeding out the individuals who are not a fit), it’s important that you always strive to become a better interviewer and that you are prepared for each interview. You know how to strike the right balance between asking common questions in order to compare candidates and being adaptable enough to dig deeper when necessary to have a meaningful and organic conversation. Furthermore, you are able to instantly identify a candidate who is not appropriately prepared. How? Let’s take a look. 

They didn’t bring their resume

When a candidate has an in-person interview, they should bring copies of their resume for each interviewer as a courtesy instead of expecting the interviewers to either have it memorized or printed themselves. Ideally, they also bring other supporting documents, such as references and any pertinent samples of their work (for instance, a marketing candidate might bring a brochure that they created). 

They don’t have a good reason why they want to work for your company

“How did you find out about the position?” is a slowball and a way to make candidates feel comfortable. Generally, if someone is excited about the opportunity at your company, they remember how they learned about it. If someone says “It might have been [insert website here]”, make a mental note to ask more about their job hunting processes. How do they identify companies that they want to work for? Which brings us to the next red flag. If a candidate can only give you generic reasons, they may not have investigated your company much prior to the interview. If the response is “you seem to have a great company culture”, probe further and ask “What does culture mean to you?” and “How would you describe our culture?” Listen carefully. If the answer mostly revolves around a relaxed dress-code or the “laid back” environment, there may be a misalignment. 

They can’t explain your products and/or services

I like to ask our candidates what they did to prepare for the interview. You’d be surprised at some of the answers. Believe it or not, some individuals responded to the effect of “not much”, or “I poked around on your website”. Find out if the candidate downloaded your whitepapers or signed up for a trial of your product if available. Have them explain your offerings and your value proposition. Depending on the seniority of the position, consider asking the candidate strategic questions such as “what other verticals do you think might be good fits for us?” or “what do you think is keeping our prospects up at night?”.

They don’t know who the interviewers are

One of the most obvious signs that someone is not prepared for an interview is when they don’t know with whom they’re interviewing. Make sure that your HR rep who set up the interview gives the candidate the names and titles (not email addresses – you want to make sure that the candidate is resourceful enough to find them when sending follow-up emails) of each person with whom the candidate will speak. If someone clearly does not remember who they’re talking to and didn’t take the initiative to even write down pertinent information in preparation for the interview, it’s a reason for concern. Some interviewees demonstrate their level of preparedness through comments, such as “I saw that you went to [school]/used to work for [company]”, “So you started out in [department]”, or “I read on your blog that”. Good! But others may be more reserved, so you may just ask them “What do you know about [name of person]?”

They only talk in generalities

A decent candidate proactively researches what types of questions are typically asked in interviews for the position that they’ve applied for. A good candidate is prepared to answer these questions in a thoughtful manner that includes very specific, personal examples. For instance, if the question “Tell me about a time when you went through extraordinary lengths to (close a deal, make a customer happy)”, is only met with general statements (“You have to go the extra mile, and customer service is what I do best”), the interviewee may not have been appropriately prepared.

They can’t answer this crucial question

You want people on your team who are invested in their own professional development. Consider asking something along the lines of “What do you do to get better at your craft?” or “Who is a thought leader in your field that you follow?”. If you catch a candidate off-guard and they can’t name any blogs or books they read, podcasts they listen to, or courses that are being offered, it should give you pause. Not everybody can think quickly on their feet in a stressful situation such as an interview. However, a well prepared candidate may have expected this question.

They don’t ask thoughtful questions

The types of questions that a candidate asks during the interview are just as important as the answers they give – sometimes even more important, as they are a direct reflection of the person’s interest in the position and genuine desire to learn about your expectations, your challenges, and vision. They also reveal critical thinking skills and the candidate’s willingness to identify if and how this could be a mutually beneficial relationship. If the interviewee doesn’t take advantage of having the opportunity to ask questions and or just inquires about benefits and work hours, it’s generally not a great sign. 

Understand, though, that you simply can’t apply the same expectations to all candidates. If you offer an entry level position for recent graduates, you can’t expect the candidates to go through the same preparation process as candidates for a senior Account manager, for example. In addition, the further along in the vetting process someone is, the more preparation you should expect. 

Finally, note that even if a candidate aced the interview, you still want to be thorough in your process and not skip any steps, such as waiting for the follow-up, having them do an assessment with deliverables that are relevant to the position, and a cross-departmental interview to determine culture fit. Fast-tracking a candidate can be one of the biggest (and most expensive) pitfalls when it comes to hiring

What about you? How do you determine if a candidate is not adequately prepared for an interview?

Re-learning things after the pandemic

After working remotely for 15 months, we recently returned to the office, albeit for only two days per week for most team members. While it has been wonderful to work together in the same room again, I could definitely sense that it will take some adjustment. I used to not work remotely at all before the pandemic, and after being back in the office for three days in a row, I felt a tad bit fatigued. In addition to more drastic changes, such as having to make your way through traffic or arranging pet sitters, there are little things that we have to get used to again. Here are a few examples.

Watching your body language

If you’re not in the same physical space with your co-workers, all you have to do is watch your facial expression when you’re in a Zoom meeting. It’s a different ballgame when you’re in the office. If you want to exemplify your company values, your body language plays a very important role. If you’re slouching, frowning, making faces, or even making a snide comment under your breath, chances are that your team members will notice. Self-awareness levels will need to be raised in a post pandemic world. 

Reading non verbal communication

Similarly, since you’re exposed to much more non-verbal communication than when you were when confined to a few video calls, you may not be used to observing and interpreting non verbal communication as much anymore. Since it’s a vital part of teamwork and emotional intelligence, it is worth the investment in retraining yourself. 

Less typing, more talking

One of the most challenging things during COVID was the often unrealistic expectation that we could all communicate in an asynchronous way. To be frank, while this may sound appealing, it is simply not the ideal way to deliver the best service to your fellow team members, and, as a result, to your customers. There’s no denying the fact that typing a message takes longer than talking to someone directly. A lot of folks may have gotten into the mode of preferring written communication, and in some cases, they may even get annoyed or startled if you walk up to them to ask a question, so be sure to talk about this challenge and hit the reset button when it comes to communication.

Less multi-tasking

Certainly, you’ve experienced this before: you’re in a video meeting, and it is obvious that someone is working on something else and not paying full attention. Or you may have been guilty of multi-tasking yourself. You can make a case that this has been one of the biggest downsides of the remote work arrangement during the pandemic. It may help to openly talk about this challenge and to promise to call each other out when this type of unproductive multi-tasking happens. 

More impromptu communication

In my experience, the lack of impromptu communication has been the single biggest downside of remote work. All too often, people confuse working remotely with being “heads down” and not needing to communicate in real time. While this may work for some departments within some companies, it’s the exception. Our company thrives on sharing information and responding to customer requests and requests from other team members in real time. Be sure to talk to those team members who may have gotten used to and maybe too comfortable with asynchronous communication. 

Longer work blocks

Working remotely has afforded us many luxuries, including the flexibility to fit personal agenda items into our work day. Some team members may have been able to plan their work around errands, chores, or personal appointments, so it will take a bit of a shift to plan those things around working in the office. We will have to get used to a new (the old) way of structuring our days, which will likely manifest itself in larger, more concentrated blocks of work. 

Contributing to the office environment

While working remotely, all you had to worry about is your own office. Heck, in some cases, you may not even have had a dedicated office and had to fight for a little space in your house to get things done. So obviously, being back in a shared environment will be much different. You will be playing an integral part in re-establishing a comfortable and supportive work environment, which may include little things like making coffee, watering plants, getting the snail mail, or doing a content audit of the fridge. A change, for sure!

Professional appearance

You’ve seen the memes of people wearing button down shirts and jackets for a video call while sporting shorts and bare feet that nobody could see. Some of us may have gotten overly comfortable with regard to our appearance. And thankfully, we’ve been cutting each other some slack, as we did not feel comfortable going to the hair salon or barber shop or in some cases, to even continue our daily upkeep during the heights of COVID-19. Re-establishing the routines that afforded us a reasonable level of professional appearance may not happen in an instant, but it doesn’t mean that we should lower our standards indefinitely. 

It only takes 28 days to form or to break a habit, so after almost a year and a half of doing things differently and mostly in isolation, we simply can’t expect things to go back to normal immediately. We need to recognize our challenges and take one step at a time to find our footing in a post pandemic world. 

What about you? What are you having to re-learn?

A few more thoughts on returning to the office

A few months ago, I outlined some of the main reasons why we were going to return to the office once it’s safe to do so, including more impactful communication, increased empathy, inspiration, better integration of new team members, and ensuring focus on what’s best for the team as a whole. Starting next week, we will be back in the office twice a week. Sure, after 15 months of working from home, it will require some adjustments, and I am certain that not everyone will be completely thrilled. Fair enough. For most people, it is much more convenient to work from home. Many employees report being more productive when they’re not in the office. So when making a decision for your business, try to determine what is best for the team as a whole.

In her recent LinkedIn post, Rachelle Kuebler-Weber does a great job anticipating some of the pushback with regard to going back to the office, and pointing out some of the tangible and intangible benefits of working together in the same space. She mentions different behavior patterns, synergy of proximity, and the separation of work and home, for instance. It got me thinking about misconceptions that some of your team members may have when they’re being asked to come back to the office, even in a limited way, and how to establish clarification.

Of course, remote employees contribute value!

One of the questions that you might receive when discussing the positives of working in the same physical space is “Don’t you think that remote employees contribute value?”. Of course I do! And we have to think of ways in which they don’t just contribute tangible deliverables that are a result of being “heads down”, but also ways in which they help with cross-departmental support, collaboration, and innovation. But is it reasonable to expect that someone who works remotely and in a different time zone will sense that a new team member is having a bad day and take them for a cup of coffee to provide some pointers? Or that a junior BDR will be enabled to learn by osmosis by listening to seasoned reps when they make calls or discuss next steps with each other or with prospects, or when they’re not in the same space? There are some ways to mitigate those challenges, but it’s fair to say that the expectations of someone who works remotely and someone who is in the office at least part of the time differ. That doesn’t mean at all that remote employees don’t contribute value. It’s simply different. And in our case, we need the value, energy and synergy that comes with being in the office, too, which is why we have both local and remote team members.

It’s not all about individual productivity

Productivity is one of the most frequently used arguments for remote work. And yes, I am aware that there are stats that show that a good number of people work longer hours when they work from home (which isn’t always a good thing, though) and also lots of team members who are more productive remotely. I think I fall into this category myself. But individual productivity is not everything. It’s also about building a supportive environment in which people can get help by having in person ad hoc conversations rather than waiting for hours for a response on Slack, taking time to type large paragraphs rather than just talking in person, or having to put a Zoom meeting on the calendar. It’s also about listening to conversations that are going on in the office and with customers, inspiring others to do great work, reducing video call fatigue, listening to someone vent, and making offhanded comments instead of having to type out every single thought. 

Productivity is not necessarily the same thing as success

“But we have so many people who are super productive when they work remotely”. Yes, I am certain that that’s the case. But is productivity the only criteria of success? It really depends on what your business goals are. I’ll take more compassion and communication over a single focus on productivity any day. If maximum productivity in our company automatically means greater customer satisfaction, more thoughtful internal (!) and external communication, better products, better onboarding, more meaningful work, and reaching your growth goals, great. But it may not be the case for other organizations. 

Someone’s “flexibility” is another one’s lack of structure

“Flexibility” is a term that most of us would equate with something positive, right? It means that you have the freedom to do what’s best for… you? The company? While it’s generally a good thing, especially in crazy times like these, to allow people to structure their days in ways that accommodate personal needs (for instance, how about being in the office from 11-3 so you can avoid traffic?), we should also recognize that one person’s flexibility is another one’s lack of structure. Be sure that you’re equipped to help each team member be their best. Sometimes, that involves providing more guidance, shorter deadlines and milestones, and more oversight, even when it’s not the way they prefer it. After all, flexibility should go both ways. 

What’s best for the individual is not always best for the team

As a manager, you want to make sure that every individual is empowered to contribute to their own success and the success of the company. But you can’t just look at individuals. You also have to do what’s best for the team as a whole. You have to consider the desired outcomes for your organization. Here’s an argument that you might encounter: “Why do you punish the A players by having to come into the office just because we have some B players who can’t be productive at home?” Another fair question. First off, identify why coming into the office is considered a “punishment”. Secondly, Michael Jordan probably would have gotten away with skipping practice a few times. However, his drive and his dedication to excellence made his teammates better. (Note that if you do have so-called B players on your team, you have another challenge to overcome, but that’s a topic for another day.) Good work inspires more good work. And putting personal preferences aside every now and then for the good of the team and a sense of community may not be an unreasonable ask. That’s why I have high hopes for the hybrid model of being in the office a couple of times a week. 

Stop silo thinking, and curb it in others

Different roles may be more conducive to “flexibility”, so if you can find a way to provide different set-ups for people in a fair manner, go for it. For instance, someone who is in a customer-facing role might not be able to do most of their work after hours. Be as “fair” as you can, and also make clear that we’re all connected. Just because someone is not in Sales doesn’t mean that they don’t have an impact on the way the Sales team does their job. If customer service is one of your competitive advantages, be sure that the level of dedication to the customer is lived and witnessed every day. Try to avoid  A “not my department, not my problem” mentality.

Think about ways to facilitate more collaboration

If collaboration is important to you, think of ways to facilitate it, whether that’s by rearranging the configuration in the office, implementing ShipIt Days or task forces, or by having cross-functional lunches. Just because you may not have been able to achieve the levels of collaboration in the past, it doesn’t mean you need to stop trying. And, find ways to include your remote workers, both digitally and in person. Consider having them join you in the office at least occasionally. 

If you have your eye on the prize of a popularity contest, it’s probably easier to let everyone choose their own work environment and schedule at all times. But remember, only by doing what’s best for the company are you holding up your end of the bargain, and, at the end of the day, providing meaningful work and professional opportunities for your team members for years to come. And what’s best for one type or size of company may not be best for another. In addition, finding the right balance between individual preferences and team outcomes, and heads-down/remote time and in person collaboration might take a few months, so as always, be prepared to adjust as needed.  

When you do return, exercise compassion. The past 15 months have certainly put our resilience to the test and gotten us into new habits that might be hard to break. It will be a big change to get in the car again, to arrange for pet sitting and child care, and to get used to working around other people again. Let’s cut each other some slack and give each other the benefit of the doubt. 

What about you? What are your thoughts on returning to the office a couple of days a week?

Before you hire

There’s something deeply gratifying about offering someone a job. Even posting a new position feels good, because it often means that your company is growing and/or that you have an opportunity to make your team stronger. But before you hire, be brutally honest when thinking about the questions below. 

Are you hiring for the right reasons? 

Clearly state the desired outcomes of adding a new team member, such as meeting an increased influx of projects, decreasing development time of new features, or breaking into new verticals. I would advise against hiring just for the sake of demonstrating growth, as it often is not fair to the new employees and it can make it challenging to ensure that all team members buy into the mission and vision and pull in the same direction with a sense of purpose. 

Is your current team optimized? 

If you’re not getting the best work out of your team now, throwing another resource at it won’t fix the problem. “If we only had an extra person to do X…” should result in a thorough analysis of how the existing team is spending their time, so that you can identify bottlenecks and opportunities for internal improvement. Here are some additional tips on how to assess staffing needs. 

Is the manager equipped to coach a new person? 

No matter how great your new hire might be, if their manager is not willing or able to not just provide a stellar onboarding experience, but to continue to coach them effectively and consistently, you’re neither doing your company nor the new employee a favor. If there’s a good case for making the hire, but you don’t trust that the manager will be able to handle it, you need to solve the latter challenge first. 

Is your interview process robust enough to ensure that you hire the right person?

In order to avoid some of the most common hiring mistakes, such as not being rigorous enough in your process, be sure that you’ve established a system to ensure that you will find the right person for the job. For us, the process typically consists of at least three rounds of interviews with multiple team members, including one round that is solely focused on determining culture fit. In addition, we always ask for deliverables that are pertinent to the role, such as a technical assessment or a research project. Finally, if you’re not willing to commit to only making an offer if you can’t picture yourself without the candidate, perhaps it’s time to reconsider if you are indeed ready to hire. 

Adding any employee requires a major investment, so be sure that you are prepared to get a maximum return for the company and for your new team member. 

What about you? What else should you think about prior to hiring?