Author Archives: Cheryl Nakamoto

Do you encourage your employees to work from home?

Flexibility, cost savings, no commuting, increased retention, fewer personal/sick days and increased productivity are some good reasons why we should let employees work from home.

But what about the question of productivity? I’m still not sure of that answer, but I believe offering employees the option of working from home depends on the position, person and how much you want to influence your company culture.

We all know that working from home will allow employees flexibility and some will take advantage of their situation. But some employees are so disciplined that they give more to their employer. They set themselves up for success by minimizing their personal disruptions at home. So as an employer I could benefit even more by giving this employee flexibility to work from home.

Allowing your employees to work from home really depends on your company and the roles within it. You really need to set up the situation well by having clear objectives about role duties, how and when to communicate, measurable goals and instituting an audit system. At McNak, we have two positions that could allow a person to work exclusively from home. Ironically, these employees choose to work at the office knowing there is flexibility to work from home for some emergency cases. They like to be around our office “buzz” and say our corporate culture is one of the driving forces that makes their work so enjoyable. When they do work from home, they find it isolating, difficult for communication and leaves them feeling disconnected from the team. They miss the office dynamics.

In the end, allowing for a flexible work schedule must work for both parties, but use it with caution because it could negatively affect the company’s results and ultimately its culture.

This excerpt was featured in Business in Vancouver’s Ask the Experts column. Read the full article here.


Photo: H Sterling Cross



Leadership Lesson

Image representing Richard Branson as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

Last week I was inspired…

I had the good fortune to listen to two strikingly  different yet exceptional leaders:  General Richard Hillier, Retired Chief of Defense Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Forces highest rank and Sir Richard Branson, Founder of The Virgin Group.

I found it so interesting to hear a common theme in both their messages around leadership: respect for people.

 “To be an effective leader you have to care about people.  You have to make it personal”, said General Hillier.

 “Having a personality of caring about people is important,” says Branson. “You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them.”

What else was compelling was their “down to earth” nature. Both extremely accomplished people yet they never lead with their titles. Both leaders don’t take themselves too seriously.

They both have passion for their work.  They are 100% committed to what they do.  They know where they are going and they enlist other competent people around them, listen to them and let them take over- they delegate and truly empower them.

Define your leadership style. Respect the people who work with you. And take care.

What went wrong: a lesson about onboarding

Companies with strong employment engagement usually have clearly defined employee onboarding programs. The best talent is drawn to environments where effective programs exist resulting in high levels of employee engagement and low employee turnover. While it seems like common sense to invest in creating and maintaining these programs, they are often overlooked.

Imagine a situation where a new hire has started at your company but there is no formal onboarding system in place. The new hire has a very important but sometimes undervalued role in the company as the Office Manager/Administrator.   The direct supervisor is a recently new hire themselves so there is no clear direction of what to do. The Office Manager has arrived with a job description in mind but no formal training occurs, nor do they have opportunities to receive weekly or even monthly reviews.  In addition, the busy sales company hasn’t had an Office Manager before as everyone just pitched in. It seemed like everyone assumes the new hire was clear on their job requirements and trained by the other team members.

The rest of the employees couldn’t draw upon history to assist the Office Manager in what to do. Frustration is building with the new hire and in a short time the Office Manager quits and everyone is in shock at what has happened.

This situation could create long-term damage to your corporate brand and could be prevented with an onboarding system in place. Ideally, companies need to plan their program before they start the hiring process. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Your company just needs a well thought out plan with a person accountable to see the new hire through a training-feedback process.

  • Have your new hire’s desk ready with computer log-in, e-mail account and telephone system all up. Don’t forget about business cards.
  • Assign a supervisor who is accountable for training the new hire.
  • Assign a buddy for the first month – nothing breaks the ice more than with a person familiar with the company’s culture and core values. Most importantly – to greet them when they arrive on their first day and show them around.
  • Take your new hire out for lunch on the first day – or coffee at very least
  • Train the new hire with a concise orientation book about your company
  • Seek feedback from the new hire- they can tell you where they need more assistance, clarity or direction
  • Communication is key – use monthly reviews to provide feedback and encourage feedback
  • Inform your employees in advance of the new hire’s arrival. Onboarding starts as soon as the offer letter is accepted, not simply just the new hire’s first day at the company.

Without an onboarding program, the investment in a new hire is likely to be wasted away. By simplifying the onboarding process, employers can expect new employees to hit the ground running, and be able to contribute more quickly to a corporation’s success.

Domo arigato

How often do you thank your employees for their work? I try to say ‘thanks’ daily, but for sure every few days I thank my team.

I appreciate hearing it myself so I can imagine others do too!

We all want to keep motivated and I found the simple words of gratitude are very uplifting and encouraging and I keep doing more of whatever I was thanked for.

Employee motivation is a topic all Human Resource professionals ponder – and rightly so as look at the results – Increased employee motivation leads to higher employee engagement and finally retention increases.

So, how to motivate our employees?

Unfortunately there is not an exact science nor formula.  Too bad we couldn’t just fill in a check list we created tailored to specific “types” of people.  However, just as one employee is motivated primarily by money, then another employee is not. I have staff that appreciate personal recognition for a job well done just as much as that ‘extra’ bonus available.   Motivation should be as individual as the employees who work for us.

And it doesn’t just have to be the leader that recognizes their employees. In our company, employees are given opportunities to formally thank and publicly recognize their peers for going above and beyond their regular job to support the team.

Thank you!

~ Cheryl Nakamoto

photo credit: Anemone Letterpress

Onboarding = Retention

Both research and common sense tell us it’s wise to invest in preparing employees to be successful at their jobs. Follow up reviews and regular feedback can facilitate a positive relationship between the employer and new hire. Higher engagement equals happy employer and happy employee.

~ Cheryl Nakamoto

Moments of Magic

I was at a drug store today in the shampoo section when I happened upon a conversation between a store clerk and a customer. The customer was inquiring about a specific product line that they apparently didn’t carry anymore. She probed further about what other options were available to substitute and without a smile on her face the clerk responded, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t tried any of them.’ and then walked away.

“A moment of truth is anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, and has an opportunity to form an impression.” Jan Carlzon, Scandinavian Airlines

About a month ago I attended a seminar lead on Moments of Truth, Misery and Magic by Shep Hyken, Customer Service expert and author of The Cult of the Customer . Shep spoke of the dynamic when you interact with people that you can either create moments of misery, magic or mediocrity.  Moments of misery are those moments of truth gone bad.  Moments of magic are those awesome experiences that make you want to go back for more.  And perhaps the most hurtful to a business are those of mediocrity or as Shep calls them those of average, as those experiences leave no impression at all and can damage a company just as much as those of misery.

If companies were to repeat my drug store experience in their own particular business version they would most definitely leave an experience of mediocrity. You can really tell when an employee is engaged or interested in the overall good of a company.

Shep’s statement that,   “One person can make the company!” is bang on. How often does a moment of mediocrity or misery delivered by a company’s employee scar the company for a long time unless dealt with.  With so many other choices why would we go back for a negative or neutral experience.

Shep’s 10 strategies that will create Moments of Magic:

  1. Manage the first impression- make it positive
  2. Be knowledgeable on your service/product
  3. Build rapport when dealing with your customers
  4. Enthusiasm- show your “joy” for what you do!
  5. Communication- be clear and ask questions to qualify what they really want and when.
  6. Mistakes will happen so your goal is to resolve and restore confidence
  7. Quality in every turn- provide great service or a great product
  8. UPOD- under promise and over deliver
  9. Consistency – maintain consistency in delivery of service
  10. Show appreciation- thank you’s!!

~ Cheryl Nakamoto

photo credit: 10ch

The beat of an organization

I recently attended the 2010 HRMA conference. The theme of the conference was People, Passion, Profit. There was a surprise plenary on the agenda to kick off the conference. With much anticipated curiosity and anticipation I waited outside the room with other fellow HRMA attendees. Our curiosity was rewarded when we were finally allowed to enter the conference room. To my surprise the conference seats where lined with 1000 drums! We spent most of the 40 minutes learning about how the power of sound can move a group together. It was a powerful message: Before you can move forward cohesively as a group you need to start with a united baseline.

This metaphor for ‘finding a team’s rhythm’ is something we have done for years now at McNak. While we don’t do it with drums or music we have found our rhythm in the pulse of our weekly company wide meeting that we have every Monday morning. Originally inspired by Verne Harnish in his book The Rockefeller Habits, we have truly made it our own. By having our whole team united at one time has really made a difference in the cohesiveness of how we move forward with our own individual goals. This brief meeting also carves out time for our whole team to be present to celebrate individual and team successes. And now if only we could just nail our McNak theme song…..

~ Cheryl Nakamoto