Here, Paul Rowlett from the corporate gift specialists EverythingBranded offers his top tips for maintaining your positive company culture, even when your staff are working from home.
Although the ongoing coronavirus pandemic might have forced your hand when it comes to letting your staff work remotely, you might be thinking about making this more of a long-term arrangement. Perhaps your company has been hit quite hard financially and you’re looking for ways to reduce your overheads, or you might have personally enjoyed working remotely over the last few months.
It’s likely your employees will appreciate more remote working going forward, too. In fact, research by Michael Page has found that 66% of professionals working in banking and financial services would like flexible working hours, and 53% also listed work from home options in their top three desired benefits. Regardless of whether your staff are in the office or working remotely, though, you’ll still want to hold onto your positive company culture. And, here, I’m going to offer my top three tips that should help with that.
Check in with everyone regularly
When you’re trying to achieve or nurture a positive company culture, making your workers feel appreciated and valuable should be your number one priority. A lot of business owners make the mistake of assuming that paying their staff’s wages is all the thanks they need, but you need to remember that your workers could probably find a similar job elsewhere quite easily. It’s the company culture and people that they’ll stay for, so you need to try your best to give them the attention they need, even if they aren’t physically in the office with you.
One of the easiest but most effective ways to make sure your employees feel valued is by checking in with them individually on a regular basis. Give everyone some space in your diary, so you can catch up with them, give them some feedback, and ask if they have any concerns regarding their jobs. This will also give you a chance to ensure you’re catering to everyone’s needs. For example, you might find that a number of your staff members would benefit from their working hours being tweaked, or they might need a particular program or piece of equipment to help them with their job. There are lots of little things your employees might just struggle along with if they aren’t given some one-one-one time with you, so checking in with them will ensure you get the whole picture of how they’re finding their job, and you might find there are some ways in which you can help them out.
Reward their hard work
It’s also important that you reward your staff for their hard work, as this will help to make them feel valued, as well as motived. Obviously, working in the financial sector is particularly difficult at the moment, as so many businesses and markets have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. So, it’s worth reaching out to let your employees know that you appreciate things are quite tough right now, and that you’re proud of how they’re handling things. And, if they hit particular targets, or you have a very impressive month, make sure they know that you’ve noticed!
Practical corporate gifts are ideal for showing your gratitude and, if you choose to have them printed with your logo or company name, they’ll also remind your staff of how much your business values them. Choose your presents wisely, though, because you don’t want to send your staff items that will just be left on their desk or forgotten. Think about what they could actually use. Most people working in financial services will often require stationery, a tablet that might need a cover, and possibly even some headphones, so there would make great work presents. A reusable water bottle or coffee cup could also work very well.
Host remote socials
Due to the UK being on lockdown for the last few months, we’ve all had to get a lot more creative when it comes to how we socialise. This means video chats and online pub quizzes have become increasingly popular. So, even if your whole team are working remotely, don’t think that this means you can’t still hold staff socials. These might just have to take place online from now on — especially while social distancing measures are still in place, and if your employees are spread quite far and wide.
If you’re planning to let your staff work remotely for the foreseeable future, consider scheduling a work social every quarter. This will give everyone something to look forward to, and will also help to keep relationships strong among your team. You’ll know that everyone works a lot harder when they’re working with a team they love to achieve a common goal, so it’s still important that your staff have fun together, even though they might not see each other too often. And making it a priority to invite everyone along to remote social events is sure to make all the difference.
If your company and staff have benefitted from working remotely throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, you might be thinking about allowing everyone to continuing working from home. You’ll still want to maintain the positive company culture you’ve fostered, though, and these tips should help you do just that.
GOING GLOBAL: 7 TIPS TO GET STARTED
The idea of selling your products or services to new markets across the globe is an attractive prospect for any business, large or small. But while reaching new customers and unlocking the potential for further growth can seem exciting initially, adapting your business to foreign markets is no small feat. Factors such as cost, communication and cultural differences can all affect your business’ success when going global. This guide will explore some of the key considerations to make when you’re thinking of expanding your business overseas.
Evaluate Your Finances
One of the main questions to ask when looking to go global is whether or not your business can afford to do so. Crossing borders can be a complicated and expensive process which can take away time and resources from other opportunities at home. Growth for businesses abroad is often a slow process; establishing products and services in other countries takes time, so you will need to factor this into your planning. Thorough analysis of domestic and international markets should always be undertaken before making the decision to expand your business overseas.
Location, Location, Location
Choosing the right location is crucial to the success of your business expansion. International business network Going Global Live says that taking your business to the right countries initially can save you money on excessive marketing and advertising, putting you face-to-face with your target market from the outset. You should weigh up the pros and cons of potential locations, such as the likelihood of being able to fill your new HQ with prime, homegrown talent, as well as access to desired markets aided by foreign investment bodies. It is also important to consider the relevant laws and regulations laid out by national and regional governments.
Ensure You Have the Right Infrastructure
Making sure your business has the right infrastructure to handle expansion abroad will put you in a good place going forward. Implementing a clear management strategy, both locally and centrally, will set your business up for a smooth and successful launch overseas. Having up-to-date IT and communications systems at the centre of your business will allow you to share information and data securely. When it comes to shipping, choosing the best – and most efficient – transport and storage providers will give you the peace of mind that your products are safe in transit. Companies such as S Jones are ideal for businesses looking for more information on storage solutions for shipping overseas.
Build a Strong Team
Appointing a strong team to oversee your expansion is crucial to your company’s success in new markets. Hiring people with a good knowledge of your target market, as well as a focus on your business’ interests, is key when establishing your overseas HQ. Working with local partners can help you to communicate your business’ unique selling point in a meaningful way. Having an experienced partner or mentor that you can trust to oversee the expansion will allow you to stay focused on the bigger picture and ensure that your attention isn’t taken away from your core customer base.
Once you’ve made the move to globalise your business, be sure to have faith in your ideas and don’t be deterred by slow progress. Dr Shai Vyakarnam of the Cranfield School of Management says that while there is a fine balance between faith and stubbornness, you’ll need “incredible levels of self-belief and faith in your idea” to succeed, and that you “only need to be able to turn a few key people in your favour and the others will follow”. Making well-informed decisions quickly will allow you to stay on track and will nullify the threat of any lingering self-doubt. While progress may be slow at first, be sure to remain patient and be prepared to build personal relationships to gain the trust of your new partners and customer base.
Consider the Impact of New Ideas
When implementing new ideas for your business as whole, consider how they will be received by your new international customers, as well as by your existing customer base at home. What might be seen as a positive idea in your home country could be perceived as offensive or alienating by your customers abroad. Factors such as differing time zones, languages and cultural appropriateness should always be taken into consideration when making key decisions to eliminate the risk of alienating foreign customers and damaging your reputation overseas.
While it is important to have faith in your business and be patient initially, you should also be willing to make changes as things develop. Acting on the advice of experts is key to navigating new markets successfully. It may be that your products and services require innovation to meet demand, or that cultural differences lead you to make changes to your marketing strategy. Being adaptable will give you the best chance of meeting consumer demand on a global scale.
When trying to expand your business to an entirely new customer base, try to bear in mind some of the above points. As long as you remain patient and open-minded, then you should have little difficulty in marketing your business globally.
Homepage, S Jones Containers, https://www.sjonescontainers.co.uk/
‘7 Tips for optimizing international business communication’, 99designs, https://99designs.co.uk/blog/tips/tips-for-optimizing-international-business-communication/
‘Going Global: How To Expand Your Business Internationally’, Business News Daily, https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8211-expand-business-internationally.html
‘Going Global Means Thinking Global: 8 Tips to Consider’, Cranfield School of Management, https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/blog.som.cranfield.ac.uk/blog/going-global-means-thinking-global-tips%3fhs_amp=true
‘Our Top Tips for Going Global…’, Going Global Live, https://www.goinggloballive.co.uk/news/blog.asp?blog_id=21679
REDUCING FRICTION ONLINE HAS BECOME BUSINESS CRITICAL
Andrew Shikiar, Executive Director at the FIDO Alliance
The global pandemic has pushed the importance of remote access and authentication right up the agenda for many businesses. All those occasions where people would normally show up in person to open a bank account or pick-up some high street essentials were simply not possible for large parts of the year. Even as restrictions have eased across the country, these kinds of face-to-face transactions remain an unappealing prospect or a last-resort to many.
Not surprisingly, this has led to unprecedented demand for online and remote services. This brings with it a host of challenges and opportunities, and we have seen many examples of companies brilliantly adapting and reacting to this new way of life. But one issue that businesses and individuals have been grappling with for years – that of frictionless transactions and authentication – has now been put under a brighter spotlight as it is increasingly critical to get right.
Friction impacts the bottom line
The core challenge facing businesses is how to strike the right balance between giving customers the best possible experience of online service, and the necessary regulatory and security implications that directly affect – and often contradict – that ideal user experience.
We’ve all likely experienced the very real kinds of friction I’m talking about – it’s the account you gave up on registering for, or the purchase you abandoned because the process was just too frustrating.
Friction like this has direct bottom line impacts through the loss of sales and/or disaffected customers – and it is substantially more pronounced in the current climate. People have less money to spend, they are spending a greater proportion of this reduced pot online, and businesses are competing for their livelihoods to claim their share. Providing a frictionless experience can be the difference between success and failure.
Banking and retail lose out
Nowhere is this problem more keenly felt than in the retail and banking industries. Countless transactions simply don’t happen each year due to issues with passwords or mobile One Time Passwords (OTPs) at the point of signing-up or checking-out.
Data from Statista shows that 69.57% of digital shopping carts and baskets are abandoned and the purchase not completed. And Mastercard’s analysis estimates that up to 20% of mobile e-commerce transactions are abandoned or otherwise fail (e.g., from undelivered SMS OTPs) mid-way.
In addition, independent web usability research institute Baynard found that one out of five consumers abandoned their online shopping carts citing the checkout process as “too long and complicated”. That means 20% of customers taking their custom elsewhere, likely to a competitor, because the process presented too much friction.
Passwords are a major part of the problem
Organisations have struggled to strike that balance between frictionless yet secure online log-ins in large part because of historical dependence on passwords – which simply aren’t fit for purpose in today’s online economy. Passwords were designed to be simple but, as we can all likely attest, they have become incredibly cumbersome and difficult to manage.
The demands placed on consumers to remember and keep track of the array of different passwords they need, and the different requirements of password complexity which varies from provider to provider, is proving to be untenable.
Not only are passwords a major cause of consumers giving up on purchases or preventing them from signing up for new services, but they also fail in delivering on their primary objective: to protect accounts and sensitive data. All too often the password has proven to be a single point of failure, and one that is all too easy for hackers and fraudsters to get hold of – a trend accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.
There has been a move toward developing and adopting open standards that enable any online service provider to authenticate users in a way that is both highly secure and almost completely frictionless – with all major platform and cloud service providers coalescing around a common approach.
It’s clear from the way consumers have embraced using their fingerprints and FaceID to unlock their devices that simple, natural gestures work – and that they are often preferred over using a password. By adopting the latest authentication standards, organisations can enable their customers to use these same easy gestures on their every-day devices to prove their identity and approve even the most sensitive of transactions.
The standards also improve security by moving away from the traditional model where your password or similar piece of ‘secret’ information is stored on a server, to one where credentials are stored on an individual’s device. This means they cannot be phished or divulged through other means of social engineering, while also inherently stopping the large-scale breaches that impact millions or billions of users in one go.
Due to these developments, the kind of poor user experience that leads to abandoned shopping carts and lost customers during the sign-up process is completely avoidable. There is now nothing stopping banks, retailers, and a range of other businesses from offering a superior, and low-friction user experience while also maintaining the safety and integrity of the networked economy.
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