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Preparing for the Unthinkable

No one prepares you or tells you what to do if you lose an employee (abducted by aliens, ghosted, or the absolute worst, if they pass away). Never mind if they are a trusted member of your leadership team. There’s no playbook. SHRM provides one article with cold notification text for telling your employees. There is no humanity in it.

When we faced the worst of these possibilities, I didn’t know where to turn. I did what I thought was best in the moment. I followed my heart and tried to act with as much humanity as possible.

Here are some observations and lessons from this experience:

 

Notifying Your Team

Points of Contact: We all have emergency POCs for our employees. But how often are they updated? Our team had been okay about this, but now I’m going to be militant getting them reviewed semi-annually.

On the employee side, how many partners/family members have contact information for your employee’s supervisor? We may all go home and talk about work but how many of us share contact information? Further, how many share it for more than one person in the organization? We now insist that all our employees give their families not only their supervisors contact info but mine as well. In an emergency, time counts. Having two POCs for the company increases the likelihood that someone will pick up when they call and can handle all the company aspects.

The Leadership Team: Leadership and colleagues need to know. The sooner the better. My immediate reaction was to get all of the Directors on a call immediately. Better that they hear it from me than on social media.

The Ground Team: Coworkers also need to know – not only because they care, but because we may need their help in trying to cover for the employee in question. We held a quick all hands 10 min zoom call (a sign of the times). I told everyone everything that I could, so we all worked from the same information.

Partners and Clients: For us, it wasn’t as clear what was actively being worked on by the employee as they had multiple projects and clients. I personally talked to as many as I could to let them know of the situation. All have been understanding and kind. We’ve had to ask for grace way more often than I ever want to, but the support has been universal.

 

Work Product:

Our employee was working off their own computer and therefore wasn’t under our prevue. We had thought all client files were being backed up in the cloud, and luckily for us, that ended up being the case. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t have had access to their personal laptop. We would be in the unfortunate position of guessing on deliverables, going back through emails, and trying to construct what had happened. Going forward, we will repeatedly spot check that all company work is in the cloud. And not doing so will result in discipline up to and including possible termination. That’s how seriously we are going to take it.

 

Insurance:

Our employee was not a standard salaried employee, so their insurance coverage wasn’t always as clear cut as we would like. We worked closely with our broker to ensure that the information we had was exactly what the carriers had, so there were no questions in coverage. In doing so, we discovered that we needed to audit the basis of coverage under STD, LTD, ADD and Life insurance policies. Most companies offer these coverages for free to employees and you sign up once when onboarding and then never think of it. We are now going back to audit all of our invoices for the year and the basis of salary that the carriers are using. We’ve been good about auditing health insurance, but we need to be better about this bill.

 

Helplessness:

Because their passing was so unexpected and out of nowhere, everyone is wrestling with it. We all want to be helpful in some manner. Unfortunately, especially when in wait and see mode, there is absolutely nothing that can be done, except to cover for client work, ensure the family has food and make sure we’re there to answer any questions. This leads many of us (myself very much included) to feel helpless. Our jobs as leaders is to help solve problems. And there was no solving this one. This personally weighed me down. Everyone wants to feel useful. We ended up opening a 529 plan for our employee’s son. This at least gives us something to contribute towards to feel useful. It also allows us to make an impact. My personal goal is to drive as much money into this fund as possible in the memory of our colleague. Flowers are nice, but debt free college options for their 9-year-old is was more important in my mind.

 

Humanity:

My company has now seen me ugly cry via zoom (let me tell you how ugly that is). Clients I’ve never spoken with have heard from me and we’ve talked about life and death in a manner that some people never share with friends. I have personally swung from rage to despair in 5 short minutes. Instead of hiding my feelings or trying to remain nothing but professional, I’ve just been me. It’s the only way I know how to be. Time will tell if this was a bad idea or if showing your humanity is indeed the way to lead.

 

As stated before, there is no standard for experiencing this depth of sadness in your work or personal life. All in all, it is necessary to lead with heart and putting humans first. I truly hope that you never have to experience something like this, but in the unlikely event that you do, I hope these reminders make the ‘company-stuff’ as painless as possible.

Remaining Current Amid Ever-Fluctuating Information Regarding COVID and the Workplace

In this time of uncertainty, information overload, not to mention public and political debate over what is the right course of action (and who is to blame for the mistakes of said actions), is rampant.  It is difficult to know exactly what is useful and accurate information, or even where to find it.

As fast as information is released, it is modified or changed altogether, making it extremely difficult for organizations to recognize which guidance to rely on.  Now more than ever is the time for business leaders to truly partner with their HR Professionals and corporate Safety Officers to ensure that information and changes to public edicts is communicated and implemented in a timely fashion.  Proactivity and readiness will ensure your workforce is well taken care of during this pandemic.  How your organization handles this pandemic will no doubt affect the morale and productivity of your workforce, not to mention your ability to engage and retain your employees.

As mentioned, it is important to keep up with the latest information and choose a select few sources for reference.  The best course of action is to rely on a limited number of resources from reputable sources.  Sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) have comprehensive, workplace-targeted resources and guidelines.

In addition to the above resources, you will want to follow the relevant state and local resources, as they are often targeted to the specific outbreak statistics and corresponding response remedies for the local area.  For example, if you are in employer conducting business in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you are required to provide employees with job-specific education and training on preventing the transmission of COVID-19.  The specific training that must be provided depends on the risk level employees face at work, as defined by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health’s (VIOSH) Emergency Temporary Standards.  This training is required to be completed by August 26, 2020.

It is important to keep in mind that agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and OSHA have specific guidance with regards to testing, quarantining, handling employee complaints, and the fine line between exposure, illness, and those employees who are medically deemed as high risk.  In each of these situations, there is the potential for the integration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), necessitating an interactive discussion with the employee.

Whether it be a Google Alert, a subscription to your employment attorney’s newsletters (let us know if you need a referral, we know some great ones), or simply checking your sources on a very regular basis, there are many ways to stay current.  The HR team at BOOST is also well versed in the latest COVID-related rules and regulations.  If you are looking for advice on how to navigate returning to the office, employee exposures, other questions about business continuity during the COVID pandemic, let’s connect!

Post-COVID | What to Expect and the Future of Business

 

In this expert panel discussion recording, Stephanie Alexander is joined by:

Jim Campbell, President/CEO of AXIM Fringe Solutions Group,
Katie Bilek, SVP at Republic Capital Access and Co-Founder of govmates,
Leslie A. Stout-Tabackman, Attorney at Law, Jackson Lewis P.C., and
Lee Stokes, CEO/Founder of Compliance Services Agency

to discuss what you can expect for the post-COVID future of the GovCon industry.

MilSpouses | Value for Business

As the local unemployment numbers continue to be a record low rates and we all talk about the war for talent, unicorn candidates and the ridiculous salary expectations for some of the workforce, there is a pool of talent that is often overlooked…the Military Spouse (also known as: MilSpouse).

Why should you consider these folks?  Our initial response is why not?
Off the top of our heads:

• Change agents
Businesses change quite a bit and who better to understand and go with it than someone who is used used to packing up their stuff and moving to a completely new environment every few years?  These folks don’t scare away from change…they sometimes crave it.

• New Environments
MilSpouses go into completely new environments all the time.  They can adapt and mold to their new circumstances, quickly.  They don’t waste months trying to figure out the new clients or getting up to speed on new technology.  They immerse and they adapt.

“Figure it Out” mindset
Often MilSpouses are on their own while their spouse is serving.  They don’t know all the answers, but they can figure stuff out in a hurry.  This extends directly to their work.  We don’t hire folks who know everything…we hire folks who are smart enough to know where to get the information needed.

• Community
While a MilSpouse can absolutely figure it out, they also are great at adapting and relying on others in their community.  Need something done?  They will organize and support with precision.  There is nothing a group of MilSpouses can’t tackle.  This extends to their teamwork approach.  MilSpouses are unique in that they can be a rock star individual contributor, but also play quite nicely on a team.  Did we mention that they are adaptable?

As you struggle to fill your team, ask yourself if you’ve overlooked one of the best sources of employees in the business.

And a quick note to MilSpouses out there – There are employers out there who value the above.  Not every job needs to be 40 hours a week, nor does it need to be done in person.  Don’t put your own career on hold because you feel there aren’t companies that understand your needs.  Work with employers who understand your value.  “MilSpouse” does not equal unemployed or even underemployed.  Know your value, keep your skillset up to date and seek employers who get it.

 

BOOST HR

Connect with BOOST LLC and let’s discuss your HR needs!
[email protected]

Introducing BOOST LLC

BOOST was founded to support GovCons as they get to the next level. After reinventing the wheel many times and banging our heads against numerous walls, we have learned what works and what doesn’t. We love working with executives who want to see their organization grow and who value advice from those who have “been there, done that.” We want our small clients to outgrow us. We want our large clients to use us when they need us and then call us back for the next project. We want you to sell your business for the multiplier you want. We want you to be successful.

www.boostllc.net

Why Pricing?

BOOST is excited to announce the launch of our new strategic pricing initiative, designed to support your proposal pricing needs and provide Price to Win strategy that incorporates all back office functions. We want you to win work, grow and succeed. Strategic pricing can get you there. 

Pricing impacts absolutely everything in an organization. If you haven’t been thinking about it strategically, or have just relied on your accounting shop to pull together a spreadsheet, you are going about it all wrong.

Here’s what I mean:

Capture –

  • How much does this customer have in the budget?
  • What did the incumbent bid?
  • Is it worth it to pursue this strategy?
  • Is this a profit play or increase past performance, new client, new offerings?
  • Impact to teaming decisions and teammates?
  • Did you know that Capture “owns” pricing? They’re ultimately responsible for the bid price.

Proposal Team –

  • What key personnel do we bid?
  • What type of labor mix will show the customer that we can deliver?
  • What price will come in competitively?
  • How do we price our solution?
  • How will our competitors bid?
  • How will we ghost weaknesses?
  • How can the pricing volume help win themes?
  • Other volumes impacted by price, such as SB volume, Contracts volume?

Recruiting –

  • Who are the key personnel and how can I ensure exclusivity (if possible)?
  • What is the geographic location, skill set and salary rates we need to start pipelining beforehand and hire in execution?
  • Greening plan? Innovative hiring solutions for continuity of ops over the contract years?
  • What flexibility do we have on credentials?
  • What type of benefits can we offer to supplement for lower base salaries?

HR –

  • What training do we need to offer to current staff?
  • Who can move from existing work to new work, allowing for career path?
  • How do we manage the workforce needs of the new team?
  • If changing badges, how do we ensure they understand our culture, benefits, etc.?
  • What is the cultural impact to the organization?

Operations 

  • How soon can we transition fully and hire?
  • Will we be stuck managing a team of unhappy badge changers?
  • What is the impact to the other projects if we trade players?
  • How can we keep the customer happy with a new team?
  • How can we hire the talent we need at the salaries we bid?
  • How do we overcome a small (or non-existent) annual increase and keep the team motivated?
  • How will the contract type affect performance metrics? Should we account for risk in the bid?

Finance –

  • What is the cost to hire, how quickly will we hire and what are the cash flow requirements?
  • What will be the impact to margins?
  • How do we deliver for maximum profits?

Leadership 

  • What does the win do for us in the marketplace?
  • Can we deliver operationally and do so profitably?
  • What is the impact to our culture that we need to recognize?

Shareholders –

  • What does this do to the company’s overall position within the industry/market?
  • What is the financial impact?

Absolutely everyone in an organization is impacted (directly or indirectly) by the pricing strategy that you employ on the bid. It goes without saying that to start, you’ve got to win. But the need to win MUST be tempered with the above impacts. Winning a poorly priced bid for headaches in execution is NOT worth it. Do not fall into the trap of “must win at any cost” mentality. It can wreck culture, margins and reputation.

For all the above reasons, we are extremely excited to announce our strategic pricing shop. We’ve got 10+ senior pricers that cover practically every agency, who have won billions. As we push towards fiscal year end, utilize professionals who can help you think through all of the above and win.

Recruiting During Proposal Season

Soon proposal season will be upon us…along with writer’s block, visions of past performances dancing in your head, cost volumes, long nights and lots of coffee. But, the most enjoyable of all is resumes, sourcing, contingent offer letters and recruiting.

Government contracting recruiting is not like commercial recruiting.  The talent pool is small, the salaries are low, the lists of qualifications are long and the skill sets are specific. Proposal recruiting is its own version of fun with key personnel, vague requirements and candidates who get cranky when they hear you are recruiting for a proposal.

Whether recruiting for a proposal or a funded job req, the usual question is whether you recruit with in-house recruiters or if you utilize an outsourced recruiting firm (or individual recruiting consultant). There are several pros/cons to consider when outsourcing:

Pros of Outsourced Recruiting

  • You can use recruiting support only when needed, which can keep costs down
  • Recruiting firms offer the benefit of an expanded network
  • The resources of a qualified recruiter result in finding candidates faster, also important in proposal recruiting
  • Recruiting firms can keep the client confidential in postings, which is especially beneficial in the intelligence community or when recruiting for proposals

Cons of Outsourced Recruiting

  • For proposal recruiting, you are expending costs that you may not recover
  • You still need to add the cost into the indirect rates
  • Outsourcing can add additional time to the process (i.e., bringing a recruiter up to speed, learning your culture, etc.)
  • Better upsell of your company when you directly deliver the message

There is no right/wrong answer when it comes to determining how you will conduct your recruiting.  Both insourced and outsourced offer benefits and advantages.  Outsourcing costs more, but allows you to focus more efforts on different areas (proposal writing, business development, etc.).  If you have the staff available, insourcing can save costs and give you more control over the recruiting process.

BOOST and Apertus Partners are conducting a workshop through the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce GovCon Initiative on May 31st at 8:30 on Recruiting in the Intelligence Community.  Come join the discussion on recruiting challenges, case studies of successful internal recruiting from a local GovCon, the price of recruiting and recruiting diverse candidates in the Intel space. Ross O’Rourke from IC-1 Solutions will present on his company’s experience with internal recruiting in the intelligence community and Dat Nguyen, a BOOST recruiter, will speak on his experience with diversity recruiting in the intel space.

Register here.

Data Bullying

In the past month, we’ve seen no less than three clients who are actively being bullied by their own staff or their consultants.  What do I mean by bullying?  Being at the hands of someone who holds information as their weapon of choice.  People who deliberately make their jobs as vague as possible to hide their inefficiencies or inadequacies.  They do most of their work off the books or systems that their company utilizes.  This means spreadsheets that can only be filled by them, pipeline reports that have no context, CRM tools not updated, candidates whose resumes are not in their ATS or even access to company data not provided.

I’ve talked to CEOs who are the mercy of their bookkeepers who somehow mysteriously run payroll, invoicing and financials as if no one else can possibly figure it out.  CEOs who aren’t provided financial reports in a timely fashion to make important decisions about their companies.  I’ve talked to those who have outsourced their accounting functionality, only to find that they don’t actually own their own company data.  They’ve signed contracts with ridiculous clauses requiring payment for getting out early, while their data is either held hostage or not returned at all.

I’ve seen business development people run an entirely different CRM tool that they can take with them should they leave a company.  They use excuses such as the “data entry is tedious,” or that “the company CRM tool is too hard to use.”  They leave proposals on their laptops and forget to check entire documents back into the company’s repository.

I’ve seen recruiters who are “too busy” to upload resumes into the ATS or who correspond apart from their company email.  Or worse, they recruit for several different companies at the same time for the same candidates and positions, and play companies off each other (without their knowledge) in an effort to drive up their commission or fees.

Finally, there are PMs or Ops people who hold their relationship with the client hostage.  They are the only ones who can communicate directly.  They keep their deliverables on their laptops, they won’t allow their contracts shop, or even their management to speak with the program office.  They keep their relationship deliberately convoluted, yet report all greens on their PMR charts.

To this, let me be clear in my message – NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE is indispensable.  CEOs commonly think that they can’t live without a certain person.  They whisper that they will lose their re-compete or that they won’t have payroll processed or that their BD person will change companies, or they will lose financing with their banks. While there is no argument that losing this person will hurt in the short term, having this type of hostage situation resolved will absolutely provide peace of mind to your organization in the long term.  Not being beholden to someone for their data (which, is YOUR data) is freeing.  Coming to the realization that no one is indispensable is freeing.

Take back your company, CEO…. it’s your risk, your reputation and your livelihood.  Own it.

Do you feel you’re in danger of or in the midst of an information-held-hostage situation? Let’s have a conversation and see what’s really going on, [email protected]

Gut

“Have faith in your intuition and listen to your gut feeling.” Ann Cotton

Ask any CEO, and 90%+ will tell you that their biggest hurdle is people. Hiring the right team, making sure they play well together in the sandbox, work together to meet the mission, and generally push the company forward. The dynamics of a strong, diverse team are invaluable in the progression of your company. So how do you hire the right person? Do you rely on proven experience, or do you go with your gut?

There is plenty of written work around the topic of hiring. Some companies have it down to a science (think alphabet or apple). Most small businesses are lucky to have a standard process, much less something that is consistent and does a good job of screening candidates. Many folks at this stage “go with your gut” and hire specifically based on personality and how the candidate did in the interview.

How effective is this and how detrimental can it be to your company should your gut be off? Depending on your policies, you may be required to excessively retrain, mentor and closely monitor a subpar new hire. The damage to your established team could be expensive regarding time, mindset and resources.

For me, some of my best hires have been based on a combination of experience and/or the right personality traits. The right balance between the two is paramount. For example, is your accounting candidate detailed oriented? Do they have typos on their resume? If so, not a good indicator. I’ve hired folks without any specific industry experience, but they had the right personality and were willing to learn. Personality is just as important as any experience, especially when joining a small team. How well candidates can play with others is one of the key factors, and in my opinion, should be weighed more heavily than experience.

With that said, another key factor when considering a new hire is diversity, specifically, diversity of thought and opinion. If you surround yourself with folks who have the exact same background and exact same experience as you, you’ll wind up with total agreement, and stagnation. Total agreement doesn’t challenge you as a CEO, nor does it advance your company.  You need people on your team who will appropriately question your path, question the standard and most importantly, take issue with the soul-wrenching, “but we’ve always done it this way.” Hire folks that push you to be a stronger business leader, and your company will be much improved as a result.

Your gut is an important part of your hiring process as we often notice red flags subconsciously. Yet it behooves us to remember to include careful consideration of experience, personality, and diversity. While you’re refining your hiring process, you may want to consider a hiring audition to uncover some candidate characteristics often unseen in an interview. If you’re interested in revamping your policy on hiring, seek out the advice experts in your field as what may work for Apple may not work for you.

For expertise in GovCon regarding hiring, recruiting and human resources, contact BOOST LLC. www.BOOSTLLC.net