Santa receives letters from kids around the world; I receive emails from VAR and ISV executives throughout North America. That’s probably how it should work because while Santa knows when you’re sleeping or awake, he hasn’t focused as much time on the indirect distribution model as I would like. Let’s peek inside my mail bag to see what’s on the minds of resellers and software developers as of late.
Have you heard anything about the industry standard regarding mileage? Are people paying mileage for employees to drive to work on their days off? I just had a situation with an employee who drove on a weekend – from his home to our office, then from the office to a team car pool for an install. He told me that his schedule is Monday through Friday 9 to 5 so he should get his mileage reimbursed. I told him that is his core schedule but he is often expected to work different hours and he was made aware of that when he accepted the job.
Thanks for reaching out. Your story makes me think of a few things:
- As far as mileage for commuting, I believe most every business follows the IRS guidelines and doesn’t pay for mileage between home and the primary work location. But a central location for a car pool isn’t technically the “primary work location,” so this is at best a gray area for the situation you described I think.
- A guideline we followed at my prior company was, “When the policy is unwritten or unclear, always find in favor of the employee.” The reason many employees leave a company is because they didn’t receive money/benefits/an award they feel they deserved, and this guideline helps mitigate that. I recall one time we changed responsibilities for two employees mid-year and there was a $3k end-of-year bonus to be awarded for completing a big annual project. One employee had done the first chunk of work and the other employee got the project across the finish line. So who gets the bonus? Or do they split it? Instead of us making a judgment decision, we gave the full bonus to both … and then made the bonus form language clearer going forward. We figured we’d rather be out the $3k than have upset employees who would actually have legit data to base their frustration on. We’d do this with small-dollar items, too, because often times it’s the small things that cause the most frustration.
- The key to control this is (1) take the time to make the policy clearer so you don’t encounter this again, (2) explain to the employee that while you could make a case they didn’t earn the money/benefit/award, you’re going to grant it to them for this situation, and then (3) you show the updated policy to them before (4) recording notes of your conversation and adding it to their file.
- Most employees are reasonable and appreciative that you’re “giving them a break” or “not being a jerk.” Of course an employee can take advantage of you by trying to split hairs – sales reps are notorious for this – but that’s when you need say to them, “Come on – please don’t try to take advantage of my generosity. Let’s be reasonable here.”
- I’m not sure if you have a written Travel Expense Policy, but if you’d like to implement one, you don’t have to create one from scratch. This one from SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) is fairly comprehensive, so you can edit it down to fit your needs. Spoiler alert: It lists “Commuting between home and the primary work location” as a nonreimbursable expense, which leaves mileage to the meeting point a gray area.
- You’ll note that the commuting reimbursement rules don’t really speak to getting paid for a “day off” I think because by virtue of the employee working, it’s actually not a day off. The guiding rule is between home and the primary work location no matter what the day.
- Related note: In my prior life, we offered an employee $40k to start – that’s what he said he was looking for from us to switch jobs. He mentioned since in the near future we were moving our office further away from his house (about 10 miles further) he now wanted a salary of $42k instead. We responded, “If we were moving our office closer to your house, would you be asking for $38k instead?” He accepted our offer of $40k.
Is it better to set lofty sales goals and fall short or create “realistic goals” and have a pretty good chance at accomplishing them? We had a debate about our comp plans the other day. Is it better to set lofty aggressive goals but still pay “100%” even if we fall just short? Or is it better to set reasonable goals and only pay “100%” for achievement? What do you think? We want to challenge them while also keeping them positive and upbeat if they’re not on track to hit their goals.
Those are interesting questions. As far as engaging with employees about goals – sustaining optimism while addressing reality during the process – it sounds like you’re talking about The Stockdale Paradox. This is one of my favorite business principles. Follow the links for details:
- Background on the concept
- Jim Collins’ business application
My take on goals:
- If you don’t hit the number, you don’t get the bonus. There would have to be some wild, once-in-a-thousand-years scenario for me to pay the full bonus if the employee didn’t hit 100%. Because then you are setting yourself up for following years when the employee falls short and reacts by saying, “But I fell short last year and got it. Why not this year?” And then what is the real line to earn the bonus – 99%? 98%? 90% + external factors?
- If you want to recognize them for the effort, then give them a separate bonus for effort … but it should still be less than the full reward if they achieved the goal.
- In my management experience, oftentimes we would set two goals – the realistic goal we wanted to achieve and then a stretch goal that would cause us to do cartwheels (and pay out a bunch of money) if they/we achieved it. That way you get a realistic number plus something BIG for them to shoot for.
- To start the year, we would coach them/work with them to create a plan to achieve the stretch goal. “What would we have to do to get this number that seems impossible? Let’s try that.” If it turned out later that the stretch goal wasn’t going to be achieved, then we could focus on the other goal to make sure they got that.
I’ve attached my notes from the book Authentic Leadership. The quotes are a good reminder that authentic, real, fact-based conversations with our colleagues work better than devising a plan to “motivate” them to do more.
Can you recommend a really good book about turning around a culture at a place? We have a couple of departments where they’re just not as committed to the mission as they should be. It’s a good old boys club with a “this is way different than we've always done it, why are you trying to change us?” mentality.
Great question. Here are five books I’d recommend for the situation you detailed. I can send you my notes for these books if you want a preview before choosing the right book(s).
- Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard – Chip Heath and Dan Heath
- How The Mighty Fall – Jim Collins
- Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?: Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround – Lou Gerstner
- Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t – Simon Sinek
- Ownership Thinking – Brad Hams
Dear Santa: This year I want a Tickle Me Elmo, a pet rock, Madden 19, and a new iPhone. Thank you.
Sorry – I think you have the wrong address. I’ll forward your request to the North Pole ASAP. Happy holidays!