What Your Employees Really Want To Know About Change

Organizations are organic. They grow, shrink, shift and evolve to stay responsive to customers and the ever-changing business climate. Sometimes change is good and sometimes it’s not. Either way, change can affect people’s jobs and create a sense of uneasiness or fear.

Today, we’re sharing key tips for planning and implementing change from Liz Kislik, a contributor to HBR, who helps guide organizations through change.

Plan more time than you ever thought necessary to prepare the content, delivery and necessary follow-up. When communicating across your organization, you should expect to hold not just one initial “all hands” meeting or videoconference, but also a series of smaller team and individual conversations as follow-ups. Also, coordinate the timing of the announcements so that no one is caught flat-footed if the news is released at different intervals by individual managers and organization-wide outlets. Giving people multiple opportunities to take in and process the announcement is essential for thorough understanding; receiving the information from the right sources in the right sequence is crucial for credibility.

Equip all levels of management to explain the context. Provide training and rehearsal or role-play time to everyone who will need to communicate the message; don’t assume they’ll have the right instincts.

Describe the organizational pain, and how the new solution alleviates it. Instead of just announcing a disruptive change, give the background of what’s not working today and why the new plan is the best way to get to the desired outcome. Focus on how customers have been hurt, how the business is incurring extra expense, the negative brand impact—and how the change will help mitigate those problems.

Personalize both the impact and the resolution. If you don’t, employees may not understand which specifics apply to them, or even how the company is providing support or services to help them cope. For example, in the small group or individual meetings, be prepared with all the necessary details to answer personal questions immediately. Without this, you’ll create even more anxiety and aggravation as people wait for someone to work out the specifics you didn’t research in advance.

Give the affected people as many options and as much participation as you can. When they have choices—and the necessary information or support to make them—employees feel more respected and maintain more pride and autonomy. The closer people are to the work, the more likely it is that they’ll generate practical ideas. Kislik gives the example of one organization that was having financial difficulties and provided a series of meetings about cost-cutting measures that asked everyone to look for ways to help—even though they were adversely affected by some of the very measures they proposed.

Demonstrate humility and responsibility, not just authority. Many leaders mistakenly believe that they’ll be given a pass for shaking up people’s lives if they say they’re suffering over the decision or the disruption themselves. Even treating the problem as a shared responsibility can backfire and feel manipulative to employees. Instead, say, “I’m sorry I didn’t anticipate …” or, “I was too enthusiastic about x…” This shows that you take seriously the impact of the situation on others. You can’t prepare for every curveball, so if you don’t have the answer to a question, say something like, “Wow, that’s a question we didn’t think about, but it’s a good one. We’ll get back to everyone with an answer early next week.”

Whether announcing cost-saving measures, a company restructure or an acquisition, by carefully planning your communication and providing the right level of detail at the right time, you can support your employees through the process with transparency and authenticity.

Source: Liz Kislik helps organizations from the Fortune 500 to national nonprofits and family-run businesses solve their thorniest problems. She has taught at NYU and Hofstra University, and recently spoke at TEDxBaylorSchool. Request her free guide,

How to Resolve Interpersonal Conflicts in the Workplace, on her website.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

Retrain Workers Now For Your Future Business

Look around your organization. Do your employees possess the skills needed to lead your business into the future? Mostly likely there are a few but the tendency is to hire new employees who bring the needed skills. In fact, 62 percent of executives believe they will need to replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2030 due to automation and digitization. However, “upskilling,” or teaching new skills to your existing employees, can be a better and more affordable option, while building engagement and longevity with them.

Upskilling programs can’t be one-size-fits-all. Each employee has a different learning style, a different schedule and, potentially, a large amount of information to learn. Herey, we’ll share suggestions for developing employee retraining programs from Daniel Newman, CEO of Broadsuite Media Group.

The Best Retraining Programs Engage and Teach. Studies have shown that the most effective training programs combine engaging elements with specialized training modules. These modules should have online options as well as in-person instruction that focuses on completing skilled tasks. This training should also include digital and physical simulations for real-world, hands-on education. Digitizing the process and using technology like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) can achieve effective results with lower cost to the company.

Personalized Learning For All. On top of engaging learning programs, technology can make it possible to tailor programs to the needs of specific individuals. Part of the capabilities of machine learning happens in the back-end where voice recognition and patterns live. As employees are going through the training program, it recognizes who is using the program and adapts to their specific needs. Employees can experience personalized learning that continues to adapt to their specific learning styles. They can also get real-time feedback based on their performance. This personalized learning fills those gaps on an individual level, boosting confidence and morale. This kind of tool replaces those boring modules that are a pain to implement.

Pattern Building For Retention. Learning is only the first step. After all, have you truly learned anything if you have no ability to recall that information and put it into practice? This is where training reinforcement through pattern building is essential. Most companies struggle with this, seldom reinforcing the information given to a new employee after the initial training.

To be effective, employees must practice these skills they have learned in order to retain and use them. Intelligent applications can be used to improve retention by helping employees to produce patterns throughout their daily work. Once a pattern is established, new techniques can be implemented without confusion and strain. It is all about retraining without huge effort on your end and a new possibility thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Measure ROI Through Learning Success. Using technology for reskilling and retraining allows organizations to gather data on both the employees and the training effectiveness. This data also allows the organization to determine the ROI per employee for retraining. This will help you tailor your program to meet the unique needs of your business while remaining productive, efficient and cost-effective.

Planning For The Future. As AI is permeating many aspects of our lives and businesses, digital transformation is taking hold and we must do everything in our power to keep up. Our employees are the future of our business and must be skilled in these areas of technology to keep us competitive. By starting now, you are ensuring your employees are receiving the education through retraining programs they require to be successful for themselves and for your business.

Source: Daniel Newman is CEO of Broadsuite Media Group, a principal analyst at Futurum and author of Futureproof.

The Importance Of Working For A Boss Who Supports You

Does your boss support you? Most people would say “yes—and no.” It often depends on the situation.

Employees who believe their company cares for them perform better. What value does an employer place on you as an employee? Are you there simply to get the job done and then go home? Are you paid fairly, well-trained and confident in your job security? Do you work under good job conditions? Do you receive constructive feedback, or do you feel demeaned or invisible?

Today, we’re sharing these valuable tips from Forbes contributor and digital marketing specialist, Sarah Landrum, on how to have a healthy and happy relationship with your boss.

Invest In A Relationship With Your Boss. When you’re first hired, you should get to know your company’s culture and closely watch your boss as you learn the ropes. Regardless of your boss’s communication style, speaking up on timely matters before consequences are out of your control builds trust and establishes healthy communication. Getting to know your boss begins with knowing how he or she moves through the business day, including their moods, how they prefer to communicate and their style of leadership.

Mood: Perhaps your boss needs a cup of coffee to start the day. If you see other employees scurry away before the boss drains that cup of coffee, bide your time, too.

Communication: If you have important news, deliver it to your boss promptly. Use email or a phone call to check in, and schedule a meeting for in-depth topics. Show you respect your boss’s time, and, in return, your time will be respected, too. Remember, everyone has a different style of communication and you must respect your boss’s style. For example, some bosses may appear cold in anecdotal discussions, but their analytical style may prefer discussions

based on hard data.

Leadership: What kind of leader is your boss? Autocratic leaders assume total authority on decision-making without input or challenge from others. Participative leaders value the democratic input of team members, but retain the authority to make the final decision.

A Healthy Relationship With Leaders Makes The Company Better. A Gallup report reveals that 71 percent of Millennials aren’t engaged on the job and half of all respondents are planning to leave their current job within a year. What is the cause? Bosses are responsible for 70 percent of employee engagement, and engaged bosses are 59 percent more prone to having and retaining engaged employees.

These bosses exhibit supportive behaviors such as being accessible for discussions, motivating according to an employee’s strengths rather than weaknesses, and helping to set goals. The most positive engagement booster was identified as when managers focus on e

mployee strengths. According to the report, the people responsible most often for employee retention and engagement are those in leadership positions. The boss is poised to directly affect employee happiness, satisfaction, productivity and performance.

The same report reveals that only 21 percent of Millennial employees meet weekly with their boss and 17 percent receive meaningful feedback. In the end, one out of every two employees will leave a job to get away from their boss when unsupported.

A healthy relationship between boss and employee is vital to company success, and is especially important to the progression of careers among Millennials as the workforce continues to age.

Read PCT again tomorrow when we will talk about customer reviews.

Source: Sarah Landrum writes about howcan be happier at work. She is also a digital marketing specialist, freelance writer and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career advice blog that focuses on happiness and creating a career you love.

Ask The Most Important Interview Question

Business blogger Brendan Reid says there is one specific question you can ask during an interview that will help you to clearly understand a job candidate. 

Ask this question: Walk me through how this role and company will be different from previous experiences you’ve had.

The Research Test: Reid says he likes this question because the answer always reveals how much the candidate has researched the company and the position. If they don’t refer to specifics or cite examples that indicate they’ve done their homework or if they don’t demonstrate a clear understanding of the role, then it will be apparent.

The Self-Awareness Test: Self-awareness is an attribute that Reid says should be highly valued in candidates. If you aren’t self-aware and you can’t evaluate yourself objectively, it’s very difficult to be successful on a team. This question is great at revealing self-awareness. The candidate is forced to think critically about their own experiences and compare them with this new one. In the process, they must point to gaps and deficiencies to provide a thoughtful answer. The best candidates will be able to thoughtfully analyze and identify areas of difference and speak to how they will manage through them.

The Depth of Competency Test: Many candidates can speak at a surface level about a topic or function. The Internet makes it easy to prep basic answers to most questions, so the goal here is to force candidates to demonstrate a depth of understanding. It allows them to show how they can apply concepts from one job to a different situation.

The Learning Test: Another important attribute to look for in candidates is dedication to learning. The best teams are the ones that learn and improve every day. By asking a question about differences and gaps, you provide the context for the best candidates to talk about learning. Some candidates will try to minimize the relevance of differences. The best candidates, on the other hand, will speak to specific steps they intend to take to close the gaps. They’ll talk about learning.

Try this question in your next interview as an efficient way to discover the capabilities of your job candidates.

Source: Brendan Reid is an executive at one of the largest software companies in the country and the author of Stealing the Corner Office. He also writes a business blog and provides one-on-one career coaching.

Managers: Pay Attention To The Back Row

I recently read an article about a woman attending a  Zumba class at the local recreation center. It’s a class made up of all ages of women and men (yes, men do Zumba too) from high school to retirement age. Some people try it a few times and never come back. Some are seasonal attendee, and there are the regular diehards-those of us who show up as often as we can.

Over time, a pecking order has emerged among this hodgepodge group. The back row is typically made up of newbies who are trying to learn the steps or who have a difficult time keeping up in class. The next two rows are typically a mix of regulars and sporadic attendees. Some of them are uncoordinated and need some extra space to move around in. Others in these rows tend to be somewhat experienced, but they don’t want any attention as they go through the steps. In the next two rows, right behind the instructor, are the regular attendees. They know the steps, they put in 100 percent effort and sometimes they even throw in some additional moves or use hand weights for the added challenge. Finally, we get to the front row-those who do Zumba alongside the instructor. Obviously, space there is tight here, so this self-appointed, elite group is typically comprised of three to four proteges who like to interact with the instructor and don’t mind having all eyes on them.

During the time in this class, what she noticed about the front row. No matter how crowded the room is, these people always make their way to the front assuming they have a reserved spot there. These participants like to observe themselves in the mirror and they are confident in knowing all the steps. This group has confidence, expertise and there’s a sense of elitism. But if anyone else from the class attempts to step into the front row, there’s an unspoken threat that they don’t belong there.

One of the most difficult jobs as a manager is to create a fair and equitable approach to team development and team dynamics. In an environment where personalities and personal agendas impact team dynamics, sometimes the loudest get the most attention and others with potential but softer voices go unnoticed.

As a leader, what can you do to optimize your team members to get the most creativity and productivity? Try these steps:

1. Manage the spotlight. Every team has a super star—that individual or group of individuals who stand out. They are experienced at what they do and they let others know it. While they might be cordial to the team, they control the team culture. They believe they deserve the spotlight and can take up the boss’s time and attention because of this.

It’s easy to give into these individuals because they make their presence known. Sometimes these individuals will self-appoint themselves as “second in command” due to their tenure or experience. Be careful with this as it can be confusing, and frankly, degrading, to other team members. As a leader, you certainly don’t want to discourage high performance. However, you also need to manage your time and attention across your entire team if you are going to optimize the team and get results. These individuals do best when they know they’ll have time with you, so set up one-on-one meetings with these individuals so they can share ideas. And make it clear that your job, as the leader, is to set the direction and goals. It’s not up to them.

2. Give the second and third rows a chance to break through to the top. Often there’s great talent on a team that’s held back or doesn’t get exposure because of the front-rowers. Take time to identify that second- and third-row talent. Who does their job well? Hits deadlines? Brings new ideas to the table? Identify those individuals and give them some additional responsibilities that will grow their exposure across the organization. Whether it’s running the next staff meeting or planning the next corporate customer event, give them their own spotlight moments that won’t get overshadowed.

3. Groom those diligent attendees into front-row experts. Remember the team members who show up each week and are getting better and better at their skill sets. These team members might not have the skills down like other team members, but they are learning and have the potential to be part of the “front row” someday. If that’s the case, invest in these team members. Send them to professional development programs to hone their skills. Set them up with mentors in your organization. Help groom their skills and give them the confidence that they are up-and-coming high performers. By investing in them, you are not only building your bench strength for the future, you are also building employee engagement and, hopefully, employee tenure.

4. Don’t let those back-row success stories go unnoticed. Finally, don’t ignore the back row. The truth about the back row is that some of these team members will drop out or move to other teams. However, there are a few who will begin to move their way up in terms of skill development.

Be available to coach these back rowers and provide them with clear direction and instruction. With these team members, you’ll need to be proactive, reaching out to them individually and assessing their level of interest and engagement. By spending the extra time, you can determine where there are opportunities for improvement and where there are gaps in skills and contributions to the team.

There is also the opportunity to identify back-row success stories. These are individuals who quietly and unassumingly contribute in a very significant way to the team. Discover these successes and let others know.

Pay attention to your team dynamics and adjust the time you spend with team members based on their level of expertise and visibility.

Source: Cassandra Johnson is a tech-savvy marketing communications consultant and freelance writer. She reports on the latest trends in the promotional products industry, public relations, direct marketing, e-marketing and more. She supports clients in a variety of industries, including promotional products, hospitality, financial services and technology.

The Real Facts About the Coffee Shop Effect

Myfavorite invention of all time is the one I can’t live without—my laptop. It’s not because of its powerful software or its ability to create content, but because of its flexibility. My laptop gives me

freedom. I can work in the office, from home, by the pool or at my local Starbucks. Changing my work location helps me with productivity when I get brain fog or writer’s block. In fact, I can often get more done in one hour at Starbuck’s than in an entire morning at the office. The question is, why? Freelance writer Kat Boogaard asked this question, too, in her recent blog.

1. Your brain loves novelty. Boogaard says that the human brain has been proven to constantly seek novelty, rather than the repetitive and mundane. It’s a classic case of “shiny object syndrome.” Whether or not you’re aware of it, you’re always keeping your eyes peeled for what’s new and exciting.

When you’re presented with something different, your brain releases dopamine. Known to many people as the feel-good brain chemical, dopamine was previously thought to be a reward in itself. Recent studies, however, have shown it’s more closely tied to motivation—meaning dopamine inspires you to seek out a reward, rather than acting as a reward itself.

So, by creating a fresh, new work environment, a la Starbucks, you are providing a blank canvas for your brain to get stimulated. By focusing on your to-do list in your new environment, you are exercising your brain’s neuroplasticity. So, what you see as being more efficient in a different location is your brain thinking about the tasks in a different light. By doing this, you are climbing out of the stale rut you were in before, activating your brain’s ability to think about things in a new way.

2. You easily fall victim to unproductive routiness. We all have routines in our lives, and sometimes these routines, or rituals, are comforting. However, sometimes these routines can become—well, so routine—that they are unproductive. That’s why, when you need to put something together for work, it’s easy to get distracted by the blackhole known as Facebook or Twitter, or another social media channel. Sometimes a different work environment helps to counteract these bad habits and get productive again.
Boogaard shares this quote from Ralph Ryback, M.D., in an article in Psychology Today. He says, “Environmental cues are essential when it comes to habit formation, in part because the brain is excellent at connecting an environment with a specific situation.”

Pay attention to what productivity boosters you enjoy most and think about how to incorporate them back at your desk.

3. You set intentions to get more done. Is it the actual change of environment that makes you more productive, or is it your intention to work better or smarter in the new environment? Boogaard says that it’s both of those things. Changing your work environment does indeed have an impact on your brain and your level of motivation. But, there’s a lot to be said for good intentions as well. It’s as if you’ve snapped your brain into saying, “I’m going to get through my list.” Intention can be a powerful tool.

As reported by the Harvard Business Review, William A. Tiller, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, is quoted from the book, Intention Experiment, by Lynne McTaggart, as saying, “For the last 400 years, an unstated assumption of science is that human intention cannot affect what we call physical reality. Our experimental research of the past decade shows that, for today’s world and under the right conditions, this assumption is no longer correct.”

In other words, your intention makes a difference. The next time you feel like you’re just barely slogging through your workload, consider heading to a new environment with the intention of getting things done. You’ll likely be surprised by how much it helps your productivity.

Source: Kat Boogaard is a freelance writer and blogger who finally gathered her courage, sprinted away from her cubicle, and started her own business. Now, she lends her voice to various brands and publications to help them craft content that engages their audience. Beyond that, she helps other hopeful freelancers figure out how to jump ship from their jobs and create their own heart-centered and hustle-filled businesses.

Create Your Own Magic With These Three Steps

Have you ever done something difficult at work, but made it look easy? Maybe you solved a problem, helped a client or negotiated a deal in a way that astounded your colleagues? It felt amazing, right? Inspiring delight and wonder is powerful—even addicting. It’s this sense of awe and power that also drives magicians to do what they do, and why people love them for it.

What most people don’t realize about magic shows, though, is that it’s not all props and performance. To truly surprise and delight, a seasoned magician uses his expertise. And you don’t have to run away with the circus or even learn a single magic trick to apply magical thinking to your business or career.

Today, we reveal three secrets for creating the wow factor at work developed by Kostya Kimlat, a magician with more than 20 years of experience.

1. Innovation And Lateral Thinking. Magicians have always had to work backwards: They come up with a surprising effect and then devise a means to accomplish it. They must consider all mental, visual and physical tools available. To continue astonishing people, a magician can’t stick with the same tactics. Their tricks must constantly evolve, but here’s the key—their approach to developing new material stays the same: Magicians start the creative process by acting as if anything is possible.

To be creative and innovative, you have to be able to see existing resources as more than they are. You must seek methods and technologies unknown to you (and maybe to others). You can’t do any of those things when you decide preemptively that any end goal—a new product, service, client or corporate structure—is outside the range of what’s possible.

2. Perception management. No magician’s trick is complete with only physical tools and technologies. To fool someone, a magician must do something the other person doesn’t know, recognize or perceive. Knowing and managing an audience’s perceptions are what make the trick.

Similarly, to excel at work, it’s not enough to just be creative. You must also accurately understand what people around you perceive—what they believe and expect. Before an important meeting with a client, your boss or employees, do some digging on what your investors believe about your company before you present. Find out what delighted or disappointed them at the most recent board meeting—and why. Do the research beforehand to more deeply understand what others believe they know, how they see you and what they are looking for, and you’ll be able to deliver and even dazzle by going beyond expectations.

3. Social Intelligence. Highly successful magicians aren’t just good at tricks. They’re great entertainers. They pull people in. Why? They read people in a way that others don’t. Perception management—the ability to understand how people perceive you and what you do—is a skill that can be learned, developed and refined. If you practice taking the perspectives of others enough, you’ll develop a powerful tool: social intelligence.

Being a great thinker doesn’t just mean having great ideas; it’s understanding and anticipating the thoughts of others. It’s knowing how they think and feel, and making informed guesses on how they will react. It’s about being ready instead of reacting in panic.

You can practice the same strategies at the office. Constantly assess what those above, below and beside you are perceiving, what they expect and how they feel. Do this not just during crucial moments, but at every point of interaction. Do it well enough and it will be what sets you apart. It will become your magic, your own wow factor.

With these three magician’s secrets, you can bring innovation and lateral thinking to your job. Wow your coworkers by anticipating what they’re going to think or say at the next meeting, and astonish them with your masterful ability to connect and communicate with anyone you meet.

Source: Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker and corporate magician who fooled Penn & Teller on their hit TV show, Fool Us. Kimlat speaks to businesses about how to Think Like A Magician to improve sales and customer service.

Three Ways To Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive criticism can be a very sensitive area. It’s an opportunity to identify areas of improvement, but it can also mean bruising an ego here or there.

In her recent blog post from The Muse, author Kat Boogard shared three ways to give constructive feedback, which we’ll outline below.

1. ” You always …” Always. As Boogard says, “always’ seems like such an innocent word, but when used to give feedback, it can quickly put someone on the defensive.

As she points out, “always” can imply that there’s a mistake that has happened on a frequent enough basis that you can chalk it up as something that person repeatedly does. Maybe that’s true. However, constructive criticism is hard enough to swallow without being made to feel like you’ve been making the same mistake for a long time.

So, when giving feedback, drop the “A” word.

2. “Everybody has noticed that …” Sometimes when you receive feedback, it can feel embarrassing or disheartening, especially when you didn’t realize there was a problem to begin with.

Implying that everyone has noticed will make the recipient feel like they’ve been talked about and that negative comments were made.

When giving feedback, there’s no need to relay the details of every single complaint. In the end, it shouldn’t matter how many people have commented. What matters is that the person is aware that he or she needs to fix it.

3. “If I were you …” Constructive criticism is generally better received when it’s rooted in fact-as opposed to just opinion. This phrase, “If I were you …” can come across as judgmental.

Remember, not everybody works the same way, which means that just because you’d do something differently doesn’t necessarily mean the way that other person is doing it is wrong and warrants correction.

Providing feedback can be a positive discussion and an effective step toward improvement. By demonstrating respect and basing feedback on facts, not judgement or opinion, you’ll create a positive foundation for next steps to improvement.

Source: Kat Boogard is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she’s also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor on the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she’s usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco.

How To Respond Faster To Leads – And Why It Matters

What can you do in an hour? You can take lunch or connect with a friend over coffee. In about an hour you can get new glasses, get your oil changed or walk about 4,500 steps on the treadmill. It also takes the C

SI crew about an hour to solve a murder (including commercials, of course). An hour is also the maximum amount of time you should take to respond to an inbound lead. Why, specifically, an hour?

A study in Harvard Business Review analyzed 1.25 million leads across 29 business-to-consumer companies and 13 business-to-business companies. It found that companies that responded to inbound leads within one hour were seven times more likely to qualify the lead (have a meaningful conversation with a decision maker) than companies that responded within two hours. Plus, those that responded within one hour were 60 times more likely to qualify the lead than those who responded 24 hours or longer after receiving the lead.

In a recent article in Inc. magazine, Tommy Mello, the founder of A1 Garage Doors, shared four ways he makes sure his company responds to inbound leads within that critical first hour.

Review your org chart. It isn’t necessary for all employees to be focused on hyper response. Take a look at your organization and identify those who should be.

Make hyper-responsiveness a key metric that you measure. After you know who needs to respond quickly, put the expectations in place. Do they need to respond in five minutes or an hour? Make sure you have the tools and systems in place to track the time to respond and the results.

Provide a centralized customer relation

ship management system. Using a centralized CRM will allow your sales teams to have all the information they need in front of them and provide reminders for follow up. It also allows the company to see who the top performers are to benchmark and replicate their processes across the rest of the team.

Create an FAQ template. Responding quickly has the risk of responding poorly due to the time pressure. Having templates in places to help your employees respond to the most common types of inbound leads will help minimize missteps and keep the conversations on point.

Do You Really Need An App for That?

How many apps do you have on your smartphone? According to a report from App Annie, the average smartphone user accesses over 30 apps monthly—and these are approximately one-third to one-half of the total apps installed on their phones. With the Apple App Store expecting to offer five million apps by 2020, it’s certain that app usage will continue to rise.

As business owners, we feel the pressure to develop an app. Why? It makes us “current.” It provides convenience for the customer. It sets us apart from the competition. And the reasons continue. However, unless your business already has a developer team in house, an app can be a costly investment that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a return on investment.

Today we share these key questions to ask when deciding whether or not to invest in app development, according to Sarah Perez, writer for TechCrunch.

1. Would it provide value to your customers? The first question many business leaders ask themselves is whether developing an app would be good for the company. There are a million reasons why apps can benefit any business, but what is most important is whether an app would add value to your customers.

Even if you don’t use technology to make transactions, many businesses can find creative ways to provide value to customers with an app, from ordering products to tracking delivery. Getting customers to download an app is easy. But whether it adds value to their experience with your business is the biggest question, so ask your customers what they need.

2. Do you want to stand out from the competition? Big or small, almost all businesses today have a website. What’s less common for small businesses is having a mobile app that customers want to download and use. If none of your competitors have already made a killer app, that may be the reason to get a jumpstart and provide value that no one else is offering.

3. Does the return on investment outweigh the cost of hiring a developer? If hiring a developer will cost more than business gained or retained from the app, then perhaps focusing on updating your website is a better use of resources. Find out if your customers spend more time on their phones, tablets or computers— then you’ll know where to invest for the most visibility.

Mobile apps might not be right for every business. But knowing how customers spend their time and providing value to them is important for any business wanting to stay on top.

Source: Sarah Perez currently works as a writer for TechCrunch, after having previously spent more than three years at ReadWriteWeb. Prior to her work as a reporter, she worked in IT across a number of industries, including banking, retail and software.