Friday, April 29, 2011

5 Steps to Make Sure Your Employees Succeed

For companies to achieve, employees must achieve.  The steps to employee success are similar to those of anyone’s success.  However, just as we don’t always take necessary action to reach our goals in other environments, so we don’t always in the workplace.  Here are five crucial steps to help your employees truly perform.  By setting them up for success, you’re setting yourself and your company up for success as well.

1. Make sure your employees understand exactly how their jobs affects the bigger picture for the company.  If they can’t see the big picture, where’s their sense of accomplishment and fulfillment?  These days employees often participate in one very narrow step towards completing the larger company goal.  So it’s crucial you make the connection between their daily duties and the overall mission on a frequent basis.  Keep them up to date on progress from a micro and macro perspective.

2. Create a strategy with employees to reach those goals.  Every goal must have a strategy.   Within a company, there are two levels of strategy: the shared company strategy with rules every employee follows, and the individual strategy tailored to each particular employee’s task, work style, and abilities. Depending on the particular employee, you may have a larger or smaller role in helping that employee develop their personal strategy.

3. Find out what kind of feedback works best for each employee and then provide it, consistently.  Some employees need more frequent feedback, good or bad.  How hard working or successful each employee is has little to do with which feedback style he prefers.  Feedback is a crucial part of communication in any relationship, and obviously including working relationships.

4. Tie personal goals in with company goals.  Let’s face it; your employee isn’t solely working for you and your company.  He has his own goals and milestones he hopes to achieve at his job.  Taking the time to understand these goals builds a strong professional and personal bond between you and your employee.  Understanding these personal goals will also help you communicate, create incentives, and work together better.  For example, John may truly care that your company meets its quarterly sales goals.  But he also has a personal goal of improving his people skills.  If you understand his goal, you will understand how to motivate and relate to John, and leverage both sources of drive to reach your goals.

5. Handle failure.  Work with your employee to figure out the reason he/you didn’t meet his/your goals.  Once you’ve pinpointed the problem, do what you can to fix it, or move on with a revised strategy to ensure success the next go round.  You show your employee more respect by considering him worthy of holding accountable, rather than ignoring the failure and treating him as a lost cause.

What steps do you take to ensure your employees’ success?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Employer-Paid Vouchers Axed

Lobbyists succeeded in helping to repeal the healthcare reform voucher provision, as part of the recent budget deal, though the provision actually had no short-term impact on government spending.  However, the provision would have had a big impact on employers.

What are the vouchers?

The free choice vouchers are paid for by employers, and given to low-paid employees who opt to purchase coverage from state health insurance exchanges versus from their employers. The amount of each voucher is equal to what the employer would pay to have the employee enrolled in the “largest premium contribution” plan.  The employee could then use the voucher to purchase state health insurance.  If the state plan costs less than the voucher, the employee could packet the extra cash, minus an income tax.  The exchanges were set to take place by 2014.

Who qualifies for the vouchers?

Employees whose family income doesn’t exceed 400% of the poverty level, and whose employer-required premium contributions fall between 8% and 9.8%, are entitled to the employer-funded vouchers. 

What would this provision mean for employers?

Employers with large numbers of low-paid workers would obviously be most affected.  Employers who offer more expensive plans would also pay more, since the voucher amounts are based on the best/most expensive plan.

For now, this particular provision is axed, and many mid- to large-sized employers are grateful.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Right Boss Matters

People always talk about finding the right job, but you don’t hear them talk about finding the right manager – until they’re in the job, and then you often hear them complain.

Really, they should consider their “fit” with each manager during the interview process.  As much as the job requirements, a manager controls your assignments and work environment.

How do you determine whether or not you’re a fit before you’ve had the opportunity to actually work with the company?  You ask questions in the interview.

You’ve been told many times the importance of asking questions at the end of an interview to show how we’ll you’ve researched a company.  But these questions are actually important in determining cultural fit – and that includes whether or not you’re a fit with your potential manager.

Here are a few questions you might ask:

1. Is there anyone working for you who you consider an awesome performer? What makes him or her a great employee?
2. Ask about a past project or accomplishment in detail.  Try to listen for what the boss actually did throughout the project.
3. What is an example of a typical customer?  Listen for the manager’s attitude toward customers.
4. Ask for their views on delegation. How do they delegate?
5. Ask them for their opinion on individual development and training?
6. What does it take to succeed in a role like this?
7. What is your personal management style?
8. What has your experience with the company been like so far?
9. What are key expectations from team members?

You won’t be able to tell everything about your boss from an initial meeting and a few questions, but you should get a very good idea of what he or she would be like to work with.

And if you do inevitably end up with a boss who makes your workday more difficult, try to do what it takes to make it work.  Good employees learn to anticipate their bosses’ needs and work around differences to get the job done.  Eventually, they get a new boss or a new job and can move on knowing they took full responsibility for their success, despite the obstacles.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dress for Interview Success

Appearance counts, especially at a job interview.  Your interviewer and people at the company will be judging you by your answers to questions, and also by how you’re put together. That includes what you’re wearing and what you carry with you.  Here are some tips to ensure you’re presenting yourself in a manner that helps you get the job.

1. Wear a suit.  You may think it’s old-fashioned, but wearing a suit to a first interview is a sign of respect.  It’s better to wear a suit and be slightly overdressed than not wear a suit and risk not getting the job because of it.

2. Mind the shoes.  You can be wearing a great suit, but it won’t matter if your shoes are scuffed, clunky, or don’t match.  Details matter in creating a polished, put-together appearance.  Make sure your shoes are clean, polished, and match your suit.

3. Balance trendy and traditional.  The interview isn’t the time to wear your “fashion-forward” purple striped suit.  While it’s important to express your personality, it’s also important to rein in the extreme.  You can’t go wrong with a dark suit.  You can always show your personality through a pop of color in a necklace or scarf.  Likewise, a fun but smaller earring is more appropriate than a long feather earring that hangs down to your shoulder.  This isn’t a case where you want to go for shock-value.  Employers are slightly risk-adverse these days and you want to ease their minds by presenting yourself as a safe bet.

4. Be wrinkle-free.  It shows polish and attention to detail.  Take the time the day before the interview to look over your suit, shirt, shoes, and bag, ensuring everything is ready to go and ironing or polishing if necessary.  The day of the interview you’ll feel calmer and less rushed.

5. Consider the company.  Before an interview, it’s extremely important to research the company to understand its culture.  A company’s culture could have some bearing on how you dress for the interview.  You’ll need to wear a suit regardless, but it can’t hurt to customize your look ever so slightly with that particular company in mind.  Think colors and level of formality.

What do you normally wear to an interview?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Temp Workers in Japan

In the United States, the term temp worker does not carry with it the negative connotation it does in some countries.  Temp work has evolved from conjuring images of grueling labor and scraping by, to signify flexibility, autonomy and valuable career experience.

However, the recent tragedy in Japan has brought into focus examples of temporary labor in which workers do not enjoy the same safety and standards.

Many untrained temp workers in Japan are incented with higher pay than they’re accustomed to, to take on jobs considered dangerous and highly unpleasant to the average worker.  For example, thousands of temp workers make up much of the labor force behind the nuclear power plants in Japan, including the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi.

Pre-tsunami, temp workers there were exposed daily to high levels of radiation and other life-threatening working conditions.  Yet, their pay is still comparatively low and they receive little to no benefits.

Many of these temporary laborers experience healthy problems including cancer which are probably direct results of their working conditions, yet because these cases are difficult to prove, few workers claim workers compensation for their illnesses.

Post-tsumani, according Tokyo Electric, about 45 out of 300 people working in perilous conditions to contain and repair damage to the nuclear power plant are temp workers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Women, the Workplace, and Companies’ Role in Gender Equality.

Following the recent Walmart lawsuit, the media has focused on women in the workplace today: their successes, their challenges, and their aspirations.

Women in the workplace have come so far since the days of their mothers and grandmothers.  That isn’t to say they work harder than their predecessors; they just have more choices about what they want to accomplish and how they spend their days.

Things aren’t perfect of course.  If absolute equality is the goal, we’re not there yet.  Whatever the reasons, women on average are paid less than men for the same jobs, and the farther up the corporate ladder you climb, the bigger the ratio of men to women.

When we think about the biggest reasons for this disparity, the word balance comes to mind.  Women today can have it all, and so they attempt to do so.  They want to follow their many passions to nurture their children and families; manage successful careers and financial self-sufficiency; enjoy rich friendships; and of course set aside time for hobbies and play.

Yet what could be accomplished with one partner working full-time and the other staying at home to manage the household cannot be accomplished (in the same fashion) with both parents working full time.

Often and understandably, women feel torn between their families and careers, and when forced to choose, many forfeit career opportunities that require them to sacrifice too much time with their children.

What’s the solution then?  We shouldn’t expect women to sacrifice instinctual desires to nurture their families in order to achieve their career aspirations.  Yet don’t they deserve an equal chance at a successful career and financial independence?

Perhaps the solution is reshaping the workforce.  After all, doesn’t the very nature of equality suggest that, if before, women worked full-time at home and men worked full-time outside the home, then now, women and men work part-time at home and part-time outside the home?

We are not suggesting a 20-hour workweek.  We’re saying talented women are doing an excellent job of balancing careers and families, and the companies who want to keep this talent will accordingly create more flexible, family-friendly cultures to reflect their employees’ values.  More importantly, women (and men) should continue what their mothers and grandmothers started, and demand these considerations in their push for equality.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

10 Things (That Actually Happened) to Never Do in an Interview.

Most of us think we know the basics of good interview etiquette, but you’d be surprised what people actually say and do in interviews.  Maybe they’re not thinking, maybe they’re nervous, or maybe they simply don’t care.

The following is a list of things that actually happened in an interview.  Remember, sometimes when you’re too close to something you don’t realize its inappropriateness until it’s too late! Whatever you do, don’t do what these guys did!

1. A job candidate told the interviewer that how long he stayed with the company depended on when his uncle passed away.  The candidate was expecting an inheritance and said his uncle wasn’t “looking too good.”

2. One job candidate asked the interviewer for a ride home after the interview.

3. Another candidate indiscreetly smell-checked his armpits on the walk to the interview room.

4. A job candidate answered his phone during the interview and asked the interviewer to leave her own office because it was a “private” conversation.

5. A candidate claimed she could not provide a writing sample because all of her writing had been for the CIA and was therefore “classified.”

6. A candidate interviewing for an accounting position declared she was a “people person,” not a “numbers person.”

7. A candidate admitted he was fired from his last job for physically assaulting his boss.

8. During a phone interview, the interviewer heard the candidate flush the toilet while talking.

9. A candidate was offered food before an interview, but declined saying he didn’t want to coat his stomach with grease before going out drinking.

10. A candidate removed a hairbrush from her purse and began brushing her hair during the interview.

Have you ever done or said something without thinking in an interview that you later regretted?  It has happened to all of us!

Monday, April 4, 2011

2nd Consecutive Month of Strong Job Growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 216,000 new jobs in March and unemployment down to 8.8%.

These statistics exceeded economists’ expectations for more modest job growth and an unmoving unemployment rate.

Among growing sectors was the service sector, which overall added 199,000 jobs, lead by the continuing growth in temp hiring.

On a local note, unemployment rate fell to 10.2% from 10.4 percent in January, and 10.7 percent one year ago in TRC Staffing’s headquarters city of Atlanta.

On a company-specific note, Mcdonalds is hiring.

Despite growth, wages and hours remain somewhat stagnant.

Also, though 13,5 million are officially unemployed, another 2.4 million are out work work but not included since they didn’t look for work during the BLS survey period, and 8.4 million are working part-time jobs while looking for full time work.

Turmoil in the Mideast , oil prices, the dismal housing market and state budget cuts present potential hurdles to full recovery.

Despite these hurdles, the BLS report was welcome, positive news this month.

What do you think our country (both Washington and us as citizens) needs to do to experience a full economic recovery?