Stratford Office: 203-386-8800 | Stamford Office: 203-325-3799

Motivate a Bored Team With These Three Tips

September 6th, 2019

Each member of your team entered the workplace because he/she/they showed promise. The company or interviewer truly believed (at that moment) that this person could come on board, accomplish something important for the company, and change things for the better. Some of these hires have certainly done this, and continue to do it every day. But for most of the team, a more realistic scenario eventually sets in: On good days, they fulfill their promise. On regular days, they just show up, do their best, and clock out.

A little thoughtful motivation, properly applied, can help increase the overall number of good days, and reduce the number of days that are just meh. Here are a few ways to make that happen.

Rely on the power of teamwork

Recognize a key truth about all important endeavors: nobody accomplishes them alone. To do something big, we need multiple areas of expertise, multiple varied skill sets, and a combination of different strengths. We need to come to the table and pool the assets we have. We need to compensate for each other’s weaknesses, share our specific areas of knowledge, and talk through problems from multiple angles and perspectives. Make sure each person knows that they don’t have to shoulder the weight of an entire project or effort on their own. They really shouldn’t try. Collaboration and interdependence, not isolation or silent suffering, will get us to our goals.

Pay people what they’re worth

It’s nice to talk about employee engagement, and it’s wonderful to see workers having fun with each other and enjoying their projects. But under lots of cheerful, friendly, positive language about “passion” and “commitment” and “loyalty to the company”, no rational person would come in every day and work hard for the company if they weren’t getting paid. The bottom line for employee motivation is the bottom line: dollars. Make sure spending the entire day here is well worth your employee’s time. If you do, they’ll work hard. If you pay the minimum they’ll accept, they’ll only show up until they find something better.

Don’t punish employees for failure

As a manager (especially an inexperienced or first-time manager), you may believe that your job depends on an equal blend of carrots and sticks. Half your day should be spent on encouragement and the other half on correction and constructive criticism. That’s fine if you’re correcting a course of action to help an employee find a better outcome. But watch out; the stick should be used only for acts that seem both consciously negative and consciously counter to the interests of the company. Bad behavior and “failure” are not synonymous, and trouble brews for a manager who treats failure like a conscious decision to hurt the company. Encourage effort, risk and bold ideas. When they fail or don’t pan out as planned, encourage them even more.

For more on how to keep your teams inspired and get the most out of their efforts, contact the staffing experts at Merritt.

Is It Cheaper to Pay Overtime or Hire More Staff?

August 2nd, 2019

Eventually, almost every business owner or decision-maker faces a familiar choice. Orders are piling up, business is steadily increasing, and you need more hands to handle the workload (unless you’re ready to turn customers and clients away, which most of us would rather not do). So which path should you choose: Hire a new person (or several), or simply pay your existing teams overtime and expect them to stay after standard working hours are over?

Of course, for some businesses, the decision makes itself. If you simply can’t expect your workers to stay late (because you know their personal schedules, public transportation, or the limits of workplace don’t allow that flexibility), you’ll need to let them go at five and hire a new pair of hands. And the same is true in reverse; if you know that it’s unreasonable to simply put the word out and attract hundreds of resumes from well-qualified candidates, you’ll have to work with the teams you have, end of statement.

But if either option seems reasonable, factor these metrics into your decision.

Crunch the numbers.

Sit with a calculator and make some assumptions. Assume you WILL, in fact, be able to find qualified candidates and bring them on board within three weeks. Assume you WILL be able to convince your teams to stay late and pick up some extra cash. Then run a comparison based on the period in which you expect to be swamped.

Take a look at that time period.

Are you dealing with a seasonal rush that will ebb as soon as the busy season ends? Or are you dealing with what appears to be steady and sustainable growth in your orders, deliveries, and invoices? If this looks like long term growth, save yourself some headaches and start your candidate search now. Find the very best available and invest serious resources in attracting them, onboarding them, training them and retaining them. This may mean ensuring that your salary offers are competitive.

On the other hand, if this is a seasonal rush, just keep a short-term view and cut costs where you can. Look for temporary helpers who can pitch in with minimal onboarding and training. Or of course, you can just cut the cost of hiring altogether and pay time and a half until the rush settles down in a month.

Anticipate problems.

New workers bring a social shake-up that can be somewhat unproductive—at first. Over the long term, the social fabric resettles and work returns to normal. But will you lose more money during that time than the contributions of the new hires are worth? Remember that new employees also come with necessary, but expensive, mistakes. The same can be said of overworked or tired employees who are pushed past their limits.

In the end, you’ll need to roll the dice but enter into the decision with as much data in hand as possible. For more on how to get the most out of your hiring resources, turn to the experts at Merritt.

Does Being Bilingual Increase Your Worth to a Company?

June 21st, 2019

You’re bilingual. Which means you can speak fluently (or somewhat fluently), read, write or all three in at least two languages. You have a special skill that’s far from universal in the U.S., and you have the ability to communicate on a level others can’t, even if the need doesn’t arise every single day. So, what does this mean for your job prospects?

If you grew up speaking this language at home, you may be shrugging at the idea that your “special skill” holds monetary value for your employer. You may be thinking, “Big deal. So, I can talk to my grandma in Farsi/Hindi/Spanish/Italian. But what does that mean to my employer? I’ve never been asked to use this skill on the job as a regional account manager in New Jersey, and I’m not sure this gives me leverage during my career climb.” If this is you, think again. Here are a few reasons to hold that card like an ace up your sleeve and be ready to use it as you interview and negotiate for raises and promotions.

Language skills are valuable because they’re difficult to acquire.

As you may know, it’s easier to gain language fluency in childhood than it is later in life. Which means that, like art or any other limited commodity, the market isn’t flooded, and new sources aren’t easy to access. Teaching language skills to existing employees isn’t as simple as teaching them to use Excel. No matter how infrequently used your skill may be, it’s harder to find than you think, which makes you that much harder to replace.

Bilingual brains are different.

Studies show that learning a second language expands our brains in complex and still not fully understood ways. Our understanding of the world and our ability to grasp and retain complex new information are broader when we have two words (with subtle implications and tones) for every noun and verb that we use to make sense of things. Put another way: bilingual people are smarter. They possess a certain mental flexibility the rest of us just don’t. Even if you don’t speak or use your language on a daily basis at work, you use your big flexible brain, and wise employers recognize this as an asset.

Resumes, interviews, and negotiations all benefit from this detail.

Always mention your second language in your resume. And always bring it up (even if you aren’t asked) during job interviews. Are you bragging when you do this? Maybe a little. But it’s a skill that most employers won’t ask about without prompting, and it should never go unnoticed or undiscussed. The same applies to salary negotiations.

Need help making the most of your language skills during your job search? Contact the career experts at Merritt.

 

4 Ways to Make Sure People Are Using Their Vacation Time This Summer

June 7th, 2019

Paid vacation time isn’t a frivolous perk. It isn’t a luxury or a gesture of generosity from a benevolent company manager. It isn’t a gift. It isn’t something that benefits the employee at the expense of the company’s bottom line. And it isn’t optional … for either party.

Vacation time may have become part of the workplace landscape after hard-won union victories in the 19th and 20th centuries, but since that time, research and empirical evidence have revealed an additional truth: Vacation time isn’t just necessary for the health and safety of employees, it’s also essential to the health and growth of a business. When employees live balanced and sustainable lives, companies live balanced and sustainable lives as well. When people are granted the minimum necessary for their well-being, including manageable schedules, clean conditions, safe tools, fair wages, and yes, vacation time, they’re better able to make smart decisions and productive contributions on the job.

So, employees need to take their vacation time.

But some employees need to be pushed out the door, mainly because they believe they’ll be scolded or judged for leaving. Here’s how to improve compliance and overcome those obstacles.

Monitor schedules and provide notice.

Your employee won’t take her vacation time and she seems to think nobody will notice, so what does it matter? She appears to believe that her schedule isn’t being monitored and HR won’t recognize if she lets a year slip by without taking her break. Let her know that she isn’t correct. Have HR send notices and warnings to employees who haven’t taken any vacation time in the last six-month period, and make sure the notice is phrased as a warning and censure, not a form of back-handed praise.

Use monetary incentives.

Just as you might use monetary incentives and gift rewards for employees with exemplary attendance records, do the same for those who use their vacation days regularly and fully. Everyone who finishes the year with an empty tank of vacation days should receive a bonus or gift card.

Disparage attempts at heroism.

Develop a culture that actively discourages employees from coming to the workplace with contagious illnesses and do this by withholding approval from those who soldier in with fever and chills. Meet these flu-ridden heroes with an eye-roll and a dismissal home, not a pat on the back. Do the same for those who boast about skipping vacations or who mock and belittle peers who use their time. Culture shaping starts with management; pay attention to your subtle messages of approval and disapproval.

Set an example.

The best way to encourage vacations and make employees feel safe from judgment is to start with yourself. Use every one of your days each year—no excuses—they’ll be more likely to do the same.

For more on how to shape behavior and culture in your workplace, turn to the team at Merritt.

Personality and Personal Expression at Work

May 10th, 2019

A few generations ago, rigid personal conformity in the workplace was seen as a good thing … at least for employers. If employees were dressed the same and had the same haircut, the effect (so the theory went) would be positive. Rules would be followed; hierarchies would be respected without question; and the company would benefit in more or less the same way that uniforms benefit military organizations; a sense of teamwork and mutual trust would arise as individual identities fell away.

While the value of uniforms in foxholes is still up for debate, their value in the office is steadily being resolved. It’s low. Forcing employees to dress and act the same may contribute a small military-linked benefit, but this small benefit doesn’t make up for what it takes away. Employees who are required to discard their personal identities at the door and adopt a mandated company identity during the workday do not, in fact, feel greater loyalty to their employers. The opposite appears to be true. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

People like being accepted as they are.

We all prefer to spend our time among people who accept us. And we especially enjoy spending time with people who genuinely like us. This is true in the workplace just as it would be in a classroom or at a family reunion. If we feel liked and respected, we want to be there. If we don’t, we count the hours until we can leave. Being forced to adopt a false identity during the duration of our stay doesn’t change that.

People don’t enjoy fake identities, no matter who they belong to.

Just as most of us prefer to show our true faces and be respected as-is, we also appreciate the same from others. Most of us don’t enjoy extended interactions with someone who is desperately trying to hide their true personality. It’s exhausting. When we show our real selves to others, we relax and life becomes easier, for us and also for them. Trust goes up, teamwork goes up, communication becomes clearer. And when we understand each other, we get more done.

Hair and adornments are serious and should be taken seriously.

It’s dangerous to assume that hairstyles, tattoos and piercings are only skin deep and can be easily removed and put back on again at the will of an employer. To assume this is to potentially misunderstand or disrespect what may be an integral part of a person’s ethnic, cultural or personal identity. Before you assume an external aspect can be tossed aside, pause. Is the aspect hurting you or anyone else? Is it a danger to the company or its stakeholders? If not, recognize its inherent value and show the person respect, acceptance and appreciation by leaving it alone.

If an external trait is truly causing problems for the company, compromises are available. Contact the staffing team at Merritt to learn more!

Five Ways Internship Programs Help You Recruit Top Talent

April 5th, 2019

An internship program can be a magical thing: one of those rare workplace arrangements that benefit both parties in immeasurable ways while costing almost nothing on either side. When an internship is conducted in an appropriate and professional way, both participants gain, and neither side loses.

Specifically, a young graduate is offered her first paid position in her professional field—even if she doesn’t have a lick of experience on her resume—and the company gains access to inexpensive, enthusiastic labor, and possibly a valuable full-time employee later on.

Here are five ways your intern can evolve into a long-term contributor.

Internship programs build loyalty (for life).

If your intern is paid well and respected, and if she receives the training and industry exposure she came for, she’ll develop a positive impression of the company. After all, she has no other workplace to compare this one to, so if you show her your best side, you’ll set the standard. Even if she leaves after one summer, she’ll remember this place and she’ll walk away with lasting warm feelings about your brand. Even long-term employees leave eventually, but fans and customers can stay forever.

Internships help mold young minds (and work habits).

If you scoop up a 21-year-old employee before he graduates from college, you’ve landed more than just an enthusiastic, fresh-faced worker bee. You’ve landed a pristine open mind, a person who has never experienced the professional world before. This is his first professional boss, his first breakroom, his first staff meeting, his first desk. This is also his first exposure to what your business does, what a work day should feel like, how clients and agents interact, and what efficient team contributions look like. He doesn’t have to unlearn anything in order to accept your terms. This can benefit both of you in big ways.

Internships build your social fabric.

The best retention strategy is a culture that feels like a family, and the way to create that family feeling is by maintaining long term employees, as many as you can. Deepen your organizational memory and traditions by reducing your turnover.

Internships set expectations on both sides.

New employees often start their first week on the job frequently repeating (or at least thinking) phrases like “That’s not how we did it at XYZ Co.,” or “At my old job, we always…” Interns rarely do this. Your expectations of them quickly become their expectations of themselves, and vice versa.

Interns train in-house.

Too often, new full-time employees come on board and go through an expensive training process, then when they’ve received a year of training on your dime, they leave. Interns receive the same training period, but since both promises and pay are modest on both sides, your investment returns are almost always positive.

When you’re ready to launch your internship program, contact the experts at Merritt for guidance.

How to Spot Someone’s Strengths and Place Them in the Right Role

March 8th, 2019

Here’s a common scenario: You’ve received an application for an open position. But as you study the resume and speak to the candidate in an interview setting, a few realities become clear. The candidate is not perfectly suited for the open position at hand, but you aren’t quite ready to turn her away altogether. In fact, she seems very well suited for another role on the same team, or maybe a similar role in a different part of the company. What should you do next? You don’t want to lose her, but you’re obligated to choose someone else for the position on which her sights are set. Here’s how to move forward in a way that allows both of you to get what you need.

Be clear and honest about your intentions.

Usually when you have good news and bad news, you deliver the bad news first. But in this case, turn it around. Explain clearly to the candidate what you’re trying to do (direct her attention to another position) and explain why (you sense she has the skills and background to succeed in the alternative role). Then the bad news: The job she applied for isn’t a perfect fit. Of course, she’ll have questions about the reasoning behind both decisions, so answer as much as policy and diplomacy allow, but focus more on her fitness for the second job, and less on her shortcomings for the first one.

Find evidence for your hunches.

If you think your marketing candidate might actually be great at customer service, follow up to find out if you’re right. Has she had any relevant yet non-work-related experience? Might she enjoy interacting with customers and helping them solve problems? How well does she respond to conflict and pressure? Essentially, you’re interviewing her for a job she’s never had and never asked for, so you’ll need to ask clear questions about her aptitude, general work ethic, career goals and personality.

If the job represents a demotion, sell it.

If your candidate applied for a senior-level job, but he simply isn’t ready for the senior level and you’d like to place him at the entry level instead, you’ll have to pitch your vision. Tell him what’s in it for him and why this might be a smart move for his career. Don’t emphasize the fact he’s overconfident and underqualified—let that go. Just focus on how your company can help him build his skills and be clear about the perks and benefits you have to offer.

For more on how to shift your candidates (or current employees) away from one career track and toward another, talk to the management experts at Merritt.

When Hiring, Listen to Your Team

February 8th, 2019

When you’ve moved into the advanced stages of the hiring process and you’ve narrowed a wide pool of resumes down to a few final interviewees, you’ll be relying on several factors to make your ultimate decision, for example, your gut instincts, your background checks, and your reference checks. But as you review data from all these sources, be sure to keep one more important resource in mind: your existing teams. Here are some of the reasons why your team’s input can mean the difference between a brilliant new asset and a hiring mistake.

Your teams have an existing culture and social fabric.

Maybe you have a nice blend of introverts and extroverts on your team, and everyone benefits if you maintain that balance. Maybe your team is made up of cheerful collaborators, cool but efficient loners, friendly competitors, or long-time teammates with an oddball sense of humor. Will the new employee find a place here? Will their social contributions be appreciated? The best way to find out is by simply introducing them and then asking your team for feedback.

What does the team really need?

Maybe the departing employee that you’re working to replace had a specific skill set or talent that held the team together. Maybe this necessary skill is essential to team success. Maybe if you hire someone who excels in plenty of other areas, that won’t help much, since this one missing skill set is the one that’s most needed. What is that skill set? Ask your team and find out.

Some traits may spell trouble.

Maybe your new hire is an efficient number cruncher, but a little arrogant in a way that ruffles feathers and causes resentment. Maybe your new employee is humble and likable but disorganized in a way that can derail project goals. Maybe your new hire brings some toxic energy to the room that your team finds especially difficult to deal with. Or maybe the new person is identical to everyone else to a degree that they bring no new energy or fresh air to the group. Your teams can provide insight into this possibility.

Several heads are better than one.

One person making a decision alone (you) may be subject to certain biases or blind to certain red flags. But if you bring others in and encourage them to weigh in on the candidate, they can spot things that you may have missed, or dismiss concerns that you may be taking too seriously. Group input can keep you from hiring the wrong person, or just as bad, letting a great candidate get away.

For more on how to leverage the insight and opinions of your team, contact the staffing pros at Merritt.

Is Your Team Burned Out?

January 11th, 2019

When you look out over your workplace at 10:00 am on a Tuesday, or 2:00 pm on a Thursday, what do you see and hear? Lively expressions, quiet busy chatter, and calm, direct, friendly interactions? Or the opposite: hissing complaints, dejected expressions, and grim silence? Do your teams respond to unexpected challenges with excitement or exhaustion? Are they cheerful or irritable? If you’re in the throes of a bleak, cold January and your teams are struggling just to make it into work and survive the day, you’re probably facing a mild epidemic of burnout. The signs may be right in front of you: short tempers, distraction, and disengagement. But fortunately, solutions are available. Start with these.

If you can’t give them a day off, give them a break.

Sometimes the best help is just a sign of empathy or recognition. Saying “I know you’re busy” before assigning a project doesn’t change the demands of the project… but it can help your employee shift her priorities around, so this project stays at the top of the list. Otherwise, it may slip down or off the page altogether. Just trying to read the room and show your human side can make you a better boss, which can support a team of better employees.

Set an example.

If you’re stressed and overwhelmed, your mood and attitude will be contagious. But if you’re gliding through the day and even genuinely enjoying your work and the company of your coworkers, that can be contagious too. If your employees don’t know exactly how to manage their busy schedules, show them. If they overthink one project and neglect another, show them what efficient balance looks like. Be the person you want them to be, especially when the going gets rough and the demands pile up.

Reassign projects appropriately.

Keep a close eye on who’s doing what, and make sure the work is evenly, appropriately, and fairly handed out. Of course, you’ll have to factor skill sets into account, but once you’ve done that, make sure everybody is pulling his or her weight. If that’s not happening, take work off one busy person’s plate and hand it to someone else with a little more available breathing room. Don’t wait for the busy person to ask.

Add some fun to the atmosphere.

Groups of people can accomplish extraordinary things when they feel a bond of togetherness and trust. But that only happens when they have opportunities to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Encourage humor and connection by bringing in food your teams can eat together, or by promoting friendly competitions, Friday happy hours, and fun interactions during or after the workday. Again, don’t wait to be asked. As soon as you recognize a need, act.

For more on spotting and preventing harmful burnout, turn to the staffing experts at Merritt.

Motivating a Lazy Employee

December 28th, 2018

It takes all kinds of personalities to build a successful team. Every person who reports to you comes with a collection of human quirks, talents, strengths, weaknesses and curious tendencies, and as a manager, you’ve learned to embrace this reality and work with people as they are, not as you wish they were. This being the case, there’s one member of your team who presents your current challenge: Lazybones Jones, who comes in a bit late, leaves a bit early, and cuts corners at every opportunity. How can you motivate them to embrace the task at hand just a little more energetically? Here are a few tips.

Think carefully about the person before you plan your approach.

Almost no human management challenge brings a one-size-fits-all solution. Before you choose a course of action, you’ll need to think carefully about your employee and consider what drivers apply to them. Do they work for money? Are they hoping for a promotion in title or status? Do they have a long-term goal (even one that extends beyond this office)? Are they sensitive to the approval or scorn of others? What do they find fun or boring? Don’t go in blind; think, then act.

Remember that they aren’t you.

You might find the disapproval of a boss unbearable, and maybe you would do anything to avoid it. But it’s possible LJ won’t care about your disapproval at all. It’s also possible they’ll find it so devastating they seek work elsewhere. Prepare for the unexpected.

Be specific.

As you pull LJ aside and explain the behavioral change you’d like to see, be specific. Don’t just say “You’re not pulling your weight.” Instead, explain exactly what “pulling your weight” means, and apply a metric that’s measurable. Say “I’d like to see you closing five more calls per hour by the end of the week”, or “I’d like you to file ten more forms per day by March 1.”

Choose carrot, stick, or both.

What if LJ meets your demands? What if they don’t? As you frame your expectations in specific, measurable terms, do the same with the consequences of compliance or non-compliance. Make sure compliance comes with a reward and non-compliance comes with a consequence. Examples include written warnings, monetary raises, additional tasks or changes in status. Make sure LJ understands the agreement and accepts the terms.

Maintain perspective

Remember that “laziness” is in the eye of the beholder (one company’s definition of lazy may look like industry in another). A bit of “laziness” may not be a deal breaker. If the employee brings other valuable talents or gifts to the table, think twice before risking this relationship over a few late mornings. And vice versa: cracking down might solve an expensive problem.

For more management tips that can keep your team on track, contact the experts at Merritt.

© Year Merritt Staffing. Site Credits.