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

Teamwork is Important, But What About Personal Motivation?

February 10th, 2017

You have a slate of interviews lined up with promising candidates, all of whom look great (or at least pretty good) on paper. They all have a record of accomplishments, promising backgrounds, and educational credentials that fit the bill. So when you sit with them at the interview table, you’ll want to delve into the areas that don’t typically show in a resume. First and foremost, you’ll want to know what it’s like to work with a given candidate each day, and how well that candidate will get along with coworkers, clients, and other contacts. You’ll need a team player, for sure.

But you’ll also need a candidate who can keep working hard (and keep doing the right thing) even when the team isn’t around. Is your candidate able to work alone? Can she show initiative and keep herself busy, even without constant oversight? Can he strive to excel even when there’s nobody cheering him on? Here are a few ways to assess personal motivation during an interview.

Stay open ended.

Use open-ended behavioral questions that allow candidates to speak freely and describe themselves on their own terms. For example, if you’ll like to know how well a candidate functions without oversight, frame your question like this: “Have you ever worked in an environment with very little supervision? Tell me about that time.” Or you can try: “What do you typically do during the day when you’ve finished one project but haven’t yet received instructions for the next one?” Avoid any question that can be answered with a yes or no, or with a single word.

Ask for tales of adventure.

Start a few of your questions with phrases that involve superlatives, like “During X period of time, what was the hardest thing you had to do…”, “What made you the most proud…” or “When did you feel the best/worst/most alone/most engaged/most disappointed/ most frustrated….?” These kinds of questions can help you in two ways. First, they offer some insight into a meaningful episode in the candidate’s background and how well he works with others. And second, they can reveal a candidate’s sense of scale and life experience.

Talk about introversion and extroversion.

Discuss the spectrum of introversion and extroversion and ask the candidate to position him or herself on that spectrum. Chances are, after she answers, she’ll keep talking and tell you a little bit more about the social environments that she tends to find draining and energizing.

Be honest about the position.

Half of your interview will involve listening, and half will involve speaking, explaining, and describing the position at hand. If this position will require very high levels of solitude and personal motivation, just say so. Pay close attention to how the candidate reacts.

For more on how to find candidates with the right personal traits for your open position and your workplace, reach out to the Hartford accounting staffing professionals at Merritt.

Making Performance Reviews Less Formal

January 13th, 2017

Performance reviews have become a necessary evil in the white collar workplace. Nobody enjoys them, the consume valuable time, and by mid-year, any lessons they’ve imparted (on either side of the table) have usually been long forgotten. But year after year, eternally hopeful HR experts strive to reshape this process, believing that it CAN somehow be rendered meaningful and fulfill its promise as a critical management tool. There’s a reason for this eternal hope: reviews really are valuable. They allow managers and employees to connect on a personal level, and they provide structure for what might otherwise be a delicate and awkward conversation. Most employees want to know how they’re doing, and most managers want to tell them. This is just a difficult bridge to cross, and it rarely leads to genuine and lasting improvements in performance.

So if you’re struggling to get more value out of your review process, try this move for 2017: Reduce the formality of your meetings. If you relax the atmosphere, both parties will be more inclined to share honest and genuine feedback. Resentment will drop (on both sides), and self-editing will give way to real talk that can make a real difference.

Encouraging Informal Reviews

Ask your managers to spend a specific amount of time on each review. Encourage them to fall neither under nor over this amount. The upper limit should prevent managers from overthinking and overworking each word and metric in the review, and the lower limit should prevent them from blowing off the process entirely. Provide similar brackets for employees as they complete their self-evaluations.

Don’t schedule your meetings too far in advance or give them too much symbolic weight. Managers should simply block out one day (or two) for all of their reviews, and structure the day as they choose. Employees should not have to forego hours of work or miss key deadlines to accommodate this minor event.

Praise and encouragement should always take precedence over negative feedback, warnings and threats. Ratios should fall at 51/49 at the very least, even for employees who are in dire need of course correction.

Meetings should be cordial and professional, and they should provide employees with a chance to demonstrate their better natures. If they’re praised, their graceful receipt of the praise should be acknowledged. If they’re lectured, coached, or accused, they should be given an opportunity to tell their side of the story or suggest an action plan that works for them. No one should ever feel like a trapped animal or a scolded child during a review. At the same time, employees should never feel embarrassed or put on the spot by well-intended praise. The meeting should feel like an adult conversation, nothing more or less.

For more on how to navigate the delicate social currents of your company’s annual review process, reach out to the Connecticut staffing experts at Merritt.

Recruiting Top Talent in Today’s Economy

December 23rd, 2016

The challenges recruiters face today are very different than the ones they faced ten years ago. Specifically: In today’s market, talent is available, widespread, and mobile. Most employers are no longer limited by geographic constraints, since employees can work remotely. And a single job post can travel the world in a moment. Talent is out there—But in our modern world, the challenge involves finding it, recognizing it, and reaching it before your competitors do. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you move forward with your staffing strategy.

Set clear goals.

Of course you’ll have a specific set of goals for each open position you set out to fill. But the overall development of your staffing program should also be broken down into clear, measurable and achievable goals that can help you stay on track and in motion. Where would you like to take your program in one year? How about three years? What will you need to do in order to get there?

Choose the right staffing partner.

If you partner with an experienced, established staffing firm with a wide network of industry connections, you can trust your partners to handle the heavy lifting while you keep your attention focused on running your business. Great staffing pros have strong listening skills, they’re pro-active, they know how to spot top candidates (and red flags) in your field, and they know how to attract talent by pitching the benefits of your company. Choose a partner who can work with you and make your needs a top priority.

Help your staffing firm to help you.

Once you choose a partner, make sure your recruiter (or recruiting team) has a full grasp of your business model and what you need from the candidates who will step into your open positions. Some positions are more complex than others, and some needs hold a higher priority than others. But if you keep the channels of communication open and active, you’ll avoid setbacks and misunderstandings. While you’re at it, provide clear and detailed feedback if your recruiters are presenting candidates who don’t quite fit the bill.

Work with your temps while they work for you.

Leverage one of the strongest benefits of a staffing partnership: The opportunity to test the waters with candidates before making a long-term commitment. As you bring workers in a temporary or temp-to-hire capacity, check in with them frequently to assess their feelings and the state of the relationship. If all goes well, and they seem happy and interested, you can make moves to bring them on board after their contract period ends.

For more on how to team up with a staffing firm to make the most of today’s talent marketplace, reach out to the Fairfeld County recruiting experts at Merritt.

Is Procrastination Costing Your Company Big?

December 9th, 2016

Procrastination and distraction can easily derail any one of us, and no matter how naturally organized we may be, we’ve all felt the pull of these productivity drainers at one point or another during the course of our careers. The temptation to procrastinate rises up when and where we least expect; intelligent people are more likely to succumb to it, and—for reasons that defy science—the projects that excite us and inspire our passion the most tend to be the ones that we’re most likely to put off…probably because these projects can seem overwhelming and the bar of expectation we set for ourselves can be unrealistically high.

But if you have serial procrastinators on your team, or employees who procrastinate for so long that their deadlines come and go before they begin to buckle down, then it may be time to take action. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Talk to your procrastinators; don’t scold them.

Don’t assume that your most incorrigible procrastinators are lazy or uncommitted—In fact, the opposite may be true. But this doesn’t excuse behavior that can undermine your company and alienate your clients. Sit down with your worst offenders and ask them to explain why they’re having trouble getting started. Ask what you can do to remove the obstacles from their path. Encourage them to be honest about their hang-ups, and make it clear that you’re here to help, not to punish.

Avoid swooping to the rescue repeatedly.

If you talk to your procrastinators, and coach them in good faith, and swoop to the rescue when they’re in a crunch, then you’re doing your job as a manager. But if you find yourself bailing out the same person over and over again, or constantly shifting the workload away from a distracted employee and burdening his coworkers at the last minute, it may be time to consider a transfer, or a formal evaluation and performance improvement plan.

Hire non-procrastinators and stop the problem before it starts.

The best way to solve any specific performance or behavior problem is to avoid it in the first place, and recognize red flags during your candidate selection process. Create a list of interview behaviors, resume giveaways, or questionable statements that may suggest your candidate has an issue with deadlines. If you see any of these red flags, ask follow up questions. Keep your questions open ended, for example: “If you have to choose between submitting quality work and keeping a deadline, and you can’t do both, which do you prioritize and why?” Or, “Tell me about a time when you faced a really tough deadline and had to make some hard decisions.” Listen carefully as the candidate answers.

For more on how to spot signs of trouble—or signs of brilliance—during the candidate selection process, turn to the Westchester County staffing team at Merritt.

Preparing Your Staff for the Addition of Temporary Employees

November 4th, 2016

Your new temps are on the way! Which is to say, you’ve sourced, reviewed, and hired a team of temporary employees who will step into your workplace at some point during the next few weeks. Your temps won’t stay long—by nature—but while they’re here, they will be making important contributions and keeping the gears of your enterprise in motion. They might be replacing staff members who are on leave, or adding extra pairs of hands for the busy holiday rush, but no matter what roles they fill, everyone will be happier and more productive if their presence in the office is understood and respected. Here’s how to make that happen.

Provide your current employees with clear timelines.

Your teams should know exactly what day the temps will arrive, and your best estimate of how long they’re going to stay. New coworkers, temporary bosses, direct reports, or office mates should never appear by surprise.

Generate some hype.

Before a new temp arrives, share a few details about the person with the members of her team. Let them know a little bit about the temp’s background and interests, and encourage them to find common ground and icebreaking conversation topics.

Pave the way.

Every new employee should step into a functional workspace on day one, but this is especially important for temps, since the ramp-up period may be very short. If the temp will only be contributing to the company for three weeks, you don’t want the first week to be swallowed up by paper work delays, unavailable work stations, and computers that aren’t functioning yet.

Clarify assignments.

In order to welcome, onboard and train your new temps properly, you’ll need the help and cooperation of your current teams. So make sure each person knows exactly what to do and how to do it. Who will be meeting the new person in the reception area? Who will be taking them to lunch on day one? Who will sit with them to explain the company database? And who will fill in for each of these people while they’re temporarily pulled away from their own responsibilities? Make your expectations clear.

Thank your teams in advance.

The onboarding and transition process can be unpredictable, so thank your teams in advance for their patience and cooperation. While you’re at it, thank them (also in advance) for their welcoming and friendly approach to the newcomers.

Thank them again in retrospect.

Working with temporary employees can be time consuming at first, since they often have questions and require assistance during their first few days and weeks. Thank and reward the full-time team members who go the extra mile to answer these questions and provide this assistance.

No matter how long your temporary employees stay with you, encourage and cultivate a climate of mutual respect. For tips and guidance, reach out to the Connecticut staffing experts at Merritt.

Soft Skills Top Candidates Possess

October 14th, 2016

The best candidates in your applicant pool are likely to demonstrate a set of skills that are difficult to measure (often called “soft” skills for this reason). These skills can serve as a strong predictor of long term success, and if you’re watching carefully, they’re often easy to spot. If you see a candidate who can handle the day-to-day demands of this specific role while also bringing these intangible benefits to the table, don’t let that candidate get away.

Listening skill.

For almost any position, you’ll want candidates who can speak boldly and articulate their thoughts and opinions. Employees who can charm, persuade, and motivate using words can boost your reputation as well as your sales numbers and can help any company grow and thrive. But there’s one thing that’s more important—and harder to find—than good talkers: good listeners. Listeners are the candidates who understand your words, process your intentions accurately, and remember the things you say. They can read nuance and inflection, and they truly care about the success of any given interaction.

Friendliness and approachability.

Again, skilled communicators all have one thing in common: They really want to want to understand and be understood. They have a personal desire for connection, and they work hard to reach out and to make themselves available to others.

Executive functioning skill.

Great candidates can do several things at one time (multitask), and they have strong memories. They can break off one conversation, pick up another, and return to the first where they left off without missing a beat. They can handle the complexities of scheduling, budgeting, teamwork, and leadership all on the same day, and sometimes during the same minute.

Culture-building.

The best candidates can read a person’s mood, but they also read the mood of a room, or an entire workplace. They know the difference between a toxic conversation, culture or mission, and a healthy one. And they know how to set a personal example and steer the ship in the right direction.

Fearlessness.

When change needs to happen, the best candidates face it head-on. They aren’t afraid to speak up for what’s right or stand up for a person or an idea. Ask your candidate to describe a moment from the past in which she demonstrated courage by taking action against the status quo.

Resilience and determination.

What happens to your candidate when she experiences a setback? What happens when he doesn’t get what he wants or doesn’t experience immediate results? Choose the candidates who get up when they get knocked down—the ones who aren’t phased by minor obstacles and who don’t take rejection personally.

For more on how to recognize signs of success in your applicants, turn to the staffing and hiring experts at Merritt.

Hiring for Motivation

September 9th, 2016

As you sift through your applicant pool and start scheduling interviews, you’ll be searching for candidates who seem genuinely excited to take this specific job and work for your specific company. Motivation is an important selling point, and you’ll definitely want a candidate who leans forward, speaks with enthusiasm, and seems pleased and honored to have your attention.

Unfortunately, “motivation” is also a vague concept that’s difficult to define, and it’s easy for some candidates to put on a mask and act motivated, even if they really aren’t interested in the company and they intend to abandon the job as soon as another opportunity comes along. So how can you tell if your excited candidate is truly interested in contributing to your enterprise, and not simply planning to use this job as a short term stepping stone? Keep these tips in mind.

Directly address issues of over-qualification.

If your candidate seems excited about the job, but her impressive resume and track record suggest that she could be aiming much higher, ask why. Ask her to explain why this specific job sparks her interest. If she provides clear detail and she seems to have given the issue some serious thought, that’s a good sign. Look closer if she answers in generalities like, “Well, I just love to succeed!”

Address signs of coasting.

Younger candidates are often handed a few breaks early in their careers. This is not uncommon, since many companies hire under-qualified entry-level candidates at a discount, hoping to train them in-house. Keep an eye out for candidates with a history of failing upward, chair-warming, or completing only the bare minimum during their past three or four positions. It’s an easy thing to get away with, for a while. But the free ride should stop with you.

Ask tough questions about future plans.

When you ask your candidate about his career goals during the next two, three, and five years, he should have a
clear and thoughtful response. His answer should touch on specific branches and subspecialties of your industry, and should indicate clear interest in at least one concrete aspect of this field.

Keep an eye on non-verbal cues.

Which conversation topics cause your candidate to light up, lean forward, gesture while talking, and speak with volume and animation? Does the position at hand involve the kinds of tasks and learning opportunities that light this fire in your candidate? If so, then she’s a great match for the job.

For more on how to spot genuine alignment and strong motivation in your candidates, reach out to the Hartford staffing team at Merritt.

Suffering From Attrition? We Can Help

August 5th, 2016

Every growing business suffers from some degree of turnover, and every manager knows the heartbreak of receiving notice from a top employee whose talents seem to hold the company together. Turnover causes anxiety, budget stress, and morale problems, and it happens within every company at varying levels. But if your turnover numbers are unusually high for your area or your industry, you don’t have to take this news lying down. There are steps you can take to fight back and slow the revolving door. Here’s how an experienced, professional staffing agency can help.

Screening tackles the problem at the source.

The best way to keep employees on board is to find the right employees in the first place. If your chosen candidates align well with your culture, fully understand what’s expected of them, and fully understand what the company will provide in return, you’ll stand a better chance of holding onto them. Our agency can screen you applicant pool carefully and present only the candidates who are best prepared for the role.

Great screening starts with sourcing.

In order to sift a large applicant pool for ideal candidates, you need to attract a large applicant pool in the first place. We can help with that. Our sourcing efforts can help you target the applicant populations who are most likely to qualify for the job, apply, and accept the role when it’s offered. To attract the best candidate matches, start by going to the places where these people typically look for work.

Got a staffing problem? Let us help.

Something is wrong. Your best employees are leaving and you don’t know why. You’re examining your policies and your workplace culture and you just can’t identify the issue. But we can. We’ve seen every type of staffing problem and we can offer insights and support that can help you stem the tide. Arrange a consultation and put our experience to work for you.

Speed up the replacement process.

When you lose a great employee, you need to put everything on hold to find a replacement as quickly as possible. But not if you partner with a reliable staffing agency. When you say goodbye to a team member, put your trust in us and focus your own attention on what matters most: running your business.

We pay staff members so you don’t have to.

When you choose candidate for a long or short term role, the new employee joins our payroll, not yours. We handle tax reporting, withdrawals, paperwork, insurance and other issues so you don’t have to. If you decide to bring the candidate on board over the long term, you’re welcome to do so as soon as the contract period ends.

For more on how to leverage the benefits of a staffing agency partnership, contact the Hartford expert recruiting team at Merritt.

Strategies for a More Productive Workday

July 8th, 2016

Are you looking for positive, sustainable ways to get your employees to show a little hustle? Would you like to wave a wand and see everyone on your team work a little harder to impress your clients and drive your company forward? If you’re like most managers, you’re wondering how access the hidden, untapped potential in your teams. Does this potential lie in the team, or in your own personal management style? Here are a tips and techniques you can use to bring out the best in your employees.

Ask them.

If you’re guessing and struggling to figure out what might motivate your employees, stop guessing and just ask them. Distribute surveys if you choose, or simply sit down with key members of your teams and engage in an open conversation. Would they respond to monetary motivation, increase competition, learning opportunities, or additional perks? You can experiment with each of these, or you can simply cut to the chase.

Teach and model, don’t dictate.

If you see an employee with an inefficient working style or a messy desk, don’t ignore this easy opportunity for improvement. But instead of scolding and lecturing, describe what works for you. Explain how using digital spreadsheets and scheduling apps can reduce the drifts of paper, and show your employee how dividing large tasks into smaller ones or tackling bigger challenges first can improve daily productivity. We often assume that basic principles of efficiency and productivity were taught in the earliest years of childhood, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes employees simply don’t know any better. It’s never too late to learn.

Praise publicly.

While your criticisms should always take place in private, feel free to publicly praise employees who work hard, stay focused, and get things done. Clearly communicate the kind of behavior and work ethic you’d like to see from everyone.

Move around the office.

Don’t hide in your office during the day. No matter how busy you may be, make time every hour to get up and circulate around the floor. Check in, say hello, join conversations in the break room, and find out what your employees are up to when they aren’t working. Sometimes the mere appearance of a manager on the scene can break up idle gab sessions and return focus to the job at hand. Be friendly, but present.

Make yourself available.

When employees need help, answers, guidance or direction, make sure they feel comfortable coming to you directly. Paralysis and stagnation often result when employees are at loose ends and not sure where to turn next with a project or issue. If you force them to exhaust every other option before coming to you, you only encourage them to waste time. Be generous, not stingy, with advice and support.

For more on how to keep your employees engaged and in motion all day, every day, turn to the expert Hartford staffing team at Merritt.

Hiring Generation Z: What to Expect

June 10th, 2016

Are you ready for the arrival of Generation Z? If you’re still struggling to manage a workplace populated by members of Generation Y, then this might be a good time to redirect your focus toward the horizon and get ready for the future employees who are entering college as we speak.

“Generation Z” describes a wave of future employees who are still working their way through high school and university level courses. And when they reach the workplace, they’re expected to bring a host of cultural and behavioral traits that are likely to set them apart from their (slightly) older peers. Here are few things we can expect from this cohort.

They’re TRUE digital natives.

These are the children who were born during or after the year 2000, so they won’t be able to remember a world before smartphones. These are the babies who tried to “scroll” through picture books as if they were touch screens. This won’t make them weak or ill-prepared for the realities of the working world, but it might make it harder for the rest of us to relate to them.

They’re anxious about the future and their prospects for survival—not just success.

For teenagers in the 80’s, “success” was the focus—not basic stability. It was common to assume that studying hard would lead to college, which would lead to a professional job, which would lead to long-term financial security. But the past 15 years have turned that expectation upside down, and none of the institutions we once took for granted—including college, marriage, home ownership, and the practice of working for a single employer for decades at a time—hold the same weight that they used to. The bottom line: don’t expect Gen Z to desire or chase after the same things you wanted at their age.

They won’t be impressed by hierarchy and they won’t seek approval for its own sake.

Blue ribbons, pats on the head, gold stars from the boss, and promotions that involve a title change with no boost in salary may have seemed like shimmering pots of gold to earlier generations. But don’t expect the same wide-eyed eagerness from Gen Z. If you want them to contribute, pay them. Don’t feed them lines.

They will care…about each other.

Gen Z will likely bring a distinctly positive shift to the workplace; they may care more about each other than the company bottom line. Expect them to speak out against unfair policies and disrespectful treatment. These employees will be true team players, possibly on unprecedented levels.

These are the entry level candidates who will knock on your door in just a few years, so you’ll want to be ready. For more information, contact the Hartford staffing experts at Merritt.

© Year Merritt Staffing. Site Credits.