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Does Your Team Know How to Prioritize?

September 8th, 2017

When you hire new candidates, you work hard to select those who have the knowledge base and experience to handle the technical challenges of the job. You only bring a candidate on board if he or she knows how to code, for example, or organize a budget, or conduct sales calls within a certain territory. But as it happens, there’s a gap between knowing something and knowing how to complete on-the-job tasks efficiently and effectively. At a certain point, what your candidates have learned in school or training sessions will need to carry over into deliverables and measurable accomplishments on the job. So how can you take a brilliant team and turn their brilliance into results? Keep these considerations in mind.

Train your teams to organize and prioritize.

Too often, young employees enter the workplace after spending most of their lives in the classroom, and in the classroom, tasks are all designed to be completed—otherwise they wouldn’t be assigned. In the workplace, tasks often pile up, they appear out of thin air, and they take the form of instructions and requests from many people who may or may not hold meaningful authority. In other words: in the workplace, most employees can’t say yes to every single task and chore that presents itself, so they need to learn to say no. They also need to learn to say, “Yes, but not today” and “Maybe, if I get to it.” This doesn’t always come naturally. But prioritizing is a skill like any other. Help your teams by exercising your coaching skills and your patience.

Teach strategy.

New and inexperienced employees often spend the first hours of the day utterly overwhelmed by all they have to do—so they do nothing. They sip their coffee in a state of paralysis until the first of their tasks rises to the top of the list of its own accord. Instead of reliving this ritual every day, train your employees to attack the list and aggressively cross off what isn’t vital, downgrade the items that can wait, and start working on the items that matter most. To do this, they’ll need to think into the future and examine the big picture. Who else depends on them in order to get things done? Who’s waiting impatiently for answers, and why? Which larger projects matter most, and how will outcomes be affected by these decisions?

Teach teamwork.

“Teamwork” doesn’t mean dealing with an overwhelming list by pushing tasks off on coworkers. But it does mean asking for help when high priority items are getting out of hand, for the good of the organization. Help your employees to understand the difference, share the load, and communicate effectively when it’s time to offer or receive assistance.

For more on how to encourage a culture of efficiency, teamwork, and productivity, talk to the Fairfeld County staffing and management professionals at Merritt Staffing.

Should You Hire Risk Takers?

August 11th, 2017

Imagine you face two candidates during your final round of interviews. Both have credentials that meet the requirements of the job, but the two have distinctly different personalities. You can see this based on their self-descriptions as well as their personal track records.

Candidate X is rule-follower. If you ask them to do something, they’ll do it, no questions asked. They won’t attempt anything risky; from speaking up in a meeting with an untested idea, to floating an off-the-script maneuver with a client during a pitch meeting. If it hasn’t been done before, they’re not interested. If there’s any chance it could bring harm to the company or their own career— even if the harm is minimal and the move might also bring great benefits— the answer is clear: no thanks.

Candidate Y is a risk-taker. They’re open to new ideas, unafraid of new suggestions, and willing to try anything that might boost the company bottom line or further their own prospects. Even if there’s a chance the move could backfire, they’re in. They seem to travel with a parachute at the ready; if something goes wrong, they’re prepared to pull the cord and switch to plan B… even if there is no plan B.

So which candidate would you rather hire? Here are a few things to keep in mind before you make this challenging decision.

Do the mental math.

Take a close look at the specific position and determine how often this employee will take responsibility for high stakes decisions. Often? Or once in a blue moon? If the “risks” this role entails come with minimal consequences or very low odds of disaster, why hire a candidate who can’t bend or try new things? In this case, hire the risk taker.

Consider the lightning.

When a thunderstorm happens, the odds of being hit by lightning are famously low. But when that one unlikely bolt hits the mark, the results can be utterly terrible. In a reverse scenario, the odds of catching a cold are famously high—we’ve all caught colds before and we surely will again. but when it happens, we sniffle for a few days and move on. These disparate odds and differently weighted consequences factor into our willingness to avoid these two fates. If your risk-taking employee makes one mistake, could lives be lost? If so, hire the risk-averse candidate.

Consider your culture.

If neither of the thought exercises above prove helpful, consider the personality match between your candidate and the coworkers they’ll be called upon to trust— and vice versa. In an office full of risk takers, a Steady Betty might not be comfortable and might not fit in socially. In an office of dormice, a risk-taker might feel stifled or underutilized. Keep in mind that diversity benefits everyone (including the company), so for the smartest move, maintain a well-balanced mix of risk approaches.

For more on how to make a hiring decision based on personality, turn to the staffing and management teams at Merritt.

Can Temporary Employees Cut Your Overtime Costs?

July 14th, 2017

Overtime hours committed to the company by hardworking employees can be a godsend for a growing company; these extra hours put in outside of the standard business day and exceeding 35 hours per week can keep a company afloat during a challenging crisis or a rush of deadline driven orders. But of course this dedication comes at a cost, and while overtime hours are invaluable, they also cut into the margins they produce. So if you feel like these margins are undermining your long term success, consider easing the pressure on your current teams and reducing the strain on your bottom line by employing temporary teams for short term projects. Here are a few factors to consider.

Highly Skilled vs Medium-Skilled Labor

If you have highly trained or certified staff members putting in overtime hours to conduct tasks that lie outside their skill areas, reconsider. A trained machinist who stays after hours to help box and ship a rush order, for example, may be making 1.5 times his or her salary to complete a task that could be managed by a junior or temporary staffer. When it comes to overtime costs, task allocation matters, and small missteps in this allocation could come at a high cost.

Temporary employees bring value of their own

Some question the value of bringing on new or temporary team members who may take the hours that rightfully belong to seasoned and committed full-time employees. But don’t discard or dismiss the value of temporary labor. Temporary employees often work just as hard and possess as much skill, training and commitment as full-time staff, and more important, temporary employment often serves as a pipeline to full time hiring agreements. Connect with your temporary employees and evaluate their performance closely. Ask them about their plans for the future, and if they’re seeking full time work over the long term, develop a pathway and offer guidance to help them move in this direction.

Full time hiring can bring a high price tag

Hiring full time staff to handle temporary or seasonal burdens can be an expensive move. The hiring process brings background checks, paper work, tax reporting, and sometimes legal contracts that can be costly and binding. But temporary staffing means rapid, inexpensive onboarding, and an easy drama-free separation after the short term period ends. In the interim, the staffing organization handles the insurance and paperwork so you don’t have to. During the contractual period, your team member works for the staffing company, not for you.

For more on how to choose temporary help to move your growing business through peak periods of high demand, contact the Fairfeld County staffing and management experts at Merritt.

Hiring Generation Z

June 9th, 2017

There’s been plenty of buzz generated by the arrival of millennials in the professional workplace, but since the first members of this generation began their careers about 12 years ago, the buzz is now starting to fade. The earliest of the so-called millennials are about to enter their 40s, and whether they’re thriving or struggling, their career patterns are fairly well-established. At this point, employers are preparing for a new wave of up-and-coming entry-level workers who are poised to bring a new set of social and cultural norms to the office and workshop. It’s time to welcome Generation Z! These are the students currently working their way through high school and college who are ready to hit the job market as soon as they graduate. Will your workplace be ready? When Gen Z arrives at your door, keep these tips in mind.

Kids will be kids.

The very nature of entry-level employment lies in the name; workers at the earliest end of the career pipeline have plenty of ambition but little to no experience, and there’s nothing wrong with this. We all start somewhere. As adults and experienced managers, we owe them our patience and withhold said patience at peril to ourselves and our organizations. Teach, coach, train, mentor, and at all times keep your expectations fair and reasonable.

Pay them fairly.

Entry-level workers are not lazy; they’re typically more driven than their older counterparts and they expect less in terms of respect, thanks, and even fair compensation. But wise managers pay them well for their time and efforts. If you attempt to exploit them, they’ll disappear the moment they wise up. When that happens, they’ll take their newfound training and experience to your competitors.

Generation Z will ignore traditional career-building instructions and prescriptions.

They’ve been told exactly what to do: study this, not that, get this internship, not that one, take no risks, worry all the time, etc, etc. And Generation Z has watched this prescriptive model fail repeatedly for those who have gone before them. As a result, they might not chase the things their elders chased (for example, marriage, a single lifelong job, or a steady industry that promises never to change or fade.) They’ll be light on their feet and they’ll quickly leave jobs they don’t want. When things around them aren’t working, they’ll evolve and adapt…fast.

Respect generates respect.

Treat all your workers with respect, regardless of their age. But when Generation Z arrives in the office, acknowledge the unique needs and special strengths that accompany their youth and energy. For more on how to manage the newest members of your workforce, contact the professional staffing team at Merritt.

Why are your Employees Leaving?

May 12th, 2017

Why do seemingly happy employees leave their jobs to pursue other offers? You may be familiar with this common scenario: You run your workplace like a home, and your employees feel like family. Sometimes they have off-days, but your teams are typically happy and you honestly believe they see you as a personal friend. You’re pretty sure your workplace is a fair, fun and positive place to spend the day. But then without warning, your best employee walks into your office and gives notice. Why does this happen? And how can prevent it from happening again? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Everybody has a future.

Your employees may not say this to your face, but no matter how much they like and respect you, most of them don’t plan to be holding the same job with the same company five years from now. So you have a choice: you can let them change jobs, or you can watch them change companies. Always encourage your employees to grow, and always provide the opportunities and promotions they need to stay on board. If you try to keep them exactly where they are, you’ll lose them faster.

Encourage learning.

While everyone likes receiving promotions and raises, not everyone has the energy or initiative to seek out new forms of training without a push or a helping hand. If your employee is starting to resemble a big fish in a small pond, notice it before they do and give them a new challenges. As soon as they feel confined by the pond, they’ll become vulnerable to better offers.

Bullying does not inspire loyalty.

You can’t bully your employees into staying with you. If you try to convince them that they’re lucky to have a job at all, you’re paying them more than they’re worth or they’ll never make it out there in the big world without you, you’ll have to dodge the swinging door as they leave. Instead, show respect. Be kind when they’re having a hard time and be generous when it comes to coaching and mentoring. Give them your full attention during meetings and conversations, and show genuine interest in their lives.

Money matters.

Your employees can tell how much you value them by watching your behavior during salary negotiations. When you fight tooth and nail to pay them as little as possible, you send a clear message.  This attitude will never buffer you against competing offers. If your margins are thin and you’re clinging to every penny, don’t let this become part of your negotiation process.

For more on how convince your employees to stay on board and grow with your company, turn to the recruiting experts at Merritt Staffing.

Make Temporary Employees Part of the Team: Strategies

April 14th, 2017

Your temporary employees are critical to the success of your operation. They have specific tasks to complete, and without their presence in the workplace, you’d be in a world of trouble. They fill in for key players who are out on leave and they help with essential short term projects that keep the company moving forward.
But because they don’t plan to stay onboard for long, temporary workers don’t always recognize how valuable they are. They don’t receive the personal appreciation they deserve, and they often don’t have time to develop a sense of camaraderie and earn the trust of their full-time coworkers. So what steps can you take to make them feel welcome and integral to the team? Try these simple moves.

Spread the hype.

Before a temporary employee arrives in the workplace, tell others of their pending arrival, and create some buzz. Highlight their accomplishments, brag for them a bit, and share some of their personal interests in order to lay the groundwork for future conversations. Generate a little excitement and make sure your employees are prepared for their arrival.

Encourage socializing.

If you have a temp filling in for an absent worker, don’t immediately break up chatter between the temp and the rest of the team. A little room for clowning and small talk can go a long way. Don’t rush through meetings or discourage break room banter. Just let it happen. While you’re at it, encourage the temp to settle in. They should be meeting everyone in the building, and everyone should be meeting them.

Let them know they’re valued.

If you have a team of temps coming in to complete a software implementation or move some items around in the warehouse for a few weeks, don’t let them glide in and out each day like ghosts. Tell them what they’re doing and why it matters to the overall success of the business, and let them know that their contributions are important. If you expect them to learn your name, learn theirs.

Push teams to intermingle.

Encourage your full-time permanent employees to make the first move, and during meetings or group sessions, push them not to gather exclusively among themselves. Encourage them to sit together, eat lunch together, and get to know each other.

Praise them publicly.

Sometime the best way to get current teams to take notice of the newbies and remember their names involves saying the names aloud and attaching the names to praise and approval.

For more on how to welcome your temporary employees to the team, reach out to the Fairfeld County staffing and management professionals at Merritt Staffing today!

Encouraging Employees to Continue Learning

March 10th, 2017

As a manager, you’ve made your public position clear: You fully support ongoing education, and you want your employees to keep growing, keeping taking courses and keep expanding their knowledge base, no matter how old or experienced they may be.

This sounds great, and it’s something that most active and prospective employees want to hear…but when it comes to practical application, are you doing everything you can to facilitate this process? Coursework and advanced education can be luxuries for those who are working full time and who may be burdened by family and other responsibilities outside of the work place. So short of dropping everything and enrolling as full time students, how do you expect your employees to bring this positive position to life? Here are a few ways to help them as they make an effort to help themselves.

Podcasts and webcasts

Public lectures and learning opportunities that require no more than an internet connection are everywhere…But do your employees know how to find them and do they have the time and the motivation to tune in? Help them out by doing some research. Identify podcasts that you think might be meaningful and provide alerts to your team. Then tune in yourself and find ways to lead meaningful discussions on the topic afterward.

LinkedIn groups

Leadership and industry-specific groups have access to an organized platform in the form of LinkedIn—but again, your employees may not know about these things. So light the way. If you find a topic or group that may interest a specific employee, let her know about it. If you find a group that your entire team could learn from, ask them all to join.

Courses and certification programs.

Find out how to efficiently reimburse your employees when they enroll in programs that require tuition or course fees. Many companies pay for the course work in exchange for a one, three, or five year work commitment from the employee. If you need to present this to upper management and obtain they’re buy-in, start working on that process. If you call the shots, just make it happen.

Team up with local resources

Local universities, adult education centers, and vocational/technical schools may be able to offer training programs for a lower rate in return for student referrals or group sign-ups. Consider sitting down with these educational institutions and working out a program or plan by which they gain more student traffic and you (or your employees) pay less in tuition and course fees.

For more on how to encourage your employees to keep learning and growing, contact the career development experts at Merritt.

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.

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