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Closing the Gap Between Older and Younger Employees

September 18th, 2020

You have a team to manage, and because your company values diversity—as it should—your team is by no means monochromatic in race, gender, background, or specifically, age. Some of your employees are recent graduates in their 20s and some are in their 50s or approaching retirement. You’re proud of this wide range and the way it brings fresh air into the room. But you sometimes observe conflict and miscommunication between one generational cohort and another.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you work to turn age differences into opportunities for growth.

Encourage friendliness without forcing friendships.

It’s okay if your younger workers want to meet up on the weekends without inviting their baby boomer coworkers, and vice versa. If hurt feelings arise as a result of age groups seeking their own, try to bridge the gap without micromanaging social encounters outside of the professional sphere. Your employees are all adults; they can handle their affairs without your help. Instead, ask them to work harder at inclusivity within the walls of the workplace. Lunch, group projects, and coffee breaks are all opportunities to gently encourage efforts at comingling.

Help with the language barrier.

Slang and internet references that vary by age group can be a source of comedy and levity…or they can be a source of genuine stress and confusion. Steer your teams toward the first and away from the second. We all know that baby boomers and generation Z use different argot and respond to different kinds of jokes and metaphors. Keep differences fun, not infuriating, misleading, or divisive.

Respect paths already laid by the culture.

It’s not easy for a 50-year-old employee with decades of experience to be corrected and overruled by a 26-year-old boss. Sometimes this happens, but obtuseness or arrogance from the younger employee can grind the gears, and so can excessive insolence or passive aggression from the older employee. Encourage both to acknowledge the inherent difficulties of the situation and ask them to be flexible—both of them. The same applies to promotion decisions and leadership assignments that go against unspoken rules about the value of seniority, or the unspoken age implications inherent in mentoring relationships or assistance with new technology.

Don’t take age-specific management advice too seriously.

We’re often told that millennials respond well to this type of guidance and poorly to that one. We’re also told that you must never manage a baby boomer with this strategy or that one and you must always treat members of Generation Z in a very specific way…If you make a mistake, the consequences can be dire. This is rarely true. Your employees are unlikely to rebel, quit, spit in your eye, or make expensive mistakes because you accidentally addressed them the way you might speak to someone of a different age. Speak to the person, not the age cohort, and observe and learn from the response you receive. For more guidance, turn to the management experts at Merritt.

Six Warehouse Skills Staffing Agencies Look For

September 11th, 2020

What kinds of warehouse skill sets can grab the attention of a staffing agency? If you can impress your staffing agency with your resume, you’ll gain the support from the staffing team and they can better connect you with a wide range of potential employers. If your list of skills seems a little too short or not quite relevant, you’ll be more likely to wait a bit longer for the job you need. So which skills areas should you place in the spotlight?

Here are a few guidelines that can help.

Listen closely and remember that nothing is personal.

Keep in mind that the staffing agency makes decisions based on what employers say they need. So if there’s a current strong demand for forklift operators, that’s what agencies will look for. Later, if employers need shifts elsewhere, your forklift skills may not shine as brightly. If your agency asks you to show off something specific—like your software skills, leadership abilities, or flexible schedule, just listen and comply as well as you can.

Inventory management

Warehouse managers appreciate an applicant who’s familiar with their current inventory software. But as a close second, they like candidates who can quickly gain expertise with ANY inventory software, whether they’ve worked with it in the past or not. Many companies use their own proprietary systems anyway; they need a candidate who can look at an unfamiliar menu and learn to navigate it in just a few days if possible.

Problem-solving skills

Materials management is an art and a science, and strong warehouse workers have the patience and the resourcefulness to solve common problems. For example, when you need to move bulky, perishable, or odd-shaped units into an area already occupied by something else. If you can follow your manager’s instructions, that’s great. If you can solve the problem yourself, that’s even better.

Safety and common sense

In most modern workplaces, employers prevent expensive workers’ compensation claims (not to mention pain, illness and injury) by posting clear signs and clear instructions everywhere they’re needed. But sometimes there’s no sign, and the difference between safe productivity and an expensive disaster can depend on the cool-headed common sense of a given employee—That’s you. Not sure if you’re standing in a hard hat zone? Not sure if that tank should be leaking the way it is? Not sure how to navigate a pallet lifter over a wet floor or during a power outage? If you can provide the safest answer to these questions, you’ll be hired sooner rather than later.

Teamwork

You can’t handle every task in a warehouse by yourself. A warehouse is complex place with lots going on and lots of moving parts operating on tight schedules. Can you trust your teammates? Can they trust you to be there when they need you?

Responsiveness

If you hear an instruction shouted from a distance, are you likely to hear it? If you do, will you nod briefly or will you turn to the speaker, acknowledge them, and respond? Again, warehouse work depends on communication and teamwork, so a natural ability to connect with others can go a long way. For more on how to impress your agency and your potential employers, turn to the team at Merritt.

Interview Time: How Would You Describe Yourself?

August 21st, 2020

At some point during your job interview—likely at the beginning—your interviewer may simply hand the conversation over to you by asking an open-ended question with no wrong answer, something like “Tell me about yourself.” If you’re asked to describe yourself, how should you answer?

Here are a few tips that can help.

Stay relevant.

Instead of telling your life story (“I was born in the town of X and my parents worked at X and X…”), simply relay the events of your career that brought you to this particular interview at this particular time. “Tell me about yourself” really just means “Tell me what you’re looking for from your professional life right now, and why you think this job and company may be your next destination.” You can explain your long and short-term goals, your proudest skill sets, and what your current or last job couldn’t quite do for you. Not only does this provide an answer to the real question, but it also provides a jumping-off point for the rest of the conversation.

If asked for more, share something personal.

If you reach the end of your answer and your interviewer still wants you to hold the spotlight and say more, you can share your hobbies and interests and maybe a few of the broad strokes that summarize your personality. For example, “I’m an active person who loves the outdoors. I like to go camping up in the local mountains and I like to ski.” Of course, you both know that skiing won’t be required at this job, but this simple statement can offer some information about what it might be like to work with you.

Never talk about your family, religion, ethnic background, or health status.

These are protected categories of information, and your employer has neither the need—nor the right—to know about them. Avoid the temptation to share your marital status or whether you do or don’t have children. And even if it seems harmless, share nothing about any disabilities (even allergies), and don’t offer a word about any area that may subject you to bias. These things may come up naturally later on, but they should not be discussed or revealed at this stage of the relationship.

Read the room as you speak.

You know you’ve said enough when the interviewer starts to get restless and look away, and you know you’ve answered the question satisfactorily if the interviewer breaks in and asks for specifics or answers on a different subject. Listen as you speak. You’ll know which parts of your story spark interest and which parts spark boredom or concern. Use this information as you move forward with the interview. For more on how to make a strong impression and land the job you need, turn to the team at Merritt.

Building a Strong Team Culture: What you Need to Know

August 14th, 2020

Every workplace operates with its own culture and its own social ecosystem. This ecosystem can be stronger than the sum of its parts; in some cases, that means that the group maintains values, habits, worldviews, and moods that the individuals within it may not hold at all. In subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways, each person who joins the group begins to change when they enter the workspace or the team space, and these changes may be unrecognized or even involuntary. If the culture of the team is weak, each person becomes a little weaker when they step into the group space. And if the culture is strong, each person becomes a little stronger and their best qualities shine a little brighter when they’re in the company of the team.

A culture of viciousness, pointless competition, brutality, sarcasm, or veniality can infect those who are part of it—even honest and hardworking individuals. And the opposite is also true.

So how can you boost the productivity and overall excellence of your culture, and boost each member of the team by association?

Focus on trust.

People are stronger when they work together. It’s a known fact. Many hands and many minds are almost always better than just one, and solving problems and resolving conflicts are easier when we stand together and commit to the task. But to do that, we have to start with the first building block: trust. If team members are competing against each other instead of an outside force, that’s no good. If team members can’t be open or honest with each other, that’s also a bad sign. To build a culture of trust, start by encouraging (or even requiring) your team to cheer each other on and celebrate each other’s small accomplishments. This may feel fake or forced at the beginning, but in time, it will become as natural as breathing.

Drop the negativity.

While you’re building each other up, work to stop tearing each other down. Distribute resources and attention fairly, give credit where its due, and ask your employees to speak OF and TO each other respectfully, even when they can’t be overheard. praise those who move away from gossip and backstabbing and those who decline rewards that have been handed to them unfairly.

Encourage listening.

Most problems can be solved easily when we seek to understand, not to be understood. This is harder to do than it seems, of course, but with constant encouragement and a little training, you can make progress as a group.

Fun can be more than just fun.

Small celebrations like happy hours and breaks for birthday cake can seem inconsequential, but these unscripted moments are the times when real relationships begin to take root and grow. Make space for them; don’t consider them wasteful. Over time, they can boost productivity far more than any expensive seminar. For more on how to actively change your company or team culture, consult with the experts at Merritt.

What should I Add to my LinkedIn While Job Searching?

July 24th, 2020

If you’re about to step into the job market (either because you lost your last position or you’re just looking for something better than your current role), you’ll want to take a close look at your Linkedin page and make some changes. You’ll be officially switching the message of your profile from a passive (“This is who I am and what I do”) to active (“You should hire me!”) and you want to make sure the transition is successful.

Here are a few things to add as you start attracting the attention of potential employers.

First, switch your settings.

Make sure recruiters can see your profile and make sure employers know that you’re searching. Be clear about both, since it’s very easy to miss this move and fall through the cracks.

Activate your keywords.

Recruiters often begin a Linkedin search by using three specific keywords to narrow the pool, so be sure these keywords are present and clear in your profile. They include your 1) desired job title, 2) geographic area, and 3) industry. If you’d like to be a marketing manager in the healthcare field and you’re searching in Cleveland, all three should be listed.

Your last job is the most important.

Most recruiters and employers scanning Linkedin don’t care much about the details and responsibilities of a job you held ten years ago. Those details matter somewhat, to some employers, but they usually only become relevant during later stages of the selection process. As far as hiring managers are concerned, your most recent jobs, or your current one, are the most interesting and most descriptive of what you can do.

Be clear about what you want.

You don’t have to be specific about your target role (especially if you don’t feel specific and you’d be willing to consider almost any option). But you do have to be clear. Just framing yourself as a general go-getter and an all-around hard worker won’t help you get hired. Give some details about your background, your interests, and your career goals.

For more on how to tighten your profile and grab the attention you need, turn to the team of experts at Merritt.

How to Work with a Staffing Firm for the First Time

July 10th, 2020

Until now, you’ve handled applicant searches, hiring, and staffing on your own. You’ve had a small operation that made it easy and practical to manage these tasks by yourself, and the personal touch you brought to the process supported the success of your business. But now that personal touch has started to get in your way. As your business grows, your responsibilities have started to sprawl, and now it’s finally time to get some staffing help from trained, experienced experts while you keep your own attention focused on the challenges of running your business.

Here are a few moves that help you build a strong relationship with your staffing team so you can rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.

Communicate clearly and often.

Here at Merritt, we’re great listeners! And we’re tuned into every detail you share with us about your open positions and your company’s needs. The more you share with us, the better. We especially want to know exactly how the role in question fits into the larger picture of your company, and how the right candidate can keep things moving forward. If we aren’t showing you the candidates you need, tell us more! If we are, tell us why! If you need to change the parameters of a search or rotate in another direction, let us know, and we’ll work together to make the needed adjustments.

Tell us about your red flags and nice-to-haves.

We’ve been in the staffing business for a long time, and we recognize some universal red flags and positive indicators that carry across your industry. But we may not respond to some of the specific things you see in promising or concerning candidates, so help us to help you.

Treat candidates like the valuable assets they are.

Every candidate, even the ones you choose not to hire, can bring value to your business. In the age of social media, word travels fast, and if candidates are treated respectfully during the selection process, the talent marketplace will know about it…quickly. The opposite is also true. A troubling or disrespectful reputation as an employer can discourage great candidates from applying.

Let us use every tool to help you.

We can offer skills testing, screening interviews, a range of background checks, and any number of other services to help you find the right candidate as soon as possible. Ideally, you want a candidate who will be excited about the job, who holds the background and abilities to perform well, who accepts your offer, and who stays on board and becomes part of your long-term team. Contact Merritt today and let’s get started!

The Cost of Employee Turnover The Cost of Employee Turnover

June 12th, 2020

You’ve been in the business long enough to have learned a thing or two, and one thing you’ve learned is clear: turnover is an expensive problem. Few hassles and setbacks are more annoying, time-consuming, or disruptive than saying goodbye to new employees within one year of their date of hire. So of course, when you begin your staffing process, you work hard to choose the right candidate because you know the stakes are high.

But do you really know HOW high?

Have you taken out a calculator and carefully added up the cost of employee turnover for each position under your purview, at each level? Knowing the exact cost in both dollars and productivity can further strengthen your motivation to make the right decision. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you run the numbers.

Calculate the cost of the entire interview process.

Of course, you’ll need to factor in the cost of the job post, resume reviews, and transportation for your candidate—including everything from airline flights to validated parking—and you’ll need to account for any lunches you buy or add little details that you invest in the actual interview experience. But you’ll also need to account for your time, and you’ll need to pay for the time your managers and HR reps spend with the candidate as well.

Account for the time the position stands unfilled.

Less critical positions don’t hemorrhage money if they stand unfilled for two weeks, but more critical roles certainly do. And as you add up the cost of each hour and day the role stands empty, make sure you consider the bottlenecks and back-ups that the new hire will have to deal with starting on day one.

Account for the cost of training.

Training and ramp-up periods come with layers and layers of hidden expenses, starting with the actual cost of the trainer’s time, but also includes a host of other direct and indirect factors. For example, the cost of rookie mistakes. This is just one of the liabilities of running a business, but when a new hire learns by making educational errors, she takes those lessons and that education when she goes (typically to work for a competitor). The errors, and their consequences, stay with you.

Account for disruptions in teamwork and the social fabric.

Each time an employee leaves and new person steps on board, the social order reshuffles a bit, and everyone has to spend some time getting to know a new personality. Will everyone on the team get along? Probably yes, but adjustments take time.

For more on how to determine exactly how much an imperfect hiring decision might cost, break down and quantify each stage of the process. Better yet, contact the staffing experts at Merritt and you’ll increase your odds of success.

4 Ways to Find Skilled Talent in a Labor Shortage

May 29th, 2020

You need skilled talent, which isn’t easy to find even during ordinary market conditions. But right now, the specific skills you happen to need are in very short supply. You’re facing a full-blown labor shortage, and your business needs won’t wait while you scour the globe for the perfect hire. What should you do? How can you get the educated, experienced employee you’re looking for on a shortened timeline, even while your competitors are looking just a hard as you are? Try these tips.

Get to the source, and get there first.

As graduation approaches, don’t wait for newly minted experts to come to you and knock on your door. Go to them instead. Partner with local universities and find out what they need from you so you can provide it and get your foot in the door with job fairs, job placement offices, and direct candidate outreach. The same applies to experienced workers who graduated long ago. They may not come looking for you, since they’re comfortable in their current roles, so you’ll need to hire recruiters and go to them.

Offer something others can’t.

Of course, the most important thing you can offer is a high (not just competitive, but high) salary. That’s the fastest way to reach your goals. But not every company can afford such a direct route to a hiring advantage. You may have to lure great candidates with a reasonable salary plus a generous benefits package. You may also have to add perks that cost little to you, but make a big difference to the candidate, like breakroom amenities or convenient parking. Have you considered an on-site daycare center? An in-house coffee shop? Discounts on gym memberships?

Provide career-building benefits.

Many of your best candidates will light up at the prospect of something that can help them build their skills and advance their careers. Try a mentoring program, or consider subsidizing tuition at local universities. You can also find ways to add advanced training and educational exposure to the candidate’s on-the-job experiences.

Culture matters.

How pleasant is your workplace? Is your working environment, clean, safe, well-lit, and quiet? If not, these are small and easy changes you can make. You can also elevate your culture by promoting policies and practices that boost civility and professionalism, reduce toxic behaviors, and encourage work-life balance. Check your PTO policy, HR system, and general behavioral expectations. Make adjustments everywhere you can. Ask yourself: “If I could work anywhere, would I choose to work here?”

For more on how to grab the best candidates and retain them, even during a hiring shortage, contact the experts at Merrit

Landing an Interview When You’re Not the Perfect Fit for the Job

May 15th, 2020

You’ve read the job post carefully, and the hiring managers clearly want someone with your background and skills…or a close match, anyway. Or a not-so-close match. You have some of what they might be looking for, which is good news. But you also lack a few of the software skills specifically mentioned in the post, and you have three years of experience, not the “five plus” these employers require.

Here’s the truth: You can still get the job. And you can still learn what you need to know during your ramp-up period and thrive in the role over the long term. The biggest obstacle you face right now is landing an interview so you can make your case to these managers in person. Here are a few moves you can use.

Emphasize what you DO have in your resume and cover letter.

If the post mentions any detail, preference or requirement that you do have, mention it clearly in both of your application documents. And use the exact words and terms the employers use, since they may be filtering resumes using keyword searches. (“Experience with CNC” and “CNC coding background” are not the same.) Use every tool at your disposal, including your resume language, to make it past filters and algorithms.

Make contact.

Some job posts specifically say “No calls please” or “Do not call the office”. In this case, take the hint and don’t call. But if you don’t see this clear request, call. Why not? You have nothing to lose. If you can speak to someone in person and grab a few rays of attention, that may be all you need to move to the top of the interview shortlist. Be reasonable, of course. Don’t keep calling over and over.

Scour your social media to see if you have an inside connection.

Do you know someone who might know someone at this company? Check your Linkedin profile and Facebook feed to find out. Send a message to your potential contact and ask for advice.

Show off.

You may not be able to check every box in the job post, but you have plenty of other qualities that can help you stand out. Highlight them and don’t let them go unnoticed. Even if you think they can’t help you, they might.

For more on how to grab the spotlight and land an interview—even you doubt some of your qualifications—reach out to the job search experts at Merritt.

Is Your Resume Too Generic for the Job?

December 20th, 2019

Your resume seems excellent on the surface. You use the word “great” at least five times. You also lean heavily on the words “skilled,” “experienced,” and “excellent.” All employers like great candidates, don’t they? So why aren’t you landing more interviews?

Maybe your word choices aren’t giving you the boost that you expect. They may even be holding you back. Here are a few simple tips that can help you get rid of some of that generic language and deliver a more specific, focused, and memorable message.

Review the job post carefully.

All employers want candidates who work hard, show up on time, and look sharp. But these qualities aren’t rare and they won’t set you apart in a crowded pool. To find the traits that WILL set you apart, start by scanning the job post carefully and looking for specific requests that these specific employers find relevant to the position they’re trying to staff. Focus on those traits and on the narrow, measurable skill sets that can bring success in this field, at this level.

Shine a light on the things you offer than nobody else can.

You may be proud of your friendly personality, but you can let that aspect of your candidacy speak for itself. In your resume, focus instead on the skills that took you years to obtain. Focus on your most challenging courses, your most unusual accomplishments, and awards, and the specific lessons you learned in the school of hard knocks. Be most proud of the achievements that came with the highest level of time, setbacks, and difficulty.

Shine a light on preferences few others share.

Do you enjoy some of the aspects of this job that others will merely endure? Do you like humble tasks, dirty tasks, or tasks that others find tedious? Do you like social challenges, public speaking, high pressure, or tight deadlines? Do you thrive in harsh environments, or enjoy extensive work-related travel? Most people don’t. So if you have these traits, you’ll move quickly from a generic scan to a curious second look.

Sharpen your verbs.

Now that you know the specific points that can help your resume stand out go back and highlight those messages by choosing strong verbs. Replace weak choices, like “has,” “was,” “is,” “gave,” and “does,” with more specific ones, like “builds,” “leads,” “directed,” “implemented,” and “organized.”

Add some details that may not be entirely relevant.

Add just one or two proud accomplishments to your resume that don’t directly relate to the job, like sports accomplishments, art awards, or community leadership roles. These small details can help employers notice and remember you as a person.

For more on how give you resume an extra boost and separate yourself from the crowd, turn to the experts at Merritt.

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