New In the Office? Brush Up on your Conversation Skills

January 25th, 2013

Kids make friends everywhere they go. College students make friends just by sharing a dorm and sitting beside each other in class. Young adults get entry level jobs side-by-side with other young adults and they go on ski trips and take Zumba class together. But as we make the final transition into real grown-up-hood, the social world around us becomes less homogeneous and when it comes to making and keeping new friends, we’re on our own.  If you’re stepping into a new workplace in the middle of your life, what can you do to establish yourself and start forming new connections? Try these tips.

Conversational Rules for New Employees

1. Be positive. Of course you feel positive on the inside– You’re making a fresh start and you’re happy and excited to be here. But make sure this shows in your speech. For the first week in your new position, make a conscious effort not to say one negative thing. Not about people, your old job, or even the weather. After the first week you can relax and reveal your blunt, forthcoming side, but wait for seven days. Call it the “first week challenge”.

2. Play it cool. Don’t force your company, your jokes, or your opinions on anyone just yet. Listen more than you speak for a little while, and you’ll learn about the backstories and ongoing drama that underlie the projects and relationships happening around you.

3. Ask questions, but do so diplomatically. If you have someone who’s willing to provide you with background and fill you in on the technical and political details that shape the workplace, appreciate this person (or people). Try to make the most of this resource without becoming a burden.

4. Make an active effort to stay relevant. When you see a movie, be ready to talk about it at work. Actually think about what you’ll say if and when the subject comes up. The same rule applies to current events and sports. When you speak about these topics, follow the rules above. Try to stay positive, don’t force your personality on anyone, and keep your remarks from going on too long and becoming speeches or rants.

5. Look for ways to make your presence a welcoming sight to others. Help people who are doing things (from moving boxes to cleaning the breakroom). In conversation, protect people from embarrassment and help them look good in front of those they hope to impress. Try to steer clear of sour apples, negative types, and jerks. These might be complex and interesting people under the surface, but find this out during your second or third week, not your first.

For more on how to polish your image and start your professional relationships off on the right foot, reach out the staffing experts at PSU.

Shift Your Employees into High Gear!

January 18th, 2013

It’s a new year, and if your workplace is like most, this means new projects, new budgets, and fresh goals for both individual employees and the company as a whole. As they return from a few days away, your employees will be stepping back to their posts with fresh annual evaluations in hand and a set of carefully tailored goals and expectations for 2013. As a manager (or business owner), you’ll want to capitalize on this wave of novelty, energy, and ambition. Take these steps.

Start the Year off Right

1. Implement, act, and energize before the midwinter doldrums set in. While mid-January represents a great time to give your employees a shot in the arm and a fresh burst of new responsibility, this window tends to pass by mid-February. Tackle big obstacles now instead of putting them off.

2. Set an example. If you charge into work with a fresh face and a great attitude, whatever the weather looks like outside, your energy and commitment will be catching. Set the tone, and don’t expect your employees to bring more drive to the office than you do.

3. Keep employees connected, rather than isolated. Schedule more team meetings and status updates than usual, but keep them short, and close every meeting with positive remarks and a clear list of action items.

4. Think spring. Longer, sunnier days are just around the corner. Act as if they’re already here. Let as much natural light into the office as your employees can tolerate, and keep rooms, workspaces and tasks infused with fresh air—both literal and metaphorical.

5. Care about morale and attitude. These things are intangible, but they’re real. They’re also contagious. And they have a powerful impact on your company’s bottom line. When you see subtle cracks developing in the general mood, or when grumbling, rumors, boredom and infighting flair up, get to the source of the problem and take action. If necessary, consider scheduling a team-building training day or weekend retreat in the mountains to build cohesion and break up monotony.

6. Don’t neglect follow up. After their evaluations, your employees were given personal goals for the year ahead. Don’t forget to have managers check in on a regular schedule. Make sure these goals are being taken seriously and kept on track, especially for underperforming employees who need extra guidance.

Reach out to the NC staffing pros at PSU for additional ways to motivate and engage your teams in the year ahead. For help with these and other staffing issues, contact our office to arrange a consultation.

Take a Closer Look at Your Underqualified Candidate

January 11th, 2013

Rejecting candidates out of hand can become an unfortunately common trend in a weak economy. When some managers see a line of applicants winding out the door, they develop an inflated sense of confidence that makes them decide to “hold out for the best”, or toss out one highly qualified candidate after another because these applicants don’t present themselves as stars. But if you’re tempted to hire only applicants who are currently employed, or only those who have PhDs, or only those who are currently making the limit of what your company can offer, think twice. It may be wise to adopt some flexibility. Here’s why.

Hire for Skills, Talent, Attitude, and Work Ethic, Not Star Status 

You’ll pay a premium for every measureable element of candidate star status. Everything from a four year college degree to the completion of a software training program comes at a cost. At the same time, candidates who possess these credentials and can charge these premiums have no specific reason to cultivate gratitude or loyalty once they come aboard.

On the other hand, if you hire a candidate who hasn’t yet learned to write code or hasn’t completed her level three certification, you’ll be taking her on at a slightly lower rate. And if you provide her with this training in-house, she’ll have every reason to stay, invest, and appreciate a symbiotic relationship for what it is.

Aptitude can be taught, But Attitude is in the Blood

Inflexible managers use a rigid check-off list to measure candidate success potential. Does the candidate have exactly three to five years of experience? Does the candidate have exactly three glowing references from upper managers at Fortune 500 companies? Lists like these are self-limiting and don’t actually measure the real qualities that predict a great hire. While interviewing a candidate and reviewing his or her background, use your non-verbal communication skills, experience, and intuition to discern a genuine work ethic and honest eagerness to learn. Everything else can be taught.

Don’t Voluntarily Overpay for Candidates with Attitude Problems

Taking on a bona fide “superstar” is, in and of itself, a recipe for trouble. Not only are you likely to overpay (market value doesn’t always dictate substance), but you’ll be taking on a candidate who may not see any reason to adapt to your culture, accept your methods, or cease her search for better opportunities elsewhere. Think before you try to pry a candidate away from her current job while an eager, intelligent, and inexpensive alternative happens to be knocking at your door.

Where can you find these qualified, inexpensive candidates with great attitudes? Start by arranging an appointment with the NC staffing experts at PSU. We have access to a broad pool of talented applicants who can help you drive your growing company forward.

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