Reduce Stress by Opening Communication Lines

April 25th, 2014

Feeling tired? Hassled? A little burned out? Are you experiencing fewer satisfying days and a growing number of days that make survival feel like a victory? If you’re hanging on by your fingertips, navigating one crisis after another, and just barely managing to stay on top of your overflowing inbox, imagine how your employees must feel. And if you HAVE to imagine this, because you know that your employees will never tell you directly that they’re overworked and need a break, then your solution might be summarized in one word: communication.

Better communication and more open dialogue can solve a long list of workplace problems at once. And as these problems are resolved, obstacles to productivity fall away one by one. Keep the lines open by keeping these considerations in mind.

1. Open your door, literally.

It’s one thing to claim you have an “open door policy”, but it’s another to stand by it. Unless you’re in the middle of a very private conversation, keep your door ajar and never answer a knock or a hello with a glare or exasperated sigh. Respond to inquiries with an expression of welcome and interest. And even when you’re buried in work, don’t let the door close completely.

2. Practice blameless reviews.

Your marketing campaign is over, the big contract project is complete, the product rollout is underway, and—win or lose—it’s time for a review and debriefing session. If the project was an unquestionable victory, this process will be pleasant. But if it wasn’t, don’t make things worse by assigning blame. Employees who fear blame will clam up, take no risks, share no ideas, and foster a culture of silence and dishonesty. In a blameless environment, everyone works toward the same goal, feelings and ideas are shared, and real progress can happen.

3. Practice criticism-free brainstorming.

After big projects, rein in the blame. Beforehand, rein in the criticism and shut-downs. And really rein it in—don’t just prevent managers from engaging in this behavior; encourage them to prevent it in among their direct reports.

4. Keep your reactions measured, calm and positive.

An employee needs better resources to complete their job. Another wants to ask for a raise. Another has to deliver a bit of bad news. And a fourth wants your signature on a complex document you don’t have time to read right now. No matter how you react to each of these advances, think carefully, and take a deep breath before you respond. Snapping, dismissals, and hasty decisions can push employees away and make them hesitant to approach you with real and pressing concerns. Stay in control and don’t let this happen.

While you allow your employees to come to you with their issues, learn how to approach them directly with yours. For more on how to keep conversations flowing in both directions, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.

Onboarding New Employees: Tips for Success

April 18th, 2014

“Onboarding” usually referrers to the final stage of the hiring process. After sourcing, recruiting, selection, negotiation, and every other aspect of the task, the final candidate will need to be welcomed on the first day and acclimated to the job over the course of the next few weeks.

A successful onboarding process is easy to recognize: Six months into the job, the new employee has found her stride, she works well with those around her, she’s completing her training period and she’s starting contribute to the company as serve as an asset. A failed onboarding process is also easy to spot: Six months down the road, the employee is still a liability. Or worse, she’s already gone.

Here are a few ways to generate the first scenario and avoid the second.

1. Prepare her coworkers for her arrival. Don’t just let them know her start date. Enlist their help in preparing her workspace and materials, explain a bit about her background, and try to generate a sense of excitement about her arrival. If all goes well, her team members will be ready to welcome her with warmth and sincerity. And even better, they’ll help her find her feet and give her the benefit of the doubt.

2. Anticipate hassles and find workarounds before you need to. If the new employee can’t log into the system for a day or two, make sure she at least has somewhere to go and something to do. (And hopefully this won’t happen.) If her direct supervisor will be held up or out of the office on that day, make sure you have a back-up person in mind who can meet the new employee in his stead.

3. Give her a schedule. The schedule should account for every hour of her first day and most of her first week, at the very least. Include the meetings and training sessions you’d like her to attend with clear locations and times.

4. Take her to lunch on the first day, and then again at the end of the first week. This will give you a chance to sit down with her and make sure she’s getting all the help and information she needs. It will also give her a chance to ask questions about the things she’s observing.

For more on how to generate a smooth, welcoming, and trouble free onboarding process, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.

How Will you Influence your Workplace Culture?

April 11th, 2014

A growing number of hiring managers are no longer selecting candidates based on their job skills alone. Of course technical proficiency is an important quality in a candidate, since it can help managers reduce risk and cut training costs. But employers are now emphasizing traits that can’t always be taught, like the ability to motivate, explain, convince, inspire, and lead. When an employer decides to bring you onboard, they aren’t hiring you for your skill sets alone—they’re hiring you based on the implicit promise that your presence will elevate the environment around you.

So how can you fulfill this promise and create a positive, lasting impact on your workplace culture? Keep these tips in mind.

1. Start on the first day. When you walk in the door, stay focused on the long term and the big picture. Don’t just struggle to survive that first day, and then the next, and so on. Remember the names of everyone you meet (write them down), greet them by name when you see them, and actively launch positive relationships with each of these people.

2. Your job extends beyond your inbox. If your inbox is the only metric you use to determine your productivity, think bigger. Don’t just hang on by your fingertips and check off each item assigned to you. Consider the reasons behind these tasks and the ways they benefit the company and make your boss’s job easier. Tackle your boss’s responsibilities, not just your own.

3. Help others. Don’t just ignore confused new employees, overburdened coworkers, those who face potential embarrassment in meetings, or random strangers engaged in combat with a jammed copy machine. When you have an opportunity to help, teach, or rescue someone, take it. This gesture won’t be forgotten.

4. Praise in public, criticize in private. This rule doesn’t just apply to managers. It applies to everyone, even the lowliest intern. When you have a complaint or criticism for any person above or below you on the corporate ladder, speak up. Just do so tactfully behind closed doors. And when you have something nice to say, by all means, don’t keep your positive thoughts to yourself.

The best way to influence your workplace culture is simple: Set an example. Imagine the workplace you’d like to see around you and become an integral part of that scene. Lead the way. For more on how to make a great impression and launch your career in the right direction, contact the staffing and management experts at PSU.

Five Time Management Techniques that can Improve Your Efficiency

April 4th, 2014

Do you ever wonder how your impeccably dressed, cool and confident, universally beloved coworker gets it all done? Do you ever watch out of the corner of your eye while she chats by the coffee machine and then ends the conversation at exactly the right moment before getting back to work? Do you watch him finish his reports and then scoop up his belongs and step out the door at five while you’re still chained to your desk by yesterday’s deadlines? If you’re looking for ways to increase your efficiency and make the most of your working day, consider the five tips below.

1. Wake Up Properly

Take control of your morning. Sleep with the curtains open so your natural clock adjusts to the rhythm of the sun. Keep your sleeping space cool, uncluttered, and wake yourself up gently. If you hate your blaring alarm, stop using it. Don’t let the first minute of the morning be the worst minute of the day.

2. List and Plan

If you don’t like listing and planning, stay flexible and give the process another try. When you wake up, make an actual list for the day ahead using a pad and pen or your smartphone. Add items to the list and cross them off throughout the day. Make yourself do this for one week and evaluate the results before you go back to your old methods.

3. Track your Movements

You can often recognize inefficient people just by watching them move around a room. Tune into your own movements and take a close look at how you get things done. Do you walk back and forth across a room five times to execute a simple task? You won’t know until you actually observe yourself. Reduce the number of motions you put into each task, and apply this exercise to other aspects of your day.

4. Stop Overthinking

If you put off returning a phone call for three days, you’ll make that painful call in your mind over and over countless times before you actually do it, and a five minute call will become a three-day ordeal. Don’t subject yourself to an unpleasant experience more times than you need to. Protect the quiet and tranquility of your own mind the same way you protect the quiet and order of your home, your bed, and your workspace. Guilt about the past, helpless worry about the future, and five unpleasant minutes on the phone should be cleared away like the clutter that they are.

5. Go to Bed

Late night hours spent talking with your children and loved ones are hours well spent. But late night hours mesmerized by the TV because you’re too tired to turn it off and go to bed are not. TV paralysis ruins more mornings, and consequently more workdays, then almost any other aspect of our lives. Just turn it off. Set a bedtime (try 10:30 PM) and commit to that time just as you commit to any other serious appointment. Then observe a magical transformation in your mornings, your attitude, your productivity and your overall health.

For more tips on how to manage the increasingly complex, busy workdays that are becoming the signatures of modern life, reach out to the staffing and employment experts at PSU.

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