Are Your Employees Burned Out?

December 7th, 2018

Great managers wear lots of hats. They’re coaches, organizers, schedulers, budget masters, and when necessary, they’re teachers, speakers, conflict negotiators, and diplomatic liaisons. They’re also great at taking care of the company’s most important and most valuable assets: its employees. Employees don’t just walk in the door already knowing what to do and contributing at maximum levels. They need managers to make sure the right people are assigned to the right tasks and every employee can access the tools they need for success.

Unmotivated and disengaged employees are NOT contributing at their full potential. And when teams are burned out, it’s the manager’s job to step in and set things right. Here’s how to recognize the signs and take action.

What does burnout look like?

Burnout takes several visible forms, but here’s something it DOESN’T look like: an employee walking into your office and saying, “I’m burned out.” That doesn’t happen. The signs are subtle, and it’s your job to spot them. Look for weariness, distraction and vague responses to new assignments. If your employees accept tasks by saying “I guess I can try” or “I’ll see what I can do,” take a closer look at the situation. The same should be applied to excessive sick days, quarreling and chronic bad moods.

Start honest conversations.

If you think your employee may be overloaded or disengaged, ask them to join you for a chat or take them to lunch. You don’t have to say, “You look burned out,” but feel free to diplomatically ask them how they’re feeling and how their days are going. If you hear signs of trouble, make note. Find out what you can do to help.

Keep an open mind when choosing a solution.

Your burned-out employee may be any number of things: overworked, frustrated by specific obstacles, distracted by non-work events, or simply bored and dispassionate about a job they once loved. Each of these will require a different response from you, so listen carefully before you develop a plan of action.

Keep career development on the table.

If your employee is overworked, take some jobs off their plate; that’s easy enough. But if they’re unmotivated because they’re outgrowing the job or in need of new challenges, bring the full force of your training and connections to bear. Find new ways to help them advance within the company, provide training in-house, provide resources that can help expand their education outside of the workplace, or learn more about their goals, so you can help them reach them.

Get burnout under control before you have to deal with a bigger problem: high turnover. Start by contacting the management experts at PSU.

Should I Perform a Background Check?

November 9th, 2018

As a newly minted employer for your own company, or a hiring manager burdened by time and budget pressures, you may think of background checks as expensive, time-consuming and unnecessary. After interviewing a candidate who seems quite decent and friendly, you may think, “Why should I waste time on this? My candidate surely isn’t some kind of criminal.”

That’s fine, and you’re probably right. The odds are low your candidate has a shocking, violent history of grifts and murder sprees. But misdemeanors, petty theft, anger problems, sexual harassment, drug abuse and a host of other far more common red flags could influence your hiring decision and save you from a mistake … if you know about them. Here are a few reasons why a background check should play a role in your hiring process.

Background checks are simpler than you might think.

It doesn’t cost much or take much time to request a criminal background check on a candidate. And as far as tedious paperwork is concerned, don’t worry; at PSU, we can handle that for you. In fact, we perform background checks on all our candidates prior to hiring and we recommend that all employers do the same.

Avoiding a bad hire is easier than letting go of a problem employee.

Even if your hiring agreement clearly states you can release a candidate at any time for any reason, this decision is rarely so simple and clean cut. Employees often ask for—and legitimately deserve—second and third chances after an incident or performance problem, and social connections can complicate the process. You’re free to hire whomever you choose for your own reasons, but you should have the information you need to understand and manage the person you’re bringing on board.

Resumes, cover letters, interviews and reference checks won’t reveal what a background check will.

By the time we’ve reached adulthood, almost all of us have been taken in or manipulated at least a few times in our lives. This can and does happen to everyone, and when it comes to staffing and hiring, it happens all the time, everywhere. Even highly skilled experts have trouble determining whether they are hearing the whole truth. As a company manager, it’s your responsibility to trust but verify.

Criminals don’t look like criminals, ever.

If you think you can spot a candidate with an undisclosed criminal past based on visual cues alone, prepare to be surprised. And recognize that this belief places you in a double bind: Not only are you more likely to allow a smiling, well-dressed troublemaker in the door, you’re also more likely to let excellent employees slip away because you misinterpret visual signals. Think the tattooed candidate is the one with the sketchy history? Think again.

Turn to PSU for staffing and hiring support, including background checks, sourcing and screening interviews.

Interviewing for Soft Skills

October 12th, 2018

Assessing a candidate’s “hard skills” during an interview can be fairly straightforward (depending on the circumstances). Since hard skills typically include demonstrable abilities or simple facts, you can always ask the candidate to demonstrate the skill or ask if they possess it. Can you speak a foreign language? Did you win this award? Are you certified in this subject area? Have you held this role before? Easy. How you weigh the candidate’s response is up to you, but by asking the question, you place the ball in their court.

By contrast, soft skills can more difficult to assess. Asking a candidate direct questions in this area won’t get you very far. For example, “Are you easy to work with?”, “Are you a team player?” and “Do you like to work hard?” are silly questions, because the answer will always be yes. Try these moves instead.

Ask for stories.

If you’re looking for leadership, ask your candidate to describe an episode in which they were required to demonstrate leadership under challenging circumstances. If you’re looking for resilience, ask the candidate to describe a time they failed at something. What happened and what did they learn? If you’re looking for teamwork, conflict resolution or negotiation skill, ask for stories that can give you a sense of these traits. As the candidate responds, read between the lines.

Consider the interview a stress test.

Never bully, intimidate or behave rudely to a candidate—that goes without saying. But keep in mind that all interviews, no matter how friendly and professional, are inherently stressful. Monitor the candidate’s response to this baseline stress. Pay attention to body language (are they twitching and sweating?) and pay attention to how the candidate bounces back from the little hiccups of the process (awkward pauses, minor disagreements, misunderstandings).

Ask questions with no wrong answers.

Questions with clear right answers (like “Are you a hard worker?”) just waste time. But when all answers are equally valid, the truth can come to the surface. Try either/or questions like these: “Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?” “Do you prefer leadership or team roles?” “If you have to choose between turning in excellent work OR meeting a deadline, which do you usually choose?”

Share some unpopular aspects of the job.

Tell your candidate about some of the more difficult, unpleasant, tedious, disgusting, boring, frustrating or unglamorous aspects of the job they’re targeting; then observe their response. A cringe followed by a long silence can speak volumes. So can a candidate who lights up and leans forward. Cleaning grease traps, dealing with angry customers, spending lonely days on the road and working odd hours are daunting to most people. If your candidate isn’t one of them, that’s a good sign.

For more on how to choose the best candidates for your position, talk to the team at PSU.

Warning Signs of a Bad Hire

September 14th, 2018

Your candidate may smile brightly and dress well for the interview, but these superficial signs of engagement can conceal traits that might lead to trouble ahead. Job candidates almost always have two layers: the shiny exterior and the substance beneath. And shining up the surface layer comes more easily to some candidates than others. As a hiring manager, you’ll factor both into your decision; after all, excellent candidates don’t usually come packaged in inappropriate clothing or a slouching, mumbling demeanor during an interview. But you’ll also need to look closely at what lies behind a sparkling smile. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Second-degree anger or resentment

Most candidates won’t behave in a directly angry or resentful way to an interviewer (if they do, end the candidacy immediately). But they may reveal signs of anger in the way they speak about past jobs, coworkers, clients, or former bosses. It’s okay to explain why a previous job didn’t work out (“The company and I had differing visions of success”). But watch out for a candidate who engages in heated or personal venting.

Alternative priorities

Almost all well-adjusted human beings feel torn between their jobs and their families, and it’s actually a promising sign if your candidate places family first and work second in this eternal and universal conflict. But if something else comes first—like a hobby or a dream career that isn’t this one—pay attention. This may be a sign of a complex and well-rounded person, or it may be a sign of a competing goal that will pull the candidate out the door eventually.

False confidence

Competence in some areas can be easy to prove. For example, fluency in a foreign language, artistic competence, or a straightforward technical skill can all be easily proven, sometimes right there in the interview setting. But other competencies (IT, marketing, accounting) can be much harder to demonstrate. You’ll have to take your candidate at his or her word, but recognize that many people are experts at throwing smoke and fluffing their feathers in ways that conceal huge knowledge gaps. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions or request proof of ability before you make a commitment.

Artful dodging

Does your candidate try a little too hard to steer the direction of the interview? If he smoothly avoids answering certain questions, glosses over things he doesn’t want to talk about, or keeps grabbing the wheel and bringing the conversation back to topics he’d like to emphasize, make note of this behavior. Note of the subject of these swerves, both the sore spots and the points of personal pride.

For more on how to look past the polished surface and examine the true capability and personality of your candidate, turn to the staffing and hiring pros at PSU.

Evaluating a Candidate’s Teamwork Skills

July 13th, 2018

You probably mentioned in your job post that you’re looking for a “team player”, and after publishing your post, you’re probably receiving plenty of resumes from candidates who describe themselves using this term. Chances are, just about every application you receive will use the word “team” at least once, and maybe several times. “Team players” are everywhere. And of course there’s no universal consensus on what this term actually means. So how can you make sure you’re selecting candidates who hold the specific team skills you’re looking for? Here are a few quick tips.

Ask, then check for alignment.

During the interview, ask your candidate to tell you a story. For example, try: “Tell me about a time on the job when you had to demonstrate team skills,” or: “Tell me a story that demonstrates what teamwork means to you.” Let the candidate think for a minute before answering, and compare what she says with your own definition of teamwork. See how well they line up.

Be clear, not vague.

Vague statements might seem safe and appealing in the interview setting, but they really just waste your time and contribute to bad decision making on both sides of the table. As far as possible, be clear and honest with your candidate. If you want someone who will keep quiet about company wrongdoing and execute questionable orders obediently, don’t call this “teamwork”. Call it something else. If you want a candidate who will work long hours and show up on weekends, don’t say you want a “team player”. Say you need someone who can work long hours and show up on weekends.

Teamwork may or may not make the dream work.

How will dedication to a “team” help your candidate, the company, or both? Some employers staff positions in the face of long term projects that require an extended investment, and they need candidates who are willing to stay in their seats for the next several years. Energetic, ambitious candidates who are contributing to teams left and right and working their way quickly up the ladder may not want to park here for very long. They’re great with teams, and their contributions are invaluable…but when the winds change and it’s time to move on, they shift team loyalties as well. Will this kind of teamwork work for you? If not, find out now. If so, make sure your ambitious candidate knows that staying on board for a while will be worth the sacrifice.

For more on how to define “teamwork” and “team players” for your candidate, your hiring partners, your recruiter and yourself, reaching to staffing experts at PSU.

Empower Your Employees for Success

June 8th, 2018

In order to succeed at their jobs and make meaningful contributions to the company, your employees need one thing that you may or may not be adequately providing: personal agency. Some inexperienced managers believe the opposite. They assume that the more they ride herd over their teams, the “better” these teams will do. In other words, if they spend their days telling their employees exactly what to do and how to do it, watching closely as they follow through, correcting every mistake in real time, forbidding risks, preventing failure, and scolding anything less than perfect obedience, then every project will end in victory. Employees are like oranges; the more you squeeze them, the more you’ll get out of them.

But this simply isn’t true. Studies and empirical evidence show that success lies in giving employees breathing room, so they can make decisions, solve problems on their own, and (gasp) fail. Leadership means backing off by a step a two and allowing your employees to learn and grow. Here’s how.

Stay focused on the long term.

It’s hard to watch an employee attempt something risky and fail. When we see such a failure looming, our natural instinct is to reach out and steady the bicycle so the crash doesn’t happen. But to avoid acting on this impulse, focus on the future. The quicker and harder the crash, the more the employee will learn, and the sooner you’ll see the day that she pedals confidently on her own. Keep thinking about that day.

Recognize that their real value comes from who they are, not what they do each day.

Your employee might toil along on a Monday afternoon, filing files and processing projects. But as the day and the year go by, you aren’t paying her for each of those little projects. You’re paying her for the knowledge she’s accumulating, the judgement she’s exercising, and the competence she’s gaining in her role. You’ve a hired a person, not a robot. So value the contributions she makes that only a person can make. Give her enough room to exercise her ever-growing critical thinking skills.

Trust is magical.

An employee who feels trusted will rise, as if by magic, to a higher level of trustworthiness. Before taking a risk, the trusted employee will put everything she has into making the smartest possible decision. The employee who doesn’t feel trusted, on the other hand, will accept less responsibility for the results, will not feel as confident, and will probably make a poorer decision. But it won’t matter, because if you hover over her, both the decision and the responsibility for the outcome will be yours, not hers.

Trust brings personal connection.

The simplest reason to trust your employees: If you do this, they will like and respect you more. Employees tend to work harder and stay with the company longer if they genuinely like their bosses. Step back and watch your relationship flourish. For more on how to do this, turn to the team at PSU.

Engage Your Employees and Reduce Turnover

May 18th, 2018

If you’re still reeling from the last resignation notice you received when the next departing employee shows up in your office to break the news, you may be dealing with more than just a bad week. You may have a serious turnover problem. If you keep losing valued and trusted employees, and you’re seeing promising new hires come onboard only leave within a single year, take a close look at your engagement strategy. Don’t ask how you’re losing them; ask what you’re doing to keep them. Start with a few simple moves that keep your employees loyal even when they’re lured away by other offers.

Provide something your competitors can’t.

Every workplace culture is different, so what does your culture have to offer that others don’t? What sets you apart? Is it an inspiring, collaborative atmosphere where great ideas come to life? Is your workplace friendly and welcoming? Can your teams trust and count on each other during times of stress? Do your workers think of each other as friends and family? Maybe your culture has an elite, driven vibe that makes employees proud to be part of the energy, or maybe your workplace is goofy and fun loving. Work to bring out the best in your culture and dial down the worst.

Do your workers feel appreciated?

After a long hard week of dedication to a project, there’s nothing quite like having the project cut from the final proposal and swept off the table without a word of acknowledgement from upper management. Of course the employee who put in that work will be paid either way, but sometimes work isn’t just about the money. When your teams go the extra mile, make note of it and thank them, regardless of the long-term results for the company.

Listen to their needs and interests.

Encourage your employees to share with you when it comes to their career plans, their personal goals, the subjects they’d like to learn about, and the things they hope to get out of their relationship with your company. As you help them to excel as employees and contributors, make sure they’re also satisfied with their side of the equation. They should be getting returns from the job that are equal to their contributions and sacrifices. If they aren’t, make note of it and provide them with training, compensation and support before they find another employer who can give them what they aren’t getting from you.

Resolve conflicts before they drive employees away.

Sometimes employees leave due to unmanageable conflicts or constant exposure to toxic people. And when this happens, you’ll probably never know. Exit interviews rarely contain statements like “I didn’t get along with my officemate” or “I had to work every day beside a real jerk.” Keep an eye out for these kinds of problems and fix them before they push talented workers out the door.

For more on how to keep engagement high and turnover as low as possible, turn to the Cleveland County management professionals at PSU.

Establish a Company Culture that Makes an Impression

March 9th, 2018

You want your company culture to send a positive message, and you want your employees to enjoy coming into the office every day. What manager doesn’t? But there’s one thing that attracts and retains top employees even better than a good company culture: a GREAT company culture. Plenty of employers can boast that they treat their teams fairly and maintain clean, functional and professional places of business. But can you make your own company stand out by offering more than the minimum? Can you set yourself apart and create a culture that leaves a lasting impression? Of course you can! Here’s how.

Apply visible effort.

Show your existing employees that you care sincerely about their job satisfaction and growth and show them that culture matters to you. Take frequent surveys, do regular check-ins with individual team members, supply training opportunities, and keep your door and your ears open to suggestions related to culture. If some aspect of your process or management seems to be holding back the flow of positive energy around the workplace, take care of it with speed and honesty.

Address complaints.

There are few things more frustrating than a company that boasts about its culture in ways that are clearly inaccurate. For example, an “innovative” company with rigid, arbitrary rules about process or protocol. Or a company that boasts of diversity but won’t hire a balanced mix of race or gender. Or worst of all, a company that celebrates teamwork but won’t address complaints of bullying or toxic managerial behavior. Don’t be that company. If something isn’t working, listen and resolve the issue—Don’t pretend it isn’t happening.

Don’t squash the fun.

Too often, companies back instinctively away from any activity that carries the slightest hint of “risk”, either brand risk or risk of legal exposure. This means requests with no immediate financial benefit are rejected without consideration. No funny hat day, no Saturday miniature golf outing (someone might get hurt), no onsite parties (someone might behave badly), and no ice cream socials (someone might choke on a sprinkle). No time wasters, no hack days, no tomfoolery. Don’t be that company. Lighten up and reap the benefits of stronger relationships and greater trust.

Be kind.

Giving an employee a break, forgiving a mistake, allowing an extra bereavement day, asking about a family member’s health, or letting a flu-ridden employee stay home without demanding a note from a doctor are all small steps toward a positive culture. Respecting your own humanity and the humanity of your workforce will bring financial gains over time, not losses. Be fair– don’t give breaks to some while withholding them from others– but be reasonable. Your employees will give you their best if you can accept them at their worst.

For more on how to retain your best workers and get the most out of their contributions, contact the Charlotte staffing professionals at PSU.

Should You Hire a Candidate Who Will Play it Safe or Take Risks?

February 16th, 2018

You’ve completed your first few rounds of interviews, and you’ve narrowed your candidate pool down to two final contenders. Both hold the necessary qualifications for the job (the right training and adequate years of experience), and both seem perfectly reliable and pleasant to work with.

There’s just one big difference between the two. Candidate A (Let’s call her Bold Betsy) jumps into new situations without hesitation, pushes all her chips onto the table when she sees a potential reward, and takes decisive action when she has all the facts…and sometimes even when she doesn’t.

Candidate B (Nervous Nora) holds back and avoids taking decisive action, even when she has all the information she needs. She always wants “more data”, and even if the risk is small or the wrong decision will bring minimal fallout, she hesitates. She wants to play it safe or not play at all.

Bold Betsy speaks up in meetings and owns the room, even if she might be wrong. Nervous Nora stays quiet, even when she’s clearly right. Which personality do you need on your team? Here are a few moves that can help you decide.

Ask the team.

When it comes to risk-taking tendencies, there’s no “right” or “wrong” personality type. These are just two different ways of living, and both are perfectly healthy, smart, and productive. But each one is a better fit for some situations than others. So what does your team need right now? If you already have plenty of one type on board, maybe it’s time to balance things by hiring from the other end of the spectrum.

Where is this role heading in the future?

If the role is limited right now, a bold personality type might get bored and seek greener pastures before the company and the team have a chance to grow and expand. But in the future, when a bold type can accomplish more, do you want to be held back by the shy soul you’ve hired? What you need now might not be a fit for later, so prioritize the future, not the present.

Where do you fall on the curve?

If you don’t mind taking risks, close your eyes and roll the dice. Choose the candidate with whom you feel a stronger connection and a greater sense of innate trust. But if you yourself are a Nervous Nora, then do what Nora does: exhaustively comb your available data until you’re one hundred percent sure that your chosen candidate is a perfect fit. If you need to, schedule more interviews. Don’t be afraid to hold out for a while in order to get what you want and feel satisfied with your choice. Trust your instincts.

For more on how to make the right decision during the final round of the selection process, contact the expert recruiting team at PSU.

The Value of Empowerment

January 19th, 2018

Too often, new and inexperienced managers step into the role with an attitude that seems to make sense at first: “If I just work extra hard and maintain total control, nothing can go wrong.” They then proceed to hover relentlessly over their direct reports, not allowing a single mistake, a single moment of idle time, or a single lapse in productivity. They stay late, double check every project, and insist on being kept in every loop. Then they fail. And that’s when they begin to understand the value of empowerment. If you see a bit of yourself in this profile, take a step back and keep these key considerations in mind.

Refuse to be afraid of mistakes.

Or rather, don’t let your fear of mistakes control your decisions. Your direct reports are definitely going to mess up sometimes. And when they do, you’ll take ownership of their mistakes, like good leaders should. But mistakes have great value. The more your employees make, they more they’ll learn. And the sooner they start the cycle of mistakes and learning, the faster they’ll gain competence, personal investment, and meaningful, hard-earned skills.

Hard work isn’t always the answer.

Sometimes hard work wins the prize, and harder work wins even more and bigger prizes. But sometimes this isn’t the case at all. Recognize when it’s time to let go and trust others—even those who work under your aegis. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your team is step back and let them engage directly to solve a thorny problem on their own.

Free your hands and free your time.

If you constantly hover and micromanage, you may prevent a few clerical errors or squeeze a few more minutes of productivity out of your team. But at what cost? The time you spend devoted to this endeavor should really be invested in tasks that only you can take on—the kinds of planning, mission-focused, or concept based items that can’t be delegated or outsourced to others. If you give yourself time to focus fully on these tasks and do them well, you’ll be advancing the interests of your company and your own career. If you get bogged down in actions that can and should be handled by your team, both of you will be held back.

Listen and learn.

When your teams need the kind of help that only you can provide, of course you should listen and support them. Provide the resources, data, and guidance they need. But as a manager, sometimes what they really need from you is a quiet sounding board. Allow your teams to talk first. Chime in when it’s time.

For more management and coaching tips, turn to the recruiting team at PSU.

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