The Benefits of Ongoing Feedback

July 17th, 2017

Traditional approaches to employee performance evaluation typically focus around one central event: the yearly review. Once a year, employees and managers meet for a one-on-one session in which the employee is praised for the year’s accomplishments and coached and criticized regarding “areas in need of improvement”. During the critique portion of the review, mistakes from the ancient past tend to be rehashed, and setbacks that occurred months ago are subject to scrutiny, the assignment of blame, and questions like “What resources could I have provided that would have helped to prevent this from happening?”

Employees approach the session with anxiety, hoping for a “good” review and dreading a bad one. Managers typically resent the process as well, since it can be overdramatized, socially awkward, and damaging to a relationship built on professional friendship and trust. So if this process sounds familiar—and unpleasant—why not try a new approach this year? Here are some reasons to deliver feedback all year long instead of saving it up for New Years.

Toss out the drama.

The tension and high stakes of an annual performance review benefit nobody. Being put under a spotlight six months after the fact won’t help employees better enjoy the fruits of their victories, and it won’t help them learn from past mistakes. But it will make them uncomfortable. Leave the letter grading system in high school where it belongs, and treat your employees like responsible adults, not students sweating over a test.

Real-time feedback has greater impact.

If an employee botches a presentation or misses an opportunity, sit down with them and discuss the error immediately. Better yet, don’t even sit down; just point it out in the moment (in private of course), issue corrections and coaching on the spot, and move on. The reasons for the stumble will be fresh in the employee’s mind, and she/he will be better able to identify and manage these reasons when they arise in the future.

Real time feedback is easier to remember and process.

If you exchange just a few words with your employee every day or a few times per week, then by the end of the year, you will have dispensed hundreds of tips, guidelines, wisdoms and meaningful corrections. But if you try to pack a year’s worth of comments and coaching into a one-hour session and then drop it on your employee like a load of concrete, very little of your message will actually get through. Takeaways and action items are the most important part of any feedback session. Keep them flowing all year long and you’ll see steady and continual growth.

For more on how to keep your employees engaged, committed, and constantly learning, turn to the Cleveland County staffing and management team at PSU.

Not Hearing Back After an Interview?

July 3rd, 2017

You put everything you had into your interview. You practiced beforehand, researched the company, chose your outfit carefully, and created a perfect elevator pitch. And on the day of your session, you did everything right, from your eye contact to your firm handshake to your thank you note sent within 24 hours after the meeting. But weeks have gone by and you still haven’t heard back from you interviewers. What should you do next? And how can you prevent this from happening again in the future? Keep these tips in mind.

Accept that the job wasn’t a fit.

If you brought your best game to the interview and your employers just weren’t interested, it doesn’t mean you did something wrong. But if weeks have passed and you haven’t heard a peep, it’s safe to say they weren’t impressed. So let them go. The lack of connection lies on their side of the table, not just yours, and when a spark isn’t there, it just isn’t there. Forget about these employers and focus on the next opportunity. Stay in motion.

If you see a pattern, change your strategy.

If this is your first interview and you’re being brushed off, it’s no big deal. But if this is your fifth interview session and you’ve receive the silent treatment five times in a row, something’s wrong. You may think your interview performance was above reproach, but after repeated responses that all fit the same pattern, it’s time to recognize that you’re saying something, sharing something, or doing something during your interviews that’s sending up a red flag. Try talking over your approach with a friend or mentor; maybe a second pair of eyes can help you see what you’re missing.

Boost your qualifications.

You can’t go back in time and switch your high school grades from C’s to A’s. But if you’re pursuing jobs that don’t align with your qualifications, you’ll face headwinds during the job market. Be patient. For example, if you majored in chemistry but you’re looking for marking jobs, you’ll find a match, but it may take a while. In the meantime, consider taking night courses or doing some volunteer work that can help you increase and show off your business skills.

Change your target.

While you work to boost your skills so they better align with the needs of your target employers, consider changing those target employers. Maybe you’re looking for jobs in the wrong places, or setting a bar that’s a little too low, and maybe you’re overqualified for the types of jobs you’re pursuing. To fix the disconnect, aim a little higher.

For more on how to speed up your job search and win over your interviewers, reach out to the Charlotte career management team at PSU.

How Much Does Turnover Really Cost?

June 16th, 2017

Turnover is an expensive, disappointing hassle; there are no secret there. Every experienced manager knows that an employee tenure of less than one year translates to high cost and limited returns for the company. If your selection process is flawed, your onboarding strategy is off-putting, or your job descriptions don’t match the reality that your new hires face in the workplace, you’re likely to turn your company into a giant revolving door. If you think you can afford a few reckless mistakes now and then, add up the actual cost and find out for sure. Don’t forget to factor in these considerations.

Training costs

When you bring on a new employee, that employee probably won’t serve as a financial asset to the company right away. In fact, almost every position in every industry requires a ramp up period, or a period in which the new hire can only be expected to learn, listen, pick up skills and make educational mistakes. This period may last three days or three years, but as long as it’s still underway, the employee’s presence in the workplace can been seen as a liability, not an asset. You invest in your new team member by providing the training, patience, and damage control that new employees almost always need… at least until they learn the ropes. If the employee leaves before the ramp-up period is over, their tenure can be considered a cost, not a source of revenue.

Morale

Morale and attitude are contagious. Positive or negative, they spread from one employee to the next. So when one person on your team isn’t happy, others may start to feel the same way (and vice versa). When an employee heads for the door in search of something better, others follow suit. By the same token, a happy and loyal employee lifts morale, which boosts productivity.

Opportunity costs

When an employee leaves, the replacement process begins, and everyone involved in the sourcing, resume review, interview, and selection process begins shifting their attention toward this project and away from other things. If you add up the hourly salaries of all of the people who contribute to this effort, the price tag starts to rise. Simultaneously, the work they would otherwise be doing must be shifted to someone else or left undone during this time.

Administrative costs

After you account for the advertising fees and the general costs of recruiting and screening candidates, you’ll need to factor in transportation to interviews, fees associated with background checks, and fees associated with adding and removing employees from benefit and insurance plans.

When you estimate the total combined cost of each of these elements, you’ll better understand the scope and the stakes of your hiring decision. For more on how to complete this calculation, contact the Charlotte staffing experts at PSU.

Small Gestures that Make a Big Impression

June 2nd, 2017

Your interviewer has an important task to complete within a limited time frame. So when he or she makes a hiring decision, only one part of this decision will be based on pure numbers and measurable data. The rest will be based on instinct, gut feelings, and the lessons of past experience. In other words, when you’re trying to impress an employer, your resume will only take you so far. To cover the remaining distance, you’ll need to generate an intangible sense of reliability and likeability. You’ll need to make the interviewer feel interested in you and excited about the idea of working with you. Here are a few small moves that can make a big difference.

Interest is a two-way street.

To spark another person’s interest in you, show interest in them. In this case, you’ll need to demonstrate genuine curiosity about the job and the company and express real—not fake—engagement with every word your interviewer says. Keep your eyes focused and your ears open. Don’t treat the interview like a pop quiz or a grilling session. Treat it like a fascinating conversation.

Stay cool.

There’s a fine line between interest and desperation. Keep in mind that you’ll hold more cards if your interviewer knows you have other options, and your cover will be blown if you’re ready to perform like a circus dog in exchange for a bit of approval. When you speak, speak calmly and quietly. When you sit in a chair, occupy the entire chair, don’t perch at the edge. When you’re asked a question, think and remain silent for two full seconds before you speak. Your interviewer will wait.

If you don’t know something, that’s okay.

Don’t bluster and sputter. If you’re asked a fact-based question and you don’t know the answer, just say so. Don’t apologize, just state your truth and move on. On the other hand, if you’re asked to solve a problem or think through something, give the answer an honest and reflective effort before you hand the floor back to your interviewer.

Dress thoughtfully.

Wear a standard, pressed interview suit if you choose, but if you’d like to go the extra mile, put some thought into your outfit and dress in a way that matches what you know about this company and its culture. For a more relaxed organization, skip the suit and opt for pressed khaki slacks and a buttoned shirt or a skirt-blouse-cardigan combo.

Be honest.

Honesty during a job interview is refreshing, memorable, and rare. If you were fired from a past position, just say so and explain why. Describe what you learned from the experience and express an interest in putting the episode behind you.

For more on how to leave a lasting impression during your interview, reach out to the Cleveland County staffing professionals at PSU.

What Makes You Unique?

May 19th, 2017

As you draft your resume and attend interviews with potential employers, you’ll be making one thing clear: you’re a great match for the available position. You have the skills, experience, and temperament that the job requires and you’ll probably get along well with your supervisors and coworkers. But you’ll also need to make a second case: you’re not just a good fit for the job, you’re a BETTER fit than any of the other candidates in the pool.

First you’ll have to explain that you can provide what these employers need. Then you’ll have to explain that you can offer something the other candidates can’t. The first case will be comparatively easy to make. The second one might be a little harder. Here are a few moves that can help you succeed.

Offer a few requested extras.

Most job posts provide a list of required credentials (like a master’s in accounting, five years of experience, or a willingness to work night shifts), and they also offer a few “pluses”, or skills that can help a qualified candidate stand out. If you happen to have any of these extra bonus traits, don’t fail to mention them directly in your cover letter and resume summary. Use the exact language you see in the post, in case your employers use these terms in a keyword search.

Highlight areas of overlap.

Most of the candidates who apply for your target job will hold the required credentials. But if you can offer all of these must-haves plus a few qualifications that aren’t specifically mentioned on the list, be sure to point this out. For example, your company may be looking for marketing experts to help with a product rollout in Brazil. If you have the required marketing expertise, that’s great. But if you also happen to speak fluent Portuguese, you’ll quickly move to the top of the list.

Show off who you are, not just what you can do.

You may have the skills to execute the job, but if you also have the personality and the personal experience to blend in well with this company and its culture, your employers will want to know. If you feel a unique connection to this business model or your company’s target clientele, tell your story. Explain how you have the personality and the background to shine in this environment.

For more on how to grab your employer’s attention and gain an advantage over your competition, reach out to the Cleveland County staffing and job search experts at PSU.

Flexible Work Opportunities: Keeping Employees Happy

May 5th, 2017

To keep your company in motion, you need to attract and retain top talent. And to attract top talent, you have to be willing and able to offer the perks and benefits that talented employees want. Of course your salary offers will need to be competitive, but how can you move beyond salary? And how can you choose offerings that appeal to the types of employees you’re looking for?

Driven, brilliant, focused and self-sacrificing employees often have one trait in common: they have busy lives. Their attention is typically pulled in multiple directions by personal passions, family obligations, an interest in lifelong learning, and a desire for growth. So the best way to keep such people or you team can often be expressed in one word: flexibility. Keep these considerations in mind.

Let them manage their schedules.

Nothing irritates a passionate, high-achieving person more than being tied to a desk for no apparent reason. If your employee has no meetings scheduled at the moment but needs to remain in the office despite pressing obligations elsewhere, this can wear away at her patience with the company and increase her desire to work somewhere else. She’s an adult; you can trust her to leave the office for a dentist appointment and still complete her work on time.

Remote work typically means more work.

Despite what some inexperienced managers believe, allowing employees to work remotely can actually increase their output and productivity. Talented employees tend to overproduce, not underproduce, in the absence of oversight, so turn them loose and let them figure out what needs to be done and when.

Rigidity limits problem solving.

If you require a talented employee to work in only one place, in only one way, under strict supervision and within the limits of a rigid set of policies and procedures, you may reduce the potential for mistakes (sort of). But you’ll also reduce the kind of growth and learning that can result from mistakes and risk. Encourage positive outcomes, but demonstrate flexibility when it comes to how the work gets done and where it happens.

Trust begets trust.

Allowing your employees to work off site or manage their own schedules (or both) can demonstrate trust and respect. This can become a symbolic gesture that may result in immeasurable benefits for your organization. When employees and managers work in an environment of trust, they can stop looking at each other and start looking in the same direction.

For more on how to provide talented workers with the leeway, respect, and flexibility that can help them thrive, contact the Cleveland County management experts at PSU.

Think Reference Checks are Overrated? Think Again!

April 17th, 2017

As you source candidates for an open position, review resumes, and conduct interviews, you rarely doubt the value of you endeavors. You feel confident that the time you invest in these activities will pay off as you narrow your options and hone in on the most qualified candidates in the pool. But when it comes to reference checks, you may feel differently.

Too often, HR pros and hiring managers eliminate reference checks altogether, assuming that the payoff just isn’t worth the effort, time, and social awkwardness that reference checks entail. But if you’ve weighed the cost and benefits and decided to skip the reference check process, reconsider. Here are some benefits you may be overlooking.

Reference checks don’t take long if they’re done right.

You don’t have to set aside an hour for a long phone call; just correspond by email. And you don’t have to allow a rambling discussion to consume your afternoon; just ask a quick series of concrete questions with easy answers. If you read between the lines, even a five-minute exchange can provide insight into how others feel about your candidate and the general impression he leaves behind.

References DO provide meaningful information.

Managers often skip reference checks because most references provide bland, non-committal, unassailable answers that won’t get them into trouble. But if you don’t let this happen, it won’t happen. Instead of saying “Did you like the candidate?” (of course the answer will be yes), ask something more pointed. Try: “Was the candidate consistently on time? What did she do best? If you had to provide a coaching tip for me, what would it be?”

References catch red flags.

Just embarking on the process can provide meaningful information. For example, if you reach out to a reference and your call is ignored or avoided, you can consider this a successful data-gathering mission. You never exchanged a word, but this non-responsive reference has shared a data point that you can add to a growing picture of the candidate’s profile.

References might give more than you asked for.

An enthusiastic, full-hearted, hyperbolic testament to the candidate’s abilities can be a powerful statement. If even one of your candidate’s references shouts her praises to the heavens, you can consider this a plus. These enthusiastic supporters can also tell you about accomplishments or proud moments the candidate herself may have omitted due to oversight or modesty.

Reference provide a point of comparison.

You may have two candidates with apparently equal technical abilities, in which case a reference check might provide a quick and immediate tie breaker. Make the calls and see what happens.

For more on how to conduct reference checks in an efficient, appropriate, and meaningful way, reach out to the Cleveland County professional staffing team at PSU.

Do You Have a Great Work Ethic? Prove it!

April 3rd, 2017

Most managers want to know three things about their candidates: Can they complete the tasks assigned to them? Are they pleasant and easy to get along with? And finally, will they work just as hard for the company as they would for an endeavor in their personal lives? In other words, will they throw themselves into their daily efforts and treat company success and personal success as if they were the same thing?

It’s not exactly easy to convince someone that you “work hard” or that you are “a hard worker”. We all use that term, but we don’t all agree on what it means. For some, it means an employee who stays at the office till midnight. But for others, it means someone who leaves at 5:00 sharp after accomplishing a long list of goals. How can you prove to your interviewer that your work ethic is above reproach? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Know what the term means to you.

You can’t read your interviewer’s mind, so don’t try. Have your own definition of “hard work”, and your definition should be fixed and clear. You should be able to describe it to someone else, and you should know exactly how far your own actions fall from your ideal. If you believe hard work means staying late, that’s fine. If you believe it means trying again and again until you achieve a goal, fine. If you believe it means giving up quickly and revising your strategy, that’s fine too. Just know exactly what a “work ethic” means to you.

Tell stories.

Apply your own definition of the term, and tell a story (or stories) that illustrate your sense of hard work and determination. Tell your interviewer about the time you stayed in the office late to accomplish a specific goal. Or tell them about the time it took you a week to complete an important task because you wanted to do it flawlessly. Or describe the time you accomplished ten incredible feats during one five-hour workday. Start at the beginning, explain the circumstances and the challenges you faced, and talk about how you overcame them and triumphed through the power of hard work.

If they share their own definition, listen.

Listen to your interviewer and read their non-verbal cues. If they’re unimpressed by your definition of hard work (working extra hours), and they seem to place a higher value on leaving early after multiple accomplishments (efficiency, strategy, and focus), tune in. Change your tactic and emphasize stories and anecdotes that showcase your ability to get things done.

For more on how to show off your talents and pitch your skills during your interview, contact the Cleveland County job search and career management experts at PSU.

Interview Mistakes to Avoid

March 24th, 2017

Your interview date is coming up, and you’re ready for almost anything. You have a travel plan and a back-up travel plan, and you know exactly how to show up on time, dressed for success. You know how to highlight your strengths, show some flexibility, demonstrate a relaxed sense of humor, and frame key elements of your experience in the form of stories and narratives. You know what to do. But do you also know what NOT to do? Here are a few simple, avoidable blunders that might send the wrong message. Watch your step and don’t fall into these traps.

Don’t blame others.

In the broadest sense, this one is easy. Of course you won’t badmouth your last boss or talk about how the company let you down. But there are suggestions of blame that are not so obvious. Any time the conversation turns toward anything the least bit negative—anything at all—stay on the alert. Edit your language carefully to make sure you aren’t inadvertently casting shade on anything or person who might be implicated in your struggles or setbacks. Not one negative thing in your past has been caused by anything other then your own fumbles. And since your own fumbles may not be to blame either, step out of this territory as quickly as you can. There’s a time for flexibility, nuance, and accepting the basic failings of human nature. A job interview is not one of those times.

Make a point of learning from your mistakes.

If you need to describe a time when you messed up, a missed deadline, a past job that didn’t work out, or a goal you once had that didn’t materialize, don’t just tell your story and call it a day. Tell your story and then shift gears to talk about what you learned. Explain how the experience led to growth and how you’ll handle the same situation if it ever happens again.

Don’t try to be all things for all occasions.

Your interviewer may ask you a question like: “Are you a leader or a follower?” or: “If you have to choose between meeting deadlines and producing quality work, which do you choose?” and if this happens, just answer the question. You don’t have to say you’re great at both. Don’t try to game the system. Provide the information that’s being asked of you. Tell the truth and answer in good faith. If your interviewer says “There are no wrong answers”, take her at her word. Show trust and respect and you’ll reap the same in return.

For more on how to shine during your interview and avoid the kinds of pitfalls that can hold you back, reach out to the Cleveland County staffing team at PSU.

Find a Candidate Who Fits Well with Your Company Culture

March 10th, 2017

As you search for a candidate who can handle the challenges of your open position, take the culture of your workplace into account as well. “Fitness”, or the level of alignment between the candidate and the role, can be the product of a complex and delicate equation. The right candidate isn’t just ready to handle the daily tasks that come across his or her desk; she’s also ready to handle the kinds of clients your company work with, the coworkers who sit to her left and right, and the unique style adopted by the company’s upper management.

Are these managers hands-on or hands-off? Are these clients easy-going or edgy and demanding? Are these coworkers collaborative or competitive? No matter what the answers may be, here are some tips that can help you spot a promising match.

First, know what you’re working with.

Before you can find a cultural fit, you’ll need to understand the psychological and social fabric of your workplace. Look around, conduct surveys, and gather data points before you begin the sourcing process for an open position. Collect some statements that seem reasonable and plausible, like: “This is a fast-paced environment”, “Employees here are reserved and can seem cold at first”, “Mistakes and risks are not only tolerated here, they’re encouraged.”

Evaluate your candidate sources.

If you’d like to find seasoned employees who are experienced, level-headed and worldy, don’t recruit on a college campus. If you’re looking for young, ambitious dreamers and experience levels don’t matter so much, that’s a different story. Go where your cultural matches live, play, and search for work.

Explain your cultural challenges and watch what happens.

During your interview process, explain some of the challenges your candidate will face here and watch how he or she reacts. You might say, “We prioritize deadlines over everything else”. Or you might say, “Some of our clients can seem rude and unreasonable at times”, or: “We wear multiple hats here, which means you might find yourself sweeping or taking out the trash sometimes,” or “Our culture is demanding and rigid.” Ask how your candidate feels about these things and when as responds, read between the lines.

Rely on behavioral questions.

If your workplace is deadline driven, as your candidate to describe the most difficult deadline challenge she’s ever faced. If your workplace is collaborative, ask your candidate about the last time he had to work together with a team. Again, read between the lines. You’ll learn more if you keep your questions open-ended and encourage your candidates to answer by telling a story.

For more on how to use your screening process to find cultural matches, not just skilled employees, turn to the professional Charlotte recruiting team at PSU.

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