Team Builders Don’t Always Have to Involve Alcohol

June 7th, 2019

Here’s a short story about Ed, a department manager at a regional publishing company. Ed worked hard every day to do right by his team, and he tried his best to give them everything he had as a boss, coach, and mentor. In addition to reading every management blog he could find, he arranged fun activities to support bonding outside the workplace, including the creation of a company softball team.

Every spring Saturday, the team hit the field, and Ed brought the balls, bats, and a cooler full of beer, exactly one beer for each participant. Ed worried endlessly about the cooler and its contents. Would each person be sure to have their single beer? Would they like the brand? Would it be cold enough? Would the event be fun without becoming dangerous? Would everyone stay safe and drive sober? If someone got hurt, would the company’s insurance cover it? Would Ed get in trouble with the corporate office? Each time he packed the cooler, he worried and worried.

Each time he hit the field with the team, they all had fun. With all the swinging bats, fly ball catches, laughter, outs and home runs, memories were made. But Ed still worried.

One day, he forgot the cooler and left it at home by accident. He felt terrible! Would the team ever forgive him? Would they mope and sulk?

They didn’t! They played in the sun, joked and shared stories. And not one person mentioned the missing cooler. From that day on, Ed decided to leave the cooler behind every Saturday.

Literally nothing changed.

The lesson: Nobody needed that company-sponsored beer after all. Later, Ed found it easier to plan events for the team, since he stopped making alcohol an essential part of every gathering. After a few months, the savings added up. But nothing else changed. In fact, Ed began to schedule events at places that didn’t involve alcohol at all, like mini-gold courses and ice cream shops. Outing options expanded and the team loved it. They began starting activities on their own, like book clubs and stream clean-ups. And all of them lived—and worked—happily ever after.

Do you really need alcohol at all of your company events? If you aren’t sure, try cutting back or removing booze from a few select events altogether. See what happens. Chances are, your employees will miss this minor detail less than you anticipate. They’ll keep showing up and they’ll keep having a good time, booze or no booze. And the next morning they’ll arrive at the office with clear heads, ready for the day.

Need more encouragement or ideas? Contact the staffing team at PSU!

Four Reasons to Have Employee Reviews More Than Once Per Year

May 10th, 2019

If you’ve been holding formal employee performance evaluations once every year, usually in early January, then you’re not alone. This traditional review cycle has been the standard for a long time, and plenty of businesses still manage employees using this strategy.

But it may be time for an upgrade, one that better reflects the realities of modern work life and effective employee coaching. Here are a few reasons to drop the old model and embrace a review schedule with more flexibility and frequency.

It’s more memorable.

If you sit with your employee in January and give a directive, for example, “Here’s how to handle a crisis that’s likely to surface once a year, if ever”, you can’t expect your instructions to be remembered when the moment arrives and it’s time to apply them. That’s just not reasonable. But if you deliver you guidance, mentoring, tips, directives, and coaching prescriptions once every quarter or so, they’re more likely to stick.

It’s more actionable and fair.

The same way you wouldn’t issue a directive six months in advance, you can’t reasonably deliver correction and coaching six months after the fact. Watching an employee make a mistake in June and waiting until January to lecture her about it won’t fly. She’ll resent this treatment, and rightly so. Instead, stop her at the moment and deliver your feedback and coaching informally—On the spot if possible. An extra bonus: she won’t keep repeating the mistake over and over for the next six months while you check the calendar and wait.

It gives you an opportunity to observe and praise improvements.

If you had to scold or criticize someone during their once-annual formal evaluation, the moment may have been awkward for both of you. Such moments can be so uncomfortable or discouraging that they often start the wheels in motion that eventually push the employee to seek work elsewhere. Here’s how the old model works: In January, you shine a light on a performance issue. By May the employee is struggling to correct it and simultaneously keeping an eye out for new job opportunities. By June she gets an offer and by July she’s gone. Here’s the new model: In January you deliver your critique. By May you see clear improvements and deliver a new evaluation with a very different tone. By July the employee is fully back on track, up to speed, and thriving.

It helps you reap the benefits of positive feedback.

Positive feedback oils the gears of the employee-employer relationship. If your team is like a garden of plants, your encouragement falls on them like fresh rain. So don’t put it off! Water those plants as often as possible. Formally, informally, in quick meetings or drawn-out sessions, if they’re doing well, let them know!

For more on how to coach and evaluate your teams, turn to the pros at PSU.

3 Things You Can Do to Ensure a Smooth Onboarding Process

April 5th, 2019

The selection process is over, and you’ve chosen your final candidate and convinced her to accept your offer. Her first day will take place two weeks from now, so you have 14 days to arrange an onboarding process that’s efficient, smooth and most important, enjoyable for your new employee.

First impressions mean everything, and your new hire’s introduction to her tasks, her teammates and her work station can leave her feeling satisfied with her decision … or counting the days until she can walk out the door. Make sure she’s happy at the start and you’ll pave the way for a long and productive relationship. These moves can help.

Build some hype.

Before she arrives, make sure your existing employees are prepared. They should know her name, her role and at least little bit about her background and accomplishments before her first day. A warm welcome from peers and co-workers can generate memories that last forever. If she gets a few upward glances and a lukewarm “hey” before each new face turns back to a screen, she’ll feel like she’s having a solitary adventure that begins when she chooses and ends when she finds something better. A warm welcome means she’s now part of a team. Consider arranging lunch invitations for her during each of her first five days.

Avoid hassles and hang-ups.

Welcoming a new employee is a bit like planning a party or an event. Be optimistic but think a few steps ahead and anticipate what might go wrong. If she can’t connect to the network, if there’s an HR holdup with her paperwork or if she has to spend the whole morning standing in the lobby while someone scrambles to find her a desk, that doesn’t look very good. Besides, every hour she spends not integrating, learning and working is a loss for the company.

Be clear about your expectations.

You expect great things from your new employee! But what are those things, exactly? And have you given her the resources to deliver them? How long will her training period be? Does she have a schedule in hand that breaks down who, when and how that training will be delivered? Does she have a clear employee handbook that covers regulations and policies she might otherwise not know about? Does she know exactly who to turn to if she has questions? Get these issues settled as early as possible, ideally a few weeks before she walks in the door.

For more on how to provide your employee with a positive and meaningful experience starting on day one, talk to the hiring and onboarding experts at PSU.

How to Write Better Job Descriptions

March 8th, 2019

Want better candidates? Try writing better job descriptions. Even if your company has a strong reputation, your product practically sells itself, and the job comes with great perks and benefits, you’ll still need to confront a universal truth about job seekers: They tend to place themselves in the job as they imagine it, and if they can’t see themselves doing this type of work day after day, they aren’t likely to apply.

So make sure they imagine themselves into a role that’s appealing, challenging in a good way, and a necessary step on the path to larger career success. Here are a few ways to make that happen.

Be honest and descriptive.

Too much text can backfire (more on this in a minute), but within bounds, provide as much honest information as you can about the daily realities of the job. Using vague, empty terms won’t help. For example, skip phrases like “a dynamic environment” or “We need a real go-getter” or “Looking for a high-energy individual with the skills it takes to succeed!” What skills are those, exactly? You’ll accomplish more if you can be more specific.

Keep your description short and readable.

You don’t want your readers to tune out and move on before they reach the best part. So keep each sentence and phrase short and packed with substance. No empty, endless rambling. Your best candidates are busy and they’re in high demand. They can get jobs anywhere they want, so don’t expect them to read five long pages of obvious or non-valuable information. Start with three short paragraphs: 1) why your company is great, 2) what the job entails and requires, and 3) the perks and benefits that come with the job.

Offer what others can’t.

Of course, this can be challenging if you genuinely don’t have anything to offer that sets you apart from similar employers. For example, maybe you expect the candidate to file reports all day, and you intend to pay a fair wage and standard benefits in return. Big deal, right? Not really. But think hard; what is it about this place that makes your company special? And what can you offer that might light a spark of interest or help your reader understand that this job could boost her career? Will she learn a unique skill while serving in this role? Will she be up for advancement within one year? Will she be able to travel or set her own hours?

For more on how to add something special, catchy, or attention-grabbing to your job description that can help you nab strong candidates, turn to the staffing experts at PSU.

The Impact a Bad Hire can Have on Your Team

February 1st, 2019

When you calculate the cost of a hiring mistake, you can easily add up the obvious costs: the post you’ll need to publish to attract replacement candidates, the cost of background checks and interviews for those new candidates, and the cost of onboarding for the replacement you ultimately choose. But there are few costs and expenses associated with a hiring mistake that are intangible—They can only be estimated, and while difficult to precisely measure, these costs can be shockingly high.

For example, a hiring mistake (usually defined as a candidate who leaves within one year) can have a dismal impact on the productivity and morale of your entire team. Here’s how.

An underprepared candidate lowers the bar.

Your new hire came on board unprepared for the job and lacking the skills necessary for the role. He struggled for a while before he left, and though he tried, it was unrealistic to expect him to gain meaningful expertise during a six-week training period. What does this hiring decision tell your other employees about an “acceptable” level of competence in the missing skill area (for example, SQL, Photoshop, customer service, language fluency, written communication, or basic math)? The bar of expectation drops with every day the unprepared hire stays on the team.

Attitude problems are contagious.

If your candidate failed because he was sullen, uncooperative, or had anger issues, that’s unfortunate, and a contagious bad attitude doesn’t always show up during an interview. But even more unfortunate: the impact of his sulks and complaints may stay in the air even after he’s shown to the door.

“Work ethic” is a shared metric.

What would you call an appropriate work ethic in an office where most workers leave at 4:00 pm? How about an office where the “slackers” are still at their desks at 7:30? “Hard work” is a relative term, and if you introduce an employee who vanishes in a cloud of self-congratulation at exactly 4:59 each day, others are inclined to follow suit.

Bumblers create roadblocks.

Sometimes the nicest candidates in the world arrive in the workplace and spend more time standing in the way than helping the team. If you hire one of these, you’ll have messes, mistakes, and derailed projects to fix after they leave, plus all the back-ups and work-bottlenecks you’ll need to re-open.

The hidden cost.

Unfortunately, hiring the wrong person can also put tiny cracks in something very valuable: trust. Your teams trust you to make smart decisions when it comes to assessments of character and background, and their success depends on your ability to get it right. One mistake can be easily forgotten, but with each additional misjudgment, the task gets harder. Choose the best candidates available, and your existing teams will thank you.

For more, contact the hiring and staffing pros at PSU.

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.

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