It’s 2013: Time to Reinvent Your Business

February 1st, 2013

It’s now 2013, and if your small business is still afloat, it means either of two things: 1.) you had what it takes to survive one of the worst economic crashes in recent history, or 2.) you recently launched your business, and you’re ready to do whatever it takes to ride out rough patches in the future. In either case, you know that staying competitive means staying flexible. Smart business owners adapt quickly to change, and they’re ready to make adjustments at a moment’s notice in order to stay ahead of a shifting landscape.

With that in mind, 2013 may be a great time to consider a reinvention. Take a close look at your market, your brand, and the strength of your financial footing, and consider making some of the following changes.

It’s Time for Some Fresh Air

Change your product (or service)

What would it take to improve the value of your product? Can you add more features? Can you produce deliverables faster without sacrificing quality? What are some of your most frequent customer complaints, and how can you make these complaints disappear?

Change your profit structure

Consider making your product more appealing by lowering your prices. In order to do this, you may need to cut some of your profits and pour the savings back into your business, but if you make this move correctly, you’ll strengthen your company’s foundation and long-term stability. Which matters more, putting the customer first and running a sustainable enterprise, or pleasing your shareholders over the short term and making your customers wait in line?

Change your marketing philosophy

You know that running a profitable business means keeping a close eye on your target market, and target markets tend to shift and blur over time. When was the last time you closely analyzed your core audience? Who buys your product and why? Refresh your marketing plan and update your advertising and sales campaigns to reflect your current demographic, not the one you pitched to when you first launched your business.

Relocate

The cost of a total relocation can be high, but look closer. You might greatly increase your profits and cut your costs by following your customer base, or moving closer to the source of your raw materials and strategic partners.

Revamp your staffing strategy

Are your employees the true engine of your business and the real force behind every ounce of your success? They should be. For every profitable business, the most valuable capital is human capital. Make sure your employees have the training, the support, and the motivation they need to keep your company moving. If you need to make some changes to your workforce, talk to the NC staffing and personnel experts at PSU. We can help you find and keep the talented, hardworking employees you need to drive your business forward.

Shift Your Employees into High Gear!

January 18th, 2013

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

Start the Year off Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a Closer Look at Your Underqualified Candidate

January 11th, 2013

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

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

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

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

Aptitude can be taught, But Attitude is in the Blood

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

Don’t Voluntarily Overpay for Candidates with Attitude Problems

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

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

Fact Check Your Resume!

December 28th, 2012

If you think potential employers will glance over resume and take you at your word on every item and every claim, you might be right. But if you’re wrong, and a few simple calls and Google searches can verify that you stretched the truth on your application, your resume and cover letter are 100 percent likely to end up in the trash. Even if your false claims go undiscovered and you step into a great new position, your resume will be placed into your personnel file and you’ll be shown to the door the day the truth is eventually revealed. Is an ego-inflating fib on your resume really worth losing the job of your dreams?

In a word: No. It’s never a good idea to lie or stretch the truth on a resume. Resume fibs are harder to pass off than they may seem—after all, your potential employers have been in the business longer then you have, and they know a questionable claim when they see one. And the embarrassment that a few fibs can bring your way may have a damaging impact that can follow you for the rest of your career. Take these quick steps to fact check and clean up your resume before you click send.

Resume Fact Checking Tips

1. Be prepared to answer questions about every item in your education section. Every institution attended and degree earned can be easily verified. If you list your GPA, employers probably can’t obtain this information from the university without your permission. But they can simply ask you to provide proof. And if you can’t produce your transcripts when asked, you may reach the end of the road with this employer. 

2. When it comes to work history, don’t exaggerate your accomplishments. Just don’t do it. It may seem impossible for an employer to independently confirm that your raised department call-completion levels by 35 percent in 2004, but again, managers usually know what kinds of claims align with the rest of your profile and which claims stand out as unlikely.

3. Recognize that some information and claims don’t need to be verified, and an employer who seeks proof is crossing the lines of privacy and respect. For example, if asked about your salary history, you’re allowed to answer however you choose. But at the same time, the truth is usually your best bet. As your grandma may have mentioned, when you tell the truth, it’s easier to keep your story straight.

Remember, most of the skills you claim to possess (from typing speed to foreign language fluency to software competency) can be tested. And if they bear any relevance to your job performance, they probably will be tested. Be ready for a cross examination… or better yet, just stick to the facts from the beginning. You’ll make your own life—and your potential employer’s job– a little easier. Contact the NC staffing experts at PSU for additional job search guidance.

 

New Hire Orientation: A Check-Off List

December 21st, 2012

Once the screening and selection have come to an end and you’ve settled on a first choice candidate for your open position, you’ll need to make sure the onboarding processes goes smoothly. After all, the first few days on the job can have a lasting impression on your new employee and can shape the direction of her long term relationship with both the company and her manager. Check each step off the list below and make sure your newhire receives the personal attention and guidance she needs to get started on the right foot.

1. First, be very clear with all written communication prior to the start date. Give the employee an opportunity to fully understand her new healthcare plan and compensation package. And of course, be very clear about all the conditions and contingencies related to her employment. In the worst case scenario, an employee may walk in on day one without having fully understood all drug test, background check, or health screening requirements expected of her.

2. Arrange to have someone waiting for her on the morning of her arrival. Make sure this person is expecting the new employee and is on the site and ready to greet her when she comes in. This can be the employee’s manager, an HR staff member, or a coworker. But in any case, this person will be the one who shows the new employee to her workspace and introduces her to those with whom she’ll be interacting on a regular basis.

3. Have a printed employee handbook ready, and provide a training schedule that clarifies where the employee will need to be and when during every hour of her first full week on the job.

4. Make sure IT personnel are on hand and available to sign the new employee into the system and help her establish passwords and access codes.

5. Be ready to incorporate the employee seamlessly into ongoing team projects. For example, have a printed schedule available that indicates which meetings she’ll be expected to attend and whether she’ll be playing an active role or just observing. 

6. Encourage both the HR team and the employee’s manager to maintain an open door policy for the new employee as she learns the ropes. Both parties should respond quickly to her questions and be very clear about company policy and manager expectations. 

For more information and advice on creating a smooth and positive onboarding experience for your new hire, contact the NC staffing and HR pros at PSU.

Use Personal Branding To Land Your Dream Job

October 19th, 2012

Small acts of branding can have a powerful impact on a potential consumer’s emotional reaction to a product. This is just as true when the marketer is a job seeker and the product she’s selling is herself.

As they hire, interview, and screen candidates, most potential employer decisions are conscious, and represent a logical response to available data. For example, does the candidate have a four year degree or not? Can she or can she not perform the duties of the position, from drafting department budgets to speaking fluent French? The culture surrounding the position is extroverted and highly competitive—will the candidate be able to adapt? Most of these questions come with black and white answers, and the candidate can and should control how she’s directly perceived. But subconscious decisions are also part of the process, and a savvy candidate can control the outcome on both levels—or at least try. Consider color, for example. As a job seeker, are you working a signature color into your branding strategy?

Color and Your Personal Brand

Every time your potential employer sees you in person, consider wearing an item of clothing or carrying a portfolio that displays one chosen color. This will be your signature color. You don’t need an entire outfit in this hue—just a scarf, tie, or shirt will do.  But be consistent. And choose carefully.

Green will suggest innovation, flexibility and ingenuity. Yellow will project a sunny and positive disposition. Blue will suggest that you’re focused and studious. And red is the color of passion, which can translate in a workplace setting into determination, aggression and personal dedication. It might seem smart to present all of these qualities to a potential employer, but if you want to be remembered, choose just one.

Now, as you scan postings for a new position with an employer you have yet to contact for the first time, make sure you consider your signature color before every single interaction you have with this employer. Every time a potential hiring manager encounters your brand, she should experience the impact of your chosen color.

Type the text of your resume, cover letter, and all of your emails in basic black only. But before you write, pause and think for a minute about your signature color, and let that color influence the tone of your message and the words you choose. Your thoughts about your color will have an impact on the consistency of your brand, your message, and the story you’re attempting to tell. Will you carefully gather all the facts before making a decision (blue)? Will you be a pleasure to work with every day (yellow)? Will you make any sacrifice for the company, no matter the cost (red)?

This all may sound like magic, and it is. But it’s also marketing. Put these principals to work for you and see what happens. Meanwhile, reach out to the NC job search experts at PSU for additional help and guidance.

Hiring To Fill a Position, or Looking For High-Potential Candidates?

September 7th, 2012

When candidates apply for an open position, there are some things about the outcome that they can easily understand and predict. If they have experience in the industry, they’ve read the posting carefully, and they’ve done some research on the company, then they have some idea of what they’re stepping into. But no matter how qualified they may be, applicants aren’t mind readers. And some truly excellent candidates apply for positions that aren’t likely to make the best use of their talents and skills.

What should you do when you encounter a highly qualified candidate for a mismatched, unavailable, or already staffed position?

Taking On High-Potential Candidates

A growing number of recruiters and hiring managers are adopting a strategy known as high-potential hiring. With a high-potential staffing plan in place, excellent candidates are recognized in the pool and contacted, whether they meet the needs of a specific position or not. After further screening and a broader review of open positions within the company, these candidates are 1.) placed in a unit, division or department other than the one for which they applied, 2.) hired for positions that are then adapted to make use of the candidates unique skills, 3.) hired for positions which are created on the spot and tailored to the candidate’s talents.  There are advantages and disadvantages to this kind of staffing model.

High-Potential Hiring: Advantages

Right at this moment, a slow economy has flooded the job market with a glut of available candidates, and hiring balances are tipped in favor of employers. But many experts predict a rapid reversal in the near future as the economy recovers and a wave of baby boomers reach retirement age. When this happens, hiring managers may regret their recent cavalier dismissal of highly educated, highly motived performers simply because their skills didn’t match the needs of the moment.

In addition, in this fast-moving, technology-driven age, demand for specific skills can rise and fall quickly. A candidate who spends a year honing his knowledge of certain software program may find that program hopelessly out of date within a few months. But while specific competencies may fluctuate in value, a strong work ethic, polished social skills, and gritty resilience are always in style.

High Potential Hiring: Warnings

While high potential hiring can keep top candidates on your team and out of the hands of your competition, don’t ignore the expensive realities that come with an overstaffed office. If you adopt this model, do so strategically and maintain a calculated focus on the long term. Don’t take on candidates recklessly, and don’t put yourself in the position of having to dismiss or downsize new recruits simply because of your own poor planning.

Are you searching for ways to tighten, refine, and redesign your staffing and hiring strategies? The NC employment experts at Personnel Services Unlimited can help. Contact our office and arrange a consultation today.

 

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