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.

Employee Burnout: What it Looks Like And What to Do About it

December 14th, 2012

The toxic combination of fatigue and boredom may not be deadly to your employees, but it’s certainly unhealthy for your bottom line and the future of your company. The math isn’t complicated: Happy employees are the ones who are motived, challenged and engaged, and happy employees stick around and thrive. Miserable employees are drained, exhausted, overworked, and angry, and they don’t stick around. They find other jobs, often after kicking down the props of workplace morale on their way out the door. Don’t let this happen.

Here’s what a burned out employee looks like:

1. He’s uncharacteristically tense, edgy, sensitive or hypercritical. If you notice an extended and unusual pattern of this behavior, intervene.

2. She’s taking an uncharacteristically high number of sick days and/or she’s showing up late for work, meetings, and events.

3. He’s missing deadlines or dropping responsibilities and he doesn’t seem to care that much about it.

4. She’s mentioned (directly or indirectly) that her efforts are going unnoticed or the demands placed upon her are becoming unreasonable.

If an employee starts showing these signs, how should managers react?

1. Try not to jump to conclusions, and ask questions before making statements. Tactfully raise the subject and ask the employee is everything is okay. Listen for an answer that might suggest family or medical difficulty.

2. Offer an opportunity to vent before offering a solution. If an employee is stressed, bored, or overworked, talking about it in atmosphere free of judgment can be very helpful. Sometimes just maintaining and open door and open mind can provide employees with all they need to release their frustrations and restore their energy.

3. Monotony can be a subtle but powerful enemy. Sometimes employees don’t even recognize that their feelings of frustration and stress are actually just the product of boredom. Reassign tasks when you need to and use teamwork to break up solitude and repetition. Sometimes it’s ironically more cost effective to assign two people to a job meant for one.

4. Avoid burnout in the first place by simply being a good manager. Keep directions and expectations clear and reasonable, stay open to employee suggestions and ideas, and distribute work fairly. Demonstrate respect and appreciation while doing all of these things. If managers beneath you have trouble following these simple steps, don’t just let the problem fester. Step in and actively provide the coaching and leadership training they may lack. 

Reach out to the NC staffing experts at PSU for more management tips that can help you banish burnout and protect your productivity.

 

Great Leaders Start Out as Great Followers

December 7th, 2012

Everywhere we look in our culture, we hear praise associated with the qualities of “leadership”. Great leaders are the ones who are bound for the highest destinations in this life, according to these messages. And they’re the ones who are most likely to attain their goals and leave an impact on the world. But a closer look reveals a few additional dimensions to these blanket statements about the glories of leadership.

First, every leader is also a follower. Everybody in this life has a boss. Even CEOs have to report to a board of directors, and the members of the board report to shareholders and customers. Second, every great leader starts out as a great follower. Before we lead anyone, we have to impress those who lead us with our ability and willingness to follow and do what we’re told.

To become a great follower, consider adopting some of the traits below. And recognize that these traits can speed our progress up the never-ending ladder of leadership. 

1. When bosses say jump, great followers ask how high…for a little while. But as they master their jobs and gain a more complete understanding of the big picture, they begin to take more initiative. When the time comes, and they’ve earned the knowledge and the right to do so, they start making suggestions about what the team should do and when.

2. Great followers add to their own list of responsibilities. They learn how to create their own jobs and expand their own sphere of influence, and they do so with minimal direction.

3. Following means listening carefully when we’re coached or corrected. In order to get where we need to be, it’s necessary to put our egos aside. This means letting go of shame, resentment, excuses and other defense mechanisms that rise to the surface when we’re criticized. The goal should always be performance improvement, not pride or self-protection.

4. Great followers think ahead, and they keep the big picture and company goals in mind. They don’t just struggle to keep up with an endless list of small orders and demands.

5. Finally, great followers are those who don’t just execute orders, they anticipate them. The best way we can help our bosses reach their goals is by keeping work off their desks and doing whatever it takes to make their lives easier.

Great followers don’t stay at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder forever. In fact, they tend to zip up that ladder as if they’re on an escalator. But ironically, the ladder never ends. We always have the opportunity to look to those above us and take steps that help us move in that direction. For more ways to get ahead and stay ahead, reach out to the NC staffing and career development experts at PSU

 

Salary Negotiations: Be Prepared!

November 16th, 2012

You’ve made it through the first round of a challenging application process, and as you walk out of your interview, your confidence levels are high. You’re pretty sure this job is yours, if you’re willing to accept the conditions of the offer and the salary that comes with it. But be ready: Your hiring manager may not provide a clear number, and may instead ask you to propose a potential salary and open the floor to negotiation. Here are a few tips that can help you prepare.

1. Know your market value inside and out. Research average salaries for this position in your area, average salaries with competing companies, and salaries for similar jobs with companies in other industries.

2. Once you know the averages, determine where you stand in relation to “average”. What’s the monetary value of your specific experience, accomplishments, and training?

3. Stand your ground. You don’t know your new employer very well, so you won’t be able to read his or her expressions and you’ll be at a slight disadvantage. Meanwhile, you’re one person going toe to toe against a large established organization. But don’t be flustered. Take a stand and get what you deserve.

In a second scenario, the end of the year lies around the corner, and as the date of your performance evaluation draws near, it’s a good time to be ready for another necessary conversation: your yearly salary negotiation. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you head into your manager’s office and begin to make your case for higher compensation.

1. Don’t expect to be asked. If you feel it’s time for a raise, you may have to broach the subject on your own. Time the moment properly, and keep things formal. The best approach: ask your boss for an official meeting with an established time, don’t just ambush her in the elevator or the cafeteria line.

2. Know your value. See the research tips in the first scenario above. But since you already have a relationship with this company, you’ll be in a better position to outline your accomplishments and contributions.

3. Don’t corner, blackmail, or make demands. Managers don’t usually like this. Instead, enter the negotiating process in good faith and give your manager the same respect that you expect from her.

For more detailed negotiating tips that apply to your specific situation, reach out and arrange a consultation with the NC staffing experts at PSU. We can help you navigate the challenges of this difficult but important conversation.

How NOT to Write a Job Offer Letter

October 26th, 2012

If you’re a manager or HR pro for a large, established company, your job offer letters are probably standardized according to a template that’s been carefully reviewed by your legal team. But if you’re a small business, a start-up, or simply on our own when it comes to drafting offers, keep these tips in mind. The right offer letter can make a new employee feel welcome and excited about the prospect of joining your team. The wrong letter can give the candidate second thoughts and push her in the direction of a competing employer. At worst, a poorly worded offer letter can actually get your company into legal trouble.

Offer Letter Tips: Avoid These Risky Moves

1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Check and double check to make sure your letter is free of implied but false commitments. For example, if the offer is contingent on the completion of a successful background check or drug test, make this very clear.

2. Don’t send the offer too soon. If the position hasn’t yet been cleared by upper management or the budget resources for the job have been promised but haven’t yet materialized, wait for a few days. Express your interest to the employee over the phone, but don’t put the offer in writing until you’re ready to follow through.

3. Don’t go into detail about why you chose the candidate. Simply state that her credentials match the needs of the position and you’re looking forward to bringing her on board.

4. Keep your company’s brand and reputation in mind. Present your offer formally, neatly, and professionally. Have the letter reviewed by in-house or external editors and make sure it presents your company well. Until she signs on the dotted line, the candidate isn’t yours, and there’s still a chance that a small misstep could drive her away.

5. If you intend to offer benefits like comprehensive health insurance or a 401K plan, mention this in the letter, so the candidate can factor this into her final decision. But again, don’t list or suggest any additional facts that haven’t been verified. Send detailed, legally reviewed benefit information in a separate package.

6. Don’t forget to accompany the letter with a phone call. In both the letter and the call, make the employee feel welcome and wanted, and give her clear instructions regarding the next steps.

Your offer letter represents your final chance to showcase your company and win over a talented candidate. So make the right moves! For additional guidance regarding offer letters and any other form of professional communication, contact the NC staffing and employment experts at PSU.

 

Personal Development Coaching: A Potential Job Perk

October 12th, 2012

In your effort to attract talented candidates, you’re probably wording your postings carefully, reaching out to a select target audience, and gathering a list of appealing perks that can help you present yourself well and get a leg up on your competition. If you haven’t done so already, include every small benefit that your employees will be able to access, like free parking, transportation discounts, or on-site day care. Most important, include continuing education and training resources that employees can use to get ahead.

Great Employees Appreciate Personal Coaching

Let prospective employees understand the basic details of your mentoring program, if you have one
(and if you intend to attract ambitious, motivated team members, you should definitely have one.) A well-structured and well organized mentoring system suggests that you care about an employee’s future beyond the limits of a specific job.

Other forms of structured coaching can include non-job specific training programs in areas like leadership, communication, conflict resolution, and team building. If your HR team has the resources and experience to provide these programs in-house, consider offering optional or mandatory seminars. Otherwise, establish a contract with a professional training firm.

Continuing Education

Managers of small companies often assume that tuition matching programs lie outside the scope of their budgets. But before you dismiss the idea, conduct some careful research and consider the long term benefits. Educated staff members may be more productive, but just as important, the fact that you’re willing to offer the program suggests that you’re willing to invest in your employees futures, and this can help you gain the attention of highly motivated applicants. And your training and certification benefits, while expensive on the surface, can allow you to sidestep the salary premiums that already-certified candidates sometimes command.

Tuition matching is only one possible way to support continuing education. You may also be able to fund an employee’s entire degree program in exchange for a long term commitment of two, three, or five years.  Even small and inexpensive gestures can help you gain the respect of both current and potential hires. For example, consider allowing an employee to work flexible hours so he or she can attend classes during the day.

Arrange a consultation with the NC staffing experts at PSU for more detailed information on training and continuing education resources for promising employees.

 

 

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