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Cultivating Creativity in the Workplace 

Is creativity important in your field? Chances are the answer is yes. In a recent poll, almost sixty percent of CEOs called creativity the most important quality for leadership. If creativity is paramount to what you do, then here are a few ways to help cultivate creativity in your workplace. 

Look at the Environment

Take a moment to look around your workplace. Is there adequate lighting? Are there multiple styles of workspaces such as smaller individual work areas and then areas where groups can brainstorm together? Is the area clean and uncluttered? Studies have shown that conditions such as dim lighting, reduced clutter, taking a walk, and even rooms with high ceilings can enhance creativity. Talk to your team members about the work environment and ways that you could make adaptations to encourage productivity. 

Allow for Brainstorming 

We all remember the rules of brainstorming from our school days that said that no idea was stupid. Let’s go back to that. Encourage brainstorming when a new project has been assigned and allow for time to mull through each idea. The process may seem chaotic at times but fostering the concept of brainstorming can help employees and leaders feel supported in their quest to innovate. 

Identify Creativity and Reward It 

If you really want to foster creativity in your workplace, you need to seek it out and, when you find it, reward those who are being creative. A simple compliment would go over well, but some sort of incentive such as an all paid luncheon for employees when creativity is blooming would also be welcome. Use your budget and business know-how to guide you in identifying creativity and encouraging it to occur again. 

Be Flexible 

As business leaders, it is often too easy to be rigid about the hours of operation, getting projects completed, and working outside the box. Sometimes being a little flexible can help your staff be flexible too. You may want to experiment with flexible hours that accommodate family activities or school hours. Some employees find they accomplish more when they are allowed to work from home for a day or two a week. While still others find that meeting in a coffee shop for a brainstorming session works best for them. Think about being flexible in ways that work for your business. 

Need more ideas on cultivating creativity? Check out our workshop on Creativity and Innovation

 

Writing for Business 

During your college years, you were expecting to write papers, draft letters, and take part in all sorts of writing, right? Who knew that would be such an integral skill once you got to your “real” job later in life. Writing for business is a given nowadays with emails, reports, and presentations given on a daily basis no matter what field you are in. 

Don’t think you write often enough to worry about your writing skills? Think again. According to a study conducted by Carleton University, professionals spend one-third of their time at work reading and answering emails. You might spend more than this, or less, but chances are that a significant portion of your day is spent writing something.

Why Writing is Critical to Your Business 

Solid writing skills can mean the difference between being taken seriously in your position or being seen as less professional. Poor writing skills can lead to miscommunication, lost opportunities, and even a loss of business. Think of the number of times you have read an email or report that did not communicate the central message well. It is frustrating to decipher what the message really says. 

Let’s take a look at a few aspects of your writing that can help improve your reports, emails, or marketing materials. No matter what you are writing, it is a good idea to brush up on these areas as you progress in your career. 

Know Your Audience

As with anything in life, it is good to know who you are dealing with when you present, send an email, or write a report. Knowing who you are talking to can give your writing a sense of purpose and direction. For example, an in-office email could be short and informal, but a customer email or a PowerPoint presentation should follow the guidelines of courtesy, clarity, and conciseness. Your audience should be your compass; keeping in mind what the recipient seeks to learn narrows down the possible directions your writing should take (SkillsYouNeed 2019). Think about what they know already, especially as you determine the terminology to use. If you’re writing to a specific person or group of people, look for ways to personalize the document by considering their interests.

Think First 

Take a few minutes to mentally define the goals of the written piece. Do you know the main content: the who, what, when, where, and why of your writing? Think through it first before you even reach for the pen or keyboard. Thinking in broad terms first will help you to focus your message and make sure that you highlight all the important points you want to make. 

Be Brief 

Workplaces are busy places. Take the fluff out of your writing and get to the point. Be direct and short in your writing, unless the type of writing dictates added details and expansion on the topic. Readers will appreciate not having to sift through extraneous information to find the real message. 

Be Careful with Word Choice 

As just stated, it is important to be clear, concise, and direct in your business writings. It is also important not to use too many buzzwords or jargon that could turn off your reader. Jargon often makes you sound pretentious, and it can further alienate your reader. Instead, write the way you talk. Keep it natural and direct.

Edit, Edit, Edit 

It is always a good idea to have someone else read through your work whenever possible. Small mistakes can be easily missed by the original author. If you have no one to proofread for you, copy and paste your writing into Google Translate and have it read the document back to you. Usually, mistakes are obvious when you hear them aloud. Also, Google can usually catch flagrant typos or spelling errors. 

Need some help with your business writing? Join us at our workshop entitled Writing for Business and Grammar Skills on October 23, 2019. 

How Can Your Business Attract Top Talent? 

All businesses have one thing in common when it comes to hiring employees. They want to find the best talent that fits their company, at the best possible price point. While it may be easy to assume that salary is the main component to attracting and retaining top talent, there are other things to consider when searching for top talent. Read on to find out some innovative ways to attract talented individuals to your company. 

Competitive Benefits 

Obviously, the pay scale is a major factor that a candidate will weigh when making a job change. Make sure your salary scale is competitive with companies in your field and shows how increases may occur over the years. In addition to salary, make sure you have benefits that will attract top candidates. 

If you’d like a benchmark on the types of benefits are available, this article on 16 types of employee benefits is a good place to start. Benefits may include: medical, dental, vision, gym membership reimbursement, flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, life insurance, profit sharing, disability, retirement plans, and the list could go on and on. 

Workplace Culture 

A recent Robert Half survey showed that 35 percent of the more than 1,000 workers polled said they would decline a job offer if the role was a perfect fit, but the company culture wasn’t. Take a close look at whether your office culture promotes job satisfaction. Are people happy to be there? Is there a personality and positive vibe about your workplace or is there a “nine-to-five drudgery” sense about it? Carefully examine your workplace culture and make changes to attract and retain top talent. 

Some changes that could impact workplace culture is flexibility when it comes to work hours and locations. Consider allowing for remote working days or flex days for parents who need to pick up or drop off at school/daycare. Help your employees forge bonds with non-work activities such as pizza lunches, after work gatherings, or fun office competitions. You may also want to consider the way that your office is physically configured, which will determine how your employees are able to interact with one another. Do you want to shift to an open workspace, private work cubicles, or a mix of the two? 

A Chance to Give Back 

One factor that employees have reported as a way to remain loyal to a company is their ability to give back to the community. Most people don’t just want to work for a paycheck. They want a sense that they are contributing to the greater good in some way. Consider allowing your employees to have days off for volunteering in their community or volunteering as a group on a project that your employees choose together. This will not only boost morale, but also give your employees a chance to make a difference outside the halls of your offices. 

Do you need assistance finding and retaining talented employees? Join us for our workshop on October 10, 2019 on Attracting a Talented Workforce

Building a Positive Company Culture 

Not all of us can be Google, which prides itself on a unique and happy employee culture. In some ways, Google Headquarters looks more like an adult playground than a corporate office. In fact, there are people employed at Google whose sole purpose is to create a happy and positive employee culture. How about that? 

Ok, so not all of us can afford to have a gym, playroom, or spa retreat inside our office, but we can still do some fairly simple things to maintain a positive company culture. Here is how. 

Create a Safe Space 

Not all offices have extra room to build an adult playground with a ping pong table or video games, but almost every office can carve out a small area where an employee can relax, enjoy their lunch, and chill out away from their desk. Sperling Interactive in Salem carved out an area in a room that was not very functional in order to build a “nest” where employees can relax, hang out, and sometimes just have a different place to get work done. 

 

Show Gratitude 

When something good happens at work, thank the people responsible. This might mean an email, short letter, or maybe even a small gift to show gratitude for the hard work. Make sure you are consistent in doing this or employees may notice that you gave a shout out in one instance and not in another. 

 

Encourage Positive Thinking 

Encourage your team to think in a positive way. This means in your thoughts, actions, and words, you should keep it upbeat and happy. Obviously be genuine, but try to always have a “glass half full” attitude. This outlook can be contagious. 

Don’t Just Talk… Listen 

Everyone likes to be heard, whether it is complaints about the dishes in the break room building up in the sink or a company policy that someone would like changed. Truly listen to your employees and they will feel valued. It does not mean you need to do everything that it asked but, rather, listen and respond. This sense that feedback is welcome can make employees feel valued and want to stay at your company for years. 

 

Encourage Employee Learning 

Whether you can afford to subsidize a masters program or certificate programs or not, you should be encouraging your employees to learn more. If you invest in them, they will invest in you. I can not say enough about this! 

Check out our events calendar for more workshops on nurturing a positive company culture. We all can’t be Google, but we can make out employee culture a happy one. 

 

Upping Your Communication Skills 

Do you make presentations to clients often or meet face-to-face with consumers? How effective do you feel your presentations are? Even if you have worked in your field for years, and know your service/product well, you may still need to sharpen your communication skills. Here are a few ways to can hone those skills while still sounding natural and genuine. 

Learn the Basics of Nonverbal Communication 

Some studies show that communication is only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal. That means that what you are saying is such a small fraction of what your audience is getting from you. They are, however, paying close attention to your body language and vocal variety. That means that the majority of what you say is communicated not through words, but through physical cues. To garner full attention many body language experts suggest making eye contact as much as possible with your audience, having good posture, not slouching, making your voice larger than normal, not crossing your arms, and moving around the space if you are talking to a large group. 

 

Don’t Go Overboard on Visuals 

Sure, having a visual aid can help you stay on message and focus the audience’s attention. However, do not wholly rely on visual aids, like PowerPoint, to get your message across. There really is nothing worse than having a presenter read from the slides. Not only is that boring but it is degrading to the viewers. Instead integrate storytelling into your presentation. Your audience is more likely to remember the story than the slides. If you really want to hook the group, ask them to be a part of the discussion or to relay their own stories about the topic. Once they have made a personal connection, they will be dialed in to your presentation. 

Master Your Timing 

Understand the attention span and needs of your audience. Not all people who have come to a presentation have an hour to listen to you. Remember that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was 286 words, about two minutes long. Realize that timing is everything. If you can simplify your message, do so. Short and sweet can sometimes help an audience remember what you said. 

Check out our calendar of speakers every month, we often have workshops on improving your communication skills or honing presentations. 

 

Retaining Top Talent

Is your company a revolving door of employees coming and going endlessly? In today’s business world, young workers have a reputation for moving from job to job looking for the next big break. Unfortunately, that means that business loyalty is not as it once was.

How, then, do business leaders deal with this issue and retain the top talent that they worked so hard to attain in the first place? There are several methods that may help with retention and overall employee morale as well.

Create a Detailed Onboarding Process

Some workplace studies show that onboarding properly can help new hires become long term employees. Be sure that your onboarding process includes orientation, socialization with other employees, and continued monitoring that the new hire is learning the specific job well and with support. Seventy percent of new workers report that they are more likely to stay at their new company for three years or more if they experienced a favorable application and onboarding process.

Allow for Flexibility

Retaining top talent sometimes means thinking outside the box. Consider flexible work hours instead of the 9-5 of our parents generation. Flexibility may also be necessary when it comes to remote work. Does an employee have an ailing parent or a young child? Possibly the option of working from home may alleviate personal stressors and encourage an employee to stay with your company.

Provide Incentives

Employees like to feel like they are learning, growing, and moving forward. By providing training and incentives to educate themselves and move up in the business, young employees tend to stay put. Whether you offer a percentage of the cost of a class or include bonuses for each training s/he takes part in, you are investing in your company and the retention of your best and brightest team members.

 

Give and Get Feedback

One complaint that employees who move around a lot have is that they do not feel like they were listened to. Be acutely aware with new employees that you plan to listen and give feedback on a regular basis. Feeling invested in a company and that ideas are considered is a great way to retain some of your top talent.

Retaining your best employees can be difficult but with some creative thinking and an attention to the needs of those employees you can foster a long-term relationship that will be beneficial for both of you for years.

 

Making Annual Reviews Productive

Oh no, it’s that time of year again! Performance reviews are not the most happily anticipated work events. In fact, most employees and business leaders report that they often dread, or at least get anxious at, the mere thought of reviewing the past year.

For some businesses, this meeting is not just a review of how an employee is doing but it is also tied to raises and bonuses. That adds a layer of pressure and stress in the days and weeks leading up to the review.

Performance reviews, although somewhat stressful, are one of the most effective ways to assess, motivate, and engage your employees. If you find that your employees are dreading these or that you want them to be more productive, follow some of these tips and suggestions to make the most of the time.

Be Prepared

As with any other aspect of running a business, be ready. Employees should be given a self-evaluation form so they can examine what they thought of their accomplishments and/or setbacks throughout the year. Management should fill out something similar. The worst thing you can do is forget and just go through the motions by having a review without any direction or purpose. A form that each person fills out can help keep you on track during the review.

Start on a Positive Note

Ask your employee to start off the meeting by talking about their most positive learning experience this year or something they are proud of. Always start on a positive note. This will hopefully put everyone at ease and set the tone for a productive meeting.

Be Open and Honest

As an employer, there are probably some areas where you would like to see some improvement or possibly some training over the next year. Talk to your employees about what training you think they could benefit from. You may find that they want to broaden their learning as well. Be honest as well about areas that you would like to see improvement. Ask your employees how you can help them achieve that improvement. Look at it as more of a group effort rather than an adversarial relationship.

Set Goals

As a part of your review process, you may want to set some SMART goals that can be evaluated next year. Make sure the goals are achievable, realistic, measurable, and specific. This can keep both of you on track.

Ask For Feedback

Not only should you be talking about how an employee can improve or in what areas you want to see growth, but you should be asking for feedback from that person as well about your contributions and how you can help him/her attain those goals. Remember, this is a two-way street.

Do you need help fine-tuning your annual reviews? Check out our workshop on “How to Conduct Performance Evaluations.”  Join Nancy Saperstone, Senior HR Business Partner and Communications Specialist, Insight Performance, on June 11, 2019, from 8:30 am – 10:30 am.

 

 

Succeeding in Business: Who is Your Audience?

Google search “marketing strategies” and you will find hundreds if not thousands of marketing tips, strategies, and ideas that could keep you reading for a lifetime. One thing you will find that all the sites have in common is a section on “getting to know your target audience.” Why? Because, fundamentally, every business owner should know their audience inside and out if they have any hope of succeeding in their field.

Knowing this, how exactly do you get to know your audience? What are some ways you can gather information about who is buying your product or using your services? Take a look at these methods that may help you connect with and retain loyal customers for years to come.

Do Market Research

Start getting to know the different demographics you want to target in your ads and marketing strategy by doing market research. A number of tools are available to help you here, some of which are free — like American FactFinder, which uses United States census information to help you find out key pieces of information about specific demographics.

Examine Your Competitors

Doing your research on the audience you hope to reach is important, but so is examining your competitors. Check out the social media, blogs, digital marketing, and print media of your closest competitors. Who are they targeting in their email lists? Who are they aiming to appeal to in their print and digital ads? Are they missing a group or do they have a group that you have forgotten? This extra layer of research can help you stay on track and know your audience compared to your competition.

Get to Know Your Consumers

If you have a storefront or visit clients often, get to know them personally. Find out what they like, and dislike about your products or services. Go the extra mile by trying to address their concerns. These personal insights may help you adjust your marketing to appeal to their needs or wants.

Monitor Reviews and Customer Feedback

The way to really get to know your audience is to listen to what they are saying on surveys, in reviews, and even to your face during interactions. Check out your company on Yelp, Google Reviews, and other online sites to know what clients think about your company. Adjust your marketing, products, and services accordingly.

Do you need help getting to know your audience? Check out our seminar called, “What is Your Business, and What Will It take to Succeed?” It is being offered on June 5 from 8:30 to 10:30 am. Check out our website for more details.

 

Getting Real about Goal Setting

Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” — Fitzhugh Dodson

 

At the end of every fiscal year, do you find that you are just short of the goals that you so neatly created months ago? Or do you find that your business team took a left turn and went way off course and have not revisited the goals since the last time they created them? These are two extremely common problems when creating goals for your business.

Every business owner knows that creating and sticking to goals are what drive a business. Without goals, it’s difficult to identify ways you can grow, develop, and move toward continued success. Sometimes, however, when it comes to goal setting, it is easier to take a look at the mistakes that are common rather than the other way around.

Let’s take a look at a common personal goal that thousands of us make every New Year’s Eve and see how we can make it better. Many of us make it a goal or resolution to lose weight every year. While this is a wonderful goal that more of us should attempt, there is something wrong with the goal. Do you know what the mistake is?

The goal of losing weight is too broad. Most business owners make similar mistakes. Goals should be: achievable, measurable, and specific. Let’s rewrite the weight loss goal and see how we can improve it.

How about we change it to, “I will lose 15 pounds within three months.” Or, “I will lose at least two inches off my waist.” Or, “I will be down a dress size,” in the same time frame. Each of these is measurable, achievable, and specific.

Business owners should do the same thing when creating sales goals or any other kind of goal depending upon your field or industry. Each goal should be narrow in scope, have a time frame, and have a way to measure whether the goal has been reached.

Many business leaders use the SMART business model for goal setting. What are your biggest mistakes when setting goals? Do you get overwhelmed with the scope of a project? Do you make the goals too broad? There are a million mistakes that can be made. If you need help, you may want to attend one of our seminars on Setting and Achieving Transformative Goals.

 

The Difference Between Recruitment and Talent Acquisition

The terms “talent acquisition” and “recruitment” are often confused as meaning the same thing, but this is not the case. There are key differences between the two, differences with which you should familiarize yourself if you’re looking to hire the most qualified candidates for specific positions within your company. For starters, recruitment means that you’re looking to hire someone, dare I say anyone, in order to fill a vacancy. Talent acquisition, on the other hand, is the process of strategically looking for specialists, leaders, future executives, or other qualified professionals for a specific position within the company. Let’s delve into both and take a look at which one is better depending on the industry and why:

  • Recruitment – Again, recruitment is the process by which you look to fill vacant positions quickly and without much regard for the candidate’s’ particular specialties, if defined. Recruiting may be seen as reactive, meaning that a position recently opened up and it must be filled.

 

  • Talent Acquisition – As previously stated, talent acquisition is all about actively searching for the most qualified candidate to hire for a specific position. This strategy is common among niche industries such as, medical, technology, legal, and even translation services. Kathleen Quinn Votaw, Founder and CEO of the HR consulting firm, TalenTrust, says that, “The areas with the greatest skills shortages are those that most need a talent strategy.” Typically, if you’re looking to hire people for a long-term position, you should aim for talent acquisition, so as to lower a potentially high turnover rate, which is a possible effect of recruiting less-qualified candidates.

 

 

Talent acquisition is becoming increasingly more popular, and usually requires some marketing strategies to make the position known to specific, potential candidates. As niche industries continue to grow and populate as preferred career paths, hiring managers within are simultaneously scouting out candidates with the best talent, who are most qualified, and who will both ameliorate, as well as benefit from working for, the company. Define whom you’re looking to hire and for which positions, and either recruit or acquire talent accordingly.