Employee Motivation: Inclusion and Praise

Employee Motivation: Inclusion and Praise

trophyEmployee motivation is easy to understand in theory, but it is much harder in practice. Many times bosses and managers become inundated in the day-to-day tasks and can lose sight of long-term, employee development, particularly employee motivation. This oversight, however, can cause severe structural dilemmas in the long-term. I have identified two main factors to focus on for employee motivation: inclusion and praise.

Inclusion: Inclusion in decision-making is crucial in basic motivation as it dignifies an employee. Obviously, there are different levels of inclusion and it is a manager’s job to identify the acceptable level of inclusion of an employee.

Take a high school as an example. The janitor will not be included in any academic and financial planning, but he could be included in the determination of the cleaning routine schedule and the procurement of cleaning supplies. A new history teaching fellow will not be included in curriculum planning, but should have input in the day-to-day lessons plans for the classes he helps with. When he becomes a full-time, history teacher, he is then included in broader history curriculum planning; many years later, as the head of the History Department, he is included in discipline-wide curriculum planning.

Obviously, it is much easier to determine someone’s inclusion when higher up the ladder, but it is crucial for a manager to identify areas of inclusion for new or less skilled employees. Proper inclusion does not only improve efficiency – an employee can provide specific knowledge regarding his tasks – but,  more importantly, allows the employee to feel pride and inclusion in the larger aims of the organization or firm.

Praise: Praise, on the other hand, constitutes the harder aspect of employee motivation; you can’t delegate praise like we just did with decision-making. Instead, praise is a behavior that a manager must deftly employ without coming across too structured. Furthermore, praise must be on an individualistic level. For instance, a monthly lunch to praise and thank 50 employees is a nice perk, but does not actually praise any of the individuals. While managers will most often receive the credit for a finished product or idea, the manager has a responsible to individually praise the employees that helped in this creation. Not acknowledging an employee’s role in a process will discourage initiative. Why would an employee bother thinking out of the box if he doesn’t get any credit from his immediate superior?
Related: Building a Productive Work Team

Bottling up effective employee motivation into two steps oversimplifies the complexity of employee motivation. Let this post, then, serve as a start and as a reminder that employee motivation is of the utmost important and must be consciously and adeptly planned for.




Ditch the Internet (well partly)

Ditch the Internet (well partly)

img_12Recruiters, employers and candidates all glorify the advances the internet has brought to the networking and recruiter world. This blog, itself, has extensively written about using LinkedIn and online networking to advance one’s career. Yet, with no desire to discredit the revolutionary practices found on the internet, today’s blog advises you to ditch the internet – moderately that is.

Video games, TV, and Facebook can all trap us in virtual worlds – we all know this feeling. The same is true with online networking. As teens boast the number of their online friends, professionals find the same joy in their online LinkedIn connections. It doesn’t take more than a few clicks to stumble upon online professional organizations in which individuals invest their valuable time to build their online demeanor. The question arises, however: does this conduct provide advancement for one’s career, or just create a virtual world for self-satisfaction? A LinkedIn connection is not substantially beneficial if you aren’t comfortable asking him for a reference. Answering questions on a specialized industry site doesn’t provide much advantages if you don’t know the other individuals.

Often times, in our efforts to build our online professional profile, we forget that these platforms are built to serve as a supplement to real life interactions. Coffee dates, informational interviews, and in-person introductions are infinitely more powerfully than an online connection (not to say they could have been started online). It is much more difficult to forget an in-person conversation than a few LinkedIn messages. Joining and participating in a professional organization still provides numerous interactions for networking and professional advancement. I, myself, am part of a weekly networking group of 20 professionals from varied fields that meets once a week. This weekly group has provided me far more connections for my business than I could hope to find online. Beyond professional organizations, Meetup has popularized social organizations – some of which are organized around industry and provide great networking opportunities.

Ditching the internet for in-person, professional interactions also mirrors the real world. An online profile may land you the interview, but that job will require at least two, in-person interviews (I would hope). In-person networking interactions not only helps build professional connections, but can help you practice your professional demeanor, something all recruiters still sight as one of the most important factors in the interview process. Those who can’t express themselves in-person, as eloquently as they do online, will ultimately stifle their career potential; the best practice is simple, get out there.

Online platforms and resources should be seen as a vehicle to enhance and maintain one’s professional demeanor, not replace it. Without careful attention, however, you can easily stifle your career potential in the belief you are on the right path. This year make a resolution to pursue more in-person professional interactions and to put the internet in its rightful supplementary place.



This Holiday Season: Re-Connect

This Holiday Season: Re-Connect

Re-ConnectThe holidays may be a time to take a break from your hectic professional career and spend time with family and friends. However, this time of the year, also provides the perfect opportunity to re-connect with your established network.

Our society views the holiday season as a time of joy, reflection and transition. Holiday family cards are now a norm and it would seem odd if these were sent out in July, or any other month. Following the same logic, the holidays provide an opportunity to re-connect within an acceptable framework. While LinkedIn has revolutionized networking, the personal message still remains the most effective networking tool; now is no better time.

A job change, a promotion, or a new degree, all present a perfect update for holiday networking. Furthermore, the holiday season is an ever-expanding period; holiday music now plays from Black Friday to early January. Instead of wasting a precious day when you can be with family and friends, break up your Holiday Networking into achievable sizes on a weekly or daily basis for the month. Furthermore, unless you have a substantial update, there is nothing wrong with dividing your networking list in half, or thirds, to create a Holiday Networking cycle.

Beyond personal messages, one cannot forget the opportunities presented at holiday parties. These provide a perfect opportunity to let people know of your career developments. Leaving your business cards at home, furthermore, could cost you an easy new connection.

The holiday season should be a time to relax, rejoice and rejuvenate for another year. However, it also presents a perfect opportunity to further and strength your network. With little effort, and without consuming your holiday spirits, Holiday Networking can create lasting benefits for your career.


Interview Tips: Master Your Elevator Pitch

Interview Tips: Master Your Elevator Pitch

smile_interviewThe current entrepreneur tech-culture has popularized the elevator pitch. Its usage and importance, however, pervades all aspects of business and serves as a valuable tool for the interviewing process.

An elevator pitch is a concise, well rehearsed summary. An interview may seem the wrong place to rehearse precise answers; it’s not like interviewers disclose interview questions to the applicant. I, however, have identified two elevator pitches useful in almost all traditional interviews.

Background Pitch
Some interviewers may begin an interview with a basic, open-ended question asking for an applicant’s career background. A prepared pitch to quickly and clearly explain your career background is the appropriate response. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Craft a short story around your career progression using school, promotions, and job changes. The right story should depict an increased acquirement of skills and knowledge in your particular field.
  • Explain any unusual gaps or short tenures in your resume. If I don’t know your company went out of business, or that you moved for a family reason, then I may assume the worst.
  • Spend more time on degrees and jobs closer to present time. If you went to graduate school, you should not spend longer on your college degree (I have seen this). Do not over-articulate on a job you held ten years ago.
  • Spend the greatest time on your current position (or degree), however, do not go into too much detail as I will most likely follow-up with more detailed question on your current position.

All in all, the background pitch should take no more than 2 minutes. You want to leave me with a clear understanding of your career background without boring me with too much detail. These first moments are crucial, as they formulate my opinion of you. Generally a good background pitch will correlate to a good interview and vice versa. A general rule of thumb: if an interviewer starts interrupting you with a question then you have gone too long.

Current Position Pitch
An interviewer is most interested in your current position or last full-time position if you are currently unemployed. I may ask a specific question directed at a line of your resume, or a specific experience at your last position.  Regardless of the actual question, an elevator pitch may be appropriate here. Tips are similar to above:

  • Craft a story and explain promotions. Increase detail as you move towards your most recent work.
  • Explain why you began working there. More importantly, explain why you desire a move or what would interest you in a move that your current job does not provide.
  • End your pitch on a recent project or work experience that highlights the job qualities and responsibilities required for the open position. Of all places in these two pitches, precise and specific detail is most suitable here.  But again, I will follow-up with more detailed questions so that you have the opportunity to dig deeper into the examples.

The mastering of these two pitches will not suffice for interview prep, but will give you solid footing to achieve a successful interview. The best elevator pitches, furthermore, will feature appropriate tweaks to address the specifics of the respective job requirements. Good luck in your interviews!


LinkedIn Post 3: Connections and Groups

LinkedIn Post 3: Connections and Groups

linkedinAs I have tried to impress in the prior posts, a LinkedIn account is a long-term career investment; building a large connection pool, furthermore, is the best means to maximize this investment with LinkedIn’s connections and groups.

To begin, connections make the basis of searches and your visibility. Searches pull up people in your network which includes: 1st degree contacts, 2nd degree contacts (connections of connections), 3rd degree contacts (connections of connections of connections), and group connections. Adding connections, thus, has an exponential effect in your searching ability and visibility to others. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, LinkedIn provides an easy platform to keep updated on your colleagues and friends. Remember too, LinkedIn shows “mutual connections”, a helpful metric that can impress a connection or recruiter. No matter the stage in your career, a large connection pool provides enormous benefits. Convinced, but not sure how to proceed? Read on…

Building your connection pool:
Building a connection pool is fairly easy and should follow two basic steps: connecting in the future, and connecting from the past. The former is a simple task that only takes a new mindset-when you make a professional connection connect with him or her on LinkedIn. The latter can take a bit more time, but is well worth the investment.

To begin, I recommend you visit the people you may know page (contacts>connections>people you may know). This page is eerily good at finding people from your past to connect with. After this memory lane trip, visiting your employer or past employer page is an easy way to connect with current and past colleagues: simply type in your company name into the search bar and scroll through the names- if a large company then set the search parameters (right hand side) to your location. I also recommend scrolling through the connections of well acquainted connections of yours, e.g. a colleague of yours that has lots of connections, or a good friend well-connected (wouldn’t want to pass up a friend or family member).

The power of groups:
Participation in LinkedIn groups presents a number of career benefits. Groups factor into your network as mentioned above. Groups, furthermore, present another platform to find people to connect with (searching through groups is the same as through a company). Lastly, groups provide a platform for news and discussion surrounding the basis of the group. I have found that LinkedIn groups divide into three general areas and recommend that users strive to join at least a few in each of these categories.

  • Individual groups: this includes alumni groups, hobbies and anything else outside the realm of your professional life.
  • Industry specific groups: this includes groups that derive from your profession and perhaps even location. Two examples include: Audio Engineering Society, and DFW Retail Executives Association. Also, don’t forget to check if your company has a group.
  • Industry generic groups: these all-encompassing, sometimes ambiguous, groups sport enormous membership, e.g. Digital Marketing or Engineering Jobs Worldwide. These groups are best for increasing your searching capabilities and visibility.

This breakdown may not capture the entire pool of LinkedIn groups, but it does provide a starting basis when searching for groups to join. Simply treat the search like Google (make sure to select the pull down groups) and you should be well on your way.

This entry is an introduction to building connections and finding groups. Additional entries will take a closer look at how to use your network and groups for different stages in your professional career. Stay tuned for more.


LinkedIn Post 2: Creating a Distinguishable Profile

LinkedIn Post 2: Creating a Distinguishable Profile

linkedinCreating a professional LinkedIn profile is a simple task that can take under 15 minutes.  Many LinkedIn users, however, fail to put in this minimal effort and place themselves at a disadvantage to their wiser, LinkedIn-engaged, colleagues and peers. A weak profile has immediate disadvantages: it detracts recruiters from reaching out and curtails one’s ability to grow a sizable network.

Weak profiles are ubiquitous on LinkedIn; these culprits were most likely pressured to join the herd, but never put the effort to understand the benefits of an online professional network (think of all those who maintain a lackadaisical twitter account). These foolish professionals sport minimal profiles-they display only their titles and employers, and they accompany these nondescript profiles with a tiny network. They might as well delete their accounts…

I present here four easy steps to creating a functional, distinguished profile:

  • “Fill it in”: A profile needs to look complete. This entails added descriptions to your positions, creating a summary, and other options such as skills and recommendations. Positions should have at least several bullet points of specific tasks. Company summaries are okay, but CANNOT replace your bullet points (I recommend short summaries for smaller, unknown companies).
  • Tell a Story: A profile should tell a story-the story of your career (your past, present and even your future). For some this is easy. For instance, a lawyer that has slowly moved up the ranks within a law firm does not need much additional explanation. However, if you have a varied background or a more niche career, than a summary can help paint a clearer picture.
  • Use Key Words and Phrases: This is crucial advice for attracting recruiters. LinkedIn offers complex searching capabilities that recruiters (like myself) use to pinpoint professionals. Such terms can include: “supply chain and procurement consulting,” “hospitality marketing and sales,” and “political digital media strategist.” The best profiles incorporate descriptive terms into their job descriptions and summaries. The best way to find useful terms is to find a job description for the job your currently hold and pull from there.
  • Personalize it: Some professionals use creative means to stick-out of the crowd. Be warned, though, this can easily make a profile look foolish (if in doubt, leave out). One user listed every class he took in undergrad (plain obnoxious and irrelevant); another user tried to tie his passion for surfing to his skills in management consulting (he missed the wave). On the other hand, I recall one professional who briefly mentioned his accomplished rowing profession (he had gone to the Olympics!). Rule of thumb: if you have an interesting trait, skill or past then seek a manner to professional illustrate this.

Things to Keep in Mind:
Profiles are normally skimmed (go to a couple random profiles and test yourself to see what catches your eye). As a recruiter, I quickly search for key words and phrases and will determine if I want to message a user in under a minute (if not less). Lengthy profiles can actually be a hindrance and provide an overload of information. I have seen summaries that look like essays and job descriptions that list ever minimal task they have every performed. It’s best to be concise but dense i.e. tell what’s most important in a crisp easily-digestible manner.

Lastly, there are your actual connections. Your connection number directly correlates to your searching ability and your visibility to recruiters (more on this in the next entry). A professional should have at least 100 connections.  If under 100 connections you look out of place; under 50, you look plain inept. Stayed tuned next entry for ways to builds your connections.

A distinguishable profile is within reach; don’t miss out on all the benefits that come with it…


LinkedIn Post 1: Is it Worth My Time?

LinkedIn Post 1: Is it Worth My Time?

linkedinThe new wave of web and technology advancements has amazed and overwhelmed society. With mobile devices and an infinity of social media sites clamoring for your attention, the distinction between a powerful technology platform and a time-waster can be a thin grey line. Yet, when it comes to LinkedIn-the ability to advertise yourself, build and foster a professional network, search for new opportunities, and innocently remain an active candidate for recruiters-there is no question to its real value. Those who fail to utilize the powerful tools of LinkedIn are as ill-equipped for professional advancement as those who can’t hold a conversation at the water cooler.

This blog, for an undermined number of entries, will focus exclusively on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has quickly grown to the largest professional network on the web and the starting point for almost every recruiter (if they care to keep their jobs). Those that fail to create a professional profile hide themselves from potential upward-moving career opportunities. Essentially, professionals with an inadequate or non-existent profile do not exist in the eyes of a recruiter.

But I am happily content with my current position I don’t need to use LinkedIn. That’s great you’re content, but you never know what the future holds and starting at square one in an unseen situation can trip-up even the most professional among us. Furthermore, those that view LinkedIn as a sole platform for recruiters to harass (or politely message) candidates fail to grasp the true beauty of an online professional network. LinkedIn provides the tools to easily grow your network and keep updated on all professional advancements and news within your network. The site, furthermore, provides a seamless ability to view network statistics: by city, company, trade and more. Trying to connect with that one company? With one click you can find out if you have a potential connection (granted you have built up your connections).

The ability to professionally empower yourself and help others is too great to ignore. The following blog posts will break down LinkedIn and provide a detailed analysis how to harness this powerful tool. Ignore at your own risk….


Building a Productive Work Team

Building a Productive Work Team

Facebook. Twitter. Pinterest. Texting. Skyping. Words with Friends. Draw Something. All of these are daily distracters that become addictive and time-wasting. While it’s efficient to connect with people on these different platforms, it may hinder your team’s ability to focus on everything from daily routine tasks to the project proposal due tomorrow. So how do you keep your team on track, while still motivating them to do so?  Follow these five tips and you’ll see a lot less of their thumbs attached to their smartphones and see that you are building a productive work team.

 1. Build an Organization Built on Meaning
If your team contains focus-driven individuals (and they have a goal to focus on), then it will be a united as a cohesive unit. Therefore, they will all be working towards a common goal and be motivated to accomplish that goal in a timely manner. Long-term and short-term goals should both be established. If your team has closer benchmarks they can reach, they will feel a better sense of accomplishment than having to wait months to cross the finish line.

 2. Do not Force Opposite Personalities to Work Together
Not everyone in your office is going be best friends or hang out together after work, but forcing people who differ greatly in their personalities and work ethics could wreak havoc on your office environment. Instead, group alike personalities to focus on the same part of the projects, and separate the clashing personalities to work on different portions. When it is time to collaborate, be the mediator/arbitrator during the meetings. Everyone will be able to handle the critiquing and evaluation with a more relaxed reaction.

3. Work Hard. Play Hard.
This everlasting expression will continue to be relevant for years to come. By planning team outings and creating fun activities, your team will feel less stressed when they come in to work. If they have fun gatherings to look forward to, it will get them motivated to get the job done. Also, having co-workers connect a personal level can instill trust and loyalty among the team. Getting to know your office on an individual level will show that you care not only about their work, but about them as a person.

4. Take Care of the Small Things
It may sound petty, but creating an office environment that is physically appealing will increase productivity among your team. Make sure the temperature is not too warm or too cool. You don’t want you employees falling asleep at their desk or have teeth chattering echoing across cubicles. White walls are overrated. Liven up the ambience with colors and art. Lamps and furniture can create a more comfortable space. Excess noise can be a distraction. Establish rules for radios and loud cell phone ringers.

5. Reward for a Job Well Done
It’s very important to show your team on a regular basis that you appreciate their efforts. You don’t need to babysit them and hold their hand, but by showing your staff you notice their good works, you will boost their self-esteem. If you nag and criticize too often, they will feel as if their work will never be good enough. Avoid this negativity by holding mini award ceremonies and recognizing the small accomplishments, this is all a part of employee motivation. The rewards will come back ten-fold.

Related:  Employee Motivation: Inclusion and Praise


Red Flags to Watch for During an Interview and Questions Needed to Address them

Red Flags to Watch for During an Interview and Questions Needed to Address them

Arriving late, lack of preparation and lazy responses are just a few of the obvious signs you notice immediately during an interview. But how can you read your applicant a little more deeply? Look for these not-so-apparent interview red flags that may save you from hiring your worst nightmare.

Boastfulness: We all love confident candidates. We don’t love candidates that cannot find faults within themselves. Using “I work too hard” or “I care too much about my job” as an example of his/her weakness is not a favorable answer. Candidates should not be afraid to tap into their development areas. The ability to see areas of improvement should branch from self to colleagues to business practices as well.  A question you can use to solicit more information on their development areas is to ask what their last boss suggested on their last performance review.

Blaming Others: It takes a strong personality for one to admit he/she made a mistake (especially a financial one.) In doing so, one takes responsibility for both the problem AND the solution. However, if your candidate discusses previous failures and blames others, you may want to think twice. Can you rely on this person? Would you want to hire someone who puts fault on others? Ask your candidate for an example of a mistake they have made and what they did to resolve the situation?  As a follow up, ask your candidate how the situation turned out?  As a follow up to that question ask how they might approach the same situation differently the next time.

Lack of Knowledge for your Company: Part of the preparation process on both parties is to research the other, in order to create a smooth interview process. Nevertheless, there will always be candidates who know absolutely nothing about your company. The phrase “Wait, what does your company do again?” should be considered a stopping point in the interview process. This lack of preparation can flow into many other areas of his/her work ethic. Be sure to ask your candidate if they have seen the web site and what they thought of it.  Also, always leave time at the end of the interview to find out what questions they have about the company and the job.

Negativity towards past employers: A candidate who speaks poorly of a former boss or company may have trouble with authority. It is possible to talk about previous challenges without bashing the company or the boss. Ask your candidate how they would have handled the situation differently if they were in charge.  Listen to the tone of voice and attitude when your candidate speaks of his/her former boss. There’s always a silver lining in the clouds, and your candidate should be able to speak of at least one positive thing he/she experienced.

The last interview red flag is the:

Lack of evidence to support claims on resumes: If your candidate’s resume contains goals reached, he/she should have the ways in which they were accomplished (especially if they are numerical/financial claims.) Be wary of candidates who have no explanations or who appear to be making things up on the spot. If it is the truth, the words should flow freely and confidently.  I have always found that the best way to confirm truth is by asking follow up questions.  For example, how did you reach that goal?  What were the steps you took?  After having accomplished the goal have you thought of ways to improve the process?


Positive Work Environment

Positive Work Environment

Your employees are like family. Chances are, you see them just as much, if not more, than your loved ones.  And, as with your home, you want to give your employees a positive environment that not only cultivates success, but also harmony.

There are several things you can do to create a positive work environment.  Here are 8 things you can do:

1. Build Trust
Trust is the basic foundation for all relationships and building an environment of trust is one of the most important things you can do to create a positive work environment. Model to your staff that you are reliable, responsible, and accountable, and that they can rely on you for consistency. And let them know you expect the same from them. Challenging and uncomfortable situations especially require honesty. Confidentiality is critical in all aspects of your job.  Never discuss one employee with another, except in positive terms.

2. Open and Positive Communication
In order to create a positive work environment each employee needs to feel valued. This is best accomplished through your listening to each person and honoring each one for what he or has to say. By doing this you will show that you value and respect every individual.

 3. Create a Team Environment
One of our basic human needs is to feel we belong to something bigger than ourselves, and for many people that need is met by being part of a supportive work group. As a supervisor, part of your job is to create a feeling of unity among your staff.  To foster this team feeling you must convey to the entire staff that every person plays an important role. Encourage an attitude of cooperation rather than competition. There are many group exercises or  “team building” activities designed to foster this kind of unity.

4. Give Recognition and Appreciation
Whenever you can, catch some one “doing the right thing,” and make sure they and others know about it. Give recognition and appreciation to everyone at every opportunity.  When verbalizing appreciation try to make it as personal as possible. Rather than just saying something vague like “good job”, be specific about the personal quality or skill your team member brought to the task.

 5. Give Credit and Take Responsibility
Always give credit for success to your staff, and take responsibility when things don’t go well. As the boss it’s your job to make sure your staff is well trained, capable and competent. If for some reason they fail to perform their job in the expected manner, it’s your responsibility to ensure they receive further direction and training so they will perform up to standards.

 6. Be Approachable
Always present an attitude of approachability to your staff and customers. Indicate by your manner that you are available and happy to speak with people from all levels and positions. Also, always be prepared to listen to whatever they want to share with you, and validate what you’ve heard. Act in a friendly manner, call people by name, be approachable, and show interest in what’s going on. Lastly, have an open door policy, where anyone at any level is welcome to come talk with you if they feel the need. And when they do speak with you, be aware of your body language – turn away from your computer or task to look your employee in the eye. Indicate in everything you do that you respect and care about them and what they are saying.

 7. Provide A Positive Physical Environment
If at all possible, ensure that the physical environment in your workplace is clean, bright, attractive, and cheerful. Make sure it has as much natural light as possible, and that each staff member has room for their own personal space.

 8. Make It Fun
Everyone wants to be where people are having fun, so make your workplace feel happy and festive. Find reasons to celebrate together, such as birthdays, birth of a baby or grandchild, moving into a new house, etc., and having small parties to celebrate these events.  Ask your employees what would be fun for them and then implement what is feasible.  Also finding ways to “play” when doing tasks that may be otherwise mundane can boost morale and help spread a positive attitude.

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