The Vital Professional

  • Encourage Employees to Ask Questions at Work

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    Vital-ProfessionalAssortment3to2Life’s easy when your employees are all Yes men. No disagreements, just silent acceptance of pronouncements from above. The fact that no one’s speaking up, though, doesn’t mean that no one is disagreeing, or that no one has input that could improve management’s decisions.

    Here are seven suggestions to help you get your employees to start speaking up and asking more questions.

    1. Tell employees to ask. Seriously. The first way to let employees know management is open to their input is to say so.
    1. Act on employee input. If you say you’re open to input but never do anything based on it, it’s obvious that you’re only making an act of listening but not taking it seriously.
    1. Take employee input to the C-level. Have a comment or suggestion box that feeds into senior-level management, and provide a way for senior management to publicly respond to comments. Again, this shows that the company takes employee feedback seriously all the way to the top.
    1. Allow anonymous input, but also reward those who publicly contribute. Not everyone wants their name attached to a comment, so provide a way for employees to contribute suggestions anonymously. Because it’s better for the company and employees if people feel free to speak publicly, consider rewarding those who make suggestions under their own name — even if you aren’t able to act upon their suggestions.
    1. Take employee input at the lowest levels. While it’s important to accept employee input at the C-level, employees and the business are more affected by their opportunity to contribute on the day-to-day level of their routine work. Senior managers need to set a tone that encourages lower-level managers to solicit and reward employee input.
    1. Encourage communication across the organization. It’s sometimes easier for an outsider to spot a problem and offer a solution than it is for those in the middle of it. Encourage interaction between different groups and departments to enable sharing different perspectives.
    1. Ask questions. When you ask questions of your own managers, you demonstrate to everyone present, including your lower-level employees, that asking questions is acceptable. When you ask specific questions of your employees, you demonstrate that you want their input. Whichever direction your asking goes, asking your own questions lets you lead by example, and show how you want your team to behave.

    When you need to add experienced employees to your team, a staffing agency can help you find the right person for your job. Contact Vital Professional Services to learn how we can help.

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  • Invest in Your Employees and See the Results

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    Vital-Course3to2Once employees are hired and on the job, it’s easy to focus on project deadlines and meeting short-term needs. But companies should take a longer-term view and focus on investing in and developing employees. The benefits accrue to the business, as well as the employees.

    Boost Employee Morale

    Companies that help employees develop skills also boost employee morale. A visible investment in development makes employees feel valued, and increases loyalty to the business. This means less turnover, so there’s reduced impact from shorthanded projects, and less time and money needed for recruitment.

    Boost Employee Technical Knowledge

    Employees with better technical skills are able to address and resolve technical issues more quickly. Because technology changes so rapidly, businesses constantly need new technical knowledge on their teams. Training existing employees in new technology lets companies bring the new skills in house, without bringing in new staff – whose talents and personal characteristics are unknown. Because technology excites tech staff, if they aren’t able to work with new technology internally, they may look for opportunities elsewhere.

    Boost Employee Leadership

    Technology staff training often focuses on the technical aspects of the job. Technical employees in leadership positions often don’t get training on the nontechnical aspects of the job that they need to manage projects, hire technical staff, and negotiate with business and end users. Providing training on these business and interpersonal skills helps smooth projects, and increases the chances they’ll be completed successfully. Ambitious employees who want to climb the corporate ladder will be more likely to stay, if they see they’ll get not just the opportunity, but also the support they need.

    Boost Business Knowledge

    Technology in business serves a purpose; it’s either a product the business sells, or is there to support the business operations. When a technical team understands the business, they’re able to make better technical decisions, because they understand the problem the software will solve and the operational requirements it needs to work under. When developers understand business needs, and can view problems the same way the business does, they can work as true partners.

    Use Multiple Development Methods

    Not all employees react the same to all training methods, so companies should provide multiple means of development. Companies should support training through classes, whether online, in house, or off site. Companies can encourage and pay fees for certification programs. Formal education, through tuition assistance and executive degree programs, can be helpful to employees who want further education beyond a specific skill set. Some employees may thrive with an active mentor with whom they can discuss career issues.

    Treat employee development planning seriously, not as a throwaway exercise. If you have employees write out goals and development plans, be sure you follow up on them. If you do, each year your employees get better and better, and so does your business.

    When you need to add experienced employees to your team, a staffing agency can help you find the right person for your job. Contact Vital Professional Services to learn how we can help.

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  • Conduct a Great Phone Interview

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    Vital_Pro_Services-Expertise-600x400Phone interviews are the first personal contact between most job candidates and the hiring company. Companies often view them as a way to screen out candidates, but it’s important to recognize that candidates are assessing the company as well. Done right, these interviews provide useful information about the candidate and also increase the candidate’s interest in the company.

    Plan Ahead

    Phone interviews need to be brief. Often, candidates are squeezing these conversations into their workday, giving up lunch and speaking on cell phones from their cars. Because time is limited, the interviewer should know what they will ask before they pick up the phone. In general, the phone interview should be structured around an introduction, quick overview of the company, quick overview from the candidate, questions specific to this position, questions from the candidate, and explanation of the process after the phone interview is complete.

    Ask the Right Questions

    Ease into the interview with simple questions to break the ice, but be sure to focus later questions around the specific job. For technical roles, it’s important that phone interviews provide a baseline assessment of technical skills. Have a standard set of questions and know what acceptable answers would be. All candidates should be asked the same technical questions to be able to compare their skills properly.

    Make It a Conversation, Not an Interrogation

    Because there is no nonverbal interaction during a phone interview, candidates can feel they’re being bombarded by questions. Manage the pace of the interview, allowing adequate time for the candidate to answer your questions. Also allow time for the candidate to ask questions. Present a picture of the company that’s relevant to the specific role and candidate, rather than a canned speech. The interview should leave the candidate with a positive impression of the company and make them want to work there.

    After the Interview

    When you end the phone interview, let the candidate know what to expect next. When you think a candidate sounds like a good fit and want to bring them in to meet in person, let them know. For those times when the interview didn’t go so well, it’s often simplest to say that HR will follow up.

    Vital Professional Services, helping fill engineering jobs in California, can help employers and job candidates with their job needs. Contact our great team today to get started.

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  • Why Passive Job Seekers Could Be Your Best Bet

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    Vital-ComputerTouchBadTie1000x667pxThere’s a joke about looking for keys under a lamppost, because that’s where the light is. But the person looking for the keys won’t find them, unless they look in the dark where they dropped them. Searching for a new employee is similar. It’s easy to look for new hires among active job seekers, those who are sending out resumes and filling out online job applications. But companies may have better luck finding their next hire among passive job seekers.

    Find More Candidates by Looking at Passive Job Seekers

    Passive job seekers are open to the idea of making a change, but not yet actively looking. Since 20-25 percent of the workforce is actively looking for new employment, that means that 75 percent of the pool of potential hires is passive. While some percentage of these passive candidates would not change jobs under any circumstances, companies that look for passive job seekers multiply the potential number of candidates for an open requisition.

    Face Less Competition by Wooing Passive Job Seekers

    Because passive job seekers aren’t actively in the job market, they aren’t going out on multiple interviews, receiving multiple offers, and playing one company off against another as they negotiate for the best offer. As a result, employers may find passive job seekers who’ve discussed jobs and interviewed for the position are more likely to accept an offer than active job seekers.

    Reaching Out to Passive Job Seekers

    To find passive job seekers, companies need to reach out to these candidates. While these individuals may have resumes on sites like LinkedIn, their profiles may not be up-to-date or reflect their skills appropriately. Instead, companies should look for these candidates on sites and on projects that reflect their skills, such as technical forums and open-source projects. Meeting candidates in real life can also be a way to find these individuals, through attending relevant meetups, technical conferences, and trade shows, where talking shop and exchanging business cards is routine. Also leverage your employees’ networks through employee referrals.

    Welcoming Passive Job Seekers

    Passive job seekers may not be prepared with a current resume, so if you meet a candidate you like, be flexible in how you collect their information and proceed through the screening process. Don’t require them to fill out online forms in order to get into your system. At the start, you may be more interested in them than they are in you, so keep things casual during the initial stages of the hiring process. You need to do the work to convince the passive seeker they want to work for you.

    Work With a Professional Staffing Agency

    A staffing agency can help you define the role and responsibilities of the new hire, as well as identify qualified candidates and prescreen them. Contact Vital Professional Services to find out how we can help you find your next great employee.

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  • Get Your Team to Think about the Big Picture

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    Vital-Course3to2It’s easy for information technology to be a silo and for IT workers to focus solely on technical challenges. But the IT function is always about more than technical choices and technical issues; it’s about business goals and the problems end users experience. If you’re frustrated that your team doesn’t seem to think about that bigger picture when they make decisions, ask yourself whether team members actually know the big picture.

    Talk About the Big Picture

    Often managers think they’re protecting their teams from distraction by keeping “irrelevant” information to themselves. If you share that information with your team, they’ll be able to view the issues they deal with in a larger context and make better decisions.

    Let the team know about the broader, business needs driving a technology project. Talk with the team so they know what’s going on with management, business departments, sales, and other technology areas. If you have a management dashboard, share non-confidential statistics with your staff.

    When you make assignments or prioritize work, tie it back to the big picture. Encourage the team to ask “why?” If you and the team have a shared understanding of the vision, you don’t need to manage every detail of the team’s activity and can give them room to make their own decisions. This is a great opportunity for team members to grow and participate in shaping the project plan.

    Experience Work From Other Perspectives

    Making your team see the big picture can involve more than hearing you speak about the big picture. Technologists often have trouble understanding why the business needs certain features in an application or why the business wants functionality changed in a certain way. It can be very eye-opening for developers who spend a day sitting with the end users to see how the business really operates and how an application really is used.

    Developers can also expand their understanding of the bigger picture within the technology domain by shadowing a colleague who has a similar role but uses a different technology, or one who has a different technical responsibility (a support role instead of a developer role, for instance).

    Value Employee Contributions

    Lastly, make sure people feel their contribution is valued. Even if staff understands the big picture, their job requires them to care about the details of the specific piece of the picture they work on. If they don’t feel like their contributions matter, they won’t care about the contribution they make.

    When you need to add experienced employees to your team, a staffing agency can help you find the right person for your job. Contact Vital Professional Services to learn how we can help.

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  • Do You Need a Full-Time Employee or a Contractor?

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    Vital-ContactTouchEnvelope3to2Before starting the search for the perfect employee, you need to decide whether you really want an employee. Sometimes the right employee is actually a contractor. As the “freelance” lifestyle becomes more popular, more workers are embracing the flexibility that comes with being a contractor.

    Contractors are Great for the Short-Term

    Contractors can often be hired fairly quickly. They can also be “unhired” — let go — without needing the formal paper trail and process required by many HR organizations when an employee needs to be terminated.

    The fact that contractors can be let go easily means going with a contractor is a good choice when you have an urgent need to get someone to work, but want the flexibility to replace them easily if a better candidate appears later. Because there’s no expectation of a long-term commitment, contractors are also a good choice for short-term projects or a project you’re worried might be cancelled.

    Another reason to hire a contractor is when a specialized skill is needed or a project requires working with a new technology the in-house team isn’t familiar with yet. A contractor with the skill can walk right in and get to work. Just make sure your team gets trained so you have the skills on staff when the contract ends.

    From a short-term financial perspective, working with a contractor is often cheaper than hiring an employee. Although hourly rates may be high, there is no cost for benefits such as paid vacation, sick days, insurance, or training. The company also isn’t responsible for collecting taxes or contributing to FICA, unemployment, or workers’ comp funds.

    Employees are Great for the Long-Term

    From a long-term perspective, however, the business needs employees. Certainly, positions that are related to core business functions should be handled by workers with loyalty to the business, which contractors don’t have. Loyal employees should also handle roles that require ongoing relationships with end-users or customers.

    Employees may be more likely than contractors to go above and beyond in their work, but hiring contractors can cause employees to worry about career paths and opportunities for growth and development. It may be difficult to integrate contractors into project teams if employees feel their opportunities are limited.

    The Contractor or Employee Label Matters

    It’s important to label workers as employees or contractors accurately. The IRS may audit companies to verify that staff is not misclassified. Working with W2 or Corp-to-Corp contractors reduces the risk of problems with the IRS compared to working with 1099 contractors.

    Staffing companies have software and processes in place to make hiring a smooth, streamlined procedure. Contact Vital Professional Services to find out how we can help you find your next new employee.

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  • Remember – Networking Is About Developing Relationships

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    Back in the days when contacts were kept in a Rolodex on your desk, a fat collection of business cards made an impression. Now that contact info is stored out of sight on your smartphone, the quantity of business cards you collect is far less useful. What’s important now isn’t simply shaking hands and stuffing a business card in your pocket; it’s using that information to build relationships is what matters. Here are 6 tips to build relationships with the people in your network:

    1. You still need to get contact information, so be open to approaching people and look approachable yourself.
    1. Go places explicitly to meet people, but be selective about the events you attend and the people you connect with. Building relationships takes time and effort, so you can’t go to everything and talk to everyone. Recognize that networking is easier with people who are like you, but the most valuable contacts may be people who aren’t.
    1. Keep in touch with the contact, in person, via telephone, and through social media. Share information. A relationship goes two ways, so give as much as you get. Build a pattern of doing things for each other over time. Every exchange you have can strengthen the bond between you.
    1. Share praise as well as information — let contacts know when they’ve impressed you. This isn’t about flattery or trying to ingratiate yourself, but about letting a contact know you think their work has value.
    1. Business relationships don’t have to be all about business. The contact is a person with a life outside of their work. Get to know the real person, not just the businessperson. Find ways to connect based on their other interests.
    1. If you need, use a system to keep track of contacts and their information. There are plenty of CRM systems that will help you record the data and schedule interactions. Not that you want to call at the same time on the same day every week, but if you put follow up actions on your calendar rather than tossing a business card into the bottom of your drawer, you’re more likely to keep in touch and build a relationship that has value for both participants.

    Vital Professional Services, helping fill engineering jobs in California, can help employers and job candidates with their job needs. Contact our great team today to get started.

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