TIP TUESDAY: Building a Company Culture that Puts People First

by Matt Rizzetta, CEO of North 6th Agency, Inc. (N6A), a brand communications agency based in New York and Toronto; from Monster.com

As a business leader, it’s easy to confuse company culture with the trendy perks that make a work environment seem attractive from the outside.

As a CEO of a growing company, I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. Come to our office and you will see such things as roulette wheels lined with wellness and travel rewards, and catered lunches every Thursday.

Such perks make the office environment a cool place to work, but they don’t define the company culture. Ultimately, true culture comes down to people.

If you’re a business leader who’s looking to make an investment in people to build a meaningful culture, here are some people-first tips to keep in mind:

1.    Remember Your Survival Days
When you’re starting out in business you’re in survival mode, plain and simple. You’re simply doing everything you can to earn respect. This is when the ethos of your company’s true culture is born. As your company gets bigger, ask yourself, “What did our company do when we were in survival mode? What did we stand for when we first started that made us successful?”

In our company’s case, our survival mode days were all about an underdog journey, a tale of beating odds and being told that we were wrong. A tale of loyalty and giving back. The companies that tend to build culture the right way — and do it for a sustained period of time — are the ones that embrace their roots and make it a core part of their culture as they get bigger.

2.    Visuals Are Key
The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words rings especially true when reinforcing company culture.  It’s one thing for employees to hear about company culture, but it’s another thing for them to actually see it.

Every quarter we sit down with our entire company and host a checkpoint. We kick each one of these sessions off with a photo album of cultural events, highlights and bonding moments from the previous quarter, as if we were a family flipping through a photo book and reminiscing over the moments that brought us closer together.

Employees hear about the company’s culture all the time — in recruiting materials, company handbooks and on your website. Help them see it and feel it.

3. Align Business Values With Life Values
Don’t be afraid to get a little personal when it comes to creating culture.

Perhaps the best way to build genuineness and integrity in your culture is to take what you believe in in your life and apply it to your business.

I run our business with the same core values and the same approach that I apply to my life. What matters most to me in life is exactly the same as what our corporate culture represents — it’s a symbiotic relationship. Be loyal to those who got you there, give back, compete, care, and experiment.

Chances are you have your own set of values that are near and dear to your heart. Embrace those values, and don’t be afraid to let them spill over from your life into your business.

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TIP TUESDAY: Can You Hear Me Now?

Whether you are an entry-level account executive or the CEO of your firm, one of the most important skills necessary to thrive in the workplace, is to be a good listener. But what does it mean to be a “good” listener and how can you use this skill to excel on the job?

Everyone has their own way of communicating, both verbally and physically. Below are tips to help you become a better listener in the workplace and throughout your career.

Understanding Various Styles of Both Verbal and Physical Communication

Understand that there are several different types of communication styles, and that the background of the person you are speaking with may be different from your own. Keep in mind that this includes more than just the words a person is speaking. It’s necessary to pay attention to things like tone, facial expressions, gestures, and posture to fully interpret what a person is saying and how they’re feeling.

Building Relationships with People You Frequently Talk To and Work With

Building meaningful relationships with your colleagues will help you get a grasp on their communication styles and will also help to create a positive work culture. Developing this rapport will not only allow you to learn their approach to communication, but it will also make the communication process more efficient.

At times, you may encounter individuals who are very soft-spoken and others who are loud and passionate in their delivery.  You will certainly meet people who like to communicate with their hands and make a lot of movements, some that are very direct, and others who are verbose and may take longer to articulate their message. Being patient and focusing on the speaker will allow you to better understand the point they are trying to make.

Listening to A Complete Message or Thought

Regardless of the speaker’s approach, allow them to completely finish their thoughts before responding. Interrupting could cause them to lose focus and forget important details. Listening to their complete thought will also allow you to digest the whole of what they are saying instead of in fragments. Additionally, if you are speaking about a subject that is sensitive to you, don’t make assumptions and try not to overreact or get easily offended. Listen, comprehend, and respond in a calm manner.

Asking Questions to Illicit the Best Response

If you don’t understand something that was said, you should never leave a conversation with lingering questions.  In order to illicit the best response, be direct with your language and don’t be afraid to rephrase your question if their answer still doesn’t make sense. Remember, no question is a bad question and it’s better to get a clear understanding of the situation now rather than have to revisit the topic later.

After a conversation, meeting, or presentation is over, it’s helpful to recap the conversation either verbally or in writing to ensure that you not only listened but understood the message correctly.

TIP TUESDAY: 13 Tips to Stay Motivated in the Dog Days of Summer

from Entrepeneur magazine

You may not want to admit it, but you’re probably longing to take a dip in a pool instead of working. Unfortunately, an entrepreneur’s 24/7 work schedule rarely allows for much of a summer break.

So, we went to the experts, including pro athletes, authors, happiness experts and, of course, entrepreneurs, to find out what they do to recharge. Read on for 13 ways to stay inspired to work hard this summer and even cull out a few minutes to decompress.

1. Power through it.
“It’s tempting to take a break, to slow things down in the dog days of summer. But there’s somebody out there who wants to be in your place. That person might be working on the next big thing that will compete with your business.

2. Make a (reasonable) list.
“Every night, jot down the things you need to get done the next day. Try to move through all of them, but if you don’t, just add them to the next day’s to-do list. Keep the list manageable during the summer and get a bit done every day.

3. Create your own “quitting time.”
“It’s tempting to work around the clock or at least to feel that you should be working–and that means that you don’t have a feeling of leisure. By telling yourself, ‘After 7:30, no more work’ or ‘Sunday is a day off,’ you ensure that you get the rest and relaxation that are crucial to being productive. I remind myself, ‘To keep going, I have to allow myself to stop.'”–Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project (Harper Perennial, 2009) and the forthcoming, Happier at Home (Crown Archetype, 2012)

Click here to read the other 10 tips in the article in Entrepreur magazine 

What Do Employers Really Need to Know About Job Applicants?

Employers invest significant time, energy, and resources in bringing a new employee onboard.  Recruiting, screening, and interviewing processes are all done with the goal of hiring an employee who will do a job well and work well within an organization.  So what do employers need to know to hire successfully?  And what are the things employers don’t need to know?

Need to Know

Experience.  Does the applicant have relevant work experience (or other experience)?

Education.  Will the applicant’s education help him or her do the job?

Personality.  Does the applicant have the motivation, energy, and attitude that’s needed for the job?  For the organization?  Note—employers shouldn’t always look for an applicant who will “fit in.”  Sometimes the right person for the job is someone who will shake things up, bring a new perspective, or reenergize a team or department.

Not So Much

Credit score. It’s apparent from recent legislation on the state and local level that employers don’t need to know whether an applicant has a good credit score—at least for most jobs.  The District of Columbia is the jurisdiction that most recently enacted a law that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their credit history.  It joins 11 states that have similar laws.  Generally, the laws allow employers to inquire about an applicant’s credit history if the job involves unsupervised access to large sums of money or to customers’ financial information.

Pay history. A new state law in Massachusetts and a new ordinance in Philadelphia prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s pay history.  And similar legislation is pending in other states and municipalities, including New York City, where a bill approved by the city council awaits the mayor’s signature. Basing an employee’s pay on pay history instead of the market value of the position can be a disadvantage to workers who entered the workforce at a lower pay rate; and it can perpetuate gender-based pay disparities.

Not Right Away

Criminal history. Several states and numerous cities and counties have enacted “ban the box” laws that prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on a job application. Many require employers to delay these questions until after an applicant has been offered a job.

Not at All!

Protected characteristics. It’s a rare job that requires a job applicant to be of a certain age, race, color, religion, national origin, or sex (think female actor for a female role).  Yes, there are exceptions.  But by and large, employers don’t need any of this information about an applicant.  If employers ask for information, it’s because they want the information.  And if they want the information, it’s because they’re going to use the information.  At least, that’s what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “generally presumes” about an employer’s questions.  So, if an employer doesn’t plan to use certain information to make a hiring decision, it shouldn’t ask for it.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from asking questions that are likely to elicit information about a disability before a conditional job offer has been extended.  Employers should avoid questions about an applicant’s history of using sick leave, history of hospitalizations, workers’ comp claims, etc.  Questions should be limited to whether the applicant can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

To get the information it needs while avoiding information that’s irrelevant (and possibly unlawful), an employer should focus on the qualifications for the job in question and make inquiries that will help it evaluate how the applicant’s skills and experience align with those qualifications.

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TIP TUESDAY: Top Hiring Tips from HR Professionals, for HR Professionals

by Miranda Nicholson, director of HR, Formstack

Every HR professional knows there’s a lot that goes into recruiting behind the scenes. Where do you find the perfect candidate for a role? What criteria does each individual need to meet before they receive the opportunity to interview? What interview questions will show you how they might perform as an employee? And, if they’re hired, how do you know if they’ll fit well with other employees in your organization?

With all these factors (and more) in play, it’s no wonder that hiring is one of the top HR challenges faced by Human Resources professionals across the globe. To better understand how organizations overcome the hiring challenge, we asked HR professionals with different backgrounds for some of their best tips on hiring the right employee for a role. They gave us some outstanding insights and advice on different pieces of the recruitment puzzle, which we narrowed down into three main takeaways. While there’s no simple solution, putting more effort into these parts of your recruiting process is a great way to get started.

1. Define What ‘Fit’ Means to Your Organization

Hiring for fit is an obvious part of the recruiting process, but few organizations actually take the time to identify what “fit” means for them. To get started, Mike Bensi, advisor at FirstPerson, suggests considering these key questions:

  1. What are the core values that make up your company’s culture?
  2. What kind of behaviors do employees need to be successful in your organization?
  3. What kind of behaviors might signify a red flag?

Brainstorm with employees on your team or in your organization to get a strong sense of culture, success, and overall fit. Answering questions like these will help you build a unique value proposition for your company’s recruiting experience and can become a solid framework for your interview process.

2. Create an Experience that Defines Your Recruiting Brand

As a representative of your organization, Michelle Rodriguez, HR manager for the Indianapolis Colts, says the candidate experience is very important and can make a major impact on your talent brand. Stringing candidates along without consistent communication is frustrating and unfair to them. Your recruiting brand will suffer if they share their negative impressions of your company with others. On the other hand, candidates who receive a great experience with timely and intentional communication can become advocates for your organization even if they aren’t hired.

3. Build Relationships to Expand Your Talent Pool

Even if your company has low employee turnover, it’s important to maintain a deep talent pool to draw from so you’re prepared whenever the need arises. Karin Gorman, president of the consulting division at Staff America Inc., encourages companies that struggle to find high quality candidates to reconsider their candidate sources.

Building relationships with candidate sourcing organizations will help you fill your hiring funnel with candidates that have the skills and experience necessary for the job. For example, if you’re looking for a skilled graphic designer, connect with a local art college or institute.

Once you establish a connection with those organizations, continue to foster the relationship through consistent communication, even when you don’t have job openings. This takes time but is absolutely worthwhile in the long run. If all else fails, consider partnering with a staffing agency that can help you fill those skilled roles.

Miranda Nicholson is the director of HR at Formstack, overseeing the acquisition, onboarding, and retention of current and to-be Formstackers. Read more.