Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Employee Engagement

7 Tips to Work Successfully in a Virtual Environment

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Managing/Leadership, Team Building

By Angela Darchuk

We live in a world where most of us use technology to do our job, and often that can include being able to do our job from anywhere. With businesses offering work from home or flexible schedule options, many employees now have the opportunity to work in a virtual environment.

Since starting to work in a virtual environment four years ago, I have found ways to make sure working virtually is a success for me and the virtual team I manage. Working in a virtual environment has its challenges and it may not be for everyone, but with some self-motivation and these tips, hopefully you can make your virtual work successful:

  1. Be Open: If you are joining an already established virtual team, and especially if you have never worked on a virtual team before, be open to the process. Virtual teams require a lot of positivity—there is little worse than a team member joining a team and being negative to the process.
  2. Ask Questions: Ask questions about the process, what is expected of you on a daily/weekly/ monthly basis, and seek clarification if you don’t understand what is being asked. It’s a waste of time for an employee or a supervisor to do or receive unnecessary work, so make sure you understand the expectations from the start.
  3. Get to Know Your Team: Getting to know your team can be hard when working in a virtual environment. Talking about your life, your likes and dislikes, and your personality can help open up a dialog and make the team comfortable together.(Working in a virtual environment may mean working solo, but it isn’t just about you doing your job—it’s also about collaboration with others in different locations (and maybe even different time zones!) More tips for virtual team success can be found in our blog post, How to Create a Successful Virtual Team Dynamic.)
  4. Know the Roles Your Teammates Play: Knowing the role of each of your teammates is important. When you know what others’ jobs are, you can leverage their expertise when needed. Additionally, if you are familiar with everyone’s roles, you can start to anticipate what may be needed from/by other members of the team.
  5. Be Involved: Be involved by offering information, providing solutions to issues, and volunteering for action items. A weekly meeting—usually via conference call or video conference—is a must to make sure the team is involved, but if you need more frequent meetings, just ask.
  6. Show Initiative: Showing initiative can be difficult in a virtual world, but if you see something that needs to be done, talk to your supervisor about what you can offer. Your skills and abilities were some of the reasons you were hired, so offer up new ideas to help!
  7. Ask for the Proper Equipment to do Your Job: As a virtual employee, it’s important you have the tools to do your job. This can include software and hardware; in addition, you should have access to tools for conference calling, sharing screens, direct messaging, and project management. However, be mindful of what is a ‘need’ and what is ‘want’—equipment needs to be budgeted and you should be able to justify the request.

As a virtual employee, it is your responsibility to show your value so that you thrive—hopefully these tips help your venture into virtual work a success!

About the Author: Angela has a background in book-keeping and office management. She worked for several small businesses in the Sacramento area before taking a job with the State of California. She worked for Dept. of Child Support, EDD and the State Treasurer’s office before making the jump back to private sector where she feels more at home to voice her opinion and help grow a company. Angela is currently the Administrative Services Manager for KAI Partners. In her spare time Angela loves to read, dance, and go to Disneyland. When she goes to Disneyland, her favorite ride is It’s a Small World. She is a graduate of Penn State University, has been married for 18 years, and has two boys, ages 19 and 13 (who hate It’s a Small World).

10 Best Practices for Setting Clear Job Expectations From the Start

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, Hiring, Human Resources, Managing/Leadership, Onboarding, SHRM

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D and SHRM-CP

I’ve heard people say if you set expectations then you should be prepared for disappointment. From my perspective as a Human Resources Professional, if you fail to set clear expectations, then the only likely outcome is disappointment.

Expectations are an essential business function. The inability to meet unspoken expectations can lead to frustrations for both the employee and the employer. Not only do clear expectations create an understanding and a guideline, they create accountability for the employee. With clear expectations, the employer knows what to expect from the employee and the employee knows what to expect from the employer and the job itself.

Expectations should be established from the beginning. When I hire for a position, I always include the basic functions of the position, the necessary qualifications, and desired skills I am seeking in the job announcement. Before I have even looked through resumes or interviewed potential candidates, I have already begun to set expectations for that position. Expectations should be further identified through onboarding, orientation, and discussions with team members and supervisors.

Here are some of my tips for setting clear expectations from the beginning:

Guidelines for setting clear expectations:

  1. Expectations should be clear and understood by all parties so that there is no confusion
  2. Expectations should be outlined early and often. Setting them once is not enough—they need to be revisited on a regular basis as job functions can change and evolve
  3. Set attainable, realistic expectations; keep in mind your floor could be someone else’s ceiling
  4. Expectations could be in writing (i.e., in the form of a job description), simply verbalized, or both
  5. Expectations could differ from position to position; they should be specific

 Benefits of setting clear expectations:

  1. Improves performance
  2. Happier employees
  3. Establishes goals
  4. Sets priorities
  5. Enriches team dynamics

Having clear expectations, goals, and objectives is a must if you want your staff to be as productive and efficient as possible. Job success is not simply trying to determine who can sink and who can swim; I think the rate of turnover experienced in certain positions is a direct result of either unclear or unrealistic expectations. If you want quality, high performing employees, then you should give them all the tools necessary to be successful.

What has been your experience with setting expectations in your role as an employee or in a role you hire for or manage?

 About Melissa: Dr. Melissa McManus is a human resources professional and research guru. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

From “Yes, but” to “Yes, and”

Communications, Employee Engagement, Team Building

By David Dickstein

It’s just a one-word change, but getting into the habit of saying “Yes, and” instead of its nasty evil twin can result in huge payoffs in and out of the workplace. Experts from the business community to the medical profession agree that applying “Yes, and” to life does wonders in making people feel respected and supported. As one workplace coach puts it, this practice creates collaboration in times of conflict and engagement in times of trouble.

So that you can bring this positivity to your neck of the work-related woods, consider putting “Yes, But” jars in and around the office.  These visual reminders are intended to help discourage personnel from using “Yes, but” phrases that often rear their ugly head in meetings, hallway chats, email responses and other ways the workforce collaborates. The rules are simple: Every time someone says you-know-what, others who witness it can collect a “fine” by insisting that the offender puts some money into the jar. A buck is recommended. Proceeds can be earmarked for charity or an office party.

With the help of “Yes, But” jars, one day you could work in an environment where responses like, “I appreciate your idea, but based on history it will never work,” become more along the lines of “Your idea has merit and I can give you some insight to make it work.”

Yes, we know old habits are hard to break, but …. Oops, guess someone’s putting a George in the “Yes, But” jar! Hoping this tip is worth implementing, and if so, good luck helping make your workplace more positive and respectful.

About the Author: David Dickstein is a senior communications manager with KAI Partners, currently assigned to a division of the California Department of Health Care Services. Previously, he was with the Global Communications Group of Intel Corporation, serving the media relations, employee communications and executive communications departments for over 17 years. A former staff writer on several daily newspapers and president of the Orange County Press Club, Dickstein currently is a travel and entertainment freelancer for four publishing chains in California.

How to Plan Your Career Development

Corporate Training, Employee Engagement, Human Resources, KAIP Academy, Learning, Onboarding, Training

By Dr. Melissa McManus, SHRM-CP

Career development is the ability for you to manage your career. It involves goal-setting, awareness, and a willingness to learn. It is an ongoing process throughout the course of your career and sometimes, it can involve a bit of risk (don’t worry, I’ll come back to that later!).

You may have noticed in those first few sentences, I say ‘you’ or ‘your.’ There is a reason for this! Career development is driven by the individual—not by your employer, but by YOU.

While it is not uncommon for a company or organization to facilitate career development—many organizations these days offer employees certification training or tuition reimbursement—it is ultimately up to you to take the reins of your own career development.

Companies typically want to see their employees grow and improve, not only in their current position, but also so they can take on more elevated positions in the future. The better you are at your job, the better off the company is—it’s a win-win situation for all involved.

If you want a promotion, a position in a different department, or to simply be the best at what you do, then you must continue to develop your skills and knowledge.

And, you must be willing to take risks.

Anything worth doing involves some risk. While fear of the unknown and the ‘what-if’ part of your brain can keep you from doing certain things, when it comes to your career development, you should try to ignore that nagging voice. With great risk comes great reward.

For example, I recently obtained a SHRM-CP Human Resources certification through the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM). This certification provides me with more authority in my area, allowing me to advance not only my career, but within my organization as well. The SHRM-CP provides me with knowledge and skills in my chosen career, and ensures that I continue to be a life-long learner in my area through recertification activities.

While I didn’t start my career with a focus on HR, it was taking risks along the way that allowed me to follow a different path towards becoming SHRM-CP certified. If you don’t try new things, you could miss out on great opportunities—in your career, missing out can lead to stagnation and monotony, a situation I’m sure most would rather avoid.

At this point you might be saying, YES, I want to be in control of my career development! But where do I start, what do I do, and how do I do it?

The best way you can manage your career development is with a solid plan. Here are four areas you should take inventory of when planning your career development:

  1. Self-Assessment – this is something you should do on a periodic basis. This can be every six months, every year, or at an interval appropriate to you and your goals. You should assess where you are currently to help you plan for where you want to go.
  2. Career Awareness – this is understanding not only your current position, but other positions that are available to you based on your education, skills, and experience. This can include an awareness of careers that you want to have in the future, as well.
  3. Goal Setting – set goals, both long-term (5+ years) and short-term (1-2 years), as well as some immediate goals. These should include what you want to accomplish, how, and why. Keep it simple at first—you can always expand and make changes. Plus, changes will likely happen organically as you progress through your career.
  4. Skill Development – develop the skills that will assist you in meeting your goals and keep you informed in your career area. You can accomplish this though reading, seminars, trainings, conferences, etc.

Seems simple enough, right? The easiest way to get started with your career development is to start anywhere you feel comfortable. Famed sales coach Zig Ziglar said it well, “It is not what happens to you that determines how far you go in life; it is what you do with what happens to you.”

How do you incorporate career development planning in your life?

About the Author: Melissa McManus is a Human Resources Generalist and research guru and loves every minute of it. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, CrossFit, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

3 Things You Need to Know About Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Communications, Diversity & Inclusion, Employee Engagement, Human Resources, KAIP Academy, Learning, Onboarding, Team Building, Training

By Danielle Cortijo

Much like the snowflake, we are all unique. There is no one else in this world who is exactly like you. Awesome, right? Yes ma’am and sir!

In the workplace, you may find the same is true. Any number of differences are present and create the diverse environment you call your day-to-day professional experience.

There are so many ways we differ from one another—cultural/ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, sense of identities, lived experiences, and much more. Navigating these many varied differences is not always easy. Many of us have been known to slip up or trip over ourselves a time or two—or even downright get things all wrong.

But, fear no more! Today I share three things to remember when maneuvering through the workplace to help you do your best to recognize, embrace, and celebrate the diverse and inclusive environment we should all strive to be a part of!

  1. You get a bias… You get a bias… YOU GET A BIAS! (insert talk show host voice here)

I know it isn’t easy walking into a new and unfamiliar space. We’ve all experienced the subtle tensing of the stomach on our first day at a new office or work setting. Among the desk supplies, skillsets, and expectations we bring along with us, we also show up with an invisible bag of bias that we do our best to keep tucked away.

Bias is that thought in your mind, good or bad, that creeps into your head space and allows you to immediately form opinions about the people you meet at work—often at first glance.

While bias can sometimes feel like an ugly word, the truth is, it’s simply something we either knowingly or unknowingly bring to the table every day.

From infancy into adulthood, we venture through life encountering and experiencing so many different things; it can be understandable that we create beliefs about the things and people we have met. It is the onset of these moments that shape how we view the world and those within it—hence, biases.

In our professional lives, we encounter different walks of life and sometimes the biases we have can manifest snap judgments in our minds of who those people are, without even officially meeting them. It’s important that each person we work with or meet in our business environments are met without prejudice or bias. It can be counterproductive to make any sort of assumptions in a first introduction or otherwise.

We all have different life experiences that have helped to shape who we are today. It is critical to “meet people where they are.” Allow them to present their truth to you. There is no need to assume on your own who or what they are. Just as you would hope to be received without assumptions and respected for who are, so does everyone else—try to remain as assumption-free as possible. Which brings me to…

  1. Be Open!

I know all too well how difficult it can be to meet new people sometimes, especially at work. Each and every person has something a little different to offer and it is important to remain open so you do not miss the opportunity to find out what those things might be.

If you are too caught up in the fact that someone may have a culture or religion you are not accustomed to or comfortable with, you could miss out entirely due to your own hang-ups. What if you decide not to engage the new Business Analyst who is a guru at their line of work because you know they are a part of or identify with the LGBT community? The chance to network with this individual would be lost because of the inability to remain open to people who are different from you. Missed chances to engage with incredible people, regardless of their differences from you, is truly the biggest loss.

  1. Inclusion matters!

I cannot think of a time when someone did not want to be genuinely considered and included when it mattered. Including others in work settings assists staff members in feeling valued and a part of the organization as a whole. We all want to contribute or make our mark, right? When we fail to involve others, the ripples of exclusion can be a morale-crusher or could even result in turnover.

At some point in our careers, we all want to be included when it counts. Allow diversity to be a growing and supportive tool, not a hindrance, in your professional environment. There is so much we can learn from each other, largely due to the beneficial professional experiences we can share with others.

Let’s do our best not to alienate one another. Communicate thoroughly and share as often as possible. Be a proponent of inclusion and watch the beautiful diverse nature of your team and organization carry you all to new heights!

About the Author: With a Bachelor’s in Communications and actively pursuing her Master’s in Complementary Alternative Medicine, Dani has an extensive professional background in the public and private sectors focused in Contracts, Human Resources, QA, and Process. Currently the Procurement Specialist on the amazing Administrative team for KAI Partners, she is working diligently to assist in the successful acquisition of procurements for the company. When her world slows down a bit, she loves scouring for an incredible deal on retro sneakers with her partner in crime, listening to music 24/7, and laughing as much as humanly possible.

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