Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Employee Engagement

5 Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Human Resources, SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, SHRM

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D and SHRM-CP

Work-life balance. I am sure you have heard this phrase before or even tried to fulfill its simple message: To balance your work and personal life.

Some of you might be thinking, “Yep, I’ve got this down to a science,” while others might be thinking, “It seems so easy, why can’t I just do it?”

Well, I am about to let you all in on a little secret…I know from personal experience that there is no magic answer or solution—work-life balance is something you have to actively think about and try doing.

As a Human Resources professional, one of my responsibilities making sure my employees can find ways to have this balance, which is important. Not only should it important to the individual, but it is important from an employer standpoint as well. Ever hear the expression, “Happy wife, happy life?” Well, we can apply that same principle here: “Happy employee, happy organization!”

Employees who feel rundown, overworked, or stressed are more likely to be less productive. It is easy to get caught up in our work, especially when we love what we do and who we work with and for. However, it is equally important to unplug (sometimes literally) once the work day has ended and take time for yourself and your loved ones. Sometimes this is easier said than done, as I have found myself putting in 10 hour days without even realizing it.

So, how do you make sure to balance work and life appropriately? Here are some tips that you might find helpful.

  1. Be Organized: Stay as organized as you can throughout the day; set goals or make lists. Use whatever methods are effective, depending on what organization looks like for you personally. Find a way to prioritize and delegate tasks accordingly.
  2. Breathe: Remember to take breaks and refocus throughout the day. Sometimes I find that taking a quick walk or doing some simple stretches (especially important for those of us who work at a desk or in a seated position all day) can help you reset and allows you to be more productive and less stressed.
  3. Be Flexible: Be open to flexibility in your work and ask for flexibility when needed. We all need a little wiggle room at times and being flexible and having flexibility can lead to higher productivity—a win-win situation!
  4. Be Efficient: When you are at work, be efficient by staying present, avoiding distractions, and staying focused on your tasks. This can be as simple as keeping a clean work space, organizing your tasks or projects for the day, creating a timeline and sticking to it as much as possible, and delegating tasks as appropriate. Working efficiently allows us to get more done at a quicker pace and worry less when we go home (or get us home faster). Work smarter!
  5. Communicate: Communication is the cornerstone to just about everything. If you need something, ask for it. Whether it’s a day off or assistance with a project, be sure to communicate what you need—those around you cannot read your mind.

These tips might seem simple, but give them a try. By doing a few simple things, you may find yourself more energized, productive, and less stressed throughout the day and at night when you go home. Remember, it’s okay to leave work at work; I promise it will be there when you get back!

About the Author: 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.

What the KAI Partners Team is Thankful for in 2017

Communications, Data Management, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, KAI Partners, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Prosci, Sacramento, SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, SHRM, Small Business, Team Building, Training


From the KAI Partners team to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and stress-free Thanksgiving holiday.

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.

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