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Category Archives: Managing/Leadership

KAI Partners Staff Profile: The Human Resources Generalist and SHRM-CP

General Life/Work, Human Resources, KAI Partners, KAI Partners Staff Profile, KAIP Academy, Learning, Managing/Leadership, Onboarding, Sacramento, SHRM, Small Business

There are many paths to success and while not everyone takes the same path, we often manage to arrive at the same destination. In our KAI Partners Staff Profile series, we share interviews and insight from some of our own employees here at KAI Partners. Our staff brings a diversity in education, professional, and life experience, all of which demonstrate that the traditional route is not necessarily the one that must be traveled in order to achieve success.

Today, we bring you an update on the professional journey of Melissa McManus, Ed.D. When we last spoke, Melissa was KAI Partners’ Research Analyst and is now our Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Certified Professional.

 KAI Partners, Inc.: Melissa, tell us about the transition from Research Analyst to Human Resources Generalist and SHRM-CP.

Melissa McManus: As the Research Analyst, I was doing multiple work tasks, including human resources. Since I was already doing bits and pieces of HR, you could say that I grew into my current role as HR Generalist and SHRM-CP. It was the logical next step and a seamless transition.

KAIP: What is your favorite thing about being in HR?

MM: The variety is absolutely one of my favorite things about being in HR. There is always something different and new, and that is exciting to me. Most people are afraid of change or afraid of doing different things; on the other hand, I enjoy it and I am more afraid of monotony—doing the exact same thing day in and day out.

My new position allows for this constant change and variety. While the tasks may be the same or similar they are also new and different. Some examples of this are getting to work with different people and personalities and the constantly-changing HR and employment laws. This guarantees that I stay a life-long learner because I need to stay current on all laws and what is happening in HR. In that same vein, my HR certification will also keep me current in all things HR as I have professional development credits I must earn each year to keep my SHRM-CP current.

KAIP: From your recent blog post on career development and your self-appointed title of Lifelong Learner, we know these things are important to you. How does getting the SHRM-CP highlight that?

MM: Getting my SHRM-CP was important to me not only for my career development but also personally, as well. I take great pride in being a knowledge-seeker and staying current in my profession. I think that it says a lot about the type of person I am and it also communicates that I want to be the best at my job and how far I am willing to go to do that.

KAIP: We also know you love research. Have you found an opportunity to get back to your roots as a Research Analyst?

MM: I still get to do research as part of my work. Research is part of the territory for me and inhabits all areas of my life! In my current role, there are many instances where I get to put my research guru hat on. While my focus is in the daily tasks surrounding human resource management, this includes a variety of tasks, even research.

Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your journey! How have you made transitions in your career? Share your story with us in the comments!

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.

Quick Q&A with Melissa:
Daily, must-visit website: SHRM.org
Preferred genre of music to listen to at work: Country, always!
Best professional advice received: Never stop learning and don’t let anyone tell you what you are worth—only you can make that determination!
Top productivity hack: Changing up location/scenery. Because I work from home, every now and again I need a different view, which helps to recharge. Also, making sure to take breaks or walk around is a good alternative if you work in an office or specific location.
Book you can read over and over again: If I have to pick just one…Pride and Prejudice and the entire Harry Potter series. There are so many more, but these are the ones came to mind.
Most-recent binge-watched show: Tiny House Hunters

3 Things Leaders Can Do to Be Better Change Agents

Best Practices, Communications, Employee Engagement, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM)

By Denise Larcade

One of the most common things I’ve seen through numerous mergers and acquisitions or other major change events within an organization is the lack of engagement and communications from leadership.

Oftentimes, leaders are so busy leading the change, they forget to play an active role in the communications process.

Unfortunately, not adequately communicating change events to staff can cause the rumor mill to start churning (at best) or employee upheaval (at worst).

Luckily, there are some easy ways leaders can mitigate the feelings of confusion and disorder for employees that often come with times of change:

  1. Be Present

As a leader, your physical presence is not only needed, it’s required. Your employees need to see you at town hall meetings, open forums, staff meetings, etc. Anywhere their presence is mandatory, yours should be too.

We know you’re busy; it’s likely not possible for you to attend every town hall meeting across all shifts. Plus, you are already involved in the planning process, so why would you need to be present at these meetings? Remember, your staff doesn’t necessarily know what you know, nor do they know how much you know.

Be present by attending the last 5-10 minutes of each meetings. At the meeting, engage employees by asking questions:

  • What did you learn today?
  • How was this meeting valuable?
  • What can we do better next time?

This shows you are engaged in the discussion while also getting direct feedback on how the communications process can be improved going forward.

  1. Be Honest

The rumor mill can start for numerous reasons:

  • Leaders themselves are not sure about what’s going on within the organization and so they avoid discussions about it
  • The information cascade is not working effectively
  • Employees pick up on small changes in attitude and draw their own conclusions about what’s going on—Joe seemed grumpy today, that must mean a layoff is going to happen.

No matter how the rumors start, it’s important to address them directly, rather than hope they go away. To identify which rumors are out there, try implementing smaller focus group-like sessions. These sessions should include people from across all different departments and should be facilitated by a member of the leadership team who does not directly supervise any of the staff in attendance.

Scheduling these focus groups can be tricky at first (you can schedule video calls with remote teams), but the benefits are numerous. Allowing staff to talk through whatever is on their mind in a small group setting brings about honest conversation, as well as informing leadership about which rumors are out there and need to be addressed.

You can squash the rumors in the focus group itself, as well as address the rumors at the next open forum or town hall. Remember to put questions and answers in a shared location so that all staff can see what was discussed. I recommended keeping the identity of the question-askers anonymous.

For longer change activities—6 months or more—consider setting up an internal webpage or SharePoint where people can ask questions and leadership can provide answers. If updated regularly, this forum can become the first place people look for an answer to a question, and a good way to stop a rumor before it begins.

  1. Be Early

Engage staff early in the change process. If their department is likely to be effected, let them know as soon as it’s appropriate. When possible, bring them into the process to get their feedback about the future state and how they think roles, responsibilities, and procedures should change. When it’s time to implement any changes, employees will be more likely to accept the changes, since they were brought in from the beginning.

It’s also advisable to communicate when you’re going to communicate. Set up a framework or schedule around when people can expect to hear communications and in what form. Whether it’s a monthly town hall meeting on the third Wednesday of the month or an informational email digest each Friday afternoon, set expectations early around when staff will hear updates. The rumor mill has less of a chance to churn if employees know they are scheduled to receive an update at a previously-appointed time.

Change is going to happen whether we like it or not. As a leader, remember to be honest, present, and early in your change communications so that staff is informed, accepts, and is prepared for the change.

About the Author: Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. She has over 25 years of experience in training, development, and leading companies through organizational change management. Denise has worked in corporate retail, technology, and government healthcare and most recently has experience with large-scale implementations nationwide. She currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing client support to one of KAI Partners’ state clients. Denise grew up in the Silicon Valley and relocated to Utah and Idaho before recently returning to her native California roots.

How to Engage and Motivate Employees [+INFOGRAPHIC]

Best Practices, Communications, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Human Resources, Infographic, KAI Partners, Managing/Leadership, Onboarding, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Small Business, Startup Company, Team Building

Our partners at BambooHR created an infographic outlining what employees really want. According to Bamboo HR, “Employees must be valued and respected at work while maintaining a healthy work-life balance or they won’t stay at a job. As long as employees’ pressing needs—empowerment, flexibility in the workplace and fair wages—are met, they’re more willing to tolerate lesser annoyances.”

So, how do you make sure your workforce is engaged and satisfied? Let’s revisit some tips and tricks for keeping your employees happy, whether during times of organizational change or just in their day-to-day work.

Via: BambooHR

So now we want to know: As an employer, how do you keep your employees happy? And as a employee, what do you want from your employer? Tell us in the comments!

KAI Partners Staff Profile: The PMP

Agile, Business Analysis, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), General Life/Work, KAI Partners, KAI Partners Staff Profile, Managing/Leadership, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Sacramento, Scrum, Small Business, Technical Writing

staff-profile

There are many paths to success and while not everyone takes the same path, we often manage to arrive at the same destination. In our KAI Partners Staff Profile series, we share interviews and insight from some of our own employees here at KAI Partners. Our staff brings a diversity in education, professional, and life experience, all of which demonstrate that the traditional route is not necessarily the one that must be traveled in order to achieve success. Today, we bring you the journey of one of our Project Managers, Jamie Spagner, Project Management Professional (PMP)® and Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM).

KAI Partners, Inc.: Jamie, how did you get into project management work?

Jamie Spagner: I got into Project Management by default. In college, I wanted to be a lobbyist. I wanted to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of elected officials. But, life had a different plan. I was blessed with a beautiful little boy my last semester in college. Because of this new addition to my life, I was unable to attend The Washington Center program I was slated for in Washington D.C. Being a mother forced me to explore other career options that would allow me to provide a decent life for my son as a single mom. At the time, the IT industry had higher-paying jobs out of college, so I looked for a ways to get into that field.

In college, I worked part-time for the Money Store, which later became First Union, then Wachovia, and is now Well Fargo. I held many positions, but I always watched the job boards to see the various positions being offered and the qualifications needed. One day I stumbled on a Senior Technical Writer position.

While I ultimately didn’t have the experience for the Senior Technical Writer role at the time, I did establish a relationship and mentorship with the hiring manager. She told me the books I should read for learning, encouraged me to join the Society for Technical Communication (STC), and invited me to different events with her team. Within 6-8 months of establishing that relationship, she hired me as a Technical Writer.

Through natural progression, I worked as a Technical Writer, then transitioned to a Business Analyst. From Business Analyst, I advanced into Project Management.

KAIP: Some people may not realize the difference between being a Project Manager and being a Project Manager with a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. Can you explain why you decided to pursue your PMP®? How has it helped you?

JS: I decided to pursue my PMP because it’s a respected certification in the field. The test is not an easy test, so it shows a level of dedication to employers to see a potential candidates who has gone the extra step to obtain those three letters.

It also opens doors professionally. Many employers require a PMP certification for Project Management positions; the project I am currently working on requires it.

KAIP: What is your favorite part about your line of work and why?

JS: My favorite part about my job is collaborating with people to deliver a product or service. Ninety percent of a Project Manager’s job is communication. What I enjoy most is building relationships,

collaborating, influencing directions and decisions, and successfully delivering products and services to the client’s satisfaction.

KAIP: What is one of the most common project management questions you receive from clients and what counsel or advice do you give them?

JS: “What is project management?” is the most common question I get from people. The advice I give to clients is to be transparent and always be able to defend their “Why.” In this profession, you have to make quick decisions and sometimes they are not always the right decisions. However, it’s important to always be able defend why you made the decision you made.

JamieAbout Jamie: Jamie Spagner is an Executive Consultant for KAI Partners, where she works as a Project Manager for a public sector health care client. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento with the Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies/Public Relation. She is a loving mother of a teenage son named Wyatt. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping, spending time with family/close friends, and working out.


Quick Q&A with Jamie:
Daily, must-visit website: Pinterest
Preferred genre of music or podcast to listen to: Hip-hop and R&B
Best professional advice received: Be courageous; do not be afraid to fail
Book you can read over and over again: “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle
Most-recent binge-watched show: New Edition Movie. This was a movie about the pop group New Edition that aired on BET…I loved it!

6 Netflix Documentaries to Hone your Business Analysis Skills

Business Analysis, General Life/Work, Learning, Managing/Leadership, Small Business, Startup Company

Documentaries Business Skills

By Guest Blogger Tony Oliver, Penny Wise Consulting Group

This blog post first appeared on the Penny Wise Consulting Group’s blog and was posted here with permission. The original post can be found here.

A true juggernaut, Netflix has twice changed how we consume television, first with its red DVD envelopes and now with its streaming service. The Los Gatos, CA company has slain much larger rivals along the way to domination. While its roster of original programming (House of Cards, Stranger Things, etc.) has been lauded by critics and fans alike, many true gems remain hidden. The “documentary” section contains a wealth of offerings covering various topics, and most are comfortably in the approx. 90-minute range.

While the list is far from exhaustive, it gives a nice starting point the next time you can’t decide whether to binge on Daredevil or The Crown. After all, an amuse-bouche to clean the palate is proper etiquette.

  • Atari: Game OverExplaining Atari to millennials is an interesting exercise; I often equate the company to Google, Facebook, and Apple all rolled into one. For a generation that had only experienced primitive cable tv to compliment the big three networks, Atari’s impact is hard to exaggerate. The VCS and its successors brought video games out of the arcade and into the house. Billions of hours spent on Yar’s Revenge, Atlantis, and Pole Position gave us sore thumbs, but countless memories. The company, however, fell on hard times due to a combination of bad timing, competition, saturation, and its own hubris. The film expertly weaves these factors while digging for a Lost Ark-like treasure: cartridges dumped into a New Mexico landfill in 1983. Its teachings on how supply/demand planning can go awry by group-think is an outstanding business case.
  • American Genius: National Geographic Channel special, the series delves into the role of rivalries behind amazing discoveries and feats. While its 45-minute length prevents the topics from being comprehensively discussed, it provides enough goodness to awaken one’s desire to go out and do great things…or at the very least, pick up a book to learn more about the topics. It may give you a new perspective on your competition and the role it shapes in your industry.
  • Brain GamesI can only imagine the pitch: “We have an idea for a show to make neuroscience cool.” My daughter absolutely loves the show, and if you are in marketing—and if you are in business, you are in marketing—you will find dozens of great lessons on consumer behavior. Whether you use them wisely or not is entirely up to you.
  • Living on One DollarCostco’s hot dog and soda combo at $1.49 (before tax) is rightfully lauded as an amazing deal. Top quality beef and an unlimited amount of soda make for a pretty good snack, yet the meal would be out of reach for someone living on $1 a day in Guatemala, as the film captures. Beyond making an impactful social statement, it can teach businesses with expansionary dreams not to discount the differences of their potential customers’ buying power.
  • The Magic of Heineken:The story of Freddy Heineken and his devotion to the family business is nothing but engrossing. Mixing pictures, video, and Le Petit Prince-like animations, the documentary takes you through successive generations and battles to preserve and expand the brand. Those seeking to understand a “think globally, act locally” approach to establishing a brand in other countries will learn great lessons on how the company acquired local businesses to penetrate new markets and acquire local goodwill for the world famous green bottle.
  • The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms:This BBC production provides a lot of answers on algorithms, but more importantly, it prompts one to ask more questions. With big data and analytics driving an ever-increasing number of business decisions, understanding how algorithms work is essential. While not everyone is an engineer, it behooves those of us in other functions (marketing, finance, logistics) to gain a deeper appreciation of the problem-solving muscle.

Have you caught any movies or documentaries recently that tie into your business? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author: Tony Oliver is a project manager by trade, a marketing guru by profession, and a lifelong learner from birth. His best trait is an inquisitive mind, which drives his desire to understand not just the “what” but also the “how” and more importantly, the “why” and “why not?” Tony is experienced in supply, pricing, demand, and consumption analysis and holds an MBA in marketing from a top 20 school (UNC Chapel Hill) and an undergraduate English Literature degree from Georgetown University. With 15+ years of experience with Intel and Cisco, Tony is fully bilingual (English, Spanish) with a working knowledge of French, as well as a seasoned public speaker and instructor of Project Management and Presentation Skills courses.

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